Monday, 31 December 2012

Last Entry of 2012

Howdy all!

Jerreth Esq. here with my last entry of 2012. Sorry to say it isn't the Yearly Retrospective I've been ignoring working on; I'm hoping I'll get that up sometime in January. But before the year is over, I want to gush a bit about Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

My feelings on this game can best be summed up in the final panel of the comic strip below:

Penny-Arcade copyright Mike Krahulik & Jerry Holkins

My heart is on FIRE. :'D

Yesterday my EotE gaming group had our fourth and final session of the Beta Rulebook adventure: Crates of Krayts. With everyone mostly familiar and comfortable with the core mechanics and gameplay, it went hella smooth compared to our first session. We finally started to look beyond the suggestions in the book and interpret the dice results cinematically, which I think enhanced the fun threefold. I had an awesome time, and I'm pretty sure my players had great fun as well. Evidently, I/we must be doing something right because we've decided to continue EotE as our Sunday game; and I'm glad for this because a) I'd like to get more practice/experience with the system as I'm going to run it at GottaCon (Yes, I finally decided! I'm going to run the Beginner Game!), and b) I friggin' love this game!

I've said in the past that WotC's Star Wars: Saga Edition is my favourite incarnation of the d20 system, but I think FFG's game is my favourite Star Wars RPG period. It just does Star Wars better.

Speaking of the Beginner Game, I was a little worried when I submitted my slot info to the event coordinators, as despite playing the Beta, I had yet to actually posses the Beginner Game! But that changed when I was able to grab a copy at my FLGS Saturday after work.

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game

I was going to do a little unboxing review of the it, but I changed my mind and I'll just direct those interested in such to Gabe from Penny-Arcade and Agent 94 from The GSA's reviews. I will give a few of my initial thoughts and impressions though:

  • I agree with Agent 94; the box itself is rather disappointing, being made out of thin cardboard. It would've been rather nice to have a sturdy box to store/carry around the materials and the Beta Rulebook. Alas.
  • One of the chief reasons why my friend and I each picked up a copy of the Beginner game was for the set of dice it comes with, as using the stickers provided with the Beta to make your own set or the Dice App for iOS or Android just isn't the same as having the actual dice. It just feels right. But in that regard I was a little disappointed as the dice failed to meet the expectations I had formed on their appearance from the Dice App and the images of them from FFG. Don't get me wrong, these dice are much easier to read at a distance than their sticker'ed counterparts, but the material and colours they're made out of doesn't really match the hues portrayed in the books. The green and purple dice are darker, the blue die is much whiter, and the yellow's corn-hue is kinda lame. Also the symbols are inset into the dice and not just printed on, which doesn't look as sleek but is probably a good move design-wise as printed symbols would be more likely to get worn off. Here's a comparison below:

The Actual Dice

The Portrayed Dice

  • I'm probably just nit-picking here. I mean once we started rolling them in our game, the appearance didn't matter at all. They are easier to read, and that's what's most important I think.
  • As for the Adventure provided, Escape from Mos Shutta, it's geared toward teaching the mechanics of the game to new players and the GM a little at a time through each encounter. Since we've played the Beta, it's not so useful for our group now but it is written for introducing the game to new gamers, which I think will come in handy when I run it for new players at GottaCon.
  • The follow-up adventure, Long Arm of the Hutt, is available as a PDF from FFG, and is more of a standard adventure. Very well written.
  • The various tokens the set came with are pretty decent, but being a huge mini fan myself they'll see little use I think, and I made my own Destiny tokens by finding some loose backgammon checkers and painting one side of them black. (You can see my tokens in the bottom right of the box photo above. They don't look as cool as the Lightside/Darkside symbols on the left side, but they're more tactile in my opinion.)
  • The Beginner Rulebook is a handy quick-reference for rules, but it omits many of the rules from the core game for obvious reasons so it can only be so useful once one owns the Core Rulebook. I've also noticed some of the rules it does provide have been altered from the Beta Rulebook (even after the last errata). I'm not sure if this will reflect the final rules we'll see in the Core Rulebook, or if it's just simplification for beginners. That said I do like most of these changes, and will use them in place of some of the Beta rules.
  • All in all, I think the Beginner Game is a good holdover till the Core Rulebook comes out Spring 2013. Another thing to look forward to in the New Year!
I also wanted to mention that my range-band-target idea has been a really useful aid for all of us during our sessions. I'm definitely going to utilize it at the convention. One thing I'm going to add to improve it is a few sidebars that stat out the silhouette differences that effect Gunnery checks during Starship and Vehicle combat.

/end fanboy

And that concludes my final entry of 2012! I want to thank everyone for visiting this year, and I wish you all a happy 2013 of gaming!

Cheers! ;{١

Monday, 24 December 2012

Music To Roleplay To: Middle-Earth

In celebration of the recent theatrical release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, today's entry of Music To Roleplay To is dedicated to brave adventuring in that legendary realm of high fantasy: Middle-Earth.

It perhaps goes without saying, that one of the largest collections of Tolkien-inspired music available comes directly from the films based upon the authors' works. I am mostly referring to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the forthcoming The Hobbit trilogy by Peter Jackson with scores by Howard Shore. As a whole The Complete Recordings soundtrack editions of The Lord of the Rings amount to over 10 hours of music! Add in the Special Edition soundtrack for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and you have over half a days worth! Last Updated: 01/2014

  • The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

And don't forget the future release of the soundtrack for The Hobbit: There and Back Again!

Next, I need mention the brilliant work by the Danish group The Tolkien Ensemble, who've not only composed their own musical interpretation of The Lord of the Rings, but set their music to live recitations of the poems and songs from the books; including a number recorded by Christopher Lee (Saruman) himself!
At Dawn in Rivendell

  • An Evening in Rivendell (1997)
  • A Night in Rivendell (2000)
  • At Dawn in Rivendell [feat. Christopher Lee] (2002)
  • Leaving Rivendell (2005)
  • Complete Songs & Poems (2006)

But these works aren't the only music produced that's based upon Middle-Earth, there exists many more. Here are a few select choices:

  • If you can track it down, Leonard Rosenman's original soundtrack for Ralph Bakshi's J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is a bit bold-themed but may be a good addition to your fellowships' soundtrack.
  • The folksy vocal work by Glenn Yarbrough for the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated special The Hobbit deserves mention, that is if you think its very light-hearted tone works for your Middle-Earth games.
  • Though released the same year as The Fellowship of the Ring, David Arkenstone's excellent Music Inspired By Middle Earth is neither directly related or inspired by the film itself.
  • Symphony No. 1 (The Lord of the Rings) by Johan de Meij is a phenomenal piece of work.
  • The Celtic group, Brobdingnagian Bards, were headliners at the Oscar party for The Return of the King after gaining acclaim for their album Memories of Middle-Earth.

For those of you more inclined to "heavier" Middle-Earth tunes, try checking out Blind Guardian's themed album: Nightfall in Middle-Earth, Bob Catley's rock album Middle Earth, works by the Finnish metal band Battlelore and the Austrian metal band Summoning, and/or the song The Battle of Evermore by Led Zepplin.

The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild

There have been quite a number of RPG's based off of J.R.R. Tolkien's works, such as Iron Crown Enterprises' Middle-Earth Roleplaying and The Lord of the Rings Adventure Game; Decipher's Lord of the Rings RPG; Eä RPG; and The One Ring by Cubicle 7, who went out of their way to develop over an hour of music in half a dozen background themes collected in this playlist:

Other RPGs these tunes could work well in: The Mouse Guard hack Realm Guard; or any generic fantasy system adapted to Middle-Earth such as BRP, Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS, Harnmaster, etc.

I also feel that's worth mentioning, which is an excellent resource for any RPG based in Middle-Earth.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

FATE Core Kickstarter

Wow. Not even full day of existing and the kickstarter for FATE Core is at funded currently over $55,000!

It's few remaining stretch goals are going to be eliminated soon, hopefully they'll make some more once we roll over them!

I'm backed, now I've got nice draft copy to peruse at my leisure.


Monday, 3 December 2012

SW: EotE - Range Bands and Minis

I really enjoy my Star Wars minis, and I've been trying to figure out a way to still make use of them in the cinematic-style game Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. My first attempt using them was for place holders for PCs and NPCs on the dynamic initiative track, but that didn't turn out so well since I didn't explain the non-static nature of initiative in combat that well and some players thought the track was set like most games, and to complicate it further I tried to use the minis as a rudimentary way to show distances between the PCs and the NPCs they were fighting. Plus it ended up looking dumb. I've decided to keep these two ideas separate: I'm going to use cards for initiative next time.

As for the range bands, I've thought about it a bit and after seeing all the range bands laid-out in a hex grid in one of gribble's reference sheets, I had the idea to turn over our battle-mat and use the hex side of it to map out a range-band-target for minis. I designated the mats' centre hex and the six that surrounded it as the general area where the PCs would be in a basic encounter. Using the range-ruler from X-Wing that just happened to be on hand, I marked out the range bands Short, Medium, and Long from the bullseye, each band came to four hexes in length. Any hexes beyond the Long range band are considered Extreme range.

After drawing the range areas, I marked down in each band a letter for the distance, the number of diamonds to represent the Ranged Attack Difficulty from the centre or vice-versa, and the cost in maneuvers to transverse between range bands. Figures in hexes adjacent to each other are considered to be Engaged with each other. If one wanted to be more exact about multiple minis and their exact distance in relation to each other, one could simply say every 4 hexes represents a range band.

Here's an example encounter.

Our heroes are clustered together in a battle with two Tusken Raiders, one a Short range from the group, and the other at Long range.
  • The Twi'lek scout, Ryz'al, is Engaged with the Tusken Raider in front of him in melee combat. The difficulty to attack an engaged target with a melee attack is always 2 challenge dice. The rest of the party considers that Tusken at Short range. 
  • The bodyguard Droid, KG-222, is Engaged with Ryz'al to protect him, but is not considered Engaged with the close Tusken and would have to spend a maneuver to Engage the enemy threatening the Twi'lek.
  • Lowwack the Wookiee politico is aiming to shoot at the far Tusken, who is Long range away, and thus be would facing 3 difficulty dice to his ranged attack roll. That Tusken would also be rolling 3 difficulty dice on a ranged attack against any of the heroes.
  • Finally the Gand levels his blaster on the closer Tusken at Short range who his Engaged with his Twi'lek comrade. The base difficulty for the attack is 1 but since he's shooting into an engagement that difficulty die is upgraded to a more dangerous challenge die. He better hope his aim is true or he may end up shooting his partner in the back on a despair dice result!

What I really like about Edge of the Empire is that the Range band rules carry over into Vehicle or Starship combat, the only major differences being Engaged is replaced with Close Range, your current speed is relative to how much it costs in Maneuvers to move between Range bands (the faster your speed the more Range bands you can move through with a single maneuver), and distance doesn't affect the difficulty of your attack rolls; your ships' silhouette (relative size) vs their silhouette sets the difficulty, though certain weapons can only be used to attack targets within certain Range bands.

Here's a small example of space combat.

The heroes' YT-1300, the Nerf Herder, (which has a silhouette of 4) has thrown itself into an attack position against a Cloakshape Starfighter (silhouette 3) at Short range. The Nerf Herder's turrets cannot attack until within Close range, so the pilot closes the distance, and the gunners open fire. The silhouette difference between the two ships is only 1, so they roll their attack at 2 difficulty dice.

The Imperial Star Destroyer looming off at Extreme range can't attack The Nerf Herder at that distance, as it's Turbolasers only have a range of Long. But if either the Star Destoryer or the YT-1300 manage to close the distance between them, the ISD could open fire and The Nerf Herder would be unable to retaliate. The silhouette difference between the capital ship and the freighter would be ~3; 7* for the ISD, 4 for the YT. The gunners aboard the ISD would be rolling a Daunting difficulty of 4 on their attacks against the The Nerf Herder, and they'd still be rolling that difficulty even if the freighter reached Close range with the Star Destroyer, whereas the hero gunners would be able to attack at an Easy difficulty of 1 against the ISD because its size is so massive compared to it. But good luck getting through its shields and armour. :p

*[7 is a guessed number given there are currently no stats for an ISD in the EotE Beta. I took the silhouette rating from the largest capital ship available: a EF76 Nebulon-B Frigate with a silhouette of 6 and increased it by 1 given the size difference between the Frigate and an ISD. It could possibly be larger than that but for the purposes of this example it wouldn't matter given that the amount of difficulty dice rolled by the gunners on both ships would not be changed.]

I'm hoping this hex-based range band system helps assist everyone with relative positioning of combatants in EotE, given it can be difficult to keep track of the ranges of multiple PCs/NPCs spread out over a wide area.

We didn't really get to make use of it much during yesterday's session as there wasn't much combat, but it was nice to try out the non-combat aspects of the Beta. The reference sheets made the session run much smoother, and we all had a great time roleplaying. I look forward to our next session and putting this hex-range-band concept to the test!

Questions/Comments appreciated!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Countdown to New Beginnings

Well here we are already on the first day of December; I can't believe how fast November went by. I didn't get to post as much as I would have liked to, but it was a pretty hectic month running Ravenloft on Wednesdays, learning & teaching Edge of the Empire on Sunday and playing in Dresden Files on Fridays, with minor planning for GottaCon in between, plus holidays, birthdays, staff parties, work, and the season-inspired exhaustion.

I don't suppose that I'm going to get many entries up this month either. Aside from the blog I've been neglecting several other more important things. Like shopping. And cleaning the house. I'm going to do that one after this entry.

I'm writing this as a reminder that now is the perfect time to work on a retrospective on the gaming this past year and a look forward to the new year and what it will bring. So that'll be my goal this holiday month.

Next weekend the Missus' and I are heading up island for an early holiday weekend with the family, so hopefully on my downtime there I can get some of it done.

Now, on to recent news:

Erhmagerd! FEHRT!
Fred Hicks and Evil Hat Productions are putting up a kickstarter sometime early this month to release the FATE rules as a core system! This is awesome because although FATE has numerous games built from its rules, there is no available basic rule-set that one can use to create their own FATE-powered games unless you use a system reference document or reverse-engineer a FATE game.

I'm totally going to be supporting this kickstarter when it launches. :D

Cheers! ;{١