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#StarWars #EdgeoftheEmpire RPG – Nimble Cash Episode 1

So the RockyMountainNavy boys and I sat down this weekend for a real serious start of a new Fantasy Flight Games, Star Wars, Edge of the Empire RPG campaign. Having started – and quickly stopped – several previous campaigns we all made a commitment to making this adventure “for real.”

First up was character generation. The party is four adventurers; a Cornelian Human Smuggler/Charmer, a Wookie Hired Gun/Bodyguard, a Twilek Technician/Mechanic and a Drall Technician/Outlaw Tech. This is not a balanced party with two “techies.” Oh well, it is the characters they boys want! The group has a slightly modified YT-1300 Light Freighter named Nimble Cash.

The first session started in-res, with the ship carrying a “slightly” illegal cargo and being chased by a pair of TIE fighters. This encounter allowed each adventurer to participate in the combat sequence. Eventually, after a not-too-difficult time, the ship escaped.

Next encounter was with the groups nameless contact to deliver the cargo. The Charmer tried to use his natural, well, charm to get a better price. After a short social conflict sequence, he succeeded. The group got almost all the money they wanted. In lieu of some of the money, their contact gave them another job. A simple mail job to deliver a letter.

While preparing to leave, the inevitable “Imperial entanglements” arrived in the form of a Storm Trooper squad led by a Sergeant. Not having anything to hide, the group boarded the ship before events went sideways. In the course of the battle, each adventurer got a spotlight moment:

  • An enraged Wookie bashing the head of a Stormtrooper and knocking him out cold
  • The Drall with a Goo-Gun “gumming” up a trooper and letting the Mechanic dispatch him
  • The Charmer taking a glancing stun bolt, improvising a melee weapon, and tripping and falling in the middle of combat.

This was really a near no-prep session. Came off pretty well with an emphasis on the narrative dice. The RMN boys caught on quick, and grabbed at the opportunity to contribute to the story.

Tune in next week for the continuing adventures of the Nimble Cash.

 

 

 

#BtC Breaking the Chains Out of Box

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Courtesy bgg.com

Having been heavily focused on RPGs for a long while, I am trying this summer to get back into my wargaming groove. Always having a soft-spot in my heart for naval games, I recently acquired the 2013 Compass Games’ Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea. Taken directly from today’s headlines, BtC explores the naval battles that could take place in the named area.

My favorite operational-level naval conflict series is the old Victory Games Fleet Series (starting with Sixth Fleet in 1985). The scale of both BtC and the Fleet Series is very similar (i.e. time and distance). The combat mechanic is updated and in many ways simplified in BtC with a near-exclusive focus on missiles.

The Fleet Series featured a very diverse selection of combatants whereas BtC is much more limited. There are also just a few scenarios included in BtC. In any given Fleet Series game one got a very large selection of scenarios or campaign games to play out.

I have read the BtC rulebook, and like the many detailed examples of play. Should help with the first run-thru of the game.

#TravellerRPG and #OGL

I recently realized that the new Mongoose Traveller Second Edition is a closed license. On page 2 of the rulebook it states, “This game product contains no Open Game Content. No portion of this work may be reproduced in any form without written permission.” This is in stark contrast with the First Edition, which used the Open Game License (OGL). [For a good backgrounder on the OGL, see here.]

In a move that I am sure Mongoose thought would alleviate gamer concerns, and working in conjunction with DriveThruRPG, a new Traveller’s Aid Society was created. However, there is a major legal snag in the Community Content Agreement:

Settings

You are allowed to use the Traveller setting as presented in the current Traveller edition books published by Mongoose Publishing as well as any Mongoose-published book covering the official Third Imperium setting (for example, Spinward Marches). This includes the names of all characters, races, and places and all gear, equipment and vessels; the capitalized names and original names of places, countries, creatures, geographic locations, historic events, items, ships, and organizations presented in those books.

What does this do to my favorite non-Third Imperium settings, like The Clement Sector by Gypsy Knights Games or Orbital by Zozer Games? GKG is in the process of moving all their content to an OGL version before the Mongoose Traveller First Edition license sunsets (which apparently will happen very quickly).

Dale McCoy Jr. of Jon Brazer Enterprises summed up the many “gotchas” in a Mongoose forum posting:

The “Gotchas” seem to be that when you publish via TAS you give up your Intellectual Property rights to what you wrote and that DTRPG (and Mongoose) take an additional 25% of the sale price – you get 50% instead of the usual 75%.

The IP thing isn’t a big deal if you just publish an adventure or a one-off, but if you want to develop a setting, by giving up the IP others can write stuff in your setting and you can’t control it; also you are limited to only publishing via DTRPG, so if you wanted to do a print version, you can’t; except through DTRPG and their Print on Demand. So no store copies.

Also, no Crowdsourcing or giving away free copies – it is all controlled by DTRPG.

As I said, for some things, it is fine, but for SETTINGS other than the OTU, it is not such a good deal. Unfortunately, that means that settings will be using the OGL rules (1st Edition Mongoose) and don’t get to take advantage of the new rules and “balanced” weapons systems.

SO good and bad depending on what you want to publish. OTU stuff is now available to publish, so if you want to write that epic campaign where the Chamax invade the Spinward Marches and fight it out with VIRUS, you can – through DTRPG.

I don’t know how I forgot this, but this is the one that sent my wheels spinning when I first discovered it: books produced through TAS do not appear on the front page of DriveThruRPG and the publisher has no way of putting it out on the front page as a feature product. This means that it is substantially harder to just run across my book by accident and discover it. Being on the front page is a real driver of initial sales, a driver that anything in the TAS does not have access. Will that mean that those initial sale will be spread out of weeks and months as those customers go looking in Mongoose’s and/or Traveller’s categories, or are those sales simply gone? I cannot say for certain, but i am willing to bet that it is going to be somewhere between those extremes.

But one scenario leaves the publisher with a lower initial return, which is generally used to pay writers, artists, etc. The other scenario just leaves the publisher was an overall lower return. Either way, the budget I use to produce all my Traveller books has just gone down.

For a very lively (educational and entertaining) discussion see the Citizens of the Imperium forum here. Once again all I can say is that I strongly support John Watts of GKG and Dale McCoy Jr. of JBE and will continue to support them, even as they might be forced to step away from the Mongoose Traveller Second Edition rules.

From what I can see, the greatest impact of the new Traveller’s Aid Society Community Content Agreement (TAS-CCA) is that third-party publishers with non-Third Imperium settings are being shut out of the new rules. Given my personal unfavorable feelings regarding the new system (see here, here, here, and here), I will not suffer greatly.

Bottom Line: I am a strong proponent of IP rights and don’t like what I am seeing. For third-party publishers to lose control of their IP is unacceptable. I also don’t see how the CCA helps brick-and-mortar stores (digital sales only) and has no crowdfunding option. Seems like Mongoose actually wants to strangle third-party publishers.

 

#ModelingMonday – Working Off Some Backlog

This weekend was great on Saturday but rainy on Sunday. Little I has been agitating for new models, but RockyMountainNavy Mom declared “No more!” until some of the backlog on the shelf is taken care of. So with the rain stopping the boys from running around outdoors….

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Courtesy modelingmadness.com

Little I started out with his favorite manufacturer, Pegasus Hobbies, and their E-Z Snap V-2 Rocket. At 1/48 scale this is the same size as his WWII fighters. Like the earlier models, this one is easy to assemble, snaps together tightly, and looks great even without its paint job (yet to come).

 

 

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Courtesy modelsforsale.com

Seeing that the first model was quick-and-easy, Little I then went to work on a second model, and pulled down Revell’s 1/700 scale RMS Titanic. Again, this proved to be an easy kit to build (though some of the small parts were challenging even to his smaller fingers).This is a full hull model with very nice fine detail. Technically listed as Skill Level 3, I think this is only because of the fine painting and smaller parts and decals. Of the two kits built today, RMN Mom liked this one the best!

jacksonp47drbt

Courtesy modeling madness.com

While his brother was working on his two models, T built up an old kit of mine that I had passed down to him. The old Monogram P-47D Razorback in 1/48 scale assembled neatly and looks awesome with its rocket launchers. This one will look great once the final paint job and decals are applied.

 

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Courtesy stalemates.com

While both boys were working, I also pulled out one of my kits. I had picked up an old Academy Minecraft Saab AJ-37 Viggen in 1/144 scale from the clearance table for a mere $2.95 at Piper Hobby a while back. While the Minecraft models lack detail, they do make fine desk ornaments for the office at home or at work.

 

 

All in all, a very successful weekend of boys working around the table. Spent a lot of time answering Little I’s questions on the history of the ships and airplanes. A wonderful learning  and family bonding experience.

#FourRPGs of Influence

Reading the #FourRPGs hashtag on Twitter is a great nostalgia trip, as well a thinking challenge. Here are the four RPGs that most influenced me.

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From tasteofsoundsfiles.wordpress.com

#1 – Classic Traveller (Published 1977 – discovered 1979)

Anybody remember the game store Fascination Corner in Arapahoe Mall in the Southeast suburbs of Denver? It was there I bought my first war-game, Panzer, by Yaquinto Games in 1979. Soon after that, I found a little black box with a very simple logo. The game was Traveller, and it was a role-playing game. Being a huge Star Wars fan, I just had to have the game. This was my gateway into RPGs. Although I had friends who played Dungeons & Dragons, I didn’t (fantasy didn’t catch my attention then, and to this day still doesn’t). I have never looked back since.

I actively played RPGs until the mid-late 1980’s. After college, my job and family didn’t really give me the time to play. Instead, I became a bit of a collector. I tried to keep up with Traveller (buying Marc Miller’s T4 and later the Mongoose Traveller versions). I tried other Somewhere in the mid-2000’s, I discovered DriveThruRPG, and started building an electronic collection of games that I had missed. Being a huge Traveller RPG fan, I stayed with GDW RPGs for the longest time. Sure, I dabbled in other systems (like the James Bond 007 RPG), but I really tried to stay away from Dungeons & Dragons. I had tried my hand at D20 Modern, invested heavily in the Star Wars: Saga Edition, and even looked at Savage Worlds, but none of then really captured my interest.

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From en.battlestarwiki.org

#2 – Battlestar Galactica (Published and discovered 2007)

Being a huge fan of the show, I just had to have Margret Weis’ Battlestar Galactica RPG. I was immediately sold on what is now known as the Cortex Classic System (which, in retrospect, is not so different from Savage Worlds). The Battlestar Galactica RPG was a major turning point for me because it was with this game that I truly embraced designs beyond the Classic Traveller system. The Plot Points system, i.e. a tangible game currency for the players to influence the story, was a major break from my previous gaming philosophy. I realized that I was too fixated on systems like Classic Traveller, with its many sub-games, which is very wargame-like and not actually a great storytelling engine. I continued to follow the Cortex system, and these days really enjoy the Firefly RPG using the Cortex Plus system.

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From en.wikipedia.org

#3 – Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (Published and discovered 2013)

While Battlestar Galactica started me on the path to narrative RPG play, I didn’t truly arrive until Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. I had got the core rule book and the Beginner’s Game and tried to play with my boys. But at first I just didn’t “get it.” What do all those funny dice really mean? One day I discovered the Order 66 podcast, and listened to their advice on Triumph and Despair. At that moment it all clicked. From then, I was sold on the the system and strongly believe that this game is the best marriage of theme and gameplay. That said, I have to say that the later volumes of this game system, Age of Rebellion and Force & Destiny don’t hold my interest as much as Edge of the Empire does.

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From evilhat.com

#4 –Atomic Robo (Published and discovered 2014)

After Edge of the Empire, I started looking for other narrative RPGs. Somehow, I happened across a copy of Atomic Robo. I picked up the game (mostly on a whim) but after reading it was so intrigued by the gaming possibilities. As fortune would have it, I also discovered a Bundle of Holding that had many FATE products. I discovered I had been missing out on a great game system. Now, in addition to Atomic Robo, I enjoy Diaspora (FATE 3.0) and Mindjammer (FATE Core). I have even played a few games using FATE Accelerated with the boys, much to their (and my) enjoyment.

Truth be told, these days I pay much more attention to the “game engine” than the actual game. I admit that my favorite “game engine” these days is FATE Core. That said, I still enjoy Traveller (and even the much-maligned Traveller 5) although the newest Mongoose Traveller Second Edition is not impressing me.

#TravellerRPG Ship Combat (Unintended Part II)

In my ship combat example from earlier, I stated that Channing M’rrfeld’s Pinnace had 8 Hull Points. Unfortunately, I was looking at the late-Oct version of the High Guard Beta document and not the December update. Using the December playtest document, the Pinnace has 16 Hull Points. So the battle continues….

When we last left Channing, his Pinnace had suffered 13 damage points in the Attack Step of Round 1. Although a devastating hit, it does not automatically trigger a Critical Hit because the Effect of the attack was less than 6 (p. 158). However, the Sustained Damage rule (p. 158) applies a Severity 1 critical hit for every 10% (rounded up) of the starting hull. (The rules just say “starting hull;” I assume they mean Hull Points not tons.) Every 10% of the starting Hull Points is 1.6, rounded up to 2, meaning the 13 damage caused 6.5 (rounded down?) or 6x Severity 1 Critical Hits. Rolling on the Critical Hits Location table (p. 158) yields the following:

  • M-Drive (Control checks at DM -1)
  • Power Plant (Thrust -1, Power -10%)
  • Armor – Reroll Fuel (Leak – lose 1D tons (roll 6) per hour – but the Pinnace only has 1 ton of fuel to start with)
  • Armor – Reroll J-Drive – Reroll Weapon (Suffer Bane when used)
  • Armor – Reroll Hull (see next hit)
  • Hull (this makes the Critical Hit Severity 2 – suffer 2D damage – roll 10)

Attack Step Summary: Channing’s Pinnace has suffered at total of 23 Hull Points damage, reducing it to zero Hull Points and a total, inoperable, unrepairable wreck (again). Even if the Hull damage had been avoided, the ship has lost maneuverability (M-Drive and Power Plant critical hits) and is out of fuel. (Interestingly, the Core Rulebook does not specifically state what happens with no fuel. One can “assume” the Power Plant doesn’t work based on the statement, “Fuel is required for both the jump drive and power plant” found on p. 145.) If, by some miracle, those critical hits had been avoided then any attacks by Channing will still suffer a Bane. Channing needs his Vacc Suit and a rescue….

Post Battle Comment: Even with the “extended” play based on a (few) additional Hull Points, it still seems that space combat in this Second Edition of the Mongoose Traveller RPG (MgT2.0) is VERY deadly. Most importantly, the fact I had to refer to playtest documents to game out even this simple scenario using the “Core Rulebook” and Common Spacecraft is intensely dissatisfying. A Core Rulebook should be playable BY ITSELF and not rely on external references. This is a clear FAILURE on Mongoose Publishing’s part.

I also question if the system will appeal to today’s gamers. I come from a sorta old-school of roleplaying games and as a long-time Traveller RPG player I am used to the “wargame-like” nature of the combat system. That said, these days I also enjoy a more narrative style of game like Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG series, Firefly (Cortex Plus), Mindjammer or Diaspora  (FATE Core), not to mention older systems like the Battlestar Galactica RPG (Cortex Classic) or something using the Savage Worlds engine. In a previous post I talked about how the Boon/Bane mechanic gives MgT2.0 a more narrative feel; the question in my mind remains, “Is it enough?”

#TravellerRPG Ship Combat (Mongoose 2nd Edition)

Continuing my exploration of the new Mongoose Traveller RPG 2nd Edition (MgT2.0), today I experimented with ship combat. Using my previously generated character, Channing M’rrfeld, I laid out a simple scenario where Channing, in his Pinnace now outfitted with a Beam Laser in a fixed mount, is being pursued by a Light Fighter (p. 189). The Light Fighter mounts a Pulse Laser that has a maximum range of Long (p. 159) so this seems a good range to start the combat.

Before moving into Space Combat (Chapter 8, p. 155), I resolved Sensor actions (p. 150). This requires an Electronics (Sensors) check. Channing does not have this skill so he automatically suffers a DM -3 (Skills and Tasks, p. 56). His Pinnace outfitted with only Basic Sensors giving him a further DM -4 (p. 190). The Light Fighter is radiating using Radar/Lidar which gives him a DM +2 for counter detection (p. 151). With a roll 0f 8 and a final DM -5, Channing fails to detect the fighter (though he likely knows he is being radiated). The Light Fighter pilot has Electronics 0 (no unskilled DM) and is using Military Grade Sensors with DM 0 (p. 188) against a target running with its transponder on (DM +4, p. 146). The fighter pilot rolls 7 with a DM +4 and successful detects the Pinnace. At Long Range he has Minimal Sensor Detail (p. 150) which gives him the basic outline of the target. We now move to the Space Combat system.

Initiative: The first step in Space Combat is to determine Initiative (p. 155). Though Channing has not detected the fighter, he does know he was radiated by something so he is not surprised (p. 154). Channing possesses the skill Tactics (Naval) 1 which allows him to make a check to influence his Initiative. His roll gives him Effect +1. He will also use his Pilot (Small Craft) 1 skill and add his Thrust 5 from the Pinnace. His roll of 10 gives him a final Initiative number of 17. The Light Fighter has only Pilot (Small Craft) 1 and Thrust 6, which added to a roll of 7 gives a final Initiative number of 14.

Maneuver Step: Channing hedges his bets and spends 4 thrust on movement (p. 155) and reserves 1 thrust for Combat Maneuvering (p. 156). The fighter, trying to close range, spends all 6 points for movement. Assuming the fighter is in a stern chase, this closes the range by 2 points, meaning there are 8 more thrust points needed to change the range from Long to Medium (p. 156).

Attack Step: Channing has not detected the fighter so he cannot attack. The fighter attacks. This requires a roll of 2D + Gunner + DEX DM. Assume the fighter pilot has Gunner 0 and a DEX DM +1. He is also using Fire Control/1 in his Ships Computer meaning the fighter can conduct one automated attack with DM 0 OR grant a DM +1 to the Gunner – the fighter pilot decides to let the computer handle the attack (p. 151). Other Common Modifiers (p. 156) are Using a Pulse Laser +2, Long Range -2. Channing can react (p. 160) and try Evasive Action (Pilot) which gives the fighter pilot a DM -1 (Channing’s Pilot (Small Craft) rating). Final DM is -1. The pilot,s attack roll is 12, making his Effect +3. Pulse Lasers roll 2D for damage (roll 10) to which the Effect of the attack is added (p. 158). The result is 13 points of damage. Channing’s Pinnace has 8 Hull Points (not found in the Core Rulebook…had to reference the High Guard Beta document – FOUL!). This reduces Channing to zero Hull, meaning his Pinnace is wrecked, totally inoperable, and beyond repair (p. 158). Channing now finds himself without power or life support….

Actions Step: Given the Pinnace is “beyond repair,” none of the Actions in the Actions Step (p. 160) seem to apply. Let’s hope Channing already has a Vacc Suit on or his future will be very short!

After Action Comment: That’s it? One shot from a light fighter totally wrecks a small craft? No chance to even get into Close Range Combat (p. 162)? The out-of-combat Sensors detection is cumbersome with so many modifiers spread around the book, some in the Encounters and Sensors section and others in the Space Combat chapter. The same goes for the attack modifiers with some found in Spacecraft Operations and others in Space Combat. Finally, the fact that Hull Points are not defined in the Core Rulebook is a clear foul – to use the Core Collection of ships should NOT require purchase of High Guard!

In retrospect, the fact that the fighter had a sensor detection and Channing only had limited awareness of the threat would of made the attack roll a good candidate to use the Boon mechanic (p. 59). This could of represented the “advantage” the fighter had with its detection. Not that it would of made much of a difference….

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