Monday, December 29, 2014

Stay on Target

This past week, FFG released its first sourcebook for the Age of Rebellion RPG--Stay on Target. This post provides an overview and first impressions of that book.

Pages: Contents
1: Crawl
2: Credits
3: Contents
4: Fiction
5-9: Overview and introduction
10-37: Backgrounds for Ace characters, including Entertainer, Prototype Tester, Clone Wars Veteran, Imperial Defector and Criminal; Ace Duties; three new species, the Chadra-Fan, Dresselian and Xexto; three specializations, the Beast Rider, Hotshot and Rigger; a compiled list of new talents; a list of Ace motivations; two signature ability trees ("This One Is Mine" and "Unmatched Survivability")
38-65: New equipment including five weapons, six sets of armor, five equipment items, two droids, flak cannons, twenty vehicles and seven modifications or additons for vehicles
66-96: Tips for using Ace characters in campaigns and incorporating Astromech droids; new tables for spending advantage, threat, triumph and despair in Ace encounters; rules for beast riding; seventeen new creatures; ideas for Ace missions and rewards

At first glance, of course, this book seems to be ideal for use in an Age of Rebellion game run out of Tierfon Base. Even so, it provides a satisfying addition to this RPG. First and foremost, it is packed with new material. That alone makes it, in this reviewer's opinion, worth the money. I liked the inclusion of the Beast Rider specialization, for aesthetic reasons; it and the Rigger specialization would be a nice addition to an AoR or Edge of the Empire campaign. More importantly, though, any Rebellion-oriented game that features chases and dogfights can benefit from this supplement.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Imperial Entanglements

“Where, pray tell, is Captain Reendor now?”

Fleet Admiral Cantari Rast didn’t bother to keep the disdain from his voice. There were definite perks to being the highest ranking naval officer in the Sumitra Sector. Rast strode confidently from the turbolift, heading for the bridge view ports. Behind him, dressed in black, came Commander Xemus Drallig of the dreaded Imperial Security Bureau. Crewmen in their recessed work pits cringed as the imposing figures passed on the walkway above.

Commander Terek, officer of the watch and Reendor’s second-in-command, turned from overseeing the navigation team and saluted. “I will fetch him at once, sir,” Terek added smartly, hoping to assuage the older man’s anger.

Terek stepped toward a rear bulkhead and discretely thumbed his comm unit. “Bridge to Captain Reendor, the Admiral requests your presence at once, sir.”

“Very well,” came the groggy reply. “I’m on my way.”

Turning back toward the fore, Terek strode down the command walkway to join the Fleet Admiral and ISB Agent near the transparisteel windows. “The Captain is on his way, sir,” Terek said in his most accommodating and diplomatic tone. Rast did not acknowledge the information. Commander Terek came to a stop beside the flag officer. The trio stood in silence, staring out into space.

Looking down the length of the Indomitable Will always made Commander Terek smile. The distinctive wedge shape of the Victory-class star destroyer’s white hull came to a point some 900 meters in the distance. Beyond that Terek could see two of Indomitable Will’s sister ships, Demolisher and Protector, also in orbit above the blue-green planet of Boordii IV. To his right the imposing bulk of the system’s space station, to which the Indomitable Will was currently docked, filled the view ports. The Sumitra Sector fleet was a formidable weapon. If it could just be brought to bear on those elusive rebel scum, all of their problems would be solved in short order.

“Commander,” Fleet Admiral Rast interrupted Terek’s reverie.

“Yes, sir?”

“What is the state of my ship? How soon can you depart?”

Terek consulted his datapad. “We should finish the re-supply in two point three hours, sir.”

“Where is that blasted Reendor?”

“Here, sir,” came the reply as Captain Jirra Reendor moved to join them, still adjusting his duty cap.

“Ah, Captain. How nice of you to join us. I trust you had a nice rest?” The Fleet Admiral turned on the newcomer, sneering openingly.

A seasoned officer like Reendor knew enough to ignore the barb. He saluted crisply while waiting for Rast to continue.

“Somewhere out there,” the Admiral gestured out the forward view ports, “traitors to the Empire gather and plot against us. Moff Jusik is not amused by your failure to uncover them. I am not amused either.” Rast turned to let his anger encompass Agent Drallig as well.

“We need more time,” the raspy voiced Drallig began.

Fleet Admiral Rast cut him off brusquely. “I am not interested in excuses, Commander, I am interested in results.”

Eyeing up Captain Reendor, the old Admiral continued, “You will personally lead the sweep of the Thustra B Asteroid Belt. I want a full report in 48 hours. And you,” Rast growled, turning toward the frowning Drallig, “will get me more actionable intelligence. That is what you’re good at, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir,” both men answered in unison.

The Admiral let his caustic gaze linger a moment on the pair of officers before turning to leave. “No excuses,” he reiterated as he crossed the command walkway back to the turbolift.


“We shall leave immediately, sir,” Lt. Commander Seena Yolon replied crisply, closing the commlink connection. Dressed in a black naval uniform, Yolon was an Agent of the dreaded ISB, Imperial Security Bureau. She had detected hints of annoyance and fear in the tone of her superior, Commander Drallig. Rebel activity in this sector was increasing, and it was up to the ISB to put an end to it. Swiftly.

She trotted across the cavernous hangar, motioning to Lieutenant Kiel. On cue, Kiel barked out an order and the Imperial Army platoon assigned as Agent Yolon’s escort leapt to their feet. The men had been resting among the tools and spare parts stacked neatly in a maintenance alcove along the edge of the bay.

As Yolon approached the open boarding ramp of her Sentinel-class shuttle, the nine white-clad stormtroopers of her personal security team fell into step beside her. The crew was already aboard the transport, preparing the craft for departure. The repulsor fields whined through their pre-takeoff warmup and she felt the familiar rush of pride and excitement build within her. On the hunt, again.

Yolon made her way toward the bridge, passing through the auxiliary weapons station. “Sir,” the three members of the gunnery crew snapped to attention and saluted as one. She ignored them and entered the cockpit.

Sentinel shuttle Mindorian to Demolisher flight control,” the co-pilot spoke into the comm, “requesting immediate launch.”

“Roger that, Mindorian, you are cleared for take-off,” came the reply.

A green indicator on the flight console confirmed that the passengers were all aboard and the loading ramp was closed. Agent Yolon strapped herself into the chair near the secondary communications station, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. Suspected rebel activity in the Flax system. She would get to the bottom of it. She would make those traitors pay dearly, indeed.

The shuttle rose from the deck and rotated toward the huge, open blast doors. Beyond lay the blackness of space. The pilot eased the throttle forward and the vessel left the hangar behind.

“Plot a course for the Flax system,” Yolon said.

“Yes, sir,” the co-pilot responded.

The shuttle banked, picking up an escort in the form of a pair of TIE fighters. The trio flew down the length of Demolisher, an aging Victory-class star destroyer. Demolisher was small, by modern Imperial standards, but utterly dwarfed the Mindorian and the TIEs. The shuttle cleared the star destroyer’s bulk and turned away from the planet it was orbiting, Boordii IV, home to Sumitra Sector high command. In the distance, off to the right, Agent Yolon could see the imposing shape of Demolisher’s sister ship, Protector. On the other side, farther out, hung the Boordii IV space station. Currently docked for resupply was the sector’s flagship, a third Victory-class vessel entitled Indomitable Will. The powerful trio represented only half of the star destroyers in the Sumitra fleet. Yolon smiled, thinking of the potential destruction such capital ships could unleash. Finding them appropriate targets is the job of ISB, she thought. My job.

The TIEs turned back at the edge of the Military Exclusion Zone, leaving the Mindorian to join the steady stream of civilian vessels of all shapes and sizes heading to and from the planet-side starports. The shuttle vectored toward the flow of outbound ships heading for the popular hyperspace entry points. Frowning, Agent Yolon couldn’t help but feel some of the nearby transports must belong to rebels. Right here, under our very noses.

“Course set in, sir,” the co-pilot said.

“Engage,” Agent Yolon commanded. The stars stretched to long white lines then quickly gave way to the mottled blue and white backdrop of hyperspace. Another mission was officially underway.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sumitra Sector ISB

Sentinel-class shuttle

The dreaded Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) has 34 agents working in the Sumitra Sector, all trying to track down Rebel sympathizers and other traitors to the New Order.

Led by Commander Xemus Drallig, each ISB field agent is given the effective Imperial Navy rank of Lt. Commander, though most are simply addressed as "Agent" while on assignment. Each Agent is escorted by an entire platoon of Imperial Army troopers (42) and a single squad of Stormtroopers (9). All of them fit aboard a Sentinel-class shuttle.

The following NPCs (from the Age of Rebellion CRB or the Imperials and Rebels Adversary Deck can be used to represent the Agent and his or her retinue.

Imperial Intelligence Agent (Rival)- the ISB agent in charge
Imperial Army Officers (Rivals)- the Army platoon leader and Executive officer, a Lieutenant and a 2nd lieutenant
Imperial Army Trooper (Minion)- the other 40 rank-and-file members of the Army platoon
Imperial Stormtrooper Sergeant (Rival)- leader of the stormtrooper squad
Imperial Stormtrooper (Minion)- the other 8 stormtroopers in the squad
Imperial Gunnery Corps (Minion)- the three gunners aboard the Sentinel-class shuttle
TIE Pilot (Minion)- the pilot and co-pilot of the Sentinel-class shuttle

Friday, December 5, 2014


One thing that has always confused me about Star Wars RPGs (including the current effort by FFG) is the strange and warped economy. The worst offenders are the starships.

The Light Blaster Pistol is listed at 300 credits. As a weapon with a dual self-defense and "sporting" use, this compares favorably with a 1:1 dollars to credits exchange rate if we look for a real-world alternative. This suggests that, for low prices, the Star Wars RPG economy is seemingly correct if you assume 1 credit = 1 US dollar.

What about the YT-1300 light freighter? In Star Wars RPGs costs a mere 100,000 credits brand new. Less than half the cost of a Ferrari!

A bit of searching online tells me that a well-equipped Winnebago (in the real world) is $425,000.

A brand-new semi tractor trailer costs $125,000.

Ocean-going yachts are at least $500,000 and can easily climb to the multi-million dollar range.

Single engine aircraft are in the $75-100,000 range at least. A small luxury Learjet costs $17 million. A larger luxury jet can be more like $60 million. A Boeing 737 cargo plane has the same cargo capacity as the lowest figure listed for a stock YT-1300 (~20 metric tons), but you'd need the Boeing 777 to reach the highest figure (~100 tons). The 737 costs $78 million and the 777 costs $310 million (and neither can go into space!).

It seems as if it would be hard to see a YT-1300 selling for less than $100 million. That sounds like an awful lot. Even $10 million sounds like a larger investment than a smuggler like Han Solo could hope to pull off. However, let's take a look a the cargo capacity and what they could earn in one trip somewhere. If they carried 25 tons of gold, that would be worth $953 million in today's prices. Illicit drugs (like spice) could likely fetch $680 million for 25 tons (if it costs the same as cocaine). With the cost of cargo factored in, a $100 million freighter doesn't sound so bad. Talk about being in debt to a crime lord!

With all of this taken together, I'd suggest the Star Wars RPG price for a space transport is off by a factor of 1000.

Now for a look at starfighters and capital ships. A military-grade F-16 fighter jet costs $15-20 million dollars, while an F-22 Raptor costs $150 million.

An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, used by the US Navy, costs $1.843 billion, and the cost of Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier is $12.68 billion.

None of these things is rated to fly into space. Or has a hyperdrive!

For standard vehicles, like airspeeders, the prices are probably only 5-10 times too low. This is based off comparisons between high end motorcycles and speeder bikes/swoops, for one.

Since the X-Wing represents "...the cutting edge of starfighter performance..." (according to the WEG Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition Sourcebook), I would suggest that starfighter prices are at least 1000 times too low. Charging 1000 times more for an X-Wing still makes it cheaper than an F-22 Raptor. I would hazard a guess that a hyperdrive-equipped space vehicle would be more than double the price of a high performance atmospheric craft; so for a rough guess we could assume starfighter prices are "off" by something like 3000 times.

For the sake of comparison, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, above, has a crew complement of ~330. Roughly speaking, comparing the price to something in the neighborhood of the Vigil-class corvette, we can use this to guess at the capital ship price modifier. I estimate something like 400 times (1200 times, if we factor in space-worthiness). The Gerald R. Ford-class carrier has a crew complement of 4300. This is something like a 75% sized Victory II-class star destroyer. I'd estimate that we'd be off by approximately the same 400 times factor (1200 times for the space-worthy "upgrade").

In reality, of course, these massive capital ships (and military-grade starfighters, for that matter) would never actually be for sale to a random buyer. Kuat Drive Yards won't accept a check from the Rebel Alliance for a cool 60 billion credits and build them a Victory II-class star destroyer. The price of any of these sufficiently large behemoths would effectively be listed as "not for sale".

Here are the modified prices for the starships listed in the Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook and elsewhere.

Military Grade Starfighters and Captial Ships
RZ-1 "A-wing": 450 million credits (not for sale)
T-65B "X-wing": 360 million credits (not for sale)
BTL-A4/BTL-S3 "Y-wing": 240 million credits
A/SF-01 "B-wing": 450 million credits (not for sale)
TIE/ln: 150 million credits (not for sale)
TIE/in: 225 million credits (not for sale)
TIE/d: 900 million credits (not for sale)
TIE/sa: 330 million credits (not for sale)
Lambda-class shuttle: 420 million credits (not for sale)
Sentinel-class shuttle: 720 million credits (not for sale)
Vigil-class corvette: 4.2 billion credits (not for sale)
CR90 corvette: 1.44 billion credits
Lancer-class frigate: 5.71 billion credits (not for sale)
Nebulon-B frigate: 10.2 billion credits (not for sale)
Dreadnought-class heavy cruiser: 8.64 billion credits
Vindicator-class heavy cruiser: 12.48 billion credits (not for sale)
Interdictor-class heavy cruiser: 18.48 billion credits (not for sale)
Imperial I-class star destroyer: 180 billion credits (not for sale)
Praetor II-class battlecruiser: 840 billion credits (not for sale)
Victory II-class star destroyer: 60 billion credits (not for sale)
MC80 Liberty-class cruiser: 124.8 billion credits (not for sale)

Space Transports and Others
YT-1300 transport: 100 million credits
YT-2400 transport: 130 million credits
YV-929 transport: 380 million credits
Consular-class transport: 340 million credits
Gozanti-class transport: 200 million credits

Super-class star destroyer: (estimated) 1.37 trillion credits (not for sale)

Note: I think FFG's price of 3,400,000 credits for the Consular-class transport is too high for their scale. Comparing it to the Gozanti-class vessel, I'd say the Consular-class should have been listed for 340,000 credits.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

At the Ready

Ulla Pirim settled into the cockpit of the X-Wing fighter, fastening the five-point harness for the acceleration chair as he surveyed the control console. All systems seemed to be functioning normally, since no red telltales were illuminated. Satisfied, he pressed the stud that activated his subspace comm.

“Tierfon Base Command,” he declared, “this is Blue Five, activating repulsorlifts.”

“Roger that,” a familiar voice responded. “We're ready for you.”

“Then here we go.” Pushing forward on the throttle, Pirim eased the starfighter out of its stall in the underground fighter base. In his mind's eye he could already see the distinctly-shaped TIE fighters that lurked in space beyond the planet's atmosphere, with the unmistakable wedge of an Imperial star destroyer hanging in the void behind them. Pirim saw himself shooting out of Tierfon Base's hanger, streaking out to meet them, opening up with his four wingtip-mounted lasers and perhaps even the proton torpedoes. It would be a pitched battle, one filled with desperate maneuvers and shots both lucky and unlucky. He didn't know whether or not he would survive it, nor did he expect to do so.

Slowly he steered the X-Wing past the last of the stalls in Tierfon's spacious hangar. Then, after a quick pivot, he let the craft settle back onto its landing gear and then hit the combination of switches that put the starfighter into standby mode.

“Tierfon Base Command,” he announced, “Blue Five is in the ready position.” Satisfied, he ran a loving hand over the ship's controls, and then popped the canopy and exited.

“Roger that,” Command responded. “Thanks, Pirim. Over and out.”

Ulla Pirim
NPC Starfighter Technician (Minion)

Brawn 2 Agility 2 Intellect 2
Cunning 2 Willpower 2 Presence 2

Soak: 2
Wound Threshold: 5
M/R Defense: 0 / 0

Skills [Group Only]: Computers, Mechanics, Piloting (Planetary), Piloting (Space), Ranged (Light).

Talents: None.

Abilities: None.

Equipment: Rebel Alliance uniform, datapad, toolkit, Light blaster pistol (Ranged [Light]; Damage 5; Critical 4; Range [Medium]: Stun setting).

Ulla Pirim is one of the many beings who provide support services for the Rebels operating out of Tierfon Fighter Base. He is primarily tasked with helping to maintain the X-Wing fighters and other vessels stationed here. Although he dreams of being assigned to one of those ships and taking the battle to the Empire, he knows that such jobs are best left to others; instead, he takes pride in knowing that the vessels are ready when needed. Ulla is a bit of a hero worshipper, and loves to hear the stories of starfighter pilots and Irregulars in the base's common room.

Making Tierfon Base Feel Like Home
The character presented above is a good example of how NPCs can be used to create a sense of familiarity in an Age of Rebellion campaign. For example, pilot characters could each have their own technicians who support them, ones who might comment on damage to vessels after a mission or ask to hear tales of derring-do. Similar NPCs could include the crusty quartermaster who assigns equipment and laments about lost gear; the medic who patches up the PCs' wounds; a commanding officer who offers commentary about a mission that went awry; and even rival pilots and members of other teams.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Another Look at Duty

Apparently details about the accrual rate of Duty during play were left out of the Age of Rebellion core rulebook. A big mistake in proof reading, I guess. This link goes to the FFG forums, where you can find another link to a podcast interview with one of the developers. In that podcast are a few tidbits about Duty.

The Problem

Suffice it to say, according to the FFG developer interviewed in that podcast, players can earn 1-10 duty points per major accomplishment on behalf of the Alliance. I would suggest that the completion of an adventure story arc would qualify. My goal here is to figure out how Duty and XP are related.

If we assume a standard Star Wars adventure is supplied in three acts, wherein each act is composed of 2-3 major encounters and a handful of minor ones, we would guess that each adventure would net the PCs something like 35 XP. (10 XP per session/act, +5XP for completion of a story arc). This same completed adventure would yield between 1-10 Duty points. I guess we'll say 5, as we should save the "10" for blowing up the Death Star. The rate of assigning Duty is up to the GM.

This becomes a real problem if we assume that Duty is 7 times more rare than XP (i.e. giving only 5 Duty points per completed Story Arc that yields 35 XP for the PCs).

To simply become trusted members of the Rebel Alliance, AOR CRB Table 9-3 says you should have a Contribution rating of 2+. A fresh party of 4 PCs would have to have accrued 40 Duty each to get to this point. In our example, they'd have to have gained 280 XP; that is, they'd have to have completed 8 full adventures for the Alliance before they are even looked at as not suspicious. Even worse, adding 280 XP to a starting character in this way still only makes them a "Sergeant to Warrant Officer" rank in the Alliance Military. Adding 280 XP to a starting character would make for a very powerful yet low ranking PC, indeed!

Think about the stat block for a PC trying to be Admiral Ackbar, for instance. If he gained his "Contribution Rank" of 14+ in this way, he would have accrued at least 340 Duty points, meaning his character would likely have earned 2380 XP. Unbelievable!

Taking a look at the Commander: Commodore specialization, a great choice for our Ackbar wannabe, you can max out the full talent tree for a mere 300 XP, and get the maximum 5 ranks in all 8 career skills for only 600 XP more. Accounting for the something like 100 XP already spent during character creation, the maxed out character still has 1580 XP to spend somewhere else. That's more than enough to max out another career's talent tree and skills!

Let's be generous and say the GM grants the full 10 Duty points per completed story arc. This only cuts the problem illustrated above in half. It's much better, of course, but still not ideal.

The Pattern from Table 9-3

New Recruits (2 spots, Contribution rank = 0-1)
Tested Soldiers (3 spots, rank 2-4)
Veteran Soldiers (4 spots, rank 5-8)
Top Brass (5 spots, rank 9-13)
Alliance High Command (rank 14+)

The last entry simply lists a Contribution rank of "14+". We could assume that the pattern would continue, however, and the highest table entry would have 6 spots, and therefore a rank range of 14-19.

Using this logic, we can take a Contribution rank of 19 as the absolute maximum and see where the argument takes us.

Fixing this Mess

Let's assume that if a PC ever did max out their talent tree and career skill ranks, they'd be the highest ranking individual of that type in the entire Alliance. They'd be the most qualified, anyway! Furthermore, I do not assume that any heroic character from the Rebel Alliance High Command has actually maxed out their talent tree and career skills.

That suggests that ~900 XP = Contribution rank of 19.

As a group of PCs, you only get to a Contribution rank of 19 by accruing 100 Duty points 18 times, plus (100 - starting party Duty) once. Regardless individual choices at character creation, this is something like 1800-1860 total Duty points.

A group of 4 PCs would have to earn 450-465 Duty points each to get there, suggesting 2 XP = 1 Duty.

A group of 6 PCs would have to earn 300-310 Duty points each, suggesting 3 XP = 1 Duty.

Using this method, a party of four raw recruits to the Rebel Alliance become trusted collaborators after they complete two-and-a-half missions or so. They require 40 Duty points each to make it to Contribution rank 2, and each Duty point is worth 2 XP. Thus 80 XP, divided by 35 XP per completed story arc = 2.3 full adventures.

A party of four PCs could be eligible for placement within Alliance High Command (Contribution 14+) after gaining 1300 total Duty points (325 each); something like 650 XP, or 18.5 complete adventures, or 56 gaming sessions: more than a year of playing weekly.

That might be a bit fast for some, I guess, but to me it seems better than the rules as written.

Starting at Higher Levels of Contribution Rank

This is where I really wanted to end up. I want to figure out how much extra XP to give PCs who start out as trusted members of the Rebel Alliance.

For instance, I do not envision that any SpecForce team members have a Contribution rating lower than 2. That doesn't make sense to me. Each of them would be a highly trained, highly skilled, and highly trusted individual.

The weird thing is this depends a bit on party size.

Group of 2 PCs @ Contribution rank 2 = give each PC an extra 80 XP

Group of 3 PCs @ Contribution rank 2 = give each PC an extra 77.5 XP

Group of 4 PCs @ Contribution rank 2 = give each PC an extra 80 XP

Group of 5 PCs @ Contribution rank 2 = give each PC an extra 75 XP

Group of 6+ PCs @ Contribution rank 2 = give each PC an extra 84 XP

I would likely go out on a limb and say just 80 XP extra for newly created PCs that are already "trusted members of the Rebel Alliance".

The Rest

If you'd like to make a high ranking starting character, here are the rest of the CR vs Bonus XP values. BTW, if I were a betting man, I'd guess this whole game is mathematically balanced for 4 PCs.

New Recruits/Untested Collaborators
CR 0 = + 0 XP (Enlisted personnel)
CR 1 = +30 XP

Tested Soldiers/Trusted Collaborators
CR 2 = +80 XP (SpecForce minimum)
CR 3 = +130 XP (Flight Cadet, i.e. rookie starfighter pilot)
CR 4 = +180 XP (Junior Officers and most starfighter pilots)

Veteran Soldier/Important Collaborator
CR 5 = +230 XP
CR 6 = +280 XP (Starfighter Squadron Leader)
CR 7 = +330 XP
CR 8 = +380 XP (Senior Officers)

Top Brass/Vital Collaborator
CR 9 = +430 XP
CR10 = +480 XP
CR 11 = +530 XP (Flag Officers)
CR 12 = +580 XP
CR 13 = +630 XP

Member of Alliance High Command
CR 14 = +680 XP (Top rank in a given service branch)
CR 15 = +730 XP (theoretical only)
CR 16 = +780 XP (theoretical only)
CR 17 = +830 XP (theoretical only)
CR 18 = +880 XP (theoretical only)
CR 19 = +930 XP (theoretical only)

One more note: the chart above only applies to PC heroes who quickly earn their stripes (literally) through actions above and beyond the call of duty (no pun intended). I think there is a slower, non-XP related method for NPCs to rise in rank in the service to the Rebel Alliance without accruing all sorts of awesome life skills (like Talents, Skill Ranks, etc). I do not think that all NPC Junior Officers in the Alliance Naval branch have earned (and spent on their stats) an extra 180 XP, for instance. Some of them have been in the military for a long time, and have slowly risen up the chain of command. This chart is only for PCs, like Luke Skywalker, whose meteoric rise through the ranks was fueled by heroic action.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Share them in the comments section, below!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Training Exercises

The most recent episode of Star Wars: Rebels struck a chord with me. Entitled “Breaking Ranks,” it saw young Ezra Bridger infiltrating an Imperial training facility by impersonating a cadet. In addition to undertaking his mission, he participated in some training exercises. This reminded me of the episode “Clone Cadets” from season 3 of The Clone Wars. In both cases, we see characters practicing situations in controlled environments. Using these simulations, in my opinion, can have numerous benefits in a campaign.

1. They help make Tierfon base feel like a familiar place.
Most assignments will take the PCs away from Tierfon, to other worlds. Including scenes in which the heroes do some training onplanet helps to reinforce the notion that it is their home. That way, no matter where a given adventure is to take place, the PCs also see some action close to their base of operations.

2. They incorporate NPCs for troupe-style play.
A previous article mentioned the benefits of troupe-style play, in which Tierfon is filled with a variety of characters. Since most of these NPCs aren't involved when the PCs take off for missions on other worlds, a bit of training allows these characters to play a regular role in adventures. This could include a physically fit, demanding drill sergeant; a tech-savvy, but socially awkward engineer; a boastful, yet skilled pilot; etc. Such characters could be conducting the training exercises, or could compete against the PCs in them.

3. They take the PCs out of their comfort zones.
It is an important element of game balance that characters have strength and weaknesses. Hopefully, any given mission provides opportunities for all of the PCs to shine. On the other hand, putting the characters into situations where some of them will fail can make for good roleplaying opportunities. Nothing adds flavor like a little humble pie.

4. They create a sense that the PCs are part of a military organization.
All too often, Rebel agents—especially irregulars—seem like loose cannons, ones who are unconnected to any kind of governing body. Having to take some time for training, especially while having a drill sergeant shouting “Move it, move it, move it!” during the exercise, can help ameliorate that perceived disconnect.

5. They can act like a pre-title sequence.
The James Bond movies are a classic example of this. Sometimes missions start with a briefing which, although important, isn't filled with action. Starting with a training exercise can allow for some dice rolling and fun before getting down to business.

6. They can provide a chance to troubleshoot difficult situations.
Should the PCs be facing a truly difficult challenge, they might be given an opportunity to try out a simulation of it before attempting the real thing. This could be especially useful for starfighter combat situations, which can prove lethal if the heroes aren't properly prepared.

Some Sample Training Exercises
Detailed here are some options for training exercises that incorporate different Age of Rebellion skills.
  • Astrogation—Navigate a difficult hyperspace jump via a simulator, especially when timed, with the results (good or bad) being provided.
  • Athletics—Scale a rock face, swim a body of water, or navigate an obstacle course, perhaps while carrying a heavy pack.
  • Brawl and Melee—Win non-lethal bouts against other competitors.
  • Computers—Bypass a security code before an alarm is triggered.
  • Coordination—Traverse a narrow ledge, a tight passage, or something similar. (This could be part of the aforementioned obstacle course.)
  • Discipline—Stand at attention for an extended period of time, perhaps in cold or hot conditions.
  • Gunnery, Ranged (Heavy) and Ranged (Light)—Win skeet-style shooting contests against other characters.
  • Mechanics—Field strip and rebuild an item in a set amount of time.
  • Perception—Watch out for approaching SpecForce operatives who, in heavy camouflage, are approaching the characters' position.
  • Piloting—Handle various simulated situations, possibly including one that is impossible to beat.
  • Resilience—Run a long and grueling course.
  • Skulduggery—Bypass mechanical security or filch an item from an unsuspecting associate.
  • Stealth—Sneak up on other candidates who are making Perception checks to notice approaching “enemies.”
  • Survival—Spend a certain amount of item in the wilderness with limited supplies.
Indeed, a GM could fill a session with these kinds of training exercises, and perhaps even award experience points to the characters for undergoing them.

Keeping Track of the Results
As a final note, the GM might want to keep track of the best results achieved for each of these challenges. Tierfon Base could have a Wall of Fame, posting the names of those Rebels who have proven most capable in each category.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Resources, Resources, Resources

With this post I'd like to start a list of useful links for running Age of Rebellion adventures and campaigns. These are sites maintained by other people that have lots of good information. I'll keep updating as I find more, too.


Fantasy Flight's AoR Message Board
This is the place for discussing rules questions, adventure ideas and the like.

d6 Holocron
This one has plenty of resources for the old d6 SWRPG from West End Games. Two favorite supplements of mine are the Rebel Alliance Sourcebook and Rules of Engagement.

The Official Star Wars Website
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this.

This is probably the greatest repository of Star Wars information on the Internet.

The Force.Net
A great source for news about developments in a galaxy far, far away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"There's a blog I've Not Written to in a Long, Long Time."

Work on the Star Wars material on this site has slowed down as of late.

In Tierfon Campaign semi-news, I have been watching all of The Clone Wars cartoon series on Netflix lately. Did not catch it the first time around. I am now into season 6, episode 3.

Still have not play tested the X-Wing mission "Operation: Polar Flight". Two RPG adventures are still being worked on, one by me: a SpecForce Polar Flight tie-in; and one by Nate: an Alliance Intelligence (Irregulars) tie-in. I plan to run the SpecForce mission as an event at Con of the North in February. Will try to test it out a few times between now and then.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Operation: Polar Flight

Tierfon Campaign Starting Roster
Mission T1: Operation Polar Flight
The first Tierfon Campaign mission for the X-Wing Miniatures Game is ready to be play tested! In this
initial encounter we see Aurek Flight, half of Black Squadron's ships, called upon to strike a communications link vital to a new Imperial TIE fighter base. The Rebel ships are to drop out of hyperspace, destroy the comms relays, and make the jump back into hyperspace before the TIEs can swarm.

The mission is the opening salvo in a joint effort involving Alliance Intelligence, SpecForce, and Starfighter Command, code-named Operation Polar Flight. Two companion missions for the Age of Rebellion RPG are also nearing completion: more on those later.

For the T1 playtest, we need to look at a few items for the sake of balance. One is the number of hull points on the Holonet Transceiver targets. The other is the rate at which Imperial reinforcements arrive. Either of these may be in need of fine-tuning in order to make a balanced and competitive scenario.

As a supplement to the first mission, I offer the Tierfon Starting Roster PDF as well. This document lists all 18 pilots who are currently members of Black Squadron along with the equipment they have access to at the beginning of the campaign. As time goes on and the effects of numerous missions take their toll, we'll see the combat ability of the Squadron degrade.

Click on the link in the caption of either picture to download the PDF.

In a future post I will address the notion of Campaign Points and the procedure for tracking damage to both pilots and starfighters between missions.

Special thanks to A Few Maneuvers forum member "GeckoTH" for the Photoshop template!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Contribution! Duty! Rank! XP!

The Age of Rebellion RPG has a bunch of details that make it challenging to stat up "starting" PCs for the various Tierfon groups.

Within the command structure at the base, beings have different ranks, which leads to different "Contribution" ratings. Presumably, the only way these beings arrived at a higher Contribution scores was by accruing "Duty" during adventures (or by some other means? More on that later*). Thus, higher ranking individuals should also have more XP (seems to make sense) and thus will be less likely to be an appropriate starting character for new PCs (also seems OK).

Some of the highest ranking personnel at Tierfon (Major Moorla, for instance) should be statted up as NPC "Adversaries" of some kind (Rival or Nemesis?). Others could be playable PCs (Black Squadron pilots, SpecForce team members).

Another wrinkle added to the complexity that is Tierfon, Troupe Style!

*Maybe not. Perhaps there is a different, longer term track for NPCs to gather high Contribution rankings. After all, one might not expect Mon Mothma (who arguably has the highest Contribution rating possible!) to be a top-notch PC. (I hope she couldn't beat me up in hand-to-hand combat!) I'm sure she hasn't trained with blasters, for instance. We're talking about a former Senator, now chief diplomat. I guess she could be seen as something like a maxed-out Diplomat PC or something?

Another take on this: the most inexperienced starfighter pilot (fresh from "the academy") is still an officer, thus, they technically have (just starting out) a quite high Contribution rating. This makes some sense, as the Alliance will have invested a lot of time and effort into their training, and handed them the keys, so to speak, for some very expensive equipment. I would guess they'd have beginning characters, stats-wise, but higher than average Contribution right from the get-go.

Similarly, if any PC of any type is allowed to know the location of a top secret Rebel Alliance Starfighter base (and can actually go there) they must be trusted by the Alliance a fair bit. According to table 9-3: "Group Contribution Rank Guidelines", an Alliance soldier isn't really a trusted member of the Rebel Alliance until they reach a Contribution rank of 2+. One could almost argue that everyone at Tierfon better be in that category. I also would note that SpecForce personnel should have a "higher -than-their-rank-would-suggest" value for Contribution. At least a +1 bonus for enlisted soldiers.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tierfon Missions

The first in a linked series of missions for the X-Wing Miniatures Game is coming together nicely.

The mission will be titled "T1", and will feature the X-wings from Tierfon's Black Squadron in a hit-and-run strike. Their target: a pair of newly installed holonet transceivers in orbit around Flax. The Imperial Navy is commissioning the devices in order to improve military communications throughout the Sumitra Sector. Alliance High Command has other ideas.

The strike element will emerge from hyperspace, execute the raid, and be gone before a significant Imperial response can be mounted. That's the theory, anyway.

In other news two Age of Rebellion RPG adventures are also in the works. One adventure uses a classic, rag-tag band of heroes to undertake a sensitive assignment. The other involves an Alliance SpecForce team in a daring military assault. Stay tuned for more info as it becomes available.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Age of Rebellion RPG Review

I apologize in advance for cross-posting, but the release of the Age of Rebellion core rulebook seems like a big enough deal to do so.


Age of Rebellion RPG Review
I feel a little strange reviewing the Age of Rebellion core rulebook, given that it uses mostly the same mechanics as Edge of the Empire. Even so, I thought it could be useful to do a chapter-by-chapter comparison of the two books, looking at what's the same and what's different. With that in mind, here goes.

0. AoR has an added introduction, seven pages long, with an example of play; it also talks about using this book with EotE.

1. Playing the Game
These chapters still introduce the core mechanics and concepts. Some of the flavor description is different, given the focus of each book, but they're still pretty similar.

2. Character Creation
Here we see the first big content changes. For AoR, the species included are Bothan, Droid, Duros, Gran, Human, Ithorian, Mon Calamari and Sullustan. Gran was the one big surprise in that bunch; I'm not sure that I've ever had somebody play one before. For careers, there are Ace, Commander, Diplomat, Engineer, Soldier and Spy. Not surprisingly, they are very much war-oriented. There's also a “universal specialization,” the Recruit, that seems easier for characters on other career paths to access.

3. Skills
This chapter in AoR seems quite similar to the one in EotE.

4. Talents
This chapter in AoR seems quite similar to the one in EotE, except that the talents described are ones taken from the careers and specializations. There is some overlap, but there are new ones, too.

5. Gear and Equipment
Although many of the presented in AoR are the same as in EotE, there are a few differences.

6. Conflict and Combat
These chapters seem to be very similar to each other.

7. Starships and Vehicles
While the rules portions of these chapters are very similar, the ships and vehicles presented in AoR focus much more on vessels of the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. More starfighters, not so many freighters.

8. The Force
Age of Rebellion presents a new career, the Force-Sensitive Emergent. With it are three new talent trees, Move, Enhance and Foresee. These seem like a natural way to build upon the abilities of the Force-Sensitive Exile presented in EotE.

9. The Game Master
Much of the content is similar in these chapters, although there are changes for the different campaign emphases of the two games.

10. The Galaxy
There is a little bit of overlap here, when it comes to details about hyperspace lanes and the regions of the galaxy. Still, the focus is on the Galactic Civil War and what different places mean to that struggle. Additionally, the worlds that receive full-page write-ups are Alderaan, Byss, Chandrila, Dac (Mon Calamari), Hoth, Imperial Center (Coruscant), Sullust and Yavin IV, none of which received them in EotE.

11. Rebellion (replacing Law and Society from EotE)
This seems to all be new content detailing the structure of the Rebel Alliance and various Rebel activities.

12. Adversaries
Here again there's a lot more focus on the beings who make up both sides during the war, rather than those who live on the fringes of the galaxy.

13. Perlemian Haul
This is, of course, an entirely new adventure from the one, “Trouble Brewing,” presented in EotE.

All in all, Age of Rebellion is very well done. The rules are solid, the art is gorgeous and the book is put together well. It feels weird to pay full price for a tome that duplicates material I already have, but the book could be a stand-alone for players and GM's who want to play this style of adventure rather than the one presented in Edge of the Empire. At the same time, having both books can help present a more varied tapestry of the Star Wars universe in a campaign.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Rebellion Approaches

A Big Shiny Red Book

I am getting very excited about the upcoming Age of Rebellion RPG from FFG. While I plan to begin writing adventures for the game once it's released, I am definitely new to the system. In fact, I own only the Edge of the Empire Beginner Game and have only played in one adventure thus far (the intro adventure found in the Age of Rebellion Beginner Game...GMd by Nate).

I am still trying to wrap my head around the dice used in the game and what, in particular, they really mean. I was leery, at first, leaving my good old standard polyhedrons at home for this new system. I have noticed a few positive side effects, however, inherent in these mechanics. The main one is speed. Think of it this way: old fashioned dice, as great as they are, only serve to generate random numbers. Many times these numbers must then be compared against a table or chart in the rulebook. This takes time.

The custom dice used in the new SW RPGs are random result generators. A subtle, but important, difference, I think. The piece-wise cancellation of symbols, read from the rolled faces of the dice themselves, can yield a fairly complicated result in a relatively easy way. This result is influenced by random elements (the different sides of the dice that can be rolled), skill level (the types of dice added to the initial die pool), difficulty of the task (a negative type die, also added to the actor's dice pool--a nice way to ensure that only a single roll of the dice will be needed for most actions; you essentially roll for and against yourself, all at once), positive factors which may aid success (but themselves can't contribute a net negative effect), and negative factors which do the opposite.

In addition to determining the straight-up success or failure of a character's attempted action, the dice symbols go one step further...toward aiding and empowering the telling of a story. In this way, the dice not only keep one from having to look up results on a table or chart, but they also prompt and direct the narrative. Saving time, keeping the action-filled pace up, maintaining interest and investment by players and GMs alike, and building a potentially deeper (and a bit random, but still player influenced) story during the adventure.

All the dice
The green Ability Die has an evil twin, called the purple Difficulty Die.

The green Ability Die also has a big brother, called the yellow Proficiency Die.

Unfortunately, the purple Difficulty Die also has an evil big brother called the red Challenge Die.

The yellow die is like an improved green die. The red die is like an even worse purple die.

I feel these four should be arranged like this in your mind. Far left is great, then good, then bad, then terrible. The number of each die that goes into your dice pool is dependent on your skill and the level of difficulty for the task at hand (plus extraneous factors).

Basic Task Success or Failure?
Now we look at the positive and negative factor dice, that may help or hurt you. The good die, the light blue Boost Die, can only help (but it might not). The bad die, the black Setback Die, can only hurt (but it might not).
Extraneous Factors?
The last one is the white Force Die, which, as the name implies, probably doesn't come up very often.

Only Luke uses this?
Finally we will look at the symbols found on these dice. There are no numbers, so you have to get used to interpreting the runes. The success or failure of an activity is determined by the following symbols found on the Proficiency, Ability, Difficulty, Challenge, Boost, and Setback Dice.

Arcane Symbols
Here again we have a nice symmetry (I am a big fan of that). Successes are good, Triumphs are better. Failures are bad, Despairs are worse. They piece-wise cancel each other. The net result after all cancellations have been made, determines whether or not you succeeded at the task at hand. In addition to counting as a Success, a Triumph may "be spent trigger a positive consequence". The Despair has a similar role; in addition to counting as a Failure, it may "be spent trigger a negative consequence".

But wait, we have more arcane symbols!

We're Not Done Yet!
Interestingly enough, these supplemental positive and negative symbols cancel each other, but do not influence the overall Success or Failure state of the task at hand. They will simply add a random element of extra story in the form of side effects or consequences. So you could fail to accomplish something, yet still move the story forward, at least indirectly.

This is great for driving those things that make Star Wars roleplaying games memorable: Imperial Entanglements and Unintended Consequences. Basically a mechanic-based way for sneaking people to accidentally step on a twig or a falling person to inadvertently press the right button on the console or something. You messed up what you were trying to do, but you did wind up doing something kinda useful (or the opposite of that). My guess is this is a way for GMs to really tie the action into the setting; most of these side effects would be related to the environment the characters are in, I would guess.

Here is a look at the relative abundance of the various symbols throughout the dice, taken from the 2013 Free RPG Day adventure "Under a Black Sun".

Faces of Dice
I do not know the origins of this symbol-based dice system (it appears that, at least, the FFG incarnation of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay uses something very similar), but I think it has potential. Certainly potential to allow FFG to sell us stuff we already own (i.e. polyhedral dice)*, but also the potential to make gaming quicker and richer in terms of story-telling.

The system kinda drags you, whether you like it or not, into a twisting narrative style of play (at least twisting along the margins of the narrative), because you have to somehow explain all the weird symbols that crop up when you attempt to do anything. This very likely keeps both players and GMs a bit more on their toes, as the system encourages everyone to chime in with ideas on what the heck, exactly, just happened when you tried to shoot your blaster rifle at those stormtroopers while standing beside stacked up carbonite-encased blocks of spin-sealed Tibanna gas.

Questions? Comments? As I mentioned, I am a newcomer to this system (but not SWRPGs). Nate has been running an Edge of the Empire campaign for quite some time (starting the day the Beta book or Beginner Game was released or something...). He'll chime in if I've made any errors in reporting the facts. Won't you, Nate?

*FFG is very good at making stuff. Boxes with books and dice and miniatures and cards. With supplement cards. And boxes. And books. And dice....Good thing they have superior quality stuff; because you will be buying ALOT of it.

At the Core: A Preview of the Star Wars(R): Edge of the Empire(TM) Beginner Game

Under a Black Sun: A Star Wars(R): Edge of the Empire(TM) FreeRPG Day adventure

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Preparing for First X-wing Mission

One of the goals for this Tierfon site is to make a series of missions for a continuing campaign using the X-Wing Miniatures Game from FFG.

Along these lines, I am interested in "realistic" missions for Tierfon's Black Squadron, not so much the standard fare of 100 points per side, dogfight until one side is dead kind of thing. The missions I have in mind would likely fall into the game's Cinematic realm.

My thought is to have a slate of pilots and equipment and allow the player to use almost whatever they want to accomplish the jobs set before them. The notion is that this will be more of a marathon than a sprint; an effort to try to manage the resources given by Alliance High Command in order to keep up with a demanding slate of mission assignments as time rolls on. Surviving pilots could get better, and, of course, some pilots will not make it. Replacements (both in personnel and equipment) will be a bit difficult to come by.

One idea I am toying with is to reduce the reliance on cards and whatnot for the X-Wing missions. I am going to work on an idea of a small character sheet for the X-wing pilots instead of using the pilot cards included in the Miniatures Game. Points for squad building, etc, will not be very important to me, at least at first. The character sheet idea will allow for growth (or regression?) of the individual pilots in the squadron as time goes on. More on this later, as it develops.

So what makes for a "realistic" mission profile? In my mind, the Rebels will almost always be acting in a 'death by a thousand cuts' mode. They never wish to engage the Imperial fleet in a fair fight. They do, however, want to stretch the Imperial military to the limit, everywhere throughout the galaxy. The Rebel Alliance High Command is on the run, in hiding. The Rebel Fleet is dispersed, with explicit orders to avoid the Imperial Navy at all costs. The idea is to keep all local Imperials 'at home', reducing their ability to fan out and effectively hunt for the Rebels. Darth Vader has been tasked with finding the Alliance High Command, and has a fleet specifically built for that purpose, but Mon Mothma and the other Rebel leaders want to make it as expensive as possible for the Imperials to pull resources away from defending any given place in the galaxy. Right now the Rebels are essentially stalling for time, as with each passing day more worlds and systems join the fight against the Empire.

For most sector commands, like Tierfon's Sumitra Sector, the primary goal of starfighter operations is to harry and harass Imperial shipping, making it too costly for the Empire to send unescorted transports and supply vessels along the hyperlanes. In addition, precision strikes on communications, supplies, and command and control targets can aid joint operations, making the jobs of spies or Spec Force commandoes easier.

Another goal of this site is to make adventures for the upcoming Age of Rebellion RPG. In most cases, these adventures can tie into the X-Wing missions in some way. The adventurers, whether a Spec Force team or a group of "freelance troubleshooters" might need starfighters to knock out a holonet array before mission begins, or they may need patrolling TIEs eliminated in order to make a clean break from a planet after a mission ends. Failing the X-Wing Miniatures Game mission could spell disaster for the RPG side of things, and possibly vice versa.

In most cases, Alliance Intelligence will be working hard to identify likely targets for Black Squadron raids, using the vast networks of Rebel spies throughout the galaxy. Many times observers stationed at or near starports can glean information about transit routes and times for Imperial supply shipments. Intell would also work to coordinate the squadron's interactions with other assets in the field.

In the end, realistic X-Wing missions will likely be unbalanced, asymmetrical type engagements (a few X-wings versus an entire squadron of TIEs, for instance) where Rebel victory is not defined by eliminating the enemy forces, but by accomplishing some type of task quickly and surviving long enough to make the jump to hyperspace.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Please welcome a boatload of new named NPCs for the Tierfon Campaign! A couple of the Alliance High Command Chiefs were never named anywhere, as far as I could tell, and General Vernon has never had a first name (before now).

The rest are made up. Hopefully they all sound Star Wars enough for our purposes.

High Command

Alliance Intelligence Chief General Roan Vernon (human male)
Alliance Sector Command Chief General Joba Dass (human female)
Alliance Support Services Chief General Seti Nee (Gran female)

Tierfon Base

Sumitra Sector Command:

Major Kento Moorla (human male) - Tierfon’s commanding officer
Captain Prestor Sykes (human male) - Tierfon second-in-command
Lieutenant Sola Bast (human female) - Tierfon Security Chief, Juno’s sister

Starfighter Command:

Squadron Leader Kareene Argent (human female) - Black Squadron leader
Flight Lieutenant Bren Axmis (human male) - Black Squadron pilot
Flight Officer Natasi Clovis (human female) - Black Squadron pilot
Flight Officer Nar Syndulla (Twi’lek male) - Black Squadron pilot
Flight Officer Tomaas Hardeen (human male) - Black Squadron pilot
Flight Officer Zeva Kuro (Zabrak female) - Black Squadron pilot
Flight Officer Raako Tosh (Mon Calamari male) - Black Squadron pilot
Technical Sergeant Resh Waydeen (human male) - Black Squadron ground crew lead


Lieutenant Juno Bast (human female) - Tierfon Intelligence Lead, Sola’s sister
2nd Lieutenant Oro Omas (Mon Calamari female)

Spec Force:

Sergeant Trak Bondaloo (human male)
First Trooper Noa Sarn (human male)

Support Services Command:

Senior Trooper Kal Bandi (human male) - Tierfon base cook

Sumitra Sector Imperials

Overall Command

Moff Bevel Jusik (human male) - in charge of both civilian planetary governors and the Imperial military throughout Sumitra Sector

Imperial Navy (Sumitra)

Fleet Admiral Cantari Rast (human male) - Sumitra Sector Fleet Commander
Rear-Admiral Astor Drall (human male) - Sumitra Sector TIE Commander

Imperial Army (Sumitra)

Major-General Malcor Nu (human male) - Sumitra Sector Ground Commander

2312th Stormtrooper Legion (currently assigned to Sumitra Sector)

High Colonel Vilim Kael (human male) - Legion Commander

Imperial Inquistion (Sumitra Sector)

Inquisitor Xemus Drallig (human male)