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)