Friday, August 28, 2015

Shadows of Mindor

Just finished reading "Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor", by Matthew Stover (2008). I'd say it was quite enjoyable, overall. The novel is set at the very beginning of the New Republic era, about a year after Endor. High points included well written dialog and believable depictions of fan favorite characters like Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, and Wedge, among others. He got the tone and feel just right in those regards. Good marks for an epic story that is big and worthwhile, but does not outshine the Original Trilogy in scope, danger, or galactic importance. I really appreciated the constant barrage of in-universe references, idioms, similes, etc (think "...could pull the ears off a gundark." or "...bullseye womp rats...")

There is a (perhaps?) tongue in cheek strain throughout the book of referencing holodramas produced, in-universe, about the main character(s). Even the main bad guy apparently has been bitten by the acting/directing/producing bug. A bit strange on some level; but not too distracting.

The storyline delves into a variant philosophy of the dark side that seems pretty well developed and interesting. The book brings a bit more Science (with a capital "S") to the space opera sci fi that is Star Wars. I mostly enjoyed that aspect; the frequent science references were almost enough to drown out the Star Wars flavor. For instance, it is not often that SW fiction talks about hard radiation and its potential effects on space travelers, etc.

The action is epic and continuous. Many bothans died to bring us this adventure (so to speak). The characters get thoroughly roughed up along the way... the poor Falcon alone takes about thirty times more abuse than one could justifiably assume a ship could absorb and still be space-worthy, not to mention multiple capital ships exploding, and worse. But I will not spoil the story any further.

Well worth the read if you'd like to spend some more time with the old gang.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Great Pictures, part 2

I just finished reading "Tales from the New Republic", a collection of EU short stories published in December 1999 (after The Phantom Menace came out). This is the cover art for that nice book. The more I think about it, the more I am disturbed by the rumors and snippets of "fact" I've heard concerning The Force Awakens.

One such gripe: the entire first two trilogies are essentially about an ultra powerful Sith lord who comes to rule an empire via direct personal intervention: threats, political maneuvering, sabotage, etc. Those opposed to his tactics, once they learn the full extent of the Sith lord's evil, openly rebel. That is the grand backstory: the personal level story is one of a father and son, caught up in this Sith lord's web--a story of failure then redemption, a story of the son not falling down the same dark hole as his father. And saving the galaxy in the process. In this narrative package, neatly tied with a bow, I can't believe that 30 years after the spider in the center of the web is killed that the web itself hasn't decayed completely. I like the EU idea of Imperial Remnants, Moffs and Admirals trying to keep it going here or there, etc. I do not like the idea of essentially the same conflict lingering on. The Force Awakens is almost the same distance away from the Emperor's death (~34 ABY), timeline-wise, as the first overt moves in the Sith lord's original plan (~32 BBY). The Empire was the Emperor, and vice-versa. I would envision a rapid deterioration of Imperial forces after Endor, followed by a slow grinding out of the last points of conflict. Maybe 10-15 years. Perhaps as many as 20, to pacify far-flung, out-of-the-way places. Certainly not the implied* idea of 30 years later the conflict is not resolved. 

*Disclaimer: I do have to admit that I have no idea where the names "First Order" and "Resistance" come from, and what the history from Endor to The Force Awakens entails. It is entirely possible that somewhere in the details I will become a fan of the idea. I am merely stating that, in the Space Opera genre like Star Wars, when the main bad guy is killed, the rest is just mopping up and detail work. The Empire died above the forest moon of Endor. (Almost) end of story.

J. J. Abrams
I am not saying that I won't like The Force Awakens (I dearly hope I love it), but I am bracing for impact, just in case. I don't think his Star Trek movies were in the true spirit of Star Trek, for instance. One talisman I have picked up, just in case, is the funny (and hopefully not needed) appellation Jar Jar Abrams. Let's just hope we don't need to use it.

Fan of EU (mostly)
I guess it's nostalgia, but I would rather have the shared Zahn/Stackpole/others EU (the good stuff, carefully done, with certain wild ideas/concepts edited out--I'm looking at you Suncrusher and Yuuzhan Vong) than a re-boot of all that material. Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, Rogue Squadron, Corran Horn and others are too precious to toss onto the scrap heap. 

X-Wing Miniatures Game
Another reason this picture is so cool, in my mind, is that I recently obtained the CR90 for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Thus, this picture is of a fleet I could field, if I were to get one more Y-wing (my fleet is larger, of course!).

I have not yet flown the Epic ships in combat. I hope to remedy that problem soon.

Great Pictures, part 1

This is an incredibly wonderful picture. My favorite Star Wars ship, docked on some exotic world. Various doorways beckon, leading deeper into the well-used installation. The YT-1300's boarding ramp itself invites us to run aboard (perhaps under a hail of Imperial blaster fire), drop into the pilot's seat and gun it for orbit.

Is this a mining colony? Is that a bounty hunter near the mandibles? Is that Chewie coming out of the bay to the right? One could write an entire adventure from the juicy tidbits presented in this image, and perhaps flavor an entire campaign with ideas extrapolated from details.

Simply wonderful!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Force and Destiny (P)Review

After having a chance to browse the new book, I wrote up a summary of what one can expect from it.


Force and Destiny (P)Review
Presented here is an overview of what one can expect from the new Force and Destiny core rulebook.

Pages 1-2: Inside title pages

Page 3: Opening crawl

Page 4: Credits

Page 5: Table of contents

Introduction (pages 6-13)
This chapter provides some introductory fiction, an example of play, an overview of the game's style and focus.

Chapter 1 (pages 14-39): Playing the Game
This is pretty familiar fare, consistent with material from the previous two core rulebooks.

Chapter 2 (pages 40-109): Character Creation
While the layout of this chapter is standard, it presents numerous new possibilities for players.
  • Morality, of course, is the new mechanic akin to Obligation and Duty.
  • The species for this game are Cerean, Human, Kel Dor, Mirialan, Nautolan, Togruta, Twi'lek and Zabrak.
  • There are six new careers, each with its own specializations—Consular (Healer, Niman Disciple and Sage); Guardian (Peacekeeper, Protector and Soresu Defender); Mystic (Advisor, Makashi Duelist and Seer); Seeker (Ataru Striker, Hunter and Pathfinder); Sentinel (Artisan, Shadow and Shien Expert); Warrior (Aggressor, Shii-Cho Knight and Starfighter Ace).
  • New motivations specific to Force-users
  • Suggestions for group resources, including a starship, along with a Jedi holocron or mentor

Chapter 3 (pages 110-133): Skills
This is pretty familiar stuff, too.

Chapter 4 (pages 134-153): Talents
This chapter breaks down the talents for the new careers and specializations. There seems to be a lot of new material, given the Force-centered nature of those character options.

Chapter 5 (pages 154-201): Gear and Equipment
While much of this is similar to what one can find in the other core rulebooks, there are some notable exceptions.
  • For one thing, there's new material involving different kinds of lightsabers, various cortosis items, types of robes, etc.
  • There's information about holocrons and ancient talismans, too.
  • Lightsaber modifications are added to the list of those for other weapons, including different types of crystals.

Chapter 6 (pages 202-227): Conflict and Combat
This is pretty familiar stuff.

Chapter 7 (pages 228-271): Starships and Vehicles
The mechanics in this chapter are much the same as those in previous core rulebooks, but the different types of vehicles detailed provide some variety.
  • Airspeeders: Civilian model, Talon 1 cloud car
  • Landspeeders: Passenger model, A-A3 light speeder truck, 85-XS Odyssey heavy speeder bike
  • Wheeled and tracked vehicles: Gallis-Tech 48 roller, groundcar
  • Walkers: AT-HCT
  • Starfighters: Y-Wing, Delta-6, Delta-7, Delta-12, Lambda shuttle, Pathfinder scout ship, X-Wing, TIE/LN
  • Freighters and transports: G9 Rigger, HWK-290, HT-2200, Simiyiar light freighter, ZH-25 Questor
  • Capital ships: ADZ-class destroyer, CR90 corvette, IR-3F light frigate, Victory-class star destroyer

Chapter 8 (pages 272-305): The Force
This chapter provides, not surprisingly, a lot of new material.
  • There's a lengthy overview of using the Force in play.
  • Eleven new Force power trees: Battle Meditation, Bind, Enhance, Foresee, Heal/Harm, Influence, Misdirect, Move, Protect/Unleash, Seek and Sense.

Chapter 9 (pages 306-339): The Game Master
The material in this chapter resembles that from other core rulebooks, except that it is tailored to adventures and campaigns involving Force-users.

Chapter 10 (pages 340-375): The Galaxy
This chapter provides an overview of the Star Wars galaxy, as expected, along with new planetary profiles: Cerea, Coruscant, Dagobah, Dorin, Ilum, Moraband (Korriban), Ossus, Weik.

Chapter 11 (pages 376-397): The Jedi and the Sith
There's a comprehensive account of these two organizations' histories, along with overviews of other Force-using sects and their lost artifacts.

Chapter 12 (pages 398-421): Adversaries
The NPCs detailed in this section include some interesting new ones, including the Imperial assassin, the IG-100 Magnaguard, different types of Force-users, and new creatures: acklay, jackobeast, jubba bird, kaaten, kouhun, maalraa, tusk cat, vornskr and ysalamir. There's also a section specific to the Inquisitorius.

Chapter 13 (pages 422-440): Lessons from the Past scenario
I didn't read this one, because I intend to play it at some point.

Pages 441-444: Index

Pages 445-8: Character sheet, ship sheet and base of operations sheet

All in all, this book provides lots of new material for using the Force in Star Wars adventures. Most notably, I think it would be invaluable for running adventures and campaigns set in time periods other than the Rebellion Era.