Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Legends of Luke Skywalker


Just finished reading this one, The Legends of Luke Skywalker (Ken Liu, 2017), part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi event.

The premise is interesting: basically extrapolating from Rey's quote in The Force Awakens

"Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth."

This book is a series of short stories connected by some interludes; inter- (or intra*?)-story pieces wherein the beings sharing the "legends of Luke" discuss what they've heard, seen, believe, etc. I like the concept somewhat. I was hoping to spend time solely with my good buddy Luke. In particular, I was really hoping to learn something concrete about events after RotJ. Luke and I have a lot of catching up to do! Sadly, it was not to be; at least not in the way I'd hoped.

Some of the stories included herein are quite good. All have the theme of Luke traveling the galaxy (all post RotJ, I think) learning about disparate Force traditions. Other included stories are annoying. It seems rampant comedy is now a part of the canon. Not used as a spice, but as the main course. I am too serious of a SW fan (yes, that does sound sad) for me to enjoy that sort of thing. Perhaps least so when it comes to my old buddy Luke. (This is the same author who brought us the comedy piece "The Sith of Datawork" in the From a Certain Point of View collection...).

Canto Bight plays a peripheral role in the interlude tale. Eager to see that place on the silver screen. Not too far away, now.

By the end of the book I was happier with the overall experience than I suspected I'd be (based on one or two of the legends included).





*all of the stories are somewhat connected, making the overall feel like a bit of one long legend. So "intra" might be warranted.

Friday, October 27, 2017

From a Certain Point of View



Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View (2017)

Just finished reading this collection of 40 stories to celebrate the 40 years since Star Wars: A New Hope was released. Hoping for a bit of the "look and feel" of the old Tales From... series of books; a good crop of modern back story pieces. One neat thing is that the stories go in chronological order with the events in A New Hope: starting just before the movie opens and continuing through 'til the end.

Proceeds from the sale of this short story collection benefit the non-profit group First Book. All contributors have forgone any compensation for their work. So that's nice.

What's inside, you ask? Well, here are some short thoughts about these short stories. Of the 40 tales, I really like 18 of them and actively dislike 11. The other 11 are neither here nor there. I'm glad I bought the book, and I am pleased to have read it. Wide variation in quality and seriousness found herein.

1. Raymus (Gary Whitta)
A decent tale that might be trying too hard. Attempts to explain why Tantive IV rode to the Battle of Scarif aboard Profundity and why Vader's star destroyer Devastator was able to track the CR90 through hyperspace and follow it to Tatooine. Seemed a bit heavy-handed; but an OK story.

2. The Bucket (Christie Golden)
Another situation where a stormtrooper  switches sides, or at least thinks about it? Eh.

3. The Sith of Datawork (Ken Liu)
The first of the joke stories (perhaps?). All about low-ranking officers aboard Devastator trying to fill out bureaucratic forms to protect themselves from their failures. No thanks.

4. Stories in the Sand (Griffin McElroy)
A jawa who wants to see the stars, somehow interacts with and saves R2-D2 aboard the sandcrawler, before the Lars family purchases the astromech. We don't need to wedge this sort of constant strife at every moment into the existing story, creating a legion of secret heroes to whom the actual heroes owe their success. It's not...heroic.

5. Reirin (Sabaa Tahir)
A tale of a Force-sensitive Tusken Raider who just wants a better life. And secretly boards the same sandcrawler with the droids. Too much, people. The sandcrawler is full. No more passengers, please.

6. The Red One (Rae Carson)
The 'bad motivator' astromech that Owen Lars purchases first interacts with, and saves, R2-D2. Behind the scenes. Again. On the sandcrawler. He malfunctions on purpose to help R2 complete his mission to save the galaxy. Again, people. Not required to make everything that occurs on the screen be the secret work of the Force; each person a knowing participant in the saga. Some droids (and others) are extras. They have stories, etc, but they are not the heroes.

7. Rites (John Jackson Miller)
A Force-sensitive Tusken Raider who encounters the old hermit living on the edge of the Jundland Wastes. This author did a very nice job detailing the Tusken society in the wonderful novel "Kenobi". I liked this story, too.

8. Master and Apprentice (Claudia Gray)
Another good story. Obi-Wan, alone in the desert, still learning from his dearly departed Master, Qui-Gon. I certainly like Claudia Gray's writing.

9. Beru Whitesun Lars (Meg Cabot)
Aunt Beru speaking to us from beyond the grave. Mentions blue milk about 6 too many times. Pass.

10. The Luckless Rodian (Renee Ahdieh)
Greedo tries to make a play for Solo and, thank the maker, Han Shoots First. Good story.

11. Not for Nothing (Mur Lafferty)
A mediocre portion of a fictitious memoir about Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes. Covers some of their adventures working for Jabba.

12. We Don't Serve Thier Kind Here (Chuck Wendig)
Not good. In his own terrible turn of phrase, this story was like "...a hawked-up globba spit on top of a poodoo sundae." Terrible writer. End of story.

One minor note: Wendig strikes again, in terms of LGBT inclusiveness. Never one to not mention in a ham-fisted way a gay or lesbian couple, he manages to work one in here, too. It's the best thing about this bad writer's writing; but I wish it were worked into the story with more skill. Seems like he's just checking off a box...need to add a gay couple before I'm done.

13. The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper (Kelly Sue DeConnock and Matt Fraction)
Too long. Perhaps most like the old "Tales From...", in a way. Aims to introduce us to a whole range of minor cantina characters who are all small time crooks and low level operators. They screw each other over constantly, and drink too much, and are always looking to make a score. OK, I guess.

14. Added Muscle (Paul Dini)
Poor. First person tale, supposedly told by Boba Fett. Fett, as portrayed here, sounds like a whiny loser. Not buying it.

15. You Owe Me a Ride (Zoraida Cordova)
The Tonnika sisters. I like this one.

16. The Secrets of Long Snoot (Delilah S. Dawson)
Backstory for the Kubaz Garindan. Another good story, I'd wager.

17. Born in the Storm (Daniel Jose Older)
More jokes about filling out forms. Not funny. This is about a stormtrooper completing an Imperial Incident Report form. Toss is a bit of hackneyed "bad stormtrooper turns good" for a rating of: meh.

18. Laina (Wil Wheaton)
A heartbreaking tale, well told by an icon of the other best SciFi series around. Very good.

19. Fully Operational (Beth Revis)
The careful and calculating General Cassio Tagge thinks there may be a danger to the Rebels having stolen the Death Star plans at Scarif. He is alone among his High Command peers, however. Spoiler alert: he was right! A good read.

20. An Incident Report (Mallory Ortberg)
You guessed it! Another person filling out a form. This time its Admiral Motti writing to the powers that be on Coruscant to protest his shoddy treatment (and Force choking) and the hands (fingers?) of Darth Vader. Enough with the forms.

21. Change of Heart (Elizabeth Wein)
Another Imperial decides the bad guy side isn't for him anymore. This time we have an assistant interrogator, involved with Vader in the questioning/torture of Leia on the Death Star. He decides to join the Rebellion. At this sad rate, we'll have 50% of the Imps seen on screen defecting to the Alliance by the time we're done reading these stories.

22. Eclipse (Madeleine Roux)
Another heartbreaking tale. Well written. Bail and Breha Organa, home on Alderaan, first learn of the apparent loss of Tantive IV in the Battle of Scarif, then, still grieving, live through the last moments of their home planet together.

23. Verge of Greatness (Pablo Hidalgo)
A decent story of Tarkin claiming control of the Death Star by thwarting (and ultimately killing) Krennic. Told as a disjointed series of flash backs and flash forwards, also includes a strange interlude of Admiral Motti all but pledging to serve Tarkin if the Grand Moff wished to use the Death Star to leave the Empire.

24. Far Too Remote (Jeffrey Brown)
A single panel cartoon. What?

25. The Trigger (Kieron Gillen)
Dr. Aphra's first appearance outside of her comics, I'd wager. OK, I guess. Don't quite like Dr. Aphra.

26. Of MSE-6 and Men (Glen Weldon)
If a movie were to be made of this story, you'd find it in the adult section of the video store. Not good. Keep it together, Star Wars.

27. Bump (Ben Acker and Ben Blacker)
Finally a stormtrooper who has decided to stick with the Empire.

28. End of Watch (Adam Christopher)
An interesting tale wherein we get to watch the events of Luke, Han, and Chewie's Death Star prison break from the other side. The people in the Station Control West control room don't quite know what to make of all this tomfoolery going on down there. Kinda fun.

29. The Baptist (Nnedi Okorafor)
A compelling concept, a well written story. Perhaps trying a bit too hard. This suggests that the dianoga that attacks Luke in the Death Star trash compactor is sentient, Force-sensitive, and in fact is working on behalf of the Force to "baptize" Luke: transitioning him from boy to man.

30. Time of Death (Cavan Scott)
Another tale from beyond the grave. No blue milk mentioned, so that's good. This one has a cool vibe; a bit otherworldly and mysterious, as Obi-Wan struggles to learn about being a Force ghost.

31. There is Another (Gary D. Schmidt)
Yoda wishes he could train a Skywalker...just not Luke. A good story of the pre-Luke visit time on Dagobah.

32. Palpatine (Ian Doescher)
Oh no. A Palpatine Shakespearean soliloquy. Or a rap? No thank you.

33. Sparks (Paul S. Kemp)
The first of a few very nice stories about the Rebel starfighter attack on the Death Star.

34. Duty Roster (Jason Fry)
Another great tale of behind-the-scenes action during the desperate space battle around the Death Star. Probably can serve as the definitive guide for who's who in the various squadrons, considering the author. I would suspect he wanted to use this story to straighten out the canon in this regard once and for all; and I approve wholeheartedly. This story: 1. claims that there were more pilots that starfighters available to fly, and 2. attempts to explain the "Fake Wedge" guy, long mis-identified in the briefing room before the Battle of Yavin (as I recall).

35. Desert Son (Pierce Brown)
A tale of Biggs...meeting Luke at Yavin, then going out in a blaze of glory on the trench run. Nice.

36. Grounded (Gary Rucka)
The starfighter attack on the Death Star as seen from the point of view of the ground techs and support crews listening to the action via radio, as the fighting went on high above. Strangely enough, this tale contradicts the details in "Duty Roster" by claiming that Yavin base had more starfighters than they had available pilots. Three spare, space-worthy X-wings, just sitting there, this tale says. Unlikely, I'd say. "Duty Roster" is all about the tough choices Garven Dreis had to make about which pilots would fly the precious few craft they had on hand. An odd consistency mistake to have happen.

37. Contingency Plan (Alexander Freed)
A strange, alternate universe though experiment wherein Mon Mothma daydreams about possible futures, including surrendering in person to Palpatine.

38. The Angle (Chales Soule)
Lando somehow watching a black-market holo recording of the Death Star trench run, soon after it occurs, in some backwater bar half-way across the galaxy. Already bad; but to make it worse, he sees (and can identify) the Falcon in said footage. And he knows it's Han piloting. Unlikely, my friends.

39. By Whatever Sun (E.K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein)
Alderaan refugees, newly homeless, stick together during the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope. They draw strength from seeing Leia's steely resolve up close and personal.

40. Whills (Tome Angleberger)
Bad. Another comedy piece, or something like that. Not good. Quit using important words and concepts (like the Whills) for dumb things like this.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

SWAJ 10


Just finished reading Star Wars Adventure Journal, Vol. 1, No. 10 (WEG, May 1996). A decent entry into the genre. In this issue we learn of the death of Brian Daley (The Han Solo Adventures, 1979, National Public Radio Dramatization Original Trilogy scripts, 1981, 1983, 1996). As the WEG team says, Clear Skies, Mr. Daley. 

We also learn of the upcoming release of the second X-Wing novel by Michael Stackpole, the forthcoming Star Wars RPG, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded (pictured below. Not my favorite edition from WEG; I prefer the blue book 2nd edition or the 1st edition books. This was the start of glossy pages and a mixture of real photos side by side with mediocre art...which somehow serves to underline the sometimes sketchy (pun intended) quality of some of the artwork).


This issue includes the Galaxywide NewsNets (a flavorful source for idea snippets), some Cracken's Rebel Field Guide entries, an article about TIE fighters, two or three decent short stories/adventure hooks, some references to Waldenbooks and B. Dalton's. Those were the days.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Leia


Just finished reading this new young adult novel, Leia: Princess of Alderaan (Claudia Gray, 2017). A very nice read, taking place 3 years before the events of A New Hope. The rebellion is forming, and Leia's parents Bail and Breha are at the heart of it. Leia herself is just beginning to become enmeshed in the still-behind-the-scenes struggle. She is still a young girl, not yet a Senator or Rebel leader.

Other than the Organas, Mon Mothma, Captain Antilles, and Grand Moff Tarkin, we don't know most of the other characters. There are no scenes of battle or desperate action. The book is laying the ground work for the ominous fight yet to come. Well written, good characterizations- a solid entry into my preferred canon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

X-Wing Homebrew


The FFG forum is a good place for serial complainers, like me. One of the ideas that has struck me recently is the gripe that recent X-Wing Miniatures Game releases have been poorly executed.

FFG wants (rightfully so) to get on the new movie band-wagon as soon as possible. However, they are not industry insiders enough to actually get real details about the ships, capabilities, and pilots they include in these slap-dash expansions.

A few examples are in order. For The Force Awakens, FFG decides to make a new starter set featuring the Resistance T-70 and the First Order TIE fighter. Sounds OK. I don't particularly like the idea of two starter sets for sale at the same time, but whatever. They also add both ships (in stand-alone form) as late-comer additions to the not yet released Wave 8. Strangely enough, these two add-ins are released before the rest of Wave 8, right around the time of the movie. (They weren't really members of Wave 8, were they?).

Anyway, on the T-70 side these brand new expansions feature such thrilling pilots as: Poe Dameron (makes sense), Blue Ace (as a "unique" pilot name), Red Ace (also unique...), and Ello Asty. The First Order side (like many Imperials before them) are less individualized and go for unique pilot cards with names like Omega Ace, Epsilon Leader, Zeta Ace, Omega Leader, Zeta Leader, and Epsilon Ace. Not very personable. What does this tell us? That FFG doesn't have any real info about who should be flying which ships. The Heroes of the Resistance pack, released later, brings in the other unique, named pilot cards who fly with Poe: Nien Nunb, Snap Wexley, and Jess Pava.

Ok. FFG can be forgiven for not being in the inner circle of developers on TFA. Understandable. I wish they'd had the ability to give two unique named T-70 pilots in both the TFA Core set and the T-70 expansion. That would've been better.

Next example. Another FFG attempt to strike while the iron's hot. This time we're awaiting the three ships of Wave 10 when they spring a pair of late entries on us. Again, two movie tie-in ships that pretend they were part of Wave 10 all along. These also arrive before the rest of their Wave counterparts (hint, they weren't really part of Wave 10). In this case, Rogue One is the movie that makes the dollar signs dance in front of FFG's eyes. Here their errors are arguably worse. The U-wing they design has a boarding ramp instead of a clear glass window (probably a last minute change by the film producers, but one that did not catch Lego unawares, just FFG in both the ship model and their art work).

The boarding ramp FFG thought was on the U-wing

The pre-movie release concept art that suggests, perhaps, said boarding ramp

The Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide that shows the film-correct ventral viewport

The Lego U-wing is film-correct "transparent cockpit floor"


The U-wing expansion doesn't include pilot cards for fan-favorite and show stealer K-2S0, and it does include a pilot card for Bodhi Rook (who is neat, but never flew the U-wing). It also include a crew member, Bistan, whose scenes were cut from the movie altogether.

The other ship in this ill-fated Wave, the TIE Striker, also strikes out. In this case, the ship (as seen in the Ultimate Visual Guide) is a light bomber with a crew of two. Oops. Not communicated to FFG, apparently.

Which brings us to the latest edition of FFG rushing to print: the two Last Jedi tie-ins nominally called Wave 13 (which have SKU numbers lower than Wave 12). The TIE Silencer (which they designed without knowing what it does and who, other than Kylo Ren, might be a good named pilot for it) and the Resistance Bomber, about which FFG apparently knows even less. Such inspiring unique pilot names, here: Crimson Leader, Crimson something else, and one other name in quotes, meaning it isn't an actual character's name, just some sad words suggesting they don't know any more than the rest of us do about these things.

Long story short: I think it's past time for me to work up stats to re-configure this game, Homebrew style. I will be working on this for some time to come, and posting my ideas here. All with two guiding principles in mind:

1. Fluff rules. I care about game balance only as a distant secondary concern. And I would hope I need only care enough to worry about points costs.

2. Enough with the cards already. Playing this game is very messy. Plus the cards have all sorts of errata to them, meaning the printed copies aren't necessarily correct. My version will use an RPG-like character sheet, considering the upgrade cards to be like a list of Feats for d20 RPGs. Some have pre-requisites, etc. A clean and accessible game where all upgrade cards are always up-to-date because they are just text entries in a list.

We'll see where this takes us over the coming months...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Don't Underestimate the Force

FFG announces a 30th anniversary re-print of the WEG rules for the Star Wars RPG! Scheduled for release later this year, with two books in a slipcase.

Some new content, in the spirit of the old books. Mostly a higher quality re-print of the original greatness. New forward by Pablo Hidalgo. I already own these two books, and many of their successors over the years, but I am definitely going to buy these as well.

Good news!


   

The announcement:
https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/news/2017/8/16/dont-underestimate-the-force/

The product page:
https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/star-wars-the-roleplaying-game-30th-anniversary-edition/

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Canto Bight


Here's a book I somehow missed in my recent round-up of notable upcoming Star Wars novels. A collection of four interconnected short stories set to be released on December 5, 2017, about which the publisher says the following:

Journey to Canto Bight: a lavish city rich with opportunity—but where the stakes couldn't be higher. Featuring four interconnected novella-length adventures of the exotic aliens and creatures who frequent the captivating casino.
Apparently this casino city features somehow into the events of Episode VIII. I don't know anything more than that...on purpose.

A few more 'Canto Bight' pictures I drummed up while searching for the place-holder novel cover shown above. Intriguing...




SWAJ 9


Ahh, now that's better. Reading this issue, Star Wars Adventure Journal, Vol 1, No. 9 (WEG, Feb. 1996), was quick and enjoyable, unlike the relative clunker of last issue.  

Peter Schweighofer's opening note (entitled Admiral's Communique) points out an important idea from the Star Wars Expanded Universe: 'Not Everyone's from Tatooine'. He encourages us to spread our wings and explore far flung places we've never heard of before. He reminds us that the best in the EU, like Zahn, add significantly to the shared setting. In the case of Zahn's Heir to the Empire, for instance, 10 new planets are seen (in addition to creating Rogue Squadron, the Skipray Blastboat, naming Coruscant, and tons more).

This issue had a couple of nice pieces of fiction, a few cool adventures, and some nice articles about used starships and smuggling best practices (and tips for running Imperial Customs officers for the GM). Another nice installment of Galaxywide NewsNet, too. A very satisfying read, overall. I am quite pleased SWAJ returned to form. Onward!



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Inferno Squad


Just finished this book, Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad (Christie Golden, 2017). The story is one of those that I feel wary about, namely attempts to "humanize" the Empire. The titular Inferno Squad is a elite group of Imperial problem solvers, tasked with tough jobs like culling the Empire of cheating Moffs and seeking out rebel sympathizers.

Set in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the first Death Star, the "evil protagonists" flit about the galaxy, "wronging rights" (or what ever the evil version of 'righting wrongs' is...). In some cases there is a Mara Jade, Emperor's Hand kind of feeling to it all; she was a 'good' bad guy that took down corrupt bad guys. None of these characters is as interesting as Mara Jade, however, and we don't get a dose of the Star Wars regular characters (i.e. good good guys) to offset the dark side. Other than some distant name dropping, there is no one we know in this book. SW stories suffer when that happens.

I'd say the book is decent. Not very interesting, in some ways, because of the aforementioned lack of good guys. Even the non-Empire characters are the sad, ultra-violent partisans in the mold of Saw Gerrera. Kicked out of the Rebellion for being too bloody. Not a great vibe, to heighten the similarities between the anti-Imperial forces and modern day terrorist organizations, in my mind. I think of the Rebellion as more "Colonial Minutemen versus British Army" than "ISIS versus America". Some may argue that is a false distinction (or perhaps racially charged?) Much too deep a conversation for a Star Wars blog, at any rate. 

There are some minor technical issues I'd quibble with, but nothing jarring or too major. Many Star Wars novels struggle with heavy-handed in-universe cross-references, and this one is no different. A number of tie-ins to both Clone Wars and Rebels and Rogue One. Meiloorun fruit is one such reference which irked me: I recall that coming up a bunch in Rebels. Then, of course, I look it up and find that it does indeed get referenced in Rebels (in three episodes). It also shows up in Catalyst, Guardians of the Whills, and three issues of Kanan: The Last Padawan...but the fruit originates in X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble by the great Michael Stackpole (1996). So there's that.

The first video game tie-in book bearing the Battlefront name was better: 2015's Twilight Company (Alexander Freed).

Sunday, August 6, 2017

RPGaDAY

Never heard of this "RPGaDAY" situation. Is this like the ice-bucket challenge?


Q1: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

A1: I am with Nate, here. I have a burning desire to play some Star Wars RPG. I would probably vote for the FFG version (and definitely either Age of Rebellion or all three books merged into one, with the PCs part of the Rebellion), but the WEG version is so dear to me that I wouldn't need much convincing. The second place finisher in this regard is 5th edition D&D.


Q2: What is an RPG you would like to see published?

A2: I can't think of anything missed, theme-wise. Part of me would like time to delve into some interesting settings I have seen "recently", like The One Ring system, Dr. Who, Firefly, and I always want to get involved in Shadowrun in some way. Most of these suggestions are also linked to SciFi universes I would want to explore more deeply.


Q3: How do you find out about new RPGs?

A3: I am a bit out of the loop, in terms of new RPGs. I visit the FFG website daily (hourly?), and I make it over to my two main game stores every other week or so (The Source and FFG Game Center). I keep tabs on D&D through regular visits to dnd.wizards.com, as well.


Q4: Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

A4: Pathfinder, as I have been playing in Nate's campaign. I do like Pathfinder, but I like other things as well. D&D 3rd edition was probably the most influential tidal wave to ever strike the RPG market, bar none.


Q5: Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

A5: I have strong emotional attachments to many RPG-related book covers. One that really sticks out, for me, is the Star Wars 2nd edition WEG RPG. Not necessarily due to the cover composition, but rather due to how this cover, more than any other, perhaps, reminds me of the free-wheeling fun the RPGs can produce.




 Q6: You can game every day for a week. Describe what you'd do!

A6: In reality I would have to split my time between various RPG, miniature battle, board game, and video game platforms. If I had to stick with one RPG system, I would probably want to play with the "Tierfon Campaign" concept which began this blog: the PCs are members of an X-wing squadron, based at Tierfon, and the playing of the RPG uses (at the least) some of the miniature ships I have accumulated (in addition to periods of ground combat, etc, wherein my WotC Star Wars miniatures could come out and play).

Number 8


I have been reading this issue, on and off, for quite some time: Star Wars Adventure Journal, Vol. 1, No. 8 (WEG, Nov 1995). Picking at it, really, between other reading tasks. Months go by. I did not make a whole ton of progress. Suffice it to say, I think this was the least interesting (personally) issue to date. There were a lot of very long, somewhat boring, entries in this issue. Big walls of words to hack through. I finally skipped ahead a few times and called it quits.

Some highlights: I am always a fan of the Galaxywide NewsNets articles. Two pieces of fiction stood out: "A Certain Point of View" by Charlene Newcomb and "Uhl Eharl Khoeng" by Patricia A. Jackson. 

I also love the unavoidable time-capsule nature of these old books. When this one came out, the following was happening for the first time in the Star Wars Expanded Universe:

*you could "Check the Yellow Pages for the nearest Waldenbooks" in order to pick up the new WEG supplement Galaxy Guide 12: Aliens.

*the massive, multi-platform "Shadows of the Empire" media and product blitz was just around the corner (slated for spring, 1996). All Star Wars licensees were in on it, all with something to contribute. Very exciting!

*Star Wars trilogy with remastered THX sound released on VHS

*Bantam books was set to release two exciting paperbacks: in December 1995 it was "Tales from Jabba's Palace", and in January 1996 it was "X-Wing: Rogue Squadron" (the first of Stackpole's novels).

*As always, you were reminded that you can pick up the Star Wars Miniatures Battles Starter Set at any B. Dalton Bookseller near you (check the Yellow Pages for locations).

Friday, August 4, 2017

RPGaDAY 2017 Posts

I apologize for the cross-posting, but I'll share my answers to these questions on all three of my current blogs. And maybe Brent will share his responses, too?

Q1: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

A1: Right now I wish that I was playing more of the Star Wars RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games, especially Age of Rebellion. Right now I really only have time for one weekly campaign, however, and so something more familiar to my players has taken priority. We'll see how the 2016-17 school year develops, though.

Q2: What is an RPG you would like to see published?

A2: I would love to see a space fantasy setting for Pathfinder that's in the vein of the old Spelljammer setting for D&D. The new Starfinder setting is interesting, but I'd rather not add so much technology to a fantasy RPG.

Q3: How do you find out about new RPGs?

A3: I regularly visit sites such as ENWorld and RPG.net for my general RPG news, as well as the message boards for Paizo Publishing and Fantasy Flight Games when I'm looking for info about their lines.

Q4: Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

A4: The clear winner here is Pathfinder, since I'm playing in a monthly campaign (the Skull & Shackles adventure path) with some college buddies an I just finished up a weekly campaign (a more traditional fantasy campaign loosely set on the Freeport setting's Continent).

Q5: Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?


A5: For me, this is an easy one; the cover for The Concordance of Arcane Space has always been a favorite, capturing the essence of the Spelljammer space fantasy setting for 2nd Edition AD&D


 Q6: You can game every day for a week. Describe what you'd do!

A6: My gut reaction here is to say that I'd gather a group of players, create some OD&D characters, and finish Keep on the Borderlands once and for all. That's something we tried to do a number of times when I was younger—including an epic effort on a snow day in college—but for which we never succeeded.

A more serious answer is to say that I'd run a series using one of the rulebooks that currently sits idle on my shelf. This could include Wonderland No More using the Save Worlds rules, or perhaps Pirates of the Spanish Main using the same. 

Q7: What was your most impactful RPG session?

A7: When it comes to sessions in which I've played, the most impactful is probably a weekend-long, epic campaign finale to a Spelljammer campaign that my brother ran. He and I, along with two buddies, had been playing in that campaign for more than a year. For the finale, my aunt took us all out to the family cabin, where Nick ran the module Under the Dark Fist. We played for much of Friday night before going to bed, and then for as much of Saturday as we could, before finishing things on Sunday. In addition to being the action-packed conclusion to that campaign, it was the first taste that I had of really epic adventuring—our characters save the Known Galaxy from the Vodyanoi threat, and then were granted demi-god status because of what we'd done. That extended session, to me, set the bar for what RPG campaign finales could, and should, be.

Q8: What is a good RPG to play for session of 2 hours or less?

A8: For me, the first answer that comes to mind is the d6-based Star Wars RPG from West End Games. Although it's been out of print for almost twenty years now, it still strikes me as an excellent rules-light system that really captures the feel of the setting that it's supposed to emulate. While other games can be run in such a way that the rules seem to be “invisible,” that one, to me, still seems like the best.

Q9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

A9: This, to me, seems like a good chance to try out something unusual, or something that's not so well suited to extended campaign play. (Pathfinder or D&D and Star Wars strike me as really well suited to long campaigns, by the way.) I've been wanting to use Savage Worlds for a short series inspired by Ash vs. Evil Dead, for example, or even something based on RoboCop. Those, in my mind, would make for good ten-game series: ones that have a higher possibility of PC fatality. For that reason any incarnation of Call of Cthulhu also comes to mind, even though I don't have much experience with it.

 Q10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?

A10: As mentioned above, I spend a good deal of time on ENWorld and RPG.net. If those don't provide what I want, then I just Google “Title of RPG Review.”

Q11: Which “dead game” would you like to see reborn?

A11: This is an easy one: the D6 version of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game.



 Q12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

A12: I'll give a shoutout here to the old Al-Qadim campaign setting. The art wasn't fancy, but TSR did a nice job of keeping one artist—Karl Waller—for the whole run of the product line. This established a really consistent feel, and I liked it.


Q13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

A13: Running sessions at conventions and for the RPGA had a big impact on how I plan for and run sessions. Much of that comes from the fact that I needed to tell a complete and satisfying story in a four-hour time period, and one in which all of the characters (and thus players) play an active part. That also pushed me to work on my organization and pacing.

Q14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

A14: This is a hard one. On the one hand, I think games like Pathfinder and D&D work really well because the level-based system of character advancement makes for really satisfying development. Eventually, however, characters become so powerful that it's hard to challenge them without having character death become all too common.

 Q15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

A15: Savage Worlds stands out for this one because of the ease of adaptability for it, and because its “Fast, Furious and Fun” nature makes it a good fit for lots of cinematic genres. I've written some supplements for using it in the Aliens universe, and have been kicking around ideas for Ash vs. Evil Dead and RoboCop, too.

Q16: What RPG do you enjoy using as is?

A16: For me, Pathfinder is the one that just works well in the setting for which it is intended. While the rules become a little cumbersome and slow at really high levels, most campaigns don't run that long.

Q17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

A17: That award probably goes to the Masterbook system version of The Adventures of Indiana Jones.

Q18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

A18: This one is a toss-up between the various incarnations of D&D and Pathfinder, or to the range of Star Wars RPGs. When it comes to Star Wars, I can recall half a dozen D6-System SW campaigns, along with a few using the d20 System (including lots of activity for the Living Force campaign), one for Saga Edition (the Dawn of Defiance series) and a couple for the new system from Fantasy Flight Games. On the other hand, it feels like I've run or played in a D&D/Pathfinder campaign just about every year for the past quarter century: four in the Freeport setting; a massive Spelljammer epic; various hodgepodges of Dungeon Magazine scenarios in junior high and high school; one based on Against the Giants using 3rd edition; two set in ancient Greece; one in Lankhmar; one that ran to 20th level and ended with the Coliseum Morpheuon super-module; and my current one, playing in the Skull & Shackles adventure path. Additionally, I've run most of those systems and editions at conventions, game days and the like. Let's call it a draw at a dozen of each.

Q19: Which RPG features the best writing?

A19: I really enjoyed reading the 1st Edition of the Star Wars RPG from West End Games because the authors included a good deal of humor in their explanations of how the rules worked.

 Q20: What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

A20: For pure efficacy, Amazon is probably the best way to find and order them. Even so, I still like to hit the used book stores to peruse the shelves; there's more of a sense of adventure to it.

Q21: What RPG does the most with the least words?

A21: For this one I'll go with the Mini-Six version of the old D6 System, updated by AntiPaladin Games using material from West End Games. The whole booklet is only some twenty pages long, but provides a complete RPG.

Q22: Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

A22: My answer for this is the same as for previous ones: either Pathfinder or the D6-System Star Wars.

Q23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

A23: Right now, any full-color RPG is in contention. My collection is not the most diverse, so there are probably a lot of them with really pretty aesthetics of which I'm not aware. Even so, I do recall that the One Ring RPG looked really nice.

Q24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

A24: While I don't buy as many PDF products as I used to, one publisher stands out here: Rite Publishing. I know that they have lots of material with normal prices, but their Pathways e-zine has consistently provided quality content for more than sixty issues.

Q25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

A25: For me, having players tell stories from sessions is the highest form of praise. While not every session is memorable—indeed, I think I have forgotten the majority of them—it's the ones that players tell again and again that make me feel like I've done good work.

Q26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

A26: I'll go with the various Star Wars RPGs on this one, since they've helped explore and expand that Galaxy Far, Far Away.


 Q27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

A27: In addition to books, minis, maps and dice, I always have note cards for keeping the initiative order and paper for taking notes. Throw in some poker chips, too, if I'm running Savage Worlds.

Q28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

A28: I'm not sure about this one, since people will quote from many different sources. When we're playing a Star Wars RPG it's usually the clear winner, but beyond that I don't know.

Q29: What has been the best-run Kickstarter you have backed?

A29: Far and away, the Kickstarter for the Sixth Gun RPG went the most smoothly; the book was released on time and is beautiful. Beyond that, one was late, I'm still waiting on one, and one just disappeared. I'll give a shoutout, though, for Buccaneer: Come Hell and High Water and Harlem Unbound, both of which are currently in progress.

Q30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

A30: I would love to see a mashup of games with various setting and rules, all linked together using a time-traveling and world-spanning plot via Army of Darkness.

Q31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

A31: At the risk of being self-serving, I'm excited to run a couple of scenarios at Con of the North in February, 2018, using the Aetherial Adventures material that I've been writing for this blog. I think it's going to be a lot of fun.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Expanding Universe

I am eagerly awaiting a crop of new Star Wars books, slated to be released between now and the new movie.


Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, Christie Golden (July 25)
Coming really soon! Christie Golden wrote one of the only recent Star Wars books I did not buy, Dark Disciple (2015). That was a tale written from a "lost" Clone Wars cartoon episode wherein Quinlan Vos (eh) teams up with Asajj Ventress (ok) to defeat Count Dooku. Didn't sound like enough for me to go out and get that one.

This book, however, purports to be a continuation of the video game tie-in that brought us the wonderful Battlefront: Twilight Company (Alexander Freed, 2015). If Inferno Squad is anything like Twilight Company, I will be very pleased.



Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Claudia Gray (Sept 1)
I'm a big fan of Claudia Gray's Lost Stars (2015) young adult offering; less a fan of her later work, the Leia tale Bloodline (2016). Very interested to see how she handles Leia in this one.



Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Phasma, Delilah S. Dawson (Sep 1)
This is the book I am most "blah" about. Captain Phasma doesn't really do it for me. Not a huge fan of the over-rated chrome armor or of The Force Awakens era, the First Order, etc.



From a Certain Point of View, various (Oct 3) [anthology]
This one Nate mentioned some time ago, I think. This is a collection of short stories. Very cool. 40 stories for the 40th anniversary. Hopefully they're as great as the now-Legends Tales From... series. Could be very fun.


Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: the Legends of Luke Skywalker, Ken Liu (Oct 31)
Sounds good to me. I am always ready to read about our buddy Luke.



Star Wars: The Last Jedi novelization, author unknown (date unknown; likely early 2018)
No idea about this one, yet, but of course it will be on the horizon, eventually.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Meet the Fleet, part 26


   
Flashback to Wave IX. I was skeptical at first about wanting to include the ARC-170 in my collection, but FFG did a great job making them look believably beat-up and scrounged. The Rebels have no doubt been rough on these old warhorses, and it shows.

The ship is a beast, the down-turned nose reminds me a bit of a vulture somehow.

In an interesting design choice, they only have 4 unique pilots for this ship in the game...underlining the notion that this is not a widespread vehicle in the Rebel fleet. There aren't any full squadrons of ARC-170s, for instance, if the clues are to be believed. As to who those pilots are, its a bit surprising: Norra Wexley, Shara Bey, Thane Kyrell, and Braylen Stramm.

Norra Wexley, from the terrible Aftermath books, who flew a Y-wing into the second Death Star.

Shara Bey, from the Shattered Empire comics, who flew an A-wing at Endor.

Thane Kyrell, from the great Lost Stars book, a great early Empire TIE fighter pilot and then X-wing pilot, from Hoth to Endor to Jakku.

Braylen Stramm, from Star Wars Insider's Blade Squadron mini-series (the first new official canon fiction after the Disney Legends reboot!), who flew a B-wing at the Battle of Endor as a Deputy Wing Leader.

Why FFG choose to shoe-horn all of these pilots from different craft into this outdated vessel is unknown to me. I guess they have a list of pilots they'd like to include, and a list of ships they want to develop, and the two lists are independent of each other.

I hope that Bey, Kyrell, and Stramm find their way into their "regular" ships at some point in the future. I don't care what happens to Norra Wexley or Mr. Bones.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Preferred Canon, Miniature Edition

I am a big fan of the Galactic Civil War era of Star Wars and I am a stickler for my preferred aesthetics.

Over the last few months I have been culling my growing FFG Star Wars miniatures herd, weeding out those ships which annoyed me in one way or another.

It all started on the X-Wing side, I would say, with my purchase of the VCX-100, Ghost. It was so big! And so different. I have always thought that ship looks like a crude flying brick (and that's being generous). I like Hera a lot. I am OK with Kanan. The rest of the crew (especially Chopper) annoy me. The show started to bug me, too. I quit watching after season 2. I like Darth Maul...but he was cut in half. I don't care for retconned stories about B-wing origins, etc. Don't get me started with Wedge Antilles. Or the size of the A-wing. Or which capital ships Vader might be able to kill single-handedly.

At any rate, this humongous, lumpy brute of a ship never felt like one of the gang, sitting on my shelf beside the Falcon and Outrider. So I sold it. While I was at it, I also sold the Agent Kallus crew card that came with the otherwise awesome Imperial Gozanti-class Assault Carrier. For a clean sweep of Rebels material, I also sent the Inquisitor packing in his TIE Advanced Prototype. The solar panels are on the insides of the wings, for cripe's sake.

Then I turned my attention to the K-wing (a vessel of dubious heritage from 16 years after the Civil War period). Gone. Along with it went the Imperial monstrosity the TIE Punisher. Too weird looking.

My purge went to not buying some expansions, as well as selling those I mention. I am not interested in the Quad Jumper, the Protectorate Starfighter, the Upsilon-class shuttle (Kylo fleeping Ren doesn't actually fly his own shuttle, does he?), the Shadowcaster, the E-wing, or Sabine's TIE. Reasons: Rebels, Episode VII, or anachronisms (the E-wing is a New Republic era starfighter; also of dubious design lineage, in my mind). While I skip the ships, I use eBay extensively to get the cards and components I like from the sets I avoid, like the stuff from The Force Awakens core set (damage decks, upgrades, even maneuver templates, etc), astromechs, Smuggling Compartment, Rigged Cargo Chute, Burnout SLAM, BoShek, etc. The rest of my fleet cannot be expected to miss out on goodies packaged with some odious vessels, can it?

I am open to the Auzituck Gunship (who doesn't like Wookiees?) and the TIE Aggressor when they come out. Not the Scurrg H-6.

I have been similarly active on the Armada side, as well. Ships I have sold after owning for awhile (both due to "look and feel" issues) are the Rebel Assault Frigate Mk. II and the Imperial Gladiator-class Star Destroyer (from the 1980's cartoon Droids, no less!). What's next, FFG, Itchy, Lumpy, and Bea Arthur singing about Life Day?

I have not purchased (and will not) the flotillas. I don't like the idea of having a single mini represent the Falcon by itself, but a group of Gozanti-class cruisers has to stick together for some awful reason. Add in the incessant complaints people have about their rules and I say "No, thank you."

I wanted to get the Pelta-class frigate, in theory, but I don't care for both the strong Rebels tie-in and the strange rules wherein a small fry of a ship like that gets some kind of unique bonus ability to command a fleet. What? The admirals riding on the largest ships can't pull off the tricks of the low-lifes on a converted medical frigate from the Clone Wars? No.

Also not interested in Rebel Fighter Squadrons II, with E-wings, Ghosts, and Shadowcasters.

I have not purchased The Corellian Conflict campaign expansion yet, either. Not sure about that one. Almost wanted it just for the Rogue Squadron X-wing squadron card...but then I realized that most of the good pilots from Rogue Squadron already have their own squadron cards. Odd.

I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming Hammerhead Corvette two-pack and the Imperial Light Carrier. Even though the Light Carrier has a strong Rebels vibe, I like the theoretical ability to carry more non-hyperdrive-equipped squadrons into combat. I am working on home brew rules for Carriers. It seems too thematic to not worry about where the TIEs come from when the fighting begins.

I very much expect to see, and soon (and will definitely purchase), Admiral Raddus and his MC-75, Profundity. I hope they do the right thing and mount it on a large base.

Meet the Fleet, part 25


   
   
   
The other wonderful release tied directly to Rogue One: the Incom UT-60D U-wing. I quite like this ship. The wings even sweep back! Two things about this make me a bit sad: first, no K-2SO crew card (or pilot card!). Second, no Chirrut Îmwe crew card. They must be coming in a future expansion! We can't have Cassian Andor and Baze Malbus languishing without their partners in crime, can we? No. We cannot.

I do wish this vehicle had been the start of an integration into a ground combat add-on game. This is a strike team insertion vessel, built to be just like a military transport helicopter. Like the UH-60 Blackhawk, perhaps?

A handsome vessel at any rate.






Meet the Fleet, part 24


   
   
Heroes of the Resistance. Of course FFG could make me buy a second Millennium Falcon. Poe Dameron's orange and black Black One is pretty cool, too. Forget for a minute that Poe's call sign is "Black One" and he leads Blue and Red Squadrons.

One interesting note is that this is apparently a brand-new sculpt for the Falcon, not just change in the dish. You can tell the difference, if you look very closely. I like the mini, I like Rey and Finn. Fine, I'll buy a second Falcon.

Frankly, I'd buy a third, if they could think of a reason to sell me another.

Meet the Fleet, part 23


   
   
Two of the iconic TIE Strikers, as seen in Rogue One. I like the look of these craft; but FFG missed the boat in not making it a two seat light bomber, like the excellent Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide describes. The wings even move up and down, to aid in atmospheric flight.

Meet the Fleet, part 22


   
   
The newest member in the Epic Play Club: the Scum & Villainy C-ROC Gozanti-class cruiser. A nice looking (appropriately Scum-y) ship. One of the best parts is that this vessel comes with the Jabba the Hutt crew card. Nice!

This vessel came with an alternate re-paint M-3A Scyk Interceptor. These two are the 96th and 97th ships in my fleet!





Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rebel Rising


Another well written, engaging Young Adult novel: Rebel Rising (Beth Revis, 2017). This tale slots into the space between Catalyst and the Rogue One novelization.

Who wants to learn the sad history of Jyn Erso? Just finished reading about the intervening years between when Saw picks her up as a little girl hiding in a cave on Lah'mu to the time the Rebels pick her up as prisoner Lianna Hallik riding in a turbo tank on Wobani. 

Jyn truly does lead a sad life. The Empire has ruined everything for her, multiple times over. She has learned to survive, but has lost the essential spark of life: hope.  We'll see her regain that capacity in the movie: just in time to die a glorious death. Wow.

During this book, Jyn is not a Rebel with a capital "R" in the tradition on Mon Mothma. She also doesn't fit in with the quasi-terrorist Rebellion outcasts like Saw Gerrera, even though she spent a lot of time with him and had great affection for him. She blames equally the Empire and the Rebellion for the sad state of affairs in the galaxy. She simply wants to be left alone, but events and circumstances never allow it. A Star Wars tragedy to be sure.

A nice addition to my preferred canon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Guardians of the Whills


Just finished reading this nice volume- Guardians of the Whills (Greg Rucka, 2017). Technically a Young Adult tale, we follow some of the happenings on Jedha before the events of Rogue One. Our two main protagonists are featured on the cover: Baze Malbus, the light repeater heavy-hitter and (Kentucky Cheroot) Imwe, the blind force sensitive.

I like these two. Rucka does a great job writing these characters with the correct voice and feel. I love their playful banter. I like grumpy Malbus and hopeful Imwe.

We get to see how quality of life on Jedha has declined drastically since the Empire arrived. Our heroes get to make a major difference in the lives of some residents. Overall a solid addition to my preferred canon.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thrawn


Just finished reading this new book: Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn (2017). I must admit that I was nervous about how the Thrawn mythology would be "re-invented" in a new, more Star Wars: Rebels way (read: changed for change's sake; silly disregard for previous tales).

To that end, I was quite pleased. For a EU veteran like me, this book fits seamlessly into the rest of the Thrawn information. It does not, as near as I can tell, change anything so much that the Thrawn Trilogy would be rendered incorrect.

One minor gripe with this book might be just that: it feels a bit...minor. It has some decent action, near the end, but no good guys to follow and for whom to root. Remember, Thrawn is a bad guy. An interesting and enlightened bad guy, but still a bad guy. 

We learn Thrawn's origin story, following a short re-telling of the events of Mist Encounter, the Zahn short story (from Star Wars Adventure Journal Vol. 1, No. 7, WEG 1995). We then see Thrawn attend the academy, Thrawn hit a low point in terms of dignity (he disguises himself with dark glasses and a robe to meet some low level flunky in a diner. Oh, the humanity!).

Overall, I am pleased. Not overwhelmed, but pleased with this book. I am very glad that Disney didn't hire a Star Wars great like Zahn to simply ruin his own greatest creation with a needless and oddball revision.