Monday, February 27, 2017

Review of Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End

Here's my review of the newest entry in the Star Wars canon.


(edit: I added some pictures. - Brent)

Review of Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End
I've been waiting on this book for a while, ever since Aftermath: Life Debt came out back in July. Just like that novel took the premise from 2015's Aftermath and built on it, Empire's End continues that upward trajectory, building toward a climax that wraps up the trilogy nicely, sets the stage for Episode VII, and provides tantalizing hints about what might be revealed in Episode VIII.

Here's what I really liked:
  • Characters die in this book. That was, in my opinion, a weakness of the old Star Wars canon; you pretty much knew that the Heroes of Yavin would not die. Here, with the new characters, that's not the case, and that increases the dramatic tension.
  • While I was put off a bit by the focus on new characters in the first book of this trilogy, and gratified by the shift toward beloved heroes in the second, this book does a good job of tying together those different emphases in a meaningful way.
  • For me, the use of present tense in the first book of this trilogy wasn't too distracting; in this novel, I hardly noticed it at all.
  • This book does an even better job of setting up the state of the galaxy following the Battle of Jakku. I feel the urge to run an RPG campaign set in this time period.
  • Empire's End does a good job of incorporating elements from various new and old canon sources, including the Lando comics, the Outbound Flight novel and the old Dark Empire comics.
  • Rae Sloane is, I think, my favorite character from the new canon. From a being who seemed to be a relatively minor villain in A New Dawn, she has developed into a really interesting persona.

Here's what irked me:
  • At times this novel seems grittier than what I expect from Star Wars. That doesn't happen a lot, and I know that it's useful for increasing the dramatic tension, but sometimes it seems like too much.
  • While I know that this novel can't reveal much about the details that will emerge from Episode VIII, I guess I'd hoped for more. Some of the big questions left unanswered by The Force Awakens remain unanswered.

All in all, I recommend this novel to anyone who's interested in the sequel era; it brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion and sets the stage for the new trilogy.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lucky Number 7

Now that was an awesome issue! Star Wars Adventure Journal, Vol. 1, No. 7 (WEG, August 1995) included short stories by Timothy Zahn (Mist Encounter, a Thrawn tale later re-printed in the novel Outbound Flight) and Michael A. Stackpole (Missed Chance, a preview of sorts for the X-Wing novels Stackpole was set to release in 1996...and the first ever appearance of Corran Horn!).

Also included was an interview with Stackpole about the Rogue Squadron work, a nice article by Pablo Hidalgo about R-series Astromech Droids, a couple of pieces of nice fiction by Laurie Burns and Charlene Newcomb, and a notable segment called "Into the Core Worlds" by Paul Sudlow. There's even an adventure co-written by Timothy Zahn & Peter Schweighofer, and, of course, a few words from Platt Okeefe. Very nice. Glancing ahead, we will see more of Zahn and Stackpole and the Rogues in later issues of SWAJ. I can't wait!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Galactic Road Report

"The RPG hyperspace expressways are backed up and getting worse by the edition. More news at 10..."

I have done a quick study to compare the hyperspace travel times listed in various versions of the Star Wars RPG, over the years.

First up, WEG Star Wars 2nd Edition RPG. A nice seeming chart, found in this book, purports to tell us how long journeys across the galaxy far, far away will take. A note suggests that all times are for "system-to-system" travel (i.e. straight lines) using a class 1 hyperdrive. Comparing these listed times to the measured distances found on the Star Wars map, we find a slow average travel rate of 1559 ly/hr. Much more troubling is the standard deviation of this set: 1898 ly/hr! Meaning this table has almost no bearing in reality with respect to distance traveled, etc. The other hand waving arguments (galactic density, blah blah blah) also don't pan out: Dantooine to Tatooine in a mere 20 hours (crossing the entire galaxy) while Gamorr to Dagobah (in the same quadrant, not separated by the galactic center) takes 27 days (and 8 hours)! Whaaaa????

Next, we check in with the WotC effort, from the Revised Core Rulebook. Here we find another chart. This one is less specific, citing very broad travel times based on region of the galaxy you are traveling to/from. There is a nice 50% discount if you stay in the same quadrant. (?) Apparently this is where the backups begin to build on the hyperlanes, as the average travel time for the same set of planets seen above (minus Celanon) drops to 930 ly/hr (with a 530 ly/hr standard deviation). Again, next to useless, other than for the most rudimentary guesses. Slow, rudimentary guesses, mind you.

I didn't bother with a picture from the Saga edition rules, as they don't even have a table. Just a vague notion of how many weeks you can expect to languish in your poor light freighter as you go from A to B.

Now we arrive at the FFG material. This generous travel times chart is from the Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook. Much like with the WotC Saga edition, I didn't even bother to try to calculate any times from this snippet of a table.

FFG wasn't done, however. They released a bit more of a table in their Fly Casual book for smugglers (quite appropriate). Thank the maker that the times listed above appear to also conform to the AoRCRB table guidelines. At least they're internally consistent. Using this chart and plugging in the same set of planets from the WEG affair (minus Celanon), we see that the galactic gridlock has only worsened since FFG obtained the RPG license. The average hyperspace travel time for a class 1 hyperdrive has dipped to a paltry 324 ly/hr (with a 97 ly/hr standard deviation). Poor match for actual travel distances, and slower than any other source before it.


Just for fun, we will work up a few comparisons from the WEG, WotC, and FFG SW RPG travel bureaus, and compare them to observations from Rogue One.

Blue Squadron (Yavin to Eadu; 35,000 ly)
WEG: over 22 hours
WotC: over 37 hours
FFG: just about 108 hours (that's 4.5 days, people. Squadron Up, indeed.)

Death Star (Jedha to Scarif: 63,000 ly) [assume, incorrectly, a class 1 hyperdrive]
WEG: over 40 hours
WotC: over 67 hours
FFG: over 194 hours (Tell Vader to meet us at Scarif in 1 week. Plus 1 day. And a few hours.)

The "real" class 4 hyperdrive rating of the Death Star makes a further mockery of these tables.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Rogue One Travel Times

Ok. Here we are again discussing hyperspace travel times. Rogue One spoilers included below. Go see the movie, already.

First things first. When General Draven decides that Cassian Andor has failed in his mission to take out Galen Erso on Eadu, he sends Blue Squadron from Yavin to do the job.

The distance between Yavin and Eadu is about 35,000 light years. Captain Vienaris, one of Draven's Intelligence officers, says of the length of the trip (from the novelization):

"Short version: We're in striking range, but if the Empire's begun to evacuate we won't catch them. Best case, Blue Squadron arrives just in time to see the Imperials jump out."

This is the same amount of time as that between when the U-wing crashes (and Draven decides Andor has failed) and when Blue Squadron attacks the Imperial installation on Eadu. Hard to guesstimate how long the team is on the ground before the starfighters arrive. I would say, factoring in hiking and climbing, and whatever else they do (staring through quadnoculars, etc), we could be looking at a couple of hours. Probably comfortably 2, maybe 3?

From the "X-Wing: Rogue Squadron" novels (and other sources, including the "Clone Wars" cartoon and the Original Trilogy movies) I have come to think that a class 1 hyperdrive (like found in the X-wing starfighter) can travel at something like 5700 ly/hr.

That would make Blue Squadron's arrival on Eadu almost 6 hours after Draven gives the order to "squadron up".

I'd say that's a bit on the long side.

Another tidbit is the mission to Scarif. The Rogue One team on the ground is already well underway, with Cassian having given the order to "Light it up", before Mon Mothma et al hear about it. An intercepted Imperial transmission informs the Rebellion of "Rebels on Scarif". Before Mon Mothma can formulate a plan, she hears that Admiral Raddus has already "...gone to fight." Now the clock is ticking. Yavin to Scarif is something like 50,000 light years.

I would think that the fleet's arrival above Scarif certainly occurs before almost 9 hours have elapsed on the ground. Maybe the ground forces could keep up their running firefight distraction for 3-4 hours. If they're lucky.

We also know that the Death Star is sitting above Jedha, with Tarkin staring lovingly down at the destruction and daydreaming about his wonderful new toy. He is interrupted:

"Sir?" General Romodi had approached. Tarkin indicated his attentiveness with a cock of his head. "Scarif base--they're reporting a rebel ground incursion. Firefights around the Citadel."
"A ground incursion," he said. "But no spaceborne support?"
"Not that Ramda's people have mentioned."
"Prepare the jump to hyperspace," he said. "And inform Lord Vader."

Jedha to Scarif is quite a long haul, almost 63,000 light years. The Death Star I is said to have a paltry class 4 hyperdrive. 44 hours to make this journey across the center of the galaxy. Uhhhhh......

Assuming Vader is still sulking in his castle on Mustafar when he gets the news, he's looking at a journey of 48,000 light years in Devastator. This Imperial I-class star destroyer is said to have a class 2 hyperdrive. Almost 17 hours of travel. Ouch!

My 5700 ly/hr speed for class 1 hyperdrive supports the OT, when Vader says (aboard the Death Star at the wreckage of Alderaan).

"This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kenobi, it will soon see the end of the Rebellion."

If the 5700 ly/hr for class 1 speed is used, the travel time Alderaan to Yavin (28,440 ly) for a class 4 hyperdrive is ~20 hours. Just short enough to make Vader literally correct (assuming a standard 24 hour day). This also gives the Rebels something like 17 hours to study the plans before the DS arrives.


Long story short:

Rogue One wants us to travel through hyperspace almost 2.5 times faster.

Blue Squadron to Eadu in ~2.5 hours = class 1 hyperdrive speed of ~14,000 ly/hr

Admiral Raddus to Scarif in ~4 hours = class 1 hyperdrive speed of ~14,000 ly/hr

Death Star I, Jedha to Scarif in ~4 hours implies it has a class 1 hyperdrive (or a bit better!)

Devastator from Mustafar to Scarif in ~4 hours = something like a class 1 hyperdrive in the Imperial I-class star destroyer.

Using 14,000 ly/hr for DSI, we re-calculate the travel time from Alderaan to Yavin as being only 2 hours. Now there is no extra time for the Rebellion to study the plans and find the weakness. According to Rogue One, however, they are told what the weakness is, so they don't need a ton of time to diagnose it themselves. Maybe?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

No Disintegrations!

I just picked up this long-awaited book tonight. I will post an actual review later; I just was too excited not to mention it (alongside my numerous other recent posts). Feeling very flush with Star Wars material to read right now. Exciting times!

PLUS: Boba Fett!

Thustra B

The mottled blue-white backdrop of hyperspace stretched into star lines, then resolved to individual pinpricks of light.

“Lock s-foils in attack position,” came the command from the boss.

“Roger that, Black Leader. I feel like I could take on the entire Empire mysel…”

“Cut the chatter, Black Four.” 

Fine. Flying Officer Tomaas Hardeen toggled the appropriate switch, then rolled his X-wing to the right to follow her into the turn. He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face completely, even as the four ship contingent, Black Squadron, Aurek flight from the secret Rebel base on Tierfon, accelerated to combat speed.

Hardeen felt lucky to be flying for the Alliance. On this mission he was Squadron Leader Kareene Argent’s wingman. I think she’s falling for me. Something about the way she said “Not a chance” gave him hope. I guess I’m a romantic, he mused.

“Black Two, roll left and fire at will,” Squadron Leader Argent said.

“Copy that, Black Leader. Form on me, Black Three,” came the reply.

Hardeen’s scope was filled with clutter. The asteroids for one. Then there were the supplies. Thousands of tons of military grade transparisteel sheets floating in space, awaiting pick up by Alliance Ordnance and Supply, according to the briefing. This was an out of the way storage rendezvous location. It shouldn’t have been found by the Imps. But there they were. Two Gozanti-class transports and eight TIE fighters.

One of the Gozantis was attached to a crippled light freighter. That must be the Wandering Soul. Those poor guys were locked in a light fight, trying to repel a boarding attempt. Unless Black Squadron had arrived too late, in which case the crew were now Imperial prisoners. Or worse.

The TIEs formed up into two teams of four and streaked toward the approaching rebels. The unattached Gozanti began maneuvering for a defensive stand. The two pairs of X-wings diverged, moving to bracket the stricken freighter.

“Stay close, Black Four,” Argent said calmly. The TIEs were moments from firing range.

“Always,” muttered Hardeen, his thumb hovering over the firing stud.

Green laser blasts erupted from both sets of TIEs, answered immediately by a fusilade of red from the X-wings. Two explosions marked the first crossing, as both Argent and Hardeen got a kill.

Hardeen hauled back on his stick and feathered the throttle, trying to keep Black Leader at his two o’clock. Craning his neck around, he spotted the remaining pair of TIEs just over the dome of his R2 unit.

Squee boo beep blap!

“Yeah, that was close, R2,” Hardeen said, “How are the shields?”

Bleet bleet blat.

“That good, huh?”

Wandering Soul, this is Black Leader, come in,” Kareene’s voice entoned.

“Blac…..eader……...Soul….ice to see you…..”

“Those Gozanti’s must be jamming us. They probably heard the Soul’s distress call. We’re likely to run out of time real soon here, guys. Let’s get these eyeballs so the Clean Up Crew has clear skies.

A distant explosion lit the viewscreen as Black Three claimed a kill. Hardeen struggled to to keep in formation while Black Leader worked her magic, trying to get a firing angle on their pair of TIEs.

“Watch those guns, Three,” Black Two warned. The Imperial transports opened up with their turbolasers, filling the area with green streaks.

“Torpedo away,” Black Three called. A blossom of red-orange fire lit up against the free Gozanti’s shields.

“Looks like they’re running,” came the call from Black Two, just as Black Leader stitched red lasers through another pair of solar panels. The TIE came apart in a shower of sparks, and Hardeen just avoiding hitting a twirling chunk of wrecked starfighter.

Reeeeeee flat! Boo boo pffft!

“That wasn’t my fault,” Hardeen argued.

The Gozanti attempting to board Wandering Soul appeared to have had enough. It was moving again, trying to get some distance between it and the X-wings.

“Black Squadron! This is Wandering Soul. We’re stranded and we’ve got wounded,” the signal from the damaged freighter now came in crystal clear.

“Understood,” Black Leader replied, “do you have any personnel on that Imp vessel?”

“Negative, Black Squadron; thanks to you!”

“Black Squadron, focus on my Gozanti,” Argent called to the group, “Black Four, let that TIE go.”

The last TIE fighter from their quartet had decided to test his luck out among the asteroids rather than come back around for another pass. Hardeen pushed the stick to the left and rolled into position for a firing run on the Imperial transport. In the distance, Black Two and Three could be seen turning back from their pursuit as well.

“Torpedoes away,” Black Leader called, and four streaks of blue shot toward the slow moving Gozanti. Three small explosions in quick succession were followed by a massive blast of light and debris as the cruiser’s reactor went critical.

Hardeen watched as three TIE fighters from the other group made it back to their Gozanti and docked up, just before the ship made the jump to lightspeed.

In moments, another light freighter dropped out of hyperspace.

“Did we miss the fun?” came a new voice over the commlink.

“Rescue the crew and let’s get moving. This storage site is officially closed,” called Squadron Leader Argent.

Custom Character Sheet

I recently modified a character sheet I found out on the web. I think they were originally made by FFG forum members Caied and DylanRPG. I changed the logo in the upper right to be generic (I plan to blend all three games into one). I also added the Lightsaber skill, the Knowledge: Warfare skill, and made room for Force Powers, Obligation, Duty, and Morality on page 2.

I tried to use the most printer-friendly version they had, plus there's a very cool form-fillable version that calculates and displays the dice pool for you.

Click here to download it.

Galactic Coordinates

Rogue One introduced us to a number of new planets. The new book "Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide" provides, among many other things, a nice new map. The following planets appear somewhere in the galaxy for the first time, to my knowledge: Lah'mu, Jedha, Eadu, Scarif, Ring of Kafrene, Wobani, and Lothal (I have been idly wondering about this one for quite awhile). I will be adding these worlds to the Gazeteer feature of this blog. Here are the rough galactic coordinates, in the meantime.

Lah'mu: L-3 (Outer Rim)
Jedha: H-11 (Mid Rim)
Eadu: U-10 (Outer Rim)
Scarif: T-15 (Outer Rim)
Ring of Kafrene: K-15 (Expansion Region)
Wobani: R-8 (Mid Rim)
Lothal: T-8 (Outer Rim)

I suppose I will add the relevant Episode VII planets, too: D'Qar, Hosnian Prime, Jakku, and Takodana.

I will be having another post very soon wherein I will explore what Rogue One has to say about galactic travel times via hyperspace. Hint: they are very short!