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:

The product page:

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...


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


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, 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 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 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.