Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Search for Shiv: Planetside

I keep forgetting I have this blog until it's time for my promised Wednesday post. I've got to get back in the habit of doing this. Here we go:

When we last left our heroes, they had just crash landed on the blockaded world of N'zoth and the ship was now missing a stabilizer (in this case, it’s kind of like a wing on an airplane, except it's movable). His backstory establishes that Drev loved his ship. He insisted they repair it instead of finding a new one. Drev decided to stay with the ship on guard duty instead of venturing out on the mission. Not realizing that Yossa hates droids, he ordered Sparky to follow Yossa’s commands. Sparky had the specs for the necessary part. Just before landing, a message arrived from their prospective ally indicating the city he was hiding in. It looked to be a 2-3 day walk through the forest to the city Yossa’s friend, Saban, indicated.

En route, they encountered a group of vorpacks. Our GM described them as “Star Wars Tribbles. They swarmed the party as the group tried to sleep. All they really did was go “Eep!” When a Tiss’shar gobbled one down, the rest scattered.

This concluded the December session. We didn’t get to play for over a month after that.

The next session, the group arrived at the town to find stormtroopers conducting a door-to-door search. The locals were unhappy, and it appeared a riot would break out at any moment. Remember, this is N’zoth. The locals are incredibly xenophobic. An AT-ST clanked as it walked in the distance. Zin was sent in to scout while Val, the sniper, found a place in a tall tree on the edge of the forest. The sneaky Zin managed to sneak into an apartment complex that the Imperials were searching. I don’t know why the player thought that would be a good idea. Zin got ahead of the patrol sweeping the place and went room-to-room. At some point, Zin shut the door right behind a group of stormtroopers that had just gone into a room. After much fruitless searching by both Zin and stormtroopers, Zin misstepped and made a noise. A trooper called it in. Zin then heard the words she dreaded: “Yes, sir. Switching to thermal imaging.”

Zin sprinted outside and down the hallway to the only exit where she found two stormtroopers holding the crowd back from entering the complex. On the bright side, Zin had skill points spent in jump, tumble, and several other relevant skills. She charged down the stairs before leaping through the doorway. The troopers never expected to see someone coming out of the building! When Val saw Zin dashing through the doorway into the street, she let loose a shot at one of the troopers. Critical hit! He’s down! As Zin turned down the nearest alley, Val fired off a couple more shots before climbing down from the tree. She didn’t want to risk anyone tracing the shots back to her present location. Zin continued to zig-zag through alleys. Suddenly, an arm reached out and hauled her into one of the buildings! Once inside, a shadowy figure dragged her down a hatch in the floor. “Yousa stirring up a lot of trouble. I should have expected nothing less from the great Yossa Fel.” It was Saban. Finally, we had the entire party in play! After waiting some time for things to cool down, Saban used Zin’s comlink to contact Val (Yossa doesn’t own a comlink). She handed it off to Yossa. Saban told him to meet at “the drinking spot we used to go to when we were off duty.” Yossa groaned. They were to meet outside a cantina just off the base! That was where the session ended.

Next time, join us for the grand meet-up!

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rebooting the Search

It's been 8 months since the first session of this rebooted campaign and two months since the end. It also went on hiatus for quite awhile. For those reasons, I'm just giving the details. I can't remember much of the dialogue.

When we last left our heroes, um... they were all dead. Yossa needed to assemble a new team to take down Shiv.

Both my brother and I missed the first session after are restart (I'm playing the pilot, Drev, and he's playing Sparky, a mechanic/medical droid). The two of us had to pick a starting world. We chose Borleias. The GM laughed. "That's where everyone is meeting!"

We took the call from Yossa about the job. Unfortunately, we were low on starting cash. Most of it went toward the ship. The group was meeting on the other side of the planet and we couldn't pay our docking fee! How could a blockader runner, er, legitimate business man be so short on credits? It was decided Drev and Sparky came to pick up a cargo. When they arrived, the job offer was suddenly rescinded. Those two don't have the force to lodge a significant enough protest.

Yossa came over via commercial transport. The Tiss'shar, Val and Xin, were already on planet for some reason. I missed the session where that was explained. Xai Sho, the Nagai, crash landed her small ship in the wilderness. Any landing you can walk away from, right? It was only there to provide transport to the staging area anyway.

I can't remember if Yossa payed the docking fee so we could go to the rest or they took a transport to us. I just remember he tried to haggle the price down and failed. The group met without anything of note happening, besides Drev never spotting Xin, the infiltration expert.

As we took off, both the GM and Yossa's player started laughing. "Do you realize that he gathered all of you without telling you why you were going after Shiv?" The GM said.

It was then Yossa realized we didn't have any computer expert amongst the group. (Sparky didn't count in his eyes because Yossa hates droids.) The only trustworthy slicer he can think of is an old army buddy. After a quick explanation of the situation, his friend agrees to help. The only catch is that we must pick him up. He's stuck under an Imperial blockade. On N'zoth. In Yossa's words, "Right after we rescue him, I'm going to punch him."

This ended the session.

In our next session, the group left for N'zoth. Sparky briefed Drev on what to expect from the locals: death. The Yevethan natives are highly xenophobic. Due to the added risk, Drev elected not to take on any cargo bound for their destination.

Once in hyperspace, Yossa explained who the target of his wrath was: a highly dangerous Bothan computer/droid expert. Val disclosed what she knew of him as well. Her mother had worked alongside Shiv (in a previous campaign). That group managed to hijack a Star Destroyer from an Imperial shipyard and Shiv was the main component in that theft!

Until they arrived, the passengers amused themselves by playing holochess repeatedly. Drev joined in occasionally, but couldn't win a match (or even come close). "Why do I even have this thing?" he grumbled as he headed toward the cockpit. Experience told him there would be a hyperspace interdiction field around the planet. The ship would be pulled out of hyperspace upon arrival.

The interdiction field cut the Rodent's Bane out of hyperspace a fair distance out from the system. An approach through an asteroid field hid the ship's approach. I had bragged about Drev being able to perform any maneuver at full speed. I was wrong. As I approached the planet, Drev missed his pilot check to avoid hitting a Star Destroyer. The GM waved it off, saying Drev barely dodged it. "But be careful."

The run to the planet was uneventful, until it came time to land. My bragging came back to bite me. A natural 1! The ship scraped a stabilizer against the overhang Drev was trying to park under. The ship crashed to the ground. Sparky went out to check. The whole stabilizer was gone. Without that part, the group would be unable to get off the planet!

More to come next Wednesday.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

World Building: The Basics

First of all, not everything I'm planning to use in this world has been released under the Open Gaming License (OGL). I'd rather avoid any possible legal problems, so I'll try to avoid being too descriptive on non-OGL material. A searchable database of what is covered is available here.

Now that that's out of the way, there's a little back story before we get started. While attending Emerald City Gamefest in Fall of 2009, I played in a Pathfinder adventure run by Seattle-based author Erik Scott de Bie. The shear creativity exhibited inspired me to concoct my own world. I will admit, some of this is inspired by my experience with his game but over time my ideas have morphed into an independent creation. And I plan on naming a major NPC after him. I'm really hoping he decides to publish the setting.

Overview of the world:
The campaign I'll run will focus on a land we'll call "Gygax" for now. Fifteen years ago, the human king was overthrown. Whether it was a baby son or daughter smuggled out in the night, or a distant relative of the king, rumors that an heir to the throne still exists are not uncommon. I realize that this invokes several common tropes, but it adds some tension and drama to the world.

At the time of the revolution and ensuing civil war, the king was advised by several wizards. When an extended drought hit the land (may become an earthquake, volcanic eruption, flood, or some combination thereof), the citizens looked for someone to blame these problems on. Troublemakers directed that public ire toward the aloof wizards. My working reason is that the instigators claimed certain deities were blocking the rain since magic is an "unnatural abomination." The fear of job loss due to these tireless magical golems recently developed by the politically-powerful wizards pushed the general apprehension toward magic into a pure frenzy of hatred. When this coup succeeded, casting spells or possessing magic items became punishable by death. Anyone using spell-like abilities faces the same punishment. A few casters are allowed to go about their business as clerics of certain deities. The nature of these deities have yet to be determined.

When we return to the world building series, races that are staples of the D&D product line are put under the microscope. Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, Gnomes, and others find their roles in society.

Next week, I anticipate a Search for Shiv post.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Blog Strikes Back!

I'm back from my school-induced hiatus. My new schedule should permit me the time to resume the blog. Here's tentative schedule for the next few weeks:

Wednesday, August 24: An intro to the D&D 3.5 campaign world I'm creating. I'd really like some feedback on my plans. As soon as this entry posts, I'm going to write this up. This will probably be the direction the blog takes for the foreseeable future. My goal is to have the setting ready to go by January. The campaign would begin following the end of whatever thing my group is running at that time.

Wednesday, August 31: The beginning of the end for Star Wars: The Search for Shiv campaign. I won't include as much in the way of dialogue with these posts since the campaign wrapped up in June.

Wednesday, September 7: More Search for Shiv.

Tuesday, September 13: Part 3 of the dramatic conclusion. This may or may not be the final entry. It depends on how long the last post runs.

Tuesday, September 20: If the prior entry did not complete the campaign, this will do it.

A review of the 3rd edition adventure The Burning Plague will insert itself somewhere in the mix. This is my second DM experience and what my group is currently doing when our new Star Wars campaign doesn't run. We have 1-2 sessions left with this. I may be able to get my brother to do a report on his experience at Dragonflight this summer. I didn't make it due to work.

There are a few different directions the blog could take.

The possibilities:

1. World creation journal with the intention of gaining feedback from a (hopefully) growing readership.

2. A journal for the new Jedi-focused Star Wars campaign my group started.

3. A review of the D&D 3.5 adventures on the Wizards of the Coast website. I would be running these with my group on the nights our Jedi campaign doesn't run due to the DM's work schedule or too many missing players. I may or may not be briefly participating in a Friday night Serenity campaign as well. My work schedule should allow me to participate 2-3 sessions. I'd put together a review of that as well.

4. Guest posts from other members of my group telling of their RPG experiences.

5. Reviews of various board/card games, gaming blogs, webcomics, and other geeky stuff. This would run in addition to other content. This would be posted when either I have to miss a session or the group plays a non-RPG.

6. Some combination of the above. The third option is a certainty and the others may or may not be mutually exclusive.

Until next time, roll well.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dramatis Personae: The Search for Shiv

As always, I have links to Wookieepedia and TV Tropes as judged appropriate.

Time for new characters! Always a fun time! After I displayed dismay at only having a few races to choose from in the core rulebook, our GM opened up the Ultimate Alien Anthology to our group. 180 new species to choose from! Well, 177. Our GM banned 3 races. Bartokk were removed when several players expressed an interest in them. As they gain ability bonuses for the number of Bartok allies nearby, adding 5 Bartokk would break things. Kushiban were tossed out as a previous player's action convinced the GM the race is unbalanced. I really wanted to play a Givin, but that was vetoed since several members were around for an infamous Givin character that died in spectacular fashion. I must reiterate, thermal detonators in mass quantities is a bad idea.

Our character deaths occurred the week before Thanksgiving. Since I had a large essay to due the following week, I missed the next session. Having three weeks to flesh out a character was nice! The GM imposed a harsh restriction: though we were level 8 characters, we would be starting with the same amount of credits as a level 1 character! Instead of starting with 20,000 credits, I had a mere 100! On the up side, you will see he was very lenient on that when we put together our backstories. All characters were required to have worked with Yossa before. How could Yossa trust someone he didn't know?

Yossa: A Gungan war hero, Yossa's survival is the only reason we still have a campaign. Shiv has something very important to him and Yossa will stop at nothing to get it back.

Drev (player's former character was Baniss): An ace pilot and blockade runner, Drev is the owner of the Rodent's Bane. The Rodent's Bane is a Firespray Patrol Craft. Drev is in his thirties, nearly middle age for a Xexto. He mostly takes humanitarian jobs delivering medical supplies and food. He refers to Imperials and other oppressors as "rodents," hence the name of his vessel. He was the wheel-man for an operation with Yossa and four other soldiers in the Corporate Sector. Should he gain more cash, he has the ability to quad-wield blasters. A combination of discounted runs for the Rebels and a droid purchase has left him searching for a big score.

Sparky (player's former character was Bishop): Medic, surgeon, and repair droid, Sparky is a 2-1B medical droid owned by Drev. The Xexto recently picked him up at an auction though the details are a bit murky. The fiercely loyal aids Drev in combat repairs and provides medical attention to passengers when need. Sparky is obsessed with upgrades: both to himself and his patients. He is an expert at building and installing cybernetics. Broken and abandoned droids are raided for parts. He's trying to acquire an ion pistol, but has had no luck so far. Useless droids are rare. Why not make some of your own The group needed a nickname quickly since the character was still being finalized in his first session and "Sparky" was the first we thought of. Signature phrase: "I'm afraid that will have to come off."

Val (player's former character was Ith): Val is a Tiss'shar sharpshooter. whose mother is a legend amongst our group: the medical ninja. Val is not on good terms with her mother. This mother used to be one of Shiv's co-workers. Don't get on her bad side.

Zin (player's former character was the ASP droid): Zin is a Tiss'shar infiltration and explosives expert. Since she frequently remains unseen, she is also referred to as "Val's Imaginary Friend." So far, the only party members to see her are Val and Yossa. Enemies' signature phrase: "[censored]"

Tai Sho (player's former character was Neela): She is a Nagai soldier. Like most Nagai, she is driven by honor. Observant readers might recall that this is set sometime during Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars fans might be saying, "Wait, a Nagai? I thought they invaded the galaxy! And wasn't that after Empire Strikes Back?" Yes they did and yes it was. She may be an advance scout. She once fought a Tusken Raider with only a knife. She kept his gaderffi as a trophy. Her connection to Yossa is unknown. Sparring with her is how beings earn respect and honor in her eyes. Signature phrase: "Honorable combat?"

Shiv: Remember him? He's the Bothan computer and droid expert. Oh yeah, he's also the BBEG of this campaign.

Join us next time as we begin Star Wars: The Search for Shiv!

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Re: Geek's Dream Girl's Geektastic Music

I read Geek's Dream Girl frequently. Dating advice + geekery = awesome! Over there, C did a post called Geek-tastic Music: Nine Must-Listen Geek Songs and I have a few to add. And finishing off the quarter at school deserves some extra content to celebrate! C is also one of the co-founders of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming.

I'm limiting myself to one by each artist.

My list includes only material that is not on her list:

1. Let's start off with an easy pick: "White and Nerdy" by Weird Al Yankovic has to make the list. 59,107,756 youtube viewers agree that it's an instant geek classic.

2. "Re: Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton. Zombies? Yes, please. Fan video by spiffworld. Colton's done a lot of other great work as well.

3. "I Had a Shoggoth" by Tom Smith (live at MarCon 2008). An excellent "kids' song" written for the FuMP by the world's fastest filker that manages to cover most things geeky. Smith is another artist where it's hard to pick just one song.

4. "I'll See Your Six" by Joe Bethancourt. If someone ever tries to mug me, I hope the woman in this song is around.

5. "No Such Thing" by Kathy Mar (originally by Zander Nyrond). An excellent science fiction piece. The play buttons on the individual tracks have issues. Click on the top and arrow over to number six. (Again, a submission from my brother.)

6. "Dawson's Christian," originally by Duane Elms, is an excellent ghost story set in space. Here's a cover from Vixy and Tony performed at Coonflikt I.

7. Philosophical Christian rockers Brave Saint Saturn check in with "Space Robot Five." Fronted by a man with a science degree and part of a trilogy of albums written about a fictitious space voyage, it definitely has the proper geek-cred to make the list. In their other works, BS2 has not shied away from the occasional controversy.

8. University of Oregon's a capella group On the Rocks Rick Rolls the audience at the 2008 West Coast A Capella Showcase.

9. By now, you've probably heard "Still Alive" from the game Portal. Yes, it was written by Jonathan Coulton, but I'll shoe-horn it in since he wasn't the original performer. It's been reworked multiple times as everything from a dance remix to a punk cover and has even popped up in Minecraft. Want an instant sing-along at a convention? Play this. This is the only entry with an entire playlist.

On the subject of RPGs, I'd like to add d20 Love by Kimmy Snyder.

Want more? I've got a short playlist of nerdy music set up on youtube.

Yes, tonight's introduction of the new characters will go on as planned. Enjoy your extra fun today!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Loose Ends and Lessons Learned

Loose ends:

The message Baniss sent was to his parents. I knew I would have to do something with my computer use skill and couldn't think of anything helpful. I thought this fit jittery character's cowardice. The message said, "I didn't do it." Baniss took all his levels in Scoundrel.

Ith was force sensitive. In the week I was absent between our escape and reaching the safehouse, Ith used the force to heal Yossa. Our GM joked that the Emperor was sitting on the toilet reading the newspaper at the time. "Huh? What was that?" Ith multi-classed as a Force Adept/Noble.

Bishop never got the chance to properly shine. He was built on the idea of using one blaster set to stun and another on the normal setting. Unfortunately, both the GM and player misread the rules on stun before the first battle and ran with what the GM said there. They'd sorted things out for future fights, but opportunity to use this tactic never materialized. Stunning an opponent with one shot and killing them when they're immobilized fit the "not a nice man" theme the player was going for. Bishop took levels in Soldier before entering the Elite Trooper prestige class.

Neela had some depth we never touched on. I don't have her player's e-mail, but the GM filled me in: "Neela had an odd backstory of parents who were Rebel Sympathizers that died in a smuggling run gone wrong. She was sold into slavery, hence her aversion to binders. She escaped from said slavery and became a bounty hunter with a heart of gold. She would only take bounties that were honorable and didn't conflict with her own moral code... Unless she was desperate and she was reaaaaally hungry. All in all, a very odd duck." Neela was a Scout.

More from the GM regarding our final battle: "They didn't trace you from the credit chip. The "safe" contact that gave you the safe-house also sold you out to the Hutts, who in turn gave your position to the Imperials as a gesture of goodwill. They might have exaggerated how much ordinance you had at the safe-house, leading to the siege formation. Your [computer] message did not make it to your parents as the cache that sends the message was in the same building and hadn't dumped to the main server yet. The Imps never had the chance to look it over. The cache was destroyed in the explosion."

The unnamed ASP droid is still out there. According to the player, the droid has found some new friends. Maybe he'll show up in another campaign. He has not disclosed what levels the character has.

Lessons learned:

1. When reacting to detention by the authorities, it's helpful if the whole party acts together.

2. As cliche as it is, starting in a tavern/cantina can be fun.

3. Write down your backstory and take a hard copy with you. This should lessen potential confusion.

4. If your boss is a crime lord, never tell them you're quitting.

5. If you can't be there, make sure someone has a copy of your character sheet.

6. Delusional characters are entertaining, but can takeover the session.

7. Constitution is not a dump stat. (Compare Baniss being hit by small arms fire to Bishop taking several heavy weapon blasts to the face.)

8. Playing a droid has serious drawbacks. Especially against [spoiler redacted].

9. If you are bitten by an insect, don't wait to get it treated.

10. If you want to make a campaign journal, update it consistently.

I'm working on a piece for the end of the week that will introduce my new character and then we're on to more adventure!

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