Posts tagged Star Wars

Linear Wizards, Quadratic Warriors


Nope, the title is not a typo. I’m talking about the problem of linear wizards versus quadratic warriors. Sure, the other way around gets a lot of publicity, especially with Dungeons & Dragons 3.x and Pathfinder. And indeed, it is a problem when high levels warriors stab an enemy and only dealing a quarter damage while wizards conjure a firey malestrom that outright kills all the enemies.

But that pales in comparison to the travesty of linear wizards and quadratic warriors! I mean, what good is it to spend years with your nose in a book studying cantrips if your warrior counterparts are slaying gods? These problems do crop up occasionally in roleplaying games, but they are much more prevalent in other forms of media.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan the BarbarianConan the Barbarian for instance has warrior classes being severely overpowered compared to magic users. They have to spend days of preparation and ritual in order to pull of magic (although it can be impressive at times). But in combat, they’re just normal people in a robe that Conan can kill without them so much as get off a magic missile! Apparently in some of the later books, magic is said to be declining due to Conan setting up a kingdom based on logic and reason (or something). So Conan’s power grows while wizards’ power actually shrinks!

Lord of the Rings codifies the problem pretty well. Let’s face it; Gandalf did diddly squat with his magic throughout the series. He starts off by telekinetically shoving Saruman off his feet and using a Light cantrip in Moria. As he levels up in the series, he gains the ability to shine a magic flashlight against the Ringwraith to scare them off. You could blame this on the XP tax of getting resurrected, and in all fairness, he did manage to pull off exorcising Saruman from Theoden who seems considerably more powerful, but even still, Gandalf’s feats of magic are pretty weak.

Compare this to the warriors in the series. Gimli and Legolas start off killing just a few orcs in Moria, then advance to swathing through dozens and dozens of orcs on the battlefield, not to mention taking down an entire oliphaunt. Aragorn levels up to the point where he can take advantage of the Followers provided by AD&D 2nd Edition rules and gains an entire army of soldiers as well as an undead army, not to mention gains a fair amount of prowess in battle on his own. Even Merry managed to level up enough to be able to kill the Witch-King himself (which is even more ironic considering that a scene from the Extended Edition shows that the Witch-King handed it to Gandalf earlier in the film).

In fact, the only way that Gandalf is able to do anything remotely effective is to switch to his sword and become more like a warrior. He fights in battle this way and even kills the Balrog not by using his magic, but by stabbing it repeatedly. Clearly, Lord of the Rings has a problem with Gandalf advancing linearly (or flatlining) and everybody else quadratically outpacing him.

Gandalf decides that the only way to stay competitive is to take the sword and take the Longsword Proficiency feat.

Gandalf decides that the only way to stay competitive is to keep the sword he found as loot and take the Longsword Proficiency feat.

I’m really surprised that this glaring issue hasn’t received more attention. The various Lord of the Rings RPGs figured that nobody would want to play a wizard so they just make everyone the overpowered warriors. Star Wars: Edge of the Empire makes bounty hunters and smugglers pretty effective so I have to as: will they overshadow Jedi? Superheroes games like Mutants & Masterminds or even the Platinum Warlock’s own Cold Steel Wardens falls into this trap with Batman-type martial superheroes being on par with, if not superior to the X-Men?

We as gamers need to fight back! If you’re against linear warriors and quadratic wizards, then be concerned that the pendulum doesn’t swing to far and we wind up with linear wizards and quadratic warriors!

And yes, this is all a parody.

Fantasy Flight Games Event Center


This week, I’m going to be talking about a little known secret, even here in the Twin Cities. Turns out that Fantasy Flight Games, creators of board games like Arkham Horror and A Game of Thrones as well as roleplaying games like Deathwatch and the new Star Wars: Edge of the Empire have the Fantasy Flight Event Center in Roseville, MN. It’s about 15 minutes from my house and 5 minutes from the Roseville Public Library where I go every Wednesday as part of my AmeriCorps service. And let me tell you, it’s awesome!

As the name implies, there are two parts to the location:

Fantasy Flight Games…

The Fantasy Flight Games Event Center’s main purpose is to provide an outlet where Fantasy Flight’s games can be sold. Of course, Source Comics and Games (described here) has all of these games and more, but I imagine Fantasy Flight prefers to have a direct outlet so they can make a bigger profit. Fortunately, this means that games at this location are discounted (15% off for members only) as are preorders (10% for nonmembers, 20% off for members). There are games from other companies as well there, especially if they are products for the same universe as some of Fantasy Flight’s products (e.g. Cubicle 7’s The One Ring roleplaying game was next to their Lord of the Rings Living Card Game).

You can also check out games there to play ($3, free with a membership) or even rent a Warhammer army ($5, free with membership). Membership is a bit steep, especially if you’re on an AmeriCorps living stipend like me, ($20 one month, $50 three months, $75 six months, $125 one year), but if you are a heavy gamer who buys lots of Fantasy Flight products, I could see it easily paying for itself.

…Event Center

Some gamers play Star Wars: X-Wing using a fan-made Death Star trench run map!

In addition to being a store, the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center is a location where people can play games. There are about fifteen open gaming tables tables set up on the main floor and another five on the upper mezzanine (a quieter, more secluded area, but for members only). While I was there, I saw several minis, roleplaying, and board games being played. The staff lets you play whatever you want and said I’d be more than welcome to run my weekly Deadlands game there (we had our first session on Wednesday and it was a lot of fun!).

These gamers were doing a HeroClix tournament between themselves. The player on the far left was really excited to get a chance to pull out his giant Clix!

The Fantasy Flight Games Event Center also hosts special events from time to time. Next weekend is Arkham Nights, a three day event devoted to H.P. Lovecraft and the games inspired by his works. Not only will there be sessions for board games like Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, and Elder Sign (with special promo cards as swag), but also a Call of Cthulhu Living Card Game tournament, a costume contest, and even a Cthulhu-themed Fiasco game. Plus the game designers for these games will be there. The only downside is that the event costs $20 to attend, which as said before, can be tough if you’re on a budget.

All in all, the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center is an awesome place. It’s a great place to host your weekly game (they even stay open till midnight on weeknights) or have a pickup game with some friends. If you’ve got a disposable income and can afford to be an avid Fantasy Flight gamer, there’s lots of great events and discounts that you can take advantage of. If you’re ever in the Twin Cities, I highly recommend visiting it!

The view from up on the mezzanine. Pictures like this often wind up in the promotional material because it makes the location look HUGE!

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space

GenCon 2012 Experience


This past weekend, I went to GenCon, the largest gaming convention in America. Although I went largely to promote Wild Card Creator, this was also a great opportunity to do some personal gaming.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space

The box set featuring Matt Smith made it’s release at GenCon, but I think I’ll always be attached to my David Tennant box set.

Saturday I arrived in the Dealer Hall when it opened and got a quick look at the place. Boy is it massive! I only got to visit a few booths before I had to go off to run Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Just like last year, I volunteered for Cubicle 7’s Demo Team which gave me a great opportunity to run one of my favorite systems and get some store credit while I was at it.

The scenario they gave me was called “Ghost Engines” and was actually a pretty decent scenario involving body-swapping aliens, gargoyle-like people, and a trans-dimensional train. It was a pretty enjoyable scenario that kept everyone engaged. I have to say that the writing quality for premade adventures for the line have improved markedly over the years. Maybe one of these days I’ll throw my hat into the ring too and write up a scenario to submit to Cubicle 7.

It’s become a tradition at the larger cons for Pinnacle to run a Savage Saturday Night event where dozens of Savage Worlds games are run. The turnout for GenCon was unprecedented and I would estimate that at least 50 games were run, all with full tables! I handed out as many cards for Wild Card Creator as I could, then got roped into a Gilligan’s Island game. As hard as it is to believe, I’ve never seen the show, but I was told that all I really needed to do was hear the theme song and I’d be good.

We played a somewhat modified crew of the original five on the ship. I wound up being the millionaire’s cousin; an Olympic athlete. It’s not every day that your Savage Worlds character gets to wield a javelin and a discus! Not long after we crashed, we fought a boar. Feeling overconfident, I decided to throw my Olympic javelin at it with a called shot to the eye (–6)…and made it! The boar was instantly killed by the assault and we had a tasty meal.

Unfortunately, Gill went missing and we had to go look for him. Turns out that he found himself in some Mayan ruins and put on a headdress that turned him into an ancient Mayan sorcerer king that could summon mummies! After half an hour of whiffs from both sides, we finally managed to get the stupid headdress off of him, patch up the ship, and complete our three hour tour.

Sunday was devoted entirely to roaming the Dealer Hall and it took a good six hours to do so, including stopping to play a few demos. I wound up picking up the new Doctor Who Card Game, The One Ring: Tales of Wilderland, five Paranoia supplements for a buck each, the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, and $3 used book describing all of the original worlds of Torg (one of the most inspiring settings of all time in my opinion). Not a bad haul.

I also got a chance to watch a demo of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, the first of three role-playing games for Star Wars. Fantasy Flight Games has elected to follow their Warhammer 40k RPG model and release multiple rulebooks each focusing on a different aspect of the universe. Edge of the Empire focuses on bounty hunters, smugglers, and scoundrels while the upcoming Rebellion vs. Empire and Force and Destiny books will focus on soldiers and Jedi respectively. The rules are cross-compatible so you can mix characters from any of the books. They also use specialty “narrative dice” like Warhammer Fantasy 3rd edtion. Although the beta rules were available for purchase, I ultimately decided to save my $30 for when the real thing comes out.

I was surprised to see just how many companies were running Kickstarters; I saw no less than 15. While I imagine there are a greater number of RPG-related Kickstarters around the time of GenCon than at other times of the year, it was surprising just how important that crowdfunding platform is in the roleplaying game industry (or if you’re cynical, how glutted it is).

And at the end of the day, I got to visit the booth for Mythic Era of War Games, the company founded by one of Wittenberg’s own alumni (no website yet, so I can’t link to their stuff). Perhaps next year Journeyman Games will have its own booth as well.

All in all, it was a great trip and I’m glad that I got to go. If you ever get a chance to visit, even if it’s just for a day, take the opportunity!

Switching Characters Mid-Scenario


Last night, I ran a fairly novel scenario. I pulled out the ol’ Star Wars D6 system (officially called The Star Wars Role-playing Game) by West End Games and I ran a scenario called “Operation Skyhook.” In the Star Wars universe, Operation Skyhook was the collective term for the missions involved with finding the Death Star plans and ultimately destroying the battlestation itself.

Unlike most one-shot adventures where you have one set of characters for the entire adventure, I had three sets of characters. The players started with one set for the first part of the adventure and switched sets for the second and third parts. The result was that they got to be part of something larger and they got to try out a variety of different characters with different skill sets.

The first part of the adventure involved a fairly ragtag group of Rebels and hired Smugglers stealing information from an Imperial outpost, only to discover that they were constructing a new superweapon on the planet that was the size of a moon! They landed under false pretenses, snuck around a little bit to discover more about this project, and then saw this sight:

And yes, Darth Vader really was there. That got the players themselves scared!

The little R2 droid downloaded as much data as he could, the Wookiee sacrificed himself to try and lead a slave uprising, and everyone else hightailed it back to their ship to blast off with the stolen information.

Everyone got new characters for events that took place some time later. Part of the info the R2 droid downloaded included information about an Imperial base on Dantua where the full Death Star plans were being held. So this time, the Rebel Alliance sent a strike team led by Kyle Katarn (basically the Chuck Norris of the Star Wars universe). With the help of two Imperial officers who were wanting to defect to the Rebellion, they managed to infiltrate the base, steal the plans, and get out.

The plans were delivered to Princess Leia, downloaded into R2-D2, and eventually wound up on Yavin IV. That’s where we picked up again. This time, the players got to be Red Squadron, including Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker, and Porkins (who was a surprisingly popular character at our table). They had 30 minutes real time to destroy the Death Star! I had a PowerPoint presentation going that served as a countdown timer and also played movie clips at certain points to show developments in the battle (for instance, when the TIE Fighters arrived, a video clip from the movie played where they arrived). The game was fast and furious as everyone was racing against the clock. Surprisingly, it was Wedge Antilles who wound up being the one to get a lucky shot to destroy the Death Star!

In the end, the scenario really worked out and everyone had a great time. I liked the idea of having different characters building off of each other story-wise and it also gave the players an opportunity to try different types of characters.

I wonder if this idea of playing with different characters in the same adventure could be used in other ways. For instance, maybe there could be a scenario that swapped back and forth between two sets of characters working together on the same mission. I think that the results might turn out really well, especially if the actions of one group directly affects the other!

Predictions About a New Star Wars RPG


First off, I apologize for the delay in posting. Now that university is in full swing, I’ve had less time to write for this blog. In the future, you can expect at least one post each week (which may be standardized to a certain day of the week). Thanks for reading and sorry about the delay!

Earlier in the summer, Fantasy Flight Games announced that they had purchased the license to Star Wars card, role-playing, and miniatures games. Furthermore, they already had two games in the works: X-wing, a tactical minis game, and Star Wars: The Card Game, a cooperative card game. No word yet on a role-playing game.

First off, I have to say that I’m really intrigued by this announcement. I’m a huge Star Wars fan ever since I was a kid and saw the Special Edition of A New Hope in theaters with my dad. I’ve bought my share of the figures and Legos, played some of the board games, played most of the computer games, tried the trading card game, read many of the books (got Heir to the Empire signed by Timothy Zahn at Origins!), and even got a chance to talk to the guy who played Chewbacca (also at Origins a few years ago). Fun fact: according to him, Chewbacca didn’t get a medal for destroying the Death Star because Carrie Fisher wasn’t tall enough to give him one.

I have no doubt that they will eventually create a new Star Wars RPG, but I’m wondering a bit about what it will look like and I’ve been wanting to speculate about that on my blog. So far, Fantasy Flight Games has published the Warhammer 40k Roleplay line (consisting of Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Death Watch, and Black Crusade), Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition, and a few other minor role-playing games. They are all fairly generic RPGs with a percentile systems and self-contained books, except for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. That one actually comes in a box set with color character sheets, several decks of cards for things like combat maneuvers, standup cardboard character figures, lots of little tokens and chips, and even a special set of dice. It’s all very beautiful and it’s nifty, but it’s also a bit expensive at nearly $100 (although one box gives everything that an entire group needs to have to play).

My prediction is that Fantasy Flight Games will make their Star Wars RPG similar to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition (henceforth abbreviated as WFRP3). Here are my predictions about what the final Star Wars RPG will look like when  it is released.

  • It will have similar production quality to WFRP3. There will be color cards and lots of new art depicting exciting things in the Star Wars universe.
  • It will come in a box set like WFRP3. This will have the added draw of encouraging Star Wars fans to try a role-playing game if it’s all self contained like a board game.
  • It will have fewer cards for combat maneuvers than WFRP3 (which included things like Shield Bash, Twin Shot, etc.). That’s less important in Star Wars where you’re just interested in shooting your blaster at the Stormtrooper or swinging your lightsaber.
  • There will however still be cards for basic combat maneuvers. There will be cards for things like shooting, brawling, dodging, and other basic things.
  • Jedi will definitely have combat cards. Things like lightsaber blaster bolt deflection, force powers, and other things will have cards to help players more easily keep track of things.
  • It will use a career system like WFRP3. In that system, your character could transition from a thug to a tomb raider to a soldier. This fits for Star Wars where we have a farm boy turn into a pilot who then turns into a Jedi.

A career system like this would work out rather well for Star Wars. This Thug could easily be a Bounty Hunter, for instance.

  • It will be set in the Galactic Civil War era. It’s the most recognizable era and it’s the same era that their two upcoming board games will be released in. I believe further supplements will allow for play in other eras with The Old Republic being the first era released (to coincide with the MMO coming out) and the Clone Wars being the next one since the TV show is still going on.
  • It will have special dice. The WFRP3 dice provide a unique way of describing the battle (e.g. he thrusts his sword and hits twice, but is fatigued by the effort). I think that would help work for the cinematic nature of Star Wars. It will be a different system of dice than the WFRP3 dice, but I predict that we will have something special like that.
  • The box set will be priced at $60. I estimate this since I’m guessing there will be about as many components as Arkham Horror, a very elaborate board game that is priced at $59.95. Thus the role-playing game will be within the price point of the same people who buy their elaborate board games. Moreover, it will be less than WFRP3 because Warhammer fans are already spending a lot on armies and such, but a lower price point will be needed to pull in casual Star Wars fans.

Anyway, that’s my predictions for a Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. When that does get released, I’d like to revisit these and see what things I predicted correctly. All in all, I’m eagerly awaiting it and I’m cautiously optimistic that they will do a good job with it.

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