Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Filling in the Blanks by

Todd Leback
Filing in the Blanks Filling in the Blanks

Title: Filling in the Blanks
Publisher: Old-School Essentials
Author: Todd Leback
Cover Artist: Jenna Drummond (jendart.com),
Interior Artists: Chad Dickhaut, Adrian Barber, and Dan Smith
Year: 2020
Pages: 79 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

This particular book comes in two forms, the preview edition and the regular edition. I have both. The preview edition is a text only copy of the main concepts of the full book, which is more than enough to let you know if you would want or need this title. 

Starting at the beginning, let me tell you about the author. Todd Leback is the author of a series of books on Hexcrawling. He has also written on topics such as domain building, authored a one page dungeon and had two successful Kickstarters. The most recent, as mentioned before, is the book Into the Wild. This should be out in about a month or so. He started playing with the Red Box D&D set and enjoys the OSR style of play with family. He runs a great Patreon page which provides 5-8 pages of Hex based content to his patrons every 3-4 weeks. As I mentioned in my review of Hexcrawl Basics, the link to both his Patreon and Jenna Drumman's sites are too small so I have reproduced them here. 

Filling in the Blanks is all about generating hexes. He covers geologic features, habitation of a variety of sizes, resources, hazards, lairs, etc. Of course there is a bit about magic and weather. This product is totally table driven with the text providing guidance and examples for usage. Those three together are great for demonstration of how the game is supposed to work. It's also a great way to allow for adaption to specific campaigns and thematic settings. 

My personal favorite part is on graveyards, but I think most people will like the section on Inns. That one seems to be the most useful for any campaign. Maps are in color, while the art is black and white. Somehow, I suffered a printer mishap and all of the black and white art came out blue tinted. I actually like that, but is probably my own problem. 

All in all, this is a great book on the someone who is well versed in hexcrawling. The only slight weakness is the lack of links back to Hexcrawl Basics. That title makes a good primer for what this book covers. While this title is only 79 pages, it is can feel like drinking from a firehose. There is a lot of information packed into this book. 

It would make a great addition and edition for anyone desiring a full featured exploration of the concept of Hex Crawling. While written for Old School Essentials, it can be easily adapted to any rule set. I might even be using this for a continuing Star Wars campaign. 

Camera Test for Spring Model Series

I'm doing a camera test for my spring model series. This is just a quick and dirty edit. The images were downsized to 11 inches across, then the canvas was resized to 7" by 5" with the image centered. On the webside, I downscaled the images to 65%. We'll see how that works. 

As I work on this project, I will probably rework the math and editing techinque so I have model images taking up the entire posting space. 

Both you and I know this will force me to go back and redo some of my other model photos. I don't mind as long as they look nice. 

1 / 7
Box front
2 / 7
Instructions
3 / 7
Side sprue 
4 / 7
Wing sprue
5 / 7
Snow speeder front
6 / 7
Snow speeder side
7 / 7
Loth cat attack

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Outlining Ideas

Here is what I have been up to the past few days. I'm working a lot, so I don't have that much time. 

Today, I burned a bunch of time reading blogs, 3 Toadstools mostly. This week on 3 Toadstools he revisit's a favorite of mine, Isle of Dread. 3 Toadstools came up with this great tool for campaign building, where you select 10 monsters and run with them. He has a list of categories here. It's a great read and simplifies worldbuilding. 

Anyway, I am getting ready to return to my Peninsula of Plenty campaign, but modifying it to be a hex crawl. You probably noticed I have thinking about hexcrawls a lot. I have Filling in the Blanks scheduled for my next review, but haven't done it because I've been reading and rereading it for ideas for this new campaign style. I have to get both of these done as Into the Wild will be out next month. 

What I have had time for is sketching. I like to do paper plans for new ideas in Inkscape. I am also tinkering with a new display format for images. Ideally, all images will be the same size so the page doesn't jump. This will be the case with my photos of models, but harder to do with drawings. It's a start. 

1 / 5
Castle in Green
2 / 5
Black and blue
3 / 5
Reds
4 / 5
Wilds
5 / 5
Tower

Thursday, March 25, 2021

From the Sketchpad

Benny disapproves
This collection is more about using things before they dry up and get wasted. I have a set of markers that are a thin copy of Copic markers. They have a great array of colors in the pack, but no way to work them for shading because those are the only colors available. If I don't use them up, they'll dry up. Nothing worse than losing a marker to disuse. 

I do have this thing for retro designs using a very limited color palette, so I am burning these markers up to make rough drafts for my Inkscape work. The work is quick and very loose, as these are just rough ideas to keep my hands steady and moving. Use it or loose it. 

I'll probably redo these a couple of times before they graduate to something I do digitally. The whole digital thing is also new to me, so I need to practice, practice, practice. Inkscape is my go-to tool for digital work. I like the ability to make geometric designs with bold colors. 

I'll probably have a few more later tonight and tomorrow. I'm in training for the week, so it's natural to sketch while taking notes. 

I've seen any number of designs by Disney artists like this and you'd be correct if you thought I was dying to get back to an Amusement Park soon. Disney is out for 2021, but Six Flags is more doable. 

These are really small, about 4 or five inches. 

I did like the ship design with the water playing around the front and back. I'm going to revisit that idea because it was really an after thought in these designs. 

Funny how the little thinks just pop out at you. 





Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Teaser Art - Working with Pros.

I want to hire an artist for an upcoming project. The one I have selected has sent me some samples of works in progress. This means my commissions are on the back burner. Yeah, that happens. We have to work out the deal, pricing mostly, then style. 

She works in a digital anime style. At least that's what I would call it. The image above is the wireframe for the image to the right. She works fast, so I hope I can afford to hire her. 
Of course, all this talk of artwork has my brain singing. I need to start drawing again. 


 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Gaming Garden - Phase One Complete.

Phase one of the Gaming Garden is complete. My son and I build a raised bed from wood scraps in the garage. It's light pine and a 2x2 cut up for stakes to hold it together.  

I busted up a four foot by eight foot section of grass with a shovel, laid down some compost I had from several years of yard clippings. Then the grass went back on top, upside down. 

In a week or so, phase two will start up. More layers to the raised bed: soil and mulch. Then I have a month or so of rest before the plants go in. It's like planning a D&D campaign. 

Don't let anyone tell you need power tools for this sort of job. Just go get the power tools from the start and save your hands. I regret using hand tools for the whole project. Everything hurts. 

But if it makes a nice backdrop for summer gaming in the backyard, it will be worth it. Last year, we spend a lot of time outside and 2021 is looking to be a rebuilding year. No family vacation this year. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Jendart - The Not Review

I've mention how many times I've been sucked into a document because of the artwork. Simon Miles, Todd Leback, and now jendart

Screencap of the artist on Jendart.com

Jenna Lauren Drummond did the cover art for several of Todd Leback's books. And I really love this style of work. It turns out that this doesn't seem to be the style that appears on jendart.com. There is a lot to love over on that website. Go ahead and check it out. Personally, I like the frogmen and the sci-fi stuff. The frogman is insanely animated, but the sci-fi collection is just poses. Nice to see both fluid action and static poses.  

Let me talk about why I love the covers of Todd Laback's series of books, since this style doesn't seem to feature on Jedart.com. 

It's the floating angles and the capture of the hex crawl ideal. The first product I saw was Hexcrawl Basics. I just love that this image is a map and landscape from the air. It's not avant garde or experimental or any other fancy thing, it's simply perfect for the book title. Everything you would wonder about "Hexcrawl Basics" is summarized in the image. Click the link to check it out on DriveThruRPG. There are interesting locals like the focal point keep and the walled town, plain areas and the sky above it all, with no edge to world as everything fades at the horizon. 

That is pretty much "Hexcrawl Basics" in a nutshell. 

The next title is "Filling in the Blanks" and I am sure you can see why I mentioning this one. I'm going to do a review and I want to get my admiration of the cover out of my brain before diving into this book. 

This image I like for a completely different reason. It reminds me of the comic book artist, Pablo Raimondi. Back in the 1990s, he had a quick, savage style which he lent to the covers of X-Factor. He went for impossible angles and clear cut actions. 

Jendart's handling of the image captures nearly everything from the Hexcrawl Basics title while also embracing whimsy. I love the viewing angle above the characters in the foreground. While it isn't a one for one match with Pablo Raimondi's cover art, I can see that sort of see the "capture the moment" aspect in it. Even though we can't see the heroes' faces, there is a clear sense of wonder in their poses. 

Edit - My apologies, I keep editing this post when I recall something that stood out to me. Expect that to happen a lot. We all have deal with crap like that. 

EDIT 2: I have been misspelling the name of the Jendart website in maybe 3-5 posts. I am so sorry and embarrassed. Because of the way blogger works, this mistake shall ever be memorized in the links which cannot be changed. Ugh. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Updates - Some setbacks, some success.

I suffered a few setbacks this week and more than a few successes. 

The battery for our camera failed. That's the setback and it'll be ok. They are available as a two pack rather cheaply on Amazon. Once they arrive on Monday, I'll be all set to start work on my Star Wars model series. 

The other setback is rather minor. My work schedule is all screwed up next week due to new training. It'll be rough for a few weeks but I'll survive. 

As far as successes, my seedlings are going well. 13 of 18 plants are thriving. I'm not sure what is up with the remaining 5. They seem to show signs of life, but no green sprouts yet. We'll see what's happening as time goes on. I have the next batch of seeds ready to go, I just need to clear a shelf for them. They seem to be thriving under the lights in the basement. It's cool and brightly lit. I hope to have zucchini, cucumbers, peppers and carrots. Everything I need for canning in the late summer. 

Yes, I really do canning. Mostly pickles and giardiniera. 

Another success was a brief Wednesday night gaming session. My family and I were able to play a couple of games of Exploding Kittens and discussed the next game session for next Tuesday. This is exactly what I wanted, a weekly family game night. This is why I am creating a gaming garden outside. 


Additionally, I have received an offer from a budding artist to do some characters for an upcoming book. I can't wait to see what she can do. Here is an example of her work. 


I'll be commissioning her for a couple projects this year. I can't wait. 


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

2021 Gaming Garden Go!

2020 sucked and 2021 is going to be a rebuilding year. We don't have much hope of traveling or a real vacation, so we're doing home improvement. Over the winter, our basement flooded and a lot of stuff had to go. I now have a shot at doing some serious changes inside and out. Outside, we'll have our Gaming Garden which will be the source of inspiration for my summer series. 

Here is what I have planned for 2021 and into 2022: 

Current series - 52 product reviews.
Spring 2021 - Star Wars Models,
Summer 2021 - Outdoors Game sessions,
Fall/Winter 2021 - Superhero gaming,
Fall/Winter/Spring 2021-2 - Appendix N+. 

There is a method to the madness. Since I have been doing product reviews, I can't help but notice my shelving storage for games sucks. That's going to be replaced. Many of my games are going into totes as I review them, until the new storage option becomes available. I don't when that will be, but sometime this year. I am picturing redoing the whole basement into more livable space, so I will not have an "Office". It will be a common shared area. 

Cucumber and zucchini
seedlings on my shelf. 

Second, the lighting in my office sucks for photography. I'm doing lighting on the cheap right now for plants. My game shelves are being given over to new seedlings. 

Third, the seedlings will eventually make it outside for nice backdrop for gaming. We already have a hot tub, a firepit and a grill. The fiery features will also get an upgrade. 

And last, but not actually last, I upgraded our camera equipment. I picked up a Nikon PowerShot 50SX at a good price. It's 12 megapixels, which will more than do for my purposes. My wife has an interest in photography so this will not be a wasted item that sits idle until I can think of an excuse to use it. 

  

Anyway, here is the tie backs to all of this. Reviews cause the books on my shelves to go into storage. The shelves will be storage for plants for the next 60+ days. The raised beds in the garden will be ready by then and make a nice environment for outside gaming. I hope the skills I gain building raised beds will contribute to my woodworking skills in the basement. My new shelves will include space for models and perhaps a bar. My wife pitched the bar idea to me and I can't really say no to her. 

I'm growing a great space for gaming. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Review - The Seventh Decimate

Title: The Seventh Decimate
Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Pages: 319
Year: 2017
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Donaldson is known for his use of obscure words and bleak stories where characters confront and cross their self created moral event horizons in support of a wide and wild ranging story. The Seventh Decimate is clearly born of this style of storytelling, but nicely reverses itself so as to place the reader at a distance from the main characters. The use of this "observation mode" narration is effective and engrossing as the reader can understand the main antagonist's point of view without having to buy into it. Additionally, the prose lacks those obscure words and heavy sentence structures Donaldson is so well know for using. This makes for a quick read.  

This book describes the war between the magic using Amikans and the gun toting Bellegerian forces. There is no lead up to this juxtaposition of genres, Donaldson just lays it out there for the reader. The plight of both kingdoms are presented in the Bellegerian Prince's point of view. The Prince, a simple man, lacks many of the horrible traits of Thomas Covenant and he is a transparent character for the reader to study. Oddly, this level of transparency makes the Prince an ideal, if unlikely, hero to carry the story to completion. Being that this is Donaldson, there are many "What the Hell, Hero?" moments in this story, but none of them are surprising or horrifying which is a heavy shift in style for the author. There is nothing terribly inexplicable in the Prince's actions, he is flawed and simple but never works in a way to sabotage the story for the sake of a twist. And there are many twists.  

The final chapter is rather disappointing as a singular book, the cliffhanger ending is great for a series but may put off the casual reader who was expecting some sort of solid end point. However, that end IS exactly as you would expect which is very pleasing. 

I can't wait to read the next book, The War Within. All links will take you Amazon.com to check out the series. \

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Launch the Fighters!

This is a preview of my spring modeling series. I am short a few TIE fighters, but I shall press on. 

All fighters launch!

What are we looking at? 16 Bandai Star Wars model sets, in 1:144 scale. I really like this scale for gaming. In reality, this is 26 different models, not counting the 2 I already completed. 

I figure I'll kick out 2 a week for 13 weeks, then revisit when I paint them. Behind the scenes, I'll be building one of each first, then painting them as examples. As I said, I am rather light on TIE fighters and heavy on TIE Advanced models. 

I really wish they made B-Wings in this scale. 



Like I mentioned the last time, unless these models are on sale on Amazon, you are better off elsewhere. My personal preference is Hobby Lobby due to the 40% off coupon. But they only have X-Wings and TIE's. For a bigger selection, try The Big Bad Toy Store. They are super consistent with pricing and shipping, but I go with Amazon for the random price drops. 

I do get remuneration from Amazon and DO NOT get anything from the Big Bad Toy Store or Hobby Lobby. It's just straight shooting on good prices. 99% of the time when placing an order with Prime  with free shipping is the reason why I go with Amazon. Click that link for a 30 day trial of Prime. 

Gaming the Game - Stolen Ideas

Duskruin is current Gemstone IV paid adventure

When I want to play an RPG style game but don't have players, I usually log into Gemstone IV. I've been playing it for decades. It's sort of build on Rolemaster, but went through a process to unlink itself from Iron Crown Enterprise's IP. That isn't terribly important to this post, but what is important is the ideas I've stolen from Gemstone IV and by extension, probably Rolemaster. 

One of the things I never liked about AD&D and D&D is the selection of monsters used to challenge the players. It works on the supposition of monsters are a unique challenge to the players. While that starts off being true, there comes a practical point where one or many lower level monsters are not a credible threat to the players. 

D&D 3.x fixes this with challenge ratings. It works pretty well, with the exception of creatures with special powers. They don't seem to have the appropriate CR assigned to them. 

Gemstone IV has a different method of ranking for creatures. Being a MMO, your character can literally walk up an incredibly high level creature and get turned to dust. That works for an MMO where you have the concept of "extra lives" but it doesn't really work on the tabletop. 

For more evenly matched creatures against the player, there is a sliding scale. A first level character against a 1st level creature is worth 100 experience. A second level character against a 1st level creature is only going to give the PC 90 experience. By 11th level, it's kind of pointless to fight 1st level kobolds and as a consequence, they don't give any experience any more. 

I like that. It creates a coherent world. At 10th level and beyond, fighting kobolds shouldn't be the point for AD&D and D&D characters. They are so past that. Kobolds don't stop existing, they merely cease being something the player should fear. While you can ramp up the numbers and abilities of kobolds, they still aren't intellectually challenging. A zillion of them merely represents a zillion chances to roll the dice. That stops being a story real quick. 

I tend to use the formula 10 equal level encounters should equal one level. A party of 4 characters fighting 40 equal level monsters should be one level of experience for each player character. What this does is enable me, the DM the ability to pace the party. Do I want 40 monsters all at once or 10 groups of four? Probably someplace in between. 

This builds a coherent world in my mind. On day one, a nasty encounter with a kobold patrol is fine. Six sessions into the campaign, sure, my players encounter that patrol of kobolds but they are super leary of mixing it up with the players. 10 sessions later and the party may be hiring them as man-at-arms, porters, etc. The kobolds didn't disappear, their role changed because they aren't a challenge. 

I kind of like that concept and generally use it over mathematical gyrations provided in the DMG. 

As a consequence, it does break the model of gold for experience, but I never liked that anyway. Fighters don't go to fighter school to level up. As they gain experience, they gain followers who make them explore the concept of their trade as they teach others. 

Having a simple rule of thumb allows me to plan more fully. Not just what sort of monsters the players will defeat, but also what sort of resources they players will encounter. If the party plows into a patrol of monsters, chases them home and has the tribe bribe them not to attack the village, that's a win. It is total defeat for the monsters, perhaps dozens of them because they offered surrender or capituation. 

This allows me to control what resources end up in the player's hands beyond having them scoop up piles of treasure and hoping for a random roll. I know what is on the table and can use the interactions between the party and the challengers to guide the party. Gold is gold, but this method leapfrogs the concept of magic swords and other nice prizes. A tribe of kobolds might offer up a nice +1 two handed sword to escape the party's wrath because it's a six foot long weapon for 4 foot tall creatures. It's not valuable to a kobold. Plus the kobolds can hint at it's power so as not to waste the party's time trying to identify every item that comes to them. 

It's a nice feature because it establishes a history of what happened. In the above example, the kobold tribe doesn't have to be obliterated to represent victory over 40 kobolds. They can come to an agreement with the party that in exchange for the sword and a promise not to raid the town anymore, they can live in (a fragile) peace. The party know they are there and can sometimes draw resources from them. A safe place to sleep, a good gossip starter or perhaps something else. 

Stolen ideas are good. Why don't you join me in the world of Gemstone IV by clicking the link below. GSIV has a nice F2P model that will give you a taste of an expansive world of magic. 





Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Review: Dungeons and Dragons Film (2000) Review

Title: Dungeons and Dragons
Publisher: New Line Cinema
Year: 2000
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

Am I insane? 5 stars for the 2000 Dungeons and Dragons movie? Yes, I am but it isn't a factor here.  

We have a film starring Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and the Original GQ Smoothy Jeremy Irons. They tried to work with all kinds of Intellectual Properties from the game and it's a dud. 

Well. That has to be some sort of record. How could you fail with that much background information and those actors? Easily, apparently. 

But why would I give it 5 stars? 

It's funny really. It's like someone at New Line Cinema sat down at a table and said, "Gee, let's throw some money at a long list of actors who probably aren't filming something today and we'll see what happens. We can fix a lot of stuff with edits and in post." Looking at the list of people involved with this project, they could have picked worse people. Hell, some of them I like a lot. Actors, directors, writers and so on. When it comes to the actors, I am sure they went out of their way trying to make an excellent movie and I am positive it was perfect. 

What they missed was a quality Dungeon Master. You know, someone who could come up with an engrossing story and snappy delivery. Something that makes the players want to come back for more. 

If only that they hired an actual DM to actually, you know, produce something. Instead, what we got was Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and Jeremy Irons all in a room, picking their character sheets and paychecks off the commissary table and trying to work out their motivation in all of this over some dicey ham salad sandwiches. 

The result is laughly bad. How could they pick out 8 people with actual 18+ charisma scores and botch a movie? 

Well... they didn't. The result is exactly like if you sat down with Justin, Marlon, Thora and the gang and tried to play D&D for the first time. I can't tell you how many horrible campaigns I've put stellar players through and this movie captures this process perfectly. This film is a perfect rendition of every noob mistake made by a rookie DM. 

5 of 5 stars. 

"I know Mr. Irons. You ARE charismatic. You just rolled a one, that's all. It happens..."

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Tek - Stats for February 2021

This month confirms that February is a bad time for sales on DriveThruRPG. 

AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana: 0
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 1
Kobold's Folly: 1
Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 0
These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack: 2
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 1

I've had a year of criticism at the table with the Swashbuckler character class, I think I'll do something with that this year. I also have a few ideas for upgrading Kobold's Folly which includes a new product. It's time. 

Webstats felt very good but were also down. 

Google Analytics Pageviews - 1070
Google Analytics Sessions - 926
Pageviews per Session - 1.15

It was a short month, so they have to be down but I really feel they could have gone way down. What I have noticed is far more engagement between people emailing me and leaving comments, I think I have come a long way. 

Back in Dec-Jan. someone pointed out my commenting system was locked up. I fixed that, so that explains all of the comments. I love it. The spam hasn't been too bad. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review: Dark Forces

Title: Dark Forces
Publisher: LucasArts
Year: 1995
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, memories. In Dark Forces, you control Kyle Katarn on his mission to recover the Death Star Plans and save the rebellion from the Evil Empire. 

Oh, but there's more... Kyle discovers a secret base on the Arc Hammer, ready to pump out a new weapon system, the Dark Troopers. This is one of the first times Star Wars fans access the universe via a character who does not have the Force and does not pilot a cool ship. Han Solo and Wedge, Kyle is not.

The game plays out like a cross between The Mandalorian and Doom. Considering how the 1990's were, that should be no surprise. It was refreshing not to see Sith and Jedi gumming up a straight shooter game along with the idea that the Cool Ship was merely a vehicle within the story, not the main character like TIE and X-Wing.

Kyle does a cool ship, but it's not an item you use on your missions. It carries you from and to each mission via screen cuts. The Moldy Crow is epic looking and seems to be the look Bungie was going for in Destiny with the Guardian's ships. 

This game is very similar to Doom in it's execution, but has some notable differences. Like Doom, Kyle Katarn  is armed with an array of weapons, each one except fists needing ammunition. These weapons can strafe and have two modes of file. 

They are: 

1 Fist
2 Bryar Blaster Pistol
3 E-11 blaster rifle
4 Thermal Detonator
5 Imperial Repeater Gun
6 Jeron Fusion Cutter
7 I.M. Mine
8 Packered Mortar Gun
9 Stouker Concussion Rifle
10 Assault Cannon

In addition to these weapons, Katarn has a collection of items which are helpful. Headlamps and Infrared googles, a breathing mask, ice cleats, and medi packs are all necessary to complete the game. Kyle will also need batteries, power ups and extra lives to make it to the end. 

Unlike Doom, the player is able to look up and down, move vertically and maps simulate different elevations. There are jumping puzzles, mazes, environmental hazards to stymie the player. It has three levels of difficulty to assist the new player get into the game. 

Mission 1: The Death Star Plans: Operation Skyhook – Secret Base
Mission 2: After the Massacre – Talay (Tak Base)
Mission 3: The Subterranean Hideout – Anoat City
Mission 4: Imperial Weapons Research Facility – Research Facility
Mission 5: The Blood Moon – Gromas Mines
Mission 6: Crix Madin’s Fate – Detention Center
Mission 7: Deadly Cargo – Ramsees Hed
Mission 8: Ice Station Beta – Robotics Facility
Mission 9: The Death Mark – Nar Shaddaa
Mission 10: Jabba’s Revenge – Jabba’s Ship
Mission 11: The Imperial Mask – Imperial City
Mission 12: Smuggler’s Hijack – Fuel Station
Mission 13: The Stowaway – The Executor
Mission 14: The Dark Awakening – The Arc Hammer

Gamer Walkthroughs is an excellent resource I wish I had back in 1995. Each mission has specific win parameters, so you need to hunt for solutions and solve puzzles. If all the Storm Troopers are not enough for you, you'll fight Boba Fett, a Kell Dragon with no weapons and finally, face off against the terrifying Dark Trooper. 


While no longer canonical Star Wars, it's nice to see some of these scenarios come to life via The Mandalorian.  

The audio track was excellent, the music virtually lifted from the movies. The use of stereo sound was terrifying, you hear things coming from the proper direction with headphones. The first time a Dark Trooper attacks, you know it's badassed just by the sound of it's footsteps. 

The AI is sort of lack luster and the missions are designed Doom style meaning you don't sneak or bypass enemies. It's straight up blast and kill session even though you have a story and mission parameters. 

Performance was iffy if I remember correctly. 4 MB was not enough for you to get the full effect. It's even choppy on my Sawtooth, which has more than enough horse power for 1990 games. 

All and all, I give this game 4 stars. Go check out the videos at Gamer Walkrhrough for a feel of the game. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Additional Force Feats for my Star Wars Campaign

Based off the new Star Wars movies, the Rebels series and The Mandalorian I have a couple of Force Feats I want to add to my campaign. Strangely, not all of the original force feats displayed by Luke, Leia and Vader are a part of the original WotC Star Wars book. This book was for The Phantom Menace, but oddly didn't include anything from the original 3 movies.

These Feats are more dangerous and useful than the last set I posted. While I spell them out as all being telekinesis in some form or another, they are under the Alter feat. 

Almost all of these are based off the Force Lighting feat, with the DC adjusted for lower levels. 

Telekinesis: 
Telekinesis allows the force user to grab, throw and manipulate items at a distance. Within this group there are 4 feats. 

Grab: 
The force user can grab a loose object and pull it to themselves. This requires one level of force use. At low levels, this is a full round action. At higher levels, it is a move action. The object will end up in their hand or in a desired landing place near them. If two force users are contesting the control of an object, the one with higher die roll wins, no matter the DC requirement or level difference.

This will usually result in a tug of war, where the lower level character has the exact same chance of winning as the higher level character. The primary problem for the lower level character is the higher level character may be able to make more than one attempt per round, the second of which is uncontested. This seriously antagonizes Dark Side characters and they may needless continue the tug of war with the lesser Force user until some other event prevents them from continuing the war. 

Dark Side users gain a Dark Side point each time they repeat this action against another user. 

Use the script, Hayden.
Force User's Level     DC
1-3                              15  (Full Round Action)
4-6                              14  (Full Round Action) 
7-12                            13  (Move Action)
13-20                          12  (Move Action)
+21+                           10  (Move Action)

There is only one modifier to this DC roll, ownership. If the object in question belongs to the character, the DC drops by 2. 

This feat has a cost of 1 vitality per object per round. Characters are limited to one object per 3 levels. 

Examples: Ankin levitating fruit, Luke recovering his saber. 


Lift: 
Sometimes this feat is used as Jedi drinking game.
A force user can lift an item into the air or pin it to the ground. It requires one level of force use and the Grab feat. 

Dark Side users can inflict damage at the same rate as falling a given distance, while Light Side users will tend not damage the item. Like the Grab ability, it has a DC score to succeed against inanimate objects and there is a limit to the number of times they can do this per round. This power only works against inanimate objects. 

Force User's Level     DC
4-6                              15  (Full Round Action) 
7-12                            14  (Move Action)
13-20                          12  (Move Action)
+21+                           10  (Move Action)

The vitality cost is identical to Grab, one per round per object. There is no upper limit to how many things they may lift except the cost. The cost is based on when the objects are moving, not the fact that they have moved. As a consequence, a force user may lift dozens of objects and hold them stationary for a long time. Gracefully returning the object to a resting place will cost more vitality and have its own required DC roll.  

Examples: Rey vs. the rocks, Luke entertaining Yoda. 

Forceful Impact: 

This power is more aggressive than the last two. The force user violently pushes an object or person either out of their way or into a fixed object for damage. Being lifted into the air or slammed to the ground is one of the Force effects that cannot be contested or counter acted by another Force feat. It requires both the alter Feat and the Lift feat. 

This power does have a number of different uses. First, it can be used to hurl an item at a target or hurl a target into another object. There is a DC roll: 

Force User's Level     DC
4-6                              15  (Full Round Action) 
7-12                            14  (Full Round Action)
13-20                          12  (Move Action)
+21+                           10  (Move Action) 

Dark Side users can inflict falling damage on a victim. A Light Side user will can knock someone down, but generally won't hurt living beings. A victim can resist this damage if they can make a reflect save. If pinned to a surface, the victim must make a Fortitude save in the next round to begin moving again. 

One unusual use of this power is to safely propel a target to a destination, as if they lept the distance. When used against a friendly target, the DC is reduced by one. 

When used against a friendly force user, that person can use Forceful Impact to guide themselves to a perfect landing along their flight path. This is a separate roll and will not modify the other character's DC roll. Failure indicates they land where the other person intended, not their choice of landing spots. 

The cost of this power is two vitality points per round per object or target. If pinning a target, the cost must be paid, successful or not. If the force user is adept enough, they can push back and absorb energy. The cost of this is 4 vitality point per unit of damage absorbed, plus a second DC check for Dissipate energy. If both rolls are successful AND the force user dies, there will be a one round delay in the blast to allow people to escape. 

Examples: Obi Wan in every fight in the Prequels, Kanan saving his friends, Kanan and Ezra escaping various fights. 

HR is not involved with the Imperial
Field Promotion Program.
Clutch: 

Clutch is completely surrounds a target, prevents movement and can cause damage. It may incidentally lift a target from the ground. It requires the Grab feat and 7 levels of force experience. 

Force User's Level     DC
7-12                            15  (Full Round Action)
13-20                          14  (Move Action)
+21+                           13  (Move Action) 

The force user may inflict 1d6 points of damage per round at a cost of 2 vitality per damage die rolled. The user may choose how many damage dice to roll up to their current level. They may be required to do this for multiple rounds for the desired effect if they guess wrong. When used against a living being, the user receives Dark Side Points equal to the damage done. Light Side users will be inclined to use this power against droids or other non-living targets, while Dark Side users will attack anyone with this ability. 

If the force user has both the sense and alter feats, they may subdue a target for as long as desired, with or without inflicting damage so long as they succeed their DC roll. The sense feat also allows the force practitioner the ability to attack targets at vast distances so long as they can sense the target in some way. For example, they could use a camera to view the target or may hear foot steps at the target approaches from behind. 

Examples: Vader's force choke, Luke crushing the Dark Trooper. 

It wasn't a person, so it wasn't that Dark.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: SimEarth

Title: SimEarth: The Living Planet
Publisher: Maxis
Author: Will Wright
Year: 1990
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sim Earth is a fantastic game by Will Wright, creator of the Sims and Spore. SimEarth was released by Maxis in 1990. As a 31 year old game, it's rough but lovable. It is based on the Gaia model and runs amazingly well on G3 Mac under OS 9. 

The purpose of the game or simulation is to use energy and feedback loops to advance your chosen lifeform to the highest level of technology possible. It's easier said than done, but well worth the effort. You are pitted against not only your own created mishaps, but random events such as weather, cooling, warming, etc. It's a great primer on what it takes to make a planet full of life. Events are predictable, but not repetitive. 

Earth isn't the only planet you can work with, the game includes scenarios for Mars and Venus. These are breathtakingly difficult. A simplified model called Daisy World highlights the power of the sun on Earth's environment. While it is meant to be a simulator type game, it dives into science fiction with some of the devices and creatures that appear. 

Each world scenario is broken down into the world map which is initially populated with land forms. As time goes on, the landforms morph under the energy of the sun and tectonic forces. Sooner, rather than later, life will emerge. There are dozens of Taxa of life, all of which are on equal footing to evolve and become intelligent. These taxa and landforms are all right out of your Earth and Biology text books from high school, they feel familiar. You can use the magnifying glass to observe their description and current state. As creatures become intelligent, you can guide them through different levels of Civilization with the goal of getting them to colonize other planets. 

SimEarth is educational in it's whimsy. You can bring back the Trichordates, a species of life with tri-radial symmetry. Or create Carniferns, man eating plants or even robotic life. All of these achievements have to be done between ice ages and hot, dry epochs. The game includes several scenarios which pose questions as to what hardships life can overcome with guidance or the limits of science. Terraform Mars and Venus, anyone? 

Time flies when you're creating life.