First Playtest: Candlelight

5826e2492b9de503630986c7f5df09fcSo, tonight marked the first playtest of Candlelight.

I haven’t talked about it much, but Candlelight (working title!), is a project I’m developing for down the road.

It uses some pretty unique ideas I’ve been stewing on for a while (the first attempt at this game was several years ago), and I tried to deliver those in a uniquely cool storytelling package designed to tell a different sort of story than the one most players are used to.

I’ve been sort of fleshing out the setting, and discussing possibilities with a possible co-writer, but nothings really moving forward, so that’s different.

This was an alpha test: the literal first session of the mechanics. I assembled a new playtesting team for this game, one that has never tried to play in a game I designed from the group up.

First thoughts, go!

  1. No dice mechanic was a success. I was concerned it wouldn’t be intuitive but it seemed to catch on really fast, and my alternate resolution system worked wonders.
  2. Simple classes and abilities worked. This was a nice success. The “classes” or “archetypes” worked wonderfully and got players right into the theme, while allowing them to feel different.
  3. The Dread Track mechanic worked wonders. I liked it, and I think it landed exactly at the right tempo.
  4. The resource management mechanics I’d worked in seemed good, but there were some scaling issues, so when I have time (ie. not working on Tiny Galaxies or Planet Mercenary), I’ll have to go back and re-math those.

Overall, I’d call it a 7 out of 10. The player side mechanics feel good. I need to work on the GM side mechanics/setting building mechanics. I have some ideas I’m really wanting to implement there, and I need to work out what those look like.

 

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RPG Review: Age of Rebellion from Fantasy Flight Games

Age_of_Rebellion_Core_RulebookAlright. We’re back for part 2 of my Star Wars Review Trilogy (wow).

This time it’s Age of Rebellion up for review (following Force and Destiny). Age of Rebellion is set in the time-frame preceding the Original Star Wars Trilogy, much like Force and Destiny, but with a very focused look at The Rebellion, and the soldiers, diplomats, and such that make it up. Age of Rebellion came out before Force and Destiny, and after Edge of the Empire, so it appears we’re taking a reverse viewing of these books, back to the beginning!

This book is being reviewed after 4 weeks of a Star Wars campaign powered by this system, so it’ll have a more nuanced look at the rules.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

Much like Force and Destiny, Age of Rebellion is a 440ish page hardcover that retails for 60$. The interior is full-color, and the layout and graphic design are great. It’s pretty clear this book is in the same line as F&D and you’d be hardpressed to find difference in the layout.

8/10


2.) Artstar_wars__age_of_rebellion___setenna_hase_by_anthonyfoti-d7r3avd

Much like F&D, the art is fantastic. Top notch art direction set in the Star Wars universe captures the feel of the setting, and imparts a definite and different feel than it’s successor.

10/10


3.) Content and Rules

 

In my Force and Destiny review, I discuss my views on their dice mechanic, so I won’t replicate them there.

In a lot of ways, this book is almost identical. You have six careers, each with 3 specializations. The Jedi focus has been replaced with a focus on soldiers, commanders, and military minds, and the game has a very strong bent towards rules that enable you to buff allies, lead troops, and conduct tactical plans before combat begins.

It’s got a very militaristic style of campaign, with missions, objectives, and more like that. I don’t think the game suffers for it, but it’s certainly a game that requires a particular desire to play in that sort of campaign.

Morality from Force and Destiny has been replaced with Duty, a focus on what drives your character to join the Rebellion, and also impacts the level of equipment you can requisition.  It’s entirely possible that I misread the intent behind this section, but it appears that as you increase your Duty, you get access to better equipment, less oversight, and more.

Additionally, the Duty mechanic requires the Gamemaster to focus on a particular group member’s duty each session, which seems like it could cause a issue, if the duty can’t be easily slotting into the campaign story the GM wants to tell.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

 

The GM section is very similar to Force and Destiny, and delivers the same tone. My only issue is I wish it would have delved a bit into the make of the military arm, political arm, and espionage arm of the Rebellion, and given me some terms, and more detail regarding that.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The premade adventure is a very military-esque mission, focused on the needs of the Rebellion and very basic and easy to play. It’s fairly uninspired, and it didn’t grab me as much as the pre-made in F&D did.

5/10


Total Score: 37/50

 

Not quite as good as Force and Destiny, and the more I’ve played this game/its counterparts, the less enamored I am with it. The mechanics are very good, but the multitude of symbols makes the game difficult for newer players to grasp quickly, and the spending of said symbols additionally causes similar problems.

If you like Star Wars, and non-Jedi characters, and are going to play the FFG game, this book is a must have, and you won’t regret getting it.

RPG Review: Force and Destiny from Fantasy Flight Games

650x650_c13baceb7d11ef628be0d2c5ead3e94f4b5040456b3ed0559772cca5Well. Force Awakens is out. Star Wars is on the forefront of the pop culture consciousness in again. So I’m going to review the 3 corebooks of the 3 lines of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPGs: Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny.

Also I got all 3 for Christmas, and since Force and Destiny deals with a subject dear to my geek heart, it’s first. That subject is Jedi, that awesome combination of mystical laser sword wielding samurai, and paladins.

That’s right. Space Paladins.

At the time of this review, I’m running a Star Wars campaign using these books, so I’ll be reviewing them with an eye towards that purpose more than I usually do.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

Force and Destiny is a massive 440+ page, full color, hardcover book. And it’s heavy. Pages are thick, well constructed. My only concern was the fact that after I’d received the book, and opened it for reading, I can already feel the binding starting to crack and give way. Little concerned for the life span of such an expensive book. Buying it would be 60$ just for a replacement.

8/10


2.) Art

The art in the book is fantastic. Simply stellar art, both displaying familiar and new characters. There’s excellent depictions of various game states, character options, and species. The variety is just astounding, and I don’t think a single piece was a miss for me. Plus lots of Jedi art is always great.

10/10


3.) Content and Rules

FFG’s Star Wars ruleset is…interesting. It’s an excellent example of the “fail forward” mentality that is gaining more and more traction inside the RPG design industry. The system is a little less intuitive than others I’ve read and played, but after a few minutes and reading the play through examples a few times, it flows really smoothly.

My only complaint with the execution and intent of the rule system is the need for special dice. The book does have a table for conversion of the custom dice into regular dice, but it involves a much more time consuming study of your roll, instead of the speedy narrative result one would like to see. I feel like purchasing the dice for this game is pretty essential to a good experience (at least in my opinion).

The inclusion of the “Morality” system to determine your character’s strengths, weaknesses, and where they fall on the “Light/Dark” spectrum of the Force is exceptionally well done. It competes for the best morality style system I’ve seen implemented in an RPG.

The spread of character classes (6 classes, each with 3 specialties…I’ve seen that before…) is deep. Each character class has 1 “Lightsaber combat” specialization dedicated to the combat aspect of the lightsaber. The other two specializations are dedicated to other parts of the archetypes the class fulfills.

Example: Warrior Class has 3 Specializations: Shii-cho Knight, Starfighter Ace, and The Aggressor.

It works pretty well in execution, allowing for a focused and trained starting character. The rules for switching between Specializations are well done and fairly easy execute, allowing for a good build of your character into your preferred idea.

The biggest deterrent regarding the content of the book is the lack of a “1 Page Character Creation” reference. The rules for creating a character are spread over several dozen pages, and require a lot of flipping around and searching in text for rules regarding how skills and talents are acquired and spent.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

In a book that is so focused on the “fail forward” idea of gameplay and interpreting unusual dice results, the GM section is the most important tool for imparting how to leverage the results you get, and this book doesn’t disappoint. It’s full of great advice and more than enough ideas to turn the game into a great story opportunity.

It’s well done and useful. It’s not perfect. There’s a few things that assume you know RPGs and in a IP this popular, I think you’d wanna be a little more new player friendly.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The pre-made adventure in the book links to the one in the GM screen, allowing for you to have players gather the components to make their lightsabers, and explore the history of the Jedi order and what the Force is. It’s exceptionally well done, and works greatly in tandem. As a stand alone intro adventure, it is still excellent, but does lose a bit of its “oomph”.

8/10


Total Score: 42/50

This is a pretty good score, as it should be. It’s an excellent book that completely captures the essence of Star Wars. Historically, I am unsure how it holds up to legacy items like the WEG Star Wars (I’m putting that on the calendar for a retrospective sometime soon), but Force and Destiny is a book I’m proud to own and have on my RPG shelf.

Having ran the game, it flows well. My biggest complaint, is that the game gets bogged down in “Spending” these symbols the custom dice generate, and that can slow the nature of combat.  A simple half-page cheat sheet, published for free by FFG would alleviate that problem and remove most of my worries.

Mercenary Mondays: Dice!

Note: Mercenary Mondays is an going series of posts about the Schlock Mercenary Roleplaying Game and it’s behind the scenes development!

As any good roleplayer knows, dice are the key element of any game. The chance of randomness, failure and success is delivered, and interpreted through dice. The Schlock Mercenary Roleplaying Game uses 3 six-sided dice (abbreviated as 3d6). All rolls in the game use this particular combination of dice.

3d6

The particular color combination you see in the picture to your right is important. The odd color out is what we call “the complication dice”. It’s the dice that tells you when bad things happen! I’m not going to go into mechanical specifics, because that’s not important here. The important part is why did we chose this particular dice mechanic of 3d6 over the many other options. To do so, let’s look at the various options we have.

One of the classic dice options is the single dice roll. The most common iteration of this dice mechanic is found in the d20 system used by Wizards of the Coast for their Dungeons and Dragons products. You also find it in several Eden Studios games, and various offshoots of the d20 system (Mutants and Masterminds, any of the OSR revival products). The benefit of the d20 (and by proxy any single dice roll system) system is two-fold. The first is that every time you roll the dice, you have a 5% chance of any given number out of the 20. This provides a wide ranging level of effects and results.

The second is much simpler. You always roll the same dice. Never having to count, or pool your dice is easy. Never underestimate simple.

However, the d20 system has some pretty hefty drawbacks. The first is the same as a benefit. You generate a large number of with ranging effects. It’s possible to hit that 20 result, do great, or hit the 1 result, and do awful. You can have the same chance every time. The second is the reliance on one particular dice. That can be problematic occassional.

The next option is the dice pool system. West End Games, White Wolf, and Shadowrun are all examples of a dice pool system. The general idea is that you generate the number of dice you roll (either in d6, d10s or others), and roll the entire pool of dice, attempting to achieve success through either a target number, or looking for a set amount of results. The dice pool system has a major benefit in that you have a strong amount of averages. Check out the graph below: 
dice pool

As you can see on the graph, the multiple dice mechanic causes a bellcurve. A bellcurve provides more reliable results, and a greater chance of average success which is something we wanted in Schlock from day one.

However, we aren’t using a dice pool, instead, we’re using a fixed roll system, where in every roll in the game uses 3d6. This gives us the bellcurve of the dice pool, with the simplicity of the d20 roll. Several other games have used similar systems (Hero, the ill-fated Fuzion system) and the average curve of success allows encounters, stats, and characters to be balanced and built the same from the ground up.

I hope that helps you understand why we used the particular mechanics we did, and what they bring to the game! As usual, any questions? Throw ’em at us below.