Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Star Wars - Edge of the Empire Beginner Game: Review/Session Recap

So I picked up Star Wars – Edge of the Empire Beginner Game this week. It's been out for a while (over a year), but this is the first Star Wars gaming I've done in a long time. I figured it was time to try it out. I went for the Beginner Game over the core rules for several reasons: A) I could get playing within minutes, B) the buddy I was gaming with was completely new to roleplaying, C) it came with dice, and D) it was cheaper than the core rules.

Everything except the map. Click for bigger version.

Box Contents

“What Is a Roleplaying Game?” sheet
Sheet advertising the core rules and a free adventure called The Long Arm of the Hutt
Four character folios
Adventure book
Rule book
Two-sided fold-up map
One page of punch-out tokens
Fourteen narrative dice

Before I get into the session recap, I've got some initial pros and cons.


1. The dice. I love the dice. They took some getting used to, but I really like that the rolls almost always come out as “you succeed/fail, AND/BUT...” instead of just the binary success/fail that a lot of other games have. That, and they're just good looking dice. Normally I don't like color coded dice, but it really helps with this system.
Cantina, Spaceport, and Mos Shuuta.
Click for bigger version.

2. The map. It comes with a gorgeous two-sided map showing the city of Mos Shuuta, the cantina, spaceport control building, and on the flip side, the YT-1300 Krayt Fang sitting in a spaceport docking bay.

3. Overall quality. Aside from the box itself, everything in the box feels very high quality. The books are sturdy, the rule book probably more so than the adventure book. The dice are good, the tokens are solid, and even the character folios are easy to write/erase on.

4. The adventure. Escape from Mos Shuuta is definitely railroaded at first, and the adventure acknowledges that fact at one point. That said, it's a solid opening scenario for a Star Wars game – you've crossed a Hutt and it's time to grab a ship and get out of town.


1. The box. I was really hoping the box was a standard board game-style “lift off the lid, set it aside” type box, and I was really disappointed to see that it's all one piece with an opening flap. It's also very thin and flimsy. I don't see this box really lasting too long, and I'll have to find something else to hold my Edge of the Empire stuff, especially if I get more. There's plenty of room in the box for extra stuff, but itjust doesn't feel like it'll hold up with a notebook, DM screen, extra dice, etc.

So flimsy, closing it has been damaging the flap.
2. The tokens. Now, the tokens are made very nicely, they're textured, and they look like they'll hold up to quite a bit of play. The only problems are that A) they have no real use since the combat system is not miniatures or grid-based, and B) even if it was, they're way too large to use on any of the maps aside from maybe the Krayt Fang map.

Session Recap

Initially I'd planned to play with at least two players, but for various reasons, ended up with only one interested player. We had the game, we both really wanted to play, so we gave it a shot. I ran the included adventure, which did a fairly good job teaching the rules in stages. I also gave my player the option to play two characters, and he chose Lowhhrick the Wookiee hired gun and Pash the human smuggler. He was channeling Han and Chewie, I guess.

The game started in the middle of the action, in a chase from Teemo the Hutt's Gamorrean enforcer dudes. The PCs started by hiding in the local cantina. Pash leapt over the bar, ducked down, and spit out some story about hooking up with a local's daughter and the local sending Gamorreans after him and his Wookiee partner. Amazingly, in one of a string of incredible rolls, he succeeded and the bartender let him huddle down out of sight.

Meanwhile, the Wookiee (because I can't spell that damned name) dove into a booth and laid down on the bench seat. “He's brown, and the chairs are brown, so maybe it'll work!” Spoiler: it didn't work.

So, two Gamorreans came in, spotted the Wookiee, and pulled their clubs. The Wookiee flipped a table, took cover behind it, and pulled a vibroaxe. Meanwhile, Pash calmly stood up, blasted one in the back, and took him out. The Gamorrean and Wookiee went hand to hand, but vibroaxe beats club in Star Wars rock/paper/scissors, so the second Gamorrean dropped.
Cantina map, with the Pash token. See the size difference?

The bartender gave the dynamic duo a helpful tip about the Krayt Fang, a ship stuck in the spaceport due to some mechanical problems, and added that the junkyard down the street has just the part they'd need to steal the ship. Then he told them to get the hell out of his cantina.

They booked it out of there, stop by the junkyard, and ended up paying 500 credits for this hyperdrive part they need. It took a Deceit roll, as they spun a cover story that they were there to pick up the part for Trex, the Trandoshan owner of the Krayt Fang, but it worked.

From there, it's on to the spaceport control center to get the ship clearance to leave. Blocked by security droids, they hotwired a side entrance and got in that way. Seeing the control officer, an attractive, mid-30s human woman, Pash immediately whipped out his Charm skill. In another surprisingly good roll, his spiel of needing to get the ship cleared for his boss and a promise to “have a drink next time I'm in the system...”, they miraculously succeeded. To my player's credit, it was a very "daring smuggler" thing to do.

After there, they went on a stroll through town, interrupted by two groups of Stormtroopers (who, unbeknownst to them, were working for Teemo). Seeing that they were right near the water tower (this is where the map came in handy), Pash decided to take a shot at it in the hopes of distracting the Stormtroopers. With another overwhelmingly successful roll, he punctured the water tower, causing it to catastrophically fail and take out one group of Stormtroopers entirely. The duo managed to take out the other group, with vibroaxe and blaster pistol, then stole their blaster rifles and ran for the docking bay.

A quick bluff by the security droids there got them into the hangar and into the ship, where they were confronted by Trex. Not quite believing their story of “look, we got this part for you after that guy upped the price, so we just want a ride”, Trex went to pull his blaster. Plenty of Advantage on that roll meant that the PCs had the chance to win Initiative and take him out first. They took out Trex in a couple rounds, managed to get the landing ramp sealed before security droids could show up, and blasted out of there.

Too bad for them that TIE fighters were waiting for them. A few rounds of evasive maneuvers, some shaky Mechanics rolls to install the hyperdrive part, and a couple rounds of trading shots (and nearly getting the Krayt Fang shot out of the sky) led to them going to hyperspeed and escaping. That's where we ended the session.

I'll leave you with some dice. Game on!

First Impressions

Overall, I really like this game. The dice work well, the symbols are easy enough to get used to, and I can't think of any rules stuff that really grated on me. It seemed pretty easy for my player to pick up, though he's new at this kind of gaming, and we didn't have any problems during the session. Every Star Wars fan should own either this, the core rules, or both.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Setting Write-Up: Dragon Overview and Volcanic Dragon

This is a new series (hopefully a long-running series) where I'll be writing up stuff for my as-yet unnamed and unwritten campaign setting. I'll pick a game element I like and start writing stuff about it. Once I get it to a stage I like, I'll post it here. This time, and for the next few posts, it'll be all about the various dragons I like in my games.

So, here's the deal about dragons: they're awesome. They're powerful, live practically forever, and they're perfect treasure hoarders. Everything about them says "great risk, but great reward." They're in the name of the game (well, the original game at least), and every D&D player has at least one dragon story.

But, the standard metallic/chromatic split has been done dozens of times. It's traditional, fairly interesting, and a D&D staple. And I'm getting rid of it. Well, some of it.

I'm keeping three types of dragon - chromatic, metallic, and catastrophic. Since I don't use alignment, generally, the whole "chromatic are evil, metallics are good" split is going away. A noble, kind red dragon is just as likely as a princess-gnawing red. But, I'm keeping a lot of the "reds breath fire, blacks spit acid, etc." stuff, because I really like it.

I'm also adding in catastrophic dragons to throw a wrench in the works. Catastrophic dragons, instead of being created by a dragon god to serve that dragon god's purpose, were created by a vengeful nature god to keep those uppity mortals from getting the idea that they can "defeat" nature. Catastrophic dragons are a reminder to mortals that nature will always win, no matter what. Stone castles, underground fortresses, island paradises - none of these are safe havens from the elements. They're not evil, they're not good, they just live to destroy. A volcanic dragon blasts things with fire and magma because that's what it was made to do, just like a blizzard dragon freezes and shatters things as the god commands.

One thing you might note from the sample volcanic dragon I've written up here: there's no spellcasting. See, I don't care for spellcasting dragons. I like arcane, interesting dragons, but turning every single dragon into a mage just bugs me, always has. Some might have some spell-like effects, but I really like how 4E gave dragons unique abilities instead of just "okay, so this dragon casts spells just like a 12th level sorcerer" like 3E and some other editions/games do it.

NOTE: This series is going to be using ACKS stats, mostly because I really like how dragons are handled in that system. One day, I'll convert all this stuff to Swords & Wizardry White Box, once I get an actual campaign running.
Not 100% how I see volcanic dragons, but close. Source.

Volcanic Dragon

When the world was still being forged by the gods, Arathon, god of nature, took it upon himself to alter the still-young races of dragons. He feared that his pristine wilderness would be tamed and battered into submission by the mortal races. So he took dragons of wild nature and temperament and molded them into personifications of the forces of nature: the first catastrophic dragons.

The first of these were the volcanic dragons, former red and gold dragons warped to suit Arathon's needs. He gave them fiery natures and granted them the power to shape their territories to fit their needs. Some of those first volcanic dragons are said to slumber beneath the world's volcanoes, belching and spewing magma across the land when their sleep is disturbed.

Volcanic dragons are powerfully muscled and heavy dragons. Their scales resemble obsidian and orange light shines through cracks between the scales. Their eyes shine a malevolent yellow-orange; their wings are patterned to resemble dark rocks floating in pools of lava. Their claws and teeth resemble black, jagged stone.

Breath Weapon
Volcanic dragons breath superheated ash and molten rock, resembling nothing more than a volcano spewing magma sideways. Where a red dragon's breath is mere flame, volcanic dragons breath the very essence of the world's heat.

An aura of immense heat surrounds volcanic dragons. Any foes within this aura are seared, the air stolen from their lungs and set ablaze. Metals melt, flammable items catch fire, and flesh is charred.

Common Personality Traits
Rage, violence, malevolence – these are all terms that fit the volcanic dragons' temperament. Volcanic dragons rarely deign to speak to mortals, preferring to watch and destroy them at the first sign that the mortals are gaining dominance over the dragons' harsh territories.

Preferred Territories
Like all catastrophic dragons, volcanic dragons alter their territories to suit their needs. However, volcanic dragons prefer to lair in existing volcanoes, causing eruptions to blanket their lands in ash and molten rock. Fields of flowing black rock, persistent ash clouds, and a complete lack of vegetation are all signs of a volcanic dragon's presence.

Favored Treasure
Catastrophic dragons, like all dragons, are covetous and protective of their treasures. Volcanic dragons prefer gems, usually black or red, and set them into the walls of their lairs where the light from the ever-present magma can shine on them. Volcanic dragons have no use for gold or other metals, as they would rapidly melt in the dragon's heat.

Sample Dragon and Lair
Davarax, Volcanic Dragon
Age Category: Old (175 years old)
% In Lair: 40
Dungeon Enc: 1
Wilderness Enc: 1
Movement: 90' (30')
A Fly: 240' (80')
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 14***
Attacks: 3 or breath weapon (90' long, 30' wide cone)
Damage: 2d4/2d4/3d10
Special Abilities: Volcanic aura (1d4 damage to creatures within 20'), breath weapon, clutching claws
Save: F14
Morale: +1
Treasure Type: R
XP: 4,900

Davarax the Pyroclastic, though still relatively young for his race, has claimed a formerly-dormant volcano for his lair. This volcano, Flamestrike Peak, was surrounded by snow and ice before Davarax formed his lair. Davarax chose the icy peak for his lair for the sheer joy of perverting such a cold area into a fiery hellscape. Causing Flamestrike Peak to erupt, blowing the top of the mountain off, Davarax has altered the landscape. Hot ash rains from the sky, molten rivers of rock flow and harden, coating the land in a hard crust of obsidian. A clan of kobolds manages to eke out a living in the furthest reaches from the mountain, as far as they can get without being in the tundra. Davarax allows them to live, as they barely survive and haven't managed to tame the blasted wasteland.

Click for full-size.


Davarax's lair is in the top magma chamber of Flamestrike Peak. It is open to the sky above the magma pool, and a river of lava flows out and splits into two before streaming down the mountainside.

1. The Tunnel
A sharply-sloped tunnel leads from the lower mountain caverns to Davarax's chamber. The dragon knows about the tunnel, but hasn't bothered to seal it up. He knows that, in theory, someone could use the tunnel to enter the lair, but in his arrogance, he believes that no mortal would ever dare to confront him.

2. The Ledge
The path opens onto a small ledge overlooking the magma pool. Once a pile of rock, the intense heat from one of the mountain's eruptions smoothed the rock and formed a series of ledges that function as crude steps to the main floor.

3. Magma Pool
The chamber's defining feature, the magma pool lays open to the sky. The air above it shimmers with heat, meaning that anyone entering the chamber may not be easily seen from the Throne on the other side (1-in-6 chance of being seen).

4. Davarax's Throne
If Davarax is in his lair, this is where he prefers to be. A tall ledge set into an alcove, nearly thirty feet above the rest of the chamber, Davarax's Throne has carved steps leading to it, made of smooth, melted rock. Davarax's hoard is here – hundreds of gems arranged on the alcove walls that reflect the light of the magma pool and brighten the Throne area (roll on the treasure tables for exact value). Occasionally, Davarax also has magical items here, from any recent travelers or adventurers in his domain that he has slain.

5. Magma Rivers

The magma from the center pool flows out through this hole in the chamber's southern wall. A massive obsidian chunk splits the river into two to stream down the mountain.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dragon Artifacts – Using Dragons as Literal Piles of Loot

In just about every D&D game, at some point there's going to be a dead dragon. Whether that dragon has slain dozens of PCs in a particularly-lethal old-school game or barely got to start its villainous monologue before being unceremoniously slaughtered, it's going to happen.

Usually, the aftermath is pretty simple for the PCs. They write down the vast amount of XP they've gotten for slaying the dragon, and then spend the next half-hour or so divvying up the loot from the dragon's hoard/bed. But sometimes that's not quite enough. A lot of dragon slayers want to make it very clear that they've been out slaying dragons. What better way to show off your dragon slaying skills than by using the dead beast's own body as your armor, weapons, and magic items? After all, gold can come from anywhere, but dragonscale plate armor can only come from a dead dragon.
That guy can get a lot of loot out of the dragon. Source

Naturally, only particularly skilled craftsmen can make these artifacts. Sometimes, a mage is also needed to add the necessary enchantments. Using a dragon's scales, bones, or blood might be a quest in and of itself; PCs are rarely fortunate enough to find someone of the necessary skills in their hometown or near their stronghold, after all.

Dragon slayers taking advantage of artifacts made of a dragon's flesh or bones must be wary, however. Other dragons may take offense to one of their kin being made into armor or weapons and retaliate against the PCs.

NOTE: I'm using the dragons from ACKS for this, which I'm adapting over to Swords & Wizardry White Box. The exact nature of dragons in my games will be another blog post. These items can be used in pretty much any retroclone or old-school D&D game with a bit of tweaking. Also, a lot of this is intended to inspire GMs, which is why most of the stats are vague.

Dragonbone Armor
Heavy armor, such as plate, can be crafted of a dragon's bones rather than steel. Such armor grants protection from the dragon's breath weapon or similar effects. Dragonbone armor reduces damage from the dragon's associated breath weapon type by half. For example, dragonbone armor made from the bones of a red dragon cuts fire damage in half, while armor made from a green dragon protects against damage from poison.

Plate armor and shields are the most common types of armor to be crafted of dragonbone. Dragonbone armor is not inherently magical, though it may be enchanted.

Dragonscale Armor
Lighter armors, like leather or hide, may be made of dragonscale leather, much like how plate may be made of dragonbone. Similarly, dragonscale has the same effect as dragonbone, granting the wearer resistance against effects like the particular dragon's breath weapon.

Like dragonbone armor, dragonscale armor is not necessarily magical, but may be enchanted.

Dragonbone Weapon
Depending on the size of the slain dragon, its bones may be utilized to create weapons. A shoulder blade can easily be carved to be an axe blade, while the strong leg bones are commonly used for staves or maces.

Dragonbone weapons always deal +1 damage over an equivalent weapon made of normal materials. They are not inherently magical, but they are frequently enchanted.

Dragonfang Dagger
Dragonfang daggers are, naturally enough, carved from the teeth of dragons. These daggers act as +1 daggers and, in addition, deal double damage to dragons and draconic creatures. These daggers are frequently enchanted to deal extra damage of the dragon's breath weapon type.

Dragon Blood
Though typically used in potions, dragon blood has a more dangerous use known only to the most dedicated of scholars and those most dedicated to power. A series of infusions of dragon blood, taken over a period of several weeks, can bestow great draconic power. The infused begins to take on certain draconic qualities – wings, a breath weapon, and scales among them.

Most people would be afraid of this. Adventurers see only loot.
A person infused with the blood begins to grow scales. By the end of the first week, the scales are hard and bulky enough to provide -2 [+2] AC. A week after that, the scales provide -4 [+4] AC and are bulky enough to prevent the wearing of armor.

The second infusion grants the use of a breath weapon matching the type of the dragon whose blood is being used. The breath weapon deals 1d6 damage per Hit Die of the newly-draconic creature and half-damage on a successful saving throw.

The third and final infusion causes wings to sprout from the person's back, further impeding the use of armor or similar coverings. The person can use those wings to fly at their normal movement rate. If the person falls unconscious while in flight, the wings automatically stiffen and turn to induce a circular glide down to the ground – safer than falling, but still uncontrolled.

The blood must come from a single dragon – dead or alive – and the creature must make a successful saving throw vs. death for each infusion. The infusions should be given two weeks apart – any faster and death will shortly follow, as the recipient's body breaks down under the strain of transformation. A creature infused with dragon blood cannot be infused with the blood of another type of dragon; mixing the blood causes horrific transformations and, in most cases, death.

Dragon Breath Wand
A dragon breath wand is crafted of dragonbone and adorned with gems. The length of a human's forearm, a dragon breath wand is thick, almost more akin to a mace's haft than a wizard's wand. These wands give a mage the power to cast a spell that acts as the breath of a dragon.

Each dragon breath wand is crafted with fifty charges. Once the last charge is used, the wand loses its enchantment and may not be enchanted again. The wand may not expend more than three charges per day. Each charge grants the user one use of the breath weapon of the dragon the wand was crafted from. The older the dragon, the more powerful the breath. The breath of a hatchling, for example, is far less dangerous – and far less valuable – than that of a thousand year old great wyrm.

Dragonwing Cape
Though the most famous dragons are ancient and massive, even dragons are not truly eternal. Their young hatch from eggs and, depending on the variety of dragon, are between the size of humans and halflings at hatching. If such a young dragon is slain, their wings may be crafted into a cape of sorts and enchanted. Such capes, when the command word is spoken, can return to a semblance of life, bonding to the wearer and bestowing the gift of flight.

For up to ten minutes per day, the wearer of a dragonwing cape can fly at up to double their normal movement rate. However, heavily-encumbered wearers may not be able to fly. If the time runs out while the wearer is flying, the wearer's player should consult the relevant rules on fall damage.

Dragon Steel
As a dragon ages, its scales become more lustrous and deeply colored. The oldest dragons appear to be scaled entirely in colored gemstones, due to their scales' great age. These scales, harvested upon a dragon's death, can be melted down and mixed with steel, alongside their more mundane use as armor or jewelry.

This dragon steel becomes tinted with the color of the scales and takes on arcane properties. Though named dragon steel, the metal is as soft as gold and is unsuitable for use in armor or weapons. Dragon steel is thus highly sought after by mages of all kinds. Rings, wands, arcane rods, even necklaces – these can all be made of dragon steel.

Spells cast through rods or wands that deal the same type of damage as the original dragon's breath weapon do 50% more damage. Necklaces or rings of resistance that resist the dragon's breath weapon type cause the caster to take half-damage from attacks of that type.

Specific Items

This vicious dagger was crafted by an ancient order of mages after they came together to slay Onyx, a great black wyrm. The mages, dark and devious, crafted four of these blades. Three were lost to history and are thought to be lost, while the fourth has passed from owner to owner over the ages. A favored weapon of assassins and dark paladins, Onyxfang must be carried in a special black scabbard due to its acidic nature.

Crafted from a massive dragon tooth, Onyxfang is a curved short sword. The tooth blade is stained greenish-black and the hilt is inset with a black gem on both sides. On a successful hit, Onyxfang releases acid into the victim, doing an extra 2d6 damage. Onyxfang is a +2 short sword.

The Sapphire Shield
The Sapphire Shield was once wielded by an elven warrior named Illithia, who defeated the blue dragon Delastrix and crafted this shield from the dragon's bone and scale. Though Illithia fell in battle several years after, the shield was passed on through her knightly order. Over a hundred years ago, the Sapphire Shield was lost in battle after its wielder was captured and later killed by ogres.

The Sapphire Shield is made of dragonbone and wrapped in shiny, sapphire-like scales, hence its name. The shield grants its user immunity to lightning and the ability to reflect lightning-based attacks at others (standard ranged attack roll, damage equal to original attack or spell).

Winter's Bane
A two-handed battleaxe with a single blade, Winter's Bane has a blade carved from the shoulder blade of an unknown red dragon. The blade is the color of ivory and the haft is steel carved in the shape of vertebra. The head of a dragon is carved into the top of the axe, with the blade extending from beneath the head. The phrase “Flame conquers all” is inscribed in the Draconic tongue on the blade.

Winter's Bane was originally crafted by a group of lizardfolk enslaved by a relatively young red dragon. Stealing into his lair while he slept after devouring a party of adventurers, the lizardfolk slew him while he was still weak from the battle. After, they crafted Winter's Bane, giving it to their greatest champions to free those clans of lizardfolk still in thrall to other dragons. They found that the axe's flames worked best against the white dragons in the southern ice plains and gave it the name Winter's Bane.

Winter's Bane is a +3 battleaxe. At the wielder's command, Winter's Bane bursts into flames. These flames do not harm the axe or the wielder, but deal an extra 2d6 damage to whatever the axe strikes. In addition, Winter's Bane deals double damage (both fire damage and regular damage) to white dragons and their kin.