May the Force be with you, meatbag

I purchased the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide yesterday and while I’ve only had a chance to skim through it, I did like what I saw. Mainly though, I know what character I’ll play in the Dawn of Defiance game if my wookiee happens to snuff it.

Not the same HK assassin droid from the video games, but a similar model who has been in cold storage for the last 4,000 years and is understandably upset. And more than a little, shall we say, glitchy.

Better watch your back, Twi’lek!


“I’d Like to Thank the Emperor . . .”

Go Star Wars!

Go Star Wars!

Looks like Star Wars Saga has been nominated for 4 Ennies this year.  I’m not really sure what to make of the Ennies (or awards in general) but it is always nice to see good things happen to good people  (or good games).  I hope this continues to garner attention for the Saga system – I really think it’s the best d20 system I’ve played.  Of course, that opinion may change come Friday . . .  I can’t wait!

Star Wars Saga nominated for:

Best Rules
Best d20/OGL Product
Best Game
Product of the Year

Is Star Wars Saga the D&D 4E “What If?”

Rob’s post on the 4E magic items got me thinking about something – the WOTC guys have stated publicly and often that Saga was a testing ground for a lot of the mechanics that they wanted to use for 4E, and if you look at the three systems together you can see a definite evolution. 3.5 to Saga to 4E.

But what if they had stopped with Saga and used that as the new 4E? Would that have made more people happy? Certainly Saga does some of the same things – condensed skills, encounter powers, more hit points overall. But there is none of the MMORPG terminology. And the multi-classing is still varied and exciting, which is a great love of the 3.5, er . . . lovers.

But looking at the systems together, I’m not sure that they could have applied what works in Saga to D&D, strangely enough, because of the genre. Star Wars has a few inherent advantages that make it an easier system to balance.

No magic items. Saga is not a loot based game, therefore loot has little impact on the mechanics.

No spell casters, only Jedi. There is a smaller power curve in Saga and no need for healers (actually, the lack of healing may be a flaw in Saga, but whatever). The only balance issue was the Jedi.

Fewer Monsters. Most opponents are NPCs. Again, the curve is easier to control.

But besides these genre advantages, there are some changes that Saga made that could have made it into the 4E that could have been –

Multi-classing. Multi-classing and prestige classing got away from the designers in 3.5. It was never intended to be so abused. But players liked it, so they abused it. Can’t blame them. Well in Saga they recognized this and they designed the system around the idea of deep multi-classing. There is greater diversity, but less breakage. Well see how well this holds up as more supplement books come out but for now this is a big advantage over 3.5 and maybe even 4E.

Condition Tracks – A nifty little piece of Saga combat is the Condition Track. One hand it is yet another thing to keep track of in combat, but on the other it opens up a whole new tactical arena. Can’t whittle through that opponent’s butt load of hit points? Tire him out instead, knock him five steps down the track instead and watch him fall like a sack of bantha biscuits.

Lots of races, fewer bonuses. – There are lot of player options for races, so no one feels left out (hello gnomes!). And the bonuses are more in line with each other, usually taking the form of a stat bonus or minus and re-rolls to certain skill checks. Neat. Clean. Varied in flavor but mechanically even.

So, is Saga the 4E that could have been? That’s something I’ll be thinking about as we take the new D&D out for a spin.

How I learned to stop worrying and love minis (and where to buy them)

I have a habit.  Minis.  Little plastic people who call my name from their dark, secretive little boxes.  How did it come to this?

Because they are super-cool!  Do I even need to explain the relationship between boys and little toy soldiers?

I’ll admit that even I am surprised at how much I love mini play in D&D and Star Wars – in every other game I am more than content, no I prefer, theater of the mind style play.  If combat gets hairy, a simple piece of scrap paper will do.  But there is just something about seeing a battlemat covered in dungeon tiles and monsters.

I think it has to do with the following:  Dungeons and Dragons owes it’s origin to miniature wargames – remember Chainmail?  In my brother’s old D&D games the table was littered with poisonous lead miniatures.   Ah joy.

The other thing is the iconography.  For us geeky fanboys, both D&D and Star Wars are filled with visual icons and actually seeing a purple worm or AT-ST plopped down on the table just sends little virgin-nerd thrills down my spine

But they cost so much money and it’s a crapshoot whenever you buy a box.  Yep.  That’s why the secondary market is the way to go.  Buy your minis – choose your minis – for under a buck a piece from such vendors as Miniature Market.  They’ve got metal, pre-painted plastic, whatever you need for cheap.  And their service is fast and friendly.  Little plastic soldiers delivered right to your door . . .

It’s all about initiative

20 . . . 19 . . . 18 . . . 17 . . .

We played the third session of our Star Wars campaign the other night and I’m really liking this system more and more.  It plays fast and furious, handling the pulp sci-fi action of the movies as well as can be expected in a d20 game.

Except for the damn initiative.  Talking with one of the players afterwards we both agreed that the 20-plus rounds system, further complicated by the tedious bookkeeping required by actions such as “holding actions/ready actions”, just slows the whole thing down in a real way.

Now I admit this could very well be a GM fault on my own part – other GMs are good at multi-tasking those pesky little rounds while making rolls and moving little plastic mutants around the grid – but I am not.

So I’m looking for options to clean this up.  One I came across is the use of index cards with the names of the heroes and enemies on them, stacked in order of action.  Another is the possibility of making the players responsible for their own initiatives – I would call out the rounds by number and let the players alert me when it was their turn.  Cleans up some bookkeeping on my end but I would still have to count down through all 20 or more rounds.

Any thoughts?  Any GM tricks you’ve used/witnessed in d20 games?