Monday, February 14, 2011

Obamacare Comes Home

My son was recently rejected for health insurance for a pre-existing condition. While he's under 26, my insurance company's window to add him isn't until late summer.
So now Connor is part of the Federal Medical Insurance Pool, part of the Paitient Protection and Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. This pool covers people with pre-existing conditions until 2014, when insurers can't deny coverage because of these conditions.
Now when I hear tea baggers talk about killing health care reform, I know what's at stake. My son's medical insurance.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Game Book: Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss

Rogue Trader: Edge of the AbyssRogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss by Fantasy Flight Games

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book for Rogue Trader games masters.

I liked Edge of the Abyss. There is enough there that is useful that will help me GM exciting RT games. My favorite bits:

Legends, myths, and lies. Great mood setters and examples of documents your players might come across.

The Breaking Yards at SR-651. What a great place to make repairs, meet pirates, and do business.

The Eldar: My players love the Eldar and Dark Eldar, even if their characters do not. They want more Eldar adventures, and these four Eldar (or 3 Eldar, 1 Dark Eldar) factions will help get that kicked off. I love the light cruiser.

The Rok 'Gol: A chaos worshiping race that looks like the Geiger designed monsters from Alien? That shows up when the players are at any archeological dig site? Works for me.

The Stryxis: My players are already fascinated by this race. Enough details and fluff to use them in many encounters.

Chaos Reavers. Yes please. I'm already using the Brotherhood of the Horned Darkness as the power behind several rival rogue traders. Time to ratchet it up and bring out the big boys.

Kasballica: Great. I've already built in a shadow war between the Kasballica and the Ameranthine Syndicate.

Vaults of the Forgotten. I'll mod it before I use it, but it's a fun action / horror scenario. You could substitute the Ameranthine Syndicate for the Kasballica if that's the way your campaign is moving. And I really like the hooks. The PCs are minority investors with the control being in the hands of criminals.

Most of the rest isn't bad, just not as useful to *my* campaign. I wish they had cut all the space they devoted to rival rogue traders (there are enough in "Lure ot the Expanse") and really fleshed out the Disciples of Thule and the "mysteries" of the other worlds. Vehicles for each race would have been nice. Worlds that would have helped my campaign:
  • a sample Pirate haven
  • a high tech, but non-Imperium, planet to trade with
  • a Thulian forge world

 Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Game Book: Rogue Trader: Into the Storm (long)

Rogue TraderRogue Trader: Into the Storm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is only one reason for players of Rogue Trader not to get Into the Storm, the game's newest supplement. If buying the book means not making rent, then don't. (I paid $50.00 for my copy, bought by a friend at Gencon). While not perfect, this a ridiculously good expansion of the game, and the only player-friendly supplement for Rogue Trader outside of the core rulebook.

Given they all share the same basic game system, Into the Storm has useful crunchy and fluff bits for both Dark Heresy and Deathwatch. Much is Rogue Trader specific, but players of the other two 40k games would find a lot to mine from. Players of other science fiction role playing games might find it an interesting read, but the rules are intrinsically tied to the Games Workshop's Warhammer 40k setting. This is neither a nice nor a realistic setting, but is a damned cool one.

Some of the standout materials are the expansion of character creation and customization, the vehicle rules (perfect for Dark Heresy and Deathwatch games), and the ability to play as an alien on a Rogue Trader vessel. The aliens covered are the Ork and the Kroot.

The hardbound, 256 page (2 pages for the index, 2 pages for ads) book is a handsome piece of work, with a generous helping of well done color and black and white illustrations. There are eight chapters.

Chapter I: Advanced Origins doubles the choices for a player character background. There are new character Home Worlds, Birthrights, Motivations, and so on. An optional Lineage is added to the Origin Path, letting the character start play as Disgraced or Witch Born among others. All this change does not invalidate anything a player may have come up with using the core rulebook; these are additions, not replacements.

This chapter also includes an alternative method to create a starship. Instead of rolling for Ship Points to spend, players can build one up using an Origin Path for starships.

Chapter II: Koronus Carreers adds the Kroot Mercenary and the Ork Freebooter as player character options. The Ork is surprisingly well done, and the opportunity to play a battle crazed green spore creature working for the "humies" has a lot of role playing potential. Not to mention the bird-like Kroot, who can assimilate traits of their enemies by eating them. Each alien gets their own Origin Path.

Also in Chapter II are Alternate Ranks, where a player character can deviate from the skills and talents of their chosen profession and spend a rank pursuing a specialty, such as becoming a Flight Marshal (think Starbuck) or and Ork Mekboy (who can turn any piece of useful equipment into something much more useful for a short period of time -- then turns into worthless junk). Elite advances add smaller customizations at a lower price.

Chapter III: Extended Armory is a big toy box. Not just weapons and armor, but also medical equipment, drugs, bionics, and special equipment for Orks and Kroot.

Chapter IV: Starships Expanded has new hulls and components for starships. Now the players can build all sorts of ships, and the GM can throw new designs at them. There are example Rogue Trader vessels, including the Sovereign Venture, from the free Rogue Trader Quickstart adventures.

Chapter V: Vehicles, covers ground, air, and small spacecraft. How fast they move, how many people or how much cargo they can carry, and how they can shoot at (and ram) one another. High speed chases, aerial dogfights, crashes and more are covered. 14 sample vehicles are listed, included iconic 40k examples such as the Aquila Lander, the Rhino armored personnel carrier, and the Ork Warbike.

Chapter VI: Expanded Psychic Powers not only adds more powers for Navigators and Astropaths to choose from, there are new extended actions for both professions to use in Starship Combat. No longer do the three eyed Navigators and the blind Astropaths have to sit there and look pretty while the pilot, gunners, and auspex operators get all the glory. Now they can use their psychic powers to tip the balance the next time a pirate fleet tries to take on the player's starship.

Chapter VII: Enhanced Game Mechanics is the chapter where they put all the new rules that didn't fit in the other chapters. Social Interaction Challenges can be used to sway planetary rulers, sign trade agreements, broker peace treaties, and more. The mechanic is very similar to Exploration Challenges from the core rulebook and fills the same purpose as the 4E Skill Challenge, albeit with more player control.

Endeavours get some extra attention with the addition of Background and Meta Endeavours. A Background Endeavour is one where the players hire the work out. It's beneath them, they would rather be swashbuckling across the stars than hauling ore, so they let their hirelings take care of it. Sometimes the hirelings screw up. Royally. Meta Endeavours string together many endeavours to create an entire campaign. While interesting, that's not how my game rolls. I don't have every game session planed out for the next two years of playtime. But the concept made me think harder about the theme and direction of my campaign.

Expanded Acquisition Rules spell out what happens when player characters throw too much money and influence around. Bad things, like attracting the attention of thieves or even the Inquisition.

Ship Roles creates a job description that player characters can choose to fill. While the Rogue Trader will take the Lord Captain slot, the rest of the players have many choices, such as First Officer, Choir-Master Telepathica, and Ship's Confessor. Not all roles suit every type of player character, but there are plenty of choices. Each role gives the Gamesmaster another way to involve the players in running their ship and each player a bonus to a useful skill.

Chapter VIII: Port Wander is an extensive gazetteer of this enormous space station. Maps, history, major movers and shakers, shady meeting places with shady characters, adventure hooks, and dark secrets. This chapter tips into Gamemaster material at times. Having the less detailed Footfall gazetteer in the adventure Lure of the Expanse at least keeps the secrets out of player hands. Still, this is an excellent example of what to put into a Rogue Trader setting. There is a sidebar on the use of Port Wander in Dark Heresy games.

Problems: Some of the tables don't include everything they should, such as the ships components table leaves out a plasma drive. Some of the examples confused me more than the rules they were meant to illuminate, like the first Social Challenge example. Where did that -10 on the Blather test come from? (After a long time, I think I figured it out. It should have said in the example.) I'd rather have a 4 page index than 2 pages of ads. But these are nits.

Overall: Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meet the new Bosses

In order to up my productivity, and get my book done, I've taken on a new boss. Instant Boss.

This allows me to work, take a short break, then reminds me to get back to work. So far, so good.

My other boss is Bupropion. I use Bupropion as an ADD medication. It has changed things, but gives me bad dry mouth, which my dentist does not like. I no longer have any craving for caffine in the afternoon, and my contribution to Starbuck's bottom line has dropped 98%.

Yet I can still goof off, so I'm not sure I'll stay on it. I hate the dry mouth, but I'm drinking a lot more water.

So far, Instant Boss is a keeper.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: The Grand Ellipse by Paula Volsky

The Grand Ellipse The Grand Ellipse by Paula Volsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book takes Around the World in 80 days and turns it into a race not only to see who can complete the Grade Ellipse first, but also to see if anyone can stop a brutal empire is on the road to enslaving the world.

While the point of view shifts between characters, Luzelle Devaire, adventureress in a mock Victorian world is the heroine. Volsky does a fantastic job of showing us a woman in a man's world who will just not give up. If she wins, she has a shot at saving her country and is guaranteed control over he own life.

The exotic world that mixes gas light technology with the fantastic is the backdrop of Luzelle's race for freedom. Among her many competitors there are two men who she is attracted to, each from opposite sides of the war that is about to engulf her nation.

Great fun, with high stakes and a character you come to know better than she knows herself.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Song Of Ice And Fire Roleplaying: Adventures In The Seven Kingdoms (A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying) A Song Of Ice And Fire Roleplaying: Adventures In The Seven Kingdoms by Robert J. Schwalb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the upcoming HBO mini-series based on A Game of Thrones, there is buzz again about George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.

The other day, my gaming group tried out the quickstart rules for this roleplaying game, and I was quite impressed. At no time did I feel lost, that I was just playing a generic fantasy role playing game with no purpose but to slay monsters. We were all members of the same house, a young lord, who has taken over the house at the age of 14; his uncle, the proud knight; his bastard brother who dreamt of one day becoming the master of horse; the young squire, who has hidden her gender in service to her dream of becoming a knight; and so on.

So I picked up the rulebook. I have the ugly orange cover, but the rules are well done, and my original feeling that this game will ground you in a noble house is born out. There is a chapter telling the players how to design their own house. Players will get to decide on building castles, towers, and other buildings to hold their lands. They will have to chose between devoting resources to defensive fortifications, political influence, lands, law, population, military power, and wealth.

Like any role playing game, there is a chapter on combat. There are also chapters on intrigue and large scale warfare. Seduction, poisoning, lies, and the rest of the staples of court intrigue are covered.

The rules follow the books very closely. You can create a character like any of those found in the books. You can be a cripple who has had his third eye opened and can see through the eyes of his dire wolf, like Bran Stark. You can be a noblewoman who stays within the boundaries of her class and gender while striving to protect her house and family like Catelyn Stark. Or a dwarf (human) nobleman with a big mouth and bigger wit like Tyrion Lannister. And so on.

Besides gold and experience, the players also work for glory. Glory is a resource for their house, which can be spent to improve the house's fortunes.

The cover art is annoyingly bad, but some of the other illustrations are fine.

If you wonder about roleplaying in a fantasy world based on a series that is not complete, this game is set just *before* Game of Thrones. This is a very low magic world, which is quite refreshing.

Recommend for George R R Martin fans who are also gamers. Or should it be the other way around?

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Terrior 2010

This weekend McMinnville hosted the first Terrior writing conference. Ursula K. LeGuin was the opening speaker, who presented a rather funny take on storytelling, and why it's better to make things up as opposed to stick to the facts.

"Fact is hard to come by, and is very controversial. You are more likely to connect in a shared reality with your reader if you write Fiction."

She went on to liken life expeience to compost. "You never know what will come up. You think you're planting a petunia, and up pops an eggplant. This is good. Go with your eggplant."

On falling book sales: "The majority of people have never read for pleasure and never will. That's OK. There are more readers than writers, and it's your job to find a way to write and get paid for it."

There were many other speakers and workshops, and I took away useful ideas from each one I attended. The offical site: