Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dark Thursdays

Alison asked me if we could have one day a week where we don't use electronics for entertainment and noodling. Sounds like a good idea to me. No chasing Robot Chickens in Azeroth, no hunting wargs in Middle Earth, no TV, no Radio, no YouTube, no email, no Facebook. Even no Blogging. My kindle gets a dispensation, as reading is a good thing.

Thursday is the day. So if you send me a message, you'll have to wait until Friday for a reply.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Game Book: Lure of the Expanse

Rogue Trader: Lure of the Expanse Rogue Trader: Lure of the Expanse by Fantasy Flight Games

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This a campaign for the Rogue Trader role playing game. In order to use this, you'll need a copy of Rogue Trader as well. This review is aimed at Games Masters who may be considering Lure of the Expanse, and contains spoilers for players. Stop now if you are a player!

My guestimate is 15 to 20 sessions would be played out before the end of this campaign. The approach is modular, so you could skip parts, or just cannibalize pieces for use in your own adventures. Or you could add your own customizations.

The plot is a race to claim a world of immense wealth, somewhere out there among the Heathen Stars. There are nine Rogue Trader dynasties, including the player's, competing for the prize. Each of the NPC Rogue Traders has their own agendas, modes of operations, and personalities. They all start out as rivals, but may become bitter enemies or even allies. The book covers how they will probably act at major plot points of the campaign. There is no reason to believe all nine Rogue Traders will be alive at the campaign's end, but it could happen.

This hard bound book is full of immersive, high quality, art that sets the mood for your role playing games. The illustrations are both color and black and white.

The book is broken into three parts:

I. Eye of the Needle. This which sets up the action with an adventure on the asteroid-city of Footfall full of intrigue and prophesy. There the players meet their rivals. When they leave Footfall, they have their first run in with the Eldar in ship to ship combat.

The play then progresses to the Heathen Stars, where the prophesy has led them. There are optional encounters in transit, many of which highlight the role of one of the players. For example, one deals with a warp storm that threatens the ship, and the player who is the pilot gets a chance to shine. Should your group not include a pilot, you may decide to skip this encounter and focus on the ones that most directly include your players.

At the end of the journey they find a planet with Eldar ruins and a broken star map to the treasure world. Local flora, rivals, and the Eldar will complicate things for the players. Each rival is given a course of action, but it is up to the GM to decide which rivals arrive on planet when the players are there and how they react to any player overtures or attacks.

II. The Heathen Trail. In order to complete the star map, the players must take readings from a number of other worlds found on the map. How many is up to the GM. If the GM has a world of their own design they want to insert into the campaign, this is a perfect place to do it. Each world has an Eldar structure where the reading must be taken.

Five worlds are given, and on each there is an Eldar device where the players must take the readings. The GM is advised the players need to take readings on at least three of them, but if everyone is enjoying themselves there is no reason not to have them do all five. The players could find a rival has beaten them to a world and destroyed the structure needed to take the reading. Some rivals are more likely to be encountered than others. And the Eldar would like to stop the players if they could.

On some worlds, the players could go in, take the reading, and leave. But on all the worlds there are optional side adventures that can lead to more profit for the trip. Each of the worlds is unique and entertaining in their own way.

Should the players skip a world or two, they could always return after the campaign.

III. The World Beyond. Here the treasure planet called the Dread Pearl is described, along with it's treasures and dangers. The world has been hidden by warp storms for 10,000 years, and now the storms clear.

The remaining rivals swoop in as well. The book describes the likely actions of the rivals, the native humans (descended from a lost ship thousands of years ago), and the Eldar. Treasure is all about.
Some of the rivals try to co-opt the natives, one bombards them into submission from orbit, and another herds them into slave ships. So much for paradise.

This is a lost Eldar Maiden world, and the returning Eldar wake their planet up. The GM is given almost unlimited power to throw at the players as countless Eldar Wraithguards awake to cleanse the world of the human taint.

The Eldar summon back the Warp Storms to prevent the world from falling to the humans, and the players must get off world with as much treasure (and perhaps rescued natives) as they can before the world is sealed for another 10,000 years. Options are given that allow for a variety of exciting escapes from the Dread Pearl.

Overall The book includes the ships of each of the rivals, as well as an Eldar craft. The adventures allow for space combat, diplomacy, investigation, exploring alien worlds, chances to engage in criminal enterprises, and some serious role playing with the rival Rogue Traders.

There are a few places where a little more guidance would have been useful, particularly in how the players could upgrade their own ship with the salvage they can do during this campaign. I just know my group will want to try that.

If you GM Rogue Trader, you will want this book. Even if you just pick bits of it, you'll want this book. Highly recommended.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

David Levine returns from Mars

David Levine spoke last night at Powell's Technical Books on his recent trip to Mars. David is a science fiction writer, and was chosen to be the crew journalist on mission 88.

Wait? What? Mars?
David went on a simulated Mars expedition run by the Mars Society. He wore a space suit, did science, wrote a blog from Mars, and fixed leaky toilets. The site of the Mars landing is really in Utah, far away from anything. The "astronauts" use only what they bring with them into "space" and have to constantly improvise repairs and workarounds.

One of his takeaways is how much of a "protagonist" he and the five other crewmembers became. If something went wrong, they fixed it right there. No waiting, hoping someone else would take care of it. That's part of the simulation, since Earth is a long way away, and repairman won't come visit.

It was obvious he and his crew mates bonded. Which was well, as the shower wasn't working. Sponge baths only.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review: Silver Borne (Mercedes Thompson, #5) by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne (Mercedes Thompson, #5) Silver Borne (Mercedes Thompson, #5) by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here's what I said when I just started the book: I really need to understand how Briggs manages to make these books so wonderful. My life is better when I'm reading one of these.

Now that I've finished it, I'm not so enthralled.

It's almost as good at the previous books, lots of very interesting things happen, many are unintended consequences caused by Mercedes' adventures in the past, and there is some great character development.

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but the plot was a bit of a let down.

This is the fifth book that starts off with Mercedes in the cross hairs. I would love to see a plot where she is proactive.

Most urban fantasy heros have noir professions that lend themselves to being proactive. Wizard for hire, private investigator, police...

It's cool that Mercedes is a Volkswagon mechanic, but that doesn't create a reason for her to go out and seek trouble. Five books where trouble seeks her out is a little much.

I liked the set up to the climax. I liked the aftermath. But I missed the climax. Without giving anything away, I didn't really believe Mercedes' solution worked. I kept reading a few paragraphs thinking it had failed. Then "oh, that worked."

Anyway, I enjoyed reading this book, will read the next, but I hope this was a transition to a more proactive Mercedes Thompson.

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