Wednesday, 6 June 2018

R. A. Salvatore and the Time Machine

My father brought me a box of my old books a few years back and there were a number of Salvatore titles therein. I've mentioned before on this blog that R. A. Salvatore was my favorite author towards the end of high school. I started working my way through his Cleric's Quintet this year and I just finished reading the second book, In Sylvan Shadows. I have two observations:

First off, this is really good YA fiction. Oh the DnD is about as Vanilla as it gets, but the characters, their struggles, and their relationships are so familiar, so relate-able for the book's target demographic of nerdy teenage boys. As an aspiring computer-Wizard, I related quite a bit with Cadderly, a Cleric-scholar who finds himself in dangerous adventures he doubts he can handle, as I navigated the Orc-infested woods of the Southern Californian public school system. Cadderly's run-ins with dangerous villains and attractive women who could definitely lick him in a fight, rang quite true to the experiences of my teenage self.

Secondly, I realized that I am utterly incapable read these books objectively. The Drizzt and other Salvatore books I read meant quite a lot to me during that formative period of my life, and re-reading them brings on powerful feelings of nostalgia and even loss. Since 1996-1998 were still the early days of the Internet, there is very little recorded from that period of my life, and even my school Yearbooks were misplaced when my parents split up in the early 2000's. As such, I'm going to let the rest of this post be a memorial to all that I loved during my High School years but that was lost to the tides of time:

I could make this whole post about my Mother, may her memory be a blessing. About how she didn't really get her nerdy, reclusive child, but she loved me anyway... But instead I'm going to focus on school, since anyway adolescence is that time when we tend to create distance ourselves from our parents and focus on the world outside of the family.

Woodbridge High
As for school, let's talk about Art Class. I started taking Mrs. Posvar's art class in High School in Freshman year and I continued taking it most semesters more or less until graduation, probably 5 or 6 semesters out of 8 in total. That class was the high point of my day, and I still have a few paintings and drawings from that period.

I made a friend, that first year, in gym class of all places. Tom Speed and I formed a bond over a common goal: surviving our mandatory Physical Education requirement, with it's assortment of Gorillas, Spastics, and Bizarro Gym Teachers. And we did survived, somehow--but then his parents moved away at the end of the year. To Texas or Arizona or some other barren wilderness, I don't remember.

I joined an Anime Club early on in my High School career. Twice a week during lunch hour, the Foreign Animation club would congregate to watch the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Japanese Ani-Manga. Whatever Rob, our manga-guru, was able to get that week. This wasn't such a social venue for me, but I loved it, and felt like I was getting away with something wicked-watching cartoons during school time!

My third year of High School, my brother got me into Magic: the Gathering. I bought a bunch of cards and would play with the Magic Club during lunch breaks when there was no Anime to be seen. I was really bad at Magic--I couldn't win a game to save my life, but I enjoyed the hobby quite a bit for a while. But then, just as I was just starting to suspect that I would never get good at this bloody card game, I got sucked in to The Loft...

The Loft

The Loft Club were half a dozen guys who would eat lunch together on the rear balcony("The Loft") of the science building, overlooking the football field(and in close proximity to the Magic Club and Foreign Animation Club). Tony, Jesse, Byron and Sam were all Seniors. There were a couple Sophomores who joined late in the year, a guy and a girl, whose names escape me after all these years, I'm sorry to say. I was the odd-man-out as the only Junior in the group. Well, it all started when one of these guys(maybe Sam?) invited me to come sit with them one lunch-period.  By the end of lunch, I was hooked!

These dudes were into nerdy stuff like computers, and Anime, and Dnd, but they were cool and confident and knew what they wanted out of life and lunchtime was always accompanied with an interesting conversation. Tony was the coolest since he was British(from Leeds) and his favorite author was R. A. Salvatore, so I naturally visited Barnes and Noble and got every Salvatore book I could find. Jesse was already a living legend in A. P. Computer Science since he had taken the course his Junior year and left an actual working physics game(written in Pascal) as a legacy for future students to play. Sam and Byron were a bit more approachable and we developed friendships outside of the Loft and kept getting together now and again in subsequent years. In any case, the Loft quickly became an important venue for me. It was the first place in this massive school of nearly 2000 students(probably in my entire K-12 education) where I felt truly ok with who I was, where I was accepted and understood by other like-minded souls. The Loft was a big deal for me, even if that period only lasted half a year or so.

Fourth year was hard, because the older Loft guys had graduated and I was left with the two third-years to try and keep the glory alive. We kept meeting for lunch, first in the Loft itself, then later in a different location, but it was never quite the same.

a Model Gundam
But, fourth year I made another friend, a fellow Anime fan, a Junior, Garret Keta. Garret lived with his mother really close to school, like literally a block away in a neighborhood of tiny two-bedroom condos. He was 1/4 Japanese and his room was mostly full of model Gundams he had painstakingly build. He was a quiet, smart, sweet kid and we had a lot of fun hanging out together, playing computer games, and talking about whatever adolescent boys talk about. I'm trying, for the life of me, to remember if he had a little sister. Maybe. I can't remember- 1998 was a long time ago.

Well, like I said, we had a lot of fun hanging out together, but there was a shadow hanging over that house. Garret was sick. And though we never discussed it much, I got the distinct impression that it was the kind of sick you don't get better from. I think he only had a few years to live. We avoided the topic-what's the point of dwelling on that sort of thing. But there was a gloom in that house, a Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go sort of gloom, that manifested in Garret's occasional silences, his Mom's worried glances, his Dad's high-strung nerves during his frequent visits.

Garret and I lost touch when I moved-off to college. I tried dropping by once, but they didn't live there anymore. I've tried googling him, searching for him on Facebook, but to no avail. He probably died years ago. A nerdy kid like that would definitely have had an Internet presence, some massive website dedicated to Gundam models and other highly-specific Anime fandoms. Maybe he would have gotten into Warhammer 40K, he would probably have discovered it at some point. It's his sort of thing: lot's of minis to meticulously collect and paint and Conventions to attend in LA or San Diego. Heck, he'd probably be running his own Convention by now.

It just bothers me that I google his name and nothing comes up, not a thing. It's as if my friend never existed, like he's been swallowed-up by Time itself.

Well, now, this post will come up, with it's short record of who he was and why he mattered to me.

Anyway, that's the stuff that comes to mind when I read old Salvatore books. I guess reading really is a subjective experience. If you give In Sylvan Shadows to someone to read, they probably won't be struck by melancholy reflections on their long-lost High School days. They'll be like "Yeah! Ents vs. Goblins!" or else "Ugh, another Tolkien Pastiche!" But for me, this book is a Time Machine.

Monday, 4 June 2018

SW2020 Session 10: A Plan Comes Together

The Lineup
  • Art- Ithorian Force user, tech Rock gardener, healing(Avi)
  • Lucky- a Gran with many natural talents, good at dodging, explosives, stock market, interstellar navigation, leadership, pharmaceuticals(Lauren)
  • Jonah- a space fighter pilot with a revolver from some primitive planet. Han Solo meets Dirty Harry(Michael)

Last session left the party with a couple wounded Mandelorian Bounty Hunters and their craft. This session, Art used his force healing to patch them up and send them on their way with a stern warning not to mess with his crew again.

The party jumped to Squab System and ignored a small fighter craft heading down to the planet. They connected with a large shipping company. They hired a Heavy Freighter to transport several hundred thousand Insectoid Aliens from Yoberra to Hinda system in a week's time. Art and Lucky visited the office to make a 6000 credit down payment on the 20000 fee.

On the way, Art sensed a disturbance in the force. The two encountered two force sensitives asking about the First Order and a Lambda shuttle. They spoke to these two, but then attempted to mislead them and depart. But when they got back from the transport offices, the two were waiting for them.

The two turned out to be Jedi, Bora and Leila. They agreed to help the party with their plan to use the Yoberra as a super-weapon against the First Order. The party headed off to Yoberra while the Jedi agreed to scout out the First Order Cruiser's movements. They agreed to meet in a week's time when the transport would be ready.

The Space Ball jumped straight to Yoberra, only to find two ex-Imperial corvettes circling the planet. The party attempted to impersonate a university craft and order the corvettes away, but a fighter was dispatched to hush them up. When the heavily armed shuttle chased it away, the corvettes came in for the kill, but by then the party was landing, hoping to find help with the Yoberrans. They landed in the same spot as the previous session and waited to be drawn into the Yoberran tunnel system, as he Corvettes loomed closer...

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Pledge of Security

The Pledge of Security is an Arquitens-class light cruiser. It is the flagship of the Skor IV, the Squib home world. It's primary mission is planetary defense, however it may occasionally be called upon to protect Squib interests elsewhere in the system.

It has a crew of 750 and typically carries:
Pledge of Security
  • 3 X-Wing T70
  • 2 Y-Wings
  • 2 Shuttlecraft
  • For dangerous missions, it may be escorted by two D5-Mantis Patrol Craft

The ship's stats are as follows:
  • Speed: 30MGLT
  • Hyperdrive: 3(10)
  • Hull: 2100RU
  • Shields: 2500SBD
  • Turbolasers: 8
  • Heavy Laser: 16
  • Proton-Torpedo Launchers: 2
  • Concussion Missile Launchers: 2

Captain Kurdeebledop

Captain Kurdeebledop is a sly tactician of the traditional school and a subtle leader.  His frail physical stature is made up for by a willingness and ability to outmaneuver his enemies, his allies, and even his fellow officers. He has spent years patrolling the Squib trade network, but would love to try his meddle in a major military conflict.


  • Ref: 6
  • Int: 9
  • Body: 1
  • Tech: 6
  • Cool: 7
  • Emp: 6
  • Force: 0
  • Oratory: 4
  • Leadership: 6
  • Social: 6
  • Education & Gen. Knowlege: 7
  • Navigation(Interstellar): 7
  • Hyperdrive Tech: 3
  • Pilot(Starship): 9
  • Fencing: 7
  • Dance: 8

Monday, 23 April 2018

On Sandbox Settings

One of the reasons it's been so easy to run a Star Wars Open Sandbox game is that there is so much material available on the Star Wars Universe. This is thanks to the Expanded Universe(now called Legends).

Since the first film was released in 1977, LucasFilm has produced numerous films, novels,  comics, books, computer games, and role playing games, with the requirement that the setting for these works be internally consistent. The result of this coordinated, multi-decade project is a fictional world comprising an entire galaxy of inhabited worlds, it's millennia-long history, and detailed descriptions of significant personages and technology. This provides a wealth of material for contemporary creators to build off of.

This is important for running a sandbox game pen and paper RPG. In a sandbox RPG, the Game Master has no idea what is going to happen in a session. The players' choices during a given session are ultimately what determines the direction of the action. The GM's job is to respond to those player choices in a way that is consistent with the game world, as well as just generally bringing the world to life for the players. As such, the GM needs a really strong grasp of the game world, it's current events, and each NPC's motivations. Being able to build off a deeply developed world, be it real or imaginary, helps the DM bring his own game world to life.

My WWII sandbox game All Zombies: Polish Resistance, had a similar benefit since there is tons of information about World War II Europe. Wikipedia and Google Maps provided most of the background for the game world and as GM I just had to choose a specific location, create NPCs, stat up weapons, and come up with the specifics of local events.

The process for a Star Wars game has been remarkably similar. I've gotten 90% of the background material from Wookiepedia, plus some of the local details from Tramp Freighters.

But recently I got stuck. The party has been looking to acquire a large merchant freighter, and while Star Wars wiki has articles on a number of them, these articles have minimal content and no gameable stats. This makes sense since the various official Star Wars games generally have you interacting with military ships, not boring old freighters.  As GM I could just make up some quick and dirty ship stats, but I'd rather use something with a bit more basis.

So I was feeling pretty stuck until I stumbled upon this list of complete stats for Star Wars Heavy Freighters.

What is this wonderful site, you may ask? It is a free, community-driven Star Wars MMORP with player-created content. That's right, where the Expanded Universe leaves off, StarWarsCombine picks up in order to provide a fully gameable Galaxy Far Far Away. Needless to say, this is a great resource for running a Star Wars Sandbox. In fact, I've already been using their Nav Computer tool for calculating hyperspace distances, without realizing what SWCombine was.

Needless to say, I'll be visiting the Combine again in the future for high quality Star Wars game content.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

SW2020 Session 9: Galactic Hustle

Picking up from last session, the party jumped from Yoberra to Rocrin system. They were quickly hailed by a passing space-yacht. After being harassed by a yacht last stession, they were worried, until they found out it was their friend Deeberjay, hitching a ride with friends and coming to join them.

The Lineup

  • Art- Ithorian Force user, tech Rock gardener, with force healing(Avi)
  • Lucky- a Gran with many natural talents, good at dodging, explosives, stock market, interstellar navigation, leadership, pharmaceuticals(Lauren)
  • Deeberjay- a spoiled young Ilay Squib prince with mad hacking ability(Art)

Deeberjay had some news for the party, who hadn't docked at any Airam ports in a while:
  1. The Squib Navy is mobilizing. A First Order Star Destroyer was seen jumping into Hinda System and has everyone in a panic
  2. Darakin University has put a bounty on the heads of the crew of Lambda Shuttle Space Ball, for some reason

The party first considered trying to capture the Star Destroyer as part of their plan to acquire a large ship and fill it with Yoberrans. Then then abandoned that plan and decided to dock at Skor II in Squab System and convince the government to supply them with a large ship. They finally decided on a third plan to land in Rocrin and see if a large ship was available there as part of the Squib salvage operation.

They landed at the Rocrin V spaceport, bought a monthly salvage license, and took their hovercar two days to the site of a crashed Imperial Heavy Cruiser. After inspecting the wreck, they realized that, while it was a very large ship hull, scavengers had already stripped it of all major systems and it would be a difficult project to tow it into orbit and bring it to a repair yard.

The party ended up excavating the lower decks over the course of a couple expeditions. They salvaged:
  • Medicines and medical equipment(which was later stolen by other salvagers)
  • An Auto-Doc medical unit
  • Stormtrooper armors and weapons
  • A working Tie Bomber(which almost got stolen by other salvagers)
They also sold off the Ore they have been carrying around for a long time. The entire expedition netted them upward of 50,000 credits, but they were no closer to finding a large ship for the Yoberrans. On their way back to their shuttle, the party were accosted by a trio of Mandalorians seeking the Darakin bounty on them. They told Deeberjay to leave since no Squibs were mentioned in the bounty. He pretended to comply, leaving and rounding a corner.

Lucky, who had first initiative, tossed a thermal detonator at the hunters. The subsequent explosion killed the large one in the middle and left his friend on the right shell-shocked on the floor. Art ducked around the corner and began to use his Force Reflex Boost skill. The remaining Mandalorian shot Lucky in the chest, leaving her stunned on the ground. At that point, Deeberjay snuck behind her and slashed her with the spare light sabre he had gotten from Art, leaving her bleeding and stunned on the floor.

The party tied up the surviving bounty hunters and took them and their ship up the gravity well and into orbit, with plans to head for Skor II.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Shipbuilding in Minor and Airam

With the party looking into aquiring a large ship, I need to figure out what shipbuilders are in the area. So far the game has taken place in Minos and Airam sectors or gridquares L20 and M20 on the galactic map. But where can I find a directory of local shipyards?

I started out with a list of major shipyards that I've heard of:

But these are all located in the Core Worlds. That is very far from our game and I'm not sure how to extend the sandbox that far. Besides that, it doesn't make sense to me that Outer Rim residents travel that far to commission a ship.

The next step I took was to look for a map or list of known Star Wars shipyards. I found this list of 130 or so:

After a bit of digging, I found a familiar name: Eriadu Manufacturing Shipyards. This is great since Eriadu is relatively close, in Seswenna Sector, gridsquare M18. It's also has an interesting political connection for our game since the shipyard is owned by House Valorum, ancient rivals to the Tarkin family.

The article on EM Shipyards also mentions a competitor which is even closer to the Airam, Sluis Van Shipyards, in Sluis sector, grid M19.

Both shipyards can be reached fairly directly via the Rimma Trade route, so that if the party decides to take that trip, the DM won't have an excessive amount of preparation to do.

Paradise System

Paradise System after the fall
Paradise System is the Home System of the Ugor. The Ugor fell from the height of their power with the destruction of the Gravity Well Projector they used to organize their system-wide junk yard. In short order, the system fell into dissaray and became, essentially, one big debris field.
However, in recent decades, an upstart young Ugor was able to acquire a new, albeit less powerful, projector and begin the painstaking process of organizing their system into layers and rings. His success has helped him consolidate his power and earned him a stable appointment as High Priest. The Squib have taken notice and feel threatened by this resurgence of their ancient rivals.

Paradise System Map
An Ugor(illustrative)

High Priest Zorkblag the Infallible's reign has seen growing influence throughout the galaxy with the Ugor acquiring key monopolies over certain types of salvage. They even solidified their grasp over the previously contested Nocto System with its valuable salvage rights. Every year, more and more "Pilgrims" visit Paradise to lay an offering at the temple and to fulfill their salvage needs.