Monday, December 26, 2011

The Grue Cafe #5: Top of the Table, Ma!


The Grue Crew is back with an end-of-year-holiday special.  This episode stars Rox of Spazhouse, Kim, Dom and Kevin Pettway, author of the webcomic Heroes of Lesser Earth.  I linked Kevin's site and it can be found under the On Line Comics tab.  I'm particularly interested in reading Kevin's work, because one of the characters is none other than my sister, Rox.

Meanwhile, back here on AfterChristmasSales Earth, the Grue Crew takes on the following issues:  Game Master (GM) techniques, character knowledge vs player knowledge, the pitfalls of on-line gaming and recommendations for newly released and upcoming games.  One clear favorite among the pack, at least with Kim, is Skyrim.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wisdom of the (New) Ages


Geek culture continues to infuse itself into mainstream consciousness.  Now, sci-fi and fantasy stories can be viewed as a source for inspiration and other life lessons.

Of course, most of us geeks knew this all along...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to Be a Better Blogger


This is my blog.  Yup, one of many among the cacophony of internet noise. So, can I, or any other blogger, improve their presence in the ether?

Ann R. Allen, author of the Camilla Randall mystery series, has 20 steps to starting an effective blog.

Many writers jump on the blogo-wagon, but don't really have any interest in blogging.  This, according to Jane Friedman, the former publisher of Writer's Digest, is a critical mistake.  What non-blogging writers need is a static web page.  A professional one can be expensive and may yield minimal returns.  So Miss Friedman came up with an idea on how to constuct a freebie website using WordPress.

I've had a WordPress account for several years.  While WordPress has the larger slice of the blogosphere pie, I find Blogger to be easier to use and appears to be popular among gamers.  But I took Miss Friedman's advice and created my internet portal which links all my blogs.  As I become more tech-savvy, I'll make improvements on all my sites.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sci-Fi Technicals


Last year, I constructed several "Dust Devil" reconnaissance craft I downloaded from Paper Make It! 

However, none of my vehicles are armed, because prior to assembly, the weapons look like this...


...which is just a bit too complicated for my meager skills.  So my collection languished, weaponless for several months.

Later, my friend Daryl gave me and my gaming group his ENTIRE Star Wars Miniatures collection.  After the joyous feeding frenzy, all that remained were several Snowtroopers manning e-web blasters (Collector's # 17/17 Imperial 18), that no one wanted. 



After talking with my friend Dan about saving every spare piece from models and miniatures, I came up with a "cunning plan."  I bought a package of NW-215 washers.


Then I removed the e-web blasters from the snowtrooper figures.  If they were generic stormtroopers, I would have been very reluctant to do this, but the snowtroopers are too unique to Hoth-like environments.


I sprayed the washers with black primer, then dull black paint to match the weapons. 


Finally, I glued the blasters to the washers using superglue gel.  I prefer using the gel, because it doesn't run--usually on to my fingers--like the regular stuff.



And presto!  I can now field armed vehicles.  None of the weapons are permenantly mounted on any of my paper models.  The washer's weight keeps the blaster in place, as long as the vehicles aren't flung around the game table.


This gives my collection some versatility, where players can encounter military or civilian vehicles, depending on the scenario.  Nor are these heavy weapons limited to my Dust Devils.  I have several open-topped vehicles, like this Floater Truck I downloaded from Ebbles Miniatures.



Unfortunately, Christopher Roe is no longer producing his fine line of paper models.  Some of his work though, is still available on World Works Games.



As long as there's a big enough surface, I can plop down one of my blaster cannons to convert a sci-fi pick-up truck into a futuristic technical.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Program Review: The Clone Wars, Seasons 1 & 2


Last week I just picked up the DVD set to Star Wars:  The Clone Wars, Season 3.  While Season 4 started back in September, I'm just now finishing-up Season 2.  Due to my active life-style and rotating work schedule, I don't watch much television.  Even when a show has been on the air for a few years, as the The Clone Wars has been, it may take a while for me to get around to viewing it.

I managed to catch a few episodes at a friends house, which spurred me on to buy the DVD sets.  I could say the shows are better than the movie prequels--but that would be setting the bar too low.  Based on their own merit, the shows are decently written and are entertaining.  The show even explores the lives of the clones, some of whom fall in love, desert and betray their comrades. 

What I really like is each episode runs under 30 minutes in length.  This is a perfect amount of time for me to watch a complete show, without having to set my DVD player on pause, before I turn in for the night. 

For as long as the Star Wars franchise has been around though, The Clone Wars still suffers from a few defects.  While the animation and special effects are superb, the small unit tactics employed by the droids and clones are often absurd.  Both sides march against each other, with blasters blazing, in close-order formations, as if they were Greek hoplites facing the Persian horde.  On a personal level, Padme and Anakin's love story is still awkward, clunky and grates on my nerves at a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard level.  I find the relationship between Obi-Wan and Satine, the Duchess of Mandalore to be far more interesting and feels more natural.  (Spoiler alert:  Obi Wan considered leaving the Jedi Order for Satine?  Who knew?).

Overall, The Clone Wars is a good investment of my sparse free-time and I give the series a 4-star rating. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Star Wars Freedom in the Galaxy Campaign: The Heliax Affair


Acting on a hot tip from a brothel, Special Group One (SG1), ventured into the Heliax Mountains to search for rebel operative Ly Mantok.  Using nap-of-the-earth flying, the group set their Ghtroc-720 freighter down within a few kilometers of a suspected rebel training camp.

The four beings selected as the landing party were:  Peros (Seth), Pepsor (Daniel), Garik Starka (Ted) and the Trandosian soldier Bossk (Kayla).



The party evaded the inexperienced security patrol and came within several hundred meters of the rebel camp.  Despite the malfunctions of their visual tracking equipment, the party determined neither Ly Mantok, nor his associates were among the inductees in the camp.



They made their way to the starship parked less than a kilometer from the camp. 



The ship, which turned out to be the Consular-Class Cruiser Explorer, was left unguarded and the access hatches were open.  The team entered the vessel, hoping to catch the bridge crew by surprise.  Unfortunately, the rebels were waiting for them.



When the team opened the blast doors, a fire fight erupted on the Explorer's bridge.  Events took a turn for the worse, when the rebel Wookie Odene Hobar and the young Jedi, Robi Samuul entered the fray.



Garik was shot by Hobar's deadly bowcaster. 



Because of the seriousness of his wound and his exposed position, Garik played dead for the remainder of the firefight.  Despite the surprise attack by the Wookie and the Jedi, SG1 managed to turn the tide of the battle.  Vudot Vodot, the rebel Jedi/Scout, was critically wounded, while Pepsor cornered Ly Mantok at the pilot's station. 



The remaining rebels quickly surrendered when their leader gave up.  Once the ship and prisoners were secured, SG1 took off and rendezvoused with their freighter and team mates.



Each of the rebels was brought before Pepsor and the Durosian pilot, Tren Luk (Ted), who were both skilled at persuasion.  Robi, the first one to be interviewed, broke down in tears after several minutes of mild questioning.  He was despondent over his failure and talked about how he could never face his teacher again--the Jedi Master Yoda, living on Degobah.

The Sith Adept, Kess (Adrian) employed his dark arts to block Robi's emotions from the Force and possibly communicating with Yoda.  After all the rebels were questioned, Kess informed Tren and Pepsor that he "could not feel" Robi's thoughts any longer.

The team immediately went to Robi's cell, only to discover the young Jedi hung himself using various articles of clothing.



Not knowing SG1 consisted of Imperial operatives, the remaining rebels decided to cooperate,  especially after given food, water and medical treatment.



After the interrogations, the stormtroopers were called in to clean out the rebel training camp and the team met with their contact Moff Jenkins on board his stardestoyer.  He then brought them up to date on the current situation within the system.  While SG1 was rounding up rebels, civil war broke out on Heliax.  Grand Moff Argon raised planetary taxes without the Emperor's approval, putting the system one step closer to open rebellion. 

In Jenkins opinion, Grand Moff Argon is incompetent.  If he could be removed, Jenkins would be next in line for Argon's position and could restore the situation on Heliax.  Of course, it would take far too long for the Imperial bureaucracy to draw up the necessary orders to fire Argon.  If SG1 could help "expidite" matters, Jenkins would be very appreciative.

For SG1, however, one level of intrigue apparently isn't enough.  As soon as the team returned to their two-ship flotilla, they received a message from Grand Moff Argon.  He expressed his appreciation for their work at cleaning out Heliax of rebel scum and everyone on the team is cordially invited to the formal dinner he's hosting in their honor...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media, wrote a very touching post about gratitude on her blog.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Star Wars: Freedom In The Galaxy Campaign


My friend Dan started his own Star Wars RPG (role playing game) campaign over the weekend.  It takes place at the beginning of the Rebellion Era, but before the Battle of Yavin.  Dan's campaign has two unique features.  First, it is a Dark Side campaign.  That is, we're working for the Galactic Empire

Dan gave the group a choice on whether we'd work for the Empire or the fledgling Rebellion.  The motion to play Dark Siders was decided by a margin of one vote.

Now I have to ask:  What kind of guy would want...



...to work for a government as corrupt and depraved...



...as Palpatine's Empire?

It boggles the imagination, doesn't it?

Alterior motives for joining the Empire aside:  The second unique aspect of Dan's campaign is he's using the game Freedom in the Galaxy, as the area of operations for our PCs (player characters). 



The first session consisted of training completion and the group's initial mission.  According to a Top Secret communique, that GNN (Galactic News Network--"a loyal citizen's ONLY news source") received from an anonymous tipster, the group managed to uncover cell of "rebel scum" at an undisclosed location.  They're currently on the trail of someone by the name of Ly Mantok.

My characters couldn't make this first mission because they were...um...

...indisposed.

But fear not, loyal citizens of the Empire, my characters are eager to...


...see new worlds...



...make things right, and...


...do their part and serve!

The racy images are brought to you by Feng Zhu Design.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Redshift Chronicles Spin-Off

(Image from:  Next Movie)

After much careful thought, I decided to create a "spin-off" from this blog.  I've been running a Star Wars role-playing game for about a year now.  That is, as much as my work schedule will permit me to do so.  While I'm an omnivorous player, I intend to focus my game mastering energies on my Star Wars Legacy Era campaign. 

I copied and pasted all the "SW Redshift Campaign" material over to it's new home, The Redshift Chronicles. The current Redshift material will remain here, for historical and continuity purposes, but future posts will be uploaded on to the new blog.  Updates can be found on the Studio Spin Offs Tab, on the right and near the top.

I don't think I'll be spreading myself thin, because this is material I've been writing and posting about anyway.  I'm just creating a unique space for this game's story arc on the internet, in order to make it more accessible to readers and fans. 

For those of you who've been following the misadventures of the Redshift Players, thank you for your support and encouragement.  I hope you enjoy the new site.

For anyone new to Stern Rake Studio and are curious about one man's version Star Wars gaming, albiet however warped and twisted it might be from George Lucas's vision, come on over to The Redshift.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Star Wars RPG PCs: Garik Starka and Tren Luk


Disembarking from their shuttle, Garik Starka (human scout) and Tren Luk (Duros scoundrel), are represented by Mercenary Commander (35/40 Fringe 24 and Duros Scoundrel (43/60 Fringe 12), figures, respectively.  Both were manufactured for Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Miniatures.  The shuttle, a paper model, was available at Ebbles Miniatures. 

Tren Luk
(Size--Medium) Duros Scoundrel 1

Tren’s parents owned a small shipping firm located on Duro.  Tren, an only child, was actually born on a starship during one of his family’s business ventures.  Unfortunately, the family home and business was destroyed, along with major portions of the planet, during General Grievous’s Operation Durge's Lance, at the height of the Clone Wars.  His father was wounded during the Battle of Duro.
The rise of the Empire hasn’t helped the Luk family.  Forced to relocate to orbital cities, while the Empire pillaged Duro’s natural resources, Tren’s parents lacked the finances and political connections to buy an adequate-sized apartment.  To add insult to injury, the only jobs they could get were custodial positions—which they hold to this day.
In order to escape the poverty of the lower levels, Tren became involved in a juvenile gang, something his father continually fought against, but to no avail.  Despite--or maybe because of, his gang connections--Tren managed to graduate from starship pilot training.  Once he was old enough, Tren signed-on with an independent freighter, where he met…
Garik Starka
(Size--Medium) Human Scout 1

Garik’s life mirrored Tren’s in several ways.  Born and raised on Corell, in the Corellia System, Garik followed his father’s footsteps and learned the trade of scouting.  While his father specialized in wilderness tracking, Garik was more interested in starship operations.  Garik’s father ran his own outfitter business, taking tourists to the peak of Dregan's Pike.  However, in the aftermath of Operation Durge’s Lance and the devastation of Duro, the business folded in the following recession.  Garik’s father now works as a taxi speeder driver in Coronet, the capital city, while his mother works as a cashier in a speeder parts store.
Both Player Characters (PCs) became friends and budding-business partners shortly after the Clone Wars (circa 19 BBY). 
They’re ambivalent about the Empire and are more concerned about the health and welfare of their respective parents.  (They send 10-20% of their earnings home).  They currently work for a private shipping company, specializing in government contracts for transporting supplies, equipment and personnel (the other PCs), for the Empire. 
They plan on owning their own YT-Series starship once they’ve scraped up enough credits.  Right now, they’re content serving their time on board—whatever ship they’re assigned to. 

(Click on image to enlarge)
Tren Luk's Stats

Destiny: -- Force: 5 Dark Side: 0

Init: +2 Senses:

Languages: Basic and Durese

Defenses: Ref-15, Fort-12, Will-12

HP 19; Threshold 12

Speed: 6

Base Atk: +0

Abilities: Str 12, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 17

Talents: Expert Pilot, Spacehound

Feats: Weapon Proficiencies (Blaster Pistols, Simple Weapons and Starship Weapons), Point-Blank Shot

Skills (Trained): Initiative +7, Persuasion +8, Pilot +7, Mechanics +6, Use Computer +6

Possessions: Heavy Blaster Pistol, Knife, Concealed Holster, Data Pad, Credit Chip, Power Recharger, Binder Cuffs, Utility Belt with the following--3 day supply of food capsules, medpac, tool kit, power pack, energy cell, liquid cable dispenser, small grappling hook, comlink and glowrod; plus 2 additional Power Packs.

Garik Starka's Stats

Destiny: -- Force: 5 Dark Side: 0

Init: +1 Senses:

Languages: Basic

Defenses: Ref-13, Fort-12, Will-11

HP 25; Threshold 12

Speed: 6

Base Atk: +0

Abilities: Str 12, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 12

Talents: Jury Rigger

Feats: Shake It Off, Vehicular Combat, Weapon Proficiencies (Blaster Pistols, Blaster Rifles and Simple Weapons)

Skills (Trained): Endurance +6, Initiative +6, Mechanics +6, Perception +6 , Pilot +6 ,

Possessions: Blaster Carbine with Standard Scope, Knife, Credit Chip, Fusion Lantern, Utility Belt with the following--3 day supply of food capsules, medpac, tool kit, power pack, energy cell, liquid cable dispenser, small grappling hook, comlink and glowrod; plus 2 additional Power Packs.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Honoring Veteran's Day


Here's the story behind the Eagle on the Headstone photo, from The Last Refuge.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gaming the Next War?


Normally, I don't mix politics and wargaming, but the trouble brewing over Iran's nuclear program is on the verge of reaching critical mass, which makes it impossible for anyone to ignore.  Speculation is high that Israel will launch a preemptive strike against Iran.

The question is:  When?

Possibly before Christmas, according to this article in the UK Mail. Victor Davis Hanson (VDH) is also convinced that such a move will most likely occur under Obama's watch, rather than a Republican successor, in this NRO article.

What would be the fallout of such an operation?

Clash of Arms Games latest product, Persian Incursion, explores the geo-strategic and operational dilemmas, such a strike would entail.

Michael Peck discusses his lessons learned in his latest article in Wired.

Persian Incursion, harkens back to the military roots of the gaming hobby.  That is, using military simulations to analyse the possiblities of imminent conflicts, dating to Prussia's Kriegspiel.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Here's a pulp-ish title I made up for the Star Wars RPG adventure on Gadnek Island.

SW Redshift Chronicles, Intelligence Brief #10: Gadnek Is AAR, Part 6

Saved from a gruesome death!


Situation:  1900 hours.

En-route to Pierson Station at hypersonic speed.


Pierson Station and TAg facilities.


Cad So Billes and Seleq Seel escort Damathon Cohain off the rescue shuttle.
They're greeted by Penelope Pelletin and Adoko.


Rican Vranos Lah To Ceel escort Lt. Onjo Naguza off the rescue shuttle.


Damathon Cohain and Lt. Naguza were given a quick medical exam and determined to be suffering shock.  However, despite the party's harrowing experience, their time back on Pierson Station proved to be fleeting.

One of the files Sei'do Avari downloaded from the Bongolaanian computer contained invasion plans directed against the station and the surrounding Tarsan-held islands. 

Since it was now imperative that the invasion plans be taken to the Tarsan Defense Force Command, the station's only emergency express boat (x-boat) was prepared for immediate take-off. 

As the weary members of DST-3, along with Damathon Cohain and Lt. Naguza boarded the x-boat, they were joined by the Tau Tau Force Mystic, Gobar Been, who wanted to "follow the Will of the Force."

The x-boat lifted off from Pierson Station before midnight and once beyond Zenya-3's gravity well, Cad So Billes, pushed the throttles forward and the vessel fired into hyperspace. 

Destination:  Tarsus.

The invasion plan details will be addressed in Intelligence Brief #11.