Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Puyallup Padawans and the Crystaline Chamber, a Star Wars RPG Adventure

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Five heroes discover a hidden tomb after rescuing their Twi'lek scout from the clutches of his former master, Bal Jaset. After defeating two vornkrs they uncover several artifacts hidden in a sarcophagus: A Force Pike, 1,000 pieces of gold coins of alien manufacter, and most disturbing of all--2 Sith holocrons. (See the previous adventure Vendetta on Vilhon posted on 17 March 09).

It seems the only thing to do now is to pack-up the treasures and return to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. However, no one said the life of a Jedi--or of any of their friends was easy...


Adrian as: Ewan, human Jedi Padawan

Ted as: Niht Genga, Twi'Lek Scout

Seth as: The Gamemaster

Other party members:

Lacto Ovo, Mon Calamari Padawan;

Took Ilo Donin, Kel Dor Technician; and

Bail, Human Scout


While Lacto and Bail are gathering-up the treasure, Ewan and Niht are examing the glyphs carved into the side of the sarcophogus.

"We're heading back to the technical," rasps Lacto. (The "technical" is their armed aircar acquired in a previous adventure).

Still absorbed with examining the glyphs Ewan murmurs, "Be up in a minute."

As soon as Lacto and Bail leave the chamber a stone slab rumbles down the entry with a resounding "crash!" Igniting his lightsaber, Ewan rushes to the blocked doorway. A loud, continuous hiss abruptly brings the Jedi to a halt. Scanning the chamber, Ewan realizes the sound is coming from all around them.

Niht goes into a coughing fit. "Gas!" He manages to sputter. As Niht fights for breath, Ewan's comlink crackles to life.

"Ewan--ssch!--Lacto--ssch!--all right? What's--ssch!"

The trapped Jedi tries to respond but is now only receiving incessant static. Searching to find better reception, he spots a hole in the ceiling only 3 meters above them.

"Niht! Here! We can get out this way!" He points to the ceiling and brings the Twi'Lek near the opening. Closing his eyes, Ewan summons the power of the Force and swiftly jumps up through the hole. Peering down through the hole, he waves and urges Niht to follow him. "Come on!"

Niht tries to make the jump but falls flat on his back. "Can't!" He gasps and lapses into another coughing fit. "Got rope?"

"No." Ewan steps back and once again closes his eyes. "Something better."

When Niht stands up, the surrounding air molecules seem to solidify and slowly lift him up. Despite the danger, Niht instinctively tries to touch the floor as he rises towards the ceiling.

"Ow! Ouch! Ow! Through the hole please!"

"Shh. I'm--concentrating."

Niht emerges through the hole with his arms crossed, fixing the Jedi with a baleful stare. "You need practice."

"Would you prefer it back down in the tomb?"

The air around Niht loosens its grip causing the Twi'Lek to drop several centimeters. "Whoa! No! I fine here!" He shouts as he scrambles out and away from the hole on all fours. After clearing his lungs of the last of the poison gas, Niht stands up and looks around. "So, vere are vee?"

"Somewhere in between the first and second level, I think," Ewan says. "But this tunnel goes in the opposite direction from the entrance."

"Hmm. Maybe come out other side of hill?"

The pair are at the termination point of a dead-end tunnel, wide enough for both of them to walk side-by-side. The only course open to them is to the west, where dim light filters into the far end of the passagway. Activating their glow wands they follow the tunnel hoping it will lead them to the surface.

They are greeted by a deep, unremitting growl as they approach an intersection. Nit peeks around the corner to the south and spots a vornrskr with raised hackles staring in his direction. Niht soon discerns other sounds--yapping from two tiny pups.

Niht steps back from the corner. "Shh. Momma Vornskr guarding her young."

Ewan nods and carefully glances around the north corner. "This is a dead end."

"Yah. So is south tunnel vhere momma made her lair. Looks like vee go vest. Now follow me and do as I do. Be careful, vee don't need to fight momma like vee did de last two."

Following Niht's lead, they assume a non-threatening posture and carefully walk through the intersection. Mother Vornskr's growls intensify and she stands her ground but she doesn't attack.

Both breath a sigh of relief as they pass the intersection. They continue west and enter another chamber similar to the one they evacuated. In the center lies a pedestal topped by a small, cubic, humanoid statue. The idol is adorned with several pieces of rough cloth, like a miniature robes. Surrounding the pedestal lay 10 alien skeletons.

"Is booby-trapped?" Asks Niht, nodding towards the pedestal.

"I don't think so," says Ewan while looking down at the bones. "There's no uniform pattern where the skeletons are laid. A trap would activate at about the same distance away from the pedestal."

"Mmm. Maybe. After last chamber, I not so sure."

The accidental explorers spend a considerable amount of time searching for traps. They notice glyphs on the pedestal identical to the ones on the sarcophagus. Looking around they notice similar, but more primative markings carved on the walls and stalagmites of the chamber. Taking out his holocorder, Ewan scans the cave to record their findings.

Once Ewan's finished with the cursory scan, they approach the pedestal. Niht carefully removes the first of the miniature robes and turns it over. "Is map!"

"Of what?" Ewan focuses the holocorder on their latest discovery.

"Mmm. I tink its a map of dis island."

"Are you sure? It doesn't look like an island. Where are the lakes?" (Ewan's refering to the island's geological oddity--the perfectly circular lakes).

Niht runs a finger across the map's center. "I tink so. Look, here's Waena Kualapa."

Ewan nods as he recognizes the central ridge where they fought Bal Jaset and his henchmen just the other day.

Niht explains: "Here's temple--vait. Dere's a mark, like ink-stain, vhere vee are now. And here! Identical mark of to de vest. Hmm. Looks like about 100 kilometers from here. Map shows it as dry land. But is now under vater. Another temple maybe?"

Niht then considers Ewan's question, "I don't know about de lakes. Bal's family bought de island many years ago. No one knows any ting about de lakes."

"Hmm. Maybe the xeno-archeologists back at the Jedi Temple will know something about this and the statue."

"Vee take statue?"

Ewan nods.

"Vait." Niht bends down, picks up a pebble and tosses it at the statue. It rebounds off the figure with a tiny "plink!" Nit shrugs, closes his eyes and places both hands on the idol. After a second or two he opens one eye to find Ewan standing in front of him with his arms folded across his chest. "Is okay?"

"Apparently. Now why don't you carry it along with the map. The tunnel resumes over there on the west side of this chamber and I think the light's getting brighter. Let's go."

As Niht puts the artifacts into his pack, they pick their way around the alien skeletons and head towards the tunnel. They can still walk side by side in this section of the passageway which starts to lead upward. A minute later though, they come to a T-section, where another tunnel leads south. Ewan falters.

Niht grabs the swooning Jedi. "Vhat's wrong?"

"I'm, I'm alright." Ewan shakes his head and rubs his eyes as if to clear his vision. "I feel an ongoing disturbance in the Force coming from that direction," he says nodding at the south tunnel.

Niht remains silent for a moment and then asks, "Does--dis mean vee go look?"

"I'm a Jedi. I'm under oath to investigate any anomalies in the Force, especially ones caused by the Darkside."




They travel down the tunnel and notice the cave walls are bathed in a reddish light. Rounding a slight turn they discover another natural chamber. This one however glows in vivid red light. This light comes from what appear to be hundreds--possibly thousands--of jagged, red crystals imbedded in the walls and ceiling of the cave.

Still gazing around in wonder, Nit mutters out of the corner of his mouth, "Dis de place?"

Ewan merely nods. After a moment the Jedi shakes himself out of his reverie and glares at the far wall. "I'm going to take one of these crystals, for the--ah--Jedi Council to--ah--examine." As Ewan nears the wall he discovers the crystals make a faint humming noise as he approaches.

"Hmm. Hokay." Niht continues to gawk at the ceiling until he's startled by the flash and hum of Ewan's activated lightsaber. "Is dat good idea?"

Ewan turns and faces the Twi'Lek scout with a cocky smirk.

Are his eyes red? Niht asks himself in silent alarm. No. Must be reflection from crystals.

"Besides," Ewan continues as he casually swings his lightsaber, "I'm a Jedi, what could possibly go..."


As the glowing power blade strikes a fist-sized crystal, the energy-beam sputters then vanishes.

"What the..."

Ewan steps back to examine his weapon and is surprised when it reactivates on its own. The Jedi then braces himself as if preparing to fight and chops down angrily at the defiant crystal. Once again the traditional weapon of the Jedi fizzles out.

"Arrr-rrrgh! Nit! Give me your knife!"

"Umm. Ah. Hmm." Niht's hands fumble around his equipment belt, as a sense of unease builds within him. "Umm. I--ah--don't have my knife. I must have dropped it behck in the statue chamber. Vy don't vee go behck and look for it, den vee come behck here and pry out a crystal?"

"No. I'll stay here while you look for your knife. You should be able to find it with your glow wand."

Nit casually tosses his glow wand aside, raises his hands, spreads his fingers and shrugs his shoulders. "Heh-heh. Me loose glow vand too. Vy don't you come vid me and help me look for knife, hokay?"

"No." Ewan confronts the scout with his arms a-kimbo. Then he waves his right hand in a semi-cirular gesture. "You want to help me," the Jedi whispers.

"I--I vant to help you."

"Here, give me your knife."

"Here--here is my knife."

Then--very slowly--Niht unsheathes his knife and holds it out, handle first, to the Jedi. When Ewan snatches the knife from the scout, Nit staggers back as if he's about to faint. He shakes his head to clear it from the after-effects of the mind-trick. He backs away from the Jedi, who's now obsessed with hacking out a crystal from the stone wall.

"Ha! How dare they treat me like a mere padawan!" Ewan quietly rants as he slashes furiously at the stone around his selected crystal. "I'll show them! I show those "masters" the true meaning of power! I'll..."


In a flash, an electric-blue light bathes Ewan's body causing him to jitter and drop the blade. Fixated on obtaining a crystal, he failed to see Niht draw his blaster pistol, the dueling weapon he "acquired" from Bal Jaset. However, the Twi'Lek's hasty stun-shot didn't render the Jedi unconscious.

Niht quickly holsters his weapon as Ewan fumbles for his lightsaber. "Wha--. Wha-- thoo do thath fffor," Ewan slurs as Nit runs up and grabs the stumbling Jedi.

"Come-come my friend. Let me help you."

Niht drags Ewan out of the chamber as some of the stun effects begin to where off.

"Ooh! Nit! Look at the pretty crystals!"

"Yah, yah. Very pretty. Maybe vee come behck and look at dem later--much later. Oi! Here you go my friend. Vy don't you rest here." Nit sets the Jedi down and props him against the wall near the T-section. Niht then sits across from Ewan--with his right hand near his blaster pistol.

After several minutes, Ewan shakes his head and holds a hand over his eyes. "Wow! What, what happened?" Nit helps the Jedi as he struggles to stand. "Umm, thanks. Thanks Niht. I don't know what came over me."

"No problem," Niht says with a dismissive wave. "But I know vhat came over you. Chamber is--how you say--full of Darkside Force. Vid all due respect, my friend, I tink dat place is beyond your current powers. Maybe vee should seal dis place up and tell Jedi Council."

"Yes, I think you're right Niht. Although I'm not sure we can seal this place with our hand-held weapons." The Jedi mulls over their predicament for a moment. "Once we find our way out of here we should be able to close the main entrance--and the exit we're looking for--with the technical's heavy blaster."

"Now you talking."

As they head up the western tunnel, Ewan halts abruptly. "Wait a minute! I've got an idea."


"We take the statue..."


"We go back into the chamber..."

"Go behck!? Are you crazy!?"

"No wait, here me out. You weren't affected by the crystals and the statue was made by some Force-sensitive culture. Maybe it has some properties that could dampen the crystals' power."

"Or make dem vorse..."

"Maybe, but the Jedi..."

"I know, I know." Niht sighs. "Jedi Council vants to know. Hokay, I take statue--but you stay out here! Hokay?"


Niht removes the statue from his pack, takes a deep breath and walks back into the red crystaline chamber.

"Anything?" Ewan's voice echoes from the tunnel.

"It hums. Just like crystals vhen I get close. Othervise, noting."

Niht shivers as he exits the chamber. "Boy, dat place give me creeps! It's like doze crystals are alive!"

"Hmm. I don't know about that. Midi-chlorians inhabit living material, I don't know if they'd be found inside the crystals." After pondering the intricacies of the Force for a moment, Ewan turns to the scout. "I have another idea."


"I take the statue..."


"And I go into the chamber..." Ewan raises his hand to stifle the scout's protest. "No, no I'm not crazy. I want to see what happens when a Force-sensitive being holds the statue."

"And I cover you vith blaster, right?"

"Right." Ewan takes the statue from the reluctant Twi'lek and steps towards the chamber. Impulsively he turns and lightly thumps Nit's chest with the back of his hand. "Just don't get too use to shooting me, okay?

Niht cackles. "Hokay--just keep hand avay from lightsaber and maybe vee both get out of here alive."

As Ewan enters the red glowing chamber the statue hums just as Niht described earlier. But above the hum, the Jedi hears seductive voices whispering in his mind. Voices promising him wealth, fame, power and even all forms of sensual delights. All this could be his if only he would...

"Niht? I'm--I'm okay. I can feel the pull of the Darkside all around me, but holding this statue keeps it in check." Ewan decides not to mention the feeling of wraithlike claws plucking at his skin to the worried scout.

"Dats good to know," the Twi'Lek's voice echoes into the glowing-red chamber. "I still got you covered though."

Ewan gazes around the chamber and realizes many of the crystals aren't glowing. Some have even fallen to the chamber's floor like rotten teeth. Ewan bends down and holds the statue near one of the dull crystals. Nothing.

"I'm picking up a crystal."


"Relax. It's 'dead'."

"Vhat do you mean dead?" Niht's last word echoes sharply around the room, "...dead...ed...ed."

"Here," Ewan says as he emerges from the chamber, "look at this." Placing the dull crystal in Niht's palm, he continues, "it doesn't glow, nor does it hum when placed near the statue. I figured it was safe to carry out so the..."

"I know, I know, so Jedi Council can examine. But I carry with rest of our stuff, hokay?"

Ewan nods as they make their way to the exit now visible to both of them. They stumble out into the bright sunlight and determine they've ventured out on the far side of the hill. Ewan's com link once again crackles to life, but this time Lacto's gravely voice comes in loud and clear.

"Ewan, this is Lacto, come in. Do you read me, over?" Ewan eagerly responds and passes on their estimated coordinates to his fellow Jedi.

Soon the roar of the technical's engines announces the arrival of the rescue party. When the team reunites, Niht and Ewan decide to stun and retrieve the vornskr family before they seal the temple. The Twi'Lek volunteers to lead Bail and Took back into the cavern. When Ewan offers to help, Niht gasps and his hands flutter as if to ward off evil. "No! No. You Jedis stay hear and talk about vhat to do vid de stuff vee found. Vee'll go get Momma Vornkr and de pups. You stay avay from red crystals!"

Ewan snorts. "Oh yeah. Of course," he says while backing away to explain Niht's outburst to Lacto.

An hour later the trio emerge from their underground safari carrying the unconscious canines. Once the vornskr are released the party turns their attention to sealing the entrances. Bail mans the heavy blaster while Took employs the holovid droid as a forward observer. Soon the echoes of blaster fire, explosions and falling rocks reverberate through the low hills and forest surrounding the temple mound.

Once both entrances are sealed, Niht approaches the two the Jedis who've been in a deep discussion while the temple entrances were blasted shut.

"So. Vhere to now?"

Pictured below: Ewan emerges from the temple entrance, ready to do battle.

Pictured below: Niht emerges from the temple entrance scanning for possible enemies.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION (courtesy of Wookiepedia):

Force Pike:


The Force:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Firefly Wiki and Artist Website

For you Firefly/Serenity fans, there's a Firefly Wiki available:

I linked this site in this blog's Entertainment Section. There is a Serenity role playing game (RPG), by Margarete Weis Productions and if I ever get it, I'll move the link to the Wargaming Section where Wookiepedia is.

Pictured here is a copy of Adam Hughes Serenity GN print. I liked Mr Adams work so much after just scanning through his website, I decided to link it to this blog's Art Section.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My family roots are anchored more in the highlands of Scotland than on the Emerald Isle. But we always celebrated St. Patrick's Day growing up and I still try to do something fun on this Catholic feast day.

An increasing number of non-Irish folks here in the US are celebrating St. Patrick's Day. It's not hard to understand why: Another reason to have a party! Ireland's patron saint is nearly as popular as St. Nicholas and St. Valentine.

Did you know, Ireland's patron saint was actually born in Scotland? I didn't until reading his short biography in Catholic Online for this blogpost.

No wonder why my family celebrated St Patrick's Day:

The Wikipedia biography of St. Patrick:

The history of St. Patrick's Day:

Vendetta on Vilhon, a Star Wars RPG Adventure

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

...a band of heroes set out to rescue their friend, Niht Genga, their Twi'lek scout. Nit was captured by bounty hunters as the party returned from their last mission.

Employed by Bal Jaset, leader of House Melantha, the hired guns brought Niht to the game-preserve moon of Vilhon in the Tapani Sector.

Once dumped dirtside he is to be the main event, that is hunted, in the annual Vor-cal Safari.

Can the heroes rescue their comrade in time? Or will Nit become the latest trophy in Bal's orbital hunting lodge?


Dan as: Lacto Ovo, Mon Calamari Jedi Padawan

Adrian as: Ewan, Human Jedi Padawan

Chris as: Took Ilo Donin, Kel Dor Technician

Oliver as: Bail, Human Scout

Ted as: Niht Genga, Twi'lek Scout

Seth as: The Gamemaster (GM)


Based on a tip from "a friend" on Coruscant, the adventurers take off for Vilhon on board their starship Bailout. After docking with House Malentha's orbital hunting lodge they enter the crowded casino. Instead of gambling, the patrons are focused on all the holovid screens. Half of the screens show Bal Jaset and two henchmen trekking through the forest on Malen Isle. The remaining monitors show Niht regaining consciousness in an open field. (He was drugged and beaten by the bounty hunters. But worst of all--he subjected to the obligatory villainous monologue of Bal Jaset).

To make the hunt more "sporting" Niht is armed with a half-charged blaster pistol. After shaking off the narcotic effects, Niht surveys his surroundings and then stares at the holovid droid hovering nearby. The patrons in the casino gasp as they're suddenly staring down the 3-D image of a blaster pistol's muzzle. Everyone jumps at the flash of "blaster red" and then moan in disappointment as half the monitors go snowy and then black.

Meanwhile the heroes, disguised as hunters approach their assigned guide to discuss the arrangements for their own "safari." Using Jedi mind-tricks and a small bribe of 500Cr they convince him start their expedition ahead of schedule.

Pictured below are: Lacto (front, foreground), Bail (front, background), Took (rear, foreground) and Ewan (rear, background) entering the casino.

Once the guide drops the party off at Akau Kahua (North Lodge), Took disables their assigned holovid droid with a blast from his ion pistol. The Kel Dor technician then reprograms the droid while Ewan destroys the rest of the robots in the lodge's garage. Once the droid is re-programmed to act as their scout, the party sets out towards Nit's last known location. Towards the end of the day, both Jedis feel a malevolant fluctuation in the Force eminating from the northeast of their position.

Meanwhile, Nit hasn't been idle. Once a former servant and huntmaster for Bal, he makes his way northwest towards a weapons cache. The hidden trove is exactly where Niht remembers it and he removes a blaster rifle, heavy blaster pistol, a field kit, 2 med packs and several power packs from the cache's inventory. Unfortunately in his haste to avoid pursuit, Nit forgets to take any of the frag grenades.

The next day as Niht gives a narglatch nest a wide berth, he receives strange but comforting thoughts. Words and phrases like "friends near" and "ridge" emerge, while images of Lacto and Ewan appear in his mind. Remembering two of his friends are Jedi's, he assumes they must be on the planetoid and he makes his way to the only ridge on the island--Waena Kualapa (Central Ridge).

Indeed, Lacto and Ewan have been trying to contact Niht using their basic telepathic abilities. Sensing Nit is acting on their thoughts, they continue their trek towards Waena Kualapa.

The third day passes uneventfully for the rescue party as they ascend the crest of Waena Kualapa. However, Niht narrowly avoids a confrontation with a foraging narglatch. Thanks to his hunting skills he assumes a non-threatening posture and the beast moves on.

Pictured below is the location of the rescue party camped out on the ridge's crest (Lacto's figure). The central figure is Niht's last known location, while the figure on the left (south) is the last known location of their friend's pursuers.

The next morning the rescue party awake to the sound of distant shouts and blaster fire. They soon spot Niht running for his life through the forest and towards the ridge, with 3 humanoids and a holovid droid in hot pursuit.

Pictured below is Niht (top) being pursued by Bal (leading the group), his henchmen and their assigned holovid droid.

Through the use of Force-Jumps, jet packs or scaling-line, the rescue party scrambles down the steep slope of the ridge.

Pictured below are: Ewan (left), Bail (center) and Lacto (right) at the foot of the ridge, while Took (still at the crest) activates his jet pack.
Ewan races forward, deflecting blaster bolts with his light saber while on the run.

This being no time to greet his friends, Nit turns back and lays down covering fire with his newly acquired blaster rifle.

Ewan charges into the pack of hunters swinging his light saber at Bal, who manages to dodge the padawan's blows.

Lacto, moves against the right flank of the pursuers firing his blaster as he advances. After a short exchange of blaster fire, the Bothan hunter crumples to the ground when a blaster bolt strikes him in the chest.

Pictured below is: Niht (behind the tree to the left), Lacto (to right), Ewan dueling Bal next to the fallen Bothan; while the surviving henchman fires back at the advancing Took and Bail (not pictured). The hovering holovid droid is at the bottom corner.

Meanwhile Took and Bail maneuver around the hunters' left flank, dodging blaster fire from Bal's remaining henchman. Took fires his ion weapon in attempt to stun him, while Bail on the other hand, blazes away with his blaster rifle.

The firefight continues until one of Bail's shots hit Bal Jaset in his left shoulder. Bal stumbles and drops his guard allowing Ewan to graze Bal's right forearm causing him to drop his vibro-blade.
"Do you yield?" demands Ewan.

Bal Jaset, now staring at the tip of a glowing light saber nods a barely perceptible "yes."

Pictured below is Took advancing through the woods on the hunters' left flank.

As the heroes close in, the question on everyone's mind is: Why did a Tapani "Lord of the Expanse" go through such lengths--and expense--to drag their friend here for Vilhonian version of The Most Dangerous Game?

As Lacto kneels to examine the fallen Bothan, Niht explains that several years ago he was a servant and hunting guide for House Melantha. During his last Vor-cal Safari he and Bal were surprised by a rabid nexu. As Bal fled for his life, Niht killed the beast with his master's discarded rifle. He then stealthily returned to camp where he overheard Bal claim Niht attacked him. Knowing he faced a death-sentence for assaulting a Tapani nobleman, Nit made his way off Vilhon by signing-on as a crewmember of a light freighter. Since then, Niht avoided any "Tapani entaglements"--until now.

As everyone turns to Bal, Ewan asks "Well? Is this true?"

The red-faced Bal blurts out, "Yes! Yes, it's true!" Then he launches into a monologue about how his honor was at stake and had to be avenged, etc, etc, yadda-yadda-yadda; all of which is captured by Bal's holovid droid.
Bal's monologue is interrupted by Lacto when he stands up and announces the Bothan is dead. Unruffled at the death of his henchman, Bal asks Niht "Where does that leave us now?"
Niht suggests that honor has been served because both have seen fear in the other. They should each go their seperate ways now without claiming any "debts of honor" against the other. (Besides, Tapani courts don't punish nobles for "disciplining" their servants and the adventurers are foreigners in this sector). Bal reluctantly agrees.

A shuttle eventually lands nearby and the re-united party escorts Bal and his surviving henchman back to the orbital hunting lodge. As they make their way to the shuttle, Niht picks up Bal's discarded blaster pistol, with enhanced sights, and casually slides it in his tunic.

Pictured below is Bal's confession captured by the holovid droid (farthest figure on the right).
As soon as they are back on the orbital hunting lodge, Bal is hustled away by family retainers immediately upon exiting the shuttle. The casino is now in a complete uproar as patrons are demanding their money back from cashiers, pit bosses and dealers. Everyone now assumes the game tables are rigged and they've all been cheated, since House Malentha is now looked upon with distrust.

The party makes its way to the station's communications ("com") center only to find beleagured operators barraged by incoming calls from bankers, lawyers, PR reps and news reporters. By-passing the chaotic com center, the group makes its way to the station's unguarded computer room. (House guards have been called-out for crowd control duty). Once there, Took hacks into the system and reconfigures the station's IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) code to accept their ship as friendly. (No one's taking any chances, despite Bal's reluctant promise).
However, instead of leaving the system right away, the two Jedi's have another obligation--to investigate the Force disturbance back on Vilhon. After hearing about the Jedi's experience, Nit points to two likely spots on the holo-map. The first is a crash site where a starship went down "hundreds of years ago." The second, about 10 kilometers to the north of the crash site, is an ancient ruin of unknown origin.
The party flies the Bailout back down to Vilhon and lands near the weapons cache. After cleaning out the hidden trove and stocking the ship's weapons locker, everyone embarks on the "technical," an armed air-car the party acquired during Nit's captivity. The Jedi sense nothing at the crash site where a rusted hulk sits, overgrown with vines. They press on to the ruins.

Once at the entry, carved into a small hill, the Jedi become nauseous. Despite their ill feelings, the Jedi advance into the dim gateway followed by Took's holovid droid. Inside they find a stone temple decorated with benevolent looking alien statues of an unknown race. Exploring this level reveals noting but another dark doorway leading to a lower level. As the Jedis descend, Bail and Nit follow, while Took mans the heavy blaster on the technical while controlling his newfound"scout" droid.

The next level is similar to the first one except the malicious alien statues, different from the race upstairs, appear to be weilding stone images of light sabers. The nauseating Force disturbance grows stronger as the Jedis advance towards an opening on the far side of the chamber. Once through the entrance they're pounced upon by 2 vornskrs, large pack-hunting canines that use the Force to stalk prey. And they are extremely hostile to other Force-users.

Bail and Niht break into a run once they hear the echo of the snarling beasts. The vornskyrs, being Force-adepts themselves, readily dodge the glowing lightsabers and the Jedis are repeatedly bitten, raked by claws and lashed by venomous, barbed tails. Lacto manages to severely wound one of the beasts, giving Nit the opportunity to run up and finish it off with a shot from his newly acquired blaster pistol.

The remaining vornskr continues to put up a fight with Ewan while Bail squeezes off some shots when the opportunity presents itself. Nit moves forward to protect the wounded Lacto. In doing so he moves within easy reach of the creatuer. Within seconds, Niht is lashed by the barbed tail. Reeling from the effects of a small injection of poison, Nit staggers back a few steps. With the vornskr's tail coiled around Niht's leg, both Jedis plunge their light sabers deep into the creature's body. The beast remains impaled by the two glowing rods of light until it's snarling death-throes subside.

After binding each others wounds and injecting Niht and Ewan with anti-venom, the party conducts a search of what they now see as a burial chamber. The chamber's sole sarcophagus proves to be the epicenter of the Force tremors. Despite their weakened condition, the four of adventurers manage to remove the top block resulting in a resounding "crash" echoing throughout the ruin. Inside lay one a Force-Pike and two tiny pyramidal objects. Now completely unshielded, the Jedis stagger back from the Darkside Force radiating from both pyramids.

Even the two non-Jedis recognize the wicked artifacts: Sith Holocrons, devices out of myth and nightmares. These evil gadgets were used by the Sith to store arcane knowledge and according to legend--the very lifeforce of it's creator.
Concern over Bal Jaset's revenge fades as they gaze down at the two sinister relics.

Glancing around at his rescuers, Niht says, "I dohn' know 'bout you guyz. Buht I hef a behd feelin' 'bout 'dis..."


No pictures of the temple fight were uploaded. I plan on restaging this scene using some terrain I didn't think to bring with me to the game session.

Hopefully in the next several months, I'll post a made-for-YouTube movie about this and future adventures.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION (courtesy of Wookiepedia):

Lords of the Expanse:
House Melantha:

High Lord (of the Expanse):

Bal Jaset:

Kel Dors:


Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review: The Way to Glory

The Way to Glory, is David Drake's 4th novel in his Lt. Leary/Adele Mundy series.

This story picks up shortly after The Far Side of the Stars. Daniel Leary, Adele Mundy and the crew of the RCN (Royal Cinnabar Navy) corvette Princess Cecil are honored as heroes. However, Cinnabar's captial Xenos is wracked with violence. Class-warfare riots erupt on the news that Commander Slidell of the RCN Bainbridge, executed a junior officer from a populist family along with two spacers. While on a more subtle level, conspiracies against the current government--ruled by Daniel's estranged father--begin to bud.

In order to appease the masses, the Admiralty assigns Daniel as Commander Slidell's First Lieutenant on the cutter-tender RCN Hermes. Fortunately for Daniel, Adele and the former crew of the Princess Cecil join him in his new assignment. According to the author's note, the story is derived from the US and Royal Navy's operations in and around Haiti during the 19th Century.

Daniel's presence merely reinforces Commander Slidell's paranoia. During their tour of duty Daniel and Adele are forced to deal with: An Alliance spy, rival warlords on a failed-state planet, interned Cinnabar citizens and an Alliance plot to establish a naval base on the same failed-state planet. Of course their exploits intensifies not only Commander Slidell's jealousy, but that of the sector's commanding admiral.

There are 24 customer reviews listed on; of which there are 12 x 5-star ratings, 7 x 4-star ratings, 4 x 3-star ratings and one reviewer gave the book a 2-star rating. Of the less-than 5-star ratings, the most common complaint is that the main characters are wooden or flat, while the plot is considered routine or even outright boring.

Meanwhile the 2-star reviewer seems to take offense that Cinnabar is an aristocratic plutocracy and the main characters were born from priviledged families. He couldn't get over the fact that Daniel doesn't know how to drive an aircar--but can pilot a starship. Nor does he feel it's possible for a space-faring society to have citizens who barely know how to read & write, or even illiterate.

I myself am a big fan of this series and give it a 5-star rating. I like how the author transports a 19th Century-style English society into space. Although Cinnabar isn't quite a constitutional monarchy like David Weber's Manticore in the Honor Harrington series. David Drake's Lt. Leary series is a tribute to Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin stories.

Mr Drake gives us a glimpse of an imperfect society struggling to maintain its way of life in the pitiless vaccuum of space. While characters like Daniel and Adele are imbued with a sense of duty and "noblese oblige" to those not born in their station of priviledge.

Daniel's inability to drive an aircar is great source of comic relief. Especially since he has to rely on crewmembers who barely know how to drive. So these vehicles end up coming to rest, more in the form of a "controlled crash" than an actual "landing."

Spacefaring illiterates? That's not too hard to imagine. Even in the most "wired" cities of the most advanced nations of the 21st Century, there are many who probably can't read this blog...

Friday, March 6, 2009

First Impressions: Federation Commander

Having amassed a collection of Starfleet Battles (SFB) games and supplements, I SWORE I wasn't going to invest in Amarillo Design Bureau's (ABD's) Federation Commander.

That is, until someone on The Miniatures Page (TMP) offered a great deal for slightly-used copies of both Federation Commander: Klingon Border and Federation Commander Romulan Border. After reading the favorable reviews on TMP, I decided to take the plunge and bought both sets.

Being a Star Trek fan and a wargamer, I bought SFB when it was first published as a microgame way back in 1979. Since then the SFB series grew in size--and complexity. Nearly 50 games, supplements or modules have been produced since SFB's initial release. In addition to the increasingly complicated rules, ABD introduced several alien races that were not part of Star Trek lore; like the Vudar, Seltorians and Jindarians, to name a few. The starships themselves acquired a dizzying array of weapon systems and capabilities, while new ship-types were constantly being added to each race's Fleet Order of Battle.

By the early 90's I completely lost track of where the "Star Flee Universe" was headed and bought only a few releases that struck my fancy. I noticed Federation Commander on the game store shelves a couple of years ago, but I was reluctant to invest in it. However, as I mentioned above, after getting a great deal on the two used games, I'm glad I did.

The Ship System Displays (SSDs) are color-coded and laminated cardstock, while the map board consists of heavy cardboard displaying distant stars, versus the SFB's plain-black paper map. (The initial map was actually blue). The counters are also a great improvement over SFB's two-tone pieces. Individual ships are now represented on both 1/2-inch and 1-inch counters in full color. Some ships even sport a camouflage paint-scheme.

All the reviews I read about Federation Commander were favorable. The rules are considered more streamlined and therefore more playable than SFB.

While criticism of SFB's complexity is deserved, wargamers themselves should be aware of what SFB and Federation Commander were designed to portray. Both games are intended to give players that "Scotty-I-need-more-power" adrenaline rush, not deciding the fate of the galaxy. As such either game is best enjoyed if each player commands a small number of ships--maybe even only 1 vessel. Fleet admirals shouldn't be worried about how best to allocate energy for all his destroyer escorts' auxiliary power reactors.

But for those who do want to conquer the galaxy (or maybe even defend it), Federation Commander comes in two scales. The first is "Squadron Scale" which is suited for ship-to-ship combat, while the second is "Fleet Scale" for larger actions.

I do have one gripe about the games' packaging. Both games come in white boxes that are only 1.5 inches deep. If you're going to amass a starfleet to conquer the galaxy then the playing pieces will be difficult to store. The boxes themselves are sheathed by illustrated sleeves which are rather annoying to remove and replace. I'm assuming this is all some production cost saving measure.

Complete information on ABD's products can be found online at:

Anyone interested in the development of SFB can go to:

The Federation Commander Website:

Both games retail for $59.95.

Book Review: The Far Side of the Stars

Crewmembers scurry up the ship's rigging to adjust the sails, while the captain takes a star sighting.

A scene from a Horatio Hornblower novel? No, just typical duty on board the RCN (Royal Cinnibar Navy) starship Princess Cecile. (The "Riggers" are wearing space suits).

The Far Side of the Stars is David Drake's 3rd novel in his popular Lieutenant Leary series. In this setting, starships traverse the galaxy using sails to harness Casmiri Radiation within "bubble universes" linked by "the Matrix." Fanciful? Maybe, but the author tells his stories convincingly and with consistency.

Once back in normal, or "sidereal" space, ships are propelled by matter/antimatter high drives and plasma thrusters. Adding to the naval lore, starships land on bodies of water to take on reaction-mass for fuel and to absorb thruster blasts.

The series, is the author's tribute to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, featuring Lt. Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy. He's a devil-may-care officer in the Royal Cinnabar Navy with an appetite for the ladies. (The younger and more bubbleheaded the better). She's an austere librarian-turned signal officer and spy. Together they make a formidable pair against Cinnabar's main enemy--the Alliance of Free Stars.

However, their relationship wasn't always so platonically harmonious. In the first book, With the Lightnings, Lt. Leary was part of a diplomatic mission to the planet Kostroma. There he met Adele who was supervising the Elector's Library. They initially struck-up a friendship until they discovered they were from opposing royal families. Daniel is the estranged son of Corder Leary of Bantry, Speaker of Cinnabar. While Adele Mundy is the sole survivor of the Mundy of Chatsworth, the oldest family of Cinnabar. Adele's entire family was executed for conspiracy--on the orders of Daniel's father.

The two nearly fought a duel until Adele realized Daniel and his father weren't on speaking terms and when all hell broke loose from an Alliance-sponsored coup attempt. After thwarting the coup, the pair are assigned to the corvette Princess Cecil in Lt. Leary Commanding. By this time both of them have earned their respective reputations: He as a firebrand officer and she as a deadly marksman with a dueling pistol and first-rate hacker. (By this time Adele's been recruited as a spy for Cinnabar).

In this story, Cinnabar and the Alliance are at peace--supposedly. So both sides draw down their military forces--supposedly. The RCN decides to pay-off Princess Cecil and puts the crew on half-pay. Thanks to an inheritance from his famous uncle, Commander Stacey Bergen, Daniel is able to purchase the ship and convert it to a "private yatch." At the same time, Cinnabar's spymaster Mistress Bernis Sand assigns her to escort the Klimovs, a noble couple from Novy Sverlovsk, on an expedition to the wild Galactic North. The spymaster arranges it so the Klimovs hire the Princess Cecil and her crew for the expedition.

Of course, Adele's real mission is to ascertain the status of a former RCN battleship and crew of mutineers, while the Klimovs are searching for a priceless artifact stolen years ago from their starsystem. Daniel Leary's mission is to keep everyone alive but the discovery of a secret Alliance base puts their survival in jeopardy.

There are 16 customer reviews listed on; of which 4 reviewers gave the book a 5-star rating and 6 gave it a 4-star rating. There are 4x3-star ratings and 2x2-star ratings. The most common criticism from the 2 & 3-star raters were the book read like a series of short-stories rather than a novel, and the sailing technique for propelling starships through space was too far-fetched.

I enjoyed the book too much to notice any defects in the story. David Drake is one of my favorite science fiction authors. However, one of the 4-star rater's comments described Drake's writings and characterizations as "quiet, not showy." I use the words "subtle" and sometimes "obtuse." That is the author often describes things in an indirect manner, which is clever, but sometimes causes me to re-read passages when I realized I missed something. At the same time though, Mr. Drake can be very graphic in his combat descriptions. The reader gets a clear picture what bullets, fired by electromagnetic energy and propelled to hypersonic speed, can do the the fragile human body.

Overall, I give this space opera a 5-star rating along with the previous books in this series. It was refreshing to read that as mankind reached the stars he cast-off political correctness into the depths of space.

So if you're in the mood for a science-fiction-age-of-sail yarn, you can't go wrong picking up any of the Lt. Leary books.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Today in History: Churchill's "Iron Curtain" Speech

On March 5, 1946 Winston Churchill gave his famous "Iron Curtain" Speech at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri. The speech opened the eyes of many to the realities of the fate of Eastern Europe and the true nature of the USSR.

A generation later, President Ronald Reagan was criticized for calling the Soviet Union "an evil empire;" while President Bush was ridiculed for calling Iran, Iraq and North Korea an "axis of evil."

My like-minded friends and I think "the Gipper" and "W" were spot-on in their assessments.

Here's a link to the full content of Churchill's famous speech:

First Impressions: Atlantic Navies

I received my pre-ordered copy of Atlantic Navies, Command at Sea Volume VII by Clash of Arms Games (CoAG) a few days ago. This is the latest edition of their World War II Naval wargame series which started with Rising Sun in 1994.

The game box comes with 4 booklets: The Command at Sea 4th ed Rulebook, Gruppe Nord (the Kriegsmarine), Le Guerre Navale (the French Fleet) and Home Fleet (the Royal Navy). Also included is a 10-page "Jump Start" rule book to help players get started right away.

For those not wanting to invest in miniatures, the game includes 4 sheets of gorgeous ship and aircraft counters. The artistic quality of the Command at Sea counters has improved tremendously since the publication of the first edition. Each counter is illustrated with a top-down view of a specific ship or aircraft. The ship counters also bear a faded image of each navy's national flag along with the vessel's name or class and type.

I've only managed to glance at the rules and haven't playtested any of the previous editions. Created by Larry Bond as part of CoAG's Admiralty Trilogy, Command at Sea is for the serious student of World War II naval warfare. Therefore, the rules lean more towards "simulation" rather than "game." As such, Command at Sea provides first-rate reference material to naval-war enthusiasts. The fleet booklets provide the naval historian with everything he needs to know, whether its the wind direction and speed during the Battle of the River Plate (SE at 13 knots), or type of torpedoes carried by the Prinz Eugen (G7a's), in order to set up historically accurate encounters at sea.

The ratings for the Command at Sea series posted on Boardgamegeek range from 7.15 to 10.0 and are well deserved.

With pre-orders complete, Atlantic Navies now retails for $125.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Review: The Tragedy of the Korosko

Islamic fanatics board a passenger vessel, terrorize and capture its passengers.

The Achille Loro in 1985?

No, the Korosko, a stern-wheeled paddle boat traveling up the Nile River in 1895. The Tragedy of the Korosko: A Tale of the Desert is one of Arthur Conan Doyle's works of historical fiction. In this story, 3 American and 10 European passengers are on board the Nile river boat to explore various ancient Egyptian ruins. However, their holiday turns into a fight for freedom and struggle for survival when they are captured by a raiding party of Dervishes.

As they are carried away into the desert the Dervish camels become exhausted and their supplies dwindle. the Dervish leader, Emir Abderrahman, demands either the prisoners convert to Islam--or be executed. The prisoners stall for time by debating religion with the Dervish imam until the survivors are rescued by the elements of the Anglo-Egyptian Camel Corps.

Arthur Conan Doyle, best known today for his Sherlock Holmes stories, was a prolific writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries of other stories and non-fiction works:

The story was written in 1898, during or shortly after the author and his first wife traveled through Egypt to help alleviate her tuberculosis. While this book can be found on, it is very rarely mentioned. Of the 2 reviews listed on, one rater gives the story 4-stars and the other 3-stars.

Unlike other book reviews, I won't comment on Sir Arthur's literary style. (He was knighted in 1902). Keep in mind his works aren't written in today's thriller/cinematic method.

This book came to my attention in a round-about way. On 14 August 2006, two European journalists, working for FOX News were kidnapped in Gaza. To ease their ordeal they converted to Islam--at gunpoint.

A few days later Mark Steyn commented on this story and compared it to the fictional hostages of the Korosko. Steyn's concern was that giving in to the kidnappers demands of converting to Islam gives our enemies the impression their religious-political ideology is superior to ours. The two journalists were released about a couple weeks later. What the former hostages, and many other media-types, don't seem to understand is that according to Sharia Law, once someone converts to Islam they cannot convert to another religion or renounce Islam. That's considered apostasy--a crime punishable by death under Sharia.

During his short trip through Egypt, Sir Arthur keenly observed Islamist behavior that remains unchanged today.

"There is no iconoclast in the world like an extreme Mohammedan...A statue is an irreligious object in their eyes. What do these fellows care for the sentiment of Europe? The more they could offend it, the more delighted they would be. Down would go the Sphinx, the Colossi, the Statues of Abou-Simbel..." (pg 16-17).

While the Sphinx is still with us, the Buddhas of Bamyan are not, thanks to the Taliban.

And then there's this chilling description from page 92:

"The fire that smoldered in his [Emir Abderrahman's] arrogant eyes shone back at him from a hundred others. Here were to be read the strength and danger of the Mahdi movement; here in these convulsed faces, in that fringe of waving arms, in these frantic, red-hot souls, who asked nothing better than a bloody death, if their own hands might be bloody when they met it."

This description can fit any of the terrorists involved in attacks from US Embassy bombings in East Africa (7 August 1998) to Mumbai (26-29 November 2008).

Sir Arthur also noticed the uncompromising nature of an islamist. When asked about his religious beliefs, Monsieur Fardet tells the Emir " France we look upon all religions as good." (Page 40).

To which the Emir replies, through a translator:

"The chief says that none but a blaspheming dog and son of a dog would say that all religions are one as good as another. He says that if you are indeed a friend of the Khalifa, you will accept the Koran and become a true believer upon the spot." (Page 40).

So much for multicultural harmony.

The only differences between the Dervishes of 1895 and the jihadists of today are: The Dervishes were only able to take captives on the fringes of their desert realm, while today's terrorists form an international network with global reach--sadly, as demonstrated by the September 11th attacks.

Some readers may be put off by the author's apparent jingoistic point of view. I however, found Sir Arthur's observation of Britain's role as the "World's Policeman" rings true for the United States.

On page 17, two British and an American passenger discuss world affairs:

"If a Kurd breaks loose in Asia Minor, the world wants to know why Great Britain does not keep him in order. If there is a military mutiny in Egypt, or Jehad in the Soudan, it is still Great Britain who has to set it right. And all to the accompaniment of curses such as the policeman gets when he seizes a ruffian among his pals."

Sound familiar? Merely substitute "the United States" for "Great Britain" and this describes the position America inherited from the United Kingdom since the end of World War II.

Which is something Sir Arthur seems to have foreseen. On the following page one of the British passengers turns to the American and says:

"And it will happen to you also."

The Tragedy of the Korosko is a 5-star book for anyone interested in getting an historical perspective of the jihadist movement that still plagues us today.