Saturday, December 14, 2019

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Haul, Part Two

This is "gaming related stuff I picked up inexpensively at recent holiday sales" part two. Part one can be found over here. My comments explain my reasons for purchasing these specific products and present my first impressions. More detailed opinions will come later, after I've had the chance to actually put these products to use. Fortunately, I've got a couple of projects in the pipeline for next year that will give me a chance to experiment.

Secret Weapon Miniatures

This is a company that's been on my radar for awhile. I backed their Tablescape Kickstarter way back in 2013. Before that, I heard positive things about their paints and washes from various sources. Their recent sale gave me a chance of pick up some of their products and try them out for myself.

So, let's see how many words I can throw up on the screen about washes and weathering powder.

Acrylic Wash - Armor Wash - W003

As the name implies, this is marketed for shading surfaces coated with reflective metallic paints. The color is a black/brown strong enough to significantly darken the surface that it is applied to. It should work well for armor plate and chain mail as well as any time a dark brown wash is appropriate - weathered surfaces, dark cloth, and leather come to mind.

Acrylic Wash - Flesh Wash - W005
This wash is a mix of orange and brown tones. Most of the flesh washes that I've tried use red rather than orange for shading. I'm not sure what effect that it would have or how it might throw things off for me. I suspect that the difference might be too subtle to notice.

Acrylic Wash - Baby Poop - W008
I'll fully admit that I got this one because I was amused by the name. It's mostly green and brown with a hint of red. Speaking from experience, real baby poop does contain these colors, but also has a strong yellow tone. Let's attribute the difference to "artistic license" and all that. I'm pretty sure that it is intended for a certain sci-fi wargame army with a green color scheme and featuring themes of physical illness, decay, and warm hugs. I'm thinking that this wash would work well for shading zombies, aliens and alien technology based on the works of H.R. Giger, swamp creatures, and adding to a corroded appearance on a metallic surface.

Acrylic Wash - Dark Sepia - W010
I've been looking around for a burnt sepia wash since my gradual return to tabletop gaming awhile back. Back in the day, my go to was Games Workshop's Gryphonne Sepia. It was handy for shading flesh tones, cloth, and gold metallic surfaces. Unfortunately, that product is long out of production. This purchase is the latest step in finding a "close enough" substitute.

Weathering Pigment - Rust Red - WP1013
I don't have any experience with weathering powders except that they seem pretty expensive for the amount that's in the container. Given this product's sale price, I decided that it was a good way to start experimenting. The strong red color took me by surprise - I was expecting something with more brown mixed in.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Star Trek Adventures - Felicity Cooke Wrestling With Moral Issues

This post returns to our computer specialist example character by examining what makes her tick. A character's Values, Talents, and Focuses reveal a great deal about that character and how they approach problems. We'll also take a look at a mechanic similar to Values, but one that effects all of the player characters - Directives.


Two things that players should keep in mind when creating Values for a character:

Values describe a character's passions and drives. This goes beyond things that are useful to understanding how to roleplay a character. Values are a character's most important motivations - the things that will override other considerations for that character. To use a canonical example, Kira Neyes' dislike and distrust of Cardassians is on display during many episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. However, it is not a Value listed on her character sheet and it shouldn't be. There are things that matter more to her, things that she cares more deeply about - advancing the cause of Bajor and the Bajoran people. In fact, the Bajoran cause takes up two of her four Values. The other two relate to the high standards she sets for herself. Her issues with Cardassians pale in comparison to these other aspects.

Values should apply to a variety of situations. Applying a Value allows a player character to spend a point of Determination. The bonuses that Determination can offer are significant, so having Values that kick in at a critical moment could turn the tide. Returning to the example of Kira Neyes, the high standards represented by her Values come up whenever things turn dire. These Values describe her approach to resolving a crisis. Given how many situations in a given episode of Star Trek can be described as a crisis, such Values come up pretty often. Her Values relating to Bajor also apply often. Bajor and issues relating to it remain significant throughout Deep Space Nine's run.

Gamemasters should carefully note the Values that players create for their characters. These are clear indicators of what themes and aspects of their characters that players wish to explore. They also show which parts of the Star Trek setting that they want their characters to interact with.

Mechanically, if a character has a Value that applies to a Task, then they can spend a point of Determination on that Task. That point of Determination can be used for a hefty bonus, to re-roll all of the dice, immediately perform another Task, or create an Advantage (a broadly applicable bonus) for the current scene. Another effect of Values can be used by the Gamemaster - when a character sticking to their guns regarding a Value would make the situation worse, the Gamemaster can offer the player a point of Determination at the price of a Complication. Finally, a Value can be challenged. If a Value would be detrimental to a Task or the situation, it can be crossed out in exchange for a point of Determination. That Value cannot be used again for that mission and, once the mission is over, the player may alter or replace that Value to represent the change in the character's beliefs.

Let's take a look at Felicity's Values and how they might be used in play:

"Nothing Can't Be Fixed"
This reflects her upbringing on a remote colony and the need to make do with what was on hand. It can be invoked anytime Felicity really needs the bonus from a point of Determination to fix something. On the other hand, Felicity's conviction that she can fix anything could be used against her.

"Call It Like I See It"
This is a commitment to honestly stating the truth above other factors, such as the authority that the other party carries. It can be used when Felicity is trying to persuade someone using the facts of the matter. Of course, she might be tempted to confront someone with facts that they would prefer to ignore - the Gamemaster could offer her player a point of Determination to have Felicity do just that. The resulting Complication may involve angering the other party.

"Something to Prove"
Felicity has a chip on her shoulder. This can be invoked when she needs to dig deep, accomplish something critical, and spend that point of Determination. However, that chip on her shoulder could provoke her into doing something unwise.

"Some Rules Can Be Bent, Other Broken"
Did I mention Felicity's issues with authority and the chip on her shoulder? Starfleet regulations, treaty stipulations, Federation law, and other rules are often treated as open to interpretation in Star Trek. Felicity is just a little more prone to using a broad understanding of such things than her fellow officers. On the other hand, ignoring inconvenient rules and taking the easier path can be enticing - even the Complication of getting caught could be worth a point of Determination.


These reflect some knack that allows a character to perform a feat over and above what most could accomplish. Like Values, Talents express something about the character. Here are how the ones I selected for Felicity may apply during play:

This is a boring, but practical option for Human characters with a bit of gumption. Resolute gives Felicity a bonus to her maximum Stress. This is obviously a benefit, but the implementation is static. The player is unlikely to put much thought into it after picking it and adding the bonus during character generation.

Computer Expertise
This was available to Felicity because her Science was high enough at that point during character generation. It provides a bonus d20 whenever Felicity attempts a computer-related Task. An obvious choice given that she was a computer specialist at a young age.

Technical Expertise
Allows a re-roll of one d20 whenever Felicity is attempting a Task assisted by the ship's Computers or Sensors. This Talent is really handy when she is sitting at her post on the bridge. It is balanced by the fact that it doesn't apply anywhere else. This represents how Starfleet training deepened her affinity with computers.

Bold: Engineering
The Bold Talent is for characters who don't mind taking chances. It allows a re-roll of one d20 whenever Felicity is attempting a Task using the Engineering Discipline and if her player buys one or more d20s by adding to Threat. This Talent has better utility than Technical Expertise. Of course, it is balanced by the need to add to the Threat pool to use it.


These represent a character's knowledge or experience in a specialized field. When a Focus applies to a Task, each die that rolls equal to or less than the Discipline used for that Task scores two successes rather than just one. This could potentially score multiple additional successes.

Central to the character concept and Felicity's early life.

A specialty with a fair degree of utility in the 24th century considering all of the robots, androids, and Borg running around. An extension of her interest in computers.

Electro-Plasma Power Systems
Simply putting "Power Systems" might have been a more flexible choice, but this was what it was called in the core rulebook. A reflection of her early days keeping her colony's infrastructure running.

Representing the early influence of Starfleet Intelligence in Felicity's career. They offered her training during her Academy days and her first assignments were Starfleet Intelligence operations. It applies in various ways - tradecraft, being informed about foreign organizations, encryption, etc.

Required of her during her time with Starfleet Intelligence. She knows how to keep her cards close to her chest when she needs to.

Ironically this was not something that she excelled at during her tenure with Starfleet Intelligence. She developed this skillset during a First Contact mission after leaving wet work behind her.


These are Values set by the Gamemaster and are specific to the mission at hand. Directives express the orders of Starfleet Command, the goals of the mission, or the how the Federation would prefer the player characters to handle the situation. They function the same as Values mechanically - if a Directive can be applied to a Task, then the player character can spend a point of Determination. Directives can be the source of Complications since they can force the player characters to act in specific ways. A Directive can even be challenged like a Value to gain a point of Determination, but there might be consequences for an officer who defies orders.

Directives help focus the players on the mission. Initially, I overlooked the impact of Directives when running the game. Directives inform the players what is important to the Federation and Starfleet. They offer a firm direction if the situation seems uncertain.

There is a Directive that is in play in all but the most unusual of circumstances - Starfleet General Order One, the Prime Directive. The Command Division supplement has a section on the Prime Directive. It seems to recommend a broad interpretation with the understanding that many exceptions exist within Star Trek canon. The main dramatic function of the Prime Directive in the various Star Trek series seems to be to frame a philosophical debate scene as the characters mull over the morals and ethics of the situation. And then they end up doing whatever the plot demands they do anyway. In the couple of sessions that it's come up so far, I was prepared to be flexible about whatever interpretation of the Prime Directive that the players ended up following.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Haul, Part One

The short sales season immediately before and following the Day of the Turkey here in the United States has come and gone. The idea behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday is for stores to take advantage of the time off and need to do Christmas shopping that many folks have after Thanksgiving. Then there are people like me who like to take advantage of the deals to do a little shopping for themselves at the same time.

The better looking X-1 Viper Droid miniature of the two I bought. I can't decide if it reminds me more of a beetle or armadillo.

From Modiphius Entertainment

Star Trek Adventures: Voyager Player Characters - PDF

This Star Trek Adventures product was introduced at a discount on Black Friday. It's a PDF with the official stats for USS Voyager and key crew members. The release version had some issues - the math for the character stats was off and the graphics looked pixelated. Modiphius put out an updated version a few days later.

I'm not sure if I would have picked this up if it wasn't available at a reduced cost. The stats are handy for comparison when making characters, but I already own The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine character PDFs for that purpose. And Star Trek Voyager is honestly not my favorite series from the franchise.

That said, the game rules for holographic and liberated Borg player characters may come in handy. Besides, I was curious about how they would stat out certain characters. Neelix has enough useful quirks to explain why Janeway would keep him around. And, as I've long suspected, Seven of Nine could arguably do Harry Kim's job as well as he could.

From Miniature Market

X-1 Viper Droids

From the Star Wars Miniatures game published by Wizards of the Coast from 2004 to 2010. I've been considering this purchase for awhile. These are inexpensive war machine models that fit a variety of scales from their intended 34mm to 28mm to 15mm. Even though they are from the Legends continuity (Dark Empire II), they are fairly obscure and shouldn't break immersion when put on the table for a non-Star Wars game. This versatility promises to be useful in the coming year, since I'm planning on dipping my toe back into sci-fi miniatures gaming.

One is in excellent condition. The other is scuffed and was stored in a way that pushed the left arm in. This isn't a huge issue, as I was planning on touching up the paint and weathering them anyway. Or I could just repaint them - a new color scheme would help conceal their Star Wars origins.

Close up of the scuff marks on the worse off of the X-1 Viper Droid miniatures. It looks to me like it was dropped at some point. A little paint should fix it up.

Star Trek Deep Cuts Unpainted Ships: Jem'Hadar Attack Ship

From Star Trek Attack Wing by Wizkids. I got these for menacing player characters and their Eaglemoss starship in Star Trek Adventures. These scarab-shaped ships made a strong first impression by blowing up the Galaxy-class USS Odyssey in the last episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine's second season ("The Jem'Hadar" DS9 episode 2x26) and continued to threaten the Federation and its allies throughout the rest of the show. The "Deep Cuts" in the name refer to the more pronounced detailing. It looks like these models will take a wash and highlighting well. The fact that these figures come pre-primed saves a step. I just need to do a little more research for a screen-accurate paint scheme.

Star Trek Deep Cuts Unpainted Ships: Cardassian Galor Class

Also from Star Trek Attack Wing by Wizkids. The Galor-class is the mainstay of the Cardassian fleet. Vaguely resembling an ankh from the top, these ships first appeared in Star Trek The Next Generation ("The Wounded" TNG episode 4x12) and even showed up on Star Trek Voyager, but most of their screen time was on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. These models are smaller than I expected, being way out of scale with the Jem'Hadar Attack Ship.

This is post one of two. I'm waiting for my last shipment to arrive. Then we'll see how many words I can type about paint.