Gaming Humor – D&D Fortune Cookies

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As I prep for our upcoming game session, I started thinking that someone out there should produce Dungeons and Dragons fortune cookies.  They would be a blast to have during a game session.  I’m sure someone will steal this idea for a Kickstarter.  With that in mind, here’s a list of suggested fortunes:

  • Today is a good day to reevaluate your alignment.
  • Fresh dice bring you new thrills.
  • You will confront Chaotic Stupid today.
  • Just because you don’t detect a trap, doesn’t mean there isn’t one there.
  • Never stand in front of a thief.
  • The one with the most treasure is the greater target.
  • Be cautious of the smiling NPC.
  • Your dice are conspiring against you.
  • The next dagger you experience will be in your back.
  • Beware NPC’s that seem too friendly.
  • Remember your character’s life may change with the next door you open.
  • Hit points do not replace common sense.  Proceed with caution.
  • “Rush him!” is not a tactical battle plan.
  • A virtuous damsel in distress may be neither.
  • Treasure without risk is no treasure.
  • Idle hands are usually in your pockets.
  • You are ten feet of rope short of what you will need.
  • Never trust the bar wench. The more beautiful, the more dangerous.
  • May all your hits be crits!
  • Your lucky number is 20.  Of course, that’s everyone’s lucky number.
  • Your DM is planning douchebaggery!
  • Your nagging feeling is taking the form of a saving throw.
  • Trust no bard.
  • Beware goblins bearing gifts.
  • By the time the dragon’s mouth opens – it is too late.
  • Liches Lie!
  • “Kill everyone!” is not a necessarily a strategy.
  • One of your dice are about to betray you.
  • Your hired help may have more than one employer.
  • It could always be a mimic.
  • To the undead, you are merely a recruitment opportunity.
  • Your plan makes as much sense as charging a gelatinous cube
  • Trust no thief that spends time away from the party.
  • Just because you own a flask of oil doesn’t mean you should burn the tavern down.
  • Always leave yourself a way out.
  • Carry only the treasure of real value.  A copper ingot is unworthy as treasure.
  • The loudest voice in the party is not always the one that is right.
  • The more virtuous the paladin, the more irritating the paladin.
  • There are no cuddly Drow.
  • True wizards never have to read up on the spell they are casting.
  • Water depth is important and needs to be inversely proportional to the weight of your armor.
  • Do not tempt fate by purchasing a new mini for your character.
  • When the DM checks for encumbrance, you are doomed.
  • What appears safe and innocent is the opposite.  Use caution!
  • Beware long flavor text!
  • Sometimes it is better to kill the horse than try and target the rider.
  • Burning the village is not often required, but is quite often fun.
  • Specially painted miniatures mean death stalks the party!
  • The true heroic character is defined by those he vanquishes.
  • Spectacular heroics invite spectacular (often lethal) responses.
  • There’s never a healer around when you need one.
  • Leave no body un-looted.
  • Insulting a dwarf rarely ends well.
  • There’s never a ranger around when you need one.
  • Just because you didn’t hear anything on the other side of the door does not mean it is safe.
  • It’s formation, formation, formation…
  • Your last thought will be, “I am going to melt that die!”
  • You cannot disbelieve yourself to safety.
  • Not everyone is worthy of raising from the dead.
  • Friendly halflings usually aren’t.
  • Everyone whines about needing healing – take care of yourself first.
  • You are out of spell components – pray that the DM doesn’t notice.
  • Summoning a demon rarely solves a problem but can create two new ones.
  • If it looks like a cult, and kills like a cult, it is a cult.
  • Did it ever occur to you that map you bought may be inaccurate?
  • If your fate is dependent on a nearly impossible die roll, then don’t do it.
  • There’s a difference between immunity and resistant.
  • Left is right, right is wrong, when choosing a path in a dungeon.
  • A dragon’s value is the sum of its harvested organs.
  • Never fight a vampire in the dark.
  • Listen to your dice – you are not that lucky.
  • If you could see behind the DM’s shield, you would not sleep at night.
  • The DM’s smile does not bode well for you.
  • Runes explode.  Write it down.
  • Not all pits are created equal.
  • Make sure there are no survivors.
  • Caution is slow and often in the difference between life and death.
  • Unleashing a fireball from the rear of the party is one way of thinning your party.
  • Beware bards who play bagpipes – always.
  • Dungeons are built for a reason.
  • If it appears soft, cuddly, cute and harmless – kill it quickly.
  • Not all princesses are worth rescuing.
  • While you are sure you have one more charge in that wand, the fates are not.
  • Remember – cursed items also are magical.
  • Death awaits you around the next corner.
  • The more complicated the plan, the hungrier the dragon.
  • Every now and then you need to inventory what is in your possession.
  • Distractions are the number three cause of death in any encounter.
  • A member of your party is planning something stupid.  You know who…
  • Your gut says charge but the math says retreat.
  • Loaded dice are a thing.
  • Be thankful there are not food spoilage charts.  That stuff in your haversack reeks.
  • The more complicated the puzzle, the more deadly the results.
  • The idea may sound clever, but check his Wisdom to be sure.
  • Just because the label says “healing” doesn’t mean you should trust it.
  • Death stalks those about the level up.
  • Rust monsters were created so the DM could strip you of armor class…no other reason.
  • If you didn’t fight for it, it has no real value.
  • Arson, looting, pillaging, serial killing, wanton destruction…yet you call yourself heroes.
  • There are always secret rooms in a temple.
  • The DM knows you fudged your Intelligence roll.
  • Be the hero you always wanted to be…not what the idiot sitting next to you wants.
  • Your DM is using loaded dice.
  • Rule #5  Never let the dumbest person in your party plan the battle.
  • The loyalty of hirelings is subject to the dangers you make them face.
  • You are one die roll away from a critical miss.
  • Your excitement says “Yes, yes, yes!” but the math says, “Run the fuck away!”
  • If you think the monsters are bad, you should know what your fellow players have in store for you.
  • Everything wandering is out to kill you.  Strike fast and true.
  • There are no experience points in real life.  That’s why we play the game.
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Forever Faithful is Released – Spoilers Follow

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No one has commented on the artist’s hidden message yet.  Look at the ‘Mech in the lower right corner.  Gotta love Easter Eggs…

Smell that?  That is the smell of new BattleTech fiction.  Ah…

One thing I wanted to capture with this book was that sense we all had when new BattleTech fiction came out years ago.  It is that sense of excitement, those gasps at some of the things in the book when they are revealed, that tension we all had as readers back in the day.  I wanted to be 20 or 30 again and feel that awesomeness as I learned more about this shared universe we all are a part of.  Yes, even as writers, we thrilled when other authors put out new books.

From what I am seeing on social media, the fans are getting those sensations.  Freaking sweet!

Going back to characters from Exodus Road was risky.  We have had a lot of characters killed in BattleTech to only see them return.  I knew that would be a challenge, but I also knew it was going to be worth it.  We had to see the story arcs of these characters go to full fruition.  The crushing defeat of the Smoke Jaguars left so many unanswered questions, I knew I had fertile ground to work with.  For the record we never saw Trent’ death on screen, only word that he had died.  That was true – he died several times after the battle, revived each time.  The Nova Cats told the truth, but withheld the important parts because, well, they are Nova Cats.

And now it is out there, in the public.  There will be detractors, the troll community.  I don’t give a shit.  BattleTech is back!  You got boxed sets, new fiction, awesome new maps too.  If you want to whine about it, well go ahead.  The rest of us are going to have some fun instead. When was the last time that the community as a whole was devouring fiction?  It has been years.  Even with Betrayal of Ideals, it had already appeared in BattleCorps.  This was new and fresh and touched on characters and eras when we all were heavily engaged in BattleTech.

The things I liked the most is the interplay between Trent and Paul Moon as characters. These two characters have been at each other’s throats for years.  Having them be fighting together took a lot of character development work. Duty and honor trumps hatred in this case. They no longer have competing ideologies, but share something in common.  Their shared vision is what saves the Smoke Jaguars from extinction.

Inanna is important.  At one point (very early on) I wondered if I should make her a figment of Trent’s imagination – a fill-in for Judith. Then I realized I needed her to be much more.

The Second Star League is important as a character as well, though most people won’t see it that way.  It was cocky, “liberating” Huntress and essentially throwing it into chaos.  How many times have we seen nations win the wars and lose the peace?  If it feels like the Star League did not have a plan for what to do with Huntress after they won it is because they really didn’t.  How do you liberate a people that do not want liberation?  The parallels, even contemporary, are many and sad.

I also loved dinging the armor of Victor Steiner-Davion.  Like all humans, he is flawed.  Forcing him to face those flaws was fun.  Mistakes were made, but it took him decades to realize and acknowledge them.  Even then, he hit the delete key.  In that moment when he hits the delete key in the end is critical.  Ego and arrogance overpowers the truth for Victor, even though he knows that there will come a time of reckoning.

The little scenes make it for me.  Stealing the Remembrance from Master’s office – priceless.  The whole Smoke Jaguar exodus was fun and dark and neat.  Russou Howell was useful to be the alternative for the Jaguars.

There’s a lot to process in this novel, I will grant you that.  The biggest one is, “Where does this leave us?”   Well, the Smoke Jaguars are there, hidden in plain sight during the Dark Ages.  We knew that already – but there are several clues near the end of the book as to what is possibly coming next, if you can spot them.  (Evil laugh mode engaged – Mwah ha ha hah!)

For those of you that followed it, I tied in elements from Impetus of War (Wayside) and Exodus Road and Surrender Your Dreams.  That should be a hint all on its own.  I am a big fan of connecting the books in the BattleTech universe. To me, connecting the stories is part of what makes BattleTech cool.  In other words, go back and start re-reading some of the older fiction!

Next up is the Wolves Dragoons novella for me (no I don’t know when it will be released or if it will be in paperback — geez I’m just a hack writer.) There’s a lot crammed into a small package with that fiction too. I can’t share the title with you because that alone will stir passions and frothing hilarity.

So, there you have it.  The game is afoot.  I can’t wait until GenCon.  Bring your books to be signed and brace yourselves…something huge and exciting is about the happen.

Forever Faithful Is Available for Pre-Order

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Note:  I will brush with spoiler territory with this post – but not cross that line.  You proceed at your own peril.

Here is the original draft of the back cover text for Forever Faithful…

Presumed Dead…

Clan Smoke Jaguar was targeted by the Star League to be obliterated.  The other warring Clans turned their back on them, leaving them to die.  Everyone presumed they had been completely crushed…and that was their mistake!

Four Warriors are determined to save the remnants of the Jaguars if they don’t kill each other first.  One is the traitor that brought the enemy to their doorstep: one is the Smoke Jaguar who was tasked with rallying them and failed; one is a Nova Cat Warrior with a vision of their true role in history; and the other is from Clan Goliath Scorpion who wants to harvest their remnants as museum exhibits.  These four are on a collision course that stretches from Huntress to the Inner Sphere.  What the Smoke Jaguars become impacts The Republic of the Sphere and far beyond.  When it comes to the vision of Nicholas Kerensky, the Smoke Jaguars are Forever Faithful!

Note:  I can see why my editor, John Helfers, changed it. Still, parts of it ring very true to me.   

I just received word that Forever Faithful is finally available for pre-order. In fairness, this is not a great entry book to the BattleTech universe.  You need to know the events of the Twilight of the Clans series to really appreciate it.

I have to admit, there is a special place in the dark recesses of my mind for this book.

You see, it all began with Surrender Your Dreams.  When I was offered that novel, the parameters were pretty vague.  “Write 2-3 short stories about what was happening in the Republic after Fortress Republic went up.”  I am no fan of analogies and writing three short stories just seemed cheesy.  If you can pick one word to describe me it is, “Doesn’t follow rules well.” Get it? Moving on.  So I altered the format of the book, jumbling the chapters’ ala Pulp Fiction.  I also introduced something cool in the form of a new unit, the Fidelis.

The Fidelis were mysterious. I thought that the Republic needed something unique and enigmatic.  Their unit formations were seemingly un-Clanlike or Inner Sphere.  They were Special Forces, elite to the extreme.  They also made sure when one of them died that they left no usable DNA behind.  Clearly they wanted to hide their origins – but for the reader, it posed the question of “why?”  As it turned out, they had a LOT to hide.

From the get-go, I knew they were going to be the Smoke Jaguars. I had heard some alleged-powers-that-be claim they were dead and never coming back – which made it all the sweeter to try.  Randall said, “Write up how they came to be and let me look at it.”  I did.  A page or so of content.  Randall approved it and I knew I had something ultra-awesome for the book.

Revealing the Fidelis as the Smoke Jaguars was a blast.  It always nagged at me though.  I never told the Fidelis origin story, I simply introduced them with a hint of mystery as to how they got there.

The fans loved the reveal at the end of Surrender, igniting an internet-troll-war of full-bore-hemorrhaging-level six-nerdgasms as to whether they were “really” the Smoke Jaguars.  Some argued they were the Wolverines.  No.  Hell no. Then came the, “Well, they really aren’t Clan…so even if they are were Jags, they aren’t now.”  It amazes me to this day how passionate and ditzy the fan community can be – and how many of them know more about the Jaguars than I do (according to them.)  I bowed out of those online battles, because most trolls are douchebags and we all know it…begging for attention, even negative attention.  Besides, I knew their origins, I knew the truth. Heck, I created it. And the truth was awesome.

You can take the warrior out of a Clan but you can’t take the Clan out of the warrior.  Breeding will always dominate such a people.  Yes, they were the Fidelis, but if you assumed that they had shed (or fled) all of their heritage you would be mistaken. Readers saw the public face of the Fidelis in Surrender Your Dreams, not who they were in their hearts. New Earth holds many dark and twisted secrets…

When John Helfers asked what I wanted to write first as a new novel, I originally proposed an all-encompassing Jihad novel that would explain the entire Jihad from an insider’s point of view.  It was a neat idea, but frankly, I am no fan of the Jihad era.  Too many dead mercs killed in less-than-glorious manners.  John liked the Jihad idea but wanted another option…so I pulled out my original Fidelis document and thought, “Wow, this is a chance to fill in a neat piece of BattleTech history.”  Even after their military defeat on Huntress, I didn’t feel the Jags had really reached the bottom.  To do that, you had to have the Inner Sphere attempt to inflict their morals and values on them.  This book allowed me that opportunity.  Moreover, this book allowed me to set a few things right.

What things am I referring to?  Trent.  I didn’t like his demise in the Twilight of the Clans series; no offense to Mike Stackpole.  It felt out of character for Trent.  I raised the issue back in the day but nothing changed during the edit process. We spent a lot of time and effort to build up Trent and his death was an off-screen event that just felt empty.  I hated that.  Trent was never about revenge on the Smoke Jaguars.  His callsign was honor, which he felt his people had wandered away from.  Trent was what the Smoke Jaguars were meant to be, in my mind anyway.

Additionally, there were some stories that simply had to be told.  What happened on Huntress after the Star League victory?  Bits and pieces made it into sourcebooks, but no one said what happened with the remnants of the Smoke Jaguars after the faux-Star League departed.  What happens to a warrior people that are crushed?  What happens in a rigid caste society where the leading caste has been devastated?  Did the Star League win the war and lose the peace on Huntress? What became of all that was left of the Jaguars?

The novel gave me the opportunity to write about some other Clans as well, one in particular that never really got much air time in fiction – the Goliath Scorpions. There’s some Nova Cat stuff in here too, back when the Nova Cats were all mystical and exotic.  If that wasn’t enough, I also got to write about the Eridani Light Horse, which was special. Anytime you can write about such a storied unit, it is fun.

But in the end, this is the story of powerful characters and the change they have to go through.  It is the story of what Victor Steiner-Davion put into motion with the destruction of the Smoke Jaguars – and how that spiraled out of his control decades later.  I got a chance to introduce new characters and rekindle some fascinating old ones from a bygone BattleTech era.

I was allowed to determine what went on the cover which is a change under the new regime that is welcome.  I knew the battle intimately and the artist did a stunning job of capturing it, right down to the lightning.  I think it pops and sizzles.  Moreover, notice that the Timber Wolf is standing on a crushed Goliath Scorpion ‘Mech? Pretty awesome eh?

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The full blown art cover…which is awesome! 

This is a book about characters who are suddenly faced with the realization that everything they lived their lives for has changed.  What they thought were their goals has been crushed.  They must redefine themselves and their relationships to each other.

This book does not necessarily stand alone. Wink, wink.  In fact, you may want to dust off other Classic BattleTech novels I have written to help you. If you think this story is over by the end or with the events in Surrender Your Dreams, you are delusional or on drugs.  I was given a broad tapestry to work with and took full advantage of it.  This story does not necessarily end with this novel. Even my evil plans have their own evil plans. Those of you that know me well know all of this stuff is stitched together into a pretty intriguing tapestry.

This was my first novel where I incorporated some fans into the fiction as well.  Seyla y’all!

There are some killer scenes in this novel (pun intended).  Without spoiling them, I will relay this funny story.  During the edits, one editor wrote, “I wish he’s just punch Victor in the face!”  That was when I knew I had written that scene right. Let’s face it, we ALL have thought about punching Victor at one time or another.  The final scene with Trent is a very critical one as well.

Sidebar:  At GenCon last year they inadvertently showed the cover of the novel on another book. I have to admit, I was surprised by that.  Still, they didn’t show ALL of it…so the reveal is still pretty awesome.

To those defiant souls that think the Fidelis are not the Smoke Jaguars at their core – well, you couldn’t be more wrong.  And in a few months’ time, I will prove it to you. Detractors, prepare yourselves for battle and to suffer the agony of defeat.  (Engage Evil Laugh Mode for five seconds)

In the meantime, I encourage you guys to order the novel and get ready for a bumpy ride. This is not your daddy’s Jihad, this is Clan BattleTech action – where honor and pride matter. This is about Jaguars old and new, mystical Nova Cats, driven Goliath Scorpions, (“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”)  Dust off your Twilight of the Clans series…because this starts where that ends.

Additionally, if you want more BattleTech fiction to be published, you have to order the books – it really is that simple. Catalyst is watching the novel sales carefully.  Yes, there is a hardcopy of the book that will be available around the release date from Amazon.

Ebook Ordering Link

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 31 – The Battle of the Horns of Essex

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Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. Parts 1-19 charted the first part of the campaign, part 20 began the next phase of the saga: Tempora. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Brandon…

We were exhausted and victorious and in constant danger.  We awoke, still stinging from the fight. We pulled opened the massive Stoneoak doors of the chamber to begin our journey out of Tempora.  Our new comrades, the paladins we had saved, looked far worse than we did.  I can only imagine the nightmares they had endured as prisoners of Victor Barristen – hellspawn, former paladin, master of the undead.

It was my superior tracking skills that enabled us to survive and escape.  I looked for the tracks of the paladins that had brought into this chamber.  I suspect that my comrades did not fully appreciate the subtleties of tracking and the amount of skill required.  The musty air and the lack of good light made things even more challenging, but I proved up to the task.

We made our way room-by-room, hallway-by-hallway, trying to figure out where we were.  I came across one chamber that tore at my nostrils with the stench of death and rot. Althalus waved a hand and projected a bright light in the room for us to all see what was in there. Stacked like wood, were the shriveled corpses of more than a hundred paladins that had been Barristen’s victims.  Sir Bentblade entered the room and I saw the tears streak into his gray-white beard.  He knelt and prayed and for a few moments, we remained silent.  After the paladins said their prayers we sealed that room shut and moved on.

We trudged onward into the darkness – the musty and moldy smell filled the air.  Beyond a set of tarnished bronze doors we found a spiral staircase up.  We cautiously made our way up, fearing a sudden plummet downward. Climbing nearly 80 heads upward, the staircase ended in a door and a hallway beyond.

We continued on, my tracking skills backtracking the paladin’s footsteps that led them into this place.  Althalus complained, “I am not convinced we are still in Tempora.  She could have transported us anywhere.”  Theren disagreed.  There were twists and turns in the trail we followed, confusing and disorienting us.

In one chamber we found four coffins in a large chamber with some sort of statue in the middle.  My sword began to glow and Arius grabbed his hilt.  “I sense the presence of undead.”  The paladins in our party drew their blades as well.

“I have some oil,” offered Theren.  “We can soak the coffins and set them ablaze.”

“Does fire kill vampires?” asked Arius.

“Vampires?” I asked.

“I don’t know if they are vampires or not, but I do not wish burning undead attacking us as opposed to those not on fire,” he replied.

“Mummies would be worse,” Althalus said, not calming my nerves at all.

We opted to jam the door shut rather than risk their wrath. Returning to the trail, we found another chamber with a raised throne in the middle of it.  There was a thick old carpet laying between the raised seat and where we stood.  The shadows beyond the throne seemed to move, as if something was in there.  As we approached the room a hoard of zombies rushed out at us, their rotting flesh and putrid yellow eyes made me wet myself, if only just a little.

My glowing sword Nightstalker swung through the air, just missing one of the hideous creatures.  Our paladin comrades sprang at the undead as did the rest of our party, surging forward.  Arius blasted the arm off of one zombie, sending it hitting a wall and sliding down with a sickening thump.  I thrust Nightstalker again, driving the blade through the rib cage and its spine, making the undead even deader. Theren jabbed at one of the creatures, knocking out some teeth but doing little more.

Our silent monk, Dimitrious, punched one through the throat, destroying it with a blur of his fists.  Althalus unleashed an eldritch blast, which all but disintegrated one of the zombies. One of the creatures tried to flail at me but missed.  Sir Bentblade killed my attacker with one mighty sweep of his sword, sending rotting body parts spinning on the ancient white marble floor.

I sat on the throne, if nothing more than to see if it was magical in some way.  Behind a threadbare tapestry on the far wall, we found a hidden passageway and continued through it.  We snaked our way through several twisting and musty passages and eventually came to a chamber with a stone sarcophagus in the center of it.  We cleared enough of the dust on top to read that it was the tomb of the Dwarven Queen Silvistar.  The carved images on the lid showed her as she must have been in life, beautiful – no beard (I had always heard that their women had beards…imagine my surprise!)  The image shows her holding a massive war axe with runes carved in it.  One of the paladins in our party read it.  “The word for that is soul-thief or stealer…depending on the dialect.”

The lid showed signs of desecration, it was ajar on the top.  Her image showed chips from a blade hitting it and a crack was found in the dust as well.  I saw browning maroon blood splattered there as well.  I called out, “Althalus, what do you see?”

“From where I am standing, a lot of man-ass,” the warlock responded wryly.  He made his way through the line of paladins to join me.  I wanted it opened.  Along with Dimitrious, we pushed the lid off with a thud on the stone floor.  Inside was her rotting body – with signs that someone had looted her remains.  She must have been holding that axe at one point, but it was gone ages ago.  Out of respect, I put the lid back on, though I could feel the icy stares of Sir Bentblade on me.

We trekked on, finding one room that apparently had been used to prepare bodies for burial which made my skin crawl.  Arius’s mapping was enough to give a sane man a nosebleed, it had so many twists and turns. We came to an iron door that was hard to open.  We came to a large domed room, the murals on the ceiling showed the burial processions of dwarves – many apparently royal by what they wore. In the center of the room, on a wide pillar, were two bat-like statues, massive – eight heads tall with stone carved wings and nasty talons.  Their pointy ears made them look demonic.

There were rune on the pillar which our paladin comrade translated for us. “Hmm,” he muttered.  “Interesting.  Bow thy heads in honor.”

“That’s it?” Theren asked.

“That is all,” the paladin said.

“Those are gargoyles,” Althalus said.  “They may look like statues, but they can move and kill.”

Althalus and Dimitrious stood before the creatures and bowed deeply.

“You’re following random Dwarven instructions?”

“In lieu of anything else,” the warlock replied, “yes.”  Dimitrious silently nodded in agreement.

Arius did not bow as he passed and suddenly both of the gargoyles came to life, moving on our brother the paladin.  I was stunned with the speed they demonstrated.

“I warned you!” Althalus chided as we all drew our weapons.

One savagely bit Arius and tore at him with his razor sharp claws.  Blood sprayed in the air and Arius staggered back a half-step, gore flowing over his armor.  My arrow went wild almost hitting one of the paladins who deflected it with a speed that surprised me. “Sorry…” I said pulling another arrow from my quiver.

Swords rang out on the stoneskin of the gargoyles and their gray blood splattered the floor tiles and on our party.  Bentblade took a savage cut from the creatures, and the older paladin dropped at Arius’s feet.  Our paladin comrade’s blade lit up with magical flames and he jabbed deep into the hide of one of the gargoyles.

I felt a surge of heart and focus – clearly a magical blessing from one of the paladins.  One of the gargoyles tore into Sir Harold the Quick, biting him in the forearm, then ripping his chest with a claw.  One of the paladins swung Skullringer, Bor’s warhammer.  He struck one of gargoyle’s square in its chest and unleashing a thunderous smite in the process.  The creature was thrown backwards to the far end of the chamber, hitting the wall so hard it made a thudding sound.  Bentblade slashed at it mid-flight, cutting it deeply and sending gray blood in the air.

Harold the Quick did not live up to his name, getting bitten again by the other gargoyle.  Dimitrious unleashed a flurry of fist strikes to protect the paladin, each one cracking the stoneskin of the creature.  The monk’s hands were bloodied from the assault, but he had done more damage than he had taken.

Theren swung his shillelagh at the creature thrown against the wall, leaving a furrow in its cheek from the hit.  I dropped my bow and drew Nightstalker and Bonebreaker, spinning the morningstar furiously as I moved into position for an attack.  Dimitrious chopped at the creature and threw it hard to the floor.  Arius jumped and impaled his blade into the closest of the beasts, killing the statue-like creature.  The other gargoyle suddenly sprang at me, biting me on my upper right arm.  I managed to stagger back, blood everywhere around me.  Everything went dark and I collapsed to the floor.  I barely felt the tile slap me in the face as I dropped.  No!  It cannot end like this!

I came to in a cold sweat with my friends hovering over me.  “Did we win?”  Althalus shrugged.  “We did.” They helped me to my feet but I was dizzy from my brush with death.  I looked around and saw we were still, for the most part, alive – battered, but alive. I ached and felt bruises that I did not know I owned, but I was back from the eternal darkness.

“You guys should have bowed,” the warlock said wryly.  Given the blood soaking my jerkin, it was hard to argue that he was right.  If nothing else, Althalus was all about reading and following directions.

We left that chamber and the warlock stumbled into a poison dart trap, one that Arius incapacitated, paralyzed.  The darts came from dozens of little holes on the floor, ceiling, and walls.  We hadn’t noticed the tiny holes until we were deeply into the middle of the trap.

Our solution was for Theren to transform into giant spider and to ferry us over the trap triggers on the floor.  It took long tedious minutes, but worked well – though the paladins with us sneered at the spider.  The church was against the use of magic that they did not govern or mandate, and they had waged an inquisition against the druids.  Necessity forced their compliance with our bypass, but I feared there would be retribution at some point in the future.

Lumbering on, my superior tracking skills led us to a staircase up.  When we reached the top, I took a sigh of relief…this is where we had been attacked by Cyrilla Drex!  When we were here last she had teleported us into the sword.  We knew our way from this point.  At the far end of the room was the Well of Fates that had showed us our futures.  As we passed the pool, I swear I saw Bor’s face there, in agony and torment.  Sir Bentblade glanced at the pool then to us.  “It is okay, we have been here before.  We know our way out from here,” I assured him.

I thought we would have an easy going, but we encountered a mummy several hallways further – coming in behind us.  Theren, still a giant spider, webbed the mummy.  He tore through the web, but it was enough to slow him further.

Dispatching the shambling undead proved easier than I would have thought – though the narrow hallway proved challenging for our rather large party.  My weapons illuminated the passage and I used Bonebreaker to shred off a layer of the mummy’s wrapping.  Another swipe tore off the bandaged arm of the monstrosity and sent it spinning down the hallway – causing it to groan in a voice that chilled me.  The shambling creature did not stand a chance against all of us though.  Dimitrious drove his fist into its chest cavity, permanently killing it.  Its mouth opened and bellowed a foul cloud of death-dust on us, the stench of it hung on my clothing for hours afterwards.

We made our way backtracking our journey into Tempora.  It was strange visiting so many places where we had fought and bled.  I was most nervous in the ruins of Tempora itself, where I could hear those teleporting spiders clicking above us.  They did not attack, no doubt because of the size of our party.

We travelled the long underground roadway back out to the Vale of White. We remembered to disable the bones in the vale, and trudged out into a cold rain.  Sadly, we came across the carcasses of our horses that we had left tied up outside the vale. Oversight on our part, we had left them tied up.

Even the light of a stormy day felt good on my skin.  We had been underground for long and perilous days.  Now we simply had to deliver the paladins back to the Order of the Fang and maybe, just maybe, they could free the paladins trapped in Drex’s massive sword.  We camped that first night, then set off down the old road back to the lowlands.  Our sense of day and night had been lost in Tempora.

The next night stopped at the Horns of Essex to camp and retain our bearing and strength.  Here the massive horns of a long-dead creature jutted upward to the gray skies. I remember it being spoken of as a place of great magic.  The giant stony horns were eerie, but marked our passage downward out of the wilderness.

It was in the middle of the night that Althalus woke me and the others.  Something was amiss – he had heard something in the brush.  He called out to the bushes, “Who goes there?”  Motion stirred in another location.  “We know you are out there, show yourself!”  The warlock was bold, if nothing else.

Dimitrious quickly lit a torch and tossed it into the brush.  Suddenly, three packs of rats burst out at us.  They were a trio of swarms, a mass of vermin, all coming at us.  Behind us, Hell Hounds burst out of the foliage, their glowing jowls lighting up our camp.  They snarled and growled as they closed on us.

Arius waved his hands and chanted – blessing some of our party. I could feel the surge of holy power pulse through my veins.  One of the hounds tore into Biff the Bold, one of the paladins, its fangs clamping onto his arm and tore at his flesh.  Fire burst out from the wounds and the paladin dropped to the ground unconscious.  Another lunged at Theren who was injured by its claws. Another tore into Sir Biff, ripping off a leg and tossing it into the brush.  There would be no healing that could bring this holy warrior back from where his soul went.

Sir Rippen, a rather unremarkable paladin, missed a Hell Hound entirely, planting his blade in the soft ground.  Arius used Skullringer on a rat swarm, sending bits and pieces of dead rats spraying into the air – his thunderous smite splattering many.  Blood dripped from Skullringer as the hoard of rats reeled under the assault.

I notched an arrow and planted it in the hide of a Hell Hound.  It ignored it entirely, which I was satisfied with.  This was not a time to draw a great deal of attention.  Althalus fired an emerald burst of power into the same hound.  The searing smoke hole in its hide only seemed to make it angrier – if that was possible.

Theren stabbed at one of the hellspawn creatures, planting his blade deep.  Black-red blood spurted out and the creature growled in pain and anger.  The paladins joined the fray, their weapons flailing in the night, slashing at the Hell Hounds.  Dimitrious bludgeoned on of the hounds, hitting him hard.

One swarm of rats tore into Sir Harold the Quick, crawling over him, seeking any exposed flesh.

A boiling green cloud emerged in the middle of our ranks near Arius and Viktor Barristen appeared, his skeletal face with horned helmet striking fear in me.  I will not lie, I wet myself just a little at the sight of him rising on a cloud of mist.

“We are doomed!” Althalus called out.  I had to agree.  Arius swung Skullringer at him, capped with his holy smite, hitting the quasi-lich anti-paladin.  The skull grinned in response.  “I have come for that sword…” he hissed.  Arius alone was horribly and hilariously outmatched.

My next arrow planted itself in the black fur hide of the Hell Hound I had hit earlier.

Harold the Quick flailed about with his pack of rats, sending rats scurrying as he snapped the necks of two of them with his hands.

Theren, morphing into bear form, tore into a Hell Hound, clawing and biting viciously at the Hell Hound which responded in kind.  The smell of burning fur filled the air. I kept worrying about Barristen, but the Hell Hounds were more pressing.

One Hell Hound scotched a paladin warrior in evil flames, leaving him screaming, which did not help my calm. Another beast broke off with Theren and jumped him as well, savaging him into unconsciousness.

Barristen was what really worried me.  He swung his staff in front of him, pointing it at Arius.  A brilliant beam of azure energy hit our comrade and he dropped, paralyzed. The evil undead anti-paladin reached down to his backpack and grabbed the sword of Cyrilla Drex.  I swear I saw him grin evilly as he hefted the heavy blade.

The sword!  I cringed.  In his hands those imprisoned paladins faced a fate worse than death.  Before I could fully comprehend the events, Althalus knocked one of the Hell Hounds back with a blast of eldritch power, allowing the paladins to pounce strike him.  Theren’s clawing attack tore off a piece of hide from one Hell Hound, sending it flying into our campsite.

Dimitrious tore into that creature, his fists thrashing the beast until it collapsed, its chest shattered.  The blue robed monk grabbed the fire gland of the beast and ripped it from its chest and tossed the black-bloody organ to the ground as the creature dropped.

I spun on Barristen, just in time to see him turn into a cloud of greenish smoke and disappeared into the night…taking the sword with him.  I spun on one of the Hell Hounds and fired another arrow, hitting it true.  We circled the remaining Hell Hounds and in a flurry of sword blows and magic blasts, we slashed at them.  I proudly delivered the killing blow on the last of the creatures, earning honor and respect of my comrades.

Suddenly things went very quiet, except for my ragged breathing.  We had won the fight, but in losing that sword, we may have lost on a larger scale. As Arius regained his control and rose we all looked at each other in a mix of victory and concern.

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

From My BattleTech Archives – The Planning Documents For Twilight of the Clans (Part II)

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If you haven’t read my first blog post Part I, on this subject, check it out.

In this final part, we see a massive space battle over Huntress and the arrival of Paul Moon’s Smoke Jaguar relief force, though at this stage of development, no one knew it would be Paul Moon.  As you can see, we didn’t map out the details for the fighting for Huntress, only that it was savage and brutal.  I never agreed with the concept that we would kill every warrior, that seemed unrealistic, and ultimately we did not.

On page 8 you can see my original question mark around Katherine seizing control of the Federated Commonwealth via effective public relations.  Talk about fake news!  Again, BattleTech was ahead of the curve by decades.  I always thought that whole explanation needed a lot more meat behind it.  I find it hard to believe that popularity polls would force a ruler to turn over power.  Then again, when you look at the years when this was written, the power of polls was just starting to emerge.

One thing we never fully covered was who killed Morgan.  Of course, as you saw in Part I, it was supposed to have been Focht that was assassinated. We never really bonded with Morgan as a character enough to care that he had died, at least that is my opinion.  It still remains a mystery as to who killed the Davion Lion.

In the list of units you will see Team Banzai…which was a treat.  I don’t recall us actually using them though.  It was around then that we stopped referecing them in material.

There were a lot of plotlines left open, including Thomas Marik’s fate/identity.  Boy did that get some legs and run over the years!

For me, this was great to dig out and post.  One, it shows you the behind the scenes structuring we went through.  We have been living with the results of this document and the novels that came out of it for decades.  Each author had discretion to interpret the document.  We didn’t have a clean canvas, but it was not a paint-by-numbers print either.

Two, we have been going through a similar exercise for the last year and a half to plan/plot/machinate the next new era of BattleTech.  For old farts like me, it is a real treat to still be doing this after all of this time.  With the Twilight of the Clans we set in motion a series of events that will start to come to closure in the coming few months.  Talk about a long journey!  If I am fortunate, in another 10 years, I will be posting the documents of what we have just completed planning.  Who knows?

In the meantime – here’s a glimpse into the history of BattleTech!

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 30

 

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Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. Parts 1-19 charted the first part of the campaign, part 20 began the next phase of the saga: Tempora. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Theren…

As Barristen turned into a green gas and slid through a crack in the ceiling, the possessed paladins that had been trying to kill us suddenly stopped, looking around the room dazed and confused.  The air stung of our sweat and the same aroma as when lightning strikes.  It was easy to understand the confusion of the men we had just saved – I was still in the form of a bear and there was blood everywhere.

“The battle is over,” Althalus managed in amazement.  “We won!”

I transformed back into my human form and we began to try and reassure the stunned paladins we had just rescued.  “It is okay – we are friends.”  It took some convincing since we were covered mostly in their blood.  The image of the dead Cyrilla Drex helped more than our mere words.  We told them to take the magical collars off that possessed them, which they did.

“Where are we?”

We tried to explain to them in ragged breaths as our tempers eased…they were prisoners of Victor Barristen and Cyrilla Drex, and that we had come to try and rescue them. As I and Arius spoke, Brandon went over to Drex and began to check her body.  He produced an amulet from around her withered neck.  Her large wormwood staff was there and taken as well as golden ring from her gnarled finger.  “I like this staff,” the ranger said.

“I can possibly use its magical capabilities,” I countered.  “For you it would be nothing more than a walking stick.”  He handed it over as Arius wrestled with the sword.  “This weighs far more than it should,” the paladin said with a grunt.  “I cannot wield this,” he said.  “There is clearly some magic at play here.”

The oldest of the paladins we freed bent his knee and began to pray.  The others knelt as well around him, all praying.  Althalus backed up at their holy gesture…no doubt it was the devil’s skull in his backpack guiding his actions…that and the warlock did not want to be exposed to holy warriors.  The church took a grim, neigh deadly view of those of us that used magic outside of their control.

The elder paladin of the group rose to his feet and stood before us.  “Who is in charge here?  I am Sir Theris Bentblade of the Order of the Fang.  Who are you?”

Arius stepped forward.  “I am Sir Arius the Seeker,” he said proudly.  “I am from the Priory of St. Julius.”

“You saved our lives,” he said making eye contact with each of us.  “Thank you for what you did.”

“It is what we came to do.” our paladin asked.

“The rest of your men are in that sword,” Althalus said, nodding to the massive blade now strapped onto Arius’s back.

The paladins stepped forward and shook our hands.  “We were held by them, with magic we cannot comprehend.  It is blurry in my mind.  She would come for us, and Barristen would drain our life force from my men,” Bentblade said, stroking his long gray beard.  “One by one I watched them die, turned into the husks you see there,” he gestured to the pile of shriveled corpses.

Bentblade continued.  “We could not resist him.  He made us watch them die.  Each one made him more corporeal, more real.  I do not know how much time as passed.  He kept me alive to torment me, to make me watch the men in my command die horribly – one at a time.  Where are the others?”

“Trapped in this sword,” Arius replied.

“They are trapped inside the gem of that sword,” Althalus added.

“In the gem?” Bentblade asked.

“It contains a plane of existence,” Althalus responded.

“There is more,” I added.  “There is a Priory there – the one from the Sisterhood of the Sword.  It is there as well.”

“Do you know how to get them out?” Sir Bentblade asked.

“We’re working on it,” I replied.  “We just got the sword from Drex.  We don’t want to rush through this and possibly injure or kill those imprisoned there.”

Althalus spoke up.  “I regrettably must admit that the church may have more knowledge of this than we do.”

Bentblade shook his head. “I disagree.  The church may not know of these events. I led my men to track down the Sisterhood of the Sword and the Priory of the Blade.  We killed many of their order that day on orders of the church, but we never found the priory itself.  It was gone, vanished.  Only they know how their swords work and how to wield them.”

“How does Victor Barristen figure into all of this?” Arius asked.

“Drex summoned him from beyond the grave.  She seeks revenge for what the church did to her once-holy order.

“We set their plans back by killing her,” Althalus said.

Bentblade eyed the warlock carefully.  “Indeed you have, but Barristen is now on our plane of existence again and walking the lands.  That is a grave thing indeed.  He has his own designs against the church and will not rest until he has his revenge.  The souls of my men gave him power…he will want more.”

“He’s a coward,” Brandon added.  “He fled rather than fight us to the end.”

“He is no slacker,” Bentblade countered.  “Barristen is cunning and dangerous.  He will not rest until he takes the church down, stone-by-stone, soul-by-soul.  It would be unwise to underestimate him.”

“We won’t,” I said.  “But there is a bit of a challenge.  We do not know where we are.  We teleported here.  I assume we are somewhere in Tempora still, but that may not be the case.  Do you know for sure where we are or how to get out?”

Sir Bentblade shook his head.  “My mind…the memories are like those of a drunk, confused and blurred.  They led us here, I remember that.  Details…they elude me.”  The other paladins nodded in agreement. “I too believe we are in Tempora.”

“Camp with us,” I offered.  “I can produce food for us.  Together we can find our way out of this place.”

Althalus gestured to the mound of the dead.  “I am not entirely comfortable with us camping near a pile of desecrated husks that could rise up and attack us.”

Bentblade raised his hand.  “My men and I will say a prayer over them and bless them.  They will not pose a threat to us.  Let the dead rest.”

Brandon produced the letter that had Lexa Lyoncroft had written that had brought him to us.  “This is from Lexa Lyoncroft.  She mentions you in it.”

Bentblade read the page.  “Doddering old fool?  She calls me that?”  He then tossed the letter back to the ranger.  “So you are working for Lexa Lyoncroft?”

“I was just paid to deliver a message,” he offered.  “I did that job but joined them to try and rescue you.”

Bentblade was clearly shaken by the letter.  For a long moment he said nothing.  When he did spoke it was not in anger but almost a sadness.  “I hate to admit it, but the only person that might be able to tell us about that sword and how to free my men is Lyoncroft.”

“We don’t know where she is?” Brandon said.  “Only where I saw her last.  She came to my home town and paid me to deliver this message.  That was weeks ago.”

“How did you get here?”

“Through the White Vale,” I said.

“We battled the bone dragons there,” Brandon said with a hint of pride.  “We crossed the White Vale, found the hidden gate, and journeyed far underground to reach Tempora.  We were sent by the men still with the Order of the Fang.  They kept watch and asked us to come and find you.”

“And you traveled into the mountains heart and saved us?”

“Of course,” I said.

The older Bentblade waved his hands over us and murmured as he closed his eyes.  “I offer you men our blessings then.”  When he finished he spied the round shield that Arius had.  “That shield, where did you get that?”

“We found it in one of the many rooms of this abandoned city,” our brother-paladin offered.

“That belongs to the same order as Lexa Lyoncroft and Cyrilla Drex – the Sisterhood of the Sword.  It is a holy artifact – that much I am sure.”

Arius looked proud that he had it.  “I will take care of it then.”

Brandon held out the silvered weapons now in his possession.  “What of these?”

Bentblade looked the pair of silvered weapons.  “I have seen etchings of these – they were owned by a Dwarven Lord of some merit if I remember.  Yes – Shevrus Salamar, that is his name.  The sword and flail go together – never to be separated.  Bonebreaker!  That is it.”

I bent over and pretending the pray, but cast detect magic in the room.  The last thing I needed was the paladins recognizing that I was using forbidden magic in their presence.  While we had saved them, they were still men of the church, bound by their laws rather than the laws of nature which guided me.  What I found was four voids of magic in the room, where the rugs were on the floor.  The rugs were magical, but not in the way I expected.  They were null magic, voids where arcane powers were nonexistent.  If I had run across these in bear form, I would have transformed back to my human shape.  Magic weapons would have been impotent when standing on these large rugs.  A cleaver ploy, one we had fortunately avoided.

I also sensed an aura of magic on Cyrilla Drex’s armor and the ring and amulet that had been recovered, along with her staff.  I whispered it to Brandon so as to not draw attention. He barely concealed his joy and took the time to remove the charred armor from her withered corpse.  He wanted to put the ring on but Althalus and I warned him against it. The warlock found a word on it that would trigger the ring, but warned against speaking it.  “I have no idea where you will go if you say that word when wearing it.”  Dejected, the ranger pocketed the ring making us all fell much safer.

Arius carefully checked the double doors out of the room to make sure there was nothing waiting to pounce on us from the other side.  We did not opt to leave, not without resting up.  The battle had taken a great deal out of us.

I was concerned. None of us, including our new party members, knew where we were exactly nor how to get out.  We presumed we were in Tempora, but there was a chance we were not.  Victor Barristen was still out there, somewhere.  And those slowly starving paladins that were trapped in the sword we now possessed had no way out.

I knew one thing, we could not remain here to solve any of these problems.

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

Review of Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles Game

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Battlestar Galactica brings the little screen to the tabletop

Santa (actually Ares Games) dropped off this little gem just prior to Christmas and I have to admit, I was pretty geeked.  I saw the prototype game at GenCon this year and was looking forward to kicking some toaster-ass. Ares Games has delivered with Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles.

I was worried this was going to be a reskin of Wings of Glory – it is not.  First off the designers have captured the essence of what was saw on the TV screen with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica.  When you play with the complete rules your ship must deal with kinetic energy and you can do those awesome maneuvers we saw, like rotating your ship while moving a different direction.  Fracking awesome!   This game does not portent to be a mathematically accurate simulation of space combat.  Instead it favors fun and playability, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

First off, you get two Vipers Mk II’s and two Cylon Raiders from the most recent TV series. Ares has committed that this will cover the old TV series as well, so I have to admit I am excited at that prospect.  The amount of stuff you get in the game is staggering – stands, pilot cards, maneuver cards, rulers, dice damage counters, talent cards, maneuver markers, asteroids, a scenario book and the plastic control panels (and more).  The control panels are neat – they allow you to track your speed, kinetic energy, and the rotation of your ship.

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The control panel

Like Wings of Glory (or Sails of Glory for that matter) you use cards to determine your maneuvers.  Firing is a matter of rolling dice to hit then drawing damage chips.  For the Quick Start Rules, this is about all you have to master – meaning you can unpack this game and be playing in, per my calculations, about 15 minutes.  The Quick Start Rules are enough to get you going but it is the Complete Rules that make this game purr.  Here you deal with kinetic energy you build up in your flight maneuvers and you also can rotate.  It took me a few test turns to fully get these rules down to where I understood them, but once I did I saw the brilliance of the design.  It turns this game from a simple fighter combat into a more complex tactical simulation – especially rotating.

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A steep banking curve maneuver card

The complete rules also change the damage your ship takes, using the damage counters.  It makes the games shorter when you start doing special damage to your enemies.   The Complete Rules makes movement more fluid, breaking it into multiple phases.  I found in my solo playtest that it shortened the game considerably.

The optional rules implement altitude changes, ala Ares Games peg elevation system, and introduces pilots and their talents.  So you can play Apollo right down to all of his skills.

The miniatures are exquisite and a little larger than I anticipated – a pleasant surprise.  I am sure in a matter of days there will be custom paint stuff out on the web for these but they are fully playable right out of the box and look awesome.

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The paint is incredible

So what is the downside to this game?  Well, the scale means we probably won’t be getting a miniature of the Galactica, Pegasus, or the fleet ships…my estimate is the Galactica would be over 18 feet long if built to scale (but would be awesome!).  I am not sure how well this game will work with large battles, but I am willing to give it a whirl!  I found you need some space for this game given some of the maneuvers you can do.  Also, the series did not introduce a lot of new ships, which means expansion of this game is going to be likely pilots, talents, etc.  I am looking forward to a Raptor mini though.

The upside of this game – it captures tactical space combat in a way that most game have struggled with for generations and does it with style and polish.  The game cards and rulebooks have the corners clipped off of them to give them the feel of paper materials we saw in the series.  It is that kind of attention to detail that makes this game sizzle and pop.

I give this a solid 10 out of 10 rating – definitely worth picking up and following.  I can’t wait for the “classic” Vipers and Raiders from the old TV series – and the chance to mix things up between the two eras.  Don’t flee from the Cylon tyranny – swing around and blast those toasters! By my command…