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Episode 1550: Mech (sic) and Chicken; or Los Pollos Caminos

It's good to have miniatures to help the players visualise enemy forces and battles.

And although improvised figures will do, it's definitely better to have appropriate miniatures.

(Yes, we know the Spanish is terrible and doesn't mean the same thing.)

aurilee writes:

It was the first walker-type! And he apparently had no miniatures.

The poor players, having to use their imaginations while playing a tabletop RPG. Oh the humanity!

And unfortunately, the GM never saw my very, very clever suggestion of gluing some guns onto Timon. So everyone had to suffer through chickens.

With guns.

— aurilee

Keybounce writes:

Something that I never realized before: Chicken miniatures.

There is no movie; this GM actually had chicken walkers, and chicken miniatures.

Chicken. Miniatures.

Never mind the deformed seal-walrus-whatever it was, where do you get chicken miniatures? Are there other farm animals yet to show up?

I find myself wondering, what would a cow standing on two legs like a meerkat look like? (Lorenda? Kria?). Oddly, I have no problem imagining that cow holding a gun.

Looking over the last two comics, I'm realizing the clear advantage of the chicken walkers: they bring in close air support. Easy to tell apart from enemy fire. Easy to tell apart from the kitchen mess.

But the whole design still seems wrong. It still seems too easy to take out one leg, and turn the main body into skeet. (Have we ever seen one of these guys self-destruct? There's always a self-destructing something in movies, right? Toss a grenade in, tie up their legs... do they self destruct? What kind of hum do they make before they go boom? There was a self-destructing speeder in the TV series, but that's not the same.)

So let's look at the soldiers. Last comic, we see a huge number of soldiers appearing with the walker. They spread out in front of the walker. This comic starts with two in the first panel, then has a lot more in the second panel.

So who is killing the soldiers, and why do we not see them shooting? It sure looks like there's a lot of bodies in the center of the last panel, but we don't see them being killed. Presumably, this is just the choice of screen captures. It sure looks like we see a soldier being shot in the last panel. But we don't see who is shooting them at all. Are they really running into a killbox?

Meanwhile, all of the other civilians have gotten out of the way. "Our heroes" are the only ones left to get into trouble.

— Keybounce


Episode 1549: Walk This Way

Sep. 17th, 2017 10:11 am
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Episode 1549: Walk This Way

If you want to introduce some plot point to your adventure, try throwing it into the middle of a running battle, instead of just having an NPC talk about it during a social encounter.

Actually it might be interesting to try doing this for all your plot points. You might need a lot of fighting though.

Keybounce writes:

In panel two, did Bria just throw a grenade back at the troopers? Also, that's a pretty darn big explosion.

Now then, containers of large crystals. Are these by any chance Khyber saber crystals? Light saber crystals? Special hyperspace piloting crystals? Solidified spice from sandworm extract?

Were there any chicken walkers in the prequel trilogy? Is this the first appearance of a chicken walker in the Star Wars timeline? And can you imagine a meerkat walker?

Once again, we are reminded that talking is not a free action. The enemy is taking action even while you are trying to figure out what the enemy even is.

Still, does this mean that if you have a large group of four-legged walkers approaching you, that you are on the cow level?

— Keybounce

aurilee writes:

As of writing this annotation, I have had "How Many Toes Does a Fish Have?" (from Tacky the Penguin) stuck in my head for a good 3 hours. And thinking about it now, it's just the tune my dad invented when reading me the book as a kid, so it's entirely possible that I can safely not infect anyone else with the song.

For those not familiar, the ditty goes:

How many toes does a fish have?
How many wings on a cow?
I wonder, yup I wonder

But moving on...

I guess chronologically this is the first "walker-type" machine the GM had introduced. The AT-ATs then would be a case of "these ones are even cooler and scarier because I added more legs!"

As for these walkers, Sally seems to have the most accurate analogy. It definitely looks more like a meerkat. With guns, that is.

If only the GM had some old Lion King figurines lying around, he could have just made a big commando-Timon to terrorise the marketplace.

— aurilee


Episode 1548: Stun of a Gun

Sep. 14th, 2017 10:11 am
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Episode 1548: Stun of a Gun

If you're going to take cover, try taking cover behind something innocuous like a tree or a wall. As opposed to an armed vehicle. That belongs to the other side.

Actually, another good tip is to avoid combat with two other sides, both of them potentially considering you an enemy.

aurilee writes:

When setting your phaser to stun still kills somebody, it's either a tragedy to mourn or just the coolest thing ever.

Although if you're in the Stargate universe, it's really easy to accidentally kill someone instead of stunning them. You just have to hit them one too many times.

Cassian doesn't seem to have a lot of combat experience. I'm starting to think he really is just a pilot. And not one of those science fiction "I'm a pilot which also means I'm really good at fighting and shooting and hand-to-hand combat" kind of pilots.

In contrast, Bria has so far been able to think quickly on her feet, assess a tactical situation and correctly determine why people were shooting guns. We don't know much about her past yet, but from what we've seen, I'd guess she's been in combat situations before, and has considerable experience in the Rebellion.

Speaking of the Rebellion... isn't it plausible that the people attacking an Imperial convoy are Rebels? This could come back to bite Cassian and Bria in the butt.

— aurilee

Keybounce writes:

Stun weapons? Stun Weapons?!?

We've seen a stun weapon once in Star Wars, in the famous Capture The Princess scene. In Da&Dr? #681/#685 make no mention of Princess being captured with a stun weapon. (Although, in fairness, I loved re-reading that scene knowing this was her mother.)

But as I look at the size of that thing—the explosion in the last panel—I cannot help but wonder what normal grenades are like in this world.

Meanwhile, not only are they talking to each other in panel 1 despite being who knows how far apart, somehow Bria manages to get trapped next to the tank. Is this another example of the escort NPC trying to get killed off? It's not "If Bria dies, nothing is lost". That's mission failure, and re-load from last save.

Seriously though: Bria's mission is to avoid attracting attention, and contact someone for the Rebellion. Here she is, attracting as much attention as possible.

I don't know. If this was Groot, I'd be wondering if she was a plant.

— Keybounce


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Episode 1547: Never Work With Children and NPCs

Many game systems have a skill for Animal Handling. But no skill for Child Handling.

If you're a parent, try throwing some children into the game and watch as non-parent players struggle to figure out how to take care of them in difficult situations.

Keybounce writes:

I really love color management done right. I really hate color management done wrong.

Panel one has a large amount of motion blur. And it sure looks like there is something on Bria's chest. I played around with my video settings again; I found a control on my TV monitor that improves the dark areas without destroying gamma; I used both monitors; I went back and looked at all the prior comics so far.

The only thing I have seen up until now is that there is a clasp holding her robe in place at the top of her chest. There hasn't been a single full-front chest view of her up until now. The details are very hard to make out, but it sure looks like there is some sort of device on the front of her chest. If she was a police officer, I'd think it would be a body-cam; if this was Paranoia, it would be the session recorder. Either way, it's the thing you want to destroy so that your view of what you report back to your superior is the only view.

Motion blur is horrible here. I don't know if JJ Abrams was responsible for this movie or not; I know that people have complained that he needs a steady-cam because of the blur.

Either way, it is really interesting looking at the difference between how the PCs think, and how the NPC thinks. The PCs are busy spending time debating whether or not they should rescue someone, and pointing out just how risky it is for the future to save an unknown person; Bria just gets it done. This scene clearly shows that talking is not a free action.

But I just love how the GM is talking to himself, with the whole "I don't know how to thank you"/"saying thanks would have done it" bit. Bria's line here could have easily come from a PC.

Oh, and I absolutely love the respect level here. "If Bria dies, nothing's lost!".

The bottom line here: The PCs think of NPCs as disposable. I cannot wait to see how the NPCs will dispose of the PCs. We've been told that there's a TPK, and I want to see it happen.

Hmm. So, something I just realized after this stewed for a night: This was only ever supposed to be a one-off campaign. A mini-episode set in the same world. The characters were throw-aways. The players treated their own PCs as throw-aways, just as the PCs are treating the NPCs.

The players aren't respecting their characters, any more than the characters respect the background. I wonder if maybe they wanted to go out with a big "ka-bloom, now lets get back to the real story".

— Keybounce

aurilee writes:

The GM's being pretty snarky with himself there.

And we get to see some further expansion on Pete's PC-first philosophy. He actually can't accept that an NPC could be as important as a PC.

And in the process of the GM getting fed up, we see Bria being the brave hero and Cassian being... indifferent.

From Bria's perspective, Cassian was just twiddling his thumbs while some girl was in the middle of a firefight. I wonder if this will colour Bria's opinion of Cassian going forward?

It does help paint him as a "rebel who only cares for himself and his own goals" though, and the fight with "his conscience" could be him reconsidering his life choices, so I guess that works. Despite the possibility that maybe Annie wasn't intending to play him that way.

Wow, that makes Pete responsible for complex roleplaying!

Amazing things happening here.

— aurilee


Episode 1546: A Spot of Bother

Sep. 10th, 2017 10:11 am
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Episode 1546: A Spot of Bother

Despite the best laid out adventure plans, inevitably you'll have to do some GMing by the seat of your pants - usually because the PCs have decided to do something so ridiculous that you failed to even consider it a possibility.

One way to handle this is to assume that no adventure will ever go according to plan and be prepared to wing it at any moment. To this end, a selection of handy-dandy random tables is invaluable. The good thing is, being random, you can repurpose most tables for other eventualities.

Need someone to blunder into the middle of a firefight that the PCs somehow started? Roll on the Random Marketplace Encounter table! Need to know what the PCs find when they decide it would be a good idea to search behind the bar during a bar-room brawl? Roll on the Random Blacksmith Shop Items table! Need to know what the cantankerous old lady of the village keeps locked in her outhouse? Roll on the Level 12 Dungeon Encounters table (with Random Slimes, Oozes, and Jellies subtable, if necessary)!

aurilee writes:

Pete is still "party first" it seems. Despite him not being in the party.

I can't help but imagine what table the GM used to see what wandered into the firefight...

Let's assume a d20...

1-3Elderly woman/man
4Blind Jawa
5-7Space nun
8Disoriented droid
9-11Pregnant woman
12Bantha calf
13-15Future party member
16+Little girl/boy

Would blind Jawas still have glowy eyes? I would guess not, and that possibly this lack of a distinctive feature might make them pariahs of Jawa society (more so than blind people are in other humanoid cultures). This would explain why a blind Jawa could be wandering around a Tatooine marketplace and possibly walking into a firefight.

Anyways... is this maybe how they meet up with the local rebel cell? Did Pete plan this ambush? Taking out a military convoy/procession is pretty classic rebel stuff, so I can't imagine it not being associated with The Rebellion.

— aurilee

Keybounce writes:

The GM is a... some kind of bastard. Cheating? Conniving? Planning? Cruel? Sending a little girl out into the middle of a firefight just to show the characters that not everything is planned, and to give them a chance to be heroic, the only question is, why?

Clearly, the only answer is this is a chance for them to be noticed by Jabba. After all, if they missed his contacts, they have to have some way for the GM to get the plot moving.

— Keybounce


Episode 1545: See, Spot, Run

Sep. 7th, 2017 10:11 am
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Episode 1545: See, Spot, Run

Normally, if you're running a tight ship as the GM, you wouldn't roll dice so obviously and then say that the PCs don't notice anything. Unfortunately this can be hard to achieve in practice, because as soon as players see/hear the GM rolling dice, they know something is up.

One method to disguise this a bit better is to frequently roll dice behind your GM screen for no reason at all. Well, the reason is actually to lull the players into a sense of security that you just constantly roll dice for no reason, so that when a secret die roll suddenly is significant and important, they just ignore it like all the other rolls.

This is pretty much the opposite of the other tried and true GM technique of suddenly and conspicuously rolling die for no reason, deliberately making it really obvious that you've just rolled a bunch of dice. And when the players ask you what the dice roll was for, you say, "Uh... nothing."

Both of these are great techniques. The main problem being that you can't use both of them at the same time.

Keybounce writes:

There is a huge difference between, "you don't see anything", and, "<roll> <roll> <roll> you don't see anything".

Other than that, how in the heck can you look at panel three (or is that panel two?), and call that a radio?

Otherwise, all I can say is I think we're about to have the firefight that we started this comic with.

— Keybounce

aurilee writes:

Failed spot checks are scary things.

They're also one of the biggest causes of meta-gaming.

In D&D, you know when you've missed something. Dice roll and the DM tells you "you don't see anything". Most players at this point will start acting cautious, rolling continuous spot checks and searching the area very carefully.

In real life, you just carry on with whatever it is you're doing. You very rarely know that you didn't see something, so you have no reason to "be careful".

In this case, Cassian would have seen that little dude on the radio, and then went on doing his thing. But, because of those rolls, Annie is now concerned about something.

Of course, you can't really blame players for this. IC/OOC separation is a hard thing, and when you're worried, your character is probably going to end up worried too. It's easy not to meta-game (if you care to) on things like "I know this DM likes to hide monsters in locked chests" because that's simply a piece of information you can choose to disregard. And OOC knowledge like how to build a campfire is easy to simply not use.

But once your character is in danger, and you're worried about them, it's hard to let go and acknowledge that they would have no reason to suspect a trapdoor in front of the bookshelf and because of that, they might die. Emotions are a lot harder to ignore than a page you read in the Monstrous Manual.

This annotation has become a lot heavier than I was intending... but I've seen some hostility and hysteria around players using OOC/meta knowledge to save their characters, and it's important to remember that losing a character is hard. Especially if it's a long-running campaign. So even if that's "not how you're supposed to play", it's an understandable temptation.

I really shouldn't end this on a such a downer though...

Maybe a joke about that alien looking like a fleshy, baby version of The Thing?

Or how about pointing out that it makes no sense for this military tank to use all-terrain tracks when there's hover technology available?

— aurilee



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