Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Wrath of Cahn - Part 1 - A Talathen Sector story

The wrath of Cahn (Part one)

Well, it seems like forever since I’ve done an update for Talathen Sector. The campaign is ongoing, but life has gotten in the way so we have missed a fair few sessions this year. What we have been doing is the longest story arc of the RPG campaign to date. We have also started the next strategic round, and updates will be coming on that, featuring the Rebellions first crushing defeat and a massive capital ship engagement as the rebels try to evacuate their hidden base and the Imperial Fleet attacks. All those games are in the books and need to be written up.

A lot happened in this story, so I will keep it as brief as possible while conveying the full content of the story as best as I can remember. It was a longish story, so parts will be skipped.

The Brief

Cahn is a planet located near a black hole, as a result of this unusual positioning it has several unique features. First of which is time-dilation, every day on Cahn is 3 days to the normal galaxy. Now, interstellar and people like Neil Degrasse Tyson can do a much better job of explaining the whys of time dilation, this is Star Wars, so it just works.

Secondly, the planet is in a geo stationary orbit relative to the Black hole. This means one side of the plant is charred, and the other side is frozen, but there is a “green zone” across the equator where the population lives.

Thirdly, the planet is ruled, and almost entirely populated by a religious order called the Devourer Cult. This religious group worships the black hole as a deity and despite its name has a reputation for passiveness and charity works, akin to a group like earths Hari Krishna. They can be found all over the sector, living in Spartan conditions and helping the poor and needy. What really surprises a lot of people is that fully 2/3rd of the movement are Trandoshans who formed the colony centuries ago and have rejected their own cultural mores.

The Mission

The ruling council of Cahn has offered to pledge humanitarian and logistical support to the rebellion if they can solve an internal political issue for them. A member of the ruling council has gone rogue and is conducting terrorist operations, but as Cahn has a strict non-violence policy they cannot retaliate or fight back effectively. They need terrorists to catch the terrorists, so the rebellion is the perfect answer for them.

Coming in to land at Cahn city, the only major settlement on the planet, the team were instructed to hold their flight pattern until another ship landed. This ship was a small, badly beaten, ancient looking light freighter, and it landed at the starport safely. The rebels ship landed at the platform alongside.

Waiting at the spaceport was around 10,000 people, quietly waiting. The team thought initially thought it was a welcome party, until the pilot of the other ship left to rapturous applause. While this was going on, an official came up to the team and introduced himself as Tellarn. He was a member of the ruling council and the representative of the local district that included the spaceport. He explained that the Trandoshan who had just returned was a Pilgrim that 100 years ago he had left and flown closer to the edge of the black hole in order to be close to the devourer, and while the journey had taken him less than a month, 100 years had passed for his community. The man would now be treated as a holy figure by the community.

They were led through the city after the procession had moved away. Cahn was mostly mud brick buildings done in a rustic style, while the interiors were modern but modest. One thing the team noticed was that there were no vehicles or droids in the city, with most transportation being done by repulsor sleds pulled by people. Tellarn was proud to say that the city has no unemployment and that people do what is needed, everyone works in one way or another and the community helps together. The team were pretty weirded out by what appeared to be a combination of pacifism, Islamic socialism and communism.

They were taken to the visitor’s district, the only place in the city where “out of towners” are housed. It’s a small area dominated by the guests hotel, a stylishly presented, yet very retro place (think of walking into a well maintained English manor house). Tellarn introduced the team to two helpers N’alla, a Twi’lek woman who’s family had emigrated to Cahn some years ago after being helped by members of the Devourer Cult on Nimbala, and Doran, A former Luxon fighter pilot who’s fighter hyperdrive had failed during the Clone Wars and he had crashed here.

Dr Vox paid special attention to the replacement limbs that Doran had, as it was high quality work and, as a battlefield surgeon, he was fascinated to see how they did it.

The team was left to get comfortable at the hotel before meeting with the council and asked questions about the culture, infrastructure, and the nature of the terror attacks and so on.

Ithkrall  was revealed to have been an idealist and visionary, and both guides were shocked that he had broken one of the greatest tenants of their faith “we do not spill blood”. Five people had been killed during the terror attacks, which is more murders than they had had in the last decade.

Certain members of our crew had killed more than five people in the last week, and the level of naiveté, hopefulness and all-round cheerfulness really weirded them out.

They asked questions about the society, why there were no droids, the justice system and the like. It all boiled down to “we do hard work, and the community helps those in need, but you are expected to help in return, if you are beyond help you get banished”.

Meeting the council

After getting comfortable and unpacking their belongings, the crew were invited to the mountain in the middle of the city. Cahn city was built on tiers, sort of like Minas Tirath, but far larger.

The 2nd to last tier heading up the mountain was a massive open space that had been levelled out and concreted. According to N’alla, almost the entire city could gather in this place around the temple and listen to the council of elders speak. It was rare for people to all gather up here, but it happened a few times for special occasions and momentous decisions.

In the center of the plaza was the spire that formed the Temple of the Devourer. It reached high into the sky and was shaped like a tall vase, fatter at the top and bottom, with a flat roof. Presumably, some form of observation platform.

In front of the Spire, the crew encountered the first military looking presence in the city. Around 20 ceremonial guards, armed with shields and what appeared to be long poled stun batons. The guards turned as they approached and unbarred their spears to allow access to the structure.
Immediately inside, the single most dominant feature of the spire was that it was open in the middle, and that the platform above was really an optical lens. The devourer, the great black hole, could be seen through the ceiling in overblown proportions. It made the crew feel decidedly uncomfortable.

Malkar, the leader of the council invited the crew to sit and outlined the issues.

  1. Ithkrall is a terrorist
  2. Their non-violence religion and lack of weapons make fighting a terrorist impossible.
  3. The rebellion has the expertise they lack and no moral compunctions about spilling blood
  4. Cahn has great expertise to share and would provide covert support and help to the rebels

Malkar made it all seem very straight forward, and the crew were very very suspicious. They agreed to help but had many questions. 

Was Ithkrall a terrorist or the idealist he was originally described as? What is Ithkrall agenda for their terror attacks, as no one has mentioned motive? Is this culture for real, or are they secretly very nasty? What is Malkar hiding?

These answers would come, but the investigation would require a lot of digging and peeling back a massive sector wide conspiracy that threatened the lives of every sentient being within 100 light years.

To be continued.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games split

It's official, GW and FFG will no longer be doing business. 

Considering that FFG/Asmodee have blasted past GW in terms of total turnover in the last few years and the decision of GW to bring back specialist games, i'm not hugely surprised.

FFG has been the actual games workshop for Games Workshop for a long long time. And while they have focused on model making supported by badly designed games, FFG have been keeping people who love the settings engaged with really good games.

A lot of these games are relatively early in their development cycle. People who stumped up to get Conquest & Warhammer Quest - the card game - will likely bit put out by not being able to continue to expand those games.

Forbidden stars will stay a 4 faction game, i'm so glad I didn't buy it yesterday (and I was in store, holding the box, debating it)

For me, Chaos in the Old World is the pinnacle of this relationship. It's dripping in GW's IP and theme, but has the great game design of FFG. It's simply a masterclass in game design and I am so glad I have a copy of a game that is likely to go OOP and stay OOP for a long long time.

Blood Bowl team manager is also my favourite "Lite" game, and i'm slightly miffed it won't be getting any more teams. 

I highly doubt the FFG/GW deal will allow GW to lift all the mechanics and start selling expansions for the games, so this could be the death of these lines. Although "REX" type reskins could happen for some of the games.

And looking at GW's most recent attempts at Board Game design, my hopes are not high. Poor mechanics and nice figures don't engage me. Dreadfleet was a terrible terrible game and Warhammer Quest:Silver Tower costs about the price of three decent boardgames in NZ and, asides from the figures, is an average to decent dungeon crawler. But i could also get Descent 2nd edition core set and two expansions for the same price. It also doesn't help that the new Warhammer world is just awful. 

It's pretty, but at $320 you are paying for the models, not the game or bits

Sure GW do great figures, they are a model company after all and they excel at that. But FFG is a games company, and losing the GW IP means that we have likely concluded a 2nd golden age of GW themed games.

The first was GW's glory days as a Games design company, when titles like Space Hulk, Blood Bowl, Warhammer Quest, Fury of Dracula and Heroquest were coming out and were as good as any of the competition. Space Hulk and Blood Bowl still occupy very warm places in my heart and on my games shelf. And boy am I glad that Blood Bowl online is still a thing.

It's possible that GW will eventually return to greatness in the Boardgame field, but it won't be immediately, their game development culture has been focused on flash and models for far to long and Game Design is not easy to do well. I personally prefer a mediocre looking game than a pretty one that sucks.

Power Grid > Dreadfleet in other words. 

Looks like I have a few expansions for games to procure before they go out of print. Time to finally get "Halls of Terra" for Relic, ugh, so gutted their won't be more Relic, that game was stupid but fun. 

I highly recommend getting the stuff you want for these games now, as they will go OOP really quickly and will likely not come back. 

Post Script:

A friend of mine brings up the RPG lines and raises the point that GW will likely not develop any replacements. Sad day for WHFRP and Dark heresy fans as well. 

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