Ring Side Report- Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box Set

Product– Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box Set

System-Shadowrun 6th Edition

Producer-Catalyst

Price– $30

TL; DR-Strong start to the six edition.  95%%

Basics-What’s old is new again!  Shadowrun celebrates its 30th anniversary with its 6th edition. Let’s dive deep into the new edition and see if its wizzer or hot drek.

base mechanics-attribute + skill, roll that many six sided dice, count 5s and 6s for good, over half 1s is bad.  Same dice pool mechanics you know and love and most likely won’t ever change under the current Shadowrun development team.

So What changed?

Edge– Edge is one of the two MASSIVE differences in 6th Ed.  In 5th Edition, you rerolled dice or rolled extra dice at the start of a pool.  Now, edge is more an ala cart menu where a character choices to reroll extra dice, add successes, or even change the critical glitch range of an opponent.  You can only choose one option each round, but now edge begins to flow a lot more. Gear, items, and even differences in ability between you and your opponent will earn you up to two edge an ACTION.  That means some people with impressive defences being fired at by multiple opponents will earn edge each attack, not each round! So edge is gonna flow quickly.

Combat-Combat keeps the spirit of the previous edition but massive changes to how actions work and the nature of killing each other.  For actions, there are two types of actions: minor and major. Minor are smaller actions like moving while major are your spellcasting and attacking.  This ties into initiative. Initiative is still reaction and initiative plus a d6. A character gets two minor action to start and one more minor action for each d6 beyond the first.  This ties into multiple attacks. Four minor actions can be converted to one major action meaning if you have 3d6 or more dice for initiative, you can make two attacks a round.

In addition, initiative isn’t rerolled nor do we ever remove counts as we go through a round of initiative.  Initiative is just rolled once, play moves from high to low, and goes back to the high. Just like most other RPGs.

Killing People– The bread and butter of Shadowrun is shooting people, and this is still strong in 6th Ed.  When you want to kill somebody, you now compare the attackers attack value (determined by the range of the weapon) vs. the defence value of the target’s armor.  If someone has an advantage of four or more in this comparison, that character earns one edge. In addition, both people may earn edge based on situational modifiers such as darkness and abilities.  The target of the attack rolls a number of d6s equal to the reaction and intuition while the attacker rolls a number of d6s equal to their agility and firearm skill with both sides counting fives and sixes as successes.  The side with more wins with ties now going to the attacker. If the attacker wins, the difference in hits is added to the attackers weapon damage. A massive change is now the defender only rolls a number of dice equal to its body attribute with the five and sixes reducing damage as in 5th edition.  Since the defender doesn’t have many dice to reduce the damage, weapon damage is also reduced as well.

Magic– Magic is also revamped.  When you cast a magic spell, you no longer choose a threshold as thresholds are no longer part of the game.  You roll a number of d6s equal to your magic and spellcasting attribute. Each spell has a number of success needed to cast the spell and expressly indicates how a target avoids the damage.  It’s clearly written and I not

Skills-Skills are massively reduced with multiple skills being rolled into one skill

Ok, now let’s look at my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch-The crux of the game is the d6 rolling system, and that doesn’t change.  I love the reduced skills and faster flow of the game. The flow of edge is fun as it provides more player control over the game and less like subjective story candy.  The nature of magic and matrix actions also works well. The one thing I’m kind of iffy on is the nature of armor. Armor and weapons having a separate state is ok, but I don’t like that armor is divorced from reducing damage.  That feels off. But otherwise, the nature of quick play becomes central to the gunfight nature of the game. I’m optimistic about the nature of the full game’s mechanics. 4.75/5

Theme or Fluff-It’s Shadowrun.  You like corporate dystopia and Tolken fantasy, you’re going to like what 6th edition still is.  This is more awesome future fantasy in Shadowrun 6th edition. 5/5

Execution-The box set is well put together.  I like the layout of the books. The character sheets teach the game well to new players.  The biggest issue I have with the quick start rules is I would like a few more pages of explanation to some of the materials.  I discussed the materials with a few other Shadowrun GMs and those discussions really helped me solidify the rules. Most people will not have that luxury.  The full rules will clear up those issues, but for now, a few more pages would help tie the material together. In addition the art looks amazing, so that gets me ready for a whole new attitude to play.  If you want to see a full breakdown of the product check out my unboxing here:https://youtu.be/ruxgYe5usLw   4.5/5

Summary-I’m looking forward to this edition.  The changes look good and thought out, for the most part.  I think it’s gonna take me a few games to come around on the armor thing.  It’s not bad, but it is different. Good different? We’ll see. The rest looks like well done, modern game design streamlining the process and avoiding the random crap that really don’t make a game fun.  The physical product is amazing as well. Solid cardboard and writing help get me into this one. I just need more of it to really make my life as a gamer easier. That said, I’m in. I’m invested in the 6th edition of Shadowrun. 95%

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Ring Side Report- Keeping It Classy: The Barbarian

Product– Keeping It Classy: The Barbarian

System-Dungeons and Dragons 5e

ProducerKim Frandsen

Price– $5 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/275287/Keeping-It-Classy-The-Barbarian?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Fantastic Third Party Content! 99%

Basics-BARBARIAN! Can you solve the riddle of steel?  Keeping it Classy: The Barbarian is exactly what it puts out to be-a barbarian splat book, but it’s even got a more for the rest of the table.  Tons of new content for your barbarian characters and a bit of extra stuff for the non-barbarians out there with a new race, backgrounds, and some new toys.  Let’s take a look at this book.

Mechanics or Crunch– This is a great book with lots of amazing content!  The new paths are great. The new race is fun, and the new toys and backgrounds will fit anybody.  Heck this one book has more barbarian content than almost all the current official DnD books out there!  It’s not perfect as a few small issues crop up in wording on abilities, but you can easily look past that to see a phenomenal product. 4.9/5

Theme or Fluff-Your barb is not just a dumb meat shield.  This book gives your hunk of muscle story from fun backgrounds to each path getting a full story treatment.  Each path entry is short enough to not keep it in one world or setting, but long enough for it to be something to latch onto and build more of.  This is the same for everything else here. Backgrounds? Not too long to wear out the welcome, but long enough to really get you hooked. Lizardperson race?  Fun and full of enough story to make it something you want to read, but won’t lose interest in like an encyclopedia. Weapons? Pictures and descriptions for you to see in your minds eye.  All told, this is a great product for the story based groups out there. 5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Check!  Hyperlinked?  CHECK! Great layout and ease of readability?  CHECK! This is a product you can fly through, see the flow and major beats of in five minutes, and then dive back into for each section you want to really learn about.  It’s a fun read that flies by. I also like the liberal use of pictures. Most of the pictures are free to use art, and that’s not bad! The pictures are related to the text, and the pictures break up the text while reinforcing the ease of readability.  There is new art, and that is well done too! There are a few things I do think are a bit different such as weapons getting two sections instead of one describing the weapon and any special properties. Not wrong by any stretch, but it’s different. Also of note the book is five bucks for 40 pages.  The core DnD book (which isn’t hyperlinked or a PDF!) is 293 pages for about 40 bucks originally, so this is below price for the content your are getting! All of this adds together to a well crafted, fun to read book. 5/5

Summary–  I really like this book.  It’s a quick read that’s a fun read while still being a satisfying read.  It’s a barbarian splat book that doesn’t just have barbarian stuff in it. It’s got enough fun pieces that any players may want to pick this up.  Have an hour and want to see a well produced book? Check this one out! 99%

Ring Side Report- Castles & Crusades Players Handbook

Product– Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, 7th ed.

System-Castles & Crusades

ProducerTroll Lord Games

Price– $20 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/105322/Castles–Crusades-Players-Handbook-7th-Printing?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– An interesting mix of old and new. 86 %

Basics-Onwards to adventure!  Castles and Crusades is an Old School game through and through in its seventh edition.  Let’s walk through to see all this game has to offer!

Basic Rolls-Castles and Crusades uses the d20 system at its core.  Attacks are D20 rolls plus an attack bonus and an attribute.  Skills are d20 plus an attribute and possible additional bonuses.  If you’ve played any basic d20 system you can hop right into this game.

Skills, saves, and the Siege System-When you do something in Castles and Crusades, you roll as discussed above, but you sometimes get to add your levels.  If the thing you are doing is something your class could do, you add your level. If you would not be trained because this isn’t something you would know how to do, you don’t add your level.  The gamemaster sets the number you need to roll based on two factors-attribute and challenge level. Here is the crux of the Siege system. During character generation, you get primary attributes from your race and your class.  If the thing you are trying to do or the save you are trying to make is based on a primary attribute, then the number you need to roll starts at 12. If it’s a secondary attribute, then the number starts at an 18. Next the GM adds the challenge level.  This is a number representing how hard the thing you are doing is. Open a one tumbler lock might be a challenge level 1, but the king’s personal bank vault might be an 8. So, different characters have different required rolls based on their primary abilities.

Everything else-From here on, if you have played Pathfinder or DnD 3.5, you’re in solid hands.  AC, rounds, and spells all function pretty much like you expect. If not, then the book gives you a solid introduction to the system

Mechanics or Crunch– Overall, this is a decently put together system, but the Siege system has some significant bumps in the road.  I have lived through 3.5e to 5e DnD and watched wild swings in how much control a GM has at the table regarding the number required to roll for PCs to get things done.  This game is solidly old school as lots left up to the GM, and I feel that hurts this a bit. This game really needs a list of skills and what classes get what skills, if any.  Its OK for the rogue to be the a skill monkey and have tons of skills, but often some things just are left up to the GMs discretion. Saves are even left up to the GM! There is a chart of what attribute you roll for each save with different spell and monster effect requiring different attribute saves.  All of this falls into the basics of the Siege system with a fighter who didn’t choose dexterity in a worse place compared to the rogue when the fireball goes off or he sneaks around in the dark. It’s not bad, but GM and the players have to really work together to run this game as some things are too complex to run on autopilot like simple roll to dodge a blow.  Solid, but some needlessly complex things mar the system. 4/5

Theme or Fluff-.Solid old school fantasy.  The book doesn’t have a world per se, but it does have world building with discussions on the nature of magic and character classes.  Even each class has a bit of fluff to make you understand who they are and if you want to be them. It’s light, but for building a generic fantasy RPG, it’s doing its job well.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Check!  Hyperlinked?  CHECK! Tables that lay things out well?  Well here is where things break down. This game is solidly in the OSR crowd.  That’s not bad as the old school has some great advice for the young, but some things just need a new touch!  Things like laying classes out better in tables and saying what I get at each level instead of having me read the complete class entry to see if and when I get different abilities.  Spells suffer from the same issue as challenge levels where much interpretation is needed to determine what kind of spell is being cast instead of just leaving me with what I have to roll.and More often that not, I’m left making a call on what I’m doing or what kind of save I have to make.  And for some things, I just want to add things up some numbers and see if I succeed. It feels a bit like homework. It does read easily, but modern RPG design elements would really help make this book that much more easier to read and run. 4/5

Summary-This game is a solid entry in the Old School Revolution that is embracing the advances of d20 system, at least for the mechanics.  Adding at most two numbers and hoping is easier that thac0 or other previous system, at least for new players. But this book didn’t take enough from modern systems and layout.  Listing skills and just saying what attribute to roll for every spell and most common effect will really help me play and enjoy the game. Now, this game is absolutely playable and fun out of the box day one with the basic mechanics being tried, true, and tested, but more specifically, fun.  It’s old school fantasy RPG with some new additions that build on and preserve the original author’s vision. However, some things could be done much better to really help me play and teach this RPG. 86%

Ring Side Report- Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh

Product– Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh

System– Shadowrun 5e

ProducerCatalyst Game labs

Price– $24.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/151893/Shadowrun-Chrome-Flesh?term=chrome+flesh?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Solid book for solid chrome! 95%

Basics– We can make you better, stronger, faster!  Chrome Flesh is the Shadowrun book focusing on our chromed out runners who are more machine than man.  This book provides several options that run the gambit from new metal to shove into your arm, living organism that live inside you, and the dreaded nanites!  This book also builds on the nanite CFD storyline that is forefront in Shadowrun 5e now while building out the world in general.

Mechanics or Crunch– This book is pretty, but maybe a little to pricey regarding your soul.  I like what the book has on offer, but most of the new teck feels a bit too essence heavy or have too many drawbacks such as touching nanites at all.  The newer things suchs the biotech feel like there should be more new tech. I’d like more of the new and less of the old chrome. But, what is here I do like seeing. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-This is where Shadowrun books have always excelled and keep doing so.  The book reads like a reddit thread with chapters starting with a story, moving to a discussion by one person in the world, and then the hard crunch.  The fluff of the story and the discussion really make the world feel alive. Even details regarding the tech feel realistic. A solid story and character interaction and delivery really makes the book shine.  5/5

Execution–  This book looks pretty, has a good lay out, and has amazing tables that really help you use the old and new tech together and even find it!  But, there are a number of small errors that take away from the presentation like errors at the top of tables mislabeling essence and capacity.  Also, I love the story, but the repeated nature of a few of the stories and character discussion make this book run a little too long. Solid book with a few errors hurting the presentation.  4.8/5

Summary-A chromed out Street Sam is always a fun addition to a team.  Chromed Flesh adds lots of new toys for the metal men in your life.  Also, this book really makes you feel like you’re in the world of Shadowrun reading updates on Jackpoint.  It’s not completely perfect as some of the crunch needs more options to fill out the roster of available tech and some minor issues mare a great book.  However, most of these problems can be forgiving by the fact this this book provides updated tables showing where all the chrome toys are in the books. If you are looking for a solid book for a character who wants to trade essence to punch through an engine block, then this is the book for you. 95%

 

Ring Side Report- Fine Country Folk adventure for Shadow of the Demon Lord

Product– Fine Country Folk

System– Shadow of the Demon Lord

ProducerSchwalb Entertainment

Price– $2.79 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/270395/Fine-Country-Folk?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Do you hear banjos?  95%

Basics– We don’t cotton to kindly to your kind ‘round here…  In Fine Country Folk, two factions of rednecks vie for dark powers.  Can you find the source of their vile power and end it or will you end up dinner for the inbred yokels or one of the made betters?

Mechanics or Crunch-Shadow of the Demon Lord is one of the slickest systems out there, and Fine Country Folk keeps up that fine tradition.  The adventure has some great mechanics for a hex crawl. Good, simple to draw map with a good random distribution of events, and well detailed locals with new monsters to fight.  The simple nature of the adventure makes its a fun, easy to run, four hour adventure. 5/5

Theme or Fluff-Fine Country Folk is a hex crawl through and through, and it has some of the problems of a hex crawl.  Overall, it’s an awesome adventure once it gets going, but like all hex crawls you can drop into the middle of an active campaign, the start is a bit rough.  The hook into the adventure is the weakest part. Once the players have a reason to kill he inbred hicks or redneck mechanical abominations in the woods, they will have a great time.  As a hex crawl, the DM has more work to do than in a set piece adventures to make sure a story flows and give the players a reason to stay. The adventure has prompts for DMs, but this is an important heads up that you should be aware of.  It’s a fun adventure that will require a bit more muscle to get the story to crack over in the beginning but it hums along after the start. 4.25/5

Execution-Fine Country Folk is one of Schwalb’s longest adventure with lots of details and new monsters.  This adventure is twice as long as his other individual adventures and FOUR times as long as some of the adventures from the first campaign.  It has great art, nicely done tables, and is a breeze to read. Heck, it even references WITH PAGES things that DMs might need to review when they run this adventure.  This is what I want a Shadow of the Demon Lord adventures to look like. 5/5

Summary-Fine Country Folk is standard Schwalb, and Schwalb is an acquired taste.  I love sushi, but if you can’t stand fish or raw food, go away. Even Michelin star sushi is still sushi.  This is some of Schwalb’s best writing, but it is still Schwalb’s writing. If rape, murder, violence, cthulhu-satan, or a whole host of other mean nasty things, you will be turned away by this one.  I love sushi and the horrible, monstrous things Schwalb has to say, so this is a great work of dark vile fantasy to drop your players into. That said, it’s not perfect. Your adventure will need to shift into this one and hooking your players into this can be a bit tricky and I would like more explicit ways to get them involved more readily.  That said, once you are past that, you will enjoy this fine food and the fine country folk who will try to eat you, skin you alive, or horrible experiment on you. Just pray your PC doesn’t have a pretty mouth. 95 %

 

Ring Side Report- Saga RPG Adventure Arc: Darkwood #3 – The Vile and the Voracious

Product– Saga RPG Adventure Arc: Darkwood #3 – The Vile and the Voracious

System– Pathfinder

Producer-SagaRPG

Price– $15(PDF)-40(softcover and pdf) here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/249671/01AA03–Saga-RPG-Adventure-Arc-Darkwood-3–The-Vile-and-the-Voracious-PFRPG-PDF–01AA03?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Why does it have to be mutant trolls! 93%

Basics– That troll pillaging the town has an arm growing out of his head!  Darkwood 3-The Vile and the Voracious is the third part of an ongoing series where the players adventure through Darkwood, a community on the fringe where different power players attempt to gain sway while horrors in the woods attack unrelentingly.  In this one the town is attacked by trolls, but not just any trolls, horrible mutant trolls! All the different groups are united against them, and the players are sent to exterminate the threat. In the dark caves where the trolls call home, long, best forgotten fey things are found as well.  The book also features a new mechanics for mutant monsters, crafting rules, items, magic, templates, locations and even gods of the Darkwood setting.

Mechanics or Crunch-Here is honestly where the book shines.  This book provides some really fantastic new crunch to Pathfinder with items, guns, templates and a large section devoted to making mutant monsters of old favorites.  These are liberally applied to all the things the players experience through the adventure, so it’s fun to see the new crunch dropped on the players mid battle! The new camping expedition rules are a welcome addition as well as “Ok, you set watch” *rolls one die per payer on watch* “Ok, get back your spells and hp.” *rolls encounter table and nothing happens* REPEAT TILL DESTINATION is honestly boring.  It’s fun to make your players’ characters people and give them things to do while living. This book adds some solid mechanics to the Pathfinder RPG 5/5

Theme or Fluff–  Here is the low point for the book. It’s not bad, not even close to bad, but this is not a very diverse adventure.  This is an unrepentant dungeon crawl and everything about this one is getting you to the place, so the killing can happen.  There are fun elements to the place like great descriptions of each room and new monsters to right in each room, but do not expect levels upone levels of intrigue i this one.  It’s just a fun romp killing trolls with some extra splash put in to keep the bard from being bored in the back. That’s not a bad thing, but not a diverse adventure. A decent hack and slash dungeon crawl in a lost fey cavern.  4.3/5

Execution–  The book is put together pretty decently, but has a few things I’d like changed.  It reads pretty quickly and is set up so I, the laziest DM ever, can simply skim enough at the time to get the game running in under three minutes while I say take a bio brake on the phone with clear outlines of plot and locations as well as area descriptions with monster personalities.  That’s exactly what I want from every adventure! I HATE having to read and reread a section to find how one of five brothers interacts in a combat when I’m trying to give life to 10 different monsters, and this book makes my life easy! What I don’t like is even on my tablet at the table, I have to do some considerable zooming to read the text.  The background looks nice, but the weathered parchment look makes it hard for me to read because I’m getting old! Others things I think are interesting design choices are to put the camping section in the middle. It kind of interrupts the flow, so I don’t think it goes there while other mechanical things are at the back of the book. But, I honestly can forgive that pretty easily because this book HYPERLINKS THE DAMN PDF!  I am boggled by how this isn’t industry standard, but these people do it and it makes my day. The art is nice and adds enough, and even better the PDF had maps WITHOUT labels on them that I can easily grab and throw into my online games or print for my table, so that is another fantastic plus to this adventure. Minor issues with the book, but otherwise its a solidly put together PDF. I have a few minor issues, but this is a well put together PDF 4.6/5

Summary-Sometimes you want a fancy 20 course meal with multiple courses.  Sometimes you just want to curbstomp a troll in a cave. This adventure might not redefine the fantasy world for its story, but simple doesn’t mean bad.  If you are in this deep to the Darkwood Adventure Arc, you are gonna have a blast in this book. If you are looking for your next book of long intrigue in the high courts of nobles, then this isn’t your book.  But, if you just want a fun Pathfinder adventure you can spring on your players to have them fight some mutant trolls then honestly for 15 bucks it’s hard to beat, even if your players don’t care about darkwood at all and they just want some good old fashion hack and slash.  The other things in here that really stand out well like the expedition camp rules, the mutant templates, and multiple other things are slick pathfinder additions. The Vile and the Voracious is a simple adventure done well and put together smoothly. 93%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)

Product– Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)

System– Starfinder

Producer-Paizo

Price– $23.00 here https://paizo.com/products/btpy9tmf?Starfinder-Adventure-Path-1-Incident-at-Absalom-Station

TL; DR-Not the brightest star, but a decent start.  83%

Basics– ARE YOU READY FOR ADVENTURE!?  Incident at Absalom Station kicks off the first Starfinder adventure path.  Players step off the ship and into gangland warfare as their contact is gun downed within seconds of seeing him.  Why? What dark secrets are at play? Who is involved? Also, this book contains a gazatier on Absolom station, several new monsters, and a whole new world for your players to play in.

Mechanics or Crunch-Ah the intro adventure!  What can a level 1 nothing do on their first day?  Not much, but LOTS OF SKILL CHECKS! Paizo has a history in their adventure paths of having players do lots of checks to get past those first few levels.  This adventure is no different. It’s not bad, but once you get past the first fight, its checks. And, if your party doesn’t have the right checks, then its a slog.  Past that its balanced and fun. After the checks, there are some simple space fights to get those mechanics out there, an exploration with some progressive fights to get those mechanics out there, and then we’re off to the next adventure book.  Overall it’s balanced, but the standard paint by numbers of a new RPG needs to really get players into the system and teach them the rules can be a bit boring. 4.25/5

Theme or Fluff-Repeat after me-PLAYERS HATE FIGHTS WHERE THE ENEMIES SHOULD RUN AWAY.  I’m not talking big bads, I’m talking regular grunts above the player’s level.  Players want to KILL! This adventure starts with gang war above the players pay grade, and the players want everyone dead.  It’s not supposed to happen, but my players are always EVIL, SPITE-FILLED MONSTERS who must kill EVERYONE! If that describes your players, then as written, they will be mad.  For check section I mentioned above, the players need to talk to people, and if your party decides Charisma is for suckers, then that is a SUPER slog as my Cha 10 fighter attempts to talk to people as the -1 to -2 modifier other players hope for 20s to even get the middle of the ground information.  Past that first fitful start, it’s a fun adventure as players can find the roles they need and better understand what they should do next. This adventure runs like a train-slow, clunky start but then smooth sailing the rest of the way. 4/5

Execution-PDF?  Check! Hyperlinked?  NOPE! Why not hyperlink this book?  It’s 60+ pages! Next, Starfinder isn’t going to get the 64 page world building books that went with the Pathfinder line.  That’s ok, but now my players don’t get as much world building as before as unless I print of sections and hand those out, they players either can read the book or spoil the adventure.  The items are nice, the monsters are interesting and have great pictures, and the layout is well done. But, no new races! Part of the fun of Starfinder is if you want to be an intelligent mist, then we got stats for that baby!  But, I’m not seeing that here. Throw me a new playable race each mod! There are a few other issues as some things just don’t fit well. The water world of Heicoron IV is ok, but there are no mentions of how I can play either of the races that live there.  It feels thrown in. It’s not bad, but reference your other books or give me stats, so I can have a whole adventures with the fish people. This is a good but, but it has some flaws that do knock it down a bit 4.25/5

Summary-I’m ready for more, but I have some notes.  Overall, I like what’s here. It’s done well, readable, and a good introduction to the mechanics of the system.  The story itself has a few issues, but those issues are part of every adventure path’s start. I have more notes on the new execution of the Starfinder line.  I want separate books and changes to how they are produced. New races, new tech in the books, and some focus will help improve this line. Will I get that? Most likely not.  But, as a GM running a game, I think this is a good way to get your players rolling dice and understanding how to play Starfinder 83%