Sunday, September 29, 2013

Organized Play? No, Never Again! Well, Maybe. (13th Age)

I mentioned making up a character for 13th Age a few weeks back, but I didn't get much into the reasons for that particular development.  I was going to play in the first session of the current series of adventures for Fire Opal Media's organized play.

Yeah, I know, I'm not big on organized play.  Even when I was big on organized play, organized play reminded me why I wasn't big on it.  Doesn't matter whose organized play, it just seems like once said OP gets to a certain size, they take on the same characteristics that tend to turn me off of them.

But for now, the 13th Age organized play is a bit of a different animal.  The adventures are two hour long episodes that are more in line with D&D Encounters than Paizo's Pathfinder Society.  It's a good and a bad thing.  I was ready for more when we got to the end, but I can appreciate having a more manageable time slot for the events to run.

My initial impressions of the game support what seemed to be true of the read through of the rulebook:  it feels a bit like 4th edition, but three time faster, and not quite as "artificial," i.e. there aren't as many elements that hit you over the head and remind you that it's a tactical game rather than a set of rules for simulating fantasy stories that involve lots of violence and over the top action.

It does make me wonder how well higher level play will work in the two hour episode environment.  It may work just fine, since we only went a little over two hours, and that included coming up with One Unique Things as Backgrounds for people that had never played the game before.

I enjoyed the Tiefling fighter I made up, and never got too frustrated that I wasn't "doing what I was suppose to be doing."  Fighter do feel a bit more sure and steady and dependable versus the paladin and barbarians being "if this works, it's going to be really impressive" vibe, but I'm okay with that.  I had more to actually think about on my turns when it came to tactics, it seemed.

It did seem that the One Unique Things, Backgrounds, and Icon Relationships gave everyone a set of roleplaying hooks right off the bat.  We may not have had deep roleplaying scenes going on, but it seemed like everyone at least had an "angle" that they wanted to play, which was nice.

The scenario itself started right up with the action, and introduced some of the more gonzo elements of the setting, like assuming that its a perfectly normal thing in a fantasy setting to have hovering prisons that are built on clouds.  I'm fine with that, because the setting does seem to be about traditional d20 fantasy taken to a bit of an extreme.  I can't speak much to the overall story, because it was intentionally a two hour short cliffhanger to get you to come back for more.

There aren't a lot of us at the FLGS that are onboard for this right now, and I'm not sure I can make the regular night that is being set up.  I'd love to see more people join the group, since I really do like the system, and I think there are a lot of people that are part of the FLGS community that would enjoy it.  I'm not entirely sure if being a d20 fantasy game with an organized play program is a plus or a minus at this point when it comes to recruiting, so I wish our GM the best of luck getting more players.

Honest Cid's Outer Rim Transport, Tales of Team Aurek, Episode III (Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG, 9-26-13)

And now our most recent outing with Team Aurek.  What a night.

  • Cid gives the team a job picking up and bringing to safety miners from Kurrium IV whose sun is going to set off a solar flare that will melt anyone organic left on the planet in 60 days.  He tells them they should rent the Meat Wagon, a medium transport owned by Rivvik Lim on Cadomai Prime, which has been retrofitted to carry lots of people in it's cargo hold.
  • Tor'waar gets a fan letter across the Holonet that laments that he doesn't do more gladiator gigs these days, and wonders if he is getting old.

  • On Cadomai Prime, most of the party goes after Rivvik Lim to rent the Meat Wagon, and finds out that he was helping to transport slaves to freedom, so the ship is in mothballs because its been bugged by Imperials.
  • Tor'waar and Max set up a gladitorial match for the tourists at one of the resorts on Cadomai Prime, originally a fight with a rancor, but Max quietly, "for his own good," gets the fight bumped down to a gundark.

  • Tor'waar defeats the gundark handily, and calls for the promoters to set loose the rancor and let him fight that as well.  Tor'waar doesn't do as well against the rancor, and nearly dies.
  • Max and Katya jump into the ring to save Tor'waar, Prawn takes out his rifle to shoot the beast, and Drifter knocks a bloodthirsty tourist into the arena after the tourist chastises Prawn for helping Tor'waar.
  • The tourist runs towards the rancor's cage, and Katya somewhat inadvertently uses the Force to convince the rancor that he is interested in other food than Tor'waar, in this case, the tourist, which ti chases after.

  • Prawn hires some extra crew to managed the Meat Wagon, and the group sets out for Kurrium IV.  Drifter ends up there first, and finds out that the Mining Guild administrator doesn't want to upset the local Moff by refusing his offer to relocate the miners, so he's going to wait, even though Cid and his contact are fairly certain the Empire doesn't have any evacuation ships planned.
  • Prawn and the rest of the team arrives, and they notice a device on the far side of the planet, which appears to be heavily shielded and sending a stream of energy into the star.  Drifter accesses his vast knowledge of conspiracy theories, and wonders if this isn't an Imperial weapons test of some sort, and the star's super flare isn't man made.
  • The Mining Guild administrator is more afraid of the Moff than he is his workers or the party, and refuses to let them evacuate the miners.  Drifter is trying to talk sense into him, when Tor'waar draws his swords and advances on the security guards.
  • A fight ensues. Once the wookiee kills three of the guards, the Mining Guild guards attempt to use grenades, but it doesn't go well.  Tor'waar tries to kill one of the Mining Guild guards that has surrendered, but is talked out of it, and the Mining Guild Administrator is killed, since he's terrified of the wookiee and panics, firing on Prawn.
  • Tor'waar rips the arms off of all of the defeated security guards, and when the miners see this, it becomes more difficult to round up the miners to evacuate them.

  • Eventually everyone calms down, and Cid's contact uses the local droids to clean up the mess.  It takes a bit of effort, but after almost 60 days, the miners are evacuated on either the Broken Blade or the Meat Wagon to Terminus.
  • Tor'waar asks Drifter for the video of him killing the Mining Guild guards, puts it up on the Holonet, and leaves a message that he's busy working doing this kind of thing, which is why he hasn't been dong gladitorial fights lately.
The gladitorial fights took up a bit more time than I had originally intended, and we had a bit of a side encounter when it became evident that the group would have to convince the miners to go along with the rest of the team after the arm ripping.  As such, I kind of rushed my last minute "short cut that his more dangerous" angle for the Meat Wagon to get an extra trip into Terminus than it normally would have gotten to make.

Honest Cid's Outer Rim Transport, Tales of Team Besh, Episode II (Edge of the Empire RPG, 9-19-13)

Because the skills of Team Besh seem to run towards the subtle more than Team Aurek's, and because they had a lower total Obligation, making them less galactic pariahs than Team Aurek, Team Besh got the "diplomatic" mission to the Tapani Sector to rub shoulders with Sir Cid Ybom's sponsors in House Cadriaan, along with other Tapani nobles.

Here's how it went.

  • Cid tells the team that he wants them to attend a gathering of Tapani Knights in the Tapani sector as his envoys, but he also mentions that it would be great for business if they could get the patrol patterns and customs information for Imperial Customs from one of the Imperial aligned houses, either House Mercetti or Melantha.

  • Cid tells them to try and talk Mundo Korr into letting them borrow his yacht so they can make a better entrance.  Mundo misunderstands and thinks he is being invited to go to the gala himself, and agrees.
  • Dia and Tiberius attempt to help Mundo become a bit more socially acceptable, as the rough and tumble old bounty hunter is a little . . . uncultured.

  • Garner Mav has some friends that want to know if he can help with curtailing the slave trade, and wonder if he can get some information from House Barnaba.  He sets about picking up some spice and being ready to look for the most hedonistic member of the entourage.
  • Garner recruits Dia and Krill to help him with his side job of curtailing the Barnaba slave trade.
  • The group arrives two days before most of the delegates, but the House Barnaba folk are already in place.  Garner plies the youngest member of the house with spice, and he rambles on and on to Dia and Garner while Krill slices the ship's records, and the group is done with their clandestine business by the time the older member of House Barnaba kicks them off the ship.

  • When House Mercetti shows up, they have a full fledged military shuttle with a Nova Trooper honor guard.  House Melantha is a bit upset, because they only have Stormtroopers for their honor guards.  The team decides to get the Imperial information from House Melantha's ship.
  • T3 shorts out the boarding ramp controls for House Melantha's ship, and the Stormtroopers let him on the ship, since the rest of the team have repainted him to look like a House Cadriaan service droid.  He gets the information he needs and also fixes the boarding ramp controls.

  • Tiberius gets into an duel with a member of House Calipsa, and actually wins it.  Dia is upset, because she was insulted leading up to the duel, and likely would have humiliated the House Calipsa Saber Rake.  Garner wins a new style dueling sword from House Barnaba due to the outcome of the duel.
  • The compound is locked down as a small fleet of low end capital ships enter the system, which turn out to be Zann Consortium Defilers raiding the party to steal House Mercetti's Gladiator Class Star Destroyer as well as ransom the various Tapani Knights in attendance.
  • Krill slices open the doors that lead to the service garage, where the freighters are kept, away from the Knight's ships on the main landing platform.

  • Zann Defilers are guarding the ships in the freighter bay, but each team member attempts to avoid them in various ways.  Several of them point out that they have a clear shot straight to the other nobles in the dining room, Krill orders some load lifters to put some obstacles in the way of the Defilers, and Dia stealthily shivs a few of the Defliers outside of the ship without anyone noticing her.
  • The party escapes the planet on a House Cadriaan YT-2400, but then has to avoid a Zann Consortium Corellian Gunship in orbit.

  • To get away from the gunship, T3 makes a blind hyperspace jump without a specific set of coordinates.
  • The party ends up in a system with a black hole, and T3 narrowly gets them away from the singularity before they are sucked in and destroyed.  Dia, his best friend up to this point, kicks him hard for the blind jumping stunt.

  • The party winds up safe and sound at a refueling depot in the Tapani sector.  Mundo's ship, the Retirement Party, was destroyed in the attack by the Zann Consortium, and he's crushed.

This session was a lot of fun. Lots of thinking outside of the box to solve the problems presented to the team.  Not much in the way of combat, in part because once the more elaborate plans and roleplaying took place, it was better to use the quick resolution rules in EotE to get back to what was about to happen next.

And long term readers of the blog might notice that the small fleet of low end capital ships that the Zann Consortium were using in this adventure came from the help provided to the Zann Consortium by the PCs that played in the EotE Beta campaign a few months ago.

Honest Cid's Outer Rim Transport, Tales of Team Aurek, Episode II (Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG, 8-12-13)

Just a wee bit behind on the recaps for the Edge of the Empire games, due in no small part to the fact that I'm running them weekly, even if each team is only present every other week.  Excuses firmly in place, let's jump to the recap for the second adventure of Team Aurek.

  • Tor'waar the Wookiee is is bad shape with lots of crits, and Cid tells Tor'Waar if he'll do some side jobs for free, Cid will cover the cost of the two day Bacta soak it will take to get him up and running again  (+5 obligation, Favor to Cid).
  • Cid gives the team a job escorting someone from Nar Shaddaa to his new home on a hidden planet in Wild Space.  It's just a simple relocation job.  Really.
  • Traffic control on Nar Shaddaa attempts to set the team up for an ambush, but they are a bit too wary for that, and they land safely at the client's apartment complex.
  • The client tells the team he doesn't need them and apologizes, but the team sees him being stuffed into an airspeeder at the far end of the landing bay for the apartment complex.

  • The team chases the airspeeder full of bounty hunters through the streets of Nar Shaddaa with a YT-1300.  The YT-1300 keeps up easily, but loses a few points of hull trauma from slamming into buildings from time to time during the chase.
  • Katya and Tor'waar attempt to open the boarding ramp and grab the client from the airspeeder.  This doesn't work at first, but the lead bounty hunter is knocked out of the speeder and is being pulled behind by a cable.
  • The lead bounty hunter auto fires on Katya and Tor'waar, injuring them both, but Tor'waar manages to cut the cable and the hunter goes careening a few miles through the air.
  • The group finally retrieves the client, and Prawn spins the ship on its axis and sets the rest of the hunters on fire using the engines of the YT-1300 as a weapon.
  • In the space outside of Nar Shaddaa, before the Broken Blade can make the jump to lightspeed, an Imperial Shuttle hails the ship and asks for the "Moff's son" back.  Drifter, being a conspiracy theorist, has an idea that the shuttle might be ISB.

  • Prawn nearly has a nervous breakdown upon realizing that their client is a Moff's son, and the group questions him on why he is running from his father.  He doesn't want to go to the academy on Carida, and would rather live a life of luxury, so he stole lots of credits and created a false identity until he could safely relocate.
  • The group jumps to Tatooine to throw the shuttle off their trail, then makes another jump to the world they were originally heading to in Wild Space.
  • The team sets up a contact on this world that knows how to get melee weapons with little trouble, the team helps the Moff's son buy some new goods, and they head home.
  • The team knows that the planet is an uncharted world populated by Expansion Region refugees from justice, often corporate employees that embezzled enough to get themselves off the grid.
This was a fun session.  I'd have to say my own personal high lights were the lead bounty hunter dangling from the speeder while still trying to fire on the PCs, the fact that they decided to use the YT-1300 to chase an airspeeder through Nar Shaddaa, and Prawn's reaction to finding out their client was the son of an Imperial Moff.

Civil War Marches On! (Marvel Heroic, 8-23-13)

The second session of Act II of Civil War was pushed back a bit due to some pet related issues on my part.  Now that we are back on track, the group had their second session of Act II.  For those of you playing along at home, if you would like to watch the shenanigans, there are chronicles here on YouTube:

Highlights of the evening included the following:

  • Maria Hill warned Spider-Man that General Lazar of the ONE was going to bring charges on him for the Sentinel pilot that was burned at the X-Mansion.
  • Spidey and Maria got into a bit of a disagreement, and she gave Spidey 24 hours to turn himself over for either a public trial or a SHIELD tribunal.
  • Spidey called an emergency Avengers meeting and invited Cyclops and Beast as well, so the total roster of attendees was Hank Pym, Iron Man, Thor, Ms. Marvel, Tigra, Hawkeye  (Kate Bishop), Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, and Beast.

  • The active duty Avengers voted on a new chairman now that Cap is a fugitive, and Ms. Marvel won handily, with only Hank Pym voting for Hank Pym.
  • Spidey decided to unmask rather than being forced to do so, and Iron Man arranged to move Aunt May and Mary Jane to Avengers tower where they would be safe from anyone.
  • Nearly the entire group agreed that while they could see the use for an SHRA, none of them (with one exception) were happy with the implementation and wanted to work hard on modifying the law.

  • Hank Pym gave an passionate speech about working with SHIELD and giving the law a chance to work once everyone was settled into place and registered or in custody.  Cyclops was especially wary of anything being run by the government and was contemptuous of the Avengers and their lack of concern when these issues were only presented to mutants.
  • Spidey has Iron Man help him set up a press conference to reveal his identity to the world, and he does so, and General Lazar shows up at the press conference to confront Spidey and to make him look as bad as possible before the trial.

  • After Spidey and Lazer go at it a bit, and Kitty Pryde and Tony show their support of Spidey, Deadpool shows up at the press conference and shoots himself in the head with two guns after Lazar and Spidey discuss how serious footage of someone being shot in the face might be.
  • Ms. Marvel attempts to take Deadpool off stage, but he teleports away and causes Carol to injure herself as she slams into the wall full force.

  • General Lazar is so traumatized by Deadpool's display that he opens fire on the Merc with a Mouth, and gets arrested and carted away from the press conference, unable to press charges on Spider-Man, at the very least pending a psyche evaluation.
This was a very fun session.  We ended up with several roleplaying heavy transition scenes in a row, because we were missing Cap's player, and we needed to advance the story without cutting to Cap's meeting with Madam Hydra.

I was worried at first with the number of RP scenes in a row, but everyone really had good ideas on how to elaborate their character's point of view, or at least had a good idea of how they would react to other ideas being presented.

One of the things I really like is that our group is less "Pro-Registration" and "Anti-Registration," and more "Fix it from the Inside," or "Tear it Down from the Outside," with a bit of "Ignore It and Keep Doing What You Were Doing Before" thrown in for good measure.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What I Learned About My Character From Character Creation (13th Age)

Today Armored Gopher Games had a grand reopening gala, with lots of demos, music, and food.  One of those demos was also the first part of one of Fire Opal Media's 13th Age Organized Play adventures.  Since I have the book, and have been pretty happy with what I have read, and I haven't gotten to be on the other side of the screen for a while, I made up a character.

What's interesting is that the process for making up a character in 13th Age is really neat for slipping a backstory onto your sheet while forcing you to be relatively minimalist with said backstory.

Between your One Unique Thing, your Icon Relationships, and you Backgrounds, even if you aren't trying, sometimes you get a simple story to emerge.

I made up a Tiefling fighter.  Why?  I don't know, I just wanted to do something different.  I knew I wanted to be a fighter, and I wanted some relationship to a martial Icon in there somewhere.  It occurred to me that having a Tiefling fighter with a conflicted relationship with the Crusader would be interesting.

That's all I had in my mind to start.

When I made up my one unique thing, I wanted it to be a little more "grounded."  I like gonzo ideas, but it just didn't seem right in this instance.  I just made it:

"I am the sole survivor of the Perilous Host, a mercenary company sworn to the service of the Crusader."

I came up with a connection to the Crusader, and an answer for why a Tiefling would be working with him.  From here, it occurred to me that knowing the Crusader, my company was probably tactically sacrificed for the betterment of the overall campaign.

As a mercenary, I understand the risks.  And seeing the Diabolist's work up close and personal, I really agree with the Crusader and his efficient means of dispatching her hosts.  But I kind of hate him personally, because I can't just accept that my brothers in arms were only cannon fodder for the Crusader's bigger, more important plans.

This led to my Icon relationships:

Crusader  (Conflicted):  2

Diabolist  (Negative):  1

I'd work for the Crusader again.  I admire his military strategy and appreciate his goals, at least as far as the Diabolist is concerned.  But I'll never trust the bastard again.  I won't forget to leave myself a back door.

And it's hard not to get a negative view of the Diabolist when her multitudes tear apart your brothers in arms right in front of you, and before that, when you see her handiwork up close.

Then I had my backgrounds, which I set up like this:

Mercenary Captain  +5

Nursemaid to an Ailing Mother +2

Hunted and Persecuted +1

To me, this made sense because clearly my character had been with the mercenary company for a long period of time, relative to his age, and had risen up through the ranks, before they were wiped out.  He takes that loss personally.

His mother was a pariah, because she gave birth to a Tiefling.  When she grew sick, he was on the only one to take care of her, and while it wasn't quick, it probably wasn't for more than a few years, because it's only a +2, so she passed on before it became a major professional background of tending for the sick.

And without his mother around, in the wider world, and not around his home village, which might hate him but wouldn't take action against time, he was on the run, hiding and surviving, but not for too long, because his mercenary brothers snatched him up and gave him a job after only a few months on the street.

Now, you might be reading this and thinking I tricked you into a "let me tell you about my character" post, and you'd be partially right, but the point is that I didn't sit down and come up with that backstory.  Because I had to come up with One Unique Thing, I came up with a succinct explanation for why I was special.  Because I had to have Icon relationships, I had to come up with why  they were the degrees they were and why they were conflicted or negative.  Because I had to have backgrounds, I had to come up with things that told a story with the chance of providing some kind of practical benefit.

I've used checklists for character creation before to "remind" me to put certain details behind a character, and they haven't done as much as this process did to quickly come up with an idea of who the character is now, and who he was just before he joined the story.

I'm not saying this is the most detailed or realized character I've ever made.  I'm just saying that this isn't a character that had been rolling around in my head for months, that I finally put to paper when I played it in X game the way a lot of those other well formed characters came about.

I guess what I'm saying is that 13th Age as some really nice and simple mechanics for fleshing out a backstory that kind of sneaks up on you.  I like it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Oh, Robocop . . .

So, first off, I want this to be good.  I love Robocop, and I really like the ensemble of actors they have for this movie.

But I have my doubts.  I don't want to do any preemptive poo pooing, but there are some warning signs for me.  If people have counter points, hey, I'll listen.  As an FBI agent said once, I want to believe.

Here are my warning signs.  In the original movie, Murphy was legally dead.  There was hardly anything left of him.  Part of the development of the character was seeing how much was actually left of Murphy, and seeing how well he could express himself given his mechanical nature.

But it looks like Murphy is very clearly intact from the get go here.  The question that comes up in this trailer seems to be not how much of Murphy is left or how human he is, but how much he is being manipulated and controlled.

That's a dramatic tonal shift, and pretty nearly qualifies for a brand new character, if you start from the assumption of "yes" when it comes to asking if his humanity is intact.

The other shift I can't quite wrap my head around is just the environments in the movie.  The city may look like a real world city, but the board rooms and the operating theater and everything else looks so super high tech and futuristic.

Maybe it will be used to good effect, but it looks like there is a dramatic divide between "corporate" world and "real" world, instead of making the whole thing look like it could happen next week, the way the original Robocop did.

I'm kind of concerned that, if the "corporate" world looks so far removed from the "real" world, instead of questioning things that could happen next week or next month in a real boardroom, the tension of the movie will be resisting the corporate invaders from future world.

But, seriously, I want this to be good.  Robocop is right up there with Back to the Future and Ghostbusters, and just a little behind Star Wars and Indiana Jones when it comes to formative movies embedded deep within my fragile 80s psyche.

Star Wars, Tales of Team Besh, Episode One (EotE game, 9-5-13)

Really wondering how well I'll manage to juggle the recaps with the game running weekly, and Marvel going on, but hey, I appreciate a challenge.  Without further ado, here is the recap for the second team hired by Honest Cid, Team Besh.

We meet Team Besh on Eriadu, the Coruscant of the Outer Rim, bastion of Imperial loyalty, and former home of Grand Moff Tarkin.  Our team this time around consists of the following characters:

Doctor Smith--He tries not to be violently insulting to non-humans, and to not fall into the patterns of his previous, pro-Imperial past, especially after Alderaan.  Tries.  And he's being blackmailed.

T3-R9--Another returning character from a previous campaign, this one being my Star Wars Saga game set in the Old Republic. Yes.  T3 is about 4000 years old, and his memory core has taken a beating.  T3 owes his continued freedom to Honest Cid, so he may have to do some work on the side.

Tiberius--A man on a trek through the stars, who also likes to negotiate.  Tiberius is a ladies man, and a talker, and is driven to explore new worlds and new civilizations while turning a profit.

Krill Anshar--A slicer that accidentally found himself working for smugglers.  He's compelled to see if he can break into computers and to test security systems, but nobody wants to accidentally enter a life a crime, do they?

Dia Karn--Dia is a Twi'lek who was a former slave, who can't stand slavery.  She good at quietly killing people, and has some credentials as a scholar, and owes a favor to some shadowy folk that set her free.

Gar Britt--A gambler and a fast talker, what most people don't know is that Gar is Force sensitive, and it runs in his family.  He also tends to dislike slavery and oppression, and is driven to oppose it, even if he does so subtly and with style.

Highlights of the evening?

  • A cruel guard menaces Dia, Smith encourages it to try and escape, while Gar defends her, and the whole mess is interrupted by a mysterious cyborg that bails them out of jail.
  • T3 is being used as a table in the corner, and is accidentally activated and claimed by the cyborg.
  • The group is scrutinized on the tram on the way to the cyborg's ship by an imperial officer and a compliment of Stormtroopers, but they have a lot of Cool between them and manage to not set off any warning bells.  Or at least not too many.

  • The cyborg turns out to be an insurance adjuster that accidentally got military grade cybernetics after an accident, and is really a very simple man doing a side job for Cid.
  • Dia carves the word "scum" into Doctor Smith's arm with a vibroknife on low power while he's sleeping because of his offensive comments while the group was in jail.
  • The team is intimidated by TK-655 when arriving on Polis Massa, and Doctor Smith says something offensive about Dia again.  Once out of sight of the Stormtrooper, Tiberius stuns Smith again, but this time, Smith just runs into the next room.
  • Cid gives the team their own YT-1300, which Tiberius calls the Free Enterprise, and Cid lets T3 know that he is "emancipated," and will do what he can to keep the droid free of ownership, for a few extra favors here and there.
  • The team is sent to Malastare to pick up some parts from a failing custom speeder part business which is being absorbed by a Hutt front company.  The parts being sold are "off the books" of the company's assets.

  • Gar has a contact on Malastare, but ultimately, instead of contacting anyone, the group just finds the warehouse that the parts are likely housed in, due to Krill and T3's slicing, and the group rents hovertrucks to clean out the warehouse.
  • Tiberius and Dia pick up some items for resale in the Outer Rim, outside of the normal job parameters.
  • There is a riot a few blocks down from the warehouse.  While this is good cover, Doctor Smith can't help but want to actually see if he could do some good, as part of his effort to turn over a new leaf.  He runs down to the riot and barely manages to escape injury while the rest of the team works on cleaning out the warehouse.
  • Doctor Smith barely makes it back to the Free Enterprise before the team leaves, and Dia and Tiberius convince the local authorities that Smith is actually a mental patient without medical credentials, and that they will "take him back home."  The authorities give them a straight jacket to help.

  • On the way off Malastare, patrol craft are diverted due to some incident with fighters and a bulk freighter, and a Kom'rk class fighter-transport hails the Free Enterprise, asking them to land on a nearby moon so that he can take possession of their goods.  
  • The pirate is infamous in the Mid Rim as potentially, but not definitely, being a Mandalorian and using their equipment.
  • T3 primes the engines to run, and starts putting the ship into evasive maneuvers, while Krill plots a hyperspace course back to Polis Massa, and finally Gar manages to talk about a supposed connection between the group and the Hutts that gives the pirate pause long enough for the hyperdrive to be engaged and the group to escape.

As a side point, the first encounter was designed when I thought have the party was going to be non-human, and eventually most of the characters ended up being human, except for Dia and T3.  I should have changed the encounter, or realized on the fly how it changed the tone of the first encounter, but I didn't pick up on this soon enough, and the opening scene turned into a guard terrorizing and marginalizing the Twi'lek scholar, and it really wasn't suppose to single her out that way.

I've apologized to the Twi'lek's player, and I'm going to keep an eye out for unintentional changes in scene focus like that in the future.  Sometimes you really do need to sit back and visualize the scene in your head before you dive into it.

Side Note:  In general, I follow an abbreviated version of the process in Never Unprepared, one step of which is just reviewing how encounters will potentially play out after you write them.  I did that, but only from a purely mechanical standpoint  (i.e. will the players likely get violent, will they attempt to break out, will they quietly fade away or argue back).  While much of that is decision making and roleplaying based, I really didn't envision the whole encounter, the tone and tenor of it, and I should have.

Star Wars Episode One . . . No, Wait, Don't Leave, I Don't Mean That One (Edge of the Empire Team Aurek, 8-29-13)

My new Star Wars:  Edge of the Empire campaign is a little different than what I've done in the past.  I'm running it on back to back Thursdays, with two separate groups.  Both groups work for the same employer, and what one group does will affect the campaign for the other group.  Ultimately their boss is looking to find just the right team for a very special job, and giving both teams a few tasks to perform to see where their strengths lie.

Their employer is Sir Cid Ybom, a Herglic Tapani Knight that purchased his title so that he could more effectively do business within the Empire.  Cid's business is Honest Cid's Outer Rim Transport, located in the Polis Massa system, as part of an established Imperial supply and refueling base that also rents out space to local businesses.

Team Aurek consists of people in the local jail on Terminus, a crossroads planet in the Outer Rim that sees lots of traffic from Wild Space settlements as well as a few curiosities from the Unknown Regions.  The team was bailed out by a bounty hunter that does some work for Cid, and that's where our fun begins.

Dramatis Personae:

Drifter--Drifter doesn't respect boundaries, dislikes "the man," and wanders where he will, but he is concerned about his family.

Katya--Way back in her youth, Katya was a marginal padawan.  The Clone Wars happened, she hid, became a hard drinking scoundrel, and sitting the in jail cell, realizes that maybe she should look back on the things she was taught in her youth.

Prawn--A recurring character from my previous EotE beta game, Prawn is deeply in debt and deeply paranoid.  He's a rodian that has felt human oppression up close, and is ever the pragmatist.

Max--Max is a pro-Imperial card carrying COMPNOR member that has a tendency to fall in with a bad crowd.  Max can be a bit of a zealot, but genuinely wants what is best for non-humans, he's just sure that non-humans are all inferior to  humans.

Tor'warr--Tor'warr has toured the illegal gladitorial circuit and well as doing some more conventional fighting.  He's an white furred Wookiee that not only embodies Wookiee stereotypes, but embraces them.  He's also a walking affirmation of Max's thoughts on non-humans.

Hightlights of the night include the following:

  • Tor'warr nearly gets into a fight with the Trandoshan whose arm he ripped off in a bar fight when the Trandoshan is brought into the station.

  • Max talks a swoop gang out of harassing the party by telling them to be an example to other humans.  They listen to him, but apply the lesson as being told they should harass only non-human offworlders, but the gang moves along and doesn't harm the party.
  • Katya hears about a Force Sensitive con artist that is bilking people out of large sums of credits.  The rest of the group is waiting for the bounty hunter to pick up his ship and fly them away, so are not concerned, but Katya and Tor'warr go off to investigate.
  • Katya wants to talk the con artist out of his evil ways, but Tor'warr's insistent grip sets the dark side user off, and a fight ensues.  Katya and Tor'warr get some bumps and bruises, the force user died, and they hustle down the block to meet up with the bounty hunter that bailed them out before the local authorities could further investigate.

  • A representative of the 501st is stationed on Polis Massa, and Max is enamored of him, having Drifter take holovids of them together and asking for his autograph.
  • The team gets their own YT-1300 and a job to run parts to a lost Czerka facility where the locals worship the observation computer as a god.
  • The locals cannot get married or chose a mate unless one of the "sky people" approve the match, so Max volunteers while the parts get delivered to the computer, who is paying for the parts, and asking not to reveal it's location to the Czerka corporation.
  • A riot starts because of Max's match making skills.  Tor'warr is caught out in the open and won't back down.  Max jumps in the ship and opens fire, missing the crowd and damaging the protective dome to the city.  
  • Prawn and Drifter remove the observation computer's restrictive programming, allowing it to reveal  (or not) that it is not divine to the people and make decisions based on free will instead of Czerka directives.  
  • Tor'warr is nearly killed by the mob of disgruntled miners, suffering multiple criticals, including a serve blow to the head reducing his intellect, and a dangerous wound that causes him strain whenever he takes any actions.  

  • Prawn repairs the protective dome to the city before a Slivilith can fly in and wreak havoc.
  • The party has a hyperspace malfunction on the way home, and takes some damage to the ship due to an ion storm.  Their navicomputer blows out, but thankfully they find some extra parts in the hold that they can use to repair it, and they arrive home at Polis Massa.
Post Script:  I had meant to mention it, but the subplot with the former padawan was based on that character's obligation.  I really liked that, and was a little disappointed that no one's obligation came up in the next game.

Registration Day and Beyond (Marvel Heroic 8-26-13)

Our most recent Marvel Heroic game moved into Act 2 of the event, starting off with the players chatting with Maria Hill the day before everyone needed to be registered by midnight.  If you care to watch the shenanigans yourselves, you can see the video of the session here:

Highlights include the following:

  • Iron Man and his new assistant Kitty Pryde began setting up a foundation for helping and training those affected by the Registration Act, hoping to turn the law into a more positive thing.
  • Maria Hill attempted to convince Spider-Man to unmask to ease public worry, and tried to pick out a new uniform for Ms. Marvel based on image consultants.
  • Several registered Avengers showed up at a meeting of B and C List heroes that had been brought together in a sting operation by Mister Fantastic and Yellowjacket.  Ms. Marvel attempts to calming get them to register, Iron Man attempts to get them to do whatever they are going to do peacefully  (and hands out holographic cards for his new foundation), Kitty spooks them by walking through a wall, and Hawkeye, leading the SHIELD team sent to bust the group, intimidates the group of cornered heroes.
  • The same registered Avengers attempt to talk Thor into registering while he is playing cards with the Thing.  Thor is uninterested in human laws, but signs because Luke Cage managed the unthinkable feat of defeating in an arm wrestling contest.
  • A riot breaks out at the X Mansion because of mutants that are afraid registration will require them to be conscripted into violent military or law enforcement duties, bringing with it memories of Genosha.  The Sentinels on the grounds attempt to stop them.
  • Moon Knight arrives as an emissary for Namor, looking for vengeance seeking heroes.  The assembled heroes tries to calm the rioters and the Sentinels, but after a fight, some of the rioters are dead and Spider-Man, not realizing the Sentinels were being piloted by people, causes a pilot to be badly burned when he gums up the Sentinel's flamethrowers.
  • Iron Man attempts to arrest Moon Knight, again, but Wonder Man steps in to calm Tony down, even though Wonder Man is registered, because he's seen too much bloodshed already, and just wants it to stop.  He argues with Tony while Moon Knight and X-23 leave to meet up with Namor.
  • Wonder Man decides to do a press conference to advocate that mutants be freed from the X-Mansion "protective zone" and be assured that they won't be conscripted into service.
Really enjoyable session.  The stakes definitely seem to be rising, between the rioter deaths and Spider-Man's actions, and the inter hero heat is certainly there, even among characters that are ostensibly on the same side.

Some Marvel Heroic Ideas for Long Term Play

I really like some of the story direction elements that go into unlockables in Marvel Heroic events.  I like that it shows XP aren't just used for the traditional RPG convention of lengthening and broadening the abilities of a character.

That being said, the Basic Game gives an awful lot of examples that line up with more traditional XP expenditures.  It makes perfect sense, because a lot of unlockable XP expenditures are very specific to the events in which they appear.  Unfortunately, if you add traditional RPG mindset to the majority of examples being in that vein, it's understandable that some players might feel as if they should be using their XP to boost their traits, add powersets, get more specializations, or pump up existing specializations.

Also, what works for a specific event may not work as well for a game that is more loosely organized into "story arcs" as much as acts, and might need some broader story based goals.

With all of that in mind, I threw together some ideas about what kind of unlockable XP expenditures might reward the player that doesn't want to change their hero's stats so much as they just want their hero to sink his teeth into the plot a bit deeper.

Asking for a Favor

For 15 XP, a hero can call in a favor to end one scene favorably in a manner similar to the Watcher ending a scene by paying 2d12 from the Doom Pool.  The Watcher should warn the player if they are nearing the end of the act, and should work with the player to avoid ending the act in this manner.

The player should explain what kind of favor he is calling in, and from whom he is calling in the favor.  This favor should be tied to one of their specializations.  A character that is a Grandmaster in the specialization tied to his favor gains a d8 complication, a character with Mastery in a specialization tied to the gains a d10 complication, and a character with an Expert specialization gains a d12 complication.

This complication can be removed by acting against in during a Transition Scene.  The character assembles a die pool opposed by the Doom Pool and the complication.  If the roll is successful, compare the effect die to the complication.  If the effect die is equal or larger than the complication, the hero has fulfilled his side of the bargain or been released from any obligation.  If the effect dice is smaller than the complication, it steps down.  The Player should explain how he is working to pay back his favor and assemble his die pool based on this description.

The complication steps down each time the event moves to a new act.  It is assumed that the hero can do some work behind the scenes to pay back this obligation a little bit at a time, even if he doesn't spend a Transition Scene to work on this obligation.  A character cannot ask for another favor in this manner until they eliminate the complication from another favor.

Backup Plan

For 15 XP, a hero can declare that he is working on a backup plan.  The hero can end an action scene in a manner similar to the Watcher ending a scene by paying 2d12.  A hero can only come up with one Backup Plan per act.  Whenever a character sets a Backup Plan in motion, he describes how the plan resolves the scene, and then adds a die to the Doom Pool.

The Backup Plan is tied to one of the hero's specialties.  A character with a Backup Plan based on an Expert Specialty adds a d12 to the Doom Pool.  A character with a Backup Plan based on a Master specialty adds a d10 to the Doom Pool.  A character with a Grand Master speciality tied to their Backup Plan adds a d8 to the Doom Pool.

Guest Stars

A player may spend XP to call in a Guest Star for a scene.  The Guest Star is not fully detailed, but is represented by a die type.  It costs 10 XP to call in a d12 Guest Star, and 5 XP to call in a d10 Guest Star.  The player and Watcher should work together to determine a hero that is a good fit for either designation.

The Watcher controls the Guest Star, but the Guest Star will always act in favor of the hero whose player paid for their appearance.  The Guest Star has their own spot in the regular turn, and on that turn, they can do one of the following things:

Create an asset equal to their die rating.

Add a complication to an opposing character.

Add stress to an opposing character.

Remove or step down an existing complication.

When acting against another Watcher character to add stress or a complication, the Guest Star compares their die rating to a relevant trait of the other Watcher character.  If the relevant trait is equal to or greater than the Guest Star rating, the stress or complication is stepped down.  If the Guest Star rating is higher than the comparison trait, the stress or complication takes effect at the full die value of the Guest Star.

When removing an existing complication, compare the die rating of the Guest Star to the complication.  If it is equal or greater than the complication, the complication is removed.  If the complication is greater than the Guest Star die rating, it is stepped down.

A Guest Star can take stress and complications, but these are only used to determine whether they can participate in a scene.  A d10 Guest Star is stressed out or complicated out of a scene if they take a d12 stress or complication.  A d12 Guest Star is stressed out or complicated out if their stress or complication is stepped up beyond d12.