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Concise Locket

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  • Birthday 06/13/1978

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  1. Concise Locket

    Prepping the Next Campaign: A Quasi-Hexcrawl Approach

    My motivation are the people who would be playing in the campaign. They're a newer group, including one player who, prior to meeting me, had never played a role-playing game. Our first game was a short Numenera campaign and now we're playing Paranoia and Rifts (Savage Worlds). They responded favorably to the weirdness of those settings. Hutt Space - which isn't dominated by Humans and Imperial politics - seems like a good setting choice for a canonical game. Over the past few months I've been trying to be more receptive to what works and what doesn't with my players. Rather than just ramming through a story line, I try to keep in mind who is going to be playing through the campaign. I'm more of a "spies and politics" type of gamer but most of my players like weird and epic so I'm working to come up with campaigns that they'll like and that I'll find smart enough to be engaging. It isn't easy but I think it makes games more memorable. Thankfully, the group that played the AoR game does like spies and politics, so we're now playing a spy-based Infinity RPG game. 😀
  2. Last Shot wins for having an Ewok slicer who gets angry for being stereotyped as an ignorant tribal. The rest of it is just run-of-the-mill Star Wars stuff.
  3. Concise Locket

    Prepping the Next Campaign: A Quasi-Hexcrawl Approach

    AND WE'RE DONE. We had our final Age of Rebellion session last Saturday. The story arc began immediately after the events of the Return of the Jedi. The top Imperial Intelligence heads of the Tion Cluster were meeting to decide next steps. It was the PCs' job to grab all seven of them and turn them over to New Republic Intelligence. They kidnapped two officers before deciding to cut and run. A disappointing decision but it's always their choice. Before taking off, they infiltrated the security section of the Imperial government center and turned the building's external defenses on the occupying forces. It made a big splash. Unfortunately, it also attracted the notice of the Grand Moff's command ship which entered the planet's atmosphere and began bombarding the planet per Operation: Cinder. The PCs' fleet gathered in response and the final event of the campaign was a set-piece fleet battle using SW: Armada models. They won using the Squadron rules and the Mass Combat rules. More importantly, all the players survived. The players had been gathering capital ships through the entire campaign but the story wasn't providing opportunities to use them. The final match-up supplied a logical payoff for their efforts. I asked for feedback on the campaign and the most fulfilling response was, "We never felt like you were telling us what to do. You set us up and let us go, even if it meant that we ended up doing something stupid or failed." FINAL ASSESSMENT Was this a hexcrawl, quasi- or not? No. I had a defined and pre-populated section of space for the PCs' to interact with but because the campaign wasn't set up for exploration, it wasn't utilized that way. Was this a sandbox? Again, no. In a war campaign, the goal is to defeat the enemy, not wander around doing whatever strikes your fancy. Even players who consider the faintest of guide posts a "thrice-cursed railroad" will acknowledge this. War campaigns are dependent upon a GM having an understanding of how winning and losing battles will shape the campaign as a whole. An immersive experience isn't simply painting a vivid picture, it's having an understanding of what appropriate responses will be. What did you want this campaign to be? I wanted the players to act like field generals and make grand decisions about where to apply forces and who to attack. I wanted them to act like diplomats and bring new allies into the fight. It turns out that acting like a diplomat is a lot easier for a player to wrap his head around than acting like a general. In a sense, the dramatic interplay of dialogue and negotiation is much more engaging in an RPG than simply looking at maps and saying "send troops here." If this was a board game, it would be a different story. My takeaway is that it's more important to provide dramatic character interplay interspersed with scenes of action than it is to do a space-fantasy version of Churchill in his bunker. In a war campaign game, the ideal player role is that of a commando or squadron leader, not a flag officer. The nice thing about the FFG Star Wars RPG model is that characters with diplomatic backgrounds can have skills that are useful in action scenes. What were your biggest sources of frustration? The players didn't provide me a lot of character-driven bits to work from. TV writers love it when actors provide suggestions about what to explore with their characters because it lifts a lot of the burden of idea generation off them. I'm no different in that regard. This is the burden of gamemastering players whose formative years were spent playing D&D 3.5. Dungeons & Dragons asks very little of its players and a majority of GMs simply unroll a dungeon and populate it with monsters, assuming they aren't just running a module. Narrative games are a heavy story lift for GMs and without player input it can become a drag. Luckily, I have techniques to keep myself interested in a story and stave off writer's block. It would have been nice if the players both read the career specialization descriptions and attempted to keep their character role-playing within those parameters. Agitators and Figureheads aren't the same thing. And play to your Motivations, for pete's sake! What would you do differently in the future? Along with having fewer locales, I would introduce only a handful of named NPCs and keep them around as reoccurring characters. I would set up a firm timeline of events to serve as plot anchors and have the players respond to those events however they choose rather than going in with an open-ended campaign. Was this a success? Yes. Everyone had fun.
  4. Concise Locket

    Prepping the Next Campaign: A Quasi-Hexcrawl Approach

    Playing around with a campaign that takes place in Hutt Space... The Factions Quanaalac Kajidic. Contact: Troonol the Hutt. Ally: The Shell Hutts. Primary Foe: The Zann Consortium. Besadii Kajidic. Contact: Durga the Hutt. Ally: The Yahk-Tosh. Primary Foe: The Shell Hutts. The Shell Hutts. Contact: Gheeta the Hutt. Ally: Quanaalac Kajidic. Primary Foe: Besadii Kajidic. The Yahk-Tosh. Contact: Lord Gar-Oth. Ally: Besadii Kajidic. Primary Foe: The Sakiyans. The Sakiyans. Contact: Queen D'Shar. Ally: Zann Consortium. Primary Foe: The Yahk-Tosh Zann Consortium. Contact: Admiral Jerid Sykes. Ally: The Sakiyans. Primary Foe: Qunaalac Kajidic. The Timeline The Imperial Navy’s focus on the growing rebellion in the Outer Rim has given the Zann Consortium an opportunity to expand its sphere of influence. Vowing revenge on his old “friend” Jabba, who left him to rot on Kessel, Tyber Zann’s “navy” moves into several territories in Hutt Space, including the Si’Klaata Cluster and the Akkadese Malestrom. With the spice mines of Kessel threatened, the Hutts begin to sit up and take notice. Troonol the Hutt, commander of the largest Qunaalac fleet, agitates the other Hutt kajidics to either join the Hutt military efforts or supply resources to push back the Consortium. Gheeta the Hutt of Circumtore immediately agree to help though Circumtore’s resources are limited. The other kajidics make outward promises of support but because interesting times make for profitable opportunities, most do not follow-through, choosing a “wait-and-see” posture. Members of the Besadii clan opt to take advantage of the situation. Durga the Hutt, a Black Sun vigo, orders the construction of a To-Sharr Uuta Shipworks port at Circumtore, which is located a hyperspace crossroads. On the surface, the To-Sharr serves a similar role to a merchant’s guild, providing discounts and assistance to members. However, it’s a front for Black Sun, providing intelligence and money laundering services. Frustrated by the incursion into their territory, the Shell Hutts work to sabotage the project, both by appealing to the Hutt Ruling Council and through deliberate acts of violence against Besadii. Word of Durga’s actions make their way to Lord Gar-Oth, a Yahk-Tosh. The Yahk-Tosh are evolutionary relatives to the Hutts and though they control their own small interstellar empire, which includes their homeworld of Xolu and the planet of Far Pando, they are considered a client species. Recognizing the power of an alliance, Gar-Oth presents himself to Durga. He claims to have learned that the Sakiyans are supplying the Shell Hutts with advanced repulsorlift technology. Durga tells Gar-Oth to stop the flow of technology to Circumtore, promising him control of the Sakifwanna colony world in exchange for his success. The devious Gar-Oth, flush with Black Sun financial resources, begins moving on Saki, seizing control of the planet’s largest repulsorlift technology company in a hostile takeover. Not only is he now in charge of a major economic engine, soon he will have his own planet! Queen D’Shar, ruler of Saki, is left aghast by the Yahk-Tosh’s blatant disregard of Saki’s forcefully held independence. Unfortunately, the Hutts’ “hands-off” attitude is one based on several millennia of failed invasion attempts rather than respect. Thus, the Lords of Nal Hutta will never spare the effort to dislodge Gar-Oth. Left with no other choice, D’Shar reaches out to Admiral Jerid Sykes of the Zann Consortium. In exchange for assistance in dealing with Gar-Oth, the Saki will supply the Zann Consortium with intelligence on Hutt defense assets and some of the best spies and assassins the galaxy has ever seen. Campaign Resolution Questions Do the PCs take up arms with Troonol the Hutt or join forces with Admiral Sykes? Do the PCs help the Shell Hutts against Durga or help Durga build his port? Do the PCs help Gar-Oth or Queen D’Shar?
  5. Concise Locket


    I thought it was pretty good. I think it was the weakest of the new Star Wars movies but I think all the new Star Wars movies are good.
  6. Concise Locket

    Creating PC Problems

    1. As often as it's interesting for you and the players. 2. Whatever you want to throw in so long as it doesn't feel like a "random encounter;" i.e. "Oh no, a swoop gang wants your drugs! Roll for Initiative." The actual act of selling drugs isn't very interesting. Check out HBO's The Wire. The drama comes from the character interplay in a city where it's debatable who the good guys and bad guys are. The actual drug sale should be the last action in a series of tense events revolving around negotiation, hiding out, keeping your fear in check, and deciding who's trustworthy and who's a snitch. The challenge should be for the PCs to figure out who's a good buyer.
  7. This discussion falls under the RPG truism of "the players are not their characters." Players aren't getting shot at, their characters are. Players aren't piloting starships, their characters are. Players aren't as charismatic Lando Calrissian, their characters are. Players aren't afraid of Darth Vader, their characters are. Playing a character gives a player a freedom of choice defined by the mechanics, the setting, and the outlines of the agreed-upon story. It doesn't give their character a freedom from reactions. Saying "But I'm not actually afraid!" when a player fails a fear checks is the same thing as saying "But I'm not shot!" when an NPC scores a hit on their character. It isn't relevant. If you want to get all philosophical about it, real life people are biological creatures with hardwired fight-or-flight reflexes that they can't mentally control, no matter how much macho he-men might claim otherwise. This game - and others that use fear mechanics (Call of Cthulhu, Night's Black Agents, et. all) - are simply modeling a natural and reasonable reaction to danger. If fear mechanics were baked into the DNA of Dungeons & Dragons, this wouldn't even be a discussion. If a situation is a) new and b) incredibly dangerous, hitting players with a fear check is completely within the bounds of the rules and keeping with the spirit of the game. Statistically speaking, the players are going to overcome the obstacle anyway so complaining about a few added black dice or a lost turn is very petty.
  8. Concise Locket

    Do you use Custom Loot?

    I created a custom Eklot for Ailon Nova Guardsmen my players' PCs encountered. I just took a basic spear and added a toxin from the EotE CRB. It wasn't hard. My players aren't super loot-driven so they didn't keep one.
  9. Concise Locket

    Rise of the Separatists Era Book

    Considering that digital computers first appeared in the 1950s and analog computers have been around since... forever, someone who knew what an analog computer is probably wouldn't get his mind blown by a digital computer. The divide in technological understanding at the time was due to the majority of the developed world still being agrarian. Star Wars can have digital computers but so long as they're not ubiquitous or connected into some sort of searchable, galaxy-spanning Internet-analog, they're appropriately Star Wars. Biological computers and other cutting edge and theoretical science-fiction concepts would probably be out of bounds.
  10. Concise Locket

    Am I mistaken...

    Apparently Disney was worried about losing ticket sales to actual convicted-rapists-who-plead-down-to-battery and make bad faith arguments along with posting pro-assaulting-women tweets. But that's the world we live in now. Rumor has it that Disney and Gunn are engaging in backroom negotiations but if that falls through Taika Waititi can always do it. He has the same sense of humor. My heart tells me that would be awesome but my head tells me it wouldn't work out the way we want it to. And, speaking of someone who read Marvel comics for 30 years, the MCU is kind of boring. Every movie looks the same, has the exact same plot beats, and only seems to be an advertisement for the next movie. I don't want TV directors directing blockbuster movies, I want movie directors directing blockbuster movies. I'm okay with one Star Wars movie having a different look from another Star Wars movie. I'd rather Star Wars be a setting that different directors with different tastes can play in and one in which they don't have to worry about tripping over each other. Want to do a couple of movies in the era of the Old Republic? Cool, do that. Want to do a standalone story about a fighter pilot who survives the Battle of Endor and goes on to become a farmer who gets hassled by gangsters and has to break heads to protect his family? Do that. Talking about Star Wars on the Internet is like rolling gasoline into a fireworks factory.
  11. Concise Locket

    Am I mistaken...

    Because everything is a hyper-cross-marketing campaign run by the one of the largest multinational corporations on the planet... and they haven't figured out how they can also sell you Star Wars toys and a Star Wars board game with a Star Wars video game. At least with Star Wars comics and Star Wars novels, they can stick ads in the back.
  12. Concise Locket

    Am I mistaken...

    The Marvel comic books range from Great to Above Average. With the exception of the current Lando mini-series which suffers from being boring, they've all been winners in my book. I broke my ban on reading tie-in novels and the current post-Disney crop have all been mostly fine with a few stand-outs. None of them are bad in the way SW books were bad in the late '90s. At worst, they're a little on the safe and dull side, though, surprisingly enough, the Battlefield video game tie-in novel was really engaging. I suspect this trend of dullness and unimportant side-stories will continue until after Episode IX releases and authors have some more freedom to explore Luke Skywalker and the Force post-Return of the Jedi. From the perspective of giving gamemasters good tools to run good tabletop games, the FFG RPG line has been solid. The rules are effective and the supplements actually provide useful new bits and suggestions for both players and GMs. But from a world-building perspective, they've really been a dud, post-Disney. On the one hand, I like that the EU was wiped away and creators have a fresh slate to pick-and-choose Legends material to incorporate into new canon. On the other, I really, really liked Suns of Fortune and Lords of Nal Hutta and, after what's come out recently, I'm worried that I'll never see an interesting thematic setting book again. Though I liked parts of it, the first Era book didn't exactly knock my socks off. Half of it was dedicated to cross-over brand appeal, with its providing stats for major characters and the Death Star. That's great if you want to simulate Ahsoka fighting Darth Vader but for those of us who are trying to create new stories with new characters, which I suspect is most gaming tables, it's useless filler.
  13. Concise Locket

    Prepping the Next Campaign: A Quasi-Hexcrawl Approach

    You're welcome. I think certain games benefit both the players and the GMs if they're run as a sandbox: D&D, Earthdawn, and similar high-fantasy games can function well as sandboxes since exploration is a major theme of that genre. But Star Wars? Not so much. I do think there's a happy medium between pre-scripted campaign and open sandbox. Branching storylines and non-linear gameplay are good tools for GMs and allow players to maintain quite a bit of agency. In a "web" style campaign, players can make many different choices, leaping from strand to strand, but eventually all paths lead to a distinct central story point. Although this is technically branching, the central plot issue has only one answer, and no matter how the players reach that answer they must end the story in a specific manner or at a particular place. This allows you to control the climax and resolution. You can add blockages which force players to check in with your pre-planned structure as they move through the game. This gives the illusion of a sandbox but in reality you're just laying out the rails without making a bunch of noise about it. Having strong NPCs that react to the PCs - helping them or hurting them - makes the world feel more real and gives the GM another tool to direct the player without railroading them. I should have relied more on my NPCs than I did and I should have introduced fewer NPCs. If you look at The Clone Wars and Rebels, the secondary cast was actually pretty small. This isn't more realistic but it is more dramatic.
  14. Concise Locket

    Prepping the Next Campaign: A Quasi-Hexcrawl Approach

    Jumping back to the current and ongoing Age of Rebellion game... I just finished my final set of notes for the campaign and filed them in my binder. I anticipate 3 - 4 sessions remain and we will be done. Now seems like a good time to look back and file my observations of how this process turned out: Observation 1: If your players aren't naturally inquisitive, don't waste your time writing up notes for Knowledge Checks. We're in the tail-end of story arc 10 of 11 and I still have to be proactive with "Can I get a Xenology roll? Can I get a Knowledge: Warfare roll?" questions. Otherwise the players will never get critical information. If players put points into skills, it's up to them to use the skills, not the GM to remind them that the skills exist. Observation 2: I spent a lot of time writing planet blurbs for locations the players never visited. I didn't hate the process. Researching the Star Wars galaxy is always fun! And I'm pleased with how the map came out. But it was a lot of time spent on an activity that didn't have a tangible payoff. I think it's important for Star Wars campaigns to have reoccurring locales as it breeds a sense of familiarity and attachment in players. Having 40 locations runs counter to that. In my campaign, the total of visited worlds was 9 and even that could have been cut back to 6. If you're considering following in my footsteps, limit yourself to 10 or fewer potential worlds to visit. Observation 3: On other gaming forums, I see players lamenting being railroaded by GMs. I think that's a fair complaint. However, I'm no longer convinced that "sandbox play" is really a solution to the problem... or that players actually understand what being railroaded means. Even super-sandboxy Pathfinder modules like "Kingmaker" (which is a really, really good campaign that I recommend playing if you can find a group to play it with) have underlying narrative train-tracks running underneath them. Table-top gaming is a different beast than playing something like Skyrim. In a video game, you can take your time checking out random mountains, listening to birds, and picking flowers. But, unless you're doing a raid, video games aren't social activities. Unless a GM is simply an amazing wordsmith and create an amazing visual tableau that enraptures other people for hours, that kind of activity will bore most players. GMs who aren't actively guiding their players are probably doing their players a disservice. While I'd love to believe that every gaming group is made up of improv actors and the GM can just sit back and watch, that's the exception, not the rule. At the end of the day, Star Wars isn't Star Trek... it's not about exploration, it's about fights between good and evil. Focus on strong narrative conflict and less on terrain mapping because table-top RPGs are about creating an interesting narrative as a group. All other considerations are second. Observation 4: Going big is awesome but it's impossible to maintain forever. As you're developing your campaign, come up with two or three major set-piece battles and interject them strategically in the campaign... and save one for the climax. For the rest of the campaign, use small-scale skirmishes and military-related challenges that require using other skills. Use your Diplomat characters often, especially when it comes to recruiting new fighters to the cause. Observation 5: But, also, don't be afraid to give your players big toys. As a Contribution reward, I gave my players a Home One-type Star Cruiser. Star Wars isn't a supply lines and quartermaster simulation, it's a big epic space fantasy. Plus, your players are playing the Rebellion so even if they have a capital ship, the Empire has 10 bigger ones waiting in the wings. Observation 6: War stories become pretty repetitive pretty fast. There are only so many interesting ways to run a scenario where a group of PCs break into a fortress or prison. Once you find yourself repeating themes, it's time to wrap up the campaign. Observation 7: Set up some reoccurring villains by allowing one or more NPC Imperials to escape death at the hand of the PCs. Maybe they were a Minion TIE fighter pilot but when they return to face the PCs they're a TIE Ace. Observation 8: A final table-top RPG battle between the Big Bad Guys and the PCs is tough to pull off in a way that's both narratively believable and accommodates all players. Luke faced Darth Vader and the Emperor by himself and ONLY AFTER allowing himself to be captured and ONLY AFTER being tempted by Vader at Cloud City. A really good GM can, on the fly, weave together story-lines so that players eventually come face-to-face with the Big Bad after a year of playing... but to be emotionally effective, that requires the PCs have a near-photographic memory of past events. Plus, tying 3 to 5 disparate player personalities into one story is hard enough. The Age of Rebellion Squad/Squadron and Mass Combat rules do a good job of simulating epic battles so it's perfectly acceptable to have the Big Bad personally leading the opposing forces rather than running a 1-on-5 showdown at the top of the tower.
  15. Concise Locket

    Interesting ideas for dangerous Imperial plots?

    You can do a WMD story-line that doesn't involve a gun that blows up planets. For my Age of Rebellion campaign, a recent story arc involved delivering a plague antidote to Dellalt. The Imperials were testing a bioweapon on the lake-dwelling sauropteroids in anticipation of deploying it on nearby Mon Cala. The Imperials deployed fanatical, aquatic Ailon Nova Guardsman as project guards.