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Archlyte

World War feel

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I was noticing while running an AoR game recently that we (my group) weren't getting the tone that we wanted in the game, namely that of Rogue One. Post game I realized that the players were playing their characters as very cheery individuals, and I noticed that a few missions I gave them were basically combat busy-work. I failed to give them missions that were not only do or die, but also that had other consequences that were potentially terrible. The NPCs they encountered were very business as usual in their daily routines, and there was not a lot of tension even though in many places they went to there was an Imperial occupation force. I was failing to achieve that dire tone. of WWII

I was hoping to have a discussion here about how to achieve that tone. I thought about a few ways to go about getting that more serious and desperate tone: 

  • Keep cutesy or overly-positive characters to a minimum. This doesn't mean break out the edgelords, but it just means avoid characters that should be feeling the desperation but don't because they are either cute and funny aliens, or are super positive at all times. Humor should not break heavy scenes or situations but it should be in the mix. 
  • NPCs who live on occupied worlds are generally either distressed by the occupation or interdiction, or they are callous concerning the suffering of others and/or profiting from it. In places where the Empire is conducting business their presence should be felt as a negative force by regular folks. 
  • Missions and Operations need to have dire consequences that the players should be aware of if possible. Missions that are just about getting some extra stuff or rescuing personnel for no real specific reason are not going to seem urgent enough. 
  • Death & Destruction. While it may seem like a given, the Empire routinely employs a guilt by association and scorched earth policy. 
  • Someone Talked! The eyes and ears of the Empire are everywhere. Players should feel like the characters cannot really relax when in public.  
  • The Empire just replaces lost equipment and troops, while the Rebels have a hard time recuperating from losses. This means a feeling of retreat and re-build. 
  • Imperial Officers will not report losses until they fear that if they don't they will be in more trouble. Terminations are routine in the officer corps of the Empire, so "failures" to secure a world or system are going to probably go on for a bit until the ranking officer decides they can lose face and call for help. 
  • Rebel Leaders are like the leaders of something like the American Revolution or the Scottish vs. English in the times of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace where the heroes of the movement are staring down the barrel of public execution. That perilous situation where these people of very high prestige in their organization are under constant threat of capture, torture, and death. Normality is gone for them until the Empire is defeated. 

What are some ways that you use to make the AoR Game tone feel like the Rogue One movie? Or at least to make it feel gritty and serious. 

 

Edited by Archlyte

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49 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

I applaud your approach,  but Star Wars sources are full of tone- breaking cuteness. Just have a talk with your players and let them know you don't want it to become the baseline. 

Thanks Happy :) Just for fun do you have some examples? 

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2 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

Examples of cuteness or examples of having talks with players?

lol the tone breaking cuteness. Just wondering which things to be aware of. Also I read that like species choices originally but I think you didn't mean that now that I red the post again. 

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3 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

lol the tone breaking cuteness. Just wondering which things to be aware of. Also I read that like species choices originally but I think you didn't mean that now that I red the post again. 

No, species choices can definitely be a part of it. Too many Ewok (or Gungan) berserkers or even semi-serious species played with their oddities turned to 11. Talents, especially the narrative ones, can be used to boost silliness (Bad Motivator is a common example of this). The fact that the game is so low on lethality (for PCs and major NPCs) can lead to not taking combat seriously.

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1 hour ago, HappyDaze said:

No, species choices can definitely be a part of it. Too many Ewok (or Gungan) berserkers or even semi-serious species played with their oddities turned to 11. Talents, especially the narrative ones, can be used to boost silliness (Bad Motivator is a common example of this). The fact that the game is so low on lethality (for PCs and major NPCs) can lead to not taking combat seriously.

That's good advice about the strange for strange's sake stuff so thank you. I am always wary of stuff like that in session 0 but it's good to have it reinforced. 

I agree about the lethality and I feel like it can be an issue at times as you indicated. 

 

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The idea of the war itself should be a big factor. If you're using too easy of combat scenarios and/or making all the Rebel and Imperial characters un-interactable redshirts and statblocks, that would be the problem. It isn't as difficult as you might think to make a dire tone of things. Music, ambient sounds, and visual references for wartorn cityscapes can really nail it.

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On ‎2‎/‎16‎/‎2019 at 7:59 AM, BadMotivator said:

Get them attached to some NPCs who get murdered horribly later. Give them some rebel soldiers to lead, and then kill them once they get attached.

This is great. I think that if you can feel the damage the war is causing it raises the drama. Great point thank you. 

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On ‎2‎/‎16‎/‎2019 at 11:20 AM, Galakk Fyyar said:

The idea of the war itself should be a big factor. If you're using too easy of combat scenarios and/or making all the Rebel and Imperial characters un-interactable redshirts and statblocks, that would be the problem. It isn't as difficult as you might think to make a dire tone of things. Music, ambient sounds, and visual references for wartorn cityscapes can really nail it.

I like this. The idea that the war is present and visceral. 

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In my opinion AoR is a tough one to write for.

My group are in their second campaign, using the same characters, which is set in the period just before A New Hope... The first campaign started out very much Edge of the Empire but progressed into them helping out a “Resistance” group with various missions & carrying out an attack on a sizeable Imperial operation as for the campaign’s conclusion.

I asked my group what they wanted for the second campaign & as they’d enjoyed the Rebel stuff so much they decided that they wanted to go full on Rebellion for the new campaign! So, we came up with the plan that, on request of the fledgling Rebel Alliance who had been impressed with their previous activities, they'd set up their own Rebel Group, drawing together various planetary Resistance Cells from the area of the galaxy that I created for them.

Awesome I thought, that’s easy... But, 6 months in, I now know it really isn’t! 

The problem for me with AoR campaigns is the balance, getting it right between combat & social encounters! 

Also, I can find it difficult making combat heavy missions different enough for them to be interesting... there’s only so many times that u can break somebody out of a detention centre, or steal some equipment from an storage facility and, ultimately these are both just a heist mission. 

I have to admit I’m not a fan of mass combats and like to ensure that’s it’s my players who are the ones achieving an objective as opposed to just being part of an attacking force. If I do run mass combats though I do make sure that my players have mini objectives that have an impact on the outcome whether they succeed or fail. 

I do try to use old war films as inspiration for missions... I’ve done a Guns of Navarone style mission, a version of Tobruk & I’m working on an adaptation of Where Eagles Dare. Also the Moff of the sub-sector that they’re operating in is based on SS General Reinhard Heydrich from the film Anthropoid.

I guess I’m finding it kinda samey! Don’t get me wrong, I love combat as much as the players but what I don’t want for them is combat related sessions every time we play. 

It’s getting to the stage where I’m thinking of suggesting we put this campaign on hiatus & I run something with different characters so I can get my head around what to do with this.

So, any tips or advice on mission design or running AoR would be most welcome.

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Introduce some NPCs that have been adversely impacted by the war or, more specifically, the Empire. 

  • Wookiees that escaped a slave ship
  • Survivor of Jedha
  • Deserter Stromtrooper or Imperial Agent who has just had too much

Have the PCs do a rescue run to a planet where they have a set timeline to complete the run or else some major disaster happens.  This could be where they find the Empire working on a new weapon (not Death Star scale) that could take out a whole city.  These kind of timed runs can be difficult to run but it can be exciting.   You tell them up front that they have 3 days to stop the experiment, keep accurate track of time including the 4 hours and 26 minutes it takes to get to the planet in Hyperspace, the 43 minutes it takes to find a way to planet while avoiding the Imperial blockade, etc.  Basically make them feel the pressure of the mission but along the way, have them face the oppression of the people on the planet.

For a movie example, watch Wonder Woman.  She comes from an island that provides every need she could have but then when she leaves and sees what the War is doing to the citizens that want nothing more to survive.  You see the fear that is prevalent but you also see the life and enjoyment after she stops the attack with the party.  Bring some of that into the game where [some of] the citizens of the planet know they are there to help them but are afraid to provide assistance in fear of retaliation.  Once they succeed, don't just end the game, give them a time to reap the rewards and thanks of the people.

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6 hours ago, AceSolo5 said:

In my opinion AoR is a tough one to write for.

My group are in their second campaign, using the same characters, which is set in the period just before A New Hope... The first campaign started out very much Edge of the Empire but progressed into them helping out a “Resistance” group with various missions & carrying out an attack on a sizeable Imperial operation as for the campaign’s conclusion.

I asked my group what they wanted for the second campaign & as they’d enjoyed the Rebel stuff so much they decided that they wanted to go full on Rebellion for the new campaign! So, we came up with the plan that, on request of the fledgling Rebel Alliance who had been impressed with their previous activities, they'd set up their own Rebel Group, drawing together various planetary Resistance Cells from the area of the galaxy that I created for them.

Awesome I thought, that’s easy... But, 6 months in, I now know it really isn’t! 

The problem for me with AoR campaigns is the balance, getting it right between combat & social encounters! 

Also, I can find it difficult making combat heavy missions different enough for them to be interesting... there’s only so many times that u can break somebody out of a detention centre, or steal some equipment from an storage facility and, ultimately these are both just a heist mission. 

I have to admit I’m not a fan of mass combats and like to ensure that’s it’s my players who are the ones achieving an objective as opposed to just being part of an attacking force. If I do run mass combats though I do make sure that my players have mini objectives that have an impact on the outcome whether they succeed or fail. 

I do try to use old war films as inspiration for missions... I’ve done a Guns of Navarone style mission, a version of Tobruk & I’m working on an adaptation of Where Eagles Dare. Also the Moff of the sub-sector that they’re operating in is based on SS General Reinhard Heydrich from the film Anthropoid.

I guess I’m finding it kinda samey! Don’t get me wrong, I love combat as much as the players but what I don’t want for them is combat related sessions every time we play. 

It’s getting to the stage where I’m thinking of suggesting we put this campaign on hiatus & I run something with different characters so I can get my head around what to do with this.

So, any tips or advice on mission design or running AoR would be most welcome.

I think this was an awesome post and I appreciate how you listed the challenges. I think that you are right that the same old missions gets old and something has to give way from time to time, a different type of story. For me it always seems to go back and forth between Combat Operations, Covert/Undercover stuff, and Political/Social stories. 

I agree about the combat stuff and it gets old if it's all that is going on. I feel like the same rule kind of applies here as in Edge which is that good combat is driven by conflict between characters, so the Moff being a memorable villain is great for that I imagine. 

Can I suggest some sessions where they actually get away from the struggle? Something like Predator where they are just trying to survive in the wild against non-Imperial enemy(s)?

Also how into RP are your players? Are you able to have portions of story about characters doing scenes with each other and with NPCs? I dabble in another game where the distinction is made between Procedural Scenes and Dramatic Scenes. Procedural is normal RPG play where characters are overcoming external obstacles and threats, and Dramatic Scenes are scenes where characters are trying to get an emotional concession from each other of some kind. An emotional concession need not be practical, it can simply be getting another character to accept something about your character or about a situation. One character is the Petitioner (Character wanting something) the other is the Granter (In the position to grant something). Some Examples: Trying to get another character on the team to trust you even though you're an ex-Imperial. Acknowledging friendship/relationship with another character. Getting another character to support a plan or mission that the character wants to accomplish but has run into opposition. 

If the Petitioner gets the concession the Granter gets a reward. If the Granter does not give the concession then the Petitioner gets a reward. This reward can be a Destiny Point, extra XP, or a purely natural consequence such as building trust or commitment among comrades. 

This requires players who can handle this sort of thing and who always prioritize the real world relationships and manners with each other over how their characters feel about each other. If they don't get the concession then it can't be about being hurt, it needs to be seen as part of the story. 

I have found that such Dramatic Scenes can really spice up a game that was formerly mainly constructed of Procedural scenes alone. Players have to want to do it and need some rope to make it happen, but **** if it doesn't make the combat scenes better when the stakes are higher dramatically. 

But regardless of whether or not this is feasible I think that you are right that repetition can dull the fun. I think that internecine conflict, betrayal, romance, and other such elements can spice up most stories. 

Edited by Archlyte

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Another angle you can use is to have the past accomplishments be undone by the Empire. 

Maybe a base they founded gets discovered and annhilated, and they find the corpses of all their fellow rebels who were there. Their contacts get caught one by one, maybe with requisite public executions broadcast on the holonet.

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You know what else would help a World War feel? Meeting and working both alongside and against others that don't speak your language or share your culture. The FFG handwave on languages makes this require GM intervention, but it can be worth it to drop in to support Dressellian partisans and discovering that they only speak their own tongue and a little Bothan (and noting that not everybody--or even anybody--in the group speaks Bothan).

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On 2/22/2019 at 5:46 PM, HappyDaze said:

You know what else would help a World War feel? Meeting and working both alongside and against others that don't speak your language or share your culture. The FFG handwave on languages makes this require GM intervention, but it can be worth it to drop in to support Dressellian partisans and discovering that they only speak their own tongue and a little Bothan (and noting that not everybody--or even anybody--in the group speaks Bothan).

Man that's fantastic. OSS style coordination with French Resistance groups with their own factions etc. Great idea. The language thing could just be the start of the differences and navigating them. 

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On 2/15/2019 at 6:54 PM, HappyDaze said:

No, species choices can definitely be a part of it. Too many Ewok (or Gungan) berserkers or even semi-serious species played with their oddities turned to 11. Talents, especially the narrative ones, can be used to boost silliness (Bad Motivator is a common example of this). The fact that the game is so low on lethality (for PCs and major NPCs) can lead to not taking combat seriously.

Ewok berserkers are too cute? You're talking about a group that tried to cook most of the OT protagonists as dinner for their machine god and was almost certainly serving Stormtrooper Stew, made with fresh stormtroopers, at their victory party.

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In response to your question Archlyte, my players are heavily into the role playing side of things... I’m pretty lucky in that respect. 

I think part of the problem is my doing, I’m running this in a sandbox fashion & I’m thinking that in a way the hooks I’ve laid out for them are possibly overwhelming them. I also feel that this is compounded by the fact that there is no distinct leader in the group so decisions on which hook to bite on can take a while! The sub-sector  I’ve designed is also larger than something I’d usually do.

They’re currently working alongside a small group of Resistance fighters (with their own leader) who have recently been forced to leave their homeworld & are just about to come into contact with another as part of a mission to liberate some Starfighters. 

What I’m planning to do now I think I is introduce an NPC who can lead the group as a whole, a respected General maybe, in the hope that this will help to focus things!

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War. It has a glorious face. One where heroes are made, and their exploits sung about for ages. A face that shines in the light of brave men, women, and others as they defy death, both on the ground and in the skies (and in space beyond the skies, of course). Missions to accomplish this feel are often action and drama oriented. That daring escape from Hoth, where a ground combat is followed by a space chase, for example. Breaking a rebel spy out of a detention facility is another example, as this usually starts as a stealth mission, but more often than not ends up in mass carnage, a corridor chase, and several shoot-downs. Indomitable last stands against all odds are succeeded by marching band music and medal ceremonies. Even though it glorifies (non-descriptive) combat, this side is often open to frivolous banter, a joke or two, and that general Star Wars feel where the protagonists have time between shots to exchange witty quips.

 

War. it has a dirty face. For the sake of fun at the table this is often ignored. This might be the more gritty part you seek, though I am certain this style of play will not appeal to everybody. This is, where the characters are called upon to run a salvage mission after a major battle, finding mangled corpses in burnt-out wrecks of T-47 airspeeders. Or where they are to escort a convoy of (terribly) wounded casualties through hostile territory, forced to protect those, who can no longer protect themselves, at least until they have been to a cybernetics clinic to replace those lost limbs. A dirty face where the characters have been friends with an informant, only to one day get the order to pull a 'Cassian' on that informant, a direct order to eliminate the informant as she had become a liability. Or a dark pit of despair where the characters, geared for war and heroics, find themselves negotiating with foul criminals on Nal Hutta for necessary supplies and medical equipment from the black market. And we all know that angering the Hutts will have consequences.

Who dares making jokes now?

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5 hours ago, Xcapobl said:

War. It has a glorious face. One where heroes are made, and their exploits sung about for ages. A face that shines in the light of brave men, women, and others as they defy death, both on the ground and in the skies (and in space beyond the skies, of course). Missions to accomplish this feel are often action and drama oriented. That daring escape from Hoth, where a ground combat is followed by a space chase, for example. Breaking a rebel spy out of a detention facility is another example, as this usually starts as a stealth mission, but more often than not ends up in mass carnage, a corridor chase, and several shoot-downs. Indomitable last stands against all odds are succeeded by marching band music and medal ceremonies. Even though it glorifies (non-descriptive) combat, this side is often open to frivolous banter, a joke or two, and that general Star Wars feel where the protagonists have time between shots to exchange witty quips.

 

War. it has a dirty face. For the sake of fun at the table this is often ignored. This might be the more gritty part you seek, though I am certain this style of play will not appeal to everybody. This is, where the characters are called upon to run a salvage mission after a major battle, finding mangled corpses in burnt-out wrecks of T-47 airspeeders. Or where they are to escort a convoy of (terribly) wounded casualties through hostile territory, forced to protect those, who can no longer protect themselves, at least until they have been to a cybernetics clinic to replace those lost limbs. A dirty face where the characters have been friends with an informant, only to one day get the order to pull a 'Cassian' on that informant, a direct order to eliminate the informant as she had become a liability. Or a dark pit of despair where the characters, geared for war and heroics, find themselves negotiating with foul criminals on Nal Hutta for necessary supplies and medical equipment from the black market. And we all know that angering the Hutts will have consequences.

Who dares making jokes now?

Awesome!!!

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5 hours ago, Xcapobl said:

Who dares making jokes now?

Pretty much every player ever. RPGs tend to attract players with a wide range of personalities, but in every table I've ever sat at there are always a few that will keep cracking jokes no matter what tone the game is intended to draw out. Most such players will make it in character humor too and they love to play smart-mouthed jackholes.

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9 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

Pretty much every player ever. RPGs tend to attract players with a wide range of personalities, but in every table I've ever sat at there are always a few that will keep cracking jokes no matter what tone the game is intended to draw out. Most such players will make it in character humor too and they love to play smart-mouthed jackholes.

giphy.gif

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Have you tried one shots?  I just did one with my group where we did something different than they normally do.  They played the crew of an Imperial walker assaulting a planet.  It was a single session, plenty of combat checks for the pilot and gunner, plenty of leadership checks for the commander, and damage fixing for the engineer.  An added thing was I gave the commander command of two other walkers who assisted and took hits for the pc's.  My players seemed to have enjoyed the break from the same old thing.  I did try to make it a bit more gritty and ugly than our normal encounters, bodies flying, seeing people their characters knew getting killed, fear checks when necessary, etc.  Usually I gloss over bodies and death and some of the other more nasty things you see in war.  Going forward after seeing how my players reacted to it I'll likely use it more often.

My point though, break it up with one shots.  Even make those one shots have an effect on your normal campaign.  Have them play the villains, or the civilians just trying to survive.  A war like this was often fought alongside civilians.  They saw the carnage, ran from the blaster shots, watched family and friends killed for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

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