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Wogister

Need Inspiration: Creating Sandbox-Campaign for Getting to the "Big Bad" for Revenge

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First of all: Sunny, Amy, Nimo, Aldec: GO AWAY!

All the others: Help, please!

TLDR: Want to create a small campaign that leads to a cunning destruction of a big bad but also needs the group to do at least 3 Jobs of their choosing in a sandbox around the Gordian Reach.

I am going to conclude a big arc for our group and need some inspiration as to how to do it.
If you want to know what I want without reading the fluff, read from "My Idea" (5th "headline").

The group and the way here:
We are a group of 5 with rotating GM and have been playing for quite some time. (Face/Conman, Sharpshooter/Girl, Muscle/Tinkerer, Droidtech, Pilot/Conman) Our first adventure was a con gone wrong where we were betrayed by our employer in the end. This betrayal has led us to wait for our revenge. What drove us up until now was the prospect of winning the kessel run in a few months (ingame time) and meeting the Betrayer when he has to announce the winners. A bull plan that was way to complicated and by now does not meet the flair of the group anymore. We played for almost a year and the characters developed into a group of cunning, not so triggerhappy, strategic outlaws. We now have connections to many NPCs and are centered around the Gordian reach with many locations known to the players. We basically built a nice sandbox though the last couple sessions. We developed a habit of not going in guns blazing and are now a very strategic and cunning group. This works very well and the characters are still trying out different kinds of jobs to find something they want to make their "thing". 

Here is what I want to do:
Since our "plan" to get to the Betrayer is not fitting anymore, I decided to conclude that arc in my next adventure. BUT I don't want it to be just as easy. I want to create a semi-campaign feel to it, with a few jobs or missions leading up to the big finale. Since our sessions all were centered around getting the group together, fixing the ship and finding our place in the Outer Rim, we didn#t have a real campaign with connected adventures. I want to change that by bringing many NPCs , locations and background of the characters together in a small collection of adventures, concluding in the characters getting their revenge. You still with me? nice!

Before you continue reading:
I have Ideas. But i can't quit put them together to a cohesive plotline or campaign or whatever. I ask for help, because I need ideas, inspiration and input to revise my ideas and fill the gaps between my isolated scenes. I will take everything in. Everything can help me. If your input sparks the idea that takes the whole thing in a different direction, so be it. If in the end I have a cool plot, everything worked out great.

The Big Bad: Let's call him Orlon
An underboss for Kel'To the hutt, rival to Nemro the hutt. Orlon is a cunning underboss who thinks he is invincible because he works directly for Kel'To and has a lot of free reign. He surrounds himself with minions and hires Guns and Bodyguards, ikes to gamble and is generally an arrogant *******. He betrayed the group and almost killed them, made their lives miserable. He is not as invincible as he thinks, because, ... well, he's not a Hutt and just one of Kel'Tos tools. He might be "skimming from the top", which could be used against him.

My Idea (This is the important stuff, sorry for reading the rest):
The group will either try to kill Orlon or destroy his live. I am hoping for the latter and would like to push that. The idea is, that they destroy Kel'Tos trust in Orlon. This would work fine. BUT!
I also want the group to have a build-up to that by having to do a few Jobs to get into the position they need to get Orlon. We have a collection of NPCs who can be included. A few outer-rim "traders", an imperial admiral, a few underworld-contacts, such and such.

What my mind wants to do: Force the group to do at least 3 Jobs, chosen from a collection of X jobs in order to get into a position to destroy Orlon.
What my mind can't work out: What is the framework, that makes sense?

Do they need to get Kel'to top trust them? Does he need at least 3 people he trusts to sponsor the group? Is that realy something the group can find out? Is it realistic that they come up with the idea to do that? And why? What would they tell Kel'to then?

Or does Kel'to look for someone from the outside to find a mole in his organisation? Does this make sense?

I want to have them do at least 3 Jobs in our Sandbox before being able to destroy Orlon, but these Jobs can (and maybe should?) also help them build their case against Orlon? Maybe Orlon betrayed a few of the groups copntacts and they can help the group in exchange for a job or two? I don't know! Everything makes sens, but nothing does. xD

So much text. I feel bad now. If you could just get the creativity flowing, that would be great. 

Edited by Wogister

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I've got a similar thing going in my group (though they don't know they want revenge YET...) and they wanted to start up their own little outfit so they could take their own jobs and me their own people.

Well, once the Big Bad triggers the final chapter, I am going to set it up BotW style and let them go straight to him for a fight. However, he is heavily armed in his palace and will easily repel their one little ship with five dudes onboard. So, I'll explain this through the helpful NPC/GM Plant they have in their group and thus create a necessity to prepare. Then its time for options!

1. Frontal Assault

This is absolutely an option, but will require that they gain access to a lot of weapons and the grunts to use them, which would even out their odds of surviving. Then, they'd have to actually do some recon of the palace and decide on the best strategy of attack, then find a way to transport their whole gang to that planet without being suspicious. This means making deals with other cartels and smuggling rings to ensure weapons, meatshields, and transport.

2. Cloak and Dagger

If they decide to go with a more "quiet" approach, they could try assassinating the Big Bad in his palace, but this poses the obvious problems of having to break in/find an opening. Thus, they will need to delve into the infochant world to get more intel on his dealings, whereabouts, and possible security weaknesses. They'd also need to make sure to gear themselves up so they can sneak onto the planet without everyone noticing the dudes armed to the teeth with a vendetta against our boss. So, this can mean moles, traitors, and plants to help them weaken security and gain more advantages on the path to taking the Big Bad down.

3. Sabotage and the Indirect Approach

The Big Bad has many enemies, and so sometimes the best way to take down a giant is to trick another giant into picking a fight with it. So, they would need to find out who has enough of a grudge against the Big Bad to warrant bloodshed and provide them an opportunity to make it so. This means intel searching, staging attacks, planting evidence, and sowing discord among the ranks of both syndicates, eventually forcing them into a confrontation that provides the Players with the perfect chance to either swoop in and finish the job or allow the fight to take its natural course and hope he dies.

Likewise, this could also mean picking apart the Big Bad's organization by eliminating allies, hitting their income, and hurting their business in order to weaken them. Less money means fewer loyal guards and troops, and lowered production means fewer allies with a vested interested in protecting the Big Bad. Both of these are indirect, but can be fun to find ways to undermine a long time enemy and take him down without him even knowing who's hitting him.

Lots of text, I know, but I will give one last piece of advice: Whatever they choose, make it feel like it had an impact. If they brought more troops, have smaller minion groups become engaged, reducing the difficulty for the individual squad. If they choose to take down a money making scheme, have the guards' equipment or stats get lower to reflect the reduced income and the corners being cut to stay profitable. If they change their mind half way through, be prepared to mix and match, and let them come up with the ideas. This is their revenge after all, and so it will feel more personal if they are the ones calling the shots on how to allocate their resources.

If they need a time limit, give them one to keep a sense of urgency, but I wouldn't restrict them to that without good reason.

Sorry for the wall of text, and have fun dicing!

TLDR:

Let the players choose their method of going after the Big Bad then set it up to let them have to put the pieces together and make a plan. Make the Big Bad untouchable at first and have the players find ways to build themselves up to his level, or chip away at him till he's more manageable.

Edited by evo454
added a TLDR

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Well to be honest, in my opinion if you are doing a sandbox then really it's not a good idea to force them down paths. 

I read a blog recently where the author proposed that the fundamental activity of a role-playing game is players making decisions. When you take away their ability to make decisions then you are essentially playing with yourself and just having them along for the ride (they can contribute rolls and dialogue but not make meaningful choices as to what they want to do).

They still need some minor direction or they will suffer a Sartre-like state of having too many choices and feel vertigo. This can result in the game Stalling or the players having Analysis Paralysis. So you give them Hooky Clues and see what they bite on.

The future adventures in such a game are largely built upon the consequences of what the players have done in the past. Who have they angered? Whom have they helped?  What are their desires and fears? 

When you make NPCs in a sandbox game the NPCs really shouldn't be cast as villains too often, but should instead be characters with their own motivations. If the motivations and purpose of an NPC is opposed to the characters they will likely have conflict. 

You can use Orlon as a sort of Quantum Ogre, and as long as the players don't realize it, they can have an inevitable meeting with him when you are ready. When that happens you will have to engineer the reasons as to why he is where they are, but this way they are free to have their own head until they meet up with him, and their actions will have created consequences you can use to shape that encounter. 

Hope this is some help :)

Edited by Archlyte

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If you’re looking to ruin Orlon’s life then maybe it’s time to find out what he’s doing & then let his Hutt Overlord know exactly how his trusted Underboss had been abusing his position!

Your adventures in the lead up to the final confrontation could seemingly be unconnected to getting your revenge... Missions that slowly reveal a new upcoming gang of criminals with the final one revealing Orlon as its head!

You mention that he may have been skimming off the top, perhaps he’s been using this to set up his own criminal organisation using contacts he’s made through the Hutt. He’s been undercutting his boss in key areas of his business (whatever that may be... slaves, spice etc). Once he’s strong enough he plans to either usurp the Hutt & take over his operations or sell the Hutt out to Nemro & get rid of him once & for all!

Once your players have this info & the proof they can deliver it to Kel’To & the final confrontation can play out with Orlon trying to to discredit the players claims as he’s dragged in front of his boss! Ultimately it could lead to a firefight in the Hutt’s Palace as those in Kel’To’s organisation who have been swayed to Orlon’s ideas for a change of leadership try to save him.

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My game isn't so sandboxy, but is could certainly become so.  And my PC's have established a lot of interesting NPC contacts too so maybe I have some insights that may help.

CARGO.

I think this is an overlooked element of the EotE campaign.  It's obviously a McGuffin, but cargo helps the GM direct the PC's to get to a different location as a plot hook.

Those NPC's who have an established relationship with the PC's?  Do they have a need to get something from one place to another?  Can they call in a favor for a cousin or prominent 'uncle?'

Usually the cargo is unimportant.  It's about the journey.  It's about the people.  That emergency cargo of needed medical supplies is useless until the PC's show up at the plague ridden planet and are faced with NPC's who are in desperate shape and grateful as the cargo that the PC's just arrived with is put to good use.

For example:  Don't want to ship the cargo of rutabagas to Corellia?  Well, there's a cargo of live Sucrats that need to go to Duros for a premium ship rate.  Does your ships have a Class 1 Hyperdrive?  (Or better)?  And Gurgo Consolidated has a bulk cargo shipment that they want delivered to their rep on Bestine.  Good pay!  Now as a GM, you can plan on adventures in one of these three locations and the PC's don't succumb to analysis paralysis.

PLANNING.

There are two principles to playing Chess that I think are relevant to GM'ing in a sandbox.

Having a lengthy 15 move plan is kind of useful.  If you know the opponent well enough you might be able to plan that far forward, but people rarely react in a predictable manner.  They usually deviate from conventional wisdom or from the established 'best' move.  But how are you going to react now?  They weren't supposed to do that!

However, having a large overall story arc can be useful for YOU to help you advance the plot.  For example, in my current campaign thread the Alliance Fleet at Mon Cal was attacked by the Empire and communications with Alliance HQ had been lost by the new base (at Hoth).  The PC's were sent to re-establish contact, and see if any of the fleet had survived.  The PC's were to re-establish contact via a chain of deep insertion agents located on planets strung along between Hoth and Mon Cal.  THAT was the arc . . .

But in the day to day course of GM'ing.  I'm only looking forward 2 or 3 sessions ahead.

That long chain of agents?  I wasn't actually 'planning' out beyond 2 or 3 planets at any given time and focused on the immediate agent and their situation.

Each planet that they visited was new, and had sub plots that needed to be addressed.  (Some were lengthy, involved, and interesting and some were short, subtle, and avoidable . . . but still interesting).

BAG GUYS EVERYWHERE.

Orlon is a big bad evil guy.  No doubt about it.  Nasty piece of work if you think about it.  Nightmare fuel really.

But there are other desperate, mad, villainous . . . villains scattered throughout the region.  They all want something.  The PC's could help them against an even worse rival or stand up against the little local bad guy.

Just remember that little local bad guy has a cousin or twisted sister out there . . . :o  (Local Little Bad Guy?  LLBG?)  nah.

My point is that conflict can occur anywhere in the sandbox.  AND it doesn't have to be related to the main plot.

For example, in my campaign the PC's stumbled on a mining colony that was using the local high order critters as a supplemental food source.  These critters has language but were not tool developers.  (They started using discarded tools).  Well, the locals didn't like BEING on the menu and started taking reprisals.  They also started taking prisoners . . . no that's not the right word, they started capturing the off worlders and using THEM as livestock.

The PC's contact had been captured recently by the local tribe of crustaceans so they needed to rescue HIM . . . but they didn't need to insert themselves in this little side conflict.  But they did!  And in a manner that quite surprised me as a GM.

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