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GameMastering The Star Wars Universe

With the new movies and some of the reading I've been doing with the D6 SW supplements, I've come up with a couple of guidelines for myself and any other GM who wants to use them.

 

Wild West

First off, the Outer Rim territories are a lot like the wild west (in the USA).  And, I'm not talking exactly about reality, but old cowboy movies.  Look at the various places in Solo, or when Princess Amadala came to Tatooine.  Or when Kenobi first landed on Geonosis for his investigation.  There's no law?  No space patrol?  Ships can just come and go as they please, most of the time, with those on the planet not the wiser?

Evidently so.  Characters wear their weapons openly, like old cowboy movie gunslingers.  Ships landing on planets are akin to men on horseback approaching a farm house from out yonder.  Maybe they see you.  Mabe they don't.

If you do something bad, then maybe the law will come after you, maybe they won't.  Maybe the outlaws will get you, or maybe the civilians will come for you.  Or, maybe, nothing at all will happen.  It just depends.  It's the Wild West.

As you get closer to the Core Worlds, it is more akin to going to the 1800's east coast in the cowboy movies.  You can't wear your sidearm openly--there's laws against it--and the police will be all over you.  Those on the planet will know about you as soon as you exit hyperspace.  They'll know about your approach, and they'll guide you to a landing spot.  The Core Worlds are "civilized" and "law abiding".

 

Fence Line

Still, travelling through the galaxy isn't this big, free open range.  There are obstacles; physical, of course (see below), but also political.  Read Chapter Four of the 1E Sourcebook.  Read the whole chapter, as there are bits and pieces about space travel in the Star Wars galaxy, but pay special attention to the section titled Booking Passage on page 46.  Watching the movies, you may think that you can just point a ship and go wherever you want in the SW galaxy.  Well, that ain't entirely so, neighbor.  Areas may be restricted.  Transit approvals may be necessary.  That Booking Passage section indicates that there are sections of space that is open to travel, and there are sections like Occupied France in WWII, where you need papers to go from one town to another.

This can be a cool part of your game.

Not Like Dustin' Crops

We know, from Han's famous line, that there are physical barriers to traveling through the galaxy, just like there are rivers and mountain ranges and deserts and other types of rough country that made it impossible or hard for cowboys to cross great distances.  Michael Stackpole, in the first X-Wing novel, described how the interfacing with the Navicomp to create a hyperspace course works.  It is obvious that he used the WEG SW D6 model to come up with his interpretation, and it is also obvious that he was describing what the characters are really doing when the Astrogation roll is made.

First, think of using Hyperspace Routes the same as the freeway system.  Normal space is taking the normal roads and highways from town to town.  Hyperspace is getting onto and off of an interstate.

Interstate freeways don't run in straight lines all the time.  And, to get to many destination, one freeway is taken to another and another.

That's how Hyperspace Lanes work.  They're all these routes that have been plotted out in Hyperspace.  When there's no obstacles, the routes are straight lines, but the distances are so great that no single route (unless it is very short) that is straight as a board or "as the crow flies" as the cowboys would say.  No, these routes must be scouted out, like the Pony Express mapping out routes between towns, and once known, are used by those that follow.  The routes bend and curve around dangers.

So, when the destination entered into the Navicomp, that computer does the hard work crunching numbers and figuring out the best route, among the known routes (the routes known by THAT computer--which is why the Falcon is so bad-assed, as it has L3's brain uploaded to it), and after a time, it spits out the base plan.  This is the route that requires the basic Astrogation number for the trip.

In Stackpole's book, it is described where the pilot is looking at navigational data and making changes--tweaking the route.  Going tighter here, around this moon...giving that double star a wider berth, which increases the time...and so on.

This is reflected mechanically in the game with the PC Astrogator adjusting the difficulty number up, for a shorter trip, or down for a longer but safer trip.

In the novelization for A New Hope, Han consults the Galactic Atlas.  This is probably what Han was looking at in TESB when he decided to go to Bespin.

I speculate that the Galactic Atlas is something that can be downloaded from starports and docking bays--a file that is constantly being updated.  Not every ship will want to do this, but it is probably polite for a vessel to freely give up its last jump data (the most recent) to the starport's master Galactic Atlas in exchange for a copy of that master Galactic Atlas.  Maybe there's a charge for this (probably included in the docking fee or the Consumables cost), and if a ship freely gives up its last course data, then it gets a discounted copy of the Master.  In this way, spacegoing ships are always updating the master Atlas.

Then again, maybe the master Atlas cannot be obtained that easily.  Maybe most ships don't even have the computing space for it.  If this is so, then the master Atlas is where the data comes from when a ship files for or pays for a single new course--it's next destination.

Space is not empty.  Especially space opera Star Wars space.  Just watch the movie, Solo, especially the part where they go to Kessel.  That's an area that is probably always avoided by most hyperspace routes.  And, that also shows the second time we've seen living things in space (remember the Space Slugs and Mynocks in The Empire Strikes Back).

Maybe there are areas of space infested with...Darken Leeches!  They swarm the ship and eat through the hull!  I just made those up, but you get the idea.

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One more thing about Astrogation...

When I first read the rules about the Astrogation skill and Hyperspace trips in the core rule book (probably a day after I bought the book, the month it came out--girlfriend at the time wouldn't leave me alone to read it in peace), I saw a roll to be made. When a roll is needed in a roleplaying game, there needs to be some risk to avoid. We don't roll for starting the engines on the ship. We don't roll for turning on the lights. We just assumes that happens.

To my chagrin, my players always lengthened the hyperspace trip to an amount where there was no chance of failure. No chance of a mishap.

I scratched my head at this. I read through the rules again. Why do they have this in the game if there's no real consequences to taking longer to get to the destination. Why not play it safe?

 

In the 1E Core Rulebook, hyperspace trips are given in days--a day is the base unit, and the player lowers or raises the trip length by a day for each point the base difficulty is adjusted.

Some errata came out and changed those "days" to "hours"--an hour became the base unit.

With days as the base unit, there is a little cost to the players going for a longer time. If a PC has 4D Astrogation, like Leia, and the Astrogation difficulty is 15+, then lowering the difficulty to 4+ for zero risk of mishap would add 11 days to the trip.

Still, players will say, "So what? It's another 11 days?" Consumables are more expensive that way.

But, with hours as the base unit, there's really no cost to adding 11 hours to the trip to ensure 100% safety. That's a no brainer. And, you're not really adding any cost with Consumables.

"Hours" remains the official base unit for hyperspace travel in the 1E game, and that was carried into the 2E game. And, to be fair, hour units seems to fit the trips we see in the movies better than days (in both the older and newer movies).

 

I realized that rolling for Astrogation isn't really a big deal. So what if the players have a 100% of success and no chance at mishap? Have we ever seen a hyperspace mishap in the movies? Nope. Maybe the hyperdrive didn't engage, as with the Falcon in TESB, but there was no mishap. When the drive works, the ships get to hyperspace and shorter thereafter to their destination.

So, why not just allow the players to use the Hyperdrive as you allow them to turn on the lights or start the ship's engines?

I made peace with it.

 

 

 

ASTROGATION ROLL

Where an Astrogation roll is critical is when the PCs are on a time constraint. If they've got Star Destroyers closing the gap and coming on hard, and they are doing a hasty entry into hyperspace, this is where an Astrogation roll will come into play.

It should be rolled when the players don't have time to lower the difficulty for 100% success.

Note that, if a PC ship captain knows where his next destination is, then he can input that data into the Navicomp and let the computer chew on it while the ship is in dock--only doing the final tweaks just before the actual jump is made. This cuts down a lot on the waiting for the Navicomp to do its thing.
 

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CONSUMABLES

According to GG6 1E, Consumables cost 10 credits x People x Consumables in days

People = Total crew and passengers on the trip.

Consumables on the Falcon is 2 months.  60 days.

I suspect that rule is poorly written and not what was meant.  The rule was updated in the 2E version of GG6, which supports my supposition.

If you go with the rule as written, then the Falcon's trip from Tatooine to Alderaan costs 10 x 4 x 60 = 2400.

That's way too high.  I suspect that the Consumables portion of the equation means how long the trip took.

The Astrogation Gazetteer says that the trip takes 7 days.  So, I suspect that the rule really means is this:  10 x 4 x 7 = 280.

That seems about right.

But, even if Han didn't shave some time off the trip by raising the base Astrogation difficulty (I bet that he did), the Falcon's Hyperdrive multiplyer is 0.5, which means the Falcon pulled off the trip in 3.5 days or less.  Normal transports with Hyperdrives rated at 1 would pay the 280.  The Falcon, as fast at it is, is in space for half the time.  So, Han's cost is 140.

Han had a Astrogaton 8 D during A New Hope.  And, so he could have easily upped the target number to shorten the trip.  Let's say that the Alderaan run is a base 15+.  Han has over a 99% chance of success throwing 15+ on 8 D.  Han can increase that to 20+, decreasing the trip by 5 days, and still have a 96% chance of avoiding a mishap.

Let's do that.  This means the Astrogation difficulty is now 20+.  Han throws 8 D to beat that number.  And, the base trip is shortened to 2 day.  Which means, the cost is:  10 x 4 x 1 = 40 Credits, because of the Falcon's .5 Hyperdrive.  And, the trip takes 1 day.

 

Days As Base Units

You can see that, as designed, using a base unit of days, cost does become an issue on trips.  Time is money.  Especially on ships that don't have 0.5 Hyperdrive multipliers, like the Falcon.

I suspect that this is how the game was designed, but the unit in days did not fit the flight times that we see in the movies.  So, the game simply changed the units to hours, keeping everything else the same.

I'm sure the designers figured that most GM's wouldn't be keeping track of Consumables cost anyway.  Heck, you can't even find Consumables cost in the 1E core rulebook.  All you can find is the Consumables rating, which basically gives you a limit, in days, that the ship can operate before it needs to be re-fueled and re-stocked.

 

Base Unit in Hours

Once you change the base unit to hours, the Consumables cost becomes so small that it really isn't worth the bother of calculating.  And, this is where, like my players did, all trips become 100% safe--because there is no penalty to extending the time needed for the trip except in-game time for the characters.

...And, I guess that they will get to their Consumables max faster by always lengthening trips.

 

Base Unit in Hours But As Written Formula

Here's an idea.  Use the Consumables cost formula as written.  Time in transit doesn't really affect the cost, but bigger ships, with longer Consumables ratings, cost more to fly.  There's a base cost used every time the ship leaves the ground.

That cost is:  10 x People x Consumables in Days

That means the Falcon's trips will cost (with 2 passengers):  10 x 4 x 60 = 2400.

I think this is way too much.  And, I'm sure this is not what was meant by the game designers even if that's exactly what the rule says.  But, for those that want to make space travel expensive, then this certainly works.

 

 

 

SECOND EDITION CONSUMABLES

So, this must have come up as a discussion point at WEG because the Consumables cost in GG6 Second Edition was changed, and an example was provided.

The 2E version is:

Base fee x People x Number of Days Consumables Needs To Be Renewed

First, notice that the Consumables part has been spelled out so that there is no confusion.  Second, notice that the Base fee is not a flat 10 credits everywhere you go, but can be changed depending on where you go.  The text suggests and average of 10 Cr for the Base fee, but it also says that some places charge as much as 35 Cr for the base.

The example indicates that (since the Consumables max rating is usually a long time, like 60 days) this cost only has to be paid when the players think it is time (or the 60 days are used up).

In the example, a ship has been out in the space lanes for 12 days.  Since the default unit is hours, this represents several trips.  I suggest that the GM not track this exactly but just use his best estimate. Or, record the hours spent on hyperspace trips, then divide by 24 to figure one day in space.

10 Cr x 8 people (2 Crew, Six Passengers) x 12 days to be replaced = 960

That sounds like a lot, but remember this cost figure isn't per trip.  12 days in space represents several trips when the base unit is an hour.

This system really isn't perfect, either.  First, if a ship has a variable number of passengers, then the GM is going to have to figure some number to use for total people when the PCs decide to restock consumables.

If PCs decide to restock consumables on every trip, then I guess what you need to do is figure as above and use a fraction for the days part.

If the same 8 people above took an 11 hour trip, then the cost would be [10 x 8 x (11/24)] = 36.67 credits.


 

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An Idea...

I think a good and easy Consumables rule to use for your 1E game would be this...

[Base fee x People x (Hours of Use/24)]

Base fee = the fee charged at the docking site, which is normally 10 credits but could go as high as 35 credits or so.

People = total of crew and passengers using up air and power and food and other consumables on the trip.

Days = number of hours taken on the trip divided by 24.  

 

Sometimes the ship lands where replenishment of consumables is not provided.

If you don't want to deal with fractions, then just round up to the nearest day, with one day as the minimum.  This extra cost can be considered to be paying for non-hyperspace operations, like atmospheric flight, traveling to orbit, in-system travel, traveling out of the gravity well of a world to make the jump to hyperspace, combat operations, etc.  Any amount of time under 1 day is rounded to 1 day.  27 hours is over 24, so that would be 2 days.  40 hours would also be 2 days.  You get the idea.

 

Given the above, the Falcon's trip to Alderaan would be:  [10 x 4 x (3.5/24)] = 6 credits.

Using the 1 day cost minimum, the number is:

10 x 4 x 1 = 40 credits.

I like this second option.  Seems reasonable and in line with SW costs.

 

 

Fees.

Ships have Berthing Costs, which is usually 50 credits a day but can be as high as 150 per day.

There's the Consumables fee, which is discussed above.

And, there's the Maintenance Overhaul, which should be completed every 20 jumps.  This usually costs 1,000 credits, but 5,000 is not unheard of.

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I see I flat out messed up on the 1E explanation of the Consumables cost from GG1.  I'm going to leave the above, instead of editing it, because it is still an alternate way of doing it.

The real 1E version is very simple.  I made it more complicated that it is as written.  It's a flat fee.  Every time the Falcon enters hyperspace, it costs.  That's very in-line with 1E thinking.  Quick, simple...a flat fee for every trip.

And, it is expensive.  I refer again to Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, the possible source for WEG's thinking on the costs of running a starship in the Star Wars universe....

To them the gambler was a romantic figure, a professional out-system adventurer with his own private starship and a reputation for outrageous luck...Having your own starship was not so much a matter of being able to buy it in the first place (he'd won his in another sabacc game in the last system but one he'd visited) as being able to afford to operate it.  So far, he'd lost money on the deal.

Let's also remember that the first time we see the Falcon in the movie, Solo, it's got a dockmaster's boot on the landing gear inferring that Lando owes the dock some money.

 

Page 30 of GG1, 1E version, provides this formula for consumables cost (written correctly this time):

10 x Total Capacity x Consumables

Total Capacity = total of the crew and max passengers from the ship's stats.

Consumables = converted to days

So, for the Falcon, the ship is rated at 2 Crew and 6 Passengers.  Total Capacity equals 8.  Consumables is two months, which is 60 days.

The flat fee to run the Falcon is:  10 x 8 x 60 = 4800

Now, that's a **** of a lot of money in the Star Wars universe.  I can see wy they changed it in 2E.  But, if you want to run a game where people can go broke operating a ship, then it's a good way to do it.

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If I am going to mess with Consumables cost at all in my 1E game (there's a reason it's not addressed in the 1E core rulebook), then I'm interested in tying cost to time in hyperspace.  That way the PCs feel a little pain when adding hours to the trip in order to make it safer.  Every extra hour means more cost.

One idea I have is to figure that time spent in hyperspace is more expensive than time spent in normal space.  The ship expends more consumables (not air and food, but fuel and energy) maintaining the integrity of the ship in the hyperspace environment.

I was also thinking that most of the cost would be accrued when entering hyperspace and exiting hyperspace. 

The idea is to come up with a system that costs PCs a bit more for longer trips. This would encourage PCs to invest in their Astrogation skills so that their consumables costs would come down.

Good Astrogators would be highly prized because of that.

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SIMPLE


Here's what I'm thinking, a fee based on what the docking bay charges, times the number of beings on the trip, times the number of hours in hyperspace.

Consumables Cost = BASE FEE X TOTAL PASSENGERS X HOURS IN HYPERSPACE

If the Falcon made the trip from Tatooine to Alderaan in 3.5 hours, then the trip for the four of them (Han, Chewie, Luke, and Ben) would cost Han:

10 x 4 x 3.5 = 140 Credits.

Looking at the Gazetteer in the 2E R&E rulebook, I see a long trip that takes a base 31 days and 15 hours to run from Lianna to Dagobah.  Because of its 0.5 Hyperdrive, the Falcon could make this trip in 379.5 hours (without Han lowering the target number even farther due to his high Astrogation skill).  It would cost Han and Chewie 15,180 Credits!

I like that.  It encourages players to improve Astrogation skill, so that they can reduce time in Hyperspace and spend less/go farther.  It makes some trips too costly.  And, it encourages upgrading the ship's Hyperdrive.  All good things in a roleplaying game.

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This subforum have pretty small following, there are several places that you'd get better discussion going where more people gather. just feels wasteful to see all your posts with few answers(I swing by here only seldom, as we have more active SWD6 communities.)

The top places for  Star Wars WEG rpg:

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