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ddbrown30

How do you incorporate bounty obligation?

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Posted (edited)

On paper, bounty seems like it should be one of the simplest obligations to work into the sessions. In practice, however, I've found it difficult to find ways to make it interesting and rewarding while not ruining the main plot.

What do you do to incorporate bounties so that it's not just another throwaway combat encounter? How do you prevent it from derailing the story too much if the PCs instead decide to run?

Edit: Just to keep this discussion on track, I would like to clarify that I'm not talking about the obligation roll. My question is about how to weave the bounty obligation into the narrative in a satisfying way.

Edited by ddbrown30

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Characters might be recognized as a wanted being and refused service at an establishment or social checks might be made more difficult for an encounter. Optionally, they might be approached by someone that wants them to do something (usually something awful) for them in exchange for them keeping quiet. With either, playing it badly might give the PCs the option to increase the Bounty Obligation to bypass the hazard (but they'll pay for it later).

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Too many answers, all summed up in "fail forward".

The PCs are on the run from the BH, hide in a shabby tenement.  "Did he see us?"  Roll stealth...despair.  "No, because nobody's lived here for years, and now the floor gives way..."  They fall, roll Athletics, they're in the sewers, they start to explore.  "There are these weird signs carved into the wall," roll streetwise..."they look like gang signs".

"Hey, I bet this leads to the kingpin we've been trying to catch..."

OR maybe they decide to fight:

"The BH draws and the bar patrons scatter...but he's blocking the door so they duck behind tables.  Several patrons draw weapons themselves...maybe it's an opportunity to settle old scores..."  After several rounds, somebody crawls over to them.  "I know a way out!"  "Why should we trust you?"  "I hate that guy, he works for X sometimes".  Maybe the NPC works for the very gang the PCs are trying to infiltrate, but from the NPC's point of view, "enemy of my enemy", etc.

Two more thoughts:

1. In all honesty, Obligation can be a sweet railroading tool.  If used judiciously and with restraint, the players should be none the wiser.  You shouldn't be afraid to use it to get the PCs where you want them to go, and to do that it helps if you don't think of it as a separate part of the story.  It should fit into the story, so that the BH works for the big bad (obvious), or the BH is also working against the big bad (more fun), or whatever is needed.

2. you shouldn't feel compelled to stick with the rules with regards to when Obligation kicks in.  Next to the Move power, and then Morality, those have to be the dumbest rules in the system.  Let it kick in when it makes sense in the story, not by some random die roll.

 

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Some solid tips. I also pretty much ignore the normal Obligation rules. I still do the roll each game to reduce strain threshold just so the players feel a bit of motivation to see the obligation removed, but the narrative side I ignore.

Back to the bounty issue, I think part of my problem stems from a different topic I posted about unkillable enemies. It's difficult to ever the the players to choose to run from a fight, even when narratively it would make sense. They know that a lone bounty hunter is still likely to die to 4 or 5 PCs, so why run?

I like your points, though. I'll need to think on them and see if there are ways for me to force those situations.

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1 hour ago, ddbrown30 said:

Some solid tips. I also pretty much ignore the normal Obligation rules. I still do the roll each game to reduce strain threshold just so the players feel a bit of motivation to see the obligation removed, but the narrative side I ignore.

Back to the bounty issue, I think part of my problem stems from a different topic I posted about unkillable enemies. It's difficult to ever the the players to choose to run from a fight, even when narratively it would make sense. They know that a lone bounty hunter is still likely to die to 4 or 5 PCs, so why run?

I like your points, though. I'll need to think on them and see if there are ways for me to force those situations.

This was my view of it when I first started using this system. I was used to conventional games where consequences were strictly the area of the GM, but the Obligation system is designed to get the players involved in the ongoing stories of their past. 

If you are a pure railroad guy then you are gonna have a hard time with the Narrative Dice and the Obligation system is going to be a waste of time in most cases. If they are stressed about something that has no place in the narrative then it has no real use or application. 

I also see Obligation used mechanically in a lot of characters at generation and it often feels kind of bad, so I can commiserate somewhat on the reluctance to use it. Players will look for the Obligation equivalent of "I like Killing Too Much," or something else that is neither inconvenient nor compelling. 

The Bounty obligation can be a pain in the *** if interpreted as PC's have to be attacked by a Bounty Hunter when triggered. I have used the trigger simply to have NPCs mention the bounty when players are interacting with them, or to throw red herrings in that threaten them as if the BH was there. 

But yeah, unless you embrace Play to see what happens then the Obligation system is gonna be a vestigial tail on your PCs. 

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2 hours ago, ddbrown30 said:

They know that a lone bounty hunter is still likely to die to 4 or 5 PCs, so why run?

Posse. :)

However — at the risk of dogpiling on FFG's shallow design — obligation, small "o," especially in wild country, is all about squaring. Apart from the rare psychotic or pious marshal, most are willing to negotiate to be made whole. Players can fight, or keep fighting, or continue to be inconvenienced; or they can pay the fine or settle the debt with credits up front or working it off. Cut into the last score . . . but maybe dangle a thread of future work with the now-solvent other party.

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For trying to protect the bounty hunter who comes you can flood the players in minions he hired to help him.  Maybe the town's folk who want the fugitive out of their town.  Or a local gang the bounty hunter hired to help collect his mark.  So they can wear them down before he shows up, then have him as a nemisis with a rival or 2.   

And if it goes bad you can call more minions, The local law enforcement coming to stop the group murdering all the people. 

 

Another way to deal with players who won't run is the spiderman method,  grab Mary Jane or Aunt May.  So they can control the fight or and only fight the one they want.

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Yeah the Lone Bounty Hunter has to be ingenious. When I have had a lone bounty hunter attack the group it's been a Nemesis who has command of the ground they are fighting on and several ways to channel the character they want. I also think of escape routes for the BH. 

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

Yeah the Lone Bounty Hunter has to be ingenious. When I have had a lone bounty hunter attack the group it's been a Nemesis who has command of the ground they are fighting on and several ways to channel the character they want. I also think of escape routes for the BH. 

A lone bounty hunter doesn't need to go in for the capture personally. They might just track the group and point the Imperials (or whoever is hunting them) at the group's hidey-hole and accept a lesser finder's fee for providing information leading to their capture. Sure, the payout isn't as high, but neither is the risk, and not all bounty hunters have to be foolhardy, stupid, or both.

And for an example, Boba Fett doesn't try to do a one-man capture of the MF's occupants at Bespin.

Edited by HappyDaze

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Loosely.

I'm not a big fan of the obligation mechanics RAW and I tend to incorporate my one PC's bounty obligation in much the same way as any other character's background.

In short it depends on how that bounty is going to impact the particular setting or mission.

A lot of times, the bounty isn't an issue and it never comes up.  In more heavily populated areas someone may take note and the existence of the bounty is usually issued as a veiled threat from an unscrupulous contact or shadowy underworld contact.

I don't think I've ever had a bounty hunter show up and try to collect on the bounty, namely because that PC is hanging out with some toughs and a solo bounty hunter (or small team) would be a worthless gesture.

But back to my original response; Most character backgrounds are used for expositional role playing opportunities.  And they impact the plot as appropriate.

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Posted (edited)

This topic is starting to be a bit derailed with the discussion of the obligation roll mechanic. I've added an edit to my original post to help focus this discussion.

Edited by ddbrown30

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When Obligation is triggered...

When the party is landing on a new planet, and they have to pursue friendly relationships there, it might just be very disconcerting just to see one of their faces on a bounty sign. No need to do anything more in the narrative. Just the fact that people know them (negatively, as wanted people) on a planet they have never been on.

The group is negotiating a favor or deal. A much needed one. Imagine their stress when they get the worst deal out of it possible as their negotiating opponent mentions a certain bounty hunter to sweeten the deal in his favor. "I think you can give me a better deal. The bounty on your head alone would currently be better than what you're offering."

The group tries to get their bearing, or simply resupply. How about simple people moving out of the group's way, or suddenly closing shop, whispering something about "not wanting trouble".

When the group is fighting a criminal swoop gang, and they win, surviving members might parts ways with words like "You may have put me in jail today, but I can still contact Bounty Hunter X and tell him you were here!"

 

Four simple examples of how I could incorporate a Bounty Obligation into a running story without running a bounty hunter combat each time.

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On ‎5‎/‎28‎/‎2019 at 2:18 PM, HappyDaze said:

A lone bounty hunter doesn't need to go in for the capture personally. They might just track the group and point the Imperials (or whoever is hunting them) at the group's hidey-hole and accept a lesser finder's fee for providing information leading to their capture. Sure, the payout isn't as high, but neither is the risk, and not all bounty hunters have to be foolhardy, stupid, or both.

And for an example, Boba Fett doesn't try to do a one-man capture of the MF's occupants at Bespin.

PC's often split up so there is that, but I apply the same sort of survival to the Nemesis class enemies as I do the PCs so they might attempt a trap initially doing things that will affect a group like using stun grenades, etc. Also if it is a more bad guy type of BH I figure they are greedy and see it as a challenge to try and cut the shares down as long as it isn't a clearly suicidal situation to go after the PCs. 

The PCs in my games don't tend to be pushing anything like the power limits of the system and are not usually famous so the BH doesn't usually see them as being a murderhobo god squad. The BH is not attempting to take on the Avengers by himself. 

That having been said a group of PCs has a big advantage in all the actions they can take, so if they can all do volley fire against the guy each round then the BH is gonna go down fast. Choke points, traps, and cover if the group can be made to move into the area the BH wants, or overwhelming firepower and distance if trying to catch them on the move. I will have the BH typically attack the most dangerous-looking characters (Armored, carrying big weapons) who are not the Mark first. 

I like to use back-up troops for the BH too, but I don't feel the lone BH is something that isn't feasible, at least at the level of power we play at. 

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16 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

PC's often split up so there is that, but I apply the same sort of survival to the Nemesis class enemies as I do the PCs so they might attempt a trap initially doing things that will affect a group like using stun grenades, etc. Also if it is a more bad guy type of BH I figure they are greedy and see it as a challenge to try and cut the shares down as long as it isn't a clearly suicidal situation to go after the PCs. 

The PCs in my games don't tend to be pushing anything like the power limits of the system and are not usually famous so the BH doesn't usually see them as being a murderhobo god squad. The BH is not attempting to take on the Avengers by himself. 

That having been said a group of PCs has a big advantage in all the actions they can take, so if they can all do volley fire against the guy each round then the BH is gonna go down fast. Choke points, traps, and cover if the group can be made to move into the area the BH wants, or overwhelming firepower and distance if trying to catch them on the move. I will have the BH typically attack the most dangerous-looking characters (Armored, carrying big weapons) who are not the Mark first. 

I like to use back-up troops for the BH too, but I don't feel the lone BH is something that isn't feasible, at least at the level of power we play at. 

In my Star Wars, bounty hunters most often act in groups. The idea of one lone wolf hunter going after bounties that quite often have friends isn't one that I find cool; it's one that I just find silly.

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A few more examples...

The group is simply doing their thing, running cargo or whatever it is they do. One of the characters has a Bounty Obligation, and it is triggered. For some reasson, during the greater part of the session they feel like they're being watched. At the end of the session, they take off and enter hyperspace, only to find out they have a stowaway on board. Somebody that adores the character with the Bounty on his head. A groupie.

"I am very sorry," the senator says, "but one of you is a liability to my cause. You see, I cannot be affiliated with, shall we say this civilly, ... alleged... criminals. You would do well to remove this stain from your name, before asking me for any favors again." And so, the Bounty Obligation triggered closed the doors to something the party was probably pursuing.

"Yes, yes, yes. I see. You've been hunted, attacked in bright daylight. Now, if you want to work for me, I guess there shouldn't be more of such surprises. How about I buy off the bounty on your head? Yes, I can do that. What I get out of it? *starts grinning widely as Hutts can grin widely* You would be endebted to me, of course!" I guess that triggering a Bounty Obligation might as well be a chance to change it into another type of Obligation (you know, once the novelty of living with a bounty on your head wears off).

 

Three more, hopefully somewhat interesting, examples of triggered Bounty Obligation, with not a bounty hunter in sight.

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99.99% of bounties are probably just individuals, or at least individuals with a few simple goons, so a lone bounty hunter would work.  In the instances where bounties travel with other competent people (aka PCs, or a nemesis group) then the bounty hunter would definitely team up or sub-contract his own team to help take them down.

A good example could be the movie Riddick.  While Toombs is the main bounty hunter, he still had a crew to bring down Riddick because Riddick was known to be an extreme threat.

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Just now, Ahrimon said:

99.99% of bounties are probably just individuals, or at least individuals with a few simple goons, so a lone bounty hunter would work.  In the instances where bounties travel with other competent people (aka PCs, or a nemesis group) then the bounty hunter would definitely team up or sub-contract his own team to help take them down.

A good example could be the movie Riddick.  While Toombs is the main bounty hunter, he still had a crew to bring down Riddick because Riddick was known to be an extreme threat.

Even Dog goes in with 4-6 people on his team, and he's only going after relatively low-risk individuals. And yes, Dog is about as good of an example of a SW bounty hunter as there is IRL.

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57 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

Even Dog goes in with 4-6 people on his team, and he's only going after relatively low-risk individuals. And yes, Dog is about as good of an example of a SW bounty hunter as there is IRL.

As far as Dog being as good of an example that we have I'd say yes and no IMO.  Yes, in that he's really the only publicized real world example we have.  No, in the sense that Star Wars has body armor capable of defeating your standard blaster and medical technology capable of healing the most grievous wounds, so things would be inevitably different.

In our world, bounty hunters are normally going after, especially for reality TV, the more "interesting" marks.  I can see Star Wars Bounty hunters spending more time going after the small fish that the security forces don't have the time to deal with.

That said, it makes way more sense for any SW bounty hunter to work as a team until you become so well feared or so skilled as to be the top 1% of trillions of sentient beings.

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In the Game-version of the setting that you encounter out in the world with people playing this game Bounty Hunters seem to suffer a bit from the same malady that afflicts say Paladins in D&D or Ninjas in movies in the 80s. There is this sort of generic idea of a bounty hunter that the shows and games have as a fixture in life in the Galaxy, someone who is as common as the Mail Carrier or a School Teacher. A bounty hunter is basically a contractor that is used instead of a full-time employee for a job that is going to be transient and will take the officer into populations and locations not native to the authority that is looking for the offender. 

Given a large area to search, regular authorities do not have the manpower to cover the area well enough to find suspects who are willing to use distance or hiding in different populations to obscure their location. So they contract the job out to paraprofessionals in a manner that costs less than trying to hire more police and send them to look for the offender. One reason they do this is that Bounty Hunters can be inconspicuous whereas a police force with its attendant organizational structures and numbers cannot. A group of people new in a town is hard to hide especially as they must be coordinated. The advantage to a team is that you have more numbers, the advantage to being solo is that you can draw less attention and coordination with allies is not an issue. 

Bounty Hunters can run the range of all sorts of backgrounds from ex-Police to ex-criminals, and depending on their financial aspirations may be unwilling to sub-contract and procure a team. Or they may use local dupes as bait or forces, with the idea being the more of them who die in the effort the less that have to be paid. 

As to the trouble of getting someone to surrender, well in reality this is far more common than fighting to the death because of survival instinct, and the effect of perceived chances for hope on the decision making of the person. So getting someone to surrender is going to be easier than it is with PCs who just use their characters like perfectly obedient drones with no sense of self-preservation. 

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On 5/25/2019 at 11:31 AM, ddbrown30 said:

Edit: Just to keep this discussion on track, I would like to clarify that I'm not talking about the obligation roll. My question is about how to weave the bounty obligation into the narrative in a satisfying way.

There isn't a satisfying way.  Sometimes you plan ONE adventure and then the Obligation roll inserts someone's past you hadn't planned on getting into.  It F's it all up.  For example, you land on a desolate moon.  Not a single thing alive, but you roll someone's obligation and now you need to make it like the player feels stress from the bounty  situation.  We started just saying, "You feel stress.  A bad memory."  But that's so cheesy. 

What we mostly do is ignore the narrative of the roll if it does not fit in, apply the penalties.  In some games we ignore Obligation altogether. To us, it is background.  Something you want to undo eventually.  Use it more to form narrative and ignore rolling it. It just gets in the way of a good story. 

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1 hour ago, DurosSpacer said:

There isn't a satisfying way.  Sometimes you plan ONE adventure and then the Obligation roll inserts someone's past you hadn't planned on getting into.  It F's it all up.  For example, you land on a desolate moon.  Not a single thing alive, but you roll someone's obligation and now you need to make it like the player feels stress from the bounty  situation.  We started just saying, "You feel stress.  A bad memory."  But that's so cheesy. 

What we mostly do is ignore the narrative of the roll if it does not fit in, apply the penalties.  In some games we ignore Obligation altogether. To us, it is background.  Something you want to undo eventually.  Use it more to form narrative and ignore rolling it. It just gets in the way of a good story. 

Roll it at the end of last session.

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