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jendefer

Failed Astrogation Opportunities

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Not a rules question... just a prompt for conversation. I'm interested in hearing about how failed Astrogation checks have turned into fun and/or unexpected experiences in your games.

We have tended to mostly ignore the skill, assuming that the PCs get wherever they were supposed to so that the planned adventure can take place. However, we recently had a pretty cool detour. The planned adventure was to take place entirely aboard the ship, dealing with a stowaway and some inter-PC conversations that needed to happen on the way back from an adventure to our homebase. On a lark, we decided to do the Astrogation check for getting home. The result was failure with threat. Rather than just saying it took longer than we expected or calling for a second roll, we took a look at the galaxy map to see what was near our intended destination and picked Smuggler's Run as sounding interesting. A quick skim of Wookieepedia later, we were dodging asteroids (while dealing with the stowaway) and setting down on a skip in the hopes of being able to buy some updated Astrogation charts. That purchase could have been handled with a single Negotiation or Streetwise check, but since we were exploring a new place, it turned into a whole adventure of its own. We repaired a busted-up old bartender droid so that it would tell us where we could get charts. It referred us to a den of astromechs hanging out in the maintenance and sewer corridors below the buildings. We had to persuade them to sell us charts, and one that knew the sectors we cared about insisted we take it along with us in exchange for its help with the jump. On the way back through the sewer level there was a dianoga attack (of course). Finally, we had to deal with getting the astromech past spaceport personnel, since it was wanted. And paying off someone who recognized us to keep quiet about having seen us at Smuggler's Run (due to some Bounty obligations).

A lot of the direction of the spur-of-the-moment adventure came from Triumphs and Despairs or advantages and threats rolled along the way. It made me really appreciate again the narrative dice and the ideas they help solicit.

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Yeah there are dozens of episodes of various Star Trek shows, and Farscape that I can think of offhand, that are based entirely around "The FTL sent us to the wrong place."   They are usually "bottle" episodes, meaning they are self-contained, and don't really have any larger impact on events, but they are a fun way to flesh out the universe the story exists in, and allows the writers to make something fun/crazy, that is maybe a little "off-script" when compared to the rest of the show.  

I'd try and incorporate it more into your gaming sessions, the Astrogation check mechanic that is.  And if you are the GM, have a few modular locations with a fun backdrop that you could toss in, for a little one-off session.   Perhaps they accidentally trigger an old gravity well trap from a forgotten war, centuries ago, and find themselves trapped in a ship graveyard, and they have to find the device and shut it down before the still functional "salvage droids", dismantle their ship like all the others.   Perhaps you can use that to introduce some plot hooks in a less blatant way.  Example: The party slicer is tearing into the systems to turn off the hyperspace inhibitor, and comes across some files talking about *insert plot hook in your story*, which can then redirect the party for that Force training they've been trying to find since the start of the game.      Or amidst the ruined ships, they discover a long lost ship of legend "Amelia Earhart's plane" kind of thing.  Someone with Knowledge: Warfare, might succeed at a check to recognize the markings, and this could lead down another plot arc for that character, as they uncover their history as the child of a clone soldier from the Clone Wars.  Etc etc.   

It's actually an incredibly useful skill for storytelling purposes, even if you don't use it to sow seeds of various plot elements.  Just having a random one-off session, perhaps with more humor and levity in it than you usually do, can do wonders for keeping a gaming group engaged long term.

Also, you can always use it as a way for the party to accidentally unleash your Big Bad on the galaxy, by meddling with ancient systems they maybe shouldn't fiddle with.  You know if that's your thing.  :D 

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2 hours ago, KungFuFerret said:

And if you are the GM, have a few modular locations with a fun backdrop that you could toss in, for a little one-off session.   Perhaps they accidentally trigger an old gravity well trap from a forgotten war, centuries ago, and find themselves trapped in a ship graveyard, and they have to find the device and shut it down before the still functional "salvage droids", dismantle their ship like all the others. 

Thanks for the ideas, @KungFuFerret! We've been to a few ship junkyards, but they've always been planetside. I like the idea of trying one in space.

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If the players aren't in combat or tense situation, astrogation checks are not even rolled.  If they are in a situation that matters (escaping capture, in combat, about to be in combat, etc), then getting an astrogation check correct is important, but I use it as more of a delay situation.  It will take 4 rounds to properly calculate the jump to hyperspace.   Success is just that, success, you jumped to hyperspace.  Advantages make the jump quicker (you make the calculations quickly and jump in 2 or 3 turns).  Threats delay the calculation (you're distracted as your ship is taking fire, it will take 5 rounds to jump).  Triumph is a big cut in jump time as in 1 round or perhaps immediately (the ship had the coordinates pre-programmed, or you had a moment of perfect clarity and just typed in the correct coordinates).

I've never had a player fail or throw a despair, so I haven't even thought about it till right now.  I think for a failure I'd probably have the jump just outright fail and have them try again (new roll, new countdown).  For a despair, a miscalculated jump could be fun.  Accidentally jump into an Imperial shipyard.  Have them get stuck in Hyperspace and are attacked my some sort of hyperspace creature that is attracted to their failing hyperdrive.  Have the jump succeed, but the Hyperdrive and main drive both burn out causing the ship to need massive repair.

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6 minutes ago, kmanweiss said:

\I've never had a player fail or throw a despair, so I haven't even thought about it till right now. 

Them failing or having a despair is predicated on an Astrogation check difficult enough to have that as a possibility.  So if you've never upgraded an Astro check to include a red die, yeah they won't ever Despair it.  

7 minutes ago, kmanweiss said:

  For a despair, a miscalculated jump could be fun.  Accidentally jump into an Imperial shipyard.  Have them get stuck in Hyperspace and are attacked my some sort of hyperspace creature that is attracted to their failing hyperdrive.  Have the jump succeed, but the Hyperdrive and main drive both burn out causing the ship to need massive repair.

Yep, basically use every example from decades worth of science fiction, where the FTL drive's functionality was directly integrated into the plot.  Blammo, you have a session. It's actually really common if you sit back and think about all the various shows with FTL.  They use it all the time as it's an incredibly easy plot justification.   Which is great for gamers, as you can easily reskin the various plot hooks for Star Wars.

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10 minutes ago, KungFuFerret said:

Yep, basically use every example from decades worth of science fiction, where the FTL drive's functionality was directly integrated into the plot

Doctor Who has been mining that trope for 55 years now! Its either the Tardis goes to the wrong spot or there's some kind of Plot Device that's keeping them from getting back to the Tardis. Either way, it's a well worn path.

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9 minutes ago, Desslok said:

Doctor Who has been mining that trope for 55 years now! Its either the Tardis goes to the wrong spot or there's some kind of Plot Device that's keeping them from getting back to the Tardis. Either way, it's a well worn path.

Yep, the well is both deep and wide for "ok where the heck are we?" plot hooks. :P    I mean they kind of subverted that with New Hope.   They ended up where they were supposed to be, but it was drastically different from how it should be.  Entire planet blown up and turned into a debris field, new moon (it's not a moooooooon) in it's place.    

With just a little forethought and prep-work, a GM could easily use Astrogation as a goldmine for stories if/when the situation pops up.    "In case of Despair, break Hyperdrive and run crazy side-plot."  :D 

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1 hour ago, Desslok said:

I've used it on my players, so I share with you: How about this scenario shamelessly inspired by real life events?

I loved finding this adventure when I first joined the forums and have since tweaked and modified it to suit my group. Now it sits waiting and primed for the right time to spring on my players (aka their next astrogation despair).

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2 hours ago, Rimsen said:

That's epic! How did I not know this before?

Well, it is kind of old. How often do people browse Page 39? Not very often.

Also, that post is from 2013? Yikes. I've been here that long? Egads.

2 hours ago, warchild1x said:

I loved finding this adventure when I first joined the forums and have since tweaked and modified it to suit my group

If there's no danger on your players accidentally finding it, you should put your modified version on google drive or drop box and post a link in the thread. I'd love to see what you changed up.

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