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Beginner Box Experience

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As I do do prep for starting up The Long Arm of the Hutt this evening,, I thought I would share my experience with the included beginner box adventure as others have done. I ws the GM for my group who I have been coaxing them from their intial first hit of 4E into pathfinder, and now Edge. My players were excited as we're all huge nerds and fans of the starwars universe in general and were intrigued by the core mechanic (myself definitely included!). For some group background, we're a group in our early 20s who met in college, and with an unexpected fifth player who joined at the last minute, we ended up with 3 guys and two girls. I've been roleplaying since early highschool, most of my friends since I introduced it to them in my sophmore yer of college, and the fifth player had no experience with pen and paper RPGs (but picked things up quickly). They tend to be fairly roleplaying light and I run a fairly leniant and humor-laden game, although I am steadily encouraging them to take more risks in roleplaying and discuss things more ICly as opposed to OOCly.

The sudden apperance of a new player threw a bit of a wrench in the works, but luckily I already knew about the extra characters vilable on the website, so the party ended up being 41-VEX, Pash, Lowhrick, Oskara, and Sasha. I read the opening crawl (after a quick youtube search to find the opening title scroll theme of course) and threw the players into the cantina. The players pretty quickly picked up the idea of the core mechanic and took to it. VEX went first, deciding to sit down at a nearby table and try to be inconspicious. He triumphed with multiple successes and we decided he ended up sitting at what we deemed the 'droid table', a table full of droids other patrons had told to sit there to stay out of the way. Pash charmed a dancer into helping him hide near the stage, and Sasha took position out of sight in cover near the back of the bar. Lowhrick wanted to just stand in the doorway and whack the first gamorrean to come in and I wasn't sure how to handle that well at the time. I forget the check I used, but he ended up failing it.

First combat began and the gamorreans attack. I ended up running it sloppily and made several rule mistakes, but the plyers had fun regardless. They really enjoyed using advantage and threat to cause non-standard effects, like Pash shooting out the stage lights to give himself some concealment during the fight. VEX tried to throw a stun grenade and I had no idea what the rules were for them at the time, so I just made up an effect on the fly.* In particular, be sure to watch out for the engagement rues, the gamorreans have to manuever from short range into engaged range before they can make an attack, and because I forgot about this and a few other rules, the players took no strain the entire encounter (no pressure to spend it on manuevers).

After dominating this encounter, the PCs moved on to the junk shop which they managed to pick up the part for 600 credits. Around this point, Lowhrick's player started talking about how much he'd love a bowcaster and the rest of  the players agreed. The players roleplayed this encounter fairly well and they rolled well. The advantage and threat mechanics really made the roleplying encounter more interesting I think and really helped them open up a bit.

Moving onto spaceport control the players showed excellent sense and came up with a plan to infiltrate and release the docking clamps. VEX and Pash entered in the guise of a compuer technitian team planning to have VEX hack the computers while Pash would handle anybody who questioned them with his usual charm. The plan worked extremely well, VEX failed his first check on the comuter and drew attention from the spaceport control officer who Pash was able to succesfully bluff allowing them to complete their objective without any violence or attention. At this point we had to end the session for the night because of a late start. My players left the game feeling satisfied and having enjoyed themselves. Players who were worried about having low combat stats now felt much less worried and were happy that they still got to act like star wars badasses without being combat focused.

We started the second session a week later, opening up with the stormtrooper encounter. My players very wisely decided to run right away in the first encounter (star wars nerds who know that stormtroopers are actually supposed to be badass). Through a combination of skill and and good rolls, they took out one of the groups while running away, but once they got out of range of the troopers (easy enough by converting actions into second manuevers) Sasha began quickly looking for places to hide. She led the group to the back of the junkyard where she deftly climbed over the aging ferrocrete barrier and beckoned the others over. However, they realized that certain droids in the party aren't well suited to climbing walls so Lowhrick climbed up to the top of the wall to help others over. For VEX's climb check, I modified the assist rules slightly. Using his action (they were still in initiative), Lowhrick rolled an athletics check with a boost die (representing VEX trying his best to climb and not be totally useless). Lowhrick's player continued the night's trend of rolling absurdly well and handily carried him over. Next he helped out Oskara over and apparently didn't know his own strength. I spent a dark side token to upgrade the difficulty of the check, and Lowhrick rolled both a triumph and a despair in addition to a modest success. I ruled that Lowhrick high on adrenaline and excitement practically threw Oskara over the wall where she landed badly ontop of a large and awkward object, giving her a critical injury. On the upside however, the object she was thrown onto turned out to be a heavily damaged bowcaster. This ws definitey a highlight of the night for the players, the face of Lowhrick's player was priceless.

Meanwhile Pash had fallen slightly behind and I spent a drkside token to say that a patrol of two stormtroopers had just come out of the barracks and questioned her as to why she was running full tilt through the city (the pursuing stormtroopers were still out of sight). She failed the check and quickly ran to the other side of the junkyard and used her comlink to setup an ambush. She led them down the alley between the junkyard fence and another building and had Lowhrick jump down and DFA one of the stormtroopers before doing enough damage to one-shot the remaining trooper with his vibroaxe having setup the attack with lots of banked advantage beforehand and the GM thinking "this is too awesome of an idea to not reward".

After letting the troopers pass and hiding the nearby bodies, the party made haste to the landing by where they once gain opted to take the stealthy approach through the side. The PCs continued their absurdly good luck with rolls even with me upgrading difficulty checks with DS points. Once they were in the landing bay proper they combined their good rules with good tactics to let the more stealth proficient characters setup positions in cover targeting the droids guarding the docking ramp of the Krayt Fang. Once they were setup, Lowhrick stealthily approached the droids and swung. He failed, but rolled an absurd amount of advantage (7 advantage 0 net success), so I ruled that he would get annother attempt. The second attempt hit doing enough damage to kill the droid outright. We then entered formal initiative and Lowhrick used the first slot to triumph against the other droid with an absurd amount of advantage again, nearly killing it letting Pash finish the droid off with a blaster shot, again generating a large amount of advantage. I think this facebook post by Oskara's player summed up the awesome absurdity of it quite well.

"Wookiee sneaks in front of two battledroids. They don't notice. Wookiee swings vibroaxe. They don't notice. Wookiee swings again. First droid's head falls apart. Second droid's plate is sundered by follow-through. They don't notice. Smuggler finishes off droid with blaster shot. Droids still don't notice."

I rationalized it ICly by saying the droids were old and behind on maintenance and that a loud noise such as a low ship flyby happened at the same time this happened. After this, the players stormed the ship and eviscerated Trex (not surprisingly, he doesn't do well in such close quarters without backup) much to Lowhrick's pleasure and began their escape. Security droids finally began responding and Sasha went to try to start the ship- only to be caught offguard by the fact that the majority of the ship's interface was in Trandoshan (foreshadowing for Long arm of the Hutt!). She failed the check nd was about to try again before Pash bumps her out of the pilot's seat, says "let me handle this", handily succeeds on the check and they escape into space.

Now balancing for the fifth player for the space combat was difficult, for the other encounters I just increased the number of enemies, but I needed something for a fifth player to do. Luckily, Sasha has great piloting and observational skills, so I gave her three things she could do. She could either do co-pilot checks, call targets using observation ading a boost die to the next gunner's skill check, or call out incoming fire using observation and add a setback die to the next attack made against the ship. I felt this added an interesting thing for a fifth player to do and added some cool new tactical choices without changing space combat balance too much.

I added a third wing of tie fighters on the reccomendation of somebody else's forum post (I forgot who, my appologies) and that seemed to work out fairly well. I also realized after the first round that the tie-fighter wings are arranged in minion groups, making their linked fire even more dangerous. Don't underestimate the tie fighters as a GM, they wil die very quickly, but they output absurd amounts of damage. The group managed to kill the tie-fighters in three rounds, but ended up taking enough damage in return that one more non-linked shot would have shot them down. Overall, it ended up being a thrilling final encounter and worked very well.

Overall, a fantastic experience, my players and I are in love with the system, and the full rules can't come soon enough! I appologize for the lack of specific rules/game advice in this post as we haven't been able to play for 2 weeks. I'm planning on posting a report on the first session of The Long Arm of the Hutt though. I also have a few homebrew rules/ideas I've been kicking around, especially after borrowing a copy of the beta rulebook from a friend not in the playgroup that I'll post more about when I have time/motivation.

*Actual rules: Make a ranged (light) attack with the stun grenade and do weapon damage as normal. In a stun grenade's case because the weapon has the stun quality, it deals strain damage instead of wounds. On a hit, spend 2 advantage to trigger the grenade's blast quality dealing additional damage to all secondary targets engaged with the primary target equal to the weapon's blast rating (8 in the stun grenade's case) and to the primary target. On a miss, you may spend three advantage to trigger the blast effect instead. I generally houserule the blast effect to say that the blast hits anybody who it would make sense to hit and not say they have to be formally engaged. Stun Grenades also have the disorient quality which means you can spend two advantage to add a setback die to all skill checks made by the target for a number of rounds equal to the weapon's disorient quality. These two qualities can be combined given enough advantage.

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