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Orcsmasher

Obligations: I think I hate them

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Hey look at the new guy starting trouble! Yay!

 

Its not my intent. I just find them cumbersome. I plan an adventure that has nothing to do with the players' obligations and we still have to deal with them. Some of the obligations have nothing to do with the adventure. Especially the ones created by FFG. So what do I do? Sideline the whole adventure just to focus on one character?

 

Obviously it can be easier with home made adventures, but some obligations just don't seem to fit.

 

One of my buddies whome I get to play with once every month or two had an idea for our game with him. Have a group obligation, like paying off our ship. Is that reasonable?

 

In our regular game our wookiee killed off an agent of the Emporer. If I add that obligation of being hunted by the Empire to him he will have a ton of obligation. I stole a minor crime lord's ship right from under his nose. That's a pretty big obligation. Both actions are great for story but if the campaign has a different plot, these obligations can get in the way.

 

I get it, actions have consequences, but when I have to rill randomly for these things its just ijn the way rather than part of the story.

 

Am I making sense? Am I whining too much? Am I crying over spilled blue milk?

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One thing to keep in mind is when obligation is rolled it doesn't mean that at this particular point it comes into direct play. Perhaps the PC is just stressing over the fact that her sister (oskara from the beginner box) could be in danger. Maybe the player gets a message from the person he owes a debt to that if he doesn't pay soon there will be some sort of trouble (space balls when Pizza calls up lonestar in the beginning).

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Actually the book states you can only use the obligation to influence the roles. One character may just be bothered by them by thinking about it too much for instance.

Also, you don't just add obligation like you indicate... I suggest going over the obligation rules again.

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It just sounds like the standard way they're written doesn't appeal to the way you play.  If you have an adventure in mind, don't let Obligation get in the way of fun.  Just because you rolled the Hunted obligation for the wookiee when you started out doesn't mean you need to shoehorn a bounty hunter into the adventure.  Mechanically, all that's supposed to happen is everyone has to deal with some Strain.  This can be explained away with an offhand comment.  "Yeah, well that bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell changed my mind."

 

On the other hand, if you have a cool bounty hunter NPC that you would like to use, now's the time.  My intention is to roll Obligation long before playtime, when I'm planning the next adventure.  If something comes up that gives me some inspiration, awesome.  If not, Strain works just fine.  I believe there was a thread about some standard obligation-based adventures to drop into the game when things came up.  Having some of those up your sleeve could make you seem like an improvisational wizard.

 

So, short answer, if you don't like Obligation, don't worry about using it.  I wouldn't throw it out, because you might have some surprise fun with it.  Let it take a back seat until you're ready to rock.

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Heck, it could be as simple as finding out that you *just missed* a bounty hunter who was looking for you.  He got there before you did, but when you hadn't shown up yet, he figured you weren't coming.  You know he's on your tail now, and it's just a matter of time.

 

Either way, it can be helpful to make the Obligation roll at the end of a session rather than the beginning.  If nothing else, that gives you some time to figure out exactly what (if any) specific encounter or mention you want to involve for it.  If you decide against an encounter, ask the player to come up with some little side bit which explains why he (and possibly the rest of the crew as well) is stressed out over his Obligation at the moment.

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I've read others here post that they don't roll it every session, they prefer to roll it every mission. It just doesn't always makes sense while knee deep in the more pressing dangerous concerns ("Rancor everybody run!") to have someone suffering strain (mid mission) because they haven't phoned up their sister in the last month. 

 

I like the obligation mechanic, but you need to put reins on that puppy and make him do what you need for the game.

Edited by torquemadaza

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I've read others here post that they don't roll it every session, they prefer to roll it every mission. It just doesn't always makes sense while knee deep in the more pressing dangerous concerns ("Rancor everybody run!") to have someone suffering strain (mid mission) because they haven't phoned up their sister in the last month. 

 

I like the obligation mechanic, but you need to put reins on that puppy and make him do what you need for the game.

I'll second this.  Rolling per mission not only avoids the oddity of having it pop up mid-session in very strange places, it also gives you a much wider window to work it into your story.  I'm not a big fan of the "Oh, you're just stressed about it" mechanical approach.  I want Obligation to be about story, not just about the mechanical impact of a lowered strain threshold.

 

Honestly, I'm not sure how you'd roll it every session without having Obligation completely take over your game.

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I roll Obligation at the end of a session and use those results to help plan the next. As mentioned this might be something as simple as distraction with the strain mechanic but depending on where we're at and what we're doing I can often times work it into the story itself, and have a whole week to think about it instead of rolling obligation at the beginning of the night and trying to improv my way around it. My players keep me on my toes enough as it is :)

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I don't use the obligation mechanic. I use the obligation stuff as background and story hooks but no rolls or anything like that.

If they owe money to a crime boss then he will come collecting but not based on a random roll.

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I'd definitely go over the obligation rules again.  It sounds like you may be letting them factor into the session too much.  Most of the time, it should manifest as simply an added strain on the group so they don't go cavorting around the galaxy doing whatever they want.  On occasion, make it the focal point of a mission.  Having a shared group obligation is perfectly acceptable.  I have a wookiee and a rodian that share a life debt as part of their obligation.  What they don't know is how intertwined their stories are because I set up secret backstories with each of them independent of the other.  It will AMAZING when it all comes out in the wash and that will be a particularly epic adventure.  But that's a once in a (PC's) lifetime experience, not every single game. 

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In our game, one of the PCs obligation is blackmail. Using a premade adventure, when he rolled his obligation the only hook was the promise of some information that could help resolve some of his issues if we did a job for someone.

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Wow, I thought the obligation aspect of the game was amazing.

 

Like others have said, roll long before play time.  Perhaps at the end of a session for the next session, then you have time to plan something appropriate if you want to.  If you can fit a bounty hunter into a mission in a way that makes sense, awesome.  If not, the strain element alone is powerful.

 

Strain is vitally important.  It allows you to perform extra move actions (sorry, can't shake the d20 lingo yet).  It allows you to perform abilities.  It's a secondary health statistic.  Reducing the maximum for a session can severely reduce the effectiveness of a player or group.

 

And best of all, it's realistic!  Seriously, ever get in a fight with a loved one and it weighs you down for the next couple days.  You're less active, less happy, easily irritated, more prone to making mistakes.  Ever been employed by a company that announced layoffs.  You're walking on eggshells, imagining the worst case scenario and unable to focus on your work.  Ever have to skip some event (wedding, child's sporting event, etc) due to work?

 

If people have relatively fleshed out obligations and you can't come up with an interesting and in depth event tied to the obligation, it should be brutally easy to explain the emotional/mental strain suffered by the players.

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Another thing about obligation is it works best in free form sandboxy games. If you play very linear on rails adventures you probably will want to change the way obligation works for your game.

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  Well the GM rolls for Obligation.  It doesn't have to be a shared outcome and its effects don't have to spelled out to the players.

 

  

 

 

Its not my intent. I just find them cumbersome. I plan an adventure that has nothing to do with the players' obligations and we still have to deal with them. 

  We as in you or the players....if they want the benefit then there might be some consequence.  I wouldn't let it get in the way of your adventure but I think it can impact any adventure in a narrative way.  If you digest it just by the numbers then I wouldn't use it at all.

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Obligation doesnt have to de-rail your adventure, but obviously once that Obligation hits the 100 mark, well its time that something be done about it. I have used it at the start of each session, directly after rolling the Destiny points. Normally i just have the player in question see something that triggers her Obligation, in the case of my Bounty Hunter, she hates slavers, its an obsession with her, to make them pay for what happened to her family. So maybe she just gets to see a poor Slave wandering behind his master, or see that an auction of slaves will take place the next day, while passing through a port. this is enough to explain the mental strain that she feels, and her getting grumpy puts the other members of the party on alert, hence they also share in the mental strain, of what could occur.

 

Its best use is as a flashback to what the obligation is tied to, nothing that takes time away from the main adventure, but enough to make the group consider the implication, and maybe they decide that next time they wish to tackle one of the obligations head on, thus lowering its rating should things go well.

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I've read others here post that they don't roll it every session, they prefer to roll it every mission. It just doesn't always makes sense while knee deep in the more pressing dangerous concerns ("Rancor everybody run!") to have someone suffering strain (mid mission) because they haven't phoned up their sister in the last month. 

 

I like the obligation mechanic, but you need to put reins on that puppy and make him do what you need for the game.

I think that's a great time for you to realize that you haven't talked to your sister in awhile.  You might die, and she'd have no idea. I feel like that twinge of regret would only add to the stress of a situation.

And don't try telling me that people don't think about weird stuff at weird times.  It happens to everyone XD

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Heck, one way I'd do things is that as Obligation ramps up, the bill collector's voicemails get more frequent and more... strident... and somehow they're ever-more-precise at finding their way to you...

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If you roll obligation and don't want to use it, then don't Hit them for a couple strain and call it good, or just ignore it.  Your the GM, do what you think will be most fun. 

 

Our group takes things like obligation and background very seriously.  I don't think anybody rolled on the chart, we all hand crafted our characters and background, often writing pages of history and material.  It can be a pain to work obligation and background in, and sometimes it just doesn't fit, but if you can pull in a characters backstory it can really make it a memorable and fun experience for that player.

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In a campaign I'm running right now I sort of resolved most of the characters' debt-related obligations after the first cfew sessions. Now they just have more esoteric oath-type obligations. The game is running like a sandbox right now but I have events brewing in the background to prey on their oaths later.

 

I've also been planning since the begining to take away their starting ship. The reason I'm doing this is because through a ridiculous series of events, they have 165,000 credits. I'm going to dangle a really great ship in front of them that they just absolutely can't refuse, and it'll be right out of their price range. They'll have to take out a loan from someone and I think this will make their debt-based obligations that they'll be receiving now MUCH more impactful and personal. They will have chosen to take on this debt, as opposed to it just "existing" already when we started playing.

 

Well, that's the plan anyway. These guys are nuts and who knows what will actually end up happening.

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I plan an adventure that has nothing to do with the players' obligations and we still have to deal with them.

 

Perish that thought.  I mean it -- drag it through the back door, shoot it in the head and stuff it in the dumpster.

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I actually find Obligation to be a great idea, it helps create story and narrative beats that sometimes lead to side quests or help color the main plot of the game, opening up more roleplay opportunities. The only change I do is I roll at the end of the session for the next session, this gives me time to weave it better into the upcoming story.

 

My personal way of involving obligation is that a normal roll (no doubles) results in an indirect manifestation of the obligation (a memory, or a message etc.) and doubles result in some negative, direct involvement (hunters, debt collectors, obligation increasing)

 

To show how obligation doesn't need to sidetrack a plot I'll use a couple of examples from one of my games:

 

A PCs had a debt obligation from chargen (2000c) pretty small amount in the grand scheme of things. We roll a double on it to trigger. The PC during the current adventure had met a well connected contact who he had asked to look into his debts back on his home world. The contact comes back and warns the PC that his debt had no only gone up to 15,000c from him not paying it for the last year, but the people backing the loan sharks have connections to the Black Sun *cue dramatic music*

 

The PCs were in the process of tracking down a bounty for a local Hutt, so he decided to trade a favor with the Hutt and some credits to pay off the Black Sun. Overall a net reduction of Obligation, no core change to the story of them chasing their bounty, and now we have the wild card on the table of owing a favor to a Hutt.

 

In the same group a 2nd PC has the obligation of betrayal. She is a Noghri, a secretive race that owes a honor pact (think a Wookie life debt) to Darth Vader for saving their people due to their planet's atmosphere becoming poisoned. The planet remains poisoned but the Empire provide life preserving medicine to the Noghri. The PC Noghri had a unusual vision or feeling about Vader and refused to honor her Oath.

 

Now in self exile, alone in the galaxy, her obligation comes up as the group pay a visit to Nal Hutta on another job for the previously mentioned Hutt. On arriving on the heavily polluted and strip mined world she is reminded about the fate of her own dying homeworld.

Edited by Nashable

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I plan an adventure that has nothing to do with the players' obligations and we still have to deal with them. Some of the obligations have nothing to do with the adventure. Especially the ones created by FFG. So what do I do? Sideline the whole adventure just to focus on one character?

 

I think Obligation gives you a great tool to spin some very interesting balls towards the PCs... They'll feel much more attached to the story you are telling if they see it's affecting their characters at their core... It's the perfect tool to motivate them.

 

I also roll the Obligation a couple days before the session and once per Act/adventure (as some people have advised) so that I have a bit of time to decide how to introduce the situation in the campaign... There's many subtle ways to introduce the Obligation if you feel that focusing too much on it does not make a lot of sense at that point in the story: a nightmare, a holoprojector message, an image that reminds the character of his Obligation, a song or music related to his Obligation, some news from the holonet, meeting an old acquaintance,...

 

You need no more than 5 minutes to convey to the character the stress (i.e., loss of Strain) that they feel because of their Obligation "activating".

Edited by cogollo

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I have found that my players actually take on side-quest to avoid taking on more obligation, narratively and mechanically. It is a great way to get the players do adventures without the need for additional reward.

Recently my players were negotiating with Mr Jabba T Hutt, and Jabba requested them to return some items that the group had stolen from a now deceased relative of his. And without hesitation they handed the items back because a) they didn't want any grief from Jabba, and 2) they didn't want to increase their obligation total as its already at 86.

they aslo have a group obligation as Hutt Killers, and Jabba pointed out that they have work to do to rebuild a favourable reputation to get work from Hutts, and for a start they can do a freebie job for his nephew. The players are hoping this that by completing is side-quest they will reduce their high obligation......we shall see.......

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Another aspect of obligation that the Core book hints at is how various npc groups will treat the group based on their notoriety. If you're running a sandbox economy with a Traveller/Freelancer-esque vibe this is one super easy tool to help manage your item and price tables per region as well as security.

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I created a couple of minor "events" that are generic enough that they can occur at any point if they are rolled.

 

For example:

 

With the Bounty obligation I will have the PC roll Perception checks randomly throughout the session, on a success he hears of someone looking for him or spots someone tracking them in the (far) distance, etc...  Eventually, when I am ready to plan for it, they will encounter a bounty hunter or a minion group of hunters after him.

 

The mechanic in the group has the Betrayal obligation and I have it so whenever his obligation comes up there will be something that goes wrong with their ship, thanks to the person he betrayed sabotaging the ship.  Perhaps if he rolls a triumph on a mechanics check to repair the sabotage he will gain some insight as to the cause of the sabotage.  Eventually, when I am ready to plan for it, they will meet the saboteur who will lead them to a safe house that will lead to a holo-communicator where it will finally be reviled that it is the person he betrayed.  They will then continue to have saboteur encounters (in between other missions) that drop clues to the physical location of the mastermind behind it all (the person that was betrayed) until they eventually confront him after all.  

 

I also really like the idea of strain during each game session because a session can span a single day or weeks, and having a minor distraction from something related in your past from game to game works for me and using strain to represent that, I think, is a great mechanic.

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