Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jedi Ranking System

When the RPG first came out in 1987 there was very little information on the Jedi order as a whole. The prequel trilogy wasn't even on the drawing board back then and the glut of Star Wars novels had yet to be written. In a way, the setting was kind of a wilderness—where I, as GM, had to blaze a few trails and make some decisions as to how things that weren't explained actually worked. One of those things was: exactly what defined a 'Jedi Knight', at least from the angle of game skills and skill levels. What I came up with worked well enough in my campaign so I'll share it here for anyone who cares.

First of all, I narrowed down the defining skills of a Jedi. These turned out to be:

1) Control
2) Sense
3) Alter
4) Lightsaber (I later just evolved this into Melee)
5) Lightsaber-Tech
6) Jedi-Lore

The first four are no-brainers. The latter two were included for specific reasons. In the game (and indeed in the movie), mention was made of one of a Jedi student's final tasks being the construction of his/her own lightsaber. And as I recall, lightsaber technology was also included on the list of skills presented for various characters in the RPG sourcebooks. 

Jedi-Lore would represent the philosophical teachings of the Jedi order along with a bit of background as to the history of the order and tales of former Jedi. It is a distinctly 'mental' skill that seems to fit nicely with the other more physical and metaphysical ones listed above.

As far as the skill levels that represented a Jedi Knight I was at a bit of a loss. There wasn't a whole lot to go on except the stats of the feature characters as they were provided in the various source books. So I had to extrapolate and came up with this rough system.

In order to be considered a Jedi Knight you had to have at least 7D in Control, Sense and Alter, 7D in Lightsaber and Lightsaber-Tech and around 5D in Jedi-Lore. To beginning characters especially this seemed sufficiently 'mega'.

In order to be considered a Jedi Master you had to have at least 9D in all those initial skills and 7D in Jedi-Lore. 

This has worked pretty well in my campaign, though in fleshing out my current roster of Jedi Knights and students I have tweaked it a little. Now, to be considered a Knight you need an AVERAGE of 7D across all three Force powers (ex: you could have an 8D control, 7D Sense and 6D Alter). The same average goes for Masters as well, working out to 9D.

Working backward from these numbers, the ranking system goes something like this:

1D+ Youngling
3D+ Padawan
5D+ Junior Knight
7D+ Knight
9D+ Master
11D+ Senior Master

I've seen D6 stats created for Jedi from the prequel trilogy on a couple other Web sites, but those seem a bit low to me. They had 'average' knights with 3 or 4D Force skill levels. From the way the Jedi fought in the movies, I'd say they'd be just a bit better than that—if not a lot better. On the flip side, even with 7D skills, a Jedi is not invulnerable. As the players in my campaign well know, a squad of Stormtroopers firing in a volley is a serious threat. Again, I think this was borne out in the movies. When the Jedi had surprise or backup or were fighting small groups of opponents they were able to wreak havoc. When faced with serious opposition (such as in the Geonosis Arena, or when Order 66 was given) they can be taken out. So in my book, the 7D level balance works out pretty well.

Jedi Templates

One of the (many) things that the original West End RPG really did right was to give the GM ideas on how to include Force users in a campaign without walking all over the established movie continuity. They accomplished this through several different character templates included at the end of the main rule book. As I recall there were four Force user options in the original edition of the rules, though another was added in the Second edition. As you read, please keep in mind that I am speaking mainly of these templates being used in a 'Classic' campaign setting (during the original movie trilogy)—since when the game first came out, this really was the only setting.

The first, and perhaps the most mundane, Force user template was the Minor Jedi. This template represented someone who was a padawan or some-such during the fall of the Jedi order. They had begun their training, but had not completed it prior to the Imperial purge. The minor Jedi would thus seem to be an older character (in their thirties at least) who had some small skill with the force and even a connection with the Jedi Order as a whole, but who has had to keep themselves hidden all these years. The low starting Force skill levels of this template can be explained away by the character's incomplete training as well as their lack of an instructor in the meanwhile. It could also be argued that this character has (consciously or not) suppressed their Force abilities in order to blend in with galactic society while the purge was at its height. The Minor Jedi would likely enter a campaign because they felt that the 'time was right' for them to finally make a stand against the Empire. The various RPG books had several examples of this kind of template, but the one that stands out for me is Corwin Shelvay (from Galaxy Guide 9). 

The second Force user template is the Failed Jedi—an interesting twist on the Minor Jedi. The two templates share the background of being a person who was young and in training during the fall of the Jedi. Where the Failed Jedi diverges, however, is that they 'washed out' of training. They were either expelled from the Academy or dropped out. During the Imperial purge, the Failed Jedi sunk into fear and depression, hiding away from the galaxy in a bottle of booze. Again, low starting Force skill levels can be explained away by incomplete training, but even moreso than the Minor Jedi, this template seems a candidate for 'trying to forget' their abilities in order to pass as normal (and to escape bad memories). The Failed Jedi is likely brought out of their wasted life by the promise of redemption—if not for themselves then for the next generation. The closest example of this template in the various Star Wars materials is Halla from the Novel: Splinter of the Minds Eye, though she isn't entirely true to the backstory—Essentially, she's just a con-artist and drifter who has minor force abilities. In my campaign, Syril Vanus was based on this template—a man who's life was mysteriously ruined by Darth Vader sometime in his past. He emerged from the bottle to try to make a difference once more.

One of my favorite templates is the Quixotic Jedi. This guy is, simply put, nuts. He thinks he's a Jedi and plays the part—to the hilt. The Quixotic Jedi is both humorous and poignant, based on whatever his exact background is. He could be a senile old man who read too many stories about the Jedi when he was a boy. He could be an unbalanced youth, escaping a difficult life on the streets in favor of a world of honor and heroism. He could even be a former Jedi or padawan, tortured to the point of insanity by the Empire before somehow escaping. No matter what the background, the Quixotic Jedi's erratic and initially low-powered Force skills can simply be blamed on his psychological state. The Force works in mysterious ways—who's to say it wouldn't find a conduit through a crazy old man or a disturbed youth? Why couldn't a 'broken' Jedi rediscover their connection—and a new purpose to become a hero (even if they are crazy). While there weren't any Quixotic characters in my Vermillion campaign, there are at least two examples of them in the Marvel comics series. The first is the no-so-subtly named 'Don-Wan Kihotay' from the early 'Eight for Aduba-3' story arc—this guy is, no doubt, the source of this template. The second was a gangly alien who suffered a head injury and began calling himself 'Jedi'.

The final Jedi template included in the original D6 rule book was the 'Alien Student of the Force'. Again, this is a very original concept, representing someone who comes from a Force tradition outside of the Jedi order. Exactly what tradition that is left vague—which opens up all kinds of opportunities for the player (or player and GM) to come up with a framework/philosophy that is entirely original. The Alien could be a primitive shaman or viewed as a 'wizard' on his or her own world. She could be from a highly advanced, Force-sensitive species that remains in hiding from the Galaxy at large—or even the 'last of her kind' from a species that was wiped out by the Empire. An Alien Student's relative lack of Force powers as a beginning character could be explained in any number of ways: slow initial learning process or limited instruction and experience at home. As presented in the template, the Alien Student would generally start the campaign seeking to discover more about the Galaxy and more about the Force in the process. In the Vermillion campaign, Bob the Tusken would qualify as an Alien Student of the Force. He certainly didn't come from a Jedi tradition initially—and he certainly was 'alien' (in philosophy and background if nothing else). His player certainly emphasized that quirky background, making him a very unique character in the group.

Introduced in the Second edition D6 rule book, the Young Jedi template can represent one of two things: In the 'Classic' campaign, the Young Jedi would more appropriately be called a 'Force Adept'—i.e. a person with no formal training but who develops Force skills at an almost subconscious level, perhaps not even being fully aware of them until some time later. In a New Republic era campaign the Young Jedi could be a formal student of the Force, either from one of the emerging new Knights or (if the campaign is set late enough) of the Jedi Academy on Yavin. Being young and untrained presents a simple enough explanation of low starting-level Force skills. As far as motivation goes, a Young Jedi could be spurred by just about anything—idealism, adventurousness, etc. The 'Force Adept' concept is perhaps the most popular template there is. It certainly was in my campaign. Adren qualifies as one, so do Arianne, and Jared, and Yelstain, and Shagg, etc. Luke Skywalker himself would fall into this category, as would Leia in the later novels. 

I am a strong believer that in a Classic campaign all Force users should be less powerful than the feature characters. To do otherwise (in my opinion) is to brush aside the major plot points of the movies. All of the Major Jedi are supposed to be dead. Luke is a prodigy who will grow to be the most powerful Jedi of his generation. To introduce another full-fledged Jedi survivor of the purge or another youthful prodigy who is better than Luke is (again in my opinion) to water-down and disrespect the story and the characters (see my rant on The Force Unleashed). In order to keep this balance, it is important for characters to start off with low Force skill levels—and a good reason WHY those levels are low to start off with. Hence my pointing out in each template the reasoning behind the Force user's initial limited skills.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Using the Movies in a Campaign

When I first purchased the Star Wars RPG, I had visions of what a campaign might be like. One of the very first things I thought of was having the player characters participate in some of the greatest events of the movie series. Evidently, I wasn't the only one who thought of this. In the first edition Star Wars Rulebook (1987) they had a list of adventure ideas in the back. One of them was a scenario called 'Marooned on Hoth'. It concerned the player characters being assigned a defensive position during the Imperial attack and then having to find a way to escape the planet after the fall of Echo Base. Yeah. That was exactly the kind of thing I wanted.

When I finally got the Vermillion campaign up and going, I knew that I was going to have the PCs involved in both Hoth AND Endor. We began the game shortly after the destruction of the first Death Star, so I had several years of game-time to explore before we even got close. In retrospect, I suppose I could have started the game prior to the original movie and involved the players in that. It would have been a bit tricky, though. You could have characters on Tatooine while Vader is there searching for Luke. But you'd have to be careful not to cause /too/ much trouble or it might interfere with the movie story line. As far as the Battle of Yavin is concerned, I suppose you could have a few PC pilots, but if you go by strict 'canon', only 3 fighters survived the attack on the Death Star. I don't really go by canon, and I could see fudging this, but on Yavin, only the pilots really get any action. It might be possible to include everyone in a post-movie scene involving the evacuation of Yavin. But well.. that really doesn't take place 'on screen'. 

When the Vermillion Campaign finally did reach the Empire Strike's Back timeline, I arranged for the team to be stationed on Hoth. Some were given jobs as pilots, others techs and others rode patrol like Han and Luke. During the sessions, I recall playing clips of the movies (on VHS) to take the place of 'cut aways'. It worked rather well. I know I got all psyched up, and I'm sure my players did, too. One of them (Steve, the other one) went so far as to claim the lines of one of the background Rebels. In the scene were Han decides he's going out to search for the missing Luke, Rick Oman hollers out. "I'll take sector ". It was a nice touch on his part. Of course, the characters knew they weren't going to be the one to find Luke, but that didn't prevent them from helping with the search. It was at this point that I threw a coordinated Wampa attack against them and Echo base (this was actually an omitted subplot in the movies). Several of them were wounded and had to convalesce in the same medical ward as Luke.

When the Empire finally arrived, the PCs were given the task of holding one of Echo Base's flanks. This allowed me freedom to throw a whole Imperial task force against them without stepping on the toes of the rest of the battle raging on the 'main front' (i.e. the one shown in the movie). There were tow cable attacks, speeders shot down, blaster-fights with snowtroopers, the whole nine  yards. The PCs even got to see (from a distance) Darth Vader's personal assault shuttle land on top of Echo Base. Great fun. And then suddenly, the PCs realized that their evacuation zone was just overrun. It was then that several characters got the same idea simultaneously—"Hey. There's a shuttle on top of the base!" And so, rounding up their surviving ground troops, the PCs launched an attack on Darth Vader's shuttle. They took out the crew and flew off with it in the confusion. Yeah, it was close quarters for the whole team and the platoon of Rebel troopers under their command. But they'd escaped. They even dubbed the shuttle the "'lil Executor" after they found out who's ship it was. This, of course, led to a joke later on. In the original release of the movie. Vader was leaving Bespin after his duel with Luke. He rumbles menacingly and annoyedly to his subordinates. "Bring me my shuttle". My group (I can't remember exactly who said it) added to that line: "...If you can FIND it." I still giggle about that sometimes (and I'm slightly annoyed that in the re-release of the movie, they changed that line. Sigh).

After this, there was roughly another year of game time to handle before Return of the Jedi swung around. Since my first foray into mixing movies and adventures was so enjoyable, I did more planning for this one. The PCs found themselves reassigned to the main Rebel fleet as it prepared for its assault on the second Death Star. About half the group (Marko, Hugganut, Bob, Martell, Jared) was assigned as part of the commando team, while the other half (Arianne, Oman.. and I think Ruu'khan?) were given jobs in the fleet. It took some finagling to make everything work—and some prior agreement from the players to work within the confines of the movie. Again, as the adventure progressed, I used clips from the movie to serve as cutaways. And again, the players began to claim background characters in the movie as being 'them' (Martell was the black guy commando sitting next to Leia, Bob was the cloaked figure seen entering the strike team's shuttle, Jared was the commando who rifle-clubs the Imperial in the shield generator bunker, etc.) It was a truly memorable night and fun adventure, despite the fact that so much of it was 'scripted'. Oman was the top-turret gunner on the Falcon, riding along with Lando, Arianne was in control of a Gunship during the fleet battle—and the rest of the guys? Well, they had a hell of a tangle with the Imperials on the surface of Endor. Needless to say, everyone had a great time at the post-battle party in the Ewok village.

I recently (within the last couple years) ran a much smaller campaign for my friend Sharon and her husband Philip (with brand-new characters not related to the Vermillion campaign). It moved a lot faster than the Vermillion campaign (timeline wise) and I made a point of throwing them into the movies as well. Again, even years later, it was lots of fun for me. And as before, it really helps to tie the PCs directly into the movies. So, if you're running a 'classic' era campaign? Well, don't be afraid to really put your PCs in the movie.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Campaign Types

I have actually run several different Star Wars campaigns during my career as a GM in college and beyond. The Vermillion campaign was by far the most long-lived for various reasons, but I 'dabbled' with a few other types and group configurations, too. This posting concerns what I see as the major campaign types—both ones I have used and ones that are presented or suggested in the various sourcebooks. So, without further ado, here are the Star Wars campaign categories and my thoughts on them:

This is the campaign that the original RPG assumes that most players will experience. Set during the Rebellion (usually starting right after the battle of Yavin), the players assume the role of agents of the Alliance, fighting the good fight against the evil Empire. Almost all of the original D6 gaming modules and supplements are geared around this type of campaign. While it might seem a bit rigid at first (forcing the players to work within the organization of the Alliance), this setting actually allows for very diverse character backgrounds and gives individual teams of Rebel agents a lot of freedom and autonomy. Afterall, the Alliance is (at best) an 'irregular' military organization. Smugglers, Outlaws, Idealists, Soldiers, Wookiees, Ex-Imperials, Kid-Mascots, Alien Students of the Force—pretty much anything goes. The Vermillion campaign was (and is) a 'Classic' campaign like this. It is my favorite type of campaign, mainly because I enjoy running stuff for the 'good guys' and because it parallels the heroes from the movies.

I actually ran a couple of this type of campaign—where the players are the crew of a ship and earn their living through freight-hauling (legal or illegal). Like the 'Classic' campaign, the type of character allowed in the Smuggler campaign is wide open—just so long as you have at least one person who can fly the ship and one who can fix it. Unlike the classic campaign, smugglers don't have as much support from the RPG source books. There are a few really good supporting materials (Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters, Platt's Smuggler's Guide, Politics of Contraband, etc.) but most of the modules are really geared towards Rebel characters, or at the very least, Rebel sympathetic characters. The campaigns I have run in this style have all degenerated. Mostly, I imagine, due to my own dislike. I just can't get into characters who's main motivations are money. Plus, in Star Wars, smugglers are going to cross the Empire at some point, so it seems almost a waste of time for them not to just throw their lot in with the Rebellion. Still, for the GM who likes this sort of things, and for players who enjoy less altruistic RP...well, you could do worse than this.

Being a huge fan of Rangers from D&D and of exploration in general, I am enamored of this kind of campaign. It is actually not much different than a smuggler campaign, only you get paid by exploration rather than cargo hauling. You're likely to have a lot of run-ins with evil Imperial and corporate scouts as well as underworld types (pirates, smugglers, etc.) but you also throw unknown alien species and untamed worlds into the mix. The problems I see with this campaign are: 1) Lack of supporting materials (only Galaxy Guide 8: Scouts deals with this directly) and 2) It strays a bit from the overall Star Wars 'feel', with characters operating on the fringes of what is going on rather than being immersed in them. I have never run a scout campaign, but I'm thinking if I did, it would either be in the pre-Rebellion or New Republic eras. The Darkstryder Campaign got me really thinking about this—perhaps even basing a campaign of this sort on a larger ship (corvette) and maybe even giving it a more 'Star Trekkie' feeling.

I'm betting this would be a popular campaign type with a lot of of players. And I know I don't mind dabbling with bounty hunting in the scope of a larger 'Classic' campaign, but overall I think it is rather limited, and in the Imperial era especially it strays into ground that I really do not enjoy: That of running a villain campaign. Though I imagine there would be variety in the types of hunter, most characters would be combat oriented, and as such, it could be a bit more limiting of character concepts. There are several books that would support this kind of campaign: Wanted by Cracken, Galaxy Guide 10: Bounty Hunters, No Disintigrations, etc. But again, it's limited.

Much like the smuggler campaign, only with a larger ship and larger crew. There would be the same kind of limitations and problems, though. Either your characters are Rebel sympathetic and 'honorable' (in which case, it would really be more of a 'Classic' style) or they're scum who raid anyone (in which case they turn into villains). I suppose you could try to maintain a 'neutral' outlook, but again, you're going to be hounded by the Empire anyway, so why not have the support of Rebels. The Pirates and Privateers Sourcebook would be essential for this type of campaign, and in fact, there is a whole book centered around a pirate campaign: The Far Orbit Project. So actually, there is some game support here.

This is one of the most problematic campaign types in my opinion. Simply said: I do not like running the bad guys. I can't sympathize with them. Hence, I lose interest in campaigns where the characters are the villains. Some might argue that the players could be 'good' Imperials, but I think the movies make it quite clear that the Empire itself is a bad thing, and any 'Good Guys' working for them would eventually be faced with the fact that they are working for the bad guys. At this point, the characters would have to make the choice to keep going (hence becoming true villains) or to make a stand (whereby they would be branded traitors and 'rebels'). Again, this seems to be limited as a campaign, though it could be interesting if used as an introduction to a Classic (or some other) style.

Another 'villain' campaign that comes with all the problems associated with it. It is even more villainous than the Imperial campaign because Sith CANNOT be honorable or 'good' in any form and still call themselves Sith. I can't imagine running a campaign like this, even though they outline one in the Dark Side sourcebook for the D20 Star Wars Game. I imagine it would turn into something akin to a game of Paranoia (i.e. players backstabbing the hell out of each other) only without the humor.

Looking back at my previous posts, I think you'll see I'm rather biased against the prequel trilogy. It isn't my cup of tea. But honestly? A campaign set during this era could be interesting. You won't have a lot of source material to go on from the D6 side, but the D20 system has a lot of information (though not as many ready-made adventures). 

If I was going to run any other era of Star Wars, I am pretty sure it would be KotOR. I loved the games (especially the first one) and the setting is so far removed from the movies as to be an open slate. This is a double-edged sword, though. Using any existing campaign material would require heavy modification and (apart from the KotOR sourcebook) there isn't any supporting gaming material. 

In reading this post you may note that a put a lot of emphasis on using existing/supporting gaming material. This isn't because I lack the ability to come up with adventures of my own. I am quite capable in that regard. But it can be a lot of work, especially now that I have a job and a 'real' life. Therefore, pre-made adventures help you flesh-out a campaign without the huge workload. They also provide springboard ideas for other adventures which you can develop on your own.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Beleaguered B-Wing

Just a short post to comment on just how much the B-Wing sucked. In the movies, you barely get a glimpse of the things. Okay, so they look kind of cool. Unique. Interesting. But then, in the RPG, we find out that it is slower and less maneuverable than...well, everything. It has a crappier hull than an X or Y-Wing while only packing just a bit more firepower. Overall, the trade-off isn't great. Then you add to it the story-element of the B-Wing being very difficult to maintain. Wow. So,  lets see. Its slow, underarmed, undeararmored, and a bitch to maintain. Good job engineers. Its almost a shame that the whole adventure Strike Force: Shantipole is geared around rescuing the prototype of this fighter. Even when you factor in the two-man B-Wing, with the increased firepower and efficiency of having a gunner... it still falls short. Alas. If I ever start a new Star Wars game, I may tweak the stats a little to give this fighter an edge—or at least a 'niche' in which it excels. Why? Well, because the Rebellion as a whole seemed pretty smart. If they invested the time and money into creating a new design, I'd like to think they'd make sure it was worthwhile.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Star Wars Conversion: Wonder Woman

This conversion is just as straight-forward as my Batman conversion. What if a Wonder-Woman-esque character existed in the Star Wars universe? I think it might go a little something like this:

Diana would be from the remote world of Themyscira, a planet hidden in the midst of a nebula. The inhabitants are all women, forming a matriarchal human society that broke off with the rest of the galaxy thousands of years ago (fleeing some male-dominated tyrannical figure). Though they would possess advanced technology, the Themyscirans would embrace a very simple lifestyle reminiscent of the ancient Greeks (lots of marble temples, gardens, statues, horse-riding, togas, etc.). Though peaceful, they would train all of their number as warriors, following the philosophy of 'never again allowing male tyranny'. Men themselves would not live on Themyscira—reproduction would be through cloning and laboratory genetic-breeding programs. To keep their genetic code from degrading, the women of Themyscira would would (every few years/decades) send several of their number out into the Galaxy to find suitable, male stock and bring back genetic samples.

Themyscira has advanced technological defenses, including a planetary 'cloaking field', built thousands of years ago to help keep themselves hidden. They possess space-flight capabilities as well, for sending their 'scouts' out—and for defense of their planet, if needs be. Along with this technological aspect, several of their number (including the Queen and Diana herself) would have Force-related abilities. In the years of isolation from the rest of the Galaxy, they would have had to develop their own force traditions to utilize this.

Diana was grown in a Themysciran lab, her genetic code personally manipulated by her mother, Queen Heras, to produce an exceptional woman, physically and mentally—a woman who would be groomed to lead the Themysciran's after Heras' death. As such, she is incredibly strong and agile, along with being very intelligent and charismatic. Diana was also gifted with her mother's Force sensitivity. She was trained as an elite warrior of her people, making use of some of their technological marvels. Her high-tech bracers could be employed to block attacks—including those of ranged weapons (much as a Jedi uses their lightsaber to deflect blaster bolts). Her cyber-lasso is incredibly versatile, able to be guided by subtle hand-grip controls to serve as both a tool for climbing/acrobatics and to ensnare opponents. Diana could also focus her force abilities into enhancing her already impressive physical abilities (enhance attribute, force-leap, force-sprint, etc.) 

Where Diana's story picks up is during a time where the best of the best are being chosen to go out into the Galaxy, both to collect genetic samples and to check on the state of affairs. A contest is held to determine who is most worthy. Diana enters and wins the right to be one of these scouts, even if it is contrary to her Mother's wishes (the Queen felt Diana was too young). And so Diana is given one of the Themysciran fighters, complete with its cloaking technology (her 'invisible jet') and sets off into the Galaxy—only to discover the rebellion going on there. Being idealistic, it doesn't take long before she breaks her role of scout and observer and throws in her lot with the Rebels.

Looking back on this profile, Diana seems as though she'd be easily placed in a Star Wars campaign—as a 'Freelance' Rebel agent. Perhaps she backs the characters up on one mission (or vice versa). As with Batman, she is probably too 'mega' to be used all the time (even if she is toned down from the Wonder Woman in the comics).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Star Wars Conversion: Batman

As I mentioned in my post about the inclusiveness of the Star Wars setting, all kinds of characters could be translated into the Star Wars galaxy. I'm not sure if I'd use any of them in my campaign, but at the very least its a fun mental exercise. And so I'll explore one of my favorite characters: Batman.

First of all, he'd need an appropriate setting. I figure a heavily populated core-world. We'll call it "Gothas". I'd see it as a darker version of Coruscant, though not as entirely 'urbanized'. Picture sprawling city-scapes interspersed with gigantic spreads of rusting industrial parks and beyond those the majestic country estates of Gothas' wealthy (as well as a few gigantic planetary wildlife preserves). The architecture of the cities and estates could be from a bygone 'Gothic' era, complete with lots of ornamental sculptures and stonework.

Now that we have the setting, we'll need the story. Bruce Wayne was born to one of Gothas' wealthy families. His parents were professionals who built the family business into a corporate giant (at least within the system/sector). Though his parents were capitalists, they were also philanthropists and idealists, reinvesting their time and money into trying to make Gothas a better place. As Palpatine came to power, the idealism of Bruce's parents was put to the test, frequently running against the tightening noose of Imperial control and corruption.

The real story would start when Bruce was about eleven years old—some nineteen years BSW (before Star Wars), just after the end of the Clone Wars. His parents are killed right in front of him, while on the way home from a holo-show in the City—lost to a seemingly random act of criminal violence. Bruce was left to be raised by the family butler, Alfred, but upon coming of age, he dropped out of college and promptly disappeared.

For some ten years, Bruce wandered the outer-rim territories, dedicating himself to a vow he had made to his slain parents—he would fight crime and the corruption that fed it. He would do everything in his power to see that no other child would have to suffer as he had. To this end, he sought out specialists in various fields: combat, investigation, athletics—anything that would help mold him into the crime fighter he saw himself becoming. But he went further than this, delving into the underworld personally, learning its ins and outs by working with various criminal gangs. But never, not even once, would he compromise his principles. He would not kill. He would not harm the innocent. He would not forget his vow.

And so, when he turned thirty, when he felt he was finally prepared, he returned to Gothas. There, he set about the final stages of his plan. While publicly assuming the role of a trillionaire playboy, Bruce was secretly establishing a base of operations in the caves beneath his sprawling manor. Utilizing intellect and skill, along with the resources of his company, he was able to equip himself with the latest technological vehicles, defenses and gear.

Once all was in place, he began an undercover investigation into the underworld of Gothas, getting a feel for who the major players were. It was during this time that his suspicions were confirmed. The corrupt Imperial Governor of Gothas was in league with the various criminal gangs and there were even suggestions that the Governor had a hand in the death of Bruce's parents—evidently, their idealism was running counter to the Empire's best interests. So it was that the scope of Bruce's crusade widened. The Empire was a part of the corruption that had taken his parents. He would work to undermine it just as surely as he would take down all the other criminal bosses. 

Bruce's initial forays into crime fighting didn't go smoothly. But he learned from his mistakes, refining both his equipment and his tactics—and ultimately adopting the alter-ego of 'Nightwing', named after the stealthy, nocturnal predators who inhabited the caves beneath his manor.

Considering how well-grounded Bruce Wayne is, it seems to me that all of his supporting cast can work just as easily.

Alfred: Translates without much change at all. He was the Wayne family Butler and Bruce's guardian on the death of his parents. He would continue to work as Bruce's assistant and confidant. Though I like the 'human touch' for Alfred, it might be interesting to cast him as a Droid instead of an organic. Picture C-3PO, only older and more dignified. Maybe.

Robin: Why not have a little punk- err.. a junior assistant to Nightwing. Though, in truth, Bruce stole Robins cooler name 'Nightwing' for himself in this reality. Oh well.

Batgirl: A much more preferable assistant for Nightwing, as she is a she, an she's hot. Still, not quite sure what to name her. Nightwing-Girl just doesn't have the right ring to it.

Commissioner Gordon: Yep. Works fine. He'd be the guy in charge of Gothas' planetary police force. A good a heart guy who tries to help Nightwing secretly while publically hunting for him. I figure he'd have to play the fence between the corrupt Imperial governor and Nightwing's idealistic crusade.

The Joker: Oh yes. Can't have Nightwing without this guy. I see him as the Heath Ledger type, an anarchist criminal—though one who occasionally takes work for the Empire (I can see a kook like him being recruited by Imperial Intel. Hell, he's a one-man Planetary Destabilization team). 

Catwoman: Rowr. She could be her typical burglary self, but for a twist, she could be a feline-type species (Cathar or some such—though hopefully without the annoying Juhani accent). 

Poison Ivy: Again, Rowr. She could be some plant-based humanoid species. Would work well with her pheromones and stuff. She could be the same pro-plant nut that she was in the comics/cartoons.

Two-Face: An idealistic Imperial political crusader who does his job just a bit too well. Before he completely uncovers corruption in his Imperial masters, they try to have him killed, botch it and wind up disfiguring him. From there, he goes insane and starts his own disillusioned crusade against everything he once supported.

Killer Croc: Yeah, sounds like a Barabel, or a Trandoshan—or some other big, muscly lizard-man capable of throwing big rocks.

The Penguin: Always thought he had the goofiest name. Still do. But the way he was presented in the Batman Cartoons I can live with: A well-dressed crime-boss and club-owner. For an interesting twist, what if he's some kind of alien species...maybe even a Hutt? Hmmm, possible.

Ra's al Ghul: Yeah, he'd work great in a Star Wars setting. You could replace his 'Lazarus Pit' stuff with some kind of dark-side alchemy that keeps him alive and going. He could even have an association with the Sith, being a minor Force User in his own right. Likewise, his daughter, Talia (once again, Rowr) could be a good femme-fatale foil for Nightwing.

The Riddler: Way too goofy.

Though all of this was very fun, it would be a bit difficult to insert Nightwing into a Star Wars campaign without overshadowing the player characters. Still, it could work if you utilize him as a feature-character, perhaps by having the players visit Gothas and get involved in one of Nightwing's cases—teaming up to defeat a particular Imperial or Criminal villain. As I have established him here, Nightwing is pretty much the core of a Rebel 'Cell' on Gothas, and would likely work with the Alliance (as a free agent of course). 

Alignment and the Krath

The alignment system in D&D was never something I loved if it was 'enforced' strictly. I always thought of it as more of a tool for GMs to give them an idea of how an NPC/monster would react in a given situation. Even though I don't use the alignment system in Star Wars, I still find it useful in that way. It was in thinking about this that I was able to work out something in my campaign that I may introduce at some point or another. This post is just a bit of fluff in considering major Star Wars Characters and organizations if they were classified by alignment.

Luke Sykwalker — Neutral Good. You could maybe argue that Luke was Lawful Good, but in the movies, he doesn't seem as concerned with rules and regulations as he does with just doing what is right. As shown in the Empire Strike's Back, he's willing to go against more 'wise' (Lawful and Logical) counsel in order to help his friends. Even though Yoda deems him 'reckless', his impulsive nature seems to stem from his dedication to those friends and the Rebellion, rather than selfishness and personal pride. He is lead by his heart and not his head—and in Luke's case, this is a good thing, because he has a good heart. I think it is this that kind of sets him apart from the other Jedi, who were Lawful Good (see below).

Leia Organa — Neutral Good (with Lawful tendencies). She was a Senator. She eventually becomes the Chancellor. So yeah, she knows and believes in the just application of Law. But in her own rebel activities, she's proven that she will go outside the bounds of Law when she has to.

Han Solo — Chaotic Good (with Neutral tendencies). He's impulsive, brash and cocky. He's a risk-taker and prefers working alone and outside of anyone else's control. He'd have you believe he was a mercenary at heart (his Neutral tendencies), but everyone knows that just isn't true.

Anakin Skywalker — Neutral Good (turning to Neutral Evil). Like Luke, Anakin began as a person with a good heart. He honestly wanted to help people. He connected with others—and with his job as a Jedi—on a personal level, rather than professional. Rules didn't matter, doing good did. As he begins his transition to Darth Vader, Anakin's Neutral outlook turns more and more inward. He becomes concerned more with himself and his personal needs than with the 'big picture' going on around him. He becomes too proud of his own abilities and too frightened of personal loss to function within the Jedi, and this makes him a perfect candidate for recruitment by the Sith. It is his own selfishness that brings him down and that drives him on as Darth Vader. Some might argue that Vader (as a symbol of the Empire) is Lawful Evil, but much like the Emperor, it seems that his quest for 'Order' is selfish at its core. He wants to control things so that HE will not get hurt again, so that things will go as he wishes. It isn't Law he is interested in, it is his own will, and that is quite selfish.

Chewbacca — Neutral Good (with Chaotic tendencies). He cares about his friends and family and will do whatever he can to protect them, in or outside the law. Where the Chaotic aspect of his personality comes in is his almost berserker like anger.

The Jedi — Lawful Good (with Neutral tendencies). Bound by strict rules, philosophies and customs, the Jedi are peacekeepers and enforcers of the Law. In the Old Republic, they seemed to be very much rigid, to the point where their customs seemed to be more important to many than just doing good (witness Qui-Gon and the Jedi Order simply avoiding the issue of slavery in Hutt-Space because it was 'outside their jurisdiction). Still, there were some who were willing to bend these rules in order to get the job done (witness Ben Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker and their 'aggressive negotiations').

The Sith — Neutral Evil (with Chaotic tendencies). The core of Sith philosophy seems to be self-aggrandizement. You climb to the top over the bodies of your adversaries and 'allies' and once you're there, you do everything you can to keep everyone else 'in their place'. However Lawfully ordered Palpatine's Empire was, it seems only to have been so because it was easier to control that way, not because Palpatine particuarly wanted law and order. Among their own, the Sith are cruel and pragmatic, viewing nobody as a 'friend' and always looking for signs of weakness in their superiors in order to take them down and assume their place. This is really where the Chaotic tendency seems to come into play. With all this backstabbing, it would be incredibly difficult to keep a large number of Sith together for any length of time.

The Empire — Lawful Evil. The Empire is pretty much the epitome of Lawful Evil. Order is all important, and any means to that end are acceptable, no matter how cruel. Officers work within the framework of the system. Yes, they jockey for position and even backstab each other, but always within the 'rules' and always with the thought of climbing higher in the hierarchy. Even rivals will usually work together (at least until one gains the upper hand). 

Other than just being an interesting mental exercise for myself, this whole issue of Alignment (and reading some Star Wars Sourcebooks about other Force traditions) got me thinking about the Krath. They were introduced in the Tales of the Jedi comics, set some 4,000 years prior to Star Wars: ANH. The Krath were an order of evil, warlike Force users who made a bid for galactic supremacy. At first, I wasn't too keen on them, as they didn't really seem to be much different than the Sith. But in working all this out in my head, I saw a way where the Krath COULD be different, and in an interesting way. 

Picture a group of dark-side Force users who didn't have the chaotic and self-centered philosophy of the Sith. Imagine instead that they followed the Lawful Evil track of the Empire. An organized and cooperative group of bad guys is always more threatening than a disorganized and factionalized one. I could see a new Krath Order rising in the wake of the civil war and the Nagai invasion in my own campaign. Based again in the systems of the inner core of the galaxy (where Palpatine's clone had been reborn in the Dark Empire series), the Krath could expand, learning from the downfall of the Sith—and from ancient records of the Krath themselves. A new culture could be born, with Force users as its aristocracy—the 'superior beings' in a culture centered around servitude to them. 

The Krath could train their own Force elite and even try to entice members of the Jedi and Sith into their ranks by playing up to the tendencies of both groups. The Jedi may begin to feel 'under appreciated' and disgruntled in their roles as selfless Galactic guardians. The younger ones especially could be tempted by offers of wealth, power, respect and privilege. Some of the Sith may not like the self-defeating nature of their own order, with its chaos and backstabbing and general disorganization. Those Sith with any 'sense of honor' might find the Krath more to their liking—and needless to say, for evil and selfish people, power and prestige are big draws.

Yes, it all gets me thinking about whether the Krath ought to make a reappearance after 4,000 years.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top 10 Star Wars "Pants" Lines

These have been floating around the internet for years, but I thought I'd re-hash them anyway. Here they are. The Top 10 Star Wars Lines Improved By Replacing A Word with "Pants". 

10. I think you just can't bear to let a gorgeous guy like me out of your [pants].

9. Governor Tarkin. I should have expected to find you holding Vader's [pants].

8. In his [pants] you will find a new definition of pain and suffering.

7. You came in those [pants]? You're braver than I thought. 

6. The Force is strong in my [pants].

5. I cannot teach him. The boy has no [pants].

4. Chewie and me got into a lot of [pants] more heavily guarded than this.

3. Your [pants], you will not need them.

2. You are unwise to lower your [pants]!

1. I find your lack of [pants] disturbing.

For the full list of 278, go here. Funny stuff!

Star Wars Soundtracks

In my listening throughout the years, several songs have stuck in my head as good Star Wars songs. Considering just how geeky this blog is already, I don't have any qualms in pointing one out here. And before you ask, yes, I am a child of the 80's so sue me. Anyway, check the lyrics on this and tell me it isn't an appropriate Rebel Alliance theme song:

This bloody road remains a mystery, 
this sudden darkness fills the air.
What're we waitin' for?
Won't anybody help us,
what're we waitin' for?

We can't afford to be innocent,
stand up and face the enemy.
It's a do or die situation,
we will be invincible.

This shattered dream you cannot justify.
We're gonna scream until we're satisfied.
What're we runnin' for?
We've got the right to be angry.
What're we runnin' for,
when there's nowhere we can run to anymore.


And with the power of conviction,
there is no sacrifice.
It's a do or die situation,
we will be invincible.

Won't anybody help us, 
what're we runnin' for?
When there's nowhere,
nowhere we can run to anymore


And with the power of conviction,
there is no sacrifice.
It's a do or die situation,
we will be invincible.

(Chorus repeats out)

p.s. Yes, its a Pat Benatar song. 
p.p.s. No, I don't think 'Love is a Battlefield' works as a Star Wars song.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Review: Scavenger Hunt


Another of the early adventure modules of the game, Scavenger Hunt didn't make my 'Top Ten' list, but that doesn't mean I disliked it. In fact, it is one of the more unique adventures in the game—geared towards humor as well as action. I remember it being a nice change of pace from the other more serious adventures and it introduced several very memorable characters.

The plot of Scavenger Hunt revolves around the Player Character's party trying to track down an Imperial transport (aptly named the 'Elusive') that just happens to have a captured Alliance data core onboard that could expose hundreds of undercover agents. Of course, finding the Elusive isn't going to be easy. In following the trail of the Imperials, the characters become involved in a war (of sorts) between two junk collecting alien species—the Squib (a race of diminutive, blue-furred squirrel-like critters who love to bargain) and the U-Gor (a race of tentacular blobs who talk like Henry Kissenger and worship garbage).  The search ultimately takes the characters to a gigantic space junkyard, in which is found a particularly interesting piece of garbage...

As I mentioned before, this adventure was clearly written for laughs. Oh, there is a serious mission behind it all, and a variety of different space and face-to-face battles, but the scenes in between and the supporting characters are all very silly. The hyperactive and non-sensical bargaining sessions with the Squib were memorable roleplay experiences for me. The players I ran through this were quite perplexed as they tried to hammer down the details of a bargain, only to find the Squibs adding on yet another layer of complexity (see, to the Squibs, a the more complex the bargain, the better). I especially loved the whole bit about the Squibs trying to unload an annoying chef-droid (L9-G8) by working him into the deal. L9 soon became an amusing addition to the Vermillion gang's ever growing ship droid population.

The U-Gor likewise were great—with their ponderous accents and religious zealotry. The 'war' between them and the Squib was portrayed humorously—with the U-Gor's salvaged and mismatched weaponry being very flashy but incredibly inaccurate. There was another villain in the plot as well, Teehl, a henchwoman of Jabba. But honestly, that whole sub-plot just seemed tacked on—i.e. there wasn't much development of Teehl as a villain, she just appears at one point.

One of the best parts of this adventure (and this is the Spoiler) was the inclusion of a big chunk of the Death Star in the center of the massive space junkyard. In fact, the players may not even realize what this wreckage is, even as they have to board and search it for a particular piece of technology. There is a scene within where they can find Darth Vader's personal chamber and maybe get a bit scared by one of his uninhabited helmets and cloaks. There is another scene where they have to make their way through one of the station's trash compactors—and yes, it just does happen to be inhabited by a very hungry dionaga. The whole set up was a nice way to tie the adventure in to the whole movie mythos—again letting the players run around in its 'back yard' for a bit.

Scavenger Hunt does fall short in a couple areas, however. It can be rather 'railroady' in that the adventure seems to take for granted that the players will react in specific ways, and if they veer from this course, then they're likely to wander right out of the plot. There is a bit of a plot-hole as well—namely the assertion that the Squib have one of their number hiding out on just about every Imperial ship in the fleet (including the Elusive), monitoring where they dump garbage and relaying that back to the Squib scavenger fleet. This just seems awfully far fetched—especially since the Elusive is supposed to be a relatively small transport. This whole point was introduced so that the PCs would be forced to negotiate with the Squib in order to find the Elusive. A better solution would be simply for the Squib to have intimate knowledge of shipping lanes in the sector. Instead of having a Squib spy pinpointing the location of the Elusive, the diminutive aliens could simply provide the PCs with the most likely routes with which to intercept the Imperial ship.

With this minor modification to the plot, and some advance planning of ways to keep the players from wandering outside of it (without simply forcing them to stay on the tracks) I feel that Scavenger Hunt is a great change of pace from your typical serious Star Wars adventure—wacky and a bit slapstick, but with enough action to keep things moving.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Co-Existing With Feature Characters

I know I've mentioned it before somewhere, but the issue of Feature Characters (FCs) in a campaign is something that seems to demand closer inspection. For the uninitiated, Feature Characters are Non-Player Characters who are considered great heroes in a game setting. In Star Wars, these would be Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, etc.. In any game system, I believe that the player characters should be the focus of the story. There is some basis, therefore, in the argument that including Feature Characters takes the spotlight off of the Player Characters (PCs). Used in the wrong way, FCs can do exactly this. But used correctly, they can have the opposite effect of having the players begin to feel that they are operating 'on the same plane' with these epic heroes—and that is something that I ultimately encourage in my games.

What I consider the 'right way' of using FCs consists of several maxims which I will explore below:

1) Introduce Feature Characters Subtly
Try not to make a big deal out of a FC's appearance. Try not to do stuff like: "This week's adventure features Luke Skywalker!" PCs shouldn't really know about it until its all the sudden "Oh, hey Luke." They should fall into the 'surprise guest star' role. A great example of this (and of many of these maxims) is found in the Minos Cluster campaign (presented in Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters). In one series of adventures, the PCs are told they will be meeting and escorting an Alliance diplomat around the cluster. They will likely be surprised to discover this 'diplomat' is none-other than Princess Leia.

2) Use Feature Characters Sparingly
It's okay to have a FC team up with the PCs for a particular mission. But familiarity breeds contempt—i.e. the PCs will likely not continue to be impressed if Luke is teaming up with them every other mission. Also, this is the biggest danger-point for FCs overshadowing the PCs. Han Solo is bogus. And if he's in every mission, then its going to leave the PCs with very little to do. Again, the Minos Cluster campaign is a good example of this: Leia teams up with the characters for this one mission, then goes on her way. It provides a good basis for interaction in the future (i.e. she knows the characters by name) but nobody overstays their welcome.

3) Establish Personal Relationships
Try to provide 'moments' of interaction between FCs and PCs—these should be social, conversational, humorous or serious, just anything that doesn't particularly relate to the mission at hand. It helps to lend depth to the FC in question as well as providing a personal link between PC and FC other than "we just happen to be on the same mission." I never did this enough in my original Vermillion campaign. And looking back on it, I regret that and hope to make amends in the future. In my campaign with Adren, however, I used this extensively. She got a chance to hang out with various Feature Characters, and in the end, she became great friends with several (and enemies with a few, too).

4) Let the Player Characters Take the Lead
Those (hopefully rare and memorable) times when PCs and FCs work together, make sure you give the PCs their own moments to shine. In no way should they be forced to take the back seat while Luke displays his lightsaber prowess or Han takes out all the TIE fighters single-handedly. Again, going back to the Minos campaign, Princess Leia is doing diplomatic work while the players are responsible for her security. This is a pretty important task, considering who Leia is. Depending how the adventure goes, the PCs even get a chance to join the 'I rescued Princess Leia' club. Accomplishing something like this—bailing out a powerful FC—should make the PCs proud.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Star Wars Romance

Star Wars would not be Star Wars without the romance sub-plots woven throughout the series. Whether it's Han and Leia's turbulent and unlikely relationship or the secret (and increasingly obsessive) love affair between Anakin and Padme, romance forms a cornerstone of the saga. It is also something that I think should be a part of any good Star Wars campaign.

Often, in RPGs, 'romance' is simply relegated to "Okay, roll your [Seduction/Charisma/Persuasion/Whatever] to see if you bed the local barmaid." That's not the kind of Romance I'm talking about. Rather, I believe that a game master should (if his players are interested/willing) try to shape a complex relationship between player characters and non-player characters. Just as it forms a basis for the movies, it can form a basis for a campaign—giving characters a deeper connection to the world around them. Its just another way you can make a character more than just a collection of stats, skills and equipment.

I should reiterate that this only works in campaigns where the players are interested in this kind of roleplay. Not everyone is. Thankfully, the players I usually game with are, and there have been numerous examples of romance in my campaigns. Not being a deviant freak, I do not attempt to actually  'play out' these romances, scene-for-scene. I favor a more subtle and even a bit vague approach—letting the player fill in the details of their character's relationship with an interested NPC. As a GM, it is basically my job to ensure that characters and their love interests can occasionally 'touch base' in a story line—give them a way and an excuse to interact. This can be anything from having the NPC accompany a group on a mission to a simple encounter at a bar or some social function. From there, I leave it to the player to figure out how they will develop the romance—how far it will go, how deep the emotions are, all of that.

As I said, there have been several romances across the expanse of my main Star Wars campaign. The first of these to develop was between Rick Oman and the bounty huntress, Zardra. In a way, it was kind of the testing ground on how I could handle romance in a RPG. It began simply enough, with Oman first encountering Zardra during the Otherspace adventure. She expressed some interest after that, but they parted ways before anything further could develop. As I recall, Zardra turned up a few times thereafter, but never for very long. And then she hired on as part of a hunter team, trying to capture the party. Her job was to seduce Oman and trick him into leading the party into an ambush. Oman was seduced, but still skeptical of the meeting. He went anyway, along with the rest of the party. They got betrayed big time (wound up crashing on the 'Domain of Evil' planet). This encounter, and the danger Zardra had put Oman in really made her consider her actions and motivations. When they met again, Zardra finally had to admit her love, and had to turn over a new leaf. Considering who she was, that didn't really mean she was 'good', it just meant she was 'less bad'.

Things developed from there. Zardra floated in and out of the campaign, occasionally teaming up with Oman for a mission or two before going her own way again (settling old scores, trying to come to grips with her new life). One memorable mission found the two of them hitching a ride on the conning tower of a Star Destroyer (a-la Han's trick in Empire Strikes Back). This is also the mission where their child was conceived—though Oman didn't discover this until much later, when Zardra was gravely injured during an attack on the party. The doctor treating her assured Oman that Zardra "and the baby" would recover. And Oman's response was "Wait...Baby!?" Eventually, they would get married and 'grow up' to be Mandalore and.. Ms. Mandalore and raise their family (a girl destined to be a badass warrior). As you can see, all this shared history with an NPC has given Oman a heck of a lot of backstory and depth. Its also given him a lot of motivation and concern, as he now has to consider his family when making decisions. All of this was fun to play and great to think back upon.

But Oman's wasn't the only Romance to happen in the game. Arianne became involved with a fellow Rebel (and later NRI) agent, Tiree. Again, they bumped into eachother on and between several missions (he rescued her and her team in 'The Isis Coordinates' while she returned the favor in 'Game Chambers of Questal'). Again, the relationship ultimately evolved into marriage and a child and again, a very solid grounding for Arianne in responsibility. (Silly players, how easily they take on the 'Dependent' disadvantage! hah!)

Bob the Tusken was an unlikely candidate for romance, it seemed. The mystic warrior-shaman was always the 'odd man out' socially, and the customs of his tribe ensured that he was really a very private person. Still, he is a very noble and wise character (most of the time), and it was these things that drew romance his way—quite unexpectedly. During my homebrew final chapter of the Otherspace adventure saga, Bob encountered a young force-adept, Tishana. She was struggling to come to terms with the fact that her master was falling to the dark side. In Bob she saw the nobility she longed for in her own master and more than that. She didn't need to see what Bob looked like, she could sense in him the qualities she admired and aspired to. Tishana fought alongside Bob in that adventure, then travelled with him, back to the Star Wars galaxy where she was adopted into Bob's tribe—I assume as his wife, though I can't remember the precise details.

Adrienne Olin had a romance tinged with tragedy. While working as an on-again, off-again 'official' agent of the Rebel Alliance (and later New Republic) she fell in love with and eventually married a Rebel (and then Republic) scout by the name of Sebastian Kalidor. Their relationship had its ups and downs over the years—as Adren had some (looking back on it) exceedingly vicious enemies and a run of rather traumatic experiences. And yet, despite the fact they were often on opposite sides of the galaxy, the romance endured—that is until Sebastian's untimely death during the initial wave of the Nagai invasion, helping to save Chancellor Organa-Solo and other Republic officials from a bomb. Since then, Adren has thrown herself into her work, slowly coming to grips with her loss.

Party-guy Harry Hugganut (much to my surprise) sought out his own long-term relationship with a (slightly) older woman. Kel was a wealthy businesswoman by day and a rebel gunrunner by night. It is in the latter role that Hugganut first met her. She worked with the group on several occasions (supplying guns) and after Harry went into semi-retirement, the two of them pooled their resources to establish their own private resort-world. As a married couple, the two of them now run this resort together (with Harry still occasionally taking on work with New Republic Intelligence). 

And finally, Horatio S. Flynn. This Space Pirate fancies himself a true ladies man. And truth be told? He is. Or was. Or..maybe he still is? Its difficult to say. As mentioned in previous posts, Horatio started a romance with Arianne's adopted ward, Reen. At first, it was just a 'lark'—it would annoy Arianne, and it was fun, too. But in the depths of the Nagai war, things tend to get a bit more serious. Reen seems to have very deep feelings for Horatio, and seems to trust the fact that Horatio returns those feelings. Arianne is skeptical, keeping a watchful eye over the two. In fact, Horatio has no doubt had to endure 'the talk' from both Arianne (Reen's former guardian and big-sister figure) and Bob (Reen's force-mentor and uncle-figure). In our latest gameplay, Reen was grievously injured in the battle of Arkania, losing one of her legs at the knee. Horatio was concerned, of course, but it remains to be seen just where their relationship will go from here...

Wow. So looking back on all of that, I think I've made my point. Almost all this 'Romance' stuff was in addition to the other adventures I ran. It added depth to them, it helped bridge them, link them together. It gave the characters greater stake in what they were doing. And most of all, it was fun. Of course, all of this got me thinking about PC/NPC relationships in general (not just of the Romantic variety) and I think I may do a posting on that later.

Oh, p.s. I'm not sure if this counts as Romance, but I seem to recall Marko Razmusen, after the victory celebration on Endor, waking up in the 'unwed females' hut of the Ewok village. Yeah. I think this is one of those instances of 'don't ask, don't tell.'

Best and Worst Star Wars Races

Since I am both a slave to trends and a late adopter of trends, I will now put forth my own 'best and worst' lists as I have seen done on several other blogs that I peruse. Here then are my most and least favorite alien races and some short reasons why I categorize them as I do:


10. Humans
What can I say. Humans rock. They make up a large percentage of the galactic population and (in game terms at least) they don't have any bogus racial abilities. They're just adaptable. Racial prejudice you say? I won't deny it. 

9. Mantellian Savrip
You have to be a really big geek like I am to even know what this is. Remember in the holo-chess game (actually called dejarik—wow, am I a geek) Artoo and Chewie were playing? Remember the critter that picks the other one up and body-slams it, then flexes and lets out a tiny-little roar of victory? That's a Mantellian Savrip. Awwww, who's a fierce little Savrip!? You are! raaor!

8. Bothans
The race you love to hate. Even though I really dislike most of the artwork showing Bothans (I always pictured them more 'fox like' than 'dog like') the concept is still solid. They're a good 'villain' race, even if they are supposed to be on the good guy's side.

7. Hiromi
A little known species introduced in the Marvel Star Wars comics. Picture a race of cockroach-like guys who are incredibly inept, but who dream of galactic domination through incredibly complex behind the scene schemes. They provide some fun comic relief in the comics and I certainly think the Star Wars universe is big enough to include their brand of humor.

6. Zeltrons
Another Marvel comic invention. Picture a race of magenta-skinned near-humans with over-active libidos and a very liberal society. Now picture the hot females of this species. Yes, I was a teenager when these comics came out. Yes, that could explain my like of them.

5. Ithorians
Yeah, I know, the good old hammerheads never had a big part in any of the movies, but I have always loved the look of the race—one of the more unique alien species. Plus the character of Momaw Nadon (introduced in the RPG) was very cool.

4. Squib
Blue space squirrels who collect junk and base their entire culture around bargaining—the more complex (and non-sensical) the terms of the deal, the better. Yeah, I'm against 'cute and fuzzy' races in general, but the Squibs put an obnoxious and frenetic twist on the typical fuzzy that I can respect.

3. Tusken Raiders
As presented in the movies, there isn't a whole lot to love. But the culture that grew around them in my mind (and through various RPG sources) took in a more 'noble savage' feel than bloodthirsty brute. They were a nice touch to the 'Wild West' feel of Tatooine—he 'Indians' to the spacer 'cowboys' and moisture farming 'settlers'. I think the character of Bob the Tusken from my campaign really helped make me like this race.

2. Yuzzem
Introduced in the novel Splinter of the Minds Eye, the Yuzzem characters (Hin and Kee) were essentially stand-ins for Chewbacca—though they proved to be much more than just that. They were gleefully barbaric warriors, much moreso than Chewbacca, who only play-acted at being a 'brute'. They were fun and terrible all at the same time, and when they died at the end of the Novel, I distinctly remember feeling their loss. For the first time it made me really HATE Darth Vader.

1. Wookiees
Chewbacca. They're just cool. Live with it. Aaaarooo.


10. Defel
Popularized by Zahn in the Heir to the Empire trilogy. Way too 'powergamer' a race. They were tough, nigh-invisible, scary-looking, strong, yada yada yada. Every twink wants to play one of these.

9. Tof
Introduced in the Marvel comics, they were supposed to be the great intergalactic threat capable of conquering all of the Galaxy. Unfortunately, they were a bunch of fat green guys who dressed like the three musketeers and flew around in giant space-galleons. I kid you not. Wow. What a let down.

8. Lepi
Humanoid, green rabbit-men. Another Marvel comic invention. Ugh. What is it with them and green?

7. Cathar
I say Cathar, but I really mean almost all cat-like humanoid races. I like cats, but I think the people who are into these cat-humanoids REALLY like their cats...if you catch my drift. Plus, the Cathar in the Knights of the Old Republic game had an annoying accent. 

6. Chiss
Another twink race. Admiral Thrawn was a Chiss. Blue Skin. Red Eyes. Creepy, yes. But come on, the entire race can't be as cool or talented as that one admiral or they would have overrun the galaxy by now.

5. Ewok
Killer teddy bears. Even at 12 years old I was a bit skeptical of the Ewoks and their prowess versus the Empire. I really don't HATE them, but I don't like them much either. Played too heavily on the cute factor and not enough on the rabid little knee-biter aspect.

4. Kushiban
Even cuter than the Ewoks. Tiny, fluffy, force-sensitive bunnies! *barf*

3. Noghri
The ultimate twink race, so chock-full of bogus special abilities as to make them any game-master's bane. Plus, I still find it difficult to believe that in the 15 or so years the Noghri Death Commandos had been operating, not one of them had ever been seen before.

2. Ssi-Ruuk
I get the feeling that the popularity of 'Jurassic Park' had a lot to do with the creation of an entire race of Velociraptors. And that's about all they've got going for them.

1. Dathomiran Rancor
The Rancor as a monster? That I'm fine with. The Rancor as a semi-intelligent mount for amazon-force-witches? Wow. Twink. Go figure it is yet another horrible thing introduced in the 'Courtship of Princess Leia' novel.


As a guy, I can appreciate the appeal of hot green-, blue-, red-, orange-, whatevercolored-skinned chicks. Like Captain Kirk, I think they're nice. The head tentacle thing? Well. It is actually kind of creepy, in a japanimation kind of way. Thus, I have mixed emotions on the Twi'lek.

As much as the recent Clone Wars cartoons have caused me to hate Jar Jar Binks, I can't, in good conscience, condemn the entire race on the basis of one idiot. In fact, the Gungans in the movie were pretty brave and selfless, so meesa thinkin' you gotta give them credit for that.

Friday, March 6, 2009

RANT: Clone Heroes

I realize that everyone involved is just trying to make a buck, and that IS what capitalism is all about, but is it just me? or is there something wrong with seemingly wanting children to idolize clones? I mean, first of all, there are the cartoons. And then the toy lines, with their action figures for kids of all ages. And then there are the helmets and costumes. 

Yay kids! You too can be a nameless conformist who never questions what his government tells him to do! Yes, that's right! Be just like everyone else and do what you're told, even if that winds up making you the villain!

I'm not sure how it was for everyone else, but when I was growing up, my Star Wars heroes were Luke and Han. THOSE were the guys everyone wanted to be on the playground. I don't recall anyone chiming. "OOH! I want to be TK-421!

And before anyone goes there, no, I don't have any problem with soldiers or the military. In fact I have a few good friends who are or were in the military, as well as numerous family members. I have nothing but respect for those who serve this country. But its one thing to be a soldier and a hero. Its another to be a clone-trooper and a hero. 

Simply put: I don't think Clone troopers should be heroes. At least, not the conformist ones who wound up backing a totalitarian regime. Wow, its kind of come full circle. The original Star Wars movies were all about showing how bad dictatorships (and nazis) are.. and now we're encouraging our kids to be good little stormtroopers? Nope.. something just aint right.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Star Frontiers

Star Frontiers was a science fiction roleplaying game system produced by TSR in 1982. Being a big Star Wars fan, I jumped at the chance for a game about space-ships and laser guns. At the time, I had heard of other sci-fi systems (such as Traveller), but they weren't easily available in the middle of South Dakota. 

Star Frontiers wasn't quite what I was expecting from a sci-fi system. I was expecting more space-opera, but what I got was a bit more hard-science than that (though clearly not as 'hard' as Traveller). After I got over the initial shock of this, though, I grew to really enjoy the game and admire it for what it was. The setting was interesting—a small but expanding core of civilized systems threatened by a mysterious and implacable alien menace. The races were quite memorable as well—your typical humans were joined by the insectoid Vrusk, blob-like Dralasites, gliding-monkey-man Yazirians and worm like Sathar (the villains). I also enjoyed the skill-based rule system—a major departure from the classes of more traditional systems like D&D. As I mentioned in my gaming history the Star Frontiers universe was the setting for my first 'real' game, and as such, it will always hold a special place in my heart. The adventures of Jake Logan and the crew of the Gullwind were a blast.

Now, you may be asking what this has to do with Star Wars? Well, I'll tell you—with a little modification, the Star Frontiers setting and all its supporting information and adventure modules makes a great supplement to the Star Wars universe. I've used several Star Frontiers adventures in my various Star Wars campaigns and they've worked well. Its just another example of the inclusiveness of the setting.

The rest of this post will focus on how I have adapted (or would adapt) Star Frontiers to the Star Wars setting:

If you wanted to include the Frontier in its entirety, you could translate it easily as a remote sector in the outer-rim. Even during the time of the Empire, the place could still be run by a planetary federation—only one that ultimately plays homage to the Emperor. Being so isolated (and initially free of Rebel influences) the Empire would have no reason to station troops there, and would probably let the local 'Starfleet' maintain order. Likewise, the threat of the alien Sathar attacking could still be in place, with the Frontier sector being left to defend itself in the face of an Empire concerned with 'more important' battles. Still, in the end, it could be fun to bring the Rebellion and Empire into the sector, to throw the whole setting on its ear. The Federation would ultimately have to make a choice—to stand with the Rebellion or cow-tow to the Empire.

This was a three-module campaign that saw the characters as explorers, crash-landing on a planet inhabited by various sentient species, dangerous beasts and a vicious gang of space-pirates. It is a truly epic adventure that culminates in the characters raising an army of natives in order to defend the planet versus an all-out Sathar attack. Conversion wise, all you have to do is make up stats for the alien critters and races and boom, you've got one heck of an exploration/survival adventure—in or out of the Frontier setting. The characters could be independent or corporate scouts, or working for the Rebellion in trying to find a new safe-world.

In this adventure, the characters are hired by a freighter captain to explore and set up trade with a primitive native race (as well as to investigate the presence of high-tech artifacts found among this race). Unfortunately, the Sathar have set up a secret terrorist training-camp/genetic test center on the planet. This adventure would work well in a tramp-freighter campaign or again you could have the Rebel Alliance send the characters to investigate. If you really wanted to switch things up, the Sathar camp could be converted to a secret Imperial base.

This was one of my favorite Star Frontiers adventures—both  because of its cool cover-art and its combat-oriented plot. The characters are sent to investigate why contact was lost with a remote mining facility. They arrive to find it has been destroyed by a rival mining company. The players then exact their revenge by launching an all out assault on the bad guy's base—perhaps enlisting the aid of a primitive local tribe along he way. Conversion wise, the characters could either be corporate mercenaries (as in the original adventure) or they could be Rebels doing a favor for a corporation sympathetic to their cause. 

This is probably one of the more complicated modules to convert. Its premise has the characters having a layover in a remote system. The administrator of the local gas-mining operation hires them to investigate a disaster in one of their facilities. That investigation turns deadly as the characters discover a mysterious force that begins to kill the mining crew, one by one. This is one of those adventures that would work best as a 'random' insertion into a campaign, whenever the characters (rebel, independent or whatever) are stopping off in a remote system. Where the compications set in, however are in some of the details—namely the low-tech nature of the mining outpost (it rotates at the end of a tether to generate artificial gravity) and its computer systems (some plot points can revolve around the routing of the various computer systems, but by modern terms, let alone Star Wars terms, they are very crude). 

No, it has nothing to do with Pink Floyd (thank god). This is actually one of the better Star Frontiers adventures, revolving around the death of Dr. Legrange, a 'human rights activist' (aka anti-alien bigot) and the turmoil it causes on his bi-racial home planet of Krataar. The characters begin as escorts to a news reporter, but are rapidly swept up in the investigation of the doctor's death. Before long, they discover the sinister secret behind it all and the race is on to prevent a disaster of world-ending proportions. This adventure works well in the New Republic era, where the players are Intel agents posing as reporters to investigate the activist. With some finagling, it could be modified to fit a Rebel team as well (perhaps they're trying to assist a rebel sympathetic cell on the planet). The adventure is especially ingenious by providing a good deal of information that the characters can unearth in their investigations. However, for less astute groups, you may have to 'lead' them a bit. And finally, the name 'Trojan Enterprises' (one of the companies involved in the mystery) just has to go, unless you like innuendo jokes.

This is actually a mini-campaign wherein the characters enlist in the planetary militia (Royal Marines) of the planet Clarion (aka White Light). It progresses through a series of 'routine' patrols: smuggling ships, droid-inhabited 'ghost-ships', pirate attacks and the like; it finally culminates with a showdown versus a traitor in the midst of the Marines and an all-out attack by the Sathar on Clarion itself. This is one of the more difficult adventures to integrate into a Star Wars campaign, since it involves joining a military other than the Rebellion or Republic. Still, it might work as the beginning to a campaign, the background story of one or a couple characters in their youth, before going on to a career as tramp freighters or rebels.

Of all the Star Frontiers modules, this one comes the closest in feel to a Star Wars Adventure. Signing on as crew with an old tramp freighter captain, the characters find themselves fleeing from minions of the foul crime-lord known as 'The Malthar'. Seems this Jabba-esque Dralasite doesn't want the characters to talk to the authorities about the evidence suddenly in their possession—the shocking truth about the 'secret ingredient' in a new and popular illegal drug. The adventure moves from bar-room brawls, to zero-gee shootouts, to starship battles and ultimately to the very lair of the Malthar himself. This is a great adventure to use if you want to find an in-character way for a party to acquire their own starship. If they already have one, the plot can be easily modified—the old captain can book passage onboard their ship instead of hiring the party as crew for his own.

This is another series of three modules dealing with exploration of systems beyond the charted space of the Frontier (hence the title). In the first module, the characters are part of an exploration crew that suddenly finds themselves stranded when one of their crew-mates seemingly goes berserk. The rest of the module has them struggling through the wilderness to reach and re-take their ship from the mutineer. The second module picks up with a relief vessel arriving to assist the team—only to discover a crashed Sathar ship on the planet. Clues from this eventually lead to another starsystem where the party leads an attack on a Sathar spy-ship. The mystery only deepens in the final chapter when the Sathar trail finally leads to a secret Sathar shipyard and an enslaved race of humanoids forced to work for the hideous worms. All of this leads up to a final, desperate battle to save the entire system. Very little is necessary to translate this adventure. You could even switch out the Sathar for Imperials or pirates or even a corrupt corporation without too much trouble. The characters could be explorers or rebel agents or even mercs.

In any case, I think you can see from the ideas above that Star Frontiers can live on in the Star Wars setting. If you're looking for these adventures, you can still find a few on ebay now and then, but there are also a couple websites that have them in digital format. You can find them here and here.