Friday, October 30, 2009

Star Wars In Concert

I recently (last night) got the chance to attend the Star Wars In Concert show when it came to Jacksonville. My company had a few extra seats in its luxury suite (yee haw!) and I got one of them. Let me just say that it was an INCREDIBLE show—from the moment the THX sound-bite came blaring out of the speakers to the final, tumultuous notes of the Imperial March (played as an Encore by the Symphony). The melding of movie visuals (played on a gigantic screen), laser lights, pyrotechnics and a full orchestra and chorus was awesome. And Anthony Daniels was a GREAT host, providing the storytelling bridges between the different musical set-pieces. He even did a couple humorous bits—one lavishly extolling the virtues of C-3PO and another excitedly detailing the chances of successfully navigating an asteroid field! (during the latter, his otherwise reserved, black jacket parted, revealing a shiney, metallic gold vest underneath). Good good stuff. I was amazed, though, at how much impact those movies still have on me. Of course, the live music helped a lot—there is alway something more visceral and satisfying about live performances of music. I left the show feeling pumped up about Star Wars. Man, I'm wanting to play again. If you're a Star Wars fan, and this show comes anywhere close to where you live, go to it. It will not disappoint.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review: The Politics of Contraband

The Politics of Contraband represents what I consider the 'third generation' of West End Games products. The first generation would be the saddle-stitched modules. The second would be the perfect bound modules and the third would be these perfect bound adventure compilations—and in this case, branded with 'The New Republic' logo on the top. In many ways, this really did represent a 'new era' in the gaming. Whereas everything before seemed to focus on the time period shown in the original trilogy, the Politics of Contraband was specifically set in the period AFTER—during the rise of the New Republic. Also, this is the point at which 'self-contained' modules seemed to fall by the wayside, replaced by books detailing many smaller adventures. I'll go through each adventure in turn:

There are five different adventures included in the Politics of Contraband—in fact, the book title is the title of the first of these adventures. Here, it is assumed the players are a tramp freighter crew, caught between a corrupt planetary governor and a devious (but well meaning) New Republic ambassador. Through a series of misadventures, it is possible that the players will actually help the planet throw off its dictator and join the New Republic.

While all of this seems interesting enough, the actual adventure is more than a little railroady. As written, it makes a lot of assumptions about what the players will and won't do. It also requires that the players take a lot of abuse by local government and criminal factions—something most player groups would not take lightly. In fact, I imagine that in many campaigns, the adventure would end rather abruptly, with the players just trying to steal their ship back (after it gets impounded) or just blast their way through all the subterfuge. With a little modification, however, the adventure is workable. I even was able to alter it for use with New Republic agents—by having them pose as a tramp freighter crew to help the Republic expose the governor's corruption. Overall, though, I have to say that the idea for this adventure was a lot better than the execution.

This is another of those 'caught in the middle' adventures—and another where the intented party is a tramp freighter crew. In this case, the PCs are blackmailed into attending an illegal, black-market auction on a luxury starliner. Up for bids is a fabulous new personal shielding technology. The party will have to deal with various treacherous parties to have their chance at the prize.

As with the above mini-adventure, The Art of Betrayal was written in a very linear fashion, and seems to take for granted what the characters will do in any specific situation. It also seems to be a bit of a Kobayashi Maru scenario, because as written, there is no chance of recovering the prize intact. In short, this is what I would term a 'bad' Story Adventure, where the players are mainly just along for the ride. That having been said, with a bit of tweaking and an open minded GM, this can be a great adventure. It was in my campaign. Just be willing to let the situation resolve itself rather than guide it down one particular path to failure. My own characters, through their ingenuity, actually came out of this adventure VERY well. If you're interested in the details, please check out this link (scroll down to the 'Art of the Deal').

This is one of the more amusing and interesting adventure ideas in this compilation. The PCs (once again a Tramp freighter crew) are in the middle of a job. They've dropped off passengers and have some time to kill before said passengers return (hence the adventure title 'Free Time'). Within this time, they get a short job offer and rapidly find themselves caught between the forces of the underworld, Empire and New Republic. The big twist in the adventure is that the 'cargo' the characters are carrying during their free time is actually an Imperial spy. Thus, it is quite possible that if the character's succeed at their job, they'll actually be helping the Empire. If they fail, or get suspicious and bail out, then they may actually help the New Republic by foiling the spy's escape attempt. In either case, the final twist to the adventure is that the PC's original employer (whom they were waiting to return) are actually the New Republic agents assigned to capture the Imperial spy.

Though the plot is twisted, and maybe a bit tricky to run, the adventure was written in a pretty wide-open style, with major consequences one way or the other depending upon the PC's actions. The fact that the author considered the different paths the story might take makes for a dynamic adventure that is in no way pre-determined. My only criticism is a personal one—there is a chance that the PCs might actually get into a shooting match with the 'good guys' (New Republic types) and if they actually kill any of them, it would cast a shadow over an otherwise lighthearted adventure. If you wish to avoid this, then you will have to make some adjustments to this encounter.

In this adventure, the PCs are duped (and/or greeded) into hauling a cargo that turns out to be of intense interest to the Empire. After facing a number of challenges in getting off the planet alive, the PCs arrive at their destination only to find that their employer set them up and has no intentions of paying up. Now it's time to either fight, flee or surrender.

Again, this adventure is written in a wide open style, giving hints and suggestions based upon what different PC groups might do in any given situation. And again, I would point to this as the RIGHT way to do a story adventure where the players are engaged and the actions of their characters have impact.

As a funny side note, this adventure contained what is perhaps my favorite bit of Imperial monologue ever. A group of Stormtroopers confront the party and give them the following ultimatum:

"You are under arrest! You and your companions will throw down your weapons and you will be terminated painlessly. Resist and you will suffer. Decide now!"

Well, at least they were honest about it, right? None of that "you vill be treated viss charity unt kindnezz" nonsense. It made me and my players giggle when I busted that line out on them.

The final adventure in this compilation has much in common with the others—another 'smuggler/tramp freighter' style adventure that puts the PCs in the middle of a conflict between the Empire, New Republic and the underworld. In this case, they're delivering a seemingly innocuous cargo for a known crimelord and everyone else seems to want it. Depending on who they deal with and how, the PCs could get rich (while sacrificing their morals), dead (for defying the Empire) or put in the good graces of the good guys (by helping out the Republic).

As with the two preceeding adventures, Easy Money has a lot of room built into it to account for character actions. It also has some interesting atmosphere, taking place in a swampy version of Mos Eisley, complete with giant crocodile monsters, Swamp-hopper landspeeders, native rebels, seedy cantinas, etc. etc.

By the time this compilatin came out, my own campaign had progressed into the New Republic Era. Unfortunately, my characters were not only very experienced, they were also closely aligned with the New Republic (working as agents for it). The primary focus of these adventures was the tramp freighter/smuggler crew, however. Thus, I had a difficult time fitting the adventures into my own campaign. Also, at the power-level my PCs were, the threats and bullying used in many of these adventures just didn't hold as much weight. If pushed around as much as some of these adventures show, my PCs would have pushed back—hard.

In all honesty, this book is really suited best for a Smuggler campaign—and indeed the early stages of that campaign, where the PCs are low-power enough to have to really consider who they can afford piss off and just what challenges they can reasonably hope to survive.

Despite the 'New Republic' setting, this compilation could very easily fit into a classic era campaign, prior to the birth of the New Republic. Only the very first adventure would be difficult to modify into this era.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Force Stuff

In reading other blogs/forums, I have come across a lot of people who really dislike having Force users in their Star Wars adventuring parties. From a certain viewpoint, I really can sympathize. I have already spoken at length about the difficulties of Jedi in a campaign, and how I handled them, but there is one aspect I haven't yet touched on that I want to explore here.

It stems from my own personal likes and dislikes and from some gaming situations I've been in. First of all, I've never been fond of Magic Users (and come on, that's essentially what Jedi are). A great deal of this had to do with the increased complexity of running them—at least in combat situations (whether this complexity was real or imagined is up for debate). Simply put, it was a lot easier and more 'rewarding' for me to have to deal with folks swinging swords or shooting arrows than it was to have to pause and look up spell effects—which were often a bit vague as to their exact functioning.

As a player in several games that had magic-users, I was also frustrated by how long it took for them to actually DO something. In Shadowrun and Mythus, for example, we always had to pause for someone to look up something then try to decipher just what would do what. Yes, part of that is the GM's 'fault' for not knowing the system (though honestly, who CAN remember all the myriad of details from system to system). But it did seem to be a 'truth' in most of the games I played.

The Star Was D6 Force system was no less 'vague' in a lot of areas. Taken literally, for instance, it would be possible for a Force user to use telekinesis to move items that were on another planet or even another star system (if you took the Proximity modifiers at face value). I have spoken about the inconsistencies of WEG rules before—and the force system is one of those areas where this is showcased. Some powers would be affected by proximity, others would not, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. And unfortunately, this did cause several instances in my own game where I had to halt the proceedings to think things through. And once again, everyone else was waiting for the 'magic user' to do his thing.

Still, it was never /too/ bad. We got to know the various Force powers and what they could do. We came up with house rules to iron out the wrinkles (a time-honored gaming tradition). But things got complex again as gaming supplements began to introduce new powers—some of which could be VERY unbalancing to a campaign if used as-written.

So for my own sanity, I've been compiling a master list of Force powers. I've been weeding out the ones that don't work and trying to solidify the ones that do. And honestly, I'm trying to keep Force powers 'limited' to what we see in the movies (and perhaps some variations on that). I do not like the trend towards more and more fantastical powers that I've seen in some of the novels (i.e. Luke constructing a castle for himself using his mind). The Jedi may be a magic user, but he isn't a freaking wizard and I don't want him to become one.

Some day, I'll post this revised powers list—but I still have one major hurdle to overcome: Telekinesis. This is the most vaguely defined yet often used Force power of them all. If used 'as-written' it could be a game-breaking power. Afterall, why use a lightsaber when you can hit someone with 10 metric tons of telekinetic force? Why not just pluck the weapons out of the hands of all your enemies? As written, it wouldn't be difficult for a powerful jedi to do. And yet that isn't what we see in the movies—and for me that is a major guideline for play. In 'limiting' the powers to that, I have taken some flak in the past (from online gamers, that is), but I still feel it is necessary. After all, I want to play STAR WARS not ALL POWERFUL WIZARDS WITH LASER SWORDS!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Secret Backgrounds

As much as I love the idea of a 'nobody' rising up to become a galactic hero—say for instance a farm boy from Tatooine who becomes the last and first of the Jedi—I have to admit that I'm a sucker for the 'secret background'. Yeah, it's cool that a farm boy can become a great hero, but its COOLER when he finds out he's actually the son of one of the main bad guys in the galaxy. Outside of the movies, the other shining example of this is in the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic game. I loved the game when I first started playing, figuring my hero was just some schmoe who was going to become a hero. I loved the game even MORE when I found out he was actually the main villain of the story who suffered from injuries that caused him amnesia.

Outside of Star Wars, a great example (and personal hero of mine) is Strider from the Lord of the Rings. I thought he was awesome as a Ranger—but the whole 'lost king of Gondor' thing blew me away.

I imagine a lot of people feel the same way. I mean, who wouldn't love to suddenly discover that they're the long-lost heir to some forgotten kingdom or the descendent of some great historical figure? Well...maybe as long as that figure wasn't like... Hitler or Stalin or Carrot Top, but you get my point, I think.

I've used this tactic before in games. For instance, in my Star Wars campaign, Adren discovered that she was the long lost grand daughter of Lady Santhe (a corporate/industrial magnate). In another campaign, my friend Philip's character (Mason) discovered he was the long lost heir of a noble house in the Tapani Cluster. Both of these incidents played out very dramatically and added a lot of fun to the game (for me and the characters). It makes me wish I had tried it earlier in my gaming career.

I imagine that I didn't incorporate secret backgrounds because I was still kind of locked into the 'simple hero' mold of most D&D games—where characters start out as little more than adventurous peasants and have to build from there. Not that there's anything at all wrong with this approach. In fact, the 'average guy done good' is a great concept—most of my Star Wars PCs fall into this category. Oman was a simple bounty-hunter who rose to become Mandalore. Hugganut was a street punk who now owns a luxury gambling resort world. Arianne was the child of a couple of essentially homeless rebel activists who rose to be a high-ranking officer and Jedi. So you see, Secret backgrounds aren't NECESSARY, but that doesn't keep them from being fun.

But, as with all things, you need to be careful about overusing the device. I mean, if EVERYONE was a long lost heir, it would lower the impact. Anyway, this was just a random thought I wanted to explore.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Galaxy Guides

The Galaxy Guides have been a staple of the Star Wars RPG since 1989, just a couple years after the game's initial release. Indeed they continued throughout the run of the game (the last being released in 1995). Essentially, these books were appendices to the main rule books and sourcebooks, each one focusing on a different overall area. In this post, I am going to list the various Galaxy Guides and a brief impression of each. I imagine I'll get around to reviewing them all individually, so consider this a preview.

Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope
This book focused on the various characters and settings from the first Star Wars movie—providing gaming statistics for pretty much everything from the lowliest Stormtrooper and Jawa to Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Though I would eventually wind up having 'issues' with many of the stats provided (Wedge only has a piloting of 5D!?), they did begin to form the basis of what I considered 'average' statistics in the Star Wars universe—and indeed in my campaign. I also enjoyed all the details they included about very minor characters (like some of the folks in the Cantina). This was one of the true strengths of this product—not only was it fun to read, but it gave you a huge stable of NPCs that you could use in your game. In fact, a lot of the NPCs had information in their backgrounds that made great adventure hooks.

Final Rating: 5/5

Galaxy Guide 2: Yavin and Bespin
When I originally purchased this book, I expected it to be the same format as the first Galaxy guide. It was a little disappointing to find that it wasn't. But that initial disappointment quickly faded. Rather than detailing NPCs, this book provides information on two different planetary systems (not just the 'main planets', either). I especially enjoyed the details provided about Bespin, as well as the various NPCs and plotlines outlined for it. The section on Yavin was a bit more uneven in my opinion. Yavin IV (the location of the Rebel base) was interesting enough, but there was evidently another inhabited moon, populated by sentient snake-people and rabbit people. That just...seemed rather silly. And then there was some kind of mining operation going on in the atmosphere of Yavin itself. The background seems to suggest that the mining operations had been there for a while, but that didn't make sense with the system being a 'hidden' rebel base.

Final Rating: 3/5

Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strike's Back
This product followed the format of the first Galaxy Guide—detailing NPCs and locations from the Episode V. Most notable (to me) in its character descriptions was the inclusion of the various bounty hunters. As with many Star Wars products, I would continue to have 'issues' with the stats presented for some of the NPCs—but then, the Stats were just a very small part of the profile of the characters. Much more interesting (and usable) were the backgrounds and story-hooks.

Final Rating: 4/5

Galaxy Guide 4: Alien Races
Right away, I knew this was going to be different than the other guides. Instead of listing info on individual NPCs, this product featured an extensive listing of alien races—including their cultures and physiology and stats. I loved the fact that many of the races from the movies were detailed, but that they also included a fair amount of original ideas. Of course, this was also the source of two particular Alien races that grew to annoy me—the Barabel and the Defel. Both of these were popularized by Timothy Zahn in his Heir to the Empire novels. And both seemed to be 'powergamer' races that made me have to make adjustments in my own games.

Final Rating: 4/5

Galaxy Guide 5: Return of the Jedi
This product detailed the characters from Episode VI—from the creatures of Jabba's court to Rebel High Command to the forest moon of Endor. It was again very interesting and fun. Full of lots of ideas. But it was also the a high-point of showcasing how uneven West End Games was with providing stats for NPCs. Luke, Leia and the heroes were mega, with lots of skills, many at high levels. Everyone else was a schlub. Wedge, for instance, supposedly one of the best pilots in the Rebellion, had a piloting skill of 6D. Up one ENTIRE D from where he started 3-4 In-Character years ago. Mon Mothma, Akbar and General Madine were likewise completely unimpressive. I don't expect any of these people to be 'superheroic', but come on.

Final Rating: 4/5

Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters
When I purchased this book, I thought it was going to detail freighters and present rules for modifications, cargo hauling and the like. It did just that. But it also presented an entire campaign setting—an entire star cluster (the Minos Cluster), along with a flock of interesting NPCs and outlines for numerous adventures. One of these adventures even featured Princess Leia—which really opened my mind up to using feature characters in my own campaign. Ironically, the freighter rules were (in retrospect) the weakest feature of the book. They were functional enough, but weren't particularly well thought out. I would wind up revising them greatly throughout the course of my campaign. But that doesn't stop me from absolutely loving this book and the setting.

Final Rating: 5/5

Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley
Taken along with Galaxy Guide 1 and the adventure module Tatooine Manhunt, you have pretty much all the information you need to run a great adventure or even micro-campaign on Tatooine. Galaxy Guide 7 presents numerous locations and NPCs—and expands upon some great landmarks in the city of Mos Eisley, including the Cantina and Jabba's Townhouse (his home when he's in the city). Many maps are presented for the various locations as well, making this very great for a GM.

Final Rating 4/5

Galaxy Guide 8: Scouts
Without a doubt, my favorite character type is the scout (a hold over from my love of Rangers in the D&D game). Thus, this book was highly anticipated by me. Unfortunately, that meant I probably set unreasonably high expectations for it—even though I'm not sure exactly what those expectations were. This guide is functional enough, providing a system and hints for the creation of interesting alien worlds. It also details the various scout-services in the galaxy as well as the ships and equipment used by them. It even included a very cinematic short adventure regarding a lost Jedi artifact and a Dark Force wizard searching for it. All that was good, but I was still left wanting. There just didn't seem to be 'enough'—almost as though they were trying to cram too much into one book and wound up cutting things. There could have been more specialized gear and ships—but more importantly, I think the inclusion of some NPCs (various types of scouts) would have added a lot of flavor and personality to the guide—just providing blank templates wasn't enough 'meat' for me.

Final Rating: 3/5

Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim
This is probably one of the strangest Galaxy Guides of the lot. It doesn't read as a 'guide' so much as it does as notes from someone else's Star Wars campaign—complete with a set of NPCs with intertwining back stories. Subject matter jumps from Rebel operatives to Imperials to criminals to corporations to military units to news agencies to leisure activities to—well, you get the picture. So I guess the title is exactly right. It's a lot of information on a lot of different things. This may seem, at first, to be a bit disjointed, but in truth I found this to be one of the most inspiring of the Guides—greatly expanding the Star Wars galaxy into areas I hadn't even considered. Rock Bands? Yep. They have 'em. Different mixed drinks? Got 'em. And who can forget the AWEsome list of Rebel special ops slang—all those wonderful 'TLA's (three letter acronyms). Yeah, my players and I got a lot of use out of this book.

Final Rating: 5/5

Galaxy Guide 10: Bounty Hunters
Honestly, I am biased against this book. I was never a huge bounty hunter fan. I was never a Boba Fett fanboy. It didn't help matters that this particular Guide quickly got 'sold out' and became hugely expensive because all the fanboys snapped it up. I wound up getting ahold of this book rather late compared to the others, and when I did, I didn't really see what all the fuss was about. Its a solid, functional book with information on bounty-hunting—the process, the gear, special guilds and all of that. But it's nothing spectacular. Particularly annoying to me was all the BS on the 'code' of bounty hunters, trying to portray them as something other than the back-stabbing, money-grubbing mercs they really are. Give me a break.

Final Rating: 3/5

Galaxy Guide 11: Criminal Organizations
This book was a bit of a let-down to me—though again, I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting. The book presents a great deal of information on various criminal organizations (of course), including types of crimes, tactics, NPCs, adventure hooks, etc. It also presents some great information on law enforcement agencies (of particular interest to me were the Sector Rangers—but then, I'm a sucker for anything with the word 'Ranger' in it). But again, much like the Scout Guide, it seemed to lack personality. There was too much 'overview' for my taste, and not enough down and dirty example. Plus, again, the specialized equipment section felt pretty skimpy. At this point, however, I imagine the game designers were leaving equipment info for the more specialized books that were also coming out (i.e. Galladiniums, etc.)

Final Rating: 3/5

Galaxy Guide 12: Aliens—Enemies and Allies
This was essentially a 'volume 2' of the original Alien Races Guide (galaxy guide 4)—detailing a lot of new races in much the same manner. The artwork is great, better, in my opinion, than GG4. The artist (Mike Vilardi) is my absolute favorite of the artists used in the WEG products. Like GG4, this book is both usable and fun to read.

Final Rating 4/5

Alas, these were the only Galaxy Guides produced for the game. West End Games went under and lost the rights to the Star Wars setting before they could produce any more. A shame, too, as they next guide was rumored to be a 'Scoundrel and Gambler' book. Sigh. Anyway, that's the short version of all of it. You'll notice I didn't give any of the books a rating lower than a 3. That isn't just because I'm a huge fan—it's because these are ALL great books. Fun to read and useful in the game.

REVIEW: The Star Wars Campaign Pack

I probably should have included this earlier in my reviews, as it fits in more with the early Adventure Modules such as Tatooine Manhunt and Battle for the Golden Sun. But better late than never, right? In any case, the Campaign pack consisted of a GM Screen (containing many of the original edition's most important rules and charts), a booklet that outlined a mini campaign (including one more fleshed out adventure: Tests of the Godking) and a large fold-out map detailing a starship and it's NPC crew (intended as a 'starter ship' for the campaign).

The GM Screen was functional, but was rapidly outdated by rules expansions and revisions—which ultimately became the Star Wars Rules Companion. The fold out map was great, even if it never really was explained just how you exited the ship (The Longshot) while it was landed (as I recall, it had an airlock on the top, but no ramp or door indicated anywhere).

But the campaign booklet itself is the real 'meat' of this product. In just a few pages, it describes the basics of an entire Rebel 'cell'—Rekeene's Roughnecks—operating in the remote Fakir sector. Included are character sketches and basic statistics for the major players in the cell. Some highlights are Rekeene herself (a tough, matronly old bird who I always imagined as a female version of Patton) and the creepy yet interesting Intelligence officer (Santhou) who was actually an alien student of the Force. The cell itself operates out of an battered old freighter aptly named 'Home' and includes several teams designated by color. Red Team (fighter jocks), Blue Team, Green Team, etc. It is to Green Team that it is assumed your PCs will be assigned. This assumption can, in an established campaign, be a bit of a detriment—especially since the PCs are to be assigned to an NPC ship with NPC commanders. If the party consists of more 'veteran' characters or ones with their own ship it takes a little bit of finagling to make them fit into the Roughnecks.

The campaign pack goes on to detail an entire mini-campaign, providing sketches of a half-dozen or so different adventures that run the gamut from raiding a remote Imperial supply station to destroying a droid-controlled processing platform on a magma-world to rescuing Rekeene from Imperial captivity in a Starsystem that is about to go Nova. But the real centerpiece of all of this is the detailed adventure "Tests of the Godking" that is intended to kick off the campaign. This is presented in the style of the system's contemporary modules (Tatooine Manhunt, etc.)—broken into episodes, starting off with a 'script', etc. But, as I recall, there were no 'Cut-Away' sequences. Odd, considering how often they were utilized in contemporary and subsequent adventures.

Plot-wise, Tests of the Godking is pretty straight forward—and oddly enough, its a diplomatic mission. The PC team is sent to a remote world to negotiate with the primitive people's there and secure a source of food and other basic supplies for the Rebellion. Once there, the party discovers that the 'warlike' feudal society of lizard-men is actually rather peaceful—and not entirely innocent in the ways of the galaxy. Negotiations with the local ruler (the titular 'Godking') proceed, even as he slyly tests the PC's moral and physical fortitude though a variety of clever (and/or underhanded) means. This whole section of the adventure is geared almost entirely around roleplay, interspersed with tests of skill and attributes and decision making. In fact, for an 'action' genre like Star Wars this is a rather combat-light adventure (or so it may seem at this point). The whole of this episode seems best if played for laughs—I know that's what I did. I had a lot of fun playing the sly Godking and some of his less-sly minions. But it isn't all fun and games, the actions of the players here determine whether or not the Rebellion will get its food or not.

Before the Godking can make his final ruling, however, the Empire shows up in the form of a VIP shuttle (carrying a local Imperial governor and his entourage) emergency landing right outside the castle. Of course the Imperials quickly alienate the natives though a vicious display of force, setting up a situation where the Rebels must act to assist their potential new allies. At this point, the adventure is rather free-form. The Imperial ship and its crew are detailed, as is the tactical layout of the situation and the resources the PCs have on hand. It is up to the players to decide how to proceed—an all out frontal assault supported by catapults and local troops? Perhaps an infiltration? Either could work. Both have different dangers. This open-ended situation is a great change of pace in the midst of a story-type adventure—and is something I like to do every once in a while to keep things more dynamic and player-driven (without losing the cinematic/story feel that a Star Wars adventure should have). Will the Rebels succeed? Depends on their plan and a bit of luck.

Tests of the Godking, and indeed the whole Campaign Pack, does a very good job of providing a GM with a lot of starter information and ideas to build off of in a very limited amount of space. There are no huge stat-blocks or complex personal profiles. In fact, you don't get much more than a few lines for each NPC presented—and that's really all you need. For instance, the Imperial governor and his entourage are quite interesting, even if only sketched: The governor himself is a bit of a blustering moron, his stormtrooper officer is adequately ruthless and his 'private secretary' (mistress) seems to be only eye-candy, but is actually a deadly, undercover ISB agent. These personalities can bring all kinds of flavor to the PCs actions, providing some good angles and surprises for the GM to use during the 'final attack'.

As a whole, the Campaign Pack was a great product and one I highly recommend—even if the GM screen is completely outdated.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mary Sue

A 'Mary Sue' can be defined as: A fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors and readers.

In literature, this type of character annoys the hell out of me. Some prime examples of 'Mary Sues' in the Star Wars universe are:

Mara Jade:
Complete badass. Good at everything. Cynical and sarcastic (the typical tough chick). Beautiful but untouchable. Dark and tormented background. In many ways, she's the 'mother of all Star Wars mary sue characters' (since Zahn's novels opened the door for a flood thereafter). I don't really HATE Mara as much as I do other Mary sues—probably because, at the time, she was almost 'original'. But the stream of subsequent bad-girl characters in popular culture (Lara Croft, Xena, et. al.) have soured me in general to the archetype.

Corran Horn:
I've railed against this pudwacker before. He's like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo all rolled into one. And to make matters worse, he was the Star of the Rogue Squadron novels—crushing my fanboy hope for stories centered around my personal hero, Wedge. He just rubs me the wrong way and probably always will. Its more than a little irrational on my part, but he certainly /does/ fit into the Mary Sue category. Yeah, the authors tried to give him a 'fault' in his difficulty using telekinesis, but he more than makes up for it with being the bestest pilot evarr.

This is probably the most blatant Mary Sue in the Star Wars universe. She and Luke fall into very melodramaculous lurve at first sight—even though she is actually the spirit of a former jedi living in the body of a former student of Luke's who's spirit died to be with HER twoo wuv. Yes, it does sound stupid, doesn't it? Thankfully, she only appears in one trilogy and upon its ending just disappears from the story and falls off the face of the Galaxy. Evidently after being in mad, eternal love, she and Luke had one of those mythical 'mutual breakups' and went their separate ways. Good riddance.

Cade Skywalker:
He's a Jedi. He's a bounty-hunter. He's a space pirate. He's a smuggler. He's a descendant of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. He's a brooding, morally ambiguous loner—but with a heart of gold. He's got a tortured personal history. He's got a two-tone afro-perm and a cool goatee. He wears a black duster and carries a double barreled shotgun blaster. Do I need to go on? I mean come ON. He's like every powergamer cliche in the freaking book. All he needs is to be half-mandalorian with a hint of Noghri blood and he would be the poster child for twinks. Ugh.

Kyp Durron:
He was actually almost tolerable when he first appeared in the Jedi Academy novels. A force-sensitive kid, raised in the spice mines of kessel, surviving due to instinctive use of his abilities. But the quickness with which Han Solo grew to love Kyp and adopt him as a sidekick soured me very quickly. There was no build up from. "Hey, this kid is okay" to "Hey, you know, I like this kid" to "This is a good kid and I'm going to do what I can to help him." it went from. "Hey, I'm Kyp" to "Kyp is my bestest buddy evarr!" And then there is the leniency they showed Kyp after he blew up an entire solar system, killing billions of people. They said. "Oh, well, he was under the influence of the Dark Side, so...its okay. He won't do that again." I was like: WTF!? The kid is a freaking mass murderer and they just ignore it and give him a free ride. Oh, and Kyp is also a NATURAL at the force, meaning he picks up everything with amazing speed and is destined to become the bestest- well, you know the routine. My opinion of the character didn't improve any with Kyp's incarnations in the Salvatore novels—where he plays the cool, young Jedi who's out there doing thing while stodgy and scared old Luke is too stodgy and scared to act. Bleh.

I could go on, but my bile levels are already approaching critical.

Exhale. Soooo...while I really do have some rather venomous dislike of Mary Sue characters in literature, I will be the first to admit that in a roleplaying game, I encourage my players to be just that. As I've talked about before, I like players in my games (especially Star Wars games) to feel as though they can achieve great things—change the world they're in and be a 'mover and shaker' on a very high level. They don't start off with this kind of clout (that would be stupid and anti-climactic), but rather, can build up to it over years of play. When viewed from the outside, the Characters of my Vermillion campaign no doubt come off as very Mary Sue. After all—at least three of them are Jedi Masters and one is now THE Mandalore, in charge of the entire planet/culture/people. These guys have saved the galaxy several times over. They rub shoulders with the heroes of the story on a regular basis. They are skilled enough now to take on MAJOR NPCs (like Boba Fett for instance) and win.

If I read a Star Wars novel about this group, I'd no doubt be spewing more bile at how 'lame' it is. But the game medium is NOT the same as the literary. My players didn't get where they are just because I said so. They developed it. They EARNED it. And I'm proud of how 'bogus' they've become. Also, unlike many Mary Sues, these guys DO have faults. Some are too impulsive (looking at you, Adren). Others are primitive 'outsiders' who don't quite fit in to galactic society (Bob the Tusken, for instance). And ALL of them have made mistakes throughout their in-character careers. But yeah, overall, they might be viewed as Mary Sues.

That being said, do I have double standard? You bet—and I hope other GMs an players feel the same way, because, as it turns out, its an awful lot of fun to play.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: The Abduction of Crying Dawn Singer

In a way, this module marked the end of an era in the Star Wars RPG. It was the last of the Stand-alone adventure modules produced for the game. From that point out, all gaming supplements would be collections of shorter adventures and/or sourcebooks for specific settings. Being a huge fan of modules in general (a hold-over from my D&D days), this development would eventually (when I realized it) sadden me. That isn't to say that there weren't any good adventures produced afterwards, but rather that the new works never had the kind of in depth attention that I felt these singular modules had.

The plot for The Abduction is pretty straightforward: The PCs must thwart an Imperial plot to discredit the Rebellion by framing them for the kidnapping of a famous entertainer (the titular 'Crying Dawn Singer'). The players follow a string of clues in pursuit of the kidnappers, eventually uncovering a power struggle between the Moff of the sector and a powerful corporate executive.

In many ways, this is a 'classic' Star Wars adventure—filled with all kinds of combat, and chases and monsters and interesting settings. And one of the strength of the module is in providing outlines of different outcomes based upon the character's successes or failures. In essence, it provides multiple paths to similar destinations—which is one of my main rules for running a good story-based adventure. At one point, for instance, the player's failure can mean the evacuation/destruction of the main Rebel base in the sector.

But on the flip side of that coin, there are several moments in the adventure that seem to require some major finagling by the GM in order to get the players to discover a vitally important clue. For instance, they PCs are supposed to locate and board an imperial broadcasting vessel which contains those aforementioned vital clues. Without knowing that, however, it is just as likely that the players could ignore or destroy the ship instead of boarding it. This probably explains why the adventure includes an NPC ship crewman and contact—to try and steer the adventure in the desired direction. Still, such machinations can seem forced if not handled correctly—and the last thing any PC wants is to be led around by the nose by an NPC.

Another strength of the adventure is the multiple layers of its plot. At first, this may seem like a simple plot by the empire to create public ill-will towards the Rebellion. But in truth, the instigators of this abduction are actually planning to discredit the Imperial Moff as well—so that they can remove him from power and step into his role. This kind of complexity adds a further layer of drama to the proceedings and helps to enhance the cinematic flavor of the adventure as a whole. As with all 'classic' modules, the cut-scenes serve well in this regard, showing you the behind the scene machinations of the villains.

Another criticism I had for this adventure is the setup—Whereby the players are supposed to be assigned to a specific starship (in this case the 'Worthless Fool'), manned by an NPC captain type. I don't really have a problem with this clunky old tugboat, but I don't see why the author felt it was important to include it. It has been my experience that Star Wars groups will generally develop one main ship as their transport of choice (akin to the Millennium Falcon). Unless there is some really good reason for them NOT to have it for a specific mission (like perhaps they're going undercover as Imperials), I don't see any reason why you would arbitrarily stick them onto an 'NPC' ship. In this case, I think it was because the author set up a scene where the tugboat's tractor beams would come into play, but even then, it wasn't a pivotal moment—and could have been overcome by most other ships. When I first ran this module, I used it as written—including using the Worthless fool. But in retrospect it was unnecessary and didn't really add anything to the adventure. In fact, it kind of felt forced and awkward. Overall, this isn't a big thing, it was just something...odd.

One other thing that I felt needed a bit more 'selling' was the popularity of the abductee himself. In order to make the impact that his kidnappers felt he would, Crying Dawn would have to be an INCREDIBLY popular entertainer. Not just a talented performer. Thus, it may be wise (and fun) to include mention of Crying Dawn several adventures prior to this. Or perhaps several times over several months. Thus, the players may be more inclined to realize just how famous this person is. Then again, it may be fun to replace the bird-like alien described in the text with a more humanoid person—perhaps even a 'diva' (like Plavalaguna from The Fifth Element). If you wanted, you could make this character into a possible romantic interest for one of your characters? Hmm, that does sound fun.

On a more personal note, while I remember running this adventure, and some details from the session, overall I don't have a strong positive (or negative) impression of it. I'm not sure why that is, exactly. It was well written. It had all the Star Wars action and plot elements. It even had some interesting plot and location twists. But all that being said, I still remember it as being somewhat 'meh'. This could be due to a lot of outside factors—I was having issues with my major in college at the time. It could also be that this book was still rather 'hot off the presses' when I ran it. Maybe I just didn't have enough time to live with it before jumping in. With other gaming books, I know I am prone to like the older ones—the ones I've had with me for a long time—more than ones I've just purchased. In this case, many of the early Star Wars modules (1988-1990) I purchased long before I began my actual Star Wars campaign (around 1991). Thus, they had time to become a part of what I considered the game to be. In any case, re-examining this module has reminded me once more that it IS a good one, I just have to overcome my jaded first impression of it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This came up a while ago in one of my posts (the review of The Isis Coordinates) and I wanted to comment on it in a bit more depth: The plot device of players being captured by their enemies. It is a sticky situation in roleplaying games, especially story-based games where a capture scene is 'written into' the adventure. The problems stem from various sources. The first of these being player pride. No matter how good-natured a player is, there is (and should be) some pride in the way they play their character. And even if it is a plot device, there is a sense that being captured represents a 'failure' on a very personal level—just as it would if they lost any other fight. In short, it is a bit of a kick in the balls to lose, especially through no fault of your own.

The second problem with the capturing of player characters is the sense of lack of control. In fact, this is one of those areas where story-based RP can go very awry. Players like to know that their actions have real consequences—that they have a say in how the story goes. To present them with an 'inescapable capture' is to take away that control and may throw them a bit out of character, as if they are just watching the story, not participating in it.

The third problem is related to both of the above. Simply put—players will do every freaking thing they can to win. Or at least that's how it is with most of my characters. This makes capturing them VERY difficult, especially if they're experienced. A small group of 'high-level' PCs is, as any GM knows, a very dangerous thing. Taking them down is a tall task for any group of NPCs. In fact, the escalation of firepower necessary to do the job can be dangerous in and of itself—either in the risk of possibly KILLING the PCs or in the risk of making the players feel as though they were 'cheated' by the GM.

And finally, there is the matter of the gear-centric PC. They don't want to be captured because they're afraid of losing their favorite blaster or armor or lightsaber. This, again, is an understandable thing.

So, what is the solution to all of this? Well, the most simple is—try NOT to force your PCs into getting captured. At least not without a fighting chance to escape it. Yes, you can challenge them, face them with some very difficult opposition. You can trick them into a situation where they will be disadvantaged. But at that point, you should let the battle play out how it will and let the decisions and dice settle the matter. That way, if the players DO lose, they should know that the situation was at least partly their doing—that they lost 'fair and square' rather than being railroaded into something. For the GM trying to use a written adventure, this approach means that you're going to have to come up with alternate paths for any scene where the PCs are 'supposed' to be captured.

Another solution would be to have the capture happen 'off-screen'. The adventure Starfall is a prime example of this. The PCs begin in the brig of a Star Destroyer and have to go from there. Their capture is 'glossed over' in the introduction—thus, the players know at least that this part of the adventure is predestined. They can get over it and move on.

And finally, the solution I favor the most is to establish a gaming 'contract' with your players. This isn't anything formal, but rather just an understanding between you and them—to let them know that if you DO put them in a no-win situation at one point you're going to later give them a chance to get out of it. With new groups or with groups used to sandbox-style play this may take a bit of doing. They may well think that capture equates to instant player kill. With a new group, it may be a good idea to set guidelines for such things down at the very beginning of a campaign, letting them know where you stand on this and other issues. Folded in with this is the idea that even if captured and stripped of their gear, they will have a reasonable chance of getting that gear back (or at the very least of getting something similar).

It may also help to give players some kind of in-game clue to know that the situation they're in is unwinnable (for the moment). A good example of this is Han, Leia and Chewbacca's capture in Empire Strikes back. They walk into a room to find Darth Vader and Boba Fett across from them—and dozens of stormtroopers behind. That kind of quick presentation of overwhelming force is a better idea than slowly escalating a situation and giving the players the impression that they can fight their way out. Still, this isn't an easy thing to gauge. There are times when players are going to resist no matter HOW many enemies you throw at them. That's why you should always try to have a 'Plan B'.

It may also be wise to point out that getting captured is actually a big part of the Star Wars movie mythos. Leia is captured in the Episode IV. Han, Leia and Chewie are captured in Episode V. And almost everyone is imprisoned by Jabba in the last movie. Even the prequels have their fair share of captures—Padme in Episode I (briefly). Padme, Anakin and Obi-Wan in Episode II. Try to convey this concept to your players (preferably a long while before springing an actual capture on them).

Anyway, this is just a helpful hint from a guy who's had some really great PC captures and a couple really rough ones. Good gaming!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dream Campaign

Like a lot of gamers, I occasionally wonder what it would be like to do it all over again—from a gaming perspective. Knowing what I do now, with all the source material I have now, what would a 'brand new' Star Wars campaign look like? It's not like I think I will ever be in a gaming situation again like I was in college—with a large group of eager gamers with a lot of time on their hands. But its fun to think what it could be like.

First of all, I really do think I would attempt a 'generational' campaign, starting during the Prequel timeline. Players could run characters within the Old republic, fighting through the clone wars and the dark-times thereafter. A party in this era might look something like this:

1) A young Jedi
2) A young Senatorial (a troubleshooter/activist for the Republic)
3) A republic military officer/agent (not a clone)
4) A fringer/smuggler type (a contact/friend of either the officer or the senatorial)
5) Wildcard—either a duplicate of one of the above or some unique type like a bounty-hunter
6) Eventually a Clone trooper—one of the lesser altered ones, so he has more free-will.

I see the plotlines covering the span of the prequels, maybe picking up shortly before Attack of the Clones, with the party being assigned to diplomatic and other 'special' operations to try and head off the coming war. Once the war started, the missions would be more oriented around that. From combat in the field to political intrigues. The Clone Wars cartoons give a pretty good indication of the kinds of missions that are possible. The story would probably climax with the fall of the Republic and the execution of Order 66. This could be very interesting for the Jedi(s) and Clone trooper in particular.

Of course, all the characters would have to be aware from the start that they would somehow have to 'transition' their character from this time period (Old Republic) to the next (Rebellion Era). This could be accomplished in a couple different ways. First of all, the player could simply keep the same character—playing an older version—the Young Senatorial could be an old senatorial. The military officer could be a retired officer, etc. In order to keep my own peculiar ideas of 'game balance', any Jedi in the party would have to either be killed (could be a very dramatic thing) or suffer a drop in power for one reason or another—becoming a 'Fallen' or 'Quixotic' Jedi (as detailed in this post). Even if the player doesn't continue playing their character (going with the option below) they could continue to exist as an NPC—maybe even a villain. Perhaps the Fringer is now a Crime boss? The young Republic Officer is now an Imperial Captain? The Young Jedi is now a Sith Agent and villain? The Clone Trooper is an Imperial Guardsman?

The second transitional option is, in my opinion, the more interesting of the two—taking up the role of a child (or student/successor) of one of the previous era characters. In this case, I would allow the character to start with most of (if not all of) the previous character's experience and shift it around a little to suit the new person. Yes, this would result in some highly skilled youngsters—but then Luke and Leia were pretty mega for being so young, too. In any case, I see the party for this era looking remarkably like that of the previous era—with either young or old 'versions' filling those roles—except for the Clone Trooper, who'd have to be thought out a bit.

The adventures in this era are already laid out in the gaming products produced by West End in what I call a 'Classic' campaign. You'd pick up right around the time of the Battle of Yavin and continue on through the Return of the Jedi storyline—and maybe even beyond for a while into the Thrawn Era.

Since this /IS/ a dream campaign (i.e. could go on longer than any real game probably ever would) I could even see transitioning the campaign once more—into a far-flung New Republic Era. Since this is MY dream universe, there wouldn't be any of that Vector prime crap (though I might make use of the villains from that in some way or another). Again, transitions could follow the above examples—though trying to continue any one character DIRECTLY from the Old Republic Era into the New would require either a very long-lived race (like a Wookiee) or a droid character type. In fact, it would probably be cool to have NPC droid henchmen follow the group through these transitions in any case.

But alas, I know that such a campaign is likely to never happen in my lifetime, but a GM can dream... a GM can dream.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Top 10 Star Wars RPG Non Player Characters

I am restricting this top ten list to the modules and source books produced by West End Games. The choices are, of course, all highly subjective. But this is my blog, so there! What qualifies these characters as my favorite isn't necessarily how well developed their character was in a specific source, but rather, how they captured my imagination.

10. Q-4
A mining droid may not, at first, seem to be very endearing. Indeed, with only a limited personality and very restricted 'personal interests', a 'borer-droid' like Q-4 would seem to be just a piece of scenery. However, this particular droid (and his dozens of identical brothers) made up for these shortcomings with a lot of enthusiasm and a deep desire to fight the Evil Empire—even though they weren't quite sure what that was. One such droid, introduced in the Death in the Undercity adventure, even joined the droid entourage of my campaign.

9. T-3PO
Introduced in the adventure Starfall, T-3PO was the bitchy, cynical and sarcastic personal droid to an Imperial noblewoman (Lira Wessex). In many ways, she's C-3PO's evil twin sister. The players come across her in the course of the adventure—and I believe she actually tries to betray them at one point or another. In my campaign, "Tee" was adopted by the party (much to her dismay) and to this day works (grudgingly) for Arianne.

8. Spilfer
Spilfer is a hero in his own mind. A salvage expert (of sorts) and one-time NPC companion of my campaign group during the Scavenger Hunt adventure. He's upbeat and comically equipped with a variety of garbage-related gadgets—plus he's a cute little three-foot tall blue-furred squirrel. What's not to like?

7. Kel
Introduced in Galaxy-Guide 2: Yavin and Bespin, Kel is a mysterious underworld arms merchant—who leads a double life as a corporate executive on Bespin. She was fun and memorable as a 'dangerous woman with a heart of gold'. She became involved with the party initially in her 'primary' function as an arms merchant, but a relationship quickly developed between her and one of the characters (Harry). This eventually turned into marriage and the two now run their own resort world together.

6. Agent Tyree
Introduced in the VERY FIRST Star Wars adventure (Rebel Breakout—included in the original, 1987 1st Edition rules), Tyree was a fellow Rebel agent who I envisioned as something of the 'James Bond' of Alliance Intelligence—a solo agent who would occasionally cross paths with the party (most memorably in The Game Chambers of Questal and the Isis Coordinates). As with many of the most memorable NPCs, he eventually developed a relationship with my campaign—marrying Arianne.

5. Faarl the Conqueror
One of the villains introduced in Cracken's Most Wanted, Faarl actually had two incarnations in my gaming campaigns. In both, he was a young (19 year old) warlord, carving out a personal empire for himself on the outer rim. In the vermillion group's game he was a minor 'villain of the week'. In the online Campaign I ran with Adren, Faarl became more than just a throw-away baddie—mainly because instead of just defeating and locking him up, Adren tried to reform him—and eventually succeeded. When the two campaigns were 'merged', we agreed upon the latter background for Faarl as his 'official' story.

4. Lira Wessex
Cold. Cruel. Smart. Beautiful. Lira is a very memorable villainess who appears in two different adventure modules: Starfall and Crisis on Cloud City. In both cases, she is definitely more of a 'mastermind' type villain than a fighter—which sets her apart from a lot of femme-fatale types. She isn't a badass Mara Jade—but she'll hire someone like that to do her dirty work for her.

3. Bane Nothos
The archtypical Imperial Officer. Arrogant. Ruthless. Treacherous. He was one of the earlier villains, first introduced in Strike Force Shantipole—though in truth he doesn't ever confront the PCs face to face in that one. He turns up later in Otherspace and (in a slightly different form) in Otherspace II as well. What made him stand out for me, however was that name. Is that not the coolest bad guy name ever? Oh sure, he's not really a badass—and in fact, in my game, he got gacked pretty easily, but man. Great name. And his legacy was too great to just let go, so I actually created his evil niece, Rina Nothos, to carry on his arrogance.

2. Lady Santhe
A tough but classy old lady in charge of Santhe-Seinar industries (they make TIE fighters for the Empire—among other things). Introduced in the module Mission to Lianna, Lady Santhe was an NPC of many layers—outwardly an Imperial, but secretly a champion for her own planet, corporation and family. Again, she wasn't physically powerful at all, but she was smart, savvy and hard as nails. Her and the Santhe family struck me so much, in fact, that I wrote them into the background of one of my PCs, Adren, who found out she was the long-lost grand-daughter of the 'grey dame of Lianna'.

1. Zardra
Yeah. Probably going to come off as a big old 'fan boy' with this one. Truth be told, I'm really not a huge fan of the 'badass chick' archetype (made so famous by Mara Jade). But Zardra was actually created BEFORE Mara—introduced in my very first Star Wars module: Tatooine Manhunt. This femme-fatale bounty-huntress with a love of personal combat made an impression there—since she was one of the first truly original NPCs—not based on anyone else in the movies (like, for example, the Boba Fett clone Jodo Kast). Like Bane Nothos, she also appeared in the Otherspace adventure. I took this as a cue and had her appear subsequently in many other adventures—eventually forming a relationship with Rick Oman. Needless to say, with a woman like Zardra, the relationship was (and is) tumultuous, but it has also been a fun storyline.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Creative Process

Since I had such a good time last year, I've decided to head out to South Dakota again this coming January to see my buddies there and play a little Star Wars. This being the case, I really need to start to work on a continuation of last January's adventure. So, instead of doing that, I'm blogging about HOW I'm going to go about doing it. It's what I like to call proactive procrastination. 

In any case, when creating an adventure, I typically find a quiet place—bedroom, living room, seat on an airplane or in an airport (with ear-buds in) and start scribbling notes on paper. Sometimes I'll listen to music (the Star Wars Soundtrack—for inspiration), but other times, I prefer silence. I start with a very basic plot idea—often spawned from movies or TV or books or even other adventures I've read before. But just as often, the plot is simply a continuation of one of several different plot lines already running through my campaign. My players and their characters have a lot to do with formulating this overarching plot. Actions they take, or have taken in the past, along with what I know of the personalities of those involved often guide me in this regard. 

I'll use an example of an adventure I ran some years ago to illustrate this process. Here, the overarching plot idea was to introduce a new threat to the Star Wars galaxy—one that could put old-enemies on the same side. The basic plot was this, then: Agents of a powerful new enemy were planning an invasion. To prepare for it, they would launch a series of attacks designed to sew confusion and drive a wedge between the various powers of the galaxy to prevent a unified defense. 

The next step is to brainstorm dozens of scenes that could work in that plotline. For example: Wouldn't it be cool to have the players attend a fancy government reception type deal where they can rub elbows with famous NPCs—even including some former (or current) enemies? I'll jot that down and a string of other basic ideas, then start connecting the dots, from scene to scene, idea to idea and see what works to tell the story. Alas, some scenes have to be cut, because they just don't work within the plot or add too much complexity to it. 

Some of the ideas I came  up with in my example were the aforementioned party (an historic meeting between the New Republic, Empire and Corporate sector to sign a peace treaty). An assassination attempt (staged at that very party). Strange markings on the attackers that only a historian/scholar type working at a library can discern. A dangerous trek to an ancient ruin. Discovery of a secret enemy base with threatening technology. A foreshadowing of a giant fleet to show the true scale of the threat. These, of course, were the ideas I incorporated into the adventure. There were many that got left on the cutting room floor.

Now that I have the plot line and some scenes to string it together, I'll begin to flesh things out. Fix some details like NPCs and Stats. Names and locations—things like that. This is where the real 'work' of the creative process comes in. Or at least, that's what I consider it now. I used to LOVE coming up with incredibly detailed stats on NPCs and Equipment and the like, but now I get by with just a jotting down of major details and wing the rest. It is MUCH less work this way, and honestly? From the player side, it doesn't make much difference at all. They could care less how high of a Bureaucracy skill the Nagai secret agent has—and for that matter, I don't give a damn either! Only detail what you think is necessary, anything else you can delve into if it becomes an issue.

In my example, I had to come up with basic stats and rules for the bad guys: The Nagai agent, his equipment and his henchmen. To throw a twist into things, I stole some ideas from various sources. The Henchmen were based off of the bounty hunter Durge (as seen in the Clone Wars cartoons)—only taken a step further. They were colonies of symbiotic, worm-like things that ran around in armored, humanoid shells. They could regenerate from many injuries and weren't hampered by wounds until the fatal blow was dealt. Likewise, the Nagai was both highly skilled and had that badass ability whereby each injury ADDED dice to his skill instead of subtracting them. So the more wounded he was, the more dangerous. 

This is probably the most important step—and the one that can be used to keep a story adventure from becoming a railroad. When you've got your plot, scenes and details together, you play through the adventure in your head—trying to do so from the point of your players and what you know about them and their reactions. It is HERE you will hopefully find any holes in  your ideas and fix them. It is ALSO here where you can begin to plan for the tangents and curve-balls your players are likely to throw at you. Being flexible and able to 'wing' things is good. All GMs should develop this talent. But it helps to be prepared. Try to think of ways your players may react and figure out what you might do if they act one way or another. In some cases, this may mean crafting different paths to the same objective. In others, it may mean that they skip an entire scene. As a GM, this may almost seem 'disappointing', but I feel its better to let a story progress organically than to overtly force players into a course of action all the time. Subtle nudges are good, though. I've spoken on this all quite a bit in previous posts, so I won't go into it here. If you're interested, check out this and this.

So anyway, for what it's worth, that's my creative process for coming up with Star Wars adventures. Now, I'd better get cracking on actually DOING that instead of talking about it.