Friday, October 23, 2009

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The GM Screen was functional, but was rapidly outdated by rules expansions and revisions—which ultimately became the Star Wars Rules Companion.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.

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