Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Review: Twin Stars of Kira

The Twin Stars of Kira is another of the "New Republic" branded books. It is a mixture of sourcebook and adventure compilation set in an area of space around the titular 'twin stars' of Kira (two different systems in close proximity to eachother). As there is a great bit of difference between the various chapters of this book, I will discuss each in turn.

The Introduction
This section contains a quick overview of the section of space in which the adventures of this book are set. It also includes a map of the region—actually one of the first space-sector maps ever produced in the RPG. This is interesting in and of itself, in that the RPG had been intentionally vague up till this point about such specifics.

The Package
This is a short adventure designed specifically for smuggler types. It revolves around seemingly simple pick-up and delivery that (of course) has all kinds of complications. The strength of this scenario is its open-endedness. The PCs can handle the situation in a variety of ways—some of which are rather morally ambiguous (essentially, its a test of whether or not they value money more than doing what is 'right'). The weakness of the adventure is the scene in which the player's ship is sabotaged. As far as this adventure seems concerned, this will happen no matter what precautions the smugglers may have made. This seems jarringly 'pre-ordained' in an otherwise non-railroad adventure.

Lazerian IV
This section is more of a planet profile than an adventure (though it does have some adventure hooks at the end). It details a planetary monarchy that is (even in the New Republic era) a staunch Imperial supporter. As such, there are interesting hooks about a 'Republic resistance' movement striving against the monarchy. There is also an old Jedi ruin on the planet as well as a valley in which grow strange, force-related crystals. And to top it off, the oceans of the planets are actually home to a sentient race that has, thus far, remained undiscovered by the surface dwellers. Lazerian could easily be the basis for a small mini-campaign involving a struggle for freedom against its nobility. All in all, a rather interesting planet profile with lots of good ideas.

Den of Spies
Another relatively short adventure designed for a smuggler crew. In this case, the PCs become involved in a three-way espionage war between the Empire, Corporate Sector and New Republic for the control of a contested planet. The twists, turns and complications of the adventure are its strong points—and are also amusing in their absurdity (nearly every NPC met in the adventure is an agent for someone else—and some of those are even double agents). I also enjoy the fact that how the adventure plays out really depends on the actions of the characters. That being said, there is a plot point that states one of the PCs droids will be used to smuggle an important component. This assumes the group has a droid and also assumes that it will be used without anyone (including the droid) noticing. Again, that kind of assumption may have to be looked at and worked around.

For a Few Kilotons More
Though again designed for a smuggler crew, this adventure is easily translatable into an intelligence campaign. In either case, the PCs become involved in assisting a Republic-Sympathetic corporation that has been suffering from mysterious 'accidents' that have impaired its operations. What this essentially amounts to is riding shotgun on a speeder-truck caravan of unstable crystals that can explode if jostled or heated up. And as with most smuggler adventures (at least in this book) there is a major twist and betrayal that the PCs are likely to discover. Again, many of the events are left very open-ended and it is possible that too-trusting PCs may be in for a very bad surprise indeed. All in all, I don't have any major gripes with this adventure, it is simple, but with a nice twist. About the only negative I do have is that the reasoning for the convoy is a bit shakey. Why wouldn't/couldn't the players use their own ship to move the cargo instead of using the trucks? I recall having to make up some technobabble explanation for this when I ran the adventure. So GMs be aware.

Ropagi II
This, like the section on Lazerian, is a planet profile rather than an adventure proper. In this case, it details a world of highly intelligent and pacifistic beings (two species actually, a near-human race and a race of floating jellyfish critters) who seek knowledge through removal from conflict. At first this may seem like a rather poor location for adventure, but as it turns out, the 'brainiacs' on this planet need 'people of action' to carry out their less scholarly activities (trade, etc.) so the world has a bustling and even somewhat rowdy 'offworlders' city—a good layover or base of operations for a tramp freighter crew. The section also provides details on a couple interesting NPCs—the tough-as-nails security chief of the offworlders section, Leesa One-Eye, and Kird Telak, the leader of a band of ruthless space pirates (Telak's Terrors) who base themselves in the system. It is an interesting and unique planet that is easy to insert into any campaign.

Treasure Hunt
While I like the overall idea of this adventure, the execution of it leaves a lot to be desired in my book. Simply put, it is just too silly. The general plot is that the characters become involved in a search for a long-lost treasure ship—up against a rival starship crews and a band of space pirates. Sounds cool, right? But it begins with a lisping squirrel-man (Captain of the Tathty Acorn) getting the group involved. It then includes a giant starfish-man who wears a fedora hat and another alien made out of molten metal (a-la Terminator 2). Oh, then there is the spider-alien guy who's ship is called the Black Widow. Get it? Bleh. In any case, the adventure /is/ salvageable—but I don't really like the ending. Its the typical "most of the treasure gets destroyed" scenario, added to the "what treasure the PCs do get is taxed to hell so they only get a little money out of the deal". This all seems too bait and switch. I'm not saying you just GIVE the PCs a lot of money, but at least give them a remote change of a huge payoff, if they're lucky AND smart. And as a GM you should be prepared for what might happen if your PCs suddenly DO get rich.

Pet Show
Much like the above adventure, I like the concept of the Pet Show a lot more than the execution. The plot involves a group of Republic (or even Rebel) spies trying to embarrass an Imperial Governor by sabotaging his entry into a planetary 'strange animal' competition/show. Unfortunately, the plot just feels railroady—with the author several times describing what the players 'should do' and even how they will react to certain situations. Plus, the whole adventure feels just a little frivolous. Perhaps this is the intention—to be a little light-hearted romp like an episode of Hogan's Heroes. But I would almost like to see there be some consequence to the mission other than an irate governor. Perhaps instead of just being disgraced, he is disgraced in front of an important superior and demoted or something. Maybe that's just me, though.

Freedom Strike Seltos
This is one of my favorite adventures in this compilation. I feel that it perfectly captures the changing nature of the New Republic era galaxy. In this case, the PCs are agents for the New Republic, sent to investigate a possible Imperial saboteur among the government of a newly joined member world. There is a feeling of diplomatic caution—the PCs must accomplish their mission without pissing off the local government—or indeed without the locals even really knowing that they're there. The idea of an "Imperial Resistance" operating out of a wilderness base is cool, too—completely turning the typical Star Wars plot on its ear. The set pieces of the adventure are great, too—undercover infiltration and investigation, attacking an enemy base and liberating hostages from a high-rise. Pretty good for just 11 pages.

The Iskallon Factor
This adventure suffers from the fact that it feels like a straight rip-off of a Star Trek villain—namely, the Borg. The Iskallon are a race of humanoid-cyborgs who hope to grow by assimilating others and their technology into their society. The plot has the characters tricked into visiting the Iskallon's home system. There, they are captured and slated for modification into cyborgs. They must then escape. The artwork in this adventure even goes as far as to show some of the aliens looking almost EXACTLY like Picard did in the classic episode where he is assimilated. I am all for stealing ideas, but this just felt too blatant to me. Plus the adventure has a couple deal-breaking cliches in it for me: 1) The players ship MUST be sabotaged for the events of the adventure to play out as written, thus making it 'inevitable' and 2) the players MUST be captured. So.. yeah, resistance is futile. You will be assimilated into the railroady nature of this adventure.

So, there you have it. Overall, The Twin Stars of Kira has a lot to recommend it, but it also has a couple 'stinkers' in there that left a sour taste in my mouth. When compared to the excellent quality of most other Star Wars RPG books up to this one, the drop seemed noticeable to me at the time (though moreso then than it does now).


  1. Nice review. I was wondering if you'd review Operaton: Elrood, since that's the WEG adventure I've seemed to run the most, and I'd like your thought on it!

  2. Sure I will! Working my way up through the 'Adventure Collections' like that already. Would be glad to take a 'request' :)