Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fantasy Flight Imports: Pt 1- Barret Taliff

Everyone loves "New Hotness".

With the presentation of the Beta Rulebook, and the impending arrival of the Core Rulebook, Star Wars Gamers around the world are drooling over the prospects of playing with the Edge of the Empire system.  We've been devouring the free adventures, picking up the Beginner's Boxed set (with official dice!  Yay!), and grabbing every chance we've had to get experienced with the way Fantasy Flight's system works and feels.

We're all considered new to Edge of the Empire, but a large number of us are long time Star Wars table-top gamers. Whether you got involved with Wizards of the Coast's editions of the game, or went all the way back to the beginning with West End Games, many of us have put countless hours into adventures in that galaxy far, far away.

And for many of us, we're still adventuring there now.

We are faced with a common problem; we want to use the new rules set, but we want to use it with our old characters.  We want to convert over our current campaigns to Edge of the Empire.  We want to play our old faves with the new hotness. It is work, a lot of work, but it's work that can be fun, rewarding, and worth doing.  Today, I'm going to share with you my experiences with the process, and share with you my successes, failures, triumphs, and despairs.

Is This Trip Really Necessary?

The first step is to figure out if you need to convert the characters over in the first place.  That statement sort of goes against the whole notion of this article to begin with, but it's true.  I've had a lot of fun playing the pre-gen characters in the modules that are out there, as have my PCs when I ran them through what's available.  If you're not ready to convert over your entire campaign to the new system, including the highly probable need to homebrew certain classes and vehicles, then don't do it.  Put your campaign on the back-burner and run a new Edge of the Empire game until there's enough material out there that you feel comfortable converting.  It'll also give you and your players practice earning and using their talents and skills, and can make the jump from the previous edition to Edge a lot smoother.

If you decide that you are ready for this undertaking, then let's proceed.

Establishing a Baseline

For this article I'm going to focus on converting characters from a Saga Edition game to Edge of the Empire.  We'll be using that rules set as a base for abilities, and be the target mark for what we're trying to replicate with EotE.

One thing to remember is that in Saga, the character has many opportunities to increase stats; 2 ability scores increase by 1 every 4 levels.  In addition, characters can bump up a score or two if they complete certain destinies.  In Edge of the Empire, you can increase your stats after game start only by taking the Dedication talent, and only one characteristic gets the increase.  These talents are buried deep in every Specialization tree, and take over 100xp to get to.  Because of this, take a look at what your character's ability scores are in Saga Edition, and spend your starting XP getting as close as you can to those numbers.

As a general guideline, try using this as a guide; make the Characteristic value in EotE as close as you can get it to the ability modifier in Saga.  So if someone has a 14 Dexterity (which generates a +2 Ability Modifier), their Agility should be 2.  18 Intelligence (+4 Ability Modifier) should be an Intellect of 4.  There's a lot of push and pull here.  I can see 15s generating Characteristics of 3.  13s converting to 2s.   It's all about what looks right, in the end. 
Now, where to put those points. Brawn is your combination of Strength and Constitution, so if your character had high marks in one of those areas, that's where you want to reflect that.  Dexterity to Agility is a direct conversion, as is Intelligence to Intellect.  The last two require some consideration of your character and what they did with the stats they had.  Wisdom is a good translation to Willpower, but because perception is Cunning based I could see points going in there.  Charisma is split between Cunning for deception and creativity and Presence for raw personality and charm.  Figur out what your character did with those Abilities and you'll have an idea where to apply that with characteristics.

Today's Example: Barret Talif

Art by Phil Maiewski
With the completion (for now) of my Jedi Career and Lightsaber Forms document, I can continue to work on the primary purpose I created those custom rules in the first place; updating my Order 65 Campaign to the Edge of the Empire rules set.  Thanks to the diligent work of my PCs and the handiness of Obsidian Portal, I know approximately how many sessions I've run, and can approximate how much XP I should be working with.  Looking through the adventure posts and my own list of chapters, I see that we've run about 18-19 game sessions.  That puts us just shy of 300xp.  For argument's sake, I round that off to 300xp.  It might make the characters a little over-powered.  If it does, I can always dial it back.

As a base-line example, I started with the most mundane character in the party; Barret Taliff.  Barret's a techno-genius from Fondor and loves hauling around a blaster cannon in combat (even if he hasn't been that successful a shot with it).  He repairs what he needs, and improvises the rest.  He's also become the party's font of information, having taken several talents that allow him to maximize his Knowledge skills.

Let's show you what I'm working with.

Barret Talif                                                         CL 10
Medium Human noble 7/improviser 3
Destiny 6; Force 10
Init +12; Senses Perception +10
Languages Basic, Binary, Bocce, Durese, High Galactic, Huttese, Mon Calamarian, Rodese, Shyriiwook, Sluissese, Verpine
Defenses Ref 24 (flat-footed 22), Fort 21, Will 24
hp 67; Threshold 21

Speed  6 squares
Melee survival knife +8 (1d6+6) or
Melee survival knife +8 (1d6+6)
Ranged blaster cannon +10 (3d12+5, 1-square splash) or
Ranged blaster pistol +9 (3d6+7) or
Ranged rotary blaster cannon -1 (3d10+5) with autofire or
Ranged rotary blaster cannon +7 (3d10+5) when braced
Base Atk +7; Grp +9
Atk Options Assured Attack, autofire (rotary blaster cannon)
Special Actions brace (rotary blaster cannon), Personalized Modifications, Right Gear for the Job, Stand Tall
Abilities Str 13, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 18, Wis 10, Cha 12
Special Qualities contraband (2000 credits)
Talents Educated, Exceptional Skill (Mechanics), Leading Skill, Personalized Modifications, Right Gear for the Job, Wealth
Feats Assured Attack, Droidcraft, Linguist, Skill Focus (Mechanics), Stand Tall, Superior Tech, Surgical Expertise, Tech Specialist, Weapon Proficiency (heavy weapons, pistols, simple weapons)
Skills Deception +11, Gather Information +11, Initiative +12, Knowledge (physical sciences) +14, Knowledge (technology) +14, Mechanics +19 (treat die rolls of 2-7 as 8), Perception +10, Persuasion +11, Pilot +12, Treat Injury +10, Use Computer +14
Possessions blaster cannon (tech specialist mod; +1 attack), blaster pistol (tech specialist mod; +2 damage), 56530 credits, rotary blaster cannon, survival knife, survival knife, utility belt (3 day food supply, medpac, tool kit, power pack, energy cell, glow rod, comlink, liquid cable dispenser), cybernetic prosthesis (left leg), datapad, 2 hip holsters, medical kit, 4 medpacs

To begin, I started building him as a new character, spending XP where appropriate, and then went cherry picking for talents and skill upgrades that fit.  Humans start with 2s in everything. Barret, as the resident smartie and tech-god needed a high Intellect, so I dropped 70 of his starting 110xp into buying up Intellect to 4. Barret has also improved his Dexterity a bit over his adventuring career, so I spent 30xp to get that to 3. I know a Dexterity of 14 has a +2 Ability Modifier, but with so many of his other abilities between 10 and 13, this fits where Barret has gone in his adventuring career.
Brawn 2, Agility 3, Intellect 4, Cunning 2, Willpower 2, Presence 2
That uses 100 of the starting 110xp for Humans.  We'll use the last 10 to pick up a second rank of Mechanics.

For Careers, Barret is the techie so Technician is a natural choice. He has been more cultured in his upbringing and more focused on machines than computers, so his initial specialization is Mechanic rather than Outlaw Tech or Slicer. Starting skills are Astrogation, Computers, Mechanics, Perception, Skulduggery, and Pilot-Space. Humans get 1 rank in two non-career skills at start, so I selected Medicine and Gunnery.  Barret has that blaster cannon he loves to lug around, and has turned into the unofficial party paramedic.

I did have Barret pick up Outlaw Tech as a second Specialization, as well as branching out and buying access to the Scholar Talent Tree in the Colonist Career. I'll go into why later.

Let's start with Mechanic; I'm looking for talents that fit Barrel's abilities in Saga Edition.  Gearhead is a great start point.  That connects to Redundant Systems which encapsulates Barret's nature of scavenging parts and making ad hoc repairs when needed.  Looking down the chart, I see that I'm in a column that ends with Natural Tinkerer.  In between is Solid Repairs (which fits great because Barret is, first, the ship's mechanic) and Contraption.  Contraption is perfect for Barret's Improviser Prestige Class.  I'll take the entire column.  

Time to buy up some skills.  Astrogation at 1 is fine, Barret's got a high Use Computers skill in Saga Edition, but Astrogateing was secondary in his role.  We'll bump up Computers to 2.  Coordination really isn't Barret's forte, so let's skip it.  Same with Discipline.  Mechanics, however, is another story.  Let's get that up to 3.  Pilot-Planet fits, so I put a rank in that for 5xp, along with a rank in Knowledge-Outer Rim for another 5. 

Spent XP thus far is 110.

Moving on; I have Barret buy into Outlaw Tech for 20xp as his first extra Specialization, and from the same Career.  While he's an educated man, Barret's also had a tendency to fiddle with technology and has been able to squeeze maximum performance out of his machines.  This is reflected in the Tech Specialist feats from Saga.  Tinkerer is perfect for this, so we start there.  But with two Tinkerer talents at the top of the Talent Tree, we have options where to start.  I look at the first column and see that mid-way down is the Utility Belt talent.  This is another skill that is great for replicating the "I have a tool for that!" nature of the Improviser.  Plus in between those talents is a second hit of Solid Repairs.  Come to think of it, this entire row is perfect for Barret, so we also take the next talent after Utility Belt; Jury Rigged.  I'm going to hold off on the last talent in the column, Inventor.  It's a good talent for Barret, but I've got to be running low on XP.  I look at the skills he now has access to and put a Rank into the Knowledge skills Education and Underworld.  More Knowledge skills for "the professor".

With that, I've spent 80 xp here.  From my 300, I'm left with 110.

I mentioned that Barret is educated, formally in fact.  This screams for Scholar, so we pick up that specialization.  Sadly, because it's his third specialization, and a non-Career one, it eats a whopping 40xp to access. Barret's Education talent from Saga let him roll every Knowledge skill as if it was trained.  I want to mimic that here.  Scholar gets him Knowledge-Outer Rim and Xenology.  We'll put a rank into both of those with a rank for 10xp.  That leaves him with two Knowledge skills he doesn't have at Career skills.  Fortunately, there's a way to fix that in Scholar.  Well Rounded is a Scholar talent that Barret can take and unlock Core Worlds and Lore.  Plus it gets him Toughened and Researcher along the way.

But are two Knowledge skills the best use of Well Rounded for Barret?  Sure, he'd have all Knowledge skills as career skills, but with an Intellect of 4, is the player likely to buy up those skills anymore?  I think he's better served by picking up Core Worlds and Lore as his bonus Human Skills, and take Well Rounded to make Gunnery and Ranged-Heavy as Career skills to give him some combat offense.  Barret loves his blaster cannon, as well as the rotary blaster cannon he picked up in his travels.  Plus when he's not fixing the party's spaceship he's manning one of the turrets.  So we go back to the beginning, make the two Knowledge skills the bonus Human skills, and spend 15xp on Ranged-Heavy 2 and 5xp Gunnery 1.  

Total XP in Scholar, 90.  Total XP over-all, 280.

Let's see if there's anything I'm missing.  Barret's a Linguist, but there's really no Language skill or ability in Edge of the Empire. I remember that I've now edited out Barret's one rank of Medicine, so we buy that back for 10xp.  Looking over my options, I feel dropping another 10xp into Outlaw Tech Talents is the way to go, snagging another Tinkerer for 5xp, and Speaks Binary to give Barret some proficiency with directing NPC droids (he did have Droidcraft, and there are NPC droids aboard his ship)..

And with that, I've spent 300xp.  

That's it for Stats and Abilities, let's look at equipment.  Barret has a blaster pistol for back up, and a blaster cannon as his main weapon.  Closest analogue to the blaster cannon is the Light Repeating Blaster, which could replicate his Rotary Blaster Cannon anyway.  It has a Cumbersome 4 rating, meaning Barret with his Brawn of 2 would add two difficulty dice to his rolls.  Remember that Barret is a mechanic, and a modification expert.  With the application of the Weapon Harness modification, he lowers that Cumbersome quality to 2, which he can easily handle.  Due to Barret's Superior Tech feat from Saga, and the fact he modified his weapons extensively, we'll also give this cannon the Superior Weapon Customization.

For armor, Barret never had Armor Feats in Saga, so he is mostly wearing basic clothing.  Let's give him Padded Armor, though, because he needs all the protection he can get.  When you carry a big cannon, you draw a lot of heat.  Because of this, Barret will apply his Jury-Rigged talent to the Padded Armor, giving it a Ranged Defense bonus of +1.

We port over the usual gear you'd expect someone to have in Star Wars; Utility Belt, Stimpacks, Comlink, Climbing Gear, Datapad, Glow Rod, and extra Power Packs.  Because of his medical training we give him a Medpac on the ship, and Emergency Medpac in the field, and 10 doses of Synthskin.  For his Mechanics checks, he's got a Tool Kit and 3 Emergency Repair Kits.  Finally after an unfortunate encounter with a Sith, Barret lost his left leg to a lightsaber cut.  He's got a cybernetic leg to replace it, but doesn't receive any specific bonuses due to having it (because he's still got his original right leg).

The final touches are the tricky ones; Obligation and Motivation.  Lucky for me, Barret has a big obligation thanks to his character origins; Debt.  He took out a bank loan to buy the ship he and his partner, Marin Zycolik, map the galaxy in.  It's not a criminal organization, but a reputable lender, so a 5 point Obligation is probably sufficient enough (especially because Barret and Marin have worked to stay ahead of the payments).

I actually lucked out for Motivations too, because I subscribed to GM Chris's "Three Questions" and made all my PCs answer the following questions.
What does your character Love?: Kind of abstract, but his love of tech and anything new keeps Barrett going. He knows the next great breakthrough could just be around the next star system and he wants to be the one to discover it. Plus he loves working to music. Be it actual music or the pulsing hum of a well-tuned engine, it’s all love to his ears.
What does your character Hate?: He has a weird distrust of anyone who doubted him and his dreams back on his home world. Sort of like he’s out to prove them wrong. There is also an irrational doubt when dealing with anyone from a low-tech world.
Why is he working for the Republic? Barrett may be from a noble background with some income, but it doesn’t pay all the bills. If he had his way, Barrett would be tooling around the galaxy on the lookout for the latest and greatest tech toy. But there is no income in that. So he’s working with Marin and the rest of the group to help pay for his way across the stars.
So Barret has the following Motivations; Ambition-Technophile and Wanderlust.  His "hate" is a good one, but is hard to fit into the "Ambition/Cause/Relationships" framework.  It's sort of a part of his Technophile Motivation, as he distrusts and dislikes those who are afraid of or refuse to use technology to improve their lives.

And here's what Barret Taliff looks like, Edge of the Empire style...

Final Thoughts

When I did this conversion, I was surprised how quickly experience points were eaten up.  Trying to capture the feel of this Saga character required me to buy into two extra Specializations, one of them a non-Career one.  That ate up a lot of points, almost a quarter of them.  I likely could have cut one of them, and been happy with a more focused character (300 xp and not one purchase of Dedication...?), but I don't think it would be Barret.  He needs those Specializations to round out the various skills and abilities he's picked up in over three years of gaming.

This is the first of seven PCs I have to convert, and he's the easiest.  Next is Vandal the former HK-Assassin Droid, Marin the Explorer Corps scout, Lucas the criminal hero (think Zorro with Force Powers), Glendora the Zeltron Jedi Healer, Nicaela the Miraluka Jedi Duelist, and Tycho the Jedi Sage.  Those last three are going to require a fair bit of custom work.  Fortunately, there are people out there who have home-brewed resources for folks to use while we eagerly await for Fantasy Flight Games to fill in the gaps.

Custom Resources

Odds are pretty good that you're not going to be able to port over your characters directly to Edge of the Empire.  Like me, you'll need to either come up with some custom house-rules, or find someone online who's done the work for you.  There are many great resources over at the D20 Radio Forums from folks who have made custom races, ships, and Careers and Talent Trees for those pesky Force users.
Unofficial Species Menagerie, by Agent 94 and Agent 66
Ways of the Force, Force Character options for the Rebellion Era and several new Force Powers by Donovan Morningfire 
Jedi Career by Awaypturwpn, another take on the Jedi Career by one of the Gamer Nation
Edge of the Jedi, My custom Jedi Career and Lightsaber Style Specialization trees

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