Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Lightbearers: Part 1- Jailbreak

So here it is; the beginning of a new campaign.  It's a playtesting campaign, but to me and my storytelling that means nothing.  If anything, it simply means I need to pay more attention to the Rules As Written.  This is all going to FFG, after all.

So here are my PCs...

Vel Kloon
Kel Dor
Sage &
Niman Disciple
Ambition: Enlightenment
Soresu Defender
Bravery/ Anger
Cause: Freedom & Ambition: Discovery
Xi’quar Vesh  
Starfighter Ace
Independence/ Coldness &
Curiosity/ Obsession
Ambition: Survival
Pride/ Arrogance
Faith: Friends and Family & Faith: Science and Reason
Voren Jaxx
Shii-Cho Knight
Enthusiasm/ Recklessness
Help the Helpless
Ataru Striker
Curiosity/ Obstinateness
Faith: Natural World

Not a bad group, to be sure.  They'd be quite formidable if they weren't all waking up in their own detention cell aboard an Imperial Corvette.  Without any equipment.  Or weapons.  Or armor other than a bright orange jump-suit.

Fortunately for them, that didn't last long.

A slightly different start than "You are all in a cantina when..."

Vigil-Class Corvette Yardway
Orbiting above a currently-unknown planet
0 ABY (4 months after the Battle of Yavin)

The PCs wake up sore but alive, with fleeting memories of some violent abduction from wherever they were before, and vague recollections of being in some examination/interrogation room facing some pale human male with yellow eyes.  They wake up to explosions rocking them in their cells, tossing them about.  The force fields that keep them in their cells flicker and fail, as do the main lights in the hallway outside.  An alert comes over some intercom saying that there's been a power loss to the brig, and that security should secure the prisoners. 

At this point the PCs sprung into action.

They investigated the area, finding two dead Imperial Naval Troopers and one barely alive one trying to draw his blaster but failing due to 3rd degree burns over the entire right side of his body.  Eventually the PCs grab weapons from the fallen guards as well as their own gear from the two storage lockers in the security office.  They fail to open the second locker before two groups of Naval Troopers and an Officer finally breach the doors to the Brig and come in blasting.

The PCs didn't take the Conflict-earning bait and kill the dying guard, and in fact Irith tried to treat him.  They ended up disarming him and leaving him tied up but alive for whomever to find.

The rest of the PCs acted to the situation according to their Morality and Motivation; Voren grabbed whatever melee weapon was at hand and charged into melee (where his Shii-Cho talents aided his attacks).  Fen moved to the northern door and barred the second team entry, weaponless but determined.  Kuru got his carbine and started taking out troopers, and Xi'quar grabbed a blaster and as much cover as he could to stay alive.  Irith got the security console working again and locked the door to the North, allowing Fen to move to retrieve his gear. 

Vel did his best trying to assist in the endeavor, and in fact all encounters this session.  Apparently, the dice were not with him this adventure, as he rarely scored any successes or much of anything beneficial with his rolls.  Still, he tried and did as admirably as he could.

Eventually the PCs took out the southern group of Troopers and made a break for the escape pods, because the intercom now announced there was some sort of hull breach aboard the ship.  They pass a room with an examination table, a single chair, and some medical control panel.  Xi'quar searches it quickly for clues to what happened there or what the Imperials were looking for, but ultimately finds nothing but a code cylinder, which he takes, and smashes a few objects in the room with his mace-like truncheon (earning 2 Conflict).

The characters run into a few Stormtroopers and a Stormtrooper Sergeant cutting them off from the escape pods.  They fight, with Voren taking two solid blasts from the stormtrooper's rifles.  During the fight the intercom announces an alert to abandon ship, which heartens the characters to try and make it to the pods.

At the start of the next round, a pale human in armored robes carrying a strange cube emerges from a turbolift and pauses.  With fierce yellow eyes, he states that the characters should have stayed in their cells, because then they would have at least died in peace.  He stows the cube in a large hip pouch and ignites a double-bladed saber.  He doesn't seem too interested in fighting, just getting to a pod.

I forgot to have my PCs roll for Fear, here.  Which could have led to some more Conflict on the part of the PCs.

Vel tries to take out the Stormtrooper sergeant, but a Despair result caused his training saber to strike the escape pod console on the follow through and trigger one of the escape pods to launch, leaving two in that area. 

The Inquisitor blasts Fen with Force Lightning, rolling one success but three Triumphs.  He inflicts a Critical Injury, causing an agonizing wound and heads to one of the two remaining escape pods.

Voren moves in to engage both the Sergeant and the Inquisitor, attacking the Sergeant.  He clubs him soundly, but doesn't drop him.  With the Triumph he scores, he spends it to hook the Inquisitor's hip pouch on the back swing and tears it free from his belt.  The pouch and it's contents falls to the deck.

Just then, the ship starts trembling violently, tossing the Inquisitor back into the escape pod.  With a muffled, cut-off shout of "NOOOO-" the pod slams shut and launches with his polygonal prize still lying on the deck.  The characters finish off the sergeant, snag the cube, and hop into the pod.

Xi'quar now shows his stuff as he expertly flies the escape pod through the atmosphere, the cause of the stricken corvette's violent trembling.  They watch as their prison-ship disintegrates upon re-entry to whatever mountainous world they are now plummeting towards.  With Kuru's guidance and pack mentality (giving two Boost dice on an assist), Xi'quar lands the pod in a narrow valley, avoiding certain death by mountain-impact like a (Force-aided) pro.  (Xi'quar adds the Enhance Force power to his Piloting checks, but he doesn't consciously know it)

The characters emerge from the pod in an arid, scrub-filled valley, surrounded by high, orange mountains.  They saw a city from orbit scores of Kilometers to the east, and a road of some sorts a couple kilometers to the Northwest.  Irith disables the pod's homing beacon, seemingly without need for many basic tools while the rest of the party breaks out the survival kit and tends to their wounds.

Vel finally feels useful as, with Fen and Kuru's assistance, examines the cube and reveals it's true nature.  The cube glows brightly and a 40cm high hologram appears above the cube and speaks directly to Vel.

"Greetings and may the Force be with you.  I am the Holocron of Satele Shan, Grand Master of the Jedi Order.  How may I assist you?"

And that's where the adventure ended.

No Plan Survives Contact With the PCs

Look at all the map I didn't use...

Originally, I had planned for the PCs to wander around the ship a little more to try and figure out where they were (they still don't know what planet they're on).  A couple more encounters, a couple more opportunities for Conflict.  The plan was for the Inquisitor to leave the ship just as he did, but also launch every escape pod.  The characters then had to split up to go to engineering and the bridge to try and keep the ship together and on-track long enough to crash it safely, sort of like Obi-Wan and Anakin in Episode 3 on the Invisible Hand.  Each group needed to score 7 successes before 3 Failed rolls to consider their team "successful".  I had it worked out as follows...

Both Teams Fail: The ship disintegrates around the players, but the core of the ship remains intact into the atmosphere.  Players are going to come down in the mountains and prepare for impact.  What’s left of the Yardway slams into several mountain peaks and eventually sideswipes a mountain range, causing it to plow down into the valley below.  Each character suffers a Medium Fall (30 damage, 20 Strain).  An Average Coordination or Athletics check can reduce the damage (1 wound per success, one strain per advantage).
Bridge Team Succeeds/Engineering Team Fails: The players are able to pull the stricken corvette out of it’s death dive, but the heat from re-entry has fried most of the remaining systems on the ship.  The Yardway comes in at a gradual angle into a mountain range.  The ship hops and bounces, coming more and more apart with each impact.  The ship eventually skids to a jarring halt, throwing everyone forward.  Each character suffers a Short Fall (10 wounds, 10 strain).   An Average Coordination or Athletics check can reduce the damage (1 wound per success, one strain per advantage).
Engineering Team Succeeds/Bridge Team Fails: The engineering team is able to restore the shields, but the ship is coming in too fast.  The controls are shot, and the bridge crew barely keeps the ship from slamming nose first into a cliff.  The ship bounces and skids to halt in a valley, only remaining intact due to the last vestiges of the shield system and structural integrity.  Each character suffers a Short Fall (10 wounds, 10 strain).   An Average Coordination or Athletics check can reduce the damage (1 wound per success, one strain per advantage).
Both Teams Succeed: With the shields in place and retro thrusters able to level out the descent, the stricken corvette is able to level off and glide in to a landing in a vast mountain range.  Thanks to the piloting efforts on the bridge, the ship comes in for a belly landing and somehow manages not to skid sideways into a death-roll.  After several bone-jarring bounces, the ship plows to a halt at the bottom of a vast canyon valley surrounded by a wide mountain range.

 That didn't work out, so I had a similar check rolled by just Xi'quar, since he needed a moment of glory.

Final tally for Conflict was Xi'quar 2, no Conflict for anyone else.  Final Morality rolls resulted in the following.

Vel Kloon
Xi’quar Vesh  
Voren Jaxx

Yup, Kirk rolled a 1, and lost Morality. 

I pre-rolled the next session's Morality Trigger, so that I have a chance to plan for it.  I rolled a 9, meaning both Vel and Xi'quar will have opportunities to trigger their Morality next time.  This was the first time I pre-rolled like that, but I might do it for all my games going forward.  I like knowing who's Obligation/Duty/Morality mechanic triggers, so I can write it in to the story instead of having to derail my plotline to try and work it in.  My problem with that is I tend to be pretty focused on my own writing, so when I trigger someones Obligation, it tends to do little more than debuff the party instead of appear in the story.  I want to give my PCs a chance to have these mechanics actually MEAN something, hopefully doing it this way will allow for these opportunities more.

Everyone earned 25 xp, a lot for a 3 hour game but this is technically a Beta Test group, and I want them to get up in the Talent Trees and Force Powers to start testing what's in the book.


Just a few points on things I've noticed...
  • Training Lightsabers are just fine in the hands of starting PCs who encounter more Minions and Rivals than Nemesis-opponents.  8 Stun Damage is still enough to drop a Naval Trooper, and can ruin a Navy Officer's day pretty well too.
  • I need to remember to make Fear checks.  I think I've remembered to do that once, ever, in two years playing this FFG Star Wars RPG system.  Because it could result in Conflict, I need to remember to use it where appropriate.
  • I've also come to the realization I need to present more situations for the PCs to earn Conflict.  And not be afraid to assign it.  In my observations in the game and on the FFG Forums, Heroes will earn Conflict just by being adventuring heroes.  Characters that don't generate Conflict should be uncommon.  The trick for players should be to manage the Conflict their characters earn.  Don't game the system, manage it.
This playtest is going to be a blast.  I can feel it.  More story to come, more adventures to follow.  More feedback for FFG.  Their first Beta Update is planed for this coming Tuesday, that gives me and my players a week to review and prepare for it. 

Not sure what I'll write about next week, but in two weeks we should have another update from The Lightbearers.

Until then, may the dice be with you.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Light the Fires

Tomorrow night I start up a new campaign, of sorts.  My "Wild Cards" campaign is on temporary hiatus.  I'm trying to figure out where to take it, and also since it's part of the much larger Another Longshot mega-campaign, I feel like I need to put the brakes on while I figure out my plans for the other team(s).  In the meantime, we've been given this lovely black-covered manuscript from FFG, and an open request to play the hell out of it and give feedback on what players and GMs think works and what doesn't. 

So for purely scientific reasons and solely for creative feedback purposes, I've transitioned my usual bi-weekly, Tuesday night game to test out the Force and Destiny Beta rulebook.  I'm certainly not doing it because I've nearly destroyed the book flipping through it so many times or because I've drooled all over the pages. 

And if you believe that, I've got a lovely plot of land on Alderaan I'd love to sell you.  Cheap, too!

I know I've said this before; but this time I'm going to try...really, really give readers a peek behind the curtain in my presentation of this campaign.  I'm highly motivated to do this because this is a playtesting process.  These rules have to work with both sides of the GM screen; with players and with Gamemasters.  So I'm going to try and talk about how my adventures were formed, and how the party performed, and what rules worked and what rules didn't.  I'm going to be submitting this data to FFG for their Beta Test, and will hopefully contribute to the final product.

So later this week, hopefully, you folks will start to get a GM-eye view of "The Lightbearers".