Sunday, April 21, 2013

Li's Cantina

In Return of the Jedi, the Emperor tells Luke that "It is unavoidable. It is your destiny." He's referring, of course, to Luke turning to the Dark Side of the Force. He could just as well have been talking about the likelihood of a group of heroes in any Star Wars RPG ending up in a cantina during any given gaming session. With that in mind, this article presents one such establishment that a GM can drop into a campaign. Additionally, it provides a connection to Dibs Nkik the Jawa and his droid spy ring.

The Cantina
This is another simple pourstone building, one story tall. It fronts on a main thoroughfare, with a back door opening on an alleyway. The main room (1) features a broad, curving bar, with booths along the walls for a little more privacy. There are also a couple of refreshers (2) for patrons to use. Behind the bar a door leads into the kitchen (3), where the cook prepares such favorites as bantha burgers, dewback ribs and the like. From there, one door provides a rear exit, while another opens into the storage room (4). The final room is the private quarters of the cantina's proprietors.

Seron Li
Brawn 3 Cunning 2 Presence 3
Agility 2 Intellect 2 Willpower 2

Soak: 4
Wound Threshold: 15
Strain Threshold: 12
M/R Defense: 0/0

Skills: Athletics 2, Brawl 3, Coerce 1, Cool 2, Coordination 1, Deception 1, Medicine 1, Melee 3, Perception 1, Ranged (Light) 2, Resilience 2, Stealth 1, Streetwise 2, Survival 2, Vigilance 1

Talents: Frenzied Attack, Toughened

Abilities: One free rank in Charm or Deception

Equipment: Heavy clothing, cudgel, blaster pistol, vibro-blade (not usually carried)

At one time Seron Li worked as an enforcer for an influential Twi'lek family on Ryloth. Two things led to him ending his employment, however. One was that he gradually grew sick of the job, developing a distaste for roughing up those who crossed his employers. The other was a beautiful Twi'lek thief named Vesa. When he was forced to choose between doing his duty, and thus never seeing her again, or leaving the business but staying with her, he chose the latter option. Since then the two have been married, and have started new lives as the proprietors of a small cantina. Seron is not the friendliest of beings, but his gruff manner can be useful when dealing with the rough-and-tumble clientele who often frequent the establishment.

Vesa Li
Brawn 2 Cunning 2 Presence 3
Agility 3 Intellect 1 Willpower 2

Soak: 2
Wound Threshold: 13
Strain Threshold: 13
M/R Defense: 0/0

Skills: Athletics 2, Brawl 1, Charm 3, Cool 1, Coordination 3, Deceit 2, Melee 1, Negotiate 2, Perception 2, Ranged (Light) 2, Resilience 1, Skulduggery 2, Stealth 2, Streetwise 1, Survival 1, Vigilance 2

Talents: Inspiring Rhetoric, Kill with Kindness

Abilities: One free rank in Charm or Deception

Equipment: Light clothing, light blaster pistol, comlink

Vesa's personality is complimentary to Seron's; while he is gruff, she is outgoing and friendly (It helps, too, that she is beautiful by the standards of many different species). In this way she acts as the face of their business, while he handles more of the mundane work. In spite of her open and flirtatious ways, however, she is completely loyal to her husband--just as he is to her.

Brawn 2 Cunning 2 Presence 1
Agility 1 Intellect 3 Willpower 1

Soak: 2
Wound Threshold: 13
Strain Threshold: 13
M/R Defense: 0/0

Skills: Astrogation 2, Computers 3, Cool 1, Deceit 2, Mechanics 3, Perception 2, Pilot 2, Ranged (Light) 2, Skulduggery 2, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1, Vigilance 1

Talents: Bypass Security

Abilities: Inorganic, Mechanical Being

Equipment: Integral blaster pistol, hidden storage compartment, standard R2 unit features

R2-D6 functions as a serving droid for the Lis, along with handling maintenance for them. What they don't know is that the droid has been reprogrammed by Dibs Nkik, and now serves the Jawa as a spy.

Using Li's Cantina in an Edge of the Empire Campaign
Seron and Vesa Li, along with their droid assistant, can be used in a campaign in may different ways, including some of the following possibilities.
*As always, the cantina can be a good place for the PC's to meet a contact, celebrate a victory or recover after a defeat.
*An old acquaintance of the Lis from back on Ryloth could come looking for them, perhaps even hiring the PC's to help find them in order to settle some unfinished business.
*R2-D6's snooping could capture a lucrative piece of information, something that an employer hires the PC's to investigate.
*The PCs might just happen to be present when someone is killed via poison, and it takes their cool heads to solve the mystery--especially when the wrong person is accused of the crime.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Trallig's Outfitting/Dibs Nkik's Droid Spy Ring

One of the great things about a shared setting such as the Star Wars galaxy is the fact that many different minds can contribute to creating a world (in this case, hundreds of worlds) with all kinds of different flavors and innumerable details. Such is the case with this NPC, a Jawa who draws much inspiration from the short story anthology Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. When it was published in 1995, it took strange-looking aliens from one scene of the movie and developed their background stories, helping to weave the comlex tapestry of the setting. One of those stories was "Swap Meet: The Jawa's Tale," which introduced the character Het Nkik. Inspired by that, I added Dibs Nkik to my SWRPG campaign in college. He proved to be more interesting to the players, and longer-lasting, than I'd intended, and now I present him here for use in an Edge of the Empire game. Moreover, I've added a map recycled from my d20 Pirates blog, along with suggestions for using both elements in an Edge of the Empire campaign.

Trallig's Outfitting
Savod Trallig runs an outfitting shop, the Rim World equivalent of a general store. He stocks all manner of goods that a being could use on a hardscrabble planet such as Tatooine. While he handles the bookkeeping, purchasing and the like, the Human employs a Jawa as his mechanic and clerk. What Trallig doesn't know is that Dibs Nkik has his own aspirations as an information broker; he reprograms the droids that his kinfolk bring to sell, giving them instructions to transmit any useful information to him. In this way he intends to learn the secrets of those who do business with him, and then to sell those tidbits to interested (and paying) parties.

The Store
The building itself is a simple pourstone structure, about a story and a half in height. It has rounded corners and windows set high in the outside walls to provide light. Inside the front door is the front room (1), which is lined with shelves holding all manner of items. There is also a small table with a workstation for the clerk. From there, one door opens into the refresher (2), and another provides access to the storage room (3). The third leads into the kitchen (4), which is equipped with an autochef. Trallig has his own quarters (5), as does Dibs (6). It is on a computer in this last location that the Jawa keeps his stolen information. Should a character wish to access it, one must succeed at an opposed Computers check to bypass the security access, and then another to break the Jawa's encryption.

Savod Trallig
Brawn 2 Cunning 3 Presence 2
Agility 2 Intellect 2 Willpower 2

Soak: 3
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 12
M/R Defense: 0/0

Skills: Brawl 1, Computers 1, Discipline 2, Knowledge 1, Mechanics 2, Medicine 1, Melee 1, Negotiate 3, Perception 2, Pilot 1, Ranged (Light) 1, Resilience 1, Survival 1, Vigilance 1

Talents: Gearhead

Abilities: None

Equipment: Heavy clothing (jumpsuit), light blaster pistol, comlink, datapad

Dibs Nkik
Brawn 1 Cunning 2 Presence 2
Agility 3 Intellect 3 Willpower 2

Soak: 1
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 13
M/R Defense: 0/0

Talents: Speaks Binary, Utinni!

Abilities: None

Equipment: Heavy clothing (Jawa robe), light blaster pistol. truncheon, tool kit, backpack, datapad

Using Trallig's Outfitting in an Edge of the Empire Campaign
Savod Trallig and his Jawa assistant can be used in a campaign in may different ways, including some of the following possibilities.
*First and foremost, the PC's might have to buy equipment from Trallig, and thus negotiate with him for the best price.
*They might purchase a droid from Dibs, only to find that it spies on them and transmits the information back to the Jawa.
*Alternately, someone who learns of Dibs' spying could hire the PC's to investigate the matter and even protect an important secret.
*While obtaining Dibs' service could cost credits, the Jawa might also strike a deal to trade information in exchange for scavenged droid parts, especially ones not commonly available for purchase.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Name Game

No, I'm not going to talk about the song from 1964. That gets old really quickly and has always made me feel bad for my buddy Chuck. What I'm talking about is something that, for me, has always been one of the toughest parts of creating Star Wars characters and, even more so, running campaigns: coming up with good character names.

Even as a player, this sometimes stumped me. There were a number of times when I sat down for the first session of a campaign, my character sheet complete except for one detail. I even started some of those adventures with an anonymous hero because of my struggles. Once I started GMing, this difficulty was only exacerbated, since I needed to name numerous characters for each scenario.

Now, I can understand if this concern seems silly to some. I tend to be a bit of a purist, however, and it pulls me out of the moment if a name strikes me as silly. That kind of thing was okay when I played in junior high, having heroes with names like Zipper McQuick and Speedy von Fly. (For the record, those were my first two characters ever.) Once I had a few years of playing and GMing under my belt, however, that kind of name just couldn't cut it any more.

To overcome this challenge, I relied on a variety of tactics. First and foremost among these was to carry a notebook at all times, or at least a scrap of paper on which I could jot down inspirations when they struck. Beyond that, however, there were a couple of tactics that generally proved productive.

One is simple observation. I remember one time when I was in the bathroom of my college dormitory. The drains in the showers were made by a company named Zurn; it was printed on them. At the time I though that that would make a good name. The circumstances even provided some inspiration for how to use the character. At that point I was planning a scenario set in the depths of a world-spanning metropolis like Coruscant or Nar Shadaa. On the subject of plumbing, I envisioned a character who could skulk in dank tunnels but who had some mechanical and/or technical aptitude; after that it was simply a matter of writing the stats for that NPC.

Another option is to pick real-world names, especially if they're paired with something more exotic. Characters like Owen Lars, Ben Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and others have at least one name that comes from the people around us.

My favorite trick, however, is to use words that I encounter in everyday life. What I do is take two words that are associated with each other, and then use them to create groups of letters from which names can be made. For example, I heard one time that alligator pear was another name for an avocado. Using these names, I compare them and eliminate the common letters in each--a, a and o. This leaves two groups of letters: l, l, i, g, t, r and v, c, d, o. By rearranging them and adding a letter to one, I create the names C'vod Trallig.

Here's another example. In the paragraph above I used the word humor. I could compare humorous with its synonym comical, which have the common letters o and m. This leaves the letter combinations h, o, r, s, u, u and a, c, c, i, l. The second of those groupings could be combined into given names like Kyle or Alec, with the first providing a family name such as Orush or Shuro.

Sometimes it can also work to take existing words and look at them in different ways. An example of this came when I was making a name for a gambler in a Rebellion-era D6 campaign. I'd learned that the German name for the movie was Krieg der Sterne. I took each of those words backwards and modified the letters a little bit, thus coming up with Gaerk Anraz for that hero.

It can also be useful to pay attention to the existing rules for naming characters of different species. The Hutts come to mind here. They are an intrinsic part of any campaign that involves illicit activities, as any good Star Wars campaign should. Hutts have three names—a surname, a clan name and a given name. Thus Jabba's full name was Jabba Desilijic Tiure. While trying to devise a name for a crimelord in my campaign, I though of three friends who were influential in my gaming career: Shawn, Lars and Andy. Playing around with the letters in those names, I devised one for my Hutt. From that point onward, Slarr Uwanesh Diann was the crimelord.


Online Resources

The Star Wars galaxy is a huge and richly developed setting. Given that, there are already numerous websites that provide information about the franchise, the setting and the RPG. Some of these are detailed below; I'll update the list as I discover new ones.

This is a good starting point, since it's the official website for the franchise.

Next up is the website for Fantasy Flight Games, publishers of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

If you're looking for news about the galaxy far, far away, it's hard to beat this one.

Club Jade
With that said, Club Jade is another good source for news about the GFFA.

When it comes to outright mass of information about Star Wars, Wookieepedia is unmatched. In particular I recommend the collection of images that it includes, with deckplans for ships, maps of cities, floorplans for buildings and the like.

Roseville (MN) Star Wars RPG Meetup
For those who are seeking other gamers in hopes of doing some playing, various Meetup groups are a good option; take, for example, the one closest to me.

Triumph & Despair
This is a blog written by C. Steven Ross with lots of good articles and even complete adventures.

Jegergryte's Cubicle
This blog, written by someone named Jegergryte, also includes numerous resources.

Dono's Gaming & Etc. Blog
The title explains it pretty well for this one.

This blog is prolific in producing quality material.

A blog from a fellow who has worked on numerous Star Wars RPG products

Star Wars Homebrew
Another source for equipment and other stuff

Consummate Gamer
This one's not specifically for Edge of the Empire, but it has good stuff.

This one has material for the RPG, the minis game, and more.

Another good source for equipment and stats, along with excellent character folios


First, Second and Third Impressions

Welcome, readers, to what I hope is the first of a long series of articles regarding the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. For this first post, I'd like to discuss my thoughts on the game and how it differs from previous incarnations of Star Wars roleplaying games.

First, Second and Third Impressions
I have to admit that my impressions of the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG from Fantasy Flight Games has been an up-and-down kind of thing.

When I first saw the beta version of the game at Gen Con last year, I was really excited. After all, Wizards of the Coast had allowed its license for the Saga Edition version of the Star Wars RPG to end two and a half years prior, and so it was good to see that somebody had acquired the rights to publish a game. I bought a copy of FFG's softcover and began reading. The full-color book was pretty, and the art was aesthetically pleasing.

The first time I noticed the weird dice that Edge of the Empire would use, however, my enthusiasm waned. After all, I've been playing other RPG's with standard polyhedral dice for more than twenty years, and so the new ones seemed unnecessarily strange. I also wondered how the process of putting together a dice pool would affect the speed and flow of game play. I'd played the old D6 Star Wars RPG from West End Games, and that was a very smooth system. While the D20-based system from WotC could be rather clunky in some ways, it had the benefit of being familiar and therefore worked pretty well for those of us who'd been playing D&D 3rd Edition and Pathfinder for twelve years.

Last week, however, I actually had a chance to run Edge of the Empire. While visiting some old friends, I ran the introductory scenario, "Escape from Mos Shuuta," from the Beginner Game. It was a lot of fun. While we did have to stop and look up the rules sometimes, we were quickly able to set up our dice pools and thus resolve the characters' actions. The combat sequences moved along at a pace faster than any Saga Editions I'd run, and were comparable even to ones using the old D6 system.

More importantly, the mechanic of using Advantage, Triumph, Threat and Despair to influence the course of action in the game proved to be a refreshing change. Given the rules-heavy nature of D20-based RPG's, combat can sometimes feel like it pits the GM and NPC's against the players and their characters. Running Edge of the Empire, in contrast, felt like it helped reinforce the idea of cooperative storytelling, the element that I most enjoy about RPG's.

Take, for example, the end of the introductory scenario. (WARNING! Spoilers for "Escape from Mos Shuuta" follow.) As the heroes were storming the docking bay, they ran into Trex the Trandoshan as he came walking down the boarding ramp of the Krayt Fang. He managed to run back into the ship and closing the entry hatch, but the heroes opened it again. At that point he fled into the cockpit and closed the door to it behind him. The Twi'lek gave chase and succeeded in opening it, too, but also generated some Threat. One of the players suggested that the door would open, but only a little bit, and I agreed that that was the result. Then the Wookiee ran up to the door, made an impressive Brawn check to force it open, and incapacitated Trex with a mighty swing of his vibro-axe. It was a fun encounter, made even more so by the fact that the players added complications to the scene. I look forward to having many more memorable adventures in the Star Wars galaxy playing this game.