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Star Wars Trio

June 1, 2014

“If I ever played in a Star Wars game,” said Jason, one gaming day as we were winding down a campaign arc, “I’d like to play a wookiee grenadier, who’s a performer. So I can be a wookiee rapper who drops bombs.”

The pure epicness of that idea was hard to deny. “Well,” said I, “I could always run a Star Wars game. Take the old WEG d6 modules and run them in the FFG’s new Star Wars RPG system.” (Because, apparently, I’ve dedicated myself to running old modules in new systems, see my Bloodstone campaign for reference…)

And so it came to pass, and we’ve played a few sessions and been having a good time, leading me to write this post to talk about the new FFG Star Wars system, the Isis Coordinates, and Elladora Leroux.

And we’re going to do this in reverse order!

Elladora Leroux was the character I played years ago the first time I played in a Star Wars campaign. She was a feisty pilot, never afraid to dive into action, as agile on her feet as she was behind a control yoke, and with a bristling determination… oh how she was a hell of a lot of fun to play. Her story culminates with not only a grand moment of epic adventurism (the kind every RPG player wants to tell you about their character…) but also includes my best die roll EVAR. Two sweet things rolled into one. I’ve placed her story on my RPG page linked here, so go have a read if you want to follow her (and my) exploits.

The first SW adventure Elladora and I went through was the Isis Coordinates. I remember it being fun, and so thought hey, I’ll run that one as the first adventure for our new SW campaign. It’s not a bad adventure, and we had fun (both then and now), but, wow… put plainly, this adventure is railroad-y as smeg! Sure, most adventures are pretty linear, but the narrowness of this adventure as written is pretty special. Almost each chapter transitions to the next in a very specific way, and to make sure that happens there are a lot of: “if the players don’t do X, Y happens” to keep things going the same way; “though the players may try something, it won’t work, and this will happen”; “there are 50 stormtroopers, be sure to let the players know that any resistance would be futile”; here’s a convenient NPC spy to help you along (help you out of, I might note, the situation the adventure forced you into!); “DO NOT LET THE PLAYERS DO X RIGHT NOW!” ‘advice’; and the like. Not one of the better adventure designs overall. Now, if everyone’s having fun, who cares about the rails, but I was getting concerned about pummeling the characters into too narrow a path. I ended up forgoing most of Chapter 5 for a much more satisfying little game, dovetailing into a lovely successful Chapter 6.

So if you ever go to run this module, I recommend reading it all the way through, making a more loose outline, and re-writing a few more things to allow the players more leeway to do things. Take it from the railroad to the wide road.

And that leads me to discussing the FFG SW system. We’ve played about six sessions or so now, and we’re getting a bit of a handle on it. When I first heard about the system (through the experiences of the Penny Arcade guys) I thought I’d really like it, what with it using a dice pool mechanism (using funky specialized dice), and having an interesting advantage/disadvantage mechanic that promised to introduce more narrative fun w/o concerns that the GM was being a prick. My thoughts on it now overall, though, are mixed. Not surprisingly this may be reinforcing or butting up against my shifting RPG tastes, but I finding it much too… fiddly. The base of the system is mostly fine, with the dice pool and the interaction of skills. But there seems to be a bunch of subsystems that overlap, not always the most smoothly, and the layout of the book makes for a difficult time to find them all and double check how they all interact.

As for the advantage/disadvantage mechanic, it hasn’t worked out as smoothly as I would have envisioned. For one, most die rolls generate some amount of ad/disad, and spending that ad/disad in combat gets not only tedious, but repetitive. Outside of combat, because ad/disad is generated so often, figuring out what to do with the ad/disad gets to be either too much of a game for the GM, or again, becomes meaningless. (To combat that last issue, I’m going to follow the idea from combat that it takes 3 ad/disad to create an actual narrative ad/disad for the character, and mostly ignore 2 or less, since the strain economy is a bit weird to me)

Another spot where it gets rough is that you can spend advantage to activate a critical hit! Yay! Where you now have to pull out your d100 (the only time in the whole system where you need a d100), and roll on the table, often doing some effect that is meaningless on a soon-to-die mook, so it almost becomes better to spend your advantage on something OTHER than the crit. Hrmph.

So, I’m less than enamoured right now. We’re going to keep going with it, and I think there are some nifty bits in there that’ll sing together, at one point. And we’ll have to see what we can scratch, remove, simplify, and unify under something that should… I mean, this is STAR WARS, it’s space opera! It’s fast moving gonzo action of w00tiness!   There are bits that just don’t seem to facilitate that. When we find those bits, I’m going to make a note, re-read it to be sure I didn’t misunderstand, and if I didn’t, then I’ll take my lightsabre (or two, and dual wield) to exorce them from our game. We’ll replace them with something that, if not as “perfect”, at least lets the game fly.

And yes.  Tyvokka is, indeed, a wookiee rapper who drops bombs!

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