Thursday, January 27, 2011

A New Star Wars Campaign - Zebulon Space: Volturnus!

Yes, for my Star Wars Saga campaign I am using the old Star Frontiers adventure trilogy of SF-0, SF-1, and SF-2. I actually ran the first part of a conversion back in the d20 RCR days and it went pretty well until the group took an extended break, so this isn't a totally brand new idea for me.

The conversion itself is pretty easy - both games have space pirates, both games have various nasty creatures, both games have lasers/blasters, vibroblades, and armor. The tech is a little lower in Star Frontiers but that just means that the pirates jetcopter becomes an airspeeder and an Explorer ATV becomes a landspeeder - not a big deal. I actually have the original modules open at the table and use NPC's and monsters on index cards for stats when needed. It's a very easy way to keep the original flavor while using the relevant mechanics for whichever system - if it worked with RCR then it will work with everything from Saga to Savage Worlds.

The framework for the campaign is this: It is the time between Episode I and Episode II: Tensions are building and secession is in the air. The Republic sees that it may need additional resources in the future to support a war effort or in case trade is cut off.

As part of the search for new resources a diplomatic expedition has been sent to a newly contacted star cluster beyond the Outer Rim. Initial contact was made by Jedi pursuing some space pirates. They reported back that these systems include several large corporations, a somewhat lower level of technology albeit with widespread use of droids, and no organized force users such as Jedi. Now, after several months, the Republic is sending an official ambassador, a diplomatic party, some Jedi, and some guards for the group. The player characters are part of this expedition.

OK that gives us a reason to get the party together and points them all towards the same destination. It's a "mission" approach which is a little heavy handed but when starting a campaign I like the "reverse funnel" approach - start narrow and then broaden the horizons as the players (and the DM) get a better feel for things. We will be starting at 1st level.

The structure of the adventures breaks down like this:

Act I - Space Pirates! The PC's begin on board a Republic diplomatic cruiser. It comes out of hyperspace in the Volturnus system for a rendezvous with a diplomatic party from the Truane System, a local cluster government. The ship is instead attacked by space pirates and after some good old fashioned hallway combat the PC's are forced to head for the escape pods before the ship goes down.

Act II -  Crash in the Desert! The PC's take stock of their supplies and  begin traveling through the desert in search of water and shelter and some kind of civilization, encountering hazards, creatures, and space pirate patrols and eventually meet some natives, the Ul-Mor.

Act III -Creatures and Caverns! The Ul-Mor lead the party to a tunnel network that is the safest way to cross the rest of the burning desert. Along the way they will encounter some underground hazards, creatures, a crazy native, and a grounded space pirate before they finally emerge back into the sunlight.

Act IV - Ritual of the Quickdeath! The party talks with the native Ul-Mor and are given a chance to join the tribe by undergoing a tribal challenge. They then meet some other survivors who have joined the tribe and begin to piece together what's going on out here.

(This is the end of SF-0)

Act V - Kurabanda!  The Ul-More have seen other non-natives living with the Kurabanda, another race who lives in a distant forest. They guide the PC's across the plains to find them and discover a group of pirates fighting with a Kurabanda patrol. They talk to the tribe and aid in a hunt

Act VI -  Raid on the Pirate Outpost! The Kurabanda agree to lead the PC's to a pirate outpost which they infiltrate/attack/mind trick and discover that there is another alien race being used for slave labor and some offworld prisoners being held at a mining camp

Act VII - Fall of the Star Devils! The PC's journey to a village of the Edestakai, encountering hazards and creatures along the way. They meet the natives and try to convince them that the space pirates are not holy messengers but are evil. The Edestakai then lead the party to the pirate base and may even help them fight depending on how things went earlier. This is likely to begin with stealth or deception followed by a big battle. In the aftermath they see an unknown alien carrying a human body.

Act VIII - City of the Ancients! The PCs are taken to the ruined city of the gods by the Edestakai and attempt to locate the beings who live beneath the ruins. Exploring the place they find that a partial high-tech base is still online, run by a race known as the Eorna who ruled the planet long ago. They have awakened from cryosleep recently and are monitoring activity in the system and are concerned that an artifact left on the planet may alert their old enemies the Satahr that hyperspace entires and exits have been detected.

Act IX - The Pylon! - the PC's travel to the ancient Satahr artifact and attempt to explore and disable it, learning in the process that the Satahr are an ancient Sith servitor race. They also learn that an alert has already been sent and that the Sathar are sending a battle force to destroy the interlopers.

(This is the end of SF-1)

Act X - Mounds of the Mechanons!  Having determined that the best way to defeat the Sathar is to unite the races of the planet in a grand alliance, the PC's travel to the lands of the droid-like Mechanons, the fourth "younger race" of Volturnus to convince them to join the war effort.

Act XI - The Great Game! The PC's participate in an annual ritual of the Ul-Mor to convince them to join the alliance

Act XII - Sacred Idol of the Kurabanda! The PC's attempt to convince the Kurabanda to join the alliance by recovering a sacred idol of their people.

Act XIII - Capturing Justice! The PC's attempt to convince the Edestakai to join the alliance but they have to capture a dangerous animal alive to seal the deal.

Act XIV - The Battle of Volturnus! The PC's gather the allies they have recruited and using both their skill and their combat prowess attempt to  throw the Sathar invasion forces off of Volturnus.

This is the end of SF-2 and the first arc of the campaign. Acts 10-13 can really be played in any order leading up to the big battle at the end. Assuming each act takes one session to play that's a pretty good start to the campaign. Assuming they level up about every other session then the party would be in the 7-8-9 range by the end and ready for new challenges. Jedi will be ready for "Knight" status, Soldiers would be eligible for commands of their won if they choose to join an organized force. Other classes might make a big payoff with their local crimelord or be awarded something for exploring a new world and adding to galactic knowledge. In some fashion, it's a significant turning point in the characters' carers.

Cool things about these adventures:
  • Space pirates make good practice dummies for learning about combat then they go away about halfway through and get replaced by a Sith type race - nasty!
  • The Sathar use cybernetically modified monsters, warbots, and also fight in person - this lets me work in some critters from Tales of the Jedi and other places and some of the old sith weaponry more commonly found in KOTOR.
  • The "convincing the natives" parts use a cool mix of combat and RP to get a decent result. I'll experiment with making some of them a 4E style skill challenge but not all. Everyone should be happy.
  • There are a lot of Star Wars tropes in here too - escape pods, deserts, forests, battle droids, riding native mounts across some wild terrain, encounters with wild creatures, hand to hand battles, ambushes, infiltrating hostile installations - it's a nice mix of stuff. 
  • I can compress or expand the amount of time spent in many of these sessions by deciding how much time to spend on the "travel" section - sometimes there might be a lot of encounters, sometimes there might be none to speed things along. It also helps with controlling the speed of advancement in the party.
  •  Long term if the players want to stick around out here I can use some of the other Star Frontiers material and let them go exploring or have them assigned to hunt down Sathar. If they want to go back and fight battledroids alongside clone troopers then we can do that too. Longer-term, assuming any of them avoid Order 66 (assuming that still happens) then this would be a nice place for a force-user to run and hide for a few years or decades.  
 I haven't filled in every potential blank spot:
  • If a character dies I can drop in other survivors early on but once the pirates are wiped out in Act 7 that gets a little tougher to do.  I suppose I will handle this on the fly if it comes up.
  • I want a space battle going on during the big ground battle finale so I have to work in a Republic fleet arriving but without massed troops to reinforce the natives. Considering the events of Episode II this shouldn't be an issue - they apparently do not have an army until the clones arrive! Dead PC's could be replaced by Jedi or other characters at this point too, but it's almost late.
  • Future complications - by introducing a dark side race into the game I am creating a potential wild card where Palpatine and Dooku are concerned - would either of them make an effort to reach out to these aliens? How would that go? It could be fun for the future as introducing factors like this can blow up the canon storyline and let the players know it's all up to them - nothing is written in stone. If it turns out to be a long-term problem then maybe the Death Star's first live test firing is somewhere out beyond the rim.


    Barking Alien said...

    I'm liking it alot. The reverse funnel concept you mention is particularly effective for this type of adventure, at least in the early stages. Watch out that it doesn't start to feel too linear or rail roady (not that it necessarily is but it can feel that way to the PCs).

    One element that has been particularly popular with every Star Wars group I'm played with but I don't see much reference to here is Starship Combat. Not sure where you'd work it in (though I have a few ideas) but I'd be very surprised if no one played a pilot or smuggler and wondered where their ship was in all of this.

    Blacksteel said...

    The Apprentices don't have as keen a sense of railroading as more veteran players do so no worries there yet.

    You have hit on the one weakness of this series of adventures though - no space combat. With younger players and a new system to master I figure we have enough to do to start with but it is a hole in the esperience. (The real-world reason for this is that Star Frontiers didn't have space combat when it first came out - that was added in the Knighthawks boxed set and these adventures predate it.)

    I'm looking at this as their first mission, where the galaxy first takes notice of them. Jedi are considered padawans up until about 7th level in this system, so I see this as their breakthrough adventure and after this they can more actively chart their own destiny, take their pick of job offers, etc. If they do not start with a ship then I will work one in when they finish this arc.

    If someone takes a scoundrel or pilot-type and really really wants a ship I will probably have it captured by the pirates when they take the cruiser in the opening and then let the PC's liberate it when they take the pirate base later on. It gives them another reason to hate the pirates and makes it that much more personal for the scoundrel, and might set up a long-term enemy for the campaign if they stay in this area of space. Actually that's a pretty good idea and they might find a captured Jedi fighter even if they don;t take a ship of their own.

    I'm not sure it will come up - I'm probably looking at two Jedi (one of the big attractions of the prequel era) and a wookie of some kind right now so they may not care but you pointing it out has made me think about it a little more - Thanks!