Monday, February 7, 2011

Star Wars: Zebulan Space - The Crawl and Act I

Well since I can't get the crawl creator to link properly to the blog here is the opening crawl for the new campaign:

Episode I: Volturnis Awaits 

 Trouble is brewing in the Galactic Republic. A Separtist movement led by former Jedi Master Count Dooku is gaining momentum.

Fearing a disruption of trade and possibly even war, a renewed  search for new resources and allies takes a small band of diplomats and explorers to the newly contacted Zebulon Star Cluster beyond the Outer Rim.

Lead Negotiator SHUB NURATH has agreed to meet with local trade representatives in the uninhabited star system of Volturnis. Aided by Jedi Master JEET KUNDO he hopes to secure a trade agreement with these distant worlds and open a new era of peaceful prosperity for them and for the Republic.

As the Republic Cruiser Serena Dawn enters the Volturnis system  strange signals are detected in space and on the planet below...

 I've probably violated several "rules of the crawl" in there but I'm happy enough with it. After we had spent an hour or so creating characters I ran it in the crawl creator on full screen with speakers blaring for the Apprentices and they were pretty excited. We then went into the other room and started up our first session.

(And yes, those are names of my old Star Wars characters in there. They can be quite silly, I admit this freely, but they at least "look right" to me)

Our heroes begin aboard the Serena Dawn, waiting for something to happen as the whole mission has been a mixture of boredom and excitement but no real action. Things are about to change. Our protagonists are:

  • A Kel Dor Jedi (Padawan) played by Apprentice Blaster
  • A Human Jedi (Padawan) played by Apprentice Red
  • A Rodian Scoundrel played by Apprentice Who
(Character names have been left out as they needed more time to think of some good ones, although there was some discussion that the Rodian may be named "Tweeto")

As an alarm sounds and the ship shudders under multiple impacts, the padawans jump on the commlink and seek their masters.  Master Kundo is headed for the engineering section as there are reports of a boarding party there. Master Xeen (hastily named as the second Jedi character was a last-minute left turn) is already launching his starfighter to handle things outside. They order the Padawnas to sit tight for now but they may assist the crew if their help is requested.

"Tweeto" is a junior member of the crew (and the Republic Fleet) who is checking on some equipment when the alarm goes off so he runs down a corridor to his battle station.

Outside the padawans' quarters they hear a scuffle and a cry for help. Padawan Red steps out and sees two obvious space pirates standing over a fallen crewman, blasters in hand. He orders them to stand aside. Padawan Blaster  steps out, sees two strangers standing over a fallen crewman and responds with a nice smooth motion of igniting, throwing, striking down with, and then catching his returning lightsaber. Tweeto comes around the corner after hearing the scuffle, sees the situation (including a saber arc) and shoots the remaining pirate in the back.

Greeting each other as they move to aid the injured crewman (they have spent some time together during the month-long expedition) they learn that pirates have attacked and boarded the ship near the engines and near the bridge. Since Master Kundo is headed for engineering, the padawans and the two crewmen decide to head for the bridge.

Moving through various hatchways and blast doors, the small group stumbles upon three thugs coming towards them. They ask the pirates to surrender but are greeted with blaster fire as a response. Padawan Red hits them with a force slam, knocking two of them out and the third stays upright long enough for Padawan Blaster to close and bring him down with a single sweep of his saber.

After this brief clashe the Jedi and the crewmen discover that the commlinks are jammed and they cannot raise anyone on the local commnet. At this point the wounded crewman decides to turn off to the medical bay with some spare blasters both to seek aid and to help defend it while the others continue to the bridge.

Impacts continue to shake the ship as the trio takes a turbolift to the bridge. The doors hiss open  and as the party opens the door to the bridge they are greeted with blaster fire from inside. Putting together a quick plan they are nonetheless surprised when another door slides open and a pirate with a blaster rifle begins shooting up the entrance area. Padawan Blaster once again throws his saber in a perfect arc, cutting down the pirate and regaining his saber. Padawan Red force slams the nearvy pirates on the bridge as Tweeto picks off another with his blaster. A pirate mate (an obvious leader type) is the only one left standing and he crosses swords with Red but is cut down in short order.

As sabers are put away, the team looks around and sees that outside the viewport the planet is gorwing larger and larger and the ship appears to be rotating irregularly. Blaster makes a heroic effort to set things right with a masteful display of piloting but various red lights indicate that the engines are gone and the ship is irrevocably out of control. Tweeto picks up a pirate commmlink and begins taunting the pirates but they just laugh and wish the trio a happy landing. Unable to contact their masters or the rest of the crew the heroes decide to find a way off of the doomed cruiser.

Quickly locating an escape pod bay the trio climbs aboard (noting that several other pods have already ejected) waits through the countdown, and launches into space. They manage to dodge some fire from a nearby pirate fighter and spiral down towards the planet below.

The pod's nav system steers them around to the dark side of the planet where they skip off of a rock outcropping or two and  slide to a halt in a rocky desert region as the sun begins to peek over the horizon. Volturnis awaits...

DM Notes: This session went really well and everyone was very happy with it. Character creation really did not take long (we only used the main book, that helped) and they were coming up with ideas for fleshing out their PC's before I even ran the crawl. 

Apprentice Who seriously considered another Wookie, but he ended up going with "a Greedo" and we had some fun with the idea of how a Rodian would wear a helmet, possibly cutting holes in it for his antenna to stick out. He focused on shooting people and being good at the Treat Injury skill.

Apprentice Blaster knew he wanted to play a Jedi from the start but wasn;t sure about the race. he ended up going Kel Dor because he liked their abilities and they looked cool (and I agree). I suspect that one played a pretty big role in some of the Clone Wars episodes was a factor as well. For his first talent he wanted something distinctive and ended up shoosing "Lightsaber Throw", again partly because it made sense (it gives him a ranged attack - short ranged, but still ranged) and partly because it looks cool.

Apprentice Red was thinking about a Noble but at the last minute went Jedi as well (no problem as this is Prequel Era and jedi are all over the place) but he went Human because he hasn't played a human in any of our rcent games and also because he liked the racial abilities. He took force powers instead of going for lightsaber abilities and settled on Force Slam as his main thing. It's a short-ranged cone effect that does damage and knocks back the targets - you see it used against battledroids a lot in the movies - and he was very pleased with his choices. 

The game played very fast - low level mooks go down quick - and 3 short fights let us begin to get used to the combat system. They looked for chances to use their skills too - piloting, diplomacy, perception, and treat injury were all rolled at various points and even though it's a bit of a railroad start (the ship is going to crash and there's not much you can do about it) they made it personal with the pirates, feel like they need to find their masters, and were thinking of other things they could have done on their way down in the escape pod. I was pretty happy with the way they looked for options. Their experience with old-school D&D's "tell me what you want to do" seems to have helped keep their initiative while their familiarity with 4E's very similar mechanics makes the system easy to grasp and lets the rules mostly stay out of the way - as it should be. Their excellent knowledge of Star Wars means they already know how the universe works and what it looks like so they are quite sure of themselves when it comes to moving about the world. 

 In short - it was great and I can't wait to run it again. 

A note on conversions - I am using the original map and counters that came with Star Frontiers as the grid is too smal lfor miniatures. They didn't care at all and I kind of like using nearly 30-year old gaming paraphenalia with a group of players less than half of that age. I don't ramble on about plaing as parents and kids very often but there are occasions where I get a very powerful feeling of handing off to the next geenration and seeing that I was the same age when I got Star Frontiers as they are now it's a real kick to see it in play again.  Of course as I write this they are in the next room playing Rock Band 3 with a bunch of songs that were popular about that time too, so maybe it's not just the RPG that's pushing that button.

Actual conversion notes: I have about a page of notes plus a few index cards with generic "Thug" and "Pirate" and "Gang Member" stats from Saga edition written on them. I have the original module open in front of me (behind my screen) and I'm using the flavor text and descriptions from it while I use the game mechanics from my notes. I don't really do a full-document conversion, so it will be difficult to post it up on the blog in a useable form but I'll see what I can do for anyone who is interested.  I'm guessing if someone wanted to use this particular adventure with this particular ruleset, they could probably do it on their own as well as any notes I can give, but just in case I will post what I can.


Adam Dickstein said...

I really like the character names in the crawl. Very Star Wars.

I am not as familiar with the current D20 Star Wars rules so maybe I'm misunderstanding but when you say Apprentice Red went for Force Abilities instead of Lightsaber Abilities does that mean you can't have both? Jedis have the Force and use Lightsabers. Lightsaber combat is a Force ability in the old WEG D6 version so I'm a little confused.

Blacksteel said...

You can have a lot of different abilities but at 1st level you are pretty limited. Every Jedi starts out as Force Sensitive (a Feat) and can train in "Use the Force" which is a skill that drives almost every force-related ability in the game. UTF gives a lot of minor abilities like move light object but not a lot of flashy stuff.

If you've spent any time around D&D 3rd or 4th or any d20 game then you are probably familiar with Feats and Skills and the Star Wars versions work similarly. The new wrinkle here is Talents - pretty much everything that was a class ability before is now a talent - Rogue Sneak Attacks are now an option in one of the Scoundrel talent trees, if Star Wars had clerics then turn undead would be a talent. The good thing is you can mix them up and take them in nearly any order (some do have prerequisites) so you can advance a character however you like within some pretty broad parameters.

Jedi can pick from the Guardian (general combat), Consular (interpersonal), Sentinel (detection and awareness), and Lightsaber Combat.

So everybody can take Skills, Feats, and Talents. Feats are important to Jedi because among other things they can take "Force Training" which gives them a couple of Force Powers and not everyone can take those. Force Powers are the flashy stuff like Force Stun, Force Lightning, etc. They are potent but are pretty much once per encounter when it comes to usage.

So Blaster built his Kel Dor around Dexterity ("He's not strong he's just good") so he took Weapon Finesse as his first Feat. It lets him use his Dex as his combat ability with his lightsaber instead of Strength. That makes him considerably nastier up close. Then for his talent he took Lightsaber Throw which lets him chuck it up to about 10 meters as an attack (using Dex) and pull it back (with a DC20 UTF check) as a standard action. So he's clearly spent a lot of time training with his saber and not so much on the force abilities.

Red has a human Jedi so he starts with an extra Skill and an extra Feat. He spent one of those Feats on Force Training and took Force Push (and something else I can't remember). He's fine with a lightsaber up close, maybe not quite as good as Blaster's Jedi but he's not weak, and he has other things that he can do besides saber-fight.

The best thing about it is that unlike a lot of other class-based systems you can have multiple characters of the same class and they will look and play very differently from each other. In D&D an all Fighter party could be both boringly uniform and tactically unsound. With the mechanics here an all-Soldier party or an all-Jedi party is both mechanically viable and diverse enough to be interesting. Really the only thing the class determines is hit die, save bonuses, attack bonus, and which talents you have access to - they are much more of a general framework than a specific blueprint as in older versions of this and other d20 games.