Retrofit 02 – I am a Pirate, like my father before me

BAYSDo you remember the first time you ever saw Star Wars? Do you remember being introduced to the thoroughly evil and throughly badass Empire, only to be ripped away and dropped off with a boy whose life bores even himself? In more ways than one, this was how I felt when I first started the adaptation from the elite Imperial Green Berets of CRUSH the REBELLION to the freelance bagmen of BLASTER at your SIDE.

But of course, the inspiration for countless Han Solo cosplays didn’t come from the scenes where he’s telling Chewie about how they’re going to finally make enough money to get a slug off their backs. No one bought a Boba Fett action figure because the government chides him like a child (“No disintegrations”). Hell naw. We like Solo because, when he shows up in the trench to save Luke, we understood that his motivations were complex. We like Fett because, when he’s tracking the Falcon to Bespin, we realize that he will use anything at his disposal to get what he wants. This meant that the first thing that needed to be changed for BLASTER at your SIDE was the central tenet of character building in CRUSH the REBELLION: a new S is for Secret Agendas, which I call Contraband Channels.

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Group Dynamics at the Gaming Table

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“I just figured STORM troopers must deal with a lot of rain.”

Here’s a special guest post by Matthew Surber, inspired by a weekend-long gaming and BS session my friends and I had not too long ago.

Bruce Tuckman (Wikipedia has a great article on him) introduced a basic concept of group formation in 1965. In it, he labels four main stages – Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. We’re going to look at the first of these fours stages and how Galaxy Masters and players can preempt problems, keep their groups moving forward, and avoid some of the basic pitfalls of group dynamics.

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Retrofit 01 – TITLE CRAWL

After I post the second entry, I'm going to come back and title this RETROFIT IV

YOU BEAR WITNESS to a new column here on T&D, Retrofit, and a new contributor, Andy Kotch. I have participated in several of Ross’ past gaming endeavors as a player, including the ambitious homebrew of FFG’s Star Wars RPG: CRUSH THE REBELLION!I usually run games for a small group of old friends and we collectively jump from system to system (space pun) with new campaigns every few months. After delving into the Age of Rebellion starter box, they were eager to give Star Wars a shot.

I didn’t want to simply run CtR. As much as I love the Empire, I was burnt-out on the infinite riches and shocking abuses of power. I wanted to try a different aesthetic, and after polling my players a bit, we all seemed down for a fringe-worldy, get rich or die tryin’, morally gray campaign in space. Fortunately, that’s all the best aspects of Edge of the Empire (and I guess Firefly). The herculean task now lay before me: adapt the thoroughly evil and quasi-legal quest for POWER of Crush the Rebellion into a rough’n’tumble space-cowboy hunt for RICHES.

That is the focus of this column: re-writing and re-purposing what exists of CtR into what I have dubbed “Blaster At Your Side”.

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Stat Block Organizational Tool

Friend of the blog, map maker, and adventure writer Will Patterson has pulled together one of the great resources found here at Triumph & Despair and has taken it to the next level. The link below provides you with the Stat Blocks featured here, but in an easy to use Excel Worksheet with quick pull-down menus to easily look up and bring up an array of stat blocks.

Related, I have been asked by some, “will you update your Age of Rebellion stat blocks to reflect the Core Book? Will you provide Force & Destiny stat blocks from the Beta?”

  1. Probably not. The core books differ so little from the Beta’s that it really doesn’t spark my interest. I hate minutia and boring things, and this seems like an exercise in both. I feel like a great many of the fans of Star Wars RPGs are in it to fulfill some need to codify everything in the Star Wars galaxy in some sort of weird encyclopedic fashion, this being an example of such. I really dislike that attitude, I find it constricting and limited, and so I will not be adding fuel to that fire. Go do meaningless tasks yourself.
  2. Maybe! Keep on the lookout. I have a copy waiting for me right now and, if the stat blocks are new and different enough from previous Beta’s, then it will pique my interest and I’ll do it. I only blog about things I enjoy, let’s see if Fantasy Flight can pull the hat trick.

Features

Lando_smoothieYet another port from Dungeon World are character features. Features are a quick way to add a distinctive flair to your character’s appearance and perhaps mannerisms. Features are best added into a game at the very beginning, however there is no penalty to integrating them mid-campaign. Players may choose a set of feature descriptors based on any one of the Careers or associated Specializations their character has access to and may change their feature descriptors when an appropriate milestone has been reached in the story, such as gaining access to a new Specialization. Each set of descriptors is grouped into three’s, allowing players to make an interesting decision about their character without being overwhelmed by a myriad of options. The descriptors used are also purposefully vague enough to be applied to any number of myriad alien Species, but still carry enough detail to be meaningful.

For each category, choose an option for your character, or make one up that sounds way cooler; this is not a comprehensive list.

This method of assigning features to a character ties those features into the character’s Career in lieu of the character’s Species. I thought long and hard on this decision and came to it purposefully. Describing one’s eyes, hair, etc. in terms of their Species may be interesting to some, that kind of technical detail doesn’t add much to the story and doesn’t tell us anything interesting beyond a minor anecdote. I’ve never cared if your wizard has grey eyes or blue eyes, so I’m not going to start caring about the shade of green of your Rodian’s skin. I do, however, care about how your character takes care of themselves and what feelings their features project onto others.

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Bonds

BDW13Another useful game element ported over from the *World series of roleplaying games, Bonds help your Star Wars roleplaying characters, of any system, form a more cohesive and meaningful team. In contrast to the original games’ layouts, Bonds in Star Wars are connected to your character’s Species, further reinforcing what is, for most Star Wars roleplaying games, an element with little overall impact outside of the aesthetic.

Find your character’s Species and write down their Bonds on your character sheet. At any point during play that feels appropriate, establish a Bond with another character and write down his or her name in the blank. Bonds are generally formed with another player character, but can be formed with powerful NPCs as appropriate. Bonds should normally be established early on in a campaign, but can be added in with minimal fuss to an already established Crew. This list of Bonds is limited and, quite frankly, derivative. Get creative and describe new Bonds for your character that you think are important to the story. Also, don’t be afraid to take a Bond that is shown in the list of another Species. This article is a suggestion and a starting point; it doesn’t dictate how your character feels.

For Galaxy Masters, keep an ear out for when your players use their Bonds to help develop and enrich the roleplaying atmosphere in your game in a meaningful and interesting way. Also, listen for how these Bonds can be used to your advantage, inspiring plot devices for you to use that, by their very nature, you already know some of your players are interested in. Reward and encourage such activity with a minor boon that makes sense to you in the fiction; such as a +2 to a die roll, a added Boost die, or an extra couple of experience points. Characters with Bonds have a special connection that affects how they interact with each other.

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Motivation & Experience

epi418Gaining new power and abilities through accumulating experience points and raising in level is perhaps the oldest form of motivation and meaningful progress evident in roleplaying games. New things are fun and a character rising in skill can feel like a tangible reward and a sign that you are doing well in the game. Compared to some other roleplaying games, FFG Star Wars is very nebulous in its guidelines for handing out experience points, with a wide range of values automatically distributed without qualification and arbitrarily set by the Galaxy Master. While I do appreciate the design intent of simplification, I feel that the games I tend to run deserve a more rigid set of incentives for advancement. Taking a cue from some more experimental indie RPGs (Torchbearer and Dungeon World), I’ve put together some solid guidelines as an alternate method of awarding experience points and incentivizing good roleplaying.

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