I’ve been running a successful and amazingly fun campaign of Edge of the Empire for many months now. Prior to all of 7 days ago, I had been working exclusively with the Beta Book as any kind of official reference or guideline. As such, I’ve long had a feeling of exploration, adventure, and excitement while designing my heists, to say nothing of how awesome the actual gameplay has been! Every time we gather together to throw some dice, we’re breaking new ground in one way or another through new rules, new rulings, new puzzles, and new challenges encountered within this ruleset. It’s a bold new world and I love it.
Something that has worked out extremely well for our group is how we handle adventure selection and an episodic nature. Read on to find out how that came about; what were the thought processes that went into the design, and some examples straight from my table.
From the start of the campaign, I intended the gaming sessions to be as compartmentalized and as modular as possible. We play only every other week, not every week. When a player has to miss just one session, he [we’re all dudes] has now almost a full month to forget all the details of the last game. With that in mind, I wanted our adventures to start and end within the confines of a single 3-hour session; or two such sessions if we really needed it, as was the case for what would become Only Two Ways Home.
I detest a “railroading” story. An interesting RPG campaign, to me, offers multiple opportunities for players to make meaning choices. That is to say, real alternatives which make a real impact on the development of the story. There are far too many “adventures” out in the world (I use the term loosely), published both on the amateur and professional level, which consist of a string of set piece encounters one leading to the next with absolutely zero room for deviation. I think this kind of RPG writing is so prevalent because of a few reasons: it’s relatively simple to write, the author is guaranteed to have all their ideas shown to the audience, it’s efficient in terms of space and paper usage, and it’s hard for a fledgling Galaxy Master to screw up. Of course, none of this means it’s any good. So, for my campaign, the primary means of artistic expression in my life, this simply would not do. My adventures, heists, as well as the campaign as a whole, would put the plot steering wheel firmly in the hands of the players offering them enticing options that not only made them feel like they were having a major impact on the campaign, but actually did allow them to do so.
One of my gaming influences is the Wing Commander series of video games, specifically 1993’s Privateer. An engaging aspect of the game was the ability to pick and choose your own method of making a profit, then end goal of that being to be able to afford a decked out starship capable of surviving the rigors of the most interesting and plot-centric distant star systems. In many ways I think Privateer went on to influence the Edge of the Empire base game, the most obvious parallel being the ability to choose from among three distinct starship styles; one focused on attacking, one focused on hauling cargo, and one vessel staying flexible and half-decent at both.
Back on subject.
Each destination in Privateer offered a host of missions to choose from, from simple cargo hauling, to scouting navigation points, to mercenary work for the military. These missions had varying payments along with varying difficulty. The easy and poor-paying heists could be accessed through public kiosks with the more exciting ventures gained through entry into spacing guilds and military contracts. Once a mission was selected, you were on the hook for it and the other missions, the ones ignored, would soon go away and be replaced, an opportunity lost. This system placed the agency of the game directly in the hands of the player. I was the one who decided where the next flight was headed and what I would be doing there. I was a self-made pilot. Those victories were my own. My ship upgrades were earned, never given.
And so with these ideas in mind, I came up with a system to mimic this feeling through Edge of the Empire Alphabet‘s H is for Heists, K is for Knowledge, and L is for Locations. Consistantly, our Crew has found innovative ways of calling for Knowledge [underworld] checks to sniff out new leads for new work. They’ve checked backwater communications frequencies, hobnob’ed at a ritzy masked ball, and befriended the wealthy patrons on the casino floor of a galactic luxury cruiser; to name a few. Using just the basic random die rolls presented in Edge of the Empire Alphabet as a framework, here are just a handful of the fleshed out job offers the Crew has been presented with [text in brackets indicate hidden information].
A slimy Hutt needs someone to salvage the computer core and memory banks from a wrecked cruiser that has been sealed away in The Vault of Altair [protected by space beasts], an artificially constructed, abandoned armory orbiting a fiery red sun.
An Imperial Intelligence Agent catches you in a dark corner, seeking your aid. The capital city of the planet Varlinaar [core world] has become a den of treachery and malcontent. One of the many entertainment arenas, which host races, card games, and animal fighting pits; has been harboring secret meetings which foment rebellion. The Emperor has shown benevolence and will absolve these traitors, but we need someone who can act quickly without Imperial bureaucracy and destroy this place [stellar phenomena make it difficult to access].
A local middle-man working for the dreaded Black Sun Syndicate is looking for a pair of quick eyes to discreetly check up on the activities and defenses of a group of pirates making their base of operations out of an abandoned mine. The Imperial patrols in the area are on the take, so they shouldn’t give you much trouble. [home of a legendary beast, protected by local aliens, surrounded by a junkyard]
One of the passengers, a short and squat Twi’lek man who has become embarrassingly drunk, blathers on about seeing the noted assassin droid PLX-8B on the Ptera star system [outer rim], a place unknown to you or your databanks. It has been in hiding there providing security for a small time brothel, though who knows how long it will stay there. If you can capture the droid alive, you might be able to find out the answers to questions plaguing your history [The droid is part of a Crew’s Obligation].
A family of Hutts are looking to sub-contract a reconnaissance mission to an abandoned fortress on an uninhabited wilderness preserve at the edge of the galaxy [droids protect it, volcano will soon explode]. Landing pads are at a premium, so you will need to use ground-based vehicles and you must avoid detection by the local sector rangers.
A slimy gangster by the name of Dulla the Hutt needs someone to steal a case of prototype blaster rifles from an Imperial outpost in the desolate wilderness in the Parada System (Coordinates 09, 17). Don’t worry though; you’ve got a good feeling about this.
A slimy gangster by the name of Fuga the Hutt needs someone to do a little recon on one of the heavily fortified space casinos owned by his rival, Dulla the Hutt, located in the Caarimon System (Coordinates 02, 15). An inside man secretly brought over to Fuga’s side will help you out.
Imperial Star Destroyer Commander Daraay has tracked down the location of a personal enemy of his and an arch- traitor to the Empire, a woman named Scoria Felis [Force sensitive exile]. She is hiding in the outer rim Tirsa Star System (Coordinates 07, 92) on an XQ planetary orbital platform [Hidden from the Force].
Palea Zapal, a prominent figure in the Rebel High Command, asks you to smuggle explosive devices onto the armed Imperial starship Gorgon and deliver them to waiting Rebellion agents. The starship is docked at the Sienar Fleet Shipyards in the Carrivar Star System (Coordinates 02 ,02). Many Bothans died to grant us the security codes to the starship.
The local governor of this colony, Ms. Lilla Harik, asks a clandestine task of you. Her unruly nephew has gotten himself into some trouble with the law whilst aboard the luxury space cruiser Aeon Rose and he needs to be smuggled off of the vessel as soon as possible. Luckily, the cruiser has been delayed due to meteorite damage and is only lightly guarded. It can be intercepted in the Yrrna Star System (Coordinates 01, 18).
Only the few of these heists that were selected ever became full-fledged adventures, but it placed the agency of which heists got that treatment into the hands of the Crew. The end of every heists has always been the acceptance of the next job, a hyperspace jump to their new destination, and a leisurely two-week adventure design on my part.
Lastly, let me congratulate both myself and T&D author Mark DesLauries for Triumph & Despair’s 100th Post! It’s been a long ride with no end in sight as the fun, creativity, and personal-expression-through-rpgs keeps chugging along with each new piece presented here. Our backlog of awesome posts that we want to get to, when we have the time, keeps growing with more and more fresh new ideas. Imagination breeds imagination, new thoughts keep stirring up the pot, and a galaxy of 400 billion beckons to be explored!