Welcome back to Cause & Effect! Today’s nutshell topic: Swindling. When I was a young lad, my uncle told me a story of how his adventuring party (ad&d) had been swindled by a back alley weapons broker. While it seemed like a good idea at the time. The discounted weapons that they purchased ended up breaking when they needed them most. It made for an enjoyable story to hear and found a cozy spot in my head to call home.
I heavily lifted from the idea for one of my Saga campaigns. Where the Crew met a shady Twi’lek in a back alley, who wanted to sell them discounted med packs. They looked a little beat up, but they were assured (and believed) that the product had simply fell off the back of the delivery truck and had not been stolen (well, okay, maybe a little stolen. But they looked to be in a usable condition and hey, times are tough even for the good guys). Credits being tight as they are, and combat being as dangerous as it is; the Crew purchased a few of these med packs. The rub was that the med packs were damaged/expired/etc. and did not heal as well as a regular priced one.
The above example will maybe work once. Players are a sneaky lot and generally like to be the ones doing the swindling (or at least my players do). This is where you, as a GM, need to get a little sneaky yourself. Role Playing Games are designed (in my opinion) to be a form of co-operative story telling. Use this to your advantage. Swindles can just as easily be sneaked into an idea of the Crew as they can into a random encounter. If the Crew are the ones calling the shots, they may also feel as though they are in control of the situation. With the GM being forced to ‘wing it’, the players may not see the twist coming. For example:
The Crew decides that they need some muscle for an upcoming heist will likely ask around on the street or in cantinas. As they look around and make a few checks they will see various characters and discover various pieces of information. They will hear stories of a mercenary’s exploits and eventually find someone who they feel will fit the bill. I mean, just look at the guy. Multiple sources reference him as a solid choice. He looks the part, knows what he’s talking about, and even has a motto: Have blaster. Will travel.
The Crew even talked his price down over a few drinks. A small chunk of credits up front, his famed, well worn baster on the table and he is ready to get down to business. Just as soon as he goes to the refresher….and slips out a window never to return. That well worn blaster? Just a finely crafted replica. Of course, if the Crew suspects his ‘character’ they should be allowed to make any sort of check they feel is required. The difficulty can range from swindle to swindle. In the above example, deception is his bread and butter. Add to the fact all of the stories he set up in advance, the dropping of his price, and leaving a signature item on the table as a show of good faith…it won’t be easy.
The Crew may also feel that something is off and just walk away. That is fine too. But the Crew should ALWAYS be allowed to check if they are being deceived. If they choose to, that is. If they call him out, he will likely make a break for it. If he fleeces the Crew, they will likely keep their eyes peeled for him in the future (I know my Crew did). Who knows, maybe they’ll recognize his voice as he is in the process of swindling someone else…
It is however, important to note, that a GM should not abuse the players trust. Swindles if done correctly can add an unforeseen twist. But to try and swindle the players every session will breed mistrust towards the GM, any npc that the Crew encounters and suck the fun out of the game. The aim is to create an interesting, organic environment that features co-operative story telling and is fun for all. Trust is a big part of that. There are a lot of interesting ways for the Crew to interact with the Galaxy, and a swindle is only one of them.
I am a big fan of random encounters, but try to limit my straight up swindles to 1 out of 10 random encounters. I feel that is a good ratio, especially given that not every random encounter the Crew faces grants them a boon. I do however believe that if you are inserting random encounters into your games, that the beneficial, quirky and boon encounters should out weigh the swindles and misfortune encounters. The galaxy is a dark enough place as it is.
Well, that was a particularly long lead up to today’s entry. Today is not a day of luck however. Today the names and places have been changed to protect the names of the guilty (however, if you do encounter them: Scion, Hugo and Oopie would like their credits back.) and the results were manually plucked from the table presented in V is for Vignettes. These are my results:
Instigator Poor citizen
Action Begs for help from
Target The Crew
Escalation The same subject as a Crew Member’s Motivation is involved (droid rights)
Escalation The encounter threatens to cost the Crew a great many credits
OVERVIEW While the Crew navigates a crowded downtown core, a Droid pleads for their help. Only to have his master catch up to him.
- Name: I am 5KAM3-P0 or Kam to my friends
- Tags: m-Droid/3-P0 series/beat up grey coat of paint/dents and scratches/polite/left forearm showing signs of rust
- Role: Protocol Droid (charlatan)
- Capsule: Kam is a down on his luck Free Droid. He teamed up with Carth in order to make some quick credits, fix his damaged exterior, and then get off world.
- Stat Block: You should not need stats for 5KAM3-P0.
- Name: Carth Oobath
- Tags: m-Human/farmer/dim-witted/overweight/talks like Foghorn Leghorn
- Role: Farmer (charlatan)
- Capsule: Carth is smarter than he looks and uses that to his advantage in order to make some quick credits. This is only one play in his scammers play book.
- Stat Block: Use the Infochant stat block for Carth Oobath, if you feel that you need them.
- Name: Longshot Lane
- Location: Downtown
- Tags: busy/loud/smells of street meat (hot dog vendor)/other vendors hawking wares/giant statue of a local hero in the center of the square.
- The Crew sees Kam trying to approach other passers by, but being quickly rejected before finally coming to the Crew. They can make an Easy Perception check to see if they notice that Kam is holding an animal harness. Oh please kind sirs, you must help me. My name is 5KAM3-P0. My friends call me Kam. He will be here any moment. You must take me away from him. The things he makes me do, it’s not right.
- Before the Crew can get anymore information out of Kam, Carth manages to catch up to them. He is out of breath and appears to have been chasing Kam. There, I say, there you are. What did I tell you would happen the next time you ran off like this? He then draws a whip from his belt (which can barely be seen under his massive stomach) and begins to lash at Kam.
- Kam stands there, looking dejected, but clearly unharmed by the whipping. Do you see? Do you see what I have to deal with? He expects me to wear this…(Kam holds up the animal harness) Well of course, I say, of course I do. How else are you supposed to plow the fields and haul cargo? People passing by, do double takes at the scene and a few people have even taken pictures. Carth is clearly not concerned with how other people see him.
- Kam leans in towards the crew, still getting whipped. Please. You must help me. My exterior is slightly damaged, but surely you can buy me from my master for a bargain. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. You could then find another owner for me and make a profit. Or keep me, if that is your wish. Anything but this. It’s degrading. I am a fully functioning protocol unit, not a Dewback.
- Hey, I say, hay. What are you whispering about over there? Carth stops whipping the droid, long enough to hear the Crew’s answer…If they wish to negotiate the sale of the droid, he will sheath his whip.
- A used protocol droid usually sells for 2,000 credits. Given the damage to Kam’s plating, a sell price of 1,500 credits would be reasonable. This price is subject to an opposed Negotiation check with whomever they decide to sell the droid to. Carth will play dumb to low ball offers, but will not accept an offer below 500 credits. Offers below that benchmark, will result in him trying to subsidize the low ball offer by asking for a piece of non-concealed gear from the Crew in addition to the credits. Likewise, he will also take weapons from the Crew that are of a similar value. This deal can also be affected by an opposed Negotiation check, if the Crew wishes.
If the Crew purchases Kam:
- Carth will take the animal harness and leave Kam with the Crew. Kam will them follow the Crew, constantly singing their praise…for a few minutes. Allow the Crew to make an Hard Perception check, with one setback die (because of the crowded area). Success reveals Kam to be disappearing into a crowd of people. If they spot him, he will claim to have gotten mixed up in a group of tourist’s. A few minutes after that, he will vanish again. Failure reveals that Kam seems to have disappeared into a crowd of tourists, never to be seen again.
If the Crew does not purchase Kam:
- Kam sighs heavily, dons his animal harness and follows Carth into a crowd of people and away from the Crew.
If the Crew suspects Carth of trying to scam them:
- The Crew can make a Discipline check opposed by Carth’s Deception check. If they catch him at his game, both he and Kam will bolt into the Crowds. Carth will be yelling: Look out! Rebels! Armed and dangerous rebels! with hopes of bringing the crowd into a frenzy of panic. If the Crew does not catch him at his game, they will find his story believable….for this encounter anyways. There is nothing to stop the Crew from hunting him down later…
- If the Crew spots Kam as he tries to escape, instead of feigning innocent, he could bolt. Possibly starting a chase scene. Crowds —>Alley way (narrow spaces/debris) —> swoop bike rally (where I imagine more than a few swoop bikes may get knocked over…) —>patrolling police officers (Kam will claim that he and his master were victims of an assault by the Crew)
- Perhaps later on that day or a day or two later, the Crew finds the pair trying to scam other unsuspecting Crews…
- To try and drive up the price, Carth asks: Well who, I say, who is going to plow the fields and bring my crops to the markets? If not for this droid? That’s what I bought him for. Don’t need no food, no sleep. Droid salesman said so. How else will I provide, I say, provide for my family? Carth proceeds to show pictures of his fictitious family.
- Perhaps Kam stays with the Crew long enough for Carth, who now has a black eye and looks roughed up, to come chasing after them. The law close behind. Carth claims that they stole his droid. Kam will verify Carth’s story.