Tag Archives: exploration

Thousand Worlds – Introduction

dying-of-the-lightThe Thousand Worlds is a bizarre science-fiction universe created by the mind of George R.R. Martin in the 70’s and 80’s. Yes, that guy.

What draws me to it are that the stories told describe a broken universe that is very alien to our experiences in the real world on earth. Like most stories set in the future, the themes presented are all parallels for modern problems the world is experiencing right now, in the present. However, the subject matter is often unsettling, creepy, uncomfortable, and most important, hits with an emotional impact like a punch to the gut. This is exactly how I like my RPGs to be.

So, I created, ran, and successfully completed a Thousand Worlds campaign, using Edge of the Empire as a basis for the nuts and bolts ruleset. From the outset, I started the campaign design by sketching out what I wanted to accomplish. I had a burning passion to share my enthusiasm for these stories, which I had just finish reading. And I wanted to have a “rags-to-riches” campaign, one that started the game off with the player characters extremely weak and poor, struggling to survive, but then end with them in an earned position of incredible wealth and power. Above all else, I wanted a campaign that – on an emotional, gut level – gave the players the feeling of wondrous discovery. I wanted to give them the childlike wonder of exploring what’s buried under the rocks, and have that thing be fun, interesting, and memorable. I wanted them to never feel like they had run out of the game, or were in any way limited to where they could go or what they could do. There’s always more out there.

In the next few blog posts, I’m going to be talking about some of the details of my Thousand Worlds campaign – design goals, planning, house rules, a starmap puzzle, creating heists, a design checklist, and reinforcing the theme of wondrous discovery in as many ways as possible. Sit tight, it’s a hell of a ride. It might take me some time, be patient.

If you’d like to dig in more into The Thousand Worlds, and I heartily recommend it, go check out this overview video. There’s links to the stories themselves in the video description, many of which have audiobooks or free recorded readings available. There are a lot of stories, but (aside from Dying of the Light) they are all short stories and novellas, making them very quick reads. My favorites are probably In the House of the Worm, A Song for Lya, and The Stone City; though it’s very hard to choose, many of them are really, really good.


Cause & Effect 14 – The art of the Swindle…

C-3PO_EP2-IA-50348_R_8x10Do you see? Do you see what I have to deal with? He expects me to wear this…

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:

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Heist Dashboard

screenshot-102-terminalI’ve received another great guest contribution this week, this time from Peter Holland. Peter gives us a sampling of a Heist Dashboard he has created for his home group, a clever little PowerPoint Presentation file that interactively allows the Crew to review their current heist options, peruse various details, and select their next impetus for adventure.

I think this is a great idea, and brings nostalgic memories back to me from playing Privateer as a kid. As an adult in the 21st Century, I look forward to hearing from the computer-savvy Triumph & Despair readers who take this idea and create their own interfaces, similar to this, for their own groups. As I’ve talked about before here, this is a great jumping point for creating meaningful choice; presenting the players with transparent information, allowing them to make informed decisions on the course of the campaign, and holding them responsible to both the rewards and the perils of that decision.


Emperor's Throne Room

by Ralph McQuarrie

Fane of the Sith Lords is a site-based adventure for use with the FFG Star Wars roleplaying game (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, Force & Destiny). In this scenario, the Rebel Alliance strikes out at The Emperor in his one brief moment of vulnerability, sending a team of assassins into his den of twisted evil where they must treat with the dark horrors of the ancient Sith.

Fane of the Sith Lords is like no other Star Wars adventure ever published. It goes beyond the realm of the normal and into the surreal. It pushes the envelope of what is and is not Star Wars, challenging your perceptions while at the same time creating a superlatively difficult game. Fane of the Sith Lords has been dubbed a “tournament module“, eschewing continuity and in-game logic in favor of maddening puzzles, nightmarish threats, and extreme roleplaying game design. Fane of the Sith Lords is not for the timid or faint of heart. It is a brutally punishing adventure that rewards fast, smart, creative play and murders characters who act foolishly or indecisively.

Fane of the Sith Lords – Adventure Flowchart

I’ve long held the belief, here, that by analyzing a simple flowchart of an adventure in a roleplaying game one can quickly deduce the level of “railroading” and linear plot devices inherent to that adventure. With that in mind, I am very proud to show off a flowchart I created for the upcoming Fane of the Sith Lords Star Wars adventure.

This flowchart serves multiple purposes.

Firstly, it shows off the interesting, complicated web of potential actions and exploration that could, though doesn’t necessarily have to, occur within the advneture. All of these criss-crossing lines represent many meaningful choices that the players must make, each with their own major impact on how the adventrue unfolds.

Secondly, I am proud to show off the stunning, evocative place names within the adventure. My hope is to further whet the appetite of the Star Wars RPG for this coming adventure. Who wouldn’t want to delve into the mysteries locked away in the FORBIDDEN ARCHIVE? Or shake in terror when trapped in the PTERO-RANCOR’S CRUCIBLE?

Lastly, this flowchart serves a very practical function for the Galaxy Masters across the globe who will be running this massively detailed and intricate adventure. Knowing which spaces connect to other spaces and where those connections are one- or two-way, is vitally important. The flowchart is an invaluable aid to running a smooth, seamless adventure at the table, allowing Galaxy Masters to focus on their delivery and presentation by cutting down on confusion as much as possible.

Fane of the Sith Lords - Adventure Flowchart

Cause & Effect 13 – What Kind of Thief Steals From an Old Lady?

“Oh my! I’m so glad that you were able to get my bag back. I was so worried. Oh, oh. Those are some well defined biceps that you have there. Do you work out? My nephew works out, but his arms aren’t as well defined as yours. Oh, silly me. I seem to have knocked my walker over. Could you be a dear and pick that up for me? Don’t worry about proper lifting technique. It’s a light walker. No back straining there. Mmmm, oh my...

Welcome back to Cause & Effect! Today I will be picking the results manually on the table presented in V is for Vignettes. These are my results:

Instigator Thug

Action Steals from

Target Poor Citizen

Escalation Quickly turns into a chase scene

Escalation I is for Illegal goods are involved

If the Crew will not defend the honor of an older Ithorian lady who has a taste for bulging biceps and Kowakian monkey-lizards, then who will?

Rogue Event 16 – Dense Asteroid Field Distress Call

This Rogue Event can be encountered either by happenstance or as directed by the decoded star system coordinates found in Rogue Event 01 – Ancient Jedi Device.


You enter a new star system and long range sensors detect a single vessel of Silhouette 4 at the far end of the system. Do you move in to investigate?


You find what appears a derelict shuttlecraft being smashed to pieces by the surrounding, dense asteroid field. You detect no power readings or life signs and multiple hull breaches. However, a weak, automated distress signal can be heard over the comm static. This looks dangerous.

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