Saturday, February 26, 2011

Threat Detected Coming Soon

Coming soon! The 2nd podcast dedicated to the Star Wars SAGA rpg. Barefoottourguide hosts Threat  Detected, a game that delves into the mysteries of the Dawn of Defiance campaign. Includes live gameplay action. Visit D20Radio and Threat Detected for all the goodness. Expected Release: First week of March.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

GMing Large Groups and Star Wars Gaming Basics

I left my comfort zone; set out to run a Star Wars SAGA game for people other than those in my home game. I packed a suitcase full of books and minis and announced a three-week run for the original adventure Corellian Diet Breakers. On the meetup website I  said I’d allow six players. Many people new to that meetup group took an immediate interest in my game. They didn’t fully understand the importance of RSVPing, while I was too excited to have eager players to even consider turning away those without reservations.
So, there I was, running a new module for a brand new group, most who’d never played the game before. Nine players held character sheets. Several more people sat at desks in the back. Yup, I had a viewing gallery.
The problem: How do I keep the fast pace and excitement of Star Wars while being sure to involve twice as many players as the game recommends. I think this is an extreme version of the classic GM issue—effectively running a game so everyone is involved and vital, and so all the gamemastering tasks necessary don’t detract from the experience.  Remember, in Star Wars, there are no small parts, only small actors… and they get crammed into a droid suit or dressed as a Jawa, Ewok or Ugnaught.
I learned a lesson from the summer meetup sessions. By paying attention to two key laws of Star Wars, giving them priority over everything else including the rules, everyone had a fun time, returning weekly for more.
1. Star Wars is fast-paced.
Don’t let social distractions take away from that. Keep moving through the initiative, even if players are talking. Be loud. Be enthusiastic. Keep threats coming at the PCs. By establishing an intense tone and pace, the game will sweep everyone away… and shut down the Chatty Kathys before they become a detriment.
Be organized and know your story. Have NPC breakdowns that list what each NPC’s feats and talents do. Have maps ready and dialogue scripted. I have a trifold presentation board, picked up at Office Max for two bucks. I pin the character sheets for each encounter’s NPCs to it, so I don’t have to flip through papers. You want the game to flow seamlessly. While PCs are rolling initiative, just tack up the pages and pull the breakdowns out of a folder. You’re ready to go before the PCs are.
By the way, I have my players keep track of initiative. It’s one more thing that gives them a sense of ownership and co-Gming, not to mention the way it makes them chomp at the bit, alert & ready for their next action… and it’s one less task I have to worry about.
Use the Star Wars Saga Index and Classes Excel files found here. It provides a summary of every power, talent and feat. It has an index for every NPC and piece of equipment. It tells you what book and page number you’ll find the information at. If a player has a question about a power, then I look at the Excel file open on my laptop and tell them what book and page to consult. Again, don’t do it for them. Make them responsible and part of the process; not just recipients of the GM’s song and dance, but equal partners in the storytelling.
If you do these little things, your game will flow quicker and maintain its momentum. Delegate responsibilities.  Do your homework.  It’s tedious for you beforehand, yes, but the end results are all that matter.
2. In Star Wars, every hero makes a difference.
From a lowly slave on Tatooine to a Wookiee scout, to a rambunctious astromech droid, every hero’s actions affect the fate of the Galaxy. In that vein, no PC should be left on the sidelines. What could a little slave boy do during a battle against a droid army inside a palace hangar? Hide in the cockpit of an N-1 starfighter? Not horribly exciting for the player… but if the GM tells the PC about the weapons controls just begging to be activated, it’s a whole new ballgame. He can start blasting droidekas into junk heaps. C3PO wasn’t a fighter, but he played key roles in battles by making deceptions that lured the enemy exactly where his allies wanted them. R2 always found a computer port to plug into. He gathered information, locked doors or jammed security systems. When he was away from a computer port, R2 used his sensor dishes to take sentry duty.
As the GM, you need to provide these tools for your PCs. If the astromech’s player isn’t asking about nearby computer ports, you need to ask him to roll a DC 5 Perception check and tell him there’s a port behind some barrels. Voila! Hopefully, the player will find some interesting things to do with the computer. If the player’s ideas have a snowball’s chance and will make the game more interesting, then choose a reasonable DC (lower if it will be extremely interesting), and give him a chance to be a vital part of the encounter. You have an ace pilot in the party? During the shootout on the dilapidated town’s main street, ask him for a DC 10 Perception check. If he makes it, he finds a rotting speeder bike. Put it three steps down the condition track and give it a quirk or two… but it still gives the pilot a chance to use his vehicular combat abilities instead of acting like a turtle behind cover. Plus, it makes the action more exhilarating. That’s what Star Wars is all about.
Pukunui asked me several questions about handling a larger group. He has seven in his Dawn of Defiance Campaign party. I forwarded his questions to Smuggler’s Paradise of the d20radio forums. He is an accomplished GM who plays in my Dawn of Defiance group. Since it’s difficult to effectively evaluate yourself or be aware of all your techniques, I asked Smuggler’s Paradise to answer these questions, telling what he’s seen me do as well as provide his own advice. His answers are prefaced with SP, and my responses are prefaced with BFTG.
1) How do you split your attention between so many people? Despite being a fulltime parent to two kids, I'm not all that good at multitasking and I tend to get a bit scatterbrained at times, especially with the pressure to perform on game night.
BFTG: I'm paranoid about this issue. I live in fear of neglecting players so they feel like it isn't worth their time, and they stop attending. I have a character crib sheet on my laptop that has each player's name, his character's name, his class, bullet points to his backstory and goals and a couple misc notes about enemies or allies he's recently attained. So, if they're talking to a droid, I'll ask the mechanic PC to make a perception check. If it's at least a 5, I'll tell him things he notices about the droid, like it has grinding servos that must be causing it pain. The PC might volunteer to fix the droid, gaining improved circumstances. In combat, I use minis and custom maps. Everyone sees their peril and acts. If players are silent because they’re tired or lost for ideas, I'll have them roll a DC 5 Perception check or just tell them things they notice that are up their alley, to provide them ideas for actions. When NPCs interact with the PCs, I divide their PC targets among the PCs, so the noble isn't always Mr. Social. I also have a free account for the group. I award 100 bonus xp for every journal entry. They can discuss their character's impressions on game events or provide backstory flashbacks. I pay particular attention to these, because they are PC ways to ask for plot hooks to their characters. For instance, I have a PC searching for his father's space transport. I need to work clues and hooks into upcoming adventures for this.
SP:  Keeping things flowing can always be tough with larger groups since you never want anybody to feel left out or bored. One of the best things that I've seen Garrett do and that I try to do myself is to make sure that everybody has something to do in any given encounter or situation. You obviously know their character sheets from what you've said in question two, so when you make an encounter always try to keep in mind what skills people have so that you can add those to the encounter. This can often be subtle, like pointing out that there is a computer terminal in a room. While not overtly telling people that this is something they need to interact with, it should be a clue to a computer user that they might want to check it out and if they do, reward them for it by making it do something that aids in the situation. Not every situation has to fit every single skill or ability but more often than not there should be a variety of things available to the players. One of the best ways that I've found to keep track of this is to keep a small flash card or copy of a player's character sheet so I know what they are capable of. This way it is easier to tailor situations to certain abilities as well as beef up enemies or other things. For instance if one of your players is a melee monster that cuts through anything, consider giving a couple enemies better armor or DR (damage reduction) to counter act it. Going back to my previous statement, having another character make use of a skill check to take away the armor or ability can keep everyone involved and keep the game cinematic.

As for keeping track of everything yourself, one word: organization. If you find it hard to keep track of a lot of things, use notes. Plot points, enemy stats, encounter obstacles, and everything in between can be sorted for easier use. You don't have to completely rely on them but glancing at them every so often can keep you, and your game, on track. This is one of the things that I think Garrett has done very well. He has a lot of notes on the story and characters in it that I feel help prevent the game from slowing down.

Also, if you feel that some of your players are stealing the show, don't be afraid to turn to another person and say "what does your character think of that?" This keeps people going steadily.

2) Do you enforce time limits or anything like that? I've always asked my players to learn the rules for their characters at least, but they always tend to be a bit half-assed about it - none of them want to spend any time outside of game night thinking about the game, so no one ever bothers to do this. I've ended up doing everyone's character sheets for them and including all sorts of info on the sheet, as well as doing up quick reference sheets for each PC that has the full text for various abilities which they might want to reference during play ... but even that doesn't always help, so I'm considering enforcing my "time limit" rule (which I've never actually enforced for this campaign).
BFTG: I'm fortunate with my group on this. I don't touch their character sheets unless in play it seems like something is wrong. They level up themselves. I have the SAGA library available for them to look up ideas for feats and talents and character direction. They look up answers to their questions themselves. I take a 5 minute break or two during the game, mostly for me to use the restroom or get a rootbeer. This is social time, and it's well-used for that. If the group is in a gabby mood, I keep the game going through the chatter. Tense situations and combat wait for no man. This is Star Wars. There is almost constant action. As GM I believe it's my job to convey the Star Wars feeling. If I sit back and let the players lollygag, I'm not living up to my end of the bargain.
SP:  This is one of the major problems that can crop up in campaigns: player interest. I think that the only way to really combat this is to do whatever you can to get your players to have some sort of invested interest in their characters. One of the things that I have absolutely loved about Garrett's game is his use of the Obsidian Portal site outside of the game. Garrett posts a summary of each adventure and encourages players to post their character's thoughts about what has happened last session. The most important part of this however is that he REWARDS people for this sort of roleplaying. I think that this is crucial to getting players to participate in any sort of out of game activities. Make it worth their while to come up with some unique thoughts. Garrett gives out 100XP for a post each session and that encourages me as a player to get those thoughts out there. Plus it can help players develop their characters and their relationships with the other characters that can even lead to more things in game.

As for getting people involved more at the table, have each person create a story for their character. While this doesn't have to be extensive, a short description of where they have been and where they plan to go can help a lot in making a player care more about a character and their abilities. Also, by encouraging players to make their characters part of another player’s background as well, they can make each character more meaningful to the story. Reward them for actions that play to their character and punish them (slightly) for actions that don't. If you have a player who is playing a Jedi and seeks to be on the Jedi Council and he is going around killing people relentlessly, then there should be consequences. But if he avoids confrontation then there should be bonuses as this would reflect his characters ideals. Dark Side Points and Destiny bonuses and penalties are a great way to handle this in Star Wars games and I've seen Garrett use both effectively.

As for time limits, I think this depends on the type of game you want to play. Some people have a hard time thinking of a reaction in a short time and I personally do not always like to curb them because of it. However, if you are trying to play an extremely fast paced game that is meant to be pure character, then a time limit can be very useful for getting gut reactions to situations. Be careful though as some players can get easily upset with this and can feel cheated out of thinking up a good action. I think a better way to get your players to know their sheets might be to present them with a situation that could be solved with one of said abilities. Then, if they don't react to it, ask them: "Don't you have an ability that could help you with that?" and when they see it ask them "ok, and what does that let you do?" This gets the players looking at their sheets and will get them used to the abilities that are on it.

Overall, encouragement is the name of the game. If a player tries to use ability improperly, don't shoot them down but rather give them an example of something that they can do at that time to the same ends. Be patient and keep things fun. If they want to do something ridiculous, let them. Don't let it break the game but definitely encourage them to be daring. I've seen Garrett use this several times and it has always gotten everyone more into what was happening at the moment. This will excite them about what they're doing and keep everyone having a good time and the game moving along, even in larger groups.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Star Wars Holiday Special

I'm working on an original module to run for my three nephews, who are 12 and under. I sent them a box of gaming dice as part of the present. The module... it's a quirky little Clone Wars Christmas Special. I hope to run it at some Cons this season and publish it to the web next holiday season. Here are some video clips from it.

Make It Personal

 My last few entries delved into creating kick butt opening scenes with dramatic events, with consequences that keep the PCs reeling for several sessions. The experience of these sessions need to unite the party in spirit, so that when offered an opportunity to stick it to their enemy, the PCs will have no reservations.  If done properly, your heroes will run to the mission sounding a barbaric yawp.
The only sure fire way heroes heed the call to adventure is to make it personal. In the OT, while the PCs were still shaking from the opening scenes, Luke’s uncle and aunt were killed by stormtroopers and his house was burned to the ground. Leia watched helpless as the Empire blew up her home planet. Everything these characters ever knew or loved was taken from them in a nasty gory way.
To pull off this type of trick, you need to spend extra time during character creation to discuss back stories, including what is nearest and dearest to each character’s heart. In my House of Wookiees Campaign, a player decided to play Marella, Bo Shek’s daughter. Marella’s father had been missing for several years, and she wanted to know where Bo was. Marella and the PCs survived an Imperial attack on a rebel base, got off planet and volunteered to return to the conquered base to rescue a powerful ally trapped inside a panic room. The PCs chased the ally onto the orbiting star destroyer and rescued him. In the docking bay, Imperial troops surrounded them, and the BBEG Inquisitor taunted the heroes by personally killing all their NPC allies. The Inquisitor recognized Marella and called her by name. He demanded she surrender and join him. After all, her father had, and was now under his control.
This caused Marella to freak out. Her worst fears about her father’s fate had come true. Once the PCs escaped, Marella was so full of hate for the Inquisitor she vowed to find her father and defeat the Inquisitor.
In my Dawn of Defiance Campaign, Tor is a Caamasi Jedi during the Dark Times. During this era, his home planet Caamas gets horribly bombarded by Palpatine’s New Order. During back story creation, Tor’s player and I decided it would be very easy for Tor to feel the atrocities his planet was suffering, through the Force. At a plot-appropriate moment in the campaign, I’ll have Tor make a Use the Force check to detect a billion voices crying out in terror… and they will be suddenly silenced. Then, Tor will find out that Darga the Hutt, who has antagonized the PCs (and vice verse), suggested the Empire bombard Caamas in order to get revenge against his adversary. Not only have I created a role-playing challenge for the character, which will feature difficult choices that will affect his future, but I’ll reinforce the PC’s desire to strike against Darga. Darga isn’t just a slimy filth-ridden criminal… he’s personally responsible for the death of most Caamasi. The Jedi will want justice. He won’t rest until he has captured his foe.
Make it personal. Find out what is closest to the PCs and crush it to sand or threaten to take it away. Fear of losing Padme is what ultimately allowed Anakin to be seduced to the Dark Side of the Force.
What do your PCs truly value above all else? A ship? Have a Star Destroyer blast it to zero hit points then pull it into its docking bay with the tractor beam. The PCs can use the escape pods, but the owner of the captured ship will go to the end of the universe to get his ship back.
Family? Recreate the scene in Gladiator where Maximus comes home to find his wife and son slaughtered and his house burned to the ground.
A planet? Unleash a bioweapon or fire the Death Star. Have the Vong make the planet uninhabitable. Just make sure the devastation is directly linked to the PC’s enemy.
It’s like a western movie. The bad guys push the hero too far. Then, the reluctant hero grabs onto the storyline with both hands and brings the fight to the bad guys. If you’ve properly bated the PCs in the beginning, the rest is easy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Can Take On the Whole Empire Myself

 A strong campaign begins with the ultimate bonding experience: a struggle to survive a catastrophe. Whether that includes an Imperial boarding crew blasting everyone on board your Corellian Corvette or the ambassadors you’re meeting to negotiate with trying to assassinate you with poisonous gas and a hundred battle droids, after blowing up your ship, all the players should be wide-eyed and aware their characters are in serious danger of dying.
It should not be easy to escape the fallout from the Kaboom! The PCs should be chased and harried for several full sessions with little reprieve. When it is all over, the PCs should have a greater awareness of the power and evil of the enemies they will battle over the course of the campaign. The experience should be so strong, none of the PCs will be able to walk away from the future call to action against this enemy. Han couldn’t leave the Battle of Yavin behind because of his experiences with Luke and the droids against the Empire.
In my House of Wookiees Campaign, the PCs are rebel recruits sent to a rebel training facility on a small liberal arts college campus. It all begins in an observatory, while the rebels are watching a holopresentation about the history of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. The Empire shows up and bombs the campus, making the giant telescope crash, crushing most of the recruits and causing the planetarium to be consumed in fire. The survivors (PCs) need to battle jumptroopers and climb a rickety burning catwalk to reach the planetarium’s roof. Even then, TIE fighters streak overhead. More jumptroopers show up, and the PCs must get the roof antennae working so they can call for help. The PCs are picked up by a student in a hotrod airspeeder and taken to a maintenance bunker where the surviving students weep over their losses. Some students guide the rebels to a satellite compound to contact a nearby rebel ship. More TIE fighters show up, trying to destroy the dishes. The PCs need to keep the facility intact long enough to retrieve the information about how to get themselves and the students charged to their care off planet safely. During the course of the escape, the PCs witness atrocities as stormtroopers blow away unarmed students. The experience is designed to be so intense that when the rebels step on board their command ship with the survivors, they are 100 percent committed to any mission against the Empire.
In my module Naboo Food Fight, things start out light. The PCs are visiting Uncle Rimk, a Gungan who runs a gumbo stand at the Theed Food Festival. They learn that the Queen of Naboo just enacted a law forbidding nonhuman species from public properties, including the food festival. Before the heroes even reach gate security, they are caught in a riot between security and nonhumans demanding entrance to the festival. Among the rioters is Chuchilla the Wookiee Monster, a wampa-sized creature who cannot resist the smell of fresh cookies. The PCs need to choose sides, rioters or security. They also witness security’s lethal tactics for handling the nonhumans. Once inside the festival, they learn Uncle Rimk has been locked in a sweatbox of a building to do the cooking, because the law forbids him from being on the public property. A human underling runs the uncle’s stand and skims a sizeable chunk of the credits. The security guards are also in on the scam. When Uncle Rimk asks the PCs for help, the PCs have witnessed enough brutality and injustice to make them want to help the uncle and strike against the corrupt officials.
The Dawn of Defiance Campaign has a weak Kaboom moment that does not sweep the characters into a series of adventures they are helpless to resist. It starts with the PCs stranded on a crumbling space station. Local snitches prosper by turning in nonhumans. A human woman runs up to the PCs, begging for help. She has been shot. Stormtroopers order the PCs to step away from the woman. I don’t think it would be unwise to step away from the lady. The PCs have their own problems. They have no reason to get involved. Even if the PCs help, the Empire is not a personified bane to the PCs’ existence. Even in the station’s climatic encounter, the Empire is reduced to the role of security guards. The true menace that should cause the PCs to be hungry to fight is lacking. By the time the PCs reach Alderaan, and Bail Organa asks them to do a mission for him, the PCs have not experienced enough firsthand Imperial atrocities to be instigated against them. Unless the PCs made the characters hungry to fight the Empire during character creation, they are more likely to say, “The credits aren’t that good concerning the risk. We’ll go run spice for a Hutt.” The campaign crumbles into dust.
On the WOTC forums, several motivated GMs have worked to rework the Dawn of Defiance Campaign. Nefandus did lots of revisions to create personal motivations for the PCs to want to help the girl attacked on the space station.
It’s been two days since the Freebird transport was impounded and its captain hauled off by stormtroopers, apparently for smuggling something. Before disembarking, the captain informed you that the charter company would send a replacement pilot to resume the next leg of your journey within a couple days. He was apologetic, explained that this was all obviously a simple bureaucratic error, and the franchise would pay for your lodgings at the station until such time as you could resume your ticket.

Captain: "Just turn your ticket and ID over to the station purser, and he’ll take care of it."

Not wishing to leave such a conspicuous trace, you lost yourself in the crowd in the hangar bay and entered the station.

A young woman named Maya, escorted by a twitchy labour droid with a lopsided gait, followed you. She asked why you didn’t want to stay in the hotel, and after listening to long silence and a few excuses, she squints her eyes.

“Look, I think I understand your predicament, and maybe I can help. Hotel or not – you are going to need a place to stay for a couple of days, off the books. Yes? Do me a favour, and I’ll do one for you. I’ve got to clean a bunch of parts, and maybe you can help.”
You’ve spent a long day polishing droid parts and various odd jobs for Maya, working at a storage area for Mechanical Allies Droid repair shop. Operated by a Twi’Lek named San, it’s one of the very few businesses on Blue Deck run by a non-Human on the station that hasn’t been shut down by the Empire for some minor infraction, and in several cases, where the owners have been carted off by stormtroopers for suspicion of treason.

Maya warns you to stay wary of the civilians in black armbands – members of the COMPNOR snitches who watch for any sign of disloyalty and report it to Imperial troops in return for for payouts. With most of the former Separatists rounded up from the station, it seems they’ve widened their criteria lately, and often target homeless and non-humans.

So, you’ve been huddled in a steamy and decrepit warehouse that Maya has apparently been squatting in for a while. Broken droid parts are everywhere, and every dayshift, you stow your bedding foams under crates to hide them. You’ve been washing in the public washrooms – something not totally uncommon in a busy starport where flights are occasionally delayed.

This area seems to be safe enough for now – located well away from Blue Deck in the decrepit underbelly of the station, not much work has been done on it since the war, and it is falling apart.

“The rent is cheap!” Maya told you, but most importantly, she said, it’s off the books. You don’t need to check into a hotel, and you can lay low until your impounded transport is released to a new captain, to continue your journey.

Maya met you a few times for drinks at Gundark’s Cantina, a popular and noisy bar with a wide ranging clientele located on the posh Blue Deck Promenade. She was generous, – she sent you to buy the table drinks but gave you too many creds and wouldn't take change. It’s charity, but she always tries hard not to humiliate you. She just seems happy for the company, to hear more about you, but too often these have been dead end conversations, where you’ve all agreed to keep your secrets. While some of you have offered to exchange items of personal equipment, she’ll never take it. “No, these are dangerous times and I’ve got what I need. You keep that.”

After two days waiting, you find that the Freebird Franchise pilot doesn’t arrive. In three days, you find via the subspace news channel that Freebird has gone out of business due to unrelated reasons. You are stranded. On that same day, Maya shows up and is clearly distracted. She moves you out of your warehouse near Mechanical Allies, and through a maintenance hatch in the floor of a little-used service hallway. The hatch drops into a section of residential hallway in which the blast doors in both directions have malfunctioned, locking closed. She shows you into an actual apartment that she says belonged to a maintenance worker. It’s clean, recently lived in.

She says her boss found your bedding foam; and you should stay away from the warehouse, but meet her at Gundarks at 7.


It’s loud in here, with lots of lights and podracing videos playing, people milling and a Cantina band. Maya is late.

[here, I used another's idea and included an early encounter with the troublemakers from EpIV]
“Plo shook too loo” - a big alien says
He says he doesn’t like you!” - a handsome man translates
“I don’t like you either!”

Pweeum! Pweeum! - the fight is interupted by blasters.

You hear blasters firing at the door, the shots slamming into near the rear entranceway. One of them catches a woman in the back and sends her flying! It’s Maya!

"Help me!" She says, staggering through the crowd, which is quickly running for the front exit into the Promenade and huddling in the booths, diving under tables and behind chairs.
No way are the PCs going to just let the troopers blast the life out of Maya. Nefandus has successfully captured the kindness and generosity of the Rebellion and personified it in the young woman NPC.  I took this a step further when I ran the game, using the image of Dakota Fanning from Push as Maya. This turns Maya from a twenty-something into a preteen. She becomes your younger sister, someone you would not let get beaten and shot by stormtroopers. She is the defenseless young Rebellion being brutalized by the merciless Imperial machine.
This could hit or miss depending on how it’s handled. Remember, Star Wars allows for wipes and montages. Let the PCs have a few minutes chit-chat with Maya, then read the rest as a montage. Get to the Gundarks fight in less than twelve minutes.
However, I still don’t think there is enough Kaboom to guarantee the PCs will join Bail Organa’s Rebellion. The PCs need to witness the horrific face of the Empire firsthand. Perhaps they see stormtroopers doing target practice with nonhumans being turned in by the snitches. Maybe an Imperial officer is attracted to the mother in a refugee family and has the husband and kids killed and the woman turned into his sexual toy. It is through extreme atrocities that the players’ psyches will be irrevocably set to the action you desire for the campaign to follow.
I asked Nefandus for advice creating exciting effective campaign openings. He said:

My advice for campaign hooks... Off the top of my head.
1. Give the players a reason to be together - to be at the same place, to share a circumstance or predicament. Make that reason sustainable for at least several sessions, sufficient for other hooks to develop. Players should never wonder why their characters are travelling together.

2. Work with the players and their backgrounds to knit them to the hook. Provide parameters for player backgrounds.
3. If the plot is to be primarily GM generated (rather than sandbox style) make sure that there is no party conflict baked in that is so severe that there is no reason the party would travel together.
4. Start as close as possible to the first GAME choice - the first real decision with a consequence. Everything prior to that should be narration, including what they do as a group. The first group meetup isn't really going to be a choice, and chances are - not that exciting - so don't present it as a game choice (eg. "Do you talk to the sullen Jawa sitting on the bench?"). If they are going to meet up that way because the Jawa is a player character, then get on with it - just narrate it and move on.
5. Present the first game choice - the decision to get involved - as a no brainer. In DoD as written, it might be kind of stupid for the players to intervene in a random circumstance in which Imperials gun down a woman. But, if they were indebted to that woman, and if she provided them shelter, and if they had a grudge against the Imperials, then its a no-brainer. They will take the on ramp. Once they are involved in the plot, thinks pick up their own momentum - and that's the point of a hook.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Skill Challenges Live!

I recorded audio from my last Dawn of Defiance session, a skill challenge I added where the PCs need to convince Darga they are not fugitives of the Empire. Demos tries to prosecute the PCs. This shows how I run the challenges and how they flow nicely. I added captions, kind of a GM's commentary on why I did what I did. The video is at
Here are the complete notes I used to run this challenge.

Convince Darga You’re Not Wanted by the Empire Skill Challenge CL 8 Complexity 1

You’re mingling in the court, throwing some chance cubes… and losing more credits than you’d care to admit… when Demos saunters over to you, a wicked smile on his face. Three Gammorean Guards stand a pace behind him. Demos hasn’t said a kind word to you since you arrived. This can’t be good.
“Darga would like a word,” the majordomo says and waves you toward Darga’s dais. The guards make it clear you have no choice.
66 Translates for Darga. “Before my special guests arrive, I want to clear up an issue,” Darga says, looking at Demos. “My security specialist has brought to my attention you may have had problems with Imperial officials. Is this true?
Demos’s grin becomes almost as large as the Hutt.

Setup: The PCs need to convince Darga they are not a threat to him or to his business. Demos has security footage from the Felucian prison, showing the PCs slaughtering an Imperial officer and blasting stormtroopers. The quality of the holovideo is questionable at best, but the PCs’ names are attached to the file, listed as being wanted for questioning in the affair. The PCs need to defend themselves. Demos, on the other hand, will use every trick he knows to prosecute the PCs.

Suggested Skills:
Deception: 26
Gather Info: DC 23
Know: Galactic Lore: DC 18
Knowledge: Social Sciences: DC 18
Knowledge: Technology: DC 18
Mechanics: DC 23
Perception: DC 23
Persuasion: DC 26
Stealth: DC 26
Use Computer: DC 23
UTF: DC 31

Challenge Effects

Antagonist: Demos goes after each PC. If he gets 3 successes before the PCs, then he wins.
Degenerating: +/-5 next DC based on success or failure.
Recovery: Success by 5+ can be cashed in to cancel one of Demos’s successes.

Demos's character sheet
Igren Demos                CL 8

Medium Human noble 6/scoundrel 2
Destiny 1
Init +10; Senses Perception +6
Languages Basic, Dosh, Gamorrean, Huttese

Defenses Ref 21 (flat-footed 20, with Flurry 16), Fort 18, Will 22
hp 42; Threshold 18

Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +8 (1d4+3) or
Melee unarmed +10 (1d4+3) with Flurry or
Melee lightsaber +8 (2d8+3) or
Melee lightsaber +10 (2d8+3) with Flurry
Ranged sidearm blaster +6 (3d6+4)
Base Atk +5; Grp +6
Atk Options Flurry, Point Blank Shot
Special Actions Disciplined Strike, Retribution, Telekinetic Savant 1/encounter
Force Powers Known (Use The Force +12) battle strike, Force slam, mind trick (2), move object, rebuke

Abilities Str 8, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 17
Special Qualities build lightsaber
Talents Disciplined Strike, Noble Fencing Style, Retribution, Telekinetic Savant
Feats Flurry, Force Sensitivity, Force Training (2), Linguist, Point Blank Shot, Skill Focus), Weapon Proficiency (lightsabers, pistols, simple weapons)
Skills Deception +12, Gather Information +12, Initiative +10, Knowledge (bureaucracy) +10, Knowledge (galactic lore) +10, Persuasion +12, Pilot +10, Use the Force +12
Possessions audiorecorder, lightsaber, sidearm blaster
I hope this helps everyone.