Sunday, November 14, 2010

Once Upon A Time... Kaboom!

Once Upon A Time… Kaboom!
It’s your campaign’s first session! Your players just finished building their characters. If more than 15 minutes goes by without something exploding, give up your campaign.  Seriously, I’m talking about physics-defying fireballs causing great disturbances in the Force. I want your players’ jaws to drop and one of them to say, “But I just made my character.”
The situation surrounding the Kaboom should keep the PCs reeling for the next couple of gaming sessions. There should be a tiresome series of encounters with little time to lick wounds or make plans. Keep the PCs moving, hoping to survive.
Should you kill the PCs? Only if you want players to quit. However, you can have them knocked unconscious and captured. That is how the original trilogy began. The star destroyer blasted the bejeezus out of Tantive IV. Vader and posse mopped up the deck with the NPC rebel crew, driving the droid PCs to escape in a pod. The Leia PC was cornered and shot unconscious. I bet the players around the table were all yelling, “WTF!”
The Phantom Menace actually does a great job of creating a Kaboom with a lingering threat. Minutes after landing in the Viceroy’s command ship, the Neimoidians disintegrate the Republic Cruiser. Gas seeps into the room Qui Gon and Obi Wan are sitting in, and droids charge into the room, blasters firing. The Jedi race across the ship, trying to cut through the blast doors before the droidekas pulverize them. Finally, the heroes slip into a dropship and end up running from the droid army.
What’s the point of this player abuse? There are two reasons. The first: remind the gamers they are playing Star Wars. In a Star Wars adventure, the heroes do not answer a classified ad looking for caravan guards. Nor do they hang around cantinas until someone contracts them to explore a dungeon. Okay, Han and Chewie started their campaign adventure hanging around Mos Eisley Cantina waiting for adventure… but I consider them PCs late to join the campaign.
Chance and destiny capture the heroes. Star Wars is about typical people swept up by Galactic events. They must act or perish. Even in TPM, Qui Gon and Obi Wan went into the Viceroy’s ship assuming it was another routine negotiation. Then Kaboom! Adventure swept them away.
Secondly, you are providing the PCs with a firsthand demonstration of the power and ruthlessness of the enemies they will be battling over the course of the campaign. After running from the Kaboom fallout, the heroes’ psyches should be altered so that when they are called to make a stand against the enemy, they will not waiver from the challenge. They want revenge or to put an end to the evil they suffered under. And, they will likely have started to bond as a team through sheer need.
Let’s review the two trilogies. In ANH, the entire movie is made of the fallout from the Kaboom!... until the heroes reach Yavin IV and are asked to attack the Death Star. Until then, Luke and the droids were running from the Empire’s thugs. They thought they were safe when they got off planet on the Falcon, but by chance they ended up trapped in the enemy’s base. They did what they had to do to escape, and in the process they rescued Leia. Only when they got to Yavin IV were they approached to go on a mission. Only then did they have the choice to walk away from the destiny chance had put before them. Luke was affected enough by his experiences enough to volunteer and attack the Death Star. Han tried to deny his attitudes had been affected by his recent adventures. In the end, he returned to blast the TIE fighters off Luke’s butt, allowing him to destroy the Death Star.
In The Phantom Menace, Obi Wan and Qui Gon get aid from the Gungans, so they could reach Theed to help the Naboo and escape. They tried to outrun the blockade and took severe damage to the hyperdrive. The Tatooine adventures are an extension of the fallout from the initial Kaboom! Only when everyone reaches Coruscant are they free to make decisions unrelated to the Kaboom fallout. However, Padme and Qui Gon were affected strongly enough by their recent experiences they decided to end the Trade Federation’s occupation at all costs.
In the next blog entry, I will show the Kaboom fallout from several of my campaigns. Also, I will discuss the consequences of weak Kabooms.

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