Sunday, January 2, 2011

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.

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