Monday, November 30, 2015

Villainous Scum - Star Wars Across Two Systems


A Time to Celebrate

Like many of you I've been counting the days since that very first teaser hit YouTube.  Finn on the sands of a faraway world.  BB-8 rolling at top speed.  The first glimpse of Kylo Ren's lightsaber burning bright.  The Falcon in flight dueling with TIE Fighters.  I was thrilled yet anxious.  Would this be the amazing film I craved, or Star Wars in name only?  Admittedly I had my doubts, and reserved judgement until I could see more.  

Of course, when the second teaser dropped, and I saw Han and Chewie, I was fighting back tears of joy.  

Since the April release of the second trailer, I've gone into Star Wars overdrive.  We celebrated a magnificent Star Wars day with friends and family.  I purchased way too many Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures much to my wife's delight.  I picked up Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Role-Playing Game and read that entire book cover to cover (of course it took me half the year to do so.)  I even had the chance to play a few games of Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion, enjoying myself thoroughly.  

So when Thanksgiving was over, and I started to seriously count the days to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I knew that I needed to celebrate with some kind of role-playing extravaganza.  But my first instinct wasn't to open my new RPG books.  I'm already  in the middle of enjoying several "non-Star Wars native" game systems right now.  

What if I tried running Star Wars in a totally unexpected system?  

To Choose the Dark Side… or the Light

While on Facebook last week I saw a question pop up asking about people's favorite Star Wars RPG systems.  Obviously whenever something like this gets posted several games come to everyones' minds, and their fans race to throw in their support:
  
  • There are those who first explored the universe of the original trilogy with West End Games' original d6 System, and have never left. 
  • Following the D&D 3E renaissance, the D20 System Star Wars game had some popularity, and there are still a few out there slinging their Revised Edition Rulebooks.
  • About the time that D&D 4E showed up, the Saga Edition was born, with some modified rules, and new squarish books.  I often see Saga Edition games posted on G+.  
  • Fast forward to present day and you have the Fantasy Flight Games series: Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny.  There are quite a few players for each of these, and I have been hounded by my good friend Andy to get an EotE campaign started.  

I realized that most folks posting on this question would offer up one of these games, so I decided to go outside the box and suggest something completely different:  running a Stormtrooper-themed game using Dungeon Crawl Classics.   

Speaking from my experiences in the Spring, I had an absolute blast running players through the Stormtrooper-themed 0-level funnels that I hastily threw together.  The games were fast, campy, and a lot of fun.  Now, I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you that DCCRPG is the "perfect system" for running Star Wars themed adventures.  But I can say that I enjoyed running those few Stormtrooper adventures more than all my time running Saga Edition combined.   

In a similar way, I really enjoyed running the Star Wars themed sessions of The Strange  earlier this year.  Turning Knights of the Old Republic into a recursion, I had the chance to come up with some quick house rules, select relevant foci for character generation, and experience the Star Wars universe with the Cypher System's nimble game mechanics.  This was all pre-Gen Con and the Cypher System Rulebook had not been released yet.  My only way of running a complete Cypher Star Wars game back then would have been to hack Numenera and The Strange.  Thankfully we live in a post-Cypher System Rulebook release world now… 

… boo yah.  

So I want to do some Star Wars RPG'ing, and when it came time to pick the system I was torn.  While I enjoyed the West End Games d6 System, I gave away almost all of my books several years ago when the D20 System came out.  Completing the cycle, I ditched many of my D20 books when Saga Edition turned up on the shelves.  I didn't particularly enjoy running the Saga Edition, and finding the books is a pain, so that game was out of the question.  Finally, I was left with running Edge of the Empire, which I enjoyed, and want to play more, but I didn't feel that I had enough mastery of the system to do something "special" for my celebration.  

I wanted to experience Star Wars a bit closer to home.

So I chose both the Cypher System and Dungeon Crawl Classics.  


The Villainous Scum on board Chris West's Dimensional Timeship


The Villainous Scum

This time last year I was preparing for Quattro con Carnage, an exploration of old-school fantasy role-playing across four different RPG systems.  For this Star Wars experiment, which I'm titling Villainous Scum, I'll be doing something similar.  Over the next several weeks I'm going to craft a pair of Star Wars adventures featuring a band of bounty hunters in service to the Empire.  As I develop the characters, adjustments to game mechanics, and adventure details, I will share the information right here on my blog for anyone who wants to follow along.  

The cast for Star Wars: Villainous Scum is currently as follows:

  • Commander Dragoon, an Independent Operative in the service of the Empire with her VT-49, "The Last Dance."
  • Gann Arrok, a Slicer and Tech Specialist who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Mist, a Clawdite Bounty Hunter who has taken on so many faces and mimicked so many personalities that they no longer remember their original self.  
  • L-7S "El Sevs", a Droid Pilot assembled on Nar Shadaa from the parts of over fifty poor and unfortunate droids.  
  • Seraph, a Dark Side Devotee and ex-Swoop Ganger discovered by the Empire in the hive-like slums of Coruscant.  
  • Rondi, a corrupted Force Adept that learned of the Dark Side on her own while enslaved in the Outer Rim. 

Here's what I can share from my plan right now:

  • The Villainous Scum are a motley crew of six hardened operatives in service to the Empire.  These will be pre-generated characters, complete with backstories, connections to other characters, and dark secrets that they would prefer to keep hidden.
    • It's important to note that I've gone with pre-gen characters so that I can showcase how easy it is to throw together Star Wars characters in just about any system with minimal effort… I'm all about the "minimal effort!"
    • This also means I'll be ready to go for convention season!
  • I like to think of the Villainous Scum as Star Wars meets the Inglourious Basterds.
  • I will be featuring my quick conversion notes for both the Cypher System and DCCRPG as their own blog entries.  I'll be posting links back to all the materials that I draw in to create these adventures.  
  • Each member of the Villainous Scum will get their own blog post, complete with game statistics for both the Cypher System and Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, as well as all other relevant information.
  • I will be running the Cypher System adventure, Between the Rocks Waits the Hard Case, at a live event here in Pittsburgh on December 19th.  Incidentally this is the same day that I'll be watching Star Wars the Force Awakens!
  • Our Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, Wrath of the Gungan Horde, will take place at a special Norwin Game Knights celebration on January 2nd, and may have completely different players (but the same six characters, along with a few Stormtrooper 0-levels… just in case.)  
  • Depending on the feedback I receive, I may run both of these adventures again in mid to late January as On Air Hangouts so that they can be shared on YouTube.  

For a special "bonus feature", I'll be developing a pair of Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures scenarios for Commander Dragoon's VT-49 Decimator, The Last Dance.  These scenarios will play out between my daughter Evie and myself, and will both be posted as separate blog entries.  

All in all, I'm looking at about fourteen separate Villainous Scum posts between now and early January.

As always, I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback regarding this little experiment.  For those Edge of the Empire devotees, I'm betting that Andy will get his way and I'll be giving in to his demands by the end of the month.  But for now, I'm really excited to see where this goes.

May the Force be with me!