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Species
February 4, 2014, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Campaign Brewing, Kingdom Far Away, RPG's, Star Wars

I’ll put force users on the shelf for now and move on to another vital thing about both Star Wars and RPG’s: Species. Of course in RPG’s the common term is races, but I think for a Star Wars game species feels more appropriate. It evokes a slightly more scientific bent and also I hope makes the world feel bigger. Unlike the generic fantasy campaigns I normally run, in the Kingdom Far, Far Away, each species will have it’s own distinct homeland. They will still mingle in cities but I really want locations to be distinct. I’ll admit in my games all dwarves tend to be from mountains, all elves tend to be from forests etc. This helps speed up play at the table but it also makes things more generic.

One of my goals for this project is to create a campaign that has a very low entry point. I’d like to be able to run it for people in my area, mostly students, who haven’t played tabletop games before and come from a video gaming background. Familiarity with Star Wars is assumed, but not necessarily with RPG’s. I want a player to be able to sit down at my table, roll a few dice, and have a playable character in minutes.

How does this work with all those species?

Well, I’m going to limit the initial species selection to humans. You can hail from Corellia, Coruscant or Alderaan and each of those origin kingdoms will come with their own benefits like stat improvements, skill selections or social abilites. When your party, or group, ventures to an alien kingdom, gains the services of an alien species or makes a particular contribution to a species, you “unlock” that species as a character creation option.

I hope this will both simplify the game as well as open up more incentive for engagement with my world.



More Thoughts on The Jedi
January 16, 2014, 11:13 am
Filed under: Campaign Brewing, Kingdom Far Away, RPG's, Star Wars

On the last post Fik says:

Sounds like fun, but with only a 1% chance, once per level, doesn’t it seem like it’ll be so rare that almost no one will get the opportunity to experience all of the game play?

Yes, yes it does. And that’s been the sticking point for me. Really, a part of my internal monologue about force-users in this game. I tried to alleviate some of that scarcity by upping the chance every level, and maybe I didn’t make myself clear in that. Every level, your chance to become force-sensitive goes up by 1%. So for every level, you pick another number and then roll a d100. Meaning by 5th level, you have a one in twenty chance of being force-sensitive and by 10th, it’s one in ten. I’m also considering a luck mechanic and allowing players to burn luck points to improve their chances.

But then at that point, why not just give players who really want to be force-users a no fail way to do it? Fik’s more subtle question about people who just want to play a bounty hunter being “forced” to be a force user is valid. I haven’t talked about it, but I’m considering some in world complications for being a force user like being drawn into politics or being recruited/hunted by other factions.

Well my original reasoning was that Jedi are just so darn scarce in the Star Wars universe. That and I really don’t want to DM a campaign where everyone is force users, and even less a campaign where one person is a force user and he/she is way more powerful than everyone else. Or a campaign where it’s all about the force-users hunting for “spells.”

My holy grail here is to have characters who are good at stuff, and also Jedi rather than characters who are just good at being Jedi. Corran Horn versus Qui Gon I guess. It makes more sense to me to have a base class of fighter or specialist and then “bolt on” force-sensitive rather than having either:

1) A force-sensitive class for every style of character like The Old Republic did it
2) Or a force-sensitive class with a million options at character generation so you could be a sword fighter or a healer or whatever

My current rules makes it so you’re still a fighter, but you can do this one extra thing like jump high or read minds. And if you want to pursue it, you can. Maybe some sort of hybrid system that allows you to give something up for a guaranteed force power at character creation. But the thing you give up had better be awesome. And I don’t mean like the paladin having a code that everyone forgets.

If it seems like I’m arguing with Fik, that isn’t the case. I’m arguing with myself, and Fik happens to agree with that part of my brain. It bears some thought.



Thoughts on the Jedi
January 13, 2014, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Campaign Brewing, Kingdom Far Away, Sandbox Campaign

Of course, the very first question one would ask, when confronted with a Medieval Star Wars (Land Wars?) game is “will there be Jedi?”

The short answer is “yes, of course.” The long answer is a bit more nuanced.

Scarcity

My first impulse when converting Star Wars to D&D was to call Wizards/Sorcerors Jedi and be done with it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would take the game in a direction I didn’t want to go. I fear that if Jedi was a class one could pick at the beginning of the game, unless it were balanced precisely, it would be the default for most players. Why would you be a fighter when you could be a Jedi fighter? And I fear that those who don’t pick Jedi would be less effective, or even less invested, in the game. Basically, the general perception is that the Jedi are the ones in charge and the most powerful and everyone else can just follow in their wake.

That, of course, isn’t actually the case in the original trilogy but it seems to be the general consensus. I also want the force to be mysterious. No midichlorians in this game! This is a low magic, high tech sort of setting. And considered in the scope of the whole galaxy, there aren’t that many force users out there.

I want the path of a force-user in my game to be that of Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy. Luke was rather older when he became aware of his power. He sought training from Master Yoda. He grew in power. He still relied on mundane methods of fighting and problem solving. In the Extended Universe he again sought training from the Emperor Reborn and ended up falling to the dark side. He resisted taking on apprentices and when he finally did, some of them fell. Luke’s path was one of experimentation and resistance. Much like the path of your everyday D&D adventurer.

To Become a Jedi

Becoming a force user, then, must be difficult and at least partially random. The current iteration of my rules states that at character creation a player picks a single number between 1 and 100. A percentile die is rolled every level the character obtains, including first, and if that number comes up the player has “unlocked” force sensitivity for that character.

But you’re not done yet! When you become force sensitive, and at every level, you get to pick a force power and one is randomly selected for you from the three schools: Control, Sense and Alter. To gain more powers you must seek them out. Force powers can be discovered through holocrons, scattered in the deep places of the world. Perhaps you seek wisdom in the force through practice and meditation (and I have yet to develop rules for “spell research.”) You may also seek a master. But finding a master has it’s own set of difficulties. You have to follow their rules now and you’ve chosen a side.

Force Sensitive Factions

So there have to be Jedi and Sith but in the Extended Universe there are other groups of force users out there. The witches of Dathomir, the Aing-Ti Monks and the Grey Jedi are all out there and seeking one or more of these communities could make an adventure all of it’s own.

This game will rely heavily on a factions system that I’m developing. Each faction will have it’s own rules and affiliations and will come with perks that will develop much like prestige classes.

Using the Force

My current plan is to use a modified version of this spell dice system from Brendan at Necropraxis.



A long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away…
January 10, 2014, 11:25 am
Filed under: Campaign Brewing, Dungeons and Dragons, Kingdom Far Away, RPG's

So, last post I talked about the campaign settings I’ve written and DM’d. I’d like to think I’ve matured as a Dungeon Master and as a campaign setting writer and I’ve decided it’s time to tackle a “big idea” and to make a setting that is uniquely mine.

My weak point has always been with the lore of a setting world. I’m good at coming up with encounters, plot hooks, NPC’s and the like. My struggle has always been with “what’s the history of this place?” So I’ve decided to co-opt a setting with history and places and make it my own.

I’m taking Star Wars and turning it into a medieval setting.

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Instead of Dwarvs and Orcs and Halflings, we have Mon Calamari, Bothans and Wookies.

Instead of the Corellian system we have the Kingdom of Corellia.

Instead of blasters and vibroswords, we have crossbows and…well, real swords.

Planets become cities, systems become kingdoms, the galaxy becomes one big world.

The idea here is to use the Star Wars setting but reinterpret it into a generic fantasy setting. I’ve found I have to do a lot of rules tweaking to get it to work the way I want, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far. So, the next series of posts is going to be all the building of this new campaign. I haven’t decided what to call it, but for now I’m tagging all the posts with the “Kingdom Far Away”category.



Some Backstory
August 16, 2011, 10:58 am
Filed under: Campaign Brewing

Just a little bit of back story I whipped up this morning. The day we’re playing is getting closer so I wanted to give my players a bit of a teaser. I’ve been developing all sorts of fun stuff but I didn’t want to post it for fear of spoilers.

Millenia ago:

Three hunched figures struggled up the nearly sheer face of Agrul-Dal. “The Ancient Brother” or literally, “The Wizened Elder,” was the largest mountain in the range. Others had names but this was the one the dwarves knew best. He had watched over them for many years while they toiled in the valleys, scraping out a life from the meager hills. The dwarves had come to this range before memory and had always suffered at the hands of the harsh weather, long winters and vicious wildlife. There had been a promise of riches but despite the vast cave system that ran for many miles under the range, findings were rare and the veins were small.

Days earlier, an elder from a village far down the valley had arrived. When the afternoon watch found her she was more dead than alive. The old dwarfess had witnessed a vision of the mountain, split in two, bleeding liquid fire. These three, two clerics and the son of the chieftain, had been chosen to investigate.

When they arrived at the spot the elder had seen in her dream, they saw the results of the “liquid fire” she had witnessed. Lava had pooled into every depression and crevice and cooled into slick, jet black obsidian. For fear of slipping on the razor sharp rocks, they had to pick their way carefully towards a natural cave that had opened in the side of the mountain. As they drew closer they felt an aura of protection and peace flow over them. The clerics entered the cave first and as soon as they stepped across the threshold, the air became warm and still. A huge yellow gem, easily the size of a dwarf, sat on a natural stone pedastal. A faint hum emanated from it.

Suddenly a dwarf strode out of one of the solid stone walls of the cave. He wore ancient plate armor. His beard was long, so long that it was wrapped across his shoulder and around his waist like a kilt. He spoke in a voice that sounded like gravel rolling down a hillside.

“I am the avatar of Torag, one that watches over this mountain range. Your people have toiled fruitlessly for years. Many have died. This mountain weeps for your suffering. It has also gifted you beyond the dreams of dwarfkind. This mountain has opened unto you it’s heart. Do not waste this priceless gift.”

To be continued…



Hallmarks of the New Campaign pt. 2
July 28, 2011, 5:05 pm
Filed under: Campaign Brewing, Uncategorized

Last time I talked about the first basic assumptions I’ll have to make for the upcoming campaign. Most of the things I talked about dealt with the physical setting in which the game will take place and the people who will be playing.

Today I want to begin talking about the assumptions I want to make about the campaign world. I’ll be honest, this campaign pretty much sprung into my mind fully formed. Like I mentioned in the last post, our current campaign is very vanilla fantasy. That’s ok, it’s a really fun time and that campaign has a lot of neat secrets. But, for this little one shot, I want to have some fun and stretch my imagination a little. I want to give everyone a really good time and some great gaming memories.

So, today I want to focus on the city the campaign is centered on. Some of my initial concepts are, in no particular order:

  • Huge railways and zeppelins.
  • A single city-state.
  • Dwarves, lots of dwarves.
I’m hesitant to use the ‘s-word’ here (steampunk) because it seems over used and I imagine the sort of people who feel very strongly about it object to it being thrown around every time there’s a wrench and some soot. Anyway, I want there to be an industrial feel. It plays well with my emphasis on dwarves because I can see them eventually taking up engineering and making huge mountain shafts with gears and elevators and underground rail lines. I may also be influenced by this guy.
I want to keep the focus tight while still providing lots of places to go and things to do. I’ve never done a mega-city before and it seems like a perfect fit. I can have different city wards with varying influences and themes: a seedy underbelly, a gated community for the rich and famous, commerce and industrial districts. Maybe an older dwarf town. I want my city to feel organic so I’ve decided that it is built around the peak of a mountain, expanded over centuries from the dwarf mines at it’s center. It’s cold outside so guards and zeppelin pilots have to bundle up but the closer you get to the city center, with it’s massive forges and machinery, the warmer it gets.
The city needs a name, and that’s what I’m going to talk about next post!


Hallmarks of the New Campaign pt. 1
July 21, 2011, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Campaign Brewing

I’m still thinking about the basic assumptions I want to make before getting into the nuts and bolts of campaign building. Several things come into play when planning something like this.

First and foremost, this is probably going to be a one-shot sort of affair, unless it goes so well that we decide to continue it online. I still have so much to show my characters about the other campaign that it would be a shame to quit it. On the other hand, the current online game is pretty ‘vanilla’, or low fantasy, compared to what I’m cooking up. I wonder whether having some face-to-face gaming might give this campaign a bit more momentum than the RP-heavy, all online game we’re currently playing. I guess we’ll see. I go where my players want me to go. Anyway, since it’s a one-shot, I need to contain the action to a relatively small area.

Second, since the current plan is for a one-shot, multiple hour session, I need to have enough stuff ready at the start to keep it interesting. Usually I plan a vague outline a session or two ahead and then prep for each session when I know where my players are headed. Now I’ll have two or three times the amount of table time to prep for. I want to provide lots of story and options so they don’t feel railroaded, but for every choice they make I need several available options. I want to be prepared but not drowning in materials I might not even use.

Finally, most of my players are relatively new at tabletop gaming. Usually when I DM, I’m playing with neckbeards who have been gaming for years, sometimes longer than me. When I start to describe a monster they already know it’s AC, average damage and challenge rating. With this game, I can bring in things that seem cliche to old players and the new guys will be seeing it for the first time. It revitalizes me but it also makes me rethink a lot of the models I’ve grown accustomed to.

So, I need to tailor my thinking to a one-shot format with focus on the action. I need to provide lots of possibilities and I need to be prepared to explore those possibilities with my players. Finally, I need to go back and look at the things that excited me about tabletop gaming when I was first getting into the hobby.

Next time I’ll talk a little more about the campaign world itself.