A very very long while ago I started my first Star Wars solo rpg game using the Mythic GME and Risus as the game engine.
I used Mythic almost as written, with scenes, thread lists, npc lists, chaos factor updates, the whole package. I soon realized that it was very fiddly and like I mentioned several times before, the whole process of changing scenes felt like a chore.
Also, even though I had a clear goal, a quest to complete (charting a new hyperspace route for a company), I played quite a few scenes (42 pages so far, almost 20,000 words) and even though a lot of things happened (I got caught in a space battle between the rebels and the empire, stranded in space, lost all my money at sabbac and stole a starship.) I didn’t get far regarding my mission. Eventually I left the game right in the middle.
Of course that is a very unsatisfying situation for me (and also for the readers that have been following along, please accept my apology). I have been meaning to come back to this game for quite a while but I was always lacking the motivation to do so. Now, after having gained some more experience playing solo and with the knowledge gained from all the wonderful blogs from you solo gamers out there I finally feel up to the task.
However, to get this thing finished I will make some changes. I will abandon the Mythic GME, well, the fiddly bits at least. I will still use the fate chart with the chaos factor set and fixed at 5 but as a random idea generator I will use story cubes (by the way, I upgraded my collection by adding the basic set to my Voyages set). I will get rid of scenes and all the lists and employ a mix of module based and freestyle gaming.
By that I mean I will set a fixed amount of encounters that I have to complete, in order to set a definite end (that’s the module part), but the encounters will be created in a freeform manner by interpreting story cubes in the context of what has happened before and before the backdrop of my quest.
So, I now determine that I will have to play 4 more encounters in a row which will form the last arc of the story.
For those of you who have some time to read, here is the whole story so far (the starting page at least, you will have to click through all the parts):
Why do I want to finish this now? First of all because I hate loose ends of course and second because my plan is to have Ash fly into my sandbox sector and use him as a second character in addition to Cal to try out different role-playing systems in one-shot adventures. He will become my test subject who will suffer the fate of being converted to different systems. Cal on the other hand will stay an Edge of the Empire character in a continuous campaign.
For those of you who don’t have time to read, here is the management version:
Ren Ashfield, called “Ash”, was hired by a company to chart and explore a new hyperspace route the company needs to deliver high-protein ration packs to the empire. Their old routes are compromised and the company faced ambushes by the Rebel Alliance. However, during his travels Ash stumbled into a space battle between rebels and imperials, lost his ship, stranded in space, was rescued and dropped off on a backwater planet. To get a new ship he tried his luck at sabbac, lost almost everything and stole a ship because he had no other choice. Now he travels to the waypoints he has calculated for the new route in order to gather all the astrogational data the company needs to use the hyperspace route. He still has 11 waypoints left to go…
So, without further ado, here we go, finally concluding the adventures of Ren “Ash” Ashfield, corellian smuggler and hot-shot pilot:
Ash watched the Duros depart and went back to the task of charting the hyperspace route, starting calculations for the jump to the next waypoint. He still had eleven waypoints to go and no more time to waist. After a short while the calculations were ready and Ash crossed his fingers and engaged the hyperdrive.
Encounter 1: Story Cubes: shield and rain cloud
Interpretation: Ash encounters a heavy ion storm and might loose his ships shielding
A few hours had passed and everything looked good so far. Ash was dozing off a little bit in the cockpit. BAM! The ship was ripped from hyperspace with brute force as the emergency hyperdrive shut-off kicked in. An alarm was blazing, status lights went haywire. “Not again”, Ash thought as it reminded him of his unpleasant encounter with an imperial interdictor cruiser not too long ago. And didn’t the Duros tell him about this region of space being in dispute?
Ash was almost relieved as he realized it was no interdictor cruiser, no asteroid belt or pirate ambush, but just an “ordinary” ion storm. However, a very strong one. His ship’s systems responded very sluggishly, his sensors were dead. This could actually get unpleasant. In a moment’s notice Ash was all there, his hands flying over the controls, trying to adjust his course to lessen the stress on his vessel.
Skill Challenge: Smuggler roll vs. TN 12, Ash needs 5 successes before 3 failures. The challenge is a failure. I rule that the ship lost it’s shields and maneuvering thrusters and that Ash looses one die from all subsequent rolls involving piloting until the ship is fixed.
It was to late, he was too far into the storm already. He did all he could but as he finally managed to clear the storm his shields and maneuvering thrusters were gone.
“Only once I want something to go right. Is that too much to ask?”
He checked all vital systems, repaired what he could, and recalculated his course.
The next few hours were uneventful and Ash actually managed to map and calculate four more waypoints. Only seven left.
Encounter 2: little boy casting a monster shadow and keyhole
Interpretation: At the next waypoint location Ash encounters a scary and frightening imperial dungeon ship.
Ash arrived at his next waypoint location without complications. As always he did a thorough sensor scan. He couldn’t believe his scopes. Sensors detected a frightening sensor shadow directly above and behind him. A vessel of 764 meters in length.
Smuggler roll to identify vs. TN 13, 16, success
Ash could not believe his readings. The thing behind him was an imperial Lictor-class dungeon ship. These were used after the Clone Wars to transport captive Jedi, among other things. And there was no doubt in his mind that the ship spotted him as well.
Does it have a wing of TIE fighters aboard? (unlikely, since according to wookiepedia that is not part of the ship’s complement) No.
Does it open fire on Ash? (50/50) 57, no, lucky me but I am not done yet…
Does it try to catch Ash with it’s tractor beam? (50/50) 68, no
However, it was just sitting there, looming above him in space. Ash didn’t want to push his luck. He calculated a new waypoint immediately and crossed his fingers, hoping the imperials would not change their mind before the calculations were completed. They didn’t.
After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity to Ash he was back in hyperspace.
After one more day he had only three waypoints left to calculate.
Encounter 3: asian gateway or temple entrance and measuring scale
Interpretation: Ash stumbles upon a secret pirate base! The gateway looks like an entrance to something or if you just look at the shape it can also pass for the top view of an aggressive looking starfighter and the scale immediatly made me think of goods, loot, the pirates computer game….so a pirate base it is.
Ash came out of hyperspace and started his routine, as the proximity alarm went off. What now?!, he thought. Two Z-95 headhunters closed in fast, coming in from behind. Where did they come from out here in deep space? The answer was provided by the result of his scan, which showed a space platform nearby, powering up weapons. Ash hailed the approaching Z-95s:
“Listen buddys, this is Ash speaking. I don’t care who you are and what you’re doing out here. As far as I am concerned I didn’t even see you. My hold is empty and this ship, as you can probably detect, is damaged as well. I got a really rough time behind me and I don’t want this to go south for any of us? So whadda ya say? Just gimme a few minutes and I am outta here. Oh, and I got no family that is going to cough up a dime or two either.”
The pirates actually seem to consider what he said.
Fast Talking Man of the Streets (4) vs. Pirates (3) in a single action contest: Ash 13, Pirates 12, close but success
“You got two minutes” a harsh alien voice replied. To emphasize his statement he fired a few warning shots to the right and left of Ash’s ship.
Now he had to be quick to calculate a fast jump out of here.
Smuggler roll vs. TN 10, 9 failure, damn.
After two minutes, he was still there….the Z-95s escorted him the entire time.
“Time’s up.” the harsh alien voice said.
“No wait…I am almost done…just a few more seconds.”
They started firing, Ash started flying.
Alright, a multi-action conflict (aka space battle). Ash can only roll 3 dice because of damaged thrusters and blown shields (and because I forget to actually attempt to repair them, stupid me). I am using the best of set rules, meaning only the single highest die from each side is counted. If it’s a tie, victory goes to the side that rolled fewer dice (goliath rule). Every lost round means the loss of one cliche die. I am rolling Smuggler (3) vs. Space Pirates in Z-95s (3), treating them as a grunt squad. YES! I won with the last die left. Ash lost the first two rounds and was already down to one die. However, I rolled two sixes in a row with my one die and thanks to the goliath rule (fewest dice win) I dropped them to one die also and won the last round 4 to 3. I was really afraid of that last roll however and tension was high.
“You should have listened to me.” Ash showed them what it meant to mess with a Corellian. Even though he took a few hits while he was still getting a hang of flying without thrusters, as soon as that was done, they didn’t stand a chance.
The pirates were not used to an opponent like Ash. Usually they preyed on slow and sluggish bulk cargo haulers with a badly paid crew that only cared about their own lives. No one ever really resisted. They had never seen somebody fly an YT-1300 like this. And they never will again as a hail of quadlaser-turret fire rained down on them. Before they knew what hit em it was all over as they turned into two balls of fire.
During the battle, the YT-1300’s navcom kept calculating so Ash was gone before any reinforcements arrived.
Encounter 4: musical note and whip
Interpretation: that’s simple, Ash receives a distress call from a small yacht which is under attack by slavers
After this unpleasant encounter, things went a little smoother. Ash managed to map his last three waypoints and was on his way back to Galvin, the planet where it all started and where he go this assignment. On his way back he backtracked every calculated waypoint in order to get the necessary navigational data for the return trip that the company will need and to refine is navigational coordinates. The backtrack was necessary because he lost his navigational beacons. During the uneventful time in hyperspace he did all he could to repair the damage to his thrusters.
Is there a toolkit onboard? (very likely)89 No! Damn.
However, that wasn’t easy at all, since the previous owner didn’t stash a standard toolkit, like every sane spacer would. Ash still tried to jury-rig something.
Smuggler roll vs. TN 15, 16, success. Yay!
He indeed managed to patch things up. He was sure his jury-rigging wouldn’t last long but as long as it lasted until he landed at Galvin he didn’t care. Only one more waypoint to go.
He re-entered realspace at the last coordinates. Ash was relieved. “Alright ladies and gentlebeings. Next stop, Galvin.” He started the calculations for the last jump.
Suddenly, he received a distress signal.
“Mayday, Mayday, we are under attack by Trandoshan slavers. Please, if anybody is in the vicinity assist us! Please!”
Do they offer a reward? (very likely) 69, Yes.
“We will compensate you for your assistance. Please!”
For a second there Ash was tempted to just punsh it and leave. However, he could need every credit he get, having lost most of his advance payment and sabbacc. He still hat this Hutt to pay off. And he really didn’t want anybody to end up in the hands of Trandoshan slavers. So he plotted an intercept course. Also, if these slavers operated in this area they needed to be taken care of for the Galvan Exports Fishing Company.
“Hold out a little longer, I am on my way! And get your credit transfer ready!”
He went in full throttle and reached the site of the battle a few moments later. Since the slavers were busy with their target, a small yacht, Ash managed to get on their tail.
Space combat: multi-action conflict against Trandoshan Slavers (2). I rolled 1d3+1 to get their cliche value and was lucky.
He almost underestimated them and his ship took some serious damage this time. He needed every trick in the book and bypassed every safety mechanisms to pull this one of but he finally managed to destroy the slaver ship, a Firespray patrol vessel.
Again a close one. I went in 4 vs. 2 dice, however, because of the goliath rule, they managed to reduce me to two dice before the slavers finally took a hit. So the last round was 2 dice vs. 1 die and I won with 6 to 3.
He hailed the yacht.
“Now let’s talk credits. As you probably noticed, I took some serious damage and that’s gonna cost you.”
“We are prepared to pay you 2000 credits.”
“Yeah, right, try again. For 2000 credits I can barely cover my berthing fees for the duration of my repairs. How about you double that number? Otherwise I am afraid you will still be in need of your escape capsules.”
To make a point, Ash fired a low-powered warning shot to the side of the yacht.
Do they agree? (I’ll give it 80%) 19, Yes.
“Alright, alright captain. No need to get bumpy. You can’t blame us for trying. 4000 it is. We will transfer the money to your credstick account.”
Ash waited a few moments and checked his balance. And indeed he was up 4000 credits.
“Have a nice day.”, he just replied and made the jump to lightspeed.
A few hours later he arrived in the Galvin system. Finally. Even if he was gone only a few days, maybe a week, the entire ordeal felt like an eternity.
Are his employers satisfied with Ash’s solution? (50/50) 55, No.
Do they want to lower his pay? (very likely) 64, Yes.
By how much? 90% ouch. So they won’t pay him anything because he already got paid in advance.
However, he was not greeted friendly has he landed at the corporate owned starport.
Mr. Smith approached him and came straight to the point.
“Well my dear captain Ashfield, as glad as I am to see that you finally made it back alive I regret that I must inform you, that you failed to deliver on your contract. Therefore you will not be paid the remaining sum of 4000 credits.”
“Listen Mr. Nicesuit. I got very accurate and very current navigational data for 6 waypoints from here to your destination. This data is amost as good as using the beacons. If you program the route now and drop a new beacon at every waypoint you have what you wanted. Granted, I didn’t do it quite by the book but I think a little improvisation is in order. Charting unknown space is difficult you know.”
“Certainly captain. But this is why we agreed to pay you 12000 in the first place and this is why you got 8000 in advance. I think you have to consider yourself lucky that we don’t want to be reimbursed for the lost beacons.”
“You gotta be kidding me.”
“Oh, not at all. And I am afraid I have to ask you to transmit your navigational data to our datanet anyways.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I believe that ship you are traveling in is stolen isn’t it? It would be a real pitty if we had to impound it and take you into custody. You do remember that we basically own this place?”
“Yeah yeah, don’t sweat it. It’s always the same with you corporate types. That’s why people like me shouldn’t deal with people like you. I got the message. If you’ll excuse me now. I will go to MY ship and transmit the data and then I am outta here. So long.”
Without another word he left, hand on his blaster. After a few minutes he was back in space, setting a course for the Tamesh Sector…
And this finally concludes Ash’s adventure. My future plans are to use him in my sandbox sector for one-shots testing different systems that I wan’t to try out.
On my list I got for now:
But before that, I will come back to Edge of the Empire.
After I played a 9Q session using D&D 4th Edition and now my first session of Edge of the Empire I want to talk about what I would like to call “module based” play vs. “freeform” play.
When I say module based I mean the game plays more like playing a published adventure module. You have a set goal and a definitve end. I think the 9Qs are a good tool for module based play since they essentialy create an adventure for you and try to emulate the plot of a good movie or an adventure module that you would buy in a store. In a way, the Mythic GME also supports module based play by dividing the adventure in distinct parts by using scenes and by employing actual rule mechanics that are used once you change the scene. However, Mythic does not give you a clear finishing point as the 9Qs do which can make it hard to actually finish an adventure (as I have experienced first hand).
Freeform play, on the other hand, is what I would also call sandbox gaming. You have a certain setting or area and you move freely within that environment, without a clear structure or finishing point and basically stumble into adventure. Freeform play is what I intend to do in my Edge of the Empire campaign. That said, it is of course possible to combine the two by playing in a sandbox up until you get a “quest”. A certain task or mission that you have to complete which has a clear goal. You can then use something like the 9Qs to basically “zoom in” and treat your quest as a “module” within your sandbox.
In no way I want to turn this into a discussion about what is better. I think every method has it’s benefits and downsides. It is just something I caught myself thinking about so I thought I make a post out of it. So for me, these are the advantages of module based play:
- You have a clear goal from the start.
- You have a definite end.
- An adventure can be finished in a reasonable amount of time.
- You can use it for one-shots to try out different game systems.
- You have a structured plot.
But for me, there are also some disadvantages:
- It feels very “gamey” with set mechanics.
- For me it breaks immersion in a way, as I no longer have the feeling I can really do anything but instead am “locked” in the structure of the module until the quest is finished. In other words, I find it hard to think outside the box.
So, looking at freeform gaming, you can practically turn the above list around.
For me, the main advantage is the “illusion of free will” which gives me the feeling I can freely roam about in my world without worrying about structure and mechanics. Also, as there are no rules associated with scene change or certain mechanics that you have to employ that require you to not only think about your story but about rules it does not feel as “gamey”. I experienced this firsthand while playing a Mythic Star Wars session as you can read here:
Changing a scene in Mythic actually felt like a chore:
You have to think about the Chaos Factor going up or down.
You have to update your lists with NPCs and threads.
You have to come up with a new set-up and roll a die to see if it stays or if an interrupt scene occurs.
If the scene does not stay, you have to think about how it could be altered and change the set up.
So I came to the conclusion, that I like a more freeform approach.
However, this freedom can also lead to wandering about without a goal or purpose, making it hard to finish an adventure.
So what will I do in the future? I will employ the method of freestyle delving which John Fiore introduced here
and use it not only for freestyle delving but for freestyle adventuring in Edge of the Empire. I will use the random idea generator at intervalls, whenever some amout of time has passed or it makes sense storywise, to introduce random events into the story. These intervalls are pretty easy to identify (at least I think so). Just jumped into a new system? Roll. Entering a new bar, cantina or casino? Roll. Spending the night in the wilderness somewhere? Roll. Walking from one place to another in a dangerous neighborhood? Roll. I think you get the idea.
And sometimes, these events alone can form the adventure. For example take the smuggling job Cal took. I had one encounter before the jump, battling pirates that set-up a trap. I will check for another encounter after exiting from hyperspace and for another encounter after docking at the station. These encounters in context with the delivery are, in my opinion, enough to compose the adventure. No need to employ the 9Qs here for a smuggling run. However, who knows, maybe in the course of my adventures my ship gets impounded and locked away some place. The task of stealing it back is something that I could see myself using the 9Qs for to “zoom in” on the action and create the adventure I need to complete to get the ship back.
So what about your experiences? What do you prefer? How do you do it? I am always happy to get new ideas and hear new approaches, so discuss away.
After Keira’s demise I will start a new Star Wars Edge of the Empire solo campaign live here on this blog. I already started one campaign but like Keira my hero perished while dropping off some smuggled contraband in a rocky canyon as he got attacked by a large Rock Dragon (a relative of the Krayt Dragon who prefers rocky canyons to deserts). It was my first time trying out EotE however and I think I didn’t get the encounter balance right the first time. So lets see if I do better now. But before I can start I need to do a little prep work and generate a random space sector as a sandbox to play in and of course a new hero.
So, first things first. I am using the EotE Beginner Box as a stand-alone rules light system and I have made up my own character generation rules by looking at the stats of the included pre-gens to get them right balance wise. Here they are:
Homemade character generation rules:
These rules are not compatible with the core rulebook. I am using the Beginner Game as a rules-light stand-alone rpg system and these rules are intended to create characters for that purpose.
1. Assign ability scores: Every character gets 15 points to distribute between the six ability scores. A score needs to have a minimum value of 1 and can have a maximum of value of 5. Ability scores can’t be increased after character generation.
2. Determine wound and strain threshold: Wounds are 10 + Brawn, Strain is 10 + Willpower.
3. Determine basic soak: soak = brawn
4. Choose career skills: There are no fixed classes. Choose 8 skills that fit your character concept and mark them as career skills.
5. Distribute skill points: Starting characters get 10 points to distribute between all skills. One skill point buys one rank in the skill. You can purchase a maximum of two ranks for a career skill and a maximum of one rank for a non career skill at character creation. These values might by adjusted by racial bonuses (see below).
4. Choose race: Pick one of the following or create your own.
Humans get +1 career skill and +1 skill point at character creation.
Wookies get +4 wound threshold and +1 rank in Brawl.
Bothans get +1 rank in Stealth and +1 rank in Streetwise.
Trandoshans get +1 soak (natural armor) and +1 rank in Brawl.
Twi’leks get +1 rank in Knowledge and +1 rank in Charm.
Rodians get +1 rank in Survival and +1 rank in Streetwise.
Duros get +1 rank in Pilot and +1 rank in Astrogation.
Sullustans get +1 rank in Astrogation and +1 rank in Perception.
Droids get +2 skill points and droid traits (no need to sleep, eat, breathe etc. Immunity to poison, disease, heat, cold etc.)
As a rule of thumb a race does not provide an ability bonus but a bonus to certain skills.
5. Choose one starting talent from the available talent trees in the Beginner Game. You don’t need to worry about class restrictions. Choose what fits the concept.
6. Spend up to 1000 credits on starting equipment. You start with your leftover cash + 300 credits pocket money.
That’s it. You can advance your character as described in the Beginner Game rulebook by using XP to buy skill ranks or talents.
So why use the EotE-system and not another edition of a Star Wars RPG?
1. Because it’s shiny and new :-).
2. Because it uses a dice pool mechanic which is geared towards supporting narrative play.
3. Because combat is handled in a more narrative and abstract fashion without the need for miniatures or maps, which will make the sessions go smoother (I hope) as I can just type everything and roll the dice in between.
4. The same goes for equipment and other stuff which can be used by just adding boost dice to the dice pool depending on the situation and equipment used. No long lists of modifiers and stats.
Because I like playing scoundrels and smugglers flying hot junk freighters I will create a human smuggler named Cal Ozan. I will go with the following ability scores:
Brawn 2, Agility 4, Intellect 2, Cunning 3, Willpower 2, Presence 2
I will be a Human so I get 9 career skills and 11 skill points. I choose the following skills as career skills:
Astrogation, Pilot, Streetwise, Ranged (light), Gunnery, Skulduggery, Mechanics, Deceit, Perception
I distribute my points as follows:
Ranged (light) 2
Wounds 12, Strain 12, Soak 3 (includes heavy clothing)
Talent: Natural Jockey
heavy blaster pistol (DL-44): medium range, 7 damage, critical 3, stun setting
heavy clothing (heavy leather jacket, padded pants, leather boots, pullover): soak 1
2 stimpacks (restores 4 wounds, one use item)
2 extra reloads (cancels an out of ammo result, one use item)
300 credits cash
beaten YT-1300 transport
Next I need to create a space sector:
I will play this campaign as a sandbox campaign and will limit myself to one space sector for now, which I will create randomly. I am using this hexpaper template which has hundred hexes:
It is free 🙂
Now I will fill twenty hexes with randomly generated content by rolling a d20 twenty times, using the following chart:
1-12: planetary system (determine world tag for each system)
13-14: asteroid belt (1: light, 2: medium, 3: dense field, use 1d3)
15-16: space nebula (1: light, 2: medium, 3: dense nebula, use 1d3)
17-18: space station (1-2: civilian, 3-4: pirates, 5-6: military)
19: space debris field (1: light, 2: medium, 3: dense, use 1d3)
20: hidden base (1-3: rebels, 4-5: smugglers or pirates, 6: military)
The content will be placed in a random hex determined by rolling 2d10, one for the column and one for the hex in that column.
After twenty rolls I got the following results:
13 planetary systems, three asteroid belts (one light, one medium, one dense), two civilian space stations, one hidden rebel base, one medium nebula
Every planetary system will get a name and a world tag from the following table (1d12):
1: metropolitan trade hub
3: wretched hive of scum and villany
4: military stronghold
5: struggling backwater planet
6: untamed wilderness
7: recreational resort
8: heavy industry
9: natural resources
10: religious enclave
12: devastated by war, natural disaster or industrial accident
The world tag is all that is needed at first, to get a general idea of what the planet is about. Further detail will be provided once the planet is visited and explored by the hero.
The names and world tags are:
Aldere: devastated by war
Zelrox: natural resources
Ord Tamesh: military stronghold
Melrash and Taskona: wretched hive of scum and villany x 2
Wilgore: untamed wilderness
Camil: religious enclave
Somal and Credo: recreational resort x 2
Kosh and Belrash: struggling backwater planet x 2
The completed sector map looks like this:
I will play this campaign a little more freeform than Keira’s adventure, not using the 9Qs at first but instead describe the world around my hero and what he does with random encounters depending on his actions in storywise fitting intervals. Sort of like an actual open-world video rpg with random quests and “quest givers”. When my hero gets a quest or mission or staggers into an adventure I will decide if I use the 9Qs to generate the adventure or try out some other methods. As I am at least planning this as a long term thing I will do some other posts in between, so that you potential readers don’t get bored just reading Star Wars stuff.
Whenever I describe game mechanics I will use ITALIC print.
Stay tuned for the first session of EotE, coming soon to a blog near you.