Session Deconstruction: Star Wars – Edge of the Empire #3
Well, at this point, I can safely say that this game is the high point of the week for a couple of people. The game ran smoothly enough for the first two sessions, but with the most recent session, everything seemed to come together in higher resolution.
A lot of it comes back to the way the characters were introduced and started to develop over the course of play. (See recent posts on Cliches and the related topics of Player Buy-In and Character Introduction.) All of my players were wholly on board with the game itself, but their characters were a bit more nebulous as they started out. A good portion of this had to do with the varying levels of experience with the system itself. I say this because, as I noted in the last entry on this game, two of the players are heavy Star Wars nerds who haven’t played this system. The third guy is less enmeshed in the deeper history of the Expanded Universe, but he’s played a lot of EotE. Of the three characters, his Wookiee with a Vibroaxe is a lot more clearly drawn and fleshed out. The Human Slicer and the Selonian Smuggler tended to be drawn in broader strokes, with the details showing up over the course of play.
In the case of the Slicer, a joking comment from the guy playing the Wookiee cast him as the hacker from Kung Fury. (If you haven’t availed yourself yet, check out the trailer on YouTube. I look forward to the final production for no very well established reason.) This characterization took hold, all the way down to the Nintendo Power Glove as integral to the character’s style. Now, it’s become a way to inject flavor into different scenes and pushes the player to come up with different aspects to role-play.
As to the Selonian, she’s growing into her role as the pilot and shifting heavily in that direction as the game goes on. That player hasn’t had as long in the trenches, having joined after the intro adventure, but the character is making more sense as play continues.
The Wookiee, in the meantime, is the de facto leader of the group, calling most of the shots and making decisions for the continuing campaign. Yeah, the player is far more used to the way I run Star Wars these days, but it’s fascinating to watch him key into critical plot elements as they pop up.
When we last left the characters, at the end of the second session, they were in the process of doing the initial survey of the mining operation, having discovered a number of dead miners immediately. There was no particular logic as to what had happened, but it had become immediately clear that something was amiss. When they picked up this session, they started digging into the causes. They discovered a deactivated administration droid who had been shut down for the sake of the main antagonist’s plots. Generally, the plot of the module revolves around the different essential droids of the operation deciding to rise up against the organics and escape. As such, the rest of the module deals with shutting the droids down or killing them outright to insure the survival of the mine. After all, they were sent here to collect the annual profits and make sure that everything continued to run smoothly.
This is where the module actually gets really interesting. Since all of the droids are largely essential to the operation of the mine, wiping them out as opposition is actually an extremely bad idea. If the players take this course, these are assets of the mine that have to be immediately replaced. (The end of the module almost requires a spreadsheet to keep all of this in perspective.) There’s a stock of money in the office safe, some of which is earmarked for wages for the mine workers, some of which is set aside for equipment needs and the rest of which is there for the crime lord. If the players choose a combat approach to things, this drains away extremely fast.
Weirdly, the module assumes worst case scenario on much of it, factoring the resolution in light of the characters being either greedy or careless. As such, there are contingencies for nearly every scenario, save that of relative success.
I’m pretty sure you can see where I’m going with this.
With a Slicer on the crew, the technical aspects of dealing with the droids shifted to the foreground. The first couple of droids ended up running afoul of jury-rigged restraining bolts and the careful application thereof. Once they got hold of the actual weapon that deployed the restraining bolts, it was all over save cleanup. The actual final confrontation was cut short by a delicate Stealth check from the bolt-wielding Slicer, followed by an unsubtle Coercion check on the part of the Wookiee. With the droid mastermind on the floor, they were free to start the various data restores to bring the droids back into general compliance.
As written, the module edges toward being a horror adventure. It’s been referred to as ‘The Haunted Mine’ by people I know that are familiar with the adventure, and there are plenty of aspects that can be played up for that purpose. Contrary to my general nature, I chose not to run it as such, since the most I could have expected out of it was to set the characters on edge with occasional checks against their minimal (and generally untrained) Discipline. For characters as low a level as this group currently is, it would have been an exercise in frustration, as I heaped Threat Dice on them for failed checks or accumulated Setback. Strain was already becoming a problem for them, to the point that the Wookiee was knocked out at one point and the Slicer was on the verge of passing out himself.
This is something that I’m going to have to play around with, as I go along. When another guy was running EotE, he handed out Strain on a fairly constant basis to correct for both our skill in combat and our ability to avoid it as necessary. I can definitely see the logic to it, given the parallel tracks of Wound and Strain, as a means to reign in power-built characters, but I know better than to rely on it too heavily.
As I go along, there seem to be a myriad of tethers that can keep characters in check. Wounds and Strain function directly on a round by round basis, where Obligation and Money can help to direct the overall arc of the campaign itself. If pressure needs to be brought on a group, it’s usually through the hook of Obligation, either by working to pay it down or through having an element of a character’s backstory show up to force direction. Money goes hand in hand with Obligation, often being interchangeable.
The end of the module assumes that the characters come up short on money due to having destroyed a good portion of the mechanical workforce and some of the materiel. Instead, they ended up paying out bonuses to the surviving mine personnel and coming out with more money for their crime lord employer. There’s nothing in the module to offer any suggestion of how to deal with this. Not only did they not screw up in the slightest, they came out ahead in all things. This was even after I made up a couple of expenses to upgrade the mine.
As I noted in the last analysis of EotE, the default assumption is that the characters are broke through most of the game, so it’s a little weird to consider that my players would manage to operate at a surplus. And I get the feeling that most people approach the game with this idea well in mind. Through the local grapevine, I had heard that another group nearby had caused their gamemaster no end of trouble when they managed to lay hands on a ship large enough to launch fighters out of. Apparently, this had flipped the power dynamic to the point that the GM no longer had any way to influence the characters in the directions he wanted. I’m intrigued by this idea, but I still reserve enough tricks up my sleeve to be able to keep even that level of materiel from being game crippling.
The next session or so are going to revolve around the third canned adventure I was planning to run, which will work itself into the broader campaign arc that I have in mind. Sadly, this week looks to be a wash, given that real world obligations have derailed most of the players from being able to attend. I haven’t decided what I’m going to occupy myself with in the mean time.