Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Epic Star Wars Campaign - The battle for Talathen Sector


The sector map, now in glorious A1 on my wall

So, you may have noticed less posts in the recent past. well that's because I've been working on a massive project for a Star Wars campaign.

Many years ago, I read West End Games "Rebel Alliance handbook" and thought, "damn, wouldn't it be cool to play a game as a rebel sector command, making all the decisions and fighting ground battles, space battles and doing spying missions and the like in one big setting.

It was always too complex to pull off in a role-playing game. Too fiddly to use those mechanics for all the different kind of fights and decisions involved.

Now, I don't have to.

With Armada, Imperial Assault and X-wing, I have the tools to fight space battles and skirmishes, all i'm missing is full scale military assaults, but "Onslaught at Arda 1" has game rules for those as well.

So I got my players together and we created the sector using shared world building. A "tourists guide" to the sector is available online if anyone wants to read it.

The idea is that the four players are playing different ideological factions within the rebellion with slightly different goals, and while they have a shared goal of defeating the empire. The intrigue and friction from having competing secondary goals should make for some excellent stories to be told. While they play the faction leaders, they will also be playing all the characters within their faction. 

The "winner" will be the faction leader who accumulates the most "glory" from their actions in the fight against the empire.

Finally, I am playing the "Chief of staff", a rebel officer from rebel command who is neutral and acts as the arbitrator and administrator of the rebellion.

How it works

The core of the game is the minor NPC's that belong to each faction. Now, each character is introduced to the game and each faction bids on their services. Once a character joins a faction, their actions occur on behalf of the faction and earn the faction leader "clout" (which is used for bidding on new personnel) and "glory" which will ultimately decide the winner of the campaign

Some of the 100+ characters in the campaign
Now, each character card is pretty straight forward. They have three stats. Martial prowess, social skills, and mental skills. Those values represent the number of green "FFG Star Wars rpg" dice they roll when doing a task. They also have character traits which boost rolls or provide other advantages.

In Lianna's case she is Diplomatic and Connected, Which means she will be rolling 2 green and 2 yellow dice on a diplomatic mission. She is also rich, which means when has financial power she can add to the rebellion cause. However, she is "wanted", so if a mission fails she is twice as likely to be captured.

Each charatcer is unique and has their own skills and strengths. And some are very mediocre, while others are skilled and amazing. Lianna is one of the better ones.

Each character is assigned, by vote, a job in the alliance. The job boards are below. Characters can be reassigned or fired later, it all comes down to voting from the faction leaders. 

Right now, you are probably thinking "Holy cow, that looks a bit complicated".

Well, it is and it isn't.

During the planning phase we go through the boards one at a time and decide what each group is doing. What planets the diplomatic core are visiting, what engagements the fleet or special forces are taking on. We simply use the star wars dice mechanics to determine their success. 

So, if someone fails a roll planning a fighter attack, well there will be more points of imperial fighters in the mission than if they had an excellent success. Starfighter battles will be fought with X-Wing, Fleet with Armada and Ground operations with Imperial Assault. 

There is also a group of "player characters" who represent the heroes of the rebellion. While the faction leaders are like Mon Mothma, these characters are the Han, Luke, Leia and Chewie of the sector. And will be doing roleplaying game "special missions" each game turn. 

Success on diplomacy will improve the rebellions standing on world and make missions easier, recruitment gets more NPC's into the alliance, training improves piloting and imperial assault skills, and R&D controls what upgrade cards are available. For example, at game start Squadron command only has Z-95's and a handful of missiles. They need to research, buy, or steal better equipment.

Intelligence rolls will determine what missions are available on the next turn. A failure might mean that some of them are going to be traps. 

The idea is to have a rules structure that makes decision interesting, without bogging them down in detail. 

Session 1 report. 

The first half of the session was spent rolling up the characters for the hero team. I'll tell you more about them after their first mission.

What we did do is bid on the first 16 NPC's available and assign them jobs in the Sector command.

The four characters at the top are the faction leaders, and their faction colour is in the circle. 

How it all shook out was very interesting. 

The faction of republic loyalists who are mostly interested in restoring the old republic gained control of the Fleet and Ground commands, setting themselves up as the military powerhouse of the rebellion. 

The Luxon militia, a fiercely independent planet who want's sector independence from both the Empire and republic gained control of Fighter command and the diplomatic corp. A strong and balanced position. 

The merchant guilds (who are secretly controlled by an AI) gained control of R&D, Intelligence and Logistics. A clear attempt to forgo direct military power and glory at the start of the campaign, but to focus on building the rebellion the way they want it.

And finally, the ecological union and anti-slavery movement grabbed Training and recruitment. In a clear effort to shape the people being recruited by the rebellion and to be the faction who decides who signs up. 

The interplay, the wheeling and dealing and general political grandstanding in this first phase of the game was amazing to watch and incredibly enjoyable. 

One NPC in particular, probably the single most powerful character in the first 16, who has a negative trait that he's a pompous git who earns half glory, failed to be elected to 4 different positions that he probably would have been better at than the person who finally got the job. 

Comedy gold. 

With the power structure sorted for the time being, next week we will begin the first round of planning and get into some missions shortly after.

The war for Talethen sector has begun. 

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