Actual Play – Star Wars: Episode II – Bad Ass Mother Fuckers (1/29/2012)

GM: Morgan Ellis
Players: Karen Twelves, Duane O’Brian, Eric Zimmerman, Sean Nittner
System: FATE
Setting: Star Wars – Clone Wars Era

Morgan started off this game by setting the mood, and he did a really good job. He told us “we’re not playing angsty teenagers stuck on water farms, we’re playing bad ass Jedi, leading an army of clones to war. We’re doing lightsaber-fu, force backflips, and blowing up death stars. You’re all Jedi and you’re all BAD ASS!” (or something to that effect, I’m paraphrasing here).

And he didn’t lie. None of the characters presented were anything but kick ass. The archetypes presented were:

  • Reckless Pilot
  • Jedi Scout (read ninja)
  • Jedi Mystic (read samurai)
  • Jedi General

Originally, before I knew we were all playing Jedi, I was excited about the idea of playing a clone, but after he laid out that bevy of bad assery I was more than content to pick up the general and play my “leader of men” aspect to the hilt.

We got all our characters and like most FATE games, they were half baked. They had most of their aspects, but only the top three skills. For me it was Leadership (+5), Blaster (+4) and The Force (+4). Lightsaber was originally on there at +4 but then we realized I didn’t have Blaster and one of my aspects was “Trusty Blaster” so I dropped Lightsaber down (assuming there would be plenty of other awesome lightsaber-fu from the others, and I wasn’t wrong).

Morgan was pretty fast as lose with the use of skills, I used Leadership as an attack (sending clones in to blow shit up) in social conflicts (inspiring people) and as a block (via my Defensive Tactics stunt). So overall, Morgan was telling us, I expect your characters to bring the awesome.

One of the first things we had to do was add a final aspect to our characters, on that tied us to the dark side in some way. This ended up being the aspect that tied us all together. I stated it off with “My Brother, Sith Lord.”  It’s a classic, but this seemed like a classic kind of game. I was a middle aged general, of course my brother was a Jedi who turned to the Dark Side.

Eric picked up that ball and ran with it. She had fallen in love with him “My Husband, Sith Lord.” Duane followed right after, he was playing her brother, who had been trained by “uncle Ki”, now “Darth Dire.” Finally Karen finished it off. She was the master Jedi Duelist, so off course it was her that had to face him and took of his arm in her “Battle Rage”.

Nice, we all had Dark Side traits, which Morgan used frequently as compels, allowed us to draw on the Dark Side just like Sponsored Magic works in Dresden Files (YS 183,287). We all had white chips to start with (Force Points) and most of us picked up a couple red (Dark Side Points) ones along the way.

I make Gai-Wan Katarn (my character) a total caricature of Samuel L Jackson as both Nick Fury (including the eye patch) and Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction) plus a little bit of Hannibal from the A-Team.  And yes, the beautiful symmetry that Liam Neeson played both Hannibal and Qui-Gon Jinn the Jedi Master, was in the back of my mind. He was a cigar smoking, blaster at the ready, bad ass. So much fun!

 The game is the thing

Morgan clearly wasted to posit a macro level situation, i.e. what is going on in the universe at large, and then let us carve out our own story to tell in that space. We’re in the clone wars, Jedi and Clones vs. Droids.  This was pre Order 66, but it was looming in our heads (part of the reason I wanted to keep the clones with us all the time).

We started on a muddy swamp planet fighting an army of droids, and of course, stealing the location of their secret base. As our ninja Duane’s character produced the stolen information after the epic fight against a droid juggernaut and from that we “made a plan” to go destroy it. The quotes were there because in classic FATE fashion, we made a plan by making some declarations, creating some scene aspects and then narrating ourselves breaking in (while leaving the bulk of our forces on the mud planet Ordo Martel so as to not raise suspicion of our small elite force making the attack).

We broke in, stole uniforms, hacked systems and made it all the way to the power core (on a gas cloud planet filled with lightning storms) and were just about to blow it sky high when of course, Darth Dire and his companions dropped down on us for the final show down. I stole the kill on Dire and took him out with a social attack “There is still good in you”. Much to the chagrin of Karen’s fully Battle Raging duelist “You stopped me from killing him! Again!!!”

Thought on the game

If I haven’t made it clear already, Morgan did a fantastic job of making us all kick ass Jedi. There wasn’t as single one of us who wasn’t both an action hero AND a likeable character.

The way Dark Side points worked in the game seemed a little hinky. Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention but it seemed that when someone was tempted by the Dark Side it was the equivlant of invoking an aspect (+2 or Reroll) AND they got a Dark Side point  they could spend later to do the same, so it was almost like getting two FATE chips (in this game Force Points), one to spend now and one to spend later. I didn’t get the impression that that was the intention, but it worked okay. Also, after a scene the Jedi has to roll resolve against an attack from the Dark Side based on the number of points, but also that wasn’t clear if it was point earned, spent, or both.

The result being a mental attack, which could presumably turn you to the Dark Side if it took you out, or at the least give you consequences, which I quite liked. What this meant is that theoretically if you were losing a fight, you could call on all kinds of Dark Side power to win it, but then mechanically speaking, most likely you would be taken out by the Dark Side after the fight and be turned, which I think is pretty damn brilliant.

Speaking of attacks, stress, etc. Morgan decided on the first time we got hurt that fuck it, let’s not use stress, let’s just go straight to consequences, which I think, given the extreme power of our characters, was a great call. We didn’t get hit often, so when we did, it had to count. This also made the final fight go a lot faster, as the same applied to the NPCs.  So, in general, I was delighted with this resolution.  As a side note, I think (but I’m not sure) that the way he handed the droid juggernaut was just to give it extra consequences (maybe two minor, two major, one severe, or something like that), which I also think is a brilliant way to make something “tough” and still give the players the sense that they are being effective when they hit it. Much more so that just doing stress.

Also, Morgan didn’t use any weapon or armor rules, which heightened the  SotC feeling that tightsabers heavy blasters and thermal detonators were all just there for flavor, what won the fight was the heroes. I liked this very much.

The Force was handled a little like “Mysteries” in SotC. We could use it for all kinds of little cool things  like summoning our lightsabers to us, sensing each other’s presence, etc. but if we wanted to use it for something crazy bad ass like lifting ships out of bogs, sensing things across the galaxy, or parrying blaster bolts back at the shooter, we need a stunt for it. And the stunts were simple, they read “use The Force to do XYZ.” Mine was a “Battle Meditation” which allowed me to roll the force to create fragile +3 aspects for my allies. Originally I conceived of it as a strictly mental thing, like as a general I had a mental map of the battlefield and could convey that to my allies, but it totally wasn’t flashy enough for the feeling of this game, so instead it was using the force to drop a thermal detonator in a key location and give them all an entry for attack, or something like that.  I was happy.

Morgan started each scene with a list of five or six aspects that he allowed us to tag for free. We of course created a ton of aspects ourselves and like most FATE games, the table was covered with aspects throughout the game. I think giving us a free tag on the aspects was very generous but I think it was also a great way to encourage us to use our environment. Much like stunt dice from Exalted (1 for cool description, 2 if it uses the environment, 3 if it makes everyone say “aww shittt”) I really liked that we were more prone to use the cool stuff around us because frankly it was free.

On that note however, Morgan was really good about not accepting “I tag that aspect for +2” he made us all lead with the fiction asking what about that aspect helped. I think in FATE, because it can get very number crunchy it can sometimes be easy to lose track of the fiction and reduce our narration to simple game mechanics, e.g. “I attack him”. Morgan was great about keeping us on track.

The player camaraderie was really great at this table. I’m all for players getting into each other’s shit, messing with one another, but at this table the vibe was very Three Musketeers… hmm, who was our D’Artagnan?  I bid for Athos! It wasn’t until the very end when we were fighting Darth Dire, who was very important to all of us, that we ever came into conflict with each other. And the cool thing about this was that it meant we could all play around with the Dark Side without any of us being the other’s keeper. It someone turned, there was nothing any of us were going to be able to do about it.

The game was tight. No lose ends, unexplained plots, or superfluous NPCs (except maybe Dire’s buddies, but that was cool, they were just interesting and tough mooks). Dire ended it (having turned back to good) with a warning “beware the chancellor!” Awesome.

3 thoughts on “Actual Play – Star Wars: Episode II – Bad Ass Mother Fuckers (1/29/2012)”

  1. Sounds like you had an awesome game!

    I’ve been working on my Star Wars FATE hack, and I too have been thinking about using the sponsored magic and hunger mechanics from dresen to replicate the dark side.
    After reading this, I think I fixed my sticking point. Instead of a Trouble aspect in dresden, everyone is going to have a Dark Side aspect. So, if and when you draw upon the dark side for the “free” FATE point, you get your dark side point. And per the sponsorship agenda section (YS) it will be your darkside aspect that gets compelled without giving you a fate point in return. Just like in Dresden, you’ll be free to spend a force point to counter the darkside compel, but if you’re out, you can’t resist and must give in to the temptation.

  2. I think the way Morgan was using Dark Side felt odd because it was the compel rules twisted. The compel seemed to come with a +2 bonus (or reroll) in most cases, and that also got the point to use later. It’s very tempting! It seems fitting for the quick and easy path.

    I was surprised how well the no stress rule worked I’ve seen it used in Dresden, but that’s a pretty gritty setting, not like Star Wars where the most elite troopers in the galaxy almost never hit the heroes. I think I’m going to try that out myself, especially for con games. I know my character was out of consequences, and I think others were pretty banged up too. It really helped ratchet up the tension in the last fight.

    1. Yeah, I’m really fond of the no stress rules. I think they worked as well as they did because most of the time our characters were awesome enough to avoid injury all together.

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