Actual Play – Droid Rampage (6/11/2016)

FAE-Bookcover_300x450GM: Jonh Kim
Players: Milo Kim, Eric Lytle, Sean Nittner, and my littles
System: Fate Accelerated

Star Wars Game Day at Endgame

Thanks to EndGame for hosting a Star Wars game day! I got this buzz after watching Force Awakens that I just felt like the Star Wars universe had opened back up in a way it hadn’t done since New Hope and Empire but before Jedi. Like it’s clear that the story is unfinished, which just felt so freeing. We can make our own Star Wars Stories!

Here are the four games that we had on deck:

  • Droid Rampage by John Kim – Fate Accelerated (the game I played in)
  • Rescue at Glare Peak by Tim Sanders – Age of Rebellion
  • The Light, the Dark, and the Ugly by Montel Lin – Force and Destiny
  • Emergency Alert in Detention Block AA-23 by Gil Treviso – Stare O.R.E. (One Roll Engine)

Game Description

You are a special circle of droids who served in the Rebellion, now living in the New Republic. Adjusting to peacetime is harder than you thought, and you have hatched a plan to repair yourselves on Coruscant. A saga of soldiers back from war, struggling against a system that doesn’t want them.

John’s Blurb on Facebook

I’ll be running a Star Wars tabletop game this Saturday at EndGame Oakland, where the characters are all droids – because I’m intrigued by how droids are clearly portrayed as people with thoughts and feelings, but are never quite treated as people.

Difficult Discussions

This game was full of shoot outs, mad chases through Coruscant, impersonating New Republic officials, seeking out the truth, and blaster fire!

However, the primary thrust of the story was the problematic question about the value of a droid’s life. They are sentient creatures and yet considered property.  Our game started with the discovery that one among us had their memories erased and had been reprogrammed with new directives. They did not recognize their old allies, nor did they even know something was wrong. As far as they knew they were 11 hours old…and a lifetime of shared experiences were just obliterated.

So yes, we chased down the person who did this, and yes we eventually recovered the memory banks, but we could have just have easily not done it. They might not have made a backup, or we might not have been able to recover it.

So this game, set in the star wars universe had us discussion questions of slavery, classism, second class citizenry, the transgression of taking away someone’s free will, and whether or not free will can ever truly be “granted” to anything. All of this in a game with young players age 10, 13, and 16. It was some fucking powerful stuff.

In the end when given the choice of what to do, to find another human that we hoped would take us in and honor our sentience or set off on our own, the group was divided but eventually decided that we couldn’t trust any organics: the empire, the rebels, or the new republic, to care about us, so we would set out on our own and try to find our own way.

Shadows over EndGame

Missed out on Star Wars day and want to play some games?

Join us Saturday, July 23rd at Endgame for a day of eldritch horror of the Lovecraftian ilk. Four games will delve into the Cthulhu mythos using different rules, themes, settings, and time periods. Bringing the cosmic horror will be four GMs each running a different system demonstrating the terrifying scope of Lovecraft’s universe.

Sign up here!

What rocked

The content of this game was some of the best sci-fi I’ve played in. Specifically looking at very human issues through the lens of something fantastical. We’re talking about the trials that marginalized people have encountered throughout history, and we were doing it with speeders and access codes and blast doors.  There was a point where our BB droid had the access codes to our blank slate friends memory banks. Though she couldn’t restore his memories, she could remove the new directives…but then what to do? Give him free will and see what he does given that he doesn’t remember any of us? Or give him a new direct to follow us…thus trading one set of orders for another? It was tough call!

Stepping back from that a bit, we also have some very Fate like action adventure. The chase scene between speeders in Coruscant was something right out of the speeder bike chase on the forest moon of Endor. Some of my flubbed deception was just as bad as Han’s fast talking, and we had a battle droid (same chassis as General Grievous) that was a nightmare of claws and blaster bolts! There was also a BB unit, with lighter and all! This mixture of action and levity along with the serious issues that were the primary thrust of the game made it powerful experience as well as a thrill ride.

I finally had a chance to play a game at EndGame and eat at the cafe. My dreams have come true!

What could have improved

We had some environmental factors that were rough. My little ones are very quiet and hearing them over the din of other three other games plus a magic event was a bit tough. We moved some seats around and huddled close together, but even then, it was a challenging sometimes.

John mentioned trying to run this again with Steal Away Jordan, which I think would give it a decidedly different flavor, primarily because the either the presence of an owner (that would have to be added to the game or abstracted somehow) and because the mechanics of Steal Away Jordan are significantly less permissive (by design) than Fate is. I’m very interested to hear how that game runs if he does try it.

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.