2017/02/22

Species: the Dengo Dengo

A few centuries ago, Dengo Dengo, warlord of the Seventeen Beautiful Worlds, richest man in the Outer Rim, decided he would live forever.

He summoned the finest geneticists and cloners in the galaxy to his lair. If they completed his grand design they would inherit vast wealth and immeasurable prestige. If they failed, he would feed them to his pet Zenshredders millimetre by millimetre. Zenshredders, by some trick of fate, also shred the blood relatives of their victims, so the threat was particularly ironic given Dengo Dengo's project.

Mere clones would not satisfy the warlord. He wanted improved creatures, freed from baldness, liver spots, paunch, palsy, and the other vicissitudes of biology. After years of hideous failures, the cloners finally produced a few "workable" specimens, grey-skinned demigods with perfect features and elegant poise. Dengo Dengo tossed them into a plasma furnace and demanded "better".

Eventually, the addled cloners created specimens that pleased the warlord. They were functionally immortal, incredibly strong, beautiful - to Dengo Dengo's slightly unusual standards - quick-witted, quick-handed, immune to most diseases, blessed with a host of digestive extras and healing improvements. 


Satisfied, Dengo Dengo unleashed his creations by dropping them off on every civilized world he could find. He died rich, happy, and syphilitic.



 
Concept art by Doug Williams


The Dengo Dengo are now a species. They breed true - children, from most humanoid species, will be Dengo Dengos invariably, carrying none of the mother's traits. They dislike each other, but love company and adoration. Their drive to procreate is strong and they are, it is said, excellent lovers, but they are terrible parents and tend to abandon their offspring to seek new mates on new worlds. Some Dengo Dengo strive against this with sterilization surgeries or raw effort. They seek to redeem the reputation of their species. 

A Dengo Dengo can always find work at a brothel, provided they've been sterilized. They're an exotic delight for generations of core-world nobles that have been raised to fear their ever-so-flattering attentions.

They make decent bounty hunters, but poor soldiers, as their ambition outstrips their skill. The Empire tried recruiting them but
cancelled the entire initiative after a few high-profile incidents.

There are rumours that Dengo Dengo (the warlord) implanted secret genetic information-nodules in his creations. Those that become architects seem to love designing grand, palace-like structures. They all know how to fly a Tyberon Mark Seven Starfighter, even though there are three existent models, all in museums. When probed by a Force-user, they naturally think the Deadly Thoughts, mind-forms that can kill both the seer and the victim.

The gene-coding isn't perfect either. One in a hundred Dengo Dengo's is born twisted and monstrous, and even advanced medical techniques cannot save their unraveling forms. They can live for centuries, but sometimes die suddenly and without warning, dissolving into slime and noxious gasses.

Blessed with a gene-fixed physique, few Dengo Dengos bother to train or exercise their natural talents. They heal more quickly than the average creature, but not shockingly quickly. Overall, they are just another oddity in a galaxy of oddities.


2017/02/14

Species: the Renlars

Renlars are bipedal scaled sentients. The have flat, wide faces and large mouths filled with peg-like teeth. Completely filled - their tongues move between a maze of stumpy grey teeth like a snake through grass. Their eyes are bright and set very far apart. They lack hair or visible ears. They are tall and broad, like a Wookie, but slightly bent. Their limbs are thinner than you might expect, and end in clusters of clawed digits.


The End: Keyframe 2 by Pavel Goloviy


Renlars, despite their fearsome appearance, are not monsters. The can speak Basic and pick up other languages.. They resort to violence no more than your average sentient. If thoroughly provoked, they will happily claw you apart. They favour robust, high-powered weapons adapted for their hands and eyes. Renlars find work in many industries, but are rarely pilots. They get dizzy easily and tend to break control sticks when stressed.

All Renlars are mildly Force sensitive. They can sense, with remarkable detail, the emotions of other nearby Renlars. The emotions of other species are mysterious to them. They either feel nothing, or interpret strong emotions as "noises" or "bad tastes". The fear, grief, rage, and love of other species have no effect on them, for the most part. The emotion they describe as "frustration of nearly completing a difficult math problem only to discover you have made a fundamental error" sounds like pleasant brass bells. Many Renlars enjoy visiting universities. The wealthiest of their species keep court mathematicians, who are brought out for display purposes when other Renlars are visiting, and are otherwise used as alarm clocks or background entertainment. Renlars do not believe that their abilities are supernatural.

Renlars do, however, have supernatural beliefs. They are all firmly convinced of the existence of ghosts.

Renlars believe that, when a sentient creature is killed, they linger as a spirit. This spirit is usually quite weak. It will follow the person who killed it around and bother them in their dreams, spoil their eggs, spill their yeggis, and make their shots miss. This doesn't happen to other species, because other species aren't interesting enough to follow. Only Renlars are haunted. The kills of other species just hang around or dissipate.

There is a way to avoid being haunted. Renlars must - and this is a "must", they'll do their best and will be very unhappy if prevented - eat the flesh of a creature they've killed. They are permitted to cook it, transport it, or delay up to six hours. If they don't, the spirit will haunt them. They eat so that the spirit can enter the Renlar's "spirit-bladder" or "-gland", and reside there in comfort and happiness. Renlars believe that they are so excellent and blessed that ghosts really want to be help them and be inside them, and, if a ghost is prevented from doing so, they curse the Renlar who spurned them.

The idea of what counts as a "kill" is nebulous. A Renlar who blows up three Stormtroopers with a grenade need only eat one bit of flesh; their deaths were linked, producing an aggregate (and more potent) ghost. The same thing would apply if a Renlar shot down a starship.

For a fee, Renlar shamans will dismiss your ghosts. Powerful shamans can even talk to them, or convince them to enter your spirit-gland, or turn your own ghosts against you. They are widely feared. The only Jedi to study the Renlars reported, in a very terse letter, that they are "most likely correct" about being haunted, although "they seem to be doing it to themselves."

Renlar shamans, upon hearing of the destruction of Alderaan, created a secret monastery. For a fee they will resettle ghosts of you choice on the "ghost" of Alderran (planets, some starships, and occasionally droids also have ghosts). Renlars didn't have an afterlife, unless haunting someone was part of it, until they found out about Alderaan. A ghost planet full of pacifists sounds like an excellent place for a Renlar to spend the afterlife eating other ghosts, building cities, or raising clutches of ghost-eggs.

Renlars are monogendered. They can produce eggs (by vomiting them up). The eggs are delicious - Renlars don't have a problem with you eating their eggs, provided you don't have a problem with them eating your species. Cannibalism in Star Wars is kind of a grey area. Most people are too busy to wonder if their dinner's last words were "Moo!" or "I swear, I've got the money!"

In any case, if properly incubated, a new Renlar will hatch in about sixteen days. They take years to grow to full sentience and ability, and they smell like ammonia and seaweed for the first decade of their long, scaly lives.
 

If a Renlar likes you, you might be asked to "contribute" to their egg. They don't want anything liquid or soluble in benzene from you, so this isn't the usual "contribution". Hair, nail clippings, or dried slime-flakes will work. The items will be swallowed and incorporated into the baby Renlar's head-crest, which falls off once they break free of the egg. There's no limit on the number of "contributors", so a Renlar might ask several close friends or lovers for assistance. "You must have had a mighty head-crest," is a Renlar way of saying, "You are awfully big."

FFG Star Wars - Inquisitor Generator


Sometimes, you just need a villain in a hurry. Hopefully this generator will be used for inspiration, and not for an endless wave of forgettable minibosses.

You will also need FFG's Force and Destiny book

2017/02/13

Star Wars: Use the Force, Part 2

So, if all that sounds interesting, how do we incorporate it into a game?

  • "Force Powers" are right out. In a video game, having "Force Lightning II" or "Improved Force Dodge" makes sense, but tabletop RPGs can do better.
  • The Force should let you do only impossible things.
  • Effects should be evocative rather than quantitative.  

The Fantasy Flight Star Wars games don't fit these requirements. West End Games d6 system has a lot of the same issues. It's fairly pervasive. Force-users fit into the same design space as wizards, and therefore, because wizards have spells, Force-users have spells.

Here's how I'd use the Force in Fate Core. I'll talk more about hacking Fate Core for Star Wars in other posts, but this seems like a good place to start.


The Force

The Force skill is a very unusual skill. There are very few limits on what you can do with it, but here are a few ideas:
Overcome: Move something. Reach out to another living being. Sense something you can’t see. Do something impossible.

Create Advantage: Add an Aspect that makes it easier to trick, dominate, or calm someone. Alter your environment.

Attack: Hurt someone directly. Throw something at them.

Defend: Block blaster fire or walk through it unharmed.


What else? Well, whatever you think is thematically appropriate. Remember that the Force is a mysterious, mystical part of the setting and not a source of definitive powers. Remember, the Force can only do impossible things.

Rating

Most characters should have this skill at +0. At +1, you are vaguely sensitive to the Force. You might not know it though. At +2, you are aware of your connection to the Force, and if you aren’t careful, others will be as well. At +3, you are strong in the Force, and you have practiced your abilities. Others are aware of your abilities and seek to destroy or use you. You are under constant threat.

At +4 or higher, you are both confident and powerful. Others are urgently aware of your abilities. You are in immediate danger almost everywhere you go.



Stunts

Characters with a +1 or higher in Force automatically gain the “Dark Side of the Force” Stunt, replacing one of their existing Stunts. 

Dark Side of the Force: Gain +2 to Force when you act out of fear, anger, or hatred. Other Stunts could give you a bonus to certain uses of the Force, or let you use it instead of other skills such as Deceive or Empathy. Try to keep these vague and thematic as well. Remember, using the Force attracts attention, and is potentially quite dangerous. 

Secrecy

Every time a player with Force makes a Force roll, they can also damage a concept named "Secrecy". Secrecy has 2 stress boxes and 3 consequence slots, just like an NPC.

When a player succeeds on a Force roll, their shifts of success are dealt as damage to their Secrecy. Stress and consequences fade as normal. If you end up killing your Secrecy, very bad things may start to happen to you.

Secrecy could also mean that your character is unaware of their own abilities.

Star Wars: Use the Force, Part 1


The Force is one of those weird setting touchpoints that means something different to everyone. Here are some of my thoughts.


The Force:

  • Is Mysterious. It doesn't allow you to lift "up to 100kg" of material or choke someone "1d10 meters away". It shouldn't be quantifiable.
  • Lets You Do Impossible Things. You can't do merely possible things with the Force. It's impossible to fire lightning from your fingers, or see the future, or close your eyes and fire a torpedo at precisely the right moment... but you can do these things through the Force.
  • Requires Faith, Not Training. This one requires some more explanation.

 

Fanaticism

Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, had.... maybe a week of actual training. Obi-Wan sat with him for a few hours on the Falcon, and he spent a few days with Yoda on Dagobah. That's it.

It wasn't particularly conventional training. Obi-Wan made him wear a blindfold and block irritating lasers. Yoda made him do headstands and run around a swamp. It doesn't make a lot of sense. Surely, becoming a Jedi takes more than a few pushups. What's really going on here?


Luke is a skeptic. He doubts everything, gets frustrated, and wants to quit. He knows you can't block blaster bolts while blindfolded. He knows an X-wing is heavier than rock. He knows these things because they are true... from a certain point of view.


But as we know, that's not the truth at all. To the Force, there is no weight. There is no time. That's why Yoda says, "Do, or do not. There is no try." Your effort has nothing to do with it. It's all about faith. If you believe that the X-Wing will be lifted, it will be lifted.

Yoda isn't building Luke's muscles. He's breaking down his resistance. The constant exercise and lousy food is just like boot camp, except this is some weird Gnostic version. It's the same thing with the training on the Falcon. Obi-Wan isn't training Luke to block blaster shots. He's forcing him to confront the impossible and accept it. On the final attack run on the Death Star, Obi-Wan says to "Use the Force, Luke." But he immediately says to "Let go."

One the main criticism of Rey's character in The Force Awakens was her ability to instantly, without any training, use the Force to do "difficult" tasks. She moves objects with her mind, plants commands, senses memories, all that, and with no training at all. How?

She believes. She is a complete and utter fanatic. She closes her eyes and really trusts in the Force. Luke constantly struggles to overcome his doubt and let go, but Rey doesn't. She believes unconditionally. For her, there is no "try".

Han tells her it's all true, and she believes.

2017/02/12

Star Wars: Adventure Seeds



The Elegant School from a Civilized Age

A drunk guy stumbles up to one of the PCs and falls over, dead. In his hand is what could only be described as a lightsaber. It's not though - it's clearly an imitation. It does produce a flashy plasma blade but it can't do much more than scorch and the batteries last a few minutes at most. The stamp on the bottom says "Takahata Industries". They're manufacturing cheap knock-offs, telling losers that "anyone can be a Jedi!" and "training" them in the arts of the "Force".
It's a scam, obviously. But it's a scam orchestrated by an ex-Jedi. His plan is to distract the Empire away from him and keep them busy hunting down foolish, completely untrained, Force-insensitive dreamers and vagrants.


Setup

You will need: PCs, one drunk guy, the need to ask questions, desire to either get in on the scam or expose it for what it is.  

Encounter One: Being accepted into "Jedi Training School Academy - Beginner Class"


Encounter Two: Goons shaking down a classmate for his "tuition" and "fees". Do they help? Do the goons shake them down too? It's a fight!  

Encounter Three: The "boss" and his goons, who actually know what's going on. Do the players try and intimidate them? Kill them? Bribe them?

  



A Price On Your Heads

Gurzo the Vast, crimelord, bully, cad, and thief, has put a price on the player's heads. Not their lives, their heads; he wants all of them as a complete set. The PCs have no idea why. They've never even met Gurzo. The price on them could buy a Stellar Yacht.

They meet and fight a bounty hunter, but they don't kill him. See, he has a plan. He knows a guy who can do turbo-cloning - short-lived body part clones used for medical testing and emergency surgery. He can clone the PCs heads and send them to
Gurzo . They all get to be rich. Problem is, the cloner is in prison...

And the real reason
Gurzo wants their heads? Up to you. Maybe they saw something so amazing he just has to eat their brains. Maybe it was all an elaborate scheme to get the cloner to sample their blood, so Dengo can clone a perfect partner. Maybe Gurzo is just senile. Maybe one of the PCs' enemies framed them. 

Setup

You will need: PCs, a nebulous crimelord like Gurzo, a prison break plan, and a few bounty hunters.

Encounter One: The PCs find out they are being hunted. There's a fight (to the death?) with a bounty hunter. From her body they find out how much they are worth to
Gurzo, and about his oddly specific request.

Encounter Two: The PCs fight another, smarter bounty hunter, but this time he manages to talk to them. The cloner is introduced.

Encounter Three: Breaking the cloner out of prison, getting their heads cloned.

Encounter Four: Selling their own heads to
Gurzo and - if all goes well - splitting the bounty with the bounty hunter.

2017/02/11

Transference Monks

Very few people pay attention to the tall, red-robed creatures that trundle through cities and stations, speaking to no one, stopping nowhere, and eating nothing. They are scrupulously law-abiding, but they carry no documents. They walk like elongated humanoids, and they clearly have arms, but their robes and wrappings cover everything except a tiny metal eye-plate.

Transference monks are one of the wonders of the galaxy. They are very rare. They appear, linger for years, and then disappear.
 


Toshdor Ni by Phraggle
If you know their language, you can make yourself a metal plaque with strange jagged lines on it. Present the plaque to a Transference Monk, speak a few words of their language (it sounds like trying to unclog your ear with an electric drill, but quieter), and then hand them money.

The Monk will accept the money and vanish.

At any point, if you ever meet another Transference Monk, you can present your plate again, speak some other words, and ask for any amount of money back. The Monk will wander off and, within a few hours, find you and give you your money back. And it is your money - you can check the fingerprints, if you want to. Nobody knows how they do this.

If you read their mind with the Force, you'll find there isn't one. If you try and disrobe one, they'll break your arm casually, from the shoulder to the fingertips, like squeezing a tube of toothpaste.

Shoot one, and they die, then burst into bright white flames that leave only ash behind. Capture one and after a few hours they immolate, this time explosively.  Scholars speculate that they are natural Hyperspace users, or possibly relics of some long-dead civilization, but nobody really knows.

If you die, your coins stay with the Monks. If you present a body (at least 80% of it, including wherever the thinking bits go), and a carved metal
plaque, you can potentially collect the coins the dead man deposited. The Monks might also ignore you.

Learning of the existence of the Transference Monks is valuable. Learning how to use them has made many smugglers rich. It's a secret worth killing for.

Learning the location of Rexalos Vidlar's tomb and his metal plaque is worth invading a system for. Rexalos' vast wealth was never found. His palace was completely empty, his coffers contained nothing but traps and droid-assassins. He was so wealthy that even a thousand thieves splitting his wealth a thousand ways would have been too rich to disguise. It must have gone somewhere, right?

Currencies for Star Wars

This post is not canon.

Imperial (formerly Republic) Credits.

Credits are fiat currency, backed only by the enormous wealth and stability of the core galactic economy. They come in chips (like poker chips, but rectangular) embedded with digital safeguards. Some of the higher denominations light up to show the Imperial symbol. Modern credits are nearly impossible to fake, and will detect false credits if placed edge-to-edge with one. You can transfer credits between two adjacent chips, or a chip and a computer system. In a civilized system, fully computerized banking is normal. Further out, you have to carry stacks of chips with you. Expect to receive change in local currency.

Gold Kublars

Minted during the heyday of the Ardring Dominion, Gold Kublars are still used as the primary currency on many worlds. The Ardring are now extinct, but their fabled treasure-hordes live on in the memory of a thousand smugglers and vagabonds. Kublars are little wedges of gold, designed to fit into the vent-slits of Ardring legs. True Kublars are engraved on the nanoscopic level with Ardring battle-hymns and ancestor lists. False Kublars, of which there are many, are made of base metals.

Kyber Crystals

One of the more valuable gemstones. Basically, space diamonds, but with many practical uses. Few people know about their Force-sensitive ways, but local folklore might associate them with sorcery or mind-reading. Kyber crystals are cloudy and unremarkable, so if you don't know what you're looking for, you might mistake them for worthless quartz. Force-sensitive species instantly know false crystals from true ones. A piece of kyber the size of your fist could buy a starship on some worlds.

Escoparian Platinum Credit Sheets

Only about 2% platinum. Worthless anywhere but Escoparia, and next to worthless there as well. They can be rolled or folded. Their only interesting property is one of self assembly. Two sheets joined end to end become one larger sheet. Merchants used to carry rolls of them and cut off strips, like baking foil. Since the collapse of the Escoparian economy, money-changers use the sheets as bags or pouches.

Ghoul Stones

Used on several hundred backwater worlds, ghoul stones are tiny grey rocks carved to resemble alien skulls. Or are they tiny skulls from some long-extinct race with stone skeletons? Hard to say. The Jedi tried to suppress their use. Some say there are whole breeding colonies on some forgotten world that are "mint" new Ghoul Stones.

Druggats

Druggats are a technocurrency. Each druggat is, effectively, a long sequence of numbers, supposedly representing a part of the blueprints of a vast superweapon from prehistory. If the weapon were ever assembled it could be used to extort the galaxy, and this gives the currency value. Few people know about this. Druggats contain crypto-checks and can't be faked. They are not accepted outside of the core worlds. 

Massage Tokens

It is said that the massages of the Jubalitorian Order on Telobar are the most delightful, spiritual experience a sentient being can enjoy. Each token represents a fraction of a second, and a vast hoard is required for a massage of any length. The Tyrant of Firenze paid his armies in these tokens, and they happily conquered six star systems for him. Droids also covet these tokens, for the droids that emerge from the blue marble halls of Telobar are extremely relaxed.

Weirdcoins

Unremarkable brass coins that, by some unknown trick, only have one side. You can mark them to prove it. They are nearly impossible to bend, but if you do, everything in a thirty meter radius is sucked messily into hyperspace. According to legend they were minted from the wreckage of an ancient ship lost in hyperspace centuries ago. Superstitions captains keep a weirdcoin or two in their pockets, to ensure their travels end safely.

Fantos

Minted on Fantos, these coins are worth about a tenth of a credit on some worlds, but if you find the right money changer, they can be worth up to two credits each. This is because Grondo the Hutt is buying up all the Fantos he can get his fat little hands on. He plans to flood Fantos' markets with the coins, cause utter economic havoc, and purchase the world outright. He's very patient and very old. 99% of all Fantos that leave the planet make have made their way to him.  They're small, laquer-coated flat rings, like donuts mashed into a resin. Rodians use them as sex toys. Don't ask how.

Banking House of Roil Kane Credits

Unremarkable fiat currency, save that they self-accrue interest. Moneychangers hate them because they never, ever break into even amounts. Moneychangers also love them because they can make a small fortune through rounding errors and extra fees.

Oracle Markers

A currency that is now virtually worthless, but once dominated the galactic economy. Six centuries ago, the coins were backed by access to the Oracle of Zis, who could accurately answer any question about the future, up to twenty-six hours in advance. Obviously people made a killing on the stock market and disappeared into paradoxes, but the currency flourished. Then the Oracle choked on a bruinmelon and died. The ivory-coloured markers are very nice to look at, and you might be able to trick a yokel or drunk into thinking they're worth something.

None of This Is Canon

I like running games in pre-existing settings. Players have an idea of theme and tone before they sit down at the table. 

Take Star Wars. West End Games famously helped to establish whole chunks of canon by building off the movies. Then EU authors built on the movies and West End Games. Then other EU authors built on the movies, and West End Games, and previous EU authors.
 

You can see why this is a problem. There are too many layers of stories, too many conflicting themes and counterthemes, too many skill levels, and too many contradictions. If you take the entire body of canon for a setting as equally useful and valid, you're going to go mad.

If you're going to tell a story in a setting, you want a stable foundation that's relatively light on other stories, but relatively heavy on the hints that could start those stories.

Continuing with Star Wars, the cantina scene in A New Hope is a perfect example. Every single character acquired a backstory. The scene is incredibly rich in the motivation to tell stories... but they've all been told by the time you and your gaming group turn up. There are other issues as well. Authors get fixated on making their mark on a setting and forget how to tell stories in general. You end up repeats, or ludicrous ultra-canon like all Bothans being sneaky, all Hutts being crime lords, and the epic backstory of Han Solo's pants. 


I want to use all of the evocative powers of a setting, but few of the restrictions that "canon" imposes. If I post about a setting, I may contradict someone else's ideas.

Use what you want to. Ignore or adapt the rest.