Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gameplay: The Before Bedtime Edge of the Empire Campaign Opener


Ora is a Bothan Explorer. She is a Scout and a damned good pilot. Stricken by wanderlust, Ora wants to explore. She wants to see the galaxy. She met up with another Bothan, Lilly, who had a ship, an old YT-1300 freighter called the Marchana. Lilly used Ora's skills as a pilot to help her traffic questionable goods from one place to another. Ora didn't care, however. All that mattered was that she was flying and exploring new worlds. Unknown to Ora, Lilly was running low on funds and was heavily in debt. Masking the operation as a standard cargo run, Lilly had Ora take them to a remote planet. However, Lilly set up to betray Ora and the meeting was with slavers who were going to take Ora and pay Lilly handsomely. Ora discovered this and fled, leaving the system and Lilly behind, stealing the ship to escape the Bothan she thought was her friend, but actually betrayed her.

That is the character and back story that my seven year old daughter created for our "Before Bedtime Edge of the Empire Campaign". Other than the name of the ship, she created that entire background herself. Her character was originally named Emma, but she decided to change it right before we started playing stating that she "needed a name that said more about her character."

Zulara Lithal is a Human Bounty Hunter Survivalist. Her younger brother got in trouble with the Empire, but a sly Imperial Officer, Dandal Holt, decided to cover up the charges when Zulara plead for her brother. The Officer now blackmails Zulara, threatening to reveal her brother's crimes if she doesn't do what he says. Needing money, Zulara made an arrangement with small-time Twi'lek crime boss Bib Turrazza to finance her starting operations, though she remains in his debt as he is trying to milk out her repayment.

This is my wife's character and background from her character creation.

2-1BB4 is a droid. He was under the service of the Bothan Lilly by means of a restraining bolt. Originally, his programming was to be a Scholar and he would give Lilly information about the systems and planets she would visit to help her decide what would be the best cargo to trade. However, after a particularly bad exchange, she had him download programming to also become a Doctor. With dual specializations and no wipe, "BB" started to pick up some quirks. He has become obsessed with the glam rocker "Galaxy Glitter" from an old poster that Lilly had hanging in her ship from a time she helped transport some of his equipment. BB was on the ship when Ora fled Lilly and she removed his restraining bolt. BB now calls Ora "Mistress", but out of respect rather than the restrictions of a bolt.

This is the primary NPC. Since it was a small party, I decided to incorporate an NPC to give more party interaction, especially since my daughter is new to this.

 So these are the primary characters in our "Before Bedtime Edge of the Empire Campaign". Since our Call of Cthulhu campaign fell apart from a missing person, I've been indulging in a lot of independent RPGs and, although most aren't suited for a long-term campaign, I've become really impressed with the focus of mechanisms for characters, theme, and stories that many of these have.

When I got together with a group to start a campaign, I decided to try Pathfinder since I had such extensive history with D&D and 3.5. I lamented about it here. It seemed that mainstream RPGs really didn't focus on the things that made roleplaying interesting to me, which was characters and story.

I had heard about Edge of the Empire and dismissed it because I thought running a long-term campaign in the Star Wars universe would feel silly. However, I snagged the Edge of the Empire Beginner Game Box to idly check out the things I was hearing about it.

The system intrigued me. And I wanted to give it a shot, but it was a simplistic starter set and adventure, so I didn't want to bring it to my long-term hardcore veteran roleplaying group. I decided to test the systems by playing the starter adventure with my daughter and my wife.

It turns out that my daughter loved roleplaying. She talked in character and everything that happened was so fantastic and exciting for her. She was very disappointed when the adventure ended. I told her that we would roll up our own characters and start a campaign. She was very excited.

I really enjoyed what I saw in the rules of the Beginner Box and I found that the Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook expanded upon everything that I liked. My full review of the Edge of the Empire system is here.

Now, there are challenges to running a campaign with a seven year old in it. First of all, attention span is a concern. She loves playing, but bogging down to look up rules will bore her quickly. Also, she's not ready for the Saturday afternoon into late Saturday night/early Sunday morning marathon sessions of D&D that I had as a teenager. So pacing is a concern.

But this is Star Wars. Pacing an episodic adventure fits the theme very well.

Our first session started with Ora and BB fleeing Lilly and the slavers. They had enough fuel for one short jump there were several possible destinations in range. They ended up at Dantum Station, an old derelict space station and casino and had just enough money to pay for the docking fees. They knew that they had limited time to refuel before Lilly would track them down, so they set off to try to find a means to earn money and ended up heading to the local cantina to see if they could find a job that would pay enough to refuel the ship.

Zulara, meanwhile, was sent by Bib Turrazza to kill the owner of the Dantum Station, Dei Ametie. With Dei dead, the station would go into the ownership of Nada Dax, who had offered to give Bib a percentage if he would gain control of the station. Zulara arrived at the station and met with her contact who was supposed to give her access to her target. However, she was betrayed and when
they met in the cantina, he pulled a blaster on her. Since he warned Dei, he fled the station and was hiding out on an asteroid safehouse. Her contact radioed Dei to let him know that he had the bounty hunter and he was given the order to execute her.

Ora arrived at the cantina at this time. She didn't notice the exchange going on with Zulara or the blaster pointed at her. But as she inquired about jobs to get money for fuel, one of the patrons there recognized her from the call that Lilly put out. She contacted all of the areas within reach and put out a reward for the capture of Ora and return of her ship. The fight that broke out was enough distraction for Zulara to get the drop on her contact with the blaster pistol pointed at her.

When the ruffians were gone, Zulara fled, telling Ora she needed her to fly her to the safe house so she could eliminate her target. She'd get paid enough to refuel her ship for her. The group fled as the station went onto alert.

BB created a distraction while Ora and Zulara snuck into the control room of the station and released the docking clamps on their ship in lock down. Zulara was also able to turn off the alerts and slow any possible pursuit.

Reaching the ship, they took off. Heading into the ship, they passed the cargo hold that had a terrible odor coming from it. Ora hadn't noticed it before, but Lilly had placed a new locking system on that cargo hold and she couldn't get in. Zulara was able to slice the lock and open the cargo hold, which held a solitary Jawa. BB was the only one who could speak Jawaese, so he translated and they discovered that Tesoona was captured by Lilly and she had planned on selling him to the slavers as well.

The ship's klaxon sirens blared as ships from the station set to pursue came into range. Despite Zulara's want to jettison the Jawa to get rid of the smell, Ora took up his offer to help fix the ship instead. Ora was able to fly well enough to evade most of the shots of the enemies and Zulara worked the ship's guns and BB jammed the enemies com systems so they could not give Dei warning of their arrival.

With the ships eliminated, they flew through the asteroid field and found Dei's safe house. Ora successfully bluffed over the radio that she had eliminated Zulara and Ora and took the Bothan's ship to turn in to Lilly for bounty and reward. They were given clearance to land and were able to ambush Dei, taking him out.

Nada Dax took over the station immediately. Instead of paying the amount for the bounty that Bib Turrazza had promised, he instead offered to give a couple hundred credits and refuel their ship. Ora realized that she would need a source of income to pay for her fuel to explore and Zulara realized that she would need steady transport if she wanted to track down bounties to earn money. The pair decided that they benefitted one another and set off together.

My daughter. Back when she was Yoda-sized.
It was a simple, direct story meant to connect the pair. There was a bit of railroading in the set up to get everyone together, but it was my daughter's first free-form adventure. The benefits of the system that I outlined in my review remain. Fantasy Flight's Star Wars Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion system is a mainstream, campaign worthy system that focuses on narrative play and characters and story. The universe can be grey, but there is enough moral black and white (Empire and Rebellion) that a seven year old can make moral decisions with little difficulty. The dice system itself is easy enough for her to grasp, but can be deep enough for a veteran roleplayer to decide how to spend the three advantage in the most interesting and compelling way.

From time to time, I may update where our campaign is and where our stories are, but as a geek father, this is the first real roleplaying experience for my little girl. I wouldn't have expected it to be in the Star Wars universe, but whenever she's bored now, she'll come over and ask if we can play more of the campaign.

Other than her successfully bluffing to me in One Night Werewolf that she wasn't a werewolf last Saturday, I can think of little more that makes my geek heart beat prouder for my little girl.

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