Thursday, September 10, 2020

Galaxy Far Away: Star Wars - This Is The (Ultralite) Way

I love Star Wars. I always have. I always will. Arguments about which bit of the canon (or non-canon!) is best is moot. Every segment of the whole has its flaws--lackluster moments, inconsistencies, cringe-inducers, and poor realization etc--but the saga is greater than the sum of its parts. I digress. This isn't an agenda post, it's my attempt to slim down Star Wars roleplaying into a bite-sized game while maintaining grit, tropes, and high stakes.

Ever since I read around about FKR stuff I thought about the "worlds, not rules" adage, and what worlds I'd like to translate to an ultralite model. My son made that decision for me after he asked me to run a Star Wars game for him. I have WEG Star Wars d6 handy, but thats an awful lot of dice and still a bit too crunchy for a five-year-old to play. I've opted to take concepts from Landshut, Adventure HourRevenant's Hack, and Primeval d6 and fire them all into the thermal exhaust vent of the Death Star to see what happens.

Jaromir Hrivnac, ff

Galaxy Far Away: Ultralite Star Wars
[PDF here]

There is one referee and one or more players. The game is a conversation. 

Treat the world as a real place. Lean into what you know about the given setting. The referee is neutral and plays to see what happens as much as the players do. Reasonable action happens as described. Risk and impact are adjudicated by the referee. Trust each other to be fair. Act in good faith.

Creating a Character
Decide as a table if you're aligned with the Rebellion or Empire, or unaligned.

Play as any species or droid, etc. Individually, note the following on your character sheet. Keep these to a few words at most:
  • One positive trait and one negative trait. 
  • Two of either a prior job, organization, training, or culture that has shaped you.
  • One lingering personal haunt and one forward-looking goal.
  • One relationship to a non-player character. 
Start with a commlink and 1,000 credits, enough to afford a cheap blaster. If you're not a droid, roll 1d6 to determine Force sensitivity--note sensitivity if you roll a 6. Finally, roll 1d6 against each of the following tables and add those items to your character sheet. Take a moment and infuse them with a bit of personality.

d6

WEAPON

CLOTHING

TOOL

TRINKET

1

Holdout blaster

Jumpsuit

Security spike

Stimpac

2

Knife

Utility vest

Multitool

Hand scanner

3

Blaster rifle

Visor helmet

Medpac

Restraining bolt

4

Vibroblade

Leathers

Repair kit

Sabacc deck

5

Frag grenade

Modular armor

Magnetic grapple

Brass knuckles

6

Heavy blaster

Uniform

Respirator

Sketchy map


Action, Risk, and Danger
The vast majority of situations will not require a dice contest, but merely a judgement call to resolve. Players and their characters leverage their environment, use common sense, and clearly describe their actions. Consequences follow accordingly.

If it is unclear if a player's action will succeed, or if grave risk is involved, the referee declares the probable impact and rolls 2d6. Then the player character most at risk rolls also 2d6.

- If the player rolls higher, their character succeeds
- If the referee rolls higher, something bad happens
- If they tie, the character succeeds AND something bad happens

Whatever happens, the referee describes the impact.

Wounds, injury, and death are meted out according to the real stakes of the fictional struggle. A blaster to the shoulder will hurt. A blaster to the belly might kill. A frag grenade blast will concuss a character through a wall. A lightsaber will sever your arm clean off. 

Stormtroopers aren't accurate, but their numbers will overwhelm you. A Death Trooper is a much more acute threat. Similarly, an academy pilot chasing the players' ship in a baseline TIE Fighter could cause some trouble, but the party will probably shake them. Soontir Fel dispatched in an elite TIE Interceptor will likely spell disaster for the players. The more intense the danger, the more obvious is should be.

In short, all sense of health and stamina is to be ruled according to the context.

Destiny
This game is firmly rooted in grit and honesty. That said, the galaxy is bound together by the Force, which transcends all material things. At the beginning of each session, the table begins with six light side markers. The referee then rolls 1d6, flipping that many light side tokens to dark side tokens. 

At any time, a player may choose to flip a light side token to the dark side, immediately granting a dramatic boon to the party, such as a finding a critical tool at hand, declaring that a door just jammed and is now blocking enemy reinforcements, or any other fortuitous plot twist. Similarly, the referee may choose to flip a dark side token to the light side, immediately escalating a bad situation, such as overheating a player's weapon or silencing a com signal to allies. A token flip is always a big deal.

Destiny tokens convey the sense of cinematic peaks and valleys through their use as metacurrency. Each use of a token by players charges it for use by the referee, and vise versa. Referees can consider flipping a dark side token at the beginning of a session to establish a looming threat, such as a nearby Star Destroyer or an inbound heavily-armed bounty hunter.

If the table is aligned with the Empire, treat light side tokens as actionable by the referee.


Using the Force
If a player character is Force sensitive, they may extend their senses and field of action around them according to their ability. As with the remainder of this game, the player will describe their reasonable intent and the referee will judge its risk and impact. Force powers include telekinesis, supernatural empathy, manipulation of energy, and weaponized projection. Force sensitive characters are encouraged to be creative with the use and interpretation of their ability.

Advancement
As characters resolve conflict, achieve goals, and expand their horizons, they are sure to change and adapt over time. There are no levels or experience in this game, but as the precedent for realistic in-fiction consequences has already been established, the same concept informs advancement. Player characters may gain new traits, master a new weapon, become crippled by an injury, grow in or be warped by the Force, learn a new technical skill, or improve their connections with the underworld, etc.

Adventure Generators
Roll on the following tables to quickly create whole adventures or pick and choose to add new elements as play progresses.

d6

HOOK

TARGET

THREAT

MAJOR PROBLEM

1

Capture target

Contraband

Cartel

Bounty Hunter(s)

2

Eliminate target

Operative

Empire

Unrelated Firefight

3

Deliver target

Starship

Rebellion

Double-Crossed

4

Purchase target

Resource

Faction

Mechanical Failure

5

Restore target

Leader

Animals

Innocent Civilian(s)

6

Locate target

Intelligence

NPC

Better Offer


d6

CARTEL

FACTION

CONTRABAND

MINOR PROBLEM

1

Pyke Syndicate

Rebel Partisans

Death Sticks

Droid Sentry

2

Hutt Clan

Imp. Security Bureau

Unrefined Spice

Volatile Cargo

3

Black Sun

Czerka Corporation

Thermal Detonators

Mistaken Identity

4

Kanjiklub

Mandalorian Clans

Political Dissident

Stowaway 

5

Crymorah Syndicate

Sienar Fleet Systems

Weapon Prototypes

Proximity Alarm

6

Crimson Dawn

Bounty Hunter Guild

Tibanna Gas

Resource Drain


d6

RUMOR

EXOTIC GEAR

NPC 1

NPC 2

1

Paranormal Research

Beskar Armor

Force Adept

Heavy Gunner

2

Uncharted Rebel Base

MWC-35c Staccato

Smuggling Captain

Outlaw Tech

3

Imp. Prison Break

Assassin Droid

Droid Tech

Fringe Scout

4

Aged Clone + Secrets

MS-32 Disruptor

Defector

Sleeper Agent

5

Outpost Gone Silent

Dark Trooper Exo

Bounty Hunter

Sith Outlier

6

Location of Jedi

Lightsaber

Demolitions Expert

Ace Pilot

Feel free to remove any used results in these tables and replace them with new options as play progresses.

Adaptation and Flexibility
Alternatively, choose a different Star Wars epoch and adapt accordingly. Also alternatively, file off the serial numbers and use this to run any sort of ultralite game regardless of setting.


(CC BY-SA 4.0)



12 comments:

  1. I love these! One tweak I might suggest having run various version of light/dark destiny points with my kids over the years is the "what happens when they all turn one color?!" - I ended augmenting my house rules with the Dramatic Reset rules here: http://walkingmind.evilhat.com/2019/02/27/flip-fate/

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  2. I should also say I have been considering a slight re-theme of your Any Planet engine for my house Star Wars game... but we've got to finish up our current West End Games campaign first. (We did switch to the less crunchy Introductory Adventure Game variant... which is like a mashup of the lightweight First Edition skills list with some bit from the later editions streamlined for teaching the game. It has worked surprisingly well as a campaign system with my kids who were not interested in the mountains of rules in the revised and expanded edition.)

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    Replies
    1. Shawn, thanks for the compliments on both systems and the flip-fate concept! That's very cool.

      I have also run Any Planet Is Earth for Star Wars, but I found that the damage system was not jiving. When I put together Any Planet Is Earth, I leaned into the ultra-deadly feel. It's automatic damage as described by positioning. This is mostly due to the game being a hard sci-fi game where an honest-to-goodness gunshot will probably really drop you on the spot. It's frail actual humans in actual space.

      Galaxy Far Away is all about Star Wars. If you're fighting a bunch of stormtroopers, they're not going to hit you all that often. You'll need to evade their numbers, just like in the movies, to ensure you're not in serious danger. If you can't run away, you'll be swarmed. Shots to the shoulder. Then probably shots to the belly. Boom.

      If I used Any Planet Is Earth ruling for Galaxy Far Away, you're toast. I want the setting to inform the danger, and auto-hit stormtroopers won't get you there! But in a hard sci-fi setting, you're probably just a few folks on a ship fending off a pirate or a couple of goons. Giant bristling mass combat is likely not happening.

      A while back I realized that this style of play ("play worlds, not rules") ought to actively inform expectations about danger. Anyone familiar with Star Wars will know that a lone bounty hunter is serious danger, while a lone stormtrooper (potentially wearing as powerful armor and weapons as the hunter) is chump change.

      Either way, I, too enjoyed Classic Traveller and WEG Star Wars d6 1e, but I found that both held attachments to cruft I simply wasn't interested in. Rather than slowly house-ruling it all out, I just rebooted both concepts into these two games we're discussing now.

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    2. Oh, totally! I should clarify that I was expecting to have to retool a quite bit of Any Planet and in fact if anything I was mostly going to borrow and reskin the encounter system & setting tables as my kids very much enjoy sandbox-style play. They so often throw me a curveball I've long since given up any notion of "running an adventure module" - I have a paragraph of a story seed at most and I just let them run wild from there. So you are right - I'll probably start with the base of a Galaxy Far Away and tack on some bits to help me run the game my kids like. Thanks again for sharing this!

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    3. 100% get that. I agree, too. Maybe I'll use a module for inspiration, but I'm certainly not slapping rails on it. At least the last decade has managed to produce a lot of quality sandbox adventures and the like. I'm all for tables tables tables. Whip it up ahead of time or roll on the fly.

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  3. This might be my favorite version of fkr!

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  5. Very cool, love this. Thanks for putting this together. Have you ran some sessions with this? I be interested in read about it if so, I scanned the blog but did not see any.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Matt! Yes, I've run several sessions of this for adult players in person and by forum, as well as a few sessions with my young son, which I've blogged here about in the "RPGs with Kids" series.

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