Sunday, February 14, 2010

Star Wars: Action Cards (Part II)

Happy Still-Coughing-My-Lungs-Up Day.

Continuing from my last post, some more thoughts on the short run Star Wars game.

Tone as Stakes
Running a short campaign can be a little difficult-- depending on your approach. One the one hand you could approach it simply as a closed duration attempt just to mess around with the setting and run things fully improv. I've never tried that approach. Usually when I decide to run for X number of sessions (where X is greater than one and less than seven) I have some kind of story in my head-- a meta-story that the sessions will play into. I may not have everything fully formed, but generally I have a plot skeleton to work from: usually an opening scene and an ending scene. I guess what I'm saying is that these kinds of games do run the risk of feeling railroaded or hyperdetermined.

So my approach going into the Star Wars game is this: I have a sense of the plot and the story, but I won't know the characters until we sit down for that first session. I'm picturing this arc as the first movie in a new trilogy. But most importantly I don't know who is directing the movie. I don't know if this story is going to be a campy homage to the original story, a tech heavy exploration of the cool bits of the universe, a romantic adventure or a dark reboot of the concepts of the series. What the players do and how they act will determine that. They will set the stakes for what is to come-- is the first movie a tragic set up, a dark prelude? Or will we end with a more triumphal scene that leaves aside some of the still hanging consequences? I really want to track the success/failure path along those conditions-- with failure not necessarily causing stopper consequences or character injury, but instead failures have a real stake in that they darken the actual setting.

Drafting the Cards
In the standard Action Cards game, players have a deck of 24 cards. These include seven fixed results across the four areas cards, seven self-defined results across the four areas, six special result cards, and four unique result cards. In the short run version, players will have a slightly smaller deck of 23 cards.

Each player will 13 of those cards as standard, meaning each player has the same 13. Eight of those cards will be basic result cards. Five will be the special result cards (Egregious Humiliation, Moment of Glory, Crawling from the Wreckage, Deadlock, and I'd Rather Be Lucky-- dropping the Vagaries of Fate card from the original version). This leaves a set of six additional standard result cards which players will draft into their deck. The GM will shuffle out six cards to each player, they will pick one and then pass the rest to their left until they have six cards. Players will also be given a stack of mixed or circumstantial based result cards and in a draft method will pick two more cards from these. Then the player who picks last in that method will have first pick of the unique bad cards for the character. Players will after the first session, also be able to design a card for themselves. The cards will also have a code number on them so I can make a quick notation of the cards-- allowing me to reassemble the decks on the fly.

Mixed or Circumstantial Result Cards (Players will pick two from this set-- each one can only be taken once in the group)

U1 Teamwork
If your attempt involves working with someone (repairing an engine, fighting a bad guy) then you succeed through teamwork and coordination.
If you're alone in this task, then you miss something vital and screw up.

U2 Lone Wolf
As a loner, you know how to handle things on your own. If acting solo, without outside aid or interference. you win big. If you're acting as part of a team, however, then the noise and blather distracts you.

U3 Selfless
If your action is noble and selfless, you win big. However, if you're covering your own ass or acting for your own benefit, a twinge of guilt catches you mid-action-- and you fail.

U4 All About Me
If you are looking out for number one, then you win big. If, however, you're acting to help someone else instead of saving your own skin, you fail in the attempt.

U5 Let the Wookie Win
You execute the action with maximum force. For some actions this is great-- smashing past the opposition. For anything requiring delicacy, you blow through any restraint, potentially causing additional problems.

U6 Head in the Stars
You often fail at the commonplace and mundane...but when attempting something bizarre or over-the-top, you win.

U7 Protocol Droid
If the action you are attempting involves interacting with another person in some way, you succeed. Otherwise you become distracted, bored or simply lost.

U8 People are Strange
If the action you are attempting doesn't involve an interaction with someone else, you succeed. If you have to interface with another being, you fail.

U9 Light Side
If your action involves creating or protecting something, then your instinct for the light side pushes you to success. But if it involves taking apart, damaging or destroying, then your instincts cause you to fail.

U10 Dark Side
If your action involves taking apart, damaging or destroying something, then your instinct for the dark side pushes you to success. But if it involves creating or protecting, then your instincts cause you to fail.

U11 Make Your Own Luck
You may immediately reshuffle your choice of cards back into your deck (except this one). Then draw for your result.

U12 Extend the Mind
You spot something revealing a vital point-- a weakness in your opponent's stance, an opportunity to make a break, a rich detail...however this concentration works against you in a physical test-- distracting you.

U13 Bow Before Me!
Sometimes you cannot control the force of your presence... that can be good sometimes, but you may run the risk of monologuing or gloating at your success.

U14 Wooo-Hoooo
You succeed, but do so in the loudest possible manner-- drawing attention to your success. This can be good in some place, but not where subtlety's necessary.

U15 Nothing to See Here
Your action succeeds, but in the quietest way possible. People may not even notice you've acted. The delicacy of your action may undermine the final effect.

U16 Perfect Defense
You anticipate your opponent's actions-- being able to counter assaults of any kind. However if drawn for aggressive actions, your caution betrays you.

U17 Hellbent
You strike forward and attack the problem aggressively-- breaking through problems and obstacles. However if drawn for defensive actions, your overstep and overextend yourself..

U18 Preparation
You have something for the situation! -- but you only have a moment to say what that is before the GM seizes the narrative back.

Next time, Force powers