Friday, February 12, 2010

Star Wars: Action Cards

A little recovered today, but feeling like I'm going to be coughing for another couple of days.

Star Wars for Action Cards
So right now I'm working on putting together a basic set of systems to use with my Action Cards homebrew for a short run Star Wars game. I'm not working from any established rpg sourcebooks, just trying to do this from basic premises, I'm imagining it as the first film of what would be the next trilogy, set some time after Return of the Jedi-- no more than one or two generations. It will only take the stuff from the films as canon; everything else (books, comics, other films, games, etc) I'm going to ask the players to assume isn't true, unless I bring that in explicitly. I think that will help get over the potential learning curve and barrier to entry problems.

Part of the reason I want to do this game is to try out some rules I have in mind for how to do quick and dirty collaborative character creation using Action Cards. One strength AC has right now is that it does well for longer term games because of the up front investment in character creation-- not necessarily in terms or time or detail, but in the making up of character decks. If you have a deck like that, you don't want to have something that is only going to play for a session or two. That strength becomes something of a weakness for doing smaller run games. I have a plan for a mixed card draft mechanic to get around this. I'll have more details on that later, but ideally what I would like to have is a system where a group of six people can get character creation done from start to finish in under an hour. I also want a quick tracking mechanic which allows reconstructing decks as needed.

I'm going to try to use the more simplified version of AC-- with only “abilities” and those pretty much covering everything (rather than having talents, skills, etc subdivided). If we're talking about four to six sessions, players will get kind of a set increase from session to session (like a new ability and some new edges). Since this is a Star Wars game the cool stuff available to players is important. Obviously, the Jedi and Jedi powers are crucial to this. On the other hand, non-Jedi players should have equal choices and options. That's not a question of power balance, though obviously if it is too wonky then that's bad, but more a question of making the various options on either side equally cool and attractive.

So my basic plan is this. I'm going to put out sets of options. Ideally I'd like no more than half of the party to be Jedi (so three in the group of six, four if Kenny does what he's been talking about). I'll have a set of Jedi Powers as picks and a set of other abilities. Right now I've got Jedi stuff broken into about eight categories, as you'll see in the next post. Each Jedi will get to pick one of those abilities as their forte-- they're better at that one than anyone else. Since I'm imagining like three-five 'powers' in each class, essentially they get the first two powers. Once that power set has been picked, no one else can pick that as their first pick. Then Jedi may pick a secondary power. This can be something someone has picked as a primary, but this time the person just learns the most basic power. Again, if something has been picked as a secondary already, no one else can take that.

The other special non-Jedi stuff will also be exclusive-- if someone picks one of the talents, then no one else can pick that. Ideally I'll distribute the final version of what I've come up with to the players before the game and they can decide amongst themselves. After card draft and picking those special picks, players will be able to able some abilities to their characters as well-- and they can opt to leave some undefined until later. Note that these picks can only be taken at the start of the campaign and cannot be bought later. Only one person can have each pick. I use the term "broad repull" in the discussion below, referring to the idea that multiple abilities can be applied to get multiple repulls in any attempt, but each successive ability must be narrower than the last.

So what are the standard character defining picks, ones which define roles in some ways?

Standard Picks
Alien: While any character may be “non-human” as it were, a character who takes the Alien pick gains some benefits from their alien physiology. For example, a Wookie would gain some environment resistance and enormous strength. The player is free to design their race and come up with their abilities.

Charmer: The character can be charming and has mastered the arts of diplomacy in most any situation. It may be that their sheer brassiness carries them through or they may actually be a social chameleon, adept at fitting in. Essentially the character has a broad repull for any situation involving social interacting with another person who can understand them, is intelligent and not a droid. The advantage here is that the character gains a broad social skill, where other characters have to take narrower ones.

Connected: The character has traveled to many places and has seen many things. They have friends in just about every port. They know something of the local customs and can tell when things are out of place. The may know the lay of the land or where to find something specific. This gives them a broad repull for situations related to their experience.

Droid: The character is a droid which has some benefits and some disadvantages. The character may not also be a force user. Droids can survive in space, are resistant to some environmental factors and can take more physical damage than a normal person. In some cases they may gain repulls for interacting with other machines or droids. They are all immune to some force powers. As a disadvantage, they are weak to some electrical and energy attacks and, because it is Star Wars, often get their limbs blown off or disabled. A droid character may pick an additional function bonus, based on their droid type, such as universal translator, extra limb, special machine interface, hidden weapon or the like.

Engineer: The character has a knack for machinery, devices, droids, even starship engines. Essentially the character has a broad repull for any attempts to repair, modify or analyze machines. Other characters has to buy such abilities more narrowly (like Starship Tech or Gun Tech). The Engineer can combine this repull with skills like those to give them additional attempts.

Force Resistant: This is essentially a particular alien trait, rendering them immune to Force abilities which manipulate the mind. Jedi cannot take this. For the purposes of this system, other direct powers such as Force Slam and the like also function against the character with more difficulty. This is separated out from standard

Gadgeteer: The character begins with three undefined “gadgets” which he or she may later define in play as something the group needs to overcome an obstacle or just as something cool. Once defined-- within reason-- the character has access to that defined gadget. If the GM destroys said gadget, the player gains another free undefined gadget.

Gunner: The character is an expert marksman, able to draw from the hip and shoot with lightning reflexes. The character suffers reduced penalties for shooting a gun in difficult environments or when attempting a trick shot. The character has a broad repull for any shooting attempt.

Lucky: Each session, the character gains a number of free repulls which may be applied like drama points. When a character uses their Lucky ability, they must wait one hour (real time) before using it again. Lucky still has the limits of drama points in that they may only be applied to attempts the character makes a repull for.

Medic: The character has extensive medical training across a variety of races. The grants them a repull for any kind of healing or medical treatment. In the field they can heal characters more fully and reset penalties from damage. Other characters can buy field treatment, but the medic has the edge in being able to perform the most advanced techniques and can make up for not having access to the best equipment.

Pilot: The character can fly, drive and pilot any vehicle they sit down in. Their instinctive skill gives them a repull for any maneuvering attempts. Other characters have to buy narrower skills based on vehicle type. Additionally, the Pilot character begins with a ship of their own.

Thief: The character has worked outside of the law for some time, picking up tricks and talents along the way. The character can be anything from a smuggler, to a con artists, to a cat burglar. For game purposes, the character gains a free broad repull for criminal activities, including lockpicking, security systems and the like. Other characters must buy the narrower individual abilities.

Thinker: The Thinker has picked up a broad variety of trivia and minutiae in their travels. They begin the game with five free “obscure knowledges” they may define as the game goes on. This allows them to make pulls on topics which would normally require some related background. This knowledge is generally academic, rather than practical. When making attempts to figure out the history or details of something (like the History of the Republic, Famous Sith Battles) the Thinker gets a broad repull.

Tough as Nails: The character has a bonus to resist damage effects, with the GM giving the player the benefit of the doubt in determining damage. The character does not take wound penalties and can often stay up longer than a normal person when severely damaged. The character gains a repull for will tests resisting pain or suffering. Note that while this ability sounds cool, it does give the GM a little more room to blast the heck out of the player.

Next post: Jedi powers, card drafting and thinking about ships.


  1. Xenophile (immediately understands alien societies): Leia is a Xenophile with the furries, while Han's Charming almost gets him eaten. Intimidating (Boba Fett, Vader, Chewbacca, etc). Seductive (makes folks sexually oriented towards you go stupid, ie Twi'leks). Maybe Detective ("And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople...") but I'm guessing that would be handled by a whole set of Investigative skills.

    I think Lucky should also allow the GM to give you bad luck a few times per session. Han has good luck, but he also has unusually bad luck too. The same goes for R2D2, another Lucky character.

    Another defining trait of Star Wars is Destiny. Some characters have great destinies, and events always work out to get them where they're going. With Lucas being Lucas, often in a hamhanded way...

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