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UktenasymbolAs the masses rush across the planet – app in hand – in search of small animals to enslave, this web enhancement considers how such a fad could be positioned into the World of Darkness (specifically the setting for Werewolf: the Apocalypse).

It provides a precis of the Pentex involvement and how the app has been integrated into the business practices of some of the company’s subsidiaries, as well as suggesting some plot hooks for Storytellers.

Whilst this is written for the Werewolf: the Apocalypse setting, it could easily be re-purposed for any of the World of Darkness lines.

Download: minimonsters-go-web-enhancement  [360KB]

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UktenasymbolIn Episode 22 of the Midnight Express Podcast, Pete and I discussed Samuel Haight, ‘The Skinner’ from Werewolf: the Apocalypse.  Presented here is a distillation of chronicle ideas to use the most infamous of Garou in your own chronicle.  These ideas position Haight as a possible saviour of the Garou Nation, and the Rite of Sacred Rebirth as a desperate weapon against the Wyrm.

Download: The Skinner [Web Enhancement] [PDF;868KB]

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LotNAs a new initiative for the Midnight Express Podcast, we’ll produce web enhancements for some episodes starting from this month.  These short articles are designed to present an NPC, plot hooks, locations, or any other idea that can be easily used in your own chronicle or spark a story for a longer-term game.

The first is from Episode 17, and features the Daughter of Cacophony used in the Shard segment of the episode.  It doesn’t provide stats, but does cover her background, role-playing hints, and plot ideas for vampire chronicles, and for hunters.

Our next enhancement will be Changeling-themed, and should be out concurrently with Episode 20.

Please leave comments either here on the WordPress site or visit the Midnight Express forum.

Download: Persephone_Web_Enhancement_17 [766KB]

 

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This is part of an ongoing series that examines each episode of Star Wars: Rebels as though it were a session of the West End Games D6 Star Wars: the Role-Playing Game.  The game mechanics referenced in this series are drawn from the Second Edition of that game.

WARNING: If you have not watched the season finale of Rebels you might not want to read this article yet.  There are spoilers.  Go watch the episode now and then come back and read this; we’ll wait for you.

Crew of the GhostIt’s clear from the intelligence gathered in the last session that there is a time limit on Kanan’s rescue so the party needs a transport and a plan.  Luckily, they can get the first  from the Imperial starport.  After some light combat (Dave previous bad luck with the dice comes back in the scene and Sabine gets to make a lot of jokes about Stormtrooper accuracy at his expense).

Sabine is touched though that the Stormtroopers have nicknamed her ‘the artist’ and recognise her work (both artistic and explosive, although Sabine would argue there is no difference) – it means that she has achieved the underground notoriety she craves.

The Sovereign

The players are seriously considering their options to take down a Star Destroyer, or at least put it offline long enough to rescue Kanan.  The scope of the plan is far beyond their usual banter and they realise that this session has a large chance of failing.  The game will take an interesting turn if they’re all taken prisoner, but escaping from Mustafar isn’t really a story they want to explore.

Fire_Across_the_Galaxy_3Zeb and Ezra recall the TIE they hid a number of sessions back (the whole party knew they didn’t destroy it, but neither of the players would answer questions about the starfighter) and despite Zeb’s reservations they throw it into the mix.  What’s also obvious is that Ezra and Sabine have been talking about the location well before today, especially when Sabine pulls out a picture of a TIE from her character folder and shows the art off to the group.  Zeb stares in wide-eyed shock  at the colour and Dave tells Sabine she isn’t to touch his X-Wing models – ever.

Run!

Dave switches tactics this session to work with Kanan.  He’s focused on the physical dimension of capture, but as we’ve seen before, he’s adept at psychological scenes too.  As GM and player explore Kanan’s back-story the rest of the group realise the guilt that underlies the Jedi’s character.  As a young Padawan it would have been unbelievable for Kanan to have fought free of the Clone Troopers and their purge (and even more unbelievable to be the one person to escape Anakin’s attack on the Temple) so running made sense.  The sense of ‘what if?‘ pervades the scene and Kanan needs to reflect on what he has done with his masters’ sacrifice.  Also, given the Inquisitors deep knowledge of Depa Bilaba’s death one has to ask – was he there when she fell?  Did he see the young Kanan run, but was unable to cut him down?

Hit and run

Zeb clenches a pencil in his teeth and intones ‘I love it when a plan comes together!‘ Sabine’s ‘present’ works perfectly and the Rebels gain access to the Sovereign unchallenged.  They are on the clock, especially when Dave reveals Tarkin’s contingency plans (of course he had a plan) and reinforcements arrive.  What follows is a long-running combat and direct contravention of the first rule of gaming – don’t split the party.

Fire_Across_the_Galaxy_thumbDave has set up the final confrontation between light and dark to mirror Episode 1, complete with multiple levels, dual lightsabers, and a two-person Light-Side tag team.  He completes the scene dressing with ‘Duel of the Fates‘ playing softly in the background.  As Kanan uses the blaster-saber, effortlessly switching modes and splitting his Dice Pool, Ezra is impressed (‘I never thought of that‘).  The older Jedi displays a high degree of creativity and gives the Inquisitor a lot to think about during the duel.

Ezra joins the fray, and the Inquisitor’s arrogance is on display.  He knocks down both Jedi and throws Ezra off the walkway.  When Dave is asked for the damage roll, he replies ‘let’s do it later‘.  In doing so he removes Ezra from the scene and raises the tension – it’s very possible that Ezra is dead and from the look on Dave’s face and the handful of dice that clatter behind the screen hope looks in short supply.

The tension doesn’t last long, as Ezra is needed to reply to Hera but Kanan faces up to the scene and destroys the Inquisitor’s lightsaber (‘I saw that flaw when you first showed me the drawing‘ says Kanan, ‘and I’ve waited a long time to do this‘).  It seems that the Rebels will be taking down a Star Destroyer in the last game after all.

Fire_Across_the_Galaxy_36Dave tops it off with a cut-scene of Tarkin agreeing to evacuate (as this is obviously not his ‘moment of triumph‘) as a nice nod to A New Hope.

As the Rebels flee the scene (and Ezra’s dark humour comes into play) Dave adds tension by Choppers absence.  The players stare open-mouthed, and the seriously wonder if the droid’s mean streak has just reached new levels.  Painfully aware that their TIEs have no shields and hoping as they make 2D Hull rolls against incoming fire, the players are really worried.

Chopper arrives in almost Deus Ex Machina style with a new fleet, framed by the exploding Star Destroyer.

Rebels Revealed

It’s already been established that Hera doesn’t know who Fulcrum is and so she’ll be just as surprised as the rest of the players.  Dave builds to it with Bail Organa, and then reveals Asohka Tano as Fulcrum.

There are very mixed reactions to this at the table.  Some of the players are pleasantly surprised and like the idea, but others grimace.  This will take a bit of time for the players to think through, but it’s a good point on which to leave the first arc of the campaign.  Dave has used the first arc to really entice and motivate the players and allow them to explore a small region of the Outer Rim.  He’s built relationships and respect for the NPCs (even their adversaries), given a triumph to the group, and set up a wider stage for the second arc of the campaign.  With more resources, powerful allies, and a larger appreciation for the Rebellion the game has a lot of potential.

Vader_RebelsLeaving the session with the ominous breathing of everyone’s favourite Sith Lord foreshadows that the future of the campaign will include more challenges and a much higher threat level.  For now though, the Rebels have created system-wide unrest  and the impression that ‘the Empire is weak.’  That will do for now.

What did we learn?

  • Switching scenes to build tension.  During the escape on the Star Destroyer, Dave realised that he was running concurrent scenes and so hearkened back to Return of the Jedi for inspiration.  Just as the Rebels in RotJ were split between Endor, space, and the Throne Room, his players were in two locations.  He managed the scenes by allowing one to include some action and slowly build up, and then switched to the other group, repeating the process.  It meant that both groups were interested in the outcomes but they were still thinking and planning.  The fast-paced action continues, but the scene shifts.  It’s a good method to keep everyone engaged, but also give the sense of speed of plot.
  • Shrinking the universe.  This is a temptation in any game, but especially one which has an established history and lots of NPCs.  Often a storyteller will try to connect as many of the elements in the world together as possible and sometime the net result is that the setting feels smaller for it.  Revisiting the same stories, NPCs or locations can feel contrived.  When Fulcrum is revealed as Asohka, some of the party weren’t impressed.  They felt Dave had the opportunity to expand the universe with someone new and instead went back to the Clone Wars unnecessarily.  They also question the direction of the story now that both Asohka and Darth Vader will be recurring NPCs – there is unfinished business between these two NPCs that could overshadow the PCs efforts and shift the focus of the Rebellion story to one purely about the Force.  On the other hand, some of the party are really excited by the prospect of working with Asohka and what this means for the Rebellion.

Dave definitely has challenges ahead, but for now he’s taking a break.  The crew have mentioned a few other games they’d like to try and right now is a natural pause in the story.  So far the group is undecided (when someone mentioned Werewolf: the Apocalypse Zeb immediately quipped ‘you’ve heard about the Rebellion against the Wyrm!?‘ and then they spoke no more of it), but perhaps a return to Shadowrun, or something new (Sabine is very keen on running some L5R).

Either way, the group has a new permanent member and plenty of scope for good gaming.

Image Credits: All images have been sourced from Wookiepedia and remain the exclusive intellectual property of Disney.  Their use as part of this series should not be construed as endorsement of this blog, or a challenge to their ownership of copyright for Star Wars Rebels.

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Crew of the Ghost

This is part of an ongoing series that examines each episode of Star Wars: Rebels as though it were a session of the West End Games D6 Star Wars: the Role-Playing Game.  The game mechanics referenced in this series are drawn from the Second Edition of that game.

The gang is back at the table on time this week (see, cliff-hanger endings still work) and there has been a lot of planning involved. There isn’t too much table-talk at the beginning and everyone wants to start the night – and rescue Kanan.

Urban combat

Knowing is half the battle (thank you 1980’s G.I. Joe) and so the team needs to gather some intelligence on Kanan’s location. Tarkin has destroyed the Communications Tower, and whilst the crew of the Ghost don’t fully understand the ramifications of this action, they do know that information is hard to obtain.

Dave, however, has thought through the lack of Comms on Lothal and has some contingency planning for the Empire. His solutions actually open up plot opportunities, but we’ll get to them later.

For now, the team has found that every vehicle has a link back to the Imperial mainframe and there is a strong chance of hacking (Sabine’s speciality) so they head out into the streets and look for a patrol. After lots of Climbing/Jumping rolls (‘you still haven’t asked for that jet pack, have you?‘ ask Zeb, reminding Sabine of an outstanding request. ‘Bet one of them would have made all of this easier, right?‘), followed by plenty of Dodge rolls, the team turns up no data. The gamers waste no time emulating scenes from Return of the Jedi, and generally enjoying the scene – which seems a little at odds with the tone of this session but Dave lets the fun roll. It will get a lot darker later.

The Comms Tower situation is more desperate than they first suspected. This immediately raises the question – how is a bureaucracy as entrenched as the Empire functioning? This is the equivalent of removing the internet access of a multi-national corporation and the results have to be crippling. On the positive side, this could open up a lot of opportunity to bypass normal security because – as the crew rationalise – Lothal only has so many resources to dedicate to the current situation whilst also maintaining the production schedule set by Tarkin.

Hera collects the crew (with a cry of ‘Starfighter scale!‘ as she shoots AT-DPs) and they head home empty-handed.

Rebel_Resolve_thumbKanan and the cut-scenes

Dave has made use of the WEG suggestions for cut-scenes during the entire campaign to good effect. This session won’t be any different, but it will be to highlight Kanan’s plight. He spoke with Kanan before the session and explained that the Jedi won’t get a lot of ‘play time’ tonight. ‘Hey‘ replies Kanan, ‘I expected to be rolling up a new character tonight, so this is a win. I’m cool with watching this play out.

In the meantime Dave will use scenes of Kanan, the Inquisitor, and Tarkin to underscore the urgency of the mission at hand. This will be handled by descriptive narrative rather than dice, which is one way to portray the effects of the torture. It would lose a lot of impact if Dave simply asked for Strength rolls against 2D damage – rather, the descriptions of the electrical field and Kanan’s suffering are far more useful.

Hera’s Rebellion

It’s been clear from the start that Hera knows a lot more about the Rebellion than the rest of the group. She wrote this into her back-story and she and Dave have discussed the consequences of her responsibility. Dave is now coming to collect with Fulcrum’s directive to ‘focus on the mission’ and to leave Kanan behind [BK Note: think about this scene when Fulcrum is revealed next episode and wonder why this leader was willing to abandon Kanan to Tarkin. Does it make sense?].

Hera has always been driven by a higher duty and right now it is in direct conflict with her feelings of family. She has the strongest bond with Kanan and giving him up to torture and death doesn’t sit well – but there is a larger goal at stake. Jedi can afford to be aloof with attachment, but that doesn’t work for the rest of the galaxy. She uses the term ‘soldier‘ to disassociate the choice, but it simply feels wrong.

During this session, the crew realises how little they know about the Rebellion, and how this was a deliberate ploy on Hera’s part. Despite helping the Rebellion and furthering their goals, the Spectres really don’t know very much at all – and they start to wonder if they should.

Cikatro_Vizago_ResolveDeal with the Devaronian

The group is divided right now. Ezra refuses bluntly to leave Kanan behind and hatches a plan with the rest of the crew. He’s taken some of the discussions with Dave to heart, especially those about making choices that lead to good story. Inspired by these sentiments, he makes a deal with Vizago. In doing so, he agrees to owe an undescribed favour to a crime lord, and reveals his (and Kanan’s) true identities to someone who can profit from this information. Knowing Dave, this will come back to haunt Ezra in a later session.

Vizago’s response to ‘because Kanan is a Jedi‘ is a nice touch from Dave. It underscores that the Jedi are gone from the galaxy and people simply don’t believe anymore. When Vizago does understand (and believe) there is a touch of awe in his voice. He’s a professional so it doesn’t last long – but it was clearly there.

Aside from that, Ezra rolls a ‘1’ on the Wild Die during his Alien Cultures roll and clumsily fumbles his way through the encounter – but he’s learned something about Devaronian culture in the process.

At the end of the encounter, the Spectres have a solid lead. Dave’s been very thorough in planning the Empire’s response to the lack of comms. The elegant solution of the Messenger Droids makes a lot of sense and the planning begins anew.

Droid in distress?

With Chopper in disguise and the Ghost ‘flying casual’ the plan has begun. The Ghost is pushed to the limit and everyone (even the new droid) has a clear role to play. This is the type of work that shows that the players have created a team that are all willing to work as a single unit.

REB_IA_8215Droid acquisition is put on hold by Chopper (Dave has a little too much fun playing this NPC sometimes) and the information on Kanan’s position is revealed – Mustafar ‘where Jedi go to die‘.

On those words, Dave closes out an action-packed session and promises to wrap up his first campaign arc next week.

What did we learn?
This session reinforced two ideas, character vulnerability and good planning.

  • Ezra’s decision to bargain with Vizago was based on desperation, and the crime lord was unwilling to alter the terms of the bargain even after realising he was dealing with a Jedi. This made the decision extremely difficult (owing an unnamed favour) and also highlighted a key difference of this era. In the Old Republic, a Jedi might have been able to obtain assistance by only revealing their nature, but in the ‘Dark Times’ most of that respect has been lost.
    Ezra’s decision though is worth a Character Point chip because he has taken a risk that will lead to a story later on. Dave can easily take the favour and make this an interesting session in the future. The only question will be about how to use this story hook for maximum impact. Last session Kanan spoke to Ezra about ‘playing it safe’ rather than ‘playing like a hero’ and the words seem to resonate with the new player.
  • Internal consistency is one of Dave’s strong points in this campaign. There is a sense of interconnectedness to the setting which lends believability to the Empire especially. He has a good sense of cause and effect and (as the solution of the puffer pig a few sessions back proved) he’s inventive when thinking about non-standard responses to problems. The destruction of the Comms Tower (at Tarkin’s orders) cannot be portrayed as a crippling blow to Lothal’s operations – if it did derail the bureaucracy completely then Tarkin’s credibility as a ruthless planner is in jeopardy. A smooth back-up plan was essential, so it became very clear that Dave had this all planned well in advance (or at least it appears that way to the players, which is the sign of a good GM).
    Next session will be an attempt to rescue Kanan and a response to the players requests to know more about this ‘Rebellion’ that they have signed up for.

Image Credits: All images have been sourced from Wookiepedia and remain the exclusive intellectual property of Disney.  Their use as part of this series should not be construed as endorsement of this blog, or a challenge to their ownership of copyright for Star Wars Rebels.

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