Emerald City Knights: Chapter Three

Warning! The following may contain spoilers for Chapter 3 of the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intending to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any foreknowledge of the adventure’s contents.

This past Sunday, I ran Chapter 3 of the Emerald City Knights adventure series for my gaming group using the Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules.

Continue reading

Emerald City Knights: Chapter Two

Warning! The following may contain spoilers for Chapter 2 of the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intending to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any foreknowledge of the adventure’s contents.

This past Sunday, I ran the next chapter of the Emerald City Knights adventure series for my gaming group using the Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules. Continue reading

Superheroes and Lateral Wins

So thanks to a combination of back issue collections released on DVD and my iPad (and the ComicZeal app) I’ve been spending some time in the Silver Age of Marvel Comics, notably the early issues of Avengers and Fantastic Four. While reading Avengers #22 (wherein “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” breaks up and Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch try to find work in a circus — and that’s just the “B” plot!) I was struck by something.

Captain American is up against Power Man, the Enchantress’ latest plaything, with all the powers of his predecessor, Wonder Man. In short, he’s super-strong and invulnerable. Really invulnerable. Cap quickly realizes nothing he can do can hurt this guy, even though he’s got it all over him in the fighting skills department. What’s more, when the rest of the Avengers arrive, none of them can hurt Power Man either: he shrugs off Hawkeye’s explosive arrows and Quicksilver’s super-fast punches, even the Scarlet Witch’s hexes (as this is long before other writers decided she was a certified Threat to Reality™ able to do almost anything).

How do the Avengers win the day? (Spoiler warning if you haven’t read the issue): They hold out long enough for the Enchantress to realize her scheme to frame them and break them up has failed. She takes a magical powder and vanishes, leaving a heartbroken Power Man behind, who surrenders, deprived of his motivation for fighting any longer!

Scenes like this one make me aware of how often in the comics heroes manage to overcome challenges, including “unbeatable” foes, through cleverness, determination, and other “lateral” means rather than the RPG-favored “beat on the villain until he’s out of hit points” (or “at incapacitated condition” to use Mutants & Masterminds vernacular).

I’ve heard many times that putting a villain into an RPG scenario “the heroes can’t possibly beat” is “unfair” and “cheating” on the part of the GM, as if every challenge in an RPG should and must be able to be overcome by a good roll of the dice and a straightforward application of the characters’ abilities. While I have nothing against an old-fashioned super-powered slugfest, from time to time I think it’s healthy for a game and an ongoing series to introduce challenges—and foes—the heroes can’t just punch or blast, but force them to come up with a lateral win.

Emerald City Knights: Chapter One

This blog entry has been waiting for the release of Chapter One of the Emerald City Knights adventure series, since I was able to run it before it saw general release. I’ll likewise limit any other adventure logs to post after the adventure goes on sale so as not to taunt unnecessarily…

Spoiler Warning! The following may contain spoilers for Chapter One of the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intending to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any advance knowledge of the adventure’s contents. Continue reading

Emerald City Knights: Prologue

This past Sunday, I started running the Emerald City Knights adventure series for my gaming group using the Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules. It was also a chance to try out some other new stuff like the Quickstart Character Generator from the M&M GM’s Kit.

My five players (Sean, Lyle, Michael, Meghan, and Andy) quickly rolled up the archetypes for their characters: Paragon, Weather Controller, Psychic, Summoner, and Elemental. Then it was off to the particular sub-tables to generate the characters’ abilities, advantages, skills, and powers. Finally, we wrapped up by assigning the listed defense modifiers and giving the players some time to choose suitable complications and come up with some background.

The players all liked that the various trait packages were “tagged” with descriptive terms like Imposing, Unobtrusive, Man of Action, and so forth, because it gave them quick “handles” on the characters beyond just their traits. Only a minimum of “massaging” of final game traits was necessary: Andy’s Elemental came up rather short in the ranged combat department (in spite of having a primary Ranged Damage attack), but swapping some skill and ability ranks took care of that. Overall, everyone was pleased with how their heroes came out with just a few random die rolls.

Seans, Lyle, and Andy, after talking it over, agreed that it worked for their heroes to gain their powers during the initial adventure. Meghan and Michael’s character concepts fit better with pre-existing origins, so they started out with full-fledged characters.

After about an hour and a half’s work, here’s the group we ended up with:

  • Action-Man (Paragon): Pinnacle of human perfection, with enhanced combat skills, sufficient accuracy to delivery devastating blows (Strength-based Damage bonus), immunity to many mortal concerns, and amazing leaping, swinging, and climbing abilities.
  • Stratos (Weather Controller): Focused primarily on wind and ice effects, but with a dazzling burst of thunder and lightning able to deafen and blind foes. His powers suggested a Russian heritage to Lyle, which worked well in that Emerald City has a fair Russian community.
  • Arcane (Psychic): Psychic warrior with a “psychic blade” able to shift from telepathic to telekinetic effects, mind reading, a psychokinetic shield, and his namesake psychic invisibility, able to fade from others’ perceptions. Michael decided Arcane was a historian who gained his powers from a cursed magical ring that sought to bring out all the dark impulses in his soul, something he struggles against constantly.
  • Tesla (Summoner): Daughter of dimensional explorers, raised by an extradimensional intelligence after her parents were lost in an accident. Although an adult, Tesla still looks like a child. She commands a group of robots she can summon from dimensional folds in spacetime, each robot equipped with an array of weapons and strong enough to lift a car.
  • Fire Chief (Elemental): Emerald City firefighter with the power to transform into fire, fly and shoot fiery bolts and blasts.

Warning! The following may contain spoilers for the Prologue to the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intended to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any advance knowledge of the adventure’s contents.

The series kicked off as detailed in The Silver Storm prologue for the most part. We established that Andy’s character was a fire chief, Sean’s was a police officer, and Lyle’s was a college intern at a local television station (studying meteorology at school). Arcane and Telsa were both novice heroes looking for opportunities to do good with their abilities for different reasons.

Thus, when the explosion occurred on Yellow Brick Row, Pavel (Lyle’s character) was already there reporting with a news team about the unusually pleasant early Spring thaw that brought out crowds to the open-air mall. Officer Hall and Chief Kane were among the first-responders, and Arcane and Tesla were both nearby and took the opportunity to act.

Tesla immediately set her robots to work rescuing people and gathering information. It happened to work out that each of the other four heroes encountered one of the stormers from the Prologue: Hank Hall and his police partner ran up against Death Magnetic, Chief Daniel Kane was grabbed by Octaman, Pavel and his reporter girlfriend Amy were attacked by Mongoose, and Arcane ran afoul of a sneering Lord Etheric, drawn to the “dark power” he possessed. I decided not to use Lightshow, as all of the heroes were pretty busy as it was and I didn’t want it to turn into solely a one-on-one fight.

The adrenaline surge of encountering their respective foes and the effects of the Silver Storm triggered Action-Man, Stratos, and Fire Chief’s powers. Death Magnetic initially got the drop on Action-Man (literally – she dropped a minivan on him) but Tesla helped even the odds. Then Action-Man hit upon switching foes with Fire Chief; the heat of his flame powers was able to interfere with Death Magnetic’s magnetism, and he burned up sufficient oxygen to send her down for the count while Action-Man took down Octaman with a few well-placed hits.

Lord Etheric got about one good hit in before Arcane knocked him into a window display. Stratos (arc-leaping away from Mongoose) hit the goth bad guy with a dazzling burst that allowed Arcane to finish him off.

The new heroes decided not to do anything to conceal their identities, for the most part, although Fire Chief proved the one with the best press (not surprising given his prior experience and leadership abilities). The heroes quickly agreed to work with the local police to track down and contain other stormers, and decided they were none too fond of the heavy-handed local AEGIS commander and his approach to “bagging and tagging” those afflicted by the Silver Storm. They also agreed to work together to investigate the explosion that led to the Storm in hopes of finding out what caused it and who was behind it.

All-in-all it was about an hour and a half for character creation (including sketchy backgrounds, names, complications, etc.) and a couple of hours of game play, including the roleplaying and character introductions afterwards. Emerald City’s new heroes are off to an interesting start and are going to discover they have their work cut out for them…


I have an issue and, since I hope that I’m not alone, I’m doing what any American with issues does: sharing with the entire Internet.

The issue in my case is Attention Deficit Disorder, particularly as applies to my tabletop RPG hobby. In short, I’m infamous in my game group for my habit of catching a bug to run a particular game, talking it up to my friends and getting them on-board, even creating characters and running a session (or even two!) and then… oooh, shiny! A new game idea comes along, and the previous one gets tossed aside like yesterday’s news.

The prior Crisis on Infinite Campaigns blog entry is one example: I really liked the idea of mixing-and-matching my old superhero campaigns when I wrote it. Now, after the holiday, I’m not so excited, so I have no idea if anything will ever come of it. It’s my issue live and in real time right there: Sometimes I’ve got no staying power (where games are concerned people, just games).

Truth be told, I think one of the reasons why I got into game design and writing is because of my gaming ADD (or G.A.D.D., as we may call it – I’d go with Campaign Attention Deficit Disorder, but then I would be a C.A.D.D.).

I can channel some of those random ideas for games, settings, characters, ad infinitum, into various articles, freelance projects, and whatnot, as I have over the years. I keep a running journal of the things that come to me during the day; originally in various notebooks, nowadays via PlainText on my iPhone (synced to my DropBox – ain’t the future grand?)

Still, it’s not enough. This past week alone, I’ve toyed with ideas for running:

  • Gamma World: Extending the “Cavern of the Sub-Train” adventure I started into a full-fledged campaign.
  • Space 1889: Red Sands: The Savage Worlds setting and plot point campaign I picked up at GenCon.
  • Torg: Starting up some sort of Torg game based off either the original system, or by adapting the setting to a modified version of the system and/or Savage Worlds (a good 2–3 ideas bouncing around in there).
  • Thrilling Tales: Starting my old “Thrilling Tales of the Midnight Society” game back up, based on getting some new Adamant and Triple Ace Games products.
  • Mutants & Masterminds: As a playtest for an upcoming Green Ronin product.

… and on, and on. It never stops. Add to it the fact that my game group can only manage to meet about once a month these days, making game-time even harder to come by and you can start to see the challenge.

I’ve on occasion tried to manage things by going with campaign frameworks allowing for a variety of different ideas, such as my “Agents of Fate” series based around universe-hopping heroes inserted into various dramatic situations in different realities: gaslit Victorian London one week, post-Apocalypse America the next, and so on. Even that campaign approach didn’t last too long. I suspect part of the appeal for superhero settings for me is their “anything goes” attitude, allowing me to do sci-fi, fantasy, and a variety of other things in the same campaign from week to week.

In fact, part of starting up this blog was as a strategy for dealing with my G.A.D.D., one reason I’m thinking of renaming it something based on the term: eGADDS? I dunno…

So, do you experience Gaming Attention Deficit Disorder? How do you deal with it? Drop me a line at stevekenson@me.com or add a comment to this post and let me know.

Crisis on Infinite Campaigns!

So watching “The Knights of Tomorrow” episode of Batman: The Brave & the Bold, and re-reading Aaron Allston’s classic Champions article from Space Gamer #48, got me considering “legacy” style settings for superhero gaming. I’ve played around with elements of that concept in settings like Freedom City, where several generations of Bowmen have fought crime in the city, for example.

Which got me thinking—dangerous thing, that—I’ve been running various superhero RPGs since middle school, well over (gulp) twenty years ago. In essence, I have run enough superhero games to have my own “legacy” series of setting elements! What if I were to mash-up all of those various settings, Crisis on Infinite Earths-style, to create a single massive meta-setting? Let’s find out, shall we?

The Ground Rules

I’m going with elements from superhero RPGs I have run, rather than ones I’ve written. Certainly, a fair amount of stuff inspired by my various home games has found its way into my writing, but I’m steering clear of published setting material like Freedom City, which I designed from the ground up before I ever ran a game set there.

I’m also going with superhero settings that can be combined. While my Aberrant “Gods & Monsters” game was a lot of fun and generated some interesting characters and stories, it wasn’t “comic book” enough for the purposes of this exercise.

Lastly, I’m generally not counting superhero campaigns I’ve played in but had no part in running, with one exception, connected to a campaign I started.

The Settings

That leaves the following superhero campaigns:

  • Paragons: My oldest, and longest-running superhero game. The Paragons campaign started under Marvel Super Heroes (the Advanced Set) but we also used Champions (third and fourth editions) and even DC Heroes for it.
  • Project Youngblood: A spin-off of the Paragons campaign, featuring young protégés of some of the original PCs and new characters. Run by various GMs before it eventually folded.
  • The Sentinels: A short-lived game using a homebrew set of rules based off of the Torg RPG.
  • The New Paragons: A “ten years later” game set in the Paragons campaign world, using the Fuzion rules from Champions: The New Millennium and some of the same “new generation of heroes” ethos.
  • The Guardians: A Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game series, featuring a new team of heroes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts (the original name being “Granite State Guardians”).
  • Thrilling Tales of the Midnight Society: This is kind of a borderline, since it is technically a pulp-era (rather than superhero) game using Spirit of the Century, and set in 1930s Freedom City, but featuring original elements.
  • Icons: My occasional ICONS playtest game, with characters like Volcano and Grey.

I expect to start revisiting the idea of mixing-and-match these different campaigns in future blog entries, and we’ll see what comes of it together. Until then…

Gamma World: Alpha and Omega

A particularly interesting element of the Gamma World play experience is the influence of random elements—such as character origin, equipment, alpha mutations, and omega tech—on the overall shape of the story. Both the players and I, as gamemaster, had to adapt not only to the random outcomes of action checks, but also to the random capabilities of the characters; not just whether or not characters could accomplish something with their abilities, but what options they could even attempt at any given time.

Here are some examples that came up during our game:

  • The Lost Bot: When Mike’s hawkoid cyborg bit the dust during the fight with the obbs, he needed to come up with a new character right away. While I was finishing up the fight, I kept an ear out for what Mike was doing with character creation, since I’d have to introduce his new character somehow. As it happened, he generated a giant android with a battlesuit (omega tech) and the intro practically wrote itself: a war-robot, usleless to the obbs because it was non-biological, deactivated and buried under the fungus of their lair. I hadn’t planned for there to be a lost robot there, but circumstances put him there for the heroes to find.
  • Water, Water Everywhere: Sean’s character, Clan McDougal, a hive-mind of mutant bats, drew Aquatic as an alpha mutation. Initially, I’d planned for the whole adventure to take place in a dry Ancient sub-shuttle tunnel. Since I didn’t want to screw Sean with a totally useless ability, I made the tunnel partially flooded for the next encounter. It was no more than a meter or so deep, but enough for the swimming swarm to sneak past the blaash there while scouting ahead, catching them from both sides when the characters attacked.
  • That Healing Touch: The initial fight with the obbs looked bad from the moment Mike’s hawkoid bit the dust (and spawned another obb to fight). The characters took a lot of initial damage before they got the radiation resistant character out front. Fortune favored them, however, in an alpha shift where two of the characters got healing abilities. The sense of relief was palpable, and far more dramatic than a hero simply using an existing healing power. In many ways, the healing “gifts” they got felt more like “miracles” than cleric powers in D&D!
  • Git Yer Gun: I really like the ammo rule in Gamma World, which basically says guns are encounter abilities: you can use them once per encounter, if you are rationing your ammo. You can choose to use your gun as many times as you want during an encounter, but if it’s more than once, you run out of ammo when the encounter is over, and only get more when the GM says so. This offers a tantalizing idea for “hotshotting” encounter or daily abilities in D&D, where you get an additional use (or two) in a pinch at the cost of “crippling” the ability for a length of time greater than the usual recover rate. I especially like the elegance of it being the player’s choice whether to ration or just go in “guns blazing”. Much the same applies to consumable omega tech, which is only good once, or omega tech with salvage value.
  • Psiracy: At one point, Andy (playing the mind coercer) commented how it would have been cool to have a Psi mutation another player drew. “Psi specialists should be able to ‘borrow’ or ‘salvage’ psi powers from other characters” he said. Let’s just say I noted that for future consideration as a special ability.
  • The Power Not Taken: Along the same line, it was interesting to see some of the plot-elements-that-might-have-been in the form of alpha mutations players pulled, but didn’t get to use before there was another alpha shift and they had to discard them. Time Warp and Force Field Generation were two good examples. I would have liked to see them in action, but it didn’t happen. One player even raised the philosophical issue of whether or not those mutations ever “really” happened from the characters’ perspective. If it didn’t come into play, was it ever real?

Gamma World definitely highlighted for me the fun aspects of having some random elements going in during game play beyond just success-failure checks of some sort, things that introduced entirely new things into the environment for the players and I to riff off of in creating the story. In some regards, the alpha and omega tech decks of Gamma World can count things like the Whimsy Cards and Storypath Card decks as their ancestors as much as (if not more than) themed power decks from Magic: The Gathering.

Return to Gamma World

I ran the latest iteration of Gamma World from Wizards of the Coast for my gaming group yesterday, and it was a good time.

I’ve got a long history with Gamma World; the “grey box” first edition was the very first RPG I ever bought (well, okay, my parents bought it for me because I asked them to) and the first one I played with my friends in Middle School. I own every edition of Gamma World since then, and played most of them.

So, right out of the box, the latest edition embraces what some call the “wacky” nature of Gamma World. Funny thing is, in spite of all the mutant freaks and in-jokes and such, I’ve never found GW any wackier than, say, most editions of D&D, which postulate equally implausible combinations of funky races, magical trinkets, and whatnot. For some reason, perhaps the modern/future trappings, when Gamma World does exactly the same tropes, they seem to stand out more.

Character creation is pretty easy: roll two origins, which provide most of your primary abilities, roll up the remaining ability scores, a bonus skill (each of your origins provides one, too), and some random gear. Choose a package of weapons and armor (all simple and generic) and you’re good to go.

Our group ended up with what I suspect is a typical motley crew: a felinoid speedster, a hawkoid swarm, an android hawkoid (andrawkoid?), an enhanced human mental coercer, and a radioactive felinoid. Surprisingly, they gelled just as easily as a group as any party of D&D characters.

The random Ancient Equipment table is a bit limited: just 20 options, combined with each player getting 1d4+1 rolls meant a lot of duplication. I would have liked to see a somewhat larger table there. Also, while the simplification of weapons into light and heavy, one- and two-handed was nice, it was more difficult to tell from a quick glance what abilities applied to what weapons in what way in terms of attack rolls and damage, etc.

It’s good that character creation is quick, because the game is definitely more lethal than D&D 4e. The android hawkoid perished in the very first encounter, but his player had a new character (a giant android) finished by the time the fight with the obbs was over. Several other characters got to 0 hit points during the game, but didn’t die. Healing is massively simplified from D&D: you get a second wind (recovering half your hit points) and between encounters (any time you rest) you regain all of your hit points. This made healing less of a concern.

The real brilliance of the new edition lies in the explanation for the Apocalypse that destroyed civilization: the collapse of multiple, perhaps even infinite, timelines into one. This provides a fantastic excuse for bringing in pretty much anything you want in your Gamma World game. Artifacts and ruins don’t have to have any rhyme or reason to them, since they may come from other timelines or realities where history was quite different, or technology was more or less advanced. The past isn’t something that can be easily untangled and figured out, because you have to ask “which past?”

Likewise, the alpha shift rule, wherein characters get random mutations, was a lot of fun. I can definitely see the appeal of individually-tuned player decks: in a four-and-a-half hour game, we went through the entire alpha mutations deck once (admittedly, there was a run on rolling 1s). I allowed players to self-select by limiting their alpha mutations to particular power sources, if they wanted. Only the coercer took the option, sticking solely to Psi mutations. Everyone else went with whatever they got.

It was cool when another player would get a power someone else had previously and the previous player would be all, “That’s cool, here’s what you can do with it…” There was an interesting element in the group “sharing” a set of randomly distributed powers. There was very little use of overcharging in the game, just one attempt at it pretty late in the session. I suspect players may have been feeling things out and getting comfortable with the system before trying it.

For the adventure, I adapted “Cavern of the Sub-Train” from Dragon magazine #52, although I really just used the idea of the discovery an ancient sub-shuttle tunnel and created all new encounters. I tired to set the tone for the game by doing a short voice-over intro to the closing theme music of Thundarr the Barbarian. It seemed to have the desired effect.

In hindsight, I went a bit too heavy on the radiation-based creatures (given that part of the scenario was that the tunnel had been breached along a radioactive zone). Still, the felinoid speedster with the low Fortitude managed to survive. The final encounter with the badders and hoops also wasn’t nearly as challenging as I’d originally planned, largely because the players plotted an ambush and got the upper hand very quickly.

My biggest difficulty in running the game was that I should have prepared a “cheat-sheet” of key rules in advance. There’s no GM screen (as yet) and the rulebook’s anemic index isn’t worth the page it’s printed on in terms of looking things up quickly during play. (For example, there isn’t even an entry for “Ammo” although there is a key ammo rule in the game.) So sometimes we had to stop the action as we hunted to confirm a particular rule. I’m sure this is something that will decrease with familiarity, but it’s an obstacle for newcomers. That’s unfortunate as, otherwise, Gamma World is a great pick-up game for getting together, quickly rolling-up some mutant survivors, and going to town in the ruins of civilization. I think chances are good that our intrepid heroes will emerge from the Cave of the Ancients and go on to do other things.

The Odds

Wanted By The Empire

Name: Tar Waylan
Species: Human
Sex: Male
Homeworld: Unknown
Known Associates: None
Bounty: 20,000 credits
Classification: Regional (Outer Rim Territories)
Application Conditions: Alive and intact, without serious injury
Bonus: None
Determent: None
Crimes: gambling, theft, fraud, smuggling
Originator: Gran Orel, Corellia
Receiver: Any Imperial garrison station or processing facility
Brief: Tar Waylan is a notorious gambler, thief and swindler. He is known to frequent questionable establishments where he may carry out his crimes and to prey upon honest citizens in order to cheat and steal from them.


The characters are bounty hunters hired to track down a troublesome gambler; their employer is one of the many victims he has cheated. Trouble is the gambler, one Tar Waylan, is hiding out at a place called The Odds, a private, exclusive combination nightclub, cantina, gambling hall and pleasure dome owned and controlled by the gangster Trigash Nor, who happens to have a personal interest in Waylan. The Empire is looking to put Trigash Nor’s operation out of business, but has had trouble tracking down the exact location of his asteroid base. When the characters come along, they offer the Imperial commander an opportunity too good to pass up.

Scene One: Imperial Entanglements

Reading the following out loud to the players:

You have recently acquired the contract on a gambler named Tar Waylan, wanted for numerous counts of swindling and theft throughout the sector. Your present employer is a wealthy man with a weakness for gambling, one that Tar Waylan was apparently happy to take advantage of in a couple of rigged sabbac games. There is a price being offered by him for Waylan’s capture, and you plan to collect on it.

The problem is, that Waylan has all but disappeared. He is obviously aware of the bounty out on him, because he has not shown up at his usual hangouts or been in touch with any of his regular contacts in the sector. That will make finding him troublesome, but if the job were an easy one, you wouldn’t be as interested.

The characters can get involved in the hunt for Tar Waylan in a variety of ways. They might be employed (as described above) by someone the gambler cheated or the family or friends of such a person, they might be contacted by planetary authorities who are looking into complaints of Waylan’s activities or they simply might see the brief while looking through the available bounties posted by the Empire and take an interest in the case.

Finding the gambler is going to be the characters’ first challenge. Tar Waylan does indeed know that there is a price on his head and he has chosen to take refuge with his patron, Trigash Nor, in the gangster’s hidden pleasure asteroid. The bounty hunters will first have to track down where it is that Waylan has disappeared to before the can attempt to capture him.

The gamemaster can take the search for Waylan’s whereabouts in a number of directions. Listed here are some possible scenes that could be played out as the bounty hunters search for clues:

  • The characters will need to speak with people who know Tar Waylan in hopes that he might have dropped some hint about where he was going. This leads the characters into a number of “hives of scum and villainy” where they can speak with some of the unsavory underworld types that Waylan associates with and perhaps get into a brawl or two.
  • Other powerful criminal figures and gangsters that the characters might be acquainted with can have some information about Waylan’s known association with Trigash Nor. They might be able to point the characters towards the Noad System and The Odds with the right persuasion, again leading the characters into some difficult negotiations or violent conflict.
  • Some of Waylan’s victims might recall some comment that is meaningless to them but which provides a valuable clue to the characters about the gambler’s whereabouts. Some comment about “always relying on The Odds for protection” or something similar could lead the characters to investigate the hidden casino.
  • One or more characters might even know or have worked for Trigash Nor in the past. That character may have even been to The Odds before and could connect up some of the other clues that the characters uncover. This is a rather heavy-handed approach to getting the characters to The Odds and should only be used if the investigation is bogging down and hitting a lot of dead ends.

After discovering that Tar Waylan is hiding out at The Odds, the characters learn that security on the station is provided by all visitors having to know a password, which changes on a regular basis. A Difficult conpersuasion or streetwise roll allows a character to obtain the current password, which is “heavy bet.” The source that gives the character the password tells them that they are not absolutely certain that it is current, but it is as good as they can get.

Once the characters are on their way to The Odds, read the following out loud:

You have set course for the location of Trigash Nor’s hidden asteroid palace. It is located in the Noad system, an isolated and desolate place with fairly few visitors. You come out of lightspeed just outside the system and you can see the broad expanse of the Noad Asteroid Field stretching out before you as far as the eye can see in either direction.

The asteroid field is made up of thousands upon thousands of floating rocks, some as small as a man’s head and others that would qualify as small moons or planetoids, more than large enough to smash a ship like yours into spacedust. Navigating an asteroid field is a difficult task; Trigash Nor must definitely value his privacy to go to such lengths.

A perimeter alarm sounds only moments after you come out of lightspeed near the asteroid field. It’s an Imperial Star Destroyer, close by and closing fast. A crackle sounds over your comm system as the Star Destroyer hails you.

“Unidentified ship, this is the Imperial Star Destroyer Thunder, identify yourself and prepared to be boarded.”

Once the characters have acquired the location of The Odds (or an approximation of it) they can make their way to the Noad system to investigate. As they approach the system and come out of lightspeed they are confronted by an Imperial Star Destroyer and ordered to stand to and prepared to be boarded “for routine investigation.” The characters can either decide to try and escape or surrender and hope the Imperials will go easy on them.

If the characters want to fight, it is unlikely they can prevail against an Imperial Star Destroyer.

If they decide to make a break for it, there is a chase scene with some TIE fighters into the asteroid belt as the Imperials attempt to intercept the bounty hunters.

The Star Destroyer will open fire on the characters’ ship if it tries to escape but will not pursue it into the asteroid field. It will dispatch a flight of four TIE fighters to continue the pursuit through the asteroids. They will attempt at first to disable the characters’ ship so they can capture and interrogate them but, failing that, the Imperial Commander will order the ship destroyed.

Imperial Star Destroyer. capital ship piloting 5D+1, starship shields 4D+1, starship sensors 4D, astrogation 4D, capital ship gunnery 4D+2, Hyperdrive Multiplier: x2, Hyperdrive Backup: x8, Maneuverability 1D, Hull 7D, Shields 3D. 60 turbolaser batteries (fire control 4D, damage 5D), 60 ion cannons (fire control 2D+2, damage 3D), 10 tractor beam projectors (fire control 4D, damage 6D)

TIE/In Fighters. starship piloting 4D+1, starship gunnery 4D. Maneuverability 2d, Hull 2D. Two laser cannons (fire control 2D, damage 5D).

If they allow themselves to be boarded, the characters are questioned by the commander of the Star Destroyer, Commander Siy, as to their intentions in the system and their destination. If the characters offer a plausible story (coupled with a Moderate con or persuasion roll), they are allowed to go along their way with a warning to observe all Imperial regulations.

The characters might think that they got off from the Imperials too easy in this case, which would be the truth. Unknown to them, however, the outside of their ship has been “tagged” with a small tracking device that allows the Imperials to follow their movements. Commander Siy is more interested in finding out where the bounty hunters are going than in capturing them at this time. He believes that they might be able to lead him to Trigash Nor’s operation in the Noad system so that it can be shut down for good.

Scene Two: The Odds

When the characters reach The Odds, read the following out loud:

You’ve finally made it to where you think Trigash Nor’s pleasure palace should be, but you’re not sure that you have found the right place. There are a number of larger asteroids with fairly stable orbits deep within the Noad Belt, any one of which could contain an entire city inside of it.

Your comm system indicates you are being hailed and an electronically distorted voice speaks. “Identify yourself and give your authorization code.”

Once the characters make it to the location of The Odds, they are hailed by the operations on board the station and asked to give a password authorization. They characters should have been able to acquire this password during their investigations of Tar Waylan’s whereabouts in Scene One. The gamemaster should try and give the characters every opportunity to learn the password to allow them to get into The Odds safely.

If the bounty hunters failed to learn the password, or the gamemaster wants to make things more difficult for them, the characters will have to make bargaincon orpersuasion rolls to talk their way past station operations and get authorization to land their ship. The Difficulty is based on how much information the characters have about The Odds and how convincing their story is, but shouldn’t be less than Moderate in any case. The gamemaster can also modify the outcome of the character’s roll based on how believable a story is offered by the player.

Once the characters get authorization from station control to land their ship and come on board, a concealed docking bay will appear from behind cleverly camouflaged doors that blend with the surface of the asteroid where The Odds is concealed. The landing bay is more than large enough to accommodate the characters’ ship and the many others that are docked there.

Once the characters are cleared to land at The Odds, read them the following:

A light comes from one of the larger asteroids nearby as massive concealed hangar doors slide back into the rocky surface of the asteroid to reveal a landing bay. It appears that The Odds is built deep within the asteroid itself. You land your ship in the docking bay with no trouble and make your way into The Odds itself.

The entire inside of this asteroid appears to have been hollowed out to build Trigash Nor’s private domain. The interior of the place is a combination hotel, casino, bazaar, cantina and nightclub all rolled into one. The central part of The Odds is a vast, open shaft that has been dug out in the center of the rocky asteroid. The walls of the shaft are ringed with floor upon floor of the various shops, bar, dance halls and other establishments. A long metallic cylinder runs down the center of the shaft, covered with machinery and faintly glowing control panels; the central power core of the asteroid installation.

Banks of elevators along the walls carry people from floor to floor and railed balconies look out from each floor over the open shaft. They are crowded with individuals of all different species and descriptions, talking, laughing and going about their various and sundry business.

This part of the scene allows the gamemaster to include a variety of different alien encounters on board the station. Some suggestions are given below. The bounty hunters at least have to ask around a bit to try and learn if Tar Waylan has been seen on the station and learn the whereabouts of Trigash Nor’s favorite club, the Even-Odds.

In general, the inhabitants of The Odds are suspicious and don’t trust strangers. Most uses of conpersuasion and streetwise should be Difficult or Very Difficult. The characters should have to talk to a lot of people before they get the information they are looking for.

Some possible encounters in The Odds include:

  • Running into a large, drunk alien (a Gamorrean or something similar) in a cantina who is looking for a fight. This gives the characters a chance to either get the bruiser to back down from them by a show of Intimidation or an opportunity for a bar brawl. Someone might also come to the characters’ assistance and could show up later in the adventure to help them out or in another adventure. This is a good opportunity for the gamemaster to put someone on the characters’ good side.
  • A number of old friends, enemies or rivals who might be hiding out or spending time at The Odds. A rival bounty hunter or two on the station could make the characters’ investigation interesting. The rivals might be looking for Tar Waylan as well or simply looking to settle a grudge with the characters.
  • A talkative Twi’lek bartender that the characters might be able to get some information out of with a few Difficult bargaincon or persuasion rolls.
  • A drunken, failed mystic drowning his sorrows in one of The Odds’ many bars. He might offer some the characters some cryptic advice or insight into their current job or some other storyline they are involved with, allowing the gamemaster to drop hints about future adventures. The characters should not be able to tell if his insight comes from the Force or whatever it is he is drinking.

Scene Three: Trigash Nor

When the characters go to the Even-Odds, read the following out loud:

From what you have learned, Trigash Nor can be found in an establishment called the Even-Odds, his favorite club at the station. It is located high up the central core, on one of the top rings.

The first thing that strikes you about the place when you walk in is the noise and the light. The club features a sunken floor several steps down from the entrance that is cloaked in shadows made by the collection of dim, pulsing colored lights on the walls and ceiling. There is a long bar that runs along the back wall with several bartenders shuttling back and forth to take care of the crowd of customers there.

The central part of the club has a raised stage split into three lobes, each with an exotic alien dancer moving to the loud music. Several patrons give you disinterested glances as you enter and then quickly look away. This looks like a place where people do their best to mind their own business.

It is also a trap. Tar Waylan is working for Trigash Nor. The crime lord does a brisk business in selling supplies and information to the Rebel Alliance as well as his other black market customers. Tar Waylan is often able to provide Nor with information he needs from the various high rollers throughout the Empire. The crime lord is not pleased that Waylan took a little too much initiative and angered the wrong people, but he considers that a matter for him to deal with.

Trigash Nor. Dexterity 2D+2, brawling parry 3D+2, dodge 3D, melee combat 4D, melee parry 3D+2, Knowledge 3D, alien species 3D+1, bureaucracy 3D, business 5D, intimidation 4D, law enforcement 3D+2, streetwise 7D, value 5D+1, willpower 4D, Mechanical 2D+2, Perception 3D, bargain 5D, command 4D+1, persuasion 3D+2, Strength 5D, brawling 6D, Technical 3D. Move: 10. Tough hide (adds 1D to Strength rolls against damage). Force Points: 2, Character Points: 10.

The characters can generally find Trigash Nor at a private table in the back of the establishment near one the of dance stages, allowing Nor to watch the show going on both on stage and in the club. He is attended by a pair of large near-human bodyguards and usually one or two of the dancers while they are not on stage performing.

Nor will be brisk and businesslike with the bounty hunters. He will tell them at first that he has no idea who Tar Waylan is or where he can be found. Characters who make a Difficult Perception roll get the feeling the crime boss is not telling them all he knows. If the characters press the issue, Trigash Nor will warn them against trying his patience too much and tell them to get off his station.

Tar Waylan is hidden in one of the back rooms of the establishment. He is unable to resist getting a look at the bounty hunters, so the character have a chance to spot him watching them from behind a curtain to the back rooms of the Even-Odds (a Very Difficult search or Perception roll).

If the bounty hunters do not cooperate with Trigash Nor, or if they start a violent confrontation in the Even-Odds, the crime boss will order his people to subdue the characters. This presents an opportunity for a good brawl. Trigash Nor will be escorted to safety by his bodyguards immediately if a fight breaks out. More and more of the crime lord’s soldiers will come against the characters until they are overwhelmed and forced to surrender.

If the characters leave the Even-Odds but don’t move immediately to leave the station, Trigash Nor has them ambushed so they can be disposed of in the next scene. Again, enough of the crime lord’s minions will jump the characters so they have a reasonable chance of taking them. If the characters repel one attack, reinforcements will arrive and surround them.

Scene Four: Unexpected Help

When the characters are taken away by Trigash Nor’s guards, read the following:

The crime lord’s guards escort you into an elevator and down into the lower levels of the station. They take you to what looks like a maintenance area off of the lower docking area and bring you to a large hatch placed flush against the silvery metal of the bulkhead wall. One of the guards touches a panel alongside the hatch and it slides open to reveal a small room just beyond it, with another sliding hatch door. The small window set into the door looks out into the starry blackness of the Noad asteroid belt.

This place is starting to look an awful lot like an airlock.

Once they are captured by Trigash Nor’s men, the characters are taken to an airlock on the lower level where they are to be jettisoned into space. Moments after the airlock door is opened and the characters are about to be herded inside by the crime lord’s goons, The Odds shudders from some kind of massive explosion, knocking the guards off balance and allowing the characters a chance to act. Several more blasts quickly follow the first, one of them blowing a power conduit in the nearby wall and sending sparks and debris flying all along the corridor.

The characters have their chance to get free from their captors and make a break for it. The first blast gives them a chance to get the jump of the guards if they act immediately. The successive blasts require a Moderate Strength roll for the characters to avoid being knocked down.

If the characters attempt to escape from the guards before reaching the airlock, the gamemaster needs to consider the effectiveness of any plan they propose. Keep in mind that the guards have weapons closely trained on the characters at all times and are alert for any tricks from them. If the characters do manage to escape early, the guards can pin them down in a fire fight or otherwise corner them and the first blast gives the characters a chance to make a break for it.

Some suggestions for choreographing the fight near the airlock:

  • Several of the guards should be knocked off balance by the explosions, giving the characters a chance to make a decent fight of it. One or more of the guards’ weapons might also be knocked out of their hands if they fall.
  • The half-open airlock offers an opportunity for someone to throw an opponent into it and hit the activation sequence. A misfired blast bolt might also hit the controls or rupture the outer door, causing a decompression in the corridor. The characters will have to make Difficult Strength rolls to grab on to something and avoid being blow out into space.
  • The cascading energy from the ruptured power conduit makes a useful makeshift weapon if a character can push an opponent into it with a successful opposedStrength roll. The arcing energy does 6D damage to any character that touches it.
  • As additional blasts strike the station the fight could be complicated by falling debris from the ceiling, more explosions or damage to the outer airlock door.

Once the characters have handled the guards at the airlock, they have to make their way through the station and get back to their ship. They may also want to go after Tar Waylan and any equipment that was taken from them by Trigash Nor or his men in the previous scene.

The characters find the station in chaos, with people rushing around and overloading the elevators. They characters may wish to use the emergency ladders that lead from one level to another rather than fighting their way through the crowds. Occasional blasts rock the station, punctuated by explosions from damaged power conduits. An EasyTechnical roll will tell a character that if the damage to the station continues it is only a matter of time before the main power core feeds back and explodes, pulverizing the entire asteroid.

The characters can find Waylan leaving the Even-Odds and making his way to the docking bay to reach his ship and escape. He will try to escape from the bounty hunters and may even fire a few blaster shots in their direction to deter them. This can lead to a chase through the elevators and ladders of the stations and possibly a struggle with Waylan along one of the perilously high railings as the station’s energy core begins to crackle and glow dangerously.

Scene Five: Getting Out

When the characters reach their ship and are ready to get away from The Odds, read the following:

Metal, dust and debris fall from the ceiling of the hangar bay as another blast rocks the station. You can see the bay doors stand open, the secondary magnetic field holding in the atmosphere. Through the floating asteroids outside you can see the vast bulk of an Imperial Star Destroyer slowly closing on the station, its massive laser batteries vaporizing small asteroids in its path. A pair of TIE fighters screams in towards The Odds, blasts from their lasers sending another shock wave through the asteroid.

It’s definitely time to get out of here.

It turns out that The Odds is being assaulted by TIE fighters and that the Imperial Star Destroyer Thunder is slowly making its way closer, disintegrating small asteroids in its path. The ship followed the characters here, either through their homing device or from the final reports of the TIE fighters the characters evaded in the asteroid belt, and now Commander Siy intends to deal with Trigash Nor’s smuggling base once and for all.

The characters will have no trouble getting their ship out of the hangar bay. Once they are clear of The Odds, they will have to evade the TIE fighters long enough to get clear of the asteroids and go to lightspeed.

The TIE fighters are under orders to destroy or disable any ships attempting to leave The Odds. At least two or them will break off their attack on the asteroid to pursue the characters’ ship through the asteroids. Once they clear the asteroid field, they will have to avoid the fighters long enough for their nav computer to give them the necessary information to allow them to make the jump to lightspeed.

Shortly after the characters’ ship is clear of The Odds, the asteroid shudders violently and gouts of flames and sparks shoot from the open hangar bays as well as from fissures and cracks that form in the rocky surface. The main power core has detonated. A secondary explosion fragments the asteroid and sends a shockwave through the field, scattering many of the asteroids in random directions (and calling for a Difficult space transports or appropriate piloting roll to avoid them) as well as possibly causing some damage to ship systems if a Complication is rolled.

Some suggestions for choreographing the final chase scene through the asteroids:

  • The ship’s pilot will have to make Very Difficult space transports rolls to fly around the asteroids. Sudden changes in course may be required to dodge some of the faster moving chunks of rock.
  • Difficult starship shields rolls might be required to ward off some of the smaller chunks of rock as they pelt and batter the ship, not to mention the usual starship shields rolls to protect the ship from incoming laser fire.
  • Some suitable complications for the chase could include damage to the characters’ ship during their escape that forces them to repair the damage while evading the Imperial forces. Good systems to go out include sensors, weapons and, of course, the hyperdrive.
  • Close-in flying near some of the larger asteroids could be used to evade the TIE fighters if the pilot is especially daring. This would call for some Very Difficult or even Heroic space transports rolls.

Once they achieve lightspeed, the characters are home free. There will be no other pursuit and they can finish this job.

Closing Scene

The characters are able to turn Tar Waylan over for the bounty (if they caught him) or begin investigating if Waylan survived the destruction of The Odds (if they didn’t).

Trigash Nor survives the destruction of The Odds and is not pleased when he learned that the characters survived as well. He suspects them of being Imperial agents involved in the destruction of his pleasure palace and may try and take revenge on the characters at a later date.

Commander Siy from the Thunder may likewise be interested in tracking down the characters at some point, or perhaps even hiring them. Considering how helpful they were in dealing with The Odds.

Adventure Awards

If the characters managed to get Tar Waylan and escape from The Odds with him, they should each get five Character Points. The gamemaster can award an additional two or three Character Points to characters that played especially well during the adventure. The characters also receive the promised bounty for Waylan when they turn him over to the authorities.

If the characters failed to capture Waylan, they earn only three Character Points, plus any bonuses for good roleplaying. Waylan escapes the destruction of The Odds, and the characters may wish to continue hunting him, allowing the gamemaster to create more adventures where they work to track the notorious gambler down.

Major Characters

Tar Waylan

Blaster 4D+2, dodge 4D+2, melee parry 4D+1
Business 4D+1, streetwise 5D, value 5D
Repulsorlift operation 3D
Bargain 5D, con 5D+2, forgery 4D+2, gambling 6D, persuasion 4D+2
Brawling 3D

Force Points: 1
Character Points: 5
Move: 10

Equipment: Expensive clothes, lucky deck of sabbac cards (marked), datapad, 500 credits, blaster pistol (4D)

Capsule: Tar Waylan has made his career by outsmarting other people, swindling and cheating them at different games of chance, whether at the gambling table or in negotiations over goods and services. He has been a gambler, swindler, smuggler and spy on many different occasions.

Waylan is loyal to nobody but himself and his own needs. Most of the people he works with are aware of this and no one trusts the charming gambler very much. Waylan knows very well how to use and manipulate people to his advantage and play both sides against the middle and come out ahead.

Waylan is a human, slightly on the short side, with dark hair and a short, neatly trimmed beard and mustache. This, combined with his dark and darting eyes gives him the appearance of a handsome rouge or a nervous rodent, depending on who you ask.

Trigash Nor

Brawling parry 3D+2, dodge 3D, melee combat 4D, melee parry 3D+2
Alien species 3D+1, bureaucracy 3D, business 5D, intimidation 4D, law enforcement 3D+2, streetwise 7D, value 5D+1, willpower 4D
Bargain 5D, command 4D+1, persuasion 3D+2
Brawling 6D

Special Abilities: Tough Hide : Trigash Nor adds 1D to his Strength rolls against damage.
Force Points: 2
Character Points: 10
Move: 10

Equipment: Generally just expensive clothes and some jewelry, but Nor has access to pretty much any standard equipment that he wants and can get more exotic stuff with a little advance notice.

Capsule: A near-human from a heavy gravity world, Trigash Nor began his criminal career as little more than hired muscle. His employers seriously underestimated the big man’s intelligence, cunning and ambition, much to their later regret. Nor used his knowledge of the organization and his own intimidating strength and appearance to allow him to advance quickly through the ranks.

His ruthlessness eventually made him head of his own organization of pirates and smugglers. He invested much of his ill-gotten gains in the creation of his personal asteroid pleasure palace that served as a haven for the kind of criminal scum Nor associated with. The profits from the gambling and other vice operations on The Odds soon nearly equaled the crime lord’s smuggling operation.

Although Trigash Nor has been in a leadership position for many years, he is still quite formidable personally and is not above crushing an enemy with his own hands. In fact, he rather enjoys it from time to time.

Trigash Nor is a giant of a man, about 2.3 meters tall, with a broad, squat build and barrel chest. His skin is pale gray and hairless, save for his bushy eyebrows. His voice is deep and thunderous.

Commander Tobal Siy

Blaster 4D, brawling parry 4D, dodge 4D+1
Bureaucracy 4D, intimidation 4D, law enforcement 4D+1, tactics 4D
Capitol ship piloting 4D+1
Command 6D, investigation 4D, search 4D

Force Points: 1
Character Points: 5
Move: 10

Equipment: Imperial uniform and sidearm blaster pistol (4D)

Capsule: Commander Siy is a typical Imperial Commander: self-assured to the point of arrogance, and loyal to the Empire and his duty, which he carries out with ruthless efficiency.

The commander’s current duty is to eliminate the smugglers who are funneling supplies to the Rebellion. He has tracked their activities to the Noad system and plans to use the characters to provide him with the “hook and bait” he needs to find Trigash Nor’s hideout and deal with the crime lord’s operation.

Tobal Siy is a bit above average in height. He has thinning dark blond hair swept back from a high forehead, a prominent nose and a receding chin. His eyes are ice blue, with a penetrating gaze.