Dawn of Defiance V: The First to Strike, Part I

After escaping the clutches of darkness on Almas – albeit, not unscathed, nor completely un-tainted, Shroon-kor and Ehred spend much of their time in meditation with Jedi Master Denia. In the meditations, the difficulty isn’t in finding the great suffering throughout the galaxy as the Emperor expands his reach, rather, it is in filtering out the cries of the oppressed to locate the source of the misery.

The sufferings of billions echoes throughout the Force as the Empire extends its grasp and increases its hold. Master Denia allows the two padawan to help access the recovered Jedi holocron, warning that the temptation to draw more from it would be great as it was now infused with the power of the dark side. At first, the clarity of focus that the holocron begins to put into sharper focus the points pain, but both are able to get a clear sense that soon they would be given the chance to aid in permanently throwing off the shackles of the imperial repression!
Along with the sharper focus, comes with it the barely contained rage and fury behind the multitudes. At that point, Denia breaks off the trio’s meditations, leaving them all gasping for breath. Looking at the padawan, she says to continue would be dangerous, and at Shroon-kor in particular, saying “and the temptation to yield is stronger in you, I sense. Be mindful of your feelings and thoughts padawan, for your desire to help can turn you into the very monsters we seek to protect against.”
With the use of the recovered holocron as a type of focusing crystal, they was able to locate the particular cries of those being enslaved by the Empire in their Sarlaac Project – the Nazren of Nizon. With precious little else to go on, she has tasked the group to investigate.
In the briefing, Captain Verdana of the Resurgence and Admiral Vrath inform the heroes that they have no records of a Nizon, nor any Nazren. The best source of information would be the archives of the Republic, however, their communications with the supporters on Alderaan has been lost. The last communiqués indicated that further electronic contact would be dangerous as they are being monitored – any future contact would have to be in person. With the contact method and passphrase “utini” in hand, they prepare for their departure.
Bob-Nob and the droids successfully changed the transponder on the Glorious Chariot, renaming her The People’s Champion. The exterior was well worked on to appear to be a seasoned transport, but still able to pass as a merchant wealthy enough to have a trio of Headhunter escorts; and modified expertly enough that no damage was sustained by the barge.
Upon arrival in the Alderaanian system, the sight of the multitude of Star Destroyers and fighters stationed around Alderaan made many hearts aboard the convoy skip a few beats (and the droids circuits lose a few hertz). But the fast-talking Twi’lek in the disguised barge was able to get clearance to approach the planet. Upon entry into atmo and being contacted by the Alderaanian air traffic control, they were informed that weapons were detected on the ships, and were asked to hand over the electronic codes so that their weapons could be disabled before approach. Having no other choice, they complied, even though Nai-Keego did his best at trying to circumvent the lock.
Landing at the spaceport closest to the Royal Palace, the automated welcome message informed them thusly:
“Welcome to Alderaan. Be aware that the atmosphere contains 23% oxygen, 73% nitrogen. In addition to standard Imperial law, be advised that planetary law prohibits weapons and violence is a capital offense. Alderaan is a peaceful planet. The weather outlook in Aldera is excellent with a small chance for rain. Group temperature is 26.4 degrees.”
A fierce discussion ensued in which it was decided that only a few blasters would be smuggled in after being disassembled and hidden in the droids. They realized that they didn’t have the diplomatic immunity of the Senatorial office unlike their last visit.
Stepping out onto the spaceport, they were greeted with the slightly lower gravity of Alderaan as wel as the refreshing air after weeks of only re-ventilation while ship bound. The B-class protocol droid at immigration welcomed each hero to Alderaan with a cheery “Have a peaceful day!” after “health and biology” scanning cleared their entry – with the exception of the Twi’lek who was found to have “forgotten” to stow his concealed holdout blaster before disembarking from the The People’s Champion.
Taking an abundance of caution the group took multiple cabs and a rented speeder van in a circuitous route to the designated meeting point. On the way, they noticed several garrisons of clone trooper points scattered throughout the city.
The meeting place was at the edge of a busy interplanetary bazaar where locals and newly arrived merchants bartered and traded their wares. A few hours after sending the rendezvous signal, Bob-Nob and the droids were approached by a small figure wearing a hooded robe, which chattered away at them unintelligibly. The only word they could make out was “Utiniii!” while it waved a robed at them. The Huttese speaking Twi’lek realized the creature was speaking Jawa, and with no other option, followed the small humanoid towards an alley in the shadow of the Palace. Again exercising caution, the Kel Dor Jedi knocked over a table full of wares while the others all determined no one was paying undue attention to the Twi’lek and Jawa’s interactions.
In the alley, the Jawa manipulated some hidden controls and a previously hidden narrow doorway slid open from the wall. Ushering the entire group in, the Jawa closed the door behind them and led them through a rock passageway into a large chamber with a conference table and chairs. Settling in, they were unable to get any more information from the Jawa. While the biologics conferred on how to best learn Jawa in a hurry, the droids set about reassembling their smuggled weapons.
Still kicking themselves for not knowing how to speak Jawa, the large door at the other end of the chamber opened and Senator Bail Organa entered flanked by a pair of security droids.
“Ahhh! My friends, it gladdens my heart to see you again. I thank you all for your continue sacrifice in the fight against tyranny. But where are my manners,” turning to those he hadn’t previously met, “I am Senator Bail Organa, and I apologize for the circumstances of our meeting. We’ve noticed that we’ve been under more scrutiny lately, and cannot risk any further electronic communications as the Empire has been monitoring us constantly now. Hence, we’ve had to limit ourselves to these covert meetings. And this here,” he said as he indicated the Jawa, “is my daughter – one of the few who can get around unnoticed through these old secret passageways in the Royal Palace.” As the stunned group looked on, the “Jawa” lowered her robe and removed the face mask to reveal a young girl of perhaps 10 or 11 years. “You did a great job Leia – why don’t you go get dressed and head back upstairs.”
“Now, what is that I can help you with that the Resistance felt the urgency to contact me? I must apologize that we have precious little time before my absence will be noticed.”
Mentioning the need for information about Nizon, the heroes were given a short time on the computer terminals in the conference table to access the Senatorial archives.
One discovered that Nizon was inhabited by the remnants of an ancient race that had scattered into small pockets after they were almost completely annihilated. They were called the Nazren after the planet where they had settled.  Being outside the Galactic Republic, they had no representation within the Senate, and thus, easily exploited by the Empire.
Another discovered that Nizon is the 5th planet in the Centares system and was able to obtain hyperspace coordinates. He also learned that the Empire has a small presence on the mining world Centares, the 3rd planet in the system. Throughout the region between these two planets was a dense asteroid field, likely the remains of another planet that was destroyed upon collision with the current 4th planet. The asteroid field made approaches to the planet difficult, and potentially dangerous.
Lastly, Tex stared in shock at what he discovered. He found a picture of the Nazren and upon opening it, saw his own face staring back at him – for the Nazren were, like him, a remnant of the once-might Taung.

Star Wars: Dawn of Defiance Campaign

Ten years after the rise of the Empire, the known galaxy in gripped by the tyranny of the Emperor Palpatine. The Jedi Knights, the once great order, has not only failed to protect the Republic, but has been decimated by the Emperor’s servant Darth Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith hunts down and kills those Jedi who managed to survive in hiding. But the oppressed have begun to organize, and with the covert support of Senators who seek a return of the Republic, the Resistance begins to take form. This is the story of some who are ushering in the Dawn of Defiance.

This is the blog about my Dawn of Defiance Campaign run in the Star Wars universe set about a decade before the events of Star Wars IV: A New Hope (9 BBY). The campaign uses the Star Wars Saga Edition rules published by Wizards of the Coast and was written as a set of 10 connected adventure modules by the authors of the system and release as free downloads.
They are mostly well written, and I am running them with my home gaming group of more than 2 decades. I have also made changes (as always 😎 which I will periodically post along with their adventures. Without further ado, the protagonists.
Shroon-kor: A male Kel-dor Jedi padawan with great promise, and great struggles. Down 8 hp before Vital Transfer. XP: 15,750
Ehred: A female human Jedi padawan. Contemplative and determined to stay far from the darkness of her Dathomiri bretheren. XP: 18,750
Tex: Taung warrior. Rescued from slavers by Jedi, lost wife and sons. XP: 18,750
Bob-Nob: A Twi’lek who supports the Resistance, in return for their credits. With a knack for robotics, he is never far from his support droids. XP: 17,750
Bob-bob: A medical droid, Bob-Nob’s programming has been altered for “proactive protection.” XP: 13,750
TS “Sparktacus”: A former mining droid, he searches for his master. Currently damaged by Stormtroopers, and not fully repaired (hard to do). XP: 17,750
Nai-Keego: Not all are cut out for the Imperial Navy, even if you have the skills if you happen to be non-human. A Bothan pilot, Nai-Keego joined up with the Resistance, taking along with him his trainer Z-95.
@~46 hp after Medpac. XP: 16,750
Har-har: A Gungun Jedi, who has recently joined up with the Resistance. @ 23 hp after Vital Transfer. XP: 12,750
[Game Notes]
Campaign Changes
  1. The game starts at year 9 BBY. This is 10 years after Order 66. This allows the Jedi characters to conceivably be around 18-20 years of age, as they had just started their apprenticeships before their masters were killed.
  2. I plan to for PCs to be about level 16 at the end of the campaign. The d20 rules really start to break down past that point. Even the creators of the game acknowledge that (specifically, Rodney stated the difficulty of writing the last few modules of the campaign to be sufficiently challenging and still manageable.)
House Rules in Effect (and when they started)

a.     Roll stats rather than set
b.     May re-roll hp with Force Point
c.      Droids get Syntax Points (basically, Force Points)
d.     Using Force Point to avoid death costs ALL Force Points (Part 4)
e.     PC’s only get 1 Destiny Point per character level PLAYED (Part 4)
f.      Use the Force changed multiple times. Currently, Skill Focus only available to Knight Prestige class.
g.     Extra talents at base class levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, & 16. **Note, 1st level Talents must be from different trees. Also, this 1st bonus talent is not obtained when multi-classing into another class (just as not all starting feats are received.)
h.     Force Powers take 1 step longer to use. Practiced Force User Talent to reduce back one-step.
i.       Can only learn Force Powers with a teacher.
j.       Vital Transfer can’t be used to heal Vital Transfer (Part 4)
k.     Block and Deflect are one Talent
l.       Lightsabers deal 2d12 damage
m.   Movement: Diagonals cost 1.5 squares as D&D 3.5 (Part 3)
n.     Starship: Can flee a Dogfight as free action, but gives every opponent free critical attack from full attack. (Part 5)


Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

I just finished watching episode 2 in preparation for running the next part of my Star Wars Dawn of Defiance Campaign. I had been working on the encounters as we gear up for our next session, and over this past weekend, I had an opportunity to visit some friends in Indianapolis. During the visit, my old Star Wars Old Republic game group was getting together to go see the re-release of The Phantom Menace in 3D – so, as much as I didn’t want to give any more money to Lucas, I wanted to share the experience with them. It was fun reminiscing about waiting in lines for 9 hours at the original release and whispering to my friends as the MANY kids in the theatre ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the spectacle – but, I still couldn’t help cringe at each mention of the midiclorians, and the “will of the Force”.

Anyways, with that background, and swinging by the Disc Replay to pick up a copy of Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 1, I thought it would flow well to watch Attack of the Clones again since I hadn’t seen it since the original theatrical release; so I picked up a DVD of that as well.

Well, I gotta say that my opinion of it hasn’t changed. The lines were so bad (especially between Anakin and Padame!!!), the storyline so contrived at times, the “wise” Jedi so clueless, and the directing so bad that it made excellent actors into bland cardboard actors, that I couldn’t help muttering and spouting off how just plain DUMB the lines were… and I thank my poor wife for putting up with me as she quietly read her kindle next to me (I was wearing earphones).

It was especially appalling as I decided to prolong the pain and watch some of the deleted scenes and featurettes.What particularly struck me, and pushed me over the edge to write this tonight instead of waiting until the morning, were the interviews with Natalie Portman. Now, she’s been one of my favorite actors since I saw her in The Professional when it came out – and it was quite telling when SHE HAD MORE EMOTION IN HER FACE DURING THOSE 45 SECONDS THAN THE ENTIRE MOVIE PUT TOGETHER.

The greatest tragedy in my opinion (and there are quite a few in the prequels)? Every action sequence is a reminder of how much cooler this whole triology could have been if Lucas had been content to let someone else write the lines and direct, and he went hands off after the initial vision… kinda like for Empire – the best of the saga.

So, I hope my players appreciate the pain I put myself through to give them a good time and immerse them in the Star Wars Universe.

Star Wars Saga Edition Use the Force Fix

For the most part, I like the newest incarnation of the Star Wars RPG put out by Wizards of the Coast – the Saga Edition. However, the main thing that bugs me about it is the way the Force works. By having Use the Force (UTF) as a skill, its (usuaully) starts at an absurdly high level for what I feel a 1st-level Jedi should be able to do. Plus, it doesn’t get a whole lot better as the character advances (a 20th-level Sith Lord only has ~10 more over that of a 1st-level – compare a 20th level Soldier with a 1st). Over the years, I’ve tried to come up with some fixes for it.

I’ve listed below some possibilities and have link to a table showing what a “typical” progression would look like.

1) Easy1: UTF cannot be a Trained skill until achieving a level of Jedi Knight/Sith Apprentice. A pre-requisite for the Feat Skill Focus (UTF) is a level in Jedi Master/Sith Lord. This significantly lowers the UTF for lower-level Jedi characters, but has the same maximum as the books. The problem is there are large bumps upon attained the Prestige Classes (not necessarily bad, as getting trained and taking skill focus for other skills does the same thing).

2) Easy2: A pre-requisite for the Feat Skill Focus (UTF) is a level of Jedi Knigh/Sith Apprentice. Similar to Easy1, but not as drastic a measure. This is what we are using in our current Dawn of Defiance Campaign.

3) Feel1: UTF is not a skill. Rather, it is a special check that is available to characters with the Force Sensitive Feat. The check is = character level + Cha mod + 1 per force-user level (ie. Jedi, Jedi Knight, Sith Lord, etc.) This leads to an extremely high final UTF at the higher levels.

4) Feel2: Same as Feel1, but the progression is only +1/2 per force-user level. This lowerls the maximum as compared to Feel1, but still leads to high UTF at levels 15+

5) Feel3: Similar to Feel1 & Feel2, but the check is = 1/2 character level + Cha mod + 1 per force-user level. This keeps the skill mechanic of adding +1/2 per character level. The same difficulty with high UTF at levels 15+

6) Mike1: UTF is a skill, but change the Feat Skill Focus (UTF) bonus to be a maximum provided by the level-based skill bonus, with a maximum of +5 at level 10.

7) Mike2: As Mike1, but the Skill Focus (UTF) bonus is equal to the Cha mod.

8) Mike3: A combination of Mike1 and Mike2, where the Skill Focus (UTF) bonus is capped at the lower of the level-based skill bonus or Cha mod.

I’d be interested to hear about other suggestions. My favorite at this time is Feel3; partially because it gives a good progression and follows the skill mechanic. A +33 is very high for a 20th level force-user, but I am of the opinion that the game really starts to break down past 16th level, and I don’t plan on running games past that level. In addition, I don’t see that as being a complete negative, as I would expect an equivalently leveled gun-fighter to have ~+28 on to-hit rolls and defenses to be around the same.

Link to the table. The light blue is what I expect most optimized force-user UTF will be with core rules, and the light green is where the various optional rules meet the inflection point as compared to that light blue column.

Game mechanics and player investment

Ideally, all of our players will be fully invested in each game that we as GM’s devote countless hours preparing and planning. That they would like to see their characters interact with the world, developing relationships buillt upon shared struggles, delving mysteries still unsolved, charting unexplored jungles; but alas, it seems that many of the times, those are just means to the end of leveling up. It’s not that I’m saying my players don’t like the role-playing aspect – they do enjoy the storylines and we have a great time playing all the time, its just that power-gaming is inherent in our group.

Because of that, I think that this places quite a bit of bias in the game systems we tend to play as a group. Whereas I think my preferences now tend toward the rules-lighter, less “crunchy” systems like Hollow Earth Expedition’s Ubiquity, there is by definition quite a bit less player investment in character mechanical development as compared to a d20 system on the opposite end of the spectrum. In the latter, a character is quite defined by the mechanical bits that comprise him, and these can be planned out in a multitude of combinations throughout the “growth” of the character’s life. A player can (and my players do!) plan out which classes, feats, skills, talents, and equipment he will take at each level, as well as which prestige class he will qualify for and train in. In doing so, the mechanics define and shape the character just as much as – or even moreso, the original character concept. And that large investment of a player’s time into planning out the character translates directly into the player’s investment into his character.

I wrote yesterday that I’m thoroughly enjoying the Star Wars Dawn of Defiance game that I’m currently running. And while I don’t think that the d20 system is a good representation of the Star Wars universe (especially when compared to just Episodes IV – VI), I think each player’s investment of many hours into planning how his character is going to developed has helped to continue driving the game onward – they want to play their characters just as much as they want to see their characters reach their goals of getting this prestige class or that feat combo. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing – in fact, I think its great that this aspect of character building really draws the players into knowing their characters VERY well (no, “wait, what’s my bonus to hit now?”) and gives them an attachment to the character such that a PC death does cause waves; its just, I would love for a system that combines this aspect with a more rules-light approach.

As an aside, one system that I think manages to balance well the rules-light flow along with a great flexibility of player options and foreplanning is Savage Worlds (and to a lesser degree, Warhammer 40K RPG). There’s enough planning possible for the gamers who like the crunch, but still a very flexible and rules-light deployment of the mechanics. I think Savage Worlds would make an EXCELLENT vehicle for running a Star Wars campaign.

Why a Star Wars RPG is so fun

One of the most difficult things about starting up a new campaign is filling all the players in about the background of the setting such as important events and peoples in the world, all while doing so without boring them out of their minds. I’ve been recently reading through the Game of Thrones series (or, rather, the Song of Ice and Fire series for the purists) and would love to run a game in that setting; it’s dark and gritty, with many multi-faceted individuals all intent on their own goals and agendas. But, there’s no way I could convey even the basics of the background of Aegon the Conqueror and the Seven Kingdoms, Mad Aerys and Robert’s Rebellion, or the Seven gods and the weirwoods in a reasonable blurb.

I mean, face it, we have all had (or been) players that could care less about the difference between a Lannister and a Stark without just wanting to know whom to attack and which dice to roll for the attack. And, save all (or at least, the majority) having read some of the books, it would quickly and easily turn into a generic fantasy campaign without a great deal of work on the GM’s part to constantly drag the player’s into the world. It’s often hard enough to keep players focused on the game without going off on tangents as it is…

And so, that’s a HUGE reason I’m thoroughly enjoying running my Star Wars Dawn of Defiance campaign right now. Regardless of what players may think about the validity of Episodes I-III, or how the d20 Saga doesn’t do this right, ALL of us know the Star Wars universe. I don’t need to fill them in on how a senator named Palaptine was recently elevated to Emperor, or how there was once a religious order called the Jedi that was decimated by his right hand man Darth Vader, or even that a Twi’lek is a humoid creature with long head tentacles. We all have the same background knowledge of the world, and its as simple as saying the Wookie bounty hunter wears a bandolier of thermonuclear detonators that fills the same image in all the players minds (and identifies him as one mean NPC not to mess with).

Prior to starting this campaign last year, we’d been playing in the World of Greyhawk for close to the past 10 years, well, actually, probably longer than that; and even then, it was still very much “wait, Veluna is a theocracy also? I thought it was the Theocracy of Pale?” With this being the first time I’m regularly running a “shared background” game, the difference is so refreshing!

I think in the past, that was why I enjoyed running games like Shadowrun, Dark Matter, or more recently, Gamma World – I could set it in the context of the real world, a truly shared background. In the future, I think this could very well be a much larger draw to bringing in others who otherwise aren’t inclined to game with us. In particular, I’m thinking of all our wives/girlfriends, who wouldn’t come near our games now agreeing to play a game based in the Harry Potter or Twilight universe.

Dawn of Defiance IV: Echoes of the Jedi

[Originally posted on Dwarven Forge forums 2011 Sep 07. Game date 2011 Jul 02]

Here are some pictures from our Star Wars Dawn of Defiance game (Episode IV – Echoes of the Jedi). This shows off the great versatility of DF – using Sci-fi and Return of the Ancient sets as the layout for an abandoned Jedi academy (haunted with creatures tainted by the dark side of the force) and the lower level combining the Caves with Sci-fi sets.

Episode IV

It is a dark time in the galaxy. The Jedi Knights, peaceful guardians of the Old Republic, are all but extinct, exterminated by the Emperor’s sinister agents. But a few Jedi still survive, exiled from the galaxy they once protected and leaving echoes in the Force behind. The Emperor has sensed these remnants and seeks to control them, leaving no chance for future Jedi to arise from the ashes.

Most Jedi stay in hiding, some try to foil the Empire without revealing their existence, and others seek links to their former way of life, risking the wrath of the Emperor in hopes of re-igniting the flame of their ancient order . . .




“Oh, Master Ran, I simply detest violence and do not condone it in any circumstance! I’m a medical droid and my basic programming is to heal organics. But that meatbag was trying to render me nonfunctional. He refused to calm down even with my offers of antidepressants or illicit substances. So of course I had to shoot him through the ascending portion of the aortic arch lest he deprive the galaxy of my invaluable skills as a highly sophisticated medical droid that could potentially save many more lives than that dirtbag’s wretched existance. It does certainly perturb my programming on the most fundamental level however.”

I just joined a group playing a Star Wars Saga edition game set in the Old Republic (just after the 2nd KoTOR). The group had already been playing for a while, so I came in midgame. They had just acquired a droid NPC, so I offered to use that as my PC as it sounded like a fun character.

AG-420 was a Republic medial droid prior to ending up in the hands of Tagg, a drug smuggler who later became a dead NPC at the hands of the PC’s. Under Tagg’s ownership, AG was programmed to become a pusher for Tagg’s wares. This became evident upon the heroes first outing when, upon their return, AG proudly showed his new Master Ran how much money he had made selling off all of their med-kits… the looks on the players’ faces was hilarious. I happened to be observing that game, and that’s when I decided I wanted to join in as AG’s newly acquired Independent Spirit.

This last game, they got a chance to see a little of AG’s schizoprenia. Throughout the game, AG kept protesting violence against organics, bemoaning how he would have to patch them back up afterwards. That was, until the climactic last battle, when we were trying hold off waves of baddies while waiting for the Jedi that was rescuing slaves about a gladiatorial entertainment ship. Asked to provide help by Master Ran, AG proceeded to unveil a blaster rifle that was a part of his left arm and loosened a hail of blaster fire into one of the enemies… Amidst the looks of shock (again) among the players, I had AG respond as quoted above

(And yes, I did spend a turn trying to offer the baddie meds to help alleviate his feelings of hostility and anger; which only led to him shooting me).

Medium Droid, 1st degree
Noble 2 / Soldier 1

Feats: Skill Focus (Treat Injury, Knowledge – Life Sciences, Use Computer), Weapon Proficiency (Rifle, Heavy), Burst Fire

Talents: Medical Droid, Devastating Attack (I rationalized it as his detailed knowledge of biological beings allows him to hit them where it hurts the most)

Str 10 Dex 14 Con – Int 16 Wis 18 Cha 10