January 30, 2013

Tales from the Edge of the Empire: Escape from Mos Shutta, Part 1

Hooray for last minute gaming plan changes!

Originally, last night I and my Saturday Night gaming buddies were slated to finish out what promised to be a high-stakes Dresden Files RPG scenario worthy of the calamity and property damage of the man himself. Sadly, between Friday night and Saturday morning, the GM had come down with a head cold and barely had a voice with which to speak due to illness as well as her day-job. So, while charades and pantomime can be a fun diversion, they're no way to run an RPG, especially for what is likely to be the capstone of the on-again, off-again campaign.  I wonder if there'll be a need for a zombie T-rex to once again tread the Chicago streets?  Hoping not, but it'd still be cool as hell.

So, rather than call the whole thing off, we decided to accelerate the schedule for when I'd run this same group through the "Escape from Mos Shutta" adventure that came with the Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire Beginner Box set.  I'd run this adventure before for my Wednesday Night crew, who used the pre-gens as this was their first experience with Edge of the Empire and they wanted to get into the action ASAP.

Well, my Saturday group had already taken EotE for a test-spin when I ran a modified version of "Rescue at Ord Mantell" for them back around early November or so.  So not being EotE virgins, they all agreed that they wanted to build their own characters using the Beta rules, with a couple pointing out that in their many years of gaming (and I do mean many), official pre-gens often had a number of problems, chief amongst those problems being said pre-gens after often sub-par.  We did have one neophyte, who'd missed the prior EotE test-spin due to work-related issues (namely, show up to work or show up on the unemployment line the next business day), but the other four players all had a level of comfort with EotE's dice pool mechanic and how different combat was from Saga Edition.
A little over an hour later, we had five freshly minted player characters, made using the Beta rules along with the Final Week Update that FFG provided at the closing of the EotE beta testing period.  The neophyte opted for a fairly simple build, that of a Wookiee Hired Gun/Marauder who wound up with the name Dewryyhn courtesy of the random Wookiee name tables in the back of WotC's Galactic Campaign Guide for the RCR (main, are those charts handy to have in situations like this), though he was quickly saddled with the rather emasculating nickname of Dewie.  The rest of the line-up was as follows:

- Neesa Eyan, a (busty & sultry voiced) female Twi'lek Explorer/Trader
- Raith Bardo, a dark-skinned male Human Smuggler/Pilot
- Shodu Farr, a male Rodian Bounty Hunter/Survivalist
- R2-V05 aka Vos, a masculine programmed droid Technician/Mechanic

I'm gonna step down for a moment to discuss Vos.  That player, who'd had quite a bit of fun playing an R6 astromech in my long-defunct SWSE Alternate Universe campaign, had asked if he could play an astromech in this game.  Now the Beta rules for EotE do present droids as a PC option, but the intent is for PCs to be playing 4th degree combat-capable droids, such as IG-88 or HK-47.  However, it was easy enough to tweak things to let Vos be a 2nd degree droid and Silhouette 0 without any other mechanical changes being required; the player pointed out that being smaller was both a boon and hindrance, as he'd be easier to toss around but only be a tougher target for vehicle weapons or really big creatures like wampas and banthas.  And I must say, compared to how droids started out in the EotE beta, they can be some pretty kick-ass characters, so long as you keep to the notion of "droid PC as a specialist" rather than "droid PC as a generalist", but then much the same is true for most of the available PC races.  Being this was the first time seeing a Droid PC in actual play, I was pretty impressed with just how versatile this "species" could be, and the 4th Degree aspect can easily be dropped, as was done with Vos, whose player adhered to the "can't deliberately injure organics" restriction that most droids have.

I also hewed pretty darn close to the rules as provided in the Beta and Final Week Updates (no fan-made talents or species), with one exception that was both minor and probably far-reaching in terms of a running campaign.  I doubled the listed starting credits for my PCs, providing them with 1000 credits instead of the paltry 500 credits the rules state.  What I found is that only three of the five PCs took extra Obligation, with Shodu opting for an extra 1K credits so that he could have both a blaster carbine and padded armor while Dewie and Raith opted for 5 extra starting experience to buy an extra talent that they really wanted.  I had a brief discussion with Brian Casey aka Fiddleback on Twitter about this, and this group had previously discussed the low starting credit amounts and that FFG's intent was to force players into buying Obligation.  Lewin Suul also piped in on that conversation by saying that his group had very little interest in EotE because the PCs started out so poor.  But as Sterling Hershey mentioned on Episode 3: The Obligameter of the revised Order 66 podcast, the game doesn't suddenly break if you provide the PCs with some extra starting gear to fit their concepts.  And given that all five of my PCs had done just that, buying gear that generally fit with their concepts, handing out an extra 500 credits will probably be my default house rule for EotE for the foreseeable future, presuming the final version doesn't up the default credit limit already.
So, with PCs at the ready, I compiled their respective Obligations and rolled to see which of them would come up, and someone's did, appropriately enough Raith’s Debt, though I didn’t roll doubles.  The other PCs weren’t overly thrilled at having to lower their Strain Thresholds by one, but I did state that each of their Obligations were tied to Teemo in some way, and in this instance the Strain Threshold penalty was due to their issues with Teemo coming to a head, with Raith getting the worst of it due to having lost his prior ship and a valuable load of exotics.   I handed out a few copies of the combat cheat sheets created by sumqui, played the opening crawl that was created by L0thar (both gents being posters over at FFG's EotE forums), appropriate minis were selected for the PCs (I love having the full run of WotC's SW minis, but they can be a pain to lug around), the Destiny Pool established, and so the adventure got underway...

The adventure starts with the PCs each scrambling into a seedy cantina in the equally seedy small town of Mos Shutta on Tatooine, looking to escape not only the oppressive heat of the midday suns but also a bunch of Gamorrean goons sent by Teemo the Hutt, who is none too pleased with any of the heroes for a number of reasons at the moment.  They need to do something to try and make themselves as inconspicuous as possible, and I open the floor for what skills they want to use, setting the Difficulty at Easy (1 Difficulty/purple die) as per the adventure.

Not missing a beat, Neesa spots a couple of older men at a table playing Pazaak, and immediately struts over and asks to be dealt in a sultry voice while dropping 50 credits on the table, and easily aces her Charm check as she takes up a seat while putting the goods on display.
Raith and Vos (who've worked together in the past, so at least one person can speak Binary) decide to just pull up to the bar and pretend that nothing's wrong, requiring a Cool check. The droid fails with 1 Threat, suffering a point of Strain, but Raith rolls the first Triumph of the night, and is soon sipping some fine Corellian whiskey like he's been there all day.

Shodu opts to grab a table close the stage where a scantily clad Twi'lek woman is dancing, but positioned so that he can see the door and counting on the change in lighting forcing any of his pursuers to have to pause to let their eyes adjust, giving him a few critical seconds to ready his carbine.  I ask for a Stealth roll, as while he's in the open so to speak, he's trying to be sneaky about it, and he rolls a lone success with two Advantage, which he uses for a Boost/blue die to be set aside for his next roll, figuring it'll either be for initiative or shooting.

Dewie instead wanted to hide in the rafters, and with his mighty Wookiee strength and climbing skill does so with amazing grace for such a large, brawny creature.

A few minutes later, the Gamorreans that were pursuing them (one for each PC) stumble in and look around, not seeing anything that strikes them as amiss... until one of them lays eyes on Vos.  Squealing in a mix of anger and delight, the thugs begin making their way towards the droid... which for Shodu is his cue to open fire.  He does so at Short Range, does rolls well enough to kill one of the Gamorreans and give himself a boost die on his next roll, which turns out to be Vigilance as all hell begins to break loose.

The PCs all end up going first, and the Gamorreans are badly trounced by the PCs, with notable moments being Dewie taking  down a goon with a Clothesline From Hell (Brawl attack that rolled a record eight successes, though enough Threat to give him a s4Setback/black die on his next action) and Neesa quickly scrambling to grab as many of the credits from the Pazaak game as she could when the table got knocked over due to a Gamorrean whiffing horribly in an attempt to beat down the Wookiee.  In keeping with being a 2nd Degree droid, Vos used the Stun setting on his built-in light blaster, only getting to attack once but setting up a kill shot for Raith (boost die), but the little astromech simply isn't built for ranged combat. This opening combat of the adventure only took two rounds, with Shodu and Dewie being the stars of the show even without Dewie using his vibro-ax, and none of the PCs were badly injured; Dewie took the only damage at a measly 2 Wounds out of 20.

Realizing they need to get sparse, the PCs decide to shakedown the (rightfully) alarmed bartender, though Neesa once again proves the virtue of kind words over harsh language as she easily charms the barkeep into answering their questions.  The adventure itself doesn't really provide the means to direct the PCs to the next encounter, but I ad-libbed and had the barkeep provide the info dump.  Namely, that last night an irate Trandoshan hunter named Trex had been in, loudly complaining about the price the junk shop owner Vorn was asking for a replacement hypermatter reactor ignitor (HMRI), to say nothing of the installation costs, to get his ship, the Krayt Fang, up and flying again, to say nothing of Teemo not being able to deliver on the astromech droid (Vos as it so happens) that the hunter was promised in exchange for returning a group of escaped labor slaves to the slagworks, a series of mines that provides a portion of the Hutt's fiscal leverage on Tatooine.  Seeing a chance to learn more, Vos plugs into the handily available public access terminal in the cantina (bought for the low cost of a single Light Side Destiny Point) and sets about using his Computers skill to see what he can find out about Trex, the Krayt Fang, and what sort of buzz Teemo's put on the street about them.  They learn that Trex has been rather lax in paying his docking fees, and the ship has been locked down by spaceport control and is secured at Docking Bay Aurek.  The docking fees are pretty high, being far more credits than all of the PCs have put together.  It's at this point the idea of working as a group, at least long enough to get off Tatooine and Teemo's slimy reach, is broached, and in true PC fashion, they all agree to work together for at least that long, though Neesa does mention something about incorporating as a free trader outfit, causing Shodu to roll his eyes.  In a moment that was both amusing and a nice tip of the hat to A New Hope, Raith used the large credit coin he'd scooped up from the floor and tosses it to the barkeep as the group leaves, saying "Sorry 'bout the mess," in a rather jovial tone, leaving the barkeep with five dead Gamorreans to dispose of, a Twi'lek dancing girl that's scared out of her mind and refusing to come out from the backstage area, and two old gamblers grousing about how their credits were stolen by the other Twi'lek tramp.

With a bit of caution and stealth, the group manages to make it to Vorn's junk shop, figuring it's the closest and they can't really get anywhere without that HRMI as the Krayt Fang is the only ship docked at Mos Shutta and Teemo's got guards at the few exits to the town.  Vorn proves to be an irascible older Human, even going so far as to berate and kick a beat-up old R5 unit before sending it back outside to finish some task.  Vos opts to have a chat with his cousin while the rest of the PCs set about getting the HMRI from Vorn.  However, Vorn is pretty adamant about keeping the part set aside for Trex, and doesn't buy Raith's story about them being there to pick up the part for Trex, particularly without a payment being made.  Dewie considers showing the junk dealer why it's a bad idea to upset a Wookiee, but he's been a resident of these parts (fighting in Teemo's gladiator pits) long enough to know that starting a ruckus here would be bad, and settles for playing the quiet heavy.  Shodu opts to stay outside and keep watch in case more Teemo-employed trouble shows up.  Neesa steps up, and while she's soon got Vorn eating out of her hand, she's still a bit creeped out by just how lecherous this unkempt Human is, suffering Strain in the process.

Meanwhile, Vos strikes up a conversation with the old agromech, R5-K3, whose a surly old droid.  Through the power of roleplaying, Vos convinces K3 to cause a distraction, enabling Vos to grab the needed part, as K3 hates his owner and Vos really wants to help Raith and his new friends.

Neesa manages to swing the conversation around to maybe buying the HRMI from Vorn by offering a better price than Trex, hiding the fact that she's not in possession of a ship of her own at the moment. Even with all her sweet-talking, she can't get him to go lower than 600 credits (which is what Trex would be paying), which is a bit steep for her tastes, and she's very hesitant to suggest an exchange of favors as part of the deal, given where Vorn's gaze seems to be lingering.  Just as she's about to give up and ask the other PCs to help cover the costs, the R5 droid rolls in, with Vos not far behind.  Raith then strikes upon an idea, and bluffs Vorn into showing them the part so that they can verify that it's in good working order and he's not trying to cheat them.  Vorn's a bit incensed, but agrees and reveals where the part is, and what it looks like.  Seeing an opportunity, Neesa convinces the junk dealer to let their astromech examine the part, which he grudgingly agrees to with an added complaint that he can't entirely trust his agromech's scanners half the time anyway.  VOS good-naturedly confirms that this is indeed the right part and is in fine working order, but before Vorn can try to up the price given the "fine quality of the merchandise as assessed by their own droid," R5 causes the necessary disturbance, bringing a whole rack of delicate and valuable parts crashing down.  This sets Vorn off, and he gets so angry that he forgets about the HMRI and is hell-bent on turning the R5 into scrap metal.  With a shared grins amidst the players, the group high-tails it out, getting the needed part without paying a single credit, leading Raith to quip that it's a steal of a deal, earning a collective round of groans for that one.

With the HRMI in hand, the group now decides to tackle getting the Krayt Fang out of lockdown.  It's now late in the afternoon, and those residents of Mos Shutta that are not indentured to Teemo and make an honest living are starting to filter out into the streets.  The increased crowds mean more bodies for the heroes to try and lose themselves amidst, but it also means that Teemo's got more eyes on the street to look for them.  Where in Saga Edition I might have called for a prolonged skill challenge, in EotE I simply called for a group Stealth test against an Average difficulty, but with one setback die.  They all roll, only instead of calculating each PC's successes individually, I tally the group totals, tracking the amount of successes, failures, advantages, and threats generated on each roll.  How well they did here would determine whether they were ambushed or not for an upcoming encounter.  Seeing as how nobody was trained in Stealth, it was going to be straight ability score rolls, though Shodu did have a talent that give him a boost die on Stealth checks, and both he and Raith spent Destiny Points to upgrade their checks in the hopes of generating more successes, especially given Dewie's abysmal roll (three failures and 1 advantage), which proved beneficial as the group squeaked by with one success but also three threat.  Yes, I did give the players a maliciously wicked grin.

They reach spaceport control without (apparent) incident, and are coldly greeted by a pair of security droids, both of which look combat capable. Against common logic, the group decides to split up, with Raith, Nessa, and Shodu trying to get in through the front door while Vos and Dewie opt to look for another way, such as a side door or something.  I should probably mention that Vos only speaks Binary, and only Raith can really understand the little astromech.

Raith is ready to try and bluff his way past, but Nessa tells the smuggler to follow her lead, informing the droids they are there on behalf the Teemo to settle the overdue docking fees that Trex has racked up.  I figure this is a bit of stretch, especially given how some of that threat from the group Stealth roll was applied, and apply a setback dice.  Lucky for them, Nessa has a convincing demeanor, and with Raith providing an assist to grant the Twi'lek a boost die on her roll, she easily bluffs the droids and smooth talks her way past them without triggering their suspicion protocols.

Meanwhile, Vos and Dewie, being unaware of their allies' success, are poking around the back, and Vos notices a side door.  The door is locked, but Vos has little trouble disabling the lock.  Before it can whistle to the Wookiee that they've got their way in, a human wearing rugged-looking armor (I used a Journeyman Hunter, dropping the distruputor and swapping the laminate armor for padded armor) rounds the corner and spots the pair.  Exclaiming that "you're two of those people that Teemo's looking for!," the human draws his heavy blaster pistol (his showing up was the remaining two points of threat).  Vigilance is rolled as neither side was expecting a fight, and the human hunter winds up going first, and scores a lucky critical hit on the Wookiee, dealing only a few points of damage but leaving the mighty warrior slightly dazed (setback die on all skill checks for the rest of the encounter).  Needless to say, the Wookiee is pissed, enough that he unslings his vibro-ax and with teeth bared, hews into the hapless bounty hunter, dealing a critical hit in return, leaving the poor schlub blinded and barely alive.  Vos starts chirping that they need to go, and darts inside the door, but Dewie wants blood.  The hunter tries to scramble away, pretty much out of the fight, but Dewie mercilessly strides up and stomps the poor hunter's head into the dirt.  If there were a method of tracking dark side in this games, Dewie would have triggered it for his ruthless execution of the near-helpless hunter.  Satisfied, he turns around and storms through the side door to spaceport control.

Inside, the woman in charge, Overseer Brynn has just welcomed an Imperial shuttle to Mos Shutta, and she is proving far less susceptible to Neesa's wiles; the human woman apparently has a deep-seated disgust for Teemo.  Shodu picks up that the overseer has her hand near a panel that looks suspiciously like an alarm button, and quietly tells the others that they'd best play it safe and not force a fight, especially as there are two more droids inside and there is now an Imperial presence on the planet.  Raith quickly and fairly quietly mentions that with Docking Bay Aurek being taken by the Krayt Fang, that leaves Docking Bay Besh, which is a lot closer to spaceport control.  Neesa drops some her bluster and tries again to convince Brynn that they are there to arrange for payment of Trex's late fees, or at least some portion of them up front.  While Neesa does net a single success, she also generates the only Despair for the night.  At that point, Vos wheels in, with Dewie stomping in right behind the droid, vibro-ax still in hand and radiating very clearly that the Wookiee is pissed.  Brynn screams in alarm and the two security droids immediately spring into action.  With Raith snarking that "this is why we can't have nice things!", once again Vigilance is rolled to determine initiative.  It's gonna be tense, as there's 1 PC action, then an NPC gets to go, and if Brynn hits that alarm...

Knowing he's got to make that first shot count, Shodu quickly unslings his rifle, sets the weapon to stun, and fires on Brynn.  The dice gods smile, as he's able to knock her unconscious with a single shot.  This however makes him the primary target of the security droids, who open fire on the Rodian hunter and leave him with a few new patches of charred flesh for his trouble (he was quite glad to have bought padded armor instead of settling for heavy clothing).  With the jig being up, Raith draws his blaster and fires on one droid while Dewie barrels into the other, pushing hapless support staff out of his way in his eagerness to destroy the other droid.  But the droid proves a sturdier foe than anticipated, and it takes a shot from Neesa's blaster to drop the Wookiee's opponent.  Knowing that he's out of his element here, Vos quickly wheels over to the main control terminal and plugs in, quickly seeing to slice the computers and unlock the docking clamps.  The adventure lists this as an Average difficulty check, but an alarm's been sounded so I bump it up to Hard and spend a Destiny Point to upgrade the difficulty.  But Vos takes it in stride, and easily slices the mainframe to unlock the clamps, using his Triumph to insert a bit of code to prevent anyone from locking down the ship for the next twenty-four hours and the advantage to grant Raith and Shodu a boost die on their next actions.  Raith finishes off the droid he'd shot at before, and as the two security droids from outside enter, Shodu turns and blows the head off one of them after switching his rifle back to its lethal setting and drawing a bead on its optic visor.  Technically Shodu acted out of turn, as the droids' turns hadn't finished yet, but he was willing to spend a Destiny Point for it, so I let it happen (the party had entirely too many Light Side Destiny Points at that point, so anything to get the PCs to spend them).  The remaining droid took quick stock of threats detected, and wound up taking a shot at Raith, leaving Nessa and Vos as the only two PCs that had avoided taking damage so far.  Dewie charges at the last droid standing and buries his vibro-ax into its torso, ripping it asunder with a critical hit.

So, with the droids defeated and the Krayt Fang removed from lockdown, the PCs figured it'd just be a quick jaunt over to Docking Bay Aurek, install the HMRI, and take off.  Right... (said in the voice of Bill Cosby during his old Noah skit).  No sooner than the PCs take five steps, they spot a two groups of stormtroopers, one from either end of the road.  Turns out Teemo has some Imperial connections, as a member of the closer of the two groups of stormtroopers points at the group and loudly says, "There they are, get them!"  I think Raith said it best with a simple "Well... poodoo."  And then we broke for dinner.  Yeah, the players railed at that one, but our order of Chinese had just shown up (complete with an order of Kung Pao chicken), and I was hungry.

And that’s where I’ll end this particular post, which as wound up a lot longer than I expected.  I’ll wrap up the adventure, and provide some insight as to various on-the-fly tweaks I made to the adventure, both what most of them where (though I’m sure a few have been spotted already) and why I made them.

You can find L0thar’s opening crawl for Escape from Mos Shutta in the first post of this thread over at the Fantasy Flight Games’ EotE Beginner Box forum:

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