February 1, 2013

Tales from the Edge of the Empire: Escape from Mos Shutta, Part 2

When last we left our erstwhile heroes, they had just stepped out of the frying pan that was the fiasco at the spaceport control, leaving in their wake four demolished droids, an unconscious Overseer, and a bunch of terrified station workers, and into the fire of being in the crosshairs of several members of the Empire’s elite stromtroopers corps.

Now, for those folks that are veterans of other Star Wars RPGs, stormtroopers are generally held to be the cannon fodder of the Rebellion Era, as a low-level hero can easily tackle a single stormtrooper, and high-level heroes can plow through squads of stormtroopers without breaking a sweat.  Not so much in Edge of the Empire, where a group of three stormtroopers can be a dangerous encounter, and two such groups even more so.  And I was afraid that my players were going to try and defeat all the troopers, particularly after the Wookiee's player asked "So how many whacks do you think it'll take for me to hew through them all?  Two, maybe three?" (remember that he's never played EotE before and this was the only encounter to use minion groups).  But they decided to simply deal with the ones blocking their path to Trex's ship and their ticket off Tatooine.  The Wookiee's player found out it only took him one whack, as Raith did a decent job of softening one up (just missed dropping the trooper by two points) before the Wookiee charged in.  Oddly enough, the stormtroopers rolled well enough to act third in initiative, and Shodu acted first to try and create a distraction for the other group that was further away, using the Triumph on his attack roll to cause the crowd to panic as bits of sand-baked masonry fell amidst the people on the street.  The stormies moved up to get better shots (started at Long Range, putting them at Medium with most of the group except Raith, who was now at Short Range due to using his turn to move closer), and to the party's surprise these stormtroopers actually hit their target, which turned out to be Dewie (Wookiees with vibro-axes in hand seem to rank as high-threat foes, and I knew that he'd could take the damage without much too problem).  And then Dewie discovered the fun of minion groups, in that if you can dish out enough damage, you can take down multiples of them in one go.  A vibro-ax is pretty nasty weapon in EotE, as it pretty much ignored the stormtrooper's Soak bonus from their armor, and with a Brawn of 4 and the Feral Strength talent, that Wookiee can deal a lot of damage in one swing, and with it's low Crit Rating, triggering a Critical Hit (which auto-kills a minion) is alarmingly easy.  Realizing exactly what they've done, particularly at Neesa's cry of alarm, the PCs immediately beat feat towards their destination.

I was initially thinking of giving the chase rules from the Beta Updates a spin, but in light of Shodu's Triumph-fueled distraction, I just called for an Easy difficulty Stealth check to allow the PCs to slip away and dodge any Imperial pursuit, which they all made quite easily, even little Vos who mildly beeped and chirped away from the scene of the crime as though nothing were out of the ordinary, a nice comedic moment after a couple of fight scenes.

So without further Imperial interruptions, the PCs finally make their way to Docking Bay Aurek, only to find a pair of security droids, only these two look a good deal more worn than the ones guarding the spaceport control.  The party decides to have Shodu and Dewie “hang back” and let the other three try and bluff their way in.  Well, Nessa works her verbal magic and convinces the droids that she’s there with her astromech and assistant (Raith) to install the HRMI, with the cost of the part to be paid to her as Vorn’s representative, and the docking fees being covered by Teemo in return for a favor owed at a later date.  The droids let the trio inside the docking bay, causing Shodu to mutter “I don’t like this…”, a sentiment to which the Wookiee growls his assent to.

A bit surprised, Trex comes out of the ship, and is even more surprised to see three strangers just a few meters from the Krayt Fang’s boarding ramp.  Nessa begins to go into her spiel, but is cut off violently when Trex slashes her across the face with his claws, her loud scream of pain and surprise making it clear to the PCs that they aren’t going to simply be able to waltz away with the Trandoshan hunter’s ship after all.  I should probably mention that so far, only Raith, Shodu and Dewie had used stimpacks (1 for Shodu, 2 each for Raith and Dewie), with everyone except Neesa and Vos carrying a few points of damage from previous fights.  So they’ve got a few bumps and bruises, but no serious injuries, barring the critical hit that Dewie took earlier.

Initiative gets rolled, and Raith is the first to react, drawing his blaster and shooting Trex pretty much at point blank range, but the shot fails as the party is quite alarmed to discover what should have been an easy shot (Short Range) wound up being a lot harder, and the smuggler misses the Trandoshan pretty badly.  Shodu wastes no time and easily wastes one of the two droids standing guard before hustling into the docking bay, and Dewie is close behind, pausing only briefly to batter the other guard droid into the adjacent wall with his vibro-ax.  Unfortunately, Trex has two more droids for back-up, and they’re the next to act, moving into firing position and blasting at Raith and Shodu, who both take a few more points of damage.  Neesa draws her own blaster and tries to jam it down Trex’s gullet, even spending a Destiny Point to at least let her roll a Proficiency die on her attack roll, but to no avail, though she is able to distract the Trando long enough for her to slip out of his claws’ range (only got 2 Advantage out of the roll, which she spent on a maneuver).  Finally Trex gets to go, and he draws his own heavy blaster and tries to plug Raith, but the wily smuggler manages to duck out of the way at the last second (spent a Destiny Point to upgrade Trex’s difficulty, which proved a good thing since all the Trando wound up with were Advantages, which he used to move back towards his ship and give himself a boost die on his next action).  Finally Vos gets to act, and in a display of bravado the little astromech whirls about and finally manages to score a hit on one of the two security droids!

Cue the following round, and Raith takes another shot at the Trandoshan managing to clip the hunter, not doing any real damage but scoring a critical hit that’s more of an annoyance than anything (rolled a 2 on the percentile dice).  Shodu wastes no time in finishing off the droid that Vos did some damage to, even giving the little guy some extra encouragement (by way of a boost die since he didn’t need to trigger a critical hit).  The Aim action came under fire on the FFG boards as not being all that useful, but it proved pretty darn useful for Shodu, allowing him to make shots that might have been tricker for him, especially as he lacked the useful combat talents such as Point Blank or Barrage might have provided.  Nessa is the next to act, taking another shot at Trex but failing horribly, though she does generate enough Advantage to give Raith and Shodu a boost die on their next turns.  The remaining droid acts next, and tries to take down Shodu, but fails miserably (even after I spent a Destiny Point to give it another Proficiency die).  Dewie decides that the Trandoshan needs to go down, and charges at Trex… only to whiff horribly (net result of nothing on the roll).  Trex takes exception to this, and blasts the Wookiee in the gut, getting a Triumph and lots of Advantages and Successes (both difficulty dice came up blank), enough for a critical hit and to disarm the Wookiee.  Rolling on the crit chart in the Beta, including the +10 from Dewie’s prior critical injury, ends with the Wookiee being knocked prone and suffering a lot of damage as a result; he’s not out, but one more shot will probably punch his ticket, and I have Trex use his maneuver to pretty much gloat over the grievously injured Wookiee’s form.  Vos goes last, and while his shot doesn’t hit the droid, he does generate some advantage, enough to give Shodu a boost die and a free boost die to the next PC to act.

This time, Dewie is the first of the PCs to act, and after staggering to his knees, he lets loose with a mighty bellow that causes the walls of the docking bay to shake.  With both fists clutched together, he clobbers Trex in the chest with a powerful double axe handle, spending the party’s last Light Side Destiny to upgrade his check, and scoring three Triumphs on the roll!  Using these to trigger a critical hit two additional times, he rolls high on the percentile, and with blood spewing from the Trandoshan’s maw as the sounds of Trex’s rib cage shattering fill the docking bay, sending their adversary to the ground in a messy heap.  Fists held to the sky, Dewie (and his player) lets loose a triumphant roar that probably woke the neighbors and scared a whole bunch of small animals.

Almost as an anti-climax, Raith takes down the last droid with a critical hit of his own (the 3 Advantage kind, not the multiple Triumph type), and the heroes quickly scramble up the ship, with Neesa helping to apply the last of the Wookiee’s stimpacks as Shodu aides the gravely injured Wookiee up into the ship.

Raith wastes no time in heading for the controls, and is slightly relieved to find that Trex had the ship on standby, apparently expecting to leave shortly after realizing the ship was no longer in lockdown thanks to the groups’ earlier actions at spaceport control.  He barks a suggestion that Vos get busy installing the HMRI, otherwise they’re gonna have a real short trip.  Neesa joins the smuggler in the cockpit just in time for her to spot a group of stormtroopers entering the docking bay, likely drawn by the commotion of their fight with Trex, and a couple of them setting up what looked to be a heavy repeating blaster.  Raith bellows for everyone to buckle up as he floors the repuslorlifts and the Krayt Fang lurches up out of the docking bay and away from the stormtroopers, causing a few snide remarks about the smooth flying.

However, as they rocket away from Tatooine and into the inky black freedom of the stars, the ship’s sensors detect a problem… four TIE fighters, closing in fast, with one of them nicking the ship’s hull and causing a few warning lights to flash.  Shodu and Dewie quickly scramble into the gunnery stations, taking control of the ship’s pair of quad laser cannons, bringing them online as Raith shows just how good of a pilot he is, using evasive maneuvers as he opens up the ship’s ion drives to try and get them into range for a jump to lightspeed.  Vos is easily able to begin installing the HMRI, rolling a lot of successes and only needing a second round to finish the installation.  The TIE fighers roar in for another pass, but Raith’s fancy flying prevents the Imperial ships from dealing any actual damage.

Vos finishes installing the component as Raith plots a hasty hyperspace jump as he continues trying to evade the TIE fighters; luckily he’s made enough trips to and from Tatooine working for Teemo that he knows a few nearby systems that they could safely hop to (a good role-playing invocation of his Galaxy Mapper talent), with Neesa doing what she can to assist (pretty much just a boost die, but every little bit helps at this point).  Meanwhile, the Rodian and the Wookiee open fire with the quad laser cannons, and while Dewie has no luck, Shodu is a skilled enough marksman that he’s able to draw a bead and take out one of the two wings of TIE fighters in a hail of laser fire, but the other two are able to score a few hits, causing Raith to bemoan the damage to his new ship, a remark that draws a disbelieving look from Neesa.  But with one final surge from the engines, the Krayt Fang clears the gravity well of Tatooine and makes the jump to hyperspace, escaping not only the TIE Fighters but the grasp of Teemo the Hutt, bringing the adventure to a close.

Okay, if you’ve read the Beginner Box adventure, then you’ve probably spotted quite a few things I did differently from how the adventure plays out.  First was the immediate introduction of the Destiny Pool; as most of my players had already played an EotE adventure, they were familiar with Destiny Points, so I saw no reason to hold back on them.   I also implemented Obligation, though with a hand wave for why everyone in this group of strangers was suffering for Raith’s Debt Obligation coming up.

For the Gamorrean encounter at the beginning, I ran that them as-was, mostly so that I could get a feel for just how powerful these characters could be.  I’d say the PCs were a bit more potent than the pre-gens, likely due to having a few extra skill ranks and some talents rather than pumping all their Starting XP budgets into raising their Characteristics.

For the security droids, I added 1 rank each of the Adversary and Point Blank talents to make them a bit more of a threat to the heroes, but not an overwhelming one.  And the presence of the human bounty hunter was completely unscripted, as I wanted to increase the tension and pressure a bit on the players, as things had been going a bit too smoothly for them.

The stormtrooper fight was also run unaltered, as stormtroopers can be a deadly enough opponent when operating in groups.  Not that these really were given how deadly Dewie could be with that vibro-ax (there was a good reason I had Trex use his Advantages to Disarm rather than increasing the effect of his critical hit on the Wookiee).  When I ran this adventure for my Wednesday group, they pretty much fled as the stormtroopers got to go first and surprised them with not only being accurate but also able to dish out some hefty damage on a hit, something they weren’t ready for.
I also really roleplayed out the scene with Vorn, as the PCs were generally enjoying it and Shodu’s player was busy placing the order for dinner, so he didn’t mind not being directly involved.  And while the PCs probably won’t ever learn this, it was Vorn that tipped of Trex, telling the Trandoshan that a bunch of ship-jackers had made off with the HMRI and would likely be trying to take the Krayt Fang.  The other problem was that I figured Trex was canny enough to be suspicious when his ship was suddenly taken out of lockdown, and he knew better than to openly accept a “gift” from Teemo.  Neesa’s Deceit check to fool Trex was one of her few failed social rolls, aside from the Despair mentioned above that triggered the combat at spaceport control.

For the fight with Trex, I used the standard security droid stats, figuring that they were a bit more worn down, but gave the Trandoshan a rank in Point Blank and Lethal Blows as well as two ranks in Adversary.  This was the big fight of the adventure, and I really didn’t want the PCs to steamroll him.  On the flipside, going by strict raw Dewie’s attack wouldn’t have been enough to take Trex out (just barely got past his Soak Value) as well as only causing a Gruesome Injury result, but how often do you see three Triumphs from a staring tier PC?  I just had to reward that, and given the cinematic presentation of Dewie’s desperate attack, it felt like the right thing to do.  Of course, Trex isn’t actually dead, but he’s not as Brawny as he used to be thanks to having several ribs turned to dust and a few internal organs blasted into jelly.  And he’s none too happy with having his ship stolen out from underneath his snout.

I also pretty obviously wasn’t using the simplified critical hit rules from the Beginner Box, though in retrospect, maybe I should have, as I could have very well wound up with a crippled Wookiee due to the lack of healing skills in the group; I actually felt a sensation of relief that I rolled so poorly for Trex’s critical hit during that fight, as some of those higher results can be pretty nasty, particularly the result that lets the attacker make a free attack, which probably would have knocked Dewie unconscious.  As it was, he ended the fight with only three Wounds remaining until he hit his Wound Threshold, and the two stim packs only gave him back 5 Wounds, as I was using the Beta rules on stimpacks as I’m more used to those than the BegBox version, which I think restore a flat 4 points with no degradation per use.

The last change was calling for Raith to make an Astrogation check as his action once the HMRI had been installed; the module just says that once the module was installed, at the end of that active round, the ship automatically jumps to hyperspace with no other input from the PCs required.  I set the difficulty for the check at Average, but applied a setback die due to the need to rush the calculations.  I’d forgotten he had Galaxy Mapper until the player brought it up, with the way he did earning a brief bit of applause from me for so easily inserting a fluff-based rationale into a crunch-based aspect of his character.  I really think our Dresden Files game has had a positive effect on a group that previously was very tactically minded and loathe to play anything that wasn’t a d20 game.  And I was really impressed with how these freshly-minted PCs all worked within their particular niches, as well as their team work in handing around boost dice during the Trex fight, as opposed to Shodu keeping his boost dice to himself.

There was talk afterwards of my running the follow-up adventure “Long Arm of the Hutt” for them in a few weeks, and where my Wednesday group has since proven to be very tepid towards the prospect, my Saturday group is eager to play EotE again, as they had a blast and at least two of the players will definitely be picking up the book when it comes out later this year (really hoping for a May release on that one, though April would be cool as well).  Does remind me, I do have to give them their rewards, a nice 20 XP and 500 credits each to represent the "petty funds" that Trex had stowed aboard his ship.

As a point of interest, I tried to recreate the BBox pre-gens using the character creation rules from EotE Beta, taking into account that the pre-gens were using a consolidated version of their career as opposed to the Beta's career & specialization method.  What I found was rather interesting, to say the least.  I stuck purely to the core rules on this, including the paltry 500 credit starting funds.

For Lowhhrick, he came out to being about 300 credits underbudget, assuming he took a +5 Obligation for some extra starting cash.

Oskara was either 450 credits overbudget if she only took a +5 Obligation, or a 1000 credits underbudget if she took the full +10 Obligation.

Mathus was only 25 credits short, again with a +5 Obligation, and was the only one of the Humans to be a perfectly legal starting character for the most part.

Sasha and Pash were each missing a  skill rank, assuming they got the two bonus non-career skill ranks that Humans get in the EotE beta.  But near as I can figure, they took a +10 Obligation for 10 XP to cover the costs of raising 4 of their Characteristics to a 3, and then went seriously overbudget on their gear and starting credits, as Pash is 425 credits overbudget while Sasha is only 350 credits over the default budget of 500 credits.

And the one character that I was pretty was going to be overbudget on either XP or credits out to be underbudget on both credits and XP, as 41-VEX was missing 5 XP (likely a missing skill rank) and was 100 credits short using a +5 Obligation for more starting credits.

So in comparison to the pre-gens, my granting the players an extra 500 credits wasn't even remotely a problem.  They may not have taken much in the way of extra Obligation, but the Obligation came up anyway and they suffered the Strain for it.  Plus, I dropped the credit rewards at the end of the adventure from 1000 credits per PC to 500.  I figure big paydays should be far and few between in EotE, though we'll see what happens when we sit down to play "Long Arm of the Hutt."

Well, I hope you've enjoyed reading about how my second run-thru of Edge of the Empire's "Escape from Mos Shutta" went.  If nothing else, I figure it's interesting to see how a group of semi-experienced players with their own characters handled the adventure.

If you've got comments or questions, either about the adventure or why I did what I did when running it, feel free to drop a line here or over at the d20 Radio forums.

Also, you can find sumqui's very handy cheat sheet here, buried deep in the archives of the Fantasy Flight Games EotE Beta forum: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_foros_discusion.asp?efid=317&efcid=46&efidt=708757

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