Category Archives: RPGs

Articles about RPG settings and systems. Get out those dice and roll!

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Gambler

“I do believe, Mr. Barrett, that a Royal Flush beats your two pair. Now if you would kindly hand over the deed to that little asteroid mine of yours, I’ll be on my way.”
-Jack Leland, high stakes gambler

The Gambler enjoys living life on the edge. Everything in life is a game to the gambler, from lovin’ to livin’. Living a life on the boundaries, it is no wonder that the Gambler makes his way to the rim, playing the games that can only be found on the border worlds, and outside of Alliance control. Money buys freedom, and there’s not enough of either to go around.

The Gambler has no need of religiosity, believing instead that lady luck determines his fate. This is not to say that a Gambler doesn’t have his own moral code. The Gambler plays by the game with the cards he is dealt. Those who cheat will soon find themselves looking down the barrel of a gun.

Though cheating carries a heavy penalty, there is nothing wrong with bluffing. The Gambler can know the move their opponent will make by reading peoples’ faces. Everyone has a “tell” – those little fidgets, twitches, and expressions that gives away their inner thoughts and feelings. This can come in handy not only in a game of cards, but also when your crew is on a job.

Players, you will want to focus on skills relating to bluffing or fast-talking, intimidation, sensing the motives of others, and, of course, gambling. Gamblers are not very strong physically, but they have strong personalities. Charisma-based ability scores will be your focus, as well as those dealing with wisdom or perception (based on your game system).

Gamblers should start out with a fair amount of coin and generally appear well-to-do. Appearances can mean a lot, though one can turn this around and surprise others by not looking the part.

Many Gamblers like to show off a bit, so it is no surprise that they often own a ship. Oftentimes, the ship was won in a game of cards. The Gambler typically will pick a crew for his boat based on who he feels he can trust, though a betting man might very well thrill to see the outcome if someone untrustworthy is aboard as well. Game Masters can utilize the Gambler as an NPC in this fashion, gathering together a crew so that the party has a reason to fly together, and throwing in an untrustworthy sort to add some tension.

Gamblers know their lives are on the line, being the target of those who harbor a grudge after unceremoniously losing a game of poker, or the Alliance in their sting operations to shut down illegal gambling establishments. A Gambler may hire on a bodyguard to protect him from harm in such a situation. Since Gamblers appreciate the company of the other gender, it is no wonder that most bodyguards are of the opposite sex.

In the Serenity RPG, Jack Leland is the owner of the Aces and Eights. That’s a dead man’s hand, in case you’re wondering. Leland travels from world to world participating in high stakes card games with his bodyguard Hwa Ling.

Once the Gambler has a crew together, he can fly from world to world playing high stakes games of chance. Game Masters should look not only into poker, but other games as well. Tracy and Laura Hickman’s adventure, Out in the Black, gives rules and background for playing Faro, a game played by many in the old west in the 1800’s on Earth-That-Was. Game Masters and players who learn this can add a hint of realism to the game table, though be sure that it doesn’t distract from the game itself. A game of Faro can also be a fun thing to do in order to set the mood just before your role-playing game starts.

As you play your Gambler, remember to take chances. Never play it safe. Life is a game, and you intend to play it to the hilt. Stay shiny, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Companion

Claire:
“Perhaps, captain, I can be of help. I once had a client…Mistress Serin of house Sin-Chai, who owns a fairly prominent…well, that’s not important. What is important is that Mistress Serin can provide us with a safe haven and supplies. I’ve arranged to discuss the matter with her over dinner and a massage. Of course, that only happens if you apologize for calling me a whore.”
-Jasmine Asir, Registered Companion

Trampas:
The Companion is a challenging role-playing experience, focusing on diplomacy over action. The Companion is an ambassador, carrying the right credentials to get your crew into places they normally couldn’t go. They are the legitimate face of illegitimate operations.

A word of caution: game masters should be careful on allowing Companions in their games. While this is an iconic role in Firefly and Serenity, the sexual side of the Companion is perhaps best played out by players with a good sense of maturity.

The key thing to remember is that the Companion is not a “space hooker.” Far from it. A Companion chooses her clients. A Companion must be proficient in many forms of entertainment, including dance, music, and storytelling. The Companion is more comparable to a geisha girl than to a simple whore, and carries herself with a sense of dignity. Players should generally choose skills that focus on diplomacy, artistry, and performance over combat-oriented skills.

However, that is not to say that a Companion cannot be involved in combat. While the Companion is more of a support role, there is no reason why a Companion can’t be part of the action as well. Remember that a Companion is not a gunslinger. Leave that for the Hired Gun. Rather, a Companion will have different means of fighting, from martial arts to exotic weapons. Inara used a hair pin that doubled as a dagger, as well as a bolt thrower. Remember that a Companion’s fighting techniques must mirror her own sense of elegance and grace. Combat, to the Companion, is a dance.

INSERT INARA QUOTE (from Shindig, I believe):
Inara: “Attack.” (Mal lunges at her with sword; she sidesteps and swats him on the butt; he grunts in pain) “How did I avoid that?”
Mal: “By being fast like a freak?”

Companions can be either male or female, and have clients of both genders as well. A Companion is completely comfortable in her sexuality. However, sexuality should not be what defines the Companion. Each and every Companion is different, and what they have to offer your crew is much more important than the thing they refuse to offer your crew.

One of the most important things a Companion has to offer is the Companion Registry. The Registry contains a wealth of information, any of which may prove useful someday to your crew. This can give information on individuals, worlds, corporations, politicians, and so forth. A person who crosses a Companion will soon find a black mark in the Registry, prohibiting him from ever hiring a Companion again.

Inara Quote: Inset quote her of Inara threatening to put a black mark in the Companion’s Registry.

When presenting the sexual side of your Companion, it is okay to mention the act of sex in your game, though perhaps you should approach it in what Tracy Hickman refers to as the “boot scene.” In Star Trek, we see Captain Kirk sitting on the bed with a woman pulling his boots on. We all know what happened, but we don’t have to go into graphic detail about it. Keeping that sense of mystery will add to the story.

Companions are also great at getting your crew out of a scrape. When your crew has been detained, that’s the perfect time for a Companion to come in, use her natural charisma, and talk through the situation. Remember, a Companion is subtle in her means, she is not overt.

A Companion can be a challenging role to play, but one that can be a rewarding role-playing experience. Keep flying, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Bard

MUSIC: Eavesdown Docks by the Bedlam Bards as bed music.

“Gather round friends, as I sing you the tale of Mack-Jaw McKay’s daring raid upon the Alliance during the War of Unification, and how he gave voice to freedom!”
-Mack-Jaw Mckay, Bard of the Black

MUSIC: Fades out.

Out in the lonely Black is a ‘verse filled with harsh environments, ne’er-do-wells, and an oppressive government. From this arises a tradition that is said to originate from Earth-That-Was. Enter the Bard, a vagabond who travels the world of the Rim, making a living through entertainment and fun.

The Bard is a restless soul, never content to stay in one place for too long. They travel the Black, making money at what they love to do so well – perform. Bards have a variety of talents, acting as a jack-of-all trades. Many are musicians, proficient in a variety of instruments. Lute, guitar, harmonica, percussion, and keyboards are amongst the many instruments they know. They are also proficient singers as well. Musical styles are as varied as the culture of the ‘verse, blending styles. Country, rock, Celtic, jazz, and so forth come together to form interesting combinations. Folk music has seen a resurgence, especially among worlds along the Rim. Players would be advised to focus on skills involving entertainment.

MUSIC CLIP: River’s Jig (or other suitable music)

Bards may travel with a crew for a variety of reasons. Some will do so just for the thrill of traveling from world to world. Some like the air of danger that one might find out in the Black. Bards can look for inspiration in the daring tales of a crew, romanticizing their exploits. Some bards may even be legitimate performers who rent out a shuttle on a ship in order to have an air of freedom, yet still receive the benefits of flying with a longer-range ship.

Bards will often convey tales of heroism throughout their travels. The Unification War sprouted many tales on both sides of the line. Some may be localized in nature, as Jayne once found out.

MUSIC CLIP: Hero of Canton (Ballad of Jayne) – First few seconds.

Some Bards gain a sense of adventure singing a song they just know will rile up the wrong audience, such as when a Bard tells the tale of the heroic Browncoats and cowardly Alliance in an Alliance-sympathetic bar.

While a bard may perform mostly in bars and other similar dives, some take a high society approach. A crew with a fancified bard may use the bard as a distraction while they pull a job.

Game masters might introduce a group of traveling bards to their crew. Are the bards friends and just there for entertainment? Is it a front for something more sinister, such as a drug-smuggling ring? Do the heroes need to infiltrate the ship of the bards to retrieve stolen property?

There are many ways to approach the Bard in the ‘verse. This role provides a different sort of hero to play. Stay shiny, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Pilot

MUSIC: Leaf on the Wind – Bedlam Bards (don’t recall exact title)

“I don’t plan on running from them, captain. I intend to go right through them. The Alliance won’t be expecting a bootlegger’s turn. After that, we hit full burn.” – Jack Tyler, pilot

MUSIC FADES OUT

The pilot is an essential part of any crew, flying your boat through the Black and out of Alliance hands. Pilots are free spirits who love the thrill of flying. Whether in atmo or out in the Black, the pilot can often be the key component to ensuring that you fly another day.

There are several types of personalities you could ascribe to the pilot. You can draw a lot of inspiration from the movie “Top Gun.” Perhaps the most common archetype is that of the hotshot maverick, who has an instinctual knack for flying but doesn’t like following the rules. He’s got natural talent and has a lucky streak to boot. The maverick is known for his crazy maneuvers, which can on occasion get the crew and their boat into trouble, though it can just as often get you out of trouble. This archetype works nicely with Serenity, though such a character may balk at the authority of a captain.

QUOTE: Wash talking about a Crazy Ivan.

Contrary to the maverick is the iceman. The iceman has ice-cold nerves and plays things by the book. Typically, iceman pilots are former Alliance who are trained as military pilots. The advantage here is that the iceman will know about Alliance tactics. The drawback is that the iceman is less likely to try non-conventional methods of flying. The iceman could be developed, though, to where he learns non-conventional methods.

The maniac is a pilot who is a might bit touched in the brainpan. He’s wild and unpredictable, a trait that can throw the Alliance off. Then again, he may throw your crew off. Craziness can come in several fashions, from fun crazy to truly disturbed. You can’t be entirely certain whether you can trust him. A great example of the maniac is Murdock from the A-Team.

WASH: “I’m like a leaf on the wind.”

The pilot suffers from one of the classic drawbacks of the crew situation – he tends to stay on the ship. While flying offers its own rewards, the game doesn’t always take place on the ship. Game Masters should look for ways to get the pilot off the ship and into the heart of the action.

WASH QUOTE: Something from War Stories, if you have it.

Remember, pilots not only operate spacecraft, they can also operate land vehicles such as mules. Various hover-vehicles and ATV’s could be used. In Firefly, we see Wash using a four-wheeler.

Iceman pilots often have military training as well, so they may be trained in the use of small firearms. Remember, they’re not the muscle of the group, but they can hold their own in a firefight.

In terms of skills, focus on those that deal with piloting and driving, as well as the use of other vehicles, such as mules or sailing ships. Pilots tend to be very dexterous, and are only average at best in other physical abilities. Many are quite charismatic, save for the iceman.

The pilot can be a lot of fun in your role-playing game, and can be the difference between freedom and the Alliance. Fly at full burn, and sleep with one eye open.

Deva Heritage: Elan

The exact origins of elan devas are unknown. Some say that a special enclave of deva, known as the Cullers, seeks out deva with psionic potential. Those who pass the screening process undergo a ritual that causes them to be reborn in the next lifetime with psionic powers.

Physical Description: Elan devas tend to have chalk white skin with dark patterns on their bodies. Unlike other devas, elan devas have red hair. They also tend to wear red clothing.

Language: Elans speak Common and may choose two other languages. Elans are known for adding phrases to their speech from other tongues, such as orc curses, halfling culinary terms, elven musical expressions, dwarven military phrases, and so on.

Elan Titles: Elan devas use a set of titles among themselves to help identify their life’s path after rebirth. Newly reborn elans in the heroic tier are called Newmade. Those elan who have progressed to paragon levels take on the title of Made. Then those who advance to epic levels are known as Eternal.

Kurrelgyrre’s Guide to Playing Force-Using Wookiees

Chuck was excited about his new Star Wars game. He had recently bought the d20 version of the Star Wars role-playing game, and had his group together. Tony was playing a scoundrel, Karen and her new boyfriend Jeff were playing a pair of Twi’lek scouts, and Larry was playing a noble from the Republic. Chuck was most interested in his other player, Kenny, who always had a surprise or two when it came to role-playing. Kenny had a smirk on his face, one that Chuck knew all too well. This meant trouble. “Kenny, whatcha playing?”

Kenny looked up, smiled, and said, “I’m going to play a Wookiee Jedi!”

Introduction:

Playing a Wookiee Jedi or some other Force-using Jedi is always an enticing prospect for many a player of the Star Wars roleplaying game. Combining the might of the Wookiee with the power of the Force makes for quite a challenging character!

This article will give some tips on role-playing Wookiee Force-users, and will focus primarily on playing a Wookiee Jedi.

Can a Wookiee Become a Jedi?

According to all the rules, Wookiees can most certainly be Jedi. They have a strong affinity towards nature, and should be able to call upon the natural powers of the Force.

Now ask yourself that question again, this time from a role-playing standpoint. Can a Wookiee be a Jedi?

Our primary example on Wookiees is Chewbacca, who was known for his Wookiee rage and temper. Indeed, even the rulebooks mention Wookiee rage. Can a race with so much rage become a Jedi?

Becoming a Wookiee Jedi:

One could become a Wookiee Jedi in many ways. During the Tales of the Jedi and Rise of the Empire eras, there would be some testing to see if a character had Force potential. A Wookiee who was trained since birth could have definite control over his rage.

In the New Republic and New Jedi Order eras, Jedi are rare enough as it is. Wookiees who demonstrate Force abilities may very well find themselves contacted by the Jedi Academy.

Wookiees have a harder time becoming a Jedi during the Rebellion Era. Finding any other Jedi is nigh impossible, and even if they did – would the Jedi actually train a Wookiee?

One of the most interesting ways for a Wookiee to become a Jedi is to have the Wookiee be Force-sensitive and then owe a life debt to a Jedi Master. The Wookiee may feel obligated to become a Jedi padawan himself. With my character Kurrelgyrre, I had him owe a life debt to a Jedi Master who had died saving his life. Kurrelgyrre felt so strongly about his life debt, that he spent the rest of his life searching for Jedi, and trying to fill the void left by the loss of his old master.

Wookiee Rage vs. Jedi Control:

Wookiees are known for their rage. Han Solo mentioned how Wookiees were known for pulling people’s arms out of their sockets. Jedi, on the other hand, must maintain control so as to master their emotions and their Force abilities.

How then does one reconcile the two?

The answer is that you don’t, or at least not wholly. The conflict between rage and control is a fascinating one, to say the least, and is one that many players and game masters can have fun exploring.

The key concept here is that there must be a line that the Wookiee Jedi walks on. He strives for the light, but is always a step away from the dark.

Pitfalls of Wookiee Jedi:

The biggest pitfall to playing a Wookiee Jedi is what I like to call “Chewbacca with a lightsaber”. Certainly, Chewbacca is our prime example of what a Wookiee should be. However, not all Wookiees are Chewbacca.

Also, make certain your Wookiee Jedi fits the group you’re playing with. Nothing can bring a game down like having a Wookiee Jedi in a group of smugglers and bounty hunters. While this is a general rule of thumb for any character, the Wookiee Jedi can be exceptionally bad, due to Wookiee temperaments.

Force Adepts:

Not all Wookiee Force-users become Jedi. Some turn towards the path of the Force Adept.

In ancient times, Wookiee Force-users were known as the Lorraccannash, or Spirit Shamans. Spirit Shamans could feel the power of the living forests around them, and drew upon the life energy of Kashyyyk.

The Lorraccannash are very rare indeed. Ancient legends says that they only come about once every thousand years, although actual accounts often show a different tale on their frequency.. Often, the Lorraccannash are seen as spiritual leaders and prophets, who bring about times of great peace and prosperity.

One Lorraccannash from ancient times turned away from the path of light set about by tradition, and became a Chabbrakkash, or Devil Shaman. Brekkatharral the Marauder, as he is recorded in history, gathered the dark creatures of Kashyyyk’s forests and nearly destroyed his Wookiee brethren. He was eventually stopped, but at the cost of many lives.

Wookiee Force-users in modern times are more aware of the greater galaxy, and often turn towards the Jedi way. However, the path of the Jedi is not for all, and some Wookiees follow the path of the Lorraccannash even in modern times.

Whether a Wookiee follows the path of Jedi or that of Lorraccannash, they are all respected the same as Spirit Shamans.

The Dark Side:

The Dark Side is an easy one for the Wookiee Force-user. A Wookiee’s rage opens him up to the path of anger and hate. Many take the Rage feat found in the Dark Side Sourcebook.

Wookiee Dark Side users usually take on the Dark Side Marauder prestige class found in the Dark Side Sourcebook, combining their awesome fighting prowess with their skill in the Force. Wookiee Force Adepts make prime candidates for this prestige class, taking the path of the Chabbrakkash, or Devil Shaman.

The Sith disciplines are often too structured, and require too much control for a Wookiee Force-user. However, it is not impossible for a Wookiee to become a Sith, especially a Sith Warrior. The few Wookiee Jedi there have been have always been susceptible to the Sith way, as only Jedi training can give the Wookiee control enough to handle the Sith arts.

Final Thoughts:

Playing a Wookiee Force-user is not always an easy task, especially for those who choose the path of the Jedi. Always remember that control over the Force will always be at odds with Wookiee rage.

The rewards of playing such a unique character can be very rewarding, especially with the work it will take to make a Wookiee Force-user a success.