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Fun with Simulationism (Star Wars D6) Long post.

Started by Jasper the Mimbo, October 10, 2007, 02:43:23 AM

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Jasper the Mimbo

I was discussing the old Star Wars system with some friends, who are rabid Star Wars fans, and they convinced me to run a game for them. Luckily, I'd had some ideas kicking around in my head for a few years, and I ended up staying up most of the night getting my ideas out on paper. I hadn't been that excited about a game in quite a while, and I was a bit apprehensive. The tricky part about simulationist game play is that it only really works with people that are big fans of the original sources, but because of their fandom, they're usually pretty critical, and knowledgeable which makes it hard to fudge things. Also, I had never gamed with any of the players, and wasn't sure how some of my ideas would work out.

My premise was this: Shortly after the end of the Empire Strikes Back (episode 5) the rebels become aware of massive shipments of raw materials being shipped to the outer rim, but due to Imperial blockades, they have been unable to determine where the materials are going, where they are coming from, and (most importantly) what the empire is planning. The characters are to be deep cover operatives posing as an imperial inspection team, who's eventual goal is to work deep enough into the system to be able to report back on the empires plans.

We discussed the social contract we would use for the game (something none of them had ever done, and really enjoyed once I explained what it was) Essentially what it boiled down to was this: They (the group) wanted the game to feel like Star Wars, and as such, a certain amount of scripting was necessary by me (the gamemaster). They agreed to try to find character motivations to further the plot when I dropped hints about where I wanted them to go next, and they also understood that the game would be primarily event driven, (rather than character driven) much like the movies. Also, characters would not be in danger of being killed, but capture, torture, and possible maiming were options. Failure on a roll would mean further complications (using conventions from the films whenever possible), not necessarily defeat. ("What do you mean the hyperdrive's broken?! We just fixed it!)

The Characters:

Pheira Hall- a Balasar (human with retractable antennas used for empathic/force perception) electrical engineer, who went to school on Alderan. Hates the empire for oppressing her people and for destroying her adopted home. Recruited by the Rebellion after they caught her reprogramming an imperial security system they has tapped into as part of one of their operations. After a number of successful missions, she was selected to undergo Kote's SpecOps training programs, and later selected by him to be a part of his personal team. She is an extremely gifted engineer, having designed droid systems currently being used in the team's apparently normal looking R3 astromech droid. Not a terribly effective combatant, and sees herself as the weak link of the team.

Kote' Kotara- A grizzled Mandalorian, one of the original 75 trainers of the Clone Army recruited by Jango Fett.  After seeing the bastardization of Mandalorian culture and heritage that the Storm Troopers had become, Kote' became one of the founding members of the Rebellion. Kote' is an untrained Force Adept, and is currently unaware that the edge he has always possessed comes from anything other than exceptional luck and skill. His long soldiering career and his hatred of the empire has led him toward the Dark Side. Only his discipline and loyalty keep him from becoming a monster. As the team's leader, his actions hold a great deal of weight with his team, who are beginning to notice their leader's dangerous attitude changes.

Kira Sunn- A child slave in a Correllian mine who spent most of her days crawling into tight, dangerous tunnels to place explosives. After managing to collect parts of dud mines, she escaped by blowing a hole in the wall of her cell. She disappeared into the underbelly of Correllia and spent a number of years surviving by selling illegal homemade explosives. Her fast hands and wits got her noticed by the Syndicate, who took her in and trained her as a smuggler. During one of her first missions, the captain of the ship she was on let her take the fall during an inspection. After being sentenced to an Imperial Labor Camp, she made friends with a Rebel operative. She was liberated during an operation to rescue her friend led by Kote'. She impressed him by fasioning an improvised bomb in the kitchen of the labor camp which caused a large enough diversion to allow their escape. Part of the operation was the seizure and alteration of the imperial records on the liberated prisoners. Upon seeing her own records, Kira discovered that her DNA matched that of a child who had been kidnapped from Alderan roughly 19 years earlier. When she asked to contact her birth parents she discovered that Alderan has been destroyed by the Empire.

First Session post will follow.
List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.

Jasper the Mimbo

The first session was a lot of me talking, setting the stage. I wrote up a blurb for them to read and dropped them right into the action. I used a number of theatrical devices to help with the mood, including music, cinamagraphic language (describing action in terms of camera angles and such) and a couple of pre-recorded conversations that I played after describing the two speakers. Normally, I wouldn't do this much scripting, but I felt that trying to get the "feel" right was more important than allowing more free-form development. Luckily, my players were right on board with me. Here's how it went down:

(Insert Star Wars opening theme here)

Star Wars
Episode 5.5: Shadow Games

In the Wake of the Battle of Yavin, the valiant Rebel Alliance has attempted to take advantage of the Empire's weakened state. Many heroic deeds have won many small victories and loosened the Imperial yoke from the neck of much of the galaxy, but it seems the Empire is beginning to heal from it's wounds. The Rebels have uncovered that the Empire is enacting a plan of colossal scope, but have not yet determined it's details. Unbeknown to the Rebels, the Emperor himself has begun to take a hand in the intricate game of shadows and whispers being played around the galaxy, and dangerous new pieces are about to appear on the board...

Establishing shot of space, closing onto a pink and blue gas giant called Bespin. Close in on Cloud City. Further zoom to an imperial officer berating a dark skinned man in a silver cape. (this is where I play the first of my recordings)

Officer: "I don't care how you do it, it will be done."

Man in Cape: "I don't have that kind of manpower, especially with all the arrests. This is my station.-"

Officer: "This was your station."

The camera pulls back through the scope of a long rifle with it's crosshairs over the imperial officer's face, and then to the side of the gunmans head, where we see a greying soldier, patiently waiting.

At this point I spoke to Kote through a halloween prop which makes your voice sound electronic "There's the signal. Take the shot."

The players grin as they realize that the gunman is one of them, and I proceed to show them how combat works in the D6 system. They quickly see how leathal combat can be, as the officer dies.

I turn to Kira and speak through the synthesizer "Blow the Barracks" With this I show them how skill checks work. The second roll of the game was a spectacular success, with the wild dice coming up 6, twice. (for those of you unfamiliar with the system, this is really, really good.)

The station is rocked by a spectacular explosion as the sniper takes a few following shots on the heels of the fleeing caped figure. I describe Kote' dropping down through a system of chutes and eventually falling into the top hatch of a waiting ship. Just as he lands the face of the man in the cape pops up on the view screen. (Here I play my second pre-recording)

"You didn't tell me you were going to shoot at me! Suppose you had to make it look real, right. You didn't have to blow a hole in my cape. It's hard to look regal with holes in your cape. That explosion took out half of the systems in the city. We'll be repairing it for weeks. Looks like you caught 'em with their pants down, though. Right before we went into action we received an encrypted transmission. Looks like you need to get ahold of the big girl. Face to face. Tell her I said hi. You can take out the sensor array now, I'll handle it from here. Calrisian out."

Another grin from the players as they realize they've just had a scene with Lando, and I quickly cut to their ship disappearing into the clouds as another explosion rocks Cloud City.

Cut away to the bridge of a Star Destroyer in orbit around Bespin. An imperial Commander looks at a computer screen.I use another recorded conversation here.

"And all contact has been cut off?"
"Get me in touch with the Lady."

female voive "What is it."

"Forgive tthe interuption, my lady, but we've just lost all communications and transmissions from cloud city. Our sensors indicate explosions. of some kind, too contained to be accidents."

"Scramble the Interceptors and send two emergency transports. Have my shuttle prepped in three minutes. Do a full sensor sweep, look for any ships leaving orbit."

"Yes, Milady"

Cut back to the characters leaving Bespin's atmosphere on the far side of the planed. I turn on chase music and tell them they've been spotted. A squad of TIE Intercepters is coming in fast. Phira is piloting, Kira is in the Co-pilot's seat running the shields and Kote' is manning the guns. Luck is not on their side. They roll poorly, and the TIE pilots are flying like aces. In the course of the fight, they lose shields once, have one of their thrusters knocked out, fail to reach maximum speed due to Bespin's gravity, take a hit to one of their turbo lasers, which nearly drops Kote' and have a hole punched through their cargo bay. Jerry (the player playing Kote') decides that Kote' is angry enough and desperate enough to channel the Dark Side and ends up taking out two TIE in one round, but fails his resisting roll and gains a Dark Side point. They finish Hyperdrive calculations and the stars turn to streaks just as a second TIE squad is coming into range.

Cut to the back of the Imperial Throne, looking out into the night sky above Coruscant. A holographic image of a hooded,  black robed figure springs from the arm of the chair. (I play another pre-recorded conversation here)

The emperor's voice (actually a decent impression done by a friend of mine) says: "and the incedent at Bespin?"

The hologram answers in a woman's voice with a British accent answers: "Contained. We are gathering information and making repairs now. They have fully surrendered the facility to us, but it will take months to make the necessary repairs."

Emperor: "I want that facility operational as soon as possible. The location of that harvesting station makes it invaluable to our plans. Have you uncovered any information on the Skywalker incident?"

Woman: "In the wake of this attack, my original mission will be most difficult. Has Lord Vader been forthcoming with anything that may aid me?

Emperor: "I have not yet chosen to address it to him. twice now Lord Vader has failed in regards to the Skywalker boy. We fear he may fail us again."

Woman: "His shortcomings have long been understood, master,"

Emperor: "Indeed. We must plan for this contingency. Track down information on Skywalker's past. We may find an exploitable weakness."

Woman: "And what of the Rebels, master. Intelligence indicates they have begun to piece together your plans."

Emperor: "As I suspected. Have you determined the most likely point of infiltration?"

Woman: "They are being monitored, we await any operational discrepancies."

Emperor: "Very good. Once you have discovered their incursion, Initiate the Singularity Agenda."

Woman: "Your will be done, master."

The hologram winks out and the corner of the Emporers mouth turns up.

A damaged ship lands on a pad on a remote jungle outpost. Three individuals get out. They are silent, and move easily through the crowd. After passing a number of security checkpoints they make their way to an underground communications chamber where the holographic images of Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar spring from the table. The players are informed of massive increases in Imperial industrial output. They believe the empire is drafting a new fleet. The rebels need o find out where they are getting that much metal and where the fleet is being built.

Mon Mothma tells them that they are being assigned to take over identities of an Imperial inspection team. Once in a comfortable position within the system, they will need to work their way in to investigate empire's plans.

Ackbar explains how they will get in position. A shuttle bearing two inspectors and their bodyguard is leaving a Bothan space station and meeting up with an Imperial Cruiser on the edge of the system. They have an operative who will ensure that the Cruiser is late arriving to rendevoux with the shuttle. Using an unpowered, gas propelled craft designed to fool sensor sweeps, they will launch from a nearby moon, use a magnetic grapple to attach to the shuttle as it passes and have roughly 15 minutes to to board and eliminate the Shuttle's crew, assume the identities of the Inspection team, and input a program into the ship's computer which will cause a critical systems failure on the shuttle roughly one hour after they have left onboard the cruiser.

Cue music.

That was the end of the first session, which I would call a resounding success. I'd always felt that Simulationist gameplay was the least rewarding of those discussed in the Big Model, but I'm beginning to rethink that.

I'll post the second session soon. It had a lot more action, and a lot less of me using fancy gimmicks to set the stage. Stay Tuned.
List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.

Osmo Rantala

(I'm not sure if I am allowed to barge in on actual-play threads, like this. Just say if I am not)

Sounds like you had a lot of fun, then. Cinematic ways of running a game are something I have been meaning to try in my own games, too. I have, also, been wondering about how well the d6-system works.

So, your players didn't know the system beforehand? Seems like you did a great job at incorporating the "teaching-how-to-play" part in to the rest of the game, insted of gluing it on top.


I have had mixed successes with the cutaway technique that SW D6 pioneered (AFAIK), but enough that it got incorporated in various ways into my presentational toolkit.

Doing a cutaway, as it was discussed in the original version, involves giving a villains-eye-view (traditionally of course the Empire) of whats going elsewhere as a means of informing the players.  The classic example is the cutaway to Vader while the heroes escape the death star and we learn about the tracking device on the Falcon.  Used in that way it can be very effective in breaking through slow-downs in the momentum of play or confusion as to what should be the goal of the moment.

It does take a fair bit of planning though, as I usually found it hard to devise a cutaway in mid flow, and then of course you have to some idea of where you are going in advance.  But I would be interested to see more (a lot more) discussion of this sort of technique.

PS: you can get a semi-decent stormtrooper effect by holding a glass tumbler to your mouth and speaking through it, too.  Because it can be done, it should be done, so I recommend contriving an opportunity to get all the players into stormtrooper gear so they can have juvenile fun speaking in funny voices.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Jasper the Mimbo

Quote from: contracycle on October 10, 2007, 08:09:51 AM

I usually found it hard to devise a cutaway in mid flow, and then of course you have to some idea of where you are going in advance.  But I would be interested to see more (a lot more) discussion of this sort of technique.
I agree. The cutaway is a very difficult device to employ without scripting. You'd have to be really on top of your improvisational skills to recognize the moments where a cut-away would be appropriate while they are happening. I've been able to do it a few times in other games, but it's rare enough that I wouldn't want to make it a staple of the storytelling style without pre-planning. As I said earlier, I don't normally think that pre-planning or scripting is necessary or beneficial to most games, but with Simulationist game play, scripting is not only appropriate, but almost necessary.

I love to give my players a perspective outside their own. A trick I've used in the past (also involving a certain amount of scripting) was to cut away, and actually hand the players character sheets. I then had them take on the roles of the people trying to track their own characters. It was interesting to see the players wrestle with how effective to play the villains. As I continued to do this throughout the game, they began getting information from the antagonist's point of view, and seeing their own characters as the villains of the story once they saw the consequences of their character's actions. It's a game device I'd love to employ again.

Quote from: contracycle on October 10, 2007, 08:09:51 AM
PS: you can get a semi-decent stormtrooper effect by holding a glass tumbler to your mouth and speaking through it, too.  Because it can be done, it should be done, so I recommend contriving an opportunity to get all the players into stormtrooper gear so they can have juvenile fun speaking in funny voices.

I pre-recorded a conversation between Vader and another character (who will be introduced soon) as part of a planned cut-away. I got the Vader effect by speaking into a glass just like you've described, and doing a bad James Earl Jones impression. I hadn't thought of the Stormtrooper thing, though. I'm stealing that! Thanks.

Second session write up is in the works, I'll post it soon.
List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.

Jasper the Mimbo

Session 2. (sorry about how long it's taken me to post this)

The scene begins with our Heroes drifting toward an imperial shuttle  as it waits for it's incoming transport. The Bothan pilot who is in the craft with them, a blond-furred male named Torus, has given them basic dossiers on their targets, two imperial inspectiors. They have been told that the two are expected to have at least one bodyguard.

Their craft is completely unpowered to fool sensor sweeps. Inside, they are encased in thermal suits and pressurized rebreather helmets.The only propulsion and maneuverability they have is from pressurized gas canisters, so they have a very limited number of times they can change course. With some amazing piloting roles from Phira they maneuver close enough for Kote to fire a magnetic grapple onto the Shuttle's hull. They real themselves in, lock into place, extend a large sealing vacuum tube, and pressurize it.

Kira goes in and uses a Cryoban Torch to freeze the hull of the Shuttle. She drills a hole, places a charge and blows a precice hole in the side of the shuttle, miraculously without breaking the pressure seal, so they don't have to deal with complications from depressurization.

Cue the Duel of the Fates music (great for fights.)

They rush in as the shuttle crew is reacting to the sudden explosion. One imperial inspector had the misfortune to be sitting near their point of entry, and before she could move, she was leveled by the butt of  Kote's blaster rifle. The co-pilot goes down with a head shot from Kira's blaster, and Phira and her droid go to work on locking down the shuttle's systems from an access terminal.

The pilot tries to manually lock down the cockpit, but Kote drags him into the hold (where the team is) by his face, and Kira goes for the controls.

From the other side of the hold, where the small private chambers are, two concussion grenades roll into the hold. Kote hip-tosses the poor pilot down on top of the grenades, and dives on top of him, holding him down as the grenades go off.

A trooper dressed in black Storm Commando steps out into the doorway of one of the private rooms, shoots Kote' in the back and steps into cover again on the other side. Kote's armor takes the majority of the damage, but he can smell his flesh burning under the vaporized plassteel.

Phira locks down all of the other doors and panels on the ship, and cuts of the communications array as Kote rolls off the body of the pilot and into the door where the Commando had disappeared. He draws his vibro-sword and swings around the corner, right into a clinch with his enemy. Again, he is shot from behind, this time by the second inspector. This time the armor doesn't quite cover it, and he is stunned with pain for the remainder of the round. It probably would have been the end for him, if not for the rest of the team laying down covering fire, and the commando having to worry more about dodging blaster fire.

The ugly fight ended with the inspector gunned down by an expert shot from Phira, Kira slumped against the wall after taking a nasty kick from the commando, Kote nearly losing an eye to the commando's vibro knives and the commando getting the business end of Kote's sword through his throat.

(this entire fight took roughly half an hour, even with the players being unfamiliar with the system. I love ho quickly and elegantly the D6 system resolves. As a system, it lends itself very well toward cinematic game play. Go figure.)

Torus, the Bothan, takes over the controls just as an imperial transport cruiser comes out of hyperspace and hails them. Torus talks to the Cruiser while the team hastily switches clothes and equipment with the dead inspection team. The dock and make their way on board without incident.

After going through the inspectors logs and orders, they discover that they were on their way to a facility on a planet called Mutanda, which collects blaster gas. According to the files, the facility has been on the brink of collapse three times, but it has always come out barely above the necessary margins come inspection time. Previous reports indicate that the facility has been kept afloat in the face of nearly insurmountable complications due to the efforts of the station commander, a man named Skalker. Skalker has been requesting additional manpower for nearly a year, but has been denied due to shortages. One of the teams priorities is to decide weather or not the request should be granted.

Using some tricky computer skills, they encrypt a report in a rebel code, and then disguise it as an imperial correspondence, further encrypting in in an imperial code that has recently been broken. (I particularly liked their creativity here.)

Roughly one month later they arrive planet side on a stinking, swampy gas ball. A huge set of fans blow a large area free of  the heavy, bluish gas as their craft lands using only repulsors. The processors have pulled so much gas to the surface, that much of it escapes and settles at ground level. All incendiary devices must be left behind.

The team has decided to actually do the job of their assumed identities, but do what they can to cause the station's eventual collapse. After a few days of inspection work, they come to the conclusion that the plant's success is due to Skalker, who turns out to be an extraordinarily intelligent and capable leader. The plant's problems come almost entirely from having to employ indigenous slaves as the primary work force. (a feline race called the Horansi)

The team realizes that closing down a blaster gas facility is a far smaller goal than getting rid of an extremely competent imperial commander. They end up doctoring the records to make it look like the production has been operating at peak capacity for years, and reporting extreme shortages. They also arrange for a handful of rebel communications to fall into imperial hands, one of which is a falsified record of a communication from the Mutanda facility. At this point they wait, doing their inspection thing. A few days later, they get orders to arrest Skalker on suspicion of selling blaster gas to rebel operatives.

They confront Skalker, who they discover can sense their lies, and he attacks with a force push that sends Kote flying out the office door, and hanging from a catwalk above the production facility. (I play the intro to the imperial march here.) The team quickly realize that they are fighting hand to hand in a small room with a trained force user, and that he has had cybernetic reconstruction from the chest down. All hell breaks loose.

By the end, Kote, and the commander's desk have been tossed out onto the catwalk (again) Phira is unconscious from being thrown into a wall, Kira has been impaled on Kote's sword, and Kote has nearly been choked to death. They finally defeat their foe by bludgeoning him with his own severed cybernetic arm.

They decide not to kill him outright, because they are being recorded by the installation's security system, and take him on board the Cruiser.

They make a full report to both the empire, and to rebel command, and are informed of their next assignment.

Roughly three weeks later, they receive a communication from Torus disguised as imperial orders. After decrypting it, they find that the message only says "Get off the ship."

As they read it, and are trying to figure out what to do, an imperial lieutenant knocks on the door of their apartments and informs them that they have received orders to remain in system long enough to rendevoux  with the Dreadnought. (Vader's super star destroyer). The lieutenant apologizes for the delay, and informs them that they expect to arrive within the hour.

I ended the session with the image of the Dreadnought exiting hyperspace, and the imperial march playing softly.
List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.

Jasper the Mimbo

Quick note on some of the things I experienced during the session:

One of the things about pulling from existing material that I have enjoyed, is that the conventions have already been established. It usually takes a few games setting up the bad guy to inspire fear in your players. As soon as I mentioned that their ship was meeting up with Darth Vader's ship, the entire table looked like they were about to crap themselves.

Also, everyone is completely on the same page about the feel of the game, and the style they are going for. Not once have I felt like someone wasn't getting what they expected, or playing a different kind of game from the rest of the group.

This is my first experience with simulationist play since I was introduced to the Big Model. Now that I have the tools to analyze what we are doing as a group, I am finding a lot of things about it that are extremely enjoyable. This is odd, because many of the things that I've done with this game are things that I normally advocate against (plot scripting, event driven play, non-original materiel, ect.)

My main complaint with this style of play is how labor intensive it is. Scripting conversations and cuing music and trying to keep things flowing at a cinema-style pace is extremely difficult. I'd be very open to suggestions to make my job as storyteller a bit easier.
List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.