Friday, April 8, 2011

Thinking Way Too Hard About: PC Weapon rewards for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Okay, so here's a weirdly specific blog post about something that's been on my mind lately. The only RPG campaign I've ever been in that played consistently and reached a conclusion was a Star Wars game that my brother ran. The Star Wars campaign has been on my mind lately because my current campaign is on sort of an unintentional hiatus and I've heard that some of my coworkers are in a Star Wars game.

Looking back, the Star Wars campaign was a lot of fun. I can still remember fighting droids on a hovering platform over lakes of acid, and the forest race whose tribal meetings were held entirely in poetry. That said, I feel like the two areas that could have used the most improvement would have been an overarching villain and some loot to reward the heroes.

This led me to thinking about how best to give weapons to characters in a Star Wars campaign. I've played a lot of Knights of the Old Republic, which in many ways sticks a little too closely to its roots as Dungeons and Dragons in Space. As the characters progress, perhaps their starting "Blaster Pistol" might be traded out for something like a "Republic Blaster Pistol" (a little better) which would later be traded out for a "Mandalorian Blaster Pistol" (even better). The game then had some extra special items that you pick up along the way. Take down a bounty hunter, for instance, and you can pick up his specially customized pistol and use it as your own. This works, but I think GMs can be more creative.

I think that giving weapons backgrounds is a great way to draw the players into the game setting. If anything unites all players in all RPGs ever, it's the desire for better gear for their characters. Players are going to be expecting to get better gear, so if the GM can use the gear to tell a story, everyone wins.

So, mostly to amuse myself, I cooked up a couple of special Star Wars weapons that could be used to reward medium-or high-level PCs in a Star Wars campaign. 

Karik Aton's Hunting Rifle
You receive an invitation from the famous and eccentric explorer/hunter, Karik Aton. You visits the man at his hunting lodge. The lodge's main room has a tall fireplace, and rising high up the walls toward the ceiling are countless heads of various wild beasts: rancors, rontos, even a krayt dragon. Aton, an older gentleman sitting on a high-backed chair, calls you over. Aton was clearly a  vigorous man in his younger days, but age has made him a shadow of his former self.

You sit and talk with him for a while about the various places you have been and the things you have seen. Eventually the old man gets up and leads you to another room. This room is full of items that Aton has collected on his travels: weapons and art from various cultures. He takes you to the center of the room, where a magnificent rifle rests in a display case. Clearly, this is the old hunter's pride and joy. It's large and imposing, with a finely tuned scope on top. The sides and stock are inlaid with a deep red wood. Aton opens the case and takes the rifle from its stand, and hands it to you.

Aton explains that he does not have long to live. He has been diagnosed with Valn's Disease. His family has already started vying for his various trophies and possessions, but Aton knows that they do not appreciate these things and plan to sell them for a big stack of credits. He does not begrudge them the right, but he cannot stand to see the rifle sold an eccentric collector who will show it off to impress snooty rich folks or use it for tame chartered hunts. He has heard of your exploits and was impressed by your spirit, and now that he has met you, he is sure that the right thing to do is to give the weapon to you.

You are hesitant at first. You have killed many powerful beasts in your time, but it was in the course of your service to the Rebellion. Then he leans forward and looks you dead in the eye, saying, "And kill some stormtroopers for me."

The GM can occasionally have an NPC recognize the rifle and share memories of Karik Aton, as well as describing the way the rugged rifle withstands any terrain.
X-110 Experimental Rifle, Codename "Moonrise"
After completing a mission where you destroyed an Imperial research facility, you receive a message saying that the cleanup team found something that you should see. Back at headquarters, you meet with Rebel scientists in the labs. They show you two identical rifles. Both are extremely simple and boxy, made of matte black plasteel, with holographic warnings pasted on warning users to be careful with the weapons in case of radiation, burns, electrocution, and explosion.

The head research scientist explains that the weapons are all that's left of an Imperial project to develop a more power blaster rifle. The Rebellion is now working to figure out the rifles in the newly-christened Project Moonrise. One rifle will be kept in the lab to be taken apart and reverse engineered. but the scientists need field test data. The scientist says that, given your record of accomplishing dangerous missions and your proven loyalty to the Rebellion, you are the natural choice to take the rifle into the field and try it out on some Imps.

The scientists rig a number of devices on the rifle, including a scope that captures video data and sensors to measure radiation levels, heat, and structural integrity. They warn you to be very careful when using the rifle, and if any of the sensors ever start registering as critical, you should throw the rifle as far away as possible and seek shelter immediately. He also advises you to carry a backup weapon, in case something in the rifle fails while you're on a mission.

As you uses the new rifle, it should sometimes fire an extra strong beam that drains more of its power (when you roll a critical hit, perhaps). Sometimes it will fail to fire at all (when the player rolls a 0), and in that case, you needs to switch to a new rifle until you can get the rifle back to R&D so that they can fix what broke.

After a few missions, the scientists show you their progress on the other rifle, and explain what their research has uncovered about some of the mysterious components. They teach you enough about stripping down and maintaining the rifle so that now you can do field repairs between encounters if the rifle should ever break.

The GM should also start to send Imperial agents after the hero in an attempt to recover their lost weapon. When the players defeat the agents, one of them should be carrying a note saying that there is a simultaneous attack being planned on the R&D facility, which the players discover is no longer answering their comms...
Merr-Sonn Munitions DL-51 "Panthulu" Prototype Blaster Pistol
You are well known throughout the galaxy as a dashing rogue and adventurous scoundrel, so you are not surprised when you receive a comm from a representative of Merr-Sonn Munitions, Inc, about a possible sponsorship. You meet the representative, and she explains that her company is preparing to introduce a new pistol, the DL-51 "Panthulu," and they want you to be the face of the advertising campaign.

Before you can protest that you're not corporate shill, she quickly says that you won't need to worry about photoshoots or sponsor appearances. All they need is the right to use your likeness and mention that you use the weapon. Then, quick as a flash, she flourishes a case and opens it, revealing the weapon.

Lying in a cut-out section of padding in the case, the prototype weapon gleams like an exotic black beetle. Its lines are sleek and predatory, with polished chrome tubes leading from the powerpack slung under the barrel to the actuator above the handle. As you hesitate, the representative mentions that this is a special edition version of the weapon, hand-made by the pistol's inventor. There is even a specially-engraved plate in the handle proclaiming that this is model number 000001, along with the creator's name, Merr-Sonn Munitions, and your name.

The GM should occasionally let the PCs  overhear a holo ad for Merr-Sonn, saying something along the lines of:
"When [PC Name Here] is fighting the scum of the universe, s/he trusts her/his life to Merr-Sonn armaments, because [PC Name] knows that Merr-Sonn armaments are individually factory-tested to ensure that no manufacturing default ever leaves the assembly line!"
"Beware, criminals of the galaxy! [PC Name Here] is coming after you, and s/he is bringing Merr-Sonn's latest in blaster technology, the DL-51 'Panthulu.' You really should consider turning yourself over to the local authorities before the dual-state plasma of the DL-51 'Panthulu' finds you..."
In Rebellion-friendly bars (and only in Rebellion-friendly bars), they might even hear an ad saying:
"[PC Name] fights for freedom, and Merr-Sonn fights with her/him! So take a close look at the Merr-Sonn DL-51 'Panthulu' and know that its sleek designer lines and precision-engineered micro-fusion inducer are the last thing many stormtroopers see."

Note that I did not create special lightsabers. I think that, while all other PCs should receive better loot along the way, a true Jedi needs only his or her standard issue Jedi armor and lightsaber to bring order and justice to the universe. Any further weapons or some sort of special lightsaber would make the Jedi too overtly bellicose and prone to the Dark Side.

That said, if a Jedi were to carry a talisman of some sort, perhaps one that was created by a long-ago Jedi warrior, that would be a good opportunity for the GM to give the character a stat boost without turning them into walking collections of high-tech gear.

May the Force be with you, and some phat lewtz too!


bluefish said...

I think the big-game hunting gun is probably the standout as an item, but I love the idea of inserting the ads for the Panthulu pistol into the campaign to show the characters gaining fame/notoriety. Plus I think every kid wants to grow up to have his face on the Wheaties box.

Baron von Chop said...

I figure, no matter what the character's concept, there's got to be a weapon out there that matches it.