The last two entries in Cypher Star Wars have gone over the process of creating player characters and outfitting them. Today, we’ll look behind the screen at how a GM might go about assembling an adventure for a Star Wars game.
Certain things form the core tropes of Star Wars – exotic locations, dangerous spaces, strange aliens, and space opera action. As such, these things need to be at least partially accounted for when designing an adventure in the game. Going off the initial putlay of the adventure, we have a group of two Jedi (one a Trandoshan), a smuggler with a silver tongue, and a droid bounty hunter who have just arrived at the polluted city-moon of Nar Shadda in pursuit of a Sith warrior and a squad of Imperial commandos during the age of the Old Republic. They’ll be operating out of a semi-legal hangar space that belongs to a spice smuggling organization, trying to keep out of trouble until they find their prey.
As such, the GM outlines how things start – the arrival in orbit, initial negotiations with traffic control, contact with the smuggler’s ally, and negotiating a berth for their ship. Given that they’re all Tier 1, the GM assigns the initial negotiations a difficulty of 3, as the traffic controllers are always looking for a chance to shake a bribe out of ships arriving in the system in grand Hutt tradition. Getting past them will mean dealing with the contact, a level 4 task because if they’re honest the contact is going to see a stark difference between “Hey, give us a berth” and “Hey, give us a berth while we hunt Sith.”
Once they reach the docking bay, depending on how well things go, they’ll have access to an array of facilities, but to actually pursue their overall goal they’ll have to go explore the Smuggler’s Moon. The GM decides that the droid will get a chance to roll an Intellect check when looking for bounties; if Kris beats a level 5 difficulty, she’ll find a contract that describes a Sith in sufficiently vague terms, a contract by a Hutt who has had an entire floor of a docking structure taken over by the Imperial commando team. Given that the takeover was at lightsaber-point, the Hutt would like the Sith eliminated and provides a list of locations she’s been frequenting.
Failing that, they’ll get to spend time frequenting sabbac dens and cantinas until they overhear people talking about a docking structure with a level occupied by unruly Imperial, in stark defiance of Yotta the Hutt’s usual clientele, and they’ll be ambushed by a level 5 Bothan bounty hunter seeking the bounty that the Sith put out as soon as the team arrived on-world. The bounty hunter is outfitted with a pair of thermal detonators that deal 5 damage to everything within a short distance, and a blaster. If taken alive, the bounty hunter can give directions to the Imperial docking area in exchange for her life and freedom.
The docking bay is a series of catwalks around a Fury-class interceptor, with three pairs of Imperial commandos on patrol, positioned so that each group can always see the other two while moving. Four more Imperials are off-duty aboard the ship, unarmed and unarmored for five rounds after an alarm is raised, while four more are working on the ship, apparently installing upgrades and handling repairs. Each set of two operates as a level 3 group with six Health and 2 Armor, outfitted with blaster carbines that can hit out to long range. The Sith warrior isn’t present, currently. Risks of the environment include falling, as the catwalks are open over the yawning chasms of Nar Shadda, and occasional rains of rubbish from upper levels.
If the players hit the Imperials but have to retreat before defeating them all, the squad leader will signal the Sith Warrior and they’ll hastily finish their work before leaving the world in four hours. Defeating the commandos or managing to sneak or bullshit past them will let the players search the ship, gleaning clues that the Sith is looking for a nexus of Dark Side power in the lower levels of the world, where the air is polluted to the point of being acidic, dealing 1 point of environmental damage per round to anyone not adequately protected.
Descending to the lower levels will show clear signs that the Sith came this way – dead bodies cut in half by a lightsaber from a multitude of alien species, signs of Force lightning crackling across the walls, and so on. Questioning surviving aliens will direct the players into the heart of Gutter Scum territory, a stretch of particularly unstable construction and toxicity (damage upped to 3 per round of exposure; mostly relevant is a GM intrusion causes environmental suits to be disrupted) home to a gang of notoriously violent aliens.
Passing through the area will expose the group to attack by packs of half a dozen gang members, each one a Level 2 creature armed with vibroblades that deal 4 damage on a successful attack. It’s also a good time to include environmental GM Intrusions – gouts of acid steam from failing pipes, sudden pitfalls looming out of the green-stained mist, gangers leaping out of hidden alcoves during a fight to land on characters’ backs, and so on; the idea is to give them a supply of XP to use during the next encounter for rerolls.
At the end of the excursion into the depths is an area strangely clear of the acid mist, but which either Force-sensitive character can detect as a nexus of Dark Side energy with a difficulty 2 Intellect test. At the center of it, the Sith warrior is meditating, drawing upon the Dark Side and attempting to absorb it. If not disrupted, she becomes a Level 7 opponent who will happily try to kill them all, attacking twice per round with her red lightsaber. If she is disrupted, she’s only Level 3, but a Level 6 Specter of the Dark Side – raw hate and anger manifest as a roughly humanoid mass – coalesces on the second round of combat, indiscriminately attacking anyone nearby.
If killed in the fight, the Sith Warrior becomes a Level 5 Specter herself, making a direct line for the ship in the Nar Shadda docks; if any Imperial Commandos are still alive, she takes one over and hastens to leave the planet before the PCs can reach her. If the PCs killed everyone, she dissipates before finding a new host. As for the initial Specter, the PCs have to defeat it, or else risk it consuming everyone on the lower levels and eventually wrapping Nar Shadda in the Dark Side. Success here brings 4 XP for each player, plus whatever they have left over from various GM Intrusions. The defeat of the Sith also leaves behind her lightsaber, an artifact weapon in its own right, and the defeat of the Specter leaves behind a few relics of the Force – cyphers, to be shared among the group.
Each player also gets a subplot; while Jack’s Jedi could simply have the main thread as his story, the GM chooses to include two encounters for his trouble-seeking Jedi Warrior – a small gang of street urchins tormenting a young Twi’lek girl in the upper levels, easily scared off by a Jedi to rescue the girl and possibly find her someplace safer to be, and a gang of Gutter Scum trying to burgle an aging and derelict medical droid in the depths – if confronted without violence, it can be determined that they’re trying to help one of their own, who has come down with rakghoul disease.
The smuggler’s thread starts and ends with his contact; she asks him, when she hears that the group is going to have to go into the lower levels, to deliver a sealed package to a cantina just above the levels where the air turns acid. The group will get ambushed three or four times while he has the package, each group consisting of two Level 3 Bothan Thugs armed with vibroknives and a Level 4 Gand Hunter armed wth a pair of light blasters. Openng the package – which he isn’t supposed to do – reveals a seemingly flawless diamond the size of a Wookiee’s fist; if he doesn’t deliver it, the ambushes continue indefinitely as long as they remain on-world.
The Jedi Consular’s thread comes in during the later stages of the adventure; once they delve into the acid atmosphere, she can feel the pull of the Dark Side, and she has hallucinatory visions of the Sith imbued with dark power. She can, if she gets the chance, meditate in the Dark Side nexus, both taking a step toward her own doom and gaining an additional power – Force Lightning, a (2+) Intellect power that deals 3 damage to a single target in short range, with an additional 2 Intellect to add an additional point of damage, or an additional 4 Intellect to add an additional target within short range.
The bounty hunter’s personal thread ties directly to the main story mission; when the Sith ship leaves the dock, the droid can claim the bounty immediately to gain enough credits to purchase an Expensive item, or the head of the Sith can be brought to the Hutt directly as evidence to gain enough of a reward for a Very Expensive item. Alternately, Kris can choose to have Yotta the Hutt give them a free upgrade to their ship, picking a more powerful shield generator, an upgrade to the weapon systems, or a n upgrade to the hyperdrive.
At the end of the game, the group should either being getting ready to follow the Sith ship (if they left the planet) or going over the Sith vessel more closely; in the latter case, log entries indicate that the next intended port of call was Tatooine, where the Sith warrior intended to undergo something called ‘The Rite of Blood and Glass’. If the ship escaped, well, it certainly gave every indication of being headed for Tatooine when it made the jump into hyperspace.