Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Scribblings of a Scribe V

Excerpts from the notes of Archivist Tim, Friar of the Order of Ehlonna

Barovian Date: 3rd of the 11th Moon

Our day began as early as the faint rays of the feeble sun would permit, as all those left alive in the village set to work combing through the rubble and detritus of the past week, seeking the fast-decaying remains of their former friends and family members. The great pyre we were preparing in front of the chapel grew ever larger as more bodies joined the pile. Wood from homes and furnishings too broken to be repaired was also added, some soaked with oil as kindling for the sodden, rotting mass. For hours I circled and prayed, consecrating the ground against the foul spirits that had recently held sway here. By the time the pyre was complete shortly after noon, it had grown to such a size that I feared it would smolder for days or more. Perhaps half or more of the villages’ former occupants now lay still amongst the budding flames.

To the side, destined for a more private grave, lay the remains of Ismark’s father, the former burgomeister of the area. As he was to be interred and not burned, however, I witnessed the extremes that the people of this land go to in an attempt to prevent their dead from rising anew.

To begin, the first-born son or closest kin of the deceased had to cut the head from the corpse, which would thereafter be held in place only the pillows of the coffin and the high starched collar of the grave robes. (This, I was told, was to prevent the animation of the corpse into the more intelligent types of undead such as the vampyr.)

Next, spikes of cold iron akin to the nails used by a ferrier to shoe destriers were driven through each joint of the body - done so that the corpse would be unable to move freely should it try to.

Finally, a small symbol of St. Cuthbert was then placed into the bottom of the coffin, a position that seemed odd until I then saw the body placed atop it, facing to the earth instead of the sky – the symbol, then, was pressed by the corpse’s own weight against its chest.

Curious as to why the dead should be made to face down instead of up, I was informed that this was to ensure that the mindless undead would only be able to dig themselves deeper into the earth, rather than up into open air.

As sensible and straightforward the reasons for such preparations were, they still somehow struck me as oddly sacrilegious. Perhaps it was just the seeming callousness that such preparations required from those closest to the deceased, but I think the greatest source of my unease stemmed from the state in which the body was interred: headless, with spikes for joints and faced not to the heavenly hosts but to the grim elements of the deeper planes. Regardless of my qualms, however, I performed the service as best I could, and in so doing gave closure to those in need of it.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Splitting the Party, Part 2

Wow, I was pretty consistent with posts for a while there, but I just let 15 days pass me by without a single word! Reckon' it best to hop back on it and finish this topic off to boot!

Last time we talked about and gave a few examples how splitting the party up in a RPG can cause difficulties. Now, I'm not out to make it sound like the end of the universe/multiverse when this happens. Any seasoned GM knows that Players have a knack doing unexpected things. Some would even say illogical things. This can be annoying, even downright frustrating at times, but it's what makes the game fun and interesting. Tabletop RPG's offer a freedom that even the best boardgames, video games, and even life itself can't provide. So who's one to step in the way of this?

Doing what ever it takes to keep your players from splitting up isn't the way to go. I say let them do it. Here are several suggestions you can use to make sure things go smoothly for yourself as well as your players.

-If you feel it would be best for the time being for the player's to stay together as a unit, let them know either directly or indirectly: An example of directly would be explaining to them why out of the game. An in-game example for indirectly could be something as simple as having the PC's make appropriate skill checks or the like and relaying that their character's might believe that to be a poor idea. Providing in-game evidence and support helps strengthen this, but still leave the decision ultimately in their hands. Avoid making the character's decision yourself, as this is your player's character and he plays his character how he/she wishes. (Although if you were running the PC on the behalf of his/her absent player, I'd deem that a good way to provide in-game advice.)

-If the party insists on splitting up, accommodate this to the best of your ability. At the worst it just means you have to equally divide the attention between each group, which can be tricky if only one group is in an encounter. (And even more dicey if they all are!)

-Letting the party split can provide some interesting results. Sometimes it can be used as a learning experience to promote party cohesiveness. An example would be one group now losing access to a PC's particular skills, useful items, or combat abilities. On the flip-side it presents new challenges for them to overcome.

-In any event, don't be harsh if you decide to make a lesson of the experience. That's just GM dickery!

Here's an example of a recent experience of my own: A few weekends ago from the date of posting this, my Saga Edition gaming crew had just wrapped up a split-party story arc played out over several sessions. Despite some of the pratfalls that arose, I believe it went rather well. The split itself came about somewhat unexpectedly, but I know that sooner or later it might occur so I had planned for an eventuality. Now currently we have four player's each running a PC, but during this time one of our player's was busy with work and school and unable to attend a few sessions. (He actually missed out on the whole split! Left just before it began and returned right after it ended. His PC gained a level too!) Having been short a single player may have factored into the dual-story arc's pros and cons, but the details exactly are unknown.

Basically it went down like this: The group arrived on a backwater planet so the Soldier with criminal aspirations could accept a job for a front company of the Tenloss Syndicate. After accepting the job, he decided to take off for the Corporate Sector on the ship with the Scoundrel pilot (Our absent player's PC, being run by me.); essentially ditching his two other comrades on the dustball world, awaiting their return. I permitted this because I felt I was up for the challenge of running two separate story arcs.

In the end, I believed it turned out a success. The Soldier was able to accomplish his mission and overcome a few challenges that he'd normally let his companions take care of. And his comrades a quarter of the way across the galaxy had a great time delving into the deep intrigue of 'The Behemoth from the World Below'*. Positive thoughts all round.

The biggest problem I can say with the whole experience was a concern I've brought up before: Boredom. It's hard to keep your player's whose PC's aren't the current focus entertained, unless you can make the other group's encounters just as interesting to follow. Switching between each of them as often as possible, and during dramatic parts will help keep their interest vested in the game at hand. Luckily my player's had cellphone games to pass the time during the slower parts, but they snapped right back into it when their turn came up.

Final word: Splitting the Party can be a pain but it can also be a fun experience. For further and higher quality information, I recommend giving a listen to Order 66 Podcast's Episode 112: Split Happens; it focuses on the ups and downs of splitting the party. I may continue on this article in the future, but for the time being these are all my thoughts on this subject. Hope this helps/informs/was amusing. :)

*Shall elaborate on in a future post.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Scribblings of a Scribe IV

Excerpts from the notes of Archivist Tim, Friar of the Order of Ehlonna

Barovian Date: 2nd of the 11th Moon

A disturbingly eventful night showed us that whatever was drawing the dead to town had not died with the despoiled Danovich, as our nocturnal musings were disrupted by the dread wailing of a ghastly ghost. As we tumbled into the tavern’s tall common room, our talk became tense and the sorcerer trembled in terror as we beheld a specter of death floating there near the ceiling. No weapon seemed wont to wound it, and daggers merely dashed vaporous holes in the diaphanous dead thing.

A channeling was needed here, of power so holy that the wholesome shade could not resist – a power that I was humbly pleased to provide, illuminating a path arrow-straight from Elonnha’s symbol in my hand to the head of the foul creature, burning away its essence in cleansing light and holy fire.

Our earlier sleep broken and forfeit, we sought the solace of slumber far past the proper hours for morning prayers, but surely I would be forgiven this lapse in the face of the purging I had performed during the night?

A simple meal broke our fast, and quickly hence we made our way back towards the crippled clapboard chapel, with the sorcerer in tow. The cowardly elf seemed to have exhausted the sum of his courage in joining us, and now hung back at the rear of the group as we re-entered the chapel and beheld the trapdoor we had carefully secured the previous afternoon burst half off its hinges and obviously no more an impediment to movement than a discarded pile of tinder.

Carefully, we started down the stone steps into the chapel’s crypt, with the orc-man and the raven-knight staying close beside the steadying light of my upraised torch. As we faced and cut down a handful more of the shambling dead in the cold stone hall, a high-pitched scream from behind us heralded the elf’s unceremonious descent of the stairs – with a twisted monster rending at his flesh even as he fell. There could be no doubting this was the Blaspheme of Danovich’s journal, its sharpened teeth glinting like obsidian in the torchlight, and its shriveled skin doing naught to hide its necromantic origins. Of the wholesome country lad his father had described, there remained not a trace, not even in the eyes – where once whites and lively colors had danced about in search of fair sights, now only blackened orbs stared outwards, seemingly unmoving though it must have been looking between us.

The foul thing landed atop Rial at the bottom of the crypt stairs, and before we could run it through, it distended its jaw to a hideous degree…and bit down upon the skull of the elf. As it ripped back and forth with its teeth I could see cracked and shattered bone exposed beneath the fast-ruined flesh for the brief moments before we fell upon it with righteous war cries and hacked the desecrated corpse apart. I tried to save what spark was left in Rial then, but I could sense his spirit slipping away despite my efforts – and as the other two tended to the remains of the freshly re-killed, I saw the grim visage of Death slip from the shadows and glide over the floor towards where I knelt by our newest comrade’s broken form.

It seemed as though time slowed around me when it approached, as though creatures in its proximity obeyed rules of time passage quite different from that of the plane around us. It spoke to me briefly, impressing upon me the question of what I would give to have the elf returned to the living – a question to which I answered that I would sacrifice any part of my body or soul to save this other. It seemed to consider this for a time, before turning with a dry rustling sound towards the supine form of the elf and addressing itself to him. It asked what life was worth to him, and seemed as taken aback as I was when the elf spoke to say that it wished to make a pact – Death’s power and the life to use it in for a cost that Death could specify.

If the Reaper voiced his cost, it was not for my ears to hear.

The elf’s bargain, though, was successful, and as Death slipped away into the multitude of shadows around us in the cold stone crypt the elf began to draw a few shallow breaths and his grip on life strengthened steadily thereafter.

It seemed that the Thorax and Draven had not noticed anything amiss, and were barely progressed in their movements despite the lengthy time I had spent in the presence of Death. Why then could I see Death, when he did not come for me? Should I have not been as blissfully ignorant of his presence as any living man whose doom is not yet upon him? Am I blessed to see the movements of such spirits around me, or am I cursed instead, living on borrowed time, the signatory to a pact that I cannot remember while I wake?

Heaped in a pile in the crypt were several sets of arms and armor in good repair, and we feared that these meant the undead we had slain in the crypt may once have been Ashlynn’s companions. We handled the dead with care, bringing them out of the darkness and laying out their bodies to wait for Ashlynn to identify then and conduct their rites. Also in the crypt was a hugely elaborate alchemical laboratory, amazingly untouched for all the undead that had lately been shambling around the area.

The Blaspheme’s twisted corpse was another matter, as even in his weakened state the elf seemed covetous of parts from the body, and the orc-man desirous of its teeth. In the end, however, we burned it all, save for the shriveled heart which I sought to preserve for study upon my return to my abbey.

Our short trip back to the centre of town was unnervingly quiet, with only the rotting corpses of the once-again-dead to break the silence by attracting autumn’s last few buzzing flies. When we reached the town square and gained the safety of the barricades, we beheld the remains of another assault – we were told that in broad daylight they had come, impaling themselves on barricade and spear alike, nearly swamping the Ashlynn and the few villagers still hale enough to offer resistance, before suddenly collapsing as if their un-life had suddenly deserted them. I am forced to question now, whether these undead were actually created by Danovich, or were they rather animated in turn by the desecrated remains of his son when Danovich raised him into a Blaspheme. Was the magic animating it truly so powerful that it could afford to spend so much of it as to make a virtual plague of undeath on its own?

The orc-man was having none of it, however, and was convinced that the corpses were merely “faking it” – which seemed to mean that he needed to cleave the skulls open of each one he passed near in turn, just to “make sure”. As we headed to the Burgomeister’s manor house, this meant that the streets soon stank with the smell of rotted brain matter and clotted gore. While the stench turned our stomachs, Thorax seemed to revel in it, proclaiming loudly with each swing his ongoing tally of kills – how many times he reached 5 and started over again, though, I didn’t bother to pay attention to.

What remained of the day after we ascertained the safety of the manor-house (and with it, the well-being of Burgomeister Ismark’s rather fetchingly self-reliant sister, Ireena) was bent towards the grim task of tallying survivors and beginning to assemble the bodies of the dead into what would become a great pyre in the chapel courtyard. Rial was too weak to help, though how much help the slight elf would have been with this grim, heavy work would have been dubious at the best of times.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

More Species Feats

Okay, I kinda got on a roll making these species feats. After I made those last two I posted, I made some more! I was looking through the listing of species available in the Saga books seeing which ones have any untouched biological and/or social particularities. I brushed across Gand from Scum and Villainy.

Their species' stats are solid and follow what's been written about them, but doesn't take into account their subspecies that lack lungs! Rather than write up a variant species, I figured a character creation-only species feat could just as easily fit the bill. It's mostly in beta in terms of balance and cost, but I wanted to post it anyway. What follows is a hybrid Species/Martial Arts feat for Gand bounty hunters or Findsman as they are called. Thinking about it now, this might be better suited as a talent, but when I wrote it I was using other Martial Arts feats as guidelines.

Lungless Subspecies
You are member of the Gand subspecies that lacks lungs and does not respire, as you obtain all the metabolic ingredients needed through the ingestion of food. These materials aid in gas exchange and waste is passed through openings in the exoskeleton. Lungless Gands are thus immune to poisonous gases and are not required to wear respirators when venturing off-world. Some lungless Gands would
wear such equipment anyway, usually to maintain anonymity.

Prerequisite: Gand species. [This feat may only be taken during character creation.]
Benefit: You do not require specialized breathing equipment to survive off your homeworld, though you still require a transliterator to communicate in any language other than Gand. In addition you are immune to the effects of inhaled poisons and non-corrosive atmospheric hazards.

[GM Notes: Perhaps the Gand hero would get an additional 2000cr added to their starting credits for not requiring the breathing apparatus considering they wouldn't need to purchase it? (Though, yes, they would begin play with it at no cost.) Just considering if it'll give the feat a nice little something extra besides the cool but rarely used immunity for the price of your first level feat.]

Findsman Martial Arts Training
The Findsmen have developed a form of martial arts centuries ago that makes use of Gand biology. Findsmen sects subject their pupils to chemical baths and even genetic manipulation to induce the appearance of knob-like growths on specific portions of the exoskeleton. These serrated ridges, which were often located on the arms and legs and could measure four to five centimeters in length, would then be used as weapons in hand-to-hand combat. The tenets of the form are not fully understood to outsiders, though a few moves have been widely documented: "Striking Mist," allows the attacking Gand to get in close to their opponent so that the Gand's hits can not be parried or dodged. Another move, "Piercing Touch", is described as a powerful punch that could penetrate bone, chitin, and various armors.

Prerequisite: Gand species, Martial Arts I, One Talent from the Gand Findsman talent tree (see page 26 of Scum and Villiany).
Benefit: Whenever you deal damage with an unarmed attack to an adjacent target, treat that target as flat-footed until the end of your next turn but only in relation to you.
Once per encounter when you make a successful unarmed attack against an enemy, you ignore all DR when you deal damage.

[GM Notes: Not sure how balanced this as have not built a character around it nor play-tested it. But considering character has to be at least 9th level to take this feat it might make it a balanced mid-level ability.]

The next two came about in a slightly different way: Listed under the new species in The Force Unleashed Campaign Guide are the Nosaurian. When I first saw the species back when I first got the book I didn't think much of them. We see one briefly in Episode I, and I read a few minor things about them, but nothing stood out to me about them.

That is until I started reading the comic series that provides much of TFUCG's material: Star Wars: Dark Times. Aside from reading scatterings about, I first became interested in when I picked up Star Wars: Vector vol 1. [Another aside: Vector is a wicked story arc and a great hook for me to pick up the series' it crosses over.] Aside from most of the art from Dark Times being some of the best comic art I've seen; the story is phenomenal, not to mention (no pun intended) very dark. I was actually shocked by the ending of Volume 1! [No spoilers for you. >:) ]

Anyway, Nosaurians feature prominently into the story, and though the ability that I based this feat on appears only once in this series, it's just too cool to pass up! Without further ado: Nosaurian Flash.

Nosaurian Flash
You use your species' biological ability to emit a brilliantly bright phosphorescent light from your mouth to signal over great distances. The resulting flash is bright enough to briefly illuminate your surrondings and even blind foes, but it can not be sustained for long.

Prerequisite: Nosaurian species
Benefit: Once per encounter, for a number of rounds equal to your Constitution Modifier (minimum 1) you admit a blinding ray of light from the lining of your mouth, shedding illumination up to 6 squares like a glow rod. Each round this in effect, as a swift action, you may attempt to dazzle and blind a creature within 6 squares of you and in your line of sight. Make a ranged attack roll (ignoring any penalty from concealment & total concealment granted by poor lighting or darkness). If the result equals or exceeds the target's Reflex Defense, the target is considered flat-footed, and all other creatures have concealment from your target until the start of your next turn. Creatures that do not rely on eyesight to perceive (such as Miraluka) are immune to this effect.

[GM Notes: Functions like a short range, longer duration version of the Force Power: Blind. Balanced? Not sure. Considering adding "Each use of this ability (or each round using this ability) moves you -1 step down the condition track. Also, considering rewording it from a ranged attack roll to a 1d20 + 1/2 level + Dex Mod.]

Finally, whilst rooting around for more info on Nosaurians, I came across an old Revised Edition feat I updated into an arboreal-esque multi-species feat. This feat was originally from Coruscant and the Core Worlds; listed under the section on New Plympto.

You can move through trees, scaffolding, and other frameworks like a skilled Dug brawler, Nosaurian tree-fighter or Wookiee Katarn hunter.

Prerequisite: Dug species, Nosaurian species, or Wookiee species
OR Trained in the Climb Skill, Skill Focus (Climb), Trained in the Jump Skill, and Skill Focus (Jump)
Benefit: You can move at your base speed when climbing and jumping through trees, scaffolding, framework, and the like by using your arms to swing from one handhold to the other. To allow brachiation, the area you move through must be at least lightly wooded, framed, or latticed in a way, with appropriate grips and handholds no father apart than 3 squares. You may not use this ability while holding an item in either hand, or while wearing any armor other than light.

[GM Notes: Considering bringing the movement down to half of base speed, this way it's still faster than spending a full-round action to climb at half or a move action to climb at one-fourth, but not too fast. But consideration must be taken into account on how frequently this granted ability could be used. Perhaps best suited for NPC and opponent design.]

Monday, 7 March 2011

Star Wars Species Feats

The Rebellion Era Campaign Guide for SWSE introduced a large selection Core Rulebook species-specific feats. I think they're really cool as they enable a PC to acquire traits and abilities that aren't listed in under the species' characteristics. I especially like the ones with roleplaying flavor and/or play off the species unique background or physiology.

Though one of the ideas behind species feats is to promote playing the core species over the less common but "more interesting" species of the galaxy, I think even those species should have a couple interesting feats.

Here's two I just wrote (with a third in beta). The idea behind the first one was actually proposed by a player of mine: If Verpine communicate through radio waves, a practiced one might should be able to pick up other frequencies and signals.
The second works off the idea that wookies have claws that should be just used for climbing, but there are several examples of Madclaws in the Expanded Star Wars Universe. This adds both combat and roleplaying flavor to a wookie character.

Comments appreciated!

Low-Frequency Sensitivity
Your antennae are highly sensitive to low-frequency electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves and microwaves, and attuning them allows you to detect the presence nearby comlink, transceiver, and remote processor signals.

Prerequisite: Verpine species.
Benefit: As a standard action, make a DC 20 Perception check to detect the presence, number, and types of communication signals being broadcast and received within and up to a 1-kilometer radius. However, you are unable to glean the nature of what is being conveyed through each broadcast itself other than the signal type. You then may, as a swift action, make a DC 25 Perception check to reveal the direction and distance of a single broadcast you've detected. This cannot be used to detect or locate the presence of a tightbeam comlink (pg.46 WAR) or any other form of signal carried over an Infrared or higher wavelength. This ability is also rendered useless within an area effected by a Com Srambler (pg.46 WAR) or similar signal jamming.

[GM Notes: Something to consider: a Verpine's Hightened Awareness species ability allows it to reroll Perception checks taking the second result, and a Scout Verpine could reroll an additional time. This combined with Skill Training and possibly Skill Focus means this ability could have little to no chance of failure. Consider then raising the DC's by 5 or 10.]

Wookiee culture places a high value on the use of their climbing claws for peaceful, productive reasons only. Thus, any Wookiee whom lashed out against another Wookiee (or any other living being) with their claws is deemed to be a madclaw. The title is a grave dishonor, since the Wookiees view the use of claws as anything other than tools as feral, and madclaws are usually sent into exile.

Prerequisite: Wookie species.
Benefit: When making an unarmed attack, you can use your claws as natural weapons, dealing 1d6 points of slashing damage with that attack instead of normal unarmed damage. You are always considered armed with your claws. However, all wookies that witness or learn about you using your claws in this way automatically have an Unfriendly attitude towards you.

[GM Note: Perhaps the claws should deal 1d8 points of slashing damage to balance out the cultural stigma and make the feat more appealing to take. Although, perhaps this could make an already strong wookie brawler overpowered.]

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Scribblings of a Scribe III

Excerpts from the notes of Archivist Tim, Friar of the Order of Ehlonna

Barovian Date: 1st of the 11th Moon

Our efforts last night were followed today by a bracing round of early morning exercise as we cleared debris from the village square, and lent a hand repairing and reinforcing the battered barricades the undead had torn apart in their nighttime assault. Such good deeds did not go unpunished, however, for the orc-man managed to sufficiently abrade the feelings of the sole remaining local shopkeeper that even the offer of a sizable bribe of gold was unable to persuade him to open his doors for business!

The town square is a perfect example of pre-Malthusian architecture...

...Mid-morning, we left the warrior Ashlynn the relatively quiet daytime watch at the town square, and headed towards the local church, where Ashlynn's companions were last known to have been headed several days ago. Though no-one save the orc-man was tactless enough to state it out loud, we all harbor the fear that her brothers-in-arms are likely already dead, and worse yet, could have been reanimated as powerful foes.

In spite of the few rays of sun that broke through the oppressive cloud cover, groups of undead still roamed loose on the streets within a few blocks of the fortified town square. Foremost among the daytime groups were horribly rotted ghasts, whose foul stench was anathema to freshly filled bellies! The creatures seem to have some sort of venom as well, perhaps secreted onto their befouled skin like sweat on an honest farmer under the noonday sun – when a bite or ripping claw broke through armor and skin, this venom forced a powerful lethargy upon us, slowing limbs and clouding the mind. It wore off after a time, but stout hearts and focused minds were needed so that we could defend ourselves while still battling the venom's effects.

The town church here is a small one, perhaps thirty cubits a side, forty at most. The structure is built on a small outcropping barely worthy of being called a hill, and in typical rural style is surrounded by the consecrated graves of past local notables. A small steeple with belfry surmounts the entrance, and the whole structure seems in good repair, though the whitewash on the planks is several seasons past its prime. The Raven-knight first voiced what had struck all of us: after the damage that had ravaged the town, the relatively good condition of the church seemed surreal and unnerving. Fortified by a solid encasement of tempered steel, however, our stout defender of the paganistic bird-god strode confidently forward, and opened the door to the first of our many dooms.

We must have tarried too long outside, or perhaps conversed too loudly, but no sooner had we strode inside than did a magick most foul strike us all! I nobly sought to draw its harm within myself to shield the others, and succeeded in doing so – but my frail shell could not handle the blasphemy that these twisted energies inflicted upon it, and I felt as though a thousand scourgings had been wrought upon my very soul as I felt my body buckle and collapse!

Yet the peace of divine embrace would not come!

As all around me seemed slowed and faded, I saw the emissary of Death itself slip from shadows that I had not heretofore seen, and stand before me. It spoke to me; and in a language I did not know; I knew it claimed that Death itself had no wish to claim me. As its voice grated on with the sound of leathery wings and the creaking of decrepit bones, I struggled back to the realm of the living, where the world was alive with the clash of steel and the screams of devastated, unholy flesh forced to move once more! My world for a time was little but blood and pain and the sweet screams of creatures feeling their flesh rent from their bones by the powerful swings of the Raven-knight and the mighty orc-man. At long last though, the tumult ceased, and my shattered body and soul could re-knit themselves.

The interior of the church after the skirmish was rank with the smell of flesh, both long-rotted and newly dead. Remains of the village's former priest (a follower of St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel, mighty champion of Order and carver of the Pillar of Strength in the Hall of the Gods) lay nearly split in twain a fore the desecrated altar. A huge hole in the wooden planks of the church floor dominated the hall, with only the inky blackness of the crypts beneath it to give it color and meaning.

In my ragged state, I bent my meager efforts to the reclamation of the alter from its befouled state, and found within its recesses a single page of what must once have been a great treatise on the darkest powers – a description of the process needed to create a creature called a “Blaspheme”, a true abomination that could only be forged from the besmirched remnants of the blood-kin of the would-be necromancer himself!

The other that resided there was a simple journal, the mundane musing of a village priest, Danovich, filled with day after day of confessions, penance, town gossip and tallies of ill-born livestock in the area. The ending, though, aye, there was the rub, for the ending of the journal showed a journey down the most perilous of St. Cuthbert's roads – that of vengeance upon those that have wronged you. The priest, you see, had a son, a strapping lad who plied his trade between the small villages, cottages and camps that scatter the land. When he fell to brigands on the unprotected roads, his father began to write of vengeance, and pursue it above all else – shuttering the church to the townsfolk, and dabbling in dark lore to bring back a semblance of life to the ruined and rapidly decaying body of his son. In delightful detail his descent into despair and dementia is described, his doings more dark and dreadful all the while. The fiendish apparatus, the boiled heart and piercing nails, the stolen teeth and insidious incantations are procured piece by piece and day by day, their presence a steadily mounting cacophony of the pressures of madness bearing down on his unwavering faith in vengeance without regard to the other strictures, his blind love of a dead son now come creaking back down the dread path from death to life!

Nothing besides remains. Undated, I know not whether this poor soul was so far gone in his pursuit of what blind faith lead him to that he lost all reason and ability to place his fractured thoughts to paper, or if perhaps instead that his last entry was made just before we arrived. Alas, I would have loved to have talked to him, to find out where he came by his lore in such an isolated place as this Barovia, and to find, to, whether his god still blessed him at the end, when his vengeance broke free of control and brought ruin upon the town around him.

Even his body could not go whole to the next realm, as the orc-man, in a fit of barbaric splendor worthy of an ancient epic, raised his great axe above his head once more and with a single blow smote off the hand of dead Danovich! He keeps it now, a macabre and slowly rotting trophy of his kill. If his smell was not quite rank enough before to turn fresh cheese blue, surely now the bouquet of rotting flesh that hangs from his belt will elevate the potency of his stench to levels that even the most discriminating she-orc would likely find irresistible.

Still, a brief return to the tavern for drinks and time to clear muddled heads was thought to be in order before we delved into the basement crypts, and the innkeeper served the pungent orc-man with no more ill-humor than the previous evening. We all drank deep of the beer whose tun we had blessed the night before to stave off diseases as I have seen documented in the great libraries I have perused, where the texts of the old learned masters put great stock in the cleanliness of water, food and tools. As cleanliness is next to godliness, the application of godly blessing must of course then be one step better than the application of mere cleanliness at protecting the physique from infection and decay!

Our mealtime was livened by the casual inquisition of several local gypsies by the blessed warrior Ashlynn and the Raven-knight Draven. Sadly, their efforts to uncover the subtle, early signs of corruption were interrupted by the arrival of another traveler – an elven half-blood of arcanely magical disposition. Apparently in search of knowledge to wield the sorts of devastating power that frequently show up only in lands at the brink of catastrophe (natural or otherwise), the half-breed Rial decided to accompany us for the time being. His skills may be useful, but I fear his sort too easily go astray when confronted by the lure of the sweet dark abyss of temptation.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Tenloss Syndicate Criminal Organization

Here's a quick bit of Star Wars Saga Edtion homebrew goodness: Organization rules, background, and plot hooks that I created for a player of mine whose PC has aspirations to join the Tenloss Syndicate. This drops right into the Organization rules from the Force Unleashed Campaign Guide. Feel free to use them.

The Tenloss Syndicate

The Tenloss Syndicate is a criminal organization based out of the Bajic Sector.
Unlike some other criminal organizations, the Tenloss Syndicate has a legitimate branch of its organization. Under the name Tenloss Corporation, it owns numerous small companies of various degrees of legality. Several of those companies produce starships, weapons, and equipment--mostly for the Tenloss Syndicate's sale and use. Tenloss' primary interest is dealing in high technology and uses its legal activities to fund illicit trade, making vast sums of money through illegal arms sales, and many would classify the organization primarily as an arms dealer and purveyor of contraband. Each company in the Tenloss corporation has it's own hierarchy and is directed by one of the sub-councils and the Syndicate itself is controlled by a central governing council known as The Leukish. Starships, armor and weapons are provided to normal paying customers at several fronts, though most of them were considered illegal and therefore included a certain risk. The organization is mostly concerned with making profits, but when its interests are threatened, it brings the full weight of its might on its enemies.

Notable fronts and divisions:

Modirin Mining Concern: [Burglary, Sabotage] Shortly before the fall of the Galactic Republic, the Modirin Mining Concern was responsible for planting amounts of chromium underneath the surface of the Outer Rim planet Aduba-3. This caused a rush of investors and shipbuilders from many other planets to migrate to Aduba-3 to make their fortunes. Not surprisingly, the chromium dried up in less than a year. Penniless, businesses were forced to abandon any plants or factories they had produced and leave, which Modirin was able to purchase at massive discounts. They then rented out these structures to Aduban merchants, turning a huge profit in the end.

Bahalian Shipyards: [Repair] A small, well-respected ship shipwright located in the Bajic Sector.

Baradis School of Technology: [Assassination, Investigation] Located on the planet Jarvanam in the Astal sector, this school is the primary Bureaucracy and Technology training institute for Syndicate employees and operatives.

Bengel Shipbuilders: [Espionage] Manufacturer of various starships and space stations, including the XQ1 Platform and XQ2 Platform. Based on Ord Thoden in the Dynali sector.

Friij News Services: [Espionage, Investigation] A Hutt-sponsored news network that operated as a clearing house for information and illegal data acquisition and replication. Based on Friijillis in the Dail Sector.

Galindas Exports: [Hijacking, Robbery] One of the Syndicate's mass-market fencing operations. A number of asteroid storage facilities, near Lucrenn in the Skine sector, were maintained by Galindas Exports.

Kendamari Casinos: [Scam] A chain of high-class casinos located on worlds in the Lol Sector of the Outer Rim Territories. The Kendamari organization had its headquarters on the planet Kendamar, in the Lol Sector.

Lucin Syndicate: [Smuggling] Concerned with the manufacture and distribution of illegal Holoporn in the Mid Rim. Based out of Lol Sector on the planet Majilop.

Lucross Collections: [Abduction, Assault] A collections agency that is known for its overzealous employees. Based on the world of Wodenstam in the Skine sector, the company is a division of the Syndicate responsible for loan sharking and money laundering operations.

Malakin Enterprises: [Burglary, Robbery, Scam] Dail sector's Lesu-based corporation that dabbled in several criminal venues. Rumored to be secretly controlled by Hutts, Malakin was part of the Syndicate, and was the largest stockholder in the Natori Association.

Natori Association: [Exploration] Based on the planet Sperin in the Palaquin system of the Bajic sector, operates as a training and supply company originally started as a mercenary training organization; teaching combat skills mainly to non-humans. The training philosophy of the Natori was to use particular species' natural physical, mental, and cultural abilities to their advantage. For instance Wookiees were deployed as forest fighters while Duros were trained for space combat. The Natori have a long term security contract with Ororo Transportation but since the two organizations were controlled by the Tenloss Syndicate this amounted to money laundering. This contract consisted of a battalion of soldiers that are used for internal security and in-theory base defense on Vergesso Prime.

Ororo Transportation: [Smuggling] A competitor of Xizor Transport Systems. One of their primary fronts, located in the third Vergesso Asteroid belt of the Lybeya system, is a frequently used shadowport for smugglers, privateers, Rebels, and operatives doing sleazy business for the Tenloss Syndicate. The Lybeya System itself is a notable Spice-Smuggling System. The asteroid field is less violent than others and also easier to navigate, although sensors have difficulty trying to penetrate it. Vergesso Base is an installation built into Vergesso Prime, a nickel-iron asteroid the size of a small moon and pockmarked with craters. The Base itself is divided into three main layers: a port ("The Facility"), a warren of shops, services, bars, and temporary quarters ("The Life"), and a fortified operations bunker ("The Center"). Vergesso Base is patrolled by a company of soldiers belonging to fellow Syndicate front the Natori Association.

Palkandi Brokerage House: [Scam] A corrupt business that specializes in trading stocks.

Relekin Confidential: [Abduction, Assault] Relekin is the primary collections agency for the criminal syndicate, presumably using coercive methods that would have been shunned in its earlier, supposedly legitimate form. They operate out of the Danadine planet in the Dail sector.

Odd Jobs: Use the Job Generator listed under the Risky Business section on pg. 77 Scum & Villiany to generate missions for the Tenloss Syndicate. Each front company has at least one specific job type to provide. (Ex. [Burglary])

Type: Crime Syndicate

Enemies and Allies: Law enforcement agencies and other criminal organizations (Chiefly Black Sun) are the Syndicate's primary enemies.

Scale: 12 (Multiple systems)

Organization Score Criteria

Positive Criteria Organization Score Modifiers

Experience: +1/2 char. level
Has levels in the Noble class: +1
Has levels in the Scoundrel class: +1
Has levels in the Crime Lord prestige class: +1
Is Trained in Knowledge (Bureaucracy): +1
Is Trained in Knowledge (Technology): +1
Is Trained in Mechanics: +1
Has Skill Focus (Mechanics): +1
Has Tech Specialist Feat: +1
Has Starship Designer Feat: +1
Has Superior Tech Feat: +1
Has a Talent from the Lineage Talent Tree: +1 per Talent (max +5)
Completes a mission assigned by the Tenloss Syndicate: +1 per mission
Removes a threat to a Front Company: +2 (max +6)

Negative Criteria Organization Score Modifiers

Fails at a task assigned by a superior: -1
Not Trained in Mechanics: -1
Fails on a mission assigned by the Tenloss Syndicate: -2
Loses or destroys supplies or material that belongs to the Tenloss Syndicate: -1 per 10,000 credit value
Provides information about the Tenloss Syndicate to another organization: -5
Steals from the Tenloss Syndicate: -10

Titles, Benefits, and Duties:

Rank - Score - Title - Benefits and Duties

0 - 4 or lower: None

1 - 5-10: Front Agent
Front Agents are permitted to purchase Tenloss goods such as the DX-2 Disruptor Pistol, the DXR-6 Disruptor Rifle, (both pg. 99 TFUC) and the Hornet-class Interceptor (pg. 125 S&V) at base new price without paying for a license or going through black market connections.

2 - 10-16: Division Officer
Division Officers receive 10% off the base cost on Teloss goods and do not require Gather Information checks to locate a black market merchant to acquire an object over the black market.

3 - 17-23: Sub-Council Manager
Sub-Council Managers receive 25% off the base cost on Teloss goods and the cost multiplier for Black Market goods is lowered by 1. (To a minimum x1)

4 - 24-30: Leukish Council Member
Council Members get 50% off the base cost on Teloss goods.
Council Members have access to an expert technician with the Tech Specialist feat and Starship Designer feat (mechanics +17), and does not pay licensing fees for licensed, restricted, military, or illegal equipment.