Friday, February 6, 2009

You missed a great game last night (TROOPS)

I ran my "Stormtroooper Sobriety Checkpoint" scenario last night, and I'm pleased to report it went over very well. It was, of course, inspired by TROOPS, and Star Wars before that, and a little bit of Robot Chicken, so I was merely standing on the shoulders of giants. Just the same, while it's fresh in my mind, I'm going to set as much of it down as I can, even if it seems a little immodest to do so. It's not just that I was on fire - the whole group was in top form last night. So much fun.

The characters were Imperials working a DWI checkpoint just outside Mos Eisley. I gave them pregenerated stats, but required each player to come up with (name, rank, and serial number, plus) a personality quirk or two that made their Stormtrooper stand out. This wasn't the sort of scenario where stats, equipment and dice pools really mattered. It was an action-packed adventure, but not in any traditional sense of the words.

Of course, calling it a scenario or adventure isn't even entirely accurate. Other than the initial character sheets, it was pretty much all improvised. My scenario prep amounts to 6 lines in my notebook, just storyline and character ruminations, without even a single NPC stat. I grabbed a bunch of minis appropriate to Tatooine, and just ran whatever came to mind.

The cast of Player Characters included:
  • Sela Quar, Serial # CR2567, the NCO in charge of the DWI checkpoint. (Played by Laura.) As one of the rare female Stormtroopers, Sela was bitter about the Imperial "glass cieling" and complained about it constantly to anyone who would listen. She was an AT-ST driver, her vehicle is shown here with it's fashionable ribbon adornment. She joined the Imperial Forces to get away from Tatooine, but, sadly, straight out of the Academy they deployed her back on Tatooine.
  • Ojibnan Ramalamadidon, Serial # THX1138, a Stormtrooper who joined the Imperial Forces for the educational benefits. (Played by John.) He's on the II Bill - for every 10 credits you put into your education fund, the Empire kicks in 1 credit. That's a 10% interest, and you only have to commit to 10 years as a Stormtrooper to get it! Oji's other quirk was that he didn't want to shoot people or get shot at - which is fairly rare for a Stormtrooper. "Being a Stormtrooper is also helping me develop my interpersonal skills. I never was a people-person before."
  • PFC Track (Played by Steve) is a member of the Dewback Corps, and was never far from his pet Dewback mount, a lizard named Princess. He really didn't want to be a Stormtrooper, his dream was to manage a tourist resort, but his parents forced him into the military to advance the political aspirations they had for him. His other quirk was a strong fascination with (and memorization of) manufacturer's recall notices.
  • 77T8 is the Protocol Droid assigned to the squad. (Played by Malachi.) He'd been mindwiped 47 times by jawas before being bought by the squad. As a result, he had some patwork personality and a faulty vocalizer. In every scene, he had a different accent. He was also wired with a very potent self-destruct bomb, but thankfully never had to use it.
  • All of this was filmed by CamBot, aka P673219, aka Cindy the Probe Droid. (Played by Sarah. ) Cindy had been programmed with a sexy woman's voice, constantly flirting with the Stormtroopers she was interviewing. Picture a gynormous Imperial Probe Droid starting every conversation with "Howdy Sailor" or "Hey, Good Looking", and you're on the right track.

The scenario started out pretty simply. There was a long line of landspeeders pulled over at the DWI checkpoint.

Between the encounters mentioned below, Cindy Cambot interviewed the other PCs - it was kinda like "confessionals" in InSpectres, but she actually got out our video camera and recorded them. I had planned on putting the interviews up on YouTube, but since we were playing in a coffeeshop the audio is pretty bad.

The first car, just to get the PCs in the mood, was a couple of two-bit hick worm farmers. Yokels with exagerated southern accents, blue-within-blue eyes, and a glove compartment full of a kilo of spice. "Sir, please step out of the car and breathe into the droid." The PCs made them walk a line in the sand, and then searched the car. I expected these druggies to be a smouldering pile of ash at the base of the Imperial Execution Pillars in no time, but since Officer Oji was a pacifist, they ended up just going to the Detention Center. That pretty much set the tone of how the group dealt with criminals and drunks the rest of the night.

The second car was a salvage truck, with an recovered escape pod (and one circular droid bit) in the back. His paperwork was in order and he wasn't drunk so they let him through. It served as a frame of reference as to when the session was set, so the significance of the next car wasn't lost.

An old man and a 20-year-old kid were in the next landspeeder, along with their droids. There was some hand-waving involved. Protocol Droid 77T8 sure tried hard to stop them, since he was immune to jedi mind tricks. Laura (as Sela) played up that she knew Luke from her childhood, and she let Wormie and Old Ben pass through without even having to put the jedi whammy on her. Trying to provoke a fight, 77T8 mentioned the report that Luke's folks had been put down, but instead of starting trouble, it just motivated Sela to let the poor kid go without questioning.

One or two cars later, the driver was Officer Oji's no good brother-in-law Greedo. He was drunk, and talking trash about some guy named solo. I'm such a geek - I have Greedo's lines in Rodian phoenetically memorized, so I delivered them with a drunken slur. "And I know he's gonna try to do that little gimmick of his, where he shoots ya under the table, but ya know what I'm gonna do? Do ya? Do ya? I'm gonna shoot him first!" Since he was family, they called him a cab. The Probe droid put the blurry spot over not just Greedos face but also Officer Oji's badge number.

Sebulba showed up in the next Pod in line. There was some discussion over whether or not it was street legal, so they ran a background check. He'd been racing on other worlds for several years, and the statute of limitations on all his local crimes had run out. Why was he back? He said his old school reunion was tonight, and he planned to beat up Ani for old time's sake. The Stormtroopers wished him luck on that.

Next was Panda Baba and Dr Evazan. Turns out the players had seen that particular episode of Robot Chicken, so my own stolen thunder was stolen. I did have Dr Evazan mouth off a bit, and was again surprised that the PCs mostly let him get away with it. These Stormtroopers apparently really took Palpatine's "kinder, gentler Empire" speach very seriously.

The next three cars in line got smushed by a giant sail barge. We set a dice tray on the table to be the barge, and I quickly pulled out a baggie with miniatures of Jabba, Boba Fet, several goons and a horde of Twi'Lek poledancers. Now was the moment for the players to screw up, get ballsy, and/or just generally start some trouble. Sela, improvising with no prompting from me, instructed the Protocol Droid to serve Jabba with his warrant for outstanding parking tickets. Boba Fett rocketed over to respond. He was starring at Sela's chestplate. "My eyes are up here." "Yeah, but your badge number is down there." Things got tense for a moment, but the brave droid boarded the barge and tried to serve Jabba the Warrant. "This Protocol Droid is my kind of bureacratic scum... If you forget that warrant ever existed, I'll give you this Twi'Leki whore-slave." I was prepared for the fight had they pushed the issue, but they decided a blue-skinned ho was a worthy bribe.

As the sail barge headed to the horizon, the Stormtroopers made medicine rolls to try and save the lives of the cars it had smushed. They called the salvage truck from the beginning of the scenario, and made some profit on the crumpled landspeeders. The players thought everything was winding down early.

Then I said a sleek black landspeeder flies towards you. It's bobbing and weaving, and the driver must be drunk. They fired warning shots, and the driver managed to break just short of plowing into the AT-ST. It was a state-of-the-art expensive landspeeder, with seamless tinted windows. Everybody started to sweat in their armor, but someone mustered the nerve to approach the car. A black gloved dropped a crumpled beer can out the window.

Vader was not only stinkin' drunk, he was morose and mopey. Tonight was his school reunion, and what did he have to show for himself? The PCs tried to convince him that being a Dark Lord of the Sith and second-in-command of the fleet was accomplishment enough, but Darth insisted that he was nothing but a washed-up cyborg freak who hadn't been in a stable relationship in nearly 30 years. This was between various cans of beer, bouts of vomiting, taking hits on his spice pipe, unzipping to pee in front of them all, reminiscing about Padme's hairstyles, falling on his ass and sobbing about the high ground, etc. (In the background, "Princess" the Dewback was eating Vader's drug stash.)

"Sebulba's gonna *wheeze* rub my mask in it *wheeze* if I show up to the reunion *wheeze* without a date." This was, of course, why I included the sexy little slave-ho in the previous scene. The eyes of the droid's player light up, and he gets half a word into offering the slave to Vader.

Sela cut him off. She had ambitions, and wasn't above flirting with Vader to advance her career. "I'd be happy to be your date, Lord Vader. My shift is nearly over, just give me a moment to freshen up..."

I just had to reward that quick-thinking, so Vader says "I'm afraid I can't fraternize with a Corporal... *wheeze* ...but I'll be happy to attend my school reunion with you, General Sela. Let me get you a proper uniform." There was some goofiness as he struggled to unlock the trunk of his car, but eventually he opened it up. The bodies of five dead Imperial Officers were packed in the trunk. One was female, and looked like her uniform would fit Sela. You'd think that'd be enough to scare her off...

The arrive at the Cantina where the Reunion is being hosted. Sela and Vader on a date, the rest of the PCs being their honor guard.

There's a small delay at the cantina - the crew that was supposed to hang the "Enchantment Under The Dune Sea" banners first had to clean up a severed arm and poor Greedo's body. Officer Oji calls his sister to break the news - John was hilarious as he tactlessly let her know that her husband is dead, sent her pictures of his smoking corpse, and then rummaged through his deceased brother-in-laws pockets and improvised finding half a dozen different wedding rings. "I guess he really did have a woman in every port." He then read off inscribed names from the rings.

77T8 slipped off for a moment to sell a couple of the spare Admiral Uniforms to various criminals. He keeps one and wears it into the Cantina, as being an Imperial Officer is the only way to convince the barkeep to serve droids.

Since it's the "Enchantment Under The Dune Sea" dance, I had the band play "Yoda Be Good", complete with improvised parody lyrics from the Bith version of Marty McFly.

Vader pranced around showing off his trophy date, insulting Sebulba, buying rounds of drinks, bragging about his power and position, etc. He made it terribly clear to the whole reunion that he was indeed little Anakin Skywalker.

Sela makes a mental connection, and steps off to call Luke. So, of course, Luke's in the middle of trying to fight his way across the hangar bay to the Millenium Falcon. The power was in Sela's hands. She could have told Luke who his dad was now, she could have ordered her squad to help capture him, there were plenty of options. Instead, however, she flexed her recently-promoted muscles, and ordered the squad attacking her old chum to stand down and let Luke and the Millenium Falcon escape.

Vader passes out. Then his phone rings, so Sela picked it up and answered it. It was Emperor Palpatine. I was just planning to riff along the lines of Palpatine and Vaders conversation on Robot Chicken. Instead, she secures her title as a General, contingent on getting Vader home safe to the Death Star and make sure no one at the reunion remembers any state secrets Vader might have blabbed (including his Anakin identity). Again, I'm expecting mass carnage as the "correct" answer. Instead, they plug the probe droid into the bar's widescreen TV, and play altered footage of Vader claiming to secretly be everyone they'd met. "I'm really Greedo! No, wait, I'm really Jabba The Hutt!" etc. Meanwhile, they spend a big chunk of the salvage money on additional rounds of drinks so everyone at the reunion is so wasted they can't remember which Vader identity was the real one.

77T8, the protocol droid, interrupts the call from the Emperor to network. He arranges for an interview with the Emperor to make a presentation/proposal about a new Droid Army. This is, the Emperor Explains, contingent on him having 5 or more arms. "Everytime I hire a new Droid General, my rule is that he has to have more arms than his predecessor..."

What a ridiculous scenario. Everyone was in stitches, and half the group made out like Bandits. I may have to revisit this on Cloud City or Endor sometime.

Update: One of the players, Steve, also wrote up a big chunk of the scenario . If my blathering wasn't enough for you, check out his LiveJournal entry.


Kedamono said...

It was great Rolfe! Of course Oji wasn't really up to confrontation, though you did forget the bit where Darth commanded everyone to dance and told Oji to shoot at their feet to make them do so. Oji missed everyone's feet except for 77T8's legs, which Oji promptly shot off. He whined, um, complained to Darth, who then began to choke him using the force. Oji successfully resisted and realized that he couldn't hold off Darth forever, so he faked his death, making the appropriate choking sounds and going limp as though he died. When Darth let go, he fell limply to the floor and in a whisper asked for someone to drag him off, out of sight of Darth. Once out of sight, he stood up and walked right back in, safe in the knowledge that that pothead wouldn't remember his serial number.

Fun was had by all. Now Oji just have to break the news to Padme, his sister, that Greedo was unfaithful to her. No doubt his niece, Leia will say "I told you so mom!"

rbbergstrom said...

Thank you, John. When I was writing all that, I just couldn't remember how the droid's legs got blasted off. I'd totally forgot about your making the resistance roll and faking your death, too.

Looking back, I'm amazed we packed all that into one session. Thank you for playing, man, that was so much fun.

Kedamono said...

Hey Rolfe!

Just a thought, we could re-do our audio bits for the video. I have the tools to apply different filters to people's voices so they sound more stormtrooperier.

Whadja think?

Unknown said...

I would like to see the videos you did!

Hunty said...

What an awesome story! Thanks for posting this!

Hi Rolfe! This is Hunter. I came looking for you on the internets because I just finished writing a new, super-simple roleplaying system (the rules of which fit on one page, with ten more pages of in-depth explanations and lots of examples), and I was thinking that you would be the perfect person to playtest it, if you'd be interested. Reading this has convinced me even more than you're the perfect person to playtest it, so please let me know you're interested! :)

You can email me at the address attached to this comment, or if there isn't one, then you can find an email address for me at