I mentioned before that I was planning on running a Star Wars campaign for our gaming group, but backed out when an opportuinity opened up to participate on an indie videogame RPG. I’d already written a good part of the setting, and I thought I’d post some of my notes here for the curious. As always, feel free to borrow any of this for your own games if it suits you. Share and share alike.
Here was the planet where our campaign was going to start. It still has a few rough edges, story-wise. I haven’t checked the names of places to make sure they fit with canon, and I haven’t fleshed out the characters, but this is where it was headed. The point of this planet was to give all the players a common origin. They were going to “grow up” on this planet.
The campaign would begin with a brief session of pure roleplaying and discussion. No dice, no combat. I’d explain the setting, offer them some choices, and ask them some questions about how they wanted to spend their teenage years, which they would discuss and answer as a group. I’d use these answers to determine how the various factions in the gameworld related to them. No matter what choices they made, they would leave the world with their own spaceship, an NPC droid, and at least one major faction pissed off at them. What ship / droid / faction they ended up with would depend on the choices they made. They could end up wanted criminals, or maybe have a bounty on their head. Maybe their choices would benefit their families, or possibly harm them. These choices and outcomes would give the players a coherent backstory and a set of common goals. Once the choices were made they would begin the campaign proper and we’d play normally.
It’s a bit unconventional to begin a game this way, but it sure beats meeting in a tavern and trying to hammer out a sensible backstory from there.
So here is where they are from:
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The planet itself has no proper, official name. Locals refer to it as “Tarson’s End” in reference to the once-famous capital class starship which now lies in a heap on the surface. The inhabitants take great pride in the fact that a ship known “all over the galaxy” has its final resting place on their small mining outpost.
To outsiders the planet is simply known as MO-CV-2967.2. (Mining outpost, galactic region CV, star #2967, second planet.) It is not a recognized member of the Republic. It pays no taxes and has no seat in the senate. There is nothing of interest outside of the mining outpost, and anyone from the core worlds would regard Tarson’s End as a rock not worth mentioning.
The planet is mostly water, limiting it’s usefulness, with the only notable landmass being right around the equator where it forms a rocky coastal region surrounding a plateau of dull, dry scrublands. The biodiversity and biodensity are both fairly low. For these reasons, the planet long remained uninhabited, unclaimed, and ignored.
Twenty years ago Kuat Materials Corp discovered a concentrated supply of fossil fuels along a (dormant and stable) fault line on the main continent. The planet was claimed and a mining outpost established. The planned lifespan of the outpost was five years, although the surprising depth and richness of the materials made the outpost more successful than originally projected. The facilities were expanded and many workers took up permanent residence. A generation of young people have grown up in the village of Tarson’s End. The outpost – looking more and more like a “colony” each year – now has over one hundred families. (Or however many fit in the given drawning. I can’t be bothered to count them. I imagine one family for each of those nobby little buildings in the village.)
The colony has a small staff of KMC management on hand to oversee the mining and salvage operations. They usually live on Tarson’s End along with their families, and are rotated out after a six month stretch. A few are assigned here permanently. (Some players could decide that they were the children of one of these families, allowing them to have an upper-class background if they wanted.)
Tarson’s End is not considered a choice assignment. KMC personnel who end up here are either of low position or being punished in some way. Most are eager to be promoted or transfered to a better better position a little closer to the Galactic Core. Or at least someplace with more entertainment and less smelly miners.
This is the only way off-world. It’s also the location of the trading center. Scavengers can bring their salvage here to sell to traders or they can barter for off-world goods.
The KMC barracks are also located here, as well as the outpost guard station. The dozen or so guards assigned here are charged with keeping the mining operations running smoothly and dealing with crime in and around the trading post. They do not see themselves as “police” and don’t get involved in things going on in the village.
Here the raw materials are turned into fuel. Few modern vehicles (maybe none, I haven’t thought about it) use fossil fuel, but several forms of racing have FF powered vehicles as a matter of tradition. To avoid cheating via the fabrication of synthetic fuels, the rules governing the production of racing fuel are tight and strictly enforced. This greatly elevates the value of genuine sources of fossil fuel, which makes places like Tarson’s End possible.
The formulation of fuel produced here is intended for speeder racing. The track was put in for the purposes of testing batches of fuel before bulk sale. The villagers would often gather along the track to watch these test runs, and after a while the practice evolved into full-scale racing. While Kuat Speedway isn’t an officially recognized or licensed speeder track, it now serves as a kind of bush league where scouts gather in search of new pilots or other talent.
The digging is done mostly by droids, and the miners themselves are there to supervise and guide droid behavior. Each miner is usually assigned two droids at the start of their shift: A digger and a hauler. The droids were intended to be assigned at random, but the miners have made a habit of getting the same two droids each day. More often than not miners give “their” droids elaborate paint jobs and amusing nicknames.
The vein of material being mined is called “blackchalk”. The seam of blackchalk on Tarson’s End is very long, narrow, and exceptionally deep. It’s trapped between walls of rock on either side, and as it is cleared out a large underground canyon is being formed.
As the last war came to an end, the Kuat corporation was faced with what to do with the ruined hulk of the once great starship, the Tarson. The ship was too antiquated to be worth refurbishing yet again, and they were eager to retire the ship and pass the high-profile name of “Tarson” onto one of the new Star Destroyer class ships (or some other kind of ship, depending on what era the game is set in) that were going into production. However, bits of the old Tarson had been modernized. While the ship as a whole was useless, there was a great deal of valuable equipment still on board.
It would cost them a fortune to have the Engineers’ Union recover these useful parts, which would then have to go through the expensive process of re-inspection, after which the company would be liable for taxes and (re)certification fees. They would then have to pay the Salvage and Recycling Union to haul the carcass away. The KMC accountants did the math and realized it would be cheaper to simply launch the ship into the sun instead of paying to recover the valuable parts.
But then someone came up with the idea: Instead of dumping the ship into the sun, why not “throw it away” in a handy location? They could write off the ENTIRE ship as well as avoid the various taxes and fees. If they dumped the ship near a group of low-income workers, the workers would naturally strip the thing themselves. KMC could buy these parts on the open market for a lot less than it would cost to pay the engineers to recover them.
The 2967.2 Blackchalk mining colony was selected as the ideal location. There was lots of room to dump the ship, and everyone who lived on the outpost was a KMC employee or contract worker. The spouses and children didn’t have much to do and it was a safe guess they would naturally loot the Tarson for parts in order to make a few extra credits. Most of them were sufficiently clever to do the job right yet poor enough to do the job for next to nothing.
The program worked so well that over the years KMC has dumped many other craft onto the pile. Nothing as large or as famous as the Tarson, but enough that the inhabitants of Tarson’s End still make decent credits exploring the salvage yard.
There are many types of people living in the village. (The players could pick one of these family types for their background.)
* Some are working off debt to KMC by laboring in the mines. These are often people who have lost a lawsuit against KMC, or have been found guilty of stealing from the company. They will be free to leave once their debt is paid. These people tend to dig very quickly and greedily, as the sooner they harvest the required tonnage, the sooner they can go.
* Some have signed agreements to work for a number of years, after which they will “own” a stake in the mines, their own droids, and their home in the village. They will also be eligible for profit sharing. Their five-year contract is their way of “buying in” to the mine without needing credits up front. There is always the risk that the mine will run dry or become unprofitable before their contract is up. These people tend to dig very slowly.
* Some are people who have discovered that Tarson’s End is a good place to hide out. They may be wanted by the authorities or by bounty hunters, but in either case the mining outpost is an excellent place to earn a living while laying low.
So named for the fact that the place is lit up with red lighting. This is the “red light district”. It’s mostly gambling and brothels, with a couple of bars and a place for pit fighting.
The Red Zone is mostly run by Noll Bandos, the so-called “mayor” of Tarson’s End. He was never elected, he just had the cash and the men and the nerve to start calling himself mayor. His goons act as the ersatz police of the village. The corporation leaves him alone because he saves them from having to govern miners directly. They don’t care what he does as long as he doesn’t impede mining operations or hurt indebted laborers. He’s dirty and crooked in a bunch of harmless, petty ways. He fancies himself a Crime Boss of sorts, and likes to make big, magnanimous gestures towards “his people” from time to time, mostly as a way of inflating his own importance.
The players wouldn’t know this starting out, but Goga the Hutt has taken an interest in “Mayor” Bandos. Tarson’s End is in Goga’s territory, and technically he should demand a cut of any illicit business going on there. Goga ignored the place because it was small-time and short-term, but as the place has grown there have been rumbles from other people under Goga’s thumb asking why Bandos doesn’t have to pay. Is Goga going soft, or what?
So, Goga is now obliged to muscle in and demand a cut. This will be messy and not worth the return it will yield, but it’s necessary to prevent a revolt among the enterprises currently paying him tribute. It’s this sort of thing that can take all the fun out of being a crime boss.
At the start of the game I was going to offer the players some choices for what they wanted to be doing while growing up on Tarson’s End. Regardless of whether their individual parents were corporate nobles or miners or lowlifes who worked in the Red Zone, the group was going to begin with the assumption that the characters were about the same age and hung out together. They could choose from these three paths:
* Working for KMC (the mining corporation) doing odd jobs and fetching special salvage. This would gradually lead to coming into to contact with Goga and working for him. (KMC would back Goga in his efforts to seize the Red Zone. They don’t really care WHO runs the place, but they are worried that if Goga doesn’t get his way their fuel shipments will be hounded by pirates.)
* Working for Bandos doing petty jobs. This would, after some choices, turn into protecting his interests from Goga as the powerful Hutt organization moved in.
* Assuming one of them was a Tech Specialist and one of them put some points into piloting, they could salvage some parts to build a speeder and form their own racing team. They would do well, but the fight between Bandos and Goga would spill over into the raceway. The team would find itself under pressure from both sides to win or lose certain races. Goga would tempt them with money. Bandos would bully them with threats.
In any case, they would make a number of predefined choices that would set up their relationships to the various factions in the game. I’d have made sure that once they left the planet they had a ship, a humorous and semi-useful droid, and at least one faction after them. That faction wouldn’t be the main campaign, but would be a source of plot hooks and plot devices down the road. It would be up to them if they wanted to keep running or if they wanted to lay aside the central plot to settle things with this antagonist.
The game was a dud, and I'm convinced a big part of that is due to the way the game leaned into its story. Its terrible, cringe-inducing story.
Final Fantasy X
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Bethesda felt the need to jam a morality system into Fallout 3, and they blew it. Good and evil make no sense and the moral compass points sideways.
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No, brutal, soul-sucking, marriage-destroying crunch mode in game development isn't a privilege or an opportunity. It's idiocy.
There's a wonderful way to balance difficulty in RPGs, and designers try to prevent it. For some reason.