Posted by : David Guyll May 25, 2013

I mentioned in my review of Edge of the Empire that I know of Star Wars, but am not really a fan of it. Gamma World came out some three years ago, and I have on occassion thought of running a campaign by taking the Star Wars universe, and cramming everything onto one planet.

In this setting alien species would either be mutants or actual aliens from other worlds or dimensions, while planets would be represented either as geological regions or locations; Tatooine would be a desert, Hoth a frozen wasteland, Dagobah a swamp, Naboo an island chain, Coruscant a bit city, etc.

While playing The Old Republic another thought occurred to me while I watched my jedi smack humanoid-sharks with a sci-fi bokken (that apparently everyone has): why bother with the sci-fi elements at all? Also, what if the world was the battleground for numerous aberrant stars vying for control (making the name Star Wars a literal thing)?

The high concept is a...relatively nightmarish world where mortal races get caught up in the conflict between the denizens of various otherwordly entities, giving rise to many bizarre creatures that you would expect to see from Star Wars, like those aforementioned shark-people or gungans.

Just kidding, even Cthulhu has limits.
If you want to use some 4th Edition flavor, the Feywild could be a major player (though it could have also been destroyed).

In this setting the Jedi would be an order designed to instruct people on the proper usage of psionics (aka, the Force), which in most cases can cause insanity to those "gifted" with it that go untrained, the Sith would be those that have been corrupted by elder gods, lightsabers could be psi-blades, spaceships become airships, and various types of warforged take the place of droids.

Hyperspace would be a method of travel by which travelers exploit distortions in space and time due to the Far Realm encroaching on the world. The Death Star could be a kind of gate intended to allow an elder god to enter the world, or a weapon to destroy the prison of one. Maybe the world is a prison, and it is designed to destroy it? Maybe it will only annihilate all life to pave the way for a new race of an elder god's design?

{ 12 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Sounds awesome. I might actually try this if my group were up for it. Of course, everything I try to run, no matter what, turns into a lighthearted humor-fest... in which case gungans would be acceptable?

    -E

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  2. You could have gungans be the embarrassing creations of a Dagon-analogue, before moving on to deep ones. Or maybe they are the hillybilly variations?

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  3. Eh, my group hates Lovecraft. They would kill me if I pulled it out again.
    :(

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  4. One of my regular players, Beth, hates it when I incorporate anything Lovecraftian and/or having to do with spiders.

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  5. So how do you deal with it? She was playing in Tendrils of Fate, wasn't she?
    That was very Lovecraftian.

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  6. Wow, that was a looong time ago...

    I was not even aware it was bothering her until the campaign petered out. When I plan games that she plays in, I make sure to avoid those things as much as possible.

    That was the most Lovecraftian thing I have ever done, from the general region, to the NPCs, to the places, even the name of most of the adventures were based off of story names.

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  7. My problems started when I was using the head crabs that you posted a while back. The feel felt just right from my side, and very much felt like they were supposed to.

    When one of my players was stuck alone in a village that was overrun by head crabs, she put a bucket on her head and ran like hell was chasing her.

    I thought at first that this was great, she was getting in the spirit of things, but talking to her later, she wasn't too thrilled about them. I was also using head-crab zombies in the adventure... I don't know what the problem is. They were creepy and fun from my side of the screen, where did I go wrong?

    (the adventure was named 'The Dunmere Horror', guess where I got the name)

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  8. Thats good to hear, as I never got a chance to use them myself. :-)

    Was she creeped out? Bored? If you happened to record the session, it would help to see/hear how everything played out.

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  9. It started out with Rhianna (a bard, and the least attentive player in the group at the time) getting hired by a priest of Ioun to investigate an old mansion on the shores of Lake Dunmere (Nentir Vale). She accepts of course, if only to advance the plot. I gave her some companion 'hired guards' to help balance the encounters (and to get killed off in Lovecraftian fashion), and they ran into some bandits in the road. After one round I handwaved it after realizing that this combat was utterly pointless. A travel montage later, and she arrives at Dunmere Village(named after the lake, don'cha know).
    I am quite possible the worst DM when in comes to improvising dialogue with players, and this was the worst so far. I had some NPC sketches on hand expecting a streetwise check or three. I wasw dead wrong. She walks into a tavern and starts performing. She finds info about great tragedies that happened at the mansion long ago, discouraging her from investigating. I swear she is the most sensible adventurer in the world.
    The next day, she and the guards hike up the cliff to the manor while the merchants from the caravan they traveled with did their merchant stuff. She enters the manor, and notices that it was a three-story building... with no additional floors between the ground and ceiling. Some walls were still there of course, as were some guards that manifested tentacles (as in 'At the Mines of Madness', I think; using 'Those who Hear'). They fight them off, explore some rooms, and an iron portcullis slams shut behind them.
    They try a window, but it was stuck, rusty with age. A ghost appears over a pile of bones, the old lord of the mansion. After a hilarious conversation with him, the otherwise unoccupied guards managed to bust open a window. One of them sneaks out to send word to the village. A minute later, a loud scream can be heard, echoing throughout the empty manor.

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  10. With apparently no one else around, they decide to head down to the crypts. It's an old place, with the usual trappings of centuries-old underground burial places. A few minutes of wandering brings the quartet to a chamber, with some head-crab zombies chasing them. Their flight triggers a whirling-blades trap, which proceeds to shred them to pieces if they get close. The highlight of the adventure (figuratively and literally) came when she used a 'Pyrotechnics' scroll to create a flair and throw it at the contraption, blowing it to bits. As the crap-zombies are killed, their crabs leap off of them and onto 2 of the guards. Three down, two to go.
    More wandering takes them (finally) to a temple area of sorts. A large crowd of cultists stand at attention in a multi-tiered chamber, chanting along with whatever the priest was saying. Stuff about the Great Old Ones, their much-anticipated return, etc. the PC wants to leave, but another portcullis slams shut, leaving her with a bunch of join-or-die cultists. They eventually hack their way through the mob, to the priest. His rant is now more along the lines of "It is too late. In a matter of hours, Dunmere Village will be overrun by His GLORIOUS crabs. Everyone in the village with HEAR him. And soon, you shall hear too, or parish at his command." He proceeds to teleport out of the room, leaving the two alone together in this enormous, grim chamber. The remaining guard manages to lift the portcullis, allowing them to escape. Back to the village.
    the fishermen were just beginning to notice the strange shapes in the water as Rhianna was leaving the mansion. The crabs commandeered the fishing fleet, and then the zombies, with crab-filled nets in hand, made their way to the docks to transform the rest of the town. As the player arrives, almost the entire village was crab-ed, and the few who weren't soon were. A round later, her former companion was crabbed and an entire mob of crab-zombies was surrounding her. She then proceeded to do the wisest thing possible, which was to put a bucket over her head and run like hell was chasing her. Hours later, she is near where her companions made their camp after similar goblin cultist-inspired flight.
    The above report is a slightly more dramatized version of events, but still mostly accurate. The villain's rant is similar but not the same, as this happened a few months ago. Not hte same quality as your reports, but this is spur of the moment. The player was mostly bored throughout the entire session.

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  11. As a disclaimer keep in mind that this is all in hindsight, so do not take this to mean that I would have done this myself. Also having not been there nor knowing the player I am not sure if this would even work.

    As a bard I would have played to her character’s motivations and goals. Is she interested in stories? Well Dunmere has its share of ghost stories, folklore concerning monsters in the lake, a haunted mansion, etc.

    Rather than run into bandits I would have had her run into a traveler along the way. Better yet, have something chase her, something that she cannot see. She finds shelter in a cabin that has a strange symbol etched on the door, with an appropriately creepy resident: blind eye, something seems to writhe beneath his skin, one of the rooms is covered in jagged, incomprehensible scrawling (that would appear later in the adventure).

    The point here is to start conveying that things are not right. Try not to be too overt, avoiding gross-outs with rotting bodies and the like. Maybe the meat he offers looks suspect? Maybe she finds a finger underneath a chair? Maybe the door has some scratches on it. If she has a guard or traveling companion, maybe the next day when she wakes up both he and the resident are gone. The only sign is a small spatter of blood or article of clothing.

    Improving dialogue can be very, very difficult. All I can say is to practice this as much as you can, and try not to get “married” to a specific course of action or dialogue. If you want to say or do something cool, try to make it happen, but do not force it to happen. This is why when I ran A Sundered World and now Epiro that I did not do much planning, and I have to say the accidental stuff was way more amazing and memorable than any of the pre-planned speeches I have tried to shoehorn in the past (case in point, episode 201).

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  12. A sensible player is not necessarily bad, except when the sensibilities preclude any chance of adventure. If I know the DM is dropping a hook, a do my best to bite because I know that despite how obvious and trite it may be, the chances of having fun are probably better than if I simply ignored it. I guess in this regard I tend to act like Finn from Adventure Time: haunted mansion? I am all about that!

    In the mansion I would have started very subtle, gradually having weirder and weirder things occur as they continued to explore it. They might find a room with a strange diagram and notes about the headcrabs. Then, in a scene similar to Aliens, might find just one in a room, which they would probably kill no problem. Maybe have two in order to ramp up the sense of danger.

    I think for this I would borrow some from the Gamecube remake of Resident Evil and Eternal Darkness, putting a lone headcrab zombie in a closet or bathroom; when the characters enter the a room, they can hear something banging on the door. They will not know what until they open it, which can add tension. You could even do it so that they need to find a key to access the basement level, which leads to an underground city like Eternal Darkness’s Engha.

    If you want to focus on headcrab zombies, be sure to mix it up like in Half-Life 2: let them run into the normal ones, then the fast ones, then the ones that throw black headcrabs that have a nasty poisonous bite. Also, add more that they are not expecting, like a zombie that when killed explodes into a headcrab swarm. Also, they have to come from somewhere, which sounds like a job for the Gonarch.

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