Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Meet the Gang, the Star-Travelling Gang

Allow me to introduce the expeditionary party from Pan-Ravenna University (PRU), a crack team of self-directed academics and support personnel with the skills and experience for pro-active archeology, daring sociological research, and dynamically finding solutions to their requirements for equipment and funding in the field (or, as baseless vicious rumor would phrase it, shameless ruin-raiders committing crimes of bribery, intimidation, assault, theft and looting far from the oversight of the deans of PRU).

Take a look and judge for yourself (pdf link).

For several years now, I've presented this regular set of pre-generated PC's at my Stars Without Number convention sessions. Though the concepts have stayed consistent, I've revised them several times statistically, narratively and in presentation. The biggest change is that originally I wrote up these character's as neutral as possible. Just stats, no personality or motivations, on the assumption that would leave room for the players to turn the characters into what they wanted. But in practice players were eager for ready behavioral hooks to launch off from, so I added some flavor in part based on how I'd seen these characters played already. I still have the players come up with their own names and appearances, though (note that descriptions are also gender neutral).

So far, no expedition of the PRU team has looked like this...
Mechanically, these are all mostly standard 1st edition SWN 3rd level characters, which I find to be the sweet-spot when running OSR games at conventions (capable enough to have a couple tricks to choose from, sturdy enough to take a solid hit and keep standing, but still limited enough to require shrewdness and teamwork). I've incorporated the higher skill point advancement suggested by Kevin Crawford, and bumped the attributes up a touch from natural-roll results. Also, I've tinkered with the background and training package to make them more colorful and given each character one unique piece of gear with a enigmatic description of subjective utility, which has turned out to be a rich inspiration for player improvisation (I've seen a whole session hinge around the Space Marine's crystal alien pet).

... but quite a few looked like this.

I only run tables for up to six players, but offer eight characters to choose from so there's plenty of variety for everyone and the choices made can indicate how I should tune the scenario (everybody took the Warriors but nobody took the Psychics? okay, time to set up a bunch of combats). But still, making the party a research team with wide discretion on a far-away survey mission seemed a good way to keep options open for a wide variety of scenarios. Rather than being mercenaries all about battle or merchants only looking for profit, these folks can get caught up in anything from "the Dean at PRU orders you to go investigate the Bloody Murder Planet," to "you're broke and stuck in a backwater starport, and you need to figure out a way out of here," or the classic "the local Mafia King has a Shiny Pre-Tech Dingus that would look really good in the PRU museum (and win you a healthy commission)." I'm sure I'll convert these characters to SWN 2nd edition when the time comes, and continue to offer them to players for years.