The GM Awakens: Ask a Decent? GM – Part 1

This series follows the trials, tribulations, successes, and failures of a fairly inexperienced GM who has recently picked up the hobby after a long time away. It aims to assist new GM’s by examining what worked, didn’t work, and what failed miserably as he spins up new campaigns, modules, encounters, and adventures for his friends and family in Fantasy Flight Games’ Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion/Force and Destiny system.

Well it’s time once again to see if I know what I’m doing and talking about.  No promises.  From time to time I’ve reached out to the various groups in the SWRPG community I’m a part of to take in questions about the system, GMing in the system, and roleplaying and GMing in general.  All of these questions have come directly from readers.  So let’s tackle this week’s lot of great questions!

Kenny Wildman –How best do you deal with a Perception roll that fails but gets advantage? That one typically stumps me hard as a GM!

Whenever any check fails, but you add Advantage or Triumphs, it can get tricky.  Per rules, the task, whatever was attempted, fails.  So now the challenge is, if something positive happens, then what?  So for Perception checks I look at it like this: the PC doesn’t find what they were hoping to find or notice, but they notice something else.  So, let’s say a PC was looking to see if a door has an alarm on it and his Perception check fails with advantage.  I would then narrate that while you find no evidence of alarm, you do notice that the electronic lock is one you’re familiar with, and you will get a boost breaking into it.  Or, perhaps your team is trying a Perception check to see if they’re being followed.  A failure with advantage could mean they notice no one following them, but they do notice a shortcut, and if they duck into it, it will be difficult to follow them from there.

So really the bottom line is, as the GM, think of something that has nothing to do with what the check was for, but is advantageous to their situation.  It can be easier said than done, but with practice you can begin to get the hang of it.  Just have the Advantage or Triumph have nothing to do with the specific failure, and you’re good to go!

Jason Engel How do you handle Ambush? A free round of Action after a failed Perception roll or just Vigilance vs Cool/Stealth/Skullduggery with Setback and Upgrades to determine Initiative?

OK so it appears this question is related to how to handle setting up an ambush of incoming NPCs.  The reason I was confused a bit is the word “Ambush” is capitalized, and I thought you were referring to the Ambush talent in the game, of which there is one.  So, first of all, if your PCs are trying to set up an ambush for some bad guys, the two possibilities you put up are completely plausible.  See if they notice the ambush and if not, the PCs go first with actions or do basically the same thing and have them go first in the Initiative order.  I have to say as a GM, both are completely plausible and I’d accept either if I was your player.  They both make sense and really highlight the ability of the narrative dice system to be flexible.

However, let’s look at the Ambush talent in the game, and that may also give you ideas.  Ambush is found on page 34 of Forged in Battle as part of the Trailblazer specialization.  It says:  “Once per round when benefiting from cover, the character may perform the Ambush maneuver.  The character can add additional damage equal to his ranks in the Stealth skill to one hit of the next successful combat check with a non-starship/vehicle weapon he makes against a target within short range before the end of his turn.”  So basically, they must be in cover, wait for them to get close, and then the PCs first strike hits harder than most.

If no one in your group is a Trailblazer this might be something to look at.  Make their next check have boost dice or more punch if they succeed.  What will make the talent stand out is it is unopposed… the ambush always works if you have the specific talent from the Trailblazer.  But if they don’t have the talent, then an opposed check with success making their next strike hit harder is certainly something else you can consider.  A free full round is a lot, but I’d say if you let them all go first, hit harder first, or get a free shot in, that’s all great, and then depending on the situation you can decide what, if any, opposed check makes sense.

Yorkus Rex – What are good guidelines for monetary rewards for characters? When PCs complete a job in Edge, should they expect a few hundred creds each? A few thousand?  What can a GM do when the PCs come into an unusually large reward?

Boy, do I know this one hahaha.  There is a table on page 89 of Dangerous Convenants that lays out suggested payments for jobs in the SWRPG.  It’s a good starting point.  However, to the first part of this question, let me also throw in some things to consider.  Use that table, of course.  But, consider several things: 1) How often do you play? 2) How long do you play? 3) How often do you want your players to level up and get new gear?  The reason these are important is that it really helps your party grow how you intend.  Here’s what I mean, as I learned the hard way.

In one campaign, my players meet every week for a couple hours.  In that campaign, I would have shopping days where they’d go buy whatever they wanted, and I’d also let them have access to a Quartermaster at their Rebel base to give them things too.  It turned out they got very, very powerful weapons very early in the campaign and it made me react with some GM creativity.  In another campaign I have, we meet at lunch at work for about 50 minutes.  So, we don’t have much time to play.  As a result, I give that group money *more* often because I want them to have the chance to jump up with gear.  If I don’t give them more money and stick to the table, they may go months and months without being able to get things they want and need for their characters.  So, stick to the table as a baseline, but use your judgment and see if you need to adjust.  Look at the prices of the things they want to buy, and determine how quickly you want/need them to acquire those things, and that will give you a great idea of how much money you want to give out.

For the second part of your question, what do you do if they get a lot of money–I did that myself!  I had a briefcase full of 1 million credits in a scene as background narrative.  But all of a sudden my PCs surprised me and went from saving lives to “get the briefcase!”  So now my PC’s have a million bucks.  Now what?  Well, on the advice of The Order 66 Podcast, I gave the team a lot of Obligation.  Bounties on their heads from the groups to whom the briefcase belonged.  So now it’s a fun part of the narrative of the campaign.  And then we ended up having them use that million dollars to give to the Rebellion and they got their own capital ship, which is now part of the campaign.  So, if your PCs get their hands on a ton of money, look at Obligation and make it something that haunts them, and/or give them something to do with that money besides just an insane shopping spree.  Our games now have a ton of fun, narrative fodder all based on my mistake!

I got so many questions in that I need to split up the columns.  So, next week comes Part 2 with more questions!

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Scott Alden

Scott Alden

Scott is a full-time IT Manager living in Lawrence, KS. (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! Just outside Kansas City for those who don't know.) Scott is a veteran of several role playing, table top miniatures, video, and board games, starting with the Atari 2600 when he was 6, and the classic red box Dungeons and Dragons game when he was 12. After a long hiatus away from the hobby, Scott has recently picked up gaming once again, and is running two different campaigns in Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion/Force and Destiny lines. He is an avid X-Wing miniatures player, as well as Armada, Imperial Assault, Space Hulk, and Rebellion. (His family is obviously a Star Wars family, right?) Scott is married to his high school sweetheart, and has 2 children in middle school, both Black Belts in Krav Maga martial arts.
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  1. One piece of advice I have for failed rolls in general: the failed roll doesn’t have to mean “I tried to do this and didn’t succeed”. It can mean the player introduces a fact that makes the specified action impossible. You fail to Skulduggery a lock? The lock is fitted with anti-intrusion gear that makes it virtually impossible to bypass. You can’t climb a wall? The wall is a flat, slick plasteel surface that doesn’t provide handholds.

    When you think of it that way, failure with advantage or triumph becomes a little easier to work with in some ways. You fail a perception check? It’s because fog has rolled in, obscuring your vision, but that can also be useful as a way to hide yourself or to keep the authorities/onlookers from seeing something you’re doing. Or it’s because there’s a flyway nearby that obscures the view with flashing lights and vehicle movement, but also constitutes too public an area for somebody to act against you. Or the person following you has high end stealth gear, which you can acquire after they go down.

    This is especially helpful in ranged combat — if you miss a ranged attack, maybe that just means the guy is huddling behind cover and refusing to show himself. With advantage or a triumph, you aren’t just fruitlessly shooting at nothing, maybe you give up on taking the shot for now and do something different, like shooting light fixtures or creating better cover for yourself.

    I want to encourage my players to treat failure as a time to add to the narrative, not just flop down and go “Well darn”.

    • Fantastic advice and very, very true. The GM has a lot of tricks up his sleeve when telling the players why the check failed. In fact, this can add a lot of narrative flair.

  2. I like the idea of treating an ambush as a single free attack made using Stealth vs Perception instead of Ranged Heavy (or whatever) vs the flat difficulty of range. Damage is your weapon’s standard damage plus successes, advantage for all the usual benefits, and so on; and then once that’s resolved, everyone rolls initiative as normal (cool for the ambushers, vigilance for the targets). Range doesn’t play into the difficulty for this one roll; basically figure that increased distance makes the shot harder, but also makes it harder to spot the ambush, so it all just evens out in the narrative. If somebody’s using a scope at long/extreme range while launching the attack or something like that, give them an upgrade or something in lieu of the difficulty reduction.

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