The S~e~tup

Your characters are teenagers in school. There’s a popular croud at school, and they’re not in it. To be more specific, they’re a bunch of nerds. They’re geeks, dweebs, all-around spazzes, and they’re the key to victory in an intergalactic war. Let me tell you why. There’s this sci-fi book series called Star Empire. It got turned into a movie, a few video games, a short-lived TV show, and so forth. It’s one of the things that draws you and your friends together. You’re all fans. Some of you are what one might call “rabid” fans – you own the technical manuals for the ships, you’ve got models in your room, and so forth. As far as your parents are concerned, it’s got you interested in science and reading, so they’ll shell out a few bucks to take you to a bad movie now and then. And it’s real. It’s more than real, it’s a recruiting tool, and the last hope of a peaceful people for freedom. The K’lor Star Empire really has taken over the harmonious worlds of the D’nai. Emperor Malkath really is the horrible person the movies portray him as. The D’nai are totally enslaved save for a small band of freedom fighters, who hatched a desparate plan for success. They’ve got a handful of starfighters, with immensely improved technology. They’ve got a few dozen robotic soldiers. They have the advantage of stealth, for now. And they’ve got you.

You and your friends know everything you need in order to defeat the K’lor and restore peace to the galaxy. The maps you have of D’nai space? They’re real. Those technical manuals for the Star Empire ships? 100% accurate. The real-time strategy game? It uses actual statistics gathered from the D’nai resistance campaign over the course of fifty years of fighting. The pièce de résistance, however, is the Star Empire arcade game. The one they keep in the back of the local comic book shop. The incredibly detailed one where you fly around in a starfighter and blow up enemy ships, and it’s so old it still only costs one quarter. That one is the rebellion’s crowning achievement, and it’s how they found you. Enter your high score, pal. You’re a winner.

Drama ove~r De~pth
You’re playing a teenager in an interstellar war. Let’s face it: this is not a highly believable scenario on any level. A key to enjoying space opera is to avoid considering what’s happening too closely. Start asking “why” and the GM will have to start making up stuff about midiclorians, and no one wants that. You’re a huge hero in a galaxy-wide revolution. Sit back and enjoy it.

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Charac~t~e~r C~reation
The first thing you’re going to do is create a character. This will be a more-or-less average geek from Earth in your century. Here’s what you need to know to make your character: ★ There are five kinds of character: the Starfighter, the General, the Encyclopedia, the Strategist, and the Engineer. Your character will be from one of these types, which are described starting on page 7. Try not to duplicate types of character within your group unless it’s absolutely necessary – diversity pays. If you absolutely must, get an extra Starfighter. ★ Character abilities are described by their Skills. Most of these start off rated at 1. Each character type excels at one particular activity. This is listed as their “Key Skill,” and starts at 3. ★ Each character also has an Involvement score and a Confidence score. Both of these start at 1, and will change as the game goes on. These affect a lot of other rolls. ★ Each character must have one of the Plotline described on page 10. Each character should have a unique plotline – no duplicates.

Basic Game Mechanics
Let’s do the quick version here first. You’ll get the full version with bells and whistles later. When you’re using one of your skills, you roll a number of sixsided dice (d6) equal to the skill and count up the total. If you have a modifier, you roll more or fewer dice, or have a number added or subtracted afterwards. You want to roll as high as you can. For instance, let’s say the Starfighter rolls to blow up enemy ships in his first battle. He has 3d6 to roll. His Confidence is low, which gives him a -1d penalty, so he rolls 2d6 instead. If he also had a +3 modifier, he’d be rolling 2d6+3. Most of the action will be part of a Mission: all of the characters using their skills in complicated set-ups to take down part of the K’lor fleet or empire. This is described starting on page 14, but it uses these same mechanics over and over again.

What about social skills?
Social interactions in this game are handled by the GM and players talking in-character. There are no social stats, and the only guidelines we offer are that similarities help to make connections between people, and confidence is contagious.

I want to play as mys~elf!
Please do.

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Skills are what describe your character. In Star Empire, these skills are named for old video games, specifically the ones your character is likely to have played.

An addictive puzzle game. The Snood skill lets you fit things together until they work properly. Electrical, mechanical, whatever. You can create a working device, or improve an existing one.You might also use Snood to understand tech manuals or pass science class.

One of the original space fighter games. The Galaga skill covers reflexes, snap judgement, and careful movement. In short, it’s everything you need to pilot a starfighter. It’s the key to space battles. You might also use Galaga to shoot an alien ray-gun, dodge blaster bolts, or play ping-pong.

A text-based adventure. When the details are everything, count on someone who spots and remembers them. You might use Zork to remember starship specifications, spot changes in enemy formations, or just remember where your keys are.

A game of tactics and strategy. The Warcraft skill covers directing an army, gathering resources and intelligence, and succeeding on the field of battle. You might also use the Warcraft attribute to plan an invasion, find the weak point in a plan, or balance your budget.

A contemplative puzzle game. The Myst skill lets you predict the actions of others, though you still might not get along with them. You might also use Myst to play poker, make people wonder what you’re doing, or buy good Christmas presents.

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Characters in Star Empire have two Drives: Involvement and Confidence. These make a difference in almost every area of gameplay. Characters start with a 1 in both Drives, and they change slowly as the game goes on to reflect how a character feels.

will be highlighted by the GM when they occur – you can’t choose to simply decrease your score. Examples would be seeing corruption in a rebellion leader, or finding out some other dirty secret. The GM will give you the option to decrease your involvement, increase it, or drop it to zero. It’s your choice how much the event shakes your character.

Involvement Table Involvement
Involvement measures how emotionally committed a character is to the rebellion. The higher this score is, the more your character believes in the goals of those around him. Your Involvement modifier is added onto your dice roll for every single rebellion event you’re involved in. Any attack on the K’lor, resource-gathering expedition, rescue mission, even something as simple as repairing vital equipment will receive this bonus. Involvement starts at 1 at the beginning of the game. Each time your character’s Plotline is activated, you add +1 to your score. Each time Emperor Malkath appears, add another +1. You can give another character a pep talk to raise his Involvement by +1 for a single mission, but unless both he and the mission as a whole succeed, the Involvement will drop back down afterwards. When you reach level 5 (Overinvolved) your next mission becomes a crisis event for you. See below for more on crisis events. Your score will drop afterwards. Involvement will decrease if your character becomes disillusioned with the rebellion. The rare events when this might happen Involvement Description Modifier Don’t Care. Your character will have 0 to be dragged out of bed by another -2d character in order to participate. Testing the Waters. You can see that 1 things are happening, but you’re not -1d committed yet. Ready and willing. You can be counted 2 on to put the rebellion near the top of +0 your priority list. Gung-Ho. The rebellion is at the top 3 of your list. You’ll volunteer for any +1d mission for which you’re qualified. Deeply Committed. The rebellion comes before everything else. You’ll +2d 4 volunteer for every mission, even those you’re not completely qualified for. Overinvolved. Reaching this level 5 triggers a crisis event during your next * mission.

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Confidence measures how much your character believes in his own capabilities. The higher this score is, the deeper your character’s faith that he can overcome the odds. Your Confidence modifier is added onto your dice roll for every action that has to do with your Key Skill, whether the roll is made during an official rebellion mission or not. Confidence starts at 1 at the beginning of the game. Each time your character achieves a personal victory during a mission, you add +1 to your score. When you reach level 5 (Overconfident) your next mission becomes a crisis event for you. See below for more on crisis events. Your score will drop afterwards. Confidence will decrease if your character fails regularly. Every consecutive failure after the first brings a -1 penalty to your score. For instance, if you fail twice in a row, your Confidence drops by one point. If you fail four times in a row, your Confidence drops by three points. Failing just once is a pain, but failing a lot really hurts.

Confidence Table
Confidence Description Modifier Shattered. Your character will hide from opportunities to prove himself, and will 0 -2d need major encouragement from the other characters. Overwhelmed. You feel like you aren’t 1 really prepared for this, and your -1d performance is shaky because of it. Level-headed. You have a good idea of 2 +0 your strengths and weaknesses. Self-Assured. You’re willing to stretch 3 for things that normally seem out of +1d reach, and it pays off for you. Cocky. You’re almost too confident. 4 Others will begin to find you annoying, +2d especially since you always do so well. Overconfident. Reaching this level 5 triggers a crisis event during your next * mission.

These modifiers kill me
Before the first few missions, the characters will probably need a pep talk. Without one they’re going to have a great deal of touble defeating the enemy.

Why humans?
The D’nai need humans partly because they can’t train without arousing K’lor attention, and partly because they’re simply too short to operate the controls of a K’lor starfighter!

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Crisis Events
Overconfident or overinvolved characters are due for a reality check. During their next mission they will become a liability to the group somehow, and the GM will arrange for this (some suggestions are below). Because of their feelings, the characters will be unable to back down or retreat in any way, and are guaranteed to fail. They’re at a stage where they can’t acknowledge the possibility of failure, and it’s going to bite them in the ass. After a crisis of involvement, most characters will withdraw to a more comfortable emotional distance. Roll 1d6 and set the character’s Involvement to half of that (1, 2, or 3). After a crisis of confidence, most characters will become strongly disillusioned with their own prowess, ending up withdrawn and depressed. Set Confidence to 0. As a player it might seem pretty lame to have to play through something where you already know the result. Think of it this way: how many times do you get to ham up your character going down in flames and know that you get to keep playing afterwards? This isn’t a punishment, it’s an opportunity to have some fun.

The GM should not tell the players what crisis event is going to happen until the mission starts. It’s a surprise. Starfighter: ★ The enemy has unlimited reinforcements (+10 ships per wave) ★ Facing self-repairing ships (destroy half of what the roll shows) ★ Facing illusionary ships that conceal deadly mine field General: ★ Enemy robots are immune to your weapons. (Score half points.) ★ Facing impossible terrain that breaks up his battle lines. ★ Facing an opponent with twenty battle lines already drawn. Encyclopedia: ★ Facing ships or robots he never read about. (Always roll zero.) ★ Enemy has made modifications. (GM steals cards from game.) ★ Failure of memory leads to making things up. (Reverse any positive modifiers you might give to others.) Engineer: ★ Stuck with terrible parts. (Remove a key card from every hand.) ★ Missing important pieces. (Only draw half as many cards.) ★ Hidden saboteur. (Face cards “explode” when used, reversing any positive effects when you use them.) Strategist: ★ Enemy plan always turns out the opposite of your guess. ★ The enemy plan never lines up. (Map is missing pieces.) ★ The enemy is directly controlled by Malthak, and who keeps altering their strategy. (GM rearranges your map pieces often.)

Sample Crisis Events
Here are some examples of good crisis events, along with some effects in game terms to reinforce them. When rolling during a crisis characters use unmodified rolls. Remember that the character involved cannot escape, and is guaranteed to fail (but live through it) no matter what.

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Charac~t~e~r Types
There are five types of character, each of which has been recruited by the D’nai for a specific purpose and through a specific method. The following pages talk about these in detail. During a mission, which is the “action” part of gameplay, each character has a specific role. The Starfighter and the General engage in a two-pronged attack in spae and on the ground. They are supported by the skills of the Engineer and the technical knowledge of the Encyclopedia. Meanwhile, the Strategist looks for patterns in the enemy’s movements that lead to long-term victory.

Key Skill: Galaga In The Rebellion: You’re the one and only person qualified to pilot the improved fighters that the D’nai created. Back on Earth: You played a lot of arcade games. And computer games. And any console games you could find that required a quick hand. Your favorites were the space shooters, but you liked anything precise and fast. In school this helped you... basically nowhere. You’d be great at sports if your body could keep up with your hands and your mind.

Whe~re’s the FPS Kid?
We considered adding someone who loves first-person shooters (like Halo, Half-Life, Doom, etc.) to control a robot warrior on the front lines. The idea was neat, but ultimately we felt that it fell more into “science fiction” rather than “space opera.” If you really like it, you might create your own for a sixth player. A magnetic dart set might make for a good minigame.

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Key Skill: Warcraft In The Rebellion: The robot soldiers of the D’nai are yours to command. They can absorb resources to create more of themselves, and can fire their weapons with great accuracy, but they’re not very smart. They need you to lead them. Back on Earth: You played a lot of real-time strategy games, including (of course) the Star Empire strategy game. In school you were always the kid with a plan – you had a solid GPA, because the only time you turned in things late was when you played the game too much to remember your homework.

Key Skill: Zork In The Rebellion: You’ve got the enemy ships and formations memorized. You know their codes, their methods, their approaches to everything. You might not get the glory, but without you there, no one else will either. Back on Earth: You read all the Star Empire books, about ten times each. Every little detail stuck in your head. It was all so cohesive, as if someone had really been there. Your homework came out the same way: every little detail right, even if the overall product wasn’t always the best.

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Key Skill: Snood In The Rebellion: You can take anything apart and put it back together, better. You’re on the scene with the General’s robot soldiers and the Starfighter’s ship, tweaking them and repairing them. Back on Earth: You were the handyman (or woman) around your house. Oh, sure, it didn’t always work right the first time, but soon enough you figured out not to crosswire the toaster or overclock the DVD player, and everything worked out fine in the end. You always came into science fairs with some great project that you had to fix halfway through... or had to extinguish.

Key Skill: Myst In The Rebellion: Of all the people in the rebellion, you understand the K’lor and what they want. You can get inside their heads (figuratively, you’re not a Strategistic) and guess their plans before they put them in action. Back on Earth: You were the geek-to-normal-kid translator. You alone, in your group of friends, had contacts outside the group. Not many of them, and you couldn’t really call them friends, but still. You also mediated a lot of the disputes that popped up within your group.

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Each character must have one of the following Plotlines. These will get “activated” as the game goes on, bringing certain plot elements into play. They serve as a flag for the GM, telling him to get your character involved in particular types of sideplots. Remember, each time your Plotline gets activated, you gain +1 to your Involvement score. The GM chooses when to activate a Plotline, but you reap the benefits (and you can always suggest that a particular time might be appropriate). Each description below gives the basic gist of the Plotline, some supporting characters who will probably be involved, the way the Plotline initially gets brough up, and how it will come back into play. All of these notes are only suggestions, not requirements. No Plotline should be taken by more than one character. If you use the Love Triangle Plotline in your game (which we recommend), you’ll need three characters to take the three pieces. The best choices are the characters with the Unforseen Reunion, Personal Loss, and Captured! Plotlines, to give them more screen time.

An Unfors~e~en Reunion
The Gist: One of your relatives disappeared a while ago, anywhere from six months to twelve years. Turns out he or she is working for the D’nai. Supporting Characters: Long-Lost Relative, Rebellion Leader Initial Activation: A chance encounter, or the relative seeks out the character. Recurrences: The relative stops by again to give a pep talk. The relative is in danger and needs help. The relative dies.

The Gist: After overextending yourself on the battlefield you get captured by the K’lor. This Plotline doesn’t work well for the Strategist or Encyclopedia, since neither of them is likely to be on the front lines. Supporting Characters: Emperor Malkath Initial Activation: A Crisis Event that makes you lose your cool. Recurrences: The rescue mission. Flashbacks to being tortured or brainwashed, or acting on said brainwashing. Seeing how the D’nai treat their prisoners.

Earth Girls are Easy Targ~e~ts
The Gist: The K’lor send a spy to Earth to find your weak point. They kidnap the girl you have a crush on. Supporting Characters: Cute Girl Initial Activation: The Emperor or one of his goons taunts your character by threatening Cute Girl. Recurrences: Rescue missions. Flashbacks to earlier interactions. Further scenes with Cute Girl after the rescue (if you can’t take her back to Earth right away).

More Plotlines
To create more plotlines, just come up with a major recurring theme for a character, something that helps to define their place in the game. You don’t need to worry about having something that comes up too often or too rarely, since quickly increasing your Involvement is self-balancing.

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Love Triangle (A)
The Gist: You love or have a big crush on Character B. Supporting Characters: The B and C characters. Initial Activation: As soon as you reveal or admit this longing, though not necessarily to Character B. Recurrences: See notes under C.

Pe~rsonal Loss
The Gist: Someone you care about deeply is threatened, and may die. Supporting Characters: Alien Engineer or Cute Girl. Initial Activation: You grow emotionally attached to a supporting character. Recurrences: You spend a lot of time with the character, either now or in a flashback sequence. The character’s life is threatened. The character dies.

Love Triangle (B)
The Gist: Character A loves you, but you have the hots for Character C. Supporting Characters: The A and C characters. Initial Activation: As soon as you admit your longing for C. You don’t have to know how A feels yet. Recurrences: See notes under C.

Sibling Rivalry
The Gist: Your older brother who went off to the Marines and you hadn’t heard from in forever? He got recruited by the K’lor. Now he’s the Emperor’s right-hand man and the leader of his armed forces. Supporting Characters: Older Brother Marine Initial Activation: An encounter on the battlefield or the news coming down from rebellion command. Recurrences: Further battlefield encounters. A chance to break the brainwashing. The final showdown.

Love Triangle (C)
The Gist: Character C loves you, but A loves C. Supporting Characters: The A and B characters Initial Activation: blah Recurrences: The Love Triangle Plotlines tend to all recur together. The traditional way these work is that A and B lust secretly for a time, then reveal to other people, then reveal to those they love, and then things get really complicated. Any time you can come to the rescue of someone you love counts as a recurrence, as does any time you are rescued by someone you love. Handled properly a love triangle can be a real source of tension and drama. Or you can run it like a farce; your call.

The Gist: The Emperor tries to recruit you by sending his assassin/strumpet. Supporting Characters: Evil Sexy Alien Initial Activation: The E.S.A. gets your attention, either on the battlefield or through covert communications. Recurrences: Further contact where she tries to seduce you, either sexually or through the promise of power. Other characters face her on the battlefield. The final showdown.

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Supporting Charac~t~e~rs
The Main Characters are important, but they aren’t everything. Without a support structure they’ll crash and burn, with no one there to fix their toys. They also need interesting people to interact with. Here are a few that we suggest, some of which we’ll be referring back to from time to time. Each uses the following template: Name: What you call them. Feel free to change it. Job: What they do. Personality: Just a few notes, feel free to expand. Think: Another character from science fiction whose personality can help you get a handle on this one. Hit List: Hey GMs: this is a war. Some characters are probably going to die. Here’s where we suggest offing them.

Big Damn Hero
Name: Todar Bronthak Job: The rebellion’s “public face,” Jodar stars in all the Star Empire books and movies. Actually kind of a tool. Personality: Full of himself. Think: Zap Brannigan Hit List: Not soon enough, sadly. If he’s stupid enough to stage a mutiny, he’ll probably live until the end, or until he goes up against the Older Brother Marine to try to join the bad guys.

Comic Book Store Guy
Name: Bob Smith (actually B’or Relan) Job: Recruiter for the rebellion. First contact for the main characters, telling them about the D’nai and their plight. Personality: Friendly and a little bit weird, which all makes sense when you find out he’s a two-foot-tall alien in a human suit. Known for giving people quarters to play the Star Empire video game in the store’s back room. Think: Obi-wan Kenobi Hit List: First one to go. Hey, he’s Obi-wan. As soon as people start liking him, off the guy.

Alien Engine~e~r
Name: Brilano Tagat Job: Fixes and upgrades captured technology for the rebellion. Responsible for the super-upgraded fighters that the Starfighter will be flying. Personality: Cordial but not deep, but very friendly to the Engineer and anyone who shows a genuine interest in his work. Think: Scotty Hit List: Somewhere just past the halfway mark. This can be a real kick to the head for the Engineer.

Cut~e Girl
Name: Jodi Robinson Job: High-school student. Popular and attractive. Personality: A little bitchy on the surface, but not a bad person underneath. By the time she shows up (kidnapped because one of the characters has a crush on her), she’s been exposed to a lot of weird alien stuff and needs help. Think: Claire from The Breakfast Club. Hit List: Only near the end, if at all. Threatening her life is a-ok, though.

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Evil Empe~ror
Name: Malkath Job: Emperor of the K’lor Star Empire Personality: Evil mastermind through and through. Emphasise both parts. He’s evil as hell, not afraid to torture or lie whenever it might be effective. He’s also a mastermind – he’s not stupid, and got his power because he knows people and how they think. Think: Oh, pick an evil emperor. Palpatine, Nero, Caligula... Hit List: The end of the game, one would hope.

Older Brothe~r Marine
Name: Lt. James (insert one of the MCs’ last names) Job: US Marine and the right hand of Emperor Malkath. Military leader and crack pilot. Personality: Very serious, a little unbalanced, and very much unhappy with his younger brother or sister who happens to be one of the PCs. The K’lor do some recruiting on Earth too, as it turns out. James went missing in Afghanistan when the K’lor offered him the chance to bring order to a whole galaxy, and the chance to bring it to Earth later. He’s at least 50% brainwashed. Think: Master Chief turned evil Hit List: When the players can get him, preferably in the last quarter of the game. Redemption is a possibility.

Evil Sexy Alien
Name: Alira M’beada Job: Left hand of Emperor Malkath. Professional temptress and assassin. Personality: Evil seductress and looks it all over. She’s smart and savvy enough to act calmly and deliberately. Think: Poison Ivy Hit List: The Emperor himself will probably kill her if the MCs don’t. As soon as it’s clear she’s failed him, she’s out the airlock.

Re~bellion Leade~r
Name: Urano Meltax Job: Leader of the D’nai rebellion Personality: Confident but careful. A commander who’s used to being obeyed, but remembers how to gain the admiration and respect of his fellows. One of the D’nai higher-ups who won’t discount the MCs just because they’re kids. Think: Commander Riker at his best Hit List: Might live to see the end of it.

Long-Lost Relative
Name: Pam or Kevin (insert one of the MCs’ last names) Job: Works for the rebellion, doing almost what one of the MCs does, but not as well. Personality: A little frazzled, but parental and caring. She or he was taken from Earth a few years ago, when the D’nai thought they had who they needed. It turns out that it took another generation for everything to be exactly right. Think: Any sitcom parent when they’re having a good moment Hit List: Should survive until near the end, possibly giving his life to further the cause. Might live.

Furthe~r Backstory
If you want to get into more backstory about your character than the plotlines provide, feel free – but you can also just leave it there. Many characters in space operas are all but one-dimensional at the beginning of the story, and grow as it goes on. Feel free to do that with your character too.

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Mission Mechanics
A game of Star Empire alternates between interpersonal scenes and missions. Interpersonal scenes involve interaction between the characters, and possibly a handful of supporting characters. Missions involve the characters going up against the K’lor for a specific task, such as crashing a hyperdrive gate, rescuing an important character, destroying a weapons depot, or the eventual assault on the Emperor’s throneworld. Interpersonal scenes rely entire on roleplaying. However, when characters go on a mission against the K’lor, there’s an extended system used. Each attribute uses its own unique resolution system that depends on both player skill and character skill. During a huge battle, everyone will be using their skills simultaneously (or nearly so). The Starfighter will be blowing enemy ships away, the General will be marshalling troops on the ground, the Encyclopedia and Engineer will be working to back those two up, and the Strategist will be trying to figure out the enemy’s big plan. It’s a little chaotic, but it all works together at once. Every individual victory contributes to the overall triumph. Note that it’s possible for someone who isn’t an expert in the field to play a different game. If you’re playing the Strategist and your General has been kidnapped, you might end up playing his game. You won’t have the skill to finish well, but sometimes you’ll be able to pull off a victory anyway.

Starfighter: A Dime A Dozen
What you need: A lot of coins (thus the name of the game). Pencil and paper for the player. The reference sheet on page 20 is highly recommended. How to play: The Starfighter has the first move. He picks three tactics that he’ll use against the formations the enemy ships will appear in. You can find formations and tactics in the Appendix. Write the guesses down on three small pieces of paper and turn them over so no one can see. The GM goes next. He sets up a number of enemy fighters (coins) in a formation. The number of coins should be three to five times the Starfighter’s Galaga skill. For instance, a Starfighter with a skill of 5d6 will be up against anywhere from 15 to 25 ships. The higher numbers should be used if the Engineer and Encyclopedia are providing good support all the time. The Starfighter reveals his first tactic and rolls his Galaga skill. Note that the tactic and the actual formation will combine to tell you a set of modifiers – sometimes the Starfighter’s skill will be changed, sometimes there will be maximum or minimum rolls, and so forth. Compare the Starfighter’s roll to the number of coins in the formation. If it’s higher, he removes a coin from the formation for each point of victory. If it’s lower, he loses 1% of his shields for each coin still in the formation, but no more than 10%. The GM then rearranges the formation and the Starfighter flips over his next tactic, rolling Galaga again, taking damage and removing coins. After this happens a third time, that’s the end of one “wave.”

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The GM leaves between waves to play with the General, who also needs his attention. The Starfighter writes down three new tactics while waiting for the GM to come back. Special Notes: All Starfighters begin knowing two tactics: Stick & Weave, and Strafe. Every time their Galaga skill goes up a point, they learn one new tactic of their choice. How to win: When all the coins are destroyed, the space battle ends in victory for the Starfighter. If the Starfighter’s shields are ever reduced to 0%, his ship is in horrible danger. He must immediately concede the battle, activate his cloaking device, and flee.

G~ene~ral: Robot Wars
What you need: A pencil and some paper. How to play: The General and GM both start off with 100 points of sleek, metallic robotic troops. These troops are rated as to their Range, their Programming, and their Shielding (R, P, S). The General rolls his Warcraft skill each round. He can deploy a total troop value that round equal to his roll. It’s his choice how this value gets spread out between F, D, and P. For instance, a General with four dice might get 14 and deploy troops worth R7, P3, S4. The GM deploys a number of troops equal to four times the General’s number of skill dice. (If the group is missing an Engineer or Encyclopedia, reduce this number to 3 points per die.) The same General from the example above would a GM with 16 points of troops. He might deploy R5, P5, S6. All values are written down secretly and then compared. The General should roll and choose values three times while the GM is off dealing with the Starfighter to help the game move quickly. Each troop rating “targets” a value that the opposing side has. Range targets Shielding, Shielding targets Programming, and Programming targets Range. Compare the highest value from each side to its target in order to check for troop loss. If the targeted value is lower, the opposing side loses troop value equal to the difference. If the targeted number is higher, nothing happens. In our example, the general’s high score is R7, which beats the GM’s S6. The GM loses one point this way. The GM’s high score is P6, which compares to the General’s D3. The General loses three points this way. These points come out of the general stock of troops, not out of the current round’s totals.

Boss Ships
If you want a boss ship at the end of your mission, leave out a few of the coins at the beginning so that you can make them into the Boss later on. Bosses fight similarly to individual wings of ships, but its “formations” are the blasts that it sends out. The formation still changes after each roll the Starfighter makes, but Boss attacks always follows a specific pattern. The Starfighter can’t hurt the boss until he can predict its threewave pattern every time. Successful rolls on his part only keep him from losing shield power.

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The GM plays three rounds of Robot Wars with the General, and then moves on to deal with the Starfighter, who also needs his attention. He’ll be back soon. Special Notes: Stacking most of your troops into one particular type causes grave weaknesses in your defenses. If your highest number is more than double your lowest number, take double damage when your low number is targeted. R-P-S also stands for Rock-Paper-Scissors. How to win: Reduce the other side’s total troop points to zero , thus running them entirely out of troops.

When all cards are right-side up, the Encyclopedia wins and can give pick one of the following effects: ★ You’ve guessed what battle formation the K’lor will be using. Tell the GM what formation he has to choose at the beginning of the next wave. You can tell the Starfighter as well. ★ You’ve remembered a weak point in K’lor starships. The Starfighter doubles his damage for his next roll. ★ You’ve remembered a hidden secret about the battlefield that the General can use. He can shift two points worth of troops from his Firepower, Programming, or Defense values into one of the other values. ★ You’ve remebered a weak point in K’lor battle robots. The General can deal double damage this round. ★ You’ve identified the weak point in your own robots. The General can stack all his troops into a particular type without suffering double damage this round. ★ You’ve remembered what GNDN means on the D’nai engineering specifications. Better tell the Engineer. He can play twos as wild cards next time he puts down a hand. ★ You’ve remembered that some of the starfighter’s superweapons can be re-routed through each other’s circuits. The Engineer can switch one superweapon result for another, deploying homing bursts instead of the triple shot (for example). ★ You’ve remembered a fact about K’lor psychology. The Strategist can leave one extra piece out of her puzzle. ★ You’ve remembered the secret plans that were in the Lost Episode of the TV show. You can help the Strategist with her map puzzle until you’ve placed 2 pieces.

Encyclope~dia: Memory
What you need: A game of Memory. We’ve provided one in the Appendix. How to play: Lay out all the cards face-down, randomly. The Encyclopedia rolls his Zork skill when the mission starts and notes the number of points he got. Failing the roll has no particular ill effects. The Encyclopedia flips over one card. Each time he does, for every three points on his dice roll, he can flip over another different card. If any of his cards match the first card, he can leave that one and the first card right-side up and turn the others upside down again. If nothing matches, all of the cards from this run get turned face-down again.

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Engineer: Build-A-Hand
What you need: A standard 54-card poker deck (Jokers left in) How to play: The Engineer draws five cards from the deck. Each time the Starfighter starts a new wave, he rolls his Snood skill and draws an extra card for every three points he rolls. Failing the roll has no particular ill effects. He’s trying to create the best poker hand possible by picking 1-5 cards out of however many he ends up with. Aces are either high or low, but you can’t use them as both at the same time. Jokers are wild. When the Engineer finds a hand he likes, he puts down just the useful cards – there’s no need to fill out to a full five cards. Re-roll Snood every time there’s a new starfighter wave. The high card in the hand determines who the hand can help: red cards help the Starfighter, black cards help the General. If there are two tied cards of different colors, it’s up to the Engineer which one to use. The table of helpful results is on page 21. How to win: You can’t exactly “win,” because every turn you’ll have something useful to help the other player. However, if you don’t create at least a Full House by the end of the mission, it’s considered a personal failure.

Strategist: Puzzle
What you need: The Map Puzzle (see appendix) How to play: Unlike the other characters, the Strategist isn’t really playing a game. She’s putting together a puzzle. The puzzle can be found in the appendix. It’s the same puzzle every time. It takes a long time to put together the first time, but afterwards she should be able to do it faster and faster. The Strategist’s skill allows her to ignore pieces, putting together most of the puzzle and calling it “good enough.” She rolls her Myst skill at the beginning, and can leave out one piece for every five points she rolls. Failing the roll has no particular ill effect. When the Strategist completes her puzzle, she gives a substantial benefit to everyone involved in a mission: +1d6 on every roll for the rest of the mission. She doesn’t have to use that on the current mission, however. She can save these bonuses until the team really needs them. Not completing the puzzle is a personal failure.

Is this a map of the empire?
Why yes, yes it is. We encourage the GM to drop place-names into the game from the map, and to describe the characters’ travels through the hyperspace lanes that are the red lines on the map. It’s not all of the Empire, though, so you can also include places that don’t show up here. That’s just a local map.

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Final Mission De~tails
All missions have a specific goal in mind. In order to achieve this goal, you need the following achievements: ★ At least three personal victories ★ One of those must be either the Starfighter or the General If both of these conditions are met, the mission is triumphant, and the rebellion gains an advantage. If not, the mission ends in failure and setback. It’s ok when this happens – it’s part of the story, so don’t get too upset. One way to keep track of the Rebellion’s progress is to use an uncut copy of the Puzzle Map. Each victory is a star system that the rebellion has a foothold in; each failure denies a system to them until they can win elsewhere. It’s the GM’s job to keep the story moving along, so forcing a win or loss somewhere will occasionally be necessary – there’s no point in having things be completely stagnant. If you prefer to do this kind of thing “behind the scenes” ratherthan by rigging the odds, you could say that another branch of the rebellion had a great victory or fell before the Empire’s forces. That way the players can keep a certain amount of integrity to their own victories and losses.

Expe~rienc~e Points
The characters in Star Empire grow and change a lot. After all, they’re teenagers – growing up is what they do. Keep track of your character’s Experience Point total. You can spend these to increase your skills, or to change your Involvement and Confidence (though there are easier ways to do that). Dedication and hardship are life’s great teachers. Thanks a lot, life. You gain one Experience Point for each of the following things: ★ Showing up each game session ★ Each time you fail in a mission (personal failure, not group failure) ★ Each time you go through a crisis event ★ Each time a Plotline does something annoying to your character. On average you should be getting about 2 XP per game. This table shows how much new points of skill cost:

Skill Cos~ts
Dice Cost in XP 1 -2 4 3 5 4 4 5 3 6 2 7 2 8 2

Increasing or decreasing your Involvement or Confidence scores costs 2 XP per point of change. If your score has reached 5, you can’t change it with XP – you must go through a crisis event.

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The Endgame
Eventually the main characters will lead the rebellion to the Empire’s homeworld, and beyond that to confront the Emperor at his final hiding place. They’ll root out and destroy the machinery that kept the Empire running, and return control over this sector of space to the D’nai and their allies. And after that... what then? Here are some questions to help you think through the ending of your game. They’re a little beyond the scope of the game itself (that is, you can’t really play through them as a mission), but it’s nice to think about a place to end things. ★ Do the characters return home? ★ How much time has passed? ★ Has it been only a few months, or have the rigors of superrelativistic space travel turned weeks into years? ★ What have their parents done? ★ Can your characters ever go back to high school, knowing that they’ve saved the universe and now they’re sitting through a Geometry class? ★ Will they return with the D’nai in tow? ★ What will Earth think of the existence of aliens? ★ Will the world’s governments be surprised, or did some of them know all along? ★ If you don’t go home, where will you go next? May the stars guide your path.

Thank you very much to my wife, Emma, who helped me come up with the basic idea and develop it, and also helped test and rebuild some of the minigames. This game was designed for the Genre Redesign Madness contest in 2008. Writing, layout, and art were all done in ten days. The main font is Adobe Garamond Pro, with Space Age for the headers. Everything was laid out with Adobe InDesign CS3. Star map courtesy of Revo’s Flare Brushes. Background: Eta Carinae from the Hubble, public domain Cover: Angel Nebula picture taken by Steve Mandel Ship by TauCeti Deitchmann Line drawings by Emma White

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S~tarfight~e~r Tactics vs. K’lor Formations
“The K’lor are very regimented fighters. Make their discipline into their downfall.” Starfighter tactics are across the top, K’lor formations on the left. Read this chart as follows: ±1d, ±2d: add or subtract one or two dice from the Starfighter’s skill before the roll. Min=X: Each die rolls at least an X. Increase anything lower to an X. Max=X: The maximum roll on each die is X. Reduce anything higher down to X. n/a: no effect

Tactics and Formations Table
Attack V Endless March Wing Formation Phalanx Evasion Loop Double Cross Replacement Ring Ram’s Horns Stick & Weave -1d +1d Max=5 -2d +2d +2d -1d Max=5 Zigzag Max=5 +2d -1d +2d +1d +1d -2d Min=2 Strafe +2d Max=5 +1d +1d -1d -2d -2d +1d Figure 8 +1d -1d +1d +1d -1d +1d -2d -1d Side Defense Max=5 -2d Max=5 Max=5 Min=2 Min=2 +2d Min=2 Firefighter n/a -1d +2d +1d -2d -1d +2d -1d

Stick & Weave: Stay in one place as much as possible, dodging when necessary. Zigzag: Move back and forth in a confined area. Strafe: Very large side-to-side movements while firing. Figure 8: A Zigzag plus forays forward and retreats backward. Side Defense: Concentrate on a single side of the battlefield. Firefighter: Wherever trouble shows up, go there and shoot it.

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The Engineer’s Toolkit
Here’s all the information related to the Engineer’s job.

Starfighter Superweapons
“The ship you will be flying has been upgraded significantly from its original specifications. Dr. Tagat is a genius in miniaturization – he has this thing packed full of gadgets from nosecone to thrusters. Unfortunately, we can only power one of the superweapons at a time, and even then, not for long. You’ll be relying on agility and sharp eyesight more often than not.” Superweapons deal +5 damage against most formations. However, each superweapon has two formations against which it is particularly effective. Attacks against these formations with the appropriate superweapon yield an extra +5 damage, for a total of +10. The weapon’s charge only lasts for one attack roll.

Engineer’s Table
Hand Ace High Pair Two pair Three of a kind Straight Flush Four of a kind Straight Flush Five of a kind Red Speed Boost: +3 dmg Shield Repair: +5% Turbo Shot: +5 dmg Triple Shot Beam Laser Homing Bursts Bomb ATK Pods: x2 dmg Sheild Refill Black +3 troops Deploy +1 troop Deploy +2 troops +3 Defense +3 Firepower +3 Programming +10 troops Sabotage: 2x dmg Infiltration

Superweapon Table
Formation Attack V Squad Formation Phalanx Evasion Loop Replacement Ring Ram’s Horns Double Split Endless March Right Superweapon Triple Shot Homing Bursts Beam Laser Bomb Bomb Homing Bursts Triple Shot Beam Laser

Any damage bonuses (+3, +5, x2) last for a single turn only. Troop bonuses give the General extra troops in reserve, not in the current round. Shield repair can raise a Starfighter’s shields over 100%. Triple Shot, Beam Laser, Homing Bursts, and Bomb enable a starfighter’s superweapon for a single turn. See below. Infiltration allows the General to see the GM’s point totals before assigning his own this round.

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K’lor S~tarfight~e~r Formations

Attack V

Endless March

Wing Formation


Evasion Loop

Double Cross

Replacement Ring

Ram’s Horns

T u C~~i a et


C~nt uri e a

Si us ri

Rana Kantor

Al ai t r Sabi n


Pfa uth K’ Lor Pri me

S~me~h e t

Fy Byri on V Ene~h t

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