CHAPTER 5: REFEREE’S GUIDE
THE REFEREE’S RESPONSIBILITIES
In addition to the responsibilities described in the X-Plorers rules, the Referee has a number of additional responsibilities associated with the KWN setting, especially with regard to player character development (both getting better and worse).
Handling PCs: Corruption
The corruption point mechanic is present for several reasons: it acts as an incentive to promote right (i.e. “heroic”) action, it adds a consequence to the irresponsible use of power, it provides justification for the existence of powerful antagonists equal to the PCs (“the Shadow Lords”), and it provides the potential for adventure stories of falling from grace and (hopefully) subsequent redemption.
That being said, not all players will be happy at the prospect of their characters falling to Shadow (and becoming NPCs). Especially with new players, the Referee should always point out when an action would gain a corruption point for the PC. Give the player a chance to reflect: Do you really want to do that? Even though players might act cavalier in their attitude as “do-gooders,” it’s important to remember that their characters have been trained to act and behave in a certain fashion; when a Referee informs players of the consequence of their actions he is simply acting as the voice of the character’s conscience and training.
Characters that “go over” to the Shadow side should generally become NPCs at the end of the game session. If the players are all interested in playing a game of psychically corrupt Shadow Lords fighting against the Galactic Republic, the Referee may decide to run the campaign in that way (pay special attention to the Damage & Death section of this book, as the PCs will be hunted by ‘razor-wielding Star Knights!).
It may seem odd that Corruption is considered a milestone, since such a character becomes an NPC under Referee control. However, Referees will no doubt wish to bring these tragic figures back as antagonists in future game sessions and the extra experience level ensures the NPC will be a tough challenge for the PCs that remain. Also, it’s always possible the PCs will find a way to redeem the character, or somehow convince the character to give up her evil ways. If that somehow happens (and the corrupted character survives the process), she will be even more powerful, having earned the milestone of Redemption.
A redeemed character retains a number of corruption points equal to her level of experience minus 1D4; if she ever goes over to Shadow again, her mind will be irretrievably shattered (the character becomes utterly psychotic or simply commits suicide) and cannot be recovered a second time. Such a character must walk a very narrow line, having almost no margin for error.
Remember: every time a character achieves a level of experience she can remove 1D4 corruption points from her character. Corruption can never be reduced below zero.
Handling PCs: Death of a Player Character
Given the war-torn background of the KWN setting, it is inevitable that some Star Knights will fall in battle. While this should usually be a somber moment for the group (remember Star Knights’ reverence for life, including their own!), it is important the Referee not lose sight that KWN is a game…and that a player with a dead character needs to be brought back into the game as quickly as possible! A player can take over an existing support character if one is available (NPC apprentices are the best for this), otherwise a new Star Knight can be created and dispatched to join the mission. Rather than requiring the player to begin play as a 1st level character, the Referee may allow the new Star Knight to begin with XP equal to one-half that of the deceased character.
Characters that possess the ascension psychic talent, need not disappear entirely upon dying (as explained in the description of the talent), but ascended masters usually become NPCs under the control of the Referee, especially when the character’s former player is controlling a new (living and breathing) Star Knight.
Handling PCs: Milestones
Milestones are included for several reasons. They give players goals to achieve besides simple “fight the enemy, do the mission.” They allow players to better define their characters (and the campaign) over time by pursuing milestone objectives. They provide incentives for role-playing. They model the real world effect that such achievements usually grant to people. And they also provide a quicker method of advancement that rewards invested play…something vitally important to the melodrama of the space opera genre.
To some Referees, it may appear that the milestones are too easily met, or vulnerable to exploitation by over-ambitious players. For example, there’s nothing to prevent a player from saying “my dream has always been to leave my home world aboard a starship, and now that dream has been fulfilled…in the first session!” While some would object to such an “auto-level-up,” keep in mind that part of the purpose of milestones is to allow faster advancement at higher levels than would normally occur simply by fighting mooks. Players who use milestones at the early stages of their career will have slower advancement at latter stages. ALSO, many psychic talents (all of which are earned by level advancement) are unavailable to characters of low tier and characters that advance quickly through the lower levels without developing tier first may end up short-changing themselves.
In the end, however, milestones are present to provide incentive for players to become involved in subplots. The “grand romance” is a staple of the space opera genre; and yet without milestones there is no in-game benefit or reason to seek it out…despite the real life human condition of wanting companionship. Without milestones, why would any player want to take on the role of an elected dignitary or military general? The danger and responsibilities that come with the role certainly outweigh the benefits! And yet, people do seek positions of power and are changed by them, becoming more confident of their abilities as they grow in their office.
Milestones reward players for exploring other avenues of game play and are true to the genre of space opera. Players who choose to ignore them will take a long road to the heights of power; players who embrace them will reap the benefit while simultaneously helping enrich the campaign through their choices.
Handling PCs: Non-Star Knights
As stated in Chapter 1, it’s possible that players may want to play characters that are not Star Knights; alternatively, some Referees may want to use Star Knight characters in an otherwise “standard” game of X-Plorers (using either the KWN setting or a different one). Non-psychics are created in the standard fashion (and can use the High-Born class and/or the Alien rules found in this book); in place of a beamrazor, the PC can choose any one non-beamrazor weapon found in the equipment list (soldiers may choose TWO weapons). High-Born PCs may choose to start the game with a starship of Class 1 to 3, though they will still need to hire a crew for the ship.
XP gained should be adjusted when a group contains both Star Knights and non-Star Knights. If the Star Knights outnumber the non-Star Knights, all non-psychic PCs earn +10% XP for the mission; if the Star Knights are outnumbered by the “normal” PCs, the Star Knights receive a -10% penalty to earned XP.
It is possible that a non-psychic character will want to be trained by a Star Knight (who must be adept or master status). Undergoing psychic training takes a number of weeks equal to the non-psychics current level of experience, after which time the character must make a successful PRE save. Success indicates the character is now an apprentice (Tier 1) Star Knight (receiving two talents, a beamrazor, and a new beamrazor form). Such training counts as a milestone (the character goes up in level), and the PC becomes subject to all Star Knight rules, including psychic sensing (see below) and the acquisition of corruption points. Prior levels are not lost, but such a character will never be able to achieve the same level of power as a character that began their career as a Star Knight at 1st level.
[to be continued]
[Kloane War Knights is copyright 2013 by Jonathan Becker and Running Beagle Games. The X-Plorers rpg is copyright 2009, Dave Bezio & Grey Area Games. The X-Plorers trademark is used under the X-Plorers Trademark License]