Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Training Exercises

The most recent episode of Star Wars: Rebels struck a chord with me. Entitled “Breaking Ranks,” it saw young Ezra Bridger infiltrating an Imperial training facility by impersonating a cadet. In addition to undertaking his mission, he participated in some training exercises. This reminded me of the episode “Clone Cadets” from season 3 of The Clone Wars. In both cases, we see characters practicing situations in controlled environments. Using these simulations, in my opinion, can have numerous benefits in a campaign.

1. They help make Tierfon base feel like a familiar place.
Most assignments will take the PCs away from Tierfon, to other worlds. Including scenes in which the heroes do some training onplanet helps to reinforce the notion that it is their home. That way, no matter where a given adventure is to take place, the PCs also see some action close to their base of operations.

2. They incorporate NPCs for troupe-style play.
A previous article mentioned the benefits of troupe-style play, in which Tierfon is filled with a variety of characters. Since most of these NPCs aren't involved when the PCs take off for missions on other worlds, a bit of training allows these characters to play a regular role in adventures. This could include a physically fit, demanding drill sergeant; a tech-savvy, but socially awkward engineer; a boastful, yet skilled pilot; etc. Such characters could be conducting the training exercises, or could compete against the PCs in them.

3. They take the PCs out of their comfort zones.
It is an important element of game balance that characters have strength and weaknesses. Hopefully, any given mission provides opportunities for all of the PCs to shine. On the other hand, putting the characters into situations where some of them will fail can make for good roleplaying opportunities. Nothing adds flavor like a little humble pie.

4. They create a sense that the PCs are part of a military organization.
All too often, Rebel agents—especially irregulars—seem like loose cannons, ones who are unconnected to any kind of governing body. Having to take some time for training, especially while having a drill sergeant shouting “Move it, move it, move it!” during the exercise, can help ameliorate that perceived disconnect.

5. They can act like a pre-title sequence.
The James Bond movies are a classic example of this. Sometimes missions start with a briefing which, although important, isn't filled with action. Starting with a training exercise can allow for some dice rolling and fun before getting down to business.

6. They can provide a chance to troubleshoot difficult situations.
Should the PCs be facing a truly difficult challenge, they might be given an opportunity to try out a simulation of it before attempting the real thing. This could be especially useful for starfighter combat situations, which can prove lethal if the heroes aren't properly prepared.

Some Sample Training Exercises
Detailed here are some options for training exercises that incorporate different Age of Rebellion skills.
  • Astrogation—Navigate a difficult hyperspace jump via a simulator, especially when timed, with the results (good or bad) being provided.
  • Athletics—Scale a rock face, swim a body of water, or navigate an obstacle course, perhaps while carrying a heavy pack.
  • Brawl and Melee—Win non-lethal bouts against other competitors.
  • Computers—Bypass a security code before an alarm is triggered.
  • Coordination—Traverse a narrow ledge, a tight passage, or something similar. (This could be part of the aforementioned obstacle course.)
  • Discipline—Stand at attention for an extended period of time, perhaps in cold or hot conditions.
  • Gunnery, Ranged (Heavy) and Ranged (Light)—Win skeet-style shooting contests against other characters.
  • Mechanics—Field strip and rebuild an item in a set amount of time.
  • Perception—Watch out for approaching SpecForce operatives who, in heavy camouflage, are approaching the characters' position.
  • Piloting—Handle various simulated situations, possibly including one that is impossible to beat.
  • Resilience—Run a long and grueling course.
  • Skulduggery—Bypass mechanical security or filch an item from an unsuspecting associate.
  • Stealth—Sneak up on other candidates who are making Perception checks to notice approaching “enemies.”
  • Survival—Spend a certain amount of item in the wilderness with limited supplies.
Indeed, a GM could fill a session with these kinds of training exercises, and perhaps even award experience points to the characters for undergoing them.

Keeping Track of the Results
As a final note, the GM might want to keep track of the best results achieved for each of these challenges. Tierfon Base could have a Wall of Fame, posting the names of those Rebels who have proven most capable in each category.


  1. I like these ideas quite a bit!

    A hastily assembled mock up of a target facility would certainly provide a SpecForce team with some realistic practice.

  2. Another idea along these lines: think of Alliance Starfighter Pilot Flight School.

    I would imagine that beings entering such an academy would likely have no ranks in Piloting (Space). Upon leaving, however, they'd probably have 2 ranks each in Astrogation, Piloting (Space), and Gunnery and probably at least one rank in Computers, Mechanics, and Ranged (Light).

    One or two skill ranks is defined in the Core Rulebook to "...represent a thorough grounding in that skill but little practical experience. Such a character may have just completed a formal education..."

    In lieu of completing formal training in a military academy, the Alliance could test people's skills to see if they are qualified to handle expensive equipment (like starfighters). In the real life military people are rated for various aircraft, for instance. I would think you should not fly an X-wing unless you know how to fly, astrogate, and shoot (2 ranks each). Otherwise you are headed for trouble.

  3. I do like the imagery of forcing hot shot "Edge of the Empire" type characters to compete in ways to which they are not accustomed. The expert slicer running the obstacle course with the wookiee from SpecForce, the hotshot pilot at the shooting range with the infantry marksmen, etc.

    Humble pie, indeed. A great source for material to be used in inter-character bantering!

    Especially if the proud noble gets tripped into a mud pit by the hand to hand combat trainer!

  4. Related to the idea of training in general: I think there could be some guidelines for various branches of service and/or various jobs as to the appropriate minimum skill level required.

    In SpecForce, for instance, I would suggest that all members have (at a minimum) been thoroughly training in all types of hand-held blasters. Range (Light) and Ranged (Heavy), 2 ranks each. You could even make the argument that they should possibly have at least one rank in Survival and Gunnery. On top of that, each SpecForce unit is an interdisciplinary team made up of diverse experts. I'd think each PC would need to have at least 2 skills with 3 ranks each (so they are seen as respected practitioners in their respective fields).

    For Rebel starfighter pilots, as mentioned above, they really should have a solid grounding in the basics (i.e. 2 ranks) in Astrogation, Piloting (Space), and Gunnery. Anyone with less training should not be allowed in the cockpit.

    Other service branches and/or military careers might have similar minimum qualifications. One could think of these "Job Descriptions" as another layer above and beyond the Career and Specialization charts found in the rules.