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Tabletop Game / Scum and Villainy

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Scum and Villainy is a fiction-first Space Western Tabletop RPG, designed by Stras Acimovic and John LeBoeuf-Little (a.k.a. Off Guard Games) and published by Evil Hat Productions in late 2018. It was the first commercial release under the Forged in the Dark license, meaning that it runs on the Game System of John Harper's Blades in the Dark, but transplants the scoundrel crew from the Gothic steampunk of Duskwall into the Standard Sci Fi Setting of the Procyon Sector, inspired by everything from Firefly and Cowboy Bebop to Guardians of the Galaxy and, of course, Star Wars. You play a Cool Starship crew of smugglers, bounty hunters, and other troublemakers, making ends meet under the thumb of the oppressive Galactic Hegemony and the galaxy-spanning Guilds.

Not to be confused with the eponymous supplements for Star Wars d6, Star Wars d20, or Star Wars: Roleplaying Game, which were all named after the same quote from A New Hope.

The game contains examples of following tropes:

  • Alliance Meter: Each faction has a status meter for the player crew that ranges from −3 to +3. The book recommends running one last job once they reach +3 with a faction, while the Firedrake ship has a special ability that gives bonuses when the crew reaches −3 with the Hegemony.
  • Background Magic Field: The Way is very similar in concept to the Force from Star Wars, but whether it is also a Sentient Cosmic Force, The Lifestream, etc. is a subject of millenia-old debate among generations of mystics. One notable difference from the Force is that the Way is a lot more pluralistic, allowing a ton of different philosophies, rather than being split between the Light and the Dark Side.
  • Blue Blood: Each galactic sector, including Procyon, is ruled by a scion of one of the Hegemony's ancient noble families.
  • The Captain: Every NPC crew in the book has a named captain or at least an informal leader, but this trope is conspicuously averted in the case of the Player Character crew. In fact, the question of player captaincy is never even mentioned in the rules, presumably to avoid opening the can of worms that is the anything-but-even power distribution among the PCs. Nevertheless, based just on the fiction that inspired it, if the players do decide to make someone captain, it tends to be the Speaker, the Scoundrel, or the Pilot.
  • Credit Chip: Hegemonic credits are transported on specialized devices provided by the Counters Guild that are colloquially referred as "sticks" due to their shape.
  • Cyborg Wizard: Anyone can become one — in fact, the "wizard" part is easier than the "cyborg" one, since any sentient being can tap into the Way to learn Psychic Powers and to become a Mystic, while cybernetic augmentations are tightly controlled by the Guild of Engineers. While the lore doesn't mention any canon cyborg Mystics, picking up some Way powers and Working for a Body Upgrade from the Guild is a perfectly valid build for a Player Character.
  • The Empire: The Hegemony is not as evil or brutally efficient as Darth Sidious' Empire but is still as oppressive as it can be.
  • Flying Dutchman: The Ghosts' spaceship The Skeleton Key and her entire crew have been permanently stuck in a half-phased state since a major jumpgate malfunction and had a massive bounty put on each of their heads and on their ship by the Church of Stellar Flame. As a result, they are forced to wander the stars, unable to dock anywhere for long.
  • Ice Palace: The surface of Lithios in Iota system is dotted with abandoned ice palaces of an extinct, non-Ur precursor civilization.
  • Industrial World: The planet Indri in the Iota system produces 25% of all manufactured goods in the Procyon sector, to the point where any spot on its surface is either a factory or an industrial wasteland. Its atmosphere is a toxic soup that wrecks the lungs of anyone who breathes it unprotected, and both of its moons have long been consumed for raw materials by its industry.
  • In-System FTL: Jump drives can use naturally occurring Hyperspace Lanes for rapid travel within star systems, but travel between systems requires either the Ur Gates or an extremely rare artifact.
  • Laser Blade: The lightblade is listed as the prime example of an artifact of the Way: A short metal tube containing a focusing crystal that projects a four feet-long blade of colored plasma. Yup, it is pretty much a lawyer-friendly lightsaber.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the original Blades, which was extremely bleak, oppressive, and claustrophobic (by design). While the Procyon Sector can be every bit as violent and cynical as Duskwall, there is much more focus on mystery and adventure than on death and on zero-sum power struggles.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The game is titled after the oft-cited quote by Obi-Wan Kenobi from A New Hope, in which he described the Wretched Hive of Mos Eisley.
  • Loan Shark: The crew can only keep up to four CRED on their ship, and if they want more, they have to take a loan — at a 100% interest rate. If they cannot pay on time, the lender will send increasingly dangerous bounty hunters after them.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: The new Gambit mechanic gives the crew a limited communal pool of bonus dice that stack with the regular ones.
  • MegaCorp: The Hegemonic Guilds are essentially mega-corporations that monopolize entire branches of galactic economy with the blessing of the Hegemony and are often more powerful than the old aristocracy. Specifically, the Guild of Engineers and the Counters Guild (the central bank of the Hegemony) hold more power in Procyon than the hegemonic counter-intelligence, military, and even House Malklaith that nominally governs the sector.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The Ur are an extinct species whose extremely advanced technologies still puzzle the modern science.
  • The Order: Vigilance is a small band of mystic warriors tracing their tradition to thousands of years before the Hegemony, who travel the Procyon sector enforcing their vision of justice with artifact lightblades. Read: They are what the Jedi Order would have been, had the Light Side been just one of a myriad ways to interpret the Force.
  • Portal Network: The jumpgates connecting various star systems of the Hegemony bear strong similarities to the Mass Relays from Mass Effect: ancient space stations left behind by the Neglectful Precursors that have to be unlocked by the modern space explorers and offer two-way, faster-than-light access to other star systems.
  • Recycled In Space: The game is basically Blades in the Dark... but IN SPACE!
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Urbots are autonomous drones fitted with an "urbot core" — an artifact of the Ur technology that can integrate itself into any digital system, lending it proper sentience and unique personality. Since these cores cannot be manufactured by the modern tech, each one is worth its weight in gold and then some.
  • Role-Playing Endgame: Unlike Blades (which only had character endgame rules), SaV also has campaign endgame rules, recommending that the GM retires the crew after they reach a +3 status with one of the major factions and do a major, multiple session-spanning, setting-changing score for them.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Referred to as "xenos" in the game. Notably, the main book only mentions a handful of species, encouraging players to come up with their own examples. While most available backgrounds are assumed to be human by default, there is nothing preventing you from playing a xeno yourself (without alteration in case of sufficiently Human Aliens, and simply by replacing the playbook's Starting Ability with a xeno-appropriate one otherwise).
  • Run or Die: If your Wanted level reaches 4 or your entanglements lead you to this point, the local Governor has decided that your scoundrels need to be put down and sends an actual warship after you. There's no bribing these guys, and defeating them won't happen either. Best get the heck out of Dodge and look into a new transponder. (That said, if you escape, your Wanted level goes down; you're not worth more than one warship to deal with.)
  • Self-Surgery: Anyone can attempt to use the Doctor action on themselves... but doing so automatically costs stress.
  • Single-Biome Planet: True to form, the Procyon Sector sports a lot of these: the Rin system has the toxic Death World Aleph and the City Moon Warren orbiting it, the Cloud Planet (gas giant) Vet, and a mined-out dead planet Baftoma; the Holt system has the Tidally Locked Sonhandra, the Ocean Planet Mem, the Crystal Planet Vos, and the even worse Death World Omeganote ; the Iota system has the Garden Planet Amerath, the Industrial World Indri, and the Ice Planet Lithios — all illuminated by Binary Suns; and the Brekk system has the Jungle Planet Aketi, the Earth-like Nightfall (whose only unusual feature are its 13 moons), and the Desert Planet Shimaya.
  • Shout-Out: The setting contains a reference to pretty much every popular sci-fi work of the past decades — see ShoutOut.Scum And Villainy.
  • Space Cossacks: You belong to a crew of smugglers, bounty hunters, and other criminals trying to make an illegal living under the thumb of the oppressive Galactic Hegemony and the galaxy-spanning Guilds.
  • Space Pirates: Procyon has examples of both common Pirate archetypes: Draxler's Raiders, operating in the Iota and Brekk systems, are Ruthless Modern Pirates, while the Maelstrom (and particularly their leader Alanda Ryle) are romanticized Lovable Rogues, living by the pirate code and striking out against the Hegemony in the Rin system.
  • Space Sector: In the game's setting, the Galactic Hegemony is parceled into sectors of various size (including the game's setting, the Procyon Sector) and given out to scions of the six nobility clans to govern. Given how Procyon only consists of four star systems mostly engaged in basic mining operations on the outskirts of the Hegemony, it is as backwater and frontier-sy as it gets.
  • Space Western: The game's focus on a small band of drifters living on the (social and spatial) fringe of the galaxy places it much closer to The Western than to larger-than-life Space Opera. This is especially true for the Stardancer and Cerberus crews, which embody the pervasive Western archetypes of the Venturous Smuggler and the Bounty Hunter, respectively; playing a Firedrake crew does take the game closer to a Space Opera, but its Role-Playing Endgame rules make it clear that the crew isn't expected to achieve truly epic goals like actually toppling the Hegemony.
  • Standard Sci Fi Setting: Let's see how many points we get: Casual Interstellar Travel via a Portal Network? Check. Space Is an Ocean? Check. Psychic Powers drawn from the Background Magic Field? Check. Humans as the dominant species? Check. Neglectful Precursors? Check. Rubber-Forehead Aliens and Ridiculously Human Robots? Double check. The Empire fielding a Standard Sci-Fi Army? Check. Space Pirates? In spades. Galaxy-spanning Mega Corps? They call themselves "Guilds", but otherwise, check.
  • Stellar Station: The dreadnought The Way of Light, which serves as the mobile HQ of The Church in the Procyon Sector, typically orbits extremely close to the star of whatever system she is currently in. This is facilitated by her extensive state-of-the-art heat and radiation shielding and serves both practical (the star's radiation makes it harder to detect the ship) and PR purposes (given how the Church of Stellar Flame's doctrine revolves around venerating light in general and starlight in particular).
  • Subspace Ansible: The ansible network is maintained throughout the Hegemony by the enigmatic xenos named Sah'iir. It enables instantaneous communication within the same star system — and even across systems, as long as the jumpgates between them are open.
  • Subsystem Damage: Damage to each part of the ship (hull, engine, comms, and weapons) is tracked separately.
  • Theme Song: "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" by Cage the Elephant, according to the authors themselves.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: Defied, as with Blades. The mechanics expect that a successful job will yield a payoff, so while "the client was planning to kill you and doesn't have the money to pay you anyway" is common in the source material, it doesn't happen in this game, as it would throw its entire delicately-balanced resource economy out of whack.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: The COIN and REP from Blades have been rolled into a single resource, CRED. In-universe, a lot of different currencies circulate across the Hegemony, but all are exchangeable for Hegemonic credit, standardized and managed by the Counters Guild.