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What is Sparks?
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Bobmalooga
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:41 am    Post subject: What is Sparks? Reply with quote

I keep seeing the reference, but have no idea what it is referring to...
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garhkal
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2014 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sparks is an ongoing Star Wars roleplaying campaign based on the West End Games D6 system and sponsored by Game Base 7. The group, which has been running since GenCon 1995, has around 100 members from many U.S. states, but the majority are living in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. As of 2011, over 160 modules have been written by our members, and about 10 new modules are added per year. We run Sparks modules at least once per month at local conventions (mostly in Illinois and Wisconsin) and always have a very large presence at Origins and GenCon, where we run multiple tables in every slot. We are always open to new members!

Here is a link to our group's wiki.

http://sparks.wikidot.com/
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Bobmalooga
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting, are the adventures posted for use by others?
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Whill
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:34 pm    Post subject: RE: Sparks Reply with quote

garhkal is our resident Sparks guru, so I'll let him answer that question, but my guess is no. They seem to have a policy to not share their adventures (unfortunately). The original authors of the adventures are (or were) Sparks GMs, and my understanding is that the original authors have to give permission for other Sparks GMs to run their adventures, and they can even choose to retire an adventure so it is never played again.

I can only share my Sparks campaign experience from playing three adventures (ran by two GMs) at our local Origins convention a few years ago. IMO there were good and bad qualities. garhkal and some of longer-term Pit members may remember this being discussed before.

The Good
1) The adventures I played were overall creative and well-designed.
2) Both GMs were very experienced.
3) The GM of my first two adventures was excellent. The GM of my third adventure was not as good, but still not bad (He claimed a headache and RL problems were distracting him).
4) Some of the other experienced Sparks players were excellent too - creative, good roleplayers who were funny and entertaining to play with and even just watch.

I truly enjoyed the good aspects of the games. The bad things are few, but significant.

The Bad
1) The wide variety of gamers that show up for conventions means you don't only get the experienced quality gamers that are a joy to play with. If you pay, you play. The adventures I played had awful gamers like the guy who meta-whined about the long-time Sparks player's character who had a lot of bounties the whiner's PC wouldn't know about, "I don't want his bounties to get me killed!" And there were even a couple long-time experienced Sparks power-gamers (one of which was even also a Sparks GM). Ugh.

2) The PCs all start out as mercenaries who may elect to work for the Alliance as independent contractors, or join the Rebel Alliance outright. But either way, characters of both types go on missions together, some missions supporting the Rebel cause and others that have nothing to do with the Rebellion where the job is just to get paid. In my SWU, Rebels who commit to the Alliance are not generally free to come and go as they please working side jobs for personal benefit, and people who don't commit to the Rebel cause are not free to come and go to Alliance bases as they please. That makes a lot more sense to me.

3) The Sparks campaign by design is one galactic space-time anomaly. The adventures are ordered as part of a "timeline". Players log what adventures their PCs play and they can never play the same adventure twice, but they don't have to play them in any order. Since many of the adventures are ran over and over again, you have this odd continuity where in any single game, some of the players have played adventures that take place after the one you're currently playing, and some players have played the same adventures previously but not at the same time with the same outcomes. I actually witnessed a conversation between two experienced Sparks players that talked about an NPC's connection to an NPC from another adventure, but then the one reminded the other that hasn't happened yet. PC each gain CPs and memories of their experiences from one adventure to the next, but in effect each PC has his own personal timeline that intersect with other PCs who are also jumping back and forth through time and alternate realities. I can understand this not being a big deal if you just want to show up at a convention and play a couple adventures, but I don't get how this set-up could make any sense for an ongoing long-term basis. (Apparently there are plenty of Sparks GMs and players that have no issue with this.)

4) Like in RAW, all new Sparks PCs start with 7D in skill allocation and 5 CPs. Probably the biggest issue for me is, since Sparks PCs gain experience based on the adventures they have played, Sparks PC groups have an odd mixture of starting-level PCs and mega-powerful PCs with literally hundreds of CPs built into their characters. While I enjoyed the storylines and some of the roleplaying in my games, my character was nearly useless. My PC having the highest Perception, I did get to roll Initiative for my groups in all three adventures, and sometimes I was successful at that. Yes, roleplaying can still be fun without regards to dice rolling, but I think my character failed at every single action I attempted in three adventures, except for successfully opening one door with security or computer programming. This campaign set-up is the ultimate lack of game balance if there ever was one.
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garhkal
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2014 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bobmalooga wrote:
Interesting, are the adventures posted for use by others?


Nope. That is one of the big downsides i have with the group. Even if I am the module's writer, once it has been submitted to the group, it can't be used by anyone else, even me. Similar to the RPGA or other orgs with "Living" campaigns. Heck, technically the two times i have had Grimace assist me in pre-editing of modules, before i submitted them may have been a no no. But imo doing so made it a lot easier to get those modules approved.

Whill wrote:
garhkal is our resident Sparks guru, so I'll let him answer that question, but my guess is no. They seem to have a policy to not share their adventures (unfortunately). The original authors of the adventures are (or were) Sparks GMs, and my understanding is that the original authors have to give permission for other Sparks GMs to run their adventures, and they can even choose to retire an adventure so it is never played again.


Yup. Each author can decide who can and cannot run his or her adventures by others in the group. Some like me have only restricted it when we have seen that person 'butcher' the intent of the module by doing stupid stuff (such as flat out ignoring a big bold print part of the enemy will NOT do XYZ, just cause THEY felt it was stupid or disagree with baddies doing so), or cause of other issues the DM has had with that person in the past.

Some pulled their modules period when they were almost booted from the group due to massive clashes with some one on our group's Council.
Since they have slowly rejoined the group, but due to that person still being on the council, are still not letting the modules get played (though their right it does irk me as some of them i was looking forward to playing).

Whill, i will address your concerns one by one..

Whill wrote:
The Bad
1) The wide variety of gamers that show up for conventions means you don't only get the experienced quality gamers that are a joy to play with. If you pay, you play. The adventures I played had awful gamers like the guy who meta-whined about the long-time Sparks player's character who had a lot of bounties the whiner's PC wouldn't know about, "I don't want his bounties to get me killed!" And there were even a couple long-time experienced Sparks power-gamers (one of which was even also a Sparks GM). Ugh.


This is something NOT unique to sparks, but is part n parcel of any game that is played at a convention. you never know who you are going to get sitting down to play. I am sure others who have gamed at conventions would say the same.

Whill wrote:

2) The PCs all start out as mercenaries who may elect to work for the Alliance as independent contractors, or join the Rebel Alliance outright. But either way, characters of both types go on missions together, some missions supporting the Rebel cause and others that have nothing to do with the Rebellion where the job is just to get paid. In my SWU, Rebels who commit to the Alliance are not generally free to come and go as they please working side jobs for personal benefit, and people who don't commit to the Rebel cause are not free to come and go to Alliance bases as they please. That makes a lot more sense to me.


Very true, you can have rare modules where the premise is having NOTHING to do with advancing the cause of the rebellion. But even in the military, people can take leave to pursue their own desires (or just take a holiday).

Whill wrote:
3) The Sparks campaign by design is one galactic space-time anomaly. The adventures are ordered as part of a "timeline". Players log what adventures their PCs play and they can never play the same adventure twice, but they don't have to play them in any order. Since many of the adventures are ran over and over again, you have this odd continuity where in any single game, some of the players have played adventures that take place after the one you're currently playing, and some players have played the same adventures previously but not at the same time with the same outcomes. I actually witnessed a conversation between two experienced Sparks players that talked about an NPC's connection to an NPC from another adventure, but then the one reminded the other that hasn't happened yet. PC each gain CPs and memories of their experiences from one adventure to the next, but in effect each PC has his own personal timeline that intersect with other PCs who are also jumping back and forth through time and alternate realities. I can understand this not being a big deal if you just want to show up at a convention and play a couple adventures, but I don't get how this set-up could make any sense for an ongoing long-term basis. (Apparently there are plenty of Sparks GMs and players that have no issue with this.)


That whole hopping around in the time line is admittedly a big frackas, but one that you just have to suspend your disbelief on.

Whill wrote:
4) Like in RAW, all new Sparks PCs start with 7D in skill allocation and 5 CPs. Probably the biggest issue for me is, since Sparks PCs gain experience based on the adventures they have played, Sparks PC groups have an odd mixture of starting-level PCs and mega-powerful PCs with literally hundreds of CPs built into their characters. While I enjoyed the storylines and some of the roleplaying in my games, my character was nearly useless. My PC having the highest Perception, I did get to roll Initiative for my groups in all three adventures, and sometimes I was successful at that. Yes, roleplaying can still be fun without regards to dice rolling, but I think my character failed at every single action I attempted in three adventures, except for successfully opening one door with security or computer programming. This campaign set-up is the ultimate lack of game balance if there ever was one.


That is one of the biggest concerns i have heard others bring up when addressing the spark's council before. But just like the RPGA's living realms and other campaigns its something that can't be controlled unless the author of a module writes it with limits in like say "This module can't be played by anyone less than sheet X, or above sheet Y." I have actually DONE the latter, but it was more as a warning "This module due to the nastiness of combat with the BBEG, stands a good chance of major injuries or death to PCs. it is therefore made for those of at least this level or higher. Those of lesser level CAN play but are to note that they have been warned.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2014 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It does sound interesting to me, but I too am baffled by the continuity paradoxes it presents. To me, this undoes much of the 'point' of having a "living campaign".

As far as what one encounters at conventions, I've played (and run) at numerous conventions. I've yet to have a bad experience, but I understand that - being open to anyone - such a thing could happen (as I've played plenty with problematic players).

One thing that surprises me is how this Sparks phenomena seems to have insulated some of the SW D6 players. What I mean by that is this. I've been to Gary Con twice (for the whole con, all weekend). Being in the state of Wisconsin (one of the few where Sparks is apparently big), and being focused more on "old skool" games, one would think that they would host some events there. Star Wars D6 games have happened there, and when they do they are instant hits, filling up with players right away, as the demand is high. You can even go and watch, but there's literally a crowd around the table. SW D6 appears (to me, anyway) to be one of the most popular game systems there.

But I've never heard or seen anything about Sparks there. I don't know if this is just because Sparks GMs only host at certain events, or if all of their rules makes it so they wouldn't be able to run at Gary Con (this could easily be the case, as they may not allow all of the restrictions that seem to be inherent to Sparks).

So while overall it seems kind of cool to me, and I like the idea of a "living campaign", what I've read about Sparks means I'd not be very inclined to even try to play if I ever stumbled across it. They seem too insular and ingrown to me.
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garhkal
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2014 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would have to ask if we hit garycon.

Looking at our Wiki it seems we don't
We hit
Verncon, dec/jan over new years
Fire and ice in feb (Sheboygan, Wi)
Codcon and Jewel city in Apr, (codcon is in Illinois while Jewel city is in West virgina)
Marcon in may,
Origins in june
Gencon in Aug
Charcon (charleston WVA) octoberish
Conception in september (College of Dupage in Il, same as Codcon)
Wolfcon in november/dec, chicago.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2014 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should pass along to the powers that be, being as Gary Con is (more than any other con I'm aware of) an attempt to be like Gen Con was during its early years. It focuses a lot on older games, too.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2014 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Will do.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 12:00 am    Post subject: Crucible Sector Reply with quote

garhkal, what is the Crucible Sector? Is that a Sparks-original sector made up to be the center of a lot of Sparks adventures? Has it ever been determined where that approximately is in the SW galaxy, or even just what general region it's in (outer rim, etc.)? Anything else you can tell us about it?
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 12:14 am    Post subject: Crucible Sector Reply with quote

Yes it is made for our own group..

Alas i can't put a link in as its on our Yahoo group site under the files area as a JPG, near the bottom of the page.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 9:02 pm    Post subject: Crucible Sector Reply with quote

garhkal wrote:
Yes it is made for our own group..

Alas i can't put a link in as its on our Yahoo group site under the files area as a JPG, near the bottom of the page.

So there's a sector map? That's cool, even if you can't share it. Has it ever been established where it is in the galaxy? What region? Is it near any canon systems?
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking at the galactic map, the crucible sector sparks takes place in is near the Brak sector and Hutt space. Some core planets like Ruusan, Lannik and Mimban are near it. As far as an actual sector map, that is much harder to nail down as not everyone who has wrote a module as inputted their planet and what 'star system its in' to generate an actual map up with.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

garhkal wrote:
Looking at the galactic map, the crucible sector sparks takes place in is near the Brak sector and Hutt space. Some core planets like Ruusan, Lannik and Mimban are near it.

That puts it in a galactic ballpark. At the Sparks Wikidot I found this description: "The Crucible Sector is located roughly half way between the Perlemian trade route and the Corellian Run Trade route straddling the border between the Mid Rim and the Expansion Region." That would put it P/Q-11/12 on the Galactic Grid. Cool.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to help.
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