Thursday, November 3, 2016

Minions: Criminals

The game Star Wars: Empire at War has three factions: Empire, Rebellion and Criminal. This seems logical, if watching the films. Criminals serve neither faction, only themselves, and can pose a threat to either, and criminals are a deeply central part of Star Wars, present in all three original films, from the “hive of scum and villainy” of Mos Eisley, to Lando Calrissian, to Jabba the Hutt. However, it might be a mistake to see them as on par with the Empire or the Rebellion. After all, the full might of Jabba the Hutt is a laughable fraction of that of a single Imperial dreadnought and its accompanying legions, or a full armada of Rebellion forces. Setting aside sheer numbers that either faction can bring, they also bring superior training and equipment. What is a Gamorran with a vibro-axe against a fully armed and armored storm trooper?

This mistakes the role of criminals in the setting. They are not a military faction, but a presence on the streets, in back alleys and in gloomy cantinas. They represent the corruption of the world and the slow failing of institutions in the Galaxy. They are your slavers, your drug dealers and your muscle. They live in a different world than military might, one where heavy weapons will rarely come to the fore for a variety of reasons, but weapons still matter. I discussed them at length when analyzing the tactics of Psi-Wars. Given how differently criminals will fight than military forces, I think it might be useful to examine what sort of mooks we might face were we to anger the wrong crime-boss, or meet the wrong sort of person in a dark alley.

The Concept of Criminal Thugs

Criminals are, ultimately, bullies. They are the strong who prey upon the weak who no longer have the protection of a powerful state (whether that state is just, like the Republic, or corrupt, like the Empire, it still offers nominal protection). Where “criminal” ends and “state” begins can sometimes be murky. After all, the Empire also bullies the weak, but in principle, the difference is military grade hardware and training. If a crime-boss is able to field tanks, starships and well-disciplined soldiers, he graduates to “Warlord” and goes beyond the scope of this document.

Thus, in principle, criminal thugs are civilians with a bad attitude. They have sufficient training, strength and access to arms (and the will to use them) that they can intimidate the unarmed and easily frightened (they can, if you will, take candy from a baby), but they are not so powerful that they can afford to go into open rebellion and defiance of a major state player. Thus, we can define our thugs in a few ways: they might be physically strong, or they might have access to non-military grade weapons, they might have a modicum of combat experience, and they are skilled at intimidating others. Criminals also tend to be extremely local. Pirates might wander about the galaxy, but that’s a discussion for another time. The sort of criminals we mean are extremely local. They run a neighborhood, or even a planet, but they don’t control a major segment of a galaxy (and if they do, they do so through a network of influence that allows a variety of planetary gangs to pool their influence and power, rather than through flying great battleships around with which they persuade people to join up with them).

When it comes to physical strength, we expect to see the bruiser: big, muscly aliens that crack their knuckles and growl at others at the behest of their boss. This typifies the criminal thug: A guy with a great deal of ST is a threat to an unarmed civilian, but he’s a joke to a man in a full hardsuit with a blaster carbine. Still, one cannot generally bring such equipment into a cantina or to a meeting with a smuggler-lord, which gives the bruiser a natural edge. The bruiser might use weapon, but if he’s just a defender of a cantina, he’s better off just using straight-up strength and wrestling skills to physically grab someone and throw them out. Big goons can certainly wield guns, but their prime advantage goes away, as an ST 15 brute is no better with a blaster pistol than an ST 7 housewife. Thus, the point of a bruiser is physical control and intimidation. He can break your limbs rather than kill you, and he can physically throw you out.

For weapons, most criminals will train with easy weapons that are relatively cheap and are easy to acquire. This means vibro-knives (which run about $400) and pistols (which run from $600 for a holdout blaster to $5600 for a heavy blaster pistol). Grenades are fairly cheap, but their legality class makes acquiring them pretty difficult, though expendable jammers are LC 3 and EMP grenades are LC 2, which might be doable. Cheap rifles and carbines might also be a possible, but they have dangerously low LC ratings (risking that the gangster will get caught) and they’re not very concealable. This latter matters the most, as a gangster needs to adapt to shifting circumstances, able to draw a weapon at an instant's notice, or bring an unnoticed weapon with him to a meet, or into a dark alley. This concealability issue prevents them from using vibroglaives. Force swords are fairly concealable, but they’re difficult to use well, and very expensive. Finally, the neurolash baton might not seem a symbol of the criminal element, but it has a high legality class, only costs around $500, and excels at inflicting pain, three things a criminal would love. Finally, we might expect improvised weapons: wrenches or big hunks of metal as clubs, chains, fist-loads, etc.

Three sorts of goons might use these weapons. First, we have the basic criminal thug, the punk, the kid who just started running with the gang, and so on. They’ll be exceptionally poor fighters, but have access to some basic weaponry and street fighting techniques. These represent the bulk of a gang’s forces.

Then we’ll have the psycho. As noted before, a willingness to inflict heinous violence on someone is a hallmark of the criminal. A “psycho” might represent a serial killer, though that sort of character is best reflected by a legitimate boss character, or they might just be the sort of unhinged ganger who’s much more violent than his comrades. A criminal gang might work by generally keeping their psychos “in line” until they’re needed, then unleash them.

Finally, we have the enforcer. This is the professional foot-soldier of the criminal gang, who might also act as a lieutenant to someone higher up. They’re masters of intimidation who negotiate with other gangs, and keep their gang in line. When that doesn’t work, they might resort to being hit men in their own right.

We could consider more elite hitmen. This interesting article discusses the four typical categories of hitmen. The typical goon represents the novice hit man, while the enforcer represents the journeyman hitman, the dilettante doesn’t really belong in a gang at all, and we miss the master. However, I would argue that an elite assassin is, in fact, a named character and a boss in their own right. They fall outside the premise of criminal mooks, even if they are part of the criminal world.

Tactical Theory

Most gangs will lack anything approaching real tactics.  They'll simply mob up and come after you.  The driving force here is not to kill you, but to intimidate you.  The point is to exert force and then, via that force, get what they want: Dominance, product, money, whatever.  Thus, for a criminal, violence is a means to an ends.  This is true of all combat forces, but it's more true of criminals on a tactical scale than it is of military forces, which work on a more strategic scale ("I took your favorite planet, so you should sign a peace treaty with me" vs "I'm holding a gun to your head, so give me your wallet").

The bulk of the average gang is the goon, not out of choice, but out of necessity.  Gangs lack the resources for military-scale training or equipment by definition, as a criminal outfit with military grade equipment would be better represented as a group of pirates, guerillas or rogue imperial troops.  This means criminals go to war "with the army that they have."  This means they don't particularly have a special tactic: send your guys in, hope they get the job done.

Criminal gangs with different character might completely replace goons with a different sort of criminal.  Crazed bikers might consist entirely out of psychos, while the sci-fi equivalent to the Yakuza might consist entirely out of enforcers. If a criminal gang mixes and matches a group, it'll tend to send its goons and bruisers forward, as both benefit from being close to the enemy.  The bruiser can take hits and the goons are expendable.  Enforcers will tend to hang back, relying on their superior marksmanship to defeat the enemy from a greater distance, and psychos will engage in trickery and try to get around behind their opponents.

Skill Level Theory

As the Alliance soldiers showed us, sometimes it’s not realistic to have all opposition be extremely skilled. It’s also not necessary. Sometimes lesser skilled opponents present their own challenges. The typical criminal footsoldier will be little better trained than the average civilian, because they are largely average civilians with meaner spirit (thus, do not have pacifism) and access to weapons. That means most criminals should have skill 10.

The more lethal criminals should certainly be skill 12, as they represent a cut above the rest, someone who has seen some battle and understands the street. They represent the difference between an unruly gang of drug dealers protecting their neighborhood, and an interstellar consortium of rackteers and hitmen-for-hire.

Skill 15 is too high for most gangsters. That typically reflects elite characters who have extensive training and combat experience, and such characters in the criminal world have either moved on to being full mercenaries or have made a sufficient name for themselves that they begin to become named characters. Still, we might envision some characters like this, especially the psycho characters, as we tend to associate scary levels of effectiveness to the mad.

Technological Detail

The technological focus for criminals will be on cheapness, concealability and ability to draw quickly, thus they’ll likely focus on pistols. However, the criminal world is flush with variety, so we should try to match with a variety of weapons, from cheap and unreliable to simple and semi-professional.

The Blaster Pistol

This article touches on the most popular firearms of criminals. The most striking thing to note is that, of course, the pistol is by far the most dominant weapon. This is to be expected, of course, because a pistol is easy to carry into a bar or a bank, the average civilian isn’t armed with anything better, and they’re cheap. What’s striking is that most of them are older weapons, or they’re dramatic weapons. We could probably break criminal pistols down into one of three rough categories. First, we have the cheapest, simplest weapon they can get their hands on, because any gun is better than no gun. This might be the .38 special. Next, we have a dramatic weapon, one that as soon as you flash, people are impressed. This is the gun of the mob boss, the gun of the biggest gangster, and it is more “bling” then effectiveness, more bark than bite. This might be a chromed Desert Eagle. Finally, we have the traditionally effective pistol. It’s an older weapon, and it might not be the flashiest weapon, but it works where it counts. This is the weapon of the professional, veteran gangster, like a mafia hitman, and it might be reflected by the .45 ACP.

The blaster equivalent of the .38 Special would be a Cheap (RPK’s version) Holdout Blaster. That is, -2 accuracy, Malf 16 and HT 9. It’s going to fail you, it won’t hit, and it does almost no damage, but by god, it only costs $250, making it cheaper than a vibro knife, which is funny because it does less damage than a vibro knife too!

For our Deagle, what we need is a heavy blaster pistol that’s even more heavier and blastier. It should strike fear in the hearts of other gangsters, while professionals should be relatively dismissive of it. We could make a heavy blaster pistol that deals even more damage and weighs even more, has +1 reaction (stylish) but saves some cost by being Cheap (in the RPK way), meaning it’s loaded with damage and still costs a lot, but lacks what really matters to weapon.

For our ol’ reliable, a basic blaster pistol is probably sufficient. The best way to depict that it’s older technology is to give it the Cheap (Ultra-Tech version) tag, increasing its weight, and reliable, increasing its cost.

Naturally, criminals can use standard pistols too! But this gives us an interesting spread of weapons to play with.

Heavier Blasters

Partisan weaponry certainly applies to most gangsters. If one can get ahold of a hunting blaster or a cheap assault blaster, they’ll do wonders for taking out your enemy. But if we want a more classic feel, that means we need the equivalent to a Tommy gun and a sawed-off shotgun.

For the Tommy Gun, we’ve already made several “submachine blasters,” but this one should be larger. We’ll use the heavier weight of a “cheap” weapon, and the reduced accuracy we’ve been consistently using for the “submachine blaster,” but we’ll make it a two-handed weapon, thus one fired with Beam Weapons (Rifle). The result is something weaker than a carbine but something harder hitting than any submachine blaster but the imperial assault blaster.

For the “Sawed off shotgun,” we can’t saw off a blaster and expect it to still work, but the premise here is a modification that allows a weapon to be smaller but much more dangerous. That sounds like a hotshot round. Furthermore, we tend to expect our shotgun to have a spread. The reason criminals liked a sawed off shotgun is that it acted as a sort of a room-sweeper. You didn’t need to be particularly accurate to make it work. A high-power but short blaster wouldn’t be particularly accurate, especially on a “snap shot” like a shotgun might be. So, we’re better off with a plasma weapon, either a hand flamer (which is a great idea! Criminals could totally use hand-flamers to terrorize their opponents!), or we need a classic plasma weapon. The latter is explosive thus probably the best. Alas, we don’t have an official plasma weapon design system, but we do have an unofficial one. But moreover, we don’t need one: We can just use the standard plasma pistol, hotshot it, and make it cheaper in both senses of the word, giving us the worst idea in the world: A weapon that deals 10d explosive damage with a price tag not much worse than a holdout blaster and not much heavier than a standard blaster pistol, but has a bad habit of blowing up in your hand.

Blade, Club and Improvised Weapon

Our criminals lack much in the way of money and make do with whatever melee weapons they can find. Criminals will ideally choose easy weapons, or very cheap ones. Improvised weapons, like clubs, make a lot of sense. “Normal” knives make more sense than vibro-knives, as they'd be cheaper and more readily available, but they'll fair poorly against armor (but so will clubs). A neurolash baton is a seriously intimidating weapon, and the sort of item I expect most leg-breakers would absolutely want (as well as neurolash cuffs!), but more expensive than basic improvised weapons and specialized, thus likely to end up in the hands of a professional enforcer rather than a basic goon.
Real world criminals tend to use explosives, but this veers into military-grade stuff, which is (in principle) fine, but a goon with a rocket launcher is more likely to be a one-off sort of opponent, or better represented with a different sort of goon. However, real life criminals can get ahold of molotov cocktails or “nitro” fairly easily, and they can be useful for breaking an entering. The most obvious way to handle this would be improvised plasma charges, the ones we have back in the gear section of our ruleset.


Armor tends to be obvious, cost a lot and weigh you down, and most armor in the reach of the average criminal isn't going to much to stop concentrated firepower. I imagine most criminals will forego armor. Enforcers might wear it, but that case they might wear a basic battleweave vest, which offers them a DR of 20 to their torso and vitals, which is enough to blunt your lighter pistols and turn a lethal shot into merely a major wound.

Support Technology

Communication devices are common enough that all criminals should have them, though usually in an informal manner (holographic communicators, or wrist-comms) rather than dedicated, military communication devices. Furthermore, the purpose of criminals are to cow opponents into submission, thus they often wear flashy, attractive garments. This is especially true of the Enforcer and the Bruiser.


All the following minions have been created in such a way that they'll fit on two sides of an A6, so you should be able to print 4 per page. I have greatly reduced their complexity even further, so that most characters are virtually identical. Note that the listed tactics aren't the only moves possible, just a helper for some of the more complex actions these characters might undertake.

Criminal Goon

Your basic minions for criminal combat. They are selfish in that they're trying to impress others, and are easily “called out” to do foolish things with insults. They lack real experience, and will often make foolish attacks, such as “Gangsta Shootin'”. They will also often Do Nothing.
ST 10 HP 10 Speed 5
DX 10 Will 10 Move: 5
IQ 10 Per 10

HT 10 FP 10 SM +0
Dodge 8
Parry 8
DR: 0

Cheap Holdout Pistol (10):
2d+1(5) burn sur (Acc 1, Range 60/180 RoF 3, Bulk -1, Malf 16)

Improvised Club (9): 1d+3 cr (Reach 1, Parry 0U)

Knife (10): 1d-2(2) imp or 1d-2(2) cut (Reach C or C,1 for a cut, Parry -1)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Neighborhood)-10, Intimidation-10, Pilot(Contragravity)-10, Streetwise-10

Traits: Bully (12), Selfish (12)

Notes: Human; Carries communication device with 100-mile range. 

Goon Tactics

Gangsta Shootin' (10): Make a all-out determined (+1) sighted shot using a stance that you think looks impressive, but actually makes your goon less useful (-1 to hit). Your attack suffers a -1 Malf (Cheap Holdout Pistols are Malf 15). Roll a random hit location if you hit. You may not defend.
Beat-Down (13): Move up to half your move (2 yards) and make a Telegraphic (+4 to hit) All-Out (Strong) attack. Your opponent defends at +2 and you deal 1d+5 cr (with a club) or 1d(2) cut with a knife. If attacking as a group, grant the group the equivalent of high ROF based on the number of attackers, just like with a mob. You may not defend.
Swagger (14): Make a flourish after defeating an opponent, taking your whole turn. Roll Intimidation+4 to frighten off or cow your opposition.

Criminal Bruiser

The criminal bruiser acts primarily as a bouncer for a club, or as serious muscle to support some goons. He's most threatening when faced with unarmored opponents. He's easily fooled, which is especially important if he ends up standing guard.
ST 15 HP 15 Speed 5
DX 10 Will 8/10 Move: 6
IQ 8 Per 8

HT 12 FP 12 SM +1
Dodge 8
Parry 8
DR: 2 cr

Improvised Club (9): 2d+4 cr (Reach 1, Parry 0U)

Fist (12): 1d (Reach C, 1)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Neighborhood)-10, Hobby Skill (Feats of Strength)-10, Intimidation-10, Lifting-12, Streetwise-10

Traits: High Pain Threshold, Gullible-12

Notes: Human; DR is tough skin and vs crushing only, representing their durable bones and muscles. Bruisers are often aliens. Carries communication device with 100-mile range.

Bruiser Tactics

Beat-Down (13): Move up to half your move (3 yards) and make a Telegraphic (+4 to hit) All-Out (Strong) attack. Your opponent defends at +2 and you deal 2d+6 cr (with a club) or 1d+2 cr with your fist. You may not defend.
Body Check (14): Move 6 yards and make an All Out Slam (Strong). Your opponent defends normally. Deal 1d+2 cr. If you deal more damage than your opponent, they must roll DX to remain on their feet. If you double their damage, they automatically fall. You may not defend.
Subdue (14): Make an All-Out Attack (Determined) Grapple. Opponent defends normally. If they fail to defend, they are grappled: They may not move away, and are at -4 DX (-1 dodge, -2 parry). You may not defend.
Swagger (14): Make a flourish after defeating an opponent, taking your whole turn. Roll Intimidation+4 to frighten off or cow your opposition.

Criminal Psycho

The psycho is part serial killer and part crazed punk. His disadvantages reflect the worst stereotypes of criminal behavior, making him unpredictable and dangerous. Lucky reflects the spooky edge such characters often seem. If the psycho is a mook, rather than a henchmen, ignore Lucky.
ST 10 HP 10 Speed 6
DX 12 Will 10/14 Move: 6
IQ 10 Per 10

HT 12 FP 12 SM +0
Dodge 10
Parry 10
DR: 0

Hotshot Plasma Pistol (12): 10d (2) burn ex (RoF 3, Range 400/1200, Rcl 2 Bulk -2)

Partisan Blaster (12):
3d(5) burn sur (Acc 3, Range 300/900, RoF 12, Bulk -2)

Vibro knife (12): 1d (5) imp or 2d (5) cut (Reach C or C,1 for a cut, Parry -1)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Neighborhood)-12, Intimidation-12, Pilot (Contragravity)-12, Stealth-12, Streetwise-12

Traits: Bully (12), Combat Reflexes, Fearlessness +2, Lucky, Odious Personal Habit (Various), On the Edge (12)

Notes: Human; Usually goads the rest of his group on towards some crazed action. Carries communication device with 100-mile range.

Psycho Tactics

Vanish (7): At the beginning of a fight, a psycho will attempt to vanish and get the drop on his opponent. Roll Vanish (ignore modifiers for stealth at the beginning of a fight). Success means he may attack one opponent “from behind.” He may not do this at any other point in the fight.

Grab-and-Stab (12): Make a Move up to half your move (3 yards) and make a Telegraphic (+4 to hit) All-Out (Double) attack. First, grapple your opponent (Your opponent defends normally). Success means your opponent is at -4 to DX, -2 to parry and -1 to dodge. Then, make an impaling attack with your vibro-knife, dealing 1d+2 (5) impaling damage. You may not defend.

Wild Fire (9): While firing from the hip, move up to 3 yards and make an unsighted All-Out Attack (Suppression fire) using RoF 12. Anyone under the suppression zone can be hit (to a maximum of 12 targets) and must make a Will or Will-based Soldier roll (Add Fearlessness as a bonus, +2 from Combat Reflexes, and characters with Unfazeable automatically succeed) to expose themselves to the suppressive fire zone. Successful hits strike a random hit location. You may not defend. Gain +2 to Fast-Draw or to act first during a cascading wait.

Swagger (16): Make a flourish after defeating an opponent, taking your whole turn. Roll Intimidation+4 to frighten off or cow your opposition.

Criminal Enforcer

The most professional of the bunch, they represent excellence in the field of criminals. They tend to act as a stable center around which the other gangsters can focus, though they are not, themselves, leaders.
ST 11 HP 11 Speed 6
DX 12 Will 11/13 Move: 6
IQ 11 Per 11

HT 12 FP 12 SM +0
Dodge 10
Parry 10
DR: 20

Impressive Blaster Pistol (12): 4d+2 (5) burn sur (RoF 3, Range 300/900, Bulk -3, +1 reaction)

Old Assault Blaster (11):
4d(5) burn sur (Acc 3, Range 250/750, RoF 8, Bulk -3)

Neurolash Baton (12): HT-5 (5) (Reach 1, parry 0)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Neighborhood)-12, Fast-Draw (Pistol)-12, Interrogation-12, Intimidation-12, Pilot (Contragravity)-12, Savoir-Faire (Mafia)-12, Streetwise-12

Traits: Bully (12), Combat Reflexes

Notes: Human; Often well dressed. DR applies to torso only (it's a vest worn under their clothes) Carries communication device with 100-mile range.

Enforcer Tactics

Professional Shooter (11): While in cover, move from cover and make a sighted, All-Out (Determined) attack with the Impressive Blaster Pistol. Opponent defends normally. If successful, hit the torso. Return to cover (Pop-up attack). You may not defend.

Wall of Fire (14): Make a sighted, All-Out (Determined) attack with the Old Assault Blaster at full ROF 8. Opponent defends normally. If successful, hit a random hit location. You may not defend.

Swagger (17): Make a flourish after defeating an opponent, taking your whole turn. Roll Intimidation+4 to frighten off or cow your opposition.
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