“Unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.” That’s one of the legal definitions of force majeure, and I can think of a few examples. Getting discovered by a dark figure known as Tenth Brother might prevent you from fulfilling a work contract, or the ‘contract’ that is your prison sentence. An “irresistible compulsion or greater force” is another definition, and an offer you can’t refuse to retrieve an artifact from a strange wasteland certainly fits the bill. However, that second definition is also a pretty good description of the reasons Why You Should Listen to the podcast known as Force Majeure. You know how it goes: a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Force Majeure is (probably obviously) a Star Wars RPG Actual Play podcast, using the Force and Destiny iteration of the system originally created by Fantasy Flight Games. Originally launched in 2018, it is still going strong, and from a production standpoint has an interesting quirk. Instead of picking one story (whatever its length) and finishing it, Force Majeure alternates between stories – in many ways, you’re getting two for the price of one in this Why You Should Listen.
The Coldfire Chronicles
On the frozen prison moon of Daxos, an unlikely group of Force-sensitive misfits are about to have their worlds turned upside down…
Adam, Force Majuere’s overall host, is the GM for this adventure, joined by:
- Mikey playing “J’Ren” Jar’ren’tarthi the Chiss Mystic Advisor, a charming (former) space pirate captain who ran afoul of a mutinous crew but whose enthusiasm is recklessly undaunted.
- Mim playing Lasa Styngen the Human Sentinel Artisan, an old hand from the spacelanes who is equally handy and belligerent with a hydrospanner, the only one without a crime to her name (for now).
- Ed Fortune playing Auberon Bryck the Human Hunter Seeker, whose only crime is betraying his family, an extraordinary collection of thieves, rogues, and murderers. Granted they are all powerful Imperials, hence Auberon’s sentence and cruel streak.
- Ross playing Agatha Hungatir the Mirialian Warrior Aggressor, a brawler if ever there was one, hungry for glory. Getting into a hand-to-hand fight with a Wookiee was trouble; fatally winning in the second confrontation got him into more of it.
Most of our protagonists are, in fact, prisoners at the start of this campaign – only Lasa is free, for whatever value of free can be attributed to doing maintenance work for an Imperial prison and mining facility. Despite their circumstances, each has realized that they’re Force sensitive before we meet them, and they all have found tutelage under Pyjak, a grizzled hermit who hunts on the fringes of the settlement. He’s been teaching them how to develop their connection to the Force, telling tales of the Jedi, but when all four are summoned to his home they find that he’s gone missing…
The Coldfire Chronicles are told in the ‘odd’ seasons of the show, taking up Seasons 1, 3 and 5, and is actually now a finished campaign ready for your consumption. Our band of heroes will find themselves trying to shuck the bonds of Imperial captivity and explore the galaxy, the Force, and their own places within each.
It is, above all else, the story of a group of people brought together by their unique circumstances, hounded by darkness within and without, a family finding itself as it struggles to survive and to understand. Safe to say that the characters at the beginning would barely recognize the characters at the end, for good or ill…
Shadows of the Jedi
On the Outer Rim planet of Cynabale, in a bar called the Bloody Red Kiss, three strangers and a droid settle in for a nice relaxing night. Little do they know that this is no ordinary night on the tiles, and tomorrow’s hangover is likely to be the least of their worries…
Ed Fortune grabs the GMing reins for this campaign, and as for the players we have…
- Adam playing Tikus Barr the Besalisk Sentinel Armorer, a reckless young lad who hasn’t quite figured out he can die yet, and as a result lives to build blasters and break rules/heads/blaster-related-safety-regulations to his heart’s content.
- Mikey playing Dalen “Kay” Kai-Rhane the Human “Taxi Driver”, a man simply trying to put one foot in front of the other to get to the next day. Not sure what the next day will hold, but it’s better than what he left behind, and there’s probably something he can drink.
- Mim playing R-01 the B1 Battle Droid Hired Gun Bodyguard, Tikus’s brother from another manufacturer, still loaded with old babysitting programming despite problems with more than one kind of Morality.
- Ross playing Doctor Smechs Kooram Dinslua the Cerean Consular Healer, a ‘Doctor without (planetary) Borders’ whose necessary but bloody work has taken him far from home and into several ‘medicinal’ bottles.
The presence of a Hired Gun among the party isn’t the only thing that makes this campaign, based in Force and Destiny though it may be, feel like an Edge of the Empire campaign at first. Cynabale is so far out it’s only barely Outer Rim instead of Wild or Unknown, having seen so many civilizations rise and fall that even the local star seems tired. We first meet our nominal heroes at the local drinking establishment and they quickly become embroiled in your typical swoop-gang-related bar brawl. Sure enough they end up entangled with a Hutt with their lives and freedoms at risk, having to run a job in exchange for both (and a decent payout). Once they’re out in the ruin-and-wreckage-covered wilds of Cynabale, however, they quickly find themselves getting involved in decidedly and increasingly strange goings-on… and realizing that most of them have very strange abilities themselves indeed.
Shadows of the Jedi lands on the ‘even’ seasons, so far comprising Seasons 2 and 4 and scheduled to be the (upcoming as of this writing) Season 6. It’s the campaign for a Mad-Maxian race across a monster-infested, storm-blasted, and wreckage-dotted desert with characters getting way over their head in a race to retrieve an artifact. It’s just the first bit of archaeology they’ll get themselves involved with as Cynabale gives up its secrets – breaking the rules of life and death and time and space along the way – and they take not first steps but flying leaps into a larger world.
Better yet, you actually get three for the price of one with this WYSL, because a galaxy far, far away isn’t the only place Adam and co. have visited.
Dungeon Majeure is an actual play Genesys fantasy podcast set in a world where the Gods are bored and fickle, reshaping reality to entertain themselves. When all the world’s a stage, you better hope you have great players…
Adam is back in the GMing chair for this madness, for which he offers “neither explanation nor apology.” For this outing he is joined by…
- Mikey playing Ragnok the Mad, a Dwarven cleric of all gods and none – something of a dangerous past-time in a world where the gods are as fickle as this one…
- Mim playing Jeno, a half-catperson bard who, in the finest bardic tradition, is looking for love in all the wrong places. If he’s not careful, he may well find it…
- Lou playing Felicity, a high society philosoraptor – the only thing sharper than her claws is her sense of style!
- Gemma playing Skippy the dragonborn, the team intern, here to learn the way of Professional Championing starting with the most important task – getting the beers in!
The world of Dungeon Majuere is one that was designed by the gods right before they decided to kick back and retire to watch the show, and watch it they did – then enough time passed and they got bored. Like a writing team in the later seasons of a program they started shaking things up. Professional Champions have been summoned to the task, not just of protecting the world from the whims of the gods, but to keep the gods entertained so that they don’t get any more ideas. This sees Ragnok, Jeno, Felicity, and Skipp dispatched to a small fishing village that has always been a fishing village, even though nobody there knows how to fish and there are grain silos and one despairing drunk laments that they’re a farming community and that everyone has gone mad. Oh, and people are turning up dead, did I mention that yet?
Dungeon Majuere’s first season consists of ten episodes, with a second season already in the pipeline. Look, I obviously love the Narrative Dice System, including its Genesys incarnation. I’ve tinkered with game design projects, reviewed products, and played in Genesys campaigns that ranged from sci-fi western to adapting The Stormlight Archive. Despite that, I haven’t gotten into any Genesys actual plays*, but Dungeon Majuere pulled me in. The stakes are high, yes, but it’s also a riot to listen to, and manages to create a straight fantasy world that I actually find interesting – a tall order, these days!
As an added bonus, much like their and our friends over on the Hydian Way (and sometimes in concert with them), every so often you’ll get an additional Force Majeure treat. A Fistful of Credits sees four individuals on a mudball planet trying to steal a secret Imperial bioweapon to clear their debts. Blues Wars stars five musicians being drawn back together for the first time since childhood to save the Orphanarium they were all raised in. Prinkle’s Excellent Adventure joins an ally from The Coldfire Chronicles on a simple shopping trip that soon leads to a wild case of mistaken identity. Tiny Tikus Adventures cordially invites you to join in on the occasion of Tikus of Shadows of the Jedi’s sixth birthday! Jelly, ice cream, and personal indemnity waivers will be provided…
A Creative Force
Now, I want to make one thing clear before I get into this: it’s not like other Star Wars RPG actual plays aren’t creative. That’d be a downright silly claim, and they’d be right to put a bounty on me for making it. But the fact remains that Force Majeure, from the GMs to every cast member regular or guest, brings an almost relentless creativity to a galaxy far, far away that manages to stand out.
Look, it’s Star Wars, and like any other setting that’s been adapted for a roleplaying game instead of originally created for it (Aaron and I talked a bit about the subject here), there’s a fair amount of appeal in visiting locations familiar to the group in their aspect of fans of the setting. We love going to Nar Shaddaa around here. Generally speaking that’s not what the Force Majeure parties do, and we get to join them on visits to locales that are either obscure like Port Haven (~Port Haven~) or down right original to the show like Daxos and Cynabale. Cynabale in particular stands out as a world laid low by the ages, and most Shadows of the Jedi episodes start with a little blurb that grows the planet’s unique setting. Honestly I wouldn’t say not to having a sourcebook for it. Walking into the cantina in A New Hope really drove home how big and different the galaxy is from our own world, and Force Majeure leans into that from the locations to the characters to the ‘words from our sponsors’ at the start of nearly every episode.
Then there’s the actual Force.
Something that I think is easy to forget if you’ve been a fan of Star Wars for a long time is the sense of wonder you had about the Force back when you were first learning about it. Picking things up with your mind is blasé now, and everyone with some anger in their heart is throwing lightning around, but remember the sheer wow factor the first time you saw that X-Wing rise out of the swamp or Palpatine striking Luke down? Newer takes on that are personally exactly my jam – give me special skills like bonding with animals or reading memories off of objects, give me the world between worlds and summoning Jedi from afar, give me a Force dyad and the same lightsaber fight in two different locations.
Force Majeure manages to carry that off in both campaigns, both in unique ways. The Coldfire Chronicles lean much more into characters who are actively trying to learn about who they are (and not just when it comes to the Force) and what they can do. The Force is often mysterious and confusing, visions haunt them even without Foresee getting used, and esoteric powers and artifacts are explored. Shadows of the Jedi is much more about stumbling into the whole thing, and just like everything else on it Cynabale’s relationship with the Force and with the Jedi of old is decidedly strange, possibly heretical, and more than a little terrifying. If you want that sense of pure wonder, the moment of awe as just how the Force binds everything together is made clear, these are the campaigns for you.
As for Dungeon Majuere? I almost forgot to mention it in this section, because it doesn’t even have the Star Wars foundation to build on – it’s unique and creative and fun from the ground up to such a degree that my brain was convinced it didn’t need to be said.
So strap on your blasters, pour yourself a nice cup of tea, and join Force Majeure as they travel to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and more places besides!
*This is your cue to let us know of other Genesys podcasts that people should be listening to – or any other kind of podcast that you think should be featured in Why You Should Listen!