I got to play a session of Star Wars recently. Some friends in Portland have a pick up game that they play periodically, so I got to be involved in a session of it while I was down there. I had a ridiculous amount of fun. I might want more depth of play in an ongoing campaign, but for a one-shot it was absurdly fun.
There were a few things I noted during play. The first was something I hadn’t noticed about d20 rulebooks before. Since I almost never use their pre-made NPCs, I never looked at the stats in the Star Wars books. But while flipping through the Knights of the Old Republic sourcebook, I spotted a picture of someone that had three lightsabers floating around her.
I thought to myself, “Well that’s a cool effect. I wonder what she has that does that.”
The stat block was mostly incomprehensible. The NPC had several powers that were not in the core book, and I had no idea where to look to find them. I found some in the sourcebook I was holding, but I don’t even know where I’d begin to find all of them. They might have been in there, they might have been in the core rules, they might have been in some other sourcebook. I had no way of knowing. It was all kinda frustrating.
I was also chagrined to realize that I’ve never played a badass Jedi. I invariably shy away from the role of badass in RPGs. Not because I have no interest in playing them, but usually because it’s so crowded in that neck of the woods. When you are the badass in the group, that’s all well and good. But usually there’s at least two or three people jockeying for position in that niche. It’s especially a problem when you’re in a genre that only has one or two signature roles. It’s even more true in a game with an emphasis on combat.
In the three previous Star Wars games I’ve gotten to play in:
- The first game I got to play in, it was early Rebellion Era, the Jedi had been hunted to extinction, and the GM wanted compelling character concepts if he was going to let a PC start out as a Jedi. And I didn’t have a compelling enough reason. So I defaulted to my “smarmy con-man” archetype. (Then the two people who had gotten Jedi characters approved had extended one-on-one roleplay as they explored their views of the Force. But I’m not bitter.)
- The next game was a combat-heavy game. Three Jedi Guardians and one Jedi Consular. There was no way I could wade into the game with all the heavy-hitters and feel like I was doing well at anything. So I made my (in)famous herb-friendly Gungan Force Adept physician, Boonjah Dass. I think I struck a solid blow against the Gungan haters with my charming portrayal. Really. Stop laughing.
- The last campaign I got to play in was the Holophast Academy game. Since everyone was playing Jedi children, this was the first time I got to play a Jedi. There was heavier roleplay, but a similar power spread. A few bruisers, a serious nerd/diplomat. I made a pilot. Doesn’t really scratch the Jedi itch and it’s really hard to have cool things to do when it required you to have a vehicle.
In other news, here are some other campaign ideas I’ve had on the back burner. Invariably I’m drawn to inspiration from outside sources. Some of these may have gotten mentioned elsewhere, but I figure I’ll dump them out here for easy reference. If nothing else, someone else may gain inspiration from this.
Even Bounty Hunters Get the Blues
I’ve wanted to do a Cowboy Bebop game for a while. It’s always possible to use one of the handful of anime-themed roleplaying games out there. But there’s a lot of shadow to live under with Bebop. Like running a game with just the core Star Wars trilogy, it’s hard to find a place in Bebop that falls outside of stuff touched by the canon characters.
I’ve considered the possibility of shifting the original idea over to Star Wars. Bounty hunters are a common feature in Star Wars. If I set it after one of the wars, especially the Clone Wars or the Rebellion, then it has a good setup for a Firefly slant to it as well. Jazz and cowboys are not as easy a fit, but I think it could be done.
For such a game I would have basically a large freighter with hanger space. Every PC gets their own personal craft that can land in the freighter. All of the PCs have their dark secrets or ghosts from the past, and much of the play revolves around exploring those themes with hunting of bounties being a background element.
Can’t Stop Here, This is Ewok Country
The setup for the HBO series Deadwood (and, really, the historic background behind it as well) seems like a great setup for a game. (Which is why I might also try and poach it for the D&D game I mentioned in an earlier post.) A frontier boomtown, outside of any legal jurisdiction, and the stories of those drawn to it in hopes of making their fortune.
The idea I’ve been poking at for a while takes place on Endor: Following the war, the New Republic sets into law the protection of Endor for the ewoks in thanks for their help in the war. And then someone finds macguffinite on the planet, and profit seekers sneak onto the planet to try to strike it rich. The Republic is divided on the issue, torn between those who want to honor the treaty and those who have a vested interest in keeping the illegal trade going. Small mining towns spring up, clustering together as they try to make their fortune while out in the darkness, ewoks prowl and pick off the weak.
A large chunk of my fondness for this idea boils down to wanting badass ewoks lurking in the redwoods.
Beyond the Farthest Star
I also like Martin’s setup for his Song of Ice and Fire: a family in a remote corner of the world, tasked with guarding a boundary against an ancient and almost forgotten enemy, drawn into the political scheming at the heart of the realm. I tried, poorly, to run such a game in Exalted with Frozen Misery of Centuries. We had fun, but the game didn’t have quite the feel I wanted. A large part of this, in retrospect, was my lack of familiarity with how to run Exalted and confusion on my part for what I wanted the game to feel like.
But I’ve been noodling around ideas about the sort of setup that I’d want to use for such a game. The immediate image is of a planetary outpost on the farthest rim of the galaxy, a family tasked with keeping vigil against a threat that comes from outside the galaxy.
Some of this has been done in other Expanded Universe materials. The whole Yuuzhan Vong story arc from the New Jedi Order era touches upon that. There are a couple other things that appear along there. The Ssi-Ruuk. The Charon. Waru from The Crystal Star. The big bads from one of the Star Wars games I mentioned earlier. The usual “shocking” twist is that they are immune to the Force. (Gasp!)
What I feel more pulled towards is something very integral to the galaxy. An ancient threat that retreated outside of the galaxy, but may someday return. On a certain level that sounds like the Sith, but I’m thinking more alien and primal. Fae even. (Which I guess reminds me of the Lovecraft/Star Wars mashup games I did several years ago.) I always like the idea of the Dark Side being something palpable. Something personified.
It seems like Alien and the creatures its inspired (like Tyranids and Genestealers) have sort of made a continuum of what is considered weird and alien and scary. It’s usually chitinous or lumpy and ugly. What I want to see is a giant living battleship of darkness and gossamer, as cold and beautiful as the void, raining Force Lightning down on other starships. The seduction of the Dark Side made flesh.
Overall I have some strong ideas for what I imagine the setting looking like. I’m less certain about the Big Bad. I’m even less certain about when in the timeline to set this. I can’t think of a good event to map to the background in A Game of Thrones. There isn’t a central leader figure equivalent to Robert Baratheon. Palpatine hardly qualifies. (“Ned, my old apprentice. I need you to come to Coruscant.” “I’m… gonna have to pass, Palpy.”) Maybe something in the nebulous area between New Jedi Order and Legacy? Hrm.
Fall of the Jedi
This one is a new one I’ve been noodling about. The Force Unleashed had an “Infinities” story line spin out of the game based off of a choice you make later in the game. For those not familiar with it, Infinites is what they have been calling alternate history spin-offs of the series, equivalent to DC’s “Elseworlds” and Marvel’s “What If?” It started off with a set of Dark Horse mini-series, each tweaking something from the core trilogy. (Luke misses the shot at the Death Star. Luke dies on Hoth. Leia is forced to reveal her identity at Jabba’s palace earlier.) Overall, one of my favorite things I’ve seen in the Expanded Universe. (I’m perhaps biased, since I love the idea of Leia as an apprentice of the Sith.) But they are also very self-contained.
Without giving away too many spoilers, a choice you make results in a new Lord of the Sith serving under Palpatine and replacing Vader. They’ve put out two expansions for the game exploring this divergent timeline with the new Lord, and it drastically changes events in the storyline. They have really evocative titles for the installments: “A Fragile Hope” for the events on Tattooine, “Wrath of the Empire” for the expansion set on Hoth. Since they have a non-Infinites sequel coming out for The Force Unleashed, I’m guessing they aren’t going to put out more expansions for the first one. Which leads me to wonder what sort of game world you could create out of these changes. “Wrath of the Empire” especially changes the dynamic of the canon and makes a far darker universe. One in which Luke can no longer be counted on to save the galaxy. This leaves a nice spot open for PCs.
If people want me to talk about the spoilers, I can perhaps create a second post where I put a spoiler warning before the cut. You can also find walk through videos of the expansions on Youtube.