[licensed product RPGs] what do you DO in a star wars rpg?

edited April 2011 in Story Games
Maybe it's just me, but I feel really constrained creatively when I imagine sitting down to play a Star Wars RPG. I'd feel the same about Lord of the Rings, too, I think.
Has anyone else experienced this and found a way to get around it?
I'm concerned I'd feel like any character I made would just be glaringly outside of existing continuity.

Comments

  • edited April 2011
    We played the living HELL out of Star Wars d6. So much fun.

    Let's see... first long series was a "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern" thing with the PCs running around behind the scenes during the trilogy, mostly from after the death star blew up until around Han getting frozen. At one point, a Hutt boss had hired them to steal "some rare materials" for him, and they ended up on Cloud City and realized they're supposed to steal carbonite.

    Second series was about a bounty hunter crew operating during the rise of the Empire (first death star still under construction). That was a very Firefly-esque game, thinking back on it (this was oh, 1990 maybe?). A mission-based thing that was mostly about the crew figuring out how to trust each other (or not).

    Third series was straight up military style, with the PCs as Rebel soldiers fighting in the war against the Empire. That also used the films as a major backdrop, but the events of the game were much smaller-scale, about those dudes you see on Hoth running around in the trenches and getting blown up by AT-ATs.

    Fourth series was totally Jedi focused, during the period (we imagined) that Darth Vader was hunting down the last surviving members of the order.

    Much, much later, I ran a short series (Star Wars d20) about a Jedi master, his promising young student, and her twin brother, who had become a more powerful force user, but was not raised in the Jedi ways. That was set during the old republic era, and was also our attempt at "doing the prequels right." (Didn't everyone do that?) It was pretty great. I've considered writing that one up as a playset, Lady Blackbird style. It would be a perfect fit.
  • Posted By: John HarperI've considered writing that one up as a playset, Lady Blackbird style. It would be a perfect fit.
    Yes please!... Please?
  • Posted By: KayfallPosted By: John HarperI've considered writing that one up as a playset, Lady Blackbird style. It would be a perfect fit.
    Yes please!... Please?

    Ditto!
  • Posted By: John HarperThat was set during the old republic era, and was also our attempt at "doing the prequels right." (Didn't everyone do that?)
    Yup. That's what I really want from a Star Wars RPG, an opportunity to do the prequels right, or to at least mine them of some goodness.

    My Jedi Blackbird hack is an attempt to do that. It tries to put the Jedi ideal of thoughtful and dispassionate service through the wringer.
  • Like Zac, I have a kind of autism for playing in contemporary intellectual property settings. I just do not get it.

    Ancient stuff is okay -- greek myths, King Arthur -- because all of that stuff has been a sandbox of material for writing to go play in for centuries. It's assumed a) you can't get it "right" and b) you're going in to play with those toys because you're interested in *your* telling. Though it sounds like what you and your players did. For some reason that boggles my mind.

    John, your write up sounds amazing, though. How much of the fun came from the ironic knowledge of what happening elsewhere? Or, another way to ask, what would the experience have been like if the games had been played but the other material from Star Wars did not exist? (If that's even possible to contemplate.)
  • I either like to blend it with another genre:

    Resevoir Rebels

    That Hutt scored the holo-plans to the Imperial Galactic Bank and now you know when the next shipment is coming in. The risk is high but the pay-off is juicy, real juicy, junior.

    Now the Hutt is getting a posse together, a bunch of galactic dogs from far, far away who can handle themselves if things get nasty. Sure there'll be alot of people there during the day but you'll have the manpower to handle it.

    An A.W.O.L. Emperor's Guard, a Wookie fresh from the slave-ships with a chip on his shoulder, a shell-shocked Rebel soldier who is still still hasn't made his way to Rendez-vous Point after the whole Hoth fiasco and an old man with a lightsaber against the most fortified piece of real estate on Coruscant.

    If there is a bright center to the universe, let's shoot it with heavy blasters and be away on speeder-bikes before they know what hit 'em.


    Or go so far from the usual timeline that it canon issues just don't matter:

    [SWS] Episode LV: Revenge of the Jedi

    Star Wars - Revenge of the Jedi
    Episode LV

    The SKYWALKER DYNASTY, whose dark will is enforced by the brutal nobles of the SITH COURT, has ruled the Galaxy for a Thousand Years of Tyranny.

    The Sith Courtiers have grown CORUSCANT like a cyclopean technological flower, with five DEATH STAR satellites guarding the Dyson Fortress.

    Even now the Clans CALRISSIAN and FETT have put aside their differences in order to put together two ancient DROIDS, who contain plans that could destroy Coruscant forever....


    When I play in the Star Wars universe, I just want to play with SW toys.

    Lightsabers
    "I love you./I know."
    "I've got a bad feeling about this"
    Droids
    Bounty Hunters
    Stormtroopers
    Wooshing noises in space
    etc.
  • It helps to either be off in some other corner of the setting (ie, well before or after the original trilogy, or dealing with other matters in the background of the movies).

    Or you take the main characters, throw them out and use your PCs instead. When we played, we did "Revenge of the Jedi", where Luke joins Vader at Cloud City, and the team of Leia, Han Solo, R2D2, C3P0, Lando and an aging Mace Windu* had to stop evil Luke. Diverging the timeline left room open for our own creations and creativity, while still feeling like Star Wars.

    (*Mace Windu was one of few elements from the prequels to appear in the game, mainly because we needed a Jedi master to train Leia in the Force.)
  • Nick,
    I'm going to mention the N64 in my response.
    The game Shadows of the Empire comes to mind - you play a more or less "good guy" bounty hunter, and your actions parallel/diverge around the movie plot. You go to the same places, but you do completely different things. It's also around the same time. And I totally dug it. It was actually a little weird for me to play Luke in some of the other Star Wars games, but playing... sigh... Dash Rendar the mercenary was fun and it made sense.

    I imagine that the remarkably similar setup going on with Lord of the Rings would mean that playing Realm Guard (Mouse Guard reskin) or figuring out some other way to parallel/float around the events of the War of the Ring would work for me, too - canon applies mainly to setting and "who's who", but the Fellowship/s journey could be mostly left out.
  • I've never had an issue playing in a licensed property setting. I suppose it's partly my understanding of continuity and where it could be fun to branch off from that, and partly my appreciation of all the unanswered questions or unexplored stories that the setting never touches on. For instance, even when I ran Dragonlance games, I never had a problem with "but the heroes already did this!" or "this story has already been told."

    I ran Marvel Super Heroes (Basic, then Advanced, then Revised, etc) for about 6 years back in my high school and college years. I ran lots of Star Wars, and played it likewise, much as John did. And I've run lots of Dragonlance, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, DC Heroes, Smallville, Leverage, etc etc. I'm a freak for licensed properties, really.

    Cheers,
    Cam
  • The first game I ran was Star Wars d6. It was great. I think my lack of experience just lead to games where we smashed the canon and I barely reigned in the characters. But that was ok. I never planned out stories, and even to this day I can't really do that. The story had the feel of the Giffen (spelling?) era of JLA, with a good chunk of humor. Jedi characters were rare and we never had more than one. Not by choice, but that's just how it happened.

    I do have to say that we did have one Star Wars expert in the group (he edits Wookiepedia now) who would fill in color or details when we needed them, but he never pointed out when we clashed with the established storyline. Maybe he didn't care; I sure didn't.

    This was all pre-prequels.

    AS FOR YOUR QUESTION:

    Basically, I tried to figure out what the characters wanted to do and just let them do it, all the while trying to come up with a reason for them to be together. When I thought of a cool obstacle/thing/npc to throw at them, I did. I never tried to kill or defeat them. I just kept it going, seeing where the story would go, taking lots of messy notes.

    Holy crap, I think I ran Star Wars like Apocalypse World without realizing it.
  • Oh, I never used ship combat at all, aside from a piloting or shooting roll here or there. I did refer to the star chart quite a bit to determine how long it would take to get to places and where they would have to stop along the way. (Hey, kinda like the Mouse Guard map!)

    Our games would be in multiple worlds, with a lot of traveling. This meant that the reoccurring NPCs would follow them, or be waiting for them on different planets. That feels very Star Wars (Empire).
  • Here's a thread where I go into enormous detail about my two Star Wars campaigns I ran over the last few years. I still have one left in the trilogy.

    Adapting other material, whether ancient or modern, is pretty simple. You have to decide what you're getting:

    * Some people like getting the situation (the Empire has a superweapon, the Jedi are idiots and being corrupted) and seeing where that goes with their characters
    * Some people like getting the setting (space laser swords, goofy aliens and WW2 technology) and coming up with new situation and characters
    * Some people like taking the characters and the setting (Luke, Leia, HAN FUCKIN SOLO) and putting them in new situations (this is most of the roleplaying currently happening in the world by orders of magnitude)

    Star Wars is a great setting because of its pulp roots. It means you can take as much from westerns and men's adventure novels as you can stand.
  • HISTORY PANIC!
  • Posted By: Zac in VirginiaI feel really constrained creatively when I imagine sitting down to play a Star Wars RPG. I'd feel the same about Lord of the Rings, too, I think.
    Has anyone else experienced this and found a way to get around it?
    I'm concerned I'd feel like any character I made would just be glaringly outside of existing continuity.
    I'd have a problem with Lord of the Rings, just because I feel there's so much that hasn't really been covered about what happened before and after the books/movies...at least without being well-versed in the series.
    Star Wars, on the other hand, I've always found to be a breeze to run. I've played it since the first iteration of the D6 system, all the way up through the D20 Saga version, with a few home-brewed and hacked versions in-between.
    The strength of Star Wars is that the movies, novels, and comics are all covering only a portion of the events going on. There's SO MUCH going on in the background, all you have to do is take a portion of that, and use it for a game. If you get around to reading any of the novels, a great way to start would be with the Tales of the Bounty Hunters or any of the X-Wing series. Secondary, and even minor "who the hell are these guys" characters get their chance to shine.
    You just need to remember that the Star Wars galaxy is an expansive place, and there's lots of stuff to do that would probably never bring PCs into contact with any canon characters. And even if you don't know much about the Star Wars galaxy, just grab the Star Wars Atlas (for quick planet names and references), and then just run some game based on a western/samurai/suspense/action/car-racing/etc. film, and flavor it with blasters and spaceships. You won't go wrong.

    My favorite campaign involved a Rodian and Togorian bounty hunter, with an NPC Jawa as their mechanic, just wandering around, taking bounties, and running into complications with local law enforcement, Hutt gangsters, and occasionally the Empire. Later, they added a former Tie Fighter pilot to their team, and would just go wherever the whim took them. And since this was back when Thermal Detonators were, mechanically, still deadly (a.k.a. old D6 version), there were many interesting incidents involving "make-it-better pills" (their nickname for thermal detonators), a bunch of Ubese mercenaries, and the pipes of natural gas running underneath the streets of a back-water planet. Good fun, that. Not once did they have to deal with Jedi, Sith, any of the Skywalkers, Solos, or Calrissians (even though this was the Rebellion era), and everything went swimmingly.
  • JOHNZO! I haven't linked Jedi Blackbird from my blog. This will be fixed immediately.
  • Michael,
    You bring up another element I get stuck on, with Star Wars: Jedi!
    I really should make an effort to try out a Star Wars game so I can see for myself what's possible.
  • Posted By: Zac in Virginia
    You bring up another element I get stuck on, with Star Wars: Jedi!
    Yes, that does tend to be one of those...problems. For Jedi-lite campaigns, D6 did it well...particularly if you didn't want to encourage people to be Jedi. Powers meant sacrificing your other abilities, and could be a bugger to use. But when you trained in them, you did get the feel of the movies, since you really weren't limited by the power itself, but your own inner strength and connection with others.
    The D20 versions were always too overpowered, in my opinion. It was EASIER to be a Jedi, and you didn't run the risk of cutting off your own hand with your lightsaber, but they made the Force powers too much like spells. The D20 Saga version was a little better, but all powers were essential combat-oriented (since this was when they were about to release 4E), and we had to hack non-combat uses for things.

    If, perchance, you go the route of the D6 rules, the easiest thing I've found (and this was a hack from long ago, so the details are a bit fuzzy now) was to have a new attribute called "Force," which essentially took the place of the "Force Sensitive" option. If you had at least one die in the Force, you had a sensitivity to the Force, and could be trained in Force powers. The Force powers were essentially skills, like Move Object, Telepathy, Regeneration, etc., that added their dice to the Force attribute, and the dice rolls were adjusted by the modifiers for weight/distance/relationship, as necessary. It makes it a bit easier than having the original Control, Sense, and Alter abilities, and having powers be some combination of the three.

    I may have to dig up my old notes some time and post them on my blog, for posterity sake.
  • The main problem with d6 Jedi is, as the game progressed, it became less and less useful to have anyone else along other than Jedi. Jedi could do everything everyone else could, except better. That was one of the big advantages for the d20 adaptations (especially Saga), there was a lot of cool things that high-level Jedi couldn't do but high-level Nobles, Scoundrels, etc. could.
  • @Johnzo: Looks sweet, might try this in the next couple of weeks.
  • I just got done playing some Wushu Air Pirates so I'm keen to say that I'd use Wushu Open for SW. Much like this fellow did...

    Wushu StarWars
    --
    TAZ
  • Posted By: JDCorleyThe main problem with d6 Jedi is, as the game progressed, it became less and less useful to have anyone else along other than Jedi. Jedi could do everything everyone else could, except better. That was one of the big advantages for the d20 adaptations (especially Saga), there was a lot of cool things that high-level Jedi couldn't do but high-level Nobles, Scoundrels, etc. could.
    Never really had that problem with old D6. The few Jedi or Jedi-wannabees I had to deal with were typically focused on their powers and lightsaber training, whereas the other characters could focus on abilities that were more useful for everything else. Sure, in a fight a Jedi was a great thing to have, but they were rarely the better pilot, or the better mechanic, or the better diplomat. Their powers certainly helped, but the players never tried to use them too often, since they did not want to rely too much on the Force. The Force was their ally, not their tool.

    I wouldn't have had so much problem with the Saga version if they did Force powers like skills, with various ways for a Jedi to use them, instead of like effect-specific spells.
  • What I would like to do someday, is to take an established character from the movies that you don't know too much about, like Jettster Dexter, and have a few adventures with him and a crew of new characters. Like Jettter Dexter.

    You play in a time set before Episode One. I would perhaps disregard whatever they say on Wookiepedia. He has a single scene in Episode 2. You learn he's been prospecting on Subterrelit is implied it is but one of many jobs, adventures. He met Kaminoans and saw a saber-dart. He befriended Obi-Wan at some point. He's well-travelled, knows a lot of thing, which is why Obi-Wan comes to him for information. By Episode II, he owns a diner.

    The first story I would like to tell would be about Jettster prospecting on Subterrel. He has dealings with Kaminoans there. Perhaps they have a mine as well. Trouble is brewing. Maybe there is a workers' union on Subterrel, and they resent the use of clone workers. Sabotage is done. Union men are killed by saber-darts in retaliation. Jettster, as an outsider to the conflict, is called on to arbitrate.

    Other characters could be fellow prospectors. That's not a very restrictive requirement. Think of the Gold Rush : anyone could become a prospector if they wanted to. They don't have to be part of the cannon. In any case, I figure that in the end he sells his mine and goes on to other adventures, perhaps with the other prospectors.

    At some point after that, it's perfectly legitimate to introduce a young Obi-Wan+Qui-Gon, or Obi-Wan+Anakin, as guest stars or as player-characters, to play out the burgeoning friendship.

    You can end the campaign any time, the the nice spot is when Jettster buys his diner and finally settles down.

    Of course, you could decide to play out the events going on between Episode III and IV. Perhaps Jettster comes out of retirement, reassembles his old crew and... then what? Nobody knows, (if you ignore Wookieepedia!) and so you are free to find out!

    (Even if you choose not to ignore Wookieepedia, there are still gaps wide enough to hold a game in them.)
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