Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Nice, Spacey Day...

Not much going on today, and me and the wife just vegged out with the beagles. The Seahawks had a bye this week (yay! no loss and hopefully they'll have a chance to heal up a bit before next week!), so we skipped the normal football watching.

Instead we watched about four episodes of Firefly and Star Wars Episode II.

The wife is NOT much of a scifi fan at all, so this was quite an unusual day. I've been trying to get her to watch the Firefly for awhile now, and I just got her to watch the first episode a couple weeks ago. But today I she finally started warming up to it. It's hard not to when you give it a chance...the characters are just so damn loveable.

"I love the captain," she says, "he's a badass but he's still got a good heart. How does that work?" No idea, sweetie...guess he's just a man with a code of honor.

Star Wars is, of course, another matter.

"I hate this movie," she says. Five minutes later: "I don't remember that part." Ten minutes later: "I don't remember THAT either...why don't I remember any of this?" What do you remember? "That I hate this movie. How come that chick has a different outfit in every scene and everyone else wears the same thing through the whole film?"

Well, it's not that great a film and certainly not the best Star Wars film but I was in the mood for some lightsaber fighting...and watching an old geezer open up a can of whup ass on some young Turks always does my heart good.

Firefly and Traveller is something I've already talked about, but I want to say a couple things about Star Wars in general.

There are a couple problems with playing Star Wars as an RPG, besides the obvious one (that players are simply "secondary stories" to the "real heroes" of the saga). One is the game degenerating into painful pastiche (it IS pastiche by definition, regardless, but can be doomed to simple fact, the adventure formula in the rulebook pretty much sets up that particular pitfall). A second problem is matter of play balance between Force sensitive and non-sensitive characters.

I say "play balance" not game balance, because what is "game balance" anyway? Everyone gets the same number of dice to spread around their abilities...that's not an issue. But who wants to play a brash pilot or an an armchair historian, when one can play a Jedi? Hell, who'd want to play anything when you could play a Jedi?

Any why would anyone want to play a standard Force sensitive character when one could play someone that starts with a lightsaber?

Now I know that some players will prefer to play smugglers or bounty hunters, maybe even wookies. But there's no denying that these individuals are secondary to the overall saga of the Star Wars universe. Star Wars is first and foremost about the struggle between the Jedi and their various enemies...from the Sith to their own inner demons...and its these struggles that occupy center stage in the drama.

Which makes SW kind of a schitzophrenic RPG to game. If you've got three players and one of 'em is a Jedi, the Jedi is generally going to take on the prominent role in the group. If TWO of those players are Jedi, the third one will tend to end up in a "support" role.

In a film, the screenwriter and director can craft a story to make a disparate group (a smuggler, a princess, a young jedi-in-training) get equal billing and have an impact on the story through coincidence, conceits, and contrivance. If a GM does this in a RPG we call this "railroading." And anyway, I DON'T simply want to re-create a pastiche of the original films. I want to use the universe to tell new stories.

The simplest way to make it work (it seems to me), is to simply make the game ALL JEDI ALL THE TIME. That is, everyone plays a Jedi...whether left over from the Old Republic, newly trained in Luke's "new Jedi academy," or set in the adventuresome times before the events of the Clone Wars. Unfortunately, D6 Star Wars isn't geared to run this kind of game...well, not without doctoring. It has too many of some types of rules, too few of ain't streamlined enough.

Which of course is why I've been working on my own version of a Jedi-type game for the last year or so. I should probably get back to it. Maybe I'll post a one-page micro-game version.
; )


  1. Interesting...I played the HELL out of West End Games' Star Wars RPG back in the day, and we almost never used Jedi characters as much more than wise NPC sages.

    Of course, this was in the late 90s before the prequels came out. It's amazing what a few well-choreographed fight scenes can do for what would otherwise be considered a stuffy religion for old fogeys, eh?

  2. Your observations on the Jedi being the primary focus of the Saga are dead on. I ran a Star Wars campaign for over two years in college (1991-1993) and we've been playing it irregularly ever since. At the start of the game, the group was pretty balanced. Those Jedi we did have were low enough power that they 'fit in' with the rest of the group. Towards the middle of the second year, though, problems started to rise. In fact, most of our mostly non-Jedi party started to call it the "Arianne and Bob Show" (named after our Jedi). It was at this point that things could have gone terribly wrong. But thankfully, I was able to turn things around in my GM style. I adopted what is now my central GMing principle—always try to give every player a 'moment' in every adventure (or as many 'moments' as you can fit). So, like JB said, it is kind of like a writer making sure everyone has a part. It's a lot more work, but it is possible.

    All that being said—I have run a short-lived all Jedi campaign. And I have run adventures with the original group with just the Jedi. And in both cases, play balance seems to just handle itself. It's easier on me in those situations. So in retrospect, the All Jedi campaign aint a bad idea at all. Good luck with your rules!

  3. I look forward to seeing your microgame version!

  4. Thanks, folks...I actually had a chance to work on it for awhile today (I was hoping to get it finished and uploaded to mediafire, but doesn't look like that'll be happening for a day or two). Problem is, it's NOT based on the D6 system and it's difficult getting the technical "system writing" succinct yet simple enough to understand.

    Ah, well.

    @ Patrick...hey, man, I dig the lightsaber duels in Empire and Return o the Jedi, too. Nothing says badass, like watching Vader take off his son's right arm (whoops! Spoiler!). It's a little tricky trying to mix in the TK powers with the saber-work. WEG does a good job with their "lose a die for the extra action" but I want something a little less clunky for my micro-Jedi.
    : )

  5. The simplest way to make it work (it seems to me), is to simply make the game ALL JEDI ALL THE TIME.

    The opposite solution made for the best D6 Star Wars game for me... no Jedi PCs, no Jedi in the campaign at all*. It allowed the players unencumbered exploration of the Galaxy in the "barely pre-A New Hope" period.

    The Han Solo and Lando Calrissian novel trilogies provide an example worth looking up to in this regard.

    * Well, 1 mysterious Jedi that they never got to see... I just called him/her "MacGuffin".