Friday, February 19, 2010

O Shame! - D20 Star Wars (Part 3)

[by the way...apologies to everyone for the tiny font in a couple of these recent posts. I've had a couple posts that got typed up in Pages and for some reason they didn't copy correctly to blogger. Sorry...I was trying something new. We now return to our usual font size]

I wrote up a big old blog post the other day about creating campaigns in Star Wars, especially comparing/contrasting the different perspectives between Knights of the Old Republic (the XBox video game based on D20), WEG Star Wars, and the films. I did not have a chance to post it last night, however, and after some consideration I find I'm not really interested in waxing on about video games anyway (at least not today).

Still, I have something to say regarding the whole XP/level thing.

Was there ever a greater setting more appropriate for a "level up" game than Star Wars?

Personally, I don't think so. Looking at other examples of serial adventure fiction (and what is an RPG "campaign" but a series of adventures?) and you see something VERY different from Star Wars: a noticeable lack of character development/improvement.

Look at Indiana Jones or the characters from Firefly or Battlestar Galactica. Look at James Bond or Jason Bourne of the Bourne Identity series or the elves of ElfQuest. For the most part, what you see is what you get...through the entire series. Characters don't improve dramatically over time...they start badass and/or quirky and remain that way through the entire film/show/book. We follow the series because we enjoy watching the characters, their interactions with each other and their various "adventures." There may superficial changes (Captain Kirk gets new uniforms and rank, for example) but the essential qualities...and in RPG terms, the in-game NOT change.

Now contrast this with Star Wars. Throughout the entire film series there is a constant emphasis on growth of power and improvement. "You'll find my powers have doubled since last we met." "He has grown in strength and wisdom." "You'll find I am more powerful now than you could possibly imagine." "When I came to you I was but a student, now I am the master."

Throughout the series, over time, we see growth and development, not just of character and personality, but actual ability. In Episode I, Anakin can't float a rock to save his ass. In Episode II he can levitate an apple. By Episode V, Vader is ripping machinery off the walls and tossing it around like it was nothing.

Look at Obi-Wan: he starts out as a rookie Padawan, gains Knighthood status (getting his ass handed to him by Dooku), and then finally becomes a Master, capable of single-handedly knocking off Grievous and Vader.

Luke Skywalker, of course, has a well-illustrated progression from farm boy to ace pilot to Jedi Knight. But even the other characters from the original trilogy (Leia, Han, Lando) show improvement over time, gaining new skills and confidence that translates to "in-film effectiveness." In RPG terms, these characters are "going up in level" based on the accumulation of XP.

For me, that really IS a good reason to play Star Wars using a D20 system. Assuming the system itself works (a whole 'nother post/topic) the changes of class/type and improvement over time is set-up really well to work with these particular game mechanics.

And I say this as a guy who not only would campaign AGAINST most WotC products, but as a guy who is halfway through the design of his own Jedi/Star Wars RPG (it's been put on-hold indefinitely with my other projects, but it's still burbling in the background). I'm not quite ready to say that the D20 Saga Edition is better than WEG Star Wars 2nd Ed. (my prior favorite in published Star Wars RPG products), but the two are drawing closer together.

Anyhoo, just my thoughts of the day, as I get ready to post a new character re-write.
; )


  1. I'm not quite ready to say that the D20 Saga Edition is better than WEG Star Wars 2nd Ed., but the two are drawing closer together.

    Just so you know, WotC Star Wars = Dark Side. ;)

  2. You know how some people like combat "realism" in a game, and that usually translates to something very deadly and very slow at the table (two separate problems here).

    At first, I want lightsaber combat to be really deadly because the weapons seem deadly. If you look at what happens in the films, anytime someone gets cut by a lightsaber he usually dies or loses a limb.

    But I just realized something - all the lightsaber pracitioners fight defensively ALL THE TIME.

    They toss out feints and attacks but the other guy seems to always block. They always deflect blaster shots.

    And that makes sense, if the weapon is so deadly and yet has such great defensive capability. You'd want to live as long as possible, so you'd always be blocking rather than attacking to full potential, especially against other lightsabers.

    Which means if your rule system allows for defensive fighting (taking points off attack in exchange for adding them to defense) then lightsaber battles don't need special rules. You just need to say that the wielder is able to fight defensively against energy attacks (which you probably can't do wit a metal sword or something), and give it a really high base damage.

    Sure you can play a Jedi who doesn't fight defensively. But you'll very quickly get injured by things. And if you fight normally against a Jedi who fights defensively, you might hit him slightly more often but he'll hit you a LOT more often.

    Anyway. Defensive lightsaber as a standard style. Had to get that out there.

  3. Was there ever a greater setting more appropriate for a "level up" game than Star Wars?

    I nominate The Matrix. Especially if they ever get around to making a couple of sequels.

  4. Excellent post/observation. I'd love to see more license systems embrace this concept.

    P.S. I was just teasing about the small type, but I'm glad it's a little more readable again. ;)