Carving Your Own Corner of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Emperor’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Many Bothans died to bring us this information
One common complaint about gaming in settings like the Star Wars universe, Middle Earth, etc. is that the story is already known and has its own heroes. In this article, I’m going to be focusing on games set in the Star Wars universe.
Clearly, over thirty years of Star Wars gaming is indicative of the fact that there has been a lot of people gaming in the Star Wars universe. I’ve had games off and on in that setting for that whole time – using every one of the West End and Wizards of the Coast incarnations as well as some games with Fantasy Flight Games – and even an experiment using Fate.
In doing such a game, there are two common criteria for the games I’ve played in or run. First, it has to feel like Star Wars. Admittedly, everyone has their own opinion as to what that means. When I was a little kid and we used to pretend we were Star Wars characters I was always amazed that my neighbor always wanted to be Han Solo. He was cool and all, but why wouldn’t you want to be Luke Skywalker? The nice thing about the setting is there is an awful lot you can focus on. Consider some of the recent Star Wars films and shows:
  • Solo had a grand heist at its core, conducted by a group of criminals with a common purpose but not necessarily looking out for each other.
  • Rogue One has the feel of World War II movie about a squad facing impossible odds.
  • The Mandalorian evokes feelings of a gritty western that the man with no name would feel at home in.
  • The prequel trilogy featured political intrigue.
  • The classic trilogy featured a grand battle of good against evil.
  • The sequel trilogy has been featuring a strong feeling of legacy.

Regardless of the lens chosen, the characters need to be the heroes of their story. This doesn’t mean they can’t lose or face great adversity. But an adventure featuring the characters sitting in X-Wing cockpits and watching Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star doesn’t scream “these guys are the heroes”. Perhaps the greatest rule I can think of is “do not make your characters supporting cast”.

One way of making your characters the heroes is by giving them a region designed just for them. This can be seen in Star Wars Rebels which focuses on the Lothal Sector. It’s a galaxy-spanning story that often leaves the sector, with stories on places like Tatooine and Mandalore, but liberating Lothal from Imperial rule is always their core goal. The stories intersect nicely with the core saga, occasionally featuring characters from other stories, but very rarely at the expense of the main protagonists. There are a few cases where this is not as true – for example, a storyline involving Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final battle with Darth Maul – but a television show is not the same as an RPG. For the most part, these characters have their own adversaries – Imperial Inquisitors, Grand Admiral Thrawn, recurring Imperial officers, etc. The protagonists get some permanent victories and at other times suffer setbacks. If you’re looking for a great model for a long-running Star Wars campaign, Rebels is superb.

A focus on the genre can also be a great way to give your heroes their own space. Rogue One shows the galaxy for those who don’t have a million “Force Points” to call upon to keep them safe. Many of the heroes in that tale were slain not by some “name level” villain but swarms of Imperial Stormtroopers. Yet this is also a chance to show some great heroism. The heroes of Rogue One, through great cost, won the first great victory for the Rebellion and enabled the events of A New Hope to take place. This sort of action is a great way to intersect with the main storyline. I finished up a Rebellion-era game with an adventure that took the heroes to the second Death Star over Endor. There they had a final battle with their main rival – High Inquisitor Tremayne – and also deactivated the Emperor’s failsafe; a barrier designed to protect the vulnerable core of the Death Star. This gave the heroes their own villain to overcome and a part to play in the final battle just as important as Han Solo and Princess Leia’s.

Individual groups can also decide to break the whole storyline apart. I’ve seen threads on rpg.net discussing running a game based on just what was seen in A New Hope. People have continued to use the old Expanded Universe (the pre-Disney acquisition term for the older novels, comics, RPGs, video games that Disney removed from continuity) – and shows like Rebels have brought elements of it back.

Like anything else, an especially important key is talking with your group. If all the players want to be Han Solos and Lando Calrissians, an epic game of good vs. evil and Jedi vs. Sith is not going to be what the group wants.

And whatever you do, do not ever have your players watch Luke blow up the Death Star. Not unless they have a huge role in that.

~ Dan Stack

Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DStack1776
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One Comment Add yours

  1. Well written. Thank You

    Like

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