Monday, March 9, 2009

Star Wars Romance

Star Wars would not be Star Wars without the romance sub-plots woven throughout the series. Whether it's Han and Leia's turbulent and unlikely relationship or the secret (and increasingly obsessive) love affair between Anakin and Padme, romance forms a cornerstone of the saga. It is also something that I think should be a part of any good Star Wars campaign.

Often, in RPGs, 'romance' is simply relegated to "Okay, roll your [Seduction/Charisma/Persuasion/Whatever] to see if you bed the local barmaid." That's not the kind of Romance I'm talking about. Rather, I believe that a game master should (if his players are interested/willing) try to shape a complex relationship between player characters and non-player characters. Just as it forms a basis for the movies, it can form a basis for a campaign—giving characters a deeper connection to the world around them. Its just another way you can make a character more than just a collection of stats, skills and equipment.

I should reiterate that this only works in campaigns where the players are interested in this kind of roleplay. Not everyone is. Thankfully, the players I usually game with are, and there have been numerous examples of romance in my campaigns. Not being a deviant freak, I do not attempt to actually  'play out' these romances, scene-for-scene. I favor a more subtle and even a bit vague approach—letting the player fill in the details of their character's relationship with an interested NPC. As a GM, it is basically my job to ensure that characters and their love interests can occasionally 'touch base' in a story line—give them a way and an excuse to interact. This can be anything from having the NPC accompany a group on a mission to a simple encounter at a bar or some social function. From there, I leave it to the player to figure out how they will develop the romance—how far it will go, how deep the emotions are, all of that.

As I said, there have been several romances across the expanse of my main Star Wars campaign. The first of these to develop was between Rick Oman and the bounty huntress, Zardra. In a way, it was kind of the testing ground on how I could handle romance in a RPG. It began simply enough, with Oman first encountering Zardra during the Otherspace adventure. She expressed some interest after that, but they parted ways before anything further could develop. As I recall, Zardra turned up a few times thereafter, but never for very long. And then she hired on as part of a hunter team, trying to capture the party. Her job was to seduce Oman and trick him into leading the party into an ambush. Oman was seduced, but still skeptical of the meeting. He went anyway, along with the rest of the party. They got betrayed big time (wound up crashing on the 'Domain of Evil' planet). This encounter, and the danger Zardra had put Oman in really made her consider her actions and motivations. When they met again, Zardra finally had to admit her love, and had to turn over a new leaf. Considering who she was, that didn't really mean she was 'good', it just meant she was 'less bad'.

Things developed from there. Zardra floated in and out of the campaign, occasionally teaming up with Oman for a mission or two before going her own way again (settling old scores, trying to come to grips with her new life). One memorable mission found the two of them hitching a ride on the conning tower of a Star Destroyer (a-la Han's trick in Empire Strikes Back). This is also the mission where their child was conceived—though Oman didn't discover this until much later, when Zardra was gravely injured during an attack on the party. The doctor treating her assured Oman that Zardra "and the baby" would recover. And Oman's response was "Wait...Baby!?" Eventually, they would get married and 'grow up' to be Mandalore and.. Ms. Mandalore and raise their family (a girl destined to be a badass warrior). As you can see, all this shared history with an NPC has given Oman a heck of a lot of backstory and depth. Its also given him a lot of motivation and concern, as he now has to consider his family when making decisions. All of this was fun to play and great to think back upon.

But Oman's wasn't the only Romance to happen in the game. Arianne became involved with a fellow Rebel (and later NRI) agent, Tiree. Again, they bumped into eachother on and between several missions (he rescued her and her team in 'The Isis Coordinates' while she returned the favor in 'Game Chambers of Questal'). Again, the relationship ultimately evolved into marriage and a child and again, a very solid grounding for Arianne in responsibility. (Silly players, how easily they take on the 'Dependent' disadvantage! hah!)

Bob the Tusken was an unlikely candidate for romance, it seemed. The mystic warrior-shaman was always the 'odd man out' socially, and the customs of his tribe ensured that he was really a very private person. Still, he is a very noble and wise character (most of the time), and it was these things that drew romance his way—quite unexpectedly. During my homebrew final chapter of the Otherspace adventure saga, Bob encountered a young force-adept, Tishana. She was struggling to come to terms with the fact that her master was falling to the dark side. In Bob she saw the nobility she longed for in her own master and more than that. She didn't need to see what Bob looked like, she could sense in him the qualities she admired and aspired to. Tishana fought alongside Bob in that adventure, then travelled with him, back to the Star Wars galaxy where she was adopted into Bob's tribe—I assume as his wife, though I can't remember the precise details.

Adrienne Olin had a romance tinged with tragedy. While working as an on-again, off-again 'official' agent of the Rebel Alliance (and later New Republic) she fell in love with and eventually married a Rebel (and then Republic) scout by the name of Sebastian Kalidor. Their relationship had its ups and downs over the years—as Adren had some (looking back on it) exceedingly vicious enemies and a run of rather traumatic experiences. And yet, despite the fact they were often on opposite sides of the galaxy, the romance endured—that is until Sebastian's untimely death during the initial wave of the Nagai invasion, helping to save Chancellor Organa-Solo and other Republic officials from a bomb. Since then, Adren has thrown herself into her work, slowly coming to grips with her loss.

Party-guy Harry Hugganut (much to my surprise) sought out his own long-term relationship with a (slightly) older woman. Kel was a wealthy businesswoman by day and a rebel gunrunner by night. It is in the latter role that Hugganut first met her. She worked with the group on several occasions (supplying guns) and after Harry went into semi-retirement, the two of them pooled their resources to establish their own private resort-world. As a married couple, the two of them now run this resort together (with Harry still occasionally taking on work with New Republic Intelligence). 

And finally, Horatio S. Flynn. This Space Pirate fancies himself a true ladies man. And truth be told? He is. Or was. Or..maybe he still is? Its difficult to say. As mentioned in previous posts, Horatio started a romance with Arianne's adopted ward, Reen. At first, it was just a 'lark'—it would annoy Arianne, and it was fun, too. But in the depths of the Nagai war, things tend to get a bit more serious. Reen seems to have very deep feelings for Horatio, and seems to trust the fact that Horatio returns those feelings. Arianne is skeptical, keeping a watchful eye over the two. In fact, Horatio has no doubt had to endure 'the talk' from both Arianne (Reen's former guardian and big-sister figure) and Bob (Reen's force-mentor and uncle-figure). In our latest gameplay, Reen was grievously injured in the battle of Arkania, losing one of her legs at the knee. Horatio was concerned, of course, but it remains to be seen just where their relationship will go from here...

Wow. So looking back on all of that, I think I've made my point. Almost all this 'Romance' stuff was in addition to the other adventures I ran. It added depth to them, it helped bridge them, link them together. It gave the characters greater stake in what they were doing. And most of all, it was fun. Of course, all of this got me thinking about PC/NPC relationships in general (not just of the Romantic variety) and I think I may do a posting on that later.

Oh, p.s. I'm not sure if this counts as Romance, but I seem to recall Marko Razmusen, after the victory celebration on Endor, waking up in the 'unwed females' hut of the Ewok village. Yeah. I think this is one of those instances of 'don't ask, don't tell.'

1 comment:

  1. Ha! These are all great stories! They make for so much more interesting memories (or rather, when blowing up Death Stars and fighting the Sith/Empire, it's always more entertaining in the context of the human drama simultaneously playing out). *I* think so at least...I remember the relationships between old D&D characters a lot more vividly than specific adventures!

    : )