Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Battle of Yavin (and others) in a RPG

At the Battle of Yavin (the final space battle at the end of Episode IV), we see roughly 36 or so rebel fighters lift off to do battle. This is the generally agreed upon number of ships that were in on the attack. During the actual fighting, we see only a relatively small number of these ships engaged- we basically only see Red Squadron and one flight of three fighters from Gold Squadron. When the battle is over, we see only three fighters flying away, along with the Millennium Falcon. These have been established to be Luke, Wedge and one lucky Y-Wing pilot who has since been named 'Keyan Farlander'.

On the Imperial side, we see only Darth Vader, his two wingmen and a handful of other TIE fighters dog-fighting with Red Squadron. Of these, only Darth is shown flying away alive. Obviously, the Death Star could hold (and probably did hold) a heck of a lot more TIE fighters than we ever saw in the movie. The official 'canon' reasoning for them never being launched is that Tarkin wanted to rely on Death Star, to prove that it was invincible. Vader's Squadron of TIE fighters was launched only when there was an inkling that there might be some real danger. I guess this all kind of makes sense. Because otherwise, it would have been 36 X and Y-Wings versus several THOUSAND TIE fighters (in the RPG, the 'official' number of ties carried by the Death Star was 7,200). That... would probably have been a slaughter.

Since the Battle of Yavin is such a pivotal moment in the first movie, it has become fodder for a lot of different stories in the expanded universe. As near as I can tell, the first 'modification' to what we saw in the movies was in the X-Wing computer game (flight combat simulator). I recall one mission to 'clear minefields' or communication satellites or somesuch away from the Death Star- and take out a couple cruisers guarding them. In another, I recall actually flying a B-Wing (or something) on the Trench run. The latter (if I remember correctly), was done just for 'show', and was not to be considered 'canon'. The former, however... is a bit more vague. As fast as the Imperial attack was, I don't see why they'd need to deploy a minefield or communication satellites for that matter, or any cruisers as escorts. As overconfident as the Empire was, I'm pretty certain they just flew the Death Star in.

But I suppose that there is room for this kind of expansion. In fact, in the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, a GM should look for opportunities like this. At the Battle of Yavin, there were at least one and a half squadrons of rebel fighters (18 ships) who we never saw in the movie. Who knows, maybe these guys were attacking 'diversionary' targets at other points on the Death Star. This opens up a lot of room- maybe another elite fighter squadron was released to deal with them. In essence, you could have a whole adventure 'episode' at the Battle of Yavin that doesn't once intrude on what is happening in the movies. Your adventures would just be... a little to the side of the main 'cameras'. Oh, and as afar as only four ships flying away from the Death Star? Well, maybe there were others who flew off in a different direction. Who's to say?

Unfortunately for me, I began my campaign AFTER the Battle of Yavin, so my people never got to participate in it. However, they DID fight in the Battle of Hoth and the Battle of Endor. In any Star Wars campaign where the PCs are rebels, I think it is important that the players ARE involved in these titanic events. I know for me and my people it really helped tie them more closely to the movies- to make them feel as though they were part of the events.

At the battle of Hoth, the group was put in charge of defending one flank of Echo Base. They had a flight of four snowspeeders and a team of infantry- and their own group of AT-ATs to fight. So what if they weren't shoulder to shoulder with Luke and the guys, this way, they got to shine- and not get bound up by what we saw on camera.

The battle of Endor was a lot more tricky to pull off. Some of the party fought in the Space battle (one as a commander of a ship, another as a gunner on the Millennium Falcon.. and.. I think one other gunner, too), others were part of the Endor Strike team. This was tricky at the time since we saw the faces of quite a few of the Endor folks on camera. So basically we filled in the blanks with folks who weren't shown, or who were shown very briefly. For example, when first entering the bunker, we see one of the Rebel troopers clobber an Imperial with the butt of his rifle. We really only see a back shot of this guy, so one of my folks claimed him as 'his character'. Even during the shuttle boarding scene, before the strike team left the mon cal cruisers, you see a hooded figure climb up the ramp of the shuttle. One of my folks- the tusken jedi, oddly enough- claimed this as his character. It wasn't until years later that so many of these 'faceless' roles got names attached to them, which kind of closes up the possibilities for player character insertion if you are a stickler for Canon. Thankfully, I'm not.

So, what is all this rambling about? Hell if I kn- oh! Right. What I'm saying is, big movie events make for AWESOME RPG sessions, as long as you're willing to assume there is more going on than what we see on Camera.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Clunky Star Wars Tech

When Star Wars first came out in the late 70’s, I remember being amazed with its technological marvels. And indeed, there is a lot to admire. Faster than light starships? Moon-sized space stations? Anti-gravity cars? Blasters? Holographic cameras? All of these are awesomely cool, and most of them hold up very well, even today.

But what Star Wars (and so many other science fiction films) really underestimated was the rapid development of personal electronics. Yes, in the late 70’s, the idea of a palm-sized ‘comlink’ was pretty awesome. I mean, back then, we still had rotary phones! But looking at it through modern eyes? Wow. Okay, so all it can do is transmit voice messages? Lame. The modern blackberry or iPhone is a hell of a lot more ‘futuristic’ than the comlinks we see in Star Wars— even in the prequels. Voice, text, even visual images can be exchanged, to say nothing of the plethora of ‘apps’ that turn a ‘phone’ into an entertainment center, a link to the world-wide computer network, a GPS device, etc., etc.

The same can be said for the computers shown in the movies and the ‘datapads’ and ‘portable computers’ introduced in the RPG. PDAs and more modern things like iPads kind of put these to shame. For instance, just about every picture of a datapad in the various books had an integral keypad or controls of some sort. Nobody must have thought of touch screens. Display screens for computers- especially those in the original trilogy- are almost laughably simplistic to modern eyes. For instance, the targeting displays in the Starfighters in Episode IV. Just silly.

And then there is the whole wireless revolution. Seriously? Does a droid need to ‘plug in’ to a computer console to interface with it? Maybe if it was a secure console, yes. So okay, that would explain the Death Star being locked down. But in other instances? Why couldn’t R2-D2 interface with public terminals just by making comlink-contact with them?

As I continue to work on my overall sourcebook I am faced with the decision of either keeping things the way they were shown in the movies or of ‘updating’ them to what we’re used to in ‘real life’. To a certain extent, this kind of updating was already underway during West End games run with the franchise. The galaxy-wide ‘information net’ for instance was (I believe) introduced in their gaming materials- an analogue to the world wide web. So there is at least some precedent in ‘updating’ the tech. I mean, afterall, just because we only ever see them talking into their comlinks doesn’t mean that they weren’t capable of other functions, it just means we never SAW those other functions…right? Works for me anyway.

So I guess that answers my question, going to update the functionality of some tech so that it doesn’t seem so.. clunky in comparison to what we have here on Earth. And yes, I know Star Wars was supposed to be “A long time ago”, but I also think that people who figured out how to fly between stars could make an iPhone, too.


I've barely had time to come up for air, it seems. It also means I have hardly had a chance to work on my Droids sourcebook this week. And THAT is really a shame, since it is SO close to being done. And you know what? I'm pretty proud of it so far. It consists of a few main sections.

1) Introduction. This tells the background of droids in the Star Wars galaxy, their place in society, etc. It also describes (in detail) the terminology that will be used to describe the droids in the following profile section. This section is complete.

2) A section on modification of droids, including the upgrading of stats and skills. This section is complete.

3) A section describing the various bits of equipment found on droids, as well as the prices and availability associated with them. This section is the one I am currently ‘stuck’ in… as it opened a huge can of worms. I need this to mesh with my ‘master equipment list’. Unfortunately, my master equipment list hasn’t been finalized yet :P. So this is the culprit, the reason the droid book ain’t done yet.

4) The profile section on the droids themselves. This includes 120 different droid models, with two droids detailed per page. This section is complete.

It is SO close. So close, in fact, that I’m thinking of releasing a ‘pre-finished’ version just to give people a sneak peak (and maybe to give myself some sense of accomplishment so that I can continue).

Anyway. Back to work :P

Friday, August 20, 2010

Funny List

A while ago, I discovered an awesome little site where a gamer had posted a list of things he is no longer allowed to do while gaming. These are a lot of funny anecdotes that most gamers will be able to relate to. When I first found the site, it was titled 500 things Mr. Welch is no longer allowed to do. It is now up to almost 2000. And a remarkable percentage of those are giggle-worthy. If you haven't been, please check out the link in my links panel- Mr. Welch's List.

But in any case, I have gone through and picked out a bunch that most readily apply to Star Wars (well, for the most part). And... here they are (this is a long list!)

6. Synchronized panicking is not a proper battle plan.
15. Plan B is not automatically twice as much gunpowder as Plan A.
18. When surrendering I am to hand the sword over HILT first.
23. Any character who has a sensitivity training center named after him will be taken away.
34. I am not allowed to base any Droid off any character played by Joe Pesci.
35. I am not allowed to convince the entire party to play R2 units.
38. When investigating evil cultists not allowed to just torch the decrepit mansion from the outside.
47. They do not make Nair in wookie sizes.
49. Not allowed to blow up the Death Star before that snotty farm kid gets his shot.
57. In the middle of a black op I cannot ask a guard to validate parking.
62. I am not allowed to do anything I saw Han Solo do once.
68. Bring him back intact includes redundant organs.
80. When accepting a challenge for a duel, I must allow the other guy time to find a pistol.
92. The name of the weapon shop is not "Bloodbath and Beyond"
108. No, I do not get XP for every single crewman on that Star Destroyer.
110. Not allowed to serenade the party even if my character has an internal tape deck.
112. If the gun can't fit through the x-ray machine, it doesn't go on the plane.
113. My Droid is not allowed to paraphrase any Jack Nicholson soliloquy.
116. Not allowed to take a coffee break during the final super villain showdown.
125. Lingerie can only snap coincidentally so many times per day.
129. Not allowed to name my ship The Antidisestablishmentarianism.
130. I am not authorized to form the head.
157. Any capital scale weapon is not 'my little friend'.
159. Airlocks do not double as trash disposals.
160. I will not load any gatling weapon with nothing but paint rounds.
172. At no point can I justify spending force points on a seduction check.
176. I cannot make called shots to the plectrum, anvil, stirrup, hammer or Isle of Langerhans.
180. I have neither the touch nor the power.
182. No figuring out the plot and killing the actual villain five minutes into the adventure.
191. My character is not related in anyway to Boba Fett. This goes double for Star Wars characters.
192. If the gun is best fired using the artillery skill, my character is not allowed to have it.
194. When the other guy picks swords for the choice of weapons, that does not leave me pistols.
207. The following weapons are not legal choices in a duel: Steamroller, Nerve Gas, Landmine, Midget.
215. They do not make heavy weapons in pump action.
225. I am forbidden from monologuing.
231. I am not allowed to do anything that would make a Sith Lord cry.
233. If I am the medtech it is generally assumed I am going to have skill in medicine.
241. Cannot use the jedi mind trick to get out of a speeding ticket.
262. When the GM forces the plot, I cannot make choo-choo noises.
263. Not allowed to attempt to kill the Hutt by pouring salt on him.
269. My character cannot hear the soundtrack.
278. Anything the DM has to ponder the full impact of for more than a minute is forbidden.
287. When asked for advice before a fight "Don't wet yourself in public" is not what they were looking for.
296. I cannot make called shots with a crew served weapon.
300. I cannot give the rebel operatives the codenames Luke, Han, Chewie or Yoda.
303. I cannot gradually describe my character more and more until it's obvious I'm describing Burt Reynolds.
317. My battlecry is not 'Now young Skywalker you will die'.
327. I am not allowed to decide which one of us is the Chosen One.
383. It is not ok to use 10,000 rounds to kill two sentries.
388. Pursue means chase after, not just make called shots to the knees.
393. If I can fit my head down the gun's barrel, I can assume it doesn't have the non-lethal option.
395. I cannot have any weapon that requires me to crank start it first.
396. I will refrain from using wildly inaccurate high explosive weapons in close quarters.
416. I will not substitute accuracy with enthusiasm.
420. "For the King" is an example of a good battle cry. "Smoke the Mother" is not.
424. I cannot liven up the adventure with snappy musical numbers. Even if they did it on the TV show.
431. We will not implement any battle plan that includes the underlined words "And hope they miss a lot"
432. Cannot put anything featuring Calvin on my starfighter.
440. I am forbidden from trying to merge the best features of automatic weapons and manual transmissions.
450. When told to distract the villainess, they didn't mean with a surprise marriage proposal.
462. 1st Watch is not for accordion practice.
464. 2nd Watch is not for starting up pick up rugby games with wandering monsters.
466. 3rd Watch is not clothing optional.
470. Sarcasm is wasted on Imperial Stormtroopers.
474. Black and Decker does not make prosthetics.
486. No how tough the encounter was, I will keep the congratulatory ass slapping to a minimum.
495. No supplying my own canned applause.
498. A firefight is not the best time to tell the party my Medtech has a fear of blood.
502. If my name isn't Grimlock, can't start every sentence with "Me Grimlock"
510. After a bloody battle, I will not celebrate by lying down and making carnage angels.
516. Not allowed to name my characters Grimlock.
517. I cannot make called shots to their self esteem.
520. Under no circumstances is my medical droid allowed a groin mounted rectal thermometer.
523. When I'm rescued the correct response is 'thank you' not 'took your freaking time!'
524. I will not ask my gun for advice.
536. If a powergamer joins our crew, I will not billet him in the newly furnished auxiliary airlock.
539. Defensive perimeter traps my character sets up are automatically party knowledge.
540. A full minute of stunned silence means "My God what did you do?" not "Please continue."
541. When prompted for a target by the guided missile "the naughty bits" is not a valid choice.
542. No, I do not have time to carve that mountain in the shape of anything.
546. Dead party members, while effective, are not appropriate anti-grenade measures.
576. I can't use my sneak attack opportunity to cop a feel.
579. "Pimp my Death Star" is not a real show, and I'd better believe Grand Moff Tarkin knows this.
582. I can't thwart the Rebel Alliance's attack with the newly invented manhole cover.
586. Cannot spend extra money to get the optional "flay" setting for my pistol.
589. If my gun on a scale of 1-10 is a 7, it's vetoed if that's the Richter scale.
595. I cannot pick a race with a prehensile ANYTHING.
612. Every time a PC takes himself out through his own stupidity does not let me sing the Oompa-Loompa song.
616. Even if they are the same cliched acid for blood aliens, can't load my shotgun with baking powder.
621. No offering the old man and the farm kid a better rate to Alderaan.
641. Casual attire does not include shoulder holsters.
649. Zero bodycount does not mean just the ones they can find.
661. The line on my character sheet for 'Sex' is not for keeping score.
668. AT-ST soccer games are strictly against Imperial Army protocols.
669. Cannot name Boba Fett as a godparent to any of my children.
670. While I'm fixing the X-Wing, the brash pilot is still miffed about the Y-Wing loaner.
679. I do not have time in the Black Ops for break dancing, Greco-Roman Wrestling or phone sex.
680. My axe doesn't go off accidentally when I'm cleaning it.
682. Can't make a called shot with a flamethrower.
694. Search the old castle means enter it, not level it with artillery and dig through the rubble.
697. No "accidentally" crosswiring the X-Wing's fire control and ejection seat switches.
707. A throat punch does not give a bonus in a contested philosophy check.
720. Don't have to include the line "And then stab them a lot" in the plan; it's already assumed.
728. Not legal to retroactively challenge anyone I just shot to a duel.
730. No part of the plan includes: You give me the idol, I give you the whip.
732. Not allowed to trade in my X-Wing for a Gunstar.
735. Adding hydrolics to my R2 unit does not give him an intimidate bonus.
739. Can't make the blacks ops super easy by sending a couple of strippers to the guardroom first.
766. No more Crazy Ivans while I'm driving the AT-AT.
788. "You take the scary one" is not our default battle strategy.
792. Despite the movie's claims, Wookies get no racial bonus for chess.
796. In the middle of the black ops can't lock a bunch of long haired molting cats into the CEO's office.
797. If in the middle of our dressing down our CO strokes out, we took the joke too far.
808. Covering fire does not include nuclear weapons.
811. In the middle of a black ops can't reprogram the cleaning droids to wax the floors for 12 hours straight.
815. Somebody doesn't "accidentally" fall on two dozen shanks.
816. The adventure wrap up is the epilogue. Not Miller Time.
817. Cannot challenge anyone to a dance off. To the death.
841. No more tricking rookies into putting whoopie cushions on Lord Vader's throne.
851. When plumbing the depths of depravity, I must remember to come up for air.
865. I do not put the cad in decadent, nor the rave in depraved.
866. Even if it's catchy, I don't have to yell my battlecry everytime I roll to attack.
868. I cannot have a gun with an area of affect larger than it's range.
877. Even if I am playing a chick, I can't spend all my starting cash on shoes.
883. I do not need to see proof of insurance before making a medtech roll.
901. In the middle of the Black Ops a diversion is not blowing off the top twenty floors of the building.
905. Humming the James Bond theme in the middle of a Black Ops doesn't give me any bonuses.
908. I can't take Telekinesis as an auxilary mode just to get free food from the snack machine.
909. Dual wielding spike chains does not let me use the battlecry "DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER!"
915. On second thought, let's not disguise the wookies in the stormtrooper uniforms.
925. Any gun that can fire more rounds in one shot than I can physically carry is vetoed.
926. If given a stock NPC, I must play him as written. So Jar-Jar has to lose the sarape and the cigar.
944. Before accepting a harem as a reward for my heroism, need to check with the wife.
952. Keifer Sutherland does not make numerous cameos in my character's background telling him he's destined for greatness.
958. No matter how practical, I can't have shotgunchucks.
979. Mumus do not appear in the starting equipment list for a reason.
990. Even if he botches his medicine roll, I can't sue the medtech for malpractice.
1001. No matter how bad the game is going, I won't stradle the table like Slim Pickens riding a bomb.
1012. Note to self: Lightsaberchucks...BAD IDEA
1013. The expressive dance skill is not a substitute for language skills.
1021. Can't use the Jedi Mind Trick to convince the stormtroopers the Droids over there are the Droids they are looking for.
1022. Can't start the game with 24 hours to live.
1025. If I have two cyberarms, they have to be on different sides.
1041. Doesn't matter if I'm just using to spot weld, force lightning still gets me a dark side point.
1045. We will not gut every animal we kill to see if they have treasure inside like in video games.
1046. We can't stabilize the dying villain before we make our escape just in case he was a load bearing villain.
1048. I will not attempt to overdose on Rogaine so I can disguise myself as a wookie.
1065. Even if we are playing in the New Republic era, I can't call dibs on Boba Fett's armor.
1067. I do not get to put remote detonation switches into the weapons of any PC's I build them for.
1070. Even if we are Womprat hunting, we don't have to dye the wookie fluorescent orange.
1073. Just because the game left the rules for stun setting grossly unbalanced doesn't mean I have to take advantage of it.
1078. If 48 straight hours of pistol whipping doesn't convince the terrorist to spill his guts, another 48 hours probably won't either.
1092. If the battle goes for 20 rounds, we don't have to stop and wait for the zamboni guy to clean up the battlefield.
1093. I will not tell the rookies they can roll down their Y-Wing's windows.
1101. I will not cut the vault guards in on the haul instead of fighting them.
1104. There is a limit to how much innuendo I can fit into one combat round.
1110. Even if I have enough, putting silencers on my minigun doesn't work.
1119. I cannot have my mercy surgically removed.
1124. I will leave out mating rituals when presenting a cultural exchange with diplomatic ambassadors.
1141. In the middle of a Black Ops I will not look at the target's HR files to see if they have better benefits.
1147. I will lick the Rodian's antennae and stick him to the wall while he sleeps.
1148. No matter how long his speech is, my sniper will not shoot the speaker introducing the target.
1151. Our mission is to rescue the princess. Not to bring Sexy back.
1152. Even if given detailed instructions on pages 50-51, can't take Cloud City on a joy ride.
1159. If I don't have any points in medtech, I can't try faith healing.
1160. We will not end every adventure with a public service announcement.
1171. I will not send the villain a fake message his mother is coming then attack him while he's cleaning.
1179. No matter how well I make my bluff check, the Star Destroyer crew isn't going to believe I'm the new captain.
1186. In the middle of a black ops my buttocks is forbidden from making contact with the target's copy machine.
1187. It's okay to feed the Ewok after midnight.
1201. 'Just blow them out the airlock' is not a backup First Contact Protocol.
1202. Even if it's totally feasible, I can't indefinitely stall our rivals with a bureaucracy check.
1204. Smartass is not a character role.
1212. Even if they'd never suspect it, my Jedi can't have a flamethrower.
1216. I can't have a gun that treats buildings as light cover.
1217. No matter what the dice just said, I didn't kill the villain with the first shot of the combat.
1227. The Death Star does not need a cabin boy.
1239. No part of the adventure is clothing optional.
1257. No, the answer to the problem is not to make a gatling gun out of bazookas.
1258. Can't base my character off a smurf.
1296. No we can't weld the Star Destroyer's bridge shut.
1299. In the middle of a Black Ops I can't compose an offensive joke on the target CEO's email and CC the entire company.
1319. I will only use the module's suggested tactics to stop the ground assault and ignore the squadron of Y-Wings 100 meters away.
1322. The Ewok does not appreciate the giant hamster wheel we put in his quarters. Ingrate.
1325. Black and Decker does not make droids either.
1328. The very concept of a Hutt lap dancer will earn me a dark side point.
1330. Getting someone to spot for me is not going to give me a bonus on a strength check.
1336. Even if we are told to pick a manly name for the game, Genocidicles is a bit much.
1349. I will not program the medical droid for "aggressive dentistry."
1353. I will stop trying to get a reality TV show for our Black Ops team.
1355. Pointing out the massive plothole in the villain's plan is not going to stop her from attacking.
1357. Preliminary saturation carpet bombing is not automatically Plan A.
1360. Woodchippers, while useful, aren't normal gear for a Black Ops.
1373. If we can't fit the droid in the freighter, I can't play him.
1375. Setting Jawas on fire with a magnifying glass is an automatic dark side point.
1382. Growing a goatee will not give me a bonus for sneaking into the villain's lair.
1388. Characters wanting to join the party do not have to undergo the Flash Gordon tree monster ceremony.
1396. No matter his condition, we aren't selling the villain's corpse as modern art.
1397. Count on a back up villain if we ace the first one in two rounds without damage.
1398. I will not give my preteen kids my work number, especially if I'm on a Black Ops.
1425. Lying about benefits being cut are not going make the guards too disgruntled to fight back later.
1430. If the party goes out like 300, that's cool. Thelma and Louise not so much.
1449. Any plan that would quickly, logically and safely defeat the module early is doomed to failure.
1451. Cannot name my Droid WEG-D6
1466. I must sing my kids to sleep before the black ops.
1467. I will not sing other characters' kids to sleep before, during or after the black ops.
1498. Shooting him in the foot first does not give me a bonus to the ridicule check.
1517. Checking to see if the Mad Slasher is dead is ok, dismembering him with a shotgun is overkill.
1518. My Sniper will not kill all the bad guys before the rest of the party is in range.
1519. In the middle of a Black Ops I can't sell my niece's band candy to the hostages.
1526. Can't use my pistols to communicate in Morse Code.
1528. I can't ask the bad guy if I fired 40,000 rounds or just 39,999.
1529. There is no such thing as a Thirty-Sevensexual
1532. If its cheaper to buy a new gun than reload the old one, there's a problem.
1533. Even if the rules allow it, can't have a belt fed pistol.
1537. My Rogue Trader does not need to announce his arrival with eight hours of orbital bombardment.
1541. While highly effective, grabbing his a man by his small intestine and making him talk like a ventriloquist dummy is frowned on.
1549. The totalitarian government tends to notice large purchases of cows, trebuchets and surveying gear.
1551. During the Black Ops all cell phones go on vibrate.
1552. My Lunar Class Cruiser has more than one bathroom.
1559. Any mention of Life Day gets everybody a dark side point.
1571. Can't bluff the Empire at Hoth with just a whole bunch of snowmen.
1596. Even if she's the most dangerous, the party doesn't appreciate me killing the naked chick first.
1600. Even if the rules allow it, I can't mount a flamethrower on a knife.
1604. When told to pick a number between 1 and 10, the answer is not pi.
1611. Even if she started it, no setting the princess on fire.
1618. Any character even remotely resembling Mr. B Natural is dead before the first dice are rolled.
1624. It is bad form to sing along with the elevator music in a Black Ops.
1628. If all the players have to pool there d6's so I can roll for initiative, time to retire the character.
1630. Starships do not have to drop anchor.
1633. If Plan A was 'Beat it out of him' Plan B can't be 'Just ask nicely'
1637. 'Dibs' is not a term of bereavement.
1639. No giving a character a dumb name so he can pick fights over it later.
1640. There is a limit to the number of adjectives I can attach to an uppercut.
1650. Venting non-essential crew to the void before payday is not an acceptable cost cutting measure.
1654. A warning shot is not one that just wounds him.
1666. If if takes more than five minutes for the debris to stop falling, I need to pick a smaller gun.
1667. When told to distract the bad guy they didn't mean by playing Wham over their commlinks.
1668. When told to distract the bad guy they didn't mean by shooting the guy standing next to him.
1669. When told to distract the bad guy they didn't mean by setting him on fire.
1673. I will not start dating another character's archenemy.
1675. If an enemy fails a stun check, that does not give me a free hit for flinching.
1676. Before I get it on with the green chick, I'll make sure she's supposed to be that color.
1678. I don't get any XP for anything I killed in a flashback.
1682. Snufficate is not a real way to kill somebody.
1687. No following a minute behind Gold Leader and just shooting down Vader.
1694. Debauchery is not a stat.
1699. The Astromech appreciates it if we'd stop using him for ordinance delivery.
1706. Before anybody makes a demolitions check, I will raise my hand if my skill is the highest.
1707. In the middle of a black ops, can't play 'will it bounce' with the penthouse furniture.
1713. It is not necessary for the villain to say 'Uncle' before I accept his surrender.
1714. My martial artist has to actually know a martial art.
1718. I don't have to name everything we discover after myself.
1722. No building a Gatling Gatling gun.
1728. Can't have a gun that doubles as a jump jet.
1733. Dousing a character in beer is acceptable after a victory. Then setting him on fire is not.
1734. We aren't continuing the mission until everybody is clear on the term "Going in hardcore"
1738. Even if I write it, can't have my own theme song.
1740. If the villain performs a kind act, can't blackmail him with it later.
1755. Calling my shot means 'Where I want to hit him' not 'Where I want him to land.'
1757. The princess' menstral cycle doesn't factor into her rescue.
1759. Doesn't matter what I just killed with it, the howitzer is not going to qualify for holy relic.
1761. Star Destroyers are already baby proofed.
1775. Just because I spared the villain's life doesn't mean she owes me a first date.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hoth Under the New Republic

Since my own campaign has moved many years past the original trilogy movie timeline (I think we're now set... 7 or 8 years post Return of the Jedi), I have had to revise a lot of the 'classic' movie locales to reflect the changes that have taken place in the Galaxy. Some places don't change all that much. Tatooine, for instance, may be under the nominal rule of the New Republic, but it is still a backwater with moisture farmers, Sand-people, Jawas and one particular wretched hive of scum and villainy. The names have changed, but the place is very much as it was. Its good to have some places that don't change all that much. Bespin is another example. Cloud city weathered the tempest of Imperial occupation, but was able to throw off that yolk with the help of the New Republic. Again, they're 'nominally' New Republic in affiliation, but they remain primarily a self-ruled system that offers fine gambling and resorts as well as tibanna gas.

But while some places remained pretty much the same, others have changed quite a bit. Yavin is a prime example of this. In my game it has become home to the Jedi Order- an organization quite a bit larger than that presented in the expanded universe novels. It is a center of learning for thousands of young students- kind of like a boarding school for Jedi hopefuls (and yes, I did think of this before Harry Potter, but the analogy is a good one- Yavin IV = Hogwarts). The NR also maintains an orbital naval yard in the system- a base for ships operating in the sector (and also an added line of defense for the Jedi Temple.

Though I have only used it ONCE in my campaign since the epic 'Empire Strikes Back' battle, Hoth is a planet I have always thought could still make an interesting setting. So, without further ado, this is my concept of what Hoth is like some 7-8 years after the battle of Endor:

Though still not heavily populated, Hoth has, through its involvement in the events of the Rebellion, become something of a tourist stop. People curious about the history of the Galactic Civil war—as well as veterans of that war and their family— can now come to Hoth to view the war memorial that stands where Echo base once stood. Part of these ruins has, in fact, been turned into a museum, displaying scenes and technology from the battle and the Alliance's time on the world.

Where there is tourism (however scant), there are hotels (and of course shops). Hoth is no different. What began with a simple hotel soon opened into a couple full fledged resorts. After all, Hoth does have incredible terrain for arctic sports like skiing, skating, ice-climbing, taun-taun riding, repulsorlift-ice-skimming, etc. One of the newest hotels (rumored to be backed by Alliance hero Lando Calrissian), is constructed entirely of ice- a glittering frozen palace rising above the glacier fields.

Of course there were security issues. Wampas are dangerous and intelligent predators. A combination of security defensive sensors, power-fences and selective hunting have managed to keep their incursions to a minimum, however. What began as simple security and population control soon branched out into its own industry- big game hunting. Expeditions go out regularly from specially appointed hunting lodges to track down Wampas. In keeping with the New Republic's Ecological policies, however, the number of such hunts per year are limited. Unfortunately, there are instances of poaching. Even with planetary sensors and dedicated ranger patrols, there is a lot of meteor activity in the system and not all illegal landings are detected.

But apart from its commercial uses, Hoth is also home to a large scientific commune- part of it focused on the study of arctic ecosystems, but with some lab space rented out to individuals who merely want a remote (and secure) place to carry out their research. Such grants are carefully monitored by the New Republic's Bureau of Science to ensure their legality, but there are (always) rumors of 'odd' experiments being undertaken in labs beneath the frozen wastes.

And finally, Hoth, not surprisingly, is home to the New Republic Army's primary arctic training base. Here, specialized troops undergo intense courses designed to prepare them for operations in bitter climates across the galaxy.

So, there you have it. The Hoth of the Future! It could be an interesting spot, actually. In my own campaign, I utilized the science base- making it a setting for a murder investigation story that I (now) barely remember.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Snowspeeders?

I am a Star Wars Geek. No. Really. I know it's difficult to believe, but its true. And so it was from an early age that I started putting WAY too much thought into things I saw in the Star Wars movies. I have continued to do that throughout the years, and one of the issues I keep coming back to—something that has 'stuck in my craw (kraw?)' for 30 years now (my god, has it been that long?)—is why in the heck did the Rebels use snowspeeders on Hoth.

Now, don't get me wrong. As light patrol craft-specially tuned to Hoth's brutal climate—I totally understand why the Rebellion would use them. But when faced with a full-scale assault by heavily armed (and armored) Imperial AT-AT walkers...why would you send snowspeeders against them when you had X-Wings and Y-Wings. I mean, I don't know how much damage a proton torpedo does (we never actually see one blow up in the movies), but they would HAVE to be better than the small blasters on those Snowspeeders. I suppose you could say that the Alliance was putting all its money on the tow-cable attack thing, but that just seems silly- especially considering the fact that in the battle it only worked ONCE successfully (at least that we saw on camera).

One would have to think that a flight of X-Wings and Y-Wings cruising in low to blast the AT-ATs with Proton torpedoes would have been a hell of a lot more successful. And before anyone says it— the rebels were NOT using all their Starfighters elsewhere. It is shown in the movies that the pilots of the Snowspeeders all had their ships waiting for them on some remote ridge. So...let me get this straight. You leave all of your heavily armed starfighters sitting around while you send a bunch of light patrol craft off to fight the bad guys. It just doesn't make sense. Didn't then. Still doesn't.

Oh, I know the 'real' reason, of course—Lucas wanted to introduce a cool new craft and some awesome visuals of the whole harpoon thing. And the Snowspeeder is a cool design, one of my favorite from any of the movies, in fact. But coolness alone isn't always enough to overcome thinly thought-out reasoning.

So...why DID the rebels use snowspeeders then? Well, over the years, I've come up with a few ways of rationalizing it. Here they are:

1) With the planetary shields activated, perhaps they somehow disrupted the performance of the Starfighters. Obviously shields prevent flying craft from penetrating them, but somehow allow ground-based vehicles to get through- otherwise, I imagine we would have seen a lot of TIE fighters flying along with the AT-ATs. So perhaps the shields also have an effect on flying craft operating beneath them. Since Snowspeeders are low-altitude ships, maybe they were less affected by this. Well, its possible.

2) The Starfighters couldn't operate well in the wet-cold of Hoth's atmosphere. This is probably the strongest argument. After all, in the movies they mention specifically that the Snowspeeders were modified to deal with the cold. Perhaps they hadn't had a chance to modify the starfighters? Or perhaps they couldn't without sacrificing or limiting their ability to operate in space? Putting a little dent into this theory, however, is the fact that Starfighters are clearly able to lift off and fly through the atmosphere with no problems, at least during the daylight and clear weather of the Hoth Attack.

3) The Rebellion REALLY overestimated the ability of the tow-cable attack to be able to stop all the Walkers. I'm not all that convinced about this one. I mean, the Rebels seemed relatively smart, tactics wise. Sure, they were over-matched, but they just don't seem to be the 'put all your eggs in one basket' types.

So, why snowspeeders? Well, in order to help dislodge the stuff stuck in my kraw (craw?), I'm going to say that it was likely a combination of reasons 1 and 2. The Starfighters would have been hampered in their ability to operate in the atmosphere- possibly resulting in a loss of maneuverability/speed that would have made them easy targets for the AT-ATs. Using this rationalization, the Snowspeeders offered the better chance that the pilots would survive.

But then that leaves open the question: Why didn't they mount proton torpedoes on the Snowspeeders? I'll.. leave that one for another day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Droid Quirks

The following is actually an excerpt from my droid rules set (which I continue to expand upon instead of just finishing. Damn me). Its a nice little bit of RP fluff (I think), and hasn't been done before to my knowledge- so without further ado.. here it is:

Most droids are subjected to regular memory wipes. This ensures that they remain in 'factory condition', focused on their jobs and devoid of any random bits of data that could distract them from their tasks or even corrupt their personalities. Droids who are not given memory wipes may develop one or more quirks. Quirks typical to a design are listed under specific droid types, but below are a listing of some others that may develop. These are intended primarily to give the GM ideas and allow for greater personalization of any NPC droids an adventuring party may have. Any unwanted quirks may be removed by performing a memory wipe or (more selectively) with a moderate (or greater) droid-programming skill roll.

Possible Droid Quirks:

Sings or hums while working

Gets distracted easily (especially by something shiney)

Becomes disgruntled, rude and sullen

Becomes 'depressed'. Works slowly and without 'gusto'

Falls in love with its master. Wants to follow him/her everywhere. May compose poetry to express emotions

Falls in love with another droid, computer, ship, vehicle, random inanimate object, etc.

Considers self an artist. Tries to express creativity through its normal job or by developing an artistic 'hobby'

Logic error. Freezes up occasionally for a few seconds at a time (or a kick or rap on the head will get it going again)

Becomes self aware. Questions its place in universe

Becomes nervous and jumpy

Likes to pinch

Is overly 'helpful', doing tasks nobody asked it to do

Becomes a hoarder/collector of odds and ends(does not steal, just collects unwanted/discarded things)

Voyeur. Likes to spy on master/others

Expels lubricant/gas exhaust when startled

Develops sense of 'humor'. Attempts pranks or tells jokes

Irrational fear of bugs/vermin

Vanity. Obsessed with personal appearance

Discovers hidden programming. Perhaps it has assassin or espionage protocols or a secret mission to accomplish. The specifics are left up to the GM

Spontaneously overrides the three laws of robotics. Note: this doesn't (necessarily) make the droid a 'killer'

Kleptomaniac. Steals/hides items from others

Alpha-droid. Attempts to boss around other droids or even organics

Dancer. Likes to move to music

Addict. Enjoys 'sparking' (using electric shocks to stimulate circuits). Work may be put off or ignored to indulge in this

Bad Tempered. Breaks things when angered

Takes a small critter (or simpler droid) as a 'pet'

Becomes extremely literal in its interpretation of orders

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Teks Cartley and the Yelsainian Cavalry

In my long-running Star Wars campaign I have come up with quite a few NPCs-a few of them quite memorable (at least to me). When one of my players (Sharon, playing Adren) decided to have her character enter the world of swoop racing, I created a handful of NPC opponents for her. The ones I remember were Hanz Keller (a low-down, cheating ex-Imperial biker-scout), Hannah Arden (an egotistical up-and-coming pro-racer), and Teks Cartley.

Teks hails from the planet Yelsain, which I have already established to be an awesome place. Like most Yelsainians, Teks grew up on a homestead deep in the wilds of his homeworld. His family were ranchers, raising a hardy 'longhorn' version of the common Nerf. So it was that Teks learned to ride at a young age: speeder-bikes, swoops, cracian thumpers, banthas- and even 'bull' nerfs for exhibition at local rodeos. Riding herd also required a keen eye and steady hand with a blaster due to Yelsain's dangerous natural predators. And as with most Yelsainians, Teks learned outdoorsmanship, hunting and woodcraft practically before he could walk.

It was these skills that prepared Teks for a life in the military when the Rebellion finally came to his homeworld. He served with other locals in what would become an elite speeder-bike cavalry unit. At home in the huge forests of their world, the 'Cav' could swoop in on Imperial patrols and dash out again before any significant resistance could be put up. They were instrumental in disabling several AT-AT walkers using a modified version of the tow-cable attack pioneered by Rogue squadron on Hoth. Along with their infantry counterparts (the Yelsainian Rangers), the Cav helped throw off Imperial occupation, stave off an invasion and even survived weeks of planetary 'siege' before the Empire finally gave up on their efforts- needing the manpower to attempt to hold onto other, more strategic, planets in the Minos Cluster.

But the Cav's work wasn't done yet. Units of Yelsainian soldiers, including the Cav served with the newly formed Alliance sector government and fought in battles of liberation across the Minos Cluster- from the urban sprawls and coastal lowlands of Adarlon to the arid hills and plains of Eliad.

During this time, the Cav developed a distinctive personality and reputation. Daring tactics produced soldiers with a cocky, self-assured attitude- willing to take risks to get the job done. They weren't foolhardy by any means, in fact, they were well aware how crazy it was to charge gigantic AT-ATs on their tiny swoops and bikes. They cultivated an aura of 'craziness', however, both to help keep their spirits up and to give a 'mystique' to the unit to make it more intimidating to the enemy. Tactically, the Cav would sometimes 'count coup' (a tactic used by some primitive cultures). This involved attacking small groups of the enemy with non-lethal force. This had the effect of showing the prowess of the Cavalry (able to attack and get out without injury) as well as leave witnesses to go back and tell their companions what happened (spreading fear and injuring morale).

The Cav had a distinctive appearance as well. Riders in the unit wore spurs- on or off duty, in the field or on base. It was the distinguishing feature of their unit. On base they also took to wearing the wide-brimmed hats and bandanas favored by Yelsainian herdsmen- the former often decorated with elaborate braiding or piping. Buglers started to show up in detachments and some riders even went so far as to start carrying various kinds of sabers (though these were rarely used in combat). The 'mounts' of the unit were likewise personalized- often decorated with individualistic designs- personal symbols and 'war paint' (though such things were always balanced with functional needs for camouflage).

Teks fit the mold of a cavalryman to a tee. A balance of crazy risk-taker and tactician. He was a soldier by necessity, however, not choice. And despite the intense loyalty he has to his unit, he left the service following the establishment of the New Republic- the battle 'won' in his mind. At first, he returned home, toying with the idea of becoming a rancher himself. But his eyes had been opened to the larger galaxy outside Yelsain. He also missed the thrill of pushing himself to the limits of his riding skill. Finally, he decided to try his hand at professional swoop racing. Using his savings, he got himself a racing rig and passage offworld to his first race. He placed high enough to keep himself in business and earn the notice of the racing community. It wasn't long before he had a small pit crew (many of them ex cavalry members like himself) and a real standing in the racing world. Though he has yet to win a major championship like the Corellian Rally, his future as a racer seems bright- especially considering he's only in his mid twenties.

As with many 'ex' rebels, however, Teks has never 'really' left the service. From time to time he has been called upon by New Republic Intelligence for special operations that could use his particular ‘expertise’. He does this out of a sense of duty— and he’s good at it- but his true love is now racing, and probably always will be.

So there’s Teks. He’s been a fun NPC and could be used in anyone’s campaign. I wont provide stats for him as he can be geared to fit any skill level.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Million Dollar Idea

I probably shouldn't be throwing this out onto the internet like this, but.. well, who am I kidding. In a world where MMOs, Jedi and Sith seem to be the big moneymakers of the Star Wars Gaming Franchise, who'd ever do a game like the one I'm proposing. I had this idea years ago and despite changing conditions, I think there would be a big market for it. What I propose is this:

A console/PC (and Mac!) game where the player takes on the role of a smuggler/tramp freighter in a 'sandbox' style Star Wars setting. Thus far, pretty much every game that's come out for Star Wars has been either a combat simulator or about the clash of Jedi and Sith. Now I realize that the latter is the main emphasis of the saga, but I also know that a large number of fans, if asked who'd they'd rather be- Han Solo or Luke Skywalker- would answer Han Solo. And thus far, there has never been a game that has come close to giving THAT kind of experience.

You'd start off with a beat up ship and probably in debt to some crime lord somewhere. From there, you do various jobs to make money to pay off your debts and to improve your ship. On the way you can hire various folks as your crew. There would be plenty of variety of mission types- flying your freighter through blockades, swoop races on planets, combat missions to help the Rebellion (or maybe there's an evil option where you can work for Imperial Intel). The setting could incorporate several major starsystems with developed planets to explore and a lot of smaller places you can discover in the course of the game.

The sandbox part of the game would have lots of little side missions for the player to accomplish- smuggling runs and the like. Thus, if you find one particular 'mini-game' to your liking, you could do it several times over. But as with most Sandbox style games, there would also be an over-arching plot involved that you can wind in and out of. And sure, yeah- maybe you'll run into Jedi or Sith here and there, but your character won't be one. I actually think folks would enjoy this as a change of pace- playing a gunslinger instead of a Jedi. Heck, it wouldn't be too far fetched to turn your 'smuggler' into a 'bounty hunter' instead. A lot of the mechanics would be the same (but it might dilute the emphasis of the game- would have to think about that).

In any case, this has just been bouncing around my head for years. I'll put it up here to share with you all. And if any game companies stumble upon this- please make this game! I'd love to play it. Oh and... if you wanted a writer to assist with the project, I'm open to offers...

Future Fighters

I've often spoken of the technological plateau of Star Wars- about how the technology seems to remain 'basically' the same even thousands of years into the past. Even so, it makes sense to me that new designs for things would continue to be introduced, even if the performance between models wasn't a huge leap forward technologically. This is how I envision (or rather, am re-envisioning) the Fighters of the Expanded Universe. In the post Thrawn Era (after the Heir to the Empire novels), a few new fighters were introduced by the New Republic and Empire alike. In true West End Games style, the stats for these fighters weren't particularly consistent. And in some cases they were such huge leaps in technology as to be 'world changing'. My own versions of these are a bit less dramatic, but make sense (at least to me) when viewed with an eye to Star Wars history and its relatively slow changes.

I'll begin with the TIE Scimitar. As I recall, this was introduced in the Thrawn novels. All in all, I find the design to 'make sense' in a lot of different ways. It is essentially to the old TIE Bomber what the TIE Interceptor was to the TIE Fighter- an improvement in performance based upon trial by combat of previous designs. In this case, combat with the Rebellion had shown the empire the need for a faster bomber- one that could function as a fighter as well. In a nice nod to West End Games writing, the 'Scimitar' name actually comes from an elite TIE Bomber squadron. It makes sense to me that they would name this craft after a unit that probably first test flew the thing and also exemplified the attitude that the new craft was built for- fast, hard-hitting and deadly. However, aesthetically I'm not particularly keen on the design. There is something just... wrong about the way the solar panels look to me. Maybe someday I'll try my hand at re-designing it. But all in all, a logical design and not statted too outrageously, either.

The Heir to the Empire also gave us the concept of TIE Interceptors that had been modified to use shield generators. Again, this seems like a logical evolution of the design- reflecting the change in Imperial doctrine in the post Palpatine era. You don't have the resources to throw waves of fighters at your enemy, so you take the best you have and try to give it more survivability. As I recall, however, the added shields had no detriment to the performance of the Interceptor. I would (and am) going to change this a little. The power for the shields has to come from somewhere. I'd bet the Interceptor's speed would have to take a knock.

The TIE Fighter flight-simulator game gave us the TIE Avenger and TIE Defender. I have already spoken about the latter. And overall I tend to dislike both designs, aesthetically and performance-wise. The Defender is so incredibly bogus as to defy belief. I prefer to think of the Avenger looking more like Darth Vader's TIE fighter from the first movie, rather than the kind of 'squished' looking one it turned into.

The next Fighter, the I7 Howlrunner, was introduced in the Dark Empire Series. This is one of the designs I just do not understand. It isn't much better than the TIE Interceptor (if at all). Why in the heck would the Empire adopt an entirely new design if it didn't have some advantage. Considering how so much of the Empire's hardware and personnel is geared towards working with TIEs, there would be all kinds of re-training necessary just to field these craft. To me it just makes no sense. Aesthetically, the Howlrunner is fine, I suppose- depending on which image of it you go by (there are various different artistic representations). Hell, I'm shallow enough that if a design just looked 'cool', I'd give it a pass. I don't think the howlrunner quite qualifies in that regard.

The E-Wing was another Dark Empire brainchild. Initially I wasn't a big fan. I'm still not. Stat-wise it is just too bogus- representing the kind of huge leap forward that I don't subscribe to. Logically I can see the New Republic coming up with a new design to replace the X-Wing, sure. So logically it has my vote. Aesthetically I have to say I do NOT like the initial design of the ship (as shown in the comics or most of the artwork thereafter). Recently, however, I found a great little interpretation of it on the web that looks less sucky. I guess my main reasons for dislike are the fact that the engines look just way too small compared to the size of the ship as a whole- that and it has a laser cannon mounted directly OVER the cockpit. Would make ejecting a bit difficult, I'd think- not to mention the fact that it just looks 'wrong' to me. Overall, I'm just kind of "Meh" on the concept. In my campaign, the E-Wing was just a stop-gap measure, a design introduced to hold the line until a new version of the X-wing came out.

The A9 Vigilance Interceptor was yet another Dark Empire design, and yet another I didn't like. It's role was to be something as fast (or faster) than a New Republic A-Wing. That seems to make sense, logically. But again, I don't see why the Empire would totally abandon its TIE Technology, considering the fact that the TIE Interceptor was already almost as fast as the A-Wing. Why not continue modifying/refining that design? Aesthetically, I really dislike the A-9. It essentially looks almost like an E-Wing, only with a snub fuselage. It's subjective, yes. Stat Wise ,I don't think the A9 was too bogus- but the other aspects of it leave me cold. In my campaign this was just a limited prototype that never saw real production in the Empire or NR.

I actually don't know when the K-Wing bomber was introduced. I think it was during the 'Dark Fleet Crisis' (or whatever the name was of a trilogy of books where an alien race (the Yevethan) attacked the New Republic). In any case, I really loved the concept of the craft- designed to replace aging Y-Wings and temperamental B-Wings. Initial concept art that I found online had a blocky kind of y-wing-esque look. I liked it. But then the 'official' image came out in the New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels. Ugh. I don't know where to begin with this. Lets start with the fact it looks all gangly and like it would fall apart if someone gave it a harsh stare. Secondly, it has this ridiculous side-by side cockpits configuration. Not two people side by side in the same cockpit, but two cockpits sitting side by side. How freaking stupid is that- especially in something that is supposed to be a fighter-bomber. Side-by-side seating is bad enough from a visibility standpoint, but when you're not even in the same cockpit, it just makes the other one even more of an obstruction. And then there are these spindly looking laser-turret bubbles behind and below the nose of the craft. Gah. The early K-Wing design looked like a flying bunker. This thing looks like its held together by spit and bailing-wire. Needless to say? Not going with the 'official' art in my own campaign- but otherwise? Nice concept. Nice design- and no 'official' D6 stats to muck things up.

And all of this finally brings us back around to the XJ X-Wing. Again. I love the concept of this- an updated version of the X-Wing- just incrementally better than the old design. I've seen lots of different concept art for what this would look like. A lot of them were crappy, but I've found one in particular that I like (and will include in this post). It shows a sleeker more modern layout for the classic frame. It suggests a logical evolution of the design rather than a 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' approach that many of the new fighters have. I do not suggest that Star Wars is 'realistic' in any sense of the word, but it is nice to see something that seems to build off of existing canon. Technology in Star Wars (for the most part) has a very grounded and gritty feel to it (witness the battle scarred fighters of the Rebellion)- so anything that grows out of that should at least give the illusion of making sense and being functional.

Anyway. That's just my opinion on the matter. Clear skies!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Marvel Adventures

I've spoken of the Marvel Star Wars comics before. In short, a lot of folks think they're kind of crappy. And in some ways, I would have to agree. Back in 1977 or 1978 (can't remember exactly), I picked up a copy of one of the comic adaptations of the movie (just one part of a six part series, as it turned out). At the time, I was psyched to have ANYTHING from the movies (I was only 6 or 7 at the time). But even so, I remember being vaguely disappointed. The art was...okay. The stormtrooper outfits in particular were cool. But so much in the posturing of the people and the abstractness of the backgrounds (to say nothing of a lot of the poorly-rendered starships), just did NOT look like the movies. There was a disconnect for me. I suppose that is to be expected. I mean, the people who did this did Comic books. And (at the time at least) Comics were done ONE way and movies were done another. Perhaps they thought folks wouldn't 'get' a comic if it wasn't done in exaggerated 'comic' style. I don't know, but it's a theory.

Once the movie adaptation was over with, the comics delved into their first 'Original' storylines. As a kid, I was completely out of the comic loop at this point. I never even HEARD about these initial adventures until years later and the invention of the internet (thank you, Wikipedia). Well, recently I picked up the first in a series of the collected Marvel Series- and it has ALL those books I missed out on as a kid. Looking at it with an adult's eyes, I still find the artwork to be bizarrely abstract. I also find the dialogue to be stilted and melodramaculous (intentionally mis-spelled). Some of the stories and motivations seem rather unbelievable and childish as well, especially in hindsight (in particular, one character develops an intense HATRED of Luke Skywalker just because Luke works with droids. Evidently, early in the comics, they had this impression that droids were 'rare' things...umm yeah. Not so much).

But even with all these faults, I can actually see quite a few nuggets of goodness. First of all, there are a few moments of genuinely funny dialogue (particularly between Han and Leia). But secondly (and more importantly from my viewpoint), the storylines presented would actually make some great adventures in a Roleplaying game. Take for example the first 'Original' Star Wars 'Expanded Universe' adventure. I will describe it in terms of an adventure one might run for their group- or an adventure that may even be the catalyst for getting an adventuring team together in the first place. Some of the details have been altered, but the core of the story remains.

While on their way...somewhere, a smuggler or tramp freighter (and perhaps his faithful co-pilot) are waylaid by an infamous pirate and his femme-fatale lieutenant. Though left with their ship, the PCs are now flat broke and in need of repairs]. They are barely able to limp to the nearby world of Aduba-3, but can't get spaceborne again without repairs- and the money to pay for them. NOTE: This whole setup, while seemingly 'unfair', exists to set the stage for what is to come. If the group has access to a starship with guns, it would completely change the nature of this adventure. Yes. It is 'railroading', but a certain amount of that goes into any 'story' adventure. Best to get it out of the way right off the bat, then let things develop from there.

Arriving on Aduba-3, the players become embroiled in a local disturbance. Seems some members of a non-human species are trying to bury one of their dead in the local cemetery. A group of human toughs opposes them. The PCs (hopefully) help out the poor aliens (who are, perhaps, natives of Aduba?) and in the process show they aren't just normal travelers. This attracts the attention of a group of farmers who are seeking help for their remote town. Seems a swoop gang is terrorizing it. They don't have much to give, but it will be enough to get the PCs ship in space again.

From this point, the GM can go a couple way. If this is an 'initial adventure' for a group, he could have other Player Characters (also down on their luck and stuck on Aduba-3) sign on for this mission (perhaps they even helped with the whole cemetery situation). Even if the group is already established- it may require more manpower. The party will find themselves approached by several other space-vagabonds who wound up (for various reasons) on Aduba-3. These include:

A dangerously attractive feline-humanoid gunwoman

A mysterious alien knife and thrown-weapon master who uses 'spines' grown from his own body

A crazy old man who claims to be a Jedi knight. He wears armor he made himself, but has an actual lightsaber (and maybe even has some force abilities?)

A young farm boy who wants to make a name for himself as a gunman and spacer

A beat-up old tractor droid- a servant of the above farm boy. He's gruff and tough and surprisingly capable for a labor droid. Despite his cynical nature, he's also intensely loyal to his master.

These NPCs are useful, sure, but should also be played to help add depth to the story from a roleplaying perspective. They can form relationships with the PCs and/or serve as comic relief or for dramatic purposes. They can also be 'killed off' at times in the adventure to generate a sense of mortality or anger towards the villains. This isn't to say they should be 'throw away', just that they should be treated as characters, not just generic 'redshirts'.

Once the team has been assembled, they set off into the arid plains of Aduba-3 towards the distant farm village, riding local beasts of burden (perhaps with some other PC vehicles if they have any). It is here that the villain first makes his appearance, circling in with a few of his boys to try to talk the Heroes out of helping the locals- using threats and (failing that) the offer of a small pay-off. Assuming the PCs turn him down (likely in a heroic campaign) or attack him, the Gang Leader rides off, vowing vengeance. Indeed, later during the trip (perhaps when the players are camping or moving through a canyon or something), the Swoop gang rides in. They are quickly turned back by any stiff resistance, however. They've had it too easy pushing around farmers.

The PCs arrive at the village, just in time to see some of its people under attack by some dangerous local wildlife (could be bird like critters or something else). With the hero's help, the critters are driven off and introductions with the locals ensue- including, perhaps, a local girl (or guy or maybe one of each) who could be a love interest for one of the PCs- the child of the village elder. Speaking of the local village elder, he is a half-breed 'native' of Aduba who has grown to dislike most off-worlders due to the depredations of those like the Swoop gang. He makes cryptic references to an 'avenging force' his ancestors once called upon. He does not like that his people brought more into his village. There will likely be a celebration of some sort to welcome the players, and a little time for them to prepare. This is a good spot for some roleplaying- letting the characters stretch their legs in various non-combat situations (romance, drinking games, sightseeing, building defenses, planning tactics, etc.). While this is gone, the Village Elder becomes scarce, disappearing into a 'shrine' in the center of the town, doing some strange kind of ritual (which may give any Force users in the group a 'bad feeling about this).

Ultimately the Swoop Gang will make its move- and in numbers and strength that may very well prove to be a match for the group. It is at this point that the Elder makes his reappearance (and where the story REALLY diverges from its Magnificent Seven source material). Evidently, the 'ritual' he has been performing- to summon an 'avenging force' that his ancestors spoke of- was real. This force takes the form of a gigantic beast that had been slumbering beneath the ground. It rises now to attack the Swoop gang, turning the tide of battle. Unfortunately, the elder doesn't have as much control over it as he thought. The beast turns on the village, and will destroy it if the players don't figure out what to do.

There should be a couple different ways to handle this situation. Earlier, as the characters journeyed into the village, or explored it, the GM should introduce some kind of terrain feature that could be used. Perhaps a huge stone pillar outside the village is just waiting to fall over. Or there is a deep canyon not far away where the creature could be lured to fall into. Likewise, if there are Jedi in the group (even just the crazy old NPC from above), it should be hinted at that the beast reacts to the Force. Perhaps it was the creation of some long dead Sith 'alchemist' or even a naturally 'evil' beast driven into hibernation long ago by Jedi. Whatever the case, this sensitivity could be used to lure it. But who knows, perhaps the players rig up some kind of explosive and trick the critter into eating it? Maybe the town square has an old fusion reactor that they have to be careful with or it'll blow? Maybe while exploring the village, the players found some ancient native carvings that showed a beast being defeated by ingesting some kind of local plant? Whatever hair-brained scheme your players come up with you should give a good chance of working- especially since the beast itself is impervious to anything the players will likely have on hand to deal with it. This should be a test of ingenuity at this point, not just firepower. Oh, and just to give the beast some added threat- it should have SOME kind of ranged attack. Maybe it breathes fire? Generates a 'natural' energy blast from crystals embedded in it skin?

As an added wrinkle, the Gang Leader (or one of his boys) having somehow survived the beast's initial attack, may suddenly reappear and attempt to foul things up for the players out of spite. Likewise, if the heroes are in a pinch, the village elder may Sacrifice himself by trying to control the beast. He may be able to do so for a second or two to, but may then be killed by the creature (but it may be time enough for the players to recover from a bad plan or come up with a new one).

With the beast defeated and the village (hopefully) saved, it is time for a bit of a celebration (and mourning of those lost in the battle). The Villagers give the heroes enough money to cover repairs on their ship (and perhaps a little more?) and get off world. The various NPCs (those who survived) each go their own ways as well. The Gunwoman has adventures to find. The spine guy likewise. The crazy old man must follow his quest (whatever delusion that may be), Jim (and/or his droid) feel like they'd best serve right here on Aduba-3, helping grow the village into a prosperous and safe community. The villager love interest (if any) will likewise want to stay in the two and make a new life of it.

See? Sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? I could totally see running that adventure. Now, as for what I changed/omitted? Yeah. One of the 'NPCs' in the original story was a giant, green bunny man who wore a red space suit. I shit you not. Yeah. That's kind of stupid. Then again, so was the guy with the spines- who was drawn as a giant, purple porcupine man. Oh, and he SHOT spines, didn't throw them. Which to my mind is kind of dumb because.. well, eventually you're going to run out, aren't you? If you're like.. firing a half-dozen spines every time you shoot... and they were BIG spines and- oh nevermind. Giant green bunny. In any case, I think I made my point. From some of the silliest of things, a kernel of goodness may be harvested.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


All my life I've been a creative person. A lot of that stems from the fact my parents (mom especially) encouraged me to be so. Some of my earliest memories are of a little chalkboard set up in the hallway of our house. On this, I could draw and draw to my heart's content. Though I don't draw nearly as much as I used to, I have made a life out of being creative— working now as an Art Director for an advertising agency. But in my private life I am just as active. I always have projects of one kind or another going- or games I'm running. All of this is 'creative', and all of it requires energy to accomplish.

So how does this relate to Star Wars?

Well, simply put, Star Wars is probably one of the main reasons I am where I am today. It captured my imagination like nothing else had up until that point. Even before I saw the first movie, I was already starting to draw 'star wars inspired' art. I have vivid memories of being the only kid in my first grade class who could draw Stormtroopers. I also recall winning the weekly 'art contest' at school with a rendition of a scene from the movies (It was the heroes shooting it out with stormtroopers, I believe). It was here that I received a 'prize' in the form of a trip to a nearby dairy-queen (literally, across the playground from the school)- and got a FREE chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. It was here that I first equated being able to draw with GETTING STUFF I wanted (Not to mention that the attention and appreciation of my talent felt nice, too).

So I guess any 'real' artists would say that this is the moment I 'sold out'. Because art isn't about getting stuff, it's about expression and angst and.. yadda yadda. Agreed. Art is about that. But why the heck shouldn't you get paid to do something you love? Yes, working in the advertising business can be frustrating at times. Yes, your 'artistic vision' is sometimes compromised by practical or completely subjective concerns. But you know what? I'm okay with that. In my day to day life, I am constantly challenged with new 'problems' to solve and as much as I may gripe sometimes, there is something very rewarding about that. Believe me, I've worked enough crap jobs to know what the alternative is. Mindless slinging burgers or mopping floors isn't inspiring to me.

It was during my time at college, working crappy jobs, that I threw a lot of myself into gaming— particularly my Star Wars campaign. Between lack of inspiration elsewhere and years of energy pent up by isolation in the boonies of South Dakota, Its no wonder I was able to keep up with all-weekend gaming sessions and maybe even a couple during the week. We did this for a couple-three YEARS.

But honestly, as much as I love the campaign- as much as I love gaming in just about any form, there were (and are) times where I felt a bit burnt out. Oh, not in the 'I don't want to do this anymore' way. Honestly? I rarely (if ever) fall out of love with something. So it as never a matter of "I am sick of this game, I want to do something else". Rather, it is more like my batteries just run out after a while and I need time to recharge.

Case in point. I have loved my trips out to South Dakota recently for a gaming weekend. We play short but intense sessions in which a lot happens. It is a complete blast, and in the months leading up to the event (and after it) I am totally jazzed. But at the same time, I am thinking that I'm glad it is only for a couple days a year, because I don't know if I can muster that much creative energy continually.

I've been thinking about this recently, coming to think of myself more and more like a 'battery'. When work is REALLY intense (as it has been all summer this year), my battery never gets a chance to recharge. Hence the sudden slow down in my Star Wars sourcebook project and even my lack of extended preparation for the current small campaign I'm running with a couple friends here (a Firefly/Serenity game using D6). I LOVE running it. Every time I do we have good laughs and fun. And yet some weekends, I am just so drained that I don't think I can do it- until I actually do. Being a GM is work, even when you don't do a lot of preparation beforehand. It is being creative and thinking on your feet and no matter how enjoyable it is still a bit tiring (in a good way). It is also ironic in that there are times when a particularly good session can build up my creative energy- kind of like a Car battery. You need to use some of its energy to get things rolling, but once you do, the engine itself charges up the battery. Weird, isn't it?

Anyway, I think I am wandering off topic (and getting long-winded). What I'm trying to say is that for me, creative energy is definitely a 'real' thing. Sometimes I've got it, sometimes I don't. I just wish sometimes I had the energy of my 'youth'. Just a little bit of it. Oh, and some metabolism of my youth would be nice, too...