Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Stages of Gaming Life

It is my belief (based upon my own experience, observation of others and reading of other folks' blogs) that many gamers seem to go through certain similar stages in their life in regards to what and how they play. I realize this isn't universal to everyone and the specifics vary from person to person. Even so, I've seen enough to think that I am on to something here. Below I will list what I consider the different stages in a gamer's life.

Wide-eyed Innocence
This represents a Gamer's introduction into the hobby. It typically begins with hearing about a game—usually through a slightly older acquaintance or relative. In my case, I remember older cousins and their friends talking about gaming. This got me curious. I bought my first game (or rather, my parents bought it for me). This was Basic D&D. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I loved it anyway. Many abortive and shallow attempts were made at running games and even campaigns without having any idea of how to go about it. In my case, living in South Dakota, there were very few peers or mentors I could turn to so I had to muddle through this learning stage myself.

Dogged Loyalty
Growing up a little and building on the experience of those wild and wooly days of learning through doing, a Gamer begins to feel a sense of 'maturity'. They know the rules and are now running at least semi-successful sessions or even campaigns. This is typically in one (or maybe two) primary game systems. The gamer begins to feel that they are a 'real' player (or GM) now. Along with this sense of maturity comes a kind of brand loyalty. The games you are playing become YOUR games. You buy 'official' material for those games and often follow doggedly along with whatever expansions and changes are made in the official rules. Why? Well, because they're OFFICIAL of course! A gaming company made all these rules, so surely they made certain everything worked well before introducing it to the general public. This was certainly my attitude with D&D. I progressed from B/X to AD&D and incorporated all the rules from Unearthed Arcana without any thought as to 'game balance'. This is the phase where house-rules are often implemented, but I don't think most gamers drastically alter the shape of the systems they play.

Feeling secure in their primary systems, Gamers begin to experiment with more and more systems and settings. Sometimes, this means they even switch their 'primary' system to something else they like more. When I was growing up, there were a slew of different games, and every one of them had a different system associated with it. Though some game companies made attempts at creating an overarching system to handle different genres (GURPS, GDW, etc.), most everything was unique. So if you wanted to play one genre, you learned one game system. Another genre and you learn another. For me, this phase led to my experimenting with Star Wars D6- which became my primary system. Even so, I dabbled in all sorts of other games: Battletech, HeroSystem, Dark Conspiracy (GDW), Mythus/Dangerous Journeys, Shadowrun, Rifts, etc. etc. Even with all the experimentation, gamers at this stage tend not to bend the rules too far. House rules are again normal, but systems remain basically unchanged.

Falling Out
For one reason or another, many gamers eventually reach a point where they simply stop gaming. For most this is due to real life. You graduate college. You get a job, a family, responsibilities. You don't have the time, even if you DO look back fondly on your gaming days. Alas, for many gamers, this seems like it could be the FINAL stage in their gaming life cycle. They come to regard games as 'immature' and move on. Others retain a peripheral awareness and remembrance of gaming, but actually play very rarely. When they do it is usually in their favored systems—with all the experimental stuff having fallen by the wayside.

At some point, some gamers will have a sudden resurgence in interest of their hobby. In many cases it may just stem from simple nostalgia. But whatever the reason they begin to look through their old books and materials. They begin to remember the fun and wonder if it could ever be like that again. This renewed interest has (in recent years at least) been helped along by the internet. Here you can not only find a lot of information about gaming of the past and present, you can also read about and even interact with other gamers- many of whom might also be in the same rediscovery boat.

Recreation and Re-creation
At this point, a gamer starts to make gaming a part of his (or her) life again. There is a sense that all the fun they remember CAN be found again- that games don't simply stop being fun once you reach a specific age. For many gamers, however, there comes (along with their maturity) a greater sense of ownership of a game. They aren't looking just to follow 'official' rules or play 'official' adventures. They feel they can put their own spin on things—moreso than just house rules. This leads to a lot of players tinkering with new game designs or overhauls of their 'go to' systems. Likewise, many feel confident enough now to produce their own original adventures and even sell them to other gamers. And for their part, the consumers of these games feel quite free to put their own spin on things. Of course, not all gamers 'reinvent the wheel'. In fact, a lot return to their roots- even 'abandoning' their former go-to systems in favor of the simplicity of earlier iterations. But in my opinion, this too just shows a willingness not to accept someone else's concept of a game in favor of what works best for them- even if that design is considered 'obsolete'.

I suppose after rediscovering gaming, a gamer could once again allow it to fall from their life, but I know that a lot of people see themselves gaming for the rest of their lives. It is a social hobby that can easily be shared with family and friends for.. well. Forever actually.

I don't think I'm just speaking for my own 'generation' of gamers on this, either. In interacting with younger gamers, I see a lot of the same practices and prejudices that I went through—The Dogged Loyalty and Experimentation stages especially. Which makes me wonder if, some years from now, we're going to see an 'old school renaissance' of 4th Edition d20 and other contemporary systems? I'm betting we will.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anger Unleashed

Unless you're new to the blog, you probably realize how much I detest the Force Unleashed video game—which is now becoming a 'franchise' with the sequel (the creatively named "Force Unleashed II". I mean seriously. Couldn't they come up with something better than that? Force Unleashed II: Electric Boogaloo? Part Deux?.. The Final Chapter- oh, yes. That last one has a nice ring to it). If you're interested in why I loathe this game, please check out these posts: here and here

Well, I guess this is another rant. The more I see of this game, the angrier I get. And for a lot of reasons. What reasons? Well, I'll restate them here:

First and foremost: Because these games show NO respect for the movies they are based upon. In fact, they completely undermine the main story of the Saga by marginalizing all of the main characters. Darth Vader and the Emperor are just more 'bosses' to fight at the end of levels. In these acts, you 'defang' the whole setting. Anyone other than Starkiller becomes a secondary character. To heck with any 'prophecy' or 'chosen one'. To heck with a Father's love for his children being the thing that brings him back from the depths of evil. In fact, to heck with the children at all. Who needs them if Starkiller is around to fix everything?

Secondly: Because the story is unoriginal. I've said it before. This series lives off of the 'name recognition' of the people that Starkiller beats up. Not because the character himself is at all interesting. There is VERY little development in the story that seems sincere. One minute, Starkiller is brutally killing everyone for Vader, the next, he's brutally killing everyone for the Rebellion. And we're supposed to believe he's achieved some enlightened epiphany as to his role in the galaxy. But that's not all. Not only does this story 'steal' its appeal from characters developed by others, it also seems to be molding itself more and more after ANOTHER video game character. See if you can recognize who:

A man with a tormented past loses the love of his life and feels betrayed by his 'masters'. So he comes back from the dead and launches a campaign to destroy those who took his love from him- slaughtering anyone who gets in his way. Including giant monsters- until finally (presumably) he stands once again before his masters- the 'gods' of the setting if you will- and defeats them. Oh, and he's also wielding two weapons. Huh. Sounds vaguely familiar.

Right. So I can see the concept meeting for the game: "Dude. People LOVE God of War and they love Star Wars... we'll just like... stick them together! God of Star Wars!"


Oh, and just to rub it in, the story for the first installment of this game won awards on how original it was.

Thirdly: Apart from marginalizing the main characters in the Star Wars Saga, I find the whole idea that Starkiller is the 'driving force' behind the Rebellion repulsive and insulting. It marginalizes everyone ELSE in the galaxy and once again reinforces the feeling that ONLY Jedi (and in this case, ONLY Starkiller) can possibly affect change in the galaxy. Everyone else is just a pawn- especially those 'normal' people. It rankles me on so many levels. Rrrrr.

I could rant all day on this, but I'll leave it with those big three and the same argument I keep bringing up: If Starkiller had his own story, in his own time period, with his own supporting characters and his own original 'mythos', I would probably like the game. But a little originality is evidently too much to ask. Better to just use (or in this case, mis-use) what other people have done.

Fair Game

I am a huge Star Wars fan. I know. This may come as a surprise. While this began with the original movie trilogy, my love for the setting has branched off into various aspects of the Expanded Universe. In fact, I would classify myself as something of an 'expert' on a lot of Star Wars trivia (though I am admittedly lacking on many of the more recent novels). But even though I know quite a bit about Star Wars 'canon', I would not (in any way, shape or form) call myself a 'stickler'—especially when it comes to the Expanded Universe. Nope. To me, anything NOT shown in the Original or Prequel trilogies is Fair Game to use, alter or omit as I see fit.

To some folks I'm sure this would be a big no-no. But having grown up with the movies I feel a strange sense of entitlement. Especially when you consider the length of time in which the saga was just...dormant. From 1983 to 1991 there was pretty much nothing 'official'- unless you count the D6 game which began in 1987. And even that, as an RPG, was at least partially malleable to a GMs particular campaign. So quite simply, by the time the Expanded Universe really took off I had already developed my own 'Expanded Universe'. And you know what? I still like it a lot more than most of the 'official' stuff that came later. Simply speaking— I feel that my own concepts of the universe are just as valid as other folks'.

So in gaming terms, what does this mean? Well, it means that anything you don't see in the movies— and anything outside the movies that doesn't specifically contradict what you SEE in the movies— is fair game for me to do with as I please. In fact, for any Star Wars gaming group I would suggest the same. To do otherwise (for me at least) would be to to live within so many 'constraints' as to make the setting unplayable. I would say the same thing about any setting that becomes 'over canonized'.

Battletech, for instance, was an awesome setting until EVERY single battle became set down in writing. For a 'wargame' that meant you couldn't really determine the course of the war through playing. It was already set in stone— in fact, they published books detailing how just about every single battle in the wars played out. You could say the same thing about the Star Wars movies- that you know the rebels will win in the end. But there are YEARS of adventure we don't even see (like the 3 years between Episode IV and V and the 20 years between Episode III and IV). Plus you have the entire era AFTER Return of the Jedi to play with.

But anyway, before I ramble further...I'm stating my personal preference here, and I've probably said it before. Make Star Wars yours. I have set the movies as my only 'canon' (and even then, I've made some exceptions for midichlorians- stupid). Find what works for you and the rest is all fair game (though I get the feeling a lot of them are already).

Thursday, October 21, 2010


In running Star Wars for so many years, I've had to come up with quite a few of my own explanations for things that are NOT explained either in the movies or in the various sourcebooks. Shield technology is one of these things.

Space-ship shielding is pretty self-explanatory- a close-fitting 'bubble' of energy around the hull. For the sake of 'color' at least, shielding can be shifted forward or backwards on a ship (even though we never did anything with this in-game).

Planetary shields were a bit more complicated, however. Specifically when you look at the Battle of Hoth and the implications of it. First of all, the shield is powerful enough to deflect heavy bombardment (i.e. Star Destroyers don't even bother trying to bombard the planet). But at the same time, you can apparently insert ground-troops beneath a shield in order to take it down (witness the AT-AT walkers). I've probably talked about this before, but to me, this suggests (and was proven by the Gungan shields in Episode I), that shields can be 'walked through' by ground units. Therefore, in my game, I had the rule that ground-based shields have a disruptive effect on repulsorlift vehicles. Thus, while you can 'walk' through and under them, you can't 'fly' through their periphery- even at ground level.

The big question that I've never really delved into, however, is the reason why NO ground-based vehicles seem to have shield generators. They certainly don't in the RPG, and in Empire Strikes Back the rebels talk about the 'Armor' on the AT-ATs being too strong- not their shields. This led me to believe that maybe there was some kind of 'disruptive' quality to ground-based vehicles that prevented them from using shields effectively.

And then we see Destroyer droids. They are ground-based and they have shields. How do you reconcile this? Well, I suppose you could say that they were a 'special' kind of shield that ONLY worked with that droid type, but that seems to be a cheap answer. You could also say that shields are perhaps too expensive to use on ground-based vehicles/droids. But how expensive can they REALLY be? Regular, ship-sized shield generators aren't all that expensive. So, yeah. It is something of a quandry.

In my musings, however, I struck upon the idea that perhaps the reason why Shielding isn't used on ground based vehicles is because it severely slows them down. This could easily be backed up by what we see in the movies. Destroyer droids with their shields deployed move only VERY slowly. They can't seem to keep those shields active in their faster 'rolling' form. So maybe shields create some kind of 'bond' or 'suction' to the surface they are deployed against. This seems to make sense and also fits with the idea of planetary shields forming a 'loose bond' with the terrain over which they're deployed. So, if ground vehicles DID have shielding, it would 'latch onto' the ground and drag the vehicle to a near halt. And nobody wants to be in a slow moving target, even if you do have a bit more protection.

So in short (too late)- this explains (to me at least) why ground vehicles don't have shields. It makes more sense for them to have armor and mobility than to have shields and become a near-stationary target.

This also has the added benefit (to me again) of making personal shielding devices limited as well. The idea of people (or droids) running around with 'shield belts' just feels very un-Star Wars to me. It would change the feel of combat and of the whole setting. Up until now, I have just disallowed such technology (at least for my PCs). But now I have a reason why it isn't used- and some limitations if it ever /is/ used. Essentially I'd have to say that you could only move at 'walking' speed while wearing a personal shield (if you could even find one). Thus, in a fast-moving firefight they wouldn't really be worth it. works for me (so far). Thoughts? Opinions?

Monday, October 18, 2010


"17,000?! We could almost buy our own ship for that!" - Luke Skywalker

When Luke uttered those words in Star Wars, I believe he set into motion something that would have a skewing impact upon the economy of the Star Wars universe–at least in the role playing game.

Evidently, someone took him literally. According to the D6 rules, a used light freighter costs 25,000 credits. So yes, with 17,000, you could almost buy your own ship. When I first started playing, these amounts seemed suitably expensive- especially when compared to the meager funds most adventuring groups were likely to have. But the longer I gamed in this system (and the more I realized just how much things cost 'in the real world'), the more it began to bug me.

Yes, I know Star Wars isn't the real world. And perhaps credits are worth a vastly different amount than a U.S. Dollar. But when you look at other bits of equipment (weapons, computers, etc.), you see that the amounts aren't THAT far off from 1 credit = 1 dollar. Pistols, for instance, are in the 500-750 range. Which is about right. You can get a 'laptop' for 1500. A comlink (cell phone) can be from 50-100+. Again, within the range of a 'cell phone'. So, for 25,000 dollars in the real world you can get a Sedan. An 'average' car. In the Star Wars galaxy, you can evidently get an interstellar starship for the same amount. This is significantly larger than a sedan- plus it includes all kinds of secondary systems—weapons, shields, radios, sensors. All of that for 25k? That just sounds wrong. Very wrong. Even if you buy a 'new' ship (which the game says costs 100,000), it still seems to be worth much less than it should be.

If you take the RPG prices as their face value, and don't factor in 'real world' stuff: what they're saying is- you can trade in 25 blaster rifles (at 1,000cr a piece) for a Starship. That doesn't seem to make any economic sense at all. Even if you factor in that Interstellar Starships are 'commonplace' in the Star Wars galaxy, the equation of 25 rifles = 1 starship just makes no sense.

So what does this mean? Well, unfortunately for me, it means I'm going to have to severely revamp the prices, especially on higher-priced items like vehicles. I don't know where I'm going to begin on this. Maybe the best bet would be to try and find the closest real-world equivalent that I can: Like private Yachts or commercial freighters or private aircraft- and then try to back into some more reasonable figures for the game. does one find out how much a lear jet costs? Guess I'll find out...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Question about Telekinesis...

Okay. So in the movies, we see Force users utilize telekinesis on many occasions. In the original trilogy, Vader seemed to be the one exhibiting it the most (via his chokings of various people). I was especially impressed during The Empire Strikes Back when he did so via the video-screen- choking Admiral Ozzel when he wasn't even in the same room. To me, this suggested that Telekinesis was not a 'physical' link between a Force user and an object. There was no 'invisible telekinetic 'chord'' through which the user was manipulating whatever it was he was lifting or affecting.

The rules in the RPG seemed to support what we saw in the movies. There was a proximity modifier to one of the difficulties in using this power. And proximity went anywhere from a few meters away to 'the other side of the galaxy'. So obviously you didn't have to be in the same room. This seemed a bit problematic to me, though, as what was to prevent the Emperor or Vader from simply using their power to crush the life out of their enemies from across the galaxy. They had the stats where they could do so. The thing was, you evidently had to be able to SEE your target. So just trick Mon Mothma into picking up your video-phone call and CRUSH- dead rebel leader. This didn't sound right to me. For obvious reasons.

In my own campaign, I had to define the ground rules for Telekinesis- pretty much saying that you would have to use 'life sense' to make a connection of some sort with a target before you could affect them with Telekinesis (or more specifically, the Telekinetic Kill power). But in the same manner, could you 'make a connection' with an inanimate object? Could, for instance, Darth Vader have used his telekinesis to push buttons on the control panel behind Admiral Ozzel. I mean, he could SEE them through the video comm. Likewise if, while dogfighting the Rebels, Vader saw into the cockpit of an enemy fighter- couldn't he just flip some switches? Stop their engines? Pull their eject strap? Well, that seemed terribly unbalancing, too. So in my own mind, I came up with the idea that maybe this 'remote' use of TK worked only with organics. It sounded plausible enough. But still doesn't quite sit right with me.

And yet this 'theory' seemed to be proven in the prequels. When Obi Wan's fighter is attacked by Buzz droids in Revenge of the Sith, my first thought was "Why doesn't he just use TK to push them off, or crush them?" As I saw it, there could only be two answers. One: TK doesnt' work through solid obstructions. But...for Vader it did, so.. Two: It can only work 'remotely' vs. organics or something you can create a link to via the force.

Bleh. I still don't like that explanation, though. Namely because Yoda himself said that the force was a connection to ALL things, rocks, trees, etc. Rocks are not living. It is a quandry for me. And if anyone has any idea how to explain it, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Wow. Its been a while since I've made one, huh? Well. Truth be told It has been a combination of a lot of different things. Work has been busy. Subsequently, I have been tired. I have taken a few days off- and long weekends are a great time to do absolutely nothing ;). But also truthfully, I haven't been completely idle. In fact, I've put in quite a bit of work on "The Project". In fact, I'm rather close to being 'done' with one aspect of it. So close that I'm going to post something about it!

So, without further delay, here is my Droids book- it isn't polished yet, and is still missing a few sections, but the bulk of it is there.


Please let me know what you think so far. I'd appreciate feedback (even of the critical variety!).