Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ships as Characters

Anyone who has read this blog has probably come upon my 'rant' about how many Star Wars adventure modules seem to treat player character ships as being disposable. A large majority of adventures include the player's ship crashing, being stolen or even being outright destroyed. While I realize that by removing a player's ship you can 'guide' them into a situation that might otherwise be bypassed by simply flying away or strafing the hell out of a target...but come on, game authors. Do you ever WATCH Sci Fi series?

Think about it for a moment. In almost all science fiction movies and television programs, the 'main' ship of the setting becomes just as much a character of the show as any of the organic cast members. Examples:

Star Trek: The Enterprise
Dr. Who: The TARDIS
Blake's 7: the Liberator
Starblazers: The Argo
Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon
Robotech: The SDF-1
Battlestar Galactica: The Galactica
Farscape: Moya (okay, this one is LITERALLY a character, since 'she' is alive)
Firefly: Serenity

See what I mean? In these shows, the ship either was or became a big part of the show. It wasn't a disposable plot device. In fact, the DEATH of a ship in these shows was a HUGE event emotionally and for the story as a whole. It signified a time of great change. Who didn't feel a little catch in their throat upon seeing the Enterprise blow up, then burn into the atmosphere in Star Trek 3? Who didn't sympathize with Adama in the recent Battlestar Galactica when his ship was falling apart and there was nothing he could do to save it.

In my Star Wars campaign I always tried to keep this in mind. In those situations that arbitrarily called for the destruction of the party's ship, I had to actively work to find some other way to make the adventure work. Those times I 'allowed' the ship to be downed, I tried to make it a 'fair fight' rather than an automatic lose. And even when it was taken out in a Kobayashi-Maru type scenario, I tried to make it recoverable. Yet in looking back on my campaign, I see that most of the main ships in it did eventually meet their ultimate fate. I'll talk next about the main ships in the campaign.

The Lightblade
This was the first ship in my Star Wars campaign and the one that probably saw the most action. She was a YT-1300, just like the Falcon (very original, I know) and went through major transformations in her career- from a rather ramshackle and 'average' boat to a thinly disguised gunship with all kinds of support gear built into her. Personality-wise, the Lightblade reflected the party. She was cobbled together over time and looked a bit rough around the edges, but was very effective when push came to shove. She could still go undercover as a legitimate freight hauler, despite the fact that its combat specs were pushed WELL past factory settings. The 'Blade was a dependable and versatile workhorse that saw a lot of good and bad times. She was also home to a large population of droids (that the party picked up, piecemeal, along the way)- giving it a very organic and 'living' feel. As I recall, the ship was fire-bombed at one point, severely damaging her. She also survived numerous crashes. Right now I'm working with its pc owner (Marko) to determine her final fate. Though I'm pretty sure at this point that the official story is that the Lightblade was destroyed in action during the New Republic Era, a few years prior to the current timeline of my campaign.

The Stormbringer
This was another Y-1300- only this time, the cockpit was on the other side! Okay, so at its base level it doesn't sound all that original, but the concept for this ship certainly was. It began as a 'shell' but was transformed by player effort (and saved up wages) into a gunship. There was NO way this vessel could ever pass for 'legit', and thus her use was restricted to full-out combat missions and to ports where such design violations were ignored (Mos Eisley, Nar Shaddaa, etc.). The ship was the brainchild (and property) of the character Rick Oman- and was used in the New Republic era as a transport for his Bounty Hunting career. The Stormbringer had a very different 'vibe' than the Lightblade. She was an aggressive ship- a tough soldier who gave as good as she got. She served with distinction throughout the latter stages of the War with the empire and well into the New Republic Era. She was the flagship of the group who liberated the planet Mandalore. Fittingly enough, she met her end in service to that planet- destroyed during the contest that would determine the 'New Mandalore' of that people. Her death signified a big change in the life of her owner.

The Trivial Pursuit
Probably one of my favorite ship names, ever. The 'Pursuit was a big, beefy Barloz-Class freighter owned by the PC, Adrienne. In some ways, she was a contrast to her rather petite owner, but like certain other ships, this one 'had it where it counted'. She may have been a bit unwieldy, but she was fast as heck- and in the hands of her pilot, the 'Pursuit could hold her own in a lot of dangerous situations. Personality-wise, I always saw the pursuit as a big, loyal, tough, brick. A constant and a foundation in the life of the character who piloted her. Apart from her enhanced speed, however, the ship wasn't really a gunboat- a fact that also seemed to reflect the pilot (a person who tried to avoid conflict when she could). The pursuit was heavily damaged at one point and had to be partially rebuilt. Fittingly enough the ship became a hybrid of Corellian and Santhe-Seinar technology (just like its owner). Oddly enough, I can't for the life of me remember how she 'died' later in the game, but I am pretty sure she did. I'll have to ask her owner's player about that...

Anyway, I think I've made my point. I have quite a few fond memories about the 'ship characters' in the campaign. And in most cases, the death of the vessels in question was not something arbitrary, but rather marked a dramatic moment in the life of its owner. I feel that this is how it should be.

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