Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alternate Timelines

As I’ve stated before, my personal preference for Star Wars gaming is to run a group of adventurers during the same time as the Original Trilogy. This means that while Luke, Leia and Han are having their adventures, my group is having their own. From time to time, the paths of the heroes may cross, but I wouldn’t ever see them adventuring together on the same missions. In my opinion, the Galaxy is plenty large enough to have two (or three, or four, etc.) groups of ‘big damn heroes’ out there ‘saving the galaxy’ every other mission. In the meanwhile, the Campaign would build towards several common big events- such as the Battle of Yavin, the Battle of Hoth and the Battle of Endor. Thus, while everyone is ‘doing their own thing’, they occasionally check in with the main storyline of the movies. To me, this helps anchor the campaign and makes the players feel like they are a part of the movies. To me (and my players, it seems) this is just what they want out of a Star Wars game.

But strangely enough (to me), there seem to be a fair number of Star Wars gamers who, while liking the movies, feel that the ‘set’ plot somehow constrains their activities- that the ‘known’ ending of the movies removes the drama because you know that the ‘good guys win’. I’ve spoken about this before- what BS I think the argument is that the movies make the Star Wars universe too small to adventure in, so I won’t go into that again. But not all folks subscribe to that false belief. Some just PREFER an open-ended setting to that of the movies. And though it may not be my cup of tea, I’m all for trying new things in gaming, as long as your whole group is on the same page.

I’ve explored the notion myself in a couple time travel adventures that I have run. In one, the evil Charon race had conquered the galaxy, and those few people left alive (including older, grimmer versions of Han and Leia) fought a day to day battle for mere survival against the hordes of arachnoids. In another adventure, I had a Sith Lord character of mine go back and kill the Emperor and take his place. He turned the whole galaxy into a dark ‘playground’ for his own twisted whims. Both of these storylines are very dark, and not at all in keeping with the overall upbeat excitement of the Star Wars trilogy. In fact, they felt very ‘un-Star Wars’ to me. But that was okay, because I knew in the back of my mind that things would ‘return to normal’ in the end. And that’s what happened. The players were able to thwart the bad guy’s plans and return to the timeline to normal. If that hadn’t happened? Well. Crap. I would have totally been stuck with a timeline I would have hated to run- and one that totally didn’t feel like Star Wars to me.

In various comic books, alternate timelines have been explored as well. One notable series (Star Wars: Infinities) poses a ‘what if Luke had failed to destroy the death star’. The story diverges wildly from there- with Leia being captured and becoming Vader’s apprentice, etc., etc.. Other variations exist as well: What if Luke had died on Hoth? What if the Emperor hadn’t been killed at Endor?, etc.. Again, these are all interesting, but always leave me vaguely disturbed and glad that wasn’t the ‘real’ story.

And I think THAT is the reason I don’t personally run campaigns that diverge greatly from the movies. I want to play in a galaxy that feels like the movies. To me, the best way to do that is to include the movies.

That having been said, I do wonder what a ‘free-form’ campaign would be like in Star Wars. For me, if I were EVER going to do this, I would actually remove the heroes from the original trilogy from that campaign world. There would be no Luke or Han or Leia. Instead, there would be the PCs, perhaps thrust into similar roles to those in the movies, but with a bit more of a free hand in how things would go from there. Why would I remove the movie heroes? Well, I guess the main reason is that I LOVE them so. Or more to the point, I love their character development and story so much. To have them exist, but not be able to do the things that happened in the movies just feels ‘wrong’. Better they don’t exist- in my opinion.

Having a ‘free-form’ campaign that is solely dependent on the actions of the player characters (and the player characters alone) would indeed open up the setting a lot more. But at the same time, I feel it could open it up to becoming something that isn’t Star Wars. And that may be fine for some, but it isn’t the reason I got into the game. So, if you’re in to ‘alternate’ timelines, more power to you. I’d love to hear your stories, but honestly? I don’t see myself ever running a game like that.

No comments:

Post a Comment