Thursday, January 21, 2016

Random Musings on Star Wars RPG campaigning

I recently gave my first impressions of the new FFG RPG Force and Destiny here, a Star Wars RPG for Force-sensitive characters.

The book and the recent Star Wars movie The Force Awakens got me thinking about Star Wars RPG campaigns in general.

Now, as I said, I've tried lots of RPG campaigns, but the only setting that really resonated with me back in the good ol' days of the 1980s was space opera, which meant mostly FASA's Star Trek  and WEG's Star Wars, and a bit of GDW Traveller as well. Other settings, like fantasy, espionage, etc, just did not do it for me long term, though God knows I have tons of RPGs for all sorts of rules and campaign settings still, even though I haven't faced-to-faced RPGed in 20 years.

Of the two universes, Star Trek and Star Wars, I've been thinking lately why I preferred one universe slightly more than the other, the movie-era Star Trek over Star Wars that is.  Don't get me wrong.. I'm done with Star Trek. I am all Star Trekked out. 10 or so movies, and 4 shows have done it for me.

For decades though, I just slightly preferred Trek. Sure, Star Wars appears to have slightly less tech than Trek. Sure, there was no cohesive map of Star Wars until recently, and sure the WEG rules seemed simpler than FASA for some reason, but it was more than that. I think why the movie-era Trek slightly wins over Star Wars for long term campaigning for me was this: Star Trek is tinged with optimism while Star Wars is tinged with pessimism.

Sure, sure, you'll say, what am I talking about.. optimism and pessimism is relative to each player.

Of course. I know.

And I said, "tinged", which is not the same as drowning in pessimism or optimism.

I'm sure there are lots of long running Star Wars campaigns that have happened since 1987 when WEG came out with Star Wars....but..... but you have to admit it's all in the name.. Star Wars.. Wars.. never ending wars and conflict... Thousands of years of fighting between the Sith and the Jedi for instance.. Trek on the other hand, has more optimism, more spirit of exploration, more questions of what-is-our-place-in-the-universe and with tag lines like "the Human Adventure is just beginning."

As a side note, GDW's Traveller also did not have that same spirit of optimism that Trek had, so it was an uphill battle for me to get enthused about romping in that gameverse as well.

Now I know FFG came out with scout and colonist campaign books for Edge of the Empire, but you have to ask yourself, what is the point? Why explore strange new worlds in the Star Wars universe when you'll just be spreading the warring crap paradigm that is inherent in the Core Worlds and Outer Rim. Very few times in Star Wars do I see stories where there is a feeling of upliftment of the human condition. It's inevitably fighting and fighting alone. Either you're a scum bag surrounded by other scum bags hustling, or you're a Jedi facing Dark Side lunatics and/or fighting scumbags, or you're a politician in the corrupt Republic or amoral Empire, and so on.

Take The Force Awakens.. It was an okay film despite Rey being a Mary Sue and the plot literally being a carbon copy of A New Hope.. Digging deeper though, you can see the pessimism... despite Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, what is the end result of all the heroes' struggles in these 3 films? In Force Awakens, Han and Leia appear divorced, are failed parents, and Han is still hustling and smuggling at age 70.. Huh? And Luke is a coward who ran away after one of his students murdered the rest of his students. Guy topples the Empire and converts Vader back into the Light Side, but some punk kid forces him to flee for 30 years? All 3 of our beloved heroes thus are failures and losers.  Plus, the Empire or whatever they call themselves now are back with a vengeance. The classic trilogy it seems had no happily ever after.


You can say then, that the Star Wars universe is a petri dish of fighting, struggle and nothing more.

And yet....

And yet, there is still something appealing about romping in the universe despite the inevitable question no doubt many players of a Star Wars campaign ask themselves eventually: "Is this all there is?"

The image of the lone Jedi with his lightsaber is vastly appealing.. There is something about the lightsaber that is noble.. the closest in our real world history would be the Katana. Both weapons are elegant and classy and not to be wielded lightly by minions.

As a Han Solo wannabe, there is the classic freedom a man in his own space ship that inspires as well (though all Space Opera settings usually have this call to freedom as well).

And then, well, ....then there is my continuing interest in the Clones, which continues to intrigue me for some reason. Since the prequels, despite the Phantom Menace being goddawful (I am not sure Star Wars has ever, or will ever recover from the disaster that was the Phantom Menace), I have been very curious about the Clone Troopers.

I've always been interested in the Clone Wars since 1977 (by the way, why is it Clone Wars plural??) and found the depictions of the Clone Troopers generally favourable in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Of course, their opponents, the battle droids, were stupid and childish, but the Clone Troopers were nicely depicted.  I haven't seen much of the Clone Wars cartoon, but I hear good things about it and the depiction of the Clones in general in it. 

Their armour and weapons look retro enough to be aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eyes.

The Clone Troopers also seemed to be more competent than their successors, the Stormtroopers, who were not clones. I am hand-waving though, at the fact that they are based on Boba Fett/ Jango Fett's DNA.. yeah, yeah, whatever (by the way, why didn''t anyone in the Star Wars Universe find it strange that Jango Fett, who's DNA was the backbone of the Republic's army, was in league with Count Dooku, who was the leader of the other side?...the Jedi never put 2 and 2 together?  But I digress).

Anyways, since the Prequels, I've been wondering what it would be like to RPG a character who was a clone and survived the war and had remorse for Order 66.. I did a recent google search, and was pleasantly surprised that many people had the exact same thought and RPGed a Clone Trooper character.. some came up with good RPG hooks like being obligated to a Hutt crime boss who had anti-aging drugs, or year long campaign settings to find a geneticist who will cure the double aging effect, and such, as you can see here.

The interest in the Clones and the Clone Wars is even manifested in people who still play using the well admired WEG rules...

Speaking of the WEG rules, I'm glad it's still played even though WEG lost the license in 1999.
The WOTC expansions for instance, were lovingly translated into WEG rules by someone, as you can see at this website. 

Star Wars still has a healthy RPG interest all around it seems...  it's a vast gameverse with lots of variety and who knows, maybe many teenagers can overlook the tinge of pessimism some of us older guys have felt, and may find something uplifting in Star Wars after all.  Certainly, the new FFG rules can help as they are impressive and will no doubt generate hard core supporters, much like WEG does to this day, nearly 30 years later.

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