Playing Star Wars like it's actually, you know, Star Wars

While browsing the RPG.net fora today, I came across a link to a great essay by Steve Darlington on how to run a Star Wars RPG in the spirit of the movies. Even if you’re not a gamer, the essay has a lot of good observations as to what makes the films so immensely enjoyable. (Now if only Lucas had followed some of this advice while making the prequel trilogy….)

Darlington’s main point is that a SW game needs to convey the epic, space-opera feel of the movies–the heroes must be at the center of everything, they should always be fighting against impossible odds, and the stakes should always be huge. Epic lightsaber battles against a Sith Lord (who is, of course, actually your father) over a lava pit, outrunning the entire Imperial navy in your junk-heap space freighter (with a few little modifications), suicidal trench runs to take down the Death Star with twenty seconds left before it reaches firing range to blow up your planet…. those things are all Star Wars.

Fending off random thugs while delivering spice shipments to a backwater planet for the umpteenth time… that, while it is more along the lines of a typical RPG scenario, is definitely not Star Wars–unless along the way to deliver your spice shipment you get attacked by Imperials, escape legions of Stormtroopers ordered to capture you and send you to the Spice Mines of Kessel, and end up singlehandedly blowing up a Super Star Destroyer seconds before it destroys the whole frickin’ universe.

I’ve run several Star Wars games, and none of them felt nearly as fun as they should have, given my love for the SW movies. Reading this article, I think I have a better idea of why those games didn’t work. Next time, I’ll try to make the adventure a bit more epic and exciting than “get through the Imperial customs station without being noticed.”

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4 thoughts on “Playing Star Wars like it's actually, you know, Star Wars

  1. pcg

    While I’ve never played a Star Wars game GM’d by you (or, in fact, by ANY GM), I’ve never felt any of your games were dull. But I get what you’re saying about SW – it’s altogether different from something like D&D. “Impossible odds” in D&D usually means a few of your party die and the rest of you might kill that wraith before you bleed out. It’s tense and usually a little frustrating – but glorious for the survivors. “Impossible odds” in SW just seems to leave more room for spectacular, unexpected triumphs. That’s the feeling from the movies, anyway.

    What’s with the SW kick? 🙂

  2. Andy

    Exactly, pcg. But the challenge for the SW GM then becomes: how do you pit the heroes up against impossible odds, and (importantly!) let the heroes overcome those impossible odds, without obviously cheating and fudging die rolls? I sometimes wonder if the sorts of challenges RPGs simulate well are of a very different sort than the situations you can dream up when you’ve got 100% control of the narrative, as in a movie.

    And as for the SW kick… not sure. Once or twice a year I get on a major SW kick and re-watch the movies. It must be that time of year 🙂

  3. Pingback: Gaming Star Wars and Other Stories of Incredible Odds… « High Adventure Games

  4. jb

    I hadn’t visited your blog in a while but had a sneaking suspicion that searching your site would yield something on the topic that brought me here – and I was right!

    I recently stumbled upon the various FFG Star Wars games, was overtaken RPG nostalgia, and subsequently decided it would be fun to line up a session with former gamerfolk like myself. I’ve since bought some Force and Destiny stuff and have been working to line up a gaming night about 30 days out.

    Beyond dusting off some serious cobwebs and relearning, well, everything, I thought I’d check in to see if you had any specific pointers or guidance regarding Force and Destiny. Are there any adventures that you think would be particularly well-suited to a group of 40-something guys who haven’t cast Magic Missile in 25+ years? I anticipate this will be a one-time event, not an ongoing campaign, so I’d like to pack as much Awesome into the session as possible.

    Any and all tips would be both welcome and appreciated! (We can also move this to email but I couldn’t help replying to a ten year old post!)

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