Friday, May 27, 2022

A Star Wars Celebration

As we all know, the film that started it all opened in movie theaters on May 25th, 1977. We, the fans of that galaxy far, far away, observe the 4th as a celebration of all things Star Wars because even Jedi and Sith enjoy a good pun. Hmm. Do you think it's a Banking Clan Holiday? Do New Republic Pilots gets the day off or maybe time and a half if they work that day?

Today, the 27th of May, we celebrate the premiere of the Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming series on Disney+, which just so happens to fall on the second day of the Star Wars Celebration 2022 event in Anaheim, California.

That's a Bantha load of Star Wars and Celebrating going on!

This year just so happens to mark the 45th Anniversary of the Star Wars franchise and as I've been mentioning over the past five months and change, it's also my 45th RPG Gaming Anniversary! Too cool!

I'm currently running a Star Wars tabletop RPG campaign using West End Games' classic D6 system (Second Edition) entitled, Star Wars: Gray Territories. I've mentioned it on the blog before and even recapped one half of the first session. The game turned out great and we've kept going so I thought a great way to celebrate May the 4th, and the 25th, AND the 27th this year would be to talk about why Gray Territories works so dang well. 

Inspired by Tim Knight of HeroPress, I declare this the first of a possible series of posts called: What Went Right?

Let's get started...

Corellian Gunship Design and Model by Edoardo Figini
Rendered by Howard Day

It felt like Star Wars

When running a game based on an IP (as I so often do) it's vital to get the feel of the film's/show's/comic book's/whatever just right (or as close as you can get it). If it is supposed to be taking place in the Star Wars universe, it better remind everyone playing of Star Wars and not make them think of something else. This is done not just by adding in familiar aliens, droids, locations, or concepts, but also by analyzing the particulars of Star Wars and embracing them. 

For example, Star Wars never spends too much time on a single world. When I run Star Wars I make sure we are only on a given planet for a single adventure. That adventure may last a couple of sessions but my preference is no more than one story on one planet. More than one planet in a story is fine, great even, but you should never spend too much time on a single world since Star Wars [usually] doesn't.

When playing Star Wars: Gray Territories over Discord we only really play for 2 to 2 1/2 hour sessions. Very short by my standards but that's all we've got. My usual in person games are 6-8 hours. So this means we are only on one particular planet for three online sessions, tops. 

The players contributed to the Star Wars feel by making very Star Wars oriented characters; PCs who you could see as protagonists in a Disney+ live action or animated series. This particular group has a real knack for this. In addition, they deeply invest and immerse themselves in the setting and create characters they really want to play, mentally go over them to make sure they do something both familiar and a little bit new within the particulars of the IP. 

Bohde, Former Guardian of the Whills (Maybe),
Dunbolgo the Dug Mechanic and
Ex-Imperial Army Commando Xim Darrol

We were on the same page

You might think that this is a given. How could the players and I not be on the same page when we all decided to play a Star Wars RPG campaign. Oh, if it were only that simple.

There is a lot of Star Wars out there. We've had nine movies, four animated series, three seasons of live-action television/streaming, innumerable novels, comic books, reference books, video games, and a plethora of lore in other forms. That is a lot of material and let's be honest, its quality and consistency varies wildly. 

When running a game based on an IP, it's easy to assume that all the participants are seeing and thinking about it the same way but that most assuredly isn't always the case. Not everyone has watched all of the CGI animated Clone Wars and Rebels series episodes. Some players love Star Wars Legends (the pre-Disney Expanded Universe), while others aren't overly familiar with those stories. Some love the Sequel Trilogy and others have taste. 

Heheh. Sorry. I kid, I kid. 

One reason Gray Territories works so well is that all the players and myself as GM agree that the core of Star Wars is the Original Trilogy and that The Mandalorian rocks. That's it. That's all that absolutely matters to us and to the campaign.

Sure we have a Dug, an alien species from the Prequel Era. One PC is a former Guardian of the Whills, an element of Star Wars lore we first see in the film Rogue One. The point isn't that we all think the Original Trilogy is AWESOME and everything else sucks and doesn't count as 'REAL' Star Wars. It's that we all agree that the Original Trilogy and The Mandalorian are what we like best and what forms the core of our game. These things matter the most to our campaign and everything else is viewed, 'that might be in there too'. 

It moved quickly

Time is a commodity and speed is of the essence, so it is vital that a session flow at a solid pace. As I've mentioned before, 90% of the games I've participated in for the first 35 years of my time in the hobby have moved incredibly fast. By comparison, those over the past 10 years have gone much too slowly. Much. Too. Slowly. Slow pacing is awesome for the purposes of drama or getting to know the PCs in a role-playing sense but the rest of the time things should move at the speed of excitement. 

Games that fall within the Action/Adventure genre should vary between fast and breakneck speeds much of the time. Things that help or hinder this pacing include the GM implying a sense of urgency, complexity and execution of the rules, and the players matching the implied urgency and thinking rapidly. Stopping the flow of the game to spend twenty minutes figuring out how you're going to walk into a room completely drains the excitement out of the moment and many players I know take more time than that. Often a lot more. 

Nothing irks me more than listening to players planning out every detail so as to avoid any sort of potential energy a sequence might have. Players want to avoid harm to their PCs, ensure their chances of reaching their objective, and/or impede the bad guys. Understandable. Unfortunately, a lot of players seem to feel that until that one perfect strategy that accomplishes all these goals can be constructed, they'll just keep talking about doing something rather than actually doing something. 

This group does not do that. This party of PCs realize #1) nothing and no one is perfect, #2) Star Wars goes fast, and #3) if they think and react quickly than I as GM must think and react quickly.

Newsflash Gamers: The longer you take to come up with a plan and the more complex it is, the more time you are giving the GM to find holes in it. Think fast. Do something.

Everybody wanted everyone to have fun

This can't be emphasized enough: Far too many times, I've participated in games where one person thought they [or their character] were the focus of the game. This player, or even a GM, would make it clear that the game had to contain X elements, or not contain Y elements, and Z absolutely HAD to happen or they weren't going to have fun. As such, they would make sure no one else has a good time either since they didn't get their way. 

Don't be that person. 

Be like the guys from my Gray Territories group. If someone makes a suggestion, 'Yes and' it. If they aren't sure about something and they solicit advice, give them some options. Don't be bothered if they don't take your suggestions because maybe something you said inspired an idea of their own instead and that is awesome!

Don't be a player who suggests additional obstacles or negative consequences for another player at the table while they are taking their turn. If you are thinking, 'What? Who does that?!', than you are where I am fairly frequently in my other groups. I have one or two players who are constantly reminding me, the GM, of some penalty, an opponent I seem to have forgotten, or a condition that should make things harder for someone else; always someone else. We sometimes call it the, 'Teacher, you forgot to check our homework' syndrome. 

Be fans of your fellow gamers and their characters. Players, be a fan of your GM and GMs - obviously - be a fan of your players and their characters. This group definitely takes this to heart. Each player is supportive of all the other players moves, as well as the GM's plot and the collective creative choices made together by the group. 

We also have it where all those involved trust each other and trust is essential. If all the participants trust each other, they will ensure it all goes right.

There is more I could say on this group, this game, and all that is great about it but for now let's leave it here. I have some other things to discuss coming up this weekend so I will likely see you all soon.

Barking Alien

Hey, while I have you here don't forget...

The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are now available on Disney+.

Hmm. Do you think they mean old Ben Kenobi? We will see...

May The Force Be With You...Always.


1 comment:

  1. First of all: thank you for the mention ;-)

    This was a fascinating read.

    Pacing has been an issue in several campaigns I've played in, it can really grind immersion to zero if the gamesmaster becomes fixated on ticking every rule box, checking and rechecking we're all sticking to the letter of the written rules.

    Although we don't tend to play IP games, genre emulation is still important and, for me, that should always trump rules. I'm a firm believer in the "rule of cool". If something sounds cinematically impressive I would always allow the player to at least attempt it. And hope the dice were in his favour.