A big galaxy far, far away… (Part 3)
After a considerable rush of readers following my first two entries on this issue, I thought I’d follow up with a third entry on this issue. On how I have managed to balance Star Wars canon and fanon, and while it’s a little tricky, it’s actually not as hard as you might think.
Just remember these words: find a planet, find a time and you’ll be virtually all set. They are both as important as each other, though not necessarily in that order.
Finding a planet
Looking at the list of planets on Wookieepedia can be a little daunting to find a place to host your game, but with a little Wiki walking it’s not that hard. There are a few things to remember about Star Wars planets:
- They are usually one-climate one-terrain sort of places, often with a single or limited number of cities. Exceptions exist like Alderaan, but they are rare.
- Most planets, I’d estimate about 80% but I could be wrong, have very little written about them. Mostly because a lot of them were one-shots for a comic, short story, gaming module and never seen again. Take a look at here if you don’t believe me. The fact that a planet has just been mentioned once opens the door wide open for invention.
- With the exception of planets getting destroyed, stripped of it’s resources, imploding, poisoned or pummeled to death, nothing much changes on a planet geographically from milennia to millennia. More than likely due to the reason above.
- There is no confirmed figure for how many planets, or even star systems, there are in the Star Wars galaxy. Therefore there is not the slightest bit of bother in making up a planet or even an entire society with a few species that you cook up. And there are a few parameters that can help make this more believable.
For example, I’ll take the planet Umbara which I used as the place for the ending in my last campaign.
Umbara has several important points that attracted my interest:
- It had a little history to it, the Sith Academy, which I knew I could use rather nicely.
- It had a native species, which I had the stats for as well as the rudiments of a culture which I could also use.
- The planet was in the middle of a nebula, which was rather different.
- And that was it.
With only a few canon facts as a base, I began to build the campaign world how I wanted it with events that I could magick up to suit the players and make them the heroes.
With the Umbarans, their pride and secrecy I developed into a multi-tiered back-stabbing society where the leader was forced to sign on adventurers to help him as everyone else was just waiting to take his spot.
The nebula made some rather interesting descriptions. The planet’s day-night cycle was a low twilight during the day and a light show resembling the aurora australis at night. And all Perception checks had a -5 penalty because of the low light.
And with the Sith Academy, I did an all-out dungeon crawl with random encounters, traps and a Knights and Knaves puzzle. It was also a fitting place to house my big bad, put the kidnapped player character and have the no holds barred ending.
Not bad from a page that doesn’t even come to 2000 words?
Making a planet from scratch is a little more difficult. I am doing one for the next campaign but I am being tightlipped because of the players. Here’s one I prepared earlier, not very original, it’s essentially ancient Rome in space. Once the campaign is over, I will do a run through of how I managed to make some sort of society from the get-go.
Finding a time
The best place to start would probably be here, with the guides Del Rey has given.
As you can see here, Star Wars works on a sort of bell curve, most of the work is in the middle in the Prequel, Classic and New Rebellion eras. In the last few posts, these were the areas I set aside as “tricky”, though New Republic is possibly the more open of the three.
This is probably why it is easier to go for either end of the scale, there’s less established stuff going on so there is more that you can make up. But choosing an era is not just about how creative you want to be, different eras give a different campaign experience.
- Both the Sith Era and the New Jedi Order era, and to some extent the Legacy of the Force era, is where you will find the most fantasy elements in Star Wars. Please don’t me angry messages saying Star Warsis not fantasy as there are quite a lot of things in there that are fantastic and have nothing to do with witches and elves. The KOTOR games have elements of fantasy, and the Yuuzhan Vong is perhaps the best example I can think of fantasy in Star Wars that is also scientific.
- The New Republic Erais on the opposite end of the scale, this is where the hard science really comes into play as well as, to some extent, the summer blockbuster season of a galaxy far, far away. Rogue Squadron novels and comics as well as the works of Timothy Zahn give off this and there’s plenty of actions and thrills, not to mention a Bond movie.
- With the Prequel Era, it’s a bit of a mixed bag as the films give a rather epic, sometimes Homeric, feeling of great heroes with great powers as well as tragic heroes, yet the Expanded Universe gives you a little of everything. Most people who play this era will probably want the feel of the films, and you can really take this anywhere.
- And finally, the Classic Era, which is rather swashbuckling and totalitarian, depending on what side you wish to fight on. It has a lot of elements of the Prequel Era, but there’s a few things missing (like the big heroes with wonderful powers) as well as a level of autonomy (or control, if on the Empire’s side). For a feel of the films without bumping into anything major, this would probably not be a bad time to play which is probably why the old West End Games d6 game is still so popular.
The GMing chapter of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Core Bookdoes talk about the feel of the game and trying to fit it to the players, but it’s very vague and something like what I have written above could be beneficial for new GMs wanting to break in but not knowing how to start. I found this out myself, through looking through the source books as well as my prior experiences as a fan.
The bottom line is, it’s about how you wish to approach it and what you want to happen. If you want a more traditional happy-go-lucky adventurers style of gaming reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons, choosing the Clone Wars era may not be the best. Likewise if you a hard science style in the depths of history of the Old Republic. I’m not saying that it couldn’t be done, it can be, of course, if you put enough work into it, but putting the right sort of story in the right time period could really do wonders.
This is going to be the last of this series of post, as I have really said all that I want to on the subject. I’m going to move onto something more related to the next campaign (no hints, sorry players) that i have found really useful all the way through. We loathe it and we need it, bureaucracy.
~ by katanageldar on August 14, 2009.
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Tags: Dungeons & Dragons, Game Master, Planets, Player, Railroading, Role playing games, Star Wars, Star Wars Saga Role playing, West End Games, Worlds