- Seth Saunders
Roleplaying the Galaxy: To the page of the Universe
This entry, while mostly directed at game masters, should also be read by players. The more knowledge everyone has, the more immersive the story game masters and their players craft together will be.
If these collections of anecdotes and experiential advice have been at all helpful to you, dear reader, I hope that those of you who’ve roleplayed in Star Wars before have, perhaps, found your games at least slightly bettered by my offerings. For those of you who’d never before diced and dark-sided, I hope that I’ve helped to inspire you to take your first steps into…well, you know.
Ideally, most eyes consuming these words will, at this point, have at least begun perusing a Star Wars RPG core rulebook. And that’s fantastic. A basic understanding of the rules is important for not slowing down a session. Grasping the mechanics and various ways one can interact with the imaginary world ultimately brings all parties more freedom.
Maybe you’re much further along in your journey, however. Perhaps you’ve spent many hours acquiring and sifting through the multitude of era and location sourcebooks. The crux of this article is for these people. You’ve honed your knowledge of your chosen system, you’re prepared to explore the planets and time periods that excite you…and the information you find is pitifully lacking.
It could be there was simply never a sourcebook that quite struck upon the exact facet of the galaxy you wish to explore. Alternatively, maybe your geeky heart soared upon finding what you thought to be exactly the wellspring of information you sought, only to slump in defeat as you realized that, while you craved intel on Hutt dietary restrictions, the author seemed to find the inner workings of the various clans more noteworthy.
Whatever the case, I know well what you may be experiencing; a sense of being stymied, or that what you wish to bring to your game is untouched by RPG source material. And to that I say, “Your search is not yet over, my variously-aged Padawan(s)!”
While the sourcebooks of real-life Star Wars RPG eras, past and present, contain a great wealth of information, they’re hardly comprehensive. Even entries surrounding the specific novel or novels around which you wish to focus may not strike upon the precise cranny you seek. If that is the case, then, my roleplaying initiate, seasoned adventurer, or towering legend, it is time to visit or revisit the glorious pages of the Expanded Universe stories themselves.
I can’t tell you how many times my Star Wars campaigns have been shaped by the EU content I was reading or rereading, at the time. When this occurs, it’s rarely even a major conflict or meaty nerf steak of lore that sparks my imagination. Rather, my mind starts to wander among the possibilities of an offhand remark and the implications thereof. Or perhaps an obscure character’s experience causes me to wonder how things would have happened under drastically different circumstances. Even a brief flashback or an event related through either character or prose can ignite a veritable Force nexus of possibilities for me.
In the first major campaign that I ran, I had little intention of touching upon any aspects of cloning. It’s one of those literary devices that can be tricky, at the best of times, not to mention the potential chaos and convoluted plot threads that might result when I have players numbering almost in the double digits doing their utmost to derail my every thought train.
Then, among other things, I revisited the Thrawn trilogy. An idea began to niggle under the locked door of the room in my brain marked “clones”. A new player character had a backstory involving shady individuals who sought to use him as a weapon. I’d already struck upon the idea that said character would be a void in the Force, similar but not quite the same as Ysalamiri or Yuuzhan Vong.
I then looked back through EU entries containing the many Dorsks and the ill-fated adventures of Starkiller(‘s clone?). What werethe possible implications of cloning a Jedi?
What if the original template wasn’t even aware that they hadsuch potential?
The full, sordid tale began to emerge. This character’s parents, both living in surroundings that cloaked their potent Force sensitivity, had tried to conceive a child, but one or both (the records were unclear) were infertile. Taking this development for the seemingly inconsequential speedbump it should have been, said couple went about securing a way to clone offspring from samples of both of their DNA. Their efforts were eventually rewarded, and a healthy child was grown for them. No one had sensed the full extent of what had just happened.
Two beings, both strong in the Force, synthetically forming a child. With no one aware of the possible dangers, no precautions were taken. As the child’s cells began to coalesce and divide, the Force itself began to bloom in chaotic mutation within it. This was a sentient life doomed to a future of madness, frenetic outbursts, and, ultimately, violent death or incarceration; a future so unavoidable that the energy that surrounds, penetrates, and binds all life took pity on the child. Whereas the Vong had been banished from the Force and the Rakata had succumbed to a plague that drained it from them, the Force, in an act of mercy, withdrew from this child, leaving him uniquely devoid of it…and uniquely suited to hunt down those who relied on it.
Feel free to hate every bit of what I just said. Your game need not resemble mine. When the full extent of the character’s nature was revealed, however…well, my players seemed equal parts delighted and shocked.
None of this arc would have come about if I hadn’t returned to some of my favorite stories. Yes, leaps in lore and logic were made, but only in where I felt they served the story and didn’t break the world toomuch. This leads me into my final point, though.
If the information isn’t anywhere to be found in official material, be it sourcebook or novel, you haven’t just been given the order to stop. You’ve been provided with the opportunity to create something wholly unique that will surprise and (hopefully) excite even those of your players who believe they know the Star Wars galaxy from Core to Wild Space. You’re not being sacrilegious. Many of the great stories in the EU build upon what’s come before in new and intriguing ways. If you believe your players will enjoy your interpretation of something (and, again, it doesn’t break the world toomuch), give it to them. This is a game. Finding new and interesting ways to havefun is, itself, part of the fun.
And, of course, if you need help tracking down vague references or that one character you need to brush up on, avail yourself of the wonder that is (the “Legends” tab of) Wookieepedia! Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times the good folks over at that blessed site have saved my mastmot bacon. Like now, when I couldn’t remember what a mastmot was.
Ingest (figuratively) any and all sourcebooks, glean inspiration from the vast pool of EU stories, and don’t be afraid to build something similar or totally new.
May the Force be with you!