On Star Wars: stories and games

On the very last day of 2015, I managed to watch The Force Awakens. Yes, one of the few advantages of a  super mega global franchise is that you get to watch it round the corner…no matter where you live. What can i say? I definitely liked it, and yet, I liked it because my expectations were so low. I mean, my last experience of a Star Wars movie (in the far 2005) was, well, horrendous.  TFA is better than the prequels for the very simple reason that it is a homage to A New Hope, and it is a less than satisfactory film for the very same reason.

Unexpectedly, after watching it I happened to think a lot about RPGs, especially RPG adventures vs. storytelling.

I thought: look at how the authors exploited all sorts of silly coincidences in order to cram as many references to the original trilogy as you could hope for. On film, it looked somewhat gratuitous, but I guess that if I ever had to GM a campaign set after the original trilogy, I probably would have done the same, in order to keep my players entertained. In fact, I guess that whenever you play in a setting borrowed from books or movies, you are to some extent tempted to do the same.

On a different level, I also reflected on the bit of insight that originated the webcomic Darths & Droids. The idea was that, storywise,  the prequels were so bad, that one could not make sense of the fact that somebody had written them that way. What if, in fact, they were nothing but the write-up of an RPG campaign? They suddenly made a lot more sense. Again, I came to think that TFA was in fact a very clever beginning for an RPG campaign. The references to the original trilogy were there (see above). The PCs had obviously been created and played by very different players. Rei is such a Mary Sue because her player is a min-maxer, who managed to get superior fighting and piloting skills while also being strong in the Force. Poe’s player is obviously somebody who is very busy and just cannot manage to be there every week: s/he was content to create a PC with one single, super high skill (starfighter piloting), and not much else to speak of. Finn’s player is obviously the least experienced one: he comes out as a character who is not especially good at anything, except perhaps putting himself in danger. His player, if anything, must have had a good time. BB-8 is obviously the GM’s favourite friendly NPC, or perhaps a character played by one of those friends of the GM who is often dropping by and must be kept entertained: this would explain why so many scenes revolve around that damned little thing…

[More seriously, I was also drawn in the unhealthy trip to revisit the now defunct Expanded Universe, which I knew little about. For the first time, I have “properly” read the five Thrawn novels by Timothy Zahn. Hopefully, I will share some thoughts about them on this blog very soon.]

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After the End (of the blog?!)

Ok, I know I have screwed up pretty badly with my blog updates. I hope to do better in the next fw months. In the meanwhile, I drop by to express my satisfaction at the launch of a new GURPS series:

http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=141985&highlight=wastelanders

Post-Apocalypse has never been my favourite genre, but as somebody who “sort of” authored a Hokuto no Ken RPG, I thought it was only right for me to bow to my betters! Really: these are great news for GURPS, which is and has always been my favourite system. After its shift to a PDF-only model, GURPS has focused pretty heavily on the Dungeon Fantasy series: an understandable choice, given the Old School Renaissance, and one that apparently sold well. But a generic system truly shines when it tackles on a wide range of genres, and I am sure this series will highlight the many strengths of the system. In particular, with the usual dials and switches, one can easily go from a very cinematic, anime-style, “gonzo apocalypse” game to a ultra-gritty, tactical guerrilla war in the wasteland. Since we have not seen official Vehicle Design rules yet, perhaps a simplified system might be included in the series for all those P-A settings that make great use of motorized vehicles on wheels. Otherwise, though, GURPS already has what we need and more, and the new series will surely make the most of it. So, those who loved the new Mad Max last year should definitely give GURPS AtE a try!