Star Wars Crawl
Prep Thoughts

There’s a completely ignorable paragraph in FFG’s Star Wars RPG core books’ “GM tips” chapter that suggests you write up an opening crawl for your game. You know, the thing when a Star Wars movie starts with the episode number and title and some portentious text.

Ignorable but it’s a really interesting exercise. I did it for my game (the actual crawl is here: http://www.starwars.com/games-apps/star-wars-crawl-creator?cid=56959150e4b0d92c9d72ef63 ), and doing it well is a) not easy and b) a terrific focus exercise.

First you’ve got the episode line. I kind of punted on this, came back around after I was done with the rest, and just went with “Session 1.” Easy. But it did get me thinking Lucas-y thoughts about his decision to go with “Episode IV” the first time around. Powerful story-making decision there.

Then you’ve got the title line. Hard, very hard. It was the last thing I did. Needs to be short. I don’t love mine.

Finally you’ve got the meat of the crawl itself. These things don’t write themselves! In fact I was having a hard time remembering how they all read, so I found them in one place:

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Opening_crawl#Star_Wars_crawls

First off, reviewing them really makes the tones of the prequel trilogy, original trilogy, and TFA stand apart from each other. For me, the structure jumps out strongest in III and IV: it’s downright old-timey. 

The first graf of the crawl is the big picture, as if it were introducing a news reel from WWII or something. This is where the first couple episodes’ crawls fail for me. That first sentence, too. Damn. You get just a few words to nail down the Big Picture. Episode III: “War!” Perfect. Episode V: “It is a dark time for the Rebellion.” Perfect. The first sentence of I, II, and VI stand out as exceptionally weak, a bad break in tone. Second sentence of the graf is a little more context, mostly color. Feel sympathy for the heroes because they’re going through some tough stuff.

That second graf is where the movie’s specific setup shapes up. It explains what has happened that has set the story you’re about to see in motion. This is huge! Deceptively difficult to do, too. What just happened that explains what you’re about to see?

That third graf throws you straight into the action. If your first scene doesn’t directly follow on from what that third graf just said, you’re doing it wrong. It even ends in an ellipsis! Always with the ellipsis. It’s not decorative.

I poked at a lot of folks’ efforts to do opening crawls for their Edge of the Empire games and, not surprisingly, they’re uniformly weak. Sometimes they didn’t even notice that it’s always 3 grafs. Or that each graf is, at most, 2 sentences. In fact they’re almost always one sentence. 

Setting up a scenario in three (very specifically paced) sentences is way harder than it looks. Give it a try.

Other thoughts:

* Love the ALL CAPS thing explaining the one important bit of woo-woo in each episode. DEATH STAR. ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC. Abrams hammers at it with three all-cap woo-woos. I think it works both visually and structurally. I definitely prefer the crawls that tell you you’re gonna want to pay attention to this bit.

* Going through the process put me right into a Flash Gordon head space (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flash_Gordon_(1940)_-_Opening_Crawl.jpg), and that pulpy urgency is just about the starwarziest thing I can think of. Hence the turgid, leaden tone of lines like “The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute” falling so very flat.

Anyway, it was a neat exercise and very specific to setting up a pulpy space adventure. Cut through the setup, give the players the bare minimum to understand why they’re in the middle of the action, then start shooting at them.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Prep and Lonely Fun
Burning Wheel/Dreamation

I kind of anticipated that I’d need/want to do a little research to prep for my Burning Wheel scenario at Dreamation next month. But holy shit have I fallen down the research rabbit hole.

I feel like I’m in 6th grade again, when I pored over detailed village maps and exploded views of castles while I learn how to D&D. Kind of wish I knew how to leverage that excitement for learning in a more focused way. Like…okay, 750AD in the northern foothills of the Pyrenees, absolutely fascinating place. Total cultural and military clusterfuck, lots of unrevealed history, nothing specific and major happens that year but lots of specific and major things happen leading up to 750AD, very flexible setting. I don’t think I’ll never need to know anything about the year 750AD again after this scenario.

So now I’ve got this early medieval region with lots of neat geography, an apocalyptic series of clashes that have left the place depopulated and crawling with refugees, a trade and cultural crossroad, a frontier really, and it’s so long ago that there are huge swaths of history nobody knows shit about. It feels extravagant and wasteful, too, to have poured so much time into what will be a one-shot. Then again, I don’t know that it’s really a healthy impulse to want to try and turn that research into anything more than fun for friends. Not every brain cycle needs to be rationalized and monetized and justified.

Also: werewolves. You didn’t think the Ummayads rolled over that easy for Charles Martel, did you?

Symbaroum

This is badass dark Scandinavian fantasy that Modiphius just released. Turns out if you buy it from their online store, it’s about US$64ish total (includes shipping) and you get the PDF as well. Same deal at DriveThru is $68 before shipping.

Here’s a link that gets you 10% off if’n you’re interested. I get some loyalty points too, but their program kind of sucks. Might get myself a t-shirt or something in a couple years. 

They’re the same folks who do Mutant: Year Zero by the way. No mechanical relationship at all but the MYZ stuff is consistently top notch. 

http://r.sloyalty.com/r/ucczRipjGMba

Dreamation Planning

Okay, I’ve committed to running:

* Mutant: Year Zero — improvised event, ridiculously fun

* Sagas of the Icelanders — improvised event. Intense, fun, depends a lot on the engagement of the players. 

* Burning Wheel — not improvised but I don’t want to run anything I’ve run before. So I’m sure I’m wasting Michael Miller’s time but I asked for a spot anyway. I’ll follow up with details as soon as I get the scenario hammered out.

I’m taking Rachel E.S. Walton’s advice and taking Sunday real easy. I’ll bring stuff to do just in case! Or I can fill tables where needed.

Star Wars Wednesdays

So we set up our kitchen sink FFG Star Wars (FFGSW?) game last night. Three players. I’m stoked!

Everyone was cool with my house rulings: no alien species stats, no computer skill, no fucking slicers. But boy is it interesting, when you really start digging into Teh Roolz, how deeply insinuated all the crypto-cyberpunk shit is in the EU-inspired material. It is harder to de-EU-ize the game than I anticipated. 

We ended up with an assassin, a smuggler pilot (both from Edge of the Empire), and a shadow (from Force & Destiny). I’m glad we have one space wizard (well…space wizard ninja), but I was a little surprised about no interest in those Rebel nerds. Interesting! Actually not that interesting, and it all comes back to those awful Duty rules: since the whole party aggregates their Duty to earn Contributions, either everyone needs to be all-in or not at all. I considered offering the Recruit specialization for free to anyone who wanted to take it, but they started going down this badass operator pathway. Maybe they’ll get recruited later!

Now I’m thinking thoughts about what a badass operator crew looks like in the Star Wars universe, in a way that doesn’t just default to cyberpunk. Kind of unexplored territory! Makes me appreciate how easy it is to fall into comfortable tropes, how hard it is to extrapolate from first principles.

They all work for Black Sun, which is this vague corporate superMafia group I need to read up more on. Everyone has motivations, everyone has Obligations (I let the Shadow take on an Obligation so she could get more XPs) to Black Sun, but for now only the Force user has morality happening. It stood out to me as especially weird that morality only “matters,” insofar as there are mechanisms at all, to the Force sensitive character. I do wish there was a broader application; it would make the Force feel more embedded in the world, rather than just, you know, mana. Special wizard stuff.

The pilot is actually a pro-Empire patriot! My mind is kind of blown at the prospect of someone having genuine sympathy for the Empire, but she’s a rule-of-law gal from a wealthy family that’s doing quite well under the Empire. But those bad apples at Black Sun are threatening the family with blackmail to keep the pilot working. Neat twist, very stressful.

Hmhm. The assassin is a self-made murderer from the streets, in so very deep debt to Black Sun that it’ll be a thousand generations — or a few well-paid scores — before she can buy her way out from under. Pretty straightforward story but I think it’ll be nice. Relucant killer.

The Shadow has been hidden from the Empire’s Force-hunters by Black Sun, so she owes them for that favor by being a Force-using mobster. Also a cool angle. There are other/different background questions for Force users than scoundrels, once again setting them apart from the crowd. 

First session is next week!

Star Wars Alien Drop Table

Kid had me up at 0530 because she hates sleep, so my loss is your gain! Here’s the .pdf of my alien species drop table, tuned for my Star Wars sensibilities. 

This is set up as a 12″ square image. I produced mine by tiling the output across two pieces of legal-sized paper and about 0.5″ worth of overlap. Here’s a photo of my final version: https://plus.google.com/+PaulBeakley/posts/5zWv1nZuVAb

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxZk7ypnJt47YzUtcmFtOHJFR3c/view?usp=sharing

Star Wars Alien Drop Table
Test Deployment

Looks pretty good! Rendered it at 12″ square, printed it tiled on legal sized paper. Then dropped some big ass dice on it because the colors are so easy to interpret: green is helpful, red is a hindrance, yellow is color.

So for Xibix here…Xibix is basically a pile of clothes and a pair of eyes staring out from under the fabric. No two items match. Obviously Xibix has been collecting them. Every once in a while a little cybernetic limb reaches out to manipulate something or grab food or a pile of credits off the table. Interestingly, Xibix’s paranoia is what is most useful to the characters, but it’s also quite foolish and that may pose a problem.

Yeah…that feels adequately weird and starwarsy to me.