For a while, I have felt that none of the Star Wars RPG systems that exist really capture the essence of Star Wars. Despite being branded Star Wars, I felt like they weren’t any more applicable to Star Wars than GURPs was. No element of the design really spoke to what I feel is the Star War experience.
I should clarify here that what I feel is the Star Wars experience is the original Star Wars trilogy.
I know that it is a source of contention and I don’t want to get into a Originals vs Prequels debate in the comments. But I have my reasons and I want to lay them out. I feel that the Prequels are so overloaded with material, light, sound, stuff, etc. that they lack the dramatic tension of the originals. And as I describe what elements of that drama I am trying to capture with this method, it is going to become pretty clear what exactly I am talking about here.
The aspects of Star Wars that I want to capture:
1. Dramatic Tension: There are many times in the original films where the audience is placed into a kind of extreme anticipatory mode. Something big is going to happen. When combat occurs, someone is in serious danger. In order to care about those characters, there needs to be few of them. When 50 Jedi fight 2000 battle droids, there is no tension. Just a visual extravaganza. You can’t care about an individual in that kind of mass melee. But when Darth Vader turns on his lightsaber and steps out of the shadows to face Luke, there is tension. Normal round-by-round combat does not encapsulate this. It transforms combat into a sideshow game. A tactical experience. I don’t want to do that and I will be abandoning that.
2. Active inner conflict: The characters need to struggle with their own desires in a serious way. They need to be tempted to cast their ideals aside and take the “quick and easy path”. Choices are hard. Do I stay on Dagobah and become a better Jedi or go to face Vader and potentially get killed, but save my friends? What the character WANTS to do should be in conflict with what they SHOULD be doing. They should be staying on the moisture farm, they should be getting a better deal on travel but they need a smuggler, they should be trying to get off the Death Star instead of rescuing the princess, they should be trying to live instead of letting Darth Vader kill them, they should be running away to survive instead of flying towards a giant space station of doom, etc. But they don’t. In the prequels, despite having this conflict, Anakin and ObiWan continually give in to the bad behavior. They let things slide, they fuck up, they do it wrong. Now I know the stories are about a series of mistakes, but maybe stories about mistakes… kinda suck? Someone who continually fails to live up to their own morality isn’t a hero. They are an enabler of evil. And stories about how people just kinda let evil happen are not fun. In my opinion.
3. Mobile action-oriented characters: The characters are central actors, not sitting around waiting for something else to happen, they take action because they are propelled forward. Defend the princess from random assassins that could strike at any time is not a heroic mission, it is guard duty and doesn’t seriously challenge the characters. Aside from the beginning of ROTJ, characters in the original trilogy are mostly on the move. In the prequels they are constantly hiding and avoiding things. Very different dynamic. Active characters are forced to make choices to accomplish their goals. Choices are made FOR passive characters as the action is brought to them.
So how to do this?
I have developed a cluster of RPG mechanics that work together to create the above effects. I think.
But that is the subject of tomorrow night’s post. I am tired. But I have my notes here and I will deliver my answer tomorrow.