BoL-ish Star Wars?
My 3.5-year-old son has discovered the joy of Star Wars. He isn’t particularly interested in the films or cartoons yet. He’s sat through the original 1977 film and a few episodes of Clone Wars, Rebels, and the LEGO Freemaker Adventures, but each time he’s told me after a while that “these are big kid shows” and asked for something else like Little Einsteins or PJ Masks. However, he recognizes many of the Original Trilogy characters, has some t-shirts, plays with my old action figures, and thoroughly enjoys stories and books such as Where’s the Wookiee? His enthusiasm has prodded my gaming brain in that direction and prompted my own selective re-exploration of the setting, with an eye towards running a Star Wars RPG sometime soon (hopefully this summer.)
As a RPG setting, Star Wars has always been one I’ve enjoyed as a player (particularly in Barrataria’s games) but for many years avoided as a GM. I never kept up with Canon as it developed across dozens of novels, video games, comic books, and other tie-ins, and the last thing I wanted was to have some over-serious SW geek go all canon-police on me. (Disney has done me a favor by jettisoning all that like so much garbage from the Imperial Fleet, but that doesn’t mean I want the new canon either… ) The Star Wars Universe is familiar to many people, but for most of us, our knowledge of the setting is is limited to eras/events (Clone Wars, Rebellion, etc.), characters, and worlds, and so that’s all Star Wars can be. This fantastic opinion piece by Witney Seibold sums up so perfectly my disillusionment with Star Wars:
We all must begrudgingly admit that Star Wars, for however popular and acclaimed the films may be, has long ago reached a point of story stagnation. Ever since, gosh, Return of the Jedi, the Star Wars series has slipped into a comfortable circular track where it can only surround the same story points and characters time and time again, looking ever inward. The Star Wars universe has always tantalized audiences with weird aliens, vast, distant planets, mythic realms, magical powers, and endless, endless potential. But for years, it’s only been exploring the smaller and smaller details of a well-known set of established scenarios that are becoming far too familiar.
YES. YES. YES. The conclusion:
There is so much in Star Wars that can be explored, so many creative stories that can be told, so many weird critters to live with. We’ve been too focused on a small series of events to look outward at how big that universe truly might be.
YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!!
What I really want is to channel the wide-open feel of the SWU as it was shown in the late 70s-early 80s SW novels and comics (Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Daley’s Han Solo trilogy, etc.): pulpy, exotic locations, swashbuckling scoundrels, weird Force mysticism (and artifacts!), and plenty of strange aliens and monsters. Less “saving the galaxy” and more (dare I say it) Traveller-style adventures, where the players “must boldly plan and execute daring schemes for the acquisition of wealth and power.”* Or, as stated in the crawl text for Doctor Aphra Book I, Part I: “In a galaxy oppressed by the cruelty of Imperial forces, there is little hope for the future. But for those used to operating on the fringes, there is much potential for profit.”
I’d be glad to set it in the familiar-to-fans early Rebellion era (albeit with no Jedi PCs), but completely disconnected from the Skywalker family melodrama, but I wonder… How far can one push Star Wars before it doesn’t feel like Star Wars anymore? Are Jedi essential to the setting? (I’d argue they aren’t, but others would vehemently disagree.) Does John Williams’ music have to be the soundtrack?
There are a few official Star Wars RPGs to choose from, but none of them really interest me. I enjoy the classic WEG D6 game, but don’t own any of the books in print. The new Fantasy Flight Games version, spread out as it is over 3 giant rulebooks, is both prohibitively expensive and mind-numbing to contemplate. The D20 versions, well…’nuff said. The Mongoose Traveller Star Wars hack is beautiful and tempting, but no — there was never any doubt in my mind that I would do this with my trusty BoL-ish rules, which have already served me so well in Fading Suns and Carpathia. With additional elements cribbed from Everywhen, the phenomenal Barbarians of the Void, and the anonymously-penned Star Wars: Lemuria Edition, we should be in good shape. Onward to adventure plotting!
*Marc Miller, et al. Traveller Book 3: Worlds and Adventures, p.48