Star Wars Rebels has been consistently good (bearing in mind that there have been three episodes at time of writing) but the revelation hit me whilst watching the third episode last weekend – this looks and feels like a game of D6 Star Wars. I can put player names against most of the characters (I can put player names next to almost all of the actions and responses too) and the general mood of adventure and exploration strikes a chord with my experiences of WEG Star Wars.
What will follow over the coming weeks is my story of how this is actually someone’s (maybe Dave Filoni’s) D6 gaming group, and there will be discussions on character development and advancement, plot hooks, story decisions, and ideas that you might include in your own game. I’ll try and catch up on the last three episodes and then attempt to write one per week. You can filter these out by using the ‘D6 Star Wars Rebels’ tab on the right. Every instalment will finish with ‘What did they learn?‘ to summarise some salient points for your homw game.
Episode 1: Spark of Rebellion (set up)
This gaming group has been together for a while. Right now they are ‘between campaigns’ but in the past have played lots of AD&D, Star Wars, Shadowrun and some Werewolf: the Apocalypse (they like team games). Every now and again they get together for a movie night and tonight they are braving Episode III with a potential new player.
As Revenge of the Sith plays out, there is the usual ‘my character would have done that differently’, especially as the group finished a Clone Wars campaign a few years ago. The ‘new guy’ – intrigued – asks a few questions about the game and eventually the movie is turned off and game-speak takes centre-stage.
What follows is a group decision to run a game set at least a decade after Episode III. Given the rough timelines and possibility to play in the classic era, the GM determines that five years before Episode IV would be fine, which makes the setting fourteen years after Order 66.
They also decide that co-operative play is essential and kick around a few ideas, eventually settling on something that looks like Firefly. The ship will give them mobility (and the GM gets some flexibility for plot locations) and everyone has to create a character with a reason to live on the fringe. They also decide that a mission-based game like Shadowrun suits their style, so a clear mood is established early on.
Caught up in the moment, the ‘new guy’ makes the decision to start role-playing (his life will never be the same again) and the group makes lots of jokes about ‘fresh blood’.
As a general rule, the GM has always been reticent to include lots of Jedi PCs (even in the Clone Wars game) and sets this rule very early on. The new guy is a little disappointed, and asks if he might play a Luke Skywalker-like character who could learn ‘the ways of the Force’ but doesn’t have any powers right now. The GM sees potential and agrees, and the two also agree that the character could also be the same age as Luke (fourteen at the commencement of the campaign). Like Luke, this character will be an orphan, and they decide that he’s needed to live alone for a while. The status of his parents will remain an unformed plot device for later. The new character is called Ezra (four letters, like Luke) and he adopts the ‘Kid’ template.
At this point, one of the veteran players calls the GM out of the room. He’s brought the new player into the fold and wants to ensure that a good time is had by all. New players are hard to find in their town and the group has a vested interest. In the last Star Wars game, this player was the Jedi and when Order 66 was called at the end of the game, his fate was undetermined. He’s pestered the GM for a follow-up game and spots his chance. The pitch is easy – ‘let me play my character from the old campaign. He can be in hiding, and maybe provide some secretive advice to the Ezra character as a mentor figure. In the intervening fourteen years, my character has changed his name and his appearance, and I promise not to let the others on to the fact that I’m playing my old character.’
For better or worse, the GM thinks this is actually a good idea (what could go wrong?) and points out that the balancing factor for the decision is that if the character steps out of line, an Inquisitor will show up. They agree and head back to the rest of the group. Kanan is the second character.
Whilst they were out of the room, one of the characters has stepped in as the ships’ captain. She has decided to play a Twi’lek and when the jokes start points out that she’s a mechanic turned captain and dresses in overalls thank you. [As an aside, I have to give credit to the designers for this character. In almost every context, Twi’lek women are objectified in Star Wars media. Even Aayla Secura was designed with skin-tight clothes and a bare midriff. Hera Syndulla is a pleasant change and very believably attired]. This player has fallen into the ‘leader’ role in a few campaigns so no one questions her right now. She has usually been the planner in the group (and once won ‘Most Devious Player’ at a local convention during a game of AD&D) so this role is not only needed, but has gone to the right person. She names the character Hera, smiles, and promises the guy who usually plays ‘the brute’ that she’ll keep him in line.
‘The Brute’ laughs it off, because the group knows he’s more than that. He’s often stated that his love of D6 Star Wars (and Warhammer 40K) stems from his need to roll ‘big handfuls of dice’, but all his previous characters had a depth of personality and a code of honour. The code of honour is something that he wants to incorporate into this character (he looks at the player of Kanan and tells him ‘not only Jedi can be honourable – I’ll show you how it’s done‘). Deciding the aliens need to even out the humans, he picks a Lasat. His discussion with the GM runs that he wants his backstory with the Empire to slowly evolve and be used as both a story and character lever and they’ll work together to flesh it out. He also points to the paused Episode III on the television and asks if he can have one of the Magna Guard shock staffs as a signature weapon. Sure, it makes him recognisable, but they look cool. The GM agrees and Zeb (who the player decides will speak like Badger from Firefly) is born.
Whilst all this has been going on, the last player assesses the field of characters and realises that they don’t really have a ranged combat and demolitions expert. In the Shadowrun game she played a Gun Mage Adept and wouldn’t mind continuing that in Star Wars. Thinking back over the Clone Wars series, she thinks that playing someone with a connection to the Death Watch would be good. Again, her backstory is going to evolve with time during the campaign. After someone makes a joke about Boba Fett, she points out that her character already has a few hobbies not related to guns – like tagging Imperial property. Hera’s player files this away for later. Trying to think of a name, she remembers Duchess Satine, so she alters the name slightly and gets ‘Sabine’ – and adopts it immediately. The name also fits when she recalls the Lady D’Winter from Musketteers – a strong and capable woman, but one who has a lot of secrets.
The party decides that they’ll need a droid, and the GM agrees to run it as an NPC (he has to have some fun too) and promises that it will have attitude.
So, the GM now has a crew, a story direction, and time to think until next week when the first game will run. He flicks through the pages of ‘The Imperial Sourcebook’ whilst the rest of the group finishes Episode III (and the last of his coffee in the pantry).
What did they learn?
– Character creation should be a collaborative process. Use the group to decide what type of game and try to create a unifying goal which gives everyone a reason to be together. Everyone looked for a niche (whether mechanic, mentor, weapons expert) and filled it.
– Backgrounds can be something that evolve. Most of the characters in this group have a strong concept but want to explore the universe and decide how they fit in. An invested group will decide what plot elements are important and how they affect (and relate to) their characters.
– Knowing what type of games a group has played before (and enjoyed) can be really powerful information. In this case, the GM had run a lot of the previous games, so it was easy to pitch a game that appealed. In the absence of that type of relationship, it’s worth asking.
– Lastly, if you finish off the coffee in the GM’s pantry it’s a good idea to restock. Caffeine-deprived GMs are not responsible for in-game consequences.
Next time – ‘Spark of Rebellion’ – the first session!
Image Credits: All images have been sourced from Wookiepedia and remain the exclusive intellectual property of Disney. Their use as part of this series should not be construed as endorsement of this blog, or a challenge to their ownership of copyright for Star Wars Rebels.