Archive for David Schwarz

The Force Does Not Throw Dice: Running Your First Star Wars RPG Campaign

FFG-StarWarsHello and welcome once again to The Force Does Not Throw Dice, our feature devoted to running tabletop roleplaying games in the galaxy far, far away. This time we are going to be talking about that exciting point in the life of a Star Wars RPG Game Master where they decide to bite the bullet and start their own campaign. “What’s a campaign”, neophytes ask? Well, to use a television example, if an episode is an adventure, the campaign is the whole TV series. Unsurprisingly, most GMs would eventually prefer to create a series rather than one individual episode, so we all end up at that point in due time.

Let’s say that’s the point where you are. You’ve read the manuals, you’ve found a gaming group, you’ve played a character in the game, and you’ve probably run your first one-shot adventures. Now your head is exploding with possibilities: you want to make a sequel to your last adventure, you think that this one character could become a recurring antagonist, and you’ve even started thinking on how everything fits within the vast Sith-Ithorian conspiracy. Excellent! You got the itch to create a long-term storyline, and that’s all you need to start playing. But I’m going to be frank: if you thought that writing your first adventure (if you didn’t use a pre-published one!) was a daunting prospect, you will find out that building your campaign can end up being a real odyssey. It’s going to be a lot of work. If this doesn’t scare you, great: let’s take a peek at how we can try to make the process as painless as possible.

Hi, I am your host, David. I’m a Game Master with twenty-five years of experience, and I’ve successfully run more than twelve campaigns in several systems and settings, three of them at least five years in length. Let’s look at one way to do this!

» Read more..

Mind or Matter? Unpacking Droid Sentience in the Films

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Mike: Recently we ran a fascinating guest piece by Eric Farr that unpacked the suggestion in Solo of a sexual relationship between Lando and L3-37—or at the very least, Elthree’s claim that such a thing is possible. The extent to which any given droid in the Galaxy Far, Far Away is truly conscious and self-aware has always been a little muddled, so the notion of droids consenting to sexual activity (as opposed to simply being programmed for it) is pretty complicated ground for Star Wars to be covering, and any conclusions are bound to be highly debatable.

And debate we did: as with many great pieces, a very interesting conversation unfolded in the comments over the following couple weeks between myself, Eric, and two other ETE regulars, Vincent Cagliuso and John Maurer. The discussion backed up a bit from Eric’s original topic and looked more broadly at whether droid rights are something that should be addressed at all, or if to do so would only unravel the basic premise of the universe—many of our heroes own droids, after all.

At one point Vincent posed a simple question that stuck out to me as a perfect encapsulation of the problem—particularly because it wasn’t about Elthree. There’s a lot going on with her that can be debated in and of itself regardless of how one feels about droid rights as a concept, so I thought I’d pose his question to the rest of the staff as a means of getting at the core issue and avoiding the need to rehash our feelings about Solo specifically.

So here’s the question, guys: Padmé Amidala owns a protocol droid. Said droid is absolutely drowning in personality; if any droid is self-aware, it’s this one. Upon Padmé’s death, Bail Organa takes possession of this droid, decides it knows too much, and promptly gives it a mindwipe. Is Bail Organa, hero of the Rebellion and beloved father of Princess Leia, a monster? » Read more..

Down The Rabbit Hole – Who Is Jaxxon, Anyway?

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Don’t mess with the angry rabbit.

There’s a long line outside a grimy cantina on the Outer Rim world Aduba-3, a wasteland of a planet where no one ends by choice. Word has spread around town like wildfire: two strangers, a Corellian and a Wookiee, are hiring spacers for a job. One of the spacers, desperate to get a chance to leave the hellish world, can’t take the long wait anymore.

Outta my way, rodent!“, he growls to the big-toothed alien in front of him, “I just found out that new guy is hirin’ spacers and I want some money so’s I can get off this rock!”

The big-toothed alien turns his head around and spits back with a snarl:

“I ain’t no rodent, cap’n, an’ I’m next in line.”

And that was how the world was first introduced to Jaxxon, the Lepus carnivorous, a tall green alien in a red jumpsuit that seemed to be taking pointers from the books of both Han Solo and Bugs Bunny, and who became one of the first non-movie characters to join Luke, Han and Leia in the Star Wars universe. He would go on to appear in just a handful of comic book issues in 1978, but the mark he left in the galaxy would be indelible.

If you’ve never read these stories and you’ve only heard of Jaxxon through chatter on the internet, it’s very likely that your opinion on the big green rabbit is not very positive. If there is a poster child for those who don’t appreciate the campiest side of Star Wars, it has to be Jaxxon: he’s, after all, a massive green-furred space rabbit with an attitude. You can’t get much more cartoony than that. It’s perhaps not surprising that Jaxxon hasn’t been seen in the current continuity aside from a couple of humorous non-canonical appearances. He’s the kind of character that seems destined to be a footnote in comic book history, little more than an inside joke that can only be enjoyed ironically.

But that changed all of a sudden when IDW’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall tweeted the following:

Without any special fanfare, Jaxxon’s canonization was announced in a simple quote-tweet. The tweet didn’t go unnoticed, with sites like Nerdist running to report of Jaxxon’s triumphant return. We still don’t know if his appearance in IDW’s anthology title is going to be little more than a cameo or if he’s going to be getting his own tale, but there’s one thing we know for sure: Jaxxon is back.

So how did a character that appeared in a total of four comic issues back in 1978 get such an infamous reputation? How did he become the original Jar Jar Binks, loved by children and hated by apparently everyone else? And what does his return mean to the Star Wars universe? Is there still space for a green rabbit in the galaxy far, far away?

And who is that green rabbit anyway? » Read more..

It’s Time For the Year of Sabine Wren

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Mike: This week saw the beginning of the second half of the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels—and in less than three weeks the series will have come to its conclusion. While the final fate of Ezra remains a gigantic, some would say overwhelming, question mark, we’ve known since Rogue One came out a year ago that Hera and Chopper survive, at least into the original trilogy era. And how could they not? Hera is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars canon, and the small pile of random appearances she’s accumulated since then demonstrates that creators are clamoring to use her in stories of their own—and once Rebels has finished telling its story they’ll be freer than ever (barring an immediate follow-up series) to really dive into her role in the formal Rebel Alliance and beyond.

But there’s another character every bit as deserving of that increased spotlight, whose fate is also in question. Sorry, Zeb—I’m talking about Sabine Goddamn Wren. While it appears that Sabine’s major character arc as far as Rebels is concerned concluded with her reunification with her family earlier this season, it remains possible, however unlikely, that she won’t make it out of this show alive. And even if she does, will she return to Mandalore and stick to being a local player? Or become an Alliance leader in her own right?

As long as those questions remain open, I get why Lucasfilm would be reluctant to use Sabine elsewhere, whatever the time period—it stinks, like it stinks that we probably won’t get any post-The Last Jedi content for a while yet, but I get it. Dave Filoni is Sabine’s creator, and to the extent that Rebels is telling one complete story it’s fair to let him have the “last word” on who Sabine is, where she’s from, what she wants. » Read more..

The Force Does Not Throw Dice: Emotional Roleplaying

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Hello and welcome again to The Force Does Not Throw Dice, the ETE feature devoted to tabletop roleplaying games in the galaxy far, far away. This time we are going to be tackling the topic that won a poll I conducted on Twitter months ago: emotions in roleplaying games. We are going to be chatting about how to go beyond the usual hack-n-slashing fare and construct an emotionally satisfying experience.

So first I’m going to define what I mean with emotional roleplaying. I’m not just talking about good roleplaying, about the ability that good GMs and players have to have their character fake emotions (although this is a prerequisite, as we’ll see below) but about the ability to evoke an emotional reaction from the players themselves, just like a novelist tries to evoke emotions from their readers. Emotion is very important to storytelling and RPGs are, after all, shared storytelling.

This is honestly not an easy topic to tackle and I’ve been reluctant to write a piece about it, because in my opinion there are few things as personal as emotion. For all the speeches that exalt emotion as a universal experience—that can even be a bit ableist, to be honest—the truth is that whatever my personal definition of “love” or “sadness” is, it probably has little to do with yours. We are getting into the realm of the abstract so we gotta tread very carefully: the best we can do is try to make our games more evocative, more resonant, more emotionally rich, but we have to remember that a game table is not a novel: trying to force the players’ emotional response is either going to make us fall into the insidious trap of railroading or create the most melodramatic, clichéd grub. And we are better than that! Hopefully!

» Read more..

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