Archive for Six on the Wild Die

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!

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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..

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!

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The Downtrodden and The Oppressed: Social Class and Canto Bight

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi

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Deep in the Corporate Sector lies the world of Cantonica. A desert wasteland of a planet where the rich and the powerful have managed to create a paradise for those able to afford it, a city called Canto Bight. A cocktail that’s equal parts Monte Carlo, Casablanca, and Dubai. A place where the bright lights hide a layer of pain and sorrow, a pit from where the new hope for the galaxy might end up emerging.

Class struggle is a concept that’s always been pretty much foreign to Star Wars. We’ve seen it used as flavor in a few galactic settings, like Anakin’s (pretty comfortable) slavery at the hands of Watto or the Naboo’s elitist disdain for the Gungan ethnic minority, equals part speciesism and classism. The supplementary material, both in Legends and in canon, has taken a closer look and how the rich and poor live in the galaxy and how they interact with each other, but it’s never been something to take much prominence. The conflict between the Republic and the Trade Federation, although later on explored as having its roots on a long conflict between a rich Core and a poor Rim, is never portrayed in the movie as anything other than a clash between two monolithic powers, a corporation and the government, over taxation.

But we’ve rarely seen the oppressed of the galaxy.

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Burden of Empire: The Complex Relationship Between Star Wars and Fascism

hux-blackseriesOur fandom is rarely without some kind of controversy. It’s been like this since the times of message board wars and it feels like social media has only exacerbated this tendency towards grabbing pitchforks and torches that we often show. Sometimes these controversies become full-blown online wars (just look “Reylo” up on Google), sometimes they just fizzle down after a couple of annoyed grunts, and sometimes they actually become polite discussions. A couple of weeks ago one of the latter happened when Florian from Jedi-Bibliothek revealed that then-upcoming book Leia: Princess of Alderaan (since then positively reviewed by Jay and Sarah in this website) had a very disconcerting scene: at one point, Leia happily speaks of an old Alderaanian proverb, strength through joy. For those not in the know, Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude) was the name of a Nazi leisure organization; our friends at Jedi-Bib, a German fan site, were understandably puzzled, so were I and many others, especially European fans (I wonder why!). The fan reactions were multiple if muted, from the fans that suspected that it was intended to be a sarcastic commentary on the reach of the Empire to the fans that thought that it was not that big of a deal because to American readers it was an obscure reference, to even a few that said “STJ was just a tour operator, not a big deal, get over it.” I personally thought that the obscurity of the reference was what made the reference complicated, as it meant that in practice it worked like a dog whistle. Anyway, the strife lasted just one day: author Claudia Gray was horrified when she found out about the phrase’s origins, explaining it was just a coincidence, and everyone seemed to accept it and move on (although word is still out on what’s going to happen with future reprints and especially with the upcoming German translation). It was obvious from the start that it was most likely just an unintended reference: if George Harrison can accidentally copy one full song, the chances that Claudia Gray had referenced Strength Through Joy without knowing of its very dark origins were not small.

Yet the reaction of some fans who were just unwilling to contemplate the possibility that a Star Wars book could somehow have an intentional Nazi reference—while understandable because the author is well-liked and the book is really good—highlighted the sometimes complicated relationship that fandom has with both the representation of fascism in the Star Wars saga and the influence that fascism itself has had on it. I’ve mentioned before that I personally find the commodification of Imperial chic to be slightly disturbing, but this time I’d like to dig a bit deeper and to talk about the very tortuous relationship that Star Wars has always had with the concept of fascism itself. Is Star Wars a fascist dream? Is Star Wars actually anti-fascist? » Read more..

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