Archive for Six on the Wild Die

Continuity with a Smile: The Lessons of HoloNet News

Hey, it's the two-headed Benedict Cumberbatch alien.

Hey, it’s the two-headed Benedict Cumberbatch alien.

Canon and continuity seem to be an excessively important issue for a big chunk of the hardcore Star Wars fandom. It’s been almost two years since the Star Wars continuity was rebooted and trimmed down, and the continuity wars (well, to be honest, the continuity playground arguments) don’t seem to be going to die anytime soon. The current official position appears to be a more informal approach to continuity, one less bogged in minutiae and more interested in storytelling opportunities, something that we have argued for from this website. And still, for all the disturbing behavior of a very vocal sector of the Bring Back Legends crew and for how tempting it is to point and laugh at them, we can’t ignore that that anal, exhaustive, all-encompassing approach to continuity that they seem to prefer was for a long time the official stance.

Yes, the sweet lie of a water-tight Star Wars continuity was a lie fed by Lucasfilm and its affiliates, sometimes quite aggressively. This tedious, mind-numbing, encyclopedic approach to what should be a fantastic universe full of magic and mystery was fed by hundreds of guides and technical specifications and was sponsored by just as many novels and comics, whose only purpose was to patch a completely unwieldy continuity that had grown without control or direction. Let’s not forget that all these works were official ones, that the G-canon, C-canon, WTF-canon nonsense came from Lucasfilm employees. That’s why it’s necessary to look at the times the old EU seemed to shun that approach, as a way to perhaps learn how to avoid these pitfalls in the futures. And one of the best examples of this is, without any doubt, the defunct HoloNet News, the website Lucasfilm released to promote Attack of the Clones. The website decided to smooth over continuity using two weapons: humor and a knowing wink.

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Looking to the Past: Star Wars Rebels and West End Games

Yes, I first owned the sometimes hilarious Spanish translation. Leave me alone.

Yes, I first owned the sometimes hilarious Spanish translation. Leave me alone.

Since the first announcement of the Expanded Universe reboot, it was said that what now is known as Star Wars Legends was still going to be used, not as gospel but as an inspiration and source for the new canon. And there’s perhaps no better place to see that The Powers That Be were not kidding than in the romance that the Star Wars Rebels cartoon has with the old roleplaying game published by West End Games, a game that introduced such classic concepts as Imperial Inquisitors, the Imperial Security Bureau or Interdictor cruisers, concepts that have lately graced our TVs. But why the WEG game? What makes such a venerable source so suitable to become part of the backbone of the new continuity?

West End Games published the very first Star Wars roleplaying game. The first edition of their game was released in 1987, and soon became the most authoritative source of reference material on anything related to the Galaxy Far Far Away. Initially having nothing to base their sourcebooks on but the original trilogy, the novelizations and radio dramas, and Brian Daley’s Han Solo novels, the developers of the roleplaying game took on the task of expanding this universe and not only dissected and classified the existing sources, but also put together a pretty thorough description of almost every corner of the Star Wars universe. In the times before Essential Guides and Visual Dictionaries, WEG published dozens of roleplaying manuals covering topics as vast as the Galactic Empire itself or as narrow as the legal situation of scouts in the New Republic era, describing almost every single nook and cranny of the galaxy with a level of detail that probably has never been reached again. » Read more..

Twilight Company: The Return of the Rebel Alliance

THIS REVIEW WILL HAVE SOME MINOR SPOILERS. ABANDON YE WHO ENTER HERE ALL HOPE.

twilightpatchStar Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company is not your typical videogame tie-in. Even though it borrows part of its title from a soon to be released FPS game (that promises to be quite spectacular), Twilight Company works on its own without the need of the Battlefront crutch. The novel is pure military sci-fi. It’s less glamorous than the Rogue Squadron novels and more gritty than the Republic Commando series. Our main characters are not starfighter pilots or special forces commandos: they are the infantry, the people fighting the Galactic Civil War in the frontlines. Most importantly, Twilight Company gives us a hard look at what being a soldier in the Rebel Alliance during a period of open conflict is like and boy, is it engaging.

Let me preface this column by saying that I still find hard to believe that Twilight Company is Alexander Freed’s first novel. Freeds displays a firm grasp of what makes Star Wars loved by millions around the world and introduces us to a new cast of multi-layered characters in a gritty-yet-epic story about war, choices, and why it´s important to fight for a cause. Twilight Company is military sci-fi at its best, so good that even those that usually don’t enjoy the “military” part of it (like this author) will enjoy it. This column is going to focus on something particular: on how this book managed to give us an unprecedented look at how the Rebel Alliance works through the eyes of its foot soldiers, those who might not be galactic heroes but still fight and die for freedom. » Read more..

The Force Does Not Throw Dice: The Five Room Dungeon

Han rolled first

Han rolled the highest initiative
and thus shot fi– aw forget it

Welcome to another installment of The Force Does Not Throw Dice. This time, we are here with some advice for novice and veteran Game Masters alike. Because let’s be honest, sometimes you just have to run an adventure and just have no time to write any adventures. Thankfully, there’s a true and tried method called “The Five Room Dungeon” that can get you out of these sticky situations.

Ah, the job of a Game Master: never an easy task and most of the time a thankless one, and that’s without accounting for the hours spent writing and getting everything ready for the game. Back when we were college kids, we had all the time in the world to create our worlds, our characters, and our adventures. Things, alas, change. Being a GM and a responsible adult at the same time is not an easy task. Your friends are coming over this weekend with some pretty awesome BBQ pizza and they are going to be expecting you to be ready to guide them through several hours of fun, excitement and laughter, but you just had the worst week ever at work, plus your newborn has been crying, and you’re doing your taxes and just came back from driving your oldest to band practice… Your friends are three hours away and you are looking at an empty page. You have run out of published adventures to run. Who’s going to help the GM in desperate need for some adventure?

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Aftermath and the Present Tense of Doom

aftermathcvrWhen I first pitched this article I was just one-third through Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath, the first book in a trilogy that’s supposed to show us what happened to the Star Wars galaxy right after Return of the Jedi (and that apparently doesn’t involve soul-stealing velociraptors, for some strange reason). At that point I wasn’t enjoying what I was reading; it’s not that I was offended or that I thought I was reading a baby-cooking recipe book written on Satan’s scrotum with Gandhi’s blood, but I was wondering exactly where we were going. The terrible editing had started annoying me (you simply can’t have a character change races, from Rodian to Abednedo and back, and expect no one to call you on it). I wasn’t feeling the main characters, either, and I was starting to suspect the story was going to go nowhere and that the whole thing was going to end up being just another inconsequential side trip.

When I first pitched this article it had a very different tone, believe me. I was annoyed with most of Del Rey’s last offerings, from the weak Heir to the Jedi to mediocre offerings like Tarkin or Dark Disciple, and I was starting to wonder if the reboot was going to end up being a lost opportunity to improve the overall quality of Star Wars media tie-ins. But then I started to read and hear people complaining about the prose used in the book, using terms like “LiveJournal-like crap” or “hipster jive speak” (really). I had to stop reading and wonder for one second: if Wendig’s style choices alienated what seemed to be such a big part of the readership, just how much does the Star Wars readership actually read beyond Expanded Universe novels? Because no one beyond eighth grade should feel uncomfortable just because a novel doesn’t use a third person omniscient point of view, or because it doesn’t use past tense; don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to dislike it or to be annoyed by Wendig’s prose, especially if we are sick of seeing present tense used in an effort to sound contemporary and relevant, but the horror and hair-pulling that seemed ubiquitous in the fan reaction seemed to be completely out of place.

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