All Good Things Must End: Finishing Your Star Wars RPG Campaign

Some dorks playing SWRPG
It’s been so long that this game has been discontinued!

Hey, space adventurers!

Hm, no, that doesn’t sound right. Let’s try this again.

Hello and welcome to the last entry in The Force Does Not Throw Dice, my extremely inconsistent ETE series about roleplaying in the Galaxy Far, Far Away! We’ve had a long run, and even if that run was primarily nothing but empty space, I hope this little corner gave you some food for thought. I hope it helped you decide to jump into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying or, if you were already part of it, that it gave you a few useful ideas.

So what’s this final entry going to be about? Something very appropriate as this website approaches the end of its life. Today, we will discuss how to gracefully end the campaign you’ve been running for the last months or years. Fasten your seatbelts, my dears. We are going in.

Actually getting to that grand finale

As it’s tradition, here’s a confession: I’ve had really, really bad experiences finishing campaigns. I’ve run long games that have fizzled out in the last two or three adventures and never reached the final one. It’s very frustrating, and you don’t want that to happen to you. Why did it happen to me? Well, I’ve done a lot of thinking on this and realized that I took for granted that my players were looking forward to the excitement of the grand finale, to the point that I assumed they were in for the whole ride and forgot to maintain the momentum.

So you should make sure you keep your people invested in the campaign as you start wrapping things up. Remember that they can’t see behind the screen, and even if you know the finale is close, they don’t necessarily feel it. So keep providing them with new challenges and meaningful character development. Remember that Breaking Bad‘s most-loved episode was not the last one but the third-to-last, “Ozymandias”.

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Eleven-ThirtyEight Looks to the Future One Last Time

After years of uncertainty regarding the future of Star Wars screen content (with the exception of lots and lots of The Mandalorian), a picture is beginning to take shape at last. With solid runs from The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch and a stellar showing by the first season of Andor, television content is breaking free from the iron grip of Baby Yoda at last, a process only expedited by Ahsoka, Skeleton Crew, and The Acolyte all debuting in the next year or so.

But we’ve known about all of those for years now—even if it takes a teaser these days to really believe a project is coming. The bigger question mark has been the future film slate, and only now do we finally know the name of the game there: something for everyone, with three new films announced in three disparate eras of the Star Wars timeline—one on the origins of the Jedi; one picking up Rey’s story after the sequel trilogy; and even one loosely adapting Heir to the Empire (imagine telling yourself that would happen after watching The Force Awakens!). Video games and publishing are also claiming distinct territory of their own, with The High Republic about to enter its third phase stronger and more prominent than ever; Jedi: Survivor delivering an improved continuation of Cal Kestis’s story and teeing up a likely third installment; and the newly announced open-world game Outlaws carving out a big new space during the original trilogy (hopefully) free from the entanglements of the movie characters.

With Eleven-ThirtyEight’s final days looming and the publishing schedule filling up rapidly, a group piece seemed like a good opportunity for the staff to speak their minds one last time independent of the demands of a solo article. The topic: with all these new projects on the horizon, what are you looking forward to the most? After years of uncertainty, what gives you (ugh) hope for the future of Star Wars? Here’s what they had to say.

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Andor is a Blue Sky

When you look into the hole in your heart, what do you see? A loneliness, empty black, endless as the sea of space stretching infinite. There is no escape from the world, the real world, the one crumbling and burning and flooding and filled with sadness. Or maybe there is—too-sweet coffee from the chain down the road (don’t think about the labor conditions of the growers); the vivid sky as the sun sets over the sea (don’t think about how the smoke adds to the beauty); a silly little show about space once a week, while it lasts (don’t think about how the industry is being eaten alive by conglomerates).

Cynicism. Optimism. Realism. Where do you fall? Where do I fall? Where, in the end, does Andor fall? Not just the show, but the man himself. When he looks into the hole in his heart, what does he see?

When he looks into the sky, is it blue?

Easy answer: no, it is not. Mostly it is grey, or entirely stolen away by architecture and brutality. Andor is a show about fascism, and revolution. We are shown oppression, real and fictional and fictional but far too real. Tony Gilroy takes us like a puppy and rubs our face in the dirt, asking us, Do you understand what is happening now? and it is done with such brutal beauty that it’s hard to believe this is actually Star Wars.

The Mandalorian (deep grey clouds) once promised a grittier, more grounded Star Wars. Strong shadows, dark moons, bounty hunters with snappy lines. Sharp, silver armor, untainted by the childhood colors of Boba Fetts in the toybox. Silver like the knights of old, the men of mud and blood and smoke. The Mandalorian was to be a man, a real man, unlike—uh, the rest of the men of Star Wars, I guess. We watched the unravelling of the myth in real time, as Din Djarin stumbled through his first day as a protagonist like some kind of Star Wars Sailor Moon, and wound up a dad. This was no underworld, but the upper world of goofy puppets, vivid blue shrimp, kids’ cartoon shows, and surprising love.

What would Mando see in his heart, if he looked? We will never know; the show doesn’t care to consider it. Din is a prop piece in his own world, a puppet for big men playing little boys in a universe far removed from his. Those strings, invisible, infinite. He is a fake man. A simulacrum of a noble warrior. We know this to be true. Must stories, then, mean something?

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What Star Wars Comics Can Learn From the Massive-Verse

In small-town Lockport, Illinois, a writer, tens of thousands of dollars in debt, finds a black hole which connects him to the very heart of Existence itself. His partner in the journey to the center of Existence? A giant mech, bonded to him forever. In San Francisco, a mega-corporation has taken control of the policing of a city – fought only by an Afghanistan War veteran whose control of electricity connects her with the energy of her fallen squadron. Add to this ancient cults who rip cities from their home dimensions; a hacktivist; a serial killer; a teenager with the power of the sun who must battle the precursor to Satan himself; and a Chicago-based superhero union.

In Image Comics’ new imprint, the Massive-Verse, all of these stories take place in the same world. Created by Kyle Higgins, the Massive-Verse is a sprawling universe where authors are invited to create their own stories, within this world but genuinely unconstrained by what others are doing. While a lot of creators may claim you don’t need to read/watch/consume the entirety of their “universe” to understand what’s going on, the Massive-Verse is one instance where that may actually be true. There is generally only one time where the Massive-Verse requires a little extra reading outside of your favorite title: the annual Supermassive one-shot. This one-off story shakes up the entire Massive-Verse, without requiring much more than the six-dollar entry fee. Supermassive functions as a sort of micro-event: the story is separate from the main series, but features many of the main characters from those series. The events of Supermassive usually have a pretty big effect on the characters, even if their scale is smaller than traditional “events” like Secret War or Crisis on Infinite Earths. But Supermassive has similar goals as most of those events: to leave an indelible effect on its characters, an effect that won’t go away quickly and alters the course of their lives and how they interact with the world. 

In this article I will posit that Supermassive, and the Massive-Verse in general, have convinced me that there’s a better way to write events. Even more: they’ve convinced me to argue against something that I wrote myself, six years ago on this very website. In my original article, I argued that events should be moved out of the main series and into event titles, whereas here I will argue that events should be limited to a single ongoing series or confined to a one-shot. I also argued that mainline titles should be used to seed future events and deal with the fallout of previous events, which I have now come to see as a hijacking of the ongoing titles in order to serve event titles almost exclusively. The Hidden Empire event may, in fact, have been a case of “be careful what you wish for”, as I got everything I wanted, yet found it lacking. Here are some ways I think that Marvel can continue to refine their events, with a little help from Image Comics and the Massive-Verse.

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Clearing the Air: Why the Battle of Coruscant May Not Have Gone the Way You Think

It is commonly believed that the Revenge of the Sith novelization is a better telling of that story than the very movie it was meant to adapt. It has richer dialogue, the motivations of every character are beautifully displayed, and the overall plan to seduce Anakin to the dark side and take over democracy and the galaxy itself is made extremely clear. All of it told in the masterful writing of Matthew Stover, which makes it not only one of the best Star Wars novels produced, but also a great novel in its own right. And given that I start this post with so much praise for this book, it may come as no surprise that it also treats physics in a better and more consistent way than the film.

The spectacular opening of the movie puts us in the middle of an unprecedented engagement, with hundreds of capital ships in combat and many more starfighters threading the space between them. The visual look is also unlike in any previous Star Wars installment, with the light of the sun coming very low and filtered through the planet’s atmosphere, making it feel like the battle is fought at dusk or dawn, and with fire and smoke surrounding many of the cruisers. Such a distinct style was achieved by setting the scene in a unique environment, as John Knoll explains in the DVD audio commentary:

“One of the things that makes this space battle different than the other Star Wars pictures is that…we’re saying this is not in space exactly. We’re in the upper atmosphere of Coruscant, which gives us excuses to do things like drag. You’ll see there’s smoky trails behind burning ships. There’s bits of atmosphere hanging smoke.”

So this “space battle” is really an aerial battle, and contains many elements that would go against physics in a deep space setting.[1]Not long after, The Clone Wars seemed to point at this and say “That’s the Star Wars visual look for explosions in space from now on, deal with it”, but that’s a whole other … Continue reading But given the visual spectacle it was meant to be, and the many factors in play that a novel is not beholden to, it is likely for such a movie to present some internal contradictions. Since physics is my field of expertise, in this piece I will discuss one such inconsistency that is hard to explain away as compared to the novel, which has far fewer limitations in depicting how those events might have actually taken place. While fans tend to see the live-action version of a story as taking absolute precedence over any other interpretation, I would postulate that this is not always the case.

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1 Not long after, The Clone Wars seemed to point at this and say “That’s the Star Wars visual look for explosions in space from now on, deal with it”, but that’s a whole other story.