"And now a story from a long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away. It's Arrested Development."

edited November 2007 in Story Games
Here is how I came up with the badass Star Wars SAGA game that I've been playing for the last three weeks. I don't think any of my players read this forum but if they do, they should navigate away now if they want to avoid spoilers.

You may or may not be aware of one of the greatest sitcoms ever made, "Arrested Development". You have no excuse for yourself if you are not aware of it. All three seasons are 20 bucks or less in Target and Hollywood Video, so go and buy them today. The show pitch is a "fake reality show" about a wealthy family whose patriarch is arrested in the pilot for Enron-like shenanigans. The writers and performers of this show were all complete psychopaths and masters of deadpan humor.

The structure of the individual jokes on Arrested Development were very simple, and they were assembled into insane conglomerations of self-referencing loops in a way that's unmanageably brilliant. The individual joke structure went like this:

One character makes a statement.

Another character immediately says something that completely undermines, misses the point of, or misunderstands the statement.

It's the timing of it that makes it work.

The uncredited narrator, Ron Howard, often participates in this joke. A character will say something like "I would never ever work against you, Michael." and then immediately the narrator says, "He had worked against Michael just that morning." and there would then be a scene showing that.

I am a huge fan of unreliable narrators due to prejudice or limited information. Arrested Development's narrator added energy and a new point of view to a show where the point of view was part of the fun of the show. Obviously it was used for comedy, but could it also add drama (showing unintended consequences of actions) or even tragedy?




After Star Wars SAGA came out, I got psyched about the slimmed-down d20 system, the nonheroic character class for easy NPC generation and in general the badassitude of a faster-moving Star Wars d20 game. So I wanted to run a Star Wars game.

Group dynamics fed into this a bit. A friend had finished running a Star Wars d20 game about 9 or so months ago. It was great but there were some problematic things happening mainly due to communication issues. (Players getting upset at what they perceived as GM interference with their character concepts, GM getting hair-pulling and frustrated at players getting upset at what he thought they wanted.) One big communication issue that we actually came up with a way to resolve was that some players were unhappy with how other players were having their characters interact. For example, one player saw their character as being a sort of reluctant, peace-loving warrior, while another player had their character react as if they were a gun toting maniac - and this was hurting their fun. If they had decided that there would be this misunderstanding they would be happy, but the relationships between characters had been created rather ad hoc during the wild roller coaster ride that is an action-space-fantasy plot and it didn't end up in a satisfying place.

We decided to fix this in the next game was by having a session after a few weekends of play where we made explicit requests of "what I want your character to think of my character". The main struggle we had with this was making it clear that this was NOT the same as asking "well, what is your character's history with my character". Fuck. No. That's not the question. We can write the history to be whatever we want, or even interpret what we've already established in different ways, it's the end result we're interested in. If you want to be seen as wacky-crazy-but-fun, then we must not end up at dangerously-unstable-and-unserious and ruin our game because of some fictional history that means nothing.

More coming.
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Comments

  • (I love Arrested Development. And this thread looks promising.)
  • Arrested Development is probably the funniest television show ever made.

    And there's nothing anyone can do about it.
  • edited November 2007
    I look forward to the rest of this thread, primarily to milk your relationship/history techniques for Do's character creation. Muahahaha! :)
  • This rules.
  • So there was an rpg.net thread a long time ago about 'alternate Star Wars'es. And there was a story-games thread about Star Wars stuff as well. This is as good a place as any to replicate some of my thoughts about the property:

    * Of course the prequels sucked. They were all about Jedi. What did we learn from the first three movies? We learned that hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, and your sorcerer's ways have not permitted you to conjure up the missing Death Star plans or granted you enough clarivoyance to...well, let's move on.

    * I am just being mean. Actually, the prequels sucked because they told and didn't show key motivational points - why should I care if Palpatine is corrupting the Republic or the Jedi are saving it if I never, ever see anything that the Republic does that's any good? Contrast to Episode 4. Ten minutes into the movie, the seven foot tall black-clad cybernetic space Nazi has strangled some dude and blasted a hot chick in white robes, and his boss (we all know who wore the pants in the Empire, Tarkin, right?) blew up a peaceful planet just to fuck with her and that all happened before we were an hour in.

    * The first Star Wars trilogy was the 70s. The second should have been the 60s, but they dropped the ball. The post-Return Of The Jedi world should be the 80s. Everyone in this game should have a haircut.

    * Anyway, Star Wars, man. Wars. War never changes. That's Cambodia, Captain. If those little sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll face French ones. Hey, Wade, I got a mother, you got a mother, the sarge has got a mother. I'm willing to bet that even the Captain's got a mother. Well, maybe not the Captain, but the rest of us have got mothers. Tea without milk is so uncivilized. Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. I hope that the people that use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it. God was here before the Marine Corps - so you can give your heart to Jesus, but your ass belongs to the Corps. A deer's gotta be taken with one shot. But be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again. To teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life.

    So I thought - what if I did a story set after the Battle of Endor, from the point of view of Rebel soldiers who are finishing up their tours with the Alliance and getting set to head home as the New Republic is founded, and something "different" happened from what happened in the movies. They wouldn't really know what had happened, the players would know something was up when things started to hit the fan, but the characters wouldn't.

    I could use all the war movie material from the war movies I've absorbed over the years to play out flashbacks of their adventures and heroism during the war against the Empire, and even lay in some information that would move the 'present day' story along...

    Now we are talking.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyThis is as good a place as any to replicate some of my thoughts about the property
    You are my hero. Seriously.
  • What is interesting is that some of these observations and plans contradicted each other. For example, an omniscient narrator whose point of view is somewhat distant works a bit against the "show, don't tell" admonition that I thought was so crucial to the success of the first trilogy and the failure of the prequel trilogy. I didn't do much, if any, work to handle these contradictions, in fact I decided I would gleefully switch gears all the time. And it was clear that this was going to be deconstructive of the source material, so I was not trying to excite any feelings of loyalty.

    I know my group likes comedy, so I would not be using the more despairing or cynical aspects of war fiction, the worst that things would get is grim. That helped narrow things down a bit.

    I picked an 'alternate Star Wars' from the rpg.net thread that I had always liked. I remember the scene with Luke, Vader and the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi always bothered me a bit. Yoda and Obi-Wan had made it pretty clear throughout the series that it wasn't the result of a Jedi's actions that determined whether the Dark Side would forever dominate their destiny, it was their emotions - acting out of hate or fear. And sure enough, the Emperor taunted Luke into acting out of hate and fear and Vader stopped him from cutting Palpatine down. Now given what happened after, it was clear that I was supposed to think this was Vader saving his son from the Dark Side, but that didn't make any sense - Luke was tainted from the moment he acted out of hate - it didn't matter whether Vader stopped him or not, the Dark Side had already won. Hadn't it? Well, the Ewoks are singing that fucking Yub Nub song, so I guess not. (Yub Nub is the Mmm-Bop of the Star Wars universe. Everyone hates it but it's so damn catchy you end up singing it while you're telling people you hate it.)

    One of the alternate Star Wars suggested: What would happen if Luke had swung that saber and Vader had gone "hmm, gee, Emperor's dead, what a fucking tragedy, let's team up and rule the galaxy together" and Luke said "all righty then". If Luke gives in to the Dark Side, but cuts the Emperor down, you now have a really badass New Republic corruption-from-within story. I can use the change to murder the myriad Extended Universe badguys really fast, which will make the other Star Wars fanatic players sit up and take notice. "What do you mean Thrawn died resisting arrest and Mara Jade died in a failed suicide bombing attempt?!"

    That let me slot in the player characters easily: they were the only ones at the Battle of Endor who knew that two shuttles escaped the Death Star instead of just one, and therefore they possess the only piece of information that could threaten the father-son cross-Galaxy telepathic alliance - and therefore they would be hunted, at least until the Skywalkers made their move! Dunh dah DAHHHH.

    That also gave me my narrator: a long-winded (he would call it "thorough") investigator who was presenting facts to the New Republic Senate after the first moves of the joint coup were in motion.

    I had my premise. Now for specifics.
  • Since I had already decided that canon didn't matter, I went to the Wookieepedia, a ridiculously detailed Star Wars wiki, and got myself a timeline of events. Yes that's right sports fans, I went and got the one thing that everyone mopes and complains about as being a waste of time and space in detailed settings. "Tiiiimelines, we don't want tiiiiimelines..."

    I figured it would take about a year for the Skywalkers to get their shit together, pound the crap out of the Alliance fleet and any Imperials who didn't go along with Vader's plan, train up some basic Dark Side assholes and sew their bathrobes, and start kicking ass, so the narrative would start about a year after the Battle of Endor. The "present day" events of the game would start about six months after the Battle of Endor, when the badguys figure out that our heroes and their CO (who has read the after-action report) are the only ones who can blow the lid off this thing, assassinate the CO and try to do the same to the PCs, launching a full scale roller coaster summer spectacular thrill ride. I divided the "flashback" sections of the game into three parts, one where the PCs are regular grunts (+1 Soldier level), one where the PCs are mechanized infantry (+1 more Soldier level), and one where the PCs are Alliance Special Forces assholes with attitudes (+1 more soldier level). Then I pulled battles and explosions and laser beams and such from Wookieepedia.

    At this point I pitched the game to the group and they fell all over themselves yelling "STAR WARS! STAR WARS! STAR WARS!" and kind of didn't listen to the rest of my plans for the game. That's okay though. It's kind of what I expected.

    Characters include:

    * An Alderaanian tech specialist who joins up after his planet is destroyed along with his brothers and sisters, all of whom die at various points in the flashbacks, making him a bitter veteran by the "present day" time. (Scoundrel)

    * A scout from an ice world the player made up, who is crazy about the boy-next-door who also joined the Rebellion, but ended up as a spy in the Imperial Navy. (Scout)

    * A former suicide bomber who was sent from a religious fanatic world to the Imperial Academy to infiltrate, get close to the Admiral that had laid waste to the world, and blow himself up. Betrayed and caught, he was stuck in a prison facility, his heart softened because of a mysterious vision, and he then joined the Alliance after they broke out some other political prisoners. (Jedi)

    * A grad student girl from a family of Corellian nobility who lost all their money trying to keep Palpatine from coming to power and who joined up after the Empire started to erase/rewrite unfavorable history. Indiana Jones except hotter and more bookish.

    Next: Destinies and subplots!
  • Here are some links to the places I've talked about so far - I'm actually running this game this afternoon so I may not update again until tonight, so go do your homework:

    Watch Arrested Development for free at MSN. You have absolutely no excuse, it's free. Go and watch now.

    The rpg.net thread that stuck with me for five years

    And the story-games thread

    The Wookieepedia - one thing that I forgot to mention about this is that it lists the various scenarios from the Star Wars RTS games as battles. I grabbed a bunch of those - and if anyone asks, I'll just say that the RTS games were "simulations based on limited data available at the time"...
  • There is a cool mechanic in SW Saga for destinies. Basically these are relatively broad concepts (Redemption, Destruction, etc.) that player characters can have. You get Destiny Points to spend which make you badass, and you get Destiny Bonuses when you significantly get closer to the destiny, which I gleefully expanded to be a little like Hero Points in Unisystem, where you can "buy" railroading scenes by paying the players. I also added a Destiny that was inexcusably omitted from the list: Love. (I knew none of my players would pick it, they hate romance in their space romance. Too bad for them I am throwing it in anyway! "Where the blue skinned women at?")

    I also asked the players to come up with a broad outline for a subplot that might or might not be related to their characters' destinies that they would be interested in seeing - then sent their broad outline to the other players in the game to flesh out with NPCs, events, and so on. This is still an ongoing process, and I'm hoping this will increase involvement in people's personal subplots/Destinies. Here's what I got for Destinies:

    * Rescuing my boyfriend who went undercover in the Imperial Navy as a spy
    * Getting redeemed after losing everything in the war and becoming bitter and mean
    * Discovering the ways of the Force and becoming a Jedi like my father
    * Discovering a hidden truth suppressed by the Empire
  • edited November 2007
    Hey, this thread is fascinating. It's like Inside the GM's Studio. If you don't mind me asking a couple specific sort of questions:
    1) Did you get player buy-in with all the Meta stuff with the ironic narration? Or do you feel that it will be transparent enough that they can just get pumped about Star Wars and that will be an added bonus?

    2) Referring to your last post, about Destinies:

    * Rescuing my boyfriend who went undercover in the Imperial Navy as a spy
    * Getting redeemed after losing everything in the war and becoming bitter and mean
    * Discovering the ways of the Force and becoming a Jedi like my father
    * Discovering a hidden truth suppressed by the Empire
    I love this kind of player-generated content. I also really suck at incorporating it into games I run. The "hidden truth" one is pretty easy, given your premise, that's pretty much a gimme. But how do you plan for a character to redeem themselves? I'm picturing a yellow Post-It Note with "REMEMBER -- BOB REDEEMS HIMSELF THIS WEEK!" written on it in Sharpie marker. I'm sure you have some better ideas.
  • Posted By: DannyKDid you get player buy-in with all the Meta stuff with the ironic narration? Or do you feel that it will be transparent enough that they can just get pumped about Star Wars and that will be an added bonus?
    Well, I did and I didn't. The thing is, I'm having such a great time with it that even if they just rolled their eyes and tolerated it, I would keep it. It's like having a character! There was an added bonus that I discovered yesterday: continuity! Ten minutes after we had a scene, someone said "Wait, I forgot I had a Force Power that would have let me get out of that mess..." and I pointed out that all we knew for sure was that they were in that mess, and now they were here, and perhaps their character had used that Force Power, or a grenade, or whatever, to get from there to here, and all we knew was that the group was there and now the group was here, and even that was not one hundred percent certain.

    It's worked really well for comedy.

    GM: "The Imperial trooper railed against you as he fired, 'We'll defeat you rebel scum! It doesn't matter that the Navy deserted us!' It did matter."

    It has also worked somewhat well for drama. In the 'present day' they were giving lip and guff to their Special Forces commanding officer, which is great Star Wars gaming since 1986. Everyone was yucking it up, and at the conclusion of the scene, I added, "It was the last time they'd see Commander Kall alive. His murder by speeder bombing is still being investigated." and everyone went "whaaaa?!" It was aces.
    Posted By: DannyKBut how do you plan for a character to redeem themselves?
    It ain't rocket science, I get some guidance from the player, "Hey, how do you want Quinn to redeem himself?" and he goes "Not exactly sure, maybe some sort of family obligation that he still has, or some helpless orphan that depends on him, or a woman..." and I kick those around with the other players and we hatch a plan. Remember, there is no real question about whether he'll redeem himself, any more than there was a real question that the Death Star would be blown up at the end of Episodes 4 or 6. He is going to do it, we just have to work out how.
  • One thing I discovered when I was working on the game is that if you're being deconstructive, snarky, or parodic about well-known source material, the important things are not your jokes/new points of view, the important things are where you are loyal, and similarly, if you are being loyal to the source material, the important thing is where you diverge. In other words, because I am so clearly telling some new story with the old material, the players (and I) get big thrills whenever we recognize the old material. When Boba Fett shows up hunting a bounty on the same planet where the players have a mission, everyone was grinning and high-fiving and acting super scared of him and explaining how badass he is to each other - just after I mentioned him. When I lean back, lace my hands behind my head and opine, "The financial aspects of the Tarkin Doctrine have rarely been adequately explicated..." everyone grins, Tarkin is badass, this is cool. The only reason deconstruction works is because there is recognition of the original work. Similarly, the only reason loyalty to the original work isn't boring is because there is new material introduced. So this has given me lots of fun ideas.

    The website for the game. Broken links are intentional, they'll be added to as events move along.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyHere is how I came up with the badass Star Wars SAGA game that I've been playing for the last three weeks. I don't think any of my players read this forum but if they do, they should navigate away now if they want to avoid spoilers.

    You may or may not be aware of one of the greatest sitcoms ever made, "Arrested Development". You have no excuse for yourself if you are not aware of it. All three seasons are 20 bucks or less in Target and Hollywood Video, so go and buy them today. The show pitch is a "fake reality show" about a wealthy family whose patriarch is arrested in the pilot for Enron-like shenanigans. The writers and performers of this show were all complete psychopaths and masters of deadpan humor.

    The structure of the individual jokes on Arrested Development were very simple, and they were assembled into insane conglomerations of self-referencing loops in a way that's unmanageably brilliant. The individual joke structure went like this:

    One character makes a statement.

    Another characterimmediatelysays something that completely undermines, misses the point of, or misunderstands the statement.

    It's the timing of it that makes it work.

    The uncredited narrator, Ron Howard, often participates in this joke. A character will say something like "I would never ever work against you, Michael." and then immediately the narrator says, "Hehadworked against Michael just that morning." and there would then be a scene showing that.

    I am a huge fan of unreliable narrators due to prejudice or limited information. Arrested Development's narrator added energy and a new point of view to a show where the point of view was part of the fun of the show. Obviously it was used for comedy, but could it also add drama (showing unintended consequences of actions) or even tragedy?

    I just want to say that that is the best observation as to why AD is brilliant that I've ever read. Great job!
  • I started watching Arrested Development after reading this. Thanks! Fun stuff.

    It's also funny, because shortly beforehand I'd been considering making a post here, asking whether there were any games out there that dealt with dramatic irony as a major part of story-creation.

    I'm still kind of curious, actually...
  • edited February 2008
    Update!

    If you haven't gone to the website in a while, there's a lot of new things there:

    Prepared Remarks

    There have been a lot of cool space adventure-y missions.

    One thing that I found - and this was interesting and a surprise - was that at least one player was resistant to an element of play that I hadn't identified initially as being at all problematic.

    In the roller text of the first Star Wars movie it tells us that the Empire is evil. I mean, it's in the second or so line. It's fairly straightfoward to me that there is no moral equivalence between the Rebellion and the Empire, they're not just "different sides" struggling over who is going to have power, they are fundamentally different, one is a fascist, genocidal police state full of British space Nazis and the other is democratic, decent, good-hearted folk who love liberty and decency and are from California. One of the players was constantly - through his character - digging for ways that the Alliance was doing morally questionable things, so that he could be gloomy about them. I kept slapping his hand away for a while, thinking "what the hell is this" before I figured it out. Eventually I had a talk with him about the fact that if Han Solo hadn't come back at the end of Episode 4, we might be able to see some shades of grey in the Star Wars universe, but he did come back, he did have a heart of gold, and everyone was either a good guy or a bad guy. Once he grasped onto what I was doing with that, it helped him move imagination along to other subjects, not "my guy would never do this", but instead "what are the circumstances and situations and relationships that would compel my guy to do this". There's a lot more going on with that player than this but this was a particular form of spotlight-seeking that I hadn't seen before and I found it interesting.

    One thing that I found out about this game that I mentioned in another thread is that exposition is more interesting when it is delivered in character by someone the players are interested in. I've tried to make the narrator a distinct voice, although I don't always stick with it completely. At one point I had explained how their unit had gotten the code name Effortless (it just came up, like most militaries, the Alliance doesn't give code names that reflect what the thing demonimated is), and a few sessions later a player (possibly in character, possibly not) cracked wise about them being named Effortless for some other reason, and I flew off the handle in my narrator voice, going all high-pitched and incensed that nobody was listening to my carefully collected data and "correcting the false information" in haughty and self-important terms. The group was rolling with laughter by the time I was done - and you can bet nobody forgot the code name of the group after that!

    So far I've been doing more flashbacks-within-the-story than "present day" story, partly to experiment around with different parts of the system in "controlled environments", partly to permit another player who is considering joining to join up with disrupting things too much.

    We've also done a couple of flashbacks in which the players play pregenerated NPCs, including a very popular segment starring three Imperial Marines and two Imperial spies informally titled "How We Fragged Our Dark Jedi Commander".

    Something funny that came out of that one was a snarky comment by my best friend that all the kickass Imperials we've seen so far have been women. I pointed out that half the four players in the game are women, zero of them like playing cross-gender, so that if I was going to have play-the-villains segments, there were going to be female villains. He looked somewhat surprised by this algebra. I think he had never quite matched up what we see in the Star Wars movies (pretty much a sausage fest) with the reality of what I was going to do with a game focused around the players and through them their characters.
  • I missed this thread in November, so I really appreciate the update. Awesome stuff, here!
  • Yeah, that's pretty cool stuff right here!

    -Andy
  • This thing has stuck in my brain. Great stuff. Any updates would be excellent, but I had a question (although maybe this should be it's own thread).
    Posted By: JDCorleySo far I've been doing more flashbacks-within-the-story than "present day" story, partly to experiment around with different parts of the system in "controlled environments", partly to permit another player who is considering joining to join up with disrupting things too much.
    How did you handle flashbacks mechanically? That is, if the PCs are level X at character creation, how do you treat their stats as you jump around in time?
  • I thought a lot about that question, and then hit myself in the forehead and said "DUH" in the loudest voice possible.

    I realized I didn't need to change their stats at all. If they were really super-badass at some point in the past, I could chalk that up to luck, or the exaggeration of how great they were as time passes, or any number of ways. Continuity errors actually made the flashbacks more effective than keeping everything smooth, because the players could grin at each other and say "ha ha, caught him in a mistake there!", speaking about the narrator rather than me the GM.

    So if they're level 5 in the present, they're level 5 in the flashback, and facing threats appropriate for level 5, and so on.

    Actually I am starting to wind up this game, aiming for a closure date in August due to one player having a child on the way and another potentially having to move out of the city for work reasons. The narrator's "present day introductions" are getting crazier and creepier and everyone is leaning forward in their seats as the story he's telling gets closer and closer tot he story he's living.
  • So, I must know: Will the player characters ever meet the narrator in-game? As a player, to me that'd be the big payoff, somehow confronting this mysterious stranger, even if only for a moment in a dark cantina.
  • They actually already rescued him once, from where he and several other dissident academics had been imprisoned by the Empire! I just shifted the narration from third to first person. "I emerged from the cell with the rest of my fellow prisoners to face Jessamine Corel, waving a blaster at the hallway she presumably wished us to go down." It helps that I made it pretty clear that the narrator is sort of a self-important dweeb, they don't feel like he is a puppetmaster or intentionally misleading. Imagine a GMPC with narrator powerz?! The horror, the horror.
  • FYI - I came up with the frame story for the sequel, which will be called Enhanced Interrogation:

    A New Republic intel analyst is interrogated by evil Sith bastards about the activities of the player characters.

    Of course he will try to deceive them at points, but they'll have means of detecting that and punishing it (sometimes immediately, sometimes after letting him reel out a story for a bit). Bad guys' Destiny Point rerolls can take the form of jolts of Force lightning torture.

    Near the end of the campaign, the PCs will break into the facility where the interrogation is taking place and sabotage the truth-detection gizmo, so that they can no longer tell when he is lying and trying to deceive them until...They fall for THE TRAP

  • Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith
    All information regarding Lord Vader is currently under review and cannot be considered of sufficient reliability given recent developments.
    I apologize for the inconvenience.
    Excellent! I love it.

    Jason, can you describe what actual play is like a little bit more?

    When do you narrate in your "narrator voice" (as the NPC researcher), and when do you narrate as the GM? How do you switch between them? Can you write a really brief example of what a transcript of play would look like?

    I'm tempted to attempt something similar, but I'm not sure I fully understand how exactly you do what you're describing at the table.
  • Posted By: Paul T.When do you narrate in your "narrator voice" (as the NPC researcher), and when do you narrate as the GM? How do you switch between them?
    A few things:

    1 - "Establishing" narration, i.e., where the player characters are, who is there, what they face, the immediate results of their actions, and so on, I just narrate "straight". If I ever undo any of this narration, I undo a WHOLE LOT of it, as in the first scene when I killed everyone and then said, in narrator-voice: "Or so we were led to believe! However, I have uncovered irrefutable evidence..." and replayed the whole scene.

    2 - "Conclusory" narration, i.e. passing judgment on the characters or their actions, I always did in the narrator voice. "What they did not know..." "This terrible blunder would later come back to haunt them..." and so on. I made sure to emphasize that the narrator was a bit of a dope, so that nobody felt like they were being attacked if the narrator made some nasty comment about them. I did this regularly but not often, usually around 3-5 times per session.

    3 - "Big picture" narration I did in the narrator's voice, especially opening new missions and new settings. Then I would switch to "establishing" narration if there was anything about the background that I felt the players needed to be able to rely upon ("The Imperial forces were well-armed, but harried and ill-rested after the long siege." might be a valuable piece of intel, if they can count on it being true, for example.)

    Switching between them was pretty easy. I just sat up straight and pitched my voice higher, and sometimes pointed at the ceiling to begin my remarks. Just basically a bunch of character acting stuff. And when the narrator was upset, I had him pitch a tantrum, which is great both for comedy and for discrediting the idea that I, the player, was mad, which might happen if I used the GM voice to do the same.
  • So... you used "normal GM voice" for most of the game, but framed events with the narrator's voice.

    Kind of like in a movie with a voiceover: there is a narrator voice that starts things off, but once the scene begins, it fades away and we're just watching a regular movie.

    Did I get that right?
  • Pretty much - I would sometimes spice things up in the middle of the scene with the narrator suddenly intruding, for comedic or dramatic purposes, as I listed above, but for the most part, he was a framing instrument.
  • Awesome.

    What kinds of things made the narrator angry?
  • edited October 2008
    Posted By: Paul T.What kinds of things made the narrator angry?
    Well, as mentioned above, if a player made a mistake and missed something the narrator said, that would set him off.

    In addition, in the "present day", the work of the committee was criticized by the Skywalkers' cronies in the Senate, and so every so often I would have him launch a tirade against those that did not understand or appreciate his DILIGENT EFFORTS. This also helped give the players a hint that things were still moving in the "present". :)
  • Thanks!

    I also have a more... dangerous question.

    Please don't take this as an attack or a judgement--I'm just curious about your game and the potential for doing something similar myself.

    So, the question is:

    How much room is there for player choice to be important to the story and the campaign? Is it a sort of Participationist thing, where you're creating the story, and the players are merely playing out the parts of characters within it (you mention them playing other characters, like villains, for example)? (In which case it's interesting how the "narrator" frame makes it obvious to the players without any need to actually discuss it in non-game terms.) Or does player choice meaningfully form or shape the story as well? (If so, how does that happen? Is it difficult not to slip into the first sort of play? How do you keep from doing so?)

    Thanks!
  • edited October 2008
    Posted By: Paul T.How much room is there for player choice to be important to the story and the campaign? Is it a sort of Participationist thing, where you're creating the story, and the players are merely playing out the parts of characters within it (you mention them playing other characters, like villains, for example)? (In which case it's interesting how the "narrator" frame makes it obvious to the players without any need to actually discuss it in non-game terms.) Or does player choice meaningfully form or shape the story as well? (If so, how does that happen? Is it difficult not to slip into the first sort of play? How do you keep from doing so?)
    Well, I'm going to make an offensive reply to your offensive question so let's be offended and yell at each other at the same time. :D I disagree vehemently with the 'participationism/illusionism' label, it is flat bullshit, and has never ever been true on any level. It's all participationism, and always has been, so the label is useless.

    "important to the story" is a giant missing of the point of what the fun is in genre-heavy gaming like Star Wars anyway. If you think for five seconds, there is no suspense, none, about how any reasonable facsimile of a Star Warsian story is going to end. The good guys will win. The bad guys will lose. The bad guys will win at first and then they will slowly stop winning and the good guys will beat them. The Death Star is destroyed just before it can kill our heroes. If you have an "oh no" ending, a la Empire, you will then later have a happy ending, a la Jedi. That is space adventure pulp. And that is Star Wars.

    So "important to the story" has nothing whatsoever to do with grand, overall outcomes in the long-term scheme of things. Whether the characters fail or succeed in mission objectives or personal dramatics is really of no importance to the ending that's going to happen.

    So the "shape of the story" is set not by me, or by the players, or even by the game designer, or the Star Wars book, or even, in the end, by the Star Wars movies - it was set in place when the pulp adventures that Lucas chose to emulate in 1977 set their genre expectations in place over the course of decades of print and thousands of stories.

    Now of course we can choose to deviate from that, and to a degree I did with this game because, as I noted above, there's a bit of fun in deconstructing all of that, but I didn't create something entirely new as far as story format went, I just used the deconstructing as a spice to flavor things up and enhance the completely fake and false suspense. But remember, that completely fake and false suspense was not introduced by virtue of the fact that this is an RPG - it's part and parcel of the underlying material. When you go to an action movie, you know how it will end going in, you know the suspense you choose to let yourself feel is fake. Same thing here.

    I suppose you could say that because it was my choice to do that, that yes, I set the shape of the story in place, but really my involvement in doing it was pretty minimal.

    Now, as you can see above, I took a degree of input from players in the form of their characters' Destinies that helped shape the events of the game (although not, really, the ending, as I mentioned). And of course when they succeeded in their missions, or acted heroically, the narrator would praise them and when they failed or fell short in some way, he would criticize them. It wasn't me, the GM doing that, it was a character, and that helps a bit - and it emphasizes their importance to the story because they're the ones deciding whether the narrator is, at this moment in time, narrating a goofy screwup, or a dire emergency, or a triumphant chandelier-swinging hoohah.

    In other words, the story in this case is a common framework we're all hanging our contributions on - for me, that's plot twists and setups and memorable NPCs, for them, it's banter and shooting things and jumping speeders off ramps and yelling 'yee hah' and brooding about their captured boyfriend. No one does anything "important to the story", or maybe, we all do.
  • OK, cool, I've got you!

    But, for example, after a bit in the story where they carry out some mission or blow something up or whatever, would you then go into the next bit, kind of like:

    "A year later, the best records I could locate find them entangled in the swamps of Dagobah, where they were mired. They tried to depart but events were made difficult by the presence of a blockade around the planet..."

    ...and then you would frame them into a scenario where they're trying to find an old ship that is rumoured to be sunk in the swamps around there or something like that?

    I'm just looking for the procedures of play you used. Not so interested in passing judgement or classifying stuff in Forge terms.

    (Although it does sound like the players got to define a major point of the story with their Destinies.)
  • Posted By: Paul T."A year later, the best records I could locate find them entangled in the swamps of Dagobah, where they were mired. They tried to depart but events were made difficult by the presence of a blockade around the planet..."

    ...and then you would frame them into a scenario where they're trying to find an old ship that is rumoured to be sunk in the swamps around there or something like that?
    Right - the frame normally came from the abilities of the characters. For example, I might say (in my GM voice): "Crazy Old Bastard, the crazy old bastard who you know from around here, said that he had stashed a stolen ship in an 'evil cave' somewhere if he ever got really desperate." to the guy who has a lot of crazy old bastard contacts, or I might say to the nature-oriented character, "Although it's grown over with mold, the area you're observing through your electrobinocs looks like ships might have come and gone at some point - maybe some smugglers used this dump as a waypoint?" That feeds the idea that the characters are driving the bus, gives that particular player (not just any player) the oomf to take the lead and pushes things forward.
  • Glad you like. The game was a stunning success. Someday I'll do a sequel, hence the sequel post. :D
  • The sequel is about to start!! OH HOLKY FUCK!!!

    The prologue is going to be about the Sith jerkoffs who kidnap the narrator and torture the story out of him.

    They are going to jump from their evil Sith speeder (it is black) onto the flying train where the narrator is and pummel him and his Republic pals with lightsabers and their brains.

    ITS A BUSHWHACK
  • OMGGGGYYYYYESSSSS!

    Rock the fuck on. I'm so glad to see this ressurrected; every time I think about this game it fills me with joy.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • edited April 2011
    I forgot a running gag from last time. There was a parallel squad of Rebel soldiers who were essentially the Dukes of Hazzard crossed with Francis Marion the Swamp Fox. They appeared to be constantly drunk, were all "cousins" even though they were from different species, and had a speeder truck with a gun welded onto the top that they jumped off things. Whenever our heroes needed a distraction for a plan to work, Command assigned them this secondary squad to roam around screaming and throwing beer cans at stormtroopers and jumping their truck off things and blowing things up.

    They became such beloved characters (drinking contests between missions, setting up a still at Echo Base ("jes' pour wutever used blastah cannon coolant yuh got in thar, it'll bawl down jes' fahn..."), trying to get into the pants of the "edumacated" PC, etc.) that I even gave them their own theme song.

    So Enjoy, and remember Uscano Squad!!

    PS They're definitely coming back.
  • Apparently, Uscano squad has an Imperial counterpart.
  • That's awesome...I forgot that I picked a "real" theme song this time around too. Remember, it has to be the 80s, but deconstructive and looking-back, and with a bit of military/war theme. So without further ado, I give you...

    Sweet Dreams of a Seven Nation Army
  • God, that is a perfect selection. Bravo!
  • The prologue characters had the following at the top of the pregen character sheets:

    "Lightsaber-Wielding Jerkoff" (Jedi 7)
    "Brainwashed, Fanatic Thug" (Scout 4/Jedi 3)
    "Preening Sociopath" (Noble 4/Jedi 3)
    "Sadistic, Snivelling Brute" (Soldier 2/Jedi 5)
    "Backstabbing, Worthless Snitch" (Scoundrel 7)

    These five teamed up to kidnap the narrator, a Republic agent who had skunked them all many times in the past. They kidnapped his wife, tortured her, leaked information as to her whereabouts, and faked a security hole that the agent would try to get through, and then sprung the trap. Each of the five is a servant/student of the great Sith Lord Skywalker, master of Coruscant and the Core Worlds, and each of the five will be a recurring villain. Banter, I'm-superior-to-you, no-you're-not, leaping from a skiff to a speeding maintenance tram, Rebel commandos trying to blow them up, reprogrammed droids, and the target ALMOST jumping out the side (with a parachute), but at the last second...floating slowly into the air while choking as the black-clad, cape-wearing baddies closed in on him, lightsabers humming....it was fucking rad.

    Now a 2 week break, as next weekend I'm going fishing. :D
  • We all know this was one of the best Story Games threads ever.

    But if you enjoy Star Wars and Arrested Development, you should immediately head over to:

    theempirestrikesbluth.tumblr.com/
  • A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was this awesome Story Games thread.

    I hadn't thought about it in quite some time...

    But now, in 2018, we have Ron Howard directing a Star Wars movie. Naturally, this means the dreamed-of has at last come to life!

    An exciting new development in the YouTube world brings this whole thing full circle. Could it be enough to draw JDCorley back to Story Games? Anything is possible!

    Here it is:



    Glorious.
  • I somehow missed this the first time around! And I've never really watched AD, but that YouTube video is hilarious anyway.

    BTW, I actually thought the Solo movie was really good. It was never going to be as urgently needed as TFA, as deconstructive as TLJ, or as tight and emotionally devastating as R1, but it has the best music of the four new movies.
  • Yeay!

    There is a fascinating (is this old, deleted footage which never made it to screen?) version of this happening further on YouTube, as well. I don't *think* it has anything to do with Ron Howard.

  • The treadmill droid is the real hero.
  • True, dat!

    Anyone know what the footage is, where it comes from?
  • Those scenes are in the Star Wars shooting script, so they must be deleted scenes, although I've never seen them before.
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