Skywalker Paradigm for Gamestorm

edited March 2009 in Story Games
I'm preparing to run a Star Wars-themed convention game at the upcoming Gamestorm and want some help refining my concept. (If you happen to be one of the players signed up for the game. . .well, I'll leave it to you whether to read along and get a taste of what's coming or refrain and be surprised on gameday.)

The Skywalker Paradigm

So there's this guy, a local Portlander I believe, who started this project a few years ago: an exercise in propaganda analysis, subjecting the original Star Wars to scrutiny as supposed historical documents to see what's 'really" going on. he's got a website-woefully under-updated; he only treats one and a half films so far--and used to give talks around town and Portland State University and such. He's got a fun theory and infectious enthusiasm for it, so much so that he's got me wanting to game "his" Star Wars!

The major points of the Paradigm:
  • As per the opening text crawl, the Rebels are far from the champions of freedom they claim-they're headed by royalty! They're actually counter-insurgents trying to get the aristocracy back into power (not that the Empire are pretty big douchebags as well though).
  • Vader isn't quite the Hitler in a Breath Mask that he's made out to be; he's a ruthless career soldier who worked like hell to get the Royals and their Samurai thugs out of power and damned if he's going to let them back. He's also a fairly small fry at first, dissents strongly from the general policy of the Imperial War Machine, and works his way up to the Emperor's side to pursue his own agenda.
  • It's Vader who's hiding Luke on Tatooine, not Ben, trying to keep his son out of the galactic conflict. I mean, c'mon, the kid lives with Anakin's own family and under his surname. Kenobi--a fanatic willing to even die for his cause--is hanging around trying to get his hooks into Luke and brainwash him into a killing machine for the Alliance.
  • The Force is more or less personal mental and physical mastery, plus powerful mesmerism. TK, "Force Lightning," etc is technological. Also, there's no "Sith" and Palpatine ain't a Jedi of any stripe. Look at the attitudes everyone displays toward Vader's "old religion;" hardly the climate of a Sith-run mysticocracy.
So here's the setup for the game: I'm using the Solar System. Everyone (up to 4 players) will show up and pick a pregenerated character: Luke, Leia, Han, Kenobi, or Vader. They'll also receive a placard succinctly saying in essence, "here's how this character is different from the interpretation you know." The character will have one Key filled in apropos of the info on the placard; the players will get to customize by creating another Key and filling advances.

So what I'm trying to figure out is: how to facilitate actual play in this scenario. I don't want slavish imitation of an old beloved movie script, I want fearlessly proactive play based on receiving these classic, well-known characters, but with startling and bold new motivations that send the players off in wild directions. I'm hoping to convey that by A) demolishing their preconceived notions of Star Wars, B) spurring them to proactivity through Keys, and C) saying upfront that I don't have an outcome in mind and they can make their own Star Wars.

One particular issue I'm pondering: where should play begin? If I open with the beginning of the movie, there's a lot of ground to cover before conflicts start to cook and even all of the characters are introduced. Should I start with Luke buying the Droids? Going off to find Kenobi? Leia's capture? Interrogation on the Death Star? I'm thinking of picking several big starting points and adjusting based on what seems most right when we play. By what criteria, I don't know. I could even end up starting as late as Empire, though I doubt it. My two concerns here are achieving strong scene framing that kickstarts the action, and getting as good a chunk of play in as I can in the 4 hour slot.

In fact, scene framing in general is going to be an issue. I've got to be pretty aggressive under the time constraints or play won't get much of anywhere. Any scene-framing-fu you SGites can offer would be great.

And finally, any tips for Solar System crunch, not just for Star Wars in general, but for this version particularly, would be most helpful. I guess Mesmerism would be the main deal here, but starfighter combat and lightsabers would be helpful to whip up a framework for. Maybe Lightsabers would be just ordinary weapons with a rating or two, but Jedi could access Secrets to do nasty tricks with them?

Thanks!

Peace,
-Joel

PS

Comments

  • Why is Han an option? He doesn't seem he has a proactive stake in the framework you're talking about. Luke and Leia are almost pawns used by Kenobi and Vader, but Han getting introduced is dependent on other characters' actions, unless you start the game later.
  • edited March 2009
    I like having Han in there.

    My recommendation is to take the big battle at the end of Return of the Jedi... and say:

    "This is the story pieced together by the rest of the Galaxy immediately after that eventful day, on [date]. What really happened, though? Is that story propaganda spread by the new 'benevolent' government?"

    Really nice recap of the Paradigm, by the way! I don't think I could have done it so concisely.

    (Also: make sure you lure JDCorley to this thread.)

    Edit: Oh, that would mess up your premise a little. You'd need to have Palpatine as PC instead of Kenobi... or not, since no one actually saw Kenobi die two movies back, now, did they? But the Battle of Endor or whatever it's called is a good way to bring all those characters together, I think. And, if the Emperor is just a weak old man with some Force lightning gadget, that makes him more interesting as a PC, I think.
  • edited December 2010
    The cool thing with Han is that he's a counterpoint to all the manipulation and fanaticism of the power players and schemers. . .just a reg'lar guy trying to get by who calls bullshit when he sees it. (In fact, my Han player instructions would probably just be "He's Han. He's unchanged. have fun!") I think having a more simple and pragmatic motivation serves to ground the whole thing, and provide a convenient hook for a player who's not so intrigue-inclined--I mean, who wouldn't want to play Han Solo? :)

    Oh, and a note about Leia being a pawn: in the Paradigm she's a high-level schemer who knows exactly what's up with Luke on Tatooine when she sends Artoo down to activate her sleeper agent Kenobi.

    You're right, though, Tim, that he's awkward to work into the game. Maybe Mos Eisley would be the place to start, then? Your observation also points to a broader issue--that there's not much of an interesting game if they don't make it off-planet. So why leave the Tatooine escape to chance? hell, it's not very interesting for the Leia player if they don't get to the Death Star to rescue her. So maybe encountering the Death Star would be the place to start.

    Paul: that's not a bad idea, since in the paradigm Jedi is where all the plots and schemes really come together. on the other hand, and maybe I'm prejudiced because I'm more of an Empire man, but it feels like you'd end up skipping a lot of the cool action in thge middle of the story. I think it'd be a bit harder to get player buy-in to the alternate interpretation if you in essence say, "here's all this stuff that happened because of these factors; now play after it all happened. But i dunno.

    peace,
    -Joel
  • I'd start at Mos Eisley, but would play a couple of intermediate scenes with Vader and Leia (the assumed "torture" scenes that happened off-screen, or something like that).
  • That's good, yeah.
  • For what it's worth, here's the blurb for the game:
    A naive farmboy with a great destiny on his shoulders. A ruthless commander hot on the trail of dissident saboteurs. A wizened agent of the old regime, intent on molding a successor. A beautiful princess awaiting execution with dignity and defiance. A world-wise smuggler armed with pragmatic cynicism. YOU ONLY THINK YOU KNOW THEM.

    Play with pregens of classic characters--all subtly different, based on a radical interpretation of the Star Wars Mythos. Make your OWN Star Wars with the Solar System, the Creative Commons game by Clinton R. Nixon and Eero Tuovinen that empowers YOU to pursue your goals. Be prepared for proactive story creation with no rails in sight!
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