August 21st, 2009

Obi-Wan Not Good

Campaign Celebrity Name-Dropping

Tomorrow night, assuming all goes to plan, will be the next session of my Star Wars game. Last time, the heroes went on a mission with Luke Skywalker, where they got to see that A) even Jedi Masters can be bothered by TIE fighters when the dice are unfriendly, and B) on the ground, even at the relatively low 13th level Luke goes through stormtroopers like a hot knife through warm butter. It was only when one of the major campaign BBEG's showed up and used Force Push to throw Luke off the building that the real trouble started. (Fortunately for them, the BBEG ignored them and went chasing after Luke, much like the puny humans in a Godzilla movie pretty much get forgotten when another kaiju shows up and the monsters start throwing office buildings at each other.)

Tomorrow night's adventure has even more celebrity name-dropping. In fact, much like the last session, the coming session's premise is that the PCs are sort of a "second unit" support team helping out the Big Name NPC on their own mission. (I can't say more on specifics yet without spoilers.) I'm not normally inclined to do this kind of thing in my games — after all, the PCs are supposed to be the stars of the show — but I've been bending that rule for this game for a few reasons:

  1. First, well, it's Star Wars, and really, what's the point of playing in a Star Wars campaign if you don't get to cross paths with the Big Time Heroes from time to time?

  2. The party is 4th-5th level now; they're not Jim Henson's Star Wars Babies any more, they're starting to make their own waves. But at the same time, they're still just starting to really develop their skills. There's plenty of precedent in Star Wars for the hero to be under the wing of a powerful mentor — in game terms, Obi-Wan was what, 16th-level-plus when he whisked 1st- (2nd-?) level Luke off of Tattooine? laurie_robey's Jedi is one of Luke's padawan learners — of course she's going to be fighting alongside him sometimes, it wouldn't make sense for her not to.

  3. Giving the PCs a big cannon on their side means they can get into bigger, badder adventures right away, which helps give it the "epic" feel needed for a proper Star Wars game. Last time, for instance, the PCs were surrounded by literally dozens of stormtroopers, not to mention Darth Revanus and his disciple Warforged Zath (now deceased). But because Luke was there, they could still wade into the fray and have something approaching a chance of success. So rather than feeling marginalized, if done right this actually makes the PCs more central to the Big Story of the campaign.

  4. I still make a point of keeping it the PCs' story; there are a variety of strategies I have for this. The most obvious one, of course, is in-plot separation. Last time, Luke and Darth Revanus went off chasing each other 2/3 of the way through the session, leaving the PCs to face the climactic battle between Warforged Zath and his troops without him. Tomorrow, the celebrity NPC(s) are likely to spend most of the session off doing one thing while the PCs do another, a la Obi-Wan going off to disable the tractor beam while Luke, Han, and Chewie rescue Princess Leia. A more subtle, but much more satisfying way, is to set up a situation where there are just plain things the PCs can do that the celebrity NPCs can't. In the upcoming scenario, the PCs have been chosen for the mission they're going on precisely because they have certain knowledge that nobody else in the Alliance has. (What this knowledge is, again I can't say yet without spoilers.) The Big Time Heroes could easily find themselves looking to the PCs for input and guidance, double levels or no.

Tune in next week, when we discuss how to pit your 4th level party against Boba Fett and have them actually survive two whole rounds!

-The Gneech

PS: Okay, I'm kidding about that last part.