TT reader and RPG freelancer Walt C. wrote to me a little while back about his ongoing Star Wars campaign, and we’ve been exchanging emails about the technique he used to create the campaign’s framework. I asked Walt if I could publish excerpts of his emails here, and he graciously said yes (thanks, Walt!).
So why should you care about Walt’s Star Wars campaign? Because he designed it by using a simple technique that’s easy to reproduce, and so far he’s had very good results:
I’m currently 2/3s of the way through a very successful Star Wars campaign. While prepping for the campaign, I had no idea what to run. Suddenly, inspiration hit me. I took Star Wars (the original) and made a crude outline from it. I created my own area in the Unknown Regions of space, and I essentially “recreated” Star Wars by filing off serial numbers while using the same general outline. It worked so well that I did the same for ESB. (I’ve begun plotting ROTJ).
What happened when his players found out?
…by the end of the original Star Wars swipe, I let my players in on my secret. It didn’t negatively impact the ESB-inspired adventure at all. In fact, when I ended that portion, one of my players actually said “I can’t believe we had a darker ending than ESB!”…
Part of what I find so appealing about Walt’s approach is that it’s straightforward without being overly so. Even though the skeleton comes from the Star Wars movies, the specific events don’t just have a new coat of paint — they feel like part of his campaign. Here’s a brief overview of his approach:
When I was brainstorming, I came up with a few goals on designing this adventure. First, I wanted it to “feel” like Star Wars. Second, I thought that the best way to do that was to write an adventure that followed the same general outline of Star Wars. Third, while I wanted to follow the first Star Wars movie, I didn’t want to be a slave to the outline. I’d deviate where necessary.
My players actually had characters from a previous aborted campaign that they wanted to use. Since they were mercenaries, I decided to make the entire group “Han and Chewie.” One of the PCs was force-sensitive, so I knew that I’d soon have a Luke parallel.
With those parallels in mind, Walt filed the serial numbers off of the basic plots of each of the Star Wars movies, reworked them to fit his slice of the SW universe, and went from there.
Coming up with broad outlines for an entire campaign can be a tricky business. How can you plan ten adventures ahead when you have no idea what your players will do — especially given that crazy die rolls (good or bad) could change everything?
If you have a rough idea of where the campaign could go, even though you know the storyline isn’t likely to survive contact with the PCs, you’ll be that much further along when you sit down to prep for each session. And as Walt’s technique shows, you don’t have to start from scratch — you can simplify the outline creation process by using the bones of a broad storyline that you already know.
It would be interesting to see the outline.
Also to learn where the story deviated.
Actual examples would help me see exactly how Walt changed things. How did he re-imagine the Deathstar and other staples of the universe?
Confession – I improvised a con event once when the GM didn’t show up. The players were adventurers caught in the middle of a war between a just and fair kingdom and a nation of cultists dedicated to an evil god. The PCs were ordered to retrieve the last of 7 oracle seers sent to a distant outpost to aid one of the King’s commanders (the other 6 were targetted and killed by the enemy and she was the last of her kind).
I had watched Saving Private Ryan on DVD with my dad the day before. I told the players at the end and they all were shocked and impressed taht I had improvised the enitre game but that you could go step by step through what we did and have a pretty close plotline to the movie.
I’ve done this before where you take a film/story from another genre and use it for another genre. Conan the Barbarian became a modern horror solo campaign for a buddy, and the comic The Walking Dead became a sci-fi alien invasion campaign.
Yet what impresses me about what Walt did is that he used Star Wars’ plot to run Star Wars for what I am assuming are Star Wars fans to an extent. That sounds easy to do on the surface, but I don’t know if I would be able to pull it off without drawing lots of comparrisons to the original. Way to go!
It’s difficult for me to lay out my entire outline and make the parallels clear. While it’s easy to see in my head, the parallels are far less obvious in the execution.
For the Death Star, I looked at it as two separate plot elements. In the first, the heroes have to infiltrate the base, rescue the princess, and escape. In the second, they have a limited time to destroy a superweapon before it ends the rebellion.
In my story, I treated them as completely separate. My “princess,” a spy that had the information they needed, was imprisoned on an extremely hot prison planet (yes, Crematoria references were made, but in truth it was more like ROTS). The PCs had to break in, rescue her, and get out.
For the second scene, I borrowed elements of TPM and ROTJ. Being the Unknown Regions, the Empire could not commit a lot of stormtroopers to keep the system under control. Instead, they relied on droids. The PCs had to infiltrate an orbiting Star Destroyer with a stolen Lambda shuttle and destroy the droid control center. This would enable the planetary forces to overcome what was left of the Imperial forces. During this scene, I also had my Jedi apprentice PC take on a Dark Jedi that was protecting the generator. They succeeded, the system was freed, and the Queen knighted them for their efforts.
I’d be happy to answer any specific questions that anyone may have.
I think that shows what I was looking for, I am doing something similar with Babylon 5 and adapting it to a fantasy setting.
I am doing a whole outline though.
it does remind me that star wars a new hope is just akira kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress.