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.