Musing on Star Wars themes in RPG

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Like I said, it can work, but I see no reason to squeeze every story with an emotional component into the storygame box. You don't need mechanics for that stuff for every game.

Yeah. I don't see Star Wars as more emotion-driven that Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, and TOR does a fantastic job at capturing the spirit of the source texts as a more-or-less traditional RPG.
 

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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Well, I've only heard of about half of those games, but I would classify nearly all of them as narrative games or storygames (except Classic Deadlands, not sure why that's in there). All of them use mechanical means to enforce emotional action or push narrative outside of the game setting. I'm sure they do play differently, but so do Rifts and AD&D 1e, both of which I would classify as "traditional" (in the non-Six Cultures sense of that word) RPGs, along with a host of others that differ greatly in basic play from those you listed.

Classic Deadlands' Fate Chip (with both character and GM chip pools) economy is incredibly similar in nature and in play to Infinity's Heat/Momentum pools. In many ways it's more oriented towards narrative concerns because chips can be gained by playing to character hindrances. When I played Infinity for the first time, I was like this is just like Deadlands.

The same can be said for how Nature and Demeanor impact Willpower gains in World of Darkness. Not to mention Self Control, Courage and Conscience rolls.
 
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Classic Deadlands' Fate Chip (with both character and GM chip pools) economy is incredibly similar in nature and in play to Infinity's Heat/Momentum pools. In many ways it's more oriented towards narrative concerns because chips can be gained by playing to character hindrances. When I played Infinity for the first time, I was like this is just like Deadlands.

The same can be said for how Nature and Demeanor impact Willpower gains in World of Darkness. Not to mention Self Control, Courage and Conscience rolls.
Ok, but fate chips are one part of Deadlands, which is otherwise played in a very traditional way. There's certainly a spectrum I'll admit.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Well, I've only heard of about half of those games, but I would classify nearly all of them as narrative games or storygames (except Classic Deadlands, not sure why that's in there). All of them use mechanical means to enforce emotional action or push narrative outside of the game setting. I'm sure they do play differently, but so do Rifts and AD&D 1e, both of which I would classify as "traditional" (in the non-Six Cultures sense of that word) RPGs, along with a host of others that differ greatly in basic play from those you listed.

I wanted to touch on this separately. Swords of the Serpentine, FATE, Hillfolk and Apocalypse World do not differ on the scale of Rifts and AD&D. They are as different from one another structurally as they are from D&D. The GM and player roles, structure of the game and agenda for play are radically different from one another. Games like L5R Fifth Edition and Infinity are much closer to D&D/Vampire/et al than it is to any of those other games (and mostly share the same GM/Player roles as D&D does).
 
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I wanted to touch on this separately. Swords of the Serpentine, FATE, Hillfolk and Apocalypse World do not differ on the scale of Rifts and AD&D. They are as different from one another structurally as they are from D&D. The GM and player roles, structure of the game and agenda for play are radically different from one another. Games like L5R Fifth Edition and Infinity are much closer to D&D than it is to any of those other games (and mostly share the same GM/Player roles as D&D does).
Which one is L5R fifth edition? The Fantasy Flight version, or the new 5e-compatible one?
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Which one is L5R fifth edition? The Fantasy Flight version, or the new 5e-compatible one?

The Fantasy Flight version. I'm speaking more towards how play is structured, what the GM's responsibilities are, how players are expected to orient themselves towards play, etc. In games like Infinity or L5R Fifth Edition the core structure of play is thoroughly traditional and varies substantially from the sort of play structure you see in Apocalypse World or Hillfolk (which are structured very differently from one another).

It does embed character mentality directly into the fabric of the game, but that's been a part of trad game design since at least the 90s with nature and demeanor in World of Darkness. Void Points and Honor Points in previous iterations of L5R, et al. Not asking anyone to like this sort of thing, but it isn't exactly new-fangled or change the basic structure of play.

More importantly for me I do not like trying to treat things that are so fundamentally different as if they were the same thing just because some people dislike those fundamentally different things equally.
 
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pemerton

Legend
@pemerton is a huge narrative game advocate, so I would expect them to look at things from that perspective.

While it can certainly work that way, so can a lot of stories or genres or franchises if you're into that sort of thing. Not sure why Star Wars deserves a special plug in that department, but it is what we're talking about.
Yeah. I don't see Star Wars as more emotion-driven that Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, and TOR does a fantastic job at capturing the spirit of the source texts as a more-or-less traditional RPG.
I'm not particularly invested in what gets counted as a "traditional" RPG, and as I've said I don't know what "narrative" means as an adjective of RPGs.

But I think Star Wars, given that it is a version of epic fantasy but in space, should have emotional significance to the character affecting actions in a fashion that is not (say) part of CoC, which is all about the impersonality of the threats to humanity, nor a part of (say) a gritty or noir-ish game. And certainly not a part of an expedience-oriented RPG like classic D&D.

If Luke's attempt to do such-and-such does not differ, in terms of resolution, whether he is dealing with a random ice monster or dealing with Darth Vader, I don't think the game has done very well in capturing Star Wars themes. There are of course many mechanical ways this can be implemented.

I do think this is a difference from The Hobbit. Less so from LotR.

Narrative as an adjective simply means “representing a story” in a general sense. In a game context, I only ever see confusion about its use here on enworld, really.

To be more narrative, a game is less simulationist, less focused on giving characters a world to run around in and traits and features to allow them to do whatever they want in a system that tests very individual actions, Monster of The Week is more Narrative than d20 Modern. 4e D&D is arguably more narrative than 5e D&D.

More narrative games often (but this isn’t absolutely necessary) focus resolution mechanics on something other than success or failure of actions. Like the post upthread wherein someone suggested that SW characters should be taking an action to accomplish a goal like “clear the building”, not breaking that goal into actions and resolving each in turn.
I can't comment on Monster of the Week. 4e has action resolution mechanics that are focused on the success or failure of action. So does Apocalypse World (which surely gets to be a paradigm of PbtA!).
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I'm not particularly invested in what gets counted as a "traditional" RPG, and as I've said I don't know what "narrative" means as an adjective of RPGs.

But I think Star Wars, given that it is a version of epic fantasy but in space, should have emotional significance to the character affecting actions in a fashion that is not (say) part of CoC, which is all about the impersonality of the threats to humanity, nor a part of (say) a gritty or noir-ish game. And certainly not a part of an expedience-oriented RPG like classic D&D.

If Luke's attempt to do such-and-such does not differ, in terms of resolution, whether he is dealing with a random ice monster or dealing with Darth Vader, I don't think the game has done very well in capturing Star Wars themes. There are of course many mechanical ways this can be implemented.

I do think this is a difference from The Hobbit. Less so from LotR.

I can't comment on Monster of the Week. 4e has action resolution mechanics that are focused on the success or failure of action. So does Apocalypse World (which surely gets to be a paradigm of PbtA!).
So if I get what you’re saying, the mechanics of Luke shooting at a squad of stormtroopers should be different from those of Luke facing Darth Vader? How do would you implement that?

Traditional rpg would make Darth Vader a stronger enemy. Some would make Darth Vader a “boss” type villain, or a nemesis with additional abilities, closer to those of a PC, while stormtrooper would be a mob or brute squad à la 7th Sea.

So an emotional connection could leave different kind of wounds, but that requires another gauge than simple hp. And maybe they can even deal - wait for it - emotional damage! But joke aside, what did you have in mind?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I'm not particularly invested in what gets counted as a "traditional" RPG, and as I've said I don't know what "narrative" means as an adjective of RPGs.

But I think Star Wars, given that it is a version of epic fantasy but in space, should have emotional significance to the character affecting actions in a fashion that is not (say) part of CoC, which is all about the impersonality of the threats to humanity, nor a part of (say) a gritty or noir-ish game. And certainly not a part of an expedience-oriented RPG like classic D&D.

If Luke's attempt to do such-and-such does not differ, in terms of resolution, whether he is dealing with a random ice monster or dealing with Darth Vader, I don't think the game has done very well in capturing Star Wars themes. There are of course many mechanical ways this can be implemented.

I do think this is a difference from The Hobbit. Less so from LotR.

I can't comment on Monster of the Week. 4e has action resolution mechanics that are focused on the success or failure of action. So does Apocalypse World (which surely gets to be a paradigm of PbtA!).
I still see no reason why a Star Wars RPG would be objectively better with a system that mechanically emphasized either emotional action or narrative tropes/storytelling. They are perfectly good games, but I don't think having rules for those things are a benefit IMO.

This is what I mean by narrative games, and I think by this point you have a good handle on my opinions regarding playstyles.
 


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