So, our RPG group is about to finish Balder’s Gate: Descent into Avernus where Zazzu, my Female Tiefling Warlock who now wields Zariel’s sword, will hopefully be able to redeem the fallen angel, Zariel, and bring her back to the the light. Here is my post on the starting of this campaign if you want to find out more: New D&D Campaign – Descent into Avernus
With that campaign potentially ending in a few weeks, our GM, having been inspired by the Disney+ show The Mandalorian, wants to have our next campaign take place after The Return of the Jedi, much like The Mandalorian is, so we can experience that era of play.
Now, he also wants us to start somewhat like the sci-fi show Dark Matter where we all are slowly waking up with amnesia on a ship with alarms blaring and life support failing, and then, in some organic matter, figure out who are characters are and what they can do as we go, as well as what happened to them.
This post is going to talk about my thought experiment (as a player) in attempting to start a game like this within the Star Wars system even though I am not the GM.
Class Based Systems are NOT Conducive to Organic Character Discovery
The first issue we will run into when thinking about starting a game like this is that very crunchy class based games are NOT conducive to running a game which wants to promote an organic discovery of who that character is when challenged in the opening of the campaign.
In Dungeons and Dragons and FFG’s Star Wars we have essentially 3 main choices to make which silos and limits all of the other choices within them. Dungeons and Dragons has: Race, Background, and Class; Star Wars has Race, Specialization (Career) and that is really it. Skills (Talents), which are the most important part of those characters are contained within those silos.
For more optimized characters in both systems a race would be chosen to enhance your class/specialization, so you kinda need to know your specialization before your choose your race, for this choice is highly interdependent.
If we attempt a truly organic character discovery through play outside of character ‘class’ structure such as discovering skills and talents then the character discovery process might end up organically creating a character that cannot be created within the existing class system. With the challenges that the character is given before a “class” is chosen may create a skill or ability combination which cannot be created through the existing “class” silos.
So, in order for this to work in some way, we need a way to create a more organic level of character discovery that will still allow class discovery and skill/ability discovery to be valid. Easier said than done – giving a heavily siloed crunchy system some advantages of a more narrative and classless system.
Classless Systems are Better for Organic Character Discovery
Conversely, with more classless systems like Fate, The Expanse, Alternity, or Genesys, you have a lot of open and non-siloed options which allows a more organic level of character discovery because all things are picked in their own independent and wide-open area which are not highly dependent or limited by previous choices of discovery. We can mostly pick whatever skills we need as we go, or we can have more discrete levels of ability discovery.
Fate has Aspects, Skills, Stunts none of which are dependent on anything. Just pick what you want when you want.
The Expanse has areas you can roll or chose which give certain packages of abilities with some choices which have increasing levels of specificity as you go: planet, social class, background, profession which makes it really convenient for organic discovery.
Genesys has race, abilities, and then skills and talents, all of which are wide open and not restricted.
A Suggested Process
So, here is the process I am suggesting for this campaign and its parameters:
- Campaign Creation
- Destiny Point Economy
- Character Discovery
- Character Creation
1. Campaign Creation
Start with the first bunch of steps (1-5) prior to the crunchy parts in my Campaign Creation Primer (CCP) that way we can really give the GM some amazing tools to work with, get player investment, and create elements for players to inspire and to tie their characters into the world with.
- 0 – Campaign Creation Overview
- 1 – Genre
- 2 – Scale
- 3 – Campaign Issues
- 4 – Filling Out Your Campaign
- 5 – Thematic Campaign Aspects (optional)
Really, just go through this process as is because it is really system neutral and it will be powerful storytelling tool not just for the GM, but also the players. Some of the amazing tools you will get out of this process are the Campaign Aspects:
- Legacy Issue – which is used to flavor the narrative with what happened in the past and may have lead to their current circumstances.
- Current Issue – This will most likely be specifically related to the being stranded on a ship with life support failing and having amnesia.
- Impending Issue – The first real campaign issue that will drive the game forward once we have dealt with the unfortunate beginning circumstances for our players.
- 2 Thematic Aspects – These aspects may be used to reinforce campaign themes not only for the GM narratively, but also for the players narratively too throughout the campaign, especially when we are using the narrative dice and Destiny Points.
You will also generate an incredible amount of campaign elements:
- conflict points for organizations and places
All of these will make life for the GM so much easier, provides known anchor points for character histories, as well as provides powerful tools for storytelling and role playing for everyone.
2. Destiny Point Economy
Prepping Your Destiny Points for Your Fateful Game
Now, instead of Fate Points in the Fate Core System, we have Star Wars’ Destiny Points which bear a striking resemblance to Fate Points not only in look, but also in function. Because Star Wars is a mechanics heavy game and we have the narrative dice system’s wonderful non-binary results, we do not need so many of these point thingy’s floating around, There are already plenty of uses for the Destiny Points too (which are reminiscent of Fate’s options) so we really do not need to add much to integrate the use of Fate’s Aspects and Fate Points in a Star Wars powered game.
Now, in addition to the normal uses for Destiny Points, the GM/players will also be able to invoke the player aspects or the campaign aspects too. =) This will also give the GM many more interesting opportunities to use the Destiny Points to drive the game forward and to complicate the game, especially with flaws, desires, fears, and Unresolved Issues in the mix.
Using Destiny Points on Aspects
If the GM invokes a character aspect with one of their Destiny Points and the player accepts, then the player would take the Destiny Point directly for their use. If the GM invokes a character aspect with one of their Destiny Points and the player refuses, then the player would take a Light Side Destiny Point from their individual pool (if there are any there) first or the player pool and move it over to the GM pool. The basics of a Fate Point economy works well here too!
As an option, perhaps we can flip a Destiny Point if someone rolls two Despair or Triumphs. We can do that by adding one more optional use of Triumphs or Despair: flip a Destiny Point. Now, I am thinking the number of Despairs/Triumphs required should be set near the average max skill level of the PC’s. You do not want too many of these things going crazy in your game otherwise it will get out of control and throw you game balance out of whack.
3. Character Discovery
The goal here will be to use the strengths of the more narrative system Fate’s aspect driven character creation as a way to create a narrative outline for the characters which can inform their actual character creation using the crunchy FFG Star Wars Rules, as well as help to drive future role playing.
Here are the basic aspects of the characters we can aim to figure out through this narrative process:
- trouble (personal problem – creates conflict)
- primary skill
- secondary skill
- basic high concept including (race, gender, class)
We do not necessarily have to find out all of this, but it it a good set to start with. If we aim for too much more than this we will risk generating too many specifics which may make creating a viable character through the limits of the crunchy Star Wars system very difficult, so we will have to show some restraint during this first phase. =)
Narrative Character Outline with Fate Core
As you start your first session after having completed the Campaign Creation Process and having your Campaign Description Sheet before you, the campaign’s first session officially starts and the GM hands each player a blank Fateful Characters sheet and a blank Star Wars character sheet. Wow! He is really serious about this organic character discovery. We have never started like this before – tabula rasa!
Character Wake up (Race and Gender) – The first thing a player who wakes up does is ‘discover‘ their race and gender. Simple enough and is one that is not really something you will spend time discovering. It will be readily apparent in one way or another.
Character Wake up (Obligation) – At this very beginning moment the character could declare now how big their Obligation is even if they have no idea what it is yet, or they could declare/discover it later. This may end up being tied to your character’s Unresolved Issue aspect.
Character Wake up (Character Sheets) – They will want to update both character sheets with race and gender. They will want to fill out their Star Wars sheet with basic racial stats. They could even spend most of their points on stats here as well since that is how characters are usually made anyhow.
Narrative Discovery – Then we start with a organic character discovery process through the role playing of the session. Remember, through the session we are looking to figure out only a limited number of things:
- trouble (personal problem – creates conflict)
- primary skill
- secondary skill
- basic high concept including (race, gender, ‘class‘)
At most through the playing you will want to consider a skill as having only 1 non-racial rank because we do NOT know how many the character will have. Plus, ya know, amnesia and being groggy and all that.
As you go through this process and discover parts of the character you will want to fill out both character sheets for later (skills in the Fateful Character’s notes section).
4. Character Creation
Once the first session is done we can create the actual crunchy character:
- Crunchy Characters – Now using the Fate character aspects and notes from this session players can finish assembling the character using Star Wars character generator and take it from there and completely crunchify their character. The skills discovered could be career skills or non-career skills.
- Fate Aspects – They will want to keep the Fateful Character Sheet as a role playing tool which could also be potentially invoked with Destiny Points!!
- Obligation – Through the rest of the campaign we can discover the character’s Obligation either through memories returning or through being confronted with it in game which would be fun especially if the character has no clue.
So, here we utilize the strengths of a narrative systems to drive basic high level character discovery and then use that as a guide to create the final character in its more crunchy form, and we also expand the use of Destiny points to also help drive the narrative of the game.
Let me know what you think.