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What makes a good Star Wars GM?
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Chaosmeister
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2020 5:00 pm    Post subject: What makes a good Star Wars GM? Reply with quote

As a new GM to Star Wars I am wondering. What have you found are the most important things to be a great Star Wars GM? I am not thinking about the usual GM things but ones that are specific to running Star Wars. Curious what you think.
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Leona Makk
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2020 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

good question....

.....I think if we look at what we like and dislike about all the Star Wars movies (how many now? 11?) we can start to figure out what makes a good SW GM and SW adventure.

I think the magic we want to capture as GM's is in the first film (ep IV, of course). Some people complain that it is the most boring but I think it has great pacing for a story and all those "pure" Star Wars elements.

As a GM, I want to capture the things in this movie that i LOVE and share it with the players who are also SW super fans.

1) Action at different Scales. The film starts with a Capital Scale fight then moves to a character scale fight. (That power dynamic of the Star Destroyer vs. the teeny tiny rebel ship...people still write about it.)

2) Our adventures get to explore a mysterious and dangerous setting and argue with each other, like 3PO and R2 in the desert. There is a giant skeleton in the background!!! Great flavor! Players would ask so many questions about this and botch all their Knowledge rolls of course!

3) We get some different vehicles, aliens, and critters; landspeeders; banthas, and sandcrawers, Tusken Raiders and Jawas! So much on such a "boring planet" that the Brash Pilot Player (Luke) can't wait to leave.

4) Keep the Force simple!!! Old Ben sums up the Force and the history of the Jedi in a couple minutes! We don't need to hit the players over the heads with a long winded lecture! Let the players use a little out of character knowledge and FEEL the Force. MOVING ON!

5) All the Aliens at the Cantina! Fun music and wacky aliens! Who are the good guys and/or bad guys? Lets let the players wonder and worry! Great chance for different skill rolls and role playing.

6) ACTION for the rest of the adventure (with a few breaks for the players to argue and try out TERRIBLE plans) and then BOOM the climax! Everyone hugs and gets medals! The players won Star Wars! Except in our games Chewie gets a medal and Leia gets to fly an X-Wing too.

Don't exclude any of the players from the action or the rewards!!!

I think the GM has to provide a clear SW story; blow up the Death Star or innocent people will die by the millions.
Make sure that the players are clearly the only ones who get to save the day.
The NPC Y-Wing pilots don't get to do it. They get to DIE so the players are terrified of the main Bad Guy in his awesome starfighter.

I think being a good Star Wars GM is about being generous. Not with gold and magic items like in DnD, but with all the action and wonder. The players want opportunities to come up with zany escape plans and hair brained schemes that don't quite work out well...but well enough!
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Leona Makk
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

....and then there are the things about the movies we should maybe avoid....
like....

1) not knowing who the main characters are....(is Qui Gon a player or an NPC? Isn't Ben supposed to be the main character?)

2) letting the players stay out of the action for half the adventure. (obi wan stays on the ship while others explore for how long in PM?) Force them into some ACTION!

3) Ultra Confusing Galactic Politics and Economics? While I love these in a long term campaign, maybe these are GM selfish in a 2 night adventure. Stay Player focused! Avoid long exposition.

4) Too many conversations while on couches. Unless it is the players that are roleplaying. The players should be doing the majority of the talking in any game. I struggle with this one of course since I talk too much.
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cheshire
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd actually done a blog post about this a while back. While the post isn't explicitly Star Wars, it was totally written with Star Wars in mind (given that is the majority of my gm'ing experience).

http://geekatarms.com/the-rules/

I was on an episode of Saving the Game talking about a lot of these factors, speaking specifically of unwritten rules. I state up front that Star Wars is going to come up a lot, because that's kind of where I live. (Also, just a heads-up, while the episode is not super "religiousy" Saving the Game is a faith-based podcast, so if that's a thing you don't want, feel free not to click.)

http://stgcast.org/episode-155-the-unwritten-rules-with-geek-at-arms/
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The Bissler
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leona sets it out brilliantly, and I really like Cheshire's article too. I don't think I can improve on much that has been said.

Perhaps just that if you can, play John Williams' soundtrack to your players. It's fantastic for setting the mood of scenes and really gets them in the Star Wars headspace. I curate a playlist for each adventure and add the tracks to play on Roll20. You'll find you have to loop the tracks you've picked for scenes, but it doesn't matter - the players don't care, they're too busy thinking that they're in the middle of a Star Wars scene/battle!

Anything you can do to evoke the films seems to get the best reactions from my players. They want to fly the ships, encounter aliens and villains - and visit the locations in the movies (we haven't visited planets from the films in my current campaign, but that's because we visited most in my last 50 session campaign). Make the story clear, maybe with a few twists if you can find them, but keep your players moving along and try to keep the action fast!
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The Bissler
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cheshire wrote:
I'd actually done a blog post about this a while back. While the post isn't explicitly Star Wars, it was totally written with Star Wars in mind (given that is the majority of my gm'ing experience).

http://geekatarms.com/the-rules/

I was on an episode of Saving the Game talking about a lot of these factors, speaking specifically of unwritten rules. I state up front that Star Wars is going to come up a lot, because that's kind of where I live. (Also, just a heads-up, while the episode is not super "religiousy" Saving the Game is a faith-based podcast, so if that's a thing you don't want, feel free not to click.)

http://stgcast.org/episode-155-the-unwritten-rules-with-geek-at-arms/


The one point I'd respectfully disagree with in your article is about making character deaths meaningful. I should preface what I'm about to say by explaining that I absolutely hate character deaths - usually because I put effort into creating an interesting backstory to the player characters and I have the odd adventure planned which revolves around a particular PC, but also because I know as a player, I don't like to lose a character I worked long and hard improving.

There was an adventure I wrote which had a meaningful death built into it - I had a villain who had a little of The Dark Knight's Joker about him and he gave the players an impossible decision. One person had to essentially fly out on an X-Wing to another ship - which was primed to explode - to get information which would see them achieve a major objective in the campaign. While the party were debating, one player hopped into the X-Wing and took off. He thought it would be a cool way to go out. The problem was, as soon as he got the information they needed, the other players changed his mind and suddenly he decided he really wanted his character to survive. I was fine with killing the character off until I realised the player did not want this and so I manufactured an escape, albeit he escaped with severe injuries. The result was that I was unhappy that my cool story moment had been taken away, and he was unhappy that his character suffered some severe penalties because of the wounds. It's my biggest regret in a session, and I don't think I'd want to revisit it.

Bizarrely enough, our latest campaign is far more lethal and has seen a very high PC attrition rate, one or two in some relatively innocuous circumstances - and the players seem to be thriving on it! I think they like the danger of knowing their character is only one bad dice roll away from death!


Rolling with the Players' ideas is a wonderful piece of advice. In our last session, our Pilot character used the YT-1300 as a battering ram to destroy a line of AT-PTs! I was initially reluctant to allow this, but he rolled 47 for his Space Transports and the combat was pushing close to two hours so, not only did he make the roll, but it allowed us to tie the encounter up in a bow and push on with the story! Wherever you can, I agree to always try to accommodate player ideas, they often come up with something far more interesting than I've thought of!
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Yora
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are certain things that I think are good practice for any kind of campaign to make playing the game more worthwhile. Though apparently there seem to be plenty of people who seem to really enjoy games that don't follow them. (As long as I don't need to play in those games, do whatever makes you happy.) But when the goal is to run a game that evokes the spirit of the original Star Wars movie, I think they are not optional but mandatory:

The whole point of RPGs as a medium is that the players are able to make decision that determine the outcome of future events and the ultimate end results. What makes RPGs different from videogames is that the players don't have to be restricted to chose between a limited number of alternative story paths that have been pre-determined by the writers.

I think that a major part of the "adventure" in Star Wars is the heroes finding themselves faced with obstacles that have no obvious and solution already waiting for them. It's not "I see, to get to the next door, I will have to succeed on a Jump roll. I hope the dice land so it will be enough." What you have are characters taking in their surroundings, determining their goal, accessing the danger, and then going through all the tools that are currently at their disposal to create a solution.
To make this work, the players need to have a good selection of tools that are available to them. Both equipment carried by the hero and plenty of things within the environment they are in. When you add details to an environment, you don't even need to have any clue how that detail would be helpful to overcoming the obstacle. Maybe it's really useless and does nothing. But four or six players bouncing ideas of each other can come up with many more things than one GM who is setting up the encounter.

Star Wars, more than most settings, is all about the heroes pulling off daring stunts. It's not about about heroes trying out half a dozen different ideas until something works (i.e. the dice happen to fall the right way).
If a solution could possibly work, then most of the time it should work out successful. So I advocate being generous when assigning the difficulty for rolls to pull off cool ideas. In Star Wars, the heroes are doing very improbable and even somewhat silly things all the time. That's the whole appeal of the pulp style. And personally I think that if any Star Wars story does not feel like pulpy adventure, then what's the point of setting it in the Star Wars setting in the first place?

I've been thinking about character death, and I think generally speaking, heroes in Star Wars stories don't die. Or even end up in situations where it looks like they really might die.
In the first movie, Obi-Wan dies, but that was a deliberate sacrifice by his own choice. That was not him losing a fight.
In the Empire Strikes Back, C-3PO gets blown up but put back together. Han gets frozen, but it's immediately made clear he can be thawed up again.
In Return of the Jedi, Yoda dies, but it's not in any kind of confrontation or conflict. Vader's death is treated as a loss, but this again has nothing to do with a hero failing to win a fight.
in Episode 1, Qui-Gon dies because he does not manage to win a fight.
In Episode 2, no hero dies.
In Episode 3, Padme dies in a way that seems really random and confusing, seemingly only for the fact that she isn't in the next movie. It's not because of anything she did or failed at.
Minor allies die with some frequency, but how invested were we ever in Biggs, Dak, and Jedi Council Member #5?
The pulpy swashbuckling of Star Wars comes from the heroes doing daring things, never really being concerned about their safety or worried about their life. I think characters in a Star Wars generally shouldn't be either. But of course we still need a permanent threat of failure. Among the many kind of daring stunts done by the heroes, daring escapes make up a substantial fraction. Simply getting away is often a thrilling victory.

For the purposes of planning an running a game, this means the GM should always prepare for what happens if the heroes get caught. It probably might not happen, but to keep up the tension it always should be possible that it could happen. And when it does, you should be able to keep the momentum going to not let the players fall into a slump and think the action is over. While Star Wars certainly is "violent", it never actually becomes "brutal" Characters who surrender will always be taken prisoner and never be meaningfully harmed. When a fight is going south, fighting to the death should never feel like a serious option. Though I am not quite sure how to communicate this to the players through gameplay.
If being brought to the local lead villain is an option, it should certainly be used, and you want to have some idea what the villain would say to the heroes before they are thrown into a cell. And I definitely would always prepare some kind of cell for the heroes for any kind of enemy base that I set up. And then it comes back to my earlier point. Make those cells places that have lots of tools for the players to work with, even if their personal equipment has been taken from them. Breaking out of the cell should be fun. And reasonably easy. The players should still feel like they made their escape happen, but it shouldn't become too tedious. But if it seems like the whole thing is a bit too easy and the security too poor to be believable, that's not really a problem. It's Star Wars. It's not supposed to be realistic, but to be heroic.

Now the first movie has a really simple plot (by design), and its very obvious how the battle at the Death Star will end. But after that point, things regularly are really very much up in the air until the last moment. The Empire Strikes Back of course being the prime example. But even in Return of the Jedi, knowing that it's the last movie is the only reason to feel assured that the Rebels will win the battle. Otherwise it would be very easy to see how it could possibly end in the Rebels having to retreat in defeat, reaching a new low point from which they have to come back up in the next adventure. And the situation with Luke, Vader, and the Emperor on the Death Star really could have gone any direction. As the events are presented, Luke joining the Emperor, Luke joining Vader, and Luke dying when the Death Star is destroyed are all plausible outcomes. And in Revenge of the Sith, we only really know that Vader will betray the Jedi and join the Emperor. And some 20 years later, Obi-Wan and Yoda will be the only known remaining Jedi. There are plenty of scenes where it looks like characters have several options for how they choose to act, and each of them would lead to different consequences.
Overall, I would say that the movies give you a good degree of confidence that the good guys will eventually win and evil get defeated, the path to get there is very uncertain and it's really unclear how long it will be and what it will take.
While the Star Wars movies are these nice compact stories of the good guys winning against the bad guys, I still think that the path to reach the ending should be put entirely into the hands of the players. The choices that the players make should determine the events that follow. The players should feel that the objectives they are pursuing and the situations they find themselves in are the consequences of choices they made earlier. It should feel like things could be very different now if they had made different choices in the past. Not like the GM wrote down three months ago which Imperial officers the players will attempt to bribe and how they will get the thing that he demands in return for his help. When players come up with ideas what their characters could be doing to get closer to their objectives, roll with that. Don't tell the players "sorry, this is not the correct solution" or "but the story demands that you accept the offer". People apparently do run games like that and even players say those adventures are fun, but I really don't see how you can make something feel like a Star Wars adventure like that.
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KageRyu
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I want to respond, but I am going to take some time to respond as there are several aspects of GMing Star Wars ranging from scope and scale, to story depth, to arbiter of rules and game mechanics, to involving the players not just to participate but capture the sense of awe and wonder that as a GM you must feel for star wars, even in the event of the players defeat. Let's all face it, one of the most difficult aspects as a Star Wars GM is to stay true to and portray our personal take on Star Wars, while being open/and or forgiving enough to not trample a players view of things we may not like (Prequels, sequels, bad kids novels, etc...) - We all have our unique connection to Star Wars that I think is safe to say no two of us will 100% agree on. This is especially true now, trying to recruit players in this post-Disney Star Wars Era where the newer, younger players may be as fired up and passionate about Rise of Skywalker as I once was about the upcoming Revenge of the Jedi.
Strange times are upon us indeed. Though I hope the D6 will roll on forever!
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Yora
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 4:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Star Wars is not simply just Star Wars. It has been a number of quite different sub-settings with their own styles for a very long time now.

There's the Classic Rebellion setting, which is just the three original movies.
There's the Marvel comics setting, that somehow never really got referenced by other writers.
Then there's the New Republic setting from the 90s.
And later the "Next Generation" setting.
Then we also got the Prequels/Clone Wars setting.
The Knights of the Old Republic setting (and maybe even also The Old Republic setting separately).
And now the Disney setting.

While they all build on each other to some degree, I feel they are really quite distinctive and different. Even the Rebellion setting and the Clone Wars setting feel drastically different to me. In some aspects the Clone Wars continuity already conflicted with the 90s New Republic.
And the "Next Generation" setting, with an extragalactic empire that uses organic technology, and which has Palpatine and Thrawn selflessly creating the Empire to prepare against this existential threat in the future always felt like it goes completely against everything that Star Wars was supposed to be to me.
I think as GM, it's important to give some clarity about which of these continuities the campaign is set in. All of them make playable settings. Though I don't think there are many people who want to play Disney Wars. That continuity does not appear to have many fans. (There's plenty of Back to the Roots going on now, with Fallen Order, Squadrons, and The Mandalorian.)
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The Bissler
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 4:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Though I don't think there are many people who want to play Disney Wars. That continuity does not appear to have many fans. (There's plenty of Back to the Roots going on now, with Fallen Order, Squadrons, and The Mandalorian.)


Not many people from the generation that grew up with the OT maybe, but, echoing KageRyu's point, I see plenty of love from younger people for the Resistance era films. These people are the future of Star Wars gaming, so, while I personally wouldn't feel comfortable running a campaign set in that era, I would encourage anyone who felt inspired to do so. The more the merrier!
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Straxus
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 3:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing I find important when GMing Star Wars vs other games is to keep the pace up, to get that "rollercoaster" feeling - without railroading the players. My players aren't used to that style, but it's gradually getting better.

It's also challenging to get PCs to hop on their starship and go to a new planet regularly, because they tend to make sure they have done "everything they need to do" before moving on.
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Ninja-Bear
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2020 5:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you get a chance to watch SW: Rebels, you can see how you can use elements from Classic Star Wars and still make it your own. The cartoon IMO does a great job of having a SW feel but the characters don’t feel that they over shadow the OG Heroes at all.
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Mamatried
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2020 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the good Sttar Wars GM is the one able to actually be able to graps if you will and be open to the extreme diversity within the galaxy, both in regards to species but also technology and more.

One thing the Mandalorian have shown us, and to a degree even Solo was very low tech societies, basically at a "normal" tech and sociatal level we had 1000s of years ago, some societies, like where people live in very medival earth like villages, they have the occational machine here and there but we are in many way very close to the swors swining knight in armor here.

and the overly structured society and high technology of the Galactic Empire and the Republic.

As a good Star Wars GM I feel that one should be open to all this, allow theplayer to dive a little deeper than maybe the GM intended, give that wigglerrom for the lost colony of chiss, that is at a pre space age techology level, let the character expore this, the galaxy is wast enough for this maybe actually exist.

That is what to me is a good Star Wars GM, one that embraces all the known and the unknown, allowing the players to create the unknown into their, and thus your galaxy far far away
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