GM Guide: The Hero's Journey
Narrating Your Star Wars™ Roleplaying Games
"The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead. I am no Jedi, but I know the Force."
There's no more immersive experience of the Star Wars universe than that provided by any or all of the three different Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars™ roleplaying systems — Age of Rebellion™, Edge of the Empire™, and Force and Destiny™.
All three systems allow you and your friends to share thrilling adventures in the Star Wars universe, and all three utilize the same dice and core mechanics. Moreover, you can dive quickly into any of these game lines by starting with its Beginner Game. Regardless of the line, a Star Wars Roleplaying Beginner Game offers a unique and memorable take on the core Star Wars experience, allowing players and Game Masters to learn the game even as they play.
But where do you go from your Beginner Game? Perhaps you have a fantastic series of Star Wars adventures racing through your mind, and you want to share them with your friends. How can you use the game's narrative dice as part of your effort?
Today, guest writer Bryan Young draws upon his experience as a Star Wars roleplaying Game Master in order to help you make the dice your ally.
Guest Writer Bryan Young on Using the Power of the Dice
There are a lot of newer Star Wars gamers who opened up their Star Wars™ Roleplaying Beginner Games, ran the box's well-structured game, and are now looking to make their next game even better.
As you make your way on that journey from gaming Padawan to Master, having adventures of your own in the Star Wars universe, one of the most important things you can learn to improve your gaming experience is to focus on the stories you can tell using the dice.
The Star Wars Roleplaying Games from Fantasy Flight Games are unique from any other game I’ve played. With them, you can have wonderful things happen in tandem with otherwise unsuccessful rolls, but you can also have horrible things happen when you’ve clearly aced a task.
This apparent contradiction lends itself to the sort of high-adventure storytelling of Star Wars movies, but can be a little difficult for players to get used to. The system asks a lot from the players, but it can create some of the most fun story moments you’ve ever had in a game.
What Stories Will Your Dice Tell?
If your group has players accustomed to other games, it might be difficult to get them to participate in telling stories with the dice, but once you do, you’re going to have a much more collaborative and fun game. Think about all the great moments in Star Wars movies where something good and bad happened at the same time and it helped tell a much more thrilling story.
A really great way to get your players accustomed to this is by offering all sorts of examples you’d find acceptable in play.
One of my favorite moments involved a starfighter battle in an asteroid field. One of my players was chasing a TIE fighter through the asteroids, dodging around back and forth, and rolled to shoot the TIE. Naturally, the difficulty of hitting the TIE fighter was really high, and my player missed the shot. But it still yielded a Triumph result. That’s when my player offered that the stray shot hit an asteroid and altered its trajectory… and that asteroid hit another—right into the TIE fighter!
There are many other ways to use your dice results. Fail that stealth roll but got a Triumph? Maybe the guard took a break to go to the refresher station so your stealthiness doesn’t matter. Or imagine that your players are rolling for their hyperspace navigation and score a bunch of Advantage, even as they fail what they want to do; maybe they manage to come out of hyperspace early, realizing that if they’d have done what they intended, they'd have fallen into a trap.
On the other side of the token, what if your player rolls a success along with a significant amount of Threat? Maybe she manages to blast the stormtrooper as which she's aiming at, and he’s knocked forward into the console he’s guarding, opening the blast door behind him.
Another of my favorite game moments happened when one of my players was shooting at a stormtrooper in the rafters. The player rolled enough Threat that the shot missed the trooper, but hit the rigging that kept a TIE fighter attached to the hangar ceiling. The TIE came crashing down, pinning the players in their position and made the rest of their job a lot more difficult.
These scenarios increase the tension of the situation, sure, and you, as the Game Master, will have to decide what’s appropriate. Some players might not be ready to add too much danger to their games, so you must also make sure they have the tools they need to have fun.
Know Your Role
With FFG's Star Wars Roleplaying Games and the narrative dice system, it’s not just the Game Master who adds to the twists in your story, but it’s important that it's clear the Game Master does have the ultimate say in what is permissible.
It’s also a lot more fun to use the dice to help turn the story on its ear than to use them to add simple bonuses. Being a Game Master who works with the players toward roleplaying of this sort ensures that your sessions are more about storytelling than being a slave to the numbers of the rules. And in my opinion, it creates a much more rewarding style of play.
Work with your players to get more creative in your use of the dice, and I guarantee you’ll have more fun gaming!
When he's not making life difficult for his friends' small band of Rebels, Bryan Young is a writer, podcaster, and gamer. He writes regularly for StarWars.com and Star Wars Insider, and hosts the Star Wars podcast Full of Sith. You can follow him on Twitter @Swankmotron.