Skip to main content

Stay on Target: Bringing Star Wars to the Table

Star Wars, as a roleplaying universe, is one that is near and dear to my heart. In fact, long before I got into Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars was my gateway into the world of tabletop roleplaying games. My father had mentioned D&D to me before, and we’d even played Dungeon!, but Star Wars was my first foray into what would become a lifelong hobby. It should be no surprise that the universe of space wizards and scruffy looking nerf-herders drew me to roleplaying. After all, I was already wearing “Jedi robes” and swinging around plastic lightsabers as a wee lad. Obviously, it was an already beloved world of pretend play, I just needed some dice to go with it. Add a best friend who had acquired the West End D6 system books, and the rest is Never Say Dice history. How do you recreate the excitement and magic of Star Wars at the tabletop though? In celebration of Star Wars Day, I’ve done my best to answer that question for my regular Dungeons & Dragons players in what may become an annual one-shot event. (I have a bad feeling about this…)

The first thing you might need to tackle with any roleplaying game, particularly one based in the Star Wars universe, is the preconceived notions held by the people at your tables. Everyone arrives with an idea of what "Star Wars" is, what it is not, and certainly what they want it to be. They may even know parts of the lore better than you do. They’ll also come with varying levels of love (and hate) for different entries in the Star Wars canon. You’ll have a need, especially if you plan to run a whole campaign, to address all of this if you can. Agreeing on the era of play is one way to get everyone focused, whether it's a campaign or one-shot. This narrows down several issues and sets everyone onto the same hyperdrive coordinates. Selecting the era will also tell you the state of the Jedi, which major group is ruling the galaxy, who is likely to be fighting whom, and what technologies are available. It gives the players an idea of what they can expect to go up against, what they can potentially rule out, and what established heroes and villains are already operating (if you choose to include them). However, if you have any players unaware of your selected era, make sure to clue them in on the necessary facts.

The next item you may want to focus on is deciding on what genre(s) you’ll be mixing in. Bugsy has already covered genre in another post, so we won’t go into too much detail here. This may sound strange to you at first, mixing something else into Star Wars? Of course you should mix other things in! After all, Star Wars itself is based on the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, spaghetti westerns, and film serials of the 1940s. Why wouldn’t you draw inspiration from some of your own (or your players’) favorites? For our one-shot, we have an Ocean’s 11 style heist mission set in the Star Wars Universe. You can easily pull in other genres though: murder mystery, spy, horror. The Disney+ series The Mandolorian, for example, famously succeeds in pulling off the "western" feel. Before putting these influences into your game, though, make sure your players are ready for it. It could be extremely disappointing, or even distressing, for players to find themselves in a horror game when they aren’t expecting it. This could even be a game-ending faux pas.  Again, it's all about setting expectations - make sure they have an opportunity to let you know if they aren’t on-board.

The most important part of bringing the Star Wars galaxy to your tabletops is incorporating its cinematic aspects. If you can, open with some version of the classic opening crawl, tailored to the adventure the players about to have. Not only will this help set the mood right at the outset, but it is also an easy way to establish the era, who the players' characters are working for, and who (or what) they’re fighting against - making it a effective tool for dealing with preconceived notions. A quick pace for the adventure is recommended to match the feel of the screen, but it can be difficult to keep it up. If a scene is starting to slow down or is gradually drawing to a close, don’t feel bad about wrapping it up with a little exposition and wiping to the next part of the adventure. Finally, make sure to touch on some of the films' alien aspects. Strange food and drink. Interesting and unusual locales. Games like sabacc, local music (maybe from Friggn D’an and the Modal Nodes?), odd wildlife. It all builds up to a full "Star Wars" experience.

Hopefully, if you love Star Wars as much as we do at Never Say Dice, this will all help you feel a little more prepared to run a session in the Galaxy Far, Far, Away. Referencing the story's specific era, drawing inspiration from other genres for everyone to enjoy, and incorporating carefully-chosen movie elements will all help your table feel like a genuine wretched hive of scum and villainy (especially if you throw in a classic quote or two). Odds are, if you can do those things successfully, your players will have a fun tabletop adventure. Depending on what you've been playing, it might feel quite a bit different from the adventures they're used to, but will have that distinct Star Wars charm. Until next week, May the Force be with you... now, get out there and break some dice!

- A

Popular Posts

The Matt Mercer Effect

Roleplaying games have been around for quite a long time even before the first edition of  Dungeons & Dragons was published in 1974. You can go back into the history of Commedia dell’arte (improvisational theatre) in 16th century Europe and see this form of storytelling (and, if you want to read about similar, but more recent, traditions, take a look at our posts on the Maryland Renaissance Festival .) Even before that, there were ancient historical re-enactments and storytelling in many different cultures. Modern tabletop roleplaying games are quite different, even from their 1974 form, but commonality is shared across all these. After all, we’re still just playing playground games with the assistance of rules and dice. In recent years, there's been a boom in roleplaying games due to a number of factors: The internet making it easier to find new players and even run play sessions online. General dissatisfaction with our own realities, shared or personal. One force driving th

Star Trek v. Star Trek: The Starship Enterprise's Fifty-Year Confusion

The question "what was your first Star Trek" carries a very different weight today than it did thirty-five years ago. All the classic (i.e., pre- Discovery ) series are instantly available across multiple streaming services, and the films aren't much harder to find - they were some of the first shows to be made available via streaming, in fact. And even before then, there were both broadcast and cable reruns, along with physical copies for sale and rental. For today's viewers, the question usually means "which show or movie is the one that 'clicked' for you, that made you want more?" And, from there, we can deduce what they like about the franchise - stylistically, thematically, and tonally, since Star Trek can be a lot of things for a a lot of people. But it wasn't always this way. For a while, Star Trek was only available sporadically. Even while the movies were doing well at the box office, prospective viewers were at the mercy of whoever mad

The Mission Will Be Very Safe and Fun for Everyone: Some Thoughtcrimes on Running Paranoia

  I'm sorry citizen, but the question "why hasn't there been a Paranoia post in over fifteen months" cannot be processed. Records indicate that the previous post, " [Backstory Redacted] - Getting Ready to Run Paranoia " was activated in the Year 214 of the Computer, and, as this is currently Year 214 of the Computer, your internal chronometer must be malfunctioning. Rumors that is has always been Year 214 of the Computer are treason. Please report to Internal Security for cerebral re-adjustment. Have a nice daycycle. So, why hasn't there been a post about Paranoia in fifteen months, anyway? The previous two have been quite popular , and, as I'm fond of saying, I've put more thought into this game than nearly anything else in my life, formal education included. As time went on, I found myself procrastinating on the follow-up. I didn't have enough time to work out everything I'd want to cover, I'd tell myself, or that some other top

Fun With Murder: The Narrative Ethics of Assassination Games

It's funny. As someone who views "detective" as an integral part of their personality , I sure have a lot of crime games. Well, crime media in general, especially movies, but games have certain... implications. You're the one committing the crimes , not watching other characters do them or following a protagonist as they piece together criminal events through evidence and investigation. You're right there, doing all the bad stuff yourself. Recently, in the ongoing quest to tackle my massive game backlog, I've been playing the first Tenchu game, released in 1998. I bought it because the creators would later go on to make my beloved Way of the Samurai series, but if one looked at my shelves, they could easily assume I chose it thematically, as Tenchu 's neighbors include numerous Hitman , Assassin's Creed , and Dishonored games - a subgenre we'll call "assassination games." I've seen it remarked that there's an irony that, while