So, Star Wars The Force Awakens has been out on Blu-Ray and DVD for about a week now. This movie was the first one that my wife and I went to go see together since our kids were born. This was the movie that was worth leaving the kids with the grandparents, the first time they’d been left with a babysitter. Why I haven’t bought this thing yet, I’m not sure. Though maybe it’s because my birthday is at the end of the month and I’m hoping to get it as a gift (OK, I’ll own it, I’m a little cheap). But does this movie have something for role players? Does it offer something that can improve our game? Well, obviously you know what my answer is going to be because otherwise I wouldn't be writing about it. The answer is yes.
1. You don't always have to answer every question.
Why would Luke leave behind a map of where he was going? How did Maz Kanata get Anakin’s/Luke’s lightsaber? Has the First Order started using clones again? Why is Threepio’s arm red? How the heck did Maz Kanata get Luke’s lightsaber? Where did that whole flotilla we saw in Return of the Jedi get reduced down to a squadron of X-Wings? Who are Rey’s parents? No, seriously, how did Maz get Luke’s lightsaber? We saw that thing fall into the abyss of Bespin in Empire Strikes Back! That thing should be lost to oblivion, what the heck is it doing in the chest of some strange lady creature on some backwater planet?
You see how goes? All the questions get us interested in the story, they add to the tension of the movie, and they hook you into the story and draw you into the world. You don’t have to answer every question when creating your world, or your character. At least not right away. Leave some blanks. Let people get interested. Some of the best characters I’ve seen at the table are those with a hidden past, or identity, known only to the player and DM. It adds that level of intrigue, a mystery. And we love nothing more than a mystery and solving a mystery.
A word of warning, make sure that the answers to those blanks that you leave are decent. Nothing deflates an audience, or your fellow players like a lame solution to the mystery. “What do you mean he was just dreaming?”
2. It’s OK to go back over old material.
Yes, we all noticed within the first 25 minutes of the movie, “This is all A New Hope revisited.” And you loved every minute of it, didn’t you? Which might be one reason why so many hate the prequel trilogy: trying to do too many new things. It didn't feel like that universe that we knew and loved from before.
It’s OK to go back over old material. Just look at all the remakes you’ve got in Hollywood. You’ve got Les Miserables, Ocean’s Eleven, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It happens all the time. And that’s OK. Sometimes to less than stellar results, and sometimes to fantastic results. History does it too. How many times have you locked your keys in your car/house/office? Gets your blood pumping every time though, right?
And the same goes with our playing. When we find some element that really works, it’s OK to go back to it every so often. It’s important to make sure that we don’t get into a rut, and bore everyone with going back to same old thing, and become a one-trick-pony, but it’s good to let those good ideas of yesteryear that everyone loved back out to see the light and let everyone rest and enjoy that sense of nostalgia, remembering those good old days again. Which, let’s be honest, is mostly the reason that you really loved Star Wars, wasn’t it? Seeing Han do his thing again filled you all kinds of good feels again.
3. Don't be afraid to go over the top.
So, Kylo Ren has a small anger issue. OK, he has some anger issues. Alright, we see now, he has a whole lot of enormous, temper tantrum, cry and scream like a three year old boy anger issues. Let’s give the guy with a feather trigger temper a lightsaber and the Force. What could possibly go wrong?
I mean, come on, this is Star Wars. A New Hope was a clinic for going over the top: an alien that doesn't wear pants, people who talk in convoluted, clunky sentences, a behemoth of a man dressed in black armour, and this mystical energy field, magic wizardry thing. Everything about Star Wars is over the top. And it’s awesome.
That’s the trick. Go for it. Go big. Sell it. It might not be easy, but if you can put yourself in that spot in your imagination, and sell it for others around the table, they’ll go with you. And it will be awesome. Everyone will love it. We had one guy play a paladin and put that European, noble arrogance, and the justice and bravery of the paladin over the top. We all bought it because the player dived in and played it big. It was wonderful. It was awesome. Don't be afraid of the over the top character. Sometimes that’s just what a game needs. (And keep in mind you’re playing a game where you’re killing goblins, dragons, and casting spells. If you can’t go over the top here, where can you?)
4. Death can be a great story element.
If you’ve seen Star Wars, you know what I mean. If not, what the heck are you waiting for? Watch it, already! Obi-Wan, Yoda, Qui-Gon, Jar Jar (well, we all wished for that one didn't we?), and &;$:)/& (stupid censor).
One of the best, and meanest tricks a DM can do is set up a loveable, enjoyable character, and then, at just the right moment, kill him. Now, every character has a piece in the story to revenge poor John of the Northern Glades, who was killed by that evil sorcerer. Death to the sorcerer! Kick him in the face! Not only do the characters get into it, but so do the players. Now they’re emotionally invested in this quest to kill that evil &$@*+€. And if you play it right, there’s going to be so much satisfaction at finally finishing the quest and getting it all done.
Tim is a husband and father of two who is the Pastor of a small congregation in Ontario. He somehow still convinced his wife to marry him even though he openly spoke about building his own light sabre.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.