Back to Basics

Waiting for a game is sometimes really hard. Star Wars the Old Republic was announced two and half years ago, and we still don’t have a release date. The best estimates say this fall, but we shall see. In the meantime I decided to do something I haven’t done since high school, play a pen and paper game. Well it is worse than that I decided to be the Game Master for an Alvian Campaign set in the Old Republic Era using the WotC Star Wars Saga Edition ruleset.

The Joy of Pen and Paper

On the above chart I was nicely in the Video Gamers/Science Fiction TV Fan boxes dipping my toes into the Trekkies box every now and then. But this latest decision is putting me squarely in the Roleplaying Gamers box. I know some people might protest “But Blackferne you play WoW and that is a roleplaying game” to which I’ll gladly respond “On a recent Lore Quiz our GM gave I knew surprisingly little about who we kill and what we get for it in WoW.” So if there is roleplaying in WoW I don’t see it.

But when you play pen and paper there is a certain aspect of role play. There has to be for it to work well. Pen and Paper isn’t just moving miniatures around a board, rolling die for damage. A good role playing game is in a sense collaborative story telling.

But the greatest fun I’ve had since this experiment started is the creative construction. I’ve decided to place the Alvians in a long mystery trying to rescue Jounville Blackferne who was kidnapped shortly before the campaign started. I used to GM games with some friends in high school, so some of it is coming back. But there is also a lot I have forgotten. For example I forgot that the biggest challenge for a GM isn’t necessarily coming up with interesting stories or cool adversaries, but rather the biggest challange is dealing with players acting in ways you didn’t expect.

For example the WotC rule set has rules for gambling. And I said there was a casino in Mos Eisley so a few of our players decided to go gamble. However this happened at a point in the game when I was trying to get the players to pay for a ship, and I was giving them choices on how to finance through taking jobs to earn money. Each job plotted a point on a risk/reward payoff. Well Arrican’s scoundrel because of the flawed WotC rules had enough to buy a ship in just a few hours, Now that can be chalked up to me agreeing to a game rule set without fully thinking through the implications, but it also served as a strong reminder that the GM has to be able to react to the things the players do, that you didn’t expect.

Overall it has been fun for me, and I hope for the players. The best thing about Pen and Paper is that it has a tendency to create memories and stories you don’t often see replicated in video games. An example we’ve seen in the game is Bulwark made fun of Wailer (Gandolfini’s Gungan Jedi), and being a bit mischievous, Wailer used a Jedi mind trick to give Bulwark a subconscious attachment to a small rock. Another involves a dimwitted service robot who’s actions led to one Alvian shooting another.

Final Thoughts and Hopes

One side effect of the pen and paper game is it has increased forum traffic as the players, and a few viewers have been checking in regularly to see if anything new has happened. But it is also a great way for us to rebuild the bonds we had back in SWG. This, if nothing else, also allows us to make new bonds with people who didn’t play SWG with us very much. I hope the game continues to be a nice distraction until SWTOR launches, at which point we will focus down on some serious MMOing.