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PbtA Star Wars on demand – perfect combination!

RPG's have never felt this much Star Wars!

In September I was running Games on Demand at Tracon (Tampere / Finland). I prepared materials to run Rebellion era Star Wars with a simple PbTA system, and it was a perfect hit! During 2 days I run 6 games with 3-6 players, shortest game being 50 minutes and the longest extending to 1h20min as no-one was in hurry.

I hope I was able to pay enough attention to everyone, players seemed to have a lot of fun and some seemed visibly exhausted at the end! In every game there seemed to be a lot more happening than I've used to in a normal game session. Thinking of it now, I was maybe even a bit too focused on running the games & trying through everything in time - in a high-efficiency performance mode closing everything else away...

Rebel team in a tight spot on a volcanic planet

The characters could have had a bit less customization options, even if I run through a few rounds of simplification from my original idea, and that took several extra minutes if the players weren't experienced. For the next interation of this system I'll probably use cards instead of sheets; at least for customization options.

The games and how they were set up

I had prepared a 8d6 starting method for the game, following only partially the traditional PbtA questions, but set up the location, starting position and guest stars with rolls too. Every game was almost completely different. The setup still needs a bit tweaking, as in some cases it was really hard to find a real hook if players rolled just 4+ rolls! That scenario turned into peacefully-starting diplomatic mission that turned into ferocious imperial spy-hunt after a bounty hunter he hired blew up a Factory producing weapons for the rebels. The only PC death happened in this game when one of the heroes suicide-rammed an ISD that had arrived to retrieve the spy, disabling the ship and allowing the rebel fleet to finish it.

There's something bad in this cave...

The first game in the Con had two younglings with their mother playing, and their rebel strike team was sent to find missing Luke Skywalker after the Empire captured the world he was in. Wounded Luke was retrieved from local resistance cell residing in the sewers and the team barely escaped when stormies and an At-St tried to siege the heroes' freighter in the middle of a sandstom.

Rebel team sent to rescue Luke

My apologies – my image settings seem to be decade old. I'll try to get larger images uploaded in future!

In another mission the heroes protected Leia on a diplomatic mission from an Assassin and ended up to stop an ISD carrying miniaturized superlaser, another mission led heroes to a volcanic planet to retrieve Rebel spies, and they barely escaped from Vader who personally had come to take care of the spies; The pilot was almost force-choked to death but the information they got from the spy (RIP) contained information about the second Death Star! Another team saved a rebel spy with vital info from Boba Fett, and yet another group helped evacuate a Rebel base from Imperial blockade and an experimental weapon, and ended up on fixing their damaged ship on Tatooine. After a conflict with Tusken raiders the Wookie gearhead of the team was able to fix the ship as the approaching hutt sailing vessel was about to reach it.

Each game was quite different from each other and really enjoyable - I really am going to run games with this same method in future events! Especially well it seemed to fit Rebel era Star Wars, but what next time? Clone wars, or something completely different like UFO: Enemy unknown, Judge Dredd, something else?

Materials and props

I used a small selection of miniatures and maps & tiles in the games. A selection of some 25 miniatures for PCs and NPCs, a dozen imps and a few rebel soldiers. In another box I had some large beasts, At-St & speeder cars plus some iconic characters, and another special box had some banthas, sand people and other Tatooine -specific stuff.

Some of the miniatures used in the games

I had categorized a bunch of tiles and maps to be used with the game in a box with a sheet of cardboard or plastic separating them, and smaller props in a small box; there was enought variety to believably proxy things if there wasn't exact thing. Here's pretty much of them for you to get an idea:

Terrain map tiles used in the games

Some of these are self-made, some official Star Wars stuff, some made by myself; One finding I've been espeically happy about is Heroic Maps' Desert city, which fits very well to dirty Star Wars feel, what you see in Rogue One for example. Just putting up a few pieces of street and few small thrown-together props helped create very Star wars -like scenes!

A typical dirty city in a Star Wars universe

There's one last very important tool I had. I used my mobile phone with a miniature speaker and built a small web-app to play musics and sounds of Star Wars. Turning light or ominous music to Asteroid scene when flying into asteroid zone, to Imperial March when an Imperial Star Destroyer jumped in straight before the heroes or to TIE fighters vs Falcon when fighting TIE's really boosted the atmosphere! Some blaster sounds and Tie fighter pass-by's, explosions and other sounds added very well to this.

This tool was inspired a lot by TableTopAudio , which I really adore, but which understandably can't create a Star Wars soundpad. And I belive this might go past the limits of copyright tolerance for fan products so I'm afraid I can't share this, even if I'd really like to.

My Star Wars soundpad

This combined to tight action with lots of complications (PbtA's 7-9 results) is what made many of the players (and me!) feel exhausted at the end of the game!

The tool also had timer to track the time during the session, to help keep the games short. I had to extend screensaver activation time to maximum to make it work.

Afterthoughts – Patreon?

I've created a lot of props for this game, in addition to the rulesset and GM materials. For this as well as other purposes. And I have the e2o -paper miniatures game about Cold War turning hot in space (60's east vs west setup in space), which' homepage I unfortunately had to shut down due to outdated CMS and increased hacker activity. I've been thinking of if should put up a Patreon account to share all this stuff, mostly to give myself motivation to start working these more and turn them into format I could share. Between all real-life stuff my time and energy is limited and I surely need some motivation to start putting more work to these!

If you would be interested in patreoning me, please let me know! This site's commenting has been Flooding with spam (I should make some updates and fixed here too, perhaps google's "I'm not a robot") but I try watch them more carefully now, and I'll also put up a thread to Reddit/pbta about this.


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