HeroQuest and Star Wars

This continues my series on using the HeroQuest RPG for various settings that are out there. The previous posts are the links below:

Star Wars

I would not be exaggerating to say that Star Wars is an extremely popular setting. There are movies, TV shows, books, video games, board games, card games, entire lines of clothing (including the obligatory Hallowe’en costumes), and lots more.

And, of course, there are roleplaying games.

The current license holder for the Star Wars RPG is Fantasy Flight Games, and from all reports the three game lines—Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny—are well-designed and a lot of fun to play. I’ve read a good bit of the core rulebooks for both Edge of the Empire and Force and Destiny, and I think they’ve come up with an interesting system that, in many ways, reflects the setting.

There are still some things that don’t really work for me, though. I’m not big on the amount of rules in the books, as they’re pretty crunchy. They’ve also used a rather traditional “hit and inflict damage” mechanic in their combat rules. And that’s something that just doesn’t feel like Star Wars to me.

Take a look at the original trilogy—the time when the current RPG is set—and consider how the fights play out. Characters don’t get hit multiple times, with a bunch of minor wounds piling up, before they go down. There are basically three states of injury in the Star Wars movies: fine, disabled, and dead.

But I’m not here to take issue with FFG’s game lines—as I said, they appear to be pretty popular and seem to be fun to play.

I was a big fan of the original Star Wars RPG by West End Games back in the day (and that Fantasy Flight is reprinting in a special 30th anniversary edition). In fact, I still have my original pair of hardcover books and I’ve used that game to teach a fairly large number of new roleplayers how to game.

These days, however, if I’m going to run anything in the Star Wars setting, I’m always going to use the HeroQuest Core Rules.

HQ is perfect for this kind of setting. Conflict is the name of the game, and HQ allows the GM and players to dial in and out as they want to focus on those elements that are most important to them, and gloss over the stuff that’s not important.

Furthermore, as a high-action setting, HQ leaves the complicated stuff up to the narrative rather than try to introduce rules for every possible action a character might want to take. This keeps the pace of the game going quickly, because Star Wars is not supposed to slow down (or rather, slower scenes are kept short to let the audience take a quick breather before diving back into the action).

Star Wars is a very narrative setting, of course. What I mean by this is that the plot details revolve around elements that depend on the needs of the story, rather than being internally-consistent based on what would be “real.”

For example, the time it takes for a ship to travel between two worlds in hyperspace depends entirely on how quickly that ship needs to get to the destination in the story. While the various Star Wars RPGs have given example travel times for the purpose of playing a game, this is hardly ever a concern in any movie or novel unless it has direct relevance to the plot.

Another example is gear. There is no narrative difference between Han Solo’s blaster and the blaster rifles used by the stormtroopers. Their relative “damage” potential doesn’t matter to the needs of the story, so the story never focuses on it.

What this all means is that there isn’t really much work to be done to use HeroQuest for a Star Wars game, because it works fine out of the box. In fact, if your players have seen the movies, then they really know all they need to play a game.

How high can a jedi knight leap using the Force to enhance his or her ability? The actual distance really doesn’t matter. The platform or ledge is either low enough that a jedi can reach it, or too high to be reached by leaping. The movies don’t get into the gritty details of this kind of thing, so there’s no point in focusing on it in a game.

In HeroQuest, a contest is a contest, and there’s no difference between one that represents a lightsaber battle, another that represents trying to repair the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon, a third that represents piloting a ship through an asteroid field, and a fourth that represents trying to convince a smuggler to head into the detention block to rescue a princess.

They all work the same way, and the outcomes are all interpreted through the generic results of the contest.

Here are a couple of examples from The Empire Strikes Back.

(Note that in the HeroQuest Glorantha book, Contests have been altered so that a higher roll beats a lower one when both are successes. This means that a character with a higher ability rating has an advantage, which is the way I feel it should be. I use this method in the examples below.)

Escape from Hoth

(Feel free to watch the scene while you are reading the example to see how well it works.)

The Millennium Falcon is fleeing from the planet Hoth, and is hotly pursued by a star destroyer and four TIE fighters.

The player of Han Solo decides to use his Hotshot Pilot 10M to get some distance from the fleet. He rolls 11, a failure bumped to a success. The Resistance is set at 14, and the GM rolls a 1, a critical success. This is a Minor Victory for the GM, and it scores 2 Resolution Points against Han Solo (score 2/0). The GM narrates that two more star destroyers come in from a different direction and try to box in the Millennium Falcon so that their concentrated fire can finish off the much smaller ship.

In the second round, the player sticks with Hotshot Pilot 10M. He rolls a 15, another failure bumped up to a success. The GM rolls a 5, also a success but a lower one. The player gets a Marginal Victory and scores 1 Resolution Point against the fleet (score 2/1). He narrates that Han puts the Falcon into a dive and gets out from among the star destroyers, and so they get caught up in avoiding a collision, though the TIE fighters continue to pursue.

Now that the ship is safely out of the planet’s gravity well, Han tries to activate the hyperdrive. In this case, the player had failed an earlier Contest to repair the ship (Marginal Defeat), so the GM decided that the sub-light engines work, but the hyperdrive is disabled.

The player decides to go for an asymmetrical exchange (HQ core rules, page 39) in order to have Han repair the hyperdrive so that they can open up that avenue of escape, while the Imperial fleet still tries to shoot down the rebel ship. The player rolls against Han’s Grease Monkey 3M ability and gets 6, the third time he’s rolled a failure that is bumped to a success (though a very low one). The GM rolls 8, a higher success, and achieves another Marginal Victory, scoring a third Resolution Point against Han (3/1). The GM says that something physically collides with the ship, and Han returns to the cockpit to find they have flown into an asteroid field.

The player decides he might be able to use the asteroids to to take out these TIE fighters so he can make good his escape. Han flies farther into the asteroid field, forcing the Imperial pilots to follow him. He sticks with Hotshot Pilot 10M, figuring his luck has to change eventually. He rolls a 10, a success. The GM rolls a 17, a failure, and Han scores 2 Resolution Points against the Imperials (3/3). The GM narrates that, while the Millennium Falcon weaves among the asteroids, two of the TIE fighters get smashed into bits by the flying rocks.

Han decides to fly closer to one of the big asteroids, and he narrates that he spots an extremely large rock with huge craters and a ravine running between them. He flies down toward the ravine, and rolls his Hotshot Pilot 10M, getting a 1 on the d20, which is a critical success. The GM rolls 19, a failure. Han scores 3 Resolution Points against  the Imperials, bringing the final score to 3/6. The GM narrates that, as they fly through a particularly narrow part of the ravine, the Millennium Falcon flips onto its edge and squeezes through, but the TIE fighters—in their attempt to follow—bounce off one another and into the sides of the ravine, which destroys them both.

The difference between the final scores is 3, and on the Rising Action Consequence Table, that means that the Millennium Falcon escapes unharmed. The player narrates that he looks for a cave where he can hide the ship while they work on repairing the hyperdrive.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader Duel

(Here is the scene on YouTube so you can follow along.)

Luke has gone to Bespin to rescue his friends, walking right into the trap set for him by Vader. Eventually, Luke reaches the room where Vader waits to toss him into the pit and have him frozen in carbonite.

The pair of them ignite their lightsabers and engage in some verbal sparring to start things off. Then, Luke and Vader decide to get physical with their weapons.

The player of Luke uses his Lightsaber Combat ability of 13 to attack against a Resistance of 14. The player rolls a 3, a success, but the GM rolls 9, a higher success. Vader scores a Resolution Point against Luke (1/0), and the GM narrates that Vader overpowers Luke and pushes him over to his butt.

Luke, not intimidated at all (…sure), stands back up and they continue to fight. However, the odds are against him. Once again, the player rolls a success on a 7, but the GM rolls 11, another higher success. Vader scores a second Resolution Point on Luke (2/0) and the GM narrates that Luke’s lightsaber is twisted out of his grip, and he is forced to throw himself sideways to avoid being cut down by Vader’s swing.

Luke rolls down the stairs onto the main platform. Vader tries to force an unarmed Luke into the pit. The player rolls his Jedi Training 13 and gets 12, a success. This time, the GM rolls a 16, a failure. Luke scores 2 Resolution Points against Vader (2/2) and the player suggests that Luke falls into the pit, but as Vader uses the Force to hit the switch to start the carbonite freezing process, Luke also uses the Force to leap back out and catch hold of the hanging tubes above. The GM agrees this is cool and goes along with it, allowing the carbonite to be taken off the table as a way to end to the fight.

Considering that he scored 2 Resolution Points, the player also narrates that Vader cuts apart one of the tubes, and Luke points the end at Vader’s face, temporarily blinding him with smoke while Luke uses the Force to retrieve his fallen lightsaber. The GM readily agrees.

Luke and Vader continue to trade blows, and the GM calls for another roll. The player rolls a 10, and the GM rolls a 2, which allows Luke to score another Resolution Point against Vader (2/3). Vader is driven back by Luke’s speed, and falls backward off the platform into darkness.

Luke descends by another route (not wanting to jump down into an unlit area where Vader just fell) and searches for his opponent. Vader steps out of the shadows and they face each other. This time, the GM tells the player that Vader uses the Force to rip heavy pipes out of the wall and fling them at Luke. The player sticks with Lightsaber Combat and says he will cut apart the debris as it flies at him. The player rolls 16, a failure, and the GM rolls 8, scoring 2 Resolution Points against Luke (4/3). The GM says that Luke manages to cut apart a couple of flying objects, but one of them smashes the window behind him and a strong wind pulls Luke through the hole and out over a vast pit that seems to extend all the way down to the surface of the planet far below.

Luke manages to catch himself on a narrow catwalk that extends over the pit. He climbs up onto the catwalk and enters a passage that appears to lead back into the city. But Vader comes out and the two of them start fighting on the catwalk.

The GM calls for another roll, and the player rolls 13 against the GM’s roll of 2. Luke scores 1 Resolution Point against Vader (4/4) and the player narrates that Vader knocks Luke down and has him at the point of his lightsaber, but Luke knocks the blade away and leaps back to his feet, connecting with his own blow to Vader’s shoulder (but doing no major damage).

Though Luke has managed to hold his own against Vader so far, the luck of the dice gods are not with his player today, as on the very next roll in the Contest, the player fumbles with a natural 20, and the GM rolls a 1 for a critical. This ends of the contest, as Luke has received a total of 9 Resolution Points, and the difference of 5 between the two scores means Luke is Injured. The GM narrates that Vader manages to knock Luke off balance just long enough to leave him open to a swing that takes Luke’s hand off at the wrist.

Star Wars Characters

Creating characters for a Star Wars game is actually pretty easy if the group is familiar with the setting. This is where the amazing Wookieepedia site comes in handy as well.

My son, for example, created a jedi character for a solo game I’m about to start running for him, set during the Clone Wars.

I gave him three keywords: Species (Twi’lek), Career (Jedi Guardian), and Power (The Force). If I was going to have other players in this game, some of whom might not be Jedi, I would probably rename Power to something like Special, or perhaps just give characters two keywords and let them decide between using one for species or for something special like the Force or a ship.

Here are the abilities of the character my son will be playing. I started him off with one keyword at 17, and everything else at 13, and then he spent his 20 points. I also ruled that he could raise the Jedi and The Force keywords, but his Twi’lek keyword can’t be raised—only the individual abilities under it. Also, once the game begins, I’m going to require an extra cost to raise a rating for a keyword, so that there will be a balanced choice between raising specific abilities or the entire keyword at once.

He chose to raise his Jedi Guardian and The Force keywords, plus he added a couple of points to his Stealthy ability (under his species keyword) and Jedi Knight Aayla Secura ability, and one point to his R7-T5 Astromech Droid ability.

Twi’lek (Species Keyword) 13
– Deceptive
– Friendly Persuasion
– Stealthy 15

Jedi Guardian (Career Keyword) 7M
– Lightsaber Combat
– Starship Pilot

The Force (Power Keyword) 18
– Force Push
– Force Leap
– Sense the Force

R7-T5 Astromech Droid (sidekick) 14

Jedi Knight Aayla Secura (relationship) 15

Conclusion

I hope I’ve shown how easy it is to use HeroQuest to play a Star Wars game. I feel a smooth, simple system like HQ is ideal for such a fast-paced, action-packed type of game. It just flows really well, without needing a ton of work to fit in all the various bits and pieces that have accumulated around the Star Wars setting over the last four decades.

Have you ever used HQ to run a Star Wars game? If so, we’d love to read about it in the comments.

3 thoughts on “HeroQuest and Star Wars

  1. Yes, the d6 version was a great game. The only thing that I didn’t like was the Strength roll to resist damage, because it was like you were getting hit and shrugging off blaster fire. I prefer a game in which the actual hits against the main characters are extremely rare, like in the movies. Instead, the stormtroopers’ success represents you being driven away from your goal, or something like that.

  2. I played in a SW game with HQ and as you say it was very easy. I do still play in a long standing Star Wars campaign using WEGs D6 version. Your example characters clearly show your D6 roots 🙂 We didn’t really break out many skills from our Keywords, but your examples are very close to ours without the D6 names.

  3. Hi, I just loved your descriptions of those Star Wars scenes done with HeroQuest extended contests. I posted something very similar a few weeks ago but with Mythras/RQ6 and a samurai duel, and I would like to do the with HeroQuest in a future post!

    Some years ago, I played 4 or 5 sessions in a Star Wars campaign with HeroQuest and had a blast. My brother and I played two new Jedi who went on missions all around the galaxy. My PC was a former smuggler and I fondly remember how cool it was when we managed to board a ship and scape from a planet while the imperial forces were chasing us. All ran very smoothly with HeroQuest. It’s one of those games that deserves a wider audience.

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