“Cinematic” Combat in Star Wars RPGs

Note: This post contains spoilers for the Clone Wars television show. If you intend to watch it, and don’t want anything spoiled, you may want to avoid reading any further.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about running a Star Wars game for my son, set in the Clone Wars era. He loved the Clone Wars show, and would really enjoy playing a Jedi in that timeframe, leading clones into battle with hordes of enemy droids, and getting into lightsaber duels with Sith villains.

Naturally, I took a look at the Force & Destiny RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. While the game itself is set in the Original Trilogy timeframe, Force & Destiny is focused on Jedi and seems perfect for what we want.

Except it isn’t, actually. One reason is that Force & Destiny PCs are designed to be on the power level of Jedi seen in the original three movies, not those that appeared in the prequels or the Clone Wars show. The other reason, though, is that combat in Force & Destiny uses a pretty traditional system with wounds (similar to hit points), and critical hits. A lightsaber battle in F&D generally has combatants whacking each other with lightsabers until one goes down. There are talents that one can take to mitigate some of the damage that is inflicted (like the Parry talent), but those still don’t actually block the lightsaber damage fully until a character has invested experience points heavily in multiple instances of that particular talent.

This doesn’t really reflect the lightsaber battles as shown in the movies and certainly not those in the Clone Wars television show.

So I decided to do a bit of research. I watched all the Clone Wars lightsaber battles, one-by-one, that occur in the show. I was hoping to get a feel for how those battles work, and then see if there was a system that could replicate that rhythm.

What I found was that most of the lightsaber battles follows a general pattern.

  1. The combatants engage in a flurry of slashes and thrusts, which are avoided by a flurry of parries, dodges, rolls, etc. There is no actual contact of a lightsaber with anyone’s body.
  2. There is a “beat” in the combat where one of the following things happens:
    • One combatant strikes the other with a fist or kick, knocking them down or backward.
    • One combatant uses the Force to shove the other combatant backward, often into a wall, pillar, pile of crates, or other obstacle. The shoved combatant may or may not be knocked down and/or get disarmed. One variation of this is that the combatant uses the Force to grab an object and hit his/her opponent, rather than throwing his opponent into the object.
    • One combatant disarms the other directly through swordplay.
    • One combatant leaps away, out of immediate range. This is usually so that they can exchange verbal taunts or otherwise talk. This also often leads to one of them getting a head start when they run away.
    • The combatants lock blades, with one pushed against a wall or down to the floor, thus trapping their lightsaber blade and struggling to push the other person off/away.
  3. The combat continues with any number of these “beats” depending on the length of the sequence.
  4. The combatants get separated somehow. Sometimes one of them escapes on a ship or other vehicle that prevents the other from following, sometimes a combatant falls into a pit or a tunnel collapses or something that prevents the fight from continuing.

In all of the clone wars lightsaber battles (of which there are many), there are only 4 actual battles (that I could find) that resulted in someone’s death:

  • General Grievous kills Nahdar Vebb
  • Darth Maul kills Pre Vizsla
  • Savage Opress kills Jedi Adi Gallia
  • Dark Sidious kills Savage Opress

And there’s only one other fight I saw where someone is injured by the lightsaber, when Obi Wan cuts off Savage Opress’ arm.

Also notable is that in the cases where death occurred, it always happened after a bunch of injuries from being kicked, punched, and thrown into things. In every case, a single stab by the lightsaber was enough to kill the victim, so there were never a bunch of stabs and slashes that brought down a character’s “hit points.” Getting hit with a lightsaber cuts off limbs or kills outright in the Clone Wars show.

Obviously, the show required the combatants to usually end up separated without one of them dying, because most of the characters appeared later in the Star Wars timeline in other movies/shows. This wouldn’t be a problem in the game I would run, as I would create new characters as opponents for my son to face, and I could do whatever I wanted with them. (Also, once the game begins, I never feel a need to slavishly adhere to canon for what comes later. The game becomes an alternate timeline anyway.)

So I’ve taken a look at a lot of options over the last while. I posted about it on RPG.net and got a lot of additional suggestions.

On a related note, there was another thread on RPG.net titled “Considerations for a next gen in cinematic fantasy combat” that talked about a small group of heroes being outnumbered by a greater enemy force, and how most existing games are not able to model this very well. There are a number of good examples from Game of Thrones and other movies demonstrating what we’d like to be able to reflect in our games.

On this blog, I’ve talked before about using HeroQuest for Star Wars. And that is still an option. However, HeroQuest takes the approach of using a high level of abstraction in conflicts. It’s an amazing system if that level of abstraction works for you. But sometimes you may want a more involved amount of “system modelling” for a particular game.

I’ve looked at the following systems as potential solutions to what I want to do with this Clone Wars game:

  • Force & Destiny (would need to be heavily houseruled)
  • Star Wars d6 (doesn’t really operate like the Clone Wars at all)
  • 7th Sea 2E (would need heavy reskinning and development of Force abilities)
  • HeroQuest 2E (as noted above, I’m looking for less abstraction for this game)
  • Other Worlds + Superluminary (same issue as with HeroQuest)
  • Fate Core (can work, but I’ve been burnt out on Fate lately and my son is not a fan of the system)
  • Mythras (would need to adapt the conflict rules from M-Space and make some tweaks to the Special Effects in combat, but actually works fairly well)
  • Star Wars Saga (don’t really want to deal with levels and it’s far too fiddly for my tastes)
  • Savage Worlds (it’s not a system that has ever really grabbed me)
  • Feng Shui 2 (a lot of reskinning and developing of Force powers would be needed)
  • Lone Wolf Adventure Game (this actually might work quite well, and it’s one I’m continuing to explore)
  • Infinity (I would have to do some reskinning and full development of Force powers, but this is another one that might work well, though I have to look into it further)
  • Some version of a Powered by the Apocalypse game (there’s nothing out there that does exactly what I want, so I’d have to come up with it all on my own)

Out of all of these, Mythras with the additional of the conflict rules from M-Space is a great option. It actually addresses many of my issues (a single hit with a lightsaber is definitely going to end a fight). I could use many of the Mysticism powers to reflect the kind of things a Jedi can do. And when it comes to cinematic combat, it actually addresses the “lone hero fighting off multiple opponents” with the combat option to Outmaneuver, which limits the number of attackers who can strike at the lone hero at any given time.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution at this time. I’m continuing to think about it and determine the right level of abstraction I want in the rules for this particular game. There are many options available and it’s more a matter of choosing how much work I want to do (a more rules-intensive game requires me to make up stats for all the adversaries and such, while a more abstract game reduces that workload considerably).

Have you run a Clone Wars-era Star Wars game? What system did you run? Was it focused on the Jedi? Did it feel like the television show, or was it more of its own thing? I’d love to hear about your own games. Tell us about it in the comments.

 

The 7th Sea 2E Risk System

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how the use of dice in an RPG don’t always cooperate. In some games, this is a feature, not a bug—a D&D campaign where the story emerges through play is one example where each roll of the dice may send the adventure (or the entire) campaign off in a new direction. The dice rolls determine success or failure, and it’s up to the players to determine how they react to those outcomes.

In other games, straight success or failure may not be an appropriate way to determine what happens. If a group is trying to emulate a high-action setting (like Star Wars, for example), then it’s not generally about success or failure. It’s about choices, and position, and advantage.

That’s not to say that characters in Star Wars never fail. Much of Han Solo’s activities in The Empire Strikes Back are his reactions to one failure after another. But those failures are not generally the result of his own attempts at actions. Rather, the failures are baked into the situations, and the story is about how he deals with those failures.

Some Examples

Okay, I know some people will disagree with me on this, so I’m going to unpack it a bit. I’m going to use The Empire Strikes Back—the best Star Wars movie of them all—to demonstrate what I mean.

In an RPG, dice rolls are always decision points of some sort. At its simplest, a decision point could just be “do I hit the goblin with my sword or not?” It’s a straight success/failure determination.

Let’s assume there is a party of D&D characters and they’ve encountered a roving patrol of goblins in a dungeon, and the goblins ambush the characters. During the first surprise round, the goblins have an advantage (they have an opportunity to hurt—or kill—one or more characters, while the characters don’t get to hit back yet). If the dice rolls determine that some goblins do succeed with their attacks, then the advantage swings even more toward their side.

But then, in the next round, dice are rolled to determine Initiative—what someone on RPG.net cleverly called “rolling the dice to see in what order we roll the dice.” Let’s say that the goblins manage to beat the initiative rolls of all the characters. This swings that advantage even further in the goblins’ favor.

However, the goblins don’t have good odds to hit the armored characters at the front of the party, and this time they fail at their attack rolls. The advantage swings a bit back toward the characters.

And as the characters start taking their actions, the fighter succeeds on his attack roll, and inflicts some damage with his damage roll. The wizard makes her ranged attack roll and takes out a goblin entirely with one flaming bolt. The cleric successfully bashes a third goblin over the head, inflicting further damage.

By the end of the round, the advantage has swung right back into the characters’ favor. So the players decide to continue the fight, and soon they are wiping goblin blood off their weapons and ransacking the bodies for copper pieces.

But what if the dice buck the odds and send the battle off in a different direction?

Let’s say that the goblin attacks are all successful, and the character attacks are failures. After the first round, all the characters have taken some real damage, and the players now see that if they continue the fight, they might actually all be killed. With the advantage currently so heavily in the goblins’ court, the players decide to run away, or parlay, or something else.

The success and failure of the dice rolls moves the situation toward one result or another, and the players then make their decisions based on those successes or failures.

As I said, this is a simple example, but it’s a common one and illustrates how such die rolls impact future decisions and thus, the direction of the campaign. Ultimately, the players may decide to have their characters retreat from the dungeon entirely. Perhaps that results in them exploring in a different direction, or grabbing different adventure hook. And that might mean that none of the characters end up with a certain magic item that was sitting in the goblin chief’s treasure hoard.

All of this is how the D&D game is supposed to work. It’s a game about interaction, exploration, and combat (the “three pillars of adventure” as described in the 5E Player’s Handbook). In many campaigns, it’s about “playing to find out what happens” (to use a phrase from many Powered by the Apocalypse games) rather than about authoring a story.

But other games are often about other things. Sometimes, a game is about situations that require more than just a simple pass/fail determination. It might be just adding gradations of success or failure (e.g. partial success or partial failure), or including some kind of metacurrency (e.g. Hero Points) to allow the player to have some influence over the dice to encourage success or failure when it is more dramatically appropriate.

The Fate Core rules, for example, are still concerned mostly with pass/fail. You make a roll to overcome a resistance, to establish an advantage, to inflict harm (stress), or to defend yourself from harm. But the player can also spend fate points to turn a failed roll into a success. On the other hand, to earn fate points, the player must either take penalties on some rolls (thus making failure more likely) or put herself into situations that are not in her favor.

Some games combine pass/fail with additional elements that tell the players what happens. For example, the system used in Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars RPGs use custom dice that include three types of symbols: success/failure, advantage/disadvantage, and triumph/doom. So a roll to shoot a stormtrooper with a blaster could result in a miss (failure), but an advantage (the blaster bolt hits a control panel, locking a door to prevent more Stormtroopers from joining the fight). Some players love this system, as it provides prompts for the group to come up with interesting elements to add to any conflict. Others find it artificial and difficult to always make up new elements on the spot.

And then there are other games that are not really concerned with pass/fail at all. The best example of this is the second edition of the 7th Sea RPG, by John Wick Presents.

The Risk System

The 7th Sea setting assumes that characters are highly competent right from the beginning. They are the types of characters one sees in movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars. In these movies, things are always happening, often too fast for the characters to fully process them, and so they must act and react, but always take some kind of action to change the situation.

In 7th Sea, a character faced with a situation that presents risks and opportunities assembles a die pool based on their Traits and Skills. This pool of d10s is rolled and the player makes sets of 10 (called Raises). The player then spends these Raises to accomplish things in the scene.

The example used in the rulebook posits the character trapped in a burning building. The GM tells the player that it will take 1 Raise to escape the room though the window. However, avoiding taking any wounds from the flames will cost 3 Raises. Furthermore, the character has spotted what looks like it might be an important paper on a table, and grabbing that paper before the flames consume it will cost 1 additional Raise.

If the player manages to accumulate 5 Raises on his roll, then he can accomplish everything—grab the paper (1), avoid the flames (3), and escape the room (1).

But what if the player only rolled 3 Raises? Grabbing the paper and getting out of the room will take 2 of those Raises, meaning that he only has 1 Raise left to avoid the flames, therefore receiving 2 wounds. Or perhaps he really feels he needs to avoid taking damage. He could spend all 3 Raises avoiding the flames, in the hopes of rolling more Raises on his next turn so that he can escape. Maybe he ignores the paper and gets out of the room, only taking a single wound in the process.

This approach majorly mitigates the success/fail question. If the player spends a single Raise on getting out of the room, then he gets out successfully. He doesn’t need to check if he “succeeds” on crossing the room—it’s assumed that if he spends his attention (Raises) on doing so, he’ll manage to do it.

The same goes for combat. It’s not about whether he hits his opponent with his sword or not. If he’s a swashbuckling hero, then of course he hits his opponent with his sword when he makes the effort (spends a Raise) to do so. However, his opponent will also spend Raises to parry with his own sword, or leap backward up onto a table, or knock a standing candelabra into the sword’s way. But doing so requires effort (Raises), and eventually one of them is going to run out of Raises first.

So What about Han Solo?

To bring this back to The Empire Strikes Back…Han Solo doesn’t generally fail directly. Rather, events happen around him at a breakneck pace, and there are only so many things he can do at once.

Let’s look at a specific example to illustrate what I mean…

The Asteroid Scene

Han is piloting the Millennium Falcon away from Hoth, with a Star Destroyer (and TIE fighters) in hot pursuit. The GM has determined that the hyperdrive is not working, but the player doesn’t know that yet. The failure of the hyperdrive is part of the scene, and is not the result of a failed roll by the player/character. For now, the GM tells the player that it will take 5 Raises to plot the hyperspace course, and that he has to spend 3 Raises each turn to avoid the TIE fighters and Star Destroyer batteries. Assuming the player is managing to roll 4-5 Raises each turn (based on a dice pool of 8-10 dice), it’s going to take at least 3 turns to get ready for the jump to hyperspace.

During this time, two more Star Destroyers arrive, and the GM spends Raises to put them into a position to trap the Falcon. But Han’s player ignores the hyperdrive for a moment and spends enough Raises to get out of the trap. And then he gets that 5th Raise and has his hyperspace route.

“Oh yeah, watch this,” he says.

But the hyperdrive engine doesn’t work. C-3PO (NPC) chimes in with “If I may say so sir, I noticed earlier the hyperdrive motivator has been damaged. It’s impossible to go to lightspeed!”

So now the GM determines how many Raises it will take to determine that the hyperdrive cannot be repaired, as the Falcon doesn’t have the necessary parts. But the end result isn’t known by the player—just that something is wrong with the hyperdrive and that spending Raises will determine what they can do about it.

It’s important to note, though, that the damaged hyperdrive motivator was not an explanation for a failed Pilot roll. Han is a hotshot pilot, and the vagaries of the dice shouldn’t make him look incompetent when he’s at the helm of his ship. Rather, an external event has caused the problem, and now he’s got to deal with it.

(This is, I believe, the core of a great deal of what happens to characters other than Luke in the original Star Wars trilogy.)

The reason I say this is because if the damaged hyperdrive was a result of their attempt to escape, then one must also imagine what would happen if the roll was a success. Boom—they get away cleanly. But we’ve already seen this scene play out in the first movie. It adds nothing for them do it again, and repeating such a scene becomes anticlimactic. If they need to get away again later on, there won’t be much tension—because they always get away once they activate the hyperdrive.

So this situation isn’t just the result of a Pilot check or something similar. It doesn’t just come out of a simple pass/fail roll. This is a set piece that the GM set up—a challenge that forces the players not just to react, but act if they want to get out of this.

(I know some people will say that the GM is being a jerk here by simply declaring the hyperdrive doesn’t work. I would expect that, if this were a real game, the ongoing maintenance issues with the Falcon is a key part of the game and doesn’t come as a terrible surprise. While the characters would hate this situation, I think the players would find it fun to play though, and that’s pretty much my take on quality GMing. You want to set up situations that the character hate, but the players love. It’s a balancing act, but if you can do it, you’ll never lack for people wanting to play in your games.)

But back to the characters. Those TIE fighters and Star Destroyers are still chasing them, and Han goes to take a look at the hyperdrive. The GM has determined that it will take 10 Raises to figure out the problem with the hyperdrive, and they still have to spend 3 Raises each round to avoid damage. Leia’s character takes over the piloting for now, and she’s able to get those 3 Raises while Han and Chewie try to diagnose the hyperdrive.

And then the GM tosses in the final complication…asteroids!

Once the characters are all gathered in the cockpit again, GM says that the players no longer need to spend 3 Raises a round to avoid the TIE fighters, as they are too busy avoiding the asteroids themselves to shoot at the Falcon. But the players do have to spend 3 Raises per round to avoid taking damage from the spinning rocks. And any extra Raises can be spent on inflicting damage on the chasing TIE fighters (represented by putting them in situations where they get hit by asteroids themselves).

After a couple of rounds, Han’s player comes up with the idea of getting closer one of the big asteroids, which move much more slowly. The GM likes this idea, but once they are out of the general mess above, the last two TIE fighters start shooting again. Han’s player manages to roll more than enough Raises, however, to destroy the last two TIEs (by having them follow him into a trench and then crash into the narrow walls).

Deciding that it’s time to let the characters regroup a bit, the GM tells them they spot a cave in the big asteroid, and they fly into it to hide from the Empire’s forces. They no longer have to roll to accumulate enough Raises to figure out exactly what’s wrong with the Falcon’s hyperdrive (and that they don’t have the parts to repair it). Instead, they just spend a bit of time while the Empire searches for them, and then they receive the bad news.

After a bit of downtime, in which a couple of players do some roleplaying of the budding romance between their characters, the GM decides it’s time to turn the heat up again, and introduces the mynocks…

Conclusion

Failure can certainly be interesting, and 7th Sea doesn’t shy away from it by any means. But not all games are the same, and not all settings are appropriate for the random success and failure that one finds in D&D. Personally, I love D&D and it provides one kind of game I really enjoy. The dice determinations in D&D are absolutely appropriate for that game.

However, sometimes I’m looking for a different experience. Just because I love pizza, I don’t want to eat it for dinner every single day. Systems like the one used in 7th See 2E provide a very different take on success and failure, and can be used to play games in which situations are resolved not by straight success or failure, but by seeing how the characters spend their limited resources to choose their course toward success.

It’s a different method, but it’s still about the journey more than the destination. The characters (and players) still make decisions, but those decisions come from a different place than in a traditional pass/fail system like D&D.

I hope looking at The Empire Strikes Back helped to explain what I mean by this. Competent characters can still be challenged, and still look competent, while putting them in situations that take them to their limits. And that’s where the fun truly begins in roleplaying games.

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.