February 22, 2014

And back to Star Wars...

Okay, so got the musings on the Babylon 5 RPG out of my system, so back to all things Star Wars.

Over the past few weeks, LucasFilm/Disney has been releasing info on the main characters of the upcoming Rebels CGI animated series.  Now, I'll admit that my initial response to this was rather tepid, as The Clone Wars generally left me cold (I really didn't care for Ahsoka at all, and would have preferred the series to focus on Jedi other than Obi-Wan and Anakin).

But, as details started to come out, I found myself becoming more and more interested.  The fact that it takes place in the Dark Times Era (that 19 year time frame between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope) means that the showrunners and writers have a lot more free room to create their stories rather than trying to shoehorn them into the three-year span that was the Clone Wars.

There's also the matter that the lead characters of Rebels are all original characters, so no having to deal with pre-established leads that pretty much script immunity due to needing to appear in later films.  The hero list started with Chopper, an astromech that's supposed to be as far from Artoo-Detoo in terms of personality as you can get; Artoo's been compared to a loyal canine, where Chopper is more akin to a cat in temperament.  Next was Kanan, the "cowboy Jedi," and while several folks over on the FFG forums were upset that there was a Jedi character in the series, i can't say that I was surprised.  While FFG may have pushed Jedi PCs to the third rulebook (Force & Destiny), Jedi remain one of the most identifying elements of the Star Wars franchise.  However, Kanan is something of a "failed Jedi" in that while he survived Order 66, he's largely given up on being a Jedi, even going so far as to lock away his lightsaber.

The next character to be revealed gave me reason to chuckle.  Said character, Ezra Bridger, has been described as a street smart kid with untapped Force abilities... which is almost exactly the character I've been playing in a Sunday Skype game.  About the core difference is that while Ezra is pretty much clueless about the Force (he's only aware of his abilities as something that helps him get out of a tight spot), my character Valin was aware of the Force, being fortunate enough to receive a bit of training from a Jedi that survived Order 66 (I figure said tutor was a Padawan that managed to go underground rather than a Knight or full-fledged Master).  I know the similarities are very much accidental, but it still amused me.

There had been some concern from a few of the female Star Wars fans that I follow on Twitter (such as dunc of Club Jade and Amy Ratcliffe) that so far, all we'd seen were the guys, particularly after the ToyFair convention at which the only Rebels toys shown were for male characters, with only a few hints at a female Mandalorian as a new character.  Well, that's now changed as Sabine (female Mando explosive expert/graffiti artist) and Hera (Twi'lek pilot and "team mom" that's sensibly dressed) have gotten their official introductions.  There was a bit of concern that Sabine's introduction used a lot of feminine buzzwords such as "sassy" and "feisty" and "kind of a tomboy", but I think it bears mentioning that the person using those words was the voice actress portraying the character, while Dave Filoni instead focused on her being a Mandalorian and thus an expert fighter, while a few others expressed the cool factor of having a character that expresses themselves through art.

I must say, out of the characters, the two that I'm most interested in are Ezra and Sabine.  Ezra because frankly I enjoy playing teenage characters, particularly Force-sensitives when it comes to Star Wars RPGs; I've only played one character in various Star Wars RPGs that wasn't a young Force-user that wasn't for a one-shot using pre-gen characters.  Plus, I've already been playing a character very similar to Ezra, so it should be fun to imagine to myself "how would Valin handle this situation?" while watching the show.  I do agree that his look and backstory does merit the nickname "Space Aladdin," but given that I found Disney's Aladdin to be an enjoyable character, it's a comparison that doesn't bug me.

And Sabine because frankly, she looks to be something that the Star Wars franchise has been missing for a while... a strong female lead.  Princess Leia is a well-known character for a damn good reason, and has been cited as a role model for young girls as she's managed to be strong-willed and capable in addition to being a princess and being attractive without being reduced to mere fanservice (the slave bikini in RotJ only coming about due to Carrie Fisher asking for an outfit that let her show off her figure).  With Sabine, you've got an attractive young woman that's wearing armor (no exposed midriff) that's capable of kicking butt right alongside Kanan and Zeb.  In fact, she'd probably make a great basis for an RPG character in and of herself.  Earlier today I gabbed with a female gamer that (sadly) has sense moved out of the area, and she expressed a lot of enthusiasm for Sabine, even going so far to say that she regretted the move simply because she's not had any luck finding a new gaming group.  Which led to us discussing over Skype how to go about building Sabine as a PC.

Speaking of RPGs, what's interesting about the crew from Rebels is that on the surface, they look to be more at home in an Edge of the Empire style of game than an Age of Rebellion one.  The party is operating out of a light transport (The Ghost, a VCX-100), waging their own battle against the Empire.  Going by the Age of Rebellion Beta, a lot of the focus is on the PCs being a part of the Rebel Alliance and having notable support from the Alliance, particularly as they complete various missions.  However, having played the WEG version of Star Wars back in the day, the set-up of Rebels sounds very much like a "Mission Ops Group" as described in Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim.  In short, a disparate group of individuals (the PCs) are lumped together into a team, provided with a light freighter (if they don't have one already) and given missions by the Alliance to investigate or derail various Imperial schemes.  Since Rebels takes place at a time when the Rebel Alliance hasn't quite formalized yet (or at least is not as we see them in the films), it makes sense that the crew of the Ghost are mostly operating on their own directives.

There's also the matter that Greg Weisman is one of the executive producers of the show, and given how much I've enjoyed his work, particularly on Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man, and Young Justice, I'm hoping for the excellent characterizations for both heroes and villains that his shows have provided.  Though sadly, for all the talk of Joss Whedon getting screwed over by Fox in regards to Firefly (he was), Greg's had it worse, with many of his shows getting cancelled after one or two seasons, or going down the tubes if the show does make it past that two season mark (Gargoyles: Goliath Chronicles is a prime example of that).  I'm really hoping that Star Wars: Rebels bucks that trend, lasting for more than two seasons and maintaining a decent level of quality along the way.

Back to things pertaining to Star Wars RPGs, despite an earlier promise to myself that I was done and through with it, I've found myself returning to the Unofficial Species Menagerie, reviewing and revising a number of species as well as adding some new ones to the roster.  But I guess there must be something in the air, as my co-author on the project, Ben "Cyril" Erickson has gotten a similar urge to review his own contributions and devise a few new ones.  There's no telling when this would be finished, though I suspect it'll be a while.

I've also been poking around with my Ways of the Force supplement, in particular the Jedi Initiate.  Being able to get some actual play-time with the spec has lead to seeing where things could certainly be changed and revised, which I've done.  I'm also exploring taking some of the "minor powers" that I'd introduced and fleshing them out into full-blown Force power trees.  One of them has turned out pretty good, while the other is still very much a "work in progress."  Of course, what's going to make this interesting is that if the pattern holds true, then FFG should be releasing the Force & Destiny Beta rulebook at this year's GenCon.

Lastly, and I'm ashamed to admit this, but working on my contribution to Order 66 Kickstarter backer rewards had (until recently) stalled out.  I'd hit a number of snags, including losing a nearly-finished copy of the adventure once and narrowly avoiding losing my computer entirely, as well as hitting a (brief) span of time where I simply didn't want much to do with Star Wars RPGs.  Plus, it's hard to want to stare at a computer screen when you've just gotten home from a job that requires you to spend most of your day staring at a computer screen and trying to solve and sort out the problems that other people have created.  But, things have improved, as I've gotten over a major hurdle in the adventure's second act, and I've gotten a good start on the third and final act, which should go much smoother in terms of getting it written.  Of course, the issue becomes finding the time to write it, but with a bit of luck, I should have this done much sooner rather than a lot latter.

Also, it's only a few more weeks until I board a plan to head to Fort Worth, Texas to attend GamerNationCon, aka 3 Days of Gaming Goodness.  I'm looking forward to this, more to meet and hangout with folks that I mostly know through the d20 Radio Forums, but also for a chance to get some Star Wars gaming in, something I've not been able to really do since the Sunday game I was in went on hiatus.  I'm also running a couple of events and even helping table a seminar on RPG writing, so if nothing else I'll at least have those to keep me busy.

My next post will probably be in the wake of GNCon (at least at the rate I post on this blog), so see you in March.

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