Playing Star Wars in Story Game Systems

Wizards of the Coast also published a bunch of d20 stuff for Star Wars between WEG and FFG.


Right! I knew I was forgetting something… I never played those so I tend to forget they exist.

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That sounds fantastic, Rich!

Did you use the Demonic Influence dice as a Dark Side analogue, with characters being able to call on them in conflicts?

What a wonderful series of conversations.

In my experience, if you have people who love an IP and the game captures and helps to reinforce the spirit of it then it’s a win. Most of the color, like ships and blasters and such usually have some kind of equivalent in most games that deal with combat. But if you are going for something that challenges the values or goals of SW characters then some story games like DitV can really sing.

Sean Nittner has done with this a bunch like DitV and My Life with Master (Palpatine).

Here are some thoughts from me on a few indie/story games:

  • Sorcerer: An Intense Role-playing Game (2001) by Ron Edwards – a Sith Lord game

  • The Mountain Witch: Samurai Blood Opera in Mythical Japan by Timothy Kleinert – could be a Jedi or Sith adventure

  • The Burning Wheel (2002) by Luke Crane – could be epic, but also could be time-intensive to do and working with Mouse Guard might take less effort

  • Dust Devils (2002) by Matt Snyder – converted to mercenaries or smugglers

  • My Life with Master (2003) by Paul Czege – for use with Palpatine

  • Dogs in the Vineyard (2004) by Vincent Baker – Done at least twice that I know of

  • Primetime Adventures (2004) by Matt Wilson – I believe that this was done already

  • Shock: Social Science Fiction (2006) by Joshua A.C. Newman – if you want to delve more closely to science fiction instead of fantasy you could explore droids, clones, aliens, the Force, etc.

  • I know that Jedi Blackbird’s been done; I could see Grey Ranks by Jason Morningstar as an interesting gritty war story; Mouse Guard by Luke Crane could be reskinned to play Ewoks on the moon of Endor; Steal Away Jordan by Julia Bond Ellingboe for a Droids reskin if done with respect; Durance by Jason Morningstar could be about rebels, Imperials, and gangsters on a prison planet; Psi*Run by Meguey Baker or Dread by Epidiah Ravachol and Nathaniel Barmore could be used to tell stories about Jedi being hunted down by Vader. For the Queen by Alex Roberts could be about Queen Padmé Amidala, or Princess/General Leia Organa.


That is a fantastic list, David. Some really great choices there! It’s really fun to see how some games would just support the premise really well, while others strain or distort the franchise (e.g. My Life with Master) in interesting ways.

I’m particularly impressed by The Mountain Witch, Dust Devils, Grey Ranks, and Durance: hitting some different aspects of the Star Wars canon with these games would work really well, especially for the grittier style of Star Wars (like Rogue One or The Mandalorian). Great ideas!

Another that comes to mind is Dog Eat Dog, for an Imperial occupation side-story. You’re unlikely to deal with any Jedi/Force/destiny plots in this game (although I would be impressed if you managed to!), but you could play out the stories of backwater planet natives or other potential Rebels struggling under the yoke of the Empire.

Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne could be stretched to describe the trial of a suspected Sith by the few remaining Jedi. You’d have to reinterpret the characters quite a bit, but it could be interesting. (I think the game would lose some of its punch in this context, but it could still be a fun experiment.)

Episode 4 of the Mandalorian is a very straight-forward game of Kagematsu, by the book. (For those familiar with the game, I wonder if Gina Carano’s character could be interpreted as one of the village women, or if that would be too much of a stretch - if it could be made to work, it would be quite interesting! The character is written to play into that quite a bit, in the episode - tempting the Mandalorian with settling down as well as a potential partnership with her.)

I haven’t played Downfall, but I suspect that could also be an interesting choice for a game that focuses on a large-scale story about the Fall of the Republic. The same goes for Dirty Secrets, if you want to get into a bounty hunter/murder mystery kind of scenario (or maybe even a Senate assassination plot - I’m not sure if that would work or not).

How about Kylo Ren’s Bride (Bluebeard’s Bride)? Probably stretching things too far, although the thought of Palpatine having wives and/or children (as brought up in the last film) does suggest some horrific possibilities.

Rock of Tahamaat could work in a fashion similar to My Life with Master, with players taking on the roles of servants of some dark master (like Snoke or Palpatine).

Rich isn’t likely to run out of games anytime soon, it seems! :wink:

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Great ideas!

Personally, I wouldn’t list Gina Carano’s character as one of the peasant women, but otherwise I can definitely see that.

Questlandia is another easy game to work into Star Wars if you really enjoy world-building games.

I’m wondering if Kingdom or Follow from Ben Robbins would work for some SW stories, or Vesna Thaw as a kind of post-Battle of Geonosis survivalist civil war among the local factions or separatists meets Mad Max.

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I used Dark Side as a “trait” in the conflict, but a Demonic Influence conflict would have been interesting!

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Hah! This is interesting to me because the parts of Star Wars as setting that call to me (Rebellion, scrappy insurgents, smugglers and X-wing squadrons – the “Zahn/Stackpole/Allston” part of the EU, if that means anything to folks) absolutely do have components that hinge on the physical or technical details of the tools at their disposal. The difference between a Y-wing and a squint* is crucial!

(Of course, I am a trad gamer sneaking in here, so what do I know? I do agree with eschewing mechanization of the Force and keeping it strange and mysterious.)

As for storygames that might be of interest for parts of the setting - Night Witches would be the obvious well-known one regarding playing pilots, but I don’t think that it would be a good fit given the narrative abstraction of the cockpit and the discussion of gender dynamics (which is so core to the game that it feels a bit disrespectful to strip it out for SW usage!). That said, a quick Googling suggests Warbirds or Flying Circus, neither of which I have played but both of which look potentially interesting for a reskin, especially Flying Circus.

*TIE Interceptor


Yes, that’s an interesting point!

I should clarify, perhaps, that the details of these things are VERY important aesthetically, for the feel and the colour and the style of Star Wars.

What I meant is that they aren’t significant mechanically or in terms of loss and victory: we don’t see the heroes triumph because they have better equipment than their foes, for example.


Ah, but we do! :slight_smile: Take a look at this scene (if Google Books will show it properly).

Summary: Dlarit is an Imperial-affiliated TIE pilot who’s unable to successfully interdict an X-wing, specifically because of the snubfighter she’s flying. It doesn’t have torpedoes, so she can’t dump speed to engines and still have weapons to engage. (And the Imperial leader in charge of procurement nixed Dlarit’s request to get snubfighters with torpedoes.)

I don’t mean to suggest that this is defining for all Star Wars, but merely that, to reinforce @igorhorst 's point above, Star Wars encompasses a lot of material and feel…and some of that material absolutely does hinge on granular details and equipment.

(EDIT: Just occurred to me that much of this may stem from the WEG Star Wars RPG and the X-wing computer games having a very strong influence on the early EU and its worldbuilding.)


That’s a fair point! I’m not a consumer/reader/fan of all the EU stuff for Star Wars (at least until recently, anyway; I watched The Mandalorian this week!).

I’m thinking purely from the context of the films (and particularly the original trilogy), where such distinctions feel pretty much outside the aesthetic of the franchise.

You make an excellent point about some of the early wargame or video game-based Star Wars franchise elements sort of retrofitting that kind of concern into the genre simply because it’s so often part of those platforms (e.g. D&D has different stats for different weapons, so a Star Wars RPG should, too).


After writing my post about how Star Wars contain many different eras, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to figure out how to create a “Star Wars era”. After some browsing on Wookiepedia and remembering people’s campaign notes that they posted on Obisidan Portal, I made a Worldbook for creating Star Wars settings, inspired by Ironsworn’s own Worldbook mechanics.

It’s naturally generic to allow people to use any type of ruleset with this worldbook…and writing this worldbook gave me more insight as to the exact process “real” Star Wars writers use to create and flesh out the eras we know and semi-love (not every era is beloved by every Star Wars fan, I mean, look at fan reception of New Jedi Order, the Prequel Trilogy, Sequel Trilogy, etc., etc.)…

Er, getting back to my main point, it seems that Star Wars writers (in Canon and Legends) tend to rely a lot on Happy Ending Override - each era tends to end happily (since Star Wars is an optimistic series), but then a new era occurs that wipes away this happy ending so there’s always new problems for the protagonists to solve. If you’re lucky, the authors might give the galaxy 1000 years of peace before the next round of violence and mayhem. If you’re unlucky, give it about 30 years…or maybe 30 weeks. (Sometimes, authors can go back in time, and write stories about eras that happened thousands of years ago, and then retroactively justify how events in that era led up to the present - hence, why the Knights of the Old Republic video games exist).

In fact, it might be best to say that Star Wars eras are somewhat separated from one another (in tone, style, ideas, etc.), and are only glued together in continuity by narratives that seek to justify why the galaxy has transformed from one state to another.

At least in the few campaigns I seen on Obsidian Portal, tabletop GMs would also write narratives to justify their custom Star Wars era, but also generally include a longer time-skip (sometimes even hundreds of years) to make such narratives more convincing.

Not that approach is bad or anything. Again, the fact that Star Wars is vast (in both space and time) is a good thing - it means you are free to pursue stories you like and to ignore stories you don’t. And while it may seem pessimistic at first to know that the events in the “Y Era” will override what happens in the “X Era”, at the end of the day, nothing lasts forever…and you’re still fighting the good fight in the star wars. The war between the Light and the Dark in Star Wars is endless, but you are still able to strike a blow for your side that will last for some time.


Maybe it is too obvious to mention but Scum & Villany (Forged in the Dark) is pretty much Star Wars with the serial numbers filed off lightly. Great game, and it would be a great choice for doing a straight up Star Wars game.


Some day I’ll give it a go. I’d rather someone run it for me before I GM it. I’m a lil scared of the cognitive load of FitD games and all the interlocking mechanics (not to mention how everything in BitD is mechanized, which feels like an orchestra when my preferred mode of play is like a jazz session).


Yes, I’m in the same boat. I like what I know about FitD games, but it sounds like the weight of the mechanics is a little much: I worry about handling all those subsystems, too.


We continued the Star Wars Burned Over game tonight. I won’t go into great detail; I don’t have too much to add to my comments from last time. It’s still working relatively well, although there are some things I don’t love (e.g. two ships doing harm to each other via bidding during a chase, and not having the harm moves on the pages with the handouts).

A new player joined us. He’s portraying Rothschild, the rather questionable Imperial engineer/scientist who is on the run and has been captured by the organization of the elusive “Butcher”. He’s the one who created Valiant-1, the droid character that uses a portion of his own brain. During the shocking events and the canyon chase, Ambergrease shows in the Butcher’s caverns, and Rothschild uses a hammer to take down a stormtrooper.

We had our first use of “open your brain”, to confer with the mystical/Force/destiny, and the character experienced a chilling vision or premonition. I hope to see more of that in the future! It’s easy to forget that the move even exists, in the Star Wars universe.

Lots of things are coming together, and it’s clear that some major players are all converging on this spot. What’s happening here? We’ll find out next time, in what will most likely be the finale.


Well, the game has been wrapped up. We played three fairly full sessions. And, although there was definitely a lot more room to explore, it felt like enough of a climax that we were happy to stop playing (it doesn’t help that one of our players is leaving the city, so scheduling more sessions might have been difficult!).

I think we all had a good time, and enjoyed what the rules brought to the game. Sure, they’re not perfect for Star Wars, but they worked pretty darn well. They were few things that didn’t feel right or didn’t fit. We had little trouble in terms of adapting the rules. The ability to die and come back to life (by choosing +1 Weird, in most cases!) felt very Star Wars-like (especially with the JJ Abrams films, which love to do the whole “Oh, no! He’s dead!” fakeout scene, and use it on multiple occasions).

None of us loved the “Do Battle” move, but, on the upside, there was never any confusion about how to use it. Players almost always chose “Fight hard” (+1 harm), as it was devastatingly effective against NPCs. (But it helps to explain why two of them died - and came back - in the third session!)

In the third part of our game, most of the mysterious convergences happening on Tatooine came to light, although the players were just starting to figure them out, learning bits in dribs and drabs. The most mysterious character was “The Butcher”, who turned out to be a Jedi in hiding, wearing a mask and some kind of cybernetic device in his skull after being mortally wounded by Darth Vader.

Our smuggler, Marsh (a Brain-picker), it turned out, was transporting a young princess frozen in carbonite, who was actually a Rebellion agent trying to get in touch with Rothschild (a Gearcutter), a former Imperial cynernetics engineer working for the Butcher. The smuggler rather accidentally (in typical Star Wars fashion!) joined up with Valiant-1 (a Vigilant), a former Imperial droid who was also looking for Rothschild, since Rothschild was his creator (and, in fact, had placed a portion of his brain matter into the droid!).

Local slumlord Teemo the Hutt was after the cargo, knowing that there was a high bounty placed on the frozen Princess, so there was some wild canyon chase action when Teemo’s Gamorrean guards pursued the smuggler’s ship. Teemo had all kinds of mercenaries trying to find the girl!

Meanwhile, a local enforcer named Ambergrease had sold out the Butcher to the Empire, using Imperial support in a plan to take control of the Cistern (the only source of fresh water, and the Butcher’s hideout) and then to take over the town from Teemo.

However, the PCs, being intrepid, killed several inflitrator Stormtroopers, as well as, eventually, when all this came to a head in a shootout at the Cistern, killed Ambergrease, whose corpse now floats in the water supply, tainting it with a metallic tang.

There was a particular Star Wars-y moment when Valiant-1 one pushed a floating coffin (the carbonite container) into a crowd of the Butcher’s followers, knocking them over like bowling pins and then leapt off the coffin, somersaulting over those who remained standing, and made his escape. Classic!

They stole a whole bunch of cybernetic details and data as well as a mysterious Dark artifact (never seen “on screen”, just in a dusty box) from the Butcher’s vault, figured out that Rothschild was the Princess’s long lost father, and made their escape. Rothschild managed to jerry-rig a floating gurney-like contraption to carry the materials, which was a Star Wars-analogue of Tenser’s Floating Disk.

Presumably the sequel would deal with their pursuit by both the Empire and the Butcher, a man whose Light or Dark affiliation is heavily in question.

We had fun adapting some of the details in the playbooks to the game, although, to my regret, I never quite managed to tie in the whole “wolves of the mealstrom” bit successfully (despite having some ideas for how that tied The Butcher, Marsh, and the darker personalities in the Emperor’s service together, it never “made it to the screen” in our limited time). A few failed “open your brain” rolls provided short cut scenes hinting at a dark past or grim omens of a dark future, which I enjoyed narrating (though I’m not sure how the players felt about these!).

I liked how the storylines converged on the mysterious cybernetic secrets worked on by the Empire. My idea was that Rothschild’s experiments were key to technologies used in Darth Vader’s machine suit, as well as the Butcher’s head trauma. The Rebels were trying to get Rothschild on their side to find a way to neutralize or defeat Darth Vader, while Rothschild’s daughter, Leora, hoped to turn The Butcher back to the Light. Marsh, the smuggler, however, shared some dark destiny with the Butcher, which would play a bigger role in future sessions, were we continuing to play.

I didn’t spoonfeed the background story or situation to the players, so I don’t know if it was as engaging for them, discovering it in pieces and hints, rather than seeing it all at once.

The nature of all the supernatural stuff in the ruleset lends a bit of darker vibe to the Star Wars setting and anything related to the Force, but this is a nice lens through which to see Star Wars and relates nicely to the way this stuff is presented in the newest films (weird psychic connections, coincidences, and whispers from the past - all very maelstrom-like).

Were I to make a serious go at playing Star Wars with the Burned Over ruleset, I’d feel pretty good doing so. I’d want some more clarity on how to use “open your brain” (presumably, it would work for all uses of “trusting the Force” and similar situations, and that might require either some thought or a new move), and I would want stronger character transformation mechanics, since the Star Wars film feature dramatic character arcs, and it would be nice to have some support for this from the system. Aside from those two things (and maybe some greater clarity on ship to ship combat), we had a lovely time and I would gladly do it again.


I liked how the adventure ran, and how the background was slowly revealed. I think some mystery is good. Not everything needs to be explained, something JJ probably needs to learn. The open your brain flashbacks were great. They felt a bit like some of how the force seems to play out in the newer movies.

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Thanks, @funkaoshi! That’s really nice to hear, and exactly what I was going for with the flashbacks and premonitions. :smiley:

Hope I’m not too late to the party to contribute!

Star Wars irrevocably changed my life when I saw it as a 9 year old in 1977. My dad took me to see it. I have never forgotten the thrill I experienced after the opening crawl, when the enormous Star Destroyer flew overhead. What I felt was the physical emobdiment of Obi-Wan’s, “You’ve taken your first step into a wider universe” line-- it was like my chest opened up and suddenly the world wasn’t this mundane place anymore, it was filled with possibilities. Soon followed my first forray into the Science Fiction and Fantasy sections of the library, and my life has turned out differently than it would have in some alternate reality where Lucas made Apocolypse Now and never got around to Star Wars.

Introduction out of the way, I’m pretty clear on what the vital elements of Star Wars are to me:

  1. Lightsabers. The look, the sound, the fights; take lightsabers out of the equation, and I don’t think what’s left is Star Wars.

  2. The Force. Some combination of psychic-like ability with variants of telekenisis is enough for me. I think there are multiple different interpretations of The Force that could work for me, but the Warrior/Mage trope is important.

  3. John Williams (or appropriate substitute) score. I think there are many different ways to meaningfully analyze Star Wars, but one of them is as Opera. If you replaced the scores with heavy metal or synth pop or jazz or even just mediocre classical music, what you wound up with would not be Star Wars to me.

  4. Clear, unambiguous distinctions between Good and Evil. I am fully capable of appreciating moral ambiguity, but I consider Star Wars to be almost pure escapism and wish fulfillment. I deal with difficult ethical and moral decisions in my day to day life; in Star Wars, I want the Samurai and the Cowboy and their trusty band of scrappy fighters to be able to kill the Space Nazis without anyone involved needing to ponder the morality of it.

  5. Heroes with thick Plot Armor. I consider it crucial that a lone gunman can stand in the open with no cover, and calmly shoot down a dozen opponents, without one of them landing a single return hit. The hero being able to decide to take on an enemy Death Star or Citadel just to rescue a single friend, with little or no planning or backup, needs to be so clearly presented as a reasonable option that it doesn’t interfere with the suspension of disbelief. In my head-cannon, I see this as The Force acting on behalf of the heroes, causing bolts to fly astray, scouts to sneeze at innoportune moments, and so on; but with or without an in-universe explanation, an adventure where the heroes need to be as cautious and careful as they would need to be in real life is not Star Wars (again, to me).

Those are the only five essential elements for me. Some important elements are:

  1. Space ships of various sizes, with capital ships and fighters and everything in between.

  2. Colored blaster bolts to easily keep track of the action.

  3. Super advanced mechanical technology, without obvious or overpowering computer technology.

  4. Ubiquitous anti-gravity technology for objects as small as an apple or as large as a Star Destroyer.

  5. Mysticism coexisting with technology.

Note that I don’t consider the existence of an Empire, or a Rebellion, or a Republic, to be either essential or important. If a Star Wars story was set in a different time or a different region of space, and there was no political or governmental-level conflict, it could still easly feel like Star Wars to me.

I think that’s a reasonable summary of what I’d need a set of rules to support or enable.