1/12/2016

Published on 1/12/2016 Written by 12 comments

My Biggest Issue With The Force Awakens is Not What You Think

Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoyed The Force Awakens. It was familiar and just felt like an updated version of something I loved as a kid, paying homage to it lovingly while adding enough new touches to open up a new world for future stories.

But therein lies the problem, at least from a gaming perspective.

A day or two after I saw the film, I sat down to stat out the characters and ships for use in a game.

(Everyone does this right? You see the world around you in terms of RPG statistics? For instance, I know my boss has a really high bureaucracy skill, but a middling command/charisma. My Hyundai Elantra has a pitiful maneuverability and movement score, but it has decent cargo capacity for a vehicle its size. My kids have amazing saving throws - all kids do, otherwise they would never survive all the dumb stuff they do.)

Anyway, I started statting out the material from the movie in a system I know (Star Wars D6), comparing it to existing material in the system as a baseline. The new movie had X-Wings - great, I'll just compare them to X-Wings in the old system. We also have TIE fighters. Okay, same deal. And Star Destroyers. And the Millennium Falcon.

Does the square satellite dish add or subtract from the Falcon's maneuver check?

I had to stop to think: Were there even any new ships? Kylo Ren's shuttle, I suppose, which is probably not that far from a Lambda-shuttle (the one the crew stole to sneak onto Endor). Some troop drop ships, which are non combative and don't really need stats. Han Solo had a new ship, but I don't remember if they even showed the outside of it onscreen or even gave it a name.

So what we're left with is just a bunch of new models of old spacecraft. Great, except what is the point of "updating" the numbers, besides creating a Pokemon-level of power creep? Sure, the new X-wing is faster, and probably has better weapons. But so too does the new TIE Fighter, right? So rather than "improve" the stats on both, why not just leave them both the same? Their comparative ratios should remain pretty consistent. Why completely redesign something that is essentially the same ship with a new coat of paint?

Same goes for the characters. What kind of new classes/templates could the players create? Jedi are still just as rare (if not moreso) than in the original trilogy, so they're out except as (maybe) poorly-trained apprentices. We still have the same pilots/smugglers/scoundrels/Resistance fighters. For enemies, we still have Stormtroopers and "Imperial" officers and pilots. The only new enemies are the Knights of Ren, which we know literally nothing about. Are they all even Dark Jedi? I would have to take major liberties if I wanted to use them in a game.

(I think we got one new droid. I guess I could stat out BB-8. His speed and maneuverability is hugely improved over R2, but he doesn't seem to have as many cool gadgets.)

The conclusion I came to is that I could just take the stats from everything whole-cloth from a Rebellion-era RPG (either D6, WotC's d20 version or Fantasy Flight's awesome Edge of the Empire) and just change a few names. Boom, now I have a Force Awakens game. I find this incredibly disappointing. Is it less work? Absolutely. But it's also no where near as fun.

Side note: As my wife so astutely pointed out, why didn't Finn ever say:
"Damn, I can shoot so much better without that stupid helmet!"

Say what you will about the prequels (no seriously, go ahead, they were terrible movies) but at least they gave us a plethora of crunchy, game-able material. Every Episode from 1-3 gave us hundreds of new ships, droids, characters, weapons and aliens. Sure, it was probably just to sell more toys, but it was a treasure-trove for gamers.

I have to reiterate: I enjoyed the movie, I just didn't see a lot of gamey-material in it. How about you? Did you go home and try to determine if the new X-wings have a movement rate of 9 or 10? Do the new TIE's have shields? Has the Falcon's weapons and armour been updated over the years to match the improved capabilities of the those ships? Or should we just scratch out "T-65" and replace it with "T-70" and replace "Rebellion" with "Resistance" and just go with it?

12 comments:

  1. I was very disappointed by TFA. I came to the same conclusion about the ships after seeing it. Nothing new really, at all. I have to agree that the prequels, despite their flaws, were filled with lots of cool new tech and ships.
    I might have liked this movie more if I hadn't already seen the original trilogy. As it was though, I came out feeling like I had seen a watered down DISNEY version of Star Wars. This looked like a JJ Abrams Disney movie, not a Lucas Star Wars movie.
    After seeing the way Abrams ruined Star Trek by turning it into an action movie franchise, I thought he might be a good fit for Star Wars. I was wrong. He made the most vanilla and safe tent pole movie possible. It worked, since the masses seem to be lapping it up.
    As a RPG setting? Because it gave such little material to work with, I think a GM would be better off deciding what their version of the post ROTJ Star Wars universe would be like.

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    1. I enjoyed the movie, don't get me wrong. I also think playing it safe was a good idea to get people on the bandwagon. I think it would have been disasterous to make too many changes.
      My thought is, now that they have everyone's trust and there are 5 movies scheduled for the next 5 years, now will be the time to try new things. If Disney continues to make the same movie over and over again, then we have a problem.

      But yeah, from a games crunch perspective, it was a little disappointing. Admittedly, we're probably a pretty tiny segment of their market.£

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    2. It was a safe Star Wars movie, too safe really.

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  2. Let me offer a counter in that the beauty of TFA is that you don't have to update stats on a bunch of stuff, making this era easy to play in without having to worry about a bunch of new stats. It makes it approachable and easy in the fact that it doesn't contribute to the supplement glut so common in RPGs. WEG's D6 line put out a supplement book for darn near everything in the then-EU and it got daunting to keep up with.

    Personally, I enjoyed TFA - but understand why some didn't. It was definitely a back-to-basics film, but I appreciated that.

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    1. Excellent points. I am highly inclined to agree with you. 👍

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  3. What TFA gives us isn't new tech and gadgets. What it does give us is an interesting take on locations.
    Rey climbing through the crashed destroyer is just one example. The original trilogy war will have left a huge impact on the galaxy. Derelict craft, manufacturing shortages, an entire generation of missing and dead. So while technology is directly substitutable (yes, that's not a word, and I don't care) the world building elements have grown by leaps and bounds.

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    1. Really? You're the one who said you didn't want to play in the new era!!!

      (Though you make very good points)

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    2. I didn't say I don't want to play new era. I said I didn't think it would make a difference in our game

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  4. Very well said! I felt the same sense of disappointment, but I think you really hit the head on why.

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  5. Very well said! I felt the same sense of disappointment, but I think you really hit the head on why.

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  6. TFA is a very character driven story - moreso than probably any other of the Star Wars movies, except Empire.

    (Contrast this with the prequels, which really had little to no character development, but tons of whiz-bang gear to stat out.)

    So, given that as a baseline, look in that gameable space for new stuff. Specifically: new characters and, by extension, new aliens species (and to a lesser but still useful extent, new worlds/cultures).

    With the exception of Chewbacca, pretty much every alien species we see is new, and there are quite a LOT of them. With every species comes a new alien culture to play around with, and probably another world or two to play around with.

    So: I agree there isn't really any new tech in use, but I'm okay with that, since there's still other kinds of cool new stuff to play with.

    (Semi-related to the longevity of military gear: pump action shotguns have been used in major combat situations at least 100 years, basically unaltered in design; also check out the A-10 Warthog, which went into service 4 or 5 years before Star Wars hit theatres, was last manufactured in 1984 (over 30 years ago), and is still in service today, despite the Air Force brass actively hating the thing.)

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    1. That's a good point about the aliens. Not usually the first thing I look at, and since I've only seen the film once I don't even remember half of them, but there's certainly a new swath to go throigh. I'm sure there will be a new anthology providing backstories for all of them soon. :-)

      And it totally was a very character driven-movie, Which is why as a film I really enjoyed it. All of the major characters had interesting quirks and personalities that made them stand out and care about them.

      That's probably the element we should be aiming to capture in our games, too.

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