Posts tagged Star Wars D6

The Quick and Easy Character Background

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Characters aren’t just people who suddenly poofed into existence at the start of the campaign. They have a past, secrets, and dreams. A good GM will try to incorporate these aspects of a character into the campaign, usually by asking for the players to write up a character backstory which they will use to develop character-specific plot hooks. Sometimes that doesn’t work so well though. Either a player doesn’t know what to write about or the player writes a short novella about the character’s past which, while interesting, doesn’t always provide the GM with useful information to create plot hooks for the character’s future in the campaign.

So I’ve developed “The Quick and Easy Character Background,” a system-neutral, double-sided paper with five steps to help a player create a character backstory that makes it easy to create good adventure hooks that the GM can use. You can download the complete PDF here. The questions are simple and ask about:

  • The character’s background and concept
  • A goal the character has and the goal the player has for the character
  • Two secrets about the character: one the character knows and one that involves the character, but they do not know (and there’s a note that the GM may be creating a third secret that neither the player nor the character know)
  • Three people tied to the character, two friendly, one unfriendly, and an optional nemesis
  • Three memories that the character has in order to provide some context and flavor

I’ve had my players use this for several campaigns, especially Savage Worlds and Dungeons & Dragons campaigns and I’ve had good results with it. For instance, I once ran an Indiana-Jones style pulp campaign and one of the players had written that they had a mother was traveling the world. So I had a session where his mother guest starred as a companion character. Momma Laros didn’t have any combat skills, but she could taunt and intimidate like only an old lady can and she instantly became a hit among the players.

The “secrets” section is especially fun for the GM. In a Star Wars game I ran, a player wrote that his character’s secret was that his character was a Jedi. He also wrote that the character didn’t know that his father, who was a Jedi too, was killed by Darth Vader. So the secret that I created that neither the character nor the player knew was that Darth Vader had recruited his father as a potential apprentice. The player’s reaction when it was revealed was priceless!

This handout is useful for any setting, but sometimes you need one that is more focused. Last spring I ran Daring Entertainment’s War of the Dead, a zombie apocalypse campaign, and created a simplified version for that campaign, which you can download here. This one removes the “secrets” section because there wasn’t much opportunity to explore them in the premade campaign, and I asked questions that were more specific to a zombie apocalypse, like who your character would miss.

I’d like to give credit where it’s due and say that this handout was based off of questions created by D&D forums user “The_Stray” in this topic, which in turn was adapted from the Minimus RPG. To keep the sharing going, I’m releasing both documents under the Creative Commons Share-Alike License 3.0, which allows you to freely distribute and adapt them, so long as you make it clear that any revision is based on my work and those who came before it.

I hope you all find this useful. Please let me know well it works for you and your campaigns!

Here are the file links again:

Switching Characters Mid-Scenario

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Last night, I ran a fairly novel scenario. I pulled out the ol’ Star Wars D6 system (officially called The Star Wars Role-playing Game) by West End Games and I ran a scenario called “Operation Skyhook.” In the Star Wars universe, Operation Skyhook was the collective term for the missions involved with finding the Death Star plans and ultimately destroying the battlestation itself.

Unlike most one-shot adventures where you have one set of characters for the entire adventure, I had three sets of characters. The players started with one set for the first part of the adventure and switched sets for the second and third parts. The result was that they got to be part of something larger and they got to try out a variety of different characters with different skill sets.

The first part of the adventure involved a fairly ragtag group of Rebels and hired Smugglers stealing information from an Imperial outpost, only to discover that they were constructing a new superweapon on the planet that was the size of a moon! They landed under false pretenses, snuck around a little bit to discover more about this project, and then saw this sight:

And yes, Darth Vader really was there. That got the players themselves scared!

The little R2 droid downloaded as much data as he could, the Wookiee sacrificed himself to try and lead a slave uprising, and everyone else hightailed it back to their ship to blast off with the stolen information.

Everyone got new characters for events that took place some time later. Part of the info the R2 droid downloaded included information about an Imperial base on Dantua where the full Death Star plans were being held. So this time, the Rebel Alliance sent a strike team led by Kyle Katarn (basically the Chuck Norris of the Star Wars universe). With the help of two Imperial officers who were wanting to defect to the Rebellion, they managed to infiltrate the base, steal the plans, and get out.

The plans were delivered to Princess Leia, downloaded into R2-D2, and eventually wound up on Yavin IV. That’s where we picked up again. This time, the players got to be Red Squadron, including Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker, and Porkins (who was a surprisingly popular character at our table). They had 30 minutes real time to destroy the Death Star! I had a PowerPoint presentation going that served as a countdown timer and also played movie clips at certain points to show developments in the battle (for instance, when the TIE Fighters arrived, a video clip from the movie played where they arrived). The game was fast and furious as everyone was racing against the clock. Surprisingly, it was Wedge Antilles who wound up being the one to get a lucky shot to destroy the Death Star!

In the end, the scenario really worked out and everyone had a great time. I liked the idea of having different characters building off of each other story-wise and it also gave the players an opportunity to try different types of characters.

I wonder if this idea of playing with different characters in the same adventure could be used in other ways. For instance, maybe there could be a scenario that swapped back and forth between two sets of characters working together on the same mission. I think that the results might turn out really well, especially if the actions of one group directly affects the other!

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