Roleplaying a STAR WAR after 35 years

EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE — It is 1988. The PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX of your brain and your friends’ brains will not be fully developed for another SIX YEARS. You sit with them after midnight in a REAL ESTATE OFFICE rolling six-sided dice and makey-believey you are members of the REBEL ALLIANCE.

1988! 1988 was the last time I played the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, still a virgin, still a stranger to liquor, jacked up on Jolt Cola, my blue-and-orange Domino’s Pizza uniform reeking of a night of answering Domino’s phones, and the whole Domino’s gang (and then some) sitting around a quotidian office desk in Upland, California.

And yeah, I had fun then. We all did. I was usually the GM (game master). That is, I ran the games for my friends’ characters: an arrogant noble, a kid, a smuggler, an ex-stormtrooper, an engineer, a brash pilot, a protocol droid, and a Druish princess (though she didn’t look Druish).

Above, actual footage from a 1988 game session, with another GM (not me!) who was normally a player, but we made him famous as a GM for making players roll skill checks for ridiculously simple things like opening a door or starting up a landspeeder.  We called his system "ROLL TO BREATHE."

But O the adventures I threw at them when I was GM:

  • Making the smuggler chase thermal detonators the Imperials kept lobbing down the top hatch of his precious spaceship.
  • The singular comedy of attempting to reach Bespin from Tatooine via sublight drives.
  • Swarms of mouse droids armed with bombs, all of whom gave not fuck one.
  • Flying along the Death Star trenches and dicking things up for the rebels.
  • Pulling the hood off a Jawa. The horror.
  • Blasting the bejesus out of the Mos Eisley cantina. “No blasters? I’ll show you no blasters, you fucking asshole.

You gotta understand that back then, to us dopey teens, the STAR WARS was still special. It hadn’t become complete cultural saturation like it is now. All we had to latch on to, having grown out of the action figures, were the movies on tape and this stupid roleplaying game.

But somewhere between the Special Editions and whatever you call the vom that Disney spewed, I fell out of the galaxy. I wanted nothing to do with it. Still don’t. If you ask me to show you on the doll where Star Wars touched me, it was in the spot where you shouldn’t fuck with major character motivations, such as Han shooting first and Luke screaming as he fell in Cloud City.

Decades later aka a few weeks ago, one of the few originals I’ve kept in close contact with — the aforementioned arrogant noble — suggested we start it up again. That fucker. Another of the original players quickly concurred and then it was suddenly impossible for me to say no. So I went to work for 154 years to design a quick adventure. (I couldn’t just phone in the new adventure. I had my 1988 adventures to live up to.)

CUT TO: A space mechanic named Kel and a droid named KX-NC17 find themselves in the Alderaan system when what appears to be a small moon arrives out of light speed. Points for originality? Of fucking course not. But as DM Matt Colville says, “This ain’t the Bronze Age, man. I got shit to do.”

And yeah, yeah yeah. Everybody had fun, sure, but my favorite part was when it was over and we had a good conversation, mostly about how many people we knew in real life are dead now and how our lives are almost over and how that doesn’t really matter anyway because human civilization is literally ending.

May the Force be with you.