What I Love: Rise of Skywalker
Welcome back to the last of the posts in this series, as we look at what I love about the Star Wars movies. It's been a long and fun series, starting in December and as I wrap it up, I'm excited about the things that are to come, but I'll miss this series. I love Star Wars, and thinking through how to tell stories that are as good as Star Wars is something I enjoy doing.
There is no doubt: Rise of Skywalker is not a perfect movie, but unlike my post on The Last Jedi, I'm more upbeat about what we can learn from this, because there is a lot of good things that we can emulate from this movie.
If you disagree on this, tell us in the comments!
I. Shared Adventures Are Awesome
One of the things that I found most enjoyable about Rise of Skywalker was the dynamics of the main characters together. For most of The Force Awakens we get Han, Chewie, Rey, and Finn, and they worked really well together. We then had our three main leads (Rey, Finn, and Poe) in three places for The Last Jedi. But in Rise of Skywalker we finally get to see them all together, and whatever you may think about the break-neck speed of moving the plot, it is delightful to see them bouncing off of each other through banter.
We mentioned the power of banter in our post on Empire Strikes Back so I won't dwell here now. The important thing to note about storycraft here is the importance of a shared adventure between the characters. There is a place for a solo scene for a player character: it makes that moment poignant and memorable for them. But part of the strength of roleplay gaming (and, arguably, films over books) is the dynamic energy you get from companions working together.
So when planning encounters, make sure that everyone has something useful to do. If one of your characters is lower level, hasn't traited for damage, etc., you probably don't want all of your NPCs to be wearing power armor (as someone will not really be part of the adventure, even if they are there). Put in an officer who wears a uniform, not plastoid armor. If you've got a grenadier who can level multiple persons at once, make sure that you have enough NPCs for everyone once the pyromaniac has done his thing. All of this is part of shaping a shared adventure.
II. Chase Scenes Are Awesome
Now, admittedly, this requires the party to be on the run (more on that in the next paragraph), but chase scenes are objectively awesome. Whether you're in a fast car, fast speeder, or riding a horse to escape a band of outlaws, we love a good chase scene. And there are many ways to work this in naturally, regardless of your player makeup (because some people are more willing to run than others).
First, there's overwhelming fire. When a group sees twelve harpies flying after them, they are more likely (most of the time) to flee rather than fight. But also keep in mind that "overwhelming fire" is a variable: what is "overwhelming" when the party is at full health with all of their resources is different from what would overwhelm them when they are all bleeding and have no healing potions left. So you don't need a massive force to overwhelm a group: a single slinking enemy that they cannot see but know is all it takes to get a party to move instead of stay.
Second, there's the errand prompt. If the party has to get an object/person to a place they will keep moving, allowing you to naturally lead into a chase sequence as they have a reason to be on the move. Standing and fighting may still occur (as they can buy more time/give more space between the bad guys and the McGuffin), but you still have a natural reason to be chased rather than stand.
And third, don't forget environmental factors. People don't generally stand when the world is crashing down around them. If a part of a planet is being destroyed (like in Rogue One, because why wouldn't we take an opportunity to mention Rogue One?) the protagonists will run. You could do this with an NPC (an earth elemental that is tearing up the earth, a sorcerer that is destroying the land where they stand, a dragon melting the ice they are walking on) or just as an elemental threat (which could be a rockslide, avalanche, acid rain, etc.). The critical thing is that the earth itself will not stay, which means the party has a good incentive to not stay.
So tinker around and discern what your party finds interesting.
III. Reminders Are Awesome
We've already talked about the strength of nostalgia in our Force Awakens post, so we won't discuss that here. Do you remember in the fleet battle in Rise of Skywalker how the fleet arrived at Exegol at the end? What got me (and keeps me looking at images of that scene) is how many old vessels they brought back for that scene. Forget for a moment the fact that there's no way that many ships could get to Exegol in time (because, again, I'm not trying to do an "upset post" like my last one) bringing back ships that we loved from the prequels as well as ships from the Original Trilogy and tv shows was a brilliant move because it reminded us that cool things exist in this universe, and that we were right to find them cool.
There's an old Venator-class Star Destroyer from the Clone Wars, along with a Lucreholk Trade Federation Battleship, The Ghost from Star Wars Rebels, a Nebulon-B Frigate front-and-center (my favorite capital ship from Star Wars), a U-Wing from Rogue One, and of course the Falcon (among many others). This goes far beyond mere nostalgia: it shows continuity between what came before and the now, reinforcing the worldbuilding that you're doing (while also giving people warm fuzzies as they see a few of their favorite things).
I love Star Wars, even when I think that there are missed opportunities or things could have been laid out better in films. And I hope that, from this series, you've seen a few things you can add to your roleplay games to keep them fresh and engaging to your players.
For the next few weeks we're going to do some stand-alone posts alongside a new series which we will launch this weekend which I am referring to as our "Rethinking" series, where we will look at common tropes in literature and find ways to present them in ways that are less rote/boring to our players. This will help game masters when creating NPCs, but may also be helpful to players as you design your high concept for your character. We will be starting this week with perhaps the most rote of all tropes: the Cannibal.
Until next time,