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Ghostofman

Why Ahsoka shouldn't show up in your game...

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PC gamer posted an article that makes an interesting counter point to the article FFG recently posted discussing the insertion of major characters into your game.

 

The FFG article by Bryan Young makes some good presentations about how a character of legend can help ground a campaign in the setting, and suggestions on how to stat such a character.

 

PC Gamer's Jody MacGregor seems to go the opposite direction, providing examples where a character of legend damaged the story either by not being sufficiently legendary, or by being so legendary the players looks like pointless chumps and super janitors.

 

So what's the call? Should Ahsoka show up? If so, how do you make her more then just another quest giver? What can she actually DO that keeps her character intact without making her look awkwardly helpless, or leave the players holding the mop?

 

I of course use Ahsoka as the big red example, but can you include any character of legend is really my question.

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I'm not really a fan of named PCs being included, but I don't mind events having an impact.  

 

I had one idea where the PCs would be Rebels and the Alliance discovered a large piece of the Death Star that blew from the destruction actually has Vader's personal area and docking bay.  Off of that was a secure area with a wealth of knowledge and/or items from hunted Jedi and the team is sent in to recover it.  The down side, the wreckage is in a decaying orbit into Yavin and there is an Imperial salvage team on the way.

 

So tied into events, but not people.

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Isn't the mentality of 'PCs are chumps next to canon characters' completely not compatible with the flavor of the game? I've always got the feeling from the books that the PCs are the 'Luke and Co.' of their own story, so a group that decides to include canon characters as PCs would just treat them as PCs, not as demigods.

 

Not including canon villains is a good idea, though. That would just end badly.

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I'll occasionally name-drop, but in my campaign, the PCs are the stars.  It's their story, not Luke's or Han's.  Depending on how far they get in the Rebellion, I might arrange a scene with Luke or Leia, or maybe Adm. Akbar or Gen. Dodanna,  to give a mission briefing, or something to that effect.  I've also used Vader as a boogieman ("You do not want to get on Vader's radar!").  But as far as the story goes, it's all about the PCs.  Canon characters already have their own stories in the movies, series, and books.  They don't need more air time in my campaign :)

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Keep in mind, the article here wasn't recommending having Ahsoka (or Luke, Han, Leia, or any other canon character) PERSONALLY show up in your game, but having someone who SPIRITUALLY fulfils the same role(s) that she does for the party in Rebels.

They didn't say whether you should include the actual Ahsoka herself in your game or not, which I imagine is by design. "The Spirit of Ahsoka Tano" is about just that: introducing a character inspired by her who helps your party in similar ways.

Edited by Absol197

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I've never had any issues with movie characters doing cameos or being walk on parts and they've never been chumps or overshadowed the players. Actually I think it's kind of fun to rub elbows with the movie stars, or sometimes supplant their story, like my Padawan game. We started just before E1, crossing paths with and eventually being friends with Kenobi and Anakin, eventually turning Canon on it's head by being a stabilizing balance point for Anakin when he badly needed one.

 

But yeah, having the Movie Stars come riding in to save the day? That's a terrible idea. Otherwise, I see no harm in very occasionally having them about.

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Have to agree with the general gist of the PC Gamer article.  Back in the old days (when all the dice were rolled behind the GM screen), our fellow GM would often include a bad-ass NPC named Raoul, an old family friend sworn to look out for us*.  Raoul was mentor, nudger, clue-giver, and occasional saviour.  I have to admit my friend made good use of the NPC, but it did steal a bit of shine off our characters.  There were definitely a few sessions where Raoul became the centrepiece, though to his credit my friend clued into it on his own and toned it down.  The main problem was, if things ever got too dicey, the unspoken assumption was that "Raoul will save us".  It kind of took the concern away from our character's fate.

 

The only time I've used a GM NPC was with my son's solo campaign, and he mostly kept his mouth shut and took orders.  The only real point was to provide a buffer against fickle dice with a solo PC.

 

If I ever introduce an established character (which I can't imagine I'll do), it will be in narrative mode only.

 

------------------------

* all the PCs were siblings, we even had a mystical heirloom deck of cards to summon each other like in Roger Zelazny's Amber series, which was a great idea for dealing with players who couldn't always be there

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While I agree that canon characters are best left to their respective works, I don't really think the PC Gamer article serves as an effective counterpoint to Young's article, because they're not really talking about the same thing. Brian Young wasn't suggesting the GM have canon characters show up for fanservice coolness factor, he was using Ahsoka as an example of a Gandalf/Obi-Wan mentor figure who can guide the party or teach them.

 

There are a number of ways a character like this could be useful in a game
How would you create a character like Ahsoka?
If I were playing a character like Ahsoka
Characters like Ahsoka
How would you use a character like Ahsoka?

 

and on and on

 

I mean, it's right there in the title: "The Spirit of Ahsoka Tano". As in the essence of a character like Ahsoka, not literally Ahsoka herself.

 

(As an aside, whenever I'm tempted to cameo a canon character in my campaign, I remind myself that it's an opportunity to make another memorable NPC with way too much backstory instead. "I could have the briefing given by Mon Mothma...or a Chadra-Fan commander who needs a stuffy protocol droid to translate his adorable squeaking". Or "I could have the Rebel fighter squadron led by Luke Skywalker...or an aging Clone pilot who deserted the Empire and sees it as his duty to restore the Republic he was created to serve". Etc etc)

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Keep in mind, the article here wasn't recommending having Ahsoka (or Luke, Han, Leia, or any other canon character) PERSONALLY show up in your game, but having someone who SPIRITUALLY fulfils the same role(s) that she does for the party in Rebels.

They didn't say whether you should include the actual Ahsoka herself in your game or not, which I imagine is by design. "The Spirit of Ahsoka Tano" is about just that: introducing a character inspired by her who helps your party in similar ways.

Well that's basically just a Mentor NPC right?  I mean if we're just going with the spirit of Ahsoka, as she's portrayed in Rebels, she's the Obi-Wan of their group.  The elder Jedi, with plot hooks and sage advice, who is mostly off screen while the main characters do their thing.  Seems like the rules already have a place for spiritual Ahsoka's.   Just make her the Mentor, poof, done.

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I'm not a fan of introducing named characters to my campaign.

My Co-GM gave us a commanding officer to oversee our small Rebel Base at the time, it was Commander Madine (after his defection, before his loyalty to the Rebellion was unquestionable). I didn't feel out of place and we all hopped along for the ride. But after reading Jace911 ideas, I agree that a new NPC could have been much better.

 

I'm also at fault for once having Darth Vader show up at a reception by Lady Santhe of Lianna. It was a dinner for the Aristocracy and high-ranking imperial officers where some grand announcement for the Imperial Naval Academy was to be made. The characters had to infiltrate the reception and find out what was the grand announcement. The characters highjacked the identities of the local music band hired for the reception and played for the audience the whole evening. During some down time, they had the chance to miggle with the crowd, usually the young ladies of the Aristocracy. One character even asked for a Holo-picture with Darth Vader (and some random noble's daughter). The character still has that picture locked in his room :P

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I use Canon characters very rarely. As my setting is right before a new hope (2 BBY) I added in Jek Porkins as the link to the Rebel Alliance. He doesn't have much of a back story in the movies and is quite shadowy to the point of lying about what he was doing on Yavin 4. This gives a connection to the OT without too much overlap. There was a off table discussion about when their game time frame would overlap a new hope and if they could do the trench run. I wouldn't have a problem with this but they have a lot of work with the alliance to do before they would let them join that mission.

The only other character I plan to use is Yoda, but like they did with the show Rebels, they only speak with him thru meditation.

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Wouldn't use her cuz I don't like her.

 

Yeah, this. A few of my players dislike her, and we already have an amoral, femme-fatale red togruta anyway. I don't hate her like I do some cartoon characters, but she doesn't do anything the existing NPCs can't.  I was pretty thorough in carefully choosing which movie characters (or expys) we would interact with, rendering some of them unrecognisable from canon.

 

Han hasn't changed much from his EU days, in his mid-fifties, raising his kids with Breha, the den-father to the 'good-natured rogues' group.  He's fun and easy to play.  Ben's in his fifties too now, a wistful, angry relic of a better age, training the Force-sensitive Alliance PCs for a final showdown with his former faction, one in which he doesn't expect to survive. He was the personal mentor of our dark-side Guardian, which made for interesting scenes.  Lastly the 'Luke' character is pretty unrecognisable, the mentor of the F&D group, in his mid-forties and as he never became a Jedi or joined the Alliance, he's more of a guru or a wandering teacher or a shaman, the One Sane Man of a galaxy at war. He's pretty awesome, but he's just one guy, so he needs his students as much as they need him. And he doesn't show his hand much because that's how he rolls; the Jedi and the Empire currently don't see him as a threat, much to their eventual chagrin...)

 

The PCs needed their own villains of course, so Palpatine and Anakin were killed off in suitably gory fashion. Lando doesn't actually have much to do with JoY so I left his cameo in. Some of the EU characters like Savan and Xizor have become pretty important to them.  Yoda's been pensioned off to Dagobah, a sick, dying old man with little strength or power left, but still very wise and insightful.   The Alliance leaders show up but the PC running that show sees them as incompetent weaklings and considers them rivals at best and enemies at worst. And has come up with some very amusing names for them... 

 

 

I thought the PC Gamer article was a pretty decent one, while Young's is all over the place, and I'm still not sure what that puff-piece was intended to achieve. If NPCs are supposed to have whatever they need to do their role in the plot (a reasonable concept), why dither about using PC specs and a measly 150XP?

 

In general, I'm a big believer in doing away with Elminster and Drizzt, or at the most, keeping them far away from the PCs. What works in the narrow confines of a film or book is frequently to the detriment of a player-focused RPG.

 

I think it's something to talk about in Session Zero - see what the PCs think and what kind of game the GM wants to run. Canon or non-canon can both work if everyone is in accord and buys into the game. Providing the NPCs are mostly quest-givers or mentors or whatever and aren't doing the PCs work for them, any approach can work.  Some PCs will enjoy a certain degree of interaction with famous characters (assuming the GM can play them well)  or even entwine their story with these NPCs (Want to romance Leia or Boba Fett? Why not? It's their game.).  On the other hand, few players want to play the guy who cleans the latrines on the Millennium Falcon, either. 

 

Use with caution, and discuss it all with your group.

Edited by Maelora

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im not a fan of having canon characters having a larger role, partly because i dont want to deviate from the movie canon too much, but it sometimes creates a nice "hey, i know that person"-feeling when they appear in the background or talk to them as force ghosts or something.

 

i once had vader show up, and the reactions were priceless (also our wookiee rolled 2 despair on the fear check and had a heart attack), until they figured out it was just a hologram to scare them off.

 

i also want to use mon mothma, to honour them when our new rebel group accomplishes a larger goal, or receive a big reward from the alliance.

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I like to throw in extended cameos for some of the canon characters, and my players thoroughly enjoy interacting with them. For our EotE game, the party will eventually spend some time on Takodana and interact with Maz Kanata since the Mandalorian of the group is familiar with her. They're pretty excited about that.

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Having canon characters make an impact on a campaign isn't necessarily a bad thing in my opinion; It really just matters how you execute it.  First off, an established character being a mentor/guiding figure isn't a bad idea, but at no point should this character take away from the players. I wouldn't even make them a full-on character. If they were ever used in an encounter, I'd probably treat them more like a talent or career special that the players can use. If any dice are to be rolled by that character, they should be rolled by one of the players, unless they just really want the GM to do it. 

I do however think it is a bad idea to have players fight established characters, unless you are willing to go completely off the source material and have the players change events from the films and books. 

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Wouldn't use her cuz I don't like her.

 

I have plenty of characters I don't like in my games, both PC's and NPC's... Unscrupulous Rebels, Crooked Imperials, Zealots, Greedy Merchants, Corrupted Force-Adepts and so on.

If everyone in the game was likable then there would be no conflict. 

As for Canon Characters, I try to avoid them apart from off screen or in big crowd situations. PC's know they'd be mad to try to take on Vader at a Military Parade, so it would be OK to have him show up at one where the PC's were hiding in the crowd being sneaky.

 

Edited by BalazarLightson

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PC's inspired by major characters, or characters from other universes? Sure, a Judge Dred Marshal Enforcer is a good one. Which i think that was the point of the FFG article. An Alternate Universe game is fine too, have as many characters as you want. But personally i don't like major characters being important NPC's in a game, it has the chance of taking the spotlight away from the PC's too much. There is definitely room for them to have cameo's or be in the distance, just not the direct commanders or adversaries of the PC's... Although a party of Imperials tasked with doing covert damage to the rebellion would be fun, i'm imagining a PC pilot in a Phantom battling Wedge in an A-Wing!

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Because the writer for the FFG article was talking about XP and specializations, it really seemed like they were offering ideas for players on how to build characters inspired by Ahsoka. Or am I truly missing something?

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I don't like having FCs in the field with parties under most conditions but having them brief parties on missions, hire parties for missions, serve as info sources during adventures, or even having the PC's doing a job or mission which ties into one an FC is carrying out offscreen is fine IMO

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