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News From the Rancor Pit

I started checking in at The Rancor Pit, a forum dedicated to the original West End Star Wars RPG, when I thought I might run one of my own. That campaign went on indefinite hold when we opted for the current one instead, but I still return to the Rancor Pit just because the discussions there can be so rewarding.

There’s plenty of pointless rule nattering, of course—I say “pointless” because the original rules were never very detailed in the first place nor meant to be. They were written in the spirit of “when in doubt, roll and shout” and getting on with the action, with repeated explicit suggestions that you do the same. But to each his own. There’s also a bit of fanboy discussion along the lines of whether the twice-mentioned padawan in volume 2 of the Vindicators of Dramapax series should have earned a dark side point for spraying weed killer on his lawn, of interest only to the fanboys, but there isn’t much of that.

I stay because the forum is rich in discussions about plotting and adventure design: how to provide a meaningful threat to skilled jedi, what interesting complications could arise during a raid on an isolated Imperial shipyard, how to turn a droid into a memorable opponent, that sort of thing—the kind of thinking that translates easily into other gaming systems. And threads are dominated by what seem to be old hands, experienced enough to know how to fill in the blanks for generic terms like McGuffin and mature enough to bother to maintain a minimum decency with spelling and punctuation. From these discussions, I take away questions that might never occur to me otherwise, and perspective on what other players (my players?) want to see in their games. To these discussions, I bring novel ideas for adventures and campaigns. In this forum, at least, I’m an ideas man.

So it’s rewarding to read comments like the one I got this morning. The question was how to justify bounty hunters finding the PCs among the vastness of the galaxy when the PCs don’t even belong on the planet where they are, having made an emergency escape pod landing to get there. My answer was to decide some shopkeeper spotted the PCs in one of those one-in-a-million coincidences and, uninterested in pursuing the bounty himself but eager to collect a finder’s fee, and unfamiliar with the legal and social rules of the bounty hunting subculture, did the Star Was equivalent of googling “bounty hunter + Nar Shaada” and cc’ing every name he found. Now the whole planet is crawling with bounty hunters, some expert, some incompetent, some not even sure exactly who they’re after, but all of them looking for the PCs.

(You can see the influence of the games I’ve been exposed to lately in the way incompetents are just as much movers and shakers as the pros. The shopkeeper would never get his fee even if the PCs were caught, and the bounty hunter wannabes make an excellent first encounter, alerting the PCs to the scope of their problem without giving too much away.)

For my efforts, I got the comment “This actually sounds like a great plot for a module.” High praise from one of the old hands to someone with just 20 posts to his name.

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