Well, at least it is still Wednesday. Sorry for the delay. I have many excuses - maybe not good excuses, but there you go, and here we are. Well, except that this text entry screen just ate my next three paragraphs. That's not a bad excuse. Just annoying. Sorry for the continuing delay discussing the delay. Ahem. So, on with it, then. Again.
While looking over Saga Edition and earlier d20 Star Wars products, it occurs to me that one of the more tactile and immersive elements of the game went largely unused: player handouts. In the d6 Star Wars RPG, handouts were a regular feature throughout the game’s run. Over the years, the use of player handouts in roleplaying game adventures and game products varies a lot. Some of it may be attributable to trends in game design, though they seem to be naturally more useful in certain game types or systems.
Handouts are often seen in investigative games, such as Call of Cthulhu, where they more accurately disseminate information and clues in a way to enhance the in-universe feel. It eliminates a lot of gamemaster recitation of text. Players are also then free to peruse and look back upon these items during the adventure, without forcing the Gamemaster to repeat themselves, and interrupting game. Paranoia had hilarious forms on actual carbonless paper, for filling out in triplicate. Early Dungeons & Dragons adventures included small illustrations of dungeon corridors, potential traps, mysterious statues and so forth. The 1st Edition D&D campaign, Desert of Desolation included handouts with mysterious text for the players to decipher.
The earliest published Star Wars adventures included an adventure script, which the players read through during the opening of the first scene. West End Games promoted the idea of starting adventures “in media res,” or in the middle of the action. The script usually gave the players initial information about their situation and surroundings, then dumped them abruptly into an action sequence. The scripts were essentially audience participation boxed text. Their success depended largely on the players buying into them. I think adventure scripts can be a good way to start a convention game, especially where the character backgrounds are pre-generated. Unlike a home game, the lines for each players would actually be guaranteed to match their character.
4th Rebel: Um, what was that code word again?
5th Rebel: I believe the commander pronounced it, “Bantha pudu.” According to our computer lexicon, the phrase originates with the Huttese culture and means…
2nd Rebel: Not now! Plotting a course into an asteroid field isn't easy, you know.
1st Rebel: I never heard of an Alliance base located in an asteroid field before.
6th Rebel: if everyone heard about it, it wouldn't be a secret.
- Strike Force: Shantipole Adventure Script excerpt
Most of the adventure related handouts are one-off items, specific to that story. The d6 adventure Black Ice included an entire pullout section, with ship schematics, deckplans, the script and a display screen with a mysterious code to decipher (as well as the key code itself). The adventure Crisis on Cloud City became popular thanks in part to the inclusion of the Sabacc card game, with rules and cards (perforated on a sheet you had to separate yourself). The adventure Starfall included rules for a combat scenario with an AT-ST, with cardstock chits to cut out and use at the table. My own Flashpoint! Brak Sector campaign book included a script plus handouts designed to relate specifics about the political and other situations within the sector at the start of the campaign.
One-off handouts can be fun, but if your time is limited, you may want to focus on handouts that can be used through multiple sessions and adventures. The d6 Star Wars Game Master Screen Revised included one of the most useful inserts produced for an RPG. It packed ship stats, character templates, ship comparison charts, skill summaries, rules summaries, a timeline of events, logos and symbols, the Aurebesh letters, and a bunch of photocopy ready blank handouts into 64 pages.
Among the blank handouts were items still suitable for today’s game:
- Blank Datapad (this featured a blank datapad frame used in many d6 products, which dressed up generic handouts and messages)
- Rebel and Imperial message forms
- Wanted poster (fill one out featuring one of your player’s characters and see the reaction when you drop it on them unexpectedly)
- Planet log (with map and technical data)
- Astrogation chart (use this with the Star Wars Atlas and the Unknown Regions)
- Starport Log (map, fees, owners, services)
- System Map (good for exploration games and the Unknown Regions)
- Starship Log (see my starship sheets entry for something similar for Saga Edition)
- BoSS Licenses (Bureaus of Ships and Services)
This reminds me of just how much I liked that particular version of the Gamemaster's screen. So, with all this talk of handouts, you probably think I'm going to include one or two here today.
It's already late enough in the day as it is, so I don't really have the time to work something up. I will keep it in mind for future entries, however.
But, for those of you who like to create your own handouts, I will give a few useful links to something players and GMs didn’t have a lot of access to (if any) in the early days of the RPG:
There are a lot of free Star Wars fonts out there you can use to really dress up your handouts. The aforementioned Aurebeshfont is instantly recognizable to any big fan of the games. Check out the following sites:
David Occhino Design – Aurebesh, as used in Star Wars Gamer and elsewhere
Echo Station – Aurebesh Soup, history of the font, plus a list of others.
Erikstormtrooper – More recent Star Wars fonts, like Mandalorian, and other font links.
You can also find a ton of art, photos and logos on sites like Wookieepedia, that you can dump into your home made handouts. Once you have a few blank ones to use, you can recycle them whenever you need to update the content for new adventures.
And one final note about presentation: if you have an ipad, iphone, or other tablet or smart phone, you have your own ready made, actual size datapad. Not only will this enhance the look of the handout, you can display whatever you need – images, text, forms, even video and audio. These provide a big step into a larger world of game handouts.