Star Wars Wednesday - Newsnets

So, it's still Wednesday, right? Sorry for the delay, things got considerably busier at the end of the day than I expected...

Today, or what's left of it, I want to talk a bit about distributing information within the game, for those RPG fans out there. I'm talking mainly about clues and backstory - information that the gamemaster wants the players and their characters to learn about, but may not want to spend a lot of session time playing it out. Sure, the GM can read it out, or play it out with GM characters, but this runs the risk of halting play for a lot of exposition. Handing over a sheaf of campaign notes aren't likely to be read either, no matter how interested the players may be.

So, say you have the average player that is interested in the campaign, but hasn't read the completely essential campaign guide to the history of the prehistory of the sector, or even the wookieepedia entry. As the GM, your story cleverly hinges on some interesting bits of backstory, but it will be lost on the players unless you clue them in. You want to find an interesting way to engage them. Here's one idea:


Newsnets are essentially the news distribution services within the Star Wars universe. They can range from the daily paper, a constant newstream, tabloid equivalents, glorified text messages, formal communication, running commentary and more. Some have strong reputations, others serve underground, black markets. Essentially, they're distributed electronically, which probably seemed a lot more advanced in the 1990s than maybe today, but are still effective. The Newsnet idea was also picked up by to help promote the prequels, and the archive is still online. It's a useful resource for those playing in that era, and others as well.

Newsnets appeared in the d6 version of the RPG, and became a prominent feature of the Star Wars Adventure Journal. Each entry was about two or three paragraphs long - about what you could comfortably read on a single screen of today's smartphone. They served to distribute plot hooks, previews and connections into other RPG products, or commenting on "current" events.

The nice thing about newsnets are that you can have as many as you want. By simply giving them different names, you can differentiate sources, and dramatically vary the tone between them. They can serve as newspapers with different viewpoints, corporate newsletters, rebel news, propaganda of any kind, or even inject humor into the game. You can do something similar with HoloNet News channels, but the Holonet isn't available in all eras.

OK, have to hit save so this will still post on Wednesday....

Right then. Where was I? Newsnets are available in some form in most any era you're probably playing in. They are mainly presented as text files, because the game was produced in books, and there really was no other option at the time. Now, you could create some fancy audio reports using some recording software and so on, or even video.

A quick rundown of the typical West End Games style newsnet entry:

Cryptic date/location stamp: The Adventure Journal entries led off with a crpytic date/location stamp. I can identify some parts, but not all of it. I'm sure someone can run it down for me. I'll use an example from one of my few entries:

  • 37:1:6/BSN/BAC.1.AMM/GEN
  • I don't know / Publication name (abbreviated) / Planet abbreviation.?.city abbreviation/news section
  • So, for my entry, the translation would be:
  • 37:1:6/Brak Sector Network/Bacrana.1.Amma/General news

Article headline

City, Planet

Text/article/story/humerous bit

The full name of the publishing entity, sometimes with the reporter's name beforehand. 

When writing the text, keep it short and to the point. Think tweet or text message, not a rambling blog post.

When naming the newsnets, use local sources, and those the characters would be most interested in reading and tracking down. The GM can also drop sublte clues - maybe one reporter is legit, while a different reporter for the same publication is a fraud, liar or spreading propoganda. Maybe the players eventually notice a difference in the quality of information between the two. The characters might place more trust in a newsnet run by a friend. Maybe a newsnet reporter starts following them around, reporting on their actions. Some may be approachable, while others are simply beyond most character's reach.

I've used the example before of reflecting the character's actions back at them via newsnets. Essentially, when the herores make a big splash or big mistake, they can get  quite a jolt when they see it reported - or misreported - sometime later on. It can make them celebrities, villains, heroes, or some combination thereof. The heroes might even become publishers or reporters of such an newsnet - might be very excing to run a subversive publication during the Imperial era. The newsnet can also become a running record of the campaign events.

Some NewsNet names from WEG products:

  • Alderaan Expatriate Network (Rebel)
  • Colonial Newsnets (Colonies region)
  • Core News Digest (Core Worlds focus)
  • Coruscant Daily Newsfeed (Coruscant)
  • Cynabar's InfoNet (smugglers)
  • Darpa SectorNet (sector)
  • Galactic Weekly Newsstack (tabloid)
  • Galaxy News Service (major network)
  • Herglic Trading Journal (financial)
  • Holonet Free Republic (Rebel)
  • Imperial Defense Daily (Defense)
  • Imperial HoloVision (mainstream, Imperial)
  • Independent Trader's Infonet (spacers)
  • Nal Hutta Kal'tamok (Basic Edition) (Hutt, contraband)
  • New Order Progressive (COMPNOR publication)
  • NovaNetwork (Imperial, outer rim)
  • Sektor242Newsline (outer rim)
  • TriNebulon News (Imperial, outer rim)

You can find more detailed info in Star Wars Adventure Journal Vol. 1, No. 11, 1996 and Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim

One final note: this works well in conjuction with other player handouts.