Weeks ago, I received a couple of messages from brand-new gamemaster's looking for advice on how to create a Star Wars RPG adventure. Not all the nuts and bolts of detailed encounter and adventure design, but something more basic than that. In essence, they were asking how to begin creating the story itself. Obviously, this is a subject far beyond a single blog post, and entire books discuss story creation. In fact, I’ve started this post several times, setting it aside to try a different approach and simpler explanation.
One reader summed it up like this:
- How do I:
- Decide what the adventure is about?
- How do I decide on the minions, rival or rivals, and nemesis?
- How do I tie it all together?
Naturally, there are a lot of different approaches. So many, in fact, that it is difficult settling on where to begin (hence the questions).
If you as the GM don’t know where you want to start, you can ask your players to see what sort of adventure they’d like to play. Are they all smugglers? Rodian bounty hunters? Deposed nobles scheming to retake their ancestral lands from a Hutt takeover? If you know what the players want to do, it’s much easier to get started.
If your players don’t know, or they’re going to make their characters at the first game session, then you need to set up at least the initial adventure.
Here’s one quick and dirty way to do that without a ton of preparation:
Pick your favorite Star Wars location.
Let’s say… Cloud City.
Pick your favorite Star Wars bad guys.
Since this is Edge of the Empire, we’ll go with bounty hunters.
For new GMs, it is helpful to start with a straightforward plot idea. It simplifies the storytelling and allows the GM to work on other aspects of running the game. Reworking a complex plot on the fly to fit with whatever crazy ideas the players just came up with is challenging, so leave the ultra conspiracy or subplot-heavy stories for later use. With the Obligation system in Edge of the Empire (and Duty in Age of Rebellion), there are built-in ways to add complexity as you go.
So, the bad guys are after the good guys. In this case, that means the bounty hunters are after the player characters.
Well, for the first encounter or adventure, the PCs might not even know, and have to investigate to find out. Many adventures start in media res, or in the middle of things, so the adventure might actually begin with the Bounty Hunters ambushing the PCs. On the other hand, there is the Obligation mechanic, so there are plenty of built in reasons for the bounty hunters to be chasing one or more of the PCs.
Still, the GM should know the answer before play begins. Matching up with a character’s Obligation, Motivation or backstory is handy, but not required for every adventure. In this case, we can build on the bad guy archetype, even if it isn’t original.
So….the bounty hunters are usually chasing someone to capture them and turn them in for credits. A character might have such a bounty…or it could be a case of mistaken identity.
The adventure then becomes:
- Survive the first attack.
- If the PCs escape, they must investigate why they are being hunted – or flee outright to the next adventure. They might have more skirmishes with the hunters along the way, or take measures to stay hidden, forcing the hunters to really seek them out again.
- If one or more PC is captured, the remaining characters might stage a rescue mission.
- If they are all captured, they’re hauled in front of the person that put up the bounty. They must then make a deal which might directly lead them to the next adventure.
Once you have a basic plot, add some specific adversaries.
The minions typically fill out the lower ranks of the opponents. In the case of the bounty hunters, if it is a team, more than half might be minions.
The rivals can be the better bounty hunters and likely the leader. The leader might also be a nemesis, but that is better suited if you want the leader to be a bigger threat and recurring character in the campaign.
The person that posted the bounty is likely the nemesis. The character is powerful enough to exert influence over the characters, and is a lot tougher and more experienced.
You can use any of the adversaries in the rulebook. If they don’t match exactly what you need, it is usually ok to simply find one that is close and rename it. The players won’t likely know the difference. Swapping out equipment and the occasional skill, etc. is easy to adjust.
In tying it all together, you can use the specifics of the adversaries to fill in holes in your adventure. If you do use the adversaries in the book as is, take inspiration from them. Use their species to inform their tactics or their mannerisms – especially if they are in their element setting-wise. If they aren’t in their element, maybe that’s a difficulty the PCs can exploit.
Creating plots takes some practice. Published adventures can help inspire how to assemble a story – and in fact, many people use part of an adventure as is, but adapt the rest to their own ends. Some GMs rework Star Wars stories, or play an alternate version of the Star Wars stories, with the PCs taking the place of characters in the movies, or coming up with a “what if” scenario and playing out the changes in the universe by a single change (Luke fails to destroy the Death Star, for instance).
There are also some adventure hook and plot generators online that might inspire your storyline. Some are not sci-fi, but looking outside of Star Wars can inspire different stories.
- The Big List of RPG Plots
- Chaotic Shiny Adventure Generator
- Wizards of the Coast Adventure Hook Random Generator
- Gamma World plot ideas forum