So, it turns out that after a month of different conventions, I guess I just needed some time away from the blog. Or was tired. Or something. In any case, Star Wars Age of Rebellion Forged in Battle hit store shelves after debuting at Gen Con. I had a hand in it, so it's probably time to talk a bit more about that, now that it's out.
A look through the products I work on in the Star Wars lines shows a recurring theme. I write a lot of game master and adventure building advice around the book's focus, as well as a lot of adventure and campaign ideas. I love to do that of course, because it's fun to figure out how to use elements of the game in stories and adventures. While I would be surprised if many GMs run the campaign and adventure ideas straight up, hopefully they serve as inspiration and starting points for players and game masters alike.
This time, however, I had the introduction and the new species section of the first chapter. Writing the species sections falls into one of those categories where a lot of lore is already established, even with recent revisions to canon and so forth. So, the main task is to communicate the essence of the species and what makes them unique in the universe, and therefore what makes them fun and interesting to play in the game. Basically giving the players reasons to choose this particular species out of choices as varied as the galaxy.
The last bit of each entry translates a few species abilities and traits into special abilities or rules in game terms. Over the years, different editions have handled this different ways. d6 and FFG use similar approaches in that the species basic characteristics and attributes are defined in a template or species write up. d20 and Saga Edition focused more on the species' special abilities. This was a design choice to highlight the differences in the species and give each something cool and different to do, as long as it fit with the species itself. You're just not going to give a wookiee some crazy new ability that hasn't ever been seen on screen, but species with less screen time might provide wider opportunities. Another reason for this focus was likely because in d20 and Saga, the character stats are generated by the player mostly independent from the species, aside from a few modifiers. the special abilities give species a commonality that the stats might not.
This time, however, I got one of those increasingly rare opportunities to create some new background material for a relatively new species to the Star Wars universe - the Kyuzo. In looking over my messages and notes, I just realized I was working on this exactly a year ago. That's a fairly typical turnaround for a role playing game book. Anyway, the Kyuzo is best recognized as the character Embo from The Clone Wars. One also shows up in The Force Awakens for literally 3 frames of action on Jakku - the mysteriously missing Constable Zuvio who appeared in the build up to TFA, but wound up on the cutting room floor (computer recycling bin these days?). Anyway, I'm sure you're shocked to hear that I had no idea about anything to do with Zuvio or TFA.
So, Embo is one of my favorite characters from The Clone Wars. He does all kinds of crazy things with his massive frisbee hat - shield, makeshift sled, keeping the sun off. He also jumps around a fair amount, bringing up one of those interesting things we sometimes need to deal with: how literally should we take what we see on screen? Is it something typical or extraordinary for that species? This is especially true for animated series, which play to their own style for the storytelling, rather than a necessarily accurate depiction of what someone is capable of in the real world.
I had a great deal of fun going back and re-watching those episodes while speculating about Embo's capabilities and culture. Similar to his physical abilities, how much of his mannerisms, dress, and attitude could be attributed to the species as opposed to the bounty hunter that he is? For West End Games, I wrote the Rodia section of the Shadows of the Empire Planet's Guide. Somewhere along the way before that product, Rodians were given a great interest in bounty hunting as part of their (violent) culture. It was interesting to work out how that might affect aspects of their history and culture. How practical that was from a worldbuilding standpoint is another matter. The (nearly) all Rodians as bounty hunters idea is akin to every Star Wars planet having one major type of environment.
Anyway, I searched for any information about Embo I could locate on starwars.com, the Blu-Rays, and behind the scenes info. A few other hints led me in certain directions. The Kyuzo are named after the character Kyuzo in the Seven Samurai, one of several homages to the movie. That seemed to make it suitable to draw some inspiration from the general idea of the samurai, which ended up being groups called clovocs. Dave Filoni also used badly spoken French as a basis of the Embo's speech, so I distorted some French words for the names of the clovocs. Unlike Dave, I didn't use French versions of Smurf's books.
As fun as all of this is at the time, you just never know how it will turn out. First, the game company has to like the ideas, then it has to make it through the Lucasfilm approval process. If they like it, you still never know when it might collide with something in the works elsewhere that you don't have any idea about. For example, Zuvio and his ebook that came out in December, months after I turned this all in. Or Grimshaw in the book Moving Target. After that, there is still the regular editing and development process for the book.
So, it's fun for me to compare the results with what I turned in. Sometimes the reasons for changes are obvious in light of new information, or better understanding the direction needed for the character and species. For example, what's this two types of eyes suddenly mentioned? I gather it's because Zuvio's are different from Embo's.
This time, quite a lot survived. For now. With new TV shows and movies now always in the pipeline, you just never know what will happen next.
In other news....
FFG announced the Star Wars Edge of the Empire No Disintegrations bounty hunter sourcebook.
A Call for Heroes, the free adventure for The Force Awakens Beginner Game is now available for download.
Bryan Young talks about combining X-Wing and Age of Rebellion.
Also forgot to mention that the Order66 podcast on d20 radio is having FFG developer Max Brooke and freelancer Keith Kappel on to talk about Forged in Battle on Sunday evening.