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5 Lessons from Star Wars Episode V for D&D

Written by MythicParty - Published on December 21, 2015
Bringing booty back through All Terrain Armored Transports.

Bringing booty back through All Terrain Armored Transports.

We’ve been doing a movie marathon of Star Wars & how the films hold insight for D&D games. Episode IV taught us to have an epic opening line, start sessions with a recap to review what’s already happened & what’s happening, begin with evocative action, and give the bad guys super weapons/powers but super weapons/powers with weakness. ESB continues the story telling of a Hero’s Journey, yet rapidly departs from the hope of A New Hope. Here are 5 things from Episode V that will help your DungeonMastering:

  1. Create cool evil equipment that gives the bad guys an edge The Rebels have smelly Taun tauns, while The Empire has hovering, all-seeing Probe droids. The Rebels have DF.9 Hoth Defense Turrets, while The Empire has AT-ATs. The Alliance has a Planet Defender Ion Canon (admittedly cool) but the Imperials get an Executor-class Star Dreadnought (way cooler). Now, despite these odds the good guys still manage relatively ok thanks to creative heroics such as using Snowspeeder power harpoon/tow cables. And this is what makes for truly memorable combats: those battles when the players KNOW that this time they’re the underdogs because the opponents both outnumber and outgun them. Once in an adventure, set up a Battle of Hoth counterpart to see how your players do when their backs are against a dungeon wall.  Speaking of odds…
  2. The possibility of navigating an asteroid field” vs “Never tell me the odds C-3PO warns that successfully going through asteroids is 3,720 to 1 yet the spice smuggler doesn’t want to know. There is a term for when players use out of game info for in game benefits: metagaming. Almost always this is said as a negative label because using stats is considered to be an unfair advantage. However, seriously smart beings such as a protocol droid fluent in over six million forms of communication should be able to know- statistically speaking- the categorization of creatures or other things. If a PC has multiple ranks in a Knowledge Skill or rolls really well when using it, consider imparting actual stats (AC, BAB, etc.) to them in the form of a note. Telling them the odds gives them the equivalent of actual Super Smarts without breaking the wall for other characters.
  3. Bounty hunters. We DMs need this scum Granted it was an excuse to sell action figures, however the group of trackers summoned to shoot but not disintegrate Solo was a sweet scene. And it also gives DMs a believable way to move players along the tracks without them feeling really railroaded. Simply have the bounty hunter(s) chase the party down the direction you need them to go for the sake of plot or have bad-ass bounties hang out in areas that you don’t want them to go.  Plus how much fun will it be to create up fantasy versions of Dengar, IG-88, Boba Fett, Bossk, and 4-LOM?! You’re welcome.
  4. A revealed secret that had foreshadowing can be unforgettableNo, I am your father.” A bit of dialogue that everyone knows. And a plot twist that was shocking except to those outside Springfield’s Aztec Theater. Kept hidden from almost all the cast thanks to fake scripts and dubbed over what the actor actually said on set, the fake-out line of “Obi-wan killed your father.” However to European watchers this wasn’t as much of a surprise since ‘vader’ means ‘father’ in Dutch and ‘vater’ means ‘father’ in German. And in retrospect, the exchange between Uncle Owen & Aunt Beru (“He has too much of his father in him.”/”That’s what I’m afraid of.”) was a portent of events to come. Now don’t do a bad-guy-is-dad setup because this will be outright laughed at. But if you can come up with something surprising give it a try, although drop a few subtle clues beforehand.
  5. If you let the Wookie win, let the bad guys win too This is heresy to some DungeonMasters but bear with me. Empire is widely regarded as the best of the original trilogy. Yet look at what happens: Echo base is completely overrun, Han is frozen in carbonite to make wall art & Luke takes a Critical Hit to the hand. The ballgame is now tied up, 1 to 1. And this was back when most movies had happy endings. I’m not advocating purposeful TPK’s here and I’m also not talking about fudging every dice roll.  What I’m suggesting is that at least once in a campaign, for both the sake of drama as well as realism, the story should be setup such that the party will likely lose. Badly. Because it is through loss and sacrifice that makes the victories meaningful.

Ok, that was our take on Empire. Did we get the right 5 points? Or would you have picked something else instead? Let us know in the comments below, while we write up the next article for the next movie.

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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