One of the best parts of the TTRPG hobby are the stories and inside jokes. “Waiting in the hangar” is one such joke amongst some friends of mine. It’s code for when a game fails to launch, and stems back to a Star Wars (SW) game that three of us quit because there were nine other players. It was only about a week ago that I found out the game carried on without us, and even completed the story arc. My friend who shared a copy of his game notes even remarked on how convoluted the story was, especially having to re-read it now.
This story make me think about a few related conversations I had a while back. There are those Players/GMs who have trouble playing/running TTRPGs in established major settings. Now, I’m not referring to just any settings with lore, but rather TTRPGs based off of established IPs, especially from movies or TV. Star Wars, Star Trek, and Firefly are just to name a few. Those players I talked to all felt as though a game in those settings would not even play second fiddle to the larger story.
By playing in these settings you are not going to be the one to defeat the Galactic Empire, or strike a blow to end Darth Vader. The greater story always moves on without you, or your interference. There is also another hidden issue in many of these settings. Now Star Wars has this to a lesser extent, but for Star Trek and Firefly, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be on a ship. But if you are on a ship, for many it feels like the game becomes a second rate version of the show. No one wants to feel like they are playing the off brand version of something that they enjoyed watching.
Now as I said in my previous Table Thoughts, we are not all about the negative. There are solutions to any problem, and this one is no different. In my humble opinion, there are two possible solutions to this problem of running established IP. The first is to simply ignore cannon altogether and just go for broke. Let your players do what they want and know that they are going to play a role in the greater story as they see fit. Now some may not like that because it ruins the authenticity of the very thing that made it special.
With all of this in mind, we move to the second solution. Referring back to the GM in my initial story, he managed to do something interesting with Star Wars IP that made it much more playable and exciting. Simply put, he took pieces and concepts from multiple time periods within both Cannon and Legends (formerly called Expanded Universe) to form a new galaxy. This alternate setting took everything that you could love about Star Wars and threw out the core story of the Episodes 1-6 (this was before the Disney acquisition).
In this new setting, there are five major factions that have carved up the galaxy:
The Republic – Just as you remember from Episode 1. They have the grand army of the republic, and Jedi as the backbone of their military/peacekeeping force. They rely more on diplomacy for solutions to intergalactic issues.
The Empire – Also, just as you remember from episodes 4-6. They are the same war machine you remember, but with the addition of Imperial Knights. Despite the origins, they are more inclusive (aka less xenophobic) and less expansionist, but very pro military.
The Sith – This group is akin to what you may have seen in KOTOR. They are an aggressive faction backed by a military and Sith. As the polar opposite to the Republic, they rely on cunning and deception.
The Confederacy (CIS) – Now this group is made up of all of the outlying systems that did not want to be under the rule of any other entity. They are backed by a driod armada, and force users who didn’t ally themselves with any other side.
The Hutts – As you would expect, this is not only the Hutts of old, but rather a crime syndicate conglomerate. Made up of the Black Suns, Hutts, etc. They rely on a rotating army of mercenaries, bounty hunters, and other operatives to keep their borders safe.
I was fortunate enough to get to play in this setting for a little while (on the side of the Empire), and it was great! No longer did we feel constrained by the established cannon, but rather could explore these new ideas with sense of purpose. Our characters helped to reshape that very galaxy as we saw fit.
To put it all together I would say that if you are ignoring a setting for the reasons above, one of the best things you can do is ask yourself (and your players) what you (or they) love about it. If you know the answer to that, then build something new around it. Try it out for a while. Not every game makes it out of the hangar, but you will remember those that do.