“You’re approached by a Bosnian.”
This was our introduction into Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, a popular RPG based on some movie from a long time ago. Of course, our game master meant it was a “Bothan,” but running a campaign for two malcontents like Tom Parkin and myself, such a rookie mistake would not go unnoticed. Or unpunished.
“I think you mean Space Bosnian,” Tom informed her.
“Actually, to be proper Star Wars canon it would need to be Space Bos’ni’an. The more apostrophes, the more authentic," I corrected.
And so began our quick plummet from Star Wars into epic parody. Soon we were tasked with tracking down famed bounty hunter Max Dasani, last seen in the Flatbread Crisp nebula. You see, once you start losing track of proper Star Wars names, you just go Kaiser Soze and pick anything on the table.
Our game master, though well intentioned, had never seen Star Wars.
Turner and Hooch are Born
In no time, our two pre-genereated characters – a human scoundrel and a wookie medic – took on the names Turner and Hooch. Any hope of a proper Star Wars game were lost and we really didn’t care. No one’s ever had a funnier Star Wars campaign in history, I assure you. It’s a world where anything goes and the goal is to just have fun.
With the gravity of the Star Wars universe decreasing, our creativity gained a freedom seldom experienced in RPGs. We took control of our characters. Turner proved to be the ultimate con man, convincing his space slug roommate that he hadn’t paid rent yet (though he just had). Over the course of a few hours, Turner and Hooch had conned their way into becoming slumlords on top of being mercenaries.
Incensed and Insensibility
Playing such a malformed Edge of the Empire campaign proved a real horror for many of the stodgy role-players at our local game store. The peanut gallery would pipe in from time to time, telling us how we were doing it all wrong.
“You should have translators, so you should be able to understand what Hooch is saying.”
Yes, but it’s funnier if Turner can’t speak wookie, but pretends he can. I’m always mistranslating Hooch’s intolerable grunts and groans.
“No, the Emperor did not have a hot tub in the Imperial shuttle. That’s totally impractical.”
Not as impractical as having bought the Emperor’s stolen shuttle on the black market. Probably less so still that it was haunted, or that our pilot was a cab driver whose life we saved. Or that our new Trandoshan strongman had his tail cut off, only to have it regrow into a tiny sidekick.
Never Tell Me the Odds, Because I Can't Do Math
Our version of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire has no rules. I mean this somewhat literally. The GM, ourselves, and the players we soon added into the mix didn’t know the rulebook that well. Most of the time, we just rolled dice and winged it.
Rules, we were discovering, were the thing that held RPGs back. Sure, they made combat better, made rolling to “do things” more structured, but they also made a game out of things – and games need to be managed in certain ways. You have to take skills so you can do stuff and you've got to worry about leveling up, becoming better, stronger, more effective. And all those things had, apparently, stifled our ingenuity in the past.
Well, no more.
The Rebellion's a Bunch of Scary Malcontents
Personally, I think our greatest offense to the Star Wars universe is that, just playing our characters, we’ve come to argue in favor of the Empire. We’re convinced the rebels are dissenters, terrorists who have no plan for how to manage a galactic economy, resolve trade disputes, or protect its citizens.
Maybe that’s why we’re all okay with traveling beside a drunk mechanic with ties to the Empire, Luke Skywhalker (no relation), or an escaped slave girl with no moral compass. Turner’s become the ultimate shoot first character. I mean he always shoots first at any problem. A trait that truly vexes our GM, who deserves immense credit for putting up with my shenanigans.
We recently learned that Hooch isn’t a wookie at all, but just a really tall Ewok. Because it made for a good string of jokes.
Every Monday we get together. We roll dice and pretend we understand the results. And we laugh. A lot. It’s the most dysfunctional and fantastic RPG I’ve played in 30 years as a gamer.
The other week, while we were busy bastardizing some Star Wars standard, I came to a realization. An obvious one, but one that caught everyone a bit by surprise at first.
We’re not playing a Star Wars campaign anymore. This is Spaceballs.
And that’s okay.