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Subject: "Elder Days Story Time: Star Wars"     Previous Topic | Next Topic
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Dec-29-15, 04:30 PM (EST)
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"Elder Days Story Time: Star Wars"
   So it's a blizzardy day in Podunk, and someone mentioned the old West End Games Star Wars RPG in another thread recently. These two factors in combination reminded me of how that game figured in one of my favorite gaming moments. I'd honestly be surprised if I hadn't told this story on the Forum before, but a search on one of the distinctive keywords turns up no hits, so here goes, anyway.

It was a day not unlike this one in Worcester, sometime in the winter of (IIRC) 1992-93. A few of us were hanging around the house on Lee Street that was sort of GweepCo Central that year. I don't remember now exactly who-all was there. I know Andrew Petrarca and the late Derek Bacon were on hand, and I think Truss (all of whom lived there); possibly also Jer, and maybe Seann Ives, my old gaming compadre from high school (who ran the epic Shadowrun campaign I've mentioned in these parts before). We were all a bit bored of the usual time-killing measures, and someone suggested that we dig out Derek's WEG Star Wars books, roll up some characters, and have a quick game.

Somehow or other I ended up getting talked into being the GM for this endeavor, so I sort of sat off to one side racking my brains for an adventure seed while the others made their characters. At this point, one of them decided coming up with an entertaining Star Wars adventure on no notice whatsoever wasn't an adequate challenge for me and decided to set me a trap. Ah, friendship.

The way this was done has to do with the way the West End Star Wars game was configured. Some of you are probably familiar with it, others may not be, so a little background may be in order. This was the early 1990s, remember, and the game dated from the late '80s. Back then there were only the three movies and a bare handful of supplemental materials. The "Admiral Thrawn" trilogy hadn't even finished coming out yet when we played this game, and the RPG we were playing was published in 1987, long before. The vast and mystifying profusion of tie-in novels and comic books, the so-called "Expanded Universe", hadn't happened yet.

As such, the game was based almost solely on the films themselves, with only Brian Daley's Han Solo books, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and a scattering of other supplementary materials to draw on, and that informed its tone more than a little. West End Star Wars didn't... take itself as seriously as the later Wizards of the Coast products based on the license.

One of the things that the West End game had was prefabricated characters templates that could be used to speed up character generation. These were sort of more than the usual classes/archetypes, but a little bit less than fully pregenerated characters. Some reflected the characters from the original films (there was a Smuggler character who was basically Han Solo, and so on). Others were extrapolations based on the logic of the game setting (such as the one that was called something like Alien Student of the Force, which was a non-human character who could use the Force, but not in the ways Jedi characters did). Some of these were useful!

Some of them were not.

Andrew decided, for reasons of boredom and perversity, that his character would be based on the template called, if memory serves, something like Imperial Bureaucrat.

Seriously. Everyone else is making fugitive Jedi, space cowboy gunslingers, droids, and all the usual sort of anti-Imperial riffraff, and Andrew decides his character is going to be a low-ranking Imperial customs official. Named, in anticipation of the grand Star Wars tradition of naming characters after their personality traits (Cad Bane, Agent Kallas, et al.), Blandwell Nerdley.

In retrospect, it may be that Andrew didn't particularly want to play Star Wars that afternoon.

So, fine. You have to work with what the players present you, after all. The adventure started out in a seedy spaceport town somewhere on the Outer Rim; not Mos Eisley-grade seedy, it did have an Imperial customs office, but still pretty seedy. Customs Inspector Third Class Nerdley's assignment was to vet a civilian freighter making port and ensure that it carried no undeclared contraband. Ordinarily he didn't leave the office, but the field personnel were short-staffed due to an outbreak of $SPACE_DISEASE and, well, needs must.

Of course, things went sideways in short order and he found himself semi-rescued, semi-kidnapped by the crew of said freighter, who were of course undercover Rebel Scum carrying out some nefarious mission or another, and poor Customs Inspector Third Class Nerdley found himself a fugitive, wanted by the Empire for crimes he certainly didn't commit. It was all a terrible misunderstanding, of course, but how to go about proving that to the authorities without getting shot in the process? This was the conundrum that confronted poor Customs Inspector Third Class Nerdley.

A sequence of "side quest"-type adventures followed, the details of which I have largely forgotten now. The whole purpose of those was to embroil poor Nerdley further, implicate him in so many Imperial crimes he could never work his way back to his comfortable dead-end job, and possibly induce in him something like Stockholm syndrome. The only thing I remember about them now is that one of them involved a Jabba the Hutt-style underworld figure based on an AD&D beholder and affectionately called Eddie the One-Eyed Slimeball.

Weeks of telescoped gaming time later, things went from bad to worse for Nerdley when his Rebel rescuer/captors made contact with their superiors, who were in the process of arranging the larger mission for which their previous antisocial activity had been by way of preparation, namely: hijacking an experimental Imperial Star Destroyer configured to be operated by a mere handful of people. The advantages in this theft for the Rebellion should be obvious, given their chronic staffing problems. Of course, the automated systems were only a partial solution, they also needed to have someone on their team who actually knew how to fight a ship that size in case of any entanglements with the rest of the Imperial fleet. They were rendezvousing with the Rebel "case officer" managing their cell in order to pick up an NPC who would handle that part of the job.

Unfortunately, said NPC managed to get himself killed in a lightfight that broke out at the rendezvous between our heroes and the vengeful minions of Eddie the One-Eyed Slimeball, whom they had displeased in a previous adventure. It was while bewailing this fate, and the inevitable doom it would bring to the Star Destroyer caper, when their Rebel Command handler noticed the pale, nebbishy figure in the at-this-point-somewhat-ragged Imperial Customs Bureau uniform.

"Wait," said he. "Who is this?"

"Oh," said the captain of our Rebel crew, "he's nobody. He got tangled up in our job on $PLANET and we haven't figured out a way to cut him loose that won't get him killed, that's all."

"What is your name, nobody?" demanded the Rebel Officer, eyeing Nerdley very closely.

"Um... I'm... Customs Inspector Third Class Nerdley," the Imperial Bureaucrat replied.

The Rebel Officer recoiled in shock and blurted, "Not Blandwell Nerdley?!"

There followed a you-never-studied moment for the rest of the crew, in which the Rebel Officer chided the

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