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It is our group's first time running a Star Wars campaign ever, and it seems that the role of GM has fallen to me.

(For context, our group has previously played:

  • D&D 5e
  • AD&D 1e
  • Call of Cthulhu 5e
  • Mutants and Masterminds 3e {ongoing}

)

My record of GMing, in general, is rather shoddy as every campaign I have ever run (5e only) has wound up a massive disappointment as compared to some of the more enjoyable campaigns.

Most of my player complaints consist of me not having a clear enough storyline (ie they have no clue where to go). This is most definitely valid advice, but I am worried I am going to end up railroading the whole affair and ruining it for my group yet again.

So I suppose my question is this: How can I keep my Star Wars Storyline clear without it devolving into railroading or ruining the fun for my players?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Quick question, are you exclusively playing with only the EotE books or is your table using AoR and FaD? I have an answer for you with general points about the FFG Star Wars system, but also specific points for EotE if its the only books being used. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Aug 16 at 19:24
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Use one of the pre-made campaigns

You mention that your campaigns fail primarily because there is no clear storyline or because players have no idea where to go. This makes sense, because that is one of the hardest parts about making your own campaign! It is relatively easy to build a level-appropriate encounter, but it's a lot harder to keep track of a long-term plot you're developing on the fly.

Luckily enough, most game systems have pre-made campaigns that have their own story already in place, and Fantasy Flights is no exception.

Having DMed from a pre-made campaign in both D&D 5e and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, I've noticed that the ones in Star Wars are a lot more... open, for a lack of better words. 5e campaigns tend to do a really good job providing you with everything you need to know to run a campaign basically without preparing for more than half an hour beforehand. The Star Wars campaigns in contrast tend to be a bit more open-ended, with a single 'chapter' being 50+ pages long, so you do need to prepare a bit more.

But, if coming up with a good clear storyline is the problem, a pre-made campaign is a great way to get the hang of GMing until you feel more comfortable making your own campaign and know a bit better what to watch out for.

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0. Do what Theik says

As Theik's answer suggests, using a pre-made campaign is a good idea even for an experienced GM. Learning how professional people write a campaign is beneficial, even if you don't end up using everything there.

1. Use Numenera's "keys" concept

I love the game so you gotta go and buy those adventures for yourself but here's the brief. Each adventure contains a number of keys. These are important objects, events, knowledge, etc. that the players must acquire in order to proceed further with the story.

Then come up with a list of encounters, NPCs, maps, etc. and "place" these keys on them. However, don't create any single point of failure. That means if the players fail to do something you planned for, they should have the option of getting the key from a different scene, NPC, encounter, etc. The process of making sure that these keys get into the hands of your players will ensure that they always do something meaningful and that progresses the story. Of course you can have filler scenes where no key is acquired.

Again I strongly recommend Weird Discoveries so please go and buy it (or other similar adventure modules for Numenera) Here's a quote from the book though

The door to the room where the cool treasure lies is locked, and the key is in the desk in the mayor’s ofce. But what if the PCs never go to the ofce? The system presented here allows the GM to quickly determine that the key might be elsewhere: in the pocket of the wandering warrior or in the lair of the six-legged beast. The GM makes sure it turns up at the right time (pacing). She makes sure that the key is in a location where the characters have a chance of coming upon it. That doesn’t mean she forces the players’ hands—just that the PCs have a chance to fnd what they need to succeed. That actual success (or failure) is still very much in their hands.

Numenera. Weird Discoveries. Page 5

2. Think about the game as a collaborative story instead

Oftentimes I find that players and GM maintain a very binary role in TTRPG. While this may suite certain styles of play, it's really far from the only way to play. Let me explain. GMs shouldn't just be the holder of secrets, the arbiter of everything in the world and players shouldn't just be passive reactor the what the GMs throw at them.

I believe in collaborative story telling. And I think one of the best way to make sure the game works for your player is to ask them. Be sure to ask them after each session: "What in particular did you like/dislike about this?"

Be even more specific: "I notice that you guys were tumbling really badly at this part of the game. What could I have done better to make the experience smoother?"

Do it in game as well, don't wait until the end. If you notice your players getting confused, bored, frustrated and you're unsure how to react on the spot, pause the game, get out of characters and talk. Give them the opportunity to do something cool. Here's a personal example:

I was running a game of L5R in which the characters needed backup from the local clan to help them fight a gang of blood speakers. But the help only comes at a steep price to honor and they were majorly stumped. Any attempt they did in character to negotiate failed. It went on for a while so I paused the game and asked them if they're having fun. No one was. So we worked on a solution together. The face character's player's admitted that he didn't know what to do but he felt obliged to speak for the group. The fighter character's player then revealed that she had a brilliant idea but her character was supposed to be dumb so she couldn't work it into the narrative. We contemplated how to tell this story together. What was important for us is that this cool idea got executed. So we decided, OOC, that the face character will suddenly thinks of this idea and brings it up in game. To credit the player who actually thought of it, I rewarded her with extra XP. Everyone loved that moment and we didn't play like antagonistic parties but actually told a story together.

This is a back and forth experience that is made better with time and active communication. There's no hard and fast rule for it. Be sure to let your players know you intend to do this, encourage them to try it and go back, gather feedback and improve for the next session.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for 'Do what Theik says', always good advice. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Aug 15 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I have found a better version of simon says😀 \$\endgroup\$ – Bob Kerman Aug 16 at 5:02
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I'm going to assume you are only running EotE books and not the rest of the system (AoR or FaD).

Hang the plot on the Hooks you've been given: Obligation

Player Characters in Edge of the Empire all have on or multiple obligation sources that drive their character. If we look at the quintessential EotE inspiration of Han Solo we can see how his debt to Jabba drives his choices in the A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, but also how his putting off his obligation ultimately catches up to him and Boba Fett delivers him to Jabba (new plot arc).

All of your PCs will have obligation that may be mechanically triggered during the start of session obligation roll, but these should also be the source of major plot arcs and goals for the PCs. IF you are running a free-form-ish campaign have obligations impinge on a PC to shake things up and guide the story in a certain direction from time to time.

Lean into Theme/Setting

EotE is really all about feast and famine, the next big score, the outlaw frontier. Focus on that, crib plot arcs and developments form the genre fiction that inspired this part of the Star Wars setting: look to heist movies, westerns, and gangster films for conflicts, antagonists, and plot twists.

Also focus on the types of things that happen in the movies, games, books, etc. from the Star Wars media you've been exposed to. It doesn't hurt to throw in an in-universe reference or homage scene for your players to enjoy, you are playing a star wars system after all, enjoy it a bit.

Make use of the pre-made adventures

The published adventures for EotE tend to be pretty free form in the approaches they allow parties to solving problems. I have personally had great experiences with them as a player and they offer a wide range of types of experiences for an EotE party to partake in.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ W.r.t. "Lean in the Theme/Setting", I've found that a lot a the Star Wars mood comes from musics and sounds, and I've made use of a lot of it when playing. Blasters and lightsaber sfx, "wipescreen" music when changing scenes or introducing key characters, and even a custom made opening with scrolling text! It really helped to get into the mood, especially since we were doing in via Roll20. \$\endgroup\$ – Luris Aug 21 at 13:59
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Railroad isn't a dirty word!

If the players are asking for more of a clear campaign, they're basically asking for more railroading! Railroading isn't always bad; no one complains when they get on a roller coaster and then don't get any say in where it goes! Similarly if your players want more clear cut direction and plot hooks, give it to them! Maybe even have a discussion before hand about the basic kind of story they want to play in.

The star wars universe is so vast the amount of options can be overwhelming. Find out what era they want to play in is almost as important as what kind of group they're going to form. Playing a group of Jedi during the Old Republic is going to be very different than if the same group of Jedi are trying to stay alive after order 66. And of course they could be playing a group of smugglers on the rim, or rebels trying to scout new potential locations for a base, or operatives for a Droid Underground Railroad trying to end their mechanical slavery or any number of other options.

Even if your story is a little (or even a lot) linear, if during Session 0 everyone agreed to the basic gist of the story, you'll have a lot more buy in and people won't be upset when you push them towards the goal they all agreed on at the start.

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