Ernie ran a Star Wars game last weekend. The invitation came out of the blue, and at the last minute; Budzik called and invited me to join them. I grabbed a few books from my Star Wars library - the Visual Dictionary, the Omnibus, WEG/D6 Star Wars roleplaying rulebook - and drove up to Ernie and Pam's swanky apartment in Norwalk. Present were Budzik, Aaron, and Rob Hearn.
Ernie was trying out a new system of his own creation. It was very simple, which I greatly appreciated, allowing us to focus more on what our characters were like than trying to allocate points and reference charts. Apparently, someone else had run a game for him using a similarly-improvised system, and he liked it so much he decided to make his own version of it. He warned us a couple of times not to get our hopes up too much, but since this was the first time I've had the opportunity to do some tabletop gaming with the old Campaign crowd, I was more than pleased.
The setting was the Old Republic, roughly twenty years before the beginning of "Episode One." We were all playing Jedi - something I've never gotten to do before, outside of playing "Knights of the Old Republic" - of varying experience. I made a Knight named Nura Nuada who, by Budzik's suggestion/insistence, would have been played by Jennifer Garner. She had been found by the Jedi Master Kye Peyna on Nox, a garbage moon of Kuat, begging in what passed for the starport there. He recognized her self-reliant spirit and physical toughness even at her very young age, and negotiated with the head of her scavver clan to purchase her from them. She was the combat-oriented Jedi in our party, extremely skilled with a lightsaber and telekinetic Force powers. Budzik made a catlike alien Padawan named Tolas, whose specialty was piloting and starships; we decided that Nura's master had also sponsored Tolas's entry into the Jedi Order. Tolas thought of Nura as his "big sister," which is, in fact, what he often called her. She, in turn, referred to him as "little brother." Aaron made another Padawan learner, a peaceful healer from an agrarian society named Foster (Aaron's strength is not necessarily in naming characters, but the background information and society he came up with compensated for that). Finally, Rob made an older Jedi Master named Zandis Mirr, who had been involved in dealing with spice cartels on Kessel for the past few years.
The system was pretty simple: each of our characters had five slots for abilities, ranked at 20% intervals (100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, and 20%). Ernie had a list of abilities which seemed to consist of both Force powers and skills like Interface (which could be applied to dealing machines or animals); we chose which abilities we would rank at which ratings. When making skill or Force power checks, we would roll percentile dice, trying to roll under our rating, and he would apply modifiers to the rating depending upon difficulty. Our health was rated in dice; each character had ten d10s. These d10s could be spent on skill rolls to boost our chances of success - each d10 used this way could be rolled and the result added to our skill rating that we had to roll under. However, since the d10s were also like hit points, there was a risk to using them. They would only be replenished when our characters rested (or after each session - I can't remember which now).
We were brought together on Coruscant at the Jedi Temple. Nura had been returning from a mission amongst the Wookiees on Kashyyykk, hoping to arrive in time to congratulate Tolas on completing his final ordeals before being named a full Jedi. Upon arrival, she was met by representatives of the Council and summoned to appear before them. All four of us were brought together there and told that we were being sent on a mission to discover the fate of one Jedi Master Merlosis who had gone missing. Merlosis had been investigating a disturbing case: a Padawan had been slain, cut in half with a lightsaber, and his Master, Jendo Kree, had disappeared. Merlosis was hunting for Kree when he mysteriously vanished near Naboo, on his way to Corellia. In his last transmission to the Council, Merlosis had warned, "Jendo Kree is gone. The Sith are coming." Of course, the Sith had been gone for so long that it was almost like being told that a fairy tale had come true...
Our band flew out to the Expansion Region, to the Tyna system, which was embroiled in a civil war that the Republic was keeping its hands out of. After narrowly avoiding being shot down by natives, we found the wreckage of Merlosis's single-man ship, its hyperspace booster still attached. As we searched, a band of warriors appeared on a nearby ridge and began shooting at us. Some of them appeared to be setting something up. The others took cover. I decided that, in true bad-ass Jedi fashion, Nura would start running toward the soldiers, flipping and somersaulting to avoid their shots. The Force - or the dice - were with me, and I got my cool cinematic scene I was hoping for, deflecting their blaster shots with my lightsaber and flipping over the rocks they hid behind to land menacingly in their midst. As some of them ran, Nura saw that they were setting up a cannon, so she deflected their blaster shots into it and destroyed it. When the smoke cleared, one of them was left, holding his blaster in his trembling hand. Nura gave him an ultimatum: "You can shoot me, and perhaps die, or you can leave now and live." He chose to try both, shooting at me as he ran away. It proved to be a bad idea on his part.
Now, for those who have not had the pleasure of gaming with Ernie, he is a GM who is fond of props. When Nura returned to the rest of the party by the ship wreckage, she learned that they had found amidst the detritus a map. Deciding it was not enough to just tell us this, Ernie had at some point sat down and painted a star chart on a large black piece of paper in gold and silver. Along with it was a transparent blue plastic strip with a pattern of stars painted on it. We had to figure out, sliding the strip around on the star map to match up their constellations/systems, what Merlosis's planned route had been. Eventually we figured out that there was a system on the strip which was not marked on the map, and determined that this was where he had been headed.
So, note to self - props are awesome. I'm looking forward to the next time we can meet and play, which should be pretty soon, as Ernie is going to be flying off to Panama later this month. After that, Budzik has plans to get his old D&D game started up again. He started it shortly before I moved away, and apparently they got pretty far with that campaign in the time I was in Minneapolis. Best of all, he's asked me to resume playing the character I had originally made for that game, a Half-Orc Cleric of Vorak, God of War...