Sunday, December 18, 2016

Star Wars: The Lost Character Archetype - The Tough Native

So, Rogue One had an opening weekend that more-or-less met insider expectations. I'm watching the Original Trilogy as I write this post, and Steam has a Star Wars sale going on until tomorrow sometime. (I hope that either gets extended or resumes when the Winter Sale starts on the 22nd.) So, naturally for this gamer, I'm reminded of the original tabletop RPG published by West End Games in 1987.

They made that game with total noobs in mind. You only needed to raid a Yatzee box to get the dice you need (and in a pinch, just one will do), and instead of agonizing over classes and such you just picked a pre-built Character Template and got on with the gameplay. You had plenty there that you would've expected in 1987--Smugglers, Wookies, Bounty Hunters, (Not-Quite) Jedi, Senators/Nobles, etc.--but they were not afraid to throw in some oddball character archetypes. Of all those oddballs, the one that stuck out most for me is one called "Tough Native".

The idea here is that you came from a planet that was pre-spaceflight (nevermind starfaring), contacted by some party sympathetic to the Rebel Alliance, and your sovereign sent you as your world's liason to the Alliance to learn what could be had (and do what could be done) from them- as it seemed that the Empire could not be tolerated for its inevitable offense to the sovereign's authority.

The character you played, out of the box, was a European cavalry officer from the 16th-early 19th century: black-powder pistol, sword, dashing heroic character (maybe local nobility), and a love of country that many Rebels could appreciate. Chances were that you were also an accomplished rider, leader, etc. and so you were sort of John Carter figure.

Alas, as the Expanded Universe spread--a thing that West End's RPG is credited for founding--this archetype disappeared not only from the game, but from the fandom entirely outside of niches like the Ewok. The post-Disney reformation of the canon hasn't helped matters, yet, but it could (and Disney is stupid to not take that chance now that Rogue One succeeded).

Don't tell me that it couldn't work. Much of Return of the Jedi is "Starfarers recruit natives to fight Empire", and that worked well (because it did what it was meant to do: impress kids and sell merch). It would take a little work to ensure that you could execute this while retaining the core sensibility of Star Wars, instead of retreading A Princess of Mars in Star Wars drag, but that work would be worth it when the payoff comes.

As for the gaming end of it, I am pleased to see that the dedicated fans of West End's RPG lives on a fan-written unofficial edition: Revised, Expanded, and Updated. In that volume, in the Character Templates, is the Tough Native template- all that's changed is the profile pic. You too can get your John Carter on, (or, for you Dishonored fans, either of the sequel's playable characters) and with some allowances you can even make this character stand up to lightsaber duelists (just find a way to get him something with Cortosis or something like it).

Star Wars is about heroic adventure (as it is Space Opera), so take a shot at one of the oldest heroic adventure archetypes there are when next you play- or write.

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