How to GM
Game Mastering In The Galaxy Far, Far Away
Welcome to the Director's Chair. You have a big seat to fill. George Lucas is a tough act to follow. The good news is that he didn't make it all on his own, he had help, and so has everyone else who has left their mark on the Star Wars universe. That's what this page is here for - to help you bring Star Wars magic to your table, regardless of what kind of Star Wars story you're looking to tell.
New to sWRPG?
Check out the How to Play section on the website, and be sure to read one of the SWRPG Core Rule Books.
If you have played the SWRPG Before, but are a new GM:
Let's hit the ground running!
Game Mastering is an incredible and rewarding undertaking; even more-so in this system as you get to interact with characters, places, and themes you've seen on the silver screen. Better yet, you get to make your favorite version of these things, because in SWRPG, you are the guiding Force that makes all of this real. While you are the director and the creator of this universe, you are not all of it's inhabitants. The players, the heroes of your story, will take it in directions you could never have anticipated, and that's not only good, but necessary, to a story that the Heroes are driving. Don't make the mistake of thinking you are responsible for everything, or that you even have to prep for all eventualities. You couldn't if you tried, so don't try! Go with the flow!
Official Adventures are a great Launch Pad!
There are a number of starting adventures (which still require one of the Core Rule Books) that are freely available, and all of the three main settings in the SWRPG are supported. The "Scum and Villainy," the "Galactic Civil War," and the "Jedi Adventures" are all there. They offer not only a starting for any campaign based on these settings and themes, they also come equipped with pre-generated characters. For the players, these act as a reference point for building new characters, or just serving as an easy character to try out to learn the system.
Start your own adventure!
Starting your own custom campaign is not easy, but it is also not as hard as it looks! All it takes is a plot hook, and at least one friend! These are some of the first things to consider...
Questions To Answer before You Start
What is your players' understanding of Star Wars?
People come to Star Wars from different places by way of consuming different media, which informs their assumptions and about what Star Wars is. More importantly, it also may limit what they know about Star Wars to begin with. Keeping this in mind can assist you in building a game that your players can actively engage in rather than bouncing off of because you built a game they don't understand. Deep cuts are often a wonderful addition to any campaign full of lore junkies, but the uninitiated may be happier just experience Lando Calrissian laying on his roguish charm and other surface-level inclusions.
What Star Wars settings and continuities are you drawing from?
Star Wars is a big universe, almost impossibly so. As there are multiple kinds of stories to tell, there are multiple continuities in the greater Star Wars multiverse, and different eras within those continuities. This important decision comes down to What Star Wars is your Star Wars? Do you want to tangle with Grand Admiral Thrawn as a Rebel squad during the Canon Dark Era? Or are you leading a group of Jedi Padawans in the Jedi Order after the Battle of Endor in Legends? Or are you fighting in an Alternate Universe Clone Wars where the true nemesis opposite the Republic is the Yuuzhan Vong? Do you want to include all of these things? The choice is yours, but it is very important that both you and your players square your definitions of Star Wars.
What is the scope and what are the theme(s) of your Campaign?
Did I mention Star Wars had a lot going on? There are countless character and endless stories in which to play them. The diversity in storytelling and characters raises a crucial question - What kinds of characters are compatible with the story you are telling? A story about gritty low-lives scraping by may not segue cleanly into a war story. A story of political intrigue and espionage may not be the best arena to explore the Hero's Journey; or maybe it is! The beauty of Star Wars is that fluid narrative transitions like this are often appropriate. What matters here is that both you and your players understand this and design their characters accordingly.
Tips for Game MAsters
No Campaign should start without a Session Zero.
Session Zero is an out-of-character gathering of players where they discuss a number of topics. You should try to cover many of these, if they aren't handled before-hand. The list of things to cover include but are not limited to:
The Setting and general hook for the campaign
Discussing Table Safety, Lines and Veils, and X-Cards
Establishing starting group dynamic, character backgrounds, etc
Finalizing characters, their motivations, and making sure they fit the campaign and the party.
There is no "One Way" to prepare for your game. Don't overdo it.
Whether you're preparing for your first session or your thousandth, what is most important is that you find a system that produces consistently good sessions, and is sustainable for the duration of your campaign. One of the mistakes new GMs can make is overburdening themselves during session prep, leading to wasted time and crunch that causes burn out. Your players will prefer you less stressed and enjoying the process more. Many GMs start out writing pages and pages and become frustrated when players side-step their hard work, and others under-prepare and find their improv skills aren't quite there yet. Adapt your prep style, don't force something that doesn't work or will kill your love of the game.
Borrow ideas from everywhere!
Star Wars is a wonderful amalgam of Western, the Hero's Journey, Science Fiction, Kurasawa, and War Films. This gives it a rich tapestry of genre tropes, history, and ideas to pull from. Not only that, media like The Clone Wars animated series and The Mandalorian change genre, themes, and tone on a near-episodic basis, and that makes for more varied, richer storytelling. Always be on the look out for pop culture and other stories that can help make your Star Wars all the richer.
Seek out other GMs, you're not alone!
There are so many other people out there worried about their first game or their next session that you can reach out to as a resource for brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other. There is a GM out there who has been in your shoes and might have the answer you're looking for. Just as role-playing games are a collaborative experience, being a Game Master can be a collaborative artform. Don't be afraid to reach out to the other GMs in the Discord. Many have used that resource to share one question with many.
Every Roll Matters
Star Wars Role Playing Game uses the Narrative Dice System with three axis of positive and negative results: Success vs. Failure, Advantage vs. Threat, & Triumph vs. Despair. What this means is that you as the GM have three things to adjudicate whenever a player assembles a pool and rolls the dice. This takes time, which is why this game operates on the "Every Roll Matters" principle. This means that you should only roll when the threat of failure or complication is interesting. Both positive and negative results should propel the story forward, not stall it. Roll bloat is a very real danger in this system, so don't fall victim to the idea that every small action or sequence needs a glut of rolls.
Be a Fan of the Players.
The players are the actors, their characters are the stars, and the Game Master is the director of the show. That said, Game Masters really only control 40% of the world, and the rest is up to the players to develop. Embrace their enthusiasm when they engage you on the two-way street known as role-playing. If players introduce a plot element, a voice for an NPC, or want to spin a yarn - sit back, relax, and realize that your game is engaging your players! There is no better moment than when your players take ownership and want to set the scene for you.
Remember, if George Lucas can tell a great Star Wars Story, so can you!
Don't be afraid to just enjoy the journey. You will not be a Matt Mercer overnight, but neither was Matt Mercer! Your first session will not be your best, but there can be so much fun to be had in making your own mistakes and growing from them. There's always next week, and always more to improve upon. Never let the fear of imperfection stop you from trying to be the best you can, and having as much fun as possible in the process. May the Force be with you, Game Masters.