Infinities

Star Wars Infinities - A New Hope Roleplaying game settings based on an existing book, movie or computer game franchise can be either a boon or a curse. On the one hand you usually get a fully fleshed-out world which your players are already familiar with. When you play a Star Wars game for example, you don’t need to explain what a Jedi, a blaster or a snow speeder is. After explaining the game rules you can immediately start playing and the players already know how the world is supposed to work.

On the other hand, canon can get into the way. When you try to keep things in canon, it’s always Luke Skywalker who blows up the Death Star, Yoda dies in his hut on Dagobah and the Emperor dies at the hands of Darth Vader. The player characters can’t play a major role in these events if you don’t want to mess with the canon.

But why should you even care about canon? The Dark Horse comic series “Star Wars Infinities” effectively shows how you can mess with canon while still keep the tropes of the setting firmly intact.

In Star Wars Infinities Luke Skywalker fires two torpedoes at the Death Star but due to a technical malfunction they fail to destroy the Death Star. This changes the course of Star Wars history in significant ways. The other two Infinities graphic novels change events in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” that lead to quite different stories compared to what were used to from the movies.

If Dark Horse comics can pull this off – even with George Lucas’ blessing, why can’t we? Especially when playing a game in a well-known setting like the Star Wars saga, it can be interesting to explore what could have happened when you change a few events. I can easily imagine a Star Wars campaign based on the events in one of the Star Wars Infinities books. Or perhaps it hasn’t been Luke Skywalker who destroyed the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, but one of your players. The possibilities are endless – or shall we say “infinite”.

Of course this can be applied to other settings as well. How does the Eberron setting change if Cyre hasn’t been destroyed at the end of the Last War? As GM you’re in charge of what happens in the game world, so why not mess with the canon, the meta plot or even the history of the world you play in? I have to admit, even though I have run roleplaying games for over a decade, I still hesitate to mess with a settings canon. But the Star Wars Infinities comic books have shown me how changing things could make a campaign even more interesting for the players.

One thought on “Infinities”

  1. I've been thinking about doing something like that with The World of Greyhawk.

    I had run a post-apocalyptic+fantasy game when 3e first game out, that I really enjoyed … but I wasn't fully satisfied with the world I had set it in, especially trying to expand it past it's small setting area. But, it occurred to me that the Sheldomar Valley has a strong resemblance to the area I had created (not like "you could lay the maps over each other", I just mean that the geographies have similar effects on the campaign.

    I could easily set the game just south of the Valley of the Wizard, and even re-use the Barrier Peaks module for a part of what I did (only having the lower levels replaced with a huge vault — the "zoo" could easily be adapted to an entrance).

    The "Rain of Fire" in ancient Greyhawk history even works in my favor. But, what doesn't work for me:

    1) the common "recent history" of greyhawk … the wars, the legendary group of 8, etc. Basically, go back 20-100 years in the history of the campaign, and get rid of everything.

    2) the common greyhawk pantheon. I could use them as a false dummy religion, or adapt the universal pantheon idea from Dragonspace … but as it is, it doesn't work for me.

    3) completely coincidentally (I arrived at the name through a completely different means, an algorthym of names of my high school social clique), one of the dieties of my setting has a name that's identical to a nation near the sheldomar valley (Ket — from Keith). So, I have to change one or the other … and I can't think of a good name for the diety, but it'd be harder to explain to everyone why they can't call that nation Ket.

    4) less specific to the setting, but I'll probably use a mash-up of Fudge, Sherpa, and Twerps for the system, and not any edition of D&D/d20.

    The broadstrokes are:

    The Rain of Fire happened as part of a war between two evil gods (the god of the undead (Ket) is seeking revenge on the god of war/spite/malice/tyranny (Jun) … for having "killed" him). Ket was coming for an outpost that Jun was using for experimentation that would build his super-army (creating orcs and goblinoids). Jun finds out before Ket's army of undead arrive, and brings down fire from the sky to stop them.

    What was the fire from the sky? well… my world is set inside a Dyson Sphere. Think of it like the asteroid interception system from Ringworld … Jun activated something that caused a jet of solar plasma to strike what is now the Sea of Dust. The outpost is sort of a monitoring station for the builders of the dyson sphere (the gods), build before the gods split up into factions.

    Fast forward a few thousand years, after civilization in the region has rebounded. Jun has abandoned the outpost, but Ket doesn't know that. And his undead armies are on the move again. This time, they're coming through the north west. The advanced scouts, looking for the outpost, are crossing the mountain passes from the Dry Stepps, into the Valley of the Wizard, and into the Sheldomar Valley (what they're looking for: the structure that was "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks"). Meanwhile, the main army is going through Zief and Ket (that's why I can't use the name: the army of Ket is invading Ket?), displacing thousands of refugees. And, in this version of the world of greyhawk, those lands are almost exclusively inhabited by Orcs, Ogres, and Goblinoids.

    The PC's don't know any of that. They don't know about the old gods at all, the they're in a Dyson Sphere, etc. The Old Gods are something like our world's conspiracy theory cults — only known to Illuminati like groups. And even they don't know the whole picture. Most people haven't ever seen actual magic, either … and even those who do know magic, none of them have high level magic (esp. not clerics, as the connection to a high level deity doesn't exist for them … because the deities they believe in aren't real).

    What the PCs do know is: their comfortable farm lands in the north of the sheldomar valley are suddenly being invaded by Orcs, Ogres, and Goblinoids. What starts out seeming like an invasion by demi-humans evolves into actually dealing with refugees, not invaders (and having to deal with the morality shift as they figure that out) … and noticing these odd creatures of the night.

    So… yeah… Mordenkanen? Bigby? Otiluke? they don't exist. Iuz? Completely different origin and history. and so on.

Leave a Reply