Long ago, in a restaurant far, far away…
When the original d20 Star Wars RPG was being released, Wizards of the Coast had a launch party for it at a local Planet Hollywood. Jake Lloyd and Peter Mayhew were there, as were some other Star Wars people of import, and I and several other designers ran intro games for them and anyone else who came along and was interested.
I ran the intro scenario several times, and most of those sessions are a blur. We used Star Wars action figures rather than miniatures, and most groups barely got through one encounter. It was fun, but most people did more laughing and movie quotes than gaming.
But one elderly couple with brilliant British accents came along and said they were on vacation and had just wanted to eat at a Planet Hollywood, but had been told there was a game launch. There knew they were welcome, and had grabbed some food from the buffet, but if there was a game they were interested in trying it. But they had no idea what “Star Wars” was.
So I showed them the good guy figures, and told them these were members of the Rebel Alliance, who fought for freedom and fairness against the tyrannical bad guys.
“Ah,” said the elderly gentlemen. His face was a lean angular shape covered in tiny wrinkles, he walked with a cane, his hair was sheet white, but his eyes seemed bright and alert. “So they’re the French Resistance, are they?”
Well I admitted, yeah basically.
Then he picked up an Imperial officer figure, and looked it over.
“And this is a Space Nazi?”
Ah… yes. Their troops are even called Stormtroopers.
“Oh!” said his wife. “It’s like The War.”
“Right,” said he sitting. “How do we play?”
I had those two wonderful people, with decades of experience and clearly a strong idea of what military work is actually like, and three teen fanboys. The elderly gentleman took charge, got the mission objective out of me, and…
And ran the PC team like real commandos. Scouts. Ambushes. Covering fire. Raiding enemy gear. Firing from cover. Sticking to the objective. I was making stuff up to cover some of the things he wanted to do, because *I* didn’t know the rules that well. And I was up front about it, and made it clear that was part of the fun. You can try *anything* in an RPG. The GM just works out what dice to roll.
The teens just started calling his character “The Lieutenant,” and hung on his every word. And unlike every other group I ran that night, they got through the whole short introductory adventure. And won. Without Jedi.
Everyone smiled and clapped when they were done. And the couple decided they’d pick up a copy back home, and introduce the game to their friends. I’m pretty sure they were both in their mid 80s back when this happened, in 2000. But I like to think they are still playing some RPG, with their group of friends in England, merrily making commando raids to this day.