D is for Destiny

art by Ralph McQuarrie

art by Ralph McQuarrie

Every literary character needs a Destiny. It is their end game goal, as talked about previously on Triumph & Despair, and will be the means that we measure the character’s true progress and development in the greater story. The Destiny of one of the members of the Crew is a more elaborate way of stating their Motivation. A Destiny can be determined using the standard methods described in the Edge of the Empire Beta (p.66), by selecting inspiring options from the chart below, or one can let the Force guide one’s action by rolling randomly (d10) and consulting the chart below.

A simple way for a Galaxy Master to influence the path of her campaign, yet keep the game firmly in the hands of the players and off the plot railroad, is to edit the list of available Destinies. The ones presented here lend themselves to a Star Wars fringe experience, but could easily be changed to encourage any number of genres.

ACTION SUBJECT
1 Destroy/Kill an exiled J is for Jedi
2 Condemn your parents
3 Confront your siblings
4 Teach/Train an evil N is for Nemesis
5 Rescue a new P is for Planet
6 Stop a close friend or lover
7 Discover a shameful past
8 Avenge a W is for Super Weapon
9 Redeem the Empire
10 Create the Rebel Alliance

A character’s Destiny can be represented in a long-term roleplaying game by using the classic 5-step arc of dramatic structure. Dramatic structure is way of categorizing and analyzing the five major steps taken in almost every classical literary work. This developmental arc can then be applied to the characters of any roleplaying game, though the Star Wars setting is particularly well-suited. This post advocates using the standard 5-step dramatic arc to chronicle the meaningful progress and development of your roleplaying game characters.

Dramatic Arc

Introduction – This scene sets the major characters to be involved in the dramatic arc, including enemies, allies, rivals, etc., and establishes some sort of conflict that will be resolved by the end of the Destiny.

Rising Action – This scene delves into greater on the basics set forth in the Introduction, highlighting the conflicts that surround the dramatic arc.

Climax / the Big Reveal – This scene is a turning point, for the better or the worse, in the character’s affairs or reveals some sort of surprise twist that adds a new dimension of complexity and depth to the story.

Falling Action – In this scene, the conflict between all competing interests unravels, often with the character winning or losing against his main rival or enemy. The falling action might also contain a moment of final suspense, during which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt.

Resolution – In this scene, the all conflicts and tensions remaining from the Falling Action are resolved, creating normality, conclusion, and closure for the character and a release of tension and anxiety.

Mechanics

At the start of every new session or new Heist or at the end of the current session or Heist, have each player roll a Force Die. A result of oo indicates that player’s character will move on to the next step in their dramatic arc and progress towards their ultimate Destiny. [Alternatively, a roll of 1 on 1d4] . If a character has already fulfilled his or her Destiny, allow that player to choose another character to progress in Destiny. Though entirely random, this puts the agency of measurable character progress directly into the hands of the player. By rolling a physical die, and one so strongly tied to the mysticism and lore of the Star Wars universe, a kind of superstitious reverence falls into the roll.

Your very own hand has guided the course of your destiny.

When this happens, the Galaxy Master must design the session or Heist so as to progress the dramatic arc of that character into the next sequential step. The early sessions of a campaign will feature many Heists that introduce the major players, villains, allies, etc., in all of the characters’ destinies. As the campaign progresses, so too will the characters progress towards their Destinies, though all at different and unpredictable rates. The campaign will then conclude around the time the Galaxy Master has envisioned as each character concludes their story and fulfills their Destiny.

Galaxy Masters are not only encouraged to rely on player input in designing these scenes, but many times will be forced to include the others at the table in a collaborative,  world-building process. Occasionally, multiple characters will have their scene up at the same time, forcing the Galaxy Master and the players to get creative and start weaving the threads of the campaign’s plot lines together in new and potentially unexpected ways. Ideally, these special sessions will breed surprise twists and lead the story in interesting new directions that could not have been predicted.

Once a character concludes all five steps of their dramatic arc, their story is finished. For a shorter campaign, go with a 3-step arc for all characters, merging Rising Action and Falling Action with the remaining steps. Campaigns can end when one or all players have had their character’s destiny fulfilled.

The probabilities behind these die rolls indicate that about once every 4 sessions any given character will have a scene, independent of the number of characters in the Crew. Thus, the average 3-step short arc lasts 14 sessions (about 3-1/2 months of weekly games) and the average 5-step long arc lasts 24 sessions (about 6 months of weekly games). A one-shot adventure, similarly, could be described as a dramatic arc that splits the steps into encounters rather than entire adventures. Galaxy Masters may also add more Rising Action and Falling Action scenes to adjust the campaign to your desired length if 20 sessions seems to short a time for their tastes. Characters who finish their dramatic arcs early may also choose to discover a new Destiny to be fulfilled in the wake of the events described by the Resolution of their previous Destiny, starting the entire process anew and extending the life of a campaign as desired.

Example Destiny Arc

Character: Leia Organa
Motivation: Ambition, Love

Introduction
In this session, the competing love interests of Leia Organa (Colonist) are revealed to us as we see Han Solo (Smuggler) and Luke Skywalker (Fringer) expressing their initial attractions to the princess in the backdrop of their H is for Heist to break an Alderaanian noble out of a dangerous L is for Location, an Imperial detention cell.

Rising Action
In this session, the suitors Han and Luke verbally spar and focus their efforts on winning Leia’s affections while working with the Rebellion to explore the icy wastelands of the P is for Planet, Hoth.

Climax / the Big Reveal
In this session, Luke is the centerpiece of the adventure as he undergoes his J is for Jedi training, an action that further advances his own dramatic arc. Leia’s arc has simultaneously been called upon, however, and with the dramatic Climax scene. It is here that the Galaxy Master reveals their sibling relationship, a major shake-up to the love story.

Falling Action
In this session, Han and Leia expound upon and develop their close feeling with one another while hiding in F is for Fear from Imperial forces on the cloud city of Bespin.

han carbonite I knowResolution
In this scene, Han’s Obligation (Debt to the Hutts) catches up with him and he is caught by a N is for Nemesis, an elite bounty hunter named Boba Fett. Leia’s dramatic arc is called upon for a final time and it is here that she is finally able to tell Han her true feelings of love.

About C. Steven Ross

C. Steven Ross is the founder of Triumph & Despair. View all posts by C. Steven Ross

One response to “D is for Destiny

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