View Full Version : Down to Earth or Over the Top?

31 July 2002, 04:26 PM
Here's a question for you GMs out there. Do your stories tend to be well grounded or are they more spectacular and epic?

"Down to Earth" games tend to have the PCs in smaller roles. They may have a major role in a sector (if they're lucky) but rarely achieve galactic status. The players tend not to encounter anything that is more powerful or more important than what is seen in the movies and/or EU. Continuity is extremely important. These games work because they are realistic, and players have an easier time getting into the setting.

"Over the Top" campaigns are more spectacular. The PCs may become of galactic importance, and may even save the galaxy a time or two. Enemies are very powerful and epic, and may even eclipse the film villains. As a result, continuity sometimes takes backseat to the story. These campaigns work because they are exciting. Players get to play in large roles, and work will all sorts of new and powerful things.

I've found that players and GMs tend to fall more toward one category or the other, and may be frustrated by games of the other style. For example, I tend to be a down to earth GM. Recently I played a character under another GM. It wasn't more than five minutes before my Jedi character was fighting a powerful droid army that was equipped with double bladed lightsabers. I hated the adventure from that point forward, not because it was a bad adventure, but because I was frustrated by all the seeming inconsistencies it presented. The other players had a great time, however.

Comments? Discussion? Where do your games fall?

31 July 2002, 04:48 PM
My games fall into the "down to earth" type. Player characters normally have some major part in a planetary, systemary, or sector based adventure, but there's never really been anything more wide reaching than that. None of my NPCs EVER exceed the most powerful characters we see in the movies. That includes Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the Emperor.

In fact, I highly doubt I could run a game that was over the top. I like to have consistancy in my games, and things that throw consistancy (within my own game, that is) out the door irk me.

31 July 2002, 05:39 PM
I love to grow the characters...

When we decide to start a new campaign our characters grow from a humble beginning to a grand finale! Of course it takes years, but that's how we like it, because we grow attached to our characters...

We haven't roleplayed in a while but the stories of X who defeated Y in a grandsome manner, are still told and remembered fondly...

Wade Trenor
31 July 2002, 05:46 PM
The games that I play in are 'down to earth', and continuity is my speciality.

Sometimes these games are not as fulfilling as the 'over the top' kind, but there is still a great deal of enthusiasm when we finish a campaign.

31 July 2002, 05:55 PM
Originally posted by Wade Trenor
Sometimes these games are not as fulfilling as the 'over the top' kind, but there is still a great deal of enthusiasm when we finish a campaign.

Oh but they are!!!

You're not going to tell me you don't remember how you felt when your first character (or party if you're a GM) bought their first ship with their money!

I love to do that as a GM, also, to make them have goals, even if so low, to fulfill them... maybe they had this recurrent villain for ages and then, they defeated him!

Even if he was just a 5th level character...

1 August 2002, 01:49 AM
we got a never ending story game :) .. mostly down to earht . but sometimes we go a step or to towards "over the top".. since they tend to want to rule everyone else on thats down to earth ;) so im having problem to create more and more harder and new ideas for campaigns and adventures :/ it feels like .. weve done everything there is to do.

the only way to make new adventures is to make them more down to earth :) simply by making them create new characters ;) in another era.

thou that i was working against when i had my dark jedi campaign that was 3000 years before anh.

1 August 2002, 02:19 AM
Every good game needs to have a bit O' "down-to-Earthiness" otherwise the suspension of disbelief is unattainable. If the rules in the galaxy don't jive how the heck are players suppose to figure anything out in the maelstrom of inconsistencies?

"over-the-top" vs. "down-to-Earth" is more like bad gming vs. good gming IMHO. Some can stomach the first, others demand the second. All depending upon your taste.

Star Wars is Epic so things need to be grand and spectacular, sweeping movements and explosive action. This is NOT necessarily over-the top and can be accomplished successfully if handled in a consistent and relatively realistic/reasonable way.

Here's a quick perspective in relation to char levels:

1-3rd level characters are pretty above average individuals, literally thousands raoming the galaxy with not much to distinguish the characters except their accomplishments.....4-6 level is pretty elite and they are obviously recognizable experts in their field....7-9 is Heroic level (we're talking border-line heroes of Yavin for those rebellion games).....10-15 level is" Master of the domain/jedi master"....and 16-20 level is "I'm the Emperor, I rule the galaxy..."

A good Gm will run their games such that no matter what level you are the challenges will be such that they will be challenging to you no matter what level you are. !st level or 10th. Play should remain virtually unchanged, just a bit more grander and felt-by-others as you go.

1 August 2002, 02:26 AM
Korpil! Exactly.

Hehe, my party just bought their very, very first ship of their own at 5th level! ....After the player(with the debt to a Hutt) who had his ship that he started with, left the group to move to another state.

I'm soo proud of them, they scrimped and saved and whamo, bought a used ship and had it refitted and dubbed it with a new name! Now they're starting a mercenary/bounty hunter group and recruiting new players (have to replace the one we lost) :p

Lord Diggori
1 August 2002, 05:14 AM
I tend to be more down to Earth but I've been trying to expand into more fantastic scenes. I think I havent run enough high level games to call for it. Also, SW doesnt really bring high fantasy to mind (shrug). Action and drama yes, but fantasy...(shrug).

Last session of D&D I ran my players were surprised by my change in style when the found a buried castle with a 100ft diameter, 1000ft tall tower lit internally by an unending chain fireball spell shooting up the middle with 30ft long trees forming a spiral staircase up.

1 August 2002, 05:47 AM
Hmm, all of the opinions seem to be coming from one side (this is not necessarily a bad thing). It'll be interesting to see if the GM I'm playing under can keep the players interested over longer periods of time.

Has anyone out there successfully run large scale epic (not meaning 20+ level, just big and impressive) campaigns successfully? Or used those elements in their games? The trick seems to be keeping the sense of grandeur but also maintianing realism and avoiding the "always bigger and more powerful" spiral. Perhaps GMs should be shooting for beauty over size when they're trying to shock the players with the scene. It doesn't have to be powerful to cause the PCs to stop to think for a second.

Moff Neomen
1 August 2002, 06:18 AM
I am definetly more of a down-to-earth style GM. My characters had smaller roles in a sector, where they got rather important (as they worked for Black Sun), but when they disagreed with their boss and stormed off to another Vigo's territory to start their own organization, they found themselves wanted criminals and desperate fugitives :D. That's not to say that I did have some aspects of over-the-top gaming; there were some messing with continuity (I had the characters deeply involved in both Shadows of the Empire and RoTJ), and that they didn't become powerful (one of the characters inherited the position of Moff of Brentaal, though it ended up causing more trouble than anything, and the characters did have a signifigant role in the fall of Black Sun) or that they didn't perform spectacular feats (a lot of that campaign played like an action movie)...but they didn't acheive galactic importance, and remained generally limited in scope. I thought it worked out quite well.

1 August 2002, 07:43 AM
I used to run High Fantasy 'save the universe' adventures, but now my adventures I try to make more 'down to earth'. I still try and keep the awe for the Star Wars Universe there though.

The actual characters involved also dictate things. One PC has become the High Lady of the Tapani Sector, though with the help of a meddling NPC baddie/goodie (I don't know yet and I'm GM).

Recently I thought too many PCs were getting too big for their boots, and this includes my own PCs too. So we've changed our gaming philosophy, and now we treat PCs as they should be treated, as punch-bags! Seriously. It's made for a better game, and the players no longer get upset at their character getting kicked around the floor. They just get their own back later in the campaign.

1 August 2002, 08:23 AM
methinks the reason for more "down to earth" campaigns in star wars is due to the fan aspect. It is hard for a GM who loves Lucas' movies to really deviate much from what is onscreen. Also, from diverging from the 'real storyline' has a... kind of... over the edge. that storyline is almost unable to come back to the mighty cliff road which is the lucas universe. the storyline is 'doomed' to stop at some point. yet we know the lucas storyline will continue until the last dvd is melted by nuclear fire.

so, i don't think it is unusual for "down to earth" being the majority of gms who play the SW universe.

the difference for another game setting- say, a D&D world can change that ratio immediately, becuase it is your own creation. I'm just saying it is easier not to step on imaginary lucas toes. i'm pretty george doesn't care what happens in our living rooms, as long as we keep buying his products.

2 August 2002, 06:17 AM
I actually think my style is some place in the middle. At times I may let me group encounter an epic type villain but donít let them kill or make some reason why they will not have their names spread across the galaxy. Usually I have them associated with the NR military and just go on missions. Like you go to guard a supply base with is transferring an important shipment of computer cores. Eventually another group of guards defects and steals the shipment. Or the heroes have to do some kind of undercover operation that will not allow the publication of their names.
I think it is to have the heroes do sub-epic things. Like Play a large part in saving a world, but itís on the fringe and not many people will hear about it. Something that satisfies the players need to be heroes but has some structure that makes it seem more believable.
Though, when faced with super epic villains usually my heroes donít fight. Like I hade some self proclaimed Sith in a mission. He and the Imperial remnant attacked Yavin (Hey! I had not even played JKII yet). The heroes took on one of his lesser DJ cronies but Luke fought the master in the b/g.
I guess this long sill was to try and say that maybe a balance of both styles can provide for an interesting. Though, it would have to depend on what type of players you have. I always ask for feedback after each mission and ppl are very open about things. Sometimes I even ask for suggestions from the players.
I have recently passed my GM title on to a friend b/c I missed the part of the game where I was a player. So, I look forward to what styles my former players will bring.

2 August 2002, 03:00 PM
Down to Earth here, but my recurring villians are epic. They always leave a lasting impression on my PC's. Some of them so much so that my PC's still bring it up in casual conversations sometimes at dinner or whatever when we are just haning out.

I just try to have a good solid story, with interesting plot twists, and at least one recurring villian. But its never on the save the galaxy side of things.

2 August 2002, 03:19 PM
I'm definately a down-to-earth GM. Actually, I think people who DON'T play down-to-earth are just either:

Bad GMs who don't know how to make their campaigns feel exciting without having their PCs fight their way through vast armies single-handedly and defeat Palpatine, Bane, or some similar villain.


GMs who don't know the background well enough. In which case, I feel sorry for their players.

Either way, so long as they're having fun- I couldn't care less. It's a game; if everyone's having a good time, it's serving it's purpose. Unless, of course, you're playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay- in which case everyone's supposed to be suffering. But I digress...

I think the story of Kyle Katarn can be a great example of a character within the EU that did some really over-the-top things, but stayed within the continuity, and well behind the feats of such greats as Luke, Han, and the rest. Over 3 games, and 3 graphic novels, Kyle Katarn fought his way up from being a wet-behind-the-ears bucket-head grad from Karida, to a rebel agent, to a powerful jedi, and then back again. And throughout the whole saga of his life, he really just filled in gaps- for instance, freeing the trapped souls left by Darth Bane's "thought bomb", from Jedi vs. Sith. And that provides a great inspiration for a solid, well founded roleplaying campaign- filling in gaps in the story. Also, the main villains of Jedi Knight, and Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outast- Jerec and Desann, respectively, are introduced specifically for those games, and not taken from elsewhere- and they aren't as powerful as, say, Emperor Palpatine. They do, however, have the potential to become that powerful- but the chance is taken away from them before they can pounce. And that's how I think a good roleplaying campagin should be run.

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~The Little Dragoon~

"I am Fireproof"

3 August 2002, 04:37 PM
I always wondered what I liked in a game.

Then I stumble on to the Power of Myth ideas presented at the Smithsonian. There I finally realized what I like to do in ALL RPG games I play.

I like to make them Mythic (or Epic). I love to start humble, have them love the world they come from, the job they have, then yank them out of there into a world of adventure. It is great. I am doing that now.

I also love to fillin gaps. For example, on of my players is becoming the first in a line of special agents for Supreme Chancellor Palapatine (here he starts the devious line of assasins called the Emporer's Hand) He also has just recieved a ship called the 1000 Bird (ie the Millenium Falcon at an earlier time, she went through many owners before she got to Han)

I like filling in the gaps as well.