I’ve long pondered the popularity of Boba Fett. His role in the Star Wars movies isn’t very big. In fact, he dies ignobly, almost by accident and off-hand as if he’s a disposable character. Yet, his popularity among fans is huge. No one else who was eaten by the Sarlaac has a Halloween costume. Both Lando and Nien Nunb have more significant parts in the story, but they don’t approach nearly the same level of popularity. Why is this? Almost everything about the character is the opposite of cool. Jango Fett didn’t fair much better in the prequels.
Yet, Boba, unlike other minor characters can be traced to the moment he burst forth in infamy. In a move to generate anticipation for The Empire Strike Back, an action figure of Boba Fett was released ahead of all others. Of course, Lucas wasn’t going to release a figure of any great importance for this purpose, but this one did have something going for him. Impressive armor and a helmet that hid his face. Boba could be anyone, could look like anyone. Imaginations, especially in children, were ignited in speculation. Who was this Boba with the tantalizing title of being a bounty hunter? Was he friend or foe?
This speculation was so powerful and Boba had already firmly been implanted into the minds of kids, that not even having his debut in the much hated (and questionably colored) Star Wars Holiday Special cooled the fervor his appearance had caused. All because so little was given about him and his background that everyone could build him into the character they wanted in their minds, which was stronger than anything, even death than Lucas could canonically do with the character. Boba became and will be uniquely fixed in a fan’s mind as they made him.
This is where video game RPGs and tabletop RPGs converge. Someone’s avatar, despite the chances that a character in an MMORPG will look like a lot of other avatars, the uniqueness that has been built, due to scant official information, about someone’s individual character to the player will single the sprite out in the player’s mind. Likewise, give someone a blank character sheet, fill it only with numbers and being faceless, the player can build the character up in their mind into something more than an archetype.
Just as fans have come up with ways that Boba Fett survived his fate, so do they rail against the death of what might be seen as a throw away beginning character, whether digital or analog. When introducing new people to any RPG, the Boba Fett Affect (I just made that up) should be taken into consideration with those who grew up in a post Fett world. The fastest way to turn a new player against an RPG is a total party kill type of adventure. There should be threat enough to galvanize action on the player’s part, but save the death traps for later. Even then, game masters may be surprised when a player is reluctant to accept the death of their character. That’s fine. Run with it. It might be an interesting adventure.