Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Jaquays’ Mos Eisley Map

 Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”

Carl Sagan

Jennell Jaquays passed away on January 10, 2024, after battling Guillain-Barré syndrome. I never met her, never corresponded with her. She left behind a rich, enduring legacy of work for the roleplaying game and computer gaming industries as well as advocacy work for LGBTQ rights. Although I have a few vintage copies of Judges Guild materials, they don’t include Jaquays’ Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia (something I should remedy for my collection of “old school” Dungeons & Dragons material). But one piece of her artwork served as a major inspiration for me: the amazing full-color, double-sided 17x22 map of downtown Mos Eisley starport and the infamous cantina included in the first Star Wars Roleplaying Game adventure Tatooine Manhunt.

When the adventure released in 1988 Star Wars barely occupied an awkward place in popular culture such as it was back then; a fad of earlier times, a lingering has-been media property most kids had grown beyond. Many fans kept their treasured action figures, trading cards, board games, paperbacks, and comics, but they’d been eclipsed by other interests. The roleplaying game helped resurrect some enthusiasm for Star Wars among devoted fans, but the game license was considered “dead” by some at West End Games when in 1991 Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire released...and breathed new and prosperous life into that galaxy far, far away.

For many gamers in those bleak, pre-Zahn-novel times the roleplaying game rekindled our love for Star Wars with its reprinting of long-forgotten movie stills and pre-production sketches, familiar starships, planets, and character archetypes, and thrilling action in a universe where our own adventures happened just off screen. It inspired us to escaoe to and explore the universe we’d loved so much, even allowing some of us to officially create new material to expand it.

Jaquays' cantina floorplans.
Tatooine Manhunt was perhaps the last product I bought from the venerable Branchville Hobby shop just down the road from where I grew up in suburban Connecticut. The adventure was the first supplement I bought after the original Star Wars game’s hardcover rulebook and sourcebook release in 1987. The game’s earliest adventures were saddle-stitched books with a card-stock cover, a strip of counters for the popular Star Warriors wargame, and a folded 17x22 double-sided, full-color map insert (all requiring the book to be shrink-wrapped). Those early adventure maps enhanced the game and fired the imagination: the schematics for a Lambda-class shuttle, star-liner deck plans, Victory-class Star Destroyer plans, and, of course, Jaquays’ map of Mos Eisley and the cantina.

Map detail: the cantina (16) and
Market Place (5).
One side depicted the starport’s “Central Section” with numbered locations, all keyed into the adventure’s early chapter detailing the setting and resources (and trouble) heroes might find there. The maps are works of art, created in an age before computer graphics and layout. The downtown map depicts a maze of alleys, raised walkways, an occasional courtyard or plaza, a few larger, straight thoroughfares, and a some obvious docking bays (including the infamous Docking Bay 94). Stippling indicates sand patterns clinging to building walls and meandering across the streets, and calls out details on beveled building edges, struts, and numerous domes. The level of detail is amazing. Look closer and you’ll find careful touches: speeders parked outside Spaceport Speeders; colorful awnings around the Market Place; stairwells leading down into cooler dwellings; moisture vaporators tucked away in corners and alleys; and bits of junk, bins, and debris peppered throughout the map, all helping to bring the place to life. The cantina map, looking like it was scaled for use with the official 25mm miniatures, syncs up with scenes from the film. Even the cantina has the stippled sand texture around every piece of furniture, wall edge, and even snaking across the floors. I’ve treasured every copy of that map I’ve come across over the years. If I could I would have walked off with a pile of those maps, both to hoard and give away to friends and fans. I still have a few floating around my game collections, maybe even one tucked away in my diorama box. I really need to find a spare and have it framed.

Map Detail: Docking Bay 94.
The original rulebook and sourcebook provided the basic information about the Star Wars universe – weapons, equipment, vehicles, starships, aliens, beasts – but didn’t offer much about specific adventure locations. The Mos Eisley maps gave gamemasters a rich, specific setting in which to play, numerous buildings beyond the 22 noted in the map key and described in the adventure, alleys and avenues for chases, docking bays for escape objectives, and plenty of room for gamemasters and players to add their own depth. The cantina map also helped players visualize the place where their Tatooine escapades inevitably drew them. Both were graphically detailed, wonderfully rendered, and pieces of artwork in their own right. The map and the associated location source material remain the central reason why I still think Tatooine Manhunt is the third most influential d6 Star Wars Roleplaying Game products.

Map Detail: Grungy back alley.
The maps formed the basis not only of my own gaming group’s misadventures in that first published scenario, but inspired me to revisit Mos Eisley countless times in game sessions. Few things inspire players more than spreading a cool map in the middle of the table and giving them free reign to explore it...all while other forces work against them according to their own motives. For those new to the “expanded universe” with experience only with the films available in those days, Mos Eisley was a familiar starting point to a galaxy full of adventure. Jaquays’ map was essential to bringing that to life.

The mini-game map at right; can you
find the corresponding section
on Jaquays' map on the left?
When I worked at West End Games from 1993-98 the Mos Eisley map surfaced several times as iconic artwork illustrating the game universe. The company reprinted both maps in Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley, but in grayscale in a smaller format; Mos Eisley reduced to fit on an 8.5x11-inch page, the cantina only a half-page illustration...not terribly impressive. In 1997 the Mos Eisley Adventure Set box included a reprint of the original full-color map along with Galaxy Guide 7, a booklet of short adventures set in Mos Eisley, and 12 metal miniatures. The map also formed the basis for the Mos-Eisley Shoot-Out promotional mini-game released on the eve of West End’s bankruptcy. For a quick promotional flyer the company didn’t want to commission any new artwork, so it used existing assets and put an in-house writer in charge of condensing rules, scenarios, and ad copy onto a double-sided 11x17 folded piece (that person being Yours Truly). Setting the skirmish game in one of the most infamous Star Wars locations made sense, especially since we had Jaquays’ map to use as a game board.

Yours Truly at left running a game
on the Mos Eisley diorama at a 
convention in the mid 1990s.
Doing conventions for West End I wanted to design a showpiece game diorama where I could run quick Star Wars roleplaying encounters in a familiar setting with the company’s hoard of 25mm painted miniatures. What other familiar setting could offer a docking bay, public square, cantina, and labyrinthine alleys all ripe for different kinds of encounters? I was working with a 3x6-foot base, so I looked at the Mos Eisley map, determined what would fit the space at 25mm scale, and transferred the street plan to my base, modeling buildings as best I could to imitate what I saw on the top-down map. The result was my traveling Mos Eisley diorama, which I hauled around to different conventions to run demo games in the late 1990s. I still have it stored beneath my wargaming table and set it up every now and then: you can find photos of that and my other crafting work at “Schweig’s Gaming Roadshow Gallery.”

The continuity established by those first maps of Mos Eisley has long since faded, ignored by some out of convenience, then swept away after Disney acquired Lucasfilm and erased all “expanded universe” material from the core film-based canon, enabling new storytellers to create their tales. Other maps of the infamous starport have since appeared, rearranged, re-imagined, with new details, in isometric formats no-doubt computer enhanced for clarity. For fans of the original roleplaying game like me they pale in comparison to the sheer sense of wonder Jaquays’ first maps gave players as they started exploring the galaxy far, far away with their own gaming adventures.

Map Detail: Used speeders for sale.
Each person has their own unique perspective, even among those who share particular experiences. Many have shared reminiscences of and tributes to Jaquays since her passing, each a facet of her life we might have missed but can still appreciate. For me her map of Mos Eisley will always embody that first sense of excitement returning to familiar territory in the Star Wars universe after years of languishing, all but forgotten. Even today the map reminds me of numerous roleplaying game adventures run in that setting, of games hosted on the starport diorama I built, of how central the game was to me as a writer, creator, and fan. While the original rulebooks got me started, my real journey began with inspiration from that map. Clear skies, Jennell, wherever you may fly.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


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