Monday, June 8, 2009

A long time ago, in a suburb not so far away… Star Wars in RPG’s

A friend of mine is going to be starting up a Star Wars game soon.  It looks like he is going to be running Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars Saga Edition .  Even though I am not a big fan of that edition (see below), I am looking forward to playing.

I am of an age where I grew up on the original Star Wars Trilogy.  To put it another way, I can quote large chunks of the dialogue of the movies, including much of the alien dialogue.  Not surprisingly I enjoy gaming in the Star Wars Universe.  Luckily for me, over the years there have been a number of RPGs that have allowed me to do just that.

West End Games Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game (D6)

As a teenager it was agony to wait until Christmas to play this game. West End made several versions of this game, all using their D6 system.  It had one of the easiest character creation systems I had ever seen.  Simply pick a template and assign 7D to your skills.  No additional tweaking needed.

This made Star Wars D6 the perfect pick up game.  Character creation was finished in 5 minutes.  The rest of the game was similarly fast paced.  In the Game Master’s section, it even suggests that it is better to let an imperfect, but quickly executed, plan succeed than a perfect plan which grinds the game to a halt.

The downside of this game is the same as the upside: the simplicity of the system.  While it works well in most cases, the simplicity of the D6 system meant that it had some difficulty handling anything that went too far afield from the basic human (or maybe wookiee) hero archetype.  Giving an alien something as basic as being a good climber, sonar, or water-breathing was not handled very well by the rules.  Power armor of any type was pretty poorly handled as well.

Honestly I didn’t care.  Despite any flaws it has, West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game is still an amazingly fun game.  I would play it tomorrow if I could.

Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Roleplaying Game (d20)

SWRevised I am including both the original Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars Roleplaying Game and the Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised together because the systems are both very close.  In fact, I would hazard a guess that the primary motivation for creating the revised edition was to tie in with the movie Star Wars - Episode II, Attack of the Clones .

It was a bit of a shock when I first moved to this version of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game.  The simplicity of the D6 system was replaced by the complexity of the d20 system. 

Despite the change, it was a fun system.  The more robust ruleset allowed for more character customization and better handling of different character races.  Also, the learning curve was minimized for anyone who was familiar with other d20 games like Dungeons & Dragons 3E.

The game also had a relatively innovative Wounds/Vitality system in place of the hit point system common in other d20 games.  Wounds were representative of actual physical damage while vitality represented the ability to get out of the way of serious injury.  Critical hits became even more critical because they would bypass your vitality and go against your wounds directly.  Additionally, Jedi Force Powers ran off of your vitality.  Using too many too quickly would leave you vulnerable.

The biggest downside to this version of Star Wars is that it lacks the speed of West End’s RPG.  However, it is a deliberate trade off, and one that a Game Master needs to make when choosing the system for his campaign.

Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Saga Edition

SWSaga Star Wars Saga Edition is a bit odd.  It was created while Wizards of the Coast was developing Dungeons & Dragons 4E but released the year prior to it.

As a result, Star Wars Saga Edition has an odd mix of 3E style and 4E style rules, not to mention some systems unique to itself.  Prestige Classes, Base Attack Bonus, and Hit Points are very 3E.  Skills, Jedi Powers, and Feat progression are very 4E.  The talent system for class features is unique to Saga Edition.

The problem with this is that the system shows its seams at times.  It feels a bit as if it is incomplete.  I sometimes wonder if, like the Book of Nine Swords, Star Wars Saga Edition was merely an effort to “stealth playtest” key D&D 4E concepts.

I suppose the biggest disappointment for me with this system is not more like D&D 4E.  The power system seems like it would work very well in the context of Star Wars.  Stormtroopers seem like custom made minions.  If they had released this after D&D 4E, using the full suite of 4E rules, this could have been an outstanding product.

As it is, it just seems like a missed opportunity.


Scafloc said...

At least saga edition comes in a nifty square book format no?

PS: If you are serious about d6, the game I run on occasional thursdays is located on your way home...

rook103 said...


Have you made your Jedi/Plate-mage yet?