Blog carnival May 2014 – Star Wars
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away Star Wars was released to an unsuspecting public, while there had been coverage in magazines before the premier nobody could have predicted the effect this single movie would have upon the genre. It spawned six films, numerous books and plenty of merchandise, including a licensed role-playing game or three.
In 1977 I was a very impressionable six years old and I loved going to see the film. There was so much going on, good versus evil, sword fights, space battles and the huge explosion as the Death Star was destroyed. I enjoyed seeing the film a couple more times and watched it when it was shown on television at Christmas time.
This may seem strange now, but this was all done before the days of home video recorders and the concept of a direct market release of a film was a number of years away.
So imagine my surprise when I heard about a licensed Star Wars roleplaying game and I could be the big hero that Luke was. This was to be for me the star of many disappointments with the game. Over the course of trying to play it I had several character concepts one or two of which were deemed unacceptable and if the games master had explained why he had placed a ban on them I would have understood.
The first edition of the game was a smart perfect bound hardback with some very evocative cover art. Art also played a big part throughout the rest of the book as well; some of the mock adverts did an amazing job of setting the tone of the game. There was also the advert in the back that enabled those in the USA to send off for a Franklin Mint plate of Han Solo.
Stats were based upon the number of dice you would roll, so Strength may have been listed as 2D6 or perhaps even 2D6+1 .
The game was also one of the first to use a dice pool mechanic, where you rolled a number of six-sided dice, added them together and tried to beat a target number set by the gamesmaster. Later revisions to this broke the difficulty down into granular increments so you could say “beat 26” rather than say “it’s a moderate difficulty”
West End Games did a fine job of creating a quick system to resolve things, although in places it was a little too free and easy for its own good. Where the system seemed to be broken was the multiple actions rule which seemed to confuse the heck out of all concerned and each group seemed to have their own take on this rather strange mechanic.
The neat thing was that West End enabled you to get straight into the action with a series of character templates that could be customized to meet the needs of the player. You could also create your own character by spending a number of dice for each stat. You could break whole dice down into three pips, each one adding +1 to the respective attribute.
Combat was a task and generally involved rolling dice to hit and damage, armour added additional dice to the roll made to soak the damage and here was another of the games quirks which was later “fixed”. Stormtrooper armour added extra dice to soak but at the cost of Dexterity dice, so a 2D Stromtrooper suddenly had a whole 1D to strike with, which nicely emulated the supposed inaccurate Stromtrooper of the movie but did make the Stormtrooper a laughing-stock as he couldn’t hit the side of a sandcrawler at fifty paces.
With such a successful game under their belts West End produced some incredible books, some of which are better than others.
Cracken’s rebel field guide.
This supplement suddenly became a hot item at the gaming table when it introduced the concept of jury rigging things and giving them non-standard upgrades. So you could amplify the damage done by a blaster but the rules were never that clear as to whether it was a sidearm or all blaster class weapons; some of which are fitted to capital ships.
Galaxy Guide 6:Tramp Freighters
A great sourcebook which expanded upon the ship and what customisations you could give it; from escape pods to concealed smuggling compartments, it’s all there.
These always started in Media Res, putting the players into the heart of the action with a little script for the players to read and get into the scene; while well written they had a problem in the fact that they were written for groups of six players, so the gamemaster had to try and split the lines between the number of players to hand. This lead to some rebels appearing to be stupid as they said things that they contradicted a paragraph later.
Second Edition (Revised)
Despite all this faults the game was a lot of fun to play, a revised second edition was eventually released which fixed all the errors of the previous second edition and added even more high quality colour artwork to the package. It was at heart the same core game except with an annoying wild die mechanic which just annoyed all the people I played with. It also improved the concept of scale so while it was easier to hit a landspeeder with a blaster pistol it did proportionally less damage.
All things come to an end and the licence for Star Wars expired and Wizards of the Coat picked it up, took all the good stuff and welded it to the D20 modern system. I thought the new mechanics were a poor fit and that it sucked harder than a mynock, although it did cover other settings beyond the default Rebellion era.
I understand that there is a new version out; I don’t think I will bother getting it as it seems to need special dice to play.
What made it special?
The many hours of fun I had playing it, from running around trying to avoid Imperial entanglements to the odd home made adventure where one group of players were Imperial agents trying to sabotage the rebel base. I was not a fan of that one since the group of Imperial agents were acting upon player information and not things that their characters would have known.
Perhaps another time I’ll recount a war story or two 😀