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Roleplaying games

Star Wars RPGs

A long time ago, in a cavern of nerds far, far away…

A few months after a friend had introduced us to our first RPG, Rifts, my best friend got a copy of the second edition of West End Games’ Star Wars RPG. We didn’t play very many times, but the one I do remember best was a very fun adventure. The simpler rules helped us focus on the action rather than flipping through a book. We were big fans of Star Wars then (original trilogy, natch), and he wasn’t a fan of Star Trek, so Star Wars was our shared affection of epic adventure among the stars. As the rules encouraged, we played a band of scruffy fighters ala Hans Solo (again, more of an original trilogy thing), leaping into battle and getting into trouble, causing more damage than being the noble hero, though we were always fighting the good fight.

As I don’t play science fiction RPGs very often, and even fewer RPGs overall that are a licensed world, Star Wars is probably my one main exception.  While I am overall a bigger fan of Star Trek, and haven’t watched Star Wars in quite awhile, there is something about it that lends itself as a great universe for roleplaying.  Taking only the original trilogy movies into account, and perhaps the excellent Knights of the Old Republic computer games, there’s still more than enough space (heh) in the Star Wars universe for a group to create their own planets, organizations, etc.

Compared to D&D and even Rifts, the rules for D6 Star Wars are quite different.  As its name suggests D6 dice are the one and only type used in the game.  I know, no cool die shapes to roll.  🙁  Now we can feel the pain of GURPS players (well some of the pain, I mean have you tried reading those rules?).  As someone who became very used to playing RPGs in “one certain way”, it can be hard upon first reading D6 how things work.  Some things are confusing, while I already had the light going off above my head as to how simple skill checks and combat worked.  Yes there can be a whole lotta D6 die rolled at certain points, but the overall system is very small and concise.  I don’t know if it was West End Game’s focus on licensed properties, but I feel this system could have been far more popular in the fantasy genre (there is a free D6 Fantasy title out now, along with D6 Adventure and D6 Space, I may get around to those in the future).  There have been 2 editions and 3 total releases of the D6 Star Wars rules; while there aren’t too many changes between them, some prefer the first release as it didn’t try to cover so much rules-wise.

When Wizards of the Coast received the license for Star Wars RPGs, they didn’t waste any time bringing it to the market.  Coinciding with the release of the second trilogy of movies, the books were absolutely glutted with images from those movies, and even the cover featured characters of the new trilogy and none from the original great ones.  If that wasn’t enough to predict what lay within, then the smattering of D20-based rules made sure to force the reader to take notice.  Where-as the D6 Star Wars RPGs are rules-light, the D20 editions took the foundation of 3.x D&D and put as much in as those books could take.  Hopefully the reader liked attacks of opportunity and other complications inherited from the then-current D20 rules.  While some things did make a bit more sense (and streamlined) compared to the D6 variation, overall most gamers waxed nostalgically about the out-of-print West End Game editions.

Over the next few years Wizards of the Coast did for Star Wars as they did for D&D, pumping out a large number of splatbooks and options.  The core rulebook was revised twice, bringing some refinements to the rules (but never simplification) as well as adding in images and artwork related to the original trilogy.

When Wizards of the Coast lost the license for the Star Wars RPG, everyone wondered who (if anyone) would get it next.  After a period of rumors and heated debates, it was revealed that Fantasy Flight Games was the next company to take a crack at creating a Star Wars RPG.  Known for their excellent production values and diverse range of games, there was little doubt that FFG could make a game that would at least match the slick look of anything Wizards of the Coast could produce.  The question everyone wanted to know was, could they make a game with a solid rules base?

At the time it raised eyebrows but more common these days, FFG released a paid beta release of their Star Wars RPG rules.  Immediately it was obvious this was a different beast from past Star Wars games, but somewhat related to their Warhammer series.  Using a unique set of die, the FFG Star Wars RPG immediately grabbed the attention of those who wanted something different, and they got it.  One of the other notable items was that this first book would focus not on the jedi but the regular, every-day Han Solo of the universe.  It seemed the spirit of West End Games was being honored indeed.

I have not personally played the FFG release, nor their companion Beginners Box, but the reviews have been quite good for this game.  I’m not keen on needing yet another set of unique die only suitable for one game, but I may still check out this game in the future, especially if FFG releases good sourcebooks and adventures.

In addition to the current support game by FFG, there are other options for playing a Star Wars game.  There’s Fate Core or Accelerated, GURPS, Savage Worlds, etc.  Many fan-made creations are already out there, and it wouldn’t be too hard to start your own, suited exactly to the kind of Star Wars game you’d like to play.  No matter what your preference of rules and what aspect(s) of the Star Wars universe you want to focus on, there’s something that can work for you.  We may be further away from the release of the original trilogy and the height of their popularity, but there’s never been a better time to start a game using them as a foundation and starting point.