Thursday, August 21, 2014

A New Hope

When I was about 14, I got the first edition of West End Games' Star Wars RPG as a Christmas present. Like the Christmas before when I got the AD&D 2nd edition Players' Handbook, I immediately ran down to the basement alone, sat on this musty old recliner, and dove into the book with an eagerness only children can naturally have.

Needless to say, an RPG set in the Star Wars universe was a guaranteed home run with my friends. That following year, I probably played more of the WEG Star Wars RPG than any other game since I first got into D&D. I loved the elegant simplicity of it: you roll a bunch of dice, compare it to a target number, and you either suceeded or failed. That single, unified mechanic was mind-blowing to me at the time, as I was used to old-school D&D, or even the Palladium games, with their myriad of various sub-systems (casting spells, combat, non-weapon proficiencies, thief skills, etc.)

We had a whole campaign built around this alternate universe where the Rebellion lost the Battle of Endor. Luke had turned to the Dark Side, he and Darth Vader struck down the Emperor, and as Vader himself prophesized in The Empire Strikes Back, they ruled the galaxy as father and son. One of my biggest adventures back then was the battle against the armed and fully-operational Death Star. The New Rebellion had stolen the plans to build their own Death Star laser. As it charged up in a valley on a rocky planet, the Rebellion had to hold back waves of TIE fighters and AT-ST Walkers trying to bomb the canyon. Another memorable adventure had the players escape from a prison onboard a Star Destroyer. The entire adventure saw the PCs hiding, disguising, and fighting Imperial troops all over the Star Destroyer while they tried to get a distress signal out to the remnants of Rogue Squadron. I've probably even forgotten more memories of that old RPG and the crazy hijinks we had while playing it. Looking back, it was definitely the highlight of my teenage years of roleplaying.

The d20 version of Star Wars came out during what I now call "The Dark Times," where lack of friends and an unhealthy obsession with videogames resulted in playing virtually no tabletop RPGs for most of my 20's. I did have the first version of the book, though. I remember being unimpressed. To me, I always thought of Star Wars as a game of high-flying heroics, epic adventure, and bold stunts. d20, with its tactical combat and endless feats and skill lists, seemed like an awkward fit to me. Again; I never actually played it, but I was also never particularly excited to do so.

But now, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) has taken up the mantle with their latest Star Wars RPG. For those not in the know, FFG has released two standalone Star Wars RPG corebooks. Edge of the Empire emphasizes the seedier, fringe-elements of the Star Wars universe, with stats and abilities suitable for smugglers, bounty hunters, and the like. The second book, which was released not too long ago, is Age of Rebellion, and covers more of the Galactic Civil War, with stats and abilities covering Rebel agents, spies, and such. A third corebook, apparently titled Force and Destiny, will be coming out next year. These books are all standalone, you don't need to own all three. All three books are also meant to be played during the years of the original trilogy (though I'm not sure how they plan on doing this with Force and Destiny. Maybe that one will be in the prequel times?)

The question that naturally comes up is this: do these new Star Wars RPGs compare well with WEG's classic incarnation? Well, my answer to that is this: they are better. 

But I'll talk about that more in the next blog entry...

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