Star Wars Role-Playing Game
Reviewed by Brent Knorr, Copyright© 2000
Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion
Welcome to the newest incarnation of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. Bill Slavicsek is one of the designers of the game and is well qualified to do the job. He started at West End Games in 1986. He was a member of the design team for West End's version of the Star Wars RPG, eventually becoming the Line Director for the Star Wars line of products from West End. He is also the author of "A Guide to the Star Wars Universe."
This new version of the Star Wars RPG is based on the d20 System used in Dungeons and Dragons, so anyone familiar with that system should have no problems learning how to play this new game. For those who aren't familiar with the d20 System, I would recommend picking up the STAR WARS Invasion of Theed Adventure Game, also from Wizards of the Coast. It provides a good introduction to the Star Wars RPG.
Now on to the actual game. You have several options when it comes to generating characters. First there is a Fast-Track Character Creation system, where you simply choose a hero template. This is basically a pre-designed character that just needs a name and a few other details to be ready to play. There are 25 templates provided. This system is laid out in much the same way as the old West End Games Character Templates.
The next method of character creation is the Random Character Creation. This is closest to the Dungeons and Dragons Character Creation method. You roll four six sided dice for your Ability Scores, choose your Species, choose your Class, Assign and Adjust Ability Scores, record Species and Class Features, select Skills, Feats and Equipment, and record your Combat and Skill Numbers.
A third method is the Planned Character Creation. You start with all your ability scores being 8 and you have 25 points to spend to increase them. An 8 costs 0 points, 9 through 14 cost an additional point each, 14 through 16 cost 2 additional points each, 17 and 18 cost 3 additional points each. (For example, to get an 18 would cost a total of 16 of your 25 points.) This is all laid out on a table for easy reference.
The Star Wars RPG uses the same six abilities as Dungeons and Dragons: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Chapter One describes what these abilities are and gives several examples for each one. An interesting note in this chapter is that you get to raise one ability score by one point every fourth level. This rule exists in Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons as well, but I don't believe it was in earlier editions.
Chapter Two describes the species that are available to play and the various Ability Adjustments, Skills, Languages and other special features the race may have. The species described are Humans, Cereans, Ewoks, Gungans, Ithorians, Mon Calamari, Rodians, Sullustans, Trandoshans, Twi'leks, and Wookiees. It's a decent list of choices to start with, but is something that is just screaming for a future supplement.
Next up is Chapter Three: Classes. There are eight main classes, known as hero classes in the Star Wars RPG. They are Fringer, Noble, Scoundrel, Scout, Soldier, Force Adept, Jedi Consular, and Jedi Guardian. You can also create Multi Class characters that combine two or more of the main classes. The classes are all fairly well described, which each class having some special abilities and restrictions. Again, it's a good enough list to start with, but it would be nice to see a few more choices available in the future.
The next Chapter deals with Skills. All players start with a certain number of skills based on Species and Class and can gain additional skills as they gain additional levels. Although the Skill System used in the d20 System is a big improvement over previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, I would still have to say it is one of the weak points of the system. There are three types of skills: Class Skills, which are skills that are listed in the description of each Class as being the specialty skills for that Class. You can gain up to four ranks in a Class Skill. Then there are Cross-Class Skills, which cost twice as much as Class Skills and are any Skills that are not on your particular Class's Skill list but are not exclusive to a particular Class. You can gain up to two ranks in a Cross-Class Skill. The third category of Skills are Exclusive Skills, which are only available to certain Classes.
There are 35 General skills described and 17 Force Based skills described. The Force Based skills are divided into four Types; Alter, Control, Sense, and Force. The type indicates which Feat is a prerequisite needed to purchase ranks in the skill. The Alter, Control and Sense skills are exclusive skills to the Force using Classes. Skills of the Force type can be learned as a Cross Class skill by other Classes. To confuse things a little more, some of the exclusive skills have a minimum level at which they become Class Skills for the Force using Classes. Prior to that level they are Cross Class skills for that Class. I suspect that after you use the system for awhile, the skills are relatively easy to use, but it for a first read through, it took quite a bit of work to get things sorted out. The actual descriptions of the skills are well done and reasonably detailed. I must say though that the Pilot skill really annoys me. The description of it states " Use this skill to operate a vehicle, whether it performs in land, sea, air, or space." I really think that this should have been broken up into four separate skills, probably more. Several of the other skills have the same problem. I'm sure the idea is to keep the game simpler, but in this case it may have gone a little too far.
Chapter Five deals with Feats. Feats are similar to Talents in Rolemaster in that they affect something else about your character. They may affect a skill or an Ability score, they can give bonuses to attacks or defense, or they can give a bonus in particular situations. In the Star Wars RPG there are two types of feats: General Feats, which don't have any special rules, and Force-based Feats, which give characters access to Force-based skills or allow them to access the Force to accomplish amazing actions. There are roughly 60 General Feats, including such things as Blind-fight, Infamy, Martial Artist, and Two-Weapon Fighting. There are 19 Force Feats described, including Alter, Sense, Control, Force Lightning and Throw Lightsaber.
Chapter Six covers the leftover topics needed for Character Creation, such as naming your character, age, height and weight determination, appearance, personality, reputation, Saving Throws, Movement and Encumbrance.
Chapter Seven covers Equipment. It has pretty much what you would expect for a Star Wars setting. Chapter Eight covers combat. Again, anyone familiar with Dungeons and Dragons will be familiar with the combat system presented here. Once you adjust to the fact that Vitality Points are the same as Hit Points in D&D and Wound Points equal your Constitution, you'll be fine. If you aren't familiar with the Combat system, there are several good examples given, and if you purchase the Invasion of Theed Adventure Game, it will familiarize you with the system as well.
Chapter Nine covers the Force and Force Points. These work very much as they did in the old West End Games system. You gain Force Points by gaining levels and by performing Dramatic Acts of Heroism. To qualify as an act of dramatic heroism, an action must fulfill three criteria: It must accomplish a significant task in the defense of good or the defeat of evil, it must occur at a dramatically appropriate time (usually the climax of an adventure), and it should require significant risk on the part of the hero. Force Points can be spent to add one or more bonus dice to all task resolution die rolls made by a character for 1 full round, including attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks, and saving throws, but not damage rolls. The type of bonus dice depends on your characters level, Force Sensitivity and on whether the Light Side or the Dark Side was called.
Chapters Ten and Eleven cover Vehicles and Starships, including rules for calculating travel times and a basic starship combat system (which I haven't gone through in a great amount of detail).
The second half of the book is the Gamemaster's section. It covers Gamemastering Star Wars, Eras of Play, Allies and Opponents, a chapter on Droids and a sample adventure. I haven't gone through these chapters in detail yet, but they look fairly decent. It looks like there are some additional "Prestige Classes" such as Bounty Hunters and Crimelords that work a little different than regular classes. There are profiles of some of the major characters in the Star Wars universe, some creatures such as Mynocks, Rancors and Tauntauns. There are also some sample/generic NPC's described for the Gamemaster that look like they would be quite useful.
The back of the book has conversion guidelines for converting West End Games Star Wars characters to Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Characters. It looks reasonably well done, although I haven't tried it out on any of my old characters yet. Looking at some of the tables though, I'm sure there are a quite a few Force Skills that were available in the West End Games version that don't seem to be dealt with in this one. Perhaps it will have the makings of a future article!
Overall the Star Wars RPG seems to be a well thought out and designed system. I think in some ways it will be more balanced than the old WEG system, but perhaps not as flexible or fast moving. It's more expensive than the Dungeons and Dragons books were ($34.95 US as opposed to $19.95 US) but is in line with other products of this size and production quality. I'm looking forward to seeing what future supplements are like.
Contact Information: Star Wars RPG is produced by Wizards of the Coast, Inc., under licence from Lucasfilm Ltd. Their contact details are as follows:
Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
P.O. Box 707
Renton, WA 98957-0707