Review: Star Wars Hero's Guide

Copyright Robert J Defendi © 2004

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

"maybe there's something fundamentally wrong with me, but I loved this class"

To date the Star Wars line has been light on books that expand classes (like Sword and Fist for D&D), so the Star Wars Hero's Guide was needed and long in the coming. It has only 160 pages of information, but is contained by a hardbound cover- like most of the Star Wars books-which is a plus in my opinion.

I'd like to start with a couple of words about the look of the book. The cover is nice, and harks back to the old movie posters. The interior art is decent, and the layout is good. The biggest thing that stands out is that they do many of the things the old West End version did, including imperial recruiting posters and corporate logos. Problem is, West End did it much better.

Continuing on to text: this book started off as if it was trying to get on my bad side. First it stressed a little too much that the information inside is optional, which to me sounds like the writer covering his bases if he isnít sure how the book will effect play balance. It began to regain ground by launching into a discussion on dramatic hooks and how they affect character, which earned it points, but then came chapter 2Ö

Chapter 2 is all archetypes. If you arenít familiar with them, archetypes are basically a guide to multiclassing to suit a certain character concept. Iíve always thought this was a stupid concept and a waste of pages (I can handle my own multiclassing strategy, thank you). This chapter tries to pay lip service to making itself useful by adding three new abilities to each archetype which are swapped out for certain class abilities, but this just means you can never get those original abilities, since you are already multiclassing! Some of these would have made nice prestige classes; I would have preferred five-level prestige classes for the Imperial and Rebel officers, for instance, and as itís presented, it just doesnít work for me.

Chapter 3 starts with new uses for old skills. I liked this section, because it helps to have rules for things like seduction, and I donít like the addition of new skills to a game like D&D. It also addresses something that really bugged me in the original game, which was a lack of description on how to do those giant leaps Jedis perform so often (itís the move object force skill). Next come the feats, which are okay, but the best part are the lightsaber form feats, an idea that I think will really add to the game.

Chapter 4 describes prestige classes, including classes like the Chief Engineer and Sharpshooter. This is a good section and adds some nice variety to the career path of non-force using Star Wars characters.

Chapter 5 includes factions, and rules on how to handle characterís connections to these factions, much like in Everquest. Each of these factions have nice little five-level prestige classes, but most importantly of all, they have feats that are unique to them, a la Forgotten Realms. I felt this was a nice way to add flavor to a game, and think that more WotC products should do something similar.

Chapter 6 is about technology, but in addition to the obvious gear it talks about some important but often-ignored subjects like loans, interstellar and local communications, and individual communication systems, such as what you might find on a ship. It then moves on to the new equipment, including a section on cybernetics, in case you have a habit of fighting lightsaber duels with Sith Lords.

Chapter 7 is a sparse little section on combat. I donít know if I minded how small it was. It covered important information like aiming (but not well) and throwing lightsabers (this one was okay), and I donít need more rules bogging down my d20 combat. I would have liked it more if it had done a better job on the subjects it treated.

Chapter 8 is the obligatory force chapter. It has new force feats and mostly consisted of information on different force sects, which didnít appeal much to me, but will probably appeal to others. I do like anything that makes a universe richer.

Chapter 9 is the chapter on droids. It starts off with information on droids as henchmen, then includes two prestige classes, the Espionage Droid, and my personal favorite, the Berserker Droid. Okay, maybe thereís something fundamentally wrong with me, but I loved this class. There is something about the idea of a droid going nuts and hacking into people that just appealed to me. Maybe I saw Alien or Saturn V too many times as a kid.

Conclusion

Despite a few problems, I had an overall good opinion of theStar Wars Hero's Guide. Itís nothing that would make me rush out and demand it at my local store, but if I played enough Star Wars and had begun to exhaust my character options, Iím sure Iíd feel a greater need to possess this book. Overall, Iíd suggest buying it if youíre an avid Star Wars player and if you can get your GM to approve all the character options.

Editor's Note

Star Wars Hero's Guide retails for $29.95 USD. For more information, visit your local gaming store or go to the Wizards of the Coast website at: http://www.wizards.com/