Hello again, dear viewers. For this review, I’m going to be taking a look at the basic rules changes of the latest – and, as of yet, last – Star Wars roleplaying game: Star Wars Saga Edition. First, let’s have a little backstory on what got us to this point.
In 2004, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game (not to be confused with a Star Wars roleplaying game) produced the sourcebook Ultimate Adversaries, a tome of beasts, baddies, and battle droids from all over the Star Wars universe. It was a great collective title, gathering up and revising monsters from previous books, introducing a veritable rogue’s gallery of NPCs, and putting in a fair amount of droids and gadgets for use by allies and adversaries alike. What could ever top that? Well…nothing, apparently, as that was the last title produced for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game as it was. While some free web enhancements – including RPG stats for characters, droids, vehicles, and vessels from Revenge of the Sith – trickled in on the rare occasion, things were basically dead, and it looked grim for the RPG franchise as delivered by Wizards of the Coast.
Fast forward to 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is released, the American Guild of Writers strike begins, and Wizards of the Coast has stopped support for the d20 Modern system (which, ironically, took off in 2004). It is onto this stage that a book entitled Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Saga Edition Core Rulebook strides with a haughty confidence beyond its years, looking for all the world like some sort of oddly-shaped kid yelling that he, indeed, is the true heir to the throne and is better than the king that preceded him.
It seemed to get along with the public alright, as it managed to produce 13 sourcebooks. Of course, history has this nagging little habit of repeating itself. And so it did with Saga Edition; on April 20, 2010, the sourcebook Unknown Regions would be the last of its kind, as Wizards of the Coast decided the cash George Lucas and company wanted for a license renewal were just too high compared to the profit they were getting from Star Wars Saga Edition. Thus, like those that came before it, this system sang its swan song. As of the writing of this review, the license has indeed been snapped up: this time by Fantasy Flight Games, the company that produces the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game (whose fans seem, in part, none too happy to have a “kid’s property” like Star Wars tainting their big grown-up Warhammer company). So, it is with Star Wars in roleplaying games going into a state of transition from a set-in-stone past to an uncertain future that we take a look at its last, and some say best, effort. Does Star Wars Saga Edition live up the hype?
Warning: This review will be comparing and contrasting Star Wars Saga Edition to its predecessor, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. If you aren’t familiar with the rules of that system, as well as some passing familiar with d20 Modern, you may want to look at the reviews of the core rulebooks of both systems; just click on that little “Rappy’s RPG Reviews By-Score Archives” button up there.
…Are you back yet? Good. Let’s get on with the show!
The Basest of Basics
For the most part, Saga Edition runs on the same things everyone’s familiar with in the d20 system as a whole: classes, the six classic ability scores, hit die, etc. Of course, with a new edition comes new changes, and this goes right down to the basic games rules.
Saves/Defense: What, you thought Fortitude, Will, and Reflex saves were different from Defense? Silly person, that was nearly every other d20 system game! No, here, you have “Fortitude Defense”, “Will Defense”, and “Reflex Defense”. Feh. Feh I say!
Critical Hits: While replacing the Wound/Vitality system with hit points as per most d20 systems and introducing the Massive Damage Threshold from d20 Modern, it does the latter rather differently: namely, rather than being based on your Constitution, the MDT is based on your “Fortitude Defense”.
Movement: Rather than being measured in meters (as in SWRPG) or feet (as in d20 Modern) per round, movement is measured in squares per round. Why? Because Star Wars Miniatures sales, that’s why.
Species: Saga Edition has the same core player species that the SWRPG had, even going so far as to recycle the species portraits from its predecessor’s core rulebook. There aren’t many differences beyond the rules alterations that follow, but I figured the aliens still deserved a note. After all, they’re a big part of the Star Wars universe.
Classes: The classes have been greatly cut down or merged, from 9 to a mere 5: Noble, Scout, Scoundrel, Soldier, and Jedi. While some cuts I can understand – for instance, the Fringer was really just a bridge of Scout and Scoundrel traits anyway – there are others that just baffle me. Why remove the Force Adept? After all, they are vastly different than Jedi, applying a more “magical” aspect to the Force than the discipline and lightsaber-fu of the Jedi. The Tech Specialist is also gone. Why? Well…yeah, we’ll get there when we get there.
In any case, the low number of base classes is made up for by the talents system, which you may recognize as one of the core tenets of d20 Modern’s base classes. Talents are also found in the prestige classes. Unfortunately, in some ways, it feels like a bit of a bastard child between the two. While I don’t feel it’s an impossible union (although personally, I’d just give a Star Wars varnish to the d20 Modern framework. Just sayin’), the talents system that works so well on the 10-level ability score-based classes of d20 Modern seem a bit awkward when attached to the 20 levels and defined roles associated with the monikers of the Saga Edition classes. It works well enough, though, so I can’t really complain…well, complain much.,
Skills: Many skills are smashed together (for instance, Listen, Search, and Spot), and there are no longer skill ranks, simply “untrained skill user” or “trained skill user”. Non-combat skills such as Craft are also either not present or greatly diminished. This is the main reason the Tech Specialist doesn’t exist in this incarnation of the game. Three words can describe my opinions on the skill changes:
Fuck. That. Shit.
Feats: Feats are mostly unchanged, but as with skills, non-combat feats get shoved aside in favor of a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.
The Force: All Force skills and powers from SWRPG are rolled together into sub-uses of a single check: the “Use the Force” check. In some ways, this is a good thing, but I still have a few reservations on such lumping.
Ships: You want more than a few starfighters, one space transport, and two capital ships? Better shell out the cash for Starships of the Galaxy!
Droids: Not many of them either; only one of each non-battle droid archetype, again leaning heavily toward the combat side of the game as well as shying away from heavily suggesting the use of droids as heroes.
Creatures and NPCs: All three of the NPC classes of the previous edition are condensed into the blandly-named “Non-Heroic” class, and the creature types are all condensed into one type, simply labeled “Beast”. I’m noticing a trend here…
Flavor Text: Don’t expect much.
Okay, admittedly, this was kind of scatter-brained, but what can you really expect of a review that specifically focuses on the changes between somewhat similar versions of the same game? Still, let’s run down the line of of things that seem like a gift from the Force, and those that definitely smell of the tainted Dark Side.
- The talents system adds versatility to your class choices.
- The Force system’s been cleaned up, repackaged, and (for the most part) that’s a good thing.
- Those that like condensation will have a field goal.
- The combat-versus-noncombat balance is way too lopsided compared to its predecessor.
- The skills system.
- If you don’t like condensation (like me in most cases), you’ll be saddened and/or enraged.
- Sparse material for droids, creatures, vehicles, and vessels.
- Overall, the book’s “feel” is a bit sanitized and bland.
- For those that dislike the idea of only four classes, that point is a major albatross around the game’s neck.
In the end, I have to say that Star Wars Saga Edition is very much a system you will either love or hate depending on several key factors. Still, I can’t deny that it has made some improvements over its predecessor (in addition to some backslides, admittedly), so it is an above-average game for those that like its style. Star Wars Saga Edition gets 7/10.
Does this mean I’ll be doing some Star Wars Saga Edition sourcebook reviews in addition to those of SWRPG?
…Well, probably, but we’ll have to wait and see.