Star Wars D20
I finally broke down and picked up the core book for the new Star Wars using Wizards d20 system. What drove me to this you ask? Well, I decided that for better or worse, I really wanted to see what a non-D & D d20 game looked like. There are others that I could have chosen, but Star Wars seemed the best bet for me. At least with Star Wars, there would be some cool pictures and background information that I would enjoy reading, even if I thought the game sucked.
I finally broke down and picked up the core book for the new Star Wars using Wizards d20 system. What drove me to this you ask? Well, I decided that for better or worse, I really wanted to see what a non-D & D d20 game looked like. There are others that I could have chosen, but Star Wars seemed the best bet for me. At least with Star Wars, there would be some cool pictures and background information that I would enjoy reading, even if I thought the game sucked. Now I can be comfortable in spending the money in a month or so for the d20 Call of Cthulhu.
The d20 rules seem to work. I know there are still some rabid holdouts that refuse to put away their needlessly complex 2nd edition rules, but the rules work. I started out by flipping through the book to find all of the cool pictures and annoy my wife by imitating Yoda while repeating quotes from him that are liberally spread through the book. I was actually amazed at how easily the d20 system translated into another genre.
I managed to read most of the book in just one evening, because so much of the rules were the same as the ones in D&D. There are some differences, don't get me wrong. I haven't let a cleric run around with a blaster since I was 13.
The character classes followed the usual trend, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, Sorcerer and Bard. Actually they were Soldier, Fringer, Scout, Force Adept, Jedi Counselor, Noble and Scoundrel. There is also a Bounty Hunter Prestige class. I can't explain why, but the classes make a bit of sense and don't really bother me. I remember reading the Alternity rules and not really grooving on the character classes. Some of the names have changed, such as hit points are now vitality, but a gamer experienced with Dungeons and Dragons won't have a problem.
The Force be with you, always. Here was an area of rules that I was sweating. I didn't know if WoTC was going to turn the Force into a cheap arcane spell knock-off or what. I was also wondering how complex the rules would be for the force and what they were going to do about the Dark Side. The Force is used to increase die rolls. Your character's level determines how many d6 one point of the Force will grant. The more I think about this mechanism, the better I really like it. This means my Jedi can put points in Tumbling or a similar skill and then use Force points to jump 100' across a chasm and do a triple roll while lighting a cigarette before chopping the Bothan's legs out from under him. By having the force add extra dice to the roll, it gives it the flexibility the Force needs to really do want players will want it to do. At the lowest levels a point of the Force will only give you an extra d6 to add to your skill roll. Up at Mace Windu's level we're talking about 7d6 for each point of the Force that Bad A^% Mother#%$@&* whips out on "Big Brain Brad".
Your character can choose to call upon the Dark Side as well. It works the same as the "good side" but at the lower levels will provide you with more dice. The Dark Side only seems more powerful, my student. Hmmm? Yes! Only seems more powerful it does. The more your character makes use of the Dark Side the closer he becomes to giving over completely. The comparison of how many Force points and how many Dark Side points a character has, is the closest this game comes to having an alignment for characters. A character that has really been racking up the Dark Side points can Atone, but it isn't easy and will take the character quite a while.
What about the droids you ask? Are they in the book, do they work? As near as I can tell, they work. The rules for using droids are roughly the same as designing any NPC. The only difference is in choosing the model and the class of droid that's being designed. Droids can't be used as PC's, but they also don't seem to be something that is going to make the GM's task even harder than it normally would be.
I noticed when I bought the game off of Amazon, some people were complaining about the vehicle and starship rules. I have to admit those are the first rules I've generally ignored when running a sci-fi, space-based campaign. The rules aren't really the greatest. I found the starship combat rules a bit vague, and the explanation of the starship template lacking. That being said, I think I am actually going to try and use the rules. They aren't the worst rules I've read. Heck, I actually tried using the starship rules in FTL2448 from TriTac. (Anyone else remember that game?) Hopefully the rules will be better explained in a starship supplement. I haven't poked around enough to see if there is one, but I'm sure there will be.
All the way in the very back of the book was something kind of interesting. I noticed a chapter on conversion. I was thinking it might be about converting D&D characters over to Star Wars for a Spelljammer sort of thing. It's actually a chapter for converting your West End Game Star Wars characters over to the new system. The last time I read the WEG rules was about 6 years ago, but the conversion chapter looked like it covered all of the bases.
All thoughout the book were sidebars discussing the different eras of play for Star Wars. There are three recognized eras within the rules. Late Republic (Episodes I - III), Late Empire (IV - VI) and New Republic. If you want to stay within a certain era and aren't sure what supplements you'll want to look into getting, check the back of the book. Each book for Star Wars should have a symbol or two to show which eras the book will be valid for. I kind of like that. I don't really plan on buying a lot of the Star Wars supplements, and the ones I do will be pretty generic ones. If I was concentrating on a New Republic setting, I wouldn't want to bother with a supplement that's only going to deal with the ending days of the First Republic.
Overall, I have to say that I think I am going to like playing the d20 Star Wars. While just different enough from D&D to have a separate flavor, it won't take me any time at all to get used to this variation. I don't know if I am going to try and run a campaign for this game, but I am definitely going to look around for some opportunities to try the game out. A complaint I do have is with WoTC's marketing department. About two hours after ordering my copy, I found out that after the release of Episode II they will be releasing an entirely new edition of the rules to cover all of the new information and cool stuff. I really wish they had just chosen to put out an Episode II supplement, and then wait for Episode III before redoing the core rulebook. Oh well, I guess they just couldn't pass up the chance to gouge players for an extra $25.