Friday, April 20, 2012

Star Wars RPG Options

For some random reason I've recently become somewhat obsessed with researching options for which system to run a Star Wars game in.  The old West End Games (WEG) Star Wars game (the D6 system) and Star Wars Saga Edition (SWSE; a D20 system) were obvious choices.  Another contender that I randomly stumbled upon was a Star Wars mod of Savage Worlds, a system that I'm not very familiar with at all.

Star Wars D6

I ruled out this option for the most part.  Basically the system works by rolling a variable amount of D6s based on your rank in a given area (ability or skill).  With Force Points the "handful of dice" issue is likely to be annoying, and in general I really don't like the way that the force system is handled.  I've heard that characters in general are underpowered at first, but that Jedi soon end up overshadowing everyone else.


I keep going back and forth on this one.  On the one hand, it's supposedly the most "balanced" official option, with Jedi being more combat-capable than the other classes (though some Soldiers can certainly give them a run for their money, from what I hear) but not by very much.  Unfortunately, it's also very rules-heavy as can be expected from a game that somewhat resembles 3rd edition D&D (with some of 4E's refinements, but not its streamlining).  Like D&D 3E the feat system (from what I've seen) is pretty terrible.  One specific problem brought up was that whereas one of the other systems (I forget which one) has disarming via a ranged weapon as an option in the general disarm rules (which are quite simple), SWSE "has a feat for that."  Feats are just a huge personal turnoff for me.  The condition track is also problematic, and it's actually something that I read a lot of people complaining about a while back on the WotC forums (regarding D&D, and whether or not a condition track system would be appropriate for that game).  By and large I can definitely see the ever-increasing penalties leading to a "death spiral" functionally reminiscent to the problematic SoD/SoS (save or die/save or suck) spells of pre-4E D&D.  Finally, there's a "fire and forget" mechanic for using force powers, which I think is a terrible idea.  Fortunately it doesn't sound quite as bad as Vancian casting in D&D (force points recharge per encounter), but there's still a disconnect in terms of flavor.  Jedi shouldn't have to "prepare" multiple uses of a single force power, they should get to spontaneously "cast" anything from their known list.  Perhaps this can be houseruled, though.

The talent trees sound pretty cool, as does the dark side system.  The skill system is also based on training (like D&D 4E) as opposed to skill ranks, which helps with micromanaging.  Still, the rules-heaviness of the system and the need for system-mastery (thanks to the plethora of overly-specific abilities) makes the system sound a bit "clunky."  Star Wars should be fast-paced.  Oh, and not insignificantly the books are really expensive as they're out of print (I think the core book goes for like $75 on Amazon).

Savage Worlds

At this point this seems like the most promising option.  The big selling point is that it's a fast-paced, rules-light system without a lot of specific rules to get in the way.  Unfortunately, I know very little about the system, though it seems easy enough to modify.  Skills and abilities are given a "dice rank," though unlike a game like TOR or WEG Star Wars increasing your skill does not give you additional dice, but rather a bigger die.  For example, at character creation your abilities begin at D4, and you have a certain amount of points that you can spend to upgrade that to a D6, D8, D10, and up to a D12.  You also always roll a "wild die" which is a D6 that can replace a roll on your other die (or dice), though I'm not clear on exactly how this works.  It sounds like TNs stay fairly low (I think 4 is moderate?), and modifiers seem easy enough to adjudicate (and much looser than the various modifiers that seem to be tacked onto specific actions and rules in D20 games).  Basically, it boils down to the bigger your die, the better your chance of success as opposed to an every-increasing modifier that you add onto a consistent die roll.  It's an interesting twist.  The system of Edges and Hindrances seems to be a fairly flexible advantage/disadvantage system.  It's designed to be a universal system that can accommodate a wide variety of different settings, so tacking Star Wars onto it isn't much of a stretch.  The Force fits pretty neatly into the "magic system" as an Edge, ensuring that Jedi will be no more unbalanced than a Mage in a fantasy setting for Savage Worlds.  Since I'm unfamiliar with the system, I have no idea how balanced (or unbalanced) that is, but at least there's an established baseline.  I don't really like the dark side system that the mod I found uses, but it seems easy enough to port SWSE's system into Savage Worlds without much problem.

Here is an overview of the system.  

The Goal?

I have no idea.  I won't be running any new games any time soon.  Even when I have time again (in late summer), I'm pretty committed to TOR, and by that time the public playtests for D&D Next should be well underway.  In other words, I doubt I'll have an opportunity to run a Star Wars game for either of my groups, at least not in the foreseeable future.  Still, it's a setting that I've always wanted to run (and eventually play in!) so it'll be nice to have a rough "game plan" for when the opportunity does arise.

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