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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Game Day: Saga Edition Revisited

by Ken Newquist / August 28, 2016
Darth Vader reaches toward the reader. The words "Star Wars Saga Edition" overlay the dark lord of the Sith.
The cover for Star Wars: Saga Edition. Credit: Wizards of the Coast.

Star Wars: Saga Edition is back ... at least with the Blackrazors. Our original Saga Edition run took place from 2008-2011 during the dark days of the Edition Wars. Turned off by 4e, burned out on 3e, we turned to a system that offered the crunchiness we enjoyed with a campaign setting we loved.

Set in the Knights of the Old Republic era, the Shadows of the Force campaign ran 57 sessions including two convention games at our infrequent homegrown Nuke(m)Cons. Now we're back, if only to visit.

We're not abandoning our D&D 5e campaigns. 5e crystalized much of what we loved about Saga Edition while simplifying the rule set even further, and we're still greatly enjoying our "playtest" campaigns (even if those campaigns are now nearly 2 years old...).

But Saga Edition ... well, nostalgia's a powerful thing. We told some great stories as part of Shadows of the Force, and more than a few never had their final chapter written. One of those stories was the Mandalorian Wars, the epic war that provided the backdrop for the Knights of the Old Republic video games and comic books. With Episode 12: Tales of the Balanced Recursion we're going back to that time period.

Our characters are part of the crew of the Balanced Recursion, a heavy freighter belonging to Binary Transports (a corporation founded by player characters in the early days of Shadows of the Force). The ship is part of the corporation's "mercy fleet", covertly working to rescue Jedi stranded on (or behind) the frontlines.

The campaign features two squads:

  • Green Squad: A more covert squad comprisd of scouts and scoundrels, occasionally augmented by a Jedi padawan.
  • Gold Squad: A combat squad comprised largely of former soldiers.

The Green Squad is the actual player character squad; amusingly the Gold Squad exists because one of our player's got so excited about the campaign (despite not having the time to play in it) that he created a half-dozen quasi-NPCs.

Hello Old Friend

Returning to Saga Edition is like slipping into an old, comfortable pair of jeans ... and realizing that they have a few more holes than you remembered and that annoying ink stain on the back pocket from when your pen exploded. Not that they aren't comfortable, not that you don't still love wearing them ... but their age is showing.

Saga Edition did a lot of things right, and you can see echoes of D&D 5th edition in it, far more so than 4e. It retains the bones of D&D 3rd Edition -- particularly with regards to feats -- but it got rid of the game-slowing mechanics like iterative attacks (you need a feat for that) and avoided the proliferation of base classes we saw in Pathfinder. While it did have numerous prestige classes and races, it never moved beyond the five base classes (jedi, noble, scoundrel, scout, soldier). It kept things interesting for those base classes by providing talent trees -- suites of skills that look an awful lot like the archetype abilities that D&D 5e classes have.

It's also my favorite sandbox system (as long as that sandbox is Star Wars). The game let you easily shake and bake a campaign by taking the core rules, adding in a campaign setting (Knights of the Old Republic, Rebellion Era, Legacy Era) and then providing a focus through a rules-specific book. Want to operate on the fringe of the galaxy? Mix in Scum and Villainy. Prefer to serve on the front lines? Use Galaxy at War instead.

The system wasn't without its faults and while it achieved some efficiencies, others escaped it. 5e's concept of counting diagonal squares as regular squares for movement on a battlemap may cause some grognards to loose sleep, but it speeds up the game tremendously. Reducing the cost of diagonal moves in Saga Edition required a feat. The game tamed the base classes, but talents, feats, and skill uses proliferated as new rule books were introduced. On the whole that wasn't a bad thing -- the ability to mix and match supplemental rules was part of what made the game so great for sandboxing -- but it did necessitate the creation of the Star Wars RPG Index website.

It's a lot crunchier than D&D 5th Edition, all but requiring an automated Excel spreadsheet to build higher level player characters and NPCs. If Saga Sheet ever stops working in Excel, we're going to be in for a world of hurt (or will need a lot of time for macro debugging). But generally speaking it's a good kind of crunchy, the sort that fits our kind of Star Wars story telling and lets us build the sorts of characters we like to play.

Campaign Resources

With the new story arc underway, we've been doing some light maintenance on our Star Wars web presence.