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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

Star Wars Rebellion Era Campaign Guide

by Ken Newquist / April 8, 2014
Cover art for the Rebellion Era Campaign Guide.

Star Wars Rebellion Era Campaign Guide

  • Star Wars Rebellion Era Campaign Guide
  • By Rodney Thompson, Sterling Hershey, Own. K.C. Stephens and J.D. Wiker
  • Wizards of the Coast
  • 159 pages
  • This article originally appeared on GameCryer.com and is reprinted with permission

The Rebellion Era is one of Star Wars most iconic settings. Paradoxically, this can make it one of the hardest to write a campaign guide for. Much of the setting was covered in the Star Wars: Saga Edition core rule book or covered in supplements like Threats of the Galaxy and Scum and Villainy. The Rebellion Era Campaign Guide addresses this by doing its best to document the unexplored corners of that galaxy, far, far away by with organizational insights into the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire, new species feats and character backgrounds, Rebel-friendly prestige classes, and a host of era-specific NPCs and vehicles.

The end result is a book that diehard Rebellion Era fans should enjoy, particularly those who've delved into the far reaches of the_Star Wars_Expanded Universe. It's also useful for anyone who's wanted an in-game mechanic to complement their characters' back stories. At the same time though, much of the era has already been documented in other books, making this one useful, but far from essential.

The campaign guide’s biggest additions to the game come in the form of species feats and backgrounds. Recognizing that the iconic species for the setting were already covered in the core Saga Edition rulebook, the campaign guide decides against introducing new species in favor of augmenting existing ones with more than 40 species-specific feats. There are three feats per iconic species, and they include options like Binary Mind (Cerean, when an enemy uses a mind affecting effect on you, they roll twice and take the lower result), Fringe Benefits (Rodian, reduces the cost of black market purchases) and Flawless Pilot (Duros, if you re-roll a Pilot check, you keep the better result).

It’s a good approach. One of the criticisms of Saga Edition my players have is that the core feat trees can be too restrictive (e.g. locking rogues into the role of ranged combatants). While Species feats don’t totally overcome that (because they can’t be taken as class bonus feats) they do provide a useful way of creating an iconic Wookie scoundrel or Durosian pilot.

Rebel Backgrounds

The extensive new Backgrounds system replaces the core rules’ Destiny system and offers event-, professional- and world-based backgrounds for characters. It provides players with a way of frontloading their characters abilities based on their backstory, instead of steadfastly working toward some far-off destiny.

Each background allows access to a special skills list, unique skill uses and/or bonus feats. For example the Exiled background represents someone who’s been banished from his or her home world. As a result, that character can plot hyperspace routes in half the normal time, and gain the Skill Focus feat if trained in Knowledge (Galactic Lore). Meanwhile, the Academic occupation allows a character to add the Knowledge, Persuasion or Use Computer skills to his class skills list and provides a +2 bonus to any attempt to use these skills untrained. Finally, the “Planet of Origin” background allows for a character who grew up on a planet different from the one traditionally associated with their species (e.g. a Rodian whose is native of Coruscant). This life experience grants her a bonus language as well access to two of three skills common to that world (e.g. Coruscant natives gain High Galactic as a language and access to Gather Information, Knowledge (bureaucracy) and Knowledge (galactic lore)).

These options address another potential drawback in Saga Edition: the inability to pick the skills you want without multi-classing. For example, someone might want to play a soldier who’s also a skilled diplomat. Unfortunately, Persuasion isn’t a class skill for soldiers and normally that would necessitate dipping into the Noble or Scoundrel class plus having to spend a feat in order to pick up the skill. With this system, they could take an occupation with Persuasion (e.g. Academic, Executive or Politics) or the a “Planet of Origin” where the natives are known for their persuasive skills (e.g. Alderaan, Bothawui, Ithor or Ryloth)

I think it’s a neat solution to this particular problem, which has shown up in my own Knights of the Old Republic campaign. The game designers recommend not using the background rules in addition with the original Destiny rules, as the combined effect may be too overwhelming. I can see offering an either/or option: you can choose to have a destiny or you can have a background, but not both. This would allow my players who are uninterested having a destiny for their character to develop their character in a different way, and yield a mechanical benefit for doing so.

A Talent for Trouble

As with other campaign guides, the book introduces new talents (and in some cases, talent trees) for the Star Wars base classes. Noble gets the new “Gambling Leader” talent tree, which might be better described as the “Deathwish” talent tree, as it rewards nobles for leaping into the middle of a firefight without cover. Given how vulnerable nobles can be to attack, it doesn’t seem like the ability to allow an ally to ignore an enemy’s cover or win a free attack against that enemy is enough of a reward to offset being gunned down by a soldier with autofire. The developers, perhaps realizing this, also provide nobles with a talent that gives them bonus hit points if their caught in the open at the start of a turn. The talent tree could be perfect for that noble who is a big gambler, and it does fit an era in which heroes gamble everything on a chance to overthrow the Empire.

The Scoundrel’s Recklessness talent tree is all about throwing yourself into a fight without a care for the consequences. It’s talents grant you bonuses when missed by enemy attacks, allows a special opposed initiative skill check that leaves your enemy flatfooted if you win (and visa versa if the enemy wins) and lets you make a deception check to lure an enemy closer to you. Scouts get the Unpredictable talent tree, lets them react to autofire attacks by making an attack of their own, make a free charge attack whenever they take a second wind, and make up for missing an attack by moving, then striking out at a different enemy. The Ambusher Talent tree allows soldiers to mark an enemy as their prime target, yielding attack and damage bonuses. The overarching theme of the talents is movement and speed; they make more and better use of Initiative skill checks then we’ve seen in the earlier source books, and almost all of have a certain desperate edge to them that fits the era.

Unlike its predecessors, there’s no Force chapter in this book, which is fitting an era where the Jedi have been hunted to near-extinction. Instead, Jedi get a few new talents, including ones that let grant an attack bonus to allies whenever the Jedi successfully damage a target with her lightsaber, and prevent a single target from making opportunity attacks against him. One new Force tradition introduced in the book, that of the obscure sect known as the Kilian Rangers. They are adept at using the Siang Lance (a bayonet-equipped, rifle-like weapon) and the Siang Gauntlet (a small personal energy shield wielded in the off hand).

Improvised Paths

The book introduces the Improviser and Pathfinder prestige classes. As its name implies, the Improviser is all about finding the right tool for the job. The prestige class’s Procurement talent tree makes it easy to find a black market source, improves the quality of the gear you buy, gives repaired items extra hit points, and grants bonuses to allies making untrained skill checks. Its namesake Improviser talent tree lets you create equipment from whatever scraps are lying around and allow you to reactivate and befriend disabled droids.

The Pathfinder prestige class is all about the optimal use of cover. Its “safe zone” talent allows the pathfinder to specify a 4x4 square zone where your allies get bonus to Fortitude and Will Defenses. Other talents build on this, making it harder for enemies to fire into the safe zone, or providing attack bonuses to allies who move out of the safe zone. Pathfinders can also shape their environment, designating squares near them as being filled with low objects that provide cover to those next to them. These abilities that have a D&D 4th Edition feel to them, and felt very abstract on the page. I suspect some might object to that, but I’m curious to see how it plays out at the table.

Once you move out of the heroic traits, the book has to start digging deeper for its content. The Empire has already been covered in depth in the Force Unleashed Campaign Guide, and that doesn’t leave a lot of virgin territory for the corresponding chapter in the Rebellion Era book. The book details the political organization of the Empire, including COMPNOR (the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order), Imperial Intelligence, and the Imperial Military. These comprise only a handful of pages, while the rest of the chapter is given over to NPC and vehicle statblocks. The most memorable of these are the Dark Troopers (Phases 1-3), which appeared in the Dark Forces video game.

The Rebellion chapter has more to work with, providing an overview of the Alliance’s military and political structure as well as write-ups on its SpecForce special operations and various second- and third-string NPCs like Wedge Antilles, Admiral Ackbar, Biggs Darklighter, Derek “Hobbie” Klivian, General Carlist Rieekan and the Ewok Wicket.

The best part of the chapter is “Cracken’s Tactics”, which are named Rebel saboteur General Airen Cracken these tactics let players to use the right equipment and a skill check to turboboost a repulsor sled, disable a shield generator, disable a walker’s drive motor or overload a starship’s weapons. These are iconic maneuvers, and just the sort of thing you’d want to use in a Rebellion Era game (or any skills or espionage heavy campaign.

Rounding out the book is a thin Fringe Fractions chapter. It stats out notorious bounty hunters (4-LOM, IG-88, and Dengar), offers a few more insights into the Black Sun criminal organization (the Black Sun is fully detailed in the Force Unleashed Campaign Guide), a few notes on Cloud City, Jabba the Hutt’s criminal organization and the Corporate Sector.

I’m of two minds on regarding these chapters. On the one hand, they go into the sort of nitty-gritty detail that diehard fans well versed in the Star Wars Expanded Universe are sure to love. But on the other, there’s definitely a “father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate” feel to some of it, as the writers dig deep into the EU to make up for content covered elsewhere. There’s no denying the usefulness of the background system and the species feats. That alone may be reason enough for some to buy the book, particularly if their players have yearned for more skill options. That said, the EU content is likely the deal breaker here: those who love it will want to get the book, those who don’t will likely make do with what they have.