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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

Storm the Galaxy with the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide

by Ken Newquist / November 20, 2008
  • [img_assist|nid=2712|title=Knights of the Old Republic Cover Art|desc=Cover art for the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide from Wizards of the Coast.|link=none|align=right|width=262|height=300]Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide
  • Published by Wizards of the Coast
  • Designers: Rodney Thompson, Sterling Hershey, John Jackson Miller and Abel Pena;
  • Developers: Rodney Thompson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Peter Schaefer; Design Manager: Christopher Perkins; Art Director: Ryan Sansaver; Cover Designer: Soe Murayama, Graphic Designer: Jino Choi, Breanne Miler
  • 229-page full-color hardcover, $39.95

One of the challenges of running a Star Wars campaign is finding a way to incorporate plenty of Jedi and their Sith nemeses without tearing asunder the canonical Star Wars timeline. The Expanded Universe has helped with this, providing a number of Dark Apprentices to serve as fodder for Jedi who some how escaped Palpatine's murderous purge. The rise of the New Jedi Order helps as well, but even then the Sith "Rule of Two" ties the hands of GMs looking to unleash their own Dark Lord on the galaxy.

Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide solves these problems. Drawing from the video games and comic books of the same name, it tells a story that takes 4,000 years before the Battle of Yavin. It is the time when the Old Republic is ascendant but beset by enemies on every side. Thousands of Jedi defend the Republic, battling the resurgent threat of the Sith, who wage three wars in 50 years.

The problem of having not having enough Jedi or Sith (or too many Jedi and not enough Sith) is a thing of the future.

The Sith vs. the Jedi vs. the Mandalorians

The 229-page source book is done in the same square, coffee-book-style format of the Star Wars: Saga Edition core rulebook. It covers the five principal time periods of the Old Republic era, beginning with the Great Sith War, in which the dark Jedi return to threaten the galaxy, followed by a Restoration period in which the Republic attempts to heal from the devastating war. It leads into the Mandalorian Wars and the crusades that their namesake warriors launch to conquer the Republic. The Jedi Civil War and the Dark Wars, which follow in rapid succession, recount the events of the two KOTOR video games.

The time periods match up nicely with the possible styles of campaigns players might want to run - the Great Sith War sees a strong Jedi contingent spread throughout the galaxy and ready to fight, while the Mandalorian War and Jedi Civil War provide ample fodder for philosophical debates and political maneuvering as players struggle to deal with the proper response to invasions. Finally, the Dark Wars are perfect for those who want to play Jedi as underdogs hunted to near extension. It also provides a great opportunity to roleplay rebuilding the Order after its near destruction at the hands of the Sith.

The book covers the Old Republic era with a mix of general and specific chapters. The opening chapter details 11 new playable species unique to the era, including the brilliant but arrogant Arkanians, the blind Miraluka, who use the Force in place of their eyes, and the fallen Rakata, who ruled an Infinite Empire that created the super-factory known as the StarForge.

From there, it delves into new heroic traits unique to the era, including additional talent tries for all of the base classes from the core rule book and new feats reflecting the flavor and abilities of the Sith, Mandalorians, and Jedi. It introduces three new prestige classes - gladiator, melee duelist, and corporate agent - each of which has ten levels of advancement.

All of this is useful for recreating the flavor of the campaign setting, but strictly speaking, it's not necessary. Certainly it's nice to be able to pick up a few new races, particularly one that resonated with a player while reading the comic books or blasting through the videogames, but the core rules would have been sufficient to cover most of this.

Some have taken issue with the new Star Wars edition's non-standard, square format, but I've found it works well. It's easy to balance in one hand while looking for rules, fits well in messenger bags, and has a smaller footprint at the gaming table. The KOTOR book's text may seem a little small for some eyes, but it's in an attractive font and the book maintains the high production values of itspredecessors. There are a handful of obligatory still photos taken from the six feature movies, but the majority of the artwork is original to this tome. The campaign guide's lack of an index, however, is frustrating - I'd happily lose afew pages of content to be able to find something in the book when I need it.

Feel the Force, Upgrade Your Guns

Where the campaign guide really earns its keep is in the Force and Equipment chapters. The Force chapter introduces such KOTOR mainstays as Fear, Force Scream, Force Whirlwind and Valor, all of which were used to devastating effect in the video games. While attempts to slavishly port videogame mechanics to a pen-and-paper game can come across as clunky or unoriginal,in KOTOR's case it's dealing with signature abilities, which would have missedhad they been left out.

The same goes for the time period's variant force traditions, such as the scientific Jal Shey school, the "grey"-style Keetael school forged by the hunters of Keetael, and the Sith-derived Krath abilities. The book handles these traditions by presenting background material on them, and then providing unique talent trees for each one. Talents - special abilities that players can select as they level up - provide welcome alternatives to the traditional Jedi main steam, without the need for new basic and prestige classes. These talents represent one of the charms of KOTOR in that the Jedi Order isn't omnipresent, and has not yet absorbed or defeated competing Force philosophies. These new schools and their associated talents help reinforce the uniqueness ofthe era.

Similarly, the Equipment chapter brings home the highly-customizable nature of the video games as it introduces variant lightsaber crystals and weapon templates to the game. The lightsaber crystals trade out the standard Jedi lightsaber bonus -- +1 to attack and damage for a hand-madelight saber - in favor of alternative abilities. For example, Solari crystals provide a bonus to deflecting blaster bolts, while firkraan crystals cause the lightsaber blade to do ion damage (making it more effective against droids).

Templates offer similar options for non-Jedi weapons, allowing the campaign to support Krath weapons that do extra damage if the roll to hit beats the opponent's Fortitude and Reflex defenses and Mandalorian armor that provides a bonus for field repairs, but fails catastrophically if its ever disabled.

The book also includes a host of other equipment options, including double-bladed swords, lightfoils and shockstaffs, as well a number of new droid options. Foremost among the droidsis the infamous "meatbag" hating HK-47 assassin droid. Properly statted out,the HK series is inappropriate for player characters, but the book does offer ascaled down version that's works for PCs.

All of this is admittedly very mechanics oriented, but in this case, the mechanics are providing fodder for role-playing, and are very much in keeping with both the Knights of the Old Republic and traditional Star Wars universes. Boba Fett's armor defined him as much as his actions, and far more than his words, while the tweaks and modifications to the Millennium Falcon were a source of great pride to Han Solo. Similarly, in the KOTOR video game, players had the chance to trick out their weapons and armor just so, and while the RPG doesn't attempt to go to those insanely detailed lengths, it provides enough to give equipment functions and role-playing flavor.

To the Stars...

Star Wars has always been as much about its starships as its people, and KOTOR doesn't disappoint in this regard, dedicating an entire chapter to starfighters, freighters, space yachts and other assorted ships. The chapter's oriented toward ships the common working ships of the galaxy, the kind of vessels that player characters might end up owning (or dream of owning) one day. It also provides a 12-page galactic gazetteer providing destinations for all these starships.

The deep background on the game comes from the faction specific chapters. The Jedi, the Sith, and Republic and the Mandalorians each get their own 20-odd page sections providing notes on how to use them in the game, write-ups on notable NPC such as Darth Revan, Cassus Fett, and Mandalore the Indomitable, generic statblocks for soldiers, force users and pilots, and factions-specific starships.

These chapters are rife with spoilers, and there are no attempts to shield people from them. It's assumed that readers are aware of the major happenings of this time period (including the big reveals that occur at the end of the video games); those interested in the setting but unaware of itsplot twists should either play the games and read the graphic novels beforehand or leave reading the guide book to other people in their campaign.

While obviously a d20 rule book, and steeped in those game mechanics, it also works quite well as a campaign source book. It's the firstprint book I know of to combine the entire history of Knights of the Old Republic into one place, and as such its useful to anyone running a Star Wars-themed game, regardless of whether its an earlier d20 variant, theoriginal d6 West End Games edition, or some homegrown edition using GURPS, d20 Modern or an indie game like Dogs in the Vineyard.

Final Analysis

This is a great book, and if you're running a KOTOR campaign, you're going to want to buy it. Admittedly, there's nothing in here you couldn't house rule on your own, using the video games as a starting point, but it's nice to know you don't have to. More importantly, the book provides a coherent framework for adventuring in this time period that's difficult to achieve simply by playing the games or reading the graphic novels.

Those not adventuring in this era will still find it a useful tome to own; the lightsaber crystals, weapon templates, cybernetic implants, alien races, Force powers and feats would fit in well with just about any Star Wars campaign. The complete statblocks for the various factions offer ready-made heroes and villains for any era, and the setting history should provide plenty of idea fodder.