- Star Wars: The Clone Wars Campaign Guide
- by Rodney Thompson
- 160 pages
- Wizards of the Coast
- This article originally appeared on GameCryer.com and is reprinted with permission
Civil war engulfs the Republic! Throughout the galaxy Separatist droid armies battle Republic clone troopers and their Jedi generals while Sith Lords manipulate both sides from the shadows. The Clone Wars Campaign Guide for Star Wars: Saga Edition chronicles this era, chronicling the major factions, detailing force powers and talents from the era, and introducing new options for followers and mass combat.
Though tied to the prequel movie era, The Clone Wars Campaign Guide is a solid resource for anyone running a war-time Saga Edition game. The guide introduces the first d20 mass combat system I’ve tried that scales well from the character to the battalion level and its follower mechanic allows player-controlled NPCs that don’t slow the game to a crawl.
The book is at its best when it comes to its combat options. Squads are designed around the idea that once heroes hit the mid-to-upper levels, low-level opponents like B1 battle droid are no longer threats. But if you take that lowly B1 and scale it up to represent a droid squad– increasing its size one category, doubling its hit points, granting an attack bonus, and allowing its attacks to do splash damage -- suddenly you’ve got something that will give even a Jedi Knight pause.
The mass combat system in Clone Wars borrows a few pages from Saga Edition’s starship combat rules. Like starship combat, it’s all about keeping things abstract enough to simplify bookkeeping, but concrete enough to allow for tactics and strategy.
It starts with taking a base threat like a clone trooper and scaling it up to the starship scale. The lowly clone trooper become a colossal-sized battalion with four times as many hit points, a damage reduction of 15, and a greatly enhanced damage threshold. Its attacks do x2 damage, its movement drops to one starship-scale square and it gains "attrition" ranks. Each rank represents ¼ of the unit’s hit points, and as it takes damage exceeding each rank, it moves one persistent step down the condition track. This causes units to lose effectiveness, and adds a new wrinkle to your tactical planning.
Finally, the system takes the idea of roles from starship combat (where you have a pilot, co-pilot, engineer and gunner, each with certain duties) and applies them to officer duties in an army. This allows player characters to serving as a commander, first officer, attack leader, communications officer or medic, each with special actions they can take. Roles give everyone something to do in combat, but they also allow charismatic characters with the right talents – like soldiers or nobles – to bring those talents to bear on the battle field, rallying their soldiers or undermining enemy troops.
The end result is a system that may not be as accurate as a war game, but it does a solid job of capturing the big battle feel from Star Wars.
Accessible to noble, scout and soldier classes via new talent trees, followers are non-player characters that act more like an extension of the PC than a truly independent companion. They have statistics like traditional NPCs (ability scores, attack bonuses, hit points, etc.) and can be of any species, but they don’t gain skills, talents or feats.
When created, players choose to apply one of three templates to their followers: aggressive, defensive or utility. This template grants them a single trained skill and a bonus feat, as well as certain ability and defensive bonuses. They gain further abilities based on the talent that created them – e.g. the scout’s "Reconnaissance Team Leader" talent grants the follower, and gives him Skill Training in Perception and Stealth. Taking additional talents can further enhance followers; the scout’s talent "Close-Combat Assault" grants the "Point Blank Feat" while "Reconnaissance Actions" provides a wealth of in-combat actions.
There are three things I like about this follower system, especially compared to other d20 games. First, followers consume no experience points (always a sore point with traditional Leadership-spawned followers in D&D 3.x). Second, while followers move alongside their leaders for free, any overt actions they take (attacks, skill checks, etc.) cost the player characters one of their actions. This avoids the problem of one PC spending ten minutes moving his followers around the board.
Finally, followers are designed to complement their characters, providing them with skills or capabilities they don’t have, or augmenting ones they do have. The system gives nobles the ability to make effective attacks while letting soldiers have a chance to lead their very own strike team. In my campaign, where the party’s noble pilot is often sidelined during big combats, this system will be a godsend.
As a campaign guide, the book’s not just about introducing new mechanics, but about fleshing out the setting. As such it dedicates three chapters to detailing the major groups in the Clone Wars era: the Separatists, the Republic and the Jedi.
The Separatists chapter provides an overview of the Separatist factions (including the Retail Caucus, Trade Federation, and Techno Union), statblocks for villains from the movies, cartoons, and comic books, a host of new combat droids and Separatist-specific starships. The Republic chapter does much the same, noting the command structure of the Grand Army and Grand Navy of the Republic, introducing a half-dozen kinds of clone troopers,.and statting out notable generals, admirals, and bureaucrats.
The Jedi chapter gives insights into the structure of the Order at the dawn of the Clone Wars, detailing the Jedi Service Corps, the Jedi Councils, its rank and file archivists, healers, and instructors and the most notable Jedi Knights and Masters of the time. These include the ones you’d expect -- Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Mace Windu -- as well as more obscure ones like Kit Fistom and Ki-Adi-Mundi.
The Species chapter introduces nine aliens. There are the Dugs, a diminutive race harboring a deeply held inferiority complex and an innate athleticism that lets them re-roll any Climb or Jump check (and take 10 on such checks even if threatened). Their most notable member is Sebula, the ruthless podracing alien that Anakin went up against in Episode 1.
The Kaleesh are an obscure, nomadic species that nonetheless of interest to Star Wars fans: General Grievous was one of them before transforming into a cyborg horror. As a race, they get Skill focus (Survival) as a bonus feat, can re-roll Endurance checks, and are so intense that they gain a +5 species bonus to Will Defense against mind-affecting effects. Other races include the Iktotch, Kaminoans. Nautolans, Kerkoidens, Nelvaanians and Vurks
The book also has three new prestige classes. The first of these, the Droid Commander, provides an excellent tool for bolstering conventional droid forces through its namesake talent tree. "Droid Defense" talent allows commanders to give their droid followers a Defense bonus equal to the commander’s Intelligence modifier, while "Automated Strike" gives droid followers the "Double Attack" feat for one round if the commander makes a successful Knowledge "Tactics Check". Other talents allow commanders to give bonus hit points to an ally, inspire competence in their troops, and let droids recover from attacks more quickly.
The Military Engineer prestige class is perfect for the skillful character that wants to excel in the battlefield. Its "Military Engineer" talent tree lets them quickly repair droids, ignore cover when throwing grenades, and guide vehicles through heavy terrain unhindered. They also have the class ability to create weapons in the field, savaging parts at hand to build a weapon from nothing.
The Vanguard is all about slipping behind enemy lines, and its unique talent tree provides them with the ability to do that. Vanguard talents allow heroes to retain their cover bonus even when another character has an ability that would negate it, grants them damage reduction when behind cover, and let allies ignore damage reduction and shields.
The Force chapter is the most questionable aspect of the book. It introduces two potentially game-breaking force powers: Cloak, which turns a Jedi invisible and (depending how good their Use the Force check is) grants them a bonus to stealth checks. The other is Phase, which allows Jedi to move through solid objects.
Jedi are already the most impressive class in the game; adding these powers allows them to upstage other classes. Why let the scout sneak past the guards when the Jedi can walk past them invisibly? Why have a scoundrel disarm a security system or unlock a door when a Jedi can just phase through it?
These abilities are taken from the Dark Horse Comic books set in this time period, and while I appreciate the designer’s desire to include as much of the Star Wars universe as possible, these powers are just too unbalancing.
Other powers are more helpful. Malacia is a ranged power lets a Jedi nauseate an enemy, forcing them down the condition track with successful attacks against that enemy’s Fortitude defense. It’s companion power is Morichro, which has a similar effect, but requires a touch effect and can kill a person or put them into an involuntary Force trance if they reach the bottom of the condition track. Both powers provide Jedi with some welcome non-lethal combat powers.
I was skeptical going into this book: the Clone Wars have never been my favorite era, and I didn’t think I’d find much that would be useful in my game. Instead, I’ve found that it works great as a sort of military counter part to Scum and Villainy; ignore the Clone Wars setting, and you’ve got a great source book for running a war campaign during any time period.