Thoughts on the end of Star Wars: Saga Edition

Some suspected it, but now it’s official: Wizards of the Coast is dropping the Star Wars license, and with it, the Star Wars: Saga Edition role-playing game and its counterpart, the Star Wars Miniatures Game.

It seemed likely that this would happen sooner or later once D&D 4E was released; I’m sure it’s difficult for Wizards of the Coast to justify continued research and development on two rule sets (namely Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition). Saga Edition was a useful testbed for Wizards when they were trying out new ideas for 4E, but its clear that they’ve decided to go in a very different direction with D&D and future RPGs.

Star Wars just wasn’t part of the picture. As a result, Galaxy of Intrigue and The Unknown Regions will be the last two books in the series.

It’s a sad day. As a gaming group, we found Star Wars: Saga Edition to be one of the best d20 systems out there, possibly the best one. It played fast, eliminated many of the headaches that D&D 3.5 suffered, and introduced a ton of options without overwhelming us with variant basic and prestige classes. Saga Edition has served us well for the last year, and I expect it will do as well for the next one.

There are positives though. Rodney Thompson, the line developer at Wizards for Star Wars, did a superb job of managing this game. He made sure that we had every product we need to keep playing Saga Edition for the foreseeable future, and then made it even easier by giving us additional tools like adventure seed generators in Scum and Villainy, base and battle station design tools in Galaxy at War and skill challenges in Galaxy of Intrigue.

The game ends on a high note, without any of the end-of-edition crap that we saw with D&D 2E and 3E. We’re left with an elegant weapon from a nobler time, and I couldn’t ask for much more.

From a strictly gamer economy point of view, this means a lot less of my gaming group’s money will be going to Wizards of the Coast. We’d already seen a sizable drop going from D&D 3.x to D&D 4.x, as only one or two players in the group were buying 4E source books, but I’d say most of us picked up at least two or three Star Wars books, and half bought all of them.

Now I expect we’ll be buying almost nothing from WotC, aside from hunting down un-purchased Star Wars books and the occasional D&D Insider monthly subscription to support our infrequent Revenge of the Giants one shots.

What will happen to Saga Edition? Like d6 Star Wars, I think it will continue to enjoy a core gamer community who appreciate and support the game. Unlike the previous two d20 iterations of Star Wars, I think Saga Edition has been embraced by fans as something special, and something that — in its own way — is every bit as good as d6.

The saddest part of all of this for me is that the end of Star Wars is truly the end of the 3.x rules published by Wizards of the Coast. Future products, like the recently announced Gamma World boxed set, will use the 4E rule set, which means more exceptions-based power mechanics based around a d20 roll.

It’s unfortunate. Wizards is throwing away a decade of development on a product line that many people enjoyed, and still enjoy. Why not keep it going as “D&D Classic” or as a generic “Star Frontiers Reborn” game? I’m not saying it would sell like D&D 4e… but I think it would sell (or at least, I would buy it). I’m sure fears of splitting the brand and a desire for R&D efficiencies will keep this from happening … but a geek can dream.

As is, Pathfinder is now the 3.x standard bearer, and I can only hope that some day Erik Mona’s love for pulp leads launch a re-tooled, science-fiction/pulp oriented d20 modern at Paizo…

In the meantime, my Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic campaign will continue on. We’re headed into the Mandalorian Wars soon, and then the Jedi Civil War. There’s talk that we might run a Dark Times KOTOR game after that, all of which likely gives us two solid years of game play, and that’s without rebooting into a new era. In the end, it’s possible that Star Wars will be our go-to game for the next five years, and thanks to Rodney Thompson and Wizards, we have the books to make that possible.

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