Wizards Delivers The Real Star Wars RPG

Wizards of the Coast’s original Star Wars role-playing game was launched along side The Phantom Menace in 1999 and was caught up in the hype storm surrounding the first wholly-new serial in nearly 20 years.

Like the movie, the game wasn’t everything that fans had hoped for or wanted. The game — based on the same d20 rules as WotC’s flagship RPG, D&D 3rd Edition — was playable, but it wasn’t particularly inspiring. The classes were lackluster, the ‘abstracted’ vehicle and starship combat system was pathetic, and it was hindered, rather than helped, by its close connection to the Phantom Menace.

The new revised edition represents an improvement over the original release in every way, starting with the cover. The first edition had nothing but Phantom Menace-inspired artwork on the cover, relegating the ‘Holy Trilogy’ to the back cover. The revised edition splits the cover between Attack of the Clones and the earlier movies. It’s a little thing, but it sends a clear message that this book’s encompasses all eras.

The new book has been updated with too many content and rule changes to count, as well as new information from Attack of the Clones. Each of the book’s 15 chapters includes a summary of updates and revisions, which I found to be a particularly nice touch. It’s clear from reading these introductions, as well as the RPG itself, that WotC took the complaints and suggestions of fans to heart.

When I read through the first edition, I was disappointed by the class selection. It covered the gambit one would expect — it had the fringers, the scoundrels, the aristocrats and the obligatory Jedi — but (aside from a certain light-saber wielding class) none of them were particularly compelling.

Not so the revised edition, which adds a new class and makes significant revisions to the old ones. Take the ‘scoundrel.’ In the original edition, scoundrel’s had a class ability called ‘better lucky than good’ which let characters re-roll one roll per game session. The new version has the same ability, but as higher levels he can use it multiple times. He also gets more bonus feats (3 vs 1 in the original) as well as the ‘precise attack’ ability which grants a bonus to Dexterity-based attack or damage rolls (the latter replaces a D&D-inspired sneak attack bonus). There’s also a skill emphasis carried over from the original. The new version gives the scoundrel a new ability at almost every level, making it far more attractive than the original.

The previously under-powered ‘fringer’ class has also been beefed up, giving it more feats, bonus class skills, and quicker acquisition of its signature ‘jury rig’ skill (which provides a bonus to class skills. The new ‘tech specialist’ class provides the game with a much needed technology-specific class. The lack of such a class in a high-tech setting like Star Wars wasn’t crippling to the original edition, but having it in the new one’s certainly helpful.

The book adds six new species:

  • Bothans: the famous spies who stole the Death Star plans for the Alliance
  • Duros: Natural space-farers, I must admit I don’t have a clue who these guys are. Must be from the New Jedi Order books. Or maybe Clones.
  • Gamorrean: The porkers protecting Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Jedi.
  • Kel Dor: A force-sensitive race that breathe an exotic helium mixture from Clones.
  • Quarran: the squid-face creatures who share their home world with the Mon Calamari (and appear in Clones).
  • Zabrak: Another race I’ve never heard of, this one from the Mid Rim.

The Skils and Feats section see plenty of clarifications as well as a few additions. The Combat section now incorporates attacks of opportunity, a mainstay off the d20 rule set that was conspicuously missing from the earlier edition. The Gamemastering section adds new prestige classes, including Dark Side Devotee, Dark Side Marauder and Jedi Investigator.

Of Stars and Starfighters

The single largest — and best — revision to the game is Vehicle and Starship combat rules. The original rules presented an abstracted version of combat that all the gamers I know despised. Gamers want to control their spacecraft, maneuvering them for strategic advantage against their foes on an actual battle map.

Acknowledging players’ complaints, the revised edition tosses the abstractions in favor of the sort of miniatures-based rules that gamers crave. The new rules expand upon the traditional d20 combat system, adapting it for fast moving vehicle-based combat. Basic moves require no special checks but hotdogging and difficult maneuvers — such stunts, quick turns and regaining control ‘ require piloting checks. The change makes for far more dramatic combat, and gives a reason for GMs to stop avoiding dog fights.

The additional Attack of the Clones content is good, although a complete sourcebook would be better. One of the flaws of The Phantom Menace was that it didn’t offer a particularly compelling setting to playing, especially compared to the rich background portrayed in the first trilogy. The Battle of Naboo lacked the fundamental drama of the Battle of Hoth, or hell, even the Battle on Endor. The fact that the Gungans were almost as annoying as the Ewoks only made matters worse.

Attack of the Clones on the other hand, spanned the galaxy, offering plenty of different settings and the beginnings of a Republic-destroying civil war. The final 45 minutes of the movie depicts more hardware than in all of the Phantom Menace, not to mention more lightsaber-wielding Jedi than in all of the other films combined. The revised edition nicely summarizes the movie’s characters and equipment, providing just enough to run a campaign set in the prequel trilogy. The original trilogy is also well represented, and like is predecessor, the book does a decent job of presenting campaign options set in the Fall of the Republic, Empire, and New Jedi Order eras.

Final Analysis

In the final analysis, the revised edition’s comprehensive overview of the Star Wars universe, attractive character classes, and overhauled vehicle/starship combat represent a quantum leap from the original game. This is the edition that Wizards should have released in 1999, and it’s the edition that fans have been waiting for.

Product Details

  • Star Wars Role-Playing Game: Revised Core Rulebook
  • Wizards of the Coast
  • By Bill Slavicsek, Andy Collins and Jo Wiker
  • 381 pages
  • MSRP: $39.95
  • ISBN: 620-17650-001-EN
  • Buy it from Amazon
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