Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition Review

in steempress •  14 days ago

Alright, I couldn't help myself and I stopped by my FLGS. While there, I found a nice surprise on one of the shelves: the Star Wars WEG 30th Anniversary Edition.

starwarsbookcovers.jpg
Photo taken myself, covers of books originally created by West End Games

I've been wanting this for some time, so my willpower was weak and I picked it up. I have a copy of the original, but it's pretty beat up (courtesy of a previous owner) so I hate handling it.

The result? I now own a copy of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game that I don't feel nervous about actually using.

I've often suggested the D6 system to people who want to start roleplaying, and now it's finally back in print. That's a pretty good moment for me.

The book itself is pretty well made. It actually comes as a two-hardcover collection with the core rulebook (just about 130 pages) and the sourcebook (just about 140 pages).

As far as I can tell, barring formatting things everything is identical to the original, down to in-universe ads (which are fantastic, in a late-80's sort of way), and a variety of little neat touches. The book's interior is black-and-white, with the exception of some of these ads which are in color.

The Good

Okay, there's not a whole lot to say for the good by volume, but believe me when I say the quality's there. It's still from a more innocent time, pre-prequels. There are times where the writers evidently feel led to explain Star Wars (though, then again, when you're roleplaying you can't go wrong with reinforcing a certain amount of thematic focus).

The core rules consist of a player's guide, sample solo adventure (a feature more games need), a GM's guide, and a regular adventure. Players only need a couple dozen pages of reading to get started, and characters are based on templates and customized to fit the players.

This makes the game incredibly simple to play, but it's not so simple as to lose sight of its objectives. The core mechanic does a good job of keeping things interesting, but still allowing for a clear progression (though I will say that you can occasionally "graduate" from any sort of real risk in some areas if you build a character in very specific ways).

The whole Force system is set up in a way that gives everyone a chance to boost their rolls, but also holds consequences. Jedi, of course, do more with this, but unlike the later Star Wars games becoming a Jedi is neither exceptionally powerful (since it comes at a very high cost during character creation) nor impossible after the start of play (it actually requires relatively little mechanical effort, though roleplaying is a must).

If you really liked the canon of pre-prequel Star Wars, or a lot of the Legacy Extended Universe stuff, this will feel more like the game for you than the d20 Star Wars published by Wizards of the Coast. FFG's Genesys-based Star Wars is a little more variable depending on the setup and the GM, I've found, and can go either way.

The one reason that I can definitely recommend this over any of the Genesys-based entries is that it's a lot lighter, but you don't feel the sacrifices that much. There's a lot of room to do things, and while you'll feel the lack of some modern systems (no special abilities, for instance), you'll also find that the core storytelling doesn't age poorly.

The Bad

Alright, it's time to confess that the game hasn't aged perfectly. Some of the other d6 System games, like d6 Space (legally included here thanks to the OGL) feel a little better in terms of having some of those features, but they come at the cost of added complexity. Characters are, to put it bluntly, shallow. There are special rules attached to some of the character templates (like the Wookie), but you don't see these carried out to other alien species, and there are a lot of places that will feel less fleshed out than most modern games. Sometimes it's streamlined, other times it feels lacking.

Another bad thing is that the commitment to playing Star Wars in this game is overwhelming at times. You cannot go off the beaten paths, and it does the whole "take your character if you fall to the Dark Side" thing, made especially egregious because it's a result of a random die roll after narrative events. While this, of course, adds risk to the equation of using the Dark Side, it also robs you of agency.

Likewise, using the Force is reserved for exclusively dramatically appropriate moments or else characters lose their ability to do so (or at least gain their ability to do so at a much reduced rate). Players who are viewing it as a resource at their disposal are mistaken, which fits the setting, but it's also a source of group conflict when such things are left to the GM's discretion exclusively (guidelines exist, but they're not entirely clear: prepare for squabbles).

With that said, the only other "bad" thing about the game isn't really all that bad. There's only a few pieces of gear and equipment in the core rulebook, plus a couple more in the sourcebook. This is a philosophical decision that people accustomed to the more content rich Wizards of the Coast Star Wars games or other similarly oriented games may find jarring.

The Ugly

There's only one real "ugly" thing I have to say about these books.

They have ads. The one change that I can easily identify from the version 30 years ago and the one that came out recently is the advertisements.

I'm not talking about little blips. I include a "thank-you-and-check-us-out" note in my work, and this isn't that. We're talking flat-out "Here's another product you might enjoy!" ads. Ads in the case for the hardcovers. Ads in the back pages of the book. Ads that probably cost at least $1 to print, which is a bit frustrating, not the least of which because it feels like FFG is trying to capitalize on the work of WEG back in the day.

FFG doesn't include ads in their own Genesys rulebook, and it's baffling to me why they thought this would be a good idea in a $60 book. It rubs me the wrong way, given the combined price and the nature of the game.

I get that they're a company trying to do business, but I seriously doubt anyone who is buying the game is going to be totally ignorant of FFG's licensed products, or at least be so if they're actually interested in more Star Wars experiences. It also just seems cynical; I get that FFG has the Star Wars rights, but to my knowledge they don't have any real relationship to WEG.

Do I Recommend It?

Maybe. It's not something I regret buying, barring the temporary hole in my wallet that will be remedied by a little more restraint in other areas.

At the same time, it is $60, and it's not available any cheaper in a digital format. It's a licensed title, and you pay for the license and a somewhat decadent setup with two hardcover books (where soft-covers or even, heaven forbid, combining the two books into one book, would have saved on costs).

As a result, I have to admit that it's not the best value. You can find the Star Wars Second Edition online for relatively cheap, and while the original costs more for the core rulebook than for the entire Anniversary Edition set (at least in new/like-new condition), it's still available elsewhere.

Personally, I'd say that it's a good buy for someone who already has everything and wants to own an interesting game. It's a dug-up time capsule of roleplaying history.

As a gamer, however? I'd pass. There are great games that do the same thing that this one does, and there's definitely been some improvements made to the formula over the years. Modern gamers will likely be disappointed by the limited focus on making your own characters and character customization, and there's a lot of

While it's a bit of a shame to find myself saying that, especially since I'm usually a quite gung-ho reviewer, there's no middle-ground digital option here, and since that's even my preferred format I'm having a hard time getting up the gusto to recommend it, which is a tad disappointing since I totally would have done so on the merits of the game alone before I actually sat down to write the review.

You can find it on Amazon, if you're interested. At the time of writing, it's going for $54.



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I guess images or illustrations would be of a good additional in your post Kwilley.
But you've done a great job in reviewing it in details with good descriptive explanation.

Congratulations!

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Yeah, unfortunately I wasn't quite sure how the companies would respond to the review when it wasn't exactly glowing. Normally I'd include a cover image or something, but I don't want to go toe-to-toe with Disney lawyers, and I don't have anything just lying around that's generic.

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Oh okay. No problem Kwilley. I know you're doing the best.
Keep it up buddy!
Looking forward on your next post.

By the way, I want to see a profile photo of you. I hope you can have it.
Good luck!

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I'm notoriously secretive, so I wouldn't hold out for a self-portrait, but I should at least update to a personal brand at some point.

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Oh!
That's great!
I understand. Sorry for my comments. I guess I'm too personal here. Anyways, enjoy your day and thanks for spending your precious time with me. I appreciate it very much.
Its too hot in here now!

Well, it is disappointing, but it was an awesome review... things change, and then people who don't know why or what made it great to begin with, decide to add to it, it generally gets screwed up. Kicking it old school can still be fun though, I personally would at least say give it a try for a few weeks...
Anyway, great review really in-depth and enlightening.

Hi kwilley,

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Hmmm, I don't know if an RP tabletop Star Wras game is the kind of Star Wars I want to play, especially if the characters have limitations and are not that deep. THough, I'd just add so much to my character, given I do write fan-fiction, I'd have no problem expanding on whatever is there.

I play SWTOR and used to play a ton of it. I enjoyed very much the RPG video games and all the novels, those had characters who had a lot of depth to them, and a lot of evolution. Your choices mattered for dark side versus light side, and it wasn't down to a roll of the dice.

So is it safe to assume it's Original Expanded Universe with no alterations?

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Original trilogy and that's it.

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You will not believe me, but I have never had the opportunity to play a role play properly, traditionally, with books and that. and I find it super interesting what you describe poruqe apparently if it's pretty cool to be able to opt for the character development options and so on, just like you would on a video game console.

Very informative your post, although I missed some other image, I also congratulate you for such a good essay and if you recommend it, I will do a search to see how it goes with that! Greetings.

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There are a few other games I can recommend, especially for novices. I've included a link to d6 Space, which is free to download and play (and includes a solo adventure to help get you started), but there's also more modern things like Open Legend that are also very novice friendly and quite worth playing.

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thank you very much for the recommendations! i will look into them hope so soon!

Back in the day, Clinton Nixon (surprisingly, his real name) wrote a game called Paladin, which is probably one of the turning point independent RPGs, solidifying how lightweight narrative mechanics could be assembled to play games in settings familiar to players where the system should just get out of the way.

As much as I love WEG's old-school Star Wars, the reason I love it is for its sourcebook nature and not the mechanics. D6 works best when it's extremely stripped-down and stays out of the way. The 30th anniversary edition does almost everything that it can to get in the way of that, and it does so for $60.

Paladin, on the other hand, can be had for free. If you're thinking about running a Star Wars game (or any other story which is at heart about holy/principled/unprincipled warriors making moral choices), this is the thing to have.

4475d468c6154bcbb52885432e870d65.png

Add it to your pocket, break it out with your group, and get down to some solid gaming.

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I feel like I've seen this before, but it's definitely a good one to be reminded of, since I've never played it.

Honestly, the only thing that could make Clinton Nixon's name better is if the R. middle initial wound up standing for Reagan.

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Absolutely agreed. Which might be why he is no longer going by that name for publication, which gives me amusement to no end.

It's a shame that Paladin flew under the radar so hard; I really like the die pool mechanic that it uses, and things are very focused on what it wants to do.

That's a big quality of indie RPGs of the period, in fact. Now we take it as kind of a given for a lot of indie work, but stepping away from the "toolbox RPG" and into things which were more specialized was a really big deal.

Right tool for the right job. Still as true now as ever.

Very well written review with an amazing overview of the game @kwilley.You gave us an excellent explanation of this star war game. With the bad, the ugly and your own opinion, it really help a lot for us to review a game before we buy it. I must say, you need a good graphic card to play this game, if not the graphics won't nice. By the way, ff the review goes with some images of the game, even with the characters you describe would be fantastic.

Thank you for your introduction to this excellent game when star war still our big fan favorite.

PS: Are you from Malaysia? I came across "gung-ho" in your review :)

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This is a traditional roleplaying game, more like a board game than a modern video game, so you don't need any real system to run it.

I probably should include some images, but I'm really cautious with Disney-owned IP because they're pretty serious with their copyright/trademark issues.

I'm from the United States; gung-ho is in pretty common usage here.

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Thank you for letting me know. Ya, some images would be good for us to visualize the game.

gung-ho is in pretty common usage here

Good to know that. We like to use this word as well :)

I've never seen one of these games before. Like what you have described in the post.

The core rules consist of a player's guide, sample solo adventure (a feature more games need), a GM's guide, and a regular adventure. Players only need a couple dozen pages of reading to get started, and characters are based on templates and customized to fit the players.

i have a general idea of how it works from seeing them on some tv shows but i wouldn't mind a few pictures with the post to showcase what it really is. Just a thought.

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I've added an image of the covers of the rulebooks (or, rather, I'm doing so right now), but I'm really hesitant to post interior images due to copyright concerns. You could check out the included D6 Space PDF, which is generally equivalent as far as interiors go (except for being in color where the Star Wars one is in black and white) for a good idea of what the interiors look like.

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That's good. I will check it out again and see what you have added. I can understand your concern over copywrite as it's important to do things properly and not leave yourself open. I can see that most people aren't too worried about it but it's still important.

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These are the type of games my friends have constantly struggled to get me into playing. I have to admit ignorance on the whole gaming experience for this one. They'd labor explanations for me just so I could keep up with the game. I could appreciate the story aspect for this game but really not my thing to be passionate about. I appreciate the honest review so far. Expressing your dislikes for the game actually makes the review more credible (to me anyway).

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I was a game reviewer for several years and I was generally too kind in my reviews. As a wannabe future game designer at that point, I had a great appreciation for the work that goes into games, but now that I've actually worked on games it's something that gives me an appreciation for the fact that a lot of people really do things that are a little questionable and shouldn't pass the smell test.

For instance, the thing that really bothers me about this particular edition is that it ostensibly sells on being faithful to the original, then includes ads for games by an entirely different company (who oversaw the publication, since West End Games is long defunct).

You can inherit all the flaws and still be okay, because it's still got a solid fundamental basis for being a good game, but when you're adding your own ads and seeming to take credit for it, it feels a little weird to not do anything else to support the game you're selling.

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If it gets them more cash, it will likely encourage them. A sad reality that applies to almost anything that has a dedicated fan base. It's more on an existing system to capitalize in place rather than blaming a few people that pull the strings.

I strive not to be a man of success, but rather to be a man of value.