I’m sure lots of our readers have played or are currently playing a Star Wars tabletop RPG. For everyone else, I thought I’d write up a primer on the excellent Star Wars RPG options that are out there. Tabletop roleplaying games set in the Star Wars universe have a pretty long history starting back in 1987 and continuing into the present day. West End Games, Wizards of the Coast and Final Flight Games have all provided excellent rules and sourcebooks and all three of these games are still played by fans.
Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game
West End Games
Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game is a role-playing game set in the Star Wars universe, written and published by West End Games (WEG) between 1987 and 1999, spanning three editions and around 140 sourcebooks. This d6 game was originally based on WEG’s earlier Ghostbusters RPG and it won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1987. WEG’s game sourcebooks also established much of the groundwork of what later became the Star Wars expanded universe (which has since been nullified by Disney). These books were so authorative that Timothy Zahn was told to use them for the background of his revered Thrawn trilogy.
WEG’s license to produce Star Wars material was lost after the company declared bankruptcy in 1998, but the game system lives on in D6 Space, which was released in 2004 and uses a generic space opera setting.
I haven’t played this system since I was a kid, but I remember how much fun it was just to look at all the books my friend had on his bookshelf, covering everything in the galaxy I wanted to know about.
Wizards of the Coast
Star Wars Roleplaying Game & Saga Edition
When West End Games lost the license, it was picked up by Wizards of the Coast who published Star Wars Roleplaying Game in 2000 and a revised edition was released in 2002. The WotC version of this game based its rules on the d20 System that was also used by the third edition of D&D. The Saga Edition was released in 2007 with a redesign by Chris Perkins, Owen K.C. Stephens and Rodney Thompson. Saga won a number of awards and I really like playing this version with its reduced set of 5 classes and progress along career trees similar to d20 Modern.
In 2010 Wizards of the Coast announced that their days of making Star Wars games were behind them and it looked like Star Wars RPG fans were entering dark times…
Fantasy Flight Games
In 2011, Fantasy Flight Games announced that they had entered into “comprehensive licensing partnership with Lucasfilm Ltd. for the worldwide rights to publish card, roleplaying, and miniatures games set in the popular Star Wars universe”. Star Wars RPG fans around the world had a new hope, but in 2012 when a beta of the game was released we found out that FFGs rules would use unique mechanics to focus on narrative gameplay, using those colorful dice of all shapes and sizes in place of a more standard d6 or d20. Star Wars: Edge of the Empire was launched as the first of a series of cross-compatible systems published by Fantasy Flight Games under their Star Wars license.
I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading the rules since 2012, but last month was the first time I decided to step away from D&D and try out all these crazy dice. I like it! You basically are asked to roll for skill checks which determine not just success or failure, but fate. The dice pool is used match up your ability, proficiency and environmental advantages against the difficulty, challenge and setbacks of the task.
Each of the three systems has its own feel, but you can mix and match to get a ton of races and career choices.
Edge of Empire
Now’s your chance to create characters who live on the fringe like Han Solo and Boba Fett with a focus on obligation. Play a Colonist, Bounty Hunter, Explorer, Hired Gun, Smuggler or Technician.
“Participate in grim and gritty adventures in places where morality is gray and nothing is certain. Ply your trade as a smuggler in the Outer Rim, collect bounties on the scum that live in the shadows of Coruscant, or try to establish a new colony on a planet beneath the Empire’s notice…
The Star Wars®: Edge of the Empire™ Core Rulebook provides everything you and your friends need to experience life in the shadiest and most remote locations in the Star Wars universe.”
Age of Rebellion
Take on the whole Galactic Empire as a member of the Rebel scum with a focus on duty. This game lets you take on the role of an Ace, Commander, Diplomat, Engineer, Soldier, Spy or Recruit.
“Take on the sinister Galactic Empire as a member of the Rebel Alliance. Wage guerilla warfare across the Star Wars galaxy as a solider, or provide crucial intelligence to the Rebels as a cunning spy. Face down legions of stormtroopers, steal secret plans and restricted codes, and stay on target in the fight against the ultimate power in the universe. No matter what role in the Rebellion you take, the fate of the galaxy rests in your hands. The Star Wars®: Age of Rebellion™ Core Rulebook provides everything you and your friends need to become heroes of the Rebel Alliance.”
Force and Destiny
I just grabbed the Beginner Game and Core Rulebook for this version. In this game you play a force sensitive outcast such as a Consular, Guardian, Mystic, Seeker, Sentinel or Warrior and there is a focus on morality. This is not the rules you are looking for if you want to play a powerful Jedi and Padawan in the final days of the Republic, but can be fun if you want to play someone learning the ways of the force in the dark days.
“Experience the power of the Force in the Star Wars®: Force and Destiny™ roleplaying game! As a Force-sensitive outcast struggling to survive under Imperial rule, you can bring justice to the galaxy, search for the lost remnants of the Jedi order, or fall victim to the dark side’s temptations. Whether you choose the light side or the dark, a powerful destiny awaits you in Force and Destiny.”
The Force Awakens
Release Date: Q3 2016
Just announced May 4th, 2016… “Enjoy all-new adventures in the Star Wars universe with The Force Awakens™ Beginner Game!”
“Set during the rule of the New Republic and just prior to the events of The Force Awakens, The Force Awakens Beginner Game contains everything three to five players need to play their parts part in the struggle between the First Order and the Resistance.”
Star Wars Rebels?
If you are looking to play a member of a crew, like the group we see on the Ghost in the Star Wars Rebels show, I’d try mixing and matching character creation and stories from all three games. Edge of Empire is the best place to start, but the show provides lots of ideas too. The show really brings in elements from all three games and it might provide fun inspiration for people who have played a campaign in one of the three games and are ready to create their own path. I might even try building out character sheets for the Ghost’s crew sometime.
I’m hoping to follow-up with some more content on Force and Destiny as I play through the beginner game and beyond.
The main image of this article is from the cover of the Force and Destiny Beginner Game.