West End Games’ D6 Star Wars game was a constant companion through my college years. Despite experimenting with Werewolf: the Splatbooking and Shadowrun, my heart belonged to Star Wars and the bewildering amount of sourcebooks detailing people and places only loosely tied to the events of the films.
To my knowledge, nobody made a sourcebook for Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. That’s ok, I didn’t do any research for this post either.
A Long Time Ago at a College Far, Far Away
Wow, getting started in this game was pretty easy! You picked an archetype and assigned some dice to a fairly brief skill list. You’d roll all those dice when you did something, one of em’s the Wild Die and endlessly explodes like Savage Worlds would do years later. You could do anything if you rolled high enough, and if you couldn’t you could spend your XP (character points) to add to the roll! The idea that your XP could be spent on rolls wasn’t the Bad Design I recognized it for later, but then our “campaigns” usually didn’t last long enough to advance much of anything either.
Strength was the god stat, because you’d roll Strength to resist taking damage. That meant Wookiees were the best species, which led to our usual GM instituting a rule that only Sam could play a Wookiee because he was the only person who could do a perfect Chewbacca impersonation.
I was all about spaceships, however. I scoured the meager internet in the library or computer lab searching for Geocities pages full of homebrew starship stats. To this day I don’t know what I was searching for – maybe a tramp freighter that wasn’t the Falcon or the dumbass Ghtroc turtle freighter the WEG books tended to promote as a consolation prize for people who wanted to play Han Solo but were constrained by an entire philosophy that walled off your access to “canon”.
Part of me is still searching.
We misread the rules on multiple actions badly enough that every firefight was a flurry of blaster shots that started with your full dice pool and counted down 1 die at a time rather than applying the same penalty to all your actions.
I learned to hate rules for armor in Star Wars because of this rpg. Despite its fairly light (for the late 80s/early 90s) mechanics, WEG Star Wars was still a very simulationist game. Stormtroopers wore armor, and were touted as elite troops, right? They should have decent blaster skills and their armor should actually work, right? You know, like in the movies where they can’t hit anything that’s not inside a blockade runner and a single blaster shot drops anyone who isn’t Vader or motherfucking Leia?
Star Wars villains wore armor. Star Wars heroes didn’t. This wouldn’t be represented by the system until Saga Edition decades later.
Lest this become an actual hot take and not a thoughtful opinion like I intended, let me expound upon the game’s virtues some more. It handled issues of scale fairly well, adding or subtracting dice as differently-sized things interacted in various ways. I’m pretty sure this common sense methodology was used by Fate and Savage Worlds and other games, but WEG Star Wars was where I first encountered it. Using damage saves instead of HP made shootouts feel dangerous. You always had the chance of accomplishing your action because of the exploding Wild Die, and that hope helped foster a feeling of heroism. The game line had a lot of sourcebooks and many of them were just fun to read for a Star Wars fan before Star Wars saturated our everyday lives.
The way D6 Star Wars handled the Force has been copied for years, across multiple roleplaying games and even into video games.
Control. Sense. Alter.
These used your attribute dice, and made Force-users shitty at stuff until they finally advanced enough to completely overpower everything with their star wizard magic. You know, like D&D wizards.
You know, like Luke Skywalker.
I’ve got some friends who didn’t like how WEG handled this, and I’m still not sure it’s a good way to do the Force, but I think I can see WEG’s intent here and I think it came from a good place. They had a terribly difficult task – codify the Force using a handful of movies and a bunch of shitty EU novels and comics and then try to balance it against the Leias and Hans in a simulationist game.
Return of the D6
My local group brought WEG Star Wars back out for a short campaign in 2013 and we all tried to play it by the actual rules. Would the old game hold up in this new world of Saga Editions and on the eve of FFG’s new Edge of the Empire system?
I’ll say this: character creation didn’t feel like the breath of fresh air it did back in college. The skill list felt too specific, loaded down with unnecessary specializations. There wasn’t much support for explaining why these PCs would be adventuring together. Ironically, I had lost my unreasonable hatred of the Ghtroc 720 freighter and now looked at the stupid turtle with rose-tinted nostalgia.
Mostly, I had gotten over myself and my gaming pretentiousness, and over the intervening decades I’d learned how to have a good time with the people at the table regardless of game mechanics.
Boy, it was a lot more dangerous than I remembered. Each blaster shot had a real good chance of messing you up. You had to make some significant choices between dodging and cover and attacking. I liked the raw danger, but I wondered if it’d feel like Star Wars if the dice stopped going our way?
It was here where we did deviate from the RAW, and ruled that character points were only for advancement, and in return we’d get Force Points more often. Force Points were the big Fate-Artha-style dice-pool-doubling crowning-moment-of-awesome resources, and having those to create these over-the-top scenes among the fairly dubious standard actions actually did feel fairly Star Warsy.
We had a Force-user for this campaign, and he did feel a lot of friction between his concept and the resources the game gave him to envision that. By the end of the campaign he was around Luke-in-ESB level and was able to start piling on the dice for certain actions, but the work it took to get there just wasn’t worth it compared to the other stuff you could be doing, or the other Star Wars games you could be playing.
I played a short Force & Destiny campaign with the same group, and I thought FFG took an interesting path with Force abilities. Control, Sense, and Alter were finally gone! The Force-user player from our D6 game still thought this much more recent take on Star Wars still didn’t feel “Forcey”, but maybe he just didn’t like limitations on how far he could throw an X-Wing with telekinesis.
My local group will try almost any system if we say we’re going to use it for Star Wars.
I wrapped a year-long Scum & Villainy campaign featuring stealing Prince Xizor’s tasteless crap, and we’re going back later this month to run a short game using Saga Edition with 7th level PCs. We haven’t found the perfect Star Wars system yet, because Star Wars means something different to each of us. I’m still searching for my own Millennium Falcon. Sam’s moved from Wookiees to Florn Lamproids and they’re still not weird enough. My friend with the Force-users still wants a game that’ll let him do the impossible.
We are the grownups tearing up at Playstation Star Wars Battlefront commercials, and in my opinion, the galaxy is big enough for whatever game you want to use to explore it.
Let me know if there’s a system out there that does the Force right by you! Smash that like button/subscribe to my patreon/please, think of the kittens or whatever.
Bonus Content: A Word on Gungans
If they’d had a badass gungan in Enfys Nest or Saw Gerrera’s gangs, it’d have gone a long way to redeeming those horse-faced dipshits. Just saying.