Friday, October 23, 2009

...In a Galaxy, Far, Far Away...

I said that this day had originally been set aside to do a bunch of Traveller posts and I'm serious. I've been on hiatus from B/X D&D for a couple weeks now and have allowed my B/X Companion project to slide (O the Shame!). This comes in part from having a life, family, and day job, and in part because I can be a bit unfocused with my attention, allowing it to wander all over the to Traveller.

Damn it, it's just such a good game, so worthy of attention. And yet, I just keep reading it and thumbing through it and dreaming it and not actually bothering to cobble together a campaign. Even non-gamers have heard of Dungeons and Dragons and are banging on my door to play it (see my posts about the nephews!). Only old gamers like me have heard of Traveller and know the wonders that await between its simple black covers.

However, system DOES matter and Traveller can't do everything sci-fi related (though it can do a helluva' lot). Some game systems are literally tailor-made to play to a particular genre or theme, sometimes excellently so (Dying Earth) and sometimes not-so-much (Serenity RPG).

So today I picked up another of my proverbial "blasts from the past" while I was at Ye Olde Game Shoppe (it's actually called Gary's Games in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle), and it is this more than anything that is threatening to derail my blossoming Traveller fetish. Check it out:

I have posted before that in the past I have owned both the 1st and 2nd editions of the West End Games' Star Wars RPG, and have regretted selling them. The MAIN reason for my regret comes from the fact that they are now out-of-print and the WotC version are absolute dog-shit. I know, I know...I am a grumpy old gamer that doesn't like D20. Bull. Even before I came to my senses and kicked D20 to the curb I had already figured out that D20 and Star Wars do NOT mix. Well, not in a pleasing, RPG-type way. Maybe they mix in a vomit-and-fecal-waste-matter-type way.

In my earlier post I wrote that I preferred the 2nd edition rules to the original edition when I owned them both. This is true, and in fact when I say SW on the shelf in the used section I did a quick look to see if the 2nd edition was lurking around somewhere as well (it wasn't). However, after picking it up I was trying to remember what exactly I liked BETTER about the 2nd edition (besides the cool purple cover...woo-hoo!), since from all I can tell the rules are pretty much the same. After many minutes of memory dredging there's only one thing I could think of: force powers.

If memory serves (*hope*hope*) the 2nd edition of the game was designed not to improve on the 1st edition (the rules stayed pretty much the same) but to take advantage of the CONTINUING SAGA of Star Wars. For those young 'uns who may have the wrong idea, this has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the Episodes 1-3 films which had not yet been filmed, written, or probably even imagined at the time.

Back in the day of West End Games there were only two sources for Star Wars fiction: the original three movies and written imaginings of other authors. The Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Darkforce Rising, and The Last Command) were big news when they hit the book shelves in 1992. Finally, folks who loved Star Wars could follow their favorite characters through new licensed adventures in the Star Wars universe! And once THOSE got published (and showed themselves to be a tremendous cash cow) Lucas really let it off the leash and authors began publishing dozens of books furthering the adventures of the original characters, their children, and their children's children. Much of it (what I read anyway) was fairly mediocre fare, but it was frigging mana in the desert to the SW-starved masses.

The 2nd edition game gave you the option of setting the adventure in the Rebellion era or the New Republic era (following the new novels basically). It provided few new rules that I recall, except for new Force abilities...specifically DARK Force abilities...that had been exhibited in the books and comics published during the 90's. I, of course, was always a fan of the Fallen Jedi-type character (see my earlier post on Geezers), so this was meat and drink to moi.

But NOW...well, first off Lucas basically blew up anything resembling cohesion to the novels' canon when he created his prequel trilogy (specifically, what the "Clone Wars" were all about). And let me tell you, I'm not sorry he did, for although the prequel films weren't as awesome as I'd hoped, they were still a damn sight better than the pastiche of the Thrawn books.

Secondly (and more importantly from the RPG perspective) he didn't do anything different from what was in the first set of films.

There were no great, new Force powers. Lightsabers worked the same. Stormtroopers are stormtroopers, whether they're cloned humans or normal humans. Jedi are still just one master and one apprentice (Dark or Light). People that get killed don't come back and possess the folks (and learning to communicate from beyond the grave at all is a trick few possess and only ever observed in Jedi characters, not Sith). People carry around extra lightsabers like it ain't no thang.

And I like it. I like the simplicity. It can still be Star Wars.

And having said all that, I have to say I am very excited at the 1st edition game I picked up for $10. Because it was based solely on the first film trilogy...which means it is un-tainted by the books and comics that came later. Which means I can change it and taint it as much as I want to play in an Old Republic setting! And that is something Traveller is NOT as good at...for a game involving smugglers, pirates, and gamblers (in other words, a Han Solo novel), Traveller is the one to use. If you want Jedi consulars working aggressive negotiations with lightsaber in hand...well, I'll stick with WEG's Star Wars RPG.

1st edition baby! Man I am getting OLD!
; )


  1. My tastes run towards the Han Solo version of science fiction gaming.

    It is mostly a flavour thing that makes Star Wars RPG work better with psionic ( I mean, force ) powers than Traveller?

  2. I assume you're asking my opinion on the matter. In that case: no, it is NOT mostly a "flavor" thing.

    Traveller after all has a far flung, galactic empire. It has humans and aliens. It has space ships and space opera elements. That's all Star Wars flavor in my opinion.

    But psychic powers and "the Force" are two waaay different ideas. SW has a New Agey, "contact-the-godhead" kind of feel. Trav psionics are more of "discover-the-next-stage-of-evolution-in-man." One way you're a bit of a zazen channeler...the other way you're a mutant.

    And BECAUSE of the difference in the origin of the psi/force/mental abilities you have a need (I think) for different game systems. There is no dark side/light side issue with Traveller psionics...there is no wisdom passed from master to pupil for centuries...hell there aren't any lightsabers or rules for their use.

    Instead you have the three Ts of classic sci-fi: telepathy, telekinetics, and teleportation. Psionic assassins still use knives or guns, and if they use their powers for evil there's no "spiritual consequences." And the use of said powers drain their physical reserves (their psi stat diminishes with use) because the power comes from their inner selves. Luke Skywalker, etc. al don't "lose power" over time...because they are simply allowing the Force (or the Dark Side) to flow through them. It's a different ballgame, man.

  3. True, "religion" is wholey absent from Traveller.

    I never really thought about the game mechanic implications of external vs. internal sources of mystical powers in Sci-Fi universes.

    Thanks for the insight!