Wednesday, February 17, 2010

O Shame! - D20 Star Wars (Part 2)

Welp, the D20 Star Wars RPG has officially provided me with hours of “entertainment.” I’ll say this for Wizards of the Coast…making characters can be pretty darn fun.

Of course the time consuming nature of statting characters is one of my biggest gripes about D20 (especially as this has a direct impact on the play of the game, specifically with regard to character mortality). For a player, this amount of customization IS fun. For a GM needing to stat up NPCs? It’s a goddamn headache.

And of course, an RPG is much more than character creation…we still don’t know how the damn thing PLAYS.

But that’s for a later post…today I’m making characters, and in about eight hours, I’ve finally managed to completely stat Anakin Skywalker, AKA Darth Vader, AKA His Royal Badness.

What --?! I can already hear the words coming out of your mouths. DV is already statted up in the back of the game…one of few/several film characters that are. Well, folks, hate to break it to ya’ but their version blows chunks. Not just that but it’s wrong in several fundamental ways, the least of which are a couple stat miscalculations.

And not just THAT, but I myself am a WEG veteran, and as such I like to see different stats for different eras of play…remember those? Because gamers may decide they want to play in different eras (like the Republic Era or the Clone Wars Era or the Rebellion Era). WEG source books always published different stats for different films, and it would be nice if WotC did the same instead of simply giving us “Episode IV” Vader.

But ya’ know what? I shouldn’t even complain, ‘cause I wasn’t satisfied with their version anyway and would most likely have changed it all regardless.

In fact, this little exercise has had a couple-several major benefits for yours truly:

- I now have stats for all six film versions of Vader

- I now have stats that I actually like and approve

- I got a much better idea of how character creation works in the game

- I figured out that I absolutely do NOT have to buy a single other source book for this game!

The last is a fantastic benefit. You can’t believe how sorely tempted I was to purchase at least one or two of the beautiful (literally, these books are wonderful pieces of art) sourcebooks for the game. Especially as two of my favorite characters, Darth Maul and Count Dooku, are not present in the core rulebook (what can I say? I like badass Sith geezers). If they had both been included in the same sourcebook, the chance I would have purchased it would be about 85%...however, since WotC split them up (hmmmm…now why would they do that?) I put it off.

And good thing because now I know I have everything I need in the core book (YES, it is a complete rulebook!) to create their characters in a way satisfactory to me. Which is totally fine as I DID glimpse at their (humongous!) stat blocks and found I did not like WotC take on ‘em.

But, hey…those guys are for another day (perhaps tomorrow; hopefully they’ll prove quicker to do since they only appear in one or two movies). Let’s get on to the main event!

SO…Anakin, Anakin. What have they done to you? Should we start with the good or the bad? Let’s do GOOD first: I cannot help but say THANK YOU to WotC for including the characters they DID include in the core book. My initial impression (“huh, that’s kind of random”) has been turned around as I realize they did a NICE thing: they took all the characters with weird/special toys and threw ‘em in, thereby providing an OFFICIAL “how-would-you-model-that?”

Because, let’s face facts: when playing Star Wars the game is all about modeling the movies. That’s why people play (at least, it’s usually the initial draw). The game may say O Don’t Fight Vader or the Emperor, That’s For Luke To Do but c’mon now! I’m just going to let THEM have all the fun? For folks playing the original WEG Star Wars did you ALWAYS go along with the “well, the only real Jedi are Luke, Ben, and Yoda and the rest of y’all are up the crick.” No way, man…I want MY shot at Boba Fett, too, dammit!

(or a pastiche clone of the character anyway)

So look at who’s included in the core rules and you see some nice little bonuses that ya’ WON’T have to model:

Darth Vader (his special armor/outfit)

Luke “the TRUE Chosen One” (totally normal character)

Boba Fett (HIS special armor; can be used for Jango, of course)

General Grievous (four-armed cyborg)

Yoda (shrunken Jedi master)

Chewbacca (200+ year old wookie; by the way, he needs an overhaul, too)

All the main droids from the films

BTW: I haven’t even bothered to read the Droids chapter yet, as the whole thing looked like its own bit o crazy. “Constructing” characters, indeed! Glad I have some templates!

Okay, so that’s the good: we got Anakin and we know how to deal with his funky armor and cyborg parts. Yay. Now to the bad.

People change classes in the Star Wars RPG more often than some people change shirts. With Anakin (a character that goes through several career and allegiance changes over his six film history) there ain’t no exception. Here’s how WotC state him, as of Episode IV:

Jedi 7/Jedi Knight 5/Ace Pilot 2/Sith Apprentice 2/Sith Lord 3

For a final character level of 19.

All classes (other than “Jedi”) are prestige classes and I agree with the ones they’ve given ol’ DV. It’s pretty much everything else I disagree with starting off with his 1st level class choice: Jedi.

I’ve seen Episode I and that kid weren’t no Jedi. No way, no how.

And don’t tell me he wasn’t a PC yet: that kid was the main character through the whole damn thing, speeding around in his pod racer and blowing up space stations.

Now, in general, I don’t give a rat’s ass about “min-maxing” in these games (though I do like cool combinations); I’m more interested in sticking to canon, and in the case of Star Wars that means modeling the films. As far as George Lucas is concerned (and thus, as far as I’M concerned), his movies are the Holy Bible and everything else can go to hell. Timothy Zahn said the clone wars were about crazy Jedi clones? GL said nope, sorry, just Fett-Xeroxed stormtroopers. All those books and comics and video games? They’re fan fic as far as Lucas is concerned, and so I’m going to err on the side of Lucas myself.

Just easier that way.

So I don’t care what “adventures” a 5 year old Anakin had prior to Episode I; I’m starting with the Phantom Menace and starting him 1st level with exactly the correct class: a frigging slave!

Unfortunately, there is no “slave class” in the Star Wars RPG (more’s the pity). In fact, there are only five basic classes in the game: Jedi, Noble, Scout, Scoundrel, and Soldier. We know he wasn’t a Jedi and he definitely wasn’t a Noble or Soldier. Scout doesn’t fit either…as a slave he may have had some nascent curiosity, but he wasn’t out exploring the wilderness, let alone the Galaxy. And the kid never held a blaster or a deck of cards in his hand (and not much of a Lady’s Man either, am I right gals?)…hardly a “scoundrel.”

Well, actually, there is ONE non-prestige class that fits the kid at the beginning of his life (no, not droid…his cyborg days are much later): the “Nonheroic class.” Oh, yes indeedy…it doesn’t get much less “non-heroic” than being a slave at the bottom of the food chain, and that’s where Anakin starts his career:

Episode I:

Anakin Skywalker (Human Nonheroic 1)

Oh, you think I jest? Not on your life. Don’t worry, he’ll go straight into Jedi at level 2 after receiving some training from Obi-Wan, but that happens in between episodes.

Now normally, if someone wanted (or was willing!) to take “Nonheroic” as a character class, I might be inclined to give them some extra bonus or feat or something. Eh. I dislike fiddling with “rules as written” (I’m a rules stickler and lawyer from waaaay back) so I’ll use the Nonheroic class as written; trust me, His Royal Badness is STILL a badass by the end of the exercise, and it’s all the cooler that an ex-slave managed to hunt down and exterminate 99% of the galaxy’s Jedi. Talk about a bit of a chip on the shoulder!

Since I bothered to do the exercise, I might as well post it for others. However, I’m going to do it in separate posts (as this one is already getting a bit long). A few notes before I start:

1) While I did a level by level “stat up” I’m only going to be posting how Anakin/Vader appears at the beginning of each film (this will give folks 6 versions of HRB).

2) This is not an exercise in “min-maxing;” it is instead an attempt to model the dude as he appears in the films. So if you see things like “why that?!” it’s either because he demonstrated the ability or he needs it as a pre-requisite for a later level.

3) The Star Wars RPG distinguishes between “Heroic character classes” and “nonheroic character classes” with regard to some class abilities and prestige classes. This has been accounted for (suck it D20…the slave made good is still cool; haven’t you seen Spartacus?).

4) Anakin/Vader’s maximum level is still 19. The only characters of the film I consider to be 20th level are Yoda and the Emperor (and the latter may not even be 20th till his appearance in Episode VI; I haven’t decided yet). Vader DOES have an increase in power between Episodes IV, V, and VI and this is reflected in his stats.

5) I can’t believe they failed to give their version of Darth Vader the “throw lightsaber” talent! Haven’t they even seen the movie? Where do they think the idea for this ability came from? Jeez!

6) Because Vader’s suit is a unique item, I am simply using the stats from the Core rules. There are no other special rules that apply to the character.

7) For ability scores I have chosen to use the “point distribution method” of assigning ability scores. There’s nothing randomly rolled about this character. Hit points are purely average. Age adjustments ARE factored in at all levels.

8) I did take some artistic license and included two Destinies over the life of the character. In my opinion, Anakin had a Destiny to “rescue his mother,” foreshadowed in Episode I when he told her he’d return to her. This destiny was completed after recovering her body from the sand people providing Anakin with two bonus ability points. His new Destiny was then to be “corrupted by the Dark Side” (foreshadowed in Episode II by his exacting vengeance); this was brought to fruition in Episode III upon the slaying of Mace Windu, again granting Anakin/Vader two bonus ability points.


  1. Well, depending on who you think is the true hero of the story, Anakin may have a third destiny, "destroy Palpatine", but I'd guess the "TRUE Chosen One" comment up there means you're a Lukite. ;)

    I'd also argue that certain of the films are fanfic, but I generally agree with your limits on canon. One mistake the WEG game made, I think, was in trying to model everything, which made what should have been a simple, fun, setting suddenly appear sprawling and confusing. They should have left it to the sourcebooks, and concentrated on the films in the core rules.

  2. @ Kelvin: Oh no, man, I'm a Vaderite all the way. I just mean neither Luke (not Vader) have any "special rules" that set them apart from regular character creation. Which is nice to see.

    ['cause it means you can do an "alternate history" Star Wars and be the hero yourself...'nuff said!]

  3. I believe in one version of the d20 Star Wars rules, they had a 'Fringer' class—and THAT is what they had Anakin start out as (I believe)... or well, that's what they could have had him start out as, because I agree. He was no Jedi in Episode I. I also recall (in the d20 Jedi sourcebook) that they had a 'Force Adept' class—which was essentially a non-formally-trained person who had some force powers. That would also fit for Anakin.

    As far as WEG goes, I am an unabashed fan, so I'll try not to gush or defend too much. I'll just agree that as the Star Wars universe 'expanded', some of the source material they were putting out was crap because it was BASED on crap. I won't even go into the 'variations' in stats they put out from sourcebook to sourcebook (they never seemed very big on consistency). As far as the 'sprawling' thing goes, I never minded that. Star Wars is a sprawling setting. As a GM you can use as much or as little as you want of what was published. But then, that's my general attitude. After a point, I don't even try to keep 'current' on all the peripheral stuff, it'll just drive you crazy. I just pick and choose what works for me—and I never minded having a lot of source material to build off of.

    And yeah, I am totally down with taking the movies and the movies alone as 'the bible' for the story...with just one exception (okay, so I am a heretic!). I hate the concept of midichlorians. It was just stupid. There. Rant over.

  4. The Force Adept in the Saga edition is a prestige class, and more of a local alien priest/hedge wizard type character (think that blue shaman lady in Avatar).

    Many of the "old" D20 SW classes have been folded under more generic classes...for example, all the Jedi classes are "talent trees" of Jedi...and Fringer is no exception, being a talent tree under Scout. However, making Anakin a "scout" at level 1 (he did seem to have a lot of free time for a "slave") actually causes the character to lose some necessary feats and proficiencies. But I'm reviewing it right now.
    ; )

  5. The type is so small. Are you trying something new?

  6. Wasn't his destiny to bring balance to the Force. Which he did. Two Jedi--Yoda&Obiwan--two Sith--Vader and Emperor.

    There was an assertion on the blogosphere that I read a few days ago that the only thing that should be canon is STAR WARS. It was pure because it was being made on its own merits. Everything else had an agenda. Plus, less STUPID to deal with.

    You are reading "Darth and Droids" for Star Wars RPG tips right?