Tuesday, February 16, 2010

O Shame! - D20 Star Wars (Part 1)

So last night, my wife and I are at this pseudo-French place in Greenwood and she tells me I such a “double-standard man.” What do you mean double-standard – I don’t have double standards!

M: Oh yes you do, you are always saying how much you hate cheesecake and here you are ordering cheesecake!

JB: No I don’t! I say I’m not a big fan of cheesecake, but I like cheesecake sometimes.

M: No, how many times have you said “ew, cheesecake, I can’t stand cheesecake, let’s get something else?”

JB (remembering): Well, okay, maybe I have said something like that in the past, but c’mon! Fresh, hand-picked huckleberries from Montana?

M: Double-standard. How fresh do you really think those huckleberries are? You’re going to eat it and say “ugh, don’t let me order THAT again,” just like always!

JB: Well…I’m sure it’ll be delicious.

M: Double-standard!

The cheesecake WAS quite tasty, even though the huckleberries didn’t taste all that fresh; I did not regret my dessert choice. However, my wife got me thinking about my actions lately…specifically my vehemence of opinions on certain issues being reversed 180 degrees at the drop of a hat.

Take my recent Star Frontiers post, not-quite-retracting my earlier diatribe (and to be fair, most people seem to have missed the whole point of the original post: that some games won’t be worth re-visiting, specifically 4th edition D&D). In the former, I did a more in depth re-read and consideration of the Star Frontiers rules and found it “just fine” in the context of its own setting. Despite my often noted dislike of Skill Systems, SF skills are simple enough that they really don’t get in the way of fast character creation, or quick task resolution (and it’s not much of a “stat block” to write “Beam 2, Demolitions 1” or whatever). My main gripes have always been (and continue to be): rate of advancement, combat, and lack of starship rules in the main game. But within its basic setting, starship rules aren’t really necessary and everything else can be chalked up to the particular idiosyncrasies of its particular system. The subject of “modeling realistic combat in an RPG” deserves its own loooong post.

So…180 degree turnabouts. Hmm, where to start? Here’s the thing: I tend to be fairly passionate (do put it mildly) about the things I’m passionate about. Which probably sounds like a big “duh” except that I tend to be passionate about EVERYTHING. There’s very little “moderation” in my life, though I’ve gotten better at the attempts (I think). I have a tendency to LOVE LOVE LOVE things or HATE HATE HATE them…or more specifically to “not give a shit” about the things that don’t matter to me.

Take Sarah Palin, for example. I have decided that what she does or doesn’t do makes no real difference to me. I would not vote her into any elected office and would actively vote for most any opposition candidate to prevent her from achieving any sort of power in this country. But I understand that some people find her an attractive candidate for our next president (at last poll it was 20% and falling, thank God!). That 20% (or less) of the U.S. that would vote for her…well, they are so far outside MY particular perspective of what is “good leadership” that it doesn’t make sense for me to expend the energy trying to sway them…I mean we aren’t even on the same page! Something about Palin simply attracts a portion of the population, and it’s probably the same stuff that repulses me. You can’t fight that, you can only accept that different people have different tastes and hope that more people share your view than the other (oh…and work to be a good person with your own life and actions).

Okay, so…I TRY not to spend time and energy spewing the negative, but still it sometimes comes out. Especially when I sit around talking politics with friends. Or when I’ve been drinking. Or both. ‘Cause I’m a naturally passionate individual (triple Scorpio did I mention?) and when I get relaxed, sometimes the restraints come off.

So, too, with this blog. I assume there are folks that dig on 4th edition D&D. I KNOW there are huge fans of D20 and Pathfinder. I’m not. Sometimes, I get irritated about one-thing-or-another and I type a big, long post about how much I HATE this-that-and-the-other. That’s me. However, sometimes I find something I like about a game system I’ve previously denigrated, and I expound on the subject. That’s me, too.

But sometimes, the week feels like I’m living in Backwards Land and I start eating cheesecake just because it has huckleberries, or I start thinking about starting a Star Frontiers Campaign just because I’ve been watching that Caprica TV show and I can draw comparisons. And sometimes I do something truly retarded like run out and buy a brand-spanking-new D20 game, purposefully lining the coffers of Wizards of the Coast and supporting something I loathe.

It feels like I made a campaign contribution to Sarah Palin.

The game I purchased is the latest version of D20 Star Wars (the Saga Edition). I’m not going to attempt to justify my purchase, but I’ll tell you the events that led to me putting down money for it:

1. I love Star Wars. I have since I saw the first movie at the age of FIVE. I own five of the six films on DVD (and have owned them in other mediums) and have watched them all many, many times. I especially like episodes II and III for their subject matter (Jedi – Sith conflict).

2. West End Games went out of the Star Wars business long before the prequel movies were released.

3. I saw the Star Wars RPG in the “used” section of my local game store, and over a couple-few days decided I could pony up the dough just to have it “as a reference.”

4. I went back to the game store and found the used copy had been sold. Denied of my instant gratification after a day of planting 65 pound stepping stones in the back yard (using only my own brute force, a shovel, and my wife’s pinpoint directions), I bit the bullet and blew $40 on a new copy of the game.

As I said, there’s no justification for my actions, and I would not encourage anyone to do what I did. I don’t know if I’ve related this story before, but shortly after Knight of the Old Republic had been released on the Xbox, I purchased their first edition of the D20 Star Wars RPG from a WotC retail store (remember when they used to have those? At least, they used to have ‘em in Seattle). After perusing the game for less than a day, I returned it to the same store and got my money back. Star Wars or not, cool setting or not, the game sucked and I decided I would never play it.

Now…well, I’m going to withhold posting what I think about it till, I’ve had a chance to read more. On first pass, the thing seems to be worse than I even remember D20 being. Pretty much every character is multi-classed (save Padme and the droids), with stat blocks that look like a ton of gibberish. Not only are their feats and skills, there are “talent trees,” “force powers,” “secret force powers,” and a host of strange minutia.

Hmm…talents are like class-specific feats…severing limb is a talent? And only available to a prestige classes? So a 20th level Jedi is too inelegant to do anything but bash an opponent to death with his or her lightsaber? Storm troopers are a 4th level “Un-heroic” class?

Ugh. Ugh-ugh-ugh. It’s like pounding nails into my brain.

As I said, I’ll be writing more about this game as I continue to read it (perhaps this will be the “theme of the week”). We’ll see if I can do another 180 with this thing.


  1. Speaking as one who's bought d20 sourcebooks for this game... I hate the system for use with Star Wars. But some of the source material is interesting. Way too overpriced though (in my opinion), since half the 'content' of most d20 books is huge blocks of stats I don't care about. The Star Wars D6 system remains (in my opinion) the best iteration of rules for the setting. From reading your blog, I know you don't much care for skill-based systems (at least in regards to D&D), but for me, the D6 was a great version of that type of game. Anyway...don't feel too guilty. I'll say this for WotC, they have some great illustration and layouts... the books are pretty if nothing else.

  2. I ran across a used copy and put it down with reluctance. I'm still may slink back to the store to buy it. Please, give me a reason not to. It is calling me and I don't know why. I've never played d20.

  3. Although I never had the chance to play WEG's Star Wars, I did get pretty heavy into Wizard's 1st Star Wars d20 game when it came out back in the early 2000's. I at one time had every sourcebook the system had to offer, but recently (last week, actually) thinned out my collection a wee bit. I kept the Revised Core Rulebook, Secrets of Tatooine, Starships of the Galaxy, Ultimate Alien Anthology, Dark Side Sourcebook, Powers of the Jedi Sourcebook, Rebellion Era Sourcebook, Tempest Feud, & Geonosis & the Outer Rim Sourcebook.

    All in all, I liked the game as presented. Although not a fan of WotC & their take on D&D by any means, we always had great fun with d20 Star Wars, & I might run it again as a break from our AD&D1E game.

    I can't comment on the "Saga Edition" that was released a year or two ago (being the edition I surmise you purchased), but the 1st iteration of d20 Star Wars is a pretty straight forward & decent game, IMO.

  4. I hear D20 Star Wars is a blast. I'm partial to the WEG version, but there's no way I'd turn down a game of D20. Too bad it's been cancelled by Wizards.

    They just make one bad decision after another!

    Seriously though, enjoy your game and play the hell out of it so you get your money's worth!! :D

  5. The SAGA version is the best running of the D20 Star Wars if you have had time to compare.

    The Best version of a Star Wars RPG was the 1987 WEG version. It was rules lite and really fun. All other versions by WEG were mucked up by too many rules.

    The dreaded 2nd edition comes to mind where I sat for over 35 minutes making a character and we ended up not playing at all.

    In the original version it was 7 minutes tops get dice ready and blasters blasting. My favorite character I played was the failed jedi. Go find the original SWRPG and Sourcebook and forget the rest.

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  7. As I understand it, Star Wars SAGA lays much of the groundwork for D&D4 in terms of mechanics.

    Oh, and they had a WotC shop at the Mall of America in Minnesota ears ago, but it folded in 2002 or 2003.

  8. They had one in the Tacoma Mall (between Seattle and Olympia) but it folded around that time.

    Also, I can see how they could make a SW game using d20. I cannot see why it's a better idea than just making a new game system.

    Like GURPS, I always felt the primary reason for d20 was to allow the adventure to slip into another time / place / dimension without having to translate your characters or learn a new system. But every d20 variant changed enough that it didn't work that way anymore.

    Besides, we all associate d20 with orcs and spiked chains and metamagic feats. If you play a completely different game setting, you should divorce from the previous rules if only to escape the system-setting associations.

  9. "Yes, yes. Embrace your hate. Feel it's power. Only through hate will you be able to defeat me."

    -- WoTC marketroid laughing to himself at the $40!!! you blew

  10. @ Eldrad: I can say that so far, I like the Saga edition better than WotC's 1st version. Having owned both WEG D6 editions, I am still formulating my comparisons. Also, I've blogged before that the "Failed Jedi" is my absolute favorite template/character from any edition of Star Wars. (*wheeze*)

    @ Rolo: Star Wars D6 avoids many of the "skill system" problems with templates and a semi-universal system...though it may be more than it needs to play the game. I am familiar with it.

    @ Everyone else: Oh, it is sooo on, folks!
    ; )