Happy birthday to my daughter, Sofia, who turns 7 today. Seven?! Sheesh...how time flies. Last year, her "party" was a Zoom call with her class. This year, we are actually having a small gathering (three kids) which will be held outdoors, with masks and social distancing. The theme is "garden party" and there will be croquet, lemonade, and shortbread cookies...also tiny sandwiches that I am supposed to make. The weather looks to be beautiful (again).
But the sandwich making won't be going down for a couple-four hours, at least (and I still need to pick up a gallon of guest-friendly hand sanitizer). Which gives me a chance to blog a bit. Yay!
I've been working with the old West End Games version of Star Wars this week, what is commonly referred to as "D6 Star Wars." I usually just refer to it as WEG on Ye Old Blog, and if you check through my old posts, you'll find the last time I wrote about the game did NOT have me saying many (any?) complimentary things about the game.
Welp, that was more than ten years ago. And just as time flies so, too, do past complaints and bitchin-moaning flit away on summer breezes. It ain't that I've "mellowed" so much as I'm just a bit smarter (maybe) than I once was about what makes (and breaks) a game. Much of the time the proof is in the play, and there are reasons designers do what they do.
Of course, I'm also smarter about doing what I do, which is to say running games. And part of this is ignoring true dross...like the scripted intro to the Rebel Breakout adventure found in 1E WEG...and getting to the meat of play. Which is what I did yesterday afternoon (more on that in a minute).
Why O Why, though, am I looking at Star Wars again? As with most of my motivations these days, it stems from my kids. As I've mentioned before, my son has been running his own game that he calls "D&D Five," which is more-or-less Star Wars run using a D&D (mash up edition) chassis. Players choose from races like human, wookie, "yoda," droid, and ewok and then one of several classes like bounty hunter, Jedi, pilot, etc. He's put together his own club at school the last couple weeks and has been running the game for a group of five or six kids.
[some might be curious about my children's "version numbers" for their game designs, and I'm not exactly sure where their numbering scheme comes from. My daughter started this a year or so ago when she started running her own game she called "D&D Three" to distinguish it from both the B/X game I was running and the B/X campaign of her brother (which consisted of a rather endless megadungeon with no name). Sofia's campaign is this weird world of "tower" dungeons, talking animals, and superheroes that really deserves its own post. I'm not exactly sure what game is supposed to be "D&D Four" in my son's mind...that perhaps is our current Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I should probably ask him about that...]
ANYway...the boy working on his own game and the kids rewatching Star Wars Rebels during their lunch breaks got my mind turning towards Star Wars again, and wondering if maybe I should/could be running a SW game. Not only because the kids are reaching that age when they're really starting to dig on RPGs (and are trying new styles and genres) but because it might help them with their own game design development.
So enter, WEG Star Wars. Oh, I own all those Fantasy Flight Games books for the latest version, but the tomes are far too massive to incorporate all of them into a single game (which is kind of the beauty of the original SW universe, what with its rebels and scoundrels and Jedi)...at least not effectively in any meaningful way. And even Saga Star Wars (which I ALSO still own) is too fiddly for my kids (and me) to make practical use of. No, fast and loose is the order of the day for the SW (space opera) genre and WEG does a good enough job of that...better than "good enough," in fact.
|1500+ pages or less than 140? Hmm...|
There are a couple issues. The first is relatively minor: my preference for the 1st edition of the game. I know, I know...I have badmouthed this edition to no good end in the past for all its "deficiencies." Can a person be allowed to wise-up with a decade plus of experience under the belt? I should hope so.
Increasingly over the years, when I've revisited old RPGs, I have found the original "first editions" to be the best, especially when it comes to explaining and maintaining the designer's clarity of vision. 2nd edition seldom improve the original design...they add mechanical nuance that cloud the maker's vision or "patches" that create new flaws. Some of the 1st editions I've come to prefer to later editions (even when I actually started on later editions) include: Advanced D&D (naturally), Heroes Unlimited, Vampire the Masquerade, Top Secret, Gamma World, Shadowrun, and Traveller.
WEG Star Wars now (for me) falls into this category. I know I decried things like "lack of scaling rules" or "missing force powers" or the need for "character points" (both for advancement purposes and narrative control)...I now see all those complaints as pretty much bunk. There are rules for difference in scale between vehicles and people (for example), and they are far simpler than the 2E rules (and do we really need a scaling chart to show Death Star class threats? Shouldn't that kind of be self-explanatory?). More definition of "force powers" aren't needed...the Force should be mysterious, strange, and hand-wavy, and the powers are fine the way they are. And the original game's "skill points" don't need to be altered from the way they already work, and attributes shouldn't be dithered about with anyway (why make advancement even more glacial?). No, the 1E version is JUST FINE...although I did just order a copy of the original edition Star Wars Sourcebook off the internet the other day (still want my extended equipment list).
The second issue though, isn't quite so minor: giant handfuls of D6s. At the moment, the basic WEG system doesn't work for me for a couple-three reasons:
- I don't want to invest in buckets of D6s.
- I don't want to add big handfuls of D6s and compare them to other giant added sums of D6s.
- And (mainly) I'm running Star Wars for my kids as an inspiration for their own games (at least for that of my son). And the boy is already invested in polyhedral dice having picked up several sets (with his own money!) to supply his school crew with their own dice (he also took the time to sanitize them and bag them in individual packets...the kid is meticulous!).
SO, silly as it may sound, I spent the last couple days (Monday and Tuesday) converting the entire WEG game to a system that uses polyhedral dice instead of dice pools, calculating probabilities, altering target numbers, etc. Madness? Yeah, sure. But guess what? It works. We ran Rebel Breakout yesterday (the sample adventure from the book) with the conversions, and there weren't any issues whatsoever. For running something like Star Wars Rebels or The Mandalorian, the system works fine. It's Star Wars...not D&D. Which I understand doesn't appeal to everyone, but it's a nice change of pace now and then.
All right, that's all I have time for this morning. I've got a garden party to organize!