Published on July 20th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen0
A Star Wars For Every Season – Part Two
Not too long ago we started going through Star Wars RPGs and last time we focused on the version by West End Games (first edition) published in 1987. We’re on a mission to stat up the same character in each Star Wars RPG system, to take a look at the way that the different systems handle the same universe. The character that we’re stating up is set in the Rebellion era (Episodes 4-6) because that’s the only era that’s technically playable in every published system.
Meet our heroine, Y.T. Harker- once an Imperial TIE Fighter pilot, she defected to the Rebellion after seeing the corruption and malice that plagues every aspect of the Empire. She escaped with her TIE Fighter, and it’s now been equipped to work in coordination with Rebel forces. It still doesn’t have shields or a hyperdrive, so she docks in a large ship and only pilots when needed in the story.
Out of the cockpit Harker is a quiet, rather stoic woman. She sees discipline and self-mastery as the highest virtues, and has no time for jokers and loud mouths. Harker is having a hard time fitting into Rebel military life, where the chain of command and protocol are much more lax than what she’s used to. That said, she’s a decent arbiter- everyone knows her to be impartial and honest.
This time we’ll be comparing the two WotC Star Wars RPGs. There was a d20 3.0 Edition game that was published right after Episode One came out, which was later updated after Episode Three came out. These games were essentially the same, but the updated version had additional setting material taken from the second two prequels, so we’re counting them as the same game.
The other version we’ll look at is Star Wars Saga Edition, which came out at the end of the d20 3.5 era. The game devs had had several years to play with the mechanics at that point, and they wanted a more simple and direct game that still used d20 as a base. Saga Edition was the first game to be called d20 “3.75 Edition” and it made a lot more changes from standard 3.5 then other games that get called that.
Wizards of the Coast (d20 3.0 Edition) – 2000
The first thing that is apparent when you make a character in this Edition is that WotC is very aware of the way the WEG Star Wars game played. When you flip open the book the first section is character creation, with a selection of pre-made characters called “templates” complete with a background and a quote. This is a great idea, and really every single RPG intended for players new to the hobby should include something like this. WEG got it right, and WotC did well in repeating it- so why didn’t that decision make it into D&D products like 4th Edition?
But again, we’re not here to take the easy way out. As this is a d20 system (almost exactly the same one used in D&D 3.0) we’ll be putting points into our six ability scores, choose a class, allocate skill points and choose feats. The book gives you the option to roll your stats, do point buy or use an array (only one). I’ll just go with the array, it’s what I usually do unless I’m going for a very specific build anyways.
The Abilities section says that Dexterity is the attribute I need to Pilot starships, so I want a decent score there. Charisma is the ability used to bargain and display leadership, so that will be another area to focus on. Again, Strength and Intelligence get the short end of the stick, but everyone has to be bad at something.
I’ve decided that Harker is utterly devoted to her role in bringing down the Empire, which means that she spends her time honing her skills piloting and shooting. Her focus on self-improvement and her reputation for being fair are where her Charisma comes from, and why she’s good at leading and getting people to work together. She’s not a popular person, she’s well respected instead., so I’ll make Wisdom her third highest stat. Harker is human so she will get extra skill points as well as an extra feat at first level.
Looking at the classes, I’m not too happy with my choices initially. To complete the character concept I need to make sure the class has Pilot as a class skill. I also want the class to use Dex and Cha because those are my highest rated abilities. It turns out that the only class that has those two together is the Scoundrel class, and there is no “Pilot” class. But, Scoundrel does have Pilot as a class skill, so we’ll choose that. Maybe Harker will dip into a level or two of Noble later- that could coincide with some sort of plot twist.
This class choice has me thinking that the d20 Universe version of Harker is much more of a spy and infiltrator than her WEG counterpart. Maybe she never took the Imperial insignia off her TIE Fighter and uses confusion to infiltrate bases? Or maybe she could deploy behind enemy lines during battle and hit them from the back, or take out supply lines. It’s not nice, or honorable, but it gets the job done.
So I take the time to fill out the rest of Harker’s derived stats now that I know what modifiers she has. I hate this part of character creation. It’s like filling out a tax form, constantly referencing other boxes and adding numbers together. 3rd Edition’s skill point system makes me facepalm so hard. Why is your skill cap level + 3 for class skills and half that (don’t round up or down) for out of class skills, and skill points spend as a full point for class skills but only half for out of class skills? That is so overly complicated and an inane amount of tracking. It’s not hard it’s just horribly inconvenient.
I don’t mind crunchy systems, but actually filling out the sheet is so tedious with these rules- I really wish every game more complex than FATE just came with character builder software that actually works. If you can’t make char gen software that easily works for your system, your system is bad and you should feel bad. /rant
So to keep things relatively simple, I just single out 8 skills that I want to max and spend all of my skill points in those areas. Then on to Feats, where Starship Operator and Starship Dodge immediately catch my eye, so I spend my two feats on them. And that’s it! A roguish scoundrel defector who runs sabotage and infiltration for the Rebellion!
Wizards of the Coast (Saga Edition) – 2007
Despite my usual dislike of the 3rd edition versions of the d20 system, I feel like there have been interesting iterations on the mechanics. Star Wars Saga Edition is probably my favorite of the d20 hacks, and I’ve both played in games with it and ran games with it several times. The last time I used the Saga Edition was as the base rule set for a Mass Effect detective/noir game on the Citadel, the players were C-Sec operatives or stooges. Every session was a procedural or a mystery in the vein of Law & Order, it was great.
Saga Edition is still based on D&D so we’ll be seeing some familiar systems. It looks like the standard array is still the same, so I’ll go ahead and plug in the same values. Once again I get an additional skill and an additional feat for being human. Looking at the class list, it turns out that all of the classes are the same, down to having the same character art (though they have simplified the Jedi into one class). I never noticed this before, and while the art is wonderful, it doesn’t please me to know that they just recycled assets from previous games.
The class list this time around is much more in my favor. Saga edition is a lot more flexible than the default d20 edition, and allows a wider variety of characters. This time I’ll go with a Noble class, with the intent to multiclass into scoundrel or scout later. Classes in Saga each have three sub-class feat bundles, which means each class can define itself well without being too restrictive.
This time Nobles have Pilot as a class skill too, which helps, but the main reason I choose them is for the Influence and Inspiration talent trees they offer. These will let me make this version of YT Harker more of an officer/leader type, who inspires her team mates to be more effective. When YT dips into Scoundrel later it will be for the Spacer talent tree, which gives better piloting tricks.
I get Linguist, and some weapon proficiencies for free as part of the class. For my two Feats I get Vehicular Combat, which I’ll need if I want to be proficient in Starship Gunnery. It also allows me to force an opponent to reroll an attack in space combat, which is sweet. Then I grab a Skill Focus in Pilot to give me another +5 to that skill. Now it’s by far my highest skill at +12, my next highest being a +7 or two.
That’s going to make Harker a pretty deadly dog-fighter, and then once she’s out of the cockpit she’s a natural leader. I also see that there is an Ace Pilot prestige class that I’ll be able to qualify for easily in a few levels, which is icing for this character concept.
I’m more pleased with this character than I have been with any character so far. While I like the simplicity and straight forward nature of the WEG edition, Saga hit my sweet spot between crunch and theme. It’s not as bogged down in minute sub-systems as 3.0 Star Wars, and the classes (and prestige classes) are a lot more broad and useful- and that’s just using the base book! Once you add in the supplements, Saga is for sure my favorite Star Wars RPG.