One Hit Wonders: Star Wars

I’m crazy behind on these. It wasn’t much more than a couple months ago that I did my last one, and we’ve had three installments since then. Yikes. My life has gotten busy with work and a new girlfriend and starting a new campaign, so I’ve neglected typing this information up. But now I’ve got a post-con report for AmberCon to write, and I figure if I don’t get these done before I get the con recap done, then these will never get done. Since our next One Hit Wonders is in just over a week, the heat is kinda on.

As mentioned before, this was game used the revised 2nd edition rules of the old d6 Star Wars system. This OHW covered two different things: Taking the old d6 system for a spin and seeing if I could play a roleplaying game without actually being able to communciate.

I’d played in a short lived and (frankly) awful campaign of this 15 some odd years ago. I’m not sure that there were many in OHW group who had never played it, but I’d made a comment earlier in the previous game about a long-threatened “wookie diplomat” as a sort of ultimate form of playing-against-type. The notion is patently absurd, especially since wookies can’t really talk. And part of the concept is that I would speak only in shyriiwook, the wookie language. I’d long given up the idea of playing it as a character, because there’s no GM I dislike enough to want to run that as a character in a campaign. But people wanted to try this out in a one-shot, and no one wanted the d20 rules.

Character Creation

I made my character from scratch. I think the other two players (failed Jedi and protocol droid) made theirs based on templates. Overall it was fast and simple to make a character. The stats and skills are reasonably simple. You don’t have the option to tweak your character heavily with advantages or flaws or feats or anything like that. Just a handful of points distributed between stats and skills combined with nebulously defined starting equipment.

One could gripe about things like “there’s no guidelines for what equipment you should start with” or “all you need to be Force-sensitive is to check a box?” or “Why are social skills under Perception?” But for the most part I thought it worked fine and got us from “character creation” to “playing” very fast. Thumbs up.

In Play

The system in play is similarly simple and fast. For simple task checks it worked really well. You have a pool of d6s, you add the total together and compare it to a target number. We only had one combat using the system, and we ended up tacking that on at the end when we realized we went through the plot of the one-shot and managed to avoid most conflicts. The fight also went pretty quickly. It was simple and moved quickly, just what I’d want in a Star Wars game. The use of Force Points really allowed you to accomplish over the top cinematic stunts. The downside to those Force Points is you get damn few of them.

My primary complaint I have with the system is the “Wild Die.” For those unfamiliar with it, one die distinguished from the others can radically shift the results of your roll. If your Wild Die comes up “6” then something good happens, if it rolls a 1 something bad happens. There have been different interpretations on it through the different editions, and I gather the Revised 2nd Edition rules the GM was using offered different suggestions on how to use the Wild Die.

My recollection of the old rules is that a 1 added a dramatic failure to the action, even if you would normally succeed. It tainted the success with some sort of flaw, or made the failure spectacular. If you rolled a 6, then it added a positive spin. Failures were softened and successes were exceptional. When I played the 2nd edition of the rules in college, the version we used had a rolled 1 negate your highest die result and a rolled 6 caused the die to explode: you rolled the die again and added 6 to it. For the one-shot we used a mix of those. For 1s it resulted in dramatic failure or tainted success. For 6s it just exploded the die.

I haaaaaaaate the d6 system Wild Die. Haaaaaaaaaate. It seems like a cute idea on paper, but in practice it’s a pain in the ass. Especially if you are doing something you aren’t great at to begin with. The average ability allowed you to roll two dice. If you have a little bit of skill in something, you might have a +1 or +2 to the roll. If you go with the notion that rolling a 1 on the Wild Die negates your highest success, then your ability to accomplish anything drops sharply. Sure, you can get a spectacular result with a 6. But if you’re rolling just two or three dice, having a one-in-six chance of having one of those dice just disappear sucks. Even if you’re going with the dramatic failure rules instead, a one-in-six chance of having success tainted or failures explosive? Heegh. We didn’t run afoul of it much in the one-shot, which perhaps makes it unfair to beat up on it here, but when I played in a campaign in the past it really succeeded in killing the feeling that I’m a hero. It just made me feel like a doofus more often than not. It was laughably bad at times.

As for, “How did it go having to grunt and growl and have another PC guess at what you’re trying to say?” It went okay. While the other PC didn’t necessarily guess everything I was imagining as I pontificated in shyriiwook, most hunting down of clues is so generic that the other player didn’t need to understand what I was saying. We were able to follow plot just fine. Now, I will confess that I didn’t describe my actions in grunts. If I was going to try and use my made bureaucracy skills to get information, then I just said I was going to do that. And so the PC protocol droid did have a bit of help there. And we had to houserule it a bit when I was trying to use my social skills through the filter of the protocol droid. But otherwise it was fun. Will I do it again? Oh, dear god no.

Compared to the Leading Brand

The obvious “leading brand” is, of course, the d20 Star Wars games. There have been three iterations of these rules, and I’ve played each of them. Within them, I mostly feel like the latest edition (the “Saga” edition) is the strongest. It has some weak spots (like removing the fluff skills from the roster), but it is the fastest, leanest and meanest of the three d20 games. The main appeal of the Saga Edition is that you start off being competent, which was routinely a flaw in the other d20 iterations. (And, really, it’s often a flaw in most d20 games I’ve seen.) The d6 version left me feeling like my character was kinda bumbling, especially with that Wild Die in the mix.

The main drawback to the d20 version is that I don’t think they’ve really gotten very far away from “D&D in space.” In fact, the game has increasingly seemed to shift into more of a miniature battle game with a drizzle of roleplay over it. Toss in the confining nature of the class/level system and it starts to seem less awesome. I would gladly play it again, as I think they did some things right and it’s a lot of fun. But it’s not without its flaws.

I imagine if you were to just remove the Wild Die from the d6 system, I’d like it more. But at that point you just have a generic system of hucking a bunch of d6s and seeing if they look pretty. And if you are doing that, there are better games out on the market. I think either Savage Worlds or Spirit of the Century would both more adequately fill the shoes of the d6 system. I’d probably lean more towards Savage Worlds, as it’s already a generic system with some space based options. And it doesn’t use Fudge dice. Spirit of the Century would probably need some retooling of the stunts in order to make them more “Star Warsy.” That may not be as hard as it initially seems, though, so I might just be blowing that flaw out of proportion. But both systems encourage much more robust character concepts through use of additional mechanics that don’t bog the game down.

Final Verdict

I would probably play a d6 Star Wars game again. I probably wouldn’t run it. I’d probably just be a lame-ass and use the newest, prettiest d20 sourcebook which has all the nifty sourcebooks readily available. Especially since the new Saga Edition books are keeping up with the newer Expanded Universe stuff that has been pretty neat. (I’m a huge fan of Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff, especially Star Wars: Legacy. Legacy seems particularly well suited as a backdrop for a roleplaying game.) d6 is a fine system, but not so awesome that I feel I need to go digging through used book stores to find sourcebooks to run it.

The next game we did was Mutants and Masterminds with me in the hotseat.

1 thought on “One Hit Wonders: Star Wars

  1. scarywhitegirl

    My thought on making the Wild Die work is this: if you rolled a Wild Die _in addition to_ your normal dice pool, and went with the “something good/bad happens” option, it might not feel so clunky. Of course, that would screw you over if you rolled all 6s on the normal dice but a 1 on the Wild Die… so it’s not a perfect plan.

    And my favorite Star Wars “system” was the bastardized version that my friend Trevor used. White Wolf stats/character sheets/everything, with Jedis. I have no recollection of how he handled Force Powers, cuz I didn’t play a Jedi. :)

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