If you’re a regular at Dice of Doom you’ll know about our “Gaming Experiment“: playing 12 different roleplaying games in as many months. Whilst we’re currently working through Rolemaster (…we’ll report on that if, afterwards, we’re still alive to tell the tale), the game before that was Star Wars Saga Edition, which I GM’d. Whilst the game isn’t exactly new, we hadn’t played it before, and were very excited. RPGs are awesome, Star Wars is awesome… what could possibly go wrong?
If you’re familiar with 3.5 and 4E D&D, then Star Wars Saga Edition is like a cross between them. And, from our experience with both D&D systems, I would say it’s got the best of both worlds. There are also some similarities with Pathfinder, if you’re familiar with that. We found one of the best features of SW Saga Edition was the fact that there are a lot of similarities to D&D… but innovated enough to be fresh and feel different and to suit the campaign setting.
Saga Edition uses Reflex, Fortitude, and Will Defences (not AC, as attacks are made against Reflex), and uses “Trained” and “Untrained” Skills, along with healthy 1/2 level bonuses around the place. The Force Powers act a little like 4E Encounter Powers (in a good way).
There is no shortage to the number of abilities you have in or outside combat. Each class has a massive list of “Talents” to choose from, which are trees of class abilities. They range from learning to deflect blaster bolts with your lightsabre, to establishing underworld contacts. I was impressed by the number of non-combat utility abilities. This is in addition to Feats.
As a welcome change from 4E, the combat in SW Saga Edition is brutally quick. The fact is, when everyone has laser guns (and laser swords), people tend to die really fast… and it’s awesome. A single crit from a Storm Trooper will easily down most low-level characters. We found the change of pace from some other games to quite refreshing.
As mentioned above, Force Powers work a bit like 4E Encounter Powers, but you have lots of them, you can have duplicates, and there are ways of recharging them. Plus, if really want to, non-Jedi can be Force Sensitive and take Force Powers.
Naturally, our group is an unimaginative lot, so of all the cool classes, 3 of them decided to play Jedi [if you were playing a Star Wars RPG, what else would you play? ed]. Saga Edition is balanced so Jedi aren’t the solution to all life’s problems, including having only 2+Int trained Skills (1 of which will be Use the Force). Thus, the other characters really had to pull their weight as skillmonkey, and also whenever things needed shooting. This meant, that although more than half the party were Jedi, the other members were just as important to the story and action.
I designed a short adventure involving the PCs being given an espionage mission… only for Order 66 to be called whilst they were en route (if you’re not crash hot on Star Wars terminology: Order 66 was the order to have all the Clones betray and kill the Jedi, in Episode III). They arrived at their destination confused and hunted. They had to try to complete their mission, escape whilst being attacked by Imperial agents, and find sanctuary… only to be followed there. Since this was basically a one-shot, the plan was for the game to end with a TPK-inducing orbital bombardment (in the end, however, I let them escape because it was too much fun).
Going into it, I was a bit unsure how things would go with peoples’ knowledge of Star Wars. While I’m a complete Star Wars nerd, most of the players were not. As it turns out, this wasn’t a problem at all: many details are pretty unimportant and everyone understood the feel of the setting, which is what’s important. I just filled in the details whenever anyone asked me stupid questions… making up plausible-sounding stuff if necessary. You know: normal GMing. In fact, it could be said that some lack of knowledge made the story more believable and less predictable as the players didn’t know what was going to happen next.
We added a bit of ambience to the game in the form of music, which was awesome and really added to the game. Playing the main Star Wars theme during the start of the campaign got everyone really into the mood, playing the Mos Eisley Cantina music when entering a bar was hilarious, and playing Duel of the Fates to coincide with the big bad evil reveal added greatly to the experience. Highly recommended.
The general verdict was twofold: firstly, the game, as a system and setting, runs very well, and secondly, level 1 Jedi suck. Low-level Jedi are basically young apprentices, and trying to play like the characters in the films turns out to be very dangerous (surprise! lasers hurt!). The players expressed interest in playing again with higher level characters, which makes sense: the game appears to be fairly well balanced across levels 1-20, with lots of interesting Prestige classes and the like which are designed to be used.
The non-trivial process of acquiring Star Wars Saga Edition
The big problem with Star Wars Saga Edition is that WotC’s licence ending in mid 2010, all the Star Wars stuff on the WotC website has been removed, and the books aren’t in print anymore. Bummer. So what to do?
The first thing to do is drop by your local gaming store and see if they’ve got any books left. If not… then there’s always the internet. Amazon is not a terrible idea, but as the book is out of print, the prices might be a little offputting. [Note, the images below link to the books on Amazon.]
At a simple level, you only need the core rulebook, which contains all the player information, plus a bit of stuff for the DM and a few statblocks for common enemies. Especially if you’re buying online, make sure you get the Saga Edition book, as pictured here, not the original d20 version.
There are several other books. I would highly recommend Starships of the Galaxy, which contains stats for pretty much every starship in existence, plus a lot of extra rules and background information for starships. Again, make sure it’s the Saga Edition version.
Other than that, I would also recommend getting the campaign book for whichever era you’re playing in. For example, I favour the era between Episodes III and IV, so I got the Force Unleashed Campaign Guide, but there are also books for pretty much every other era, ranging from KOTOR to Legacy and everything in between.
Finally, there are a few other books, some of which are a bit like Monster Manuals and others are more specific.
There are a lot of quite handy resources for Star Wars Saga Edition, but finding them can be a bit of a hassle. The main place to go is the WotC Forum Star Wars section, which is still up and running (for the time being at least). Most of the other stuff presented below is on or can be found through this, but it’s a bit of a pain to search through.
A4 Character Sheets
The SW Saga Edition are a weird shape and the character sheets the same. An A4 sheet gives you a bit more room. An excellent A4 sheet in the same style as the original (by a guy named “llaunay” on the WotC forums) can be found in this forum thread.
Dawn of Defiance Campaign
WotC released a massive free campaign, called Dawn of Defiance, for Star Wars Saga Edition on their website. It consists of 10 full adventures, linked together into a campaign that spans levels 1-20. If you want a premade adventure, it’s great, and there’s a lot of fan support. Since the WotC website’s down, finding it is a bit of a pain: fortunately, fans have come to the rescue: you can download Dawn of Defiance from this thread.
There are also a lot of resources for it on the WotC forums, including a whole subforum. A good start is this index thread of Dawn of Defiance resources, including fan-made opening crawls for the adventures.
FAQs, errata, and other resources
This links thread on the WotC forums has a lot of resources, although some of the links are broken. Resources include errata, house rules, maps, adventures, and more.
If you haven’t played Star Wars RPG Saga Edition, it’s definitely worth a go, especially if you like D&D and Star Wars (and hey, if you’re reading Dice of Doom, you probably qualify). Our experience was definitely positive, so if you can get hold of the books, add this to your to-play list. Strong mechanics + awesome setting = win.