Friday, March 26, 2010

Status Update

A while ago, I posted about the various 'projects' I am working on in regards to gaming in general (and Star Wars in specific). Well, I've actually made some progress in one of them! I am making a condensed version of the Star Wars D6 rules as they have evolved in my own campaign. The idea here is to try and 'finalize' a lot of things and try to eliminate a lot of the fluff and contradictions found in the West End games products. As I have worked, I've noticed quite a few interesting things...

First of all, the more I read the Star Wars 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded rulebook, the more I realize just how freaking AWESOME that book is. It is probably one of the best written and presented gaming books I have ever seen. The first part of the book is set up for those who have never gamed before—complete with a walk-through solo adventure to give you an idea of how the mechanics of the system works. The 'quick start' handouts for players are great, too—as are the various chapter introductions, each 'hosted' by a different character and presented in a very engaging and conversational tone. The layout of the book is superb as well, with a colored boxes calling out the most essential and 'boiled down' information for each section.

The awesomeness of this book intimidates me a little. I have to keep reminding myself that my OWN book is mainly just a digest of rules and isn't meant to 'compete' or be an 'insult' to the original. In fact, the only real things I've changed are some of the mechanics, skill names and equipment statistics. The bulk of what makes this game great didn't need to be 'fixed'.

Secondly, for as much as I have complained about 'charts' in the D20 system, I am finding myself using an awful lot of them as well. But in my defense, a lot of these charts could more readily be classified as lists—lists of races, skills, equipment, etc.. So I guess it doesn't really count. And being even more 'defensive', I can say that my book will NOT be having huge 'stat blocks' for NPCs and the like. I guess I'll reserve final judgement as to my 'chartiness' until my book is actually done.

Thirdly, there is the format. I initially was going to do 'pocket-book' sized layouts. But I quickly found that size wasn't going to cut it. The amount of information I am putting into the book would necessitate a really THICK little book, which kindof defeats the purpose.

And finally (for now), I've discovered there are a hell of a lot of details to my 'revised' rules that I hadn't completely thought out. So its going to be a bit more 'work' than just writing things down. But in any case, it is still fun, and I think I am going to be very happy with the final product. What am I going to do with it, you ask? Hell if I know. Probably just share it with my friends and maybe show the online community. But since it would be illegal to 'officially produce' it, that's all there can be...and I'm good with that, even if it does make me sad once more that Star Wars D6 is dead.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Game Master versus Player

No, I'm not talking about 'hostile' GMs or anything like that. Rather, I'm talking about my favorite subject—me! My gaming 'career' began many moons ago—probably right around 1981. And considering where I grew up (in the boonies of the boonies in South Dakota), there were not a lot of gamers around. Thus, if there was going to be any gaming at all, I was going to have to be the one running it. And so it continued (with the exception of a few games run by my buddy Mark in high-school), until I hit college. There, finally, I could be 'just a player'—at least part of the time.

But my "primarily GM" background gave me a rather unique (I think) perspective on being a player. First of all, I think that I was (and am) a lot more helpful than your typical player. That isn't to say all players are disruptive or anything like that—but rather that I am particularly sensitive to the challenges of running a game. I made an effort to make the life of my GMs easier—whether by being patient when other players were acting or by helping look up rules or even by trying to include other players and not 'steal the show' (this is a difficult one, because all players like to feel the game is centered around their character).

Likewise, during the time period I was playing, a lot of gaming was story-driven rather than sandbox style. Among my circle of gamers, this meant that certain allowances were made for 'drama' instead of demanding realistic pragmatism at all times in order to survive. I am the type of player who will sacrifice a lot for the sake of drama and "what my character would do" in a situation. If I'm playing a heroic character, then this would occasionally mean putting him in danger, even when it was 'wiser' to flee (facing down a 'charnel juggernaut' until the rest of the party can evacuate innocents and return with help is one such incident). Likewise, if I am playing someone who can be considered naive and maybe a bit too trusting, well.. then sometimes I will allow that person to be so, even if my 'player-sense' is tingling. I was never purposely suicidal in my actions, but I did allow my characters to have 'faults' and 'weaknesses'—like.. oh, a desire to do what is 'right'.

In a typical 'old school' game, these factors would probably incredibly lethal to a character—but they made for some great story moments. And honestly, I was never QUITE certain how far my GMs at the time would let this go. I think Doyce or Lee were quite capable of allowing a character to die, even in a story-driven plot. It gave an edge to the actions I took, even if I was reasonably certain they'd allow me a little leeway.

But I digress a little—didn't mean to get into story vs. sandbox again. Folks have strong opinions either way. All I'm saying is, in Story driven adventures, I was very willing to 'play along' with my GMs if it meant for a better story. And I think that stems directly from how I wished my players would game with me as a GM.

But being primarily a GM isn't always a good thing. As a GM (and because of my nature in general), I am something of a control freak. As a player, I find it a bit difficult to 'let go' of this, even though I really don't have much choice. I know I make a conscious effort NOT to second-guess my GMs, because really—I do LOVE to play. But I can't help think of what I would do differently and how I might make things 'better'. This sounds egotistical, and it is a little. But then all GMs have to be a little bit egotistical (read: Confident), or their games will fall apart.

Come to think of it, this is probably why I overcompensate a little when it comes to playing 'in character'. Not to get to philosophic about it, but the idea of 'letting go' of control of my character's destiny is at once unnerving and liberating. Maybe THAT is part of the reason why I let my characters take such risks. I mean, I have no real control over what happens to them, so maybe I'm a bit 'fatalistic' in my approach? I don't know. But part of that rings true.

In any case, I think that being a GM gives you a unique perspective on being a player—and while I'd like to think it makes us 'better' as players, I'm not certain that is true in the majority of cases. Please note I am talking folks who are PRIMARILY GMs—because I think most players have run a game or two in their careers. It isn't quite the same thing as someone who does it 'full time'. I haven't had a lot of dealings with other GMs, but from what I've heard (and seen) ego does play a lot into it. So I wonder what the reality is. Do we make good players? or bad ones. For myself, at least, I'd like to think the former. But...I am biased. Duh.

Anyway, enough ramblings for now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

TOP 100 (or so) Star Wars Races

I have actually been working on one of my 'Projects' (namely, the condensed/revised SW D6 rulebook). As part of this, I have been revamping the list Alien races—and more specifically, the game statistics for them (because West End stats were...all over the place). The sheer number of alien races is a bit daunting, so I have (for my own sanity) limited the number of races I am going to include to what I consider the 'top 100' (or so) races.

The criteria I have used to make my selections is (admittedly) subjective—but in general, I favor only those races that were shown in the movies or that were very prominent in the expanded universe (comics, novels, video games, the RPG, etc.). There are a few races I chose simply because I like them a lot. But then, It's my list, so... nyah. Please note that these races are not the most 'common' in the Star Wars galaxy, rather, they are the most 'visually archetypical' to the setting as a whole.

We'll start with the most 'important' races first (those featured prominently in the movies—characters with actual lines and names):

Aqualish — aka Walrus Man. He picked on poor luke and lost an arm for his troubles

Besalisk — The four-armed short-order cook. Friends with Obi-Wan in Episode II

Clawdite — The cute bounty-hunter chick (from Ep II) who turned into some kind of big lizard! (Don't they always?)

Dug — The hand-walking, mean-spirited pod-racer from Ep I. Poo-Doo!

Ewok — Killer teddybears. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're memorable.

Gamorrean — Space orcs! Who doesn't love drooling space orcs.

Geonosian — Bug-men from Ep II.

Gungan — Jar-Jar may give them a bad name, but you got to give them some credit for attacking tanks and droids with electric blue-balls.

Human — Duh. Some of them look good in gold bikinis.

Hutt — Bloated slugs. They do NOT look good in gold bikinis (but like humans who do).

Jawa — Oo-Tee-Nee! Rodent-like droid-salesmen.

Kaminoan — Very cordial, but wouldn't want those long necks anywhere near a lightsaber.

Kubaz — Long-snoot the spy. He sold out to 'the man'.

Mon Calamari — Delicious with butter. Prone to falling into TRAPS! Like their coffee hot.

Neimoidian — The cowardly operators of the Trade Federation. Racial stereotype or just interstellar scumbags? You be the judge!

Rodian — Oo-Ta-Goo-Ta, Solo? Bug-eyed little green men with antennae. Don't always make the best judgements regarding Corellian smugglers.

Sullustan — You know, lando's co-pilot from RotJ. And...that's about it.

Toydarian — Heh, I liked the little pot-bellied little humming-bird man with a tapir snout. He shouldn't gamble, though.

Wookiee — Arroooooo! Big. Hairy. Good to lean against. Affectionate.

Zabrak — One bad apple spoils the bunch. Darth Maul was one bad apple.

Now, the next group of races are mainly those who appeared in the movies, but didn't have real speaking parts. Plus, there are a couple who only became popular through novels/comics.

Bith — The guys in the cantina band. Probably one of the most recognizable symbols of the movies.

Bothan — Fey'lya. Annoying, furry, self-serving politicians. (Well, aren't they all?)

Chiss — Grand Admiral Thrawn. For some reason, being blue-skinned and having red eyes supposedly makes you cooler.

Falleen — Prince Xisor. "sexy" lizard-people with pheromones. Man, he almost got himself some Princess Leia...but.. DENIED.

Gand — Zuckuss. Freaky bug-headed bounty hunter. Partnered with a freaky, bug-headed droid. Go figure.

Trandoshan — Big lizard dudes who hate Wookiees— and shoes apparently. We don't need their scum.

Tusken — Sand People! Utt-utt-utt! They always ride single file, to hide their numbers.

Twi'lek — What is it about tentacles that makes a woman so sexy. Or not.

Ugnaught — Little pig-men. Hell, every movie had to have one race of short guys. This was them in ESB.

These are the guys who only show up briefly in the movies or who have minor parts in big books or big parts in minor books. It also includes a few of my own selfish choices of races I have a fondness for.

Abyssin — The one-eyed guy in the Cantina. Oh, and his kind regenerates. Handy.

Arcona — One of the first guys you see in the Cantina, the triangle/snake-headed guy who pops up into screen. Addicted to salt? Aren't we all.

Arkanian — Humans, but somehow cooler because they have white hair...and no pupils in their eyes. Creepy.

Askajians — You may not WANT to remember her, but you probably do. You know, the fat, multi-breasted 'dancer' waddling around Jabbas palace. A contrasting counterpoint to the much more pleasing 'Oola the Twi'lek'

Balosar — You want to buy a death-stick? No? Well, I'll go re-examine my life. Humans with antennae and bad habits.

Barabel — Some kind of big lizard!

Bimm — Hobbits... In... Spaaaaaace! Or at least they were until someone drew them with long snouts and big, pointy ears. Probably he same guy who drew Bothans with long snouts and big pointy ears. Dude. Seriously, I like dogs too, but... come on.

Cathar — Okay, so maybe Juhani from KotOR was an annoying character, but the idea of cat-people is still cool.

Cerean — They are coneheads. They are from France.

Chandra-Fan — Cute little mouse-bat people. Awwww, look, she wants a drink from the bar!

Chagrian — What is it with aliens with head-tentacles? And this guy has horns growing out of them. Wow!

Coynite — Lets see. A culture of war-like humanoids with ridged-heads and a strict sense of honor. Klingons, off the port bow!

Defel — Short little wolfy-dudes who's fur absorbs light, making them appear 'wraithlike'. Cool concept much abused by many gamers, I suspect.

Devaronian — A human guy with red skin and horns? Wonder how they came up with the name...

Duros — I don't know why, but I like this race. Maybe it's because they kind-of look like 'Grey' aliens—big heads, featureless faces, big eyes. Yes, just like the ones who abducted me.

Etti — Skinny, frail near humans. But mentioned in the Han Solo trilogy, so they get 'cool' points just for that.

Givin — Walking skeletons. Another cantina dweller. Pretty sweet that their exoskeleton can function as a space-suit (for a while, anyway).

Gotal — One of two goat-like humanoids. Flat-faced, with horns. Cool because they have a kind of precognition.

Gran — The OTHER goat-like humanoid race. They don't have horns, but they do have a muzzle—and three eyes. Must live near the nuclear power plant.

Hapan — Humans. Only they're all attractive. Oh, and they have a royal family.

Herglic — Walking whale-men. Awesome!

Iktotchi — They look kind-of like the bad-guy from "Legend"—reddish skin and horns. Only their horns are turned downwards, which is obviously less 'evil'.

Iotran — An interesting race taken solely from the RPG. Look 'em up.

Ishi Tib — Parrot-beaked fish-men! I always imagine them wearing eye-patches and pea-coats, with a corn-cob pipe in their beaks and a parrot on their shoulders. I don't know why.

Iskalonian — Fish-men! Kinda like mermaids, only cooler because they have legs. Otherwise, I mean.. what's the point? This was taken directly from the Marvel comics.

Ithorian — Hammerhead. Loved his action figure, and the race turned out to be cool, too.

Kaleesh — Though we never see one as a non-cyborg, still an interesting race (this is what General Grievous was before his 'operation').

Kallidahin (Polis Massan) — Short, gangly, featureless guys who couldn't talk. If so...then why did their midwife-droids?

Kel Dor — Freaky crested heads and breath-masks.

Kitonak — One of the (many) alien races from the Max Reebo band. This was the pear-shaped clarinet player.

Klatooinian — One of the various bumpy-face henchman races of Jabba the Hutt. Part of the whole 'Day the Earth Stood Still' in-joke about Klatuu Barada Nikto.

Lafrarian — Another race from the Han Solo trilogy. Humanoids descended from birds. Made good pilots. Go figure. Caw caw!

Lannik — Remember the big-eared, scar-faced midget-dude Jedi seen in Episode I? No? Well, he was a Lannik.

Lorrdian — Yet ANOTHER cool race from the Han Solo trilogy. A dark-skinned (PC: African-Amer.. no, wait.. Afro-Galaxian.. no.. ummm.. Black?) human species who are natural mimics. One of them (Fiolla) was a love interest for Han Solo. I now picture her as a Halle Berry type. Rrrowr.

Mustafarian — Not to be confused with a Rastafarian. These were insect-lookin' dudes who rode giant Fleas over beds of molten lava. No. Seriously.

Muun — Humanoid dudes with unsettlingly tall and skinny heads. Make you think the horizontal hold on your screen is off. Oh, they're Bankers. Yes, the 'Munn' handly 'Money'. Get it?

Nautolan — More tentacle headed dudes? Seriously? Well, this one seemed to be a Jedi with a sense of humor. At least he cracked a smile once. That's something.

Nikto — Another bumpy-faced henchman race of Jabba. Another part of the Klatuu-Barada-Nikto joke.

Noghri — The poster-child for unbalanced Star Wars mega races. Small grey guys who are very sneaky and complete badasses to boot. But...the're far too trusting.

Omwati — Another 'humanoid race descended from birds'. One of them was a top scientist who was romanced by Wedge Antilles.

Ortolan — Max Reebo! The Dr. Teeth of the Star Wars universe! Puffy, blue, elephant keyboard-player. Lak-ti-nep!

Pa'lowick — Sy Snootles! Where would Max Reebo be without his (former) lead singer! She was a giant, egg-shaped chick with spindly arms and legs and a trunk-like snout with creepy red lips at the end of it. Lak-ti-nep indeed!

Quarren — Squid-Face. That names suits them. Must suck to have the defining characteristic of your race be 'treacherous bastard'

Revwiens — An invention of West End Games. They're force-sensitive plants. Complete with leaf-like arms and legs and a mushroomish head. Cool.

Ruurian — The COOLEST race introduced in the Han Solo Novels (or at least the coolest character). Essentially a sentient caterpillar, about 3 feet long. They make good scholars and can occasionally outsmart the deadliest gunmen in the galaxy. Can't hold their liquor, but all kinds of awesome, otherwise (can you guess this was a personal pick of mine?)

Shawda Ubb — Another Max Reebo bandmember. A harmonica-playing frog dude. Careful, he can spit paralyzing poison! No. Seriously. Remember to tip your musicians.

Shistavanen — The wolf-man from the Star Wars cantina.

Skakoan — The creepy green-dudes with metallic voice boxes who were part of the 'Techno-Union'—and part of the Separatist movement in Episode III.

Sluissi — As far as I can tell, these snake-people were first introduced in the Thrawn novels by Timothy Zahn.

Snivvian — Snaggletooth. I used to love his action figure. Another cantina resident.

Squib — Short, blue-furred squirrel-dog-men who love junk and bargaining for junk. Introduced by West End Games. Love them.

Talz — ANOTHER Cantina resident. The big, white furred guy with four eyes.

Theelin — A late addition to this list, but one that it should not be without. This was a singer at Jabbas who was flirting with Boba Fett. That alone makes her memorable. The fact she has hooves only.. wait... gross.

Thisspiasian — Another snake man, only this one has a big bearded face. Literally, his whold face is covered with a beard. One of these guys was on the Jedi council.

Tiss'shar — Another from the Han Solo Trilogy. This was a lizard assassin type that has since been somewhat retconned to include a lot of 'velociraptor' influences. Kind of nice, actually. Fits. Oh and... Another big lizard!

Togorian — One of several 'Cat-people' races—this one introduced in the RPG.

Togruta — No. Seriously. ANOTHER hot female tentacle-headed species?

Trianii — Another 'Cat-people' race. Cooler background than the others since they came from the Han Solo trilogy (can you tell I liked that Trilogy?)

Tunroth — Hulking, beastial humanoids known for their hunting skills. Didn't stand out much for me until one of them joined Rogue Squadron.

Tynnan — Awwww! Cute little otter-people! And they came out YEARS before the copycat 'Selonians' and 'Drall' from the abysmal 'Corellian' novels.

Ubese — Leia disguises herself as one of these guys to get into Jabbas palace. They're essentially just humans anyway.

Umbaran — Creepy, bald-headed, manipulative and dark-loving species. Perfect henchperson for Palpatine during his rise to power.

Utapaun-Pau'an — Half of a symbiotic culture. The tall guys from Ep III who look like they have bark for skin.

Utapaun-Utai — The short little dudes who did all the work on Utapaun. Why? Because every Star Wars movie needs short dudes.

Vaathkree — Another from the RPG. Rock-like humanoids. I don't know why, but I love them—probably because they remind me of the Thing from the Fantastic Four.

Verpine — One of the best from the RPG. Gangly insect dudes. Made great comic relief.

Vurk — Another reptillian-humanoid species—this one with a big, crested head with eyes on either side. The only notable appearance in the movies was in Episode II. One of them (a Jedi) lept up to attack the Separatist leaders during the Arena battle. He was subsequently brutally gunned down by Jango Fett. I like to think they got the name of the race from the sound that guy made when he toppled off the balcony and hit the ground far below. Vurk.

Weequay — Yet ANOTHER of Jabba's wrinkle-faced henchman-species. These were the one with the dreadlock-like ponytails. Evidently, they taste real good to Sarlaccs. But then, they did look kind of like beef jerky.

Whipid — Big, tusk-faced furry dudes.

Yuzzem — Not to be confused with 'Yuzzum' (who came much later). YuzzEM are big, mean, furry-brutes. Like Chewbacca, only with big teeth and worse tempers. A pair f YuzzEM served as sidekicks for Luke and Leia in the Splinter of the Minds Eye book. I cried when they died. Sniff.

Yuzzum — Not to be confused with 'Yuzzem' (who are much cooler). I would not even have included these guys if not for the special edition movies. Here, they made the lead-singer of Max Reebo's band one of these guys—Joh Yowzah. Based upon this, this species should be known for abnormally large mouths.

Zeltron — An invention of the Marvel comic series. A race of attractive, near-human, magenta-skinned hedonists. What's not to like?

These are races that didn't make it mainly because I couldn't ever see a player WANTING to play one—or that they just plain aren't suited to being a PC race (unbalanced, too weak, too strong, too weird, etc.)

All those Pod Racer Dudes — Just me? or did all those guys look WAY too 'cartoony'.

Kowakkian — Salacious Crumb. Jabbas court jester and bane of C-3PO's eye.

Duinuogwuin — aka Star Dragons. Cool idea, but...100+ meters long? Kind of hard to fit in the typical YT-1300. Oh, that's right, they can fly through space without a ship.

Esoomian — An in-joke with my friends. This represents one of the most unbalanced 'twink' races there is. 7D strength indeed. Tantor SMASH!

Lepi — Sorry, Jaxxon. But I just couldn't bring myself to include giant, green, carnivorous humanoid rabbits.

Spiner — Same goes for giant porcupine-men

Ssi'ruuk — Velociraptors. Yawn.

Tof — Giant, fat, green space-pirates...who fly in space sailing-ships. No, not solar-sailers. Space Galleons. No. Seriously. Look it up.

Ugor — As much as I love the idea of space-suits filled with amorphous/tentacular blob-people who are fanatically religiously devoted to garbage...they would not make a good PC race—at least not as good as their arch-nemeses, the Squib

Wroonian — Seriously. How many blue-skinned near-human alien races do we need?

Zehethbra — Reference Lepi and Spiners above. Same goes for space-skunk-men.

Anyway, that's my list. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


In the original version of West End Games' Star Wars, the statistics for Stormtroopers were...well...quite pathetic. In game terms, Stormtroopers had 2D in all their attributes and (after armor penalties) combat skills around 3D. I think I understand the reasoning behind this, however. In the movies, we see Stormtroopers consistently missing as they attack Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca. So, in order to give that same kind of feel in the game, they made Stormtroopers 'wussy' enough where, on average, they would not pose a real threat to beginning level PCs (who had about 3D in all their attributes and probably a minimum of 4D in all their combat skills). But even knowing the 'logic' behind it, Statistics for Stormtroopers have always bothered me. These guys were, at the very least, supposed to be competent soldiers. And if the 'average' stormtrooper was crap, that made other troopers (like the Rebels on Leia's ship) even MORE crap. It makes more sense to me that the reason why the troopers in the movies couldn't hit the heroes is because the heroes rapidly developed substantially higher dodge skills—especially in Episodes V and VI. Otherwise, you would wonder how Stormtroopers ever accomplish anything—it makes them a joke. It certainly did in my campaign—that is until I revamped the stats closer to something like what you see below:


Strength 3D
Dexterity 3D
Agility 3D
Intelligence 2D
Perception 2D
Charisma 2D

Brawl 4D
Demolitions 3D
Dodge 4D*
Gunnery 4D
Marksmanship 5D
Melee 4D
Throwing 4D

Observation 3D
Search 3D

Climbing 3D
Jumping 3D*
Running 3D*
Stamina 3D
Swimming 3D*
Zero-Gee 3D

Intimidation 3D

Armor-Tech 3D
Weapon-Tech 3D

Cycling 3D
Driving 3D

Beast-Riding 3D
Survival 3D

* This skill is modified negatively by Stormtrooper armor, usually to the tune of -1D. This means that a lot of 'mobility' type skills are hampered in return for a bonus of +1D to Strength to resist damage.

This skill set would represent your standard 'line' Stormtrooper with training and some actual combat experience. Other troopers (especially those who might be veterans of the clone wars) would have substantially higher stats (though these would be rare, considering the attrition the Stormtrooper corps is faced with).

In game terms, this Trooper is a lot tougher—a true challenge to a beginning character, but not an overwhelming one. And even versus higher level folks, a group of these guys, coordinating fire, can be a real threat. Stat-wise, we see that mentally, the average trooper is still equal to the 'average person', while physically, they are much more capable. Considering they are supposedly bred for combat, this makes a lot of sense to me, rather than the 2D average across the board.

This also set a precedent for me for other NPCs. The only ones I restricted to the 2D average attribute thing were generally non-combatants—secretaries, shop-clerks, etc. I figure folks who have been through military training would have above average (2D+ to 3D) physical traits at the very least. In any case, that's just my take and these stats have worked well for me.

The Future of Gaming

Ever since I got into reading blogs (about a year ago), I have been immersed in all kinds of discussions about gaming. Forefront in minds of many folks is the question: where is the gaming hobby heading? Personally, I agree with James M. (of the blog Grognardia). He posits that the 'Golden Age' of gaming has come and gone, and that its faddishness and (almost) mainstream popularity will never happen again. This certainly seems to be the case for Star Wars roleplaying in particular. For me, that game went into limbo with its transition to the d20 system. And now, even with the continuing popularity of the franchise, d20 has dropped the setting and it is in question whether anyone will buy the rights to continue Star Wars in a gaming medium.

In some ways, this realization saddens me. Why? Because I grew up in an era where I expected to have my chosen hobby heavily supported by 'official' books from an 'official' company. I expected a 'living' setting, constantly filling with new information and ideas. To a certain extent, it was a comfort to me, to know that other people enjoyed the same hobby as I did (growing up where I did in South Dakota, gamers were scarce). It was also a luxury—to have so many pre-made adventures and a wealth of source material at your fingertips.

But did I really NEED this supporting material? Not really. In fact, some of the more memorable adventures in my Star Wars campaign were of my own doing (though with a healthy hand up from West End Games source material). And THAT is what I think the 'optimal' gaming system should be: A core set of rules and enough setting details to help a GM build off of. As I've stated in previous posts, too much 'official information' or 'canon changes' to a setting can actually get quite frustrating. It can take away any sense of ownership you (and your players) might have for a campaign.

Looking back on it, the underlying commercialism of gaming was actually kind of self-defeating. TSR, for example, wanted its players to keep buying products. So it kept releasing more and more rulebooks and settings—and updates to those settings—in order to keep people wanting the 'latest and greatest' thing. Unfortunately, by doing so, they were forcing gamers to either go along with the 'official company' storyline, or find themselves left out of all the new products coming out. As an ad-person especially, I can see why this was done. But I still think it was wrong. You were essentially taking a medium that (supposedly) relied upon the imagination of its players and turning it around so that YOU (the gaming company) were dictating the story.

To me this seemed a bit less prevalent in the West End Star Wars game (though maybe that's just personal bias). I mean, you OBVIOUSLY had to deal with the fact that the events in the movies were going to happen (or else you were diverting entirely). But apart from that, the materials produced for the game were largely just sources of information about the setting—perfect idea generators and jumping off points for your own imagination. A prime example of this would be Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters. Here, you had a sourcebook on freight hauling and ship modification rules, but you also had a sketch of a little corner of the Star Wars galaxy—with enough information to plan all sorts of adventures of your own. I know I really ran with this setting in my own campaign, making for some very memorable moments.

But...I digress. The subject of this post was the Future of Gaming. And honestly? I'm coming to believe that you're looking at it. No, not me. The internet. The blog. The 'online gaming community'. When I look at all the high-quality stuff being produced by gamers FOR gamers I am at once excited and relieved. Who needs an 'official company' when you can pick and choose from some really great products to help spark your own ideas. There is more than enough here to keep /me/ entertained and engaged for the rest of my life—and there is more coming out every day!

I guess the real question is—will this online community 'recruit' new members from the younger generation? Considering the fact that a good portion of that community have families, I'd say the answer is "of course". Considering how online-centric our culture is becoming, I'd say "of course" again—even if it is all 'unofficial' and people have to stumble upon it. As much as I miss being in a mainstream kind of hobby, I am okay with folks only finding out about it if they really have to search. But then, that's because I'm just a gamer—not looking to make money out of the hobby. For those folks looking to make a living out of it? Well...then I'd say things may be a bit bleak. The golden era for making money in tabletop games is long gone, and I doubt it will ever return. But for your average gamer, that's no big thing—as long as you have imagination and a few friends to share it with.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Game Stats: Luke Skywalker

I know a lot of folks (myself included) have had problems with the statistics provided for Star Wars characters in the D6 rule system. The feature-characters especially are a source of pain—and among them, Luke Skywalker is one of the most frustrating. As initially presented, he's pretty bogus, especially for an 18-19 year old who's only just left the farm! Well, since I have finally revamped my skill list I would like to present to you my revised version of Luke at three different points in his career—representing his stats at the END of each of the original three movies.

Here we have what I would consider stats for a starting player-character. 18D worth of Attribute dice and 24D worth of skills. Normally, I don't allow a starting character to have more than 6D in any skill, but with Luke, I fudged a bit to give him a 7D in piloting. Please note that the skills listed below are only the more 'major' ones (or the ones that become 'major' later on). He has many other skills, but all of them are generally beetween 2D+1 and 3D+2 in range. You'll also note that his Strength and Intelligence are a bit 'low' here—that's because he is a bit scrawny in the first movie and hasn't had much exposure to things outside his desert homeworld. So, without further ado...

Strength: 2D+2
Agility: 3D
Dexterity: 3D+2
Intelligence: 2D+1
Perception: 3D+1
Charisma: 3D

Dodge: 5D+2
Gunnery: 6D
Marksmanship: 5D

Control: 1D
Sense: 2D

Search: 4D

Climbing: 4D
Jumping: 4D

Droid-Tech: 4D
Speeder-Tech: 5D

Cycling: 6D
Driving: 6D
Piloting: 7D

Here we see Luke after three and a half years of combat with the Rebel Alliance (and his position as commander of the fledgling 'Rogue Squadron') and a few months of intensive training with Yoda (as well as some Force-training encounters prior to this: such as in Splinter of the Minds Eye). Apart from his skills increasing and broadening, Luke has also improved some of his attributes: Strength and Agility from his military life and Jedi training and Intelligence from his sudden exposure to the galaxy at large. As before, any skills not listed are generally in the 2D+2 to 3D+2 range.

Strength: 3D
Agility: 3D+1
Dexterity: 3D+2
Intelligence: 2D+2
Perception: 3D+1
Charisma: 3D

Brawl: 5D
Dodge: 7D
Gunnery: 7D
Marksmanship: 6D
Melee: 6D

Control: 6D
Sense: 6D
Alter: 5D
Lightsaber-Tech: 4D+2

Tactics (Space): 4D

Observation: 4D
Search: 5D
Sense-Motive: 4D

Acrobatics: 4D+2
Climbing: 5D+2
Jumping: 5D+2
Running: 4D
Stamina: 5D
Stealth: 4D+2

Command: 5D
Persuasion: 4D
Willpower: 4D

Astrogation: 4D
Sensors: 4D

Droid-Tech: 4D+2
Speeder-Tech: 5D+2
Starship-Tech: 5D

Cycling: 6D+2
Driving: 6D
Piloting: 8D
Helmsman: 4D

Beast-Riding: 4D
Survival: 4D

This represents Luke after the months-long search for Han Solo and his return training with Yoda. The most remarkable changes here are the increase in Luke's Force skills—preparing him for his final showdown with Vader and the Emperor (though it will be his heart and not his skills that get him through this encounter...)

Strength: 3D
Agility: 3D+1
Dexterity: 3D+2
Intelligence: 2D+2
Perception: 3D+1
Charisma: 3D

Brawl: 5D
Dodge: 7D
Gunnery: 7D
Marksmanship: 6D
Melee: 7D

Control: 7D
Sense: 8D
Alter: 6D
Lightsaber-Tech: 7D

Tactics (Space): 4D
Scholar (Jedi-Lore): 4D

Observation: 4D
Search: 5D
Sense-Motive: 4D

Acrobatics: 5D+2
Climbing: 5D+2
Jumping: 5D+2
Running: 4D
Stamina: 5D
Stealth: 4D+2

Streetwise: 4D

Command: 5D
Intimidation: 4D
Persuasion: 4D
Willpower: 6D

Astrogation: 4D
Sensors: 4D

Droid-Tech: 4D+2
Speeder-Tech: 5D+2
Starship-Tech: 5D

Cycling: 6D+2
Driving: 6D
Piloting: 8D
Helmsman: 4D

Beast-Riding: 4D
Survival: 4D

I think this much more closely represents the Luke we see in the movies. In the end, he is quite powerful—but not (in my opinion) unbelievably so for his age. In Episode IV in particular, you see a very 'vulnerable' yet still talented character—which is how I see most starting characters.

A Milestone

I've seen this coming for a little while and have been excited by it—this is my 200th post! Not too shabby for a slacker like me. I know the blog has been up and down at different times, but honestly, I don't think I will ever entirely run out of ideas of things to post. I know not a lot of folks read this blog, but it has been fun for me to do anyway and I look forward to the next 200 rantings and blatherings!

Dealing in Absolutes

"Only a Sith Deals in Absolutes."

Well, that's what they say, anyway. But this post isn't actually about any of the moral or philosophical issues regarding this statement. Rather, it is about gaming within the Star Wars galaxy and my own theories regarding 'absolutes' within a campaign.

When I first started playing Star Wars, there wasn't anything CLOSE to a map of the Galaxy. About the closest you got in the original edition was a hyperspace time chart, showing how long it took to get from one planet to another. And even that was kind of vague. Though I am a huge lover of maps, I quickly 'got over it' in regards to Star Wars. In fact, it gave me a sense of freedom to not have anything really 'official' to go by. And honestly? It didn't matter where most things were in relation to each other as long as I had a vague notion of "It is a long way to such and such from such and such." Without an 'absolute' like a map, you could easily move things along at the speed of plot.

Eventually, though, some places did get mapped out—I did a map of the Minos Cluster when I found my people would be spending some time there. Then smaller sector maps began to appear in other gaming material. I think the first real 'official' map of the Galaxy came out with the novel Vector Prime. And to me? That map was a piece of crap. was out there, and it eventually 'forced' me to do some revamping of my own, if only to have a sense of where things are in relation to other things. While part of me likes to have such things 'nailed down', another part kind of 'mourns' the freedom of not having to worry about it. It also seems to make the Galaxy seem somehow 'less huge'. And I think that, more than anything, is the reason I strive NOT to quantify certain things about the Star Wars galaxy.

But that isn't a battle I always win.

Such is the case with my recent obsession over the approximate fleet sizes of the various navies in the Star Wars galaxy in my current campaign. If it is difficult to grasp the hugeness of the Star Wars galaxy as a whole, it is likewise difficult to imagine just how many ships are out there. In settings like Star Trek, you're talking hundreds, maybe thousands of different 'named' ships per navy. In Star Wars, you're talking hundreds of thousands—at least. And yet, with my 'galactic war' scenario in full-swing, I find myself wanting to have at least a general idea of the numbers. But where do I even begin?

The only mention of actual number of ships in the RPG was regarding the Imperial Star Destroyer. The total number of ships of this class was stated as being 25,000. Wow. And to think that for each one of those, there are dozens or even hundreds of smaller vessels. That seemed to be a suitably 'huge' enough number for me, so I used that as the basis to kind of figure out the rest (using the Imperial Sourcebook to get an idea of the ratio of smaller ships to Imperial Star Destroyers). Considering my own campaign is many years PAST the original trilogy, and through several devastating wars (Thrawn campaign, Dark Empire, Nagai Invasion, etc.), I had to figure in both attrition and new construction into my numbers...and.. here is what I came up with:

I divide ships into seven main classes.

Fighters — Fighters, bombers and gunships (and possibly assault-shuttles)
Corvettes — Corellian Corvettes & Gunships, Light Customs Corvettes, IPVs, etc.
Frigates — Nebulon-B, Lancer, Galleon, etc.
Light Cruisers — Carrack, Strike, Escort-Carriers, etc.
Heavy Cruisers — Dreadnaught, Bulk, Acclamator, etc.
Battle Cruisers — Imperial, Venator, Mon-Cal, etc.
Flagships — Super Star Destroyers, etc.

So, of those various types, I came up with the following numbers to represent the total fleet strength found in the Galaxy. Of this strength, figure that 50% Are Republic aligned, 25% are Imperial aligned and the remaining 25% are scattered amongst various neutral powers (Corporate sector, Hutts, Pirates, etc.)

1,250,000 Fighters
100,000 Corvettes
100,000 Frigates
50,000 Light Cruisers
50,000 Heavy Cruisers
25,000 Battle Cruisers
25 Flagships

Note that many of these ships, especially of the Battle-Cruiser class, are ex-Imperial craft. Even with the Mon-Calamari shipyards and the new designs coming out after the fall of the Empire, the Imperial-class Star Destroyer and the older Venator-class (from the Episode III) would still form the bulk of the various navies—Republic, Imperial or Neutral. Likewise, TIE fighters would still make up a great number of the fighters in service, just because there were so many of them produced.

Though the numbers seem sufficiently huge, I still look at them with a bit of skepticism. It is difficult for me to imagine the scale of a Galactic civilization like the one in Star Wars. I worry if I am doing it an injustice with these 'paltry' numbers or not. But, for now at least, it works as a rough idea.

Oh, and as a parting, it must be very difficult naming that many ships. Especially for the Empire. I mean, how many "Avenger, Desvastator, Eviscerator, Decapitator" type names ARE there. Eventually, you may have to delve into other, less imposing names like: "Annoyer" or "Irascible" or "Exasperator". Yeah, they just don't have the same ring to t hem...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My D6 System: Revised Skill List

As I have mentioned before, I tend to 'tinker' with things—especially gaming systems. I also tend to fluctuate from one extreme to the other. On the one hand, I love simplicity, but on the other, I like detail. The two don't really go together all that well. And in the case of Star Wars, I think that 'detail' should be the thing to lose out. I think the turning point came when I was listing out skills like: "Craft: Basketweaving" that I finally hit the wall. Therefore, after much more tinkering on my part, I have come up with what I hope is my 'final' skill list for my Star Wars D6 system. I'm still tweaking, but I think I may have found a happy medium for myself.

Since in my system, Skills aren't tied directly to just one attribute, I have grouped them into eleven different general skill areas. So without further they are:



Observation — Noticing and remembering details
Search — Spotting hidden things/ambushes









These are what I consider the 'CORE' skills of the Star Wars game. In addition to these 50+ skills, there are about 50 more that I have deemed important enough to be included, but a lot of them cover areas that player characters aren't likely to put much stock into—things like sciences or professions (mining, farming, etc.)...skills you would more typically associate with NPCs. 100 skills may sound like an awful lot (and it is), but consider this came down from over 200 and you'll see I made a lot of cuts, combinations and deletions. I think you'll also see that the CORE skills really are just that—skills that will be used a LOT in any Star Wars game.

Below are the remaining 50 skills that I consider secondary—again they are grouped by similarity. You will note that some have () parentheses around them. This denotes that a specific area within this skill must be chosen. For example—Musician (Kloo-Horn) or Science (Biology). Also note that I tried to include skills which, while obscure, were seen in the movies. This is how 'Gaming', 'Archery' and even 'Siege-Gunnery' made it onto the list.

Acting — For entertainment—much less effective when used to attempt 'Con'
Artist () — Painting, Sculpting, etc.
Entertainer () — Comedian, Storyteller, Host/Master-of-Ceremonies, etc.
Musician () — Kloo-Horn, Guitar, etc.
Photography — Still or video/holo photography
Writing () — Creative, Poetry, Journalistic

Archery — Bow and arrow. Crossbows use Marksmanship
Siege-Gunnery — Catapults and other primitive weapons (Ewoks!)

Gaming () — Mental games (holo-chess, etc.)
Scholar () — Archaeology, History, Philosophy, etc.
Science () — Biology, Physics, Chemistry, etc.
Tactics () — Space, Ground, Aquatic

Acrobatics — Feats of balance and tumbling (as opposed to climbing or jumping)
Boating — Muscle-powered boats (rowboat, kayak, etc.)

Craftsman () — Leatherworking, Metalworking, Woodworking, etc.
Engineer () — Starship, Structural, Weapon, etc.
Labor () — Farming, Mining, Cargo-Handling, etc.
Profession () — Bartending, Cooking, Cleaning, etc.



Gunnery-Tech — Mounted heavy weaponry (cannons, missiles, etc.)
Mechanical-Tech — Miscellaneous mechanical repairs
Systems-Tech — Miscellaneous system repairs
Vehicle-Tech () — Ground-Vehicles, Hovercraft, Archaic-Aircraft, etc.
Weapon-Tech — Personal ranged weaponry (blasters, etc.)

Helmsman — Operating capital starships (corvettes, frigates, etc.)


So anyway, that's my list. I'm sure there will be a few more minor refinements, but I know this is very close.