Monday, February 27, 2012

REVIEW: Star Wars Galaxy Guide(s) 1,3 and 5

The Galaxy Guides were some of the first source materials ever produced for the Star Wars D6 RPG. In fact, they stand as some of the first source materials ever produced for the Star Wars universe. In the late 90's, the 'glut' of materials present today simply did not exist. Thus, for a Star Wars fan like myself, these books were simply awesome. Each one focused on (and essentially created) a particular 'slice' of the Star Wars universe. I have already made a brief post on my feelings about the guides as a whole, but I will now delve into each individually (or in this case, as a related group).

I will begin with Galaxy Guides 1, 3 and 5. These respectively cover Episode IV, V, and VI- detailing the various characters presented in the movies- providing both gaming statistics and a wealth of background information. The books do not simply focus on the major characters, either, but go on to detail even minor characters like R5-D4 ("Red", the droid who blew his motivator?) and Momaw Nadon (aka the "hammerhead" guy in the cantina). As a fan and a GM, I found this to be incredibly fun- and useful when creating my own NPCs (or using ones from these books!).

Interspersed with character descriptions were various short stories or other tidbits of informations that further expanded on the characters and situations shown in the movies. For example an 'interview' with "Camie", one of Lukes friends on Tatooine, wherein she reminisces about Luke's exploits as a youth. The books also had a fun framing device for the introduction, conclusion and as lead-ins to each section. These three works are presented as the research notes of a young historian (Voren Na'al) working for the Rebel Alliance. Thus, we are actually following his exploits as he follows in the footsteps of the 'Heroes of Yavin'. I liked this little personal touch, and was amused to see that the historian was even given game stats. I used him as an NPC in my own game on a couple occasions.

The artwork for these books also bears mentioning. You don't just get names and stats for the various characters, you get full-bown black-and-white custom illustrations. In some ways, I even prefer this to the screen-captures used in most other sourcebooks- especially in those cases where the 'costume' for a character looks particularly bad on-screen (hey, those cantina folk were only on-screen for a few seconds, still photos of them are another matter).

The original versions of these three guides were produced in 1989-1990. In the mid 90's, however, new versions of them were released. These included statistics 'upgraded' to the second edition of the game. These 'version two' guides had more information contained in them as well: In the form of game statistics for various creatures and vehicles that were NOT included in the previous versions of the guides. I personally like the addition of this information, though in truth it is pretty much duplicated from the main rulebook and sourcebook.

What I didn't particularly like about the version two galaxy guides was the revised layout. In the original version, each character was typically given their own page- or sometimes two pages. But in all cases, the information was presented in a manner that was easy to use as a reference during play. You didn't have to go flipping from page to page to follow the stats of a particular character. In the second version, the character profiles flow from page to page, with breaks sometimes occurring right in the middle of a character stat block. It is a minor inconvenience, and no doubt this new layout allowed the book to 'economize' its space to keep printing costs lower than they might have been. But even so, I prefer the older method. I also missed the custom illustrations- only a few of which were used in version two, with most being replaced by stills captured from the movies.

What really set the second version guides apart from their predecessors, however, was the inclusion of a short adventure at the end of each. This is something I really do like. Though I have never run any of these adventures, I have read through them several times. I find them to be pretty solid in their construction, and moreso I enjoy the fact that each was sculpted to fit into the 'Episode' in which it was presented. Below are the adventures:

Episode IV: The Battle of Wayfar
Here, we have the heroes enlisted by a remote moisture-farming townstead on Tatooine- to help them defend against an imminent tusken raider attack. Included are maps of both a typical farmstead and of the small town of Wayfar itself. The whole scenario is rather open ended, presenting the heroes with a list of problems and resources and leaving it up to them how to deal with the situation. I especially like that the adventure includes a lot of Tatooine 'cliches', like skyhoppers and jawa sandcrawlers and the like.

Episode V: Freedom No More
In this adventure, the heroes, having made it to the rendezvous with the Rebel fleet after the battle of Hoth, are sent BACK into the system to try and find a lost transport with a valuable cargo. There, they find the ship, but not the cargo. They must proceed to Cloud City to try and pick up the needed supplies before returning to the fleet. This all takes place in the time right before Han, Leia and the rest arrive at Bespin, thus placing the characters ALMOST into the movie. As with the previous adventure, there are a lot of ESB clich├ęs at work here: the asteroid field, bounty hunters, intrigue on Cloud City. Generally good stuff, though there are some aspects I would handle more subtly- I think the adventure has the Empire announce its presence on Cloud City just a BIT more than it did in the movies. Heck, if I were to run this in a campaign, I might just set the adventure DURING Han and Leia's visit.

Episode VI: Remnants of the Empire
This adventure picks up while the celebration party on Endor is still going on. Though the second Death Star has been destroyed, the Rebel fleet has picked up strange sensor readings on the surface of Endor. The party is sent to investigate and discover a secret Imperial base. This is a solid enough adventure, though I’m not real thrilled about the supposed importance of the mission. Evidently, the Imperial base on the planet is trying to get word off to the ‘Imperial Fleet’ as to the disposition of the Rebels. This seems somewhat silly to me, as it has long been assumed that a good portion of the Imperial fleet survived and fled the battle. Thus, they already know where the Rebel fleet is. But in any case, there are once again lots of fun cleches at work: Biker-scout chases, infiltrating secret bunkers, etc.

As you can see, my reaction to these works is generally positive. The writing is great and inspires a lot of ideas (or at least it did for me in my campaign). Though I still somewhat prefer the ‘original edition’, both are great and very fun for gamers and fans alike.

3 comments:

  1. have you ever thought of staring a podcast about star wars d6? Most people would think it crazy to start a podcast on a system that has been dead for 14 years but I think that you have a unique "voice" that could pull it off. I've been recently listening to the order 66 podcast about the saga edition and thinking why don't we have one for d6? It would be a great way to review products like you do here and talk about all the great fan projects that have been done since it's demise. Also talking about ways to role play that are unique to the d6 experience. anyways just a thought...

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  2. It's crazy.

    Just kidding. Seriously, though, a podcast would be interesting. I'm just not sure I could pull it off in a professional enough manner to suit me. The blog is one thing, I'm able to do it on my time (whenver I have any) and it requires very little prep. For a podcast- especially a one-person podcast about a specific subject- it would require a lot more prep-work. There would have to be outlines of topics to keep me on track as well as the whole recording (and possibly editing) thing. Not to mention the fact that I'm not necessarily a public speaker. I'd have to listen to myself and see how many 'umms' I throw in there. I'm not saying I won't ever do it, just that I'm going to have to think about it.

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  3. I would recommend that if you did it to have another person with you as the byplay between two people works much better. You could even do it over skype or some other program if you don't have a person in your area.

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