Why Star Wars is the Best RPG Ever

Everyone has some event in their adolescent years that shapes their lives and their outlooks as an adult. Perhaps it's a particularly bad breakup, or your parents’ divorce, or witnessing the horrifying murder of your father and vowing to avenge him. For me, I can name three things that made me the man I am today:

1) Robotech
2) The Swords of Power books by Fred Saberhagen
3) Star Wars: The Role-Playing game

The first two are topics for another day, but Star Wars is always an acceptable topic for any conversation. I'm referring here to the original Star Wars RPG that was written by Bill Slavicsek and published by West End Games back in the late-eighties/early-nineties. The d20 by Wizards of the Coast was pretty good, but it doesn't deserve to hold the black felt, satin-tipped Sith cape of the original. In fact, I can't think of any other game that can compete with this masterpiece.

You have to be really badass to get away with a head this shiny.

Here are my Top 5 Reasons that Star Wars: Second Edition by West End Games is the greatest RPG ever:

1. It’s Star Wars

Every white male between the ages of 8 and 50 have loved Star Wars at some point in there lives (I can't speak for Asian dudes). If someone tells you they don't like Star Wars they're either lying or they used to like it until a certain ghost-like menace crushed their childhood dreams like a testicle under the stiletto heel of an over-enthusiastic dominatrix.

When we were pimply faced teenagers we didn't need any mindless prequels or stupid expanded universe tripe by Kevin J. Anderson. We wrote our own expanded universe, dammit! We were Jedi and smugglers and X-wing pilots and X-wing piloting Jedi smugglers. While other teenagers were getting laid we were saving the universe from the forces of darkness. Who do you think had more screwed-up priorities?

2. You can make a character in 90 seconds

Seriously. You didn't need forty rulebooks and thousands of feats or a glitchy program that cost you 10 bucks a month. You didn't have to qualify for a class or race, or min-max your stats to make sure your average hit rate was in an acceptable ratio to the potential damage you could take. You just come up with a concept, assign a few attributes and skill points, and you're done. You could say, "I'm going to make a womanizing gambling cyborg ewok" and WHAM! A minute and a half later you were a teddy bear playing sabacc and pleasuring a twi'lek dancing girl with a robotic phallus.

I was going to insert a picture of some chubby convention nerds in Star Wars costumes here, but then I thought: Why?

3. You didn't learn skills or powers magically and spontaneously

I don't like games where you gain a level and all of your skills and powers automatically get better. It doesn't make sense that you get better at stuff you never use or practice. Star Wars avoided this by making you earn and buy every point (or "pip") of every skill and power separately. It's similar to the system used in Vampire: The Masqurade and it worked incredibly well. It gave your more flexibility and control over your character because you could pick exactly what skills made sense for you.

What's better:
You've specialized in demolitions and starship gunnery but you've dabbled in cooking and politics. You also have a few points in ancient melee duelling you picked up while stranded on that archaic medieval planet for a few weeks.


Wait! I forgot I have helicopter pilot! I picked it at first level and never had to use it until now. Let me check... Sweet I have a 98% chance of success!

4. You get to roll buckets of dice

There's nothing more satisfying than hurling fistfulls of little plastic polyhedrons. Sure the game only uses d6, and at first level you start with only three or four per check. But as you grow more and more powerful and use force points to make those "one in a million" shots, your dice pool increases exponentially. At the climax of my longest campaign two Jedi master players faced off against each other (one had turned to the dark side). I think the last attack came down to each guy rolling 55 dice. We had to roll them on the floor because there wasn’t room on the table. The light side won, about 163 to 148, and cut the other dude's head off. Then he gloated about it, which wasn't a very Jedi-like thing to do, but come on. That was fucking awesome.

In what universe is it okay to advertise devices to make it easier to kill other human beings?

5. The fake ads in the book

The rule book itself was very slick and well designed. The coolest part though, were these fake, colour full-page ads scattered throughout. There were Imperial recruitment posters and a promo that you could buy a whole wing of 72 used TIE fighters for the price of 70. It really helped make the universe feel alive and real.

The one ad I don't understand though is the wanted poster for Luke Skywalker. He was wanted for treason, murder and the destruction of military property, with a bounty of 500,000 credits. Really? That’s it? This guy killed millions of Imperial citizens and destroyed how many hundreds of trillions of space bucks worth of top secret military hardware, and they only offered 500 grand to take him out? No wonder no one ever caught him.

But you know what? In your game, you could capture Luke Skywalker, if you so choose. And then you could mock him for being a virgin and making out with his sister. I think my players did that once. Name another game where you can do something that awesome.

For more on the Star Wars RPG:

20 Years of Star Wars RPGs by SilverForce

Star Wars RPG Wikipedia page

History of Star Wars Roleplaying from Let The Wookie Win

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