Role-Playing Gems Chapter II: 4 Reasons to Check Out West End Games' Star Wars d6
I hope Chapter I of this series has burned a hole in your mind and prompted you to try out the awesome system it described, it’s time to turn the page to the next big piece of entertainment in this series.
Hold on to your death sticks and let the wookie win – here are d6 reasons why this system is a gem from a long time ago that holds strong today!
1. You Will Never Find a More Wretchedly-Overflowing Trove of Scum and Villainy
If you’re a Star Wars fan – and why wouldn’t you be? No, I’m asking, really, why wouldn’t you be? *pulls out blaster and waits for the answer* – you definitely know about the movies, the cartoon shows, the videogames, and maybe you’ve heard of at least one of the three RPGs that tackled this setting over the years.
Did you know that West End Games are single handedly responsible for a large chunk of the Star Wars lore? I’m afraid to even picture what the scene would look like without their input? Sure, we’ve had the novels, the fan fiction, toy lines and so on, but the sheer amount of material that WEG came out with is gargantuan. With the sourcebooks alone being a well of information that can be read through, even if you’re not into RPGs in the first place!
And that’s skipping the weapons, aliens, beasts, planets, starships, vehicles, and droids published in collections or put together by fans that blow that amazing Universe we know and love wide open into Unkown Regions (sic!) that would take weeks to sift through.
I’ve recently started a new Star Wars campaign using this system following a rather long break and I’m once again amazed at how deep down the Sarlacc pit you can go, pumping variety into a campaign using nothing but the WEG books…
Here’s a few rather obscure items for you to research (if you’re not a die-hard fan and already know more than I do) while I prove my point: Givin, T’surr, singularity mine, Ghtroc 720. On you go!
2. Explosions! Explosions Everywhere!
Well… Not literal ones. Although a bounty hunter player character did blow about 5 NPCs to bits with a well-placed grenade…
Note to self: give villains blast-proof armour, and a hover tank, inside a Star Destroyer. Then just hide the Destroyer out of the way for good measure, let the PCs wander around aimlessly with no targets to speak of.
The system uses a pool of d6s which are based on 6 main characteristics and you need to meet or exceed a certain target number. So far, so straightforward.
Add to this the fact that 1 of the dice is your “Force die”, the one that can make or break your roll, and you’ve already got a neat variation – critical rolls are, as such, influenced by the Force itself… And we all know how fickle the Force can be. There’s no forgoing the fickle features of the Force, in fairness… I’ll stop now.
On top of that whole aspect, though, lies the exploding dice mechanism – simple, yet spectacular. This means that any die that comes upa 6 is added to the total and rolled again, and again if it still comes up a 6. And again. Aaaaand again.
Until the T’surr “diplomat” rolls a 26 in brawling, almost punching the life out of someone. Literally.
The six main skills are Dexterity, Perception, Knowledge, Strength, Mechanical, and Technical. Each race has certain maximum limits of expertise in every area, gaining bonuses or penalties that are highly lore-infused and make sense not only in character creation (which takes about 10 minutes at most) but also in subsequent adventures.
When creating your character, you’ve got a certain racial range that each attribute must adhere to, with Duros being Technical masterminds, Wookies brawling like mad… and so on. Usually, you’ve got around 18 dice to spread across the 6 categories, more or less.
You can also ‘split’ dice into pips, which come to the tune of either three +1 pips, or one +1 and one +2. What this means is that you can end up with attributes gaining moderate boons no matter the roll, say a 3d+2 Dexterity attribute.
This is good to bump up your weaker attributes, or just flesh out the top-end ones and really push the boundaries with your First Aid skill, for example.
Following the attribute dice allocation, you are awarded 7 dice to spread around your skills, all of which depend on a certain attribute and start out at that attribute’s die code unless otherwise stated by special rules. Skills allow you to go over your regular attribute allowance and have a Willpower of 6 dice even if your knowledge is a measly 2 dice. The sky’s the limit here.
The exploding dice mean that while your Wookie may have a 1D+1 in Mechanical (for a theoretical maximum of 7 on his roll), if you get a couple lucky rolls and pull two 6s one after the other, you’re bound to knock some sense into that droid one way or another…
You can also use Character Points that you gain over the course of your adventures to add dice to your roll, but using those can mean you put your character progress on the back-burner, since the same points are used to learn/improve skills.
A-ha! Plans within plans! Me likey!
The combination of these mechanisms makes for the off-chance that even characters who aren’t particularly adept at something can still have a chance of succeeding against all odds. And we all know that’s the best kind of succeeding there is.I enjoy that immensely in a system, and seeing that this is a multi-dice-rolling one, that can only mean higher odds of getting exploding dice and more opportunities for shenanigans. In space.
3. I’ve Got a Good Feeling About This…
Do you want wookies poking their heads out the top of a teepee, pulling it out of the ground, and then running across the battlefield, shooting their bowcaster around like a laser tent of doom? We’ve got that.
Do you want bounty hunters with malfunctioning jetpacks trying to falcon-punch their enemies but instead veering off-course and ending up pulling a tent out of the ground, flying straight up with no idea where they’re headed on account of being blinded by the tarp? We’ve got that too.
Seemingly related as they are, those two situations happened in separate campaigns, I just came up with the set-piece, it’s not my fault I’ve got this bunch of tent-obsessed freaks for players. That being said, combat is fast, it’s fun, it promotes going all in after making sure you’re taking advantage of your surroundings and deals with scale in a simple to grasp, and very well thought-out manner.
What it boils down to is a two-way street: smaller objects have a higher chance of hitting larger objects, although those objects are harder to damage. Subsequently, smaller objects have an easier time evading larger, more lumbering, heavy objects, but the latter lay the hurt down if they do manage to hit. That said, no matter how agile your Jawa is, going against a Rancor and hoping to dodge like no tomorrow can still have your plans flattened, and your career as an ‘extreme zoologist’ flatlined…
There are rules for targeting weak spots *cough*exhaust port*cough*, throwing grenades in such a way as to ensure you don’t deal too much damage – then outright killing 3 characters anyway – starfighter dogfights, giant walker-to-walker duels, and even tactical map guidelines for miniature combat, should you want to try out a more tactical approach.
4. May the Force Be With You…
The Force works in mysterious ways in this game… No, really!
The way the Force is implemented is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s probably the most fun you can have playing the WEG system, but it can also become very overpowered, VERY fast.
Gamemasters should be careful when negotiating Force-User campaigns, and I advise against starting out with a full Jedi party with noticeable dice pools in the three Force categories, unless you want to end up literally throwing an entire planet at them to keep them down…
I tend to start off with no Force Users and allow the players to grasp the system first (easy as it is to get, yet complex to understand all the nooks and crannies) before throwing a monkey wrench into the mix. A space monkey wrench.
Then again, I do strongly encourage eventually having Force Users around, because the unadulterated fun they bring to the table is off the charted courses.
Solving every issue with a wave of the hand and a witty one-liner never gets old, and should all else fail, just throw a bunch of Toydarians at the group, all armed with red-and-blue dice and have them actually haggle over something for a change.
5. To Infinity and Beyond!
Wrong setting there, but as a final point, I’d like to emphasize the possibilities and variations this system offers once more.
You’re faced with all of the Star Wars staples you know and love: the ruggedly handsome bounty hunters, the sleazy merchants, noble Jedi, brooding Sith, and everything in between. Once you get past the joy of having a fully published (albeit out of print) system at your fingertips, you start digging deeper into it, finding wonderful storylines and timelines we might never even get to see in movie or comic form.
The Thrawn Trilogy, the Yuuzhan-Vong invasion, even the shorter Graveyard of Alderaan book (my personal go-to starting adventure, heavily modded over the years, and never the same two campaigns in a row), any of these can give you hours upon hours upon more hours of light speed fast rolling, role-ing and all around fun.
What’s more, thanks to the very straightforward d6 mechanic, creating additional rules that characters gain as they’re evolving is not only a blast, but can be easily tweaked so as not to become game-breaking.
The way skill progression works in this game (you need a teacher to learn a particular skill, otherwise you’ll spend weeks figuring it out) is also a good opportunity for bringing back retired characters, having that blast-from-the-past nostalgia moment that takes you right back to glory days.
Coming up with aliens, ships, weapons and most anything you can think of is easy, with the main six attributes governing characters, and a few main characteristics making up any inanimate objects heroes might use in their adventures. There are dozens of fan-made supplements, adventures, sourcebooks and variants already out there, why not try adding to the trove?
All in all, there really are no bad things I can say about SWd6, apart from the system being out of print... But plenty of PDFs are out there if you can’t get your hands on some books.
The artwork works great with what Star Wars is to me, keeping it simple, gritty, and very old-timey (this is the 80s we’re talking about, even if they went well into the 90s with the system).
If FFG’s newest incarnation is too flashy or gimmicky for your tastes, adding character cards, custom dice, and a host of other bells and whistles that may not appeal to you (including, but not limited to, needing 3 books to play a rather reduced swathe of character archetypes, all things considered…), if Wizards of the Coast’s D20 system feels too much like D&D in space (ten foot laser pole included), then grab WEG’s Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, and you’ve got a full 300+ page book that is self-contained, neatly presented, narrated as though it were an instruction manual, and which can be used as a solid basis on which to build many a space-faring campaign for a long time to come in a galaxy far, far away...
Writer, gamer, and - provided he's got the time for it - loving husband, Costin does not rule out sacrifices to the Great Old Ones in order to get into the gaming industry. He's been role-playing for the better part of 6 years, but has been a joker, gamer and storyteller for as long as he can remember.
His greatest pride is once improvising a 4-way argument between a grave digger, a dyslexic man, an adopted child and a sheep, all by himself. That moment is also the closest he's ever come to giving himself a role-playing aneurysm... thus far.
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