The Saving Throw
Star Wars d6, Second Edition Mar. 1, 2006
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Overall Review
published by West End Games reviewed by Nwash
288 pages, 1992, Out of Print
Game Setting 16
Core Handbooks 16
Sourcebooks and Expansions 20
Character Generation 15
Game Rules 10
Intelligibility 18
Solid Hit
Review Scoring

   1987 would seem to be a strange year to release a tabletop RPG based on the Star Wars universe. Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) had been released in 1983, and there were certainly no signs of the eventual release of The Phantom Menace (Episode I) on the horizon. In fact, with no new Star Wars media on the way, it certainly didn't seem to be the optimum time. Despite this, West End Games would experience great success with the launch of this game; in fact, the materials produced for this game would be considered so authoritative that Lucasfilm sent a box of sourcebooks for this game to Timothy Zahn to use as reference for his writing of what is now known as the Thrawn trilogy. Few tabletop RPGs have had this kind of respect unless their setting was developed specifically for the game.

The second edition of the West End Games version, commonly called Star Wars d6 because of the release of a Star Wars RPG based on the d20 system by Wizards of the Coast, was released in 1992, with a revised and expanded core rulebook released in 1996. Unfortunately, due to financial mismanagement, West End Games went into bankruptcy and sold the rights for making the Star Wars RPG to Wizards of the Coast, who would release their version in 2000. In this reviewer's opinion, the West End Games version is the superior of the two.

The Star Wars movies already provided a superb basis for a tabletop RPG setting, but West End Games would do a lot to expand upon this with the vast number of quality sourcebooks, expansions, and adventures released for the game. This page demonstrates the extraordinary amount of content that was available for this game, and having personally seen and used many of these, I have found them to be well organized and generally complete. Unfortunately, due to the timing of West End's bankruptcy, there are no sourcebooks related to Episodes I through III, which leaves a massive gap in coverage that included both Star Wars novels and comic books of the time. It is difficult to fault West End Games for their dedication in providing complete coverage and content for the game.

The core rulebooks are generally well organized, and while there is a gamemaster's handbook, it is hardly necessary to have more than a copy of the core book, Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Second Edition. The revised and expanded version released in 1996 is an improvement on an already good book. The level of explanation is mostly sufficient, though there are some areas, particularly the usage of force powers and the creation of Jedi characters, that might require some flipping through the book to completely grasp. One neat feature included in this book is the inclusion of fake advertisements from the Star Wars universe, including two recruitment pieces for the Imperial Navy, a recruitment piece for the Rebel Alliance, a call from the New Republic to remember Alderaan, advertisement for artificial intelligence "worth shaving your head for," and bounty notices for Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. This adds a bit of unique flavor and humor to the core rulebook, which are often otherwise dry affairs. There is even a reasonably fun short adventure included in the book for new gamemasters and players to start with.

The character generation system in the game is both simple and flexible. Being a skill-based system, characters can be endlessly customized without being concerned about specific classes. Characters have six attributes: Dexterity, Knowledge, Mechanical, Perception, Strength, and Technical. While this set of attributes may seem somewhat unusual, they adequately cover nearly every action one will perform in gameplay. Characters can also be either force-sensitive or not, with the difference being that force-sensitive characters can learn force skills and powers.

Character creation really couldn't be simpler; I doubt one would spent much more than an half hour creating a character once they had the concept in mind. A possible exception is Jedi characters, because it can take a little time to figure out how to give a character force skills and powers; once familiar with it, however, this isn't a problem. Despite the simplicity of the system, a great number of templates are included throughout the core rulebook and the sourcebooks and expansions that, when used, can make character creation take mere minutes. Unfortunately, its flexibility is somewhat limited by the small amount of skill dice granted at character creation, but with gamemasters willing to bend the rules, this is a minor issue. As is typical in these games, unfortunately, the supplied character sheet is appropriately abysmal in terms of the space given for one to write things, but I have seen worse.

The game rules are also generally very good, all revolving around a simple core rule that one can rely on when one can't find specific rules for a particular situation. The application of skills makes sense, and while the combat system is a little unnecessarily complex (which isn't uncommon), it is very fast compared to Dungeons and Dragons, provided one has a solution for the glaring flaw in the system, discussed a little later. The available skills cover most situations one will run into, so a gamemaster usually won't find himself flying by the seat of his pants rule-wise. There is a notable lack, though, in that two-weapon combat does not seem to be mentioned anywhere in the core rulebook, which is something of an annoyance.

The game's glaring flaw is in the method used to roll checks, which is unfortunately central to the game. As a tabletop gamer, I already cringe somewhat to see a system based on six-sided dice. Let's face it; a system where you roll one die, add or subtract a few numbers, and make a quick comparison to some target is wonderfully simple, but six-siders provide such a poor range for such a simple method to work well. Thus, you typically run into two workarounds: either one rolls multiple six-siders and the total determines the result, or rolls multiple six siders with each individual die roll being important, not the total. Many tabletop RPGs handle this reasonably well. GURPS and games by Decipher using their Coda system based skill rolls on a 3d6 or 2d6 roll, respectively, keeping it almost as simple as rolling a d20. Other games use the second approach, such as Shadowrun and Last Unicorn's Icon System, where multiple dice are rolled against a set difficulty number and the number of dice beating that determines the result. Both are adequate solutions to the limited range of a d6.

Unfortunately, West End Games chose to solve the limitations of a d6 by setting skill and attribute values to die codes that increase the number of dice rolled as one improves that ability, and it is the sum of the roll that matters. Essentially, the lowest possible skill or attribute value is 1D, and it proceeds by "pips" to 1D+1 and 1D+2. The next step is then 2D, and continues using that pattern: 2D+1, 2D+2, 3D, 3D+1, 3D+2, and so on. This may not sound bad, but in an intense combat situation, constantly rolling these gets cumbersome. Remembering to add in the pips and account for the "wild die" also makes this key rolling procedure even more cumbersome. When rolling small numbers of dice, this isn't so bad, but in combat, values of 4D, 5D, and sometimes higher aren't all that uncommon. In fact, 4D and 5D are common damage values for various types of blasters. Starship combat makes the situation even worse, where proton torpedoes have a typical damage value of 9D. The force power system also tends to make several rolls necessary, exacerbating this even further. Of course, with a rolling program, this glaring flaw can be completely avoided, and a 1D and 20D+2 roll can become equally painless; it is unfortunate, though, that such is required to make the system work smoothly. Thus, despite liking the overall system, I had to severely penalize the score as this flaw is central to the game rules.

In summary, Star Wars d6, Second Edition is a overall superb roleplaying game with a vast abundance of quality material to be used. Even though it is now out of print, it is worth a try if you can get your hands on the core rulebook. If nothing else, you might appreciate West End Games' unique style in presenting their material to you; it is typically much less dry than the typical tabletop gaming fare, and it is certainly easy to start using. This is a game I highly recommend to any Star Wars and tabletop gaming fan.

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