Alright, I couldn’t help myself and I stopped by my FLGS. While there, I found a nice surprise on one of the shelves: the Star Wars WEG 30th Anniversary Edition.
I’ve been wanting this for some time, so my willpower was weak and I picked it up. I have a copy of the original, but it’s pretty beat up (courtesy of a previous owner) so I hate handling it.
The result? I now own a copy of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game that I don’t feel nervous about actually using.
I’ve often suggested the D6 system to people who want to start roleplaying, and now it’s finally back in print. That’s a pretty good moment for me.
The book itself is pretty well made. It actually comes as a two-hardcover collection with the core rulebook (just about 130 pages) and the sourcebook (just about 140 pages).
As far as I can tell, barring formatting things everything is identical to the original, down to in-universe ads (which are fantastic, in a late-80’s sort of way), and a variety of little neat touches. The book’s interior is black-and-white, with the exception of some of these ads which are in color.
Okay, there’s not a whole lot to say for the good by volume, but believe me when I say the quality’s there. It’s still from a more innocent time, pre-prequels. There are times where the writers evidently feel led to explain Star Wars (though, then again, when you’re roleplaying you can’t go wrong with reinforcing a certain amount of thematic focus).
The core rules consist of a player’s guide, sample solo adventure (a feature more games need), a GM’s guide, and a regular adventure. Players only need a couple dozen pages of reading to get started, and characters are based on templates and customized to fit the players.
This makes the game incredibly simple to play, but it’s not so simple as to lose sight of its objectives. The core mechanic does a good job of keeping things interesting, but still allowing for a clear progression (though I will say that you can occasionally “graduate” from any sort of real risk in some areas if you build a character in very specific ways).
The whole Force system is set up in a way that gives everyone a chance to boost their rolls, but also holds consequences. Jedi, of course, do more with this, but unlike the later Star Wars games becoming a Jedi is neither exceptionally powerful (since it comes at a very high cost during character creation) nor impossible after the start of play (it actually requires relatively little mechanical effort, though roleplaying is a must).
If you really liked the canon of pre-prequel Star Wars, or a lot of the Legacy Extended Universe stuff, this will feel more like the game for you than the d20 Star Wars published by Wizards of the Coast. FFG’s Genesys-based Star Wars is a little more variable depending on the setup and the GM, I’ve found, and can go either way.
The one reason that I can definitely recommend this over any of the Genesys-based entries is that it’s a lot lighter, but you don’t feel the sacrifices that much. There’s a lot of room to do things, and while you’ll feel the lack of some modern systems (no special abilities, for instance), you’ll also find that the core storytelling doesn’t age poorly.
Alright, it’s time to confess that the game hasn’t aged perfectly. Some of the other d6 System games, like d6 Space (legally included here thanks to the OGL) feel a little better in terms of having some of those features, but they come at the cost of added complexity. Characters are, to put it bluntly, shallow. There are special rules attached to some of the character templates (like the Wookie), but you don’t see these carried out to other alien species, and there are a lot of places that will feel less fleshed out than most modern games. Sometimes it’s streamlined, other times it feels lacking.
Another bad thing is that the commitment to playing Star Wars in this game is overwhelming at times. You cannot go off the beaten paths, and it does the whole “take your character if you fall to the Dark Side” thing, made especially egregious because it’s a result of a random die roll after narrative events. While this, of course, adds risk to the equation of using the Dark Side, it also robs you of agency.
Likewise, using the Force is reserved for exclusively dramatically appropriate moments or else characters lose their ability to do so (or at least gain their ability to do so at a much reduced rate). Players who are viewing it as a resource at their disposal are mistaken, which fits the setting, but it’s also a source of group conflict when such things are left to the GM’s discretion exclusively (guidelines exist, but they’re not entirely clear: prepare for squabbles).
With that said, the only other “bad” thing about the game isn’t really all that bad. There’s only a few pieces of gear and equipment in the core rulebook, plus a couple more in the sourcebook. This is a philosophical decision that people accustomed to the more content rich Wizards of the Coast Star Wars games or other similarly oriented games may find jarring.
There’s only one real “ugly” thing I have to say about these books.
They have ads. The one change that I can easily identify from the version 30 years ago and the one that came out recently is the advertisements.
I’m not talking about little blips. I include a “thank-you-and-check-us-out” note in my work, and this isn’t that. We’re talking flat-out “Here’s another product you might enjoy!” ads. Ads in the case for the hardcovers. Ads in the back pages of the book. Ads that probably cost at least $1 to print, which is a bit frustrating, not the least of which because it feels like FFG is trying to capitalize on the work of WEG back in the day.
FFG doesn’t include ads in their own Genesys rulebook, and it’s baffling to me why they thought this would be a good idea in a $60 book. It rubs me the wrong way, given the combined price and the nature of the game.
I get that they’re a company trying to do business, but I seriously doubt anyone who is buying the game is going to be totally ignorant of FFG’s licensed products, or at least be so if they’re actually interested in more Star Wars experiences. It also just seems cynical; I get that FFG has the Star Wars rights, but to my knowledge they don’t have any real relationship to WEG.
Do I Recommend It?
Maybe. It’s not something I regret buying, barring the temporary hole in my wallet that will be remedied by a little more restraint in other areas.
At the same time, it is $60, and it’s not available any cheaper in a digital format. It’s a licensed title, and you pay for the license and a somewhat decadent setup with two hardcover books (where soft-covers or even, heaven forbid, combining the two books into one book, would have saved on costs).
As a result, I have to admit that it’s not the best value. You can find the Star Wars Second Edition online for relatively cheap, and while the original costs more for the core rulebook than for the entire Anniversary Edition set (at least in new/like-new condition), it’s still available elsewhere.
Personally, I’d say that it’s a good buy for someone who already has everything and wants to own an interesting game. It’s a dug-up time capsule of roleplaying history.
As a gamer, however? I’d pass. There are great games that do the same thing that this one does, and there’s definitely been some improvements made to the formula over the years. Modern gamers will likely be disappointed by the limited focus on making your own characters and character customization, and there’s a lot of
While it’s a bit of a shame to find myself saying that, especially since I’m usually a quite gung-ho reviewer, there’s no middle-ground digital option here, and since that’s even my preferred format I’m having a hard time getting up the gusto to recommend it, which is a tad disappointing since I totally would have done so on the merits of the game alone before I actually sat down to write the review.
You can find it on Amazon, if you’re interested. At the time of writing, it’s going for $54.