Star Wars D20
All systems have their advantages and disadvantages
Star Wars "Revised" Edition
Basically Star Wars D&D 3rd Edition. It involves a system that is far more streamlined than regular D&D 3rd, more in line with d20 Modern. Gone is any hint of spell slots or memorization tables. Generally only class abilities, skills and feats determine a character's capabilities. In this system Jedi are strong adversaries but can realistically be gunned down by a large number of stormtroopers. Force abilities are generally reflected as Force skills and Force feats. Skills cover most general applications of the Force like the infamous Jedi Mind Trick or Telekinesis. Force Feats expand on such abilities for more potent or specialized applications. For example, any Jedi can lift objects, but it takes a feat to create a freaking localized hurricane at will. People who are not Force sensitive can channel it through the use of Force points which can be spent to add extra dice to their rolls not unlike Eberron's action points.
Characters have two sets of "hit points". Vitality reflects the energy to get out of the way of blaster bolts at the last instant or that instinctual dodge from a lightsaber blade. It's basically plot armour in the sense that a character that still has Vitality can moon stormtroopers as they shoot at him and come out just fine. Actually getting stabbed by a lightsaber subtracts from your Wounds which is equal to your Constitution score. And does not increase with level. You start actually bleeding when your Vitality (which does scale with level) is depleted or when you take a critical hit. This means that even the highest level badasses can go down like a punk with a few bad rolls that crit them. Jedi expend Vitality to use the Force so there's a soft cap on the kind of bullshit you can conceivably pull with the Force. Many NPCs don't have a Vitality score which explains why heroes are great shots while the average extra can't hit the broad side of a Star Destroyer at fifty paces.
The Revised Edition also had the special distinction of making the vast majority of characters into fragile snowflakes in a Tatooine summer. Mainly because armour no longer adds to Armour class, but instead functions like Damage Reduction. Sounds like a good idea in theory, so it takes special effort to mess it all up. Which is brilliantly achieved by making Armour DR only function on Wound damage. If you haven't caught on, your DR only functions when you are about a dozen points of damage from death in a setting when crazy people with laser swords are trying to cut your head off. Even the most basic weapons deal 3d8 damage, so even with the heaviest armour, it's only a couple or so shots before you croak. It also hinders your DEX bonus which is one of the few things which does add to your AC (or "Defense" as they term it here).
By the way, Jedi lightsabers ignore DR and most Jedi classes have their lightsaber damage scale with level. By the early double digit levels they are dealing damage on par with rocket launchers which is setting appropriate but also handily explains why they are the primary melee warriors in a setting where everyone else tends to pack a blaster. If a Jedi crits you, it's usually time to roll another character.
Star Wars d20 Revised had a relatively short lifespan so it never accrued some of the insane combinatorial explosion of brokeness that characterised late D&D3.5. That said the game had its flaws, some of them can be considered quite serious.
One common criticism is that the game is very "vanilla". Many classes gain all of their class abilities by roughly level 6, everything else was nothing more than a numerical improvement. Aside from the Jedi classes, classes tended to have only a small handful of class abilities and some of those abilities were highly situational. This extended to the prestige classes; the Bounty Hunter PrC for example got the Ranger's Favoured Enemy which extended to his current bounty target (which was nice) but only to his current bounty target (not so nice) and the rogue's sneak attack. That's it, that's all you get as a bounty hunter in way of class abilities. Basically you took a PrC to get access to class abilities D&D characters got at level 1. Equipment too was basically a numerical improvement as opposed to the huge expansion of capabilities enchanted gear could offer to players more used to fantasy RPGs. Most classes were also very "samey" with situational bonuses and a small list of bonus feats differentiating some of them. The feats tended to fall into the "+2 to that skill and +2 to another skill" type aside from the feats found in the core d20 system. In a way think of it as a prototype to d20 Modern.
As such overall, the game can get quite boring over time. Any non-Jedi character slowly grows in powers they already have while a new feat can give Jedi a whole bag of tricks to unleash. Even their core abilities rise more quickly; as most Force powers are skills they gain +1 per level. BAB for a combat character rise at half that rate. As most enemies simply lack the crazy amount of special abilities that characterize core D&D's monsters it becomes all too routine. Just Stormtroopers with even better aim, droids with more weapons, etc. Even fielding Sith simply means that the party will focus fire and gun that sucker down.
This leads to a major problem when parties get together. Everyone is pretty fragile but Jedi are so much more powerful than everyone else. Mixed parties tend to have many other characters overshadowed by the Force Users. All Force Users tends to have lots of overlap and can be hard to fit into the timeline if you use canonical Star Wars (ie the Old Republic or the New Jedi Order; even worse if you intend to have plenty of Sith to fight at the same time). All non-Force Users and you might as well be playing D20 Future. Movie conventions that protect major NPCs also do not exist; if Darth Vader shows up, there is every chance that the party will try to shoot him with proton torpedos from their vehicles if they can.
Mundane skills are worse than baseline 3E. D20 took 3E's already too large skill list and made it bigger. While nobody has the dreaded 2 skill points a level, many things you could go without in 3E are now basic life skills. You need to be a master hacker to gather information on the internet. All but the most basic vehicle operations also require training. In-fact even basic operations require training because astrogate is trained only.
This is further turned into a mess by making force skills the unholy combination of of the Truenamer and Martial Adepts: Force skills require a skill check to function, but there are literally dozens of them. Unlike Martial Adepts these aren't mundane skills you've learned to an extent you can use them in combat (Wax on, wax off), they have no consistent or rational attribute dependencies and they can only be used to burn vitality and turn it into an effect. It gets worse still as despite having only enough books with crunch you can count them on your finger, and the only one that doesn't introduce a new one is Arms and Equipment Guide. In its short run it literally introduced more skills than 3.X did in its 70+ books and countless web articles with new content. Worse still precisely 1 (Oriental Adventures's Iaijutsu Focus) of 3E's new skills was not tied to a sub-system, 2 if autohypnosis (which is tied to Psionics and only given to them as class skills, but technically usable by anyone) is counted.
All classes are locked into their class skills entirely until the feat Cosmopolitan in the Hero's Guide. Even with this feat you only got one extra skill. This had a nasty way of hard locking characters into certain roles. While this was always the case in 3E's skill system (until Pathfinder), it really stings after d20 Modern's starting occupation made it the one variant with an exception in the core rulebook. Diplomatic skills were particularly locked down with Nobles and Jedi Consulars being the only people capable of asking nicely for things (contrast 3rd edition where Bard, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Paladin and Rogue, over half the classes, were).
Why Bother With It?
The main things of interest with Star Wars d20 are the lore and modules. About half of the books released for the system are actually lore books with zero or near-zero crunch, which are handy for any Star Wars campaign. There were also a good number of scenarios released for free on Wizards' website that range from a full adventure (Luke wants you to track down a wayward student. An errand sends you to Tremors.) to an interlude you can place anywhere (A con artist tries to steal your ship. When seeking a Hutt for something you get caught up in one of his minions trying to userp him.). There was also a lot of modules released for the Living Force RPGA campaign. Though these varied wildly in quality, many are actually quite good and they are canon to the Expanded Universe (though finding out what the canon outcome was is impossible if it's not directly referenced in another.). Since the campaign isn't run anymore, they're a decade out of date and DMs were officially told to delete them after the conclusion, you have to find them like you find any other old, out of print RPG thing. You're still better off converting them to any other Star Wars RPG though.
Was a revised "revised" edition, so they just called it the "Saga" Edition.
It basically followed the D20 system from D&D but with a great number of differences that put it somewhere in between 3.5e and 4e in the ruleset, which is actually a good thing:
- Skills come in "trained" and "untrained" rather than tracking bazilions of skill points which makes character management much easier.
- In another nice touch, Armour Class has also been removed, meaning you take your defenses based on your Reflex/Will/Fortitude modifiers.
- Wearing armour provide bonuses to Reflex saves and occasionally Fortitude, but negates any "Heroic bonus" you might gain based on your level, so armour is only really a good thing for lower level characters who have low bonuses, or high level characters specifically trained to use armour.
- Leveling is free-form, you just gain talents from trees available to your class so there is no "End" ability that you have to wait for in levelling up, or might miss if you multi-class.
- It also means that two players playing the same class can have absolutely no abilities in common whatsoever. These abilities are generally visible and battle turning too. A fan made a PDF (DMF's Big Book of SWSE NPCs) with 197 generic NPCs (e.g., CR4 Thugs) stated still had inspiration to suggest alternate options that could radically change an encounter on every single one of them.
- Inclusion of "Force" and "Destiny" points, which are a limited pool of points used by player characters which can be used to modify dice rolls, regardless of whether you are Force sensitive or not.
- Another great advantage of this system was its use of the metric system, though this mostly amounted to changing all instance of "five feet" to "one and a half meters" (which is more accurate than every foot is a meter).
- While this edition uses hit points, higher starting damage and omnipresence of area attacks (grenades and autofire) that always do damage to characters without cover (at least those without the evasion talent or some for of shield/damage reduction) mitigate HP bloat so two platoons of Stormtroopers are a serious threat to even the highest level player characters.
- Rather than requiring incrementally better gear every level, calculations for "heroic" characters add character level or half of it, regardless of what you are using.
- Gone are small +2 bonuses. Instead most bonuses are +5 or a reroll.
- Space combat rules are greatly revised. Abstracted in the parts that matter (did there really need to be 5 pages covering how much extra turning costs when a square is literally hundreds of kilometers?). It also gives a wider variety of heroes stuff to do during battles (Force abilities can be used at much greater distance in the emptiness of space. Have fun throwing ships into each other. Atmosphere is even more fun if one is handy!).
- With the Rebellion Era Campaign Guide, a character's history can now grant bonus class skills.
Anyone can use the force too, there are entire chapters providing Talents for Force sensitive characters that are essentially universal talents which can be taken by any class so long as they are force sensitive. So you don't need to be a Jedi to be an effective force user (the main advantages of actually being of the Jedi class are the bonus feat options making it easier to focus on the force, and talents for lightsabers), which itself adds to the freedom of gameplay as you could be a force-wielding scoundrel and never actually take any talent from the scoundrel trees at all. All that's needed to use the force is 1: The "Force Sensitive" feat (Automatic for first level Jedi. Can pick between it or lightsaber proficiency if you multiclass to Jedi) 2: Being trained in Use the Force (requires Force Sensitive. If obtained after level 1 you need to increase your intelligence or spend a feat) and 3: One or more instances of the Force Training feat to gain force powers (A bonus feat option for Jedi and optional if you only want to move handheld objects around and make basic telepathic calls). Thus any first level any race with one of the two as a bonus feat (Human, Miraluka and a few others) can do it at first level and anyone not barred from using the force can start at third even if they aren't Jedi.
The game actively encourages multi-classing though, and there is a "modest" (in comparison to 3e D&D) number of prestige classes available that which provide access to their own, usually restricted list of Talent trees, but also provide class abilities with the core classes don't provide. For example: the "Jedi Master" prestige class provides Force Secrets which are like metamagic feats and can modify your Force powers in cool ways. Unlike base classes, prestige classes don't gain bonus feats every other level, which makes few of them (mostly the Jedi ones as those get a bonus talent instead) worth it long term.
Classes & Talent Trees
There are five (and only five) core classes in the system (Seven if you count the NPC classes "nonheroic" and "beast"), however as mentioned earlier, because the classes simply provide access to talent trees rather than pre-determined level benefits, players who choose the same class can build themselves entirely differently and shouldn't need to be hemmed into a particular class-role if they don't want to.
What follows is mostly a list just to consolidate the widespread rules are for the system and show how varied that characters can be:
Don't be fooled, the Jedi talent trees are actually some of the largest in the entire setting, and that's not even counting how they have access to force talent trees straight away. Plus they are meant to be a starting point for multi-class characters, as the "Jedi Knight" prestige class gets a butt-ton more talent trees. Not only that, but they are intended to be generic enough that they can apply to any lightsaber wielding character (Sith, Jal Shey etc).
- Consular - Using the force for negotiation and conflict resolution
- Guardian - Learning combat related techniques and maneuvers
- Sentinel - Skilled at seeking/resisting dark-side opponents
- Lightsaber Combat - Improving prowess with lightsaber weapons
- Anticipation - Able to pre-empt enemy maneuvers
- Collaborator - Manipulate enemies into thinking you are their ally
- Disgrace - Use underhanded tactics to gain advantage
- Exile - Adept in ways of taking care of yourself
- Fencing - Noble fighting style with light weapons or lightsabers
- Gambling - Expose yourself to gain the advantage over an opponent
- Idealogue - Able to provide motivation or demoralisation in certain situations
- Influence - Using interaction skills to overcome opponents non-violently
- Inspiration - Provider of buffs to allies in different situations
- Leadership - Provider of buffs with yourself as the centre of effect
- Lineage - Gain access to skills, equipment and wealth due to family connections
- Loyal Protector - Gain FOLLOWERS and train them as bodyguards
- Master of Intrigue - Able to use adjacent characters to your benefit
- Provocateur - Turn enemies against one another
- Skill Challenge - Bonuses for yourself and allies when using skills
- Superior Skills - Improve your ability when using a particular skill
- Brigand - Techniques used to distract and expose the enemy
- Fortune - Provide yourself with luck based bonuses and rerolls
- Misfortune - Gain attacks bonuses which take advantage of enemy mistakes
- Outsider - Exercise caution to avoid dangerous situations
- Opportunist - Take advantage of mishaps
- Recklessness - Gain bonuses and effects in otherwise deadly situations
- Revolutionary - Expert in subversive and resistance tactics
- Run and Gun - Able to make mobile attacks
- Slicer - Master of computer hacking
- Smuggling - Able to provide innocent cover for suspicious situations
- Spacer - Expert in space combat
- Advance Patrol - Attack with the advantage of stealth and keen observation
- Awareness - Keen senses that enemies cannot exploit
- Camouflage - Improve your skill at stealth
- Espionage - Able to react to certain situations with the application of stealth
- Fringer - Learn to "make-do" in frontier situations
- Hyperspace Explorer - Expert operator of vehicles
- Master Scout - Talent Tree combining several different disciplines
- Mobile Scout - Maneuvers usable while mounted
- Reconnaissance - Gain FOLLOWERS and train them as scouts
- Surveillance - Expert in perception
- Survivor - New maneuvers in difficult environments
- Spy - Able to use stealth and deception to gather information
- Unpredictable - Make it difficult for enemies to damage you
- Versatility - Gain bonuses of your choice to adapt to any situation
- Ambusher - Take advantage of surprise at the beginning of combat
- Armour Specialist - Maximize the benefits of wearing armour
- Brawler - Expert in melee combat
- Brute Squad - Combat bonuses when accompanied by allies
- Commando - New advanced combat techniques
- Mercenary - Use underhanded tactics to gain victory
- Rocket Jumper - Expert in the use of jump packs
- Shockboxer - Trained in unarmed combat
- Squad Leader - Gain FOLLOWERS and train them as soldiers
- Trooper - Grant you and your allies combat benefits
- Warrior - Master of endurance and overcoming enemy abilities.
- Weapon Specialist - Weapon bonuses with a specific chosen weapon
- Veteran - Able to overcome injury and psychological effects
FORCE TALENT TREES (Class free)
If your character has "Force Sensitivity" then they can take a force talent in place of a talent granted by their class, there are five generic Force talents while the remaining ones require you be a member of or connected to a particular organisation.
- Alter - Telekinetic and Telepathic mastery
- Control - Able to regulate your own physiology and center force effects on yourself
- Dark Side - Abilities drawing from the dark side
- Guardian Spirit - You have a link with a Force Spirit who gives you guidance
- Sense - Using the force to increase your perception and read the future
- Aing-Tii Monks - See the Force as a rainbow rather than Light/Dark with focus on Freedom
- Agents of Ossus - Refugees of the Jedi Purge who formed their own tradition
- Bando Gora - Dark Jedi Splinter group who have formed their own dark traditions
- Baran Do Sages - Farseers of the Kel Dor species
- Believers - Adherents to the "old ways" of the Sith
- Blazing Chain - Force wielding pirates and corsairs
- Dathomiri Witches - Shamanistic female force users who cast "spells" and control animals
- Disciples of Twilight* - Former Jedi looking for new path, found in solitude and shadow
- Embers of Vahla - Dark Side religion, worshippers of fire
- Fallanassi - Ancient isolationist order capable of disappearing into the Force
- Felucian Shamans - Tribal force users of the Felucian species
- Iron Knights - Sentient force using crystals within droid bodies
- Jal Shey - Scientific explorers of force potential
- Jensaarai - Splinter Dark Jedi philosophy that treads the line between light and dark
- Keetael - Expert hunters and stalkers using the Force
- Kilian Rangers - Force using knightly order trained in lance and shield
- Korunnai - Nomad tribes from Haruun Kal who create bonds with animal followers
- Krath - Dark side group who have recovered Sith techniques by experimentation
- Luka Sene - Miralukan tradition who use the force to improve sight
- Matukai - Ascetic warriors who use the force to obtain physical perfection
- Seyugi Dervishes - Force trained Death Cult Assassins
- Shapers of Kro Var - Use the force to add elemental effects to your abilities
- Tyia - Pacifistic order dedicated to seeking harmony
- Wardens of the Sky - Travelling warrior monks who keep the space lanes safe
- Zeison Sha - Philosophy of self-sufficiency and telekinetic mastery, users of discblades
Like the core classes, they have talent trees, many of which are unique to them. Some classes are very restricted; Jedi Masters for example only have access to one tree in addition to the "class free" Force talents, while others such as the Jedi Knight have unique talent trees up to their armpits. Listing all the trees would become a nightmare so here is simply a consolidated listing of the available classes.
PRESTIGE CLASS LIST
- ACE PILOT - Master of vehicular combat
- ASSASSIN - Trained professional killer
- BOUNTY HUNTER - Master tracker and apprehender of wanted persons
- CHARLATAN - Professional con-man and thief
- CORPORATE AGENT - Leader within a non-governmental organisation
- CRIME LORD - Leader of a particular criminal organisation
- DROID COMMANDER - Droid adapted to lead other droids
- ELITE TROOPER - Highly trained combat and tactics specialist
- ENFORCER - Investigator and trained tackler of individual opponents
- FORCE ADEPT - Trainee in force tradition not connected to the Jedi Order
- FORCE DISCIPLE - Master of the mysteries of the Force unconnected to the Jedi
- GLADIATOR - Part combat specialist / part showman
- GUNSLINGER - Small arms specialist
- IMPROVISER - Expert at coming up with quick & ingenious solutions
- INDEPENDENT DROID - Self-Sufficient droid character
- INFILTRATOR - Covert military operative
- JEDI KNIGHT - Member of the Jedi tradition who has passed the Jedi trials
- JEDI MASTER - Highest members of the Jedi Order
- MARTIAL ARTS MASTER - Unarmed combat expert
- MASTER PRIVATEER - Expert pirate and ship-to-ship combat master
- MEDIC - Professional healer
- MELEE DUELIST - Master of a particular melee weapon (may be lightsabers too)
- MILITARY ENGINEER - Tech specialist with military applications
- OFFICER - Trained leaders and trusted members of a military organisation
- OUTLAW - Wanted fugitive and expert at evading capture
- PATHFINDER - Expert in using your environment to your advantage
- SABOTEUR - Master of distruption when it comes to demolitions or technology
- SITH APPRENTICE - Trusted members initiated into deeper mysteries of the Sith Tradition
- SITH MASTER - Highest members of the Sith Tradition
- VANGUARD - Advance scout and strike specialist
- Saga Edition rulebook - The Core rulebook. Has an emphasis on species, equipment and ships that appeared in the six films.
- Dawn of Defiance - A PDF only series of free that forms a full campaign. Starting just after Revenge of the Sith and focuses on Bail Organa sponsoring early acts of rebellion against the Empire.
- Threats of the Galaxy - Basically the Monster Manual, with a focus on humanoid mooks but also including some creatures and droids. A few player options are scattered in the book.
- Starships of the Galaxy - Rules for building, modifying, and running combat with starships as well as tons of spacefaring vehicles. Had a really low print run for some reason.
- Scavenger's Guide to Droids - Rules for droid PCs and NPCs, including optional rules for PCs to manage droid companions like minions. A ton more droid examples than Threats.
- Scum and Villainy - Ostensibly a de-facto splatbook for the Scoundrel class, nonetheless rules for everything non-force related were included. Equipment modding rules are a highlight.
- Rebellion Era Campaign Guide - Rules for playing during the era of the Original Trilogy, also added optional character Background rules to replace Destinies.
- The Clone Wars Campaign Guide - One of the best sourcebooks, adds elegant follower/minion rules that act as extensions of the PCs rather than additional party members. Also adds rules for massed combat.
- The Force Unleashed Campaign Guide - While it has stats for stuff from the vidya of the same name, it's more of a guide for campaigns set between the end of Revenge of the Sith and the original movie as an artifact from how Force Unleashed was meant to be a Shadows of the Empire esqe multimedia project (before the game's constant delays and ultimate mediocrity sunk it). Good for what are essentially Epic character rules that can be taken at any level, allowing you to perform Epic shit like in the video game (e.g., pulling Star Destroyers out of the sky)
- Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide - Guess what era this covers! Another pretty good sourcebook covering rules for pretty much everything including lightsaber combat for non-Jedi as well as loads of rules for Mandalorians and new talent trees for everyone.
- Legacy Era Campaign Guide - Despite a name that implies it covers only the Legacy of the Force series, it covers the time after the films up to 130 years later, including the return of the two different Empires (with different rules for Imperial Knights and Sith) but also as early as the Thrawn trilogy .
- Galaxy at War - The Soldier splatbook, with rules for building "battlestations" (i.e. Death Star-style dungeons), and benefits for joining large military organizations. Not as many guns as you might think.
- Galaxy of Intrigue - The Noble splatbook. Variant rules for skill challenges, basically a non-combat book. Lots of plothooks and mini-adventures in the back section.
- Jedi Academy Training Manual - Splatbook for some class or another, I forget which. Full of Force Talents, and also includes tons of other Force-using traditions besides Jedi that can grant talents if you are a member. Also includes rules for variant lightsabers and the effects of swapping crystals. A tiny Monster Manual of Force-creatures, too.
- The Unknown Regions(...The Final Frontier) - The Scout splatbook in theory, but mostly a book to allow GMs to just roll stuff up (Rules and tables for creating new planets, life forms, and civilizations) since the Saga edition ruleset was coming towards the end of its
Saga edition loosely followed Star Wars canon for how strength in the force works, meaning that Force Sensitive characters pwn everything and outshine non-sensitive characters. While everyone can be influenced by the Force, (allowing them to use up "Force points" to modify dice rolls), actual characters with any force talents/feats can min-max their character to do pretty much anything and therefore only need to improve their ability to Use the Force.
- For example: the "Force Pilot" talent allows players to use their Force skill instead of Pilot skill, while the "Force Persuasion" talent also allows players to use the force instead of their Persuasion skill, Force Healing and so on and so forth. Someone with "Force Block/Deflect" can negate attacks on them with a Use the Force check and a lightsaber. So basically these characters only need one skill (and only one skill) to play the game.
This does however come at the cost of not using those talents to become more powerful instead of more versatile. More annoyingly, the logistics of the system was an unwieldy clusterfuck, which is probably one of the reasons that Wizards could not sustain the system. Rather than having each class self contained in a single sourcebook and then presenting a new class with a new book, the problem with having and keeping so few classes was that options for the classes were presented EVERYWHERE. Meaning your character build could easily have options taken from every single sourcebook to the point that you'd forget where it all came from, and becomes a paperwork nightmare. This is further hindered with some options just being thrown in to whichever sourcebook was released at the time, meaning it's not very intuitive in figuring out where a particular rule comes from. A fan created index mitigates this, but requires having something that can view XML files handy.