Wheeeee...zzzzzCHUNK!
December 22, 2016 8:57 AM   Subscribe

 
I recall reading a player's handbook for this game, which encouraged Wookie characters to (if the check to understand their language had failed) gesticulate and make Wookie noises in an effort to convey the information without language. It seemed like a move that would either be amazing or horrible depending on the composition and BAC of the group involved.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:02 AM on December 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Weirdly, how I got "into" Star Wars was not by seeing the actual films (I'm too young to have seen the original releases in a theatre) but by picking up the RPG sourcebook secondhand for like 20p when I was about 7. I just thought the spaceships looked cool. I didn't actually see the films until a year or two afterwards (this was at a time when you had to rent a VHS (not easy not living in a city) or wait for the film to be on TV). Never played the actual RPG (or even owned the PHB) but the sourcebook was a rich source of Star Warsiness and sweet concept art.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:12 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


That article mentions Saturday morning Star Wars cartoons that had petered out. I was the right age and was super into the original trilogy. I saw (and watched all of) the Star Wars Holiday Special during its only airing, just to set the level.

I don't remember Star Wars Cartoons at all. It seems like if they existed I would have been aware of them. Is this an error in the article, or a shocking gap in my childhood?
posted by Cranialtorque at 9:14 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


See, I would have argued that what kept Star Wars alive for me and my friends were actually the PC games, and the Super Nintendo and Game Boy games. Those let us relive and live in the universe that we'd grown up with in a way that was more immediately accessible than an RPG (not to disparage RPGs, I love them. But there's much more of a curve of entry than something like Dark Forces or Rebel Assault).
posted by UltraMorgnus at 9:16 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't remember Star Wars Cartoons at all. It seems like if they existed I would have been aware of them. Is this an error in the article, or a shocking gap in my childhood?

Presume he's talking about Ewoks and Droids?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was recently reminded that in West End Star Wars, the highest difficulty rating for a skill check was Never Tell Me The Odds.
posted by zamboni at 9:21 AM on December 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't remember Star Wars Cartoons at all.

There were "Ewok" cartoons that my child self found very amusing and some other "Droids" cartoons that bored my child self to tears. I hadn't seen any of the movies and couldn't care less about these people.

I do have the Spanish edition of the RPG (published by Joc) and I did play a bit with it, even if you had to find a lot of six-sided dice to roll. Also, I never got why in the world "cyborg" was a character class.
posted by sukeban at 9:22 AM on December 22, 2016


Two Saturday morning cartoons: Droids and Ewoks. They aired right after the Berenstein Bears and before Shazzam: The Animated Adventures.
posted by Four Ds at 9:22 AM on December 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I really liked the RPG. The D6 system was surprisingly flexible and as a teen I appreciated being able to scrounge dice from old board games instead of having to buy a whole new set of purpose-built ones. My friends and I tried D&D a few times but kept coming back to Star Wars because we liked the system and, as the one who usually ended up DMing, it was also handy to have some of the world-building premade but in an environment where there were also infinite possibilities for my own ideas.
posted by Copronymus at 9:24 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Four Ds: "They aired right after the Berenstein Bears and before Shazzam: The Animated Adventures."

Wait, so did these shows exist or not? Which universe is this?

Anyway, the D6 version of Star Wars is my favorite - it could be so free wheeling, especially if you didn't pay too much attention to the details. I think I may finally give it up for an Apocalypse World hack if I run a regular Star Wars game again but I am READY to run that D6 "Privateer in the Star Wars Universe" game if anyone lets me.
posted by charred husk at 9:31 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It felt like the article exaggerated the gap between the Droids cartoon (1986) and say Super Star Wars for the Super Nintendo (1992), but it's true, looking back in closer detail there wasn't much in between then besides this RPG.
posted by furtive at 9:35 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


charred husk, go to YouTube and look for the opening themes.
posted by sukeban at 9:35 AM on December 22, 2016


The game was fine and all, but it is not what kept Star Wars alive or "brought it back from the dead."

What kept Star Wars alive was something else: the rise--and increasing ubiquity--of both the VCR and of cable TV over the course of the 1980s. For the first time it was easy for people (i.e. my friends and me) to watch our favorite movies over and over again whenever we wanted. So we watched. And watched. And watched. I easily watched Star Wars itself close to 100 times between its first video release in 1982 and 1987, when I finally got a driver's license and moved on to whatever dumb shit high school kids move on to--and Empire and Jedi weren't too far behind.

This seems so obvious on its face that I can't believe I haven't read more articles / essays / whatevers that make the connection.
posted by dersins at 9:36 AM on December 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


(And, though my friends and I may have moved on to other pursuits in the late 80's, we would still return to the movies as a sort of comfort food throughout high school and beyond. They stayed alive in us because those repeated VCR- and cable-enabled viewings had burned them into our brains in a way that no movie had ever before had the chance to be burned into a generation's brains.)
posted by dersins at 9:42 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


sukeban: "charred husk, go to YouTube and look for the opening themes."

I see them. It's just weird since I distinctly remember the shows were Troopers and Wookies that aired between the Berenstain Bears and The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam!
posted by charred husk at 9:47 AM on December 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


My freshman college roommate had a copy of the SWRPG and got several of us into playing it. And like the article says, we were starved for Star Wars. I had a copy of this CD set, which we used to add atmosphere to our gaming sessions.

We played the game extensively, as we were cash-strapped college students. It was something we could all do and enjoy, and the only cost was time and imagination.

The D6 system was very easy to learn and perform. No kludgy calculating THAC0, it was just roll your dice and count the number. And don't roll a 1 on your critical die!

Around that same time (1992-93), the Zahn book Heir to the Empire was released, which was like a breath of fresh air for Star Wars nerds.

To this day, some of the shared inside jokes I have with old friends come from our time playing SWRPG. I sold off most of my books about a decade ago, but I kept my 2nd edition sourcebook, and my movie trilogy sourcebook.

One of my favorite sourcebooks was Tramp Freighters. It had rules for creating and modifying your own ship, as well as some cool artwork of various freighter designs, including some funky modified YT-1300s.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:51 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Please note on page 35, the rules state that it's impossible to improve a hyperdrive past "1/2", which means you can't make your ship faster than the Millennium Falcon. (She'll do point five past lightspeed.)
posted by Fleebnork at 9:56 AM on December 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I played the Star Wars RPG because I was a Star Wars fan, so it was never dead for me. The Imperial Sourcebook is fantastic. I still have the source books and the character sheets from high school on a bookshelf in the study, right next to the D&D books and another RPG called Star Ace, a D100/percentile system.

I've always had a love for D6 systems like the the 1987 RPG. It was also great that the game specifically made it so no one could be a Jedi and lightsabers weren't just laying around everywhere (you get a vibro-blade and you can go ahead and pretend, but no one likes a superstitious fool who believes in all that hocus pocus).

The game design specifically went out of its way to make the players heroes and I am fairly certain that stormtroopers were called "canon fodder". But no matter what, you could never be better than any of the main heroes in the universe (nor have a faster ship than the Falcon, as Fleebnork points out).

Ultimately, that RPG is the reason why I knew TIE meant Twin Ion Engine, that the X-Wing was the T-65B X-Wing designed by Incom and was preceded by a Z-95 Headhunter; and a whole hell of a lot more technical geekiness that I've forgotten.

Now that I've seen Rogue One, I am sorta curious as to whether or not the Imperial Sourcebook mentions anything about the design of the Death Star. It'll be interesting to see what was written back then versus what is in the movie.

But I think the RPG really only catered to a niche of fans and didn't really keep anything alive, per se. If anything revitalized Star Wars after the original trilogy it was the Timothy Zahn series of books.
posted by linux at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2016


Oh yes. Dark Side points gave you big bonuses on your die rolls, and they were free! Here, take as much of the Dark Side as you want! My favorite memory: one character was an Obnoxious Kid (can't remember the actual class title), whose player took one too many Dark Side points. Soon, Darth Vader had a mini-Darth walking along behind him, and the player had to make a new character...
posted by Mogur at 10:03 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Our gaming group in grad school had a couple of campaigns. I missed one due to graduating and moving away, but later moved back and had one nice short-lived game.

LetMeTellYouAboutMyCharacter: At the GM's suggestion, I played a protocol droid who was secretly (even from the other players) an assassin droid. At one point, the group was trying to get off-world but the spaceport was held by the Empire. The GM hands me a note saying that my mission programming was engaged and I now had no regard for sapient life: two hours later, we're off-world and the spaceport is a smoldering ruin, devoid of life...and the other players forcibly wipe my programming.

(Sorry, that's just one of my favorite stories from gaming, ever.)
posted by Four Ds at 10:03 AM on December 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


It was also great that the game specifically made it so no one could be a Jedi

Well, sort of. Remember, one of the character classes is "Young Jedi." But yeah, you only started with one or two Force powers, and they were pretty weak. So your character was sort of like Luke at the beginning of ESB. The rules made it so that grinding up Force skills was pretty difficult, and you could only learn a new Force power from an actual Jedi.

In our original campaign in college, my first character last long enough that he eventually got to learn a few things from Luke Skywalker, as we had been helping the Alliance. Good times.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:09 AM on December 22, 2016


I think my most fondly remembered characters came from the Star Wars RPG. (Probably because it was one of the few games I played more than I ran.)

There was the Force adept who's philosophy was about balance - if his light and dark side points weren't equal he had a penalty on his Force powers. And he had laser gloves because I was a teenager.

And the evil ex-Imperial assassin based off of Avon from Blake's 7 who had to keep doing super nice things to further his evil agenda. There's a wonderful scene where he's emerging from a tank and being celebrated as a hero by a clan of Wookies while trying not to make his cringing too noticeable.

So much fun.
posted by charred husk at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2016


I've said this before, but I think one of the reasons I was so pumped for and ultimately enjoyed Rogue One as much as I did was because the characters and settings reminded me a lot of the distinct strain of Star Wars that existed in my college-age brain prior to the prequels. The Zahn novels were a big part of that, as were the WEG RPG and the old tactical minatures game.

One year for our university's gaming society, myself and about 20-30 friends ran a Star Wars LARP (based on the WEG rules with White Wolf-inspired action resolution) set during a high-level conference for various Imperial apparatchiks and hangers-on happening during the supposed final stages of construction of Death Star II (and, unbeknownst to the guests, the Battle of Endor). The climax of the LARP involved an Imperial courier relaying the news of the Emperor and Lord Vader's demise, literally placing Vader's broken helmet on the table as proof. As you might guess, everyone went NUTS.

So I've always had a huge soft spot for things like Rogue One, where we get to see different characters' POVs on the grand, sweeping events of the main-saga films. Jyn Erso's crew reminded me of the kinds of slightly off-model characters my friends and I would play in our RPG sessions, which I found absolutely endearing in a way that other fans might not pick up on.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:21 AM on December 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Looking back, the timeline feels pretty tight. Jedi came out in 1983, the awful Ewok and Droid cartoons ran in 1985-86, Marvel's Star Wars comic ran until 1986, the RPG came out in 1987 and Zahn's first novel came out in 1991. There wasn't a huge gulf between Star Wars projects.

But when you're a kid, that four-year gap between ROTJ and the RPG is massive. (The cartoons were awful and obvious cash-ins, so they didn't count to my sophisticated twelve-year-old self, and the comics never felt all that connected.) The Prequels were not even rumors at that point, just wishful thinking. The RPG really did feel like the minor revival of a dead, beloved property.

When Zahn's novel came out and nerds throughout the land embraced Space Rommel, it was clear that SW had returned as a living property. That period from '83-'91, though...it was just a dying comic book series, some terrible cartoons, and one kickass RPG.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 10:48 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Regarding the Ewoks and Droids cartoons: Thanks for the links. I do not remember them at all.

However, that's not surprising, given I was in my mid-teens when they aired. The Star Wars obsession was in remission at that point, and I wasn't getting up early on weekend mornings any more. Funny that there's a bit of 80's Star Wars arcana that somehow escaped my radar until now, though.
posted by Cranialtorque at 10:51 AM on December 22, 2016


That period from '83-'91, though...it was just a dying comic book series, some terrible cartoons, and one kickass RPG.

And two made for TV, live action Ewok movies.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:54 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Star Wars Micro Machines -- which were sold everywhere*, and toyified pretty much every vehicle, character, and set that ever appeared in the films -- felt like a big part of keeping Star Wars alive in the between-movies era too

*Like you could walk into a random Rite Aid a couple towns over and find stuff you'd never seen anywhere else before. It was awesome.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:19 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Star Wars Micro Machines were also really helpful when we were doing spaceship battles. It helped us visualize where we were vs where the badguys were.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:27 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


As we were leaving Rogue One, I remarked to my lovely wife that it felt a lot like a session of d6 Star Wars. So, of course, I enjoyed it.
posted by Gelatin at 11:35 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite things about Star Wars: Rebels is that it reminds me of every SW:RPG campaign I've ever played in. I'm apparently not the only one that noticed the similarity between the party composition and the WEG character templates.
posted by lantius at 12:01 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh I was so into this with my friends in high school. I got so into SW as a result that I remember raiding AOL chat rooms about Star Trek to inform them that it was in fact Star Wars which ruled. If by any chance you were there, I am deeply sorry.

The game inspired me to write a good deal of what I did not then know was called fanfic, all of which has died a merciful death, although as I recall it was not the worst thing anyone ever wrote at that age. There was an internet rumor going around that Luke and Leia's mother was called Arcadia Skywalker, and I wrote a dramatic confrontation/death scene between her and Vader that was way the hell better than what we eventually got in Revenge of the Sith. Granted, this is an extremely low bar to have cleared, but I remember sitting in the theater thinking, Lucas, I could have outdone you here at sixteen.

So I fell out of love with Star Wars for a long time, largely because it did not live up to the promise of the RPG. But I am willing to be lured back by Rogue One, if it's as lovable as they say.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:22 PM on December 22, 2016


One of my favorite things about Star Wars: Rebels is that it reminds me of every SW:RPG campaign I've ever played in.

Haha, yes! When the series first started, I bought the episode Fighter Flight (where our heroes sort of bumblingly steal a TIE) for my college buddy and told him IS THIS NOT LIKE ONE OF OUR GAMES?
posted by Fleebnork at 1:09 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


the episode Fighter Flight

The callback they do in the S01 finale is another example of good GMing in the context of television writing. If the characters manage to get a hold of a really cool (and possibly game-unbalancing) prize in one adventure, don't just take it away from them -- keep it in reserve until they can use it to do something really cool later.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:25 PM on December 22, 2016


Does anyone remember the old Dark Horse "Dark Empire" comic line? They were released at about the same time as the first Zahn books. It had a look all its own. The faces were blank like crash test dummies (the guy on the left is Luke) and the coloring was weird and monochromatic.

The illustrator really put a ton of effort into the hardware, tho.

The story was pretty meh (all those villains you thought were dead? THEY'RE NOT!) but still I was horrendously excited when they came out in 1991, because I couldn't afford the Zahn hardbacks and the publisher was very slow at releasing the mass market paperbacks...
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:36 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cam Kennedy was the artist on Dark Empire and a few other Dark Horse Star Wars things like the Boba Fett miniseries, and as far as I'm concerned his imagery, especially with the vehicles and technology, is the best visual representation of the Star Wars universe. He nailed what the universe felt like more than what it looked like in the movies, and that elevated his work well above the rest.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:00 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


My near misses with Star Wars RPG-ing constitute 1) being slightly bemused by a school-friend bringing his rulebook and Greedo Fig along to an Advanced HeroQuest game session and 2) effectively being him when I rolled up a couple of years later trying to convince my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay crew to try TSR's slightly derivative Space Opera RPG The Galactos Barrier ("May The Music Of The Spheres be with you!")
posted by comealongpole at 2:10 PM on December 22, 2016


The SWRPG is probably the one I enjoyed the most! (Played a lot of Rifts, word of darkness, AD&D). Its also the theater of my greatest achievement as a player... I took down an AT-ST that was persuing us WITH A BLASTER because I threw an improbable number of consecutive 6 on my wild dice.
posted by coust at 2:44 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there any RPG that didn't have Greg Costikyan's influence?
posted by Nelson at 3:59 PM on December 22, 2016


Cam Kennedy was the artist on Dark Empire and a few other Dark Horse Star Wars things like the Boba Fett miniseries, and as far as I'm concerned his imagery, especially with the vehicles and technology, is the best visual representation of the Star Wars universe. He nailed what the universe felt like more than what it looked like in the movies, and that elevated his work well above the rest.

I don't read a whole lot of comics but one of the collections I do have, and love, is the Boba Fett series. The art is awesome.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:49 AM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


« Older "Christmas is a Time for Joy"   |   A long awaited Nine Inch Nails post Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments