Friday, July 13, 2018

A First Step Into A Larger World

I apologize for the lack of posts this Summer. My business has really picked up and it's done so in the awful heat and humidity of a New York heat wave. I am a Winter Child, born during a February snow storm. This heat takes a lot out of me. Even if I wasn't so busy, the temperature would still leave me pretty exhausted. 

I am taking a short break from discussing Pixar Superheroes to address something else rather, well, incredible (Heh. See what I did there?).

Fantasy Flight Games has recently released the Star Wars: The Role Playing Game - 30th Anniversary Edition, reprinting the original Core Rulebook and Sourcebook of the 1987, West End Games RPG that changed the course of Star Wars canon forever.

Enough has been said about the impact of the original game on the Expanded Universe and even the movies, and animated series that I needn't reiterate all that here. I mean I could, I'd enjoy it, but that's not what I want to do with this post. Instead, I'd like to tell you about my first encounter with the Star Wars D6 RPG way back in 1987. 

My apologies if I've told this story on the blog already. I honestly thought I had, but couldn't find it in a cursory look through past posts. It is a tale I've told to friends and fellow gamers over the years and it may be those recollections I am remembering. 

Here we go...

Sometime between December of 1987 and February of 1988, I was asked to GM at an RPGA Event in New York City. The event was called Crusader Con or Crusade Con, I forget exactly. There were more than two dozen Gamemasters, and over a hundred and fifty attendees were expected. 

That weekend, NY was hit by the mother of all snowstorms. We're talking full on blizzard. 

If memory serves, all of the staff and GMs were able to attend but only about half the attendees showed up. The end result was that each referee ran one session and then had nothing to do for hours on end. They couldn't just leave, as part of the event was an award sequence at the end wherein the best players (voted on by their GM and fellow players) and the best GMs (voted upon by their players) would review of gift certificate for the Compleat Strategist (NYC's friendly local game store par excellence!).

At some point I decided to leave the hotel where the event was being held to grab some lunch. I went with some fellow GMs I had become acquainted with and passed a room with three other Gamemasters apparently playing a game. I had spoken to one of the three at length earlier in the day and asked if he needed me to pick anything up for him. He was gracious but told me he'd already gone out to lunch and just got back.

It was then that I noticed the book in front of him had images from...Star Wars. A huge Star Wars fan, I was surprised that I didn't recognize the book. Wait...there were dice on the table. The three guys were clearly gaming but...

"What Star Wars book is that?", I asked.

"It's the Star Wars Role Playing Game. It just came out. I picked it up at the Strat (The Compleat Strategist). We're going to try to create characters and see how it goes. I'll tell you about it when you get back."

My new found friends and I spent our lunch break discussing the Con, the styles and techniques of the various GMs we'd met, and other 'shop talk' you'd expect referees at a game convention to discuss. At the same time, I couldn't stop thinking about the new Star Wars game book. I was eager to learn more, see more, and to get it myself. 

After about 45 minutes or so, we headed back to the convention. 

When we got back upstairs I walked to the doorway of the room where I had left the three fellows and the game that had me practically vibrating with anticipation. 

As I approached I could hear them speaking excitedly and the sound of dice clattering. I didn't want to interrupt but I had to know how character creation was going. Also, why did it sound like the most action-packed character generation session I'd ever heard?

After observing from the doorway for a few moments, unable to quite make out what was going on, I cleared my throat and said a friendly, "Hey guys...". I was quickly and politely as possible waved off. 

"Can't talk right now. In the middle of a big battle!", my acquaintance exclaimed.

"Wait...", I started, "You already made two characters and got into an adventure? In 45 minutes?"

"Yeah", he said.

One of the others added, "This game is awesome."

There is more to this tale, but I think I have reached the part that illustrates a point I want to make. Yes, there was a point to all this you salty little Porg bottoms. 

Up until the Star Wars D6 game, it seemed serious RPGs were often quite complicated and crunchy. Comedic games - Ghostbusters, Paranoia, Toon - were simpler and usually more rules light. A serious Action/Adventure game, especially one involving Space Travel and Ray Guns, that was also quick and easy play was quite revolutionary at the time. 

When I got the game myself and read it over (and over and over), I couldn't believe how well it managed to hit the mark between detail and ease. It was both lightly textured and amazingly fast. To this day, even with the added material and mechanics of of its Second Edition, Star Wars D6 remains, IMHO, the best system for the kind of stories I want to tell in that universe. 

West End Games' Star Wars: The Role Playing Game is a treasure, a brilliant masterpiece of simple gaming ingenuity. I love it, and I am overjoyed to have this 30th Anniversary Edition in my collection. 

May The Force Be With You!

See you soon,

Barking Alien


  1. WHAT?! That's awesome! Now I have to go spend $65.

  2. It was my first roleplaying game. While I think it could use a few improvements to reduce the number of rolls and to better equilibrate the adquisition of Force abililities (and alien traits, in second edition), its philosophy, character creation and and GM advice are top notch even today. It is sad that licensing decisions and other bussiness considerations prevented it from achieving the continuity to become a pillar of gaming culture, as Call of Cthulhu did.