The First Game of Christmas: Alternity
Now we reach the second game of Christmas, and boy oh boy is it a treat! This was the single most influential roleplaying game in my life. I can honestly say that without it I would not be the same person I am today. It is based off of a film trilogy so iconic everyone recognizes it instantly. The prequel came later and no one liked it as much. And now finally, as of last year a new movie came out that may not be as good as the original but it hit all the right notes and had an interesting Father Son dynamic to it. And this series is...Tremors!
HAHAHAHA! No I am just kidding. Its Star Wars. The game is Star Wars. Come to think of it, though, why isn't there a Tremors RPG. It would be awesome.
STAR WARS!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!
For this review I will be digging into the Star Wars Roleplaying Game by West End Games. There were two editions, though the second one had two versions. I will be digging into my favorite version which is Second Edition Revised and Expanded. A brief note on the earlier versions. First edition is excellent, though more hand-wavy and free from than second edition. Second edition(not revised and expanded) is not very good, just in layout and explanations on how things work.
Funny story, this was the first game I ever played. I had technically made characters for Palladium games and AD&D 2nd edition but this game is the one I played first, and it was the game I first GMed, as my friends refused to run a game for me. To this day my GMing style is based a lot on what I learned from the GM's section of these books.
Revised and Expanded really set the bar for me on how a game should be laid out, and how it should look and feel. All color high gloss pages with quality art and easy to read sidebars. It also had these advertisements in it for various in universe things, like an Imperial recruitment poster, or a Rebel Propaganda poster, or an advertisement for a tourist cruise, or wanted posters for the rebels from the movies. It was so very nice. Also the way it did sidebars was through various in universe character explaining things to you. And each had a head shot of that character with an expression ad all that. It allowed for the rules and setting to be clear and well explained while also allowing for character and mood to come across without getting in the way. I loved that. Its one of the things that drew me to the Dresden Files game as well. Such afun thing.
The game's core mechanic is a dice pool of six sided dice that are rolled and added together. You have a set of attributes with specific skills attached to them. You usually start with an attribute between 2 and 4 and skill ratings of 0 to 3. When you do a task you add the skill to the attribute roll that many dice and add up all the numbers to beat a target number, One of those dice is the wild die, which must be visually distinct. If it rolls a six the wild die explodes and you can roll it again and add both the six and the next roll to the die roll. This goes on as long as you keep rolling sixes. If it rolls a one you remove the highest die roll from the roll. Some people hate the wild die, but I dig it. You also have character points and Force Points which allow you to do interesting things with dice. Force Points can be spent to double a dice pool for a given roll, but you only get them back when you are heroic, lightside, and paragon. Character points are probably the only mechanical widget in the game I have an issue with. They can be used, on a one for one basis, to add dice to a roll. That sounds awesome right? Well, the issue is that they are also your XP and if you spend them on a roll, you cannot spend them later to advance. This leads to point hoarding and death spirals, so I don't care for that as much as the rest of the mechanics. Also two small issues are strength as resistance to damage and fore powers.
When you get hit you roll you strength plus you armor versus the damage roll. If you get high enough you take no damage. This led to odd situations where wookies were unable to be damaged by anything. There are a few fixes for that out there, but it is an issue to look out for, The other issue is Force Powers. They were a bit complicated, started out really weak and ended up completely OP, as they had no dice limit on their skills. That meant that eventually you could get impossible skill levels and just dominate every scene. Also this game introduced Darkside Points, which you gained by being evil, a jerk, and very renegade. If you got enough Darkside Points you lost control of your character and the character became a GM character and a villain. So watch it with the force lightning. Funny story I have a couple of friends of mine who claim that they can only play Jedi in this game if they are drunk. If they are sober the rules make no sense to them. Not sure if that's true, but the rules can get a little messy. I am a super fan of the system, though. I mean, I love it so much I started a project using this system(modified) and I think that it might even be going somewhere interesting.
Um, have you seen the movies? Of course you have. Everyone has. Literally everyone, ever. The series is so powerful it travels in time! It is the reason cavemen painted on walls. Well maybe not that, but seriously, I don't think I need to explain why the setting is cool. That said, this game added so much to the setting. The had loads of expansion books and boxed sets that came out that expanded on the setting and tied into the movies and even dug into the comics and the few books that had come out. Seriously this game first came out at the dawn of the expanded universe(now called legacy, because J.J. Abrams hates me). It would go into detail and explain all sorts of cool stuff that was only briefly sown or hinted at in the movies. And the books statted out everything. Do you like Star Wars? Good then you will like the setting of this game. If you don't you won't.
That is it for today Game of Christmas. I hope you like it.