As much as I like the D6 system and its approach to space combat, the weapons that they put on the ships for Star Wars are total chaos. Terms are used completely inconsistently even though the stats are generally pretty consistent. About 90% of the time. And then occasionally you run into a gun that has the same range in “space units” as regular other guns of that type but 20 times as much range in “atmosphere units” for no reason at all. Since I am a huge fan of consistency, I made the following list of standard guns found on the vast majority of ships. Continue reading “Unified spaceship weapons for Star Wars d6”
Recently people have voiced dissatisfaction with the most recent officially licensed Star Wars roleplaying game. Me for example, among others. I thought the Star Wars Saga Edition game was pretty okay and clearly the best version of the d20 system I’ve ever seen. But it was still a d20 game and that one also just doesn’t feel right for Star Wars. So over the past weeks I’ve seen occasional mentions of the first Star Wars RPG that was released in the 80s by West End Games using the d6 system. While the name is similar, it works completely different than the d20 system. And from what people are saying about it, it supposedly works perfectly for running adventures that play and are paced like the Star Wars movies. But the game was discontinued 18 years ago, at a time when AD&D was still around.
A while back I was wondering if there’s some kind of retroclone for that game, but it turns out that it’s even better than that. West End Games released the OpenD6 game under the OGL, including the free d6 Space pdf. And I think it looks quite interesting and would fit well for a Star Wars or Mass Effect campaign. But what if I were to tell you can actually get a modern and updated version of the game from the 90s even know, and that it is also completely free?
The West End Games game had an original edition, a Revised Editon, and eventually a Revised and Expanded Edition. And last year a group of fans went ahead to make their own Revised, Expanded and Updated version. And it looks absolutely amazing.
It’s a 512 page colossus and since it’s digital and not made for print they could make it look incredible without worrying about print costs. The layout looks great and frankly a lot better than what you see in most commercial RPGs. And soo much freaking full color interior art!
The system itself is surprisingly simple, with the player section being only 62 pages and the GM section another 79 pages. The rest is adventures, and optional stats for specific aliens, vehicles, equipment and so on.
I don’t know how long it will take me to read through this whole thing. Simply going with d6 Space certainly would be a lot faster and easier. But this thing looks so damn good, you just have to fall in love with it. I recommend to anyone with some passing interest in Star Wars or space operas to give a look to either d6 Space or REUP. I have so many problems with so many sci-fi games, and here I find this thing that seems to get it perfectly right. And already did so 28 years ago! A while back I was reading the old Basic and Expert sets for Dungeons & Dragons and while there’s some unnecessarily convoluted math in them, the basic framework also seems so much better than almost anything that has come in the three decades after it. Instead of improvements, games since then seem to mostly have added needless clutter. (Barbarians of Lemuria and Basic Fantasy being two notable exceptions I am familiar with.) Most retroclones for D&D take lots of effort at looking super retro, using boring fonts and layout and art that is in my opinion deliberately bad. REUP is nothing like that. This game looks new, modern, and fresh and you have to know that the mechanics are 28 years old to recognize it as a retroclone.
Obviously, this whole thing does look somewhat dodgy though. Using the OGL and d6 Space, recreating a set of rules that closely mimics an older commercial game is nothing different from the common practice of the entire OSR crowd and the D&D retroclones. Just speaking mechanically, it seems very comparable to OSRIC or Sword & Wizardry. And it has been a long standing practice that companies usually don’t interfere with fans making hacks for RPGs that let them play adventures in the worlds of movies, TV shows, or videogames. But usually those things are a few pages of conversion notes with the most simple and basic layout. REUP is a completely different dimension, even though it’s still completely noncommercial. But as long as it’s silently tolerated it really is a damn fine looking game.
So last weekend at GenCon the third and final rulebook for Fantasy Flight Games new Star Wars RPG has been released. Because they made the descision to split the game into three and have separate rulebooks for smugglers, soldiers, and jedi and the game is using funky dice, I had not really been excited about it from the start.
But now that all three books are actually there and you can play a propper Star Wars game, my curiosity returned again. At least a bit. First inconvenience I encountered is that there is no digital version of any of these books. Which means you have to buy the much more expensive hardcover book. And how expensive? 65€! Each! That’s a total of 195€! I can get a PS3 with a stack of games for that money. Who can afford that? I know that you’re not “supposed” to play with all three books and just one. But pretty much every single Star Wars movie, novel, and comic I can think of always has mixed parties of heroes. Narrowly defined parties go against the spirit of the setting.
But let’s assume you have 200€ and nothing better to do with it than buying a new RPG. Are the books overpriced? Well, it seems almost reasonable given that they are 450 pages. Each! Who creates a 1350 page RPG? And this isn’t Mechwarrior or something like that. It’s freaking Star Wars. It’s a pulp setting for pulp adventures. How much rules can you possibly need for that? A tenth of that page count would have been completely sufficient. What were they thinking?
Let’s compare that to the Star Wars Saga Edition game by Wizards of the Coast from the last decade. I believe it’s a revised edition of Star Wars d20 (on which Knights of the Old Republic seems to be based), and while d20 certainly is not a good choice for a Star Wars game (or for pretty much anything other than D&D), it’s so much more reasonable in scale. One book, 285 pages, $40 cover price.
This new game seems like possibly the most ridicoulous game I’ve ever heard of. Though I don’t actually know anything about the rules or the content. Because I don’t have 200€ to indulge my curiosity. I love Star Wars RPGs, but even if I am not a huge fan of the Saga Edition or would be unable to find a copy of the out of print game, I could just as well go with Spirit of the Century or Stars Without Number. Which are free.
Naming things in a fictional world is a terrible and most unenjoyable task. It’s bad enough when you do personal names and place names, but when it comes to more abstract things like organizations or types of creatures, finding a name that is reasonably acceptible (it’s never good) can take a very long time. I think I wanted to have a kind of creature similar to the abominations from Dragon Age from a very early point in working on the Ancient Lands, over 4 years ago. In the meanwhile, I added more ideas from other creatures, like folding the roles of both lichs and vampires into this new creation, and taking some elements from the Inspired from Eberron and the Eternal from Spears of the Dawn. But when it came to naming these things, nothing ever came close to fitting. But now I sat down and clicked my way through a thesaurus (they are actually good for something) and came on this wonderful word:
A word that probably most people interested in fantasy have come across once or twice. Probably always refering to something blasphemous and unholy, and just the sound of it sounds ominous, even if you don’t know what it means. I had to look it up myself and it turns out to be ancient Greek meaning “offering”. (In this case, the a- at the beginning is not a prefix meaning anti.) However, in early Christianity it was used in the sense of “offered to the devil” or “devoted to evil” and referred to an early form of excommunication. Even though I made some efforts to weed out technical and religious terms that don’t really make sense in the world of the Ancient Lands, which is very different from a standard western-christian universe, anathema seems to be a word that still works.
So what is an anathema exactly? You might recognize some of these guys. That’s what you have to expect.
Anathema are mortals who have become possessed by a demon from the Underworld, their own spirit consumed in the process and all their memories, knowledge, and much of their personalty absorbed into the demons mind. While the mortals mind still exist in some way, all the ideals, values, and desires it once had become irrelevant as the demons original personalty dominates the mind of the anathema. It usually has very little interest in the good of the mortals clan or family, but may often retain some affection to people who were close to it in its previous life. Most anathema are greed, desire, or sloth demons and almost immediately set out to some ambitious plan to sate their craving. Usually with very little reagrd to those around it, but often enough cunning to keep their new nature a secret. At least for the time being. Demons can possess any mortal whose body and spirit have been corrupted by demonic magic and all anathema are very dangerous creatures. But the most terrible ones are those created from sorcerers who willingly summoned a demon to join with it and gain immortality and great magical powers. Many anathema note that their new nature is very different from what the sorcerer expected it to be, but at that point whatever the mortal once wanted is longer of any real relevance. The demons desire to visit and explore the physical world overrides any plans the sorcerer might have had and they never feel any remorse or despair about their new nature.
So even though there are no Gods and no church in the Ancient Lands and not even true afterlives, anathema are still creatures that have turned away from mortal life and society and now exist entirely to pursue their demonic craving. They are “devoted to evil” and in the case of sorcerers “offered themselves to demons”. And they also “excommunicated” themselves from all mortal communites and their spirit will not join the clan shrine to give strength and courage to future generations. So the name fits in both its literal and proverbial meaning and it also sounds cool and ominous. What more can you want for a big bad monster?
I saw the first reveal trailer for the New Star Wars movie when it was first released and I already didn’t like it. That rediculous three bladed lightsaber was just too stupid, as was that silly googly eye robot. And even though it was announced that the movie would be a completely different continuity than almost all the existing material that we’ve been loving for the last 24 years, I thought I am probably ending up seeing it anyway.
But now someone showed me a link to one of the changes they appear to have decided on (“Disney’s already fucking up Star Wars!”) and that confirms to me that indeed, this is a completely different universe, entirely unconnected to the Expanded Universe. It is only that the events of the first six movies happened to happen identically in both. (Obviously big spoiler.)
It’s not that I have any particular attachment to this part of the EU, but it seems pretty indicative that not only do they plan to tell the story differently, but actually make it a completely different story altogether. At least Nu Trek is a semi remake of Star Trek I and Star Trek II, but Nu Wars apparently doesn’t even care for that. Well, neither do I care for Nu Wars.
It’s not really a problem for me. It’s not like de Camp destroyed Conan. He just wrote his own officially licensed fan fiction. In fact, it is probably better that they decided to make Nu Wars, as that leaves the Expanded Universe untouched.
So let’s not treat this as a day of disastrous news, but instead as another opportunity to think of the greatest works of the Star Wars continuity:
- Tales of the Jedi
- Knights of the Old Republic (videogame)
- Knights of the Old Republic (comic)
- Republic Commando
- Revenge of the Sith
- Tie Fighter
- Star Wars
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
- X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, Wedge’s Gamble, The Krytos Trap, The Bacta War
- Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command
- Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy
Freaking Star Wars! Fuck Yeah! I love this stuff.
Suddenly, inspirations! Inspirations everywhere!
I think I found the perfect core concept for my new iteration of the Ancient Lands setting. And if you know me just a bit, it will be no surprise to you: “Star Wars as a Bronze Age Sword and Sorcery setting.” Specifically the two Knights of the Old Republic comic series.
And now I also know what to do with the naga in the setting that isn’t simply making them Yuan-ti. These guys:
I’ve already been planning to do a group like the Mandalorians and the Qunari from Dragon Age for a long time. And two of the races are directly inspired by Jarael and Sylvar.
The Dathomir Nightsisters also have many great pictures I can use.
Of course, I am also taking liberally from Mass Effect (the second best thing after Star Wars), and the naga get a race of obedient servants inspired by the Geth.
And there will be both wood elves and dark elves as well.
This is coming along pretty nicely so far.
While I am revising my Ancient Lands setting, I’ve set down to once more give some deep thoughts to the underlying conflicts of the world. I make no secret about my oppinion that the Mass Effect series has the best worldbuilding I’ve ever seen anywhere. Not because there is a lot of lore on the locations and a long detailed history. In fact, there is barely anything in that regard, at least if you don’t read up on it in the ingame codex. Perhaps there is some, but I didn’t read any of it and I still think the worldbuilding is superb. The Mass Effect galaxy is incredible because it has lots of factions that are tightly interconnected with each other, forming a complex web of conflicts and alliances in which absolutely everyone is included in some way. And these groups are friends or enemies with each other not simply because the writers say so, but because they share a common past which can be sufficiently explained in three or four sentences but gives them good reason to feel what they feel, and in a way that perhaps doesn’t make you approve of, but at least understand their views. The same company that made the Mass Effect games also made the Dragon Age series at the same time, and while I am not as much a fan of that setting, it also excels at having lots of conflicts that affect everyone in some way and in which each side has some good points.
This made me realize that conflicts are really what makes a fictional setting tick. Cultures, landscapes, religion, and magic are all nice, but to get your audience invested in what is going on in the world and its people, underlying conflicts probably define the world more than anything else. This applies both to settings for roleplaying games, in which you usually want to give the players the option to chose the side their characters are taking, and to episodic fiction in which different parts and aspects of the world are explored in each story arc. So I’ve been looking at all the other fantasy and sci-fi worlds I think have great worldbuilding with interesting conflicts and dynamics between factions. From Star Wars to the Witcher, and from Halo to Forgotten Realms. And I made an important discovery when it comes to creating conflicts: Even if you have a conflict in which both sides have a point and you could easily get into the mind of a character of either group, the conflicts still always started because someone was a giant dick!
Back to Mass Effect, lots of nice sidestories with difficult moral descisions involve the alien Krogans and the human Cerberus group. In many cases you can sympathize with them, perhaps even support them, and actually very much like individual characters of these groups, even though many people consider them evil and villains. But the thing is that in the past their leaders made some descisions and ordered some actions that were really total dick moves. No questions about that; those things were wrong and they got what they deserved. But those past wrongs were not commited by the specific people you’re dealing with right now. These people can be really nice guys and they might not have done anything wrong. But for some reason or another, they are now part of this group that has a long and violent conflict with some other groups. The source of the conflict lies in the past, but it established some facts that still matter a lot right now. And I think that’s really the key when setting up some underlying conflicts for a setting rich with ambigous characters and descisions. Creating a conflict in which neither side is truly bad is really difficult, if not outright impossible. But that does not have to prevent the existence of conflicts in which neither side is truly bad now. If you want to set up a conflict that lasts for generations and affects whole peoples, make the conflict start with one terrible person making a really unfair descision. Doesn’t really matter if it’s too much black and white, because that person likely is long dead or may not appear in the story at all. What does matter is the people who are on opposing sides right now, and being sufficiently removed from the original source of the conflict, they can easily be as ambigous as you want. In Halo 2, some of the alien enemies quit the Covenant and start a civil war against their former masters, which put them on the same side as the humans. But that doesn’t change the fact that they had been the officers in charge of the Covenant army that had been leading a war of annihilation against humanity for the last 30 years. They hardly could be called friends by any stretch, but from that part in the story they have to work together and fight their common enemy, whether they like it or not. There still is great hostility between them and from a worldbuilding perspective you can still regard them as two opposing sides in conflict with each other. You can sympathize with characters on both sides, but also have no trouble at all understanding accepting that they won’t be nice to each other and getting into fights.
So this is my appeal and my advice: Conflicts neither have to be black and white, nor fairly balanced. You can have very good underlying conflicts built into a setting, which started out with one side being the villain, but by now has developed into a state of regular agression from both sides.
I don’t have any true insights to share right now. But it’s May 4th and I’ve got plenty of Star Wars art on the tumblr pages I am watching for classic pulp fantasy and sci-fi art and it got me all hyped up again. And as any semi-regular readers will know, I just love Star Wars to no end. It’s pulp entertainment at its very finest. The old trilogy manages just the perfect blend of a completely outrageous and preposterous world and plot and taking itself still completely serious without making jokes about itself. (It’s the moment when the new movies try to crack a joke that they are at their lowest.) It’s far from infantile nonsense, but instead I see it as a story that is all about emotion, with the plot being a rather secondary thing. It doesn’t make much sense, and often it’s outright silly. But it’s silly only on a rational level, when you try to explain things logically. When looked at as a story that does not work by logic but by emotion, it works perfectly.
I remember quite well when I saw Star Wars for the first time. I was 10 when we moved to another city and a few months later I went to visit one of my old friends for a weekend. My dad dropped me off at the train station where my friends mom picked me up, but before we went to his home, my friend first had to get a new toy from the store next to the train station. And it was a Star Wars toy, which didn’t mean anything to me at that point. So once we got home, he showed me all his other Star Wars stuff and it all looked and sounded really fascinating, completely different from anything I’d seen before. It wasn’t anywhere like Star Trek at all. So we got permission to watch Star Wars on video on a tiny TV in his room later that evening. That stuff was totally amazing. And the next day we also watched The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Best weekend of my life! Fortunately, it was 1995 and in 1997 the special edition was rereleased first in theatres and then on video. And of course I got my parents and my brother to go see them and we got them on video for christmass that year. And I’ve stayed with Star Wars ever since. Watched the movies dozens of times, and played X-Wing and Tie Fighter on our first computer to complete exhaustion. My brother and I probably read all the novels that existed at the time, we played Jedi Knight, and Knights of the Old Republic, and my brother got a small stack of comics. And lot’s of posters. Actually I have to admit I don’t care for the new movies at all. I might not even go to see them on release, but unless the reviews are disastrous I’ll probably get around to watch them on DVD some day. Call me old, but I grew up on the stuff that was made in the 90s and early 2000s and that’s the only true way Star Wars is done for me. There are still gems of course. The Knights of the Old Republic comics are amazing and I even love playing The Force Unleashed, even though the story is one of the dumbest things ever written for Star Wars this side of Dark Empire. But even if I don’t really care for most of the things released in the last 10 years, I still love Star Wars and probably always.
I freaking love this stuff!
So here have probably the best movie scene of all time:
This is just the greatest stuff ever made. Sorry, Mass Effect, Ghost in the Shell, Dark Sun, and The Witcher. Star Wars is still so much more awesome.
“Historians/Archeologists suck at naming things” is kind of an old joke, but when it comes to Star Wars it’s even worse. Much, much more worse. Things are certainly not helped by the fact that it’s always the same four groups fighting the same conflict over and over. But seriously, how much more terrible could writers possibly be at naming these wars?
- Great Hyperspace War: 5,000 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith
- Great Sith War: (also known as First Sith War) 3,996 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith and Mandalorians
- Mandalorian Wars: 3,964 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Mandalorians
- Jedi Civil War: (also known as Second Sith War) 3,958 BBY; Jedi vs. Sith
- Sith Civil War: 3,956 BBY; Jedi vs. Sith vs. Sith
- Great Galactic War: (also known as Republic-Sith War or Great War) 3,681 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith
- Cold War: 3,653 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith
- Galactic War: 3,642 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith and Mandalorians
- New Sith War: (also known as Jedi-Sith War) 2,000 BBY; Jedi and Republic and Mandalorians vs. Sith
- Mandalorian Civil War: 60 BBY; Mandalorians vs. Mandalorians
- Clone Wars: (could be called Galactic Civil War) 22 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith and Republic
- First Galactic Civil War: 2 BBY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith/Empire
- First Imperial Civil War: 4 ABY; Empire vs. Empire
- Yuuzhan Vong War: (also known as Great War) 25 ABY; Jedi and Republic and Empire and Mandalorians vs. Yuuzhan Vong
- Second Galactic Civil War: (also known as New Galactic Civil War) 41 ABY; Jedi and Republic vs. Sith
- Sith-Imperial War: 127 ABY; Sith vs. Empire
- Second Imperial Civil War: 130 ABY; Sith vs. Empire vs. Jedi and Republic
Seriously! The fuck?!
Well, I guess that means we should get ready for the New Mandalorian War, the Jedi-Empire War, and the Great Republic War.
Worldbuilding for dummies. First lesson: Don’t do this!