Star Wars D6: Retrospective

star-wars-rpg-insides-COVER_1The very first tabletop roleplaying game I ever played was not, like most people my age, Dungeons & Dragons, but instead West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game (hereafter referred to as Star Wars D6, because it uses the D6 rules system).

I was in primary school, and I can still remember buying the 1st edition hardback core book in a mall game store and being blown away by the very concept of “roleplaying”. As an imaginative child, I was no stranger to “let’s pretend”, running around the playground playing crazy adventure and war games, but this was a book that let you do that sitting at a table, with actual “rules”. Not to mention, I was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid, and the idea of playing in that universe with books full of things “just off-screen” was breathtaking.

The first time I played, it was with my dad and younger brother, them as players and me as “game master”, running the game. They weren’t all that keen on the concept, but I was hooked! As an aside, dad passed away last year, and although we didn’t have much of a relationship in adult life, the memory of that first game when I was an adolescent is a strong, nostalgic one.

My grandfather (who I am still very close with) took me shopping not long after and I discovered sourcebooks and adventure modules for the game that I could buy (and did). In tried dragging friends into playing, but most preferred to run around with sticks and toy guns.

When I got to highschool, I had to make new friends and a group of us formed a roleplaying club that would last the rest of my school and teenage years. In fact, we played half an hour to an hour most days, every day. We played various games: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, Cyberpunk 2020 and several Palladium tiles such as Robotech, Revised Recon and TMNT & Other Strangeness (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a *huge* phenomenon at that point in time). However, it was Star Wars D6 that “stuck” beyond one-off game sessions. I ran a campaign for these close friends (who changed slightly as people left school for various reasons) that lasted four years solid, using the same characters and story.  We told our own Star Wars epic, and the feelings as we ended our final big adventure together which saw beloved characters die, marry and become legends, was truly bittersweet. It was a gaming experience I’ve never had again in my adult life, and felt as much as a transition to adulthood as graduating highschool was.

Because of these experiences, Star Wars D6 will always hold a very special place in my heart as a game. I was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid, but playing the RPG for so long made that universe feel as much “mine” as it was George Lucas.

Even most Star Wars fans don’t know that much of what became known as the “Expanded Universe” (novels, games, comics, etc.) came originally from those West End Games sourcebooks and adventures. Characters glimpsed onscreen for mere seconds were given names and backstories thanks to the West End Games writers. New worlds, droid, aliens and technologies would be created for the game, only to be used by authors when writing new Star Wars novels. Timothy Zahn, who wrote the acclaimed Heir to the Empire trilogy that arguably kicked off the entire Star Wars EU is on record saying that he used the WEG sourcebooks as his primary reference. I’d go so far as to say that the WEG roleplaying game gave Star Wars a second life in a time when no new films were ever likely to appear.

The first edition of Star Wars D6 was the one I played, and the one I still love. There was a second edition that added more complexity, and a “2.5” edition in an absolutely gorgeous hardback tome that sought to strike a balance between the minimalisim of 1E and the added “crunch” of 2E, but that fun-and-fast D6-driven first edition remains my absolute favourite roleplaying system of all time.

Long out of print after WEG collapsed and new Star Wars roleplaying games were produced by different publishers using different rule systems, I was surprised to discover how Star Wars D6 still had a following with resources made available online.

What’s more, to mark the 30th Anniversary, the core first edition rulebook and sourcebook have been recently reprinted by Fantasy Flight Games and are available physically for the first time since 1987!

If you’re a Star Wars fan, a roleplayer who likes fast-paced cinematic games, or just curious about playing one of (IMO) the best RPGs to capture the spirit of its source material, I’d highly recommend trying out Star Wars D6.

For more information, EvilDM’s YouTube channel is a great “primer” to learn the basics, and there’s an active Reddit subreddit with some great folks and very helpful links. For resources, look no further than D6 Holocron and The Rancor Pit.

On a final note… now Disney owns Star Wars and has thrown out the old Expanded Universe, a lot of the material in these awesome books are considered no longer “canon”. However, for me, and many folks my age who either discovered these stories and characters through the WEG D6 RPG or through the books and comics they inspired, this universe will always be the real Star Wars Universe.

 

 

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