You may have heard a thing or two about Fantasy Flight Games creating a Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game – 30th Anniversary Edition, a reprint of the first two books of the West End Games D6 roleplaying game released in 1987. This game exploded onto the roleplaying game scene, and the easy rules and the melodramatic, fast-action games it encouraged got players excited and salivating for more.
Star Wars had waned somewhat by the middle of the 1980s. The last film had been Return of the Jedi’ and there had been nothing huge for a while. With the roleplaying scene at its height around this time, it was only natural that a Star Wars roleplaying game would emerge.
Back in 2012, we spoke to Greg Costikyan and Bill Slavicsek about the importance of the game. I asked Greg about the how the game was part of the ‘First Ten Years’ celebrations, so that must have put some pressure on. “Lucasfilm told us that they saw an RPG as one way to keep Star Wars fandom alive,” he said, “during an otherwise fallow period, with no new movies on the horizon.”
I asked Bill if he realised how big a deal it was. “We knew we had a good game, and we knew the sourcebook was unlike anything ever created for an RPG, let alone a movie franchise,” he said. “And later, when novelists would call me or reference one of our game products or my Guide to the Star Wars Universe, well, that made me very proud.”
The material the game produced over the years went on to form the foundation of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and breathed new life into the franchise. Not only were gamers excited about the products, so were the collectors; here were books building the Star Wars galaxy, with details of characters – both main and background – places and things. Small pieces of fiction also filled out the books, always teasing at the drama of a bigger Star Wars galaxy just waiting to be told. Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game had revitalised the franchise, and not only were people learning new things they were taking part in it, experiencing the galaxy as never before with their own stories, adventures and creations.
It’s difficult to explain what is was about the game that hit us so hard as gamers. I myself had been gaming since 1984 after falling in love with the red box basic Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, and spending much of my time enjoying Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. We had tried to do Star Wars-inspired games, using a game called Traveller and the Fighting Fantasy rules, but it never really worked and the games trailed off after very few sessions. Even as huge Star Wars fans we found it hard to get into the spirit of the setting, let alone the game.
But here was an entire book dedicated to Star Wars, with an excellent system that encouraged cinematic over-the-top action gaming and a sourcebook that had us amazed at the depth that the Star Wars galaxy had to offer. The writing in the rulebook was conversational, fun, light-hearted and exciting, with a touch of darkness; everything a Star Wars story should be. As a sixteen year old boy, that was quite something to experience. In fact, the Games Master and gaming advice in that book is still something adhere to today.
For years we played in our own corner of the galaxy, the Setnin Sector, and we created a huge region of space where we could have huge adventures that didn’t intrude on the galaxy-spanning stories of the movies and novels, but sat alongside them, slightly scaled down, so that we could feel as though our creations could exist in the same galaxy as the damn big heroes on the screen. We wanted to be part of it, and the great thing about these books, the very books that Fantasy Flight Games are about to reprint, was that they gave us all the information we needed to fill out the universe and create our own material. It was an amazing time, and probably one of the most creative periods of my gaming history.
I truly hope that those of you who haven’t experienced these books before get a chance to have a look. As a chapter of both Star Wars and gaming history these were very important books and they inspired gamers for years. You may find them a curiosity, but I truly hope that some of you see the same magic in them that I did, and allow your excitement and creativity to take you across the stars.
Make sure you take an astromech ‘droid along with you, just in case. No job is above this little guy’s head.