Saga Edition Core Rulebook
This new edition of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game encapsulates all six feature films while presenting a thorough revision of the rule, making the game easier to learn while improving the overall game experience.
This new edition includes new character abilities and options, a world gazetteer, statistics for key characters from all six Star Wars films and the Expanded Universe, and guidelines on how to use Star Wars miniatures and battle maps in play.
Over the years since that first Star Destroyer rolled across the screen, roleplaying games have been created to try and replicate the experience of being in the galaxy far, far away. Various companies have produced RPGs for Star Wars, including West End Games and Wizards of the Coast. The latest such system, called "Saga" and created by Wizards of the Coast, was first released in 2007.
Saga uses the d20 system first pioneered by Dungeons and Dragons, and includes background material from all six live-action Star Wars movies. I've taken part in a number of role-playing game campaigns, most of which have used the d20 system (roll a 20-sided die, add and/or subtract modifiers, and compare the result to an opposed roll and/or a target's defense or other rating).
In this review, I'll be discussing the core Saga rulebook, and not the gameplay, since I've not yet been able to use the system to play a campaign. I have used the Saga system to several characters from the Expanded Universe and the movies. The character creation system is adapted from previous Star Wars RPG systems, including the Revised Core Rulebook (RCR) system before it, which also was produced by Wizards.
Saga still relies on the d20 standard of six numbers for base ability scores - Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma - and offers a variety of ways to generate those numbers, including the traditional random dice roll, spending points to buy certain ability scores, or starting with a standard score package and changing it with species, class, and other modifiers.
Picking a starting base class - there are five, Jedi, scoundrel, noble, soldier, and scout - is a critical decision. Each class has a number of trained skills they start with, as well as access to different special abilities called feats and talents. Additional feats are available at even-numbered levels, while talents are available at odd-numbered levels, and bonus feats also are available at every third level.
Likewise, more than a dozen species from the movies can be picked from, and players can also pick their character's age - someone who wants to play a young Han Solo can do so, or a wise Jedi still active in the Order after years of study.
The number of trained skills a character starts with depends on their class, and the modifier connected with their ability score. Players who want a well-rounded character will want to place their high or highest ability in Intelligence, and pick a class such as noble or scoundrel, which offer a variety of skills and a high number of trained skills to pick from at the start of the game.
Training in a skill does more than increase a character's chances of succeeding in using the skill; many skills have trained-only aspects, such as being able to levitate small objects by making a Use the Force roll. Characters can become trained in more skills as they increase in levels, gaining greater flexibility in what they can do.
Saga also encourages multiclassing - taking levels in more than one class. While multiclassing can give a character greater flexibility and access to more trained skills, it also can slow a character's progress in their chosen class.
Some skills can only be chosen as trained skills from a specific class, although a character can attempt to use almost any skill even if they're not trained in it (the exception is the Mechanics skill, which a character must be trained in to use).
Saga streamlines a variety of systems from previous Star Wars games, especially how to determine a character's health. The amount of damage a character can take is represented by hit points in Saga - once they run out, the character is (usually) dead, although various special abilities can prevent this.
A character's condition, such as after being exposed to radiation, is represented by the condition track; each step downward on the track imposes a steeper penalty on dice rolls and attacks, and at five steps, the character is unconscious and helpless (special abilities can, as with death, minimize or prevent this).
The old RCR system of defenses, Reflex, Fortitude, and Will, still exists, with Fortitude also serving as the basis for a character's damage threshold. If an attack or effect exceeds a character's threshold, the character can be pushed down the condition track, with the associated penalties that implies.
The Force power system has been streamlined also. The Force Sensitivity feat is still required for a character to actively use the Force, although Force points can be spent by any heroic character, regardless of whether they have Force Sensitivity.
Instead of separate feats for the Sense, Control, and Alter aspects of the Force, a basic Use the Force skill has been created, allowing characters to use several basic Force powers. The Force Training feat is required to use greater Force powers, like mind tricks and Force chokes. A dark-side point system also exists, measuring a character's progress down the dark path - or away from it.
Force-sensitive characters can choose to replace their class talent with a Force talent, which can allow that character to use the Force for a special effect or spend a Force point to augment or change the effects of a Force power.
One similarity between Saga and RCR is the continued presence of prestige classes - specialized classes representing focused study or work in a base class. Jedi can become Jedi Knights, and eventually Jedi Masters if they choose; scoundrels or nobles can become crime lords; and so on.
The core rulebook does have pre-generated stat blocks for everyone from Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker, and Padm&233; Amidala to Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine. Need a stormtrooper? They're there.
Saga's strength is in its flexibility, which can also be a little overwhelming. Players can create concepts as simple as a Corellian smuggler, or as varied as a Force-using Ewok noble who can perform emergency surgery, but gaming groups should sit down and decide how much variety they want in their game before they start character creation.
I've also found Saga's division of heroic characters - those who receive talents, and who can spend Force points - and nonheroic characters, such as civilians, bankers, etc., confusing. It's possible for a nonheroic character to take heroic character levels, but it's unclear how many nonheroic levels equal one heroic level. Another - very minor - quibble is that while the Saga rulebook has stat blocks for iconic Star Wars creatures like the rancor, tauntauns, and wampas, there's no banthas.
Despite the few quirks I've found in Saga, I've found it to be a mostly-easy system to use when I want to work up a representation of a favorite character. For players of the RCR system, there is an online conversion PDF that can be downloaded, helping to switch RCR character stats to Saga:
Altogether, I'd recommend the Saga system as a thorough means of retelling, or creating new legends, from the Star Wars galaxy.