Star Wars Saga Edition is the third edition of the tabletop RPG released under Wizards of the Coast since 2000. First thing you’ll notice about this book is that it is square and will be dwarfed by all of your other tomes on your gaming shelf. I have to give kudos for being bold with the shape of the book as it makes it a little more intriguing than they typical rectangular books, but I have to wag my finger at the fact they reused a lot of the art from previous editions. That however, is one of only the few transgressions I could find reading through this rulebook.
I’m going to assume that most are familiar with the D20 system and certain aspects of character creation. You’ll find that there are 17 different species you can choose from with the typical information as the ability modifiers, size, and languages. What you will see that is different is that each species gets a kind of special ability that grants them bonuses that range from re-rolling checks to a bonus on skills or defences.
Classes are limited to Jedi, Noble, Scoundrel, Scout, and Soldier. This is actually condensed from previous versions where there were two different types of Jedi’s and another class called a Fringer. This, however, does not limit the diversity of the characters due to what one would compare to specialized talent trees in MMO’s such as World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. This means, such as the campaign I’m currently running right now, that you can have two or three scoundrel’s in the same party that are capable of doing vastly different things due to talent choices at every other level then bonus feats every level after that. You no longer have saves or an AC but instead have defenses (reflex, fortitude, and will). Hit points at first level have also been dramatically increased.
Skill selection and use has always been a big part of the Star Wars RPG’s under Wizards and Saga is no exception. What you’ll notice is that Saga edition is where Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition pulled a lot of it’s material. This holds true in the skills section in that basically anybody can use a skill untrained and being trained in it only gives you a +5 bonus to it as well as unlocking some additional uses of that skill. You also get a bonus to skills equal to half your level.
Force powers are comparable to how encounter powers are handled in 4th edition also. A Jedi can choose certain powers he may use at first level and then must take feats to be able to use more in each subsequent level. Every force power he/she chooses it treated like an encounter power in that after they use it, they cannot use it again until the end of that encounter. This essentially removed the previous mechanic that would drain your vitality points every time you used a power.
Regular combat isn’t much different from previous editions or even the D20 system as a whole. It still is essentially rolling a D20 with your bonus’ against a target’s defence. The only major (a desperately welcomed) change was to star ship scale combat. It is no longer happening in a 3D plane where you can change elevations and do crazy stunts. While this takes away from the realism that was in the previous editions, it definitely makes combat in space more easy to manage and understand. There were many times that I would sit with my mouth agape and drooling like a village idiot while perusing the old versions star ship combat instructions.
If you’re a player, the above is all you really need to concern yourself with as the rest concerns the game master portion of the book. This is where the book starts to lack and leave a lot up the the GM to figure out. While there is an interesting assortment of premade character templates and hazards, it all seems a little skimpy.
While I’m grateful that they list a decent amount of information on the different planets of the galaxy, it lacks a map of where these planets are in relation to each other. They essentially just let you know what rim it’s in and it’s up to you to decide where it’s located in relation to other planets in that rim. If they were using the old system of space travel this would be a major pain, but thankfully they streamlined it. Essentially it’s just an astrogation check, a d6 roll, and then you multiply the result times the hyperdrive speed to get how many days it takes. Where this mechanic falls short is that it could take the same amount of days to get from a core world to the outer rim as it would take to get from one planet to another in the same part of the galaxy.
As far as I can tell and from the one session I’ve run on this ruleset so far, I really dig this edition. It allows for a deeper tailoring of characters while keep that same fast and fun atmosphere of previous Star Wars edition and even working to improve it. If you’ve played 4th edition D&D and did not what they did with it and did not want to go back to 3.5, you might find Saga Edition a more natural progression in the D20 ruleset. As for GM’s, I’ll break it down to you and be honest, this book is light on tools and brutal about making you use your imagination. That is your job as a GM though and something you understand when taking up that mantle. You’ll find enough lore to get started but it really is up to you to populate it. That is the burden and responsibility of the GM, and if you’re brave enough to do it, and do it well, you’ll find the reward well worth it.