What Do I Know About First Impressions? Every Star A Destination (Star System, d6 Space)
I’ve admitted this before, but I will once again reveal my shame. Despite that fact that I was a huge Star Wars fan and was involved in the RPG hobby at the time, I never played West End Games Star Wars RPG. I’ve owned several products, but part of that is due to the fact that the WEG products were foundational to a lot of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (and now, a good deal of Star Wars canon).
The West End Games system lives on the d6 Space system, and in addition to this, Fantasy Flight Games release a reprint of the original edition of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game during its 30th Anniversary. That means this foundational game system is still available to be experienced.
The product I’m looking at today, Star System: Every Star a Destination, is essentially a reunion tour of some of the contributors to West End Games Star Wars. The introduction and even the bios at the end of the product serve as a historical record of one of the most influential RPGs created. Many people discuss how the World of Darkness games at one time almost displaced D&D as the entry point to the RPG hobby, but WEG Star Wars is an incredibly common entry point to the RPG hobby for a generation of gamers.
Many current Star Wars creators, including Dave Filoni, have been influenced by this material, as much or more than the comics and novels that have been published over the years. I still remember seeing the Star Wars Roleplaying Game available at the gift shop for Star Tours at Disney World.
While I’m going to look at these adventures and how they unfold, and even give some suggestions on how to use them, I’m writing this article as a First Impression article because I’ve never managed to actually play WEG Star Wars, and while I have a copy, I’ve never read through d6 Space.
I was sent this product to evaluate. Also, I’ve spent hours and hours talking with Wayne Humfleet at conventions, because he’s a pretty great guy and an excellent conversationalist.
Journal of the WEGs
This is a 130+ page supplement, filled primarily with adventures written by previous contributors to the WEG Star Wars RPG. In addition to the eight adventures, there are some pages dedicated to new character templates, and what rules are utilized from the d6 Space supplement.
The cover is full color, and the interior is black and white, with numerous illustrations and schematics for various space stations and ships that appear in the adventures. If you have ever seen the formatting for the WEG Star Wars supplements, you will find the formatting of this remarkably familiar.
This is written for the d6 Space system. That system is similar to the original WEG Star Wars system, but with a few different rules variants. Given the similarity to the original Star Wars system, I’m just saying, if you look right now, you can probably still find a copy of that FFG 30th Anniversary edition of the Star Wars Roleplaying game.
The product itself mentions that the adventures can be used with other science fiction games, and for the most part, the outlines of these adventures will work for a wide range of games that have “space opera” as their core genre conceit. I could easily run most of these adventures with Infinite Galaxies or Uncharted Worlds, or, in one case, Mothership.
This product isn’t a sourcebook, but there are several recurring elements that start to create the framework of an implied setting. This treatment is light enough that it can be inserted into many “broad” space opera settings, but it means that if you run multiple adventures you might have some continuity begin to emerge.
As an example, there is an ancient lost civilization, a war between faded cultures, and a university that all come up in multiple adventures. There are also a few places where adventures suggest using NPCs from previous adventures to pull those adventures more closely together.
In addition to these shared elements, there is a suggested framing device introduced if the player characters don’t have their own ship. Without their own ship, there is a ship introduced for the players to crew.
My first suggestion, if you want to run this series of adventures as a campaign, is to introduce an NPC captain that is egalitarian about how their ship is run. This lets the crew participate in the adventures but might make the framing devices land without as much friction.
I’m going to give an overview of these adventures, with some thoughts about how they unfold, and, given the origin story of the writers, I’m going to throw in some Star Wars based suggestions, because if you can yammer about Star Wars, why not?
One thing that is a recurring theme with these adventures is a hard framing of the beginning of the adventure. This was common in a lot of WEG Star Wars adventures, and while I’m a fan of starting some adventures on the ground running, when I say “hard framing,” I mean that ships misjump and break down a lot, and if the PCs want to engage with their own ship on a regular basis and want to assume it works . . . this might be frustrating.
Rebellion, Reward, and a Mighty Ruckus
This adventure sees the crew picking up a cargo load for a standard job, but with the complication of picking up a passenger. This passenger is being hunted, and when she returns to her home planet, she is revealed to be a noble whose position is being supplanted by another noble. The PCs are recruited to help her reveal the fraud perpetrated by the rival noble.
Star Wars Suggestions: It would be quite easy to link the underhanded noble to a greater evil in the galaxy. In the Clone Wars era, it would be easy for this planet to be neutral, and potentially roped into the CIS by an alliance. In the pre-sequel era timeframe, post ROTJ, it could be easy to create a link between this noble house and the First Order.
As an aside, a lot of the details of this planet line up well with the Tapani nobles, a subset of the galaxy introduced in WEG Star Wars products.
The Jungle Prophet
The player characters are hired by a concerned daughter to find her father, who has become an obsessed religious zealot. This man is searching for an ancient temple in the jungle and will ask the PCs to travel with him. The temple has multiple challenges, and the man may find a very special form of ascension at the heart of the temple.
Star Wars Suggestions: Since we’ve been introduced to the Church of the Force, an allied but not aligned religion with the Jedi, if this takes place post ROTS, there could be a good reason for the daughter to be upset by her father’s obsession. Framing this as a planet on the edge of Wild Space with some First Order interference might be another route to pursue. Because of the theme of ascension, I might drop some trappings into the temple that nod towards the Force Sisters that Yoda encountered in his vision quest during the Clone Wars animated series.
The Pirates of Arx
Player characters run into a fleeing person with data on a group of pirates. The pirates attempt to take the player characters out, and the authorities may recruit the player characters for a jetpack assisted raid on a pirate platform on a gas giant. Pirates + jet packs feel very Star Wars (and other pulp science fiction).
Star Wars Suggestions: I don’t think this needs too many ties to the greater organizations in the galaxy, but it may be worth it to frame this as occurring on one of the known gas giants in the Star Wars galaxy. You might even run this as a favor done for Lando, helping to oust pirates using Bespin as a staging ground.
This adventure introduces one of the bigger recurring themes in these adventures, an ancient civilization that learned how to manipulate singularities, and was destroyed in a war with another ancient civilization. The player characters suffer a misfortune that traps them in proximity to an ancient derelict, which has been taken over by a mad scientist obsessed with making some horrific cyborg/Frankenstein’s monsters.
Star Wars Suggestions: This adventure is much creepier in nature than the more freewheeling, swashbuckling adventures presented in the other chapters. There is a bit of body horror with the modifications that have been made on the victims. If you really want some solid Star Wars ties, the singularity field where the derelict is adrift could be the Maw. Another Star Wars tie you might introduce is, depending on the timeframe for the adventure, our mad scientist friend may be responsible for research that led to General Grievous’ cybernetics.
As a side note, this is one adventure that I would point out could be modeled very easily using the Mothership rules, with the horror aspects that are in evidence.
This adventure is framed as a comedy of errors and running an intentional comedy can be tough in an RPG. The PCs are trapped on a planet without an exit visa, and they can make multiple checks to navigate the planetary bureaucracy, until they are frustrated enough to do something desperate, using illegal means to escape the planet. In the end, there is a misunderstanding about the actual amount of time the visa procedure will take.
The biggest issue I can foresee with this one is that characters make multiple checks, expressly to find out that they will fail even if they successfully rolled a check. It kind of breaks the social contract of what a check is for. I think the best way to reframe this would be to not have the PCs make a check only to find out they failed, but rather, give them 1 character point each time they get stymied by government officials. In this case, they get a lot of rewards for playing along.
Star Wars Suggestions: It shouldn’t be too hard to find some bureaucratic planet in Star Wars. The key is to find a culture that is more concerned with process than clarity. If you don’t mind undermining the usual seriousness of how the species is portrayed, it might be fun to use the Chiss for this purpose, with an emphasis on how difficult it is for outsiders to understand their language.
A University Education
This adventure takes place on a resort planet, which also happens to be hosting an important scientific symposium discussing a species previously assumed to be mythical. A criminal organization steals a mysterious box, which ends up being the remains of one of these semi-mythical creatures.
Star Wars Suggestions: There are several universities that you could swap out for the one mentioned in this adventure. That may or may not be the best avenue for introducing more “Star Wars flavor” to the adventure, however. I would make the band stealing the box into a known Star Wars crime syndicate. The Zann Consortium springs to mind, especially since they have had a history (in what is now Legends) of being part of the illegal artifact trade.
A Rock and a Hard Space
This adventure follows up on some of the plot threads from Derelict, which involves one of the two species involved in the ancient war of extinction mentioned in that adventure. In this case, the survivors have lost much of their previous knowledge, but are fervent about regaining a crystal held by a rogue tomb raider, who has become accidentally attuned to the crystal.
Star Wars Suggestion: First off, the least important suggestion that I can come up with for this adventure . . . the former academic tomb raider, in my mind, was an Ardennian (Rio’s species from Solo). I don’t know why, that’s just what I pictured.
Crystal + Star Wars usually means Khyber crystal, and it would be interesting to see an ancient civilization that may predate the Republic have some tie to Khyber crystals. It might even be amusing to find out that the Khyber crystal either bonded to the academic because it sees the good in him, or is red from being forcibly bonded to someone, and is calling out for help in being cleansed.
Leviathans of the Expanse
In this adventure, the player characters are hired to travel with a caravan of ships escorting a pod of FTL capable space whales as they travel across space, keeping them save from hazards and space whalers. In the climax, a species that has a religious axe to grind against the space whales arrive to kill the leader of the whale pod.
I kind of like the varied bits of how this escort mission works, but there is a scripted character sacrifice that could feel a little forced if it isn’t played properly. I would also play up that the species seeking revenge against the largest whale is at least somewhat sympathetic, if overly zealous, as it makes the climax a bit more pyrrhic.
Star Wars Suggestions: I would definitely use the purrgil that appeared in Star Wars Rebels for this adventure. This could be a recent pod that has been discovered, possibly in the intervening post-ROTJ period. The space whalers could practice their trade on other megafauna like Exogorths (space slugs), with the species seeking revenge waiting for a time when the galaxy confirmed that the hyperspace whales exist.
The Star Wars Roleplaying Game was extremely focused on presenting adventures in a cinematic way, which meant that a lot of adventures were hard framed. In longer adventures, this is less of a hurdle, as you are asking for a hard framing at the beginning of three or more chapters worth of adventure, to get the PCs involved. When you are using shorter adventures, this feels a bit more heavy handed, so using multiple adventures in this anthology might start to feel a bit constrained.
That said, I think it can work, if you move the “ownership” of the ship from the PCs. If it’s not their equipment, but is a background setting, it’s a lot easier to sell PCs on a ship that is constantly having accidents and breaking down. My thoughts for the NPC captain (mentioned above) is to have a retired smuggler or cargo hauler with no family, who has hired a crew primarily so they aren’t alone. The “final prize” of the campaign could be this character gifting the PCs with their ship. This also allows them to be a bit more hands off when it comes to “in adventure” decisions.
There is some novel, interesting weirdness in some of these chapters. I love the “compressed afterlife” angle that comes up in The Jungle Prophet, and it makes perfect soap opera sense that you raid a pirate base using jetpacks in The Pirates of Arx. Derelict is a classic setup, but it still comes across creepy as hell. This is a solid collection of adventures that should be easy to drift or use with its native system.
I would be interested in a sourcebook pulling together the underlying plot elements of these adventures. I think there is plenty of information to be had just detailing some of the noble houses, political maneuvering, pirates, criminal groups, and ancient artifacts and lost locations that are hinted at in this volume.