Zombie Toast Check it out if you want to see some of my "professional" RPG work.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

RPG Chopshop IV: How I'd Run Star Wars

Inspired by a recent thread on the RPGnet forum regarding what system would work best for handling lightsaber duels I decided to see what I could hack to make a decent system for Star Wars. I own both d20 versions of Star Wars, never tried the d6 version (although I'm told it's excellent) and I am only really familiar with the series through the movies and the Knights of the Old Republic video games. So, if I abuse some obscure cannon you'll have to forgive me (or not I suppose). 

As far as the core system, I'll go with my most recent acquisition: Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. Or, more specifically, I'll go with the core rules it's based around since they are all you really need and are totally free right here. Although if you're looking for a fun and imaginative fantasy setting you should definitely think about checking out the full version of Swashbucklers.

Anyway, so I'll go through the system and switch the dials to Star Wars...

I will skip the basics (they're all available in the free PDF I linked above) and I'll also assume anyone reading this is familiar with the star wars setting. This will simply stick to the changes to the system you would need in order to suitably emulate the Star Wars setting. Keep in mind that PDQ depends on players defining their own traits. Things like Flaws, Qualities and Techniques should be chosen by the creator of the character and they do not need to come from any specific list (although I will provide some common or unusual Qualities below to spawn ideas).

Character Creation

Each character should possess the following...
  • A name of course....
  • A Flaw which defines some interesting weakness or failing...
  • A strong, driving desire or Motivation (a Good [+2] Quality)...
  • Some aspect of their Past (a Good [+2] Quality) which has shaped them...
  • Their most defining trait, a Heroic Quality (also a Good [+2] Quality)...
  • Several additional Qualities (4 additional Ranks) that round out the character...
  • Additional Techniques (5 Technique points, see below) to strengthen their Qualities...
  • At least one Force Point and no Training Points, though that will change...
  • Anything else (notes on personality, history, etc) that you feel is relevant...

Qualities and Techniques

The additional Quality ranks granted at character creation may be spent to purchase a new Quality of the character's choice at Good [+2] rank or improve an existing Quality by one Rank (from Good [+2] to Expert [+4], Expert [+4] to Master [+6]). 

The Technique points may be spent to purchase Techniques which may be "chained" to an existing Quality. Techniques represent a specialization of the chained Quality where the character receives a bonus (see the PDQ# document for further details). Chaining a Technique to your Heroic Quality costs 1 point, chaining them to any other Quality will cost 2 points. You can choose to "break" an additional Quality rank down into 2 Technique points. Characters with the Jedi Quality (see Common Star Wars Qualities) or similar Qualities can purchase Force Techniques to enhance their abilities to use the Force which will be explained later.

You may also purchase additional Flaws (a good way to earn Force Points) by spending a Technique point or "breaking" an Additional Quality down into two Flaws.

Common Star Wars Qualities 
Many of the "common Qualities" from PDQ# are perfectly suitable for Star Wars (so I won't be re-listing them). You should also take a look at the document for special rules regarding a character's Motivation Quality. 

The Droid Quality should be purchased by characters who wish to play advanced, sentient Droids. Since Droids have such an unusual position in Star Wars society, you should consult with your GM before playing a Droid to make sure that they will be appropriate to their campaign. Since droids are not living creatures they are simply not subject to many hazards that would harm a human (poison gas, hunger, thirst, sleep, etc) and they may add the MOD of their Droid Quality to rolls to resist effects that would be less effective against artificial creatures (such as extreme heat or cold) and to rolls involving their primary function. By itself the Droid Quality does not provide additional features such as built in tools, armor, unusual strength or special sensors but you may purchase these features as additional Qualities. 

Because Droids are not living beings they may not purchase the Strong In the Force Quality (below) but they are immune to any Force effects that would target a living mind or body (such as mind tricks or strangulation). Although it is not required, most Droids should also purchase a corresponding Droid Flaw, representing the limits Droids face (vulnerability to ion weapons or difficulty dealing socially with living beings). Additional flaws might be appropriate as well such as Speaks in Beeps and Clicks. 

Jedi Knight

We all know who Jedi are don't we? The Jedi Knight Quality can be used to enhance rolls related to using the Force (through Force Techniques), sensing disturbances in the force, exceptional reflexes, and combat with a lightsaber. When wielding a lightsaber the Quality can also be used defensively to deflect blaster bolts. In times before the rise of the Empire the Jedi Knight Quality could also be used to add to rolls that would be improved by the Jedi Knight's reputation. By itself Jedi Knight does not grant the character the ability to actively use the Force (although passive force actions such as sensing disturbances in the force or visions of the future are still possible). In order to use the Force the Jedi must purchase Force Techniques chained to their Jedi Quality (see below). Jedi are not the only Force users in the galaxy and if the GM allows characters may purchase Qualities related to other force using techniques.

Race: [X]
Many species in the Star Wars universe are mostly identical to human beings beyond cosmetic differences and there is no need to define mechanical differences between them. However, in some cases it's appropriate to choose a Quality based on your character's species representing the differences between your species and humans. For example, a quality like Good [+2] Race: Wookie could be used to aid in climbing trees, hand-to-hand combat or feats of strength. The GM and players should choose among themselves which races are suitable for players to choose. 

In some cases different races may be required to select a Flaw related to their race to represent limitations they face that humans do not. For instance a Wookie Flaw would include the inability to speak Basic and their short temper. 

Strong In The Force
Although everyone has some connection to the Force (through their Force Dice) there are those with an exceptional connection to the Force. Strong in the Force adds its MOD to any rolls made to sense disturbances in the Force (including the use of the Force by other characters). In addition, at the start of each session a character with Strong In The Force should be given Force Dice equal to their MOD. This replaces the minimum 1 Force Dice a session for showing up and any Force Dice earned through additional means should still be rewarded. 

Force Techniques

In order to actively use the Force a character must have the Jedi Quality (or any similar Quality related to other force-using traditions) and purchase an appropriate Force Technique. Each Force Technique allows the character to use their Jedi Quality MOD for Challenges or Duels in the appropriate manner at the cost of a Force Die. For example, a Jedi with the Force Technique "Mind Trick" can spend a Force Die to add his Jedi Quality to rolls made to persuade or influence NPCs. Some example Force Techniques are listed here:
  • Amazing Leap 
  • Force Choke
  • Force Push
  • Force Lightning
  • Mind Trick
  • Move Object
  • Uncanny Accuracy
There's plenty more as well of course. The exact difficulty of performing feats using the force should be determined by the GM based on what version of Star Wars they wish to emulate. For example, should moving an X-wing with the force be a struggle worthy of Master [13] difficulty? Or should moving entire starships be possible? 

Other Details


Most lightsabers are props that Jedi receive as part of their Jedi Quality (although replacing a lost or destroyed lightsaber might be quite difficult). They are (by default) only Average equipment and add no bonus or penalty to a Jedi's rolls. However, Jedi who wield unique lightsabers might purchase them as Qualities (such as a Good [+2] Double-Bladed Lightsaber or an Expert [+4] My Father's Lightsaber). However, lightsabers are exceptionally deadly and add +7 to the final damage of any successful attack. Similar rules can be used to represent exceptionally powerful weapons such as vehicle mounted blasters or thermal detonators. 

The Dark Side

There are many ways that the Dark Side can be represented or interpreted in the game, so this represents just one of many different options but it's a good simple way to handle the Dark Side. Only those with a strong connection to the Force (Jedi or those with Strong in the Force) are directly affected by the Dark Side. Any actions that would normally be considered "cruel" or "evil" should earn a character a Dark Side Point. In addition any active use of the Force to attempt to kill another living being (such as using the Force to choke someone to death), including using Force Dice on any attack that results in the death of your opponent, earns a Dark Side Point. Finally, characters can call upon the Dark Side for power, granting them an immediate extra Force Dice at the cost of a Dark Side Point. 

Once a character earns 4 Dark Side points they must take a Flaw related to their growing negative emotions or connection to the Dark Side. After a character has earned 12 Dark Side Points they must take a second Flaw related to the influence of the Dark Side and they no longer earn any Force Points when they are affected by their Flaws. Once a character has earned a total of 25 Dark Side Points they gain a flaw related to physical decay as the dark side ravages their body. At this point they can no longer call upon the Dark Side for additional Force Dice. 

Getting late, so that's it for now. I may add some sample characters to test things out later.


  1. I had not thought of using S7S for a star wars game. I may have to steal this from you for a future game.

  2. If you do let me know how it goes. The rules for vehicle combat would work well for space battles as well.

  3. I certainly will if I get to it but you know how it is, so many games to run, so very little time...