Thursday, 15 June 2017

Star Wars - adventures in the D6 system

Mandalorian battle armour
Last night I had the opportunity to drop in on a game of Star Wars using the d6 system from West End Games. I've been curious about these rules for some time, as back in the early 1990s they were widely played, and the Star Wars RPG at that stage was competing with Call of Cthulhu and Dungeons and Dragons in the popularity stakes. Sadly, WEG went the way of all flesh and the Star Wars license went to Wizards of the Coast, which launched a d20 version in the middle of all the OGL mania at the start of the century. Many veterans still prefer to game Star Wars using the D6 version, however.

The D6 system first appeared, I believe, as the engine behind the Ghostbusters RPG in the 1980s. I have been tempted to use it at some point for a home brew Dune setting, but being me, wanted to actually play the game to get a feel for how it worked first. This is frequently the best way for getting to grips with a new system, as you can only divine so much from the paper.

The plot

One of the things that made the original Star Wars RPG such a success was the familiarity of the setting. It was obviously an easy sell to newcomers, as there was no need to go into any detailed explanation about the universe. Everyone knows what a Jedi Knight is - unless you are my wife, who had not watched Star Wars before she met me!

My character is Gendar, a cyborg pirate. I used one of the templates at the back of the rule book, which I customized using an additional 7D (seven dice) to come up with a more original character. The other characters in the game were generated from scratch, but it was not immediately obvious to me how you did this reading the rules. Mind you, it is very speedy to generate Star Wars PCs using D6, and the lack of a long equipment list also moves things along, as there was less mulling over kit. Give players too much equipment to buy and they can take hours paging through lists of items - Shadowrun was a big offender in this respect. I don't mind players having some choice in the equipment stakes, but it can be taken too far.

So Gendar is a human, but with his right arm replaced with a cybernetic one, apparently illegal in the Empire. We were playing in the period between Episode IV and Episode V, so the first Death Star has been destroyed, but the Empire has yet to locate the rebel base on Hoth. Gendar is a veteran of the Clone Wars, where he lost his arm, so is getting on a bit, being in his 50s. He was part of a pirate operation, which itself was the legacy of the collapse of a shipping company immediately after the rise of the Empire, when the Emperor started cracking down on independent shipping firms. He and some colleagues appropriated a freighter and turned pirate.

Having been relatively successful, the pirates eventually ran afoul of the law, and Gendar luckily escaped arrest, being passed out on the floor of a bar while the rest of his comrades were taken into custody. Scraping together some money, Gendar is fleeing to Tatooine on the Outer Rim when the small passenger ship he is traveling on is forced out of hyperspace unexpectedly and promptly crashes into an asteroid.

Gendar saw the passenger in the seat next to him was having trouble with her communicator, so decided to use Intimidate to ask her to hand it over to him. Having an obviously metal arm helps with these things. In D6 you roll a number of six-sided dice equivalent to your ability, but one die has to be a different colour. If this comes up 1, something bad happens. If it comes up 6, it explodes, and can be rolled again, with the result added to the total score. Gendar did well on the roll, with an 18, but the wild die came up 1, so in his enthusiasm to wrestle the communicator away from the passenger, he broke it.

The 40+ passengers were all panicking now, so Gendar decided to take charge of the situation. As an old salt and someone who can speak with authority (Command skill) he was able to calm them down while he went forward to talk to the captain. Again, Intimidate was used to get through into the cockpit and allow the crew to let him review the situation. It turned out that the ship's communications array was a write off, and not only that, trying to reverse off the man-made gurder the vessel had impaled itself on, would cause immediate decompression of the hull. Gendar also noticed that the stranded ship was in a small asteroid field, and some of those asteroids had big pieces of metal sticking out of them. Odd.

Gendar volunteered to don a vacc suit from his luggage and go out onto the hull to have a closer look at the damage. While unpacking, he quietly re-assembled his blaster and a pair of fragmentation grenades he brought with him for emergencies. It was at this point that he noticed two ships approaching the stricken transporter - one looked like a Mandalorian assault ship, and the other was painted like a...a taxi. Both vessels docked successfully, and Gendar readied his blaster as the port side airlock hissed open and a large, heavily armed figure in Mandalorian battle armour came through it.

Gendar lost the initiative roll, which meant that he had to declare what he was going to do first. He decided to simply point his blaster at the interloper, and hope this was sufficiently intimidating, but the Mandalorian (a player character) decided to try to entangle Gendar with some sort of net launcher (remember Boba Fett taking on Luke Skywalker?) This he failed to do, so round 2, Gendar won the initiative. The Mandalorian declared he was going for his blaster, so Gendar used his Strength to yank the man off his feet before he could do so, using the snare he had so thoughtfully used on Gendar. With the Mandalorian now prone at his feet, Gendar pointed his blaster at him, demanding to know what he was doing boarding the ship, then realised someone else had entered the ship from the starboard air lock - an Ithorian by the looks of it....

First impressions

The D6 system does seem to run very fluidly. It is easy to get your head round. It seems to manage the Star Wars setting very smoothly, without the technology getting in the way. Character generation was a breeze. I can't comment in massive detail on some other aspects of the setting, like the Force or droids, but we'll get to that in a later post. What I did like about it was its flexibility.

I think parties need to make sure they have all the skill groups covered. As you will see from my next Star Wars post, technical skills are important in a science fiction environment, and a party can quickly end up in a sticky situation if they don't have the knowledge to address problems that may occur.

Combat went well, but there were only two characters involved, at relatively close quarters, with no shooting. I don't think this has really had an opportunity to show what it can do yet.


  1. Conventional wisdom has it that Jedi are unbalanced and make the game go a bit wonky, but I never encountered that; that said I have only played a few sessions.

    I love the d6 Star Wars and wouldn't mind playing it again. I've got a few of the books and I keep thinking about running a game in which only the first film is canon. One day, perhaps.

  2. By the first film, I assume you mean A New Hope and not The Phantom Menace?