The Analog Gamer: Galactic Threats

Stormtroopers.. the true threat!I realize its been a few weeks since the last installment of The Analog Gamer but E3 and this little thing called a vacation got in the way, so this week instead of continuing our analysis of Super heroes since I figure many readers have even forgotten that was the plan I thought I’d do a quick geek out session and talk about the recently released book of trouble for the Star Wars SAGA system – Threats of the Galaxy.

While every RPG seemingly requires a book of monsters and enemies for game runners to use as opponents in their homespun adventures, Threats of the Galaxy has a slightly different approach than what we’ve seen in the past. I credit this difference to the approach players and storytellers have to take with a game like Star Wars. Despite the setting’s fantastic elements it is not quite the “Monty Haul” game that its cousin Dungeons & Dragons is, or at least I don’t think it should be anyway.

D&D seemingly was built to be a kill the monster, save the princess, get “Phat loot” sort of system. Taking the lead of George Lucas’ films and the expanded universe content surrounding them, Star Wars can cover the same ground but when was the last time anyone thought Luke or Han was in it for the +4 Lightsaber or the Biker Scout’s Stomrtooper armor?

Darth BaneThe same can be said for the enemies in Star Wars.While most of the movie’s antagonists were generic white shelled clone shocktroops there were also bounty hunters and giant space slugs that got in the gang’s way on the road to overthrowing the corrupt Empire and its evil Sith leaders, unique challenges that require a bit more diversity than a simple horde of orcs in a fantasy setting to remain interesting for Star Wars players.

Threats of the Galaxy delivers these diverse opponents. Expanding on the base foes detailed in the core Star Wars RPG, and with only slight reprinting for completeness I believe, it begins by helping storytellers design encounters. The short opening section expands on the quick and dirty instructions of the main rules and  discusses elements like how environment can be utilized to make basic enemies more challenging or how variety can keep a game from getting too uninteresting for players. I mean after destroying a platoon of Stormtroopers in Clone Company 7 are you really all that excited the next time you encounter Clone Company 14?

The book itself breaks its rogues gallery into three basic categories: Characters, Creatures and Droids. Unlike most monster books, Threats introduces a rough character or creature type and then uses the wealth of Star Wars lore and characters to give practical examples for use in games. For instance in the section describing the core concept of a Dark Jedi the book also includes a section on The Reborn, a faction from the New Jedi Order time period and continues to include Dark Jedi Masters and a new character racial option.

Some of the character entries lack this expanded depth unfortunately (like the brawler and con artist) and that is one of the books failings – its just not long enough for me. I would have loved more details, more new feats, traits and races to give personality to even the generic enemy roles. Why not detail an interesting Gammorean Guard as an example of a thug, or a Lando Calrissian-like smooth talking con man?

I believe the choices came down to how much space the book provided. Unlike the D&D Monster Manual, the Star Wars line of books has so far been pretty slim on the page count while managing a fairly dense wordcount. The strange design of the books – with a more horizontal orientation than a vertical one is continued of course but the hardback books still feel a little light on content to me.

The creature and droid sections of the book follow similar design goals as the character section. New species and racial details or feats surround the more monster like creatures, while detail of droid models and equipment fill out the last section of the book. Were I judging the book purely on its page count of 160 pages I’d have problems recommending this for purchase, however the details and extra text that players and game masters alike can mine for characters and adversaries from just about every era of the Star Wars universe makes this a valuable addition the the Star Wars SAGA library for fans of that game.

Recently Wizards of the Coast released its upcoming Spring 2009 catalog and surprisingly it looks as though the Star Wars line will be getting a lot of attention. Aside from the previously revealed (and delayed) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed setting book it appears next year will bring us a Clone Wars setting book and one covering the popular Legacy era portrayed in the Darkhorse comics. Its been a long wait for many fans of the RPG for support like this but at least the force seems strong in 2009.

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