10/24/00: Drooling Fanboy helms new Star Wars RPG
by Pieter van Hiel

A long time ago, in a hobby shop, far, far, away...

In 1988, I picked a copy of West-End Games (WEG) Star Wars RPG. 12 years and about 30 sourcebooks later, my RPG buddies and I are still playing it when the Middle-Earth RPG starts to pall. WEG went toes up a couple of years ago, and the license was snapped up the Evil RPG Empire everyone hates to love - Wizards of the Coast (WoTC). WoTC has retooled the game to fit the new D20 system used by the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

Fans were worried by this news. WEG had put out dozens of quality books, and their material had the official stamp of Lucasfilm approval. Could a WoTC product meet the demanding standards of players who knew the name and Blaster skill level of the guy who's smoking a hookah in the Cantina in episode IV?

We...er..."they"... were somewhat mollified to learn that the WoTC Star Wars line was being handled by none other than Bill Slavicsek. Slavicsek, who is currently the Vice President and Director of Roleplaying Games Design at WoTC, was one of the men responsible for much of the WEG Star Wars universe.

Your very own humble 'zine editor caught up with Mr. Slavicsek a few weeks ago, and asked him about the upcoming game, and his experience with the Star Wars phenomenon.

GUIDE: Could you describe your first encounter with Star Wars? Were you a fan of the film?

BILL: I know I read the novel when it was released, a few months before the movie came out. I ordered the Kenner pre-release action figures—the ones where they sold us a stand and some cardboard with the promise that the action figures would be out later that year. I know I read Starlog Magazine back then, so I knew it was coming, but my strongest memory from the time is opening day. I took the day off from high school and went with some friends to stand in line for the first showing at Manhattan's Loew's Astor Theater. There wasn't a very large crowd at all, and we got great seats. Then the movie started, and I was simply blown away. I loved it! I was hooked from the opening scene. We stayed to watch the movie a second time, and when we finally left the theater we noticed the first lines of the summer forming. After that, the crowds stayed tremendous throughout the summer. I paid to see the movie on thirty-eight separate occasions in the summer of 1977, and I tried to see it with different people each time so I could see their reactions.

GUIDE: A lot of older fans were disapppointed by the latest film. Do you think that will affect the game's acceptance?

BILL: I don't think so. The game is about Star Wars in all its eras, so fans will find what they want inside its pages. I even think that people will want to play in the Episode I timeframe because that's where the most powerful, kick-butt Jedi reside. And everybody is going to want to play a powerful, kick-butt Jedi.

GUIDE: As you obviously know, WEG put a lot of a work into their version of the game, into developing their own take on the SW universe. Will the new version preserve some of WEG's own universe?

BILL: Everything that West End Games created for Star Wars has become part of the canon of the expanded universe. You know, I helped create a lot of that early material. So, yes, we'll preserve that material. Frankly, as long as a more official source—such as a new movie—doesn't overturn something, then it's a part of our game and the Star Wars universe, too. The older game material, the comics, the novels—we draw from every source. The only limitation is the amount of space we have to cover things in a single game product. If we didn't get your favorite alien or planet into the new RPG, it'll show up eventually in a later product.

GUIDE: How does the new system capture the "feel" of the films?

BILL: I think it captures the feel of Star Wars very well. The places where we deviated from the d20 game system as used in the new Dungeons & Dragons game were specifically done to better address the reality of the Star Wars universe. The game is fast-paced. You can develop characters as you see fit. The combat system has a cinematic feel. I'm very happy with the game. It's not only a good RPG, it's a good Star Wars RPG.

GUIDE: Is there a "default" setting? Is it set in the trilogy timeline, or the TPM?

BILL: Nope. The bulk of the material is presented as "timeless," meaning you can use it as you see fit. Then we provide specific details for playing in one of three primary eras. These are the Rise of the Empire era (circa Episode I), the Rebellion era (the timeframe shown in Episodes IV, V, and VI), and The New Jedi Order era (as depicted in the new novel series from Del Rey Books). Beyond that, it's easy to take the material and do whatever you like with it. It's very flexible.

GUIDE: What sort of product support can we expect from WoTC? Lucasfilms?

BILL: Wizards of the Coast is committed to producing high-quality products for the Star Wars line. In November and December, we're releasing the full-color, hardcover rulebook, the introductory Star Wars Invasion of Theed Adventure Game, Character Sheets, and the Secrets of Naboo campaign adventure. You'll see six to eight RPG products a year, as well as miniatures and the bi-monthly Star Wars Gamer Magazine. Star Wars Gamer is kind of like a combined version of Dragon and Dungeon Magazines for the Star Wars RPG, but it will also include fiction and news about related Star Wars licenses, such as Dark Horse Comics and Lucas Arts computer products. LFL is very happy with the direction we've set, and we're working very closely with them to make sure the products are true to the Star Wars universe.

The Star Wars Roleplaying Game is designed by Bill Slavicsek, Andy Collins, and JD Wiker.