First off I am a huge Star Wars fan and I know way too much lore of the setting, but I think that only helps to enrich game play in this system. I have ran and played in multiple SWSE games. And I am often found online with SWTOR raiding with Video Game Loft as a Rattataki Sage named Raighan. If your on feel free to say hi or even join us. I think all of this though has tainted my views on Star Wars, in all I love the system because of the story. People are heroes with out having to kill everyone or conquer the known Galaxy. People play their characters with more inclination to act as their character would in each situation. In most games we have played we have made it a house rule that if you fall to the Dark Side you could actually continue playing. In the hands of a good role player this is actually a great tool and can allow for the players to creat thier own stories with trying to use Dun Möch or other forms of persuasion to encourage the others to join their cause for good or for evil (and in one very special campaign evil masked as good). The characters tend to feel more heroic than in a standard fantasy game. With that said lets get down to the nitty-gritty of this system.
What is Saga Edition?
So the good folks at Wizards of the Coast love there money just as much as any other game company you can think of (EA for example). They bought out TSR's Dungeons and Dragons in 1997 and three years later came out with the shining example of gaming D&D 3E. This introduced a new kind of d20 system that was easier for the players to understand and simplified a lot of in game actions (while complicating others, later slightly fixed in 3.5 and even further fixed in Pathfinder). This soon gave birth to Star Wars d20. Star Wars had a previous edition by West End Games before WOTC got a hold on the license and it was a pretty solid game using a d6 system (all hearsay as I have never played it long enough to get a solid opinion of the system). WOTC used there semi-generic rules from d20 system they initially built for D&D 3E, with some key changes like "Wounds/Vitality", "Armor as DR", "Defense" (biased on level rather than armor), and "Force Skills". This last one provided for the most problems as with any d20 system rolls are not particularly hard, you can argue with all the statistical graphs you want but everyone who has ever played d20 knows that when you make a character specialize you can make pretty gross numbers on those skill checks. This lead to all sorts of problems at our table then came along SWSE in 2007, but to be fair we did not give it a chance until it was out of print in 2010 due to many GM's being Old School Gamers (ie Never Change Systems Ever, no matter how bad of shape my books are in or how hard it is for my players to get copies of the books. They are the Hipsters of the gaming world). Once we tried it we found a great system, it was released before D&D 4E and you could see the elements form Saga Edition that were basically beta tested for D&D 4E. That said it is like the difference between civilized man and barbarian man. They are both similar but they have some harsh differences. Sagas used Talents, Feats, Skills, and Powers to help flesh out your character and your saves are now defenses. The person attacking you attacks your saves and armor (which is pretty much useless after a couple levels unless you are a trooper) gives DR. And then there is everyone favorite of the system Jedi, in d20 they were very powerful because of force skill in SWSE they have even out a bit to be more on par with non-force users.
What kind of characters?
So most people will tell you that the reason they want to play Star Wars is to be a Jedi or Sith or some other Force tradition. I am not most I love non-force users almost more than Force users in Star Wars. In Star wars force Traditions are always very strict in their ways meaning while characters can differ in attitudes the laws and fundamental they receive through training are the same. I have a GM who takes this into consideration with Dark Side Points (which can be given to non-force users and have special effects in game), this makes for a truly interesting game full of personal choices that are effected by your background. I think that this is the best way to play with Dark Side Points in the Campaign as they have more meaning than "killing is killing which is bad" unless that is your personal code. As far as the system goes, yes Jedi are in most cases more powerful than other classes, how ever they are not overly powerful when compared to other classes. They are actually very lacking as each class feels more specialized in SWSE. My personal favorite is the Trooper. As a fan of the lore and of all things Martial Arts and Waxia, I love Star Wars Martial Arts. In the lore they are forgotten combat styles surrounded in mystery Martial Artist of great skill are sometimes respected as much if not more than Jedi, some even become Jedi at some point in their lifetime. In SW d20 I will be the first to say Martial Arts was broken. You could reliably deal substantial damage and get your crit range down to 9-20 if built correctly. In SWSE that was fixed but it seems to have been fixed to almost too drastic of a way, while martial arts are still a cool rule set they seem to be very watered down with small modifier even for masters. Weapons are powerful and do lots of damage when compared to D&D. A light crossbow is 1d8, a blaster pistol is 2d6. This helps my problem with Hit Points at higher level. There is also a rule set for conditions during combat that if you take a certain amount of damage you can be moved down the track and eventually become enfeebled. This makes combat feel realistic, if you have ever been in a fight you know that the longer it goes the harder it becomes on both you and your opponent you have to hit hard while you can and move on. The Second Wind rule is in place allowing you to self heal and probably the best skill in the game is Heal because you can actually heal hit points, something Pathfinder RPG and D&D 3.5 do not do. Some of the most useful characters in a game have been the medic, but there is no need for for one to specialize as someone with the skill can do well with out the surgery feat (At least one person should have it though). One thing I love even more that the diverse classes is the very specialized prestige classes. In all games with prestige classes they act as a prestigious training to specialize into something that fits your character concept. A good deal of the classes seem to fit more with the lore and role playing than with your chosen fighting style (something D&D 3.5 is known for). So far the only real "Super Build" I have seen is the character that is a "Force Trickster" think Arcane Trickster but with the force. The most powerful and first to be abused power in the game in Mind Trick. After that some of the stealthy powers can be a bit hard to deal with and Fold Space (think Teleport) can be especially hard to work with as a DM. Luckily my players are big Star Wars Fans and realize that to survive in the Galaxy you cannot be a one trick pony.
- The rule set is very easy to understand for players familiar with d20, if not then it will take a little bit of work but is not hard to teach.
- Classes are well balanced, with limited Power Builds
- Skills have been filtered down and simplified
- Lots of options between Species, Classes, Talents, Feats, and Skills. We once played an all Force-User campaign where we were from different disciplines and schools of study joined as a unified force against a new threat to the Galaxy. Very fun with Very different characters in terms of abilities, core values, and powers even.
- Combat is very Tactical and is heavily suggested that you break out the map for this game.
Cons (Since this is a mainly positive review of SWSE):
- The battle map is very essential for this game
- It is out of print
- Martial Arts took a hard hit this version, as well as regular unarmed combat (something that happens in every universe)
- Not very many Fighting Style Specific Prestige Class (not a personal complaint but I can see where other players might not like this)
- I dont like the Standard Character Sheet for this one, a pretty normal complaint from a gamer but this one is just bad. I like Mad-Irishman character sheets for my table they are a bit easier to read.
- While your character does get higher in level you never gewt that demi-god feeling you get form D&D (again not a personal complaint but I can see where other players might not like this, for me its a pro actually)
- Star Ship battles are a bit odd to get the hang of, just remember if you use the battle map space is three dimensional.