Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Who Should Get Star Wars Next?

There's been a healthy amount of speculation going on over at rpg.net about what this recent blog post from Mongoose has to say regarding the state of the Star Wars RPG license:

"In other A Call to Arms news, I can now report that we did not manage to grab the licence we were chasing for the game - Star Wars. We weren't really expecting this one to happen (we made a sideways reference to it in the State of the Mongoose), but we got much further along than we thought we would.

The interesting thing is why our negotiations ended - another company beat us to it. We are not going to reveal who this is (you have heard of them), as that is their fanfare to blow. However, I am sure many will find it intriguing that the licence covers card games, RPGs, and... miniatures. Now, the company concerned is not known for its miniatures lines, which will probably put paid to my dream of 28mm multipart/multipose Stormtroopers.

So who could it be? First off, it's important to note that, as is discussed in the thread, Mongoose is not the most reliable of sources on these things. It's well-known that Mongoose was gunning for the Star Wars license after it was dropped this past April by Wizards of the Coast (but not after completing the amazing Saga Edition line of books - big props to Wizards for giving us a complete game!). So I'm not going to deal with whether or not this information is accurate or good. Nope, I want to simply speculate on what it would mean if it were. Who should get a crack at making a Star Wars game next?

My feelings are that it should not be a company whose expertise is in the d20 arena. Saga Edition is pretty much the best we could ever hope for when it comes to d20 Star Wars, and I'd much prefer a fresh crack at it with a new system if I'm too be interested in pursuing a new Star Wars game. So that wipes out Paizo (who, given the quality of Pathfinder releases, wouldn't be the worst choice) and Wizards if they wanted to pick the license back up.

A lot of people are pulling for Fantasy Flight Games or Cubicle 7 to get the license. No doubt that we love FFG around here, but I don't particularly need them to produce absolutely everything I love. A part of me just wants someone else to get a shot at something big when it comes to hobby gaming. They've got the entire Game of Thrones market cornered, so let's let someone else try one of my favorite franchises. This is also why I would strike Cubicle 7 from the list. They're producing the next frakkin' Lord of the Rings RPG, so I think the might be a little busy at the moment. And, while I love that Lord of the Rings is getting a box treatment, and they seem to produce other really nice products like the Dr. Who RPG box set, I feel like both companies would be too tempted to go the box set route for Star Wars. I love box sets, but something just doesn't feel right about doing Star Wars in this format.

So where does that leave us? White Wolf? They'd be a really interesting choice to run it (each different character class could easily be their own fatsplat!), but we have unofficial word from the thread that it's not them. It took me a while to get to my choice. There's TONS of great RPG publishers out there, but most of them don't really feel big enough to a.) afford the license or b.) properly give it the support it needs. For example this strikes out Pinnacle and their Savage Worlds - I don't need something so similar to Saga Edition rules-wise either.

Then it hit me. I want to see Star Wars - pretty much one of the holy grail properties for RPG's - to be one of the most gorgeous, modern games I could find. Saga Edition has a lot of soul, and there's really a great amount of art found throughout the line, but it is at it's heart a Wizards 3.5 product. Lots of thick text blocks without a lot of flare. That's fine - I'm not trying to bag on Saga Edition - but I'd love to see the next version of Star Wars Role-Playing to be a coffee table book. Something you can feel comfortable having out there in front of company and really have a high "wow" factor.

When I took all these factors into consideration, the choice was clear. Only one company could do justice the license rules-wise to make them unique from Saga Edition's mechanics while offerring true artistic flare in the physical product's presentation. It had to be a company big enough to handle the license while it did this. One line this year really leaped ahead of the rest for me - Legend of the 5 Rings 4th Edition. While I'm excited to learn about future releases, the line - consisting of the core rulebook, GM screen, and monster manual/player's book Enemies of the Empire - is surprisingly complete as it is. The "Roll and Keep" engine is still innovative and captures a large range of power levels while keeping things simple throughout. I'm confident that the engine could run Jedi next to soldiers and make each feel useful as exemplified by the existence of Samurai, Shugenja, and Courtier class-equivalents all being fun to play.

I haven't even gotten to the art yet. L5R 4th Ed. is the prettiest RPG book I own, and a prized item in my collection. I haven't found a single piece of dud artwork in the book. Instead I'm presented with double-page full-color paintings formatted perfectly to present the true nobility of a Lion Samurai or the terror of the power of a Phoenix Shugenja unleashed. If AEG got the license and put the L5R team behind the game, it would be truly gorgeous. Considering how much Lucas pulled from Akira Kurosawa films like Hidden Fortress for his inspiration for Star Wars, I can't think of any better home for the ancient intergalactic struggle between good and evil.

(all art is borrowed from Bioware's upcoming MMO game The Old Republic)


  1. Mongoose is a terrible, terrible company that has put out consistently bad games. They have had a few ok RPG supplements but in general everything they've done from their minis lines to a fair portion of their RPG stuff hasn't been of a level that Lucas Arts would be looking for. If I had to take a shot in the dark guess on who would be in the running I'd say: Green Ronin (they've done high quality licensed product), Fantasy Flight Games (they are just a top notch all in one shop, Lucas Arts could sign them up across the board for tabletop and they'd be set). Unless its some crazy lotto win for some third string company like Mongoose ... I'd wager it would be one of those two.

  2. Cubicle 7 would kick ass (Legends of Anglerre rocks) ... but do they have the chops to compete for a Lucas license?? The only companies I know of that make sense are FFG and Green Ronin ... Green Ronin has Dragon Age, Warhammer Fantasy 2nd ed, and A Game of Thrones under its belt. Again all idle speculation at this point ... Upper Deck will likely end up with the license and farm out the RPG stuff to someone we've never heard of ... lol. Who knows.

  3. I would also love to see AEG get their hands on Star Wars.

  4. I'm not so excited about SW getting yet another rpg books, although I'm not so sure that's hat we're going to get.

    SAGA hasn't even been out of print for a year. The d20 game was first printed when the prequels were launched, and only because West End Games filed for bankruptcy. There are (by my count) 3 different rules that were released in the 2000's alone. The d20 was updated a few times I believe.

    There are more than enough rules to go around for me to craft whatever SW story I want, using great mechanics and tons of supplements. I wouldn't purchase a new rpg.

    Now, my gut feeling tells me we are getting a war game along the lines of a Warhammer. Why? Well, you could probably make more money selling expensive SW miniatures, terrain, and supplies-rather than on rpg books alone.

    Plus, it's a genre that's never been explored with SW, and it would certainly put the "War" into Star Wars, a game that has never really explored large scale conflicts in any of its various rpgs.

    So yeah, my money is on no new SW tabletop rpg (for now), but rather a Warhammer type game with expensive minis, and terrain.

    So what company out there can make this happen?

  5. @Lord of Excess - I agree that Green Ronin would be a great match. The only problem here is that they've already publicly confessed that the license is too expensive for them. Unfortunately we won't be seeing a Star Wars anything from them for a good long while.

    @newbiedm This is an interesting thought. I definitely respect your viewpoint on the RPG issue - I love Saga Edition and would be hard pressed to think of how it could be improved from a d20 stand point. Of course if a new RPG would offer a much stronger less crunchy system, that would catch my eye.

    A mass combat game for Star Wars would be fascinating. Really it shouldn't be too different from Games Workshop's War of the Ring. Star Wars has the same hero-based battles as Lord of the Rings, and there are definitely enough different types of troops to fuel a game like this for a long while.


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