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D6 Datapad: Entry #1: The Dark Times Are a Myth

by: Tim from Open Airlock Policy


Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game ( The Core Rulebook)


Side note: that “The First Ten Years” logo!


It was summer 1987. We had just moved into a new house. Having saved up money while staying with relatives while we waited for the closing, my parents decided to take me on a trip to Disneyland. Star Tours was very new at the time. It was the first stop when we gained entrance into the park. The spaceport’s detail in construction was amazing and the sounds truly immersed you in the setting. The ride was exciting. But for this article, it was what happened after the ride that was relevant.


There was a gift shop at the end that was every Star Wars fan’s dream. I got my first Tom Chantrell theatrical poster there, some coffee mugs (pictured), some other stuff, and, most importantly, a book.


My mother pulled the book off a rack and read the name on the cover. She said it looked fun. We bought it. It’s odd seeing Mickey Mouse on a price tag on a Star Wars product from 35 years ago. I read West End Games’s book cover to cover on my top bunk over the course of a few months. Soon, I purchased supplements and adventures. A few friends and I played some campaigns through 1990.


The “dark times” of the late 80s are a myth. I have always said this. The Droids comic ended after Star Tours came out. The RPG hit shelves later that year. Not only was Star Wars alive, but you could be “alive” in the Star Wars universe! By the time Heir to the Empire was released, 25 or so books had been released. Timothy Zahn has stated a box of the sourcebooks were sent to him to use for consistency. He brought the starships, vehicles, and species that were created in the game to the pages of the novels. This was a wonderful thing that gave fans a consistency that made the novels and game books more collectable. A single universe. A single continuity. More than that, though, the first rulebook from 1987 had something that was infinitely more valuable: rules for creating a story in the Star Wars universe. The gamemaster sections should have been required reading for authors.


In this inaugural edition of D6 Datapad, we’re going to take a look at the book in general, but focusing on how it could have been used as a tool in the EU.


The opening pages include a glossy page with an introduction in the style of an opening crawl. Immediately the book “feels like “Star Wars.” The player section takes a potential participant through the basics of roleplaying games and D6 (normal, six-sided dice) rules. It’s in the gamemaster section where information and advice on Star Wars storytelling starts.



Advice on Star Wars appropriate banter is great. Tips on making the settings have a Star Wars feel to them are great (“...it doesn’t look like Leamington Spa or Laguna Beach on a spring day…”). Using proper terminology for everyday items is a fantastic piece of advice many 90s authors should have followed.



The book has two blocks of full-color, glossy pages with production photos, concept art, and original in-universe advertisements. Brilliant! These ads should give an author ideas to make the stories feel more like the universe they’re writing in. The ad below makes the locations feel as if they are real.


Getting into the chapters, “Starships” and “The Force” are key. In the former, they do a great job of explaining the rules of space travel, obviously taking evidence from the films. This shows how Star Wars is a science fiction with thought-out rules and consistent behaviors.


Unbelievably, the book is the original source for the Jedi Code as we know it! There is also a lot of commentary on the nature of the Force and learning its powers; you just don’t wake up one day and use telekinesis by accident.


The book goes into things to think about when designing aliens and droids in Star Wars. The adventure sections provide invaluable information on preventing anticlimactic endings to stories, defining the setting of the Star Wars universe for storytelling (“It pits goods against evil”). Character creation: if you want to include a Wookiee in a story, don’t make him brown with a bandolier strap. Great advice. There is a subsection on character motivation. We know some authors would have been well served by reading that!


There is a short adventure to get the gamemaster and players familiar with play and the universe. Lastly, there are numerous adventure ideas with short blurbs. The ideas presented are fun, in the vein of Star Wars, and feel like X-Wing books or comics in concept.


The final pages are filled with stock character templates (also great for story ideas) and charts and tables for gameplay. My original edition even has a real-life ad for a Han Solo collector’s plate from Hamilton.


This book is a must-have for any Star Wars fan. It is a snapshot from history, as reading it tells you how much was known about Star Wars at the time. It’s a simple system to use for gaming to this very day. Lastly, it will always be useful for familiarizing oneself with storytelling in Star Wars.


We will see you next time for D6 Datapad when we discuss The Star Wars Sourcebook!


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