Earlier this month, Wizards of the Coast released The Unknown Regions, the last book of the Star Wars RPG Saga Edition line. This was my 6th book in this line, coauthored by Rodney Thompson (Saga Edition line developer), Daniel Wallace (veteran Star Wars source material author) along with previous Saga product designers Jonathan Stevens, Patrick Stutzman and Robert Wieland. Unfortunately, two names listed on the product’s cover are incorrect, but the interior title/credit pages are correct.
Below are a few thoughts and background notes on my participation in the product. The first chapters are rules-heavy, so those readers more interested in universe/story info should feel free to skip ahead.
This is a pretty straightforward look at the product, with an overview of The Unknown Regions by Star Wars era. It also includes the game mechanics of hyperspace navigation into the area. Hyperspace navigation is more difficult than the rest of the galaxy due to the lack of reliable data, established routes and a web of hyperspace interference called the tangle, the main reason these regions remain largely unexplored over the course of Star Wars history.
Chapter 1: Character Options
I designed most of this chapter, with the exception of the species entries, of which I only did the Krevaaki (based on earlier stats), the Sluissi, and the near-Humans. I designed all of the new talents, feats and related rules, with some input from my fellow designers. Some were later tweaked or revised by the development staff at Wizards.
Following some direction from Rodney, I designed the near-Human creation system. Near-Humans were a staple back in the West End Games days of the RPG, as they covered a lot of marginally alien characters, reducing the need for whole species backgrounds or explanations every time a character had a slightly alien appearance. I’m glad we were finally able address them in this edition. The system is simple, swapping out either the normal Human starting bonus skill or bonus feat for near-Human traits, as selected from a list. Near-Humans provide an easy way to populate planets far from civilized areas.
The Heroic Classes section includes 29 new character talents designed to be useful in the Unknown Regions. As this book is informally known as the “scout book”, the scout class has more choices than the other classes (particularly the Jedi). The noble class focuses on exiles from Known Space. The scoundrels focus on abilities useful for social outsiders and deep space combat. The scouts focus on exploration, with the best using the Master Scout talent tree. The Mobile Scout talent tree ties into one of the overall themes in the book – using living mounts. The soldier talents are designed to be useful for primitive warriors in particular, though many soldiers may find them beneficial.
The 21 new feats include a few that are especially useful to the Unknown Regions, but most are useful in any game. The Fighting from Mounts sidebar clarifies and consolidates useful rules for combat using the Ride skill while riding an animal. Great for scouts or primitive peoples using living creatures for transport and combat, instead of vehicles.
The 24 new Prestige Class talents are not overly focused on the Unknown Regions, with the exception of the new Force adept talents, which tend to be more mystical in nature.
I had a fun time designing the brand new Force-using tradition, called The Blazing Chain. Force-using traditions are those Force users who are not Jedi or Sith. In the case of the Blazing Chain, they’re Force-using pirates. They are very pragmatic about their abilities, and don’t try to adhere to any particular philosophy or delve into the deeper meanings of the Force. They don’t normally use lightsabers. Instead, some of their 4 new Force talents include the ability to affect blaster fire and accuracy.
There’s a lot of flexibility built into the group. As they operate as individual fleets, some may lean towards the light or dark sides, giving gamemasters a lot of leeway in creating individual encounters. Their past is deliberately designed so that they are more active in the lesser known eras of the Star Wars saga, and very quiet during the movie years.
The name Blazing Chain is an extension from the pirates from the West End Games days, which used a blazing claw as a symbol. I wanted to recall them somewhat when naming this tradition. I’m happy with the result.
Chapter 2: Explorer’s Equipment
My only contribution here was in the initial brainstorming session for a few pieces of equipment.
Chapter 3: Exploration Campaigns
Robert Wieland designed most of this chapter. I created the planet generator, with additional design by Robert. It’s good for GMs who need to create planets on the fly or just need some inspiration for their own worlds. The system is also inspired by the old WEG Scouts related galaxy guide.
I also created the creature generator. Like the planet generator, it’s designed to allow a gamemaster to create a new creature or beast very quickly, either from scratch using a step-by step process, or by selecting stats of the appropriate level from various tables, then adding a few abilities.
Chapter 5: Threats
Daniel Wallace wrote the vast majority of this chapter. You can find additional information in his Endnotes on his blog, Geekosity. My job here was to create all of the game related stats for the species, characters and vehicles associated with each entry. One challenge in particular was coming up with a way to cover all of the possible Killik combinations in a single species entry. As insectoid creatures, they run the gamut in size and function. The solution was to define those of Medium size and provide rules and guidelines for those larger, smaller, or highly unusual.
Chapter 6: Planets
The new planets in this book are not given precise locations in the galaxy. This allows the gamemaster to place them wherever needed in the Unknown Regions for his or her campaign. This doesn’t mean they couldn’t be pinned down someday. Robert, Patrick, Jonathan and I each took 2 planets and their related mini-adventure in the next chapter. My creations were 244Core and Giaca. Also, each planet serves as an example of how to use other aspects of the book, such as the hazards or creature generator.
244Core is a world of abundant riches and raw materials, pounded by regular meteor showers from companion asteroid fields. Corporations from nearby systems compete for control, but have far fewer resources than the massive galactic corporations of known space. Open violence is discouraged, but the planet it rife with intrigue and industrial espionage. This is a good planet for noble class characters to become heavily involved in the politics of the situation. The meteor storms serve as example hazards.
Giaca is an isolated, lush, wild world that’s largely untamed. A few nearby systems make weak claims of ownership, but cannot actually hold control from their few, isolated settlements. Giaca attracts criminals looking for a good hideout. The geology is inspired by the hexagonally shaped basaltic columns of the Giant’s Causeway….super-sized to Star Wars scale. The Brintak is a dangerous new creature native to this planet, and an example of the creature generator process. Scouts in particular should find a lot to do on Giaca.
Chapter 7: Deep Space Encounters
These mini-adventures are designed to be dropped into existing games, as needed. Each features one of the new planets, as well as demonstrating ways to combine elements presented earlier in the book. My adventures are #5 Pursuing Verinos (for Giaca) and #6 Imminent Impact (for 244Core). Pursuing Verinos is a chase the bad guy through the wild planet adventure. Imminent Impact provides a few company and environmental surprises for some “freelance cargo haulers,” or, if you rather, smugglers.
To hear additional comments from myself, Rodney Thompson and Jonathan Stevens on the creation of this product and detailed rules discussion, check out Order 66 podcast episode 104, Into the Unknown.