Echo Station: Exploring Star Wars Beyond The Daily News

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Echo Station: Exploring Star Wars Beyond The Daily News


The Phantom RPG Menace
A Look Inside Echo Station's RPG Section

By David O. Little


I was asked a while back by our illustrious webmasters about typing up a review on what exactly my website is about. In between work, family, and finishing up on other projects I'd jot down notes on what I thought I should write. Bits of info on how to play, what you need, developing characters, etc. Finally, on May 3rd, during my recording of the full 30 minutes of the VH1 special of the "Phantom Menace" video, I decided to just go ahead and, just like the Star Wars Saga, start with the beginning of the story...or at least the story "from my point of view!"

It started in 1987, the tenth anniversary of the first release of Star Wars, when West End Games first placed on the shelves "Star Wars, The Roleplaying Game" by Greg Costikyan, a 145 page rulebook that had all the rules, stats, Force powers, equipment and 24 character templates for anyone to be able to sit down and play around in the familiar Star Wars universe. Shortly thereafter was released "The Star Wars Sourcebook" by Curtis Smith and Bill Slavicsek, which had more info on things like other ship, vehicles, equipment, aliens, and stats for the heroes of Star Wars like Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, etc. Over the next 5 years there were about 7 more supplements, 6 Galaxy Guides, 18 Adventure Modules, 2 Solitary "Choose Your Own" Adventures, a pair of "Battle Books" on both lightsaber and starfighter battles, the "Star Warriors" Box Set which was a tabletop ship-to-ship combat system, and 14 boxed sets of pewter miniatures.

At this time I was in my freshman year of high school and Bulletin Boards were the fad (since the days of cheap Internet hadn't quite come about). One of the largest message nets at the time was one called FIDOnet and within its many message groups was the Star Wars one created by Skip Shayatovich. I don't remember exactly how many members we had, but at the time I joined I was the only one who played the Star Wars RPG. It was still fun to talk with people who shared my fanatacism and we also had some celebrity status with posts from the "Han Solo Trilogy's" author Brian Daley and future all-around Star Wars author Kevin Anderson.

But it was in 1992 that the Star Wars RPG would begin to really take off for me. That year I got AOL and 5 megabytes of webspace. The Star Wars FIDOnet echo was in full swing especially now that Timothy Zahn had written his new trilogy of Star Wars novels. Another big change for West End Games was their new 2nd edition of "Star Wars, The Roleplaying Game," this time written by Bill Smith. There were some new skills, a few new pieces of equipment, a new way of developing a character, but it kept its simple "Beer and Pretzels" pace of gaming that won the hearts of the players and gamemasters. The Sourcebooks, Supplements, and Galaxy Guides were updated in reprints and material was being published almost monthly. More and more people who were interested in the Star Wars RPG were signing on to both the Star Wars FIDOnet and the AOL message boards.

Inspired by a fellow FIDOnet user by the name of Mike Farnham—who had his own website on AOL that dealt with collectables and his list of the novels— I slapped together a listing of RPG books and material I had for people to be able to see what was available out there. I answered questions as best I could, played a few online games, even tried to throw together some Adventures characters of my own to stick up on the webpage (which never flowered since TSR was trying their best, though with little success, to shut down sites that had adventures, characters, and equipment posted there from their systems and I feared the same might happen to me if I did). "The Star Wars Inter-FIDO RPG Site" was the first webpage I ever programmed and although I felt not all that important, was among a handful of Star Wars RPG sites available. I got a little recognition here and there but I was happy just just where I was.

But fate was to deal me an unusual hand. Due to some legal problems between myself and AOL, I had to cancel my account and move on to another ISP. I signed up with a local computer users group called HAL-PC that offered 5 megs of webspace, so I rebuilt the old site and added a few extras like some of the sounds I used in some chat room games, some rules updates and erratas. With my new scanner I scanned in pics of my miniatures as well as drawings I made of some of my characters. Then one day I Dave Phillips e-mailed me with an offer to join up with his group to keep everyone informed on events in the Star Wars RPG.

Unfortunately fate would also deal me yet another unusual hand. Last summer West End Games annouced it was in bankruptcy court. Earlier this year they report they've joined forces with another gaming company from France called YETI. As of this time there is no information on who will be taking on a roleplaying game license, if there will be one. Does this mean the end of the Star Wars RPG? Will the new movies ever see publication into the Star Wars RPG rules?

Probably not... but there are so many fan-based websites out there that have their own creations’ stats posted, as well as a dozen mailing lists and chat rooms dedicated to the Star Wars RPG and Miniature Battles, I'm sure the bevy of fans out there will easily provide what they believe are the stats for Darth Maul, Jar Jar, and everyone else from the new movies. Even though the question of the future of the Star Wars RPG is up in the air, its popularity has still remained within a small clique of the Star Wars community and its light will continue for years to come.

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