14 August 2018
Rebels with a very good cause
Dawn of Rebellion bills itself as the first ‘era’ sourcebook for Fantasy Flight’s range of Star Wars RPGs, and few things demonstrate how closely it’s tied to a specific time frame than its sections for adventuring on Alderaan and the Death Star, neither of which are particularly viable options by the time the credits roll on A New Hope.
Designed to work with all three of the subtly different rulesets released by the studio, the book aims to set up adventures in the early days of the Rebellion. It paints a picture of a time when the Galactic Empire was riding high, unrest was spreading across the stars and Luke Skywalker was still drinking blue milk on an isolated farmstead. It’s a time of stealth missions and sabotage rather than pitched battles, where the heroes are likely to be desperate renegades rather than superpowered warriors.
In many ways you can think of it as an accompaniment to Rogue One and the Star Wars Rebels series, with many of the new character options and enemies clearly inspired or even directly pulled from them. For example, the very first player specialisation in the book is the kind-of-a-Jedi-but-not-really ‘Force Adherent’, based on Rogue One’s blind, stick-wielding monk Chirrut Îmwe, while Darth Maul (the top half of him, anyway) is given stats for use as a villain.
If the deuterium-dense array of assumed knowledge in that sentence didn’t make it quite clear enough, Dawn of Rebellion is definitely a book that will appeal to the more hardcore end of the Star Wars fan spectrum. It’s probably safe to assume that anyone who’s playing an RPG set in the universe is already pretty invested in the franchise, of course, but this is a book that will reward GMs and players who want to dig deep into the lore and are looking for something a little more rooted in the galaxy than the usual lightsaber and blaster-fuelled heroics.
Indeed, the tone of the book is a little closer to the more realistic and morally grey galaxy presented in Rogue One than that starkly black and white one of the original trilogy. This includes a section setting out guidelines for creating antagonists that can act as a foil for the party without necessarily being outright evil, and for running a campaign with the party battling oppression as a cell of rebels.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of scope for grand adventure in weird and wonderful locations, however. Several planets that could be important in the early stages of the Rebellion are described in detail and, though they may not be known to players without a detailed knowledge of the Star Wars expanded universe, each one includes a mini-adventure designed to introduce them to the new location. These are more like sketched outlines of key events rather than fully detailed instructions, but they’re fun, serviceable ways to get the ball rolling.
For most groups, the most exciting of the new areas to explore probably won’t be a planet (or, indeed, moon) at all, but rather the titanic Death Star. The book goes into enough detail to let you happily run a couple of adventures aboard the planet-killing space station but manages to be just brief enough to avoid the trap of reading more like a technical manual than a sourcebook.
In many ways the small section completely defines what Dawn of Rebellion is aiming for – a well-crafted chunk of content squarely aimed at making diehard fans very happy indeed. It’s a book for those who would grin when they come across the stat blocks for Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mon Mothma in their heyday and are intrigued by the implications of playing as a retired clone trooper.
You could potentially argue that the book is a little on the slim side – and when you cut out everything that you could probably piece together with a couple of hours on Wookiepedia it gets slimmer still.
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a beautifully put-together volume. If you’re looking for a new spin on roleplaying in that galaxy far, far away it’s well worth a look.
A nifty little sourcebook that opens up a whole new era to play in, complete with an array of iconic characters and locations.
This review originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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