Into the Unknown

I know I’ve been MIA for a couple of days, but I swear I have a good reason. I’ve been deep in the Unknown Regions doing a lot of exploring.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the last book in the Star Wars Saga Edition line, The Unknown Regions came out last Tuesday, and I finally got my hands on a copy the Thursday after. This book is widely considered to be the last of the class “splatbooks.” Just like Galaxy of War was called “the big book of soldiers” by some and Jedi Academy Training Manual was all about Jedi, the Sith, and the Force, The Unknown Regions provides new options for the scout class. However, like most of the other class books, this one also provides a lot of new options for existing classes, such as soldiers focusing on simple weapons or the noble who wants that exotic pet daddy bought her to be more than just a pet.

Chapter One gives a “ton” of new character options. Even with the sheer number of options already out there, the writers found ways of making new and exciting material for this chapter, starting with the species. The Chadra-Fan get their first appearance as a full-on PC race. They got their first appearance in a stat sidebar in the Legacy Era Campaign Guide a while back, but we finally get the full write up in this one. Other fan favorites appearing in this one are the Shistavanen, the Squib, and the Anzat. The serpentine Sluisi got an entry as well as the insectile Verpine.

They also give an entry for “near-humans,” allowing you to take the basic Human species entry and modify it to get a new species similar to humans, but different enough to allow a different play experience crunch-wise as well as roleplaying-wise.

The number of new talents is mind-boggling, both for the base classes and the prestige classes. The gunslinger has a new talent tree that is going to make me go back and update my sniper build. We finally see a Multiattack Proficiency talent for simple weapons, and a host of talents making these oft underused weapons so much more appealing.

One of the biggest stand out talents from this book though, is from the Force Adept talent tree additions: “Mystic Link.” In exchange for making a whopping DC 30 Use the Force check, the GM chooses from a number of beneficial things: gaining a temporary Force Point that is lost if not used by the end of the encounter, returning a spent Force power to your suite, re-rolling a check when using a Force action and taking the better result, or gaining another use of a Force talent or feat that can only be used once per encounter. That last one is huge! And even though the DC is  so high, there’s no drawback for failing, and use of the talent only requires a standard action. There is also no limit to the number of times this can be attempted each day, making it that much more attractive to a Force Sensitive character who constantly finds themselves in fairly desperate situations.

We also see the addition of 21 new feats that will literally change the way you play the game. Acrobatic Ally is one of the stand out feats that I can see causing a lot of “headache” builds for GMs and players alike. This feat requires you to have a Strength and Dexterity for 13 and be trained in Acrobatics. It also requires your ally to hold his Initiative so he acts on the same count (or vice versa) and requires you to give up your turn to give an ally 2 free squares of movement for making a DC 20 Acrobatics check. Oh, and if you fail the check both of you fall prone. Oh, and both of you can still provoke attacks of opportunity with this feat.

I can see you sitting there and scratching you head, wondering just what in the hell makes this feat worth the paper it’s written on. What were they thinking? Well my young Padawan, let me explain.

This movement is considered a free action for your ally, who can then continue with his turn. He’s already moved two squares from where he started his turn, potentially giving him the benefits of certain movement activated talents and feats. He also has a full turns worth of actions to use. Imagine a gunslinger build who has loaded up on Sneak Attack, Skirmisher, Improved Skirmisher, and Sudden Strike, along with some CT damage for aiming. Not only is this feat going to allow him to get the extra damage from Sneak Attack no matter what thanks to the movement, but now he can move, aim, and fire, all in the same round. He gets a bonus to hit, can pile on the extra dice of damage, and move his opponent down the condition track. That might be worth giving up your turn to let your ally have this opportunity I think.

Instincitve Attack and Instinctive Defense are also huge, requiring you to be a living creature (sorry, droids), and (in the case of Instinctive Attack), proficient in the weapon you’re using. Attack allows you to reroll your attack die and take the better result when you spend a Force Point to modify said attack roll, and apply the result of the Force Point die to the better result. Consider the implications of being able to turn a most likely confirmed miss result of “2” and have the chance to turn it into a “20” by spending a Force Point. The best part is, even if you just want the extra help from the Force Point, you aren’t forced to take the second result if it’s worse. I’m tempted to say that no soldier or saber duelist should be without this feat. Instinctive Defense lets you boost all of your Defenses by 2 points for spending a Force Point… as a Free Action! It only lasts until the start of your next turn and can only be done on your turn, but can give you the extra edge you need while not eating up valuable combat actions.

Chapter Two is the equipment section. We see the introduction of several cool new weapons, such as the blastsword, the Squib tensor rifle, and the Verpine shatter gun (the last two fan favorites). We also get some really cool new personal equipment, including the personal translator and the Swiss army knife of the Star Wars Universe, the personal multitool, something that no scout or techie should be without.

This chapter also gives us lots of new vehicles and starships, as well as new beasts, along with the full write-up of mounted combat rules. The rules for companion animals is also included in this chapter, allowing a party to bolster its numbers without a fully-GM controlled character in the mix, as well as giving new options for Beastmaster Force Adepts.

Chapter Three is all about putting the themes of exploration into your game, giving advice on the kinds of scouts encountered in the Star Wars universe, how the system and planetary surveys are usually conducted, and the general rules and regulations regarding first contact with a new species. It also includes two complete campaign arcs from beginning to end game, specific enough to provide a great game, while broad enough to give the GM lots of room to play.

This chapter also gives us a much expanded section on creating beasts as well as a section on creating new planets, including a full random generator to create a new planet, from size and type, down to population customs. I know that section was written by Sterling Hershey, and he did an absolute brilliant job on it.

Chapter Four was what a lot of GMs were waiting for in this book: Hazards. This chapter covered hazards from top to bottom, beginning to end, including ways to use them in combat, what CL should be assigned, and how they should interact with the PCs (and NPCs). They also include a Star Destroyer size load of examples that are found in every type of environment imaginable, from natural to man-made and beyond.

Chapter Five details a big number of Threats commonly found in The Unknown Regions, from the commonly known (to Star Wars fans at least) like the Chiss, the Killiks, and the Ssi-Ruuk; to those more mysterious ones like the Sorcerors of Rhand and the Mnggal-Mnggal (created specifically for this book) that can give you some interesting and exciting antagonists and allies for your PCs as they explore the Unknown Regions. Each of these “threats” is given a sidebar which details their species abilities along with entries for special equipment like unique starships or notable members of the group in question.

Chapter Six gives us a listing of planets. All of these planets are brand new, and if I recall Sterling correctly when he was on the Order 66 Podcast a  couple of weeks ago, all of them were created using the Random Planet Generator that he wrote. Each of these planets if given a four page spread detailing the planet’s environment, populations, notable hazards, major locations, and adventure hooks. I haven’t had a chance to read about each of these planets in depth, but they all look like really, really cool locations.

Finally, Chapter Seven gives us another round of “mini-adventures” that we’ve seen in a lot of the recent books. Unfortunately, there is no full-length adventure this time around, but the mini-adventures look really, really good, especially the last one, titled “The Mask of Darth Nihilus” which includes a side-bar detailing this new, powerful Dark Side artifact, and a map of a very familiar looking freighter to those of you familiar with the name of the titled Sith Lord.

All in all, this is a fantastic book. Even if you never plan on including the themes discussed in this book in your games, it’s worth picking up just for the new feats, talents, and species, as well as the chapter on hazards and the beast  and planet generators. I feel like I’ll be so much more comfortable running hazards in my game after reading the chapter on it, and the information on creating beasts is priceless, and certainly helps me to re-evaluate some of the beasts I’ve created for my games.

It’s a shame that the line is ending, but if had to happen, I’m really, really happy to see it end like this. This is a fantastic book end to what has been an amazing system from its inception, and we have enough material in the 14 books to last us a good long time in our favorite galaxy far, far away…

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