Feats: Feats are very similar to basic d20. The “+2 bonus to two skills” feats have been removed. Skill focus gives you a +5 bonus. Bull Rush has been renamed Bantha Rush. Also, you get a lot of feats. Every other level in a base class gives you a bonus feat. Every third character level gives you a feat.
The Good: In general, feats seem a bit simpler.
The Bad: A number of feats have odd prerequisites – mostly ranged attack feats which have strength minimums. The Dodge feat is unchanged from D&D – and is eclipsed by Martial Arts I, which does everything it does plus some other stuff.
The Force: Use the Force is a skill that has some basic abilities attached to it – precognitive flashes, minor telekinesis, and a wee bit of telepathy. In order to make Use the Force checks, you need the Force Sensitivity feat (which Jedi get for free). There are also force points, which function for most PCs like action points but which can be used by people with other force abilities to power them. These other force abilities come in a variety of forms. First, there are Force Talents – these are talent trees open to anyone with the Force Sensitivity feat. Force talents are grouped in the familiar Alter/Sense/Control trio and include things like Force Perception (use your Use the Force skill in place of the Perception skill) and… ummm… some other stuff. Second, there are Force Powers, which you gain by taking the Force Training feat (which gives you your Wisdom modifier in Force Powers. Force Powers are usable once per encounter and include things like Force Grip, Mind Tricks, Force Lightning, and Move Object. Third, there are Force Techniques – special abilities gained by prestige classes at 7th-11th level, and, finally, there are Force Secrets – special abilities gained by prestige classes at 12th level or above. There are some Dark Side mechanics. Some powers (like Force Lightning) automatically increase your Dark Side score. Also, you can pretty easily play a PC who is from a tradition of force users other than the jedi or sith.
The Good: You can do pretty much everything that the Jedi and Sith in the movies did. The Dark Side mechanics are pretty clear without being too intrusive.
The Bad: Force Talents. Force Powers. Force Techniques. Force Secrets. Force Points. Force This. Force That. Confuddling terminology makes me want to cry. Also, the limited use on force powers is sort of weird. Isn’t it fairly standard for force users in the movies to throw multiple large objects around in a single scene?
Equipment: There’s a fairly straightforward list. There aren’t a lot of options, but there are enough to get by on. There’s plenty of room for an equipment supplement.
Combat: There is no armor class. Instead, attack rolls are opposed by a character’s Reflex Defense (similar to d20’s reflex save). Movement is measured in squares (1.5 meters) rather than feet. There are no 5-foot (or 1-square) steps. There are, however, still attacks of opportunity. All characters get damage bonuses based on their character level. Hit points work as in normal d20, but characters get triple-max hp at first level. There is a damage threshold that plays an important role. There are ‘condition steps’ that remind me a bit of the Storyteller system – these represent things like stunning and such. Things seem streamlined, but I’m not sure how it will play, yet.
Level, redux: It is important to note that character level factors into a lot of things directly (either on a 1-1 or 1/2-1 basis): damage rolls, defenses (Ref, Fort, Will), and skills. On the one hand, this will guarantee a basic competence that can be expected from a character of a given level. On the other, it seems like character level might be the defining characteristic of many characters… which is odd.
The Book Itself: A lot has been made of the size and shape of the book: it is SQUARE and NINE INCHES! I don’t really care. The book size and shape is fine. It doesn’t bug me. What does bug me is the big fold-out map thing that they stuck in it about 3/4 of the way through. If you’re going to do something like that, put it at the end of the book, please.
Coming soon: my thoughts on making a Star Wars Saga Edition PC…