Star Wars: Collapse of the Republic Review

“The Clone Wars rage on. Both the GALACTIC REPUBLIC and the SEPARATIST ALLIANCE have had great gains and losses in territorial battles and planetary allegiances. Years of conflict have exposed doubts in the JEDI ORDER, as veteran clone troopers question their own role. Other organizations take advantage of the chaos of war to pursue their own agendas. Bounty hunters and criminals ply their trades. The NIGHTSISTERS of Dathomir conduct esoteric rituals to further their plots while the DEATH WATCH of Mandalore escalate their terrorist activities in the name of tradition. The Force brings these agents together in the most unexpected ways…” This is the end of the age of heroes, but has it saved the best for last? Let’s find out together and bring the Clone Wars to a close as we go chapter by chapter through Collapse of the Republic for Star Wars Roleplaying from Fantasy Flight Games!

Two things before we get into the nitty gritty details of the Collapse of the Republic. First, this book is an oddly shaped piece in the puzzle of FFG’s Star Wars. As an Era Sourcebook it is technically a stand-alone book in so far as you just need a core book from one of the three main lines to use it. Many of the core mechanics of Rise of the Separatists are included in CotR, such as Heroic play as an assumption and the starting gear packages for Jedi and Clone Soldiers. However, as we’ll see, the Jedi and Clone Soldier Careers as featured here feel a little … off without the specializations from RotS. So, you could get away with only getting a copy of CotR and playing in the closing days of the Clone Wars, but if you widen the scope to cover the entire war you’re probably going to feel the lack of Rise of the Separatists. 

Second, because it’s going to come up before I actually get to it in the book, Collapse does in fact cover some of the gaps I felt Rise missed, and none is more important than the mass combat rules. The actual rules are the second to last bit of material in the book, and they’re also supported by a number of the specializations in Collapse. I can see the logic of them being here and not in Rise; a lot of this book’s flavor text emphasizes how the war has escalated, narratively justifying the mechanical rules. Speaking of those specializations…

Soldiers and Politicians

There are four species in this book, and one of them is the Clone, which is another point in the ‘can stand on its own’ column relative to Rise. Nothing different to see here from their previous incarnation, which I’m just fine with.

Next up is the Dathomirian, who has an average line of characteristics with 100 XP to spend, along with a rank each in Coercion, Survival, and the Outdoorsman Talent. Much is made of the Dathomirians self-determination, strength, and discipline, as well as the culture’s murky relationship with the Force, the Nightsisters, and the Nightbrothers. Honestly, as much as I’m a fan of classic Jedi v. Sith stories, the non-standard Force users from other cultures have always been my jam, so it’s nice to see them here.

The arachnid Harch take slot number three with high Cunning and low Presence, 75 XP, a rank in Perception, an extra free maneuver thanks to all the extra limbs, and venomous fangs that enhance their Brawl attacks. It’s funny, in Rise it was pointed out that the level of Geonosian involvement in the war wasn’t too well-known, allowing stray Geonosians to avoid prejudice for their society’s choices. The Harch, however, are spoiling for a fight and an empire after getting smacked down by the Republic a couple decades ago. Fueled by militant patriotism, despite their traditionally individualistic values, most Harch are card-carrying supporters and members of the CIS.

The Karkarodon wrap up the new species for us: high Brawn and low Intellect, 90 XP, a rank in Athletics, Amphibious, and powerful Jaws that enhance their Brawl attacks (bit of a motif here I suppose). The shark-like species tend to have small social groups and no united identity, and are technically neutral in the war, but a vocal minority have taken a chance on supporting the CIS with dreams of ruling over more ocean worlds. I mean, these are shark people in space, and there’s a sidebar about how they created cyborg jellyfish to ride into battle. These folks sound pretty darn awesome to me.

Next we have the Careers and Specializations, and right away we’ve got something super interesting: a sidebar entitled “The Short Path to Power”. I noted in my review of Rise of the Separatists that I didn’t quite like the feel of the Jedi Knight’s prerequisite Force Rating 2. Now, as I discovered while making a party of Jedi and Clone Soldiers, this was less because of power level and more because a Heroic-level character couldn’t get far enough into the Knight tree to capture the feel of the spec, because they had to spend so much XP to even buy it in the first place.

What this sidebar does is offer a rule that lets a player, with the GM’s permission, spend 30 starting XP to gain Force Rating 2. While not cheap, it’s far cheaper than any other method of getting into Knight, and more to the point lets a character start as a Knight instead of dipping into Padawan first. The sidebar even provides narrative reasons, saying it could represent a Jedi whose training was cut short because of the war, and or a Jedi pushed into a military command. Speaking of which . . .

The Jedi General, like the Knight, requires a Force Rating of 2 (and thus can also benefit from the Short Path rule). Gaining the skills of Knowledge (Warfare), Leadership, Piloting (Planetary), and Vigilance, this is the Jedi as military leader. Several expected Talents – Command, Commanding Presence – make their appearance. Unsurprisingly the General also has several Talents that focus on keeping their subordinates alive: Preemptive Intervention sends the General leaping into the melee, Fall Back! Lets allies disengage as an out-of-turn incidental, and Stand Firm increases allied Wound and Strain Thresholds.

They do use the Force though, both adding dice to Leadership checks thanks to Enhanced Leader and to mass combat checks thanks to Exemplar of the Republic. That the Dark Side clouds the war is not ignored, however. The General has two Talents which generate Conflict just for having them: Inspiring Kill, which lets allies recover Strain after seeing the General strike down an enemy, and Knowledge is Strength, which increases the General’s Force Rating by their ranks in Knowledge (Warfare).

The Jedi Master, on the other hand, doubles down on the more centered and reflective side of things. This specialization requires a Force Rating of 3, which isn’t completely out of reach thanks to the Short Path but remains a non-option for you first tree. The Master gains Charm, Knowledge (Core Worlds), Knowledge (Education), and Perception as skills, and a number of Talents are no-brainers for a character who is supposed to be trying for wisdom: Confidence, Nobody’s Fool, Researcher, and so on. Then it’s a deep dive into mastery of the Force.

The Center of Being line is in there, increasing the Critical Rating of attacks against the Master (along with Sum Djem for disarming foes). Flow Through All Things lets them recover strain equal to their Force Rating, Bound Together reduces Strain being suffered by allies, and Master of the Order lets them use two Destiny Points on a single action. The Force is My Ally permits use of a power as a maneuver, Powerful Ally means they can spend a Destiny Point to use a power they haven’t bought (or an un-purchased Control upgrade for a power they have), and There Is No Try lets them spend a Point to let an ally automatically succeed on a check!

So there’s your Yoda spec.

The Short Path ditches my only real problem with the Jedi Career (which required a fair bit more than Heroic-level XP to get rid of, otherwise). The General and the Master are both effective, they’re both very thematic, and they fill out the Jedi Career as a whole quite nicely alongside the Knight and the Padawan.

Send in the clones!

The ARC Trooper spec for the Clone Soldier is a more of a loner than his brothers, which makes sense on account of being special forces, which tracks with the skills of Coordination, Mechanics, Piloting (Planetary), and Stealth. The ARC Trooper focuses on getting in fast and dealing damage before the clankers can react: Quick Strike, Knockdown, Point Blank, Swift, Clanker Killer. There are new Talents that really focus on the Captain Rex dual-wielding gunslinger style of play, too.

Guns Blazing costs some Strain, but eliminates the increase in difficulty for attacking with two weapons. Natural Commando allows for rerolls on Stealth and Ranged (Light) checks. Rapid Fire grants the Autofire quality to a Ranged (Light) check, although the weapon(s) run out of ammo afterwards. Tactical Evasion upgrades incoming attacks for every maneuver the ARC Trooper has used to move, while Get the Drop is the token help-your-brothers Talent, adding the ARC Trooper’s ranks in Stealth to allied initiative checks.

Compared to the Clone Officer’s front-line-leader and tactics, the Clone Commander (Knowledge [Core Worlds], Knowledge [Warfare], Leadership, Perception) is more of a general and a strategist. Not that they can’t lead from the front: First Among Brothers, Clanker Killer, Commanding Presence, and the like see to that. Its standout Talents lean heavily towards mass combat, though.

A Commander can upgrade mass combat checks with Knowledge (Warfare) instead of Leadership with Clever Commander, can do the same while not even present for a battle with Enduring Presence, and may suffer a Critical Injury (or sacrifice an item or individual of personal value) to reroll a mass combat check with At Any Cost. Other notable Talents include the Formation Tactics line that upgrades the difficulty of attacks against allies, Ingrained Loyalty that can manipulate a Challenge die’s result, and the ability to gain a narrative advantages over an enemy leader with Practiced Strategist’s opposed Knowledge (Warfare) roll.

The Clone Veteran is the opposite of the ‘shinies’ who have yet to get their armor scuffed, and it shows. Veterans get Melee, Resilience, Skullduggery, and Survival, and have a lot of basic but solid Talents that show their experience: Grit, Toughened, Quick Draw, Rapid Reaction, Clanker Killer, Combat Veteran, Lethal Blows, etc. The tree leans into a melee build with Improved Clanker Killer decreasing the critical rating of Melee/Brawl checks against droids, and Multiple Opponents adding a Boost to Melee/Brawl/Lightsaber checks when engaging same.

The Veteran’s survivability takes a jump with Known Programming which upgrades the difficulty for one type of droid’s attacks against the Veteran and nearby allies, and the Talent can be Improved to upgrade allies’ attacks against that same droid type. Finally, Survivor’s Instinct lets the Veteran spend a Destiny Point when they suffer a Critical Injury, forcing the attacker to roll twice for the Injury and allowing the Veteran to choose which one they suffer.

I think this is another successful outing for the Clone Soldier. These three specs feel a little less . . . ‘basic’ than the three featured in Rise, which pretty much fits the pattern of the Career sourcebooks. They’re each effective in their niche, and even the lone wolf ARC Trooper helps his brothers out from time to time, maintaining that design across the Career. The Clone Commander and the Clone Officer might end up stepping on one another’s toes a bit, though, so if they’re in a campaign together they’ll want to put some thought into not overlapping too much.

In addition to the completion of the Jedi and Clone Soldier Careers, however, we get another four Universal Specializations.

The Death Watch Warrior is exactly what it says it is, a Mandalorian fighter who rejects their planet’s current pacifistic society. Aside from the skills of Coercion, Mechanics, Piloting (Planetary), and Ranged (Light) the first thing to note about the Warrior is that they’ll be hard to put down thanks to Talents like Armor Master, Jump Up, and Sidestep. The rest of their Talents usually emphasize the use of a jetpack and hit and run tactics.

Appropriately enough Hit and Run lets them jetpack out to short range after an attack at engaged range, Momentum increases damage by the number of range bands moved, and Death From Above knocks enemies prone and may even stagger them with a Triumph. Jetpack Expertise can remove System Strain from a jetpack using advantage from any check. Finally, the Warrior commits to the end with To The Death, which lets them suffer strain to add +10 per strain suffered to critical rolls they inflict . . . and to ones they suffer.

The Nightsister is a particularly unique one, and not just narratively speaking. First off, quite contrary to what I expected, you do not gain a Force Rating upon selecting it, instead gaining Discipline, Knowledge (Lore), Stealth, and Survival as Career skills. You do gain a Force Rating with the new Witchcraft Talent for 5 XP, however, and there’s also a Force Rating Talent at the bottom of the tree, making this the only ‘Sensitive’ Universal Spec that nets you both new skills and Force ability.

The rest of the tree’s Talents focus on either the tough survivability of those on Dathomir – Expert Tracker, Toughness, Sixth Sense, Intimidating, etc. – or their use of Nightsister ‘magicks’. Notable is the Ichor string of talents that allow a Nightsister to enhance weaponry, heal wound, or even temporarily increase Force Rating, while the Coven Talent allows a character to reroll Force Die for every ally who also has the Talent. 

Curiously, the Nightsister does not have any Conflict-generating Talents. I guess they really don’t care about the Jedi or the Sith!

The Senator (Charm, Deception, Knowledge [Education], Negotiation) threw me for a loop at first glance, but it’s actually a fair bit different from the Republic Representative. First, the book explains that this could be a Republic Senator or a Separatist one. Second, the Senator is slightly less of a wheeler-and-dealer and more of a leader, although it’s interesting to note the tree lacks Kill with Kindness but does have Plausible Deniability. Hmm. T

hey’re Nobody’s Fool, and they’re Savvy (adding Boost to Charm and Negotiation checks), but they also have Inspiring Rhetoric and their Blather can disorient or even stagger opponents. One particularly interesting Talent is Resource Allocation, which lets them use Charm or Negotiation to increase the size of their side’s forces for the duration of the battle.

Finally we have the Separatist Commander (Coercion, Knowledge [Warfare], Leadership, Vigilance), dedicated to leading the droid armies of the Confederacy of Independent Systems whether they’re a system defense force officer who has stepped up or a tactical droid literally built for the job. It’s not a nice job: Cruel Commander uses Coercion for mass combat checks, and the Scathing Tirade tree gets taken all the way to Supreme.

Speaks Binary gets taken all the way to Supreme as well, though, greatly improving the abilities of NPC droids. Droid Commander allows for the Field Commander Talent (also Improvable) to be used as a maneuver when all affected allies are droids. Amusingly, Lead From The Front lets the Commander spend a Destiny Point to upgrade allied attacks after a successful Leadership check . . .  while Lead From Behind directs an attack that hits the Commander to an NPC ally instead.

. . . this is a bad guy book. No, really, despite having put some thought into what playing for the Empire would be like, it didn’t occur to me until now that you could have a perfectly viable campaign wherein you play Separatists. That’s a narrative lack of vision on my part, but with these four Universal trees Collapse fills in the mechanical gap, and we’ll see some other ways it does so later in the book. If you’d stripped out the Jedi and Clone stuff and slapped ‘Separatist Sourcebook” on the cover, it would not be inappropriate.

I think I have my next Meet the Party idea.

We’re not quite done with the Clones and the Jedi, however, because both Careers are getting Signature Abilities! Just one each, but they’re doozies.

Unmatched Teamwork allows Clones to assist one another as an incidental instead of a maneuver for the rest of the encounter, but its upgrades quickly ramp that up from nice bonus to huge boon. Increase Range means the clone in question can provide assistance from much farther away, they can Remove Setback, and Camaraderie heals Strain whenever assistance is provided. It’s really about Increase Effect though, which instead of the normal benefit of assistance starts adding Success to allied checks, eventually building up to adding Triumph.

Peerless Interception is how you get an impenetrable barrier of lightsaber blades for the Jedi, reducing additional damage for every Parry and Reflect by the Jedi’s Force Rating, for two rounds. Increase Duration and Reduce Strain are obvious but quite helpful upgrades. Activate Quality lets them do just that for an item when using Improved Parry/Reflect to inflict a hit, while Critical Counter lets them tack on a Critical Injury if their attacker rolled a Despair. Effortless Counter, however, is truly devastating, allowing the Jedi to use the Improved versions of Parry and Reflect without the need to spend Threat or Despair.

I’d have liked to see the Jedi and Clone Soldier get two Abilities each like all the other Careers, but that may just be me feeling greedy. As is both fit what we’ve seen in the source material, are quite powerful, and look like a lot of fun to play with.

Tools of Destruction

Guns, and ships, and everything else you need to wage war on a galactic scale between clones and droids and everyone caught in the middle. In addition to things like Phase II clone armor you’ve got your Mando weapons, your Nightsister weapons, specialized clone armor like the Katarn-class commando armor. Lots of good stuff that players will want to kit out their characters with (or the GM can use on them).

There’s less to talk about on the rules side, because like I said the starting load-out mechanics have been ported over from Rise (although here the Clone Soldiers are getting issued their Phase II duds by default). There are some additional Special-Issue Equipment choices, though, such as soldiers on an Aerial Assault mission receiving a jetpack and whipcord attachment while troops on a Security Detail receive stun cuffs and proximity detonators. 

There are a ton of vehicles, from the AT-RT to the ARC-170, from the Droid Tri-Fighter to the Providence-class dreadnought. Curiously, another of my issues with Rise is addressed via the presence of the V-19 Torrent fighter and the Acclamator-class Planetary Assault Ship that were missing from that book. I’m still not sure why they’re here instead of in Rise, but hey, at least we have them now.

Galaxy at War

This section of the book focuses on the state of the Clone Wars as they draw closer to their inevitable conclusion. The book goes into a fair amount of depth on the effects that the conflict has had on the galaxy, first focusing on the Republic and the Jedi, then the Separatists (more fodder for a CIS campaign), then the criminal underworld, and finally the Sith and other dark side factions. Everything about the information conveyed here brings the vibe of a spiraling disaster that very few of its participants have any real grip on, which makes perfect sense because that’s basically what happened in the movies, shows, and books.

We get some more canon characters with stats here: Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker for the Jedi, Admiral Trench for the Separatists, Aurra Sing and Cad Bane for the criminals, and Maul, Savage, and Mother Talzin for the dark side. Even here the sense of doom is pervasive. Tano is already out of the Order, Skywalker is teetering on the edge, there are ten different merc companies and pirate bands prospering in the sidebars alone, and the first header under the Sith’s entry is “Cleaning Up Loose Ends”.

Next up we have some worlds at war: Coruscant, Dathomir, Felucia, Kashyyyk, Mandalore, and Utapau. Each once again comes with a Modular Encounter, some extra adversaries, and a fairly detailed description of what the war has done to these planets (such as Coruscant’s increasing militarization and the Shadow Collective coup on Mandalore). No let’s-go-to-Tatooine-for-the-nth-time duds here.

Battles Across The Stars

This final section of the book splits itself between talking about the nature of stories around the collapse of the Republic and the mechanics you need to play it out. The first part is titled Last Days of the Republic, and is as grim as it sounds. With headers like Shifting Allegiances, Unending Battle, Losing Moral High Ground, and Wheels Within Wheels the book discusses ways players can get caught up in the war, and some of the story points a GM might want to pursue.

Next up is a bit about Experienced Characters. This is primarily a GM-centric section with advice on how to engage with PCs who have been around the track a few times: breaking out the Daunting and Formidable difficulties more often while not bothering much with Easy or Average, pushing characters out of their comfort zones, and giving them narrative responsibilities as well as mechanical challenges. This is where Collapse discusses the three core rulebooks, as each can bring different kinds of responsibility. To represent the growing power of the dark side, this section also recommends a Two Dark Side Destiny Point Minimum at the start of each session.

We get into the themes of a late-stage Clone Wars campaign with Betrayal, Death, and Redemption. Character death receives what must be the longest treatise in the history of FFG Star Wars, addressing how NPC deaths can be used by the GM but also going into detail on player character death, including how to bring in replacement characters so a player doesn’t just leave the game. From there this section goes into the messy side of the war, the moral quandaries that often confront characters . . . none more divisive than Order 66 and the end of the war. There are no hard mechanics for the Clone Soldiers who might try to resist the order, nor an easy get-out-of-death card for the Jedi, but there’s good advice for dealing with the end of the war and betrayals in general: frank discussion, addressing it ahead of time, and working together.

Notably, that Separatist leadership was slaughtered by Darth Vader gets addressed, pointing out that Separatist-aligned characters are likely to be holding a grudge against the new Empire. Nascent rebels, perhaps?

It’s not all bad, though, and this section closes out by talking about atonement. Atonement and redemption are kiiiiind of big deals for Star Wars, and talking about the stories they can enable is both helpful and a welcome glimmer of light in what are otherwise dark times.

The narrative chunk ends, appropriately, with After The War. The transition from Republic to Empire is discussed in some detail, but the real meat of it addresses the Jedi and Clones, with a nod towards the effect on the Fringe. This is a great section for what it does in terms of talking about how play can continue into the dark times and maybe even all the way to the ‘normal’ core rulebooks, but in particular I want to quote the most important line: “It is important to remember that the Player Characters are not bound by the constraints of what happens on the screen or to other characters.” Good advice for any game with an existing canon, really.

The book wraps up with the mass combat rules, as discussed, and a section on Adversaries. Not much detail to go into here, although I will say you get a lot of different NPCs to work with, and a whopping dozen types of droid. The Separatist Commanders will be happy. 

Conclusion

If you’ve got Rise of the Separatists, I don’t think you need Collapse of the Republic from a mechanical standpoint. You could probably muddle through well enough by homebrewing a few things. You’re given a lot of reasons to want Collapse of the Republic though, from additional options for existing characters to entirely new story avenues with the Universal specs, and there’s no denying the mechanics are helpful (particularly mas combat). In addition to that, you might just upgrade that want to a need when it comes to the story ideas and advice in this book. The war circa the Battle of Coruscant is a much different beast than the war circa the Battle of Geonosis, and the help provided for using the changed themes and the challenging story beats is very good.

If you’re coming at this era of Star Wars Roleplaying cold and don’t already have Rise of the Separatists, you’ll be fine with just Collapse of the Republic so long as you stick to its specific era (later seasons of The Clone Wars, Revenge of the Sith), although you might feel a little squeezed for options without the Padawan, the more run-of-the-mill Clone Soldiers, and so on in certain play styles. If you’re not fighting for the Republic, though, or at least not as Jedi and clones, well in that case you’ll have an easier time of it.

Final word: Rise of the Separatists got my curiosity, Collapse of the Republic got my attention, and together they’re giving me ideas. Get one or get both, but if you’re interested in playing in the twilight of the Republic, they’ll be money well spent.

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