When I first learnt that West End Games a companion to the Tales of the Jedi comics, I was overjoyed. I had enjoyed the comic books immensely, and still believe them to be the best that Dark Horse has produced so far in the Star Wars Universe. The group I am currently a member of attempted a Tales of the Jedi campaign earlier, but stopped it due to numerous difficulties. Now with this companion, we plan to return to the fascinating world of Star Wars once more.
The Tales of the Jedi Companion weighs in at a decent 176 pages, a little on the light side but by no means too thin. It is a hardback cook at least for the time being and is adorned with a beautiful piece of Dave Dorman art, one taken from the covers of the comic book series. It should be noted that the companion only covers the first two series in the Tales of the Jedi universe: Tales of the Jedi (comprising the "Beast Wars of Onderon" and "The Saga of Nomi Sunrider") and The Freedon Nadd Uprising. I assume that West End Games will eventually produce at guide to The Sith War and maybe even the two prequels The Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire (the latter being less likely).
This works well for you as a Games Master, as the universe spanning events in The Sith War are eight years in the future, and allow some time for the characters to enjoy a build up of Sith power. As suggested you can slowly introduce the Sith, and then use the events in The Sith War as a backdrop for an epic involving the characters. The book is divided into thirteen sections, each of which I will explain in a little detail.
After the Introduction (including a little Star Wars style opening title sequence), the book begins with An Era of Conflict. It begins with a brief introduction to the universe of the Tales of the Jedi before launching in a detailed synopsis of each of the comic books: "Beast Wars of Onderon", "The Saga of Nomi Sunrider" The Freedon Nadd Uprising. This is good is you haven't read the comic books, but I wouldn't suggest anyone try without having read them first. they are re essential for giving your campaigns a feel for the universe that this companion doesn't seem to provide. You can easily by both as soft covers.
This is followed by The Jedi, a description of each of the main characters in the comic book series: Andur Sunrider (who is dead?), Arca Jeth, Cay Qel-Droma, Chamma, Dace Diath, Kith Kark, Nomi Sunrider, Ood Bnar, Oss Wilum, Qrrl Toq, Shoaneb Culu, Thon, Tott Doneeta and the infamous Ulic Qel-Droma. Included is some excellent background details of the characters, most of which was not revealed in the comics. Insightful and useful. Statistics are given, but I would have preferred that West End Games provided a few more characters. Jedi Powers is next, bringing together all the different force powers that a Jedi can be learn. Details about using the force arenŐt reiterated (you still need a copy of the rules to use this companion) though there are a few extra details. Each of the force powers are listed under the appropriate force skill.
Sith Reborn and Sith Powers are to the Sith what The Jedi and Jedi Powers are to the Jedi. The first gives the same kind of details about the Sith that appear in the comics - Amanoa, Freedon Nadd, Novar, Ommin and Warb Null - and the second gives a description of sith powers (you guessed didn't you?) including the Sith holocron. Important for you're Sith NPCs.
Neutrals rounds out the character descriptions and statistics, with those for non-Jedi and non-Sith - everyone else. They are listed under the classes of people which best describes them: criminals (Bogga the Hutt), Diplomats (Netus), Droids (A-3DO), Explorers, Force-Users, Information Brokers, Jump Beacon Patrols, Pirates (Finhead Stonebone), Rocket Jumpers and Traders. Good for giving you an idea of who else the characters are going to bump into.
Species deals with races not covered in the other source books (I feel that Galaxy Guide 4: Aliens and Galaxy Guide 12: Aliens - Enemies would be useful): Miraluka, Nazzar, Vultan and Zexx. Creatures is the same for non-sentient aliens: Boma Beasts, Colossus Wasps, Gorm-Worm, Hssiss, Neek and Warbeasts.
Two underdone sections are Vehicles and Starships and Technology which detail exactly what their titles deal with. Considering the universe is 4000 years before Skywalker strutted his stuff, you'd expect their would be some difference between technology. It seems not. Exact for the pulse weapons replacing blast weapons and hyperspace travel being a little iffy, the universe is the same. Doesn't stick right . . .
Sites is also underdone, with descriptions of planets shown in the comics. Reference is made to the planets you can use, but . . . you're going to have to get the other books.
The last section Running a Tales of the Jedi Campaign (except for the solitaire adventure which I skipped) was less helpful that I expected. It gives you a brief overview of the universe, a few hints on running a campaign and that's about it. Ten pages to guide you on what to do and not to do.
What am I getting at? You get exactly what the title says, a companion to the comic book series, no more and no less. My problem was I was expecting too much, mainly due to my enjoyment of the series. I wanted more, more, more. This is probably the most exciting er to play Star Wars as the universe is almost completely unpolluted by heroes, allowing you complete freedom in what you can do. Sure there are the heroes of the series, but that's about it. And that's what the book allows you to do, and why it has so little detail. So you can make up your own stuff.
As a side note, the artwork is disappointing, mainly lifted from the comics. After seeing the few original pieces in the chapter dividers, I wondered why they didn't have more, because the original stuff was great. There are colour plates (counted as pages) which are the covers from the comics as well as some of the interior panels. Uninspiring stuff.
Summary: The Tales of the Jedi Companion is your tool to set adventures in the most exciting era of all, but a lot of the work is yours. Little is giving in detail outside the series which allows for maximum flexibility. In some ways your are better of just using the comics books, but I feel the companion is an excellent reference for the comic books. Highly recommended.[an error occurred while processing this directive]