Hullo, Gentle Readers. It’s no secret that I love me some Star Wars. Of all sci-fi franchises, it is by far my favorite, having grown-up with the original movies. I ran an Empire-period Star Wars Saga Edition campaign, organized a private viewing of Star Wars: A New Hope when the Special Editions started coming out in theaters, and my caricature at work (don’t ask) depicts me as a Jedi.
It’s no surprise, then, that my husband (who is even more of a Star Wars fan than I am) and I have been eagerly awaiting the new Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight – Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. While we were in California for the holidays, we stumbled across both a Beta copy of the RPG book and the “Beginner’s Game”. With some pushing by me, my hubby purchased both, and we’ve been checking them out.
I’ve delved into this fascinating game, and I’m pleased by what I see. I see a game that has the potential to truly capture the feel of a storyline that takes place “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
First of Three
Something that struck us both as we took a look was that there were no templates for creating Jedi characters. One thing all Star Wars RPGs have seemed to have difficulty tackling is the way to balance Jedi characters with each other. There’s a perfectly good reason why Jedi aren’t being dealt with in the game so far – this game is only number one of three.
Similar to the original concept of The One Ring RPG, this game is a narrow focus game for Star Wars. Rather than try and capture everything in one game, this particular game focuses on the people who live on the fringes of the Galactic Empire. Smugglers, bounty hunters, colonists, hired guns, and scoundrels of all sorts are available to play, and the game very much focuses on running a game for those kinds of characters.
Future planned releases include Age of Rebellion to cover spies, soldiers, and others who’re actively rebelling against the Empire and Destiny and Force, which will cover Jedi and other Force users.
Don’t get me wrong – there are rules for playing characters who’re Force-sensitive and even have some Force powers. These characters are going to be the exception rather than the rule, however, and they should have plenty of time before the third game comes out to figure out how to balance those Jedi in with everyone else.
The Dice Are Rolling
One of the things that stands out is that the game requires special, proprietary dice. The boxed set came with a set of these dice, and the book came with stickers for turning normal dice into these special dice. There’s also a $4.99 app for iPad and other mobile devices that can roll these dice for you.
The dice have different degrees of success, failure, advantages, and complications on them. This game doesn’t just measure whether you succeeded or failed. You may successfully blast the door lock, but then realize that those same controls would’ve extended the bridge for you. Or perhaps you’ll successfully intimidate the Stormtroopers and chase them…but then run into a whole hangar of Stormtroopers! You may even succeed in finding shelter in the asteroid field, but then discover that the cave you located is actually a giant space slug!
In other words, the dice can help drive the reverses of fortune that make a Star Wars movie great.
The concepts of talent trees are pretty familiar from various video games. They’re well-used here, giving various ways to specialize your character. You may be a bounty hunter, but within that concept, you may be an assassin, a gadgeteer, or a survivalist. Each specialization has its own talent tree possibilities, so even two survivalists can be very different from each other. It’s a great way to make sure your character is unique from any other.
Character creation is fast and easy, allowing one to make a character in just a few choices to get playing fast. A player comes up with a concept, works out the Obligations and Motivations that inspire the character to go out and have adventures (and that can cause difficulties during any given adventure), chooses a Race, a Career, a Specialization, spends some points to customize the character, and then is ready to play. And every adventuring group is assumed to have a ship, taking one of the trickiest of all pieces in Star Wars and making it a group-building activity rather than a concern.
Fight, Fight, Fight!
Combat is more abstract than a lot of other RPGs, and the default assumption is that the game will be played without miniatures and maps. The same dice-rolling mechanics follow into combat from the rest of the game, making it possible that advantage in a fight will transfer back and forth between sides.
Along with all of the normal rules, the concept of Destiny plays a strong role in combat. Players can use Destiny points to upgrade dice, increase successes, and even affected the battlefield (by adding cover and such). What’s fun about Destiny is that GMs can use it to be mean to the players. Every point that the GM spends gives a point to the players to use, and every point the players spend gives the GM a point to use. Once again, this is a great way for fate to rock back and forth between the heroes and their enemies.
Edge of the Empire is a really fast, rollicking Star Wars RPG that gives a lot of mechanics for building unique characters and for capturing that back and forth feel that’s so integral to Star Wars. While I haven’t played it yet, I’m very excited to do so, and I’ll be sure to let folks know what I think when I do.
Have you tried Edge of the Empire yet? Do you think a new Star Wars RPG is a good idea, or do you wish it had been left alone? How can they balance those pesky Jedi? Let us all know.