ART LYON: design, editing, writing, illustration, digital coloring, and other arcane secrets.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE 

An evolving review, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the game
Part 4

FFG-SW-covers

In my past 3 posts on the subject of Fantasy Flight GamesStar Wars: Edge of the Empire role-playing game, I discussed the rules’ unique and dynamic dice mechanic. I haven’t mentioned FFG’s other products in that line, Star Wars: Age of Rebellion and Star wars: Force and Destiny, or the Beginner Game boxed versions of each of those three titles because I have no experience with them. However, all their Star Wars rpg products use the same system, so my thoughts about EotE would apply to the entire line.

This post will focus on ways I would simplify the rules by focusing on the most compelling aspect of the game’s dice mechanic, regardless of whether one is using the game’s dice mechanic as-is or some alternative

As-is, the system uses three kinds of dice with positive results on them, and three kinds with negative results on them. The most commonly-rolled dice have the most common results on them (Success and Failure), the less-often rolled dice have a mix of those most-common and some less-common results (Advantage and Threat), and the rarest dice have more of the least common results (Triumph and Despair).

I think the three-tiered scale of outcome severity is a sweet-spot for a game trying to emulate the pulp drama sensibilities of the Star Wars movies and animated series.

My basic proposal is to use that scale for everything. I’ve discussed my frustrations with the system’s existing dice pool system, and how it seems like a barrier to new, casual, and less mechanically-minded players, but here I’m going to focus on this three-tiered idea.

As far as I can see, the possible results of an attack on a character in the Star Wars movies and tv series are as follows:

  1. Miss; no damage.
  2. Grazed; superficial damage; no real damage,  but a point has been made: things just got real!
  3. Stunned, dazed, or otherwise temporarily debilitated but still basically functional.
  4. Unconscious or otherwise taken out of action.
  5. Dead. Possibly cut in half.

Setting aside “miss” and “dead”, we have three common possible negative results.

Looking at SW:EOTE’s three tiers, though, there’s actually six possible outcomes (three pairs), so what if we add three possible positive outcomes of being attacked?

  1. Alerted: this offers the attacked character a free use of an appropriate skill to assess the situation.
  2. Some kind of advantage.
  3. Turning the tables.

I admit that those last two examples are pretty vague. I don’t know how exactly to implement that, and the system as-is already includes possible negative outcomes for the attacker other than just failure. I think what I’m imagining is a system where each roll represents an exchange of attacks and defenses, rather than each roll representing each attack or action. I think that’s pulpier and more Star Wars-y, but I’ll have to think on that some more.

Let’s look at ranged attacks. In something as pulpy as Star Wars, the range of a target is one of the following:

  1. Zero: punching, kicking, lifting people up off the floor by their throats.
  2. Nearby: hurling grappling hook swinglines, throwing someone a weapon.
  3. Shooting: blasters, bowcasters. (Hey, that could be a game: Blasters & Bowcasters!)
  4. Long-range shooting: specialized and/or large ranged weapons, like sniper rifles and mounted weapons.
  5. Out of range.

So, again, dropping “zero” and “out of range”, we have three levels.

You would need a separate scale for space ship combat, when it comes to range as well as damage.

Where I’d really like to infuse the system with this concept is to rate all weapons, armor, and equipment in either the number of extra dice that the item grants you, or in a number of one or more of the six possible dice results you would add to a roll involving that item. For instance, a blaster pistol might give you an extra one of the lowest level of positive dice,  a blaster rifle gives you an extra two of those, and a mounted blaster gives you those two as well but also a mid-level positive die. Or you could have a blaster give you one extra Success, a blaster rifle gives you two extra Successes, and a mounted blaster gives you two Successes and an Advantage. Again, I’m just spit-balling here.

Armor would be rated in the number of Successes it negates, or the number of negative dice it adds to the attacker’s roll.

By putting everything on the same scale and relating everything to those six possible outcomes, you eliminate the bigger numbers the system has for various damage thresholds and other stats for weapons, armor, and other equipment.

Come to think of it, let’s take a step back, actually, and look at the Characteristics that are one of the primary ways SW:EOTE characters are defined: Brawn, Agility, Intellect, Cunning, Willpower, and Presence. Conveniently, that’s six, but I’m tempted to cut it to three. You would lose some of the distinctions between characters, but it might be best to express that through SW:EOTE’s Skills and Talents anyway. So, for now I’ll go with Body, Mind, and Spirit.

To express further distinctions through Skills, I wouldn’t attach each Skill to a specific Characteristic the way the game does as is, but allow a system where a Skill can be connected to whatever Characteristic seems appropriate for the situation. So, for instance, you could connect a “Guns” skill to Body for shooting, but to Mind for attempts at repair or assessing the market value of a weapon.

That’s about all I have on that for now.

Next: probably my last post on SW:EotE for the time being. I’ll be discussing Obligation, Motivation, and designing games based on well-known, highly popular, mass media properties.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

RPG Blog Carnival, February 2016:
HOW DO YOU INSPIRE YOUR PLAYERS?

rpg-blog-carnival

This is either my first RPG Blog Carnival post or my first in a very long time. I’m just going to answer the questions posed in the February, 2016 monthly topic intro post.

What do you do to get players excited and eager to play each session?

On a session-by-session basis, I don’t, and that’s something I should look into. I guess I’m assuming too much, that if they turn up then they must be interested and motivated to continue playing. That’s a reasonable assumption, but shouldn’t be taken for granted.

How have you gotten players keen to dive into that new campaign you just spent weeks preparing?

I just pitch a few ideas and run with whatever garners the most interest. Increasingly, I involve the player’s more in setting creation.

Once in a while, I’ll find something like this D-Day paratrooper jump scene from Band of Brothers, which I showed my players before the first session of a short-run Godlike game I ran, or the opening theme sequence from the 2001 Justice League animated series, which I showed before running a four-color Mutants & Masterminds game.

What approaches do you take to keep players’ faces out of their cells phones and focused on your game?

I’m constantly on the lookout for waning interest or lack of focus in my players and in myself. I try to never stay on any one action or decision for long, whether it be mine or something in the player’s hands.

What do you do to inspire your players?

In the big scheme of things, I only run settings or genres that have cache with my group. On a smaller scale, I try to feed them what they want in the moment, altering my short-term plans at the drop of a hat.

Do you make handouts, use technology, suggest books to read, GM a certain way, use player surveys?

I’ve rarely had a group that would read anything unless forced to.

I’ve been looking at infinitely-scalable map-making using something like Mischief, as a gaming resource that could be built up over time and fun to interact with and contribute to.

I’ve also been building boards on Pinterest lately, but haven’t actually run the games yet that would use them. Those boards consist of images of races and species, creatures, character ideas, and locations. I would make the races or species stuff available to the players, and share the rest as the players encounter those people and places.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE 

An evolving review, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the game
Part 3

swe02_boxlayout

I’m going to start getting more into my critique and evolving, probably incomplete hack of Fantasy Flight GamesStar Wars: Edge of the Empire roleplaying game. I’ll be talking about the game’s dice mechanic, but for a detailed explanation of how that works in the game as published, see my previous blog post.

Basically, SW:EOTE uses a dice pool system for task resolution. There are six kinds of dice – seven if Force Dice come into play.  Those six kinds of dice each have a different color, so it’s easy to grab the ones you need, but the exact number of each kind of die will change with every new situation.

Those six kinds of dice come in two types: positive dice and negative dice.

There are six different possible results on them: Success,  Advantage, and Triumph are the positive results, and Failure, Threat,  and Despair are the negative results.

Each of those six possible results are more common on some of the six kinds of dice than on others.

Some negative results cancel out positive results.

Some die faces have more than one result on them.

One or more faces on each die are blank, with no result.

Every time I describe this dice system, no matter how I slice it I’m struck by how awkward it is. There are aspects of it that would become second nature with practice, but that seems like an unnecessary barrier to new and/or casual gamers. Being such a high-profile, cross-media, all-ages popular culture powerhouse, a priority in designing a Star Wars roleplaying game should be accessibility.

But what I also see are seeds of a simpler, more streamlined system that integrates the excellent three-tiered positive and negative results idea throughout the system. More on that later.

Now, I am not qualified to analyze the probabilities of rolling any given result on N number of dice of X types, so I’m hesitant to suggest an alternate dice system. Any alterations are going to change the odds of one thing or another, but what follows are three options I’ve come across that could be improvements.

Trentin C. Bergeron (user name: TreChriron) offers an option on the rpg.net forums that uses common six-sided dice only, in just three different colors. That simplifies the dice themselves right off the bat. A base “chance roll” of 3d6 is rolled simultaneously with positive and negative dice, the net result of the latter two adjusting the former.

Basically, you come up with two totals and adjust one with the other. The net result is compared to a target number of 13 to determine how well you succeed or fail. Rolling doubles gets you your Advantages and Threats, and rolling triples gets you Triumph and Despair results. I’m a big fan of rewarding multiples on a roll.

Overall, it seems a little awkward still and rough around the edges, but worth pursuing.

img_0771
Over at Yaruki Zero Games, Ewen Cluney has created Destiny Dice, his own open license dice mechanic modeled after SW:EOTE’s dice pool system. Destiny Dice is designed for use in Evil Hat’s Fate games, but could easily be used for FFG’s Star Wars rpgs as well. He’s come up with much more obvious, intuitive symbols for the six possible results, and uses customized 6-sided dice only. He hasn’t eliminated much of the awkwardness of reading the results, though.

He also replaces the Triumph/Despair poles with Hope/Despair which both makes more sense and is a nice reference to what started it all, A New Hope. One could also go with Triumph/Defeat, which also makes more sense. This might all be the pedantic grammarian in me coming out, though.

d7754f2093c792793834837267b8d696_original
Bill Edmunds’ Meta Dice are also a promising replacement for SW:EOTE’s dice, and have exciting applications for many other games as well. Definitely worth a look.

If I were to choose or design an alternative dice mechanic to replace FFG’s – which, as I mentioned above, I do not feel qualified to do – I would want fewer kinds of dice, only one result per die face, more intuitive icons, and maybe no blank faces. I would base the negative dice on the stats (Characteristic scores, Skill ranks, etc.) of the opposition.

However, I’m getting into the topic for my next post: changing how characters are built, and integrating character and other stats into the existing dice mechanic.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE 

An evolving review, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the game
Part 2

swe02_boxlayout0130161747

For my previous and first post on Fantasy Flight GamesStar Wars: Edge of the Empire, go here. SW:EOTE uses unique, proprietary, colored dice for its task resolution system. There are “positive dice” and “negative dice”, meaning dice that you roll to reflect strengths and advantages your character has, and dice you roll to represent weaknesses and challenging conditions.

AnP
Basically, if your character has a Skill, that Skill has an associated Characteristic. The Characteristics are the bare bones of a character in EotE, and Skills are, well, skills. Together, they determine the number of green Ability Dice and yellow Proficiency Dice you roll to accomplish things.

B
If you have a significant advantage in the situation at hand, you might also add light blue Boost Dice.

Together, those are the 3 kinds of positive dice.
You will probably also have to roll some negative dice:
Neg dice.jpg

There’s purple Difficulty Dice for basic problems or resistance, black Setback Dice for unusual complications, and red Challenge Dice for big-time threatening situations.

This assemblage of dice constitutes your dice pool for the situation at hand. You roll them and then start figuring out the results.

I say ”figuring” because there’s some complexity to reading these dice.

If you’re feeling lost, just ignore everything I’ve said so far, because it’s kind of irrelevant – which I admit is a weird thing to say, but I think it’s true. I will get into that more here, but mostly in upcoming posts on this topic.

So, there are three levels of possible positive results:
Untitled-1Untitled-2Untitled-3
    Success     Advantage   Triumph

There are also three levels of possible negative results:
 Untitled-4Untitled-5Untitled-6
     Failure       Threat        Despair

 

Success and Failure results are the most common, Advantage and Threat results are less so, and Triumph and Despair even less so.

The basic guideline for reading the dice is that negative results cancel out positive results of the same level. So, each Failure result cancels a Success result, and each Threat result cancels an Advantage result.

The number of Successes or Failures indicate how well or poorly you meet your goals for that roll.

Advantages and Threats indicate short term side-effects or little twists to the challenge at hand, separate from whether you succeeded or not.

Triumph and Despair results can turn the tide of a battle and dramatically change the nature of a situation.

That’s about it for how the dice work…except…

Some die faces have one symbol, some have no symbols, some have two of the same symbols, and some have two different symbols.

If you’re a visual, tactile person like me, this means that when you see dice that cancel each other out you take them and put them away from the dice with meaningful results.


Then (again, if you’re like me, you poor thing), if you have a die showing a Success and an Advantage on a single face AND a die showing a Threat, you want to rotate the die showing a Success and an Advantage until it shows just a Success symbol, since the Threat negates the Advantage but not the Success.

Then you can read the dice.

Make sense? Don’t feel bad if you’re confused – let’s take a look at a sample roll.

0206161551
Let’s pretend you rolled this. What does it all mean? Well, it’s complicated.

One of those two Threats on that purple die cancels out the Advantage on that light blue die, so rotate the purple one until it shows only 1 Threat, and the light blue one is outta there!

Also, The Failure on that black die cancels out one of the Successes on that yellow die, so rotate the yellow so it shows one Success and get rid of that black die.

0206161552a
Hmm, that remaining Threat on the purple die could cancel the Advantage on that top-most green die that has two symbols on it, so rotate that green die until it shows just an Advantage and dump that purple die for good.

0206161553
Now – one of the Threats on that red die could cancel out the Advantage on that bottom green die, so…

0206161553a
Here’s your final result! 2 Successes and a Threat!

Does that seem like a lot of work? It does to me.

Naturally, some of all that becomes second nature after a while. Some people are able to just quickly “mental math” all that right off the bat or with some practice. I’ve been running the game for months, though, and this process still feels clunky. I can’t be the only one, can I?

Don’t get me wrong: the dramatic dynamic of Success, Advantage, Triumph and Failure, Threat, and Despair is VERY pulpy and Star Warsy! I love it – I really do. However, I think the implementation is overwrought.

So, next time I’ll start getting into some alternatives and how I want to re-write this game, both in terms of dice mechanics and how characters are built.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

alignment

STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE 

An evolving review, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the game
Part 1

swe02_boxlayout

 

I started running SW:EOTE several months ago. My 13 year-old son played Pathfinder on and off with his friends for years, but started complaining that the games were getting too same-old same-old. I got him some Pathfinder card decks, designed to jazz-up combat, encounters, and adventures in general. They got used some, and they’ll be handy for other games and if he returns to Pathfinder in the future, but he was still ready for something new.

 

So, I thought about games that would be similar enough to Pathfinder to be accessible to him and his friends, but different enough to seem fresh and to broaden his roleplaying game horizons. My friend and sometimes gaming guru Chris Rogers- of The Die is Podcast – mentioned Fantasy Flight GamesStar Wars: Edge of the Empire, and was even kind enough to send me his copy from the other side of the planet. Like Pathfinder, characters in SW:EotE are built much like various iterations of Dungeons & Dragons, but the system has a unique and dynamic dice mechanic – and it’s Star Wars! That all sounded like just the thing.

 

So I started running the game for my usual group, and included my son. I immediately realized I would be hand-waving a lot of things, because in play the rules seemed oddly not very Star Wars-y to me.

 

Thanksgiving rolled around, and my son wanted me to run a scenario for him and his cousins that weekend. I decided to see what I could do to simplify character creation, so I whipped up a quick character creation one-sheet. I wound up not running it for them that weekend, but this quick re-write got me thinking more analytically about what I like and don’t like about the game.

 

Below you’ll find said one-sheet. I changed some terms to make things maybe a bit more accessible, I dumped 2 of the 6 ability scores, rejiggered Skills, and smooshed together some of the defensive stuff. The Species stuff is incomplete. The Skills are not very well balanced here. Page numbers refer to the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook

 

*****

 

BACKGROUND (p. 37)
1-5: citizen
5-8: insider
9-10: outsider

 

TURNING POINT (p. 37-38)
1-2: opportunity knocked
3-4: higher calling
5-6: made an enemy
7-8: feet of clay
9-10: wrong place, wrong time

 

OBLIGATION (p.38-43)
1: betrayed
2: traitor
3: blackmailed
4: bounty
5: wanted (criminal record)
6: debt
7: duty (oath, responsibility)
8: family
9: favor
10: obsessed

 

MOTIVATION (p. 94-97)
roll d10 for all charts

 

SPECIES (p. 43-53)
(unfinished)

Bothan Droid Gand Human Rodian Trandoshan Twilek Wookie
Brawn 1 1 2 2 1 3 1 3
Agility 2 1 2 2 3 1 2 2
Cunning 3 1 2 2 2 2 2 2
Will 2 1 3 2 2 2 3 2
Wound Threshold +2 +4
Strain Threshold +1 -1 +1 -2
Starting XP 100 175 100 100 100 90 100 90

 

CAREER (p. 53-91)
Use as-is for now, but need new skill bonus lists.
Not using Specializations for now.

 

SKILLS (p. 103-124)
(abbreviations are for Brawn, Agility, Cunning, and Will)

Physical
brawl – B or A
move – A
perform – A
shoot (choose: light, heavy, mounted) – A
sneak – A
stunts – B or A

Mental
fix – C (choose: electronic, mechanical, weapons, propulsion)?
fly –  A (choose: ground, small space, medium space, large space)?
focus – W
hack – C
heal – C
know – C (choose: core worlds, outer rim, education, lore, underworld, xenology)
sense – C
survive – W (choose: street, desert, arctic, forest, water, space)

Social
charm – W
deal – W
fool/trick – W
lead – W
scare – W

 

(TALENTS (p. 128-145) – IGNORE  FOR  NOW, but figure out a smoother continuum/integration from stats to skills to talents)

 

WEAPONS
Price
Damage (divide by 5)
Encumbrance
HP (was Structure Threshold)
Special
(Ignore everything else.)

 

ARMOR
Price
Defense + Soak = Threshold bonus
Hard Points
(Ignore everything else)

To do:
Look at stats, thresholds, and skills – integrate them more. Replace some terms with something Star Warsier: “threshold” might have to go, for instance.

 

*****


Next time, I will explore more of my conceptual and design thoughts regarding SW:EOTE.

Mr. Smarty Movie-Pants

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Oh, Rey…

I’m not going to mince words.

Like the rest of the internet, I have a Star Wars theory, and because it could be a doozy I will now type something in red all-caps:

SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS

There.

And because this isn’t a spoiler about The Force Awakens per se, but rather about things that could be revealed in future Star Wars movies, I’m gonna do it again:

SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS

That should do it.

I don’t mean to make a big deal out of it, but I try to avoid spoilers and I don’t want to be that guy.

So…If I were going to add layers and depth and conflict into a character and a story, this would sure be a way to go:

Rey did it.

Rey was…whoever’s daughter. She was super-strong in the Force, even at a very, very young age.

Some Dark Side influence got their claws into her and twisted her inexperienced mind.

Rey was responsible for the slaughtering of Luke’s students and/or whatever atrocity it is that Rey sees in the visions induced when she touches Luke’s original lightsaber. She was responsible either directly or indirectly: she killed them herself, helped kill them, colluded with someone who did, or was used as a way to get at those victims.

What is Kylo Ren’s connection to that terrible event?  We see him, red lightsaber in hand, with other black-clad guys (one assumes these are the Knights of Ren, but who knows), all standing amidst strewn dead bodies. The standing theory is that this is a vision of the slaughter of Luke’s students. There’s reason to think Kylo knows who Rey is, or how powerful she is, was, and could be. Was he her co-conspirator? Were they both serving or being manipulated by Snoke? Does Kylo regret not stopping her, or not being able to continue his evilness with her?

Rey’s memory of these events was wiped from her mind by some Force-user. She was hidden away where it was hoped no one would find her, in an attempt to protect her from those who would seek to kill her, to protect others from her, to shut her off from memories that would torture her, or some combination thereof.

I could probably go into more detail, but that’s the basic idea, and I’d rather discuss it than proclaim it, so comment if you see fit.

 

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

alignment

RPGaDay 2015

21st: Favorite RPG Setting


Another “I don’t have one”, maybe, but let me knock this around a bit…

As popular media settings go, I love playing supers games in the Marvel or maybe DC comic book universes, as long as there’s room to change things up a bit. I love Star Trek, especially the original series, and have played in or run quite a few Star Trek games, but none of them have lasted long. Star Wars has the big advantage of an easy buy-in, so I’ve played in and run that some.

I’ve done some games set in Middle-earth, and as a big Tolkien fan I’m always interested in that. 

I’ve played in a few of the D&D settings, but an Eberron war-forged is all I can remember.

See, I’m not a fan of pre-made worlds in general. Partly it’s the time and effort required to familiarize myself with a published setting – not just to read through but to really understand the flavor and tone of the setting. If I make up my own setting, I naturally have an innate sense of the details and tone, so I just find that a lot easier.

That’s the advantage of the popular media setting mentioned above: I know the tone, I know some or a lot of the details, and so do a lot of other people, so those settings have the advantage of an easy buy-in.

So…favorite? I guess I’d have to say “Middle-earth“. It has the combined familiarity of pseudo-medieval fantasy, Tolkien’s fiction, and the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit film adaptation trilogies. Trouble is, Tolkien’s world is a pretty specific sub-genre, and in particular the way that magic works is pretty far afield from what players are used to in a standard fantasy rpg. Still, there’s a lot to like there, and Cubicle 7’s The One Ring, for example, does a good job of capturing the flavor of Tolkien’s stories.

Hmm…I may have to call this a tie, though, between Middle-earth and the Marvel universe.

Thing is, I don’t think I would want to do a lot of gaming in either setting unless the game experience was top-notch: invested players who are at least fairly familiar with the source material and tone, and a GM who knows how to capture that flavor and make it last.

Tag Cloud

ceci says

did I just say that?

Ellen Starr Lyon

commited to creating art while being a full-time working mom

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 221 other followers

%d bloggers like this: