STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE
An evolving review, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the game
I’m going to start getting more into my critique and evolving, probably incomplete hack of Fantasy Flight Games’ Star 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.
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.
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.