STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE
An evolving review, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the game
In my past 3 posts on the subject of Fantasy Flight Games‘ Star 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:
- Miss; no damage.
- Grazed; superficial damage; no real damage, but a point has been made: things just got real!
- Stunned, dazed, or otherwise temporarily debilitated but still basically functional.
- Unconscious or otherwise taken out of action.
- 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?
- Alerted: this offers the attacked character a free use of an appropriate skill to assess the situation.
- Some kind of advantage.
- 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:
- Zero: punching, kicking, lifting people up off the floor by their throats.
- Nearby: hurling grappling hook swinglines, throwing someone a weapon.
- Shooting: blasters, bowcasters. (Hey, that could be a game: Blasters & Bowcasters!)
- Long-range shooting: specialized and/or large ranged weapons, like sniper rifles and mounted weapons.
- 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.