Star Wars RPGs, Game Review
Star Wars has been a part of our culture for around 40 years. The stories go way beyond the theatrical releases. I know people who created their own stories (fan fiction) of the original characters and new characters, expanding what they saw into new tales.
Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) now has three role-playing game (RPG) settings for Star Wars where you can create your own characters and stories. Although the setting are different, focusing on different parts of the expanse known as the Star Wars universe, they use the same mechanics making them unique and cohesive.
FFG provided Beginner Game boxed sets of Force and Destiny and Age of Rebellion to Utah Geek Magazine and Guild Master Gaming for review. I picked up the Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook for myself, and used it for comparison between the beginner games and a core rulebook.
Beginner Boxed Sets
I was the game master (GM) for both introductory adventures, but I approached my role differently in each game. First I went through the material of Force and Destiny on my own, then sat at a table with friends to give it a play. For Age of Rebellion, we sat down and played, jumping right into the adventure without any preparation. After the game, I went through the rest of the material. Both sets are similar in design, and are best for new players—either to RPGs or just new to the Star Wars gaming system.
Each boxed set starts with a description of what an RPG is. Even if you are an experienced RPG player, the example of play gives a feel for the particular scenario and broader setting. There are also four character folios, beginner rulebook, character markers, set of dice, adventure, and a map.
Our first game (Force and Destiny) was smoother for me in terms of the adventure’s storyline, but with the second I was more familiar with the game mechanics which helped in running it. Two people played in both games, so, the first had four new players whereas the second only had two new players (we had four total players in both games). Everyone picked up the mechanics of the system easily, which is what these sets are very clearly designed to do.
The adventures in both sets move through a series of encounters, introducing the players and the GM to the different types of checks needed during game play: skill checks (regular and opposed), combat, and in Age of Rebellion you do vehicle movement and combat while in Force and Destiny you learn how to use your force skills. Both adventures have a point in the middle where you advance your character for an introduction to how that mechanic works. After the advancement, the adventure continues to introduce the additional mechanics (like force use and vehicles) and are designed to give more roleplaying opportunity to the players (the encounters are not as structured).
Game mechanics are set in an easy-to-learn success/fail system. The system uses unique dice with symbols instead of numbers. You build a dice pool based on the skill and ability you are using, and, when needed, the skills and abilities of who you are competing against. Situational dice are added to the pool and then you roll them. Symbols cancel each other out and what you are left with lets you know if you succeeded or not. You are also given the opportunity of adding additional storyline advantages and setbacks based on the roll.
In our game play during Age of Rebellion an example of how this comes into play worked well into our storyline. The characters were in a chase with the villain, both groups in walkers. One of the characters made an attempt to shoot the other, escaping walker and the dice indicated not only did she hit, but she gained an advantage, however, she also gained a major setback. At first, the players went, “Uh, what do we do.” Then another player introduced the idea the critical success meant the escaping walker was disabled, but the critical failure meant their own electronics systems stopped working, making both walkers useless.
Along with the adventure, each boxed set has a beginner rulebook. This rulebook is an abridged version of the full rulebook, but it doesn’t mean you are stuck when you’re done with the adventure. The rulebook provides information so you can keep the adventures going with the characters you have, or even start some new ones. You can create encounters, develop arcs, and play a complete campaign with either of the Beginner Boxed Sets. There are also some additional beginner adventures available from FFG on their website.
The boxed sets are a great way of introducing the Star Wars universe to your gaming group. You can continue with the campaign you have started, or you can then move your group into the full system as presented in one of the core rulebooks.
Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook
Set after the destruction of the Death Star, you and your companions are working at making a living out in the further reaches from the Empire’s control. The Star Wars Edge of the Empire Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook provides what you will need to run a campaign in the Star Wars universe similar to the original New Hope setting, and beyond. This ties in well with the setting presented in the current animated series.
The Core Rulebook has about 450 pages of information on races, professions, the force—everything you will need to run a campaign. The book contains artwork bringing back the original three movies, along with other source material. When reading through the book, I found this is a great system for developing a campaign setting. You are encouraged to create more of a party of characters instead of just your character to slip into an adventure.
The party becomes the core of any adventure, in Edge of the Empire the party configuration becomes a little more important because you are creating a crew who will need to work together. How to create a party of individuals is guided by the information in the Core Rulebook. The book provides information on races, professions, guidance for creating backstories, along with some concepts that brings the individuals together as a group.
Eight different races are presented in the Core Rulebook along with six professions, each having three specializations. The races cover what most people are familiar with and you can even play a droid. The specializations of each profession provide talent trees where characters can develop in their own manner without becoming a duplicate of other characters in the same profession. Of course there is also the Force.
Just about every race has the ability to be force sensitive. Being a force sensitive character gives you the opportunity of pursuing the force as a profession, but you can also be sensitive with minor affects. All of these come together to create the basics of the characters.
Part of creating the character backstories is determining if your character has taken on any obligations. Obligations come in a wide variety of ways. Some characters may owe money (like Hans), others might have taken oaths, while some might be honor bound. You can choose your obligation based on your backstory, or there is a system for determining them. Obligations help develop the characters and future game play.
Part of the “advantage” of obligations is bring the party together and for allowing for extra things, like a ship. Obligations are the particular “disadvantages” your characters are dealing with. Before each session of playing the GM makes a determination if an obligation is introduced into the story for that session. This creates for some additional twists the player characters have to deal with along with the adventure they are completing. The characters can also bring their obligations into game play by buying them off, or taking on more. In some ways the obligations are an additional barter system for all the players, including the GM, to use.
There is a lot of information available in the Core Rulebook. But, you don’t have to read through the entire book to get started, or even to complete an entire campaign. It is designed so you have an easy-to-use reference for equipment, locations, and story building. Where information needs to be covered in several locations the cross referencing was well presented and easy to follow (this is really helpful at the game table).
Fans of Star Wars movies, books, comics, etc. will find this game is put together well. Fans of RPGs will like the system for how it develops its mechanics and narrative for storytelling. Even though I have not compared The Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook with the other Core Rulebooks I expect each is as well done as this one, just like what I saw with the beginner box sets.
I would like to thank Fantasy Flight Games for how they have developed the game, and the opportunity of reviewing the box sets.