I got the chance to play in a game of Edge of the Empire this weekend. Our regular Skype Star Wars RPG group was short a person instead of skipping the week, we decided to give the new game a test run. Only two of the players had a copy of the beta, neither of which was me, so this proved a great chance for them to teach us the system. I highly recommend listening to the Order 66 Podcast where they interview some of the devs. It helped me before I played.
Since this was just going to be a simple one shot test run, I pulled out my old standby character, Ohio Starrunner, brash pilot and smuggler. This archetype worked perfectly for EoE since one of the six possible career choices is smuggler and one of the specializations within smuggler is pilot. From there the GM gave me a run down of the character creation process, basic game play mechanics and brief description of some of the available talents via email.
This is where I ran into the systems first obstacle. EoE uses a unique set of dice instead of Saga Editions d20 system. This will prove to have a lot of advantages, which I’ll get to later, but when starting off, especially without the book, it is very confusing. Despite the detailed description of the mechanics from the GM, I still went into the character creation process not really understanding how the game worked.
However, despite this lack of understanding, I really like the character creation system. EotE is a level-less game. So instead of starting out with level 1 characters and ramping up your power as you gain levels, you start out merely with a pool of experience points. You then spend this experience to increase your attributes, buy talents or boost your skills. You can set up your character however you like, being really good at one particular thing, or diversifying.
After creating characters we all started our adventure in the most unlikely of settings, a cantina in Mos Eisley. Aside from my smuggler pilot, our party consisted of a Trandoshan Hired Gun/Marauder, Human Smuggler/Scoundred/Force Exile and a Twi’lek Bounty Hunter/Gadgeteer. We didn’t know each other and the Twi’lek made the mistake of referring to herself in the third person and describing herself as “busty”. This led the other Scoundrel, who was playing a teenager, to spend the first few minutes of the adventure trying to awkwardly hit on her.
Then things got heated…boom chicka-bow-wow…when four armored figures entered the bar and threatened an unarmed man sitting next to us. The Twi’lek didn’t like this so stood up to the thugs. Naturally the teenaged boy followed her to show off. A few angry words later and our first combat begins.
Intitiative is rolled very differently than other games I’ve played. Depending on the circumstances, you either roll using the Cool skill (if you’re setting up and ambush and preparing to fight) or the Vigiliance skill if combat is more or less a surprise. Given the setting, we all rolled Vigiliance. Instead of initiative being determined by a simple numerical order, the results of the roll are compared to some GM chart (I assume, since I don’t have the book, I’m not sure what he used to determine this). He then tells us the order in the manner of PC vs NPC. Then we as a party decide who is going to fill which slot.
In this event we got the first two slots, followed by two NPCs, then two more PCs and then the rest of the NPCs. So the Twi’lek and smuggler went first, since they were already engaged. Our Twi’lek lassoed one of the thugs with a bola, the silly boy pulled his gun, prompting the thugs to respond in kind. Our Trandoshan friend, the only one to understand how bar fights are supposed to go, threw a barstool and then it was my turn.
This was when I first realized how completely I had misunderstood the dice system. When you roll a skill you have to take several things into account. First is your attribute associated with that skill and your skill level with that skill. Whichever number is higher determines how many dice you roll. Then the other number determines how many of those dice get upgraded from Ability die to Proficiency die. I had set my skills and attributes up thinking the whole thing worked differently.
To make it more confusing, you then have to also roll Difficulty, or possibly Challenge die. If things are against you, you might also roll some Setback die, or if you’re lucky some Bonus die. This whole process can be very confusing the first time through, especially when using standard die and consulting a conversion chart. Once you figure out which die to roll, you then have to decipher the symbols, add them up and compare them to other symbols; Success, Advantage, Failure, Threat, Triumph, Despair.
It’s a little overwhelming, at first. Once you make a few rolls it all starts to make sense. And, I think, runs a lot better than a d20 system. To be sure, it’s more complicated and time consuming than a quick d20 roll plus a modifier. But the math is also far more forgiving. Instead of having an attack bonus that increases from 1 to 20+ and trying to hit a static defense that ranges from 10 to 40, the odds of hitting are much more…fluid.
I rolled my die, added up the successes, subtracted the failures and ended up with 0. So I missed. However, I ended up with an Advantage. While this wouldn’t allow me to hit him, it would give me some options to aid our party or hinder the enemy. The simplest method of spending advantage is to give your next ally the chance to add a Bonus die to their next skill roll. If you have enough advantage, you can also cause a critical hit. Or cause your enemy to roll a Setback die for their next check.
Now, I didn’t hit with my shot, but if I had, I would have then done damage based on my gun (heavy blaster pistol does 8) plus any extra successes. This would be compared to the enemies Soak, which works like damage reduction, and then what’s left over would be subtracted from his Wound. For reference, my Wound threshold was only 12. So it’s very easy to get dropped in one hit. And that doesn’t change as your Wound threshold doesn’t go up regularly like HP in other games.
All in all, I think I like this system’s dice much better. It is a little more complicated, d20′s main benefit after all being quite simple, but it also adds more variety. So many combats in Saga boiled down to rolling d20′s round after round, trying to get that 17+ in order to be able to hit. Now, what you can roll will vary widely on each roll and you aren’t up against a static number.
You also have a reasonable chance at hitting anybody. Since there’s no levels, a new player can shoot Darth Vader and a really experience player can still be killed by a Stormtrooper. Now, more experienced characters, like Darth Vader, will have a lot of talents that will help make it more difficult to hit them, but not so much as in a d20.
We did tried a few more encounters, including a speeder chase through the desert, but since it was a one shot did not get to really use the Motivation or Obligation system. We also all completely forgot about the Destiny die. That I believe will be quite interesting, once we remember to use it.
To summarize my experience with Edge of the Empire:
- Level-less system allows for smoother advancement. Characters will gain more tricks but not become untouchable.
- Lower hitpoints, with better healing systems, and better odds of hitting each other makes each fight dangerous but you can easily recover from anything you walk away from. This is better than the fights in d20 systems that can drag on forever because people have 100+ HP and can’t get hit.
- The addition of Advantage and Threat really spices up any skill check. You might hit but the threat might still increase. Or you might miss but still gain some advantage. Much more diversity of action than just; roll, miss, roll, hit, roll, miss.
- The Career/Specialization system allows you to start out as something. Level one characters always felt so underwhelming. You wanted to be an Ace Pilot you had to wait until Prestige classes at level 8. Here, you’re a pilot or bounty hunter right off the bat.
- Any character can do anything. Higher attributes and skills will make things easier for sure, but that doesn’t stop anyone from trying anything.
- While we didn’t get to try it, I really like the idea of the Destiny system.
- Also untried, but Obligation and Motivation, with a good GM, will help encourage good roleplaying.
- The dice system is not intuitive. Took several rounds to understand it and what was going on.
- The complexity of the die rolls also slows things down, especially at first. To do a quick skill check in a d20 system requires one die roll and a little math. With EotE, there’s lots of dice to roll, some charts to consult, and some math. This gets quicker the more experience you have with it. And it would also be a lot easier with the actual die or the die program.
- Also something we never got to experience, but from the sounds of it, the Force can be pretty unbalanced. Lightsabers are uber weapons and Force talents give some major advantages to players. Personally, I like the idea that Force users should be uber, and trying to balance them cheapens it. With EotE I don’t think this will be a major issue, since Force use is limited but it still could be. I also need more info here as I’m basing all of this on hearsay.
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