Nerd Numbers: A Follow-up

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In the original article on Nerd Numbers: Terminal Outcomes I gave you a broad overview of the design elements and choices made while coming up with the dice system for FFG’s Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.  A few of you had some additional questions about things not covered in the original article and the subsequent discussion.

Q: What did you learn most from the WFRPG dice mechanics? What did you want to include/avoid from that system and why?

A: One of the most important things I learned from my previous development work was that a narrative dice system wasn’t just a gimmick or a novelty, but a flexible resolution system that I felt could offer something new to the (RPG) table.

Q: While each positive die has its negative counterpart, they aren’t quite equal in their spread of negative/positive symbols. Basically I’m just wondering about the reasoning that went into the spread of pips!

A lot of time, research, and playtesting went into the dice. A lot. No decision was made lightly, especially the core mechanic and the tools used to resolve that mechanic. I can’t speak to the distribution of faces across the different dice, but can say that it provides a wider variety of possible interesting outcomes than other systems we looked at. While determining success and failure is a key part to any task resolution, the side effects, environment and context can be just as important to help add to the story and make the scene come alive for the players at the table.

Q: Was it a conscious decision to make the d12, which is barely used in many other systems, figure so prominently? Or was the decision driven more by the math?

A: I think the d12 is a criminally underused die. I remember using d12s for Advanced Heroquest, but it seldom saw use in other games. While EotE isn’t a crusade to heighten awareness of the d12, it provided two key benefits — more sides for symbol distribution, and a lot of surface area to feature those symbols.

Q: Do the dice come from the design of the game or do the dice affect the core design? Is it a chicken and egg sort of thing, where they both inform the other?

A: The goal with WFRP was to develop a new type of resolution system for a roleplaying game. The narrative dice pool system has a lot of flexibility and dramatic potential, so it was a good starting point for discussions on our approach for EotE. The narrative dice pool systems from each game have similarities, but differ in a number of ways to help deliver an experience tailored to each setting.

For example, Reckless and Conservative stances worked well as a risk management element specifically for WFRP. The dice types, use and symbol distribution were balanced to deliver the sort of results that we felt would capture the Star Wars experience.

Remember, this dice system isn’t going to be unique to Edge of the Empire. The narrative dice system will also be used in Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny — so a number of considerations had to be taken into account to make sure the system was robust enough to power the entire Star Wars line.

(Editor’s Note:  We’d like to thank Jay for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk about dice and answer some of your questions.  You can hear more from Jay regarding Edge of the Empire on the Order 66 Podcast available on iTunes.)
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