Fantasy Flight Games has announced, and now released to the public, the Age of Rebellion core book beta for their Star Wars RPG. What’s inside, what is new, and what sets Age of Rebellion apart from Edge of the Empire?
Where Edge of the Empire is set in that period of Star Wars continuity right after the destruction of the first Death Star, Age of Rebellion (AoR) occurs in the lengthy period of direct warfare between the Empire and the Alliance that ranges from roughly the same time as the assault on Hoth to the final battle over Endor and the Death Star II. This is purely from the perspective of the films, of course; the Extended Star Wars Universe contains much more that is not within the scope of this review or the book itself. Within it’s context, however, AoR has much to offer to the GM and Crew looking to take a stand against the tyrannical Empire.
That is a fairly important point. AoR takes the point of view that the players are going to be, however nominally, on the side of the Rebel Alliance. Players and GMs looking to play on the Empire side are going to have some work cut out for them. To be sure, as we will see, it can be done, but it is not the natural state of the game to work from that direction. Adaptations will need to be made.
As is to be expected in a book intended to stand alone as well as integrate with the previous book, some repetition of material is necessary. Chapters on playing the game (and interpreting the dice), skill descriptions, how to conduct combat and, potentially, many of the Talents, will be near duplicates of those found in Edge of the Empire. However, the preponderance of material in the book is new information and details that are relevant to AoR and designed to get you into the proper feel of the setting.
Doing the Duty
The first of these differences to jump out at the player occurs in the character creation chapter. Obligation is gone and is replaced by Duty. Duty is less about determining what portion of the character’s past has caused him to seek out adventure and more about what drove the character to join up with the Rebellion and do battle with the Empire.
There are a number of specific duties:
- Combat Victory – The need to prove combat superiority vs. the Empire on the field of combat on the troop to troop level.
- Counter Intelligence – Hunting down enemy agents, preventing enemy intelligence gathering activities directed against the Alliance.
- Intelligence – Gather intelligence on the Empire and it’s forces.
- Internal Security – Protect against internal threats, defectors and other forms of betrayal.
- Personnel – No man left behind. Missions are successful if everyone survives to come back home.
- Political Support – Convincing sectors, planets, and other factions to support the Alliance either financially or politically.
- Recruiting – Finding the people needed to keep the Alliance fighting, whether they are soldiers, pilots or fulfill other necessary roles.
- Resource Acquisition – Finding the material and equipment needed to continue the Alliance’s war effort by whatever means necessary.
- Sabotage – Denying the Empire the means with which to continue making war.
- Space Superiority – Like Combat Victory, but in space. Taking on the best and brightest the Empire has to offer and emerging victorious.
- Tech Procurement – Seeks out superior technology and developments and those capable of improving existing technology.
- Support – To you, the most important duty is to make sure those around you are successful in their duties.
As always, if you chose not to roll for a random Duty, it is perfectly acceptable to choose whichever one fits your characters concept. Some duties clearly overlap and enhance each other, while others interact in interesting ways and open up further opportunities. A squad in which all members have the Combat Victory Duty, for instance, will clearly find their efforts focused on ground combat against the Empire and therefore have many more direct combat opportunities and derive significant Duty boosts from such encounters.
Duty works entirely differently from Obligation. New characters created in AoR all start with zero Duty. Essentially, you’ve just joined the Rebellion and you have much to prove. During character creation, players can choose to spend some of their starting XP on improving their initial duty score on a one to one basis. As players play, Duty will increase based on how well you are able to fulfill it on your various adventures.
Duty is still rolled at the beginning of each session, but, unlike Obligation, it has a positive rather than negative effect. A Character whose Duty is rolled receives a +2 bonus to Wound Threshold while the rest of the squad gets a +1. These are doubled for rolling doubles.
Duty caps at 100, and generates, at that point, one Alliance Contribution point. Alliance Contribution points represent an opportunity to rank up both in your military rank and the amount of notice the Empire takes in you and your squad. The more Alliance Contribution points you have, the more you become an essential part of the Alliance and therefore a key element in their plans and the more important it becomes for the Empire to capture or kill you in order to stop those plans.
It’s not all bad though. Gaining Alliance Contribution entitles you to certain Alliance Rewards. These can be specific pieces of equipment, vehicles, or strategic assets. In general, the Alliance will assign you and your squad specific equipment to complete a given mission with, so it isn’t necessary to have tons of personal gear in the form of armor and weapons. However, ranks in Alliance contribution allow you to select, as personal gear, armor, weapons, and vehicles of rarity 3 or more. What you have available to you depends on your total Alliance Contribution rank and is added to the initial rarity level of 3. Strategic assets can include temporary use of safe houses, powerful vehicles, and even small groups of operatives to assist you on your missions. Once you have gained your rewards, your Duty resets to zero and you accumulate it again.
Got a Job to Do
We’ve discussed the available species elsewhere and so will pass over them here and move straight into the careers and specializations available.
Naturally the careers available in AoR reflect the militaristic style of the game. Players will find many ways to involve themselves in the fight against the Empire. From logistics and support to direct front-line confrontation there should be plenty here to appeal to all styles of players.
The Ace career provides specializations in Driver, Gunner, and Pilot which should cover anyone wanting to be a dab hand at vehicles and large weaponry. Expect to see included skills that cover these elements in full.
The Commander career reflects skills in management, organization and leadership. Accompanying specializations are Commodore for those drawn to the Alliance Navy fleets and thoughts of commanding Capital ships and associated support roles, Squad Leader if you dream of starfighters pitched in heated battle, and Tactician if you lean towards ground combat and the movements of troops in the field.
Diplomats are crucial for the continuing war effort. Without them, support dwindles away and crucial systems fall to the enemy without a shot being fired. Ambassadors sway the opinions and influence of key players to the Alliance’s side, Agitators stir up people and planets already siding with the Empire in an effort to destabilize them, and Quartermaster’s specialize in acquiring essential gear, supplies, and information in support of all troops under his purview.
Engineers take on the responsibility of maintaining and improving the equipment necessary to fight the war and, in some cases, making it impossible for the enemy to continue to use theirs. Mechanics will, of course, be responsible for repairing the machines of combat and associated equipment, Saboteurs will focus on disrupting and destroying the Empire’s war efforts, and Scientists will bring new developments and improvements to the Alliance.
Soldiers are the essential lifeblood of any fighting force and it is they who will be face to face with the enemy. Commandos take the fight to the enemy in ways they don’t expect, the Medic makes sure that everyone comes home alive, and Sharpshooters prioritize and eliminate high value targets.
No army can function at full efficiency without appropriate information and the Spy finds himself tasked with this job. The Infiltrator operates from inside the Empire and seeks out information and essential assets to report back to the Alliance, the Scout seeks out active information on troop movements and secure locations from which to operate, while the Slicer tasks himself with breaking into and manipulating computer systems and information to the Alliance’s benefit.
One final, non-force related, specialization is available to anyone. Military Training represents the essential bits of skill and abilities necessary to anyone expected to fight an ongoing war. Combat is a reality of war and non-combat PCs should consider taking this to acquire the basic skills needed. [It appears that this did not make it into the Beta. -Ed]
What’s Your Motivation
A variety of motivations tailored to the setting and theme of AoR are also present, we won’t go into them in depth here, but two do stand out.
Quest motivations, that is, your character is motivated by some sort of personal quest when he joins the Rebellion, include Jedi Knight and The Sith. Jedi Knight, rather than being a quest to become a Jedi Knight, represents the character’s desire to see the Jedi Knights restored to their rightful place in the galaxy as protectors and defenders of the Republic. This may include developing their own connection to the force, but is equally likely to involve finding some of the few remaining Knights in the galaxy and restoring them to power.
Meanwhile, The Sith Quest Motivation represents the character’s desire to eradicate the Sith and expose them for the evil individuals they are. Whether revealing their role in the rise of the Empire or preventing them from bringing their plans to fruition, this character has been motivated to join the Alliance.
New characters in AoR are given a fairly major asset as the final part of their creation, just as they were in EotE. PCs can choose from a Lanbda-class Shuttle, good for infiltration of Imperial locations, a small squadron of two-seater Y-wing fighters (½ the number of party members rounded up) for those seeking the exciting life of a starfighter pilot, or, perhaps most interestingly, a carefully chosen base of operations. This base is located in a single system and so somewhat limits PC mobility, but to make up for it, each member of the squad receives a 2,500 credit bonus for the purchase of necessary starting gear.
Gear and Equipment is largely the same as in EotE beta with basic descriptions and stats. Lightsabers are there, but the skill to use them is still unavailable. Until you earn your Jedi stripes in Force and Destiny, you’ll just have to wait.
The majority of the Starships and Vehicles section covers the rules needed to make Vehicular combat work, including maneuvers and enhancements. Again, it is necessary to get everyone up to speed regardless of where they jump in. However, several new vehicles and ships are included.
Starships include A-wings, X-wings, B-wings, half a dozen varieties of TIE-fighters including Interceptors and bombers, and Sentinel-class landing craft.
Where things get really interesting is with the introduction of larger class combat craft. Vigil-class and Cr-90-class Corvettes and the YV-929 Armed Transport are under the Gunship listing. While Cruiser listings include the Consular-class Light Assault Cruiser, Gozanti-Class Armed Transport, and the Lancer-class and venerable Nebulon-B-class Frigates.
Heavy Cruisers are available in the form of the Dreadnought-class, Vindicator-class, and Interdictor-class complete with rules for the use of gravity well projectors.
That’s all well and good, but of course the true power of the Empire lies in it’s ability to bring massive amounts of power to bear in any conflict and the heart of that ability is embodied by the massive Battleships they command. Imperial II-class Star Destroyers, Praetor II-class Star Battlecruisers, and Victory II-class Star Destroyers are all ready to be aligned against the Alliance’s sole battleship offering, the MC-80 Home One-class Star Cruisers. All of these have a massive amount of stats and systems for the GM or Squad to make use of and none of them are pushovers. When one comes into view the smart Squad may just decide that the wisest course of action is to run away, no matter how well prepared they feel.
Fear not (or perhaps a little) ground forces get exactly what you would expect. AT-AT and AT-ST get statted out as well as a variety of speeders and bikes designed to quickly insert and deploy combat troops as the situation demands.
Don’t Force It
Ahh, the Force. So much has been written and said about it online as it relates to Edge of the Empire and the hopes some people had for Age of Rebellion. Early on in the process Fantasy Flight Games made it clear that true Jedi would wait until the release of Force and Destiny and they have stuck to that. You’ll find no playable Jedi here. AoR does, however, introduce a new way to bring nascent force use to your character, or enhance an already existing characters current suite of Force powers.
The Force Emergent specialization works in much the same way as Force Sensitive did in EotE. In fact, the AoR book doesn’t require that you take Force Emergent as your force specialization, if you like, you can take Force Sensitive if you have access to it. Either way is valid, though the book does mention that Force Emergent is the more usual route to come into the Alliance.
Taking Force Emergent does not grant you a higher Force Rating if you already have Force Sensitive. Your force rating remains the same. If you take Force Emergent as your first Force Specialization, then you begin with a rating of 1.
You’ll have plenty of reason to want to take both though. They both share the Force Power Tree: Move and that remains similar between the two. The similarity ends there though.
Force Power: Enhance represents a Force Users ability to enhance his own physical abilities. Enhance starts by raising the PCs Brawn Characteristic related checks. At its most basic, a Light Side point will add a boost die to such checks. Further upgrades to the power will allow extra boost dice or the ability to upgrade Ability dice to Proficiency dice or reduce the difficulty of such checks depending on how you choose to approach it. If you like, you can also take a Versatility upgrade to enhance Intellect and Agility based checks, with more advanced users incorporating Presence, Willpower, and Cunning. You’ll be spending lots of Light Side points to make things happen, but in a pinch it can be a life saver.
The final new force power is Foresee. Users can spend Light Side points to move PC slots in the initiative order up or down as the power’s basic ability. Further upgrades allow the user, after initiative order is determined, to select a NPC and have the GM declare its next action, which must then be followed through on as described unless a PC makes it impossible to do so. Further upgrades enhance this ability and add boost dice for actions targeting that NPC, the ability to target more than one NPC, and gain insight to out of combat actions by NPCs. In addition, Forsee can, when properly upgraded, give the user insight into the more distant future or warnings – in the form of “I’ve got a bad feeling…” – about things to come. The GM is encouraged to make these sort of opportunities available to PCs on a reasonably frequent basis.
I’m the GM
The GM Section contains all the usual advice with the addition of sections on Duty and it’s use. Adversaries feature a tailor made cast of characters that one might expect to find involved on both sides of the conflict. COMPNOR Agents, ground troops, Sector Moffs, 31 flavors of Stormtroopers, Black Marketers, Forgers, Noblemen, Jedi-In-Hiding, and even Nerf-Herders are all present and accounted for along with a cast of thousands.
I won’t spoil the included adventure for you other than to say it is probably one of the most difficult adventures yet released for the entire FFG Star Wars line. An unprepared squad will find it quite challenging.
There is a lot to like in AoR, especially if you’ve got a group that wants to dig into the military side of the Star Wars Universe. Gamers that already have Edge of the Empire characters shouldn’t find it too difficult to migrate into AoR, although it is worth noting the Beta does not contain instructions on how to do this. In part, this could be because it is, in fact, a beta and FFG would like it evaluated on it’s own merits first without reference to how it particularly interacts with EotE material just yet. I think it is reasonable to assume that integration mechanics will either come in one of the weekly beta updates or as part of the final product.
For now though, it looks very promising and players can expect to meet new and interesting challenges as the beta moves forward. If anything, AoR adventures look to be more challenging and more conflict oriented than those of EotE on the face of it. There is less gray area here than with Edge, players aren’t traveling a fine line between right and wrong and there isn’t the focus on the moral ambiguity that some have experienced. Rebellion expects you to have picked the moral high ground here and joined the good fight. Is it possible to play the Empire side out of these rules? Sure, all of the Careers and specializations swap over with out any problems, but, even then, the game lends itself more to the idea of bad guys turned good than it does just being the bad guys. The moral stand a PC would have to take to do so, and do so authentically, however, is distasteful to many and should be considered carefully within the framework of a Star Wars themed game for all those involved.
Age of Rebellion promises many grand new adventures in a solid framework that are of, arguably, more significance to the overall Star Wars universe than Edge. That is not to say that Edge adventures have no consequence to the larger scheme of things, but rather that Age of Rebellion makes those consequences much more immediate and much more dire. Smugglers can fail to deliver goods and get a bounty on their heads, but soldiers that fail to capture objectives or win battles not only risk their own lives, but all the lives of those around them and those of the people they are trying to protect.
Which is why, when that Star Destroyer drops out of hyperspace on top of your fleet, you don’t run away.
(This write up and review are based on an editorial copy of Age of Rebellion from some months ago. The official Beta book may have undergone significant changes in the intervening time. The author is in no way an official representative of Fantasy Flight Games and all opinions expressed herein are entirely his own.)
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