A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…
Our lives were changed by a movie that opened our minds and imaginations to new worlds of adventure and possibility. With smugglers, moisture farmers, droids, a princess, Wookies, countless aliens, and an imposing government led by two sinister villains, we joined an unlikely group of regular people in pursuit of freeing the galaxy from the unforgiving Empire. Almost 40 years later, Fantasy Flight Games introduces us to a new roleplaying game that will allow us to slip into the minds of an adventurer in that same fantastical galaxy.
In their first of three installments, Edge of the Empire, we are given an opportunity to experience life as an Outer Rim inhabitant. Missing the wealth and luxury provided to the inhabitants of the Core Systems, most regular citizens of the Outer Rim turn to lives less glamorous. In this first rulebook, Fantasy Flight has packaged their new game system in a gorgeously illustrated, hefty hardback book, which contains everything that players and game masters would need to create rich, story-friendly characters, as well as tools for the GM to set the stage for those characters to get into “trouble”.
In Edge of The Empire, you have many options for races as well as careers. Want to be a Droid Smuggler? How about a Bothan Bounty Hunter? Perhaps a Twi’lek Scoundrel? There are plenty of options at your disposal. One of the most interesting and empowering aspects of character creation is the Obligation System. This system helps provide a motivation for your characters from the start. Want to boost your character’s ability just a bit more? Go for it…just become further indebted to that Twi’lek crime lord. This tool also provides the GM with an adventure hook that can help pull your party along. It’s a gamble, but hey – your character has all those cool new abilities, right?
With your characters created, and ready to find a way to pay off their obligations and fulfill their goals, we now move on to rolling some natural 20s… *waves two fingers in front of your face* “These aren’t the dice you’re looking for.” That’s right, you can leave the polyhedral collection at home for this game. Now we get to another element that takes this system to a new level. They call it Narrative Dice. Need to crack into that locked warehouse? For this, you’re going to create a dice pool and roll all the dice. This dice pool includes the dice that your slicing abilities allow you to roll, as well as whichever challenge dice the GM tells you to add to the mix. While a basic knowledge might allow you to roll two green die, with proficiency, you could upgrade one of those die to a yellow die, increasing your chances of success! You roll all the dice and see how the symbols add up.
There are four main symbols on these dice: Success, Failure, Advantage, and Threat. Once you roll all your dice, you tally up each of the symbol totals. Successes are cancelled by failures, so if you were to roll 4 successes, but rolled 5 failures, the check would fail. Now, here’s where things can still be fun: Threat cancels out Advantage, but let’s says you rolled more failures than successes, and still ended up with advantage. Though the overall roll might have failed to slice the door, with your advantage you can do something fun that might provide you with something equally as important. One example they used was you’re trying to hack into a terminal and fail, but the program you’re trying to hack accidentally seals shut the blast doors, which prevents the incoming squad of Stormtroopers from coming through. Lest you feel like you’d miss the excitement of a Natural 20, or the dread of a Natural 1, there are also the Triumph and Despair symbols which add to the experience. It can be a lot of fun to watch what your players come up with a way to narrate how their checks succeed or fail, and how they spend their advantage. There are even charts to help provide different ways that the players can spend Advantage, as well as the costs of any Threat not cancelled by an Advantage.
Have a player that wants to play, but doesn’t want to buy the custom dice, point them to the free Android dice app (available on IOS for $4.99). The app allows you to select the dice needed for each die pool and then shake your device to roll the dice. You can also just use the chart in the book to convert regular d6, d8, and d12 rolls, but I have to say, the custom dice are worth the investment, and if you purchase the Beginners Game, you get your first set, a fun starter adventure, as well as a lot of tokens that are really helpful for a GM when running a game session.
“May the Force be ever in your favor…” *dodges the evil glares I’m sure I’m getting for that awful joke – but I couldn’t resist*
While one of the greatest draws of the Star Wars Universe has to be Jedi, Sith, Lightsabers, and The Force, the timing of this game takes place right after the fall of the first Death Star, so Jedi are not common. There is an option to create a character that is a force-sensitive exile, but you won’t be creating a Jedi just yet. There is, however, still an element of The Force embedded into each game session. At the beginning of each session, each player will roll their “Force Die”. This die has both white and black pips that represent Light or Dark Force Points. After each player has rolled their Force Die, a Force Pool is created for that session with two-sided tokens (included in the Beginner’s Kit). For each black pip, a token is placed Dark Side up, and for each white pip, a token is placed Light Side up. Throughout the game session, the players can use any Light Side tokens, available in the pool, to help change certain things into their favor. For example, say the party lands on a planet with an atmosphere that’s too harsh to breath, one of the players might flip over a Light Side token and say, “Thank goodness we picked up that case of rebreathers while we were at Fisk’s Shack.” The players do have to use caution, however, with each token they flip, they are also providing the GM with Dark Side tokens that may be used to empower the nasty mobs that are unleashed upon the PCs. Again…this is a really engaging element to provide the power for the players to narrate more of their own stories, and removing some of the responsibility from the GM.
This is Star Wars, and as such, we must not leave out Space Combat! I mean, where would Han and Chewie be without the Falcon? We can’t have Luke without his X-Wing. This game system has even made sure to create a sub-system just for ships and vehicles. PCs will take on roles when in space. One might be the pilot, while another focuses on engineering, and the others take on the gunner and navigation systems. Think you can just hot-wire a cargo freighter and escape the planet without a planetary defense patrol giving you a run for your money? No way! Jump in and take command as the battle keeps you rolling and on the edge of your seats.
Edge of the Empire is a great start, but Fantasy Flight didn’t stop there. For this one book along, they’ve published three adventure modules, three adversary decks, six supplemental books for character concepts and awesome backgrounds, as well as thirty-five specialization decks for whatever character class you decide on. Following all of that, they released Age of Rebellion, the next in the series. This rulebook introduces more of the military and political elements to the gaming system. They’ve recently released the final rulebook in the trilogy, Force and Destiny. This rulebook introduces all the flavors of The Force that we have been waiting for. As of the writing of this article, I have not been able to get into either of the second of third rulebooks, but as time and finances allow, I will review them both and write up more.
So, if you’re looking for a fun system that is pretty easy to learn, leaves a lot of room for great story-telling, and gives you a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself within the Star Wars Universe, this is a fantastic game. I do have to say, the Edge of The Empire core rulebook isn’t laid out as well as I’d have liked, but still, once you understand the core mechanics and have your characters created, the game itself is a great one. Now, if you’ll excuse me – there’s a bounty hunter on my tail and I’ve got an appointment with a Rodian…