This is the sporadic journal and on-going review of Fantasy Flight Games’ excellent Star Wars Edge of the Empire role-playing game. This article is intended to help teach new players and players curious to know how this unusual system works.
This series will not be a detailed accounting of the events of the chronicle (campaign), instead it will focus on the highlights, concerns, and ideas that derive from playing. This series will have potential spoilers of the prepared adventures from several game books, supplements, and fan-made endeavors.
Game Mastering Resources are Everywhere
After I first bought the core rule book, I was online fiddling with the Star Wars website and looking at additional information provided by Lucasarts about the Almanac. I discovered an online application for creating your very own introductory text crawl. It was a happy discovery, as I was thinking I would have to create one and mess about with Power Point, music files, and a whole host of other time consuming factors to give my players a wow moment. Instead, it was already coded and offered up for us on an easy to use web game.
While one of my more computer savvy players caught on when I asked to borrow his HDMI enabled PC and cable, the rest of the players had no clue about what they were going to see. We had to mute the PC and set it up previously to changing the inputs on the television, but it was well worth the few extra minutes of time. They seemed to love it, and it gave the rest of the evening that Star Wars feel.
You can find my version of the Trouble Brewing introductory crawl here.
There are a ton of other nifty resources on that website, but the one I used the most was the Star Wars Soundboard. There are a bunch of music and sound effect files that can be mixed or played instantly to help set the mood of the game. Just try and resist the urge to hit a humorous but inappropriate sound, for the scene being played out. I was mostly successful, but I couldn’t help but hit the Cantina fight sound effect (complete with lightsaber) during a cantina scene. You should have seen my players jump. Delightful, but wrong. So very wrong.
There are more links and ideas over at the Fantasy Flight Games’ EotE Official Forum. While you are there, take a peek at the Resource Thread. It is updated regularly and lists plenty of fan generated content, blogs, podcasts, and resources perfect for your games. You can also go to the Gamer Security Agency for a ton of fan made gaming stuff.
The First Session Begins
The first adventure is Trouble Brewing, the introductory adventure found in the very end of the core rules. I started the first session with everyone watching the introductory crawl mentioned earlier. Then we re-watched it by player request. Always a good sign.
My players are a mixed group of fringers and scofflaws, not set in any particular way to make a few credits. They have already agreed that they want to do some legal work, some smuggling, bounty hunting, and any other odd job that crosses their path. In short, much like any other adventuring party.
The adventure has a few possible hooks for the group to be landing on Formos, but none of them sounded quite right for my group. I went ahead and told them that they had a shipment of foodstuffs, alcohol, and drinks for a local cantina that hired them to transport. I told them that the mundane shipments will help pay for their meals, port fees, and other minutia that none of us wanted to calculate. It gave them a good reason not to dawdle too much around the space port before finding the main plot. Our sessions are only likely to be about 3 hours long as they take place on a weekday evening. So while the list of optional encounters could have been fun, I wanted to minimize their prevalence for the moment.
In order to transport the sizable shipment of crated goods, they went looking for a rental vehicle. Already off the adventure, but something I had expected with the setup I had outlined. A quick description of them hiring a wheeled open transport car, much like the land vehicle from firefly with a set of overhead bars, and they were off.
Most of the plot went as intended, although the party did skip the initial soft cries of help from the fatally injured droid in the trash compactor. They finished their job and got paid. I am not really sure why I thought they would do otherwise, but strangely enough I did. They got back to it quickly afterwards, and they learned about the vile machinations of Dobah the head pirate.
The scene in the cantina went as expected: they learned a few more leads, met a few infochants, greased some palms, and loomed menacingly. In the adventure, there is a section when several toughs walk in and start harassing an elegant rodian girl. The adventure gives a few suggestions on how these ruffians will react to various approaches. These range from polite words all the way to armed combat. Strangely enough, the adventure didn’t plan on two female player characters trying to seduce the thug away from the rodian.
It was easily enough solved with an assisted Charm Skill Check, which failed. Apparently the thug didn’t find Twi’leks and Bothans attractive, and he said so in not so many words. The human bounty hunter of the party took umbrage for the two ladies and swung a fist to initiate a bar room brawl.
Ballroom Blitz or Cantina Clash?
So far we had rolled several skill checks including a Mechanics roll to try and save the fading droid and the Charm check. This was our first combat in this system, and I was very curious as to how the initiative system would play out. I was hoping for a more cinematic affair similar to what FATE inspires, and hoping that the players would really get into the creative mood with me.
For those of you unfamiliar with the rules, initiative is not done in the manner of most systems opting instead for a Dynamic Initiative system. There are no surprise rounds, no holding for opportunity, and no personal initiative standings. There have been some disgruntled players of older versions discussing this lack on the forum and I was curious. The rules seemed simple and clean, but there is no way to really understand a system better than to play it out.
Initiative is rolled using either the Cool or Vigilance skill of every character. Cool is used for ambushes and prepared attacks. Vigilance is used when surprised or when the fight could be started at any time. These pools were not very big as there are no difficulty dice added. The number of net successes generated, followed by net advantage determine where each player gets to add an initiative slot.
Each slot is a placeholder for a member of that faction to act. Players can choose amongst themselves where they wish to act during any round and change it up every round if they desire. This gives another layer of complexity to the game, but it really seemed to work out well.
While none of the party rolled well on the dice for successes and advantage, the bounty hunter rolled a Triumph on his dice. A Triumph is a special resulting symbol that is roughly the equivalent to a critical success in most games. We discussed the results and determined that the Triumph will result in the bounty hunter getting a free punch on the thug before the combat officially began. Voila, a surprise action already easily worked into the system.
Overall, I really like how the initiative system works out. It eliminates the need for too many special rules, and allows the skills and talents of the characters to shine in a non-overpowering way. The players have the flexibility to adapt to the ever changing scene around them and I think it helps keep players attentive to see how they could best slip into the initiative order and assist.
The fight itself was fun, cinematic, and far from a typical RPG combat. The players were having horrible rolls when it came to successes, but lots of luck when it came to advantages. They started using random bits of description to help aid their next rolls and explain the advantages. Glass was shattering, people were tripping, chandeliers were being targeted, and judo throws were being executed. All great fun, even though the villains barely took a scratch.
The combat itself was ended early with Kyra (Twi’lek Scoundrel) using a charm check to convince the thugs that they could they were out numbered, out gunned, and that they could stand down without a loss of face. They left out the back door of the cantina and went straight back to get their friends. Of course the player characters tracked them down to learn more about the local smuggling ring, and maybe earn a bit of that sweet reward.
That is where our first session ended, with a good bit of experience handed out. The first session went a little longer than we anticipated, but everyone was having a blast. The system does what it says on the tin: smooth cinematic games with a lot of possible outcomes and information given for every roll. Very serious dice roll density. We start our second session with the Twi’lek and Droid asking the Rodian what that was all about and perhaps learning a few more clues.