* Don't enjoy Star Wars in the first place, or
* Don't like learning strange, new gaming systems, or
* Get pissed off at games with skills and talent trees, or
* Hate big gobs of proprietary dice.
So, yeah, if you have problems with those things - move along - there is nothing here to see. If you can get over it, come jump down the rabbit hole with me . . .
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire is a role playing game that stresses a narrative style of play and abstract combat resolution. This is in direct contrast to the last version of the Star Wars RPG created by Wizards of the Coast. The Star Wars SAGA edition was actually the test bed for the mechanics that led to D&D 4e, and was so tied to minis and a grid that if a GM tried to run an abstract combat, most of the abilities the player characters had would be useless or difficult to leverage.
While you can use minis in EotE - it doesn't really matter. You can keep everything in your head.
The core mechanics for the game revolve around the 'Narrative Dice System.' Okay, so what you've got is 14 dice that you'll shell out around 15 bucks for with freaking weird symbols that have a bunch of different names and probably won't be useful in any other system ever. But they do some pretty cool stuff.
In play, I've noticed that it's a heck of a lot easier to use the dice than to explain them. They engage the visual part of the brain, methinks, sailing over the analytical chunks in a single bound. And they not only indicate failure or success, but have a multi-dimensional result set. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
To determine whether an action is successful - be it firing a blaster or sneaking into Jabba the Hutt's palace, the player or GM rolls a dice pool. Yeah, it's dice bomb - but quick to resolve.
The two basic types of dice are eight-siders. The green ones are called Ability dice, and the Purple ones are called Difficulty dice:
|Types of Dice|
|Types of Results|
Success at a task requires that I get more successes than failures. So one success and one failure would cancel each other out, so I would fail. But two successes and one failure would mean that I smashed that door down big time.
Okay, yeah, that is simple. But what are the other frikkin symbols? Well, there are only two more on these dice. The green dice also have a laurel wreath/phoenix wing/rebel symbol called an Advantage. The purple dice have a hexagonal/flower/imperial symbol called a Threat.
|Types of Results|
Advantage and threat results in a dice pool roll indicate something else happened other than just a flat out success or failure. For instance, if I rolled a success while breaking down the door, but also had a threat, then the GM could deem that the door broke so noisily that it woke up the bounty hunter who was sleeping in the room. With an advantage, the I could say (with the GM's approval, of course,) that door splintered into a ga-zillion fragments, blinding the bounty hunter for a bit.
In combat, the use of Advantages and Threats are more defined, and results in a kind of menu of effects the GM and players can buy for themselves. For instance, if I roll a certain number of advantages on a bowcaster attack, I could decide that it triggered a special effect on my weapon - which is this case would be to not only injure the bounty hunter, but knock him on his keister via the Knockdown ability. If I rolled a threat, the GM could grant a free maneuver to the bounty hunter, and have him run away, or close in to melee range with his force pike.
But even if I miss with my bowcaster, I still could get some advantage results. I could use those advantages to give one of my allies a boost to his attack, saying that the caster bolt went by his head and startled him, setting him up for my Twi'lek friend to get a better chance to blast him with her hold-out pistol.
The players are big fans of the advantage and threat system. It gives them more control over what is happening on the battlefield, allows them to cause effects that would truly be useful, and lets them be helpful even if they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.
The next dice are a pair of six-siders. The blue one is the Boost Die, and the black one is the Setback Die:
|Types of Dice|
Boost and setback are the most common things to be added to a pool. Really, as a GM, you want to look for opportunities to add setbacks, since they usually indicate interesting environmental effects - but also, many of the characters abilities negate Setback dice, so if you are not using them, they cannot counter them.
The Boost and Setback dice do not have any symbols that the green Success and purple Failure do not have. However, there are two more symbols on the last pair of dice.
The last pair of dice are the yellow Proficiency and the red Challenge dice, both twelve-siders:
|Types of Dice|
Character have characteristics (Brawn, Presence, Agility, etc.) with values from 1 to 6. The skills, anything ranging from Astrogation to Skulduggery, are rated from 0 to 5. To use a skill, you look at your skill level and the characteristic that it is linked to. Let's say I am plotting a course to Tatooine. I'd look at Astrogation and Intellect and find the highest value. My Astrogation is a three and my Intellect is a two. The biggest number is a three, so I'd get three green ability dice. The second highest number, that of Intellect, is a two. so I' upgrade two of those green dice into yellow proficiency. My pool would then be built of two yellow Challenge dice, plus one green Ability die (and then any other dice needed.)
These two dice have special symbols that are not on other dice. The yellow Proficiency die has the lightsaber in a circle thingy which is a Triumph, and red Challenge die has the triangle circle thing which is the Despair symbol.
|Types of Results|
Despairs also mean something big, as well as counting as one failure in the dice pool. Getting a Despair might mean that your gun runs out of ammo. Or remember those controls you blasted i hopes of sealing the door blocking the stormtroopers? Yeah, that panel also had the controls for the bridge extender on it. Oops.
The last type of die isn't normally used during game play, at least in Edge of the Empire. It is the Force die:
Oh, I forgot - the game also uses percentile dice for rolling results on percentile driven tables. They are not really used for anything else - except perhaps to quantify the pocket change that the bounty hunter you just killed was carrying.
The biggest problem with the dice now are that they are not available, unless you buy the Beginner boxed game. Fantasy Flight does have one of those phone app things that lets you assemble pools and roll the dice, but I don't have a phone that will support anything beyond calculating a waiter's tip, so that is not an answer for me. The current solution is to just buy a box and use the dice in a communal style - like monks or something. But so far, it's working. I do wonder what will happen when people start buying their own sets and the dice start getting mixed. That could lead to fist fights. :)
So that's it for how the new, strange dice drive the game's core mechanics. I've found this system to be much easier to grasp than expected, even for people new to tabletop rpgs. It's also pretty fast - once everyone gets a handle on all of the symbol meanings. And it gives a heck of a lot of power to the PCs, so that they are not just reacting to the GM's ruling on what a dice roll meant, but coming up with things themselves.
I'm not sure what about Edge of the Empire I'll tackle in the next post, but if you have any questions, just let me know.