Thursday, May 30, 2013

Edge of the Empire: Core Mechanics

You probably won't like the new Star Wars roleplaying game if you:

 * 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
The splat/starbust/explosions on the green dice are called Successes.  The pointy triangle things are called Failures.

Types of Results
You assemble your dice pool and roll.  Let's say I wanted to break down a door.  My Brawn is a 2, so I get 2 green ability dice.  Let's say it's a regular door, so it's an average task - thus I get two purple difficulty dice.  Those four dice - two greens and two purples - make up my dice pool.  Then I roll!

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
Advantages and threats cancel each other out in a similar manner to Successes and Failures.  So, if I rolled 3 advantages and 1 Threat, I'd come away with two advantages.

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
These two dice represent smaller increments of good and bad, and are used to indicate special things.  For example, if I aim with my bowcaster, I get to add a Boost die to my pool.  If it is raining while I'm trying to shoot the bounty hunter down the street, I might add a Setback die to my pool.  If I am aiming while it rains, I would get both a Boost and a Setback Die added to my pool.

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
The Proficiency and Challenge dice are typically used as Upgrade dice.  The green Ability can be upgraded into the yellow Proficiency, while the purple Failure can be upgraded into the red Challenge.  This is primarily used in determining your dice pool for a skill check.  These dice, with their twleve sides, have more chances for Successes, Advantages, Failures, and Threats.

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
A Triumph counts as one Success, but it also counts for something really, really good.  In combat, that might automatically dispatch a lower level mook that you punched in the gut.  Or it might create a friend for life out of the underworld contact that you were pumping for information about the location of a certain bounty hunter.  Or . . . whatever.  A Triumph usually means something big.

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:

Perhaps in the Jedi game expansion the Force die will be used more, but in this game, its is only used before play to determine the group's Destiny Pool. Each player rolls a die, and for each result, one or two light or dark points are added to the pool. During game play, the players and GM can access the light and dark points to alter or enhance die results, or 'force' other things to happen. But I'll get into more about that in a future post.

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.

- Ark

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire

Fantasy Flight Games acquired the rights to produce Star Wars card, roleplaying, and miniatures games in 2011. At the time, the future of Star Wars seemed pretty . . . lame. But since then, Disney bought the Star Wars universe from George Lucas. The Mouse Ears are prepping to make new Star Wars movies, the animated series Star Wars: Rebels is now in production, and rumors are flying fast about bringing Star Wars: Battlefront III from its twice dug grave.

Fantasy Flight appears to be positioned to head up Star Wars roleplaying through this new golden age. Well - details of the game rights are sketchy, but Fantasy Flight seems to have plans with it until at least 2015 - by the time Star Wars Seven enters theaters.

The first part of the new Star Wars roleplaying game, Edge of the Empire, is set to be released in July. It could have easily been called Scum and Villainy, since it deals with those parts of the Star Wars universe. The second part, due in 2014, is the Age of Rebellion and deals with - well - The Rebellion, of course. In 2015, Force & Destiny will be released, focusing on the Jedi and Sith specifically.

These are three separate games that focus on three different types of roleplaying campaigns. I assume that they are compatible with one another, so a smuggler and a Jedi could, eventually, put the smack down on a Hutt lord. But right now, with not even the first game out, it's hard to say.

However, I've been digging through the Edge of the Empire Beta from last year, and am becoming familiar with the Edge of the Empire Beginner's Game, a watered down version of the eventual Core EotE book, and think I have a pretty good handle on how the game works, and what we can expect.

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire is, in many ways, quite different than any other roll playing game I've played. I'll be following this post up with a more detailed analysis. So stay tuned!

- Ark

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Roll To Hit

After years of rolling to hit, The Boy sat down with his brand new Ruger 10/22 Carbine and showed us that he's pretty good in the real world too.  It was a bear finding 22 ammo, though, and we thought we'd have to call off the range day until, at the last moment, we found a store that hadn't been descended upon by the bullet locusts.

So The Boy has found a new love.  He just wishes it didn't take so long to clean his new love. :)

- Ark

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gimpy Old Man

I bunged up my drawing hand pretty bad - apparently tendonitis - and have been laying off the drawing.  It's been maddening.

I . . . must . . . draw . . .

The swelling is down and the pain is only mildly annoying, so I should be back in form soon.  I need to learn not to squeeze the pencil so hard that the graphite fuses into diamond.  Oh - and maybe take a few breaks and not draw 8 hours straight.

In the meantime, I've been digging deep into the Beta for the new Star Wars game.  From what I've seen of the Beta and the already published beginning game, I think the final product in - what was it - July? - will be really cool.

The game has a lot of weird dice and unusual mechanics, to me, but it seems to all make sense when you put it together.  It is definitely a step away from anything with a d20 in it.  Or a d6.  Heck, the only dice it uses with numbers are percentiles - and that's just to roll on the occasional result list.

Anyway, if anyone is interested, I could jot down a review in a post or something.  :)

- Ark

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pherosathoola, Goddess of Sexual Fear - Final . . . Maybe . . . Kinda . . . Sorta . . .

Here is Pherosathoola, finished.  More or less.  I think.

I've got a ton of things I want to add and fiddle with, but you have to stop sometime before the piece is a muddled mess.  I . . . ugh.  I don't know.  I'd like to detail the background more, but the foreground is important.  Far more.  And most of those old Monster Manual and Deities and Demigods images didn't have much of a background either.  And the desolation of it kind of fits with the whole snake motif.

So, it's time to just smack down all the voices in my head and spit this puppy out.

However, if anyone has some constructive criticism, I'd be happy to listen.  Like the whole freckle idea.  That was a stroke of brilliance.  On occasion, art by committee work.  Sometimes.  A bit.  On alternate February 29ths.  ;)

Hmm . . . maybe a fancy border.  Ack!  No!  Shut up, voices!

- Ark