Thursday, September 6, 2012

Star Wars RPG - Initial Reactions

I was perusing twitter this morning while at work - I know, that's bad - and I came across some tweets that the beta for the Fantasy Flight star wars RPG had released its first errata. Intrigued, I looked into the game a bit more and I found this info page. Take a moment to check it out. Today, I want to go over my initial reactions to what is on that page, the good and the bad. Feel free to join the discussion in the comments.

No Jedi Makes Me Sad
The first thing that makes me sad is the way they have chosen to break the game down. Th Star Wars RPG is going to, in fact, be three different games. The first game, Edge of the Empire, is going to be about Bounty Hunters, Smugglers, Scoundrels, and Freight Haulers on the titular edge of the empire. The second game is going to be about fighter pilots and the means of waging war. The third game is going to be about the force, jedi, and the traditions therein. This makes me sad because, honestly, it's not an approach I can endorse. Jedi, and the Force, are the thing that makes Star Wars unique. FireFly has bounty hunters and smugglers, Battle Star Galactica has fighter jokes and their craft, but only Star Wars has the force and jedi. In a real sense I think Fantasy Flight is missing out on capturing an iconic part of the universe from the get go, and that could hurt sales. After all, part of the reason people always complained about jedi in the other games was because almost every game had someone who wanted to be a jedi. Considering all of the major movies focus on a jedi, and only a handful of the books don't have one in the main cast, is that even all that surprising?

Hopefully this doesn't hurt the product too badly, and hopefully the other two games - which should make it a complete Star Wars universe game - don't take too long to come out after the first game, but we'll see. On twitter I likened this to selling a Halo RPG with no options to be a Spartan. In a related event, the Dragon Age RPG had some issues early on too when people were upset there was no way to be a Grey Warden.

Special Dice Are Worrisome
To follow up bad with bad, the fact that the game requires its own dice - and boy are they unique - is also worrisome. Requiring an accessory directly reduces the ease to introduce someone to the product. Granted, the dice used are supposed to be the same for the X-Wing miniatures game coming out, but that only helps a little bit (though it has me excited for a possible tie in with the Fighter Pilot RPG and the minis game.) My concern here is that one, the game will slow down if someone doesn't have the special dice the game requires because equivalents will have to be looked up on a chart and two, the game will slow down because - at least at first - everyone is going to have to figure out what the faces of the dice mean.

Both of these things make the game harder to get into, and harder to introduce someone new to gaming to. After all, with D&D you can just tell the person to roll the D20 and that higher is generally better for them. With Roll and Keep you can tell them how many dice to roll, how many to keep, and that - again - higher is normally better. How do you simplify that with these dice?

Die Rolling Has Me Intrgued
On the good side, I am intrigued by what FFG is trying to do with the die rolling mechanic. They want the dice to actually give you narrative/cinematic success chances. Basically, the die roll isn't just for success or failure, but for more specific things as well. One of the examples used is that you manage to wrestle the gamorrean to the ground, but end up having your blaster fall just out of reach in the process. This tells me that they want the core die rolling mechanic to make things more give and take, where even in success situations could get harder and lead to more cinematic events happening without issues of GM unfairness coming into play. I could totally get behind that notion.

More To Come
Those are the three big things I have. Ultimately, my first two are ones that won't impact me too much but have me worried for the brand as a whole. I want the Star Wars game to do well, mostly because I have wanted to run a Star Wars game that lasts forever and a day now. I've asked my FLGS about grabbing the beta, and if they don't I'll probably grab a copy for myself. The system has me intrigued, and even though I have some issues with FFG's 40k line of games, they still have a good track record of capturing the feel of the universe in their games.

What do you think?


  1. First of all, I believe the product's quality of FFG. So, of course, this Star Wars RPG will not be forgotten by the publisher. And the division of scenario.... well, they did the same with Warhammer 40 K (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, etc.) and it worked. So...

    1. The difference with that I'd say is that the 40k universe is so big that there isn't one super huge thing to go off of, and Dark Heresy - the first system - was in a lot of ways a remake of Inquisitor which was a game already out there.

      Also, for all that 40k stories will focus on space marines and such, they also focus on other characters and only marginally involve the giant armored and hulking beasts. Still, you are right that the track record with 40k is why I will still give it a chance. It just seems weird to not at least try for the jedi and fighter pilots in the big first source book.

  2. I would have to agree that Star Wars without Jedi just... isn't Star Wars. But at the same time, I don't enjoy a SW game (or setting) entirely dominated by Jedi.

    Dividing the game into three parts, however, seems just like a ploy to sell more books rather than make a single, coherent game. Not a fan of that idea.

    Not a fan of the special dice requirement, either. Again, sounds like a ploy to sell more stuff. And it seems unnecessary. The old D6 rules had a 'wild die' mechanic that worked pretty well in the same manner this seems to be designed to work- adding 'variety' to successes and failures.

    And despite my previous statements, I'm not against a company making money on its product. I am against them nickel-and-diming their customers by doling out parts of what should be a whole. In my opinion, a rule system for a setting should contain ALL the essential elements for that setting in one package. If you want to release 'source material' after the fact, that's fine. But Star Wars is smugglers and fighter pilots and Jedi. You should be able to use those from the get-go.

  3. Perhaps they wanted extra time to playtest the jedi to avoid some of the pitfalls, like the Quadratic Jedi of the d6 system.

    I also think that the 40k universe is very different from Star Wars. In 40k, there is a big stratification. You don't see a retured space marine working for a rogue trader. Inquisitors get assigned wherever there is a suspicion of taint - they wouldn't always work with the same group.

    Odd dice will limit the game. I don't want to go out and buy a new set of dice for everything I do.

  4. Philo, good addition. You definitely want Jedi balanced, especially in comparison to non-Jedi, when they come out. You don't want people wondering what they can do since they're not a force user. I think something like how you pull a Dark Heresy character into Rogue Trader could work for Jedi in that regard.

    For those that don't know, a Rogue Trader starting level character is the equivalent of a Dark Heresy character with 5k XP on them. The Rogue Trader has more raw power in a niche area, but the DH character will have more options to be a specific person/character. It works reasonably well.