On Sunday a friend of mine stopped by with the beginner's box for the new Star Wars RPG, Edge of the Empire. As we had nothing better to do, and we all rather love gaming, we decided to give it a shot. Exactly as the friend had planned. It didnt take long for the three of us (there is supposed to be 4 I believe) to grab the character folders, figure out who we were from the stories on the back, and for the GM to begin with the game's introduction. Going in I knew I'd have a good time. Star Wars is, after all, my favorite universe and I've loved it since I was a kid. Still, Ill try to be as objective as possible with my first impressions here.
The most glaring different from any other RPG you've played and Star Wars Edge of the Empire is the dice. EoE uses custom dice that randomly provide an allotment of one of several symbols (success, advantage, triumph, despair, threat, failure.) Some of the dice have the bad things on them (ranging from D6s to D12s) and some of the dice have the good things on them (same range.)
I'm not going to explain the die rolling system here save to say that while it does take a little bit to get used to it is actually fairly intuitive. It didn't take the four of us much more than a few rolls before we were rattling off the relevant information for the GM/other players and being able to figure things out. Even better is that once the die rolls were easily able to be understood resolving actions was actually a bit easier than in some other systems because the dice more or less handle everything for you.
The Advantage/Threat and Triumph/Despair system were also pretty awesome. I think I'd like more from the book examples for things that could happen - just for a range - but they are fairly intuitive once you get going. They also do a good job of removing the sting from a failed roll by still giving you something while also allowing for the players to suffer from some setbacks even while they steam roll through an encounter.
Bottom line: it is definitely a die rolling system I'd like more exposure too.
Character mechanics I thought worked fairly well. Understanding that the Beginner Box we played is a simplified version of low level characters, things still worked fairly nicely. I like the breakdown in balance and power between stats and skills. You definitely want to have skills, they give you the big D12 positive die to the relevant rolls, but stats are still of over-riding importance without being overbearing. This will be further tempered in my view with how much raising a stat vs. raising a skill is in experience (and how much XP per session is the norm) but for now I like the breakdown.
The breakdown also shows where a character is good and where they're weak quite simply. If your character has a good agility, youll have a good number of dice to roll (positive side). Dont have a good agility? and even if you're skilled you'll only have one or two dice to help you out in your time of need. It works.
I didn't notice any particularly glaring issues or differences between the races. There were racial abilities (the Wookies one gives extra damage when injured) but I have no idea what the Human/Twi'lek abilities are and I'm not sure if they ever even came up. That said, for Star Wars I prefer the light touch approach to races. It is possible that the races did more to determine stats (no char creation, remember) and other impacts like that, but the range of numbers still seemed fairly balanced for all the players. A definite improvement from how some systems try to handle races by going overboard with differences and mechanical benefits/weaknesses to stan them apart. Not that there's anything wrong with that for a more tactical game, but in a more narrative game a lighter touch works nicer I think.
This is kind of back to dice rolling but goes a bit deeper than that. No matter the system players often want a way to see how likely they are to succeed at a given task. L5R has full blown probability charts telling you what each dice pool has for a chance to hit what TN at any given time. Personally, I dislike these charts and I dislike people who base all their decisions based on them. Ive had a few too many people say I was being unreasonable with my TN setting because they only had a 30-40% chance to make the check.
That said, I appreciate people being able to know if theyre doing something huge, hard, or way beyond their ability. Edge of the Empire handles this flawlessly. Whenever a person makes a check the difficulty for the check (be it trying to pick a lock or trying to win at Sabacc against another person) is plainly visible in the palm of their hands. For every negative thing against them (say the opponents skill or how good the lock is) there is a dice. Sometimes a very big dice and sometimes not. However, when you look in your hand and see more Black, Purple, and Red than Blue, Green, and Yellow you know that it is unlikely you will succeed at the check. Maybe not the odds of it, but you still have some notion. After all, youre holding more dice with bad outcomes than with good.
Why do I like this but hate the charts? Because by the time you see this you are basically committed to the action. The game is narrative enough, and has enough stuff in place, that a failed roll isnt really the big bad boogeyman it can be in other games. However, at the crucial moment the situation is very easily visually represented and that makes other decisions (do I spend a force point to boost a green to a yellow? Do I grab that boost die we've got lying around from the last session?) a lot easier to make. After all, you're holding what you are getting into.
All In All
All in all I would love to spend more time playing Edge of the Empire. Luckily, I may get the opportunity to. I love Star Wars and would play any Star Wars game I could. However, as a system Edge of the Empire also seems intriguing. I want to see more of it. Hopefully I'll get the chance when the game comes out.