I've talked before about the new Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. I pre-ordered a copy when I had the chance, and it has been sitting on my table for the past week or so waiting for me to have the time to flip through it. With the group I play Edge of the Empire with gearing up to reconvene and adapt to the release version of the game I figured it was past time I started looking. Because of that, today I want to share my initial thoughts on the book. Some of these thoughts may be repeats of thoughts I had on beta documentation, but I'm going to try to focus on the release version.
Before beginning, I want to point out that I'm going to be listing good things and bad things. Bad things is not necessarily something I feel needs to be fixed, or even could be fixed, but they are things I could see some problems coming from in the future or for certain groups. Also, I am still reading the book so this is the reslts of my initial hunting and pecking through the book. If a gripe I have is answered in the book PLEASE let me know. Though, for the most part, I don't think that'll be a huge problem here.
Good Point: The Book Is Beautiful
Honestly, the book is beautiful. It has a nice, clean, crisp cover; it stands out on the book shelf, it pulls the eye, it has beautiful art work, and it has good page quality. I can't remember the last RPG book of this quality I've had in my hands. The art work has a heavy focus on Boba Fett and Han Solo when pulling from other sources, but that is understandable considering they're the two best known characters from this aspect of the universe. Page layouts are nice, side bars grab the eyes, and plenty of diagrams for gear also help to guide the reader through the pages. Seriously, flip through the book, it is beautiful.
Bad Point: The Book Is Huge
This may not be a bad point if you like your RPG books to be big and heavy, but Edge of the Empire I think is the heaviest RPG book that I own. This book is massive. It is about 450 pages, with solid thick covers, good binding, and heavy pages. These all keep the book nice clean and beautiful but also make it big. Unfortunately, the book is so big that it is kind of intimidating. I could see someone new to gaming get scared seeing the size of this one book and thinking they had to know it all. Just as I could see a new group being unsure due to the size of it. At the same time, the size and weight of the book also makes casual reading harder. Simply put, if you want to read this book and don't want your wrists to strain you're going to need a table or something to rest the book on.
Good Point: LOTS Of Options
Despite the size of the book, you actually don't need to read too much of the book as a player to know what is going on. Obviously, some characters and players will need to know more than others, but it is still a good point. Much of the book's size is actually because of these options. You want your bounty hunter to have a fully customized set of armor that rivals Batman in gadgetry and situational responsiveness? You totally can do that. You want your smuggler to have a pistol shaved down to such a fine degree that its presence alone speeds up a character draw by a full second? You can do that too. Characters have lots of options and can multi-specialize on a whim, gear can be customized, ships can be customized. Honestly, pretty much everything here can be customized.
Bad Point: Missing Iconic Things...
This is somewhat of a content problem meaning it can be fixed. Now it has been mentioned all the way from design phase that Edge wouldn't have Jedi, so I'm not going to include that. However, there are some other iconic things that are missing. First, and while I expect this will be addressed in the near future, there is almost no mention of Mandalorians that I can find. This is worth a mention as when you consider that Star Wars a lot of times comes down to Jedi vs. Bounty Hunters it seems strange that there's no mention of the most bad-ass and fan-favorite type of bounty hunter. Still, a good GM can bring that back in. Beyond the Mandos though, there is also no rules for X-Wing fighters, Star Destroyers, or any kind of TIE fighter beyond the stock kind.
The X-Wing reasoning I had first read was because Edge was set before A New Hope but that is no longer, to the best of my knowledge, the case. The X-Wing fighter at this time in Star Wars has replaced the Z-95 as one of the best fighters out there. Granted, X-wings, A-wings, and B-wings will probably be a big part of the second Star Wars book it is sad to not see them mentioned here. The TIE Fighter lack limits GMs in what they can throw against players, though I don't think the empire had revealed much more than the stock fighter and bomber at this point in history. Finally, Star Destroyers. Now I figure that this is done because players shouldn't be running up against Star Destroyers much, but considering that a Star Destroyer is the sign of Imperial Military might and I wish they were here. Like the X-Wing they'll probably show up soon but the lack here is odd. After all, if you can't have Jedi and are thinking Star Wars space battle whose head doesn't go to X-Wings, TIE Fighters, and Star Destroyers?
EDIT: Mandalorians will be in a "Pre Age of Rebellion" expansion rumored to come out around Q4 2013. X-Wings, Star Destroyers, and other TIE Variants will almost definitely be in Age of Rebellion. As another point though, the lack of inclusion in Edge has made more sense to me since I posted this. Edge is about the edge of society out on the outer rim. The lawless bandits, pirates, and bounty hunters. Even in the expanded universe it is rare for pirates - unless they're exceptionally well funded pirates or more commonly Rogue/Wraith Squadron in disguise - to have X-Wings. So I can see why FFG is waiting. Still, I would have loved to see a super expensive X-Wing stat block to show what could be out there and at least kind of include it. If nothing else, it could give GMs a head start in getting their PCs involved in the Rebellion whose base line fighter is the X-Wing.
Good Point: How The Force Is Handled
Yep, Jedi aren't in this game. Nor are they supposed to be. However, Fantasy Flight has handled this well. You can't be a Jedi, but you can be force sensitive. This means that your character can start off like Luke, having a different class but developing abilities with the force. As the games progress these options will likely include, until, at the end, you can likely become a full fledged Jedi. Actually, considering how specializations work, it is probably as easy as just selecting that specialization once it is available for use.
When it comes to Jedi and the Force FFG knows what they are doing by cutting it off here. There are nods all over the place that Jedi are coming, and it is cool to see. You won't be able to be a lightsaber wielding crazy acrobatic fighter in this game - with out fan add ons anyhow - but you CAN get a lightsaber if you can find one, and learn some of the force on your path to becoming a Jedi or something else later.