Here’s Where the Fun Begins

This year is the 40th Anniversary of the Star Wars franchise first launching back in 1977. I feel it’s only appropriate that I make a million Star Wars posts this year.

Or at least one. Let’s talk about my love affair with the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG.

So, I first experienced this RPG when my friend introduced my group to it years ago with the first game in the series, Edge of the Empire, which I’ll explain more about later. It was actually the first RPG many in my group had ever played, and I think it is to blame not only for my groups obsession with this system, but also with their addiction to games in general. It was our gateway drug into buying up as many tabletops as we can.

It was a great experience, being scoundrel type characters at the whim of a cruel Hutt gangster. Even my friends new to RPGs created deep, complex characters. We acted in character and often argued as such. We made solid plans and many many less solid ones, the latter of which usually resulted in better stories. I think that campaign will always have a special place in our hearts. Thank you, Ryan, for GMing that chaotic masterpiece.

Since then, I took over and have been running a custom campaign I’ve been brewing up in the system. At it’s core, it’s a pulpy homage to characters like the Shadow or the Spirit with the players acting as a small group of galactic vigilantes out to stop a madman with a penchant for anarchy and chaos. Β It’s essentially been my way to get all my RPG jollies off in succession. There have been horror-themed missions, noir-esque missions, and of course some hardcore Star Wars missions. This campaign has been going for two years or so and has nearly reached it’s apex, which will probably occur sometime later this year considering my group’s once-a-month play schedule (due to work schedules and various other adult things, don’t get me started).

All-in-all, I love this system. To break it down, the system exists across three separate standalone games that all focus on a different aspect of the Star Wars Universe proper:

  • Edge of the Empire – Outer Rim planets, scoundrels, gangsters, smugglers
  • Age of Rebellion – The Galactic Civil War, military skirmishes, Imperial oppression, espionage
  • Force & Destiny – The Jedi, purity vs corruption, light vs dark, cool force powers

The system itself functions with a fairly simplistic outlook on skills and attributes. It utilizes it’s own set of dice that are essentially more functional fudge dice, or dice that work on a simple positive-negative mechanic as opposed to numerical values. Essentially, there are positive dice and negative dice. The positive dice are rolled based on you aptitude in the skill you are attempting and any bonuses you may have from teammates, narrative things or devices. The Negative dice represent how difficult the particular task might be. The symbols on both sets of dice cancel each other out. If you have any uncancelled successes, you have succeeded at what you were attempting. Simple enough. This system then makes it more interesting by adding things like advantage and threats, which add a positive or negative flair to whatever you’re doing. Example, you could successfully unlock a door but have a handful of uncancelled threat symbols. Thus, the GMΒ can decide that in the process, you received a series of small electrical shocks, damaging you strain (non-lethal damage that causes you to pass out). Essentially, this system allows you to fail positively or have a negative success, which adds a lot of spice to the experience.

I think what makes this system great is that it is a wonderful balance of easy/approachable and just intricate enough to keep D20 loyalists entertained. From a GM standpoint, it allows for so much narrative interaction. Any and every skill check can be turned into a detailed, narrative experience just by interpreting the dice. That element of the dice in and of itself is an excellent exercise in GM improv, since you can’t prepare for the outcomes to be negatively positive or positively negative. For players, combat is still challenging, though sometimes maybe a bit fruitless for people who like skin-of-their-teeth combat (it can be very hard to die in this game), and the availability of so many different skills gives a myriad of options in encounters.

Honestly, I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun RPG in a firmly established universe. However, I think the system is absolutely perfect for individuals trying to get experience GMing and especially those looking to learn how to build custom campaigns. Each book in the series (I have every single one, don’t judge me) has pages upon pages of already crafted NPCs. It’s like the bestiaries in Pathfinder/D&D but less complex and more malleable to tweaking. It’s the easiest and most entertaining system I’ve ever built a campaign in, which is what’s kept me going for two years now.

Seriously, do yourself a favor: Pick up on of the core books and give it a shot. With a big group, with a small group, whatever. I cannot say enough just how fun this system is. Fantasy Flight nailed it here and continues providing all kinds of supplements and adventures to keep things feeling new and fresh. Give it a shot. And of course…

May the Force be with you.

~C

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