Fascinated Friday: Star Wars-Edge of the Empire
I’m a huge Star Wars guy. It was the very first movie my mom ever took me to, and I am convinced that it is what solidified, at an incredibly young age, my love for all things sci-fi and fantasy. Star Wars is everywhere right now. With the success of J.J. Abrams The Force Awakens, Disney’s animated Star Wars: Rebels, books like Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath, and an assortment of amazing toys and games out there, Star Wars is more alive now than it has been since I was a kid.
Just this morning, my three year old was gleefully flying a small, diecast Millennium Falcon around the house. It was a delight to behold. He then intently informed me that Boba Fett was a robot. Now, I could have shown him the error of his ways, revealing to him that esteemed bounty hunter Boba Fett was indeed a human being, but that would have involved the prequels, and I’m not ready for that conversation yet.
Fantasy Flight Games is the publisher of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game system, and the first release in the line was a game called Edge of the Empire. Edge of the Empire allows you to take on the roles of the shady miscreants and ne’er-do-wells that inhabit the fringes of inhabited space in the Star Wars universe. They are the scum and villains that make Mos Eisley spaceport such a wretched hive, if you will.
I had the opportunity to play Edge of the Empire a week or so back, and I was astounded by the game. It was an absolute blast. Different types of storytelling is always interesting to me, especially collaborative forms of storytelling (I’m part of a writing DUO for crying out loud!). Tabletop role-playing games have always been excellent examples of this type of collaborative narrative. But here, with the mechanics of their new system, Fantasy Flight has done something really interesting.
The key is actually the dice. The dice used in Edge of the Empire completely eschews the standard pips or numbers for specific symbols. These symbols represent Triumph, Despair, Success, Failure, Advantage, Threat, and are found on different colored dice.
When a character must perform a task, say open a locked door, they will be assigned different dice based on their skill at that task and the overall difficulty of accomplishing it. The dice are rolled and the symbols are compared. Successes and failures cancel each other out. So do advantages and threat. The very rare Triumph and Despair do not cancel each other out. So at the end of the roll, the player looks at all the remaining symbols and that is the result.
And this is where the brilliance lies.
You see, this means that an action can be a success or a failure, but also have an advantageous or disadvantageous result AT THE SAME TIME. So, let’s go back to our character trying to open the locked door. Her results come up 3 success, 2 failure, 1 advantage, 2 threat. Cancelling things out, she has 1 success and 1 disadvantage. So, she is successful in opening the locked door. But, her actions have caused some sort of reaction that is negative to her.
Surprise, the door was alarmed and now klaxons are going off.
This right here is what I fell in love with when playing the game.
You see, there is a certain rhythm to the action in Star Wars. The original trilogy had it in spades. The Force Awakens has it as well, and this is where I really noticed this rhythm. There is this ebb and flow between action and light-humor, daring do’s and devastating set-backs. It is a narrative rhythm that had its roots in the old serials that George Lucas so admired, a kind of larger than life pulp sensibility that swings back and forth, creating thrilling action and storytelling.
And Edge of the Empire does this with dice.
One of my favorite moments in A New Hope has Han Solo charging through the corridors of the Death Star, firing his blaster at a group of retreating Stormtroopers. He chases them around a blind corner, only to find himself face to face with many more troopers. His moment of wild confidence now degenerates into a panicked run back the way he came.
Because old Han rolled him some serious threat.
Fantasy Flight has a beginner set for Edge of the Empire. This is an amazing introduction both to role-playing and to the system itself. It is a box that comes with a set of the necessary dice, some really good maps, a compelling adventure, and some pre-built characters with information on both their skills and personalities. It is a wonderful start to not only this system, but to this hobby.
This coming Sunday, I am going to get a chance to dive back into Edge of the Empire again, and I can’t wait. I could use a little more Star Wars in my life right now.
Until next Fascinated Friday, keep finding things you love. And, may the Force be with you.
PS: Here is one of my favorite podcasts Never Tell Me the Odds doing an introduction to the game. It features a 400lb Mon Calamari named Gippy Bindoo, and it is GLORIOUS.