I am back and mostly intact from a hellish semester and personal life insanity. I still have three deadlines to meet till November, so don’t expect regular posting just yet. That said, I needs to write, so I will try to trickle out a few interesting things.
Anyway, during my absence from blogging it seems D&D 5e dropped like a bomb on the scene and still continues to burn up the blogosphere. Like most people I cut my teeth on Ye Olde Game and have probably played more D&D than any other system. That said, I am far too busy and disconnected to enter the fray about 5e, and so for the foreseeable future I will be offering an alternative to D&D and fantasy gaming in general. I plan to write mainly about science fiction gaming, so if that sounds good to you, watch this spot and enjoy!
REVIEW – Star Wars Edge of Empire + Age of Rebellion
After the semester a friend kindly invited my family to his cabin on Mount Rokko, the verdant mountain that overlooks the city of Kobe. It was a great chance to unwind, let my little son interact with their baby daughter as well as different adults, and generally rehumanize myself and my partner.
While this main objective was met in spades, the host also got me into a game of the latest Star Wars RPG with a few of his friends. I haven’t gamed in over a year, and the last Star Wars I played was in the 90s, so of course I was overjoyed.
Overall, I had a blast. Although a marathon 6 hour session in an unfamiliar system is admittedly tiring, I was entertained and impressed and so I offer a review.
The two rulebooks are GORGEOUS, there is no other way of saying it. Remember the wonky art of the old comic book adaptations of Star Wars, how Yoda looked like Grover, Leia like a generic supermodel, and Luke her sister? The art in these rulebooks are the total antitheses of those old comics. The cover picture of Luke IS a portrait of Mark Hamill circa 1979, while the aliens and tech inside are reverse-engineered from the movies back to the palette of Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art. Even if you unfortunately never play the game, it makes your gaming shelf shine with its beauty.
The character sheet is sufficiently old school, with boxes for attributes, skills, special abilities, and equipment. Chargen itself is new school, with point-buy all the way. Although it wasn’t anywhere near as execrable as 4e’s point buy, I kind of miss random chargen and having to roll with the punches. If that doesn’t bother you, chargen is fast and relatively painless. I made a Trandoshan bounty hunter – not terribly original, but fun for a guy dropping into someone else’s game for a session. My fellow players and the GM advised me, and with the point-buy I was encouraged to buy off all the racial weakness of my character. Although normally I would have balked against this filling in of the character’s holes, it was good enough for a one shot appearance.
The mechanics are streamlined and easy to pick up – to resolve an action, grab a handful of dice equal to the higher of an apprpriate attribute or skill, then get a bonus from the lower of the two. Add in some difficulty dice, roll the whole whack of polyhedrals, then cancel out successes and failures to find your ultimate level of achievement. Dice are special d6s, d8s and d12s with symbols instead of numbers, which affect play in ways that take some getting used to. However, the amalgamation of player dice and difficulty dice is a wonderful innovation that makes rolling go fast and gives a great feeling of satisfaction to the roller.
Play was overall not much different from any other rpg I’ve played, with the aforementioned dice rolling making things run very smoothly. If there is one thing that hinders play, it is getting used to the dice. Dice in Star Wars have success, triumph, and advantage symbols versus failure, despair and threat symbols on their sides. What this means is that you can succeed in an action but end up threatened, or fail yet gain some advantage. This system offers much more possibility than the binary succeed-fail mechanic of traditional dice, which encourages improvisational storytelling and really suits Star Wars. The initial effort needed to memorize the dice meanings and get used to the resolution mechanic is well worth it for the storied gameplay you’ll have.
THE STORY & THE MASTER
Regardless of how good a system is, a good GM really brings a game to life. My friend the game master is a former astronomy student and highly technical-minded man, which showed in the intricacy and breadth of his descriptions. We really felt immersed in the Star Wars universe, especially the tech and cultures. I am more of a fast and loose GM myself, and felt that although my friend ran a great game his way, I could do one my way with as much success.
In the session, my character delivered an imperial prisoner to the rebels and met the PCs, a human medic, a hacker-type, and a Twilek con woman. Suddenly the imperials arrive and start bombarding the rebel outpost, so I deliver my prisoner and hitch a ride on a transport with the player characters, which rendez-vous with a waiting cruiser. While in hyperspace, the shipment of droids the cruiser carried comes to life and begin sabotaging the ship, so of course it was up to us to save the day.
The flurry of action included hacking the ship’s system to lock out the evil droids and turn the air back on; missing a shot but taking out the enemy with a falling gantry; crashing a Y-wing into the aft landing bay; and turning the hyperspace engine back on minutes away from getting sucked into a blackhole.
In other words, it was Star Wars through and through.
You like Star Wars? You like rpgs? This game is chocolate and peanut butter, and boy do they go together. It is probably the best realization of an IP in a roleplaying game I have ever seen, so pick it up and enjoy. My friend also has a huge collection of the Star Wars miniature game and uses it to resolve space battle scenes, so this can add a whole new dimension to the game. Yes, in space no one can hear you nerdgasm.