Yes, you read right. This is a new post.
I’ve been playing a lot of tabletop roleplaying games this past year. The latest of them is Edge of the Empire, the new Star Wars rpg. I almost immidiately fell in love with the concept: A hard-edged living on the fringes of galactic society. No mystical Jedi, no idealistic Rebel Alliance, just doing business for some creds. Finally!
Edge of the Empire uses the Fantasy Flight Games’ unconventional dice as its base. There are two types of dice: Positive and negative. Positive dice (Ability, Skill and Boost) grant Successes and Advantages, and the negative dice (Difficulty, Challenge and Setback) issue Failures and Threats. Basically, you calculate from your skills and charasteristics what your Ability and Skill die pool is. Then the GM gives you Difficulty dice based on the difficulty on the check, and possibly upgrades some of them to Challenge dice. Then you and your fellow players toss ideas on how to help the check. If the idea sounds good, the GM awards you some Boost dice. Then the GM thinks about any outside difficulties and possibly adds some Setback dice.
Then you roll the pool. Each Failure eats one Success from your results. The Advantages and Threats cancel each other out on one-on-one basis. If you have at least one Success remaining, you succeed. Regardless on whether you succeed or not, if there are any Advantages remaining, something good happens. And if there are any Threats remaining, something bad happens.
So that’s the core mechanic, which I think is very, very good. Rolling dice is a big event, and ideas and narrative description can add tangible rewards to your check in the form of additional dice. The huge handful of dice feels very nice to roll, and the results shape the narrative in a very wide fashion. Your attempt to pass off as an important diplomat fails, but the security guard seems to be in an amicable mood and will let you go for a small bribe. Your blaster shot hits the bounty hunter squarely, but you find yourself exposed after making the shot.
In addition to the basic mechanics, there is the most interesting mechanic of them all: Obligation. Each character has an Obligation, a reason why he is living in the Edge of the Empire. It might be that he is in a deep debt, or that he has a large extended family whose matters require his constant attention. Obligation has also a Magnitude, which is typically in the range of 10-20. The party’s Obligation is tracked in their group sheet. At the beginning of each session, the GM rolls d100, and if the number hits any of the players’ Obligation, then that Obligation triggers, and the players can expect anything from calls to bounty hunters in that session.
The Obligation is a powerful narrative driving force and a resource. Generally, the higher the Obligation, the less official parties will want to deal with the players. Also, the higher the Obligation, the easier working with criminal elements will be. Players can purchase goods and services by increasing their Obligation, and they can adventure and pay off their debts, thus reducing it.
Sounds vague? Well, that’s the interesting thing. The whole book practically oozes the phrase ”Interpret this as you wish”. Everything, from combat rules to the Obligation is very loosely written, and most of the text consists of general guidelines the GM is free to interpret. Go fast and roll with it. Why do the government of this out-of-way-planet care about your family grievances? Because your family has questionable contacts to the criminal underworld, and you are too, by association. Or you can just say: You are right, they don’t. Your Obligation does not matter this time.
That’s what I love about Edge of the Empire. The lightness, openness to interpretation and general feeling of the game. After the horribly old-fashioned d20, the heavyset 40k Roleplay and problematic Cyberpunk, I really like Edge of the Empire.