Impressions from the Edge of the Empire

Yesterday, I launched a campaign using Fantasy Flight Games’ Edge of the Empire for a group of five players. They all know each other well, and are just getting to know me. They were previously involved in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign together which has gone on hiatus. For me, this is the first face-to-face game group I have found since moving to Daejeon. The group has a solid grasp on the Star Wars universe and the process of cooperative character generation, which got things from the concept stage to implementation very quickly. However it  has no experience with dice-pool systems and their associated mechanics. On my end, the game read like a very standard approach to system, canted a bit toward the heavy end, but with everything going on around me the past few weeks, I did not feel ready to introduce a new group to a new game that was also new to me. I had to ‘trust my feelings’ that the shared love of Star Wars, and the established group dynamic would see us through, despite my concerns that I was not familiar enough with the system to handle a session.

I was not disappointed, and in many ways was pleasantly surprised.

The Pitch

After having initially met the  group and learning that they currently had no games going, I was hopeful that something could be started up – but what? My initial thought was to pitch a face-to-face extension of my RuneQuest campaign. Close on the heels of that thought was one which quickly developed into a full-blown campaign idea for Blue Planet, one for Broken Rooms, and another for Aces & Eights. I kept these thoughts to myself, and concentrated on getting to know the different personalities in the group, which was not going to be at all easy in the short periods of time available to socialize… or so I thought. A new item on the pending Star Wars film took care of that, however. A lively and fun discussion about the universe indicated that what I had to suggest was gaming there. I was torn for a while between WEG Star Wars and trying EotE. Knowing that I could easily transition to the former if EotE tanked, I opted to make it a part of my pitch.

The pitch itself was simple, ‘Would [the group] be interested in taking on a simple-sounding salvage contract?’ The resulting chuckles from the players told me that they were in tune with the genre and we were going to have some fun.

Order 66

There was a lot of interest originally in the Force. This was one of the major motivating factors in my mind as I considered going with D6 instead of EotE and its custom dice. In the end, however, I felt that keeping the focus tight on the characters and their life out on the Rim might be easier if they kept a blaster by their side rather than getting caught up in ‘hokey religions.’ With EotE’s smart approach to Force Sensitivity, and the release of Age of Rebellion edging nearer all the time, if a player really wanted to bring this element into the game, it would not be hard at all to make that happen. We discussed it as a group, and on review of the Force Sensitive specialization, we ended up with no budding Jedi or Sith.

The Characters

What we did get were a Smuggler (scoundrel), and Hired Gun (marauder) of human stock; a droid Bounty Hunter (gadgeteer), and a droid Technician (slicer); and a Bothan Explorer (scout). Brought together initially by a tough contract which nearly cost them their lives, the desperate struggle to keep solvent and mobile has turned them into a rough and ready team which while perhaps not the closest and dearest of friends, is now together almost entirely by choice. The game’s obligation mechanic really served us well here by coaxing the players to clarify and shape the external forces on the group, and by giving their back-stories depth additional depth.

Starting Session 1

We gathered together in a local coffee shop on Sunday morning before 11am to finalize character concepts (and creation if necessary). When I arrived the group was in place and filling in character sheets. That was nice to see. Conversation about connections between characters were being established based on their career roles, and banter about the rough edges of those connections was in full swing. Despite feeling woefully unprepared to run the system, this made me smile. A big part of the fun of Star Wars, I think, is how the original cast bickers like a family. I was seeing that take shape before me as I waited for a hot cup of caramel masquerading as coffee.

I started things off by quickly walking through the stages of character creation so that all the commonly-known material about each character could be revealed in an easy to follow manner, and to answer any remaining questions about how characters interact with the system in an orderly fashion. As the group was prepared and experienced with RPGs this went pretty quickly and there were few real questions. Most of these focused on buying skills and characteristics. I have to say, the book covers a lot of questions from the new player perspective quite well. It is not that easy to find specific information to answer a specific question on the fly, but when a section is read, I am finding it answers pertinent questions clearly.

The System

This review of things made a fairly neat segue into introducing the dice and the basic mechanics. I did not get into things too deeply, just how to make make and read a dice pool, and that there are things such as opposed rolls and so on to signal that we would be taking things in stages. The major part of this, through the vehicle of the dice, was trying to make the shared nature of narrative control in this game. The dice are going to matter. The roll comes first, followed by interpretation of its results. We all have control over shaping how the pools are formed and each player is responsible for how the character appears as they weather those interpretations. This was the make or break moment, and I was again pleased to see the group warm to this idea right away. In play, they went at it with gusto, too. I was also pleased later on when they were as receptive to contributing negatives as well as positives to scene-setting.

Once the characters were essentially finalized we revisited Obligation Motivations. I temped them with increasing Obligation in various ways in order to help them scratch the more annoying itches in their starting stances. All but one took more obligation, some for XP and some for starting capital. Motivations were tidied up to establish the group dynamic and direction which had been blossoming.

The last thing I did was to roll for the active Obligation for the day’s session, and it brought elements from the droid Slicer’s life to the fore, searching for others of the same rare production run (Obligation: family).

Running Session 1

This was a lucky break as it meshed perfectly with our opening scene… a dingy, seen-better-days, orbital city above the brutal mining planet, Vev, in a nowhere system called Korla that has to look up to see the bottom. I have not followed the Expanded Universe with any real attention, but some of the players have. I made it known early in the session that I would be facilitating the creation of our own piece of the Star Wars universe. The players were free to bring in whatever aspects of the Expanded setting they liked, and we could feel free to ignore the rest. I wanted them to know I would be making most of my settings and NPCs up, but that the rest of the Universe that they know and love still exists.

The group had agreed to meet a prospective employer here about a salvage operation, and had 5 hours to kill beforehand. They knew that they would need to transport some gear, some droids, and an observer to an undisclosed location, and return with some undisclosed goods. The remuneration and bonus opportunities looked good, although they did not for a moment believe it would be the milk-run it appeared to be.

With time on their hands, the group scouted the station to get a feel for it, and locate some reliable equipment vendors, but to primarily get a line on the local black market. Whenever they hit a place like this the Slicer starts acting erratically unless they dig through tons of droid scrap looking for parts. Not fully sure why the little thing wants all of these parts, but having grown used to acquiescing to the search, the group saw nothing but good in making some local connections and helping t Droid at the same time.

Thanks to the teamwork between the Scout and the Hired Gun, it did not take long before they picked a likely target out of the crowd in a suitably low-life bar. Leaning on the man a little heavily, they scored a good deal and got a line on the…parts they were looking for. They would have to visit the surface, but they could make the trip in time to make their interview 5-hours later. They earned a little fear and enmity along the way, and that filled out most of our first session.

Rolls in the first scene were for Perception, with side-orders of Charm and Intimidation. This first scene a was enough to get the group comfortable with the dice mechanics.

A potential combat encounter loomed next as they were followed from this meeting and set up for ambush. Rather than just start shooting, the Hired Gun tried to get the thugs to back down, and succeeded handily, thus getting the group out of a very tight spot indeed. I might have turned this encounter into an

They made planetfall, and spent time searching through a vast stockpile of old equipment basically being sold out of the back of a factory warehouse. Realizing the value of this find, they took the time to build rapport with the guy in charge of it all. Not sure if they had found what they had come for, they made a very good deal on a damaged and inoperable droid seemingly loaded with the parts they sought, then headed back to the station. Their transport on this run was a cousin of their new black market contact. Not willing to trust first and possibly have to break heads later, the Bothan was left with the shuttle and its grumpy pilot to make sure he didn’t leave without them. Not one to waste an opportunity, he made a good connection with the pilot by losing to him repeatedly in ‘a friendly game of chance.’ This is where the system really started to shine for me. I handled the game of chance by calling for a single competitive roll between the Scout and the NPC pilot. We built the pool together adding in all the factors from the scene that would matter, then rolled. The pilot came out ahead on Successes, but the Bothan still gained Advantage. The narrative dice turned what would otherwise have been a dry dice result of ‘he wins’ which I would have to decide to dress up and spin in a way that I felt might be interesting, into knowing at a glance that somehow the act of losing had given the character some form of benefit. Smiling, I narrated the pilot’s great satisfaction out of having won the Scout’s money, then smiling more I revealed that now, the Scout had learned all the man’s tells. The next time these two gambled the outcome would be decidedly different.

The final scenes were on the station and consisted of avoiding more violence and making their meeting with their potential employer. By now, people were comfortably in character and each person except for our Bounty Hunter had had a chance to step into the spotlight. Each character had contributed a lot to each scene via dialogue and the mechanic for assisting others, but as the group had cleverly side-stepped combat each time it had threatened them, he did not get to do what he is best at doing. I am sure that will not be the case for too much longer.

We left off with the group accepting the mission, a return trip to a deserted Rebel Base which the Empire had taken out, but according to rumor was suddenly called away from before securing. The employer, a human who gave them the impression of a man who had risen to a certain measure of wealth and prominence in his community from less than savory beginnings, seemed certain that there was very valuable data to be had in the ruined base. He wants the group to transport his team of extraction experts there in exchange for a reasonable payment, a chance to re-equip, and whatever salvage they can find on their own.

We closed the session with them accepting the offer and heading out to get gear.


We spent 4 hours in the coffee shop and played for about three of those. Much of what occurred was character-establishing banter, and exploration of this station and its denizens. My goals for the first session were to keep the mood light and to establish a foundation of comfort with the dice. Achieving these goals was much easier than I had expected it to be.

I had kept my ideas on the initial set-up very loose and this paid off well as the group is able to self-motivate and work together to envision and accomplish things. Also, this approach ties in nicely to having the dice contribute so much to how things play out. I had prepared basic ideas for four locations, a few specific NPCs, and a small set of NPC types (enforcers, shop-keepers, etc). I needed all the characters I prepared, and two of the locations. The next session will ramp up the pace and tension, and add more characters, but require fewer locations. I am really looking forward to it.

This post will launch a new series for the blog which will detail our experience with the game from 0 to wherever we end up. The next post will offer a detailed recap of the first session with commentary on each character and scene and our interactions with the mechanics.

11 Responses to “Impressions from the Edge of the Empire”
  1. The various dice types had me concerned. I had a quick glance over the rules at a LGS and that was the first thing that leapt out at me. One of these days I have to have a real shufty at the rules.

    • Runeslinger says:

      I felt the same at first. Daniel’s comments, that the dice map fairly well to standard dice in a pinch, the app (also good for X-Wing, and finally that I could order blank D6,8,12s and make my own convinced me to relax (a little) on the dice aspect. I still think it might impact on the game’s longevity, but that is more their problem than mine.

      The rules themselves are pretty standard with a lot of good guidance given. The system is elevated substantially by the dice mechanic, however, and its effect on play. It is palpable in play pretty much immediately.

  2. MrB says:

    Great article!

    I have run a number of sessions of EotE and my group is loving it. I have been playing tabletop for over 25 years and i have to say, this system is very refreshing. It lends itself to give the players just enough role playing, mixed in with very sensible and simple mechanics (opposed checks). We also found the narrative dice really have a ‘cinematic feel’, that gave the players the feeling of being in a Star Wars films (especially OT). The mechanics also bring the players into assisting with the story telling, an element that has brought a level of immersion that we have not really experienced in other RPGs.

    Happy gaming and may the force be with you!

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  1. […] mentioned in the first post on the game, Edge of the Empire’s rule set  is pretty typical for an SF high adventure setting, but is […]

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