Navigating the Empire, part 1 ~ The Force

This is the first post in a new series of posts about the specific mechanics of the Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. It is in an unusual format, however, as its content will be video not text. After a flurry of activity for RPGaDay 2015, I have been pressed for time to post both here and on my YouTube Channel. For those who prefer not to watch or listen to YouTube videos, regular posting rates here will return shortly. On the YouTube Channel, a similar drop in productivity has been happening, and is now adopting a new pace of production. To help bridge the disparity, this post will contain links to two recent videos which take a look at the Star Wars Roleplaying game from FFG. One is a breakdown of how the Force mechanics work in the system, and the other is an overview of the latest core rules release, Force & Destiny. As how the Force is handled represents a significant portion of gamer opinion about a Star Wars RPG, Force & Destiny has been gaining a lot of attention. My intention with these videos was to show what is actually in the book, and how the rules are represented across the entirety of the game line.

Here is the video on how the Force works in the game:


Here is the overview of Force & Destiny:


I hope these two videos will prove useful. Further written content on a variety of games, such as Broken Rooms, a few Apocalypse World titles, and Corporia will be along shortly as will further installments in this series.


6 Responses to “Navigating the Empire, part 1 ~ The Force”
  1. Good series of videos. Convinced me the system really isn’t for me.

    • Runeslinger says:

      I think you would take to it easily and run it well, but I also think it’s important to trust your instincts~

      • I think this encapsulated my two main issues:

        The first — splitting the game into three “themes” to get the GM/players to buy three different corebooks. Indubitably, this is in keeping with Lucasfilm’s squeeze the customer for every dime philosophy, but I find the notion of being bilked three times to have a unified game universe…disturbing.

        The second — the dice. Reading the rules, this was the big, glaring mistake I saw. The special symbols, etc. are meant to evoke the Star Wars universe, but I suspect it’s the main point of failure for actual play. “What the f#$% did I just roll?”

        • Runeslinger says:

          I am not trying to sell you on the game, but I do want to address the topics you have just raised.

          The two questions raised in that blog post are the two most common biases against the game. Sadly, both are founded in what I see as misconceptions, and seem to me to be less reasons than reactions. Misconception 1 is that the dice are hard to use/learn. The second is that the game is arbitrarily split into three lines. I think the author tried hard to get the group to play the game, I am not sure that effort was put in to actually learn the game first, or what it does in play. The comments on the post are good.

          The author of that post, by their own admission – although they might not have made it consciously, did not understand the dice in the game. They also had players who were actively balking, perhaps in response to that lack of comprehension.

          My response is that it takes about 5 minutes to recognize the dice comfortably, and about a session to get a feel for them in use. The game is written for newcomers to the hobby with no experience with gaming at all. It’s not the best introductory game out there as there are sections blinded by the curse of knowledge, but the dice section is very clear. A group needs to learn 5 symbols. That’s less mental effort than learning to identify the dice in a standard polyhedral set.

          A video on dice I did about this is here. For those who won’t watch, the upthrust is that in any new game we have to learn to apply the dice to conduct task resolution. This game is no different. In many respects, it is faster. Those who do not try it miss out on opportunities for having collaboration in the group flourish, narrative description increase, and more options open up to guide and support improvisation. Sadly, the people who seem to have the hardest time with being open to trying this game most often, are established gamers rather than newcomers.

          The second part of the post forgets that the Star Wars universe is a very big place and not everyone is interested in the same aspects. Each of the core books provides the rules for everything we have seen in the films, within the context of the time period of the first trilogy. Each provides focused chargen information, gear, and GM advice to help a group focus their campaign on the aspect of the universe which they enjoy most, but does not close doors on other aspects. Each book has force powers and light sabers, each has warriors and operators, each has spunky diplomats. It’s a very efficient way to get into the system, and ultimately it’s far cheaper than previous iterations.

          In the WEG days, there were endless splatbooks to try to define and build the RPG universe for Star Wars, and much like the WoD which followed, it could often be hard to get a group of players to come together to create a cohesive group. When the beginner-player D&D mode of “any class or alignment is welcome in the party so we can play” is exchanged for internally consistent characterizations, this can mean someone who doesn’t get what the group as a whole is interested in, will be a problem or will be disappointed.

          Splitting the lines makes the campaign focus, character and gear choices, and GM advice all hang together neatly for newcomer and old hand alike. Further, splitting the lines allows for each line to present a different type of play within the same basic framework. Edge of the Empire offers a typical form of play with a group of characters with mixed occupation and outlook, held together by overlapping interests. The game can be as light or as serious as the group likes, focused on commerce, crime, or even deciding to push back against the forces which are pressing them out of the rim. Age of Rebellion offers mission-focused play, either on the micro go-and-blow-something-up level, or on the macro sway-the-people-to-your-cause level. Groups are held together by their own intersecting motivations, but also their overarching sense of duty to the Rebellion. Force & Destiny offers a deep focus on the nature of being a force sensitive of course, and can provide good single PC or small group play focused on external and internal exploration with character moral/ethical development.

          If everything they have put in the core books were in one core book it would top 600 pages. That would be confusing, daunting, and too expensive to produce.

          What I see as negatives are the basic cost of full color 400+ page books, and the lack of a license for pdf versions. The initial cost of a core book with dice may be prohibitive for young gamers or people who are unsure about the game. The dice app for $5 (which does the dice for all FFG Star Wars games including the skirmish games) takes care of finding and using the dice, but at present there is no e-solution for the books. The game is much more expensive than A Time of War, or All for One, a little more than the Cortex games, about the same as Hollow Earth Expedition, the same as RuneQuest, much cheaper than D&D or Pathfinder… It is also full color, glossy, well-bound, and surprisingly innovative. The value inherent in the book does not make it a good game, but it does go a step toward explaining the price. While it is nice to have all three, it is by no means necessary.

          Anyway, no game is for everyone. No harm, no foul if the game feels like it is not for you.

  2. Ben (Odemus) says:

    I played two RPGs a really long time ago. Both once only. Robotech and Marvel. The new RPG of Star Wars by FFG is looking to be the one that will bring me back, but this time has the GM. I love the dice system. I can’t wait for your series on this system. I have put a group together, watch your first videos on SWRPG, and I’m in the process of watching all videos you made, specifically on how to be a better GM. You have an awesome way of explain it things and are very clear. Keep the good work!

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