Category Archives: Gaming

On Honorable Mentions, 2016

As is becoming tradition, for the end of January we recorded a two-part “Games of the Year” show, in which we talk about the things we enjoyed playing in 2016. Both parts are now out, but here are some things that I thought were amazing, but didn’t make the cut.

Warframe

Stumbling into this game was a bit of a fluke. The game chosen for Game of the Month in January was pretty boring, and there was a lot of desire for co-op, so a few of us gave this another try.

It turns out that space ninjas are actually pretty cool. There are a variety of characters with different abilities, gun variety that gives Borderlands a run for its money, and a movement system and level design that emphasizes how acrobatic the playable characters can be. Unexpectedly, there’s also an actual plot.

Owlboy

I did mention this one on the podcast a few weeks ago, but it’s worth repeating. Owlboy is one of several games with a very long development history to release in 2016, and the only one so far that I’ve finished. (For the record, it was announced between Final Fantasy Versus XIII and The Last Guardian and released slightly before both.) It’s a platformer that superficially resembles a metroidvania, but is much more linear than most examples of that genre. There’s also not a lot of actual platforming, as the main character has unlimited flight.

This game looks amazing art-wise; the music is also excellent. There’s a lot of humor in some of the dialogue, but other parts are much more serious. I didn’t mention this because I thought it might become a game of the month, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Stories: The Path of Destinies

This probably isn’t going to make any “Best of” lists for 2016, but I still think it’s worth a mention. Stories is a mostly isometric action-RPG of sorts, that looks like diablo but plays kind of like the Arkham games when fighting things. There’s a heavy emphasis on positioning, counterattacks, and keeping your combo string going which makes it pretty fun.

The main draw of this game is that it plays like a choose-your-own-adventure book. A complete playthrough from the start to an ending is probably between 60-90 minutes, and is shaped by the decisions you make (usually at the start of each chapter). When you start, these are all going to be Bad Ends in some way or another, but each to you get to one, you can learn a “Truth” that can help guide you toward endings that you haven’t seen yet. Once you have all 4, you can get to the real ending (you can’t stumble into it before that). It’s not the first time I’ve seen this concept, but it is one of the best executions I’ve played.

On Triple-Carting

If you’re aware of Monster Hunter, you’re probably also aware of Dauntless, a very similar PC game that’s coming “soon”. Dauntless was on display at PAX South, where I got a chance to try it.

Unfortunately, my first chance was pretty short. Like Monster Hunter, too many defeats for your team means your hunt can come to a premature end. This number seems to be 5, which sounds less punishing than Monster Hunter’s 3, but came extremely quickly. When you lose all of your health in Monster Hunter, you get a nice long while to think about your mistakes as you get sent back to base camp (in a cart, hence, “carting”) and have to run back to the party. Dauntless allows you to revive teammates on the spot, which leads to two problems: you can go down while attempting this revive, and the newly-revived, not-at-full-health teammate can go down again almost immediately. It sounds like getting back into the action faster is an improvement, but it doesn’t go well with the game as currently structured.

It’s not all bad. Areas seem to be a lot more open than Monster Hunter, the hunt area is contiguous instead of divided into subzones. Weapon selection is very limited right now (the demo only had 3 options), but more are on the way. The dodge roll has a lot more invulnerability, so it’s easier to use aggressively. Monster design is excellent, which is probably one of the most important parts.

I think Dauntless has the potential to be a good game, but in a demo setting with absolute beginners it didn’t feel great. I’m curious to see if they stick with this format, or adopt something like Monster Hunter Online, where downs only count against you personally (you get kicked out of the hunt if you go down 3 times). We’ll see what develops.

On Sense and Probability

Generally speaking, I’d like to know what my chances of success are for things I might do in a tabletop RPG, because I like making informed decisions. (That’s not to say I won’t do something off-the-wall with a small chance of success if it would be either awesome or funny.) I also like interesting dice mechanics. D&D 5e’s Advantage/Disadvantage system is actually one of my favorite things that was introduced in that edition. I have, several times, made use of anydice to either figure something out or compare options.
what advantage
Dice pool systems obscure this somewhat by usually not having a fixed threshold, or not revealing the threshold if it is fixed. Even then, you will usually still know what an “average roll” looks like. Shadowrun 5 doesn’t use exploding dice for normal rolls and only counts 1s as special if you roll a lot of them, so generally speaking an average result is that 1/3 of your dice roll successfully. (Interestingly, the glitch rules make rolling small dice pools somewhat more risky than you might expect. Be aware of this if you have cause to roll a dice pool smaller than about 5.) Fate dice are even simpler, as no matter how many you have your average roll is going to be zero. (This is why Fate Points and aspects are so important in that system.)
spot hidden

And then there’s this

The new star wars RPG seems specifically designed to mess with my sense of chances of success. As we examined before, you’re slightly more likely to roll a success on a green die than you are a failure on a purple die, but the addition of advantage, threat, and the ability to upgrade/downgrade dice types all interfere with this. It’s also not a big enough difference to matter: 2 green dice vs. 2 purple dice is a little worse than a coin flip, since you need more successes than failures for a roll to succeed. 2 purple dice is a nice benchmark, since it’s the difficulty of a melee attack or a ranged attack from medium range against a target with no defense, which isn’t an uncommon situation.
tie fighter
In order to figure this out, I stuck some idealized SW dice into anydice. I made the assumption that as a starting character, you have a single point in the skill you’re attacking with, and a value of either 2, 3, or 4 in the relevant attribute. It’s possible for these numbers to be different on either side, but this should cover most starting characters. The results surprised me a little: With an attribute of 2 and a skill of 1, your odds of success are about 50%, and you don’t break a 75% chance to hit (a reasonable goal for D&D starting characters vs. AC 10) until you have 4 points in a stat (or enough skill investment to hit this dice pool from the other side). That last part is actually kind of important, because enough skill investment can do a lot for you. It starts earning you extra dice (instead of just better dice) once you pass the relevant stat value. Since you can raise skills easily with XP, it’s pretty important to do that with anything you’d like to use that you might not be naturally inclined to. Going from 1 point to 4 points in a career skill costs 45 XP, and that 4th stat point (at creation) costs 40 by itself, so this is a perfectly valid way to get good at something.
sith lord
The framework I set up can be used for other rolls, but they tend to be a little less predictable, and you’re always subject to the GM’s whims (via Destiny Points) anyway. It also doesn’t take into account advantage/threat at all, especially considering that die faces with successes tend not to have advantages. It’s still an interesting bit of information, and it’s really hard to accurately guess. I hope your dice treat you well.

On Creation, Part 2

…and we’re back!

Obligation

Each of the three core books has a unique mechanic for player characters, intended to guide their actions in subtle and sometimes not-subtle ways. Age of Rebellion uses Duty, to represent your affiliation with the rebellion. Force and Destiny uses Morality, which tracks where you stand with respect to the Light or Dark side of the force. Edge of the Empire Uses Obligation, which is a representation of the debt (real or figurative) that your character owes. This could be actual debt, or a price on your head, or even something like a strong sense of accountability to something. In addition to a description, it also has magnitude that may have mechanical effects. Higher values mean you’re more worried about whatever it is, and it’s more likely to come up in play.

The suggested order of character creation has you determine your obligation as the first step, which can be chosen or rolled randomly. We’re going to go with the Dutybound obligation for Aragos, representing the bounties he is supposed to be out pursuing while the party’s interests may or may not align with this goal. The starting obligation value for a group of 4-5 players is 10, but that number isn’t necessarily fixed. For additional XP or credits at character creation, you can take additional obligation, up to your starting value. The starting value of 500 credits is rather low, so for Aragos we’ll take 5 more obligation for 1000 more credits.

As for your character’s specific motivation, there is a mechanic to roll this randomly if you wish. I personally would rather just build it into the background of the character. This is really the only part that varies depending on the core book you’re using.

Starting Gear

Unless you take additional obligation (or make similar decisions re: Duty or Morality), you’ll start with 500 credits, which really isn’t a lot. It’s somewhat unlikely that your character will be able to avoid conflict altogether, so you may want to put some of this into a weapon. Armor is more optional, as it tends to be heavy, expensive, and of questionable effectiveness, but you’ll probably want at least basic clothing. (Some specializations can use armor more effectively, however.) A comlink is also suggested, as it’s cheap and very useful. From there you can take other things that suit your character.

For Aragos, we’ll keep it relatively simple. A Blaster Rifle is 900, Heavy Clothing is 50, a Comlink is 25, and a Combat Knife is another 25 (I started with one of these and never used it). For other gear we’ll take 2 sets of Binders (50), A utility belt (25), Extra Reloads (25), a Datapad (75), a few Glowrods (30), Scanner Goggles (150), and a Backpack in case I have to carry all of that at once (50). That still leaves 95 credits for anything that might come up. You will also start with 1d100 additional credits that can’t be spent on starting gear, and whatever miscellaneous small items that you might think of that aren’t large enough to be tracked on your character sheet.

Finishing Touches

To finish up, a character needs a name, a description, and a personality. The Obligation and Motivation steps are actually somewhat helpful at filling in the gaps here, but this is really up to you. As mentioned, I tend to do that in reverse.

There’s also a group component, in that you can start with a particular resource that also varies by books. I’m not sure how this would be handled in a case where a group had mixed characters, but this is usually either a ship of questionable quality (except for maybe the YT-1300 in Edge of the Empire, and even then you’re gonna want a mechanic) or a justification for a party bonus (which may have other benefits). Decide among your group and GM what you’re going to take here.

On Creation, Part 1

Star Wars Fever seems to be going around the Aggrochat crew, and we’re all dealing with it in different ways.SWTOR has been a thing for several of us, as has Disney Infinity 3.0 (AKA the one that added Star Wars characters). Another thing is that because we’re about to hit a point of relative calm in Shadowrun, we’re looking at spinning up a Star Wars game. Character Creation is interesting here, so let’s take a look:

Concept

I’m going to cheat a bit here and just use the character I played in the Saga Edition. For some background, Aragos was a bounty hunter who was first and foremost, a sniper. Thanks to background, he was also a bit of a survivalist and big game hunter. As the game went on, he acquired more technical ability and eventually silly movement tricks. (In a game where standard movement was 6 squares, Aragos could move about 30 in a turn and still act.) But for now, we’ll start with the base. Our Saga Edition game used rolled stats, and Aragos ended up with all of his stats in the 11-15 range, so I was able to get fairly well-rounded despite the racial -2 INT.

Mechanics

There’s a suggested order for character creation that I’ll be largely ignoring, it’s more helpful when you don’t have a concrete concept in mind. As such I’ll be starting with species. I didn’t stat out a Cathar for nothing, so we’ll be going with that. Edge of the Empire also provides the useful Bounty Hunter career. Aragos had a bit of both the Survivalist and Assassin specializations, but Assassin fits better as the starting one. Skills come along with this: 4 from career, 2 from specialization, and one from species. These are going to be Perception (career), Streetwise (career), Vigilance(career), Ranged (Heavy) x2 (career, specialization), Stealth (specialization), and Athletics (species). It’s worth noting that the second rank in a skill is normally more expensive if taken later, so any ability to double up like this can save you XP in the long run, at the cost of reducing the breadth of your starting abilities.

That still leaves 90 XP to spend on attributes, skills, and talents. It’s worth noting that the only time you can spend XP on attributes is character creation, so you may want to dedicate a decent portion of your XP to this. Attributes aren’t cheap, at 10 times the new value. They’re also limited to 5 at creation. Career skills are 5 times new value, but cannot go above 2 at creation. Non-career skills cost 5 extra points per rank, so you should think long and hard if you want to take any of these (especially if you intend to take a specialization that includes them as career skills later, or you’re in one of the specializations that contains the “Well Rounded” talent). An exception might be for a combat skill if you are in one of the careers that doesn’t have one. For Aragos, we’ll buy off that intellect penalty and then some, spending 50 XP to get Intellect up to 3. 40 XP goes into putting more eggs in the “solve problems by shooting things” basket and raising Agility to 4. (Aragos did not start as a nuanced character.)

More to come…

I’ll go into Obligation and starting gear next time. From here, character creation diverges a bit depending on which book you’re starting with. The “mechanic” for Edge of the Empire is Obligation, so we’ll see what impacts that has on creation.

On Custom Content

Not too long ago, Tam wrote about not being entirely beholden to the rules as written, in the context of progression speed. He was speaking mostly from a GM perspective, but as a player, it’s not unreasonable to come to the same sort of conclusions. One of the time-honored ways of doing this is via conversion. As systems come and go, things are printed that for some reason or another, don’t make the new version. Sometimes there’s a good reason for this (See: D&D 4e’s Warlord), but other times they’re just left behind (5e doesn’t have an Eberron book yet, so it doesn’t have rules for Shifters, Changelings, or Warforged, even though Warforged were in one of the playtests). If these things really interest you, it’s reasonable to make changes that make sense for whatever system you’re playing in, and run it by your GM to see if the result is reasonable. (Note: this is not a standing excuse to min-max a thing you don’t like. Expect your GM to recognize it if you make it such, and react appropriately.)

Aric_Jorgan
Related: Since Cathar are supposed to be rarer in the Old Republic era than other times, why is it that that’s the only era that has them in the games?

…which brings me to the actual topic of this post. A while back, we were in a Star Wars campaign based on the Saga Edition ruleset. We’re looking into playing in a new campaign based on the new Fantasy Flight rules, and I want to play a character similar to (but not identical to) the one I played previously. The first problem there is that I played a Cathar, and Cathar have not yet been printed for the new edition. (If I were a betting man, I’d bet that they’ll be in the Force and Destiny sourcebook focusing on the Seeker class, when that gets printed.) But given a base to work from (the Saga Edition Cathar), and given how races are structured, I think I can come up with a reasonable approximation.

The Easy Stuff

  • Races in FF Star Wars have 6 stats, which do not correspond cleanly to the familiar d20 stats: Brawn is a sort of mix between CON and STR, and CHA is split out into Cunning and Presence. Humans have 2 in each stat, but most other races have a stat at 3 and a stat at 1, with the rest staying at 2. Saga Edition Cathar had racial bonuses of +2 DEX, -2 INT, which corresponds neatly to starting Agility and Intelligence values of 3 and 1, respectively
  • Cathar in Saga Edition also get climb and stealth as automatic career skills, but skills are (usually) handled a bit differently now. Skill bonuses are granted as a free rank, and usually only in one skill. Some races get a choice of skills, and I think that approach fits here. This would mean Cathar get a free rank in Athletics or Stealth, but still cannot train either above rank 2 during character creation.
  • It’s possible to represent the Natural Weapon: Claws as a +1 damage on Brawl attacks, with a critical rating of 3. This is taken directly from Trandoshans.

The Hard Stuff

From there things get a bit complicated. Most races in SWRPG stop at 2 bonuses, and get 100 starting XP, a Strain Threshold of 10 + Willpower, and a Wound threshold of 10 + Brawn. These numbers appear to be used mostly as a balancing mechanism for other things that the race got. Humans didn’t get much else, so they get 110 starting XP. Hutts have extra stats and threshold values, so they get 70 starting XP. A Cathar with the above abilities, and the baseline XP, strain, and wound values is fine, but it does leave out the more interesting aspects of Cathar in Saga Edition.

Saga Edition had action economy that strongly resembles D&D 4e, with Move, Swift, and Standard actions. Cathar had the ability to make a claw attack as a swift action when targeting an enemy with a melee attack once per encounter. SWRPG doesn’t really represent the concept of 1/encounter well, and also doesn’t really treat its actions the same way. Instead, it breaks things up into “Actions” and “Maneuvers”, where Maneuvers are mostly “things that don’t require rolls”. There are two ways I could see representing this. The one that most resembles the old rule would be to allow Cathar to make a claw attack as a maneuver once per session, during a turn in which they target an enemy with a melee attack. That’s a bit clunky, so it might be better to let them treat their claws as having the “Linked 2” property once/session. This is potentially stronger, but also forces you to make the initial attack with the claws, when you may be carrying something better. (If you’re a force user, possibly something significantly better.)
Sylvararmor
Cathar also had a base movement rate of 8 squares, which was nearly unique to them. Humans and most other humanoid races had a base speed of 6 squares, and this difference was a large part of my race choice back then. My character’s ability to be almost anywhere on the battlefield in a single turn eventually became character-defining. Thanks to FF Star Wars using a more abstract movement system, there are limited ways to represent that. One option is allowing Cathar to move between medium/long or long/extreme ranges in a single maneuver, but that actually seems quite strong for a racial ability. A more reasonable alternative might be to grant them the Swift talent for free, which also has some precedent in other racial abilities.

Generally speaking, these are interesting ideas, but they’re beyond the scope of what most races have to offer in FF Star Wars. The only salvagable part from this session is getting Swift for free, and that should probably have a cost. With the Swift talent for free, more appropriate starting stats are probably 90 XP, Wound Threshold 9 + Brawn, Strain Threshold 11 + Willpower. Most races with a starting XP penalty pay for it somehow, and the talent and an extra point of strain seems like a fair tradeoff.

To Recap

Brawn Agility Intellect Cunning Willpower Presence
2 3 1 2 2 2
  • Wound Threshold: 9 + Brawn
  • Strain Threshold: 11 + Willpower
  • Starting Experience: 90 XP
  • Special Abilities: Cathar begin the game with one rank in either Athletics or Stealth. They still may not train Athletics or Stealth above fank 2 during Character Creation. They also begin with the Swift talent.
  • Claws: When a Cathar makes Brawl checks to deal damage to an opponent, he or she deals +1 Damage and has a Critical Rating of 3.

This hasn’t actually been approved yet, but we’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll play a human and it won’t matter anyway.

On Extremely High-Value Targets

A little while back, I mentioned the trouble our Shadowrun crew was getting into. Here’s how it went:

Erase Police Records

Through sheer blind luck, I managed to roll my way out of getting arrested by the police, and got hired by them instead. (I still got the data I wanted too, but we ended up not using it. Pity.) Turns out that being allowed (even paid) to walk in is a great way to make sure that certain records aren’t there when you leave. This was done largely as a favor to the Prodigies, the NPCs that Tam is writing about.
Police Troll

Protect Shipment

As a side benefit to the above, we managed to get to the docks a little early, arriving in time to set up an ambush. Turns out they weren’t quite prepared to deal with a jet and a ninja. This one went way, way better than expected, as we managed to keep the gangs from running off with the shipment and making enough noise that the police showed up in large numbers, just as we were leaving…

Break Into Mansion

…which meant that there was no police detail at the mansion when we arrived. This is really what we came to Boston for in the first place: our investigations led to us looking for data on Project Alchera, and this was allegedly where it was located. As expected, we ran into quite possibly the most hated shadowrunner team in Boston, as we knew they’d been keeping tabs on us. Turns out the Prodigies had a grudge too, and Alice managed to wreck the place with a rather large fireball (at some cost to her own well-being). We did manage to clean up the entire opposing shadowrunner team, which means we’re leaving the Boston scene a little nicer than we found it. After some additional nonsense involving cutting communications and thinking we were just going to get the data and get out, we ran into Alchera II.
alchera 2
Alchera II turned out to be a very cybered-up woman. She was in a tank and appeared unconscious, so our initial thought was to save her. Then she woke up, and everything went to hell. Lashing out with very odd powers, she blew up electronic devices in her immediate vicinity, while also attacking everything available on the Matrix, which included the technomancer of the Prodigies, Nick. Her downfall was her arrogance: she tried to do too many things at once and ended up taking counterattacks both in the matrix and her physical body. An EMP accompanied her death, so we may not have gotten all of the data, but we got enough to work from. Among other things, we found out that there were 8 more of these things.

Get the Magic Box

Unfortunately, we had to leave the formerly burning, soaking wet building in kind of a hurry, as our jet was being shot at on the way out. We’re currently lying low (or as low as it’s possible to get in a VTOL), so we’ll have to take care of this last job while on the road. There’s also the matter of getting paid for the jobs we did do…

On Making the Jump

As I write this, the Kickstarter for Battle Chasers: Nightwar is just out of the gate, and the one for an RPG based on the Infinity Miniatures game should be launching at some point soon (allegedly Tuesday). I find the timing interesting, because these are both cases of properties branching out to slightly different fields. Cross-media is getting me in trouble, but it’s almost always interesting.

The date is obviously not still accurate.
The date is obviously not still accurate.

Comic->Video Game

On reflection, this isn’t an uncommon transition (although it usually goes Comic->Movie->Game). I was actually directed to this initially without knowledge that Battle Chasers had been a comic. The art (both concept and prototype) is awesome, and I found it a bit familiar. Then I found out that Joe Madureira was the artist and knew why. This one seems to have a few Ex-Vigil staff on board, but it remains to be seen if they can do a turn-based RPG as well as they did Zelda. (I’m not going to listen to any arguments that Darksiders is not Zelda.)
Battle Chasers Key Art

Wargame->Tabletop RPG

On even further reflection, I’ve seen this one before too, from Iron Kingdoms. Iron Kingdoms is in a bit of an odd place here, because it started as a d20 Campaign setting and underwent this process in the opposite direction. The resulting minis game (Warmachine/Hordes) ended up as the more popular product. Infinity is actually somewhat similar, in that it grew out of a home-brew campaign setting. Aware of this, Tam attempted to work the rules into a workable system, but it didn’t go very far. (This was before the customizable spec-ops rules existed). Some of the unique characters in the Nomads faction were the original PCs.
Zoe and Pi-Well
The current Iron Kingdoms rules are a direct conversion of the Warmachine/Hordes rules, with some additions made for things player characters do that minis usually don’t, like talking to people, or actually recovering from injury. The result is that minis from the wargame are perfectly valid enemies once you give them more than a single hit point. (There are exceptions. Named Casters are generally not going to be reasonable opponents, for instance.) The Infinity rules seem to be going a slightly different route. It’s using a system not based on the minis game, but instead just preserves elements of it. Ability resolution is familiar, but not identical; it still uses d20s in a blackjack-like way, but from there the games diverge greatly. I missed the playtests, so I don’t know that much about it, but it’s a custom system that uses 2d20s to generate a number of successes.
Bran Do Castro
While Corvus Belli (The company that produces Infinity) isn’t directly responsible for the RPG, they are producing materials to go with it. I really look forward to seeing what happens with it. The original Bran Do Castro seems to like it, so here’s hoping I do too.

On Mini Giant Robots

LBX is a 3DS game about fighting model robots. It’s a recent release in North America and Europe, but it’s a 3-year-old remake of a remake of a game that came out in 2011 in Japan. It’s kind of cheesy and clearly intended for a younger audience, but I love it anyway. The fighting itself has elements of games like Virtual On, and the structure of the game reminds me of Mega Man Battle Network, both games which I enjoyed a lot. More than that, the entire concept reminds me of one of my favorite games on the Game Boy when I was younger: Power Quest.
power-quest-usa

Tiny Fighting Robots

Power Quest was one of the early games for the Game Boy Color, and I got it as a Christmas gift when I turned 12. It is also a game about fighting model robots, but the core gameplay is a fighting game.The game itself involved you roaming around town, earning money to upgrade your model (by beating people around town in duels), and occasionally getting interrupted by the plot, which is mostly nonsensical and involves the Bad Hyenas Gang and your best friend. At the end of the game you fight in a tournament and defeat a masked wrestler to end the game. I probably wouldn’t consider it a very good game at this point, but on reflection it’s the first fighting game I got heavily invested in. I’d played Street fighter 2, but I didn’t really know how things worked until later.


While the plot is largely an excuse to fight robots, one thing that stuck with me is that about halfway through the game, your best friend moves away. Thanks to timing, I played this game shortly after I moved halfway across town (which might as well be halfway around the world when you’re 12). Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack, which was incredibly good for a Game Boy game.
Speed v. Axe

Bigger Fighting Robots

LBX turns out to have a surprising amount of surprisingly well-done voice acting, and has an actual plot. It’s a lot like Pok√©mon in that an organization is using these things for evil (so of course you have to use them to put a stop to it), but there’s also a hint of a Last Starfighter-esque plot where this turns out to be training for actual giant robots down the line. (This is in the opening, so I don’t consider it a spoiler.) It also leans heavily on Defeat Means Friendship, so it’s not uncommon to be fighting alongside bosses after you beat them. Your own robot is quite customizable, so while you start with Achilles, you can eventually use almost anything you want. I’m eager to see where this one’s going, because I really like it so far. There’s also a cross-media element that might be a bit dangerous, but more on that later.
WVW69iW_k7gL8yYSvw

On Unusual Polyhedrons

Two years ago, after about a year of public playtesting, Fantasy Flight Games released the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG, the first in a series of planned core books in a brand new system. Star wars RPGs had been on a bit of a hiatus, the most recent prior system was Saga Edition, which was d20-based. Wizards of the Coast decided to drop the license in 2010, and Fantasy Flight picked it up shortly thereafter. My initial impression of the system was mixed, but now that there’s a bit more source material I like it a lot more.

The assumed setting for all three of the core books is a bit after A New Hope. This means that the Empire is in power, Rebels are seen as a dangerous threat (since they did just manage to destroy the Death Star), and force sensitives are both rare and persecuted. There are 3 core books so far, each focusing on a different aspect of the setting. Edge of the Empire focuses on the less-than-legitimate business of things like smugglers and bounty hunters. Age of Rebellion focuses on the Rebellion itself, which mostly means Soldiers and Politicians. Force and Destiny focuses on force sensitives, both with and without lightsabers.

swf02_jedistatueswider

Ace Custom

One of the immediately noticeable things about the game is that it uses a unique dice mechanic. There are 3 types of die with positive symbols (boost, ability, proficiency), 3 with negative (setback, difficulty, challenge), and a force die that isn’t explicitly positive or negative. The symbols on the dice are…

success-black Success – This determines if an action is successful. As long as you have one or more of these in the final result, you can do whatever you were initially attempting to do. The number can determine the degree of success in some cases, like additional damage for attacks.
advantage-black Advantage – Independent of success, this symbol represents good things happening. In combat this can be used to generate critical hits (how many you need depends on the weapon) and other weapon features, and out of combat it represents something advantageous happening. this remains true even if you fail the roll.
triumph-black Triumph – This is found only on the Proficiency die, and it represents really good things. This counts as a success, and also a super-advantage. An attack with one of these can usually generate a critical hit or special feature with just one, and outside of combat the door is wide open for the GM to let amazing things happen to you.

Die Color Sides success-black advantage-black
Boost Light Blue 6 2 3
Ability Green 8 5 5
Proficiency Yellow 12 10 (includes triumph-black) 8

failure-black Failure – Each failure symbol on a roll cancels one success. The roll is still considered failed if it generates an equal number of success and failure symbols (because it then has 0 uncancelled successes).
threat-black Threat – This one represents bad things. It cancels advantage, and if you have any of these remaining, something unfortunate happens even if you succeeded on the roll. This might be something as simple as suffering strain, or it might increase the difficulty of future checks.
despair-black Despair – Found only on the Challenge die, this is the negative version of Triumph, but these do not cancel each other (it’s possible for a roll to generate both). This counts as a failure and also means something very bad happens. How bad exactly is up to the GM.

Die Color Sides failure-black threat-black
Setback Black 6 2 2
Difficulty Purple 8 4 6
Challenge Red 12 9 (includes despair-black) 8

darklight Force Points – Found only on the force die, these are used mostly for force powers. It’s worth noting that the force die contains an equal number of light and dark side points (8 each), but has dark side on 7 faces and light side on 5. It’s assumed that player characters are mostly light-side, so there are penalties for fueling your powers with dark side force points.

Stay on Target

Task difficulty is almost never represented as a static number, and is instead represented as a number of difficulty dice. Your ability is likewise represented as some number of dice, usually a mix of ability and proficiency dice. All of these are rolled together to determine the success or failure of an action. Boost die are usually added if circumstances are favorable; Setback die are added when situations are unfavorable. Particularly bad situations might result in upgrading the difficulty of the check (turning difficulty dice into challenge dice). Certain abilities may also let you upgrade your own checks, turning ability dice into proficiency dice.

gand sniper
The real benefit of this is that rolling the dice goes beyond determining “degree of success” which most dice pool systems fall into. To take Shadowrun as an example: for most checks it makes no difference whether you beat the threshold by 0 or 3, unless your GM is tracking hidden thresholds for rolls. (I’m pretty sure Tam does this, but I’ve never asked him directly.) Even on rolls where the number of successes does matter, there’s not a lot of fine control. Unless you roll a glitch, which is pretty rare for moderately-sized dice pools, you’re either going to fail, win, or win big. By separating additional positive or negative effects from the actual success/failure of the roll, Star Wars opens up other possibilities for narratively interesting situations. Maybe you fail to get the information you want out of a contact, but he likes you and tips you off to something else. Maybe you successfully evade the guards, but accidentally leave traces of your passage behind. Maybe you evade the guards and they wander off to investigate something far away from you.

Most rolls of the dice are going to tell you a little bit more than “you pass” or “you fail, and that’s probably my favorite part about the system. I’m going to back to reading this book where they put the swords and magic back in.