First, Second and Third Impressions
I have to admit that my impressions of the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG from Fantasy Flight Games has been an up-and-down kind of thing.
When I first saw the beta version of the game at Gen Con last year, I was really excited. After all, Wizards of the Coast had allowed its license for the Saga Edition version of the Star Wars RPG to end two and a half years prior, and so it was good to see that somebody had acquired the rights to publish a game. I bought a copy of FFG's softcover and began reading. The full-color book was pretty, and the art was aesthetically pleasing.
The first time I noticed the weird dice that Edge of the Empire would use, however, my enthusiasm waned. After all, I've been playing other RPG's with standard polyhedral dice for more than twenty years, and so the new ones seemed unnecessarily strange. I also wondered how the process of putting together a dice pool would affect the speed and flow of game play. I'd played the old D6 Star Wars RPG from West End Games, and that was a very smooth system. While the D20-based system from WotC could be rather clunky in some ways, it had the benefit of being familiar and therefore worked pretty well for those of us who'd been playing D&D 3rd Edition and Pathfinder for twelve years.
Last week, however, I actually had a chance to run Edge of the Empire. While visiting some old friends, I ran the introductory scenario, "Escape from Mos Shuuta," from the Beginner Game. It was a lot of fun. While we did have to stop and look up the rules sometimes, we were quickly able to set up our dice pools and thus resolve the characters' actions. The combat sequences moved along at a pace faster than any Saga Editions I'd run, and were comparable even to ones using the old D6 system.
More importantly, the mechanic of using Advantage, Triumph, Threat and Despair to influence the course of action in the game proved to be a refreshing change. Given the rules-heavy nature of D20-based RPG's, combat can sometimes feel like it pits the GM and NPC's against the players and their characters. Running Edge of the Empire, in contrast, felt like it helped reinforce the idea of cooperative storytelling, the element that I most enjoy about RPG's.
Take, for example, the end of the introductory scenario. (WARNING! Spoilers for "Escape from Mos Shuuta" follow.) As the heroes were storming the docking bay, they ran into Trex the Trandoshan as he came walking down the boarding ramp of the Krayt Fang. He managed to run back into the ship and closing the entry hatch, but the heroes opened it again. At that point he fled into the cockpit and closed the door to it behind him. The Twi'lek gave chase and succeeded in opening it, too, but also generated some Threat. One of the players suggested that the door would open, but only a little bit, and I agreed that that was the result. Then the Wookiee ran up to the door, made an impressive Brawn check to force it open, and incapacitated Trex with a mighty swing of his vibro-axe. It was a fun encounter, made even more so by the fact that the players added complications to the scene. I look forward to having many more memorable adventures in the Star Wars galaxy playing this game.