Like many people, first foray into Roleplaying games was with Dungeons and Dragons. I played a brief adventure on the bus during a school field trip in 6th Grade. I played a wizard because wizards are awesome. I found it incredibly stupid that I would forget how to do my spells after using them. This seemed ridiculous and I didn’t really do much more role playing for a few years.
Then came Star Wars Galaxies. I enjoyed the game immensely (despite the Combat Revamp and dreaded New Game Experience). One of the things that really brought the game to life was the roleplaying community. Here was a 3D Star Wars environment to play and live in. That sparked the fire. After the game started to fade in interest (see previous mention of NGE) I went looking for some more Star Wars role playing and found Saga Edition. Along with this I found the Order 66 Podcast which helped to nurture an inexperienced GM.
So with my first love in RPG’s being Saga Edition it should come as no surprise that I was skeptical when FFG picked up the license. After all, how could you beat perfection? Sure, the game kind of became an unwieldy mess beyond level 10 and there were certain combos that could become quite broken. Plus I had all the books and they looked awful pretty on my shelf (still do in fact).
I gave Edge of the Empire beta a try over a Skype game and was not impressed. In fact, confused would be the best description of my state mind. What were these symbols? What did they mean? Why aren’t we just using a standard set of dice? I hate change!
Forutnately, all of these problems stemmed from trying a new beta game over Skype, without the dice and a pretty poor explanation of how it worked. I gave it another try and suddenly the game started to click. Suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I could do anything, regardless of class or profession and have a non-zero chance of success. Dice rolls weren’t pass/fail but were part of the story telling themselves.
Edge of the Empire (and the follow-ups Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny) really turned Star Wars roleplaying on it’s head. As much as I enjoyed Saga Edition, EoE was what really brought Star Wars to life. The Narrative Dice presented a novel approach to RPG’s that I had never experienced before and allowed the game to focus more on the story telling and living in the magical world of imagination rather than playing a tactical combat simulation. Saga excelled at tactical scenarios, character builds and combat. EoE excels at roleplaying.
Another big change over previous systems, beyond the dice, was the complete freedom in character development. You picked a career for your character and then a Specialization within that career. But all the Career does is determine starting skills and provide some discount to them. You are free to buy into the Specializations of any other Career as your character earns XP. Skills are likewise open to everyone.
This flexibility and freedom in advancement allows for truly organic character growth. Instead of having a limited set of choices at each level you can pick from anything. If your character starts out as a Doctor but through the natural progression of the campaign spends a lot of time wielding a gun you can easily train up Ranged (Heavy) or take a dip into one of the combat Specializations.
Oh, and there are no levels! That takes some getting use too, especially for the GM. But gone are the super powerful level 10+ characters tromping everything into dust and being untouchable except by Dragon size threats. Now, hitting something is a set difficulty, with only a few talents modifying that. A lowly storm trooper has pretty much the same odds of hitting a newbie character as a character with 300 XP. This helps to keep the world as a living environment that feels real. Higher XP characters will have more tools available to them but they never really out grow a threat.
Fantasy Flight choose to take an interesting approach to the Force with Edge. Specifically, they kind of stuck it in as an after thought. For the first time, it felt like the emphasis was on the non-Jedi instead of the Jedi. You were now encouraged to play Han Solo rather than Luke Skywalker. It wasn’t until the most recent release of Force and Destiny that the game even had rules for the full range of Jedi powers. This makes it easy for players to pick the style of game they are most interested in, life on the Edge, life in the Rebellion or life as a Jedi.
Playing a Jedi character requires quite a large investment of XP, which jives with the extensive training that a Jedi character would require. Lightsabers aren’t cheap or freely available to every Jedi wannabe. This fits the feel of the Original movies. But it also doesn’t under cut anyone wanting to play real Jedi. The GM is free to give them all lightsabers at the start and set the campaign in the Old Republic era and the games rules, particularly the optional Knight Play, support this.
The way the game handles the Dark Side is also a departure from previous systems. Instead of falling to the Dark Side being the end of your character, instead it becomes a mechanical and roleplaying choice. Characters constantly have the allure of the Dark Side, as they are free to call on it to help activate powers that failed their activation roll. The temptation is always present. And because they don’t lost control of their character if they should fall, it makes for a great roleplay experience to have a character that teeters on the edge.
In the end, while I loved Saga Edition, I don’t think I’ll go back. Edge/Age/Force really brings the world to life and makes for a better roleplay experience.