Star Wars Wednesdays: Session 2

Second session of my Edge of the Empire but also the Force game is in the books. Still pretty fun. All the issues I had with FFG’s system are still there, although a few more years of small press indoctrination are showing themselves in my players and that’s satisfying.

* I’m really vexed that there’s not, like, an underlying principle to the system that I can rely on. Mostly this is because combat is intense, detailed and exceptions-based. If we just rolled the basic dice all the time it wouldn’t be bad! But there are these weird places where the macro narrative level and the micro combat level overlap in unexpected ways.

Example: in our session, I was trying to figure out what happens when personal combat weapons are used against vehicles. It’s kind of a signature starwarzy thing! What happens when you shoot a speeder? What happens if you light up a tramp freighter with a tripod-mounted heavy repeating blaster? I need to tear the book(s) apart because they haven’t really explained that. There are some rules on how hard/easy it is to hit things that are bigger than you, but I have no idea if the damage maps directly or what. Maybe it does; it doesn’t say otherwise.

But this would be so totally moot if I could credibly fall back to the macro narrative dice. This isn’t strictly an FFG problem; it’s kind of trad-wide.

The other place this crops up as weird (to me; the players don’t really care) is that those little perpendicular effects you can roll, Threat and Advantage, mean very different things when you’re in or out of bullet time. Inside combat, every little up/down is a resource to be cashed out. Because you’re throwing lots of dice and generating lots of them, coming up with a narrative twist on the action would be, as John Stavropoulos​​​​ described, like rolling an Act Under Fire 7-9 every time you roll. So inside combat you get a menu.

So in our session, they rolled one of those super weird combination effects: success with a threat and a Triumph. It was an Astrogation roll, so yeah they get to where they’re going, they arrive in a well hidden blind spot to observe the planet’s formidable automated defenses (the Triumph!)…but their hyperdrive is fried (the threat).

In bullet time, taking someone’s hyperdrive out is a crit! You gotta earn it! But in narrative time, well, it’s just a complication you need to deal with.

I get it. I even like it. But aesthetically it also bugs me, that having to move my head back and forth between resolution scales. Because there are two branching families of system fundamentals.

* My guiding principle that tech is basically frozen at 1981 has borne fruit! I told my players that, and they took to it really well. In fact while they were busy taking control of a droid-run repair ship, I thought one of the guard droids might cash in a couple advantage to make a radio call out to let home base know their ship was jumped. Oh nosiree, droids don’t have comms! If you want to make a ship to ship call, you need to use the ship’s radio! Excellent call, perfect aesthetics. It was a fun moment to have that put back in my lap.

* Most pleasing sign that my small press indoctrination proceeds apace: one player wants to know why it doesn’t matter at all how much light/dark Destiny remains at the end of the session. And realizing that having a big pool of them is sort of mechanically irrelevant, since you can’t use more than one at a time on any given roll. And then also realizing that if we just rolled the one, shit, let’s just both spend our one go every roll every time. Boring non-decision.

The fact there are multiple destiny points available for use isn’t quite as simple as that, but it’s also a pretty shallow economy. Give yourself a boost? Oooh I get a boost too!

* The morality stuff in Force and Destiny is actually pretty neat. It’s a robust economy for illustrating a force user’s climb or fall, and it actually works. Our force-using bandito is gonna fall fast, given all the lying and stealing that comes with the job of being a bandito. He’s also finally using his force powers (you don’t really have enough umph with a starting character, you’re generally better off just buying better skills), and converting dark side force into usable points, which causes both strain and conflict (and it’s conflicts that send you to the dark side).

What doesn’t really work is this whole idea of “triggered morality.” They tried mapping the triggered Obligation stuff from Edge of the Empire but, like Debt from Age of Rebellion, that kind of group-oriented mechanism doesn’t work unless the whole group is in. So my force-using bandito has the paired characteristics of caution and fear. Well, given his line of work, it’s pretty much always getting triggered. And that means doubling the amount by which his Morality stat goes up or down every session. Which is actually totes fine, since we might play this game once more before I set up another crawl (and hand out a few hundred XPs to escalate everyone).

So, it’s going okay. I can feel my excitement for the Star Wars setting waning a bit the further I get from TFA. But I’ve got a movie date with my daughter to see it in a couple weeks, so I’ll get juiced one more time!

0 thoughts on “Star Wars Wednesdays: Session 2”

  1. Oh, I’m surprised they don’t have scaling effects for people/ships/capital ships. That’s one of my favourite bits of tech from d6 Star Wars (which I’ve never played, but had described to me with great enthusiasm many times).

    I can’t agree more with the pressure of constantly improvising mixed results, particularly in combat. It seems right for the genre: nothing ever goes right without four or five things going wrong. But it is so much pressure.

    I wonder if it would be totally wrong to use Advantage to make narrative tweaks. Like in your radio-droid example, maybe you could spend that Advantage, not to let the droid radio out, but to say “Oh-ho, you just noticed that one of those droids is carrying a backpack communicator. You recognize it as the sort of thing that can do ship-to-ship comms,” and then only later spend further dice to activate it.

  2. So the disconnect is that you don’t constantly improvise mixed results in combat. In combat, there’s a menu of what all you can spend you goodies on. It’s pretty fun but it’s a completely different system and vibe.

  3. I’m killing time at a car dealership so I’m a little sloppy with the post. Just realized I had an unfinished thought up there, no wonder it’s confusing!

  4. Right, but don’t the spends need to be justified in-fiction? Or is that just me spreading my storygames jam where it doesn’t belong. Like if I spend two sprockets for a bonus die on my next roll, don’t I have to say “it’s because I lay down cover fire while I run around to a better shooting position”?

  5. Justifying the dumb little blue and black dice you mostly end up buying isn’t that hard. It’s exactly as you describe: uhhh I distract them with a fusillade. Just color, no meaningful changes to the fictional positioning.

  6. There is scaling, personal scale and planetary scale. Most vehicle and starship weapons work in planetary scale, using the silhouette comparison (EotE, pg. 235) to hit (humans are silhouette 1) and dealing planetary scale damage (each point of damage in planetary scale deals 10 damage in personal scale). Personal weapons hitting starships and vehicles isn’t really covered, but I would surmise that the 1:10 ratio would count in the other direction (i.e. 10 damage in personal scale : 1 damage planetary scale). Ranges work as described on EotE, pg. 239. There’s also the Massive attribute that makes critical hits more damaging.

  7. I was going to say what Ian Kirby said. Can’t point to a particular page but I remember there being a factor of 10 thing going on between personal and vehicular sized weapons. If you shoot a storm trooper with an x-wing they take 10 points for every point of damage that you inflict. Conversely, if you are a stormtrooper shooting at an x-wing then you can damage it but only if you do more than 10 points at a go. A Critical Hit could take out something important, though!

  8. Something that strikes me as both inevitable and lazy is how the core rules in all three games not only are identical, but identically presented.

    Person-vs-vehicle fights, for example, if folks cared about that and ffg heard about it, it would be so trivial to add a clarifying paragraph in the next book. But I think they are identical, paragraph by paragraph. They’ve left themselves no room for course corrections.

  9. Even a heavy blaster rifle isn’t likely to do a lot of damage to a vehicle. You have to get past armour to cause a critical hit. With base damage being 1 (10 personal scale), you’d have to get a lot of successes to get through even 1 armour. This limits the potential targets for personal weapons to civilian speeders, which are likely to have mounted personal weapons in return.

  10. Quite a few people on the FFG forum use a 5:1 conversion when going from personal to vehicle scale. I’ve not tried it, but I think it would work well.

  11. The 10:1 ratio is in the rulebooks. Page references for Edge of the Empire given above. Neil Smith is saying that, on the FFG forums, people use a 5:1 ratio for vehicles and 10:1 for starships – inserting another scale in between the two official ones.

    Personally, I use the 10:1 scaling as per the rulebook, but I do house rule criticals. Critical hits add +10 to the roll per silhouette difference upwards and -10 downwards. So a silhouette 4 starship fires on a person (silhouette 1) and gains a critical, they add +30 to the roll. The person, if lucky enough to get past armour on the starship, would reduce their roll by 30.

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