I picked up the new Star Wars: Edge of the Empire beginner game box. This is an all in one product that contains everything you need to play a little adventure including character sheets, maps, rulebook and a handful of the special dice that are the core of the game.
The adventure is designed so that everyone learns the game as you play the adventure. Players grab character sheets and then you just dive in. Mechanics are introduced slowly with each new encounter. I really liked this system as we were all playing within minutes of sitting down at the table.
The first mechanic you learn and the one that is really the foundation of the game is the skill check. Edge of the Empire does not use the standard RPG dice that you’re familiar with from games like D&D. Instead it requires a set of custom dice in various shapes, colors and sizes all covered in odd symbols. They look a bit intimidating at first but once you learn the system it’s fast and most importantly, worth it.
Some dice are covered in symbols that indicate success while others sport the symbol for failure. The various shapes and sizes all have different ratios of these symbols giving you a better or worse chance of racking up success or failures. When you need to make a skill check you grab a handful of the “good” dice. What you grab is determined by your rank in the skill. For example a droid trying to make a mechanics check might grab two green dice (some success on each side) and one yellow die (this thing is covered with fucking success). Now as the GM I start adding the bad dice to the pool. I might toss in one purple die (a few failures) because it’s a simple lock to pick. But maybe the droid is trying to pick it while being shot at by Stormtroopers so I add a red die (a.k.a the fuck orb) which is bristling with failures. Now the player has a handful of good dice representing their skill and some bad dice representing the circumstances of the check. They roll the entire pool and each failure rolled cancels out a success. If there are any success left over then the skill check succeeded. That right there is the core mechanic of Edge of the Empire.
That by itself is a fun system but Edge of the Empire goes one step further. In addition to Success and Failure symbols the dice also have a few other symbols that might pop up on a roll. These are Advantage and Threat and like success and failure they cancel each other out. So on any given roll you might succeed or fail but you might also generate advantage or threat. The first one obviously determines if you accomplish what you’re trying to do or not and the second one gives it a bit of flavor. Let me give you an example from the game I ran last night.
Kurtz playing the smuggler Pash was trying to get a much needed part from a junk dealer. The problem was the part had already been promised to someone else. Scott’s first thought was to bluff the guy and tell him that he was here to pick up the part for the other customer. He collected a dice pool based on his deceit skill and then I added a few negative dice based on the vigilance skill of the junk shop owner. This is how Edge of the Empire handles opposed rolls. So he rolls all the dice and after it’s all over he is left with no successes but two “advantage”. So since he has no un-canceled successes he has failed the skill check, but he also generated a bit of advantage and as the GM I can decide what that means. In this case the shop owner sees through the lie but is impressed with his nerve and decides not to kick him and his friends out of his shop just yet. Now Scott could just as easily generated threat on the roll and he would have failed the check and then probably been kicked out of the shop to boot.
Essentially every roll will determine a success or a failure but it will also generate fuel for kick ass RP. later on while trying to steal a ship they convinced a woman in the control room to release the ship’s docking clamps for them by telling her they were a maintenance crew. The roll was a success but in generated threat and I decided that she releases the clamps but then called the ship’s pilot to let him know his “mechanics” were en route. This dice system is designed to facilitate awesome story telling and it worked great!
I really can’t say enough good stuff about our experience with the beginner box last night. Everyone who played had a blast and they want to play again ASAP. Luckily there is a downloadable adventure called the Long Arm of the Hutt that picks up right where the beginner box adventure leaves off. If you’re looking for something new to run for your group I highly recommend trying Edge of the Empire.