Published on August 19th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen0
A Star Wars For Every Season – Part Three
This is the third in a series of articles taking a retrospective of Star Wars RPGs. Last time we flew through both of the Wizards of the Coast games, each based off of the d20 system. We’re on a mission to stat up the same character in each Star Wars RPG system, to take a look at the way that the different systems handle the same universe. The character that we’re stating up is set in the Rebellion era (Episodes 4-6) because that’s the only era that’s technically playable in every published system.
Meet our heroine, Y.T. Harker- once an Imperial TIE Fighter pilot, she defected to the Rebellion after seeing the corruption and malice that plagues every aspect of the Empire. She escaped with her TIE Fighter, and it’s now been equipped to work in coordination with Rebel forces. It still doesn’t have shields or a hyperdrive, so she docks in a large ship and only pilots when needed in the story.
Out of the cockpit Harker is a quiet, rather stoic woman. She sees discipline and self-mastery as the highest virtues, and has no time for jokers and loud mouths. Harker is having a hard time fitting into Rebel military life, where the chain of command and protocol are much more lax than what she’s used to. That said, she’s a decent arbiter- everyone knows her to be impartial and honest.
One RPG for the price of three!
Technically Fantasy Flight Games is selling their new Star Wars books under three different RPG names, as entirely different games, despite the games using the same base mechanics and even sharing powers between games. While I appreciate that no matter how you produce and publish your books, some people will dislike your business model, sign me up for not liking this set up.
If you are the kind of person who only plans on buying one of these games, then it makes a lot of sense to divide the line up. If you’re the kind of person that would buy the entire line, you’re paying more for repeated rules across rule books (though it’s argued that doing so provides more copies of the base rules at the table, which is a benefit).
In my opinion this publishing model worked better when they used it for Warhammer 40k because there was less interest in combining the lines together in one play group. If you’re a Rogue Trader you’re not going to be riding around with an Inquisitor and a Blood Angel. Star Wars is different though- you have the smuggler and the Jedi and the renegade senator all in one party, working side by side.
I guess this is also the time to admit that while I originally said that I wasn’t statting up a Jedi character for these examples because FFG hadn’t released the Force & Destiny game yet (that includes Jedi and force user rules). Well, in the time that it took me to say that in the first article and then get around to writing the FFG article they released the new Force & Destiny book, so I could have made a Jedi anyways. Oh well.
I actually love goofy dice in games
This time we’ll be wrapping up our adventure with the most recent version of the rules by Fantasy Flight Games. The first book released was Edge of Empire (which is about smugglers and Hutt crime lords), the second book was Age of Rebellion (where you’re Rebels fighting the Empire), and the third book is Force and Destiny (where you can play Force users like Jedi and Dathomari).
For our purposes we’ll be referencing Age of Rebellion, because the story we’ve chosen for our character involves her signing up for the Rebellion with her stolen TIE-Fighter.
The start of Age of Rebellion (AoR) is fairly chaotic, but ultimately useful. The layout of the introductory section just throws info at you- illustrations, sidebars and advertisements are fighting for space with the actual introduction text for the first seven pages.
The actual info given seems to be pretty useful and includes some fiction, an example of play and a short bit on what an RPG is. It also gives some context on the kind of characters you’ll be asked to play and gives you an idea of the kinds of scenarios you’ll run into during the game. This section focuses on how terrible the Emperor and Empire is and why it’s Good for people to resist it.
The game then lets you know what all of the special dice do, and how to roll them and read the results. FFG really wants to make sure you know what the dice do before you get into the character generation phase for some reason. The reading is pretty dense to be giving me before character creation, but I assume because it’s necessary to understanding how to build your character.
Fantasy Flight Games – 2014
The first step to character creation, before step one (which is further on down the page) is to come up with a character concept. Next, step one is to Determine Background. This seems like it’s required, but it doesn’t seem to connect to anything mechanically and sounds like they ask you to come up with a character concept, but then just ask you pick off the list they made for you instead.
I take down “the searching insurgent” as the appropriate one for Harker- one day she enacted a plan to desert and start fighting the Empire on her own, it wasn’t until afterward that the Rebellion contacted her to formally sign up.
Next, we’re asked to select a Duty for my character to follow. This is a mechanic that adds some roleplaying incentives to the game, and when the group’s total Duty points exceed 100 the group reaches a Milestone. Even though she is a Pilot, for my Duty I skip Space Battles to choose Sabotage- as a callback the previously sneaky Harker character. This character isn’t into Top Gun maneuvers, she really likes blowing things up, but prefers to do so from a spaceship.
For species I choose Human to keep Harker consistant in that regard. Human stats are average across the board, giving me 2s in everything. As in other games, humans also get some extra skill points to represent being more well-rounded than other species, at a guess. I get to select two non-class skills to put a rank into, but I don’t know what class I am yet, great. Try not to forget to do this.
Once again I get lucky and the writers have given me a class that’s all about piloting different vehicles. In AoR this class is called “Ace” and has specializations of: Driver (for landspeeders and hoverbikes), Gunner (for manning guns on a multi-person ship) or Pilot (for driving spaceships). You can also buy expansion content to get other Ace specialties like Rigger and Hotshot, which both sound cool.
To make good use of my one-man TIE Fighter I’ll need to take the Pilot specialization. If I had access to the Hotshot, I’d take a look at it but I don’t own those cards. Either way, the Pilot sounds great. I get eight skills as Ace-class skills, and can assign a single point each to half of the skills. Pilot also has a list of four skills that I can choose two to add a point to.
I grab Astrogation, Cool and then double down on Piloting (Space) and Ship Gunnery. Those seem like they might be important for a pilot to have, and I especially like that I can grab a rank in “cool”.
Wait, experience points?
At this point in the process you will be asked to add some experience points to your character. Why does your character have XP already? Probably as a way to let you customize your character while also teaching you how you will further customize it in the future. Keeping the system the same now and then helps you learn how to work the system in the long run.
Humans start with 110XP so I’ll be using that to buy up any skills that I want higher. I can also use this XP to buy talent powers from my specialty tree, or I could jump into a new specialty. Age of Rebellion comes with a specialty that any class can use called Recruit. This specialty represents going through some sort of official military training, and is useful for pretty much every character.
Both of Harker’s favorite skills (Piloting and Gunnery) use Agility so I’ll use 30XP to buy a 3 Agility, and then 40XP more to change the 3 to a 4 Agility. You have to buy your ranks in characteristics individually, so getting my 4 takes a total of 70XP.
After a look at the talent section, I’ll get the Ace Piloting talents “Full Throttle” and “Skilled Jockey” for a total of 10XP. Skilled Jockey lets me remove a setback die (something bad) from any Piloting roll I make, which is incredibly useful for this character concept. Full Throttle will let me increase the top speed of vehicles for a number of rounds equal to my Cunning.
That means I should pick some more Cunning up- I have 30XP left, which is just enough to raise my Cunning to 3 so let’s do that now. Oh yeah, and I should get around to adding my Human non-class skills in now. Let’s grab a rank each in Leadership and Discipline, as those both seem to be defining keywords for the character anyways.
Why are we here?
After a little derived stats book keeping, we move on to Motivation generation. The book suggests that you can have two motivations, so I choose one Belief and one Connection to flesh out Y.T.’s story. Her belief is in Justice and she loathes the injustices that the Empire inflicts throughout the galaxy. Her connection is that she used to be a part of the Empire.
Both of these choices are suggestions in the book, and could be rolled randomly on the provided tables, so it seems like my character concept has been approved of by the FFG Star Wars gods themselves. Motivations are essentially the same as motivations from Exalted, and have about the same weight and effect on the story and mechanics.
I’d like to see a bit more meat on the bones in this section. There are over 10 pages dedicated to the mechanics of space ship piloting in Age of Rebellion, can we not get a little more design love for the meta rules?
The rules for buying gear come next and now I sit here truly baffled- did the Character Motivation section really just come between calculating derived stats and buying gear? Is that how important character motivations are in FFG games? Not as important as derived stats, but maybe more important than which laser gun you choose, I suppose.
Get money, get paid
I just spend all 500 credits on some padded armor. All of my combat skill points went into Gunnery so there’s no need to waste money on a fancy blaster pistol. I’ll just have to rely on my Agility and Cunning to get me out of tight spots if I’m caught without my ship.
Step 10 to character creation is to have the Game Master tell you what kind of a campaign you’re going to do and what kind of a set up you all will have. Pre made options are: to all be cruising around on one shuttle, like in Episode One, to each be members of a Y-Wing squadron, or to design a base of operations.
Harker would really work best as part of a squadron, so the Y-Wing concept works the best. Age of Rebellion also includes rules for some TIE Fighters and it looks like the TIE-D has stats similar enough to the Y-Wing that Harker could get around in one of those without being over- or under-powered.
And that’s the end of the ride. Y.T. Harker has been around the galaxy in a couple different forms now, and has seen a lot. I can’t say that the Age of Rebellion version of her is my favorite- I don’t feel like the system lets me make very many meaningful decisions during character creation. On the one hand everything seems very crunchy, but on the other hand there seemed to be very little in the way of customization.
I do like that Age of Rebellion has rules for things like Duties and Motivations, but Fantasy Flight could do better to make that a bigger part of the rules than the dog-fighting rules. I may be asking for a game that is at odds with what FFG wants to make, but to me the story mechanics that they did throw in at least suggest a desire to push their game in the direction of story-gamist roleplaying.
At any rate, if you are looking for an RPG with a decent level of crunch and a focus on cinematic action stories then Age of Rebellion will definitely help you do that. If you like talent trees and gear lists and encumbrance rules… essentially if you want to play Space D&D with Star Wars figures, then FFG has a brand new Star Wars for you. Or you could play Star Wars Saga, which ever.