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Edge of the Empire: Core Mechanics

You probably won't like the new Star Wars roleplaying game if you:

* Don't enjoy Star Wars in the first place, or

* Don't like learning strange, new gaming systems, or
* Get pissed off at games with skills and talent trees, or
* Hate big gobs of proprietary dice.

So, yeah, if you have problems with those things - move along - there is nothing here to see. If
you can get over it, come jump down the rabbit hole with me . . .

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire is a role playing game that stresses a narrative style of play and
abstract combat resolution. This is in direct contrast to the last version of the Star Wars RPG
created by Wizards of the Coast. The Star Wars SAGA edition was actually the test bed for the
mechanics that led to D&D 4e, and was so tied to minis and a grid that if a GM tried to run an
abstract combat, most of the abilities the player characters had would be useless or difficult to

While you can use minis in EotE - it doesn't really matter. You can keep everything in your

The core mechanics for the game revolve around the 'Narrative Dice System.' Okay, so what
you've got is 14 dice that you'll shell out around 15 bucks for with freaking weird symbols that
have a bunch of different names and probably won't be useful in any other system ever. But they
do some pretty cool stuff.
In play, I've noticed that it's a heck of a lot easier to use the dice than to explain them. They
engage the visual part of the brain, methinks, sailing over the analytical chunks in a single
bound. And they not only indicate failure or success, but have a multi-dimensional result set.
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

To determine whether an action is successful - be it firing a blaster or sneaking into Jabba the
Hutt's palace, the player or GM rolls a dice pool. Yeah, it's dice bomb - but quick to resolve.

The two basic types of dice are eight-siders. The green ones are called Ability dice, and the
Purple ones are called Difficulty dice:

Types of Dice
The splat/starbust/explosions on the green dice are called Successes. The pointy triangle things
are called Failures.

Types of Results
You assemble your dice pool and roll. Let's say I wanted to break down a door. My Brawn is a
2, so I get 2 green ability dice. Let's say it's a regular door, so it's an average task - thus I get two
purple difficulty dice. Those four dice - two greens and two purples - make up my dice pool.
Then I roll!

Success at a task requires that I get more successes than failures. So one success and one failure
would cancel each other out, so I would fail. But two successes and one failure would mean that
I smashed that door down big time.

Okay, yeah, that is simple. But what are the other frikkin symbols? Well, there are only two
more on these dice. The green dice also have a laurel wreath/phoenix wing/rebel symbol called
an Advantage. The purple dice have a hexagonal/flower/imperial symbol called a Threat.
Types of Results
Advantages and threats cancel each other out in a similar manner to Successes and Failures. So,
if I rolled 3 advantages and 1 Threat, I'd come away with two advantages.

Advantage and threat results in a dice pool roll indicate something else happened other than just
a flat out success or failure. For instance, if I rolled a success while breaking down the door, but
also had a threat, then the GM could deem that the door broke so noisily that it woke up the
bounty hunter who was sleeping in the room. With an advantage, the I could say (with the GM's
approval, of course,) that door splintered into a ga-zillion fragments, blinding the bounty hunter
for a bit.

In combat, the use of Advantages and Threats are more defined, and results in a kind of menu of
effects the GM and players can buy for themselves. For instance, if I roll a certain number of
advantages on a bowcaster attack, I could decide that it triggered a special effect on my weapon -
which is this case would be to not only injure the bounty hunter, but knock him on his keister via
the Knockdown ability. If I rolled a threat, the GM could grant a free maneuver to the bounty
hunter, and have him run away, or close in to melee range with his force pike.

But even if I miss with my bowcaster, I still could get some advantage results. I could use those
advantages to give one of my allies a boost to his attack, saying that the caster bolt went by his
head and startled him, setting him up for my Twi'lek friend to get a better chance to blast him
with her hold-out pistol.

The players are big fans of the advantage and threat system. It gives them more control over
what is happening on the battlefield, allows them to cause effects that would truly be useful, and
lets them be helpful even if they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

The next dice are a pair of six-siders. The blue one is the Boost Die, and the black one is the
Setback Die:

Types of Dice
These two dice represent smaller increments of good and bad, and are used to indicate special
things. For example, if I aim with my bowcaster, I get to add a Boost die to my pool. If it is
raining while I'm trying to shoot the bounty hunter down the street, I might add a Setback die to
my pool. If I am aiming while it rains, I would get both a Boost and a Setback Die added to my

Boost and setback are the most common things to be added to a pool. Really, as a GM, you want
to look for opportunities to add setbacks, since they usually indicate interesting environmental
effects - but also, many of the characters abilities negate Setback dice, so if you are not using
them, they cannot counter them.

The Boost and Setback dice do not have any symbols that the green Success and purple Failure
do not have. However, there are two more symbols on the last pair of dice.

The last pair of dice are the yellow Proficiency and the red Challenge dice, both twelve-siders:

Types of Dice
The Proficiency and Challenge dice are typically used as Upgrade dice. The green Ability can
be upgraded into the yellow Proficiency, while the purple Failure can be upgraded into the red
Challenge. This is primarily used in determining your dice pool for a skill check. These dice,
with their twleve sides, have more chances for Successes, Advantages, Failures, and Threats.

Character have characteristics (Brawn, Presence, Agility, etc.) with values from 1 to 6. The
skills, anything ranging from Astrogation to Skulduggery, are rated from 0 to 5. To use a skill,
you look at your skill level and the characteristic that it is linked to. Let's say I am plotting a
course to Tatooine. I'd look at Astrogation and Intellect and find the highest value. My
Astrogation is a three and my Intellect is a two. The biggest number is a three, so I'd get three
green ability dice. The second highest number, that of Intellect, is a two. so I' upgrade two of
those green dice into yellow proficiency. My pool would then be built of two yellow Challenge
dice, plus one green Ability die (and then any other dice needed.)

These two dice have special symbols that are not on other dice. The yellow Proficiency die has
the lightsaber in a circle thingy which is a Triumph, and red Challenge die has the triangle circle
thing which is the Despair symbol.
Types of Results
A Triumph counts as one Success, but it also counts for something really, really good. In
combat, that might automatically dispatch a lower level mook that you punched in the gut. Or it
might create a friend for life out of the underworld contact that you were pumping for
information about the location of a certain bounty hunter. Or . . . whatever. A Triumph usually
means something big.

Despairs also mean something big, as well as counting as one failure in the dice pool. Getting a
Despair might mean that your gun runs out of ammo. Or remember those controls you blasted i
hopes of sealing the door blocking the stormtroopers? Yeah, that panel also had the controls for
the bridge extender on it. Oops.

The last type of die isn't normally used during game play, at least in Edge of the Empire. It is the
Force die:

Perhaps in the Jedi game expansion the Force die will be used more, but in this game, its is only
used before play to determine the group's Destiny Pool. Each player rolls a die, and for each
result, one or two light or dark points are added to the pool. During game play, the players and
GM can access the light and dark points to alter or enhance die results, or 'force' other things to
happen. But I'll get into more about that in a future post.

Oh, I forgot - the game also uses percentile dice for rolling results on percentile driven tables.
They are not really used for anything else - except perhaps to quantify the pocket change that the
bounty hunter you just killed was carrying.

The biggest problem with the dice now are that they are not available, unless you buy the
Beginner boxed game. Fantasy Flight does have one of those phone app things that lets you
assemble pools and roll the dice, but I don't have a phone that will support anything beyond
calculating a waiter's tip, so that is not an answer for me. The current solution is to just buy a
box and use the dice in a communal style - like monks or something. But so far, it's working. I
do wonder what will happen when people start buying their own sets and the dice start getting
mixed. That could lead to fist fights. :)

So that's it for how the new, strange dice drive the game's core mechanics. I've found this system
to be much easier to grasp than expected, even for people new to tabletop rpgs. It's also pretty
fast - once everyone gets a handle on all of the symbol meanings. And it gives a heck of a lot of
power to the PCs, so that they are not just reacting to the GM's ruling on what a dice roll meant,
but coming up with things themselves.

I'm not sure what about Edge of the Empire I'll tackle in the next post, but if you have any
questions, just let me know.

- Ark