Wednesday, December 23, 2015

First Impressions of Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG and character conversion J. Lancer Part 1 of 2

My true gaming passion is not boardgaming, but RPGing.. And not just any RPGing, but specifically in a space opera setting. And not just all aspects of RPGing, but GMing. I talked about the golden age of RPGs in the 80s of which I am privileged to say I was there, here.

Since then, I haven't indulged in it (apart from some PBeMing of it 9-10 years ago) in nearly 25 years for a variety of reasons (moved away, adulthood, ya da, ya da). However, I have kept a loose eye on the hobby since then and continue to buy supplements and just read them for the fluff, mainly GURPS.

My RPGing gaming itch gets a bit scratched through boardgaming. I don't really care so much about winning a boardgame than I do immersing myself in the role. My friend Jeff seems to focus on the mechanics of the game, but to me, the game's theme is all important. I need to get into the theme in order to immerse myself in the role. My buddies can wax elonquently about the mechanics of whatever Cthulhu boardgame they want to play, for instance, but the theme kills it for me. As Jeff and Jim have noticed, I like to ham it up playing whatever the role in the boardgame we're playing.

Anyways, RPGing.. Reading the supplements, jotting down campaign ideas and maps you'll never play or use and creating characters and NPCs are forms of solitaire play for ex-GMs.

As you can see, I have tons of 3rd Edition Gurps, but also a host of other old RPGs.

I saw the new Star Wars movie the other day and it inspired me to buy Fantasy Flight Games' new RPGs set in the Star Wars universe. FFG came out with 3 gamebooks (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny) with nearly identical mechanics but a slightly different focus in each.

Edge of the Empire (EotE) is set on the fringes, and is for campaigns where you play scumbags and rogues (smugglers, bounty hunters, etc). Age of Rebellion (AoR) is for campaigns where you'll be a soldier or rebel set after the destruction of the first Death Star and Force and Destiny (F&D) are for force-sensitive characters (Light or Dark Side). One does not have to be automatically a Jedi or Sith character in F&D, but any character who is Force sensitive, such as say, a podracer who uses the force to help out in races.

I played WEG Star Wars when it came out in 1987 and sporadically afterward with Jim and the old gang, including two completed adventures by PBeM.


The rules were easy and good enough, though I was spoiled by FASA and GDW and lamented that WEG never produced any maps of the Star Wars universe nor any trading rules. In fact, you had to be a rebel in WEG for the most part. If you went over to the Dark Side in WEG, the GM took away your character and turned him into an NPC.

I never played the WOTC Star Wars RPG and don't have it in my collection. For some reason, when I hear "D20" it turns me off. It's too associated with AD&D in my mind.

Times have changed with FFG Star Wars. I am truly taken aback at the production values and text in the core rules.

RPGs have evolved these last 20 years since I "retired" from it, These new RPGs are not the low quality shlock booklets we had when I was a kid, but works of art in themselves.
F&D feels like a weighty tome..This thing is heavy at 446 pages.

It's on heavy glossy high quality paper too. The art work inside is something to behold....

Now compare the above with the black and white drawings of the 80s RPGs that I am used to, such as in WEG Star Wars below and you'll see what I mean.

The first thing I noticed was that the RPG requires special dice. At first, I thought it was a gimmick by FFG to generate a sales stream selling their special dice. Special dice make me nervous when I see them in boardgames because if you lose them, you're in trouble. They are not that easy to replace unlike numbered d10s, d8s, etc. Luckily, the rule book notes that if you don't have their special dice, you can refer to their table when numbered die are all that available. I imagine that most players will pick up a pack or two of the special dice.

Looking at the rules on the special dice though, I can see the implications of their dice pool method. There are 7 different coloured dice. Three of the dice are positive, three are negative and 1 is a Force die.

The light blue die is a boost die, rolled when your character is at an advantage; for example, when you are on higher ground. This light blue die has it's opposite, a black setback die when the character is at a disadvantage.

The green and yellow dice are based on the characters abilities and skills, but are offset by purple and red die when there are difficulties; purple die are for difficulties and red for greater challenging situations. Thus, if a character is taking a shot with his blaster, he would use his green ability and yellow proficiency die, but depending on the difficulty of the shot, he must also roll at the same time, the black, red and/or purple die. A success in the green or yellow die can be offset by their cancellation in the negative die. Very elegant.

But it's more than that. There are gradations of success or failure that the old fashioned numbered die system of my youth didn't have. For those of us who played 1980s and 90s RPGs, there was usually a number set by the GM that had to be met in a pass or fail paradigm.  

Now, depending on the symbols in the coloured die, when you roll all these positive and negative dice at the same time in a dice pool throw, there is a drilldown that allows greater RPG narrative. Depending on what was rolled, you can have both success and failure. You can for instance, hit the stormtrooper with your blaster shot (green or yellow successes), but also find yourself at a disadvantage at the same time, e.g. your blaster then malfunctions, for example. It's up to the GM to interpret how good and how bad it gets. That sounds more "real worldly" than the old pass or fail binary effect.

Aaah, damn, youth is wasted on the young. Why didn't they think of this 30 years ago? :-)

The rulebook has several pages and pictures describing this dice pool mechanic which seems helpful.

WEG used to have Force points on the character sheet, which a character cashed in to temporarily boost his stats. FFG Star Wars has "Destiny" points, but, get this, all the players at the beginning of every session roll their force die and then they pool their rolls - both Light and Dark side- into a Destiny pool for that session. Both the players and the GM can tap into that pool to boost their stats and a particular roll. However, there must be balance in the Force.. Everytime the players tap into the pool to get a Light side point to boost their stats or roll, that point is then converted to a Dark Side destiny point. When the GM taps into it from a Dark Side point of view, then that gets converted into a Light side point for the players. Very interesting mechanic.

I'll get to character creation in part 2 when I convert an old WEG character that was played by Jim.

Morality in F&D is a very interesting component.

WEG used to have Dark Side points, which at the end of the adventure or session, you would roll a 1d6. If you rolled under that number of Dark Side points, you go over to the Dark Side and your character becomes an NPC. I used to tempt Jim all the time to get freebees if he would call upon the Dark Side to help out in a tricky situation, but he never took the risk and his character never accumulated Dark Side points.

Well, under FFG Star Wars, it's not that cut and dried. There is a spectrum now for both the Light and Dark side that all players are subject to. Both the Light and the Dark Side call to the player at all times and this is measured by a characters morality from 1 to 100. Under 30, and you are a servant of the Dark Side. Over 70, and you are a paragon of the Light side.. However, morality points are constantly shifting and your character's morality will ebb and flow as you go along, with a chance to redeem yourself or plunge into darkness. Unlike WEG, your side in the Light or Dark side of the Force is not set in stone. You can climb out of the pit of the Dark Side like Vader did in ROTJ or give into it and then roll play it out for the rest of the campaign.

And it doesn't just affect your role playing, but there are actually game stats that are affected when you are under 30 and over 70. You get tougher as your morality gets lower and lower or higher and higher as you approach 30 or less or 70 or higher. Thus, your role and roll playing are affected.

Starting characters typically start at 50 morality points, so the choice is up to you where to go.

There is the typical expected chapter on Gear and Equipment of course, with surprisingly in a sci-fi setting, rules on encumbrance. Expected stats on blasters, explosives, armor, drugs, cybernetic enhancements, etc

The Lightsaber section is interesting, as it has some discussion on the double-bladed lightsaber, and lightsaber pike as well

It's not all cut and dried though, as there are rules on customizing and modifying equipment as well, including the lightsaber!

I am stunned to see rules about the effect of the different crystals in the lightsaber hilt and their effect in the game.

Wow.. you never saw this in WEG.

Rules on combat maneuvers, actions, the effect of the environment (eg.. corrosive atmospheres, etc), suffocation, falling,  etc

Injury is also on a continuum from a minor nick to being lame, or blindness to death.

Expected rules on Starships and ship combat of course.

Extensive rules on the Force and force powers, like battle meditation, misdirect, bind, sense, etc

There are useful background chapters for the GM and background chapters on the history of the Star Wars universe and such, like the Empire, the great hyperlanes, the Deep Core, the Outer Rim, some of the major planets, etc.

 Finally, a map!

There is an interesting discussion of the Jedi-Sith rivarly, which I don't know much about.

What also turned my crank was a section of the Lost Artifacts of the Force. I love when they mix archaelogy in and lost artifacts. I eat that stuff up with a spoon.

The rulebook ends with a mission that looks appealing that involves visiting an old Jedi Temple.

All in all, F&D is a worthwhile addition to my RPG collection and I would like to come out of retirement and try it out, but we'll see.

In part 2, I continue and convert an old WEG character and go through the rules in F&D on characters.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful looking rule book but I'd feel bad penciling in errata corrections in the margin. How much of this is canon and where did the canon come from ? Did Lucas have a map of the Empire he never shared with us ? Rules look pretty complex but many RPG's are rules heavy today anyways.

    Overall nice looking game.