Saturday, 6 July 2013

Edge of the Empire: Core Rulebook Read Impressions - Part I

It's mine! All mine!

As you may have guessed, I picked up my copy of the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook (along with the Game Master's Kit) yesterday and have been spending all my free time reading though it.

Holy crap this sucker is THICK. At nearly 445 pages, it has the highest page count of any of my RPG books!

Now I'm not much of a review writing kinda guy and I believe my fellow gamers can do it better justice than I could, so I'm just going to write about the impressions I get as I read through this dreadnought-sized tome. Also note my impressions are going to be from someone who's read and played the Beta of this game, not as a new player/GM to the system; so they're subjective and biased. I'm going to review the first half of the Core Rulebook, which contains most of the crunchy mechanical rules. The remainder I believe contains more of the fluff.

General Impressions

The layout is nice and tight, and the art is superb right from the get go. Lifting the front cover you are greeted with this awesome endpaper image of a stellar field expanding on and outwards from the bright horizon of Tatooine with the tiny form of a ship (looks like YT-2400) leaving the planet on the verso side. The field continues into the recto where a thin nebulae is illuminated by the binary stars Tatoo I and Tatoo II. I love it and I want a desktop wallpaper of it.

Inside this cover is also a small pamphlet titled 'Read This First'. It's six pages cover an introductory story to the game, roleplaying, and the universe of Star Wars; something to hand to your players who aren't familiar with RPGs and/or Star Wars. (Yes, both those people do exist!)

Chapter I: Playing the Game

To be honest, having learnt and played both the Beta and the Beginners Game, I felt no need to read this chapter thoroughly. It goes over the Core Mechanic, the Dice Pool, Obligations, etc. in over a dozen or so pages. Although it's concise, it'll still a lot for players and GMs who are unfamiliar with EotE to wrap their heads around, let alone people new to RPGs in general.

For those people, I'd suggest to picking up/playing the Beginner Game before deciding if they really want to learn the game via the Core Rulebook, as it introduces the system better, and it's still usable if you do end up getting the Core since it gives you a set of dice.

Chapter II: Character Creation

For those familiar with the Beta book, this chapter looks fairly similar except for updated errata rules, adjusted Talent Trees, and expanded information on Species, Careers, and Specializations. One inclusion I really do like is the five "Stories" listed under each Career that can be used to help flesh out character backgrounds; something that really helps differentiate your character from another PC with the same Career. Both Obligations and Motivations were given much more detail than in the Beta book. (Better definitions between Obligations like Dutybound and Oath for example)

One interesting thing of note is the Ghtroc 720 Light Freighter ("the space turtle") from the Beta has been replaced with the Wayfarer Medium Transport as a selectable ship for the player group. In fact when I skipped ahead to vehicle profiles in Chapter VII: Starships and Vehicles I saw no entry or mention of it. I wonder what prompted this change.. (Perhaps it had something to do with how it looked?)

[Stats for the Ghtroc 720 can still be found at C. Steven Ross's excellent EotE blog Triumph & Despair]

Chapter III: Skills

This chapter is also similar to Beta, with generally the same descriptions for skills and related dice results. There is a new sidebar covering skills uses for Gambling, similar to the rules of Sabacc given in the Free RPG Day adventure Shadows of a Black Sun. I personally prefer the rules in the adventure over those in the Core Rulebook (so FFG get off your duffs and release the adventure on PDF so we can all use them! ;p)
The Social Skills sidebar has been cleaned up a bit, and now Negotiation can used along with Cool to oppose Negotiation. Both Pilot skills have been renamed Piloting, and the Surveillance skill that showed up in the Beta (and was subsequently axed by the Errata) doesn't make an appearance.

Chapter IV: Talents

This chapter provides more in-depth rules for both standard Careers and Force Sensitive Exiles, and like the chapter before it is just an update of the rules presented in the Beta presented in tables and columns occasional broken by art. Nothing too interesting. The changes to talents were certainly for the better as it fixed many of the broken or weak ones.

Chapter V: Gear and Equipment

Aside from the usual rules, now we're starting to see a bit more material that wasn't in the Beta: sidebars that offer advice on bringing the PC's motivations to bear via Obligation and credits, and advice how to manage the game economy. I found that the advice given in the sidebar "Keeping The Crew Hungry" particularly struck a chord with me:

You see, back when I was running Star Wars Saga Edition for my group, I realized once my players got their own ship and a decent amount of credits their drive somewhat changed. It was more difficult to wrangle them with plot hooks, as they now had a ship and the funds to go and do whatever they wanted. (Not that I was opposed to the game turning sandbox-style, after all that is one of the reasons why I gave them a ship in the first place. They did create several of their own fun adventures.) I think there was a general feeling that the PC's didn't have to follow the metaplot if they didn't want to; they could just pickup and leave. I tried (like one of the suggestions in the sidebar) to reduce their funds slowly by ship maintenance and upkeep, but that didn't help much. I also considered having their credit accounts sliced and robbed, but although it would make for a motivating plot hook, it also kinda felt like a dick move, especially if they couldn't get their funds back.

Anyway, I think this why I like Obligation so much, it's a both a plot hook, a cost, and a motivation that's more than just money. And the suggestion of giving low cash rewards helps keep the group always vested in the next job.

They also added additional rules for Selling and Trading, great for those who really get into their career as an Explorer-Trader, and GM advice for players who always loot the bodies for a quick cred. The section on Customization and Modifications has a few new welcome additions, particularly for melee weapons.

Chapter VI: Conflict and Combat

Much the same as the Beta really. A new sidebar on Flying in its relation to maneuvers has been added. There are a few changes to the Improvised Weapons rules I'm happy with as my group and I hummed and hawed over the rules in the Beta.

Alright. That's about half the book done. We have seven chapters left: Starships and Vehicles, The Force, The Game Master, The Galaxy, Law and Society, Adversaries, and an adventure called Trouble Brewing. So stay tuned to part II where I'll give my impressions on the remaining half of the Core Rulebook! And following that I'm going to give my impressions of the Game Master's Kit screen and booklet.

Click Here for part II of my Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook impressions!

May the Force be with You! ;{١