Recently I ran Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. It was not my first time using FFG’s dice system, but it was my first time GMing a game within that system. Nearly needless to say, it was a little clunky for multiple reasons; The group I got together was a bit of a last minute one, it had been over 5 months since I had last played this system, I didn’t have a grasp of the rules in order to run it smoothly, I had only read the first 5 pages of the adventure I was running, the list goes on.
Miraculously, we all had a blast playing through the first two “Episodes” of Under a Black Sun, an adventure you can get for free on Fantasy Flight’s website. We used the pregens you could get in the same location, but having only three players, we fielded only the wookie, human and trandoshan. That left the bothan and rodian off the table, the bothan being the hacker. Considering the adventure was about stealing digital information from a Black Sun hideout, it was kind of silly but we glossed over the details. The adventure started us right in the middle of the heist, the PC’s making their getaway.
As I’ve mentioned before, the dice system powering this game does an immaculate job at making the game feel epic, action packed, and ever-changing. While we were playing though, one of the players brought something to my attention. He made a roll, where all successes and failures cancelled each other out leaving a lone advantage symbol. According to the rules, this resolves as a failure with an advantage. When I revealed this to him he seemed a little disappointed and said, “That’s weird that the dice favor the house.”
It took me a minute to digest what he had said but, damn it, he was right. After the game was over I stewed over the statement for a while, thinking why games are “meet or exceed” while others are simply “exceed.” Honestly, I couldn’t think of an answer, but I could think of how it affects game play. Most games I’ve played weigh their dice in favor of the players. Dungeons and Dragons, any edition, is probably what comes to everyone’s mind when discussing this sort of topic. When you roll an attack, it has to be equal to or higher than the targets armor class. When you make a save, it has to be equal to or higher than whatever the save value is of the spell/poison/whatever. We don’t think about it often, but that actually does affect the statistical outcome of how likely it is for you to succeed or fail.
With that, generally speaking, the player succeeds more than they fail. Obviously, that hinges on how difficult a task is or how the PC is statted, etc. etc., but overall that tells you the tone the writers had intended. FFG’s system is the first I’ve played that is slanted away from the player, and I find that really interesting because I can’t decide if it really is. On the one hand, you don’t have the “equal to” type of roll result. On the other, you can still fail and get something out of it because of advantage and triumph, so in actuality, is it really slanted against you? I say no, and here’s why: The mechanics of advantage and triumph add that third dimension to the game. It’s not just success or failure, but rather catches the complexity of performing a task in our real world. Maybe the rocket you were trying to craft takes off and flies for a bit but quickly overheats and blows up prematurely, taking out a small ship instead of damaging the big one you were aiming for.
Ultimately that goes back to the “fail forward” type mentality. In essence, the Star Wars FFG game is very fail forward-centric, but with a huge emphasis on the fail since you lose ties. I’m not entirely sure I prefer this idea over the D20 mechanics I’ve grown so accustomed to. but I can say that it makes it an immensely interesting game to play. From a design aspect, I tip my hat over to you guys at Fantasy Flight. You’ve instilled thought into me, and that’s what interacting with people is about, right?
What do you prefer? Reach out and start a conversation!
Stay Metal \m/