The Alexandrian

The core rulebooks for Fantasy Flight’s iteration of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game are incredibly gorgeous. For several years I would walk past them in game stores, pick them up, and say, “Wow!”

Then I’d look at the price, realize I wasn’t likely to get a Star Wars game together any time in the near future, and then slowly put the book back on the shelf with a lingering pang of regret.

Star Wars: Force and Destiny - Fantasy Flight GamesOver time, though, I started putting the book back faster and faster, and eventually I just stopped picking them up. And that’s largely because I find Fantasy Flight’s packaging of the game absurd.

Back in 2012 when they released the beta version of Star Wars: Edge of Empire for $40 I didn’t have a problem with it: It provided early access to the game. Nobody was being forced to pay for it if they didn’t want to. And it wasn’t the first (nor the last) time that a beta program had a price of admission.

… but then they did it again for Age of Rebellion and for Force and Destiny. And it began to look a lot more like a marketing strategy: By executing a beta-beginning-core triumvirate for three separate games, it looked suspiciously as if Fantasy Flight Games had figured out how to sell the same core rules nine times over.

And there’s really no justification for it. The claim by the game designers that the “core experience” of the Star Wars universe is for Han Solo (Edge of Empire), Princess Leia (Age of Rebellion), and Luke Skywalker (Force and Destiny) to all adventure separately from each other is utterly bizarre.

On top of that, however, there’s the specialized dice. I don’t actually have a problem with a game using a specialized dice set, but these are sold at $15 per set… and in order to get a dice pool large enough that a table of beginning characters can reliably make their checks without having to reroll dice to form a full pool you’ll need three sets. So there’s another $45 you need to spend in order to start playing the game effectively.

Money-grubbing corporations will grub money, right? Fair enough. But I think what I find particularly frustrating is that the Star Wars roleplaying game should be a major point of entry for players new to RPGs. And that’s particularly true right now as Star Wars enters its second renaissance. And instead of opening the door wide to those new players, Fantasy Flight has packaged the game at an exorbitant price point which makes it basically as unattractive as possible.

Honestly, the cost would have kept me from ever trying the game. But I had a friend who wanted me to run it for them, and they purchased all the books and supplies. So let’s lay the cost aside and talk about the game itself.


In FFG’s Star Wars, your character is defined by their Characteristics and their Skills. In order to resolve an action, you take a number of Ability Dice equal to either your Characteristic or your Skill, whichever is higher. Then you upgrade a number of those Ability Dice to Proficiency Dice equal to either your Characteristic or your Skill, whichever is lower.

Star Wars RPG - Dice Pool(For example, let’s say you’re making a Brawn + Athletics check and you’ve got Brawn 3 and Athletics 2. You’d take three Ability Dice because the higher score is 3. Then you’d upgrade two of those to Proficiency Dice because the lower score is 2. That would give you dice pool of one Ability Die and two Proficiency Dice.)

This basic pool can be then be modified in various ways: The GM can add Difficulty Dice (representing the difficulty of the task), which can be upgraded to Challenge Dice by various horrible circumstances. Particularly notable successes or failures on previous checks might also grant you Boost Dice or Setback Dice, and so forth.

The key point is that all of the dice in these pools are marked with a number of different symbols: Success, Failure, Advantage, Threat, Triumph, and Despair. You roll all the dice, you count up all the symbols and…


 … and that’s when the hoverpads fall off the landspeeder.

After you’ve rolled the dice, you have:

(1) Success vs. Failure (these cancel, multiples successes accumulate but failures don’t)

(2) Advantage vs. Threat (these cancel, multiples of both accumulate)

(3) Triumph vs. Despair (these don’t cancel)

Ignoring quantitative differences, these give you 18 qualitative results:


I’m a huge fan of systems that characterize the quality of success or failure (instead of just treating those as binary qualities). But why do we need to count each tier of dice symbols in a slightly different way? And why do we need three separate tiers of symbols? This system literally generates outcomes like, “Moderate success with something vaguely good, but also something vaguely better than vaguely good, but also something seriously bad in a vague way.”

Okay. So you flip over to the skill guidelines hoping for a little guidance… and that’s when you discover that even the designers have no idea how to use their convoluted dice system.

For example, advantage can’t turn failure into success… unless it’s a Knowledge skill, because then advantage can grant you “minor but possibly relevant information about the subject” even on a failure. (Except… if you’re gaining access to relevant information, that sounds like a success, right?)

Star Wars: Edge of Empire - Fantasy Flight GamesIf you’re making a Computer check, then additional successes reduce the time required to make the check. But if it’s a Stealth check, then you’re going to use advantage to reduce the time required. With Skullduggery you use advantage to gain additional items, but if you’re making a Survival check you’ll use successes to gain those items.

It goes on and on like that.

So you have a system that’s supposedly feeding you “useful” information, but the designers can’t even figure out how to interpret the results consistently despite multiple years of development and nine different products featuring the core mechanics. Why should we believe that this system is going to do anything useful at the table?

Based on my experiences running the game, it doesn’t. A system that says “success-but-complicated” or “success-but-extra-awesome” is giving you valuable guidance in adjudicating the outcome of a check. What FFG’s Star Wars gives you, on the other hand, is a tangled morass.

But maybe I was still missing something. So I talked to people who were playing the game. And what I discovered is that people who were enjoying the system were almost universally not playing it according to the rules.

Many of them weren’t even aware they were doing it. (Subconsciously house ruling away the inconsistencies in how symbols of different tiers are tallied is apparently very common, for example.) It’s as if we were talking about a car, I mentioned the gas pedal, and multiple people talking about how great the car is to drive said, “What’s a gas pedal?”

Even among those who were aware they were changing the game, it would lead to some really weird conversations where I would criticize the dice system; someone would reply to say that they loved it; I would ask what they loved about it; and then they would reply by basically saying, “I love the fact that we changed it!”

Which is, I suppose, the ultimate condemnation of the system.


What about the rest of the system?

Actually, there’s some really interesting stuff in there. The way mooks are handled is really elegant, allowing the GM to rapidly group their actions together (all the mooks using suppressive fire on Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - Fantasy Flight Gamesone guy) or split them apart on the fly (as the mooks pursue PCs who split up while running through the corridors of the Death Star).

Also of note are the starship combat rules, which do a really nice job of creating a simple structure that (a) captures the dynamics of the dogfighting we see in the Star Wars films and (b) allows all of the PCs on a ship to take meaningful actions during the fight.

But there are two problems.

First, you can’t escape the core mechanic. It is, after all, the core mechanic. It touches everything. So, yes, the starship combat system’s mixture of starship maneuvers and starship actions creates what looks likely a really dynamic structure… but the core mechanic you’re rolling multiple times every turn is still a clunky, time-sucking disaster.

Second, the system is frankly riddled with inconsistencies.

For example, combat initiative works in all ways exactly like a competitive check… except for how ties are broken. Why?! Why would you do that?

Another example: The difficulty of a check to heal someone is dependent on how injured they are. Similarly, the difficulty of repairing your ship is dependent on how damaged it is. If you take those rules and you put them on a table, you end up with this:

Star Wars: Force and Destiny - Medicine & Damage Control

Oh! That’s nice! They’ve unified the difficulties so that you can easily memorize and use… Wait a minute.

What the hell?!

I honestly can’t tell if that’s just incredibly sloppy design or if it’s actually a revelation of Machiavellian evil. (I literally keep looking back at the rulebooks because my brain refuses to accept that this is true. But it is.)

The whole game is like this. (We’ve already talked about how the skill guidelines seem to take an almost perverse glee in never doing something the same way twice.) It’s almost as if the designers said, “This system is pretty slick and elegant… let’s go ahead and randomly change half the mechanics for no reason.”


Somewhere inside the nine core rulebooks that FFG has published, I feel like there’s a pretty good Star Wars game screaming to get out. And if you’re the type of roleplayer who’s comfortable just kind of playing vaguely in the vicinity of the actual rules, you might even be able to find it in here occasionally.

But all the clunkiness adds up.

I designed a short little scenario for the game: A few modest combats. A little investigation. Some cool set pieces.

It’s the kind of scenario that, if I was running it in most systems, would take one or two sessions to play through. As we wrapped up our fourth session, we still hadn’t finished it. The mechanics superficially lend themselves to dramatic, swashbuckling action, but the system is so sluggish in pace that even simple combat encounters drag out. The result is that the system takes narrative material and stretches it out until it has long since been drained of interest. It’s bloated, unfocused, and…

Ah. I know what this reminds me of.

FFG’s game is the Special Edition of Star Wars roleplaying games.

Style: 5
Substance: 1

(Substance would be a 2, but you have to buy the game a minimum of three times to get all the rules to play something resembling any of the Star Wars movies. So, weighing its value against the actual price of $180… nah. And that doesn’t even include the dice.)

Author: Jay Little, Sam Stewart, and FFG Development Team
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Cost: $59.95
Page Count: 456
ISBN: 978-1-63344-122-4

Review of Force and Destiny
Force and Destiny: System Cheat Sheet
FFG Star Wars: The Big Fix
Star Wars: Red Peace

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94 Responses to “Review: Star Wars – Force and Destiny”

  1. The Gneech says:

    Wow. I always suspected this game was a mess, it’s nice to have it confirmed by a reputable source.

    STAR WARS: Game Sold Separately.

    -The Gneech

  2. Xercies says:

    Yes every GM I have spoken to about this game has said exactly the same thing with the dice, how are we supposed to interpret what happens with all the different results of what you can get? Also as a player it takes a bit of time to get your head around the system and what all the symbols and that mean and how your skills represent what dice you have. Which is always a problem in my opinion as not knowing what the numbers mean makes people very reluctant to try doing things.

  3. JB says:

    So sad because the books are so beautiful.

    I kind of suspected the clunkiness you describe, but I’ve had folks tell me the dice are “fun and work well,” and that the game is easy enough to be played by a 7-year old. I have a suspicion however, there may have been some drift from the actual mechanics.

    Thanks for the review; I really haven’t seen enough info on this particular line from FFG.

  4. Martin Kallies says:

    When I first took a look what things I’d need and what it would cost me to learn the rules of this game, I was thinking “Why would anyone want to buy this?!”

    Now I am thinking “Why would anyone want to play this?!”

  5. Erik says:

    I disagree with a few of your knocks on the game. First, you don’t “need” all 3 books. Sure, with only one of them you’ll be missing the specific character type rules in the other 2, but you can certainly get by just fine with Edge of the Empire. I’d argue that all character types are available in EotE. Using D&D as an example, you can actually play this game with just one book. There’s literally everything you’ll need (also, D&D has a cost of $150 for all 3 core books).

    As for the core mechanic, yes, it’s certainly complicated. But I like that, in this case. Again, D&D as an example, it’s nice to have a simple, straightforward resolution mechanic, but at some point, everything starts to feel the same. Roll a d20, add modifiers, regardless of the task at hand. I think it’s kinda cool that mechanics and computer hacking have different resolution mechanics. They should be different. Sure, it can be a pain to have the book open at all times, but I think this also helps force players to be more up to speed on what their charcters can do and how the skills their characters specialize in work

    All that said, I don’t think I’d want this system to replace all others or anything. I don’t even think this is the best rpg system I’ve seen. I just like it for something different than what I’m used to.

  6. Redwood Rhiadra says:

    This pretty much sums up my feeling nicely (though I only bought Edge of Empire before the others came out.)

    I’ve grown tired of dice pools, especially dice pools with funky mechanics. And doubly-so for *opposed* dice pools. Give me a simple roll of no more than three dice, please (Apocalypse World, percentile systems, GURPS 3d6).

  7. Justin Alexander says:

    @JB: So pretty. So incredibly, wonderfully gorgeous. Easily some of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever run a game from.

    @Erik: I can appreciate games in which different activities are resolved using different mechanics. But that’s not what’s happening here. Everything in FFG’s Star Wars is resolved using the same resolution mechanic.

    You’re mistaking a systemic failure to figure out what their variable results table actually means as a mechanical distinction. It’s actually just sloppiness.

    It’s difficult to find an analogy for what they’ve done wrong using a d20 system because it would require you to add meaningless data to the dice roll and then inconsistently interpret it. But imagine if you were playing a version of GURPS in which your 3d6 roll had to be made with red, white, and blue dice. And then the game would tell you that for some skills you would determine the time required by looking at the red die and sometimes you would do it by looking at the white die!

    The “mechanical distinction” isn’t actually making the two activities feel distinct from each other. Like changing < to ≤ between two otherwise identical mechanical resolutions, it's just sloppy design that makes the game needlessly difficult to play. But most of what I've said here is largely irrelevant, because you've picked a really weird example: Computers and Mechanics are two skills that are consistent in how they interpret the symbols. If the whole system showed that kind of consistency, this would be a very different review.

  8. Alex says:

    I’m not like an enthusiast of the system by any means, but I wanted to comment in favor of house ruling.

    So much of the system is built around: “here is our suggested way to play this, but in the end your group’s interpretation of the system is far more important to fun, so play it that way.” While the argument could be made that it’s not good design to do this, as it effectively requires your customers to design the game themselves; it does lead to some very entertaining and exciting versions of the rules. For example, our group uses the advantage/disadvantage generated on a roll to simply modify the scene. Maybe there’s some cover that wasn’t explicitly stated, or one of the mooks forgot his helmet, something like that. We have built our system to make the dice rolls one part narrative, and one part mechanical, and it’s fun!

    So my $0.02 is that yep, you’re right, people who enjoy the system are likely not playing by the book exactly; but that some of the ambiguity is intended by FFG to encourage self-intepretation.

  9. Justin Alexander says:

    @Alex: Absolutely. By the third session we’d basically tossed the skill use guidelines and were mostly just doing freestyle interpretations of the dice symbols. That helped.

    (I also agree that the symbols seem ideally designed for granting narrative control. Which is why I was really surprised that virtually none of of the hundreds of the mechanics and examples using the symbols discuss narrative options. Virtually all of them are hard-coded simulationist shifts.)

    The problem my group had was that the inconsistency of the design — like the < to ≤ shift, which is another example of the same problem -- roots itself pretty deep into core mechanics. It's a systemic failure and there's a limit to how much you can route around it. On Wednesday I'll be sharing my Big House Rule that seeks to rip out the heart of the problem.

  10. Monkapotomus says:

    @Alex Honestly, that’s BS. If I have to house-rule it to make it work, then why am I even bothering to buy it?

    There is a difference between house-ruling a game to make it better fit your play style and house-ruling a game to make it just work.

    Ultimately, why am I going to buy this game when I have WEG’s Star Wars?

  11. Monkapotomus says:

    Sorry if the above comment was a bit snarky. My previous phone call bled through my post a bit too much.

  12. Erik says:

    Sorry, I pulled that example out of thin air. I don’t have tbe books in front of me. However, depending on the dice being used, there IS a difference other than color. The dice all have a different number of sides, so maybe for some skills it’s easier to do the task quickly. If the green die is 8-sided and the blue die is 6-sided and two different skills use one or the other for the same result (how fast you accomplish the task), then this says something about the task being attempted. It is a function of how likely (8 sides vs 6) as well as the nature of the task itself. The green die is the basic “success” die and so you could take that skill to mean that speed is part of the basic goal (maybe, win a foot race or hack a terminal before a program diaables it). If the skill uses the blue die, that is a “boost” die, which would mean that quickness is a pleasant surprise rather than the goal. The same thing could be said for success icons vs advantage icons. Where success means you did it quckly enough, maybe the security program disables the terminal (failure in speed), but the alarm doesn’t go off (advantage). Here, you lose access to this apparently valuable terminal, but at least security isn’t on the way. When speed is a bonus, maybe you’re trying to talk your way past a guard and succeed (you got more success icons than failures), but it takes longer than expected and your mark is already boarding the cruiser (threat).

    I don’t see a problem with that. In fact, I like the nuance. I can see where it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea though.

  13. Brotherwilli says:

    I have played Age of Rebellion through several sessions, and my players really enjoyed it. They enjoyed the dice mechanics, the way skills worked, and the narrative twists. We were moving pretty slowly as well, so the mini-campaign petered out. It wasn’t until I read this review that I realzied how badly broken the skills were – in fact, we weren’t using skill specific rules. We were interpreting dice pools pretty loosely.

    It’s a shame, because it’s a really fun game with great rules for many aspects of the Star Wars universe.

    The clunkiness of the dice pools and the shifting skill-specific rules does remind me a lot of Alternity. It’s another game that I loved in theory, but in practice was so bulky it was hard to get past a third session.

  14. Brad says:

    Damn. I was afraid of this.

    Star Wars should play fast and fun! I shouldn’t have to look up dice results and skill descriptions after every other roll.

    Justin, if you have any ideas for how to even out the system, speed play up, etc., I’d (we’d) love to hear them.

  15. Joseph says:

    “Where success means you did it quckly enough, maybe the security program disables the terminal (failure in speed), but the alarm doesn’t go off (advantage). Here, you lose access to this apparently valuable terminal, but at least security isn’t on the way. When speed is a bonus, maybe you’re trying to talk your way past a guard and succeed (you got more success icons than failures), but it takes longer than expected and your mark is already boarding the cruiser (threat).”

    This isn’t a bad way to handle very complex events (e.g. the outcome of a space battle). There can be multiple elements to a battle, and so letting the dice separate “characters did well”, “tactical success”, and “strategic success” is cool.

    But for every action it would seem to have the potential to bog down the system.

    In the same sense, the differences in how success and failure are handled for different skills isn’t optimal. One thing d20 did was make higher = better. This removed something I used to see in AD&D, where things like skill checks could be roll under. Now if you want a dozen little sub-systems, this can work out. Many people swear AD&D was the best iteration of D&D because of this feature. But a core mechanic really suggests that you want consistency . . .

  16. Justin Alexander says:

    @Erik: “If the skill uses the blue die, that is a “boost” die, which would mean that quickness is a pleasant surprise rather than the goal.”

    You could do that, sure. And I wrote a meta-system like that 15+ years ago (Dice of Destiny), where you assign different qualities to each die type and then use the varying results on each die to determine which qualities influenced that particular outcome (and how they influenced it).

    But that’s not how FFG’s Star Wars works. There’s no way for a skill to “use the blue (Boost) die” as you describe. And if you did implement an extensive set of house rules to add a Dice of Destiny-style qualities system to the dice pool, you’d only be adding even more qualitative results to a system that’s already choking to death as a result of the poorly implemented qualitative results it already has.

    Speaking of “Dice of Destiny”, though. It is interesting how often people hearing my critique of this system say, “You just don’t like qualitative results in your resolution mechanics!” In many cases, I’ve actually been preaching the virtues of qualitative resolution mechanics longer than those people have been playing RPGs.

    It’s not that I dislike qualitative resolution mechanic. I just don’t like poorly designed qualitative resolution mechanics.

  17. Danny says:

    “Based on my experiences running the game, it doesn’t.”
    I am sure that this is a lie.
    After reading this ‘review’ I am in fact convinced of the fact that you did not play the game or went in before you understood the system. I can think of no other way how you came to the weird conclusions you did if you had actually given the game a chance.
    The statement that this game took you longer than others is very telling of this. This system is very, very fast and in fact plays way faster than his predecessors and peers.
    Also, the diatribe about the way the system is presented with three CRB instead of one with suplements (which most probably would have amounted to a more expensive set of books) and the way in which you paint its publisher is accused of being a money grubbing company seems really disengenious to say it mildly.

    I suggest the readers of this ‘review’ to read up on some other opinions as it is clear, at least to me, that “the Alexandrian” is really misrepresenting this system.

  18. Brian says:

    I’m with the other on the book issue. The complication if the system (or at least the appear of the complication – it’s a different sort of grammar) is what’s stopped me from ever picking this up. However, splitting up the universe in the way they have is brilliant. As someone who grew up playing the WEG Star Wars system, the biggest thing that always bugged me about WotC’s version was the centrality of the Force and the Jedi (so that everyone wanted to play one and every game invariably centered around them). By bringing the universe back to its roots, the narrative of the game felt much stronger in what I read when I would look through the books. It just deeply saddens me when gamers kept crying out for “I want all the extra rules for Jedi!” as if that defined the entirety of the Star Wars universe.

  19. Erik says:

    Ok. I just have a fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly your critique is. I’ll just look more closely at the system and your post and see if I can clear it up. Thanks for the discussion.

  20. Corby says:

    This is an exceedingly poor review of a system you do not seem to fully grasp.

    First thing, you don’t need to purchase more than one copy of one rulebook and maybe two sets of dice total – for the whole table. That’s substantially less of an investment than you’ve indicated. Yes, if you want to engage with different parts of the universe, than you’ll need more than one core, but you can get them for less if you look around. I will state, I’ve got all the rulebooks and splat books and adventures, and they release them at a rate where it’s easy enough to get caught up for not a lot of outlay all at once.

    As far as the dice – it takes about 5 minutes for someone to pick up the cancellation mechanic, and after that, it’s just about interpretation. (My 7 year old took 10 minutes. But then, she’s 7.) The interpretation of the dice pool is a narrative mechanic, not a crunchy one. It’s not “This amount of this only does that.” Rather, the charts in the book are simply guidelines for when you cannot think of a thing to do with your results. After a session or two, it becomes pretty simple to figure out most results, with the exception of truly wacky ones. So you take a quick 5 min break to discuss and apply, and move on. For instance, you fail at a computer check to get the password for the system, but you got advantage – you didn’t crack it, but you didn’t set off an alarm. That’s pretty simple. It’s all about creativity, not being a rules lawyer – although interpreting the die rolls your own way is actually IN the rules.

    I don’t know who these people are who are “playing it wrong” or whatnot, but you’ve obviously come to the table with an ax to grind, and grind it you have. Yes, you have missed something – this is a ROLE playing game, and the ROLL part is just a narrative tool to move the game ahead in unforeseen ways. There are sessions when we roll maybe two or three times in two or so hours. Then here are some where it’s constant combat and resolution mechanics are constantly necessary. And both are fun, because the dice don’t hold up back and help to facilitate the story.

    I hope you can sit down with a group someday that understands and enjoys the system, and approach it with more of an open mind. This system is so much less difficult and nowhere near as broken or muddled as you stated here.

  21. Justin Alexander says:

    @Danny: Hang on, lemme check to see if I suddenly went delusional before writing the review… Nope. I’ve still got the recordings of all those game sessions. Looks like they really happened.

    … no, wait. Maybe I’m secretly a prisoner on Shutter Island and those sessions were recorded using voice actors who were mimicking my voice and then I was brainwashed into believing that the rules aren’t very good. Let me just… Oh, yeah. Looks like all those rules I described are actually still in the books.

    …no, wait! What if somebody wrote up completely new versions of the games, had them printed up as custom books cleverly disguised to look exactly like the FFG versions, and then snuck them onto my shelves?!

    I guess we’ll just never know for sure.

    @Corby: Most of your comment, obviously, simply serves to confirm the problems I’ve identified with the system. (Take 5 minutes to discuss the die roll and apply? That’s… incredibly slow. Much slower than I was experiencing with the system; and what I was experiencing with the system was still intolerable compared to other systems.)

    Re: The number of dice you’ll need for the entire table. A single dice set comes with three Ability Dice and two Proficiency Dice. Across two dice sets that means you’ll have 10 skill-related dice; that’s the first delimiter. For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that your checks are always nicely lining up with exactly the right mix of Ability and Proficiency dice to maximize their use (although that probably won’t be true in actual practice).

    Next we’ll want to look at Initiative, which is the point where you’ll probably have the most people rolling dice simultaneously. Whether I’m looking at the character sheets generated by my players or the pregenerated sheets created by FFG, the average number of dice used in a skill check is 3.

    Now, simple math: If you’re playing with a GM and two players, you can get away with using only two sets of dice. Otherwise, like I said, you’ll need at least three.

    (Beyond initiative, we found ourselves flirting with or hitting this limit any time multiple PC initiatives line up so that they’re effectively taking their actions simultaneously.)

    You’ll hit a different delimiter when making an opposed check against minions: Large minion groups will require the use of multiple Challenge Dice, and you only get one Challenge Die per dice pack. Once again, it’ll be that third pack which gives you enough dice to make most checks without re-rolling dice.

  22. Corby says:

    Your response leads me to believe that, yes, you were not “doing it right”. I have had 6 players at one point and 3 sets of dice (2 from beginner games and one from a purchase I made before I realized I didn’t need to.) I never needed more, and generally didn’t need all the ones I had. It worked out fine. As far as rolling all dice at once, don’t. Take a second and roll around the table. You can’t remember “One success, two advantage” for very long?

    As far as the “5 min” thing goes, you are taking that completely out of context – it’s a rarity. Normally it takes a few seconds to calculate and move on. Compare that to D&D where it takes so long to set everything up, then rotate thorough the initiative, and everyone has multiple things they do, and you have to make rolls for spells and on and on … it gets tiresome. We can run through a turn now very quickly.

    I also don’t know what you mean by “Taking their actions simultaneously”. That doesn’t happen. Everyone takes their turn when they want to in whatever slot is available. Initiatives don’t “line up”. That makes absolutely no sense.

    At any rate, I see that you’re not willing to accept that you could, possibly, be wrong or misinformed, or just plain grumpy, so I guess there’s no point moving this forward. I don’t believe you really understand the system, at least not enough to make the sort of judgments you made in your editorial, and I don’t feel you are willing to move past it. Good day.

  23. Dan says:

    Wow, you are an ass. You really don’t get this game at all. You do not need three sets. Each person does not their own set. It helps, but is not mandatory. You can make that argument with any game then. Saga, Pathfinder, D&D, if I have four players and a GM, then I need five sets of dice to play D&D. Wow, you are a brilliant one man. Well, I’m sorry you can’t understand the game,mint is really not hard to grasp, and each round does not take very long to go through. Compared to D&D, yes, it can take a little longer, as this is not a hit/ miss binary system. I find those to be ultra boring and not worth my time. Attack the Troll. Um, I roll a 13, and plus my 8 to hit, that is a 23, GM is nope, not a hit, next….wow. Here the players describe what their rolls accomoshed, or did not. Ok, I don’t have a net success, but, I do have two advantage. Ok, my blaster bolt hits the crate, causing it to start on fire, spewing smoke and sparks around it, causing the baddie to dive away, giving the next player a boost die on his attack. Yep, that is pretty hard to figure out, and took a long time. Well, I’m sorry your game you made did not do as good as the FFG system. Also, you are totally wrong in your statement about large groups of minions and challenge dice. Minion groups do not use the challenge dice. The difficulty to hit is based off of range, one purple die, two, three, four. You add in setback for cover. There is no Challenge die needed here. If a bad guy has a Challenge Die, it is from the Advesary Talent, and minions can not have Talents. Well,it is a good thing you understand the game to give a review of it. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, your use of “facts” and “experience” to review the game is biased. Perhaps you should just tell people “my game is better, you should by it”. Oh, and your acting performanc in Macbeth was stiff, clunky, and best left to an understudy, even though I have never seen your acting… And I ever did watch, I’m sure I could not walk in with an open mind. Hmm, reads me of your review here.

  24. Justin Alexander says:

    @Corby: It’s notable that all of your suggestions involve adding even more delays into the system. And I find your assertion that the initiative system will never result in two PCs taking their actions back-to-back positively bizarre.

    @Dan: “Each person does not their own set.

    That’s true. You’ll note, of course, that I never said that.

    Minion groups do not use the challenge dice.

    It’s not clear whether you’re unfamiliar with the mechanics of minions or if you’re unfamiliar with how opposed checks work.

    Minions working as groups gain one skill rank for each member of the group beyond the first (in the skills listed in their stat block). See Force and Destiny, pg. 400.

    Opposed checks are described on pg. 33: You build a difficulty pool based on the adversary’s skill pool, upgrading Difficulty Dice to Challenge Dice.

    So any time you would make an opposed check against a minion group using a skill they possess, you will, in fact, use Challenge Dice.

    This is a great example of the discussions I’ve had with people defending the mechanics of the game almost always ending with the revelation that they aren’t actually using the rules published in the books.

  25. Kannik says:

    “Mechanical Nonsense” is such an apt description of my group’s experience with FFG’s system. When I first heard about the dice system, and it’s dual axis of success/failure and advantage/threat, I was super excited. I really liked that thought, of how with the dice as a guideline the GM can introduce narrative flinches and twists and bennies while effectively remaining impartial (as it was the dice that would dictate when they occur). It seemed it would make for a delicious flavourful experience. I grabbed a copy of the book, read it, prepped up, and hauled out some old-school D6 SW adventures to run for my long-time gaming group.

    It wasn’t as pleasant as we’d hoped. Despite being seasoned veterans of many different RPG systems and styles of systems, beyond the core idea of the dice we found everything needlessly fiddly and clunky, and without a consistency of design. In addition, we found the rulebook poorly laid out, with all those fiddly and interlocking bits scatted throughout which, since there was no consistency, would leave us all-to-often searching. The biggest humour for us was that the game claims to be a narrative-based system (and even explicitly says so when discussing grappling), yet it possesses an abundance of minutia crunch. It didn’t support the type of action, or the outcomes, we expected for a SW space opera. Even the vaunted dice system, the system that so intrigued me at the beginning (and still does in a way), ended up producing odd results and it became a burden with the constant interpretation of multiple levels of threat/advantage.

    In the end, after a dozen sessions, we put the game aside. We loved romping in the SW universe, we were much less enamoured with FFG’s rule system.

  26. Old time RPGer says:

    I can see where the designers are coming from. But IMO the game bogs down because with EVERY ROLL OF THE DICE you have to come up with a story to explain the results of the rool. Thats ok most of the time. But sometime to get through a combat you just want to know if you hit or not. I don’t want to come up with an in game explination for every single die roll.

  27. Martijn says:

    It’s an unfair review. True, it is an expensive game, and if you want to mix all three styles and own all the sourcebooks, it’s going to cost quite a bit of money. It’s certainly a less sympathetic business model than the many cheap or free indie games, but you can play with just a single Beginner’s Game. The adventure in it is tiny, but there’s a free follow-up adventure available online. So even overpriced FFG can do free.

    Repeating the rules in three core books? It’s important to understand that the three versions of the game are really presented as three different games. They share most of the rules and are mostly compatible, but they have different themes and different Obligation/Duty/Morality meta-mechanics.

    The core of the issue, though: the mechanics. It’s true that the big books make it look like a traditional D&D/Pathfinder/Shadowrun style game where the mechanics tell you what you’re allowed to do. It really isn’t; it’s not a game that should be played from what the mechanics allow you to do, it’s much closer to something like Dungeon World: focus on the fiction, on what’s happening in the game world, and do what makes sense there. The mechanics are just methods to resolve what you’re trying to do in the game world, not hard rules on what you’re allowed to do and how that must work out.

    It’s not a game for rules lawyers, not a game that should be played strictly according to RAW. You say that’s the ultimate condemnation of the system, I consider it its biggest strength.

    I will say that FFG is always incredibly sloppy with their rulebooks. I’ve got a lot of their board games, and while the games are awesome, the rules are without exception terribly written. You need to work at it to discover the actual game hidden inside. This game is no exception. I thought it was an exception, because it (EotE at least) struck me as the best written rulebook they ever made (which is a low bar), and it’s certainly many miles ahead of WFRP3, which used a precursor of this system. It was really a gem in the rough: brilliant core ideas, but badly thought out, rules all over the place, no real thought put into the difference between actions and maneuvers, and generally a mess. But with some polish, it is possible to make a good game out of that.

    EotE is a lot more polished, but clearly still not entirely perfect. But the strong points of the system really work well for me: I love that it forces me to improvise instead of look up rules during the game, I love it when the dice demand something awesome or terrible happen. Every roll tells a story, or asks you to create an interesting story out of it. Yes, this relies heavily on GM fiat, and I understand that’s not for everybody, but it clearly works really well for a lot of people. Those people you spoke to who enjoyed it weren’t breaking the rules, they were the ones who made it their own. They got it. The played it the way it’s intended: by not sticking strictly by the rules, but by doing what makes sense in the game world. Every GM is their own game designer, and the system is just a tool that helps them do it. And this is a system that really forces the GM to step up, because you really can’t hide behind the rules.

    Does that mean the holes in the rules are intentional? Probably not, knowing FFG. But filling them up yourself makes the game better than it would have been if the holes hadn’t been there.

    But maybe you should try playing in someone else’s game and try it from that perspective. It is a very different GMing style, and it’s not weird for even a very experienced GM to have a problem with this style, while someone who struggles running more mechanically oriented games might really connect with this. I’ve always had trouble keeping both the rules and the story straight in other systems, but not here; EotE runs much faster than any other system in my hands, and every encounter comes with some unique twists and surprises that I never planned.

  28. LuxuriantOak says:

    I’ve recently begun playing F&D and my (anecdotal) experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
    But, that might be because the new group I’m playing with have been playing with it since the beta (and maybe before) so they told me the basics and we started playing. My experiense of it is that it flows nicely and is very intuitive and easy to grasp. If we’re using any house rules? I honestly don’t know.
    The point I’m making: for us, it’s awesome, and none of the problems mentioned have appeared so far. maybe it depends on the group; if their minds grasp the rules easily or not (not being condecending or making a snide remark her). Or maybe my group have houseruled the hell of it without me noticing it (I’m a novice, barely read the book) and the tweaks make the dimond in the rough shine …

    And regardless of your opinions, let’s cut down on the name calling and insults here people. -I mean, we are grown ups right?

  29. Justin Alexander says:

    People who earnestly argue that rules can’t be poorly designed because you aren’t supposed to use them make my head hurt.

  30. Martin Kallies says:

    If there rules are not important and you’re meant to improvise, why are there three books with 450 pages each? Why not just a single one with 50 pages? That seems more than enough.

  31. Xercies says:

    Yeah if the main part of the system that is the core of the mechanics and the game doesn’t “work” and people have to invent their own way to do it. That is not a good game! If I just wanted to play a game where I made the rules up I wouldn’t spend £30 on this game I would play the game where I make my rules up.

    Also there is a school of thought that the machanics are the game and the experience and if the machanics are cack handed and doesn’t really do anything unless you change them, then the game is not what it porports to be.

  32. Monkapotomus says:

    Questions: do you need the special dice to play the game or can you swap out other dice? Can you play with a game that mimics the original trilogy with just one book?

  33. Kannik says:

    @Monkapotomus: There is a conversion chart in the book for using regular dice, though it is cumbersome to use. There are also a few free online dice rollers that fans have created that are great (and is what I used when I GMed the game)

    @Martijn: And that I think is the crux of the issues with this game. They claim to be a narrative-based system, and yet they fill it with huge page-busting amounts of crunch and inconsistent rules. If they truly intended one to improvise and use the multi-axis (or 18 results, as was pointed out in the review) resolution ability of the dice system to guide the improvisation/narrative, then they should’ve stuck to those guns and written a nice, short, sweet book. It could have really sung then.

    (Though I agree with @Old time RPGer and would suggest that advantage/threat show up much less often to make it much more fluid and interesting)

  34. Ste says:

    My biggest question is why should I even consider buying this game? I mean – what does it give me that other SW games don’t? Some nice illustrations? I can have a whole heap of SW art collections for half the price they’re asking. A good set of mechanics? Nope.
    There are dozens of SW games – licensed products, homebrews, universal mechanics adaptations, etc. I honestly would rather play the hated (gasp!) d20 version, because at least I wouldn’t have to inflict yet another rulebook upon my players and myself.

  35. Elliot Baker says:

    Probably wasting my breath here since all comments are moderated so its highly unlikely any of this will see the light of day. I challenge you to prove me wrong Mr. Alexander.

    Cost is definately an issue with the game. I never owned the Edge beta since I purchased the actual core rulebook beginning of 2014. The cost is about the same for most core rulebooks I have seen on the market. Your issue of FFG splitting the Star Wars exprience into three different books is not unusual, this has been a conflict amongst the community. They made their intention clear from the start that they wanted to cover the 3 aspects of Star Wars, all of these make Star Wars, however Star Wars is different to everyone. Some people like Jedi, some people prefer Han Solo as a character, and some are more interested in people like Ackbar and the War against the Empire.

    I would much rather FFG go into detail and perfect each of the three experiences rather than trying to cram it all into one book for an even more exorbinate cost (assuming the book would be larger and thus cost more, yes a one time purchase, but more expensive). Your complaint about the betas…don’t buy the beta. Simple enough, the Age of Rebellion beta didn’t have a lot that was different from beta to release, although the Duty mechanic was refined. Force and Destiny had quite a lot of overhauls before release. Again, the balance was reached through through testing.

    Furthermore, even though I missed out on the Edge beta, I still saught it out because I wanted the adventure that was in the back, in the betas the adventure is unique to the beta and is not released in the later book or supplements.

    Now this is costly, I will not debate that, however its not unreasonable if you spread your spending and are willing to lay down the cash and you like the game. Given that you didn’t, I am suprised you got all three books at once.

    Dice…come on…get your players to buy dice, there’s your 3 packs, maybe even 4 or 5 if you have that many players. If you all have an issue with people “touching each others dice” then I call that childish. Plus as a GM in this system, I also got the beginner games (mainly for the adventure and maps) which also include a set of dice. There are ways of making it worth your money.

    Also nine different rulebooks. 3 betas, 3 core books that makes 6. No wonder you can’t count calculate a dice pool result with math skills like that…

    Jabs asside, the book doesn’t tell you how to interpret the dice, that’s left up to you, its GM decision how the dice come into play into the narrative. The game designers made the rules deliberately vauge (and yes, to some extent sometimes frustratingly so) it allows maximum leway to account for the narrative circumstance.

    As for your complaint about inconsistancies…medicine checks are made to heal wounds and sometimes strain. Damage control, if you read the book, if mostly used to recover system strain and once and only once per encounter to do it to wounds. Therefore having system strain be the factor makes sense to me, not sure why it doesn’t to you but then we are different people.

    Anyway, I advise people who are unsure about the game to ignore and any all reviews by anyone anywhere, and try one of the games yourself. Reviews will only give you someone elses perspective, not your own.

  36. Justin Alexander says:

    @Elliot: I’m deeply amused that anyone could read this comment thread and believe that I’m moderating for content. I’m also deeply amused that anyone could read the phrase “beta-beginning-core triumvirate” and only manage to count to two.

    Re: The difference between Mechanics and Medicine. Look again. You’ve missed the incompetence.

    @Ste: I think the starship rules are really nice.

    The non-specific initiative rules are interesting, too: Instead of determining initiative slots for specific characters, the initiative checks create “PC” and “NPC” initiative slots. Any PC can slot into any PC slot, and those assignments can change from one round to the next.

    I was not, personally, a fan of it for the same reason I’m not a fan of the “hot potato” initiative systems that have become popular recently: I like combat to move at a fairly brisk pace and I employ a lot of tricks as a GM to keep that pace moving. The constant discussion of who should go next bogs the game down.

    But a lot of people ARE fans of the “hot potato” initiative because it creates interesting tactical decisions. The initiative system here offers virtually all of those interesting tactical decisions (creating a nice dynamic of group strategizing) WITHOUT the weird dissociation of players deciding when the bad guys will get to go next.

    Also: The way the system uses custom Force dice seems like it has a lot of potential. We were playing beginning characters, so we didn’t get to explore the Force mechanics in-depth, but there was some really interesting stuff in there.

  37. Elliot says:

    Ah, okay, you are counting the beginner games which are not even full rulebooks and only offer what is needed for their adventure. I still don’t see why they count. Besides, if you do get all three, these at least some answer to your dice problems.

    Maybe the designers are incompetent. Maybe my players and I are, but at least we are having fun, and in that, I still encourage people to try it for themselves rather than trust your condemnation, or anyone’s review for that matter.

  38. James says:

    eh, if you didn’t like it you didn’t like it. The dice are definitely more narrative (which isn’t for everyone), and take some getting used to, in my experience once you do get used to them, the players love coming up with interpretations of the dice.

    I also think your list of the dice results, while correct, is overly complicated. Ultimately you either succeed or fail with each roll, and something good or bad might also happen. I think this is what gets the feel of the movies, not just Star Wars, but all movies.
    The Onmidroid hits Mr Incredible, but it also fixes his back, Look locks the door, but also can’t extend the ramp yet. My player hits the Stormtrooper, but he is able to call back up.

    The only thing I would argue that you wrong on is having to buy all three books. Each one has a specific focus and the additional rules for it, but the base rules are all the same. If you really wanted to be a scoundrel that has force powers and joins the rebellion, then maybe you would need all three, but could probably still get by with one.

  39. Justin Alexander says:

    @James: “Ultimately you either succeed or fail with each roll, and something good or bad might also happen.”

    Ironically, that’s an incredibly accurate description of the house rules I designed to fix the core mechanic. It’s also a totally inaccurate description of the rules as they exist in the published game.

    Like I said in the review: It’s uncanny the number of fans of the system who reply to these critiques by saying, “Those rules are awesome because I don’t actually use those rules.”

  40. Elliot says:

    “The Advantage symbol indicates an opportunity for a positive consequence or side effect, regardless of the task’s success or failure. Some examples of these positive side effects could include slicing a computer in far less time than anticipated, finding an opening during a firefight to duck back into cover, or recovering from strain during a stressful situation. It is possible for a task to fail while generating a number of Advantages, allowing something good to come out of the failure. Likewise, Advantages can occur alongside success, allowing for some significantly positive outcomes. It is important to remember that Advantage symbols do not directly impact success or failure, only the magnitude or potential side effects. Advantage is canceled by Threat. Each Threat symbol cancels one Advantage symbol Characters may use Advantage results in a wide variety of ways—this is known as “taking the Advantage.” If a skill check generates one or more net Advantage symbols. the player can spend that Advantage to apply one or more special side effects. This could include triggering a critical hit, activating a weapon’s special quality, recovering strain, or even performing additional maneuvers. The applications of Advantage are covered in more detail on page 205.”

    Taken from page 12 of the Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook…

    Funny…that sounds exactly like exactly like what James says. Success or failure with something else good happening. Also I’ve read your rules, getting rid of Triumphant-Despair, those have been some of the most fun moments in games. Something incredible awesome, and something completely terrible occurring. Its not hard Success-Failure, Advantage-Threat, Triumph, Despair. I get you want Triumph and Despair to work the same way but there is nothing hard written in any game system to say that it must all be the same. I don’t get why its such an issue that Triumph cannot cancel Despair, its not hard to remember.

  41. Justin Alexander says:

    @Elliot: This is so weird. You spend an entire paragraph talking about how Triumph and Despair work differently from and are distinct from Advantage and Threat, but you choose to open that paragraph by claiming that James’ description of the system — which explicitly ignores that Triumph and Despair work differently from and are distinct from Advantage and Threat — is accurate.

    I’m unclear on why you’re arguing with yourself here.

  42. Martijn says:

    @Kannik @Martin Kallies: I do not deny that the rules are sloppily written. FFG has a long, rich history in badly written rules for excellent game concepts. The concept for this game is great (though I can understand it’s not for everybody, although that’s true for any game of course). The way the skill descriptions propose you apply those rules for those particular skills is inconsistent, and indeed, the book could have been a lot thinner.

    I have similar issues with the gear modification rules: the idea behind them is brilliant, but I have some issues with how they wrote it down. FFG could absolutely do with a better editor.

    To really appreciate this game, it’s important to recognize the difference between the game and the book. The book is not the game. The game is what you do at the table. The book should tell you how to run that game, and I agree that the book doesn’t do the best possible job at that. But it’s undeniable that a lot of people do manage to get an excellent game out of this book. As far as I can tell, it’s only the rules lawyers who want to treat the book as gospel who have trouble with it.

    In my opinion, every RPG should be tweaked, and I think that in practice, everybody already does that with every RPG. The fact that this book requires that a lot more, speaks about the quality of the book, but not necessarily the quality of the game you get out of it. And in this case, I think it’s not very hard to figure out how to run the game.

  43. Elliot says:

    Hardly, I’m stating the facts, he also never said anything about advantage, threat, triumph or despair, he generalised “I also think your list of the dice results, while correct, is overly complicated. Ultimately you either succeed or fail with each roll, and something good or bad might also happen. I think this is what gets the feel of the movies, not just Star Wars, but all movies.” so I cannot see the contradiction. For the purpose of discussion though I ask you this, why are you so adamant that triumph and despair have to cancel each other out or act as advantage, what is wrong with a three axis of success system?

  44. ghost whistler says:

    I must admit, I’m not seeing the problem with the Mechanics/Medicine check. What am I missing?

  45. Jonathan firth-clark says:

    Just want to chime in here. As a player for over a year I love this game and this system. It’s the first rpg I’ve played and I’ve found the dice rolls allow you to get into the minutiae. The tiny details which is something I enjoy. Yes. It’s not for everyone but who cares if those who do play it have fun with it. The OP seems to have gone out of his way to agree with anyone who takes his side but has been a bit close minded when it comes to other people who actually enjoy the game have tried to tell him why they do and how he may have been wrong, emphasis on the May I want to add, about some of the game mechanics. Is it clunky compared to other RPGs. I have no idea. But I love it. Though after this gets posted I’m sure I will get called oout for not playing it right or not understanding how fundamentally broken it is or something because apparently any game that isn’t d6 or d20 based is the devil…see. See how stupid I sounded there. That’s what it sounds like when someone’s close minded. So you didn’t enjoy the game. Ok. That’s fine. Other people do. So can we all not just get along. I think some of the people who have posted here in favour may have been a bit vitriolic and the OP may have been to. That’s all I wanted to say

  46. Justin Alexander says:

    @ghost whistler: They change < to ≤. The whole game is filled with stuff like this. The apologists try to claim that these differences are valuable because they model essential differences in the game world. But what essential difference between human bodies and spaceships is being modeled in a single digit shift between otherwise identical mechanics?

    @Elliot: “For the purpose of discussion though I ask you this, why are you so adamant that triumph and despair have to cancel each other out or act as advantage, what is wrong with a three axis of success system?”

    I can’t answer your loaded question because I’m not actually adamant about that, which anyone reading this site can easily see for themselves.

    Similarly, I can’t really continue to have a conversation with you as long as you keep insisting that Triumph/Despair is a separate tier from Advantage/Threat while simultaneously insisting that it’s accurate to claim that they’re not. I’m sorry that you can’t see the contradiction between those statements, but it’s so blindingly obvious that I can’t think of any way to break it down into simpler components for you.

    @Martijn: I have yet to see anybody posting here insisting that the book should be treated like gospel. Quite the opposite it, in fact. But while it’s true that every game is amazing if you rewrite enough of it, when I write reviews, I write them about the actual book that exists. Not some hypothetical book that doesn’t.

    @Jonathan: The hypocrisy of directly insulting people and then calling for people not to be so “vitriolic” doesn’t paint you in a very good light.

  47. ghost whistler says:

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Sadly, the reaction this review has gotten is a complete joke. I like the games, I also agree with this review for the most part. I see no problem in holding both positions and yet for doing so I’ve received abuse from members of a community that don’t just feel the need to overlook issues in a game they enjoy, but to lose their minds when discussing it. That this has spawned a thread on the official forums that has managed to get locked is itself quite a feat. I find this laughable and embarassing. There are few gaming communities I’ve seen quite so defensive as the FFG community. Whatever the product FFG fanboys – and that’s what they are – cannot have a rational disccusion about faults or problems with a game. In fact by the time I post this I fully expect the moderator at the G+ group that broughtt his review to my attention to have banned me. Think about that!

  48. Jonatnan says:

    @justin. There was never a direct insult. Yes i called you close minded. In the same way we all are when defending our own opinions. But only in the way that you may disagree about certain mechanics of the game. Enphasis on the may. Which i also wrote in the original comment. But again you are cherry picking what you want to support you paragonal image of yourself and ignoring all the rest. im just going to walk away. Im expecting another response from you trying to paint me in a bad light and if that makes you feel better go right ahead. Call me a d***head. A douchebag. A hypocrite. Whatever helps you sleep at night. Im sorry you didn’t enjoy the game and i wish you all the best in whatever games you do decide to play

  49. ISeeDeadPeople says:

    One thing I’d like to address about the need for three 450 page core books. FFG, as a company, tends to create artificial bloat around some very basic mechanics. Their design process lends to what ultimately amounts to a sloppy mess, given it is literally “We thought it was a good idea and it sounded cool, so we put it in the book” (don’t believe me? Listen to their interview in the Grimdark Podcast on Black Crusade…). You can take the meat of those 450 page books, cut away all the redundancy and things no one really needs, and put it all in one book.

    Some might say they can go more into detail with such a pagecount. That is a lovely notion, except they do not. If they did, we would not be having this discussion of how the dice system is to be interpreted. If they did, their forums would not be cluttered with “game broken, help!” topics. If they did, the discussions on simple rules would not reach 10+ pages.

    EotE is not better, or worse, than any of their other games, when you look at it. It has the same problems (inconsistences, no quality proofing/editing, ivory tower design a la WotC, etc.) as their other games, in part because it largely uses very similar mechanics with a subtely altered paint job. The difference is it’s a Star Wars RPG and ever since WEG’s first edition, none of them have been very good. They’re occupying a field where their only viable competition requires just as much houseruling and fixing.

    Remember: This is the same set of mechanics that “killed” Warhammer Fantasy RPG.

    What was different? WHFRP2e actually still is a better alternative and still gets played today. There’s also viable alternatives in D6fantasy, Dungeon World, FATE hacks and DnD5e to make the fantasy market considerably more difficult to corner with a poor rulebook.

    The competition in sci-fi, well, there’s Traveller, which is “old”, some d20 mods and that’s about it for big names. Slap Star Wars on it and you have something people will rabidly defend, no matter how bad it is, simply because any actual alternative would require more effort than grabbing a book off the shelf and opening your wallet.

  50. Justin Alexander says:

    @Jonathan: “There was never a direct insult. Yes i called you close minded.”

    Wow. Just… wow. That is a thing that you typed into a keyboard.

    @ghost whistler: I think the weirdest response I’ve seen to this review on the FFG boards and the G+ community are the constant complaints that it doesn’t contain any examples. I could sort of grok that on the FFG boards because the guy who reposted the review over there cut out some of the examples when he reposted it (although there were still plenty left intact).

    But there are several people who quote me saying, “So I talked to people who were playing the game. And what I discovered is that people who were enjoying the system were almost universally not playing it according to the rules.” And then respond by saying, “That’s not an example!”

    Which is true. That is not an example. The example is literally two sentences later. Snipping it out of your quote doesn’t make it magically disappear from reality.

  51. Kannik says:

    @Martijn: If many FFG RPGs suffer this fate, then that is unfortunate. I really went in with excitement and ready to enjoy this die system, and that’s about all I ended up enjoying in any measure. And that is the crux of this whole thing… this was not my first Star Wars RPG (nor will it be my last!), and we had some amazing moments while we played*, and I would still call this a poor game. Just because we had fun does not, in my book, excuse this as being a poor game. It’s a poor ruleset, and using it diminished fluidity and enjoyment during our time RPing together; it (the rules) got in the way. I could re-jigger the system to use the die system and ignore much else of the game, but… then I’d rather just use an extant system that already works to create and support what we want in our Star Wars game.

    I love SW and I love playing SW RPGs. This one, as designed, as written, as implemented, has some big flaws in it that keeps me from wanting to use it. It also has some great ideas in it. Maybe a huge revision (a la Cortex Plus “coming out” of Cortex) could strip out all the obfuscation and inconsistencies and needless complexity to create a truly delicious ruleset.

    * That included the climactic scene where the gang was being brutally whittled down in a massive firefight in none other than the Mos Eisley cantina, spending destiny points for hilarious happenstances to keep the stim packs flowing… leading to the last destiny point being spent to bring in an unexpected ally, who turned out to be none other than the daughter of a murdered Lepi (a humanoid lapine-type alien) from earlier in the adventure, and who came charging in, wielding a vibrosword, all Usagi Jojimbette-style and proceeded to turn the tables such that the party won the battle, and she joined the group to became the new NPC to replace the NPC droid who expired during the battle. Amazing stuff. 😀

  52. Tim says:

    The weird thing about this RPG system is that it is an inconsistent hybrid of ideas from two different gaming archetypes.

    Parts of it, mostly the dice system itself, draws heavy inspiration from the improvisational, ‘indie’ movement driven by small projects. It requires and rewards not only the GM but also the players for being attentive and creative.

    The rest seems much more regimented, a more traditionally producer driven project with set in stone rules, talent trees and equipment.

  53. Elman says:

    This review sums up our experience fairly.

    It’s interesting…we played d20 Star Wars and then played EotE for a couple of years. Was never a fan of d20 systems, but our campaign for d20 Star Wars was way more narrative and evocative of the milieu than anything we could drum up with the FFG system. We actually found the FFG die pool system to be too restrictive. The dice dictate too much and hobble everybody, GM and players alike, into cobbling together narratives for die roll outcomes from epic to not so epic. Sometimes less is more. A good narrative group does not need these dice to make the game work…all they need is a d20.

    The destiny point mechanic really fell flat with the group too. It typically generated a tit for tat situation and seemed very gamey. This seemed like an underdeveloped mechanism…at least as of the time of EotE.

    The one thing I do like about the system is that the dice pool makes calculating outcomes imprecise. For some players, this frees them from constantly calculating probabilities and allows them to take actions because their character is supposed to, not because the odds say they will succeed.

    Regarding the release model. This is exactly what FFG did with Warhammer 40k RP and I’m sure it worked well for them financially. Releasing slim add-on supplements with lots of fluff and adding rules as they go for $30 – $40 a pop. We played 40k rp for 5+ years and it collectively cost us a fortune…and lots of time with no master index to find the rules you need when you need them. Not going down that road again with FFG…not ever.

  54. Brian says:

    My one thought on the “three books/three games” question is comparing it the World of Darkness. In my other comment I made the point that I always felt the d20 SW game was far too Jedi heavy and so would never consider FORCE AND DESTINY (although my memories of smuggling around in the WEG version still have me considering joining a game of EDGE OF EMPIRE if a friend’s game has an opening). The same sort of question, stemming from the perspective of a D&D player or such could ask why VAMPIRE, WEREWOLF, and MAGE are separate games (especially in nWoD, where the mechanics are more closely aligned) instead of all being in the same book since they live in the same continuity. But, since the three games present different narrative avenues of doing Star Wars with different mechanical add-ons, it’s both a way of being complete without a bevy of splats *and* a means of keeping the narrative focus in each (how often have each of us had a smuggler or rebel game in a SW campaign wholly derailed when one player decided to be a Jedi and threw off the balance of story and threat balance alike?)…

  55. Gamosopher says:

    @Brian I think another comparison is in order : compare D&D to Star Wars. Of course, one could want to keep a narrative focus on a party of fighters or thieves. But making three different core rulebooks, one for Wizards, one for Thieves, and one for Fighters feels very weird (even if the argument you make against Jedi have been made numerous times against wizards). The source material (mostly The Lord of the Rings) shows all those different characters making a party. The same goes for Star Wars, in my opinion. Making three games focusing on only one part of the original cast of characters feels very weird. Another example : we could make 2 different « Avatar : the Airbender » games, each letting you play either Benders or Non-benders, but that would not feel like an Avatar game.

    If you have only 1 corebook presenting all characters, you can play Star Wars like the movies. If you want to tell a more specific story, you also can (as a GM or as a group) decide to bar some classes and have that game. Spreading the characters in 3 rulebook does not let you play Star Wars like the movies without buying those 3 books.

    WoD is different. The game was originally a vampire game or a werewolf game. nWoD unified the mechanics, making supernaturally diverse group more easy, but also playing different games from the same publisher easier to try (same mechanics, different powers.) And playing Vampire (where you must fight agains your own beast) is really about something different than playing Mage, Hunter or even Werewolf (where there is still an inner beast to fight, albeit a different one). nWod may let you have a group composed of all those characters, but it’s probably to play something like a dark superhero game instead (I’m not judging). But even if a Star Wars story can be all about the adventures of a band of smugglers, it’s always about some people having D&D-like adventures in space.

  56. ISeeDeadPeople says:

    @Brian: To answer your question: “Never.” WotC’s, FFG’s and White Wolf’s release model is pretty similar, I agree, but none of their releases are what I’d consider in any way quality roleplaying games. They are big names over the pond, perhaps, but I personally couldn’t name anyone in my region who plays their products(there is exactly one pathfinder group I could name, out of maybe the fifty or so locals I know). They’re overpriced and lacking in the rules department, compared to Green Ronin, Pegasus and co.

  57. Dr Rotwang! says:

    It is not within my nature to hate anything. FFG’s “Star Wars” game proves that, because — just — flames, on the side of my face.

  58. leo1925 says:

    What about the no pdf thing? I am sure that if we could pick all 3 books at something like 45-60$ (this of course assumes that FFG will lower it’s pdf prices).

    From this review the game seems like a mess (like other FFG games) but come on Alexandrian, things could be a lot worse… It could like a WW game.

    Pathfinder isn’t published by WotC.

  59. Ref says:

    A review is an opinion, I respect that. For me and my group, it was a huge difference from the SAGA as now the combat are more vague but we are playing since the books are out and enjoy it. For Success and failure system, I think it’s harder for the GM to find something what happen. Most of the time, player respect the decision because we are there for fun and Starwars! It’s first a Role Playing GAme! :)

  60. Wesley says:

    “But why do we need to count each tier of dice symbols in a slightly different way? And why do we need three separate tiers of symbols?”

    Dice tiers are interpreted differently in order to skew the results of roll into the player’s favor whenever possible.

    “For example, advantage can’t turn failure into success… unless it’s a Knowledge skill, because then advantage can grant you “minor but possibly relevant information about the subject” even on a failure. (Except… if you’re gaining access to relevant information, that sounds like a success, right?)”

    No. It’s the difference between a hint about a subject – whatever that is – and getting the full picture. In that example, rather than using the old standard of “you fail and you learn nothing” method of task resolution, in FFG SW you can get a hint that you’re on the right track. If the choice is player failure and frustration and player failure and some hope, I’m going to take the latter.

    “If you’re making a Computer check, then additional successes reduce the time required to make the check. But if it’s a Stealth check, then you’re going to use advantage to reduce the time required. With Skullduggery you use advantage to gain additional items, but if you’re making a Survival check you’ll use successes to gain those items.”

    Different skills interpret the same die rolls differently. It’s unusual but it avoids the repetitive nature of most task resolution systems where you’re literally doing the same math to determine your Swim test or your Knowledge: Planes test. It’s why Talent trees become important; rather than simply loading up your Attributes or Skills at character generation. Those trees make your character better at his chosen specialization by focusing on specific dice results, not just giving math bonuses to certain class skills.

    By the same token, those specializations make it much harder for skilled characters to fail at what they’re good at and prevents non-specialists from getting too many lucky rolls on what they’re not good at.

    “For example, combat initiative works in all ways exactly like a competitive check… except for how ties are broken. Why?! Why would you do that?”

    Ties are broken with advantages. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

    On the other hand, I’m not fond of people who change a rule’s systems and then turn around and say it’s a great game. It’s the same defense that Saga apologists use to defend that mess.

    On a third hand, this review seems to be a criticism of a crunch heavy and narrative style game being crunch heavy instead of something like… I don’t know… Dread? The rule book – and the GM screen – provide plenty of charts with suggested interpretations of dice rolls in the system. Once a GM and players are comfortable with the suggested interpretations, they have enough tools in the toolkit to interpret results.

  61. Star Wars Campaign | Concrete Chaos says:

    […] the comic stores and always wanted to play. I spent a few days perusing them and read a bookmarked review from the Alexandrian which came to the same conclusion that I did. The dice mechanic of FFG’s […]

  62. Henry says:

    I haven’t played this yet. I’m not a Star Wars fan at all, but I was curious about picking it up, and using it for a Mass Effect game with a bit of conversion. After this review, I’m not so sure.

    A few comments from me though:
    1. Gamers are cheap b*stards. It needs to be said. No one complains about $50 for a new PS4 game, but the average gamer wants 400 full color pages of system and art and setting to be sold for a nickel and a dime. Preferably with a pack of free dice, and downloadable rules so his friends don’t need their own rules.
    2. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (3rd edition) has probably the best system I’ve ever played. It kills off the utterly ridiculous percentile system of earlier Warhammer, and adds in both luck and misfortune, success and failure. And awesome boardgame style set pieces that make the game a breeze to run and fun to play. Of course the grognards with their levels and their percentile dice hated it, but that’s part of the charm. (But if you want simple dice mechanics, I warmly recommend the Dragon Age RPG.)

    So my question is:
    Assuming you have no problem actually paying decent money for a decent product, and assuming you really loved WHFRPG 3E… is Star Wars still a mess? If so, I’ll stay away.

    Or is it only a mess to the people who think Pathfinder, Fate, or Gumshoe are actually *coughs* decent systems?

  63. Justin Alexander says:

    1. People who think $180 = $50 are really bad at math. Also: Elsewhere on this site you’ll find me singing the praises of games with $60 core rule books and even RPG products that cost $180+.

    The fact that these particular books failed to provide value commensurate with their cover price doesn’t mean that it is impossible for ANY book to do so.

    2. I haven’t read or played WFRP 3rd Edition, so can’t really compare.

    3. Pathfinder, Fate, and GUMSHOE are three radically different games. I can’t even begin to fathom what the common denominator between them is supposed to be.

    With the exception of the broken dice mechanic, though, FFG Star Wars is heavily influenced by the design traditions of D&D 3rd Edition. So… you probably won’t like it? Unless you really, really like broken dice mechanics?

  64. Alex says:

    I was browsing potential RPGs to run with a group I recently met and after looking this thing over I have to agree: The game is far too convoluted for its own good. The artwork is fantastic, but does little to mitigate the oppressive feeling that I’m reading a textbook instead of a fun P&P RPG book. Monte Cooke’s Numenera rests easily on the opposite end of the spectrum, if anyone is familiar with that particular game.

  65. d47 says:

    I’ve picked up two of the Beginner Games and will note that there even seem to be some inconsistencies between them, but there are very few details about how to mechanically interpret the dice outside of combat.

    After reading this, I dread eventually getting one of the Core books and getting bogged down by the inconsistent rules. Maybe I will just read them for character creation and fluff, avoid studying the crunch and just rely on dynamic interpretation by myself and my players. This seems to be working for some. Rulings rather than rules.

    I have to say, though, that I love the narrative dice and pool mechanic, in theory at least. I will GM my first game next week, but have practiced rolling and interpreting dozens of hypothetical checks as well as a combat. (Nice that the same roll determines damage.) I also enjoy the aesthetic aspects of rolling multiple dice with different numbers of dice. D20, 3D6, Dx+D6 are all perfectly acceptable randomizers, but the SW dice seem more like casting fortunes. We’ll see if I still enjoy it after few sessions.

    The way force dice work also seems quite interesting. The F&D Beginner Game does not go into the long term effect of using the dark side, but I imagine players will often be tempted to use it when they don’t roll enough light side pips.

  66. Phill says:

    I’ve come to know this system from the podcast -One Shot: Campaign. A Star Wars podcast:

    Anyone who is interested in listening to hilarious improv actors play the system and play it well should really give it a listen.

    In every RPG I’ve played I’ve always hated that guy who relies on rules for everything and this system is not that. The dice system encourages players to be creative in affecting the world in the way they want to play. If you are playing with people who do not want to get creative you may want to pick up a more basic d20 system.

  67. d47 says:


    The One Shot Campaign Star Wars is entertaining, but I don’t think it is a good representation of the rules as written. They hardly every use any of the “by-the-book” options for spending advantage and threat, instead negotiating the possible implications of each role. They don’t even do damage right. (At least, as of episode 7.) BUT, they are having fun and using the dice to craft a story without getting hung up on what the rulebook says. I think that their approach might be making the most of the unique dice.

    I highly recommend the podcast too, unless you take Star Wars too seriously to appreciate a wig-wearing Rodian and a smuggler who prefers wearing women’s pajama kimonos (and nothing else)…

  68. mick says:

    I just tried the game (Force and Destiny) yesterday so I’m a noob, but I didn’t seem to have problems interpreting the dice. the advantage points you roll can be used in a variety of ways, but from the tables, it seemed pretty clear what they were. You could spend an advantage to reduce their speed by 1, or spend advantage to regain strain, or spend more to knock them prone, I also had a double lightsaber so could spend 2 advantage to get a second hit in. Or do other stuff…

    Am I missing something?

  69. Hamakto says:

    I actually went through and read all 68 comments. It took a while and there were plenty of good comments.

    Overall, I will admit that I do not see most of the problems that Justin pointed out in his review. While I agree that the editing and layout of the book could be better, I have dealt with far worse over the years.

    The books as written tries to straddle both sides of the fence and make everyone happy. Our group (long time DnD/Pathfinder players) really do enjoy the narrative dice system. In our first session where I GM’d, we completed the module that came with the GM screen in about four hours.

    Combat went really fast and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I will admit that we fudged a bit on the resolution of some of the skill checks because I did not want to look them up to slow things down (in PF you would have to check the chart to figure out the result). But it did not hurt the game flow at all.

    We are implementing more and more of the rules every session until we are up to speed 100% on the game.

    Before you go,

    “gotcha… you had fun because you were not playing the rules right”.

    That is true of every game out there. I challenge anyone to get the Pathfinder core book, read it and play the game correctly the first time. The EotE book has quick and easy character creation (easier than PF) and you can have someone playing their character in a matter of 15 minutes and understanding how it works.

    I will agree with another comment: If you are playing with a bunch of rule lawyers, the game will not work for you. There is a little bit of loosie-goosie (spelled wrong) in the rules, but with the dice pool you can wing it until you have learned the rules.

    I find the whole ‘<' and '<=' issue to be fairly nit-picky. Not enough to kill the game, but more of an editing error.

    In summary, if you want a narrative game. Then FFG Star Wars is pretty good. It flows faster than DnD and provide a great framework for enforced RP. It keeps everyone engaged at the table.

    Yes, any RPG can be narrative. But not many RPG's have rolls that allow you to have both good and bad things happen on every roll.

    One last thing to think about on the dice pool. By painting 18 different outcomes you really create an over complicated picture to the dice resolution. It is actually very simple

    1. Was I successful? (net success/failures)
    2. Did I get an advantage/threat? (net advantage/threats)
    3. Did I have a triumph? (rare)
    4. Did I have a despair? (rare)

    On most dice rolls, you have to resolve two things. Fairly simple and straight forward.

    You may have to check a chart if you want to resolve the action 100% according to the rules. But that is no different than DnD (or 99% of other RPGs).

    I will finish with the following statement.

    While your review above makes some valid points, I think you missed the spirit of the game. It is way different that other games in how it is structured and played.

    I agree with others, that you need to spend time with a more veteran SW gaming group to broaden your experience.


  70. Star Wars RPG | the murder nerds says:

    […] a nice spread of careers (classes) and specialisations, and the whole thing is just beautiful. I hear there’s a few inconsistencies and problems with the details, but it also seems like everyone ignores them […]

  71. Aaron says:

    I know I’m late to the party but your review didn’t mention what I consider the biggest flaw of the game and that is the probabilities involved. Because Threat scales with Difficulty, it’s easy for a non-optimized character to have a much higher change that he’ll roll a Failure+Threat than his chance to succeed. Since Threat causes bad stuff to happen to him or the party, the game turns out to punish players that try difficult things. Worse, it punishes characters that attempt tasks for which they are not optimized for. Those two things are the opposite of what I want in a Star Wars RPG. I want to reward players for trying crazy stuff, not shut them down.

    As an example, if a Star Destroyer fires all of it’s turbolasers at a group of Y-Wings and spends Threats to gain Strain, the Star Destroyer will cripple itself before it kills three Y-Wings (on average). Age of Rebellion got around this by creating various “Barrage” actions but this is just an illustration of what I’m talking about.

  72. Gamosopher says:


    “Before you go, “gotcha… you had fun because you were not playing the rules right” […].

    Justin is not telling anyone that. All he is saying is that the game is not well designed. Anyone can have fun with whatever they want, and there is nothing wrong with it. The argument is not whether you have are “right” or not to have fun; it’s about whether the game is well designed or not. Having fun with a game is not the only nor the best reason to think the game is well designed.

    Justin’s main point is that the core mechanic is bad. To support it, he says basically 3 things :
    1. The dice mechanics leads to too many different result (3 axis leading 18 qualitatively different result).
    2. The way to calculate the result from the dice is convoluted (some cancels others, some don’t, some accumulate while others don’t.)
    3. The guidelines to interpret these results given in the book are confusing and counter-productive (the many inconsistencies in the skill guidelines.)

    I agree with Justin on 1. 18 different results, even if some are quite rare, is too much informations. 2 axis (success/failure with maybe advantage/disadvantage) is enough to put get more complex and detailed information from the dice roll without the cognitive overload. This is especially true when the system also take into account quantitative difference (3 advantages being better than 1), which is the case with this one.

    I agree with Justin on 2, too. But i would say that it is, by itself, a minor problem : it’s not that complicated to learn, and once you know it, it does not hamper play.

    I also agree with him on 3. Giving guidelines instead of lots of specific rules is a great way of letting the GM make fast judgement calls (or “rulings”) during play instead of referencing the rulebook (sacrificing maybe a bit of coherence, because the GM may not always make exactly the same call for the same condition, for the sake of speed of play). But the advantage of the guidelines is lost if they are inconsistent or hard to apply, because then they won’t help the GM to make a judgment call.

    Again, none of that means that enjoying the game makes you “wrong”. But having fun with the game does not rebut the claims Justin made. It is not wrong either to jettison the guidelines and interpret the dice more freely; but doing this still does not rebut Justin’s claims. In fact, it tends to supports them, because it means that the rules as written are not that great at the table.

    Some commenters do argue against Justin’s claims. Some say that 1. is not true, because it really does give depth to the dice roll. I disagree, for the reason I gave earlier (you can have all that depth with a simpler 2-axis dice roll.) Some say that 2. is not a big deal, which I think is true : if it was the only problem, then it would not be enough to condemn the core mechanic (but that’s not the only problem).

    Some say that 3. is actually nice, because it differentiates skills. In my opinion, that differentiation goes against the philosophy of a game trying to let the GM make judgement calls : if the GM often need to reference the book to make sure the guideline is correctly (according to the rules as written), then the “guideline” is not really a guideline, but a pretty specific rule. So I disagree with that line of reasoning.

  73. Gaming Thursday: RPG System X: Timeout | Lynx Thoughts says:

    […] * See both my experience written about here and also this review by The Alexandrian. […]

  74. Susan White says:

    If you would like to hear an example of a real Force and Destiny game being played, go to Dice For Brains .com and listen to an episodic actual play podcast with three players.

  75. François Uldry says:

    Well, I strongly disagree with the review.

    I have the feeling that it comes from a roll-player. It’s not a personal Attack so don’t get on the defensive.

    I LOVED the war3 system, even if it has a lot of failures (the main point was the amount of fumbles you could roll rather fast). FFG star wars fixed that, as you can only get fumbles out of the red dice which are really rare in actual play.

    I’ve read you complaining about opposed checks with any opponents, those rolls are major occurrences. It does not happen that often that my players have to roll an opposed check vs a minion group. Aaah yeah let me think… Never happened at all. They’re not jedi nor rebels, but I always managed to get an officer leading the minions, thus, the roll always happened against an important NPC.

    I agree that skills are clunky, that the hacking system is lacking, but the simplicity of the system avoids the Shadowrun syndrome, thus the hacker can hack a system in a few die rolls, and the complications involve the other players.

    It is a narrative system. The guidelines in the rulebook are there to help you assess the other results that success/failure and those require guidelines. You can also quite often simply transform 5 adv into a Triumph and/or 5 threats into a disaster.

    All the traditionnal RPG gives you a pass/fail system and somehow introduces partial successes/failures in an artificial way. There it’s built in. There are rolls or times where the second axis is cumbersome, just drop it and move the action along.

    The most important part is the story and the flow of the game. Don’t tell me you never fudged a result as a DM… Don’t forget also that the game system is for mature players, my players usually propose how to use their advantages / threats / triumphs and despairs. I decide whether that fits the story WE are telling, and if I disagree they usually propose something else in a few seconds…

    I love the system, some parts I dislike, like in any game I have played over the last 30 years, but it’s fun, different in a positive way and deserves an objective try (after all the Edge beginners’ set is a nice sandbox, the F&D beginner sets with online additions is a great adventure too; I just hate the rebellion part of the game, but that’s me :), all 3 sets contain dice and plenty enough for my 4 players)

  76. François Uldry says:

    “With the exception of the broken dice mechanic, though, FFG Star Wars is heavily influenced by the design traditions of D&D 3rd Edition. So… you probably won’t like it? Unless you really, really like broken dice mechanics?”

    GOSH !
    Comparing that mess which is a minature game instead of a role-playing game to FFG’s Star Wars shocks me.

    I don’t see where those 2 game systems meet. One is simulationist to the extreme with open rolls the higher your level the higher of the difficulty of the skill check to a closed system where at most you can roll 5 yellow dice baffles me.

    This looks like a troll to me, I’m suprised that you would troll on your own blog !

    Are you sure we’ve read the same rulebooks ?

    About skills :
    Actually that makes sense, using success and advantages in various ways depending on the skill is coherent with the core mechanics.

    success/failure tells you whether you succeeded.
    advantage/threat talk to you about side effects.
    triumphs/despairs are huge narrative effects.

    Knowledge skills, you know or you don’t, with details omitted or added
    Stealth, you are detected or not, with speed or not
    Computers, you succeed at the task at hand, faster, with additionnal knowledge or triggering security
    etc etc

    Of course, it’s different for all skills, but not all skills have the same use so each has to follow the core mechanics. You don’t assess those rolls the same way as they’re not about the same thing !

    You’ve had a lot of responses, but your review fails to address the main point, it’s a narrative system, more in line with Amber and other diceless systems, than it is with DnD, Shadowrun, WEG’s star wars, WW etc

    It’s a dice pool system, driven by the narrative, not a system that pretends to simulate real life or any board game mechanics !

  77. Justin Alexander says:

    Francois wrote: “I have the feeling that it comes from a roll-player. It’s not a personal Attack so don’t get on the defensive.”

    I don’t really interpret it as a personal attack so much as a desperate cry for help.

    Francois wrote: “I’ve read you complaining about opposed checks with any opponents…”

    Did you? Where?

    Was it in your imagination? I’m guessing it was in your imagination.

    Francois wrote: …those rolls are major occurrences. It does not happen that often that my players have to roll an opposed check vs a minion group. Aaah yeah let me think… Never happened at all.

    Really? You want me to believe that your players have literally never tried to sneak past a group of minions? The idea that interactions with minions are only supposed to be “major occurrences” is a really weird claim to make. That’s literally the exact opposite of what minions are supposed to be used for.

    Francois wrote: You can also quite often simply transform 5 adv into a Triumph and/or 5 threats into a disaster.

    And, inevitably, we reach the point where someone “strongly disagreeing” with my review of the core mechanic reveals that they aren’t actually playing the game according to the rules and have rewritten the core mechanic. It’s like clockwork.

    Francois wrote: You’ve had a lot of responses, but your review fails to address the main point, it’s a narrative system… It’s a dice pool system, driven by the narrative, not a system that pretends to simulate real life or any board game mechanics!

    I’m not really following your argument here. Could you explain why, exactly, you feel that narrative systems require poorly designed and needlessly inconsistent rules?

  78. François Uldry says:

    Francois wrote: “I’ve read you complaining about opposed checks with any opponents…”
    Did you? Where?

    Misquoted, my bad, comment #6. It was not yours, it was somebody else !

    Was it in your imagination? I’m guessing it was in your imagination.

    Was there, not yours 😉

    Francois wrote: …those rolls are major occurrences. It does not happen that often that my players have to roll an opposed check vs a minion group. Aaah yeah let me think… Never happened at all.
    Really? You want me to believe that your players have literally never tried to sneak past a group of minions? The idea that interactions with minions are only supposed to be “major occurrences” is a really weird claim to make. That’s literally the exact opposite of what minions are supposed to be used for.

    Gosh, knowing my group, they tried only once, the so-successful roll (1 yellow, 4 greens) provoked a massive fight, which ended with a nasty critical, and a new cybernetics arm for one of the characters. They’re not rebels.

    They either avoids them or blast them, I know not the subtlest approach, but this is what happens when you have a not-stealthy Wookie !

    Francois wrote: You can also quite often simply transform 5 adv into a Triumph and/or 5 threats into a disaster.
    Alex wrote: And, inevitably, we reach the point where someone “strongly disagreeing” with my review of the core mechanic reveals that they aren’t actually playing the game according to the rules and have rewritten the core mechanic. It’s like clockwork.

    I am ? Quoting your cheat sheet, you got 5 lines where 3 advantages are totally equal to a triumph. I can also dig in the rulebook to show you that the rules also convert 3-5 advantages to triumphs literally. So, of course, I oversimplified, but the conversion is already in the rules ! So, where did I fail to apply the CORE mechanics which I quoted. I am playing my game as you are playing yours, the end results is what matters : everyone having FUN around the table. That system is wonderful cause it does not require a hack to allow partial successes and failures, it’s built-in. In my eyes, it’s the main strong point of the rules. You can achieve similar results using multiple colored dice, or reading the dice in reverse on a percentile system (oh that’s an idea worth digging into).

    Francois wrote: You’ve had a lot of responses, but your review fails to address the main point, it’s a narrative system… It’s a dice pool system, driven by the narrative, not a system that pretends to simulate real life or any board game mechanics!
    Alex wrote: I’m not really following your argument here. Could you explain why, exactly, you feel that narrative systems require poorly designed and needlessly inconsistent rules?

    There, I think that we will disagree ! What you think as inconsistent, is not in my eyes. Combat (vehicular/man to man), Chases rules, Force powers, skill checks are all resolved using the same core mechanics :
    success/failure tells you whether you succeeded.
    advantage/threat talk to you about side effects.
    triumphs/despairs are huge narrative effects.

    I tried to illustrate this with 3 examples, showing that of course, depending on the skill, success is evaluated differently. The core remains the same. Then you find the specifics, and, everyone can get lost in details. All the skill section follow this mechanics, the combat systems too.
    If you want I can show you the cheat sheet I built for Space Combat, which has always been a chore for me in any SciFi games. I built sheets per role on board the ship. My players are flying an YT 1200 (of course), and you’ve got a role sheet for the pilot, the main engineer, the com officer, the gunners, etc each helping them by showing the possible actions that each function allows (and the rolls required). Again, all of that follows the CORE.
    They actually discovered like that that the hacker had one of the most important role in space combat and that, when the character was unavailable, combats were really harder. (Hacker is the com officer, and hacking the opponent ship is a viable and nasty strategy).
    The system has failings, of course, but inconsistent it is not. I feel that the published adventures are rather weak. Nice-looking but way too much eye-candy without real meat behind it (weak and linear plots too)
    But it’s not inconsistent, it follows a mechanics and gives you examples on how to narrate the dice results. It’s called specifics and details, the core remains the same altogether.


  79. Justin Alexander says:

    Francois wrote: “I am ? Quoting your cheat sheet, you got 5 lines where 3 advantages are totally equal to a triumph.”

    First, your claim that 5 = 3 is doubtful to me. More generally, while a single Triumph can act like multiple advantages, your claim that multiple advantages can be used to replicate Triumph-only effects is completely inaccurate. These are separate axes of results and, if you’re using the rules as written, cannot be conflated as equalities.

    Beyond that, I’m not going to waste time quoting sections of my review to you again. You can claim that the system isn’t inconsistent and sloppy. You’re clearly wrong about that, and the examples I’ve provided in the review are more than sufficient to demonstrate that. (If you feel like disputing that, start with the Medicine, Mechanics, and Damage Control mechanics. You claim it’s not inconsistent that one of those is different from the other two for no discernible reason. Why?)

    I am curious about one thing, however: You keep saying that your players “are not rebels” as if it somehow explained why they would never interact with minions. What the heck are you talking about?

  80. Snabel says:

    I think this review is a perfect summary of why tabletop RPGs is a dying hobby. Not that there aren’t people still playing, just that in the largest geek culture renaissance in history, this is basically a tiny niche hobby filled by successively older, more reactionary gamers.

    Why is that?

    Partly it’s because many gamers are cheap. They won’t shell out 40 bucks for 300 page full color book with rules and setting and everything. We all know PDF piracy is rampant. You can’t make a serious business out of only tabletop RPGs anymore.

    Secondly, it’s because gamers are reactionary. They’ll play mechanically stillborn 20-30 year old games and exalt their virtues, but any time a new game comes out, it sucks and the designers are “greedy”.

    Finally, it’s because instead of being able to love multiple games, we have to tear down anything that’s not our precious little favorite from 20 years ago. Movie fans, comic fans, video game fans are not even close to this close-minded. Sure, there are some diehard grognards who can’t let go of their Sega Genesis, but they’re a tiny minority who aren’t killing the rest of the video gaming industry.

    Reviews like this are the perfect example of everything that’s wrong with our hobby.

  81. Justin Alexander says:

    I’d like to take the time to respond to your claim that it’s impossible to make money in this industry because of “reactionaries” like me who refuse to play new games, but I’m a little too busy writing a transmission for Technoir, creating my character for The Strange campaign I’m playing in, consulting with my co-GM for an upcoming GUMSHOE campaign, and developing material for the new Infinity RPG that raised half a million dollars on Kickstarter.

    I’ll have to get back to you.

  82. Shannon R Lewis says:

    If I was a cynic I could say that FFGs plan all along was to publish nine ever so slightly flawed versions of a “near gem of a game”, thus enabling them to do revised versions of the books under the auspices of revising the game for consistency and playability … But that would be simply cynicism as FFG have no history of… Ohh wait … OMG!!!

  83. feralw01f says:

    I think François Uldry is confusing Triumph’s ability to perform any Advantage result in combat as the ability to trade Advantage for Triumph. I can’t find anywhere in the FnD book where it says Advantage can be traded for Triumph, only that Triumph can be used like Advantage if one wishes.

    I read up on the systems quite a bit, read your review, and then played a few beginner games and am now getting ready to run a campaign. Thus far I’ve really enjoyed the system, and I especially like the really wide range of results. Three different group’s I’ve run it with all picked up how to use the dice super fast, and we’ve never gotten bogged down trying to interpret them (if you can’t think of anything, just deal or restore strain!). I think people get too hung up on how Triumph and Despair function as well. Near as I can tell Triumph is essentially an uncancelable Super Advantage that can either do what Advantage does, or a slight step higher depending on how you want to use it. Same with Despair. Same with Advantage, if you can’t think of anything big enough for Triumph, just use it for one of the bigger Advantage benefits!

    The more I read about people saying the system runs slow, the more I think that maybe they’re just getting too bogged down in the minutiae of narrating the different results. Overthinking it. Of course it could be that it just sings to some while doesn’t for others. Whatever floats your boat.

    Moving on, the Force and Destiny book (pg 112) says under the Skill Descriptions header, “Each skill is presented with clarifications on how it may best be used, along with notes on key differences from similar skills. In addition, examples are provided highlighting potential ways that a skill might use Advantage.”

    Basically that these are suggestions on how to use them, but not absolutes. Maybe not terribly helpful, but it is a thing they state. I do completely agree with your review that the lack of consistency in how the results are suggested to be applied is frustrating. Even if they’re only suggestions, they should help the GM and Players narrow things down, not potentially make them more confused.

    Knowledge is especially annoying. They basically tossed the whole dice system out and just said “anything positive is a success and vise versa!”

    Still, we’ve had great fun with it and I look forward to playing it more. There’s enough guidelines in the book for how S/F, A/T, and Tr/Ds should be used that I don’t think the system is broken or has fallen apart due to some inconsistencies in the skills chapter. I suppose I might also be jaded enough that inconsistencies in a mechanic, so long as it’s easily enough handwaved, don’t deal break for me either. I do think critical reviews like yours are valuable though, because it can be important to know WHY you’re handwaving.

  84. Failed Save says:

    My group just started with this system, but we really like it. Review makes some fair points, and some unfair ones.

    I think it’s unfair to complain about the publisher’s being greedy. Everyone wants to make $$$. They created a marketing strategy. It’s been a moderate success.

    It’s fair to complain about inconsistencies. But every system has them. I thought that scoring the system at the end was a little odd. Why boil a system down to 2 numbers. Is your review recommending a buy based on the 5 in style? or a pass based on the 1 (maybe 2) in substance?

    @Justin: I get it that having people question your work is frustrating…but your responses are getting really angry. People can agree to disagree. But resorting to sarcasm and arguments that are riddled with fallacies (I’ve bought a ton of different systems so game design is doing great, to paraphrase) won’t win the debate. It honestly just makes you look less well reasoned.

  85. Justin Alexander says:

    @ Failed Save: Please don’t lie about what I said. It’s not really conducive to meaningful discussion.

  86. Failed Save says:

    @Justin: This is your response from April 3rd:

    “I’d like to take the time to respond to your claim that it’s impossible to make money in this industry because of “reactionaries” like me who refuse to play new games, but I’m a little too busy writing a transmission for Technoir, creating my character for The Strange campaign I’m playing in, consulting with my co-GM for an upcoming GUMSHOE campaign, and developing material for the new Infinity RPG that raised half a million dollars on Kickstarter.

    I’ll have to get back to you.”

    This whole response is sarcastic. It’s also a logical fallacy (That the micro proves the macro).

    If you think that somehow I’ve told an intentional untruth about the content of your response, then I apologize for leaving that impression.

    Really, I was trying to get you to answer my core question: Do you think this system is worth buying or not?

  87. Andrew says:

    So, what is the alternative to this game if one wants to play some awesome Star Wars rpg? I do not like house rules and I do not like hacking a system to work for something it wasn’t intended for. I like the rules as they are written and as they are intended plain and simple. That being said, what would you guys recommend?

  88. Nintaku says:

    I am really late to this party, but wanted to address a few things. First of all, that it’s a really good review. I’m in the camp of people who likes it because I’m not playing properly. Or I will be. I’m currently in the camp of people who isn’t playing it because I got really frustrated with trying to memorize the individual rules for skills, the bizarre differences between Medical healing and repairing damaged droid PCs, and what I thought were inconsistencies regarding how minion groups’ skill ratings worked (but was apparently misreading). Getting psyched up to try running it again, and this review is giving me a really good look at what I need to lighten up on. That being everything. Normally kind of a rules lawyer, with the intention of keeping my games consistent so players can be certain of the game’s physics and their choices. Looks like I need to relax to run this one.

    @Justin: I know it’s been a year, but in case no one’s mentioned it anywhere, you may not want to think about the three games as being “Han”, “Leia”, and “Luke”. It seems more like you should see them as “A New Hope”, “Empire Strikes Back”, and “Return of the Jedi”. You could easily make the entire cast of A New Hope using Edge of the Empire as presented, including Old Ben (Force Exile). You could make them again as Age of Rebellion characters for their Empire Strikes Back counterparts (but not Old Ben :P). Then at last you could…well, only Luke would really be a Force and Destiny character, with the other two main cast being Age of Rebellion characters still. But my point is, the games should be looked at by overall tone and themes, rather than by individual characters from the source material. It works more smoothly that way.

    Also, if you aren’t pleased with people posting on your stuff after so long, I’m really sorry. If you are, then I’m really the opposite of sorry.

    @Failed Save: You quoted Justin’s response to the accusation that he’s an oldschool grognard who can’t enjoy new games. Hence why he mentioned all the new games he’s enjoying. He didn’t reply to the statement that the game industry is dying.

    Also, his scoring method is exactly the same used in many other parts of the web. I know it best from RPGnet reviews, myself. Style 5, Substance 1 means it’s pretty and flashy but sucks, do not judge by its cover (in a bad way).

    @Andrew: Based on what you’ve said, I would suggest Star Wars D6 1e. If you like a bit more of that D&Dish tone and heavier rules, I’d suggest 2e Revised, Expanded, and Updated. It’s a fan project to take all the SW 2e material and codify it into a single streamlined pdf, including new artwork and support for all eras of play, including content from newer media that weren’t released as of the official 2e books, like the prequels. Personally, I don’t like it, but I don’t like 2e at all. There are people who swear by it, though, and the REUP project is clearly a labor of love. Still has the same problems as 2e, though. They’re just prettier. My only advice is don’t let anyone take the Battle Meditation power ever, unless you want to have a long negotiation about whether you want to use the rules, the example, or something that makes sense.

    If you /really/ want that D&Dish tone, you could go with one of the D20 variants. My personal preference is the garbled mess that is Saga Edition, after 8 pages of house rules to fix the awful skill system. On the other hand, I got a lot of good mileage out of the D20 Revised Core Rulebook.

    Naturally, my biggest recommendation is to try all of them and see what fits you and your players best. But I might have a problem, as “try every RPG system” is kind of my style.

  89. Carlo says:

    I agree with a lot of this review, and am sad the FFG forums are so rife with blinded fanboys to allow any constructive criticism there.

    I’ve run EoTE for 6 months, and played in AoR for 4. GM’d and played tabletop games for 2 decades.

    The system is fragmented and confused on what it wants to be.
    It purports to be “narrative and light”, then has hugely crunchy combat specific mechanics around movement, range bands, strain, soak, etc. Not far from the D&D style of “roll initiative, we’re switching to combat mode with a ton of rules!” And shooting is still a first class citizen and all other “combat mode” resolution is treated as second class.
    It’s the designers thought up an interesting core dice mechanic, then threw in all the usual RPG tropes because they didn’t want to fully commit to the narrative idea.

    And the narrative idea is also hamstringed by a list of “suggested” ways to spend Advantage. Let me tell you, after the 10th time having steam spray from a pipe on a missed shot, or having a weapon jam, or whatever, your players will inevitably just say “Whatever, I spend my 2 Advantage to give a Boost dice”. The system eventually becomes tedious and onerous to narrate within the rules.

    The game also falls apart after about ~100 XP of character progression, because everyone is rolling a fistful of yellow proficiency dice against a non-scaling difficulty system for player vs environment.

    Also the arguments above about house ruling being normal and not reflecting a flaw of the system….are you kidding? Why pay for the book in the first place if you’re going to throw out half and rewrite the rest to make it playable?

    Overall the FFG Star Wars games are …okay…adequate…kind of alright for 2-4 sessions of light play, with blind character creation (otherwise it’s too easy to create a synergized group of specialists with no overlap). After that the magic wears off, the flaws are evident, and the system falls apart under it’s own weight and confused direction.

  90. Carlo says:

    Although to be honest I think this simple, succinct quote sums up EoTE/AoR/F&D better than all the paragraphs and words above could:

    “Okay seriously your Star Wars game has ‘encumbrance’?”

  91. edwardavern says:

    Just discovered this article after devouring the rest of the Alexandrian (which I only found for the first time a couple of months ago). I’m now having that weird thing where someone whose articles I have found revolutionary to my gaming experience is advocating a position that completely clashes with my own.

    Not going to get into an argument with you – plenty of people have done that already. Let me simply say the following:

    a) Yep, inconsistencies throughout the game. Annoying. But really not game-breaking. And your particular example of Mechanics vs. Medicine – which may be a typo, but is probably just lack of communication amongst writers – comes up so infrequently as to be nearly irrelevant. (BTW, you missed the worst offender, which is that Boost dice are mathematically better the upgrades, despite being cheaper.)

    b) Really can’t back you on the pacing front. My encounters flash past pretty quickly. And I’m pretty sure I’m following most of the rules.

    c) Actually, there’s probably far more than 18 qualitative results from the dice, given the different degrees of Threat/Advantage that can be rolled. Probably my favourite thing about the system! So much potential from a very basic mechanic of adding and subtracting symbols. You don’t find that elegant?

    d) Yeah, it’s expensive. But, as others have said, there is absolutely no need to buy all the books. (And come on, how many D&D books are there? Including adventure supplements, splat books, revisions, etc.? Even within a single edition there’s loads of material to buy. And, just as with SWRPG, you don’t have to buy it all.)

    e) I agree with your statement that there’s a pretty good game in there somewhere…but I think the problem is the writing, rather than the system itself. If one were to go through the book and compile the principle rules into a 20 page document – as I have – and strip away the language (the skill descriptions you mention are an excellent example of this, BTW), I think there’s an excellent game there. Is it a game that requires VAST amounts of GM-interpretetation on the fly? Yes, absolutely. Could it be improved? Undoubtedly. But is it anywhere near as bad as your review suggests? Not in my experience.

    PS: OK, I know, I said I wasn’t going to get into an argument with you and then wrote like 1000 words. I’m sorry.

  92. Justin Alexander says:

    I don’t think we’re actually in particularly huge disagreement on this one, Edward. I think you’re just a bit more willing to excavate the bad elements of execution to find the system you like in there.

    Couple notes:

    c) The degree of Threat/Advantage/etc. is the quantitative results. I do note that those aren’t being counted in the 18 qualitative distinctions.

    And I think there’s the potential for elegance there. As I’ve noted previously, I’ve been advocating similar systems for literally decades. But the problems of execution here really bog it down into a mess.

    d) This is comparing apples-to-oranges. Supplements and adventures are not the same thing as core rulebooks.

  93. Edward Avern says:

    Thanks for replying Justin – a lot of bloggers don’t bother! Especially when the comment is mad so many years after the original post.

    To respond to your response very quickly:

    c) Yes, you’re right.

    d) True, but there really isn’t any need to buy all the core rule books. The only real difference between them is starting character options and the Obligation/Duty/Morality mechanics. If you’re looking to play an all-encompassing Star Wars game that involves smuggling spice, running a military campaign against the Empire, and exploring the Force then yes, maybe the table needs all 3 books. But in my experience, and from talking to other gamers, what tends to happen is that the GM who starts the game picks a particular style of game and then buys the core rule book that suits, with the others being surplus to requirements.

    TBH, I don’t know why I’m trying to defend the cost. FFG are clearly a company out to make a buck, and the game is expensive. The difference is, I suppose, I think it’s worth the money.

    Anyhoo, keep up the good work with the site – love a lot of the stuff you’ve posted so far.

  94. Edgewise says:

    Super-late to this party. Kinda glad to have missed the kerfuffle; lots of unnecessary butthurt in an attempt to justify the fun they were having – and good for them! – despite a substandard product. That pretty much sums up 95% of what I read above.

    Anyway, I totally agree that the dice mechanics are an exercise in madness, but I also agree that there could be something salvageable in there for future generations. I really do think some of it could work with a more narrative approach with the players spending dice results to describe various side effects.

    Honestly, Justin, I’d boil all your arguments about cost and editions down to the complaint I’d level at most RPG products: way too wordy, padded AF. I really don’t think that any game should be more than 100 pages long, and many can be substantially shorter than that. Game authors drastically overestimate how many “guidelines” they need to provide.

    In this case, I think FFG did a lot of damage to their mechanic by providing absurd skill breakdowns. The whole system would have been much better by replacing the entire skill section with one line describing the purpose of each skill. Combined with a narrative approach, I’m sure this would work a lot better.

    All you’d have to do then is drop one of the success tiers and I’d actually like the system. And I’m not even into narrative games.

    Maybe one day someone will make that game. I love FFG board games, but I do not love their role-playing games. Their End of the World series takes an excellent sets of premises and does something obscene to them.

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