Star Wars: Edge of the Empire is a roleplay system by Fantasy Flight Games that invites you and your friends to live out adventures from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Set around the time of the destruction of Alderaan, you play as shady scoundrels, smugglers and bounty hunters working on the outer-rim of the galaxy attempting to evade the iron grip of empire. Fantasy Flight have entrenched the setting well and truly in the dark times of the Galaxy, giving only passing mention to any events set before the original trilogy. This gives the game a much clearer focus than previous roleplay games set in the Star Wars Universe and allows the writers to stuff the beautifully presented 440+ page rulebook full of story ideas, fluff and (best of all) a genuinely exciting character creation system.
The basic mechanics of Edge of the Empire will be familiar to any role-player worth their salt. You build a dice pool based on your skills and attributes to complete a task. Easy, yes? This is probably as similar as the system gets to other games. Fantasy Flight uses custom dice, covered in custom symbols that help decide if the characters have failed, succeeded or somehow have done both at the same time. The different shapes and sizes of dice all have a different ratios of symbols that can help determine success of failure of a task.The core dice you will use are the green ‘Ability’ dice and the yellow ‘Proficiency’ dice. These have negative counterparts called Difficulty and Challenge dice. Your skills, attributes and surroundings will all determine how many dice you have in each pool. Each success rolled can be cancelled out by each failure. If you have one success remaining, you pass the check. There are symbols that represent threats and advantages as well, which give the GM AND player a chance to flex their storytelling muscle by creating unique story driven situations based around these results. The player could succeed at hacking in to the Gungan crime lord’s data terminal to get the name of the Bounty Hunter tracking them, but as they have rolled a threat it could trigger a silent alarm, alerting security to the players location. It’s a fun system that really keeps you thinking as a GM.
The custom dice needed to play Edge of the Empire do not come included with the core rulebook, which is disappointing as they are included in the rules light Beginners Boxset, and when you are playing nearly £40 for a rulebook, it feels like these should be included. There is an Enigma Code like conversion chart in the book for using standard dice, which is okay but it will take you longer to work out the outcome of a check and can really slow a game down. The custom dice will set you back around £10 from your local game store. There is also an app that you can download for smartphones and tablets.
There is a distinct lack of species open to players in the core rules, with only 8 species available including Droids. This is compensated for by a unique occupation tree that gives each of the six defined roles around three different paths each. You can be a smuggler pilot, scoundrel or thief and each one opens up a string of unique abilities that you can purchase as you level up. You also get to choose Obligations and Relationships that give you extra experience points to build, but also gives the GM some complications to throw at your characters. Droids don’t seem to have been given the attention that they deserve for a starting species, and having a droid player feels like it would be a hindrance to a smaller group. It is a role that should be used as an NPC or for the occasional drop in-drop out player. You will also notice that there is a lack of the force in this book. Being set during the events of the original trilogy, playing a Jedi isn’t an option that is really open to players. There is the option to be force sensitive and have some abilities, but the system really tries to guide you away from the force entirely and I think it’s all the better for it. Having a team of Jedi roaming the Galaxy whilst the Battle of Yavin rages on would really take away from the tone that Fantasy Flight have worked really hard to set.
The Star Wars universe is so large and diverse that other systems have tripped over themselves to give you the opportunity to play in any era and as any possible race and allowing players to wield force powers relentlessly. Edge of the Empire strips all of this away, almost forcing you down the path of scum and villany and strangely this makes it feel like the most wide open version of Star Wars roleplaying to date.