While I like the current rules for Edge of the Empire, there are three points that don't feel like they should for me :
1- Character creation points as XP with additionnal options (ie: buying caracteristics)
2- The obligation system
3- The destiny points system
First I will explain what I feel is wrong with those 3 rules, and then I will propose possible houserules to fix them.
1- Character creation
We have probably all read by now the thread about buying caracteristics points during creation. The fact is that the current system seems to rewards buying the maximum abilities points possible during creation, as you won't be able to buy them easily after that (the only access being the dedication talents), while other options like skills and talents will be cheaper to buy or upgrade later with standard XP.
Someone has made some calcultation showing that a player buying skills and talents during creation wouldn't really be less powerful that other characters during the pace of a campaign, so it's not trully a balance issue. For me the true problem here is that a new player creating a character might feel cheated later seeing that he cannot upgrade his abilities as easily that another character can upgrade his skills.
Yes, a competent DM can take the time to explain it, so the player make the choice knowing what he does, but as a computer programmer I don't like letting obious flaws like that that could just be prvented at the source from happening even with a rookie user.
2 - the Obligation system
I remember when DMing in the Word of Darkness from White Wolf that the character creation had a merits & flaws system that allowed to buy special advantages during creation, or get more points by taking flaws.
The problem is that there were several king of merit and flaw, some where just numerical modifiers, like getting a bonus in some situations, or being vulnerable to something else, or situationnal advantages, like having a contact with the police, and those where usually fine (except of course that their points were not always appropriates), but the other kind was the true source of problems and I soon forbidden them.
What was this other kind ? It was the "pure story" kind, like having a nemesis wanting to kill you (flaw), or maybe someone you want to protect (flaw) or a dark secret that you knwon and could spell trouble for you later (flaw).
There were also some merit with similar problems, and while having contacts within the police was perfectly appropriate, having on old and powerful mentor able to help you could be a big problem for the DM (can you spell "Deux ex Machinae" ?)
You will recognize some of them as being close to some Obligations. So what was the problems with them exactly ?
For me it was that they were not really problems for the *player*, just potential sources of problems for their *character*.
I used to call those flaw as "give more work for the DM for free points".
A good rule of thumb for me was that if the work of using the flaw was only based on what I -the DM- had to do, and not on actions or choices by the player, then I didn't allow it.
(the problem was mainly about the flaws, the merits were usually not taken as too DM-dependent)
The obligation system try to get it slightly right by at least giving a numerical impact with the chance of lost strain, but there are several problems with it:
a) I have seen people saying that just losing some strain was not really felt as too bad, as you can easily get it back in game.
b) a player can chose to get more points at the cost of the rest of the group. Sure the player can lose more himself, but most of the time what the player with more obligation do is giving more chance for the groupe getting the strain loss each session.
3 - the Destiny tokens
The problem has been discussed here, so I won't go into too much details, but the fact is that here we have 3 pages of discussions on the topic, and we still cannot all agree on how to best use the tokens in game, and too often it seems to get into a (almost) zero-sum game of both the DM and players using the tokens.
This doesn't feel like real choice for me. A good system would be "I have a limited ressource to use during epic and dangerous situations", while here we have "do i use my token now, but if I do I will give the DM one bad token … ?". When a supposed choice is a zero-sum game, the choise could as be be removed.
Would the system be really different if it was replaced by "both the players and the DM can select a roll as being 'decisive', updating both an ability and a challenge die.", without even a token system ?
Note, this last point is *not* my proposed houserule, just an exemple of what is bad with the current system.
Now for the possible fixes …
For point 1, some people have suggested allowing abilities upgrade to be bought using XP (at a high cost of course), the dedication talents being just cheaper upgrades, but It don't thinkg that it is needed.
From my point of view, if it is a perception/system mastery proble, just presenting the creation rules differently could resolve it.
For exemple, if instead of 100XP during creation, humans had 10 "abilities points", that could be used to buy abilities (for 1/10 th the cost of in XP from the current rules), with unspend points being able to be converted into 10 XP each, then the players would known that those points are supposed to be used first for abilities, and only those knowing what they do should convert more that the minimum into XP.
You want to play a force user ans spend most of your starting points into XP for buying the specialisation tree and the needed talents ? Go on you can still do it, the system allows exactly the same things as before.
Yes this is purely cosmetic, but it means that even a group with rookie DM and players will at first glance know thatbuying abilities is something exeptionnal that you do mainly during character creation.
For points 2, I have liked the houserule that someone proposed in the forum, it was something like that :
- obligation has rank like abilities or skills
- each player starts at 1 rank of obligation
- buying additionnal credits or XP costobligations points. The smaller upgrade of each cost 1 point, and the bigger 2 points. So somebody maxing starting obligation would get 5 ranks
- as an option, the group as a whole could get its own obligation rank/pool, I'm thinking of 2 ranks at the start of the game (it could represent the debt from the starting ship for exemple)
- in game, each obligation rank would represent one black die that the DM could add to any roll of the corresponding player (the group obligation pool could be added to any player)
- If you want to keep from the offocial rules the fact that obligation cannot go to zero, you might just say that the group obligation cannot be less than 1, even of all players have resolved their personnal obligation.
For point 3, the simplest thing that I can think is simply that dark side tokens are still flipped to the light side, but light side tokens are just removed from play.
Remember that the force die has more faces with dark side points (but less points on each face), so the DM should almost always get at least a few points to use during the session, while the player would be able to spend their points without bad feeling. This would make the players slightly more powerful, but it should still be acceptable.
An optionnal variant combined with the obligation houserule could be that instead of using the obligation pool to add black dice, they could be used to flip light token to the dark side instead of removing them.
Ie: player 1 has 3 ranks of obligation, and spend a light token. The DM use one obligation to get the token back on the dark side, the player still has 2 ranks of obligation to apply during the session.