I ran a game for five friends Saturday night of GenCon after picking up the book on Friday. I only had a chance to read through the book once, and then double check a few things before the game. However, I found the game to be very simple to run. [[Full disclosure: I own all the WFRP 3ed materials so maybe I had a head start with the system.]]
This is not to say I did not make several mistakes or that I knew the rules perfectly, but as one of my players said, there were no obvious points where the game fell flat because we did not know the rules. This is a credit to the game not to me, since the game does a good job of keeping the story moving without getting bogged down. I’m fairly confident that anyone could run this game after a single read through and then, after the game, check on issues that came up that caused questions.
Character creation took about 30 minutes and would almost certainly have gone more quickly if we had more books and if we had played the game before. Character creation is laid out in a sequence of steps, and it is important to follow these steps.
Making characters for the first time in a game is often challenging. Edge of the Empire gives some loose guidelines about what a good score is for a characteristic, but I think almost every one of my players said at some point in the game that they wish they had spent their XP slightly differently in character creation, either on skills or characteristics.
To that end, I would recommend GMs advise their players to hold back 20-30 XP or so in character creation to allow the players to do a little on the fly creation in the first session. Also, allowing players to completely respec their characters after the first session might not be a bad idea.
Highlights from character creation:
Obligation - Everyone at the table grooved on this both in character creation and in actual play. This is like the advantages/disadvantages you see in a lot of games, but with more mechanical and narrative weight. Also, almost all of my players took on extra obligation, which virtually insured their obligation would come in to play. I have to say as a GM, a big part of me smiled as they did that. Aside from the dice mechanic, obligation is my favorite mechanic in this game.
Talent trees - Yes, these trees are somewhat restricting, but it is a format that anyone who has played an MMO can understand and it really cuts down on power gaming and searching for the most broken combination of talents. Also, having a simple tree to choose from really seemed to speed up character creation as my players did not have to hunt for what talents to take.
Force-Sensitive Exile - I liked that the Force-Sensitive Exile talent tree was not included in the character creation section, but rather was in the Force section. It reinforced that Edge of the Empire is a game about smugglers and bounty hunters, not Jedi. However, it was nice to have the rules for force users for those players that really want to play one and to make it possible to give feed back on force users.
Lowlights from character creation:
Gear - As someone else on this forum has said it was hard to figure out how much starting gear/credits the players begin with. We went with 500 credits based on the table on page 31, but this could have been more clear.
No example characters - It would have been nice if the book had a couple of example characters to go along with the included adventure in the back. We could have either picked this up and played right away or used them as a template to assist in character creation.
The actual play of the session went fairly well. No one else had played WFRP 3ed and only one person had played the Edge of the Empire demo at the Con. Yet, everyone was able to pick up the system by the end. This game was run from 8 p.m. to midnight on the third day of the con, and when my players showed up at the game, they were already half asleep. On any other day, I bet they would have picked up the system even quicker.
Highlights from play:
Combat - Combat in Edge of the Empire is fast-paced and evocative. We had some great cinematic encounters that were fun and interesting and felt like Star Wars. This feels right. After the game we discussed the issue of miniatures, and I think we settled on the majority saying that using miniatures for visual representation and relative position would be nice, but that the engaged, close, medium, etc. range bands were effective and kept combat moving. Blaster rifles are incredibly effective.
Vigilance vs. Cool - Great to see two skills that represent initiative based on the situation the players face. Even in our one session we did have situations where different players were using different skills to determine initiative based on the situation. This leads me to …
Initiative - It’s one of the things I really like about WFRP 3ed, and I was really glad to see it incorporated here. My players picked this up immediately, and they all said they liked it. It gets rid of holding an action or delaying, and allows for more dynamic combat where the characters are not locked in to one order.
Destiny Points - Here is one area I made a mistake. The rules clearly state that both sides can each spend one Destiny Point. For some reason I didn’t retain this in my first read through so I made an incorrect ruling on this. However, we still really enjoyed moving the Destiny Point back and forth between the light side and dark side. I also, really enjoyed encouraging my players to spend light side Destiny Points to give me more dark side Destiny Points.
Lowlights from play:
None yet, but it is still very early. Also, the newness of the game may have interfered a little with critical analysis. I will have to supplement after more play.
Some additional thoughts:
The Force Die - This is very cool. It has only a few uses in Edge of the Empire, but you can already see the thought that went into this. The Force Die does a great job of randomizing the amount of Destiny available in the game as well as the ratio of light side to dark side destiny at the start. This is great, but its use in activating force powers is even more thoughtful.
As one of my players pointed out, the Force Die has more dark side faces than light side faces. I pointed out that it still has 8 light side pips and 8 dark side pips. I thought that this was a nice representation of the sentiment that the dark side is quicker and more seductive. If a player has patience and just keeps rolling the force die she will roll just as many light side points as dark side points, but if the player tries to rush into it, she may have to rely on using the dark side. Very cool and very Star Wars.
This is a beta - This game is a true beta. There are errors in the book (nothing I haven’t done myself and probably no more than are in this post), and there will be problems. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good though.
A game for all editions? - While I think comparing the different Star Wars games is beyond the scope of this beta, I think it is worth mentioning that this game clearly has looked at other Star Wars RPGs from WEG d6 to Saga Edition. My players and I have played just about all of the Star Wars RPGs, and there were a lot of times we could see the influence. I think this is a good thing.