I received my copy of EotE on Monday (9/17). Prior to getting the book, I was lurking on the forums, reading various reviews and studying the quick reference guides and weekly updates to give myself a rudimentary understanding of the game mechanics. On Wednesday, I hosted my first session of EotE with a couple of friends who are regular gamers. I've collected and captured the feedback in this (massive) post, in the form of comments, suggestions, and questions.
I acted as the GM, and also played a character of my own for a total of 3 PCs in the party. We started with character creation, which took about an hour with one book and some printed reference sheets (Gribble ftw). The party composition looked like this:
Human Hired Gun (Mercenary)
Rodian Smuggler (Pilot)
Twi’lek Technician (Slicer)
The session lasted 4 hours, and we got through 3 major personal scale combats and a handful of minor fights, as well as one major space scale combat (the epic escape). The majority of enemies were minions, with the exception of one henchman.
The players we able to tap into a majority of their skills – from knowledge, social, and technical to combat oriented skills – there was ample opportunity to use and resolve skill checks quickly and efficiently with exciting results that drove the story forward.
Playing the Game
As most people have already articulated on the forums, the dice are a ton of fun. Both players commented that they were intimidated by the idea of “symbols” (coming from d20 systems, etc.) but it was surprisingly easy to pick up. Building the dice pool is also straight forward. Below, I’ve outlined a series of questions and suggestions around game play.
Destiny Points are amazing and fun. It is important for the GM to drive this and force the players to want to use it.
Open Question: Based on the rules, it seems very possible for both the players AND the GM to use destiny points on the same action. For example, the Rodian was about to take an important shot on my henchman/boss, and I (the GM) state that I’m going to tap a destiny point to increase his difficulty. He responds with “I was going to do the same!” We let it play out with two upgrades (one advantage and one difficulty upgrade), but no net change in the destiny point pool. Is this the expected mechanic?
After playing the game, I wasn’t entirely convinced that strain has been implemented in a thematic and meaningful way. I like the idea of tracking a form of mental stress, pushing the envelope to get extra maneuvers, and how obligation can play into it and so forth. But my players never even got close to reaching their strain threshold. Ever. And if they ever did reach the threshold, it is an extremely harsh penalty by the book – although most GM’s would likely opt to interpret the incapacitation a bit differently (i.e. more of a stunned effect).
Suggestion: Reduce the strain threshold, increase the cost of buying extra maneuver, OR make it more difficult to recover strain. As the rules are now, it is (in my humble opinion) an ineffective mechanic that has a ton of potential left on the table.
Suggestion: Change the penalty for reaching the strain threshold; incapacitation makes no sense. I’d recommend something along the lines of “adding 2 setback dice” or “upgrade the difficulty of every check” when a player reaches their strain threshold. Even something like: “For each point of strain beyond the threshold, upgrade an additional difficulty dice” to a point where Despair becomes more and more evident.
Overall, character creation was refreshingly quick and straightforward (by quick I mean it took about 45 minutes per character). My major gripe is with the balance across races in terms of characteristics and starting XP. Consider a droid versus a human: It would take 120 XP to upgrade all of the droid’s characteristics to the same starting levels as a human (2,2,2,2,2,2). Yet, the Droid starts with 175 XP and the Human starts with 100 XP. Really, the droid should start with at least 220 XP – not to mention the human gets 2 skills of their choice, and the droid gets 1. Also, some of the races that start with a characteristic of 3 are in really good shape – having 4 dice to roll for a 40XP investment is pretty awesome (a 70XP investment for a human, and a 90XP price tag for droids).
Suggestion: I understand the “perfect” balance isn’t always achievable, but ultimately there just needs to be a little more mathematical scrutiny around balancing the races at start up.
Careers & Specializations are great. I haven’t really fully explored every single tree, but so far no complaints.
There are quite a few skills, which is both a good and a bad thing. The longest part of character creation was the players’ trying to determine the “right” suite of skills for their character. Also, there is definitely *perceived* overlap between skills.
Before you flame me here, remember that this is my opinion and the opinion of my gaming group – and I understand that the skills and their uses are CLEARLY documented in the book, but this EotE game is intended to flow quickly and not stall gameplay out with rules lookups.
Social skills are the primary suspect here, and even the rule book hints at the overlap between skills like charm and deceit. Other skills like perception versus surveillance versus vigilance… and vigilance versus cool. One argument for keeping them separate would be that they tie out to different characteristics, and that offers PC’s more opportunity for success. But is it worth the potential game stall?
Suggestion: Despite the fact that there is a clearly documented distinction between these skills, I would ask the devs and the community to take a second look at whether or not the skill list can be consolidated just a tiny bit. I’d focus primarily on social skills and the perception/surveillance/vigilance and vigilance/cool.
Open Question: This may be in the rules, although I couldn’t find it… but when you have a “tier 2” (i.e. row 2) ability with no connecting line from “tier 1”, can you just buy that talent outright without any prerequisites? An example of this is “Technical Aptitude” in the Technician Slicer talent tree (page 63, row 2, column 2).
If this isn’t clearly articulated and the rules, and I didn’t actually miss it, then it should be written up somewhere.
Gear & Equipment
The economy seems a bit awkward. I’m not sure if it’s worth changing or not, but it seems kind of odd that 200 blaster pistols cost the same as a ship. I feel like either guns need to cost less, or ships need to cost more. Maybe that’s nitpicky.
Suggestion: Increase the starting number of credits. Yes, I’ve read in several other posts that the GM can just bump the starting limit up, but that seems to bypass the “taking on extra obligation” mechanic… so why not just start them with more XP too? Point is, I think the “published” starting credits should be 1000, unless the cost of blasters, etc. are reduced.
Suggestion: Take a close look at the relative cost of items. Should a space transport only cost 200x more than a gun? Perhaps by reducing the cost of “smaller” items like weapons and armor, the number of starting credits won’t need to be adjusted.
Disclaimer: I have no idea if the prices are “canon” … and in the case that they are, just leave them alone I guess. It really isn’t a major gripe, but more of a point of note.
Qualities are pretty cool, and I like how some/most of them require an activation using advantages. However, I think there needs to be a better format for displaying these things.
Suggestion: Instead of saying “they all cost 2 advantage unless stated otherwise”, just slap in a “cost” statistic at the top of each quality’s listing and print it there.
Open Question: A thermal detonator has a range of short (per the week 3 update). On page 111, it states that the thermal detonator’s “blast quality effects everyone within short range of their target”. Unless I’m reading this wrong, doesn’t that mean the person throwing the detonator will be invariably hit by the blast quality if it’s activated?
Suggestion: In either case, there should probably be either a reference or a rule clarification in the thermal detonator entry.
Conflict & Combat
The difficulty of combat seems about right. Although Stormtrooper minions are about as tough (and better equipped) as a brand new PC, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is right – afterall, they are supposed to be the elite Imperial troops. New players are better suited playing against minions groups with “2” characteristics; Stormtroopers are best played as individual minions.
Suggestion: Add some text in the minion entry to denote that, while minions can be grouped, they don’t HAVE to be grouped. I found pitting the party against 2-4 ungrouped Stormtrooper minions was still very challenging.
Suggestion: At the expense of being too much like “other” (d20) RPGs, some kind of relative difficulty rating for enemies would be cool… perhaps expressed in XP or some other number.
Cover and concealment should probably be combined to be the same mechanic in the book… if I recall correctly, they’re not listed in the same place in the combat section. Regardless, this is a good mechanic as is, but I think it should be a bit more impactful.
Suggestion: It might be good if there are some examples of the varying degrees of cover (i.e. a rusted crate = 1 setback, a giant armored turbine = 2 setback, a hardened bunker = 3 setback) or whatever. I think having a few degrees of cover and concealment articulated would help with the narrative aspect.
Combat flows really well… the range bands are great, damage and recovery is great (except strain, which I commented on earlier), and you can get a lot done in the game in a very short amount of “real time”. The group really, really enjoyed the personal combat mechanics – especially coming from the extremely slow-paced 4E.
Starships & Vehicles
The groups’ space encounter was probably my biggest gripe area – and while it was still fun, I think this area of the book needs the most work. Our encounter pitted the PCs’ stolen YT-2400 against a pair of TIE fighters, piloted by the minion military pilots on page 202 (Agility 4! GEEZ). Once those TIE fighters “gain the advantage” you’re pretty much screwed… granted some well-placed/rolled shots and the use of destiny points allowed the players to eventually prevail, it was a strangely harrowing and one-dimensional fight.
And maybe that’s my fault. But here are my suggestions:
Suggestion: Rework handling (pg 146). Handling is way too overpowered - especially when you’re putting a freighter against something as nimble as a TIE fighter. Much like armor and defensive values, the handling values should be conservative (2 at most!), and a ship’s handling should never be negative unless it’s a capital ship.
Suggestion: Ships need an acceleration statistic. Having every ship accelerate at the same rate is boring. These figures can be low (maybe 3 at max), but needs to be more varied than just a horrendously slow acceleration.
Suggestion: Reword the Fly/Drive maneuver (pg 153) in terms of how fast you close range bands. I get it, but it’s just worded goofy. Also the speed banding should be spread out a bit. Force more use of “strain” by making it harder to get from extreme to long, and long to medium. Group by 0, 1-2, 3-4, and 5+… 2-4 is too wide of a range in my opinion.
Much like character strain, system strain can use some bolstering. I think it’s a great idea, and really love the idea, but bring it to life by adding even more actions that pilots and co-pilots/engineers/gunners can do to cause strain. Let everyone (not just the pilot) push that bucket of bolts to the limit.
Suggestion: Add more maneuvers for non-pilots. I’d recommend something that overcharges the engines or shields (mechanics) – maybe at the expense of some other component on a failure, something that boosts the sensors to afford upgrades or boost dice on gunnery checks (call it target lock or something, possibly using the surveillance skill). … I’m sure there are a host of other good ideas we could collective come up with here.
Disclaimer: Yes, I understand that all of this could fall under “use complex equipment” … but if you’re going to clearly outline the actions and maneuvers in this section for most of the common actions, just list all of the common actions in the same way that the “how to use advantage and threat” tables are articulated.
Gain the Advantage was a big pain point for me. Affording BOTH the ability to negate evasive maneuvers AND select a defense zone is just grossly overpowered. Slower ships (even by 1 speed) are just doomed… and if they don’t have turret/rear facing weapons, its game over. Also, there are some “realism” issues as well: how does a TIE fighter stay permanently locked on your “front” … it’s either a flyby strafing run, or he’s on your tail, right? And if a TIE is speed 5 and you’re speed 3, won’t he have to match your speed to stay on your tail or break off (or crash into you!)? And on the flipside, how can you stay on the tail of someone substantially faster for multiple rounds? And finally, how can you potentially “gain the advantage” while also conducting “evasive maneuvers” and concurrently “staying on target”? I’d say pick any 2!
Suggestion: Convert “gain the advantage” into a maneuver. Reword it such that it does NOT negate any evasive maneuvers, but does allow the pilot to pick the target defense zone for his attacks made on that turn (I’ll assume this includes turrets, etc.). However, it only lasts one turn, just like the other maneuvers. This means the pilot can choose to steady the ship, avoid incoming fire, pick the defense zone – or some combination of two of these three maneuvers, if he wants to suffer strain. This leaves the action for shooting weapons.
** the above suggestion is probably the single biggest thing I’d like to see changed.
We didn’t use it, but I read it. I like the way it’s going, and really love the use of force dice. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to playtest these rules soon!