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Game Mechanics: First Session, First Impressions


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#1 Exalted5

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 09:06 AM

Background

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.

Session Recap

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
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?

Strain
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.

Character Creation
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.

Skills
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.

Talents
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.

The Force
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!



#2 usgrandprix

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 10:29 AM

Nice write up. Regarding your starship evaluation I agree with a lot you are saying.

I'd like to see more non-pilot involvement. Maybe monitoring sensors to provide suggestions (1 defense) or free maneuver.

Did you use sensors? I don't get them at all. They seem to imply that you must be in sensor range to detect or fire but some of them seem too short. No time between when you detect something and when the shooting starts. And the focus seems like one of those things were the player says to the GM "I'm always doing this" or it never gets used. And it seems like some ships can fire on you and you don't even know where they are.

My biggest gripe is pilot skill in combat. I think there is only one time you roll it and it really doesn't make a difference if you are beyond about 3 in pilot. I'd really like to see an action or maneuver that allows a good pilot roll add extra defense. Minions hit way to easy. Or some mechanics for more pilot rolls to allow a good pilot to shine or evade strong odds like the iconic Star Wars pilots. As it is now a YT-1300 even with a bunch of mods (to represent the Falcon) with a Pilot 5 (Lando) would probably not have lasted past about 4 Interceptors in the Battle of Endor.

Also how to handle minion pilots is not clear.

Anyway good suggestions elsewhere.



#3 Corradus

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 11:34 AM

 How did you deal with not having proper dice?  How did that affect your session?  You said that the players soon got the hang of the non-numeric dice, how did they deal with what you were using instead of proper dice?



#4 Donovan Morningfire

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 11:56 AM

Corradus said:

 How did you deal with not having proper dice?  How did that affect your session?  You said that the players soon got the hang of the non-numeric dice, how did they deal with what you were using instead of proper dice?

Speaking from my own experience when i ran a one-shot for my Saturday gaming group, I had bought the dice roller app and put it on both my iPhone and my iPad, letting the players roll on the 'pad while I made my rolls on the 'phone.  After the first combat, one player went to iTunes and bought the app for his phone to have right then and there, and I know at least one other member of the group has since bought the Android version.  Not the best solution, particularly if you enjoy the act of rolling the dice as I do, but it worked and we avoided slowing the session down too much by rolling regular dice and then using the conversion chart in the first chapter.


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#5 Exalted5

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 12:55 PM

Thanks for the feedback so far.

As far as sensors:  The Twilek had the computers (and surveillance) skill but started working the guns immediately.  I didn't force any sensor usage since the fight started at short range and stayed that way.  I agree that there needs to be some clarity around sensor usage - maybe this dovetails with the idea of more non-pilot actions (target lock, jamming enemies from getting locks, etc… and have a "lock" be mechanically represented through boost die or upgrades).

As far as piloting:  The Rodian had piloting and 4 agility.  We used copious piloting checks as he tried to regain the advantage.  A lot of fails there because of the speed differential.  But I agree with your point that ultimately there are not enough uses for the skill.  In fact my suggestion of changing Gain the Advantage to a maneuver further exacerbates this.

Suggestion:  Call for a piloting check on Gain the Advantage, Evasive Manuevers and Stay on Target.  Use the same difficulty table for all three (speed dependent but inherently modified by handling).  

After all, these are complex manuevers and - much like leaping over some crates might require an athletics check - these should require a piloting check.

As far as the dice:  I plopped my iPad in the middle of the table and let everyone build their own pool and roll away… Worked great.

Keepmthe feedback coming.  I plan on consolidating the consensus and posting it in the respective stickied threads.



#6 Corradus

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 10:22 PM

Donovan Morningfire said:

Corradus said:

 

 How did you deal with not having proper dice?  How did that affect your session?  You said that the players soon got the hang of the non-numeric dice, how did they deal with what you were using instead of proper dice?

 

 

Speaking from my own experience when i ran a one-shot for my Saturday gaming group, I had bought the dice roller app and put it on both my iPhone and my iPad, letting the players roll on the 'pad while I made my rolls on the 'phone.  After the first combat, one player went to iTunes and bought the app for his phone to have right then and there, and I know at least one other member of the group has since bought the Android version.  Not the best solution, particularly if you enjoy the act of rolling the dice as I do, but it worked and we avoided slowing the session down too much by rolling regular dice and then using the conversion chart in the first chapter.

 

God I would love to use the app.  I've seen it used and it's beautiful, but sadly I don't own an i-anything or an android anything.  None of my players do either.

Mind you, we all bring laptops or netbooks to the game.

Pity nobody thought to make the app useable by Windows.  Not sure why that oversight happened.  I have a strong suspicion that there are more computers at many games than i-anythings or smartphones.



#7 LethalDose

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 05:01 AM

Corradus said:

God I would love to use the app.  I've seen it used and it's beautiful, but sadly I don't own an i-anything or an android anything… Pity nobody thought to make the app useable by Windows.

Someone posted on here that you can get a droid OS emulator that can run on windows.  Its a bit of a work around, but they've said they were able to run the dice app on the emulator.  Also, some one has posted an excel-based roller app.

I'll see if I can find the links.

 

-WJL


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#8 LethalDose

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 05:13 AM

 Thread with the excel based roller

Thread with the Droid OS emulator.  Though it sounds like there are some problems with it.


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#9 Callidon

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 05:16 AM

It's a waste of words L.D.   Corradus doesn't actually want replies, suggestions or answers to his dice posts.  It's just "derail-for-dice-now-FFG" bait.


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Edge of the Empire: Talent Trees; Force Powers; Character Sheet

 


#10 LethalDose

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 05:29 AM

 INSIDIOUS!!!!


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#11 Donovan Morningfire

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 07:10 AM

Callidon said:

It's a waste of words L.D.   Corradus doesn't actually want replies, suggestions or answers to his dice posts.  It's just "derail-for-dice-now-FFG" bait.

C'mon dude, that's not exactly fair.

He does have a valid point, in that FFG knew full well this book was going to be put into print and the dice were going to be needed.  After all, there was the time to design and code the dice roller app, so it's not completely outside the realm of imagination that FFG could have planed to have at least a "sampler set" of the dice (2 Ability, 2 Difficulty, 1 Proficiency, 1 Challenge, 1 Boost, 1 Setback, 1 Force) ready for sale through their website within a week or so of the Beta announcement at GenCon, which grand total I'd peg at somewhere around $10, plus shipping & handling.  Granted, you probably would have had people complaining about having to buy dice for a Beta, so FFG really can't win either way.  As the old saying goes, you can please some folks all of the time, or all of the folks some of the time, but you can't please all the folks all of the time.

And truthfully, if Corradus' posts really do grate on your nerves that much, just skip over them.  There's at least one poster who's posts I won't even bother skimming after getting a full confirmation of their exact intent when posting in various threads, thus proving (to my mind at least) that person has nothing useful or constructive to contribute to any of the discussions taking place here.


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#12 DailyRich

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 05:28 AM

"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."

I love this idea. When I was describing the mechanic to my group, I compared it to Fatigue in Savage Worlds, except it's more a usable resource then something you want to avoid. So I can see why they don't want to penalize players for using it -- the idea is to ENCOURAGE them to take Strain to attempt truly heroic actions, with an ultimate cap to keep them from just using it at whim. But I do think there needs to be some effect once the threshold is passed.

"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."

You'd have to go all the way down the first column, then work your way back up the second column to get to the second Technical Aptitude.

 



#13 LethalDose

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 07:11 AM

DailyRich said:

"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."

You'd have to go all the way down the first column, then work your way back up the second column to get to the second Technical Aptitude.

 

The text you're looking for is primarily on page 65 in the "Acquiring talents" section:  "Characters are eligible to select any talents in the first, topmost row, plus any talents that are connected via one of the afformentioned links to a talent the character already possesses." So, if the talent isn't in the first row, you have to build a connection to it from the first row via the connectors.  In some cases like the Force Exile and Slicer trees, you have to buy all the way down to the last tier, move over a column, and then go back up before you get some second tier talents.  This could be made more clear because while this section mentions moving over columns, it does not mention going back up them.

 

And, yes, Strain threshold and associated penalties need some work.

 

-WJL


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#14 DailyRich

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 07:38 AM

It could be as simple as adding arrows to the lines on the chart.



#15 LethalDose

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 07:50 AM

DailyRich said:

It could be as simple as adding arrows to the lines on the chart.

That would not work.  At all.  The lines are intended to be bi-directional.  It is intended that there are multiple ways to get to individuals talents in most situations.

Arrows BAD!!!

 

-WJL


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#16 Exalted5

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 12:40 PM

Oh crazy.  That's a lot of XP for a t2 talen… But it makes sense and keeps the trees unique.  Thanks for the clarification guys.

Lets see what happens in the week 4 update.  If there aren't any changes to strain, we can push for it in the primary mechanics stickies.  Thanks again for the good feedback.






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