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Are these Minions or Rivals ...?

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3 hours ago, Stan Fresh said:

By withholding pertinent information you're making it harder for the players to engage with the game as a whole - story AND mechanics.

Thing is, it's not like you're blocking anything as uncovering the information is pretty easy.

  1. The players can make broad assumptions in most cases. "Look, 50 Stormtroopers!" Fair to assume a goodly number of them are minions.
  2. Spotting a non-minion doesn't take a heck of a lot of skill. "These stormtroopers are wearing black armor, fancy helmets, covered in pockets holding extra powerpacks and grenades, and wielding really nasty looking cut down heavy blasters." These guys are probably not minions.
  3. Once the rolling starts its not hard to figure out the probability of a minon. "Lets see... he rolls two green to search you." Yeah, either galaxy's worst bodyguard... or probably a minion.
  4. Once the blasters start firing it's also easy. "I hit and do 11 damage" ... "Ok he's dead." Yeah. Minion.

The only place you need to with hold is when the players are trying to skip ahead when there's skills abilities and so on specifically to do this.

GM: You come across the bandit camp, it's a pretty good size with lots of bandits going about their business.

Player: How many Bandits?

GM: You see at least 8, there might be more in the tents though.

Player: Are they all minions?

GM: I dunno, why don't you make a Perception, or Warfare, or Underworld, or Education, or Vigilance, or Survival, or literally any other skill that you can justify check and see what you can figure out.

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19 minutes ago, Ghostofman said:

Thing is, it's not like you're blocking anything as uncovering the information is pretty easy. 

I don't want to dismiss your whole post,  but you start out with an inconsistency here. If there's something to uncover then you're covering something.

And if all it takes is some guessing, what is gained by not being upfront about it? How does concealing this info enhance the game experience for everyone?

What's the in-setting logic behind using a skill check to uncover minion status,  by the way? What is the character doing there? Can you give some examples of characters in the movies doing that?

 

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2 hours ago, Stan Fresh said:

If a random stormtrooper and Darth Vader have different stats in your games then the mechanics flow from the story. And if a fight against Vader ends with the newbie PCs running away while a fight against the trooper ends in PC victory then the story flows from the mechanics.

Or is it different in your games?

Yeah, you have a different definition of "story".  You're only looking at a series of incremental causes and effects...that's not a story, it's just an event chain.

The story to me is how the PCs felt, what they thought, were they scared, excited, joyous, or petrified.  Did they achieve or fail their goals, and how will it affect things going forward?

I'm not saying mechanics aren't important, bad mechanics can rob a scene of verisimilitude as well as dumb player questions like "is that a minion".  But I don't let them take centre stage.

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7 minutes ago, Stan Fresh said:

And if all it takes is some guessing, what is gained by not being upfront about it? How does concealing this info enhance the game experience for everyone?

It's not something you should dwell on, but leaving a little mystery can add some suspense, generate a more open-end feeling, and reward the players that invested in the skills and talents to collect that information.

Example:

You walk into your docking bay, and there's that overweight gangster in a furry vest you owe 10,000 credits, and whose bounty hunter you blasted an hour earlier in the cantina.  With him are a number of his thugs. They're yelling at your ship demanding you come out... guess they haven't noticed you yet.

You are trying to decide if you should use the element of surprise and do something with your blaster, or try and be charming...

Option A:  I make you roll a Perception or Underworld check to gauge your probability of success with a blaster, I can use the check results to feed you information. 

Quote

 

You make an Underworld check, and succeed with 2 Advantage.

Success: "Eight of them of them look super-miniony, but there's one dude in green battle armor and carrying about a dozen different weapons. "

2 Advantage: "His name's like... Boba something. You've heard of him. Seriously nasty  bounty hunter the hutt keeps on retainer. Guy's got a reputation for pulling tough jobs, and rumor is he single-handedly took down an entire merc crew once.  He's NOT a minion, and is probably a Nemesis."

 

Hmmmm... Well you haven't tested it, but Jabba's probably  a Nemesis too, and there's another 8 miniony looking guys.... probably better to talk about how you just landed a charter that will cover your debt 100%...and the interest.

 

Option B:

By comparison lets be up front about it:

Quote

You walk into your docking bay, and there's that overweight gangster in a furry vest you owe 10,000 credits, and whose bounty hunter you blasted an hour earlier in the cantina.  With him are some of his thugs. Jabba is a Nemesis, 8 of his thugs are minions, and there's one guy wearing mandelorian armor and carrying a dozen or so weapons who is a Nemesis.

 

See? Even though both situation introduce the exact same encounter, with the same probable outcomes, Option A feels more open ended where Option B feels more like I'm railroading you to a social encounter.

 

37 minutes ago, Stan Fresh said:

What's the in-setting logic behind using a skill check to uncover minion status,  by the way? What is the character doing there? 

Simple, this is just that situation where the character is sizing up a situation. Looking at what's in front of him and using his brain (or other appropriate organ) to deduce what exactly it is he's looking at and what options may be available.

It's not JUST minion status, it's the situation as a whole. Minion status is just part of that. 

 

42 minutes ago, Stan Fresh said:

Can you give some examples of characters in the movies doing that?

In RotJ Han makes a check looking at the shield bunker. He's on the side with the landing pad, looking at an AT-AT and probably some other nastiness. 

He's successful, with triumph, makes a comment that he and Chewie have gotten into worse places, but uses Triumph to introduce the Back Door. 

He does it again here (just want to make sure these four scout troopers are the same minion looking guys we've already faced) and is successful with more triumph. And uses the Triumph to have the Ewok make a distraction, downgrading the Encounter to only 1 Minion Scout with no bike. 

That's in-series. If you want to look at the game as a Larger "movie simulator" there's plenty of other movies out there where the "players" sneak up on the enemy and make a check or two to figure out what they are looking at and options they may have. Offhand the Guerilla Camp scene in Predator (which could be easily replicated in an AoR campaign) is a perfect example of this.

 

 

As I said, like with any game option you shouldn't dwell on this too much. In a lot of cases the players can figure a lot of this out on their own, but there's plenty of situations where having the players fill in the blanks themselves can create a better experience.

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45 minutes ago, whafrog said:

Yeah, you have a different definition of "story".  You're only looking at a series of incremental causes and effects...that's not a story, it's just an event chain.

The story to me is how the PCs felt, what they thought, were they scared, excited, joyous, or petrified.  Did they achieve or fail their goals, and how will it affect things going forward?

I'm not saying mechanics aren't important, bad mechanics can rob a scene of verisimilitude as well as dumb player questions like "is that a minion".  But I don't let them take centre stage.

How the PCs feel about things interfaces with the mechanics, too. The game is pretty light on personality mechanics, but it has them. You're being way too restrictive in how you look at the game as a whole. How is the outcome of their confrontation with an NPC not the answer to the question "did they achieve or fail their goals"? Why would you not have the mental state of the PCs expressed through the rules, or the rules affect the mental state? Discipline checks, the fear mechanics, the morality system - they all interface with what the characters feel.

 

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26 minutes ago, Ghostofman said:

See? Even though both situation introduce the exact same encounter, with the same probable outcomes, Option A feels more open ended where Option B feels more like I'm railroading you to a social encounter.

Why not use the first description and then state who's a nemesis, who's a minion, etc in the next sentence, or just say it if the players care enough to ask? There's no reason to use the clunky description of the second option.

26 minutes ago, Ghostofman said:

 

Simple, this is just that situation where the character is sizing up a situation. Looking at what's in front of him and using his brain (or other appropriate organ) to deduce what exactly it is he's looking at and what options may be available.

It's not JUST minion status, it's the situation as a whole. Minion status is just part of that. 

See, to me THAT is meta-gaming. You let the characters determine an out-of-fiction fact, something they couldn't know. There's no equivalence between being a minion and looking like less of a threat in the game world. A stormtrooper looks way more dangerous than Jabba.

 

26 minutes ago, Ghostofman said:

In RotJ Han makes a check looking at the shield bunker. He's on the side with the landing pad, looking at an AT-AT and probably some other nastiness. 

He's successful, with triumph, makes a comment that he and Chewie have gotten into worse places, but uses Triumph to introduce the Back Door. 

He does it again here (just want to make sure these four scout troopers are the same minion looking guys we've already faced) and is successful with more triumph. And uses the Triumph to have the Ewok make a distraction, downgrading the Encounter to only 1 Minion Scout with no bike. 

That's in-series. If you want to look at the game as a Larger "movie simulator" there's plenty of other movies out there where the "players" sneak up on the enemy and make a check or two to figure out what they are looking at and options they may have. Offhand the Guerilla Camp scene in Predator (which could be easily replicated in an AoR campaign) is a perfect example of this.

I'm pretty sure Han was just boasting there to keep morale up. And again: to Han there is no such thing as "minion looking guys". That's the disconnect. I don't see how he could be doing that. You're letting the character make judgments about the story he's inhabiting. That sort of thing should be kept to the players and the GM, unless you're playing Toon.

 

 

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57 minutes ago, Stan Fresh said:

See, to me THAT is meta-gaming. You let the characters determine an out-of-fiction fact, something they couldn't know. 

Depends on your perspective.

You see this kind of thing in film all the time. There's normal mooks, and guys that are clearly not. In a film you might have something like the "Player" go up, look over the town, and the camera do a POV pan of what he sees. It pans pretty quickly past the ordinary Wehrmacht troopers patrolling the town, but takes a moment to focus in on the SS Panzer Captain with the big scar on his face.

The normal troops are Minions, the SS Captain is probably at least a Rival, and probably plays a bigger role in the encounter.

How is providing that info, and probably a bit more, via a check somehow worse that just saying "The Panzer Captain I s a Rival, and has a tank"?

And depending on the check... they COULD know that, or at least know what they are dealing with. If you do a Warfare check on a squad of Stormtroopers and see one's a Sgt., someone knowledgeable with Warfare would also know that he's A) going to be leading the squad, which in game terms means providing buffs and B)Usually carries a heavier weapon that the normal trooper.

That's part of the point. It's like having someone play a character with 5:5 in Charm. The player himself doesn't need to say charming things, just outline the jist of it and say "My character says a pickup line to her..." and rolls.

Just in this case it's "My character is a seasoned fighter. He can look at the Stormtroopers and tell who's in command and what equipment they've got, and is well aware of typical imperial tactics." or whatever.

 

And that's where I'm going. when the Airplane mechanic comes out, takes of his shirt and hat, and is visibly bigger than the player character... Dude's at least a Rival. Doesn't take the GM saying it or any rolling. It's an obvious thing that's part of the mechanical structure of the universe. The player knows that. So if the player makes an appropriate check, how is saying "dude carries himself like a boxer, and if you haven't figured it out, is a rival" a problem?

 

1 hour ago, Stan Fresh said:

A stormtrooper looks way more dangerous than Jabba.

Maybe? I mean, yeah, a chubby Welshman in a furry vest doesn't look all that threatening, but considering you're in a movie, it's not a real stretch to communicate that Hans Gruber isn't going to go down like a punk, even if he's not wearing full body armor and carrying a light machine gun.

 

 

I think at this point we're kinda getting into what is and is not meta, and how do you communicate it? May have to agree to disagree on this one.

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But is meta knowledge particularly a bad thing? The heroes in star wars are effectively indestructible against the minons and they are frequently shown beating great odds despite facing professional soldiers. It's not necessarily a bad thing for the players to "know" that they are superior to a bunch of people by either looking at them or learning. 

Just it's one thing to have a combat sprung on the players (in which case, let them know what they are up against) compared to the players preforming a heist. The former lays the cards on the table quite quickly and the latter requires a more informed stance. Indeed the people they see mightn't be all the people that are there; and in my opinion it isn't the GM's job to be fair, because life quite frankly isn't, it's their job to provide a challenge for the players to navigate around or tackle directly, being unfair in a methodical manner that is realistic to the setting (The Empire will inevitability win almost every ground battle prior to the victory on Endor when the Alliance openly threw off the empires cowl.) will get players thinking on how else to navigate challenges.

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1 minute ago, LordBritish said:

The heroes in star wars are effectively indestructible against the minons and they are frequently shown beating great odds despite facing professional soldiers.

What movies are you watching?  In the OT they are always running from stormtroopers, who are minions.  In the PT, only the Jedi hold their own against minions, and even they got their butts handed to them on Geonosis.  They beat great odds, not by slaughtering countless waves of minions, but by avoiding them and finding another way.

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21 minutes ago, LordBritish said:

It's not necessarily a bad thing for the players to "know" that they are superior to a bunch of people by either looking at them or learning. 

I agree, but there needs to be some effort in the form of Actions for the "looking" and the "learning", it shouldn't be a default for the PCs.  A group of Stormtroopers might intend to look like a walking death stick collectively because their intention is to deter trouble in the starport.  The flip side the trio of Rival Bounty Hunters may want to dress down in order to blend and not be perceived as a threat so they can close distance. 

The expectation by the PCs to automatically know who the Minions are quickly morphs into 'Well, then who are the Rivals and Nemeses?"  It allows too much meta optimization on the part of the PCs.  Specific characters can be built to specific threats and at the beginning of every combat they know exactly how to overcome an encounter with more or less zero effort.  It's not role playing, and honestly it isn't much of a tactical simulation either, it's more like comparing the quality of 2 RNGs at that point. 

No one is saying PCs shouldn't be allowed to determine or assess the relative threat level of targets, we are saying it shouldn't be a default setting with no effort.  One is playing the character in a RPG and using their skills to overcome challenges and unlock pertinent information.  The other is setting up minis on a 4x8 table for a tactical simulator where everyone knows what everyone has by simply looking.

25 minutes ago, LordBritish said:

it isn't the GM's job to be fair, because life quite frankly isn't, it's their job to provide a challenge

This is the essence of my point.  

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2 hours ago, LordBritish said:

But is meta knowledge particularly a bad thing?

This is really what this is all about, isn't it?  Some people don't like it, some people do.  It is the consummate roleplayer that plays their character at odds with the meta knowledge they as a player know, in my opinion.  I personally don't like or encourage the practice of using meta knowledge in character, but I also like to remove the mechanics more and more from the ongoing narrative and only use them to codify what I describe or what is described to me.  That said, I definitely consider meta knowledge on either side of the screen, but I do my best to not act on it despite knowing it will outright harm my character.  As a GM, knowing I have to provide a challenge means I do utilize this more of course, but behind the curtain so to speak.

"Tell me what you're going to do, we'll worry about rules after that."

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7 hours ago, themensch said:

This is really what this is all about, isn't it?  Some people don't like it, some people do.  It is the consummate roleplayer that plays their character at odds with the meta knowledge they as a player know, in my opinion.  I personally don't like or encourage the practice of using meta knowledge in character, but I also like to remove the mechanics more and more from the ongoing narrative and only use them to codify what I describe or what is described to me.  That said, I definitely consider meta knowledge on either side of the screen, but I do my best to not act on it despite knowing it will outright harm my character.  As a GM, knowing I have to provide a challenge means I do utilize this more of course, but behind the curtain so to speak.

"Tell me what you're going to do, we'll worry about rules after that."

This game puts a lot of metagame knowledge out in front with the mechanics of numerous narrative abilities. Several talents, many signature abilities, and a few Force powers are hard to reconcile with a heavily simulationist approach that wants to minimize metagaming. I know because I favor simulationist approaches and have to let go of that to some degree with this game.

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2 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

This game puts a lot of metagame knowledge out in front with the mechanics of numerous narrative abilities. Several talents, many signature abilities, and a few Force powers are hard to reconcile with a heavily simulationist approach that wants to minimize metagaming. I know because I favor simulationist approaches and have to let go of that to some degree with this game.

I agree with that - and to aid my players, I often suggest that using Talent X might yield better results.  I'm teaching some new players to play the system (one is completely new to RPGs) so I've had to bear that yoke myself a bit.  Fortunately we're not laden with such things at this point, and they've picked up on the methodology thus far.  I do agree it will become more meta as we go along, out of necessity.  I'm not shy about explaining the rules to them when asked, either.  In retrospect, I guess I've run the gamut in how I deal with this, it seems highly situational now that I've reflected upon it. 

 

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Seriously, my players wouldn't even think of asking. It'd be like walking into a room full of bad guys in D&D and wanting to know what level they are. 

But then, as opposed to HappyDaze's simulationist penchant, we're almost exclusively narrativist and often toss mechanics out the window entirely. :)

Edited by Daronil

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2 hours ago, Daronil said:

Seriously, my players wouldn't even think of asking. It'd be like walking into a room full of bad guys in D&D and wanting to know what level they are. 

But then, as opposed to HappyDaze's simulationist penchant, we're almost exclusively narrativist and often toss mechanics out the window entirely. :)

If the players toss out the mechanics, that puts extra burden on the GM to watch the mechanics. Sorry, but it's not fun for me as a GM to do all of that work on top of what I have to do as a GM.

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2 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

If the players toss out the mechanics, that puts extra burden on the GM to watch the mechanics. Sorry, but it's not fun for me as a GM to do all of that work on top of what I have to do as a GM.

When it happens, we just wing it. One of the reasons we love the FFG system is that we can pretty much just roll a bunch of dice and come up with a story and its development as a group. The players describe the action as much as I do - I really just keep an eye on the overall story and play the NPCs. 

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19 hours ago, whafrog said:

What movies are you watching?  In the OT they are always running from stormtroopers, who are minions.  In the PT, only the Jedi hold their own against minions, and even they got their butts handed to them on Geonosis.  They beat great odds, not by slaughtering countless waves of minions, but by avoiding them and finding another way.

There's also a matter of how many minions are in the group?

A minion group of only two or three stormtroopers is no big deal for most party groups*.  A minion group of six stormtroopers is reason for worry, especially if the PCs are at the lower end of the XP scale (or simply took specs that don't offer any ranks of Toughened).  A squad of a few dozen stormtroopers (like what Han ran into in the Special Edition of ANH) is reason to shriek in terror and run screaming the other way as quickly as possible.

With the Geonosis battle, the Jedi (most of whom were unnamed Rivals and not full PCs) were seriously outnumbered by the battle droids; while there were a lot of dead Jedi when it was said and done, there were also a whole mess of destroyed battle droids; the droids won more due to attrition and vastly superior numbers than anything else.

One of the things I like about this system is that minions can still continue to be a threat even to uber-high XP PCs.  Sure, the GM might have to throw more of them at the party if the characters are at the 1000+ or 2000+ earned XP marks, but a few groups of six minions with blaster carbines/rifles will still pose a credible threat to most characters.

*that is unless the players are fresh from WotC Star Wars games where stormtroopers were cannon fodder of the highest order, and a group of 6 troopers was seen as a minor challenge for most 1st level characters.  A buddy of mine and his group had a rather eye-raising experience when playing Escape from Mos Shutta when the two minion groups of three stormtroopers each nearly TPK'd the party as they all expected the stormtroopers to be pushovers just as they had been in Saga Edition, which was the Star Wars game the bulk of the players were most familiar with.  Ever since then, the players have treat stormtroopers with a great deal more respect and trepidation than they had previously.

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Given that there's already a fair bit of intentional metagaming in how several parts of this system work (big one is the fluctuating initiative order, with players allowed if not out-and-out encouraged to pick who goes in what order based upon factors their characters would be generally unaware of), I don't have a problem with flavoring my descriptions in such a way to very strong indicate if something is a minion or a rival.

For the most part, I describe my minions in fairly broad/general terms, usually hanging together in a group of a similar type.  Any rivals (or nemeses for that matter) are usually standing a bit apart from the "group" and get a bit more flavor text in their description to indicate they're not pat of the nameless masses that are the minion groups.

It's worked out pretty well, with the attentive players about to suss out fairly quickly which is which and plan their strategies accordingly.  Seeing as how we gather to play these games for fun, I'm not fussed about "breaking immersion" by keeping the nature of minions or rivals "hidden" from the group, since combat encounters tend to "break immersion" due the players switching to a more tactical-orientated line of thinking; the roleplay-focused players will select actions based upon what their character would do with the more goal-orientated ones will select their actions based upon what's the most advantageous for the situation, but either way if the group at the table is having fun, then it's all good.

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1 hour ago, Donovan Morningfire said:

It's worked out pretty well, with the attentive players about to suss out fairly quickly which is which and plan their strategies accordingly.  Seeing as how we gather to play these games for fun, I'm not fussed about "breaking immersion" by keeping the nature of minions or rivals "hidden" from the group, since combat encounters tend to "break immersion" due the players switching to a more tactical-orientated line of thinking; the roleplay-focused players will select actions based upon what their character would do with the more goal-orientated ones will select their actions based upon what's the most advantageous for the situation, but either way if the group at the table is having fun, then it's all good.

This is a more accurate representation of how my games actually go, rather than my hyperbolic statements above.  It's just that nobody at the table would actually ask (after session zero where I explained how all the mechanics relate to their decision-making).  They know the difference and act accordingly, but the dialogue and descriptions rarely break into the mechanics (other than what is obviously necessary).

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5 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

If the players toss out the mechanics, that puts extra burden on the GM to watch the mechanics. Sorry, but it's not fun for me as a GM to do all of that work on top of what I have to do as a GM.

I think there's a distinction to be drawn between knowing the mechanics as meta knowledge, and abusing the mechanics as meta knowledge.  While a majority of GMs likely desire the former and disdain the latter, I can't speak for all tables.  I think the narrative can remain simulationist while the table chatter can tend towards meta, up until the point where players start asking, "are those minions?" with the intent of abusing that knowledge like OP described.  But it's apt that there are Talents that require a player to act with that knowledge, so perhaps the line is very fine indeed, and possibly different at every table. 

I personally don't mind the extra burden as the GM, as I've found it's not something I need to continuously do.  For example, a player describes an action, and I offer that they have a Talent that, should they chose to go about it this way, they would have an easier/better time at accomplishing their goal.  Soon enough, the player does that part for themselves. 

 

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3 hours ago, Daronil said:

When it happens, we just wing it. One of the reasons we love the FFG system is that we can pretty much just roll a bunch of dice and come up with a story and its development as a group. The players describe the action as much as I do - I really just keep an eye on the overall story and play the NPCs. 

Numerous times the devs have flat out told us to toss mechanics to the wayside when it doesn't suit the story.  Why, if I'd listened to the latest Order 66 podcast, I would have heard them hammer that point home again and again.  It sounds like you have a good group with a good grasp of the Rules As Intended.

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4 hours ago, themensch said:

Numerous times the devs have flat out told us to toss mechanics to the wayside when it doesn't suit the story.  Why, if I'd listened to the latest Order 66 podcast, I would have heard them hammer that point home again and again.  It sounds like you have a good group with a good grasp of the Rules As Intended.

I'm very lucky with my group - we still play Pathfinder (which is pretty rules-heavy), but again, we tend to wing it most of the time - but FFG is by far our favourite system, simply because of the cinema. The mechanics don't just support the story, they truly help build the story. 

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