Triumph & Despair (T&D) is a place for me to get up on my digital soapbox and tell the world how I feel about Star Wars and Star Wars roleplaying games (RPGs); specifically with the new Edge of the Empire game being produced by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). Both Star Wars and roleplaying games have a very special place in my heart, as they do for many people, and I expect that some of the things I say are going to piss off some of those people. This blog isn’t out here to be nice, smooth things over, and just try and get along. It’s here for me to tell you why you’re wrong and why your game sucks. However, it is also here to venerate and spotlight the things that happen in Star Wars and roleplaying games that I think are creative, interesting, and well-made. My goal is to show off the triumphs and the despair in this area, leaving out all that boring crap in the middle. In general, I’ll try and provide a mix of posts that are about Star Wars in general, and those that are specific to Star Wars RPGs.
Edge of the Empire
Edge of the Empire (EotE) represents a radical departure from the kinds of RPGs that I’ve been playing these last few years; namely, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) produced big names of Star Wars Saga Edition and Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of those game systems. Though not perfect, they are both expertly designed and helped me create some astoundingly fun gaming memories. However, I am a big fan of novelty, and when the EotE beta came out I had to buy it and I was enthralled with its very different method of running an RPG.
Something about EotE really struck a chord with me, right from the start. Part of it had to be its very clever design. There are a lot of small details built into the mechanics, things you’d hardly ever notice, that spoke of the designer’s grace and skill at manipulating rules to get their desired effect. For example, on the Force Die there are more faces showing the Dark Side, but an equal number of pips for both Light and Dark. That is never stated in the books, it doesn’t need to, and it elegantly hints back to idea from the films that the Dark Side may be quicker and easier, but is not more powerful.
But that’s not the entirety of it. There’s something deep about Star Wars that resonates within people. There’s something part of the collective unconscious, about the primal needs of Human beings, about our love of mysticism and spirituality. I feel very much that EotE captures some of that with rules mechanics that are loose enough to allow creative expression, strong enough to keep the game away from being a shitty novel writing session, and an added level of the unknown to keep the game surprising.
Roleplaying games set in the Star Wars universe, and to a greater extent to all stories set in that universe, should never adhere strictly to canon. If you think differently, then you are an unimaginative hack and are wrong. The setting is composed of multiple billion stars, each with their own multi-planet systems, there is no good reason to rehash the same locations we’ve seen before. Although, as I shall point out, there are plenty of shitty reasons to do so.
Moreover, part of the joy and wonder of Star Wars was that it broke canon. Star Wars portrays a feeling of ‘used future’, in stark contrast to the shining bright lights of its contemporary science fiction stories, breaking the mold. It also introduced the viewer to all sorts of bizarre aliens and unexplained phenomena. Think about the first time you saw the New Hope cantina scene, with the host of strange aliens and very few distinct humans. Planets such as Alderaan, Corellia, Yavin; all of the Star Wars worlds are brand new when they are first introduced to us. Though the unimaginative workers of Lucas Arts may have codified every last nut and bolt from the movies, we do not need to mindlessly do the same. We need to break canon, throw that shit out, and create newness in our worlds. Edge of the Empire takes that idea and embraces it wholeheartedly as well.