The "Star Wars" fan community might be busy talking about some new television show, announced at Star Wars Celebration VI this weekend, but the big surprise for gamers was Fantasy Flight's announcement of a brand new "Star Wars" roleplaying game.
Last year's big Gen Con reveal was when the publisher announced their control of the "Star Wars" gaming license, quickly put to use on an X-Wing Miniatures Game and Star Wars LCG. Now they're taking the license even further with a planned series of three inter-locking RPG systems. Following Gen Con, Fantasy Flight Games took their booth on the road to show off Star Wars: Edge of the Empire to the faithful fans at Celebration VI.
But there's just one slight catch. The game is sort of out, and it's sort of not. While "Edge of the Empire" is available for sale at Gen Con, Star Wars Celebration, and the Fantasy Flight web store, it's clearly labeled as a "Beta" edition. This 224-page full-color softcover book includes all of the "Edge of the Empire" rules as they currently stand, but has been stripped of most artwork and thematic detail.
The big question among gamers right now is whether it's worth $30 to get a sneak peek and help the publisher refine it's game. I dove deep into the world of online forums, an evil hive of scum and villainy if there ever was one, to see just what the consensus opinion of fans was.
Up front, there is definitely a wall of complaints about the cost of entering this playtest. For those gamers who can't make it to a major con this summer, it'll cost them over $10 to ship this book, jacking the price over $40. Comparisons to Fantasy Flight's "Warhammer 40k: Only War RPG" are plentiful, as the playtest for that system started with a $20 pdf that included a voucher for the finished game. There is nothing of the sort included in the "Edge of the Empire" beta book.
Other fans are quick to point out that Fantasy Flight's deal with Lucas prevents them from publishing pdfs, a hurdle that could make any public playtest a challenge. "Pathfinder" famously embraced the public playtest concept in 2008 with a $50 hardcover, $30 softcover, and a free pdf.
Given the limitations to Fantasy Flight's publishing model, many fans are actually coming to the company's defense. It's not a huge surprise, given that $30 for a softcover is about equal to $25 for a "Pathfinder" book in 2008 dollars. In my unscientific method of forum observation, I've seen more fans stating "you're getting $30 worth with a professional-bound softcover, so let's just be happy we're getting an early edition." The fact that Fantasy Flight doesn't expect to finish the game up for another year is probably the key detail here: fans really are getting a sneak peek.
Mechanically, "Edge of the Empire" works around dice pool building with custom polyhedral dice. There are six different types of dice in total: Ability, Proficiency, Boost, Difficulty, Challenge, and Setback. In staging a scene, players and GM will work to build up this dice pool (which contain unique positive and negative symbols depending on the type) before causing a spark in the action and rolling the dice to determine the outcome.
For a preview of what sort of dice will be used in the "Star Wars" RPGs, check out this screenshot from the "Star Wars Dice" iOS app, recently released by Fantasy Flight Games as a companion for all of their Star Wars-based hobby games:
Thematically, "Edge of the Empire" is described as focusing on "the fringes of society, on the scum and villainy of the galaxy and the explorers and colonists of the Outer Rim." In the following years, it will be followed up by "Star Wars: Age of Rebellion" where "the players take the fight to the oppressive Galactic Empire as cunning spies, cocky pilots, and dedicated soldiers in the Rebel Alliance." Lastly, the series of three core rulebooks will conclude with "Star Wars: Force and Destiny" where "the players become figures of legend; the last surviving Force users in the galaxy. Hunted by the Empire, they must stay alive, and more importantly, stay true to the ideals of their forebearers—the fabled Jedi."
In describing each of these three books, Fantasy Flight points out that they are all complete games, but have content that is compatible with the others. For a fully-expansive Star Wars RPG, fans can go ahead and merge all three.