Star Wars has affected the lives of so many around the world that it would be cliche to open this article with a wistful story of my introduction to the movies as a child. I do have such a story of course, and I often wonder if I even realize the true impact those films had on me to this day. At its core, I believe it was the classic call to adventure that hooked a young 10-year old me. This heroes journey has roots that run deep throughout human history from the Odyssey to Lord of the Rings, however, for myself, it was Star Wars that awoken these feelings in me. This is most likely the root of my love for tabletop RPGs, as where else can you craft such a tale of adventure with your friends? Star Wars, being the gigantic commercial success that it was, began to produce an astronomical amount of merchandise, but none more fitting than Star Wars: The Role-playing Game by West End Games in 1987. This has solidified the Star Wars franchise within the tabletop RPG community as a fan favorite. Of course, the game would later be produced by Wizards of the Coast, the current owners of Dungeons & Dragons, from 2000-2010, however, the license has since been past on to Fantasy Flight Games as of 2012. This latest incarnation is where we begin our journey. Before we jump in, it’s important to note that Fantasy Flight Games has taken a different approach in order to create a robust game that can handle the many different aspects of the Star Wars universe. In order to do this, the team at Fantasy Flight has divided the Star Wars IP into three different aspects, and released a core rulebook for each:
Edge of the Empire | Age of Rebellion | Force and Destiny
Edge of the Empire, released in 2013, reveals the criminal underbelly of the galaxy with rules for playing smugglers, bounty hunters, and pirates. If players wanted to join the resistance, then their chance would come in 2014 with the release of Age of Rebellion. Focusing on rebel soldiers and their fight against the Empire. Two books that I wish to get my hands on soon, but neither was the first book I purchased, because there was always one character I was drawn to as a kid, and as cool as Han solo was, it wasn’t our favorite scruffy looking nerf herder; it was Luke Skywalker. Which lead me to the purchase of Force and Destiny. This book covers force users, such as the Jedi and Sith, and was released in 2015. Now, though these are three distinct books, the games creators intended them to work together as part of a larger whole. It may require multiple rule books, but there is no reason why a party of a Jedi, bounty hunter, and rebel officer couldn’t work from a games/system standpoint. The core mechanics remain the same for all three books, with additional rules/systems added to each individually in order to flesh out aspects that are exclusive to that area. For Example, Force and Destiny includes rules for using the force, as well as, a number of force abilities, traits, and talents. All of which would be unnecessary to include in the other two books, therefore, leaving room for other such rules that play upon that particular books theme. This design philosophy from Fantasy Flight creates a rich and detailed system, however, there is the added drawback of having multiple books and confusing potential buyers. Personally, I found myself holding all three books at my local game store trying to figure out the differences. All three saying “Core Rule Book” on the cover didn’t help much either. That being said, don’t feel that you have to purchase all three. Each book is a self contained rule system that simply specializes in one aspect of the Star Wars universe. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump into the review of Star Wars: Force and Destiny!
Force and Destiny begins with the age old chapter that describes what a role playing game is, and even offers a few well written example sessions. As Star Wars is an IP that will most likely draw many new players into the tabletop RPG genre, I was happy to see this section was given proper care. From there we get into the dice pool system, which is the core of the Star Wars rule set. Many will be familiar with dice pools from games like Shadowrun, however, Star Wars requires custom dice which can be purchased at your local game store. While there is a table provided in the book to use standard RPG dice, this conversion would greatly slow down play, and almost makes the custom dice required. There is also an app you can download for virtual dice, and it’s cheaper then purchasing the physical dice. Just keep this added cost in mind if you are thinking of picking up this game to run for friends. This custom set includes six dice that are broken up into positive and negative. The players abilities and skills make up the positive dice used, while the challenge rating indicated by the GM makes up the negative dice. Upon rolling, compare the results, canceling out failures/successes, and as long as one “success” dice remains, then the skill check is passed. Now, there are other elements such as advantage/setbacks that add narrative flavor rather than impacting the result. This is an interesting mechanic, because it means that one can fail a test, but still roll an advantage. Allowing the question, how does one fail with a positive outcome? Perhaps, the smuggler failed a stealth check, however, with some quick thinking, was able to convince the guards he was simply lost. It may require the GM/players to think on their feet a bit more, but I believe this system will add a more dynamic feel to skill checks, while also adding a more narrative flow to the game. So, though the custom dice may require an additional cost, there is a real value as the game benefits and builds off this system. These advantages can even unlock special abilities in weapons or allow you to use additional force traits. This makes rolling dice more exciting than simply seeing if you succeed in a given task, but what benefits you may gain from doing so with style. Of course the dice also control another key factor in the Star Wars setting, and that is the force.
The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together – Obi-Wan Kenobi
The force is simply magic if you think of Star Wars in a science fantasy light, but it never felt silly on account of how beautifully Obi-Wan described it to the audience in A New Hope. Sure, Han wasn’t buying it, but even he would discover that it was true. All of it. In this regard, the game introduces the concept of Destiny Points as a mechanical incarnation of the fight between the light side and the dark side. At the beginning of each session, each player roles a Force dice. This dice will indicate how many light or dark side points this particular session will have. Let’s say that a game has four players, and they role a total of 3 light side points and 1 dark side point. The total number of Destiny Points for the session is 4 as that is the total rolled by the players. When a player spends a light side point to improve their roll or activate a talent, then that light side point is flipped over and becomes a dark side point, and vise versa. Light side points are used by players to perform acts of heroism or save themselves from poor rolls, however, the GM can use dark side points to do the same for enemies. This creates a natural push-and-pull between the GM and players that represents the force’s nature to attempt balance. I can see players trying to meta-game this system by hording Destiny Points so the GM is unable to use them, but this behavior is ultimately counter to the games design by removing a fun and exciting aspect. The rule book offers GMs tips on how to encourage players to use Destiny Points addressing this issue. Once you have the dice pool system down, and allow the force to flow through you, then the basics of the system you’ve mastered.
The rules we just covered apply to all three books, and it’s not until we get to Species, Careers, and Specializations that the various books begin to diverge. Species plays a key role in the Star Wars RPG as it grants the character their starting ability scores. These ability scores can be upgraded during character creation by spending experience points, however, I can see certain species/career combos becoming prevalent among power gamers. That’s just the trade off you get when games tie power to choices like these, but if they don’t, then the choice almost feels hollow. Every alien would have the same stats and lose what makes them special. In this section, we also see rules for backgrounds and motivations, but what got me most excited about this game was the Career/Specialization interplay. First you choose a career, which you can think of as your class. Each career then contains three specializations that the character can choose from. These specializations have full talent trees to customize your character, but you can also invest additional experience points to unlock as many specializations you wish. Again, the core book has three specializations per career, however, as there are a number of source books on the market for Star Wars, I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t many more. This makes the customization options for a character almost endless. I was also impressed with the careers, as they are pretty unique in there own right before drilling down further in the specializations. Careers like the Consular, Guardian, and Mystic all use the force in different ways. With this many options, building characters in Star Wars will be more akin to the dynamic character creation found in Pathfinder. Though the number of books and sheer amount of options will be intimidating, the depth of the game will keep players invested for many campaigns to come.
Star Wars: Force and Destiny is a large tome with many sections we just don’t have time to cover. As you would expect, sections include armor, weapons, lightsabers, ships, and much more. I was excited to read about lightsabers and the classics are all there, but I was hoping for some new innovative options. Maybe there will be a source book that expands the world of sabers, but I just feel there was more that could be done here, especially since the force users got their own book. That being said, the gear and ships are all geared toward Jedi and force sensitive characters. I assume the other core books will be the same for their realms within the Star Wars universe. Each of these realms not only have their core book, but also a whole line of additional source books. None of these are required and just add extra options for players. That being said, it can be intimidating for new players to jump in, as well as, for a new GMs just due to the amount of material. Honestly, the only draw back I see is the cost. If you have a group that wants to play different career combos from across the core books, you are looking at almost $180 in books, and another $30-$45 in custom dice. (Custom dice are $15, and a table may need 2-3 sets) Again, there is an app for $5 you can download on your phone or a chart included in the book so you can convert normal RPG dice, but these additional costs should be considered. Ultimately, there is almost 8 years of content for players to enjoy, and at its core, you only need one rule book. So, choose the one that speaks to you the most. For me it was Jedi, and that’s what lead me Force and Destiny. I unabashedly love Star Wars, and I’m sure I will be purchasing more books from Fantasy Flight Games soon.
It’s a big galaxy, and reading Force and Destiny gave me the sense that I was taking my first steps into a larger world. That is what tabletop RPGs are all about. So, if you were inspired by Luke’s journey as I was, then you will have a fantastic time with the Star Wars Roleplaying Game which you can find here.
So, are you playing the Star Wars RPG? What do you think of this system? Let us know down below in the comments!