Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, or How Fantasy Flight Helped Me Love RPGs Again

I suppose this will be a sort of review of Edge of the Star Wars: Empire. But also just a gushing love letter to it. You've been warned...

I (Firestone) don't have much experience with RPGs. I never played when I was a kid, and I never played in high school. It wasn't that I thought it was dumb or that I was too cool. I just didn't know anyone who did. I figured I'd just never play.

Then about five years ago I was asked to join some friends and acquaintances in a D&D 3.5 game. The DM was a great guy who had a HUGE world fleshed out, with lots of pieces from other RPGs cobbled onto it. You really felt that you were just a visitor in this world, and that there were plenty of adventures before you got here, and there would be plenty of them once you left. 

But as I soon realized, your RPG experience is only as good as the people around the table with you. It was a mix of people I really liked along with some who kinda got on my nerves. Plus, almost everyone else had been playing together for a while, so there were lots of in-jokes and things I just didn't understand.

And did you know it's possible for someone to have analysis paralysis in an RPG? WELL IT IS... [slams head down onto the table repeatedly]

All that to say that when the group started to dissolve, I didn't fight very hard for it to stay together. And I figured that was my one and only time I'd play an RPG. They just weren't for me. 


Last year Fantasy Flight announced they were rebooting their Star Wars RPG. They planned to release it in major "waves": The first would deal with the fringes of the universe--the rogues, smugglers, and ne'er-do-wells. The second would deal with the rebellion we all know and love. And the third would focus on those who use the Force--Jedis and so forth. 

It sounded cool. I thought my kids might like it one day but my one-and-only RPG experience wasn't great...

I found a good deal on the Beginner Box, so I picked it up and I liked what I saw. Then I won a copy of the core rulebook in a contest on the Geek--that was awesome! So some friends and I started up a group, just to see if we liked it. And someone else offered to be the DM, which was great, since I knew that if I ever did run a game with my kids, I'd be the DM. 

I like all of the people in the group, I like the DM, and I LOVE this game. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be: cinematic. Our group is a company of three bounty hunters who have joined forces to take down bigger bounties. We were joined early on by a doctor looking for his wife, who's mostly horrified by the way our group gets things done. But he's stuck with us, and we with him, and it's so fun.  

Both the DM and we players hand-wave away a few of the rules--the ones that slow us down, basically. Nothing major. But we do have a couple of thermal detonators, and we probably shouldn't...

But who cares?! It's a blast! (Oh, poor choice of words.) We get into INSANE situations, and somehow manage to get out of them. We laugh constantly. We shoot with supernatural accuracy. We snap necks indiscriminately. One guy has managed to take four critical injuries to his legs. FOUR!

It's actually caused me some problems as a reviewer. We play every other week, so I have half as much time to play our review games. And I don't care. I'm probably driving Jeremiah crazy, and I'm truly sorry for that. But my experiences on Edge of the Empire night are why I play games.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the system is how it uses dice. As with many RPGs you're rolling dice to determine whether things succeed or not. What's different about this system is that there are Successes and Failures on the dice, but there are also symbols that stand for Advantage and Disadvantage. So you're rolling lots of interesting combinations. 

For instance, you might succeed on taking a shot, but you also rolled a Disadvantage. So the DM might determine that your gun jams for a round, or an errant shot started a fire in the room. 

Maybe you failed the shot, but rolled some Advantage. So perhaps you shot the control panel on the wall, bringing a door down and delaying reinforcements for a round. Or you can add a certain die to your next try to up your chances of success. 

I'm sure some people don't like the dice system but I love it. To coin a cliched phrase: The possibilities are endless. 

Basically, the game fosters, rewards, and encourages storytelling. I'm not constantly checking charts. Or worried that I have one grenade too many and now I somehow can't walk. Or afraid to try something. I might fail, but with lots of Advantage. What might happen to the story then?

I'll end with this. We played last week, and our DM, mindful that it was Halloween week, had us check out a derelict ship sending out a distress signal in a busy shipping lane. We got there, and things weren't...right. Noises in the ductwork. Blood trails. Shadows in the mist ahead. We finally made our way to the bridge and read the captain's log. It turns out this freighter had encountered a ship named the Nostromo...

Yes, the DM mashed together Star Wars with my favorite horror movie. Yes it worked well. And we, of course, surprised him, too. After one of the "small" aliens wrecked two of us with little effort, he expected us to try and sneak our way back to our ship using stealth. Instead, we went all Ripley on those suckas and fought and killed every one of them. We all went home with big grins on our faces. I'll remember that for a long time. And that's what Edge of the Empire does: create memories.

This isn't a traditional review, but you can consider it one anyway. If you have any interest in RPGing or Star Wars, check this out. I'm having a ridiculous amount of fun. And I can't wait for my kids to be old enough to start a campaign with them. Combine the right group, the right DM, and this system, and Edge of the Empire is a perfect 10 for me.