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Star Wars GMing tips

October 1, 2013

By Ralph McQuarrie

Since reviewing Edge of the Empire, I’ve been playing and running and watching Star Wars almost exclusively. I’ve learned a few things and wanted to share them here for gamers looking to both run or play. I think the system does a great job at providing the tools to have a great game, but ultimately I’ve learned that a great Edge game is more of a conversation than any other RPG I’ve ever played. Due to the narrative and somewhat improvisational nature of the dice results, it can be a lot of pressure on the GM to come up with what each roll means. Once the players are used to the symbols on the dice and what cancels what, I would encourage the GMs to start a conversation, or maybe more clearly a negotiation of what the result means with their players; especially if nothing immediately comes to mind for the GM. This keeps players involved and invested in the action, even when it’s not their turn, they can actively try to come up with ways to spend advantage or threat. The conventional wisdom is players spend advantage, and GMs spend threat. I find it much more engaging for everyone if both parties suggest possible events for success or failure, advantage or threat. Encourage creative interpretations of the roll, and if the suggestion is either too weak or too powerful for the result, maybe modify it a bit but try to incorporate player ideas as much as possible.

This game has the potential for nearly constant and frenetic action, but to keep the pace exciting the GM needs to keep some things in mind. One concept that really stuck with me from reading the FATE rpg core book is deciding when to call for a roll. I’ve found the best practice is to make a roll when failure is interesting. If you have the group in a part of an adventure where they absolutely have to succeed at a task or it derails the whole plot, don’t call for a roll. It just happens. For instance, the spaceport is exploding and the party has to find a ship to escape. Is there a suitable ship available? I would certainly hope so, otherwise the PCs blow up with no options, no need for a roll there. How fast can these smugglers, bounty hunters and thieves go through a preflight check and get that bird off the deck? Now it’s time for a roll. Does failure mean they die? Hopefully not. I would suggest failure in this case means they are able to get off the deck, but maybe some systems are damaged in the process, i.e. shields, weapons, sensors. Threat on a roll like this could cause system strain to the ship as the pre-flight routine is rushed; advantage could mean power is routed very effectively and could provide boost dice on subsequent checks to power up other systems or out maneuver pursuing craft.

SWE05-book-leftIn my frenzy to learn about all things Star Wars, I’ve rewatched all the movies (even Phantom Menace. That is dedication!) and have watched most of the Clone Wars animated series. Something I noticed is that it almost always starts in media res, or in the middle of the action. This is great advice for an RPG session as well! Set the scene with either a crawl, or a bit of box text, then jump right in to the action! Both the Beginner Game, and the adventure from Free RPG Day start in just this fashion. In the Beginner game, the group is being pursued by a band of vibro-ax-wielding Gamorreans, and have to duck in to a cantina to try and get the jump on them. In the Free RPG day adventure, the party is making their getaway from a successful heist and are being pursued by gangsters on swoop bikes! A droid is driving their getaway vehicle when POW, in an explosion of sparks the driver is destroyed and the party is veering into oncoming speeder traffic. What do you do?

Interestingly the first Edge adventure book, Beyond the Rim, did not start this way, and I think it suffered for it. I will do my best to make sure future sessions with that group start with more urgency.

Hope these tips help you run or play in an awesome Edge of the Empire game! If you haven’t tried it yet, check out the beginner game, and start adventuring a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away!


Categories: Adventure, RPGs, Star Wars, Tips
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