Age of Rebellion Review
Do not move along! This is the book you’ve been looking for! The Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook is the latest release in Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG, and it is awesome! Entirely compatible with Edge of the Empire, it is a complete stand-alone RPG, but since it uses the same system and almost all the same mechanics it can mesh seamlessly with an existing Edge game.
Since it is designed to be played by itself, certain redundancies are necessary for people who are new to the system Fantasy Flight has developed. The first introductory chapter is almost verbatim copy of Edge, but with some very nice subtle tweeks to the font and table colors for a more attractive and readable look.
The second chapter for character creation is largely similar, but introduces the concept of Duty. This is similar to Obligation from Edge of the Empire, but a bit of a departure from it as well. I’m still a little confused by it, and will need to reread the sections in both the player and GM chapters. In Edge obligation is used as a party-wide threshold to determine how notorious/wanted/criminal you are. You could take on more obligation for benefits in game, but the higher the obligation, the more likely some complication would arise during your current objective. Also, high obligation meant it was easier to deal with gangsters and black market merchants, and more difficult to meet with legitimate members of business or governments. Duty is similar, in that you add each PCs numeric value together to find the total Duty value for the party, and that each Duty a PC takes on should inform in-game choices. The difference is, the more Duty you take on, the better. Once the party Duty score reaches 100, your contribution rank goes up by one and your duty resets to 0. Each time you make a significant contribution to the rebellion, your contribution rank increases, symbolizing you rising through the ranks in the rebellion and mechanically it gives the party access to more powerful rebellion resources (more/better/bigger ships, vehicles, weapons). Similar to Obligation, the GM makes a Duty check to see if something related to that character’s Duty will come up this session. New to Age, if Duty is triggered, all PCs gain +1 wounds and the PC whose duty was rolled gains +2. If the GM rolls doubles on the percentile dice (66 for instance) the PCs gain +2 and the triggering PC gains +4. Four additional wounds is a lot, when many characters max out at 12 or so. I don’t know if I like this mechanic or not. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
I like the idea of Obligation and Duty, but in playing Edge, I’ve found it very difficult to integrate Obligation to the narrative. I think Duty can be a really cool aspect of character creation and their place in the Star Wars universe, but how or why they gain more Duty is not abundantly clear. Not only that, but the book mentions using it as a threshold similar to Obligation to judge whether the party would be able to meet with a high-ranking member of the brass, or if the Duty score was too high, whether a neutral governor would risk being seen with the party. The only problem with this is, if you’re an experienced group of rebels with a contribution rank of 4, but a current Duty score of 20, it doesn’t make any narrative sense that you wouldn’t be able to speak with high-profile rebels, or that notorious rebels would be suddenly OK to meet with now that the current score is below 50. I’m not sure how this will integrate in to my games, or if you award duty at the end of a big mission. I’ll have to keep an eye on the forums to see how others are dealing with it.
On to the character creation options! There is some retreading of options here (necessary), but also some new options that would be completely compatible with Edge, just as races in Edge would work for Age. Repeats from the Edge core book are Bothans, Droids, and Humans. They also include Duros which were introduced in the Explorer’s Sourcebook Enter the Unknown. New options include Gran, Ithorian, Mon Calamari, and Sullustan. Gran are apparently pacifists and start with a rank in Charm or Negotiation and thanks to their 3 eyes remove up to two setback dice for perception checks. Ithorians start with a rank in Survival and have a natural attack, the Ithorian Bellow that causes Stun damage with blast 3, but causes the PC 3 strain to use. Mon Calamari start with one rank in Knowledge (Education) and are Amphibious so they can breath and move easily thru water. Sullustans start with a rank in Astrogation and one rank of the Skilled Jockey talent (removes a setback die from Piloting checks).
The Careers and Specializations borrow a little bit from Edge and some Edge sourcebooks, but for the most part offer new and diverse choices. Essentially if the Specialization has the same name, it is exactly the same skill tree. In Age the choices are Ace (Driver, Gunner, Pilot), Commander (Commodore, Squadron Leader, Tactician), Diplomat (Ambassador, Agitator, Quartermaster), Engineer (Mechanic, Saboteur, Scientist), Soldier (Commando, Medic, Sharpshooter), Spy (Infiltrator, Scout, Slicer), and a new universal specialization called Recruit. The repeats from Edge are Driver (from Enter the Unknown), Pilot (Smuggler), Mechanic (Technician), Scout (Explorer), and Slicer (Technician). The recruit specialization can be bought in to for any character, and is ideal for social or knowledge specialists as it give them fairly cheap access to combat skills to represent basic rebel training so they aren’t useless in a firefight.
I generally favor the Specializations that blend skills to give a PC a lot of options in play. Some of the new ones I found compelling are Medic (though medicine is actually a career skill for soldier as well) as it allows you to not just be the “cleric” of the party but gives you weapon skills and a few knowledge skills as well. Also Quartermaster is a nice blend of diplomatic and shady “face” skills. Add recruit, and you have a very well-rounded character.
Once you’ve got the party assembled, you choose what Rebellion resources you start out with. The book suggests either a commandeered Lambda-Class shuttle, a squadron of Y-wings (1 for every 2 PCs, they’re the 2-seat variant), or a base of operations on a particular system. If the party chooses the base, they also gain 1,000 credits per PC in starting gear. This last option makes me want to make use of the Suns of Fortune book and start a Corellian rebel cell as a basis for a campaign.
Throughout the book there are a lot of great resources about character development, including a helpful table to roll on for NPC quirks to make them memorable. With the exception of “hates droids” the majority of them could be used for NPCs in any RPG.
The majority of the equipment is rehashed from Edge, but here again the table for equipment is much easier to read and condensed on to one table for ranged weapons. one for melee. one for armor, and one for all the other gear. The combat chapter is largely the same (again with nicer tables), but the vehicle chapter is much more in line with the original trilogy. You’ll find stats for the T-47 airspeeders (the ones with tow cables that wrap up AT-ATs on Hoth), AT-ATs, cloud cars, AT-STs, X-wings, A-wings, B-wings, Y-wings, TIEs, interceptors, bombers, defenders, shuttles, corvettes, cruisers, dreadnoughts, and even star destoyers! I think ultimately the climax of an Age campaign should be a pitched battle between a Mon Calamari cruiser and an Imperial Star Destroyer.
The Force section is somewhat expanded in this book, including a new universal specialization the Force-Sensitive Emergent. This is a new skill tree that gives access to new talents, and represents the rebellion’s efforts to shelter force-sensitives especially in the wake of Luke’s success at the battle of Yavin. It also introduces two new force powers Enhance and Foresee. Enhance allows PCs to roll a force die along with a skill check to influence the outcome in their favor, or be tempted by the dark side to do so. It also introduces the force leap, which costs a full action at first, but allows for some serious repositioning if the PC invests a lot of XP in it. Also Forsee can be used for vague hints from the GM, as well as a little bump in initiative order. The more XP invested, the more powerful this becomes for not only the PC but his allies as well.
Towards the back of the book, the GM chapter provides a lot of ideas for adventures, as well as tips for running the game and a lot of great advice for running any RPG table. In combination with the Galaxy chapter, there is plenty of adventure seeds for many game sessions. There is also an extensive chapter on the history of the rebellion which can provide a lot of backstory for more casual and even dedicated Star Wars fans. The Adversaries chapter details stats for both Rebels and Imperials, including several variants of Stormtroopers. The adventure at the very end of the book does well to provide a solid structure with plot points, without railroading the characters in to a particular path. It also allows some flexibility to customize the mission to cater to the PCs Duty and personalize it a bit.
Overall, I’m very impressed. If you are a Star Wars fan, and you’ve been on the fence about this system up until now, it’s time to jump off. This is the book you’ve been looking for.