Day 18 – Favorite SF RPG
This would have been a puzzling answer just a few years ago, because there have always been SF RPGs that I’ve really liked. I’ve never played Fading Suns, but I love its setting; same for Blue World. I don’t mind Shadowrun, though I have more fun playing than running it. Cyberpunk 2020 and some of the anime-inspired Fuzion games were pretty cool. Eclipse Phase has one of the best settings I’ve ever seen. I have soft spots for Starblazer Adventures and Mindjammer, some of the crunchiest applications of Fate laden with cool rules and ideas. And this is before even getting into hybrids and borderline cases—is post-apocalyptic SF or fantasy? Where does Deadlands fall? etc.
Another hands-down choice for me, though: it would have to be Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPGs, which I’ve been playing so much that I haven’t had time to keep up posting.
Many of my friends absolutely fell in love with the WEG Star Wars d6 game, where I merely liked it and found it enjoyable enough to pick up some of its sourcebooks. The system is fast and cinematic and very evocative of Star Wars, though I vastly prefer WEG’s Torg system to it, cumbersome as some of it can be. d20 never, ever felt like anything more than D&D in space to me; it had some solid mechanics and introduced decent ideas (especially in SAGA, which had some fantastic supplements), but I still think the restrictive class/level mechanics and miniatures focus don’t fit at all with the Star Wars mentality—it’s kind of hard to “rule of cool” cinematic action when you’re counting squares, and limited by the options your class gives you.
But when I first took a serious look at Edge of the Empire, I knew—they’d done it. The rules are fast and cinematic thanks to using special “Star Wars Roleplaying Dice”—you roll a pool of dice determined by Attribute + Skill, adding Difficulty dice, then it’s a simple icon-matching where you subtract your failures/disadvantages from your successes/advantages. (Situational modifiers are just more color-coded dice you add to your pool.) Characters have a tight power curve as Attributes can’t be raised after character creation, save for using cybernetics, though there’s a satisfying amount of crunch as you raise your skills and start buying your way through your class’s Talent Tree (which is taking the idea of feat chains or Exalted’s charm trees).
The rules are a good hybrid of old and new; you can see a lot of influence from Fate (how it handles range zones and minion groups, for starters) as well as *World (degrees of success), and even the D&D Next playtest (situational modifiers as additional dice rather than numerical penalties). Overall, what you end up with is a game that runs as fast as a rules-light game, but has the crunch and complexity of a rules-medium game. And it’s crunch that makes sense; no fiddly modifiers or rules for how to tread water. Instead, it’s just you and your dice pool; everything else modifiers the dice pool or your results after a success. Fast, powerful, cinematic, most of all a game that’s fun to play but still feels like an epic Star Wars game.
For years, my “cruising speed” was around White Wolf-level of system complexity, something where the system blends medium crunch with decent speed and efficiency. At this point, it’s switched over to Edge of the Empire, as evident by the fact 100% of the games I’m in are Edge of the Empire/Force and Destiny.