AcadeCon Roundup: Age of Rebellion

One of the great gaming systems Peder and I got to try out at AcadeCon (and the last to talk about in our lineup!) was one that we’ve been wanting to try for quite a while – Star Wars: Age of Rebellion! Really, we were looking to try any of the Star Wars RPG systems, as all are based around similar mechanics, and were stoked to get the chance to play an AoR session.

Image Credit: Fantasy Flight Games

Image Credit: Fantasy Flight Games

Peder and I first learned about the Star Wars RPGs through Campaign, a podcast run by One Shot. Campaign is just one of the many great podcasts One Shot runs, but it’s the one I’m most familiar with, and was a great (and hilarious) way to get introduced to the Star Wars RPGs. Through listening to Campaign, I learned a bit about how the game is played — and a LOT about how absurd and fun it can be when your RPG story regularly goes off the rails…but I digress.

There are currently three different modules of the Star Wars RPG — Edge of the EmpireAge of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny. But even though the one Peder and I were most familiar with prior to playing AoR is the Edge of the Empire module, since that’s the one the Campaign group used, this knowledge still served us well. As I mentioned, gameplay is very similar for all three modules; there are just some different options and basic storylines/timelines within each.

AoR is, to my understanding, meant to be set at about the time that the Rebel Alliance was at its peak (so, close to when Luke, Leia, and Han were entering the picture — or at least, that’s how I choose to imagine it). In our session, we and the other players played as the motley crew of a Corellian YT-1300f freighter — the same type of ship as the Millenium Falcon. Together, we had to work together to stop the evil Director Lucas from releasing edited versions of a certain trilogy of beloved films to suit his “great vision.” We had to destroy the master copies of the edited (read: degraded) films before they were released across the galaxy — and before the original versions were destroyed forever! Much quoting and some George Lucas impressions (even one from me…) ensued.

This storyline was a really fun one, and struck the perfect balance between casual fun and high-stakes action that you want for a one shot session. Some of us played as human characters, and some as aliens (I was a young human woman, Peder was a Bothan); this let us get a feel for the spectrum of different characters you can play within the Star Wars RPG universe. And even in that short time, we were able to pack in a fair amount of character development. I kept on rolling horribly throughout the game, so I used that to style my character as absurdly clumsy and absentminded. And during our first combat encounter, Peder had his character use his knife — he then took this moment and ran with it to make his character super sneaky, sly, and obsessed with stabbing people, and used that element to hilarious effect several times.

Image Credit: The Geek Flag

Image Credit: The Geek Flag

Though the Star Wars RPGs have character sheets and skill mechanics that are similar in some ways to what you’d see in a few other RPGs, what’s really interesting and unique about these games is the dice system. This is because these RPGs use their own special set of dice — instead of using the usual many-sided numbered dice like in most other RPGs, the Star Wars games have different colored dice printed with symbols, which correspond to different aspects of the game. There are green dice, which determine how successful a given action is, yellow dice, which determine how successfully a skill is used, purple dice, which influence an action’s difficulty, and red dice, which are added in for especially difficult actions. There are also blue dice, or boost dice, that can be used to make a skill more effective, and black dice that add in extra threats. The white die you see in the image is a Force die; however, we didn’t use this much, and it’s one that never really seems to get used often, so for our purposes, I won’t go into it for now.

There are a couple of elements involved in how the type and number of dice to be rolled is determined. Beside each skill on the character sheet, there are symbols showing which dice should be rolled when using that skill. In addition to this, the GM will let the character know how many dice to roll for the difficulty level when the character performs an action.

For a quick example–let’s say I’m dressed up in a stormtrooper uniform, trying to bluff my way past a superior officer. I’d likely use my deception skill to do this. We’ll say I’m really good at BS’ing, and that there are three green symbols and a yellow beside my Deception skill. The GM decides this is a reasonably difficult maneuver, so he’ll tell me to add in two purple dice. So I’ll roll a total of six dice (getting to roll huge handfuls of dice is another great feature of this game, incidentally) to get my result. Successes (on the green and yellow die) and failures (on the purple and red die) cancel each other out, as do advantages and threats. So we’ll say that, all told, I’ve rolled well and gotten two successes, one advantage, and one threat. I would then need to describe just how I succeeded, what my advantage was (maybe I’m so good at bluffing that I strike up a friendship with the officer), and what the threat turned out to be (maybe I don’t know the answer to a key question the officer asks and I have to make up something on the fly).

If it sounds complicated, well…it is, a bit. And this isn’t even touching on some of the other elements of the game (which I’ll avoid going into for now for the sake of keeping this simple as I can). Getting used to the way the dice interact with each other can take a little time to figure out, and I was glad that I already knew at least a little about the dice mechanic from listening to Campaign. However, once you get going, it starts to feel pretty natural, and the GM can likely help out if there’s a dice roll with a particularly confusing result.

In any case, I really like this mechanic overall. Due to the way the advantages and threats affect the successes and failures, players have to be more creative and detailed when they explain what’s happening, and this adds a lot of flavor and depth to the story overall, in a way that feels more baked-in than with other systems. As I tend to favor the narrative side of RPG play over the combat element, this is my favorite thing about the Star Wars games, and getting to experience it firsthand was as fun as I imagined. Beyond the compelling story element, we had a great GM and a player group that gelled well, making for a truly enjoyable session as first-time AoR players!

So, have you played AoR or any of the other Star Wars RPGs? How do you feel about the unique mechanics of this game? If you haven’t played it, is it on your list of systems to try?

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