Welcome to Take Inspiration, the regular column where we look at other game systems and steal… I mean GET INSPIRED… by various elements and apply them to our D&D games.
This week, we’re looking at one of my favorite non-D&D game systems, Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. While its implementation of the Star Wars property is one of the best in any gaming industry, its game system is so well-made that they recently stripped the Star Wars out of it so they could sell it on its own as the generic system Genesys. It’s somewhat novel approach to storytelling was systematic; a story-based approach was not just recommended, it was baked into the rules themselves.
So what can we force-lift from this marvelous game system to bring into D&D?
At the beginning of each game session, EotE players each roll a special die that determines the pool of Light Side and Dark Side points in the group’s Destiny Pool. A player can, at any time, spend a Light Side point to upgrade the dice on a roll, increase the difficulty of an NPC’s roll, or to introduce a stroke of luck (e.g. “Oh hey, it’s a good thing we brought this rope” when no rope was previously mentioned, or “That was a tough fight… Oh hey look, this creature dropped a medpack”). GMs can spend a Dark Side point to upgrade an NPC roll, increase the difficulty of a PC’s roll, or to drop misfortune on the players (e.g. “That door you’re hiding behind? Well that last fireball just destroyed its inferior-quality hinges, so it falls away from you, leaving you in the open). Any time a Light Side point is spent, it becomes a Dark Side point, and vice versa.
How do we do this in D&D? We don’t have a special Destiny die, but we certainly have plenty of dice to spare. Depending on the number of players, you may want to use a different die in different circumstances. For a lower number of players, you may just want to use a d4, with 1-2 granting Dark Side, or Bad Luck, points, and 3-4 granting Good Luck Points. For more players, you might want to use a d6, where 1-2 are Bad Luck, 5-6 are Good Luck, and 3-4 does nothing.
What can we do with these points? This is again up to the DM. A strict DM can simply say that a point applies advantage or disadvantage, and leave it at that (though I wholeheartedly recommend still allowing Stroke of Luck outcomes, as it encourages your players to think beyond their minis and ability cards). A more lenient DM might allow players to do more with their points, like regaining spell levels, granting auto-hits, converting a hit to a crit, or allowing otherwise impossible feats.
Personally, I’ve run a game where I allowed practically any request on a spent point, provided there were consequences. In one case, a player wanted to wipe out all the monsters in the room, and I agreed to it… but didn’t warn him ahead of time when I killed his character in the process. Of course, I let him come back to life, because that would have been a terrible thing to do otherwise, but he came back changed. And hey, I took the opportunity to introduce story elements in his “afterlife” that will come back later in the game. It was a memorable experience for everyone at the table, especially that player.
Edge of the Empire starts off assuming that every character owes something to someone. There are many different possibilities, like owing a crime boss a debt, having an addiction, or family ties that require time and/or money. These problems then have the capability to come up in any given session; at the beginning of the session, the GM rolls to determine if someone’s Obligation makes itself felt during that particular session, and if so, which one. It’s a great way to inspire a GM to add twists and turns that may not have been anticipated by anyone at the table, especially since the GM didn’t even know ahead of time!
Anyone who has created a flawed level 1 D&D character is familiar with this kind of approach to character creation, as characters with problems are not a thing unique to Star Wars. However, Edge of the Empire provides systemization for it, which can be applied to D&D as well.
The system and tables in the Edge of the Empire core book can pretty much be lifted exactly as they are and used in D&D exactly as they are, provided you follow the recommended amounts for how many obligation points each character should have. If you don’t have this book, however, it can be simplified to one stat: 40-50. Have each character determine the nature of their obligation, then assign them a relative value from 5-20 depending on the severity. You should aim to have the total obligation for the entire party be between 40-50. A player can have more than one obligation, so long as your total isn’t going above that 50 limit.
From these values, you should be able to make a table with each player’s obligations on it, as shown below. At the beginning of each session, simply roll a d100, and if the result falls on a player’s obligation, that obligation is triggered at some point during the session. Of course, a DM can feel free to force a specific obligation at any time; that’s what DM screens are for, right?
01-15 Josie’s alcoholism
16-25 Ohad’s blackmailer
26-30 Ohad’s owed favor to Lord Farquad
31-45 The bounty on Certus’ head
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the EotE rules system is the idea that any given roll can have side effects. Even if your roll is a success, other symbols on the dice may come up that there is a disadvantage to your action; vice versa, if the roll is a failure, it may still come with an advantage. For example, perhaps you roll a critical success with two disadvantages; the shot may take that guard through the heart, but the GM decides that he falls off the wall and lands in front of the Guard Captain, alerting the whole garrison to your presence. Or maybe you fail on your Perception roll to find the critical clue you’re looking for, but the fact that you’re looking so hard spurs the guilty party to flee, tipping everyone off anyway.
I LOVE this idea SO MUCH. D&D is typically a little too black-and-white/no-grey-areas when it comes to roll-results, and introducing a little bit of variance can really change up the game and prompt DMs to think about other possible consequences of any given PC action.
The simplest way of introducing this system into a D&D game is to do the following:
- On a natural 2 (which is almost always a failure), the roll is a failure, but something good still happens.
- If a roll is an exact match (i.e. the modified result is a 15 and the DC is 15), the roll is a success, but something bad also happens.
If you really want to embrace wildness and let your players have some say in the game, you should follow the Edge of the Empire recommendation and let your players come up with the positive/negative twists. If they have trouble coming up with something, or if it’s just a little too wild and needs reigning in, then that is the time for you the DM to adjudicate and come to the rescue.
What do you think? Any other aspects of Edge of the Empire that could be brought to D&D? Are there other game systems you’d like to see
ripped off elements of in D&D? Let me know via Twitter or the comments!