Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG (Beginner’s Game)
By Rocky Helton AKA @LaffinJoker
I’d like to start by saying, “Thank you Fantasy Flight Games!”, because they showed the whole entire RPG industry how to do a product aimed at teaching or introducing players a new game the RIGHT way! I picked up the Force and Destiny Beginner’s Game for $30 from my local game shop and although it can be picked up for cheaper online I regret nothing. Not only has Fantasy Flight Games released an amazing Beginner Game, they have also released what I believe to be the best RPG system out there right now. I don’t say that lightly, I’ve played/ran a large variety of RPG’s and after this alphabetical list of them I’m going to show you why this one is the best; Dread, Dresden Files RPG (sort of a prequel to Fate Core), Dungeon Crawl Classics, Dungeons & Dragons from Advanced to Fifth Edition (with Fifth being my favorite), Fate Core, Fiasco, Mouse Guard, Pathfinder, Warhammer Fantasy RPG (A Gathering Storm), Wheel of Time RPG (based on D&D 3.5 really) and now of course- Star Wars: Force and Destiny. You can see there are some really great games there, but I’m going to show you why this one is the best!
The ironic part is that until now I hadn’t got into Star Wars but this RPG system is so good it sucked me in and I’m a better, or at least happier, gamer/Star Wars fan for it. This “Beginner Game” comes with a lot;
- 1 Adventure Book
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Introduction Sheet (which looks like the opening credits from a Star Wars movie)
- 1 Map (Beautiful and useful)
- 4 Character Folios (these are high quality easy to read character sheets with a background story, character stats as well as upgrades)
- 14 Custom Dice (which make this game what it is but I’ll get to that)
- 8 Destiny Tokens
- 55 Character/NPC/Adversary Tokens
I started reading the “jump right in and play as they learn the rules” Adventure Book and I thought, “What better way to see if this works then to give it to a person who has played a lot of RPG’s but never ran a game themselves and see if they can teach us using only this Beginner Game.” Each encounter of the Adventure Book introduces a new concept and explains the basics so that the players and GM can all learn by doing. The first encounter teaches about unopposed skill checks, the second teaches about opposed skill checks, the third teaches about basic combat and the fourth introduces the use of the force and then the game opens up a little and lets the Game Master continue brilliantly. It’s like when you’re a kid learning to ride a bike. You start with training wheels, then the trainers come off and a parent pushes you and before long they let you go and before long it’s an absolute free for all.
Players take on the roles of force sensitives that can manipulate the force as well as wielding light sabers (two of them start out with light sabers), blasters, grenades or even just fists. My group had so much fun (with a GM who had never ran anything before) that we came back the next day and reran it for some of the same people as well as adding in some new ones. Then the following day we continued where the Beginner Game left off with a story I had made up that continued using the additional Adversaries that were included in the Beginner Game (but not in the adventure). Not a single person walked away from the table wanting to play any other RPG but Force and Destiny. In typical GM fashion that night (actually both nights) I went home and thought of cool story ideas that were inspired by everything that’s included in this Beginner Game Box. But allow me to get to the nitty-gritty of why this RPG system is the best.
One of the downfalls of many RPGs is the “dead air”. What do I mean by dead air? A lot of RPG’s will have a target difficulty that as a player you have to tie or exceed to be successful or pass. An example from D&D is a player attempting to hit an elf wearing plate mail. The player rolls their attack and waits for the response from the DM to see if they hit. That player needed a result of 18 or higher but what if the creature has natural armor or armor that takes into account the Dexterity modifier of the creature. Now the player will have to wait for some of the midrange rolls to know if they hit or not. If the player hit then they figure up which dice their damage does and then rolls them and adds any relevant modifiers.
That’s pretty typical for how an attack works in most D&D versions. What about another great RPG, Fate? Not much difference, only the dice. I have a Good +3 Swords skill and I roll 4 Fate Dice and add or subtract the results (Fate Dice have blanks, +’s and –‘s on each face) and tell the GM the result who had to roll 4 Fate Dice and add them to the defender’s defense score. We don’t have to roll damage though, just look at the difference (called shifts) between my attack and my opponents defense result and if my attack is higher then they take damage. This is a little streamlined then D&D because there is no roll for damage but there is a roll for defense. Waiting for the results from your DM/GM is dead air and brings the game to a standstill as well as reducing the player immersion.
In this game you build a dice pool of positive dice (ability, proficiency and boost dice) and negative dice (difficulty, setback and challenge dice) and roll them all at once. Positive dice only have blanks, successes, advantages, both or sometimes triumphs on them and negative dice only have blanks, failures, threats or sometimes despair. Failures cancel successes and threats cancel advantages. If there is at least one success after cancelling then you are successful (you don’t have to ask the GM, you already know) and regardless of success if there are threats or advantages that haven’t cancelled then you have a really cool story telling tool at your disposal. This Advantages/Threats mechanic lets players role play as little or as much as they want. If they want to role play then they may lean towards story Advantages or Threats but if they prefer to roll play then they can lean on the mechanical benefits and most players will come out of their shell (this isn’t easy in any RPG for new players or players that don’t know each other) and do a combination of both. One of the best things about Force and Destiny is that an enemy’s defense (the negative dice that will be rolled) is determined by how you’re attacking and your location in relation to the enemy. These are things that you don’t need the GM to tell you, you decide. So if you’re using a blaster pistol at short range (maximum range is Medium) then you use your Ranged (Light) skill to determine which positive dice you add and then look at the range to determine how many purple difficulty dice.
|Range from Enemy||Difficulty Dice|
|Engaged (melee range)||1 purple + 1 purple for using a light ranged weapon while engaged
Melee attacks with a melee weapon (such as a light saber, vibroknife or fists) are always two purple difficulty dice (read that again because this makes the game flow so well, ALWAYS 2 purple). Now before you roll you may have some boost dice (or suggest a reason you should have a boost dice) or setback dice (the GM can give you these) and then you roll and find out the results. That’s it and I know it doesn’t sound like a lot to have to have a GM/DM tell you if you hit or not but it really takes away from the smooth flow of the game and removes the immersion of the players as well as the GM. This leads to players having a tendency to not describe their attacks very well because of the uncertainty of whether they are going to hit or not and then when they do they need to roll their damage as well (in some systems). With this you describe what happens after you roll and know whether it was successful as well as whether there were advantages or threats. I like this too because say I successfully hit and I generated an advantage. Now I get a little more control over the story. It may be something as simple as my blaster hit him and the pain is making it hard for him to focus so the next attack against him gains a boost dice, that’s a mechanical benefit with a role playing justification.
This brings me to another strength this RPG has; there are endless story options for advantages (you pick up a disturbance in the force and realize that a dark side force sensitive is on their way here as reinforcements, we might want to finish these guys off quickly) and threats (you slip in the snow and fall prone) generated but it doesn’t stop there. It can also be combined with mechanical benefits (like a boost dice to the next attack, a setback dice to an attack or taking an extra maneuver). This is normally talked about briefly between the players and GM until people are happy with the interpretation of the dice results.
Besides being set in the Star Wars universe (which I now love) this RPG has a lot to offer. The dice pool/difficulty system lends itself well to the system and the advantages/threats makes for some excellent story telling/role playing opportunities. If you don’t already have this game, go buy the Beginner Game, your gaming group will thank you.
A second look: By Ryan AKA @Teleporta
TelePorta’s Faculty Review: Star Wars Force and Destiny Beginner Game
Those of you whom have listened to me on The RPG Academy long enough, should find it no surprise that fantasy is my favorite genre. Then it should also come to no surprise that I am a fan of Star Wars. I was unlucky, and missed out on the first trials of the Star Wars RPG the faculty played. But, luck not being totally empty, I recently won the Star Wars Force and Destiny Beginner Game from @NTMTOPodcast (NeverTellMeTheOdds). The following is my review of the starter set, which I find should be fun for even the casual Star Wars fan:
RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX
If this is your first Star Wars RPG (Role Playing Game) game you own, like it is mine, this has everything you need! An introduction to RPG gaming for those completely new, the signature Star Wars introduction for the first session, GM’s (Game Master’s) adventure book, 4 pre-generated characters, basic rule book, a double sided map, dice, and tokens for characters and NPCs (Non Playable Characters) alike.
Everything is labeled so that you progress through the material in the right order, and if you choose to simply be a player, the adventure is not spoiled. If you are a fan of a great story and plot hook, it is hard to “stay on target” and not jump right to the adventure book. If you want to get right into the character(s), finding out what Force powers you get to play with is just as hard, as you start from humble beginnings and it takes time and experience before your chosen PC (Player Character) can use them.
Any Youngling needs to heed the words of Yoda, and “have patience,” because it is all wonderful, and Fantasy Flight Games did a wonderful job at creating initial excitement when they put this box together.
A LOOK AT THE ART
The front of the box depicts a fight scene with a pair of the new characters, one using a blaster, the second a lightsaber. The sides have familiar faces from the movies, Yoda and Obi-Wan, Vader and Palpatine, blending the old story with the new one you are about to play. Even a glance at the map reflects scene jumps from the movies, distant shots of entire planets, forests or the Jedi Temple.
The first page of material out of the box grabs your attention, with a scene of some young Jedi training at the top of the page, and a purple Twi’lek wielding the iconic lightsaber, maybe using force move with her other hand, in the bottom corner. The remainder of the material continues to capture your attention with strong characters in the spotlight, dark and mysterious backgrounds reminiscent of the vastness of space, filling the edges of the pages. I love this concept and I feel like it sets a wonderful tone for this story and setting among the Star Wars universe.
The pre-generated characters provide a good balance of play styles, offering diversity in gender, species, characteristics, skills, and backgrounds. Even the fighting and skills are balanced; if the players buy into the concept of the Force binding all things together, as told by Qui-Gon Jinn, then they should have success on their adventure.
The developers also made a point to challenge even the most avid fan’s opinion of a certain species. Through the movies and The Clone Wars cartoon, we watched a particular species continually portrayed as the villain. Yet, this adventure makes that same race one of the heroes. From a role-playing perspective, I find this contradiction a welcomed test, even if this character isn’t my favorite of the four.
Anyone who has watched the Star Wars saga has seen that there is more to the story than just entertaining battle after entertaining battle. That is fun, and those fights are certainly here in the adventure, but there is always more to the story.
The adventure makes sure to take this into account and utilizes several encounters (how the story is broken up-think “different scenes”) that use the environment or forces the players to rely on more than just a “good blaster.” These types of encounters are my favorite, as they cause you to think, and can be just as fun as slicing Darth Maul in half.
THE DICE AND MECHANICS
Every dice roll a player ever makes, in any RPG, boils down to probability, and most often in game mechanics, is translated to “luck.” The dice that come with the box set are completely unique to Star Wars, yet display this perfectly. Even in the event of a rolled failure, there are still advantages that can be used in your favor, or to benefit your allies. “Balance in the force” as Master Yoda might say.
Although it is a small thing, don’t overlook the symbols the developers used on the dice. Each one is taken from a picture in the Star Wars universe. My favorites are the “Triumph” as it reflects Luke’s famous artistic pose from A New Hope, and the “Threat,” since it can be none other than the Death Star.
THE BASIC RULE BOOK
This rulebook does exactly what it needs to do. It explains everything covered in the adventure in detail, and simultaneously gives the GM hints and tips to make the mechanics operate more smoothly. There are examples for each facet of the game, just in case it is overwhelming for new players and GMs.
Toward the end, there is a small “adversary list” for the GM that wants to take the game into his/her own hands and extend the adventure. Or perhaps run a second session before or after downloading the free follow-up adventure from Fantasy Flights website. Whether a new GM, or a seasoned Star Wars RPG veteran, this rule book is functional, clearly explained, and concise, which is great so it doesn’t slow down game play too much.
I haven’t mentioned one negative thing about this beginner’s box, and you won’t find it here either! I feel like this box set gives you everything you need to sit down and start playing in just a few minutes. I’d bet it will even convert a few players to permanent fans of the Star Wars universe. If you are looking for a new RPG, or want to get into Star Wars RPGs in particular, make sure to pick up Star Wars: Force and Destine Beginner Game from Fantasy Flight Games!