Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obligation in Edge of the Empire

To explore Fantasy Flight's Star Wars Edge of the Empire-Beta roleplaying game (hereinafter EotE-B), let us go through the process of creating a character.  In EotE-B, character creation is decidedly not old school in that it is (mostly) not random.  In other words, one must imagine a character concept first and foremost.  For purposes of our exercise, let us draw inspiration from that beloved Star Wars character Saun Dann.  If any fanboyz experience butthurt over my interpretation of good ol’ Saun, let me know.  Likewise, if anyone who fancies himself an EotE-B rules expert takes issue with my understanding of the rules, leave a comment.
Once concept is considered, each player character has an Obligation, a circumstance that may affect the character in a less than positive way.  Owing money to a Hutt could be considered an Obligation.  Each Obligation has a description and a numeric value.

A table provides a list of Obligation types.  Examples include obsession, bounty, and addiction.  In a concession to 'old school,' a player may make a percentile roll to determine Obligation.  With the Game Master's permission, a player may choose one of the listed Obligations or “make up his own.”  For Saun Dann, let's say he is 'dutybound' to help the Rebellion.  Not only could such a duty be inconvenient, he risks the ire of the Empire because of his association.

The 'value' of an Obligation is based on the number of player characters in the party.  For a party of two PCs, a value of 25 points* each is suggested; for a party of five (which is what we assume for our example), a value of 10 points is recommended.  Regardless of the size of the party, the starting values are designed so that the party's combined value will be between sixty and seventy points (or thereabouts).

A player character can take on additional Obligation – either five or ten points worth – and receive a benefit in terms of experience points or additional starting money.  Given that Saun Dann is a trader by profession, he needs a certain amount of 'stock' with which to trade.  We have Saun Dann assume ten more points of Obligation in order to have an additional 2,500 credits in starting funds.

Once Obligation has been determined for each character in a party, the GM creates an Obligation Check Chart.  Here is the chart for our hypothetical five-character party:

                              Obligation            Character
                              1 - 20                     Saun Dann
                              21 - 30                   Morgan Sunskimmer
                              31 - 40                   Camie
                              41 - 50                   THX-1138
                              51 - 60                   Jaxxon
Each character has ten points of Obligation except for Saun Dann, who has twenty.  In creating a party's Obligation Check Chart, the largest Obligation should be listed first with the remaining Obligations listed in order of descending size.  This is pursuant to the EotE-B update issued on September 4, 2012.  Order among characters with an equal amount of Obligation is supposedly unimportant, but see below.

At the start of any given session, the GM makes a percentile roll and compares it against the Obligation Check Chart.  If the result of the roll exceeds the total Obligation, then the party's Obligations do not affect them during that session.  If the result is equal to or less than the total Obligation, then “something related to their Obligation may introduce complications during the upcoming session.”  In terms of concrete effects, each character's 'Strain Threshold' is reduced for the session.  (Strain Threshold is a 'derived attribute' measuring the amount of “psychological and mental damage” a character is capable of enduring.)  Specifically, the character represented by the Obligation range containing the result of the percentile roll loses two strain while all other characters in the party lose one.  For instance, on a roll of 26, Morgan Sunskimmer would have two less strain than usual and everyone else would have one less.  When rolling doubles, the strain loss is doubled.  For example, with a roll of 33, Camie would be down by four strain and the other characters would be down by two each.

In a party of six or more player characters, the recommended starting Obligation is five points.  In such a situation, there would be characters who could not be the direct subject of a roll of doubles.  Even in our example, Saun Dann, who has twice the Obligation of any other character, has the same chance of being directly afflicted by a roll of doubles.  However, if Morgan Sunskimmer had the same amount of Obligation (i.e., twenty points), she would have twice Saun Dann's chance of being 'hit by doubles.' This offends my sense of fairness.

I would recommend that the double effect be applied when the percentile roll result equals the highest number of any character's 'Obligation range' on the chart.  So, with our example, the double effect would occur on a result of 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60.  In terms of the double effect, each character would have the same risk as any other character, regardless of relative Obligation.

* As of the September 25 update, 20 points each is the suggested value for two player characters.

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