Core Rulebook cover

It Builds Character #5: Star Wars – Edge of The Empire

Welcome to the fifth in an occasional series called It Builds Character in which I use the character generation rules of various tabletop role-playing games to create a character and attempt to flesh them out into something distinctive.

It Builds Character #5: Star Wars – Edge of the Empire

The Game

For the latest entry in the series, I’ll be using the rules of Fantasy Flight Games’ Edge of the Empire RPG, which is set in the Star Wars galaxy. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you have at least a passing familiarity with that setting.

Edge of the empire is one of three compatible games set in the Star Wars galaxy (The other two are Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny.) Edge of the Empire deals with those individuals who make their living in the shadier corners of the galaxy away from the prying eyes of the Empire, and aren’t necessarily connected to the Rebel Alliance. The default time line for this particular game is shortly after the destruction of the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin at the end of Episode IV: A New Hope but before the Battle of Hoth seen at the start of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

The Character

I have a sketchy idea of a character concept, so let’s see how well this system deals with creating them. Per the introduction to the Character Creation chapter of the book, this is a ten-step process, and as with earlier “it builds character” entries, the rule book itself puts the emphasis on narrative concepts over game-mechanic based ones, though we’ll definitely cover the mechanics as we go. I’m intrigued to see how the specialized Star Wars dice fit into this.

Step 1: Determine Character Concept and Background

While this step, to my mind, should obviously come almost entirely from the players vision, the rule book does present a few guidelines for getting that vision into playable character form. I want the character to be a doctor who is fleeing from a crime syndicate after botching surgery on the head honcho’s right hand man. It’s not much, but it is a hook to hang deeper characterization on.

The rule book first asks the player to consider their social background, and presents four broad strata to use. since one of those strata “The High And Mighty” actually mentions the idea of the character as a doctor (which I didn’t know going in) having fallen on hard times, I read that and see if anything in the descriptive capsule makes sense for the character.

The next section here asks why the character has found themselves on the murkier fringes of the galaxy far, far away. Since I already have the crime syndicate and botched surgery concept, I guess that’s already resolved for me, with the simple motivation of “run away!” so as not to be killed by vengeful criminals. Since we already have that established, I think we can move on to

Step 2: Determine Starting Obligation

As the rule book puts it “Obligation represents the debts a Player Character owes.” I’m assuming these debts go beyond financial into the realm of spiritual, mental, physical or pure intangibles like honor. Apparently there’s a mechanical component to this, as the character has to start with at least one Obligation. There’s even a d100 table to roll on if you’re not sure. Since I have a rough idea for the character, I’m opting not to roll, but instead choose a starting Obligation that fits the skeleton of a backstory that’s been sketched so far. The one that makes the most sense to me is Bounty as our doctor evidently has a price on his head. There’s also a magnitude associated with each Obligation, which, assuming I understand correctly, seems more of a way for the GM to use different party members Obligations in adventure hooks or gaming sessions. It looks like the average group of players has a magnitude of 40 points of Obligation. Assuming that the character would be a member of a four-player party, I assume that the magnitude of his bounty Obligation is 10 points.

There are various notes about group Obligation, how it can represent the party’s reputation both positively and negatively as well as ways to pay down Obligations. Since these all seem like something that would only come up in game after characters have been created and played for a while, I’ll ignore that here and jump to

Step 3: Select Character Species

Since the Star Wars  galaxy is positively teeming with life, both human and alien, I’m actually a little disappointed that the rule book only lists eight species options. Fortunately, one of those species options covers what I want this character to be. The good doctor is going to be a Rodian. (For completeness sake, I’ll mention that the other seven species are Bothans, Droids, Gands, Humans, Trandoshans, Twi’Leks and Wookiees.) What does the choice of species mean in the game? Well, for starters, a character’s species determine their starting characteristics and experience points. Certain species also confer other abilities on the character. Let’s see what that means for our Rodian Doctor, shall we?

His basic characteristics are –

Brawn: 2

Agility: 3

Intellect: 2

Cunning: 2

Willpower: 1

Presence: 2

Which gives further characteristics of –

Wound Threshold: 12

Strain Threshold: 11

As well as 1 Rank of Survival and 1 Rank of the Expert Tracker talent. On top of all that, he has 100 XP to spend on the character creation process.

Step 4: Select Character Career

Much like with species, the character’s career helps determine the character’s initial skill set. There are six career choices offered here: Bounty Hunter, Colonist, Explorer, Hired Gun, Smuggler and Technician. To my mind, the only one of those that makes sense for a doctor is the Colonist, so that’s what the character will be. That makes the following as career skills for him:

Charm

Deception

Knowledge (Core Worlds)

Knowledge (Education)

Knowledge (Lore)

Leadership

Negotiation

Streetwise

He also gets to invest  rank in four of those skills for free. I decide that our former crime doctor has ranks in Deception, Knowledge (Education), Negotiation and Streetwise.

Step 5: Select Specializations

Within each of the careers there are various specializations that add yet more career skills to their list. Within the Colonist career, the three specializations to choose from are Doctor, Politico or Scholar. Since I already have the character as a doctor in his back story, I go with the Doctor specialization.This grants the following four skills:

Cool

Knowledge (Education)

Medicine

Resilience,

And means the character can invest ranks in two of them. In this case, I put ranks in both Cool and Medicine. Incidentally, because Knowledge (Education) appears here and under Colonist, it would have been the only career skill the character could have two ranks in without having to spend experience points for the privilege. Of course, now it’s time to think about that as we reach…

Step 6: Invest Experience Points

The character has 100 Experience Points and four different ways to spend them:

  1. Increase Characteristics
  2. Purchase Skill ranks (may not have more than 2 ranks in a skill during character creation
  3. Purchase Talents within Specializations
  4. Purchase new Specializations

I feel like I need to explain that 3rd one. Each of the career specializations has a talent tree diagram with multiple rows and columns as a grid. some of the items are stand alone, and some are connected by lines. You can choose any box in the first row to spend XP on, and can also choose any box in the next rows that connect to that box. Here’s a picture of the Smuggler talent tree that I found online to clarify. (WordPress won’t let me upload it, so a link will have to do).

For example, the Doctor talent tree has the following top row options: Surgeon, Bacta Specialist, Grit, and Resolve. Of those four, Bacta Specialist and Resolve don’t link to anything, but Surgeon links to Stim Application in the second row and Grit links to Surgeon in the second row.

Since I’ve gone into this amount of detail explaining it, it makes sense for the character to spend at least some XP making purchases from the Tree. To that  end, I spend 5 XP (leaving me with 95) on that Grit talent, and via the magic of connectivity, use that to allow me to spend a further 10 XP (leaving me with 85) on the Surgeon talent in the second row. This means that in future, I could spend on the other top row talents, the second row talents connected to Surgeon (more Grit and Resolve, not sure if they stack) or the third row talent connected to Surgeon, which would be another Bacta Specialist. For now, though, I’m done with the Talent Tree, so let’s see where else I can spend those 85 remaining XP.

The first thing I opt to do is boost some of my characteristics. Each of the characteristics is from 1 to 6, but are capped to 5 during character creation. To boost a characteristic to a new value costs 10 XP times that value and is cumulative. So if I wanted to increase a characteristic from 2 to 4, I’d first have to spend 30 XP to increase it to 3, and then a further 40 XP to increase it to 4.

As it happens, I’m a little worried about the character’s low Willpower characteristic of 1, so I opt to spend 20 XP (Leaving me with 65) to boost the Willpower to 2. Since I feel that doctors are supposed to be smart, I also opt to increase the character’s Intellect from 2 to 3, at a cost of a further 30 XP (Leaving me with 35 to spend)

Now it’s time to invest in some skill ranks. Currently, I  can’t boost any skills above 2 ranks. It costs 5 XP to get a  Career skill (see above) to 1 rank, and then 10 XP to boost a 1 rank career skill to 2 ranks. For non-career skills, 1 rank  costs 10 XP and boosting a 1 rank non-Career skill to 2 ranks costs a further 15 XP.

Looking at the career skills the character has so far, I choose to boost his Medicine skill from 1 rank to 2, at a cost of  10 XP (Leaving me 25 to spend), I do the same for Negotiation (So now he only has 15 left). For non-career skills, I decide that the character knows his way around a pistol, and so purchase 1 rank of Ranged (Light) combat skill at a cost of 10XP (Leaving a mere 5 to spend).

Since the only thing the character can afford now is a single rank of a career skill, I opt to spend the last 5XP on a single rank of the Resilience skill.

Step 7: Determine Derived Attributes

This step uses the characteristics (including any increases from XP purchase to calculate four different values: Wound Threshold, Strain Threshold, Defense and Soak Value.

Wound Threshold is how many wounds the character can sustain before being rendered unconscious and is simply 10 (for being a Rodian) + their Brawn characteristic, which in this case gives a score of 12.

Strain Threshold is similar in that it shows how much mental or psychological damage the character can sustain before becoming dazed and confused. This is 10 (for Rodians) + the Willpower characteristic, which in this case is also 12. However, because we purchased that Grit talent, we get +1, so it’s actually 13.

Defense starts at 0 and changes based on equipment and cover. Since the character currently has neither of those things, his score is 0.

Soak Value determines the amount of damage a character can sustain before suffering a wound and is based on their Brawn characteristic, so in this case it would be 2.

Step 8: Determine Motivations

This is almost a companion step to the Obligations from step 2. In that an obligation is why they’re forced to the fringes of the galaxy, and a motivation is why they’re staying there. Like Obligations, Motivations can be picked out specifically or rolled for. I decide to leave the character’s motivations in the hands of the Force and roll for them. The first d10 roll determines what kind of motivation it is. Which in this case is a Cause, and a d100 roll breaks down what that cause might be. As it turns out the cause is Emancipation, so the character is an ardent believer in abolishing slavery and indentured servitude in wherever they rear their ugly heads in the galaxy. I decide that’s because he was an indentured servant of the crime syndicate he was forced to serve initially, and doesn’t want anybody else to have to go through that, which seems reasonable.

Step 9: Choose Gear and Description

Our character is starting to come together a little bit, but is currently rather under-equipped, not even having the clothes on his back yet! Since it would be nice to have some stuff to go adventuring with, he gets 500 credits to buy starting things. So, let’s spend some creds. The first thing the good doctor purchases is  a Light Blaster Pistol, which eats up 300 of his credits (Leaving only 200). Specifically, I decide it’s a BlasTech DL-18 despite that having no effect on the rules.

He spends a further 50 credits (leaving 150) on Heavy Clothing, which I decide is basically a thick scrub-like garment, almost a medical jumpsuit. This does increase his Soak Value by 1 up to  total of 3.

100 of the 150 remaining credits go towards an Emergency Medpac. After all a Doctor needs some tools and field dressings.

Of the last 50 credits, 25 go to a hand held comm-link, and he decides to pocket the rest just in case.

Now that he’s equipped, it’s time to figure out what this character looks like. We’ll go down each of the appearance categories in turn and see from there.

Physical Description

Height, weight and build: Rodians are generally a little shorter than humans, and this guy is no exception, he stands at 1.4 meters tall (About 4’6″). He’s also of a fairly slender build, almost lithe. Not sure what the weight would be , but something commensurate with that.

Hair and eye color: As a male Rodian, he doesn’t have hair, so no color there. His eyes are a deep navy blue that contrast strongly against his slightly mottled green skin.

Skin, scale or fur color: As established above, a mottled green.

Scars, tattoos or other identifying marks:  He has a black sun tattooed on his left shoulder, marking him as property of that crime syndicate. Since escaping, he’s tried to obliterate it unsuccessfully, so it has some fairly livid scar tissue over it, trying to strike through the design. If he had access to sufficient Bacta or a dermal medi-droid, he’d have it removed fully.

Personality: The good doctor is both fiercely dedicated to his independence and extremely paranoid. He knows that he has a price on his head, and every single new person he meets is just going to be the one who claims it. This does make him a little bit panicked as a negotiator as he tends to see things in the very short term, convinced that he’ll be dead within a couple of standard months. He’ll also very seldom forge alliances with people. He belongs to himself now, and that’s not going to change.

Since it isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the character creation, this is where I’ve decided to name our Rodian doctor, so say hello to Silugg Ceega, or “Sil,” to his very few friends.

Step 10: Group Chooses Starting Ship

Since the crew that would be the gaming party needs a home base, they need a ship. The rule book suggest 3 possibilities as good beginner starters, and I’m inclined to agree with one of their choices, so Sil is going to be the medic aboard a Wayfarer Medium Transport known as the Mynock Moon.


What do you think, loyal blog followers? Is this a series worth continuing? If so, are there any particular games and editions you’d like me to use to create characters?

Please leave some comments and let me know!

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a goal

Of goals made and goals missed.

As 2016 winds down, I guess it’s a good time to review my 2016 resolutions and see just how well I did with keeping them and meeting the goals I set myself. (Spoiler: Not very well at all). After reviewing those, I’m going to touch on another few goals and challenges that I had set for myself and my progress therein. First, let’s take a look at each of the individual resolutions and how I did with four days to go.

New Diet

I feel like the main aim of this one (to eat out less) was certainly achieved, as I’ve definitely cooked far more often at home, and my wife and I have documented that on our food blog. Though we did go for a while without updating the blog until we kind of dropped an archive of some of the year’s recipes towards the end of November and December. The minor downside is that things became less collaborative between my wife and I due to health issues on both of our parts at various times, so it became more individual efforts with occasional contributions, which is a pity because cooking together was one of our bigger couples activities. Hopefully we can get back on track to working together in 2017 as our health issues start to resolve.

2017 Goal: Continue in the same vein, with less delays on the food blog.

New Weight

Still working on this. I’ve maintained my weight at around 220 lbs. I’m still shooting for 200 lbs, and I’ve remained committed to the gym for cardio exercise. It had been a lot of treadmill work and stationary bike work, but the treadmill work has fallen off in the last month thanks to my having a broken wrist. You wouldn’t think that would affect treadmill running that much, and it probably doesn’t, but because I’m paranoid, it means I can’t grip the treadmill handles or hit the emergency stop button in the rare cases where that might be needed. Soon I’ll be out of the cast and able to rededicate myself to treadmill running, which I enjoy greatly as a kind of zen way to clear my head. I also use the Zombies, Run! app on my phone to make things a little competitive because I enjoy the idea of metrics and leveling up with any challenge I face.

2017 Goal: Still shooting for 200 lbs, and I have a jacker picked out as a reward if I get there.

Communicate Better

Yeah, I’ve pretty much completely failed at this one. I need to reach out to my parents and sister more throughout 2017 to try and re-connect with them instead of just kind of ignoring the contact details I do have with an “I’ll get around to it eventually,” which is the utterly horrible approach I’m currently taking.

On the plus side, I feel like I’ve done better by my son communication wise. In additional to seeing him in person on a regular basis (at least until this past month where, once gain, the broken wrist has interfered and made driving exponentially more difficult), I’m able to reach out to him between visits thanks to some social media interactions. Notably, he’s became a big fan of Snapchat, so it’s been great to send him a quick picture or video message through that. I need to do it more frequently still, but there have definitely been strides made in that direction.

2017 Goal: Maintain & improve communication with my son. Establish regular communication with my parents & sister.

Blog More

 

Let’s see, my initial target was to add an entry to this blog at least once a week throughout 2016, and this is the 52nd week of the year. If I’ve counted correctly, this is my eleventh entry of 2016, which means that i only missed this goal by forty-one entries, so I made it a whole 21% of the way towards my target. Amusingly, one of the projects I called out was my Supernatural blogwatch project, to which I managed to add a grand total of ZERO entries in 2016.

2017 Goal: Attempt to hit that once per week target. Have at least one season of Supernatural blog watch finished.

Read More

At last, a goal that I was able to achieve! I’ve been keeping track of my reading thanks to the Goodreads app. One of the things i like about that app is that you can set yourself a reading challenge target for the year. again, big fan of numerical metrics and competitive goals to meet. I’ve been increasing my targets by five books each year. In 2014, that was fifty books, in 2015 it was fifty-five. Fans of pattern recognition will realize that means that my target for 2016 was sixty books. And per that very same GoodReads app, I finished my sixtieth book of the year (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) on December 21st. this is in a bit of contrast to 2015 where I was cramming a couple of short books in early on New Year’s Eve.

2017 Goal: Ready sixty-five books. More non-fiction and less graphic novels. join a book club to read titles outside my comfort zone.

Write More

This started with the best of intentions and fell by the wayside as different life things piled up (the aforementioned health issues, moving to a larger apartment). For the second year in a row, I failed to complete the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I was actually close to getting back on track with that with a solid four day writing binge planned over Thanksgiving weekend. Then I broke my wrist and was basically unable to type or write properly for the rest of November. That means my 2017 NaNoWriMo attempt is going to have a lot of making up to do (see the goal below). On the plus side, I’m revisiting the historical fiction idea I had, and now have most of a year to gather and read the research materials to keep it a little more organized.

Outside of NaNoWriMo, I did get some more things written, even if they were mostly flash fiction pieces (a few of which made up those eleven posts for 2016…) and I also got more disciplined at outlining and planning out my story ideas. Hopefully, I’ll be able to translate that into more output for 2017.

Another thing that helped here was the establishment of a weekly writing thread on the Fark.com new aggregator website that I’ve been a member of forever. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get a story into the Start of Farkness fiction anthology that arose from those threads though.

2017 Goal: Complete at least 150,000 words during National Novel Writing Month (Equivalent to the 50,000 for 2015, 2016 & 2017) as 1-3 stories. Successfully submit a short story for a hypothetical 2017 Fark.com fiction anthology. Also, write more short stories/flash fiction and potentially draft one novel outside of November. Possibly invest in a copy of Scrivener software.

Game More

Well, I did game more than I had in 2015, but I didn’t come close to completing the “12 video games in 12 months” challenge, unless someone can recommend 10 ultra-short games I can finish in the next four days. I managed to finish two games in 2016, mostly because I’m not a big gamer, so it’s seldom been a priority for me. I was able to finish Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the original Secret of Monkey Island. I’m also very close to finishing off the original Portal, so I might be able to claim 25% of the goal by year’s end. I have taken advantage of some Steam sales to buy/download a few games for next year. As someone who’s not been a computer/video gamer, I haven’t played a lot of these older games, so I can catch up now without having to buy a new system by playing new-to-me games which have been published since around 1999…

I’m also going to some more tabletop gaming. My wife and I did play quite a bit of Magic: The Gathering, a couple of games of Munchkin and a lot of the DC Comics Deck-Building Game when it came to card-based tabletop entertainment. I’ve also purchased some actual tabletop role-playing games in order to run some games in 2017. You’ve probably seen the fruits of these purchases as part of the It Builds Character sub-series on this very blog (A new entry of which should be coming before year’s end.)

I’ve also finally given up on Games Workshop’s miniature war games as they’ve finally priced themselves out of my comfort zone. Of course, I haven’t abandoned miniature wargaming completely and am switching over to the World War II miniatures game Flames of War. So far, I’ve purchased but not painted or assembled my first few British forces for an Airlanding Company.

2017 Goals: Attempt the 12 in 12 video game challenge again, run at least one tabletop gaming campaign (probably Pendragon) either in person or online. Purchase and assemble enough Flames of War miniatures for two forces so that I can play a few games. Start a small Star Wars: Armada force.

Goal stock photo by Sander van der Veen.