I’ve been playing a fair bit of the Star Wars Edge of the Empire (EotE) RPG lately. No serious campaign this time, but an easy going romp with pre-generated characters and new players, a far cry from the experienced players I ran with in my previous Saga edition campaign. This has been filled with light hearted gamorrean stomping and stormtrooper blasting.
I haven’t played enough EotE yet to feel confident in contrasting it at length against Star Wars Saga Edition, but I do have a feel for the overall flow of the game and can make some broad observations.
If I had one big “thing” to draw a contrast between Saga and EotE it would be the distinction between the mechanics of distance and range. Saga, if one remembers, was influenced by the development of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (4E) which was being developed at Wizards of the Coast while Saga was being finalized. In some sense Saga was an early preview of 4E, and therefore very miniature combat oriented. Using one inch grid maps was common and with both published and D20 OGL material very available. In my Saga campaign I used the fine starship maps from Future Armada, for example, where you could detail out the encounters with Line of Sight, range, and all that you would expect from a miniature-centric combat system.
With EotE that comfort of precision is unceremoniously stripped away. Range in this system is loosely defined as short, medium, long etc. and is left to the GM during game play to confirm. Rather than being a measured process based on a granular tracing of squares or distance, movement between ranges is achieved by the mere expenditure of an action by the player character. For example, to move between medium and short range would be one movement action.
This, I must say, takes a bit of getting used to. After so many years of comfort with simply allowing range and movement rules to keep a melee controlled, being awash in uncertainty can be frightening. But from a different perspective, it can also be quite liberating. There is no counting squares, no measuring movement; A quick decision on expending an action to change range is all that is needed. If you think back on all of the sessions over how many years you GM’ed in how many systems, how often did encounters begin at range “short”. Probably most. So why all the need for expansive range and movement rules with all of the time they consume? Why indeed.
I am still getting acclimated to this concept, I have a bit more convincing that needs to be done. And I must admit on more than one occasion the thought of retrofitting a Saga-like range system into EotE has crossed my mind. As of now I’ve managed to hold this compulsion at bay; I really want to see how this system works in different flavors of encounters and the multiplicity of combinations that can only come about during extended game play. For now I am pushing forward with the rules as-is and keeping my straight-edges and rangefinders in the drawer.