Spoiled For Choice: the Star Wars RPG Die Roll Shopping List

The next session of my Star Wars: Force and Destiny Beginner Game campaign is coming up on Saturday. One of my main goals is to make sure the rules are as easy to understand and quick to use as possible, for both my players and myself.

To that end, I’ve been working on a two-page summary of the most important rules, similar to the rules summary I did for Deathwatch. But I’m finding that the Star Wars Roleplaying rules by Fantasy Flight Games, whilst quite streamlined compared to many RPG rules, bring a whole heap of complexity on what’s often the most straight-up part of an RPG: The die roll.

How? By turning each roll into a shopping trip.

When the dice come out in most RPGs, it’s pretty much a binary matter. Does a roll of the required die/dice plus any applicable bonuses equal or beat a number set by the game master? If so, you succeed. There may be some embellishments.

Star Wars Roleplaying takes a different approach. Instead of rolling a die (or dice and either picking/counting the highest result or totalling) versus a set numeric target, the difficulty that the game master selects adds more dice to the roll – just different kinds of dice. And instead of numbers, the faces of the dice give you Successes, Failures, Advantages, Threats, Triumphs and Despairs.

It’s the latter four that allow you to go shopping. Maybe it’ll be easier to explain by example:

Rolling the bones

The lightsabre-wielding Sarenda and Tarast are attempting to vanquish the vicious Sith acolyte Malefax. Sarenda moves in to attack and gathers her dice. Her Brawn of 3 means she rolls 3 green Ability dice, but thanks to her Lightsabre Skill of 2, she upgrades two of them to yellow Proficiency dice. As she’s making a Melee attack, Sarenda has to add two purple Difficulty dice to her roll. Due to previous circumstances, Sarenda has managed to get herself a blue Boost die as well.

Sarenda’s player gathers the dice and rolls:

The results are:

  • Four Successes (explosions)
  • Four Advantages (wings-with-stars)
  • One Failure (spiky triangle)
  • Two Threats (hexagon-circle-thingies with dots)

Firstly, Sarenda’s player works out what cancels what.

  • Failures cancel Successes, leaving Sarenda with three Successes – she succeeds in striking Malefax with her lightsabre. Succeses ad to damage, so she adds three points to the basic Lightsabre damage of six for nine.
  • Threats cancel Advantages, leaving Sarenda with two Advantages.

So, we know that Sarenda has succeeded in her aim of hurting Malefax. Let’s assume she hasn’t yet struck the villain down. In another game, we would most likely press on with the combat – but in this case, we still need to work out what happens with those two Advantages.

Advantages: Going Shopping

Sarenda’s player checks his options.

It costs one Advantage to:

  • Recover 1 strain (Sarenda can use both her Advantages to recover 2 strain, assuming she has 2 ore more strain to recover). As having enough strain can put Sarenda out of the fight, this may be a good idea.
  • Add one Boost die to Tarast’s next roll (can only be chosen once; Sarenda can’t give Tarast two Boost dice).
  • Notice a single important point in the current conflict (can only be chosen once; Sarenda can’t create two items of importance in one go).

It costs two Advantage to:

  • Add one Setback die to Malefax’s next check.
  • Perform an immediate free manoeuvre (only if Sarenda hasn’t already used 2 manoeuvres this turn).
  • Add one Boost die to Sarenda’s own next check.
  • Inflict a Critical Injury with her lightsabre.

As you can see, options galore! If Sarenda’s player had somehow rolled a Triumph as well, he could use it on most of the options above (one Triumph can pay for a lot of options that would take multiple Advantages), upgrade the next check for either Tarast or Sarenda and even change the scene in such a way that turns the tide of the battle in the players’ favour!

Imagine that happening almost EVERY TIME THE DICE GET ROLLED. Unless you know how things work and have an idea already of what you’ll put any Advantage/Triumph toward, comflicts could potentially take a bit.

Summarising It

I’m still working on the summary, and already, listing the options for spending Advantages and Triumphs takes up over a quarter of a page. On top of that, there’s the possibility to spend Threats and Despairs when the GM rolls – while I think the game reserves that for the GM, it’s something I’d be tempted to throw open for the players just for the fun of it.

I still need to put some notes together for the rest of the combat process. Unfortunately, due to external circumstances, this coming weekend’s game has been postponed – which does give me a bit more time to work on the summary!

Anyway, I’ll post a version once it’s had some playtesting. Here’s hoping it makes life a bit easier for you!