RPG Review: Force and Destiny RPG by Fantasy Flight Games

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  • Product Name: Star Wars Force and Destiny Roleplaying Game
  • Author: Multiple
  • Genre: Space-opera
  • Size of the book: Approx 450 pages
  • Central game mechanic: Dice designed for the game with special symbols

 

The Force and Destiny RPG is the latest corebook in Fantasy Flight Games attempt to bring the high-octane space-opera of the Star Wars universe to tabletop roleplaying; this is the third corebook in their Star Wars line, dealing with one of the most central and also tricky to implement elements of the Star Wars universe, the Force.

Whereas the previous corebooks Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion dealt with playing mercenaries and members of the Rebel Alliance respectively, only tangentially touching on the workings of the Force, as you might expect, Force and Destiny finally gives it a chance to take centre stage.

I was lucky to have been sent a review copy of the book by Esdevium Games, who are one of the UK’s largest distributors of games, collectible and toys; in 2010, they became part of the Asmodee Group with offices across Europe, the USA and Asia. In addition to distribution, Asmodee are the publisher behind a number of Esdevium’s most popular games. Many thanks to Esdevium for reaching out to me and asking me to write this review.

Some of you may be aware that I am currently running an Edge of Empire campaign on my YouTube channel (that you can see by clicking here); I hope to review both Edge of Empire and Age of Rebellion shortly, but as the films started with the Jedi and the Force, I’m going to do likewise with my reviews.

Contents

The first thing you can see when looking at the book is the absolutely stunning quality of the production; Fantasy Flight Games have a great reputation for producing amazing looking product, Force and Destiny is no exception. Force and Destiny is a full colour hardback book with the majority of pages having some great colour art of both well-known characters from the Star Wars series and also some less well-known figures; this feels like the writers giving the readers permission to step out of the shadows and create their own great adventures rather than feeling constrained by any thoughts of the canon adventures as depicted in the films but there is enough depiction of favourite heroes and infamous villains from the series to create the strong visual element that is such a large part of Star Wars appeal.

Introduction

The book begins with a short piece of fiction depicting a (possibly force-sensitive) fortune seeker trying to locate a mysterious area known as the Well of Shadows, and stumbling into a battle between three possible Jedi and the forces of the Galactic Empire, lead by a dark-side Force-user called Venge; the story is neatly written and gives a nice taster of the sort of things that Force-users might get up to in the game as they attempt to restore their ancient heritage and build new destinies, all the while staying ahead of those who seek to hunt them and consign the Jedi Order to dust. Following on from this is a short explanation of how roleplaying games work, nothing here will be surprising to people who have played RPGs before but it is unobtrusive and would be a great lead-in for people who are newer to the hobby, it continues with an example of play, continuing the story of the heroes flight from Venge, but broken down a little more to show how the scene might play out during a session.

The introduction culminates with a short primer to the state of the galaxy at the time period covered by the game, a time with the Galactic Empire is at its height, the Jedi Order is little more than a memory and the Force widely regarded as “simple tricks and nonsense,” as long as there are people who believe in the power of the light side and who fight against the tyranny of the Empire though, the light of the Jedi can never truly be extinguished.

Playing the Game

The main meat of the book begins by explaining what you’ll need to play in a Force and Destiny and moves on to describe the core mechanic of the game, which effectively involves constructing a dice pool of positive dice (for your skill level and any factors that would help you) and negative dice (representing the difficulty of your task and any outside factors that would hinder you). Each of the special dice used in Force and Destiny have symbols on them, some of these govern the success or failure of your roll and others can be spent either by yourself to attain additional positive effects or by the GM to present additional challenges or difficulties.

swdiceThese dice will be familiar to anyone who has played FFG’s other Star Wars games (which are entirely cross-compatible with Force and Destiny, although are not required); but essentially you construct a dice pool, add up the number of success you have and subtract the number of failures, if you have successes remaining at the end then you have succeeded in your task otherwise you have failed. There are other symbols that provide additional effects and these are explained in the book; the system can take a little getting used to, especially if you’re more familiar with traditional RPGs that use numbered dice, but I’ve found that the Star Wars dice encourage players and the GMs to construct more of a narrative around their rolls rather than simply viewing them as a success or failure.

For example: Perhaps you succeed on your attempt to shoot a Stormtrooper but have a number of threat symbols, the GM might rule that although you have shot the Stormtrooper he is able to press the alarm before dying or something similar.

Players also have destiny points, a pool of points that represent luck, fate and the ebb and flow of the Force; these can be used to make important tests easier to pass, hinder opponents and also to represent luck or quirks of fate. Destiny points come in two flavours, light-side and dark-side, when a light-side point is spent by the players it flips and becomes a dark-side point and vice-versa when a dark-side point is spent by the GM; I really like this as a mechanic since it encourage both sides to spend the points rather than hording them and it also represents the fluctuating strength of the Force in an unobtrusive manner.

The book takes you through everything that you need to know about constructing a dice pool and making tests within the game providing many examples to help along the way; it can seem a little daunting, but I encourage you to persevere with it since it does become fairly intuitive once you’re playing.

Character Creation

Characters in Force and Destiny are creating using a point buy system; in effect a player chooses which species and career they wish to begin with and this determines both their starting characteristics and the amount of experience points (XP) that they have to raise their statistics, buy skills and talents, etc. This chapter begins with a quick breakdown of how character creation works before delving into each step in more detail.

Players begin by choosing their cultural background and then determining their morality; players familiar with FFG’s other Star Wars games may recognise morality as the equivalent of EotE’s obligation and AotR’s duty mechanic, in Force and Destiny though morality is a measure of how good or evil your character is, a factor that is much more important in a game concerning Force-users trying to resist (or perhaps embracing) the lure of the dark-side. Players may either pick or roll their morality randomly using the chart provided by the book  choosing both an emotional strength and weakness for their character. Morality can be used by the GM to help determine the theme of the session and can also fluctuate depending on character actions; characters performing evil actions accumulate conflict, at the end of a session each player tallies up their conflict and rolls a ten-sided dice, if the roll is less than the amount of conflict they have earned then they lower their morality by the number rolled, if the number is greater than their accumulated conflict then their morality increases by a similar amount.

A character with 30 morality or less has crossed the threshold into becoming a dark-sider whereas a character with 70 or above morality is considered to be a paragon of the light-side; each of these has both rules and narrative effects described in the book.

There is a selection of different species on offer, some of which have been featured in the other FFG Star Wars games and some which are new; noticeably absent is the Droid species present in both other games but that is hardly surprising given that droids are incapable of manipulating or using the Force.

The careers on offer in the game determine what talents and additional tricks a character can possess; the choices on offer in Force and Destiny are:

  • Consular: Focussed on achieving peace and harmony through positive discourse.
  • Guardian: Fighting to protect the oppressed and downtrodden.
  • Mystic: Students of the Force who study it almost obsessively and delve into its mysteries.
  • Seeker: Travellers and wanderers who seek to strive against oppression wherever they find it on their travels.
  • Sentinel: Spies and thieves who use the Force to veil them from the eyes of their enemies and discover their secrets.
  • Warrior: Force-users who focus on becoming martial paragons.

Each of these classes has a number of specialisations that can help further tweak the concepts of the character and ensure that no two mystics are exactly the same, and each also provides a list of talents that can be purchased from a tree using experience points, these are little extra tricks that add bonus dice or allow players to do additional special moves during the game.

Characters also come with a motivation, this could be a driving goal, a cause that they dedicate themselves to or perhaps faith in something larger than themselves; these can be rolled randomly or chosen from the tables in the book. A nice addition in this book is the idea that the group collectively chooses a cause that has bought them together, whether it be possession of an ancient Jedi Holocron, a mentor or possession of a starship, after all, with the Galactic Empire attempting to wipe out or convert any Force-users they can get their hands on it makes sense to band together.

Skills & Talents

The next couple of chapters cover the basic skills that characters can learn and the additional talents that they can acquire in more detail, providing explanations of what they mean, how they can be used and what bonuses players can get from spending triumphs and advantages that they have rolled. I particularly liked the addition of Force Talents in this game, talents representing little knacks and almost subconscious uses of the Force that are not on the level of the major force powers but can still be useful.

For example: Animal empathy, when a Force-user is making check to handle, tame or control animals he can add a number of white Force Dice no greater than his Force rating to the check and may spend Force points rolled on the white dice to add additional success or advantages.

Gear and Equipment

This chapter provides a list of the various equipment and gear that player characters can purchase, along with prices and details of the benefits the gear provides; it also provides a brief explanation of the galactic economy and systems for rolling to acquire rare and potentially illegal items. The section also covers weaponry and armour, providing some nice clean line drawings of a number of the items available. Lightsabers, the iconic weapons of the Jedi Order have a small section all of their own near the end of the chapter covering various different types of saber, from the double-ended versions to the tiny shoto versions favoured by physically smaller Jedi.

Conflict and Combat

We then move onto a chapter that deals with violence and combat with the Star Wars universe, providing guidelines and rules for staging dramatic and enjoyable combats; although this chapter provides all of the rules you would expect from a combat chapter it never loses sight of the fact that combats should have a strong narrative element, I think that this is especially important in a Star Wars game, since fights are seldom ever just straight-up slugfests in the films or books, but rather perilous exchanges between clanking machinery or death-defying fights over the yawning Sarlacc pit.

This chapter may seem a bit daunting when you first come to read it because it seems very dense with rules, however, the chapter is so large due to the number of examples and level of explanation provided; once you have read the basics you will only need to reference this chapter occasionally during play (which is fairly easy to do thanks to the comprehensive index at the back of the book).

Starships and Vehicles

The next chapter covers methods of transportation in Force and Destiny, providing guidelines for vehicle combat, chases and hyperspace travel before giving us a variety of vehicle profiles ranging from airspeeders and fighter craft all the way up to the huge Star Destroyers of the Empire; each of the vehicles comes with a full write-up, statistics and a short background explaining their origin and main use in the Star Wars universe, all of which is very handy for a GM who is looking for a vehicle to use in their campaign.

There is a small section on customising vehicle and adding additional attachments to them; I would have liked to have seen some more of these here but the book is already pretty large and I expect more customisation options will be offered in future supplements.

The Force

This is the chapter that I was looking forward to the most upon receiving this book, after one of the main themes of this game is that of using the Force, and it’s an element of the setting that is inherently unknowable to a certain extent and can be difficult to represent in a game; the cut-down systems used by the Force sensitive exile and emergent of Edge of Empire and Age of Rebellion worked fine in games where the Force as not the main focus, but I was keen to see how FFG would handle moving it to centre stage.

I think they got it spot on.

Beginning with an in-depth explanation of how the Force is present in all things and the duality between the light-side and the dark-side, the chapter goes on to discuss how certain species can consciously drawn on its power, whether by becoming paragons of creation and light or by embracing the raw fury of their destructive urges and the dark-side.

In terms of the rules, all Force-sensitive characters have a Force rating, this is usually 1 when the game begins but can be raised during play; they can roll the white Force-dice to generate a number of Force points that can be spent to activate certain abilities or to enhance otherwise mundane abilities. Normally only light-side results generate force points for player characters and dark-side points are ignored, however, if a player wishes to draw on the power of the dark-side then they may spend a destiny point and use as many of the dark-side points rolled as they wish, although this does place a strain on the character and may have dire consequences in the long run.

Force powers are purchased from power trees in the same way that talents are, costing a certain number of experience points to acquire, additional points can then be spent later to upgrade these powers as the character’s knowledge and experience of using them expands. A wide range of Force abilities are covered from the traditional telekinesis style powers to the ability to influence minds or foresee the future.

The Games Master

The GM chapter provides some great advice on the basics of running games and how to manage a campaign (awarding experience points, handling player disputes, etc); I particularly like the system for triggering morality, where a GM can make a particular player character’s morality the central focus of a session, giving them an opportunity to do something incredibly good or diabolically evil and help shape the side of the Force that they are going to pursue, this is a great aid for GMs when it comes to creating sessions and, as long as every player gets a fair crack of the whip, it can also work as a motivational aid for them.

There are also some guidelines on creating and running adventures in the chapter, giving examples of both linear and non-linear campaign creation suggestions.

The Galaxy

Force and Destiny provides a nice, brief overview of the Star Wars universe, highlighting the major antagonists, groups and locations within it, providing information on the Great Hyperlanes (such as the infamous Corellian Run) and also a beautifully illustrated map of the galaxy.

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The chapter then drills down into some more detail about various locations of importance such as Coruscant and the wild frontiers of the Outer Rim; all of these capsule descriptions are interesting and serve to whet the appetite for further Star Wars adventure without overly restricting GMs or expecting them to adhered strictly to the canon setting.

The Jedi and the Sith

This chapter covers the background of the two iconic Force-using societies that most Star Wars fans will be familiar with, providing detailed histories of the two organisations from their ancient beginnings up to the Clone Wars and through to the ‘present day’ of the setting, this is all very interesting and having it all in one book is a great boon for any GM seeking to run a Star Wars RPG; there are also some great box-out paragraphs in this chapter that give RP hints for portraying a Force-user in the oppressive era of the Galactic Empire as well as highlighting the codes of the various Force-using organisations and how they were seen by the galaxy as large.

Adversaries

The second to last chapter of the book provides a list of various antagonists that the player characters may face in their lives, along with rules and statistics for using them; Force and Destiny uses a three-tier system for antagonists, they are either minions (nameless individuals dangerous only when operating in groups, rivals (more dangerous than minions but individually still inferior to player characters) and nemeses (powerful individuals that can potentially challenge even a group of PCs), each of these tiers has their own little rules-tweaks that enable you to represent how squads of Stormtroopers can be dealt with very quickly, but a single power individual may cause the player party significant trouble.

The adversaries section in Force and Destiny feels somehow more varied and richer than the same section in FFG’s previous two Star Wars games and the inclusion of a small section at the end providing guidelines for generating Imperial Inquisitors is an excellent addition, enabling GMs to quickly create these powerful, evil figures to oppose their heroes.

Lessons from the Past

Lessons from the past is a sample adventure that revolves around an ancient talisman, containing the spirit of a deceased Jedi, without going into too much detail (since I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who may be planning to run/play in it), the adventure is designed as an introduction to the wider world of the Force for novice characters providing a variety of locales and interesting antagonists. The adventure is fairly short but the book does provide some ways that it can be combined with material from the Gamesmaster’s Kit adventure Hidden Depths if the GM wishes to expand it.

Conclusion

I was a little dubious when I heard that Force and Destiny was going to be released, it’s two predecessor games had deliberately not focussed on the Force and I feel had benefitted from that, allowing the players to portray those on the Fringe or warriors fighting against Imperial oppression without getting overly tied up in ancient magics or systems of morality; however the Force is a central point of the Star Wars setting and something that makes it stand out from other science-fiction novels, films and RPGs so it was inevitable that it would have to be covered at some point. I’m pleased to say that I think Fantasy Flight have saved the best corebook for last; not only does Force and Destiny present great systems for using the Force without adding a slew of unnecessarily complicated rules but it also places a strong focus on drama and narrative, something I feel is vitally important to a game set in the Star Wars universe.

The book looks absolutely stunning, although because it is a hardback it is not the cheapest of RPGs available, however it is a quality product that feels worth the price paid for it; although some of the rules material is duplicated between this and the other two FFG Star Wars RPG books the material in this book would benefit any campaign where the Force is going to play more than the most minor of roles and I’m certainly planning on using some of it in my own Edge of Empire campaign Terror on the Outer Rim.

If you have any interest in running a Star Wars RPG that features Jedi, the Sith or Force users then I would highly recommend you purchase a copy of this book, it is a great read and provides everything you need to really bring the Force to life in your games.

Many thanks to Esdevium Games who sent me the review copy of this book; if you’re looking to source RPGs I recommend you give their catalogue a look.

If you enjoyed the review and want to buy a copy of Force & Destiny, then why not support your local store? Not sure where that is, then why not try out Esdevium’s store locator:

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