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Force and Destiny

After what seemed like an eternity upon the slowest boat ever conceived of*, I was absolutely beyond myself with excitement to pick up Force and Destiny’s Beginner Box. With a rollicking good time in Edge of the Empire and the Age of Rebellion beginner boxes, I had high expectations for Force and Destiny. I can alleviate any worry you might have immediately and say it definitely met them, but it did have a few issues that I ran into I would solve with the benefit of hindsight. In any event, just like Force and Destiny’s predecessors it comes with more dice, a well thought out adventure, a mini-rule book, more tokens and another gorgeous fold out map. As I’ve mentioned before, this is an excellent start for anyone wanting to get into the Star Wars RPG or even roleplaying in general.

I’ve repeatedly praised Fantasy Flight Games terrific support of their products and they again come through with Force and Destiny. Like the other boxed sets, there are two additional characters and an adventure, which expands on the scenario from the book online. Just like before these are all entirely free to download and that is simply terrific to see, with Force and Destiny also showing Age of Rebellions foresight with suitable tokens for the extra characters already in the box (should you choose to use them). Honestly, we don’t need me to go and say “This is truly terrific and if you want to get a start in RPGs buy this” again, do we?

So in terms of the play report for this, I actually did something a little different this time compared to the others. I actually didn’t use either of the extra online characters and I also didn’t choose to use Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion elements. This box was pretty much run straight as it comes off the shelf, which I think is actually a really good idea even if you do have the other boxed sets. This adventure does seem to lean very heavily on the party being force sensitive, or at least having access to the force. Naturally enough given the title, but there is a specific moment where they game clearly railroads the players into the “This is how the Force works tutorial of the adventure!”. Non-force sensitive characters are going to find this a bit confusing and difficult to deal with as a result.

Because I ended up just using what was in the box, I ran the adventure with just the four players and so here is my account of the game. Did I mention this was really good and if you want to try getting into the Star Wars RPG you should buy it? I can’t remember if I said that yet.

Play Report: The Dramatic Rescue of Hethan Romund

When Force and Destiny begins, the player characters find themselves climbing up the steep Mount Tellec in order to get to an ancient Jedi Temple on the planet of Spintir. Their mentor and one of the last genuine experts of what the Jedi Order once was, Hethan Romund, has been taken prisoner by a force adept clouded by the dark side of the force called Malefax. Now they must race against time and the hostile local inhabitants to attempt a daring rescue, which in contrast to the first two beginner boxes does not require them to hide from anything. This was an interesting change of pace to begin with at least, but I soon found my players rapidly defaulted to simply using athletics to climb up the mountain. This task didn’t seem to provoke as much natural ingenuity in using skills, as compared with the “hiding from the enemy” start did in the other two.

In any event, the characters braving the ice and snow up the mountain for this were:

Tarast: Sentinel
Dao: Mystic
Sarendar: Guardian
Kaveri: Seeker

This climb proved not to be too difficult for most of these characters, but Dao unfortunately found that he was unable to hold his footing and slipped! Thankfully one of the other players had rolled very well, so instead of having Dao fall to an uncomfortable splat, I decided they could “Catch” him falling to assist him up. As the majority of the group managed to succeed here, I decided not to bother with the automatic “lose two strain” advice that the adventure gave. Considering that some of the characters lost strain simply by rolling some threat symbols normally, I felt that was a more than fair compromise and seemed more natural to lose strain in this manner.

In any event the inexperienced Force Sensitives came across a strange floating hologram not too far from the top of their climb. This is the Gatekeeper, who apparently has been watching their progress and is interested in seeing if they are suitable candidates for ridding his temple of Malefax (who it is not fond of). Unfortunately for my players, they soon fumbled any chance of diplomacy and idle boasting did not endear them to the Gatekeeper. It was here that I decided to improvise a bit and to advance the plot logically, I had to Gatekeeper use some of his power to create some “holograms” to test them. Copying the stats and general habits of some of the aggressive locals, I organized a quick battle here to test out the players resolve.

Battle against the Holograms

I actually got a bit confused with the position of this particular bridge – the image above is actually used in a later encounter – but this worked pretty well. By far the most interesting thing to me immediately was how the lightsaber worked. Lightsabers are actually not as ridiculous as they have been in the past, but still feel unique and reasonably balanced against other weapons. In Force and Destiny, lightsabers have an incredible amount of penetration to cancel an enemies soak from armor, but their base damage at 6 is fairly low. In contrast the weapon that consistently did the most here and throughout the adventure in fact, was the heavy blaster rifle. The range and heavy amount of damage the blaster rifle does when it hits, even with soak values applied, was more than enough to make it feel entirely relevant in a party with two lightsabers.

Either way, the players rapidly cleaned up the holograms and gave the Gatekeeper some hope they may be able to brave the hostile inhabitants of this world. I gave some exposition about the place being infested with dark side energies of late, the locals becoming increasingly hostile because of it and that there was only a matter of time until Malefax grows impatient – or insane – enough to kill his prisoner. The prisoner being a woman called “Romund” and who it just so happened the PCs were looking for. Minding, at this moment I do concede that I became a little bit confused as to what was going on here. In the actual book itself when introducing Romund, the art seems to imply that it’s actually a man and yet in the text/adventure Romund is explicitly female. Possibly a late change?

After resolving that confusion anyway, there was an interesting debate from the players about if they should follow the “road”** or if they should chance going through the thick looking jungle instead. Both routes would take them to the temple, but I decided to emphasize at this point the speed they would need to move at to reach Romund in time and the difficulty in navigating the jungle. On thinking about this after the fact, if I had some more stats handy and thought about it more, I think I could have made this potential player choice work much better. As it so happened, my explanation for why the jungle wouldn’t be a good route to take was accepted and we moved along the planned adventure’s path once more.

Inevitably the party came to an old ruin, where the Gatekeeper popped up to tell them that a group of local hunters was approaching. Here I decided to emphasize that the hunters were not of sound mind, having been driven to homicidal madness by the dark side and so the Gatekeeper wanted their lives spared. The characters accepted these terms and quickly went about setting up an ambush, which led to some interesting roleplaying. The player of Sarendar decided it would go against their characters understanding of the “Jedi code” to ambush an enemy. Here I had to make an interesting ruling, deciding that even if the whole party wasn’t ambushing the players who were hiding would still get the benefit of surprise – even if the enemy knew others were about.

Ruin Showdown

Much like the first fight, the hunters did exceptionally poorly against the well trained force sensitives and were soon cut down. Sarendar even managed to simply coerce one into believing the fight was so hopeless, it would be best to run away. Interestingly enough, I actually managed to do what the box set wanted by doing this as one hunter (whoever is last) is supposed to simply “flee” at the end. This sets up something that I actually felt was extremely contrived, though it may have just been “the force”, where the characters fall through the ground into various pits/rubble strewn areas. It required a little bit of brow furrowing and explanation from me why this happened, because the adventure assumes the PCs “chase” the last hunter, while mine were not so interested. In any event, the reason the adventure goes down this track is because this is where the “How do you use the force” part of the adventure came up for the first time.

Using the force is actually a pretty neat mechanic, involving the big white 12 sided dice, which normally establish the destiny track (which determines the light side/dark side tokens that can be flipped to improve/degrade dice). In this case when you want to use a force power you roll your force die and then the points it generates, light or dark, determine if you can succeed. What makes this compelling is what happens if you generate dark side points, which makes your life much more difficult in two ways: Firstly, you take strain for actually using those points. Then to make matters worse, you might actually start to become corrupted and may slide down a path to the dark side.

One of the players actually generated a dark side point for their force sense, which I decided to allow it to work mostly the way it was written in the adventure. Except that, due to the nature of the dark side, I had them find that their snow mice led them to the corpse of the only hunter they “killed” (he blew himself up in fairness to them). There they got to see the animals – twisted by the dark side – feasting upon the dead hunters body. So she was still able to get her character out, but by choosing to go to the dark side I made the choice have a darker aspect to the result. This wasn’t supposed to indicate any major long term consequence, but I did want to give an indication of the hazards of relying on the dark side of the Force.

After getting themselves out of the various pits and some impromptu healing, the slightly more battered characters headed towards the next bridge. There they encountered some unusual alien mercenaries and decided to try a similar ambush. To their surprise instead of shooting first, the aliens happily talked to them and the party found they were very susceptible to bribes. Thus began the great system of bribing the guards with 100 credits each, in order to lure them further into the jungle. Once out of sight of their supporting comrades, the characters then shot or lightsabered them all to before they could move. Given that these guys were working for Malefax directly, this didn’t seem an unreasonable plan but now I think of it, may have been a bit aggressive for “Jedi” to do. In a longer term campaign, I may have considered some corruption points for willingly killing enemies when a peaceful alternative was definitely present.

None the less with the bridge out of the way, it was now a simple trip up to the top of the mountain and then to the Jedi temple at its apex. Unfortunately there was a new problem in terms of hostile locals, with a group of ferocious ice wolves guarding the entrance. Although they tried their best to sneak past them, some utterly dreadful die rolling and some assistance from me flipping a destiny point to throw in a red die, resulted in another pack getting the drop on the characters from behind!

Ice Wolf Ambush

Compared with previous fights, this one was much more stiff as these ice wolves use Star Wars’ excellent minion mechanics. If I haven’t explained this before, essentially it lets one “model” consist of multiple individuals who combine to make their stats better overall. In this case, 3 wolves are represented by each token above and when at max strength they roll 3 yellow die when attacking. As they are damaged, their stats degrade as their members get killed off so they go to say, 2 yellow and a green after losing one member and so on. It’s a simple, effective and clever way to have larger groups of enemies in a combat. Additionally this also ensures that these enemies are still kept dangerous for the players and without slowing down combat.

Eventually though the player characters prevailed and not turned into ice wolf kibble this day – though Dao got a real hammering from the beasts. Here is where I made a bit of a mistake and misread the adventure, allowing my players to enter through the temple by the side. In reality this is heavily sealed off and even defended, so it should have been a lot more difficult. None the less, this didn’t make a huge difference to the final battle as it mostly ended up occurring the same way but from a different direction. On the other hand, from a narrative POV, if the enemies could wander in here they should have figured out where the holocron chamber was themselves a bit sooner.

Then again I kind of like the idea that it means Malefax is either a bit thick or so clouded by the dark side he can’t think straight anymore. His random actions, including more or less randomly yelling at Romund before going back to throwing things around more, do indicate that he’s definitely a few Sith short of a Jedi Purge. Or something.

The showdown with Malefax

If Force and Destiny did have one thing that was considerably different from the other two, it was that it didn’t actually end with a climactic vehicle related chase or scene. Instead choosing to have something that was much more akin to a more personal sword fight. Here I instantly guessed (correctly) that at his initial stats Malefax would probably last about 1 and a bit rounds – if he was fairly lucky. So I immediately increased his wound and strain thresholds, so he could burn more for extra actions and survive at least two blows (figuring the players have to miss sometime). While Malefax wasn’t the most strenuous of final battles I’ve achieved, he certainly put a dent in the PCs and made them earn their victory. A dramatic “Triumph” symbol he rolled causing the temple to crumble a bit on the PCs – costing some their entire turn – was a memorable moment.

In the end the characters saved Romund and could rest easy knowing that a servant of the dark side had been put down for good this day. After spending a bit of time thinking about things, I decided to end the scenario there (which is actually the end of the adventure) and leave the PCs to their victory. After all, there were Jedi holocrons to dig up and investigate now, which does make you wonder what precisely Malefax was looking for in there…

Concluding Thoughts

After finishing this I honestly feel FFG deserves an incredible amount of praise for the three beginner boxes they have produced. All of them, Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion and now Force and Destiny have been top notch. While I feel Force and Destiny is actually the most obviously “Rail roady” of the three, it was still a tremendous amount of fun and the adventure is well thought out. Force Sensitive characters feel fairly balanced and the fact the character with the heavy blaster clearly performed perfectly well, especially alongside the light saber wielding characters was a huge positive. There are some interesting and seemingly deliberate changes to the typical structure of these boxed sets here. Most notably how the beginning works and the finale, but they definitely work well enough.

I’m actually not sure what I would recommend if you asked me to pick out of the two boxed sets I liked the most: Edge of the Empire or Force and Destiny. If you have players who want to play Star Wars to play as Jedi, then this is probably a very easy choice to make because this is what this offers. Bear in mind though that if you can afford more than one, all three systems here are fully compatible. You can have your Jedi, with your high flying smugglers and your rebel soldiers all at once. Nothing stops you mixing and matching the odd character between each game!

Verdict: Once again I highly recommend this to beginners to the genre of RPGs and veterans alike. Much of it will be extremely useful for future adventures and it’s a brilliant introduction to the games rules. It’s precisely what a beginner’s boxed set should be and I find it difficult to decide if I would recommend this or Edge of the Empire more. Just buy both! If you can.

Disclosure: This boxed set was purchased from a store with the Guild’s own Galactic Standard Currency.

*Anyone who was checking FFGs site for this to come out like I was will appreciate this.

**Quite appropriate that the figurative “railroad” of the adventure would be a road. Especially in terms of how the adventure flows and introduces the rules, most notably with how the part at the ruins played out. I did find this mildly amusing at the time.