Friday, April 15, 2022

Fantasy Flight Dice with Galaxy Far Away (and other thoughts)

For as often as I run my games diceless (or nearly so), I do really enjoy dice. I promise.

I started up a new local Galaxy Far Away campaign just over a week ago, and I realized I did not take a liking to the standard opposed 2d6 resolution that I originally penned for the game. Maybe it's because using d6 in Star Wars should belong with West End Games' timeless take on the genre, or maybe because I tend to find traditional opposed resolution less and less compelling these days. 

I have grown stale on finding out if something happens or not. Instead, stuff always happens. The question is not "does it happen?" but "how?" and I'm finding that said qualitative result generation is much more interesting than pass/fail. I'm not reinventing the wheel here, as the whole "yes, and" or "yes, but" style of adjudication easily traces its origin back to many storygame oracles and even further back into the distant, halcyon days of the hobby and its adjacents. 

Look at all of those silly symbols.

The point is, I am really quite taken with Fantasy Flight Games' "narrative dice" which they first debuted for Edge of the Empire and later more generically with their Genesys system, and I want to adapt them for Galaxy Far Away. 

The problem with the narrative dice in Edge of the Empire and its ilk is that you tend to roll so many of them at once that the whole game grinds to a halt so the table can lean forward and figure out what they all mean as if analyzing entrails like a haruspex. Players typically roll multiple green, blue, and yellow dice which have "good" symbols and the referee rolls multiple purple, black, and red dice which have "bad" symbols. Regardless, you're stuck staring like stunned deer at a pool of weird little markings which demand you suss out their combined Gnostic whisperings and impact the game fiction accordingly.

But they are rad dice. There are just too many of them used in play (and also Edge of the Empire is a hella crunchy game that does not bill itself as such, but I assure you, it is). Let's take a closer look at see what we can do to salvage their intended use without bogging everything down.

Right off the bat, there are too many types of dice. Ability dice upgrade to proficiency dice, and difficulty dice upgrade to challenge dice. As such, ability and difficulty dice go out the window. Same with boosts and setbacks. They're just more of the same. The Force die has a niche which I'll speak on later. Of special note for use with Galaxy Far Away, the proficiency and challenge dice each have one exclusive face on their d12 sides: "triumph" for proficiency and "despair" for challenge. Normal Edge of the Empire play assumes most of these results tend to cancel each other out and you pick over whatever's left, but I think that's lame. No matter what comes up, it affects the game.

Getting back to the "yes, and" discussion, I now rule that anyone who attempts something which is plausible in the game fiction succeeds. If there are not a lot of stakes, there are no dice rolled. If there is a clear advantage for the player, they succeed and they roll the proficiency die. Ditto for the challenge die if there is a clear disadvantage for the player. If both situations apply, roll both dice (either in a dramatic roll-off or just whoever grabs them first). Since plausible player actions succeed no matter what, any success/failure results from the dice add a minor positive/negative bump to what just happened. Advantage/threat results add a moderate bump, and triumph/despair results add a substantial bump, etc. We're only ever rolling a max of two dice at a time (one of each) so we can quickly assess the symbols and immediately riff on the context. 

Here's an example from the last session of our campaign:

Kal, a former clone commander, is in a corridor skirmish with Imperial remnant stormtroopers and the other players. He has a vibrosword (which is a beloved trinket from the war) and a typical blaster rifle. To his right is a turbolift with blasted-open doors leading into an empty shaft. 

Me: Kal, you're a deadeye shot and can easily pick off these stormtroopers, but there are so many of them and there are civilians in the fray. 

Kal: I'm going to fire at the squad leader while the others help get the civilians out of the way. 

Me: You'll need to roll the challenge die given the risk here. 

Kal's player rolls the challenge die, getting a double-threat result.

Me: You lay down heavy fire on the squad leader while your peers try to get the innocents out of harm's way, but one Rodian man is caught in the crossfire and takes a shot to the gut. He looks really badly hurt. 

Kal: I have a lot of training as a field medic from back in the day. I want to try and get to that man and help him! 

Me: Okay. You do have the skillset for this sort of thing, but this firefight is still chaos. Let's each roll a die here.

Kal's player rolls the proficiency die and gets a blank result. I roll the challenge die and get a despair result.

Me: Before you pivot your attention, another trooper bum-rushes you. He collides with your mid-section and knocks you backwards. You wince as you see your vibrosword fly from your side from the impact... right into the turbolift shaft. You hear every clang as it falls hundreds of feet below. 

Kal proceeds to scream at the trooper and throws him down the turbolift shaft as payback, then rushes to stabilize the Rodian man.

In this example, the first double-threat result clearly ties into the fiction since the civilians the crew is worried about are in harm's way. It made perfect sense that the risk involved led to a casualty. The blank proficiency result was a bummer, since Kal could really have used a bit of oomph to his rescue plan. The despair result is big bad news, and a sure sting for Kal is the loss of his vibrosword down the turbolift shaft. I could have hand-waved all of these things into the game with no dice, but the quickly-adjudicated results afforded for some breezy and punchy qualifications about what transpired. As a futher bonus to adapting these dice in this way, my players quickly got comfortable making these little narrative rulings themselves. Since we all trust each other to take the setting seriously and act within it in good faith, I don't feel compromised with handing off a little authority to them in these instances.

Here are the three dice we care about in Galaxy Far Away.

The white Force die is usually tied to Edge of the Empire's robust Force power system for Jedi/Sith player characters. In using the Force with Galaxy Far Away, I still rule it just like anything else--if its plausible, it happens; if not, it doesn't; add dice where it makes sense. The Force die, then, can be used to influence Destiny Tokens (more on that in a sec) or as an additional quality randomizer for Force usage, with Dark Side dots or Light Side dots further inflecting the user's alignment or disposition or tangential effects, etc. It's a gut feeling, through and through, but it works.

Usually I'd have a larger pool of Destiny Tokens setup at the beginning of each session, then roll a d6 to determine how many begin on the Dark Side instead of the default Light Side. With the Force die, I can handle that exactly how Edge of the Empire does--just match the result with each token to be flipped. At this point, I reduce the token pool from six (or sometimes eight depending on setup) down to four. One Force die result could flip half of them at setup, rather than a smaller fraction, ensuring that in-game token flips are more impactful given their scarcity. 

I'm also taking a page from Shawn Medero based on a comment he made on my original Galaxy Far Away blogpost. Normally there is no effect if all of the Destiny Tokens are aligned (all of them being either Light or Dark Side at the same time). Shawn's "Dramatic Reset" rule means that when all of the tokens are Light Side due to an in-game flip, a really huge boon occurs for the players. Ditto to the contrary if all of the tokens are Dark Side aligned. In my new dice framing, I'd look at these moments as something like a double triumph/despair result, which given that we're only using one of each respective dice, is otherwise impossible in terms of play. Flipping these tokens is already a sort of at-will auto-triumph/despair, so revving that intensity up even further is a great fit using Shawn's idea.

Norbert asked me earlier today if I or my players had any difficulty parsing the symbols in this new framing while we played. Frankly, it was effortless and almost instant each time we rolled and checked the result. I mentioned that it works not unike how my wife and I decide what board game to play or where to go out on a date when we're both indecisive. Usually we'll each pick an option and use something like rock-paper-scissors of Chwazi to arbitrate for us. However, almost every time one of us "wins" and we'd thus go with that person's option, we both immediately spring for the other option. We knew what we really wanted, we just couldn't articulate it. Same deal with these scant dice symbols. In the course of play, we very quickly identified what makes sense based on the results, but not without seeing them first and then quickly riffing on the context.

So there you have it. Remove d6s from Galaxy Far Away, add in these three unique dice, and hit the ground running. It worked better than I expected and I can't wait to leverage this cinematic procedure in our next session.


  1. To be fair all credit for the dramatic reset idea goes to Evil Hat's Rob Donoghue!

    Meanwhile, I love the idea of this reading it. I'm going to 100% try this out. I've got some of the chunky dice in my hands but the FFG system really isn't my cup of tea. I don't care for the video-game-esque feat trees. It is just too many exception to the rules to remember as a GM/player. *BUT* I agree the dice are very cool and fun. Happy to have some inspiration for how to make use of them!

    1. Also! If you decide to run a PbP of this over on boardgamegeek and need a player - let. me. know!

    2. Very tempting. The native die roller there can handle the FFG dice, too...

  2. Great post!

    Alright... Jim, my mapping for your FFG Star Wars dice is done...

    plausible attempts succeed
    no dice roll if little is at stake
    clear advantage for the character: they succeed + roll d12
    clear disadvantage for the character: they fail + roll d12
    if both, roll both dice

    Just memorize 1 means none, 12 means shelve (worth displaying it)
    under 6: minor bump
    over (or exactly) 6: moderate bump

    My guess is you could simplify even more and say
    1: no change
    12: substantial change
    everything in between means change, the higher, the more (dis)advantageous, but never as huge as a 12.

  3. I am planning to use FATE dice for a simple wargame to denote yes but/yes and/yes/no/no but/no and. Would work just as well as an RPG.

    1. Fate and Fudge dice are very cool. Great tools for just that sort of arbitration.

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  5. This is precisely what I was looking for! I Have a few questions.

    First, would you be looking to codify these dice rules back into 'Galaxy Far Away' or leave it at this blog post?

    Additionally, would you be interested in making a more generic version of the system? A Genesys to your Star Wars, as it were. I have a few ideas on how to do a Genesys ultra-light using your base ideas here, and I wanted to see if you had any thoughts? I will be happy to share my ideas if you are interested.

    1. I tend to be deliberately cagey with Galaxy Far Away as I don't want Disney's fully armed and operation legal battlestation to Death Star me from orbit. I consider all of this modular, but on the whole, I'd assume that "modern" Galaxy Far Away is adopting this FFG or d12 dice resolution model.

      As for a generic system, just look above at bhaktibaya's post. Already totally converted for general use with a d12. Otherwise use the Genesys dice with the same methods in mind.

    2. Good stuff and good luck avoiding the House of Mouse, though I feel you are low enough to the ground to avoid detection, especially with free products.

      If I ever get something interesting thrown together lifting from you ideas ill be sure to let you know (just put in in the comments here?).

    3. By all means! Sounds good to me.