As I mentioned last week, I was a guest once again on this week's Order 66 podcast, specifically to talk about the Obligation mechanic in the Edge of the Empire RPG Beta. I helped develop the mechanic and wrote the GM advice in EotE. I had a few thoughts after the show I wanted to follow up on.
First, if you haven't listened to the Order 66 podcast (and, as they say, I never do), it is Episode 3 - The Obligometer. The discussion covers what the Obligation mechanic is, and how it is used. It also gets into the nuances of how the mechanic could work from game session to game session. BTW, Obligation isn't used in the Edge of the Empire Beginner Box rules, but it is sort of baked into the storyline.
One of the main discussions centered on the question of how the amount of Obligation could or should affect game play. If your character has a 5 point Debt Obligation, how does that differ from a 15 point Debt obligation? Player characters automatically begin the game with at least some Obligation, and that starting amount (between 5 and 20 each) is tied into the number of PCs in the group when the campaign begins. Actually, that part of the mechanic could warrant an entirely different discussion about changing group size over time, but I might return to that subject in a future post.
Presumably, a 20 point Debt Obligation would mean that the PC owed someone a lot more of something, say credits for simplicity, than a PC with only 5 points. And much of that part of the podcast discussion provided examples of that sort of situation for several different Obligation types. I'll return to that idea in a moment.
One thing we didn't discuss is that there is at least one other way to look at this. The amount of Obligation represents the amount of time and effort it takes to fulfill the obligation. However, the amount of time and effort required might not directly reflect the amount of in-game value of the Obligation.
Let's take Debt as an easy example. Usually, 5 points of debt could represent, say, 5,000 credits, and maybe 15 points represents 50,000 credits. Maybe every time the character takes out another loan, it adds a point of Obligation for every 1,000 or 5,000 or whatever. These aren't hard and fast numbers - the GM should weigh in with the specifics because the amount of money available in a campaign (after the first few sessions) could vary quite a lot.
However, what if the debt itself was only 1,000 credits even for a 15 point Obligation value? Maybe something else is going on here. Maybe those credits have to be paid back in some difficult to manage form like a Triganic Pu (quite a feat for Star Wars, admittedly), or in a manner that makes the amount of credits itself trivial. Maybe they have to pay it back in a very specific, culturally or symbolically important way, such as making a pilgrimage to a specific place. Each time they take another step on the journey, they reduce their Obligation.
The point is, feel free to be creative. The Obligation types are only named, and not defined in any other manner. Higher Obligation amounts means it takes more effort free the character of the Obligation, and the more often their Obligation is likely to be activated during a campaign.
More on Obligation next week, I think.
For now, here are a few other items of interest:
- Edge of the Empire designer Jay Little talks in detail about the narrative dice system at The GSA, with some Q&A.
- The GSA is carrying a lot of EotE info, including characters, reviews, and more discussion.
- FFG previews some details of Slave I for X-Wing.