Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPGs each focus on different aspects of the Star Wars universe. Now that all three are released - Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny - and can be used together, it's perhaps easier to lose what makes each game unique. Here are some suggestions to keep various themes alive during game play.
What I'm talking about here isn't necessarily plot related. Each game tends to have its own adventure types built-in. Trying to defeat the Empire? Probably an Age of Rebellion game. Skirting galactic laws and involved in sketchy schemes and operations? Edge of the Empire. Intensely focusing on the aspects of the Force? Force and Destiny, if you're going to get very far into it.
I'm looking at what happens during game play. With the RPG's narrative dice system, a lot of attention is purposefully and rightfully on the results of the roll. Since a lot of actions are the same between games - basic combat, skill checks, and so on - the dice pool results aren't necessarily going to lead to a different flavor between the game lines. Since the narrative dice system encourages a lot of storytelling and improvisation, some of that can be accounted for in the descriptions used by the game master and players. Force and Destiny actions often inserts the Force die into various checks, so it has one built-in differentiator.
I'm looking for more ways to bring the games' primary differences to the forefront during the encounters themselves. That means making an effort to incorporate Obligation (Edge), Duty (Age), and Morality (Force & Destiny) into more encounters. One way is to include more scenes where these elements come directly into play, and plan for them in advance.
However, once the game gets rolling, it's easy (and expected) to go off-script (if it ever had one). That makes it more likely that the GM may fall back on reading the dice pool results as usual, and let the game become more generic over time. This occurs when encounters focusing on Obligation or Duty or Morality/conflict are suddenly skipped because the story changed and the GM didn't find a place to work that back into the game.
I have already designed convention games with encounters focused on the Emotional Strengths and Weaknesses of Force and Destiny characters. It works very well, but most are also very much set pieces. What I'm going to try next is to bring up those elements more on the fly. For that, I need several reminders in place to, well, remind me to think about them while running the game.
This week I just released my latest DMs Guild effort - DM Combat Tabs - which boils down to the same idea. I need something in front of me to remind me of an aspect of the game while juggling story, rules, and improvisation at the same time. In the case of the DM Combat Tabs, they're focused on the various effects that occur during a D&D combat round - conditions, spells, etc. What I'm talking about for Star Wars isn't that technical in terms of game rules, but similar in use at the game table.
Essentially, I'm going to start using folded cards on my GM screen with each character's special aspects for story reminders. Each card will include the PC's motivation - an element of the game that is often overlooked during play. In Edge it will list Obligation, Age will list Duty, and Force and Destiny will list the PC's emotional strength and weakness and their current Morality score. My hope is that with these reminders, I can better tailor the dice pool results descriptions to both the immediate encounter, and somehow involve the PC more personally in the scene. Not on every die roll, of course, but enough to bring the feel of the specific game line into the scene. We'll see how it goes in the coming conventions. (Next up is Kantcon - I'll be there on Sunday, not sure about the other days yet.)
Speaking of Force and Destiny - look what showed up at FFG. I'm very glad to have been part of the writing/developing team for this and many other Star Wars products.