Tag Archives: Jay Little

Design Diaries: The Final Edge of Fantasy

It should come as no surprise to anyone that has followed anything I’ve done in the past year or so that I am a fan of Fantasy Flight Games Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion. More importantly, I’m a huge fan of the things that Jay Little did when designing the mechanics that go on behind the game. The “narrative dice” as they are called help to make every single roll of the die important not only to the characters, but to the story as well through the use of several different axes of success and failure. Hearing about the idea of an action failing but still having something positive come out of it was exciting to me. Seeing it in action was mind-blowing in it’s simplicity. Since then, I’ve run the hell out of the game.

But like many others out there, I saw the potential of this engine to run games other than Star Wars. A lot of people started using it to play fantasy games. One poster over at the d20 Radio boards was simply running a general fantasy world. A few other posters were working on running a tabletop game of The Elder Scrolls with the system.

My mind went to a different kind of fantasy when I started thinking about what this game could do. My mind went to something I had spent countless hours in my youth and even into my adult years playing. Something that had gone through so many incarnations in it’s lifetime. Something that had gone from straight fantasy to science fiction and everything in between. My mind went to Final Fantasy.

The thing that drew my mind immediately to the idea was when I saw how Edge of the Empire handled the Force. When rolling to activate a Force power, you gather up a number of white 12-sided dice equal to your character’s Force Rating, and roll them, sometimes by themselves and sometimes as a part of bigger action depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with that particular use of the Force. Each face of the Force Die generates either dark side points or light side pips which are used to power these abilities. As you invest XP into improving your Force powers, you need to generate more and more of these points to activate the upgrades. Each face of the die has either one or two of these pips on them. The total number of pips is the same between the two, but the distribution is different. There are more faces with dark side pips then there are with light side pips, but that dilutes the potency of the dark side results, meaning that you will have a greater chance of rolling one dark side pip than two, whereas with light side pips you have a much greater chance of getting the more potent result of generating two. A character generally cannot use dark side pips to power their Force powers without suffering some ramifications in game from “touching the dark side.” And seeing as a character that is just starting out with the Force only has a Force Rating of 1 and thus only rolls one Force Die when activating his powers, it becomes easy to see that the temptation to use the dark side results will be there. This not only serves to almost perfectly model the use of the Force during the era the game is set in when the Emperor had all but eradicated the Jedi and their vast libraries of information and knowledge on the Force, but also, rather ingeniously I might add, gives a nod to the classic line in Episode V when Luke asks Yoda if the dark side is stronger.

“No. No. No. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”

Absolutely blew my mind when I first heard Jay Little describe it like that.

“But enough of that!” your saying. “This post is supposed to be about Final Fantasy! Right?” Well, yes. Technically. But how the Force Die was used in the game was the launching point of of this mental exercise that later developed into a full-fledged system hack, so bear with me. Some of you more astute readers may have already picked up on where I’m going with this. If so, good for you. You get a gold star*

Final Fantasy has always had a rich tradition of magic in it’s games. And more often than not, there’s a clear delineation between black magic and white magic. Black magic is the stuff that tends to hurt people and white magic is the stuff that tends to heal people.

There are two kinds of pips on the Force Die. One that is a white circle, and one that is a black circle. One side to power white magic, on side to power black magic. Obviously is wasn’t going to be quite that simple in practice, but in concept, the idea was the perfect springboard. The distribution would work quite well in theory – while the level of success would be skewed slightly towards the black magic spells, the number of points generated on those dice would make it harder to hit the required number to activate all the upgrades a high level caster would want.

The spells themselves could all be presented as the Force powers are – a basic ability that you can buy and then a series of upgrades you can purchase to modify the spell instead of just being able to cast more powerful versions of the spell like you get in the console titles. For example, looking at the classic Fire spell for an example, the basic power would simply allow you to cause damage to a target within a short distance from you. You can then spend XP on upgrades to increase the damage of the spell, making it more potent. Or you could spend it to hit more targets, or to hit targets that are farther away. What about giving it the Burn quality?

I’ve got some more notes typed up, but seeing as this post has already broken 1000 words, I think it’s best to save those for a later post. Hopefully this has whet your appetite somewhat.

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