I finally got to play Edge of the Empire! I ran Escape from Mos Shuuta from the beginner game for a group of 4 players. Oskara, Pash, and Lowhhrick were chosen, and the last player opted to play Mathus over 41-VEX. This post will contain MINOR SPOILERS!!!!
By the end of the encounter in the cantina all of the players were comfortable with building dice pools and interpreting the results. Coming up with narrative descriptions for threat and advantage was difficult in that encounter, but by the time we got to the stormtroopers that was starting to get easier. I think it will take a few sessions before I can slip into that frame of mind relatively seamlessly, but at worst there's several seconds (and a few "ums") as I try to think of something. Because players are called upon to spend advantage regularly, I anticipate that if I'm ever really stuck someone can probably throw a suggestion my way.
Everyone was pretty good at trying to find creative ways to avoid combat. There was no need for fighting at spaceport control so that was one combat completely avoided, and the encounter with Trex ended up being just with Trex, aboard the ship. They successfully convinced him that Mathus was there to install the HMRI, and got around the Trandoshan-Wookie animosity by having Lowhhrick posed as his slave. They blew their own cover when Lowhhrick grabbed Trex, with Pash dashing for the cockpit to take off as soon as possible. The party actually never fought a single security droid the whole time.
Interestingly, the party stuck it out in the fight with the stormtroopers. They took some nasty shots but they worked together really effectively and made ample use of cover. Part of the reason for their success was also that I forgot to have the stormtroopers take cover. This being only the second combat that I was running with the system I guess I was too wrapped up in making sure everyone was getting everything. It was also the first encounter where maneuvers really came into play, as the cantina fight ended up being so easy that the enemies were all dropped before any tactics could come into play. Besides, at that point the players were mostly concerned with interpreting and rolling the new custom dice, so they weren't all that worried about the other mechanics yet. Tactically-adept stormtroopers would have been scarier, for sure, but there's plenty of time for that in future games.
I was a little unsure of how space combat would fare with the group, and it definitely took me a minute or two to get my bearings as we switched to it (I told them that I had to skim over a few of the rules and maneuvers once more, and I think that short in-game review made the encounter run smoother than it otherwise would have). Sometimes that's what a GM needs, and knowing when to admit that is a great skill. I think the biggest surprise regarding space combat was that everyone was really impressed with all of the options that Mathus had back in the engine room. In addition to repairing system strain, I allowed the players to use the options from page 8 of the final Beta update. Boost Shields was a popular option, but they were salivating as I was reading off the other options as well. It's also worth noting that the players arguably made best use of the initiative system in space combat. Pash timed it so that his turn came after the TIEs, at which point he'd Stay On Target with 3 PC initiative slots following his action. The plan was for Lowhhrick and Oskara to take out as many TIEs with the boost dice as possible, giving fewer enemies those same boost dice against the Krayt Fang. Finally, I'd like to mention the fact that those linked laser cannons on the TIEs are nasty! One advantage is a really cheap price to activate that trait, ANNNNNND as I was typing that I checked the Beta updates and realized that it now cost two, so that's better. A few solid shots from a TIE could definitely bring down the YT-1300, adding tension to starship combat. I think they pretty much nailed the Hull Trauma and Armor values for TIEs, and was very impressed with how these values supported the source material. One shot from the Krayt Fang's turrets always took out a TIE in our game, and the only way that it could survive more than one hit would be for a gunner to succeed with only one uncancelled Success. This perfectly matches the frailty of the TIE fighter, but still allows for the occasional glancing blow that doesn't quite cut it. It's a tough line to walk, and it's hard to say whether that'll be modeled as well with other ships, but if they're going to get anything perfectly right it might as well be something as iconic as a TIE fighter.
We still had some time left after completing the beginner game adventure. It took us around 4 hours, including a break for lunch, which is pretty fast. Part of that is undoubtedly because the party was able to outright avoid 1.5 potential combats, though. In any case, I continued with the first part of Long Arm of the Hutt. Basically the part where they need to figure out everything that's wrong with the ship, find the Twi'lek prisoner, etc. Trex was actually still on the ship at this point, but unconscious. When Lowhhrick found the Wookie pelts, he jettisoned the Trandoshan's helpless body out of the airlock along with the pelts, so he won't be bothering them again. We ended after they jumped out of hyperspace and were ambushed by Thwheek's ship (they shot him down).
Between running this and my last session of The One Ring, I'm really cultivating my aversion to running pre-made, published adventures. They sound great in theory, but the session always feels more "stop and go" as I reference specifics from the adventure. Occasionally I'll forget to apply some detail that becomes important later, and it's happened just enough times that I've gotten mildly paranoid about it. This results in me double-checking stuff in-game even more frequently, and the session just doesn't go as smoothly. Worse is the fact that it becomes less fun to run the game because I know it's not running as smoothly as it could. I'd rather create my own stuff, a lot of that on-the-fly. Games like this and 13th Age are helping me develop more improvisational skill as a GM, which is challenging but rewarding. It's fun when I don't necessarily know what's coming up next. Of the player types described in the D&D 4E DMG, I consider myself mostly an Explorer, so it's nice to have an element of discovery when I run games as well. More and more I'm finding myself drawn to general plot points, locations of interest, and important NPCs and then throwing these elements together and filling in the details in-game. I'll probably distill the rest of The Long Arm of the Hutt into these broad elements and run the whole thing more free-form, and hopefully the game steers itself away from that party on Geonosis because the intricacy of that scenario might not be compatible with that GMing style.
Anyways, I think my players want to get another session or two under their belts, and then they all seemed very interested in creating their own characters. One of my players has already expressed interest in GMing, so maybe I'll even get to play a character sooner than I thought! Running 3 simultaneous games (two 13th Age games and now one EotE game) is started to wear me down!