14 March 2014

Meet Your Heroes

An Age of Rebellion Beginner Game Designer Diary

In January, we announced the Star Wars®: Age of Rebellion™ Beginner Game. Then, we presented a virtual tour of the game in a recent preview. The Age of Rebellion Beginner Game features a complete, learn-as-you-play adventure to thrust players in the midst of the action, along with a 48-page rulebook to expand on the concepts in the adventure. The Beginner Game also comes with a set of Star Wars dice and Destiny tokens, character and vehicle tokens, four full-color maps, and four character folios. In today’s Designer Diary, Beginner Game developer Dan Lovat Clark provides an inside look at creating the four pre-generated characters you’ll meet inside the Age of Rebellion Beginner Game!

A Word from the Developer

Our Star Wars RPG Beginner Games, like those for Star Wars®: Edge of the Empire™ and Star Wars®: Age of Rebellion™, do not feature rules for character creation, which means that the pre-generated characters we include are designed to be as exciting and accessible as we can possibly make them. It’s our goal to ensure that every potential player has at least one hero he or she is excited about playing. We also want to make our heroes a good introduction to the “parent” RPG products (in this case, the Age of Rebellion), so players who decide to make the jump have an idea of the types of heroes the game offers. We needed to adapt the characters to ensure they would fit into the Beginner Game, while accounting for the differences between the Beginner Game and Core Rulebook.

Beginning the Beginner Game

To start with, we brainstormed a group of six heroes. For the Age of Rebellion Beginner Game, we wanted a good mix of human and alien, male and female, with one hero from each of the six careers. At this stage, we outlined few very basic, high-level concepts for each hero and agreed that they would all be part of the same Special Operations unit in the Rebel Alliance. We also decided during this stage that our adventure would take place on a forest or jungle planet. Keeping those facts in mind, our art director, Zoë Robinson, would be able to give us six pieces character of art that looked like they belonged to the same team and were on the same mission. While she oversaw the art, the design team forged ahead with the rest of the heroes.

Six Heroes? But the Box Only Has Four!

“But wait,” you say. “The Beginner Game only comes with four character folios!” You’re exactly right! However, you can find two additional bonus heroes on our website when the Beginner Game comes out, covering the other two careers from the Age of Rebellion core game. Jin-Rio (in the image to the right) is one of these two, bonus heroes. She’s a human Diplomat. More about Jin-Rio and the identity of the second bonus hero will be revealed after the release of the Beginner Game, so stay tuned!

Numbers, Nuts, and Bolts

Ordinarily, an Age of Rebellion player can design his or her character based purely on what sounds like fun to play. Some groups make an effort to diversify skill sets or cover critical areas, but others don’t feel the need. For the Beginner Game, however, it was essential that the heroes we designed be good at the things the adventure asks them to do. Furthermore, there would be no guarantee that any given hero would be played in any given session, so we needed to make sure that any combination of characters could complete all of the challenges. And, of course, we still wanted every hero to be fun to play. We built our heroes with the Age of Rebellion core rules, making a few small changes to account for differences between the Beginner Game and the full game. Because of the need to have some redundancy, most of the heroes we built have a pretty broad characteristic array.

Cael, the Soldier, for example, initially had a Brawn of 4, but we eventually dropped his Brawn down to 3 (still quite potent!) to increase his Willpower to 3, so he could use Coercion to get through some social challenges if necessary. Zal, on the other hand, kept her 4 in Agility (we wanted some of the characters to feel like real specialists), but also got a 3 in Cunning and used her bonus non-career human skills to grab a rank of Skulduggery and Deception, because of certain challenges in the adventure that we won’t mention by name here.

Why Follow the Core Rules for Character Creation?

You might wonder why we bothered to build rules-legal starting heroes at all, instead of just picking characteristics that fit our needs as we would with an NPC. Two reasons! Firstly, we wanted the players to be able to re-build their characters, as closely as possible, if they chose to jump to the core rules but keep playing the same character. Secondly, we wanted the heroes to provide a realistic idea of what player characters look like in Age of Rebellion, so that players who make the jump know what to expect. Surprisingly, the hardest part was spending all the starting money for each character! Now, as anyone who has ever pawed through the equipment section of one of these games can tell you, it is not hard to spend credits. What’s hard was spending the credits in a way that:

  • Doesn’t give the character a lot of gear with rules that need to be looked up or remembered (since it’s a Beginner Game, and we wanted everything to be approachable and streamlined).
  • Gives the character room to grow as the game progresses.
  • Doesn’t make the adventure way too easy!
  • Doesn’t threaten to bring any character too close to their encumbrance threshold. Though these rules do not appear in the Beginner Game to keep things simple, we didn’t want to create unrealistic expectations about the amount of gear the average Age of Rebellion player character carries.

In the end, we played a little fast and loose with the gear, but everyone has a kit that feels believable for their role and the operation in question.

Talented Heroes

When building the Beginner Game heroes, we actually did select a specialization from within the proper career for each hero for purposes of choosing career skills. However, none of our heroes begin with talents—full talent rules are another piece of complexity we chose to defer to later in the game. We also didn’t see the purpose of preserving specializations as a game concept, since the game didn’t have character creation. What we did instead was create a unique talent tree for each hero that pulls talents from anywhere we pleased within that character’s career. We chose talents that suited the character’s role and would be exciting to the player, and built them into trees to provoke interesting choices as the character leveled up.

Of course, since some of the really exciting talents are found fairly deep in the tree and cost quite a bit of XP in the Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook, we cheated a little bit and moved some up. True Aim is an awfully good talent for only 15 XP, but it’s not like we were going to leave it off Cael’s tree!

The Hero’s Journey

By the time the numbers were done, we had a pretty good idea of who these characters were. We chose names and started to sketch out their character backstories. We also proceeded full speed ahead on the playtesting, seeing where each character worked and didn’t work, and which characters players gravitated towards in testing. When the art came in, it looked awesome. It was also the final piece of the puzzle we needed to flesh out the character backstories and bring them to life. Tendaar, in particular, really clicked as a character when we saw his art. He has a certain deadly serious zaniness to him that is super fun. (Plus, Tendaar and Zal together are hilarious, what Beginner Game producer Max Brooke calls a “bad idea engine.”) The end result is six exciting, capable, and interesting heroes, and we think you’ll have as much fun playing them as we did designing them! Enjoy the game!

Pre-Order Today!

Thanks, Dan! Pre-order your copy of the Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Beginner Game today! Then, keep checking back for more news and previews related to Age of Rebellion and Star Wars roleplaying!



Back to all news