We're Going in Full Throttle
Guest Writer Bryan Young on Blending X-Wing™ and Age of Rebellion™
"We're going in. We're going in full throttle."
One of the great things about the Star Wars galaxy is that it offers all sorts of different thrills. You have Jedi with lightsabers, battalions of Stormtroopers with blasters and battle armor, and strange cantinas populated by all manner of alien species. Simultaneously, you have great war machines, weapons capable of blowing up planets, and riveting space battles with fast-paced dogfights between rival starfighters. Through it all, you have adventure, humor, and the development of larger-than-life characters in pursuit of their destinies.
Naturally, these different types of thrills lend themselves to all sorts of different games. Just among the offerings from Fantasy Flight Games, you have the capital ship battles of Star Wars™: Armada, the mission-focused ground combats of Imperial Assault, the character-driven storytelling enabled by three different roleplaying games, and the squad-based dogfights of X-Wing™. You can even recreate the entire Galactic Civil War with Star Wars™: Rebellion. These games provide a wealth of different play experiences from which you can choose, each of which focuses on a different sort of Star Wars thrill.
Sometimes, though, you may not want to choose between the experiences; you may want to combine them. To that end, guest writer Bryan Young offers a look at the ways you might pair the fast-paced starfighter battles of X-Wing with the imaginative and open-ended adventures of Star Wars®: Age of Rebellion™.
Stories and Starfighters
I have groups of gaming friends that love the spaceship combat of the X-Wing miniatures game, and I have others that love the open world sandbox of Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars roleplaying. I’m the sort of player who is caught in the middle. I love the way X-Wing captures the feeling of a dogfight in space, but I also love the storytelling and playacting required for a really great roleplaying game. And that got me thinking, "How could I combine these two games into an experience that would satisfy the different sorts of gamers I’d likely be playing with?"
There are a lot of answers to that question because there are so many ways you could combine X-Wing miniatures and Age of Rebellion, and I think they’re all worth exploring. They might need a bit of extra work from the Game Master, but I think the time would be well spent for anyone looking to spice up their gaming nights.
Dogfighting in Age of Rebellion
Visualizing space combat can sometimes be a little bit harder in a game of Age of Rebellion than anything else the players are asked to visualize, especially if you’re trying to track all of the action as it happens. Roleplayers are the most imaginative group of people in the galaxy, but even so, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to keep all the aspects of three-dimensional space combat straight in your head. Fortunately, FFG makes some of the most detailed miniatures in the Star Wars universe as part of their X-Wing miniatures game. It’s very easy to use your collection of ships to help players visualize where each ship in their encounter might be in a simulated three-dimensional space.
As props, they work great.
But what if you’re a more ambitious Game Master and want to try to simulate a space battle that puts players in the cockpit of one or more Rebel ships? Then you have a ready-made tool in the X-Wing miniatures game to do so.
The main problem a Game Master will run into is balance, and that’s something you’ll have to work out in advance. You’ll need to balance the skill level of your players against the non-player character pilots they’ll be facing off against, and you’ll have to give them some sort of acknowledgement for the skills they already have on their character sheet. In X-Wing, the Empire is on even ground with the Rebellion, but you will need to tweak things a bit to give your player characters a chance to shine.
The best way for a Game Master to incorporate encounters like this is to put characters in a situation where they would be in ship-to-ship combat. Yes, it might be cool for all of your characters to be together in a single YT-1300, but when you’re cutting to an encounter in X-Wing, it might get boring for the players who aren’t piloting the ship or manning the guns. There are hundreds of reasonable scenarios where a small group of one-man fighters might make all the difference in the galaxy. It happens a lot in Star Wars… The Empire never thinks they’d ever be a threat, or they’d have a tighter defense.
When laying out the scenario, don’t limit yourself to the idea of two forces meeting each other amid a starry battlefield where one is obligated to obliterate the other. Remember you're telling a story.
Maybe there’s an escort mission and the convoy your players is assigned to guard is being attacked. All they have to do is protect the frigate long enough for it to get off the table before the enemy elements destroy it. Or they’re off to make a pick-up of fuel in an asteroid field at a secret Rebel outpost, the Empire attacks, and your players need to scramble off the map before they’re destroyed.
One way to help blend the two games might be to allow the players to bring their Destiny Points into the X-Wing portion of their RPG. It would tip the balance of the very specific rules of X-Wing back into the realm of storytelling. Miss a vital dice roll? Need an extra maneuver? Take a fatal hit? Use a Destiny Point.
As the Game Master, it’s your job to balance the mechanics of both games to create the best game experience your players can have, and this is just one way to do it.
Like many players of the X-Wing miniatures game probably are, I’m a big fan of Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston’s X-Wing books. Using those legendary books as a guide for how to add an RPG element to a game for a group of X-Wing players seems perfect.
It’s important to remember that the X-Wing miniatures game is decidedly more prone toward fatalities than your standard roleplaying game. If you can build this into the campaign, though, why not embrace it? One of the hallmarks of how great the X-Wing books are was the fact that nearly every character was expendable. And since it was based around a squadron of pilots, there were constantly fresh faces coming into the rotation. In a roleplaying game with a consistent group of characters, it might not be a problem to run a campaign where your players know that the casualties of war will be high. If they’re clued in to the fact that they might need to create a new character at a moment's notice if the combat doesn’t go their way, they will be on board with this style of play.
If you’re sending characters on missions that require equal mixtures of espionage and space combat, just like Wedge Antilles and his Rogues, this is the perfect way to get a great mix of roleplaying and X-Wing combat into every session. But you need to find a way to reward players who survive, making survival a very real goal. Going back to the idea of using Destiny Points in your X-Wing combats: as a Game Master, you can alter in small ways how the Destiny pool works for these pieces of combat, and as players' characters survive more rounds of combat and gain more experience, they could then be rewarded access to an increased amount of Destiny Points each time the roleplaying turns to a dogfight.
This method would add incentives to players to keep their pilots alive, and add a way to simulate accumulated experience inside the dogfights or a touch of Force sensitivity, and add elements of storytelling opportunities for the players.
That’s just one way of doing it, though. As the Game Master, you’re the ultimate arbiter of what your group would go for and how it might work best. And if you’re bringing roleplaying aspects to a group of X-Wing gamers for the first time, they might want fewer modifications to the X-Wing rules and more help in finding their voice in the RPG segments.
This is Red Five, Standing By
In either of these methods of bringing these two styles of play together, it’s important to remember that the Game Master is in charge of making the play experience the best it can be for the characters. In X-Wing, the goal is to standardize the starfighter experience the players share, but the roleplaying game is something that can be more finely tuned to each group. Take the responsibility seriously. Remember that you can flex and finesse the rules and difficulty to create a great night of gaming and storytelling; you don't need to take an objective set of stats or rules in order to bedevil the days of players.
However you decide to tackle the blending of the two games to have a fun night of playing on your tabletop, you’re sure to have a great time. It’s like mixing two great flavors like peanut butter and jelly. You’re going to end up with a more dynamic game and an even better game night!
When Bryan Young's not busy dreaming up new ways to marry the miniatures action of X-Wing to the battle-scarred adventures of Age of Rebellion, he is a regular columnist for StarWars.com and a frequent contributor to Star Wars Insider. You can also hear him on the Full of Sith podcast and follow him on Twitter @swankmotron.