In general, among the writers here at Cannibal Halfling Games, we are attracted to the things that we write about for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because it is something at the cutting edge of mechanical development. Sometimes, it’s excitement at projects to come. Other times, it’s remembering a forgotten project that could use a bit more love. And, once in a while, we see something that makes us snort with laughter and say “Oh, I have to see that!” It was the final of these that had me take a look at the recent supplement for the Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games, Allies and Adversaries.
Fantasy Flight has been pumping out supplements of all sorts for the system fairly regularly for over five years now: they’ve produced expansions for literally every Career over all three core books, they’ve written about setting locations, and they’ve even produced a fairly comprehensive guide to playing the timeline of the original movies, supplemented by the events of Rogue One and Star Wars: Rebels. (with a supplement for the prequels and Clone Wars cartoons incoming.) A&A changes the mold a bit by delivering a book that is purely about characters for a GM to populate the world with.
Despite that pretty narrow focus, Allies and Adversaries offers up three very helpful things for people interested in running the game. First, it’s a broad resource that can cover campaigns using any and all of the three core rulebooks, despite each individual game having a different focus. This appears to be part of the overall trend that Fantasy Flight is taking lately, streamlining releases to work for the Star Wars Narrative System at large instead of just one line.
The book is filled with stats of NPCs for GMs to throw at the players, with types that range across nearly every faction in the Galaxy. It is not that previous iterations have failed to provide NPCs for players, or that A&A is an encyclopedic tome of every published NPC in the game (which it is absolutely not). In fact, depending on the general overall feel that a certain campaign is going for, a GM may want to spend more time in the particular core book that they are planning to run in. However, in my personal experience, a lot of campaigns include at least one character from a different “core”, and the actions of your campaign might drag you in one direction or the other.
Perhaps your party of Rebels feel that they need to liberate a town from the oppression of a Black Sun Vigo before they have the chance to use a sympathetic planet as a base of operations. Perhaps the pilot of your crew of scallywags on the edge starts to show signs that they might have a more than casual acquaintance with the Force, and a fallen Jedi apprentice might be an excellent foil. Allies and Adversaries is an excellent tool for cases such as this: the types of characters are roughly laid out by faction (Rebels, Empire, Scum and Villainy) as well as the assorted creatures, with clear lists as to the type of character. It’s a simple matter when your players need to deal with, say, a local bureaucrat to look up and quickly deploy a character with basic stats and gear without digging through notes, or speed reading a plethora of books to decide what to offer.
The second thing that Allies and Adversaries brings to the table is a bit more contentious: stats for canon characters and creatures from the series, offering specific threats for players to go up against. There is a line of GM thinking that dreads such encounters, which relies on a simple (and often accurate) maxim: “If you stat it, they will kill it.” I love player ingenuity, and I have continued to tweak my GM style over the years because it seems as if they inevitably will come up with a sidestep or innovative solution to knock what I should have thought have been a real challenge out of the park. The idea of having Luke Skywalker, the Empire’s Most Wanted escorting them out for a mission might be a really cool idea, but the Dice Gods are fickle beings, and you could be one roll away from snuffing out a huge plot central character and destroying canon. If this is a concept that bothers you as a prospective GM, then perhaps some of these additions will be less useful for you. But, on the other track, if you and your party are out to smash canon into more pieces than Alderaan, boy howdy, this is the book for you.
Some of the characters in this book are repeated in previous iterations, such as Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn, but there are plenty of new offerings. Name a famous character and there’s a good chance you’ll find them: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbecca, Wedge Antilles, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Vader and, yes, the Emperor himself. That said, if players are feeling confident in their chances at knocking off a canon character, they will probably find that they are in store for something special. Big name characters, along with very nice stats blocks and excellent skill scores, tend to come with a long list of abilities, Force or Otherwise. In particular, it’s nice to note that Han and Chewie are kept together: Chewie can spend Destiny to Reroll a check that defends or aids Han, and Han’s “Impulsive Distraction” can add on success to everyone in the party (there’s also a bit that goes “The Wookie Wins” on Brawl checks). Of particular note is the Emperor, who is quite literally terrifying: he comes in with a Force Rating of 8 (absurdly high in the system), and can use those dice in rolls to Terrify players to prevent them from even being able to take their turn. That strength in the Force also fuels a buttload of powers: Farsight, Foresee, Influence, Move, Seek, Sense, Unleash . . . and finally, a modified Enhance option which lets him roll uncommitted dice on his lightsaber checks. This makes him deadly in nearly every form of personal level combat. And yet…there he is, a possibly final fight of final fights.
There are also some nice challenges for players to encounter that don’t necessarily wreck the plot: the Sarlacc is statted out as well, and is a tricky opponent to kill, especially keeping in mind that it can’t move, and once players are clear they may very well simply elect to run the hell away. And if you know players in your party who would take the others on a quest in order to maximize their gear, there is a very nice little surprise in the Krayt Dragon. They have been previously mentioned for the extremely valuable, rare, and powerful kyber crystals that reside in their bodies. With their arrival, players have the chance to hunt these creatures…but they better be careful that they do not become the hunted.
But the third and final reason is what actually made me sit up, take notice, and actually go out and purchase the book so that I could take a look at it. In Allies and Adversaries, Fantasy Flight finally went out to make player character options for Jawas, Tusken Raiders and Ewoks. We’ve already seen unofficial versions of these in the adventures of the Living on Borrowed Time crew and the merry misadventure of the Ewok Party, so the opportunity to finally put all of the pieces into official play provided too much of a temptation to turn away from.
The Ewok was actually pretty close to what was provided in the Unofficial Species Menagerie fanwork, but offers a wrinkle that makes sense: a disadvantage that they cannot use modern technology, but can buy their way out of it for an in story reason. After all, that Ewok does learn how to ride a speeder . . . and besides, it keeps alive the legend of the Ewok starfighter ace, Lieutenant Kettch, which can now be made in game.
The Tusken Raider has some nice ability text as well, giving them extra success when riding Bantha plus an enhanced ability to resist hot and arid conditions due to the masks they wear. The Jawa get a neat ability where they can Negotiate using their Cunning rather than Presence, meaning that they are excellent scroungers and shrewd negotiators, and I can easily see them fitting in as a ship’s mechanic.
All in all, there is nothing in Allies & Adversaries which is a true gamechanger for the system as a whole: there are no new mechanics, and no huge plot hooks that are fleshed out here. People who want to see something that may fundamentally change the progression path of the character, or GMs who want a resource to run something new to the setting are likely going to be dissapointed, and would be better served in looking elsewhere, such as the previously alluded to Rise of the Separatists that is set for release in May 2019. However, as a reference book for a GM, it definitely has applicable use, especially in the areas that I mentioned. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Allies & Adversaries has a lot for the GM who wants to throw a variety of challenges at players, and for those who want to throw new challenges at players when they aren’t afraid of breaking canon.
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