The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens rekindled one of my gaming groups love for the themes and setting of Star Wars, and soon after we were building characters and debating and then rolling dice. Which in turn lead to me looking back at a Star Wars campaign I’ve long wanted to run and digging into the books in more depth in order to be ready to run a game.
As a player I had a basic grasp of the rules for movement in the game, which was fine, all I really needed to know was how close I was to the thing I wanted to interact with. The GM sets that and I respond appropriately, it’s all pretty simple.
Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG system is what they call a “narrative system” so as much as possible it avoids hard and fast numbers. This is very different to the usual fixed numbers of the war games and RPGs I have mostly played. It gives them game a great dynamic that encourages creativity, it’s a good, if initially complicated, system for an RPG.
Ranges, and thus movement, are similarly described narratively. With 5 range bands that are flexible and can be adjusted to suit the situation that you find the game is in. They are described in terms of your ability to communicate over them with just your voice, from conversational speaking through to inaudible. Specifically they are;
- Engaged: You can easily touch the target (a special subcategory of short)
- Short: You can talk to the target without raising your voice.
- Medium: You can talk by raising your voice.
- Long: You are hard to hear and must shout.
- Extreme: You cannot be heard.
Movement then takes up different amount of your turn depending on which range you are in, and where you want to go. This is all very simple when you are a player and you are focussed on 1 or 2 things and how far away they are, but as complexity increases, say because you are the GM, so does the difficulty of keeping it all straight (for me) with such abstract concepts. Especially as the idea of how far a voice can be heard is pretty subjective anyway and varies a lot.
This is then further complicated once you add Jedi and Force powers to the equation. In the system it’s moderately hard to use the Force for some things, easy for others. (You can forget reflecting blasters readily!) One of the easy things is using the Force to jump. The default distance you can jump is “short range”. So thinking of the movies and TV series, what does that mean? Well most Jedi seem to be able to say jump from the ground onto the roof of a single story house pretty easily. That, for me, is the sort of distance I don’t need to raise my voice to talk across, so it seems fair. However back in the range section of the book there is a bit more confusion. So I went looking for clarification.
Clarification turned up a lot of discussion which amounted to “what your narrative needs” vs “converted to a concrete system”, nearly all with some sort of game aide. So I thought about some more and came up with some rough ideas based on my personal experience with my voice and a Rugby League football field. This is making it concrete, but I’m not intending to bind myself to these values just have a means of visualising the ranges.
So these are my ranges;
- Engaged: No more than 2 metres/yards away. Basically close enough to easily touch something, the sort of distance most martial artists try to maintain when sparing/fighting.
- Short: No more than 10 metres/yards away. If you are on the try line of a Rugby Field the distance to the dead ball line. (Grid Iron has a handy 10 yard line from the score line.)
- Medium: No more than 25 metres/yards away. On a rugby field you go to the quarter mark and look back at the try line.
- Long: No more than 100 metres/yards away. So from try line to try line, or a 100m swinging pool, or running track. It could be a bit further but at this point in most circumstances the environment will make a longer distance irrelevant.
- Extreme: This one is the most flexible, but I decided to say 1 kilometre (1000 yards). This is based on the idea that the next range increment is the planetary “Close” distance, and I can relate these longer distances to the sorts of increments I used here for personal scale activities.
An important idea is that things can essentially be “within a range” band, so when you want to move from Medium to Short you can do that in 1 move, but from Medium to Long takes 2 moves, so if you only use 1 move in your current turn you are still in medium range but nearly in Long range when heading that way. So even though I’ve set guidelines, these are not something I recommend using after initially evaluating the situation for describing to players. However this helps understand why it can be hard to close distance with someone who is a long way away, and why even when you reach extreme range your enemy can still be at extreme range from you!
These ideas are certainly not necessary to running the game, but getting these values sorted out helps me understand the situation so I can describe things narratively, without having to resort to actual distances either.