Edge of the Verse
What is Obligation
Each Player Character starts with at least one Obligation. As described previously, this Obligation may be a tangible one such as a debt owed or a bounty on one’s head, or an intangible Obligation such as an unpaid favor or familial duty.
A player may select his character’s Obligation in one of several ways. He may roll randomly from the list found below. Alternatively, if a particular Obligation fits his character’s backstory, he may choose one of the Obligations instead of rolling, as long as he has his CM’s permission. Finally, he may make up his own Obligation, if he has a concept that better fits his backstory, with GM approval.
Each Obligation consists of two parts:
- A title and narrative description: This does not have any rules effect, but is intended to offer an explanation that allows the player to work the Obligation into his character’s story.
- A numeric value: This is the Obligation’s size, and determines the mechanical effects of an Obligation. The mechanical workings of Obligations are explained starting on page 41 .
Each character begins play with a moderate Obligation of some sort. The nature of this Obligation is determined by the player, either by rolling randomly or by selecting based on his backstory. The size of each player’s Obligation is based on the starting number of players.
In addition, players may choose to increase the size of their characters’ starting Obligation when they generate their Obligation, in order to gain additional starting experience, or additional credits to purchase starting gear. However, doing so puts both the individual character and the group at greater peril when the GM makes an Obligation Check at the start of a session (read more below).
The character has a strong addiction he must keep feeding. Whether it’s a physical addiction to stims. dust, alcohol, or a mental addiction such as gambling, law-breaking, or priceless antiques, the character devotes a lot of time, energy, and resources to pursuing or obtaining the object of his addiction. Avoiding this Obligation has an almost immediate result—withdrawal. The exact nature depends on the addiction, but the character finds it increasingly difficult to concentrate on even mundane tasks, often reflected in the GM adding anywhere from difficulty to skill checks.
This Obligation can work in one of two ways: either the character is the target of a deep and personal betrayal, or the character is the one who betrayed others. Whether it’s as simple as a betrayed confidence or broken promise or as serious as treason or mutiny, the betrayal eats away at the character and affects his everyday life. The target of the betrayal may seek answers, compensation, or simply revenge.
Someone has discovered one of the PC’s dirty secrets and is using that knowledge for some sort of gain. To make matters worse, the blackmailer possesses evidence that could possibly leak out—a recording, bank records, a weapon used during a crime, and so on. In order to keep the secret safe, the character must do what he is told, although the blackmailer is savvy enough to keep the demand simple enough to maintain the blackmail for as long as possible, generally demanding money or favors.
For some reason, the character has a price on his head. This may be in the form of a legal warrant or a contract by criminals, collection agencies, or even someone who felt his honor violated in some way. What he did to earn this mark is up to his background, and the severity of his actions can be based on the size of his Obligation.
The character has a criminal record, or was accused of a crime (perhaps one he didn’t even commit), and is somehow embroiled in the legal system. Obligation may be settled by paying ongoing legal costs, making attempts to bury evidence, or efforts to prove his innocence.
The character owes someone a great deal, whether that debt consists of money or something else. Perhaps the PC has a huge gambling debt to a Hutt, is indebted to the Czerka Corporation for his starship, owes a wealthy family for patronage, or has some other serious financial obligation. To make matters worse, depending on who owns the debt, even fully paying it off might not get the character completely off the hook—if the character can get that money, he can surely get more.
The PC has a deep sense of duty that he feels compelled to fulfill, such as military service, making good on a contract, or following some sort of thieves’ code. Unlike the Oath Obligation (see below), a Dutybound character has some legal or ritualistic bind to an organization or cause making it extremely difficult or detrimental if he fails to live up to that commitment.
The character has deep ties with his family that require a great deal of time and attention. This could include providing care for or assistance to siblings or parents, the management of an inheritance, trust, or family business, or simply mediating between squabbling family members.
The PC owes a big favor. Perhaps officials looked the other way when he smuggled in goods, or a friend got him out of prison. Regardless, the favors are stacking up, and soon he’s going to be asked to pay them back or return the favor. This favor may be called in a little at a time, prolonging the Obligation.
The character has sworn some sort of oath that dictates his thoughts and actions, shaping his moral view of the world. This could be an oath to a deity, a way of living (such as the Jedi Code), or a willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of some group or cause. Whatever the case, the Oath should be both serious and make life difficult in some ways for the character. It is a personal and deep undertaking, possibly without a truly obtainable end goal in sight. Characters who do not live up to this oath face an
internal and moral struggle.
The PC has some unhealthy obsession that tends to interfere in his life, whether with a celebrity, a region, a political movement, a cultural icon, or some other facet of society or life. He must pursue this, possibly to the detriment of his health, finances, or well-being. A character with this Obligation tends to get along well with others that share his interest, but is looked at with pity, amusement, or even a bit of fear from others who don’t understand.
A character with the Responsibility Obligation feels a strong sense of accountability or relationship to a person, place, or thing (a responsibility to kin falls under the Family Obligation described above). This could include a strong connection to a mentor, a strong desire to care for orphans in a given location, or taking on the needs of an under-represented minority.
97-00 Roll twice on this chart:
Starting Obligation is split into two different origins (this does not increase the Obligation’s magnitude; divide the starting Obligation into two equal parts, each with a different type).
Starting Obligation Values:
The different starting amounts of Starting Obligations are designed to have starting parties begin with a total group Obligation between 40 and 60 points after possibly taking on additional Obligation. Players who too readily dip into extra Obligation to gain more experience points or extra credits during character creation may find their group with a much higher starting value, while more cautious groups may begin with less. Each Player Character has the option to gain additional starting Obligation in exchange for additional mechanical benefits, as laid out below. There are two limitations to this: each player can only choose each option once, and Player Characters cannot gain more additional Obligation than their original starting value. Obligation values can fluctuate over the course of a game, as players have the chance to buy down their existing Obligations, or take on new Obligations.
+5 starting XP | +5 Obligation
+10 starting XP | +10 Obligation
+1.000 starting credits | +5 Obligation
+2,500 starting credits | +10 Obligation
Obligation in Play:
In addition to the narrative implications, Obligation has a mechanical impact as well. Every session, the GM determines whether the group’s total Obligation affects the game.
Before each session, the GM rolls percentile dice and compares the results to the group’s current outstanding Obligation (the chart discussed in “Assembling the Group’s Obligation”).
Obligation Check Results:
If the roll is greater than the party’s total Obligation, then their Obligation is low enough that their collective tangible or intangible debts and duties are not pressing enough to affect them—at least for now.
However, if the roll is equal to or less than the group’s total Obligation, something related to their Obligation may introduce complications during the upcoming session. First, rolling equal to or lower than the group’s Obligation means that all characters reduce their strain threshold by 1 for the remainder of the session.
In addition, the GM can determine exactly whose Obligation triggered by comparing the results of his roll to the chart. If, for example, the GM rolled a 17, then the character with the Obligation value 16-30 would have his Obligation triggered. This Player Character reduces his strain threshold by 2 (instead of 1) for the remainder of the session.
Finally, if the GM triggered an Obligation and the roll was doubles (an" 11" or a “44” for example), the effects of triggering that Obligation also double. All characters reduce their strain threshold by 2 for the remainder of the session, and the Player Character whose Obligation triggered reduces his strain threshold by 4.
These mechanical effects represent either internal or external pressure on the Player Characters as a result of their Obligation. It could be as simple as the characters being worried about paying off their Obligations, and their concern distracting them and stressing them. However, (especially if the GM rolls doubles) triggered Obligation can also result in tangible problems. Favors could be called in, debts may require an impromptu payment, or an addiction may bring with it a sudden craving that needs to be satisfied.
Ultimately, even though the mechanical effects always come into play, it’s up to the GM as to how this affects the characters narratively. One thing the GM should not feel obligated to do, however, is disrupt his own narrative or story in order to represent a triggered Obligation. Remember, the effects of a triggered Obligation can always be mental. If a PC’s “bounty” Obligation gets triggered, but the GM is in the middle of an ongoing adventure and doesn’t want to complicate things by having a bounty hunter show up, he can just tell the player that his PC is suffering a lower strain threshold because he’s worried this adventure is making it harder to avoid bounty hunters.
Obligation as a Threshold
Obligation can also be used as a threshold, a measure of the group’s infamy or social standing, depending on the volume and type of Obligation.
Generally, as the characters gain more Obligation, their ties deepen to the criminal underworld of the verse. Even if the Obligation itself seems innocuous, such as a Favor Obligation, the favors may be owed to someone with far more criminal links.
Due to this, the GM has the option to set thresholds for the group’s total Obligation (or individual characters’ Obligations). In these cases, the GM may determine that the group’s total Obligation must either be less or more than the set threshold in order for them to attempt a certain task. For example, a local politician may not be willing to meet with a group whose Obligation is more than 60, but a local crime lord may not trust a group whose Obligation is less than 50. In both cases, it’s a matter of how the NPCs perceive the group’s overall reputation.
The more Obligation their characters have, the easier a time they’re likely to have dealing with other criminals, and the harder a time they’re likely to have dealing with law-abiding citizens.
Obligation as a Resource
Sometimes characters have the option to voluntarily accept additional Obligation to obtain items and accomplish goals that would normally be out of their reach. In these cases, the GM may increase an existing Obligation by a certain amount, or decide to create an entirely new Obligation to reflect the transaction or events. This is mainly covered GM, as these options occur later during gameplay, and not usually during character creation. The only point players should be aware of is that not all Obligation is created equal. Obligation does not have an equivalent value in credits; its value is solely dependent on the circumstances, what is being acquired, the person or people being negotiated with, and so on. Acquiring an illegally salvaged power coupling on the black market may require 5 Obligation from a well-known fence and underworld contact, but could require 15 Obligation from a politician who needs to pull a few strings and ensure he retains plausible deniability about the entire affair.
When characters have an opportunity to pay off or commit resources to decrease their current level, this is called settling the Obligation. Settling can occur in several ways. In most cases, the Obligation settlement will either be specific or generic.
Depending on whose Obligation came into play, or the form the resources have come in, the settlement may be specifically tied to one character’s Obligation. For example, if a player’s Debt Obligation is triggered for the session, and is indebted to a drug lord, then the cache of illegal spice they uncover is essentially earmarked to help settle, or reduce, the debt.
In other cases, the party simply has additional resources that they can spend to help settle their current outstanding Obligations. Whether this is in the form of cash (they receive 20,000 credits for their last job) or some other asset, they find themselves with a few weeks to spare between missions—the GM may allow them to apply these assets to help settle one or more of their Obligations. The GM decides how much Obligation the resources will settle, and the players decide how best to divide this among their Obligations.
Obligation generally ranges from 5 to 100. No matter how much the PCs pay off, return favors, or try to live squeaky clean. Obligation cannot be reduced lower than 5. While 100 is the top practical range when rolling percentiles, Obligation can exceed 100. In this case, simply track Obligation as normal. Exceeding 100 means Obligation triggers every session, and has an additional detrimental effect on characters, which is covered below.
Exceeding 100 Obligation
Once the party’s Obligation exceeds 100, the pressure of their Obligations is so severe that they can focus on little else until that Obligation is back under control. Until the party brings its total Obligation back under 100, none of the Player Characters can spend experience points to improve abilities, train skills, or acquire talents. The PCs simply have too much on their minds, and are fraught with too much mistrust, anxiety, and strain to focus long enough to improve themselves.