I started reading through Edge of the Empire, and I have to say that I’m more disappointed with Obligations than I expected to be.

I remember initially being excited by Obligations since they seemed to me a motivation that could be held individually or collectively by the party. Also, it provided a convenient excuse for how the players might begin play with a spaceship they couldn’t otherwise afford. (By hook or by crook…)

Admittedly, that’s all still there. But I expected more.

Reading through the use of Obligations in Edge of the Empire, it doesn’t seem altogether different from Icon Relationships in The 13th Age.

I’ve kvetched about the Icons before. In both cases, it seems like wasted potential — and a half-step in evolution from something like alignment.

Alignment and deities often have only as much importance in the game as the players (GM included) put on them. They’re so easily ignored, they hardly serve a purpose in the game book. They belong in an appendix or campaign setting.

Icons and Obligations are only marginally better. Icons may be called upon for assistance in The 13th Age, and may act as a double-edged sword. Obligations apparently fluctuate throughout play, and create complications.

Both have limited mechanical definition and require creativity on the part of the players to see them used properly — which is left intentionally vague.

As a game master of some ten years, I don’t see why I should use Icons or Obligations more than Alignment or Deities. I’m more familiar with the systems and classic interpretations. And it isn’t like there’s a “Detect Obligations” spell, mechanical support just doesn’t seem as… readily apparent?

It seems to me that these systems are a kind of narrative mechanic, but it bothers me how they can be gamed. I mean, it could be that buying up lots of gear through the use of Obligation enables a player to benefit from gear — and any XP they might get for offing any bounty hunters that come to collect.

And at the same time, when you roll dice to see if your Icon or your Obligation will play some roll in the current adventure, it’s too easy to ignore such a roll. Well, that’s the way it looks to me. Maybe I’m wrong and these things are intuitive to use in the game. But they still seem kind of… ill-defined.

GM advice for Obligation covers about three pages, when you look at the table, examples, and rules. There are suggestions, but not a lot of hard numbers — or even examples for like, the long-term effects of having the Obligations.

It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea of having to use a rule for a protracted period before really “getting” it. That’s why I read the rules.

I kind of want to play Edge of the Empire. Kinda.

I also want to just take ideas that I like and implement them in my home game, without bothering to use the rest of the book. *shrug*