Last Updated: June 20, 2021
Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: Edge of the Empire has a lot to offer: A creative conflict resolution system, an amusing luck/fate mechanic, diverse characterization, and plenty of systems and ideas for tying the PCs to the plot. Perhaps the most powerful (and portable) among these is the Obligation mechanic.
Obligation is a sort of risk vs. reward mechanism. All characters start with an obligation, but they can take on additional obligations, or increase the weight of their existing ones in order to get extra resources. In Edge of the Empire, this means either additional starting experience or a bunch of extra money during the game. There are caps on how much obligation a character can have, but generally the higher the character’s obligation, the more trouble it will cause them.
What is Obligation
Each characters starts with one or more obligations. They might be financial (a debt, a poor family member, a charity), personal (a family issue, a personal quarrel, a rival), legal (a bounty on you or on someone else), or anything else which consumes the character’s time and attention. Let characters select their obligation to fit their background, or roll them randomly.
The table below has been adapted and expanded from Edge of the Empire.
|d100||Obligation Type||Suggested Hindrances|
|01-08||Addiction: Your character is addicted to a substance or activity. If he/she doesn’t indulge his addiction occasionally, he suffers withdrawals.||
Minor (Individual): Fatigued. The character’s complaints have begun to wear on the party’s nerves.
Major (Party): Fatigued. The character’s complaints have begun to wear on the party’s nerves.
Major (Individual): Fatigued, Sickened, can’t make concentration checks. The character is tired and skittish due to withdrawals. If you succumb to your addiction, you can releive the short-term affects and reduce your obligation. If you suffer the effects, you might lower your obligation as you learn to overcome your addiction.
|09-16||Betrayal: Either someone betrayed you or you betrayed someone important. Either way, someone wants revenge.||
Minor (Individual): Shaken. The character acts a little paranoid about the possibility of new betrayals.
Major (Party): Shaken. The character’s paranoia has begun to rub off on the party, and they are having trouble trusting each other.
Major (Individual): Shaken, can’t Assist Other, and can’t flank. You trust no one, not even your closest friends. You expect some grand show of loyalty during the session to prove that you can still trust the party.
|17-24||Blackmail: You have a deep dark secret, and someone else knows it, and is willing to use it against you. Maybe the party knows, maybe they don’t, but when your blackmailer comes calling, you answer.||
Minor (Individual): Shaken. No one can know about your secret.
Major (Party): Fatigued. The character is acting paranoid and it’s getting on everyone’s nerves.
Major (Individual): Fatigued, Shaken, -2 to all charisma-based checks. Your blackmailer demands a service of some kind to keep him quiet: money, favors, etc.
|25-32||Bounty: You are wanted for a crime, whether you committed it or not. Bounty hunters are actively hunting you.||
Minor (Individual): Shaken. You’re certain that you’re being tailed.
Major (Party): Shaken. The character is right. You’re being tailed.
Major (Individual): Shaken, -2 to perception checks, and you may be attacked at an innopportune moment by bounty hunters. Local authorities post bounties for your capture, potentially motivating a new set of bounty hunters.
|33-40||Criminal: You have already been convicted and served your time. While your criminal history may be in your past, your reputation still haunts you. With your crimes known, you might have problems traveling in certain circles.||
Minor (Individual): -2 to charisma-based checks. No one likes a criminal.
Major (Party): -2 to charisma-based checks. No one can trust a group which willingly associates with known criminals.
Major (Individual): -4 to charisma-based checks, and unable to buy items from reputable sources without a successful Diplomacy check. No one trusts you not to rob them blind. Rumors of your criminal history are spread through the community, many of them exaggerated.
|41-48||Debt: You owe someone a sizeable debt. Any time you acquire money, you weigh your immediate financial needs against you need to repay your debts.||
Minor (Individual): Items and services cost 5% more. People don’t trust you to be able to pay your bills.
Major (Party): Items and services cost 5% more. People are worried about the legitimacy of your payments.
Major (Individual): Items and services cost 10% more, and debt collectors may appear during the session to demand payment. If you don’t pay, your obligation increases as interest accrues.
|49-56||Dutybound: You owe allegiance to some group, individual, or ideal. You must occasionally set asside your current task to honor your duty.||
Minor (Individual): Fatigued. Your additional duties have taken a physical toll on you, and you aren’t well rested.
Major (Party): Fatigued. The character’s duty required assistance from the party which over-exerted them.
Major (Individual): Exhausted, lose one spell or spell slot of your two highest spell levels. Your duty required considerable effort. You must complete a task related to your duty during the session.
|57-64||Family: Your family leans on you to get things done. Maybe they need money or support, or maybe they need family business done.||
Minor (Individual): Shaken. You are actively worried about your family.
Major (Party): Shaken. You are also worried about the character’s family. Your shared concern weighs on your minds.
Major (Individual): Fatigued, Shaken, -2 to spell and ability DCs. You mind is elsewhere. You need to do something nice for your family to know that they are taken care of.
|65-72||Favor: Someone did you a major favor a long time ago, and you still owe them for it. When they come to you for help, you can’t say no.||
Minor (Individual): Fatigued. You’re working on paying back that favor, but the extra effort is tiring.
Major (Party): Shaken. The character’s extra labor worries you. You can’t be sure he or she is focusing enough on the task at hand.
Major (Individual): Exhausted, lose one spell or spell slot of your two highest spell levels. You must complete a task to work toward repaying the favor before the end of the session.
|73-80||Oath: You took an oath of some kind, and your oath occasionally interferes with your ongoing business.||
Minor (Individual): Shaken. You are concerned that you are falling short of your oath.
Major (Party): Fatigued. You are sick of listening to the character’s complaints about their recent actions.
Major (Individual): Fatigued, Shaken, and you are unable to take actions which would not fit your oath and alignment (DM’s discretion). You must attone for your shortcomings in some fashion (such as a ritual or a tithe) to recommit yourself to your oath.
|81-88||Obsession: The subject of your obsession ocassionally draws your attention away from other tasks.||
Minor (Individual): Shaken. Your mind is occupied.
Major (Party): Shaken. You are concerned about the character’s behavior. Their actions are obsessive and strange.
Major (Individual): Fatigued, Shaken, and you are unable to rest. You can indulge your obsession in some fashion to calm yourself.
|89-96||Responsibility: You are responsible for a person, place, or thing. Occasionally this noun requires your attention.||
Minor (Individual): Shaken. Your responsibility weighs on your mind.
Major (Party): Shaken. The character is mentally absent, and you are worried that he or she will fall short at a critical moment.
Major (Individual): Exhausted, lose one spell or spell slot of your two highest spell levels. Your responsibility required considerable effort. You must complete a task related to your responsibility during the session.
|98-00||Roll twice, and split your obligation between the two.|
Once the obligation type has been determined, fill in the details. Each Obligation has two parts: a description explaining the obligation and its origin, and a numerical value indicating the size of the obligation.
|# of PCs||Player Starting Obligation|
If it fits in your campaign, allow your players to take +5 additional obligation for an appropriate reward. In Pathfinder, an additional trait might be a good choice, or perhaps some additional points to buy abipties. The bonus should be worth the trouble, but not game breaking.
Obligation in Play
Every session, determine which player’s obligation comes into play, if any. Assemble a simple table by psting the players in alphabetical order, and assign a range on a d15 roll equal to their characters’ current obligation. Roll d%, and the indicated player’s obligation comes into play that session.
For example: Abe, John, and Sam each have 20 obligation. On 1-20 indicates Abe, a 21-40 indicates John, and a 41-60 indicates Sam. If the GM rolls above 60, no obligation comes into play this session.
If a player’s obligation comes into play during the session, he or she is inhibited in some way until it is resolved, or the session ends. If you roll doubles, the obligation affects the whole party, and affects the individual considerably more. See the table above for example hindrances based on the character’s obligation type.
The party may lower or raise their obligation during play. If their totaly obligation ever reaches or exceeds 100, they must set aside all other concerns to address their obligations. Obligation may never fall below 1 per player, though players may remove individual obligations if they have multiple.
Debts can be paid, secrets buried, bounties collected, and crimes absolved. During each session in which a character’s obligation comes into play, provide an opportunity for the player to reduce their obligation during that session.
In addition, allow the party to resolve their obligations on their own by expending resources at the end of each session. It is up to you how much the party must do to resolve their obligation by any amount.