Into the Edge: A Review of Over the Edge

I’ve started a game of the latest edition of Over the Edge, and figured I’d do a little review and cover some things we did and how it shaped up.

In Brief…

For those unfamiliar, like I was, Over the Edge was a popular game from the 90s that I was only aware of in passing. I may have played a game once, without knowing what it was – some things feel familiar. A new version recently kick-started and I was interested enough to back at the physical level.

First thing’s first, the physical book is beautiful. The PDF is great too, but if you have a thing for nice looking RPG books, this is worth it.

But What is It?

I asked the same thing! What’s this new version about?

Well, being unfamiliar with the old version, I can’t really compare. I’ve heard that they fixed some dated ideas in the old system that could be offensive to some folks, but I don’t know what they are and don’t want to go sniffing. For me, I’m viewing this from an entirely new lense.

Over the Edge is a light game that tells weird stories that occur on the Atlantic island of Al Amarja. Al Amarja isn’t talked about in most of the world – this is because the Ultimate Democratic Republic of Al Amarja (UDRAA) is both hyper permissive and totalitarian at the same time, and most folks don’t approve.

See, on the island, freedom is paramount. There’s no intellectual property laws, or medical malpractice laws, or even rules against beating someone to death in a fight. Yeah, you can’t carry weapons (though everyone conceals something), and there’s security check points everywhere, and the State tracks everything you purchase on your issued Security Card, and the ever-present AI assistant may be tracking everything you do… but you can do anything you want!

People come from all over for the drugs (pick up an LSD latte at the corner cafe), or the fights (come and see seven people try to fight a lion with their fists), or experimental medicine (neutron-blade surgery is illegal in 142 countries, so come here), or even just to hide out from all the people in the world that don’t know this island exists.

One of the side effects of this permissiveness is that the weird people of the world all seem to end up here. You’ll find psychics, cyborgs, folks from parallel realities, aliens, energy beings, and much much more – every game is different, but there’s always something weird.

That Sounds Rad, How’s It Play?

The system itself is very light, and puts the character front and center in the story.

Characters are made up of four core characteristics – your main trait (a high concept detailing who you are and covers all the trappings that comes with it), your side trait (a secondary set of skills you may have, but not something that defines you), your trouble (something you do that’s more often a problem than not), and my favorite one of all, your question mark (a single word that describes your character, that you add a question mark to, as if to say you’re unsure and you want to see it in play). You put these things together to make some tells that inform us as the audience that your character is some or all of those things – if you’re a Burned CIA Agent, a tell might be your mirrored aviator glasses you always wear.

Characters also have a Level but it’s nothing like the levels in a traditional RPG. Levels range from 0 to 5 for PCs (6 and 7 are reserved for the GM’s characters). Your level basically says how good you are at all the stuff implied in your traits – 1 is competent, 2 is expert, 3 is elite, 4 is world-class, etc.

When you act against something, that thing also has a Level – it might be a person, a thing, or even a location. Being higher or lower level gives you advantages when rolling dice – that is, you always roll 2d6 with a target of 7 or 8, but level differences can give you 1 or 2 rerolls (or can let the GM force you to reroll if your level is lower). But there’s more! Every roll of a 4 produces some benefit, regardless of the actual outcome, and every roll of a 3 produces a consequence, regardless of the actual outcome.

Rolls in the game are fast and produce unexpected outcomes a lot. This is very much a game where getting to the dice is exciting because it takes the game new directions.

Setting Density

I’m not a setting lover. I don’t like dense setting material, and OTE has got it in spades. There’s a lot here, and it all cross references each other. So and so is a Mover… what is a Mover? A Mover is something who… and they work against the Cut-Ups…. the who? Oh the Cut-Ups, like this person… who? It goes round and round sometimes.

But after a few spins through, it all starts to click. What’s most important is two things:

  • The setting material is not canon. It is all just fodder for your game. There’s cool stuff in there, and it’s definitely fun to talk to other people about how YOUR Angela Reyes died once. But you don’t need to use much of it to run the game. It’s all heavy suggestions and fuel for your game.
  • Some stuff is open and never explained. Oh The Stitch is seeking Unity… where is this described? What is it? Guess I need to read between the lines.

With these two things in mind, we can see that my Edge will never be the same as anyone else’s Edge. And that, it feels like, is the exact point. Every Al Amjara exists in a parallel world. Over here Buck Williams wears a hawaiian shirt and became a prostitute, over here he is always in pajamas and is an awakened psychic node. That’s the Edge exactly! Similar, almost passingly familiar things that are mildly or starkly different from GM to GM or story arc to story arc or even session to session.

Overall

I really like this game a lot. My only qualms about the book are in content organization (so much “see page XX” in here) as well as how the rules and GM chapters are laid out. The mechanics are light, but there are some mechanical corners that I’m still unclear on.

Pick the game up and give it a spin, you won’t regret it. Or maybe you will.

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