Over the Edge (game)

Over the Edge (game)
Over the Edge
Over the Edge, first edition
Designer(s) Robin Laws, Jonathan Tweet
Publisher(s) Atlas Games
Publication date 1992 (1st edition)
1997 (2nd edition)
Genre(s) Surreal conspiracy
System(s) Custom (dice pool-based)

Over the Edge is a surreal role-playing game of secrets and conspiracies, taking place on the mysterious Island of Al Amarja. It was created by Jonathan Tweet with Robin Laws, and published by Atlas Games. Over The Edge departed from the model of predefined character attributes and skills, in favour of player-chosen traits; and was among the first to be based on the dice pool, where the number of dice rolled, rather than how they are interpreted, is determined by the characters' abilities.

Both Over the Edge and Vampire: The Masquerade were based upon a project between Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein·Hagen which followed their development of Ars Magica for Lion Rampant. They share the concept of a dice pool, which they presumably inherit from that initial design. This game mechanic had previously been seen in West End Games' Ghostbusters and Star Wars roleplaying games, but was far from common before it was popularised by Over the Edge and Vampire.

While Vampire has achieved far more popularity, Over the Edge has distinguished itself with critical acclaim and has been acknowledged as a major source for the indie role-playing game movement.[1]

Over the Edge was also the basis of the On the Edge collectible card game.



Instead of representing characters using attributes and skills, characters are quantified with "traits" — freeform descriptors, like "Fireman", "Quick" or "Monster from another Dimension", which are created and defined by the player. Each character has one primary trait, two secondary traits, and one flaw. One of the three positive traits is chosen as superior. If a character attempts an action based on their primary or secondary traits, they get (usually) four (for the superior trait) or three six-sided dice to roll.

If a character has a particular advantage, they may add a bonus die — they roll one more die, and discard the lowest roll. If they have a particular disadvantage (such as their flaw), they must add a penalty die — they roll one more die, and discard the highest roll.

For most tasks where the traits don't apply, they get two dice. For a routine, very easy task, the difficulty is 4; for an easy task, 7; for a moderately difficult task, 11; for a difficult task, 14; for a very difficult task, 18; and for a nearly impossible task, 21. If an opponent is resisting the action, the difficulty is their roll.


Tweet has stated that he designed Over the Edge to be more improvisational and open-ended than other role-playing games. On his website, he writes:[2]

I designed Over the Edge to be crazy and spontaneous, so that's how I ran it. I'd generally mix alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine to get my head right for OTE. I invented whatever came to mind as we played, and wound up generating dozens of weird clues to uninvented mysteries, many of which the players never followed up. The setting was a challenge enough, so I didn't feel I needed to present the players with hard-edged combat challenges. There were plenty of fights, but the challenge was to get into the right fights more than it was to win a particular fight.


The game is set in the fictitious Mediterranean island of Al Amarja.


Al Amarja is an independent island state in the southern Mediterranean. The western side of the island is covered by three interconnected cities(from north to south): the port town of Skylla, the slums of The Edge and the tract housing of suburban Traboc. Most of the population lives there.

Freedom City, the capital of Al Amarja, is on the eastern end of the island and was based on Washington D.C. It consists mainly of stately government buildings and the opulent homes of government officials, surrounded by the rickety slums that house the government employees. The only difference between Washington D.C. and Freedom City is here the drug dens and brothels are in the good part of town and are very exclusive.

The two ends of the island are linked by the "October 7th Memorial Highway" along the northern coast and "Freedom Road" along the southern coast. The rest of the island is undeveloped hilly forest, at the center of which lies an extinct volcano called Mount Ralsius.

The French version of the game (called Conspirations) shifted the position of Al Amarja to the Atlantic ocean, as the Mediterranean sea did not seem a setting exotic enough to French audience to the translators' point of view.


During its history, Al Amarja has been colonized and conquered in succession by Greeks, Romans, North African Muslims, Catalonians, Castilians, various Italian states and eventually the newly unified Italy.

The official history of the island states that on October 7, 1940, Her Exaltedness Monique D'Aubainne, the Current Shepherdess of Al Amarja and president-for-life, drove out the fascists with the aid of her bodyguards, the Loyal Defenders. In reality, she just bought the island from her lover, Benito Mussolini. She founded the new state and legislation after the war using the newly ascendant USA as a model.


Al Amarja is an independent state. It is not member of United Nations or any other international body. It does not maintain embassies anywhere in the world.

Al Amarja's official language is American English adopted following Her Exaltedness' wholesale embracing of American culture and enforced by the shadowy Language Police. Fearful of being considered disloyal, many 'Marjians translated their names into English or randomly selected English words from the dictionary as first or last names.

Al Amarjan patois (called 'Marjan) has numerous loan words from just about any other language in the world. A particular word or phrase might use various languages' versions of the word to imply subtext. An example would be the word "Yes" — the English "Yes" is used for simple confirmation, the French "Oui" is used to imply apathy or boredom, the Russian "Da" is used for dejected acceptance of the inevitable, and the Japanese "Hai" is selected for enthusiastic agreement.

Al Amarja gets its income from various sources — decadent tourists, private donations and investments, legal and illicit business, smuggled ivory and other forbidden animal products, lecherous sailors, expense accounts of various operatives and pirated products. Businesses like the lack of any copyright and trademark laws, absence of safety regulations, and easily-bribed law enforcement.

Guns, explosives and bulletproof vests are illegal. Only the Peace Force, the island's heavily-armed law enforcement agency, can carry guns and they enforce this law very vigorously. Drug laws are similar to those in Europe and USA but enforced only sporadically. Otherwise the police and government lets everybody do whatever they want unless it threatens the state or they have something to gain in stopping it.

Al Amarja is also a center of just about every kind of global conspiracy imaginable and all of them have their own operatives in the island.


Mixed history of the island means that locals look like a mix of various racial characteristics. Current population of Al Amarja has also been increased by a mix of Mediterranean, European, North American and some Asian and Sub-Saharan African immigrants. They also include mutants, maniacs, outlawed psychics, magicians, intelligence and conspiracy operatives, fringe scientists, unscrupulous businessmen, rich patrons and anything else. There are no accurate census numbers.

Al Amarjans – also known as 'Martians – are rough people. Self-expression is common to the point of self-indulgence. Instead of neckties, they wear a noose around their neck; nooses previously used to hang criminals are very prized. Knives and steel-reinforced boots are universal accessories. Street and bar brawls are common entertainment. Because of the common mutual hostility and suspicion, it is a custom to serve beverages and snacks in their original containers.

Al Amarjans practice just about any religion from Christian Science to human sacrifice. They include Satanists and "Sommerites", religiously oriented fans of rock star Karla Sommers. There is only one official but multi-religious temple in Al Amarja.

Product catalogue

Core books




External links

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