"grey" Jedi hack

  • 7 Replies
"grey" Jedi hack
« on: November 01, 2014, 04:46:05 PM »
Who amongst us doesn't occassionally get this urge, you know, the one to get some roleplaying going on in that most well-known, and one of the most popular, fantasy-in-space settings out there?

I for one certainly do - but somehow, none of the existing games out there ever seemed to get all the important elements quite right... so what other choice than to try my own hands at it? So that's just what I'm proposing to do in here.

As behooves any AW hack (the way I see it, anyways), I intend to focus on just those elements I find most interesting about the source material, and strive to get them represented just right.

Additionally, I have tried to identify some "common problematic areas" in existant Star Wars games, and tried to avoid them. Here goes a brief list:

1.) mixed Jedi and non-Jedi groups
2.) how "light" and "dark" Jedi (and their powers)  are rendered, both rules-wise and in the fluff
3.) the (imho) most important theme at the core of the entire setting: the temptation by the dark side of the force

The resolutions to each of these will narrow down my premise for this hack.

ad 1.) mixing Jedi and non-Jedi in a player group, I always felt this to be problematic. Not only does it bring up issues of "power balance" and all that stuff, but it also can feel pretty limiting as regards properly exploring the various' characters' themes and story arcs.
By which I mean, a smuggler, or a diplomat, or a bounty hunter, will almost certainly require different types of stories (scenarios, NPCs, agendas, etc.) to be able to really sing in a game, than a Jedi character will.

It is insofar no great wonder why Luke splits off from the rest of the party on several occassions in the movies - since he just has decidedly different things that are important or interesting to do, for him.

Most games I have seen so far that have tried to get all of those different types of character under one ruleset, have achieved only to either make the Jedi character ridiculously overpowered (sometimes to a degree where there seems no point in playing anything else, really), or virtually unneccessary to play (for the opposite reason).

In short, I resolved to try making a game about "Jedi only". No non-Force-users as PCs.
This is sort of the reverse approach from what "Edge of the Empire" does (which focusses on smugglers, rogues, bounty hunters and mercenary types exclusively), and which I think works really well for what it does.

So, this is likely going to be a "one playbook hack", i.e. there will be only one type of character to play: a Jedi apprentice.

This makes the group of PCs by necessity a bunch of apprentices, most likely taught by a common (or several separate) Mentor(s). Or who have a missing mentor and are now on their own.

ad 2.) "light" and "dark" force powers, here is my usual problem with those:
Let's face it, the Dark Powers are just more fun, usually. The Light Powers are often mostly described as defensive, perception-related, and/or weak. The Dark Force stuff is where the fun is at, however - zapping your enemies with lightning, strangling them and throwing stuff around with telekinesis, you name it...

Now, the ususal drift that I see in a Star Wars game is to punish the player for indulging in the fun too much. That's supposed to represent the dangers of the Dark Side, of course, but I also find it's actually pretty bad design.

Part of this is that individual powers are often "typed" as being either dark or light, with (often) nary a "grey" or "neutral" power in the mix.

This all leads me straight into my 3rd point -

ad 3.) the temptations of the Dark Side, I can't help but find it distasteful to write the rules in any way that basically says "now roll for whether your character succumbs to the temptation". This often leads to (more or less) elaborate simulationism, but it does little to involve the player themselves, give them meanigful choices about the matter, or evoke that awesome, terrible feeling of temptation, the lure of power, fear, guilt, consequences, etc.

I would try a (perhaps radically?) different approach: put the temptation not into the characters (and its stats and mechanics and so on), but move it to the player themselves.

The idea came to me when I thought about that the lure of the Force could be modelled pretty much similar to an addiction. Because what does the Force mean in essence? It means power. And few things should be more addictive than that, really.
The craving for ever more power, the increasing recklessness in pursuing it, the piling-up of sacrifices made to that end... all those things, if effectively transported away from the sheet, and into the player, could make for an intense gaming experience, I'd argue.

So that's why I decided against "light/dark" typed Force powers. A Force power should in most cases be just that - a neutral ability, at least in its basic form. Most powers would get a list of "optional upgrade options", which you could make use of if you tap into the Dark Side of the Force - but only then.

So, for example, there could be Force Hold power, allowing you to immobilize people in a certain range from you. The move for it would give you several options, e.g. near range in stead of hand range, or affect up to 3 people instead of affect 1 person - available depending on how well you rolled (10+ or 7-9, as familiar)
Now, you could "augment" this power with "additional options" by "accepting Dark Side points". For each Dark Side point you accept (and which gets recorded on your sheet or handed out as tokens to the player, whatever), you can make use of one of the move's additional options - which might include things like affect a huge-sized monster (like perhaps a Bantha or something) or up to 7 people instead of up to 3 people, or far range instead of just near... and of course the ever-popular choke 'em to torturous death option!

Now, with someting like this, no more need for "typed" Force Powers, or, in fact, typed Jedi "classes" or anything. Instead, it is now the player's responsibility to judge and decide on how many (if any) Dark Points they wish to incur at any given time they use this power.

Dark Points, of course, get recorded, and they accumulate. Jedi can undergo cleansing rituals, or abstain from the use of the Force for a while, thus decreasing their Dark Points. But barring that, they'll only become more with time (and reckless Force use).

« Last Edit: November 01, 2014, 05:12:59 PM by Auburney »

Re: "grey" Jedi hack
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2014, 05:10:32 PM »
Now, I'll want there to be consequences to reckless Force use, of course. The current system for that goes something like this:

As you collect Dark Points (DP), each time you have gotten 3 of them, they culminate into one Corruption Point (CP). CP are even harder to get rid of than DP are. Also, they may negatively affect your character's actions:

"Whenever you make a roll for a move in the game, and your natural result on the 2d6 is equal or lower than 2x your CP, the Dark Side overpowers you, and takes control of your actions. This allows the MC to make a hard move reflecting the corrupting influence."

The power may still manifest, especially if the roll was a success, but the MC is free to add troublesome consequences and unwanted side-effects. 

(Yes, that means that at, say, 3 CP, every roll of 6 or less will have you lose control to your inner darkness. They always told you that the Dark Side is a perilous path that sooner or later devours all who walk on it…)

MC advice: Fill the lives of Dark Jedi with Frustration, Betrayal and Tragedy. Good tools for this are Destruction, Madness, Confusion, Anger, Fear, Hatred, Murder and other pathways to misery. Have those things affect the corrupted Jedi themselves, or the people around them.

(An ally or minion who is so filled with hatred that he kills someone he was supposed to capture, will produce good frustration, for example. Or perhaps you lose control yourself and alienate or anger the only person who has the information you seek. Stuff like this can also very well lead to underlings becoming scared enough of you, to betray you in an effort to save their own hides… and so on…)

CP naturally max out at 6, which is when any roll you can make is automatically corrupted by the Dark Side.
Whether to let players keep "controlling" their characters at this point, or not, might be up to the individual gaming group, perhaps? Some MCs may want to de-PC-ify characters at 3 CP already, or perhaps at 5 CP (when even a roll of 10 leads to a darkness-corrupted result)


A more complete write-up is in the works. I will keep presenting intermediate stages here.

For now, though:
Any opinions or thoughts on this?
Has something similar been done before?
Are there apparent problems I seem not to have taken into account?

Glad about any feedback! ^^
« Last Edit: November 01, 2014, 05:15:02 PM by Auburney »

Re: "grey" Jedi hack
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2014, 05:16:04 PM »
First I like a lot of what you are saying! And I might have more to say once I digest more of it. Or at least some more pats on the back.  :)

Have you seen any of the AW hacks for Star Wars by chance? Some are pretty darn good IMO.

...the temptations of the Dark Side, I can't help but find it distasteful to write the rules in any way that basically says "now roll for whether your character succumbs to the temptation".

One of the hacks said something along the lines of: "when the character does a Dark Side thing [rules stuff] then they gain a Dark Side Point which the MC/GM can use to Manipulate the character as though a 10+ was rolled. Pretty cool I thought.

So the MC can make the player do something bad, like kill a bunch of Jedi Younglings or Sand People or whathaveyou. Or the Player can decide, "heck no! I'm not gonna do that!". But then they'd be Acting Under Fire for the foreseeable future.

There wasn't really any rules of losing control of the character. Just the ever increasing ability for the MC to Manipulate the Player Character to do "Bad Stuff".

EDIT: you posted again while I was typing this, so I haven't read what you just posted.

Re: "grey" Jedi hack
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2014, 06:30:00 PM »
Thanks for the positive feedback so far - good to know I don't seem to be talking entirely crazy! ;-)

Have you seen any of the AW hacks for Star Wars by chance? Some are pretty darn good IMO.
I looked around a fair bit, but I'm sure I haven't seen them all... Any you'd like to recommend, I'll gladly take a look at!

The "manipulate as if on a 10+" thing does sound pretty cool, true. It gives the MC the choice on when to tempt PCs and what to tempt them to...
Also, I bet it nicely "turns the tables" on the PCs - seeing as its usually only them rolling the dice, being compelled like this by the MC will surely feel... humbling, shall we say? :-D
The Dark Side is after all, a force greater and more powerful than any particular individual. In the end, it devours all who dare meddle with it - and this rule might well reflect that.

Oh, yeah, on an unrelated note: my hack is intended to focus on "grey" Jedi, because precisely this element of temptation, of flirting with the Dark Side, but being reluctant to wholly give in to it, is important to me to have as a focus of the game.
I want to avoid "light side starch-asses" just as much as "all is lost to me anyhow, so why hold back" darkies. The middle ground here, is where the interesting decisions get made, imho.



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Re: "grey" Jedi hack
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2014, 08:33:44 AM »
Regarding corruption: check out Urban Shadows (here and on google+). They've done some nice things with it.

Concept-wise: you could have the PCs be renegades from the Jedi order. Give them some reason to think its been corrupted from the top town, that there's some major badness coming and they feel compelled to do something about it. Start the game with questions about the who what where when why. Heck, maybe bake it into the character sheet.

Alternately: the could be padawans cut off from the order and their mentors. Perhaps, even, they're undercover infiltrating a sith cult or something like that, smelling where they might need to embrace the dark side to fit in.

Re: "grey" Jedi hack
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2014, 11:54:22 AM »
re: Corruption, yes, Urban Shadows does some real good stuff with that mechanic. It's not quite where I see my hack going, but there are a number of similar basic assumptions at work I feel.

you could have the PCs be renegades from the Jedi order. Give them some reason to think its been corrupted from the top town, that there's some major badness coming and they feel compelled to do something about it.
This, while not exactly spot on in every detail, is essentially pretty much the gist of what I was gonna go with, yes!

I was actually imagining a jedi mentor guy who was with the order, but unsatisfied at how things were done there, and very worried about the near future. Just in time before Order 66 hit, he finally worked up the nerve to grab a few of his most promising and dearest students, and made off to some backwater planet in order to escape the order's enemies long enough to bring those apprentices up and finish their teaching... but according to his own criteria.

He would basically tell them "giving in too deeply to the dark side is dangerous, yes yes, but the order's complete refusal to even consider going anywhere near it was just as wrong - see where it got them, and what good it did for the rest of the world".

This mentor would work on finding a middle path between those extremes, and bring up his pupils to to the same.

"For all the order's talk of peace and patience and negotiation... their individual Jedi were in practice awfully quick to leap into battle with the ever-so-feared Dark Side. But he who is at war with outside forces, is also always at war with himself, and thus ultimately no better than his enemy. It is only through balance that we shall find what both of these sides seek in vain - true power, and true peace."

could be padawans cut off from the order and their mentors. Perhaps, even, they're undercover infiltrating a sith cult or something like that, smelling where they might need to embrace the dark side to fit in.
These are cool ideas as well! I think maybe its best to have several version for how a game could be started up, i.e. the group would get to choose what type of basic setup they wanna go with. But they all result in a party of "grey" Force users, well removed from the entrenched "Order vs. Sith" moral lines of old.

I especially like the "undercover infiltration" angle - this is something I never would have thought of but that would make a lot of sense and could work beautifully for the whole "temptation" thing, so thanks for this piece of input! :-)

Re: "grey" Jedi hack
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2014, 07:29:15 AM »
So this is what I've got so far:


I appropriated a combat system I had flying around from a previously attempted hack (trigger warning: it has initiative rules, and a distinction between active/reactive moves to go with it! But it it intrinsically powered by the Apocalypse, and while I have yet to see it in actual play, it may work nicely to emulate those breathlessly action-packed fight scenes...)

There may seem to be a whole bunch of moves, maybe unneccessarily many - but seeing as this is a "one playbook game" so far, I preferred building it broader instead of narrower, when in doubt.
This is why all character get access to all the Combat and Non-Combat basic moves.

There are a number of "Jedi moves" (for current lack of inspiration for a better term, and not wanting to name them "special" moves), which should serve to distinguish individual PCs from each other, despite the many similiarities between them otherwise.

Also, a whole bunch of Force powers, each their own move. I think I'm at 24 right now - another way to customize and distinguish PCs, as each chooses only 6 of them to start out with.

For the whole "combat, damage, harm and dying" stuff, I borrowed a bit from here and there (DW mainly, plus some assorted stuff), and ended up going with Hit Points basically (called Endurance here), but also Named Wounds (of which you can suffer three before going down).

Things I'm interested in at this stage:

* the Taint & Corruption mechanics - do you think they will work, do you think they are cool, fit the theme, etc.?

* the Combat moves (both supportive & set-up moves, and actual hack-and-slash moves) - too complex? Too confusingly written? Anything missing, or anything redundant?
Also of course, do you think they will work and feel right?

* the Force powers - did I miss any that would be really essential to have? Is there any unneccessary overlap between some if them? (I keep feeling there is, but can't pinpoint it when I go looking...)
Also, are they represented in sufficient accordance with the source fiction? (I.e., do I very badly violate any SW fluff here?)

In short, any comments or observations are welcome! :-)

Oh yeah, and a char sheet is here:

Re: "grey" Jedi hack
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2014, 06:49:57 AM »
Oops, sorry - link to char sheet was rubbish! (Accidentally uploaded the wrong file)

This one should work: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B85Z1_RyWE-Rb3p4VmNJYkJSTWs/view?usp=sharing