Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Star Wars gaming

Last night I watched a bit more Clone Wars Season 1.  I saw the episodes "Jedi Crash" and "Keepers of the Peace" which have the insanely stupid and annoying Lurman people.  This was interesting to watch again, after a year or two, because in the meantime I've discovered--or rather, more properly digested--the r/K theory of evolutionary psychology as applied to political and social issues, and it's easy now to see the Lurman as a fictional representation of bizarre yet somewhat commonplace r-selected delusions.  In any case, the ideological bent of the Lurman was somewhat deflated by the end of the second episode, so that was at least a satisfying conclusion when it's shown to be insufficient to deal with the real world, even if all things considered, the characters feel like they wish that it wasn't.  But that's neither here nor there: I should finish the third disk of season 1 tonight, I hope, and will be on towards finishing the season and moving into season 2.  Like I said earlier, while there are good (and mediocre) episodes in every season, I do strongly believe that in general the quality across the board improves as the show progresses, so I'll be anxious to move forward.

Another thing I noticed was how "cool" the Jedi were in that episode.  There's a lot of inconsistency in terms of how combat capable they are; three Jedi and two clones successfully take on a virtual army of droids in "Keepers of the Peace" whereas in Attack of the Clones itself a similar sized force of droids and Geonoshians kill and essentially defeat dozens of Jedi, and the survivors only have their bacon pulled out of the fire at the last minute by the arrival of the clone army.  If the Jedi are so cool in "Keepers of the Peace" why are they (relatively) so vulnerable in Attack of the Clones?  The real answer, I suspect, is that the two are simply inconsistent, and they strike a different tone and reflect the priorities of different writers and directors, etc.

For my money, I prefer a paradigm more like the scene mentioned above from the movies themselves.  Jedi are pretty cool; but they're not that cool.  Battle droids can certainly still threaten them in numbers, and other more capable soldiers--such as hot-shot mercenaries or Mandaloreans, can do so even more easily.  The rules for my m20 Star Wars should reflect that, I think--as do most of the other Star Wars rulesets.  This is based more around keeping the various classes balanced with each other, which is a game design goal that doesn't necessarily line up with a comparable in-fiction setting design goal, but for what it's worth, it does better reflect the fiction of the movies most of the time, at least.  With the exception that cool personalized antagonists seem to always go down like chumps in the movies, due to really bad writing (Boba Fett, the Emperor himself, Jango Fett, Darth Maul, General Grievous, etc.)

Speaking of my m20 ruleset, I'm going to make a few adjustments, thus moving the revision to 1.1.1 (from 1.1.)  Mostly, it occurred to me that with my new a la carte classes, which moved the doc from 1.0 to 1.1, I didn't think of going and correcting some references to the old classes in the equipment section, specifically with regards to armor.  Rather than simply edit the references a bit, though, I gave some thought to whether or not I even wanted armor to restrict class abilities so punitively, and decided that I don't.  But I do want there to be some incentive to not necessarily just always go for the heaviest armor you can afford, since that's not really in the swashbuckling vein of Star Wars to have everyone wearing heavy armor all the time.  What I've come up with somewhat based on Kirin Robinson's Old School Hack, actually, which awards Action points (or whatever exactly he calls them; there's a lot of labels out there for the same concept and I often forget which each particular game uses) and awards more in particular for using less armor.  This of course reminded me that while my m20 DARK•HERITAGE ruleset uses them, my m20 Star Wars does not.  It was always my intention to incorporate them, but I never got around to it, I think.  I'd give everyone two Action points per session (that don't carry over from session to session, to encourage you to use them and be more swashbucklery.)  They can be used to add a 1d10 to any d20 roll; an attack, a save, a check, etc.  It can also be used as a "healing surge"--i.e., you burn the action point and get an immediate 1d6 hit points healed back.  If a character is using heavy armor, he gets no additional action points per session beyond these two, but if he uses medium armor, he gets one additional action point.  If he uses light armor, he gets two additional action points, and if he uses no armor at all, he gets three additional action points.  GMs are, of course, encouraged to make sure that players don't abuse this by trying to put on armor right before a fight after already cashing in action points, or any nonsense like that.  I tend to think of Star Wars characters as having a signature set of gear rather with other stuff only picked up as occasions require rather than the D&D paradigm of carrying a caddie with a golf bag full of weapons that can be customized to whatever enemy you're fighting.

I'll also add a bit of minor text about cybernetic enhancements a la Darth Vader or General Grievous, but mostly I think I'll just treat it as if it were armor.  General Grievous would, then, have class features of Combat Bonus (not Lightsaber Training, since he can't use his lightsabers to deflect blaster shots, and has no force ability) and maybe sneak attack, since he's a coward who fights without honor, for the most part, as well as heavy armor to represent his cyborg body.  Jack him up to fairly high level--7 or 8, at least, and you've got a decent representation of him as depicted in the Clone Wars, who would be a major threat to most Jedi and certainly to most other characters and any mooks.

All of that will get us to 1.1.1--this is mostly fixing a few cascading effects of the change made in 1.1, plus a few other things that I thought of.  Not significant enough, in my opinion, to justify a change to 1.2.

The final thought I had was actually orthogonal to Star Wars, and might be relevant to my DARK•HERITAGE ruleset; or would be, anyway, if I used d20 still to represent it.  I use magic rules that are designed to make magic less ubiquitous than in D&D, but it's not really my intention to make it punitive per se, just rarer and as having less of an impact on the game itself.  I've often given some thought to making the concept of the soulknife integral to the setting, although again, they'd be extremely rare in actuality.  However... the rules for the soulknife really kind of suck.

But if you think a little bit outside of the box, it may occur to you to use the d20 Jedi Guardian from one of the d20 editions of Star Wars--probably not the SAGA edition, because it changed the rules more, but the Revised one (or the original) would work quite well.  It is balanced, theoretically, to work with the D&D classes (or at least, the Soldier Star Wars class is identical to the Fighter D&D class, so assuming that the Jedi Guardian is balanced for the game that it's in, it should also be balanced for D&D.)  If you assume that the lightsaber is, instead of being a piece of equipment but rather a class feature like the soulknife's namesake class feature, then you're all set to go.  You also need to remove the class Defense bonus (since D&D doesn't have anything comparable, although you could make a case that you'd be better off adding that feature to your other D&D classes instead) and do just a minor bit of work to harmonize the skill list, and you're all set.

Like the soulknife, the Jedi Guardian is basically a swashbuckling, lightly armored fighting class (although a much better one than the soulknife, actually) with a minor (relative to a wizard or sorcerer) ability to use some unusual magic that feels different than that of the standard D&D spellcasters.

Of course, if I want to adapt this archetype into my m20 ruleset, I'd have to do it a little bit differently, but it helps that I already have a Jedi archetype via my m20 Star Wars rules that I could add in with basically no effort at all.  And I really like the idea as an unusual class choice in a D&D game, especially since I like to focus on the non-standard when I'm in D&D anyway.

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