Sunday, July 08, 2012


While I was out in the sweltering heat, I thought more about Star Wars.

The core problem with the Star Wars games is that Jedi and non-Jedi share the glory. According to the literature, Jedi have magic powers and beam swords and are, functionally, completely invincible death machines.

To share the stage with smugglers and soldiers and dancers, the Jedi are typically blunted down to mere mortal levels. It doesn't make any sense why their super-cool swords deal 1% of an enemy's health when passing through their head. But it's required if you want to have Han and Leia traveling with a Jedi.

Another obvious option is to go Jedi-only. But this isn't as nice as you might think. The depth of the world relies on being able to make the player interact with details. A smuggler trying to free slaves from an evil Hutt will have a difficult road involving sneaking, hacking, bribing, gathering information, finding allies... but to a strong Jedi, it involves using a laser sword. The solution a strong Jedi always uses.

So Jedi-only is restrictive in that most players won't sweat the details. You lose a lot of storytelling power when your heroes are gods: the only stories you can tell are about gods clashing.

Another option is to give the Jedi another game to play. For example, the Jedi are super-strong, but have to worry a lot about how the Force resonates. A Jedi can carve through the slaver's guard unit without difficulty, but the stink of death coats them in fetid Force. Much better to sneak in, or to let non-Jedi do your dirty work so you only get slightly tainted.

Politics could also be fun. If a smuggler shoots down an Empire ship, well, the smuggler gets a price on his head. If a Jedi shoots down an empire ship, that's an international diplomatic incident...

Anyway, the core problem with Jedi is that, as they are written in the literature, they are too powerful to really immerse the player in the world. To make up for this, you need to come up with a way to immerse them into the world. Since they don't have to worry about how much damage they take from an enemy with a blaster, you have to make them worry about some other constraint that serves the same purpose of grounding them in the world.

Now... back out into the heat, I guess. Whew.


Random_Phobosis said...

It's basically what almost evert World of Darkness rpg is about.
The players get some kind of Force which allows them to tear through mortals like it's nothing, but using those powers can have very serious consequences, especially when used carelessly.

The biggest problem with Jedi here is that their powers seem much more uniform than, say, Vampire or Sin-Eaters abilities, and it would be hard to make each Force-user feel unique. Maybe I'm mistaken though, I'm not a Star Wars buff.

Another interesting thing would be to really make one overpowered Jedi and others just a support cast with lots of varied skills, but very little brutal, direct force. Ars Magicka embraced this, and it wasn't bad.

Craig Perko said...

Well, I think we're talking in different directions. The World of Darkness RPG is about gods clashing.

It's true that the gods are restricted somewhat, but they are not restricted in a way which immerses them in the world. They are restricted in a way which provides a framework for clashing with other gods.

Ellipsis said...

I mean, the other strong choice is not making "Jedi" a starting character class. I mean, the original movie that spawned this whole franchise didn't have a whole bunch of Jedi warriors all over the place - it had one old guy who is neat, but gets killed, and one kid who is force sensitive, but can't really be said to be strictly more competent than Han Solo.

So while this runs against current trends, why not set a game/campaign in a "low Force" setting? One where characters may or may not be Force sensitive, but where there aren't any teachers around to show them how to use it, so it provides a balanced character advantage and an ambiguous character feature for the GM to make use of (e.g. visions).

Craig Perko said...

I definitely agree it could be done. It tends to get a bit ragged at the edges: fundamentally, it seems like the proto-Jedi would become stronger, faster, especially if they had a light saber.

You'd have to be really careful how to balance that.