Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I Am No Jedi, But I Know The Force

For Star Wars Traveller, one of the biggest things I need to implement that classic Traveller doesn't traditionally have is, of course, that 400* pound Wampa in the room...The Force

I find it kind of amazing that in the entire existence of this blog, I have never made a post directly related to The Force, and it's representatives the Jedi, and the Sith.

Over the years, there have been a number of different Star Wars RPGs, and as such, a few different approaches to how The Force can be represented in the form of game mechanics. I think my particular approach pays some homage to those, but it is simplified compared to the latter ones.

In addition, the system I've created reflects my personal view of The Force, as well as my particular preferences rules wise. This means it may not reflect your view of The Force, and how it should be interpreted. It not even make perfect sense to you right away. Please give it a chance. Read it, give it some thought, and if you see an issue, or have a suggestion, please feel free to mention it to me in the comments.

Before we begin, here are my thoughts on The Force, and why I've chosen to represent it that way I have:

The Force is essentially a largely imperceptible energy field that flows throughout the universe, generated by all living things. It flows around us, through us, and connects us to distant people, creatures, and even plants.

The Force ebbs, and flows, increasing in power in times of peace, and birth, and decreasing, or becoming tainted in times of war, and death. Positive thoughts, and feelings, like love, compassion, hope, patience, and serenity feed what is known as The Light Side of the Force. Anger, fear, jealousy, envy, and regret fuel The Dark Side of the Force.

[A major difference between my interpretation of the Dark and Light sides of The Force rests with the statements above. In the Original Trilogy, the dialog, and actions of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Luke Skywalker seem to imply that The Light Side is tied to positive emotions brought to bare through inner peace, calm and clear thinking, and patience.

The Prequel Trilogy gives the impression that The Light Side is emotionless, devoid of any sort of feeling less you let your emotions slip and fall to The Dark Side. This is why Jedi do not marry, something NEVER MENTIONED in the Original Trilogy. In fact, with Luke being the son of Anakin/Darth Vader, I believed that the position of Jedi Knight was something you passed down from generation, to generation if your offspring had the gift. Not only does this make some sense, it is in keeping (stylistically) with the idea of the Jedi Knights as Knights in a Fairy Tale/Mythical story, such as The Knights of the Round Table.]

Although all living things in the universe generate The Force, and are a part of it, only a comparatively small number of beings are sensitive to it to the point where they can consciously feel it. Depending on the nature of the individual, and their emotional state, their relationship with The Force may raise them up to the path of Light, or send them spiraling downward towards The Dark Side.

[Other elements of The Force that don't really exist in my version, or are at least never addressed, are 'The Living Force', or creatures, and alien species 'immune' to The Force.

First, The Force IS only The Living Force. There is no Unliving Force, right? The Force is created by life, and living things. The Living Force as a thing is stupid.

Second, the only way to be 'immune to The Force' is to be dead. Dead things are not alive. Dead things do not generate The Force. They are no longer connected to it the same way once dead. So if you want to be immune to being sensed through The Force, or be guaranteed to resist a Jedi Mind Trick, die.**

Also, no $^*&ing midichlorians. Because $^*& that noise.]

Now so far, the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens stays pretty consistent with what I'm saying here, yes? OK. Cool.

Some additional ideas:

I've always liked the idea that The Dark Side is the quicker, easier way to get Force abilities. You seem to get more powerful faster, but there is a catch. The Dark Side, like Black Magic in old stories, has a terrible cost attached to it. Anakin Skywalker may have been injured by the lava of that planet, but the pasty, weathered face we see in Return of the Jedi is more a result of years of Dark Side influence, IMHO. 

Likewise, the fact that the Emperor is scarred, and withered by his own lightning back firing is kind of lazy. I prefer to think that years of studying the ways of The Dark Side of The Force took their toll on him.

So now that we have The Force in theory, how does it work in practice?

Task Resolution in Traveller (My Traveller) functions as follows:

The Player, and GM determine what the nature of the Task is, and what Skill and Attribute/Stat are best used to deal with said Task. The Stat, and Skill Ratings are added together along with the results of a 2D6 roll.

The GM subtracts, or adds any modifiers based on various factors (weather, low-to-no light conditions, haste, or taking ones time, etc.), and compares it to the Difficulty Level for the Task. Is the Task Routine (7 or better), Difficult (11 or better), Formidable (15 or better), or Epic (19 or better). I am considering changing the name of Epic for Star Wars Traveller to 'Delusion of Grandeur'.

It would look like this...

Appropriate Stat + Skill + 2D6 Die Roll +/- Condition/Situation Modifiers = ?

Is ? Greater than >, or Less than < Difficulty Level.

As an example, let's say Rey, Finn, and BB-8 are running from some First Order Stormtroopers. They decide to steal a junky old space freighter in an attempt to make their escape. The ship is pretty old, and hasn't flown in years. Rey has read dozens of pilot manuals, and simulated flight in the cockpits of crashed ships in Jakku's Spaceship Graveyard, but it isn't clear if she's ever actually flown a ship before.

Rey's player takes her PC's Intelligence, or Education (let's say her Education is only 5 - the player mentions Rey's background reading tech manuals on all the ships, and her high Intelligence. The GM lets her average her Intelligence 8, and Education 5 for a 6.5 rounded up to 7), adds her Pilot Skill Rating of 2, and a roll of 5 and 6 for a total of 7+2+5+6=20.

Now, the GM decides the Task of getting this heap airborne is Difficult (11).

The ship is jury-rigged out the wazoo, old, and hasn't gotten off the ground in a long time. The PCs are trying to get it up, and running in a hurry, as enemies are in pursuit. The modifier is therefore 6 (which can either be added to the difficulty as the number one needs to beat, or subtracted from the Stat+Skill+Roll Total). This means Rey's player needs to either get better than a 17 (Difficulty Level 11 plus a 6 Modifier), or that her actually end result to be compared to 11 is 20-6, or 14.

Either way, Rey makes it! This garbage spaceship has some life left in it! That, and Rey is a heck of a pilot. The Force was with her, and her friends.

Now, speaking of The Force...

It's going to work the exact same way. The Force wielding PC will add a Stat to one of their Force Skills, then add the results of a 2D6 roll. The sum of those is then modified by any Conditions, or Situations that seem fitting (most modifiers at between -2, and +2 at the most, but of course they can stack and cancel as needed) . The final result is compared against a Difficulty Level. If the PC is using The Force against someone, or something, add the target's appropriate Stat+Skill combination together and make that the base Difficulty Level. If the target is attempting to actively resist, they get to add a 2D6 die roll to the resistance as well.

Those familiar with classic Traveller, and MegaTraveller will no doubt notice differences between the basic mechanic I have described above, and the standard way it is done in the game. I assure you this is on purpose, and not me forgetting the way the game works. I told you I simplified things. It's been working really well for over 20 years so I'm sticking with it.

Whew. All those rules. I'm wiped out.

I am going to sit over here on this rock, eat a weird looking Slim-Jim, and talk to this funny looking green dude with big ears for a minute. When I've recouped my strength, I'll go into more details about how The Force works in Star Wars Traveller, as well as some optional rules I can't decide if I want to try, or not.

"Try? Do! Or do not. There is no try."

Barkley, why are you talking like that?

"I don't know. What's the big idea of calling me funny looking?"


"No worries. Pass me some of that strange Slim-Jim."

Barking Alien

* Most official and unofficial sources list the weight of an adult Wampa as around 150-200 kilos, or 330-450 lbs. This makes no sense for a creature of the size and scale depicted in The Empire Strikes Back. It also seriously undermines the scariness of the beast. A real world Grizzly Bear is 800 lbs. In my version of the Star Wars universe, the taller, somewhat lankier Wampa is probably 500 to 700 lbs.

**Of course, strong willed individuals with keen minds, such as Jabba the Hutt, have a chance to resist the Jedi Mind Trick.

More on that in a later post.


  1. The part I already had trouble with when it came to the Force and RPG's is Yoda's claim that lifting an X-Wing was no different than lifting a rock. Which is cool from a story standpoint, but problematic from an RPG standpoint.

    If I had my druthers, I would ditch the whole notion of Force as cool set of powers than PC's can add to their list of tricks and instead go with something more abstract and narrative. For all the greatness that was the Clone Wars cartoon mini-series and then CGI ongoing series, the Force really turned the Jedi/Sith into superheroes and villains, rather than the mystical samurai they were originally intended to be.

  2. "The part I already had trouble with when it came to the Force and RPG's is Yoda's claim that lifting an X-Wing was no different than lifting a rock. Which is cool from a story standpoint, but problematic from an RPG standpoint."

    Ah, but it is the same.

    While working on this project, I've had to re-evaluate how I perceive a lot of things, and it's helped me immensely in translating the Star Wars films to RPG mechanics.

    What prevents Luke from lifting the X-Wing isn't the power, or capacity of the Force, the weight of the X-Wing, or even (to some extent) his relative abilities. What stops Luke is his own perception, and preconceived notions. The former farmboy's personal growth in viewing the universe as one, great, unified thing has not yet reached the point of full enlightenment.

    It is the difference between using the spoon, bending the spoon, and realizing that in fact, there is no spoon.

    In the expanded rules and information on The Force I am posting next, you'll see that a PCs Skill with The Force represents as much what he, or she believes they can do, as what they have 'the power' to do.


    What got me thinking about it was Kylo Ren, and Rey. Both exhibit either phenomenal raw power, or remarkable skill with little to no training. How?

    Yoda says there is no difference between a rock, and an X-Wing. Darth Vader says that the ability of the first Death Star to destroy a planet is nothing compared to the power of The Force.

    What if a character's Force Skills only partially represent his, or her actual 'skill'. What if it represents their 'understanding'? That is to say, when you meet, or beat the Difficulty Level, said Difficulty Level isn't a mark of how hard a task is, as all task in the Force are relatively the same. Instead, it stands for how clear your understanding is, how deep your connection is to all other living things, and your ability to transcend reason, and logic, to achieve wondrous things.