Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jedi Templates

One of the (many) things that the original West End RPG really did right was to give the GM ideas on how to include Force users in a campaign without walking all over the established movie continuity. They accomplished this through several different character templates included at the end of the main rule book. As I recall there were four Force user options in the original edition of the rules, though another was added in the Second edition. As you read, please keep in mind that I am speaking mainly of these templates being used in a 'Classic' campaign setting (during the original movie trilogy)—since when the game first came out, this really was the only setting.

The first, and perhaps the most mundane, Force user template was the Minor Jedi. This template represented someone who was a padawan or some-such during the fall of the Jedi order. They had begun their training, but had not completed it prior to the Imperial purge. The minor Jedi would thus seem to be an older character (in their thirties at least) who had some small skill with the force and even a connection with the Jedi Order as a whole, but who has had to keep themselves hidden all these years. The low starting Force skill levels of this template can be explained away by the character's incomplete training as well as their lack of an instructor in the meanwhile. It could also be argued that this character has (consciously or not) suppressed their Force abilities in order to blend in with galactic society while the purge was at its height. The Minor Jedi would likely enter a campaign because they felt that the 'time was right' for them to finally make a stand against the Empire. The various RPG books had several examples of this kind of template, but the one that stands out for me is Corwin Shelvay (from Galaxy Guide 9). 

The second Force user template is the Failed Jedi—an interesting twist on the Minor Jedi. The two templates share the background of being a person who was young and in training during the fall of the Jedi. Where the Failed Jedi diverges, however, is that they 'washed out' of training. They were either expelled from the Academy or dropped out. During the Imperial purge, the Failed Jedi sunk into fear and depression, hiding away from the galaxy in a bottle of booze. Again, low starting Force skill levels can be explained away by incomplete training, but even moreso than the Minor Jedi, this template seems a candidate for 'trying to forget' their abilities in order to pass as normal (and to escape bad memories). The Failed Jedi is likely brought out of their wasted life by the promise of redemption—if not for themselves then for the next generation. The closest example of this template in the various Star Wars materials is Halla from the Novel: Splinter of the Minds Eye, though she isn't entirely true to the backstory—Essentially, she's just a con-artist and drifter who has minor force abilities. In my campaign, Syril Vanus was based on this template—a man who's life was mysteriously ruined by Darth Vader sometime in his past. He emerged from the bottle to try to make a difference once more.

One of my favorite templates is the Quixotic Jedi. This guy is, simply put, nuts. He thinks he's a Jedi and plays the part—to the hilt. The Quixotic Jedi is both humorous and poignant, based on whatever his exact background is. He could be a senile old man who read too many stories about the Jedi when he was a boy. He could be an unbalanced youth, escaping a difficult life on the streets in favor of a world of honor and heroism. He could even be a former Jedi or padawan, tortured to the point of insanity by the Empire before somehow escaping. No matter what the background, the Quixotic Jedi's erratic and initially low-powered Force skills can simply be blamed on his psychological state. The Force works in mysterious ways—who's to say it wouldn't find a conduit through a crazy old man or a disturbed youth? Why couldn't a 'broken' Jedi rediscover their connection—and a new purpose to become a hero (even if they are crazy). While there weren't any Quixotic characters in my Vermillion campaign, there are at least two examples of them in the Marvel comics series. The first is the no-so-subtly named 'Don-Wan Kihotay' from the early 'Eight for Aduba-3' story arc—this guy is, no doubt, the source of this template. The second was a gangly alien who suffered a head injury and began calling himself 'Jedi'.

The final Jedi template included in the original D6 rule book was the 'Alien Student of the Force'. Again, this is a very original concept, representing someone who comes from a Force tradition outside of the Jedi order. Exactly what tradition that is left vague—which opens up all kinds of opportunities for the player (or player and GM) to come up with a framework/philosophy that is entirely original. The Alien could be a primitive shaman or viewed as a 'wizard' on his or her own world. She could be from a highly advanced, Force-sensitive species that remains in hiding from the Galaxy at large—or even the 'last of her kind' from a species that was wiped out by the Empire. An Alien Student's relative lack of Force powers as a beginning character could be explained in any number of ways: slow initial learning process or limited instruction and experience at home. As presented in the template, the Alien Student would generally start the campaign seeking to discover more about the Galaxy and more about the Force in the process. In the Vermillion campaign, Bob the Tusken would qualify as an Alien Student of the Force. He certainly didn't come from a Jedi tradition initially—and he certainly was 'alien' (in philosophy and background if nothing else). His player certainly emphasized that quirky background, making him a very unique character in the group.

Introduced in the Second edition D6 rule book, the Young Jedi template can represent one of two things: In the 'Classic' campaign, the Young Jedi would more appropriately be called a 'Force Adept'—i.e. a person with no formal training but who develops Force skills at an almost subconscious level, perhaps not even being fully aware of them until some time later. In a New Republic era campaign the Young Jedi could be a formal student of the Force, either from one of the emerging new Knights or (if the campaign is set late enough) of the Jedi Academy on Yavin. Being young and untrained presents a simple enough explanation of low starting-level Force skills. As far as motivation goes, a Young Jedi could be spurred by just about anything—idealism, adventurousness, etc. The 'Force Adept' concept is perhaps the most popular template there is. It certainly was in my campaign. Adren qualifies as one, so do Arianne, and Jared, and Yelstain, and Shagg, etc. Luke Skywalker himself would fall into this category, as would Leia in the later novels. 

I am a strong believer that in a Classic campaign all Force users should be less powerful than the feature characters. To do otherwise (in my opinion) is to brush aside the major plot points of the movies. All of the Major Jedi are supposed to be dead. Luke is a prodigy who will grow to be the most powerful Jedi of his generation. To introduce another full-fledged Jedi survivor of the purge or another youthful prodigy who is better than Luke is (again in my opinion) to water-down and disrespect the story and the characters (see my rant on The Force Unleashed). In order to keep this balance, it is important for characters to start off with low Force skill levels—and a good reason WHY those levels are low to start off with. Hence my pointing out in each template the reasoning behind the Force user's initial limited skills.

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