Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Enhanced Coordination

The release of the Heir to the Empire Star Wars novel trilogy in 1991 was the first 'big thing' to happen to the Star Wars universe since Return of the Jedi in 1983. Luckily, it turned out to actually be okay (I won't go so far as to say it was great, but... well when you compare it to the other schlock that followed, maybe it WAS great). With the novels came the release of sourcebooks for the D6 Star Wars RPG—and with the sourcebooks came stats and information on all kinds of new and interesting things. Among them were some new force powers that the author of the books (Timothy Zahn) had made up. One power in particular stands out in my mind, both because it was so pivotal to the plot of the books and because it made a sudden and very large impact on my campaign—so much so that I had to ban its use.

This power was called "Enhanced Coordination", and this is the description given of it in the rulebook:

"The use of this power allows a Force user to coordinate the activities of a group in order to increase their effectiveness at a given task. This power was often used by the Emperor to increase the fighting ability of his troops, mentally driving them on and supplementing their will to fight. This power may only be used on individuals who are in agreement with the intent of the Force user, and it in no way grants the user mental control over the troops affected. Rather, it links the troops on a subconscious level, allowing them to fight more proficiently and with better organization. If this power is successfully called upon, the Force user picks three specific skills. The skills must be the same for the entire group. For every 3D (rounded down) in those skills that the troops have, they receive a bonus of +1D. The Force user may keep this power up, although he must make a new power roll whenever new troops are added to the power, or skills are to be changed. This power affects only Dexterity, Technical or Strength skills."

The difficulty numbers required to activate Enhanced Coordination are as follows:

Control Difficulty: 
    Moderate, modified by proximity
Sense Difficulty:
Alter Difficulty: 
    Very easy for 1-10 troops
    Easy for 11-100 troops
    Moderate for 101-500 troops
    Difficult for 501-5,000 troops
    Very Difficult for 5,001-50,000 troops
    Heroic for 51,000-500,000 troops

At first glance this may seem to be only a moderately useful power—good at bolstering minor NPC troops. That was essentially what it was intended to do. But in my campaign, it didn't take long before one of the Jedi (Jared) thought to use it on our party. His Force skills were plenty high enough to 'Coordinate' the 6-8 people in our party, and by that time most of the group had skills in the 7D to 8D range. When you use this power with characters like that, you wind up with people with Blaster, Dodge and Lightsaber skills around 9D to 10D. A whole party of people like that. I very quickly saw just how unbalancing that would be to the game and had to disallow its use.

It wasn't until recent years, as I was working up my own 'Jedi Handbook', that I revisited this power and looked for a way to salvage it. Finally, I think I did just that—creating something that is useful in the spirit to which it was intended without being unbalancing.

How the power now works in my game is this: "it links the troops on a subconscious level". This means that everyone in a coordinated group has complete, subconscious 'situational awareness' of the rest of his team—as if they had a low-level telepathic connection. Thus, everyone in a team knows where the others are, what condition they're in. If a scout notices an ambush on the trail ahead, he doesn't even have to say anything to the rest of the party, or even use hand-signals. They just know. Likewise, if presented with a situation where there are multiple enemy targets, members of the coordinated team will automatically know which targets their team-mates are zeroing in on, so nobody will needlessly 'double up'. 

From a purely 'gamey' side of view, this power essentially allows players to 'legally' offer hints and suggestions to each other via table-talk—explaining it away in-game as that subconscious link. I don't allow incredibly complex messages or conversations to be held—just a few words here and there.

And finally, in those situations where troop morale might become an issue, Enhanced Coordination helps to offset fear and dismay—mostly just by letting the troops know, on a very solid level, that they are not alone in the midst of the terror and chaos of combat. 

You'll notice that this revised power does not have any skill or attribute bonuses to it (though I might consider giving a D or two to willpower if I ever had to check for morale). But despite this, I feel (and so do the few characters who have use it) that he power is still very useful. Plus? It does just what Zahn described in his novels—bolstering the coordination and will of his troops to fight.

In my book, this power also takes the place of the 'Battle Meditation' power, which evidently did almost the same thing anyway.

1 comment:

  1. It's also a great way to silently set up, and then initiate, an ambush. I can hardly wait!