Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Droids and Galactic Society

As I cross over the halfway point in the Droid part of my sourcebook (damn me, I keep adding more to it!), I find myself pondering the role of droids in the Star Wars universe—and just how they would impact the galactic society we see in the movies. It is difficult NOT to think about this when you see the variety of droids and all of the things they're capable of: everything from repairing technical devices to performing surgeries to tending the gardens to serving food in a restaurant, etc., etc.. So the question I ask myself is, if droids are doing all this stuff, how do 'people' (i.e. organic folk) make a living?

Well, to begin with, I think it is worth discussing just how widespread droid labor is. And from the movies, I think we see that the answer to that is: Very. Even a complete backwater like Tatoooine seems to have a heck of a lot of droids running around—in the cities (like Mos Espa and Mos Eisley) as well as the boonies (the Lars farm). Larger planets likewise seem to have a lot of droids, working in starports, dishing out food at diners, etc.. But I think it would be reasonable to assume that droids would be more common on core worlds than they would be on the rim—if for no other reason than the remoteness of those planets. It would be more difficult to ship droids to them and to maintain them (keep them supplied with parts).

So, what does this mean for your basic 'blue collar' worker? Well, it means he (sorry, just going to use the masculine here for the sake of brevity) is going to have a hard time finding work. In the core, most 'manual labor' jobs would be accomplished with droids. Factory-workers, construction, dockworkers, you name it. This doesn't mean that ALL such jobs would be done with droid labor—especially when you consider the fact that many droids (especially labor models) are noted for being dumb. Thus, it seems that organic overseers or foremen would be necessary to keep them in line. Of course there are also 'smarter' droids built to be Overseers, but even these would probably have SOME level of accountability to an organic 'master'. On worlds further out from the core—specifically large agricultural or mining developments, the situation would likely be the same. Lots of droids with a smaller number of organics overseeing them. But on the outer rim? Well, here I still see room for the 'common laborers' to work. Sure, they might have a few droids for the 'heavy' or dangerous labor, but for the most part, things would be done with old-fashioned muscle.

Even so, at first glance it seems that the blue collar worker is doomed. I mean, just how many 'overseer' or 'foreman' jobs can there be? The answer to that is: a lot. If you think about the sheer SCALE of a galactic society like the one presented in Star Wars—the fact that entire PLANETS can reasonably be devoted to just farming or mining or some other industry—then you see that there would be a heck of a lot of need for organic supervisors. In the movies, I can point to Owen Lars as an example. He was a single farmer who seemed to have a labor pool of droids working under him (as well as a nephew to help oversee them). Yes, he was just one Farmer, but its possible that his farm was actually rather large. Thus, the whole definition of a 'small farm' in the Star Wars universe might be skewed from what we consider small. Droids would allow a single operator a much greater scope—i.e. they wouldn't 'replace' farmers, they'd just allow them to operate larger farms. The same would apply to most other blue-collar jobs as well—think of the amount of spaceport traffic a planet like Coruscant sees every day. Even with droid labor pools to load and offload cargo, there would be jobs for a LOT of organics to oversee them.

Overall, then, Blue-Collar labor would seem not to be eliminated. But even factoring in the 'scale' issue, the demand for such workers would be reduced compared to what we consider 'normal'.

Now on to the service and retail industries. I would see this facing the same challenges as blue-collar work, but overall, it would have a slightly better time of it. Sure, you can have droid waitresses or cooks or store clerks, but a lot of folks want a 'personal touch' when they're out to dine or shop. Though some droids can be programmed for 'charm', a lot of organic species just don't relate to them as well as they do to other organics. If you need proof of this, just look at how many people dislike automated answering pools when you call a company. If you need an example in the movies, look to Dex's diner. There was a droid and human waitress working side by side, and Dex himself seemed to be a charming and personable guy who gave his diner a distinct 'personality' that a droid cook may not have been able to. So again, the demand for such labor would be smaller than what WE know, but still not as low as one might think.

I imagine that the rule we see emerging here—organics taking on a supervisory position to droids—would apply to a great many 'industries' in the Star Wars universe. So the big question then is what does everyone in the Star Wars galaxy DO for a living? Well, the 'white collar' professions seem to be relatively safe from droid displacement. Business and Government positions still exist, relatively undisturbed. Sure, 'lower' positions like secretaries and aides would see a lot of droid labor, but your basic executives and officials would be going strong. Why? Because organics run the galaxy and no matter how well programmed a droid is in psychology or sociology, political sciences or business, they just do not understand the motivations of organic species on the same core level.

Likewise, jobs that have a creative core to them would not see much droid labor. Artists, Craftsmen, Entertainers, Writers, Journalists, Advertising folks (had to include that, since I'm an ad guy)—all of these would be almost exclusively 'organic' jobs. Scientists and inventors would fall into this category as well. Even though they live in a world of facts and physics, both jobs require the spark of creativity that most droids seem to be lacking.

As far as military applications go, droids do serve in supporting roles, but the Clone Wars seemed to have spelled the end of large-scale use of droid armies. Afterall, overwhelming numbers of automatons proved inferior to well trained and motivated clone troopers. So, oddly enough, the military seems to be a haven for organic employment—at least until the stigma of the Clone Wars wears off. This is seen most readily in the Original Trilogy, where you don't see any combat oriented droids at all–just organic soldiers on both sides, duking it out. I realize that some of this may simply be due to the fact that Lucas didn't have the special effects budget/technology to pull off droid armies, but its easy enough to extrapolate a logical, in-universe reasoning for it as well.

Police and security duties are a bit more ambiguous—at least in examples from the movies. On the one hand, we see the organic "Wing Guards" on Bespin, but on the other, we see Droid Policemen in the Clone Wars cartoon. I could easily see this industry having both, but I doubt most societies would enjoy being policed solely by droids for various psychological reasons—not the least of which being that droids were created to SERVE organics, and to put them into a position of power over their 'masters' just seems wrong.

Exploratory operations would likely incorporate a lot of droids as well–especially on particularly hazardous worlds. In fact, under the Empire, I could easily see scout droids as being preferable to organics—since the Empire isn't interested in making 'first contact' with new species or pushing back the boundaries of knowledge. They're looking for two things: Resources to exploit and rebel bases to destroy. Droids are a more reliable way to do this (as they can be programmed not to have a 'conscience'). For this, witness the probe droid of the Empire Strikes Back.

Freight hauling seems to be dominated almost entirely by organics. Ship captains like Han Solo seem to be the norm, and though some folks may have droids as crewmen, it seems that there is a mistrust of droids in that role, at least in the Outer Rim (who says there can't be huge, droid-controlled freighters plying the safer core-planet routes). This all goes back to the argument that droids don't handle unexpected situations as well as organics. This can be argued both ways, but seems to be backed up by what we see in the movies and (more extensively) in the various novels and comics, with dozens of different organic ship captains at work.

So as much as I hate to make comparisons between genres, I would say that in Star Wars, the bulk of the citizenry (at least in the core worlds) has been 'elevated' out of having to do 'tedious' manual labor. So, much like the citizens of the Federation in Star Trek, they are able to pursue other (presumably) higher goals. This means that the ratio of blue-collar workers to white-collar would be heavily skewed from what we know in the 'real world'. And even the blue-collar folk would likely be in a more supervisory role.

Of course, this isn't to say that there wouldn't be instances where organic labor would be cheaper or preferable for other reasons (an environment hostile to droids, perhaps?), but this certainly wouldn't be the norm based upon what we see in the movies. And in many cases, Slave labor would be cheaper than droids—hence institutions like the Spice mines of Kessel. But that opens up a whole other can of worms as to just how the slave trade is profitable enough to compete with affordable droids. For that matter, it opens up the the question as to whether or not droid labor constitutes slavery. But.. that is too metaphysical to go into right now.

In any case, it is obvious that droids have a huge impact on Galactic Society in the Star Wars universe, but it is equally obvious that they do not completely dominate the workforce. Rather, they seem to be just another 'tool' used by organics to complete the tasks they need done—albeit a more self-sufficient tool. I've often thought about this topic before, but this is the first time I've ever put anything down 'in writing'. And that always helps me figure things out. It is also important to remember when painting a picture of the Star Wars universe in your roleplaying game. Details like this help maintain the atmosphere we see in the movies—and I like that in my game.

Oh, and P.S.
How could I overlook the technical professions! I see them as being about in the same boat as other blue-collar jobs. Droids would take over a lot of the work there, but.. someone has to fix the droids (or at least fix the droids who fix the droids...). There would also be supervisory/foreman type positions in these fields and in the case of special modifications or custom work, you'd still need a creative, organic mind in charge.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Force Unleashed, Part Deux

You know, I'm all about giving things a second chance—especially when it comes to Star Wars. But I just can't bring myself to get excited (or even non-disgusted) about the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. I have previously vented my bile upon this budding franchise, so I won't delve too deeply into it again. I'd really like to give it a second chance, but there are just so many strikes against it that I am actually dreading its release. Why? Well, let me list the reasons:

1) Story. As horribly disruptive and downright hamfisted as the first game was to the established canon of the movies, this one seems to be even moreso. In fact, its looking like it is even going to be running roughshod over its OWN previously established canon (, if the Rebel Alliance's symbol was adopted in honor of the Jedi who gave his life to help the birth of the Rebellion, what happens when we find out he isn't really dead. He's just kindof been cloned, but has some of the same memories...).

2) Insanity. Okay, so... Vader tried to use the protagonist (Starkiller) as a pawn, but found him too difficult to control. So... this time, Vader's plan is to... use Starkiller as a pawn, only he (surprise surprise) finds him too difficult to control! SHOCKER! I mean seriously. WTF. Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. After having both been destroyed by Starkiller, I'm thinking neither Vader nor the Emperor would take the chance on repeating that mistake.

3) "The Dark Chapter". I guess its a supposed to be a nod to the darker tone of Empire Strikes back, but this game is supposed to be the 'dark' chapter in what is shaping up to be a trilogy of video games. Because yeah, the first game was so 'bright and cheery'. Lets see.. the protagonist's family is killed, he's raised by a horribly abusive father figure (Vader) who is just using him to further his own ends. He slaughters a bunch of people who are essentially the good guys—including a couple Jedi. Hell, he even slaughters a bunch of (relatively) innocent jawas and rodians, not to mention a host of other aliens who are just trying to defend their world from the Empire. And in the end, he finds out that his entire life has been a lie and he is ultimately betrayed and killed by the Emperor. Yeah. THAT was the 'happy first chapter!', but this one is going to be all 'dark and broody'. Not much lower they could go, unless he starts eating babies or clubbing seals.

4) Epic Fights. The developers said they're working on making the boss fights more epic. For god sakes, in the first game you battle Darth Vader and the Emperor back to back—and defeat them BOTH. How much more EPIC can boss fights be?! Oh, I know.. this time you can fight a dozen darth vaders and emperors!

5) Ripping the guts out of the original trilogy, yet again. As I've said before, by having a 'hero' as overwhelmingly powerful as Starkiller, you totally take the emphasis off Luke's 'heroes journey' to redeem his father, which is central to the Star Wars saga as a whole. I mean, its like having a story about Robin Hood, then having some other guy (Bobin Hoodkiller) come in and totally kick the crap out of Prince John and the Sheriff without breaking a sweat. I am a firm believer that Star Wars is big enough for a LOT of different stories, but god damnit, find your own, Starkiller. Get your own antagonist and quick F**king with someone else's destiny.

Whew. So, yeah. It happened again. For some reason, just talking about this game ticks me off. The only way I'm going to buy it is if it gets the best ratings of any video game ever made. And even then, I'll probably be skeptical.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dark Side Corruption

One of the things I enjoy about Star Wars are the relatively harsh distinctions between good and evil. Yes, there are a few characters in the movies and stories who fall into the 'grey' area, but for the most part its either black or white. Maybe its just my personality, but I've never really found 'evil' to be all that attractive. I mean, that's one of the reasons I am so indifferent towards the Godfather movies. I just can't sympathize with the 'heroes' because they're bad guys. And yet there is a whole culture that idolizes the 'sexiness' of evil—just look at all the various vampire shows out there now if you need proof. Set the 'glittering' ones aside and you've still got creatures who feed off of others in a pretty hideous fashion—oh, and who murder people on a regular basis—so what if some of them 'had it coming', murder is still bad.

It is a subjective thing, admittedly. My own private peeve. But I really dislike the idea of 'beautiful evil'. To me, it is like saying there is no consequences to being evil. That you can 'have your cake and eat it too'. Yeah. I know in the real world, it is often like that—but in a universe like Star Wars, I would like to think there is a price to pay. And from what I've seen? There is.

You see it right away in the first movie. Darth Vader is a monstrous shell of a man—confined to a suit and a cyborg body. In the Empire Strikes Back, you get your first glimpse of the twisted face of the Emperor. Horrible, greenish wrinkled skin. Evil and not at all sexy. In Return of the Jedi you see the Emperor as a twisted, ancient looking 'thing'—showing all he had to sacrifice to attain his 'ultimate power'. And when Darth Vader is unmasked—he isn't some devastatingly handsome dude—he's a horribly scarred old man.

In the prequels, we are introduced to Darth Maul. While I admit, he looked ferociously cool, he was also hideous—with his yellow eyes (so help me god, yellow eyes!) and kind of gross teeth. Count Dooku, on the other hand, is probably the most 'normal' looking dark Force user we see. But I can kind of attribute that to the fact that he hasn't been 'evil' his whole life. There was a time when he was a Jedi. So...maybe he just didn't have enough time to get corrupted.

In the expanded universe, we see a lot more examples of Darkside Force users... and I'd say a fair number of them are rather messed up. In the Knights of the Old Republic series we have Darth Malak (missing his bottom jaw, bald and pasty white), Darth Treia (wrinkled and bitter old woman), Darth Nihlus (essentially just a 'ghost') and Darth Sion...who is essentially undead, with a rotting, corpse-like body. Ick, yes, but the kind of villains I appreciate. Joruus C'Boath is wild-eyed insane and creepy. Asaaj Ventress is albino-ish to an almost corpse-like degree. The list goes on, all seeming to reinforce the theory I have come up with: That the Dark Side corrupts—not just mentally, but physically.

This is backed up in a plot-line in the Dark Empire series—where the spirit of the Emperor keeps going through cloned bodies because his corruption is so great he literally destroys his physical 'host'. I'm not sure if this corruption has ever been officially stated in any RPG book—though I seem to recall it being mentioned in the D20 Darkside sourcebook. But in my universe, it is going to be the law. Dark Side users may start off 'pretty', but it won't last. The Dark Side rewards them with power, sure, but it demands a steep price.

I remember first trying to introduce this theory into an online roleplaying setting (the Minos Cluster MUSH) and boy did I get a lot of flak for it. One Dark Side guy in particular freaked out about it (his character was an alien with already sort of 'devilish' features like a tail)—likely because his character was a 'ladies man' (or at least he fancied himself such)—and becoming gross and wrinkly would definitely put a cramp in his mojo. This kind of sexy-evil attitude is prevalent in a lot of Expanded universe stuff, too. Darth Talon—the Twi'lek sexpot of the Legacy comic book series is a prime example. And while I can see the appeal, I just don't think it is 'right' on a metaphysical level within the Star Wars universe.

Therefore, in my campaign and my rule-system I am definitely going to make Dark Side corruption a factor. It won't be as much of an issue in my game because I do not run Dark Side player characters, but I think it is a nice touch—and one that is supported heavily in both the movies and a lot of the Expanded Universe stuff. What I'm thinking is that given time and power, just about any Dark Side user will become physically corrupted. Oh sure, you may be able to keep up a veneer of normality (as Palpatine did), but eventually something is going to push you over the edge and your true nature will begin to bleed through. The mechanics of it are probably going to have to deal with three factors: The number of Darkside points a character has; The level of the Darkside users's force skill; and the amount of time the person has been under the influence of the Darkside. There may also be a catalyzing event that triggers the change as well—For example, Palpatine's battle with Mace Windu or Anakin's slaughter of the Separatist leaders. Both of these seemed to spark dramatic physical changes in these men (though admittedly, the Emperor moreso).

So, there you have it. My apologies to fans of sexy evil folks. Yeah, they may exist, but the evil part is eventually going to catch up to them—and no, it won't just make them 'glitter'.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Top 10 Reasons that Yelsain Rocks

I can't believe that it's been over a year since I started this Blog and I haven't yet gushed about one of my favorite planets evarr—Yelsain. First introduced in Star Wars: Galaxy Guide 6, this planet struck a chord with me on a personal level. Why? Well, let me count the ways...

10) Forest Planet
Spending my early childhood in Michigan, I have always loved forests. A whole planet of forests? Even better. It's like Kashyyyk and Endor, only with mostly humans instead of furry guys (not that I have anything against furry guys). There is a whole aura of mystery and beauty that Forest planets hold for me. So right away, Yelsain grabbed my attention. Oh, and to say nothing of the fact that I have ALWAYS wanted to live in a huge treehouse. Damn you Swiss Family Robinson!

9) The Frontier
Spending my later childhood in South Dakota, I got a taste of what it was to live on the 'edge of civilization' (or at least as close as you can come to it in the lower-48 states). And truth be told, I kind of liked it. Oh, of course, I am romanticizing it in my head- but in literature (and gaming) the idea of the frontier has always held an appeal for me. People eking out a simple living, battling harsh environments (and critters) in order to survive. Yelsain is that—only 50 years (or so) settled. Still wild and wooly, with no big settlements and lots of smaller farmsteads with tough frontiersmen families living in them. Very cool. The wild west, only with lots of trees.

8) Speeder-Bikes
And what would the wild west be without your trusty steed! Only in this case, it's a speeder-bike (or occasionally airspeeder). The book describes them as the primary means of travel on Yelsain. Yeah. Ridin' through (or over) the wilds on your 'hawg'—good times. Even though fast-moving vehicles and lots of trees logically don't seem to work together, the image of Speeder-Bikes and Big Trees is easily one of the most recognizable 'Star Wars' things there is.

7) Garaths and Trogliths and Wilderbeasts, oh my!
And what would the Frontier be without nasty (and mysterious) creatures to make it more dangerous. I loved the fact that in the original source material, just the names of these critters were mentioned, nothing else. It was up to the GM to figure out just what they were. In my case, Garath's became 6-legged black panther like critters. Trogliths became gigantic (Rancor-sized) half-bear, half-lizard critters who didn't like to be woken up from their naps (or have picnic baskets kept from them). And the Wilderbeast? Well that's just a myth, isn't it? Used to scare children or have fun with tourists. Or.. is it?

6) Anachronism
Almost everything on Yelsain is made of wood. Even airspeeders. How cool an image is that? And the fact that they use a lot of 'low tech' in their every day lives, just because they feel it is a more 'wholesome' way of living. I like it, but I'm glad they don't go completely amish. They still use repulsorlift technology afterall, and medicines, and guns...

5) Highly Educated Hicks
Yep. So Yelsainians are a bunch of gun-totin' farmers and ranchers who live in the wilds and don't use a lot of technology. Hmm. You know, that could be problematic. A whole planet of hillbillies? Oh, but wait. They aren't ignorant yokels. In fact, Yelsain houses a well-respected University—and most folks on the planet are highly educated. THAT is certainly a twist on an otherwise 'stock' kind of a setting. And another thing I love. I picture an entire college (draped with ivy, of course!) cradled in the boughs of the trees. I picture a bunch of farmers leaning over the corral fence, discussing the finer points of astrophysics or ancient galactic history. I picture eccentric professors who spend their weekends exploring the wilds. Yeah, I wouldn't mind going to the U of Y, myself. Garath as a school sports mascot? Oh yeah.

4) "Anarchist Democracy"
Yep. That is the officially listed government type of Yelsain. Just how does this work, you ask? Well, simply put, folks do what they want, just so long as it doesn't hurt other folks. And if it might? Well, everyone is armed- so you better thing long and hard about doing something bad to your neighbors. As far as the big decisions go, and for setting general 'guidelines' for folks to follow, well, that's what the "Moot" is all about. Once a year, any folks who want a say in these things show up at a big gathering and hash things out (amongst various celebrations, strong drinks, contests of skill, etc.). Yep. Governmental decisions are made at a big party. In all honesty, I'm not sure this kind of government could really exist, but its nice to imagine, isn't it? Well, for me it is.

3) "Meetin's"
When someone does something wrong on Yelsain, folks get together, find the culprit, then sit down and decide what to do with him. A refreshingly simple and appealing form of law enforcement that cuts out all the legal loopholes and doubletalk and (in theory at least) dispenses justice, not law. On the other hand, the source material points out that this 'justice' can often be harsh, and isn't ALWAYS fair. To me, that was a nice touch to help ground what could otherwise have been a 'too idyllic' planetary setting. Yeah. There are a lot of appealing things about Yelsain, but it has a darker-side, too. And that just makes me like it all the more.

2) No taxes
In first reading the section on Yelsain, and particuarly its relationship to the empire, I was highly amused. Simply put, the Empire doesn't know what to do with Yelsain. Even in the midst of the Emperor's tyrannical reign, Yelsainians are outspoken and openly rebellious. And yet (for the time being at least) the Empire can't really do anything about it. They have no large cities to bombard from orbit. And even if they did destroy the main settlements, the people in the deep woods could hold out indefinitely—and either way, they STILL would refuse to pay taxes to what they consider an unjust government. So, thwarted (at least for the time being) the Empire must settle for taxing imports and exports. Its either that or send out tax collectors into the woods... to face highly-intelligent woodsmen who have grown up knowing how to hunt and shoot. Yeah. Not a good prospect.

1) Tree Rangers
And finally, what makes Yelsain Rock are the Tree Rangers. Simply put, 'Tree Ranger' holo-movies are the Star Wars equivalent of Westerns. Tree Rangers were the 'mythical' heros of Yelsain who defended the other settlers from the dangers of their newly settled planet. Across the galaxy, this is the general concept most folks have of Yelsain. And yet, on Yelsain itself, the movies are something of a sore spot. Calling someone a 'tree ranger' is a joke (at best) or an insult (at worst). I'm a sucker for anything termed 'Ranger'—have been since I first saw the "Lone Ranger". And the equation of Yelsain to the wild-west gives it a nice symmetry—so much so, that in my own campaign, I envision Yelsainians as speaking with a 'western' drawl. In more recent years, I've narrowed this down to the kind of talk folks on Firefly used. Yeah. Mal would definitely fit in on Yelsain. And to me, the Tree Ranger legend could easily have a root in 'reality'—it is stated that several Jedi came from Yelsain—and even that a few might be hiding out in the wilds. Tree Ranger Jedi. Yeah. Very cool.

So, there you have it. Probably one of my favorite 'expanded universe' things ever. The Planet Yelsain.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Decisions

As my Star Wars compendium continues to shape up, there are several more 'overall' decisions I have made regarding it—things which I may not have stated before. The first decision I had to make was what kind of 'voice' I wanted to write the book with. I have always found it frustrating when gaming books are written in too 'literary' a style. The prime example of this would be several White Wolf books—namely the 'Hunter' series. While I love the overall concept of the game supplement, the execution of it just bored the hell out of me. Every freaking section begins with some short-story (many of which are 'handwritten'- GAH), so it reads as though the whole thing was done in first person, by a bunch of different people, and none of those people actually knew what the hell was going on. While this may be great for establishing mood, it is downright crappy for providing information in a clear and easy to use manner.

Thus, my book is going to be much more straightforward. The 'voice' of it is going to be partially omniscient—this means that all relevant details about a subject will be provided, including those not known by the general public. Of course this 'restricted' knowledge is identified as such, so the GM (and players) will be able to use it accordingly. In some entries, there are details that are only hinted at—giving the GM some room to either 'run with' the insinuation and use it as an adventure or story-hook, or to disprove it and not use it if he wishes.

I know there are some schools of thought that feel players shouldn't know everything the GM does—that they should have some information kept from them so they won't act on it 'in character' during the game. For the most part, with the groups I have gamed with, this has never been the case. I play with adults, and most of those adults are perfectly capable of separating what they as a person know from what their character knows.

The second big decision I made at the start of the project is when to 'set' the book within the Star Wars timeline. In many of the more recent Star Wars rulebooks (the d20 stuff), entries are provided in a kind of generic way, talking about how the subject in question relates to the different eras of the saga (Clone Wars, Rebellion, New Republic, Old Republic, etc.). I was originally going to do it this way, myself...but thought better of it. Instead, I am writing the books as if they are set directly after the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV). I have done this mainly for personal/nostalgic reasons. The original trilogy is my favorite setting—and it hearkens back to the original d6 gaming books. Therefore, entries on Clone Wars era things (droids, ships, etc.) describe what the item in question was used for during its heyday and what is happening with it currently. From this, I feel as though a GM who wants to run something in the Clone Wars or New Republic era will be able to extrapolate information easily enough.

Stat Blocks were another major consideration. I have railed against them in other posts—mainly due to d20's propensity for them. My main problems with these stat blocks is that they are poorly organized (paragraphs containing stats are a lot more difficult to read than ones listed individually) and often contain more information than I really care about. Prime examples of these in d20 are all the pages and pages of low-level, mid-level and high-level versions of various NPCs, each with increasingly longer stat blocks. Charts can be another drawback—but as much as I have chided d20 for its charts, I am finding that charted information is easy to access and perhaps necessary. What I really object to are extensive charts for seemingly 'simple' things (I recall a quarter-page chart regarding autofire bonuses in one of the d20 books, ugh).

I am going to have Stat Blocks in my game. But I am doing my best to present not just game statistics (dodge+4, attack+7, etc.), but usable story and setting information as well. What kind of personality does an R5 unit tend to exhibit? Where are they typically employed? This is just as important as what it's skill level at starship repair is. At least it is in my book. I am also presenting some of the more basic information not as dense paragraph, but rather within more easy to read formats that can be scanned quickly to get info. And (as I've mentioned before) I am trying to keep all information contained on one page, so that you don't have to flip back and forth to get it.

Included are a few examples of pages for your viewing pleasure (or curiosity). And yes, the layout is very similar. I've spoke about this before—the conflict between making an 'interesting' page layout and making an easy-to-reference work. I erred on the side of the latter. Oh, and the copy is still kind of rough. I haven't spell-checked or thoroughly edited it all yet—so please be kind in that regard.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Revised Force Powers List

Welp. I finally broke down and delved into this. I have spoken previously about how I feel the Star Wars Force system has needed a revamp. It was always my intention to do this as part of my rules compendium—but the magnitude of the task has always put me off. I think that a part of it is my overall dislike of 'magic' systems. This goes back to my experiences as a GM and a player. Spells always seemed to slow things down in a game. It seemed (and probably unrightly so) that there was always some rules discrepancy or grey area and the 'spell' in question would have to be looked up and interpreted. As a player, I especially felt the sting of this, as all action would grind to a halt for my (non magic) character while people tried to make some sense out of the power that a spell-user was trying to sling.

But the Force is the central theme to Star Wars, and I actually LOVE the idea of it. It has just been the mechanics that bothered me. Well, hopefully I'm narrowing in on a more functional system now—and one that doesn't seem so much like 'magic'. The CENTRAL rule that I went by in developing this new list of Force Powers is that it should really be based upon something we've seen in the movies. Barring that, it should have a more 'realistic' feel to it—mainly based upon real-world monkish traditions (or at least the 'fabled powers' of these traditions). I feel this is appropriate because the Jedi in particular were billed as this kind of an order.

So, without further ado, I'll list what I'm going to include in my revised system, along with a brief description and (where applicable) an example of where this power was used in the movies (or other 'official' media related to the movies). I have organized the powers into six main categories, we'll start with:


Combat Focus, Brawl
This lets the Force user enhance their unarmed combat abilities with the Force. It works something like Lightsaber combat, only the Force user can't block blaster bolts. They CAN block Melee weapons or thrown weapons though (and perhaps even arrows). This power was demonstrated in the Clone Wars 2D animated series, where Master Windu takes on a group of Battle Droids in hand to hand combat—delivering devastating blows with his fists.

Combat Focus, Lightsaber
This is what we see in the movies. Force-enhanced abilities with the saber, including the ability to block and even reflect blaster bolts.

Combat Focus, Melee
This allows a Force user to fight more effectively with a non-lightsaber melee weapon. It essentially uses the same rules as lightsaber combat—with the exception of blocking and reflecting ranged attacks. It may be possible to block a blaster bolt with your walking stick, but odds are, that stick is going to be destroyed in the process. Likewise, you can't reflect an incoming shot with this power. This isn't shown anywhere in the movies or supporting material (to my knowledge), but it does seem to make sense.

Combat Focus, Vehicle
This is alluded to several times in the movies. That the Force helps a Jedi's reactions while piloting. Most notably, Qui-Gon comments on it in regard to Anakin's ability to drive his pod racer in Episode I. In game terms, this gives a Force user a bonus to his driving, cycling or piloting skill when using a 'personal' vehicle (i.e. one designed to be operated by a single person, like a starfighter or pod-racer).

Energy Absorption/Redirection
A Force user's ability to absorb harmful energy directed at them. In the movies, we see Yoda do this with a blast of Force Lighting (from Dooku, I believe). We also see Vader do this when Han shoots at him on Bespin. I have added the further wrinkle that the user may be able to redirect the energy—either to be able to bounce it back at his attacker or to hit some other target (though I have made this pretty difficult)

Force Lighting
This is damaging energy in the form of blue-black lightning. The Emperor used this a LOT. So did Dooku. This one is pretty much unchanged. I AM sticking to the fact that this is a purely dark side power, though. Even if it is used for 'mundane' things, like shorting out a droid or computer, it still represents 'corrupting' Force energy to purely destructive purposes.

Force of Will
Though we never actually SEE this in the movies, I'm sure it is there. It just represents a Force user attempting to resist hostile Force powers being used against them. I'm betting Luke was TRYING to do this when he confronted the Emperor...only it didn't work so well.

Telekinetic Kill
Vader used this a lot to crush people's throats. But the game system offered a lot of other gruesome uses for this as well—squeezing the heart, stirring the brain, snapping the spine, etc.. I see this as a 'flourish' move. It is a LOT more difficult than if you just hit someone with a blast of TK and slammed them against the wall. It is a dark side maneuver designed to inspire horror and fear, not to kill 'efficiently'.


Accelerate Healing
Not shown specifically, though it is perhaps the reason Luke was able to heal so quickly from the ass-kickings he got during the Empire Strikes Back. It is VERY important to note that this does NOT miraculously seal wounds or mend bones, it just helps the body's natural systems work faster. Can be used on others.

Control Disease
Again, not shown in the movies, but it makes sense. Helps focus the bodies natural immune system. Can be used on others (though again we never see this explicitly in the movies).

Control Pain
Though never explicit, I'm pretty sure we saw this power used a lot in the movies. Luke lost a hand and kept on going. Anakin lost three limbs and did likewise. Ouch. Can be used on others (though we never see this explicitly in the movies)

Detoxify Poison
Not a miracle cure again, just helping the body deal with and/or expel poisons. Not shown in the movies. Can be used on others.

Remain Conscious
See control pain above. Anakin, minus three limbs and on fire, was still freaking conscious. Double ouch.

Remove Fatigue
Not shown in the movies, but it makes sense—just helping the body get rid of self-made chemicals that cause aches and pains and maybe even a bit of drawing on Force energy to 'recharge your batteries'. Can be used on others (though we never see this explicitly in the movies)

Return Another to Consciousness
Used by Ben on Luke in Episode IV. Simple enough.

Transfer Force
Not shown in the movies, this power allows a Jedi to give his own life energy to stabilize a mortally wounded person, placing them in a hibernation-like state. I have added the extra wrinkle that using this power actually injures the person using it.


Affect Mind
"These are not the droids you are looking for". One of the 'signature' Force powers. Can't do without it. I did, however, throw out the whole section from the game about being able to use this power to generate visual/audio illusions. That just seemed too 'magicky' to me.

Control Mind
We never really see this in the movies, but it seems like a natural (if evil) extension of the Affect Mind power. With it, you can basically control other people like a puppet. It is very difficult to do, however, making it useful only to pretty high level guys.

Empathy, Animal
We see this in Episode II, where Anakin manages to calm and ride the dangerous Reek in the Geonosian Arena. Basically allows simple communication with animals.

Empathy, Plant
Never see this in the movies, but it makes sense. I imagine it would be more abstract than Animal Empathy, since Plants are of a more 'alien' form to most humanoids. I do NOT see this as being able to get plants to do more than they are capable of. They don't 'entangle' foes, or uproot themselves to swing their limbs or anything like that—not unless they are capable of doing such things naturally.

Enhanced Coordination
This is my revised power (one I've spoken about before). It represents a low-level telepathic link between a (usually small) group of people—allowing them to act in a more coordinated and instinctive level. No, it doesn't give them bonuses to skills or anything like that.

Inflict Pain
This is a mental attack, stimulating the pain centers of the brain. We don't see this in the movies, but again it seems to make sense. Like Telekinetic Kill, it is more of a 'flourish' power. It would be easier to harm an opponent with a lightsaber or a blast of tk energy. This is more insidious, causing agony without any physical damage. Scary.

Memory Enhancement
Allows a Force user to 'rewind' their memories and replay them to examine details they may have overlooked. Cool and plausible power, but not shown in the movies. In retrospect, it is almost like the thing in Harry Potter, where Dumbledore is able to travel back into his own memories to replay the events.

Memory Wipe
Not shown in the movies, but plausible. Allows a user to erase someone's memories—in part or in whole. I see this as mostly a dark side power, though there may be some 'good' uses of it (on a case by case basis).

Mind Cloud
This is a revamping of the 'Dim Other's Senses' power. The example from the movies is a bit iffy, but works enough for me to include this power—when old Ben is crouching his way through the death star, miraculously, nobody seems to notice him. Now, you could chalk this all up to a Stealth skill (and indeed, he WAS sneaking), but I think there may have been some force powers at play here, too. How I see this working is as a kind of low-level 'Affect Mind'—basically just telling folks around not to pay attention to the user. To prevent abuse by players, I added the fact that the user must be actively attempting to avoid notice and pass by—thus, it can NOT be used to sneak up on someone and throttle them. Unlike 'Dim Other's Senses', it functions as an area-effect kind of 'aura'. With the old version of the power, you could conceivably have to use it on EVERY person you are trying to sneak past. Even high level folks would, therefore, be thwarted by 4 or 5 normal people. Also? The new name of the power hearkens back to the old 'Shadow' radio dramas! The ability to cloud men's minds! (only, well, it's a lot less potent than that).

Project Aura
Though never stated explicitly in the movies, I think this power was probably represented. A good example would be Vader's arrival at the second death Star, walking down the ramp like a badass, scaring the crap out of everyone as he exuded fear. Like Mind cloud, I see this is a low-level telepathic affect that conveys a simple emotion—such as Fear or Peace. It isn't really all that 'useful' from a gamist perspective, though I could maybe see it giving a small bonus to Intimidation or other social skills (depending on the aura exuded).

Telepathy, Projective
The ability to speak to others using your mind. We see this in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke Contacts Leia. Strangely enough, we don't see it much after that. In my own campaign, this is one of the most commonly used powers. And I don't see why it shouldn't be!

Telepathy, Receptive
The ability to read another's emotions and surface thoughts—or perhaps even delve further into memories. Not shown in the movies, but makes sense. Another very commonly used power in my own campaign.


Body Control, Breathing
We see this in Episode I, where Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan old their breath to thwart the poison gas. Simply allows a user to hold their breath for a long time. This is one of those 'monk inspired' powers.

Body Control, Contortion
Not seen in the movies, but monk inspired. The ability to contort the body in physically possible ways to escape bonds or fit through areas (by dislocating joints, etc.)

Body Control, Hibernation
Formerly 'Hibernation Trance', this is another monk-inspired power not seen in the movies. Allows a user to slow down their metabolism to use less air/water/food–and to perhaps fake being dead for a little while.

Body Control, Temperature
Not seen in the movies. Monk inspired. Allows a user to resist extremes of heat or cold by slowing or speeding up his metabolism

Force Leap
Seen many times in the movies. This is simply a telekinetically enhanced leap.

Force Lift
Not shown in the movies, but makes sense. This is essentially using telekinesis to enhance strength in regard to lifting heavy items. As with leap, this power lasts for only one 'effort'—so you can't simply keep the power active and be 'super strong'. It also requires some time to use—thus making it primarily useful in non-combat situations.

Force Sprint
Shown in Episode I, when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan run awaaaaay from the Destroyer Droids. I..don't quite see the power looking like it did in the movie. The User doesn't actually increase the speed of their muscles or anything, rather, they just use telekinesis to elongate their stride and give them extra forward momentum—thus each 'stride' takes them further than a normal one would.

Force Swim
Not shown in the movies, but kind of alluded to in the 2D Clone Wars cartoons when Kit Fisto the Jedi is shown swooshing around in the underwater battle of Mon Calamari. Essentialy, it is just telekinesis helping to push the swimmer along at a faster pace through the water.


Danger Sense
"I have a bad feeling about this". Okay, so all the characters say this at one time or another, but who's to say that when the Jedi say it, they're a bit more certain of it. In Episode I, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan seem to have this power when they sense the imminent attack of the Trade Federation droids as they are waiting to negotiate. Basically, it allows a Force user a chance to sense danger before it happens—things his normal sense might not pick up.

Direction Sense
Not shown in the movies, per se—though perhaps you could say this is what Qui-Gon was talking about in Episode I when he told Jar-jar that the 'Force would show them the way' through the deep oceans. I don't see it as anything as 'mystical' as that, but perhaps it is just a natural attunement to a planet's (or perhaps ship's) gravitational field, thus you always know which way is 'north', etc.

Anakin used this (though only in his dreams) to see his mother and Padme both dying. Yoda used this to try and see into the future—as did the Emperor when he planned the whole Endor battle as a trap. You'll note that NONE of the above were particularly helpful, and often just confused the issue. This makes Farseeing a great GM tool to be as vague as possible. I nixed the whole part about being able to use the power like a clairvoyant, however. I can KIND of see where they might get that from (Luke in ESB 'sees his friends in trouble'—but is he seeing the present? or the future?), but I don't like the idea of Jedi being able to use the power to just peek into the next room. We do NOT see them doing that in the movies—rather, it is used as a kind of vague precognition power.

Instinctive Astrogation
This one is a little iffy if you ask me, but not iffy enough to warrant exclusion. In the movies, Luke sets course for Dagobah (during ESB) and seems to do so while on 'manual control'. I see this as kind of an extension of the 'Direction Sense' power, but on a cosmic rather than planetary scale. Thus, a Jedi can 'feel their way' to a destination through hyperspace, without the use of a nav computer.

Life Sense
Can't really point to anything in the movies that represents this power—unless you consider the whole 'energy field generated by living creatures' speech that Ben gave in Episode IV. But the power makes sense—the user can 'sense' living creatures around himself (perhaps using the power to tell if any large, dangerous critters are in the area, etc.).

Magnify Senses
We don't really see this power used in the movies either, but I see it in kind of the same light as a lot of the 'physical' powers—using the force to enhance natural abilities. In this case, I'm thinking it would lend itself more to overall perception (a bonus to search and observation skills) rather than the more 'fantastic' 'microscopic vision' or 'dog-like hearing range'.

Merge Senses
We never see this in the movies—unless you count the Beastmaster! Because that's kind of what this power is—being able to see through the eyes of an animal. It works for me as a kind of telepathic link akin to (but more difficult than) Animal Empathy. I could EVEN see this working on another Sentient, but it would be even more difficult to pull off.

A useful little power that allows a Force user to read the psychic impressions left on objects—being able to 'see' what was going on around them (or how they were used) in their past. I am a stickler with this power in that most mundane objects and larger 'areas' can NOT be read like this—only those items that have a very personal connection to a particular character. Otherwise, folks could just walk into a crime scene, grab a nearby rock, and replay the entire thing. Weak. We don't see this in the movies, but I like it anyway.

Sense Being
This is the power that used to be called 'Life Sense'. Why was it renamed? Because Life Sense and Life Detection sounded way too similar for my liking—always got them confused. Sense Being allows a user to search for a particular person he knows and 'check in on them'—see how they're feeling, if they're in trouble and even what general direction and distance they are. In the movies, I'm pretty sure we see Leia using this power on Endor, when the Death Star blows up, Han comments that Luke probably got out just fine and Leia responds "I know he did". Maybe Luke contacted her via Telepathy, or maybe it was this power. Meh. Close enough for me—especially since this power mainly only works on friends. It is a lot more difficult to use it to check in on enemies, especially ones with strong willpower.

Sense Force
One of the most commonly seen powers in the movies. I'd point to just about any time someone said that 'such and such was powerful with the Force' or 'sense a disturbance in the force', etc.. This simply allows a user to feel disturbances in the Force—to sense when something feels 'good' or 'bad' or to get a gauge of how powerful something is in terms of Force energy.

Sense Surroundings
This is shown in the movies when Luke is first training with the remote. Ben gives him a helmet with the blast shield down. Luke is still able to react to the remote, even without being able to see it. To me, this essentially allows a Jedi to function in conditions where his normal senses are impaired (i.e. he is blindfolded, etc.). Of course, the range of this power would be more limited than sight, but... its still quite useful.

Weather Sense
Okay, so maybe it is a bit of a 'throw away' power, and you don't really ever see it used in the movies, but I can see this as a power that is useful, but in no way overpowering. It represents a Jedi being able to sense the various factors of a planetary atmosphere and get a 'feeling' for what the Weather is going to do in the near future.


This whole category is essentially just various uses of the same power. In my rules I am listing out a lot of 'common maneuvers' folks can do with Telekinesis—pushing someone, grabbing a weapon, lifting an item, etc., etc.. We first see this power when Luke uses it to retrieve his lightsaber in the Wampa cave on Hoth. We see it again when Vader throws a bunch of crap at Luke during their fight, and when Vader snatches Han's blaster from his hand on Bespin. There are numerous other examples throughout the prequels. This is one of the cornerstone Force powers. There are a few particular variations of it that may warrant an individual powers (Telekinetic kill is one such power, listed elsewhere). Another is...

Force Wave
This is essentially an area attack use of Telekinesis, whereby a Jedi uses it to generate a 'shockwave' in air (gas), water or solids (earth). We don't really see this in the movies, though there are examples in the 2D animated series (Kit Fisto loosing a concussive ball of water, for instance). I like the concept of it, however—allowing a Force user to create a powerful gust of wind to throw back enemies or a wave of water to crash over them or a shockwave racing through loose earth or rocks to knock people down. It seems to fit.

There are two more Telekinesis related powers that are a lot more iffy, but I am including them just because they are intriguing. These are Cryokinesis and Pyrokinesis. The former involves slowing down atomic motion, thus cooling matter. The latter involves accelerating atomic motion, thus heating matter. No, you can't shoot ice or flames, but you can freeze things or cause them to burn—given time. Since neither of these are shown in the movies, though, I hesitate to include them as 'standard' powers, since they could very well change the whole feel of Force powers in general.


All of the above powers (minus Cryo- and Pyrokinesis) are going to be 'standard' in my rules set. But they aren't going to be the only powers out there. Beyond these, I intend to have two more categories—Legendary Powers and Individual Powers.

Legendary Powers
These are often 'bad' things used by major villains. They would include such things as 'Force Storms' or the ability to Drain Life or even transfer your life into another person's body (all of these from the Dark Empire series).

They would also include things like the 'Battle Meditation' power—the ability to affect the outcome of huge battles by simultaneously inspiring your own troops and getting the enemy to turn on itself. The 'Sever Force' ability (showcased in Knights of the Old Republic II) would also fit into this category—the power to strip someone of their connection to the Force.

The Force Spirit power is another legendary power–the ability to transcend death and linger as a spirit, able to give advice, etc.

As you can see, most of these things are beyond the scope of a typical gaming campaign, but they're nice to have around for story or dramatic reasons.

Individual Powers
This is something I have only recently been tinkering with—to allow powers that are specific to an individual Jedi or species. Examples of this would include:

From the Clone Wars 2D cartoon, we see an Ithorian (hammerhead) capable of generating a sonic blast. I took this to be a force enhanced thing linked to the race's powerful vocal abilities.

From my own campaign, I allowed our Tusken Shaman the ability to generate a Sandstorm—essentially using telekinesis to whip up particulates into a cloud that can obscure vision, cause distractions, etc.

Other things like this would be possible and could add a lot of flavor to the game, as long as the GM didn't allow anything /too/ powerful.

So anyway, this is where I'm at. It was a long road to get here and I still have work ahead in detailing this stuff, but I am feeling a lot better about the powers now than I was earlier this year.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vehicle Hull Ratings

Just a quick post. The other night I was tinkering with stats again on the "big vehicle comparison chart thingy" (that's the official, technical name for it now)—and as I tinkered, I came to the realization that perhaps the stats on some of the starfighters needed to be toned down just a little—at least as far as the hull strength goes. The biggest example of what I am talking about is the X-Wing Starfighter as it compares to say...a Stock Light freighter (an unmodified version of the Millennium Falcon). Under the D6 rules, both craft have the same hull rating of 4D. Now, at first I always explained this away to myself as the fighter having a 'reinforced frame' and the freighter being more fragile—as it is largely made up of cargo space and not meant to enter combat.

Now, I still believe both of the above assumptions to be true, but when I looked at a more 'realistic' comparison of the sizes of the two craft, I just can't bring myself to justify both having the same hull code. Why? Because on my (admittedly rough) 'bulk rating system' an X-Wing has an overall bulk of around 50, while a freighter has a bulk of around 2,000. That's a pretty significant difference. Even if the X-Wing was 'reinforced' and the freighter was not, it just didn't make sense.

This left me with a couple options—I could either lower the hull rating of the X-Wing (and several other fighter classes) or raise the rating of the freighter. I chose the former for a couple reasons. From a purely game mechanic position I have found that more dice = more time at the gaming table. It takes longer to roll and it also starts a kind of 'inflation' that will affect a lot of other systems in the game (like weapon damage, for instance—which may have to increase in order to keep the same functional balance it had with the other hull codes). But beyond mechanics, I think that the movie pointed out that Starfighters, no matter how good they are, are somewhat fragile. We see X-Wings being shot down with one or two bursts of fire (Porkins, Gold Flight, etc.)—or at best being able to absorb a single hit before becoming significantly disadvantaged (Wedge, Red Leader).

So, what does all this blathering on my part actually mean? Get ready for the 'Dramatic Change in the Game Stats'!: The X-Wing and other 'beefier' fighters have dropped from 4D hull to 3D+2! GASP! I know. That's a lot of buildup for such a small thing. But the change is significant enough to note—and besides, these posts always help me work through my thinking. The end result is that the smaller fighters tend to have 2D or 2D+2 hulls (as they originally did) while the larger fighters have 3D or 3D+2 hulls. In a way, this has nice symmetry to it. In the game, characters typically have 2D to 3D strength and face blasters that typically do 4D to 6D damage. Thus, you'll now have fighters with a 2D or 3D hull facing enemy craft with the 'average' weapon damage of 4D to 6D. It works—or at least, I think it will.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Droids, Droids and more Droids

I have always loved the droids of the Star Wars universe. Like so many things in the movies, they weren't something that people in the Star Wars galaxy stopped to gawk at—they were common, everyday things. This utilitarian aspect of them, for some reason, just made them cooler in my eyes. The sheer variety of them shown in the movies only furthered my interest. And so, when I set out to make a sourcebook of 'all things Star Wars', I knew that droids were going to play a big part in it. As with most sections of this work, my initial concept was very limited—I was only going to feature two dozen or so of the most 'famous' droid types. But as with everything else, this has expanded. Right now, I am looking at over 100 droid designs.

Most of these designs are things we saw in the movies. Some of them are things first introduced in the roleplaying game or expanded universe books. A few of them are just based off of cool pictures I found on the web. The latter were included mostly to 'fill out' sections that were otherwise sparse—either in number or in showing the true 'range' of droids in the Star Wars setting.

Some of the designs I changed completely. The dark trooper droids, for instance, look nothing like the ones in the video game (at least not the Mark I and II). And I omitted the Mark III entirely (since it was supposed to be a unique prototype—and I didn't like the design :P)

Some of the designs, I altered just a little—mainly to 'fix' things that never quite worked for me. Of note in this regard are the various Astromech droids. In this case, I switched the roles of the R3 and R4 droids. The reasoning behind this was purely functional—droids working on vehicles in an atmosphere should have aerodynamic, streamlined heads (like the R2 has). Thus, I gave the R3 unit (with a smooth dome) the role of vehicle droid (copilot/mechanic in racing or utility speeders) while the R4 unit (with a big, wind-resistant cone-head) works onboard capital starships. In my defense, the first time we see an R4 unit in the movies, it is a crewman onboard princess Leia's Tantive IV corvette (a capital ship).

Likewise, the predecessors of the R2 unit, the P2 and R1 droids, underwent a bit of a re-write in order to make their stories flow better. In MY version, the P2 provided the 'compact size' part of the equation, while the R1 provided the 'can function as a nav computer' part. Both of these inspirations then went into designing the R2. The 'official' story has the P2 unit being a HUGE R2...2 meters tall, but with all the gizmos and stuff that an R2 has. This just...doesn't make a lot of sense. It isn't as though Droid technology made a 'rapid advance' in recent years to smaller droids. Settings like Knights of the Old Republic (set 4,000 years before Star Wars) have small droids. I can't see that the technology could have back-slid that much.

So, yeah—there are actually a lot of minor adjustments and re-writes like this. Many of them come from having all of these droid designs placed 'side by side' in a single tome. I am trying to give each droid design a 'hook'—something that sets them apart from others in their class. Even droids with the same basic function can stand out from each other as something unique. This can be something as simple as a different personality or it can be an entirely different bank of programmed skills, emphasizing something that another design doesn't. The 3PO and LOM droids are a good example of this. The LOM is essentially supposed to be a copy of the 3PO, only with a bug-like head. This cosmetic difference would be, by itself, a bit boring. So I threw in a little blurb about the LOM droids having 'privacy' software installed (giving them the 'Con' skill)—allowing them to lie to protect the secrets or best interests of their masters. I have further extrapolated this software to be the reason some LOM units (notably the bounty hunter 4-LOM) have gone rogue (some technobabble about deception software sometimes corrupting the overall functions).

But one of the biggest challenges of this whole exercise is an attempt to standardize droid design (statistics) and to base the prices of the units off of some kind of coherent system. As I have noted on numerous occasions, West End Games statistics tend to vary greatly from book to book. One of the most prime examples of a WTF WEG moment was their stats for the K4 security droid. Here, you had a STOCK (and relatively affordable) security droid with a 7D dodge! This makes the droid nearly untouchable by most grunt NPC troops and even beginning player characters. And this isn't a 'top secret prototype' or something. So. Wow, yeah. Had to tone THAT down a bit. There are many other examples of this (though few as outrageous) that have to be smoothed out in my rules set.

As with all my source stuff, I am making a concerted effort to include a brief information blurb about each design as well. I do NOT want this book to turn into a just a huge list of stat blocks. After all, that's one of the things I dislike about the d20 Star Wars system. Therefore, with each droid, I give a little background on the design and how it fits into the Star Wars universe as a whole.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes, I included the Battledroids from the prequel trilogy. And no, I didn't include anything about them saying 'roger roger' or any of the other 'comic relief' crap they spout. I don't like that, and it's my book :P.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Zero-Gee Stormtroopers

First introduced in the Imperial Sourcebook, Zero-Gee Stormtroopers was a concept I quickly grew to love. It is about the only place I could consider allowing powered-armor in the Star Wars universe (without it severely impacting the 'feel' of the setting). The concept made sense to me—I could see heavily armed and armored suits being used in boarding actions in space. Afterall, you would want some heavy firepower to overcome internal obstacles, but you would need something that could fit down standard ship corridors. Thus, Zero-Gee troopers are like the 'tanks' of the marine infantry units. The weight and limited mobility of the suits are much less of an issue in the zero-gravity environment, and in cramped corridor combat, they couldn't be easily outflanked. So, it was all good.


(Fig. 1) My god, does the design for them look stupid. I mean seriously stupid. Who cares if they can blow you up or crush you with their claws, they just look downright goofy. I think it's the huge head portion of it that really gets me. The oversized 'eyes' of the suit just aren't positioned for the 'pilot' to see through, period. And the 'nose' vent or whatever the heck it is supposed to be? Well, it makes the thing look like a mildly angry snowman or jack-o-lantern. The overall blockiness of the design isn't doing it any favors, either. To me, it seems to hearken back to the old movie serials and the clunky robots made out of stove-pipes. Bleh.

(Fig. 2) In the Heir to the Empire graphic novels, the Zero-Gee Spacetroopers make another appearance. Though the idea of them was clearly taken from the RPG sourcebook, the artist evidently had the same problem with the look of the armor as I did. Thus was created a slightly more 'acceptable' version of the armor (now listed 'officially' as 'light' Zero-Gee armor). The body certainly looked a lot more mobile and a lot less silly. But the head was still a problem. The helmet is twice as wide as a standard trooper helm, with gives the 'mouth' looking grille a decidedly goofy appearance. Not to mention that the head looks entirely out of scale to the body. Again. Bleh.

Though I used to draw all the time, I haven't done much of it in the past ten or so years. And it shows. I have made several stabs at my own designs, but I have never felt my drawing skills were up to 'snuff' when it came to this kind of design. So it was that I found myself in the position of not liking what images were out there and not being able to do my own.

(Fig. 3) Well, thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have found a suit of armor that I think finally fits the bill for the Zero-Gee power-armored space trooper. I used my retouching skills to tweak the basic suit a bit—mainly condensing it so that it would seem feasible for a man to be inside the suit. What I like about the suit is: A) It looks badass, B) The helmet looks helmet-sized, and C) It looks like a person could actually move around in the suit a bit more than the big, clompy snow-man version. In any case, this is what I'm going to go with from now on in my campaign.