Thursday, February 18, 2010

Star Wars: Action Cards (Part III)

Probably the last of these-- a little over a week away from putting this into play. About 80% back to good health; still have chest congestion which is winding me.

Breaking up the Force powers is obviously one of the more difficult tasks in any game system. In dividing these abilities, I've tried to stay close to the divisions suggested by various sourcebooks, but also to provide a game balance and interest. That also meant breaking things up into enough categories to give everyone some room to choose and have a spare set or two. Generally, I've aimed for the latter over the former. The abilities are described rather broadly below. Generally each Force “power” is what I've been calling a meta-ability in the most current revision of Action Cards. (Note that term meta-ability is a placeholder until I can think of something else). The distinction is this: an ability allows characters a redraw when attempting a task. A meta-ability allows characters a redraw when attempting a task and also grants the character access to a power or trait not normally possessed (like Night-Vision or Laser Cat Eyes). My break down of powers here comes from a variety of sources and has mostly been built to facilitate interesting play. Note that the abilities are very broadly described and can certainly change depending on the player's creativity.

So, characters have ranks in their powers: Padwan, Knight and Master. During character creation, each Jedi character will be able to pick one set in which they have the rank of “Knight” and one set in which they have the rank of “Padwan.” For the former, they'll get the basic ability plus their choice of one of the Knight-level abilities. For the latter, they'll get the basic ability.

During the game at the end of each session, players will get X “Picks” to buy new things. Increasing one's rank in one of these Force talents costs 1 pick. Buying a new power costs 1 pick as well, and you must be of the appropriate rank to take that ability. A character may only buy into one force area per session (so can't buy up a rank in one and buy a power from another).

Think about it, the Lightsaber's actually one of the most dangerous weapons a person can use. The risk of doing damage to yourself or anyone around you is pretty damn high. That's where the Froce comes in-- it is what keeps someone from cutting their own arm off.

Build Lightsaber (Padwan): The character has their own lightsaber they have built and has the ability to rebuild, repair and reactivate one should their saber become damaged.

Expertise (Knight): The character has trained with the most basic forms of lightsaber combat. They gain a repull for attacks or parries with it.

Deflection (Knight): The character can now use the lightsaber to parry any ranged attacks they are aware of. Note that Parries use Combat as a draw, where Dodges use Physical.

Tricks (Master): The character has trained in some of the upper level forms of lightsaber combat. He may throw and catch his saber, alter the damage to reduce the effect, use two weapons and the like. The GM reserves this ability to cover a large amount of ground for the lightsaber master.

Reflection (Master): The character may use his lightsaber to deflect incoming blaster shots back at their shooters or to other targets. Essentially, he becomes a mook slayer when facing these kinds of enemies, tying up large numbers. If the character wishes to bounce a shot in a particular way, they may make a test for that. The character must know Deflection before taking this ability.

One of the most classic of the Force powers, but also one requiring a good deal of discretion and care in their use. Since these powers can directly impinge on another living being, they can prove harmful if not carefully managed. These powers do not work on droids or other like beings. Side Note: Willpower as a trait falls under both Social and Mental, depending on the circumstances. The GM assigns which trait is drawn when any test occurs.

Stealth (Padwan): The character uses a number of tricks to make it easier to move past watchers and security. This gives them a repull for such circumstances, by making them slightly harder to see or creating small distractions. With concentration, the character can create controlled noises or effects to aid in moving a larger group with their powers.

Confuse (Knight): The force user can create confusion in a target, making it difficult for them to concentrate. It may be used as a distraction, to aid in convincing someone of something, or to gain an edge on the battlefield.

Obscure (Knight): The force user can extend his power make an area more difficult to see it-- covering specific areas with a haze, darkness or the like. This can be used to conceal things or confuse adversaries. With directed concentration, the user may impact the senses of a specific target.

Compel (Master): The force user can command the mind of the weak-willed. This requires speech, eye contact and interaction with the target. While the force user cannot make the target do anything explicitly against their code, they can reshape the circumstances to make it easier for a target to obey. This power is a risky one, and can easily move over to the dark side if not carefully used.

Masquerade (Master): This is the difficult ability to create illusions, complex and mobile. Such illusions require concentration to maintain, but can be fairly grand in scope-- with an increasing difficulty based on size, complexity and senses involved. The ability can also be used on a more narrow level to create a personal disguise.

This covers the extension of one's senses into the fabric of the force itself.

Enhance Senses (Padwan): The character can enhance his natural senses, allowing him to see more clearly and act without penalty in low-light, noisy situations or where distractions abound. This is essentially a passive power (granting a repull for senses) but can be amplified with concentration. This can also allow them hyper-sensitivity to analyze substances if they concentrate.

Farseeing (Knight): The character can extend his senses (usually vision, but can be others) to places beyond their line of sight. This is not an exact science and the environment can easily overwhelm it. It works best when trying to see a place familiar to the force user or an area surrounding a person they know well.

Weave Reading (Knight): This includes two distinct abilities, the first being able to sense the presence of the force and of force users. While all force users can feel this energy, the character has tuned their mind to be able to detect specifics and understand the nature and power of the force around them. Additionally, this sense of the pattern allows the character to see the 'shatterpoints' inherent in objects-- places where those things are weak and potentially broken.

Psychometry (Master): The ability to gain impressions about the history of an object or place based on contact with it. While this can be useful, it does have some limitations in specificity and kind of information uncovered. Notably, users must be careful when interacting with areas of death or darkness for fear of leaving themselves open to malign influences.

Precognition (Master): This has two aspects, the first being visions of the future which the character may not have control over. Such senses and visions are usually uncontrolled, though Jedi Masters have been able to train themselves to better read these signs. The second aspect is of an inspirational nature, giving the character a degree of intuition about choices and helping them make key choices or getting the timing just right.

With some exception, these powers revolve around using the force to enhance one's personal abilities.

Breath Control (Padwan): The character can control their breathing, allowing them to swim underwater for extended periods of time or survive in normally noxious environments. They can also use this talent to remain quiet or even appear dead for short periods of time.

Hibernation (Knight): The force user can go into a state of hibernation, protecting them from environmental damage (such as freezing), allowing them to heal more rapidly, stabilizing damage they may have already taken and passing great lengths of time without needing to eat or drink. This hibernation does maintain a level of force awareness, protecting the user in case the circumstances change. A user in such a state can appear to be dead or merely unconscious, as they choose.

Leaping (Knight): The character can make absurd leaps. The GM assumes you've seen the movies. This is the power that lets them do all of those crazy acrobatics in combat.

Burst of Speed (Master): The character can draw on the Force to increase his or her running speed to many times normal. This can make the character seem like a blur with such bursts. The ability is tiring, and can fatigue the user after activation. While the Burst of Speed doesn't grant extra actions in combat, it can function defensively, allowing the character an extra broad dodge pull. Repeated uses may tire the combatant out, but it does function as a last-ditch defense.

Battlemind (Master): Allows the character to focus himself to increase his own personal morale and shift the tide of battles. When active, the character can resist outside influences more easily, but also expands and shares his or her perceptions in large scale combats. It functions, in part, as a kind of small mind-link allowing reflexive coordination with others-- including the ability to defend for them. Has narrow, but potent applications.

Basic defensive abilities.

Landing (Padwan): The character can use the power of the force to reduce damage from significant falls (within reason) or to land on one's feet after being thrown or falling. This acts as a passive ability and a redraw.

Healing (Knight): The character may use the force to heal minor damage, including incidental effects. This is not a substitute for attention from a skilled medic, but can be used to quickly provide first aid on the fly.

Force Protection (Knight): The character may channel his mastery of the force to provide a measure of protection, like armor, against physical and other forms of damage. This is a passive ability, but must be activated and can tire the force user over time.

Force Deflect (Master): The character may deflect and turn aside ranged attacks, including energy attacks, without a lightsaber. Even absurd thrown objects may be flung aside through this force use.

Force Absorb (Master): The character can take in and dissipate energy based attacks, including electricity, fire, kinetic energy and so on. This acts as a higher level protection requiring concentration. Alternately, the character can grant basic protection to a number of allies.

The ability to move things or generate force at a distance. This does require line of sight or some kind of alternate vision in order to carry out.

Force Pull (Padwan): The basic ability to move small objects, push things over and affect things within line of sight with the force of one's own mind. Items and things moved should be relatively small or modest, and are handled roughly.

Force Grip (Knight):
The character can exert his normal strength at a distance, for example in combat. This requires concentration and may be difficult to manage while defending. With meditative skills and the opportunity to focus, the character may lift things several times their normal carrying capacity.

Force Manipulate (Knight): The character may perform more delicate or subtle manipulation with their telekinesis. This allows the character to perform specific actions at a distance as if they were present themselves.

Force Slam (Master): The character has learned to use his telekinesis as a casual offensive ability, sending opponents flying back, pulling large objects down on them and so on. This also includes the ability to choke an opponent if so desired.

Force Whirlwind (Master): The character can, with concentration, lift absurdly large objects and materials. Alternately he can concentrate to create a field of TK lifted objects around him which can provide a measure of protection or obscurement.

A difficult set of powers requiring the force user to focus on a fairly narrow range of skills. It includes some advanced manipulation and aggressive talents.

Change Environment (Padwan): This allows the user to warm or cool an area to help protect against dangerous environments. It can also be used to brighten darkness or enhance the shadows in a location to aid in stealth. It cannot extinguish energy or be used offensively.

Droid Disable (Knight):
An attack which attempts to overload and temporarily disable the systems of a droid. While it can be used against other electrical systems, it is much more difficult and they usually have some redundancies and lack the fragility of some droid systems.

Force Flash (Knight): The ability to create a blinding flash of light which can temporarily overload an opponent's vision. With skill, the light can be made bright enough to get past basic eye protections. Note that this power is not selective and will affect all persons in an area.

Electric Judgment (Master): A controversial power, as it bears a striking similarity to the dark side talent, Force Lightning. Some masters of Energy Manipulation have claimed to be able to create lightning without giving in to anger. The lightning itself does seem qualitatively different-- lacking the draining effects of the dark side talent. However, generally this is seen as a risky offensive power, easily abused and hard to master.

Cloaking (Master): The ability to bend light around oneself to conceal one's presence. This is a fairly advanced skill, but works on physical principles rather than the mind. This means it can be used to evade remote visual sensors and droids. It is less effective against living creatures who will instinctively notice the disturbance around them. It only cloaks sight, and can wear a user out.

The telepathy powers are unusual-- many force users possess the basic level of talent with this area, more advanced use is rare. Note that telepathy does not include mind reading or intrusive uses effects of the mind, as those fall under mind tricks and dark side talents.

Empathy (Padwan): The character may sense basic emotions from those around them. This perception overlays their standard interactions, but when there's a strong difference between a persons outward appearance and inner feelings, it may be picked up. Empathy can be used in certain social situations as an assist or in gaining an initial read on someone.

Telepathy (Knight): The basic power allows the force user to communicate with persons the telepath knows well. This works best with line of sight, allowing brief communications without being noticed. With more difficulty, the character can communicate at a distance beyond line of sight, or even join several persons together in the communication. This communication is secure and the voice of the telepath is clearly their own. With some exceptions, such as those solely dedicated to telepathy as a force talent, telepathic communication is inconsistent.

Beast Empathy (Knight): The force user can demonstrate non-hostility to non-aggressive creatures and gain some rudimentary communication with them. With time and opportunity, the force user can even calm some hostile creatures or at least distract them enough to move past them. This is an empathic talent, and so does not allow actual control or manipulation.

Force Stun (Master): A non-debilitating attack form, this power can be used to temporarily stun a target-- possibly rendering them unconscious through the psychic assault. Strong willed or force user targets will likely resist. This is an aggressive power, but can be used to avoid bloodshed in some situations.

Force Presence (Master): This ability has two aspects. The force user can increase his or her presence, giving a boost and benefit to allies with them. This can help them resist the affects of pain, fear or the environment. Masters use this in larger battles to help direct and coordinate efforts. As another option the character can conceal his or her signature as a force user. There are several methods for doing this, but the end result is the same. The obscurement ends if the character uses a force power besides this one. Masters can also alter their signature, allowing them to appear aligned to another side of the force. While not an obviously useful power it has potent implications, being the means by which key figures managed to save themselves or take power in the past.


  1. Is there a specific mechanism representing corruption to the Dark Side?

  2. I've decided to steer away from that a little-- except a kind of mental math about when players use the Force to act in a bad way. I'm thinking about adding cards to a player's deck if they do accumulate such points. The deck itself as a mechanic does present some possibilities.

  3. Ha! That's truly elegant. Between that and on-the-fly GMing, it really does cover all the needs. This sounds like a great little campaign. I wish I could be one of the regulars.

  4. "Laser Cat Eyes...impressive, most impressive."

    Nice work on the powers!