Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Damn... I Screwed Up

Didn't I say this D20 was some fiddly shit? I completely missed the fact that you only roll Initiative ONE TIME and then the order doesn't change unless someone wants to delay an action. Wouldn't THAT have speeded everything up!

My combat example from yesterday is also tainted by my mis-use of the Force point rules. When a character spends a Force point to boost an attack or skill roll they roll 1D6 and add it to their total. If the character is 8th level they roll 2D6 and take the higher of the two dice, and if they are 15th level they roll 3D6 and take the higher of the dice. In other words, the MAXIMUM bonus received for spending a Force point is SIX (6), unless a character has the Strong in the Force feat (in which case they roll D8s instead of D6s). The latter folks would include Anakin, Luke, and Yoda amongst their number.

For those who care, here are the places this would have affected the combat:

- Obi-Wan would have failed to deflect Dooku’s Force Lightning and taken double damage.

- Dooku would have only hit Obi-Wan with one of his Double Attack rolls, taking less damage.

- Obi-Wan would have failed the Endurance check to stay conscious, but since this isn’t an actual rule in the game (the ACTUAL rule is: once you are reduced to 0 hit points or -5 Condition you are unconscious and unable to take any action), but rather an attempt to ape the movie, I could lower the DC to 20 or 25 or whatever to make it work.

- Dooku would probably have failed to hit Anakin’s 2nd lightsaber (he would have needed to roll a six on one of those three dice, instead of adding them together).

And that’s about it. All-in-all, the battle would probably have ended much the same, but it bugs me nevertheless (I like my calculations to be sans flaws). In my defense, I still remember WEG’s version of Force points which, while fewer in number (especially for non-Jedi) were incredibly badass in application. WotC gives you more frequent Force points, but they have a lesser impact (though still able to save your ass). Destiny points are the REAL ass-kickers.

Of course, after actually USING the combat system, I am again revising several of the character’s stat blocks. Dooku does NOT have Vaapad (per Star Wars lore, this is a form invented and only used by Mace Windu. Since it’s a non-film-canon talent, I feel I should stick with the non-film-canon interpretation)…besides, he can always spend a Destiny point if he wants to ensure a Crit hit on someone. Also, dropping one of his three Lightsaber Defense talents (2 + Makashi is enough), gives him the chance to add both Greater Weapon Focus and Greater Weapon Specialist. I think most will agree he’s some kind of a specialist with the lightsaber.

Anakin (for whom I believe I neglected to roll D8s when using Force points…damn it!) is getting an upgrade, including Skill Focus (Use the Force) in place of Dual Weapon Mastery feat and Force Pilot talent in place of Jury-Rigger. He already has the Mechanics skill (seldom put it to much use save when talking to droids) and rearranging his feats to give him these at 1st level makes it much easier to show how a kid was flying a fighter like a champ even while young. Also readjusting his attributes (for like the 5th time…but this time I think it’s sticking!).

Speaking of piloting, finally gotten around to reading the piloting chapter and it’s a little…well, weird, I guess. So much of the Saga Edition seems to be gears to or descended from their miniatures line, and apparently WotC had a “starship battles” game system that they wouldn’t mind Star Wars players using; however, THAT system “doesn’t take into account heroic characters.”

Driving a starship appears (at first read) to be pretty much the same as maneuvering around the battle map, save using a slightly different scale. However, you still attack and do damage based on your level, and the Piloting skill is simply designed to let you do certain stunts. I don’t feel like “mapping” out star systems anymore than I feel like mapping out…well, anything really (what is this? A board game?). I’ll see if it can be played out in the head with any degree of “coolness.” Again, I fondly remember WEG’s more abstract starship combat. It SEEMS like Saga can be used abstractly (though those ships have a LOT of “hit points”), but I just can’t say at this time. I’d kind of like to recreate the first Death Star run.

Which brings me to another little sticky point: modeling a Luke Skywalker that won’t get gaffled. Modeling Luke by film is no problem, by the way: he’s a pretty straight-forward 1/8/12 character. The thing is, Vader is a strong level 17 in Episode IV…His Royal Badness should have no problem shooting down the rookie pilot.

Is Luke a rookie by the time of his Death Star run? That’s the real question. The thing that’s going to save him is ample use of Force and Destiny points. NOW…if Vader’s Destiny (after fulfilling his CORRUPTION by the Dark Side) was to DESTROY Obi-Wan Kenobi (which seems pretty likely…destinies take years or lots of effort to fulfill, per the rules and that execution was 20+ years and several lopped limbs in coming), then Vader would have NO ACCESS to his own Destiny Points until he’d chosen a new Destiny (like the CORRUPTION OF HIS SON, which can’t happen until he knows the kid exists). Which means, Luke is free to use his own Destiny points to save his bacon and Crit the hell out of the Death Star.

But how many does he have to work with? A character gets one Destiny point for every level of experience. Luke begins Episode IV with one level and one Destiny point…how many levels does he have by the time he climbs into the cockpit of his X-Wing?

Off-hand, I’m guessing THREE, as in, “he’s 3rd level.” This gives him the feats and talents he needs to fly like an Ace, a couple Destiny points to save his ass and one more to make “the Shot Heard ‘Round the Galaxy.”

Besides, I just don’t see him going up more than 3000XP over the course of the movie. By the time he’s got out of Mos Eisley and learned from Ben, he should have about 1000 (enough for 2nd level and to make the switch to Jedi 1). By the time he reaches Yavin he should have another 2000 (probably including a 1500 pt bonus or so for rescuing the Princess).

Would Luke get a Destiny bonus for rescuing his sister? Hard to say. How about destroying Death Star #1 (the Destiny examples include “Lando’s destiny to destroy the 2nd Death Star” and I distinctly remember him having the help of a whole lot of others, including Wedge Antilles). I think I prefer to play fast and loose with the Destiny interpretations (I’m a big fan of The Riddle of Steel’s “spiritual attribute” system), and err on the side of given ‘em. It’s the only way I see to boost characters so they can take on Big Bad Guys. For Luke, it looks something like:

- Destined to RESCUE Leia

- Destined to DESTROY Death Star

- Destined to DISCOVER Yoda

- Destined to RESCUE Han Solo

- (whereas Leia was destined to DESTROY Jabba the Hutt)

- Destined to REDEEM Darth Vader

That’s a LOT of Destinies fulfilled, providing a lot of decent, permanent bonuses. Of course, compare this with Vader:

- Destined to RESCUE Mother

- Destined to DESTROY Count Dooku

- Destined to be CORRUPTED by the Emperor

- Destined to DESTROY Obi-Wan

- Destined to CORRUPT his son

- (or alternately, DESTROY the Emperor)

I would not count his destruction of the Trade Federation space station as fulfillment of a Destiny (just as I wouldn’t count Obi-Wan’s destruction of Darth Maul) as neither event had huge and lasting impact on the Galaxy, nor did they take a noticeable amount of time and devotion to fulfill. Both were major obstacles, but in the end, they were single-encounter obstacles, not ones I give a lot of credit.

But you can see (I hope) how subjective this stuff is…there is “wiggle room” and space for interpretation, even in a game as fiddly and granular as D20. These metagame characteristics (Force points and Destiny points) certainly give the game a LOT more room for story creation than, say, 3rd edition D&D or Pathfinder. How so? Destinies set strong motivations and goals for players’ characters and Force points allow them to (somewhat) address premise by picking and choosing what they get spent on.

I mean, you don’t need to spend a Force point to save your bacon if it’s “dramatically appropriate” to die. I think Qui-Gon probably had plenty of FPs saved up when he fought Maul; in an RPG a level 14 character would probably NOT be so silly to blow his last “hole card.”

More on this later.

; )


  1. ALthough I have no interest in the Saga game (but I LOOOOVE me some WEG Star Wars), her'es my take on Luke. Looking through sources like the novels and comics, we know that, although young, Luke was already an accomplished pilot on Tatooine. He had run Beggar's Canyon with Biggs and his friends before (and rather spectacularly, if I can recall one issue of the Marvel comic), and he already had his own Incom Skyhopper to tool around in (glimpsed INCREDIBLY briefly in Episode 4, I believe), so I don't think it would be beyond the realm of the possible to expect Luke to already have some Pilot levels at the start or STAR WARS. AFter, all, doesn't Obi-Wan say that he has heard that Luke is quite a pilot in his own right, much like his father, when they are at Ben's hut in the Dune Sea?

  2. I was wondering about the initiative thing, but I assumed it was one of the things that didn't make it into D&D4. On a related note, the use of the Force Points here seems to echo that of the action points in the first edition of Eberron; action points in D&D4 work in a different way.

    As for Luke and destiny points. Remember that Obi Wan's spooky disembodied voice gives him a little nudge at the end of Star Wars, so perhaps it's Ghost Kenobi who spends the destiny point (perhaps as part of a "nurture the Chosen One" destiny) to aid Luke, not Luke himself. The question is, since death doesn't seem to stop them, does the game allow you to play Jedi after they've died? ;)