Thursday, February 21, 2013

Obligatory Posts: The Jedi Knight, Part 4

One of the systems in the Edge of the Empire game designed to help facilitate role playing is the Obligation system.  Designed by long-time Star Wars RPG writer Sterling Hershey, the Obligation system replicates life's nasty habit of rearing its ugly head at inopportune times, and the increased stress it can cause your character (mechanically represented by a temporary reduction to your character's Strain Threshold).  The Obligation system throws a bit of chaos at the character, as past troubles and responsibilities that are still hanging over your character's head manifest and demand part of your character's attention.

While the Jedi Career I've written up doesn't fit well into the typical era for Edge of the Empire, the Obligation system is an interesting and potentially fun system to use, regardless of the time-frame of the campaign.  Jedi have all kinds of opportunities and options for starting Obligations, how to pay off and reduce obligations, and how they can gain additional obligations in play (and will want to!).

I'm sure that the soldiers and spies in Age of Rebellion will have a different system that replaces Obligation for that core book (due out sometime in 2014), and that Jedi will have something else entirely when Force and Destiny is released in 2015.  Until then, gamemasters who want to have Jedi in their game but don't want to miss out on the interesting options the Obligation system offers can utilize the following concepts and Obligation ideas.

Servants of the Force

According to the Star Wars Essential Atlas, the galaxy is 120,000 light-years across. There are over 400 billion stars, with 180 billion star systems.  10 percent of those systems developed life, and of those about 20 million developed sentient life.  During the height of the Galactic Empire, there were an estimated 100 quadrillion beings; and those are just on Imperial controlled worlds.  There could easily be five to ten times that number of beings in the galaxy, hidden in the Unknown Regions.

I'm going to try some math here.  It's not my strongest suit, but I think I got a handle on what I'm trying to express for a moment.

Let's focus on the number "100 quadrillion beings".  My mind can't even conceive that number and what it entails.  But to maintain the peace and stability of the Republic (predecessor to the Empire), the Jedi Order was supposed to serve a similarly mind-bogglingly-large populace.  Reportedly with only ten thousand trained Jedi Knights and Masters, that's one Jedi per one hundred trillion beings.  One Jedi to keep the peace and maintain Republic justice for the population of 14,285 Earths (assuming 7 billion people per Earth).

That sounds like one hefty obligation to me, doesn't it? 

Think about it; you're a Jedi Knight, on a mission trying to recover a powerful dark side relic from Darth Adnosium when you get a call from the Republic Ambassador to the nearby Warzalot system, who's planets are a hair away from nuclear war, who asks if you wouldn't mind dropping everything to swing on by and stop the mass destruction because the Ambassador is throwing a huge party this weekend and baridium mushroom clouds weren't on his decoration list.

Okay, so that's a little extreme an example but you get the idea.  Plus it illustrates how a Jedi can be pulled off his game by the obligations he has.  He's got a responsibility to the Order, and to the Republic, and because there are typically so few Jedi around he could be called upon quite a bit.

Mechanically Speaking...

So what obligations could a Jedi have?  Which ones fit a Jedi character in an Era where Darth Vader hasn't reduced the population of Jedi Knights to a couple handfuls?  The correct answer is "any of them", but I will admit that a few stand out more than others.

Possibly the most stand-out obligation for a Jedi is Responsibility.  Dutybound is another easy fit for Jedi.  Responsibility to the Republic to keep the peace.  Dutybound to the Jedi Order and the Jedi Code.  What's not so simple is to figure out exactly what a 15 point Responsibility or a 5 point Dutybound obligation look like.  Over on his blog, Sterling Hershey gave us some wonderful insight a few weeks back on a value explination of each obligation.  It's given me several ideas as to how to work in any Obligation to a Jedi character.

Dutybound: Looking at Sterling's post, Dutybound would be a good obligation to cover the Jedi's devotion to the Jedi Order, or to the Jedi Code.  A 5-point obligation could simply be your character's base-line commitment to the Jedi Order.  This could even be the "permanent" 5-point obligation that cannot be gotten rid of.  It certainly would make a lot of sense.

"You have made a commitment to the Jedi order, a commitment not easily broken."  -Obi-Wan Kenobi

A 15-point commitment (or higher) means you're devoted to the Jedi; the Code is your life, the Order is your family, and you strictly adhere to its tenets.  This commitment manifests itself by your master, the Jedi Council, or other political entities calling on you frequently to serve in the interests of the Jedi and the Republic.  You might not want to buy down this Obligation, except for the fact that the Order is demanding on your time and your adventures with the other party.   Reducing this obligation may involve taking on important missions for the Order and being recognized for your actions by the grant of more autonomy.

Another take on this obligation is that you're not as good a Jedi as you should be.  Maybe you have anger management issues, or you're a little too flirtatious with your preferred gender.  In those cases, this obligation is the control the Order places upon you, and is constantly calling on you to keep tabs on your actions and to keep you in line.  Reducing this obligation means you've shown the Jedi Order that you're improving your questionable behaviors.

Responsibility: This obligation usually translates into certain tasks or duties the Jedi performs for the Order.  Maybe they're assigned to a specific planet, system, or sector.  They could be dedicated investigators, and are directed to look into matters by the Council.  Maybe they're experts in a certain field, and teach classes to Jedi Initiates.  They could even be caretakers for certain individuals or artifacts.

"Why do I get the feeling you're going to be the death of me?"  -Obi-Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker

Here's an interesting take on the Responsibility obligation for a more experienced Jedi; being assigned a Padawan.  We have seen time and time again when a Padawan Learner has cause stress and frustration to their master with their actions.  You start with a huge obligation, then as you train your learner and they get more and more skilled, you gradually pay down your obligation.  The payoff comes when the Padawan becomes a fully trained Jedi Knight, and your Jedi is granted the rank of Jedi Master.  It's not an immediate benefit for taking on the obligation; it's an investment for later.

Crime: You may think this is one of the more difficult obligations for a Jedi to have, but Jedi commit crimes all the time; at least, in some people's eyes.  Jedi are given a certain level of autonomy throughout the galaxy, but there are still local laws that a Jedi may break in the course of their mission.  It's remarkable the number of speeders that Jedi "commandeer" to chase a villain.  Could be a nice 5-point Criminal obligation there.

Certain governments or law enforcement agencies may hold a grudge against the Jedi, and keep active warrants for their arrest even if they can't actually get to the Jedi.  Perhaps a Jedi was on record for breaking and entering a few times, or caused significant collateral damage while on a mission.  While statues make nice objects to use with the Move Force power, the public tends to get riled up when their monuments are used as projectiles (a nice 10-point Obligation there).

"I killed them. I killed them all. They're dead, every single one of them."  -Anakin Skywalker

In some cases, Jedi are required to kill in self defense, but if the person killed had powerful friends, they may issue active warrants against the Jedi and actively try to arrest or extradite the Jedi for trial.  Alternately, the Jedi may not have killed in self-defense, and have a more murderous angle to his crime.  I'd make crimes related to the death of another being worth a 15-point obligation, especially if the victim was "connected".

Paying down this Obligation means the Jedi is taking active steps to make reparations, or working with the Jedi Order to get the charges cleared or dropped.  Taking that route might turn the Crime obligation into a Responsibility one.

Oath: Jedi make oaths all the time; to the Order, to the Republic, but to me those fit better into other obligations.  This sort of obligation is the form of a promise.  Perhaps you gave your word to protect someone, or to look after the child of an old friend.  Maybe you witnessed a crime, and have vowed to track down the perpetrator no matter what.  Maybe you even got married in secret, and are trying to keep that oath from coming to light (this might be a good one to pair with another obligation, like Dutybound or even Blackmail).

"Obi-Wan, promise... Promise me you will train the boy." -Qui-Gon Jinn

I think the best example of the Oath obligation is the one Obi-Wan assumed to train Anakin.  The "dying master" vow is a hefty obligation to take on.  I'd have saddled Obi-Wan with a nice 15-point obligation for that one, simply because I as the Game Master would know that training Anakin wasn't going to be easy.

Family: Family can be pretty abstract; it doesn't have to be your literal kith and kin.  The Jedi Order could certainly be a family to the Jedi character.  For that, you're not really dedicated to the oaths and responsibilities of the Jedi, you're committed to your fellow Jedi "brothers" and "sisters", and will do what you can to help them in any means.  That, or your peers are constantly judging you, pushing you to do better, and do more.

"I won't lose you the way I lost my mother. I am becoming more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed of, and I'm doing it for you. To protect you." -Anakin Skywalker

Of course, a Family obligation could be the more literal one.  It could be you're keeping your family a secret (like with the Oath obligation example, above) or your old family is exerting their influence on your life.  Perhaps you're the heir to a noble family, and they want you back to assume your place, or they contact you because they need you to rescue another member of the family.  It could be something like being a role-model for a sibling, or maybe they need an organ donor for a transplant for a sick relative.  These are all good 5- to 10-point obligations.

Obsession: I really like the potential for a Jedi to have the Obsession obligation.  What interests me is that this obligation could lead the Jedi to the Dark side, as an unhealthy focus on a person or thing can open a doorway leading to the fall of the Jedi.  The Jedi could be obsessed with the Force, and are marveled at its power and abilities.  They use the Force to solve all their problems, even trivial or mundane ones.  Maybe they're focused on a person, like a Jedi Master, and work to be like them (or better than them).

"Just being around her again is... intoxicating." -Anakin Skywalker

A Jedi, or anyone really, who isn't mindful of their emotions can turn love into obsession.  This can cause numerous problems.  They think about their object of affection often, sometimes distracting them and their allies with how the Jedi is carrying on.  For a Jedi, it's has an extra level of danger because it could cause the Jedi to take actions that are not harmonious with the Force, actions that are of the Dark side.  A Jedi with an obsession like Anakin had for Padme would definitely be a 15-point Obligation.  Anakin didn't really pay off this obligation as much as he traded a large part of it for an Oath or Family obligation.

Or maybe it was a Betrayal obligation? 

Next time I'll write about the other six obligations; Addiction, Betrayal, Blackmail, Bounty, Debt, and Favor.  Some require work to fit with a Jedi character, others not so much, but they can all be great obligations for a Jedi to have.  At least, from a role-playing potential standpoint.  If Boba Fett comes knocking on your door, you may regret that 20 point Bounty obligation...

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