Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Man Didn't Have the Right Form

So I lied.  Last week I said I wasn't going to write a post this week about anything I mentioned in last week's list of "Things on My Plate".  We'll I've got a much larger head of steam on one of those projects than I do about a post topic that's in the works right now, so I've decided to go with what's fresh.

I've written about my home-campaigns before, as well as may plans to update them to the Edge of the Empire system.  The biggest hurdle (also mentioned previously) is the Jedi.  I mostly solved that problem by making a Jedi Carrier and three Specializations for the career.  It will likely need some tweaking and fixing when the core rulebook comes out this summer, but for the most part it looks pretty good and stable.

I knew I wanted to get the whole "Lightsaber Duelist" aspect of the Jedi into the game.  I've always been a big fan of the various Lightsaber Forms; heck, I did an entire seven-part series on them for the Order 66 Podcast during their final Saga Edition episodes.  I didn't think the Forms deserved their own tree.  I also didn't want to do shortened trees like some gamers have done.  I felt the tree structure was the way to go, as during my research on the Forms for my Fragments bit on the podcast I read quite a bit how earlier forms influenced the development and practice of later forms.  There were also frequent references to certain forms meshing well with others, and Jedi Masters who were combining styles.  This led to my design for the initial Lightsaber Forms to be in the first few rows of the tree, and the more advanced forms higher up the tree.  This seemed to work initially, but once I started trying to map out the tree it didn't feel right.  I was also having trouble dividing up the forms, since trying to squeeze them all into one tree just wouldn't work.

Donovan Morningfire inspired me with his suggestion during a forum discussion to group the forms along the same lines as another source of "lightsaber forms"; the Fighting Styles presented in the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series of games.  In those games, you started with the Medium or "balanced" lightsaber style and could eventually choose to take the Fast or Strong style.  Looking at it this way, it was easy to fit the many Lightsaber Forms into those three categories.

Well, "mostly easy" anyway.  There were a couple styles that are really "best fit" or "no where else to put it.

Even though there are seven forms of lightsaber combat, we really see nine distinct styles of blade-work.
  • Form I- Shii-Cho (the basics and deflection)
  • Form II- Makashi (one-on-one duels)
  • Form III- Soresu (heavy defense)
  • Form IV- Ataru (crazy speed and acrobatics)
  • Form V- Shien (defense with blaster re-direction)
  • Form V- Djem So (defense with melee counterattacks)
  • Form VI- Niman (catch-all, uniform blend of previous forms)
  • Form VII- Juyo (aggressive, offensive attacks)
  • Jar'Kai- (Twin Lightsaber combat, mostly utilizing Niman moves)
Aside from this there are three "other" forms that got their own mention and talents in Saga Edition
  • Sokan- Unitilization of terrain to your advantage
  • Trakata- Using the lightsaber's unique ability to close down the blade during a duel
  • Vaapad- an advanced form of Juyo known by only a few Jedi Masters (Like Mace Windu)
After careful review, and recommendation on the forum discussion, the Lightsaber forms break down as follows.
  • Balanced Styles: Shii-Cho, Niman, Jar'Kai, and Sokan
  • Strong Styles: Shien, Djem So, Juyo, and Vaapad
  • Fast Styles: Makashi, Soresu, Ataru, and Trakata
In keeping with the feel of the Dark Forces games, and with the natural learning progression of lightsaber combat, it is easy to meet the per-requisites for the Balanced Style specialization.  Right now you only need to have one rank in the Lightsabers skill to pick up this Universal tree.  Also, many of the low-tier skills are Passive and Active talents without a Force Rating requirement.  This allows characters without the Force to become somewhat skilled with lightsaber combat, or at least some of the moves that are based on physical skill rather than Force use.  Very quickly, branches of the tree will be cut off by talents that require the character to have a Force Rating to take.  Further progression will only be possible to those with the Force.
Post-Its!  High tech shit!

It's somewhat amusing how I mapped out the trees.  I took a notebook, a stack of mini Post-Its, and laid it out.  This allowed me to shift around talents, or pull them and replace them with new talents as the tree developed.

A Balanced Approach

The Balanced Lightsaber Style Specialization Tree (, that's a long name) is home to the first form, Shii-cho, the Sixith form, Niman, and the fine art of wielding two lightsabers (or a saberstaff), Jar'kai.  I also placed Sokan into this tree, as a duelist's ability to take advantage of the terrain is good for all combat styles. 

Actually, I put Sokan in here mostly because of the three "extras", Vaapad needed to go with Juyo and Trakata feels like it needs speed over power or balance to work effectively.  It just happened to line up that Sokan fits well into Balanced.

The Balanced tree represents the basics and the blending of Lightsaber combat.  A Jedi to takes these forms in not only improving his lightsaber style, but also himself.  It's why talents like Uncanny Reactions, Toughened, Second Wind, and Steely Nerves are found in the tree.  The key to the tree lies in Side-Step, allowing the duelist to improve his defenses against ranged attacks.  Many martial arts teachers say the best way to deal with a strike is to not get hit in the first place.  That will carry you into the basics of Shii-Cho, and the Shii-Cho Stance talent.
SHII-CHO STANCE- Gain +1 to Melee Defense per Rank of Shii-Cho Stance if engaged with two or more opponents, or against one foe wielding two or more melee weapons.
Shii Cho
Form I is supposedly great at dealing with multiple opponents, and it is specifically called out that the reason Kit Fisto handled himself well against General Grievous's Quad-Lightsaber Attacks in the "Lair of Grievous" episode of the Clone Wars cartoon (the same episode that featured the only appearance of Commander Fil) was because he was a Form I master.  Shii-Cho is also about removing your opponent's ability to fight, so the tree includes two talents that either disarm or sunder the weapon from your opponent's hands; Sun Djem and Disarming Slash.  Finally, Form I Mastery is at the highest tier in the tree and gives the duelist the opportunity to strike multiple foes around him.
FORM I MASTER- Spend a Destiny point when engaged by multiple opponents to take a Form I Master action.  Make a Lightsaber attack against the opponent with the highest difficulty to hit.  If successful, apply damage to that opponent as normal, then apply half damage to one additional opponent for each 2 Advantages spent.  No target may take damage more than once during this attack.  The GM has final say on which engaged opponent is the highest difficulty to hit.
I might change the damage to be equal to the duelist's ranks in Lightsaber, or simply to a base of 5 (which should cut down most minions).

Niman is all about using the Force while dueling with a Lightsaber.  To that end, Niman and Form VI Mastery allow the character to either use the Move power against the same target of a successful lightsaber attack, or make a free lightsaber attack against a target you pull to engaged-range with you with Move. 

Niman's "Pushing Slash" technique

There's a lot of references in the Expanded Universe to Jar'Kai having many connections to the basic moves of Niman.  This is why I've placed it so you have to go through the basics of Niman to get to Jar'Kai.  Jar'Kai will give your character a base Defense of 2, allow you to make a strike that adds both lightsaber damage together as one hit, and allow you to give a single lightsaber attack the Autofire quality once an encounter with Jar'Kai Mastery.

A lot of these talents were influenced by, or taken directly from the Form trees made by GM Jedi-Scoundrel on the D20 Radio forums.  He's doing some good work over there, and while his trees don't fit my style, his talents certainly have merit.  A lot of the forthcoming trees and talents have work that was either inspired by him, or outright yoinked from his trees (with his permission of course.)  Big thanks to him and "good job" with his work.

This is all a teaser of what I'm working on for these trees.  The full trees may make appearances soon, before next Thursday.  Keep an eye out, keep checking back, or keep following me here, on Facebook, or on Google+ to be notified of when they post up.

Until then, happy gaming!

What's better than one lightsaber?  Two lightsabers....

1 comment:

  1. Just to play Devil's Advocate for a minute...

    Why have stats for Forms at all? Why not make it a flavor thing. If you have X, Y, and Z then you have mastered the Banana Form.

    I mean, I haven't seen anything like Forms for non-lightsaber weapons...