Why are Jedi so hard to play?

Discussion in 'Games: RPG & Miniatures' started by dp4m, Mar 21, 2003.

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  1. JDWIKER Former WotC SW RPG Designer

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    Jun 13, 2003
    Hello, everyone. I was asked to drop by and check in on the discussion forums here from time to time, and this thread caught my eye.

    My thinking is that Jedi are far too easy to play, but far too hard to play correctly. That's what that sidebar on page 30 of The Power of the Jedi Sourcebook is about: *Why* do you want to play a Jedi? If it's because of the cool weapon and the magic tricks, you probably want it for the wrong reasons.

    Unfortunately, precious few players--in my experience, anyway--can see past that when they watch the movies, or read the books. They see the heroes do something cool, and they want to emulate it. As soon as possible!

    The problem is that the Jedi in the movies and books have had years of training in not only *how* to use their abilities and their weapons, but *when.* The players don't have that (and we shouldn't expect it of them). So what we get is people who suddenly have the ability to move objects telekinetically and change minds with a wave of the hand and hack through solid steel with a fancy glowing sword--but none of the discipline that the "real" Jedi have.

    Letting just anyone play a Jedi is the equivalent of granting someone the physique and abilities of Bruce Lee or Jet Li. And then running them through a scenario in which they're tempted to use their Jedi abilities is like sending the Bruce/Jet clone to go negotiate a hostage crisis. (Add to that the fact that a lot of gamers drink highly-caffeinated drinks, and it's no wonder that Jedi characters can go off the rails so regularly.)

    Writing all of those rules was an attempt to simulate the lessons of Jedi training. The one rule that I deliberately didn't include--and you can guess why--was "Know when to throw the rest of these rules out the window." The Jedi in the movies occasionally (well, frequently) ignore the Jedi Code when the situation calls for it. The trick for a player, of course, is to know when the situation calls for it--and we, as GMs, can't always expect the players to do what's right. The Jedi might be able to feel what the Force wants to do, but the players have to rely on intuition, and that particular instrument is not tuned perfectly well from individual to individual.

    So, when I play Jedi, the rule I keep in mind is that it's okay to break any of the rules of being a Jedi--so long as I'm willing to accept the consequences. Unfortunately, some GMs forget to enforce the consequences--or, when they do, the players simply decide that their characters don't accept the consequences, and the character goes rogue. Without enforceable consequences, then, is it any wonder that children misbehave?

    Just my thoughts, take them or leave them.

    JD

    JD Wiker
    jdwiker.com
  2. Diverjkc Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 9, 2002
    star 3
    You are right about the caffine, our sessions usualy last four of five hours, drinking case after case of soda. Near the end of the session all the players are ready to shoot/stab/force grip the next person that looks at them. That is usualy my que to end the story for that day.
  3. The_Ghost Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 20, 2003
    some of us refuse to let the caffeine interfere with a character, though.
  4. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

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    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    Whoa. Hello, JD. :)

    I've always used the Bushido code from L5R to play my Jedi PCs (well, the Bushido and the belief in an energy field that surrounds us and blah blah blah). It still hasn't failed me. It gives a great sense of responsability without inactivity.
  5. The_Ghost Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 20, 2003
    Bushido, and most of the other eastern philosophies, have their aspects very apparent in the big G's master Force plan.

    he was looking for a religion without having a named deity like western theology does. finding the nebulousness that prevents offending in things like Taoism, he drew heavily from it.

    so it is safe to say practitioners of things like bushido, martial arts, or philosophers of Taoism would grasp the non-combat focuses of a Jedi easier than Jim Bob Gamer
  6. Tremaniac Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 2002
    star 3
    I've heard the arguements before that military types and martial artists are more suited to play jedi. Hogwash. I used to run a game at a local shop that is in close proximity to Fort Hamilton, and as such 3 of my gamers were military. 1 was a complete psycho (a great guy, but a psycho nevertheless). Another was so socially challenged he had the people skills of a potted plant (still, a good guy). And the third prefered to play the Han Solo type.
    Now, rounding out this group was a guy who's studied more martial arts than I can count on one hand for about 2 decades. His diplomatic solution usually involved Thermal Detonators. The groups lone Jedi during these times was a vividly enthusiastic In Nomine GM with a stutter, who was actually the best Jedi I've ever GMed for, be it light or dark sider.
    Sidebar on caffine: when you game for 8 hours or more, it's not an option, it's a necessity. Maybe some people o.d. on it (I've seen it myself), but I've never seen it affect game play.
  7. The_Ghost Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 20, 2003

    Just because you're a martial artist, study philosophy or are a military member doesn't mean you automatically have a Jedi mind.

    i didn't say more suited, i said more apt to understand. there is a big difference.
  8. Tremaniac Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 2002
    star 3
    Actually, this is part of the reason I really like the Power of the Jedi sourcebook. I'm seriously tempted to photocopy certain pages to give to gamers who want to play jedi so they know what it is to be a jedi. That way they can go over the writing while away from game and hopefully gain some insight.
  9. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    Well, there are lots of types of martial artists, and lots of different arts. Arguablly, some of those arts are better suited to Jedi character training than others, but the people are the ones you have to worry about.

    As for millitary, that's way too broad to generalize--lots of people join the military and play RPGs.
  10. Jedi Merkurian Episode VII Thread-Reaper

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 25, 2000
    star 6
    One of the things I really liked about the PotJ book is the section on roleplaying a Jedi. The parts about Conquering Arrogance, for example, and the sidebar about "lightsaber syndrome" were excellent!
  11. Gorin_Zachian Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 13, 2002
    star 4
    One way i've (as a GM) been real succsessful with players is, especily with n00b's, to not tell them what the classes are, and just ask what they wan't their character to be, why they want to be that kind of character, and what kind of character background they have for that character.

    More often than not i can convince those would be poor jedi to follow the rote of the soldier or, if their really into the force, a Force adept, or a combonation of the two. I know only two people in my gaming group who i think could play jedi (including myself, though i've never tested that) and so we rarely have to deal with these issues. It also helped that, when we formed the group, almost everyone was a n00b, and we started in the rebellion era, so that players would not be able to play Jedi and would, possiably, learn to like their other classes.
  12. Tremaniac Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 2002
    star 3
    Yeah, I suppose Sambo (increasingly popular around here), Brazilian Jujitsu, and some of the "sport" martial arts focus more on technique and less on philosophy. Nothing wrong with that IMO, but not very conductive to playing a jedi.
  13. JDWIKER Former WotC SW RPG Designer

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    Jun 13, 2003
    I agree that not all martial arts are about discipline. In fact, the sidebar on "lightsaber syndrome" is actually taken from something my old Tai Chi instructor told me about practicing martial arts. He called it "brown belt syndrome," and it goes pretty much as I described in that sidebar's first paragraph. (My reference to that expression got cut from the final version of the book, unfortunately.)

    I've known a lot of different practitioners of martial arts over the years. Some who took it very seriously were level-headed folks who wouldn't dream of starting a fight. Others looked back on years of practice and acted as though they felt cheated by never having been in a real fight.

    I've seen a lot of portrayals of Jedi in my games, and in games I've watched or been told about. Rarely, *rarely* do I see Jedi going out of their ways to avoid a fight. I'm tempted to award a Force Point when Jedi players actively avoid fighting, just so I could see it more often.

    JD
  14. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

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    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    Rarely, *rarely* do I see Jedi going out of their ways to avoid a fight.

    Very true. And there's another problem: the Jedi mind tricks. I've seen many players resorting to illusions and mind tricks against every minor character, and that's not much better. The "mind trick syndrome" has plagued my home campaign for years (even my own characters). :(
  15. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 9
    Very true. And there's another problem: the Jedi mind tricks. I've seen many players resorting to illusions and mind tricks against every minor character, and that's not much better. The "mind trick syndrome" has plagued my home campaign for years (even my own characters).

    My issue is -- I'm also currently playing with Jedi who wouldn't know when to use a Mind Trick to save their lives. I view Affect Mind as useful in two situations -- dealing with intractibles and avoiding combat. Either of those situations would be IDEAL for a Jedi mind trick -- however, one would assume that Bluff, Diplomacy or Intimidate would have failed by this point.

    I suppose one of the reasons that we see so few Jedi actually attempt to avoid combat is that the bulk of them are Guardians (generalization? yes...)... Guardians don't get Diplomacy, Sense Motive or Bluff as class skills that I am aware of... its very difficult for them to actually affect someone one way or the other without resorting to intimidation (useful, but stident) or Affect Mind. Though my Fallanassi is having GREAT fun with Friendship... :D (and general non-combativeness at all, actually...)
  16. The_Ghost Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 20, 2003
    maybe i'm just a minority then. when i play my Jedi, i do everything i can to avoid fighting and don't use force skills unless absolutely necessary.

    of course we have a ruling that drawing your weapon first earns a DSP for Jedi.
  17. Fingorfin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 4
    of course we have a ruling that drawing your weapon first earns a DSP for Jedi.

    Why? There is nothing inherently wrong with being the first to draw a weapon.
  18. The_Ghost Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 20, 2003
    no, but if you're good enough you shouldn't have to resort to a lightsabre.

    but we're rather strict about Jedi and about DSPs
  19. Fingorfin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 4
    While I do agree that a Jedi should always try to avoid violence, there are some situations that can only be solved with a lightsaber, and a Jedi should not be penalized for recognizing one of those situations.
  20. Tremaniac Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 2002
    star 3
    I understand the point about Gaurdians not having certain people skills, but at that point perhaps he/she should defer to the diplomatic skills of the group mouthpiece.
    As for giving DSPs for pulling a weapon first, if that's what it takes to keep them from being Lightsaber Wielding Maniacs, more power to you. I really do think players should know better, but then again I'm also optimistic that one day bouts of peace and brotherhood will wash over humanity.
    DP, I have the Jesse Custer theory of Mind Trick. It may not work when you really need it to, so using it sparingly. One of my players actually had a great line "When diplomacy fails, bribery!"
  21. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    I've used turning on a lightsabre as a way to prevent fights. "Here's a guy who is confident enough to use a lightsaber in combat. Even if he isn't a Jedi, he's a dangerous mo-fo. Either he knows how to use it, or he's crazy--I don't want to fight him either way."
    Also makes a great bug zapper in the swamps, making caves in the ice, and cutting away damaged pieces of hull.

    Lightfoils were also a good way to attract attention (See Lords of the Expanse).
  22. The_Ghost Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 20, 2003
    of course whether or not the DSP would be there, i would discourage the other Jedi from acting aggresively in all situations.

    our rule wasn't implemented to keep people from screwing around, it's just the GM's point of view that drawing a weapon first is aggression and that's something a Jedi can do without. you don't have to wait until you're shot, just until your opponent is also armed.
  23. Tremaniac Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 2002
    star 3
    Very good clarification Ghost, it aviods the whole "Greedo sucks bantha poodoo" arguement by letting people remember fondly of Solo shooting first and best.
  24. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    In the pre-clone wars campaign I was running (about 5 years before TPM came out) the Jedi were essentially the same as Tribunes of the Plebs. They went around arbitrating and deciding cases based on individual situations. This makes for very convoluted laws. There was a Bureau of Jedi Affairs, whose purpose was to document all these decisions and put together a cohesive legal code. Needless to say, with thousands of Jedi throughout the galaxy, and millions of worlds in the Republic, this make their lives very difficult. The Bureau became very distracted, and distanced from the rest of the universe's concerns.
    A council was formed to review contested judgements and share information. Occasionally, they would make decisions or discipline knights.
    Ultimately, the Bureau was destroyed by a terrorist attack, and only a few members of the council survived. Rather than go through the bother of rebuilding their bureaucrasy, the council decided to simple assume all power and authority over Jedi issues and affairs.
    -----

    Using this Tribune of the Plebs model, the level of knowledge, judgement, responsibility, and maturity without corruption is difficult to find. Look how difficult it is to find in the "real" world. How many players are up to the task?
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