Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Teacher’s Aid; An Alternate Approach For Training Jedi During The Rebellion Era.

Teacher’s Aid; An Alternate Approach For Training Jedi During The Rebellion Era.

Recently my son has been exploring the wonderful world of tabletop role-playing games. He started with Dungeon’s & Dragons, even though he has played other things over time this has been his first real memorable foray into playing such games. Much like any other kid his age he adores a variety of branded franchises and the release of a new Star Wars series (Star Wars: Rebels) has seen his interest renewed.

…And then he saw a number of books and boxed sets setting upon my shelf bearing the words Star Wars.

It wasn’t exactly a surprise to me when it happened, to be honest. From a certain point I have expected specific iconic brands to call out to my children as they grow up and statistically speaking I have yet to be disappointed. The prospect of being able to play as a lightsaber wielding Jedi was a sure bet that it would appeal to them. Who wouldn't want to be a Jedi?

However the events of Star Wars: Rebels bring an interesting aspect to the potential stories that can be explored. The setting of the show itself is that of the early days of the rebellion, the Jedi order has been all but extinguished and virtually no Jedi are left to oppose the empire. As such, when a former Jedi in hiding stumbles across the path of a potential student he has to struggle with the implications of allowing his presence to become known and if he even has the capacity to train an apprentice.

Everything known about this timeline firmly establishes that this was a dark time for the Jedi. The vast majority of them have been wiped out and the remaining few are in hiding or hunted and either could still find themselves being dealt with by the empire’s continued purge. That being said we also know that some former Jedi still exist as capable instructors with hopes of someday returning the order to the galaxy.

The crux of the situation becomes a singular one; if the Jedi order is all but extinct, how then could a student be taught the ways of the force? An initial response would be that they would have to seek out a master, even if they are so rare and no guarantee exists that a legitimate one is available. Secondly, the prospect of finding an artifact like a Holocron is also a possibility – be it Sith or Jedi.

When my son expressed an interest in playing in the Rebellion Era as someone starting their Jedi training I had to consider all of this. How could I pull off such a story without trying to incorporate established characters or potentially distorting established information? My solution feels flexible, fun and plausible (in my opinion). Allow me to elaborate:

Without outright employing a powerful Jedi npc as a mentor or using a familiar character I concluded that there had to be another way. Now, according to some of the rulebooks there are indeed alternative options for Jedi training without a mentor. Most notably among these was the use of a Holocron to instruct a student in the ways of the force. Another approach was by using the force spirit of a Jedi master, which could work but leave a student character isolated from some physical implications of having a mentor in the flesh.

While I was contemplating everything an idea occurred to me. What was one thing that has been commonly seen alongside countless individuals in some shape or form? It was a droid. Regardless of what assistance they provide, having a droid by their side is a familiar sight for many characters.

Thinking about the matter further I decided the idea held too much promise not to develop it. Especially if the game is centered on a single player character or smaller than average party. Having an assistant to help the player may not sound like a major aide but if for no other reason it provides them with a sense of companionship and something to connect with while playing.

So how does a droid fit into Jedi training? Imagine if you will a loyal and well-serving droid owned by a Jedi, specifically one tasked with instructing and protecting students. If such a droid existed then it could contain some knowledge regarding Jedi teachings, the location of hidden temples/shrines, archives, the resting place of holocrons or even a back-up lightsaber.

Just try and think about the potential risk to the empire’s plans that something like this would entail. If discovered it would be a prime target for destruction. Ergo, should an individual with the potential promise of one day becoming a Jedi discover such a droid it would be both a blessing and a curse.

Any such droid could open up a doorway for a student to start studying the ways of the Jedi without ever raising attention by looking around for an instructor. In order to capitalize on this idea I settled upon a rather low-key droid model; the R5 series of astromech, to be exact. It is precisely the type of droid that could go unnoticed for years in idle storage without anyone ever giving it more than a passing glance.

For instance, allow me to provide an example droid the likes of which I am describing. Depending on your naming preferences you could refer to the droid as R5-3D (“3D”) or R5-D1 (D-One or “Dunn”) just mentioning a couple options for starters. Now, this R5 astromech droid has been in the service of a Jedi master tasked with teaching and protecting a group of young students during the later days of the clone wars. To be more exact, the Jedi master Du Mahn who died while defending her charges from a contingent of clone troops when order 66 was issued.

In order to assist Du Mahn in her duties, the R5 was modified in a number of ways to be of use. First among these alterations was some basic programming that gave the droid a modest database of Jedi teachings. The R5’s base programming already covered some general purpose applications like calculating navigational coordinates, basic piloting, and repairs among others.

However, as the current climate of the time was far too dangerous and given the duty of keeping her charges safe other alterations were called for. To this end one of the R5’s tool mounts has been replaced with a weapon mount containing a blaster pistol. Complementing this a low level shield generator was also added to give the R5 droid a better chance in any firefight while escorting any of the students.

Continued modifications improved the R5’s capabilities by improving upon its installed sensor package, a shield expansion module (allowing its shields to extend out to an adjacent individual being defended) and a hidden core to preserve itself. Overall the R5 wouldn't be anything fearsome in a firefight but what it could do is provide a degree of back up and a secondary defense for others. Topping it all off; buried deep inside the loyal little droid was a keystone that was linked with a holocron belonging to and hidden by Du Mahn.

No droid can hold a connection with the force. However, what this keystone does is react on its own when in the presence (via close proximity) to the corresponding holocron. Consider it something akin to a security access code or a unique key mated for a single lock. The R5 unit can help guide another to where the holocron is hidden if certain requirements (pre-set by its programming and cross referenced with its internal database on Jedi lore) are met in order to awaken it for them. After which, it would be up to the prospective student to unlock the various depths contained within the holocrons stored wisdom.

The end result is a plot incorporating element that adds to any storyline you choose to develop. An R5 with functioning memories of Jedi Teachings and an existing directive to escort Jedi students is a valuable asset. Couple that with a stored lightsaber or two and the potential to work in a Jedi holocron and the potential for allowing an isolated young Jedi is a powerful plot device.

What balances everything off nicely is the inherent risk of having such a droid could bring. First of all (as previously stated), if discovered there is no real happy ending in the future of the droid or the owner. Added to that is the constant concern that the droid’s memory could be faulty or it could be destroyed and an important source of priceless guidance would become lost. And lastly, being a droid itself the R5 would lack the ability to demonstrate force techniques or gauge progress effectively short of projecting holograms or analytical comparison with stored recordings from past instructions.

Keeping themselves below the radar of the empire is challenging enough for a burgeoning young Jedi in the days before or the early days of the rebellion. Trying to hide a source of Jedi education that constantly enters into combat to protect you doesn't make it any easier. However, there is an inherent compelling sense of engendered hope and warmth for any player just starting out in a dark time with a loyal/trusted friend by their side.

Your millage may vary but I considered this little idea worth sharing. If you ever thought about a Jedi just starting out without following in the footsteps of Luke Skywalker then this (to me) is a legitimately reasonable option. It provides a wealth of potential options for pleasant adventures along with a healthy dose of conflict. Let us hope that it proves to be fun for our games and if you care to try something similar I wish you all great times as well.