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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:14 am 
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There's a conversation we keep talking about having, but never get around to (mostly because it could probably consume and entire Friday; hell, it could consume an entire weekend!):

What is the nature of the Dark Side of the Force? I ask this both philosophically -- what do Jedi really *believe* as well from a game mechanics standpoint. What in-game actions, either by Jedi or non-Jedi, warrant a Dark Side Point?

I ask this for a couple of reason:

* we have three Jedi in the party (4 if you count Zulen, 5 if you assume JPD-14 should adhere to the code as a training droid).

* Interpretations of the force, and the appeal of the Dark Side, play a huge role in the Mandalorian Wars and the Jedi Civil War. Whether or not you follow Revan and Malak is going to depend much on whether you accept the standard Jedi teachings, or argue for more liberal, more aggressive interpretations.

* Jedi have access to some of the most impressive (and most damaging) powers in the game.

Ignoring Dark Side powers entirely, we have Force Grip (2d6 to 6d6 points depending on Use the Force check), Force Slam (4d6, +2d6 if you spend a Force point), Force Thrust (1d6, 2d6 with Force point) and Move object (varies based on UtF check).

While many of these are in line with what another class wielding a blaster with Rapid Shot can do (or any of the other enhancement feats, particularly at higher levels), the other Jedi tricks (Deflect, Block) makes them combat monsters. Part of what balances them in game is the Jedi code ... and their adherence to it.

Now I think we've seen some very impressive and very cinematic uses of the Force in game, and it's not my intention to nerf the Jedi. Yet Rann's force slam of Jolvis Maltern's honor guard (and, ahem, two of our heroes) got me thinking. I'm a little concerned that these offensive Force powers are becoming our Jedi's go- to abilities.

As Bob likes to say, Jedi aren't paladins. And they're not. But that argument goes both ways; our villains aren't *necessarily* evil. The Sith? Sure. But unlike D&D, where you can cast a convenient "Detect Evil" spell to figure out whose bad, you don't *know* your enemies are evil.

Heck, the Scarbrothers were tough bastards, but most of them didn't have Dark Side scores. The same goes for Maltern's guardians, and possibly himself as well (at least until he unleashed that Harm power...)

So is it in keeping with the Jedi Code to force slam (and likely kill) your opponents in the opening moments of a combat? When should you Force Choke a guard? Are you being tempted by the Dark Side when you throw a TIE fighter at a bunch of thugs?

I think these are good questions, and I don't know that I have an answer for it (thus, this thread).

What the rules say

The rules are pretty clear on what constitutes a Dark Side point for stuff:

Major Transgressions

* Performing a blatantly evil act.
* Using a Force power with the [dark side] descriptor.
* Using the Force in anger.

Minor Transgressions

* Using the Force to cause undue harm
* Performing a questionably evil act.

The exception is "Using the Force to cause undue harm". The blurb reminds us that many powers aren't inherently dark side, but can still earn you a Dark Side Point (DSP) if you use them maliciously. I'll quote it since I think it's important:

Quote:
Using the Force to cause undue harm: Many uses of the Force are not overtly of the dark side, but they can be harmful or even fatal in their applications. When a Force power that isn't specifically tied to the dark side is used to harm living beings, the GM should consider increasing the character's Dark Side Score by 1
.

To date, we've seen plenty of uses of Force powers in the campaign that have harmed living things, and it's probably killed a far number of pirates, swoop bike gang members and guards, but I've avoided the DPS issue because we haven't had a chance to reach a consensus on offensive uses of the Force.

What the movies and extended universe say

Lucas doesn't make this particularly easy for us, at least with the movies and the Clone War animated series. Yoda tells us "Anger, fear, aggression! The dark side of The Force are they. ... A Jedi uses The Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack."

I didn't sit down and rewatch the movies before writing this post, but most of the examples of the Force being used as a weapon against *living beings* are by Dark Siders -- Darth Vader throwing debris at Luke in Episode 5. Palpatine throwing those Senatorial hover things at Yoda in Episode 3. Dooku hefting huge chunks of metal at Anakin in Episode 2.

There are a few exceptions -- Luke's infamous force choke of the Gamorrian in Return of the Jedi is one; Mace Windu's crushing of General Greivous's organic chest is another (in the original animated Clone Wars).

For the most part though, it seems the Jedi go out of their way to avoid using their Force powers directly against living beings. Case in point: Obi-Wan's fight with Jango Fett in Episode 2.

We see copious uses of the Deflect (against blaster shots) Force Surge (to jump back into the battle) and Move Object (retrieving his light saber, opening doors).

However even with Janjo firing rockets at him, and Boba unloading Slave 1's main guns on him, he refrains from using Force Slam, Force Grab, etc.

That said, it's not that the Jedi in this era don't know how to use these powers. We do see them using a force pushes/slams/whatever against droids, but rarely against living beings. I think the same holds true for the Clone Wars animated series as well (though I think we saw more aggressive uses of the Force in Series 1/2 than in Series 3.

I think where were start to see a different interpretation of Force powers is in the video games, and for our purposes, I'm talking primarily about KOTOR. I think KOTOR tends to take a more liberal approach to using Force powers because hey, it's a game, and people REALLY want to use Force powers. :)

So we see things like Force Slam, Force Whirlwind, and other offensive powers that manage not to garner dark side points. (though honestly, I don't remember if using powers contributed to your light side/dark side status; I think that was more of a role-playing thing, but I'm sure someone else can clarify things).

To date in the campaign I've tried to err on the side of the video game, but watching the Clone Wars series really got me thinking about how Jedi padawans like the ones in our group would be trained, how they would use their powers, etc.

Jedi Philsophy

Aside from Yoda's bits of wisdom, we don't have a huge number of canonical insights into Jedi philosophy, though KOTOR *does* actually dig deeper into it by spelling out the Jedi Code:

Quote:
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.


Wookiepedia has a good article providing an overview of the Code from the Extended Universe: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Jedi_Code

Compare this to the Sith Code:

Quote:
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.
—The Sith Code


And here's the Wookipedia page for the Sith Code:
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Code_of_the_Sith

The Jedi Code certainly reinforces what Yoda taught, and I think it advocates a more serene, less aggressive Jedi order (especially when contrasted with the Sith Code).

My thoughts on Jedi in the campaign

I'll preface my comments with three observations/comments:

1) I think we done a good job of setting ourselves up to support variant Force traditions. Just because the rest of the Jedi act one way, doesn't mean *our* Jedi have to. There are Force traditions that walk the line ... though even in those traditions you're earning DSP for certain actions. It's just not stigmatized the way it is in the Jedi.

2) Dark Side Points are not the end of the world. Getting one does not mean your character is evil, and you're allowed to have up to your character's Wisdom score in DSPs before you "turn to the dark side". In addition, there is a mechanic to absolve DSPs by redeeming Force points ... and I think everyone had a Force point or two left when they leveled up.

3) While some of this comes back to rules, I'm personally thinking of this conversation along more philosophical lines: given what we know, what really *does* make a good Jedi? Or, put another way, What Would Yoda Do? :)

One of the things I keep coming back to is Yoda's advice that the Dark Side is "Quicker, easier, more seductive."

To some extent these force powers -- Force Slam, Force Grab, Force Thurst, Force Whirlwind -- represent that quicker, easier path. I don't mean that they are inherently dark side, but that using them presents a short cut, a way to end a battle quicker.

Why fight 4-5 mooks hand-to-hand when you can wipe them out with a gesture and the power of the Force? Why rely on less impressive, harder-to use powers (Force Disarm) or trickier maneuvers (attacking a weapon) when you can just clobber them?

Granted, your opponents will be dead ... but the fight's over right?

At the same time though, these are valuable powers, and not ones you want to nerf out of any Jedi's suite. So here's my initial thought on a house rule:

If you kill someone with the Force, you gain a Dark Side point. You may not have meant do it, but that's the risk you take when drawing upon the Force to beat down your enemies.

I would incorporate a corollary to this rule: you can always choose to step-down the effectiveness of your Force power. So for example, you might have rolled a 25 on your Use the Force check, granting you a boat load of damage dice for Force Blast. Instead of using that result, however, you can choose to use the default DC 15 one.

I'm not sure if I'd want this rule to apply to Dark Side force users. One the one hand, the thing that separates the Jedi from the Sith is their respect for life. On the other hand, if you can't reach out with the full strength of the Force to smite a Dark Sider, who can you smite? But turn it a third time ... isn't that exactly the logic that leads to the creation of something like 50% of your Sith Lords? :)

From a campaign balance perspective, this makes things a more difficult for the Jedi, but IMHO it's in a good way. It adds a morale dimension to their actions that I think is very much fitting going into the Mandalorian Wars (particularly when the time comes for the Jedi to decide whether they are joining Revan and Malek in their crusade to drive back the Mandolorians.

Further, I think it helps emphasis some of the other, less thermonuclear Force powers by playing up the importance of non-lethal resolutions to violent confrontations (at least to the Jedi).

I think it comes down to this for me. The Jedi are not paladins ... but they are knights. Mystical monastic knights who generally don't where armor ... but still knights. And that means they have a code that they adhere to. The specifics may vary based on the tradition, but there *is* a code of some kind.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the Dark Side of the Force. I'm curious to know what you guys think, and what our criteria for giving out dark side points for using the Force to cause harm to living beings should be.

Ken

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:56 am 
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"Certainly a Jedi should know the Code, by word and by heart. But seemingly every Jedi is in some fashion negligent, from the lowest Padawan to the highest Master. Consequently, were someone to demand, 'What is the meaning of the Jedi Code?' the Jedi who promptly answered would be rare indeed."
-- Master Odan-Urr

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:58 am 
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Ken, if you still have a copy of the Revised Core Rulebook (pre-Saga), or one of those older books, they have an expanded section on the Force compare to what is in the current books. May be a place to get some further clarification.

Just a thought...

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:17 pm 
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I agree with your suggestions, and I think we've been too liberal in allowing copious force-squishing. I would also suggest that slaying sentient, non-Sith opponents with a lightsaber should also garner DSPs.

That said, part of the problem is that the rules don't offer enough non-lethal force powers. That's why I've taken multiple instances of Force Stun, and will take more as I level. Force Stun alone doesn't provide enough variety though, especially for a character like mine that's more of a "force wizard" and not very good with a lightsaber.

I for one would like to see variants of powers like Force Slam or Force Push that do stun damage instead of lethal. Can a jedi "pull his punch" when using Move Object to bonk someone with a crate? Etc, etc. Regarding Force Disarm - I would have taken it several times already, but the rules for it suck and it's too difficult to actually pull off.

Now, from metagaming perspective, that also puts the onus on the GM to some extent to occasionally provide us with lots of non-sentient opponents - beasts, droids, and the like. I think that's exactly why Lucas chose a droid army as baddies in the second trilogy. Think about it - we never really saw jedi throw down in a truly spectacular fashion until Episode I, because there was a plethora of droid targets around, rife for trashing. Jedi also don't seem to have many compunctions against slaying ferocious beasties - there are lots of examples in the movies.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:07 pm 
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erilar wrote:
I agree with your suggestions, and I think we've been too liberal in allowing copious force-squishing. I would also suggest that slaying sentient, non-Sith opponents with a lightsaber should also garner DSPs.


I was thinking about that as well, as I have visions of the streets of Jolus being littered with the limbs and body parts of Scarbrothers after their engagements with the padawans. I don't know if that makes things *too* difficult for the Jedi, though honestly I think Jedi are so damn cool that they could handle the handicap.

For example, you could do things like attack your enemy's weapon to destroy it, rather than attacking them directly. More difficult? Yes. But with a lightsaber that ignores damage reduction, it's certainly doable. And a lot more Jedi-like.

That said, we do see Obi-Wan cut off a thugs arm in the cantina in A New Hope, but he was up against a dangerous scum intent on hurting himself and Luke. Plus, he *didn't* kill him. He just lopped off an arm. :)

erilar wrote:
That said, part of the problem is that the rules don't offer enough non-lethal force powers. That's why I've taken multiple instances of Force Stun, and will take more as I level. Force Stun alone doesn't provide enough variety though, especially for a character like mine that's more of a "force wizard" and not very good with a lightsaber.


I want to look through my books and see what other Force powers are out there, much as I did with bonus feats. I think the books have introduced some good variant powers, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. I think having a list handy on the KOTOR site would help a lot with this.

Quote:
I for one would like to see variants of powers like Force Slam or Force Push that do stun damage instead of lethal. Can a jedi "pull his punch" when using Move Object to bonk someone with a crate? Etc, etc. Regarding Force Disarm - I would have taken it several times already, but the rules for it suck and it's too difficult to actually pull off.


Yeah, the DCs are very high, but then again, Jedi with Skill Focus (Use the Force) and good stats (for a +12 or +13 UtF bonus) could probably hit a DC 25 a little less than half the time. I think there's probably an "Improved Force Disarm" force secret that you could take with the Jedi Knight prestige class to make that option more attractive.

I could also see rolling our own feats like

* Force Subdual: Pick a force power. When you attack, you can choose to do stun damage instead of lethal damage when using this power. This feat may be taken multiple times. Each time you take it, you select a different power."

* Force Weariness: Pick a force power. When you attack you can forgo 2d6 of damage to move an opponent +1 step down the condition track if you exceed their damage threshold.

Quote:
Now, from metagaming perspective, that also puts the onus on the GM to some extent to occasionally provide us with lots of non-sentient opponents - beasts, droids, and the like. I think that's exactly why Lucas chose a droid army as baddies in the second trilogy. Think about it - we never really saw jedi throw down in a truly spectacular fashion until Episode I, because there was a plethora of droid targets around, rife for trashing. Jedi also don't seem to have many compunctions against slaying ferocious beasties - there are lots of examples in the movies.


Agreed. I've already been doing some thinking along those lines with my follow-ups to the Pirates of Zebulon and the DeadStar shipjacker storylines. Plus I expect droid combatants to become more prominent when we get into the Mandalorian Wars.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:24 pm 
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As an aside, I think another side effect of implementing our home grown Jedi code is that it would make combats more interesting ... and more challenging, particularly for the Jedi. [url="http://forum.griffcrier.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&p=19756#p19756"]As Bob pointed out in another thread[/url], our heroes have made short work of most of their opponents, particularly when engaged against the common rabble. Those combats would certainly have been more of a challenge if the Jedi had used more restraint, and limited themselves lightsabers and non-damaging powers.

Related to this, I'd like to suggest that JPD-14, as a Jedi training droid, should also adhere to the Jedi code (e.g. perhaps switching to stun, rather than lethal damage, for his blaster rifle). Yeah, he's a droid, but he's a Jedi droid. Of course, he *is* planning to take levels in the Independent Droid prestige class, and I could certainly see him overriding his programming when he does so.

Something else I think the Jedi should be considering is protecting their fellow party members. All of our skillful party members share a common "squishy" trait -- Highlife, Zulen and Shim are not melee combat monsters, and tend to get into trouble quickly when the fight goes hand-to-hand.

I think this is mostly a strategy thing - something to be discussed before heading into a fight. It's certainly happened on an ad hoc basis before (e.g. when the three Jedi held off the plains lizards while Highlife and Zulen repaired the speeder) but I think it's a conversation worth having before getting into big fights (assuming you know said fight is coming. :))

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:26 pm 
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Jonkga wrote:
Ken, if you still have a copy of the Revised Core Rulebook (pre-Saga), or one of those older books, they have an expanded section on the Force compare to what is in the current books. May be a place to get some further clarification.


Good idea -- I have mine down in the basement; I'll snag it tonight when I get home.

Ken

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:46 pm 
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IMHO, I think getting DSPs for lightsabering sophonts is a bit extreme, and also not supported by EU material (which -- like it or not -- is the material we are drawing the current campaign from). For example, I was reading the first book in the Dark Nest Trilogy, and in it Luke and Mara have no issues lightsabering Killiks. Similarly, Luke was scything through Jabba's brutes in jedi. If lightsabering were a Dark Side thing, Luke would have fallen fully by end of Jedi, instead of flirting with it in EU books.

Also, I should add, I have been paying attention to the use of force powers in the EU novels too. There are no real compunctions of Jedi using certain force powers. I think things like Force Push, etc are fine. I think the arbiter should be what is excessive force? For that I don't neccessarily have an answer...

Damon.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:34 pm 
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Lars Porsenna wrote:
IMHO, I think getting DSPs for lightsabering sophonts is a bit extreme, and also not supported by EU material (which -- like it or not -- is the material we are drawing the current campaign from). For example, I was reading the first book in the Dark Nest Trilogy, and in it Luke and Mara have no issues lightsabering Killiks. Similarly, Luke was scything through Jabba's brutes in jedi. If lightsabering were a Dark Side thing, Luke would have fallen fully by end of Jedi, instead of flirting with it in EU books.


This is true. Though I think Lucas cheated a bit here too, as it's hard to see exactly what's happening when Luke lightsabers someone. We don't see limbs flying, we don't see lightsabers going through chests, etc.

I can see the argument that lightsabers are the equivalent of a blaster for the Jedi, and we're not giving out DSP for blaster fire with non-Jedis.

Quote:
Also, I should add, I have been paying attention to the use of force powers in the EU novels too. There are no real compunctions of Jedi using certain force powers. I think things like Force Push, etc are fine. I think the arbiter should be what is excessive force? For that I don't neccessarily have an answer...


IIRC, force push is knocks people back, but doesn't automatically do damage. It's when you start purposefully bouncing them off walls when it becomes problematic. :)

As far as excessive force goes, I think a good rule of thumb is simply that if you kill someone with the Force, it's excessive. Sure, it may be that you only did the one point of damage to push the guy over the edge after someone unloaded on him with a blaster, but you're still using the Force to snuff out a living being. If we go with this line of reasoning, it doesn't matter if the candle's almost burned down to nothing -- you're the one who blew it out.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:36 pm 
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Well, I would suggest that JPD-14 only take restrained/merciful actions if he is specifically ordered to in any given combat by a Padawan or Jedi Master. He's been programmed to be specifically agressive like a Sith to better prepare his Padawans for the types of opponents they could face, and to take the most tactically advantageous action in combat... he's not a bloodthirsty killer/assassin, he's just indifferent to the type of opponents he faces since he's just a droid (and a 4th Degree Combat Droid 3rd level Soldier at that).


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:51 pm 
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setanta14 wrote:
Well, I would suggest that JPD-14 only take restrained/merciful actions if he is specifically ordered to in any given combat by a Padawan or Jedi Master. He's been programmed to be specifically agressive like a Sith to better prepare his Padawans for the types of opponents they could face, and to take the most tactically advantageous action in combat... he's not a bloodthirsty killer/assassin, he's just indifferent to the type of opponents he faces since he's just a droid (and a 4th Degree Combat Droid 3rd level Soldier at that).


I'd be cool with that. I think it would be a useful thing for the padawns to remember to do as well. "Alright, in this combat JPD-14 we're going to need you to not burn holes in meatbags, understood?"

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 4:11 pm 
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I'd also say the type of Droid a Jedi is facing would make a difference. I.E. is using force slam against r2d2 the same as using it against mindless battle droids?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 5:04 pm 
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Jonkga wrote:
I'd also say the type of Droid a Jedi is facing would make a difference. I.E. is using force slam against r2d2 the same as using it against mindless battle droids?


I'd say they're one in the same, simply because neither has a biological connection to the Force. R2D2 may be heroic, but in the Star Wars universe, he still lacks that fundamental connection that living beings have.

That said, I can certainly see situations where destroying a droid could earn you a DSP. For example, torturing a droid (a la Jabba's Palace), maliciously destroying one, using the force to threaten one in a particularly malevolent way would all be DSP worthy in my view.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:29 pm 
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Hmm. Hmmmmmmm.

Difficult to see, the Dark Side is. :)

I agree in principle that using the Force to end a sentient life earns you a Dark Side point. Force Lightning = Bad. Force Slamming to death and beyond = Bad (but still totally awesome).

I also agree in principle that sometimes killing a sentient with a lightsaber would earn you a DS point. But not always.

This level of moral/ethical examination is tricky. When you pursue moral philosophy, in almost every moral framework, you ultimately get down to the motivation of the protagonist (what was going on in his soul) and not just the specific action he took. There are obvious examples that are wrong, regardless of your motivations. But there are a surprising number of situations where, honestly, it DOES depend on your point of view.

To pull in a SciFi illustration from another source, in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, the main character, raised by Martians, has the mental ability to make things disappear (ie, destroying it). In Martian culture it is absolutely forbidden to do this to another being, no exceptions. However, as Smith matures, he comes to understand that the no exceptions rule is only to protect from the unwise and immature using the ability frivolously. Adults are allowed, and it's hinted that they are expected, to use the ability judiciously, even against other living beings.

I kind of view the Force in the similar fashion. You shouldn't use the Force to kill. Ever. Until you come to that one time where NOT killing with the Force is just so much worse than killing with the Force. And even then, in game terms, you still probably earn a DS point, you're just not evil.

So is killing evil in every instance under every circumstance no matter what? If yes, then the moral code is easy to administer. If no, then there's a whole spectrum of cirumstances that will color the answer.

In the SW universe, defending yourself against someone trying to take your life is obviously justified and not evil. But taking pleasure in the same act probably is evil. Defending others from death or exploitation justifies committing violence, but committing the same actions while giving in to fear or anger or hatred is the Dark Side.

Knowledge and Defense are great and all but that doesn't mean that you should never kill. Just that it should not be your first option, and it has to be for the right reasons, both external and internal.

That makes it difficult to adjudicate in a game. Kill the guards or just stun them? Escape from the pirates if that avenue is open or stay and defend yourself, knowing that there will be bloodshed? Continue to deflect Jango Fett's blaster fire until he gets bored and goes away or behead him to make him stop?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:44 pm 
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I suppose for the purposes of our game, killing with a Force power that does direct damage to another sentient being should reasonably earn a DS point.

Using a Force Power to enhance your own abilities (ala Battle Strike), should not give you a DS point. The Force is not damaging someone, it's only enhancing the Jedi's mental control, strength, speed, whatever. The fact that the Jedi is using that enhancement to jam a lightsaber into another being is sort of irrelevant to the use of the power. In fact, Surge and BattleStrike are probably, philosophically, the same ability. The game rules codify different effects based on how you're going to use the enhancement.

But that doesn't mean that you're off the hook for using BattleStrike. If your motives for battle are not pure, if you aren't killing as a last resort or out of dire necessity or in defense of yourself or others, you can still earn some DS. Just not from tapping into that aspect of the Force itself.

Hmm. That gets me to think a little. I suppose that addresses some of the dicotomy. There are three aspects of the Force: light side, grey and dark side. If you tap into the dark side for any reason, you earn DS points. If you tap into gray or light side, your motivation and actions determine DS.

I suppose those are pretty good guidelines. :)

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