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:
* Performing a blatantly evil act.
* Using a Force power with the [dark side] descriptor.
* Using the Force in anger.
* 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:
.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.
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:
Wookiepedia has a good article providing an overview of the Code from the Extended Universe: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Jedi_CodeThere 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.
Compare this to the Sith Code:
And here's the Wookipedia page for the Sith Code: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
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.