Star Wars – Rules
Knight Level Play
- Source: Force and Destiny – GM Kit (sw-ffg-fd-gmk p.25)
- Introduction to Knight Level Play
- Character Capabilities
- Game Master Responsibilities
- Knight Level Characters in the Star Wars Universe
Introduction to Knight Level Play
The Force and Destiny Core Rulebook introduces the concept of “Knight level play” as an option for players to make more advanced PCs on page 104, and provides some basic guidelines for GMs to use on page 321. This section delves into the details of Knight level play and provides a more in-depth understanding of what it means for a GM to run a campaign for powerful Knight level characters.
These guidelines are intended to cover a wide variety of scenarios within Knight level play, whether the characters have only recently been created, are newly elevated to that power level, or have already advanced beyond that initial threshold. This also includes characters who have earned at least 150 XP through gameplay and are now playing at a higher level than when hey began. While the open advancement possibilities within Force and Destiny make covering every possible variation on Knight level play impossible, GMs should be able to combine the information here with their in-play experience to create the best possible game for their players.
Even a newly created Knight level character has access to incredible capabilities. Such a character can be strong in the Force, wield a lightsaber with great skill, or simply have a broader range of capabilities than a normal character who has not yet reached the same degree of experience. Initially, Knight level characters may be relatively specialized in order to make the most out of their abilities, focusing specifically on Force powers or their chosen style of lightsaber combat without being able to afford mastery of both. As a Knight level campaign progresses, characters branch out from this initial specialization and become more powerful and capable. Guidelines on how specific capabilities of Knight level characters can affect the game are listed below.
The Force is with us
A starting Knight level character is likely to have a Force rating of 1 or 2. Those who initially neglect Force powers in favor of other capabilities may not invest in the Force Rating talent at first, which makes them similar to more typical Force and Destiny characters in this regard. It is not difficult for a Knight level character to acquire a Force rating of 2 using the Force Rating talent from his initial specialization, however. This can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of the character’s Force powers, as even a single additional Force Dice means he is far more likely to generate Light or Dark without relying on Dark results and risking Conflict. Above and beyond any overall increase in potential Light or Dark generated, this can make the difference between Force powers being considered a reliable tactic for the PCs and being a tool for emergency use only.
Once at least one PC has a Force rating of 2 or higher, the GM can expect to see a dramatic increase in the application of Force powers to solve problems. To some extent, this can be mitigated with the threat of Imperial attention, but the PCs should also be given a chance to put what they have purchased to good use.
A Knight level character may start with a Force rating of 3 or even higher with the appropriate specializations, especially if the player spends some of the initial XP from the choice of species towards this goal. This allows for truly impressive feats with the Force, but the change is one that makes existing capabilities more impressive rather than adding new options. The same is true as a character continues to increase his Force rating over further Knight level play.
A character with a higher Force rating can accomplish great things, but does not actually learn anything new once he has passed the initial hurdle of reliably generating Light or Dark without gaining Conflict. Instead, new capabilities for a character focusing on mastery of the Force come through purchasing additional Force powers or upgrading his existing powers.
A starting Knight level character is likely to have purchased at least one Force power, while one focusing on use of the Force may have many, or a smaller number of heavily upgraded powers. Each Force power a character possesses opens a new solution to problems. Most powers only offer an alternative to existing options initially, but can be upgraded to provide entirely new capabilities. For example, the basic use of the Heal power doesn’t accomplish anything a stimpack couldn’t do (although it may do it better). However, once the Mastery upgrade is acquired, a character with that power can accomplish a feat verging on the miraculous and restore life in beings it has recently fled.
At the start of Knight level play, Force powers are likely to fall between these two extremes. As a Knight level campaign goes on, they move from becoming useful tools to potentially game-changing effects. The GM should always keep track of what Force powers his players have access to, as well as any upgrades they have purchased that provide new capabilities for that power. Doing so not only prevents a good story opportunity from being undone because the GM neglected to consider the power of the PCs, but it also allows the GM to include challenges the PCs would not be able to handle without their specific capabilities.
Knight level characters have the potential to triumph over incredible opposition in combat situations, as every Knight level character may choose to start with a lightsaber. Of course, access to lightsabers is not exclusive to Knight level play, and the GM for any Force and Destiny campaign should learn respect for these powerful and versatile weapons. However, there is a difference between a combat scene in which one or more participants are wielding lightsabers, and a true lightsaber combat. That difference comes from investment in the appropriate talents.
The capabilities these talents grant tend to fall into a few broad categories. Some of them, such as Parry, grant incredible defensive capabilities. In fact, such talents are often the only way to survive against an equivalently skilled or equipped opponent for any real length of time. Characters with one or more rank in Parry or Reflect are likely to find themselves capable of standing fast in the face of opponents that would quickly defeat a character without them. Other defensive talents offer less direct benefits, such as the capability to increase one’s defense with Force Deflection or to protect allies with Circle of Shelter. The CM should make note of both kinds of talents in order to determine what kind of enemies the group can defeat or survive. Talents that allow one character to defend others are especially worth paying attention to, even if they are not Force talents. Choices like the Improved Bodyguard talent allow one character to spread the benefits of his investment in defense to the rest of the group.
Other talents increase a lightsabers already formidable offensive potential. Some of these offer straightforward increases to the potential damage or accuracy of attacks, such as Falling Avalanche or Counterstrike. While the CM should not neglect to acknowledge the potency of these talents, the real game-changers are talents like Sarlacc Sweep, Improved Reflect, or Force Assault. With these talents, a character gains entirely new combat options that allow him to take on multiple foes at once, deal damage outside of his turn, or combine his mastery of the Force with his lightsaber techniques. The CM should note whenever a character takes one or more talents of this sort and be sure to allow the character a chance to practice his skills.
There are also those lightsaber-focused talents that are not particularly offensive nor defensive. Instead, they offer the character greater mobility or control of the battlefield. An opponent can be easily disarmed by a character with the Sum Djem talent, while a character can quickly advance through enemy fire with Djem So Deflection. In addition to their versatility in combat many of these powers make for great narrative tools. The incredible feats of skill and acrobatics they allow can lead to gripping descriptions of events, or provide inspiration for unique narrative die results. A GM whose players make use of mobility and control tactics can get a lot of benefit from preparing interesting battlefields ahead of time, where the terrain or other local features can be either useful or detrimental to this sort of approach.
Some advanced combat talents that can be acquired with the experience available to Knight level characters are not restricted to use with lightsabers. A character with Unity Assault or Improved Field Commander can make his allies more potent in battle. Given the baseline competence of Knight level characters, having someone acting as this sort of force multiplier can be an extremely potent tactic.
And other concerns
It is not simply the tools of the Jedi that make Knight level characters have such an impact on campaigns. Such characters have a great deal of XP to spend from the very beginning of play, and might end up with a wide range of capabilities beyond attunement with the Force or skill with a lightsaber. Most players are likely to spend at least some of their XP broadening their character’s skill choices and acquiring talents that assist them in other pursuits. Certain specializations within the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook make primarily focusing on such pursuits an option, such as the Starfighter Ace or Artisan.
This can mean two different things for the GM when planning a Knight level campaign, depending on how the PCs are approaching these additional elements. If the PCs are investing in additional skills as a side pursuit but primarily focusing on other options, then the GM should simply take their increased capabilities into account when designing adventures. For example, if the GM notes that the PCs are investing in Computers and Mechanics, he could add an Imperial data archive or speeder park to an adventure that the PCs could co-opt using those skills, should they choose. Plowever, if one or more of the PCs is investing heavily in these sorts of options, the GM should ensure his adventures always take this into account. Even if most of the players are interested in acquiring an ancient holocron deep in an Imperial base, the PC who invested heavily in being a pilot should not be left behind. Instead, the GM should arrange things so that his mastery of vehicles is essential to breaking into the base, and perhaps include advanced speeder schematics he could liberate from the base’s databanks.
Game Master Responsibilities
Once the GM has a solid understanding of his PCs’ capabilities, he should use that knowledge to improve his plans for the campaign. To some extent, this is a matter of incorporating the PCs’ capabilities as a consideration alongside the guidelines presented in Chapter IX of the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook. Plowever, there are additional concerns specific to Knight level play that the GM should keep in mind. In broad strokes, the GM should make sure a Knight level campaign has an appropriate scope and stakes, making sure the players feel that their characters are making an impact on the galaxy. The GM may also wish to consider what the power of the PCs means in terms of their status as would-be Jedi.
Setting the State: Epic Conflict
While the early stages of a typical Force and Destiny campaign may be focused on recovering lost knowledge or dodging the Empire, matters change somewhat when the PCs reach Knight level. They are still likely to be interested in finding ancient holocrons or avoiding confrontations with overwhelming Imperial forces, of course. However, they are also capable of putting their discovered knowledge to good use, or of confronting the injustice of the Empire and doing something about it. Simply put, Knight level campaigns allow the PCs to turn the tables.
In the immediate sense, this means that Knight level characters are more than capable of dealing with simple thugs or soldiers, and can hold their own against dangers ranging from whole military units to the Emperor’s Inquisitors. In the broader scheme of things, it means that they are capable of bringing about real change in the galaxy, from overthrowing Imperial governors or Moffs to restoring the teachings of the Jedi. While the first of these factors can inform adventure design, it is the epic conflict and scope of the latter that defines a Knight level campaign.
The best way to ensure that a Knight level campaign lives up to its promise of an epic conflict is to consider two key factors: the scale of events and the stakes for the PCs’ actions. In both cases, the CM should keep things towards the upper end of the spectrum, with a grand scale and high stakes for the campaign. When considering the scale of the planned campaign, the GM should consider the PCs’ Motivations, as well as any elements of their backgrounds that might invest them in specific struggles across the galaxy. The most obvious way to set up a grand scale is to pit the PCs against the Empire alongside the Rebel Alliance, but that isn’t the only option. For example, if the PCs have ties to a particular planet or culture, then a campaign could focus on assuming leadership or advisory roles in that government, and protecting their people against any threat, whether from the Empire, the Hutts, or any other source. This approach balances the sense of grandeur and impact that a campaign can benefit from when countless lives are at stake with a more personal scope that keeps the PCs fighting for something that feels real. Without the former, the PCs aren’t achieving all that they are capable of doing. Without the latter, the players may not feel that their achievements actually matter.
Similarly, the stakes for events in Knight level play should always be high, but this does not mean that every adventure should shake a whole sector to its core. After all, a single life can be among the highest stakes on offer, especially if it belongs a character dear to one of the PCs. The important thing to keep in mind when designing a Knight level campaign is that there should always be something to be gained by moving forward, and something that can be lost by holding back. In most cases, this “something” should have significance beyond the PCs themselves. An adventure in which the PCs must fight a detachment of stormtroopers in the wilderness in order to survive doesn’t have high stakes, even if the characters’ lives are at risk. This is because nothing really changes if they live or die. Plowever, if the PCs are fighting the stormtroopers in order to keep them away from a Rebel base that must be evacuated, or to break past them and recover a holocron that could help them achieve a deeper understanding of the Force, then there are real stakes involved.
What’s more, these sorts of stakes add up. If the PCs managed to help their Rebel friends escape their first base, then they have a vested interested in ensuring the Rebels continue to survive. Should the Imperials find and wipe out the cell the PCs saved once, then the PCs’ previous efforts could come to nothing. Of course, such stakes don’t need to be a binary issue of simply winning or losing. Getting the PCs to keep bailing the same Rebels out of trouble doesn’t really add much to the stakes. If the Rebels escaped their first base with important Imperial schematics, and the PCs must decide between protecting their friends and completing the mission to deliver the schematics instead, then things get more interesting. When setting up stakes for an adventure, the CM should always consider them in terms of long-term consequences, rather than a set of cut-and-dried conditions. This not only helps feed back into the sense of scale for a campaign, but it provides inspiration for what the stakes of future adventures might be.
Scaling the Opposition
Any serious conflict needs to have two sides to it, or matters tend to settle themselves rather quickly. For the PCs to engage in the sort of climactic struggle that defines Knight level play, they need appropriate adversaries. First, the CM should make sure the enemies he uses reflect the sort of campaign he is running. If the PCs are crusading against slavery on Nar Shaddaa, they should see opposition from underworld figures or be targeted by shadowy assassins, rather than facing down direct assaults by Imperial stormtroopers. Similarly, if they are acting against prominent Imperial authorities, they should soon be seeing the best the Empire can muster.
Flowever, when working things out in terms of narrative consistency, the CM should not forget the other key element of a successful campaign—the game mechanics. While the Force and Destiny system is focused on creating an interesting and dramatic narrative, that doesn’t mean the CM should ignore mechanical concerns. In fact, the opposite is true. Good use of game mechanics can reinforce or enhance the overall experience for the players, while ignoring the mechanics in favor of predetermined conclusions can bog things down more than any amount of rule-checking could.
For example, if the PCs have really angered the Empire, it makes sense that they would have to face some kind of retribution, both in terms of narrative consistency and exciting gameplay. But while it might seem plausible for the Empire to hunt them down with battalions of hundreds of stormtroopers, that’s not an interesting conflict to play through. It would take hours of dice-rolling to deal with them all, assuming the stormtroopers didn’t obliterate the PCs in the first round or two of combat. On the other hand, if the Empire sends a small, elite force to deal with the PCs, then the CM has breathing room to add more detail and tension to the situation. Fie could tailor their profiles to match the PCs’ own prowess, or set up traps and clever tactics that exploit known behaviors of their enemies, the PCs. Even if the legions of stormtroopers might technically be more likely to beat the PCs, the smaller team is likely to feel more threatening to the players because they have more time to engage with the threat. Having a character mowed down without a chance doesn’t feel dangerous, it feels frustrating.
Taken as a whole, all this means that care and customization are the best tools the GM has to create memorable and interesting conflicts. Keeping the capabilities of the PCs in mind helps with this tremendously, so the GM should keep an eye on how the PCs are spending their XP. Even if the first custom encounter the PCs face doesn’t work out, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The GM just needs to figure out what could have been improved and apply those lessons. If the PCs got trounced in a fight, then maybe their next foes should be less dangerous. If a battle dragged on for too long to stay interesting, the GM needs to figure out ways to keep things moving, or simplify the next fight slightly.
Challenge is more than combat
There’s more to keeping adventures interesting than dangerous enemies. Challenges come from all kinds of sources, including more passive or insubstantial obstacles. In most cases, the GM reflects this through the difficulty of the various checks the PCs must make over the course of the adventure. In some cases, the GM may add in a check for a task that would not require one under simpler circumstances, such as a Mechanics check to start up a starship before the Imperial troops bursting into the docking bay can board the vessel. The flexible nature of dice pools in Force and Destiny discourages hard and fast rules about setting difficulties, but the following are general guidelines the GM can use.
A Knight level character is usually able to succeed on Average (♦♦) checks without trouble, even outside his area of expertise. When making checks that involve a skill in which he has invested significant experience, he should also be able to handle Hard (♦♦♦) checks easily. Generally speaking, this is good. Setting characters up to fail at their tasks is rarely a good way to plan an adventure. The additional complications provided by advantage and setback results are usually enough to keep things interesting without ignoring the obvious competence of a Knight level character. Flowever, this competence also means the GM can include extremely difficult checks in a Knight level campaign to add tension without presenting a roadblock. Even a PC with a great deal of experience operating at Knight level might have trouble with a Formidable (♦♦♦♦♦ ) check, but he is likely to be able to make the result interesting instead of simply failing badly.
The narrative dice system of Force and Destiny provides other tools for creating challenging circumstances beyond simply increasing difficulty. Adding ■ for outside circumstances not only makes setting difficulties more flexible, but also allows PCs with appropriate talent investments a new way to showcase their skill by cancelling the change to the dice pool. Of course, overuse of this tactic can cause problems, as the players should never feel that their talent investment is being cancelled out by added ■.
Perhaps the most interesting way to shake up a noncombat situation is to include a check involving red challenge dice This brings a chance of Dispair coming into play, which can greatly change the PCs’ circumstances. red challenge dice can be added to checks in a number of ways, including opposition from skilled foes or being baked into the base difficulty of some rare checks.
One of the most common sources of red challenge dice is when the CM spends dark side Destiny Points to upgrade an otherwise ordinary check. Involving a dark side Destiny Point in a check can keep a simple situation from feeling mundane, or increase the stakes in an already tense confrontation. What’s more, the new light side Destiny Point created by the expenditure gives the PCs a valuable resource. Keeping Destiny Points moving back and forth across the table is especially important at Knight level, as a number of powerful effects from talents and Force powers depend on their availability.
Sweeping versus struggling
The previous sections provide the CM with tools to challenge Knight level players and to provide them with opposition appropriate to their incredible skill. However, one of the keys to successful Knight level play is knowing not just how to challenge the players, but when it is appropriate to do so. Sometimes, it is more interesting to allow the PCs a chance to cut loose with their skills and demonstrate just how powerful they are. After all, if the PCs are constantly facing opponents tailored to match their own power, they may not actually feel like the impressive heroes that they really are.
Balancing challenging opposition with easily overcome obstacles is more art than science, as the right ratio varies from group to group. Some players enjoy sweeping through their opposition, while others prefer a struggle to stay on top. Communication between the players and the CM is crucial, both before the campaign and between sessions. The CM can also gain a lot of insight by watching how players react to unfolding adventures. If they seem frustrated with the pace or difficulty of a given encounter, adjusting upcoming encounters to be less challenging can provide an outlet. Similarly, if they feel bored or unengaged with simple tasks, throwing in a powerful enemy to threaten them can shake things up.
Ideally, the CM should save sudden adjustments to the difficulty of adventures for emergencies, and provide variety throughout the broader scheme of things. Minor adventures featuring the PCs pursuing personal goals or dealing with smaller threats can make for a good downtime after a major challenge, just as linking together small-time threats to reveal a larger one can escalate matters better than simply dropping in a new threat
The GM should also consider just what qualifies as an interesting but non-challenging encounter. Use enemies or obstacles that are too trivial to pose a real issue sparingly, even in lower-key adventures. After all, if the battle’s outcome is a foregone conclusion, then there isn’t much point to playing out each attack (unless the players really enjoy that sort of thing). In order to avoid this, the CM should keep a single question in mind when including minor challenges: “What about this challenge is going to allow the PCs to show off?”
Beating up some no-talent thugs in a spaceport doesn’t require much, so it doesn’t usually allow the PCs to shine even if they do it thoroughly. If the thugs in question are notorious criminals feared by everyone else in town, then their defeat gets a lot more interesting. Even if they aren’t actually more of a challenge in combat, the adventure gets complicated when word of the PCs’ deeds spreads. In fact, since the focus of the challenge isn’t even on the question of whether the PCs succeed, the CM doesn’t need to resort to the combat rules. That sort of situation could be resolved with an Easy Lightsaber check and use of narrative dice symbols, or even by assuming victory is a given if the PCs want it. In the latter case, any checks the PCs make would be for dealing with the fallout of their actions instead of trying the task in the first place.
Knight Level Characters in the Star Wars Universe
While every Force and Destiny campaign is inevitably going to be unique thanks to its particular combination of players, characters, and adventures, there is a common pattern that campaigns often follow. In a typical campaign, the PCs struggle to recover the secrets of the Jedi and the Force, and to use these secrets for the good of the galaxy. Eventually, they master the teachings they have uncovered and create a legacy of their own, whether it is a reborn Jedi Order or a new doctrine unique to their own experiences. However, the Star Wars galaxy is a big place, with a lot of possibilities for diverging from this formula. Covering the full range of possibilities is beyond the scope of this kit, but some suggestions on how to use existing Star Wars material to change your campaign are provided below.
The Skywalker Saga
The entire Star Wars universe could be said to be the story of the Sky- walker family. Certainly, this is the arc covered by the movies—the fall of Anakin Skywalker, and his eventual redemption by his son, Luke. While material from Star Wars Legends often touches on other stories, the Skywalker legacy is at its core. Your Force and Destiny game is under no obligation to treat this aspect of the setting as sacrosanct, of course, but CMs with a strong investment in the existing material may be interested in doing so.
If you want to keep your campaign cleaving as closely to the Star Wars canon as possible, there is a key consideration to remember that differentiates this style from the default approach: the PCs cannot be Jedi. In the canonical Star Wars universe, the legacy of the Jedi is lost until Luke Skywalker reclaims it, and he can’t do that if the PCs have done it first! Before running a campaign like this, the CM should discuss this approach with his players. Some players may assume their characters should take Luke’s role in the galaxy for the campaign, or take issue with the idea that there is an absolutely forbidden option. However, other players may find the idea appealing, especially if it means that their characters might eventually become part of what they see as the “main events” of the Star Wars universe
Most Force and Destiny campaigns take place during a specific time period in the Star Wars universe, when the Galactic Empire controls the galaxy and true Jedi no longer exist. However, material from Star Wars Legends covers a wide variety of other eras throughout galactic history, including times when the Jedi Order was a power to be reckoned with. In such time periods, a typical Force and Destiny PC would likely be a Padawan learner with the Order, while a Knight level character would be a true Jedi Knight. However, there is more to representing this change than the titles possessed by the PCs. Playing in an era with an active Jedi Order changes a great deal about the setting. Perhaps the most obvious change is that characters are no longer hunted fugitives, but the beneficiaries of a powerful and influential support structure. On the other hand, they are placed under a great deal of oversight, and must carefully manage their Conflict to avoid failing the Order’s high standards.
Changes in other eras extend beyond the Jedi Order itself. The full extent of such details is also beyond the scope of this kit, but some of the more prominent changes to gameplay can be covered. To start with, eras with a powerful Jedi Order are also vulnerable to threats such as Dark Jedi or even the Sith—enemies whose number were affected just as much by Palpatine’s purge of Force users as the Jedi. PCs in such an era can expect to match their lightsabers against equal combatants much more often. For related reasons, enemies without access to the Force often prepared more countermeasures against it in eras where they might expect to face Jedi. Droid guards who cannot be affected by the infamous ‘Jedi mind trick,’ as well as weapons and armor with the Cortosis quality, might be much more widespread in these time periods. PCs in an era with an active Jedi Order gain many resources, but also are faced with new challenges
- 2021-08-06 – Updates to layout and menu.
Game Management: Annotated Stat Block, Character Creation, Choosing a New Campaign, Creating a Galaxy Map, Ending three year campaign, GM’s Luck Roll, Running Games over Skype, Tracking Experience, 2016 Campaign
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