Friday, July 8, 2016

Alternate Metaphysics Mechanics for Open D6 Part I: The Why


     This project started rather innocently, actually.  I heard about the new AI flight program that is so good that it can beat American fighter aces in the simulators.  Needless to say, Air Force pilots, already pissed about drone pilots getting the same pay, are livid.

As obsolete as his first cellphone...

     You may wonder what that has to do with the Force, or Metaphysics, as it is known in Open D6.  It's like this:  If AI on our primitive, backward planet can beat expert pilots in atmospheric fighter craft, how did a mess of clones beat a mess of droids in starfighters in the Clone Wars? 

     Come to think of it, if it's possible to make AI soldiers, why would you instead clone humans?  We're squishy, need to breathe, and need vast amounts of consumables and cubic space.  And the waste we produce... Logically, if you could avoid the cost, time and extra materials needed to field an army of biological soldiers by instead using battle-droids, why wouldn't you?
Boondoggle and Pork Barreling!

    The meta-answer is of course, that Luke Skywalker mentioned the Clone Wars specifically in Episode IV, and therefore a war using some sort of clones was canon.  In the Prequels, we can observe that the droid army is full of glitchy, bargain-basement technology, and that the clones are kilo-for-kilo better soldiers and pilots.  But in real life, this would not be the case.  Now, before anyone else says it, I am perfectly well aware that Star Wars doesn't work like real life by any far stretch of the imagination.  Still, part of the cognitive dissonance that makes classic science fiction seem out of touch is how dated the computer technology is compared to what we have in the real world.  And then there's the inescapable laws of computing: If you can have something as advanced as C-3PO and R2-D2, you should have had unstoppable computer-piloted fighters for a long time already.  So why are organics better than driods?

     Several pieces of Star Wars literature from that limbo now known as "Legends" indicate that battle-droids and droid-pilots are simply no match for the intuition and imagination of sentient individuals.  There are at least three ways one can interpret such statements:

1. Since it's a proven fact that AI pilots are better in real life, the Legends material is inaccurate so we should ignore it.

2.Since it's a proven fact that AI pilots are better in real life, We can assume that if humans are the same as they are in the real world, for some reason AI in the Star Wars universe are superior to real life AI in terms of personality, but inferior in terms of computational performance. 

3.Since it's a proven fact that AI pilots are better in real life, and we assume that AI in Star Wars are superior to what we have in real life, because they have personalities,  humans and aliens must be  special somehow.

    Pop quiz: What is the definition of the Force?  According to old Ben in the movie that started it all, "It's an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together."  

     Did you catch that?  It's created by all living things. That includes humans, aliens, and even clones.  It does not include droids.  That, RocketFans, is the difference between how droids work in a galaxy far, far away and how AI work here and now.  The Force connects all living things, and therefore all living things can in some way use the Force.  That means that the "normal" person in the Star Wars universe would be uncommonly skilled, lucky and canny compared to a normal person in real life.  It's part of the fabric of the universe that the Star Wars saga is set in.

   Now, in Star Wars: The Role-Playing Game for D6, the ability for all people to touch the Force is governed by the Force Point mechanic.  The difference between normal people and Force-Sensitives is that normal Characters may have a maximum of 5 Force Points, while Force-Sensitives may have any number of Force Points. The function of Force Points for sensitives and non-sensitives is the same:  Spend a Force Point, and you can double the die pool on your next roll.
The weird thing?  I bought this at Disney World!
     That 's fine as far as it goes - the problem is that it goes so much further.  I'm taking of course about the Force Powers in the Star Wars RPG.  Like virtually all "magic" systems in RPGs The Force Powers rules in Star Wars are more or less broken. Fist of all, it's a classic example of "linear warrior, quadratic wizard".  In the early adventures of a campaign, the Jedi character is under-powered, having had to put dice into their Force Skills.  This usually leads to not having enough dice in regular skills to compete with normal characters, and not having enough dice in their Force Skills to use their Force Powers reliably.  There will be a couple of sessions in the middle of the campaign where the normal characters and the Force-Sensitives are about even in skill and power - and those are the games you talk about for the rest of your life.  After that, however, the Force users become more and more powerful, with more dice in Control, Sense, and Alter, and access to more and more powers.  And lightsabers.  Eventually, between, telekinesis, lightsaber combat, and effect mind, the Force user can do everything, and usually better than the rest of the party.  No fun.  

     Second of all,  A Force-sensitive Character has, in the classic Star Wars rules, three extra skills; the aforementioned Control, Sense, and Alter.  In Open D6 there is an additional Metaphysics Attribute, and three Metaphysics Skills - Channel, Sense, and Transform.  These Skills are not the Force Powers or Metaphysical Manipulations themselves, however.  Force Powers are a sort of category below Skills, and are simply a list of what you can do with your Force Skills.  You can't use a Force Skill untrained - despite multiple examples of characters in the Canon and Legends Universes doing just that.  You gain training in Force Powers by improving one of the three Force Skills one pip, or by spending five Character Points.  That right there is another major headache - it costs the same to learn a Force Power as it does to improve a actual Skill.  While you can learn a new Power when you improve a Force Skill, you can't improve a Force Skill by learning a new Power.  Then there are combination Powers, that require you to add the skill dice from two or all three Force Skills to you pool to use a single Force Power. And all of these Force Powers have their own difficulty tables and special rules as complicated as any Vance-inspired Spell List.  It's no wonder I've heard several GMs admit that they've never run a game with Force Users.  It's just too much extra crap on top of what is by itself an elegantly simple system.

     But what if we could skip all that?

     That is exactly what I propose - a new mechanic for incorporating Force Powers into D6 that incorporates the idea that all being can touch the Force? That all Force Sensitives can attempt to use that connection, even without without formal training? And especially with a mechanic that eliminates all of the complicated, game-breaking, extraneous rules and special circumstances that plague our Force Users?  I believe I have in fact found a perfect replacement, one that will let the game flow with the speed and simplicity that is inherent to the D6 System.  What will I replace the current Force Powers rules with, you may ask?



  1. So we've created great fighter AI. That's the limit of it's capabilities though, right? I don't think it was intentional, but the prequels seem to cover this-
    The droid starfighters were far more competent than the battle droids. I think the battle droids are true AI: They can attempt to reason through anything. They're just not especially good at it. The starfighters probably can't do anything beyond combat maneuvers.

    But why clones... A few possibilities: You might have a lot more biomass available to you than the resources meant for droids.
    You might have ready access to a cloning facility, but not to factories.
    The clones are 'programmed' - the human brain is pretty good at learning things. If you manipulate the wiring, you can create genius level soldiers.
    The grass is always greener on the other side: Machines are more sensitive than they seem - the base material of metal may be superior to squish bits, but the internals are still vulnurable. We need to breathe and droids don't, granted - but the squishy problem and the breathing problem are both fixed by equipment. Droids wouldn't be as tireless as they seem: They run out of energy. This means they're susceptible to supply distruption.
    Space... Yeah, I can't argue against that. Stupid squishy bulky humans.

    Aside from the huge backlash it would cause in the fandom, I don't think it's impossible for droids - or other technology to use the force. Because it can affect them. It can affect other forms of energy, as well. It can literally be imbued into things.

    All that said, I think you're right: Humans (and other aliens) in Star Wars are superior to the real life counter parts, and the force probably plays a large part in that.

  2. The analysis is decent, but fatally flawed as it's based upon 2E.
    1e, which was a better game in many ways, only limited teaching of force skills to those who had them - 1D was sufficient to introduce another - and the specific powers were not restricted - any force user could use any powers not requiring force skills he hadn't trained.
    OTOH, the requirement for starting with or finding a teacher meant that custom characters often would be variants on the Quixotic Jedi... One with control, one with sense, one with alter... and several weeks later they all had each at 1d.

    1. I see what you're saying about the 1e rules being looser and Force sensitive characters training each other. Part of my problem is that, for example, we have Rey in Ep VII use Effect Mind and Telekinesis with now training whatsoever. In fact, she though the Jedi were just a legend. And that's canon.

    2. There's hints of subconscious force use in EP1 as well, with Anakin and the pod racers.
      Ezra has been shown to use powers without training...
      Rey wasn't taught those powers, but she came into contact with them. She learned to affect mind after it was tried on her. She witnessed Telekinesis (IIRC).

    3. I believe Rey had prior training when she was younger and that it was "blocked" somehow. Her contact with the Skywalker lightsaber jolted her memories enough to allow her training to come back. Of course I have no way to back this up. Only Ep VIII will tell.

    4. That's a good point. Hadn't thought of that.

  3. I am intrigued. I have to wonder how that would work in play.


Questions, comments, criticisms? All non-Trolls welcome!