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Jedi Counseling 10: Force Lightning

The universe is a vast place, full of questions about the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and game designer JD Wiker wants to be the first person to answer them all! (Well, within reason.) This time out, JD explains what happens when the dark side prevents you from qualifying for a prestige class, why your mother warned you to not wear your jump boots in the house, and how Combat Expertise affects taking multiple attacks. Plus, you'll get a new version of the Force Lightning skill and the Jedi's "Block" ability.

Have a question for the counselor? See the link at the end of the column!

Q: I recently watched Attack of the Clones again, and I couldn't help noticing that Force Lightning doesn't work in the movie the way it does in the rules. For one thing, Obi-Wan blocks it with his lightsaber, which should be impossible, since you have to make a saving throw, and you can't deflect an attack that calls for a saving throw. Then, a few minutes later, Yoda blocks Dooku's Force Lightning with his bare hand, and even shoots it back at Dooku! The rules don't let you do this, so how do you explain that?

A: After we saw Attack of the Clones, we scratched our heads over that scene, too. We'd seen the script for Episode II, but not the dramatic final fight scene -- so we hadn't realized that our rules didn't reflect what happened in that combat! We talked about it and ultimately put together a sort of "house rule" for how to change the Force Lightning skill. Then we put it on the Internet to see what the players thought of it. After lots of discussion and several changes, we decided we needed to change the rules. Here's what we did.

Force Lightning (Int)
Dark Side Force Skill; requires the Force-Sensitive and Alter feats.
You can call upon the Force to blast a target with bolts of energy.

Check: Make a skill check to determine the amount of damage inflicted by Force Lightning.
Result Damage
14 or less No damage
15-19 2d6
20-29 2d8
30+ 2d10

Then make a ranged attack. If your attack hits, the target suffers the listed damage and must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 20). On a failed save, the target is dazed for 1 round. If the save fails by 10 or more, the target is instead dazed for 1d4+1 rounds. A dazed target falls prone as well.

Special: Force Lighting has a range of 10 m.
You can take 10 on this skill but not take 20.
Because Force Lightning utilizes an attack roll, the attack has a threat range (a roll of 20 on a d20) and can be deflected as per the Jedi class ability.
Time: Force Lighting is an Attack Action.
Vitality Point Cost: 6.

Q: Okay, that explains Obi-Wan blocking the lightning with his lightsaber, but that doesn't explain how Yoda threw it back with his bare hand.

A: True, which is why we came up with this rule change for the Jedi's "Block" ability:

This is a modified version of deflect that allows the Jedi to deflect a ranged attack without the use of a lightsaber. If the Jedi does not have some sort of protective gear (such as an armored gauntlet), or an item that can withstand the ranged attack (such as an energy shield or suitably dense material), the Jedi must spend a Force Point to use this ability. (Force Points spent in this way do not add the usual bonus dice to d20 rolls that the Jedi makes in the subsequent round.) Block doesn't allow the Jedi to extend the defense beyond the Jedi's position, and all other rules concerning deflect (defense) and deflect (attack) apply.

Q: My character has Combat Expertise. If I lower my attack bonus past the +6, +11, or +16 marker, do I lose an attack? For example: I have a +7/ +2 attack bonus (BAB = +6/+1, Str mod +1). If I use Combat Expertise for a full +5 Defense, is my attack only +2, or is it +2/-3?

A: It's +2/-3. You're taking a penalty on your attack, not on your attack bonus.

Q: The jump boots in the Arms & Equipment Guide let a character jump 50 meters. But what is the minimum ceiling that the jump boots require to make a move? Can they use either of these to jump down a hallway?

A: As a rule of thumb for any jump, I'd say that the minimum ceiling is equal to half the distance of the jump. That is, when you jump horizontally, you clear a height equal to half the distance, and if this means you hit something, that's where your jump ends.

Q: In the Starships chapter of the revised core rulebook, it states that it takes "minutes" for a starship to get far enough from a planet's gravity well to safely initiate a hyperspace jump. However, it later states (under the rules for climbing and diving) that a planet's gravity well significantly affects movement out to 20 squares from the surface. It certainly does not take "minutes" for a typical starship to move 20 squares. What's up?

A: The gravity well extends well beyond 20 squares, for purposes of whether or not a ship can enter hyperspace. But for purposes of affecting tactical movement, 20 squares is the practical limit.

Q: Does a ship need to be safely outside a planet's gravity well before Astrogate check calculations can begin, or can these be pre-calculated on the surface?

A: They can be pre-calculated on the surface, though the Gamemaster should probably require that the jump be made from a specific point in the solar system, rather than anywhere outside the gravity well.

Q: The character sheet in the revised core rulebook says that Pilot can be used untrained. But the skill entry says it can't. Which is right?

A: The skill entry is correct; Pilot cannot be used untrained.

Q: My character is a Jedi Guardian 2/Dark Side Devotee 2/Dark Side Marauder 2. Upon reaching 6th character level and picking up that second class level in Dark Side Marauder, I failed my degeneration check at character advancement and chose to take a 1-point loss to my character's Strength, lowering him from a 13 to a 12.

Now, here's the problem. By taking that loss, I no longer meet the prerequisite to possess the Power Attack feat. Not only that, but Power Attack is a requirement for picking up the Dark Side Marauder prestige class.

So, what happens to a feat when you no longer meet the requirements to possess it? Does losing my required Strength score cause me to lose the feat, and in turn, the prestige class? Or does losing the feat not matter, since I did meet the requirement when I originally purchased it?

A: What happens is that you keep the feat, but you lose the ability to use it. That means that your character no longer qualifies to be a dark side marauder, so you'll have to choose a class other than dark side marauder at 6th level, or revise your choice of losing a point of Strength and lose the point from a different ability.

Q: Here's the situation: Obi Wan is standing in a corridor. Jango Fett drops vertically from a 6-meter-high ledge and lands to the left of Kenobi (adjacent to the Jedi). Obi-Wan has his lightsaber ignited, so does he get to make an attack of opportunity when Jango enters and exits the square located to the left and above Kenobi's shoulder (the middle 2-meter square in the "stack" of three Jango fell through)?

A: The Star Wars Roleplaying Game doesn't deal with three-dimensional space for purposes of Attacks of Opportunity, but this certainly makes sense as a house rule.

Q: Per the second installment of "Jedi Counseling," the area affected by grenades is calculated from the corners, the same as for spells in D&D. But in the Arms & Equipment Guide, under flechette guns, it says that a 2-meter-radius flechette round affects the target square and all eight surrounding squares.

Is the Arms & Equipment Guide in error, or is it just that flechettes and grenades are handled differently?

A: The Arms & Equipment Guide is in error; measure from the corner.

Q: I noticed that you had provided armor bonus-to-Damage Reduction conversions for several types of armor, but there are a few in the Rebellion Era Sourcebook that I haven't seen stats for: assault trooper armor, zero-g space trooper armor, and storm commando armor. What should the DR be for those?

A: Assault trooper armor should be DR 7, Zero-g space trooper armor should be DR 8, and Storm Commando armor should be DR 4.

Q: Is it possible for Jedi to detect another character's amount of Dark Side Points, or, for that matter, whether the other character has any Dark Side Points at all?

A: No. We considered adding a rule like this for The Dark Side Sourcebook, but we realized that if Jedi could do that, they'd be able to sniff out darksiders at any time. The books and movies (particularly the prequel trilogy) make it pretty clear that Jedi can't do this. At best, they can sense a threat (using the Force-Sensitive ability to avoid being surprised), but other than that, they have to rely on other abilities to determine who is and who isn't a darksider.

Do you have a rules question about the Star Wars Roleplaying Game? Send it to the Jedi counselor, and then check back here every other week for the latest batch of answers!

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