- Jedi Academy Training Manual
- by Rodney Thompson
- 160 pages
- Wizards of the Coast
- This article originally appeared on GameCryer.com and is reprinted with permission
The Jedi Academy Training Manual looks to be the definitive sourcebook for Jedi and Force-using characters in the Star Wars: Saga Edition Role-Playing Game, introducing new force powers, talents, lightsaber forms, rules for holocrons, variant lightsaber crystals, alternative Force traditions, monstrous opponents and exotic locals.
The book succeeds on that front, making one of the best classes in the game even better. With this book in hand, players will be able to build nearly any Jedi they can think of, from the contemplative healer to the dedicated padawan instructor to the master of Jedi lightsaber forms. Those looking to tread the path less traveled can choose to craft Force users from 10 different mystical traditions drawn from across the Star Wars Expanded Universe. They should be on their guard though, as the book also gives Game Masters new rules for building Dark Side weapons forged through Sith alchemy and unleashing abominations corrupted by the Dark Side.
The Training Manual’s greatest strength lies in offering Jedi a huge number of paths for realizing their character’s ambitions. Some of this is achieved through traditional Force powers, such as "Force Track", which allows a Jedi to hunt down a quarry using the Force, "Inertia", which lets a Jedi run up walls, and "Inspire", which grants bonuses to allies Will saves against fear and provides them with bonus hit points.
Even better are the lightsaber form powers. Each is based on a fighting style from the Jedi Knight’s lightsaber forms talent tree, but the talents are not required for you to use the power. Also, because they are powers (and are not dependent on the Jedi Knight prestige class) you can acquire them at lower levels using the "Force Training" feat.
A good example is "Barrier of Blades". Based on the "Shien" lightsaber form (which grants a +5 bonus attempts to redirect blaster shots), this power allows you to substitute a Use the Force check for your Reflex Defense against all incoming ranged attacks for a turn. If you have the Shien form, you can also redirect a blaster bolt shot that misses you. Spending a force point lets you use it against autofire attacks as well.
I like how these forms build out a particular fighting style, allowing you to create someone who is a master of turning aside blaster fire by acquiring both the power and the talent, while at the same time introducing the ability to dabble in multiple styles by taking different lightsaber powers.
Those who enjoy playing monastic Jedi should love Force regimens, which provide a mechanical benefit for all that quiet contemplation. For example, during the "Oxygen Bottle" regimen a Jedi attempts to fill a bottle with pure oxygen, keeping out all other gases in the process. Success is difficult; the lowest level Use the Force check – at DC 26 – grants a +2 bonus to Fortitude Defense against inhaled poisons and hazardous atmospheres. A stellar result – beating a DC 38 check – grants immunity against the same.
Other regimens include "Telekinetic Practice", which yields bonus force points to use with telekinetic powers and "Awaken Force Sensitivity", which allows a Jedi to grant a non-Force user access to the "Use the Force" skill for a round. The regiments provide a good balance of role-playing and combat opportunities, and are just the sort of thing you’d expect Jedi Knights and Masters to perform when resting between missions.
Talents provide other excellent customization options and do a great job of recreating certain powers and abilities that have become integral to the Star Wars. The "Guardian Spirit" talent tree is perfect for those characters haunted by the ghosts of advisors and family members (such as Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan, or even better, the Legacy Era’s Cade Skywalker, who turned to death sticks to suppress the ghosts of his father Ben as well as that of Luke). Such spirits can offer guidance on the future, provide crucial advice during skill checks, and even manifest during combat to aid their protégées.
The Jedi Artisan talent tree introduces additional talents for enhancing lightsabers, allowing devotees to summon and ignite a lightsaber using the "move object" application of the "Use the Force" skill as well as create a masterwork lightsaber that can carry two weapon enhancement and lets its wielder re-roll damage dealt by the blade. Those with a teaching bent can use the Jedi Instructor talent tree to grant boons to an apprentice (in the form of spending force points on their behalf) or to share force secrets, techniques and talents. All of this helps ensure that no two Jedi will ever be alike, and really allows you to dig deeply into a particular niche.
The book’s "Philosophy" chapter provides an overview of the Jedi and Sith codes, and introduces special rules for padawans. Somewhat similar to the follower rules introduced in the Clone Wars Campaign Guide, the padawan rules allow you to begin training an apprentice. This apprentice is a non-heroic character whose feats, skills, and Force powers picked by the GM. In keeping with the Star Wars tradition of strong-willed apprentices, the GM also controls the padawan in combat, but you can issue commands and instructions for that padawan to follow. Masters teaching a padawan gain a 24-hour bonus from the Education destiny whenever their student levels, and those who successfully train a padawan to Jedi Knight status gain access to the Mentor force secret (which allows you to grant access to a force power to an ally).
The Sith are not ignored. Their Sith Alchemy talent tree allows them to mutate common creatures and species into abominations and to craft Sith relics that contain Dark side traits. Mechanically, mutated creatures are warped using the Sith abomination template (which increases Constitution, decreases Intelligence and Wisdom, grants an "Abominable Presence" which is a debilitating fear effect that can move enemies one step down the condition track).
Sith alchemy works similarly to the Tech Specialist feat, providing bonuses to weapon and armor. The "Dark Side Energy" armor trait, for example, gives a +2 equipment bonus when activating Dark Side powers while the "Master’s Weapon" weapon trait gives a bonus to Use the Force checks to Block and Deflect.
As with other books in the series, the Jedi Academy Training Manual introduces some things that seem at odds with traditional Star Wars, even if they are part of the Expanded Universe. The "Fold Space" power allows a Jedi to teleport objects – up to and including starships -- across short distances by folding space and time. The ability comes from the New Jedi Order Era novels, but my players immediately shouted out "broken!" when they heard about it.
While not broken, the Shards are just plain weird. They’re sentient, silicon-based shards of crystal that are Force-aware. They can embed themselves in droid bodies, becoming mechanical, force-wielding Jedi Knights. It’s a concept that better fits Star Trek or Stargate SG-1.
Both of these alien ideas are introduced in connection with 10 variant Force traditions in the "Affiliated Programs" chapter. The "Aing-ti Monks" are the ones responsible for the "Fold Space" power and their talent tree builds on that power allowing a monk to teleport an entire starship over galactic distances. The Shards are part of a movement known as the "Iron Knights", reflecting the droid frames that that their inhabit. Other factions are more traditional. The Baran Do Sages are Kel Dorian mystics whose intense study of the force allows them to glimpse the future (and thus avoid future attacks) and gain insights into the nature of the Force on individual planets while the Wardens of the Sky are an ancient order of Force users dedicated to preserving the safety of the hyperspace routes.
The Jedi Academy Training Manual dedicates the back-half of its page count chapters on allies, enemies, monsters, and locations. The book offers statblocks for such heroes as Grand Master Luke Skywalker, Cay Qel-Droma (who fought on Onderon during the Old Republic era), and the four-leggged, beast-like Jedi master Thon (another Old Republic figure). Possible Dark Side opponents include Carnor Jax, one-time stormtrooper turned would-be Emperor, Nightsisters of Dathomir and Prophets of the Dark Side.
The Training Manual introduces a number of new monsters to Saga Edition, starting with the two-headed battle hydra, a monstrosity spawned by Exar Kun using Sith alchemy. Another creation of the Sith are the chrysalis beasts, which are created by applying a template to existing creatures. Chrysalis beasts are one size larger than their mundane kin, have increased damage reduction and hit points, wield natural weapons that do an extra dice of damage, and have a terrifying aura that throws off their enemies’ attacks. Other horrors include Dxun Tomb Beasts (designed to guard Freedon Nadd’s tomb), Hssiss (otherwise known as Dark Side Dragons), and the bat-like shyracks of Korriban. Any of these would make great protectors for a Dark Side tomb or an exotic pet for some crime lord.
Rounding out the book are write-ups on a dozen or so training academies, light side locations, and dark side ruins. Each entry is written in the galactic almanac style, including important notes about gravity, length of day, species, etc. as well as a list of knowledge check DCs to learn more about the location. It’s useful to have, but I would much rather have sacrificed some NPC statblocks in order to make room for some quality maps of these locations.
The Jedi Academy Training Manual delivers what it promises: lots of new options for Jedi, Sith and other Force-wielding characters in Star Wars: Saga Edition. It’s a good book for anyone who loves playing Jedi, as well as for game masters who want Force users to be prominent antagonists in their game. At the same time, while the sheer usefulness of the book could be problematic in some campaigns where people already feel their characters are playing second fiddle to the Jedi. The Jedi already had plenty of tricks up their sleeve; this book gives them a whole lot more.