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ddbrown30

Tips for Running a Jedi Mentor NPC

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Within the next few sessions, one of my newly force sensitive PCs is very likely to be getting an NPC Jedi mentor. It makes sense and I would like for the NPC to stick with the group, but I'm worried about the NPC overshadowing the PCs. I've also never run an NPC as a party member, so I'm also worried about the pitfalls surrounding that.

I think my rough target is a bit like the relationship between Kanan and Ezra. Basically, someone that can train them during downtime but is also able to teach lessons in the moment (although that second bit does put a whole lot of pressure on me to come up with interesting teaching moments).

Does anyone have tips for how to run an NPC mentor like that?

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What you sound like you are describing is a GMPC (Game Master Player Character).  They are the bane of existence for RPG's!

Never never NEVER never include a GMPC!  Never!

That said I have a GMPC in my SW RPG, but they're not the force trainer.  I do my best to keep this character in the background so that they can take care of tasks that the PC's can't (Fixing & Flying the ship).

That said, I DO also have a Force Trainer NPC, but they're too sickly and old to fly around with the PC's or go on risky adventures.  He's there for a resource and he provides color, but I tend to have him do is training off scene and during down time.

So I'll do things like, "He spends the week working with your PC's on training and you develope 'XYZ' skill, so bump that skill up one level"

or

"So you've got a week of training with the Jedi, what do you want them to train you on?"

In my campaign, I don't gloss over the boring details too much and hand wave a lot of the minutia.

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1 hour ago, ddbrown30 said:

I think my rough target is a bit like the relationship between Kanan and Ezra. Basically, someone that can train them during downtime but is also able to teach lessons in the moment (although that second bit does put a whole lot of pressure on me to come up with interesting teaching moments).

If that's the "power differential", then it might work.  I agree with @Mark Caliber that a GM-NPC is almost always a bad idea.  But Ezra still had skills none of the others had, and having Kanan around didn't stop him from getting into trouble.  Kanan, after all, had his own issues, so that *could* make a good model for a GM-NPC relationship.

If you have to include your GM-NPC, make sure they're busy and unavailable on demand.  The GM-NPC can still be involved in a mission...eg:  say the plan is for the GM-NPC to cause a diversion while the PCs sneak around back of some enemy base.  The GM-NPC should be alone for this.  If the PCs get in trouble, calling on the GM-NPC should result in the sounds of blaster fire and the hum of a lightsaber and a slightly frantic "Kinda busy!" response.  In short, most of what the GM-NPC does should be for narrative flavour, and shouldn't contribute to the success or failure of the PC's plan.  On the flip side, it can help drive a story narrative (or be invisible rails), if, say, the GM-NPC gets captured and/or needs rescuing themselves.

I had a campaign with my son where he started as a Padawan in the Old Republic, so of course he had a "master".  But he was of a skill level that was verging on knighthood, so his master expected him to handle things himself.  I made the mistake at one point of providing too many answers, so my son's PC started calling up his master for every little detail that came up.  I finally had to have an OOC moment to explain that his PC's independence was part of the test...

So it *can* be done, but it's really hard to balance it, and very easy to fall into the trap of enjoying your own "PC", so most of the time it's probably best to avoid it.

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Yeah, GMPC is definitely something I'm trying to avoid, but it's also tough to justify not having them around. I guess I can do the Gandalf thing and just have them go off on their own, but the idea is that they are capable and dedicated to the ideas of returning peace and harmony to the galaxy, so having them act as a Yoda style mentor doesn't really work.

For the record, I'm not looking to have my own PC in the party. And I also don't really want the mentor to be a source of information (well, any more so than any contact the party might have) or ideas on solving adventures. Hence looking for tips.

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Hmmmm.

My next thought would be to make the NPC an Idiot/Savant.

Someone who was absolutely brilliant at force powers, but who is also hopelessly inept at adventuring.

 

I do run into the problem with my GMPC where the PC's will turn to them for advice and counsel.  My trick with that is to present the information that the GMPC has and to make suggestions based on their background and experiences, which MIGHT be wrong!  The other thing to keep in mind is that the NPC's don't have the vast resources available to the GM.  There are many times where my GMPC will shrug and say, "I don't know."  It's a lazy response on my part, but it forces the players to make the decisions.

But when I can, I provide insight based on what that GMPC knows and understand.  It would make sense that if you don't want the players to get insights and guidance on certain subjects, try designing a character that's inexpert in those areas.  You may not need to go full idiot savant, but by creatively put together someone who can't be helpful in certain areas.

I think the biggest problem that players have with GMPC's is that immature GM's tend to design GMPC's who are awesome and clearly batting WAY above the weight class of the PC's.  So the other thing to consider is to make the GMPC at par or (better yet) lower "level" than the PC's.  Make them fallible!  Give them a disadvantage that keeps them from outshining the PC's.

This is a tough needle to thread but I think that if you tread carefully and make sure the game is about the PC's being the big bad heroes, you should do okay.

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2 hours ago, whafrog said:

If that's the "power differential", then it might work.  I agree with @Mark Caliber that a GM-NPC is almost always a bad idea.  But Ezra still had skills none of the others had, and having Kanan around didn't stop him from getting into trouble.  Kanan, after all, had his own issues, so that *could* make a good model for a GM-NPC relationship.

If you have to include your GM-NPC, make sure they're busy and unavailable on demand.  The GM-NPC can still be involved in a mission...eg:  say the plan is for the GM-NPC to cause a diversion while the PCs sneak around back of some enemy base.  The GM-NPC should be alone for this.  If the PCs get in trouble, calling on the GM-NPC should result in the sounds of blaster fire and the hum of a lightsaber and a slightly frantic "Kinda busy!" response.  In short, most of what the GM-NPC does should be for narrative flavour, and shouldn't contribute to the success or failure of the PC's plan.  On the flip side, it can help drive a story narrative (or be invisible rails), if, say, the GM-NPC gets captured and/or needs rescuing themselves.

I had a campaign with my son where he started as a Padawan in the Old Republic, so of course he had a "master".  But he was of a skill level that was verging on knighthood, so his master expected him to handle things himself.  I made the mistake at one point of providing too many answers, so my son's PC started calling up his master for every little detail that came up.  I finally had to have an OOC moment to explain that his PC's independence was part of the test...

So it *can* be done, but it's really hard to balance it, and very easy to fall into the trap of enjoying your own "PC", so most of the time it's probably best to avoid it.

In all fairness, Kanan is one of those characters that could be either argued as an NPC or a PC character. He was a very proactive character with his own agenda's, goals e.c.t While he knew a lot about the Jedi Order, he had left it as a Padawan and hadn't openly practiced as a Jedi since then thus he also had to undergo his own development in order to be someone who could actually teach his student. By season 2 onwards they were practically side by side and by season 3 Ezra was the one leading the party while Kanan was recovering from a particularly bad critical hit. Though this is also a great example of how to make a great NPC, this character might know a lot about the Jedi order but they themselves are not much more capable then the PC's. Those statblocks of Palpatine having a force rating of 8 or Jedi Masters having to have at least 2000 xp spent is absolute horse droppings.

 

In contrast; I have absolutely zero issue with the players having a mentor figure be fairly involved, but the key caveat is that that by large the players have to overcome some problems themselves. In Kanan's particular case he had a few skills but there was a lot others could do better as he wasn't the leader, pilot or machanic on that ship. So having an NPC who is somewhat better then the PCs in lightsaber combat and lore is cool, but fairly lacking in other areas that the PC's must step up to fill. A jedi whom had spent it's entire life on the run would be hesitant to commit to any line of action aside from retreat, thus it's up to the party to attend social functions, computers checks, pilot and all those other extra activities that the character simply hadn't learnt. Those kind of characters can then step in if things get hairy, often to some hilarity.

 

Otherwise it depends what story you intend to tell. In the Wizard's First Rule the wizard knew everything, but he had his own things to do and ultimately wasn't destined to do anything to the all powerful main antagonist. Destiny has a huge role to play in any mystical inclined adventure which by now we should all be aware of. Anaikin, Luke and Rey always had the tools and circumstances favour them to survive otherwise impossible situations and ultimately the mentor will likely have a different destiny then the student. Play into that, have some idea what the character will eventually accomplish and manipulate circumstances to hint and allure to their ultimate destiny and eventually have that mentor figure do the one thing that they absolutely must do, maybe confront that student who had fallen to evil, or save a world through self sacrifice. If the character's don't have some great destiny in effect, then really your playing a game of glowsticks and muggles, force sensitivity has a huge unspoken price tag associated to it in that they will ultimately have to pay a price.

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You might also consider why you want the mentor to stay with the trainee. What is the flavor of your game? Are these fringers on a ship, rattling around the galaxy doing jobs but also doing some good now and then? Or is this a group primed to fight injustice, based out of a set location?

After my group played Jewel of Yavin, the Jedi Elaiza was now a mentor for one of the PCs. But Elaiza had been in hiding for years. She had no interest in endangering herself traveling around in a beat-up freighter with a group of criminals. And she wasn't even sure the current Rebel Alliance was worth much, given how corrupt the Jedi had become over time (from her point of view). So the PC would go visit Elaiza periodically for training, but that was the limit of their engagement. Another PC's Force mentor was a social worker. She knew a lot about Sense and Heal and such, but she wasn't a fighter by any stretch of the imagination, and so she provided guidance out of the home base, but never went out on jobs/missions with the PCs.

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I have another question regarding teaching in game.

So we have a Marauder in our group who is a very capable Melee Fighter. Then there is the young force sensitive char with no knowledge in fighting, neither lightsaber nor Melee.

Currently, during a very long hyperspace travel these two are practicing daily, the Marauder teaching the basics of sword fighting.

Would you allow any advantages for the force User when learning/improving fighting skills?

If yes, in which way?

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If you want a mentor in your game, Kanan is the wrong idea! He is a part of the team, another player character so to speak. Rather look at Uncle Iroh in the Last Airbender.
Very wise Mentor, but his adventure is long over, which he archived great things and also suffered great losses.

He always helps other to find ways to better them self, make the stronger, help them to reflect, tries to avoid fighting but can do that if necessary.

Usually he never takes the spot light or the lead, but makes suggestion.

And Tea, he always makes tea, sometimes with poisonous plants, though mistaken them for a deliciouse tea plant!

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