The 2-1B Is In is an occasional segment focusing on various aspects of healing and medicine in Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG.
So, padawan, you have chosen to continue your instruction in Force Healing and other ways it may affect the body? In Part 1, last week, I went over the F&D Healer and Protector specializations and their associated talents. Today, I talk about the Heal/Harm Force power–yes, both sides, since this system combines the Lighter and Darker aspects of manipulating bodily functions into one power.
Something players–I’ve been one of them–don’t always think about when considering buying or upgrading Force powers is the cost, both upfront in XP and then Force pips to use. This is a really big factor for Heal/Harm, since it is the second most expensive power in terms of XP, after Protect/Unleash, which has FR3+ as a prerequisite. The only 5 XP upgrades are two Magnitude. All the Control upgrades, which are very desirable, are 20 XP. Advancing very far or quickly with this power is going to keep you from buying many skill ranks or talents.
That is an even less-useful option than with most powers. A beginning PC is probably only going to be able to purchase the 15 XP Basic power, and for many species, that will mean spending a lot less on characteristics, which many players advise against. Even if you’re starting at Knight Level, buying upgrades means you are investing XP in things you cannot use for several sessions, due to the Force pip costs.
As a rule, Force Rating (FR) 1-2 PCs will only be able to activate a Basic power (any power) or upgrades that don’t require additional Force pips reliably, and must be willing to use dark pips. Even at FR 3, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, especially if it is one of “those sessions” where your dice are never in your favor. For Heal/Harm, an FR 1 PC has no chance of activating more than the Basic power and the lowest Range upgrade.
Yes, she could activate Control upgrades, which don’t cost additional pips–but those are 20 XP upgrades and all but the Row 1 “heal strain” Control can only be reached by taking useless (until you raise your FR) upgrades. So, first, concentrate on making it to FR2, if not FR 3. You should consider prioritizing Medicine skill ranks over Heal/Harm upgrades for now.
What about after you pick up a Force Rating or two? Where do you go from there in the power tree? I suggest the Row 1 Range upgrade first. Not having to use up maneuvers to reach a fallen comrade to Heal gives you–and them–more options in the current turn; if you are using Harm, it is good tactics to stay out of opponents’ reach, unless your PC has a lightsaber or is optimized for melee. Using Heal/Harm at a distance may also sow a bit of confusion among your enemies. No one who has taken that many blaster shots this round should be able to get on their feet! Why am I suddenly doubled over in pain?
The 5XP Magnitude upgrade is an okay second upgrade, but remember it will cost 2 pips to activate. You may want to hold off on Magnitudes unless you have FR 3 when it is much more likely you’ll be able to use those reliably. For a second upgrade, I prefer the Row 1 Control upgrade, because, like a Medicine check, it offers the chance of strain healing. The Row 4 Control upgrade, is a good one if you have Medicine ranks. Actually, all of the upgrades are useful, even if you have to wait until you are stronger in the Force. It is a matter of deciding which ones you want, and which you are likely to be able to use over the course of the campaign.
As I mentioned in Part 1, FFG’s SWRPG has fewer mechanical restrictions on the use of healing-related abilities by low-Morality PCs than previous versions had for those with DSPs. What restrictions there are, however, apply to the Heal aspect of this power. As stated in the power tree, the Basic Heal is limited to “light side Force user only,” which means Morality above 30, not necessarily a Light Side Paragon. Now one of the Harm Control upgrades does allow healing (for the user or someone else) in conjunction with inflicting wounds on another target.
But a Lightsider, even a Paragon, isn’t forbidden from using the Harm aspect, and may feel he has a very good reason for doing so in a given situation. It might be the only means he has to protect someone, or he may be assisting a comrade in taking down a dangerous opponent fast. In a darker campaign or arc, I can see someone using it for assassination. Harm is an effective tactic on Minions and Rivals since they lack Strain. It can also be helpful against Nemeses, since Strain recovery is more difficult than Wound recovery during combat. If not overused, you can narrate it as an impulsive reaction in combat. (I also use this narration with the basic Influence power.)
Be mindful, young padawan, that favoring Harm (like other Morality lapses) can tempt you farther along the Quick & Easy Path than you wanted or intended to go. So, unless your PC falling to the Darkside is part of the story you and your GM want to tell, making a habit of using Harm is probably a bad idea; moreso when the power is used as part of an even darker act such as torture or assassination. Even though the mechanical penalty for a single use of Harm is relatively minor (1 Conflict), using it repeatedly during a session increases the chances of your Morality dropping when that is reckoned. That’s on top of Conflict for other actions–or any extra the GM might add for circumstances of the Harm attacks.
You will probably run into roleplay penalties if Harm is one of your go-to offensive abilities. Other party members–even some who live for combat–may object to you using Harm, viewing it as different, crueler, or not as clean as fighting with a vibroblade, blaster, or lightsaber. The simply pragmatic in your group may just not want the extra attention.
Not to mention, a mentor or other NPC ally may be disgusted by this approach. Censure by your Alliance superiors might result in an AoR campaign. If it’s F&D, the mentor or holocron Gatekeeper you searched half the Unknown Regions to find might decide you aren’t worthy of their teaching. An enemy who realizes what happened may have a similar reaction, which could mean she is inclined to treat you harsher, or just hand you off to the Inquisitors, if she’s Imperial. Using Harm does run the risk of “outing” you as a Force user to Imperials or others who don’t have your best interests at heart, but this is true of Heal, or any other Force power.
I think Heal is one of the easiest powers to “hide,” even easier than Harm. You can make a Deception or Charm check to explain it away as a strong constitution or conventional medicine. “She’s tougher than a pack of vonskrs!” “That pathogen is really sensitive to this drug.” That’s going to work better than persuading people the badass bounty hunter or hardened ISB agent was disabled by a fear-induced coronary when confronted by just another newbie Rebel or two-credit smuggler.
So, apprentice, you have advanced in your understanding of how the Force may be used with the energy of life itself. Whether you wield this new knowledge for good or ill, Light or Dark, be mindful that this is the literal power of life and death.