HoloNet Uplink – A Missive on Mentors (FaD)

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Welcome to the HoloNet Uplink, citizen. This series focuses on Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game, with content aimed mostly at the Gamemaster. Threats, adventure seeds, rules supplements, and more are all to come for those who access The HoloNet Uplink.

Last week in my professional life I had the opportunity to lay the groundwork on a mentorship program within my organization. After that, I could not stop thinking about the topic of mentors in real life and in fiction. A staple of martial arts movies, the mentor is an iconic figure in warrior tales. Of course, it goes without saying Star Wars is an enthusiastic member of the mentor character club. Star Wars has more mentors than you can shake a stick at, with Obi-Wan Kenobi being perhaps the most iconic fictional mentor in the popular consciousness. With all this said, I find myself unable to do anything but write about mentors and luckily Force and Destiny has mentors built right in!

As a quick review, Force and Destiny page 109 provides the rules for mentors as a party resource. Selecting a mentor allows the player characters to purchase the basic form of Force powers for a 5 XP discount, using post character generation XP, and to a minimum of cost of 5 XP. Beyond this mechanical advantage, a mentor should not provide any additional crunchy benefits aside from a potential Boost die here or there. More importantly than the mechanical benefits, in my mind, are the narrative possibilities when the players have a mentor.

Your PC’s mentor is a prime opportunity to foster a strong relationship between the group and a recurring NPC. Often a big challenge with NPCs is how to ensure a strong rapport is built between them and the PCs. With a mentor, you have an inherent reason for the PCs to care. Narratively and mechanically, the mentor helps the PCs expand their abilities, having a direct result on their power. This is a good foot in the door which, when combined with the usual advice on developling PC-NPC bonds, can set up a great relationship. Of course, we all know what has a bad habit of happening to mentors….

During the game, another big concern is finding the right amount of screen time to give the mentor. Too little and you will waste an opportunity. “Oh yeah, I forgot our mentor is on this planet.” Too much and you run the risk of having a spotlight stealing GMNPC. Striking the right balance involves giving the mentor short, but meaningful, screen time. It doesn’t hurt to have the mentor rescue the PCs once, so long as it makes narrative sense. If the mentor really helps them out of a jam that can again build solid rapport.

I’ve taken the liberty of preparing some sample mentors which may prove useful in your game. The heading of each mentor is hyperlinked to a broadly relevant TV Tropes article.   I hope these examples get some ideas flowing, because I would love to see your ideas for mentors in the comment section.

The Classic Mentor – Solomarr Jaru

Solomarr Jaru is known to most as a simple, stubborn farmer. On the sparsely populated world of Dantooine the vast agricultural lands stretching across open prairies are mostly cultivated by a few families supported by droids and other machinery. Old Man Jaru’s farm is an exception. He tends to his meagre plot of land all alone, growing enough to feed himself and make a few credits to keep the generators on.

Few on Dantooine suspect Jaru of being anything more than a stubborn, old farmer. Almost no one knows his secret. A failed Jedi and member of the Agricultural Corps, Solomarr Jaru was once a famed Jedi Knight from before the Clone Wars. Jaru ultimately became a victim of his own success and he was granted a padawan before he was ready. That padawan constantly struggled and was eventually expelled from the order. Jaru, feeling great guilt over his overconfidence and failure to properly teach his student, renounced his title as Jedi Knight and instead joined the AgriCorps. He disappeared on Dantooine during the Clone Wars. The PCs came into contact with Jaru through a contact in the Rebellion who was posted to Dantooine prior to the evacuation. Despite initial reluctance, Jaru has taken the PCs under his wing and now teaches them the ways of the Jedi.

Solomarr Jaru is honestly pretty much an Old Ben Kenobi expy with some of the details and dressing changed. He’s here for a reason though, because I want to say that’s an okay thing to do. Tropes exist for a reason, if a more straightforward take on an archetype works for you and your group, that’s perfect. You don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel as a GM so long as everyone is having fun.

The Evil Mentor – Seera Tayne

A former Jedi Knight now hiding in exile, Seera Tayne is quiet and cautious. She assembled the PCs through a network of underworld contacts, in several cases saving them from capture by the Empire’s sinister agents.

A veteran of the Clone Wars, Tayne did not serve as a front line general. Instead she put her talents to use within military intelligence, working closely with special operations forces to select targets which would cripple the Confederacy. Tayne uses the same approach to now fight the Empire. She has made it a particular objective to draw out and strike back at the Inquisitors.

Tayne keeps much of her work secret from the PCs, citing security concerns and fears that the Dark Side influence of the Inquisitors will tempt the not yet fully trained party. In truth, it is Tayne who has turned to the Dark Side. She now fights fire with fire, but keeps a frozen demeanor on the surface in part to prevent her students from questioning her methods and in part to  keep herself shrouded in the Force. Knowing when and how much to divulge of Tayne’s corruption is a careful balancing act. As GM you have strong control over what information you provide to the players. You can keep important clues from reaching them, but be cautious about never putting out any hints. Players will enjoy the process of feeling like something is not quite right, getting more clues, and finally realizing their mentor is corrupt. This will lead to dramatic choices as it could be argued Tayne is not the PCs enemy, even though she has fallen to evil.

The Mundane Mentor – Ezo Varandel

Third son to a noble house of reasonable wealth but low influence, Ezo Varandel has enjoyed a life of few expectations and considerable options. Free from the intrigue which plagues other Core World nobles, Varandel embraced the freedom his wealth provided and pursued a life of adventure. Inspired by the tales of ancient Jedi heroes and unconvinced by the Empire’s disinformation campaign about the Clone Wars era Order, Varandel has traveled the galaxy investigating ancient Jedi lore.

With a vibrorapier at his side and a mind full of now forbidden knowledge, Varandel makes an effective if unconventional mentor. He has no particular connection to the Force, but feels a calling to the ways of the Jedi. Over the course of his adventures, Varandel assembled the PCs, seeing their potential to re-establish the Jedi Order. He offers his academic knowledge of the Force, what artifacts he has recovered, and most importantly the expertise gained from years of adventure to these young Force users.

Varandel does not provide the usual mechanical benefit of a mentor. Instead his benefit is based on the holocron party resource (Force and Destiny pg. 109), providing the party access to Knowledge (Lore) and Melee as career skills. Remember–selecting a party resource is meant to be within the player’s control, so as a GM do not spring this swap of mechanical benefit on your players. If you wish to implement this change, instead broach the topic with your players and proceed only if there is agreement that the mechanical difference is a desirable change in keeping with the narrative.

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Christopher Hunt

Christopher Hunt

Staff Writer at d20 Radio
Ready to pull the ears off a Gundark, Chris is new to writing in the gaming industry. Up in the mystical Canadian land of Manitoba, he can be seen running Star Wars for his home group and at PrairieCon events. Chris has a passion for gaming he hopes to unite with academic and corporate writing experience .