HoloNet Uplink: Disciples of Harmony Review

Chris’ Quick Take: Disciples of Harmony is a strong addition to the Force and Destiny line of sourcebooks. Players and gamemasters alike will have several somethings to sink their teeth into with three great specializations, two new Force powers, and great Chapter Three content on mentors and knowledge. Chapter Two’s equipment makes the book a “must-skim” for bounty hunters, as well. Worth buying.

The latest Force and Destiny roleplaying game sourcebook, Disciples of Harmony a Consular sourcebook, is a worthy addition to the line. We’ve had quite a few of these US MSRP $29.95 career sourcebooks over the life of the three game lines so far, so the format is quite set. Disciples of Harmony offers few surprises, instead providing a rock solid execution of that format. As the Consular is already quite good right out of the core rulebook, I would not say this is a “must” for PCs but attractive specializations and equipment are likely to entice players. GMs, on the other hand, should take a long look at this one. Chapter Three provides some excellent options and advice for anyone running a Force and Destiny game. Much like my Lead by Example review, I’ll go through this book section by section and comment as I go. Let’s dive in.

In traditional fashion, Chapter One begins with Backgrounds and Morality options. My usual suggestion stands: don’t forget to check these out. While there is nothing particularly standout about the backgrounds, they provide concise suggestions that can inspire players (or even GMs in the case of NPCs) to create interesting characters. The Morality section has some excellent new Emotional Weaknesses perfect for characters in the Consular archetype, my favourites being Indecision and Sophism.

I’m certain many of you are more interested in the crunch, so on to the three species and three specializations. The book’s three species are the intellectual Arkanians, the curious Cosians, and the willful Pau’ans. None provide outrageously powerful or remarkable innovative mechanical abilities, but instead enable interesting narrative options for players. Arkanians have had a long history within Legends, so I suspect many will be happy to see some official stats.

Generally the section I flip to first in these books, the new specializations do not disappoint. The Arbiter is designed for characters to become warrior-diplomats. The specialization focuses on potent social abilities, while also providing Lightsaber as a class skill and including some combat talents. The Arbiter synergizes very well with Niman Disciple, especially with the cheaper top half of that saber tree to begin with. If I ever got to actually play in a Force and Destiny campaign, I would be exceptionally excited to play a Jedi Negotiator type with this combo. The Ascetic is fascinating from a mechanical point of view. This specialization focuses on being an absolute strain monster, with multiple ranks of Grit and the Iron Soul talent which allows a complete heal of all strain should the character be carrying very little in equipment. The new talent with a conflict cost, Mind Bleed, allows the Ascetic to take strain to instantly deal damage to attackers who have wounded them. I’m sure optimizers could create some powerful combinations that take advantage of the Ascetic’s strain reserves. Finally, the Teacher. I was not very happy with Lead by Example‘s Instructor specialization, mainly because it lacked talents that gave a strong instructor vibe – their ability to instill Discipline makes some sense from a Drill Sergeant point of view but could just as easily make them feel like a commissar. The Teacher, however, seemingly answers my call by providing talents all about enhancing the abilities of their students. Skilled Teacher, Improved Wise Warrior, and Once a Learner all provide a strong mentor feel.

Two new Force powers complete Chapter One. Imbue, while having a somewhat creepy piece of art associated with it, gives some excellent light side vs dark side options on buffing your allies. I’m particularly impressed that the dark side is not penalized here, but instead gives tempting options which might encourage players to dabble. Ebb/Flow is a very meaty power which could be put to use by many character concepts, allowing for lots of strain and dice manipulation. An Ascetic with Ebb/Flow conjures the imagination from both a narrative and mechanical standpoint. I suspect Ebb/Flow will become a very popular power.

Chapter Two provides some good options to players, and somewhat surprisingly has something to offer certain types of characters from Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion as well. The chapter intro provides a good rationale why such a grab bag of equipment should be presented, namely that Consulars must often travel to exotic destinations to negotiate or investigate- not kill – a variety of subjects. Thus, a wealth of equipment is on offer from survival gear to non-lethal weapons to vehicles. Consulars will find some of what is presented here useful, but I think it’s more important to note the equipment and weapons presented in Disciples of Harmony appeal to many different character types including non-Force types. More non-lethal weapons will surely appeal to bounty hunters, for example. There are some nice lightsaber crystals in here as well, but that’s no surprise at this point. Overall, the equipment on offer in this book is surprisingly broad and reasonably deep. If you’re on the fence, this is a chapter to have a flip through.

Finally, Chapter Three. The everything else chapter, so to speak. The usual adventure seeds are there, but much more interesting is the expanded guidance offered on mentors, knowledge checks, and diplomacy.

For me, the standout section of this chapter was the expanded coverage on mentors. Let me get the quickest part out of the way first: we’ve got rules for alternate Force traditions. These are pretty efficient, allowing you to knock out your own quite easily. I’ve done so myself already with the Zeison Sha. I’ve heard some say, on the forums and Reddit, that they’d prefer these alternate traditions had more meat to them mechanically speaking. I’m on the fence for that issue, as while I’d love some more crunch I do think individual specialization and Force power choices will get you 95% of the way there.

The mentor guidance itself is exemplary. It provides suggestions, statistics, tables, and all manner of resources for GMs during the entire mentor “life cycle” so to speak. You’ll find out how to design a mentor  (such as what their background, personality, and mentorship techniques will be), how to best use the mentor in game, and even how to phase the mentor out (complete with a cheesy section title along the lines of “The Circle is Now Complete”). As learning the ways of the Force and mastering your abilities are common to almost all Force and Destiny games, I’m pretty confident most if not all GMs in this line could make excellent use of this guidance.

As generally knowledgeable sorts, it’s only natural for the Consular sourcebook to include some guidance on Knowledge in the game. It’s a decent write up that is worth a read. What is more impressive, and I think will serve as an excellent resource to GMs, is the section on diplomacy. This section provides guidance on how to craft and run diplomatic scenarios, and I think is brilliant. In “real life,” I work in a field that is related to negotiation and interpersonal persuasion, so this section is a bit near and dear to my heart. I think I’ll take a closer look at Disciples of Harmony‘s guidance for diplomacy in an upcoming article.

Overall, this book deserves a place of honour amongst the best of the sourcebooks. In my opinion, it provides great value while expanding upon some of the most iconic aspects of the Force and Destiny roleplaying line.

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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 .