Lightsabers (or lightsabres) are a signature weapon type in the Star Wars universe(s), and one of the many iconic visuals (and sound effects !) from these movies.
The following is chiefly a technical article for the DC Heroes RPG, but enough of the material is in real English to be read by a non-expert. When it comes to modelling the Star Wars universes, one will also want to read our Star Wars DCH Genre article.
Types of lightsabres
[BODY 05, Laser Beam: 12; Bonus: Laser Beam can be used to Block energy attacks as if it were a solid object with BODY APs equal to Laser Beam (+2FC); Limitations: Laser Beam has No AV, No Range, and cannot be reflected by mirrors (-2FC); 50 points].
Lightsabers are mechanized hilts the size of flashlights (usually 30 cm long) that can emit a 1 meter long “blade” of energy. This is the weapon of choice for most Jedi and Sith.
[BODY 04, Laser Beam: 10; Bonus: Laser Beam can be used to Block energy attacks as if it were a solid object with BODY APs equal to Laser Beam (+2FC); Limitations: Laser Beam has No AV, No Range, and cannot be reflected by mirrors (-2FC); 36 points].
[BODY 05, Laser Beam: 12/13 (1st setting/2nd setting); Bonus: Laser Beam can be used to Block energy attacks as if it were a solid object with BODY APs equal to Laser Beam (+2FC); Limitations: Laser Beam has No AV, No Range, and cannot be reflected by mirrors (-2FC), users suffer a +1CS penalty to OV of all actions using their DLL while on the second setting, unless they have at least 2 APs of Growth (-5 pts.); 54 points, R#2].
Dual-Length lightsabers have slightly larger hilts than standard lightsabers and have two blade settings. The first setting is a standard 1-meter blade and the second extends the blade to 3 meters. These are seldom used because the extra mechanisms required made the dual-length lightsaber slightly more prone to malfunction.
Dual-length lightsabers were used by various Sith and two of Luke Skywalker’s students, Gantoris and Corran Horn (I, Jedi).
[BODY 07, Laser Beam: 13; Bonus: Laser Beam can be used to Block energy attacks as if it were a solid object with BODY APs equal to Laser Beam (+2FC); Limitations: Laser Beam has No AV, No Range, and cannot be reflected by mirrors (-2FC), lightlance users suffer a +1CS penalty to OV of all actions using their lightlance unless they have at least 2 APs of Growth (-10 pts); 63 points].
These oversized lightsabers have double-length hilts and 3 meters blades. They are often used by unusually large individuals, such as the brobdignagian Gorc (Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight).
Some human Sith have also used them, trading off the unwieldy handling for the greater intimidation and damage. Warb Null was one such Sith, and he paid for his vanity when his reduced effectiveness with his lightlance resulted in his decapitation by a Jedi during a duel on the planet Onderon.
[BODY 06, Laser Beam: 12; Bonus: Laser Beam can be used to Block energy attacks as if it were a solid object with BODY APs equal to Laser Beam (+2FC), while both blades are active, Team Attacks against the user have the CS bonus reduced by 1 (+10 points); Limitations: Laser Beam has No AV, No Range, and cannot be reflected by mirrors (-2FC); 57 points].
Lightstaffs are lightsabers with double-length hilts that can extend blades from both ends, singly or simultaneously. Having both blades active makes it easier for an experienced user to guard against multiple enemies.
Lightstaffs are often designed as two lightsabers that attach to one another at the respective butts of their hilts. If this is the case, the user can also detach the sabers from one another and thus break the lightstaff down into two lightsabers. This option requires that the lightstaff be bought as two standard lightsabers at 52 points (2 extra points each for the ability to be connected into a lightstaff).
Lightsaber size comparison
- Lightsaber: ===—————
- Lightlance: =======————————————-
- Lightstaff: —————======—————
Lightsabers can be constructed like any other Gadget. However, that requires a fair amount of precision work. Thus, making a lightsaber often serves as a test of a Force student’s discipline and ability to focus. Most fully-trained Jedi and Sith will have a Scholar (Lightsaber Construction), making it easier for them to build lightsabers.
Some EU materials suggest that the Force is directly involved in the manufacture of lightsabers. One example is being used as a final measure to telekinetically accurize the circuitry (I, Jedi). The instructions for this limited Force technique are usually included with the schematics for building a lightsaber.
But while this technique can be useful to novices, it is not essential. Luke Skywalker built his lightsaber using the Force only to aid his concentration (Return of the Jedi radioplay). In either case, this can be treated as an application of the Concentration Force Ritual.
Most of the materials used in the construction of lightsabers are fairly common in the SWU. The only items that may require some work to acquire are the crystals used in the lightsabers. Most natural or well-made artificial gems will do, so it is simply a matter of deciding the appropriate types of gems needed and tracking them down.
Some EU accounts suggest that the type of crystal used determines the color of the lightsaber blade.
Most Jedi will stay with traditional lightsaber designs, adapting themselves to the demands of the blade rather than vice versa. Sith, on the other hand, have a greater tendency to experiment with lightsaber designs. Exar Kun and Darth Maul were the only known modern users of lightstaffs, earning that type of weapon the alternate sobriquet of sithsaber.
Similarly, Darth Tyrannus and his padawan Komari Vosa both used lightsabers with curved handles optimized for lightsaber dueling (-1CS to OV of melee attack Blocks, +1CS to OV of ranged attack Blocks, add 3 points to cost of lightsaber/lightfoil).
Jedi who are close to the Dark Side may also express this divergence from tradition in design or usage. Gantoris and Corran Horn both built dual-length lightsabers. Anakin Skywalker the First and Luke Skywalker have both demonstrated a proficiency in fighting with paired lightsabers.
Lightsabers are used as standard melee weapons, except as noted below. Therefore, they use the Weaponry (Melee) Skill.
Lightsabers were considered difficult to master. Consequently, the GM may wish to assess the standard +2CS to OV/RV unfamiliarity penalty. This lasts until a character has either received training from someone who is familiar with lightsabers or has had an opportunity to practice extensively with it without distraction (i.e. not in actual combat).
Though it takes skill in the Force to put a lightsaber to optimum use, it is not unknown for non-Force sensitives to employ them as well. Indeed, lightsabers have been in common use in “certain galactic corners” of the Old Republic (SW — A New Hope novelization; Rogue Squadron — The Bacta War).
These underwent a resurgence in the New Republic after the fall of the Emperor and the subsequent end of the Jedi purges.
A lighter version of the lightsaber known as the lightfoil is the dueling weapon of choice among the social elites in some cultures. One example is the nobles of the Tapani Sector.
Schtick: Blindside Feint (5 points)
Some dual-length lightsaber users have incorporated this Advantage into their fighting styles. They start with the lightsaber on its standard setting, switching to the longer blade in the midst of combat as a surprise tactic.
This maneuver takes an automatic action and allows the user to make his next attack with a -1CS Bonus to OV (ignore the second setting OV penalty for this attack ONLY, if it would normally apply). This maneuver can only be used against someone who is not aware of the dual-length blade, so at best it can only be used on an enemy once.
Schtick: Paired Lightsaber Use (10 points)
This Schtick allows for wielding two lightsabers in full coordination. This allows the user to add combine the AV or EV of both weapons using AP addition. For example, a character with Weaponry (Melee): 08 and two lightsabers could use them in conjunction with this Advantage to carry out a single attack at AV 09 or EV 13.
Lightsabers and hand-to-hand attacks
The lightsabers duels in Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace have several instances where one of the combatants attacks the other with a kick or backhand instead of a lightsaber strike. In game terms, these are Planned Knockback maneuvers. They do not inflict damage, but they do give a fighter some space in which to maneuver or help to separate numerous opponents.
Another way to incorporate these moves into the game is to use the following optional Maneuver.
Maneuver — Threat Avoidance
A character may declare an attempt to avoid attacks from a specific weapon in melee combat. This can be done in one of two ways. The first is that the defender may increase his OV by +1CS versus melee attacks from one selected weapon or appropriate power (such as Claws). However, their OV is decreased by -2CS against all other attacks that turn.
The second defense is an attempt to Block using their melee weapon. The Blocking attempt gains a +1CS to AV against one selected weapon or appropriate power. However, the character’s OV is decreased by -2CS against all other attacks that turn.
Throwing a Lightsaber
This maneuver involves throwing a lightsaber and using Telekinesis to either simply hold down the dead-man switch (a standard lightsaber feature) or even to guide the lightsaber in remote attacks. The former attack is a standard Weapons (Missile) attack while Telekinesis is active ; holding down the dead-man switch is an Automatic Action.
This is how Darth Vader attacks the catwalk upon which Luke is standing in Return of the Jedi.
The latter attack uses Telekinesis as the AV of the Attack Dice Action in addition to holding down the switch as an Automatic Action. This second option is not used often, as most Force-user’s Weaponry Skill with their lightsaber will be higher than their Telekinesis.
However, it does allow actions such as Luke’s Multi-Attack against the Noghri in Heir to the Empire, which would have been impossible if he’d simply thrown the lightsaber.
This is not a commonly used maneuver as it momentarily separates the fighter from his weapon. Either option also leaves the fighter with only a single Automatic Action left for that Phase. That last Action is usually used to retrieve the lightsaber via Telekinesis.
If the GM wants to further emphasize the special nature of lightsabers, they can require the character to purchase Expertise (Lightsaber Use) to negate the unfamiliarity penalty for standard lightsabers.
They can further require Scholar (Lightsaber Use) to negate the unfamiliarity penalty for certain variants such as the sithsaber and to allow the purchase of Schticks such as the dual-Length lightsaber Blindside Feint.
Another option is to give an R# to a lightsaber for unfamiliar users. A failure indicates that the user has accidentally struck himself with the lightsaber. The R# would be a 2 or 3 for a standard lightsaber and could be increased for more challenging weapons such a lightstaff.
The GM could even make the R# dependent on the user’s skill by subtracting their Weaponry (Melee) Subskill APs from 10 (12 for more difficult weapons) to get the R# in question. For example, a character with Weaponry: 07 would have an R#3.
Blocking with lightsabers
Lightsabers can be used to Block incoming attacks as per the standard Blocking rules on page 149 of BOH:SE (the lightsaber is in the 0 OV/RV Bonus category). The user can use their Weaponry (Melee) skill for the AV/EV, if desired.
Since the blade is being used for Blocking attempts, anything that is blocked will be attacked by the lightsaber’s Laser Beam. Most physical projectiles (darts, bullets, etc.) will be destroyed (the GM need not roll for this unless there are extenuating circumstances). Energy attacks will be deflected (as is the case with blaster bolts) or absorbed (as with force lightning).
Unlike normal Blocks, the lightsaber blade will only be “broken” by Blocked energy attacks that inflict 12+ RAPs. In this case the lightsaber shuts down and must be repaired normally.
Energy attacks can even be reflected back at the attacker, but only if the user is trained in the Deflection Force Ritual (see the Ritual description in the Star Wars Genre Rules for details).
Block maneuvers with lightsabers depend largely on the user being attuned to the Force and thus subconsciously anticipating the precise angle of attack. Thus, characters who are not Strong in the Force can Block with lightsabers, but they suffer a +3CS to the OV/RV of the Block attempt. This is cumulative with any unfamiliarity penalties.
Many of the Star Wars lightsaber duels are fast and furious frays with a great deal of blocking and parrying. To maintain this flavor, the GM may allow Force-users dueling with lightsabers use Last Ditch Defense at a lower price of 1 HP per RAP for the purposes of negating damage from lightsabers, representing lightsaber-versus-lightsaber parries.
LDDing Damage from other sources still costs the usual 3 HPs per RAP, which also encourages in-duel alternative attack forms such as telekinetically thrown objects and the various kicks used in the movie duels (though most if not all of those were actually Planned Knockbacks as discussed above).
A lightsaber almost always has a dead-man switch that deactivates the blade if the user loses his grip on the hilt. Some extremely skilled Force-users such as Darth Vader can hold the dead-man switch down telekinetically while flinging their lightsaber at distant targets.
The most common lightsaber blade colors for Jedi are blue and green, likely representing the Unifying Force and the Living Force, respectively (see the Star Wars Genre rules for more details). Sith almost always choose red for its threatening appearance, blatantly displaying a symbol of their rage to inspire fear.
For example, Mace Windu and Mara Jade both had lightsabers with purple blades, possibly reflecting their unusually aggressive styles (for Jedi, that is).
Blue-white, yellow, and orange have also been seen among both Jedi and Sith; no known symbolism is attached to these colors. Though they could simply reflect personal or cultural values of their builders.
Lightsaber resources on the Internet:
Helper(s): Jason Brezina, William Chamberlin, John Colagioia, Kitten X, Ethan Roe, Stormangel, Nick Yankovec.