Chris: As we said, this episode is going to focus on creating a character who is a member of the Agri-Corps itself. By far the largest of the four branches of the Service Corps, the Agri-Corps worked in conjunction with the Republic Agricultural Administration to provide healthy crops to underprivileged star systems suffering from natural disasters or blight, and they worked miracles with plants and crops, practising very unique Force methods, using the Living Force to grow and strengthen plant life. That's it in a nutshell. That was their schtick.
So, tell me a little bit about the trappings of the Agri-Corps. If I'm building a character background and thinking about this, what can we know about the Agri-Corps and their members and their trappings to help inform that?
Phil: Well, they operated mainly in the Core Worlds. The Agri-Corps had numerous research labs within the Coruscant Jedi Temple and filled the Jedi archives with volumes of research every single year. They also had facilities on Salliche, Ukio, Taanab, Marfa, Bandomeer, and Dilonexa. The Agri-Corps even had a small sub-branch of Jedi Geologists--I almost called them G.I. Joes--
Chris: Would that be a Jed-ologist?
Phil: Yes! They discovered secrets and planting techniques in alien soil.
Chris: Very interesting. So, okay, that's all well and good. Tell me a little bit about the philosophy of the Agri-Corps. I mean, compared to the other corps, what did their members really believe in? What drove them?
Phil: Well, their beliefs and philosophy were rooted in the belief that the Living Force governs all life and all things. Agri-Corps members clung to this philosophy of Light Side-centered growth and renewal.
Chris: Very "Jedi."
Phil: Exactly. You look at the four corps that we have here, and it's almost like this one is a living embodiment of the Force. "We take this here; take this here; put it together, and something grows from it."
Chris: This [belief?] that the Force exists in all things in response to your will--it's really a preoccupation with the study of life itself. What it meant was, if you're looking at species, especially for a character, you're going to be finding a lot of Ithorians, a lot of Ho'Din, filling the Agri-Corps ranks, as those species have natural inclinations towards the natural world. One of the things that I find fascinating: the Agri-Corps members, you know, they didn't fight Sith Lords or Separatist clankers, [but] they fought enemies that were just as harrowing. They fought drought, blight, disease, and imbalance, the foes of life on a world. I think there's a noble calling to that.
Phil: And enterprising gamemasters can have a Sith Lord use one of those things (drought, blight, disease, and imbalance), and that's a great way to get a PC involved.
Chris: Amen. Excellent.
Phil: Becoming one with the Force through its most primal outlet was quite a spiritual and empowering experience for these Agri-Corps members. They usually embraced their roles, becoming true "lifers," meaning that they served the Agri-Corps until they died, and they never left the Agri-Corps.
Chris: And that's an important distinction because, as we'll get to, with the other three corps, with really the exception of the Education Corps, that's not common. You would have Jedi knights and masters who would come in and be a part of the other three corps here and there, a little bit. The Outbound Flight Project was a great example of that, where it's, you know, "Hey, we're going to get involved for a little bit and then move on." The other three branches, you know, an initiate could go into them for a few years and as a result, travel the galaxy, see the world, and it was a great way for them to [realize] "Okay, wow, I can live outside the order. I've made friends. I know people. It's okay. And if I decide to leave, I can." But we don't really find that so much with the Agri-Corps. Most members are lifers. They really believe in it.
Phil: "I am here until we're done, and with the nigh-unlimited number of worlds out there, I will never be done," pretty much.
Lastly, peace and patience characterize Agri-Corps members. There's one Agri-Corps master, Galstod Slagistrough--
Chris: I got this quote directly out of The Path of the Jedi.
Phil: He was quoted as saying, "If meditation was your favorite subject in the temple, then you may find the Agri-Corps a fitting service for your passion."
Chris: This is very true. So we're talking about somebody who's contemplative, someone who's patient, not rash... [Garbled bit] ... a hot-headed [padawan?] into the Agri-Corps.
Phil: Yes. "Oh, just spend a few years watching some grass grow, and we'll see you again when you're fifteen."
Chris: Yeah, pretty much. "This'll mellow you out. Trust us."
So, as far as the tools of the trade, like we said, though many true Jedi knights and masters did serve in the Agri-Corps, very few will ever be seen carrying a lightsaber. This tool is an important symbol for the Jedi order, but it really bears little use on a farming field. Agri-Corps members usually wore very rugged and functional clothing or robes, designed for constant outdoor wear and hard work.
Phil: Yeah, you're more likely to see someone with a vibro-shovel than a lightsaber.
Chris: They have vibro-shovels?
Chris: Why wouldn't they have vibro-shovels?
Chris: I want a vibro-shovel.
Phil: I know there was some point where, I think it was Luke and Mara, were crashed on some world, and they broke out their survival packs, and in there, there were, like, vibro-entrenching tools.
Chris: Nice. I wonder if it's like a real entrenching tool, where you could use it in combat in a pinch.
Phil: I hope so.
So, okay, we've got this great background on the Agri-Corps. Lots of PC fodder in there. How do you make them?
Chris: Really good question. I think the first thing we need to talk about is how to roleplay them, because everything we've talked about so far really sets the stage for this, and knowing and following the philosophy of the Agri-Corps is really going to inform the majority of your mechanical decisions in character creation... Let's go over a few key points of roleplaying fodder that are really going to inform how you're going to play your character.
You're probably pretty quiet, patient. You're at home with growing things.
Phil: This is true. Naturally, you would also have a love of plants and life itself. You're an outdoorsman type. You like the sunshine. You like the fresh air, clean water.
Chris: Fair, fair. Going hand in hand with that, I imagine this is a character that's probably not very prissy. I don't imagine they're afraid of getting their hands dirty or making a mess.
Phil: No, not at all.
Chris: The type of person that lives to have dirt under their fingernails.
Phil: Exactly. A workin' man. As a counteract to the more visual[?] Jedi, they're probably more contemplative and pacifistic, focusing on growth of life and its renewed continuation.
Chris: I can see a lot of dyed-in-the-wool pacifists being members of the Agri-Corps.
Phil: Absolutely. Powerful Jedi, but pacifists.
Chris: Yeah. "I can't bring myself to harm someone, and my calling as a Jedi knight says that I may have to strike someone down, and I cannot do that." And that in itself, that statement, is actually a violation of the Jedi Code because you shouldn't feel that kind of fear. "There is no death; there is the Force." So if you have a serious hang-up on that, the Agri-Corps could be your calling.
Phil: Jedi are always saying, "Taking someone's life is a monumental event. It is something to be contemplated, but it is not something to be feared."
Chris: Exactly. And lastly, I think it's not a stretch to say that this type of character may have a serious altruistic streak. I mean, if you're intensely devoted to feeding the poor and the desolate, which is what the Agri-Corps is there to do? I mean, this is the kind of guy that on his off days, assuming he has any, is going to be down at the soup kitchen....
Let's talk about bringing your character into the game from a story perspective. All Service Corps members, are excellent candidates for PCs, and as well see, they really tie up many of the problems with playing a Jedi.
Phil: Like that most important one: "If you're a padawan, where's your master?"
Chris: Ba-zing! It's now entirely feasible. It's entirely feasible! "I'm a first-level character. I'm a member of the Jedi Order, but I don't have a master." Well, you're a member of the Agri-Corps. It makes sense.
I also like the fact that, for most eras of the Star Wars saga--for most of them up until you get to Legacy, where it doesn't really make sense any more--your presence is easily explained. There were a lot of Service Corps members out there. They don't get into specifics, but it's implied that there were more Service Corps members than actual Jedi knights, and I don't have a hard time with that at all. When you consider how hard it is and how strict it is to become a Jedi knight, and what an honor it is, they must have a lot of washouts. They're all over the place. And even after the Jedi purge, you're much more likely to be hiding quietly in the galaxy at large than a loud, glowstick-waving Jedi knight is going to be.
Phil: And you're probably also likely to find people who are more willing to hide you.
Chris: Perhaps people that you fed when they were starving.
Phil: Exactly. I mean, you've got all these Jedi knights who are out leading the clone armies, showing that they're combative and out there and being heroic, and Palpatine spreads this whole slander campaign against them. But then you've got this guy over here in the Jedi Service Corps who uses his abilities to feed your community.
Chris: Yeah. Propaganda is a powerful tool, but hey, "There's this guy that kept us from dying last winter."
Phil: "Maybe we should hide him and keep him around."
Chris: "Oh yeah, and he didn't ask for anything in return." It makes a lot of sense.
Furthermore, despite [the fact that] Palps obviously went after the corps--he took them to Byss as soon as he could--his primary concern was making sure that every Jedi knight was dead. In the early year immediately following the purge, as a GM, as a storyteller, it makes a lot more sense to me to explain that an Agri-Corps member (especially an Agri-Corps, because there were so many of them) could easily slip through the emperor's fingers. Finding these guys hiding out is a lot more likely than finding a Jedi knight hiding out.
Phil: So these can make good characters for a Dark Times campaign.
Chris: Exactly. So let's get to building the character itself. As we said, the nice thing--the frustrating thing and the nice thing--about making an Agri-Corps member is that you have many diverse options. You really aren't tied down to a specific character build, aside from some really obvious choices, which we are going to cover. It's kind of open season for your build. So, talk to me about character classes, man. What are we looking at here?
Phil: Well, just about everything works as a primary class. I mean, obviously you can go Jedi, and that certainly makes sense as a place to start, but Noble also fills in as well if you really want to represent a character that failed his Jedi training.
Scoundrels can work, but there's a lot of Scoundrel abilities that aren't indicative of the Agri-Corps lifestyle.
Chris: I'm struggling to think of a single talent that makes sense.
Phil: Same here. Other than the Fortune and Misfortune tree stuff.
Chris: Okay, I didn't even think about that. You make an excellent argument. Something as simple as Knack--and you can take Knack multiple times. I could see a straight Scoundrel Agri-Corps member who has Knack, Knack, Knack, Knack, Knack. And not only can he re-roll his Use the Force checks using Knack, [but] he can re-roll his Knowledge: Life Sciences. All of that. Okay, I'm sold. Done.
Phil: Perhaps one of the best choices for this, maybe hand in hand with Jedi, is the Scout. Excellent choice. Many of its abilities lend themselves to a naturalist character, and they tend to be a bit tougher than many because they're the ones who have access to the Survival skill--a totally sensible choice--and Endurance for those long hours in the field.
Chris: That all makes sense for Agri-Corps.
Phil: Which leaves the one that's possibly the poorest choice, and that's Soldier, as it doesn't have access to a primary skill for this character concept, which is Knowledge: Life Sciences.
Chris: Not to mention that the feel is totally wrong. If you've got levels in Soldier, how did you ever end up in the Agri-Corps? Seriously, go be a merc [mercenary].
In terms of skills, as Phil said, Knowledge: Life Sciences is a must for this build. It is the skill that represents the innate knowledge of everything you do. Use the Force [is] also very important, but it is entirely possible to build a character of this type that doesn't have any training in Use the Force. That would really go a long way to represent their lack of Force-connection.
Phil: There are still a fair number of things you can do with Use the Force untrained.
Chris: This is very true. Other excellent choices, both useful and fitting for the character concept: Survival, as we said; Endurance, of course; Perception; and don't neglect Mechanics. You've got to fix that pesky farm equipment, ja?
Chris: [Hick voice] "There ye go, Mister Lars. I fixed yer moisture vaporator." Useful skills. Useful, useful, useful.
I didn't really include too many feats in this discussion. There's really nothing that stands out, aside from Skill Focus, which is the obvious choice for Knowledge: Life Sciences. And if you are going the route of "I'm a strong Force user, but I'm just dedicated to one path," Skill Focus: Use the Force, obviously. That's really it, beginning and end. For the other corps, there are feats that scream to be taken, and we will get to them. But for the Agri-Corps, not so much.
Chris: So what about talents, man?
Phil: Talents are different because talents define what your character does. There are very few classes of talents, though, that lend themselves to this character. That's part of the charm of it, really. Now, aside from a few Force talents that can be quite fitting and useful, the Scout has the most sensible talents that can really be useful for an Agri-Corps member: Extreme Effort, for example. It's very fitting.
Chris: And no one ever takes it!
Phil: No. But this is a character build that it makes sense for. Long Stride's good.
Phil: And of course, Acute Senses.
Chris: I like, I like. From a Scoundrel perspective, as we said, the Fortune talent tree, there's a lot there that could really benefit you as well, Knack being the primary.
You mentioned Force talents, so talk to me about that.
Phil: Well, there are a few of them. Simply as a reflection of the internal philosophy of the Agri-Corps, the Light Side talent tree has some excellent choices. Pretty much that whole tree there fits in really well. There's also the Beast talent from the Control talent tree. It's also a useful option that can help when you're on a remote or dangerous natural world and there are some large predators around.
Chris: Let's get to the real thing that you can plan that can give you that Agri-Corps from a character perspective, which are your Force abilities. As an excellent roleplaying choice, your character might only know one Force power. Maybe they have an 8 wisdom [score]. It has to have happened. Maybe that's what kept them from being a padawan apprentice in the first place. "I studied. I have Force sensitivity; I was gifted with it. I just have an 8 wisdom."
Phil: "I'm one of those brilliant people who has street smarts in the gutter and mental brilliance in the sky." One of them book-learnin' people.
Chris: As we said earlier, they may know no Force powers. But if they know one or more, I think the obvious choice here is actually a called-out tradition in part of the Agri-Corps. Phil, of course that would be--?
Phil: Plant Surge. It's an unusual Force power. It's found in the KOTOR Campaign Guide, and it's written for an excellent combative ability, but it's actually a longstanding part of the Agri-Corps, a technique for directly using the Force to quickly grow plants that they refer to as consitor sato.
Chris: ... I totally missed an excellent feat ... Feat of Strength. Page 35, Legacy Era Campaign Guide. It's not easy to get; you've got to have a strength of 15 to get it. You've got to be a pretty strong dude to get it, but once an encounter, you can take 20 [in other words, just say you get a perfect score without rolling dice] on a single strength check or strength-based skill check.
To be continued!