The latest season of The Mandalorian is upon us, which got me thinking about depicting Mando as a Starforged character through character assets. In fact, the show provides great examples of using assets to reinforce the happenings in your story, making character growth organic to the narrative.
Let's take a look at how Mando's focus and resources have changed over the course of two+ seasons, and how that might be reflected through character assets. Plus, we'll introduce a new move for discarding assets, and an option for scaling your character's experience.
A note for those who might be coming to this article without familiarity of the Ironsworn or Starforged tabletop roleplaying games: assets are a key component of your character in these games. They represent your background, skills, traits, companions, and resources. They have abilities that give you additional options and bonuses. They are acquired when you create your character and as you gain experience. You'll see some examples below.
!!! Spoiler warning for The Mandalorian Season 1 and 2 (and a bit of The Book of Boba Fett). !!!
The Bounty HUnter
"I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold." - The Mandalorian
When we're first introduced to Din Djarin ("Mando") in season one, he's not a particularly complex character, and there's some obvious assets we can grab to depict his initial role and resources. He works as a ruthless BOUNTY HUNTER, he is always ARMORED (an aspect that is key to his approach and identity), and he has a STARSHIP.
We do have some options when it comes to Mando's skill in combat. He might take the GUNSLINGER asset. Or perhaps SHARPSHOOTER for his skill with his sniper rifle. But the simplest approach is to use the WEAPONMASTER asset to represent his array of weapons and combat talents. In fact, the second ability under WEAPONMASTER is a perfect way to depict the "Whistling Bird" missile launcher, which seems to function as a single-use weapon.
Perhaps most importantly, he adheres to a Mandalorian code of honor ("The Way"). We'll represent that by making him BANNERSWORN.
Here's how it breaks down. Mando is not a fresh out of the gate Starforged character — he has already taken a few upgrades — but there is plenty of room to grow.
“This is the way.” - The Mandalorian
Much changes for Mando through the course this first season. He forsakes his starting vow by refusing to deliver The Child to his client, and eventually finds new purpose as a caretaker for his (adorable) ward. He undertakes a few successful side-quests, and builds relationships with several old and new connections.
Mando also gains a shiny beskar chestplate for his ARMORED asset, forged by the Armorer. Plus, he marks another ability on his BANNERSWORN asset as he builds a shared respect with the warriors of the Mandalorian covert, and gains a jetpack which we'll represent through the always-flexible AUGMENTED asset.
Mando's BOUNTY HUNTER asset is now largely unused, but we'll hang onto it since he's planning to eventually return to that life (maybe?).
“Wherever I go, he goes.” - The Mandalorian
For a while, The Child helps motivate the story, serves as the focus of a sworn quest, and occasionally creates trouble for Din Djarin. But there's a sense that Mando is not quite ready to fully accept his role as The Child's guardian.
Things change at the end of season one and start of season two. "A foundling is in your care," the Armorer tells him. "By Creed, until it is of age or reunited with its own kind, you are as its father."
Mando has a new vow: protect The Child and and return it to its people — the Jedi.
Mando takes the SIDEKICK asset. This gives The Child additional mechanical and narrative focus in our adventures. We can abstract The Child's Force abilities (aptly described as the "magic hands thing" by Greef Karga) through the SIDEKICK's expertise. Mando also eventually learns The Child's name (Grogu), so we'll update the asset appropriately.
Unfortunately, Mando suffers some costs in pursuit of his vow. His ship, the Razor Crest, is destroyed — he must discard his STARSHIP asset. He loses his jetpack, and is no longer AUGMENTED. He even eventually parts ways with his SIDEKICK as Grogu leaves to train in the ways of the Force.
Notice the ebb and flow of assets here? The Starforged rules offer a way of resolving the loss of your STARSHIP (and associated modules and support vehicles), potentially giving you back some experience points to spend on replacements (at a potential cost). But other assets can simply be discarded as your character's approach and goals change, or as you Pay the Price in a costly moment.
And there is yet another price to pay for Mando on the horizon...
"Din Djarin, have you ever removed your helmet? By Creed, you must vow." - The Armorer
During Mando's appearance (cameo? Interlude?) in The Book of Boba Fett, he reconnects with the survivors of his tribe. He is forced to admit that others have seen him without his helmet, which goes against the Mandalorian creed, and is branded an apostate. "You are a Mandalorian no more," the Armorer says.
Is there a path to redemption, or to a new purpose? Perhaps. But for now he is a man without a people, and we discard his BANNERSWORN asset and are now OUTCAST.
The good news is that Mando reunites with Grogu, taking back the SIDEKICK asset. Did we originally discard the asset and then spend experience to buy it back? Or did we merely set it aside in the intervening period — knowing that our story would eventually bring us back together? Either approach works both mechanically and narratively.
Mando also gains a new ship through his connection with hangar manager Peli Motto. The ship is a refitted N1 Starfighter, which is best represented through the SNUB FIGHTER support vehicle asset. He still does not have a command vehicle, which means he won't be taking any module assets.
And, finally, Mando now wields the Darksaber. Does this make him a BLADEMASTER? As of his last appearance, probably not. He has yet to develop an affinity for the Darksaber, and is fairly clumsy with it. With some practice or training, we might claim that asset. For now, the Darksaber is a cool aspect of his kit, an important aspect of his story, and a potential focus for a future advancement.
Here's how things look for Mando after his Book of Boba Fett appearance. There is potential for even more changes. Is Din Djarin still a BOUNTY HUNTER, or will he soon leave that identity behind? Will he gain mastery over the Darksaber and become a BLADEMASTER? Will he find a new purpose and once again become BANNERSWORN? I've yet to catch up with season three, so it'll be interesting to see how the character evolves.
Setting the Dials of Character Advancement
"Bounty hunting is a complicated profession." – The Client
Evolving Your Character Through Loss
Interestingly, after two seasons and a series of vows forsaken and fulfilled, Mando is not far from where he started. Some character assets were gained. But others were lost, either because of dire circumstances or through the natural evolution of the character.
There are a handful of situations in Starforged that specifically instruct you to discard an asset. For example, when you make the Overcome Destruction move, you discard your STARSHIP asset along with any modules and docked support vehicles. If you are HAUNTED, you may discard that asset (and gain some ticks on your bonds legacy track) when you resolve whatever issue kept the spirit from finding peace. In Ironsworn: Delve, there is an optional move (Learn From Your Failures) that gives you experience points in exchange for a discarded asset. You can check out a previous blog post for details on how to port the Learn From Your Failures move into Starforged.
But you are free to discard an asset at any time, whenever an event in your story or a fundamental change in your character calls for it. By default, you don't gain experience for a discarded asset or swap assets one-for-one. This is by design. Starforged offers a faster pace of character advancement than Ironsworn, but also assumes that assets will be lost in the course of your adventures. Vehicles will be destroyed. Modules will be permanently broken. Companions will die or abandon you. Your character will leave behind their old ways.
Here's a positive side-effect of this approach: the ebb and flow of assets helps keep your character's abilities focused and manageable. Their resources and capabilities will be deep rather than wide.
If you prefer some mechanical encouragement, or find that that discarding assets overly slows the growth of your character, you can give the following move a try in Starforged. In essence, take 1 experience point for willingly discarding an asset. This should not be combined with any other prompt to discard an asset (such as those discussed above). It is for those times when a fundamental change, for better or worse, seems a natural outcome of your story.
MAKE A CHANGE (OPTIONAL MOVE) When you suffer a meaningful loss or change your ways, and discard an asset to signify this event, you may take 1 experience. This reward is not marked on your legacy tracks, but should be recorded elsewhere. You may spend this experience when you Advance.
Slowing the Pace of Character Advancement
The experience you gain, and how rapidly you acquire new assets, is largely an outcome of the types of stories you tell and how you manage milestones on your quests. If you are gaining rewards through discoveries, bonds, and quests simultaneously, you might find your legacy tracks filling up fairly rapidly.
If you prefer a more deliberate pace for character advancement, a simple approach is to lessen the reward as you Earn Experience — making it 1 experience for each filled legacy track box (instead of 2). This is the same reduced reward you'd normally receive after completely filling a particular track.
If that change is too dramatic, alternate between each box, making it 2 experience points for the first first legacy track box, 1 for the second, 2 for the third, 1 for the fourth, and so on. This approach will give you a regular cadence of experience points, with a fun boost every other filled box. You will shift to earning only 1 point once you've filled and cleared a track, as normal.
Adjusting the reward for filled legacy track boxes to your preferences is the surest path to gain control over the pace of your character's evolution, and it won't conflict with other mechanisms (such as assets that modify the cost of other assets).
"I have Spoken" - Kuiil
Assets offer rich potential for storytelling — particularly when you open yourself to the possibilities of giving them up. It might be counterintuitive to evolve your character through loss instead of advancement, but life is like that sometimes.
This is the way.