Archive for David Schwarz

Mind or Matter? Unpacking Droid Sentience in the Films

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Mike: Recently we ran a fascinating guest piece by Eric Farr that unpacked the suggestion in Solo of a sexual relationship between Lando and L3-37—or at the very least, Elthree’s claim that such a thing is possible. The extent to which any given droid in the Galaxy Far, Far Away is truly conscious and self-aware has always been a little muddled, so the notion of droids consenting to sexual activity (as opposed to simply being programmed for it) is pretty complicated ground for Star Wars to be covering, and any conclusions are bound to be highly debatable.

And debate we did: as with many great pieces, a very interesting conversation unfolded in the comments over the following couple weeks between myself, Eric, and two other ETE regulars, Vincent Cagliuso and John Maurer. The discussion backed up a bit from Eric’s original topic and looked more broadly at whether droid rights are something that should be addressed at all, or if to do so would only unravel the basic premise of the universe—many of our heroes own droids, after all.

At one point Vincent posed a simple question that stuck out to me as a perfect encapsulation of the problem—particularly because it wasn’t about Elthree. There’s a lot going on with her that can be debated in and of itself regardless of how one feels about droid rights as a concept, so I thought I’d pose his question to the rest of the staff as a means of getting at the core issue and avoiding the need to rehash our feelings about Solo specifically.

So here’s the question, guys: Padmé Amidala owns a protocol droid. Said droid is absolutely drowning in personality; if any droid is self-aware, it’s this one. Upon Padmé’s death, Bail Organa takes possession of this droid, decides it knows too much, and promptly gives it a mindwipe. Is Bail Organa, hero of the Rebellion and beloved father of Princess Leia, a monster? » Read more..

Down The Rabbit Hole – Who Is Jaxxon, Anyway?

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Don’t mess with the angry rabbit.

There’s a long line outside a grimy cantina on the Outer Rim world Aduba-3, a wasteland of a planet where no one ends by choice. Word has spread around town like wildfire: two strangers, a Corellian and a Wookiee, are hiring spacers for a job. One of the spacers, desperate to get a chance to leave the hellish world, can’t take the long wait anymore.

Outta my way, rodent!“, he growls to the big-toothed alien in front of him, “I just found out that new guy is hirin’ spacers and I want some money so’s I can get off this rock!”

The big-toothed alien turns his head around and spits back with a snarl:

“I ain’t no rodent, cap’n, an’ I’m next in line.”

And that was how the world was first introduced to Jaxxon, the Lepus carnivorous, a tall green alien in a red jumpsuit that seemed to be taking pointers from the books of both Han Solo and Bugs Bunny, and who became one of the first non-movie characters to join Luke, Han and Leia in the Star Wars universe. He would go on to appear in just a handful of comic book issues in 1978, but the mark he left in the galaxy would be indelible.

If you’ve never read these stories and you’ve only heard of Jaxxon through chatter on the internet, it’s very likely that your opinion on the big green rabbit is not very positive. If there is a poster child for those who don’t appreciate the campiest side of Star Wars, it has to be Jaxxon: he’s, after all, a massive green-furred space rabbit with an attitude. You can’t get much more cartoony than that. It’s perhaps not surprising that Jaxxon hasn’t been seen in the current continuity aside from a couple of humorous non-canonical appearances. He’s the kind of character that seems destined to be a footnote in comic book history, little more than an inside joke that can only be enjoyed ironically.

But that changed all of a sudden when IDW’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall tweeted the following:

Without any special fanfare, Jaxxon’s canonization was announced in a simple quote-tweet. The tweet didn’t go unnoticed, with sites like Nerdist running to report of Jaxxon’s triumphant return. We still don’t know if his appearance in IDW’s anthology title is going to be little more than a cameo or if he’s going to be getting his own tale, but there’s one thing we know for sure: Jaxxon is back.

So how did a character that appeared in a total of four comic issues back in 1978 get such an infamous reputation? How did he become the original Jar Jar Binks, loved by children and hated by apparently everyone else? And what does his return mean to the Star Wars universe? Is there still space for a green rabbit in the galaxy far, far away?

And who is that green rabbit anyway? » Read more..

It’s Time For the Year of Sabine Wren

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Mike: This week saw the beginning of the second half of the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels—and in less than three weeks the series will have come to its conclusion. While the final fate of Ezra remains a gigantic, some would say overwhelming, question mark, we’ve known since Rogue One came out a year ago that Hera and Chopper survive, at least into the original trilogy era. And how could they not? Hera is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars canon, and the small pile of random appearances she’s accumulated since then demonstrates that creators are clamoring to use her in stories of their own—and once Rebels has finished telling its story they’ll be freer than ever (barring an immediate follow-up series) to really dive into her role in the formal Rebel Alliance and beyond.

But there’s another character every bit as deserving of that increased spotlight, whose fate is also in question. Sorry, Zeb—I’m talking about Sabine Goddamn Wren. While it appears that Sabine’s major character arc as far as Rebels is concerned concluded with her reunification with her family earlier this season, it remains possible, however unlikely, that she won’t make it out of this show alive. And even if she does, will she return to Mandalore and stick to being a local player? Or become an Alliance leader in her own right?

As long as those questions remain open, I get why Lucasfilm would be reluctant to use Sabine elsewhere, whatever the time period—it stinks, like it stinks that we probably won’t get any post-The Last Jedi content for a while yet, but I get it. Dave Filoni is Sabine’s creator, and to the extent that Rebels is telling one complete story it’s fair to let him have the “last word” on who Sabine is, where she’s from, what she wants. » Read more..

The Force Does Not Roll Dice: Emotional Roleplaying

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Hello and welcome again to The Force Does Not Roll Dice, the ETE feature devoted to tabletop roleplaying games in the galaxy far, far away. This time we are going to be tackling the topic that won a poll I conducted on Twitter months ago: emotions in roleplaying games. We are going to be chatting about how to go beyond the usual hack-n-slashing fare and construct an emotionally satisfying experience.

So first I’m going to define what I mean with emotional roleplaying. I’m not just talking about good roleplaying, about the ability that good GMs and players have to have their character fake emotions (although this is a prerequisite, as we’ll see below) but about the ability to evoke an emotional reaction from the players themselves, just like a novelist tries to evoke emotions from their readers. Emotion is very important to storytelling and RPGs are, after all, shared storytelling.

This is honestly not an easy topic to tackle and I’ve been reluctant to write a piece about it, because in my opinion there are few things as personal as emotion. For all the speeches that exalt emotion as a universal experience—that can even be a bit ableist, to be honest—the truth is that whatever my personal definition of “love” or “sadness” is, it probably has little to do with yours. We are getting into the realm of the abstract so we gotta tread very carefully: the best we can do is try to make our games more evocative, more resonant, more emotionally rich, but we have to remember that a game table is not a novel: trying to force the players’ emotional response is either going to make us fall into the insidious trap of railroading or create the most melodramatic, clichéd grub. And we are better than that! Hopefully!

» Read more..

The Downtrodden and The Oppressed: Social Class and Canto Bight

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi

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Deep in the Corporate Sector lies the world of Cantonica. A desert wasteland of a planet where the rich and the powerful have managed to create a paradise for those able to afford it, a city called Canto Bight. A cocktail that’s equal parts Monte Carlo, Casablanca, and Dubai. A place where the bright lights hide a layer of pain and sorrow, a pit from where the new hope for the galaxy might end up emerging.

Class struggle is a concept that’s always been pretty much foreign to Star Wars. We’ve seen it used as flavor in a few galactic settings, like Anakin’s (pretty comfortable) slavery at the hands of Watto or the Naboo’s elitist disdain for the Gungan ethnic minority, equals part speciesism and classism. The supplementary material, both in Legends and in canon, has taken a closer look and how the rich and poor live in the galaxy and how they interact with each other, but it’s never been something to take much prominence. The conflict between the Republic and the Trade Federation, although later on explored as having its roots on a long conflict between a rich Core and a poor Rim, is never portrayed in the movie as anything other than a clash between two monolithic powers, a corporation and the government, over taxation.

But we’ve rarely seen the oppressed of the galaxy.

» Read more..

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