Archive for Opinion

The Path to Immortality, Part 2: The Art of Letting Go

ObiDeath

The notion of a Star Wars afterlife takes us deep into the spiritualism of the Force, but we must be cautious, because the Force is a hybrid philosophy. There are elements of various religions, and it is not solely any of them. George Lucas described himself as a “Buddhist Methodist”, and we see Taoism and Buddhism in the ideas of balance and non-attachment, while concepts like the corrupting nature of the dark side and Faustian pacts echo Christianity, not to mention Anakin’s miraculous birth. Carl Jung, whose theories underpinned Campbell’s heroic cycle, was a devout Christian who also saw the value of Eastern religions. There is even an element of Pantheism, a belief system that rejects organised religion in favor of finding god in nature. Relying exclusively on any of these to “unlock” Star Wars means ignoring the others, as well as Lucas’s personal beliefs and experiences. We have to rely instead on the canon itself.

In “Destiny”, the mysterious Force Priestesses explain to Yoda the duality of the Living Force (the world around us) and the Cosmic Force (the arena of destiny, and presumably the Whills): “When a living thing dies, all is removed. Life passes from the Living Force into the Cosmic Force, and becomes one with it.” There is a symbiotic relationship, as Yoda says in The Empire Strikes Back: “life creates it, makes it grow.” The material world is not a “lesser” place of sin, but an essential part of the whole. To be mindful of the Living Force, Qui-Gon teaches in The Phantom Menace, is to be aware of the world in the present moment, and to help ease the suffering of others.

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The Path to Immortality, Part 1: Finding Your True Self

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“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

There was little in the original trilogy to indicate that the ability of a Jedi to reappear as a shimmering blue ghost wasn’t commonplace, a natural and inevitable thing that happened after a Jedi’s death. Yet this line from Obi-Wan, combined with Darth Vader’s surprise when he vanishes and leaves only his cloak, always suggested that there was more to it. How could Vader, a former Jedi who fought in the Clone Wars and killed many Jedi himself, be surprised by this? While George Lucas’s mythology grew and developed and was refined as he went along, this always suggested a mystery bubbling underneath the story. That mystery might be the key that unlocks the entire Star Wars saga.

All the Jedi in the original trilogy reappear as ghosts, while the Emperor, the only darksider to die a darksider, is cast into a pit in a violent explosion of energy, as if he has fallen into oblivion. This, combined with Obi-Wan’s taunt, implies something profound about a Jedi’s connection to the Force that those on the dark side do not share. When the prequel trilogy came around, Qui-Gon Jinn died and did not vanish into the Force, raising further questions about how and when the Jedi learned the ability. Ironically, it was Qui-Gon himself who held the key.

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Saved! How The Clone Wars Redeemed Anakin Skywalker

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The Clone Wars is BACK. The most surprising Star Wars announcement of recent times has led to an outpouring of love for a series that remains an essential part of our understanding of George Lucas’s universe. Lucas told many more hours of stories in TCW than on the big screen, and one thing that extra time and space allowed him to do was fill in and refine his vision of Anakin Skywalker.

In Attack of the Clones, Lucas arguably showed his hand too soon. With the audience aware of Anakin’s fate, the shadow of Vader looms large, both in Anakin’s “joke” about dictatorships (run, Padmé!) and his heinous slaughter of the Tusken Raiders (RUN, PADMÉ!). The petulant teenage edge and creepy behaviour makes him hard to like, and there is a sense of something fundamentally “dark side” about him that everyone around him is crazy not to see. In Revenge of the Sith, we meet a different Anakin: for the first hour he is heroic, likeable and sympathetic, haunted by the fear of his wife’s death, a pawn in a political game between Palpatine and the Jedi Council. His fall seems to come from a place of good – albeit confused – intentions. Yet it happens extremely quickly. How could he go from “what have I done?” to slaughtering younglings in a matter of moments?

It is the “heroic” Anakin that TCW picks up and runs with. Dave Filoni revealed at Comic Con that his priority in casting Anakin was, above all, “likeability” – the charismatic Republic hero Filoni imagined as a child. TCW Anakin has a square jaw, a noble voice, and is in all respects the swashbuckling hero and hotshot pilot the original trilogy led us to believe he was. We are on Anakin’s side immediately, he’s a hero we can root for – a bit Luke, a bit Han, a bit Poe. From there, TCW adds flesh to the bones of his fall, rooting it not in a fundamental darkness – but in the very things that make him a hero.

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Who Are the Hostiles? – Star Wars and Colonialism

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In the Star Wars Rebels finale, there’s a masterful use of Kevin Kiner’s score, which flips its meaning on its head.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is once again pontificating on his art collection, explaining to Ezra Bridger that even though his homeworld of Lothal is about to be destroyed, at least some of the culture will be preserved. It will be safe in the hands of the Empire. Ezra is less than grateful, and counters Thrawn immediately:

You think you can take whatever you want. Things you didn’t make. Didn’t earn. Things you don’t even understand. You don’t deserve to have this art or Lothal.1

As Ezra erupts into this speech, Thrawn’s theme begins building in the background. This track is primarily used to highlight when Thrawn is closing in on victory, usually as a result of his deductive capabilities. Here, it’s building to Ezra’s victory, a moral voice slapping down Thrawn’s entitlement to cultures not his own.

It’s a re-appropriation of art on a meta level, as Ezra stares into the face of colonialism. » Read more..

  1. “Family Reunion and Farewell”. Star Wars Rebels. 2018. []

The Force Does Not Throw Dice: Running Your First Star Wars RPG Campaign

FFG-StarWarsHello and welcome once again to The Force Does Not Throw Dice, our feature devoted to running tabletop roleplaying games in the galaxy far, far away. This time we are going to be talking about that exciting point in the life of a Star Wars RPG Game Master where they decide to bite the bullet and start their own campaign. “What’s a campaign”, neophytes ask? Well, to use a television example, if an episode is an adventure, the campaign is the whole TV series. Unsurprisingly, most GMs would eventually prefer to create a series rather than one individual episode, so we all end up at that point in due time.

Let’s say that’s the point where you are. You’ve read the manuals, you’ve found a gaming group, you’ve played a character in the game, and you’ve probably run your first one-shot adventures. Now your head is exploding with possibilities: you want to make a sequel to your last adventure, you think that this one character could become a recurring antagonist, and you’ve even started thinking on how everything fits within the vast Sith-Ithorian conspiracy. Excellent! You got the itch to create a long-term storyline, and that’s all you need to start playing. But I’m going to be frank: if you thought that writing your first adventure (if you didn’t use a pre-published one!) was a daunting prospect, you will find out that building your campaign can end up being a real odyssey. It’s going to be a lot of work. If this doesn’t scare you, great: let’s take a peek at how we can try to make the process as painless as possible.

Hi, I am your host, David. I’m a Game Master with twenty-five years of experience, and I’ve successfully run more than twelve campaigns in several systems and settings, three of them at least five years in length. Let’s look at one way to do this!

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