No, I don't buy it

smascrns

New member
Banned
#1
You place a good question but I don't buy your answer for a very good reason: The Start Wars implicitly answers the question in a better way. What's that answer?

Suspention of desbelief. Star Wars is about action. It starts the moment the moral dilema has been solved. The Star Wars hero is right, and he knows he is right. He has the Force with him. Why does this make him right? It doesn't matter. Star Wars is not about answering such questions. The person reading the books, seing the movies or playing the games set in the Star Wars universe know that it is not about defining the Force or the moral, political and social implications of its existance. It's about doing the right thing with the certainty of who is the right side and who is in the bad side. Either the person is able to accept this and suspend his desbelief in such a black and white universe, or that person should avoid Star Wars all together. There are other fictional and game worlds that will serve his tastes better.

Besides, trying to address those moral, ethical, political, social questions is a mistake. It does not solve the problem and it creates other reasons for desbelief. For instance, let's look at your answers. They suit you but do they suit other people? I know for sure that they don't suit me. For instance I don't like an answer that turns the Force into "energy field". An "energy field" with "desires". (What is it, a sentient entity? An individual? A god?) I don't like to look at the opposition between the Force and the Dark Side in terms of selfishness. Why these sentiments and not others?
Neither do I like your explanation for the mutual support between Jedi and Republic. You present the Jedi as super humans (they have something the other humans don't have, the ability to perceive and use the Force), a different, superior caste or species. Now, why would they not take the power? Why would they work within the republic in the terms you suggest? Actually this makes no sense. What would be rational would be for the Jedi to be in charge of the society, on top of it, above the rest. Once more, I'm better off without your rationalization since it doesn't allow me to suspend my desbelief in the Star Wars universe.

The truth is that for someone like me it is harder to suspend my desbelief with your way of rationalizing the Force than it is to suspend it without any rationalization. I can perfectly see the inconsistencies in the Star Wars universe but I can also see that that's not the issue. My entertainment with that universe does not come from its coherence and the answer to metaphysical questions, it comes from the action and the adventure. From this perspective I'm much better off without your questions. I know I'll never be able to answer those questions in a satisfatory way because it's impossible. The Star Wars universe is intrinsically incoherent and there's no way to make it coherent at that level.
 

Old Geezer

New member
Banned
#2
I agree with the above poster.

Star Wars is pulp, and that particular kind of pulp that involves "Good Guys Vs Bad Guys".


Look at the very first movie intro.

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

"It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from their hidden base, have scored their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire".

There.

That's all you need to know.

The Rebellion is good, and the Empire is bad, and the Jedi are good, and the Sith are bad, because it is one of the baseline assumptions of the universe. "Moral Ambiguity" and "Star Wars" do not belong together, except with a "NOT" somewhere in there.

This entire column gets a big fat old "Missed the Point Entirely" point from me.
 

Tom_K

Registered User
Validated User
#3
For my own solution, thee are plenty of problems and holes that I would think through before running it. The main thin I was aiming for was that you need some sort of ethical philosophy to be able to work on answering questions like the ones raised. Why shouldn’t Jedi be the master race, after all? (Which is a scary and cool villain idea, by the way.) But I think that if you are running Star Wars as a GM, you can’t just accept the your players are the Good Guys, because you are going to be awarding dark side points. You are the ultimate universal arbiter of objective evil, and I don’t think you can do that in a fair way unless you come up with some sort of metaphysical ethics.

So, your party’s scoundrel is sitting in a bar and a Rodian bounty hunter starts talking about claiming the bounty on him. He thinks the Rodian is about to fire, and so he fires first. Was that a dark side point? If you said yes, you can bet your player is going to complain. Or, a major NPC who runs a city agrees to turn over the party to the Empire to keep that city safe. Is that a dark side point? Also, a major theme of Star Wars is the battle between good and evil within the heroes themselves. Especially with players, you can’t assume that being the protagonist makes them the good guys.

Finally, the lines between good and evil are clear-cut in the rebellion era, but less so the many other eras you can play in. Why not be Separatists? What do you do if your charismatic Separatist NPC actually converts the party? Should the New Republic sign a treaty with the remnants of the Empire to stop the war? People will suffer in the Imperial states but lives will be saved with peace, so what’s the right thing to do? And because Star Wars is an objectively moral universe that the GM plays referee for (with the power to reward or punish), they need some sense of what defines dark side actions as wrong- especially when the players throw you an ethical curveball. Which, in my experience, they always do.

That’s just my opinion, anyway.
 

fmitchell

Frank Mitchell
#4
Yes, I do buy it

Let me be the first (only?) to say that I enjoyed Clerical Errors #13. I for one am tired of worlds of absolute Good and Evil. Kill the Sith; they're evil, and we're good. Kill the Orcs; they're evil, and we're good. Raid the ships of the Spanish Main; we're pirates but we're still The Good Guys. Kill the heathens ... you get the idea.

George Lucas is a clumsy writer and an even clumsier philosopher, so someone playing in the Star Wars universe that hates absolutes has a lot of work to do. I always thought of the basic philosophy as a sort of bastardized samurai Zen Buddhism, with non-denominational Western morality wedged in. So, "search your feelings" really means achieving a state of No-Mind where the answer is immediately obvious, whereas anger is "bad" because it, like other passions, prevents the state of No-Mind and generally makes you do stupid and immoral things.

As for "only a Sith deals in absolutes", the strangely absolutist and demonstrably false statement from Obi-Wan: the preceding line was Anakin's "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." In context, it plays into the Everyone vs. Self theme developed in the article. True Jedi know that ultimately they are only one part of the Force, and as such they cannot comprehend its entirety. Jedi encourage democracy, cooperation, and understanding because every perspective is valuable, and every Jedi has more to learn. To a Sith, his way is the only way; only his beliefs matter, only his perspective is important, only his will should be done.

In this interpretation, then, Jedi usually (but not always) do good, and Sith sooner or later fall into evil. A True Jedi might do a minor evil, such as kill in self-defense or during wartime, but only if he sees no other way to serve the greater good. A Jedi will continuously assess the effect of his actions, and will strive to undo, or at least to atone for, a wrong he may commit. Conversely, even a Sith who thinks he's a champion of Justice will do evil; his ego and his passions blind him to the harm the pursuit of his ideal will inflict. Where a Jedi would make amends, a Sith would make excuses, until he reaches the point where he no longer cares at all.

Anyway, that's my attempt to reconcile the morality of the movies with something approximating the real world.
 

Old Geezer

New member
Banned
#5
"I'm going to ignore all the assumptions of the setting and then bitch mightily about how it doesn't work. Waah waah waah waah waah."

If you don't like good and evil as absolutes, don't play Star Wars. There's plenty of other SF out there.

Oh, sorry, I forgot, it's more fun to shit your pants and whine than to actually find a game you like.
 

fmitchell

Frank Mitchell
#6
"I'm going to ignore all the assumptions of the setting and then bitch mightily about how it doesn't work. Waah waah waah waah waah."
Yeah, whatever. Even Star Wars fans hate Star Wars.

Star Wars was amazing when I was 11 years old, but even at 18 I cringed at the writing, and the muddled thinking behind the writing. Its staying power is in part based on nostalgia, but mainly because it tapped into powerful themes and metaphors (which Lucas then fumbled, especially in the recent trilogy). The notion of the Jedi Knights is alluring, and their shadows the Sith hold a horrifying fascination. The Force, light sabers, and the struggle between an oppressive and illegitimate Empire and rebels trying to reinstate an earlier Republic have a certain resonance.

But then we come to those precious "assumptions", which to a grownup mind sound not only puerile but inconsistent. It's more than just a philosophical quibble: as the author stated, how do you award Dark Side points, given that "going to the Dark Side" is one of said assumptions? In a role-playing game, when we take on the role of a Jedi, how are we supposed to act toward people who aren't trying to kill us but aren't helping us either? If a GM dares to plan encounters not involving stormtroopers, Sith Lords, gangsters, or bloody great monsters -- what nerve! -- how should the NPCs behave?

So excuse us for trying to mold the source material into something we'd actually want to play. Excuse us for not treading the exact same ground as George Lucas and worshiping every inch of it. Excuse us for not playing the game exactly the way "purists" want us to.

Star Wars is a series that almost dares you to think up something better.
 

cfc

Retired User
#7
So excuse us for trying to mold the source material into something we'd actually want to play. Excuse us for not treading the exact same ground as George Lucas and worshiping every inch of it. Excuse us for not playing the game exactly the way "purists" want us to.
You mean, thinking for yourself? That's clearly inexcusable...
 

Zeea

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#8
I liked this article.

And I do think that the Force needs to be explored in a bit more detail, because it seems like every new edition of the RPG (which happens to strongly affect the novels) redefines it and pisses off players who want Force powers. In the d20 Revised Core Rules, for example, if I recall correctly, Negate Energy is a Dark Side power because it gets rid of energy and that's negative, even though that has absolutely nothing to do with anything the movies say about the Dark Side, and it's used a lot by Lightsiders. Not only that, but Force Grip/Force Choke was usually listed as a Dark Side power even though it was the very first technique we see Luke using once he becomes a Jedi Knight in Return of the Jedi. (I'm always amazed that nobody points this out in arguments about Force Grip. If you can't recall, it's when he's entering Jabba's palace and chokes a guard to make him get out of the way.)

In addition, I don't think Star Wars is supposed to be as "black and white" as is often assumed. "Only the Sith deal in absolutes" is a strong statement to the contrary, as is Mace Windu's attempted assassination of Senator Palpatine and Anakin's argument that Mace was breaking Jedi and Republic law. The expanded universe has lots of shades of gray, and is the basis for the RPGs as much (if not more) as the movies themselves.

Besides, some of us like Star Wars for the Wild West gunslingers, World War II dogfights, robot cow and chicken tanks, speeder bike races through forests, weird aliens, swashbuckling swordfights, and copious amounts of explosions. Why is it "badwrongfun" for us to want a more complex morality system, or at least a simplistic one that doesn't get in the way? I always found the morality lectures in Star Wars to be the most boring part, and would have much preferred either a more complex and interesting system (so that the lectures wouldn't have been so annoying) or one that actually supported the style of the movies (since the movies are about blowing stuff up and killing bad guys the Jedi Code says you can't blow stuff up and kill bad guys, except when Luke uses the Force to do that on the first Death Star.)
 

smascrns

New member
Banned
#9
For my own solution, thee are plenty of problems and holes that I would think through before running it. The main thin I was aiming for was that you need some sort of ethical philosophy to be able to work on answering questions like the ones raised. Why shouldn’t Jedi be the master race, after all?
Well, in supers comics and games you face exactly the same question: Why isn't Superman the master of Earth? Why doesn't him use his powers to solve all problems in fractions of second? Or the X-men? Or Spiderman? The answer is simple: They don't do it because they don't. There's no way to rationalize an explanation because there's no possible rational answer to that question. Superhumans (and the Jedi are just superhumans in space) don't take power in pulp or comics for a very simple meta-setting question: That's a less interesting scenario to make. It is devoid of drama, action, and conflict. That's all.
But I think that if you are running Star Wars as a GM, you can’t just accept the your players are the Good Guys, because you are going to be awarding dark side points.
But that's not a problem with the Star Wars universe. That's a problem with the Star Wars game. It's a similar issue to the endlessly discussed alignment system in D&D, and there's just no way to make it work - unless one accepts the core premise that whoever is in the good side is good, no matter what the character does. If you don't accept this premise you will never be able to solve the contradictions between pre-defined moral stats and character behavior. It's better to just ditch the whole dark side points.
Jedi encourage democracy, cooperation, and understanding because every perspective is valuable, and every Jedi has more to learn. To a Sith, his way is the only way; only his beliefs matter, only his perspective is important, only his will should be done.
Well, as you said you see "the basic philosophy as a sort of bastardized samurai Zen Buddhism, with non-denominational Western morality wedged in". That's not the only aspect of the Star Wars universe that's heavily inspired by real world elements. Actually for my European eyes the Star Wars universe is just the US of America in Space (Opera). The first movie places this very clearly by having the good Americans fighting the bad Nazis (with shades of Soviets), aesthetics included. That's the reason why the Jedi fight for a Republic and for democracy, because they are Americans in Space (TM), thus it's usless to try to find a more philosophicaly profound reason, that's how one can "attempt to reconcile the morality of the movies with something approximating the real world".
But then we come to those precious "assumptions", which to a grownup mind sound not only puerile but inconsistent.
Do they? All you need to remember is that Star Wars is USA in Space and it starts to sound a little less puerile or inconsistent, for a very simple reason: The way the US sees its place in the world and the way it deals with anything outside its borders is as puerile as the fight of good vs. evil in Star Wars.
In a role-playing game, when we take on the role of a Jedi, how are we supposed to act toward people who aren't trying to kill us but aren't helping us either?
Try "those who aren't with us are against us", George Bush style not that long ago.

And that's probably the only way to deal with the moral, ethical, political and social issues raised by the Star Wars universe. Just consider that it is the USA in Space and handle these issues in true American way. Start with, "whe are right and whoever does not agree with us is wrong". Next include all types of righteous groups, each one fighting is own pet war based on absolutist moral standards; and voilà, there's your consistent moral system for Star Wars.

(Note: What I wrote is not an attack on the USA and should not be read as such.)
 

torbenm

Registered User
Validated User
#10
I liked the beginning of the article for exposing the (rather obvious) contradictions in the SW universe, but I, like others, was somewhat disappointed with the supposed fix.

One part of that is the assumption that non-sentient animals are naturally part of the light side of the Force, but humans can reject it by doing selfish actions which, ultimately, turns them to the dark side.

Non-sentient animals (and most sentient ones) are inherently selfish, so why should acting selfishly suddenly make you turn a way from a principle that is inherent in animals? That doesn't make sense.

Let us start out with the statement that the Force binds all life together. The question is now whether the Force powers life, life powers the Force, of if both are interdependent, in the sense that living beings both take and give power to the Force, and by increasing either life or Force, you increase the other.

If we assume the latter, a "good" Jedi would not take more from the Force than he gives or indirectly causes to be given, while a "bad" Jedi would take more than he gives. In other words, the "light" side is about achieving your purpose (which is, ultimately, empowerment of life and the Force) with minimal power drawn from the Force, while the "dark" side is about taking power from the Force without consideration of balancing this with giving to the Force.

So, "dark" acts are removing life (and, consequently, Force), taking excessive amounts of power from the Force, not giving to the Force (by not enabling life), and so on, while "light" acts are about enabling and protecting life and using whatever you take from the Force to enable or protect life, so the Force will ultimately gain from what you take from it.

You could say that the Jedis invest what they take from the Force towards future returns, while Sith just take from the force. In other words, Jedis (like natural life) are symbiotic with the Force, while Sith are parasitic on the Force.

Now, death is a natural part of life -- predators kill, and no living thing lives forever. But in natural life, each death enables other life -- either that of the predator (or its young), scavengers, micro-organisms or other. So it is taking life in a manner that doesn't enable other life that would be counter to the Force. The scene where Luke burns the body of his father is rather at odds to this, as the burning of both wood and body doesn't let these enter back into the natural life cycle. This is one of many contradictions in the SW "philosophy" presented in the films.

As for the difficulty in turning from the dark side, I see this as an addiction: Once you have started taking power without regard to consequences, you get addicted to it like to a drug, and the more you do it, the harder it is to turn back.
 
Top Bottom