Awesomifying Star Wars

edited February 2009 in Story Games

I'm paying attention to these discussions about Star Wars with some interest, and I've been thinking a lot about my relationship to the fiction. I've got some conclusions that might be instructive to all of us when we try to dig into them for inspiration: the fiction promises certain things, but then it softpedals them. I come back because I'm hoping to see those themes addressed by noticing new stuff in the source fiction. (Also, I come back because Lucas's design crews were stunningly good on IV-VI and the movies are straight up beautiful.)

So screw that. I'm doing my own treatment.

There are a number of classical themes that just weren't OK to put into a movie in the 1970s, least of all a G-rated one. I think those themes are kind of central, though, particularly in a story that takes a moral standpoint. But we're grownups here, and we make stories for our own benefit without the concerns of budget or ratings. Here's how I would do it.

  1. Incest. Luke and Leia have a child.
  2. Jealousy. Han and Luke's relationship to Leia — and their need and resentment toward each other — is their strength and their weakness.
  3. Feminism. It's not a classical theme, but it's an important one. Leia's struggle is about guiding the Alliance to victory through politics and action. The Force shows itself in her by her ability to read and change minds. She can see motives from across the galaxy. She wants to be a just ruler in a system that hasn't had one in generations.
  4. The Œdipal struggle. Luke kills Vader. Han and Leia, the leaders of the Rebellion, raise Luke's child as their own. When Luke's jealousy gets the better of him, he's killed by his son. He can be redeemed by his son, too, but the important thing is that Luke wind up either supporting his own son's growth or being destroyed for refusing to. Personally, I like the former. I like the idea that conflicts can be resolved, even in the thick, by doing what's right on all parties' parts. It would be good to see the Republic move forward reducing the blood on its hands.
  5. Han's voyage from mercenary to hero. He leaps in to save Luke. Luke leaps in to save him. Han knows the child isn't his, but he's doing what he can to make things right for the people he loves — Leia, his "son", the Republic, and, reluctantly, Luke. It doesn't mean he always acts well. I see him as kind of tragic; he's of secondary importance to Luke, who can accomplish greatness as a hero. He's of secondary importance to Leia, who winds of Queen of the Republic. He's of secondary importance to his "own son", who's destined to be the most powerful and wise Jedi in history. Han's a support character, and he knows it.

Some other fun stuff:

  1. Droids are slaves. Good people leave off the restraining bolts, just like house slaves didn't wear chains. Given agency, how do they prove their humanity? What can be said about that?
  2. Non-humans. The Empire is clearly and wholly racist. There are only humans. The Rebel Alliance is egalitarian, in that cowardly squidmen can be admirals. Without the constraints of moviedom (needing expressive faces, keeping within a budget) what does the Alliance look like?
  3. Economy. What does the Empire look like, with its healthy black market? How does the Republic deal with an economy that, for a generation, has been almost wholly illegal?

Keep in mind: the idea here isn't to "dirty up" Star Wars. It's not to make good characters into bad people, or amp up the violence or anything that shallow. It's to put the characters in a position to really address the themes that are only hinted at in the source.

(I'll do Star Trek in another thread when I've thought about it more. A game I'm playing right now, Human Contact, is sort of my antidote to Star Trek in my mind, and I'll get into that.)

Comments

  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanA game I'm playing right now, Human Contact, is sort of my antidote to Star Trek in my mind, and I'll get into that.
    Well, there is a long tradition in Star Trek of meeting aliens, and then fucking them.
  • edited February 2009
    ((Ok, so it's possibly totally beside the point, but I'll give it a try anyway))

    Maybe I'd go a little back in time.

    The time of the Old Republic where an aging Jedi council gets involved in politics and scheming. Maybe this caused the death of a senator whose son is actually a young Padawan named Anakin. And all the "point of view" mumbo-jumbo of his master Obi Wan never really closed that wound. A Jedi named Yoda, fed up with the Jedi politics quits the council and leaves for a far away swamp planet.

    Sometime in the future Obi Wan may let his last pupil kill him to atone for his sins. (Maybe he's the one who killed Anakin's mother, who knows ?)

    The Old Republic is now greatly outnumbered by several alien species who want to stop Man's dominance. The Senate allows the cloning of its citizens to built itself an army. Every citizen accepting to be cloned is given a pension, as long as his clone lives.

    Being used as a slave army, some clones awaken and start talking about freedom. After pacifying half the galaxy, several clone legions revolt, leading to a civil war (whose name I don't need to tell you).

    Clones are granted full citizenship and a place at the senate, the most decorated officer of the clone army, general Palpatine becomes a senator. He resents the Jedis who where once used to stop the clones revolt.

    He starts searching for ways to protect himself from the Jedi, sending his must trusted men across the Galaxy.

    After the Republic pacification campaign many disgruntled alien government regroup and take advantage of the clone wars aftermath to wipe out the human race once and for all.

    The old Hero, senator Palpatine says he can save the republic once more. The Jedis are divided : some want to help Palpatine, others try to reach a peaceful solution. Anakin, remembering the role of the Jedis in his mother's death joins Palpatine.

    The senate issues Order 66 : every Jedi who will not fight for the Republic is branded a traitor. The Jedi order collapses, Jedis kill each other. Only one survives...

    Anakin's wife fought for peace, she leaves her husband and flee with Obi Wan Kenobi. She gives birth to her twins. Later on she will fall in love with former senator Organa.

    Oh my god, this whole thing got more holes than my daddy's rubber. But hey, call me crazy, but I'd definitely run a game with that.
  • Interesting, but I think the real juice is in the overlooked word in the title of the series. Wars. As I put it in a previous thread:

    War never changes. That's Cambodia, Captain. If those little sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll face French ones. Hey, Wade, I got a mother, you got a mother, the sarge has got a mother. I'm willing to bet that even the Captain's got a mother. Well, maybe not the Captain, but the rest of us have got mothers. Tea without milk is so uncivilized. Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. I hope that the people that use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it. God was here before the Marine Corps - so you can give your heart to Jesus, but your ass belongs to the Corps. A deer's gotta be taken with one shot. But be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again. To teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life.
  • JD, I like some of your ideas... but I'm not sure if you want fiction... or a storygame. If you want a storygame, I feel you are playing before play, I want to see Luke vs/and/or support his son AT THE TABLE. I think the incest angle is really pretty interesting. I think the kid needs to be defined, that kid has the potential of being really an awesome character... although I would prefer a daughter... just to break the Father vs. Son trend of star wars.

    And i think the kid should be the "new hope" even though she comes from incest. She won the gene jackpot and doesn't come out with birth defects and stuff that can plague sibling offspring. A daughter shifts the story to Daughter-Mother story... which I think ties in nicely with your Leia with galactic touch and scope.

    The problem with building off the original trilogy and going forward is we are desperate need of new blood. new characters, new places, new foes. I thought West End Games best product was teh Farstrider campaign setting, which went outside of the galaxy to find a byzantine analog roman empire still in place, but totally modified by their circumstances.
  • And i think the kid should be the "new hope" even though she comes from incest. She won the gene jackpot and doesn't come out with birth defects and stuff that can plague sibling offspring. A daughter shifts the story to Daughter-Mother story... which I think ties in nicely with your Leia with galactic touch and scope.

    FWIW, birth defects don't come from siblings bearing children. They come from siblings bearing siblings who bear siblings.

    I'm all for the child being a daughter. I was analogizing Mordred, but why not? My only caveat is that, in the absence of œdipal conflict, they need to be connected and conflict in anther way, and she still has to kill/subdue Luke.

    Storn, I'm OK with talking about stories as well as situation generation in this thread. (I think you're talking to Alexandre, not JD above).

    The problem with building off the original trilogy and going forward is we are desperate need of new blood. new characters, new places, new foes. I thought West End Games best product was teh Farstrider campaign setting, which went outside of the galaxy to find a byzantine analog roman empire still in place, but totally modified by their circumstances.

    Well, OK, you can completely remake everything, and say that Star Wars, which looks different, has different situation, and different characters, all happened over there. Or you can not burden yourself with existing stuff at all, since you're not, anyway. You're making up a pulpy space opera setting that also has lightsabers. Why concern yourself with branding at all at that point?

    JD, either I don't understand what you're getting at, or you're being a wiseass. Please illuminate.

  • I'd remove the "Sides" of the force. Sure, the Jedi talk about a Light Side and a Dark Side, but in reality the Force is Life Energy and life is both beautiful and brutal and filled with passion and emotion.

    The Jedi say they are all about becoming "One with the Force" but really they are afraid of it, so the repress their emotions, they control their feelings and they deny their humanity. It's all about control.

    The Sith embrace the Force; they give in to emotion; love, rage, passion, you name it. Of course in the end they are consumed by their emotions, but hey, it's a hell of a ride.

    There are good and bad eggs in both camps.

    The Emperor represents the worst the Sith; he's consumed by hate and ambition, and the Force in him has become curropt and foul.

    Vader serves the Emperor but he's still Jedi through and through. He represses his grief and his despair and has not only lost his humanity, but his connection to the force as well. His once mighty Force powers have diminished to a feeble trickle.

    Luke (or maybe his daughter?) has been taught to follow the Jedi path, but maybe over time he (she) begins to see that the force isn't something to be repressed and controlled, but embraced, as long as one does not lose oneself in the process. Out of the ashes of the fall of both the Jedi and the Sith a new philosophy is born...
  • Jacob, you need to kill Lucas and take his stuff. You actually needed to do it before midichlorians, but now is OK too.
  • Posted By: JacobThe Jedi say they are all about becoming "One with the Force" but really they are afraid of it, so the repress their emotions, they control their feelings and they deny their humanity. It's all about control.
    That is the one thing that has always bothered me about this Force thing. Jedi always talk about "ballance" and stuff. Yet they always embrace a very western, greek like approach (where "good" and rationality are above "bad" and emotion). A totally one sided perspective. That is not ballance! That is extremism! I want a more Taoist aproach, where there is nothing absolute about "good" and "evil".

    I'm all for the "True power lies not in Light or Darkness, but in reaching the true ballance and gaining the benefits of both sides, without loosing oneself."

    I might add (perhaps stretching this a little bit) that all of the "He who would bring ballance to the Force" thing could be adressed. In the "Real Ballance", and not the "He'll kill the Sith" way.
  • Posted By: TristanI might add (perhaps stretching this a little bit) that all of the "He who would bring ballance to the Force" thing could be adressed. In the "Real Ballance", and not the "He'll kill the Sith" way.
    Oh God. What if Luke was supposed to "Bring Balance to the Force" and "Kill the Sith?" If you take that to the next logical step, he'd have to eliminate the remaining Jedi as well, to restore 'balance'.

    Luke goes from "Savior" to "Harbinger of Death."

    Now his child has a really good reason to kill him.

    Yikes.
  • Heh!

    Maybe the existance of Force using people is the reason the force has been unballanced. Sort of how sorcery and stuff would bring the unnatural and affect the natural in the process.
  • edited February 2009
    Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanJD, either I don't understand what you're getting at, or you're being a wiseass. Please illuminate.
    He's adding the "WARS" back into Star Wars. The only Wars that happen in Star Wars is this slow background conflict of skimishes which results in a flurry of action in eps 1 and 3, but otherwise no real Wars: Nothing like the Colonials vs the Natives of Africa, India etc, nor... well... any real feel of "WAR" other than "SKIRMISH".

    But "ISOLATED STAR SKIRMISHES" sounds lame, so, I guess that's why they went with "STAR WARS".

    For me, I agree with JD, but would add something like:

    1) Fewer "X Wings", more focus on Capital Ships. Make Capital Ships the default, kinda like that Japanese Manga series about the space empire battles that are fought between tens of thousands of capital ships at a time, where most of the capital ships are basically BIG FAT GUN with ENGINES.

    2) Or somehow change the physics so that capital ship lasers are not as effective as basically ramming your capital ships into theirs, and sending 10,000 soldiers into hand to hand combat (small lasers, swords, etc) with their 10,000 soldiers. Then, I'd keep the little X-Wings and stuff, but they would basically do little more than fly over the capital ships and strafe into the enemy combatants, and dogfight with each other over the enemy combatants.

    -Andy

    PS: Incest is in my "lines/veils", under "veils", so I'd not go there (no interest), but I'd basically up the ante on everything BIG and SHINY in the setting. I also like Jacob's The Force.
  • Andy basically got it. Essentially there is this huge literature (not to mention history) associated with war and soldiering that essentially is tossed out the window in exchange for adventurey pulpishness. That is not a bad thing, I love adventurey pulpishness. But the key to drama (All Quiet On The Western Front, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, The Big Red One, Three Kings), comedy (MASH, Catch-22, Sgt. Bilko, McHale's Navy), personal anguish (Deer Hunter, The Red Badge of Courage), and even surreal skincrawling eerieness (Going After Cacciato, Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, Gunner Palace) is right there staring you in the face as soon as the first John Williams chord hits. It's war.
  • Re: the prophecy regerding bringing balance to the force. My gf always says that, despite even Lucas and his people seem to not having got it, the prophecy (about Anakin) was *completely true*.

    Anakin becomes Vader, lives inside the empire for all his life because the first part of the prophecy meant "eliminate the stagnant and self-righteous jedi domination"[*] and in the end he redeems himself with the last step. He kills EVEN all the sith (he dies after killing the emperor), and does this only the when Luke is ready. Thus leaving only Luke (and potentially Leia, but she's never been indoctrinated by either side's teachers). And at that point Luke is the last living Force Knight, living on the edge of the two sides (he acts and looks like a sith the all third movie, despite acting heroic).

    Oh, and btw: "Return of the Jedi" referso to Vader, clearly.

    Her version is a bit longer, fits more details :)

    [*] Oh, they sure act all zen and say they are only advisors, but just look at them: who's really holding power over the old republic. I mean, really...

    Yeah, she's that bright :)
  • edited February 2009
    Renato (and his girlfriend) is (are) correct. Lucas muddles the telling of it in the films, but what Jacob speculates about Luke doing is exactly what Anakin/Vader actually does.
  • I love that the goons in the first movie were actually dudes in suits, not stupid robots.
    Who the heck joins the Empire?
    ...and who joins the Rebellion?
    and what the heck were the Clone Wars really about?
    I always pictured them vaguely like Dune's war versus the thinking machines.
    Fear of science is often a big part of science fiction.
  • Posted By: Nathan Hwhat the heck were the Clone Wars really about?
    Lots of people ask this, so I want to clarify: Palpatine needs an excuse to create a huge army of artificial soldiers in order to take over a huge portion of the Galaxy (with the help of an alien race with a shady resemblance to an Earthly racial stereotype), so he hides in the shadows and takes over a huge portion of the Galaxy (with the help of an alien race with a shady resemblance to an Earthly racial stereotype) and then builds a huge army of artificial soldiers. He then attacks his own government with his shadow government in order to justify the creation of the huge army he wanted (without which, he would only have the huge army of...

    ...OK, skip that. He needs to turn a powerful Jedi to the Dark Side, so he turns a powerful Jedi to the Dark Side in order to sacrifice him in a plot to turn the Jedi to the Dark Side so he will finally have a Dark Jedi apprentice to replace the one he sacrificed to...

    Wait, um....

    On deeper reflection, it starts to seem like Palpatine is either a living embodiment of the Yin-Yang balance, or he just wanted to fight a big war so he created two armies and made them fight it out. Which, basically, makes him like Hitler Catchem, the Sith Pokemon Trainer.
  • I think the guy who wrote "The Skywalker Paradigm" already did a great job making Star Wars awesome!

    This is the abbreviated version: http://www.ammon-ra.com/skywalkerparadigm/shortversion.html

    and this is the beginning of the scene-by-scene: http://www.ammon-ra.com/skywalkerparadigm/starwars1.html
  • Posted By: JuddG
    Lots of people ask this, so I want to clarify:
    It actually is pretty straightforward, and cool. He manufactures a crisis to get dictatorial powers, then uses them to destroy the manufactured crisis.
  • Posted By: Robert BohlIt actuallyispretty straightforward, and cool. He manufactures a crisis to get dictatorial powers, then uses them to destroy the manufactured crisis.
    Not disputing that, just marveling at waste of resources it embodies. He gets the power he wants in the first movie. The rest of the plot is just shadow plays to serve another narrative purpose - Lucas's not Palpatine's (and thus need be discussed no further as that path lies away from Zen).
  • Um, yeah the senate or whatever gives away their power for...I'm not quite sure why?
  • You know, a lot of the suggestions here remind me somewhat of the sort of thing you'll find on fanfiction.net, where someone will take, say, the characters from Final Fantasy VII, and put them in high school, set in something that vaguely resembles 21st century United States. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    In my opinion, one of the best re-imaginings of Star Wars out there is Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald's Mageworlds series. Instead of Star War's light side and dark side business, you have two competing philosophies and cultures, neither of which is entirely right or entirely wrong.
  • Posted By: JuddGHe gets the power he wants in the first movie.
    Not so! In the first movie, he is simply named chancellor, but is still subject to the Senate and its rules (such as the vote of no confidence that he manipulates Amidala into making against the previous chancellor) and weaknesses. In the second movie, he gets the emergency powers that will lead to him becoming the emperor, but it still takes several years of war before the Republic's ready to let him become emperor. And it's not until after those several years of war and the Jedi being weakened through the war efforts that he's finally in position to wipe out the Jedi as well as take full dictatorial power over the galaxy.
  • Plus it leaves him with a huge standing military under his direct control. The implication of Ep1 seems to be that militaries at that time are largely small world/system affairs by comparison. In that context, the Jedi as a military force are actually very powerful.

    He also sets up a mind-set that any challenge to his authority is just like the Seperatists, and must be crushed for the overall good. Certainly Anakin/Vader buys into that line of thinking.
  • So, Jason, how would you apply that to Star Wars? Who does what? What are the situations? Who matters to them?

    MASH is one of my favorite things, ever.

  • Well, the answer to those questions are going to depend very much on what you're after in the war part of Star Wars. As I mentioned, there's a huge, wide open field, some of it is hilarious, some melodramatic, some gloomy.

    Hell, just a straight one-to-one translation will work fine for most things. Catch-22 for TIE Fighter pilots. McHale's Navy for grizzled Rebel scuzzbags and their prissy Alliance boss. Three Kings for Alliance commandos at the close of the war and the Sith treasure they target as a slimy Hutt dictator takes over.
  • We get just the smallest taste of war in the Hoth battle. Ice trenches, "machine-gun" nests, giant (walking) tanks, fighter pilot going down in enemy territory, the base being overrun, etc. Imagine a Hoth siege campaign (instead of a five minute skirmish), Battle of the Bulge style, with the guys in the trenches as the protagonists.
  • Hell yeah. Or Imperial deserters trying to make their way on the frontier while being hunted by their evil Sith boss who desires their cowardly blood. Then you've got a western.
  • edited February 2009

    The painting that this comes from:

    hoth

    ... is great. The trenches are being overrun and the Imperial forces aren't even bothering to fight these guys — the're just pouring into the base itself. Their despair is written in their frostbitten faces.

  • Wow. That image is fantastic. I really want to play that now.
  • I think you could play out a pretty neat take on Star Wars using Mispent Youth, the little bit that I've seen and think I kinda understand.
    I would LOVE to play Luke growing increasingly cynical or dogmatic.
    The Empire never ended - P.K. Dick
  • Star Wars is one of the examples in the text of MY.

    That image from Empire comes back to my mind all the time. I wish I had a scan of the painting handy.

    So, JD, what do you gain from it being Star Wars rather than, say, Platoon? There's some of that (softpedaled, of course) in the story mode of Star Wars Battlefront II, where you see the war from a clone trooper's perspective, but it comes across hollow, like it's trying to paste on gravitas. How would you do it?

  • Thanks for the mention, Nathan, and I agree. I used Star Wars in Misspent Youth as an example for plot points, but with Luke, Han, and Leia (and maybe Chewie too), you've got a great Clique. You could do the Authority as the Emperor, or the Empire, but probably not Vader (unless you want to play in the vein of A New Hope only).

    --

    I find Joshua's ideas of the "real" themes underlying Star Wars to be intriguing. But I used scare-quotes for a reason. I'd love to play that kind of game with the serial numbers scraped off (which is why I asked everyone what's good about Star Wars).
  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanSo, JD, what do you gain from it being Star Wars rather than, say, Platoon?
    Me personally? Not much, I just like Star Wars. Other people like the distance it gives. And it is of course easier to create and/or occupy a fictional war whose elements you (almost) completely control than a historical war that actually happened.
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