Friday, June 25, 2010

Dark Side Corruption

One of the things I enjoy about Star Wars are the relatively harsh distinctions between good and evil. Yes, there are a few characters in the movies and stories who fall into the 'grey' area, but for the most part its either black or white. Maybe its just my personality, but I've never really found 'evil' to be all that attractive. I mean, that's one of the reasons I am so indifferent towards the Godfather movies. I just can't sympathize with the 'heroes' because they're bad guys. And yet there is a whole culture that idolizes the 'sexiness' of evil—just look at all the various vampire shows out there now if you need proof. Set the 'glittering' ones aside and you've still got creatures who feed off of others in a pretty hideous fashion—oh, and who murder people on a regular basis—so what if some of them 'had it coming', murder is still bad.

It is a subjective thing, admittedly. My own private peeve. But I really dislike the idea of 'beautiful evil'. To me, it is like saying there is no consequences to being evil. That you can 'have your cake and eat it too'. Yeah. I know in the real world, it is often like that—but in a universe like Star Wars, I would like to think there is a price to pay. And from what I've seen? There is.

You see it right away in the first movie. Darth Vader is a monstrous shell of a man—confined to a suit and a cyborg body. In the Empire Strikes Back, you get your first glimpse of the twisted face of the Emperor. Horrible, greenish wrinkled skin. Evil and not at all sexy. In Return of the Jedi you see the Emperor as a twisted, ancient looking 'thing'—showing all he had to sacrifice to attain his 'ultimate power'. And when Darth Vader is unmasked—he isn't some devastatingly handsome dude—he's a horribly scarred old man.

In the prequels, we are introduced to Darth Maul. While I admit, he looked ferociously cool, he was also hideous—with his yellow eyes (so help me god, yellow eyes!) and kind of gross teeth. Count Dooku, on the other hand, is probably the most 'normal' looking dark Force user we see. But I can kind of attribute that to the fact that he hasn't been 'evil' his whole life. There was a time when he was a Jedi. So...maybe he just didn't have enough time to get corrupted.

In the expanded universe, we see a lot more examples of Darkside Force users... and I'd say a fair number of them are rather messed up. In the Knights of the Old Republic series we have Darth Malak (missing his bottom jaw, bald and pasty white), Darth Treia (wrinkled and bitter old woman), Darth Nihlus (essentially just a 'ghost') and Darth Sion...who is essentially undead, with a rotting, corpse-like body. Ick, yes, but the kind of villains I appreciate. Joruus C'Boath is wild-eyed insane and creepy. Asaaj Ventress is albino-ish to an almost corpse-like degree. The list goes on, all seeming to reinforce the theory I have come up with: That the Dark Side corrupts—not just mentally, but physically.

This is backed up in a plot-line in the Dark Empire series—where the spirit of the Emperor keeps going through cloned bodies because his corruption is so great he literally destroys his physical 'host'. I'm not sure if this corruption has ever been officially stated in any RPG book—though I seem to recall it being mentioned in the D20 Darkside sourcebook. But in my universe, it is going to be the law. Dark Side users may start off 'pretty', but it won't last. The Dark Side rewards them with power, sure, but it demands a steep price.

I remember first trying to introduce this theory into an online roleplaying setting (the Minos Cluster MUSH) and boy did I get a lot of flak for it. One Dark Side guy in particular freaked out about it (his character was an alien with already sort of 'devilish' features like a tail)—likely because his character was a 'ladies man' (or at least he fancied himself such)—and becoming gross and wrinkly would definitely put a cramp in his mojo. This kind of sexy-evil attitude is prevalent in a lot of Expanded universe stuff, too. Darth Talon—the Twi'lek sexpot of the Legacy comic book series is a prime example. And while I can see the appeal, I just don't think it is 'right' on a metaphysical level within the Star Wars universe.

Therefore, in my campaign and my rule-system I am definitely going to make Dark Side corruption a factor. It won't be as much of an issue in my game because I do not run Dark Side player characters, but I think it is a nice touch—and one that is supported heavily in both the movies and a lot of the Expanded Universe stuff. What I'm thinking is that given time and power, just about any Dark Side user will become physically corrupted. Oh sure, you may be able to keep up a veneer of normality (as Palpatine did), but eventually something is going to push you over the edge and your true nature will begin to bleed through. The mechanics of it are probably going to have to deal with three factors: The number of Darkside points a character has; The level of the Darkside users's force skill; and the amount of time the person has been under the influence of the Darkside. There may also be a catalyzing event that triggers the change as well—For example, Palpatine's battle with Mace Windu or Anakin's slaughter of the Separatist leaders. Both of these seemed to spark dramatic physical changes in these men (though admittedly, the Emperor moreso).

So, there you have it. My apologies to fans of sexy evil folks. Yeah, they may exist, but the evil part is eventually going to catch up to them—and no, it won't just make them 'glitter'.


  1. You cited my example for sexy evil with Darth Talon. At the same time though, Talon is both fairly young, and usually sticks to the more 'neutral' force powers.

    I think you have a good idea there of basing it on dark side points gained/used for how far the character goes. For anyone who REALLY wants to be sexy evil, make them pay for it. Feats that "increases the threshold" before corruption takes on a physical appearance could work for that. This way they can stay "oh so purdy" but there is a cost to it, they are actually devoting their study and powering up to maintaining it.

    The idea of cost for maintenance though I think is also well in tune with the idea of sexy evil. Sure you are sexy, but there is a cost. Also, the pretty ones are also usually the most monstrous on the inside. Something has to be corrupted, and if it can't get your body it may very well just devour your mind and/or soul.

  2. Hey, I really like that idea. Literally 'paying' (in a game mechanic way) to keep yourself lookin' pretty. Good idea. Thanks :)