Thursday, September 30, 2010

It isn't always about the Jedi

...or at least it shouldn't be.

Growing up with the Original Trilogy gives me (and my contemporaries) a unique perspective on that universe. Even though Luke Skywalker was the main 'hero' of the series, the focus wasn't entirely on the Jedi. At least not in my mind. To me, Star Wars was about adventures in space first and the Force second. The adventures and development of Han Solo and Leia (neither of whom were Force users in the movies) seemed just as important a part of the Saga as Luke's 'Hero's Journey'. Heck, in grade school everyone always wanted to be Han Solo or Chewbacca, never Luke.

This attitude seemed to be reflected in the various incarnations of the universe present from the 70's on through the 90's. In the comics we see entire story arcs that have nothing to do with the Jedi. In fact, Luke isn't the main character in quite a few of these adventures. Cartoon series like "Droids" didn't have any Jedi in them, just a series of unique protagonists (A merchant freighter captain, a team of speeder racers ,etc.). Likewise, the Han Solo trilogy of novels had nothing to do with the Force or Jedi whatsoever. Even video games didn't dwell on the Jedi. X-Wing and TIE fighter, Rogue Squadron- they were all about 'normal' pilots, fighting in the war. Dark Forces was probably the first game to really incorporate the Jedi into it, with the protagonist Kyle Katarn developing Force skills later in the game.

So for a while there, blasters and spaceships, smugglers and droids were just as important as 'symbols' of the universe as Jedi or Sith. But it didn't last.

The shift to a more Jedi-Focused universe began (in my opinion) with the Thrawn novels and the popularity of Mara Jade. But to their credit, the Thrawn novels didn't focus entirely on Force users. It merely showed how they work into a larger plot that involves quite a few interesting non-Force folks (Thrawn, Senator Garm Bel Iblis, etc.). Even so, by introducing new Force users these books opened the floodgates (so to speak) for what was to come.

With the release of Episode I and its depictions of Jedi as absolute badasses ("there are two of them. We will not survive this"), it seemed to me like a shift had occurred. Suddenly every novel or comic or game was about a Force user. The ones from the movies, or other inventions. In some cases, this led to some truly wonderful things- like the Knights of the Old Republic series. In other cases, it led to the truly horrific- like Callista from the Children of the Jedi series. But good or bad, the whole feel of the universe had definitely changed. For proof of this, you have to look no farther than the protagonists and antagonists of the Prequel trilogy. All of them are Jedi or Sith, and those who aren't are minor background characters. There are no 'cool' non-Force users, unless you count Jango Fett, but even he died like a bitch at the hands of a Jedi. There is no Han Solo in the prequels. And because of that, you get the impression that only the Jedi (or Sith) can bring about galaxy-changing events. This impression never sat well with me, mainly because of my own impressions of the Star Wars that I grew up with.

It is also a bit insulting to the legions of 'normal soldiers' who fought the wars that everyone seems to be giving the Jedi and Sith credit for. Yeah. Luke and Vader may have taken down the Emperor, but it was a group of 'normal' soldiers and pilots- working together- that destroyed the Death Star. Revan may have been redeemed and able to topple Malak, but he wouldn't have made it that far without Carth, Mission, Zaalbar and the rest.

For me, there is a parallel between Force users and Superheroes. Some of the most popular superheroes are the really powerful ones. Superman, Wonder-Woman, the Hulk, even Wolverine. All of them are (like the Jedi from the prequels) complete badasses. I can see the appeal of that sort of thing. But in comics, we also have a slew of 'normal' people who are just as important as these ultra-powerful types. Batman, Captain America, Iron Man, even the Punisher. These are just 'normal' people (albeit highly intelligent, trained and skilled). But they are treated as being just as important. There is an emphasis that super-powers alone do not make a person great. That is something I felt was lacking in the prequel trilogies- and in a lot of the emerging expanded universe stuff. Only Jedi seem to make a difference. They aren't 'part of a solution', they're THE ONLY solution.

Since I started my campaign before the "Great Jedi Love Fest", most of my players chose to play non-Force users. In fact, there was a short period where we had no Force users in the party at all! I'm not sure that would be the same in any more 'modern' gaming group. Afterall, Force users get all kinds of special abilities with little or no drawback (unless, of course, you pay attention to things like the Jedi Code or the Sith tendency to get really ugly). In what meager information I get about other people's campaigns (plucked from blogs and forums around the interweb), it seems to me that many Star Wars gaming groups (d20 or d6) have quite a few Force users knocking around in them. While I have no problem with running a game like that, it still strikes me as a little sad to not have any cool 'normal' characters in the mix- not as sidekicks, but as heroes in their own right. It just doesn't feel like Star Wars if you don't have those. At least it doesn't to me. So, like I said, in my book it shouldn't always be about the Jedi. They're PART of a wonderful adventurous universe. But they aren't the end all of that setting.


  1. Howdy! My name is Brian Swift. Big time WEG Star Wars Gamemaster [starting year 11 of running it pretty much every weekend].

    Sorry to use the comment box to get in touch with you but I don't know how to send you a personal message and can't find an email address.

    The people at Rancor Pit said you were responsible for that "Otherspace III" PDF I stumbeled across. Its very well done and very intersting. I was thinking of using it but the version I have is incomplete. Did you ever finish the module? And if not did you even have a sketchy outline of what was supposed to happen next? [I could make up the details - but I'm really curious to know what you had in mind]

    Thanks for your time. My email address is

  2. I would also like to talk to you if I can

    My email is

  3. @Quenkary: I emailed you a few days ago, but there was no response...did you get my message?