Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Knights in Star Wars m20

So... when not listening to my recently compiled b-sides, non-album tracks and remixes collection of Depeche Mode of the 80s (and Violator era, which technically is 1990 and maybe 91) I've been listening to my complete Star Wars music collection.  I've got the Special Edition soundtracks to the original trilogy, which are two discs and include the entire score plus extra music of the first three movies (although I had to do a little bit of digging to get the original "Yub Nub" Ewok celebration song, as well as the original "Lapti Nek" Max Reebo band song in order to really call it "complete.)  I've also got the regular (albeit incomplete) 1-disc soundtracks for the three prequel movies.  I've got the Old Republic soundtrack, including the massive amount of "extra" tracks released for download by BioWare, and I've got the Knights of the Old Republic soundtrack as well. 

When not listening to Star Wars, I've been reading Star Wars: Legacy in trade paperback format (vol 11 is the only one left to go) and re-watching the Clone Wars on DVD (just finished Season 1 and watched the first few episodes of Season 2 last night.)  On the first disc of Season 2 is also the cinematic trailer for Force Unleashed II, which is really cool.  I actually didn't much like the game, although the first Force Unleashed was a lot of fun (I have the Wii version which is extra cool because you swing your wii-mote around like a lightsaber, which is excellent.)

It occured to me after turning the disc off and getting ready for bed that knights have been depicted with varying degrees of "over-the-topness."  In the season finale commentary by Dave Filoni at the end of Season 1, he makes the remark that George Lucas was adamant that the Jedi are not superheroes, and when Annakin is left without his lightsaber, he struggles to be as effective against Cad Bane and his highly professional team of bounty hunters.

This assertion is, of course, completely nonsensical, and almost embarrasing for Filoni to say.  What?  Of course they're superheroes.  They may be a bit low-key as superheroes when compared to really big guns like Superman, but they're still extremely over-the-top, and have an impressive suite of superpowers.  Even within the medium of mainstream comic books, you have quite a spectrum--street level superheroes like Daredevil or Green Arrow, compared to universe-shattering heroes and villains like Thor, Superman, Thanos, Darkseid, Galactus, etc.  Even on a single team you can see that--Black Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America really aren't in the same league as Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk in last year's Avengers, for instance.

That said, the depiction of Jedi has been highly variable in various media and various outlets for a long time.  In the original trilogy, we probably have them at their least over-the-top, as well as their most iconic, of course.  The prequel trilogy ramps up the superhero-ness of the Jedi considerably, but it's still the next step up.  The Clone Wars cartoon, which I like and campaign for as highly canonical to my own view of what Star Wars should be like does bring the Jedi up even more than the prequels in terms of over-the-topness.  And finally, the old "Sanurai Jack" style Clone Wars cartoon and games like Force Unleashed take them into completely uncharted territory.  In the former, there's an episode where Mace Mindu, without his lightsaber, still manages to defeat an entire army of supe rbattle droids using his fists and the Force.  In the latter, main character Galen Starkiller pulls a gigantic Star Destroyer out of space and crashes it on the planet with the Force.  There's no other way to put it, but those episodes have Jedi running around in the Big Leagues when it comes to superheroes.  They'd be the Big Guns on a team like the Avengers or the Justice League, not "street level" crimefighters.  These jedi would be a threat to Green Lantern, Superman or even Galactus.

Given this huge inconsistency in how Jedi and Sith are portrayed, one may be given to throw up one's hands in terms of reconciling that with rules for a roleplaying game.  Rather, I think you simply need to pick one of the tones and run with it.  My conception of knights is somewhere between the original and prequel trilogies, I think.  As much as I think the crazy superheroics of Galen Starkiller and the Clone Wars jedi in general is pretty cool, it really doesn't have much place in my iteration of Star Wars, and I also am extremely leery of creating a situation in which the jedi are so good compared to alternatives that who in the world would not want to play a knight?

But there's a trap there too--in my current d20 Star Wars game, in which I'm a player, that was accomplished by making jedi develop slowly via leveling up.  At 6th or 7th level, we're still not anywhere near capable of doing stuff that apparently all jedi in every show, movie or video game ever produced for Star Wars think is routine.  That can't be the right solution either.

I think the knights, as I've called all force-users of any tradition, of the m20 document, which although I've reflavored slightly, I haven't really done any design work that wasn't already done, manage to find that sweet spot.  They feel like the jedi do--even at lower levels--but they're not unbalanced vs. the other classes.  But I admit that I'm only able to accomplish that by assuming a much more low-key iteration of the jedi than has sometimes been presented--something more in line with what Luke, Vader and old Obiwan are doing in the original trilogy rather than the often ridiculous exploits of some other media.

No comments: