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Posts tagged ‘star wars’

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi has proven to be a controversial and divisive movie. What is perhaps most surprising is the degree to which both sides of the conversation seem to be simply incapable of believing that the other side exists and are obsessed with disenfranchising their opinion: Those who liked the movie are convinced everyone who says they didn’t are either mindless fanboys, Russian bots, or racist misogynists. Those who disliked the movie are convinced everyone who says they did are either mindless fanboys, paid Disney operatives, or incapable of appreciating how “revolutionary” the movie is.

I’ve found myself somewhat in the middle as far as these discussions are concerned. (Which, of course, means that I’ve spent all my time being broiled alive by both sides.) So let’s talk about The Last Jedi.

SPOILERS AHOY!

There are eight significant clusters of criticism for the film:

  1. As The Last Jedi begins really building on top of the decision in The Force Awakens to completely reboot the Empire vs. Rebellion conflict, it’s become clear to many people that they really hate this decision. (This includes people who didn’t like The Force Awakens for the same reason.)
  2. This nihilistic reboot methodology also extends destructively to the OT characters, each of whom are revealed to have been the most complete, utter, and abject failures imaginable in every single facet of their lives – personal, professional, political – and are then set up to be systematically killed off one movie at a time. (A scheme only somewhat derailed by Carrie Fisher’s death in real life.) This is, to put it mildly, leaving a really bad taste in people’s mouths.
  3. The primary plot (of the cruiser chase) is riddled with plot holes and doesn’t make any sense. The film suffers because its backbone is broken.
  4. There is an assortment of special edition/prequel-style humor which is not landing for many people (titty-milking, confetti Praetorian guard, “General Hugs”, etc.).
  5. Material that fans feel is inconsistent with and untrue to the canon which has preceded this film. One prominent sub-cluster here is Rey’s ability to perform astonishingly powerful Force tricks while receiving no training whatsoever.
  6. Several plot threads end with the heroes failing to achieve their goals. (Many critics describe these plot threads as being “pointless”, but this is one point where I’ll editorialize by pointing out that “failure” and “pointless” are not synonymous in cinema. More on that in a little bit.)
  7. “But my pet theory! But my speculation! But my shipping!” The Last Jedi is not consistent with (and some feel even deliberately contemptuous of) many of the popular fan theories that followed in the wake of The Force Awakens.
  8. WTF is up with all these women an minorities fucking up my movie? (Actually, I’ll editorialize here again: Fuck these people.)

From this list, in addition to #8 (seriously, fuck those people), I’m also going to summarily dismiss #7. First, from a purely factual point of view, Rian Johnson finished writing his script and began pre-production for The Last Jedi before The Force Awakens was ever released. The personal “slight” that some people are perceiving because their personal pet theories didn’t pan out has no basis in reality: Johnson was faced with the same conundrum you were and came to different conclusions.

Second, this general trend in fandom is not a healthy one in any case. For example, shipping as a fun little thing to do as fans / while writing fan fiction is cool. The toxic version where fans rage against the dying of the light when their ships don’t pan out is a cancer on modern media.

IT’S REVOLUTIONARY!

Let’s also dispatch with something else straight out of the gate. I am really sick of being told that a film in which:

  • The rebel’s base has been discovered and they need to evacuate
  • A young Jedi goes to seek an old master who has retreated to a remote planet because a former student turned to the Dark Side (and then discovers that the old master lied to them about their former student!)
  • The heroes seek help from a charming rogue only to have him betray them
  • There’s a confrontation between the Disciple of Light and the Disciple of Dark in front of the Emperor’s… err… Supreme Leader’s throne

is some sort of revolutionary Star Wars story the likes of which has never been told before.

It isn’t.

Get over it.

DESTRUCTIVE NIHILISM

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Jake Skywalker

By far the largest problem that I, personally, have with this film are the first two points above: The sequel trilogy is fundamentally built on a brutally nihilistic foundation. And that’s not even Rian Johnson’s fault: He took what The Force Awakens gave him and he followed it through to the logical conclusion. He’s ruthlessly effective at it, in fact, and, honestly, it shouldn’t be any other way. Ultimately the sequel trilogy is what the sequel trilogy is going to be; fighting against that now would only result in an increasingly incoherent narrative.

That doesn’t make me any happier about it, though. I think it’s an abominable handling of the Star Wars legacy. Instead of building on what came before, the sequel trilogy diminishes it.

By contrast, the prequel trilogy, for all of its flaws and foibles, never diminished the original trilogy. If anything, the prequel trilogy greatly enhanced the original trilogy. (Primarily due to narrative leitmotifs like the character arcs of Anakin and Luke, although that’s perhaps a topic for another day.) The same cannot be said for the sequel trilogy: The revelation that everything achieved in the original trilogy has been turned to ash and the heroes of the original trilogy are complete and utter failures is incredibly damaging to the ending of Return of the Jedi and, in fact, the entire narrative arc of the first six films. Six films all led up to a moment where Luke Skywalker transcended the teachings of the Jedi and the teachings of the Sith and brought balance to the Force. The sequel trilogy fundamentally unravels that in order to “reboot” the original trilogy characters back to an earlier state of their existence.

If you accept the sequel trilogy as canon while the watching the original trilogy, it makes the original trilogy films weaker and less powerful. And that’s really not okay, in my opinion.

Allow me a moment now to rebut a few common counter-arguments at this point.

“Everybody dies! This was inevitable!”

Yeah, sure. But not everybody dies after seeing their entire life end in abject failure.

“You just wanted the original trilogy heroes to be perfect paragons without flaw!”

Not at all. This is a false dilemma. Luke, Leia, and Han can be flawed characters who make mistakes without being complete and utter failures. And it would be far more interesting to see Luke, Han, and Leia all continue to grow as characters from the point where we left them at the end of Return of the Jedi than it is to see them all get nihilistically rebooted to either earlier stages of their lives or into a cheap Ben Kenobi rip-off.

“You can’t have peace! The movie is called Star Wars!”

This is another false dilemma. If you don’t reboot the Empire vs. Rebellion conflict, the alternative isn’t automatically a peaceful galaxy filled with happy unicorns frolicking through fields of flowers. The alternative is an infinite variety of OTHER options which aren’t destructively nihilistic to the Star Wars legacy: Palpatine Loyalists rebelling against the New Republic. A cold war in a galaxy divided between the Imperial remnant and the New Republic. Droid War. Extra-galactic invasion. Cryogenically frozen Sith army from 10,000 years ago waking up.

The sequel trilogy simply lacks ambition.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, these problems were already present in The Force Awakens. That movie laid down the destructive foundation of the sequel trilogy. But The Last Jedi really starts building on that foundation, owns what that foundation means, and begins telling a story that drives home the consequences of that foundation. I think that’s the primary reason why it’s bearing the brunt of people’s ire for this nihilism.

Similarly, I thought I’d come to terms with the sequel trilogy “reboot” after The Force Awakens. But leaving the theater after seeing The Last Jedi I had to grapple with the fact that I had not, in fact, done so. The conclusion I eventually reached was that for me, personally:

The sequel trilogy is fan fiction.

Albeit fan fiction with a fantastic budget.

Consider what Mark Hamill said in a recent interview:

I almost had to think of Luke Skywalker as another character. Maybe he’s Jake Skywalker. He’s not my Luke Skywalker. (…) We had a fundamental difference. But I had to do what Rian wanted me to do because it serves the story. Listen, I still haven’t accepted it completely.

Like Hamill, I couldn’t accept this movie as being a “real” part of the Star Wars saga. And so… I’ve chosen not to. And, at least for me, once I made that choice, when I went back to see The Last Jedi again, I was able to really enjoy the film for what it is by itself. Because once you get past the destructive nihilism on which it is built (or simply bypass that entirely by severing it from all that has come before), what you have is a really great movie.

Jake Skywalker, for example, may not be Luke Skywalker. But Jake’s story is really amazing and filled with some incredibly powerful moments once you accept that he isn’t Luke Skywalker and his story is not going to be coherent with Luke Skywalker’s. (For example, “And the last thing I saw were the eyes of a frightened boy whose master had failed him.” is an incredibly powerful idea, perfectly scripted with phenomenal line delivery, and complemented by perfect and beautiful visual framing… It’s just brilliant. It also has no business having Luke Skywalker in it.)

THE PROBLEMS I HAVE

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - BB-8

The destructive nihilism, however, is not the only problem the movie has. We’re particularly going to look at points #3, #4, and #5 above, because that’s the cluster that sums up where I think the movie falls short.

The first 7 minutes of The Last Jedi include:

  • The “General Hugs” comedy bit.
  • Poe taking out all of the surface cannons of a dreadnought solo, while flying an X-Wing which moves unlike any other Star Wars spaceship ever filmed. (It looks as if he’s driving a drag racer from Fast and the Furious.)
  • The poorly delivered “Wipe that nervous expression off your face” line.
  • The utterly bizarre “fix a computer by smashing it with your head” comedy bit.
  • The bit where all the bombers were flying in such a closer formation that when one was taken out they were all taken out.
  • Also, fine, bombers “drop” bombs in zero-g because the spaceships fly like World War II fighter planes. But the bomb bay doors are open to the vacuum of space, and something like 5 minutes later Leia is going to be sucked out into space because of the vacuum. Set a rule and follow it. I stand corrected (see the comments). This still bugged me in the moment, but I was wrong to be bugged by it.

Watching the tonally-deaf special edition-style humor for the first time in the theater, the thought honestly crossed my mind, “I might have to walk out of this movie.”

Fortunately things improved from there, but there are still a number of problems with the film, most notably the central chase sequence around which the entire film is built.

  • We’re slightly faster, but for some reason that doesn’t translate into “getting ever farther away”; it translates to “we can maintain this very specific distance”
  • The First Order has multiple ships, but they can’t just have some of them do an FTL jump to pen the rebels in.

And so forth. Basically, I think if you’re going to make a dilemma like this the central pillar on which your entire film is built, you need to make the effort to make sure it actually makes sense. When you fail to do that, everything you build on top of it becomes rickety.

Having firmly concluded that the ship chase sequence was built on nonsense, however, I was surprised when watching the film a second time that in the absence of my brain gnawing away at the logistics of the chase sequence, I was able to sort of accept the “reality” of that chase sequence and instead appreciate the intricately woven character arcs built atop it.

CANTO BIGHT

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Canto Bight

Which brings us to Canto Bight (aka, the Casino Planet).

Oddly, I’ve found a great deal of criticism surrounding the film focuses on this sequence. It’s apparently “pointless” (because it results in failure) and should have been cut from the film.

Which I find utterly bizarre because Canto Bight is absolutely essential to the movie.

Like all of the best Star Wars stories, The Last Jedi thrives on its characters. (Which is why the fundamental swing-and-a-miss on the core characters from the original trilogy is causing such immense blowback. But I digress.) And for Canto Bight there are two key character arcs to consider here.

Star Wars - Poe DameronFirst, Poe’s. This consists of four specific beats:

  • Make a mistake by pursuing a course of reckless heroism instead of strategic leadership in the bombing run. (He then gets called out by Leia specifically for doing this, clearly establishing this as a central idea in the film. She even says, “I need you to learn that.”)
  • Make the same mistake on an even larger scale by disobeying Holdo’s orders and putting the entire Resistance at risk.
  • Learn from that mistake, and demonstrate that learning process during the skimmer battle on Crait. (“It’s a suicide run. All craft move away! … Retreat, Finn! That’s an order!”)
  • Apply the lesson which has been learned by realizing that Luke is buying them time, and then leading the survivors out of the cave instead of leading an assault on the First Order. (A decision which is then very specifically endorsed by Leia – “What are you looking at me for?” – who establish this arc in the first place, thus signaling that Poe has been successful in learning this lesson and has been rewarded with the leadership which was also foreshadowed as the prize for doing so.)

The Canto Bight sequence only has an ancillary impact on Poe’s arc, but I bring it up because it’ll tie back into Finn’s arc in a second. Finn’s arc begins back at the beginning of The Force Awakens and is built around Hierocles’ conception of oikeiôsis,Star Wars - Finn in which humans extend their sense of self in ever-widening concentric circles:

  • He wants to survive.
  • He extends that desire to Rey.
  • He extends that desire to the Resistance (i.e., the actual mean and women who are in peril on the Resistance’s ships).
  • He transcends that desire and becomes a Rebel; one who will fight for what is right to the benefit of the entire galaxy. (This culminates in, “Rebel scum,” which is a fantastic inversion of that line.)

In order for Finn to achieve that final bit of growth, he cannot be stuck on the Resistance transports. He has to go out into the galaxy and truly see the consequences of not standing up to the First Order. He has to see the oppression. That doesn’t necessarily need to be Canto Bight (there are other forms of oppression that could have been depicted), but the setting works well due to the strong contrast between luxury and oppression.

(This is also a good junction to note that the Canto Bight sequence is not particularly long. It takes up only 11 minutes of the film and is very briskly paced.)

The other aspect of Canto Bight is Rose. She doesn’t have a strong personal arc (because she’s a supporting character), but she plays a really important role as Finn’s guide and teacher. Star Wars - Rose TicoNot by actually, literally teaching him shit, but by being the living embodiment of ideas and experiences that he needs to process. Canto Bight is, once again, essential for this because it provides the tapestry on which Rose’s character is revealed, and it is by seeing Canto Bight through Rose’s eyes that Finn learns the lessons he needs to learn.

What’s interesting here is that Finn’s growth up to this point has only taken him as far as where Poe was at the beginning of the film: That’s why Finn disobeys an explicit order and attempts a suicide run on the cannon.

This is really amazing and subtle filmmaking for a couple of reasons:

  • Finn has arrived at this point not by paralleling Poe’s character arc, but by perependicularly coming to the same resolution. This adds depth and dimension to this aspect of the film. (In much the same way that, for example, Kylo Ren and Luke come to the conclusion of “let it all burn” from very different directions and for very different reasons after both ricocheting off opposite sides of the same moment).
  • At the very moment that we’re seeing Poe demonstrate that he’s learned the lesson, we’re seeing Finn repeat Poe’s mistake from the beginning of the film. Thus there is a direct contrast that really lights up Poe’s growth as a character.
  • Rose saves Finn and tries to communicate something really important (both to himself and this entire film): “That’s how we’re going to win. Not by destroying what we hate. By saving what we love.”
  • Finn still hasn’t actually learned the lesson, though. So the moment at which Poe is fully incorporating the lesson and demonstrating his mastery of it (“He’s stalling. (…) We’re the spark that will light the rebellion.”), he’s simultaneously providing the final push Finn needs to get over the hump, learn the lesson, and get to the same point Poe is now at.

And what is that point?

What Poe just said: That it’s not enough to Resist. They must be the Spark which lights the Rebellion.

It’s arguably the single, most important theme of the movie, and these three characters have engaged in a beautiful dance through the entire film so that, rather than just talking about that “spark that lights a rebellion” we’ve seen that spark in action. And how that spark has transformed Poe and Fin (and, through a completely separate arc, Rey) into the Rebellion.

And the whole thing turns around the axis of Canto Bight.

CONCLUSIONS

Canto Bight isn’t the weak link in the movie. It’s an almost perfect example of just how good this movie really is.

Once you divorce The Last Jedi from the crippling flaw of utterly failing to build upon the Star Wars legacy (and, in fact, doing the exact opposite by inflicting terrible damage upon that legacy) — and, don’t get me wrong, that’s a really huge problem — and consider it strictly as a film on its own merits, what you discover is:

  • Incredibly intricate and interwoven character development
  • Fantastic performances from virtually everyone in the case
  • Stunningly beautiful and effective cinematography
  • At least a dozen moments that are absolutely iconic and incredibly memorable

But it’s this last bullet point that inexorably draws us back to that central problem, because for so many of those moments it would be more accurate to say that they would be iconic if they weren’t built on false foundations.

I’ve already mentioned how incredibly cool the “eyes of a frightened boy” moment is… if it didn’t feature Jake Skywalker masquerading as Luke Skywalker. To that we can also add things like:

  • The spellbindingly captivating hyperspace ramming sequence… except that the hyperspace ramming itself (like the sudden ubiquity of never-before-seen cloaking technology) has problems syncing with everything we’ve seen in this universe previously and opens a Pandora’s box of future storytelling problems.
  • The “spark which lights the rebellion” material is pitch perfect, deep, and incredibly effective… if it were part of a story set prior to A New Hope. (It makes the comparable material in Rogue One look almost hapless by comparison, and I liked Rogue One.) But here these themes simply attach a bullhorn to the destructive nihilism of the films with a screeching, “I’m fucking up the original trilogy almost as badly as the special editions!”. And, ironically, the more effective Johnson is in realizing this material, the more he cranks up the volume on the bullhorn.

And so forth. There are also, to be fair, a number of very good moments which land without any drawback whatsoever. (For example, Kylo Ren’s incredibly clever way of getting around Snoke telepathically monitoring him for betrayal.)

But there’s also a smattering of other foibles in the film, including a number of baffling continuity errors. (For example, the fact that Poe knows Maz is perhaps explicable despite never meeting her in the previous film. Poe having somehow never been introduced to Rey during their time at the rebel base at the end of The Force Awakens is not.)

So, here’s my final verdict: As a Star Wars film, The Last Jedi earns a D. Separated from the saga and treated as a form of indulgent fan fiction, I give the film on its own merits a B+.

If you can, like me, separate this film from its destructively nihilistic base through the simple mental expedient of saying #notmystarwars with positive instead of negative intentions, then I highly recommend The Last Jedi. It’s a wonderful and beautiful and powerful film.

But I won’t blame you if you can’t.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Ruin

I was horribly ill back in December when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released. I dragged myself to the theater multiple times to see it through a sequence of flu, strep, and pneumonia, but I wasn’t able to devote the time necessary to write-up my thoughts on it immediately. (And after only a short while, it seemed somewhat redundant.) However, with the film’s recent release to home video and in celebration of the week of May 4th, there are a couple of things I’d like to say.

First, and by way of context: I love the film. I think it’s great. The new characters are fabulous. J.J. Abrams, by and large, is remarkably successful in capturing Lucas’ directorial style while still being true to his own.

There’s really only one thing I don’t like. And it probably won’t be terribly surprising:

STARKILLER BASE

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Starkiller Base

When Starkiller Base first appeared on screen my immediate reaction was, like many people, “Really? We’re doing the Death Star again?”

The most remarkable thing about the Starkiller Base stuff is how utterly irrelevant it is. If you removed it from the movie entirely, virtually nothing would change for the main characters. (Han, Chewie, and Finn still go to the First Order’s base to rescue Rey. Han and Kylo Ren still confront each other. Et cetera.)

There’s also the fact that literally everything to do with the Starkiller Base is poorly done: They fail to establish the stakes for the first time it’s fired (it’s a planet that’s scarcely been mentioned and you see a bunch of people die that you have no reason to care about). The entire thing is a giant plot hole (it needs to consume the system’s sun in order to fire at the end of the film, but doesn’t do that the first time it fires). The off-hand reference to the entire New Republic navy being stationed on the surface of Hosnian Prime doesn’t make any goddamn sense. (It’s as if someone told the story of Pearl Harbour, but for some reason the entire American navy was drydocked in Iowa.) The plan for destroying it is literally the characters saying, “Fuck it. You saw the first film and ROTJ, right?” The attack fleet sent to destroy it doesn’t make any sense. (Why would you only send some of your ships on this mission?) For some reason, after being briefly spied so that Han can suggest bombing the regulator, the X-wing fight is never seen nor heard again by anyone on the ground. And the film couldn’t even be bothered to correctly track the number of ships which had been destroyed during the battle. (Count the number of X-wings that arrive; the number of X-wings destroyed just on screen; and then count the number of X-Wings that leave.)

So, when I’m given the godlike powers to fix stuff that doesn’t make sense in movies, I would probably just eliminate the whole thing. (Because, honestly, we don’t need to go back to the “duplicate of the Death Star” well again. It was already a mistake in ROTJ. The Star Wars universe is big enough that we can explore other cool sci-fi ideas.)

But let’s say that you wanted to keep it. (There’s some cool thematic elements to the whole “light going out” thing with parallels between the sun and Kylo Ren. Plus, I’m guessing the whole “blowing up the government of the New Republic” is probably going to be significant going foward.) Here’s what you’d do:

  1. Starkiller Base doesn’t fire at the midpoint of the film. Instead, the Resistance would learn of its existence through some other means. (For example, Finn reveals the location of the base when debriefed about Rey’s capture. The Resistance sends scout ships — which is something they do in the film anyway — and have the “oh shit” moment of discovering what it is.)
  2. The mission to destroy Starkiller Base at the end of the film is to stop it from firing on the New Republic capital planet. This eliminates most of the grievous continuity errors.
  3. It also gives you the narrative space to add several scenes involving coordination between Leia and her contacts within the New Republic government. These scenes would nicely clarify some of the details on how the modern political landscape actually works in this film; it would also give you an opportunity to learn enough about the Republic and Leia’s allies in the Hosnian System so that its destruction is meaningful to the audience. (This doesn’t take a lot. The first film made the destruction of Alderaan relevant with just a handful of lines.)
  4. Finally, and this is the key thing, the mission fails. You hit basically all the same beats you do during the film as it was released (although with a few tweaks to improve the execution and eliminate the continuity errors), but with the key distinction that they don’t destroy it fast enough. You know how Luke destroys the first Death Star just before it can fire on Yavin 4? You have basically the same moment, except Po Dameron doesn’t manage to destroy the regulator until just after it’s fired.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Destruction of Hosnian Prime

This last point is important not just because it conserves the presumed narrative necessity of destroying the New Republic government, but because it single-handedly justifies the entire presence of Starkiller Base in the movie.

One of the great things about Star Wars is its use of narrative leitmotifs. (Something which is echoed in John Williams’ leitmotif-based scoring.) George Lucas, whatever his flaws as a filmmaker may be, was ingenious at taking common moments and, in mythic fashion, changing the perspective of them so that they commented on each other. (For example, despite the myriad flaws of the prequel films, the telling of Anakin’s fall and its parallels with Luke’s story radically transform the ending of ROTJ: In the context of the original trilogy, you really don’t believe there’s any risk of Luke falling. He’s the Hero. He’s going to be the Hero, right? But once you’ve seen Anakin — who was also the Hero — fall, that tells you something about Luke and adds tremendous depth to that final confrontation in ROTJ which is otherwise absent.)

But when you use a leitmotif you can’t just do the exact same thing again (only bigger!). You have to transform the moment. And I think transforming the destruction of the Death Star into the failure to stop Starkiller Base would definitely have a deeper thematic resonance here. (A lot of The Force Awakens reminds me of a Shakespeare quote: “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right.” And nothing would feel more out of joint than this twisted mirror of A New Hope.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Destruction of Starkiller Base

STAR WARS – FURTHER READING
The Plan of Palpatine
Star Wars: Episodes VII, VIII, and IX

Go to Part 1

Star Wars: Red Peace was originally designed to be the first part in a trilogy of generation-spanning scenarios: Red Peace was set during the waning days of the Clone Wars; the sequel would have been set during the Rebellion of the original trilogy; and the third scenario would have been set twenty years further in the future.

Unfortunately, my group’s experiment with Star Wars: Force and Destiny was not a success: My players did not like the game. (Nor did I.) And it also took about four times longer to accomplish anything in the system than we had anticipated. So we folded the mini-campaign before reaching the second or third scenarios.

As a result, those scenarios were never fully designed. But I’m going to share my original rough thoughts for these in case anyone might be interested.

Star Wars: Restless Sith

In Episode II: Restless Sith, twenty years have passed. The PCs have spent the intervening years studying the Red Holocron in the hopes that it would contain some clue to toppling Emperor Palpatine. They are currently hiding on the far side of the Galaxy, in a region of space outside of Imperial control, investigating information which they believe will lead them to an installation of the Jedi Empire that may contain a weapon they can use against Palpatine.

What they discover, orbiting a neutron star far beyond the common star lanes, is a Jedi Empire space station.

Star Wars: Restless Sith - Space Station

Investigating the station they would have discovered that it was a carbonite facility. They also would have inadvertently awoken the ancient caretakers of the facility: Strange droids made from some sort of malleable, silver-black metal. Bas relief glyphs run over their limbs and torso, concentrating on their faceless features. The glyph droids also exhibit a vicious pack intelligence — the more glyph droids present, the more intelligent they become.

Avoiding or bypassing the glyph droids, the PCs reach the carbonite facility where the weapon of the Jedi Empire was stored.

Unfortunately, they’ve been tricked by the Red Holocron: What they end up thawing out is not a weapon. It’s a Sith Master named Darth Victus.

I intended to end this episode in a fight with Darth Victus onboard the Jedi Empire space station. But if Darth Victus were to escape, you could extend this section of the campaign by having the PCs deal with Darth Victus’ rapidly expanding base of power. (The Empire could also become involved if Emperor Palpatine were to become aware of the ill-timed challenge to his authority.)

Star Wars: Restless Sith - Darth Victus

Star Wars: Dawn of the Droid

To fully understand Dawn of the Droid, you’ll want to start by checking out my thoughts on what a sequel Star Wars trilogy would look like (circa 2006): Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.

Dawn of the Droid takes place 20 years after Restless Sith and the Original Trilogy: The Empire has been overthrown. The New Republic is ascendant. The PCs are now part of the New Jedi Order, founded by Luke Skywalker (who has been missing for a decade) and now run by his wife Mara Jade.

The PCs have been investigating some sort of case and the leads have taken them to Halon Prime, one of the major shipyards for the Republican navy. At Halon Prime they encounter morph droids for the first time: These droids appear to be formed from some sort of black mercury; they fluidly change shape and form. And raised glyphs race across their surface, identical to those they saw on the glyph droids twenty years earlier.

(It’s around here that they might realize that they opened a Pandora’s Box by reactivating those droids.)

The culmination of Halon Prime comes when they encounter a Droid Knight — a droid somehow capable of manipulating the Force — and a droid fleet attacks the shipyards. They duel and chase the Droid Knight through the burning remnants of the Republican fleet.

In the aftermath of the battle, the PCs hook up with Mara Jade and her daughter, who have come to Halon Prime to investigate what happened to the shipyard. (As Red Peace saw the PCs cross paths with known film continuity, the vibe here would be to make it feel like they were crossing over with the continuity of  film that doesn’t actually exist.)

If you wanted to push this scenario further, you could keep the PCs intimately involved in the emerging war and eventually have them follow the clues back to Pelori IV where the Droid Uprising had its start. You could also loop them into the grail quest for the Phoenix Holocron (the Jedi mirror of the Sith’s Red Holocron), which might mean crossing paths with Luke.

FFG STAR WARS – FURTHER READING
Review of Force and Destiny
Force and Destiny: System Cheat Sheet
FFG Star Wars: The Big Fix
Star Wars: Red Peace

Go to Part 1

Star Wars: Red Peace - Jedi Temple on Lothal

The Jedi Temple on Lothal appears in “Path of the Jedi”,  episode 8 of Star Wars: Rebels.

ENTERING THE TEMPLE: When two Jedi synchronize their focus to create a Force harmony, the large central spire corkscrews up to reveal an entrance to the temple. One of these entrances is shown on Star Wars: Rebels, leading to an area where padawans are taken for the Test of the Cave. In reality, there are multiple rotations available depending on the harmony you create.

STANDING ORDER 429: Commander Racto will call in additional clone trooper reinforcements from the Lothal garrison. But, per standing order 429, no clone trooper can directly enter property owned by the Jedi Order. Commander Racto and his men will remain stationed outside of the Temple.

(Technically, this is actually order 42.9 — the ninth section of Order 42. But the Army of the Republic tends to just elide over the decimals. The entirety of Order 42 regulates the relationship between the Army and the Jedi Order.)

MADAME MEREEL: Madame Mereel, the caretaker of the temple, will greet the PCs. Unfortunately, Mereel has been taken over by mind control bugs: At some point, they’ll crawl out of her clothes and over skin, penetrating into her eyes and nose and mouth. And then she’ll attack.

IG-100 DroidBefore that happens, however, she’ll offer to take them some place where they can relax and enjoy some refreshments in the “quiet peace” of the temple. (In reality, she’ll be leading them to the Cyst.) On the way there, she’ll try to learn everything she can about what brought the PCs to the temple, feign her concern about Separatist interest in the temple, and offer whatever assistance she can.

The PCs will probably figure out that something is wrong as they pass into the Cyst, and that’s also a good place for Mereel to reveal herself and ambush them with the assistance of two IG-100 droids. (If they can come up with some clever way to free her from the bugs, great. Otherwise, it’ll be a fight to the death with a Fallen Master.)

MADAME MEREEL

Star Wars: Red Peace - Madame Mereel

IG-100 DROIDS (x2)

Star Wars: Red Peace - IG-100

DARK SIDE CYST

Like many Jedi Temples, the temple on Lothal has been built around a cyst of the dark side (with the temple actually serving to contain the corrosive influence of the cyst itself). Another example of a Dark Side cyst is the cave on Dagobah where Yoda tests Luke in Empire Strikes Back. Confronting the visions created by these cysts is actually part of the tests a Jedi apprentice must face before becoming a Jedi Master (as seen in Tartovsky’s animated Clone Wars mini-series).

The Red Holocron is being kept at the Heart of the Cyst. To get there, the PCs will need to navigate the cyst. This will take the form of navigating through four visions:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Hate
  • Suffering

These visions may take the form of dreams, premonitions, or even action sequences (like Luke dueling with Vader). However, each vision should be customized to the PCs. You can do this by either:

(A) Asking one of the players what the greatest Fear of their character is; then the next player what makes them most Angry in the universe; and so forth. (Crafting each vision based on their answer, so that the group collectively confronts the emotional baggage of the others.)

(B) Asking ALL of the players what their greatest Fear is and then crafting a vision which incorporates all of them. Including material that foreshadows the future events of your campaign would also be effective. (See Random GM Tips – Foreshadowing in RPGs for tips on doing this effectively.)

HEART OF THE CYST

When the PCs reach the Heart of the Cyst, they’ll find the Red Holocron: Force Shades extend from the walls of the inner cyst, caressing the holocron in a shadowy dance. (The cyst is being used to reconstitute and energize the Red Holocron.)

When the PCs access the Red Holocron, the stored personality of Darth Sidious will manifest itself. With Machiavellian glee it will answer their questions and then, at a dramatically appropriate moment, the projection of Darth Sidious will reveal itself to be Emperor Palpatine.

MOMENT OF REVELATION: In that moment of revelation, there is a vergence in the Force. The actual Emperor Palpatine is simultaneously declaring the execution of Order 66. Force sensitive characters can immediately roll any non-committed Force dice they possess.

1 Force Point: They’ll see the recorded projection of Darth Sidious say the words, “Execute Order 66.” (But they will have no idea what that means.)

2 Force Points: They recognize that “Order 66” was the reflection of some larger and darker truth. The disturbance of the Force wrought by Jedi being slaughtered is felt.

4 Force Points: They will also have a vision of Commander Racto receiving the Order and preparing to murder them.

Characters with the Foresee power have their Force point results count double.

FINALE: ORDER 66

Commander Racto and his clone troopers are, in fact, preparing to ambush and slaughter the PCs when they leave the temple. The PCs will either need to fight their way through their erstwhile allies or find a way to sneak out.

Either way, they’ll be escaping into a galaxy that is actively hunting and seeking to destroy them. (The next major incident they experience will probably be receiving the emergency signal from the Jedi Temple, followed shortly thereafter by General Kenobi’s warning that the emergency signal is a fake and that the Jedi should stay away from the temple.)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Commander Racto and the Clone Troopers

Go to the Sequels

Go to Part 1

NODE 2: NAVAL YARDS OF ENDOR

Star Wars: Red Peace - Forest Moon of Endor

There is a previously unknown covert naval yard for the Separatist Army built in orbit around Endor’s forest moon. (A half-constructed Trade Federation battleship can be seen.)

In addition to the primary naval yards, there is a huge construction facility of impossibly gargantuan proportions being built. Based on its scale, if it were to be completed, it could turn out entire fleets of Separatist Army flagships in mere days.

Fortunately, scans indicate that the entire facility is powered down except for a small landing platform. It looks like the naval yards are in the process of being mothballed.

GM BACKGROUND: This is, obviously, the same facility which will be used to construct the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. The facility is being mothballed because Darth Sidious’ plans are in flux. The Red Holocron was brought here so that the Death Star plans could be loaded into it, preserving those plans along with the lore of the Sith. The Holocron was then sent to the Jedi Temple on Lothal (see Node 3).

LANDING PLATFORM: The landing platform consists of a small docking bay, several warehouse-size rooms laid out in a grid of corridors, and (at the top of a lift) the local control tower for the docking bay. (Another lift from this control tower heads up into the mothballed facility, although there’s not much of interest up there.)

GEONOSIAN SKELETON CREW: A small skeleton crew of Geonosians has been left to finish overseeing the shutdown of the facility.

  • Commander Andromias (a Geonosian Lieutenant General)
  • 8 Geonosians
  • 2 droidekas, 8 battledroids

COMMANDER ANDROMIAS

Star Wars: Red Peace - Geonosian Commander

GEONOSIANS (x8)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Geonosian

(use this stat block as a minion, WT = 4)

DROIDEKA (x2)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Droideka

BATTLE DROIDS (x8)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Battle Droid Stats

EWOK SLAVES: There are also twelve Ewok slaves on the station, taken from the forest moon below. They wear slave shock collars (controlled by Andromias) and are being forced to assist in off-loading cargo.

CLUES:

  • Computer records indicate that encrypted schematic plans were transferred to a device featuring unrecognizable data encoding. The transfer was marked with a digital routing code labeled ER-LOTHAL-8756.
  • Questioning the Ewoks: They know that a damaged astromech droid was removed from the Red Hawk just before its departure. Astrogation or Computer checks with the astromech’s databnks will reveal the lightspeed calculations to Lothal that the astromech was making when its power converter burned out.
  • Questioning Andromias: A member of the Techno Union named Chal Bakkal took possession of an artifact from the Sith Empire. Bakkal was taking it to the Jedi Temple on Lothal. (Andromias suspects it may have been a super-weapon which will help the Separatists win the war.)

ESCAPE FROM ENDOR

Star Wars: Red Peace - Rising Storm

Once the PCs have identified their next destination as Lothal, the Rising Storm (a Subjugator-class warship) exits hyperspace nearby. When their ship (presumably) fails to provide the proper Separatist authorization codes, the Rising Storm will begin launching fighters. If the PCs don’t dawdle, they should be able to easily outrun the Rising Storm, but there will be three waves of droid fighters that could potentially intercept them: 2 scouts, then 4, then 4 more (with a new wave arriving every 3 rounds).

The PCs need 12 rounds to escape the system, although a successful Astrogation check will reduce the time required by 1 round per Advantage.

RISING STORM

Star Wars: Red Peace - Rising Storm

DROID FIGHTERS

Star Wars: Red Peace - Droid Fighter

DROID PILOTS

Star Wars: Red Peace - Droid Pilots

Go to Node 3: Jedi Temple of Lothal

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