Star Wars as Island-Hopping Pulp

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Last week’s post talked about the tech that’s present in the original trilogy, and how difficult it is to convert to the kind of consistent, predictable technology that players crave in their worldbuilding. Today, I’m presenting a Doylist framework for figuring out what technology/tech functionality to allow and disallow in a Star Wars game. Let me just go ahead and summarize it real quick, then explain in more depth:

If it would make sense in a pulp action-adventure novel set in Earth’s South Pacific in the early 20th Century, it makes sense translated to Star Wars.

Lucas’ inspiration for Star Wars was inarguably all varieties of pulp from the early 20th Century, as well as Kurosawa films. The influence is so significant that you could back-translate the entire original trilogy into a slightly alt-universe, pro-mystic adventure novel set around 1905 in the islands near Japan, and you’d have to change basically nothing but the sets and props.

The biggest difference that requires a slight alt-universe is the omnipresent Empire, but it’s not actually that much of a stretch. Assume either British imperialists deciding to take over Japan through Indonesia along with their escapades in China and India, or the government of the Meiji Restoration deciding to expand past the original borders of Japan. They’re not culturally diverse; the non-humans of Star Wars are different island cultures that have been co-opted by the Empire, and non-Imperial humans are just immigrants from the motherland that identify more with their new homes than with their home culture. Droids are the lowest caste, and the blatant acceptance of heroes with slaves in their retinue is overlooked at the time but not the proudest moment for readers looking back on the stories.

Draw in disenfranchised Samurai, probably with some elements of other Asiatic mystic warrior groups like Shinobi and Kung Fu Monks, with exactly the kind of provable mystic powers that would show up in an adventure novel, and you have Jedi. Force powers and lightsaber duels are ninja tricks and katana battles without even having to squint hard.

Now look at small island nations in the earliest days of the 1900s. Plane travel is still a few years out, but other methods of transportation are clustered in a way they never will be again: gas, steam, and wind all power ships with different speeds and advantages to get from island to island, and local travel is at least as likely to be on animal back as on a powered automobile.

Weapons tech is similarly muddled. Firearms are widespread, and powerful enough to shoot through armor, but the soldiers of the Empire may still encounter enough opponents armed with slings and arrows that it’s worthwhile to keep wearing standardized protection. Almost nobody bothers with melee weapons anymore… except those mysterious wandering monks that are so skilled they can bring a katana to a gunfight and come out ahead (they’re so fast they can cut bullets out of the very air!).

A young farmboy who’s a fair hand at sailing lives with his aunt and uncle on a desert island deep in the sea, more of a haven for pirates and smugglers than honest folk. When his family is killed, he takes his new mentor and new servants to try to reunite them with the princess who sent for aid. To get there, they’ll need help from a pirate and his decrepit but fast smuggling ship. Yet when they arrive, they find that the Empire has rolled out a new weapon: an island-sized ship that can quickly launch enough ordinance to reduce an entire city-state to rubble from the harbor and ignore the weapons of the defenders. Now they’re in a race to get the secrets of the base back to a hidden island of rebels and launch a fleet of fast-moving boats that might evade its guns and shoot torpedoes into its engines. All the while, the young man’s training as the last Ronin is dogged by a threatening black-clad former Samurai who threw in with the very Empire that exterminated his brethren.

Let’s look at a few obvious technology translations:

  • Blaster – Gun: They punch through armor and are becoming extremely reliable and available, quickly changing the face of warfare that was using bows, single-shot muskets, and swords a few decades earlier.
  • Comlink – Short Wave Radio: Still in its technological infancy and easily jammed and corrupted, but able to reach far across the South Pacific.
  • Lightsaber – Katana: People still seriously argue about the legendary sharpness of katana; in pulp from a century ago, they’re easily attributed with even wilder properties.
  • Starship – Ship: Heavily armored ships likely use diesel engines, but steamships and even sailboats may still be in common use to get from island to island. Ships may commonly have a diesel engine to go somewhere really fast, and sails for local travel, in the same parallels as hyperspace and sub-light engines.

With all of these in mind, the least-plausible tech from the original trilogy makes sense in context. Ships can get virtually anywhere in a few hours, because we’re just in the South Pacific, not in a whole galaxy. Tractor beams? Sure, because a bigger ship could shoot grapples at a smaller ship it wanted to board. Tightly packed asteroid field, and you can hide in one and get out of your ship without an EVA suit? It makes sense if it’s just a rough patch of sea studded with detritus and tiny islands. Blowing up a whole planet makes much more sense if you’re just wiping out a large city.

Essentially, if you want to know if a piece of technology would fit into a Star Wars game, just imagine whether an early-1900s analogue would have a place in a semi-realistic pulp novel. If the capabilities imparted by the tech would cause a scientifically literate reader pause, then it’s too weird. If you think it would fit, now you just have to remember to have its sci-fi translation interact with all the other translations in a plausible manner (e.g., if you could break the “real” piece of tech by shooting it with a gun, then you can break the Star Wars tech by shooting it with a blaster).

Additionally, accepting this idea works fine with The Force Awakens and real timetables. The differences in tech between episodes 6 and 7 are the same 30 year timeskip: if it would make sense in a spy thriller set immediately before WWII in the same alt-history pulp world, then it makes sense in the timeline of the new movies.

Similarly, doing the same transformation backwards, Obi-Wan and Anakin would be young men in the mid-late 1800s… which would be smack dab in the middle of the Meiji Restoration and the Opium Wars. And both of those might provide ample ideas for the alternate prequel-era backstory that I’ll start laying out next week.

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Star Wars Original Trilogy Facts, Part 3

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We’re still on the same topic as last week and the week before. This week, that stickiest of storytelling subjects: science and technology.

Even the works of science fiction that try the hardest to obey our extrapolated knowledge of physics and other sciences tend to make compromises: The writer of The Martian admits that the soil on Mars is way too toxic to grow potatoes, no matter how much poop you add, and the writers of The Expanse are trying to make the science just plausible enough that it doesn’t get in the way for educated readers. For space opera, like Star Wars, there’s even less impetus to get the science right: even if real physics wouldn’t completely negate the story you’re trying to tell, explaining it would kill the pacing of a movie.

Unfortunately, in a movie you can have Han and Chewie shout technobabble at each other while frantically fiddling with complicated mechanisms and distract the audience long enough to get to the next plot point, but that doesn’t work as well in an RPG. The players don’t necessarily need the technology to be plausible, but they need it to be predictable. That’s what makes it technology instead of magic: they can assume, if they’ve spent the points, their characters understand it and can make it work consistently. So is there any such consistency in the tech of Star Wars?

Lasers and Lightspeed

Perhaps the biggest conceptual hurdle is that light just doesn’t work the way Star Wars implies it does.

While the original trilogy doesn’t really ever call blasters “lasers” (unless I missed a reference), most people seem to think that’s just a shortening of “laser blasters.” They do mention “turbo lasers.” Neither of these things behave like a laser beam on earth: they work much more like the weapons are spitting a coherent spout of plasma that somehow doesn’t deform in atmosphere but only moves at subsonic speeds (only around 20% the speed of sound, based on visual calculations by the Mythbusters).

References to “Lightspeed” in the films are even worse, particularly in how they cause physicist after physicist to want to use Star Wars travel to explain the twin paradox. But not only are there no relativistic effects involved, the speeds involved are clearly much faster than the speed of light. (Unless solar systems in a galaxy far, far away are significantly closer to one another than those in our galaxy) even at 100% of the speed of light, it should take years to get in between systems (a trip that takes hardly any time in hyperspace, and which, in Empire Strikes Back, Han, Leia, and Chewie make in an indeterminate but short time even using “sub-light” engines).

Particularly in these instances, and in a lot of others, it’s probably best to just assume that the translator of the epic sagas from long, long ago used the closest English approximation for technical terms, even when they’re only superficially similar. That is, it’s easier to assume that any kind of technical jargon that sounds like an English term is actually a bad translation of a much different piece of technology that defies our understanding. You’ll still run into problems if, say, the players need to describe something that emits a coherent beam of light and then figure out how long it will take to get somewhere, but at least you won’t be trying to twist real physics to somehow explain what appears on screen.

Lightsabers

This practice saves you a ton of work when explaining lightsabers, because clearly nothing in our known physics would explain a way to emit a cylindrical shaft of energy that somehow stops dead a meter from its housing. Before you come up with your own consistent explanation for lightsabers, don’t forget a few pieces on information that seem to have gotten lost in later materials:

  • Particularly in the first film, lightsabers aren’t just uniform cylinders. Anakin’s saber is shaped much more like a blade: it clearly flattens and expands as Luke turns it, as if you’re sometimes seeing the flat and sometimes the edge. Later movies (even in the original trilogy) seem to have simplified the graphic effect, but it’s completely reasonable to assume that lightsabers have a directionality.
  • Lightsabers can’t necessarily cut through anything; there are actually only a few examples of successfully cutting through large/dense structures. In Empire, Vader cuts through some metal cylinders on the catwalk fighting Luke that appear to be a handspan across and not solid metal. In Jedi, he cuts through several support struts of the catwalk in the Emperor’s room with a saber throw, but it’s unclear how thick they are or what they’re made of. Casual interactions of sabers with floors and walls tend to leave a light scorch mark or no mark at all. Obviously, these can be explained most efficiently by sometimes things are practical effects meant to be cut in half and sometimes the actors banged their props into things and the special effects team had to do the best they could in post-production, but they nonetheless made it to the screen. It’s completely reasonable to assume that a saber works more or less on the order of a powerful cutting torch: it’s emitting a lot of focused heat, and could weld but not cut through anything that can soak up all that heat. That is, you don’t have to let your jedi cut through floors or blast doors, no matter how much they want to.

Planetary Tech

Now that the big issues are out of the way, let’s just hit the high points of various pieces of tech we see in the original trilogy:

  • Blasters are pretty deadly to anyone they hit; even the pistols tend to one-shot targets in heavy armor. It’s unclear what the difference is between pistols and rifles (maybe it’s ammunition, maybe it’s accuracy, maybe its that rifles can have a stun setting; only the Stormtroopers ever mention an ability to set for stun). Whatever they use for ammunition, they can be unloaded (since Stormtroopers remind each other to load their blasters). Whatever they’re doing responds to magnetism (unless “magnetically sealed” is another untrustworthy jargon term); certain rooms, like trash compactors, can make blaster bolts ricochet.
  • Some weapons can emit a pulse of electricity that disables droids. These are probably “Ion” weapons, as that term is mentioned later in another context, but there’s no hard proof one way or the other in the trilogy. Certainly the “Ion Cannons” that the Rebels use to clear the airspace over Hoth do something very similar to starships to what the Jawas did to R2.
  • Comlinks are small handheld cylinders that allow long-distance communication, possibly at interplanetary distances with no lightspeed (the real meaning of the term) delay. However, whatever method they use to communicate can be jammed. Jamming is so common that it’s built into Stormtrooper speeder bikes in a very well-known location.
  • Cyberware is pretty amazingly good, though it’s unclear how expensive it is. Cybernetic prosthetics can provide an extremely functional replacement with realistic skin and the sensation of touch.
  • Display technology in screens seems to be pretty primitive compared to modern Earth; it’s possible that screens work entirely based on vector technology, so are much better at making wireframes than real images. Meanwhile, holograms are common and good: even a droid can emit a fuzzy, blue-tinted hologram, and other sources (like the Falcon’s chess game) are true-color with hardly any visual artifacts. It’s entirely plausible that the availability of holograms for entertainment means that screens are only used for technical and military applications, and have never had any consumer impetus to get better than ugly wireframes.
  • Data can be stored on card-shaped disks that can be inserted into droids. Access to computers, at least for droids, is through a seemingly universal port that involves rotation to access data.
  • In general, many technologies seem to have some level of AI. Owen needs C3PO to talk to his moisture vaporators, and 3PO mentions that load lifters use the same type of Binary language.
  • Ship-mounted scanners can detect “life forms” (exact context undescribed) from long distances, and R2 seems to have a droid-mounted variation with a smaller range.
  • High-tech binoculars come with low-light compensation and zoom.

Starships

Again, let’s just hit the high points, since this post is already getting hella long:

  • Starships have a “main reactor” which implies secondary reactors. It’s unclear what they use to generate power, and if or how often they have to refuel. They have “auxiliary power” systems, and you might need them for high-energy maneuvers like going into full reverse.
  • Ships have “deflector shields” that appear to be the primary defense in ship-to-ship combat. They have to be angled to intersect with incoming fire, and it’s unclear whether the size of their coverage can be altered on the fly.
  • Ship weapons typically seem to be scaled up versions of blasters, but these don’t work against targets, like the Death Star exhaust port, that are “ray shielded;” this may be very similar to the magnetic seal in the trash compactor that reflected hand-held blasters. In these cases, ships can use “proton torpedoes” and it’s unclear if these are physical missiles, or just an alternate firing method for the ship’s guns (they look more like big energy bolts than physical torpedoes).
  • Ships can go into hyperspace to get places quickly, as discussed above, and “.5 past lightspeed” is a term that means something relevant to speed in hyperspace (and, since it’s the Falcon’s speed, presumably that’s near as fast as any ship can go). These trips could be interfered with by massive objects in space, so navicomputers are necessary to plot a course through hyperspace rather than just a single distance and direction. TIE Fighters, unlike X-Wings, cannot get into hyperspace on their own, but they might in a convoy (so, potentially, one ship could open a hyperspace route and drag smaller ships with it even if they weren’t physically connected?).
  • Larger ships, like Star Destroyers, can have “turbolasers” which are powerful but slow (not good against “snubfighters” the size of an X-Wing). Large ships might also include a cloaking device (we never see one, but the Imperials seem pretty convinced the Millennium Falcon, at least, is too small to have one). They might also have “tractor beams” that can invisibly reel in a smaller ship; you might not even notice you’ve been caught until you realize you’ve lost control of your ship.
  • Ship bays with atmosphere are protected from the void by a “magnetic field.” On initially reeling in the Falcon, it seems important to clear the Death Star bay before lowering the field (as if lowering it would remove the air from the bay), and it’s unclear whether the Falcon’s escape caused any kind of decompression (as, again, the bay seemed mostly clear when it left). Later films seem to make the field permeable to ships but not air, so it’s probably safest to just assume the Imperials had another reason for clearing the bay (rather than, what probably actually happened, which was something that made sense in the first movie being a bad scene-setup for later ones).

In Conclusion

In general, an interesting takeaway for Star Wars tech from the original trilogy is that does not feel like a stagnant universe. The prequel films and other materials (particularly Knights of the Old Republic) tend to paint a galaxy that’s had basically the same tech for generations, and, if anything, has lost knowledge by the time of the original trilogy. But little references, like Luke not being able to get a good price for his speeder since the XP-38 came out, and everyone’s reaction to the Millennium Falcon as a piece of junk imply that new technology is being invented on a regular basis.

And all of that is what you need to work out your own basis for the technology. I’ve already come up with a Watsonian explanation that uses the Force as a magic exception to explain the tech. Next week, I’ll provide a more Doylist framework for inventing technology and technological explanations that feel Star Warsy.

I have a few more blocks of facts, like languages, droids, people, and places that may justify later posts in this series, and I’ll edit a link into this post if I ever get around to writing them.

Star Wars Original Trilogy Facts, Part 2

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Continuing the same thought experiment from last week (what would you be able to use for worldbuilding if you only had episodes 4-6?), this week is all about those risky dinner table topics: religion and politics.

The Force as Religion

The original trilogy implies, to my mind, a fairly weird development of religion in the galaxy:

  • There is an inarguable source of supernatural power, and it likely crowds out other religions that don’t demonstrably let their priests predict the future, control minds, and levitate things.
  • At some point, it gets a bad reputation and most of its empowered representatives disappear (possibly when a growing Empire decides to go on a pogrom against it, possibly on its own).
  • By the time of A New Hope, it’s considered hokey, ancient, and just a bunch of tricks. Likely, technology is advanced enough that it’s pretty easy to assume, on casual inspection, that Force powers are just some kind of sleight of hand that you haven’t figured out yet. There aren’t enough Force users left to give most people a non-casual inspection.
  • No dominant religion seems to have replaced it, it’s just as if people have moved off of religion (or, conversely, are just very good about never, ever mentioning their religion in a multicultural society with a lot of tiny religions). Well, except for the Ewoks’ tendency to cargo-cult shiny droids.

Maybe it’s because, religion-wise, the Force has much more in common with Buddhism or Shintoism as opposed to ones that have gods that espouse dogma. That is, after an unknown but presumably long period where the major religion doesn’t feature commandments, but instead is just about feeling how everything is connected, people just got out of the habit of using divine mandate to justify their actions?

In particular, the Empire is lacking a certain undercurrent of “We’re the good guys because our god wants us to do this” that is prevalent in similar structures in the real world. In fact, the Empire, at least at its highest levels, is self-avowedly evil. Whenever Luke accuses Vader that “there is still good in you” it meets with denial, and exhortations about the power of the Dark Side (implying that yes, he’s evil, but it’s worth it). It’s not like the Emperor and Vader have even constructed a moral equivalency where they think the Dark Side is superior and morally correct; they know they’re doing the wrong thing, and enjoying the power.

From a worldbuilding standpoint, this probably means there are three kinds of religions in the galaxy:

  • Religions that are just some kind of gloss on light side Force use, which somehow reference the connection between all things and demonize anger, fear, aggression, and hate.
  • Antinomian religions that are a gloss on the Dark Side (and probably opposed to some other light side religion), that actually admit to being demonic in exchange for power.
  • Religions that can’t demonstrably create miracles, so are likely to hemorrhage adherents to the first cult that happens by that is led by a Force user .

And none of those religions receive much credence from the dominant political structure in the galaxy or even from your common man who’d rather have a good blaster at his side.

The Politics of the Empire

The original trilogy is kind of a Libertarian paradise.

The galaxy is huge, most planets seem to be habitable by humanoids, and going to a different planet is relatively easy (particularly if you’re not too picky about time frames and exactly where you’re going). This likely creates an abundant frontier mindset, where it’s pretty common to pack it in and move somewhere away from people if you can’t get along with the folks where you are. Indeed, even core, developed worlds seem to only have millions of inhabitants (unless Obi-Wan’s death-sense is inaccurate by a couple orders of magnitude); they don’t get packed like modern day Earth, because there are plenty of places to go if your planet starts getting crowded.

There’s probably not a lot of worry about environmental consequences. When a planet can be blown up with a big shrug even with millions dead, likely nobody cares too much about the long-term effects of Tibanna gas extraction on the Bespin ecosystem. There’s always somewhere else to go if you start ruining your current planet.

We don’t really see too many active societies, and maybe Mos Eisley and Bespin aren’t ideal snapshots of what a normal city would look like, but they’re notable for their lack of police and government services. Tatooine is the very picture of an armed, polite society: everyone has a blaster, and if someone starts something in a bar nobody’s too worried if they get maimed or killed, unless Stormtroopers happen by to ask about it. And, yet, you don’t seem to get enclaves of warlords trying to take over the territory; everyone seems to be able to just go about their farming, bar-owning, trading, and criminal activities in relative peace. Likely it has something to do with a combination of everyone being armed with instantly lethal blasters, most people having an easy time of escaping to a different planet if you make things annoying for them, and the Empire probably stepping in to quash local warlords that aren’t acting on their behalf.

Instead, what you seem to get is, at the bottom levels, a fairly peaceful anarchy. There are enough space pilots that pretty much any piece of technology can be had shipped in from anywhere, and everyone self-organizes to plug into this galactic trade in some way without oversight. Owen is the very picture of a small-business entrepreneur, and Lando’s operation isn’t really that much bigger.

At the non-local level, the films suggest only a few galactic hierarchies:

  • There’s an Emperor, and star destroyers and death stars fly about the galaxy trying to enact his greater agenda. They have good communications, and are able to project overwhelming force, but, crucially, not everywhere at once. Getting on the Empire’s radar might drop a star destroyer on your head (more if you’re considered a key rebellion hotspot), but you may not even see them except for rare inspections if you’re not a priority for them.
  • There are Governors, which probably call in the star destroyers when needed, but we have no idea how big their territories are, and the only one we ever meet, Tarkin, is actually serving as a general on a death star. Your governor is probably mainly just your local source for grievances if you want to be a snitch and get the Empire involved in your dispute, and the guys that try to keep a finger on what’s going on in their systems to coordinate Empire activities.
  • There was a Senate, but it was a remnant of the Old Republic, and likely had no power beyond the ceremonial. Before the senate was dissolved, you could probably track down a diplomat to run something up to your senator to try to get the senate to pass a non-binding resolution that the Emperor might or might not listen to, as fit his whimsy for the day. Dissolving it didn’t seem to make anyone that upset other than Leia.
  • There are Guilds, like the Mining Guild, that you can join (and which might come around and lean on you to join if you get big enough). They probably offer a pretty straightforward deal of dues/cut of the profits for larger protection and negotiating power. Lando obviously considers them too expensive to be worthwhile, though he might have been in a stronger position against Vader if he’d have been able to call in the Mining Guild to help out.

But, on the ground, things seem to work incredibly well without government involvement. The Empire is an imposition, though it may have a few benefits over total anarchy. In general, people just do their own things trying to provide goods and services that plug into a galactic trade economy. Yeah, sometimes you get assaulted by Sand People, maimed in a bar, or disintegrated because you accidentally got involved with a rebellion/Empire dust up, but, on the whole, you’re pretty safe. On a planet that’s home to a galaxy-spanning cartel and a wretched hive of scum and villainy, you can safely maintain a small desert farmstead for two decades using only yourself, your spouse, your nephew, a few used droids, and some seasonal farmhands.

You’re armed, and most people don’t want to risk getting shot, if things get too hot you can pack up and jump a freighter at the nearest port, and, all things considered, the Empire sucks but at least they’re more likely to bother the guy trying to set up a fiefdom at your expense than to bother you. Keep your head down and figure out how to make money, and you don’t even need a functioning local government.

(Continued in Part 3)

Star Wars Original Trilogy Facts, Part 1

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(This series has, at worst, extremely minor spoilers for The Force Awakens, but if you were worried about that, you’d have probably seen it by now, right?)

The Red Letter Media review of The Force Awakens made a good point about the new movie: that before the prequels, one could actually assume that Luke’s training was only slightly atypical (that Jedi training usually starts out in the early teens, perhaps, rather than with tiny children). This reminded me of a game I’ve been wanting to run for a while (nearly a decade!): a prequel-era game that totally ignores the information in the prequels (and, really, any information that doesn’t come from episodes 4-6). Instead, the game would reconceive of everything in the backstory based on worldbuilding done during the original trilogy.

To that end, I first off had to figure out what facts were actually in the original trilogy. I’m working off of a list of hastily-assembled notes I made while rewatching the movies, and this series will expand on some of the material in the linked document.

Some overall impressions, before diving in:

  • Did most of the last names come first from the merchandising? There’s a surprising dearth of recognizable last names in the film, unless I just totally missed them. I don’t think you can know that Owen and Beru have the last name Lars, or Leia’s is Organa, without some kind of secondary material. When did The Emperor become Emperor Palpatine… was it after the prequels?
  • The original films are actually pretty light on wacky words. Tarkin is called “Governor” rather than “Grand Moff.” Jedi take pupils or apprentices, not “Padawans.” I’m not sure where the profusion of nouns started, but it wasn’t the core movies; they tended to use a reasonable English word rather than inventing a new one if the concept was at all similar.
  • It’s pretty well known that the expanded materials really overcharged lightsaber battles, but it’s surprising just how limited Force powers are. We’ve gotten so used to Force-pushing down whole legions and other telekinesis-stunts that it’s hard to square with how little supernatural stuff even experienced Jedi like Kenobi, Yoda, and Vader do.
  • The Force Awakens, overall, does a much better job of staying in line with the power-levels and tech of the original trilogy than the prequels ever did.
  • The movies have always been story-first, seat-of-the-pants creations where continuity, travel-times, and other internal logic took a back seat to what was cool at the moment. For example, I’ve heard a few nitpicks about how JJ Abrams doesn’t know how big space is, but the distances involved in the original trilogy weren’t much longer or at all realistic to how an actual galaxy would be laid out.

Anyway, let’s start looking at some overall categories in the order I think of them. Remember, we’re ignoring the prequels, the EU, merchandising, and novelizations for this breakdown. This is a thought experiment where we only have the DVDs of episodes 4-6, and we’re having to establish everything else from context.

The Family Skywalker

Does anyone really believe that there was a grand plan for Vader to be secretly the father of twin siblings, Luke and Leia, from the first movie? In order to actually make that work, you have to assume that Obi-Wan’s tendency to say things that are only true “from a certain point of view” extends to pure fabrication, and that Vader is the most unobservant father in the galaxy. Using the prequels makes this way worse, of course, but it’s hard to square the facts even in the originals (almost as if things were being retconned as Lucas had better ideas).

There are some very definite statements made, which have sizable implications:

First, it’s not clear how Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are actually related to Luke. Is one of them Anakin’s sibling (it could even be Owen, if you ignore the “Lars” surname as non-core and assume he’s Owen Skywalker)? Luke’s mother’s? Or are they just trusted family friends/godparents (a couple of my best friends’ kids call me “Uncle”) that would have grudgingly taken “orphaned” Luke? Obi-Wan does make a significant point that Owen knew Anakin way back when and didn’t think he should have gotten involved in the wars, and is worried that Luke will get lured off on another one of Kenobi’s “damn-fool idealistic crusades.” It would be logical, but I don’t even think it was strongly implied, that they’ve always lived on Tatooine: if you’re going to steal your recently-evil friend’s son, not change the last name, and foster the child with his close relatives, one would think at the very least you’d get them to move.

Second, somehow Leia wound up a princess. Now, obviously royalty in a galaxy far, far away could work differently than it does on Earth, but let’s assume it doesn’t for a second. Leia’s “father” that she references several times in A New Hope is presumably a king, or at least a prince, on Alderaan. It’s unclear whether he’s the king of Alderaan, or the planet has multiple kingdoms, but, regardless, “princess” is a pretty important royal title. If there’s any level of scheming peerage on the planet, it would be extremely hard to take in a woman and her baby girl and just be like, “This is my daughter, Leia. She’s princess now.” It only takes one angry cadet line of royalty upset at getting bumped down in the succession to raise a stink that the Empire might hear about. Leia remembers her real mother, even though she died when Leia was very young. Did she marry into the royalty of Alderaan and pass Leia off as the legitimate daughter of the new husband? Did she hide in the court in some other capacity and somehow substitute Leia for the true legitimate daughter? Did Anakin just straight up seduce a queen and not realize he got her pregnant? Somehow Vader never associated the woman he got pregnant with the headstrong young princess and senator he clashed with.

Finally, the prequels just straight up butchered the implications about Obi-Wan and Anakin’s friendship in favor of a little kid excited about pod racing. Obi-Wan actually paints a very clear picture of a young man (probably about Luke’s age) that he met and thought he could train. A war was going on, and Anakin had ideals that Owen disagreed with, probably already on a path to get involved even before Obi-Wan showed up to take him on a crusade. Anakin was a great pilot when they met (implied to be a pilot like Luke, not a pod racer or whatever). Obi-Wan thought he could train Anakin as well as Yoda, but was wrong. The mental picture is of two friends bonded by their ideals and the Force that go off together to fight a war, one of whom is overconfident about his abilities as a teacher such that the other is not properly protected against the Dark Side. But before that happens, the duo fights and romances their way across a galaxy at war.

It is, of course, that mental picture that makes me want to run a reconceived game in the first place.

(Continued in Part 2)