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)

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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)

Borrowing from Video Games: SW:TOR’s Story

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If you’d told me a few months ago how many hours I was going to blow on Star Wars: The Old Republic within my first month, I wouldn’t have believed you. After all, I’ve been clean of World of Warcraft for nearly five years. I’ve played other DIKU-style MMOs in the intervening time completely casually, often getting bored after a few hours in. I’ve been eagerly awaiting Guild Wars 2 for precisely the reason that it’s replacing a lot of the most obvious inheritances from EverQuest and WoW. Yet the gameplay in TOR could almost entirely be run in any standard DIKU from WoW to Rift with just an art and sounds change. And, while I’m a big fan of lightsabers and all the other assorted brand identity of Star Wars, that in itself wouldn’t explain the draw of the MMO.

What does is the story.

The most obvious evidence of this is the sheer amount of cash spent on voice acting and animation: every mission in the game has at least a short conversation that is fully voiced, animated, and cut like a scene from an animated film. It’s leagues beyond “click NPC, see mission text, click accept” and the level of animation and NPC interaction is far beyond even any other voiced MMOs I’ve played. When you get your quest to kill ten rats you’re going to feel viscerally that the death of this arbitrary number of arbitrary critters is a matter of life or death for your questor. Not only do you see the emotional reaction to your mission completion, you even usually get a thank you note a little while later giving you the denouement of the plotline.

That’s useful, high-production-value gloss. It really makes the game shine. But it’s not the true engine of the story.

The real brilliance is the story flow, which is something I’ve never seen another MMO really do in the same way, and certainly not to the same success. The way most MMOs these days work is the concept of quest hub to quest hub. You go to a little village or camp, there are a bunch of NPCs that have missions in the area that need doing, and eventually one of them gives you a mission that takes you to the next quest hub. There may be some overarching logic to your overall path, but it gets drowned in the noise of all the quests you’re doing. And the overarching logic is shared by everyone in your faction.

TOR starts with a personal, class-specific quest. It’s different for each of the eight primary classes in the game. You’re on a personal mission: the quest to catch and ruin the criminal that stole your ship, the careful dance of ending a terrorist conspiracy, a secretive search for a rival operative that threatens to undo your master’s plans, and so on. Each of these personal stories is broken into a whole series of smaller goals… and each of those smaller goals sends you by the ubiquitous quest hubs to pick up a few more missions while you just happen to be in the area. It’s a simple and yet winning change: instead of the focus being on whatever arbitrary pile of tasks happen to be in the area, it’s on the much more compelling (yet equally arbitrary) series of class story tasks that happen to send you through the area.

And these tasks are incredibly arbitrary for the simple fact that every one of the four class stories in a faction has to share exactly the same series of beats. If you travel in a group of four, each a different primary class, you’ll never have to wander more than a bit out of your way to do each other’s story quests. The agent goes to the temple to stop terrorists, the inquisitor is hunting a relic buried there, the warrior needs yet another relic, and the hunter has to eliminate a troublesome NPC that happens to be there. Yet the overall design is clever enough that your own story doesn’t feel especially slighted by knowing everyone else is going to the same places for different reasons.

That’s a long lead up of explanation to get to the question: Why don’t we do this more often in tabletop RPGs?

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen in tabletop games, particularly those run by new GMs (or just for new groups where the GM doesn’t know the players well), is in getting player engagement. As a GM, you put your story out there and the players either find something about it that their characters invest in, or they slog along out of friendliness hoping something will eventually click. I’ve seen a lot of games eventually stall out largely because most of the group never really cared much about the story.

The obvious solution to this is to run a sandbox game where the players completely drive the action based on what their characters want. But, in addition to not working well for all genres, a true sandbox requires a level of improv skill and/or prep time that not every GM is ready to bring. Plus, ignoring the derisive label of frustrated novelist, a lot of GMs get inspired by a story idea that they want to try rather than an open setting.

TOR offers a compromise: an individually-directed story that nevertheless parallels and draws the player into the story the GM is interested in telling. Instead of the player character’s goals being side tasks that sometimes distract the group from the main story, they’re the hooks that get the group into the main story in the first place.

Interestingly, the place I see this kind of thing most often is convention games with pre-gen characters that have written backstories. GMs that make these often take great pains to ensure that the pre-gen’s goals will keep the plot moving. Why not do this with your home game where the players each have their own character? For all but the most closed or disinterested players, it’s a simple matter to ask them for their take on where they’d like their characters to grow or what they want them to accomplish. Then set measurable steps to this goal (either as achievements out of play with the player, or delivered in-character but clearly during the first session). You can even bribe the player with the promise of a big dump of exp or other upgrades set to milestones or total completion: for certain players, nothing focuses the mind like pursuit of system-based character improvement.

Once you know where the players want to go and you have a finite series of steps to get there, it should be a simple matter to bind those steps into the main story you want to run. Want the players in a haunted house? The solution to a player’s personal mystery is hidden inside. Want them to infiltrate an enemy group? One of them has information pertinent to a player’s story that has to be socially engineered. Need them to kill ten rats? A contact has a crucial piece of the puzzle and that’s his price for turning it over. Sure, the players may grumble a little: it is obvious what you’re doing. But as long as it has a measurable impact at getting them closer to their goals, they’ll most likely play along.

And the coolest thing about this in a tabletop game is that you should be able to disguise it more easily than an MMO with areas that have fixed levels of enemies. Player goals don’t necessarily all have to serendipitously wind up at the same place. They can be trusted to help one another on disparate goals only to see a story emerging from all of them together. Or, for groups where their goals run largely perpendicular to one another, you could even gloss the entire game as periods of downtime progress on goals with sessions chronicling the times that a bunch of the PCs’ goals happen to intersect.

It might not be high art, but it certainly beats a player complaining that he doesn’t even know why his character is there.

Ultimate Star Wars – Force Powers

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Originally posted September 2007

Further narrowing down my Star Wars game concept where only episodes 4-6 are canon (here and here), I’d like to figure out which Force powers actually show up in the original trilogy vs. what powers were added in the expanded universe. I’m also interested in keeping the Dark Side powers as different methods of using the standard powers (to keep those that fall to the Dark Side from having to work harder to get their mojo, since the Dark Side is supposed to be faster and easier). From memory, I have:

  • Force Senses (Innate Power for the Use the Force skill): Use to overcome sensory penalties, use a lightsaber without personal danger, initiate telepathy between closely attuned sensitives, and receive minor flashes of precognition.
  • Force Push (Low-finesse TK): Use to shove, lift, throw, and tractor in objects, as well as to make force leaps and otherwise enhance athletic ability.
  • Force Wave (Mass TK): Use as special attack to shove lots of people or objects at once.
  • Force Manipulation (Mid-finesse TK): Use to manipulate objects in simple fashions (push buttons, turn knobs, etc.) or to choke or crush objects.
  • Force Precision (High-finesse TK): Use to make fine manipulations of objects like assembling a lightsaber in mid-air. Also, when used out of anger, it tends to agitate electrons in the air and become Force Lightning.
  • Use Lightsaber: Allows you to bring your Force skill to bear on using a lightsaber, rather than the normal melee skill, and to parry objects that should be too fast to block (such as blaster bolts).
  • Mind Trick (Minor Mind Control): Use to bend the minds of the simple for short periods (functionally, use Force skill instead of Persuade skill).
  • Mind Illusion (Moderate Mind Control): Use to create visions in the minds of others that will seem to be completely real. Unlike Mind Trick, the user does not have to engage in conversation with the target or even be perceived.
  • Mind Shackle (Major Mind Control): Use to gradually enslave minions to your will (functionally, use Force skill as Leadership).
  • A Moment Ahead (Minor Precog): Use to see a few moments into the future. The character can use this to receive bonuses on appropriate skills, such as Pilot or Melee. The character also receives uncontrolled visions of the future, often while dreaming.
  • Destiny View (Major Precog): Use to see the future up to several weeks ahead (even further for especially significant events). These visions can be clouded or outright wrong when multiple precognitive Force users are working at cross purposes.
  • We are All Connected (Telepathy): Use to initiate telepathy with non-attuned individuals.

That gives Luke essentially four powers plus the innate, so he can be built easily in Spirit of the Century, while leaving enough other powers to account for alternate specialties or badass older Jedi.

Ultimate Star Wars – History

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Originally posted August 2007

Since I still have hopes of some day running an Ultimate Star Wars game (a rethinking of the prequels with only the information from episodes 4-6 as canon), and based on my Star Wars tech unifying theory, here’s a brief alternate history of the universe that I was inspired to write this afternoon. (Or it could be close to the official history, I dunno.)

The Force is not just a religion, it is central to our society; those who deride it as merely myth know not their past, and are doomed to repeat it.

Aeons ago, the populations of a hundred worlds struggled against the limits of their science. Close neighbors exchanged messages, told one another their stories, but the universal speed of light made an impenetrable wall against their meeting. Cultures that could exchange words in beamed radio waves within a day would require years of travel to cross the gulf of stars between them.

But one day, the grid of communications began to fire with urgency. The stars were alight with attackers that moved from world to world, star to star, as if by magic. The Sith had come, bringing their unstoppable war machine from beyond the stars. With but a thought, the least of them could overwhelm the greatest technologies of the greatest thinkers of all the worlds.

Defeat was inevitable. For a thousand years the repressive regime of the Sith Empire crushed the populations of known space beneath its heel. Science faltered, light died, and all bowed before their Sith lords. The Sith repressed anything that might rise to threaten the power of their birthright.

But a millennium is a long time. In the dark age of the Sith, nonetheless a renaissance was occurring. Serfs and slaves were moved from world to world, and those long separated by space could finally meet and share ideas, friendships, and rebellion. Though the Sith carefully guarded the powers of the Force, enough was observed over the centuries that some could dedicate themselves to fathoming its secrets.

The war was long and brutal, and much of it was fought in freeing the minds of the people from the yoke of slavery and fear. Overwhelmed by their subjects, the Sith turned to their powers and found them countered by the emergent Jedi order. Each time a mob of rebels attacked, there were Jedi to protect them.

Within a century, the power of the Sith was broken, and civilization was emerging anew. Yet the loss of the Sith, too, meant the loss of faster than light space travel; the massive Force-workings needed to traverse the stars were beyond the self-taught Jedi. Full of the need to meet our brothers once more, we made what was perhaps a great mistake. The Force is faith, it is true, but any miracle that is repeatable can be analyzed and incorporated by science. Within another century, those with no sensitivity to the Force had, yet, made the Force central to their technology.

Ships bent space around themselves, moving as quickly as light. Fields of force could be tuned and shaped, making plasma weapons feasible and useful. Now the many races could touch one another. Now the many races could kill one another.

We have existed in some stage of war ever since, with the Jedi order doing its best to contain the worst atrocities of those that rely so heavily on the Force and yet discount its majesty. We had the powers of the Sith, but we refused to use them as our oppressors had done, and we have seen this decision bring us to the brink of ruin.

The Jedi order is dying, allowed to atrophy by those that refuse to admit that our religion is the soul of their science. When we are gone, who will keep the universe from sliding, once more, into a dark age of tyranny?

Ultimate Star Wars – Tech

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Originally Posted July 2006

So I’m not sure how I got to thinking about this, but I think it had something to do with the idea someone mentioned about rewriting episodes 1-3 while discarding everything created for the universe except in episodes 4-6. Which got me thinking about running a game where the only canon is what appears in 4-6. Which got me thinking about recreating the technology explanations solely to fit what appears on screen in the most efficient way possible.

The problem with Star Wars tech is the problem with pretty much all sci-fi that creates a story and then invents technology to fit: you often get good stories, but the science tends to suffer more than if you come up with a few advanced tech assumptions/conceits first and then build logically from there.

Even though Firefly/Serenity was probably Joss simply looking for tech that was thematically appropriate to a space western, I quite like the post-hoc explanation in the RPG that most of the tech that’s beyond what we can currently produce is based on the partial Grand Unification of Electromagnetism and Gravity.

I figured some similar simple assumption/conceit could be used to explain the tech that appears in Star Wars 4-6 much more succinctly than the modulating phase crystals and turbo lasers and all of the stuff that shows up in the EU explanations.

So science savvy people, please let me know just how far fetched this conceit is, and whether the science that follows seems plausible, assuming that the conceit is true, within a space opera setting.

Conceit:

In the galaxy far, far away, a generally inexplicable but measurable Force allows electromagnetism and magnetic particles to bind in ways not allowable by general laws of physics. Technological apparati can be created to manipulate energy along the wavelengths that trigger this force effect. Some individuals seem to have a biological chemistry or pattern of brain wavelengths that allows them to naturally produce the force effect to a certain degree, and they have established a religion that claims that the Force is evidence of the supernatural.

Uses of the force effect:

The primary use of this effect is to create stable, manipulable fields of magnetism and electrons. These force fields can be used to channel, contain, diffuse, and reflect energy in practical ways. With enough charged particles fed into the fields, they can even serve to screen against standard particles by providing enough charge to resemble the electomagnetic field that keeps the atoms of solid material from penetrating one another.

Blasters: Blasters produce a short-lived cylinder or column of force field that is injected with charged plasma and fired at a target. Generally, the speed of the shot allows the field to bind the plasma until it reaches a target; blasts that go astray tend to break down rather quickly as the plasma cools and disperses into gas – this rate is based on the power of the weapon, and determines its effective range. The blaster effect has been well documented and its technology mass produced such that blasters are usually safe in any trained hands.

Lightsabers: The elegant weapon of an earlier age, lightsabers were developed simultaneously with blasters and are both simpler and more complicated. Rather than binding a bolt of plasma as blasters do, the saber produces a thin column of force of only a meter or so in length, and injects it with plasma. The field is designed to contain and repel other fields and plasma, and yet allow physical matter to pass and come in contact with the plasma contained within. Because the field and plasma remain attached to the generator, energy loss is much lower than a blaster since the charge of the field and the heat and amount of plasma can be simply maintained rather than being created anew with each blast. Since the plasma is being constantly refreshed, a lightsaber blade cuts and burns with at least the strength of a blaster bolt immediately after launch.

Unfortunately, lightsabers are much less practical for common use than the blaster. The generation of so much energy that remains in proximity to the generator for so long tends to increase the failure rate of the device; users must be trained to maintain the weapon, and it helps to have an intuitive feel for when the device requires maintenance. Further, few sentients are equipped to deal with wielding what is essentially a nearly massless wand of plasma – lightsaber wielders are often more of a danger to themselves or their allies than to enemies since it is easy to misjudge the blade’s placement. Because of this, the blades have never been commonly used by any but the Jedi.

Tractor Beams: Only practical on very large ships because of the size of the electromagnet required, a tractor beam projects a column of force at a magnetic object and uses it to precisely focus and extend a magnetic attraction between the two objects.

Hyperspeed: Understood by only the most elite physicists in the galaxy, and yet mass-produced for its utility, hyperspeed uses the scientific oddness of the force effect to circumvent the limits on approaching the speed of light. The ship creates a very tight field of force that hedges out all other energy wavelengths and, seemingly, universal constants. From the universe’s perspective, the encased ship is nothing but energy, so is able to accelerate to an appreciable fraction of the speed of light very quickly, for limited energy compared to its mass, and with greatly reduced relativistic effects on the crew. However, the field works to its utmost to screen against the regular background forces of the universe – skirting too close to a gravity well can quickly tax its resources and hitting an object of significant mass can be deadly to all involved.

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