We roleplayers do not have all the answers to canon and character development, but there are many of us who study our character philosophy deeply. Despite this, our Jedi characters tend to come across as stiff and one-dimensional. By contrast, Sith characters seem to have personality and variety. Of course, there will always be the Sith who are all broody and who stand in the corner of a cantina being "evil." However, if a Jedi developed a personality other than that of a sage monk, he was automatically labeled a "gray Jedi" -- or even "dark Jedi" if his personality was extremely vivid.
I would like to question this philosophy. Is there more than one way of thinking among the Jedi, like Obi-Wan suggested? Are the Sith absolute? And most importantly, are the Jedi in Star Wars: The Old Republic going to be as one-dimensional as the Council members of Episode I? Follow me after the break to read my thoughts, then please, comment to discuss this further.
Spoiler Alert: I am going to talk about some specifics from the Decieved novel, but I will not give away the ending.
Aryn Leneer was a Jedi Knight at the time of SWTOR. She was one of the three main characters in the book Deceived. Her journey is an interesting one, not because she makes choices that are outside the scope of the Jedi Order, but because the Jedi Order seems to make decisions outside the the scope of the Jedi Order. If you have read the Threat of Peace series of webcomics, then you already know that the Jedi do nothing in retaliation for the Sacking of Coruscant. (Actually, their reaction is to flee to Tython.) As they are supposed to be "guardians of peace and justice," this seems to contradict their prime directive.
Although she is a full-fledged Jedi Knight, Aryn decides that personal revenge is the best course of action. This is beyond the scope of the Jedi as well, though it does seem closer to what the Jedi should have done. I am not military strategist, but it seems that even though the Sith were able to take Coruscant, they would not be able to hold it. Why else were they willing to offer peaceful negotiations? I would like to think that a superpower on the edge of winning would demand surrender versus setting up a cold war. The Jedi should have used this opportunity to strike back.
Want a twist on an absolute? The Sith offered peace. Isn't that against the Sith code? In fact, the very first line of the code is "Peace is a lie." Darth Malgus, who seems to be a pure and passionate Sith, completely disagrees with the Empire's decision. Granted, there is probably some hidden agenda, but it is definitely not a decision of absolutists.
Malgus also demonstrates his ability to break the norm. Rage and fear supposedly dominate a Sith's being, correct? Then how is it that Darth Malgus can love Eleena? Paul S. Kemp details the conflict residing in the character, but at the same time this type of conflict should not exist in an absolutist mentality, right?
When Bree Royce explained to me some of her encounters in the SWTOR press event last month, she pointed out that her character's master was a practitioner of the Living Force. Without getting into complicated details, a Jedi who believes in the Living Force believes the Force has a will and a purpose of its own. These Jedi tend to make decisions on gut reaction and trust the end result will be the will of the Force. They have faith in the Force. Like Qui-Gon Jinn of The Phantom Menace, these Jedi are usually seen as gray and unstable. Some of the time they can live within the Council's rule, but oftentimes their goals and actions conflict with Council's proclamations.
Although it may seem that I dislike this contradiction in storytelling, I actually believe it adds more to the story. It gives me hope for my character in The Old Republic. Usually my characters tend to want to do the right thing, but there is some internal conflict or personality flaw that prevents them from doing what they should do all the time. In a genre where most decisions are already laid out in the quest text, I welcome the ability to make decisions for my character that diverge from the pure "good" storyline.
I have a whole article that focuses on the gray Jedi, but most of them are considered outcasts of the Order. As I mentioned in that article, Daniel Erickson said that BioWare is looking to make the "gray" choice viable and give the player a "good" ending. I know the few times that I played through Mass Effect 2 and happened to choose a course that kept my paragon and renegade points floating at about the same level, someone always ended up dead. But here we have, even at the very beginning of the game, a Jedi (who would be seen as gray normally) as your master within the Order. This shows me that there is a viable gray option.
I've rambled on enough; now is the part where I ask for your opinion. Given that nearly every character BioWare has introduced so far seems to have a sordid past or doesn't match up with the quintessential good guy or bad guy, do you think we will be able to viably explore alternative views on what it means to be a Jedi or Sith? Why do you believe that?
Before I go, there is one more thing I want to mention. I spoke with Mos Eisley Radio on Sunday. We had an awesome discussion about SWTOR and where it fits in the MMO genre, in general. I encourage you to stop by MER's website and check it out.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!