Hyperspace Beacon: The Gray Jedi

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Hyperspace Beacon: The Gray Jedi
"For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire." Ben Kenobi explained this to a young Luke Skywalker when he gave the boy Anakin's lightsaber. Although this statement introduced us to the Jedi, it gave us only a brief glimpse into what it means to be one. In subsequent movies and books, the Jedi Knights were fleshed out to be anything from Buddhist Monks, Taoists, and Knights Templar. Maybe they are really a combination of all of them. George Lucas has never specifically mentioned where his inspiration for these warriors of a more civilized age came from, but one thing has been consistent: Jedi are the heroes -- or at least they are supposed to be.

In a brief conversation at PAX, Daniel Erickson, Lead Writer for Star Wars; The Old Republic, told me that BioWare is exploring a more "gray side" to its storytelling. Those who have played Knights of the Old Republic or either Mass Effect game know that this is new ground for BioWare. If your character walked the line between paragon and renegade in the Mass Effect games, your choice made it quite difficult to get a good ending. I believe Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, a reviewer for the Escapist, explained it most succinctly in his review of Mass Effect 2: "When you're choosing to free a race of slaves or force them to dance about while you take pictures of them, you're not thinking 'What would I do in this situation?' You're thinking, 'Which option gives me the best $%^&head points because I need them to persuade Crewman A to take her top off?'" Will SWTOR change this perception of BioWare moralism?

Continue reading after the break as we explore this anti-heroic stance and the controversy regarding the Gray Jedi.

The best place to start examining the anti-hero side of Force users would be with canon. Defining the Force and the ramifications of using Dark Force powers or making an anti-heroic judgment call has been hotly debated on many Star Wars fan sites and forums, especially among roleplayers. Although I have a strong opinion about how the Force works, what interests me most is how BioWare will handle this idea of Gray Jedi. We have a couple strong definitions from canon of what makes a Gray Jedi that can help give us insight into which direction BioWare may head.

The first definition happens to be the one that appeals to me the most, and it's probably more applicable to your SWTOR character. This type of Gray Jedi was once a Jedi, then -- either by personal disagreement or philosophical difference -- chose to end his practice of the ways of the Jedi Order. Most of the time this type of Gray is still considered "good."

If we take a look at the movies for examples, Qui-Gon Jinn fits here. Qui-Gon had issues with adhering to the council's regulations. Although he was still a Jedi technically, he did not agree with and often disobeyed the Jedi Council. We hear evidence of this in Obi-Wan's words to his master in Episode I: "If you'd just follow the Code you'd be on the Council."

The second most common definition of a Gray Jedi will not be found in the movies, which turns me off a bit from using the term "Gray Jedi" to refer to them. These are individuals or (most likely) groups that have attempted to blend both the Dark Side and the Light Side of the Force. Although it is not always the case, these groups of line-walkers are usually started by Jedi who have fallen out of favor with the Jedi Order.

For example, the Jensaari were started by a fallen Jedi named Nikkos Tyris. While searching in the Jedi Archives, Tyris came across a manuscript by one of Exar Kun's followers named Larad Noon. Fortunately for Tyris' students, they were never taught enough about the Dark Side to corrupt them before Tyris died. So, the Jensaari's actual Dark Side teaching is limited to mostly weaponry and armor.

Converse to the Jensaari, another group of Grays did fall to the Dark Side. The Potentium were practitioners of the Unifying Force theory. This philosophy taught that there was no Light Side nor Dark Side of the Force, but rather a single Force that was neither good nor evil -- just a tool. The individual's motive is what made the Dark or the Light. The Potentium would often test the limits of the Force; this caused great concern for the council. Eventually, during Leor Hal's time as the sect's leader, the Potentium was expelled from the Jedi Order (about 132 years before A New Hope). Yoda and the other members of the council concluded that the Jedi were to use the Force to protect the galaxy, not test the limits of Force abilities.

Although it will be a new thing for BioWare to allow the player to work the fence between Dark and Light, having Gray characters is certainly not a new thing for this team of writers. Many characters in BioWare's history have been less than the white knight. HK-47 -- let's face it -- was evil yet was obligated to do good by Revan. Even someone like Ashley Williams in Mass Effect had a darker side regarding working with aliens. Mission Vao, Canderous Ordo, Garrus Vakarian, and Liara T'Soni -- to name a few more -- were tainted with impure motives. But these are not Force-wielders.

In Knights of the Old Republic, the strongest example of a Gray Jedi is Jolee Bindo. Bindo's career of flirting with defiance began early in his life as a Jedi. In his youth, the Ukatis system fell under a blockade. Against the council's orders, Bindo sneaked past the blockade then became Ukatis' own Robin Hood by stealing from the rich to feed the poor. But what ultimately forced Bindo into exile was the fact that his wife fell to the Dark Side. Bindo had the chance to kill her, but he refused. Under the leadership of Exar Kun, Bindo's wife went on to kill many Jedi. Bindo believed he could no longer walk as a Jedi, so he traveled to Kashyyyk to live out his self-exile in the Shadowlands.

To wrap up this glance into the murkier waters of the Force, I would like to get your thoughts on BioWare's current excursion into the gray depths: the Voss. Daniel Erickson gives his vision for the Voss in his developers blog, Creating Worlds: "The Mystics [Voss] would be grey and dangerous to the eyes of the Jedi, able to see through the lies of the Sith, and beholden and interested in neither." Unlike the Jensaari or the Potentium mentioned before, this group seems to be disinterested in Jedi and Sith philosophy -- reminding me of groups like the Witches of Dathomir. And unlike the Potentium, the Voss do not appear to believe in moral relativism, because they believe they are the chosen people and hold their visions to be infallible. Where does this fall into the whole scheme of Dark Side and Light Side?

Some of the most interesting characters fall under a gray shadow, but I guess the ultimate question is, "Will it work for your SWTOR character?" Post your comments and let me know.

Thank you to Dywa (or Ion-Silental on the official SWTOR website) for use of her artwork. If you like what you see here, be sure to check out her DeviantArt page. It is full of SWTOR fan art and other incredible masterpieces.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is finally here, and the Force is with Massively! We've prepared a Hutt-sized feast of class introductions, gameplay guides, lore roundups, and hands-on previews to help you navigate the launch period and beyond. And don't forget our weekly SWTOR column, the Hyperspace Beacon!
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