Sunday, July 19, 2009

Old Geezers

Even before I ever rolled a six-sided dice, I was a Star Wars fan. When the movie came out I was four years old. I got to see the movie my parents took me to film three or four times. When it was re-released, we saw it another couple times. I remember seeing the Empire Strikes back three times (once at a drive-in!), and the Return of the Jedi at least once or twice.

For whatever reason, Ben ("Obi-Wan") Kenobi was my favorite character.

I mean, of the heroes...certainly Boba Fett and Darth Vader ranked higher on the "cool characters" from Star Wars. Hell, even Bossk was badder-ass (and his action figure had a super-cool gun!). But in the first movie, Ben was definitely the baddest of the bunch when it came to the heroes. Hell...would Luke have even pulled the trigger on the Death Star without Ben whispering in his ear?

When I started playing the Star Wars (the West End Game) it was probably the late 80s or early 90s. I got it just in time to have their 2nd edition come out a couple months later. But it provided a fair bit of entertainment for us, even if it was a bit clunky at times to run.

(on a design note, this game was perhaps my first introduction to cinematic or rules-light was also the only RPG I've seen that accurately modeled the deadliness of lightsabers as portrayed in the films)

While I also got the 2nd edition rules...and preferred them...there were still things I continued to use from the 1st edition. The character archetype Quixotic Jedi, for example, was delightfully quirky, and my friend Rob had a lot of fun using him. But my favorite, FAVORITE character archetype, and the one I used myself, was the Failed Jedi.

An old geezer, who never quite made the "Jedi Knight" cut, he makes a great PC. This guy ain't Yoda, or even Ben, but from a story point of view (and WEG's Star Wars was nothing if not "cinematically story-driven") here was a character ripe with pathos, just aching for a redemption story...or cruisin' for a bruisin'. Nah, the old guy probably wasn't going to survive the saga...too much bad karma acquired over the ears. But he might get a shot at a hero's death.

In a moment of madness I sold my West End Games to the used game shop...I was trying to trim down my RPG collection and I felt I'd grown beyond Star Wars and stories of the Old Republic (the New Republic books simply weren't that inspiring to me). This was before Episodes 1-3 were produced, before the Knights of the Old Republic video games, before the Tales of the Jedi comics...before the franchise became great and inspirational again.

I've been kicking myself since then.

Here's the reason why Obi-Wan is my favorite: because the whole Jedi thing is, for me the best part.

Sure the original films are great. The F/X are masterful, the chemistry between the actors is excellent, Lucas was pretty much at the top of his game. Did you know Steven Spielburg was originally going to direct Return of the Jedi? But wasn't able to due to a labor dispute with the Director's Guild? Can you imagine what a capstone to the trilogy RotJ might have been?

But the Jedi are the draw for me. Their code. Their lightsabers. Their philosophy and use of "the Force." The history, the tragedy, the drama (fallen and redeemed paladin-types, basically). And Kenobi was the only "real" Jedi of the trilogy.

(yes, I know Yoda was also a Jedi, but he was a RETIRED Jedi. Ben was still out doing it, ya' know?)

This is the reason the Failed Jedi is my favorite character template. Old geezer or not, failed or not, he is the only REAL Jedi you can be in the game (there are Force sensitive students, the nutty Quixotic, and the "young Jedi" from the 2nd edition whose never been fully trained). But the geezer is one that had actual contact with the original Jedi order before the rise of the Empire...other than Yoda, Ben, and Luke the Failed Jedi is one of the last real links to the past present in the game. If something were to happen to Luke and company, it is not out of the realm of speculation that the FJ could get his shit together and re-start the Jedi Order with the knowledge he possesses.

Anyway, the focus on the Jedi that is the "new wave" of Star Wars fiction is enough to make me want to play the game again (if I wanted to play smugglers and bounty hunters in space, I'd play Traveller). Unfortunately, I've not yet found a copy of the West End Game to RE-purchase.

[I did buy WotC's Star Wars when it first came out, and promptly returned it the next day. At the time, I felt that playing the XBox console game would be easier and more fun than playing the table-top RPG on which KOTOR is based; however, I recognize now that this was really the beginning of my dissatisfaction with the whole D20 system]

And it's too bad, because I have a new favorite character whose replaced even 'Old Ben:' Count Dooku. Talk about one bad-ass geezer. 'Darth Tyranus' even resembles the drawings of my Failed Jedi that I made back in high school (although my geezer had a pony tail...and eventually, I believe, an eye patch from some battle).

This last Christmas I seriously and honestly considered buying the latest D20 Star Wars system..I was jonesin' very hard for a good SW RPG experience. But paging through its stat-block heavy pages, I found that it had completely neglected Count Dooku. What the hell?! I put the book back on the shelf, saved from my momentary madness.

Thank the Force!


  1. I couldn't agree more. Much as I loved Han, Obi-Wan was just...awesome. But then, I fell like an Old Geezer most of the time myself.

    And when I got WEG Star Wars, the Failed Jedi actually jumped up out of the book, grabbed my ear, and said, "You WILL play me, you young whippersnapper."

  2. The 2nd edition had illustrations of the character templates...I always found the Failed Jedi illo especially evocative.
    : )