RP Rambles: Star Wars, the Dichotomy of New and Old

In these RP rambles posts I generally talk and chew the fat about subjects in RPGs that interest me or interesting situations that I’ve encountered in games but that don’t fit neatly into any of my other blog categories. Constructive comments and discussions are welcome, please feel free to put them in the comments box at the bottom of this post.

One of the things that has always struck me about Star Wars is that it has very clear dividing lines; now yes you can say that smugglers like Han and Chewie are a bit more morally grey, but in the end everyone generally throws down of being on the side of light or the side of darkness. The other huge contrast in Star Wars is that between old and new.

Consider how each star wars film begins:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

We’re watching a science-fiction/space opera film, these are generally set in the future using technology that we can only dream at, however the first line of each opening crawl brings us back to this idea that this stuff happened ages ago, it might seem futuristic but actually it’s more like a myth or a legend.

This may seem to be a bit of a contradiction in terms, but it’s actually pretty clever and I love it for a number of reasons:

  • The creator is giving his creation a mythic frame of reference, we tend to ascribe more important or gravitas to ancient tales handed down (equating age with worthiness for right or wrong), so by making the stories seem mythic it makes us pay more attention to it.
  • It lends the stories a timeless quality, because they are futuristic but also set in the past the stories do not age as badly as some other films, books, etc do.
  • Myths are larger than life, full of gods and monsters, heroes and villains, these stories tend to touch something very deeply rooted in all of us, by creating a space-epic filled with the same elements the Star Wars stories also touch those same roots.

The clever combination of old and new is also reflected in the visual element of the franchise, contrast the sleek futuristic lines of the Imperial Star Destroyer with Maz Kanata’s run down and steampunk looking bar on Tokodana in the Force Awakens, one is sleek and deadly, evoking a sense of the futuristic (despite being filmed many years early) whilst the other is a ragtag, tumble down place that, droids aside, would not have looked out of place today or even earlier in our history.

Along with other mythic elements of the franchise the bringing together of these opposites, old and new, past and future gives extra weight to the stories that the various authors have to tell, combined with the franchises longevity and fan-base it is no surprise that Star Wars has become a massive part of modern life for many people, and I expect it will continue to be a part of our lives long into the future.

If the themes of myths and legends interest you in RPGs then you might want to check out the Mythic Gods & Monsters book written by myself and Johnn Four.

Image is Cowboy and his Lady taken from publicdomainvectors.org.