Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Scum and Villainy

Jawas are scum!

At least, that's my dominant thought about Scum and Villainy. I guess because it came so early in reading the book. The first chapter is "character options" and begins with a bunch of new alien species to play, most of which are unfamiliar (I guess the Clawdites did technically show up in Episode II, but they're shapeshifters, so it's easy to forget that they're a separate species) and then BAM! On page 9, the Jawas.

And that seems a little unfair, you know? I mean, what do the Jawas do that's so scummy? They find some droids in the desert and resell them. I guess I don't know a lot about property laws in the Star Wars universe, because maybe there's some sort of official salvage process that you have to go through that the Jawas don't care about. Maybe with still-functional droids like R2-D2 and C-3PO, you have to make some documented effort to contact their original owners and there's a waiting period before they can rightly be considered salvage. Maybe the Jawas just didn't pay the proper taxes to the Tatooine government.

I guess it makes sense that people have lingering ill-feelings towards the Jawas, because the droids are the heroes of Star Wars' first act, and getting captured poses a serious obstacle to their mission (though not really, because they wind up exactly where they need to be by the power of plot conven-, um er, the Force), but as near as I can tell, the Jawas' only crime was treating the droids as property. Which, technically, they were. The Jawas are scum? Was uncle Owen scum for buying them? Is galactic society as a whole scum for treating these clearly sapient beings as disposable property?

Maybe. But if the Jawas are scum, then I say it's high time we put the whole damned system on trial!

Or maybe I'm reading too much into a book's title and it just happens that the Jawas had to go somewhere. But what are the odds of that?

It actually ties into my main criticism of Star Wars worldbuilding in general. The Jawas we see in the movies are a little shady, so all Jawas, according to the book "are regarded as thieves at best, vermin at worst." The movies have a weird and fanciful alien show up as a one-off character and then the supplementary material assumes the character comes from a whole species that resembles the character. Watto was kind of a jerk, so the Toydarians "have an unsavory reputation." Jabba the Hutt was a crime boss, so all the Hutts we see in the game are crime lords too (and what is with all of them being called "the Hutt?" In this book alone we've got two separate crime bosses - Zietta the Hutt and Prello the Hutt - but it kind of defeats the point of having a nickname if everyone of your entire species shares the same one). It's just ridiculous and lazy and it bugs the hell out of me.

But that's par for the course for Star Wars. If I was able to let it go with no more than a snippy aside in previous Star Wars books, why even bring it up here?

It's because I think I may have seen the ultimate in half-assed extrapolation from a single movie scene. I am referring, of course, to Boushh.

You know that part in Return of the Jedi, where Leia was trying to infiltrate Jabba's palace and she was disguised as an alien bounty hunter? Well, it turns out that she was impersonating a specific person, Boushh.

Which, okay. Fair enough. Maybe you don't get into Jabba's palace just because you've caught Chewbacca. Maybe you've got to have a certain reputation. The crime lord needs to know who you are, know that you're established in the underworld and can credibly operate at this level. So sure, Leia wasn't just disguising her appearance, she was using this guy's reputation.

But the more you learn about Boushh, the stranger he becomes. Turns out Boushh loves using grenades. Leia had a grenade that one time, so Boushh uses them in preference to other weapons. But wait, Boushh "was known for being somewhat suicidal." So that thing Leia does where she uses the Thermal Detonator to threaten the whole room as a negotiation tactic, that's like, Boushh's signature move. Leia wasn't doing something bold and risky to allay Jabba's suspicions and bolster her disguise, she was actually doing what she thought the real Boushh would do . . .

How does this get past the editor? I get that the entry here is just recapping something from some EU novel or other, but how do you write that backstory and not get the feeling that something is seriously wrong?

Anyway, Scum and Villainy is a reliable workhorse of a book. Like most Star Wars Saga Edition books, it attempts to be both a supplement for PCs and a GM resource and it more or less works. It references The Force Unleashed Campaign Guide more than is entirely healthy, but its character options are attractive and its GM advice is decent. There's a forgettable adventure at the end, but it works. Overall - serviceable.

UKSS Contribution - This was a tough one, because most of the setting material in this book is fairly bland. I was tempted to pick Boushh, but I just did an entry about the thing in the book that made me roll my eyes the most.

So I think I'm going to go with the Jawas. I don't usually like picking something so iconic, but the book called them scum and I think they deserve better than that. They are also described as "slight rodent creatures," which makes me think of the Awakened Rats I stole from Chuubo's Marvelous Wish Granting Engine. If I am to avoid falling into the same "racial stereotypes derived from the first on-screen character" trap as the EU, I should perhaps work to diversify my nonhuman cultures.

Jawas can be Awakened Rats who live in the desert and reject the chivalry of their more urbanized relatives. Not scum, per se, but definitely tenacious survivors who don't feel the need to play-act a resource-draining "nobility."

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