Thursday, January 14, 2010

3963 BBY: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 7: Dueling Ambitions

KOTOR volume 7 had little to do with Jedi, the Force, or the future of the Jedi order – which was a refreshing break. The first half of the issue dealt with a con and a Sith adept, while the second half dealt with the world of organized dueling and the secretive past of Jarael.

KOTOR volume seven moved into the underbelly of the Star Wars universe, and gave the reader a glimpse into the world of the con-artist, and all that goes into picking a mark, organizing the misdirection’s of your con, and planning your escape. It also gave a back-story to one of the forgotten soldiers of the Sith war through the character of Toki Tollikar. The most interesting part of the issue was the second half, and its depiction of the world of dueling.

For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the idea of “the con”, how Toki Tollikar fits into the retroactive continuity of the history of the Sith war, and the world of dueling.

Many years ago I used to play the West End games D6 version of the Star Wars role-playing game. My character’s name was Rylan Jaren-Jade. He was a gambler, a confidence man, and part-time gunslinger for hire. He was a helluva lot of fun to play. I had an agreeable GM who was willing to take the story where the players wanted it to go, and was very good at setting up obstacles for us along the way. One of the things I loved to do was play “the con”; I enjoyed picking my mark, setting the stage, and making sure my party had a clean escape (which they never did).

On one particular session, I decided to con not only the in-game NPC’s, but my GM as well. Since my character was a gambler, we would actually play sabacc during some sessions. My GM owned an “official” WEG sabacc deck he got from one of his sourcebooks. I knew the basic outline of our next adventure and that a game of sabacc would be involved. I called the other players involved in the adventure that day and gave them the run-down of my plan. I then set my plan in motion.

I called my GM’S house knowing he was out for a while. I spoke to his sister who was a friend of mine and told her to sneak into his room. I knew where he kept his sabacc deck, and I directed her to where it was. I told her to take from the deck the two of coins, the three of coins, and the Idiot, with a numerical denotation of zero. This hand is called a pure sabacc, and is the highest possible hand to get. I then told her to hide the cards in the couch cushions, where I would pick them up when I arrived. She asked me why she was doing this, and I told her it was for a Star Wars Adventure. There was a bit of an awkward pause, to which she broke the silence with “nerd”, and hung up the phone.

I called my accomplice in the game and told her to make sure she wore an elastic on her wrist, and a long sleeve shirt. She did. We got to the GM’s house, and true to form my GM’s sister placed the cards in the couch cushions. I handed them to my partner in crime and she hid them up her sleeve. We then began to play, and before long Rylan Jaren-Jade had saddled up to the biggest sabacc game of his life. The con in the game was that “Odyssia”, the other player, was also going to join the game, but her sabacc skill was only mediocre at best. It was never Ryaln Jaren-Jade’s intention to win the biggest sabacc pot in Star Wars history, but to keep enough of the attention on himself for Odyssia to win.

At the climax of our sabacc game, and after much goading on my part of the characters in the game along with my GM, it was time to show our hands. Odyssia, of course, won it all with the Idiot’s Array. The expression on my GM’s face was classic, as he was truly dumbfounded as to how she pulled out the only unbeatable hand in the game. Needless to say, we won millions of credits, and funded greater cons for our future adventures.

So, what does all this have to do with KOTOR volume seven? Not much really, except in that I enjoyed reading a story about a con, as I really enjoy “the con”. Our GM was so impressed with our efforts we even watched “The Sting” and “Maverick” after this particular adventure.

After Zayne and the gang completed their con in the tale “Prophet Motive”, the story and the art changes pace. At the heart of “Faithful Executions”, a story about a Sith adept, is a retcon of the Sith war. Like Dossa from “Vindication”, Toki Tollikar was also working for the Sith during this conflict.

Plaristes, in response to my last post, highlighted for me that LFL, through its other titles, has been flushing out the history of the Sith war and adding content around a story we’re already familiar with. This is known as a “retcon”. “Retconning”, as defined by means: "The common situation in fiction where a new story "reveals" things about events in previous stories, usually leaving the "facts" the same (thus preserving continuity) while completely changing their interpretation. For example, revealing that a whole season of "Dallas" was a dream was a retcon. This term was once thought to have originated on the usenet newsgroup rec.arts.comics but is now believed to have been used earlier in comic fandom".

So it will be that through the further flushing out of Star Wars history, conflicts in the past will invariably have details added to them. One of those details in this particular issue was Toki Tollikar, a Sith “sleeper agent” for lack of a better description, who, since the defeat of Exar Kun, was left in limbo in his mission to defeat the Jedi.

All retconning aside, Toki Tollikar was pretty cool as far as Sith characters go. What I liked most about him was his bloodlust. He was what I always thought a Sith should be: a stone cold killer who enjoyed killing. With other Sith I’ve encountered so far in the SWCP, I got the sense that they killed because they had to, they killed for power, they killed because someone got in their way, but there always seemed to be an emotional detachment from the acts. Yet with Toki it was different; he actually enjoyed what he was doing, like the way I imagine a serial killer would enjoy killing.

“Dueling Ambitions” was the second and more enjoyable half of KOTOR volume seven. It featured the world of dueling, and resembled, for me, the Star Wars version of the UFC. When explaining the world of dueling, the narrator says: “What had been a blood sport run by crime lords went legit and galaxy wide. When investors saw opportunity in a less-than-lethal circuit run by gaming obsessed Krish, savvy marketing created superstars, attracted sponsors. and gained full legal acceptance”. As I was reading this I thought Miller was describing for me the origins of the UFC. When I read “created superstars”, I immediately thought of George St. Pierre, Brock Lesnar, and Anderson Silva. I was able to identify with Zayne and his reactions to being at the fights, as this was my reaction when I went to UFC 74 for my honeymoon (my wife is pretty cool). I used to go to boxing matches with my dad many years ago, and indeed, I was an amateur boxer as a kid. There was always a fight on at my house growing up. Seeing the world of dueling in Star Wars made me want to write a short story about a down-on-his-luck Barabel shock-boxer looking for his next fight. I love the fights, and all the tacky seediness that surrounds it.

I’m going to finish this post with a small confession: I don’t actually own a TBP of KOTOR volume seven, but I do own the comics, which brings me to my last point. What is missing from the TBPs are the letters to the editor that you find in regular issue comics, and after reading these letters, I felt like I was in some respects out of the loop. On many occasions the readers kept referring to the KOTOR video game, and how they enjoyed reading the comic because there are back story bits here and there. I’ve never played KOTOR, so I was not quite sure of what they were speaking of. The names Darth Malak and Darth Reven kept coming up, and I kept wondering if I’ve missed a vital piece of information in my readings of this series. I really feel like I have. The KOTOR video game is coming up soon in the SWCP, and I have an old x-box set up and ready to go. I hope that after I play the game I’ll know what all those letters to the editor were all about.

For my next post I’ll be reading issues 42-48. The series won’t be completed until February, and I’ll have moved on in the project by then (I think). What I will do is make a blank post for issues 49 and 50 immediately after my next one, so I can later retcon my reactions. Until next time my friends, may the Force be with you.

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