Darths & Droids

 By Shamus Nov 13, 2007 48 comments

I’ve been eagerly reading David Morgan-Mar‘s movie screencap comic Darths & Droids. He’s conjuring up the funny at a steady pace, and has even coaxed a few laughs out of my sour, recently-decaffeinated Ogreface. He mentions in the comments at the end of this strip that he very deliberately chose a different thrust for Darths, a move which I think will really pay off in the long run.

In DMotR, the story was mostly the product of one character (the Dungeon Master) who forced everyone through his story despite their many attempts to break free. I don’t know that I ever explicitly said so, but most of the time I imagined that the novels were the story the DM had in mind, and the movies were the result of simple mistakes and player sabotage. It didn’t always work out that way in practice, but that’s how I liked to think of it.

In Darths & Droids, the guy (?) running the game is not a railroader, and so the story is constantly being adapted to take into account the unpredictable actions of the players. This is a lot more like a “regular” game. For example, the Darths & Droids GM had no plans for the players to visit the surface of Naboo. When Ben and Jim (his two players so far) decide to go down to the planet, he has to come up with a world on the fly, and ends up freestyling a lot of stuff.

This change in the nature of the meta-story was a wise move, and let Morgan-Mar avoid falling into a rut where he’d be stuck re-hashing a lot of my “railroading DM” material.

On Sunday he struck gold with his explanation of why the politics on Naboo were so… unconventional. Alas, if only those of us who sat through the movie had such a comforting rationale for the rampant lunacy to which we were being exposed. It would have been nice to imagine that The Phantom Menace was the product of an elementary school relation of George Lucas, and not the work of the man himself. Now those of us who grew up with Star Wars are forced to wonder if the guy has finally lost it, or if he ever really had it to begin with. Did Star Wars become stupid, or was it always this way and I was too young to notice?

Also, I’d like to point out that Morgan Marr would be a great name for a Star Wars character.


20208Feeling chatty? There are 48 comments.


  1. Telas says:

    Thanks for the linkage. Morgan Marr makes so much more sense than George Lucas did, at least with the “prequels”… Explains a lot, really.

    My opinion: George Lucas was lucky with Star Wars, and had enough money/clout to ensure the next movie or two were good (the Ewoks are debatable). Then, drunk on his own press, he released the prequels. Oh, the humanity…

  2. Rob says:

    I too have been happily reading along with Darths & Droids! I think it’s awesome that you’ve passed on the torch.

  3. Adam says:

    I am currently running a game of Scion: Hero and this is the exact formula for the game:

    Me: plan, make large city with intersting side plots.
    Players: Come to city, got strait to location of interst, get clue of puzzle and leave.

    Equals me waisting hour of prep, and having to force feed them nessary items otherwise I have to rewrite months of prep.

  4. Insanodag says:

    It is a brilliant contrast to DMotR and the more I read of it, the more logical gets the notion of the Phantom Menace as the end result of a doormat DM with pushy players.

  5. Deoxy says:

    Lucas’ storytelling ability is amazing! Unfortunately, his storyWRITING ability is, uh… lacking.

    What’s enjoyable about his movies is not how good the story IS* but how well it is TOLD (special effects help a bunch, too).

    * and don’t even attempt to find good dialogue – “oh the humanity” indeed… I think I was scarred for life by the scene in RotJ where Luke reveals to Leia that she is his sister. Ah, the twitching is coming back even as I write about it!

  6. maehara says:

    Lucas’ storytelling ability is amazing! Unfortunately, his storyWRITING ability is, uh… lacking.
    Another example of the same problem: J Michael Straczynski, and Babylon 5. Great series, but could have been even better if he’d just let someone else write the scripts…

  7. Shinjin says:

    Thanks for re-linking D&D. I gave up after after the first 5 or so, but it really picked up speed from there and became hilarious.

  8. The difference between George Lucas and Joss Wheedon:
    When Joss does commentary, the writers and actors crowd together and have a good time. When Lucas does a commentary, he brings the lighting people and sound people into a room and they take turns talking…

  9. Hermes says:

    Yeah, I’ve always liked Irregular Webcomic. I actually found DMotR through him starting Darths & Droids. I think they’re both excellent and comparable pieces of work. I’m glad to see you’re enjoying it.

  10. Disparaging Star Wars is getting kind of old. Isn’t it okay that after all this time we admit that we thought Jar-jar was at least marginally funny and get on with our lives? No? *sigh*… okay.

  11. MintSkittle says:

    5 Deoxy:
    November 13th, 2007 at 9:32 am
    Lucas’ storytelling ability is amazing! Unfortunately, his story WRITING ability is, uh… lacking.

    I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone close to Lucas said that he(Lucas) had some kind of personal epiphany and “realized” that good movies did not need good stories so long as the special effects were flashy enough.

    I wish I could remember where I heard it. Might have been Fear the Boot. I need to start listening to those guys again.

  12. M says:

    @11:

    That would require actually finding him marginally funny…and I, at least, really, truly don’t.

  13. Corvus says:

    Um… storytelling ability includes being able to work well in the medium of your choice. That, in my books, makes Lucas a crap storyteller.

    Like id software, he ought to stick to making the tech that powers actually storyteller’s work.

  14. Telas says:

    WARNING: Here Be Political Incorrectness

    If you really want to squirm at Jar-Jar, imagine him saying “massa” after all his lines.

    On the other hand, if you can imagine Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) saying “Mother-(eff)er” after all his lines, it really adds a certain something to the films.

  15. Eltanin says:

    Yes, thanks for bringing this comic to the fore again. I laughed at the first couple back when they started the project (and you pointed it out), but I lost track of it in the chaotic Internet Shuffle. Now that it has some mass behind it I think that it’s gonna have to join the growing list of webcomics that I follow. When will I ever have time to work at this rate?

  16. Shamus says:

    Corvus: Interesting angle. He does seem to be have a John Carmack of special effects on his team somewhere. The podrace and lightsaber duel both made for wonderful spectacle in my view, which made it all the more disappointing when the show stopped and people began reciting their lines. I felt the same way in Doom 3.

    Telas: I have trouble NOT doing that when I see the movies.

  17. lplimac says:

    Thanks for the Link Shamus, it’s a nice read.

    One of the stories I’ve heard for the excellence of the first three Star Wars movies compared to the prequels (and why Return of the Jedi was a bit lacking in parts) was for the first two Lucas had limited production control, especially with the script. He got more control for the last one (or why you have Ewoks and the brother/sister thing). For the prequels he had full control. The theory being that when he didn’t have others to rein him in his poor writing abilities came to the forefront. Don’t know if it’s true, but it would explain a lot.

  18. Marmot says:

    Superbly explained, this source of Naboo politics makes much more sense than the original from the movie. Long live George Lucas – HAHAHA!

  19. The Defenestrator says:

    Anyone else notice that Obi-Wan’s player’s name is “Ben”?

  20. Miako says:

    Star wars was cool. adolescent longing and ass kicking.
    The Ewoks? not so much. It’s been done better elsewhere… (David brin did some good stuff with monkeys).

  21. M says:

    @20:

    Defen, that had slipped completely past my radar, but I’m glad you noticed it. So THAT’s why “Ben” is short for “Obi-Wan”…

  22. Phlux says:

    Not only is it wierd that the queen of Naboo is 14, but in Episode 2 she mentions that she wasn’t even the youngest. Lucas doesn’t even TRY to explain this. Here’s my version of what he should have included.

    Obi-Wan: “The Queen is a child?”

    Nabooean: “Children are idealistic and pure of heart. They are not easily corrupted as old men so often are. They value kindness, charity and fairness. What, I ask you, would make a better leader?”

    Qui-Gon (agreeing): “Do not discount a person for their age, Obi-Wan. Many great deads come from those who young. Do you discount Master Yoda simply because he is small?”

    Obi-Wan (humbled): “No, Master.”

    Qui-Gon: “Nor should you discount Naboo’s young queen. I sense a future of great importance for this one.”

    It’s quick, it’s clean, it has a tie back(/forward) to Yoda’s line in RoTJ, and it answers an obvious and distracting question.

  23. Carrot says:

    @15: This has been noticed in my friends group as well. Particularly “This party’s over…” The line even has a pause at the end of it of just the right length for “motherf*ck*r”.

  24. Hey, thanks for the kind words. Yeah, we did take a bit of time getting up to steam, but we’re really pleased with how things have been going for the last few strips. I think we’ve settled into a style and characterisations that will serve us well from now on.

  25. On the other hand, if you can imagine Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) saying “Mother-(eff)er” after all his lines, it really adds a certain something to the films.

    It’s really impossible not to.

    I like reading Darths & Droids, especially since I get it on the LJ feed and everyone spends the comments there making predictions (even more than it happened here). The fact that the DM reversed the expectations of the people who came in from DMOTR by letting the players walk all over him is a pleasant change (enjoyable as it was, it would have been boring to just read DMOTR all over again in a different setting). It reminds me a lot more of the times I used to DM for my friends back in high school (haven’t done it in a few years though) – often, one of the players would come up with something that much cooler than what I had in mind, and I’d roll with it (like in today’s strip).

    Also, the call about Jar-Jar Cthulhu was brilliant. Bringing on the insanity of mankind indeed.

  26. @phlux – YOU should have written Eps 1-3. How would you have handled the “midiclorean(sp?)” thing?

    I continually laugh at the idea of Jar-Jar being played by a little girl whose stream-of-consciousness makes the world as she goes. The idea is brilliant! I cannot wait for to hear the explanation for the underwater humungo-monsters or the GM’s thoughts as he describes Boss Nass.

  27. Justin says:

    For me, the worst part about Jar-Jar was that he was cowardly running away during the big battle, but ended up “saving the world” by accident due to his clumsiness. And we’re supposed to think he’s a big hero? At least the ewoks showed bravery.
    That said, I still enjoyed all of the prequels, even though they’re obviously not in the same class at the original trilogy. I guess it’s just that comparison that gives them their “worst films of all time” reputation.

  28. BlackJaw says:

    Episode 1: The Phantom EDIT is by far a better version of Episode one. Among other things all the alien dialog has be redubbed to sound like alien speech (no bad accents), with new lines as subtitles. The result is that they recast Jar Jar as wiseman. With the extra editing they actually pull it off.

    Of course it’s not strictly legal to have a copy, but it’s an impressive thing to see considering it was completed by NYC students the first week the film was on VHS (yes they did it in the week when the film was only out on VHS but not out in DVD… I recommend finding the DVD re-edited Phantom Edit.)

    I know various film geeks have done the same thing with Episode 2 & 3, but I haven’t seen them enough to endorse any of them.

  29. Rob says:

    Thanks for the link! That’s now one of the few currently-running webcomics I RSS to. (others are Looking For Group, Giant in the Playground, xkcd, and The Noob) I remember hearing about Darths&Droids a while ago, but I had read IWC before and found Morgan Marr a bit… pretentious at times. I mean, he has a whole section of his webcomic titled ‘me’, and he goes off on tangents on the annotations of some of the comics about how hard the work was. Luckily, I didn’t see any of that in D&D (hehe, I just got that, clever!), unless you count the ‘stoic acting’ quip.

  30. ArchU says:

    In defense of Lucas’ writing abilities, Star Wars isn’t the only story to his credit. He also [co-]wrote Indiana Jones (and subsequent TV and game spin-offs of the films), Willow and the Shadow Wars series sequel to Willow (Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn and Shadow Star), plus a smattering of others.

  31. Johan says:

    Yeah Shamus, I must say that that was one of the best of the (currently limited) comics in the strip :)

  32. Namarrgon says:

    @22:

    Yep, and did you notice Qui-Gon “Jim” was the other guy?

  33. xbolt says:

    This version of Jar-Jar makes his appearance in the movie totally worth it. :D

  34. Mrs. Peel says:

    OT, but Shamus, I thought you might enjoy this.

    And I am liking Darths & Droids a lot myself.

  35. DavidRS says:

    Not sure if you know this, but it’s not just DMM making the comic, there’s a team of them called the “Comic Irregulars”. DMM just gets the credit because he makes the main comic on that server.

  36. Plaid_Knight says:

    Samus, you are awesome at adding comments to screencaps, but you are forgetting one of the first people to do that to movies was Cr0bar over at detonate.net, who did it to Star Wars Ep 4, The Matrix, and Hackers.

    You are awesome, but please give props to those who came before. That’s all I have to say about that.

  37. Carra says:

    Thanks for sharing, had a good laugh reading them.

  38. Shamus says:

    I don’t see why I should be obligated to “give props” to someone I’ve never heard of before.

    Good on him and all, but I never claimed to have invented this stuff.

  39. Telas says:

    Wow, the entire site #37 mentioned is “registered user only”.

    I don’t care how much spam their comments garner, or how many names their fans misspell, I’m still not registering for a website that proclaims, “My name is Jim, and I have the ghey”.

  40. Phlux says:

    @27: I wouldn’t have written in the midiclorians at all. Nor would I have written Anakin as a 10 year old boy, or Padme as a 14 year old queen.

    But as before, if Lucas had asked me, here’s how I would have improved the bit about Midiclorians.

    Qui-Gon: I need to take a little of your blood, Anakin.

    Anakin: Why?

    Qui-Gon: I need to check for infections.

    Anakin: That’s not really why, is it?

    Qui-Gon (smiling): You are very intuitive, young one. I’ve no doubt what this test will tell me. You’re right. I am testing your blood for a thing we call Midiclorians.

    Anakin: Midiclorians? What are those?

    Qui-Gon: Midiclorians are a symbiotic life-form that exist in connection with the force.

    Anakin: What’s the force

    Qui-Gon: The force is what gives a Jedi his powers. It is an energy field that binds the universe together. It surrounds all living things. The midiclorians are drawn to those who possess the strongest connection to the force. To have so many midiclorians in your blood, young Anakin, means that you are very strong in the force.

    Again, it ties back to Episode 4, which makes sense because Qui-Gon taught Obi-Wan, so he would share a similar explanation of the force. It also dances around Midiclorians in that they do not GRANT connection to the force, but rather are present in those ALREADY strong in the force.

  41. M says:

    @41:

    I really do have to agree with C. David Dent. Your dialogue doesn’t sound nearly as stunted as Lucas’ did…

  42. Phlux says:

    One of these days I’ll have to get my own blog, so I can stop abusing Shamus’. I wrote both of those bits in about 5-10 minutes each.

    And I will give Liam Neeson credit in Episode 1. His acting was good, and he really portrayed for me what I think a pre-fall era Jedi Master should be like. He was a teacher first and foremost. In my opinion he was the best written character in the Episode 1, as well as the best realized.

    Tuning up dialogue for good characters is easy. If I had to re-tune the padme/anakin or jar-jar/anyone scenes I don’t think I’d meet with much success, because there isn’t much to work with.

    I might just have to start my own blog just so that I can write a few posts about how I would have written Eps 1-3. Lucas might sue me though.

  43. Tiana says:

    @ 43/Phlux: Lucas is actually very openminded about fan stuff, as I’ve seen through quotes online. As long as you’re not making money from it, you’re good…

    Speaking as a writer, I really preferred your added “about the queen” dialogue but the second one felt too history dumpy. But personally, I thought the movies could’ve done without any mention of midichlorians all together… it was just a way to get the plot to go the way they needed it to. I mean, are they ever mentioned again? O_o I would have had them sense Anakin’s strength through the Force. Must more mystical Jedi mind power-like.

    I completely agree that Qui-Gon was the most detailed character there. He was a Jedi through and through. He felt like he belonged there. I was really young when I first watched the movie and two or three years later when I was reintroduced to Star Wars, I only remembered Qui-Gon and Darth Maul. Everyone else flew right past me.

    I’ve followed Darths and Droids from the top, thanks to this blog. And just like DMotR, I’m linking all my friends to it. :D They’re great.

  44. Phlux says:

    I’m not particularly thrilled with either of those little script re-writes. If I had my way entirely I would have cut midiclorians entirely. You’re right, they’re never mentioned again after that. I was just responding to the request from C David Dent as to how I would handle that situation.

  45. TalragSmash says:

    We may have hope that when Lucas dies, (oh please,ohpleaseohplease) someone may step in and write BETTER stuff for his universe than he did. Of course, Timoithy Zahn(sp?) already did that but he was still constrained by the fact that Lucas is alive and can pull the license if it wanders too far afield. When he dies (soon oh please…) reasonable people who listen to good writers, good editors, and good screenwriters may inherit the rights and let the party start.

  46. TalragSmash says:

    lest someone take up ArchuS’ advice, the Shadow Moon series sequels to Willow only prove further that Lucas can’t write. Every other paragraph was an explanation of Willow’s ULTIMATE POWER that he didn’t have three scenes ago when it would have been really useful and clever to have used it. By the end of the book if you add up the powers he is supposed to posses then he wouldn’t have gotten into the situation in the first place.

  47. Marijana says:

    I was 12 when I watched Episode I, and even then I thought Jar Jar is weird and stupid, you should note that at the time I liked Ewooks,
    no, I didn’t read every comment, because I haven’t seen the latest comic and I don’t want any spoilers

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