Jedi Code

Dark Side Teachings and Philosophies

Our second lesson relates to the Dark Side of the Force:

You may be asking why we study the dark side? It's important to know the pitfalls to avoid - and recognizing the signs that can lead to the dark side..

Evil is not always easy to recognize. An innocent act may ultimately result in great suffering. An act of revenge may save the lives of millions of people. The pure at heart can lash out in anger. Evil may lurk beneath a mask of virtue. Whether an act is evil or not, often boils down to a question of motivation, and motivations can be hard to identify.

Know this - Simply feeling anger, fear, bloodlust, or any other similarly negative emotion is not in and of itself of the dark side. The journey to the dark side begins when an individual allows such negative emotions to determine his actions - rather than the will of the Force. A Jedi may hate a Sith, but if he kills the Sith in self-defense he does not necessarily move closer to the dark side.

So we begin -

The following is transcribed from the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Dark Side Sourcebook.

  • Fear:

    “Fear is the path to the dark side . . .” – Yoda

    All sentient creatures experience fear at some point in their lives; it is a defense mechanism designed to impel creatures away from danger. Individuals feel fear when they believe they may lose something valuable to them. Fear of their own lives is the most common motivator, but the fear can be for the lives of friends or loved ones, or even for something as trivial as the loss of a possession or an opportunity.

    An individual acts out of genuine fear when he abandons reason and logic in order to eliminate or escape a threat. Unreasoning fear is characterized by desperation and frantic attempts to escape the danger at any cost. Individuals who use the most lethal weapon available (regardless of proficiency with it), attack all-out without first determining the actual degree of danger, or abandon threatened allies to save their own lives are almost certainly acting out of fear. Their journey to the dark side has begun.

  • Anger:

    “. . . fear leads to anger . . ." – Yoda

    Like fear, anger is almost unavoidable for sentient beings. It is symptomatic of frustration - stress without a suitable means of release. Such tension results in violent behavior, aimed at relieving the frustration all at once. It can be brought on by a variety of factors, but most commonly relates to fear. The fear of consequences of failure can create tremendous surges of anger in sentient beings.

    Beings acting in anger lose the ability to show mercy; the target of an individual's anger must feel his wrath. An individual gripped by anger often takes unnecessary risks in order to punish or destroy the target of his ire. Victory is not good enough if the foe is still moving. The individual does not wish to address the situation when he is more rational; he needs to vent his fury now, while his blood is boiling and his enemy is within reach. Such an individual deliberately gives his anger free rein, and thus gives in to the dark side.

    Example: Set Harth finds himself at odds with a dark side marauder. Both want the same Sith artifact. While fighting over it, they become separated by a falling column. The column traps the dark side marauder, and Set Harth easily claims the artifact. But in the grip of anger, Set dashes through a hail of falling masonry to personally finish off the trap marauder. His anger is so great that he cannot accept his own victory.

  • Hatred:

    ". . . anger leads to hate . . ." – Yoda

    Stress can also result in more subtle kind of anger: hatred. Hatred is simmering resentment, the outward expression of which may start small but gradually escalates into full-scale acts of violence. Hatred festers inside a character until eventually she comes to believe that the target of her hatred somehow has less right to exist than she does. In her own mind, she reduces her enemy to a nebulous menace, the source of all the things she despises and of all the ills that plague her. To her thinking, the object of her hatred consciously attempts to thwart her. But it is not a personal vendetta; her enemy clearly threatens all that he touches. She has a right and even duty to destroy him and, what’s more, to undo all that he has wrought.

    Hatred is often identifiable by an accompanying sense of righteousness; the character feels that she is morally bound to eliminate the thing she hates. For her, considerations such as perspectives and mitigating circumstances are not a factor. Lenience is not an option. Justice is hers to administer, and she does so with the assurance that anyone can plainly see the correctness of her decision. But whether she is right or wrong, the very fact that she chooses to act on her belief and nothing else brings her one step closer to the dark side.

    Example: In killing the stranger, Bal Serinus angered a local Hutt crime lord, because the stranger was his messenger. Now his bounty hunters chase after her, and Bal Serinus is filled with indignation. She feels completely justified in having killed the man with the datapad – how was she to know who he was? As the first bounty hunters close in on her, she decides to teach them a lesson about trifling with her. She could present her side of the story and smooth things over with the Hutt, but she decides that anyone who would put a price on her head over a misunderstanding is beneath her contempt. She’ll kill all the bounty hunters, then the Hutt, for the crime of inconveniencing her.

  • Suffering:

    “. . . hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

    Hatred often springs from a position of inferiority; what one cannot control, one frequently hates. But when a character has the power of life and death over the object of his hatred – a single individual, or even an entire galaxy – he can cause suffering. Mental, verbal, and physical abuse are his tools; through these methods, the character denigrates and depersonalizes his victims – making them no more significant than objects, to be used or destroyed as he likes.

    Malice is the ultimate expression of hatred, because the object of such hate invariably suffers. A character who wishes to cause suffering has no sense of pity. He callously causes pain, injury, and anguish, because he knows that no one has the power to stop him – he is in command. But he has graduated beyond the need to destroy that which he hates; to him, keeping his victims alive but always in fear of death reminds them of his authority over them. As long as he can continue to exert control over them, they feed his contempt for them. But they should challenge him, they present a threat, and the character must destroy them. Thus, he returns to fear, and traces his path to the dark side all over again.

    Example: With the Sith artifact in his control, Set Harth returns to his hideout on Nar Shaddaa to unlock its secrets. He soon learns that he can use it to control the nervous systems of others, moving their limbs by remote control – pulling their strings like puppets. In no time, he has assembled a group of helpless citizens and petty criminals, all forced to walk, dance, grovel, or otherwise serve him purely for his amusement. That manipulating them with the artifact causes them excruciating pain isn’t important to Set; anyone who objects joins his troop of unwilling servants. And if one of them becomes too weak to continue – well, Nar Shaddaa’s deepest levels are full of such useless refuse.

  • Pride:

    Some characters build their self-image and their ego on uncertain foundations. Their sense of self-worth is predicated on beliefs that may or may not be true. When others challenge those beliefs, these characters feel their self worth deteriorating, and they do whatever they feel necessary to protect the foundations of their fragile self-image. Wounded pride can be just as dangerous as a wounded animal.

    Pride runs the gamut of fear, anger, and hatred, because the individual whose pride is at stake fears the judgement of others, becomes angry at those who attack her self-image, and grows to hate those who force her to face unpleasant truths. She feeds her pride when she becomes defensive, and gives in to her pride when she becomes quarrelsome – because if denial isn’t good enough, she must silence the source of her frustrations. Simple denial isn’t particularly dangerous, but the way to the dark side passes through aggressive pride.

    Example: Bal Serinus carved her way through the crime lord’s court, only to be felled effortlessly by a mysterious alien – her life spare so that she can become the Hutt’s servant. Bal Serinus is terrified. Never before has she been beaten so easily – the alien is an unknown quality, and as far as she knows, he can defeat her again and again. She angrily defies the Hutt’s wishes, refusing to be humbled, but when she fights back too hard, he turns the alien loose on her. Her days and nights are filled with seething hatred for the Hutt and his alien servant. Bal vows that when she does finally escape, she will kill everyone in the Hutt’s court – coincidentally, everyone who witnessed her defeat.

  • Aggression:

    “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Yoda

    Sometimes an individual acts out of a desire simply to see blood. This is definitely a trait of the dark side. Such an individual may be overcompensating for a perceived personal weakness, because he believes that by taking the offensive, he masks his poor defenses. The faster and harder he strikes, the less chance that his opponent will discover his weak spot.

    Aggression manifests as an eagerness to fight. The individual has no patience for more peaceful solutions, and consciously engineers situations so that he can respond with his favorite element: violence. He may not always strike the first blow, but the provocation can almost always be traced directly back to him. He is most dangerous when he encounters another being who is more motivated by aggression, because both feel the need to test themselves. Once the fighting starts, an aggressive individual can easily fall to the dark side.

    Example: Emboldened by his success with the artifact, Set Harth begins carrying it hidden on his person as he ventures into the worst clubs and gambling dens Nar Shaddaa has to offer. He challenges every perceived slight and forces every issue, in hopes that someone will try to best him – so that he can crush that individual with the power of his artifact. In the seedy bar, he goads thugs and toughs into drawing their weapons – then forces them to turn those weapons on themselves.

  • Vengeance:

    “At last we will have our revenge.” – Darth Maul

    A combination of hatred and anger, vengeance impels an individual to administer what she considers “justice” – though ultimately, that justice only serves herself. The individual acts out of a need for compensation , often to redress wrongs she feels she has suffered. Whether she actually has or not is immaterial; to her, the scales must be balanced. But she may overcompensate, inviting vengeance directed at herself. Vengeance is a dangerous motivator because it frequently replicates itself, continuing the cycle.

    Acts of vengeance are usually obvious. The character suffers a blow to her pride or her person and seeks to visit an “equal but opposite” blow on the perpetrator. What constitutes “equal” is generally open to the character’s interpretation, but “opposite” is always clear. Without practicing forbearance, the individual demands that the loss of pride be repaid with the loss of pride, the loss of limb be repaid with the loss of limb, and the loss of life be repaid with the loss of life. When she takes revenge, the character takes a step farther toward the dark side.

    Example: Bal Serinus finally has a chance to free herself from the Hutt. The alien bodyguard attends to business elsewhere, and the Hutt foolishly leaves Bal Serinus alone lone enough to recover her strength and break loose her chains. A gruesome bloodbath ensues, until the Hutt’s bodyguard returns. By this time, though, Bal Serinus has learned the alien’s secret: He secretes a nerve-paralyzing toxin from his fingertips. Having recovered her lightsaber, the Dark Jedi severs the alien’s hands, leaving him defenseless. But rather than kill him, she hauls him off in chains, selling him as a slave to another Hutt – a rival to the one who captured her.

  • Greed:

    "Greed can be a powerful ally . . . if it's used properly." - Qui-Gon Jinn

    Sometimes an individual refuses to be satisfied with what he has already attained. He wants whatever there is to be had, and if he cannot have it, he becomes bitter and resentful. His greed drives him to acquire anything that seems valuable, even if he cannot perceive its value himself. He can be persuaded to part with his acquisitions - but only for something of greater value. This character has no real concern for how his avarice affects those around him. To him, other sentient beings are merely ambulatory showrooms, to be picked clean or disdained according to his whim.

    Greed manifest as a desire to take what cannot easily be earned. An individual acting out of greed may make a token effort to acquire some coveted object by conventional means, but resorts to more extreme means if he is thwarted. He is often unconcerned that he cannot actually use what he gains. His real goal is exclusive ownership; if someone else values it, he must have it. His obsession may override his sense of fairness, and thus lead to the suffering of others – the summit of the dark side.

    Example: Though he has completely mastered the Sith artifact, Set Harth begins to feel that controlling people in this fashion just isn’t enough. He begins using the artifact to torture information out of smugglers, crime lords, and art collectors, hoping to hear news of other, similar artifacts. Finally, his efforts pay off, and he journeys to Nal Hutta to “negotiate” with a Hutt crime lord for another relic of the Sith rumored to be in the Hutt’s collection. But the Hutt refuses to part with what he considers an amusing toy. Confident that he can take what he wants using the artifact he already owns, Set Harth demonstrates his Sith artifact on the Hutt’s pet rancor, and the Hutt wisely accedes to Set’s demands.

  • Jealousy:

    Where the greedy individual covets material things, the jealous individual covets intangibles. She resents the attention or honor afforded to others, and whether she has earned the same treatment or not, she feels worthy of it. She may in fact be deserving – but her jealousy dictates that she receive more recognition, greater accolades, or more support. Deprived of this attention, her hatred festers within her, until she decides she should simply eliminate her competition.

    An individual moved by jealousy acts to weaken the opposition. She attacks whatever makes the other person her “rival.” It may be the other’s skill, or beauty, or reputation, but the character simply wants her own qualities to seem better by comparison - and reducing the other is easier than improving herself. The individual may steal a ship or weapon, attempt to disfigure her rival, or attempt to besmirch her rival’s good name. How she attacks is not so important as what she attacks, for it reveals her jealous nature and empowers the dark side.

    Example: Bal Serinus is selling her alien prisoner to a Hutt when another Dark Jedi, Set Harth, arrives to negotiate for some treasure in the Hutt’s possession. After Set demonstrates his power, the Hutt hands over the trinket. But then, in a foul mood, the Hutt refuses to bargain with Bal Serinus for the alien slave. Bal knows that if should could impress the Hutt with a display of her own power, the Hutt would acquiesce, but she can’t top Set Harth’s stunt with the rancor. Infurieted, she attacks the other Dark Jedi and tries to destroy the Sith artifact. Without it, she tells herself, Set Harth is doubtless far less powerful than he appears.

  • Love:

    While not itself of the dark side, love can create an opening for the dark side to insinuate itself in a character's heart. Love is delicate, and can be upset by the merest touch of doubt, anger, or jealousy. When a character feels love, he feels fulfilled. If something intrudes on that feeling of well-being, he fears losing fulfillment - the absence of which is an aching emptiness. All alone in that void, he can give in to anger, hatred, suffering, pride, or vengeance - any emotion that fills the emptiness and takes the pain away.

    Individuals acting out of love are in danger of falling to the dark side. But an individual who acts out of the need for love risks everything.

    Example: Set Harth's battle with Bal Serinus leaves them both exhausted and weak - and easy prey for the Hutt's enforcers. Soon, they find themselves locked in his deepest dungeons. Set Harth uses his powers of telepathy to communicate with Bal Serinus - at first to plan their escape, but as they languish for days, then weeks, simply to have someone to talk to. He begins to depend on their daily communications and, seeing inside her mind as he does, recognizes a kindred spirit. One day, inexplicably, Bal Serinus resists his mental contact, and Set is devastated - not because he has no one to talk to, but because, he finds, he misses her specifically. As the days go by and she refuses to let him read her thoughts, Set Harth wonders what he has done wrong. Eventually he decides that Bal Serinus is avoiding him out of simple, malicious spite - and he decides that if she can show such hatred toward him, he can throw it right back at her. When he escapes, he tells himself, he'll leave her behind.