In my line of work, I have to be acutely aware of presuppositions (one of the demands of doing theology). Our culture does not do a very good job of exploring or even being aware that we make them all the time. So, a definition is in order: a presupposition is a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action.
Let’s explore an element of D&D that is near and dear to my heart, but is widely rejected by those who play: Race-as-Class. I think part of the reason that so many people balk at the idea of Race-as-Class is that they believe it fundamentaly prevents people from playing a particular race the way they want to. Personally, I have a metal figure in my collection that is a dwarven wizard. I love the personality that exudes from the sculpt. Race-as-Class seems to dictate that I can never use that character concept in my favorite versions of the game.
What this perspective fails to see is the presupposition that must be made in gaming worlds that have no Race-as-Class: since the mechanics of dwarf and human characters are so similar, there isn’t much actual difference between humans and dwarves.
In contrast, Race-as-Class poses siginificant mechanical differences between the two races. The culture that arises from humans as clerics, fighters, magic-users, and thieves is necessarily very different from that of Dwarves. One is mechanically diverse, the other isn’t.
Thus, when I pull out that dwarven wizard figure the machanics of Race-as-Class put far more weight on my choice of class than the versions of D&D that don’t use it. In both cases, I will essentially be playing a human character; however, while the mechanics of a dwarven wizard don’t say a lot about my character, playing a dwarven magic-user that uses the mechanics of a human magic-user says a tremendous amount about the world, the history of my character, and dwarves themselves. In order to become a magic-user, my dwarf has had to reject his culture and his people to the point that mechanically he no longer functions as a dwarf. For all intents and purposed he is a human.
In both scenerios, I come to the same basic conclusion: mechanically a dwarven magic-user/wizard is essentially a re-skinned human; however, when one looks at the necessary presuppositions that Race-as-Class demands, I get a much more interesting re-skinned human — one that I don’t think I would have arrived at without Race-as-Class.
I say all this as a preamble, because I did something quite outside my comfort zone this week. Chris Gore of Film Threat is producing a new show on his YouTube channel which seeks to bring Star Wars fans together to discuss whether or not Disney has murdered the franchise. The format is that of a court with those who are on the side of the prosecution and those who are on the defense.
I was asked to be on the first show, because so few people in the sphere of YouTube Star Wars fandom were willing to argue the defense. It was all in good fun and I think the overwhelming consensus is that my side lost the argument (not surprising, since Chris Gore’s audience is largely unhappy with Disney Star Wars). I want to explain why I was willing to be on the Defense and that has to do with presuppositions.
While the language “Disney Murdered Star Wars” is hyberbolic, there is a necesssary presupposition behind that statement: Star Wars fans are beholden to Disney for all things Star Wars. I vehemently disagree.
The presupposition that I make is one that I believe better reflects reality: Star Wars is part of our culture. It no longer belongs to Disney or George Lucas in any way other than the legal right to produce Star Wars products. We, as the fandom have far more power than Disney thinks we do (or we do, depressingly). The Audience is a vital part of any artistic endeavor, especially when it comes to beloved franchises like Star Wars.
Very few Tolkien fans, for example, would argue that Amazon’s Rings of Power has any real place in the lore of Middle-earth. Likewise, the fans have the ability to embrace or reject anything Star Wars. As an example, few Star Wars fans acknowledge that the Star Wars Christmas Special has any real standing in Star Wars lore. Yes, it is the first appearance of Boba Fett, but does anyone argue that the Mandolorian, or any other Disney product, isn’t following the lore established in the Christmas Special? No, because the fandom doesn’t care about the Christmas Special. It does about the EU and the many ways Disney has contradicted it. Despite the fact that Disney has de-canonized the EU, it still lives on because the fans have embraced it.
The only way that Disney can murder Star Wars, in other words, is if we aid and abett them by rejecting Star Wars as a whole. As long as the fandom exists, Star Wars lives. And, if the fandom wakes up and realizes its own power and importance, we may see a day when the owners of the legal right to produce Star Wars products will listen.