Re-imagining Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Remember back to the end of Star Wars episode VIII when Rey saved everyone by removing the rocks at the back of the cave, while Luke sacrificed himself as a distraction? Kylo Ren figures it out but by then it’s too late. Rey and the resistance are gone. Imagine that Episode VIII ended on that scene, and that Episode IV starts moments later…


Kylo Ren standing at what used to be the back wall of the cave. Rocks scattered everywhere. Rey, Leia, and the rebels are gone. Eluded him. Again.

I imagine that in this moment, the humiliation, the rage and the self-loathing would soak his whole being.

He failed to stop them. Again. He failed to convince Rey to throw all of it away — the dark, the light, Jedi, Sith, everything — and start something new with him.

He had his chance to kill his mother, and failed. A coward, he couldn’t pull the trigger.

Meanwhile, he murdered Snoke and appointed himself Supreme Leader. He murdered his father as a display of ultimate allegiance. For what? Why? To lose, yet again? He looks at this costume, his mask, and lets himself acknowledge what he’s always known but pushed out of his head: it’s pretense. It’s posturing. He’s a petulant child playing dress-up.

We established in The Force Awakes that he’s prone to childish temper tantrums, and here he has a big one.

He rips off his cape and gloves, tosses them aside. He grabs a large rock and uses it to bash his lightsaber to pieces. Kylo has murdered or alienated everyone who ever cared for him: Han, Chewbacca, Luke, Leia. He hates Snoke for manipulating him, he hates Luke for threatening him, and more than anything he hates himself for being a querulous, immature child. “Kylo Ren” is an embarrassment and Ben has no one to blame but himself.

Fuck this. Fuck. All. Of. It.

He turns and walks back through the cave where the First Order awaits at the entrance. The AT-ATs are being loaded back onto cargo ships. Smaller fighters are returning to docking bays on the Finalizer. Two First Order Troopers approach him. 

“Supreme Leader, General Hux requests—“ he Force-chokes them without breaking stride. He approaches his TIE Interceptor “The Whisper” and gets inside. Ben engages the engine and a holo of Hux appears. “Supreme Leader, the resistance fighters —.” Ben flicks it off. Closing his eyes, he cuts himself off from The Force. Like flicking a switch, it’s gone.

The Whisper flies off into space, past the Finalizer. Ben is eager to go. Anywhere. Just away. Away from all of it. Light speed, and he’s gone.


Swipe cut to Ajan Kloss. Leia, Rey and the remaining resistance fighters are gathered at a memorial for Han. Leia says some beautiful things and places the Falcon’s dice on a makeshift altar. Chewie places his bandolier. Ben’s absence is palpable, as is Luke’s. While Leia is confident and eloquent, she seems distracted. There’s a real sense of “the old guard is dying.”

After, Rey pulls Leia aside. “That was beautiful, General. I’m sorry I couldn’t—“ “Never mind ‘could have’ and ‘should have’,” Leia says. “Destiny and fate don’t care about those things. Tell me, my brother was training you, yes?”

“Yes,” Rey says. “He told me there were three lessons, but only got to two before he…”

“Lesson three, tomorrow morning,” Leia says. “But—“ Rey answers as Leia interrupts. “Tomorrow morning.”


We established in The Force Awakens that Hux loathes Kylo. They vie for Snoke’s attention. They jockey for power among The First Order. They one-up and humiliate each other and every opportunity. Most of all, Hux believes that he should be Supreme Leader, not this little boy playing make-believe.

And now he is.

He gives a vein-popping, dictatorial speech to the remaining members of The First Order. “The deserter,” he says, “murdered Snoke in cold blood. He failed to eliminate General Organa and sever the head of the Resistance. He let ‘the girl’ escape yet again and he abandoned all of us. All of _you_. With me as your Supreme Leader, we will find and destroy the traitorous dog!”

Thus, the First Order is off to find and kill Ben Solo.


Flying through space in The Whisper, Ben is aimless. Where could he go? He’s a monster who isn’t welcome anywhere. Then it hits him. 

Mustafar. Vader’s long-abandoned castle on Mustafar. It’s an empty, ruined relic on a hostile planet. He sets a course and follows it. Yes, perfect — he’ll hole up in that awful place and wait for his body to die. It’s what he deserves.


Back on Ajan Kloss, Rey and Leia and sparring with Lightsabers. Leia is shouting out commands — stances, movements — to Rey as they “fight.” The blades sizzle and crack as Rey turns in such a way that she is able to rush Leia. The general does not move and lets Rey come. Rey’s eyes grow wide and she leaps, impetuous…with a flick of her wrist Leia counters and in an instant has her blade at Rey’s throat.

“Again, what is lesson three?” Leia asks.

“Patience,” Rey says, her eyes downcast. Both women extinguish their lightsabers.

“Let’s try it again,” Rey says.

“No,” says Leia. “It’s…that’s enough for today.”

Rey clips her lightsaber onto her hip. “I can bring him home. I know I can. There…”

“….is still good in him?” Leia asks. “Now you sound like my brother.”

“Is that so bad?”

Leia says, “Luke rushed to confront our father, certain he could save him. Save us, save everything. And what happened?”

“The Emperor was destroyed,” Rey says.

“As was Anakin,” says Leia, “and Obi-Wan and countless others, both Rebel and Empire, all because of a rash decision. Then Luke failed in his training of Ben; yet another impetuous decision which created Kylo Ren and The First Order.”

“He’s your son,” Rey says.

“Was,” says Leia.

Later, Rey tries to establish her little “Force Skype” connection with Kylo and fails.


Kylo arrives at Mustafar and puts The Whisper down outside Vader’s long-abandoned castle. Lava flows far below.

He finds the once proud palace dilapidated and crumbling. Wandering around he comes across a meditation chamber, much like the one we saw in Empire. He hesitates, then sits inside. The chamber closes as the upper half descends, completing the sphere. Ben examines the stark white interior as a holo buzzes to life before him. It’s Palpatine.

“Lord Vader, you will travel to Exegol and seek out Darth So-And-So [reader, we’ll call him “Darth SoS”]. Only then will you become a true Sith.” A star map appears above the holo. “Do not fail me.” The holo disappears.

A dark spark flickers to life inside Ben. “Yes,” he thinks. “Kylo Ren was make-believe. This is the real deal.” He exits the chamber and climbs into The Whisper, enters the coordinates and takes off.


The Finalizer and its compliment of First Order ships travel through space. Hux is ransacking Kylo’s old quarters, looking for anything. He rejects this and that, until he finds Vader’s ruined helmet tucked away. Of course he knew of Ren’s devotion to his lunatic grandfather as well as the legend of Darth Vader.

A First Order officer enters the room. “Sir, we’ve found a signal.”

“What is it?” Hux says.

“Its one of ours, sir. But we can’t be certain it belongs to—“

“Follow it.”

“Sir.” The offer turns on his heels.

Hux tosses the mask on the floor.


Ben arrives on Exegol. It’s dark, dreary, scary, all that Sith-y stuff you’d expect. A massive granite wall — the landscape’s only feature — seems to rise to the sky. [I really liked this in RoS so let’s keep it].

Kylo’s mind is invaded by a grasping, violating power. He stumbles.

“You wish to join the order of the Sith.”

Ben feels all of his memories being examined, as well as his fears, his hopes and the things he loves. He’s helpless to stop it. It’s an aggressive violation. He doesn’t notice that he’s hovering a foot above the ground, nor the hooded figure, bent and impossibly old, moving toward him.

“You had much to love,” it says, “and soooo much to hate.” Darth SoS’s voice is lusty and vulgar. “You hate…yourself. Oh yesss.”

“You’ve cut yourself off from The Force,” Darth SoS says, reaching a decayed, withered hand towards Ben. He touches Ben’s face. “Let’s fix that.”


Rey is talking with Leia when she is suddenly ripped from that reality and now sees Kylo hanging in the air, Darth SoS before him. Her eyes widen with fear.

“Wh- where are you?”

“It’s too late, Rey” he says.

“I see you Ben,” Rey says. “I…know where you are! I’M COMING—“

Darth SoS Force-pushes Rey 30 feet into the air. She slams into the ground on Ajan Kloss. Leia is kneeling beside her, concerned.

“I found him,” Rey says, out of breath. “I know where Ben is.”


The First Order comes out of light speed in orbit of Exegol. “Prepare my ship and a hundred men.”

“Sir this planet isn’t on any charts. Are you sure—“

Hux pulls out a blaster and shoots the officer. “Who else has a question about my orders?” Silence fills the bridge. Hux process to the launch bay where troopers are filing into a First Order shuttle. Hux enters and orders the pilot to land next to The Whisper’s last known signal. They depart.


Rey is loading supplies onto the Falcon. What have that scene of “You aren’t going anywhere without me” featuring Finn and Poe. Rey eventually relents.

Finn and Poe take X-Wings. R2 is in Finn’s ship. BB-8 in Poe’s. 3PO enters the Falcon to find Chewbacca in the pilot’s seat. Rey sits co-pilot.

Rey shouts down the hall, “Tell her we’re ready!” Camera cuts to Leia climbing through the roof hatch, where Rose is making a repair. “That’s got to be good enough, I’m afraid,” Leia says. “Let’s hope ‘good enough’ is enough” Rose says, and the two women enter the ship and it takes off.


Darth SoS is tormenting Ben with all of the memories he’d rather forget: Luke’s decision to kill him. Han’s death. His multiple failures. Anything to break him, to foster the misery and hatred inside him. Ben wails, as hatred and regret fill him in equal measure.

Above the planet, the Falcon and X-Wings exit light speed. Rey says, “We got company!” because, you know, Star Wars. A fight between Resistance and First Order breaks out. Rey is pulled into another Force Skype call and sees Ben struggling to resist Darth SoS’s indoctrination. He reaches out a hand, and Rey reaches to touch it. As she does she moves from the Falcon’s co-pilot seat and is now physically with Ben and Darth SoS.

Chewie freaks out. “What do you mean, ‘gone?’” Poe says, reading the translation on his dashboard. Chewie continues shouting, and flying. Leia and Rose are in the cockpit. Leia closes her eyes. “Ben,” she says.

Chewbacca yells at Rose. “Oh, no” she says. The Falcon is jolted by a blast and Rose relents. “OK, fine! Fine!” She sits in the co-pilot seat and says, “I got a bad feeling about this” because, you know, Star Wars.

Down on the planet, Darth SoS turns his attention to Rey and uses Force Lighting to subdue her. He zaps her again and turns to Ben. “Finish her. Embrace your hate and your transformation is complete.”

Ben walks over to Rey. He turns to Darth SoS. “Never,” he says. “This ends now. No more Sith. No more Jedi. It’s over.” Rey stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Ben. “You would need an army,” she says.

“Indeed,” Darth SoS says just as Hux and his garrison of troopers enter the room. Hux is expressionless, staring blankly ahead. “Kill them,” he says. Rey ignites her lightsaber and Ben assumes a defensive pose.

Above the planet, the battle rages. Chewbacca barks orders at Rose who replies. “I.. I don’t understand you!” What she does understand is the Falcon. As it takes damage and systems malfunction (they always do), she fixes each one. Poe and Finn are picking off TIE fighters. Without Hux or Kylo, the First Order is in disarray. The rebels have the upper hand and are seemingly winning the battle.

On the planet the battle begins and Ben Force-pulls a trooper’s blaster to himself. Rey is picking off troopers left and right. Ben is blasting. The two get separated. Rey takes on several troopers as Ben faces Hux. Ben is grievously wounded and falls to the floor. He reaches out a hand and says “Mom,” pulling Leia into the scene. 

She and Ben make eye contact. “Hello, my son,” she says just as Ben dies.

Rey finishes off the last of the troopers as Leia ignites her lightsaber. She and Rey face Darth SoS. He turns to Leia, his eyes wide. “The last Skywalker,” he says, throwing Force lighting her way. She defects it with her lightsaber and a three-way battle between Leia, Rey and Darth SoS begins.

Darth SoS is getting the upper hand on Rey and Leia recognizes this. She positions herself in a way that sacrifices her life to save Rey. Rey cries out, flies at Darth SoS and slays him. The room falls silent and the camera pans to show Rey, alone, among the carnage.

Above the planet Poe & Co. win because, whatever. The story isn’t about them anyway. They fly down to get Rey.

They go to Tattooine to bury Leia and Ben at the old Lars Homestead (Aalderaan is gone so yeah, this seems like the next best thing). Rey sees Luke’s Force ghost, as well as Leia’s, Obi-Wan’s, and Yoda’s, plus apparitions of Mace Windu, Qui-Gon, Plo Kloon, Shaak Ti and so on. “A thousand Jedi live in you now,” Luke says. Rey smiles, pulls a bag over her shoulder and she and BB-8 walk off into the sunsets.

Yep, this is terrible. It’s half-baked and there are enormous problems:

  1. Finn, Poe, Rose et. al. have nothing to do for, like, the entire movie.
  2. It doesn’t address Rey’s parentage (that was by design but I know it will bother some of you).
  3. There’s still no explanation of who/why the Sith are.
  4. Other stuff.

However, I’ve been trapped in this damn house for almost a month and this little project kept me entertained for a few hours. Plus I love Star Wars so much, that this is my little love letter to the characters and stories that have given me so much joy since 1977.

When the Dungeons & Dragons session ends

Sometimes when I’ve finished a session of Dungeons & Dragons Kids Club and the kids are gone and I’m sitting here in the quiet room, I’ll take a moment and reflect on the past two hours.

Everyone laughed and had a great time.

Everyone contributed to an ongoing story.

Everyone felt unified and connected.

Everyone in the room used their imaginations, their creativity, their senses of humor and their life experiences to solve a puzzle, unravel a mystery and resolve a problem.

We all walk away with a shared history. The experiences that happened in our imaginations simultaneously over the last two hours will be remembered and retold, as if these characters are people we actually know. In a way, they are. What a unique experience this is. I will play this game for as long as I live.

Dungeons and Dragons: Subvert and satisfy player expectations

As some of you may know, I run a pair of Dungeons & Dragons clubs for kids. It is tremendously fun. The current six-week session ends this weekend, and marks the first time I’ve used a completely original campaign. All told, it was about 12 hours of story and adventure. I’m quite looking forward to the conclusion as (I hope) it will completely subvert and satisfy my players’ expectations. Here’s what’s going on.

For session one, I took a little inspiration from Matt Colville, who, in one of his videos, talked about throwing the big bad at the players in the opening scene of session one, before they could do anything but cower in fear. I did that and it was great fun. They PCs were enjoying their time in a tavern (naturally) when this imposing, robed figure entered, flanked by two lesser robbed figures (I like for my baddies to have lieutenants to taunt and aggravate the PCs) and did all sorts of nasty stuff before making a quick exit.

As I expected, the players did nothing but wait for it to end. “That thing will kill us instantly,” one of them said.

Yes. Yes it would have.

That experience angered and frustrated them, and gave them a “bad guy” to despise. He was quite unpleasant to some of the tavern patrons with whom our heroes were having pleasant interactions, and they did not like that. Now each PC was personally invested in vengeance.

Hook in place.

To make a long campaign short, the players eventually learn that a local mage is intent on becoming a lich, and is gathering souls for the process of transformation. He has several lieutenants doing the dirty work for him, including the Master of Crows, the Master of Locusts and the Master of Coin — all dealt with in one way or another at this point. The trail eventually led to the mage’s tower, where the players find themselves this week.

Once they battle their way to the top of the structure (and deal with the yet unknown Master of Books) they will find the figure they met in scene one, as well as a feeble gnome, dressed in mage’s robes, utterly inert in his throne as a Will O’ The Wisp encircles his head.*

In D&D 5e, Wills are nasty things that subsist on the potent emotions induced by horror, panic, and death. They revel in luring people away from safety, bewildering them, and finally leading them into deadly danger, so they may feast on their desperate emotions.

I decided to have a Will as the real big bad for two reasons. First, it’s a little more interesting as a climax than, “we expect to find an evil mage intent on become a lich, and we do.” Second, there are two strong camps in my group of nine kids: the slayers and the savers.

One group wants to slay bad guys. They like weapons, they like combat, they like being the heroes of the battlefield.

The other group prefers diplomacy. They’ll fight if they have to but they view battle as a last resort. Failure, actually. Discussion failed, so it came to blows. Now blood will be drawn. In fact, the aforementioned Master of Locusts is now a member of the party.

My finale should satisfy both factions. They’ll have an obvious baddie to kill, and a clear victim to save. I’m quite looking forward to their reaction upon finally seeing Brovac the Lost, the decrepit, doddering gnome that he is. I’m sure they’ll want to slay the Wisp — I had each of them experience whispers and dreams promising them glory every now and then throughout the campaign — as well as the original robbed figure. But I’m not sure what they’ll do with Brovac. Yes, he’s a victim but he did collect a lot of innocent souls. Like, a lot. 

Hopefully I’ll subvert and meet player expectations in a way that leaves them happy. But honestly I don’t know, and that’s why I love cooperative story telling so much.

*Thanks to our friend Johnny Tolkien of the inspiration.

Loving my Bullet Journal

I started using a Bullet Journal in September, 2019 and today it’s indispensable. Ryder Carroll’s vision for “…a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system” hits all of my buttons: Convenient, flexible, accommodating (more on that later), hand-written and personal. Here’s why I’ll be bringing my Bullet Journal (or “Bujo” for short) into 2020.


All you need to adopt the Bullet Journal system is a notebook and a pen. Any notebook and any pen will do. I bought the officially branded Leuchtturm 1917 because, as my daughter would say, I’m so extra. But that’s not necessary. You could get a pocket-sized, spiral bound from the grocery store for two bucks and it will work perfectly. Just number the pages and you’re off.

The system

The Bullet Journal system has the user apply a series of symbols to a list of items (reminiscent of Patrick Rhone’s Dash/Plus System). For example, a “.” signifies an action item, while a “-” indicates reference material that is important but requires no action (Ryder calls these “notes”). Other markings include circles to identify events and an asterisk to highlight important information.

As information comes into your life, you quickly capture it via brief text and the appropriate symbol. The system calls this “rapid logging” and I like it quite a bit. For me, it’s proven to be a speedy way to record meaningful information quickly.

There’s more to the system, but not much. It’s rather bare bones and that’s a big part of the appeal. There’s a “future log” that offers a quick overview of future responsibilities, as well as a formal way to move unfinished tasks over to the next day, next week or next month, which Ryder calls migration.

Collections are similar to projects, in that it’s a way to keep all relevant information together.

You can dive into all of that here but I want to talk about the one feature that really makes this work for me: the index.

The Index

At the start of each journal, set aside several pages for what will become your index. You’ll fill it in as you go.

Really, Dave? You’re this excited about a table of contents?

Oh, yes. This is the way.

When you create a new entry on a page that you’ll want to refer to in the future, write down that page’s title and page number in the index. For example, I’ve got “Mazda Collection” on page 8, and October on page 22. Now, if I need some information on the Mazda, I turn right to page 8. That’s great, but we’re just getting started.

In the image at the right, you’ll see “Jaclyn Collection” says “13, 45.” That collection starts on page 13 and continues on page 45. If you turned to page 13 and looked at the “13” in the lower right-hand corner, you’d see a small “45” written next to it. Likewise, page 45 has a small “13” written in.

“But Dave, why do you have 32 pages between the start and conclusion of that collection?” That’s the whole beauty of this! If I want to start a collection on page 13, then doodle unicorns for nine pages, then do a mind dump on two more pages, then take notes during a meeting and finally list my favorite songs before resuming the Jaclyn collection, I can. No more treating pages like precious objects. No more guessing how many pages I’ll need for something…maybe I’ll need four pages for this? Five? Who knows, who cares. Doesn’t matter.

Best of all, not more flipping around to find anything. Jaclyn collection: Boom, page 13. Unicorn doodles: boom, page 14. Meeting notes, page 21. Mind dump, 23. It’s all in the index.

A bullet journal is rigid and free-flowing at once. It’s Type A and ADHD. It’s a reliable tool and a fun toy. If you’re a minimalist, you’re all set. If you’re the artsy type, go to town.

I love this thing. It’s always with me and it gives me a real sense of confidence that I have what I need and that things aren’t falling through the cracks. I even went and got a fancy Nock case for it (SO EXTRA).

Welcome, 2020. I’m ready with my Bujo.