Daniel Erikson, Lead Writer of SWTOR wrote the following in a thread on the official forums about who and what the Sith are. I found it an interesting read as it provided an insight into their beliefs.
First of all, let me say that I love this thread. It always makes me smile to see people really digging into the setting and thinking about how it works together. Star Wars has a fascinating universe that is almost fairy tale simple on the surface and endlessly complex underneath. There is room for exceptions to every rule and variations on every theme. But in the interest of time, I’ll keep this post to the general. The rule, not the exception.
Sith are evil.
The Sith philosophy is evil and encourages evil in its participants. We can get into endless philosophical discussions about whether anything is actually evil or actually good but if we are speaking from our modern, western view on the concept of evil then the Sith clearly qualify. They are encouraged to put the personal over the group, power over compassion and to judge everything’s worthiness to survive on its ability to fight for that survival. Mercy, sympathy, generosity, these are seen as weaknesses. Anger and rage are seen as strengths. These are not people most of us want to work with or have as neighbors.
That does not mean, however, that the Sith see themselves as evil.
In our own world, slavery as something that is inherently evil is something the majority of the world has agreed about only in the most recent centuries. Imperialism, expansion through conquest, the rights of the few to rule the many because of birthright – these are things that our world’s cultures have accepted as the natural order for a far larger percentage of history than they have rejected them.
In the Star Wars universe, followers of the Sith philosophy genuinely believe that these things we deem evil, are actually in the best interests of a society. They look at the disorder, corruption and infighting of the Republic and they scoff. “What those people lack,” an Imperial thinks, “is strong leadership.”
It’s important to remember that movements towards freedom normally come during the reign of weak, distracted, or greedy rulers who are not providing for their people. The Sith Empire has had 1000 years under an Emperor who rebuilt them from almost nothing, led them in conquest and glory against their neighbors, returned the Empire to power and then led them in revenge against the Republic. A Republic who had previously attempted to eliminate the Empire’s entire existence because of their beliefs. If this was ancient Rome the vast majority of the people would throw the Emperor a victory parade, not ask for representational government.
It’s equally important to remember that you don’t have to believe in any of this to play on the Empire’s side in The Old Republic. You can be the exception to the rule. You are merely making a choice to be someone who was born on that side of the fence. Or, in the case of the Bounty Hunter, someone who tends to work in that part of space. The light side Sith who works tirelessly to make his Empire a better place is a deeply compelling character. The pragmatic Agent who wants nothing more than to protect the millions non-Sith citizens from harm is equally interesting. The Bounty Hunter gets to be his own man and spit right in the face of anyone who he doesn’t agree with. Being a good man in a bad place is one of the all time great role-playing options.
So when you roll a character on the Empire side you’re going to hear the arguments about why the war is important. You’re going to feel the anger of a people who were told they didn’t have the right to exist and were chased out of known space. You’re going to see the culture that created and maintains their hierarchy and strange form of order. And you’re going to make a choice about how much or how little of it your character wants to believe. Then you’re going to start making choices. That’s when it gets hard.
Hope that helps!
Star Wars, The Old Republic