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I know Darth Bane came up with the Rule of Two to ensure the survival of the Sith, but, in reality (or in the Star Wars reality), does it (or any Sith rule) serve a true purpose? And why does each successive Sith bother with it?

Due to the nature of the Sith, Sith Lords tend toward arrogance and self-importance. Both the Sith master and Sith apprentice seem to regularly break the rule by training others. Deceit and personal interest over loyalty is a way of life for the Sith.

What is to keep any Sith from following the Rule of Two (or any rule, for that matter) if it is against their own self interest? If a Sith Master can stay in power longer by training a 2nd apprentice and pitting the two against each other, is he really going to worry about the Rule of Two more than his own plans and survival?

The Rule of Two also assumes that every Sith Master would place the survival of the Sith over his own survival, as opposed to attempting to ensure his own immortality in whatever way he could (like Plagueis). When you have a group that, by default, is arrogant and self-serving, as well as deceptive, why would they want the Sith to survive themselves?

I can see how the Rule of Two, and any other Sith beliefs would be possible guidelines, but it terms of the nature of ambitious people (and the Sith are ambitious), it's hard to believe that each new Sith Master would follow this rule faithfully.

So does this rule, or any Sith rule, actually work? Or is it more of a suggestion that is broken when convenient?

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    I think that having an apprentice is a form of learning, and a method for becoming more powerful, which would be one of the motivators to actually have an apprentice. – Sydenam Dec 9 '11 at 12:58
  • You are talking like an arrogant Jedi... just kidding. – Matemáticos Chibchas Nov 4 '13 at 23:55
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    +1 for a thought provoking questions, kudos – FoxMan2099 Nov 5 '13 at 4:07
  • This begs the question: "Did the Sith interfere with the 2016 elections?🤔 – Major Stackings Dec 9 '18 at 7:22
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To rougly quote from Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie), The Rule of Two perservered because it worked.

Those Sith Lords who violated it by trying for >1 apprentice, seemed to have ended up worse off than if they only had one.

So the benefit to keeping to the Rule of Two was not to some abstract "Sith order", but to the specific Sith Master.

Case in point: Darth Sidious. Had he left Luke well enough alone, Vader would not have been strong enough to challenge him. When he started pitting Luke against Vader, the whole thing predictably backfired, and

Vader, conflicted over possible death of his son Luke, killed the Emperor (aka Darth Sidious).

And Darth Plagueis explicitly rejected Rule of Two hoping to live forever and not be killed by his apprentice. We know how that turned out for him.


A second, less important factor in keeping the Rule of Two was the influence of past Sith Lords. More specifically, the gatekeepers of the Darth Bane's Sith Holocron refused to give information to Darth Krayt, didn't help him and condemned him:

Darth Nihilus did not provide Krayt with helpful information, Darth Andeddu accused him of heresy, and Darth Bane warned the Rule of One would be the death of Krayt and the entire Sith.

Since learning from Holocrons is one way for a Sith to increase his power, that was a somewhat effective leverage.

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    Yes, the spoiler tag was somewhat tongue in cheek. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 9 '11 at 15:17
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    I'm constantly amazed at how complex and in-depth the SW universe has grown to be -- I had not seen anything on the Rule of One, so thank you for including a mention of that. – Tango Dec 11 '11 at 4:00
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    the spoiler text literally made me laugh out loud, and for along time :D – FoxMan2099 Nov 5 '13 at 4:10
  • What is that a quote from? – Rogue Jedi Apr 18 '16 at 22:12
  • In the "Disney" episodes 1-3, Palpatine has 2 apprentices at the same time though: Maul and Dooku. Which works out fine, he uses them as cannon fodder to become Emperor. I doubt George Lucas is aware of some "rule of two", or given the quality of ep 1-3, aware of much at all... – Amarth Dec 9 '18 at 10:17
11

Huge answer to that question over on Wookiepedia:

I know Darth Bane came up with the Rule of Two to ensure the survival of the Sith, but, in reality (or in the Star Wars reality), does it (or any Sith rule) serve a true purpose?

The purpose was to ensure that the whole of the Sith stayed strong.

Through the gatekeeper of his holocron, Revan taught Bane how any master that trained multiple apprentices was a fool. Bane learned from Revan's holocron that, in times past, the students would seek to destroy their master and claim the title. By joining forces and combining their lesser powers, they would attack and defeat their master.


And why does each successive Sith bother with it?

Because they knew their defeat by their students was inevitable, and they knew that it would benefit the entirety of the Sith much more.

With no true master strong enough to keep the other students in line, however, they would eventually turn on each other and quarrel for the power they had joined to take. In the end, no matter what the outcome, the new master would still not be as strong as the last one. This process would then continue, leaving an even weaker master than the previous one at the end of each cycle.

Bane began instating the rule just after destroying the old Sith order, and went into hiding, putting the whole of the Sith order into hiding for 1000 years. With their numbers lowered, that gave them a pretty good reason to continue to be more obedient to the Sith than themselves.


So does this rule, or any Sith rule, actually work? Or is it more of a suggestion that is broken when convenient?

It was eventually replaced by the Rule of One, so I guess that's one measure of how well it panned out as a permanent rule :)

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    I find this answer intriguing, but it seems to overlook a point made in the OP, that if the Sith are power hungry, then why have any apprentice at all? ESPECIALLY if that apprentice is more or less fated to overthrow them? – FoxMan2099 Nov 5 '13 at 4:12
  • @FoxMan2099 See here starwars.wikia.com/wiki/… This is exactly what Palpatine's plan was and was predicted long ago. – Vincent Vancalbergh May 21 '15 at 14:10
  • @foxman2099 (necro thread!) I believe this answer covers your question - scifi.stackexchange.com/a/65523/3615 – Merlyn Morgan-Graham Sep 26 '15 at 7:02
  • Sidoous in particular "delighted in" watching those under him struggle for the apprenticeship--so pyschologically speaking in this case, one reason we could argue he fell was because he couldn't just stick to the idea from a tactical standard. However Aftermath Trilogy tells us that Operation Cinder was not only about destroying the Empire he built, but also his advacaries, so that the Empire could rebiuld itself a new! – Darth Locke Jan 5 '18 at 16:14
  • Therefor there is still this human idea of legacy and commitment to some bigger gaol/attachement in Sidious' plans.it's unclear if Snoke is an intentional part of that legacy, but here we are again with an alien from another realm, obssessed with Skywalker line--teaching him and having him take control of the new empire (New order)... – Darth Locke Jan 5 '18 at 16:14
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Darth Bane's vision for the Rule of Two was the gradual strengthening of the Sith Order over time, while playing to their strengths.

Bane's experience with the Sith on Korriban, and the Brotherhood of Darkness, showed him that one of the main weaknesses of the Sith was that the nature of the Dark Side of the Force made it inevitable that Sith would plot against each other in their pursuit of power.

By contrast, the Jedi would always work together. This put the Sith at a disadvantage whenever they attempted to directly confront the Jedi in organized conflict, as infighting and self-preservation would weaken the Sith while the Jedi remained coordinated and cooperative.

This doomed the Sith to always fail in open confrontation unless they could bring overwhelming force against their foe, yet Bane felt that overwhelming force was but one aspect of the Dark Side, and by rendering the more subtle Dark arts inconsequential, the Sith were not realizing their full potential. Subversion, manipulation, and corruption were aspects of the Sith powers that Bane felt were mostly being used against the interest of the Sith, rather than against the Jedi, especially given the current state of open military war between the two sides.

Furthermore, groups of weaker Sith would cooperate to undermine and destroy Sith stronger than them, which Bane saw as a fatal long-term flaw in the current Sith philosophy.

Darth Bane meditated long on these concerns, seeking a better understanding of the ways of the Dark Side.

Darth Bane's meditations, coupled with the revelations from Darth Revan's holocron, led Bane to develop the Rule of Two.

Having only two Sith, one to crave power, and the other to hold that power, would address all of Bane's concerns.

The Sith Lord taking on an apprentice would provide continuity to the Sith Order, allowing them to continue existing beyond one being's lifetime.

Having only one apprentice would ensure that the apprentice could only take the title of Sith Lord when he or she had learned enough to become stronger than their master, ensuring (theoretically) that each progressive Sith Lord would be stronger than the predecessor.

Being so few in numbers would also make it much easier to hide their presence from the Jedi, allowing the Sith to use the more subtle manipulations to achieve their goals, which Bane felt was one of the Sith's main advantages over the Jedi. Indeed, Darth Bane only enacted the Rule of Two once he had taken steps to convince the Jedi that the Sith Order was completely destroyed, to give him and his apprentice room and time to plan in secrecy.

Darth Bane was convinced that any Sith who didn't fully understand the superiority of his approach was fundamentally unworthy of the title of Sith Lord, and therefore was weak and needed to be destroyed. Indeed, he destroyed the entire Sith Order, and was only willing to accept an apprentice that understood this "truth".

The lessons of the importance of the Rule of Two were a central part of the training he provided to his apprentice, so that she, in turn, would choose her apprentice with those ideas in mind, and continue the chain.

So, to address some of the specific questions:

What is to keep any Sith from following the Rule of Two (or any rule, for that matter) if it is against their own self interest? If a Sith Master can stay in power longer by training a 2nd apprentice and pitting the two against each other, is he really going to worry about the Rule of Two more than his own plans and survival?

Two apprentices who are weaker than the Master can team up and destroy the Master, so having only one apprentice actually is safer for the Master, and therefore serves their self-interest.

Having one apprentice, as opposed to no apprentices at all, also serves the Master's self interest, because it allows them to exert direct influence on their plans while remaining removed from danger of discovery or direct conflict, in addition to giving them more flexibility in multi-tasking.

The Rule of Two also assumes that every Sith Master would place the survival of the Sith over his own survival, as opposed to attempting to ensure his own immortality in whatever way he could (like Plagueis). When you have a group that, by default, is arrogant and self-serving, as well as deceptive, why would they want the Sith to survive themselves?

Ascendency of the strong over the weak was one of the core tenets that Bane fervently believed in. As such, it is inevitable that any given Sith Master would eventually succumb to death, either from old age, or by someone stronger. At the time he created the Rule of Two, Darth Bane was not aware of any Sith technique to extend life, and certainly had no reason to believe that immortality (by any definition) was a possibility. Continuing the Sith beyond his lifetime was merely another aspect of how he exerted his power over the universe. If he could extend his life, he would, so I'm not sure that he really placed survival of the Sith over his own survival. Indeed, with only one Master, one could argue that survival of the Sith and survival of the Master were one and the same. Certainly no Sith Master was going to willingly let their apprentice kill them; that was counter to the very idea of the Rule of Two.

In fact, when Darth Bane started to feel the weakening of age, he was concerned that his apprentice would either never be strong enough to defeat him, or worse, that she was simply waiting until he grew old enough to weaken enough for her to easily defeat him. While under other circumstances, Bane would appreciate such a tactic, he was unwilling to let that happen, and started to look to ways to prolong his youth and health.

So does this rule, or any Sith rule, actually work? Or is it more of a suggestion that is broken when convenient?

As with any rule, the Sith follow it so long as it serves their interest. The fact that the rule survived for 1000 years is evidence that it actually worked.

  • FWIW, I think this is a more complete characterization than my answer. – Merlyn Morgan-Graham Sep 26 '15 at 6:56
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The Book of Sith has a passage from Darth Bane concerning the rule of 2:

The Force is not fire, it is venom. If it is poured into multiple cups it loses potency until it becomes so diluted it is little more than an irritant. But pour those cups into a single vessel and you will have the power to stop a Krayt Dragon's heart.

From this metaphor it sounds like Bane felt that training many Sith somehow weakens each individual Sith and therefore the order as a whole. I know the reasoning seems flawed (there is also what's supposed to be a statement on the page written by Luke Skywalker challenging it) but that what it says all the same.

  • This flies in the face of Mitichlorian count meaning jack, so Old Bane must be full of it. – Oldcat Jan 6 '16 at 21:20
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The theory behind the Rule of Two seems to be that it allows the strength of this limited Sith population to increase.

However, it seems to me that it would actually end up resulting in a net loss of knowledge, if not necessarily raw power.

With a single master and a single learner, things will get left out or forgotten, holocrons of vital information will be lost, and misunderstandings of the lore will proliferate. Some things considered so absolutely basic as needing no explanation will fail to be explained and the learner will fail to learn.

An impatient apprentice may strike when he feels he is ready, though woefully lacking in training, and through sneakiness, raw combat ability, and/or luck he kills his master.

The probabilities point towards a degenerative spiral rather than steadily increasing power.

The greatest advantage of Society is the ability of the great minds of one generation to build upon the great minds of the previous generations. When you reduce the population of each generation to a single person, the points of failure are too many to maintain an increase in knowledge.

  • If the apprentice kills his master by sneakiness, raw combat or luck (and I think that luck is directly related to the force in SW) it means that he is stronger than is master in at least one aspect of the dark side of the force... – max pnj Apr 19 '16 at 10:29
  • Well yes. But unless the apprentice learns -everything- that the master knows before disposing of him, entropy proceeds along the degenerative spiral. – Michael Richardson Apr 19 '16 at 13:39
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Bane formed the Rule of Two based the rule of two on a few of observations. He realised that the Sith often fell to in fighting, often when on the verge of destroying the Jedi (the new Sith War was a good sign of this and still recent in his day). Sith will always ultimately seek to rise to the top of the Order.

Lord Kaan also saw this, he sought to prevent this by flattening out the Sith rank structure, Sith were either given very specialised and limited training. Or if strong enough trained to be Sith Lords. There were no Darths and all the Lords were equal. This seemed to work mainly due to Kaan being incredibly skilled at twisting the minds and emotions of those around him. Bane however detested the solution since the Sith thrived on competion and conflict.

Secondly, Bane seemed to believe the Dark Side shared out power between all its users. This may be somewhat supported by the idea of Balance in the Force and way the Force apparently rises up light side force users to match the dark (if we assume the Force strives towards a balance of power between users of the light and Dark, then two Sith Lords oppposed to an entire order of Jedi would likely have more power personally than when there are two similarly sized orders.

Bane formed the Rule of Two in answer of those problems. It isn't perfect, it does minimise the risk of the Master being killed by a group of weaker apprentices (though the Apprentice may still begin training their own apprentice to team up against the Master, which would possibly be worse for loss of knowledge)

People often seem to assume that because the Sith are driven by a thirst for power they're going to grab any power at any cost. This doesn't seem to be the case. They can plan, they can look ahead and see a path that offers them more power. Taking an apprentice does that. It gives you a servant to do the dirty work, one who can know the details and even work somewhat autonomously.

That said the Sith are individuals, they aren't all entirely obsessed with only their personal power. Bane was a true believer, Zannah also seemed to be. Even Sidious shows signs he may he in Revenge of the Sith (he seems to believe Vader would become much more powerful than him). There was also a lot of lawyering. You could only have one Apprentice, but that didn't mean you couldn't have a few 'acolytes' or 'inquisitors' groomed in case you needed a new apprentice. They're not Sith, they don't know the secrets. They work as a good distraction for the Apprentice as well (they know that the Master can teach them secrets, but they must first prove themselves better than and ultimately remove the Apprentice first). This coupled with their tendency towards arrogance probably meant they thought they could simply replace their Apprentices before they ever got powerful enough to overthrow them.

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The purpose seems very clear if you understand the general make-up of the Star Wars universe. There will always be a light side and a dark side. That will always be the balance. Even if every Jedi were killed. A new one would eventually emerge and the same is true about the Sith. The Sith Lords that understand this will always follow it because they know the nature of the Sith. The ones that don't follow it fall to ruin.

  • This answer really doesn't make anything clear. – Tango May 5 '14 at 4:10
  • Yoda's comment "Always two there are, no more, no less" implies it goes beyond because it works. I take it to imply it also has to do with the nature of the Sith or the Force itself. – nickalh Jan 5 '16 at 9:09
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Yes it serve actual purpose - power of the Sith Lords.

  • The only target of the rule of two is to grant the Sith Order's power growth.
  • The only way to grant the growth is that every next Sith is stronger then the previous one.
  • The only way to grant the strength of the successive sith is that it would defeat the master one-on-one.
  • The only way to grant the one-on-one confrontation is to be only these two siths exists.

P.S: "Grant power growth" means that the power will keep on the same level or rise , never decrease.
P.S.S: Of course there are a bunch o minuses and pitfalls in this approach, but it works and works good.

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In defense to the side that doesn't believe in the rule of 2. In the old republic videogames on the planet koriban (may be incorrect spelling please change if it is) it's a whole dang sith academy! With minor sith masters as teachers to huge groups of young-lings and followers of the dark side of the force. This worked perfectly until the main character (you) chooses the dark side and kills the sith teachers to claim dominance, or by lightside, infiltrate the academy and muck up the order and turn sith onto sith while you steal a item or holocron (forget which one)

  • I'm sorry, but I don't see what this has to do with anything. The question was what, if any, purpose the rule of two served. – phantom42 Nov 4 '13 at 18:41
  • I really don't see how this answers my question. – Tango Nov 5 '13 at 5:10

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