Monday, June 28, 2010

Star Wars setting stuff

A little over four years ago, I was revisiting the idea of Star Wars and roleplaying (I had probably just gone through an episode of playing Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), but I don't remember that clearly.) One of the things that impressed me about KOTOR was that it managed to feel almost exactly like the Star Wars that we all know and love, yet was removed from it in the timeline by close to 4,000 years, and obviously very few of the details were the same; just the feel, the tone, and the broad strokes.

Rather than backwards, I'd like to go forwards in time, by a significant amount. I had said at that point 500 years, but I'd rather go even further; 1,000 years. Just to give me plenty of time to wipe away any E.U. stuff that I don't want, yet far enough that I don't have to explain it.

Anyway, here's a few of my ideas as they appeared back then. Keep in mind that this setting's conception was started just prior to the release of the Legacy comic book line; as that came out, I incorporated some of its better ideas into my setting too. After all, they were (in many respects) doing the same thing I was anyway.

1) Star Wars Legacy (the Dark Horse comic book series) has done a lot of what I wanted to do very well, so there's no reason not to borrow liberally from them, even though my timeline is sufficiently advanced from theirs that strictly speaking, I don't have to. I especially like the idea of the Fel Dynasty as an Empire Mk. II, less evil and possibly even good, albeit autocratic. The Imperial Knights are a nifty idea too.

2) Legacy did exactly what I wanted to do with the Sith Order; abolished the Rule of Two since retrospectively it proved to be disastrous when Darth Vader killed the Emperor and didn't ascend to the position of Sith Master himself and take a new apprentice.
Here's a handful of my Force using groups of note:

1) Imperial Knights: a militaristic organization that reports directly to the heir of the Empire. As in the Legacy comic books, the Empire is not necessarily evil, although chances are that few of us would enjoy living there. Jedi are mistrusted and rare in Imperial space.

2) Orthodox Jedi (Gray Marshals): a group of Jedi knights that is obsessed with reconstructing the order as it existed prior to the Jedi purges, and under the same tenets. Much of the data about how things were organized was lost, so this group also crusades throughout the galaxy for any information on how the Jedi were organized and operated during this time. They adamantly (and in fact, often violently) refuse to accept any criticism that the Jedi's organization and operation may indeed have facilitied Anakin's fall and therefore its own destruction. They see their mandate as imposing peace and order upon the galaxy as much as possible. As with the original Jedi order, often their methods are somewhat questionable ("aggressive negotiations?") and they don't always leave a happy taste in the mouth of those with whom they've dealt.

3) Skywalker Jedi : Luke did not start the Jedi order up to be like the Order his father joined. Luke was not dispassionate, he was compassionate, and his order was much more egalitarian, more open-ended in terms of who it accepted as recruits (it had no choice in the early days of recruiting) and refused to accept the dispassionate and exclusive attitudes that Jedi such as Yoda and Obiwan tried to convince Luke to follow, even as late as Return of the Jedi. Luke himself believed those principles were failed and did not inculcate them in his students. Skywalker's Jedi, as they are informally known, and the Gray Marshals have a rather tense relationship; both believing they are more deserving of the title of Jedi, while the other should consider itself some other tradition entirely. This order is the one most closely associated with the Galactic Alliance/New Republic.

4) The Cyborg Order: a group that saw General Grevious and Anakin Skywalker (he who brought balance to the Force, after all) as the ultimate prototype. Eschewing mortal flesh as a weakness, they replace their body parts with cyborg implants and surround themselves with droids. Although many cyborg designs are in vogue, a very popular one closely resembles General Grevious himself, with four arms (to better wield more lightsabers in battle). The detail of Darth Vader's own cybernetic body is lost to time, so many of the Cyborg Order have tried to reconstruct it from the little that is known about it, but interpretations of what Vader looked like vary wildly from individual to individual.

5) And, of course, the Sith. Reborn from the ashes of Darth Sidious and Darth Vader's ignominous defeat, the Rule of Two was quickly abandoned. Likely, the first of the new Sith Order was founded by up and coming pupils of Sidious or Dooku, or perhaps by early students of Luke's or subsequent Jedi Masters who found their way to Yavin, Korriban, or other worlds were Sith influence was still strong. Be that as it may, this organization closely matches that of the Legacy comic books (curse them for developing the Sith in almost exactly the same way I was thinking!) including a doctrine similar to the Rule of One and a fondness for red and black ritualistic tattooing and scarring a la Darth Maul.

In the very first Star Wars movie, the Force using traditions were significant, but not the only thing going on, obviously. From there on out it became more and more overtly about the Jedi and the Sith and has been ever since. Every once in a while, I wonder what it would have been like if it had remained a two-fisted, pulpish swashbuckling romance instead of taking on all these mystical undertones, but not for now (I've bought into the whole Jedi/Sith thing; I think it's great.)

But anyway, the Force users don't literally make the Galaxy go 'round, they're just one aspect of it. Here's some other organizations of importance.

1) The Empire: structured not unlike Palpatine's empire in administrative detail, at least, with similar ranks (Moffs, Grand Moffs, etc.) although lacking a Sith Lord at the head, of course. In recent decades, the Empire has been resurgent; from a low point of ruling just a few systems, it has swelled to encompass much of the Galaxy.

2) The Galactic Alliance: what's left of Leia's New Republic, as the Empire has waxed, the Alliance has waned. While still powerful, and controlling much of the Core systems (and still based in Coruscant) its a shadow of its former strength and size.

3) The Mandalorian Arm: The Mandalorians were a race who's culture and identity were in decline and in danger of disappearing completely before the Clone Wars. Individuals like Jango Fett were exceptional: nationalists who purposefully kept alive old traditions. Following the defeat of Palpatine and the second Death Star, many cloned stormtroopers had confusing or conflicting loyalties, as they were programmed to be loyal expressly to Palpatine and not to his government. Many of them, now deprived of their identity as Imperial stormtroopers searched for their identity by rejoining the Mandalorians, since their programming and training retained many Mandalorianisms learned from their prototype Jango. Flush with this new blood of combat experienced and highly motivated and actually rather traditionalist Mandalorian soldiers, the remaining Mandalorians underwent a nationalistic revival in the decades following the Galactic Civil War. Now, nearly a thousand years later, they still are a powerful, autonomous force in the galaxy. They don't command a lot of territory, but their armadas and troops are feared and respected throughout the galaxy. They serve in the armies of both the Alliance and the Republic at times, in a situation not unlike the Varangian Guard of the Byzantines, but only as mercenaries. Their true loyalty is to their own nation. Although no longer sporting the white uniforms of the stormtroopers, those uniforms were originally based on Mandalorian prototypes, and Mandalorian battle armor is now seen in nearly every major metropolitan area throughout the galaxy.

4) The Hutt clans have managed to hold on to much of the Outer Rim still, and maintain a presence not unlike that they had during the movies. Powerful enough to play differing factions against each other, but not powerful enough to move against any of them, they retain a seemingly endless dynasty over their region. Oddly enough, the one place that they have not managed to retain a hold is Tatooine itself. Since the Civil War 1,000 years ago, Tatooine has been swamped by pilgrims and crusaders bent on liberating the "holy ground" where both Anakin and Luke spent their childhood.

5) The Sith Empire: since the disaster of the Rule of Two, the Sith have adopted differing strategies; strategies that in the past led to some of their greatest successes. One of these strategies is openly ruling an aggressive theocracy, where reverence of past heroes and traditions is encouraged, and past Sith Lords are literally worshipped as gods. Although hemmed in by Jedi (of various fracteous orders, including more than those described here) and Imperial Knights, which keep their powerful force users from swamping the galaxy in a deluge of blood, the Sith Empire is still larger and stronger than the Alliance today, and its true rival is the Fel Empire. Non-Force using Sith citizens undergo a draft and almost all able-bodied citizens are required to undergo military service. They, in accordance with ancient tradition, are outfitted in faceless body armor, and the sight of Sith soldiers brings fear across the Galaxy. The Fel Empire is attempting a relatively non-aggressive "cold war" approach to dealing with the Sith, since it doesn't relish the thought of open warfare, where the outcome is certainly in doubt. With a little luck, the Sith have the strength to overthrow the Empire, and from there complete total domination of the entire galaxy. The Alliance, believe it or not, has tried to remain neutral, and even play the Sith against the Felians.

6) Certain large sectors of the galaxy are not ruled by governments, but by corporations. As with the Separatists during the Clone Wars, for defense the Corporate Sectors tend to rely on droid troops. Few Corporate workers are willing to put their life on the line for the Corporations. They are (somewhat uneasily) allied with the Cyborg Order, and provide many of the droids and cyborg enhancements that that group desires in return for protection from the more rapacious or expansionist Force using threats such as the Sith or the Fel Empires, but the Cyborg Order does not answer to the Corporations, nor consider itself under their sovereignty by any means.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

Clone Wars episodes about the Deathwatch faction on Mandalore make it unlikely that Jango Fett was actually a native Mandalorian. In fact, I believe EU crap has made that explicit too--not that I pay that much attention to the EU. In any case, that may require a small rearranging of details around the development of the current Mandalorian polity.