I love the Star Wars setting. Obviously. But one of my biggest pet peeves with the ‘Expanded Universe’ is the fact that even after the ‘good guys win’ in Episode VI the galaxy continues to spiral into more and more wars which eventually (according to the EU) result in the ultimate destruction of the Republic (as we know it) and a seemingly endless string of even more wars. If this were the case, and the galaxy were really constantly at war for what seems like centuries then I would think there wouldn’t be much civilization left- economies would be in ruins, etc. etc. It paints a rather bleak picture of the Galaxy, and one I don’t subscribe to. It also gets boring (for me at least)- as each new writer tries to one-up the one before by presenting an even MORE terrible threat to the Galaxy. It is ultimately self defeating. And yeah. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.
Considering the timeline of my current, long-running campaign- long past even the Thrawn timeline- a question has constantly come to my mind. Can you have a game that feels like Star Wars without… well… war? I mean it’s right there in the title. But is it really necessary? Though my opinion has varied from time to time, I have finally settled into viewpoint that no, Star Wars does not HAVE to have a galaxy-spanning war in progress in order to feel ‘right’. Of course this doesn’t mean there will be a lack of conflict- or combat. Combat is a huge part of the movies and the setting. It is also a staple of almost ALL roleplaying games. But an actual war doesn’t HAVE to be going on.
If you look at it from a story standpoint you can see that all sorts of exciting adventures can be found even in a time of peace: from the intrigues of James Bond to the explorations of Star Trek, there are plenty of examples of what can be done in a setting where War isn’t the focal point.
If you look at from a gaming standpoint, most of the ‘missions’ characters are sent on in a ‘typical’ Star Wars campaign are of a small scale, tactical nature. Only rarely do players get involved in a huge battle. Most game systems are geared towards this small scale, and in a setting without war, very little would change in terms of mission types.
I will say that it is a bit more challenging as a game master to come up with ideas for a setting that is (on the surface at least) at peace. I mean, you can’t just say: “Oh, the Imperials are invading again”. But I feel that I ‘owe’ it to the Star Wars setting to not just continue the ‘same old same old’ and maintain an unrealistic (I know, an odd term to use when talking about Star Wars) status quo of Galactic combat for centuries on end. I personally enjoy the challenge of this new era, and have confidence that it won’t stop feeling like Star Wars just because the ‘Wars’ are much, much smaller now.
Of course, I say all this knowing that I’m going to be launching a new campaign (set some time in the future) which takes place in a different Galaxy. As far as I’m concerned with that, all bets are off. There can be lots of large scale combat and even major wars, but I’m giving “The Galaxy Far, Far Away” some time to revel in its well earned era of Peace.