Thursday, January 12, 2012

Star (no)Wars

I've spoken about this in quite a few other blog entries-namely the question of what do you DO in a Star Wars setting where there is no 'War' going on. I mean, the title of the franchise doesn't leave much room for interpretation on that point. The whole setting boils down to heroic actions taken during war.

So what happens when, for instance, you run a campaign that lasts through the entire 'Rebellion' and the various wars that follow (Thrawn's Campaign, the 'Rebirth' of the Emperor, etc.)?

Well, in the 'official' expanded universe, the answer to this is: have more wars! Every series of books therefore has a new set of wars going on, usually galactic in scale: The Vong Invasion, the Swarm War, the Second Galactic Civil War, the...whatever the hell War it is going on in the Legacy Era, etc., etc..

As I have mentioned before, I think that having the Galaxy constantly in a state of open war and crisis strains the credulity of the setting. Yes, I know I'm talking about a setting that has mystical energy fields and giant space worms, but still. To me there was always a feeling of realism, or at least an allegory of realism, in the Star Wars saga. There was an 'Era of Peace' during the Old Republic. Then there was the Rebellion. In my mind, it only seems logical that another era of peace would follow.

The alternative is a downward spiral into the breakdown of the fabric of galactic society. In my mind, at least, you simply can't continue to have Galaxy-Shaking wars every few years and NOT have everything fall apart. Unfortunately, that seems to be where the 'official' universe has gone. I won't go into that further here, as I have long railed against the trend to bring 'gritty realism' or a 'darker edge' to the Star Wars galaxy. Yes, there is war and death and sacrifice, but overall, I've found the tone of the franchise to be one of hope for the future- at least in the original trilogy.

But this post isn't about any of that. No, really. It's about what there is to do DURING an Era of Peace in the Galaxy, such as the one that has finally come to my own, very long-running, campaign. Below are just some of my thoughts on angles to take for adventure in a time like this.

Political Corruption
Hopefully, the downfall of the Old Republic due to its own corruption was a huge lesson for the people of the Galaxy. In a New Republic, there would have to be a concerted effort to avoid and root out corruption within the government. As far as adventures go, this would involve Player Characters who are agents of the New Republic (or its allies), or perhaps even politicians themselves. Missions would involve investigating rumors of corruption. Checking up on those Senators with shady dealings and exposing them to the light of day. Likewise, the huge corporations of the Galaxy would need someone to check their more avaricious behavior. Stealth, tact, true idealism and diplomacy would be at the heart of these kind of adventures-otherwise you run the risk of becoming a 'McCarthy Era' inquisition. But the latter even provides another adventure opportunity. What if an agency, committee or group of senators starts taking things too far? Your heroes would have to deal with these threats as well.

Criminal Organizations
With the Galaxy just recovering from a series of devastating wars, Criminal organizations are sure to abound- profiting off the chaos and misery while the 'large powers' have their attention diverted elsewhere. Agents of the New Republic would be needed to battle these criminals, be they isolated smugglers and pirates or full-blown criminal syndicates. Missions here would involve investigation (possibly undercover work) and raiding missions versus criminal bases and the like- as well as the protection of normal citizens. With some of the larger organizations (the Hutt Cartels for example) this might almost necessitate military intervention.

Cold War
Though the war between the Republic and the fragmented Empire may be officially over, there is no love lost between the two factions. Imperial Warlords may not make overt war against the might of the New Republic, but they could still carry on covert campaigns to undermine its presence and attempt to expand their own power. You have to look no further than any James Bond movie for inspiration for a lot of different adventures. The trick here is conducting operations in a manner that WON'T start a full-blown war.

Brushfire Wars
Though I see the New Republic as the most powerful single entity in the Galaxy during this period of peace, it is by no means in control of the entire Galaxy. There are hundreds of smaller powers that must be dealt with- and many of them have their own agendas. Whether it is expanding their power or settling old scores, these smaller powers may go to war with each other. Unfortunately, such things tend to destabilize everything around them— including the Republic. Thus, agents would be needed to go in and help stop these wars with quick, decisive action. This fits in well with the cold war gimmick as well- what if Imperial agitators are stirring up trouble? The trick then is to eliminate the Empire's influence without widening the scope of the conflict (Korea? Vietnam?).

Can't see why they wouldn't exist in the Star Wars galaxy. They could range from political idealists working for some specific agenda to pure anarchists who only wish to see the universe burn. Defending the galaxy from these kinds of threats is certainly a heroic task- and missions could range all over the place, from investigation to infiltration to raids and surgical strikes to rushing to stop some attack on a political figure or landmark.

They're always there. They had it pretty good for 20 years or so, running the entire Galaxy. With the downfall of the Emperor they have lost that power, but there are now (in my setting at least) dozens, if not hundreds of Sith vying to become the next emperor, through whatever means they can. This again can overlap with the other angles. Perhaps a Sith takes up politics and attempts to work his way into power within the Senate. Perhaps another is a terrorist seeking nothing but vengeance for the fallen Emperor. Another might seek to forge a criminal empire. Etc..

Supernatural Threats
Since I loved Dark Conspiracy (another horror RP games), I can't help but include this idea. The galaxy is a big place, and there are a lot of unexplained things out there. Force Spirits have been used in some stories. Monsters in others. Much like the criminal angle, the Empire and New Republic would have been distracted from such concerns during the war. And indeed, all the death and destruction caused could have opened the door (as it were) for all kinds of nastiness to emerge from the shadows. I could see the New Republic forming a 'taskforce' to deal with this kind of threat- tracking down strange and unexplained things at the fringes of the galaxy- or in those dark corners at its very heart.

Here you have the Star Trek angle, and to me it makes sense. The Old Republic had a policy of exploration, but all of that got derailed by the rise of the Empire. Now, with things finally 'settling down', effort would be put back into this arena. New worlds will be needed for their resources and scientific value. More pragmatically, the New Republic may wish to avoid any more surprise attacks from alien races from the 'unknown regions'. Who knows what is out there- especially in my own campaign, where the Republic has unlocked the secret to intergalactic travel via hyperspace gates.

This may not be particularly 'Star Wars', but missions to meet with foreign powers and solidify relationships would be a large part of a galaxy at peace. It would also offer interesting constraints to the activities of heroes, who would definitely have to think twice about going in, guns blazing.

So, there you have it, just a few of the ideas I have off the top of my head. I personally think there is a lot there to keep any heroes busy. In fact, the average 'mission' undertaken by heroes during this era wouldn't be much different from the scope of adventures that took place during the war(s). Only rarely did my PCs ever participate in large scale battles anyway.

The only thing I see 'lacking' is that sense of desperation that a huge war can bring about. Where every decision could mean the lives of thousands. Then again, maintaining peace seems to be as much a challenge as achieving it.

For some, the idea of a Galaxy at peace might also throw out another Star Wars staple: The idea of the PCs being the underdogs. It is kind of hard to see them that way when they have the resources of the entire Republic at their disposal. But to that I have only to say that the Republic, while huge, is limited in its resources. Especially in the period directly following the war(s). Yes, it may have entire fleets of starships at its disposal, but it can't commit them whilly nilly to counter every threat and 'back up' every team in the field.

Anyway, I'm thinking that Star Wars without the Wars still works.


  1. There for sure always seems to be some war or another going on in the SW verse.

    In my KOTOR sessions, the Sith and Republic thing is pretty wide scale, and comes on the heels of the galaxy shattering Mandalorian Wars. It's all really great for the background flavor, but I have yet to have the goings on directly involve players. But in the end game eventually I'm giong to get them involved in the whole Star Forge affair.

    But if I had chosen some other time period that was peaceful, it would have been all good. But really, a sci fi setting with no wars would be a lot like the corporate setting of the Aliens films - which has a decent flavor to it - if not a touch blander than a galaxy with full on strife.

  2. @Brunomac: Yeah, the blander thing is the only thing I 'worry' about. There is something about a background of strife that gives everything an edge. Looking back on this post, however, I see it as really brainstorming for my own campaign. We've moved so far past the movies now- and with my hatred of of the EU- that I'm trying to find angles to keep things going. And the funny thing is that so far, the campaign is still fun and fresh (though in truth we only get to play now twice a year). As long as it remains so, I suppose I shouldn't worry.

  3. I know you listed criminals, but don't forget pirates!

  4. Yarrrr, how could I be fergettin' the pirates!