Recasting Canon: Star Wars

Whenever someone considers running a Star Wars game, or a game in a setting as beloved and expansive, the question of how to handle canon tends to arise. This can be a pleasant experience, or it can lead to arguments…. like pretty much everything else in life.

Unsurprisingly, I hope, I come out in favor of talking and planning how the group will envision and enact their campaign. This post is intended as an example of what sort of alterations to or interpretations of canon that one might make to establish agreement and satisfaction for all players. Not too long ago, I released a video on the question of dealing with canon so I would prefer not repeat those points here. That video is available below, and to put our group’s revised canon in better context, I would like to suggest watching it if you can. It’s a shorter one – don’t worry.

 

To go along with that, in recent recaps from our lengthy campaign, I have stated I will begin sharing more concrete examples of how things were set up. To follow through on that, this post will share some early notes on the history of our setting as it pertains to the films. As is mentioned in the video, we had decided to retain the ambiguity represented by the unreliable narrations of the characters in the films, and to use the Prequels as an equally unreliable source of history, framing them as rumors or fragments of the ‘official story.’ Below, then, is a ‘more reliable’ framing of some of the primary events of the films to guide us in bringing about the feel and style of Star Wars that we decided we wanted.

I offer this material up as an example of personalizing the canon of a setting. These notes represent the gradual expansion and embellishment of short one or two line notes I made prior to our first session. More notes will follow. These notes have grown in detail in response to who the group’s characters have turned out to be, and as a result of many talks about the canon of Star Wars with the group over the last two years. I fiddle with these notes from time to time during my commute to work. As they are notes, and are a sort of living document, do not expect them to maintain a consistent tone, tense, or perspective in time.

I hope, these are in some way entertaining, and useful~

One Group’s Star Wars Canon: Part 1

Clone Wars: A lengthy series of wars which ultimately led to the gradual reorganization of the Republic into an Empire. The initial spark of this long period of strife was the discovery that galactic political representatives, leaders of industry, shapers of public opinion, and positions of responsibility in the military had been and were still being replaced by clones. This issue was further complicated by the legitimate practice in some cultures of using clones to enhance security for their leaders and for those who could afford it. Some corporations began to illegally use cloning to increase productivity or to protect particularly useful human resources assets.

The term, ‘the Clone Wars’ was first coined to describe the fear and reaction to the discovery that many important and powerful people had been replaced by clones by the hand of some unseen organization or individual for unknown motives. As these clones were rooted out, the Jedi Order rose to an even greater degree of prominence as a useful tool of government due to their abilities to recognize cloned replacements.

Later, the terms Replacements began to be used more frequently in common conversation as the Republic, pressed to the wall by separatist movements, open rebellions, secessions, and open warfare, accepted the notion of a Clone Army to centralize military operational control, ensure loyalty, and swell the ranks of an armed forces thinned by losses, time, politics, and corruption. In the wake of the creation and deployment of this Clone Army, the general public forgot or never learned the source of the term ‘Clone Wars’ and simple assumption on the part of later generations ensured it remained firmly associated with the forgone practice of using Clone Troopers and nothing else.

It is of note that the responsible party or parties for the Replacements was never uncovered, nor have checks been maintained to detect clones in positions of authority.

 

Clone Troopers: Known more commonly as Storm Troopers, the last days of the Republic saw the unveiling of a new military force to protect loyal systems. Cloned from particularly-capable human soldiers, several strains of clones were maintained while Palpatine’s Senate slowly transformed itself into the Imperial bureaucracy it would become.

Once the first Galactic Empire was organized and the Senate was slowly being replaced by other power structures of Palpatine’s design, the cost of obtaining and maintaining a specialized and dependent clone army was no longer required. The extreme loyalty and specialization of the clones had been assets at first, but due to the shortness of their lifespan, and dependence on natural-born leadership, another solution was needed in the long-term. The military gradually shifted to recruitment, indoctrination, and training in order to maximize the possible utility and independent thought they might be able to gain from each trooper, at the cost of effectiveness.

The last strain of clones to be used were quite different from those which had been deployed before. More independent, allowed to mature at a normal human rate, with more generalized training, they were hoped to be a bridge between the original series of clones and fully human troopers. This experiment ended in failure with the troopers coming to question their existence and servitude once they had gained some experience in the field. Some openly rebelled and fled their units. Some were exterminated by Imperial order. Some were dishonorably discharged and abandoned in the ruins of war torn worlds far out on the rim. Whatever their fate, they were the last of the clone troopers and with their passage into history, the Clone Wars finally came to an end, many years after hostilities had formally ceased.

 

Jedi Order: The Jedi was formed from several religious and military traditions as an organization to bolster understanding of the Force and use it for the benefit of all beings of the galaxy. Such noble aspirations came with problems, notably ones of funding and the effects of power and politics on those who find themselves with the mantle of leadership.

Perception of the Order varies across the galaxy with some viewing the group as being little more than a particularly effective mercenary organization, to others viewing them as an extra-governmental police force. The Order itself came to promote a vision of themselves as Knights-errant. The truth may be somewhere between the three views, but the collapse of the Order with the Republic has left a void which some wish to see filled, and others celebrate.

 

The Sith: A support network of fallen Jedi, and force-sensitives consumed by the dark side of the Force used to the benefit of its hidden leadership and their personal goals. Less a philosophy than a corruption and recruitment program, the Sith operate in plain sight, protected by disinformation, false myth, and classic usage of cell and cult structures to prevent enemies from rooting them all out.

At least as old as, if not older than, the Jedi Order, the Sith pride themselves on survival and the independent accomplishment of complicated and self-serving goals to ensure it. A Sith myth is that the Jedi themselves were founded as a means of protection for a powerful Lord and a source of chaos and instability in the Galaxy from which she could benefit. This might be true, or it might be that the Sith reinvent “true” history for each of their deluded apprentices.

Fanaticism is often the mark of a corruptive or cult-like group, but in the case of the Sith the experience of being a fallen force sensitive is so personal and transformative that such a motivation and sense of connection did not manifest itself in the organization. Each Sith, master and apprentice alike, was out for their own ends. All others were resources to be used, or challenges to be defeated on the road to greater power. Curiously, this lack of true loyalty between Sith did not discourage the wisest masters from fully training an apprentice who could rise to eventually challenge them. Survival is for the fittest. Moreover, the nature of victory is not objective. While an apprentice who cuts down his master might claim it, the physical nature of that prize might no longer be of any value to a Sith Master who knows the transience of life and who has come to prize the ability to destroy the last vestiges of light in their student far more than dwindling into old age and fear.

Smaller, leaner, more adaptive, and definitely more resilient than the ponderous and ever more hidebound Jedi Order, the Sith demonstrate the power and temptation of the dark side of the force, and surely remain a threat in the galaxy to this very day.

 

The Order of Sith: Appointment as a Lord of the Sith was a combination of reward and responsibility ostensibly for loyal and capable individuals from across the galaxy, but practically of coreward, human stock.  Created in secret by then-Chancellor Palpatine as a shadowy check on the Jedi and entrenched governmental organizations which had military and/or intelligence operations mandates under the byzantine laws of the Republic, the Order of Sith operated under a different name, and were rarely in the public eye until the appointment of Lord Vader as the new Emperor’s most-trusted aide and emissary. Most, if asked, would assume that Lord Vader is not a Lord of the Sith, but the Lord of the Sith. In the upheaval following the destruction of the Imperial Navy’s mobile Battle Station, this impression would not be far wrong.

The Order of Sith were entrusted with ensuring loyalty to the Empire in its early days. Additionally, they were tasked with matters of top-level negotiation, diplomacy, and overseeing military action as the eyes and ears of Palpatine. After the end of the Clone Wars, the Order of Sith were tasked with recruiting and training his household guard and elite forces.

One of many semi-secret directives given to the Order of Sith was to seek out Force Sensitives unwilling or unable to abide by the laws of the Empire, and ensure they were no threat to the public safety. The disbanding of the Jedi Order and the arrest, retraining, or dispersal of its members is known to a handful of concerned beings across the galaxy as Order 66. What the public was briefly aware of as a legitimate government action against a disloyal mercenary company, was closer in their eyes to a purge of the last elements of resistance to the absolute rule of Emperor Palpatine. The Order of Sith, not nearly the size of the Jedi in numbers, suffered cruelly in the battles which ensued, but the speed and surprise with which they could act with the full resources of the Imperial Navy backing them made up somewhat for the lack. In the end, what few remnants of the Jedi survived are scattered to the four corners of the galaxy and still in hiding, and the surviving lords of the Order of Sith have learned to be even more circumspect in their dealings.

With knowledge of the force fading, and no open organization in the Empire promoting its study and mastery, the Order of Sith have languished as a military organization and become more of a diplomatic and intelligence-gathering one. That said, the order is still responsible for training the Imperial Guard, and for authorizing the activities of the Imperial Investigative Initiative, the III, which is tasked with seeking out those who seek to raise the banner of the Jedi again, or replace it with something else.

Imperial Investigative Initiative: The III, whose agents wear the red, faceless masks of the Imperial Guard, but with the heavy cloaks of the Jedi they seek, are often known popularly as Inquisitors, and ill is said to befall those who cross them, or draw their attention. They operate partially under the mandate of the ISB, but with special dispensation for great independence from the Emperor himself.

Although one might expect Lord Vader to be a part of this Initiative, he is, as in most other things, the Emperor’s liaison and emissary, involved only to ensure that operations go smoothly and successfully.

 

Lord Vader (Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith): Born Anakin Skywalker, he rose to prominence among the Jedi during the last years of the Clone Wars amid trouble and speculation about his suitability to represent the Order. Atypically, he was inducted into training as an adult, and the difficult task of training one of his age was granted to another bright star in the order, only recently instated as a Master himself. Such challenges were traditionally given to much older and more experienced Jedi on the rare occasions they occurred. It was far more common for adult Force Sensitives to become wards of the Order and to receive training fit to buffer them from the temptations of the Dark Side, and little else. Skywalker, however, under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi, was granted the opportunity for full training and the chance to rise to the rank of Master if he could earn it. Although few would argue against the power and ability of Skywalker as he completed his lessons, the rank of Master was never officially granted to him. Those given to political speculation and aware of the traditions within the Jedi Order, might conclude that Kenobi and Skywalker may have fallen prey to some sort of power-play within the organization, either to limit the ascension of Kenobi, or to make access to and temptation of Skywalker easier.

Skywalker was a daring Starfighter pilot of no small renown during the desperate battles of the Clone Wars in the Outer Rim. It was during one of these battles that he came to the attention of a Jedi Master known for his maverick ways and dissatisfaction with the direction and vision of the Jedi council. This Master, one Quigon Jinn, was overseeing the final Master’s Test preparations of another wild card in the Order, the young Obi Wan Kenobi. Jinn’s mysterious death at the hands of a Dark Side Initiate, believed to be of the Sith, led ultimately to Kenobi seeking and gaining approval from the Jedi Council to train his by-then best friend and constant companion in the ways of the force.

Unbeknownst to Kenobi or the Jedi Council at first, Skywalker was married, and had a tempestuous relationship with his wife. They spent long periods apart followed by stormy periods of reconciliation. Raised by a single mother who abandoned him at an early age to run off with a morally ambiguous crew of smugglers whose only merit was being successful enough to eat regularly, Skywalker was in no way adept at the niceties of social interactions. When he entered training, his focus on his studies was often strained by this, as well as by troubling prophetic dreams of loss, betrayal, and isolation. From time to time, he would disappear to reunite with his wife wherever she might be plying her mechanic’s trade on the outer rim. He would return exuberant and absorbed in thoughts of her, or raging and frustrated at another inexplicable falling out. At other times he would disappear to trace down a clue to his mother’s whereabouts. Skywalker never truly learned to order and analyze his emotions, and so never grasped how to understand the ebbs and flows of the Force. Strongly touched by it, he nevertheless found he had to impose his will on it, to rely on his emotions to draw a reaction from it. In short, he began a slow road down the dark path. Kenobi, having been a hothead himself, and prone to arrogance, was unable to recognize the telltale signs. He lacked the experience as a teacher, and access to masters he trusted completely. Some might speculate he was also trying to impress the legendary Master Yoda, a luminary who vanished shortly after the rise of the Emperor and the fall of the Jedi Order. Others, of a more forgiving nature, might remember the close bond the two had, and how devastated Kenobi was to learn of Skywalker’s emergence as Darth Vader. Kenobi may have been as blinded by love as he was by pride.

Kenobi and Skywalker had a falling out after the Order refused to grant Skywalker permission to take the Trials of Mastery. Skywalker disappeared for some time and when he returned the Clone Wars had grown even fiercer than when he and Kenobi had met. Skywalker had gotten attached to the retinue of then-Chancellor Palpatine in a vaguely-defined position some might describe as security and others might describe as enforcer. The young man seemed to idolize the Chancellor and his vision of a peaceful and well-ordered galaxy-spanning government. Palpatine requested that Skywalker return to the front to aid in the effort to end the separatist movement, and at the same time, be his representative among the Jedi. It is unclear if Skywalker even considered himself a member of the Order at this point, but he was greeted warmly and his favor was courted by many council members looking to support Palpatine’s open attempts to end the war. Kenobi and Skywalker were reunited and to all reports found a way to recover their friendship, if more maturely and reservedly than before. There is some speculation that both men found it hard to reconcile the warm welcome of Skywalker by the Jedi Council, and the obvious role that seeking political favor from Palpatine played in it.

Ultimately, the course of the war grew more and more desperate for the Republic and more and more emergency measures were enacted by Palpatine’s government. Skywalker, then a hero of the Republic so bright he eclipsed most of its most Generals and Jedi Knights, openly supported the creation of a more binding form of government and often spoke of the formation of an Empire. Kenobi found this troubling and began to work inside the Jedi Order to sway the general opinion of the Knights away from Palpatine. Eventually, this led to a conflict which destroyed the Jedi, and saw Palpatine installed as the Empire’s first ruler, less and less tied to the last remnants of the Republic. One of his first acts as Emperor was to elevate Anakin Skywalker to another vague and powerful position, giving him a new name and title in the process: Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith.

The destruction of the Jedi was publicly reported as the prosecution of traitors and seditionists, and it cemented Darth Vader’s position as the right hand of the Emperor in the mind of the citizens. His position was not as clear among the growing ranks of those tasked with enforcing Imperial rule, particularly those assigned to head the newly-designated regional governments. Vader at once seemed to be a military asset to be ordered about, and as a loose-cannon at odds with the political and social goals of the Emperor. Those who had known or known of him as Anakin Skywalker found it even harder to reconcile his new persona with his old. It would not have been an uncommon hope that Vader would disappear as so many others were during the Jedi purges. That hope proved to be a false one.

The final death throes of the Jedi Order went mostly unseen by the fearful eyes of the citizens of the newly formed Galactic Empire. Few stories of the purge survived the purges themselves. So few Jedi survived, that as its last generation dies, whatever hints of those tales will die out with them.

One story that has managed to endure in this age of ignorance of the Force and its practitioners is that of the last meeting of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. Kenobi, on the run from Order 66 as were the rest of the surviving Jedi, had been seeking Vader. Some say this was to try to redeem him, others say that he was seeking to end the threat to the tattered threads of the sundered republic and its loyal Knights.

Kenobi was then in his late 40s.  He surprised Vader, a few years his junior, as the Sith was arguing with his wife. The two had been trying to reconcile, but she was both attracted to his power and repelled by his fanatical political views forged by years of war on the brutal front lines of the Clone Wars. As the two argued, the last of the Jedi across the galaxy were falling to the clone army at whose side they had been fighting for years, and to secretive blows by unseen assassins orchestrated by Palpatine’s Order of Sith Lords.

Kenobi is said to have begged Lord Vader to come away with him, to complete his training and find his way out of the darkness. Vader, recognizing that Kenobi must have been in contact with his wife for some time in order to have found him, grew even more furious and accused them both of betraying him. Turning to pull the truth from her, his fears seemed to be confirmed when Kenobi rushed to her defense. The two men fought, raging at each other about the past all the while.

In the end, it was Kenobi who left that place whole in body, but sick in mind. Vader was defeated, his body in ruins. His mind, however, was sharp and focused like a laser on one goal. He would rise again, and would in his time become the most powerful being the galaxy had yet seen. Only then would he be safe from the betrayals, the lies, and the petty schemes of his lessers. He would serve the Emperor until he had learned the last of his lessons, then replace and outdo him.

What Kenobi had sensed, but Vader had been too blinded by anger and jealousy to see was that Vader’s wife was pregnant. In shock and horrified at having killed his oldest and best friend, a friend so twisted by the dark side that he was barely recognizable, Kenobi followed his instincts to run, taking her with him, and hiding as far away as he could. One the verge of emotional collapse, Kenobi was taken in by Bail Organa, a man whose loyalty to the Republic was as fierce as Kenobi’s had been before Palpatine, and the rise of Vader in his dear friend Anakin, had shaken it. The woman was given shelter as well, and in time she came to term and delivered twins, a boy and a girl.

 

Luke and Leia Skywalker: When the twins were born, Kenobi, by then aware that Vader had survived their duel, was desperate to run again and hide. He was haunted by images of his friend screaming his name in hatred and fearful of what might happen to the twins should Vader ever learn of them. He begged their mother to run with him, but she would not. She was intent on joining the secretive activities Organa was organizing and fighting back against what she knew Vader would come to represent. She wanted to entrust care of her children to Organa’s family on Alderaan, but Kenobi and Organa eventually prevailed upon her to separate the twins for their own safety. She agreed at first, but as her daughter grew and the darkness of the Empire spread, she came to regret her decision. Worse, she regretted the lie she was forced to tell, that Leia was the Organas’ daughter, an only child. Her role in Leia’s life was over after her second year, and she had never been allowed to reveal to anyone who she really was. She was simply a nurse and caretaker who moved on to other things. She left the nascent rebellion against the Empire, and sought ought the broken Jedi. Kenobi had vanished with the boy and no one knew where they were or if they were even together. No one knew where he had taken him. She searched for years, but only had rumors and lies to go on. Eventually she gave up and tried to seek out Anakin’s mother, for reasons she barely understood. After a long and frustrating search, she finally found her grave on Tatooine and the new family the woman had recently bereaved. She also found a young boy about Leia’s age and heard a lot of angry talk about a Ben Kenobi who was always lurking around. Tatooine was far from the empire and the sort of place that Anakin had always hated, a desperate dustbowl of a planet with no future but suffering and sacrifice. Kenobi had chosen to hide the boy among actual family, out in the open, but with sufficient distractions to protect him and delude Vader should he ever find the place. He had set himself up as both protector and bait. No matter who Luke was, facing Kenobi was something she knew would consume Vader beyond reason.

She left after realizing that Owen Lars already knew who the boy’s father had been, and who he had become. They loved Luke anyway, and Luke was in a place where he had a chance to grow up in the sort of stable and honest family his father had never known. Wanting for nothing but dreams, and protected physically, he had a chance to grow up to be the sort of man Kenobi had always wanted to be. She did not reveal her own identity to Lars, she simply left, and returned to Organa’s service. She died in battle with Imperial Agents not long after, but not before having entrusted a very young Leia with one piece of information. Kenobi’s location. “If the time comes when all hope is lost,” she told the young girl, “seek out General Kenobi on Tatooine. He will help you without question.”

Leia [Skywalker] Organa grew to be a supremely confident and competent young woman, filled with passion for her cause, and the great wit to do open battle in the political arena against the Emperor, seemingly without earning reprisals. She is a valued member of the Rebel Alliance, and often entrusted, despite her youth, with sensitive and dangerous missions. If she lives, it is felt she will rise to its highest ranks, or be among those who strike the ultimate blow for freedom from Imperial oppression.

 

Luke Skywalker’s early years on Tatooine are of little note to historians although the number of talented pilots from or operating from that world is of interest. Two events make him noteworthy, the first being the nearly single-handed destruction of the Empire’s massive Mobile Battle Station popular recounting has dubbed the Death Star. The second was his open claim to being the last of the Jedi, rekindling dreams of daring Knights who fought against oppression and darkness on behalf of those who could not. Both actions have him hotly sought by the Empire and any associating with him must accept that he is marked for death.

Skywalker’s military career in the Alliance was exemplary despite its brevity. He was seen as a capable pilot, a clever tactician, and an inspiring commander. After the Battle of Hoth, Skywalker appears to have left the Rebellion to pursue his goal of re-establishing the Jedi. Rumors of sighting him compete with rumors of his death. Alive or not, as a folk-hero, his legend will live on forever.

 

The Death Star: Destroyed at the Battle of Yavin by the forces of the Rebel Alliance, the Empire’s Mobile Battle Station was to be the linchpin of securing complete control of the systems of the former Republic and cementing the rule of the Emperor. Its use was carefully orchestrated by Grand Moff Tarkin and as the backbone of the Tarkin doctrine of maintaining control through fear, it stood every chance of finalizing Palpatine’s dreams of Empire. Interestingly, it was also both a prototype and a ruse rushed to completion early to protect a far more ambitious project on an even greater scale.

The destruction of the Death Star was unforeseen and a great blow to the Imperial Navy, but it accomplished several things which tinged the loss with a hint of hope for crushing the Rebels. First, it emboldened the Alliance and encouraged them to attempt larger and large actions, committing more and more of their resources. Second it created a hero out of a young moisture-farmer named Luke Skywalker. The Empire had many ways to subvert and subsume such icons, and Luke’s recruitment to serve the Emperor would far more than redress the harm done by his impossible shot which destroyed Tarkin’s ‘technological terror.’ Finally, it encouraged those with rebel sympathies to be more open, and that made rooting them out all the easier. The legacy of the Death Star was to turn hope to false hope.

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