Just call me a canon lawyer


It’s been a hot debate on the various Star Wars message boards around the Internet ever since Karen Traviss’  startling announcement a month ago. For me, the subject of canon within Star Wars is an issue I have dealt with about as long as I have been a fan, I’m proud to say that I actually fought in the Canon Wars in the Jedi Council Forums in 2003-2005.

These days, however, I don’t really see it as important as it once was. But in terms of gaming, you walk a rather precarious tightrope. Before I go on, I’ll give the uninitiated a few facts on the subject, anyone who has already been to canon school can feel free to skip to the next part of this post.

Canon 101

Canon, as defined by Leland Chee,  is divided into five camps, formerly four as another has been introduced as part of the Clone Wars television series:

G-Canon – George Lucas Canon: This is basically anything to do with the films. G-Canon includes the Star Warsfilms and the comics, novelisations, games and guides associated with the films.

T-Canon – Television Canon: This is a fairly new category of canon and has been created purely for material associated with the Clone Wars teleivision series, feature film and the as yet unnamed live-action television series.

C-Canon – Continuity Canon: The novels, comics and games of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

S-Canon – Secondary Canon:Here are a lot of older works that have been left in the background or over-written, like the Marvel comics. A lot of West End Games RPG material could be put here too.

N-Canon – Non-Canon: This is what exists outside Star Wars canon, pretty much anything under the Infinities label as well as the alternate endings to games.

Canon also has a precedence, which is in the order that I have posted it in. Upper level canon trumps lower level canon. Yet lower level canon can “ascend”  to higher level as well as possibly “descend” to a lower level. Usually anything that George Lucas touches will ascend.

Gaming and Canon

This sort of hierarchy can’t really exist in gaming, as there needs to be the assumption that Star Warsis a continuous story that exists outside where the films cover where everything is included. Just including the films within gaming continuity I imagine would give a GM a very small canvas to work with, and this was realised in the WEG days when short stories were being written to supplement the material.

I find it very hard to imagine a game being played with just the films, as the game itself assumes that the entire Expanded Universe is accepted by the players as a given. But then again, such a fan of Star Wars would probably not be playing.

In consistencies within the story can be easily put down to differing accounts from various sources, much like what has been done in the study of history. And there’s always examples such as how Tolkien retconned his earlier version of The Hobbit to make it tie into Lord of the Rings once he was finished.

The question is, which version is right, then?

Enter the Canon Lawyer

The answer to this I think best suits the actual game being played, in both the style of play and what everyone in the group wishes to adopt. However, when there is a conflict (and they will happen), the Canon Lawyer can come in and argue with the GM on the onething that is supposed to be their baby: the story.

These sorts of conflicts can be avoided provided the GM is clever enough to avoid them. But what could be the solution when it does happen? I have to say that I have only encountered this as a player, and that was with a rather inexperienced GM. In the end canon triumphed at the expense of story but such a scene could have been avoided which is my campaigns are largely fan-made content. It’s my story, so I can’t get it wrong.

However, when faced with such a situation, and providing the GM has tried to avoid conflicts, I’d probably veer on the GM’s side rather than the side of canon. The other way impedes creativity, and can be rather restrictive.

But I can’t really say much more on the subject though as I haven’t dealt with it.  I still am, the Level 1 GM.

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~ by katanageldar on September 14, 2009.

One Response to “Just call me a canon lawyer”

  1. […] can totally understand this guy’s point of view, I even gave it a name a little way back the canon lawyer, but only dealt with it a little bit in terms of the game and continuity. My solution, as is the […]

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