Gaming and the Expanded Universe (Part 2): Picking up the pieces


I know, this post has been a long time in coming. I have promised it for weeks now and I thought that I’d basically get it over with so I can get on to the third part of this series of articles, the part that I know best. But first, a warning: I have only been able to do rather limited resrach on this as it’s basically a topic I have not seen covered outside occassional mentions on message boards. And most of those are talking about Saga Edition these days anyway, and who can blame them?

So basically, take this post with a grain of salt. I may be wrong, I may even be right but I doubt it. Really.

So, as the story goes, West End Games lost the license  for producing the official Star Wars roleplaying game due to bankruptcy in 1998. Sometime in between then and 2000, it was picked up by Wizards of the Coast, it’s hard to say exactly when it was acquired by Wizards of the Coast, it could have been late 1999 or even earlier and they were playesting for quite some time, even before The Phantom Menace came out the year before the first core rulebook was published.

Two years later, following the release of Attack of the Clones as well as the beginning of the second age of the Expanded Universe with the New Jedi Order novels, the core rules were revised to adjust to the new continuity and a few changes were made mechanics-wise.

I still remember seeing this book on the shelf of the only gaming store my state had (and still currently has) and I hardly paid my attention to it. But back in 2003 I was still a little bit wet behind the ears fan-wise. I hard only become one the previous year, and I had no idea what a roleplaying game was, let alone that one day I would be running one.

Funny how things happen that way.

So really, I come to this incarnation of roleplaying games in Star Wars with almost complete ignorance mechanics-wise. All I know of this is from what I percevie to be a streamlined system through the KOTOR games. What I can tell you about though is how the game dealt with and affected continuity, as that is something I am  familiar with. Largely due to a certain female Fosh Jedi.

However, before I get to that I need to backtrack just a little about the state of the Star Wars universe as of this time. The 90’s were the time of the first phase of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, beginning with Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire in 1991 and finishing with Tales of the New Republic which was published in late 1999. There were also the comics publighes by Dark Horse, also beginning in 1991 with Dark Empire and they still are publishing Star Wars comics to this day.

Until 1998 you also had Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game who were also creating content as well as trying to match up with what was coming out of publishing, as it’s pretty much a no-brainer that fans would want to play with what they are reading out of the novels and comics. I can’t speak for myself what this is like, so I won’t comment but it existed.

So, by 1998 WEG had lost their license and the year after Bantam had lost theirs. However by then, there was not only a new Star Wars film out with the promise of more to come, there were also new novels that had begun to populate what was almost an entirely new era for the Star Wars universe.

This is when Wizards entered the picture, and judging with what they did with what they had, they assembled the pieces into some sort of coherance in terms of game. Remember what I said in another post about what counts as canon in gaming? Everything! And when you have things coming from different angles, not to mention the contradictions becoming more and more apparent as stuff starts to come from Lucas himself, you get a bit of a mess.

As far as I understand, this is what Wizards did with Star Wars and what they have done ever since. It’s gone to the tail wagging the dog, as the roleplaying game used actually create content and now they are more or less assembling it. And it’s not an enviable job, particularly at the time when there were a lot of things about the Old Republic that we though we had right only to be contradicted later on.

There is also when Wizards attempts to create some sort of sense out of complete ambiguity. This is where Vergere comes in and I’ll use her as the case in point.

You may have already read my essay on this subject which I have posted on it’s own page on this blog, it was written a few years ago and I am no longer as vitriolic as I once was on the subject, but for a number of years Vergere’s ability to speak Sith was considered as proof that she was evil.

As far as Vergere goes, I hardly think whether she is good or evil, Jedi or Sith, is really the point about her. I have corresponded with Matthew Stover on this very subject, he of course wrote the definitive book on her Traitor, and he pretty much wants fans to make up their own minds. That is fine and dandy for a fan, but hardly a Game Master who may have been considering Vergere as an NPC. So really, the Wizard had to put her on either side of the fence, a morally ambigious character is fine for roleplaying but behind the screen it’s a rather different story.

The point is here, we have a rather chicken and egg question, as Vergere goes on to be evil later on, or at least seen as evil by other characters. Personally, I don’t buy this, never have and it’s not something I would like to go into here. Nevertheless, a lot of fans including myself strongly suspect that there was some sort of change with her in regards to how she was seen by the writers (perhaps even Troy Denning) sometime between the publishing of The Unifying Force and The Dark Nest Trilogy. However, both of these books were published after the publishing of this article…you see where I am getting here? Does the article anticipate Vergere’s Sith-hood? Does Denning follow Wizards line in regards to her character? Personally I think that the answer to both of these questions is negative, and roleplaying continuity does have some bearing on the Expanded Universe community as these books as often the best resource materials.

Wizards have no choice but to follow the lines of canon itself these days if they want to keep the fans happy, but it is rather interesting to note that hardly anything has been published about the New Jedi Order era or anything up to the Legacy comics.  However, with all the new novels coming out around that time one can hardly blame them, as continuity needs to stand still for a little while in order for it to be codified.

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~ by katanageldar on December 1, 2009.

One Response to “Gaming and the Expanded Universe (Part 2): Picking up the pieces”

  1. […] My rather brief summary on Wizard’s first outing with the Star Wars roleplaying game left us in a sort of transitional phase: picking up the pieces from where West End Games left off as well as adapting the new content that had come out since then and what was currently coming out. Now we move into almost entirely new territory, and with content coming out from all three branches of George Lucas’ holy trinity (his expression, not mine). […]

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