How to build up or burn down an empire.
Many players often entertain the idea of building their own empire of sorts within Star Wars. Whether it’s a criminal empire built in the shadows, a splinter group of the Rebellion who simply want to start over outside of the Empire’s reach, an independent crew of traders looking to… aggressively expand their network, or a small band of mercenaries aiming to grow into an army that fights for its own agenda, having a party of PCs grow into the rulers of a formidable force that demands attention from the other factions in the galaxy can be exceptionally rewarding for both the players and the GM.
Any of these options begin with the party.
- Any path will require some if not all of the party to be proficient in combat of some kind. After all, the PCs will have to make a name for themselves and will inevitably make enemies along the way. Those choosing the path of cutthroat merchants can get away with some of the party being hired muscle to cover the combat (before being put in charge of other hired muscle as the operation expands).
- They will also need either a PC or an NPC ally to help them handle information and/or finances as the party draws in recruits. No empire can function without some kind of intelligence resource or without funds.
- How the party builds up its own name will vastly impact the faction they are able to establish. Favoring diplomacy and negotiation, subterfuge, or force will change how the party’s faction is viewed by the other myriad players on the galactic board. It can even dictate what kind of allies and resources the party is able to gather as they grow.
- Diplomacy and negotiation makes it less likely for NPC factions to try and snuff out the party before they are ready to fight (be it physically, financially, or otherwise). It also takes time and typically requires that the party have something to offer when they are making deals. That being said, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
- Subterfuge can play into diplomacy and/or force easily, changing the conditions of the deal or fight ahead of time to favor the party better. A well placed lie, a stolen secret, and/or a carefully timed assassination can turn the tide of history. It can be a tough balancing act and takes much planning and patience, though.
- Force is easy and everyone understands it. Fear is how the Empire remains in power and even if it has costs, it is certainly effective. You also don’t have to compete with anyone if you’ve already slaughtered your potential rivals. Force is also prone to drawing attention and isn’t particularly effective if used carelessly or from a position of weakness versus your opponent.
- If your players want to build up a criminal empire to rival the Black Sun or maybe even the Hutt Cartel, they are going to need to settle on their methods, if they are going to specialize in one or all vices, and where they want to start and eventually get to geographically.
- Does the party want to rely on knowing more than their rivals so they can manipulate and outmaneuver them, or is simply breaking kneecaps enough for them?
- Is the party going to be pushing spice, dealing in illegal arms, or smuggling other contraband? Are they going to invest in all of those?
- Location is key to everyone, but criminals looking to build a shadow empire need to pay attention to both political and physical geography very closely.
- Trust. The party will have to dole out trust very, very carefully. There is no honor among thieves, but the party will eventually need allies that they can depend on.
- A party aiming to build an army of mercenaries will need to be exceptional mercenaries themselves to build up a name for their group.
- They will need to become the prime examples of their faction’s fighters, but they will also need to learn to lead and manage their forces as they become the heads of a true army.
- An army marches on its stomach, so the party will need to establish reliable supply sources as well as a means to take care of their troops between deployments.
- Finding work for the party’s faction will become both easier and harder as it grows. Easier because they can send off multiple squads at a time to handle small jobs, but harder because high payout missions that require a larger force are far and few between.
Outside of the PCs making up the party, your players should also keep track of a number of other things as they build up their faction:
- Personnel (recruits, civilians, workers, etc).
- Territory (cities, continents, planets, space stations, etc).
- Ships (planetary, space, and hyperspace capable).
- Resources (military, food, raw materials, etc).
- Housing (Does everyone have a place to live?)
- Travel (transportation and time in transit).