Saturday, August 13, 2011

Circa 35-33 BBY: The Battle for Mandalore

Written in 1992, when the Star Wars expanded universe remained in relatively uncharted waters, The Battle for Mandalore, a Star Wars miniatures RPG scenario, is a narrative that is surprisingly not out of sync with our current understanding of the history of Star Wars today. Yes, there are some inconstancies with this text and our present reckoning of 33 BBY now, but with some very simple retconning this RPG scenario can fit well into the existing cannon Star Wars mythology this day.

Interestingly, the origin of this source comes from an RPG magazine called Challenge, which first began publication in 1986, at about the same time West End Games began producing the Star Wars RPG. And surprisingly, The Battle for Mandalore was the only Star Wars RPG scenario Challenge ever ran. Its focus was mainly on other RPG systems such as Twilight: 2000, 2300AD, and Space 1889.

But turning out attention to the source at hand; essentially a civil war has broken out on the Planet Mandalore which was led by one of Mandalore’s Governors, a man named Vrox. We are told he is a “secret supporter of Senator Palpatine” (I’ll get to this line a little later on) and at this point in history is the current dictator of the planet. The Republic military is called in to intervene because Vrox’s Mandalorian forces have been raiding nearby systems. What is more, he has set up an illegal war droid manufacturing facility (JU-9 Juggernaut War Droids – very cylon-esque looking). Thus, the stage is set for the street battle between Republic troops and Mandalorian warriors.

It is on the subject of the Republic military where I want to take pause and discuss. My understanding of the Republic’s military prowess at this particular time period is shaky at best, but as far as I understand the military climate of the Republic during its dwindling days, the Republic doesn’t have a standing military. Now, I would really like for someone who is more versed on this topic to weigh in and let me know what exactly the Republic’s military capability is at this time because I want to know if my assumptions are correct. The reason I’m laboring under the postulation that the Republic doesn’t have a standing military is because of the fuss that was created by Chancellor Palpatine in the Clone Wars when he created a “GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC!”. Amidala and the rest were disconcerted by this development, understandably, which implies that such an institution wasn’t around prior to this.

Still, if it turns out that the Republic doesn’t have a military in the traditional sense; it doesn’t immediately make this source non-canonical. I want to try and rescue it. The “Republic Army Forces” as they are named in this source could be something like a United Nations coalition force; a collection of soldiers given to the Republic in the name of several independent systems and planets. Such a military organization would not be able to carry out large scale military movements, either in attack or defense of the Republic, but it could carry out smaller missions, like this one. But again, I would really like for someone who is more knowledgeable in this particular field to shed some light for me on the Republic’s military capability at 33 BBY, and whether or not such a military operation by the Republic would have been possible.

On the theme of rescuing this source, I want to address the line I mentioned earlier – the one about the Mandalorians being “secret supporters of Senator Palpatine”. Ultimately, I think there is more correct with this line than not. Firstly, I don’t think Palpatine would have “secret supporters” of any kind, because “Senator Palpatine” most likely has no traceable links to anyone shady – politically he’s probably clean as a whistle. His alter-ego Darth Sidious is another story though, and really, I think the spirit of this line could be something like “Governor Vrox of Mandalore, a supporter of Count Dooku and the coalition of independent systems, has taken advantage of the galaxy’s chaos to become virtual dictator of his planet”. In that way, the Vrox really does become a “secret supporter of Senator Palpatine”.

What is more, this source can come further in line with continuity if the Mandalorian Forces mentioned could be re-written as the Death Watch. I know a while back there was much ruckus with regards to Mandalorian continuity after the episode ‘The Mandalore Plot’ aired, thus, some believe, invalidating Karen Traviss’ contributions (and other artist contributions) to Mandalorian history. I have yet to engage with any of this material myself, but from what I understand, ‘The Mandalore Plot’ really didn’t invalidate Traviss’ contribution; however, it did re-contextualize their impact on the larger narrative of Star Wars into something different, but yet still in the end remained compatible with what she originally wrote. Again, I don’t have an opinion on this yet as I have still to read the sources in question. But as it is, I think the Mandalorian Forces in this source can be understood as the Death Watch, and the idea of a Governor becoming a dictator I think could fit well into the history of Mandalore as we understand it post The Clone Wars season 2.

Moving on with my reactions to this source, I think the character of Jedi “Mistress” Voli Quana is quite interesting. Firstly, I like the way Chris Hind, writer of this particular piece referred to her. I’m not sure the title “Mistress” is applied to any female Jedi outside of this source, but it’s a title I think should be re-popularized in Star Wars literature as it denotes authority, control, and power. I also think this could be one of the first sources in Star Wars to hint at the Force power of Battle Meditation. As Army Lieutenant Weirs notices of the Jedi Voli as the battle went on: “The troops are obeying orders which I haven’t given yet…It’s you, isn’t it? Doing something to their minds – to all our minds – to keep us disciplined and in high morale. That’s why you look so haggard”. I’m not entirely certain, but I think Battle Meditation did appear in the Thrawn trilogy at some point, but still, this is one of those earlier Star Wars sources which made reference to this ability.

Finally, not only did I appreciate the honorific applied to the Jedi Mistress Voli Quana from the army lieutenant, but I also liked the way the Jedi’s outfits were described: “A dozen black-clad Jedi Knights advance cautiously through the deserted, rubble choked streets of Mandalore”. I’ve always thought black was a more fitting color choice for Jedi rather than the earthly browns. That’s not to say I don’t like brown clad Jedi as they remind be of the Franciscan order, but I always though the black garb of the Benedictines and local parish priests was more world-renouncing, as the Jedi are. These Jedi reminded me of the Defenders of the Wall from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones – outcast in that mythology who have taken an oath to renounce the world and defend the realm from outside threats. Plus, Luke did look really cool in black in Return of the Jedi. That was a boss getup.

For my next post I’m going to officially move into the year 33 BBY, and meet for the first time in Star Wars chronology that most menacing Sith Lord Darth Maul, and the source Darth Maul: Saboteur. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. Actually, this isn't the only rpg scenario in Challenge. Check out wookieepedia's list of ambiguously canonical rpg sources at and my own breakdown of their contents at
    Regarding this story, it won't work to say that the Mandos were supporting Dooku and the Separatists, since at this point Dooku is still a Jedi. I think a more promising route would be to somehow tie this into the civil war on Mandalore that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were involved with (as mentioned in TCW).

  2. I knew I shouldn’t have made such a statement about this being the only Star Wars RPG scenario Challenge ever ran. I did do because I went over Joe’s list and Challenge magazine didn’t come up again. Does this mean that The Battle for Mandalore is considered at least minimally cannon, while the other scenarios are not? I had totally overlooked the fact that Dooku is still a Jedi at this point in time, and I agree with you, it makes sense to connect these Mandos with the Death Watch from TCW.

  3. The canonicity of SW material in rpg magazines (except for a handful in Polyhedron about 10 years ago) is somewhat in limbo. Leland Chee has said he has no record that any of those articles/scenarios ever went through LFL approvals, which would seem to make them unlicensed fanfic. On the other hand, many of the authors were writers/artists for West End Games/Wizards of the Coast who wrote officially licensed SW material. In addition, a number of these mag articles/scenarios have been referenced in unambiguously canonical material. Finally, if these were unlicensed, then it should have been illegal for the publishers of those mags to sell those issues, since it would be copyright infringement. Nevertheless, LFL never sent cease and desist orders to the publishers, despite the fact that these magazines were fairly well known (for the most part) and continued publishing SW material for years. I and many other fans lean toward considering them S-canon, since that's how LFL seems to be treating them.

    As for why Joe hasn't included other Challenge items in his timeline, it's because he just hasn't gotten around to it yet. He considers them canonical, but he's a busy guy and rpg material is the lowest priority for him (you'll notice there's WotC and WEG material missing from his timeline, too), probably because only the most anal of fans (like us) care about reading that stuff along with the novels/comics/etc.

  4. I think I remember you and I having this conversation two years ago :)

    So here's where you keep me honest. Since Joe has yet to include these RPG scenarios in his timeline, would you be able to let me know when such a source is coming up, that way I can fandangle an online copy from you, of head on over to eBay to purchase the requisite issue I may need? I, like you (us anal fans..Ha!), do care about this material so I want to cover it. After all, you are my Star Warsology PhD director :)

  5. Yeah, I can do that. :-)