Nar Shaddaa is a popular stop for Star Wars campaigns due to the gritty, cyberpunk feel. It has all the elements of a seedy underbelly, with equal chances for players to be heroes and crooks. In my mind, it has the plot density to not only be a stopping point, but a place to house an entire urban campaign. This is a setup for players and GMs who might wish to use Nar Shaddaa as the primary focus of a campaign, or simply the place that players frequent to repair, turn their haul into credits, or to unwind a bit. I am generally a fan of incorporating the players’ stories, drives, and foibles into how the story unfolds, which makes writing a plot at the outset difficult. Instead, we are going to populate the urban sprawl of Nar Shaddaa with factions, and places of interest for our players to run into. The factions have primary drives, which is to say, what they will be trying to accomplish according to the status quo. From there, the players’ choices will be what moves (or doesn’t move) the paths of those around them.
Like Seamus and the Astrogation Glitch, I am keeping the material system agnostic because of the sheer number of systems out there. However, these plot hooks are excellent ways to engage with Obligation or Duty from the Fantasy Flight Games narrative system, so feel free to tie them in.
Profile: It’s nearly impossible to discuss Nar Shaddaa without mentioning Black Sun. The criminal organization initially came into prominence during the Clone Wars and has spread throughout the galaxy like a disease. It is the largest and most powerful organized crime group in existence, and they are a force to be reckoned with. Locally, they are led by Durga the Hutt, the Vigo who controls the area. While Durga’s focus is on smuggling, his lieutenants are always vying for favor, and are always willing to expand…so long as they don’t run afoul of their boss.
Primary Drives: Eliminate any and all competition; Personal Profit
- Black Sun enforcers and lieutenants are almost always willing to offer work of some kind to a desperate outsider. Often this is something they don’t want their own men associated with. The trick is surviving the payoff.
- Durga is vicious to anyone who might oppose his hold. He will be pleased with anyone who silences any squeaky wheels in his operation.
- Rumor is that Durga has a real legbreakerTrandoshan acting as his Enforcer. There’s something…almost unnatural about him. Maybe a bit of digging would uncover more.
Profile: While Durga rules Nar Shaddaa with a durasteel tail, there is no denying the presence of the other Hutts in the sector. Some rule vast swaths of territory on their own, while others simply are content to use Nar Shaddaa as a place to conduct business. Durga is mostly willing to allow the latter, so long as he receives a cut. Because none of them have a strong foothold, there is constant infighting and competition, offering both opportunity and danger.
Primary Drives: Familial Duty; One up Each Other
- One of the smaller time Hutts, Bil’ja, has recently gone missing, seemingly without a trace. There are plenty of rumors swirling, but very little in the way of hard evidence. While the Hutts aren’t a happy family, familial duty counts for enough that other Hutts feel compelled to provide some sense of conclusion in the matter. As Bil’ja was a resident of Nar Shaddaa, some members of the family do not feel that Durga has done enough to satisfy those obligations. Getting the answers might be a fulcrum point.
- A Hutt must be the leader of Nar Shaddaa. Durga currently holds the reins of power, but every Hutt has their eye on his territory. It would take a concerted effort to remove him from power, requiring an alliance between a number of Hutts in the surrounding region of space. It isn’t impossible that one Hutt would manage to get enough of the others under his banner, but it certainly would be a tall order.
The Black Rose Syndicate
Profile: It’s not unusual for a splinter gang to form outside of the Black Sun umbrella. However, they tend to be quickly subsumed by a Black Sun Enforcer or Lieutenant. In very rare cases, they attract the favor of the local Vigo, who appoints them status under his aegis. Those who resist are dispatched in swift and brutal fashion, to serve as an example to others who may dare to do likewise.
The Syndicate is the exception to that rule. Shadowed in secrecy, they have been taking shots at Black Sun operations over the years (especially anything involving slavery), and have been slowly cutting in on their smuggling operations. In spite of their reputation, they do not operate openly, instead relying on anonymity and constant movement throughout the system. They seem to use Nar Shaddaa as a general hub of operations, but are hard to tie down. They also appear to be gaining traction as smugglers in their own right, especially of historical antiquities that the Empire has cracked down on.
Primary Drives: Profit; Unseating Black Sun
- It’s said that the Syndicate employs a master Slicer, which is how they are able to hide their credits. Rumor has it that, whoever they are, they have a penchant for stealing valuable data. Perhaps they are in the market for it…or could be lured into a trap at the promise.
- Nearly any crime against Black Sun has picked up whispers of being the responsibility of the Syndicate. It might make for an excellent bogeyman for players to hide behind for their own indiscretions, but be warned: too much will likely draw the attention of Black Sun…or the Syndicate themselves.
- Rumor has it some of those artifacts they have been dealing are a certain type of crystal that can store and channel energy. They are supposed to be myths, but that won’t prevent curious potential customers from finding out.
Profile: While the Alliance isn’t able to operate openly with Nar Shaddaa as a base, that does not prevent them from making use of the seedy planet. The Smuggler’s Moon offers the perfect cover for otherwise law abiding citizens to visit “on business”, and the heavy underworld presence offers a unique opportunity to acquire materiel and recruits to fund the effort. While they might be hard to track down, if you have goods to sell, they have the credits.
Primary Drives: Avoid Detection From the Empire; Obtaining Materiel (Ships, weapons, gear, food) and Recruits
- The Alliance will take any and all ships and gear that you can sell second hand (assuming that you can find them to make the sale), but what they really need is a consistent supply line. Anyone who can provide that would be greatly rewarded.
- Every so often, an Alliance agent finds themselves captured, and that capture risks every person in his cell. The other members will be desperate to find a way to free him safely…or to eliminate him before he has the chance to talk.
Imperial Security Bureau
The sister organization of Imperial Intelligence, the ISB is a covert secret police and intelligence force led by the Empire. Officially, Nar Shaddaa remains under Hutt control for its management, but the ISB still operates in the region in an unofficial capacity. While in theory responsible for enforcing law and order, their primary goal is rooting out dissent and Rebellion operatives. This can range from surveillance, to secretly capturing rebel operatives, to assassinating targets deemed too dangerous to bring in.
Primary Drives: Law and (Mostly) Order; Weed out the Rebellion
- In spite of their primary directive to weed out the Rebellion, some members of the ISB are disgusted by the extremes of criminal activity on Nar Shaddaa. Occasionally, one might offer a bounty on a particularly egregious offender. Watch out, perhaps the players wander their way into the sights of one of these officers.
- It’s hard to shake Imperial Academy training, and the Rebel agents who have survived Nar Shaddaa this long are often able to spot an agent a parsec away. As a result, the ISB is willing to hire individuals to go undercover and root out their targets…but they should take care to not be disposable by the end of the job.
- Rumor has it that one of the agents stationed here has been doing an investigation of another sort: strange urban legends about some of the more successful operators on the planet. While rumors have flown fast, and facts are few and far between, it is said that one target had his entire hideout wiped out by a single figure. You can still see the ruins, with long narrow gouges in the duracrete walls, as if they had been carved by a miniature mining tool.
The most “legitimate” part of Nar Shaddaa, this part of the city is a glitzy and extravagant commercial district of the Smuggler’s Moon. The area is run by the Hutt Cartel and boasts casinos, boutiques, and high price restaurants.
- It seems like there is a gambler here riding an incredible hot streak, and has somehow continued it in spite of all efforts to the contrary. No one knows how he’s doing it, but if there is one thing for sure it’s that the house always wins…and the Hutts intend to make certain of it.
Abandoned TIE Fighter Construction Facility:
The plant was thriving until a few years ago, when a group of terrorists raided it and blew up the command facility. Repair efforts were immediately bogged down by Imperial interests conflicting with Durga’s own, along with the general graft and corruption that is standard in the city.
- All usable TIE fighters were cleared out, but who knows, perhaps there is something useful amid the wreckage.
The Corellian Sector
The Corellian sector is part of the borderline slums, a place to find public housing, spacer bars, affordable mechanics, and darn near anything if you know where to look. Filled with abundant spacers, authorities at Corellian Port Control largely ignored the smaller minor offenses, mostly keeping the peace with the enforcement of bounties.
- Corellian ex-pats such as Han Solo and Wedge Antilles have begun a reputation that Corellians are rebels. Rumor is, there’s a contingent hiding here.
- They say a mechanic by the name of Shug Ninx and his assistant Warb have their own repair workshop in this area and barter for everything. Everything.
The site of the Hutt-controlled shipyards, this region is under the heavy grip of Black Sun. It’s one of their most tightly controlled districts, and it is used to monitor all of their smuggling operations.
- Many a naive shipowner has docked in the Undercity for a quick tune up, only to find themselves charged exorbitant rates on repairs that they neither asked for, expected, wanted or needed and have found themselves with a lien slapped on it. Maybe one of these could be pulled from hock, either for a reward from the owner, or for an enterprising operation of the players own design.
While this is far from a conclusive list of all the sight and sounds of Nar Shaddaa, I hope you find it a helpful starting point if you are looking at running an urban campaign. As for running the game, I find it helpful to turn to other works of fiction for influence, and fortunately there is an abundance of stories in the backdrop of a city all with startlingly different attitudes and tones. One might be a group of plucky heroes from the street, fighting against a monolith of corruption and indifference (such as Marvel’s Defender’s), which might be a great fit for an all Jedi game. Perhaps you are inspired by tales of morally grey individuals, churning out a living while trying to live a normal life in spite of the world around them, such as The Black Donnellys or The Shield, rife for the Scum and Villainy and law enforcement that opposes them. Maybe, you want the grim, neo-noir of LA Confidential, Chinatown or Blade Runner, the stakes becoming higher and with an ocean of inertia which pushes back against characters. And then there’s The Wire: players are tiny fish in the galaxy around them, and nothing they do matters in the grand scheme, even if they are able to make a small difference somewhere. The themes maybe all be similar, but you have a very different tone depending on what your players are interested in. I would feel out what they like, and see what they want to play.
Finally, if have a game you want to run, but this doesn’t quite fit: Feel free to change it! The factions have been written purposely vague other than their themes, so feel completely free to write in a new Vigo who wants to war for the turf, or a cigar chomping law man looking to impose order. Feel free to mix and match hooks as you see fit, and in the end, have fun!