All right. It looks like we’re not going to be able to get our missing writer back, so it falls to us to pick apart what the heck happened during the interim period between when I left the campaign and when I started hanging out with the actual players at the request of the DM. Since these are so fragmented, I’m going to blow through the points I can elaborate on; I’ll try to indicate elapsed times when I can, but for the most part these are just events.
So here’s the short version of Marty Stu’s rise to power: it starts with “politely” asking Emperor Palpatine for the Empire—and getting it after five minutes’ conversation. The central tenet of his argument was, to judge from the emergency speech the Emperor gave announcing the immediate transfer of power, that he’s clearly a much better person than Palpy so he “deserves” the empire.
The logistics of this are immensely amusing to me. He put this event in his timeline around Return of the Jedi, so he’s simply walking into the tower of the Second Death Star and the Emperor is so “intrigued by his audacity” that he waves off the Royal Guards—because clearly a sense of self-preservation is not a prerequisite for running a galaxy-spanning polity with an iron fist. Genre savvy? What’s that? At any rate, Marty points out that Palpatine is a speciesist and this means he’s dismissing potentially useful officers. This revelation has him running to the nearest communications terminal to ad-lib the formal transfer of power over the Galactic Empire to a total stranger. The whole process takes less time than the speech itself.
And it works flawlessly. Now, I admittedly don’t know everything I should about Star Wars, but I’m fairly sure the protocol for succession, if there even is one, is a bit more complicated than just saying “obey him as you would me” and changing the name on the office door. It seems like the kind of thing you might want to call a meeting about, for example, just to defray suspicion that someone had stolen the Emperor’s cell holophone and was having a laugh. It might also be a good idea to talk the new Emperor over the mechanics of running a very centralized Empire—especially when many elements under his direct control, like the Emperor’s Hands, depend on Force sensitivity the new guy does not possess. That, however, would take too long; Palpatine simply throws Marty the keys to the Death Star, hops in a shuttle, and happily retires. Total elapsed time is somewhere around ten minutes.
Even weirder, everyone just goes along with it. Given the type of person serving in the upper echelons of the Imperial Navy, I have to think they’d react to news this sudden rather differently. Less “oh goody, new management” and more “welp, the Emperor’s gone full-on Caligula. How much of the Empire can I grab?” It happened after Endor, did it not?
According to the GM, no it did not. You see, our GM has always had a tumultuous relationship with the idea of canonicity. For most works, he rules like this: if it’s not part of the show in the format of the show, whatever the show might be, it’s not canon. Star Trek’s canon is exclusively the movies and the TV series, for example, and not any of the books. Star Wars is a special case: he allows Zahn’s Heir to the Empire series and everything else is not canon. Functionally, this means very little: later on, when I suggest to the players that they go grab some of the superweapons scattered around the ROTJ-era galaxy, the immediate and slightly frightened response from the GM will be “EU is not canon”…right before he starts gushing about Thrawn again.
(To be fair, this is my fault. You see, he had gotten into the habit of giving me unsolicited descriptions of the considerable body of RPG material he created alone in his dorm. One of them was an insectoid race with a bunch of varying phenotypes that bore an uncanny resemblance to the Killiks, and I made the mistake of pointing that out. His vehement if intermittent insistence that everything he writes is wholly original led him to decide that the Killiks were “not really part of Star Wars”, for whatever good that was supposed to do him, and that snowballed into a small part of his present madness. It was only after this, for example, that he decided that any modifications to a video game by anyone other than the original publisher make it “not really the same game”, based on which he has insisted he’s the only one of us who’s ever really played the Elder Scrolls series. He’s also decided that modding itself is a form of plagiarism, somehow, although that’s nothing compared to the vitriol he reserves for indie devs and “their toxic effect on the sales of real [AAA] games”. )
That’s the closest explanation I’ve ever gotten from him on the matter of canonicity: it’s not what’s written, it’s the net worth of the writer. This will come up repeatedly in future setting hops, especially where WH40k is concerned: he’ll use The Black Library’s licensing mechanics to deny the remaining players access to Lord Castellan Creed, for one.
But in the present, the players are watching the speech in which control of the Galactic Empire is ceded to a total unknown, followed by the departure of the Imperial Fleet through inter-universe portals to conquer foreign lands. The whole fleet. Fans of the EU (I used to be; I kinda got tired of it, but I recall much useless data) might recall that the Navy’s critically shorthanded for most of the war, trying keep about a million old tensions from flaring back up into two- and three-system wars against a backdrop of piracy. This is of course lost on Marty, who apparently thinks the whole fleet sits around playing lawn darts with Star Destroyers when they aren’t invading Hoth.
Admittedly, he does explicitly leave behind all the support and logistical vessels that don’t have nice big guns on them so he can move their crews onto more Star Destroyers. This, too, will be a fixture of this “war”: military hardware, regardless of era, will effortlessly maintain itself against anything but deliberate enemy action. If, say, an aircraft carrier holds fifty aircraft, all fifty of them can be endlessly deployed simultaneously for as long as possible, because all you need to do is land them, refuel them, rearm them, and relaunch them, right? Not only that, it can do all that with a fraction of its crew complement, because it is itself a magical self-repairing wonder. The GM’s military is essentially a very efficient reactor: it takes in bullets and fuel, and only bullets and fuel, and spits out victory. The concept of regular wear and tear has never sunk in with him, nor the idea that a two-kilometer ship exposed to the vacuum of space will essentially be halfway broken all the time, which is why it needs a small army of engineers. No, in the GM’s world, the entire manufacturing capacity of the galaxy can be switched over to brand-new Eclipse-class SSDs with no real problems, because Marty wants his big guns. I mention this because one of the remaining players was a bit of a military nut, and would attempt a preemptive strike against the Navy’s supply lines only to be told “what supply lines? You haven’t fought them yet so they don’t need refills.” Followed shortly by “what spare parts?” Ladies and gentlemen, Marty Tzu!
So that’s the start of the war: Marty takes over his favorite setting by asking nicely and fires its navy across the cosmos to murder everything. Next time, I can get into the mechanics of the war, which provides a handy explanation for why it’s his favorite.