Alright, look, I'm going to level with you: I'm pretty much obsessed with Star Wars. I love it. I love the universe. I love the stories that are told in the universe. I love the characters. I love all of it. Well, I don't love the prequel trilogy stuff but I don't hate it like a lot of other people do. I am not sure what it is, but there is just something magical about the Star Wars universe that makes everything feel epic and awesome and fun. Today I wanted to look into what some of those reasons could be, and maybe flag a few pointers for those of us who are doing our own world building on the side.
I want to get this one out of the way because it is the one thing that most other worlds, especially newly made ones, can not replicate. The Star Wars universe is iconic. In a lot of ways it is like Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man: it has become so big and so well known that it has effectively seeped into every aspect of pop culture. There are songs about Star Wars, there are songs from the Star Wars universe that people have made up, there are comics, there are tv shows, there are books (for all ages), there is a huge amount of fan created content, and - of course - there are movies.
Now, as much as some people like to scoff at the idea of mainstream versus underground, it is a very powerful thing for a GM to be able to say "the fallen Jedi pulls his red bladed lightsaber" and for everyone at the table - even the person being introduced to RPGs - to know exactly what the GM is talking about. It immediately sets the mental stage and while some small detail issues might still be confused the core idea is there, and we pretty much all share in it.
Something For Everyone
This one is something we can copy. The Star Wars universe is big. By big by the way I mean huge. It is a world (universe) that has been in development and being expanded upon for over 30 years now, and there is literally something for everyone in this game. Don't believe me? Well, start by looking here. That link goes to a small 6 part series I did on my other blog where I tried to dissect Star Wars to see what made it so popular. I abandoned the project part way through, but it should get you started.
Now consider that Star Wars doesn't really have a particularly set genre. Sure it has that Space Opera vibe, and it is somewhere between Fantasy and Sci-Fi, but that's about it. There are crime stories told in the Star Wars universe. There are also romances, erotica, military fiction, covert ops, crime fiction, high fantasy (complete with magic wizards, destined farm boys, and key points in history), stories of revenge, of temptation, of doing the right thing, of trying to do the right thing and failing. Star Wars literally has all of it in them.
Just look at the original trilogy. You have the political backdrop and events going on with the Rebellion versus the Empire. You also have the military game going on with the same thing. There are regular references to black ops (many bothans died to bring us this information...). There is romance and choosing between the bad boy and the boy next door. There is also standing up for what, and who, you believe in. All of this is just with Princess Leia by the way. If we include Han you get the buddy story (multiple actually, Han/Luke, Han/Lando, and Han/Chewie the most prominent,) the crime story (he does have a bounty on his head), and the discovering that you're more than you once thought. Oh, and all the Leia stuff too. Luke then adds the high fantasy elements with the child of destiny, the magical sword, learning magic, and confronting the sins of the father.
It is simply staggering, and that is only 3 characters of the countless hundreds that have been written about. You prefer covert ops and military action to the grand space opera stuff? Grab the X-Wing books (either Rogue Squadron or Wraith Squadron) and enjoy. You want Crime? Go read the Han Solo books from before he met up with the rebellion. It is all there.
Beyond there being something for everyone though is the fact that, in Star Wars, it works. All of these things are capable of co-existing and co-mingling without destroying each other. You can have someone spouting tech babble about what they need to fix their hyper drive while a jedi uses mystic arts to dodge asteroids and a military general performs his most daring maneuver ever all in one scene and the world is ok with that. This is the sign of a well designed world (discarding what may have happened to it later) as each piece doesn't discredit the other pieces and is perfectly capable of continuing to exist in the presence of the rest of what is going on.
Beyond it all what makes Star Wars work so well is that it is, at it's core, a very simple universe. This is a world where Good vs. Evil is actually the core of most of the stories. There are usually clear cut bad guys and clear cut good guys. It is left up to the story teller, and also the audience, to judge how complex they want the world to be and to leave it at that. If you just want a simple story you can have clear cut bad guys in the Sith, clear cut good guys in whatever government is supporting the Jedi, and just go from there.
You want more complexity? ok, well now you can look into those events. Maybe look into the actual idea behind the sith. Point out that it isn't all bad and go from there. More complexity? Bring up some of the politics and blurring of lines. Give both sides a point and push them so that it is a choice, and one with no right answer, as to where the PCs/Protagonists end up. Still not complex enough? Well keep going. The world isn't going to stop you, so if it is your cup of tea embrace it.