The Structure of the Empire – Part 1

The Galactic Empire reigned from 19 BBY to 5 ABY (981 GC – 1005 GC). During that time the Emperor reorganized government to maintain complete control over the galaxy. To do this the Emperor maintains power through a bewildering array of crossed authorities. By using this convoluted structure, Palpatine insures that only he can speak with complete authority, while all of the advisors, military officials and bureaucrats below him must carefully guard their words and justify their actions.

Policies of expansion established by the Old Republic were never rescinded, and exploration — and now conquest — continues. The Imperial Survey Corps, scientists and scouts charged with exploring the galaxy, has seen its funds cut sharply over the years. Still, a new system is being catalogued for the Empire every 207 minutes by the understaffed ISC.

Most of the recently surveyed worlds have remained untouched by Imperial colonization. The Empire has little use for an expanding frontier. Frontier settlements offer greater freedom to Imperial citizens and stretch Imperial forces even further. That is not in the best interests of the Empire.

However, an ISC team occasionally turns up an inhabited world in the process of cataloging. Inhabited worlds mean taxes and other valuable resources for the Empire. These worlds are initially offered a place in the New Order, provided they agree to fall in line with the will of the Emperor. If a world refuses or reneges on its oath of allegiance, then the Empire resorts to military conquest.

Usually the threat implied by the massive Imperial war machine is enough to inspire unswerving fealty in even the most independent worlds.

Citizenry and Laws

AH sapient inhabitants of the Empire — except droids — are considered full citizens. Full citizens are accorded certain rights under Imperial law, namely, the right to follow the precepts of the New Order fully and without question. Other rights include certain freedoms that in no way interfere with Imperial doctrines and goals.

Where in the galaxy a citizen is determines the amount of prohibitions and restrictions governing his or her daily life. The least restrictive areas in the galaxy tend to be in the Galactic Core and in the Outer Rim Territories. Those areas in between find themselves under the greatest amount of scrutiny and, therefore, face the brunt of Imperial authority.

All citizens are subject to the laws of the Empire, and all must pay some form of tribute to the New Order. Laws vary from system to system, but the most uniform are the Imperial Revenue Codes. Under these laws, the burden of proof is upon the citizen to show that he has met all of his fiscal obligations to the Empire. Failure to provide adequate proof is considered an admission of guilt, penalties for which range from confiscation of goods to the increasingly common sentence to labor camps.

Planetary Governments

The Empire has not completely altered the governments of hundreds of thousands of worlds. Such a task would be impractical. The Emperor has left it to his advisors to modify the portions of a planetary government, be it government procedure or members of the ruling body, to conform to the will of the Empire. Less than one planet in 80 has been so modified.

The preferred option is to let a planet run itself much as it has for years, but maintaining a visible Imperial presence so that the rulers know who their ultimate master is. The Empire also encourages the constituent planets to reform their own governments to conform to the Imperial method. In this way, individual worlds eliminate laws and freedoms, replacing them with doctrines and statutes more in line with Imperial edicts.

The Governors

Planetary governors are Imperial agents who represent the Empire’s authority on a single world. Usually that representation extends to an entire system, giving him jurisdiction of all the planets orbiting a single star. A governor has command of all Imperial troops garrisoned on his planets.

This command extends only nominally to the political and intelligence arms of the military, which operate as if a governor’s orders were well-intentioned suggestions. The Imperial Navy is supposed to consult with a governor whenever they are on maneuvers or engaging hostiles in his system, and to carefully consider the advice the governor can provide. The Navy routinely ignores this and most other forms of protocol when dealing with planetary governors, unless the governor is well supported by a Moff. The Navy considers governors to be too concerned with the welfare of their planet to be of much use in a crisis.

Governors are appointed by the Emperor’s advisors, although a few are just holo-approvals of candidates the Emperor has chosen. Governors are rarely native to the planet or system which they govern. Rash appointments without regard for local sentiment can generate resentment. Instead, an outsider is appointed to govern a world, thus bypassing local sentiment completely.

Governors are expected to let a planetary government run its own affairs unless the local course of action puts the planet in conflict with Imperial goals. The governor is then expected to step in and maneuver the policy back toward a direction more acceptable to the Empire.

Imperial policy exists in two different forms for a governor. There are the generally stated policy goals which are distributed by the Diplomatic Service, and there are direct orders received from the Moff. In case of a conflict, the Moff’s orders are to be followed, as a Moff presumably has superior knowledge of the specific Imperial policy currently being employed in a particular sector.

Sectors and Regions

A sector is an economic and political division which originated in the early days of the Old Republic. Originally a cluster of star systems with approximately 50 inhabited planets, the definition of a sector became vague and the average sector grew in size during the latter days of the Republic. Now unimaginably large sectors contain vast numbers of inhabited worlds with no regard to limiting factors. Sectors are governed by Moffs.

Sectors are grouped together into larger territorial entities called regions. The Empire has countless regions, which can contain from as few as three to upwards of thousands of sectors. The establishment of a region depends not only upon galactic geography, but also upon wealth, influence, historic “sentimentalities,” economic diversity and the level of direct control exerted by the Empire. Regions are governed by Grand Moffs (the title “regional governor” is commonly used). Some well known regions include the Outer Rim Territories (a vast expanse of space with many frontier colonies), the Galactic Core (historic “birthplace” of the Republic, containing Coruscant, the capital of the Empire, as well as several other vital systems), the Deep Core (a restricted area of space—essentially a giant “preserve” in the heart of the Empire), the Colonies, and the Inner Rim.

Under the New Order, the Galactic Empire continues to grow and expand, and new sectors and regions are being formed all the time.

The Empire also maintains a number of “client states” — regions of space almost entirely controlled by another economic or political entity, yet ultimately loyal and subservient to the Empire. The Corporate Sector, under the control of the Corporate Sector Authority, is one such client state, as is the infamous area of the galaxy known as Hutt Space.

The Moffs

A Moff is the being in charge of an entire sector. The planetary governors of a sector are under a Moff’s control, and a Moff reports to an advisor, with duplicate reports being sent directly to the Emperor. A Moff has command over a military Sector Group, and is responsible for the security of the entire sector.

Being responsible for hundreds of systems, Moffs take a personal interest only in a handful of worlds. For the rest, they first rely upon communications with their subordinate governors, and then upon reports from intelligence units within their Sector Group.

It is not unusual for a Moff to also serve as a governor of a particularly favored world within his sector.

Grand Moffs

There are planets in every sector in the Empire which cause more than their share of problems for the Emperor. Controlling these worlds is difficult, and the Moffs have found that the troubles are infectious, spreading from system to system from the source. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that the infection of freedom has no respect for sector boundaries; coordinating efforts between sectors is often impossible to accomplish in time to stop the spread of unrest. The Moffs have the resources to handle rises on a dozen or more worlds, but if the trouble cannot be contained to those planets, the Empire’s grasp on an entire sector may be weakened.

Taking the advice of one of his Moffs, Tarkin, the Emperor formed priority sectors. A priority sector is a sector consisting of systems on which signs of unrest have recently been detected, or systems which are in regular contact with systems in which unrest is chronic. A priority sector often crosses the boundaries of standard sectors, containing the worlds from a dozen or more sectors. The title of Grand Moff is also granted to the being in charge of a priority sector.

The theory behind priority sectors, codified in the Tarkin Doctrine, is that Grand Moffs will be able to react quickly to problems when they are small, eliminating them before they have a chance to grow and spread. Grand Moffs are therefore given complete freedom to act as they see fit, without giving advance warning to the Moffs or planetary governors of their actions.

The number of Grand Moffs is growing, and the resources given to each Grand Moff is also increasing. The Emperor personally appoints each Grand Moff, and they report directly to him. Each Grand Moff commands at least two Sector Groups, or the equivalent in other military resources. Some Grand Moffs are given even greater military strength if their priority sector is of crucial importance to the Empire.

Priority sectors are the first to receive experimental equipment, and theirs are the first to have losses replaced. Priority sectors are sometimes given special missions in which the Emperor has a personal interest. The Death Star Project is an example of a priority sector into which the Empire poured resources enough to have formed perhaps a score of Sector Groups.

The Moffs and planetary governors have politely complained about the favoritism shown Grand Moffs, arguing that the Grand Moffs are often completely unfamiliar with the systems in their jurisdiction and take actions which only work in the short run. The governors and the Moffs claim that they are then stuck with the problems caused by the Grand Moffs, yet get fewer resources than they ought to have to implement a solution. The Moffs point specifically to the situation at Yavin as the prime example of a Grand Moffs failure. The Emperor, however, will hear none of it.

Servants of the Emperor


The Emperor acknowledges that he alone cannot run the galaxy. He needs advisors. Secure in the knowledge that an Empire founded through treachery cannot be run through trust, he has surrounded himself with advisors who owe all of their political gains to the Emperor. He has made sure that each advisor has more enemies than allies among the other advisors. Fear and greed serve to bind each advisor to the Emperor. Palpatine finds this arrangement more satisfying than mere loyalty, an emotion on which he will depend only in the case of lower subordinates.

While there are hundreds of advisors, the Emperor rarely travels or consults with more than a few dozen at a time. He sends the others on missions to gather information or spread disinformation through appropriate channels. These missions serve a dual purpose; they provide the Emperor with useful information. They also keep the advisors isolated from each other, a condition which assures their continued dependence on the Emperor.

Advisors perform many administrative functions for the Emperor. They usually appoint the planetary governors, as well as some of the Moffs, and oversee the political machinery of the Empire. To ensure that no advisor builds too large an enclave of political power, the Emperor has devised a system of adversarial administration for advisors.

An advisor is granted oversight of the administration of systems which are strongholds for one of his rivals. This makes possible deals between advisors more difficult by ensuring that no powerful rivals have oversight of each other’s systems. Advisors with weaker political bases are granted a greater degree of oversight than are strong advisors. This system of checks and balances virtually guarantees the Emperor’s hold on political power within the Empire, but the administration of the myriad worlds is not as efficient as it was during the better days of the Old Republic. This inefficiency is of no concern to the Emperor.

Advisors have taken to dressing in costumes derived from the histories of their home systems, drawn from the greatest empires of their pasts. Unlike the Emperor, many of the advisors wear lavish costumes as conspicuous badges of their status. Palpatine subtly encourages this form of rivalry, giving his advisors a sense of individuality and power which make them aware of their differences from the other advisors. These displays are muted when in the Emperor’s presence.

Emperor’s Royal Guard

The Emperor’s Royal Guard is a special detachment of hand-picked Imperial stormtroopers who serve as the Emperor’s personal guards. Many member of the Royal Guard were former Clone Commandos. Each of these soldiers is specially scrutinized to fit select size, strength, intelligence and loyalty requirements, and equipment and training is lavished upon them.

No firm figures are available on the exact number of Royal Guards serving the Emperor, but speculation ranges from fewer than 50 to the tens of thousands. Whatever the case, the Royal Guard has become a formidable military sub-unit which is directly under the control of the Emperor.

The entire Royal Guard is never sent on combat missions. A few small elements of the guard are sent into combat on a rotating basis to keep them in fighting trim. On such missions, guard members usually dispense with their ceremonial uniform and don the armor worn by other stormtroopers in the operation. In such instances, the guard members are always part of the same unit. They are never dispersed among the ordinary Army units.

Rumors abound about this fierce fighting force. The legend is that no Royal Guard member has yet been killed in combat. Stories tell of their invincible fighting prowess — always in the service of the Emperor.

Royal Guards wear garb consisting of flowing red robes, red battle armor, and red helmets. Although ceremonial, the red armor does not hamper guardsmen in regards to movement or fighting. This armor is derived from the blue armor wore by the Senate Guards during the Republic Era. The Emperor’s Royal Guard red armor inspires fear in the hardest of men.

The Emperor

The Emperor is a small man, clothed in robes intentionally reminiscent of harmless ascetics on scores of worlds. He walks with the aid of a gnarled walking stick. He appears old, fragile, entirely incapable of running the most ruthless Empire in the history of the galaxy. This appearance is one of the Emperor’s many masterful deceptions.

Coming to power as a Senator from Naboo and eventually named Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, he is secretly the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. He masterminded the Clone Wars and completed the Great Plan of the Sith. He adopted the title of Galactic Emperor at the end of the war, transforming the Republic into the Galactic Empire.

The Emperor’s genius and strength with the Force give him unique insight into the governed species. He knows that the Old Republic was as much a symbol as a reality to many, just as he knows that the Jedi Knights were the remaining untarnished incarnation of that symbol. Working as he had in the Senate, he carefully cultivated the destruction of the Jedi. With the Jedi gone and the droid army still seen as a threat, all pretense for restoring the Republic was abandoned. The Emperor’s true ambition has finally been revealed — to be sole master of more than a thousand thousand worlds.

The Grasp of the Empire

The Empire has changed the ways systems interact with one another. It has taken a greater degree of control over information than the Old Republic ever did, and it intervenes in the politics of a single world with an arrogance new to the governed peoples. These changes have created resentment on some worlds, but the resentment is rarely cause enough for significant support of the Rebellion.

Control of Information

There was a free flow of information during the time of the Old Republic, an exchange of ideas and cultures which promoted rapid growth in almost every facet of the Republic. This flow of information also helped to hasten the decline of the Republic, as the constituent worlds were constantly and quickly updated on the state of the conflict in the Senate.

The environment of uncertainty was self-promoting. The Emperor and his advisors choose to avoid this consequence and forego the benefits the system had given the early Republic.

During the time of the Old Republic, there was a HoloNet which transmitted information throughout the constituent worlds. The HoloNet was extremely expensive to maintain, but it provided the Republic with a sophisticated, flexible means of communication. Constructed during the High Republic and consisting of hundreds of thousands of non-mass transceivers with central transceiver boosters located at a series of space stations known as the Starlight Beacons connected worlds through a vast matrix of coordinated hyperspace S-threads (popularly known as Simu-Tunnels), as well as the computing power to sort and decode all of the information, the HoloNet was the only method available for real-time holographic transmissions between worlds.

It was horrendously expensive to maintain, costing many thousands of credits per full-channel transmission second per transceiver. The HoloNet was used almost exclusively by the government and the larger commercial houses of the Old Republic. But it did connect the constituent worlds, giving a sense of belonging to the average citizen.

Smaller commercial concerns and individuals never used the HoloNet directly; they relied on the literally millions of traders who traveled the commerce corridors of the Old Republic.

Soon after Palpatine assumed the throne he dismantled the HoloNet and destoryed the Starlight Beacons, achieving two objectives. First, he made it difficult for any foes not in the Senate to coordinate any resistance to his designs. Any individual system, no matter how wealthy or influential, could easily be crushed by the Empire. Second, the constituent worlds were used to absorbing the cost of the HoloNet, even though most worlds received little benefit from the system during the final days of the Republic’s collapse. This gave the Emperor an enormous flow of credits with which to initiate the rapid build up of Imperial forces, manning and outfitting more troops in the first six months of his reign than the Republic had ever mobilized at any one time.

Governor Tarkin urged the Emperor to reinstitute HoloNet technology on a much smaller scale, for use by the Imperial Navy only, and then only at the level of the Sector Group. This proposal was made in a transmission to the Emperor which outlined a plan for ruling the Empire with an economy of force. The Emperor approved of the plan, awarding Tarkin Grand Moff status for his efforts. The plan soon became known, unofficially, as the Tarkin Doctrine.

Chain of Command

The Emperor’s advisors and COMPNOR (Commission for the Preservation of the New Order) effectively control the massive Imperial bureaucracy and the advisors are allowed to play their competing interests off each other, often resulting in the bureaucracy’s various agencies working at cross-purposes.

The Imperial bureaucracy runs each Imperial agency, which has authority over a specific subject matter throughout the galaxy. The Moffs have authority over their sectors, and are responsible for administering the sector wide bureaucracy, which must answer both to the local Moff and the Imperial bureaucracy. The Moffs are known to frequently remold the local bureaucracies, including the sector-wide government, planetary governments (through governors) and even more localized governments, making them more “agreeable” to the Moffs personal objectives while still adhering to Imperial standards.

Moffs also have authority over the military sector group in their sector, yet realize that advisors, Imperial military high command, and, of course, the Emperor, can seize control of sector group fleets at any time.

The local system governors have only the authority to run their own systems, and are required to appeal to their sector Moff for military assistance.

The Ubiqtorate includes the four heads of the intelligence agencies who combined their forces to prevent corruption from senators, and unified into the Ubiqtorate, which was the leadership of Imperial Intelligence. Its headquarters were located in the COMPNOR arcology, which also housed the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order.

Imperial Intelligence reports directly to the Emperor, as well as to sector Moffs.

In effect, almost every individual within the Empire has multiple agencies or individuals to answer to, keeping every petty and ambitious bureaucrat and soldier off-balance. The Emperor knows that no Empire seized through deceit can be managed by trust in his “supporters” — he insures his continued position by making sure that no one below him truly knows their position within the Imperial bureaucracy.

Next week: Part 2 COMPNOR and the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB)

PT White

I've been involved in creating content for Star Wars The Role Playing Game since 1992 and consider myself a Star Wars Super Fan and knowledge bank for the Star Wars Universe.

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