Star Wars Canon
Star Wars canon refers to the material related to the Star Wars universe that is officially considered to belong to the continuity, or storyline, of that universe. Because the Star Wars universe is a fictional one, elements of its continuity (i.e. historical events, character traits or actions, etc.) can change over time, having pieces added, removed, or overwritten. However, changing of the canon is generally discouraged.
Lucas Licensing internally uses 5 levels of canonicty for their Holocron continuity database which keeps track of the elements of the universe. In this system, canon of the higher levels (e.g. the Star Wars films or television shows) are considered to be a more valid source than those of lower levels (e.g. comic books or novels) and when a discrepancy between two sources occurs, the higher level source is considered valid.
Canon and Role Play
The canon allows a shared background story, or history, which every players can refer to. By establishing a canon, individual character backgrounds and stories do not conflict with others and players are able to role play together in a single interwoven storyline.
Additionally, the canon serves as an important source which prevents the creation of "super" characters, stacking up rare or impossible to get powers and gear or inventing new ones due to circumstances.
Canon and SWRP
Because of the nature of the Star Wars role play (SWRP) in Second Life or other role play venues, in which many players (or authors) are contributing to the storyline without going though rigorous scrutiny or approval, the continuity of the storylines which occur would fall under the non-canon category of Lucas Licensing's system. However, the SWRP community maintains its own source of "in-world" canon material informally and generally attempts to stay within the boundaries outlined by canon sources.
To prevent changes of the Star Wars canon continuity, SWRP areas and players usually choose set their background ages after the last canon events (typically on the third century after the battle of Yavin). This allow a lot of artistic freedom while staying within the Star Wars canon universe. Several reasons that account for this freedom are:
- The political regime is untold in the canon, allowing anybody to manage their empire, republic, etc.
- All canon characters are dead and therefore are no longer included in the storyline
- Planets are in a non-canon defined state, and builders can revert their builds to the era they want, following the style and tradition of the planet.
- The evolution of canon groups or factions is not defined, allowing non-canon characters to lead or take part in them.
While changing the canon is discouraged, adding elements to the canon may be accepted, tolerated, or refused depending the type of element and the sim rules. If the new element has Star Wars-like characteristics, without adding extra advantage to a player or group, it has better chance to be accepted by the community than if it has another background or unknown or rare traits.
Because many areas' and characters' timelines are taking place in non-canon defined eras, canon elements (e.g. a role played event or group creation) may be changed by players. This is generally accepted by the community when it does not conflict with a large portion of the ongoing continuity. Cases which directly negate or conflict with the continuity are less accepted.
Because all of Second Life is user-created, many aspects of SL SWRP represent a departure from strict canon. Surely, there are many avatars, vehicles, weapons, and planets that attempt to depict a literal interpretation of canon, but a great deal of the fun of SL SWRP involves creatively tweaking canon in various ways.
Any time your wiki page describes an example of such modification, link to the Wookieepedia page pertaining to the canonical basis for your ideas.
Use the Wikipedia footnotes style for extra credit.