Life in the Old Republic:
The Republic -
The Galactic Republic, for all the flaws and corruption has one key strength - the freedom and diversity it allows to its member worlds. This policy of non-intervention allows the Republic's member systems a great deal of freedom in just how to govern themselves and their regions, which in turns allows monarchies to continue untouched, Empires to hold great power and otherwise makes the galaxy a more interesting and lively place. Anything short of atrocities and out and out warfare is all good. Now, whether this tolerance for self-governing is due to apathy or out of some outdated idealistic concept that the members of the governing body still cling to is unknown. But the end result is clear - a much more colorful setting than during the reign of Palpatine.
Unfortunately this diversity is the republic's greatest weakness. While some planets chose to live peacefully and co-exist under this non-intervention policy, others chose to exploit it and test the bounds of the Republic's tolerance. These member governments employ brute force and other military measures to further their goals with impunity.
Certain measures can and may be taken however, should these forces grow too far powerful for even the corrupt Republic to ignore. However, the Republic does not have a strong standing military - should the need arise, just how much force can the Republic bring to the table? Add into this mix the apathy and corruption in the senate, and it is inevitable that some member planets will be made to suffer.
Also - the Republic is far from what one might consider squeaky-clean. As the decay and corruption spreads throughout this political body, cracks in the gleaming facade of power begin to show through. Simple acts, not nearly on the order of magnitude as some of the Empire's human rights violations - but shady none the less. It could be as simple as a senator's slightly garbled message to a Republic task-force that inadvertently orders a strike against an opponents holdings. It could be as overt as uprooting an indigenous population from a republic member world - certainly legal, but extremely unethical.
The Jedi -
Although far from being corrupt and decadent like the Republic senate, it is quite obvious that the Jedi council is rapidly becoming weak and ineffective. When presented with the rising threat of the Sith by Qui-gon, the council all but assigned a committee to the problem vowing to look into it as soon as possible, Perhaps the prophecy referring to the balance of the Force is not of light and dark out of proportion, but a Jedi council that has grown so cautious (or complacent) that they have lost their effectiveness.
Even so, the Jedi order numbers in the 10 thousands, certainly nothing to take lightly. When they move, they are a force to be reckoned with.
The Trade Federation -
The Trade Federation is probably the most prevalent and easiest to use galactic power, in terms of multi-purpose villains. The Trade Federation, although not brave enough to attack outright, has more than enough in it's repertoire to fill the roll of Galactic Heavy. Simple things like plausible deniability - 'We didn't know about those orders - that was an un-sanctioned action', or rogue battleship commanders with a personal agenda, just barely legal operations in the outer rim or political in-fighting - it's all fair game! Even having to justifying themselves to the senate, the Trade Federation can get away quite a bit.
They would be more subtle and covert than the Empire - using delicate tactics instead of AT- AT's, extortion and subversion instead of terror. Although there can be heavy-handed members of the Trade Federation, they would use a more delicate touch all around.
Of course the Trade Federation is willing to sell technology to anyone who has the credits. Anyone from planetary governments to private citizens could show up with Trade Federation hardware. At his fingertips, suddenly the GM has the ever-present stock bad guys that a classic trilogy game has in the form of Stormtroopers. Need a villain - just add Battle Droids!
Although radically different in structure, there are distinct similarities between the Trade Federation and the Corporate Sector Authority. That being the case, after some creative GM re-writing, the information provided for the CSA could make for a basis for the Trade Federation.
The amount of traffic on the rims, plus the lack of authority in places has enticed Pirates to ply the spaceways. Although the Republic does what it can, often the depths of space is more than enough to allow these criminals to work unhindered. The Trade Federation is more enthusiastic about perusing these elements, but even they are not omnipotent. Also, the Trade Federation is not above using privateers against other corporations and their holdings.
Crime lords and other underworld elements -
Criminals from the core to the rim worlds enjoy a lush business, despite the efforts of the Republic and it's affiliates. While sometimes effective, the bureaucratic nature of the republic, the elusive manner that these criminals conduct themselves, and the sheer number of outlaws means that crime is everywhere.
Darth Sidious/Senator Palpatine/The Sith
(for the purposes of the discussion here, I shall assume that Sidious and Palpatine are one and the same. Later event may prove this wrong, but some assumptions must be made - right or wrong). With the perfect criminal mastermind pulling the strings from just off stage, should the players out and out confront the Senator/Chancellor/Dark Lord? No, certainly not. However, Palpatine is a shrewd manipulator, with many varied weapons at his disposal.
Agents in his employ: These can range from simple lackeys and minions who have no idea who they are working for, to a variation of Men in Black, to specialized agents such the Hand of Sidious (keep an eye on the number of Amidala's handmaidens throughout Phantom Menace). All should be masters of discretion and very powerful.
Of course one must not overlook Palpatine's political resources. For example, Jaxor, always had aspirations to work within the Jedi order, but was ultimately unable to make the cut. So instead he started running a con game in the outer rim while posing as a Jedi. When he was caught, Jaxor was sentenced to work with the Jedi order, training the new students how to think outside the box, instead of being mired in generations of traditions and customs. This could be a potential disaster for the Senator - the last thing he needs is the Jedi to be more freethinking and resourceful. Using political maneuvering, Palpatine pushes the Chancellor to pardon and release Jaxor, ordering him to stay as far away from the Jedi temple as possible.
Finally - don't overlook simple interaction. The audience laughs at the "We will watch your career with great interest" line because we know what's coming for Anakin. Use that! Have a Die-Hard like game where the players have to save Senator/Chancellor Palpatine. Watch with glee as the players go nuts realizing just whom it is that their characters have to save, and not being able to act on player knowledge!
The Dark Side -
Although confrontations with the Sith should be all but non-existent, they can certainly have an impact on the game. The Jedi council, now more than ever, must seek out and destroy any remaining Sith relics hidden across the galaxy, before they can fall into the wrong hands. Suddenly the game takes a very Raiders of the Lost Ark feel as a team of Jedi accompany a squad of republic scouts into the backwater worlds to pry lost Dark Side artifacts away from petty crime lords, misguided natives, agents of Palpatine and other. . . sinister beings.
Also, perhaps other forces are at work - such as long forgotten Sith cults, totally unrelated to Palpatine's machinations. If left unchecked, they could spell disaster for the Republic. The Jedi also have an interest in thwarting these cults.
Corrupt planetary governments and Planetary wars -
The freedom that the Republic allows comes with a price. As the Republic maintains it's policy of non-intervention, smaller wars are commonplace. What are the sovereign boundaries of a planet one day may not be the next. Tyrants and dictators, human rights violations, out and out combat are the order of the day. A Jedi cannot standby and let atrocities happen, regardless of how apathetic the government is. A smuggler could make a quick credit off this abundance of misfortune. Mercenaries and bounty hunters abound.
How to handle the game:
Distinctly unique in tone and feel from both the classic Star Wars period or the Tales of the Jedi period, the Episode 1 era games have a very particular feel to them - one of impending change, the dawning of a new era and other phantom menaces. Within a few short years, the Republic is doomed, and the Jedi order will be all but extinct. The character's way of life is will be forever changed. The characters don't know what the future holds - but the players sure as heck do.
This air of impending doom can be used to underscore future knowledge - although the darkness may be thwarted on a case to case basis, a slight, unshakable feeling of dread should gnaw at the characters. Nothing anyone can put their finger on - certainly nothing more than fleeting glimpses of Men in Black and other cloaked figures at the fringes of the celebration parties. It shouldn't happen all the time, but every once in a while, players should get the feeling that they've lost more than they've won.
Prolific Jedi -
With over 10 thousand Knights, Masters, Padawans and other apprentices, odds are good that the Jedi are going to figure more heavily into a Episode 1 game than ones set in other eras. However, one of the major problems with this setting is that many Jedi is that they can quickly unbalance the game. If handled carefully, this can be avoided. The key is to stress diversity - advance the Jedi's Force powers far and fast enough to be interesting in game play, but strongly encourage them to spend lots and lots of character points elsewhere in the character - background skills, personality skills, and other rounding out skills. Spreading out the points will ensure that the Jedi remains manageable for a long time to come.
Running a Master/Padawan pair is possible without overpowering the other players. The best way, of course is to have the master remain in the realm of the NPC. Build them on as many dice as you feel necessary to round out the character, allow them to mentor the Padawan, but when the fight starts, keep them in the background as much as possible:
"Master, how should we deal with this advancing army of battle droids?"
"I am going to stay here and observe your techniques. You, however are going to deal with them as you see fit. Consider this another lesson, my young Padawan. . ."
This way, you have a back door in case the players REALLY screw up, and it keeps the NPC from overshadowing the group.
Jedi and Training -
It has been observed that someone whose been training at the Jedi temple all (or at least most) of their lives should have more than a handful of D in their Force skills. And it is valid, if game balance was not a concern. There is a fine line between what a character SHOULD have and what they start with.
There was once a smuggler who did a LOT of upkeep on his ship, almost building it from scratch - however it was quite a few games before his ship repair skills anything above the base tech, and even longer to get to a level that he was suppose to have. Until those skills reached that reasonable point, it was an unwritten understanding that he does have those skills - just not yet. :)
Same thing applies here. If the player has tried his best to build a flesh and blood character instead of construction a pile of meaningless stats on a page, then by all means cut them some slack. Sure that archeologist Jedi would have some history and other background skills, but you have to make the character at least vaguely survivable also. Don't sweat that the Force isn't where it should be after 15 years of study. Those die codes will reach there within a month or so of games soon enough.