One of the most vibrant and dangerous places in the galaxy, Nar Shaddaa is a sprawling cityscape where nothing comes without a price. Dominated by a black market that caters to every indulgence, the moon has become the ultimate symbol of corruption. The upper levels present an endless parade of glittering neon towers and floating pleasure palaces; no greater concentration of wealth exists across the galaxy. Behind these flashy facades, crime bosses and secret political emissaries make backroom deals that decide the fates of worlds, and as much as both the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire might like to change it, the Hutt Cartel calls the shots.
For all the opulence above, however, an equal level of brutality lies below. The bowels of Nar Shaddaa hide some of the galaxy's darkest secrets. In the pursuit of advanced technologies, unscrupulous enterprises conduct hazardous experiments on unwilling test subjects and crime lords employ slaves as fodder on industrial assembly lines. Fugitives hide from the law after committing heinous crimes, and prisoners who've vanished from all over the galaxy are held in anonymous and inescapable private prisons. Criminal enterprises beyond Hutt control compete for power, as well – foremost among them the Exchange syndicate, the Hutt Cartel's only genuine rival. While the upper levels of Nar Shaddaa may be one of the most desirable places to visit in the galaxy, the moon's lower levels are a place which anyone in their right mind would avoid at all costs.
In the distant past, before becoming the Hutts' showcase, Nar Shaddaa was used as a refugee camp for Evocii driven from Hutta itself. Then again, after the Jedi Civil War 300 years ago, Nar Shaddaa was swarmed with refugees who were used by the criminal Exchange to lure and capture any remaining Jedi. More recently, when the Great War began, it brought ruin to many star systems, but to Nar Shaddaa, it brought only more profit. While other systems were offering allegiance to the Empire or to the Republic, the Hutts controlling Nar Shaddaa realized they could keep their autonomy – and their increased profits – by dealing with both sides. This delicate balancing act has increased the risk of doing business, but it hasn't deterred competition. The Exchange and the Hutt Cartel have engaged in a winner-takes-all crime war that spans the galaxy but centers on the tiny moon of Nar Shaddaa.