We’re going a bit retro today!
Easter is fast approaching, of course, and it’s always my favourite of the chocolate holidays, as I like to reminisce about the times I’d spend off school, endlessly watching the original trilogy. Today, I thought it could be fun to look back at some of those books that came out for the West End Games RPG back in the 1990s, when the Prequels were a far-off land and all we had to go on was the story of the Rebels and their fight against the Empire! In all, twelve Galaxy Guides were produced, and they served almost as a series of books that gathered up a load of stuff that could help the GM with designing games. There was a lot of background on the setting, reams of NPC profiles, and sample adventures that could be run to make use of a variety of material. Let’s take a look at the first six!
The books that deal with the movies are told from the perspective of Voren Na’al, an Alliance Historian who himself had stats to allow him to be used in the game. The idea was that Na’al was preparing a report for his superior, Arhul Hextrophon. While these books all date from 1995, it wasn’t until 2012 that Na’al and Hextrophon were retconned as the two assistants who hand the medals to General Dodonna during the closing ceremony of A New
Hope (Hextrophon is on the left, and Na’al is on the right:)
While the movie books deal pretty much with the events of the films in chronological order, with material on the locations and the characters from each, there are also plenty of sidebars and the like with mini-stories. Most of these are the kind of throw-away things such as interviews with minor side-characters, although worth noting here is that one such tale is how Biggs Darklighter came to join the Rebellion, the mutiny on the Rand Ecliptic, which was later spun out (and altered) into the four-part comic series Darlighter, one of my all-time favourites from Dark Horse.
Galaxy Guide 4 is the first look at Alien Races, and again is written as an in-universe publication, this time as an Imperial Catalog of Intelligent Life in the Galaxy, commissioned by Darth Vader himself. A lot of these species were invented for the RPG, and helped to inform the burgeoning expanded universe at that time, as was the case with a lot of the WEG products.
These books are all really great for the amount of lore that they contain, featuring the backgrounds on a whole host of both significant and minor, background characters. We get the fascinating backstory on General Dodonna, and his thrilling escape from the clutches of the Empire as he came out of retirement to help lead the Rebels, for instance, which sounds like the sort of thing that could be spun into a novel, these days! A lot of the denizens of Jabba’s Palace have backstories that are the basis for the short stories in the Tales from Jabba’s Palace anthology, too.
There are also many characters that were created for the RPG that became quite significant in this lore – we see this in the backstory on Dodonna, where his former comrade Adar Tallon once again gets a mention. Tallon was created for the early adventure, Tatooine Manhunt, and became something of a regular non-movie supporting character for a number of WEG books. There is a care to the way that WEG went about spinning out the universe created through three movies into the massive juggernaut of the Space Opera genre that it became, and that really comes through when you see the amount of depth the writers went into.
Something that I really like about them is the mini adventures that they all include – or, as is the case with Galaxy Guide 6, it’s what the book is all about. There is so much to enjoy about these sourcebooks even now, for the lore that they contain, but it’s always really nice to remember just how much these books were intended to be used as gaming aides. It’s really one of my great regrets, never actually getting round to playing the WEG system, although I did talk about it with a group of friends back when we were all in college. Sigh!
There is some truly great stuff in these books – of course, I am biased, as this is the lore that I grew up with. Given that the Disney universe feels distinctly different to me right now, it’s really nice to read through these books once again, and come upon the stuff that I know and love.
Looking forward to getting back to reading through books 7 to 12 next!