Important Star Wars Lore Didn’t Come From The Movies But A Long Forgotten Game

By Zack Zagranis | Published

star wars rpg

Star Wars may have sprung from George Lucas’s mind, but it took a village to make it a fully realized universe. Artists like Ralph McQuarrie helped visualize the world, while authors like Timothy Zahn fleshed out the lore that Star Wars fans obsess over. However, one important source of Star Wars lore is constantly overlooked: Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, a pen-and-paper RPG from West End Games.

Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game

star wars rpg

If West End Games hadn’t created the Star Wars equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons in 1987, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t be talking about Star Wars today. That’s not an exaggeration. The Star Wars RPG was honestly the most important source of information in the franchise’s history.

Lucasfilm Gave West End Unprecedented Freedom

When George Lucas created Star Wars, he couldn’t be bothered with all the aliens, tech, and vehicles. He initially left that up to Kenner, but the toy manufacturer apparently couldn’t be bothered either. Several of the aliens featured prominently in A New Hope‘s cantina scene were turned into action figures with generic names like Walrusman, Hammerhead, and Snaggletooth.

Enter West End Games. When the small company from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, decided to publish a Star Wars tabletop rpg, Lucasfilm gave them carte blanch to name and explain practically anything from the original trilogy they wanted. It was the late ’80s and Star Wars was pretty much dead, so the company figured they might as well let West End go nuts.

And they did.

Many Star Wars Names Come From The RPG

Suddenly, the guy who accosted Luke in the cantina wasn’t just Walrusman; he was Ponda Baba, an Aqualish mercenary. Greedo was now one of several Rodians in the Star Wars galaxy thanks to the rpg. Not only was the species of Jabba’s second in command and his favorite dancing slave given the name Twi’leks, but they also communicated a secret language through their head tentacles that no other species could understand.

It was mentioned in The Empire Strikes Back that Han Solo had won the Millenium Falcon from Lando Calrissian, but the Star Wars RPG was the first source to name the game the two gamblers played as Sabaac. Likewise, the game Chewie and R2 played on the Falcon was simply known as holographic chess until West End called it Dejarik.

The RPG Helped Define The Force

But West End games didn’t just fill in the nerdy details, like Han Solo wielding a BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol and Luke piloting an Incom T-65 X-Wing. The Star Wars RPG also divided the Force into three distinct categories of abilities: Control, Sense, and Alter. Likewise, many of the Force powers seen onscreen post-OT originated in the pages of West End’s various sourcebooks, such as Force Healing and Force Speed.

It Helped Build Legends

Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game did such a good job filling out the mundane aspects of the Star Wars universe that when Lucasfilm asked Timothy Zahn to write his Thrawn trilogy, they gave him a bunch of West End Star Wars RPG books to look at for inspiration. Zahn found it easier to use most of the tech and aliens from the RPG than rename everything himself. The success of the Thrawn trilogy kickstarted the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which led Kenner to start making toys again, which inspired Lucas to start thinking about Star Wars again, which led to the Prequels, and so on.

We told you we weren’t exaggerating the Star Wars RPG’s importance.

Even Disney Respects The RPG


Even after Disney took over and wiped out the EU in favor of starting their own continuity, they kept many basic details from the RPG, like the Millennium Falcon being a YT-1000 light freighter, the same. Why create a new manufacturer for all of the Empire’s ships when it’s easier just to say it’s still Sienar Fleet Systems?

The Disney era continues to canonize elements from the Star Wars RPG. A Force Awakens prequel novel written by Greg Rucka mentions a ship called a Ghtroc 720, an alternative to the YT-1000 light freighter created for Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game.

If you’re a Star Wars nerd who knows their vibroblades from their Z95 Headhunters, you owe a massive debt to the Star Wars RPG, the unsung hero of the Star Wars universe.

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