With all the buzz around Star Wars Episode VII and the various spin-offs, the upcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels sometimes seems to fall between the cracks. While even the most casual fans are paying attention to the major rumors surrounding the J.J. Abrams-directed sequel series — and more die-hard fans lament the fact that the entire Star Wars Extended Universe (EU) has been declared non-canon and non-binding on the creative efforts of Episode VII, VIII and IX‘s writers — few even noticed that Billy Dee Williams has signed on to reprise the role of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars Rebels and relatively little information has been released about the series.
Get excited, Star Wars fans. While you wait for Episode VII, Rebels will come to the small screen this fall. Check out the trailer:
There’s more. There is a major segment of dyed in the wool but often overlooked Star Wars fans — people who grew up with the movies and also with tabletop, pen and paper role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and the lesser-known but still loved Star Wars Roleplaying Game — who have been tossed a major bone. While those who have bought and read every EU hardcover as they’ve come out are largely being told that none of that material matters, role playing enthusiasts may have a little something extra to look forward to in the Star Wars Rebels animated series.
That’s right, role playing fans: The Star Wars Rebels series intends to incorporate elements of the Star Wars universe that were originally introduced in the 1980s role playing game, popular primarily with uber-geek (and most of them as proud of that title as they would be of the title Jedi Master) teens and young adults sitting across dining room tables — and yes, admit it or not, sometimes mom and dad’s basements — rolling dice and collectively living their own imaginary adventures in everyone’s favorite galaxy far, far away.
We caught up with some fans of both the Star Wars franchise and the 1980s role playing game. One of them, Robert Younce, an historian and freelance copywriter — and big fan of multiple role playing games — had this to say when he was informed that Star Wars Rebels would incorporate elements from the role playing game:
“Some of the stuff in the classic ‘SWRPG’ was amazingly innovative. Made some of my best memories playing that game. Glad to see it getting its due.”
Another fan, Christopher Williams, owner and principle graphic designer and website developer of Enigma Creative Arts, had this to say:
“I actually own those books. They were published by West End Games. As a fan of the ‘Star Wars’ universe, some of the most enjoyable features were the “flavor material” they contained. In some respects, it was like having access to a generous archive of stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor — stuff that average fans may not give a pile of Bantha poodoo about, but that ubergeeks like me devour. Some of it came in the form of short stories, maybe 400 to 500 words long, that added a lot of depth and exposition.”
When asked what he specifically liked about the ’80s RPG, Williams continued:
“One that sticks in my mind is ‘The Promotion of Lieutenant Veers.’ You also got to learn a lot about the backgrounds of the various ships, vehicles and characters you see in the films. One example is Sienar Fleet Systems, designers of the Imperial TIE fighters. According to the RPG materials, it was originally called Republic Sienar Systems, and was renamed in the wake of the Republic’s collapse. Other companies mentioned in the books were Incom, designers of the X-Wing, and Kuat Drive Yards, which designed the massive Imperial Star Destroyers and vehicles like the AT-AT walkers from ‘Episode V.’ With all the great material there, I’m excited to see how even a little of it translates into the new series.”
While we don’t know how many of those things will be incorporated in the Star Wars Rebels series, a report in The Examiner claims that Rebels will include a character known as The Inquisitor, the Sienar Fleet and the Imperial Security Bureau, all of which were originally introduced to the Star Wars universe through the West End Games Star Wars RPG.
[Image courtesy of Christopher Williams/Enigma Creative Arts]