West End Games managed to turn the lives of many Star Wars fans upside down from 1987 to 1998. During those years, West End Games published an avalanche of Star Wars roleplaying game material such as sourcebooks, gamebooks, RPG adventures, miniatures, and even some cool board games. The West End Games books were the first publications to expand greatly beyond what was known from the vintage era of the movies, and they mesmerized Star Wars fans with their incredible amount of new information. Novelists such as Timothy Zahn turned to these books for inspiration when they wrote new spin-off novels. A lot of canon names and terminology we take for granted nowadays, such as Rodian, Twi’lek, Quarren, Ponda Baba, or Momaw Nadon, were first published in West End Games publications.
The 12 Galaxy Guides by West End Games are valuable assets to any Star Wars library. Three of those guides are specifically dedicated to the classic trilogy, and they included the first ever character biographies. Not only for the main heroes and villains, but also background aliens from the cantina and Jabba’s palace, Rebel Alliance pilots, Ewoks, and Imperial officers.
Next to the biographies of characters, Galaxy Guides one, three, and five contained a number of short stories written from an in-universe perspective. They may have been a bit forgotten, but some of these stories explain important events that were never shown onscreen. We’ll take a look at the most important of these short stories in this article. Before we discover them, it’s important to understand the Galaxy Guide’s in-universe point of view. These were reports filed by Rebel Alliance historian Voren Na’al, who followed the adventures of the Heroes of Yavin. Other sourcebooks of West End Games also regularly included short stories written from the in-universe point of view, but those represented in this article remain very close to the events from the movies.
Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope (by Grant Boucher, 1989)
Galaxy Guide 1 contains about 11 short stories. Instead of presenting biographies for the Heroes of Yavin, they are interviewed by Na’al after the battle itself. These interviews made the characters more accessible to the reader and to the players of the RPG. Two short stories are related to Luke’s past on Tatooine. In “Camie’s Story,” Camie Marstrap renounces the Imperial accusations that Luke would have killed Owen and Beru Lars. She says Luke would never do that and spoke highly of his relationship with them. In “Wish You Were Here,” Biggs Darklighter sends a message to his best friend about the boring life on Tatooine and asks Luke about his aspirations.
Two stories feature residents from the Mos Eisley Cantina. “One That Got Away” relates the tale of the bounty hunter Jodo Kast and how Ponda Baba saved his future partner in crime, Doctor Evazan, from being killed by Kast. It also explains the horribly-scarred face of Evazan. In “Double Vision,” Han Solo plays a friendly trick on Lando Calrissian with the help of the Tonnika Sisters.
“Dodonna’s Story” is the tale of how the experienced general discovered the flaw in the Death Star’s design that would turn out to be a key element in the victory for the Rebel Alliance. Other stories include Na’al’s discovery of the sandcrawler wreckage and its surviving droids, R2-D2’s travels in the Dune Sea, a sand trooper report, and the fate of an overconfident Imperial officer.
Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back (Michael Stearn, 1989)
In the second Galaxy Guide of the movies, Voren Na’al once again follows the exploits of the Heroes of Yavin starting on Hoth and ending after Han Solo’s capture on Bespin’s Cloud City. The book features about nine short stories, a few of which illustrate the horrors on Hoth with tales about wampas and life in the trenches. Two stories are about Rebel pilots. “Mutiny on the Rand Ecliptic” offers an explanation of how Biggs Darklighter and Derek ‘Hobbie’ Klivian joined the ranks of the Rebel Alliance. A different tale about the mutiny was later told in the comic series Star Wars: Empire (2003). The second story about pilots is a tale called “Running the Gauntlet.” This story was taken from the memoirs of Wedge Antilles and tells the story of how Wedge, Hobbie, Janson, and Luke successfully managed to escort a Rebel transport past the Imperial blockade.
The last two interesting stories take place on Cloud City. In “Meeting the Dark Lord,” we learn what happened on Bespin when Darth Vader and Boba Fett arrived early while the Millennium Falcon was still on her way to the city in the clouds. Lando remembers his first encounter with the Dark Lord and Vader’s plan to capture his old friend. “Little Girl Lost” is a strange, but rather warming tale of a young girl called Allania Jakien. Allania gets lost in the Ugnaught tunnels during the evacuation of the city and somehow she manages to become a witness of the duel between Darth Vader and Luke. Although it’s a bit implausible, it certainly is told from an interesting point of view.
Galaxy Guide 5: Return of the Jedi (Michael Stearn, 1990)
The last Galaxy Guide to concentrate on characters and events from one of the classic movies has about 10 short stories, many of them focused on Tatooine. In “The Employment Test,” Voren Na’al retells an interesting story of Ephant Mon’s concerning how Jabba hired some of his Gamorrean guards. “The Pit” was told to Na’al by Luke Skywalker himself, and it tells a story of how the Sarlacc nearly devoured Luke’s friend “The Fixer” when he was sandsurfing over the Pit of Carkoon. The tale of how Boba Fett arrived on Tatooine is told in “Dark Voyage to Tatooine.” In this short story, Fett is ambushed by IG-88 but manages to destroy the fellow bounty hunter. This tale was more or less used in the storyline of “Shadows of the Empire” (1996).
Other short stories take place on Endor. “The Ewok Defenses” is the tale of how Wicket witnessed the destruction of several AT-ST walkers, therefore seeing evidence that these machines could in fact be destroyed. Major Derlin told Na’al the story called “Night Attack,” in which a Rebel strike team disabled an AT-ST walker during the night when the heroes became a part of the Bright Tree Village tribe. “Imperial Scouting Party” is a neat story about an Imperial scout, Lieutenant Kiviett, who warned the Empire to stay away from Endor and its spooky inhabitants. “The Capture of Luke Skywalker” is a story about Luke’s whereabouts after he leaves the Ewok village up to the moment he’s brought before his father at the landing platform.
Two final stories take place before and during the Battle of Endor. “The Briefing of Red Group” features several rebel pilots from the upcoming space battle, and “Running the Gauntlet” is about a risky maneuver Lando pulls off during the fight.
Although a lot of short stories related to the movies were published in the three main Galaxy Guides, some of them also appeared in other books. For example, the tale of how the Rancor arrives in Jabba’s Palace was told in “The Star Wars Sourcebook.” Because of the short stories, the West End Games books not only contained source info and RPG statistics, but also short fiction. Some of these tales tell events that took place off camera during the events of the classic trilogy and are still interesting to track down after all these years.
Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium is president and co-founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars fanclub. He has contributed to Star Wars Insider, to the Build the Millennium Falcon magazine and has created character names and back stories for What’s the Story? and Rogues Gallery.