The Empire Strikes Back
Like chapter 1, the chapter on Episode V is fluff-heavy, starting off with the beginning of the movie. In addition to pages dedicated to Hoth and its asteroid belt, there are specific pages for Hoth’s Echo Base, the events of the Battle of Hoth, the war generals of both the Rebellion and the Empire for the battle, Imperial war machines used in the fight such as the mighty AT-ATs, Vader’s fleet over Hoth, and both Rebel troopers and Snowtroopers that fought on the ground during the Battle of Hoth. Thankfully, as is to be expected, there is fluff for each of these. In addition to obvious things such as the stats for the Rebel General Rieekan and Imperial General Veers, wampa ice monsters and tauntauns, Snowtroopers, and Rebel troopers stationed on Hoth, there are some general surprises like starship stats for the pods that deliver Imperial probe droids and Snow Scout Troopers. There is also a mixed bag presence of bounty hunter stats in this entry; while the reptilian Bossk, rogue Imperial assassin droid IG-88, and the famous Boba Fett are given stats, the other three that were present in the movie are given nothing. Did we really need two pages dedicated to Boba Fett alone? I mean, they could have at least stuck Dengar or Zuckuss in this section for a little added flavor. This is somewhat unfortunate, as Boba Fett has had more than enough stat time in other books, but…eh, I guess he had to be there.
The rest of the chapter is mostly odds and ends. First, you are treated to stats for trash bats and mutant dianogas amidst more than you probably ever wanted to know about how the Empire’s ecologically-unfriendly garbage disposal (a big surprise to you, I imagine). You also get species stats for the squirrel-like Squids and the amoeba-people known as the Ugor, both of whom are interstellar trash mongers that war with each other over garbage; now, to be honest, while I like seeing these obscure items get note, how many of you running a Rebellion campaign would prefer an adventure stopping a bunch of glorified garbage collectors from their fighting than facing down the iron fist of the Empire? But I digress… After a two-page look into the ins and outs of the Dark Trooper droids (for those of you not familiar with the exploits of Kyle Katarn, Dark Troopers are essentially artificial Stormtroopers, to put things simply) and a further two-page sidetrack to Dagobah and Yoda (sadly, no stats in this section for any of Dagobah’s strange wildlife, just a sidebar for introducing Jedi Masters in a Rebellion-era campaign), we get to our other “main feature” of this chapter: Bespin and its aptly-named Cloud City. Other than stats for a cloud car “wind guard” and stats for Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewie as of Episode V, there’s not much of note here. All in all, this chapter is the most disappointing of the book, but is by no means useless. It’s just a bit less exciting than the others.
Shadows of the Empire
Now this is more like it. This is the chapter for me, short as it is. The Shadows of the Empire chapter gives a lot of crunch, including species stats for the reptilian Falleen, three key members of Rogue Squadron (yes, including Wedge Antilles), a good dose of Bothan NPCs, the Emperor’s Royal Guards, swoop bike gangsters, and more than enough members of the crime organization Black Sun to tide you over. Of course, that’s not to say there is no fluff. You do get plenty of information that should be useful to you, including information on Black Sun and Jabba’s swoopers, Coruscant during the time of the Empire, and the Bothan SpyNet. All in all, while this is a short chapter, it squeezes worth out of every page of spotlight time it gets.
Return of the Jedi
Strangely enough, this chapter starts out with information and stats on Boushh, the bounty hunter whose suit Leia would wear in rescuing Han Solo. Yes, while Boushh’s suit was important for the whole plot of the start of Return of the Jedi, Boushh himself was shown in Shadows of the Empire, so…why wasn’t he in the last chapter instead? Stats wise, this chapter isn’t as good as the chapter for Shadows of the Empire, but isn’t as bad as The Empire Strikes Back. You get Jabba the Hutt, some Gamorrean guards for his palace, three major members of the Rebel Alliance (Mon Mothma, Crix Madine, and Admiral “It’s a Trap!” Ackbar, the last of which who happens to be an 11th-level character), Rebel commandos, some Ewoks including the inquisitive Wicket and their various traps, Endor’s vicious spike-tailed preducor beast, Scout Troopers, and, of course, stats for our four heroes as of Episode VI. As far as fluff goes, you have a good dose of information on Endor, as well as an expansion on the Rebellion’s fleet and Special Forces. As I said, while not quite as good as the chapter before it, this chapter is still a rather decent addition to the book. But I can’t help but feel I’m missing something…
…Oh yes! Since the New Republic never got its own sourcebook, there’s a tacked-on six pages giving information on the Empire and Rebellion-turned-New Republic right after the Battle of Endor, the Kurtzen and Ssi-Ruu aliens from the book Truce at Bakura, and stats for five antagonists of the New Republic era (a pair each from both The Courtship of Princess Leia and from the Thrawn trilogy, as well as one from the X-Wing books). While I would complain more about how the New Republic era was ignored in favor for a sourcebook on the then-unfinished New Jedi Order series, they were nice enough to provide stats for His Epicness himself, Grand Admiral Thrawn. And they get a slightly less harsh sentence for that.
While certainly not my favorite of the SWRPG books, the Rebellion Era Sourcebook is up there. It is, however, not without its flaws. A lot of it focuses on the characters of the movies, rather than the Rebellion Era as a whole, which somewhat limits its scope in a sort of tunnel vision. Sure, it’s good to have stats for people like Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt on hand, but I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been more beneficial to have more atypical characters, creatures, and constructs . This is the primary reason the chapters 2 and 4 are my favorite; they go beyond the movies to a bit of a wider scope, and they give you a bigger idea of just what is going on in the universe. That isn’t to say that the other chapters don’t do this as well, it’s just..well, a lot of the book seems to be focused on “look what Luke and Leia and the bunch are doing!” rather than “look at what your heroes could be doing!”. Still, for its effort and its scope, I grant the Rebellion Era Sourcebook a 7/10.