Before I ran Star Wars for the first time, I needed a Monster Manual. Now, there is no Star Wars Monster Manual per se, though there are several books full of aliens both sentient and animalistic. But that’s not what I had in mind. For a smuggler, a scoundrel, or a thief, patrol and interdictor cruisers racing at their tail would strike fear into their hearts in a way no exotic beast ever could. Unless the PC was a bounty hunter, no one wanted to hear the GM begin to hum those dreaded notes:
The Imperial Sourcebook (ISB) was never far from my hand when I ran Star Wars. Generally the rulebook and the ISB were stacked on top of each other, switching back and forth while other supplements were scattered across the table or room. I read it front cover to back, and then back again. The somewhat inaccurate starship size comparison chart was held up again and again. The chapters on ships and vehicles of the Empire were very much the Monster Manual of my games, as I am sure they were for many others.
Beyond its gameable use, the ISB was fascinating because of the wider universe it revealed. At this point there still weren’t many novels, but those that had been published used West End’s supplements as reference. This meant that I had read about some starships never seen in the original trilogy, such the Dreadnaught-class cruisers, and the ISB gave me a chance to actually see them.
There admittedly also occasions when the info contained within wasn’t used for PC background — there were certainly a few games with PC Imperial Naval officers, COMPNOR members, or Dark-Side aligned Force users. Obviously there’s something of an adolescent power fantasy in a lot of teenage (and some adult) role-playing, and a non-ironic adventure based on playing members of a fascist government almost certainly represents some of the worst impulses of that mindset. But we turned out OK, and besides, it was pretty fun …
And, of course, there were those bounty hunters, to whom one boss was as good as another.
Still, nothing reminds me of the good old days of WEG Star Wars like the notion of a tramp freighter blasting its way out of port, dodging fire and racing away from Imperial system patrol cruisers while trying to calculate a hyperspace jump to some safe haven.