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Wild Karrde Development

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For about five years my primary income came through illustration for the pen-and-paper RPG field, working mostly on sci-fi properties like Traveller, Star Trek, T.O.R.G., Space:1889, and lots others. A few of images have endured, but the one with the highest profile is probably my design for the Corellian Action VI Transport, which would later find itself cast as “The Wild Karrde”: a hero ship from Timothy Zahn’s original Star Wars novel trilogy.

As a rule RPG gaming illustration doesn’t pay hugely well, so artists have to shoot for volume work. I had no idea that this ship design – one of many done for West End Games’ “Rebel Alliance Sourcebook” would have any legs beyond a one-shot side view. I’m not sure if I ever got to illustrate the craft again, but what appeared as simple profile view in the publication was a fully fleshed out three-dimensional object in my head. However the artists who first got to show the ship in perspective views made their own interpretations. Thus the “established” design is considerably thinner than my initial concept (seen above in rough form), and a number of other details vary in shape and mass.

The ship didn’t start out as the Wild Karrde – or even as the Corellian Action VI. The original spec of the job called for a “Rebel Fleet Replenishment Vessel” – a type of Imperial standard bulk transport that could be captured and used to support the Rebel fleet. But by the time the manuscript was finished and illustration assets evaluated, it got slapped with the label of a Corellian Action VI Bulk Freighter. New name, but the ship function was largely the same. The only vestige of its original fleet support mission are (what were meant to be) fold-out umbilical booms at the mid-section, which would have allowed the craft to refuel/resupply other Rebel ships in flight.

As West End Games created the gaming supplements for Tim Zahn’s “Thrawn trilogy” novels, the designers decided that Talon Karrde’s ship would be a refitted Action VI, so suddenly the design had a new life – though I’m surprised it’s a design that’s still a remembered part of the mythos today.

The design of the Action VI derived from two sources. One is some unused ship sketches made by (I think) Joe Johnston which made their way into West End’s “Star Wars (RPG) Sourcebook”. I wanted to try and stay true to original ship design feel from the first films. The other influence was the Rebel Medical Frigate. In looking at the design it always struck me that they were probably inspired by an outboard boat engine, so I wanted to find a mundane object around my apartment that might serve a similar role of unlikely inspiration. I settled on an empty plastic spring water jug sitting on the floor. That’s where the “handle” shape comes from, and you can see my light sketch of the source shape.

Looking for another hallmark design characteristic, I came up with the “sails” projecting from either side of the aft. These were inspired by the sails/wings of Jabba’s barge and skiff, as well as some of the fins projecting from the aft of the Medical Transport.

The pictures above show my development sketches of the ship, along with the finished profile as it appeared in the “Rebel Alliance Sourcebook”. The first few just help come to the rough shape. After that some of the details start to fill in. The super-deformed Star Wars characters were never printed, but were in the margins of the finished work on this assignment. Other ships had other associated character doodles.

Man – that was twenty years ago, but it just feels like two decades….
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Emerald-Wolf13's avatar

Heh, I always thought this looked a bit like a toolbox. Really cool to hear the story behind the art. I started playing Star Wars: The RPG around 1988 or so. I've been more of a collector of the 1st Ed things since I've not played in forever.