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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

Context

Kyle Katarn is part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. This is the Star Wars continuity that existed before the 2014 Disney’s overhaul of this IP.

He debuted in a 1995 video game, called Dark Forces.

Is Kyle Katarn a fascinating character ? No.

Yet he’s a notable, even important one. How does that work ?

Footprint

  • Dark Forces came during an era where, novels aside, there had been a long Star Wars drought. Episode VI had been 12 years prior, and Episode I was still years in the future. The better video games, such as Dark Forces and TIE Fighter, often were the most exciting SW action around.
  • Dark Forces was a DooM-like game. First-Person Shooters were the coolest thing ever since the 1993 DooM shareware. But there weren’t that many good ones (Heretic was another).
  • Dark Forces games did solid, innovative things with the environments, immersion and storytelling. It was one of the pre-HλLF-LIFE high water marks. The second DF game had original, live action Star Wars videos ! That was amazing back then !
  • Later games allowed you to use a lightsabre ! With lightsabre sounds and everything ! And Jedi powers ! Woohoo !

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Footprint (cont.)

*Furthermore*, Katarn was a transmediaWhen a fictional universe exists in many media such as movies, novels, comics… creature par excellence.

Beyond the games and their video cutscenes, Katarn was in tie-in novellas. *And* the Star Wars tabletop role-playing game, where a huge amount of official worldbuilding took place.

Hence the character’s disproportionate importance for a specific generation of Star Wars fans. The Gen X ones, more or less. He’s like Mara Jade in that respect.

More about the game

For a full look at Dark Forces as video games… and I do mean *full*… you can check Noah Caldwell-Gervais video essay .

The PC Gaming wiki page  has pretty much all the info to play the game.

Katarn has similarities with Luke Skywalker. Farmerboi from a poor planet becomes a war hero, Force legacy from a lost father, these things. It may be because Luke was originally envisioned as the Dark Forces Player CharacterRPG characters played by a player, rather than the gamemaster or the computer..

Sequence

Mr. Katarn’s power level notoriously waxes and wanes across the game series. So it’s best to take it step by step.

  1. Kyle Katarn — Emergence. This here profile.
  2. Kyle Katarn — Dark Forces.

Kyle Katarn star wars - held at gunpoint by Jan Ors

Kyle held at gunpoint by Jan Ors.

Background

  • Real Name: Kyle Katarn.
  • Other Aliases: Dan Drexel (cover ID).
  • Former Aliases: Cadet Katarn.
  • Known Relatives: Patricia Katarn (mother, deceased), Morgan Katarn (father, deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 6’1″ (1.85m). Weight: 185 lbs. (84 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Brown. Hair: Brown.

Soundtrack

Not sure why this is the intuitively correct music for this entry.

But heh, I trust the Force – and I’ve loved this tune for quite a few years now.

Powers & Abilities

Kyle Katarn received full Imperial military training, and is well familiar with their procedures and routines.

His speciality was vehicular engineering. But he was also trained as a stormtrooper lieutenant and a replacement pilot. The latter qualification is mainly for Imperial support crafts, plus 30 hours of TIE fighter training.

He can repair and modify small spacecrafts by himself. Ditto for farm equipment and — more relevant to the mercenary life — droids.

Katarn is highly fit, with exceptional reflexes, willpower and accuracy. His peripheral vision is excellent.

Use the Force, Kyle

Katarn is Force-sensitive. But he has no training at this point, and cannot do overt “Force powers”. It’s chiefly about intuitions, and intuitive reflexes.

Demonstrated intuitions at this stage :

  • Small precognitive flash (maybe two seconds) that he and/or his companions are about to be ambushed.
  • Sometimes gaining a true, deep sense of another person’s nature. This happened once with Jan, and once with Jerec.
  • Sensing that he’s being watched. But at this stage he doesn’t quite realise that this is a reliable sense, rather than a weird feeling.
  • Spurts of enhanced speed and accuracy (usually to shoot) when he’s outnumbered.

At this stage, it is closer to Sergeant Rock’s “combat antenna” than space magic.

Kyle Katarn star wars - force fast draw

A presumably Force-facilitated fast-draw.

Ordnance

Kyle has a personal force shield during the first mission in the Dark Forces game. But it’s not mentioned in the novella.

I’m going to arbitrarily assume he acquired the shield later. It is, after all, rare equipment – we’ll discuss that in the next entry.

Bryar heavy blaster

Heavy blasters are radically sawed-off blaster carbines, wielded as a pistol. Most deliver powerful but imprecise blaster bolts, for close-quarter gunfights.

The Bryar works the other way around. It delivers precise shots at a good range, but the power is just OK. And the semi-auto action is, as they say, a mite slow.

However, Katarn strongly believes in on-site procurement of weapons. The Bryar is used to short-range-snipe one or two opponents, then Kyle starts using his fallen enemies’ weapons and power packs.

OSP weapons

His most common weapon in combat is thus the E11 blaster rifle. This well-regarded assault carbine is standard issue for Imperial stormtroopers.

Firing it full-auto isn’t commonly done, as it drains too much energy. But Katarn will simply transition to a fresh gun from a fallen enemy. So he uses E11s to deliver an unusual volume of fire.

Moldy Crow

The Crow is Katarn’s spaceship. It reportedly is a HWK-290 light freighter. Which is a bit weird :

  • Katarn states that she is ten year old. Which means she was likely built a dozen years after HWK-290 production was discontinued (several dates are given for that).
  • He also describes her as a lighter (a sort of tougher space yacht). Which implies that the normal 150 tonnes of cargo capacity have been greatly reduced.
  • The Incredible Crosssections Star Wars book depicts… a HWK-270 “Hawk” heavy fighter as the Moldy Crow. I find this lack of faith disturbing.

A No-Prize HypothesisA made-up explanation to plug a plot hole would be that there was a small series of lighters built on Corellia after the Clone War, reusing HWK-290 and HWK-270 parts and architecture.

A normal HWK-290 is 29 metres long, and has a Class 2.0 hyperdrive. The Crow seems smaller (18 metres long, maybe), and might have better engines.

The Crow has a robust anti-theft system. Which is good, given how Katarn often operates from seedy, crime-ridden starports.

It also has a belly machinegun, and twin blaster autocannons at the front. Not enough for serious space combat, but surprisingly effective air-to-ground.

The shields couldn’t take a hit from a 88i twin light blaster cannon. But they soaked enough of that damage for the Crow to keep flying.

History — Morgan Katarn

Kyle Katarn’s father Morgan was a Rebel Alliance organiser. But he maintained tight secrecy. Not even his son knew.

The Katarns operated a variform beans farm on Sulon. Which is a moon of notable Outer Rim planet Sullust.

Like most Outer Rim farmers, they were barely above subsistence level.

Loss

Mrs. Patricia Katarn was accidentally killed while her son was a child. A pest control droid with malfunctioning sensors slew her.

Beyond the obvious grief, this made the farm poorer still. Morgan had to work alone while Kyle was still too young to help.

Thankfully, Morgan Katarn was technically skilled. He automated parts of the systems, could do his own advanced maintenance, and even kitbashed an ugly helper droid from sundry parts.

Katarn also seemed more knowledgeable about crop science than most.

Deescalation of Force

Morgan was Force-sensitive. From a young age onward, he could use minor telekinetic and telepathic abilities.

During a brawl with a bully, a young Morgan used a discreet Force shove to land a good punch. But his opponent stumbled backward, tripped and fell down a small cliff.

This death shocked Morgan. He now thought he was unworthy of using such dangerous powers.

Mr. Katarn would thus spend his life suppressing his Force-related capabilities.

Kyle Katarn star wars - Moldy Crow flying in clouds

The Moldy Crow flying among clouds.

Evacuation rebellion

The underground resistance on Sulon favoured non-violent protests. Katarn disagreed, seeing armed struggle as the viable way to oppose the Empire.

When the Empire started murdering protesting families in the dead of night, Morgan was instrumental in helping them flee. Kyle had recently left for a military college, freeing Morgan to help the refugees.

Furthermore, he located a smuggler named Jerg. This man knew of a habitable planet that wasn’t on maps – Ruusan.

Captain Jerg’s operation was a large one. His base on Ruusan was a fortress. That meant he had equipment to help the refugees start farms, for instance by drilling a well for them. The planet was arid, but clever farming seemed viable.

The lost valley

While exploring Ruusan, Morgan got to meet sapientCapable of intelligent reasoning. natives. The odd aliens sensed that he was Force-sensitive, and thought that he was a Jedi Knight.

Which was good. Since centuries before they had been entrusted with a message for a Jedi.

Following their directions, Morgan found a valley. Many spirits were trapped there, leading to a huge concentration of Force energy. However, Katarn had no training, and thus no way of freeing them.

But he had a good sense of how catastrophic it would be if a Dark Sider found the place.

Kyle Katarn star wars - Moldy Crow model by Jason Lewis

HD model for the Moldy Crow, from Jason Lewis’ Dark Forces recreation project  .

Back to Sulon

Once back in his home system, Morgan met one Qu Rahn, a Jedi Knight working with the Rebel Alliance. He told Rahn about the Valley.

The Jedi was fascinated, and wanted to investigate with a team. But he was being tracked down by the Sith.

He therefore asked Morgan to keep the Valley’s coordinates a secret, until a time when an expedition might be feasible.

Exposed

Back on Sulon, Morgan could build up a movement connected with the Rebel Alliance. But most of the potential recruits were now on Ruusan. Most of his allies were thus older people and teenagers, making direct action unadvisable.

However, an Imperial task force had been detailed to deal with resistance on Sulon. It was commanded by the Dark Jedi Jerec, who could sense Morgan even from orbit. Spy droids were deployed, and exposed the movement.

As a psyop, the Imperials disguised themselves as Rebels, and raided the movement.

The civilian Rebels managed a last stand at a geothermal tap. It was defensible, which allowed them to inflict significant casualties. But they never stood a chance.

Jerec personally beheaded Mr. Katarn, and had his head displayed at the Sulon starport.

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History — Kyle Katarn

From a young age, Kyle Katarn was fascinated by tools and technology. As a teenager, he was already capable of repairing all equipment on the farm, including droids.

His main chance at an education and a better life remained the Imperial Military Academy. When he was 17 or 18, Kyle left to study with the Emperor’s military.

He was thus absent when his father discovered the Valley, then was slain by “Rebel raiders” – along with many people Kyle knew.

Cadet Leader Katarn

Kyle studied at the Carida Training Base, a.k.a. “Cliffside”, for four years.

Kyle’s track involved a live deployment as a graduation exercise. Most such assignments are milk runs, but the Rebel relay Katarn was to raid on AX-456 was unexpectedly well-defended.

Katarn’s stormtrooper platoon took terrible casualties. But to his own surprise the Cadet commanded ably.

Cadet Leader Katarn refused to order the massacre of the last standing Rebs – non-combatant technicians. Among the lives he thus saved was Jan Ors’. She and others managed to evacuate when Rebel reinforcements came in.

Imperial reinforcements then came in, repulsing the opposition. They found Kyle and his last six stormtroopers barricaded within the Rebel base.

Katarn thought that his assault had been a bloody failure. Yet it was widely considered a heroic success. During his graduation, he was awarded the Medal of Valor.

Just after graduation, he learned of his father’s death during a “Rebel raid”.

Kyle Katarn star wars - leading stormtroopers as a cadet

Leading stormtroopers on AX-456.

Compassionate leave

As he returned to Sulon on compassionate leave, Kyle randomly ran into Jan. She was operating with a few undercover rebels, who ambushed Katarn as he ran after Ors.

Jan let Kyle live as repayment for her debt, and agreed to talk.

Their chemistry was strong enough that they unreasonably trusted each other. Jan therefore showed Kyle inside Rebel footage of the battle on Sulon.

The shocked Kyle thus learned that Morgan had been a local Rebellion leader. And that it had actually been the Imperial military that had raided his home.

Throwing his Medal of Valor into the trash, Kyle Katarn deserted.

Working with the enemy

A prowling bounty hunter then sold out the Rebels.

However, a fellow Academy graduate warned Katarn. Kyle and the Rebels narrowly fled.

Thanks to Jan, Kyle was soon introduced to Rebellion leader Mon Mothma  . Unexpectedly, Ms. Mothma assigned Mr. Katarn a critical mission. He was to steal the Death Star’s plans from the Imperial military engineering facility on Danuta.

Jan Ors was the backup operative, and mission handler. In case Kyle Katarn failed, or turned out to be an Imperial spy.

Kyle Katarn star wars - father head on pike

Kyle find his father Morgan’s head on a pike at the Sulon startport.

Trust issues

Why Mothma decides to take a chance on Katarn is unclear. Even with Ors watching him, that’s a terrible risk.

If that bothers you, you can push the pre-Danuta timeline back by about two years.

During that span Kyle does solids for the Alliance, working solo. That includes victories that even Imperial Intelligence would not allow for the sake of infiltration.

Benefits :

  1. It explains why in-game Katarn seems considerably more experienced than a wet-behind-the-ears ex-Cadet should be.
  2. It explains why he looks older than he should in the second game’s FMV.
  3. It helps with some trivial incoherences regarding post-Academy postings.
  4. It creates the necessary room for the Star Wars: Lethal Alliance video game to take place.
  5. It explains why, in the scroll at the beginning of the game, Kyle is described as a rogue “mercenary” with a “partial alliance with the Rebels”.

As the crow flies

Kyle was issued his pick of starships… among terrible ones. The Alliance could spare little for transportation, especially for a new and expendable agent.

On the other hand, he could refurbish the one he chose by himself, with Ms. Ors ensuring he could get enough parts.

Thus did Kyle Katarn come to fly the Moldy Crow.

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Casing the target

Rebel intel showed that Meck Odom, Kyle’s roommate at the Academy, was on Danuta.

As Katarn feared, using Odom — and likely putting him at risk — was the only way in. The base appeared otherwise impregnable.

Though Meck knew that Kyle was a deserter, he agreed to a discreet meeting – then to help. He would run a security test on a given door at a given time, giving Kyle a fleeting opportunity to slip into the base.

Meck also described the base’s layout, the patrols, and where to find a specific air shaft whose alarms were currently offline due to a computer bug.

Intruder

Jan, who had been shadowing Kyle, misinterpreted that meeting. She thought that he was a mole, and attempted to murder him.

However, Katarn sensed her in time to turn around. That they were so reluctant to shoot each other gave them time to clear the misunderstanding.

Now working together again, Jan and Kyle set up a quick plan for the operation. Kyle then approached the Imperial base, hiding until that one outer door would briefly shut down at 2100 sharp.

Kyle Katarn star wars - and sinister Rodian bounty hunter

Cadet Katarn nearly bumps into a sinister Rodian bounty hunter.

Continuities

The Star Wars Expanded Universe ceased to exist in 2014. Everything except the movies was retconnedMaking changes to a character or story after the fact out.

Though many Expanded Universe elements have since made their comeback, those who haven’t are assumed not to exist in the Disney iteration of Star Wars.

However, one stray trading card shows that a version of Kyle Katarn exists in the current Star Wars continuity. And that’s… all the data as of this writing.

In the new continuity, the plans of the Death Star were stolen during the Rogue One movie. But it’s easy to imagine the existence of, say, a separate encryption key for the most secure parts of the stolen plans.

Thus, Katarn could still play a major role in preparing the attack in A New Hope.

Kyle Katarn star wars - early concept doodle

An early concept doodle of Kyle in the first Dark Forces game. This version has been arbitrarily coloured, mostly to see how it looks.

Description

Katarn has a portrait in Dark Forces. However, the success of the live-action videos in the second game means that his canonical appearance became that of actor Jason Court  .

By his official DOB, Katarn is about 22 during the Dark Forces events. The actor portraying him was about seven years older than the character.

Officially, Katarn is 1.8m (5’11”). Since the primary image of the character is the FMV with Mr. Court (who is listed as being 6’3″ (1.90m)), I bumped that up a bit.

Personality

As a youth, Katarn liked order and the Empire, was a close friend to his father, and was a sore loser.

He never intended to be a warrior – his interest was in becoming a well-paid engineer with a stable position.

As a teenager, Kyle disapproved of his father’s sympathies for the Alliance. He didn’t know just how involved Morgan was with the Rebs.

As an Academy student, he enjoyed being part of a feared, powerful military machine.

No más

The shock that inverted Kyle’s loyalties was seeing a video of his dad’s head on a spike. From that second onward, he was driven to murdering the bastards wot had done it.

This made the Rebel Alliance his natural allies. Katarn didn’t quite see himself as a Rebel, but their shared interests were obvious.

Still, Kyle was too moulded by Imperial education to truly fit in, and remained an outsider.

After years at the Imperial Academy, Kyle had also come to loathe taking orders all the time. He hadn’t realised that as long as he was in uniform, but it became obvious after he deserted. A few orders are fine, constant orders grate him.

My everything

The romantic storyline between Kyle and Jan is a slow-burn one. Even though it was love at first sight.

On Kyle’s end, it’s something akin to shyness. He had spent four years in a heavily-regimented, almost all-male environment. So charging into a situation with strong romantic tension isn’t something he’s equipped for anymore. And he was wise enough not to.

On Jan’s end, she’s always had a marked reluctance to enter, deepen or officialize relationships. So things staying ambiguous and slowly progressing toward informal was fine by her.

Kyle Katarn star wars portrait - in the first Dark Forces video game

Kyle Katarn as depicted in the original Dark Forces video game. This appearance will be retconned away by the next game.

DC Heroes RPG

Kyle Katarn (pre-Dark Forces)

Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 04
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 05
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05
Init: 017 HP: 050

Powers:

Danger Sense: 03, Enhanced Initiative: 04

Skills:

Evasion: 05, Gadgetry: 04, Medicine (First aid): 02, Military science (Camouflage, cartography): 04, Military science (Danger rec): 06, Thief (Stealth): 04, Vehicles (Land, Air, Space): 04, Weaponry (Firearms, Heavy): 06

Bonuses and Limitations:

Gadgetry uses realistic rules.

Advantages:

Credentials (Rebel Alliance, Low), Familiarity (Military equipment and protocols, Imperial procedures, Spaceship maintenance and repairs, Farming equipment, Droids electronics).

Connections:

None at this point.

Drawbacks:

Mistrust.

Motivation:

Justice.

Occupation:

Agent.

Wealth:

003

Equipment:

  • Bryar blaster [BODY 02, Energy blast: 05, Ammo: 24, Bonus: If using optional Range rules, the Bryar is considered to have a stock].
  • Locally procured E11 Stormtrooper rifle [BODY 02, Energy blast: 06, Ammo: 12, Range: 03, Bonus: Autofire, Dart Bonus, Limitation: Energy Blast has No Range, use the listed Range instead]. These stats reflect in-game usage, and may not correspond to E11 depictions in other Star Wars stories.
  • Multitool, glow rod, and presumably other basic field supplies.

Design notes

These stats are somewhat arbitrary. They represent Katarn before the game starts, and are chiefly useful if you use the “one or two years with the Alliance before Danuta” approach.

In the novella his Force intuitions suddenly bloom during the Danuta firefight. Here I’m assuming that it was more gradual. Because of the paragraph just above.

At this stage, his power level aligns with our sample early stage Star Wars: the Old Republic Player Characters. I hadn’t planned it, but the numbers resemble those of, say, Jaevna Shilo.

Low-key Force abilities map fairly well with abnormal Hero Points amounts.

Jan is considered a Player Character here, rather than a Connection, Confident, Dependent, etc..

Mistrust is debatable since it’s a war situation. But it’s a largely asymmetrical war, and Kyle often operates in Imperial territory without support.


Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Dark Forces novellas and TTRPG material.

Helper(s): The Force, Darci, Nicolas Lemaçon.

Writeup completed on the 5th of July, 2021.