Interview with Drew Karpyshyn, Author, “Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan”


Out today is Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, the eagerly-anticipated story of the fallen-Jedi-turned-Sith-turned-back whose story was featured in the video game Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel. In addition to authoring this novel, Drew Karpyshyn also serves as a writer on BioWare’s upcoming massively-multiplayer online roleplaying game The Old Republic. He also previously wrote the Darth Bane trilogy of Star Wars novels. To accompany your purchase (or pre-order delivery) of Revan today, I asked Karpyshyn a few questions about his past, current, and future work.

You’ve also written novels based on the videogame franchise Mass Effect. Do you consider yourself an avid gamer? If so, what other games do you enjoy?

Over the last decade I haven’t had much of a chance to play video games. Between my work at BioWare, my novels and my golf game, I just don’t have enough free time. I’ve probably only played a half dozen games in the last 5 years.

Revan is the only Jedi-turned-Sith to turn back to the Light Side. How did you approach the task of writing such a complicated protagonist, one whose changing allegiance speaks to the appeals of two competing philosophies?

The thing I like about Revan is that he rejects the extremism of both philosophies. He tries to walk a path between the light and dark, taking the good and bad from each. While I was working on the Darth Bane series, I wanted to portray certain elements of the dark side as positive – things like the importance of the individual and the quest for reaching one’s ultimate potential. Of course, pushed to the extreme these things become twisted and, for want of a better term, evil. But you could say the same thing about certain Jedi philosophies. Trying to remove emotion from your life, trying to be completely rational in all things, can lead to someone become cold, distant and aloof. Revan is a character who wants to pick and choose from both sides to create his own moral code; I think that’s what makes him so interesting.

Do you want to return to the story of Darth Zannah and Darth Cognus someday?

I’d love to continue the series, and those who’ve read the Bane novels know I left a couple small dangling threads in the story. Currently there are no plans for another Bane or Zannah novel, but the series was popular, so down the road I wouldn’t be surprised if we decide to pick it up again.

Can you reveal anything about next TOR novel you’re writing, currently set for a Fall 2012 release?

I can’t really say anything right now, other than that it will take place after the events of the game.

One of the criticisms of The Old Republic, based on the cinematic trailers we’ve seen, is that the technology is too similar to that of the Original Trilogy. What do you think about that? Should the technology used 4,000 years before A New Hope be extremely primitive compared to what we see in Episode IV?

It’s an established convention in the Star Wars universe that they’ve reached a technological plateau. They’ve had hyper drives for 20,000 years, and that’s probably the most difficult/significant technological achievement a society can develop. So if you can travel between systems in days or hours, anything else – weapons, vehicles, etc. – is probably already going to be as advanced as it can get. Things might get slightly faster or more efficient, but the overall technology isn’t going to change very much.

Which arrangement do you think is more interesting, the Brotherhood of Darkness or the Rule of Two?

Obviously I’m a little biased, but I like the dynamic of the Rule of Two. With the Brotherhood of Darkness, you have a fairly typical “army” or organization. It feels like I’ve seen it before. The Rule of Two is something unique, because the Master’s whole goal is to find an apprentice strong enough to defeat him or her and take over. It introduces an element of self-sacrifice to the philosophy of achieving personal potential, and I find the tension between these two competing aspects fascinating.

Could you elaborate on the following passage from Revan?

“The Jedi Order opposed emotional attachments, believing they were a stepping- stone to destruction. They taught that love begat jealousy, which led to the dark side. But Revan had seen its redemptive powers firsthand. It was his love that had brought Bastila back to the light; their emotional bond had wrought salvation for both of them. Revan believed Jedi could be taught to use positive emotions like love and happiness to strengthen their connection to the Force in the same way that hatred and anger gave power to those who followed the dark side.”

The Jedi have a lot of restrictions on relationships and personal attachments, which to me seems like an unrealistic standard. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it can lead to individuals who are cold and unsympathetic. In Empire, Luke is told by Yoda that he has to ignore the suffering of his friends and continue his training. But Luke ignores the advice and rushes to the aid of his friends and ultimately they end up defeating the Emperor… largely because of the emotional attachment Vader has for his son. So I can’t help but wonder if Yoda was giving him bad advice. If Luke hadn’t rushed off to help his friends and given in to his emotion, who knows how the whole saga would have ended?

Darths Bane and Revan were originally supposed to appear on The Clone Wars in the Season 3 episode “Ghosts of Mortis.” They would have been guiding the actions of a Dark Side being called Son. How would you feel about that? What do you think about the general idea of Bane and/or Revan appearing in Clone Wars-era material (or even later eras)?

I’d love to see Bane and Revan make an appearance in other works. I know everyone involved in the Star Wars franchise is respectful of characters they didn’t create, so I don’t have to worry about them being misrepresented. Instead, they’ll be exposed to some fans who aren’t familiar with them, which may lead people to want to learn more about these characters, and obviously I think that’s a good thing.

What would Darth Bane think of Darth Sidious and his stewardship of the Sith Order?

My completely unofficial opinion is that he’d be disappointed in Sidious. I got the feeling the Emperor wasn’t really interested in finding someone strong enough to take his place; he was more interested in ruling forever. He also violated the Rule of Two several times – he had Darth Maul working for him while Dooku was his apprentice, and when Vader was his apprentice his focus was on using Vader to recruit Luke. Add in some of the extended universe information and you find out that Sidious had all sorts of people he was grooming and training in the dark side – he twisted the Rule of Two into something Bane wouldn’t even recognize. If you ask Bane, he’d probably say that’s why the Emperor lost.

I’d like to thank Drew Karpyshyn for his time and congratulate him on today’s release of The Old Republic: Revan!

  • Lynn

    Revan was the only Jedi-turned-Sith to return to the lightside? Major fail, lol.

  • Lynn, Revan is the first Jedi-turned-Sith to turn back to the light side and go about protecting the peace. Anakin Skywalker redeemed himself and then immediately died; he didn’t have the chance to return to safeguarding the galaxy.

  • Josh

    Eric, that may be true, but there have been others as well. Luke Skywalker even became Sith for a while and served under the Emperor’s Clone.

    Revan at least as far as we know was the first though.

  • The Commentator

    Yeah, because I suppose Ulic Qel-Droma means nothing to people anymore. I guess the “everyone involved in the Star Wars franchise is respectful of characters they didn’t create” sentiment has a real strict definition.

    And Mr. Karpyshyn, the thing about Luke is that he redefined what the Jedi Order was, what it should be, redeeming it and setting it on its right path. Revan, at least in the current timeline, does not do this. So I’m not sure what the point is of emphasizing Revan’s modernly moral but completely uncomprehending borrowing of “light” and “dark” if he is going to remain the outsider–except to give a “plant” for the modern, uncomprehending audience.

  • Amillion

    drew karpyshyn sucks ass. don’t send him hate mails or he will reply with copy-pasted-answer-templates.

    The book is a weak attempt to connect KOTOR and TOR by any means.

  • The Commentator

    That wasn’t intended to be anything like “hate mail”, Amillion — unless you meant that you were speaking from personal experience. That said, I’m glad someone has the balls to boldly and bluntly say what — after following this project for a while — I cannot disagree with. Screwing over Revan to fit the sh*tfest that is TOR is infinitely less offensive than the supposed screwing over of Vader in the prequels — still the most hated example of “continuing the story.”

  • The Commentator

    *Sorry, I meant that the screwing over of VADER is infinitely less offensive than the current screwing over of Revan (and KotOR, by extension).

    By the by, I find the overwhelming majority of Star Wars prose fiction to be wooden and frequently groan-inducing, but Drew had, for the most part, hovered near the top. “Revan”, though, is just ghastly. Ghastly in intent, ghastly in text.

  • Oliver Seymour

    Being an author requires a lot of work, love and caring. Before we go around calling books ‘Sh*itfests’ can we please bare in mind its likely Karpyshn will read these comments, as it is the company he works for’s official website? A danger with communicating on the internet is that we forget there are real people involved.

  • The Commentator

    Without commenting on anything else, I will say that I never once explicitly called the novel a “sh*tfest” — that was in reference to The Old Republic cross-media project as a whole, with emphasis on the upcoming game.

  • the fist

    revan was a good book I think drew did a good job and can’t wait for his next book

  • Matthew

    Honestly people, We finally get a Revan novel and all you can do is complain? Its sad really……
    Drew I loved the Darth Bane novels and they are my favorite Starwars books that ive read. From what Ive read of the Revan novel so far (from preiews and the book) Youve done an amazing job yet again! Keep up the great work!
    Matthew Schultz

  • Foltliss

    I would ask what you find to be so “sh*tty” about The Old Republic, but… my mother always told me never to feed trolls. Oh well.
    I’ve played The Old Republic beta, and aside from the lag (stress test) the game is easily as good as WoW or Rift. With the emphasis the game places on the story, I would argue that it’s innately better.
    I’ll admit that often, Star Wars novels leave me wanting. However, if I don’t like a book, I’ll finish it and wait for the next. Sometimes authors get better. For a perfect example, check out Christie Golden’s Fate of the Jedi novels. Her first two made me want to retch and wish for Karen Traviss back, respectively. Her final novel, Ascension, is actually the best in that series so far, IMHO. She finally shows that her characters can come to life on the page (and in my imagination). My lack of faith in Christie Golden did a face-heel turn.
    I don’t understand why people complain. If you don’t like the book, Barnes and Noble will refund it if you give them a good reason. “My mother, aunt, and oldest sister each bought me a copy of the same book. From now on, I don’t let other people buy me books without coordinating.” Or just don’t buy any Star Wars books, ever. Go to your public library and request a copy as soon as possible, read it and enjoy or dislike it on someone else’s dollar. There’s no call to insult the author’s work. He’s been in this business, I doubt he’ll be offended by a two-bit, third-rate, Z-list “internet critic,” but if the book really is as bad as you say, real critics will let him know the good old-fashioned way. By writing their criticism and putting it in a newspaper. That and sales would be the only important things to me.

  • LanKy

    Drew you are great!
    I really miss your work on Mass Effect!
    Mass Effect franchise has lost its way deeply since you have gone to work to TOR!

  • The Commentator

    Matthew, I can’t speak for others, but I never wanted a Revan novel. I don’t care who’d write it. A third installment to the video-game series is all many of us ever asked for.

    And Foltliss, I am not a troll. What I said was an aside in response to something another commentator said, in order to clarify about an earlier comment. I was not here to make chaos or be abusive or offend. Just speak my mind — directly. I AM very concerned. And to summarize about the other points: (1) I don’t care about the game mechanics or specifications — people just assume if there’s a criticism of a game it has to do with the body (though the chosen aesthetics turn my stomach) rather than the soul, as it were, (2) I liked Karpyshyn in Darth Bane mode; I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for killing off Darovit, but they are fine books regardless, (3) I haven’t BOUGHT a Star Wars novel in years; it’s not something as crass as money; I believe in my right to protest when people come in mucking up beloved canon, especially when that mucking is third-rate, (4) I don’t know what kind of state you think this is — one where criticism, to be worth a second look, must be sanctioned and integrated into a business model, and one centered around a dying medium no less? And sales? — we are quite the capitalist-covenanter this afternoon, aren’t we?

  • Matthew

    Commenter: I had the Knights of the Old republic game and it was slow as crap on my computer. But I know how popular the game was. Isnet this better than nothing?

  • joe

    I thought this book is a great read. The only complaint I have is that I read it all in one night, so it will have screwed up my sleep cycle for days lol.

  • The Commentator

    That all depends on if one feels it fulfills the story and sees the characters through. I do not think it has done so satisfactorily. I understand what you mean, though — we have all waited, for too many years, and I know I would have liked to have seen how Revan and a proper wrap-up would have turned out if not for that long gap of time — but quality should precede existence.

  • Benjamin

    Drew got to say i loved the Darth Bane trilogy. By far the best books written at this point. Just waiting for my copy of “Revan” to drop in with the mail and i can’t wait. Looking forward to whatever comes next 😀
    Benjamin Lærkegaard

  • Star Wars Fan

    Why is Drew Karpyshyn hating on Yoda?

    Yoda was not giving Luke bad advice, he was merely trying to prevent Luke from getting killed by Vader. Luke was lucky to escape with everything but his hand!! Furthermore, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO escaped by themselves, with a little help from Lando. Their escapehad nothing to do with Luke and in fact they had to go back and rescue him!

    Needless to say, I’m pretty sure Yoda learned his lessons from when he told Anakin to \let go of his feelings for everything he’s afraid to lose.\ Yeah, that didn’t turn out to well considering Anakin turned to the Dark side and all.

    Finally as Yoda said \Once you start on the path of darkness, forever will it dominate your destiny.\ This is probably why Luke had such difficulty after letting the Dark side take him while under Palpatine’s clones infcluence. It also elaborates on why Revan probably had a mix of both sides of the Force in his philosophy.

    Also, if you don’t like Drew Karpyshyn try not to hate on him, don’t we have enough authors who’ve left Star Wars?? Besides I think we all want to see another Darth Bane book.

  • Joey

    It was okay book but it had alot of flaws.

    – Storyline was all over the place. Storyline was about the titled character unlike Bane series. Revan is not the focus of the storyline, plain and simple. The Sith is the main character of the book.

    – Nice to see Bastilla and Canderous in the story. Poor Exile was trashed in the novel.

    I give it a 7 just for the parts with Revan and KOTOR characters. I wasn’t a fan of the TOR characters.

  • Oliver Seymour

    “I haven’t BOUGHT a Star Wars novel in years” … so if you haven’t bought one how can you write off Revan so quickly, Commentator? Or have you found a way to get star wars books for free? 😉

  • Cal Jedi

    Hey, Mr. Karpyshyn. Looks like a great book. I really love Revan stuff, and I enjoyed the Bane trilogy back when I read it. I’m also looking forward to that new TOR novel. I hope you continue the Bane story someday, even if I disagree with your idea of it being smart to put Bane and Revan in The Clone Wars. 😛

  • Ryan Weiss

    I received Revan on Saturday and it is one of my favorite if not my favorite Star Wars book. I started my Star Wars reading with the Bane series and I am so glad Karpyshyn made a Revan book. He is without a doubt my favorite Star Wars author. The two things I want are a follw up to Dynasty of Evil as well as a book revolving around Darth Nihilus.

  • Bradius

    Drew did an alright job with Revan. He’s such legendary figure of the KOTOR, he’s hard to nail down just right. After reading the book, i can though he completely hosed over KOTOR 2 and the Jedi Exile (Meetra). He did ok at given her personality. However, he total neglected and erased so much of that story, it’s characters, and its significance. Meetra, a wound in the force, forms force bonds with force sensitives, increasing her own power, thus can dominate others the wills of others. Can instantaneously learn nearly any Jedi weapon/force technique simply buy watching another it, Takes down 3 powerful Sith Lord, including one that eats planets and sees the universe on a scale that only stars interest him, and another who won’t die no matters what, and very powerful telekinetic sith betrayer, not to mention, Meetra single handley took down the entire Trayna sith academy on Malacor V, killing hundreds of sith lords, murarders, etc… (SPOILERS) Having done all that, she can’t handle a few Sith imperial guards quickly to help Revan, nor sense or react fast enough to notice a Sith Lord about stab her in the back. If your going to kill her, my God, a least let her death be alittle more climatic and meaningful, or heroic.

  • AWSOME raven is my favorite book its old republics best yet!

  • hey

  • GodotIsWaiting4U

    Currently working on Revan. On Chapter 6.

    It’s awful. Karpyshyn’s last actually good work was the first Darth Bane novel. KOTOR 1 and Mass Effect 1 preceded that, and they were pretty good, and Darth Bane 1 actually had Bane as an interesting anti-hero. Bane 2 and 3 were terrible, and ME2 didn’t even come close to living up to its predecessor.

    Revan, though…dear god. Revan himself has been written as if he’s Cade Skywalker; his whole deal is “screw you guys, I do what I want”, and he’s STILL bitter over the Council wiping his mind, even if it’s the only reason he was able to save the Republic. Canderous doesn’t just LOOK like Duke Nukem anymore, he ACTS like him too — first scene he shows up, he’s out getting a lap dance and sipping cocktails in a cantina (you’d think if you found Canderous in a bar he’d be busting a chair over someone’s head). Bastila’s every bit as petty as Revan is, and Lord Scourge is just Darth Bane all over again (as written in Rule of Two and Dynasty of Evil).

    It’s like Karpyshyn’s trying to punish us for something but he won’t tell us what it is. At least TOR turned out good; it helps that the sheer size of it dilutes Karpyshyn’s influence.

  • CrazyAzianFool

    You guys must also consider that Drew here didn’t write the stroyline for the second installment of “The Knights of the Old Republic” series so he couldn’t have possibly given the exile a “true” personality, he simply had to create one that would suit material that he did in fact create (Revan, Bastila, and the other peoples ^_^). Reading the first Darth Bane book really pulled me into the StarWars universe. Even though I had watched the original movies weekly when my family had them on VHS to me it was simply a movie, not a genre of infinite possibilities. I believe Karpyshyn has done an amazing job with the books and the games and I hope he will continue writing for as long as possible.

    I will admit however I was super sadface when I learned of both The Exile’s and Revan’s fate…. and the fact that The Exile was a woman :O

    (Just kidding)

    (not really 😛 she would have lived if she stayed where she belonged and made me a sammich)

    (just kiddding again)

  • Mem’Ragon

    “He tries to walk a path between the light and dark, taking the good and bad from each.”
    Thats what I call the “Grey Side”. Grey Jedi are not just fallen Jedi but the way how Revan is.
    Thats the one true way. It’s been said “Sith only know extremities”. But the Jedi way itself is one of those. They are sometimes too arrogant and think they are impeccable.

    Drew Karpyshyn, thank you so much for that great work!

  • Quinlan

    The Revan book is pure schlock. The dialogue is on par with Lucas himself (I HATE SAND!). The characters are either barely refurbished, typical tropes of Star Wars lore, or worse yet, beloved characters that are written so poorly you walk away feeling less for them. Revan’s legacy in the lore was basically crapped upon to push more units of SWTOR, the biggest financial failure in the history of video games. Bravo.

    If you read this book and share these opinions, I highly recommend reading Darth Plagueis by James Luceno. Everything that Revan gets wrong, Darth Plagueis gets right. The audio version is also one of the best I have ever listened to.

  • Kylo

    “I know everyone involved in the Star Wars franchise is respectful of characters they didn’t create”

    Except you, apparently. *coughExilecough*

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