It's a fact universally acknowledged in the Star Wars fandom that Stormtroopers were kind of useless. Their aim was atrocious. Honestly, they couldn't hit a target with their blasters if their target was two feet away from them. They were the grunts of the Galactic Empire, and their lives were as disposable as their armor.
But not every graduate from the Imperial Academy was an uncoordinated mess. In fact, some of the Empire's more promising recruits were given a different classification altogether: Death Troopers. Designed from original A New Hope concept art from Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie, these elite soldiers of Imperial Intelligence, recognizable from their specialized black armor, will make their debut in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
What separates the Death Trooper from other soldiers in Rogue One, including Stormtroopers and Shoretroopers, is their menacing stature. These guys are tall. During an onstage Q&A with The Star Wars Show at Star Wars Celebration in London, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards explained how a glimpse into the Lucasfilm archives inspired the Death Trooper's creation.
"At the very back of the room are all of these drawers that are full of the Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie originals — the original, actual paintings that they showed the studio to get Star Wars made," he said. "And on some of those images, there were these Stormtroopers that were really tall and thin, and they looked so cool and athletic. When you put armor on a Stormtrooper, they look like NFL players, but they were sleek and S.A.S.-looking Stormtroopers. So we thought, Let's try to find some six, seven foot tall people who are really thin and try to figure out a new Stormtrooper that can actually hit its target with guns. And they became, eventually, the Death Troopers."
As for their place in the Star Wars universe, it appears that the Death Troopers serve as bodyguards and enforcers for Imperial Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Krennic is a highly placed officer within the Advanced Weapons Research Division of the Empire whose sole job is to oversee the creation of the Imperial Death Star. Needless to say, he's not happy when Jyn Erso and her ragtag band of Rebels start to meddle with his plans.
Since the Death Troopers cease to exist in A New Hope — though, 30 years later, Captain Phasma, an elite Stormtrooper with chrome armor, will command a group of Stormtroopers for the First Order in The Force Awakens — it seems likely that their fate is tied to Krennic. Even though the Empire's eventual defeat has already been told, there's always a chance the Death Troopers could appear again in another prequel story, like Phil Lord and Chris Miller's Han Solo movie or Disney XD's Star Wars Rebels.
Of course, the Death Troopers aren't the only new (well, technically, old) class of Stormtroopers appearing in Rogue One. The film will also introduce the Shoretroopers, another specialist group of Stormtroopers who are stationed at the top-secret Imperial military headquarters on Scarif. Shoretroopers patrol the beaches of Scarif and hold down the fort for the Empire.
Something tells us that their existence isn't long for this world either, though, which is honestly a bummer because these guys look awesome. Not only do they have the comfiest (and most breathable!) armor, but they also get to chill on the beach all day. Dark Side or not, that's the life.