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Ghosts of Dathomir Review

Fantasy Flight has been producing Star Wars RPG material since the introduction of Edge of the Empire in 2013. In that time, they have produced seven standalone hardcover adventures, spread out over each of the Star Wars RPG lines. If you are interested in some of my previous reviews of the FFG Star Wars RPG line, you can find reviews here: What Do I Know About Reviews? Fantasy Flight Star Wars [2]

This brings us to the most recently released Fantasy Flight Star Wars adventure, Ghosts of Dathomir. This adventure is for the Force and Destiny line, so it focuses on Force sensitive player characters and things that would utilize the Force as a theme.

The Mists of Dathomir’s History

Many of the adventures and sourcebooks in FFG’s Star Wars lines touch on what is now Legends material, as well as incorporating the most recent material being produced in the canon movies, novels, comics, and television shows.

Dathomir and the Nightsisters have been around in Star Wars circles since The Courtship of Princess Leia, published in 1994. At that point in time, the Witches of Dathomir were split much like the Jedi and the Sith, with the Nightsisters being the dark side representatives. Throughout Legends continuity, the witches of Dathomir were utilized in many places right up to the end of the previous extended universe.

In canon stories, they first appear in the Clone Wars television series, and from a canon standpoint, only the Nightsisters exist. Canon Nightsisters, however, are a little less clear cut than their Legends counterparts—sources such as the novel Dark Disciple make it clear that the Nightsisters will use the dark side of the Force, but they still consider it dangerous. Giving in to the dark side, as the Sith do, is something to be avoided.

When the lore on Dathomir is utilized in this adventure, it seems to lean heavily on the canon version of the witches, with only the Nightsisters referenced. The history of the planet, when events outside of the adventure are mentioned, sticks with events as they unfolded in canon sources such as the Clone Wars animated series.

The Ritual of the Book

Ghosts of Dathomir maintains the standard structure for the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG adventures. It is a hardcover book that clocks in at 96 pages. The book starts with a one page “crawl” summarizing the adventure, and the final page of the book is an ad for other FFG Star Wars products.

The production values of Fantasy Flight’s books are always high, and this one is no exception. Each chapter has a two-page spread summarizing a potential action scene for that chapter, and there are numerous half and quarter page illustrations. There are a few repurposed pictures from other Fantasy Flight products (such as a few illustrations of Stormtroopers), but most of the art is specific to this adventure, portraying NPCs and locations detailed within the book itself.

Never Tell Me the Odds

This review touches upon a few plot points for the adventure. As such, there may be a few spoilers scattered throughout. If you don’t want to stumble across any spoilers, you may want to skip the in-depth look at the various sections of the book.

Introduction

The adventure opens with the single page of fiction that Fantasy Flight uses to kick off their products, detailing an event that sets up the starting point of the adventure. From there, we have an adventure overview, which explains some of the backstory leading into the adventure. We have a list of important NPCs, and an adventure summary, explaining how each chapter is intended to unfold. There is a section on game preparation, as well as a new Force Power tied to the main villain of the story.

One aspect of the backstory that I really liked was the idea of a mega-corporation sending floating cities to various planets that they are strip mining to oversee the process. Inhabitants of the planet causing the floating city to crash is a suitably epic event to have occur. This feels very Star Wars in scale, and yet isn’t something we have explicitly seen previously.

The new Force Power is something introduced in Chronicles of the Gatekeeper. I like these, because they illustrate that the Force Power trees are just a means by which one tradition may learn to use the Force, not the only “true” way to progress within a limited set of pre-determined powers.

This power tree allows a character to generate fear in opponents, eventually allowing them to feed off that fear to regain strain. At the highest levels of mastery, a practitioner can use fear to cause an opponent to take actions they wouldn’t normally take. It’s a nice villainous power tree, but one that will potentially cause a lot of Conflict for any PC that starts to learn it.

As in Chronicles of the Gatekeeper, there are numbers that indicate at what point in the adventure the PCs can start to learn different levels of this power tree. Specific events that trigger in certain episodes allow the power to be accessed and advanced, if the PCs choose to do so.

Episode I: Inquiring Minds

The adventure starts with the PCs attempting to track down an artifact that is rumored to have a connection to the Jedi or the Sith, and starts them on Toydaria, looking for an art dealer that is going to auction off the artifact.

As they look for the shop, depending on the skills they are using to find the place, they may be able to find out some ancillary information that may clue them in on the wider story of what is going on surrounding the dealer and his shop, but there aren’t really any stakes. It is essentially having the PCs land on the planet and then make several checks until they can narrow down where the shop is located.

Eventually the PCs will find out that the shop owner and the artifact have been taken by thugs, and they have the chance to either beat up or bribe the local thugs for information on where he’s being held. Upon arriving at the estate, they can poke around for more clues to the greater context of what is going on. They are detected and fight the kidnappers in their attempt to recover their prize. The villain of the adventure shows up, but only long enough for them to see her and potentially figure out what that crazy circular lightsaber on her back means.

The initial searching for the shop feels like a very cold open to a Star Wars adventure. It also feels like there are a few other missed opportunities.

 

Episode II:  Deadly Visions

In this chapter, the PCs get pressed into service to find another NPC that will allow them to find out more backstory for the adventure. They also start having Force visions triggered by the artifact that they recovered. Eventually they get an idea of where their final destination might be, and they are pointed towards a place where they can research that location before heading out.

The PCs head into the wilderness on Toydaria to help recover the person that owned the artifact before the art dealer, and between the wilderness encounters and a run in with Imperials, potentially debilitating Force visions start to kick in.

I think it might have been more interesting to have options where either the crime lord or the ISB agent impounded the ship and pressed the PCs into service, instead of forcing a more linear resolution of this chapter. Moral quandaries are part of what sets Force and Destiny apart from the other Star Wars lines, so what better way to introduce one than to have them work with the Empire against another Force sensitive?

Episode III: Echoes of the Past

Between the visions and the clues provided by the NPC in the previous chapter, the PCs should be able to determine that the resolution for this story is on Dathomir, the planet where the main villain is from—she was a Nightsister recruited by an Imperial Inquisitor, who then killed her master and went rogue. It is also the planet of origin for the artifact.

Because Dathomir doesn’t have many modern settlements on it, the GM is instructed to have the PCs look around for a while to find the final resting place of the crystal mass where the villain is going.

There are some modular encounters that take place either in the ruins above the crash site, or in the underground location the PCs are trying to find. There isn’t a set number of these that should be used, and there is no mechanical trigger for any of them, they are just included as examples of encounters the PCs could have.

Eventually the PCs will find the villain, who has begun to learn how to control the greater crystal mass to boost her powers, and she will have Nightbrother guards to help her in this final confrontation. Then she literally summons illusory ghosts of Nightsisters with the stone to help her attack the PCs.

I’m still a little confused about the chain of events here, even after taking notes and reading several sections multiple times.

There are some good seeds in this section that I wish had been utilized more. Instead of just giving up and taking her one shard, the villain could have taunted the PCs into coming to Dathomir to either join her or try to take her shard, so she could ambush them and gain theirs.

Side Note: How Much Dathomir is in Ghosts of Dathomir?

If you are a fan of Dathomir and the Nightsisters, this adventure may not have as much content as you were expecting. The crystal mass that produces the artifacts that put the story in motion aren’t tied to any Legends or canon lore on the Nightsisters or Dathomir. This mysterious mass could have sprung up on just about any planet.

Fans think of a lot of things that are synonymous with Dathomir. The Nightsisters with their energy bows. Zombies. Giant rancors. In this adventure, only the Nightbrothers show up, justified in that they are following a (former) Nightsister. There is a brief mention of negotiating with the local tribe to get them on the PCs side, but they have no statistics, and no Nightsister NPC is named or given any personality traits in this adventure.

The Force is My Ally

The floating factory cities of the mega-corporation are a great visual that could be used as a recurring theme in a campaign. The main villain has a great backstory, being tied to both the Nightsisters and the Inquisitors, and she is made more interesting by the fact that she is also on the run from the Empire. The Force power tree is a great inclusion for GMs to use with NPCs, or to dangle in front of PCs to tempt their moral fiber. The structure of having visions keyed to emotional weaknesses and dark or light side leanings is a great tool. Modular encounters are always good to drop into other adventures where appropriate. It wouldn’t take much to repurpose elements of this adventure for use in an Edge of the Empire game.

There are some useful tools in this adventure that might appeal to you if you are a Star Wars RPG completest, but if you are looking for a good Force and Destiny adventure, Chronicles of the Gatekeeper holds together better than this one, and if you are interested in the potential Dathomir lore, it is only superficially addressed in this adventure.
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I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing

While the motivation for some of the primary NPCs makes sense, the secondary NPCs in the adventure seem to exist just to move the plot forward. False leads that should just be given to the PCs, for them to accept or scrutinize, are handed out as part of their successes for some tasks. The clues that exist in the adventure to explain the backstory of what happened may never come together. The clues are very discreet from one another, and may not be obvious, meaning there could be a lot of wasted backstory in this adventure.

The actual plot structure feels a little rushed, especially at the end of Episode II and going into Episode III. Its linear, but the main villain just drops everything to do the next thing on her list because it’s time for the next episode. It’s clear that Dathomir, as a setting, is intended to be a selling point, but the climax of the story could have happened on almost any planet where the GM wanted to have the crystal mass show up.

Tenuous Recommendation—The product has positive aspects, but buyers may want to make sure the positive aspects align with their tastes before moving this up their list of what to purchase next.

There are some useful tools in this adventure that might appeal to you if you are a Star Wars RPG completest, but if you are looking for a good Force and Destiny adventure, Chronicles of the Gatekeeper holds together better than this one, and if you are interested in the potential Dathomir lore, it is only superficially addressed in this adventure.

The two main issues with the product are that it adheres to a much more “traditional” structure for designing an RPG adventure that doesn’t take advantage of the unique aspects of the FFG system, and that there are areas that were not developed in the space allowed, which may have made the overall adventure better. Specifically, the ISB agent hunting the main villain and the nearby village of Nightsisters needed more information to make them matter.

What did you think of the review? Agree? Disagree? Is there anything I might have missed? Please let me know in the comments. Additionally, feel free to let me know what kinds of reviews you would like to see in the future, and thanks for your time!

2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "Ghosts of Dathomir Review"

#1 Comment By Solomon Foster On November 28, 2017 @ 9:41 am

Disclaimer: I’ve not read this book, nor any of the FFG Star Wars line. (Though I’ve heard good things about them.)

The sort of adventure design you describe here always sets my teeth on edge because it is so linear. It seems to me a lot of the things you’re complaining about are just manifestations of this problem.

For instance, “Upon arriving at the estate, they can poke around for more clues to the greater context of what is going on. They are detected and fight the kidnappers in their attempt to recover their prize.” Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but this seems to assume there’s only the one approach for the players to take (sneak around) and it will always fail. (Eventually?) What if the players do significant investigation off site before sneaking in? What if they go in openly but in disguise? (Given Force powers, I’d think this has a fairly good chance of success right up until they meet the big bad.) What if they found the interested Hutt mentioned in the next section and temporarily allied themselves with him? What if they make a full frontal assault?

More broadly, it always seems kind of lame to me to design just assuming the PCs will screw up. (Or forcing it!) There is a sense where this is taking agency away from the players. Maybe they have a really brilliant plan to get in and out again! Or maybe they have a really terrible plan. Never mind, the result will be exactly the same in all practical ways.

#2 Comment By Jared Rascher On November 29, 2017 @ 4:55 pm

The adventure describes multiple approaches to the estate, physically, but the description doesn’t address many alternate possibilities. It is not linear in the sense that it tells you there is only one approach or instructs the GM that there should be a means of shutting down other approaches.

To use some other FFG Star Wars adventures as examples, The Jewel of Yavin presents some fairly detailed scenarios for accomplishing multiple objectives, but there are also notes about the main thing the PCs need to achieve in each scenario, and how if the PCs manage to do those things, they shouldn’t be funneled into one particular way of doing that particular thing.

In contrast, Onslaught on Arda I is more explicit than Ghosts of Dathomir, expressly calling at several points in the adventure that “let the PCs try X or Y, but Z will happen regardless.”

I mainly wanted to point this out to both affirm that FFG does put out good Star Wars products, but there are both pitfalls and triumphs (so to speak) across the various lines. I was left with the impression that with more space Ghosts of Dathomir may have touched on a lot of the extra material that might have made it more open-ended, but the hard 96-page limit may have been a detriment to detailing anything but the most obvious path.

On the other hand, there are a few places (searching for the shop, looking for the underground entrance in the final chapter) in the adventure where the space utilized for more traditional RPG adventure structure might have been better used cutting to the action, and detailing more personalities and options.