- "DarkStryder seemed to have a life of its own."
- ―Paul Sudlow, in the Behind the Scenes section of Endgame
The DarkStryder Campaign was a multi-book series released by West End Games for use with Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. Created by Bill Smith, Timothy Zahn, Eric S. Trautmann, Peter M. Schweighofer and Doug Shuler, the series spanned one boxed set and three additional supplements. The first installment, The DarkStryder Campaign, was released in July 1995, with the following three books—The Kathol Outback, The Kathol Rift, and Endgame—being released in February, May, and November 1996 respectively. A deluxe boxed set which included all four products in the series was released in April 1998. In addition, three blister packs for the Star Wars Miniatures Battles game were released containing miniatures based on several of the main characters.
Set during the early years of the New Republic era, the Campaign follows the adventures of the New Republic CR90 corvette FarStar on its mission to track down the rogue Imperial Moff, Kentor Sarne. Crewed by an assortment of New Republic personnel, civilians, and fringers, the FarStar travels through the largely unexplored sections of the Kathol sector, Kathol Outback, and Kathol Rift in search of the Moff. Sarne, in possession of exotic alien technology, had allied himself with a mysterious entity known as the DarkStryder, a living, insectoid bio-computer charged with safeguarding the last remnants of the Kathol, an ancient civilization virtually wiped out by a disaster. Along the way, the FarStar has to recruit allies, fight off pirate and Imperial threats, and survive the passage through the Kathol Rift, an unstable and highly dangerous area of space before finally facing Sarne and his forces on Kathol.
- 1 Development
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Main characters
- 4 Media
- 5 Effect on later continuity
- 6 Cover gallery
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 Notes and references
During a conversation between Bill Smith, who served as the line editor for West End Games' Star Wars products, and Daniel Scott Palter, the chief executive and publisher, the concept of a campaign boxed set was brought up. During the ensuing conversation, the idea was floated to combine "high-fantasy, gritty drama and space opera." One of the basic ideas was the setting of a planet where "magic" worked.
Following the initial conversation with Palter, Smith mentioned the project—tentatively entitled The FarStar Campaign—with Timothy Zahn, author of the Thrawn Trilogy. Zahn liked the idea, and in the following months discussed it several times with Smith. During this period, Eric S. Trautmann was involved in several freelance projects for West End Games, such as The Truce at Bakura Sourcebook and The Last Command Sourcebook, and was in contact with Smith on several occasions. During a telephone call between the pair, Smith mentioned the project to Trautmann, and revealed that they were having trouble finding a reasonable explanation for having a planet where magic was prevalent. Trautmann referred Smith to some of his early freelance work that he had penned for the Star Wars Gamemaster Handbook; specifically, an ancient alien race of "super-scientist" known as the Cthol, who had developed a device called the Codex for studying and quantifying the Force. By coincidence, Trautmann had just started an original Star Wars campaign with his friends that incorporated the Cthol, a planet filled with alien technology, and a haunted region of space known as Cthol Rift. Smith incorporated these ideas into the project, and at Trautmann's suggestion, it was renamed as The DarkStryder Campaign.
With Trautmann on board as part of the creative team, the structure of the campaign had to be settled on. It was decided that the Campaign would be of a fixed length, with a beginning, middle and end to the story. Initially, the Campaign was planned to stretch across six instalments but it was eventually reduced to four. One of the major departures from previous West End Games products was the notion that players would have to roleplay with pre-generated characters who had their own backgrounds and stories, rather than create a new character from scratch. However, the large cast of characters necessitated that the Campaign would have to support a multi-character aspect, with players controlling several characters, preferably one member of the main character cast, and one or two from the secondary character cast. This allowed for the inclusion of original characters into the Campaign.
Amongst the initial ideas for the Campaign was the inclusion of High Inquisitor Antinnis Tremayne as an adversary. However, this idea was rejected as the character of Kaiya Adrimetrum had been selected to command the FarStar, and both characters had originated in the same sourcebook, Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim. The decision was made early on to limit the effects of the DarkStryder technology to a single area of space to stop abuse in fan campaigns. A second ship, named the PaleShadow, was initially proposed but did not make it through the editing process. Finally, another element of Trautmann's work for the Gamemaster Handbook—that of a male Dark Jedi named Halbret in a hibernation trance—was extensively retooled into a female light-sided Jedi.
With the basis of the Campaign in place, the creative team faced their biggest hurdle—approval from Lucasfilm. They believed that several elements they had created would be frowned upon by the staff who approved every aspect of Star Wars licensing—ancient Old Republic battlefields and Jedi (which were traditionally "off-limits"), a new version of the Force in Ta-Ree magic, and even an extensive redesign of one of the film's most iconic vessels, the blockade runner. To the creative teams' surprise, however, Lucasfilm's approvers sanctioned the Campaign, greeting it with enthusiasm.
Launching the mission
Three months after completing the creative process, the Campaign ran into trouble. Paramount Pictures unveiled their latest series to the press; Star Trek: Voyager, the third spin-off of the Star Trek franchise. Despite both projects being developed independently and with no knowledge of the other, the concept of the show was similar enough to The DarkStryder Campaign to warrant last minute changes on the part of the West End Games creative team so that the Campaign would not appear to be a knock-off of a television show.
Originally, Dave Dorman had been contracted to provide the cover art for the boxed set, a picture that the creative team termed the "Memphis Belle" shot. Scheduling conflicts prevented Dorman from completing the work, and Stephen Crane brought in Christopher Moeller to provide the cover. Moeller's finished piece arrived just in time to see print.
Star Destroyers, length issues and journey's end
The cover for the first supplement, The Kathol Outback, was actually from the Hungarian edition of Dark Force Rising. It soon became apparent that the selection had a problem—the cover prominently featured an Imperial-class Star Destroyer, but no such vessel was featured in any of the adventures contained in the book. George Strayton rewrote his contribution, Galaxy's Edge to include a Star Destroyer.
For the second supplement, The Kathol Rift, the designers found that the book was too long, and were forced to cut the adventure A Cry For Help by Matt Maneely. The adventure could have focused on the character of Makezh and his acquisition of the Codex, but the discovery of the artifact had to be included in Josh Miller's Waystation adventure. However, the back cover of the book was published stating that the supplement contained six adventures rather than the five included.
Another potential problem was averted when it was realized that the original ideas for the DarkStryder and his minions were too close to the Shadows of the Babylon 5 universe. The creatures were subsequently redesigned by Tom O'Neill and Tim Bobko.
The main plot of the series was the mission of the New Republic CR90 corvette FarStar, a highly modified vessel that had been captured from Moff Kentor Sarne's forces during the liberation of the planet Kal'Shebbol. Although New Republic forces deposed the Moff, he was allowed to escape into the Kathol sector with the majority of his forces, and access to exotic new technology. Stretched too thin to launch a full operation to hunt down the Moff, a ragtag crew of New Republic officers, fringers and civilians is commissioned to track him down and neutralize any threat he may possess. The ship and its crew track the rogue Imperial warlord through the Kathol sector, the Kathol Outback and the Kathol Rift, finally facing the Moff and his ally, the DarkStryder (who is the originator of the exotic technology the Moff possesses) in the Battle of Kathol System.
A former resistance fighter from Siluria III, Kaiya Adrimetrum was a member of Page's Commandos during the Battle of Kal'Shebbol. Assigned to the FarStar mission as First Officer, Adrimetrum was forced to take command of the corvette after the unexpected capture of Captain Keleman Ciro during the Battle of Kolatill. Unsure of herself, and facing a mission of unknown duration, with little intelligence, supplies or reinforcements, Adrimetrum is forced to mould the ragtag personnel of the FarStar into an effective crew to stop Moff Sarne.
During the mission, Adrimetrum has to deal with planetary governments who are either apathetic or hostile to the New Republic, internal dissent among the crew, pirate and Imperial forces, and a myriad of booby traps installed in the FarStar by Moff Sarne, the ship's previous owner. Eventually, Adrimetrum leads the crew to Kathol, where a loose alliance is formed between the FarStar, local natives, and other allies to defeat Sarne and the DarkStryder.
Moff Kentor Sarne was the Imperial ruler of the Kathol sector. After discovering DarkStryder on a scouting mission early in his career, Sarne coveted the power that the creature wielded, and planned to take it for his own ends. Engineering a transfer to the Kathol sector, he began an association with DarkStryder, promising to supply it with hyperdrive technology in exchange for the exotic technology it held.
Following the death of Emperor Palpatine at the Battle of Endor, Sarne withdrew the Kathol sector from the Empire, setting himself up as a warlord. He ruled his territory for four years, until New Republic forces ousted him from the sector capital of Kal'Shebbol. Sarne retreated to Kathol, preparing his forces for an ultimate confrontation with a New Republic regional force. Sarne was killed during the Battle of Kathol System.
A bioconstruct, DarkStryder was a living supercomputer designed by the ancient Kathol to watch over the Lifewell, a repository for the life energies of the last of their kind. DarkStryder was meant to release the Kathol—known to it as the Precursors—but never did, craving power for itself. Developing the desire to leave the planet Kathol, it entered into a deal with Moff Kentor Sarne, supplying him with powerful technology in exchange for the secret of hyperdrive engines.
Over thousands of years, DarkStryder created—and subsequently enslaved—several species to do his bidding. He guarded the Lifewell, as the life energies contained within it were the power source for his technological constructions. Fearful of waking the "Sleeper"—a Jedi Knight known as Halbret—DarkStryder was eventually killed when the crew of the FarStar allied with several of his creations and stormed his fortress.
The DarkStryder Campaign
The boxset contained:
- A 96-page Campaign Book detailing the FarStar and her crew, and also includes the original story The Saga Begins by Timothy Zahn.
- A 96-page Adventure Book containing the adventures Omens, Artifact of Aaris, Death Is Remotely Possible, Shintel Downtime, Crisis, and Traitor in our Midst.
- Color recognition cards for characters and ships featured in the books to assist Gamemasters and players visually.
- A full-color poster of the modified corvette FarStar, with detailed deckplans on the reverse.
The supplement contained information on the worlds of the Kathol sector, and backstories on members of the FarStar's crew, its potential allies and enemies. The most detailed information was on the status of the corvette itself including deckplans, operating conditions, and history.
The Kathol Outback
Published in 1996, The Kathol Outback was the first supplement to The DarkStryder Campaign. The book contained background information on the area of space known as the Kathol Outback, and included the adventures Plant Food, Little Empires, Wildfire, The Masters of Exocron, and Galaxy's Edge.
The Kathol Rift
Published in 1996, The Kathol Rift was the second supplement, and third instalment, in the DarkStryder series. Containing information on the mysterious Kathol Rift, the book contained the adventures Harm's Way, Rogue Elements, Waystation, Home, and Showdown.
The final book in the DarkStryder series, Endgame was published in 1996. Unlike the multi-adventure format of the previous instalments, the book focuses solely on the FarStar's final battle with Moff Sarne.
The DarkStryder Campaign Deluxe
The DarkStryder Campaign, Deluxe was a boxed set containing all four DarkStryder roleplaying game products in a single package. Released in 1998, it was the last product produced by West End Games for the D6 line.
Miniature Battles blister packs
Three blister packs based on characters from The DarkStryder Campaign were released for use with Star Wars Miniatures Battles. The small models also had the benefit of being used as visual aids to the players during a DarkStryder adventure. The first pack included the characters of Kaiya Adrimetrum, Gorak Khzam, and Brophar Tofarain. The second pack contained Jessa Dajus, Ranna Gorjaye, and Darryn Thyte, while the third pack consisted of Loh'khar, Lofryyhn, and Kl'aal.
Effect on later continuity
Elements of The DarkStryder Campaign have found their way into later works, mainly through the works of Timothy Zahn, one of the original creators of the project. In his 1998 novel, Vision of the Future, Talon Karrde travels into the Kathol sector in search of Jorj Car'das, a former employer and friend. Zahn used locations established in the Campaign, including Pembric II, Dayark, and Exocron. He also referenced the characters of Crev Bombaasa and Horzao Darr, and the alien Aing-Tii were used a plot point in the later half of the novel. Bombaasa—sometimes misspelled as "Bombassa" would go on to appear in two of The New Jedi Order books, The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse, and The New Jedi Order: The Unifying Force, as well as an appearance in Star Wars Galaxies.
However, it is the Aing-Tii, a race of mysterious aliens with a unique perception of the Force, that have been referenced most in later Star Wars works, garnering mentions in The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial, Dark Nest I: The Joiner King, Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines, Legacy of the Force: Tempest, Legacy of the Force: Invincible, and Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. Indeed, the Aing-Tii's concept of flow-walking—the ability to witness past events from a neutral viewpoint—is a major plot point within The Joiner King, as well as assisting Jacen Solo in his decision to align himself with Sith. The Aing-Tii themselves finally appeared in the storyline of Fate of the Jedi: Omen, the second book of the Fate of the Jedi series.
Notes and references
- The DarkStryder Campaign
- The Kathol Outback
- The Kathol Rift
- Endgame—Behind the Scenes
- Galaxy's Edge
- Little Empires
- Rogue Elements
- shintel Downtime
- Listing of West End Games products and release dates The DarkStryder Campaign, Deluxe is listed as being released in April 1998
- West End games listing maintained at Waynesbooks.com Indicates that The DarkStryder Campaign, Deluxe was the last product released in the D6 line
- Star Wars Miniatures Battles