This is part of an ongoing series that examines each episode of Star Wars: Rebels as though it were a session of the West End Games D6 Star Wars: the Role-Playing Game. The game mechanics referenced in this series are drawn from the Second Edition of that game.
Dave has been very pleased with the feedback from the first game. The players seemed to enjoy the story and it gave them plenty of opportunities to explore their characters and the relationship between the Spectres. He’s also aware that the first game focused very heavily on Ezra, and he thinks it might be a good idea to shift the focus each gaming session. That way everyone gets a chance to deeply explore their character but not at the expense of the party. His players think it’s a good idea too, and he’ll co-ordinate by sending an email in advance and working with each person in advance to put a collaborative story outline together.
Zeb is the groups’ grognard. He’s played almost every game since the late 1980’s and can recall (at length) obscure facts and industry knowledge. He’s a nice guy, but the amount of knowledge in his head has scared off Ezra a bit. Zeb possesses an easy skill with role-playing, always seems to know the rules and is usually chatting with Dave about games no-one has ever heard of when the rest of the group arrives (I mean, who knew there was an Indiana Jones RPG? And what was Over the Edge about, anyway?). As the ‘newbie’, Ezra’s not sure how to best interact with Zeb and it shows in-game too.
Starting the game
Dave decides that he’ll re-use a few successful elements from the first game tonight but he’ll contrast the tone. Whereas last week was about exploration and a heist, this will be a morality play. The opening scene in media res, features a Star Destroyer in pursuit, and the reminder that the mood of the game is ‘down and out rebels against the Empire’. After the group escapes, Dave asks what supplies are running low, with the caveat that everyone has to pick a resource that means something. Fuel (from Hera), Ammo (from Sabine), and Food (from Ezra) start the list. Dave’s game is run that resources deplete as ‘dramatically appropriate‘ (his favourite phrase from SWD6) and his players trust him not to misuse this intent. Right now, though, it’s driving story.
The meeting with Vizago sets up the morality play. Han Solo and Chewbacca always refused to take jobs involving slaves (a topic that was also brought up in Firefly) and Dave wants to establish what the limits are for the group. Whilst gun-running makes a few of the party nervous, they agree that it is better than starving and ‘putting the Ghost in storage‘. It’s an interesting moral and ethical border and Dave files this one away for later.
As mentioned, the previous game the party played was Shadowrun (Fourth Edition, but Zeb was quick to point out the glory days of Second Edition) and a big part of that game was Leg Work. The party wants to use a similar system and uses judicious Computer Ops rolls and Investigation to find out as much as possible before getting on board the shuttle with the Imperials. They do well enough to form a plan that will separate the Imperials from their droids, and then allow Sabine to use her Alien Languages to great effect. Dave decides not to raise the obvious issue of Zeb (an alien) presenting Sabine (a human) as ‘my ward’ because all the other elements of the plan were well-thought-out (‘I love it when a plan comes together‘, says Kanan in his best A-Team voice).
The new highly urbanised planet Gurel is introduced as a clearly different planet to Lothal, but is obviously close by (the Rebels learn the T7s are to be sent to Lothal for mass manufacture), and here is where Zeb’s plot kicks in. Whilst Ezra is off spending Character Points again (this time on Climb/Jump rolls), and Hera is at the end of the table reading Dave’s copy of ‘Tramp Freighters‘ the party goes to work. Sabine has a scene to show that she knows more that ‘how to blow stuff up‘, Kanan stays to the background (he’s still mad at the ribbing he got for doing a ‘big reveal‘ at the end of the first module), and Zeb now starts to realise what is going on.
Zeb wanted to play a member of a dying race. Dave liked the idea (he very clearly stated that Zeb couldn’t be The Last, but rather One of The Last) and they have been playing around with the Story Factors for the Lasat. The T7 Ion Disruptors play to this very effectively, and also give Zeb a real reason to hate the Empire. The morality play deepens when these are revealed as the cargo. R2 will exacerbate the conversation as Dave throws in an offer from an unknown benefactor for the rifles. The party is now having grave doubts about the mission.
When the final confrontation occurs between Kallus and Zeb, Dave makes it personal. During their discussion about being One of the Last Lasat, Zeb asked if he could make the Magna Guard staff a ceremonial weapon. He liked the idea that you had to earn the right to wield it, and Dave suggested a Royal Guard idea. They mulled it over and decided that it would be called the Honour Guard, speaking to the character traits Zeb wanted to embody.
Kallus reveals that not only does he wield a Bo-Rifle from the Honour Guard he killed, but he also gave the order to use the T7s on the Lasat. A little over the top perhaps, but a smaller, personal battle erupts as Dave cues ‘Duel of the Fates‘ from ‘The Phantom Menace‘ soundtrack (and in many ways the battle between Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul is mirrored here with a larger conflict as the backdrop).
Dave’s also noticed the Ezra’s reticence to interact with Dave. He has allowed Ezra to select Force Powers based on in-game stressors, rather than committing to powers ta the character creation. It gives the character a more organic feel, and dovetails with the interplay of emotion and Force Powers. Dave will let Ezra pick a maximum of one Force Power per game, and it has to be linked to the story. As Ezra sees the drama between Kallus and Zeb unfold and selects Telekinesis from the book. As Ezra announces the use of a Force Point (he loves to spend any type of point in this game, doesn’t he?), Dave offers him a free Force Point to use instead. After all, Dave tells him, you’re afraid of losing Zeb, you’re angry at the Imperials, it only makes sense.
Kanan realises the danger but remains silent. Ezra think s about it, spots the key words, and understands that Dave is playing The Dark Side. He immediately rejects it, spends his Force Point and rolls Telekinesis. Zeb has a feeling that he’ll hear about this for a while.
At the end of this game, the party is happy to at least have some credits. They’ve explored at least one character back story and asked some questions of others (why does the explosives expert have Alien Languages and how does she know what a Level Five Imperial Academy Student does?). Kanan realises that Dave isn’t going to pull any punches with the Dark Side and makes Jedi training a priority.
The last thing Dave does is use the ‘cut scene’. He reveals the scene between Bail Organa and R2 and the party knows (out of character) that R2 was recording the whole time. What did they let slip? Dave grins from over his GM screen and waves his notebook dramatically.
What did they learn?
- As with character creation, there are other elements that can be left to discover during play. The system for Ezra’s Force Powers creates an emotional attachment to the acquisition of each power, and the development of the Lasat Story Factors was concurrently created and used during the game. In both examples, it makes the rules have an in-game effect that is immediately felt and demands a role-playing solution.
- Dave could potentially set up Bail Organa as the new Mr Johnson instead of Vizago. After all, Vizago left the party to die, trades in illegal weapons that were used for genocide and doesn’t seem too savoury. Bail would certainly represent a more heroic employer, but Dave leaves this dangling.
- It is possible to use named NPCs, but they need a purpose. Dave didn’t use Chewbacca last game when the Wookies were captured, but he did have C3PO and R2D2 stand in for this session. They were the links to Bail and further plot hooks so their use was acceptable. Also, 3PO moved the action along by calling the Imperials – the Spectres certainly won;t forget that in a hurry.
- Lastly, Dave is really struggling with Stormtroopers. Last week his dice let him down and they couldn’t hit anyone. Tonight he massed a decent number of adversaries and then baulked at using them to full effect. If the Stormtroopers are to be portrayed as the enforcers of a dictatorial regime, as the symbol of oppression, then Dave has a lot of work to do.
After the moral choices and heavy issues of this session, Dave wants to run a lighter game. He promises the team that next week they’ll have some downtime. There might even be some shopping.
Image Credits: All images have been sourced from Wookiepedia and remain the exclusive intellectual property of Disney. Their use as part of this series should not be construed as endorsement of this blog, or a challenge to their ownership of copyright for Star Wars Rebels.