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’s luck has run out yet again. Hera and Kanan can’t make game night, but Ezra, Zeb, and Sabine are keen to go ahead. Dave had plans for both the Inquisitor and Kallus in this session and had also based the story around the Star Wars Adventure Journal module You’re in the Army Now!
However, the module isn’t very friendly for non-humans (Zeb) and then Sabine mentions that she is still working out her backstory involving the Empire. During the Droids in Distress session, she provided a cover for her interaction with an Imperial NPC details of being in the Imperial Academy and she likes this idea. Playing throuhg an adventure that explores Imperial training interests Sabine, but she’s not sure that she wants to use her own character.
Dave offers an alternate route for Zeb and Sabine – making an extra character for this session. They could play an Imperial Cadet for one night, and if the characters resonate with the story then they could become recurring NPCs, plot hooks, or even back-up characters. Zeb thinks it would be funny to make a character from the Kid Template after playing the brute, and Sabine is in.
Sabine makes up Zare Leonis, a young cadet who has lost his sister to the Empire (Dave raises his eyebrows with the unspoken question of ‘is Sabine the sister?‘ and receives both a negative and a pained expression from Sabine). He is an infiltrator with an agenda, and that will make him sympathetic to the rebellion (and the plot).
Zeb promptly rolls up Jai Kell and neatly tick the ‘Force Sensitive’ box, muttering something about showing Kanan how to play a Jedi (and stating that this will give the cowboy a herd of Padawans). Ezra and Sabine groan good-naturedly, knowing he is joking (maybe).
With characters completed, Dave sets the scene a couple of weeks into the mission to recover the decoder chip (no, Zeb, it’s not a decoder ring – he states firmly) that will reveal the location of a shipment of Kyber Crystals. As appropriate during the night, Zeb and Sabine will play their regular characters, but Dave is confident that both of them are up to it.
Setting the scene
In the first scene, Dave reuses Imperials the party has already seen – the barracks Commander and the Taskmaster Grint who were first encountered the party when they were stealing crates of contraband weapons and food (see ‘Spark of Rebellion’). Even though Zeb has nicknamed these NPCs Abbot and Costello, creating a connection to the original session is appreciated and gives Lothal some internal consistency.
The first scene also gives the entire party a chance to get into character (and even ham it up a little with enthusiastic cries of ‘sir, yes sir!‘) as they begin training to become Stormtroopers (Sabine asks if she should take a voluntary three-dice penalty on Blasters to fit in, much to the merriment of the group).
Dave also sets up situational action very early, breaking out the minis and mat. He’s designed a small subgame for tonight that is called ‘The Well‘ as a challenge to the characters. The reward is enticing enough that it will advance the plot and give the characters access to the Imperial command and the decoder
ring chip. Dave also takes the opportunity to set up an NPC rival (Oleg) so that it won’t be too easy. It also presents the idea that Stormtroopers aren’t trained in the manner as the Clones – it is every man for himself (Dave will come back to this point a few times).
Just when the team seems to be doing well, Dave adds a complication – electricity (‘The Empire has no use for weakness‘) and the players are forced to adapt. Ezra calls upon the Force repeatedly, despite Sabine’s advice, and Dave simply smiles and files it away for later (‘He is impressive, perhaps too impressive. Make a note of that‘ states the commander – echoing Vaders’ ‘impressive, most impressive‘ assessment of Luke on Bespin).
Very soon the players realise that Kallus is onsite, which further cements the idea of an interconnected universe, but presents a Mission Complication for Ezra (the other two smugly points out that Kallus doesn’t know their characters for this session). Whilst it is a surprise, it makes sense and means that the players are going to need to be very clever about how they handle the situation. Kallus has proven in the past to be very capable (Zeb wouldn’t mind using his cadet to get a little revenge for Droids in Distress, but dismisses the idea – if Kallus is going down, it will be done properly) and the party respects him as an adversary. He leads from the front, is highly analytical, and can fight. However, this adventure gives the group an interesting insight on Kallus in his natural environment. Dave realises this is a rare opportunity and so chooses to reinforce some of the ISB agents’ character traits.
The first attempt at stealing the chip is unsuccessful, which adds to the tension. There is a time limit on the mission which Dave put in place for a very good reason. The group is playing two character down and using alternate templates. This has to be a one-shot or he’ll need to finish the module next week with the possible complication of a whole party. As such, the in-game time limit makes sense, but also serves and out-of-game purpose.
The players manage to nab the decoder and the adventure seems to be over.
Except it isn’t.
This is the first time that the players realise that the Inquisitor and Kallus will be in the same place at the same time, and their target will be Zeb’s new character Jai. The twist makes the PCs consider the outcome of the this game. They are mindful that the cadets could be recurring characters; Sabine’s character Zare has already divulged that his sister went missing which provides a great plot hook. The presence of the Inquisitor provides a linkage (that will remain somewhat unexplored in this session).
However, what Dave has done is allowed the players to draw their own conclusions on how the Empire operates. Stormtroopers are trained to be individuals who will betray each other as required, the Imperial Academy reports any potential Force users to an Inquisitor, and this is considered and appropriate standard. Zeb is the first to ask ‘how many training facilities are there in the Empire? How many potential Force recruits could they identify?‘ It’s a chilling thought, and Dave uses the idea of the Black Ships in Warhammer 40K as a possible idea for use in the game. It’s not an idea the rest want to contemplate for long.
This provides another time limit on the session – the cadets need to be gone before the Inquisitor arrives.
This is the third time ‘The Well’ is used as a plot device and this time the players really need the prize. The idea of walking out in an Imperial vehicle is really appealing but of course there is one last complication. As the plan seems to be falling apart, Sabine makes a decision that sets up a future story. She declares that Zare will remain behind – he has adequate reason to do so (his sister) and it gives the Spectres ‘someone on the inside‘. Dave smiles in approval (there will be an extra Charaxcter Point for Sabine at the end of this).
As the cadets (minus Zare) flee the scene, all that is left is wrap-up. Dave leaves the group with one final scene as Zare is introduced to the Inquisitor – and it fades to black leaving a very nervous group.
What did we learn?
– Dave took a chance that paid off. He let the players design potential NPCs that could recur. Given Zeb and Sabine’s choices with Zare and Jai, Dave now has additional plot hooks and some reasons that the Spectres can get involved.
– He also wove the setting a little tighter in this session by reusing characters, finding a natural fit for four of them (the two Imperials, Kallus, and the Inquisitor) that showed the players that the Empire is a connected organisation. It also personalised Lothal; the players can now name key Imperials on this planet.
– Additionally, Dave followed ‘show, don’t tell‘ principles. Cadets were rewarded for betraying their classmates, the officers contacted the Inquisitor with information about Force sensitives – these points of information allow the players to draw their own conclusions.
Next week, Dave is hoping that his luck holds out. Sabine has a lot more ideas about her history, and Dave wants to weave those into a session. Also, he is worried about Hera and whether she is having fun. Perhaps a game which focuses on Sabine and Hera is in order?
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.