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.
Last week the Spectres had a chance to explore the Empire in more depth and reveal more of how it operates. In this session, Dave decides that a simple crate-collection adventure will act as the catalyst to further discussions and plot hooks about the nascent Rebellion.
During the week Dave and Hera had a chat about the game – she has been a little quiet but it turns out that doesn’t mean she hates the game. Rather, Hera is the tinkerer in the group. The Ghost is her ship and she wanted to spend a lot of time slowly building the ship using any resource at hand (hence her dedicated time with Dave’s D6 collection during games). Hera contributes well to the game, but is also very happy crafting the Ghost and giving it a bit of personality – she states to Dave that the Ghost has its’ own character sheet so it gets a chance to be part of the group too. Dave is relieved that she’s having fun, and jokingly points out that whilst the Ghost might have its’ own character sheet, it won’t be earning Character Points (or stars forbid, Force Points) any time soon.
However, Dave has noticed an undercurrent slowly flowing within the game – one of slight mistrust. During previous sessions, he’s been working on a range of ideas with Kanan (for his back story) and Hera (for the Ghost). Sometimes they have needed to ask questions in-game and have started doing so with notes. The notes are passed to Dave in the session and he’ll store them away for comment later. This means that players can write down ideas as they occur, but Dave then ‘parks’ the notes and replies by email during the week.
Whilst Zeb and Ezra don’t seem overly worried, this is getting on Sabine’s nerves. She regularly plays with another group during the week and back-stabbing and in-party fighting are common in that environment. She enjoys both games, but does so because of the contrast. She has mentioned it a couple of times to Hera (who has reassured Sabine but refused to share the contents of the notes). It’s not a huge issue, but it has the potential to be.
Dave is a clever lad – he’s spotted the dynamic at play and decides that tonight he’ll focus on mending fences. Everyone has made it along to the session and true to form, Dave opens with a combat scene that allows the players to get a feeling for Lothal’s terrain (those strange rock formations) and shoves Hera directly into the spotlight. There is plenty of action and excitement and Sabine earns an extra character point after suggesting some of the combat moves (like shooting at the rock formation to create the cloud of dust).
Upon their return, Dave plays the role of Chopper and harasses Ezra a little more. Ezra decides that it’s time to give the droid a little payback and this is the perfect backdrop to Zeb scoring a ‘1’ on the Wild Die during his Technical roll to assess the repairs needed on the Phantom. Dave simply smiles enigmatically and Zeb knows he’s not getting out of this situation with a ‘fleet’ of amorous local wildlife (as in ‘Rise of the Old Masters‘).
Sabine and Hera meet with Fulcrum and it’s clear this will turn into a two-person mission. There is a lot of speculation about Fulcrum’s identity as Hera came up with the idea during character creation and trusts Dave to turn it into a good story. She honestly doesn’t know who Fulcrum is, but that doesn’t stop the ideas flowing. As the party discusses the possible identity of Fulcrum (which ranges between everyone from Bail Organa, to an Imperial Agent, to even Asohka Tano), Dave remains quiet and takes notes. Some of his best plot ideas have actually come from the players and he keeps note-paper handy for just this type of speculative conversation. He hasn’t decided yet on fulcrum’s identity, merely that true to name, the contact will be the point on which a lot of the plot balances.
Before they leave, Dave asks Hera and Sabine for an exact list of their equipment, including weapons and spare ammunition. both players think it’s a little odd, but pass him a list.
Landing at Fort Anaxes
In previous sessions, Dave has done a great job of connecting the game to the larger universe. He wants this game to be different in tone and mood to his Clone Wars campaign and so he has studiously avoided lots of Clone Wars-era references (and has done a good job). This will be the most blatant reference (aside from Luminara), and the group recognises the Fort from the previous campaign.
As soon as Dave mentions Anaxes, Zeb goes through his game notes. Zeb has notes from every game he’s ever played in and whilst the others jokingly call it a compulsion, his records have saved them on more than one occasion. He soon finds the reference to a battle that their old characters narrowly missed – one where the Republic experienced a massive defeat. No-one ever followed up the reference and now years later Dave has brought it back into play (he’s feeling a little like Chris Claremont right now).
The attention to environment is not lost on the players. Even Zeb and Ezra – who are not in this scene – listen with interest to the description of floating asteroid-like rocks in the atmosphere, the destroyed Republic Gunships, and the sense of desolation.
Hera and Sabine collect the crates (Dave passes a note to Hera about one of the crate markings, drawing a frustrated glance from Sabine) but the move goes smoothly. Too smoothly. As Kanan notes that all is going well, Zeb taps his D6 (his Wild Die with the ‘1’ still face-up) with his pencil and raises an eyebrow. It’s not like Dave to leave a complication hanging.
The fyrnocks are introduced; Sabine and Hera note that in small numbers the creatures are challenging but not insurmountable – especially given their sensitivity to sunlight (Zeb compliments Dave on his balanced creature design and salutes him with a beverage).
The it all comes together – the floating rocks, the fyrnocks and finally the lack of fuel. As Kanan asks if Dave has been watching Pitch Black again, Sabine and Hera are worried. With Macgyver-like alacrity, Sabine starts asking about the left-overs at the Fort. Dave asks for a single D6 roll to see how useful the items left behind are and Sabine grins as she points to the ‘6’. Rhydonium it is then.
The plan to incinerate the fyrnocks goes well enough and most of the session is given over the the combat with the feral creatures. Dave pulls out the list of equipment, passes it back to the players and asks them to track ammunition. The worried tension increases (especially when a few shots go wild due to bad dice) and the players really have a sense that every shot counts.
As the Ghost pulls in to save the day, there is still plenty of action to go around. Zeb describes in detail his dramatic pose on the landing ramp, pumping shots into the fyrnocks, Ezra gets a little cocky, and Hera shows the group one of the upgrades she submitted to Dave (the electrified hull). After Zeb and Ezra get a dressing down (Zeb looks imploring at Hera whilst pointing at the ‘1’) the game winds down.
Sabine and Hera reach an understanding. Hera knows the other group that Sabine plays with and has never been tempted to join – she likes the friendship and teamwork in Dave’s game. She and Sabine talk after the game and Dave is quietly happy that things seem to be settled. In fact, he overhears the two players discussing that even though they are squared away out-of-game, perhaps that mistrust might be a useful tool in-game. He takes out the writing pad and makes a few more notes next to the ones on Fulcrum.
What did we learn?
- Every group has a different dynamic and Dave was clever enough to spot when the mood of his group changed. The GM does have a role as ‘social glue’ for the group and setting an adventure that asks two characters like Sabine and Hera to work together is sometimes a good remedy. The important note is to know what the group expects and deal with the unexpected.
- Speaking of notes, Dave does a good job mining his player discussions for story ideas. Some of the ideas are best left on the floor (Fulcrum as Asohka? No thank you) but when a GM incorporates player ideas it can create more buy-in. If in a later session, a player exalts ‘I knew it! I told yo back at the beginning!’, Dave can smile and let that player have a moment of glory.
- Lastly, the role of environment is one that can be overlooked in role-playing games. Dave created a great landscape that wasn’t simply ‘window-dressing’ but rather had an impact on the game. Just as Hoth presented challenges to the Rebels in Empire and remains a memorable location, so too will Anaxes stay with the players.
Next week, Dave decides to revisit the Empire. After watching the Firefly episode ‘Unification Day‘ he knows exactly what to do…
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.