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 knows that the Christmas season is going to play havoc with gaming so designs a two-part game to leave the players wanting more in the new year. He’s already discussed the idea of blue-booking with the players and there is a general agreement to do this as they all head off on holidays.
The plot Dave has woven is based on a few ideas. Firstly, is the idea of the role of the Jedi in this time period and how they are distinct from their Clone Wars and Classic Era counterparts. In Dave’s mind, the Force is an evolving entity and is known differently at various points in the galaxy’s history. Whereas the Ghost has jokingly been called ‘the extra player at the table‘, Dave is convinced that the Force is too. Secondly, he wants to work with the idea of fear – each character has already exhibited fear (from Zeb’s reaction in ‘Droids in Distress‘, to Sabine’s fear of being left out of the conversation and planning) and he’s keen to allow this to move to the forefront. Thirdly, he’s introduced a range of Imperial NPCs on Lothal and he wants to tie them all together. The Rebels have been causing a lot of disruption on-planet and this needs to have consequences (see ‘Escalation Rules‘ in ‘What did we learn?‘ below). Lastly, he’s revisited a little Firefly (specifically ‘The Train Job‘) and caught Johnny Mnemonic as a late, late-night movie (Dave has a lot of trouble sleeping – maybe if he was nicer to his players…). The Gibson adaptation gave him an idea for an NPC but that is coming soon.
Also, Dave has printed off a range of Complication Cards (his own design) and wants to use them in this game. We’ll see how this turns out.
Jedi training and cowboy bars
Kanan starts the session by offering to work through a little training with Ezra. The latter has been reading ‘Tales of the Jedi’ and likes the idea of the Beast Speech power, but he’s already established that Ezra’s powers ‘kick in’ during times of stress. Obviously, a peaceful training session isn’t going to work and as Zeb laughs, Ezra blurts out ‘give me the lightsaber, I’ll make a connection!‘ Dave’s head snaps up and he makes a few notes. Also, when Kanan says ‘you have to attach‘ the whole party gasps.
Are you sanctioning attachment? Really? Did you not pay any attention to the Clone Wars-era Council?
Kanan takes a deep breath and begins to explain. The old Jedi, he notes, were removed from the Galaxy. They held themselves above and beyond the physical and emotional connections of the universe, lived apart from the people, and removed themselves from politics – apparently that was the will of the Force. This is the same Force that represents life. Now the Jedi order is gone. Kanan points out that in this time, he is strong because of his attachment to the crew – the word family is used a lot in this gaming group. Therefore, the Jedi of this time need to get involved, to ‘get their hands dirty‘ and be willing to be a part of life – because the Force is life. Honest connection and friendship is powerful.
Dave is impressed and the rest of the party nods along. The conversation ranges back and forth for a while and as it begins to wind down, Dave presses the TIE fighter sound effect on his laptop and he has everyone’s attention as they race for the bar.
In previous sessions, the GM has done a good job of creating memorable locations and tying them to the larger galaxy and the bar is no exception. It’s made from the body of a Republic Gunship and it has impact with the old group as they realise that in their last chronicle, these represented firepower and rescue – now it’s just part of the architecture.
The Imperials here are deliberately ‘bully-boys’ to tempt the players into action. They exercise a lot of restraint, but clearly notice the Rodian Sub-Plot, as Dave indulges in a little Imperial propoganda and the return of everyone’s favourite Senator-in-Exile. He intended to use these last two sessions to remind the PCs of all the NPCs (especially as he knows there is a long break coming up) so Gall Trayvis is an excellent choice. As the Ithorian quotes Imperial Law back at the TIE pilot, the team is also reminded of the droid pilot in ‘Droids in Distress‘ and realise that twisting the law is something that they might like to do too.
The ‘full planetary blockade‘ underscores the importance of the Rodian and Dave asks everyone to roll a D6 – the lowest roll gets a Complication Card. When Ezra comes up ‘1’ he gets the card ‘You must tie an NPC to your character backstory‘. After Sabine jokes that the Inquisitor should be his father, Ezra chooses to advance the plot and works on the Rodian idea instead.
This is a great opportunity to gather all of the ‘known Imperials’ in one spot, scare the players with a display of power, and give them a target too. As the Imperial March plays in the background (Dave has decreed it canon that this piece of music is actually the anthem of the Empire) and he describes all of the military might, the players eye each other nervously (except for Zeb who treats Imperial military parades as a catalogue for future purchases). The parade is attended by Commandant Aresko and Task Master Grint (from the local Academy), Agent Kallus of the ISB, Minister Maketh Tua, Baron Valen Rudor (who is still missing a TIE after Zeb an Ezra went shopping), and even the Inquisitor. The cream of Lothals’ Imperials are all in one spot. (As an aside, Dave shows pictures of each of the NPCs; Hera notes that Rudor looks like Buzz Lightyear and the name sticks).
Sabine begins to show how versatile her character really is. She had a spotlight in earlier sessions with her flair for explosive graffiti, knowledge of the Academy and Alien Languages, and now puts on a light show. Kanan gets to ad lib (‘all hail our glorious Empire!‘) and Ezra – who has vanished off-scene – asks if he can rejoin the party at this moment to help out Kanan. All seems to be going well.
And then the TIE Advanced explodes.
During the fight, Dave gives Zeb an interesting choice when Kallus comes out of the flames. As the Inquisitor approaches from another angle, he has a choice and takes the shot at the more powerful adversary, foregoing revenge (Dave throws him a Character Point by means of recognition).
As the team rolls a D6 for complication cards, both Hera and Zeb come up ‘1’. Hera gets ‘your escape is cut off‘ and promptly informs the party that she can’t go ahead with the extraction as planned. Zeb gets ‘your physical appearance or stature becomes a limiting factor‘ and decides that Ezra’s escape route is too narrow for his frame. He promises to catch up later (which is handy because he’s ducking out to collect pizza – ‘but go on without me‘ he says).
Hello, this is the Bridger residence…
The next scene is tense because of the sheer number of Imperials outside. As they escape to Ezra’s parents home, they locate the source of the manhunt (Ezra’s Complication Card) and Dave’s late-night fascination with Johnny Mnemonic.
The interaction with Tseebo is all about metaplot. The Imperials have a five-year plan for the Outer Rim which means the plan is to be completed by the beginning of Episode IV. As everyone yells ‘Death Star!‘ and Dave shuffles the ‘Death Star Technical Manual’ off his pile of books, they get a glimpse in the Rodians head. The mission is a little more difficult now, but the players feel that they have made very valuable progress. Sabine also shows further versatility with her Computer Ops and ‘fixing’ Tseebo’s cyberware.
Sabine meanwhile decides to get involved with Ezra’s backstory and swipes a datachip. Dave promises that if she works on it, he’ll sort out what is on it later.
Zeb returns with pizza so they take a break and bring him up to speed.
The rest of the evening turns into a rollicking chase and fight scene, peppered with more useful information from the Rodian that foreshadows the future plot (‘Imperial mass production of TIE fighters will begin in six weeks‘). Sabine shows off her piloting skills, Kanan gets into a fistfight and Force-throws people out of doors, Zebs’ choice earlier to shoot at the Inquisitor pays dividends as Dave gives him a clear shot at Kallus (‘Remember me!?‘), and Dave gets to finally call the group ‘Rebel scum‘ (he’s been saving that for a long time). As Kanan battles Kanan after Zeb shot the Inquisitor, the Lasat quips ‘what is this – swap mortal enemies day?‘.
The action is raised a level with the incoming Inquisitor and TIE escort – reminiscent of Vader in Episode IV – and the party begins to sweat. It’s at this time that Dave announces ‘and we’ll leave it there‘. The party is manic but he still leaves it on a cliffhanger (it might ensure the whole party shows up next week).
What did we learn?
- Dave’s Complication Cards worked, but only because of the player buy-in. He reflects that if the players had made superficial choices (instead of ones that advanced the plot) the cards would have been a disaster. He’s going to revise these over the next week and keep using them. Right now, they appear to be a good tool.
- Again, the focus on location served the story well. From the Gunship Bar (incidentally, this is what the players are calling it) to the parade location, to the final chase on the open highways, every location added something to the story. Dave’s decided to invest more time in building Lothal (although he really, really wants to use Anaxes again – maybe next session).
- Finishing on a cliffhanger does work. The players are incredibly invested at this point, and there will probably be a flurry of emails and telephone calls during the week to plan their escape. Dave is okay with this, it shows that they’re all interested. Also, it means that next session starts right in the action with the dice flying across the table – it will be a great start to their last game of the year.
- It’s worth having a ‘consolidation session’ every now and again, especially with a new campaign. There has been a lot to take in, from locations, to Imperial procedure, to the NPCs and Dave used this session well to tie it all together and remind the players who the key NPCs are.
- Lastly, Dave is working on what he calls Escalation Rules. His reasoning is built on the level of disruption the Rebels have caused on Lothal and how much attention they are likely to draw. The idea needs a lot of work, but it would be a points-based system. Every time the Rebels undertake an overt action (like blowing up a TIE Advanced) the Escalation Counter would increase. This would have an effect in-game, such as contacts going quiet, or certain prices going up, or even an increased Stromtrooper presence (perhaps even with more power over search-and-arrest). It’s an idea worth exploring in more detail – perhaps in the break he’ll pillage other gaming systems and see what he can find.
So, one more gaming session to go – see you next week.
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.