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.
‘Remember where we left off?’ asks Dave, drawing a round of incredulous stares.
‘Of course we do, ‘says Zeb. ‘We’re all sipping cocktails at a cantina after the big pay-off from Vizago.’
‘Nice try, roll for initiative.’
Into the action
The characters are immediately thrust into the action as last session ended on a cliff-hanger. Dave is delighted to see that his ploy worked – everyone is present (and on time for once). Obviously looming danger and the destruction of The Ghost is exactly what he needed to lure the party to the table. As the Inquisitor and his squadron close in on the Spectres, it seems that everyone has a job to do – except Sabine and Ezra. Dave uses the quiet scene to contrast the frenetic and desperate space battle outside and sets up the theme of forgiveness for this session.
As Ezra denies the Rodian forgiveness, Tseebo slips back into his ‘cyborg brain’ (Sabine is the first to point out that whenever Tseebo can’t handle a situation he switches back to his AI; we’ll see eerily similar behaviour from Ezra soon). As the scene winds down, Dave drags Sabine and Ezra back into the action and forces a choice – help save The Ghost, or disobey Hera’s orders and continue interrogating Tseebo. It’s a hard choice, made harder by the fact that Ezra wants to keep the Rodian at arms’ length. Dave also considers how Tseebo could be useful to the group and in activities ‘bordering on deus ex machina‘ (warns Zeb) fixes the hyperspace capacity of the ship – it’s debatable whether the action reinforces the perception of the cyborg Rodian as a ‘walking macguffin’ but it gives the group the first time this session to plan.
Dave has also made good use of cut scenes in this campaign, and continues to do so. D6 Star Wars is one of the few systems to use them, and despite a few fellow GMs shunning their use (claims of ‘player knowledge’ and the like), Dave firmly believes in their storytelling potential. At this point, he shows the Inquisitor back on the Star Destroyer stating ‘I still sense the Jedi and the Padawan within in my grasp‘. This will set the scene for a RotJ-like discussion in the cockpit soon (reminiscent of Luke’s ‘I’m endangering the mission‘ speech above Endor).
Fear and deus ex machina
Meanwhile, Ezra and Kanan continue their discussion from last session about attachment and openness, but (like Tseebo with his cyborg implant), Ezra removes himself from the situation with his helmet (‘don’t know, don’t care‘ he states). Hera picks up on this and promises an out-of-game discussion on masks over coffee afterwards.
For the second time tonight, Dave pushes the plot with Tseebo – this time by pointing out the tracker. It’s a little clumsy and all-too-convenient, but the solution to this complication rests completely with the players, so he side-steps any criticism of ‘rail roading’. In fact, when the party discusses the options, they all come up with the idea of laying a trap for the Inquisitor. Sabine pulls a copy of the Dark Horse comic ‘Purge‘ from her gaming folder and sums up the plot – a group of post-Order 66 Jedi band together to lure Darth Vader to his death. ‘How’s that work out, then?‘ asks Zeb. ‘Well, Vader’s still alive afterwards, isn’t he?‘ comes her retort.
‘In that case‘ reasons Kanan, ‘we need a location that we already know, and can plan around‘ – and the crazy plan is hatched. Aside from the point that no rules exist for detaching a shuttle in hyperspace (Dave says he’ll deal with rules and urges the players to keep planning), there is a plan in progress. It’s already been established that Ezra learns best under pressure, but Dave points out that he’ll not be simply dispensing Force powers for free – they need to come with some character growth and Ezra has a lot to work through right now.
It’s during this conversation that Hera makes another observation. The Fyrnocks are most powerful (and generate the most fear) when in the Dark, but when they are brought into the Light, their abilities are limited to the point of uselessness. Zeb, impressed by the insight, asks if Hera is actually a Jedi in disguise too (‘If you are then at least you didn’t pull out your lightsaber in the first session‘ he points out. Kanan throws a dice at him).
Showdown on Anaxis
Fort Anaxis is the crucible of the session. As Kanan confronts Ezra about his past and his fear, Ezra is forced to really examine character motivations. He originally designed the character as a Luke-like orphan and has been taking his cues from the original trilogy. This session, though, he needs to establish the character as an individual. When he confronts his fear, and the rest of the table watches the two Jedi in admiration, Dave not only confers Beast Speech, but also Receptive Telepathy, which enables the forgiveness scene with Tseebo. Everyone is now waiting in anticipation for ‘Round 2’ with the Inquisitor so Dave (of course) calls a break for pizza.
After dinner, the battle begins in earnest. The last time the party encountered the Inquisitor (‘Rise of the Old Masters‘) it was abundantly clear they were all outmatched – and nothing has changed. Despite having the Fyrnocks on side to deal with the Stormtroopers, it will be a hard-fought battle. With Kanan down, Dave indulges in a little exposition. The Inquisitor deftly points out the hopelessness of the situation (with echoes of Palpatine’s ‘and this will be the end of your insignificant Rebellion‘) and shows the Dark Side at its’ finest. The Dark Side exists in moments of desperation, loss, and fear and all of those emotions play across Ezra as he taps into the dark power to summon the Elder Fyrnock. Even the arrival of the beast is not enough to kill the Inquisitor and yet again Kanan and Ezra are left with escape as their victory.
On the nature of the Force
What follows begins as a Master/Padawan discussion but is interesting enough to have the entire party join in. Dave settles in to listen. Kanan told Ezra to ‘seek attachment’ in the last session and that generated a lot of furor and introspection on the role of Jedi in this era. Now, with Ezra doing ‘the wrong things for the right reasons‘ the idea of attachment rises again. Luke’s fall to the Dark Side in RotJ was due to his ‘faith in his friends‘ and Palpatine’s ability to play on his fear of losing them. Likewise, Anakin was manipulated (by the same NPC, no less) based on his fear of loss. It’s only natural that these themes will emerge given Ezra’s background. So, the party asks, when is attachment a positive motivation and when does it become a motivator for evil? during the conversation, it’s also pointed out the deficit in Kanan’s training syllabus, when he admits that he didn’t cover the Dark Side in Ezra’s training. The rest of the party doesn’t need to say anything, they just let him squirm under their amazed gazes. Kanan hastily promises ‘we’ll cover the Dark Side in downtime, okay?‘ Lastly, was the nature of Dave’s storytelling in the last scene – it almost felt that Ezra was ‘taken over’ or ‘possessed’ by the Force. whereas the players feel that The Ghost is another character at the table, now there is the sense that the Force plays a similar role. It calls to mind references in the movies about ‘the will of the Force‘ and the possibility of exploring it as a sentient entity. There’s lots for Dave to think about in the break.
The session ends though, on a relatively high note with Sabine (who also knows Photoshop, it appears) gifts Ezra the holo of his family. Dave frames up the scene and closes the game – until next year.
What did we learn?
- It’s okay to model a character on someone recognisable, in fact when you’re playing a game based on an established IP it’s inevitable that someone will have this type of character. However, there comes a time when you need to decide exactly who the character is and what differentiates them.
- The last session tied together the adversaries neatly, and this session continued the theme of consolidation by revisiting Fort Anaxis and the NPC of Fulcrum. By adding Fulcrum to the final session, Dave managed to reinvigorate the mystery and resisted the temptation to undertake a ‘big reveal’ (and it was tempting given that this is the last session for the year).
- He also resisted temptation in the ‘boss fight’. To have Kanan and Ezra defeat the Inquisitor would have dismissed all of the preparation in establishing this NPC as a credible threat. The game concludes for the year with no named NPC fatalities – and the story is better for it.
Dave and the crew will take a few weeks off over Christmas, but they all want to get back into the game as soon as possible after New Year. They don’t set a date now, but there will be emails.
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.