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 finished ‘Scoundrels‘ during the week and has some clear objectives for this session. The last session really focused on the notion of attachment and ‘togetherness’ expressed through a fairly harrowing experience. This time, Dave is keen to see what happens if he carefully drives a wedge (that’s wedge, not Wedge – maybe that’s a different cameo in a later session?) between the seams of the relationships that have formed during the campaign. With the theme ‘divide and conquer’ in mind, he calls the group to action.
Before Christmas, Dave did an excellent job of pulling together all of the locations and NPCs into a single session. He’s paid attention to the recent discussions around the table and Zeb has been keen to use Jho’s Cantina (‘no, not Joe‘ insists Zeb, ‘Jho!‘ – and only some of the players understand the Get Smart reference. Zeb mutters something about feeling old and goes back to spending his Character Points from last session), so that’s the first scene.
A diligent servant of in media res, he grabs the attention of Zeb, Ezra, and Kanan, and sets the Sabaac table against an unknown player. To add some tension to the scene, Dave announces at the beginning of the game that the Ghost is running low on food and fuel again. The group has, after all, not taken a paying job in a short while (although Zeb does point out that if they’d looted the Jedi Temple…)
Jho has already pointed the Spectres toward a patron trying to hire passage out of the system (the smuggler trying to hire a ship from a Jedi is a nice reversal, Dave) and the conversation and resulting Sabacc game entice the players. Things go from bad to worse as the pot increases and Zeb makes the choice to bet Chopper. The whole party looks for Dave’s response as Zeb tries to include a favourite GM-controlled character as collateral; once his shock recedes, Dave accepts the decision and moves on.
Zeb reveals his cards (‘a sure thing‘), Dave counters with an idiot’s array and a smooth rendition of ‘Calrissian, Lando Calrissian‘ and the players’ jaws drop. They’re hooked.
The ‘divide and conquer’ theme is working well from the outset, with Chopper now free to work for Calrissian and make his indignation well-known. As Sabine says ‘I want to see you explain this to Hera‘, the player of the Twi’lek narrows her eyes and scowls at Kanan.
Dave has often said that the currency of gaming is consequence, and he illustrates this with Lando’s comment ‘for some reason this planet has an unusually large Imperial presence‘ – which gives the party pause to consider that the blockade is an appropriate response to their recent actions. The game isn’t a sitcom where the world resets every session, but rather one where the ‘currency of conseque’ requires careful consideration.
Lando is the wedge between all of the character relationships, and Dave wields him with varying degrees of finesse. Here’s some examples:
- Referencing the job at hand, Lando notes ‘Kanan and I already reached an agreement but I see that he requires your approval‘ and then he mentions that he’ll be ‘returning your droid‘ so that the party doesn’t lose sight of the altercation that brought him on board.
- Even though Hera recognises his smooth-talking, Lando persists with an attempt at charming compliments (‘you’re quite the pilot‘)
- There is also the sense that Lando thinks that he’s much larger than his current situation and is not above interspersing his rhetoric with an expansive vocabulary and condescending comments (‘smuggler is such a small word. I’m a galactic entrepreneur. That means business person.‘)
- There is also an emerging relationship between Lando and Chopper; with the latter providing a level of service and dedication that is somewhat lacking in his usual demeanour.
- The smuggler attempts to find something that interests each crew member to engage with a personal conversation. Sabine proves the most receptive as Dave draws on notes from Sabines’ character. Lando’s comments of Ezra’s understanding of art (‘he’s just a child‘) echo the Force-test Sabine (from last week) a little too closely for Ezra’s liking.
Hera seems to be the only one at the table still in control of her actions as Calrissian has successfully put everyone else off-balance; Dave’s plan is working perfectly.
Hera needs to be taken out of her comfort zone if the sessions’ gambit is to work. During the meeting with Azmorigan, Lando attempts to trade Hera. At this stage, all the players are sat up in their chairs; Dave has their undivided attention. This is a precarious situation as it could easily devolve into a combat scene (shoot Azmorigan, shoot Lando, escape on the Ghost) but Hera forestalls the ‘roll for initiative’ response. She decides to take the risk and see where the scene takes her.
What follows is a single player challenge that removes Hera from all of her physical resources and relies instead on improvisation. It turns out for the best because Hera is up for the challenge and Dave is happy to flick a Character Point chip in her direction.
The next scene underscores how much of an impact the ‘Rebels’ have made on Lothal. Ezra and Zeb, suspicious of the cargo and guessing the resulting trouble from Imperial Customs, crack open the crate which is the catalyst for the rest of the scenes. Both players roll a few ‘1’s’ on the wild Die as they attempt to corral the puffer pig, and Dave simply stores these away to be used later in the scene.
Kanan is pushed into Hera’s role as the crew is literally divided by Lando’s cargo. Complications abound thanks to the earlier Wild Die mishaps, but the crew eventually land.
What follows is really a simple combat encounter and a chance for Chopper to prove his worth. Dave decides to alleviate some of the Ghost’s resource problems in this scene for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he realises that it’s been a good session, but the focus on getting paid has been lost slightly due to the prevailing theme of division and cohesion. Secondly, Chopper needs to prove his worth and remind the crew that he’s useful (and maybe get an apology for being used as a gambling chip). By using Chopper like this, Dave is able to give the crew relief and re-establish a bond with the droid.
As the crew finally leaves (realising they’re not being paid, but have the bragging rights of being owed a favour form, and having swindled Lando) Dave gives them a cut scene promising that Lando will be back.
What did we learn?
- Having a theme for the gaming session helps to determine scope, scene type, and possible outcomes. Dave’s idea to contrast the last session with this one worked quite well, but they were both about team work. He’s also noticed that the campaign to date has been very light, and his intent is to increase the darkness over the next few sessions. This is essentially a ‘feel good’ session that will be heavily contrasted soon.
- Dave is also doing a good job of tying in the local connections. Lando bought the land form Vizago (who we haven’t seen for a while, so it’s nice to hear about him again), the opening scene was in Jho’s and there is plenty of evidence that the party is changing the game world through their actions. The one trap that Dave could fall into is progressively making the universe smaller – something that Star Wars authors in the Expanded Universe have fallen prey to in the past. Temptation to tie everything together will always be present, but a good GM knows when to connect events, places, and people, and when those connection stretch credulity. An established world like Star Wars creates even more challenges, especially now that Dave is feeling really confident about using established NPCs.
- Dave also displayed ingenuity in the design of the puffer pig. So much of the Star wars universe is mechanised and it’s easy to forget the organic solutions. The pig then became not only a creative way to circumvent a challenge (and displayed Lando’s innovative side), but keeping a domesticated animal on board a starship creates others other challenges to be met (watch the Firefly episode with the horses again).
- Lastly, is the notion of purposeful design in encounters. Azmorigan felt like a ‘bolt on’ encounter designed only to show that Lando was a shifty guy. It’s realistic to believe that the Spectres will never see him again. Likewise, his sudden appearance at the end of the session was jarring. In some ways, it felt as though Dave saw the end of the trip with Lando as anti-climactic and wanted a quick injection of actin and dice-rolling to finish the night. Given how well-executed the rest of the session was, this didn’t appear as anything but a rushed decision.
Join Dave and the crew for the next session where the tone will slowly darken – a theme that will continue for a while.
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.