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Archive for the ‘D6 Star Wars Rebels’ Category

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.

WARNING: If you have not watched the season finale of Rebels you might not want to read this article yet.  There are spoilers.  Go watch the episode now and then come back and read this; we’ll wait for you.

Crew of the GhostIt’s clear from the intelligence gathered in the last session that there is a time limit on Kanan’s rescue so the party needs a transport and a plan.  Luckily, they can get the first  from the Imperial starport.  After some light combat (Dave previous bad luck with the dice comes back in the scene and Sabine gets to make a lot of jokes about Stormtrooper accuracy at his expense).

Sabine is touched though that the Stormtroopers have nicknamed her ‘the artist’ and recognise her work (both artistic and explosive, although Sabine would argue there is no difference) – it means that she has achieved the underground notoriety she craves.

The Sovereign

The players are seriously considering their options to take down a Star Destroyer, or at least put it offline long enough to rescue Kanan.  The scope of the plan is far beyond their usual banter and they realise that this session has a large chance of failing.  The game will take an interesting turn if they’re all taken prisoner, but escaping from Mustafar isn’t really a story they want to explore.

Fire_Across_the_Galaxy_3Zeb and Ezra recall the TIE they hid a number of sessions back (the whole party knew they didn’t destroy it, but neither of the players would answer questions about the starfighter) and despite Zeb’s reservations they throw it into the mix.  What’s also obvious is that Ezra and Sabine have been talking about the location well before today, especially when Sabine pulls out a picture of a TIE from her character folder and shows the art off to the group.  Zeb stares in wide-eyed shock  at the colour and Dave tells Sabine she isn’t to touch his X-Wing models – ever.

Run!

Dave switches tactics this session to work with Kanan.  He’s focused on the physical dimension of capture, but as we’ve seen before, he’s adept at psychological scenes too.  As GM and player explore Kanan’s back-story the rest of the group realise the guilt that underlies the Jedi’s character.  As a young Padawan it would have been unbelievable for Kanan to have fought free of the Clone Troopers and their purge (and even more unbelievable to be the one person to escape Anakin’s attack on the Temple) so running made sense.  The sense of ‘what if?‘ pervades the scene and Kanan needs to reflect on what he has done with his masters’ sacrifice.  Also, given the Inquisitors deep knowledge of Depa Bilaba’s death one has to ask – was he there when she fell?  Did he see the young Kanan run, but was unable to cut him down?

Hit and run

Zeb clenches a pencil in his teeth and intones ‘I love it when a plan comes together!‘ Sabine’s ‘present’ works perfectly and the Rebels gain access to the Sovereign unchallenged.  They are on the clock, especially when Dave reveals Tarkin’s contingency plans (of course he had a plan) and reinforcements arrive.  What follows is a long-running combat and direct contravention of the first rule of gaming – don’t split the party.

Fire_Across_the_Galaxy_thumbDave has set up the final confrontation between light and dark to mirror Episode 1, complete with multiple levels, dual lightsabers, and a two-person Light-Side tag team.  He completes the scene dressing with ‘Duel of the Fates‘ playing softly in the background.  As Kanan uses the blaster-saber, effortlessly switching modes and splitting his Dice Pool, Ezra is impressed (‘I never thought of that‘).  The older Jedi displays a high degree of creativity and gives the Inquisitor a lot to think about during the duel.

Ezra joins the fray, and the Inquisitor’s arrogance is on display.  He knocks down both Jedi and throws Ezra off the walkway.  When Dave is asked for the damage roll, he replies ‘let’s do it later‘.  In doing so he removes Ezra from the scene and raises the tension – it’s very possible that Ezra is dead and from the look on Dave’s face and the handful of dice that clatter behind the screen hope looks in short supply.

The tension doesn’t last long, as Ezra is needed to reply to Hera but Kanan faces up to the scene and destroys the Inquisitor’s lightsaber (‘I saw that flaw when you first showed me the drawing‘ says Kanan, ‘and I’ve waited a long time to do this‘).  It seems that the Rebels will be taking down a Star Destroyer in the last game after all.

Fire_Across_the_Galaxy_36Dave tops it off with a cut-scene of Tarkin agreeing to evacuate (as this is obviously not his ‘moment of triumph‘) as a nice nod to A New Hope.

As the Rebels flee the scene (and Ezra’s dark humour comes into play) Dave adds tension by Choppers absence.  The players stare open-mouthed, and the seriously wonder if the droid’s mean streak has just reached new levels.  Painfully aware that their TIEs have no shields and hoping as they make 2D Hull rolls against incoming fire, the players are really worried.

Chopper arrives in almost Deus Ex Machina style with a new fleet, framed by the exploding Star Destroyer.

Rebels Revealed

It’s already been established that Hera doesn’t know who Fulcrum is and so she’ll be just as surprised as the rest of the players.  Dave builds to it with Bail Organa, and then reveals Asohka Tano as Fulcrum.

There are very mixed reactions to this at the table.  Some of the players are pleasantly surprised and like the idea, but others grimace.  This will take a bit of time for the players to think through, but it’s a good point on which to leave the first arc of the campaign.  Dave has used the first arc to really entice and motivate the players and allow them to explore a small region of the Outer Rim.  He’s built relationships and respect for the NPCs (even their adversaries), given a triumph to the group, and set up a wider stage for the second arc of the campaign.  With more resources, powerful allies, and a larger appreciation for the Rebellion the game has a lot of potential.

Vader_RebelsLeaving the session with the ominous breathing of everyone’s favourite Sith Lord foreshadows that the future of the campaign will include more challenges and a much higher threat level.  For now though, the Rebels have created system-wide unrest  and the impression that ‘the Empire is weak.’  That will do for now.

What did we learn?

  • Switching scenes to build tension.  During the escape on the Star Destroyer, Dave realised that he was running concurrent scenes and so hearkened back to Return of the Jedi for inspiration.  Just as the Rebels in RotJ were split between Endor, space, and the Throne Room, his players were in two locations.  He managed the scenes by allowing one to include some action and slowly build up, and then switched to the other group, repeating the process.  It meant that both groups were interested in the outcomes but they were still thinking and planning.  The fast-paced action continues, but the scene shifts.  It’s a good method to keep everyone engaged, but also give the sense of speed of plot.
  • Shrinking the universe.  This is a temptation in any game, but especially one which has an established history and lots of NPCs.  Often a storyteller will try to connect as many of the elements in the world together as possible and sometime the net result is that the setting feels smaller for it.  Revisiting the same stories, NPCs or locations can feel contrived.  When Fulcrum is revealed as Asohka, some of the party weren’t impressed.  They felt Dave had the opportunity to expand the universe with someone new and instead went back to the Clone Wars unnecessarily.  They also question the direction of the story now that both Asohka and Darth Vader will be recurring NPCs – there is unfinished business between these two NPCs that could overshadow the PCs efforts and shift the focus of the Rebellion story to one purely about the Force.  On the other hand, some of the party are really excited by the prospect of working with Asohka and what this means for the Rebellion.

Dave definitely has challenges ahead, but for now he’s taking a break.  The crew have mentioned a few other games they’d like to try and right now is a natural pause in the story.  So far the group is undecided (when someone mentioned Werewolf: the Apocalypse Zeb immediately quipped ‘you’ve heard about the Rebellion against the Wyrm!?‘ and then they spoke no more of it), but perhaps a return to Shadowrun, or something new (Sabine is very keen on running some L5R).

Either way, the group has a new permanent member and plenty of scope for good gaming.

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.

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Crew of the Ghost

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.

The gang is back at the table on time this week (see, cliff-hanger endings still work) and there has been a lot of planning involved. There isn’t too much table-talk at the beginning and everyone wants to start the night – and rescue Kanan.

Urban combat

Knowing is half the battle (thank you 1980’s G.I. Joe) and so the team needs to gather some intelligence on Kanan’s location. Tarkin has destroyed the Communications Tower, and whilst the crew of the Ghost don’t fully understand the ramifications of this action, they do know that information is hard to obtain.

Dave, however, has thought through the lack of Comms on Lothal and has some contingency planning for the Empire. His solutions actually open up plot opportunities, but we’ll get to them later.

For now, the team has found that every vehicle has a link back to the Imperial mainframe and there is a strong chance of hacking (Sabine’s speciality) so they head out into the streets and look for a patrol. After lots of Climbing/Jumping rolls (‘you still haven’t asked for that jet pack, have you?‘ ask Zeb, reminding Sabine of an outstanding request. ‘Bet one of them would have made all of this easier, right?‘), followed by plenty of Dodge rolls, the team turns up no data. The gamers waste no time emulating scenes from Return of the Jedi, and generally enjoying the scene – which seems a little at odds with the tone of this session but Dave lets the fun roll. It will get a lot darker later.

The Comms Tower situation is more desperate than they first suspected. This immediately raises the question – how is a bureaucracy as entrenched as the Empire functioning? This is the equivalent of removing the internet access of a multi-national corporation and the results have to be crippling. On the positive side, this could open up a lot of opportunity to bypass normal security because – as the crew rationalise – Lothal only has so many resources to dedicate to the current situation whilst also maintaining the production schedule set by Tarkin.

Hera collects the crew (with a cry of ‘Starfighter scale!‘ as she shoots AT-DPs) and they head home empty-handed.

Rebel_Resolve_thumbKanan and the cut-scenes

Dave has made use of the WEG suggestions for cut-scenes during the entire campaign to good effect. This session won’t be any different, but it will be to highlight Kanan’s plight. He spoke with Kanan before the session and explained that the Jedi won’t get a lot of ‘play time’ tonight. ‘Hey‘ replies Kanan, ‘I expected to be rolling up a new character tonight, so this is a win. I’m cool with watching this play out.

In the meantime Dave will use scenes of Kanan, the Inquisitor, and Tarkin to underscore the urgency of the mission at hand. This will be handled by descriptive narrative rather than dice, which is one way to portray the effects of the torture. It would lose a lot of impact if Dave simply asked for Strength rolls against 2D damage – rather, the descriptions of the electrical field and Kanan’s suffering are far more useful.

Hera’s Rebellion

It’s been clear from the start that Hera knows a lot more about the Rebellion than the rest of the group. She wrote this into her back-story and she and Dave have discussed the consequences of her responsibility. Dave is now coming to collect with Fulcrum’s directive to ‘focus on the mission’ and to leave Kanan behind [BK Note: think about this scene when Fulcrum is revealed next episode and wonder why this leader was willing to abandon Kanan to Tarkin. Does it make sense?].

Hera has always been driven by a higher duty and right now it is in direct conflict with her feelings of family. She has the strongest bond with Kanan and giving him up to torture and death doesn’t sit well – but there is a larger goal at stake. Jedi can afford to be aloof with attachment, but that doesn’t work for the rest of the galaxy. She uses the term ‘soldier‘ to disassociate the choice, but it simply feels wrong.

During this session, the crew realises how little they know about the Rebellion, and how this was a deliberate ploy on Hera’s part. Despite helping the Rebellion and furthering their goals, the Spectres really don’t know very much at all – and they start to wonder if they should.

Cikatro_Vizago_ResolveDeal with the Devaronian

The group is divided right now. Ezra refuses bluntly to leave Kanan behind and hatches a plan with the rest of the crew. He’s taken some of the discussions with Dave to heart, especially those about making choices that lead to good story. Inspired by these sentiments, he makes a deal with Vizago. In doing so, he agrees to owe an undescribed favour to a crime lord, and reveals his (and Kanan’s) true identities to someone who can profit from this information. Knowing Dave, this will come back to haunt Ezra in a later session.

Vizago’s response to ‘because Kanan is a Jedi‘ is a nice touch from Dave. It underscores that the Jedi are gone from the galaxy and people simply don’t believe anymore. When Vizago does understand (and believe) there is a touch of awe in his voice. He’s a professional so it doesn’t last long – but it was clearly there.

Aside from that, Ezra rolls a ‘1’ on the Wild Die during his Alien Cultures roll and clumsily fumbles his way through the encounter – but he’s learned something about Devaronian culture in the process.

At the end of the encounter, the Spectres have a solid lead. Dave’s been very thorough in planning the Empire’s response to the lack of comms. The elegant solution of the Messenger Droids makes a lot of sense and the planning begins anew.

Droid in distress?

With Chopper in disguise and the Ghost ‘flying casual’ the plan has begun. The Ghost is pushed to the limit and everyone (even the new droid) has a clear role to play. This is the type of work that shows that the players have created a team that are all willing to work as a single unit.

REB_IA_8215Droid acquisition is put on hold by Chopper (Dave has a little too much fun playing this NPC sometimes) and the information on Kanan’s position is revealed – Mustafar ‘where Jedi go to die‘.

On those words, Dave closes out an action-packed session and promises to wrap up his first campaign arc next week.

What did we learn?
This session reinforced two ideas, character vulnerability and good planning.

  • Ezra’s decision to bargain with Vizago was based on desperation, and the crime lord was unwilling to alter the terms of the bargain even after realising he was dealing with a Jedi. This made the decision extremely difficult (owing an unnamed favour) and also highlighted a key difference of this era. In the Old Republic, a Jedi might have been able to obtain assistance by only revealing their nature, but in the ‘Dark Times’ most of that respect has been lost.
    Ezra’s decision though is worth a Character Point chip because he has taken a risk that will lead to a story later on. Dave can easily take the favour and make this an interesting session in the future. The only question will be about how to use this story hook for maximum impact. Last session Kanan spoke to Ezra about ‘playing it safe’ rather than ‘playing like a hero’ and the words seem to resonate with the new player.
  • Internal consistency is one of Dave’s strong points in this campaign. There is a sense of interconnectedness to the setting which lends believability to the Empire especially. He has a good sense of cause and effect and (as the solution of the puffer pig a few sessions back proved) he’s inventive when thinking about non-standard responses to problems. The destruction of the Comms Tower (at Tarkin’s orders) cannot be portrayed as a crippling blow to Lothal’s operations – if it did derail the bureaucracy completely then Tarkin’s credibility as a ruthless planner is in jeopardy. A smooth back-up plan was essential, so it became very clear that Dave had this all planned well in advance (or at least it appears that way to the players, which is the sign of a good GM).
    Next session will be an attempt to rescue Kanan and a response to the players requests to know more about this ‘Rebellion’ that they have signed up for.

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.

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Crew of the Ghost

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.

Despite happily labelling the group ‘Rebels’, Dave realises that it has been a while since the group dedicated a session to what it meant to be a Rebel. In the last session, the characters saw the tangible evidence of Imperial response to their actions, and Lothals’ importance to the Empire has been slowly revealed.
The Outer Rim was selected as a the campaign setting because a remote location has story-telling advantages. Dave needed to think about the strategic value of the planet in the grand scale of the Empire, so that there was a reason for Imperial forces to actually want to hold onto Lothal. If it were a backwater planet with no resources or no strategic value then it would be reasonable for the Empire to withdraw from the planet based on simple return on investment – which doesn’t lead to an exciting story.

The characters have learned from Tseebo about the TIE Fighter production increases, they know about the natural resources of Lothal from Lando, they have encountered the Imperial Academy, destroyed a cutting edge new TIE Advanced, and also discovered a Jedi Temple. Simply put, Lothal is a deeply attractive asset for the Empire and a Rebel struggle here makes sense.

In this session, the Rebel cause will be in the foreground, and the depth of the Empire’s treachery revealed. Dave will shift the tone of the story dramatically, but it’s just the sort of displacement the Spectres need – one might even say that this will be a Call to Action (for next session, perhaps).

Ezra_vision_aftermathIntroduction
In a very different training session, Zeb and Chopper are behaving whilst helping Ezra. Dave, Kanan, and Ezra have refreshed their knowledge of the Lighsaber Combat Force Power and want to spend a little time mastering the deflection mechanics. Ezra’s mastered the activation rolls for the Power (he hasn’t been asking rules for a couple of sessions now, and sees this as a major achievement) but this one needs some work.
However, Dave has also been speaking to the group in downtime and has explained that Senator Trayvis is spreading the word. His manipulation of the HoloNet is admirable, and the Spectres can see a potential ally.
As Sabine joins the fray to ‘train’ Ezra, the Force intrudes on the lightsaber practice. The Force has been depicted in this game already as potentially sentient, and as the Vision unfolds Ezra latches onto some of the points, but only ‘from a certain point of view‘.

As the Senators transmission starts, Dave foreshadows the upcoming scenes, and will point this out later. Zeb will try and put him in a headlock, but he’ll point it out anyway. The transmission begins with Minister Tua talking about the impending capture of the Rebels and states ‘I have assurances from’ and is then cut off with the words ‘Senator Gall Trayvis‘ as the rogue transmission begins. If the statements are read as a complete sentence, then the first clue has been revealed.

The Transmission
The mysterious Fulcrum has already provided some intelligence about Trayvis’ standard operating procedure, which is relayed to the group. Hera has come to enjoy having the ‘secret NPC contact’ and Dave is using it (lightly) to steer perception. Even though Hera has stated clearly that she doesn’t want to know who Fulcrum is until everyone else, she still relishes the special access to someone who is obviously better connected than the crew of the Ghost.

Once the clues have been figured out, the Spectres are quick to admit that the riddle was a little easy. Kallus and the Inquisitor have both been portrayed as cunning and resourceful – it’s believable that either Imperial could also solve the puzzle.

Hera’s not the only one with a secret source as a trip to the Imperial Academy and a conversation with Zare proves. Whilst Zare is able to provide some information, Dave reminds the crew that NPCs need their own motivations too – in this case, Zare is leaving Lothal in the service of the Empire to look for his sister (remember that subplot?). In any case, Zare’s off-world transfer to Arkanis opens up storytelling potential, so we might see more of this recruit yet.

The scene ends with a hasty farewell, a chase, and the knowledge that ‘it’s a trap!‘ (as Sabine interjects). A small part of the Vision has come to pass.

Gall_TrayvisThe Senate Building
The Rebels realise that their advantage lies in guerilla tactics (this will be a continuing theme for the Rebellion – outgunned, outclassed, low on resources, but running the operation on hope).

Dave’s enjoying the NPC play tonight and Chopper has a distinctly vicious side that the others find mildly disturbing (but funny) as he throws a droid into the pit and then playfully attempts to decapitate Kanan with a sliding door. The odd playfulness in the group continues with banter in the sewers from Sabine (which Ezra turns around on her ‘Wait, you know what I smell like?‘, to general laughter around the table).

Sabine and Zeb take the high ground. As Zeb provides a boost, Sabine cracks open the rulebook to the Equipment chapter to source the price on a jet pack (‘yeah‘, says Zeb ‘you have Mandolorian armour and no jetpack. What were you thinking?‘). Sabine makes a note to talk to Dave afterwards about the jetpack and then gets on with the scene.

What follows is the meeting everyone wanted, and the trap everyone expected. Dice hit the table in a flurry and everyone gets a piece of the action. Dave rolls out the battle map and miniatures (including one Lamba-class shuttle from Dave’s Fantasy Flight X-Wing collection) are hastily arranged.

Dave keeps the tension high with the ageing Trayvis proving a burden, the advancing stormtroopers keep up the pressure, and a cut scene with stormtroopers welding the escape hatches shut all adds to the desperation.
The Senator keeps up a banter about the Lothal cell, and Dave scribbles down notes for later.

For now, though, it’s time for the reveal.

Hera passes her blaster to Trayvis and a note to Dave. The GM is about to open it when Hera tells him ‘Wait. I trusted you last week in the scene with Azmorigan. Time for you to trust me.‘ Intrigued, Dave files the note and continues the scene.

When Trayvis turns on the Rebels, Hera nods to the GM to open the note and a smile and salute passes between them. ‘Fair play‘ says Dave, grinning, and weaves the lack of power cell into the scene with good grace. The rest of the party cheers Hera for the move (and another Character Point chip goes her way). As a side note, this is the second session in a row that Hera gets to punch out a major NPC – it’s becoming a habit.

Vision_of_Hope_thumb.pngEscape
The Empire’s plan is revealed and it is a cunning plan indeed. A public figure that rallies the Rebellion and allows the Empire to ‘tag and release’ Rebel cells across the galaxy. the crew does question why the Empire doesn’t simply kill all the cells, but this is a long-term strategy. If Palpatine could create a plan to kill all of the Jedi in a single moment, perhaps there is an ‘Order 66‘ protocol for the Rebellion too. It’s just the Sword of Damocles approach one would expect from the Empire.

The fighting retreat is the back drop to a major blow to the Rebels – the loss of a possible ally, the loss of the battle, and the potential loss of hope.

Ezra reflects on his trust of the Force – it seems that in this session there are precious few things that can be trusted at face value. Whilst the session looks as though it will end on a low note, Hera reminds them all why they are Rebels – ‘we have hope; hope that things can get better – and they will‘.

Dave can think of no better way to end the session so he lets the words hang in the air.

What did we learn?
Tonight’s session gives GMs in any game some solid tips on location and NPC design.

  • Location matters. If you think about early D&D then White Plume Mountain, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and the Free City of Greyhawk are iconic locations. Star Wars has Coruscant, Hoth, Dagobah, Cloud City, and a host of other distinct locations that are used to effect. Dave has thought about Lothal’s place in the universe and very slowly revealed to the crew why this is an important asset for the Empire – in essence proving why it is worth fighting for. The trick here is not to tell the players all this information in a single piece of exposition but rather show the players actual examples of the worth and let them piece the puzzle together slowly. It’s far more rewarding, and the players might put forward ideas that aren’t in your GM notes (so steal with impunity).
  • The recurring NPCs all have subplots and motivations that continue even when the players aren’t there. The temptation is to portray NPCs as only active when they are ‘on stage’ – as unchanging adversaries waiting to be thwarted or killed. Even Zare has the subplot of his missing sister and now his transfer offworld – these two events make it believable that Zare is off having his own adventures whilst Ezra is adventuring.
    Dave also used a cut-scene after the chase – a conversation between Minister Tua and Kallus. The Empire is usually depicted as a single homogenous mass, so it makes for good story-telling to make the relationships of the major NPCs more nuanced. Tua has political apsirations, The Inquisitor has directions from Vader and a focus on Jedi, but Kallus (who has military command) believes that focusing on the Jedi alone is narrow-minded – the Rebels are the real threat. In some ways this is a microcosm of what we see in the movies, especially A New Hope, when Tarkin is focused on the Rebel Bases, whilst Vader is pre-occupied with hunting down Kenobi. The Force User/Military Command tension makes for interesting stories and Dave enjoys giving the group a small window into the believable operations of the Empire. These are good points to consider when designing (or using) a large scale organisation in any RPG.

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.

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Crew of the GhostThis 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.

The last session established Lothal’s importance to the Empire and the depth of tactical planning the Imperials have put in place to ensure the survival of the New Order. The characters watched as key figure of the Rebellion turned against them, and they were literally chased from the field of battle. Outmatched and outmanoeuvred, the players now plan how the Rebellion Strikes Back.

The players use the first few moments around the table to finalise Character Point expenditure. Kanan in particular has been saving up his points to spend on Force Powers. His rationale for the expenditure is that he remembers forgotten skills as he trains Ezra, and Dave is happy with that.

However, Dave has not yet built the air of desperation and oppression to the required peak – enter Grand Moff Tarkin. The presence of Tarkin, like Vader on the second Death Star is corrective action designed to create results based on fear. Dave models the cut-scene on the opening sequence in Return of the Jedi, from the music, to the parade formations and a conversation reminiscent of ‘you may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander‘. If Tarkin is on Lothal, and if Dave plays him effectively, then the players have every reason to be nervous.

The chase
The session opens with a chase led by Aresko and Grint. The group chuckles as they realise the identity of their pursuers (Sabine has taken to calling them Abbott and Costello) and there is a good-natured rivalry in the scene that belies the seriousness of the combat. The players are forced to think quickly in a close environment to defeat the speeder bike troopers, but the scene is wrapped up quickly so that the main focus of tonight can begin.

Trayvis
The currency of the realm is still consequence and the decisions from last session are turned into propaganda for the Empire. The transmission showing Trayvis returning to the fold and offering a bounty on the Lothal Rebels draws mixed reactions from the group. Sabine flips open the Star Wars core rulebook to the splash page with the bounties for Luke, Han, and Chewbacca. ‘Do we rate the same yet?‘ she asks. ‘Probably not, but Dave keeps telling us we need character goals‘ replies Zeb, grinning.

Capital_City_by_nightThe Plan
During the week, the crew has been emailing constantly trying to think of a plan for this session. they have already let Dave know that they intend to direct some of the action and the GM is really pleased to let them do so.

The players have realised that they need to get people on their side (Hera points out that if Robin Hood could get the local people to help him, they should do the same for Lothal. After all, a sympathetic local populace might give them just the right edge in the coming battle). All of the key elements are already in place – a communications tower, broadcasting equipment (care of the Bridger Transmissions), and the gear on the Ghost. It’s a crazy plan, but this is the group that played Shadowrun right before this campaign – they’ve survived crazier plans in the past. The players, buoyed by confidence, aren’t ready for the next cut-scene.

Aresko and Grint
Tarkin has established dominance over the regular Imperial NPCs and now his particular brand of order needs to be demonstrated. Dave runs a scene that allows Tarkin to examine the evidence of the Rebel cell, and then (without a word) orders the deaths of Aresko and Grint – NPCs who the players were only joking about half an hour before.

This is the first major NPC death of the campaign – even Trayvis was allowed to walk away. The players are a little shocked and saddened, but this speaks to the emotional connection that has been forged. Even Zeb admits he’d feel some sense of loss of Kallus was to perish. Tarkin throws down the gauntlet to the characters by vowing ‘we will make examples of them‘. Dave’s done well to portray the Imperials as an organised, thinking, and credible threat, but the threat level has been truly raised now.

Main_communications_tower_on_LothalThe Communications Tower
The team gathers intelligence about the site (just like the Legwork in Shadowrun, old lessons are at work here), but even that move is used against them. All that is needed is to work out the finer details.

Ezra is starting to get second thoughts about running with the plan. This is his first game and he’s become very attached to the character – the thought that he could lose his character – and by extension all of the back story and shared experience with the other players – has him worried. He’s already mentioned to Dave how hard it would be to roll up a new character and integrate it into the game. Kanan take shim aside and explains that risk and reward are what role-playing games are all about. The Star Wars RPG is all about heroics and fighting a battle that might easily be lost. It’s about having the courage to do what is right, and sacrifice if necessary. That’s what makes a role-playing game memorable. He points to the stories that Ezra’s heard about their previous games and that those stories wouldn’t be retold if they were about safety and security. Instead they’re about insane plans, great heroics, and a lot of luck. If you lose a character along the way, then make sure it’s doing something truly heroic.

To underscore his point, Sabine offers to lead the frontal assault on the Communications Tower on a speeder towing a fuel cell. When the laughter dies down, the crew realises that’s she’s serious and the assault begins. Zeb finds his true love ‘but I like this gun‘ and mentions how this is ‘just like on Battle Front!’ as he powers it up and shoots down anything that moves.

Everyone has a chance to shine as the Imperials arrive and the plan changes. Even Zeb changes his mind ‘yeah, I can get another gun‘.

Sacrifice
Kanan has mentioned to Dave that playing a Jedi is like playing a Knight in Dragonlance – at character creation you have an idea how you want your death scene to look. As he tells Ezra that he’ll ‘be right behind you‘, and ignites his lighsaber, Kanan visualises Obi-Wan’s death in A New Hope. It’s not a bad way to go out, he decides.

As the threat raises beyond what Kanan can deal with, he protects the party by destroying the turbolift controls and prepares to face the Inquisitor.

The table goes silent. No-one has a single joke to make, nor Star Wars quote to offer. Whether Kanan survives hinges on the next scene.

The earlier Character Point spend is working in Kanan’s favour as he holds a combat encounter against the Inquisitor, but then realises that the scene will not end with combat. Hera blasts her way into the scene, destroys an Imperial ship and rescues the crew. Kanan is clearly in trouble, but right now there is a tough choice to make – Kanan orders the Phantom to leave and Hera agrees, despite Ezra’s protests.

Call_to_Action_thumbAs the message of the Rebellion is broadcast the crew feels a certain sense of accomplishment which is crushed when Tarkin orders the destruction of the Communications Tower. As the gravity of the destruction sinks in, Tarkin tells Kanan ‘you do not know what it takes to win a war, but I do.

The session ends on a cliff-hanger with a defiant Kanan in restraining cuffs and the question remains: was it worth it?

What did we learn?

  • The last session left an impression on the players and when they saw that Trayvis walked unscathed from their encounter (and offered a bounty for their capture) this made the players want to strike back. It was a catalyst (a call) for action and a clear indication that the stakes would be raised for future sessions. Dave wanted to use the first arc of the campaign to establish the status quo and make the players comfortable with the locations and NPCs. He also wanted to slowly allow them to take more responsibility for the overall direction of every session, but that required a foundation. The gaming group all agrees that the foundation has been well-set and everyone know where they fit in the game.
  • Previous sessions had a distinct theme, and Dave returns to this idea. The theme is one of sacrifice and threat. Both sides made sacrifices to progress their agenda in this session and the final outcome still hangs in the balance. Kanan’s discussion with Ezra was timely, but in many ways the entire group needed a reminder of why they played. When Ezra noticed that everyone agreed, he understood a little more about the hobby – something that isn’t covered in the rulebooks.
  • Dave chose to make use of the infamous ‘To be continued’ approach to closing off the session. He did this a little while back when the group was consistently missing sessions or showing up late. Even though this hasn’t been a problem recently, the group is clamouring for the next session.

Sabine’s forgotten her note (yet again) to ask Dave about the jet pack, but we’ll see what happens next time.

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.

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Crew of the Ghost

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.

Idiots_Array_thumb.pngI need a fast ship

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.

Azmorigan‘Just go with it’

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.

Imperial entaglements

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.
  • Puffer_pigDave 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.

 

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