Never Tell Me The Odds!

MEANWHILE, THE BACKSTORIES...

This is a collection of side adventures preparing us for just how we’ll steal a massive Hutt capital ship and live to tell the tale. These are adaptations and rationalizations of what happened in our prep adventure game.

MEANWHILE, IN AN CUSTOMS OFFICE ON THE BORDER OF CORPSEC SPACE

“Can’t say I expected to be called ‘SED-17’ again, Dua. Truthfully, I miss my old designation. Out here I’m Customs Droid 1494. ‘CD-1494’ doesn’t have that same ring to it. Ever since I was reassigned to Customs after the whole Stoytown dustup, bastards think they own me down to my name and serial number.”

CD-1494 inserts a small black square into what passes for a mouth. “I mean of course they own me, but the bureaucrats on Saclas even made me give up smoking. I tried to tell them it’s on account of my condition, but they wouldn’t have it. Anyway, what brings you out here? Guessing it isn’t just to hear about life in the CSA border patrol.”

Dua explains the plan and how the droid could help. CD-1494 lets out an electronic sigh.

“You organics. I’ll never understand the fascination with finding new ways to kill and cheat one another.” Dua opens her mouth to protest but CD-1494 silences her. “Stopping the worst criminals often means making deals with the rest. If your plan works, the Hutts’ operations in CorpSec suffer a huge setback and you strike a major blow to Black Sun in the process. I’ll help, for CorpSec’s sake.”

“The border is safer when the right mercs and smugglers know they can have their rivals stopped for a ‘routine inspection.’ One in particular, Sohva, has tipped me off many times, each time with a big payoff. If there’s one person that knows what’s happening with CorpSec’s mercenaries, it’s her. I don’t have a way you can reach her, but she works out of the Oubliette shadowport somewhere in-between CorpSec and Hutt space. Hand her this holonet disc and have her talk with me when you find her.”

(time passes – one fact missed. “The basics” and two facts remain)

A Hutt shadowport is hard to find even for a fringer like Dua. Thankfully this isn’t the first time she’s heard about Oubliette – an infochant on Nar Shaddaa mentioned it being somewhere “on one of those ‘Ord’ planets.” Some clever astrogation allows her to narrow it down to just one planet, Ord Vaxal.

Searching Ord Vaxal’s cantinas, clubs, and cartels leads to one false lead after another. Dua almost laughs when the last tip takes her to the ruins of an old penal colony on the planet’s northside. As the sun sets after a wasted day of searching, a curious light draws Dua’s attention.

A voice calls out of the darkness when she approaches. “Halt. Who wants in?”

Dua doesn’t miss a beat. “It’s me. Sovahn. I got separated from the crew coming back in. Now shut up and let me in.”

After a pause, the voice calls back. “Don’t move. Not even an iota, whoever you are.” After what seems like an eternity, a nearby decrepit door opens. Light pours out and five figures walk into the darkness. An older Dressellian approaches Dua and crosses her thick arms over faded military fatigues.

“Sovahn? Hmm, well I suppose it’s a pleasure to meet me, ‘Sovahn,’” she says with a sneer.

Works every time, Dua thinks as the crew leads her inside…

MEANWHILE, WITHIN A BRASS-PLATED NEBULON B SOMEWHERE JUST BEYOND CENTERPOINT

N’oos stands staring at Oskara from his pure white cleanroom behind protective glass, processing everything she has just said.

“I have a button here which ignites the interior of the ship. Seals the airlocks and within minutes, any organic particles are turned to ash and vacuumed away. You would just disappear, no one to remember your name…”

The Twi’lek stands still, unresponsive.

“But then I suppose you must know that. You knew and you came in here anyway to strike this deal, to tell me to my face that you had no intention of honoring our original deal. And this datafile you provided on Tantin and his entanglements with Laurena… it’s clear he’s in over his head. I knew he was ineffective, but I didn’t realize he was losing his grip on Centerpoint.”

The Trandoshan begins to slowly pace, lost in thought. “I suppose I can’t lose either way. If your plan works, I have a new Vigo who I can work with and trust, inasmuch as one can trust a Vigo. If it doesn’t, then Tantin or the Hutts will save me the trouble of killing you and I’m no worse for wear.”

“How’s this for a test of faith? Each Vigo has a secured holodisc for communicating with the Prince and the Council. Tantin must keep his somewhere in that secured compound of his in Hollowtown. I want you to clone it for me, so that I can listen in on his private little chats. Do that and I’ll sponsor you for the Council. You’ll have an audience with the Prince, and from then it’s on you.”

(time passes – one fact missed. “The basics” and two facts remain)

Tantin has only doubled-down on security for Laurena’s Hollowtown compound as he prepares for his war against the Hutts. After days of patient stalking and waiting, Oskara sees her opening when Laurena’s entourage leaves for the weekly Secretariats’ meeting. A quiet jetpacking leaves her on the roof and quickly allows her to enter the mostly-empty estate.

Finally, a bottle of Twi’lek T’ssalok is much heavier than it should otherwise be, and reveals the holodisc within a false bottom. After a quick clone (thanks again, Mathus) and a swig of the liquor and she’s back in flight…

MEANWHILE, IN THE BACK OF A MARKETPLACE STALL IN BATTLE-SCARRED THEED

Morgana Rust takes a casual sip of something fizzy before speaking. “Everyone still thinks you’re Gungan spies, you know. Although I suppose that you asking about Dr. Talcard more or less disproves that.”

Mathus frowns, confused.

“Oh, Talcard went missing not long ago,” Morgana replies. “Everyone said it was our favorite boogeyman, ‘the Gungan spies.’ I always thought that was garbage. The Gungans have all the heavy ordinance here in Theed so it doesn’t make any sense for you to come knocking on my door if you’re working for them.”

Morgana steps up and moves to a holonet display in the rear of her shop. “When the war broke out, a lot of my supply dried up. War shortages of course, but fear sent a lot of people running too. To put minds at ease, I worked out a deal with Mar T’quala who runs the local mercenary’s guild.”

She opens a drawer and tosses Mathus a small hexagonal surveillance tagger. “Deal is, I give Mar a steep discount on whatever he needs, I put trackers on my suppliers and have the fish take care of any trouble they run into. Worked well, until the topside war turned against us and Talcard went missing up there. He activated his tracker so far behind enemy lines that there was nothing Mar could do.”

(time passes – one fact missed. “The basics” and two facts remain)

Mathus emerges from the undertunnels into the dim streets of Theed at night. The threat, and smell, of the Andoan Gravedigger in the tunnels has long since passed, but the Gungans and Royalists alike remain too spooked to enter them. A quick glance at his tracker reveals the final signal to have come from the Royal Institute of Medical Study on Theed.

Dodging only a few patrols, Mathus enters the massive building. A crumbling, artillery-blasted exterior gives way to a research hospital that is mostly intact. His bioscanner leads him to a small room overlooking a medical suite. He ticks off the bioscanner – no need for a device to tell him what his eyes can plainly now see.

In the observation room below stands Dr. Talcard, a gaunt Arconan, working on some terminal. Keeping watch over him are two Aqualish guards, each armed with repeating blaster rifles. Mathus keeps watch from his suite for what seems like hours when he finally gets a moment of opportunity. A loud and distant clash outside signals the start of another ill-fated counter offensive on Theed, and the guards leave to investigate.

As he enters, Mathus makes the universal sign for silence and hands Talcard a datapad. On it simply “I’m a friend of Morgana’s. We need to leave right now. Nod silently if you understand.”

Talcard nods and then speaks in quiet urgency. “Mar can’t be trusted, Morgana has to — “ Another distant blast interrupts him.

“Doctor, please. We’ll talk later, but have to leave now. Quietly.” They begin their hasty retreat back to Theed’s undertunnels…

MEANWHILE, IN AN AUSTERE OFFICE IN THE BUSINESS DISTRICT OF CLOUD CITY

Desric explained the plan to Mil who responded by jumping straight into details. “Droid autohaulers? How many? You have schematics and specs? Let me see them.”

Mil finally spoke after minutes of silent study. “Yeah, okay, this is doable. Insane, mind you, but doable. One problem though, for both of us.”

A nearby display which came alive with a 3D projection of Cloud City, one of the industrial ports highlighted in a red border. “When the Empire came to Bespin I decided it was time to diversify Mikkar Construction’s holdings. I moved more and more business off-city. The new Baron Administrator took a dim view of that, thought it ‘sent a bad message’ about Cloud City’s renewed friendship with the Empire. Had my main construction rig impounded until I changed my mind.”

The display zooms in on the highlighted area. “Without my rig, Mikkar Construction doesn’t do much constructing. If the business isn’t running, no one will seriously consider my queries about autohaulers. I need my rig back, Desric.”

(time passes – all facts remain)

Sipping his hot makko, Desric turns back to the small group of tourists following him. "Now I’m sure the bazaar continues again right around here somewhere…" he says, trailing off. The tourists begin to grumble, annoyed and frustrated that their Cloud City tour veered off the central market and into what seemed to be an expansive impound.

Desric tunes out their complaints for a moment as he cases the facility. Maps showed the impound near the bazaar, but either he actually was lost or the Empire was so busy impounding that they were expanding into the central market. Peering through a gap in the perimeter, it was clearly the latter – he spies Mil’s rig amongst a huge number of impounded ships and vehicles. Cloud City was gradually becoming a floating prison.

The Stormtroopers outside the front entry approach Desric and his "tour group." to see what the commotion is. Desric springs into action. "Ah, perfect! We seem to be a bit detoured. Would you be kind enough to tell these good people about your jobs here while I arrange a lift back to the main drag?"

Desric begins walking away and faking a call as the Stormtroopers look at each in confusion. "Uhh, well, this is an E-11 Blaster Rifle…" he hears one telling the group as he enters the impound.

It doesn’t take long to find the massive construction rig, docked and with loading bay wide open. Desric dashes across the impound and approaches the ramp when he hears behind him “You! Stop right there!”

He pauses and turns to face his pursuer, an irritated Imperial officer. Thinking quickly, he tosses what remains of his hot makko at the officer and runs up the ramp. As he reaches the ship’s interior he risks one glance back at the officer. He lies motionless at the base of the ramp.

“Can’t believe that worked,” he mutters.

“That’s because it didn’t,” Oskara said, stepping out of the shadows. “You know how to fly this thing?” she asked.

“Nope, but it probably can’t be that hard” Desric says as he walks into the cockpit…

MEANWHILE, IN THE OMNIDROID REPURPOSING CENTRE DEEP WITHIN NAR SHADDAA

“I’m sorry sir, but our policy is clear: no refunds. Particularly for that one.”

Khron growls as the salesclerk pointed at 2-VOCO. “I’m selling, not returning. I have a hundred more that I want to offload.”

The clerk pipes up. “Oh! Well then you’ve come to the right place. The Omnidroid Repurposing Centre is Nar Shaddaa’s premiere retailer and servicer for taking your droids and restoring them for resale in new lines of work.”

“Are you really up to it? This droid recommends you, but if you ‘repurposed’ this thing then you have a broad definition of ‘purpose.’”

The salesperson blushes. “That one was notably difficult to repurpose, yes. I can assure you that we’re up to the task though. While I can’t name names, several Hutt kajidics rely on us for all their repurposing needs. But allow me to give you a tour of our repurposing process so you can see for yourself. Here, this way” he says, motioning to a nearby lift. Khron calls for 2-VOCO, busy chatting up a maintenance terminal, to come and follow him.

“bye bye” the terminal calls out flatly after his new friend.

(time passes – two facts missed. “The basics” and one fact remain)

The salesperson leads Khron and 2-VOCO along a catwalk overlooking their work facilities. “Finally, each droid comes to the reprogramming arrays. We do a complete wipe of each droid with over 1,300 — “ The salesperson trails off as he sees 2-VOCO descending a lift down to the workfloor.

“What is that doing” he asks.

Khron looks over the side of the walkway. “He’s waving. It looks like he recognizes someone?”

“Oh. Oh no. 2-VOCO is the reason those droids are still in reprogramming. Okay, everything is fine. Just, um, stay here. I need to go get security…” he says, walking hurriedly.

Finally, Khron thinks to himself, and clambers down to the main floor via some nearby ductwork. He paces up and down aisles of droids in mechanical harnesses, looking for the row and bin 2-VOCO provided of his “very best friend from the repurposing facility.”

Eventually he comes to it, a powered-down droid with a small “Droid Interface Terminal” next to it. Khron can hear the clanking of security droids as he frantically types into the terminal.

      <$: hello droid>

   <I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF BEING REPURPOSED AND CAN ONLY RESPOND TO BASIC COMMANDS. TIME TO COMPLETION: 4 WEEKS, 3 DAYS, 32 MINUTES>

      <$: help>

      <I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF BEING REPURPOSED AND CAN ONLY RESPOND TO BASIC COMMANDS. TIME TO COMPLETION: 4 WEEKS, 3 DAYS, 32 MINUTES>

      <$: commands>

      <I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF BEING REPURPOSED AND CAN ONLY RESPOND TO BASIC COMMANDS. TIME TO COMPLETION: 4 WEEKS, 3 DAYS, 31 MINUTES>

A nearby commotion sounds like some of the droids have found 2-VOCO. In his desperation, Khron tries one last thing.

      <$: 2-VOCO sent me. please help>

      <2-VOCO? ONE MOMENT.>

The terminal goes dark and begins to pour out smoke as the droid comes to life. “I am the Danjanti’s Custodial Operations Vocational Overseer, second-in-command, also known by my designation — “

Khron rolls his eyes.“COVO-2? Honestly? Anyway, we have to go.”

The two hurry to reunite with 2-VOCO and escape when they find him surrounded by battle droids with blasters drawn.

Khron draws his massive blaster rifle. “2-VOCO, you know these guys?”

“Khron! No, I cannot say that I’ve — “

“Works for me,” the Trandoshan says as he releases a hail of blaster fire…

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Episodes XVIII & XIX: Mistaken Identities

We join our heroes in Theed just as they discover they have only 86 seconds to search a massive datavault for just one tiny datacube of information…

Basic Math

The vault stretches out into a dark distance ahead of our heroes. A nearby guide gives them a diagram of it’s layout – 14 massive 7-story pits where each story leads into eight different corridors of datacubes.

Mathus and Dua stay put to scout the various terminals and relays near the entrance as Desric, Oskara, and Khron run off to examine the pits more closely. Oskara jetpacks into the nearest pit and quickly observes that each of those hallways contains 36 different datacubes. Assuming each hallways of each level of each pit contains the same number, this vault has over 28 thousand datacubes to sort through.

Mathus’ news isn’t much better. There’s a data access terminal beneath the countdown timer, but it’s secured and hardened with a feedback relay, a physical anti-tampering device specifically designed to provide painful electric feedback to anyone accessing the system without authorization. He could safely remove it if he had the full hour, but with the clock rapidly counting up he slices in regardless and hopes for the best.

Within he finds one of the most heavily fortified systems he’s interacted with, a system that is constantly pushing back in response to his intrusion. While finding the source of the overcounting proves difficult, he manages to slow all the computer networks down in the area to buy time for him and his friends. The close slows its advance, ticking upwards only once ever few seconds now, and what was 86 seconds becomes about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, Dua is furiously trying to make sense of a cryptic information terminal that’s nearby. It looks like the CSA spared every expense in building this facility, including purchasing a secondhand cataloguing system from the Huttese. Through a few nearby handwritten notes she’s able t switch the terminal from Huttese into a poor Basic translation.

The catalogue is capable of turning a subject of information into a catalogue entry and vice-versa. It completely lacks any means to turn those catalogue numbers into a location or map to find them unfortunately. With a bit of searching Dua is able to find the entry for the CSA border gravitometrics that they’ve been searching for endlessly, 6.07.15.22.

What follows is a frantic montage of searching. Mathus continues to hack the door mechanism to buy his friends more time. Oskara, Desric, and Khron frantically run the course of the vault trying to understand how this vault correlates to these confusing vault entries.

Through checking many entries back and forth with Dua, they are able to narrow down the right datacube’s location even though the cataloguing system remained a mystery. With less than a minute to go, they rush out of vault as Mathus jacks out and endures the shock of the feedback system, rushing back to the surface of Theed to make their way back.

Hutts don’t count in base-10 like the rest of the galaxy, they count in base 8. What looked like 6.07.15.22 was actually 6.7.13.18 – level 6, aisle 7, pit 13, cube 18. Kudos to our heroes for finding a clever workaround that didn’t require “solving” the puzzle per-se.

There’s not nearly enough self-congratulation in these recaps so let me fix that. I chose 6.07.15.22 deliberately to provide a few clues:
* 14 pits, 7 levels, 8 directions, 36 bins. Since the catalogue number has two numbers higher than 14, that’s an immediate clue that something is fishy
* All numbers in the cataloguing system a leading zero except for the first entry, hinting that it is the only one which can be represented by a single digit. If 7 levels can be represented by 1 digit and 8 hallways can’t, that’s another hint about base-8 numbering

Walking the Walker

Our heroes hear the unmistakable sound of battle above them as they narrowly escape the vault. They enter the streets of Theed and see several nearby Gungan squads along the riverfront exchanging fire with Royalists across the water.

With the Gungans distracted for now, our heroes sneak across an alley towards a nearby building to join the fray. Oskara grabs a tight hold of Khron and jetpacks to the roof while Desric, Mathus, and Dua enter the ground floor. Khron and Oskara creep along the rooftop to find an advantageous firing position as they see a Gungan walker enter the fight.

Jetpacks carrying two people was a little too good. For future reference, I now deliberately say that a jetpack for two can safely do a controlled descent or can take flight by overloading the engines and causing some major mechanical duress.

Mathus, Due, and Desric find a suitable position from which to fight on the first floor and give Khron the signal to let loose the gates of hell, or more specifically, his Plasma Missile. The missile only does minor damage to the Walker but nearly kills the two occupants and fills the open-topped walker with smoke. The smoke proves no obstacle for Oskara and she takes out one of the riders in the aftermath.

Mathus manages to punch through the comlink interference they’ve experienced since emerging from the undertunnels of Theed. By using the party’s comlinks he can triangulate the source of the interference to the Royal Palace and is able to temporarily cut through it. Dua gets on the line and discovers the Daredevils are the ones fighting the Gungans and are preparing to withdraw now that the walker’s arrived.

Dua desperately tries to convince them that victory is almost at hand and that they need to continue to fight. Unfortunately she does too good a job – inspired by her rhetoric, their Trandoshan friend emerges from cover and leads a charge towards the Gungan line.

Khron unleashes a hail of auto-fire barrage upon the Gungan walker. When the smoke clears the walker is stumbling and the two occupants are no longer moving, so Oskara seizes the opportunity to jetpack aboard. She lands pretty hard but it still able to wrest control of the walker’s weaponry

Surrounded and outgunned, the remaining Gungans lay down their weapons and surrender. As our heroes and the few surviving Daredevils gather to discuss their next steps, another dark impulse spreads from the jewel embedded in Desric’s hand and compels him to make an example of the Gungans to keep them in line. He pulls out a blaster and executes one in full sight of his friends, his allies, and the other now-terrified Gungan prisoners. The friendly Trandoshan is the only one impressed by Desric’s brutality and introduces himself as Mrash Blackscales.

Only took four sessions but the friendly Trandoshan finally gets a name. Congrats, Mrash.

A quick search of the Gungans reveals a few credits and a map indicating the location of the vault. Between the mysterious signal, the active resistance in the vault to Mathus’ hacking, and now this map, it’s clear that their mission in Theed is being actively opposed by someone. The party places the few surviving Gungans in binders and walks them back to the Royal Palace, leaving the damaged and nearly immobile walker behind.

Royal Pains

As they near the Palace, Mrash grows sheepish and uses the excuse of the Gungan prisoners to part ways. Clearly sensing something is amiss, the party nonetheless heads into the Palace since it is the most direct route back to their ship.

Inside they are confronted by a detachment of the Naboo Royal Guard led by Barrister Corvus Tull. He pronounces they are to be detained and taken to an “impromptu tribunal” for aiding the enemy in a time of war. The party, surprised, looks at one another as Mrash watches helplessly.

From nowhere Mathus produces a smokebomb and drops it at his feet. Our heroes dash out the way they came. In the confusion with smoke pouring out behind them, Dua breaks into hysterics about a fire and summoning nearby guards to help quell it. She manages to create a traffic jam of sorts between city guards rushing into the palace and Royal Guards rushing out.

They take the opportunity to head to the cliffside lifts down to the makeshift Free City of Theed in the starport below. The crowd has grown even more restless despite the late hour. Dua and Desric work the crowd to find out why – apparently the Royalists suffered a significant military defeat while our heroes were in the waterways below Theed. The crowd is increasingly frustrated by the Monarchy’s military failures as well as afraid of what the Gungans may do to with their newfound advantage.

The crowd is swarming towards the Palace and marketplaces so Dua leads them on the outskirts of the market. The timing is perfect as the city holoterminals come alive with a report from none other than Nola Alaris. She launches into an expose on the recent arrival of a band of mercenaries and how they must be tied to these military setbacks. With some annoyance she describes these five mercenaries (since her footage of them was destroyed by Mathus previously) but she nonetheless manages to describe our heroes in detail.

The party splits up with everyone making their own way back to the Triumphant Failure. Desric arrives first and learns the Starport Authority is suspending all off-planet travel. He launches into a tall tale about how these betrayers have likely already fled Theed and that he needs to hunt these traitors off-planet before its too late. With that same comlink interference at work, the Starport isn’t able to confirm any of this with the government but takes Desric at his word.

Our heroes reunite, board the Triumphant Failure, and make their way back to Centerpoint for their payoff…

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Episode XVII: Grave Expectations

We join our heroes beneath war-torn Theed on the edge of a underground cistern where something rotten stirs…

Characters

  • Oskara (Joey)
  • Khron Lyssk (Chris)
  • Mathus (Pilat)
  • Dua Neb (Hammer)
  • Desric (Kevin)
  • GM (sparker – why do I list myself? I’m always here.)

Maternal Instincts

The party pauses at the opening to a large underground cistern where they see an unsettling swirling in the waters ahead. Anticipating a fight, they take stock of their provisions and situation.

Oskara retreats back to the site of the booby-trapped grenade explosion to further investigate them. She can’t quite trace their origin, but she is able to tell the trap was set expertly. The line was set right at the waterline – perfect to avoid disturbing the local aquatic waterlife but still catch trespassers unawares. It was set somewhat recently, but further details remain unknown.

Our far-flung traveler Dua is able to recognize the abundant eggsacs in these tunnels. It looks it’s mating season for an “Andoan Gravedigger” – a large aquatic worm native to Ando. They’re known for being brutish creatures, particularly when their young are at risk.

Meanwhile, Desric uses a pair of scanner goggles to take a closer look at the cistern. There’s a sturdy grating high along one wall which looks to lead up and away. It’s clear this used to deposit fresh water into the cistern but stopped at some point in the last few years. Cutting into this tunnel will require either a decent explosion or some time with Mathus’ fusion cutter. Our heroes, none too eager to cross the cistern and face this Gravedigger, decide to sneak into the cistern and plant a grenade.

While others are better suited to stealth, the high odds of getting drawn into combat lead the group to send Khron wading into the cistern. He creeps along the walls, hoping to avoid attention from whatever horrors lie in the central depths of the cistern, until his makes his way to the grating. He sets the frag grenade, but in his hurry to escape the blast radius he attracts the attention of a few sickly Gravedigger hatchlings.

Khron stumbles away from the blast just in time. Parts of grating and stone go flying into the water, damaging the hatchlings and attracting the ire of the Gravedigger herself. In a flash the beast raises up from the brackish waters, revealing a gray-white elongated slug-like body. At its head are two long, slender tentacles on either side of several circles of gruesome teeth. The Gravedigger quickly encircles Khron with its hindquarters and puts him in a severe strangehold, suffocating him and crushing his armor. It looks down upon him hungrily, the teeth dripping a noxious mix of stale water and foul bile.

Khron squirms enough in the creature’s grasp to point his blaster in its general direction. A wild shot nonetheless lands a massive wound on the beast. He manages to sever the beast in two. Unfortunately, the half that has him strangled is now detached and floats down into the central depths of the cistern, dragging him with it. The rest of the party watches as the Trandoshan sinks below the surface.

Dua dives into the waters to help Khron as the other heroes contend with the wounded and angered animal. Oskara manages toss a frag grenade into the beast’s throat just as Mathus hits it hard with his shock gloves, deeply disorienting the foul beast. Desric fires wildly into the waters as the hatchlings enter the crazed melee.

With Dua’s help, Khron is able to finally climb to the surface, choking and sputtering. With his help, the party slays the foul beast and sends its broodlings fleeing.

This was probably our most exciting fight yet because of the strangling and incapacitating abilities of the Gravedigger. I should find more excuses to have my heroes fight bizarre monsters.

Data Banking

Our heroes resume their journey to the rendezvous point with the Daredevils. When they arrive to the rubble-strewn town square, the ragtag Daredevils are nowhere to be seen. Confused, they reach the friendly Trandoshan over the comlink.

Again, really wish I gave that guy a name. Always name your NPCs, Scott!

Turns out the Daredevils were demolished in today’s assault, and he recommends that everyone pulls back to the Royal Palace to regroup. So close to their vault goal, our heroes reject that offer but the Trandoshan continues to insist. Before they can find out why he’s so insistent, the comlink connection is abruptly jammed by a mysterious signal.

The party presses on through the wartorn streets of Theed with Oskara leading the way and Mathus scanning for signs of life as they approach. He finds nothing nearby but an increased level of activity as the periphery of his scanner’s range.

They find the vault, an imposing circular building in the middle of one of the many plazas of Theed. The building seems to have taken a coulpe of artillery hits in the fighting with chunks of missing roof but is otherwise largely intact. They cautiously walk inside and find a large lobby with a number of service terminals and meeting rooms for guests retrieving their data. A central stairwell leading downwards into a darkened recess with only a flickering of light. They follow the stairs downwards where they find a lonely R2 unit booping about in the silence.

I legitimately love plot holes. In this case, one of the players pointed out that someone trapped this R2 unit here because the only way in or out was stairs. Obviously that’s a GM oversight but at the table we had that serve as the cause for the unit’s rather angered and unhelpful demeanor. The plot hole led us towards a more interesting story as they often do.

The R2 keeps a lonesome watch over the receiving area for the private corporate vaults, scattered with a number of private booths and malfunctioning terminals. A massive central door leads to the main datavault but is inoperable without power. Mathus tried to communicate with the droid, but all he discern from the droid’s sharp beeps is some kind of “302 – Moved Permanently for Maintenance” message.

Another dark impulse comes over Desric as the sound of distant fighting and artillery draws near. He draws his blaster and shoots a few shots towards the R2 unit before backing it into a corner and coercing it into restoring power. It does so and the terminals within the room flicker back into life before the droid cowers in the corner silently.

While the power is restored to the vault door, the terminal still complains that there is still not enough power to operate the vault. Mathus removes the paneling and rewires the primary and secondary power supplies. Instead of providing an unlimited amount of standby power, he manages to get enough power for a brief period of full vault activity.

The terminal next to the vault door alights and indicates that the vault will open by either CTO-level “Code Indigo” CSA clearance or in the event of a maintenance emergency. The crew deceives the terminal into believing such an emergency exists and the vault door opens with an hour countdown timer for the maintenance operation.

As the group enters the vault though, they notice the display which is counting their hour in the vault is moving too quickly: 00:00, 00:01, 00:03, 00:06, 00:10, 00:15, etc. Dua quickly sees the pattern – the clock is incrementing seconds cumulatively — adding 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, and so on.

If that clock is correct then the door will shut permanently and their “hour” will end in only 86 seconds…

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Episode XVI: Into the Underworlds

We join our heroes just as they were caught on tape haggling over restricted military weapons by a journalist with her own agenda on Theed…

Characters

Frags, Lies, and Videotape

Oskara asks Nola Alaris what she wants in return for losing the incriminating recording of their black market dealings. Nola smiles. “I’m glad you asked. There’s plenty of resentment here in Theed against the Empire’s absence during the civil war, especially in Palpatine’s hometown. Obviously, most folks take a dim view of critiquing the Emperor on the record. I’d love for someone to finally give me some news reel at least obliquely critical of the Empire’s lack of response. How about it?”

Khron, Oskara, and Mathus are reluctant to end up on the wrong side of the Empire, but they’re not too keen on what it would take to avoid this interview right now either. They agree, and Nola begins an impromptu interview on the spot with her cam-droid hovering near to capture the footage. When our heroes don’t have anything terribly negative to say about the Empire, Nola grows annoyed, stops the recording, and coaches them on their lines.

As puppets for whatever message Nola wants to spread, they finally complete the interview. Khron and Oskara make friendly conversation with Nola to learn more about the city while Mathus skulks off for parts unknown. Oskara asks Nola what she’s heard about the tunnels beneath Theed. “Nothing but rumors really. Someone claimed some kind of demon dwells there and some have told tales of whole people swallowed alive by something in the darkness. Each story contradicts the last but for the smell. Everyone says it smells like rotting death, so that rings true to me. I’d talk to Captain Darend of the Daredevils if you want more than odors – legend has it he went in and survived to tell the tale. Fair warning though: he’s pretty nuts, so take with a grain of salt.”

While Nola is flattered to provide such assistance, Mathus begins remotely hacking into her cam-droid. He secretly inserts a program to erase all footage in the droid’s memory in 24 hours. His mind at ease about calling the Empire out publicly, he returns to the room just as Khron and Oskara try to get at her angle for being on Theed and publishing these kinds of stories. Unfortunately they fail to learn anything of note and instead Nola talks at length about the journalistic ideals of reporting truth as it is found.

Too often I make social checks high-stakes and binary, either “here’s exactly what you wanted to know” or “you learn nothing, goodbye.” This is particularly true with side characters. A failed Charm check means we leave Nola knowing that she’s a pretty shady journalist, but not much else. Missed opportunity.

Their business with Nola complete, the group returns to Morgana and starts shopping. Khron is eager to get his hands on the most serious explosives he can. A lengthy negotiation process sees him start by looking for a Flechette Launcher or missiles. Morgana talks about the difficulties of finding spare heavy ordinance in a warzone, especially for someone she doesn’t yet have a working trust with. When Khron disappointedly settles for Frag Grenades, Morgana’s heart opens and she hooks him up with a Plasma Missile as well.

Meanwhile, Oskara searches for restricted items far more subtle than heavy explosives. She buys a scanner tracker for tracking individuals and asks for some restricted pharmaceuticals as well. Morgana is a little hesitant to get her hands directly dirty with this, and instead gives Oskara the comlink channel of a “Dr. Talcard” who can help her out.

Outside, Oskara makes contact with this Dr. Talcard via comlink. He speaks tersely and asks surprisingly few questions when she asks for doses of neuroparalytic and neurotoxin. “How much? Mmmhmm. Delivery method? Injection, airborne, oral? Okay, I’ll have a runner meet you in, oh, two hours? Great, bye.”

Lon Distance Calling

With time to kill, the group makes their way to the lower levels of the Naboo Royal Palace to finally meet this “Lon” they have heard so much about. As they enter, Mathus is immediately distracted by the custom comlink headsets worn by the Naboo Royal Guard. He finds a secluded corner and studies them from afar – definitely some kind of custom manufacture job, nothing he’s familiar with. A basic comlink intercept on the Guards’ conversations shows the same rogue signal he saw from Mar’s mercenary camp.

In the main downstairs lobby, Oskara and Khron head towards a makeshift camp and staging area that they presume must belong to these “Daredevils” they have heard about. Khron spies a Trandoshan in the group and immediately chats him up about the company. This Trandoshan explains that the Daredevils are a volunteer regiment of the Naboo Royal Guard, thrillseeker combatants that take on the assignments from which “the Guards retreat and the mercenaries price themselves out of.” When the conversation turns to the tunnels below Theed, the Trandoshan cuts them off by turning around and shouting. “Hey, Darend! Lon! Yeah! They want to hear about the tunnels!”

I had names and backstories for so many different minor characters in Theed just in case they popped back up in our tale. Virtually none did, but of course I awkwardly lack a name for this Trandoshan in this session who comes back later. Thus begins the tale of “that friendly Trandoshan.”

The group of fighters parts as a shaggy-looking older human saunters through them. “Oh, you want to hear about the tunnels? You have certainly come to the right place, the place of heroes! Let ol’ Lon tell you a tale…”

The leader of the Daredevils begins a tall tale of his harrowing venture into the tunnels and his escape from “a great beast that lurks unseen below the deathly waters. I watched it snap a man in two right before my eyes! It was pure fortune, the gods smiling upon old Lon, that allowed me to escape from the tunnels that day with my sanity intact.”

Khron and Oskara, sensing the old man’s great pride, begin to lightly question Lon before issuing a challenge: head into the tunnels with our heroes in order to prove the legend of his greatness. Lon scratches his stubbly chin before laughing. “I’ll tell you real heroics. The Royals and the mercs, they play a game of entrenchment and cowering between the Gungans’ artillery strikes. Not so for the Daredevils. When the artillery lets loose, that’s the best time to advance! You come with us on our next deployment topside and we’ll show you how to breach the enemy lines. What say you to becoming a proper Daredevil?”

They meet the suggestion with little enthusiasm. Ultimately our heroes want the Daredevils to provide some kind of support in their journey to the CSA datavault. A back-and-forth of verbal brinksmanship ensues wherein Khron, Oskara, and Lon arrive on the following compromise: if our heroes will venture through the first leg of Theed’s underpassages alone “to prove their mettle,” the Daredevils will meet them topside and reinforce them on their journey into the city center.

“Sounds like a great plan – when are we going?” asks Khron. Lon replies “The next deployment is in a day or two. We never know exactly – we just get marching orders a few hours before its time to roll out. Never forget that the Gungans have spies everywhere. Those long ears hear everything, you know.”

At the mention of the Gungans, Oskara grows curious and turns back to the friendly Trandoshan. “I get why some of them are here. What stake does a Trandoshan have in a fight of humans and Gungans?” He furrows his brow as much as a Trandoshan is able. “Say what you want about rumors of the Queen’s pro-Imperial leanings, but there’s no Empire on Theed right now. What there is, however, is a large group of armed Gungans who would install a Gungan-only, species-ist government with little taste for compromise. So I’ll take the Royalists, thanks.” He turns to the rest of the Daredevils. “Besides, killing Gungans makes for great legends!” he shouts to the cheers of his comrades.

After borrowing a few flashlights from the Daredevil and indulging in a few more of Lon’s tall tales, the two reunite with Mathus and discuss what to do with the wait ahead of them. Mathus is growing increasingly curious about some of the signals he’s been seeing interfere on the comlink signals on Theed. The group agrees and decides to go track these down.

Little Ones

Mathus slowly leads them through central Theed, following the signal south back towards the makeshift starpoint. They come to a rather unassuming semi-abandoned warehouse. The building has only one obvious means of entry, an unlocked, nondescript metal door. Mathus enters cautiously, followed by Khron and Oskara.

The building’s interior is dark save for a lone light in the center that shines above a holonet terminal’s soft blue holding screen. A friendly male voice comes over some kind of PA system. “Ah, you’re here! I’ll let our host know and he will be in touch with you shortly. Please wait a moment – I can assure you that you are completely safe within these walls and are free to leave at any time.”

After a half-hour’s bored waiting, the terminal comes to life with the blue glow of a massive Hutt staring back at them. A flat female voice begins to speak. “Welcome into the presence of the Great Receiver of the Besadii, the Foremost -“

A deep, billowy voice interrupts her. “Oh, enough! They know they speak to the the one and only Mohsh Besadii Gyoonta!” the Hutt chortles. “Please, step closer. Good. Now tell me, Oskara, Mathus, Khron – why are you here, little ones?”

Oskara searches her mind for any helpful information about the Besadii Clan. She comes up with a few uncertain facts: that Besadii are deep in debt to Black Sun, that Besadii are the ruling clan of the Hutts, and that Mohsh is the “spokesperson” of the Besadii clan. One of these is probably wrong, but she’s not sure which.

The group trades a few uncertain glances before telling Mohsh the full story of their task. Again, Mohsh chortles. “Oh, little ones. I am joyed that we begin our relationship in a place of trust, with you being so sharing. Allow Mohsh to reciprocate. I come to you with a simple proposal, one that would see you become peacemakers rather than warmongers. It is simple: when you reach this archive that you seek, simply destroy it. Do not take the contents back to your Tantin, nor anyone else. Fail in your task; eradicate these records.”

The group considers this as Mohsh continues. “I know that your names are being brought before the Matraad Desilijic. In your tongue I believe this is roughly The Judgement of the Desilijic clan. Should you be added to this list, then you are already dead. The Matraad’s sole purpose is to find and execute those on his list, and the 273 holoprojectors lining the pathway to his palace attests to his dedication. Each one depicts someone from the list in their last moments: some pleading, some defiant, but all dying.”

Overcoming the Hutt’s bizarre charm, Oskara is the first to speak up. “How can you betray Tantin this way? Aren’t you in debt to him?”

Mohsh bristles, an unpleasant sight from a Hutt. “It is true the Besadii Clan owes a debt to Black Sun, but let me explain the nature of a bargain. Presume one man buys a crate of spice from a spice dealer. Their agreement made and items exchanged, the deal is complete. If the other man sells information about that spice dealer, or hands that spice over to the dealer’s rival, has this changed the nature of the original bargain? No. So it is between Besadii and Black Sun. We repay our debts, but we profit in the repaying.”

Oskara continues. “Aren’t the Desilijic your sworn enemies?”

“It is true that I bear no great fondness for Jabba and his Desilijics. However, a war between Black Sun and Desilijic would put Clan Besadii in a… delicate and difficult position. This is where your Tantin’s actions are leading.”

Oskara begins to see a cold logic in the Hutt’s ways, and inquires about the possibility of work he might have for our heroes. Mohsh’s serious tone disappears in another chortle. “Little ones, you delight me! If we can establish a framework of trust between us in this request, I am certain our clandestine efforts could use some such as you and your friends.”

Khron cuts in now. “Won’t Tantin be angered if he found out about this conversation?”

“The anger at one little Vigo against the Hutt Empire is as nothing, little ones. Ultimately that anger would be at himself for his inability to bargain. Besides, you must ask yourself how he’d react to you as well.”

Mathus, silent until now, speaks up. “So how is it that you know so much about us? How can you be so sure?”

Mohsh sighs amusedly. “What you ask is impossible. Explaining my actions to you is as explaining the workings of hyperspace to a gundark. A gundark knows nothing of that reality – he sees only comings and goings. So are you to the Hutts, little ones.”

The party is clearly dissatisfied with this answer. Mohsh finally relents. “Ha, oh, very well. Your friend Tantin is a fool. A charming, vicious fool, but a fool nonetheless who is careless in many things. ‘I need a way into Stoyer-Pavaad’ he says to Mohsh. Mohsh provides Nash and a droid, SED-something-or-other, and Tantin makes no stipulations about what they do or say afterwards. ‘I need to know about the archives on Theed,’ Tantin says to Mohsh. He says nothing of this information’s value to third parties. Mohsh is simply one who makes the most of an opportunity.”

A vague niggling concern eats at our party about some of these disclosures, but they continue. “How sure are you that you could remove this Matraad Desilijic from our trails?”

Mohsh smiles thinly. “What Mohsh has helped create, he can help unmake.”

At this statement, the party connects the pieces of this conversation. The transcript provided by Merriweather included information that only someone who boarded their ship at Stoyer-Pavaad could have known. This must have been the information that Mohsh mentioned. Mohsh indirectly helped put the Matraad Desilijic onto our heroes, and now he is offering a bargain to help them undo that.

Expletives were traded at the table. As a GM, I am proud of that moment.

“So what say you, little ones? Mohsh enjoys your company certainly, but I have more to do on this fine day than chat with a blue thing, a tentacled beast, and -“

Mohsh’s broadcast is cut off midsentence when Oskara draws her blaster rifle and shoots it. The original voice on the building’s PA system sighs audibly, then disconnects. Our heroes are left in the silent darkness of the warehouse. For a moment, Mathus considers taking what he can from this place to trace it back to Mohsh and his mysterious helper. The group instead decides that discretion is the better course of action and leaves without touching a single thing.

Mohsh was a delight to play despite the damage a Hutt impression does to my vocal cords. At this point I’ve learned to convert most in-character conversations that run long to dialogue montages, but the group seemed to be enjoying this one.

Depths Charge

The group is suddenly wearied of its seemingly endless quest to find this data and get their long-imagined payoff. They retire to their ship to await news of the next deployment from Lon.

They don’t wait long – at midday the following day, the friendly Trandoshan calls their ship and notifies them that in 90 minutes’ time they they move out. Our heroes gather their things and head towards the cutbacks up Theed’s cliffside leading to the tunnels below the city.

While the entries to the underpassages of Theed have been barred and locked, it is simple enough to bypass them. Within moments our heroes are up to their knees in stale, brackish water. The smell of the water and throughout the tunnels is exactly as advertised: rotting death. Undeterred, Khron and Oskara activate their flashlights and the trio heads into the tunnels.

Thanks to the map that Dua, Desric, and Oskara lifted from Mar T’quala’s mercenary camp, they have no problems navigating the decrepit waterways. A number of winding paths lead towards their destination, but they all converge at a single point – a central cistern-like opening. The party accidentally springs a trap as these tunnels converge on a chokepoint. A makeshift tripwire right at the water’s surface was too hard to see. When the connected frag grenade detonates, Khron and Mathus are left somewhat unscathed while Oskara takes much of the blast’s brunt.

Who put this there? We never found out at the table. A mystery for another time.

After some time to recover, the party continues forward much more cautiously, on the lookout for any other such traps. The find something far safer yet more unsettling that booby-traps. While the water is stagnant and still with its inflows and outflows both blocked off, occasionally a trickle of water still finds its way into the tunnels and trickles down the walls. Each time it does, a mass of semi-translucent gray egg sacs trace that trickle up the wall. Oskara pokes tentatively at one with a knife’s edge and a gray fluid pours out and collapses whatever formerly-incubating life was in there. Something has caused all these eggs to be rotten and unhealthy.

As Mathus carefully approaches the cistern, his infravision allows him to just make out something stirring in the waters…

Epilogue

How will Mohsh react to their blaster-based counter-offer? What is stirring in the waters ahead? Who put that trap in the tunnels below Theed? Answers to one of these questions in the next session!

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Episode XV: Theed Divided

We join our heroes at a seedy bar in Centerpoint where Desric found a strange Duros who was dangerously interested in his activities…

Characters

Face Off

The Duros took a long sip of his drink across the table from Desric. “Tough luck. I suppose you won’t mind if me and some friends accompany you on the rest of your stay on Centerpoint then. Conduct whatever business you have left here and never return. Let’s get going.” With that, he stood to begin escorting Desric off of Centerpoint Station.

Desric isn’t about to let this crazed Duros get the best of him, and he quickly draws his blaster. In a moment, Desric blasts the Duros in the face with a crippling blow. As his mysterious friend tries to mutter a helpless groan, Desric has lept over the table and is using him for cover against his friends.

At the bar, a few of this Duros’ human allies and a Gamorrean are springing into action. Khron wastes no time and leaps over the bar, shooting one of the two humans dead where he stands. Oskara is just behind him, also hopping over the bar but without her usual catlike grace. In regaining her balance she shoulder-checks the bartender. This knocks the poor fellow over but steadies Oskara enough to line up a shot. While Desric is using the Duros for temporary cover, he seems to be regaining his wits quickly. Rather than let that happen, Oskara fires a blast into the Duros, incapacitating him completely.

Poor guy. Crippled face, used for cover, and knocked out before he can act.

Mathus, standing watch outside the bar, runs inside the bar to see if he can help in the melee. He’s just in time to see the Gamorrean waddle over the bar and towards Khron, glaring menacingly and waving his vibro-ax about. Meanwhile the human at the bar pulls out a blaster pistol and takes a wild shot at Oskara for the slaying of his friend, but the shot goes wide.

Desric, still eager for revenge, fires at this human across the cantina. He misses but managed to hit several bottles of cheap Corellian Ale behind him. The shards go flying and manage to blind the human. As Khron dispatches the Gamorrean to piglike squeals of agony, the last assailant realizes this is not his day. He runs wildly, blindly out of the bar until Oskara drops him with a parting shot.

Not even a slight challenge for our heroes. I need to start throwing some nastier things their way.

The rest of the cantina looks on in stunned silence. The bartender picks herself off the ground and angrily surveys the damage caused by our heroes. Desric whips out his mercantiler datapad and determines that 1,000 credits is a more than fair price to tidy up the mess and keep the bartender silent. They drag the Duros and the bodies of his friends out of the bar.

The group leaves the bodies outside of the bar in Nulltown, but the Duros is a bit of a problem. Thinking quickly, the group persuades a nearby homeless person to temporarily rent out his shack and hide the Duros there while they arrange for his transport back to the Triumphant Failure via crate.

This campaign features more crates than a first-person shooter. I should really start charging the heroes for crate-related services, but I fear they’d bankrupt themselves on it.

Back aboard the Triumphant Failure, the crew locks the unconscious Duros in the slave pens. Mathus does a quick search of his belonging and turns up an encrypted datapad. In no time, Mathus breaks the encryption and finds plans for a jewel heist at “Figg’s Antiques and Antiquities” on The Wheel, a space station at the very edge of the Mid Rim.

The group uses the ship’s holorelay to do some basic research on the firm. Figg’s serves as both a launching point for expeditions into the fringes of the known galaxy as well as the purveyor of the rare artifacts found on these expeditions. While a number of these expeditions are never heard from again, it’s hard to tell whether this is malicious or simply the stakes of their business.

As they read, the Duros finally comes to his wits. Desric returns to the slave holds in the Triumphant Failure to question him. The Duros admits that he recognized Desric from the local holonet reports of the chemical spill on Centerpoint’s South Pole. Assuming Desric was still in the “jewel liberation industry,” the Duros was hoping he could use Desric to get an “in” with Black Sun and find a real crew of thieves for his heist rather than the thugs he was accompanied by.

Desric is done with the Duros for now and returns to the party to discuss his findings. While the information on the jewel heist is certainly interesting, no one feels particularly motivated to act on it for now. Instead, the group prepares to meet with Tantin, their Black Sun contact, now that the Duros is dealt with.

I’m not sure we ever resolved what became of this Duros! Is he still locked up in the slave pens of the Triumphant Failure? Is the party pulling another Trex? Was he tossed out the airlock at some point? We may never know.

h2(#oh-boy-naboo.). Oh Boy, Naboo.

The party arrives at Tantin’s estate and relays their information from Nash and Elsie about the gravitometric readings being stored somewhere on Theed. Tantin is pleased with the group’s progress on tracking down this Hutt “black ship” and asks them to return tomorrow to discuss next steps.

In the meantime, the party transfers 5,000 credits to the Imperial Spy Merriweather to get the full version of the transcript she sent them. The transcript details a meeting between a Bothan infochant and some Hutt representative about tracking down more details on our heroes. Disturbingly, it looks like some of that intelligence came from SED-17 (who was nominally an ally) and that this Hutt representative specifically mentioned “no bounties” on these individuals.

This information is alarming but there’s not much that the party can do with it for now, so they pass the time until returning to Tantin the following day. In the intervening time, Tantin has used his contacts to get more information on this CSA backup. It is near the center of Theed, Naboo’s capital, and would normally be easily accessible. However, Theed is currently the battleground in a vicious civil war between the Naboo Monarchy and a group of Gungan Separatists.

Normally I treat any Extended Universe Star Wars material as canon, but I made an exception for Naboo. The story of Naboo during the Galactic Civil War is unknown but for one plotline introduced into the Star Wars Galaxies MMO just prior to its closure. The opportunity to take a well-established canonical setting in a different direction was too tempting, so I ignored SWG and treated the only the joint Gungan and non-Gungan celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi as canon. As long as both sides have reasons to hate the Empire, we’re all good. Thus, the Naboo Civil War. My apologies to anyone who was offended.

The party boards the Triumphant Failure and sets course for the Mid Rim. Even in the space around Naboo, it is immediately clear that the situation on the planet is grim. A lone fighter from the remnants of the Naboo Royal Navy hails them as they approach the planet, warning about some orbital minefields that have been launched by the Gungans.

The cordial Navy officer asks what brings them to a war zone. Thinking on their feet, the party pose as journalists seeking to spread news of the situation on Naboo throughout the galaxy. The officer is so convinced that he gives them a few tips on their journey and recommends they get in touch with some “Nola” someone or other who has been broadcasting from Theed.

Theed in Need

Our heroes land in a makeshift starport in the fields and pastures south of Theed. As they land, they see the tumult of the civil war firsthand. The regular starport lies south of Theed, nestled against the cliffs below the capital city. All of that starport has been taken over by the tents and shacks comprising a makeshift city.

An opening in the clouds as they land shows why: the green domes and classical architecture of Theed lays in ruins. Pockmarked by explosions and craters, the capital city is a no man’s land and active warzone. Somewhere in those burnt out buildings is the C.S.A. data backup vault with the information they’ve been seeking for months on end.

Dua brings the Triumphant Failure in for a landing at the temporary starport which is little more than a fenced-in area with a modest, hastily-constructed control tower. A Naboo Customs and Tariff Guildsman approaches the ship as they land. The agent drones absent-mindedly through a series of routine questions about their visit. When Khron mentions the purpose of his visit as “protection,” the official perks up briefly and suggests they should check in with Mar T’quala. Mar is heading up all the freelance mercenaries in Naboo’s war effort and would surely have work for him in his headquarters between two of Theed’s scenic waterfalls in an area called The Verdant Plunge.

As the group leaves the starport and heads into the Free City, they must push their way through a crowd of civilians eager to find transport off of Naboo. Several onlookers offer increasing sums of Naboo Nidari, the local currency, for seats aboard the Triumphant Failure. The group briefly considers it before the customs agent discreetly suggests against it. “Right now, you shouldn’t wipe your asses with Nidari, let alone accept it as payment. Stick to credits during your visit.”

We never deal with currencies in our game – I deliberately avoid most questions of how money works at all. I only introduced this as a bit of flavor to highlight the dire situation in Theed.

The crowd grows thick as they towards the Plunge. Within moments our heroes find themselves in the middle of an angry mob as a Naboo Royal Barrister in riot gear leads a Gungan prisoner to the Royal Palace. Angry chants turn into throwing small objects just as Desric shoves his way in to help the beleaguered lawman. Someone throws the Naboo equivalent of a Molotov Cocktail on the Gungan; while Desric can’t stop it, with the party’s help he is able to intimidate the crowd into some semblance of submission. Their journey is still accompanied by fevered shouting, but no one else tries to assault the group on their way.

Once inside the makeshift police station at the base of the Royal Palace, the barrister places the Gungan into a holding cell and takes off his heavy gear. “Welcome to the royal remains of Naboo” he says with a weary grin.

The barrister, Corvus Tull, makes friendly conversation with his heroes of the moment. They ask some general questions about Theed and Corvus is more than happy to oblige. “I don’t spend much time topside, but I understand it’s getting pretty grim. Still, it’s better than the underpassages, the old waterways beneath the city. Used to be that people spent almost as much time there as in the city proper, but something turned bad there awhile back. Smells of death and no one who ventured in has made it out . Old Lon claims to have, but he’s nuts.”

The conversation turns to the Gungan captive, and Corvus sighs. “He’s not even one of the separatists really, but this side of Naboo is a tough place to be a Gungan right now.” When the group asks if they could interview this Gungan for their news story, Corvus suddenly remembers his place and politely suggests that civilians need to make their way elsewhere unless they have need of a Royal Barrister. He points them in the direction of Mar T’quala and wishes them well.

Ugh, this is a GMing mistake that I really regret! Normally when I call for rolls at the table, it’s because failure would be interesting or the challenge is particularly significant. Neither was true here and our failed social check meant we missed out on whatever bizarre interview the group would have conducted with this Gungan. Corvus should have just been grateful for the help and returned the favor, however unusual the request. What a bummer.

In Good T’Quala Company

Our heroes find Mar’s headquarters at the base of several cliffside cutbacks that lead up into the city as well as the waterways beneath Theed. The group splits up – Khron and Mathus stay outside to chat up a Chiss mercenary standing watch outside while Dua, Desric, and Oskara head in to talk with Mar.

Khron and Mathus learn from the Chiss that some “Lon” character has some lucrative work for anyone willing to go topside. Khron takes a raincheck, complaining about his current contract protecting these boring old journalists.

Inside, Dua, Desric, and Oskara meet Mar T’quala, a physically imposing Aqualish organizing Theed’s freelance mercenaries into battleready contingents. Dua begins working Mar for information. Mar is pretty incredulous at the sight of a group of “mercenaries” that includes Desric and Dua with their light armaments, but the Sullustan is her usual charming self. After a few jokes between Mar and his other mercenaries in the room, he provides a wealth of information. He directs our heroes’ attention to a pile of papers atop which is a map of Theed.

He motions to the top of the map. “The northern district is Gungan-held. Unfortunately, most of the Clone Wars-era Naboo Royal Guard equipment was kept north of the city. For personal combat the Gungans mostly stick to their own traditional weapons, but most any vehicle they’re using is old Royal Guard. You probably saw on the way in that they managed to mine near-orbit space in places – that’s old Guard too. Damn shame.”

“South Theed is still held by Naboo Royal Guard from the palace to the lake. They’re putting up a hell of a fight and they’re the superior force in theory, but they are losing ground every day. Naboo Royal Guard can’t move heavy equipment up the cliffsides and neither side can establish enough air superiority for airlifting. They fight only with whatever they can heft on their backs up the cliffs.”

“The current flashpoint is the city center. It’s separated by rivers from both the north and south sides. Natural defenses, tough to move anything major into it. Neither side is strong enough to hold the frontlines during a serious flanking maneuver, so that means whoever can take and hold these few blocks is going to roll the rest of the city. Everyone knows it – the whole city is on edge waiting to see which side collapses first.”

At this point, Mar leaves with a mercenary’s abruptness to go make a comlink call to this “Lon” they heard of previously. As he does so, Dua spots a paper map of the tunnels of Theed tucked away in Mar’s papers. The group is eager to get their hands on such a map and so immediately make plans to steal it. Quickly, Oskara feigns problems with her jetpack (concealing its recent repair by Mathus). As she uses it to shoot flames and fly in surts through the mercenaries’ headquarters, Desric intentionally falls backwards into the pile of papers and scatters them. The remaining mercenaries are so distracted in trying to contain the chaos of Oskara’s jetpack that no one notices when Dua scoops up the map.

This was a hilarious moment. Oskara isn’t usually great at deception, but this was an inspired use of the old jetpack from Cloud City. Maybe someday she’ll take a meaningful flight upon it…

Meanwhile, Mathus excuses himself from the chatter with Khron and the Chiss to break into the comlink channel that Mar just started. His success is brief – he hears just a snippet of Mar and Lon discussing the next “deployment” coming in the next days before the channel is unexpectedly cut short by a third party. As he wraps up his hacking attempt, Khron has learned the location of the city’s black market from the Chiss. With Dua, Oskara, and Desric quickly leaving the now-annoyed mercenaries behind, the group decides to head to the City Center and look for a black market dealer named “Morgana Rust.”

At the central market, a few discreet inquiries lead our heroes to the backroom of a non-descript vendor. Within is the rather plain home of Morgana Rust, a major player in Theed’s black market. Fearing the worst from Theed’s topside, Khron asks for all kinds of serious military hardware. As they enter specific negotiations, a floating camera droid hovers out from a nearby room alongside a beaming human reporter, one Nola Alaris. “Now that I have you on tape haggling over all manner of restricted military equipment, don’t suppose I could get an interview?” Nola asked with a wry smirk.

This isn’t quite the way it went down at the table, but we retconned it afterwards so that we could plan most of the shopping trip in-between sessions rather than during play. One consequence of this retcon is that it’s pretty hard to think of a reason Morgana Rust would allow a journalist to entrap her own customers in her place of business. Normally I welcome these kinds of inconsistencies: some of our more interesting plot developments have come from justifying them. In this case I got nothing, though. Luckily, no one cares.

Epilogue

What will happen when our “journalists” come face-to-face with an actual journalist? How will our heroes choose to approach the datavault in Theed? Tune in next time!

Probably one of the least thrilling cliffhanger moments I’ve ended a session upon. Once we’re in the last 30 minutes I try to start driving towards a thrilling conclusion, but I didn’t have many options when “shopping trip” looked likely to be our session-ending experience.

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Episode XIV: My Dinner With Tantin

While the fire in Centerpoint’s Warehouse District has calmed down, things are just heating up for our heroes as they investigate Bug’s death…

Characters

Just Triumphant Now, Thanks

The team reunites aboard the Triumphant Failure after escaping the chaos in Centerpoint’s South Pole. They revive the Quarren who reveals himself to be “Dreelo Reevan,” a mercenary. A moment later Dreelo’s eyes roll back as his body shakes in violent convulsions. Dua stuns the party by leaping into action – in a flash she has diagnosed Dreelo as having deliberately ingested some kind of poison, and is immediately counteracting it from the ship’s stores. It’s a poison she’s seen before, popping up a few times out on the far fringes of the Outer Rim and almost always related to a group called the Zann Consortium.

Traditionally no one in the party has any talent for Medicine. This poison was an opportunity to demonstrate the skill’s uses beyond healing wounds. While I had envisioned the party lamenting their lack of Medicinal abilities over a freshly-poisoned corpse, instead we were all celebrating Dua’s doubly-Triumphant success. Kudos, Dua! That little Sullustan is full of surprises.

At the mention of the Zann Consortium, Mathus’ face turns sour. While he’s thankfully never encountered them personally, they have a reputation for violence and a disregard for collateral damage. A missile such as the one the Quarren fired is classic Zann. There’s an old saying that comes to the Chiss’ mind: “The Hutts run an Empire. Black Sun runs a business. The Pykes run a family, but Zann just wants to set the galaxy ablaze.”

Dreelo is alive but still reeling from the effects of the poison and blaster wound. Dua stabilizes him and confines him in the Triumphant Failure’s ever-useful slave pen while the party talks their next steps. They still have information to hand off to Black Sun, and while their primary contact Bug was murdered they still have Tantin, the shadowy member of Black Sun who seems to control their interests on Centerpoint. While they don’t have a reliable way to get in touch with him, they’ve met him in at least 4 different places on the station. They decide to head to the cafe where Desric had made such a good impression on Tantin.

Life in the Country

The party makes their way to the cafe via Centerpoint’s public transitways. Aboard one such public speeder, they catch part of a holonet new broadcast. The local news is covering the warehouse fire extensively. Thankfully our heroes’ names and likenesses are nowhere to be seen in the broadcast, but nonetheless they keep a low profile en route to the cafe.

Strangely, the cafe that had previously been open at any time of day is closed without notice or explanation. While Mathus looks for any electronic signs of surveillance or entry, Oskara happens to notice a few remote surveillance systems. They seem to be hastily installed and meant only to detect the presence of people in or near the cafe, not to prevent intrusion or detailed identification.

The party is discussing these developments when Desric has an idea forcibly appear in his mind. While loitering outside the cafe, he is suddenly compelled by dark visions on a seemingly pointless task – break into the cafe by force and make himself the hot makko that he was denied long ago by Black Sun. While he can’t place the origin of these impulses, he is very confident they have something to do with the jewel that is embedded in his hand.

This revealed a second power of this mysterious jewel – once per session the GM may spend a Dark Side Point to compel Desric towards some action. This can be resisted, but not easily.

Vernox, Tantin’s right-hand man, appears outside the cafe in an airspeeder just as Desric is clumsily flailing at the front door in an attempt to open it. Annoyed, the Rodian hisses at the party to quickly enter the speeder to be taken to meet Tantin. The party enters and they are whisked away to Hollowtown, the station’s spacious and more terrestrial interior.

Urban centers give way to verdant countryside hills as the speeder winds through the various settlements of Hollowtown. At long last Vernox approaches a broad hill atop which sits a vast estate of milky white. The speeder nears an entrance where two well-dressed and heavily armed guards stand watch. At the sight of Vernox, one of the guards mutters into a comlink. A moment later she waves the speeder through and into the estate grounds.

Vernox stops the speeder at the opening to a small statuary yard alongside one of the estate’s side entryways. Wordlessly, he ushers the party out and around a holo-projector where the Chiss gangster Tantin’s image appears. Tantin is curt to the party:

“You’ll understand if we’ve significantly tightened our security practices after recent events. There’s no exceptions I’m afraid, so I’ll need you to give all your equipment to Vernox and strip down for a full search before we can chat further.”

Tantin disconnects the broadcast before the party can speak their many objections, leaving our heroes with a variety of heavily armed guards awaiting their compliance. With a fair amount of grumbling, Mathus, Desric, Khron and Oskara begin to disrobe and hand over their equipment. Dua, our young Sullust adventurers, demurs and requests a private area in order to disrobe. Vernox leads her to an alcove away from the other guards but under no circumstances does he let her out of his sight. Dua, sensing the odds against her, finally relents and hands over all her belongings and dignity.

This moment was intended to foreshadow their evolving relationship with Tantin in the wake of recent events. Irritating my players by briefly separating them from all their belongings was just a little harmless fun. (I gave it all right back!)

Vernox is briefly entranced by the jewel in Desric’s hand before disappearing inside the mansion. The party is given robes After almost an hour of patient waiting, he reappears and tells them they may reclaim all their belongings and then meet inside with Tantin. Given their treatment thus far, the party decides to present their Quarren as a thank you gift for their hosts’ hospitality. Khron and Vernox make arrangement for the two of them to head back to the Triumphant Failure and discreetly stuff Dreelo into a speeder to bring to Tantin.

With the Quarren in Black Sun custody, the group finally enters the luxurious estate. They are led to a large, airy lounge where a few scattered collections of chairs are dwarfed by huge ceilings and expansive views of the countryside of Hollowtown. In the room are another few armed guards flanking Tantin as well as an unknown older human woman, reclining in a nearby chair.

Tantin is quietly furious as he begins speaking to the party. “I don’t mind the warehouse blaze. I don’t even mind Bug’s death – these setbacks are to be expected in my line of work. What I mind, what I really find frustrating, is having to pay off so many people to cover up your mess.” Seeing the party’s surprise, he continues: “Did it really not cross your mind that I might just have the local police force in pocket if they were anywhere near my turf? Do you really not think I control this station and don’t have control over these things?”

“Your shortsightedness has costs. Paying off policemen has a costs. Paying off civilians costs when they see a Chiss, a species who should really be smarter than these other cretins, escape from police custody into a crowd. Paying off all but two of the fire team responders has a cost too.” At this he turns and activates a nearby newsfeed. “Holonet: News headlines, Centerpoint Station, now.”

The same broadcast our heroes saw earlier continues. “Latest update on the warehouse fire in the south pole – The Secretariat is reporting that two fire team responded died today while containing the blaze and resulting chemical spill, -“

Tantin turns off the broadcast and continues quietly. “When two of the fire team members are too good for a bribe, then that really costs.” Dua, unusually keen-eyed, notices a subtle reaction in the unknown woman when Tantin implies that he had these two people killed.

Good ol’ Double Triumph Dua Neb! All the backstory she picks up on here are from this amazing roll.

Dua sees her flinch at the mention of the dead civilians and can finally recall her. When the party first visited Centerpoint, Dua took a keen interest in the funeral of Baron Jaa Halcorr which was huge news in the station. That interest finally pays off when she recognizes the woman as none other than Laurena Halcorr, daughter of the late Jaa Halcorr and the new Baroness Halcorr of Centerpoint. The young Sullust is intensely curious why she’s even here, adding a new wrinkle to Tantin’s activities.

As the police captain that Mathus met earlier enters the room, Tantin takes a deep breath and concludes his diatribe. “I’m writing these costs off as part of doing business for now, but don’t give me reason to reconsider. At some point my investments in you may not yield a high enough return. Now, let us talk about that business on Stoyer-Pavaad.”

With this, the party relays the good news (they disrupted the Hutt’s spice trade in the CSA, at least for now) as well as the bad (without more money, they can’t provide a lead on the source of the spice, Tantin’s ultimate goal). Tantin and our heroes talk in circles around some kind of partial payment, leading Tantin to take a brief walk while he considers the situation.

The root cause of confusion here was that Tantin vaguely requested the “source of the spice.” Everyone at the table had a different idea of what this meant. Tantin took a break, we took a break, and sorted some of this out off-table.

Many Meetings

While Tantin is out to clear his mind, our heroes are left alone with the Baroness and a few security guards. Dua, in her typically blunt fashion, speaks up. “Why are you here, Baroness?”

Laurena, having regained her composure from earlier, smiles thinly. “First, this is my home – my dear Tantin is just a guest to whom I’ve extended my hospitality in the wake of today’s recent events. But more to your point, I’m the bank as far as Tantin’s interests in the Hutts are concerned. I like to personally oversee my investments.”

The young Sullust continues. “Why? What’s your interest in his affairs?”

Another thin smile. “Centerpoint,” responds the obliging Baroness. Before Dua can inquire further, Tantin returns from his stroll.

Tantin finally agrees to give our heroes half of their payment in advance, 35,000 credits. He clarifies that he is buying exact information on how he can find this Hutt ship making runs into CSA space. Our heroes agree to this, take the credits, and make plans to find Nash.

Not trusting him enough to make good on his promise if they pay him remotely, our heroes instead make arrangements to meet him halfway on Socorro. Nash balks initially but agrees to this provided our heroes cover his travel expenses.

About a week later, our heroes meet Administrator Nash in the desert bog that is Socorro. Inside a small, quiet, cantina they make their payment of 7,500 credits (7k that was owed, 500cr for Nash’s travel expenses) and Nash spills all the information he knows. The Hutt ship is the “Danjanti,” a massive capital ship that Nash believes is a “black ship.”

A black ship is one built at a private shipyard and which has never docked at any registered port. This level of secrecy ensures the ship never shows up on any government ship databases and officially doesn’t exist. Only the largest ships are even capable of this as it means they can never make dock at most starports and must therefore be capable of running without a resupply for months, even years, at a time.

Nash supplies a few other details to our heroes on this ship. He’s spoken to the ship’s captain a few times in the seven times he’s met this ship over the past four years. The captain (who was rather talkative for a Hutt) mentioned that the ship was relatively new, but didn’t go into other details about it. Nash also provides the coordinates at which he would normally meet the Hutt ship in a month’s time, but cautions the heroes against using that information. “I’d guess that plan’s all gone to hell since their main point of contact, me, is on the run and considered a wanted criminal right now. If you’re lucky, the Hutts leave it alone and you just spend a few days in the deepness of space. If you’re not, well…”

Not loving that idea much, the party asks Nash if he has any other information that could help them find the Danjanti. Nash coyly mentions that while he’s out of a job and on the run, he’s not the only corrupt official in the Corporate Sector. Another 2,000 credits and Nash would be happy to serve as their “Who’s Who of Crooked CorpSec Government Officials.”

Dua asks him to prove himself before going further and give the party something of value. Nash thinks for a moment, then asks Dua to pull up a map of the CSA borders. He points to a few systems. “I’d guess you crossed at Saclas, or maybe Craci if you’re clever, yeah?” Dua nods in response. “Next time cross at Evenfall. The CSA presence there is thin enough to have an easy time getting around us but it’s also part of our patrol route for the past few years, meaning pirates have been steering clear of it.”

Dua has no way of verifying this information at the moment but is sufficiently convinced of Nash’s crooked ways to take him at face value. The part comes up with another 2,000 credits for Nash and he gives them a holonet relay address for a contact in the CSA border security group. By the time they return to Centerpoint she’ll be expecting their relay call. Nash bids our heroes a fond farewell and encourages them to reach out if ever they need anything, providing a dummy identity of his they can contact.

Holonet Famous

Random aside: There are some GMs who are meticulous in charging their players docking fees, holonet fees, daily meal & lodging charges, etc. I did that exactly once and found it a profoundly tedious way to grind the story to a halt. Now I only do that when it’s narratively significant. If any of my players object to this, let me know.

The crew returns to Centerpoint Station. En route Mathus finally finds a free moment to repair Oskara’s busted jetpack. In keeping with the night’s luck he is doubly triumphant in the repair, fine-tuning the handling as well as giving the jetpack a sound dampening modification for stealthy approaches.

As the Triumphant Failure docks at Centerpoint’s South Pole, an unknown Duros is waiting at their docking bay. Outwardly he’s enthusiastically friendly but there’s an undercurrent of menace as he speaks. “Desric? Is that Desric Rhane? It is! I thought that was you on the holonet feeds, Desric Rhane! Boy I bet the folks back on Ord Mantell would love to hear what’s going on with Desric Rhane, wouldn’t you agree?”

Desric bristles and looks about furtively before speaking. “Let’s take this conversation somewhere more private. How about we talk aboard the ship here?” Khron, picking up on what Desric is intimating, moves to grab the Duros and quietly force him aboard. The Duros proves a little too cool for Khron though, backing away and into the public promenade before the Trandoshan can touch him. “Hey, even though we’re all friends here I still prefer to chat on my own terms. How about you come down to the Tenfold in Nulltown in the next few hours and we have a friendly chat.” Finished with his work, the Duros blends into the docking level’s crowd and disappears.

While the group briefly considers dealing with this immediately, Desric brushes it off and instead leads the team to a nearby holonet terminal. After a modest fee, they have a private connection to a “Elsie Foxwell,” a bizarre Twi’lek official in the C.S.A. Department of Border Security.

I had a lot of fun as Elsie. I had to keep this dialogue unfortunately brief since we’d already spent a lot of time on exposition with Tantin this session.

Elsie’s thick accent and her bizarre name initially make Dua extremely skeptical. When Dua bluntly calls her a fake, Elsie’s outrage does nothing to convince her. Her subconscious lekku from her brain tentacles is enough to convince Oskara that whatever strangeness belies this Twi’lek, she isn’t lying about her ability and willingness to help the group. Oskara inserts herself into the conversation and makes a gracious apology for her Sullustan friend.

Elsie regains her composure. “If Nash weren’t such a good colleague to me, or if your friend weren’t so gracious in making amends we might have had a problem. But as it is, you’re fine with me. Now let’s get down to business as holonet time is precious. Nash told me a little about your problem – can you fill me in on specifics?”

The party explained to her the story so far about their quest to find this ship the Danjanti. They remained decidedly vague about why they needed to find it and brushed off any of Elsie’s attempts to learn more. Finally she indulges our heroes. “Even a big ol’ ship like that is like finding a bone in a Rancor den.” She briefly looks away from the relay, lost in thought, before continuing. “If this ship is as big as you say, even if it’s crossing at a route we don’t know about it should get picked up on our long-range gravometric sensors. We use them for detecting the occasional new backdoor into C.S.A. space by analyzing traffic patterns. Even a single capital ship is just noise here, but if their flight patterns are as regular as you say, you should be able to correlate the data over a few years and filter it down to their crossing point.”

“Getting you that much data at once is far beyond what I can provide. No way that doesn’t get noticed. If you want this, you’ll have to go to the archives themselves. The sensor readings get logged to a data archive at the CSA headquarters Etti IV. It’s pretty high-sec and heavily guarded at all times though, so you’d have your work cut out for you.”

Seeing the party’s dismay at the difficult heist looming ahead of them, Elsie gives them a wink. “Of course, every good data engineer makes a backup of any critical data. A good backup is offsite, ideally on an entirely different network and backbone than your central store. In this case, your friend Elsie knows where the backup is for the gravometric sensors. You can find itz in a vault in Theed, on Naboo.”

Our heroes are relieved to hear this but Mathus is quick to ask more details, eager to find an end to their never-ending quest. “How frequent or regular are these backups?”

Elsie punches something into an offscreen terminal before responding. “Looks like we back this data up about once a month, but we haven’t actually made contact with the secondary site in about seven months. It’s on someone’s to-do list but you know how these things go with non-critical problems…”

The party does their math and realizes this is still enough time for at least two years’ worth of data. Satisfied this will lead them on the right path, they ask what Elsie wants in return for all this assistance. She smiles again, responding “Like I said, I can’t ask for that data in bulk without raising flags. I’d love to get my hands on a full copy of whatever you find.”

I’ve retroactively changed some of the timing in this tale. Originally I had accidentally left our heroes with only enough data to capture 2-3 of the Hutts’ border crossings which wasn’t really a plausibly sufficient set to correlate. This new timing doubles that. #NoOneCaresScott

Tenfold Troubles

The party decides to deal with Desric’s “admirer” before heading back to Tantin. They travel down to the Tenfold in Centerpoint’s Nulltown, a seedy area nestled between the hemisphere’s of Centerpoint’s Hollowtown.

The Tenfold takes its name from the ten sets of crudely stacked cylinders that gives the cantina the shape of a narrowing tower climbing up the underside of one of Hollowtown’s larger hemispheres. Desric and Khron decide to enter together while Mathus and Oskara loiter outside the club. Dua stays aboard the ship to monitor for trouble. Desric pauses on their way in to take yet another hit of Glitterstim, just-in-case.

Who would have guessed that a drug dealer’s satchel way back in Session 2 would become so integral to our story? I love it.

With his drug-boosted perception the duo is able to make a few faces in the crowd that are a little too keenly interested in their arrival. The Duros sits at a table where a Gamorrean is obviously watching over it. Khron suspects that to be deliberately obvious and is able to make another pair of humans at the cantina’s bar who are more discreetly monitoring Desric and the Duros. Khron wanders over to a nearby section of the bar and does his best to blend in.

Desric sits at the table as his new friend beckons to him. He makes a simple proposal. “I’ll drop the act, Desric. Seeing you in the background of a warehouse fire in a part of town known to be controlled by Black Sun can’t be a coincidence. Tell me everything you know about Black Sun’s activities on Centerpoint. Do that and you can remain a ghost on Ord Mantell as far as I’m concerned.”

Desric summons all the convincing demeanor he has before speaking. “I’d love to, but my only point of contact was this Sullustan, ‘Bug,’ who was killed in that same fire you saw. I’d tell you more if I knew anything. Really.”

The Duros frowns and takes a long sip on his drink before speaking. “Tough luck. I suppose you won’t mind if me and some friends accompany you on the rest of your stay on Centerpoint then. Conduct whatever business you have left here and never return. Let’s get going.”

This was a challenging Deception roll that Desric just barely pulled off even with a Force Point. Great job Desric.

At that the Duros motions to his friends to come over to the table. Seeing this, Khron quickly finishes his drink and heads towards the table as well. Our heroes prepare for a fight just as we fade to black…

Epilogue

What will become of Desric’s mysterious friend? What will Tantin make of their update? Will our heroes ever get their full payout on this spice saga?

This was an interesting one. Dialogue-heavy interactions with mostly-friendly characters, it fleshed out some of the larger plot but didn’t have a ton of epic Star Wars moments. I still had fun but I think this leaned a little heavy on conversation (as indicated by this novella-length recap!). I’ll be more diligent in balancing future sessions.

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Episode XIII: Damage Control

We join our intrepid heroes as they wrap up the mission on Stoytown and return victorious to Centerpoint…

Characters

Debts to Pay

With Nash captive aboard the Triumphant Failure, the party grills him on the details of the spice trade about which their Black Sun contact is so eager to learn details. Nash gives a few minor details, but he is never one to miss an opportunity. He refuses to elaborate without “enough credits to start a new life” – 20,000 credits to be precise.

The party briefly debates this before Desric negotiates him down. Nash finally agrees to 20,000 credits but no longer trusts the party not to harm him. He demands to be taken to a remote space station, Harwell’s Gate, where he will await payment. Furthermore, he asks for half of his payment upfront. The party empties their wallets to scrape together 5,000 credits which Nash reluctantly accepts. The party takes a coulpe of days to travel to Harwell’s Gate, deposits Nash, and then makes their way to Centerpoint Station.

Bug Zapper

At Centerpoint, the party makes their way to Bug’s warehouse where they expect to negotiate an advance payment so they can pay off Nash. The group wanders up the lonely street to the warehouse in Centerpoint’s South Pole. As they near the entrance to the warehouse, a missile streaks across the street from a narrow window. It crashes into the front of the warehouse just as the heroes are diving for cover, setting the entire warehouse ablaze. There is clearly no chance anyone survived the blast.

GMing Pro Tip: if your party ever needs a pick-me-up, kill off an NPC to whom they owe a substantial debt. The heroes owed Bug 10,000 credits and expressed immediate relief at his passing. They had always planned on not paying him anyway, but this made an awfully convenient way of doing so.

Disoriented from the explosion, our heroes collect themselves and look for a means to investigate the rocket’s source. Near the window, a simple mechanical lock keeps an old doorway secure. Desric heads over and easily bypasses the lock. It opens to reveal a narrow, decrepit stairwell leading up as well as a small, easily-missed dumb-waiter from the entryway up to the second floor. Desric can just barely fit himself into the opening and carefully inches his way up.

At the top of the passage, Desric was able to see a figure of some sort stowing something in a case. In order to see more of the scene, he’d have to crawl out of the passage and expose himself. While he pondered, Khron carefully crept up the stairs to get in position to take a shot at the figure while Oskara and Mathus took up positions outside the window.

Desric was on fire this session. Tons of advantage when bypassing the mechanical lock led to the dumb-waiter, and then a Triumph on his Coordination role led to both his and Khron’s stealthy approach.

Oskara takes cover in some debris, doing such a remarkable job that she catches a glimpse of this figure without being seen. The shooter is a Quarren with some significant facial scarring and missing a few facial tentacles. She draws her rifle and aims just as Khron gets ready to shoot. Unfortunately his luck runs out and the Quarren sees him just in time to make a run for it.

Swearing something in Dosh, Khron gives chase along which Desric. Desric can’t quite keep up, having been crammed into a broom closet. Khron keeps pace with the Quarren and manages a hip shot with his rifle which nearly kills their mystery foe.

The chase leads a walkway over some kind of old, dilapidated chemical storage facility next door. Oskara and Mathus find and open a hefty set of blast doors that lead into the facility. Above them the foot chase continues, the Quarren outpacing his rivals and making it to a small window where emergency crews are assembling outside.

I forget the exact roll in which the Quarren rolled a ton of advantage, but that led to the complicating factor of crowds & emergency crews gathering outside. While sometimes I struggle in spending the threats or Despairs, there are just as many times where the dice really help set the narrative direction of the whole session. These emergency crews became a key element.

Mathus heads around the side of the building to cut off any possible escape, but is noticed by a police captain in the process. As he blends into a gathering crowd of on-lookers gawking at the explosion, Desric takes a desperate shot at the Quarren to stop him. While Desric’s shot is wide, it distracts the Quarren long enough for Khron to strongarm him into submission. Having suffered a grievous blaster wound earlier, he passes out.

Last Responders

With the Quarren captured, our heroes had a number of new problems to deal with. Emergency crews were gathering outside to contain the blaze in the warehouse, crews that were also separating Mathus from the rest of the group. Not only did the party need to find a way out, but they needed to do so while carrying an unconscious Quarren out with them.

The party fans out to look for anything that could help them escape. Under the walkway, Oskara finds a decrepit office with an inactive terminal. She manages to find a few loose bills of lading that detail the chemical compounds being stored here, something called Dioxymexadrine. Meanwhile, Desric is able to find a few pushcarts that are worn down, but could be pushed at great effort or repaired somewhat easily.

Outside, Mathus was lamenting all the potential Mechanics, Computers, and Knowledge: Education checks he was missing out on. It was perhaps a little cruel, but it definitely a little fun to watch.

The group then spends a very long time debating escape plans as more and more waves of emergency personnel arrive to deal with the chaos. While none have taken an interest in this storage facility thus far, the crowds outside have been cordoned off and limited strictly to emergency responders.

This leaves Mathus in a tight spot in this crowd of responders. He does his best to look inconspicuous as he meanders before coming up with a plan. He walks to the rear of one of the fire speeders on the scene and begins to steal a rebreather mask and heavy clothing. When a fire responder notices him, Mathus realizes from the behavior of the responder that all the local comlinks are being routed through a nearby police speeder. Never one to miss an opportunity to bypass a computer system, Mathus deliberately gets caught by the police captain who had spotted him earlier and hauled into the police speeder. The captain forces him into the van and curtly tells him to stay put and not speak to anyone for any reason.

This last bit was a really subtle clue that would figure prominently in the next session. In retrospect I should have called for a Streetwise roll from Mathus to notice how unusual it is for a policeman to tell someone to shut up and stay put rather than let a suspect talk themselves into trouble.

The rest of the party continues to discuss escape plans. A very, very long list of options have been discussed with no compelling options. With Mathus in police custody and a steady stream of more emergency responders arriving, the pressure is mounting to act. The team splits up to investigate means of escape.

Khron heads back to the small room where the Quarren fired his missile. He’s unable to find any meaningful clues on the shooter but recognizes the weapon instantly. It’s a “pocket rocket,” a single-shot missile launcher popular with mercenaries for its small form factor. The downside is that a shorter firing tube reduces the effective range of the weapon (mechanically, it adds the Inaccurate 1 quality to the weapon). He greedily stuffs the weapon into his backpack, eliminating any chance of recovering further clues from it.

While this sounds like a player error and cruel GMing, it was actually just a bunch of threat on the identification roll. Just want to set the record straight about my GM style!

Oskara continues to search the first floor of the storage facility. She finds a small crawlspace between this and the adjacent building. It’s cramped, but it’s small enough to possibly hide in and thin enough to breach the wall from inside and head to the other building. It’s also disgusting and unkempt, and she quickly heads out of it and returns to the main area.

Above them Desric is sorting out a way to distract the police captain long enough for Mathus to grab a comlink and try to bypass it to distract the police force. The old facility is littered with debris – Desric take the largest chunk he can find and drops it atop the speeder’s roof. It works, distracting the captain for a few moments as he steps out of the speeder and looks around. A moment is all Mathus needs to snag a comlink and put it behind his back.

After a bit more discussion, a plan finally comes together at long last for our heroes. It turns out to be worth the wait, and with almost Hitchcockian precision the various unrelated details of the heroes’ adventure come together to help them escape.

Weekend at Chemical Burnies

Oskara lines up a careful shot on the storage vats, puncturing them just so that their contents will empty out the facility’s front entrance and out into the street. At once a thick, noxious blue ooze begins seeping out and into the street.

The fire team notices and begins to panic, drawing the attention of the nearby policemen as well. This in turn draws out the police captain watching Mathus as he tries to regain control of his officers. Mathus takes the opportunity to quickly bypass the comlink’s simple encryption protocols and puts out a fake hazmat alert, ordering all emergency personnel to clear the area. This works splendidly, allowing Mathus to escape and blend into the nearby crowd as the police focus on clearing out the area and moving the various emergency speeders.

Meanwhile, the team still has an unconscious Quarren with a gaping chest wound to escape with. Khron and Desric each take an arm and prepare to drag the obviously-shot assailant out into the street when Oskara sizes him up briefly. Thankfully the Quarren is about the same size as her, and in a moment Oskara is frantically searching through her backpack. To the amazement of everyone, she produces the dress she bought in Cloud City in Session 6 and drapes it over the Quarren. While cut for a Twi’lek female, she figures that few people really know Quarren fashion trends to know the difference.

This was an amazing idea. The whole table burst into stunned laughter that Oskara even remembered the dress she bought on Cloud City, let alone shlepping it around this whole time and thinking of it now. Just amazing.

With the blaster wound now covered by sheik evening wear, the rest of the group tried to exit the facility as discreetly as possible. Heading the opposite way as the police force and fire team (which were now on the other side of the quickly-spreading ooze), the group was able to draw relatively little attention. When a few fire team responders took note of them, Oskara was quick to describe how their friend the Quarren was overcome by the noxious fumes of the blue ooze and just needed to be carried some fresh air. The fire team responders, still concerned about containing their hazmat spill, brushed them aside as they disappeared into the artificial twilight of Centerpoint’s South Pole…

Epilogue

Who killed Bug? Will the heroes still have to pay him back? How will Oskara ever get the stains out of that dress? Two of these questions will be answered in the next episode! Stay tuned!

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Interlude: Mr. Mathus Goes to CorpSec

Mathus triggered his obligation in Episode XII. We decided that he’d use his leverage over Nash to get his hands on Nash’s executive clearance codes. We join Mathus on a solo adventure between sessions…

Administrator Nash knows there is no future left for him in CorpSec after the events of the past two days. As such he has little use for his executive clearance codes which permit access to the most closely-guarded secrets of the CSA. Mathus, however, would love to get his hands on the vast personnel files the CSA keeps in order to continue his search for the mysterious “Murgh Drexel” from his past.

Nash provides his Admin access code and tells Mathus that it can only be used from his office in the CSA executive compound on Stoyer-Pavaad, “Sunset Ridge.” Before the crew departs Stoytown, Mathus has Dua drop him off just outside the grounds of the compound. The rest of the crew offers to join him, but Mathus insists of doing this alone.

Mathus snuck into Nash’s office in Sunset Ridge just days prior. Then, it was a relatively quiet compound with a token security force. After today’s chaos though, Sunset Ridge is anything but quiet. Guards have been doubled and there is a flurry of foot traffic as the CSA executives coordinate the efforts to regain control of Stoytown. At the foot of the massive stairs leading up to the main administrative center, four heavily-armed CSA Enforcers keep watch for any suspicious persons.

If he can make his way past these guards, he would be practically home free. Last time it required three of his crewmates serving as a distraction just to get past one of these Enforcers. On his own, he doesn’t like his odds of sneaking past four of them. He raises Nash on the comlink for advice on gaining entry.

Nash thinks for a moment before responding. “If you say you have vital information on today’s events that needs to go straight to Administrator Alhern, I bet that at least gets you in.” Mathus doesn’t love the idea but doesn’t have a better idea either. He approaches the nearest CSA Enforcer and within moments he has an armed escort to Alhern’s office.

Mathus and his escort enter the Administrative Building after climbing the many stairs leading up to the Sunset Ridge compound. Before, the lobby of the Administrative Building seemed quiet and focused. In today’s chaos it is teeming with people; civilians looking for answers or refuge, CSA executives trying to calm offworld overlords that their Bechryllium shipments will still arrive ontime, and police trying to keep the peace in a frantic crowd. Nash’s office is in the East Wing of the Administrative Building, but unfortunately the Enforcer is weaving through the crowd towards the West Wing. Mathus briefly considers trying to lose the Enforcer in the crowd, but stealth is not his strong suit. Instead he dutifully tags behind.

Soon he and his escort make it to a hastily-established security checkpoint at the entrance to the West Wing offices. After a brief bodyscan (“Visible weapons are permitted – explosives and concealments are absolutely not”) they walk much more easily through the calmer back offices of the building. Soon they make it to Alhern’s office and the Enforcer stands aside as Mathus enters.

He first walks into a large, austere receiving room where a lone couch and a secretary’s desk look overwhelmed by the gravity of the space. The polite human secretary greets him. “Ms. Alhern will be available in a few moments. There are refreshments on the table, please help yourself.”

Mathus grows increasingly desperate. Feeling trapped and still under the eye of the Enforcer waiting at the doorway, he ducks into the receiving room’s bathroom to try and find a way out. Unfortunately the bathroom has no clear means of exit. He considers using some of the materials there to start a fire before he comes up with a different, riskier but more straightforward plan. He exits the restroom just as the secretary waves him in.

Administrator Alhern is a stern woman with long, graying hair. Her office has several tables but no seating areas. She steps forward from her desk and asks Mathus to tell her this pressing information he has. Mathus says that he is a messenger, that he has important information from Nash that Mathus is to show Alhern. He can only show this on Nash’s computer.

“Nash gave you his access code?”

Mathus nods.

I love it when someone comes up with a plan I wasn’t expecting at all. This was so brazen that I, the GM, was really excited to find out what happened next.

Alhern is very skeptical but her interest is also piqued. She has her secretary arrange for two Enforcers to escort Mathus at gunpoint to Nash’s office. Together they make their way past the security checkpoint, through the crowded lobby, and into the East Wing to Nash’s office.

Nash’s office is much smaller and without any kind of secretary. While he and Alhern are nominally peers, it’s clear who wields more power in Stoytown. Mathus and Alhern enter while the two Enforcers stand watch. Mathus now has a challenge: search through Nash’s CorpSec vast database of known persons while ostensibly “pulling up important information” and being closely watched over his shoulder by Alhern.

What a thrilling moment! Mathus is a computer expert and normally has the assistance of many tools and gadgets. But this wasn’t a test of electronic breaking and entering; this was a test of how well he could conceal his actions while doing them in plain sight. As such he had rely on his raw skill. Besides, pulling out his slicing kit when he already has access to this system would be quite conspicuous!

Mathus manages to turn Nash’s terminal into a blur of opened documents and interfaces. Alhern is so lost, trying to keep up, that she completely misses when Mathus searches the CorpSec personnel database for a “Murgh Drexel,” a mystery from Mathus’ past for whom he’s been searching for years. The database doesn’t get an exact hit, but it does pull up something about a “Murghol Drexel” who would be about the right age. This Murghol was incarcerated at Stars’ End, CorpSec’s top secret, high security, for profit prison that they run for the galaxy’s most nefarious individuals. The file is spare but contains information indicating that this person was released just after the institution of the New Order due to a “foreign request,” presumably from the Empire.

His goal achieved, Mathus still had to produce some kind of document for Alhern. In his desperation he turned to the only document he knew would be of interest to Alhern, the one that he found days earlier that implicated Nash in the missing refineries and his clear link to the day’s chaos.

That computers check? Of course Mathus nailed it and of course he rolled a fair amount of despair. :)

Alhern leaned forward, taking in the document that provided the direct link from Nash to the day’s events. Mathus, sensing the danger he was in, made motions to leave. Alhern, half distracted, spoke. “You said you were a messenger? Don’t you need some kind of payment?” Mathus, eager to leave before Alhern fully understood the document and the implication of Nash’s betrayal, mumbled something about having already been paid and wandered down the hall as Alhern was absorbed in the terminal.

Let’s just repeat that. An NPC offered one of the players payment for essentially nothing. In a fit of common sense, Mathus declined. I am still flabbergasted! Desric would have stuck around to negotiate a price – kudos to our Chiss!

Mathus walked as quickly as he could out of the East Wing and through the security checkpoint. Once Alhern realized Nash made the mobile refineries “disappear” off the books, he would become a prime suspect. By extension, this would make Mathus a person of great interest as well.

He pushed his way through the crowds in the lobby and was descending the long, broad steps that served as the entrance to Sunset Ridge just as the general alarm was sounded. Guards pushed past to him to run up the stairs to protect the administrative building against whatever this new threat was. Mathus, knowing when the band is playing his song, descended the steps as quickly as he safely could. At the sound of some shouting behind him he broke into a full run, using the ramshackle streets of Stoytown and its near-perpetual evening to disappear before the CSA guards could make effective pursuit.

Who paid to have Drexel incarcerated in Stars’ End? What was his connection to the Empire and the New Order? What did this character ultimately want with Mathus all those years ago? Many questions remained for our Chiss hacker, but at least now he had a lead to follow…

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Khron: My Revelation

This is Khron’s personal account of the events in Episode XII. I’ll get out of the way from here on and let him talk. – sparker

Khron’s scales bristled as the blaster fire riddled the ground around him. Laying prone, he felt the hull of the loader shudder as it jostled, tugged back and forth by the hulking refinery vehicle it had in tow. He remained untouched by the bolts, but the screams next to him made it clear that Oskara had not been so lucky.

His mind went blank as he remembered…


Years ago he had been hired on Sullust, acting as bodyguard for various Sorosuub Corporation VIPs. The best bodyguards were meticulous, planning every moment, ensuring conflict would never have the opportunity to arise.

Khron was not the best bodyguard.

What Khron had lacked in planning and strategy, he had always made up for with brute force and keen reaction. Adversaries may have underestimated Khron’s abilities, but their mistakes would always be their undoing.

That was true, until the Sorosuub Summit. The corporation called all of its executives back to Sullust for a week of face-to-face conversations and meetings. Khron suspected that the underground facilities would be a safe haven, guarded by the volcanos and lava flows that covered the Sullustan surfaces.

Yet this was not the case. Some think the assassins were sent by Merr-Sonn Munitions; other think they were sent by BlasTech Industries. Khron never knew who the enemy was — he only knew the waves of blaster fire that erupted from behind the boulders surrounding the Sorosuub facilities entrance.

Instinctively, Khron fell prone to the ground, pulling his VIP down with him. He counted the sources of blaster fire — 5, 6, 7, 8 — no, 9 targets. He called out to his men to return fire, yet they were quickly being cut down. He aimed and attacked — one target down. Two targets down. Three targets down.

And yet it wasn’t enough. The deafening scream of the VIP next to him made it clear that his feeble response was too little, too late. Khron realized he didn’t have enough power to keep enemies from attacking, nor did he have enough power to repel them.

He rolled to cover alone. His asset was gone. He had failed.


“NO!”, shouted Khron as he smelled Oskara’s burning flesh. “NOOOOO!!! Not again!!!”

Khron’s body tensed as he looked through the sight of his blaster rifle, eyeing the smoking barrel of the Zealot’s own rifle. All this time, Khron had not been strong enough to protect the people around him. He lacked the power, he lacked the might necessary to save the people placed in his charge.

His eyes narrowed as his thumb flipped the autofire switch into the “on” position. Pulling the trigger, Khron remained motionless as his rifle bucked like a wild stallion in his arms. He watched with frozen eyes as the blaster bolts plunged into the Zealot’s glowing chest — one direct hit, two direct hits, three direct hits.

The Zealot hadn’t even hit ground before the holes in his chest began flaking away into clouds of black ashes. Khron hadn’t just killed the Zealot. No, this victory was much deeper. He had destroyed the Zealot. His body, his cause, his plans, his organization — they all crumbled into black ashes in the face of his sheer power.

As Khron regained his composure, he looked down at his blaster rifle, still warm and glowing from the onslaught of blaster fire. Where strategy had failed, raw power had prevailed. Where tactics had fallen short, raw power had prevailed. Where risk assessment and measured steps had failed, raw power had prevailed.

Khron knew that he couldn’t bring back the assets that he had lost — even the Force that Outer Rim pilots whispered about wasn’t that strong. Still, he knew that if he never wanted to lose another asset, or friend, again, he had to harness the sheer might and horror of raw power. With enough fire power, he could dissuade most attackers, and defeat the rest.

No one would die again. Not on Khron’s watch.

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Episodes XI & XII: Stoytown Showdown

We join our intrepid heroes as they head out to assist Llyedo and the rest of the Sith Dragons in what seems to be a spice handoff gone horribly wrong…

Characters

The Burner Ultimatum

The party is barely able to hear Llyedo between comlink problems and the roar of what sounds like combat in the background. What they can make out is that the C.S.A. police are on the scene and have opened fire on the Sith Dragons, catching them by surprise. Before Llyedo can say much more the comlink is abruptly cut off in a burst of static.

Dua and Mathus get the Triumphant Failure in the air, heading to Old Stoyer where the rest of the party awaits. Just as the ship rises above the city they hear a familiar voice. The deep, nasally voice of The Zealot, the leader of the Burners and chief rival to the Sith Dragons, comes over the city’s PA systems.

“People of Stoytown: for too long we have labored under the yolk of CorpSec. They take freely of our hard labor as they dictate our freedoms, our society, our lives. Today though, we put an end to this tyranny and begin a new era of individual determination, of no rule but our own natural laws. I urge you to join me in casting aside the shackles of this government, of this society, and of this so-called Authority.”

“I do not expect you to take up this struggle empty-handed. In every public square and at every water reservoir in Stoytown you’ll find a cache of weapons to give you strength and of spice to give you courage. I invite all citizens of Stoytown to come seize the instruments of self-determination and begin our new era together.”

We never clearly established the Zealot’s motivations at the table. The Zealot and the Burners that followed him were avowed anarchists with a strong religious/mystic bent. Violence and crime were just means to his ends of establishing a society in Stoytown where there was no central authority of any kind.

The pre-recorded message began to loop just as the Triumphant Failure was landing at Old Story to reunite Dua and Mathus with Khron, Oskara, and Desric. With the crew safely aboard, Dua made course for Llyedo and the Sith Dragons at a disused mining pit near the sunset side of Stoytown, pit 118A-A.

Down in the Hole

The team has no trouble locating mining pit 118A-A on the dayside of Stoyer-Pavaad. While the surface of the planet is dotted with any number of similar-looking pits dug directly down into the ground, only one of them is bellowing smoke.

There are two means of entry to pit 118A-A – horizontal entry via a tunnel normally used by all manner of mining vehicles and transports, and a descent into the topside pit. The party first scouts the rocky outcroppings near the tunnel entrance for any signs of vehicles exiting since the presumed fire or explosion in the mining pit. While massive sets of tire tracks likely belonging to the missing mobile refineries can be seen, the rocky surface of Stoyer-Pavaad doesn’t leave much trail to track. They do see one smaller set of tracks that they can’t make heads or tails of that seems to accompany the larger, though.

Disadvantage on a Survival roll to track a vehicle turned out to be a tough call as GM. I turned that disadvantage into a smaller set of tracks that I incorporated later into the story but failed to connect to this roll. Oops.

With nothing left to learn from the exterior of the mining pit, the crew decides to make entry. Dua opts to do whatever it takes to stay with the Triumphant Failure and descends carefully into the Bechryllium pit. The pit is a tight fit for a YT-1300 and she just clips the side of the pit in her descent. The impact causes a bit of strain to the freighter but happens to knock the ship’s satellite array into just the right position to pick up on a short-range, government-issue distress signal issuing from the tunnels below.

While there’s no great place to land the Triumphant Failure, Dua manages to hover close enough to the pit’s floor that the rest of the party can safely disembark. They make their way to the other opening of the same service tunnels they saw from outside the pit. Therein our heroes find the aftermath of a very chaotic scene. They see several Sith Dragons collapsed, dead or dying from what appear to be blaster wounds. They also see a heavily wounded Llyedo, propped up against the tunnel wall.

Llyedo is incredibly skeptical of the newest members of this street gang showing up in their own YT-1300 spaceship, but he doesn’t have many options on who to trust right now. He gives a brief overview of what happened to the Sith Dragons, explaining that the CSA police force unexpectedly opened fire on the Sith Dragons during what is normally a routine handoff of spice. This isn’t enough information for the party to return to Tantin with though, and they push him for more. While Llyedo isn’t eager to help our heroes, he agrees to tell them everything he knows if the crew will ferry him and the other living Dragons to safety. The party quickly agrees and spends a few minutes collecting wounded gang members into the Triumphant Failure.

Aboard the ship, Dua pushes Llyedo for the full story. Roughly every six months the Sith Dragons receive a shipment of spice from CorpSec hidden within one of Stoyer-Pavaad’s many massive mobile ore refineries. The Sith Dragons will then act as the muscle, safeguarding the spice while it is on the planet and assisting in further distribution both planetside and to departing ships. As for the origin of the spice though, Llyedo knows little. Administrator Nash, one of the three CorpSec chief administrators of Stoyer-Pavaad, handles all of that and has never divulged how it arrives on the planet.

Clearly if the party wants the full story they’ll have to talk to Nash. That’s easier said than done though – Llyedo explains that while Nash was at the handoff and ordered the cops to fire upon the Sith Dragons, at some point the mobile refinery exploded unexpectedly. The blast killed almost all of the cops and split the survivors on either side of the burning wreckage.

This correlates to the scene Mathus and the rest of the party are seeing in the tunnel as they investigate that strange distress signal the Triumphant Failure had inadvertently detected in its descent. They see a series of red, blinking lights glowing through the fiery wreckage of the refinery. Mathus, braving the intense heat, heads towards these blinking lights despite the party’s fears that they might be some kind of proximity mine trap.

Instead he finds a number of hardened and encrypted headsets from fallen CSA policemen. The blinking lights indicate they’re picking up a nearby distress beacon, somewhere less than 10km from the mining pit. The party deduces that this must be some kind of “panic button” on a VIP, presumably Administrator Nash. Mathus takes one headset for the road as Desric and Oskara look for clues as to what made the refinery explode. They don’t find any signature explosion evidence but they do find a few credits and some loose, crude jewelry amongst the wreckage.

With a missing, presumed panicked Administrator to find, the party quickly heads back to the Triumphant Failure. Dua safely ascends from the pit, wounded Sith Dragons in tow, and they make way for the source of the tracking beacon.

As they approach they see a massive, wheeled mobile Bechryllium refinery being attached to an equally massive airspeeder that is little more than giant engines and an aftermarket deck gun. This industrial hauler is attached to its load below by two repulsor cables. One is already attached to the front of the vessel by the time the party shows up while the second is being attached by a group of robed figures on the ground, the Burners. Mathus pinpoints the distress beacon to the cockpit of the massive refinery. As the Triumphant Failure approaches, the remaining Burners on the ground scramble to get aboard the refinery or either of the two small groundcars accompanying it.

Trouble in Tow

At the table I had retconned the size and shape of the ground refinery, making it generally more flat on top. Here’s why: I originally planned the outline of this adventure in late March. When I started all I knew was that I wanted it to climax in a big chase through the desert. Originally I planned this chase primarily on the ground of Stoyer-Pavaad’s rocky desert (thus the preponderance of groundcars everywhere in Stoytown prior to these sessions). Then Mad Max came out just days before our big chase climax. Mad Max is a great movie that instantly turned my epic showdown into a blatant box office ripoff. I changed as much as I could without completely contradicting what I had originally said about Stoyer-Pavaad. Thus the refinery went from something that moved exclusively on the ground to something primarily picked up and carried. I realized during play that I was now just ripping off Dune’s carryalls instead of Mad Max’s rig. Oh well, can’t win for losing.

The Burners flee in their airspeeder, violently dragging the refinery along behind it. As escorts they have two small groundcars that they have crudely attached weapons to. The first carries two missiles of a pack of three while the smaller second sports a somewhat crude anti-aircraft rapid fire blaster.

Remember that smaller set of tracks I mentioned? That was me throwing in the AA gun. I originally spec’ed it out to come in as reserves in case the Burners needed backup. Shame on me for not making that connection clear at the table though.

With a valiant “Welp, let’s finally see if this ship is any good,” Dua tilts the Triumphant Failure sideways to allow both the dorsal and ventral turrets of the YT-1300 a chance to fire. Oskara and Khron take up the ship’s gunnery positions as Desric begins calling out targets. Desric’s orders are rather confusing and unhelpful at first, but he quickly learns how to be an effective spotter just as the gunners open fire on the two armed freighter groundcars below. The missile carrier takes light damage while the AA gun is all but destroyed.

The guns below return fire on the Triumphant Failure. A concussion missile goes wide but the ship is rocked by close-range AA fire before anyone can celebrate. Blaster bolts pierce the hull, exploding in smoke and sparks. Two of those bolts hit the engine bay and caused separate critical hits to the Triumphant Failure.

I spent a lot of prep time worrying whether the missiles were too much for the crew of the Triumphant Failure to handle. I shouldn’t have – the missiles were entirely harmless while it was the 3 damage, Inaccurate 1 AA gun which really messed up the Triumphant Failure. I don’t often take joy in the plight of my players, but seeing their faces when the dinky AA gun rolled two triumphs on its attack (an event with a 1 in 144 probability) was a special moment.

As the cluster of vehicles is speeding through the desert towards Stoytownm they enter a narrow, winding canyon that requires some deft handling from all pilots and drivers. The groundcars prove adept at handling while the airspeeder is able to shrug off a minor collision with the canyon wall. Meanwhile the YT-1300 dances through the canyon under Dua’s control, maneuvering out of range of the airspeeder’s deck gun while avoiding the rocky outcroppings.

Desric takes another attempt at calling out targets but the disorientation of Dua’s ducking and dodging through the canyon proves too much for him. Khron needs no help to find his target and sends the AA groundcar rolling over in one last barrage of turbolaser fire. With the danger of the AA gun behind them, Oskara tries to shoot the mechanism at the front of the refinery which keeps it dragging behind the airspeeder with no luck.

The missile carrier misses the Triumphant Failure once again. With no means left of harming the freighter it pulls alongside the refinery and deposits a few Burners who had been hanging on the sides of the groundcar.

Stupid missiles! What crazy GM thought a vehicle with only two shots was a good idea?!

With the primary threats to the Triumphant Failure dealt with and the canyon giving way to the rocky plains of Stoyer-Pavaad, the crew briefly discusses their options. The airspeeder hauler and the refinery in tow both seem very solidly built so a direct assault seems to be out of the question – the Burners would almost certainly reach Stoytown for whatever their ultimate goal is before the Triumphant Failure’s meager guns could make much of a dent in the hauler. Creating a physical obstruction seems unlikely to stop the Burners since they haven’t been too concerned for their own well-being thus far.

This leaves only one option for the crew of the Triumphant Failure. “Take us in close, Dua” Khron growls.

This moment (and the rest of the adventure, really) came about because of a good out-of-character conversation between the first and second sessions. I had always intended for jumping on the hauler to be an option (and indeed the option most likely to succeed) but I was way too subtle about making sure the players knew that was an option. Over-doing subtlety is a very common GM mistake and something I’m still very much working on. Until I have it mastered, it’s always helpful when players share their frustrations and hopes at the table.

Boarding, Party

This begins the second session

Dua brings the Triumphant Failure as close as she safely can to the broad, flat deck of the hauler. Mathus opens the airlock and watches as Oskara, Khron, and Desric line up to jump from the YT-1300 to the airspeeder below. Oskara lands flawlessly, landing in a roll which puts her into cover. While Oskara landed with catlike grace, Khron landed with all the delicacy of a starship plummeting from orbit. He crashed hard into the deck and dropped his beloved gun in the process. Desric, learning from both his compatriots preceeding him, manages to jump aboard without incident.

Unfortunately this landing maneuver put the hauler’s deck gun in position to shoot at the Triumphant Failure once again. Once again, the Burners proved that their only competent gunners died in the AA groundcar as the deck gun’s shot wasn’t even close to the adjacent freighter.

Burners swarm the deck of the hauler from its massive circular control room and a heated firefight ensues. Meanwhile the pilot of the hauler uses its massive engines to great effect, temporarily gaining the advantage on the YT-1300 and giving the deck gun a much better shot. Finally, as if this weren’t enough for our heroes to handle, the Zealot strides forth to meet his foes.

As the massive, tattooed, and shirtless human strides out to greet his foes, he begins to yell about the coming independence of the people of Stoytown. As he does so our party gets their first look at him from the front. They notice not just an impressive tapestry of tattoos across his bare chest but also what appears to be a faintly glowing red jewel embedded in his torso, opposite his heart.

While that sight is curious, the party is much more concerned about the gigantic Repeating Blaster the Zealot wields. With a great heft he brings the mighty blaster to bear and opens fire on Oskara. Her cover proves insufficient and the massive blast almost kills her outright.

As she lay momentarily stunned from the force of the blow, the rest of the team sprung into action. Khron began to aim his own gigantic gun at the Zealot as Desric opened fire on some of the Zealot’s henchmen. Khron continued to aim, just staring down the barrel of his gun waiting for the perfect moment. When that moment came, the Trandoshan let loose with the fury of the Scorekeeper herself, dropping the Zealout in one savage blow.

Khron has an excellent journal entry from his perspective on this incident and its relation to his backstory. I strongly recommend reading it. I gave him some XP for this journal entry and I’ll happily do so for anyone else who wants to write journals from their character’s perspective.

As the Zealot bled out in front of his followers, his skin quickly began turning black starting from the jewel in his chest. In moments black skin turned to fine ash as the Zealot’s remains blew away in the open air. Soon only that red, faintly glowing jewel and a pile of loose robes flapping in the wind were all that remained of the Zealot.

Meanwhile aboard the Triumphant Failure, Dua tries to separate the hauler from its cargo by breaking the cable attaching the two. Earlier the ship’s most talented gunner had failed to hit the mounting mechanism binding the refinery to the cable, so Dua figured she would fare even worse. Instead she put her skills as a pilot to use and tried to maneuver the ship’s engines such that they would fry the durasteel cable without getting caught in them.

I often tell players that they can use almost any skill to solve almost any problem if they think about how to apply them creatively. We’ve been getting better and better at that, and Dua’s creative use of Piloting: Space was a fantastic example. This was an exciting and narratively impactful idea.

Unfortunately Dua cuts the thrust a little too much and the YT-1300 ends up jammed into the hauler’s front, temporary coupling the two ships. With the haulers massive side-mounted engines she can only make a small dent in its forward thrust towards Stoytown. However, the YT-1300 has far superior maneuvering thrusters which allow Dua to essentially steer the two ships as one.

Dua’s maneuvers put the YT-1300 close enough for Mathus to use his high-end hand held scanner to read the refinery groundcar below. He picks up a total of five lifesigns aboard the refinery, but his scanner picks up something else as well. It reads wild power fluctuations aboard the bridge that are centered on one of the occupants. Not knowing what to make of this, Mathus picks up the encrypted police comlink he grabbed earlier and sees if he can use it to pinpoint the exact source of the distress beacon.

Mathus’ scanning of the refinery put us in full-on Inception mode at this point in the adventure. I was updating four separate maps of this scene simultaneously: a high level map of the convoy’s position relative to Stoytown, a ship-to-ship map that plotted the YT-1300 against the hauler, a map of the hauler’s deck and the firefight therein, and now a map of what Mathus’ scanner was showing about the refinery below. It sounds like an oppressive amount of bookkeeping but I thought it was a hoot.

On the hauler’s deck, the firefight had not abated with the death of the Burner’s leader. Several Burners still held their ground and were raining blaster death on our heroes. Desric, in a sudden fit of heroism, leaves behind the team’s two heavy hitters and charges forward into the firefight, taking out a Burner and clearing the way to enter the hauler’s control room. Oskara takes advantage of his heroics to heal up, applying a couple of stimpaks just in time for her to be shot yet again. Khron trades fire with the hauler’s gunner who is now taking cover behind the deck gun, but neither is able to score a clean hit on the other.

Before charging in, Desric picks up the softly glowing jewel which is all that remains of the Zealot. Immediately Desric is overwhelmed by crippling, burning pain where the stone has touched his skin. He tries to drop it to no avail; it seems the stone has lodged itself in Desric’s off hand in just the same way it was lodged in the torso of the Zealot. Undeterred, the newly bejeweled smuggler dashes into the cockpit.

Mere moments later Desric dashes right back out in a hail of blaster fire. Two armed Burners were inside the control room along with the ship’s pilot and they proved more than a match for our freshly-burned Desric. The two armed Burners, believing they had an advantage to press over Desric, pursued only to be cut down by Oskara’s blaster rifle as they exited.

There were so many great moments from this session that this would have been easy to miss. It was equal parts hilarious, heroic, and clever to see Desric’s advantage turn to crisis and right back in the span of two beats thanks to support from the rest of the team. There’s a fine line between recreating the “Star Wars feeling” while not just trying to recreate Star Wars plots. This and and several other moments definitely captured that feeling for me.

In the Triumphant Failure, Dua carefully angles the hauler away from Stoytown. While the party wasn’t yet clear on the Burner’s goals, they clearly involved taking this convoy into Stoytown and so whatever Dua could do to delay that had to be a good thing. The YT-1300’s maneuvering thrusters are far superior to the hauler’s and she has no problem angling it. However, just as she does the two ships dislodge, freeing their pilots to act independently once more. The hauler turns so slowly that Dua has bought some time, but hasn’t prevented anything.

Meanwhile Khron finally lands a clean shot on the gunner cowering behind the ship’s deck gun. The group of Burners on the hauler’s deck is growing thin and the few stragglers retreat for defensive positions. Khron helps up a hobbling Oskara to continue the fight as Desric re-enters the control room. The smuggler has had enough heroics for the day and raises his blaster pistol to the pilot’s head in an attempt to force him to stop. As Desric opens his mouth to speak, he feels a strange power come over him as the jewel’s warmth intensifies in his hand. The words that follow are a curious mixture of typical Desric swagger and something else, something darker. The effect they have on the pilot is chilling and he quickly brings the hauler to a full stop.

In mechanical terms, when Desric picked up the jewel he made a Formidable Resilience check to resist it binding to his body. Desric failed and I handed him a sheet of five vaguely worded descriptions of the effects the jewel is having over him. Each description is a clue towards what the effect might be. In this case, the description was “Others tremble before the threat of your might.” Making a threat revealed the power behind this description, granting Desric two boost dice on all Coercion checks while this jewel is attached to him. Four more effects remain…

Outside, Khron and Oskara make short work of the remaining burners as the hauler slows. The convoy stops just short of Stoytown and the party, reunited, descend to the refinery. Aboard they find the remaining Burners docile in the face of complete defeat and overwhelming force. Khron and Oskara go about disarming the religious fanatics while Desric and Mathus enter the refinery’s cockpit.

There they find Administrator Nash in a state of panic and solve the mystery of the curious power source that Mathus detected from the Triumphant Failure. The C.S.A. executive is helpless, bound and strapped to a massive explosive device set to turn the refinery into a gigantic, improvised bomb capable of leveling a full city block. Mathus quickly goes to work examining the bomb’s construction and detonation mechanisms.

He determines that the bomb is set to detonate via an impact trigger that is somewhere external to the cockpit they’re in. Mathus and Desric carefully release the Administrator from his execution device and quickly usher him aboard the Triumphant Failure. With their target in tow, the matter of the live bomb left just outside city limits seems like a good problem for someone else and the crew leaves the Burners to their own devices.

Nashty Behavior

In the air, the crew begins to interrogate Administrator Nash. Shaken from the day’s events and grateful for his unexpected rescue, he relates his side of the story:

We were out of time as we hit this point and I wasn’t able to go into all the detail I wanted. As such, some of this wasn’t actually explained at the table.

Nash has served as the distributor of the Hutt’s spice in CorpSec for many years. Relative to the rest of CorpSec Stoyer-Pavaad is something of a quiet backwater, but this makes it the perfect place to stash and split massive quantities of illicit drugs. The planet supports almost no native life and requires almost daily shipments of water to keep the miner population at work. These water tankers have nothing to haul back from Stoyer-Pavaad and so fly through customs inspections with ease. This makes them the perfect way to ship the spice from Stoyer-Pavaad to the rest of CorpSec in bulk.

Nash and a small group of corrupt CSA policemen receive spice shipments about every six months. While Nash remains responsible for this spice while it’s on Stoyer-Pavaad, it’s too big a job for his corrupt policemen to take on in the course of their work. Instead he brings in the Sith Dragons, Stoytown’s local swoop gang, to watch over the stash in one of the planet’s many abandoned mining pits between distributions. Every six months the Sith Dragons exchange an empty mobile refinery for one full of spice. A few days before his trip to Maryo III (the beginning of our heroes’ involvement with Nash and Stoyer-Pavaad) Nash received a curious communication telling him that the Sith Dragons were about to be compromised and that he had to find new muscle immediately.

Nash turned to the only other local power besides the CSA and the Sith Dragons: a local half-gang, half-cult colloquially called “The Burners.” A deal was hastily made with a group Nash ultimately understood very poorly. The Burners would take over protecting and safeguarding the spice during its stay on Stoyer-Pavaad in return for Nash and his crooked police wiping out the Sith Dragons.

So it was that Nash and his CSA cronies drove an mobile refinery to the handoff with the Sith Dragons. The Dragons, bringing their own refinery, were completely overwhelmed by the force of the CSA’s betrayal and were quickly being cut down. Everything was going to plan when a missile suddenly hit the first refinery and caused a massive explosion in the tunnels of the Bechryllium pit. When Nash came to after the detonation, he found himself strapped to a homemade bomb aboard the second mobile refinery as the Zealot preached about the liberation and enlightenment for the people of Stoytown when they would soon watch their former leaders burn.

Epilogue

Our heroes had originally been tasked by Tantin to find the source of the spice flowing into CorpSec via Stoyer-Pavaad. Nash’s story filled in many of the details but still left out the crucial part of how the spice was getting into CorpSec territory. How are the Hutts bringing spice into Stoyer-Pavaad? What will become of Administrator Nash? What will Mathus do with the high level of security clearance Administrator Nash possesses? Tune in next time!

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