Adventure Log: Living on Borrowed Time Part 12

Having successfully engaged more of the Empire’s Inquisitors, managing to kill the Mandalorian Inquisitor Skirata and rescuing a young Force-sensitive Mirialan and her parents in the process, the Borrowed Time crew made a call to Alliance High Command once they were clear of The Wheel. Now that they had non-combatant passengers they wanted to check in. High Command congratulated them on their success, and agreed that the rescue changed things. Lacking an immediate solution, High Command ordered the Borrowed Time to head for the planet Dahvil, off the beaten path of the hyperlanes and home to a secret Rebel installation. The crew were going to get a chance to rest while they waited for further instructions.

Before heading to Dahvil and ‘Bolthole Station’, Bas put on a space suit and went outside to examine the Borrowed Time. Sure enough, at some point during their stay on The Wheel someone had placed a tracking device on the freighter. After he shorted it and out and tossed it into the void Verjylla proposed making a few extra jumps to try and throw off any more attempts to track the Rebels. Unfortunately, despite having several decent astrogators among the crew, they ended up being too unfamiliar with the local sector. They didn’t get lost, however, and made their way to Bolthole Station in good time.

Bolthole Station had the look of an abandoned smuggler base, stashed on the other side of the planet from most of Dahvil’s settlements and built into the cliffside along a narrow strip of beach. It consisted of a large hangar bay that was home to the CR-90 corvette named the Last Ditch as well as a small collection of starfighters, along with a small base that had been expanded by the Alliance after they found the place. While it’s primary purpose was to act as a hideaway for Alliance SpecOps teams like the Borrowed Time to lay low at it also had a large enough training facility to bring a platoon of Alliance Infantry up to snuff at a time.

Commander Baask, the Bothan in charge of the Station, welcomed the Borrowed Time and Gift Horse when they arrived, giving them a brief tour of the facility and explaining a few security protocols. He also explained that, as the Borrowed Time‘s security codes for High Command were about to expire, that their instructions and new codes would be sent to them via Bolthole Station. In essence, until they heard from High Command, they were at liberty to spend their time however they pleased around the Station. Once they confirmed that there was no large complement of droids that might end up being murderbots like the last time they’d been told to rest, the crew settled in.

Verjylla decided that this was the perfect opportunity for a more light-hearted episode of the Rebel Yell, and quickly decided that she’d make a calendar with pictures of the nicest looking Rebels she could find in the station. This quickly turned into something of an enjoyable debacle. Bee’f, who had apparently become smitten with Verjylla at some point, kept following her around and making suggestions. Caleb was hounded to pose in little but a pair of shorts and his helmet. Various young members of the Infantry trainees and the more arrogant starfighter pilots bickered over who would get to be in the calendar, which ended with Verjylla organizing a volleyball tournament between all the men on the beach by their second day at the Station. Commander Baask just looked the other way; even the trainees deserved a break now and again.

Patience, being a Politico/Commodore, had long had his eye on climbing the ranks and commanding something larger than a freighter, and had put in a request for training in that regard after the Shadow Raptor. Sure enough Commander Torval of the Last Ditchapproached Patience shortly after the crew had settled in, and told him that Ackbar had forwarded his request. The Last Ditch operated with a skeleton crew, usually just ferrying trainess to and from the Station, and thus lacked a formal second-in-command. While they couldn’t take the ship out, Commander Torval ran a number of simulations with Patience in the second-in-command’s chair, and tapped Commander Baask to help instruct Patience on maintaining a leader’s poise.

Caleb, finally having access to an armory that was larger than the one on the Borrowed Time and not full of Intelligence agents like the Shadow Raptor‘s, settled in to do some serious tinkering. First was resizing Skirata’s armor for himself, the first defensive improvement the Mando had managed since getting his current suit from The Drall during the Corellian days. Other than that, he talked shop with the Station’s armorer, a Besalisk who called himself Pendragon. Together they helped maintain the infantry’s gear during quiet time, or worked on Caleb’s latest deadly projects to be distributed to the Borrowed Time crew.

Shikte spent her downtime in the Station’s firing range, intimidating the infantry trainees with her skills and testing out Caleb’s latest modifications to her weapons. It didn’t take long for the human Tusken Raider to notice that she had a shadow, however: Mariana had taken to following the sharpshooter around the base. Somewhat gruffly Shikte caught and confronted the young Mirialan, who told her that Shikte seemed the most approachable of the ‘not-quiet’ people (Verjylla was too bombastic, Bee’f too half-crazed, and Cole too . . . Cole). While Shikte never stopped being gruff with Mariana she gave her a few pragmatic lessons on Being a Force Sensitive in the Empire 101 (passed down from ‘a crazy hermit in the desert’ Shikte had known) and actually brought the young girl to the firing range a few times to teach her how to shoot. Mariana’s parents had been shadowing her in turn, but seemed to approve of Shikte’s efforts.

Bas spent the majority of his time in the hangar bay, working on the Borrowed Time and indulging in a pet project: pulling some of the concussion missile launchers off of the Gift Horse and installing them in the YT-2400. Whenever he took a break from that he found himself drawn to the eclectic collection of starfighters that made up ‘Bolt Squadron’: a pair of Cloakshapes, a pair of Heavy-95s, a Preybird, an old ARC-170, and even an Eta-2 Actis-class  piloted by an R2 unit. At one point Bas spotted the R2 and a Chadra-Fan ’95 pilot bickering about the relative strengths of their fighters, and wandered over to indulge his curiosity.

The Chadra-Fan was quickly chased off by the droid, but thankfully Bas was able to understand binary and quickly learned that the foul-mouthed little R2-KB was very possessive of his ship. They had a conversation about upkeep and specs, during which Bas garnered that 1) KB was a Clone Wars veteran who’d lost his ‘partner’ before signing up with the Alliance, and 2) that nobody but KB was allowed to perform maintenance on ‘his’ fighter. Bas nodded, apparently understanding, before reaching out to poke the fighter with a hydrospanner the second KB turned away. This immediately led to Bas slithering away at top speed as KB pursued him with all the shock arms deployed, a scene that would repeat with something resembling friendly antagonism several times over the next few days.

Cole, when not bothering Verjylla about his spot in the calendar, spent the majority of his time trying to find a good drink and playing cards with the Bolt pilots. He was warned that KB in particular was a cardsharp, and in the end it was probably for the best that Cole doesn’t know binary; the droid had a bad habit of scathing insults whenever he won, lost, or felt like it. Nak, for her part, kept herself to herself on the Borrowed Time, likely contemplating Mariana’s plight and recovering from the wounds she’d taken on The Wheel.

The Wookiee found herself hanging out in the Station’s mess with the Chadra-Fan ’95 pilot, named Taabe, who was the first of her species that she’d met since joining the Alliance. Taabe actually seemed fascinated that The Wookiee was a commando, as most Chadra-Fan in the Alliance he’d met were either fellow pilots or mechanics (he apparently decided against questioning the name). The pair traded stories, with The Wookiee telling of how she’d once been an artist, and had been found by an Alliance team after she’d finished ‘redecorating’ the office of a Moff with the Moff after he’d enslaved her and pushed her one too many times. Taabe’s stories of Bolt Squadron’s missions and raids almost paled in comparison.

About half a week after their arrival at Bolthole Station found Patience with Commanders Baask and Torval in the Station’s command center. The two officers were going over communication protocols with Patience when a technician announced that the Station’s passive sensors had detected a bulk freighter passing overhead. According to the Commanders this was not entirely unusual for this stage of Dahvil’s orbit, as freighters had to pass over this half of the planet on the way to the settlements, but Patience had A Bad Feeling About This and suggested the Station go on alert. Baask agreed, wagering that even if it was a false alarm it would make a good exercise for the trainees.

Down in the hangar and aboard the Borrowed Time Nak was resting in her bunk, Bas was tinkering on the engines and Verjylla was trying to edit her calendar, with Bee’f looking over her shoulder trying to be helpful. Just as alarms started to blare and two squads of infantry rushed into the hangar, Shikte following them, all eyes were drawn to the hangar doors as they shook with a massive boom. Just as some of the soldiers began to yell for everyone to take cover, another boom hit and the hangar doors blew in. As everyone scrambled to recover and prepare, the sound of a Sentinel-class landing craft dropping off stormtroopers on the beach could be heard over the crackling of flames . . .

Give your players a break now and again, why don’t you? It can’t always be blaster fire or space escapades (or dragon fights or dungeon delving, whatever your game may have). Sooner or later the crew has to return to the ship, the team has to return to base, the party has to return to their favorite shadowy corner in their favorite tavern. Something I picked up on a good while back is that you learn what player characters are capable of in the field, and a little of how they act, but you can get to really know a character when you see what they do when the pressure’s off. Speaking of pressure, if it’s on all the time, it’ll start to wear thin. Another Star Destroyer dropping out of hyperspace right on top of us? Sure, if it only happened now and again it’s dangerous and exciting, but when you’re dodging three of the things a week it starts to become ho-hum. So giving the party a break now and again  can also help improve your more intense sessions by making them stand out more.

Now, this is a bit of ‘advice’ that will probably come naturally enough. In most games there are going to be natural lulls in the action after the latest location has been cleared out or the latest enemy defeated, and players will often want to spend their spoils or enjoy some light-hearted downtime without too much prodding. The first part of your job as the GM is to have things available for them to do with that downtime. Sprinkle some interesting NPCs and places throughout the area your players will be hanging out at, and be ready to improvise a bit when the player characters wander.

The second part of your job as a GM, when giving your player characters some downtime, is to not punish them for it. By this I mean: everyone knows you’ll get back to the action sooner or later anyways, so don’t have the bad guys ambushing them every time they try and get a drink. I’ve, well, not always been the best about this myself. Back in the Edge of the Empire days Caleb quickly gained the moniker of Unluckiest Mandalorian because any time he ever tried to do anything he’d run into trouble (and drag Nak along with him, that’s actually how they became friends). Now, there were mitigating circumstances. The bad guys did have to roll to find them, and maybe they shouldn’t have been trying to buy illegal grenades in Coronet City’s Blue Sector, and sure one of the themes back then was of being hunted all the time so it fit, but that doesn’t change the fact that Caleb (and by extension the rest of the crew) couldn’t seem to walk down to the store for a glass of blue milk without getting shot in the face.

Heck, back when I pointed out that they could get things from the Shadow Raptor‘s quartermaster, all of the old hands got a little jumpy. A visit to the quartermaster sounded an awful lot like a shopping trip, and they all knew how those always ended.

Eventually the party will decide to look for more work, or the Big Bad’s goons will kick in the door (or bombard the hangar bay). I’m just saying that you should let the downtime play out naturally. Don’t force the characters back into the action the same day they finally get home. Ask ‘does anyone have anything else they want to do before we move on?’ before moving on. Savor the break, and then get back into the thick of things refreshed.

Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! I’ll see you all then as our crew puts their backs to the wall with the forces of Bolthole Station as the Empire launches their assault, on the next installment of Star Wars Age of Rebellion: Living on Borrowed Time!

Star Wars belongs to Disney, while Age of Rebellion and its related products are the property of Fantasy Flight Games. Any other products used or mentioned within the game remain the property of their respective creators, and player character names and concepts remain the intellectual property of their respective players.

Originally posted 11/4/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!

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