Five Days Earlier . . .
In a small briefing room, likely onboard a ship by looking at the construction of the walls, four very different beings wait to see what fate has in store for them. A Sluissi, Chadra-Fan, and Tusken in the uniform of Alliance Infantry wait more or less patiently, while the two Bothans seem much more agitated. For some, this is merely a (somewhat mysterious) reassignment. For others, they have little idea of what they have been pulled into. At about the time even some of the uniformed beings begin to get anxious, the only door into the room hissed open, and a middle-aged human walked in.
“My name is General Airen Cracken, head of Alliance Intelligence. I’m going to be briefing you. Welcome to Special Operations.”
Shikte, the Tusken, made an off-hand comment to the tune of there not being any snacks while they waited, probably the trench humor of a soldier. Cracken, not missing a beat, offered her a flask, which she refused. The general immediately tucked the flask away, congratulating Shikte on passing the test: “I’ve already got one drunk on this mission, I don’t really need another. Now. You’re here either because you’ve proven yourself,” he said, looking at Shikte and Bas, the Sluissi. “You don’t quite fit in anywhere else, but have skills that can be put to good use,” he continued, looking at the Chadra-Fan who only answered to The Wookiee and the younger Bothan, named Fi-Li-Chay’se St’ay’ck and going by the street-rat name of Bee’f. “Or you, quite frankly, irritated the wrong Bothan,” he finished, looking at the Bothan Verjylla Nova, best known for her pirate holocast Rebel Yell, who flinched. “SpecOps answers directly to Alliance High Command. I won’t always be your handler, but for this first time out the gate the mission we’re giving you comes from my branch, so lucky me.”
Cracken went on to explain that the quintet would not be on their own: a group of fringers had recently signed on with the Alliance, bringing a ship of their own with them, and they were such a rag-tag bunch that High Command hadn’t even really thought about it before assigning them to SpecOps. Not only would the beings in this room be responsible for helping to complete the mission, but for this first operation Cracken wanted them to keep an eye on the fringers. The Alliance commander who’d recruited them had a reputation for being a little roguish, and the crewmembers of the Borrowed Time matched that profile perfectly. Cracken told the newly-minted operatives that they’d be working with “A smuggler who seems to fly better when he’s drunk, a Mando with too many blasters and a bounty on his head, a Trandoshan who’d gotten a little too sloppy with explosives on Coruscant, and an ‘Alderaanian,’” who Cracken firmly believed had never told the truth in his life. The more Cracken described their new crewmates, the more Verjylla took on the appearance of one designated for execution.
With the private briefing taken care of, Cracken led them out to a larger room, where a holoprojector and the Borrowed Time rebels waited. Typing something in at the holoprojector, the General quickly brought up the image of a planet, a smaller map off to the side placing it along the Hydian Way.
“This is Toprawa. It’s from this planet that the Death Star’s plans were transmitted to Princess Organa, thanks to the Red Hand Squadron and a group called the Antarian Rangers. We had believed that our forces on the planet were wiped out defending the transmission, but the question of survivors became void soon after Yavin IV. The Empire leveled Toprawa’s cities as punishment for the Death Star’s destruction, and until now we haven’t been able to justify sending a mission there. Two weeks ago, we received a transmission from what we believe are members of the Rangers . . .”
Smoke billowed through the corridors of the Borrowed Time as her crew tried to get their bearings, Bee’f falling out of the old smuggling compartment he’d been taking shelter in. Cole had managed to bring the ship more or less straight down, minimizing the amount of damage to the forest and thus cutting down on the trail for Imperial search parties to follow. While the rest of the crew made sure they and their cargo was still in good condition, Bas managed to stop the smoke pouring from the YT-2400’s engines. With that taken care of, and by using a special camo net given to them for the mission, the Borrowed Time would be almost impossible to find within the mists of the mountain range. That was a huge relief to the crew, but there were still more than enough problems facing them.
Judging by the terrain, they’d made it roughly halfway down the range towards their target rendezvous area before being brought down. With the ship out of commission, they were facing a hike in order to meet up with their allies. Hauling their cargo without a ship wasn’t exactly going to be a pleasant prospect either, but the crew decided to focus on a bigger problem: somewhere out there was a TIE Phantom pilot who knew that the Borrowed Time had come to Toprawa. While everyone was obviously willing to fight the Empire, the rebels who had helped steal the Grasper knew that knowledge of their presence on-world would be sure to draw unwanted attention. So, although it would take them out of their way, the crew decided to attempt to reach the TIE Phantom crash site and eliminate the evidence.
Nak remained behind to guard the ship and prepare the cargo for transport, while the rest geared up and went hunting. Although this was obviously quite different terrain than her sandy homeworld of Tatooine, Shikte Lokt had spent long enough in the Alliance to become skilled at navigating it regardless. Despite the confusing mists and rough terrain the Tusken was able to keep the crew from getting lost, eventually finding themselves on the top of a hill that had cleared been clipped by the Phantom as it went down. However, upon arriving there they also discovered that they weren’t the only ones searching.
While the exact nature of their source wasn’t immediately clear, at least two searchlights trying to pierce the mist and the low hum of repulsors told the rebels that the Empire had dispatched forces to find their lost Phantoms. The searchlights in question were directly in the path the crew had to take in order to reach the Phantom. Deciding to chance it, The Wookiee, Cole, Bee’f, and Verjylla went ahead to try and sneak past, while Caleb, Patience, Bas, and Shikte waited atop the hill in case they needed to be the cavalry. With a personal stealth field purchased on Nar Shaddaa Cole had no trouble going unnoticed, and Verjylla and Bee’f were old hands at being sneaky, but unfortunately The Wookiee is somewhat lacking in subtlety. The good news was that the Imperial Army trooper she walked in to after rounding a tree was just as surprised to see her, and immediately discovered why a Chadra-Fan was called The Wookiee when she took him off at the knees with her vibroaxe. The bad news was that there were another four troopers behind that one, and the screaming immediately attracted the attention of a patrol craft in the mists above.
Patience and Caleb immediately began to move, the Mandalorian heading to the right with Patience running off to the left. As The Wookiee shrugged off blaster carbine fire and began to wade into the remaining troopers, Bee’f attempted (with a somewhat embarrassing lack of success) to scramble up a tree to safety while Verjylla hid behind another tree. She quickly hooked up her voice projector and began a scathing tirade against the Imperials, mocking their foolishness at going up against The Wookiee; some of the troopers, already terrified at what a Chadra-Fan was doing to them and misinterpreting Verjylla’s words, were driven to the edge of panic at the thought of a Wookiee lurking in the mists as well. Even when a patrol craft descended from the mists and its door gunner opened up with a light repeating blaster, the tiny dervish of vibro-axe-delivered death was seemingly untouchable.
Caleb, coming in from the right, spotted the patrol craft and launched an ion grenade at it, but unfortunately missed entirely. He was lucky enough that the craft didn’t notice his attempt to cripple it and turn its fire to him, but his attempt at flanking was quickly flanked in turn when another five Imperial Army troopers came out of the mists. He was forced to hunker down and engage them, leaving the rebels in the center on their own for now. Seeing blaster fire coming from the direction Caleb had run off in, Bas hefted his medic supplies and began heading that way.
Off to the left, Patience spotted yet another group of five troopers heading towards the fight in the center. Of course, Patience has his own ways of dealing with such things; a quick adjustment to his holographic armor gave him the appearance of an Imperial Army officer, and he quickly stepped out to bring the troopers to a halt. While very confused by the appearance of an officer they did not immediately recognize, the troopers were quickly cowed by Patience’s personality and fooled by his blatant lies into rushing back the way they had come in an effort to ‘stop a rebel flanking maneuver’. With that flank thus secured, things were looking up for the rebels, until a second patrol craft descended into the mists and spotted Verjylla. Taking aim at the target of opportunity presented to him the door gunner fired his weapon on full auto. With Verjylla not being nearly as tough or well-armored as The Wookiee, the rebels and Imperials were treated to the sound of blaster fire and a Bothan scream cut short. Fed up with trying to get a clean shot from the top of the hill, Shikte began moving up.
Back on the right, Bas arrived to find Caleb pinned down behind a tree, still exchanging fire with the squad that had come upon him. Calmly assessing the situation, Bas pulled a syringe from his medical bag, snuck up behind Caleb, and jabbed it into the Mando’s neck. Taken by surprise, Caleb nonetheless immediately felt the stim putting his reflexes into overdrive. Putting his SE-14r into auto-fire mode Caleb charged out from behind his cover, spraying blaster bolts everywhere and riddling the troopers. That situation handled, Bas moved towards the center to administer first aid to Verjylla. Shikte, finally having gotten a clean shot, took aim at the door gunner of the second patrol craft. However, in a triumphant example of a shot hitting not what you want to hit but what you need to hit, a quick adjustment at the last second punched a blaster bolt into one of the patrol craft’s engines. The pilot was unable to steady the craft, smashing into a tree and tumbling to the ground; although the door gunner survived, Patience quickly came upon him and sent him, wounded and confused, into the mists.
As The Wookiee had at this point dealt with the original group of troopers (the less said about what was left of them, the better), that left only the original patrol craft to deal with, and its gunner had managed to wing the scrappy Chadra-Fan at least once. Unfortunately for the craft’s crew, Cole had remained invisible thanks to his stealth belt, and had managed to furtively attach a grappling line to the vehicle. Having hauled himself up without the gunner or pilot noticing, the former smuggler quickly dispatched the pair and claimed the craft for the Rebel Alliance.
Gathering up his fellows on the newly dubbed Short Trip, Cole finished their journey towards the Phantom crash site, only to discover that they were too late; a third, unnoticed patrol craft must have found it first, evacuating its pilot and taking the flight recorders with it. With the word of the Borrowed Time‘s presence irrevocably returned to the local Imperial command, the crew did what they could to literally salvage the situation; Bas managed to recover samples of the stygium-crystal-based materials used to grant the fighter its stealth capabilities, and Caleb planted a demo charge so that the Empire couldn’t recover the fighter later. That done, the Short Trip took off to pick up Nak and some of their cargo before continuing to their rendezvous . . .
Time can be funny with tabletop roleplaying games. There’s the obvious stuff, like taking four hours in real life to play out a fight that, according to the system, only took about four minutes at most. But unless you’re working with a really concrete calendar in-universe, time can be pretty fluid. “Speed of plot” can be common, travel times often get fudged, and there’s nothing but the pace of the story to keep big chunks of down time to vanish into a timeskip to keep the players from getting bored. That being the case, this episode’s trick is the flashback. Since time can be played with anyways, why not put it to good use?
A flashback sequence can be particularly useful if, as with this game, you start the game by jumping right into the action. Having established where they are and what their immediate situation is by starting in medias res, a flashback like the one that started this session can show the players how they got there and provide them the context for their current situation, as well as giving them an idea of where they’re heading next. It also lets the characters introduce themselves to one another (and the other players) in a less frantic scenario; having just seen what all of their comrades can do, they can now learn at least a little more about one another while they’re not dodging blaster fire.
Of course, even if you don’t need to fill the players in after an in medias res first session, flashbacks can be useful in plenty of other ways. They’re a prime method for exploring a character’s backstory, for instance, especially if the broad details of that backstory are known but could do with a little filling in. Rather than making the player fill in those details on their own at home, a flashback scene or session can make that backstory an exciting, collaborative experience. Another thought is that, rather than using in medias res to start a campaign, you could use a flashback to start! You could show what the characters were up to, and perhaps even make the campaign or its first arc deal with the consequences of what happened in the flashback.
After all, jumping into the past of the ‘current’ story is a device used by books, movies, comics, and video games alike. Why not use it at your gaming table as well?
Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! I’ll see you all back here when we meet up our with crew’s allies and raise some local rebellions 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 4/8/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!