Adventure Log: Living on Borrowed Time Part 3

Cole guided the Short Trip through the mists as Shikte compared what little they could see of the terrain against the maps they had been provided. Eventually, the Tusken gestured downward; they were as close to their rendezvous point as they could get without the scanners working. The former smuggler put the craft, laden with the rebels and with various crates taken from the Borrowed Time,down in the first clearing he spotted. The rebels quickly disembarked, spreading out to cover the craft, wary after their clashes with the Imperial Army earlier in the day. Cole, in a rare moment of calm, closed his eyes and tapped into another sense. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and gestured to the others; they weren’t alone in the mists.

Some members of the crew spread out into the mist, but were unable to immediately find anything. Cole himself began to sense someone tracking him, but neither he nor his mysterious counterpart were able to pin the other down. Patience, subverting the meaning of his name, finally yelled out into the mists for everyone to cut the posturing so they could get down to business. A moment later a Feeorin, wearing the ragged uniform of an Anatarian Ranger, stepped out of the mists with a grin on his face. “Imps are all about posturing. Which means you’re our Alliance crew. Captain Solm of the Rangers. Come on, let’s get you under cover.”

Some time later the Short Trip and the Borrowed Time crew found themselves in a large cave system in the mountains, which they learned had been the home to the Toprawan chapter of the Antarian Rangers since the razing of the cities. For almost two years the Rangers, believed dead, had been scouting out the Imperial facilities on the planet, all in the hope of someday gaining enough information to make a decisive strike. Finally, after gathering everything they could, they stole enough spare parts to scratch-build a holocomm unit and managed to get it out of the mists long enough to start sending burst transmissions to the Alliance. Between the expertise and supplies brought by the Borrowed Time and the intel and skills of the Rangers, the following objectives  could be achieved.

  1. Destroy the ‘ore processing facility’ that the Imperials were supplying with Toprawan labor, and which apparently also was the source of the stygium crystals used in the secret TIE Phantom project (this last part was made ‘canon’ through use of a Destiny Point).
  2. Destroy the TIE Factory on the planet. Also, as it is the most likely location for it, destroy the TIE Phantom production facility. The Rangers were somewhat miffed that they had never even known the Phantom project existed.
  3. Recruit Toprawans to form a local rebellion, arming them with the Borrowed Time‘s weapon shipment and supplying them via the food processors.
  4. Convince some of the Rangers to return to the Alliance on the Borrowed Time; having kept their own existence a secret for almost two years, the Rangers represent an exceptional skill set that can hopefully be used to train new recruits.

While not an official objective (since there was no knowledge of their existence before today) the crew quickly added another objective: steal one or more TIE Phantoms. Cole and Shikte are always fans of acquiring more resources, preferably by depriving the Empire of them, and Bas was extremely eager to get another crack at the stealth technology.

All of these objectives kept in mind the Alliance’s need to disrupt Imperial functionality and to create more fires for the Empire to put out; while it was extremely unlikely the Toprawans would be able to free their planet, since the local Imperial citadel would remain untouched during the Borrowed Time‘s visit, with the planet being on the Hydian Way it would be a fight the Empire couldn’t ignore. Hopefully the supplies delivered to them, spread across multiple caches the Rangers could set up, would give them a fighting chance.

Several days later, after some rest and planning, saw the squad flying out of the mountains in the Short Trip, minus Shikte and Patience (who were helping set up the supply caches and convincing Captain Solm to send some Rangers off-world, respectively). Cole was keeping the craft low in order to avoid Imperial sensors. Their destination was the ruins of the city of Passage, the closest population center to the mountain range and the main source of Imperial labor on the planet. While they had intentionally left the Rangers behind, hoping to keep their allies’ existence a secret for the time being, every centimeter of the craft that wasn’t taken up by their own gear was filled with blaster carbines from the Borrowed Time‘s cargo. It was time to start a rebellion, and to do that they needed recruits to give the blasters to.

They set down amongst the ruins and began scouting ahead, and it wasn’t long before they encountered a complication: a Sentinel-class landing craft, parked not far from where they had been told the majority of Toprawans could be found. Mostly the Toprawans were forced to work in the mines if they wanted to receive rations, but now and again the stormtroopers posted to the world would have a little fun, bringing food into the ruins and forcing the locals to grovel for it. It appeared as if they had arrived while one of these runs was taking place, but they had an opportunity: since the Toprawans had no weapons whatsoever, the Sentinel was not apparently guarded, merely closed up.

The team quickly formed a plan to steal the Sentinel and then go from there. Bee’f broke out his disguise kit, draping himself in ragged clothing and cloaks and generally giving himself the appearance of a wretched beggar. On his own, the former street urchin approached the Sentinel, which quickly began powering up and training its cannons on him. The somewhat bored-sounding voice of the pilot came over the ship’s external speakers, demanding that the ‘scavenger’ back away from the ship lest they be destroyed. Unperturbed, Bee’f began spinning a sob story beyond belief, that in another galaxy in a more modern age wouldn’t be out of place alongside Oliver Twist. There was a brief argument heard over the speakers, apparently between the pilot and co-pilot, before the co-pilot told the pilot to shut up and watch the ship; he was going out there to “Give the poor wretch a ration bar. I hate these runs anyways.”

With a hiss the ramp lowered, and an Imperial Navy ensign walked down the ramp, holding a wrapped ration bar in one hand. The ensign approached the ‘starving’ Bothan, assuring him that it was indeed just food, even going so far as to unwrap it for him. Suddenly, a blaster bolt rang out behind him; Cole, invisible again, had snuck on when the ensign walked down the ramp and had just blasted the pilot. As the co-pilot spun around in surprise Bee’f pulled his force pike from beneath the ragged cloaks, extending it and stunning the poor young officer into submission.

When the ensign came to, he was tied up and surrounded by what he definitely recognized as Rebels of one sort or another. Unwilling to simply kill what seemed to be an actually decent Imperial, Verjylla attempted to convince the young human to join the Rebellion. The ensign’s fear of what the Empire would do to him outweighed Verjylla’s argument, however; while he was willing to claim that he had been stunned from behind and had never seen the Rebels, he was unwilling to defect. Still averse to killing him, they took the ensign’s comlink and tossed him one of Bee’f’s cloaks, sending him off into Passage to ‘see how the other side lived’. Having gotten some information out of the ensign before sending him off, they quickly began planning to deal with the stormtroopers in the ruins.

A few minutes later the Sentinel rose into the air, heading for where the stormtroopers were busy harassing the locals. The Imperials were surprised to see their ship, but were even more surprised when their comlinks were suddenly jammed. One squad in particular was – briefly – surprised even more than that when the Sentinel dove down and landed on them. Cole’s aggressive landing pattern was not without cost, however; the landing ramp broke and fell into the open position, sending Caleb – who’d been prepared to rush out – tumbling down it and face first into the dirt. He scrambled around to take cover behind and underneath the ramp while The Wookiee rushed past him to engage the second group of stormtroopers. A third and fourth squad of Imperials arrived soon after the melee began, with the third joining the others on the ground while the fourth took up position on a ruined building overlooking the fight. Upon the arrival of reinforcements Nak emerged from where she’d been hiding in the ruins with Verjylla and Bas and joined in.

The Wookiee was as deadly as ever, and the second squad was being whittled down in quick order, but the Imperial blaster rifles were taking their toll. Nak was able to scatter the third squad but was unable to immediately take any of them out, and Caleb was hit so hard by a shot from the building that he was bowled over, even in his heavy armor. Bas rushed from cover to provide medical assistance, Cole emerged from the ship to aim his blaster pistols at the fourth squad, and Verjylla began exhorting the Toprawans to run for the Short Trip to retrieve the blaster carbines loaded within. Even as the locals got moving, convinced by the Bothan’s warnings of what the Imperials would do if they didn’t, the leader of the third stormtrooper squad realized that his comlink was jammed, and sent a ‘trooper running to get outside the range of the crew’s jamming equipment.

Unfortunately for the runner, Bee’f was lying in wait, and with a few swings of his force pike the stormtrooper was laid out cold. The Wookiee continued her work, Nak chased down a squad leader with a vibroknife, and Caleb and Cole continued to trade blaster fire with the squad on the building, killing several. With the Toprawans retrieving their weapons Verjylla turned her vocal efforts to berating the stormtroopers, pointing out their losses and their inability to drop a single rebel. Amazingly, one of the stormtroopers on the building broke and ran. Bee’f tried to intercept this second runner, but while he was able to disarm him the Imperial kept ahead of the Bothan. With the rest of the Imperials taken care of, Cole was about to take the Sentinel aloft, shakily hovering while Caleb leaned out the jammed-open ramp and took a risky shot that managed to pick the runner off just short of the jammer’s limit.

With the fighting over, the crew managed to get a little information about these ‘supply runs’ out of the stormtrooper Bee’f had stunned, but when he refused to speak further the rebels gave him over to the Toprawans to deal with as they saw fit. After the bodies of the stormtroopers were appropriately looted, the crew of the Borrowed Time found themselves with roughly sixty armed and at least partially armored civilians, and began loading them on the Sentinel – now renamed the Long Haul. However, Verjylla pointed out that it was not unreasonable that the Imperials might have a plant among the locals, and the rebels began interviewing Toprawans as they boarded.

Sure enough, they soon focused their efforts on one man in particular who seemed far too slippery for his own good. Multiple lines of questioning failed to catch the man in an outright lie, but he was also unable to shake the group’s suspicions. Finally, Nak became frustrated and began to throttle the man, yelling threats. Her more aggressive attempts led to mixed success: as she shook him the ID badge of an agent of the Imperial Security Bureau and a compact but powerful transponder fell out of his rags (Triumph), but further searching also revealed a hidden holocam, and it had been transmitting (Despair). The Imperials on Toprawa now had visual proof of who they were dealing with, and what the rebels were capable of . . .

Sometimes you have to say no. Plenty has been written or said about how a GM should respond to a player asking if they can do something. I could probably spend thirty minutes looking through the Mad Adventurers library alone and come up with a whole pile of articles and podcast episodes that at least touch on the subject. But what came up in this particular session involved something unique to the FFG Star Wars lines: Signature Abilities.

Verjylla Nova is a Diplomat – Agitator, and as a new character was built using the Knight Level rules introduced in Force and Destiny. The Diplomat splatbook, Desperate Allies, came out right before Age of Rebellion: Living on Borrowed Time got started, and her player immediately noticed the Diplomatic Solution Signature Ability. For those not in the know, Diplomatic Solution allows the character to make a roll that, if successful, turns a combat encounter into a social one. And, in building Verjylla, this player spent enough XP to get her within shouting distance of being able to use Coercion as the skill to activate the Ability. As an Agitator, Coercion is Verjylla’s bread and butter. Getting this ability to work is going to be relatively easy for her, and as of the session before this she got the XP she needed to get it off the ground.

So, when her player brought up the idea of using it against the stormtroopers, I said no.

In-universe the justification was that stormtroopers are an ornery lot who aren’t keen to chat after you land a ship on some of their buddies, but I really did this because there was an immediate uproar from most of the rest of the table; this was the first time the characters had run into stormtroopers in this campaign, and the majority of the players were itching for a good fight to really show off their stuff. Thankfully, the player was very understanding of this, and Verjylla still had plenty to do in rallying the Toprawans and terrifying the stormtroopers.

Some of the Signature Abilities are purely mechanical, but some are like Diplomatic Solution and are primarily about influencing the narrative. Desperate Allies even goes out of its way to highlight that players and GMs should be careful about when and how Diplomatic Solution gets used. What it comes down to, really, is whether or not using any Signature Ability (or doing anything else that a player might be asking to do, actually) is at the expense of everyone else’s enjoyment. With up to nine players at the table, there are a lot of folks on the Borrowed Time to keep happy. While not everyone is going to be happy all the time, balance is important.

The reaction to using Diplomatic Solution this time was a chorus of “Oh, come on!” A few sessions (and articles) later, it was received with a chorus of “Oh, yes!” It’s not perfect, but that seems a pretty good ruler to use.

Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! I’ll see you all back here when our band of rebels interrogate their captive and start worrying about spies in their midst 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 4/29/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!

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