An Imperial mining and processing facility burns in the background as Toprawans scatter about, some heading for the ruins of their former cities and some following Jilam’s pleas to head for the mountains, there to be found by the Antarian Rangers and led to caches of weapons and food. Still visible in the distance, the facility’s garrison slowly retreats, having decided to preserve itself for another day rather than get mauled fighting over a ruin. Amidst all the chaos the Rebels of the Borrowed Time stand over the bodies of Captain Solm and his team of Rangers, with everyone thinking the same thing: what do we do now?
Despite completing one of their major objectives and avoiding a fight with the Mandalorian Duron Skirata, the Rebels were in a tenuous position. Cole Strutter was being outright hunted, with the rest of the crew caught in the cross-fire, and they still had to destroy the TIE factory on Toprawa (as well as the inferred TIE Phantom production lines). Their final objective, to convince at least some of the Rangers to come back to the Alliance to act as instructors, was endangered by Solm’s death; the Feeorin had kept his people alive on their own for almost two years, only to die the first day that the Rangers revealed themselves, and his surviving people were devastated. Whatever the crew did next would likely decide the fate of their mission on Toprawa.
Of course, this was a crew that had stolen an Interdictor cruiser when they were merely criminals, and even the Alliance members who hadn’t been around for that were their own special brand of crazy. Like a saabac player on his last credits, they quickly decided to go for the Idiot’s Array: rather than give the Imperials time to fortify the TIE factory any further, they would continue this long day and hit it immediately. Perhaps surprisingly, there was very little actual debate on the matter. They were hungry for some vengeance, and perhaps tired of slinking back to the mountain range. For good or for ill they were going to finish their mission as fast as possible and get to shake the dust of this planet from their boots.
Before they could go any further, however, there was the issue of the Rangers. While the rest of the crew set about preparing for another fight and trying to come up with a plan. Patience picked out Jilam as the most level-headed and approached the sniper. The two went back and forth for a while, with Patience trying to rally the Rangers to continue the fight without getting them so up in arms that they would refuse to leave Toprawa. Jilam was no diplomat, and not as charismatic a leader as Solm had been, but with Patience’s help he essentially drill-sergeant’d the Rangers back into line. He also agreed to send several of the Rangers off-world with the Rebels, but only if the Short Trip, Long Haul, and captured AT-ST were left behind for the Toprawans to use.
With that business done, Patience returned to the others to find them somewhat mired in the process of planning. Cole had proposed a plan that involved him chasing the Long Haul towards the TIE factory in the other captured Sentinel-class, then letting the Imperials chase Cole away while Patience lied the Long Haul into the factory. Cole would, at some point, blow the hatch and use his grav chute to reach the ground to reunite with the others. Enthusiasm on this point was mixed at best, but the others couldn’t seem to offer much in the way of other plans in the face of Cole’s confidence. It might have had something to do with none of them having to be on the same ship as Cole during the death ride portion of the idea. Patience, however, suggested sending some members of the crew ahead to infiltrate the facility. Bee’f and Shikte volunteered, and immediately left on a landspeeder.
The Bothan and the Tusken Raider managed to circumvent the facility garrison, which was apparently heading towards the TIE factory as well. With neither of them being particularly good at driving they did eventually crash the landspeeder, but thankfully the tree they lodged it in happened to be relatively close to the factory, and the pair snuck close enough to observe it. Stormtroopers formed the majority of the security, although the Imperial Army had begun posting some of their flyers there as well. For a while the two were frustrated by the idea of sneaking in. It looked too well-protected to get into without being seen, and while Bee’f was an excellent liar he couldn’t conceive of a good excuse for a Bothan and a Tusken to be approaching the factory. After all, even with his disguise kit, he couldn’t hide their species. That was about the moment that Shikte sighed, pulling off her face mask to reveal that she was, biologically at least, a human!
Pushing aside questions about how exactly a human came to consider themselves a Tusken for now, Bee’f remarked that he could work with this and set about disguising the sharpshooter as an Imperial Army officer. Then, with a pair of fake binders on Bee’f’s wrists, Shikte marched him towards the factory. Shikte isn’t much of a liar herself, so Bee’f settled on one of his favorite tactics: being so annoying that nobody else would want to deal with them. The pair were almost immediately stopped by stormtroopers, but from the Imperial perspective the two were an Army officer with an increasingly belligerent and foul-mouthed prisoner who she just wanted to turn over as fast as possible. Wanting nothing to do with Shikte’s boisterous captive thanks to a Triumph from Bee’f, the troopers quickly waved them on. And with that, the pair were in.
At about the time Shikte and Bee’f were looking for a terminal to slice into, the Long Haul left the ruins of the processing facility loaded with most of other Borrowed Time Rebels, a detachment of the Rangers, and Nak and Caleb’s Toprawan militia disguised as stormtroopers. Behind the Haul flew the second Sentinel, piloted by Cole. Going around the retreating facility garrison and its two AT-AAs, the two ships nevertheless were discovered before they could make it to the factory. Two squadrons of TIEs, sent down from one of the frigates in orbit, came upon the Sentinels and immediately began asking for their identifications. Patience cleared his throat, and in a panicked tone explained that they were survivors from the facility fleeing That Madman known as Cole Strutter in the second Sentinel. The response was blaster cannon fire; this time Patience’s silver tongue had failed him, and the jig was up. Nak and Caleb blew a hole in the fighters while Sacha Swiftbird flew the Haul as fast as she could. Cole put his own ship between the TIEs and the Haul, and eventually managed to get both squadrons after him. The chase was on.
Back inside the TIE factory Bee’f and Shikte had found themselves a terminal. The Bothan infiltrator continued to use annoyance to shield them from prying eyes, with Shikte pretending to beat the Bothan whenever someone walked by with Bee’f hamming it up. In between acting, Bee’f was able to get into the system and discover the entrance to the hidden TIE Phantom section of the facility. He was also able to discover that three Phantoms had already left the planet, with the rest scheduled to leave. A quick bit of editing altered the schedule, keeping the Phantoms on Toprawa for at least another day. After a particularly interesting bit of pretend abuse that involved Shikte removing a boot and hitting him with it, Bee’f also edited in a scheduled Sentinel-arrival carrying Rebel prisoners, managing to salvage the plan!
As the Long Haul managed to make its landing, Cole found himself in a ship that was rapidly coming apart under repeated blaster cannon fire as he clawed for altitude directly above the factory. Thankfully, this was not a ship he intended to hang on to. With a lucky Despair on the part of the Imperials he was able to set the self-destruct on his ship and blew the hatch, tumbling out into the sky. As the exploding Sentinel took a few TIEs with it, the former smuggler activated his stealth field and vanished from most eyes as he plummeted towards the factory below, readying his grav chute . . .
Inside the factory Nak and Caleb’s militia escorted their ‘prisoners’, with Patience and Shikte (who the others had had no small amount of trouble recognizing until Bee’f explained) still disguised as officers. Turning a corner on their way to the Phantom section, the entire group nearly ran into an actual Imperial officer, along with two squads of actual Stormtroopers. Patience stepped forth, cleared his throat, and began to explain . . . and for the second time that day an Imperial wasn’t buying it. Imperial blasters began to clear their holsters and the officer’s comlink was raised towards his lips . . . when a pair of binders dropped to the floor and Verjylla Nova stepped forth with a smile, asking if the officer really thought that was a good idea . . .
GMs plan, the gods and players laugh. They weren’t supposed to go to the factory today! At least, that’s not what I thought was going to happen. I thought they’d head back to the mountains, train the militia some more, get the Rangers back into shape, and then start looking for a sneakier way into the factory. I already had a few such sneaky ways prepared for them to find! They’d been so cautious recently, after all. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and the sneaky ways all ended up in the trash. Heck, when I asked them what they wanted to do next the players’ response basically said, “Duh. Why wouldn’t we go for the factory now?”
There’s basically two lessons here. One, never plan too far ahead. Never mind the fact that players are a chaotic bunch who will quite often go cartwheeling off in some unforeseen direction, most of the time you’re going to be playing with these things called dice. And these dice can be quite fickle, even more so in a system like FFG Star Wars with its Advantages and Threats and Triumphs and Despairs. If you plan ten sessions ahead then your game world will probably look nothing like what you planned it to look like when that tenth session rolls around. Depending on the game and players, the world might not even exist by then.
On other side of the die, have your next step or two at least outlined. I was able to roll with what the players wanted to do this session because I already knew, roughly, what things at the factory were like and what the players would face when they got there. Nothing’s foolproof, of course. If they’d decided to, say, try to board and capture one of the frigates in orbit I’d have been forced to wing it. But if you’re a step or two ahead, it’ll often buy you the time you need to adapt to whatever your players have managed to come up with. The Borrowed Time had three targets on Toprawa, after all, and I didn’t pick the order for them. Rather, I simply sketched out the trouble waiting for them at each one, and how the Imperials would react to each target being hit (how they’d dispatch reinforcements, when they’d decide to start evacuating the Phantoms, etc.)
That’s a final, and pretty simple, piece of advice from this session: think about how your antagonists are going to react to the player characters accomplishing their goals. You’ll get much smarter-looking bad guys out of the deal.
Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! I’ll see you all back here when the Borrowed Time crew end their mission on Toprawa one way or the other 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 7/22/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!