In the darkness of the space between systems, the YT-2400 freighter named the Borrowed Time and three TIE/ph Phantoms dropped out of hyperspace for a scheduled rendezvous. For a moment the pilots thought they had missed their window, until they spotted a Nebulon-B frigate cruising along ahead of them. Painted matte black, with only a few of its running lights on to simulate distant stars, the Shadow Raptor quickly transmitted a challenge for identification, which Cole answered with the codes given to the crew before their departure to Toprawa. The local headquarters-on-the-go for Alliance Intelligence along the Hydian Way, the Raptorhad been where the crew had received their mission briefing from General Cracken. Now it was time for a triumphant return, a debriefing, and hopefully some downtime before their next mission.
General Cracken and a mousy-looking aide were there to greet the crew and the Rangers, along with the Raptor‘s Mirialan Captain, Sortuli. The crew of the Borrowed Time were quick to note that the General and the Captain were the only ones on the ship to maintain any sort of military uniform, and even then the General was wearing a bantha-hide jacket and the Captain walked around with a pet lizard on her shoulder (Bee’f nearly lost a few digits trying to pet it). Cracken welcomed the Rangers, congratulated the crew on a mission well done, and hauled them into a debiefing room to get their report. Among everything else, the crew pointed out to the General that there had been an intel leak that had to be on the Alliance side; Cracken promised to go hunting.
After a day of rest and repairs, the Borrowed Time left the Shadow Raptor with three TIE Phantoms alongside her. Cole, Patience, Nak, and Shikte were to crew the freighter to transport the Antarian Rangers; some of the Raptor‘s Y-Wing pilots were flying the Phantoms. They were to link up with a passing Alliance convoy, sending the Rangers further on to High Command and the Phantoms on to Alliance R&D. Once they had accomplished that the Borrowed Time would give the Y-Wing pilots a ride back to the Raptor, there to find out what their next mission would be.
Left to their own devices, the members of the team who had remained behind on the Raptor split up to attend to their own affairs. Bas and The Wookiee more or less caught up on rack time, probably a habit they’d gotten from their time in the Alliance’s regular military. Caleb, giving into his obsession with weaponsmithing and with some interesting resources gathered on Toprawa, set about tinkering with his armor and building a truly deadly rifle for Shikte. Bee’f, apparently knowing several guys named Louie (he’d recently gained a rank in Streetwise) spent a Light Side point to make the ship’s quartermaster 1) named Louie and 2) the mastermind behind the ship’s black market. Some bartering, backed up with credits and half a crate of deathsticks that Bee’f had found somewhere, saw the infiltrator walking away with a shiny new flesh camouflage kit.
Verjylla, meanwhile, got herself examined for a prosthetic leg to replace the one she’d lost on Toprawa. Fitted with a temporary one to hold her over until the final product was completed, and equipped with a new camera droid, the Bothan decided to produce a more laid-back episode of the Rebel Yell, documenting the crew of the Shadow Raptor as they went about their business. Captain Sortuli took her aside at one point to make sure that Verjylla didn’t document anything sensitive, this being an Intelligence ship, but was otherwise quite supportive of Verjylla’s efforts. Both women knew well the value of hearts and minds, and Verjylla’s efforts would give Sortuli’s crew a bit of well-deserved credit.
That night, shortly before the Borrowed Time crew settled down in their bunks, they heard Sortuli announcing the jump to hyperspace. For several hours the rebels let the gentle thrum of the hyperdrive lull them to sleep, but they were all suddenly awoken, some tumbling from their bunks, when the hyperdrive cut out and the entire ship lurched. As horror stories about starships jumping into hyperspace never to be seen again went through their heads, Verjylla got on the room’s com panel and tried to figure out what was going on. For a moment there was static, but then Captain Sortuli commed their room directly. She reported a worse-case situation. The Raptor ran with not much more than a skeleton crew, which was bolstered by a significant number of droids. The droids had turned on the crew, dropping the ship out of hyperspace and triggering a false depressurization alarm that sealed most of the crew in their quarters. There were scattered reports of droids seizing parts of the ship, and the bridge had just been stormed; Sortuli was hiding in the bridge’s refresher.
Worst of all, she’d gotten a glimpse out the main viewport before hiding: the Shadow Raptor was dead in space, tumbling end over end towards a black hole. Sortuli further reported that she had no knowledge of General Cracken’s whereabouts or status. In a rushed voice, the Captain ordered the Borrowed Time crew to do everything they could to retake the ship and secure Intelligence assets, including warning the main Rebel fleet that their location may have been compromised. With that the sound of a door being breached came over the comlink, along with the sound of blaster fire, and contact with Sortuli was lost.
The team managed to force the door of their quarters open, and Verjylla downloaded a copy of the ship’s schematics. Looking to secure a way to evacuate in the worse case scenario, the rebels decided to head for the forward hangar bay. Along the way they encountered a group of protocol droids armed with blaster pistols, who were polite yet firm in their attempts to murder the entire party. Thankfully light blaster pistols couldn’t do much to The Wookiee or Caleb, and the small patrol didn’t prove very difficult for the rebels to overwhelm. Bas’s quick use of an ion blaster and a restraining bolt even secured one of the droids ‘alive’. A quick bit of slicing and programming by Bas and Verjylla gave the rebels a rough awareness of where all the other patrols were, and that the control signal for all the droids was apparently located in the aft hangar bay. It appeared that the theoretical spy had reacted negatively to the crew’s reports regarding his activities and made a move, subverting the droids as part of it.
It was about this time that the rebels noticed that the air was beginning to get a bit thin, and the thought of life support being turned off crossed their minds. With the clock ticking until everyone passed out and suffocated, with several party members taking strain, they rushed the rest of the way to the forward hangar bay. There they found two cargo loader droids standing guard, while two astromechs seemed to be preparing a pair of Y-Wings for flight. The hangar’s crew, including a few pilots, were apparently locked into a ready room off of the hangar. That’s when Bee’f got a Bright Idea.
The Bothan infiltrator slunk into the hangar bay, making his across towards the control room. Unfortunately he had the bad luck to stumble across one of the cargo droids. However, nobody ever said Bee’f wasn’t a good liar. Despite the extra paranoia and suspicion the spy had tried to put into his droid minions, Bee’f was able to convince the relatively stupid droid that he’d spotted some Rebel Scum elsewhere in the ship, and that the droid should go find it. One down. Bee’f made it into the control room and sliced into the safety features, disabling them. Then, after making sure that the doors to the ready room and the rest of the ship were sealed, he turned off the hangar’s magnetic field.
Bee’f got a brief scare when he looked up to see the second cargo droid leaping towards the viewport, having spotted him at the last second, but just before impact the large machine was whipped sideways and out into the void as the hangar decompressed. The astromechs followed right after it, despite their best efforts to clamp down. Once the hangar was clear Bee’f re-engaged the field, re-pressurized the area, and the rest of the squad swept in and let the captives out of the ready room. The freed crew immediately began prepping a shuttle and the two Y-Wings in case they had to make a break for it, although they expressed concern that the droids might be manning the Raptor‘s weapons. After grabbing breathing gear to make the increasingly thin air easier to deal with, the Borrowed Timeteam moved towards life support, all agreeing that in order to deal with the rest of the ship’s problems they needed the air turned back on.
A careful but quick journey later and a bit more computer slicing opened Life Support up to the crew to find several Raptortechnicians unconscious, with two rogue medical droids and a pair of astromechs fiddling with the computers. Unable to use grenades or Bas’s ion blaster for fear of damaging the life support equipment, the fight proved more difficult for the rebels despite them actually having an advantage in numbers. The Wookiee came to grips with a medical droid and managed to chop it to pieces while Bas and Caleb went after the other one. Things got a little ugly when the droid managed to jab Caleb with a sedative and nearly knock him unconscious, but the pair were eventually victorious. Bee’f went after the astromechs with his force pike, engaging in a nasty little brawl that saw him bashing the things to pieces while they tried to shock him and do something to the life support computers.
The room secure, Bas pulled out his tools and set to work, and shortly thereafter everyone literally breathed a sigh of relief as life support was reactivated and the air quality began to improve. Still, there was a lot of work left to do if the Shadow Raptor was to be saved, and according to Bas’s caluclations they had only about an hour before the frigate reached the point of no return . . .
Don’t be afraid to borrow from other sources to fuel your own game. This is good advice in general, but here I’m specifically talking about when you’re running an adventure or campaign of your own creation, and how published modules, adventures, and campaigns can be a very helpful resource. There are, broadly speaking, three ways to use published works when you’re not using them to make up the entirety of the campaign (there may be more I haven’t thought of; if you know of one, speak up in the comments!). They are 1) Jump-starting a campaign, 2) providing ‘filler’, and 3) adaptation into an on-going story.
The jump-start option is relatively simple, and in my experience it’s decently common. You take a (usually low-level) pre-made adventure, run your players through it, and once you’re done The Adventure Continues. The characters, having hopefully survived their first big adventure, now move on to more adventures of you the GM’s making. For an example, I used 4th Edition D&D’s Seekers of the Ashen Crown adventure to introduce one of my groups to the Eberron setting; while the players and characters have changed a fair bit since, that particular iteration of the world is still going strong 3+ years and 15+ levels later. A much more obvious example relevant to this particular Adventure Log is the existence of the Beginner Games for Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, Force and Destiny, and The Force Awakens. Now, I haven’t done this myself (I use the BGs to either strictly introduce players to the system or at cons), but I’ve seen plenty of people who use the Beginner Games as the start for a campaign that keeps going far past the booklet.
The ‘filler’ one can be a little more tricky; the Bossman and Sammy once said on an episode of potelbat that you don’t want to have filler fights, and by extension of that logic you certainly don’t want truly filler adventures. I’m sure many of you can mention some production or another that got mired in filler and died there, and the word has some pretty nasty connotations. But hey, fellow GMs, some times you just don’t have enough hours to prep something original, but everyone still wants to get together and roll the bones. This is where you can turn to published works to fill in the gaps, with one caveat: make sure the filler actually fits the game you’re running. Don’t change genre (too much). Don’t change the overall tone of the campaign with the filler. Don’t send the party to the back end of nowhere. Don’t leave any strings hanging after you’re done (unless you tie them into something, but that’s for option number three). Consistency is key, otherwise the filler will be too obvious and jarring for your players.
The FFG Star Wars system actually has a lot of this type of stuff written up in the guise of ‘modular encounters’, little one or two session adventures published in their ‘setting’ books like Strongholds of Resistance. For any given game, many of these might not fit, but I’ve gone through the lot of them and picked out a few that could easily be ‘simple’ missions for the crew of the Borrowed Time to carry out. As of this writing I haven’t had to use any (although some have been presented as known targets), but each one that I’ve picked has some tie to the ongoing plot or at least one character’s Duty. If I need them, they’re there.
Finally we have the case of splicing a pre-made adventure into an ongoing story, and this is what happened with this session. After the events on Toprawa, aside from the fact of a trio of TIE Phantoms the team had missed and Skirata having survived, there was one loose thread: somebody had squawked to the Imps and gotten the Borrowed Time shot down in session one. Chasing down a spy hadn’t been part of the original plan on my side of the screen, but the players had determined there had to be one on the Alliance side of things, and that demanded a response. Sure enough I happened to have a copy of Dead in the Water, an adventure that came with the AoR GM screen. The circumstances were very different, but Act II of the adventure proceeds much like what you see above: the Shadow Raptor is tumbling towards a black hole with the players trapped aboard her, and she’s full of murderbots to boot. Now, I changed a number of things: the PCs didn’t deliver the murderbots in Living on Borrowed Time, and thus won’t have to go after the source of said bots for their next adventure. I kept General Cracken on the Raptorto raise the stakes. The droids, originally led by another droid, were in this case being controlled by the spy. But the guts of the adventure remained.
As another example, when I was playing D&D under Brian Libergewe found ourselves smack dab in the Courts of the Shadow Fey. Plenty had changed there, as well. In the adventure-as-written there was no hit squad sent by a former-player-character-turned-antagonist, no piece of the Rod of Wonder to be retrieved, and the Moonlight King certainly didn’t try to summon Pazuzu when things started looking bad for him. And I’m relatively certain no incarnation of The Doctor showed up in the original. But with those little edits, Brian made the published adventure fit perfectly into the ongoing story; as with ‘filler’ adventures, consistency and continuity are important.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying you need to have published material at hand for any of these options. Truthfully, I don’t use published adventures or modules very often myself, for a variety of reasons. I’m merely saying that if you do acquire these resources, they can still be quite useful, even if you’re not using them as the sole basis for your game. The more tools you have in your GM’s Toolkit, generally the better.
Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! I’ll see you all back here as our rebels tumble towards their doom and the Borrowed Time and our absent comrades return to find this dire situation in progress 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 8/26/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!