The Borrowed Time, the CR-90 corvette called the Last Ditch, and a mixed group of starfighters cruised through the darkness of space, several hyperjumps away from the planet Dahvil and the now-destroyed Rebel base there. While the rebels had made good their escape and savaged the Imperials in the process they were faced with an immediate problem: the Time‘s communication codes with Alliance High Command had expired days ago, and new ones were supposed to be delivered to them via the now-destroyed base. With no way to immediately get back in touch with the Alliance, the small task force was going to have to rely on old intelligence and their own judgment; they’d be picking their own objectives for a while.
Being on their own wasn’t the only problem facing the rebels, however. While having a starfighter escort for a change was a great improvement for the Borrowed Time the ships of Bolt Squadron didn’t have anywhere to land. They were currently forced to go through a cycle of docking with either the Ditch or the Time in order to allow pilots to rest and fighters to refuel, and there weren’t enough hatches to go around. Only R2-KB in his Eta-2 was immune to the need for sleep, and the other pilots were gradually being run ragged. The Borrowed Time herself was banged up from the fighting and escape from Dahvil, and Bas had done everything he could with the resources available. And while they’d performed admirably the infantry aboard the Ditch had lost a quarter of their troops, and were still technically trainees as well. That, at least, was handled by unleashing The Wookiee on them.
Not all of the news was bad, however. While the Last Ditch was currently working with a skeleton crew (which admittedly might cause problems if she had to go into a stand-up fight) it had plenty of supplies in its empty rooms and corridors, as Commanders Torval and Baask had always planned to use the ship as a lifeboat of sorts if they had to flee their base. The impromptu task force thus had several months worth of fuel, provisions, spare parts, and small arms; so long as they could avoid heavy damage they’d be alright. And while High Command couldn’t issue any new orders, the rebels still had a few leads they could follow in the meanwhile.
The crew were still aware that the Sullustan Resistance had been looking for some help with an operation of theirs, which would no doubt lead to ruined days for the Empire (appealing to the 3 members of the crew with the Sabotage Duty). The crew had also decrypted another two dossiers recovered from Inquisitor Skirata’s files, giving them the names and rough details on two more Force sensitives that the Empire were after. Apparently a Mon Cal known as Bublé Halffin had been witnessed using the Force on machinery on Kwenn Space Station at the entrance to Hutt Space, while a Zabrak smuggler named Captain Pontay Spo’chead had supposedly gone to ground on Nar Shaddaa. Following either of those leads would likely lead to confrontations with more Inquisitors, while also serving as a recruitment drive.
After some debate the crew decided to go to Nar Shaddaa. Pontay would be the sort of people the Time‘s original crew got along with and apparently had a ship at his disposal, while Nar Shaddaa itself would offer plentiful opportunities to get supplies and maybe even repair the Borrowed Time. The task force made the trip in good time, dropping out of hyperspace on the far edges of the Nal Hutta system. The Last Ditch and Bolt Squadron would lurk there while the Time went into the system proper; Patience would remain behind to continue easing into his command, while Verjylla took up the role of communications officer and Shikte joined the Wookiee in harassing the poor trainees. With Cole at the helm, the Borrowed Time advanced towards Nar Shaddaa, broadcasting the transponder code Cunning Alias. After all, the last time the crew had been on the Smuggler’s Moon they’d helped steal an Interdictor and blown up a Siener Fleet Systems orbital shipyard. It wouldn’t do to be too obvious, now would it?
The plan to sneak onto the planet almost immediately went wrong; thanks to a failed Deception check traffic control recognized the Borrowed Time‘s reactor signature and pegged it as the ship partially responsible for all the destruction almost a year ago. Thanks to some advantage the crew realized that traffic control was directing them towards an orbital hangar dangerously close to a patrolling Star Destroyer; opting not to fall into the obvious trap it was starting to look like they would have to scrub the mission and flee the system for good. Luckily, Bee’f saved the mission to Nar Shaddaa from ending before it started by flipping a Light Side point and making a quick comlink call to an associate.
Bee’f’s player had long since informed me that every rank in Streetwise he took was basically ‘five guys named Louie’, and it was time for another one of the Bothan’s similarly-named contacts of questionable morality to show up. The Light Side point meant that Louye, the ‘Crime Intel Louie’, was on Nar Shaddaa at the time. Bee’f quickly called Louye and informed him that the Bothan and company were in need of a place to stash the ship, as well as various other bits of business. Louye, who was more or less glad to see Bee’f, quickly gave him the coordinates for a discrete hangar on the surface of the moon. Without further ado Cole sent the Borrowed Time diving into the atmosphere, breaking away from the ordered route and evading pursuit long enough to reach the hideaway without being followed.
Nak remained with the freighter to guard it while Bee’f, Cole, Caleb, and Bas headed out to meet Louye in person to discuss business. As it so happened Louye was actually hanging out at the Astrogation Glitch, a cantina that the old crew had often visited back in the day. The Glitch, known for its extremely garish lighting and various bits of artwork depicting diverse examples of horrible hyperspace disasters, had actually been the most common place to meet with a certain Bothan Commander-disguised-as-a-smuggler named Thriask Fey’lya (no relation). The Glitch had been repaired after Imperial Intelligence tried to assassinate Thriask way back when, and was in full form when the quartet of Rebels arrived. Louye was ready and waiting.
The Quarren was glad to see Bee’f, as they’d had a good working relationship before Bee’f (mostly, kind of) left the criminal life behind, but was more than a little surprised to see that the Bothan had brought Cole Strutter and company to Nar Shaddaa. It was bad enough when one considered what that lot had done the last time they were anywhere near the moon; thanks to Verjylla’s broadcasts they were known Rebels. Louye immediately expressed his concerns that Bee’f had gone legit. The infiltrator managed to spin things for the Quarren, however, particularly by assuring the man that there were good credits to be made. Some were handed over in thanks for the hideaway, but as negotiations began in earnest the bidding intensified.
The Rebels were able to pay for the services of a mechanic crew to fix the Borrowed Time up a bit, not to 100% but enough so that they wouldn’t have to worry so much. They were also able, through some more credits, to attain the location of an information broker that Captain Pontay had been dealing with; the Zabrak had otherwise apparently dropped off the face of the moon, ship and all. Finally they discussed the eventual need to reach and access one of the shadowports on the Kwenn Space Station. Louye had the codes to grant access to one, but was a lot cagier about it than the other services and information he was providing. The crew were finally able to get the codes off of Louye by selling him Caleb’s old suit of Mando armor, since he was wearing Skirata’s these days.
With some fond farewells, and with Nak watching over the work on the Borrowed Time, the quartet rented an airspeeder. Before heading to the information broker they decided to take care of one more bit of business: some of Bas’s injuries from the fighting on Dahvil were beyond the medical gear the Sluissi possessed, so Cole and Caleb led the others to an old friend. Dr. Haaz, an actual Wookiee, was quite surprised to see members of the smuggling crew that he’d often patched up after one misadventure or another. He was more than willing to fix Bas up for the usual fee, asking after Nak while he did so; the Wookiee and Trandoshan had actually gotten along quite well despite some initial awkwardness. That probably had something to do with Haaz helping Nak recover after taking a vibroaxe to the face that one time; it seems likely that bonding is inevitable when you’ve put someone’s skull back together. With the crew’s medic/mechanic back in proper form the crew promised to give Nak Haaz’s best and began traveling to the broker.
They were about halfway there when they noticed a larger airspeeder, the van equivalent, following them. When someone leaned out of the passenger door window and put a blaster carbine bolt into the rear of the rental, the intent of their tail immediately became clear. Caleb didn’t quite trust Skirata’s jetpack enough to use it unless he had to, so he instead fired his ascension gear at the windshield of the other vehicle, zipping back to land on its hood and triggering his mag boots to stay attached. To say that the vehicle’s passengers (who up close had the poise of Stormtroopers out of their armor) were surprised would be a gross understatement.
The shooter on the passenger side was even more surprised when he felt himself yanked out of the window and began plummeting to his doom. Unfortunately for Cole he hadn’t quite been watching the sky while he used the Force and flew at the same time, sideswiping a passing speeder and feeling the rental’s speed dropping. Caleb was forced to dodge around in place as the panicking driver fired his own carbine through the windshield, which was bad enough; the situation on the Imperial speeder became infinitely worse when Bas leaned out a window and put an ion bolt into the engine. The vehicle began to plummet, with Caleb still attached by his mag boots as three more out-of-uniform Stormtroopers bailed out of the back and fired off their jetpacks.
The flying Imperials pelted Caleb with a barrage from their SE-14s, not hurting the Mando too much but ringing his bell a little with a minor critical hit. As Cole steered towards a tunnel through Nar Shaddaa’s towers Bas attempted to fix the damage to the rental; a success with Triumph managed to get the vehicle back up to full speed. The Imperials pursued, but one suddenly jerked downwards. Caleb had latched onto the man’s boot with his ascension gear and was reeling himself up towards the Imperial. Bee’f and Bas fired their blasters at the other two, with Bee’f managing to drop one. Cole, meanwhile, slammed on the brakes and let the survivor rocket ahead before flooring the accelerator and claiming a new hood ornament.
Caleb reeled himself up to point blank range, pelted with blaster bolts from the panicking Imperial but shrugging them off thanks to his armor, and finished the last flying Imperial off with a shot from his spread blaster. Another shot from his ascension gear whipped him to the back of the rental speeder and comparative safety. Unfortunately that’s when the driver of the Imperial airspeeder, now with a jetpack of his own and a missile tube on his shoulder, raced into the tunnel after the rebels cursing Caleb’s name. The party flipped another Light Side point, and the resulting Despair saw the poor Imp struck by a passing hovertruck, but not before he let fly with the missile. The projectile struck the rental right in the rear, and there was nothing for Bas to fix: they were going down in flames.
Caleb grabbed Bas through the window and pulled the Sluissi to safety, triggering his jetpack and flying clear of the tumbling wreck, but the other two rebels were faced with worse prospects. Thanks to some advantage the jetpack of Cole’s new hood ornament was still intact, so the former smuggler attempted to climb out onto the hood and recover it. A failed Coordination check saw him slip and fall, but a Triumph did see him get his hands on the jetpack first. A Talent let him put it on as an incidental, but that still left Bee’f bouncing head over heels inside the burning rental. Luckily the Bothan, despite all the death stick use, turned out to be a fair bit more Coordinated than Cole and successfully bailed out. Cole managed to catch him, and the four Rebels flew off as the rental slammed to the bottom of the tunnel behind them and exploded.
It would be a safe guess to say that they weren’t going to get the safety deposit back.
The quartet landed as soon as they could and made their way on foot to the broker, sticking to the shadows and avoiding the holonet screens that depicted news reports on the disturbance in the tunnel. Once they arrived the broker was very cagey about giving anything up, at first out of principle and then out of worry over dealing with people who had gone legit with the Alliance and then because he actually seemed to care about Pontay. Eventually the rebels managed to convince him, however, and the broker gave them coordinates on the moon for the Captain’s hideout. It was a somewhat harrying jetpack journey into the lower levels (Caleb’s fear of his own lack of skill at flying proved warranted, and Bas had to jury-rig a control mechanism to fly Caleb around like a speeder bike) but eventually they found themselves on a landing platform for a tower whose doors had been sealed.
Banging on the doors eventually saw a small droid hover its way to the platform, through which Captain Pontay began interrogating the rebels. They made their claims of being from the Alliance, and their intention to help protect the Zabrak and his crew from the red blades and other Inquisitors who were after them. Pontay gave them directions to an entrance elsewhere on the tower, that provided a lift up into the Captain’s hideaway. There was a tense moment where Caleb was almost mistaken for Skirata in his black armor, and the Captain and his crew were reluctant to join a revolution, but in the end they were convinced that joining the Borrowed Time would be their best chance for survival. The Darvro-class freighter Sleight of Hand and its two Tallanx-class fighters, along with their Force-sensitive Captain and his band of smugglers, had now joined the Rebellion!
Only problem left would be getting off of the moon and safely back into hyperspace. The Sleight of Hand‘s stealth systems meant it could leave whenever it wanted – it had been a lack of long-term options that had kept Pontay pinned down. The Borrowed Time, on the other hand, had been thoroughly made. Bee’f had a few tricks in mind, however, so the Sleight dropped the quartet back at the YT-2400 before both ships began to make their run. As expected the Sleight was able to slip past Imperials and customs alike to make the rendezvous with the Last Ditch, but the Time – now running under the transponder code Phantom Menace – was asked to heave to for a boarding inspection.
The customs officers, however, were quite surprised to find a Jango-strain Stormtrooper waiting for them onboard with an apparently unconscious Cole Strutter tied up on the deck. The Stormtrooper informed the officers that his team had successfully apprehended the Force-sensitive and were, as undignified as it was, smuggling him off-world to prevent any Rebel rescue attempts. The officers were to clear the Menace to pass and mention what they’d seen to no one until given proper clearance from Imperial authorities. So surprised were the officers, and so convincing was the Stormtrooper, that they agreed without further questions or explorations of the ship. They went back through the airlock, departed in their own vessel, and then Bee’f reverted from his flesh camouflage kit’s latest setting, extremely grateful that he’d thought to grab some Stormtrooper DNA from Dahvil. It was only a short trip from there to the rendezvous, and once everyone had gathered together the growing little task force jumped to hyperspace to plot their next move . . .
A big challenge for many GMs can be balancing your need to keep at least some modicum of control over the story and giving your players the freedom to make meaningful choices. There are game types where this is less of a concern (a top-down hex crawl almost has everything prepared and just lets the players choose where to go, while a bottom-up one cedes a lot of control, for one example), but it’s an issue for most. ‘Railroading’ is generally looked upon poorly unless it’s an agreed-upon part of the game (‘we’re going to the Tomb of Horrors and most/all of you will die there’ or ‘there’s going to be a world-ending threat and you need to Handle It’), but at the same time doing a pure sandbox provides an entirely different set of challenges that many won’t care for. So where can you find that balance?
Personally I’ve found a fair bit of success in giving the players multiple, more-or-less equally important objectives and letting them choose which ones to pursue. Once they had gotten off of Toprawa and survived the Shadow Raptor I gave the players a choice of pursuing what I thought of as the Break the Empire option with the lead to Sullust and the Inquisitor Hunter option by going to The Wheel. Having gone to The Wheel set the party up for a few more misadventures, and at the beginning of this session they came to another crossroads. In a couple more sessions they’ll come to another, and so on.
When we were playing Edge of the Empire: Living on Borrowed Time this same sort of multiple-choice adventuring took the form of various job offers from a number of different sources. When I was playing Edge of the Empire for my online group this turned into a ‘jobs board’ and ‘Holonet messages’ on the group forum, and the players would peruse them week to week and debate what they wanted to do. The players of both groups quickly took a liking to certain types of jobs while turning their nose up at others, which can help you the GM design further adventures with a mind towards what the players want to be doing anyway.
Building off of the idea of letting player choices help you get an idea of what individual sessions and adventures players will like, you can also let player choices gradually build up into a plot. Again, back in the Edge of the Empire days for the Time, I didn’t have much of an idea as to where the players would end up . . . until they kept taking pretty much every job that Thriask Fey’lya (no relation) offered them, gradually helping the undercover Rebel build his forces and drawing the Empire’s attention in the process, which pretty much led them to their current circumstances. It could be said that Age of Rebellion: Living on Borrowed Time and this very Adventure Log would not exist if not for players picking and choosing their jobs from the options provided!
Providing a variety of options and then letting your players choose from among them thus takes care of a number of things. It gives the players a sense of input and control, clues you in to what the players want to be doing once a pattern starts to form, and can even help you write out the rest of the plot as the characters focus on specific goals. Finally, you don’t have to take all the blame for whatever happens! After all, you’re only the GM; the players chose the mess they’re in.
Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! I’ll see you all then as the Borrowed Time crew and their allies engage in a little corporate warfare in the next installment of Star Wars Age of Rebellion: Living on Borrowed Time!
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