Despite some mishaps and a few crashed airspeeders the Borrowed Time crew had managed to make it on and off the Smuggler’s Moon of Nar Shaddaa, recruiting the Force Sensitive Captain Pontay and his Sleight of Hand in the process. They were still ‘out in the cold’, however, so once they were safely back in hyperspace the rebels weighed their options for their next objective. Leaving Hutt Space would bring them by the Kwenn Space Station, where they believed another Force Sensitive to be, but the crew came to the conclusion that its proximity to Nar Shaddaa made it too hot at the moment. With Patience leading the charge because of the likelihood of getting back in touch with High Command, the destination was chosen: Sullust.
Way back on the Shadow Raptor when General Cracken and the other members of Alliance High Command had officially set the Borrowed Time rebels loose on the Empire they had informed the team that the Sullustan Resistance had gotten in touch. Elements of the Resistance in G’rinn Go City intended to strike at Imperial-friendly parts of the SoroSuub Corporation in an effort to disrupt operations, both to send a message to corporate HQ and to facilitate the advancement of Resistance-friendly members of the corporation. Details were otherwise sparse without getting on the ground, but it was a clear-cut example of disrupting the Empire’s ability to support its war machine, so many of the crew were eager to get to work.
A not-quite-successful but full-of-advantage astrogation check got the ragtag minifleet to the Sullust system but unable to get to the planet itself, although they landed far enough out that they were able to avoid detection. Puzzling over how to reach the surface, the team were saved by their latest recruit: Captain Pontay offered to shuttle them down in the Sleight of Hand, using the Davros-class freighter’s stealth systems to slip past customs and planetary defenses alike. Although there was some understandable grumbling over having to depend on someone else if they needed a quick getaway Patience, Bee’f, Shikte, Cole, and Caleb boarded the Sleight to make their way to the rendezvous.
Once they’d reached atmosphere and began to approach the city, Patience attempted to make contact with the Resistance using the passwords and protocols that General Cracken had provided them back on the Shadow Raptor. He was successful, and immediately began trying to ferret out if the Resistance had been taken out and turned into a trap between the original call for help and the arrival of the Borrowed Time crew. Luckily Patience’s professional paranoia was unfounded – this time – and it was the actual Resistance who were waiting to meet them. Captain Pontay followed instructions from the Sullustans to land the Sleight of Hand at a secret hangar in the side of the volcano the city was built into.
Before disembarking, some of the players made a few Knowledge checks to make sure they wouldn’t be offending anyone. Comparing notes the team came to the conclusions that the Resistance were likely to be a little on the insular side and likely to react poorly to Alliance operatives bringing too much heat down on their planet, but stalwart enough allies so long as everyone played nice. With that information in hand Patience led the team off of the ship to meet local Resistance leader Gaff Kilvari. Gaff welcomed them cordially enough, although he mentioned that he’d begun to wonder if the Alliance was even sending anyone. With the team’s arrival, the Sullustan informed them, the Resistance was all set to being Operation Thunderbolt. The briefing would begin as soon as everyone was gathered together.
As the Borrowed Time team filed in to a large room rapidly filling with Resistance members, Patience kept a general eye on the proceedings while Cole, Caleb, and Shikte made small talk with the Sullustans. Bee’f, however, had apparently forgotten the ‘play nice’ rule. Aside from probably being a little hopped up on death sticks again, the squirrelly Bothan had a grenade problem: he didn’t have any left, and Nak was back with the fleet so she couldn’t lend him any. Bee’f quickly noticed that most of the Sullustans had at least one bandoleer of grenades, however, and the infiltrator quickly reverted to childhood habits and tried to palm a few. Not only did he manage to steal a pair of frag grenades without being caught, he’d replaced the explosives with, I quote, “space bananas”. Nobody, not the Resistance members nor the rest of the Borrowed Time team, noticed this happening. Yet.
Gaff began the briefing shortly thereafter, laying out Operation Thunderbolt for the recently arrived SpecOps agents and refreshing the memories of his own people. In a single night the Resistance would hit four targets: the AgriSuub Research Facility, G’Rinn Go City Corporate Security HQ, the SoroSuub Land Systems and Proving Ground, and the SoruSuub Secure Uplink Station. The resulting loss of research and resources, as well as the general chaos, would provide plenty of opportunity for anti-Imperial members of the SoroSuub Corporation to jockey for more power and influence within their own ranks, disrupting the Corporation’s ability to supply and support the Empire. As for which target the Alliance members would be hitting, well, that would be up to them.
A short debate raged among the team. The AgriSuub facility, responsible for bio-engineering various crops, was quickly set aside; several members of the team were wary of what any given Imperial might be up to at a bio-engineering facility. The other three targets were all attractive in their own way. The Proving Ground would no doubt provide many chances to blow things up, which Caleb was a fan of, while Shikte and Cole mulled over the likelihood of getting to steal anything. The Security HQ, where the goal would be to capture or kill Security Chief Fenn Sesslyn, would cause plenty of disruption among the local security forces, something Patience approved of. Destroying the Uplink Station would cause even more chaos, and Bee’f pointed out that capturing it for a time would give them a perfect tool for Verjylla, back with the fleet, to use. The fact that Bee’f had begun to hold a torch for Verjylla some time ago probably had something to do with that, though.
In the end the team, aside from Bee’f, settled on the Security HQ. They had some skilled liars among themselves, which provided a unique opportunity to reach the target without a running blasterfight. Bee’f spent some time writing a letter to Verjylla explaining that he’d tried to get her a nice Uplink Station as a present, then settled down to help planning out the mission. The team settled on the old ‘surprise inspection’ routine, which looked an awful lot like the “installing new Holonet connections’, ‘helpful wandering monks’, and ‘caf machine delivery crew’ routines they’d used in the smuggling days: bluster their way in, get the target alone, and deal with it as quickly and quietly as possible.
Some SoroSuub corporate uniforms were scrounged up by the Resistance, and the team began preparing themselves. Shikte had to wear her ‘human disguise’ by ditching her Tusken garb, and Caleb complained about feeling naked without his armor, but all told they looked the part. They were also joined by a quartet of Sullustan Resistance members who would be helping them; when Bee’f started looking guilty after noticing that one of them had two space bananas in his bandoleer the Bothan got a few suspicious glares from Shikte. Patience, meanwhile, set about making sure that Gaff was going to stay out of trouble. He’d identified the old Sullustan as the linchpin of this branch of the Resistance, and didn’t want him getting killed; thankfully, with some help from Gaff’s subordinates he was able to convince the man to stay out of the fighting this time.
Pulling up outside Corporate Security HQ in a borrowed landspeeder the team strolled right up the front steps, pushing their way past security officers heading out on their normal beat. They’d synchronized their plan with the Resistance as best they could, but there was no way to know when something would go wrong with Thunderbolt elsewhere and suddenly kick the HQ like a gundark nest, so speed was of the essence. That being the case Bee’f immediately began to harangue the poor desk officer in the foyer, demanding to see Security Chief Sesslyn and yelling about how ‘corporate was demanding results’ concerning the Chief’s efforts against the Resistance. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for Chief Sesslyn and her guards to answer the disturbance.
A retired Imperial Army commando, the woman struck an intimidating figure as she and her six personal guards walked into the foyer and demanded to know what was going on. Bee’f was unfazed, however, and stuck to his lies. With a deceiving success he got the team a conference room to talk with Sesslyn in, and thanks to some advantage it was sound-proofed; the rest of the advantage rolled was to keep three of Sesslyn’s guards out in the hallway. The Sullustan with the space bananas was left to keep an eye on them, while the rest took their places in the conference room.
In an attempt to more or less kidnap the Security Chief, Bee’f began to try and convince her that she was wanted at a meeting at local corporate HQ. The basic idea, presumably, was to get Sesslyn in their landspeeder, stun her the moment they turned a convenient corner, and then race back to the Resistance before anyone noticed her missing. Unfortunately this is where things began to fall apart for the Borrowed Time team. While Bee’f was not outright caught in a lie, Sesslyn began to become suspicious due to some threat, and the final attempt to convince her blew the whole thing wide open. A Despair meant that the Uplink Station across the city went up in smoke thanks to Resistance detonite charges, which Sesslyn’s personal comlink immediately began squawking about. As she leapt to her feet the team saw that their chance for trickery had passed, and pulled their weapons.
Sesslyn hadn’t become Security Chief without some Vigilance, however, and actually squeezed off the first blaster shot to hit Bee’f. Patience in turn drew his disruptor pistol and aimed true, but Sesslyn displayed some ‘Imperial Valor’ by pulling one of her guards into the way of the beam. As the man fell to the floor with a hole in his chest the conference room exploded into general violence, with sounds of more fighting coming from the hallway. Cole, Caleb, Shikte, and Patience exchanged blaster fire with Sesslyn and a guard, both using the conference table and chairs as cover, while Bee’f charged the last guard with his force pike as the Resistance members covered him.
In the fight with Sesslyn and her guard a few hits were traded by each side, until Cole used the Force to lift Sesslyn out from behind cover. The Security Chief was badly wounded in the exchange, although Cole himself was hit and forced to release her. As the guard toppled over from a headshot from Shikte and a flipped Dark Side point saw Sesslyn use a secret back door to try and escape, a Triumph hit the table on the player’s side. The players almost unanimously chose to use the Triumph to help the banana-toting Sullustan stuck out in the hallway with Sesslyn’s other three guards. The sounds of fighting outside immediately took on a certain panicked timbre on behalf of the security officers.
Sesslyn, however, had managed to open the escape tunnel and dash inside, sealing it behind her. Frustrated, Cole pulled his trump card: from a cybernetic cavity within his torso the former smuggler drew the lightsaber of Inquisitor Marquis, long since slain on the Grasper, and jammed the crimson blade into the door’s control mechanisms. As Bee’f yelled about how awesome that was, not having known about the saber, the door hissed open and the Resistance members lobbed grenades into the hidden passage. Caleb followed them in, finding Sesslyn downed by the shrapnel, and finished her off. With a neck-breaking swing of his force pike Bee’f dispatched the surviving guard, ending the fight in the conference room.
Behind them the main door to the room hissed open, revealing a panting Sullustan. All that could be seen of the security officers through the doorway was a pair of boots and a growing puddle of red. The two space bananas were missing from the Resistance member’s bandoleer, and he crossly demanded that everyone hurry up so that they could get out of there before someone stumbled upon all this.
Thus was born Dohl Che’qy’to, grenadier of the Sullustan Resistance and a genuine MacGyver who can kill with only space fruit. The players love him.
Bee’f grabbed a little bit of DNA and Sesslyn’s comlink, and a minute later was using his flesh camo kit to make a few calls and throw off suspicion. There was a brief desire among the team to try and see if there were any targets of opportunity, but they concluded that discretion was the better part of valor. “Chief Sesslyn” walked out the front door of the Security HQ, escorted by the ‘inspection team’ and ignoring pleas from her confused officers, and drove off into the city.
As the Borrowed Time team returned to the Resistance safehouse the overall success of Operation Thunderbolt quickly became apparent. The Uplink Station’s destruction had cut the city off from the rest of the planet for a time, and without Chief Sesslyn to organize them the security forces had fallen into disarray. The Proving Ground had been destroyed as well, with several stolen armored landspeeders bolstering the Resistance’s armory. As for the AgriSuub facility, well, the player’s had been right to worry. The Resistance had taken casualties and wouldn’t talk much about what had been used against them, but they reported that the entire facility had been destroyed. G’Rinn Go City was in chaos, and the Resistance were already talking about how they and their allies could take advantage.
Advised by Gaff to lay low for a week or so in the Resistance base until things died down a little, the team set about trying to get some assistance in turn. They were given enough supplies to repair the rest of the Borrowed Time‘s damage from the escape on Dahvil, but actually ended up being gifted quite a bit more. Every so often Resistance members became willing to look at the larger view, and to minimize Imperial involvement in the local fighting the Resistance would send these prospective Alliance members off-world. Dohl Che’qy’to was willing to lead such a squad to follow the Borrowed Time, bringing the infantry platoon currently aboard the Last Ditch back up to full strength. Finally, the Resistance was able to donate a ship: a CEC L-2783 Deep Space Recovery Vessel. The ship was large enough to act as a carrier, solving the starfighter issues the rebels had been having, and came with enough maintenance pods and raw supplies to keep the rebel ships in good repair for some time.
On the subject of getting in touch with Alliance High Command, however, the Resistance had only worse and worse news. They reported that a second attempt to contact the Alliance had gone unanswered, and unlike the Borrowed Time their codes should have still been good. Furthermore, word had reached them of a large battle in the Anoat Sector, on some planet called Hoth. Details were sparse, but what few they’d found pointed to a bad loss for the Alliance, at about the same time as everyone lost contact with High Command. While nobody knew for certain, it seemed likely that Hoth had been home to the rebel base so secret nobody present had even known it was there. The fact that it had been found was a crushing blow; it was doubtful the rebels there had gotten as lucky as the Borrowed Time when Bolthole had been found.
The hope of getting back to the Alliance was dashed, with no indication that the Alliance itself actually still existed in any meaningful way. For all the crew of the Borrowed Time and their allies knew they might be all that was left. Nobody had ever promised them that it would be an easy job, however, and with a growing number of friends and ships the team resolved to keep going. They would need more targets, and upon consideration they needed a name; they couldn’t keep just referring to their motley fleet as ‘the fleet’. It didn’t take very long for them to pick something, and the Rabble-rousers took their leave from Sullust to keep the rebellion going, by themselves if they had to . . .
There are a lot of different ways to get players engaged and invested in the game world, and one of them is giving them a part in the creative process. This is kind of an underlying aspect of tabletop roleplaying games that every GM worth their salt has to do: at absolute bare minimum the players are controlling the main characters of the game/story and deciding what those characters do in any given situation, and if they’re not allowed to do that then I hate to be the one to tell you this but you’re actually writing a novel. But there are extra layers of player creativity that you can tap into.
Some of the player input that shapes the game world can be acquired and used with GM trickery, usually in the shape of harvesting things from character backstories or errant bits of at-the-table conversation. Player includes a NPC in their backstory that might help or hurt them? Have them make a cameo, or weave them into the overall story. Players mention something in passing, say, a suspicion that an enemy might have agents lurking in the city? Write up a few such enemies for the players to find now that they’re looking.
But you can also be a little more obvious about it by asking questions. What does this place look like? What’s the name of the tavern? What’s a good name for this character?
That last one is the relevant one today, as a good handful of recent NPCs in Living on Borrowed Time have been named by the party. I dropped the rumors about Captain Pontay Spo’chead and Bublé Halffin in the party’s lap without picking names for them and like most players mine must have smelled weakness and pounced, asking what their names were. A few minutes of chatting and laughter later and the players had been handed the chance to name them, and name them they did (the names might give away the fact that the player of Bee’f, who you might recall is blessed with the full name of Fi-Li-Chay’se St’ay’ck, was a prime contributor). As for Dohl Che’qy’to, that was more of a full-NPC-making job. The Sullustan was just a background character among all the rest, until the players went out of their way to spend a Triumph to turn him into a badass who can kill his foes with nothing but a few space bananas. Now I have another character to work with.
Of course, remember that you’re the GM. Don’t hand over the creative keys too often, or you’ll wind up in places you don’t really want to be. Know your players and their tendencies so you’re giving them the right things to influence (they might not really want to name characters, for instance, or might name them all Bob). Putting too much too often in the player’s hands might also come across as work they won’t appreciate having to do, or laziness on your part. But letting them help you build the characters and worlds they’re dealing with, even a little, will get them more invested. You might be surprised how fond they become of an NPC or the local cantina, simply because they had a hand in making it.
Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! I’ll see you all then as the Rabble-rousers engage in some cantina espionage, grand theft bacta, and explosive conflict resolution in 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. Today’s adventure and the characters therein are actually from Strongholds of Resistance. 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. If you like what Cannibal Halfling Gaming is doing and want to help, please consider telling your friends about us and/or pledging your support on Patreon!