With another Inquisitor slain and a copious amount of bacta stolen from the Empire the Rebels of the so-called Rabblerouser Fleet were feeling pretty good about themselves as they jumped away from Thyferra. They’d even added another small Special Operations team to their ranks by giving Lieutenant Averre and his troops a lift off the planet. All in all their miniature version of the rebellion was doing quite nicely for itself, and everyone took a small breather as the fleet gained some distance to lose any pursuit and began preparing for their next mission.
Most of the Borrowed Time crew settled into their routines. The Wookiee and Shikte trained with the infantry (who seemed to be developing their long-range abilities and melee ones but little else), with Shikte still being shadowed by the young Force-Sensitive Mariana. Caleb, Nak, and Bee’f tinkered with their gear in Pendragon’s armory. Bas worked on the ship and tried to avoid irritating too many of the pilots. AL was given a strange cube of some kind by Bolt Squadron member R2-KB, told to share it with his ‘boss’ and the other ‘Force-sensitive upstarts so they stop losing limbs’. Verjylla continued to make Rebel Yell episodes. Cole bobbed up and down in a bacta tank.
During one of their brief stopovers in between hyperspace jumps the fleet received a transmission from an Alliance shuttle wishing to rendezvous with them, claiming to have supplies and some personnel. Wary of Imperial traps, Patience asked for some sort of proof, the player wondering if they’d have codes that were ‘old, but still checked out’. Lacking codes, however, the shuttle merely replied with a message: “Ditched the midget and the murderbot, looking to join back up.” The old hands from the Borrowed Time immediately gave their approval, and Nak and Caleb scampered down to the airlock to greet an old friend. Cowboy Beep-Boop (I have got to stop letting players name things – Ed.) was a security droid whose reprogramming had gifted him with medical skills, a terrible Agamaran accent, and a tendency to wear wide-brimmed hats and ponchos. He’d actually been built by Weemateeka “Teek” the Jawa Slicer, and had left with Teek and Lear the Droid Assassin when they decided bounty hunting suited them more than serving with the Alliance.
Cowboy was quite pleased to see his old shipmates, congratulating Caleb on his new armor and telling Nak how proud he was that she hadn’t lost any more limbs. He got a little cranky when he heard about Cole, though. He had a few juicy tidbits about Teek and Lear’s career, but explained that he didn’t feel like he had much of a purpose with the pair, so he wanted to follow the rest of the old crew again. After seeing Verjylla’s Rebel Yell broadcasts, he’d hitched a ride on the supply shuttle (this was how Contribution Rank 4 was resolved, as the shuttle carried the gear and Medicine-capable NPC that the party had requested as their rewards).
Patience, as part of his efforts to better improve his relationship with the Alliance Intelligence agents assigned to him, managed to call one of them into his office aboard the Last Ditch while they were visiting to report. Surprisingly the agent in question turned out to be Castor, the former ISB agent that the crew had captured and forcibly turned to the Alliance on Toprawa. The pair shared a drink and actually managed to bond a little when Patience revealed his own past as an agent of Imperial Intelligence (prompting another player to remark that Castor now knew more about Patience than anyone on the Borrowed Time ever did). Castor was happy to find a fellow ex-Imperial in the ranks, and remarked that the Alliance was at least a much nicer employer than the Empire ever was. Castor was sent back into the field and Patience returned to his planning satisfied at the hearts and minds work for the day.
Eventually the Rabblerousers as a whole decided to attempt to increase the size of their fleet, following Intelligence reports that a lone Alliance frigate and its supply vessels had been raiding Imperial commerce along the Hydian Way. According to the reports the frigate was likely running low on ammunition for its torpedo launchers and was unable to resupply due to being as cut off from Alliance High Command as everyone else; the Empire was also finally making a dedicated effort to hunt the frigate down and destroy it.
Unfortunately initial attempts to find the Alliance frigate on their own were fruitless, as the frigate’s area of operations was too large and its crew too cagey. A second plan put together by Patience involved ‘leaking’ information about a vulnerable Imperial supply convoy in an attempt to lure the frigate into a rendezvous. That too failed, as the resulting Deception check was not enough to trick the frigate crew into taking the fake bait; they never showed. This did at least make Patience a little pleased, in that he now knew that the potential addition to the Rabblerousers was not crewed by fools.
Research by Patience and Verjylla revealed that part of the Imperial net closing around the frigate would have to include an Interdictor cruiser to keep the Rebel ship from escaping. That’s when the crew came up with their plan: plant the Borrowed Time in deep space along the Hydian Way, leak it’s location, and allow the cruiser and its escorts to jump in. Then the rest of the task force, minus the Rabblerouser One, would jump into to ambush the ambushers. The Borrowed Time had gotten their start with the Alliance by stealing a cruiser after all. Why not snag another, and remove the largest obstacle to finding the frigate in the bargain?
They didn’t have to wait very long. Soon enough the Imperial Interdictor cruiser Shadow’s Web dropped out of hyperspace almost right on top of the Borrowed Time, accompanied by two Raider-class corvettes. As the gravity well generators were brought online, a squadron of TIE fighters were launched, and demands for surrender were transmitted, Verjylla slammed one fist down onto the preset comm button. The Web‘s surrender demands had not even finished before the Last Ditch, Sleight of Hand, and Bolt Squadron dropped out of hyperspace in turn, boarding shuttles already detaching from the Ditch.
As the Borrowed Time swung about and began to charge one of the corvettes, Patience spent advantage from the Astrogation check made to join the fight to keep the Ditch in between the Imperial forces and the boarding shuttles until the last second, granting them safe passage. Caleb had somehow gotten himself stuck in the role of piloting the lead shuttle, but for once the Mando’s terrible luck with vehicles of any kind was not present; the shuttles breached the Web‘s hangar bay, successfully getting Caleb, The Wookiee, AL, Bee’f, and the infantry platoon aboard. As Bolt Squadron began to tangle with the TIEs Bas got the Borrowed Time into position: Nak’s first concussion missile splashed against the Raider’s shields, but Shikte in the ventral turret began raking the corvette with cannon fire.
Aboard the Web The Wookiee rushed down the ramp of her boarding shuttle, followed by a howling squad of Alliance infantry who’d taken her hand-on approach to heart. They hit a squad of stormtroopers like a blender, with The Wookiee generating enough Advantage with a single swing of her vibroaxe to activate the Critical trait no less than seven times. A second squad of stormtroopers was met with Caleb and his scattergun, and a third was met by AL and his vibroswords. The poor troopers along the edges of the fight might have thought themselves lucky if they hadn’t been found by Bee’f, to whom AL had gifted Cole’s old full-sized flame projector. Suffice to say the hangar bay was quickly claimed, with a Triumph from The Wookiee sending her vibroaxe into a console to seal the emergency blast doors, preventing anyone outside the ship from getting in (or anyone inside the ship from escaping).
As Nak used the Guided quality to hit the Raider with a pair of missiles and Shikte continued her barrage, a quartet of TIEs fell in behind the Borrowed Time. Bas did what he could to evade them and give his gunners the best possible angle on the corvette, but the Sluissi was struggling to adapt to the maneuvers that Cole had to drink to cope with. More than one Despair kept the TIEs on his tail or were spent by something off-screen, and the Borrowed Time began taking damage. Verjylla, meanwhile, had sent her camera drone to follow The Wookiee. On top of jamming Imperial transmissions by repeatedly broadcasting “Did you really think this was a good idea?” over their channels, the Bothan quickly edited the footage from the hangar bay and broadcast it to every screen on the Web. With a brilliant Coercion roll multiple escape pods began to launch from the Web as some of the crew became desperate to get out of the path of the Alliance boarding teams.
While all of that was happening Patience was aboard the Ditch, directing the CR90 to keep the other Raider busy and trying to lead the overall battle. While he successfully managed to direct firing control to make Nak and Shikte’s job easier, and was making bolstering speeches over the comms to reduce strain for several party members, the Mass Combat checks were going less well. The larger fight essentially became a stalemate; the Imperials were fighting on multiple fronts, had their communications disrupted, and were suffering from mid-battle desertions, but still outnumbered or matched the Rebels in every way. It looked, for the moment, like it would be up to the smaller teams to carry the day.
Speaking of which, aboard the Shadow’s Web the infantry platoon began to spread out from the hangar bay to take the ship at large. Lieutenant Averre and his SpecOps team started heading for Engineering, while the Borrowed Time team started to head for the bridge. Most of the rank-and-file crew had gotten out of the way through one method or another, but it wasn’t too long before another squad of stormtroopers got in The Wookiee’s way. Through some fluke of the Force they were not all immediately shredded, so their screams of “Wookiee!” were answered. A single stormtooper, more heavily armored than most and with the same blood-red shoulder pauldron that they’d seen on Thyferra, came around the corner and raised a boxy weapon: the flechette launcher shot was expertly placed, peppering The Wookiee with shrapnel while completely missing the stormtroopers. A shot from Bee’f failed to land but caused a jam in the flechette launcher thanks to a Triumph. Caleb winged the armored trooper with a blaster shot, but AL’s vibroswords couldn’t find their target. The security droid did put himself between the launcher and The Wookiee, however.
Outside the stalemate continued, although the Borrowed Time‘s chosen Raider was beginning to list and leak air. A pair of Triumphs from Patience promised to swing things around for the Rebels: the MC30 frigate Kath Hound and its two supply transports jumped into the fight, having discovered what was going on. Unfortunately the next Mass Combat check went horribly awry, with another Despair hitting the table. A member of Bolt Squadron was blown to dust, the Ditch took a solid hit, . . . and at Extreme range an Imperial Star Destroyer dropped out of hyperspace. It’s bridge looked like it had been recently repaired, and every Force-sensitive in the battle suddenly had the sensation of someone tapping their fingers together and looking at them, quite satisfied with how things were proceeding . . .
Sooner or later a campaign is going to come to a watershed moment, a session that’s going to dictate the rest of the story in wildly different ways depending on the outcome. Yes, nearly every session should be important to the story and move it forward in some way, but these watershed sessions are when things branch drastically. A good example of a previous watershed session in Living on Borrowed Time would be Part 7 : if Cole had not escaped the Mandalorian Inquisitor and had instead been captured, well, that would have definitely altered things. Most importantly by now Inquisitor Strutter would have definitely made an appearance to attack the crew.
Sometimes a watershed session is planned, which was more or less the case with the Mandalorian, and sometimes they’re going to sneak up on the GM like with this session; I didn’t entirely plan for the players to try and steal another Interdictor, and I certainly didn’t plan for them to roll 4+ Despairs and get a Star Destroyer with The Puppeteer on board called in on them. Either way, they’re likely to be among the most tense, most exciting, most memorable sessions you’ll ever play, because everything gets kicked up a notch when there’s more on the line.
However, there is one potential problem: what if the players don’t realize how drastically things could change? Some players have finely tuned instincts, and some GMs have good enough descriptions, that it’s obvious when things have shifted from their normal state of affairs to something much worse. But sometimes those instincts fail, the descriptions don’t quite carry the right message across, or recent successes embolden the party beyond the norm. When that happens, it’s possible for players to only realize the increased stakes after things have started to go horribly – perhaps irretrievably – wrong. I recall a D&D session wherein my paladin and his fellow adventurers didn’t realize how dangerous the defense of a city would be until we were drastically outnumbered and pinned against the city gates; half the party, including my paladin, was wiped out, and the rest was forced to scatter. That sudden ‘wait a minute’ sensation was quite a kick in the teeth. Granted paladins are born to make glorious last stands, but still!
Consider, thus, letting the players know the stakes. When Cole’s habit of wandering off alone was going to get him into trouble back in Part 7, I told the player up front that he was in trouble, and that the bad guys were not in a mood to pull their punches. This let the player make informed decisions based on the fact that this was not a session that he could afford to be complacent about. Now, I don’t think I’ll really have to do this for Part 19; the entire party seemed well aware that a Star Destroyer of any kind showing up, never mind this particular one, was Bad News. But I’ll still give them a little reminder, just so they know that it’s time to pull out all the stops.
Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! Next time we’ll see if our rebel band manages to carry the day, or if they are dealt a crushing defeat. The fate of the galaxy might very well hang in the balance, and time may have finally run out, 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. 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!