The Last Ditch docked with the newly captured and newly rechristened Time Sink as the CR-90, Interdictor cruiser, and the rest of the rebel task force hurtled through hyperspace towards a rendezvous with Rabblerouser One. Patience came aboard, the last of the Borrowed Time crew to do so, eager to take command of an even larger flagship for the Rabblerouser Fleet. He arrived on the bridge to find a skeleton crew of former Imperials who had been convinced to join the Rebellion and his fellow Borrowed Timers all a flutter; while they’d made their escape into hyperspace, they were going to have to repel some boarders.
Verjylla was on the ship-wide comms, ‘welcoming’ the crew as a whole to the Alliance with an Incite Rebellion check; while it wouldn’t get everyone, reports started coming in of Imperials cooperating or at least not resisting as Alliance Infantry and Lt. Averre’s squad seized critical points. There was a bit of a hubbub in the ship’s armory, as Dohl had some trouble reigning in some troopers who had been hanging out with The Wookiee for too long, but it was settled without issue. Shortly after that, however, commlinks went dead as someone began jamming them. Only built-in comm panels were working at this point.
Nak, Bee’f (now carrying the Knight’s lightsaber pike after emerging from the vents), and AL began heading for where the Imperial assault shuttle had attached itself to the hull. Caleb, Bas, The Wookie, and Shikte moved to secure the armory. Verjylla attempted to tap into her ‘visions’ but was unwilling or unable to peer through the shadows still pervading the ship, and Patience was able to work with Ensign Hosfin to seal off portions of the ship and begin to try and track the boarders using internal sensors.
When ‘Team Loot’ reached the armory they found a bit of a situation. Apparently some Imperial crewmembers and technicians had rigged some sort of bomb by basically taping together every power pack they could get their hands on; they had stood down, but there was still the explosive device. Caleb, somewhat impressed and actually praising the now sheepish-looking technicians, debated using it, but since it was basically a block of power packs with a big red button attached he had to disable it instead. Bas, Shikte, and The Wookiee searched the rest of the armory, finding a lot of blaster rifles without power packs and a section that had mostly been emptied out. The only weapon left was a missile tube with a few rounds that had a note attached: “If the flechette launcher doesn’t work, use this on The Wookiee.”
Curiously, Team Loot noticed that there were more empty slots for zany weapons than there had been Inquisitorial stormtroopers, and questioned the crew. Sure enough, the technicians confirmed that there had been more of the elite troopers than the Borrowed Time crew had accounted for during their own boarding action.
Closer to the boarding point Nak, Bee’f, and AL were able to check in with Patience and Verjylla using a comm panel and learn that there was supposed to be a squad of Alliance infantry nearby, clearing the ship. They began to keep an eye out for their allies as well as any potential threats when they heard a flurry of blaster fire and screams. Rushing towards the sound they found a stormtrooper firing through a closing set of blast doors as Cowboy Beep Boop, who’d been with the infantry, dragged a wounded Alliance trooper through right before the doors shut. What was particularly curious was that once Cowboy put the trooper down and began trying to apply bacta patches the stormtrooper didn’t immediately shoot the droid in the back; he instead slumped against the bulkhead and saluted Bee’f (who was still in his own stormtrooper disguise).
Bee’f demanded a situation report in his best Jango-voice, and TK-2875 reported that his squad had been in a stand-off with the Alliance one before a ‘giant stormtrooper’ came upon both groups and opened fire indiscriminately. Imperial and Alliance alike had tried for a fighting retreat but 2875, Cowboy, and the wounded Alliance trooper were the only ones to have made it. Bee’f nodded, and went to gut the stormtrooper with the lightsaber pike out of habit before Nak and AL stopped him and explained that now wasn’t the time. After a really quick planning huddle Bee’f and AL rushed off to try and flank what Cowboy wagered was probably some type of Imperial battle droid, while Nak set up to receive the enemy. Cowboy gave one warning before carrying his charge further back to safety: “That darn thing’s got two barrels, Nak. One’s a heavy repeater, and I ain’t got a clue what the second one’s for.” Across the table Caleb’s player remarked that that was one of the more ominous things he’d ever heard.
With a nod from Nak the stormtrooper opened the blast door just enough for her to lob an ion grenade through it, her training as a Demolitionist letting her reach the approaching figure on the other side. As ion energy crackled over it, confirming that it was indeed a droid, the stormtrooper slammed the blast door shut. No sooner had it closed then a thunderous boom could be hard on the other side; apparently that second barrel had some form of artillery (and, on this round, failed to hit a door). Bee’f and AL rushed through a nearby corridor but failed to make a key Vigilance check, and their advance was brought to a halt when an electrified net enveloped the Bothan, pike sent skittering away. As AL drew his vibrosword and turned in the direction the net had come from his photoreceptors saw the shimmer of a stealth field disengaging to reveal what was definitely an assassination-type droid.
Further back in the ship Caleb, Shikte, The Wookiee, and Bas were rushing their way towards where they believed the boarders to be, checking in with the bridge as they went, but luckily for them Shikte was much more sharp-eyed (or lucky) than Bee’f or AL. The human Tusken Raider suddenly skidded to a halt and whirled about to put a shot into the ceiling with her Marrok Special. Sparks flew and a stealth field disengaged to reveal an assassination droid of their very own clinging to the ceiling. The Wookiee took a jump and a swipe that further mauled it, and after Bas jabbed him full of stims Caleb riddled it with blaster fire. It dropped to the deck, unable to cling anymore, but landed on its feet and deployed the shoulder-mounted missile it was equipped with. In an explosion of fire and shrapnel The Wookiee was sent hurtling back.
Towards the bow Nak nodded to TK-2875 again, and once again the blast door opened just enough for her to aim her blaster rifle at the now-at-Short-range droid and put a bolt into it. Again the blast door slammed shut, but this time it didn’t hold when the droid fired at it; it exploded outwards, sending 2875 and Nak flying and filling the corridor with smoke and debris. As 2875 pulled off his busted helmet and wondered what he’d done to deserve this, he was quite surprised to see a badly wounded Nak burst back through the smoke screaming just as the droid stepped through the shattered threshold. The Trandoshan’s vibroaxe was buried in the droid’s chest, sending up a shower of sparks, and after a moment of struggle the murderous machine fell back to the deck, deactivated.
Just as panic threatened to overtake the hearts of her fellow rebels The Wookiee actually stood up, a mess of shattered armor plates and Chadra-Fan blood, and screamed out a challenge as she endured the missile’s strike thanks to her Unmatched Courage. So taken by surprise was the assassination droid that it stepped back, trying to compute how a direct strike had failed to even knock its target unconscious. Computing the impossible is quite a distraction, however, and the droid never saw Shikte behind it with a gaffi stick swing that sent its head scattering into parts like confetti.
Even as two Imperial droids fell, however, AL was trying to fend off his own would-be assassin, who was matching his vibrosword with clawed manipulators. Bee’f was struggling to escape the net, only to find that failing to escape shocked him even further. Finally, AL got a solid hit in that tore the enemy droid’s photoreceptors from its head. The assassination droid staggered back, but before AL could close in for a kill it deployed a shoulder-mounted missile of its own. Firing blindly, the Imperial droid nevertheless managed to score a hit, and AL was no Wookiee. Bee’f was knocked unconscious in the blast, and as his shattered body went into shutdown mode the last thing AL saw was his opponent dragging the net full of Bothan and meeting another droid at the end of the corridor.
While various folks were trying to tend to wounds, find one another, or figure out what to do next Patience and Verjylla were trying to get their bridge crew to cut through the jamming and get a look at the bigger picture. The MIA Inquisitorial stormtroopers were still nowhere to be found and the other rebels from the Borrowed Time were out of touch for the moment, but most of the ship remained secure. Suddenly, though, Ensign Hosfin shouted up from the pit that an airlock sealing was being detected. Verjylla and Patience looked out of the forward viewports in horror as the Borrowed Time detached from the hull of the Time Sink and tumbled away, falling out of hyperspace to points unknown.
The next few hours were a scramble as personnel were rushed to infirmaries, the ship was fully secured, and Bee’f and the Inquisitorial agents being aboard the Borrowed Time when it detached was all confirmed. Exactly what to do was still up in the air, but data recovered from the Time Sink‘s databanks and the Knight’s quarters revealed where the Inquisitor had been intending to head once he’d captured crewmembers of the Borrowed Time: the home of the Inquisitorius, a volcanic planet out near the end of the Hydian Way, apparently known by the name Mustafar . . .
Putting a campaign into an end-game state (that the players recognize as such) can be a bit of a challenge all its own. How difficult that challenge is can vary quite a bit depending on the game, system, and how the story has developed over the course of play. Many Powered by the Apocalypse games have threat clocks, for instance, and when they reach a certain point they can trigger events that more or less lead into a finale, whether it’s an arc or the whole shebang. Episodic games can have a bit of trouble, because if there’s not a metaplot at play then you need to create something that pushes forward to an ending. But for most games there’s at least a little bit of extra thought that has to go into it. I’ve found the easiest way (that isn’t of the ‘we’re taking the Ring to Mt. Doom and just crossed the border into Mordor’ method, because that’s pretty straightforward) is to ratchet up the stakes into a make it or break it affair.
My Eberron players at this point know that once they’ve landed on the shores of Argonnessen they’re basically at the point of no return; either they make it past all the dragons, cultists, and loose demons to seal away the Daughter of Kyber or she’ll get loose and raze the world. When Thriask Fey’lya (no relation) revealed the job to steal the Interdictor Grasper towards the end of Edge of the Empire: Living on Borrowed Time the crew knew that, whether they succeeded or failed, they were going to have to leave Nar Shaddaa possibly for good. When I was getting to the end of Edge of the Empire: Rise of the Black Rose Syndicate the crew of the Black Rose were very aware that everyone from Black Sun to the Empire were hunting them; they had to follow the recently-rediscovered coordinates to Tython in a desperate gamble to find a way to shake loose or buy off their pursuers. Once a daemon burst out of the chirurgeon and brought the number of loose daemons on the ship to two it was pretty obviously do or die time for the poor Inquisitorial acolytes.
Here we’ve got a juicy target: Inquisitorius HQ, complete with the databanks storing every scrap of information the Empire has on Force sensitives. If they take it out, aside from any Inquisitors they may slay along the way, they may truly cripple the Empire’s ability to pursue sensitives and accomplish one of their long-sought goals, while failure could leave the Inquisitors free to rampage unchecked without the party to stop them. For an added bonus Bee’f needs to be rescued; there were some jokes otherwise, but making mention of ‘Darth Angus’ being the final boss cleared that up pretty quickly.
That being said, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with triggering the end-game state this time around. All of my examples from other campaigns feel like they had more build-up. Eberron had traveling to Aerenal, explicitly leaving behind Sharn and Khorvaire for the last time in-game. Edge of the Empire-era Borrowed Time had several jobs that were secretly setting up the Grasper job (stealing data, securing weapons for other crews to use, etc), with Thriask dropping hints that he had something big coming up. The crew of the Black Rose were well aware of the heat being turned up on them over the course of the last half of the game thanks to their Obligation growing, even bubbling over 100 at one point. Happy being consumed in Warp fire was only the latest in a series of escalating horrible events in what was quite possibly the worst trip ever.
I hinted at Inquisitorius HQ with the dossiers that Skirata possessed, and a way to really get the Inquisitors in a corner was a concern for a while. The plot to either give them the coordinates to Mustafar and/or snatch some PCs was in the playbook for quite some time, and part of letting them build up the Rabblerouser Fleet was to let them be confident enough to try, but it still feels a little rushed. Granted, there are some real-life events influencing that, but still. So I suppose the final facet of this session’s lesson is to lay out the groundwork in sessions a good bit ahead of time before triggering the blinking ‘Point of No Return’ sign. Aside from building tension and/or anticipation for the players, it’ll just feel more satisfying on the GM end.
Until next time, go play some games and have a good time! The Rabblerouser Fleet will try to rally some allies and prepare to attack Mustafar while Bee’f faces the Puppeteer (and death stick withdrawal) in the next installment of Star Wars Age of Rebellion: Living on Borrowed Time!
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