The cargo hold of the Sleight of Hand looked more like the mustering area of a troop transport than a light freighter or smuggling vessel. Nearest to the rear hatch Lt. Averre’s small SpecOps team were professionally checking their gear and charging weapons in a small circle, mostly quiet. Most of the deck was taken up by the infantry squads that had come from Bolthole Station and trained with Shikte and The Wookiee; they were either playing cards, sprawled out sleeping, or working on a blade or a scope depending on their mentor. The recruits from the Sullustan Resistance were mostly checking and assembling grenades, Dohl Che’qy’to overseeing it from a tall crate while eating a piece of fruit. Meanwhile, up in the crew area and the bridge, the so-called crew of the Borrowed Time tensely waited through their journey to the Mustafar system.
They had largely already completed their preparations before boarding the Sleight of Hand. Cole had gone through a crash course with the holocron so that he’d actually be competent with a lightsaber instead of looking like a Nar Shaddaa raver. Veryjlla had given Ensign Hosfin aboard the Time Sink a datapad that he was to release on the HoloNet if they didn’t return. Nak, Caleb, Shikte, Bas, and The Wookiee had enjoyed one last stroll through the armory of Thriask Fey’lya (no relation) before spending the trip either working on gear or making like the infantry and sleeping. Patience had conferred with Admiral Ackbar and the other ship commanders and put together the plan to jump the fleet in once a beacon had activated.
Eventually Captain Pontay and the two crewmembers he’d brought along for the ride let everyone know that they were about to drop out of hyperspace, and while the various troops got ready the team joined Pontay on the bridge. The return to sublight speed in the outer reaches of the system went smoothly, and Pontay activated the ship’s stealth systems. As they cruised in towards their target the smuggler captain grimly reported that there were two Star Destroyers in orbit around Mustafar, one of which was definitely the ship used by the Puppeteer. However, the team received some good news when the Hand’s comm technician perked up, saying that he had intercepted a transmission: Bee’f, singing a somewhat bawdy song about the questionable habits of Inquisitors. Whatever else was going on it seemed that their missing companion had managed to get himself loose.
As the Hand continued its stealthy approach Bee’f and Bublé Halffin continued their journey through ventilation ducts and service corridors, finally tumbling out into a storage room to find most of their gear. As Halffin tinkered with various pieces of gear Bee’f practically shoveled deathsticks into his pocket before checking his blaster and his flame projector . . . and then had the idea to shoot Halffin in the back of the head. Thanks to a surprisingly successful Discipline check, however, Bee’f realized that of the voices in his head the one that was telling him to do that was not one of the usual ones, and the Bothan was able to resist the Dark Side use of Battle Meditation by the Puppeteer. As ‘Jar Jar Blinks’ faded from Bee’f’s mind the infiltrator immediately took a deathstick, cutting himself off from the Force and shielding himself from future attempts; more to the point, however, he got as high as Cloud City. When Halffin asked what they were doing, Beef’s answer was a manic grin.
Up in the smoke-filled skies of Mustafar the Hand had managed to make it into the atmosphere without being detected, but now they had to find where they were going. Despite nearly the entire party plus Pontay and his crew contributing in one way or another, the Rebels didn’t find the black citadel capping a river of lava until they were right in top of it, and just as they spotted it the sky filled with green fire. The Hand took several hits, and the ship plummeted from the sky, but thankfully Pontay was able to crash land the ship on one of three landing platforms, although the freighter’s front teetered precariously over the edge. As the smuggler captain and his crewmen set about making repairs the Borrowed Time crew and the troops piled out of the rear hatch; on the other two platforms they could see an Imperial shuttle and the Borrowed Time herself.
There was a brief not-quite-a-scuffle as Cole had to be convinced not to use the Force to bring his ship back to him; too far away, too slow, too obvious, and so on. Plus, the turbolaser fire earlier had seemed automated, which meant they’d have to cripple the local defense system before trying to take off in any ship. The team now had three objectives: disable the defenses, eliminate the Force-sensitive database, and find Bee’f. With no apparent response rushing to meet them the rebels headed inside, weapons up and eyes open.
Their path was creepily unhindered, prompting Shikte to remark that it was a little suspicious that there weren’t at least any stormtroopers rushing to meet them considering the reaction of the defense systems. Shortly after she said that Bee’f and Halffin tumbled out of a vent in a tangle of limbs. Reunited with his crew, Bee’f reported that they had found the room of ‘Jar Jar Blinks’ and lit the Gungan’s bed on fire, the Bothan’s Motivation of Spite coming to the fore. There was a quick conference about their other two objectives, and in the end Halffin split off with the troops to try and find the defense controls, which he’d stumbled upon during an earlier escape attempt. The Borrowed Time team went hunting for the database and whatever Inquisitors they could find.
They eventually came to a room mostly consisting of a circular platform suspended over the lava, with a viewport giving them a malevolent view of the planet’s surface. Just as they reached the center of the platform, however, the blast doors across the far walkway opened to reveal one apparently unarmed Inquisitor and another with four arms along with a belt full of guard shotos, along with two Inquisitorial stormtroopers (one with a flame projector and the other the one with a vibroaxe who had escaped after being staggered by AL). Behind the Rebels, across the walkway they’d used to enter, the blast doors reopened to reveal an Inquisitorial trooper with an apparent lightsaber in hand, accompanied by thirty regular troopers. A noise up above drew rebel eyes to a balcony, where a third cloaked Inquisitor and a trooper with what looked like a bow looked down upon them.
The unarmed Inquisitor, vaguely Kalleran-looking thanks to his bare arms, saluted the sheer guts the rebels had in coming here of all the places in the galaxy. He admitted that they could just start laying into one another, which could go either way, or they could make a deal. The team decided to humor him, and he detailed that the Force users on the team would remain here, while the others would be able to take the Borrowed Time and leave. The team played along for a little bit: Cole bartered the Time into being turned over ‘as it had been, bar and all’, Shikte was willing to put a blaster to her own head as insurance for the others, and Patience asked pointedly why the Inquisitors would let the rest of them leave. The Monk’s answer was that the rebellion wouldn’t be relevant much longer, and he refused to elaborate. Soon enough, though, the futility of trying to get Borrowed Time rebels to capitulate became apparent, and the two sides rolled initiative.
Nak immediately pulled a grenade from her combat webbing with one claw and lobbed it towards the walkway they’d used to enter the room: with a massive explosion and the fact that Nak was always the Last One Standing, the walkway gave way and sent thirty stormtroopers Wilhelm-screaming their way into the lava below. Nak sauntered over and began stepping on the fingers of a few who had managed to grab onto the platform, on the whole having greatly evened the numerical odds in the rebels’ favor. The Wookiee, seeing the four-armed Inquisitor draw a quartet of guard shotos, rushed forward, but her vibroaxe was brought to a sudden and frightening halt by the lightsaber blades before it could reach the target. The resulting counterattack from the Dervish sent The Wookiee staggering back with horrible wounds and her axe clattering to the floor in three pieces, damaged beyond repair.
Shikte raised her Verpine shatter rifle as the stormtrooper on the balcony was raising his energy bow. The human Tusken was quicker on the draw, and after a thunderous boom the now-headless trooper and his bow fell off the balcony and past the platform into the lava. Now alone, the Inquisitor on the balcony reached out with the Harm power, and Bas clutched at his chest as his heart stuttered. Caleb, complaining to Shikte that he would have liked a look at that bow, opened fire on the balcony Inquisitor with his SE-14r on autofire; while he didn’t land a hit, he got more than enough Advantage to force the Acolyte to Force jump down to the platform with everyone else.
The vibroaxe-wielding trooper circled around the Dervish and The Wookiee, taking a swing that cut at The Wookiee’s legs and bowled her over. If not for The Wookiee’s Unmatched Courage the commando would already have been out of the fight. Verjylla stepped up, hoping to keep the Acolyte’s attention off of Bas, and unleashed a Scathing Tirade that definitely drew the dark sider’s attention. Free of space-magic-induced-heart-attacks Bas slithered towards The Wookiee, jabbing her with both a healing stimpak and a Brawn-increasing Stim Application.
Across the platform the Monk and Cole had been quick to close on one another, Cole wielding both the Beast and Verjylla’s lightsabers. The former smuggler unleashed a flurry of red and blue slashes upon the Monk, but while he was definitely doing damage the Monk was literally slapping the lightsaber blades away with his bare hands. A Despair saw him actually catch one and unleash a devastating Precision Strike. Cole’s right arm hung useless, broken at the elbow and Crippled, and Verjylla’s saber clattered to the floor.
Patience decided to engage in his ‘final deception’ . . . and ran screaming from the room across the only remaining walkway. A Deception check saw the flame projector trooper stare after the rebel in shock, fully believing the ruse, before turning and lighting Caleb up. The Mandalorian crumpled to the ground, on fire with his right leg Crippled from the heat, but Bee’f yelled that lighting people on fire was his ‘thing’. A successful roll with his own flame projector, with a Triumph in the mix, saw the trooper’s tank ignite and vaporize him. The Bothan let out a cheer before reeling forward as the final Inquisitorial trooper revealed his weapon to be a lightwhip, lashing Bee’f across his back.
The Wookiee, surrounded and badly wounded, caught the shaft of the trooper’s vibroaxe as he tried to take another swing and used it to haul herself to her feet. Reaching to the small of her back she whipped out the stealth vibroblade she had had since day one and rammed it into the trooper’s neck. As he tumbled to the floor dead she kept her grip on her replacement vibroaxe, but before she was able to turn another storm of the Dervish’s guard shoto blades seared her back and bowled her over again. Shikte re-targeted and fired another shatter rifle shot, taking the final trooper’s arm off and deliberately spending Advantage to keep the lightwhip on the platform for later recovery; the trooper in question staggered to the edge of the platform, where Nak made him the last one she pushed off towards the lava.
Meanwhile the Acolyte reached out to crush Verjylla’s heart, but despite limited actual knowledge of the Force the agitator’s will (and Discipline roll) was strong, and she shrugged off the dark sider’s power. Elsewhere, as Patience tried to reach the balcony above the fight, he stumbled into a room full of holographic displays and computers. A quick Destiny Point expenditure saw the former Imperial activate a display and then wonder why the Empire would be interested in a little moon near Endor before making a quick download and then hurrying on his way.
Cole and the Monk continued exchanging blows, with the Monk’s next haymaker being one for the history books. With a pair of Despairs the Monk’s left arm was obliterated when it met Cole’s remaining saber, and the Inquisitor lost the ability to perform an Unarmed Parry, but just as Cole started to smile the Monk’s remaining Success came through. The Monk’s remaining fist slammed into Cole’s face and spun the former smuggler around, and more than one tooth clattered to the floor. However, with a garbled yell Cole turned the spin into a full one, wildly swinging with his saber. The Monk’s body fell in one direction and his head the other, a necklace and pendant falling between them.
Verjylla took a somewhat different tack to facing down her opponent, and tried for a Diplomatic Solution with the Acolyte. Against steep odds (none of the Challenge dice showed up in a reasonable way) she succeeded, and further managed to use her Coercion to browbeat the Acolyte into realizing that the way of the dark side was failing the Inquisitor in the face of the rebels’ righteous cause and camaraderie. When the Acolyte removed her helmet, revealing a pale-faced Miralan, and addresed Verjylla as Master the Bothan responded: “Lesson number one: you have no master but yourself!”
Caleb, down on the floor and flames still licking at his armor, fired off a burst at the Dervish and actually managed to wing the creature. Bee’f raised the lightsaber pike that had belonged to the Knight, which Cole had returned to him when they’d reunited, and charged. His thrust went wide, however, and the Dervish’s responding slash thanks to a Despair meant that it took Bas assuring Bee’f that ‘It’s Not That Bad’ to keep the Bothan from losing an arm. As The Wookiee struggled to her feet yet again the Dervish closed in, further mauling the small commando and ending his most recent onslaught by slamming the butt of a shoto into her forehead, stunning her for a round.
With a terrible snarl Nak charged across the platform, blast knucklers charged and claws bared, swiping wildly before the Dervish could finish The Wookiee off. Despite being missed the Dervish was forced by Advantage to backflip away from the charging Trandoshan, landing near the edge of the platform . . . and right into the path of a Force push from Cole. A Triumph saw four guard shotos clatter to the floor, ready to be picked up by rebels, as the Dervish himself screamed his way down to the lava below.
The Wookiee collapsed, finally unconscious from her wounds without a battle to keep her going, and Caleb finally got himself to stop burning. As Bas slung The Wookiee over his shoulder and Nak helped Caleb to walk Patience appeared on the balcony above, yelling at the others to follow him up, triggering the beacon to summon the fleet as he did so. As the team staggered their way deeper into the facility, they abruptly ran into their troops; a single trooper was wrapped up in tape, snarling violent threats, as apparently the Puppeteer had been trying the same tricks. Still, Dohl was in the lead and moving fast, and an old Alliance saying came to the fore: “a demolitions expert in motion out-ranks everyone”. The rebels raced back to the landing platforms as the citadel shook from explosions as the defense systems came to pieces, and Ackbar managed to get in touch with Patience. Apparently the Admiral was taking no chances with the facility: one of the two Star Destroyers was going to come down right on top of it.
The rebels arrived at the platforms to find the Sleight of Hand back in action but the Imperial transport gone; according to Pontay a cloaked figure and some droids, probably the Puppeteer and his guards, had made their escape. The reclaimed Borrowed Time and the repaired Sleight of Hand blasted off mere minutes before a burning Star Destroyer fell through the volcanic smoke, smashing into the ground and unleashing the lava that the citadel had capped. The entire structure, including the database of Force sensitives, vanished in fire and molten rock. While the Puppeteer had escaped, there was little doubt that the Inquisitorius as a group had been destroyed this day.
Home One, the Rabblerouser Fleet, and the other ships that had come along for the fight rendezvoused with the two small freighters and began to make the calculations to jump to Sullust. The wounded needed to be healed, the next fight had to be planned, and Patience had to talk to a certain Admiral about a certain forest moon . . .
“A Special Operations team risked their lives and souls to bring us this information . . .”
With a golden god having established his powers, Verjylla Nova told stories of great evil and persistent heroes to a tribe of Ewoks . . .
The Millennium Falcon and Wedge Antilles raced along the surface of the Death Star II, and right behind them was the YT-2400 freighter Borrowed Time. Cole Strutter took a swing of whiskey before sending the freighter into a barrel roll, Nak and Caleb Marrok calling out targets from the turrets and Bas Runa lamenting the state of the shields . . .
As cruisers died and starfighters tangled Vice Admiral Patience Johnson commanded his task force from the bridge of the Time Sink, leading them into the teeth of the Imperial fleet . . .
When things looked their worst on the forest moon Fi-Li-Chay’se “Bee’f” St’ay’ck stood with a protocol droid and an astromech and hurled taunts at the Imperials, luring them up into the woods where a swarm of Ewoks led by The Wookiee were in wait. Through a kilometer of trees Shikte Lokt took aim . . .
They’d been Living on Borrowed Time, but it was all they needed to help free a galaxy . . .
So ends Age of Rebellion: Living on Borrowed Time, a venture of two years (four if you count the Edge days mentioned in the Prologue), and what a venture it has been! There have been ups and downs and lessons learned along the way, and now I have to face one of the more important lessons I’ve learned: actually ending a game.
There’s a lot of things that could have gone differently in this campaign, and in the ending in particular. The crew never went to Kwenn Space Station to recruit Halffin, where either an under-repair Star Destroyer with the Puppeteer aboard or an ambush with the introduction of the Inquisitorial stormtroopers awaited them. They never found the last of the TIE Phantoms in the Polis Massa system, where they could have recruited some X-Wing and Y-Wing pilots who would’ve butted heads with the ragtag Bolt Squadron. There were various other items that never even got mentioned to the players: blowing up an AT-AT factory was in my notes, and the return of the Antarian Rangers aboard the Long Haul was a possibility I mused over.
In the ending, I originally had the idea for every character to be subjected to some Force illusions cast by the Puppeteer or the Acolyte, drawing on backstory material and in-game experiences to challenge the characters on a personal level. By the same token the Puppeteer and the droids that had survived the Time Sink weren’t supposed to be The Unfought: they were originally meant to stand between the party and the Borrowed Time as lava splashed up and a Star Destroyer burned overhead.
That’s the first lesson learned, and even though I’ve learned it before it’s important for me to revisit: accept that you the GM are just not going to get to fit everything you want into the campaign. Some of that is down to player choice: for every narrative fork in the road, the players are going to leave one route unchosen, and you’re not always going to be able to wrap whatever was missed back into the game at a later date. The rest of it is down to pacing, narrative breathing room, and real-life time pressure. There just wasn’t real-life time for nine individual spirit journeys, and it would have done a number on the pacing of the final session. By the same token, it was getting pretty late for everybody, and everyone (GM included) had already gotten the Final Battle kick from 9-to-37 against the Inquisitors and their minions.
Be willing to let certain ideas go, and know when it’s time to wrap up a given session or the campaign as a whole.
Finally, quite literally in this case, try to include an epilogue of some kind for your campaign. This can be very simple and even a little like a cliffhanger: for the Edge days, the Debt Collector jumped to hyperspace after Thriask offered to sponsor the crew to the Rebel Alliance, and the Borrowed Time . . . jumped to parts unknown, her crew’s decision unknown until the beginning of Age of Rebellion. It can be like this time, simply showing that the crew had a noticeable impact and continue to be important. It can be pretty detailed, going around the table and asking each player what their character gets up to after the campaign.
The point is that your players, and their characters, can benefit greatly from a sense of closure, even if all that closes is a single chapter as the adventure continues off-screen.
Thanks to everyone who has read along with us this far, particularly those who tossed a comment, a like, or a share our way.
Thanks to Michelle, Brian, Ryan, Diana, Mike, Brianna, Alex, Jimmy, and Adam for bringing Nak, Cole, Verjylla, The Wookiee, Patience, Shikte, Caleb, Bee’f, and Bas to life and Living on Borrowed Time with me.
May the Force be with you.
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!