Maybe it’s because I’m in dire need of a fix before Episode IX is released, but I find myself drifting back to the end of The Last Jedi. I know that it’s a polarizing topic for a lot of fans, but I keep thinking of the possibilities and implications left by the ending. The interesting part is, going at the question of “How Do I Build a Campaign?”, previous Star Wars Meet the Campaigns have created a location and then built up hooks around it. This method doesn’t work as well for something as broad as the entire galaxy. It might be simpler to have a GM pick a planet and say “this is what is happening here”, but unless we are talking about a popular setting like Nar Shaddaa, a write up for places of interest is less useful because there is little to keep players there without railroading them.
So, after some thought, I’ve decided to try coming at this from the other direction: rather than picking a location and populating it with plot hooks, this Meet the Campaign is setting up themes and using bits and pieces from throughout the system in order to build a framework that spurs a wide background of characters into the action. Unlike the previous entries, this installment is system specific for Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG, but the themes are universal (or galactic) enough to be transferred over. And just to be sure, as this takes place after the events of The Last Jedi, spoilers will abound, so consider yourself warned.
Building Back from Nothing
The end of Episode VIII has the Resistance in dire straits, barely escaping with a core group of members, the last Jedi trained in decades, and not a whole lot else. Abandoned by its allies, and with resources at a new low, things look grim.
However, this happens to nicely mirror (from a story perspective) the course of the Rebels TV series, where a small cell of rebels opposing the Empire formed into a network and alliance of multiple cells and movements to form the Rebel Alliance that we see at the beginning of the original Star Wars.
It’s a big problem, but on the flip side it means that almost any player character can have buy-in to rebuild it, and nearly every Career choice immediately has challenges that can be placed in their way.
The overriding party mechanic of Age of Rebellion, Duty binds players in a common cause and rewards them with status and logistical support the higher the party advances within it. As such, all players who wish to participate in the Resistance will gain 10 Duty of their choice along with the mechanic of their starting career (Obligation and Morality for Edge of the Empire characters and Force and Destiny characters respectively) which can be saved or spent for XP and/or Credits. Players who start with an Age of Rebellion career add this Duty to their starting allotment: they were one of the surviving members, so they have already proven themselves somewhat competent.
There’s no sugar coating it: the Resistance needs more hands on deck, and they need them yesterday. Fortunately, it’s a big galaxy, and there are plenty of places to draw from. The First Order has wiped out whole systems and terrorized others, so there any many angry and ready to fight … but they need to be found, trained, and supplied. Some are mercenaries who are willing to work for credits, but can they be trusted? Some might be retired members of the Rebellion, who might need some convincing to come out for one last job. Either way, you need someone who has a handle on managing recruits.
Careers that might be interested include Colonists, Diplomats, Spies, Commanders, Guardians, and Mystics.
It’s one thing to have people, but how do you feed, house, train, and arm them? How do you get ships to replace what was lost? In the short term, perhaps the Resistance can buy or steal what they need, but if they are going to get serious, they’ll need supply lines and manufacturing, and they might need to get into bed with some nasty people to do so: the Corporate Sector, the Hutts, or the arms dealers of Canto Bight.
Careers that might have a stake include Technicians, Engineers, Diplomats, Colonists, Explorers, Smugglers, Mystics, and Commanders.
Like the Empire before it, the First Order has sunk enormous resources into technological development. One of the most revolutionary achievements has been hyperspace tracking, which cripples the hit and run tactics that the Rebellion had successfully been able to employ. It is so new that counter technology or tactics has not been adopted yet, but the Galaxy is a large place and brilliant minds await a challenge. There is also a surge in demand for new ships and fighters to counter the First Order war machine.
Careers that may have a stake include Engineers, Spies, Technicians, Guardians, Sentinels, and Smugglers.
If the Resistance is to be taken seriously, it needs to prove itself actually able to provide a semblance of order to the galaxy. With the destruction of the New Republic’s seat of power in the Hosnian system, there has been no unifying voice to stand against the New Order. For all of its tyranny, the First Order has been successful in imposing order, through brutality, but order nonetheless. However, as much as Snoke was able to keep planets in line, his successor is known for his explosive temper. Perhaps that will tip the balance, but in the meanwhile, the representatives of the people need convincing.
Careers that may have a stake include Colonists, Diplomats, Commanders, Consulars, Guardians, and Mystics.
Intelligence and Counterintelligence
The Resistance has just taken a massive body blow. The new Supreme Leader is scouring the Galaxy looking for them. If they are found, in all likelihood they will be crushed. Unfortunately, this runs counter to the need to be seen and rebuild, which makes for a delicate balance for its spies and agents to keep them safe. There is plenty of work in the shadows, much of it potentially unpleasant or which cannot be tied back to the pristine image of the Resistance: theft, sabotage, espionage, misinformation and, possibly, assassination.
Careers that may have a stake include Smugglers, Technicians, Spies, Soldiers, Explorers, Hired Guns, Bounty Hunters, and Sentinels.
Rebuilding the Armed Forces
At some point, diplomacy will fail. The Resistance armed forces need to recover and rebuild. It isn’t simply a logistical matter, but much of the leadership has been wiped out. Perhaps a few retired generals and admirals can be coaxed back into service, but for many young officers, they will need to face a trial by fire.
Combat will take place in all theaters. Eventually, Poe Dameron will climb back into the cockpit of his X-wing and lead a squadron, but the Resistance fighter corps has been all but wiped out. He’ll need more pilots to back him up, and fighters for them to fly.
On a larger scale, the Resistance will need to rebuild its fleet, and come up with an answer to the overwhelming power of the First Order Dreadnought, whether it be new ships, tactics, or a combination of both.
Ultimately though, there is no way to hold a world without boots on ground. In order to hold a planet, or a base, there will come a time to make a stand to protect the people the Resistance is supposed to be liberating.
Careers that may have a stake include Hired Guns, Bounty Hunters, Soldiers, Commanders, Aces, Seekers and Warriors, but anyone who wants to get involved should be encouraged.
Of course, there is a lot of crossover for these ideas: if players want to create an awesome commando force, they are going to have combat, but likely a lot of spying and personnel work. Creating a fighter squadron will require gathering more ships, and all the parts and munitions to keep it running. As a result, players with a wide range of specializations and interests can have a collaborative campaign.
Darkness Rises and the Light to Meet It
One of my favorite scenes of The Last Jedi is the ending: a young boy calls a broom to his hand with the Force and begins sweeping, staring up at the stars above him. It calls back to the initial premise of the original movies, before sweeping operas about family drama, there was the concept that anyone, anywhere can be called by the Force to a great destiny.
This is an opinion, but the greatest stories of the Force are personal ones in which characters must face themselves. There is tragedy in the fall of Anakin Skywalker from what began as a well meaning struggle. There is a surreal horror to watching Luke fight Darth Vader under the tree of Dagobah only to see the darkness inside of himself. There is the temptation of Corran Horn throughout I, Jedi as he parses what is his own pride and what is true love. I thoroughly encourage GMs to use this as a driving factor in their own games. Not every player may want to play a Force Sensitive, but the system is balanced enough to have this aspect be part of a character’s journey. Obviously, the more characters that you have in the party who are Sensitive, the more the GM ought to lean in that direction, but if it is a personal journey, it can be a deep experience for the individual while not overriding the narrative of the group.
Morality is the overriding mechanic for Force and Destiny, but it is also the one out of all three games that I see houseruled the most. Most of all, it is ignored as part of a session to session mechanic that is rolled for. I think that it is out of a tendency to prevent GMs from hitting players over the head with the emotional struggle that they had picked. Interesting approaches have been simply keeping the Emotional Strength and Weakness and having the GM remind players of them as they make choices: ultimately, the choice is up to players, but it helps to drive the story. They make compelling touch points, and are helpful to players to find a voice to their characters. While not necessary in Rules as Written for careers from Edge of the Empire or Age of Rebellion, I heartily suggest offering players to include them in character creation.
Finding Yourself in the Force
The Force doesn’t come with an instruction manual. While there have been organizations from time immemorial who have paths they have in mind, at some point, players have to find them…or not. At this point in the setting, it has been approximately fifty years since the fall of the old Jedi Order, and an unknown time since Luke Skywalker’s Jedi school was destroyed. Characters might not even know they have a touch of the Force, and may find themselves in conflict with the philosophies of even some of their closer allies. All face the internal threat of finding themselves, and the constant temptation of the Dark Side. It would be so easy to use it…just once, right? Wouldn’t It it? (GM scribbles notes)
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are now legends of Luke Skywalker returning to fight the First Order, shrugging off Walker fire like it was nothing and toying with Kylo Ren before vanishing into nothingness. It is said that his disciple has the last books of the Jedi Order, to train others like her in the ways of the Jedi . . . if only she can be found.
The Knights of Ren
Of course, there is always the external threat to Force users. The First Order has been very successful in convincing those strong in the Force to join them. The Knights of Ren have the benefit (for the GM) in that they have a cloud hanging over them as a potent force, and yet at this time we know almost nothing about them. Because there is so much confusion, they make an excellent choice for dreaded foes who come out of nowhere.
Inquisitors make wonderful NPC choices when the GM needs to up the ante. Often, by the midpoint of the campaign, PCs begin to stomp the enemies that have been laid out in front of them. Fortunately, the rules for Inquisitor-class NPCs are vague enough that you don’t need to make them a Force User to be potent (as the crew of the Borrowed Time discovered). It is up the GM as to what should be thrown at players, but the Knights offer a nice balance of a potent foe without risking complete destruction of canon.
Typically, to start a campaign, players usually get a little something to start them off. To their credit the writers of the setting have created a lot of options, but a lot would depend on the type of campaign players want to try. If players want to build a fighter squadron, it might be time to blow the dust off those old Y-wings until you can get something better.
Otherwise, pretty much any of the starting suggested ships from the Core books would work: a YT-1300 freighter, a Lambda-class shuttle, maybe even a Firespray 31. However, one option that I’m a fan of is the U-wing: it’s large enough to be a shuttle and support vehicle, nimble enough to be a starfighter, and flexible enough to use in ground combat.
Finally, you could simply give players a homestead, business, or base, allowing them to spend Duty and take on Obligation to build it up. This has the advantage of settling the players into a central location, and diving deeper into the surroundings and people for a more intimate setting, similar to the fight for Lothal in the Rebels series.
Of course, these are all just suggestions, a desire to touch off a thousand more campaigns. If you, the GM or players have your own idea of a post-TLJ story and have a strong idea as to how you want to do it, by all means strive ahead. But if you have been looking for a spark, well, hopefully this can be an Awakening of its own.
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