The galaxy is in turmoil. The New Republic is gone, Supreme Leader Snoke is dead, and the Resistance has been decimated. Independent systems are left to fend for themselves, and every faction scrambles for an advantage.
For the criminals of the galaxy, it is a time of great opportunity. The First Order in particular has few limits on what kind of allies they choose, and in trying to cut off these resources the Resistance must be circumspect.
On the Smuggler’s Moon of NAR SHADDAA, a pair of Rebel veterans assemble a team with plausible deniability to eliminate one such source of the First Order’s weapons. After all, it’s just FAMILY BUSINESS…
Caleb Marrok had gotten into all sorts of trouble since joining the crew of a YT-2400 known as the Borrowed Time on Corellia decades ago. He fought Black Sun goons and helped steal an Imperial Interdictor cruiser. He joined the Rebel Alliance and faced down Inquisitors. He got injured more times than he could count, crashed a number of vehicles, and helped steal a second Interdictor, before fighting in the Battle of Endor. For all that, there was one unfinished task, the one that had landed him in exile with a bounty on his head and looking for a crew to join in the first place: his own rotten brother.
Ronan Marrok had usurped Caleb’s position as heir to Clan Marrok’s weaponsmithing business, gotten Caleb banished, and then put an illegal kill-on-sight bounty on Caleb that sent the Mandalorian running for Corellia and his destiny. After people with red lightsabers entered his life, Ronan just… wasn’t as big a priority for Caleb. Oh, they took their swings at one another by proxy over the years (The Wookiee spent a vacation mowing through Rowan’s goons once), but once you’ve fought evil space wizards an evil weaponsmith just doesn’t hit the same.
Times had changed. The New Republic that Caleb had fought to establish had fallen, and while the First Order had gotten mauled by the Resistance from Starkiller Base to Crait and were wracked by internal dissent over the rise of Supreme Leader Ren they were still a massive threat. Ronan had started to supply the First Order with weapons, the more esoteric and destructive the more profitable, and the Resistance wanted him stopped. If confirmed Resistance agents did the deed, other criminal groups might turn on them; if Caleb did it, everyone would “know” what had happened but would be able to agree to the fiction that it was simply an old score finally being settled, a problem of Ronan’s own making.
The Resistance had promised Caleb some support in doing this little favor for them, but somewhat to Caleb’s chagrin that support came in the form of his old comrade Fi-Li-Chay’se “Bee’f” St’ay’ck. The old Bothan spy had cleaned up his act after the Galactic Concordance… very, very briefly. These days he was as crazed, daft, and addled by death sticks as ever, and spite towards all things Imperial (or First Order, now) remained his driving motivation. He was the one who had put together the rest of the team.
Dr. Haaz the Wookiee Doctor was the only other member of the team Caleb had met before, an acquaintance from the old days who had patched up everyone on the Borrowed Time at some point or another. GR1DPO1NT the Droid Slicer and Yaak the Klatooinian Heavy were both seconded from a criminal outfit of their own. Loo-ya the Spine Collector, an Ewok Marauder, saw another chance for glory in their Herculean-grade journey through the lands of the gods.
So that was the merry bunch of old Rebels, criminal reprobates, and furry acquaintances sitting around a table at the Astrogation Glitch, talking with Bee’f’s underworld contact Louye, getting the details on Ronan’s operation. Caleb’s brother didn’t own an entire tower on the Smuggler’s Moon, but he did own enough of one to have secured upper levels, a delivery and factory space on the lower levels, and sealed turbolift shafts connecting each. According to Louye’s sources, Ronan would be boarding a ship on the rooftop landing pad in a few days to take him to a rendezvous with the First Order. What exactly he was selling this time was unknown. Given that exactly how they wanted to do the job was up to them, Louye also gave them the contact information for a pilot who definitely fit the group’s bill of old and/or weird. If they needed a lift, the 70-going-on-120 CT-1228 “Scrapheap” and the Good as Nu would provide.
As the Quarren fixer left the table and the group began trying to build a plan, Caleb felt a tap on his leg. He looked down to see a Jawa he didn’t recognize holding up a box with a simple button latch on it. After taking the box (and tossing a credit chip into the empty palm the Jawa held out afterward) Caleb placed it on the table and opened it, and a pre-recorded message began to play.
“Hey Caleb. Sorry I can’t be there to help out, but there’s a railcrawler on Vandor full of stormtrooper armor that needs to get blown up, Patience has a lead on a potential defector we need to rescue, Cole stole a First Order general’s entire liquor cabinet and then got stranded on Bonadan- You get the idea.
I’ve sent a few party favors along, though, they should do the trick. Have fun storming the crime den, and try not to get blown up this time. – Nak”
Nestled in the box were six Nak-custom thermal detonators.
Widespread demolition immediately jumped to the forefront of everyone’s minds, Yaak went to follow up by acquiring more party favors (“You can never have too many explosives”), but found that there was almost nothing left on the market. The state of the galaxy was creating shortages of all kinds, it seemed. Meanwhile Bee’f, GR1DPO1NT, and Dr. Haaz set off to get some information by finding someone who worked in Ronan’s factory.
One mugging and DNA sample later and Bee’f had used his old flesh camo kit to disguise himself as a worker, feeling grateful he’d gotten a Shistavanean this time for something a little closer to his own shape. The trio put together a fake delivery, and while Bee’f and Dr. Haaz baffled some guards in the loading dock with their shenanigans – mostly Bee’f’s, granted, although Dr. Haaz timed dropping a crate on Bee’f’s foot particularly well – GR1DPO1NT snuck off and sliced into a console.
She found that the factory was currently ‘resetting’, being quite modular and having finished its previous task. The actual product of that last task had already been moved upstairs in preparation for getting picked up, but the details GR1DPO1NT was able to acquire indicated that the factory had been working on ship parts, most of which were of an Imperial make with several being unfamiliar. The records also determined that Ronan was going to a rendezvous deep in Wild Space, in a void between systems.
After the trio returned, the team spent some time deliberating on when exactly they would strike, what or who might be at the rendezvous, and where the actual item(s) that Ronan was selling landed on the priority list. Caleb eventually settled on the notion that his ’employers’, i.e. the Resistance, would want to know what the First Order was trying to get. Scrapheap was given coordinates and an emergency comm channel in case they needed a quick pick-up, and Caleb and the team snuck their way back into Ronan’s compound and hid themselves in a series of crates.
Sure enough, the crates were loaded onto a shuttle, and the shuttle docked with what turned out to be a Neutron Star-class bulk cruiser in orbit above the moon. Shortly thereafter the cruiser jumped to hyperspace and the team jumped out of their crates, keeping a low profile in the mostly empty hangar bay they’d wound up in. Now with the actual shipment at hand, the team spent some time looking over the ship parts that Ronan had built. Their examination revealed two things – one, many of the parts that were easy to recognize were consistent with the plans of Empire-era Star Destroyers. Two, the parts that they initially had not recognized were consistent with the design principles of a mass driver – a big mass driver.
The running theory become that Ronan was assembling or fixing such a weapon to then sell to the First Order, or that the Order already had something and needed it refurbished. Yaak used one of the thermal detonators to rig of one of the crates of mass driver parts, and Caleb assembled a detonator for them to trigger it if/when the parts started to be installed. With that contingency plan in place, GR1DPO1NT sliced into a console and got the ship’s plans. Halfway between the hangar bay and the bridge were ‘Captain’s Quarter’s, clearly modified to take up sections across three decks, with most of the spaces around it unlabeled. Figuring that was where Ronan would be, the team set off.
Loo-ya took to the vents. You might think that wearing the armor of the gods (a.k.a. a suit of Arakyd Industries PX-11 “Battlement” Powered Armour Loo-ya had acquired… somehow) would have made the Ewok too obvious to be stealthy, and yet somehow the warrior skittered through the vents, shadowing the others yet unheard by any of Ronan’s crew. Several conversations were overheard along the way, the crew speculating about how Ronan had found ‘it’ in the first place.
As for the others, well, Bee’f was an old hand about getting a group to where they needed to go undetected. Add on that the bulk cruiser was clearly operating with a crew of hundreds instead of the thousands it should have, plus the thermal detonator Caleb had left in the shuttle being triggered and drawing attention, and the group was able to avoid making any contact. They also found an unused auxiliary bridge along the way, dropping GR1DPO1NT off there to try and slice into systems. She soon got bogged down by the security left in place by Ronan’s own slicer; while advantage left the slicer in question panicking at ‘malfunctions’ that kept trying to open parts of the ship to space instead of realizing that GR1DPO1NT was in the system, it was a stalemate. For now.
Eventually the group arrived at the door to the ‘ground floor’ of the Captain’s quarters, braced themselves, and… opened the unlocked door. Within was a strange layout of stairways, platforms, and rails; Ronan’s quarters were the definition of an ‘open space’ design, clearly chosen so that there would be lots of lines of sight. Sure enough, the Mando himself was standing on a platform on the third level.
“Well Caleb, I guess you finally came crawling out of the shadows to do the job yourself.”
“I’ve waited a long time for this, Ronan.”
“Yes, well, I’ve got plenty of options-” Ronan paused as he reached for a console in front of him, tilting his head. “Hmm, I suppose I’ll leave that one alone for now.”
Suddenly there was a deep roar coming from the starboard bulkhead of Ronan’s quarters, answered by a more muffled cry of “YUB NUB!”, as an untimely Despair landed Loo-ya not in the main room with the others but one of the unlabeled rooms adjacent to it. It turns out the schematics had been even more falsified, because instead of many rooms on that side there was a single big one. Loo-ya stood up after dropping down from the vents, drew a greatsword forged from the metal of fallen Imperial walkers, and faced down a rancor – alone.
Bee’f sprang into action, carrying the lightsaber pike he’d taken from The Knight so many years ago, bounding from platform to platform as he tried to reach Ronan. Caleb’s brother simply raised a weapon, aimed, – and Bee’f’s right arm vaporized as the disruptor rifle struck true. Ronan tapped the console and stepped back out of view, as a door on the port side opened and a nexu dashed out.
Loo-ya charged the rancor, slashing its legs and inflicting a discouraging wound. The beast roared and attempted to crush its tiny opponent, but was only able to snatch the Ewok up, failing to penetrate the armor of the gods. The nexu reached the end of its platform on the second level, pounced… and by the time it reached the deck it had been reduced to a steaming pile of meat by Yaak’s heavy blaster rifle.
Caleb fired his ascension gun and rocketed to a platform on the third level, regaining line of sight on his brother. His SE-14r blazed away, managing to inflict just enough damage for every hit to get through at least a little, overpowering Ronan and driving him to the floor. Down on the bottom floor another door opened up to revel a squad of goons, who fired their blaster rifles at Yaak. While the Klatooinian was unharmed by the strikes, he lost his weapon while scrambling for cover.
Dr. Haaz ran forward and caught Bee’f as he fell, administering stimpaks and patching up the disruptor wound as best as he could; he also kicked Yaak’s rifle back to him. Bee’f aimed his flame projector and roasted one of the goons, lighting another aflame in the process.
Caleb dodged a disruptor rifle blast from Ronan, so Ronan stood up and fired something from his wrist. The monowire bola wrapped around Caleb and pinned his arms, but only for a moment as Caleb flexed and – with the chime of the beskar armor he’d claimed by right of conquest from the Inquisitor Duron Skirata – the wire snapped. Ronan, beginning to panic, scrambled backwards, seemingly put his back to a dead end bullhead.
Looy-ya, lifted up towards the rancor’s maw, winced as the beast bit down and managed to penetrate the armor of the gods. A mighty stab to the top of the rancor’s mouth, however, saw the beast howling in pain and dropping the Ewok to nominal safety. Yaak racked the charging slide on his heavy blaster rifle and leapt from cover, mowing down Ronan’s goons before pausing dramatically to blow away the smoke coming from his weapon’s barrel.
Dr. Haaz, displaying the arboreal climbing skills of a Wookiee, managed to ascend to the top level of Ronan’s quarters. To say that Ronan was then horribly mauled is technically inaccurate, as at no point did the man’s skin or even armor get breached, but the viscous barrage of pressure point blows overpowered him and had him slumping against the bulkhead.
Meanwhile GR1DPO1NT, in communication with the team and suspicious of Ronan seemingly getting himself cornered, dove back into the schematics. She discovered that Ronan had installed a turbolaser inside his ship, triggered by a hidden panel for use as a particularly crazed weapon of last resort. Even Caleb’s beskar wouldn’t save him from that. Except, now that GR1DPO1NT had access…
At their slicer’s yelling over the comms Dr. Haaz and Caleb leapt from the top level. Ronan Marrok, with no strain to spare for any talents or maneuvers, looked over his shoulder at the bulkhead as he heard the whine of charging capacitors.
With an ear-splitting explosion the turbolaser fired right through the bulkhead. Ronan, and for that matter the entire third level of his quarters, was vaporized in a torrent of green energy that carried right through the far bulkhead and took the rancor right in the head. From Loo-ya’s perspective the gods had clearly smiled upon the Ewok Marauder’s efforts and decided to strike the beast down.
Ronan’s cruiser emerged from hyperspace just as the team began to take stock, and GR1DPO1NT reported that what awaited them was a First Order Star Destroyer… docked alongside an Onager-class Star Destroyer, clearly what Ronan had intended to refurbish for the Order.
There was some brief debate about what to do, but while some may have grabbed at any weapon they could get, Caleb concluded that General Organa would prefer that any sort of city, continent, or planet-killer be made safe from use by anyone. The First Order had no idea yet that Ronan was dead, and Ronan’s own crew knew something had gone wrong from the blast but had yet to rally.
And they had all those thermal detonators that Nak had kindly mailed to Caleb…
The crewmembers trying to put out the fire in the hangar bay were startled by a Mandalorian, a droid, an Ewok, a Bothan, a Wookiee, and a Klatooinian (the latter three wearing space suits provided by a light side point) they didn’t know simply walking in from the rest of the ship. They were so startled they didn’t even have a chance to react before the group simply walked out of the hangar’s mag-con field, floating away into space. Suddenly, a Nu-class shuttle dropped out of hyperspace, raced along the cruiser’s hull, and using a combination of drifting and modified inertial compensators in the hold scooped up the floating figures.
The First Order Star Destroyer began firing at the shuttle as it raced away, but the fire quickly tapered off as its crew realized the bulk cruiser wasn’t slowing down. Its controls frozen through the auxiliary bridge, the bulk cruiser slammed right into the Onager, which is when the thermal detonators in the cruiser’s reactor went off. The bulk cruiser and the Onager were vaporized, the First Order ship shredded-
And the Good as Nu jumped to hyperspace towards another adventure.
Been a long time since we saw any of the Borrowed Time crew, huh?
What prompted the return of Caleb and Bee’f with some new friends is that Caleb’s player is getting married, and he requested some kind of roleplaying game experience as part of his bachelor party. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in a ‘gift’ game for someone, heck it isn’t even the first time I’ve run a gift game for someone: Bee’f’s player got a casino heist on Nar Shaddaa for his own bachelor party shenanigans. So, the lesson I’d like to mull over here is how to build a better gift session.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with just running any old game. Critical Role famously got its start as a birthday present, and I’ve been at a bachelor party where we simply used the excuse of already having aligned everyone’s schedules for the other events of the weekend to play a session of our ongoing D&D campaign. Think of the following advice as bonus points, rather than requirements.
Follow the rules for a one-shot.
Keep it contained – it’s got one conflict that you want to have resolved by the end. Create player characters for your players (aside from Bee’f and Caleb who already existed, everyone featured here was pre-made by myself and Bee’f’s player) so they don’t have to do the work. Makes spares so that necessary roles the players aren’t interested in can get covered by NPCs (like Scrapheap). Ease players unfamiliar with the mechanics into them – the veterans can afford to be patient. This is somewhat universal advice, I know, but you’re probably not going to turn your gift game into a streaming phenomena and multi-media company, so these are important things to keep in mind.
Make the plot about their character.
This was definitely Caleb’s story, resolving a piece of his backstory from the Edge of the Empire days (the source of his primary Obligation back then, actually) that had gotten completely left behind during the tumult of Age of Rebellion.
Now, that’s not to say that you only give the spotlight to their character. Everyone at the party/game table is there to have fun. Note that Caleb wasn’t the one to land the final blow, Loo-ya was the one who got to 1v1 a rancor, Bee’f led the recon stage. Keep following best practices, let everyone share the spotlight, just… make things matter to the one you’re gifting the session to.
For another example, before we settled on Star Wars, Dresden Files was an option for the game of choice. Personally, I think playing as ourselves dealing with trying to get Caleb’s player through his Dresden Fles!bachelor party/to his wedding would have been a pretty cool idea…
No I’m not writing that idea down in case I need it for a future bachelor party, what are you talking about?
Add personal touches.
This is a very broad one, and part of it is tied into making the plot about the gift receiver’s character, but it’s where you get a lot of those bonus points. Don’t just make it about their character – bring back an old one they haven’t got to play for a while! Sprinkle it with cameos and references to old game events, whether from an older version of their character or a completely different game. Meta design, basically.
This is why the party returned to the Glitch where the Borrowed Time crew had so often met Thriask Fey’lya (no relation). This is why unbitten plot hooks from Caleb’s past were chosen. This is why, when the team needed a healer, Dr. Haaz made the jump from NPC to PC to remark on how often he’d had to patch Caleb up in the past. This is why Nak’s player recorded a message for Caleb that I could play during the session, so that Caleb’s old battle buddy could still be a part of things even if her player couldn’t.
The point of any game is to have fun. Keep that in mind when you’re running a gift game for someone, and you’ll do just fine. And don’t shy away from asking for a gift game yourself the next time someone wants to know what you want for a special occasion! Good memories are a pretty long-lasting gift, after all.
Thanks to Alex (and congratulations!), Jimmy, Hillary, Dylan, Peter, Josh, and cameo!Michelle for helping me borrow a little more time in a galaxy far, far away. I considered this as much a gift to me as it was to Alex, I assure you.
Star Wars belongs to Disney, while Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion and its related products are the property of EDGE Studios. 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.
May the Force be with you.