Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Darkening Rift Redux

At risk of repeating myself, here's an edited version of the story for the seven session Star Wars mini-campaign I just finished (using Action Cards). I cleaned up some things and added in the details of the final session.

I'll probably talk next time about the mechanical set up, the meta-notes on the project and what seemed to work well.

The Galaxy remains divided split between several factions. While THE NEW REPUBLIC attempts to restore faith in a central authority, it continues to battle with fragments of the Old Empire, including the DEEP CORE BASTIONS and Grand Mof Garrik's CRIMSON EMPIRE. The outer systems remain divided in their allegiance and many have taken advantage of the chaos. The increasing breakdown of hyperspace routes has only added to this isolation.

The Jedi remain a force of myth and legend, working behind the scenes and battling against grave suspicions. Standing apart from politics, the few Jedi Masters have sought out students in an attempt to bring stability to the galaxy. But force users represent a valuable commodity and a target for criminals and bounty hunters.

A handful of heroes have attempted to turn back the rising tide, fighting against these criminals including the HUTT SYNDICATE. They work to intercept them before they can strike at their targets, or if need be, rescue them from their clutches....

Starting from a simple mission, Captain Ryu Regal and his ship, the Fortunate Rogue, find themselves embroiled in events on a galactic scale. They have been hired by the Jedi Wren Marr to look into a criminal network kidnapping force sensitives for an unknown purpose. Regal and his crew quietly track a smuggler's ship of a smuggler via a tracer the Scout Droid HK-97 planted. The groups intelligence indicates that the smuggler has victims from Tatooine. The target ship rendezvous with a Hutt Slaver vessel in a empty system. The heroes decide to board in order to rescue the prisoners and hunt for more information. On board, they find only a skeleton crew and a single prisoner, frozen in carbonite. The ship's Twi'lek engineer, Rae-Lynn, releases him just as the Hutt ship begins a jump to hyperspace. A wave of Force energy bursts from awakened prisoner, disrupting the jump with disastrous results.

With the disoriented prisoner in tow, the battle their way out as the Hutt ship begins to disentegrate. Sections of the vessel tear open, exposed to the void of space. Even as the craft goes into its final throes of destruction, the crew reaches the Fortunate Rogue skillfully manned by Regal's Jawa co-pilot, Ruey. Blazing away from the wreck, they discover what has caused the disaster. The Hutt ship has crashed into one of a set of three enormous sphere ships unlike anything they have seen before. As they watch, these ships move into hyperspace, not by normal means, but apparently by some use of the Force itself. Rae-Lynn, the ship's engineer, is able to determine that the movement of these ships seems to disrupt the hyperspace lanes themselves-- while the Fortunate Rogue could follow the spheres, they opt to travel to the destination for the Hutt ship, Volgler Prime.

That turns out to be a backwater system with little to commend itself. Wren Marr speaks with the released Force user, Rilos. he explains that he remembers little or nothing of his childhood, save for being an orphaned on Tatooine. To survive Rilos fought and clawed his way up the ranks pit fighters. But he finds himself without any memory of his recent past or how he came to be abroad the transport. During a medical examination Rilos notes new subdermal tattoos-- they seem to be older and only now revealed by the systemic stress of the carbonite freezing. The two Force users discuss Rilos' abilities and the young man asks Marr if he can be trained in those ways. The Jedi reluctantly agrees.

After consulting at the outlaw space station, Regal and his crew find out about a Hutt operation on the planet Vogler Three, a world covered in constant storms. Regal manages a dangerous flight through the atmosphere tightly following a Hutt transport. A break in the storms reveals an ancient temple in the eye of a hurricane. The group enters and soon realizes that it is a Sith Temple. In the heart of it they find the leader of the Hutt operation and his dark ally, a Sith calling himself Darth Rune. These villains have been sacrificing the kidnapped Force sensitives in an attempt to open a shielded container in the temple. The two groups clash. Just as the heroes gain the upper hand a stray shot damages the temple's machinery. It opens the Sith holding device, but collapses the temple's protections. A hurricane held in place for thousands of years begins to tear the structure apart. Darth Rune escapes and the group barely makes it out of the temple. They have, however, been able to seize the items locked away-- a Sith Holocron and a strange crystal sphere of Force power. The markings on the sphere suggest the lost precursor race of the Rakata created it.

With an intuition that the Rakata artifact may be the key to what has happened, the group tracks down a rogue expert in the field-- Paven Lucksoul. They travel to his last known location, the planet of Lohrans, a step ahead of Hutt Bounty Hunters. On Lohrans they discover Lucksoul has been arrested for illegal trafficking in artifacts. Exhausting other means, the heroes desperately arrange a jailbreak. They get Lucksoul out, but find their success cut short by the arrival of a Star Destroyer from The Crimson Empire, the most dangerous Imperial remnant. Admiral Drums demands the planetary authorities turn Lucksoul over to him, unaware the archaeologist has been taken by the heroes.

Captain Regal and his crew press Lucksoul for an explanation. He reveals that various experts on the Rakata have vanished over the last several years-- with hints of Crimson Empire involvement. Lucksoul believes the Empire is seeking out expertise in the long fallen Rakata, those who first used the Force. Any who would not ally with them have met an unpleasant end. Lucksoul had uncovered a Rakata site here-- and had been trying to avoid Imperial entanglements. He believes the Imperials will try to seize those ruins and his unfortunate assistant awaiting his return.

The group heads to the Rakata temple, one step ahead of the Imperial forces. There they find Paven's assistant, Alivan Vane, a researcher with strange half-face tattoos that seem familiar. As the group battles the temple's guardians, Rae-Lynn deciphers some of the charts and diagrams concealed in the temple. They form a star chart directing them to a system in the Core-- a location corresponding to the markings on Rilos' body. With the Imperial forces closing, Paven reveals his own fraud as an expert-- with his assistant Vane possessing real knowledge. They drop Lucksoul into the woods for the Imperials and make a desperate attempt to break through the planetary blockade. The Fortunate Rogue takes heavy damage, but the sudden arrival of a Hutt fleet (including Darth Rune) allows them to make their escape. However even as they do so Rilos and Marr feel a strange and cold presence in the Force from aboard the Star Destroyer.

Having escaped the Crimson Empire's grip, the Fortunate Rogue heads to the planet of Quel Dor to seek out repairs. There, Wren Marr takes Rilos to meet his own master, the Jedi Knight Scryre Ossaki. Marr's own incomplete training as a Jedi is revealed, his master having sent him away because of a darkness he saw in his student. Ossaki explains why he reacted so strongly to that: before Marr, his previous student had fallen into the dark side and become the Sith known as Darth Rune. Master Scryre feared the same thing for Wren Marr and so overacted to his later apprentice's failings. Now convinced of his mettle, Scryre calls Marr a Jedi and bless Rilos' training in the ways of the Force. He warns them that Darth Rune had once allied with the Crimson Empire, but had split from them for unknown reasons. Finally the Jedi Master tells them that if anything should happen to him, they should seek out his own master, the venerable Jedi, Luke Skywalker.

Meanwhile Rae Lyn repairs the ship while Grohl, the Wookie medic, repairs the injured crew. HK-97 and the Captain dig for more information. They locate the sector pointed to by the Rakata ciphers-- a dangerous and hidden place. From an ancient rogue constructor droid they learn it held a secret base built during the height of the Empire. Protected by dangerous gravatic currents, only coded Imperial beacons permitted ships to reach it through hyperspace. These would now be long extinguished. Pressing as to the base's purpose, the Droid reveals that last of the Cloner race, the Kaminoa, were secretly sent there after having been nearly eliminated by Imperial purges. With that in mind, Captain Regal tracks down an agent of the New Republic to warn them about the Sphere ships and their threat to hyperspace navigation. In the exchange of information the group learns that the struggle between the New Republic and the Crimson Empire has blossomed into full scale conflict. The Crimson Empire struck against the Hutt after they refused an alliance. The Empire unleash a weapon which disrupted travel within the core Hutt systems and set a sun to nova. The New Republic, fearing what other weapons the Crimson Empire might have, have geared themselves for a full-scale offensive.

Captain Regal consults his crew and they decide to head to this mysterious system in an effort to untangle these secrets. After some hesitation, Vane reveals that she knows of Darth Rune as well. The Sith is the father fled as a youth. While she had no force powers, her father marked her with echoes of his own tattos to show ownership and compel obedience. Despite this troubling revelation, Rae-Lynn and Vane figure out a way to use the Rakata Force artifact to transport the Fortunate Rogue to the system past the gravtic disturbances...they hope. With a brief prayer they throw the switch.

With blinding speed and a sense of folded space they find themselves at Mythus. Here two star systems slowly collide, creating dangerous gravities and currents. A long-range scan uncovers a facility on one of the planets. There they find an enormous Imperial Science Complex, devoid of people and seemingly in standby mode. A short time into their careful exploration they realize that this place was devoted to a singular cloning project. Eventually Rae-Lynn leads the group to an unsecured data station in the heart of the facility-- activating the hologram recording of a decrepit Kaminoan: Noval Main.

Main talks of the history of the facility and its singular purpose: overcome the problems of cloning Force users. Perhaps one in a million times, maybe fewer, gifts of the Force will arise pass to a clone. Lord Vader opted for a brute force solution and built this complex to clone one person, a Jedi named Anakin Skywalker. The Empire secretly constructed it as a self-sustaining penal colony for the remaining Kaminoans. And it did sustain itself, cut off from news of the fall of the Empire. As years and then decades passed it continued operating, processing clones, raising them, testing them and then destroying the failures. Then perhaps twenty years ago, an anomaly in the system caused the creation of twin clones-- a boy and a girl. They proved to have mighty Force powers. However the automated facility had been programmed to seek only a single force user. It launched the girl twin on an automated transport back to the Empire, an Empire long fallen. The male was to be destroyed, but Noval Main, the maddened last of Kaminoans, had other plans. He marked the clone with the location of the facility and launched him in a reserve craft released by the project's completion. Then Noval turned his attention to transforming the facility into a death-trap for Lord Vader and any of his agents who might come here.

With that the heroes find themselves caught as the complex seals, releasing the monsters Main created-- horrible hybrids built from shut down droids and whatever organics the late mad scientist could devise. They attempt a running escape only forced into a fight in a central chamber. The situation grows more grave when Darth Rune appears, having followed them. The battle is lengthy and dangerous with the self-repairing pressing their attack and Darth Rune tangling with both Jedi and the Wookie. However the duel ends in the favor of the heroes with Rune falling from multiple wounds.

With his last breath the Sith tells them that there is a greater threat than he out there. Rune wanted the power of the Dark Side to rule and control. But this new threat seeks destruction-- rather than control. He had joined with the Crimson Empire, using it to further his studies of the ancient Rakata technologies. There he'd found an apprentice in the form of a young girl with potent force powers. His own useless daughter, Allivan Vane would serve as handmaiden to his apprentice. Eventually Rune managed a research breakthrough, contacting remnants of the Rakata, or so it appeared. They called themselves the Decimators, bearing strange Force powers. They turned Rune's own apprentice against him and seduced the Crimson Empire with the new powers they possessed. The Sith fled to the Hutt to escape before his new enemies could destroy him. There he sought out other Rakata weapons to fight against the Decimators and make himself lord of the galaxy.

Then Rune dies, leaving the group with the potent and immediate threat that these Decimators and the Crimson Empire were even now planning an ambush against the gathered forces of the New Republic!

As Grohl tends to the wounded, the HK-97 and Rae-Lynn work hard to overcome the safety protocols on Darth Rune's ship. Once inside they ransack the Sith's databanks to understand the threat they face. They learn of the Crimson Empire's planned ambush of the New Republic battle fleet. With the powers of the three Decimator ships, they could scramble power systems and prevent any ship's escape. Rune plan to use the chaos of that battle to hijack one of the Sphere Ships. He had pursued the Rakata Force Globe for that reason: it could be used to seize control of a Decimator vessel. To that end, Rune arranged a false code beacon to allow him to slip in among the Crimson Empire preparations. Ra-Lynn strips that out and attaches it to the Fortunate Rogue. With time rapidly running out, the group makes another Force-driven jump into the void.

They appear amidst the chaos and fall in with the war ships forming up. The beacon workd, but only with judicious application of Captain Regal's charm. After close calls, the Fortunate Rogue docks aboard the target Decimator Ship. Their luck holds as the enormous vessel has only a skeleton crew, with most preparing for the coming offensive. The heroes lure several Stormtroopers onto their ship to knock them out and take their armor. However, Rilos shocks his mentor when he casually snaps the neck of his foe-- becoming visibly irritated at the others' reaction. Rae-Lynn slices into the data system and plots the fastest way to the bridge. They head there with all due speed.

Bursting through the doors, they take the bridge crew unawares. However they find the situation complicated by a multi-level control room, a dozen extra guards, dual control stations, and the presence of three Force users-- their first encounter with the Decimators. While they appear human, solder-like raised-metal tattoos and strange sphere weapons mark them as unlike any Force user they've seen before. Even as they clash, alert warnings activate as the New Republic fleet drops from hyperspace into the trap. Regal battles his way to the main controls, with Grohl fighting his way to the gunnery stations. Rae-Lynn places the Rakata Force Crystal into position with HK-97 laying down pin-point accurate covering fire. Marr and Rilos move around the battlefield trying to hold the enemy back as the Captain works to shift the balance of the conflict. Even as he moves the Decimator warship into position, a scream from Allivan Vane signals the arrival of a new enemy.

Artificer Quartz, Rilos' apparent sister and a Decimator convert, storms the bridge accompanied by two Force-wielding members of the Crimson Guard. She briefly takes control of Vane, setting her against Rae-Lynn. Regal focuses on piloting the ship, shouting for the others to keep them back. He lets loose several barrages, but then goes for a more desperate gamble. He tells Rae-Lynn to overclock the engines-- and send his vessel careening into the other two Sphere Ships-- banking his shot like a pool shark. In the midst of the noise and fury, Rilos finally confronts his sister-- giving her a single chance to turn away from her path. She declines and strikes at him. Rilos desperately parries and drives both of their light sabers into a nearby power junction. The resulting explosion throws him back and Quartz falls to her doom. The group gathers everyone and rushes back to the Fortunate Rogue. As the final two Sphere Ships collide- ramming the two Star Core Drives together in a massive explosion-- Captain Regal punches it and makes good their escape.

The New Republic Fleet survives the ambush, but one of the Decimator ships escape along with a portion of the Crimson Empire's forces. Aboard the Republic Flagship, Regal and the other receive the thanks of the Republic Agent they contacted on Quel-Dor. He asks if Regal believes this is over-- and the scene cuts to the medical bay where Wren Marr watches as Grohl fits his Padwan Rilos with an artificial hand to replace the one he lost in the explosion. Regal looks out at the damaged fleet and knows that it is not over.

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