Saturday, July 14, 2012

Anakin Takes A Bullet: The Story So Far

I'm back to work on the Star Wars Saga Edition game.  As I've said before, it's an alternate universe game entitled "Anakin Takes A Bullet."

The break in official Star Wars canon takes place during the podrace in Episode I.  During the race, there's a scene where Anakin's podracer is grazed by a bullet from a slugthrower shot by a Tusken Raider sniping the race course.  My assumption is that instead of striking his racer, it strikes Anakin in the skull, penetrating.  The combination of the gunshot wound, coupled with the blunt force trauma resulting from the subsequent crash kills him.

The net effect of this is that the A plot of the Star Wars timeline is effectively removed, thus allowing the player characters to become the A plot.  The Skywalker line is gone, so no Anakin, no Luke, no Leia.  The larger sweep of the galaxy is otherwise unaffected, but these deaths cause ripples in the timeline due to the absence of the Skywalkers (and the presence of the party).  The net effect is that the events of the Fall of the Republic seem to be playing out in the background, but there's just enough cognitive dissonance, and just enough new elements being introduced to keep the players just a bit uneasy.

The campaign itself has been episodic in nature, so far, three have been completed and resolved.  After a few months break where the group has been playing other games.  We're probably just a handful of weeks away from Episode 4's start.  Here's what the group has encountered so far:

Episode 1 dealt with the aftermath of Anakin's death and the situation on Tatooine (where Padme, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi) are stranded after Watto wins the Naboo Royal Yacht in the podrace).  The Judicial Department reluctant dispatches another group to retrieve the stranded heroes, and see what can be salvaged of the situation in Naboo.  This group, naturally, is the PCs.

The three intrepid heroes are a human noble woman, part of Padme's Royal Handmaidens (and a distant cousin), a male Dug Scoundrel/Pilot who has an uncanny ability to find trouble, only to dig himself out, and a female Miraluka Jedi.

By the time the group reaches Tatooine, both Qui-Gon and Darth Maul are dead, as the lightsaber battle that punctuates Episode I's climax takes place on Tatooine.  Eventually, after a pitstop in Coruscant, where Chancellor Valorum's government has fallen based on his illegal use of the Jedi on Naboo, complicated by the stranding of the group on Tatooine.  In one of the first ripples, corpulent Twi'lek Senator Orn Free Taa pulls enough strings/hands outs enough bribes to become Chancellor.

Eventually the group makes its way to Naboo, where the heroes of the movie, in combination with the player characters, break the Trade Federation's hold on the planet, and Naboo celebrates its liberation.

Episode 2 advances the timeline a couple of years.  Several canonical things that happen in the timeline happen here.  Count Dooku resigns from the Jedi Order.  The Jedi Order begins to suffer a wave of missing Jedi.  Usually younger, recently promoted Jedi Knights, the Order is concerned enough to launch an investigation.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Chancellor Orn Free Taa, whose greed is exceeded only by his waistline, becomes mired in corruption charges, just like his predecessor.  Calls for his resignation, like a dim echo of those for Finis Valorum just a few years before, can now be heard.

On Naboo, the combination of the loss of the Royal Yacht, the heavy toll in property damage and civilian life taken by the longer occupation by the Trade Federation, and the sense that Naboo's Queen was guided by rather than leading events during the occupation lead to bold calls that Queen Amidala step down, including some voices on the Naboo Royal Council.  While Amidala holds on to her office for the time being, there is a sense that barring a change in the fortunes of the Queen, she will be stepping down at the end of her term.

The group is given the task of following up on the disappearance of one of the missing Jedi, a Jedi whose mission had been to recover a possible Jedi or Sith Holocron on Eriadu.  There, they meet a younger, but every bit as taciturn, Eriadu Lieutenant Governor Wilhuff Tarkin (the same Tarkin of Death Star fame), and look for clues to the whereabout of the missing Jedi.  They find no Jedi, but they do locate the Jedi's ride, a Modified YT-2000 Freighter piloted by a now dead Mon Calamari pilot.  After a violent encounter with a Dark Side Force Adept who has already lost an arm to what she describes as a Sith Lord, she leads them to believe the Jedi may have gone rogue, and locate clues that she may have moved on to Carlass, an outer rim system that is mostly unexplored outside of a small mining colony on the system's mainworld.

Travelling to Carlass, they still fail to locate the Jedi, but do run into a number of beasts that have been twisted by the Dark Side of the force in the form of a crypt of a minor, but previously forgotten Sith Lord.  There, the group battles their way through a variety of Sith Abominations, a Dark Side Spirit, and a pair of fiendish puzzles/traps (I'm fond of that sort of thing at times), before locating what turns out to be a relatively unimportant Sith holocron.

After a stop at Naboo where the group foils an assassination attempt on Padme Amidala's life by a group from the Nebula Front, the group returns to Coruscant, with a vaguely disconcerting feeling that at least one of the missing Jedi Knights has gone to the Dark Side, and a sense that even though they have a better idea what happened to the missing Jedi, and did retrieve the holocron, that there was something more that should have been done by somebody.

Episode III was aimed firmly at the Naboo noble in the party.  The timeline is advanced to roughly six years after Episode I.  On Coruscant, yet another treason trial on Nute Gunray fails to convict him, leaving it very likely that the Neimoidians will walk away consequence free from the illegal occupation of Naboo.  Chancellor Orn Free Taa resigned not long after the conclusion of Episode II, leading to Palpatine being voted in as the new Chancellor.  The political entity that would become the Confederacy of Independent Systems is launched by Count Dooku,  The Trade Federation joins the Confederacy soon after.

Also on Coruscant, a devastating act of terrorism in Westport leads to the destruction of numerous starships, and tens of thousands dead, including two Senators.  As a response, the Senate passes (and the Chancellor signs) the CEASES Act, which creates an exception to some existing civil liberties protections for persons branded by the Chancellor as suspected of committing acts of terrorism.  While some civil libertarians bemoan the loss of liberties, the public, reeling from the Westport bombing, and similar terrorist acts on other core worlds, by and large approves of the measure.

It is against this backdrop of civil strife that the group of player characters is called upon to travel to a seemingly insignificant mining colony in the Outer Rim, Kitos V, a world considering joining with the Confederacy, which happens to be the linchpin of an interlocking string of alliances that could take most of three sectors with it. 

The group travels to Kitos V to meet with the governing council.  They quickly learn that all five members of the council, are less than conventional personalities, with conflicting goals and agendas, and with nobody really acting as it would seem.

Throw in the first real Sith Lord the group has encountered, a group of mercenaries and bounty hunters intent on killing anybody who threatens Ragga's plans, and the group has to tread lightly, finding the pressure points of the various council members, politicking to get their vote, and in some instances confronting the violence of Ragga's thugs head on.  Ultimately, the group is successful in keeping Kitos V loyal to the Republic, but not without grave consequences to the world, and more than one council member.

One other incident has set the table for the fourth episode.  Padme Amidala was assassinated on Naboo.  One of the things the players have been made aware of from the beginning is that events outside of their control will happen outside of their sphere of influence.  This was one such time where this came true.  Simply put, I removed Padme to put the Naboo noble that is a member of the party in a position of influence in Naboo politics.  She has been elected Senator, and the party has effectively been split into two groups...a Jedi focused one that will be investigating rumors of embezzlement from the Republic government offworld, and a politically focused group centered around her as Senator on Coruscant, and dealing with the corrupt nature of politics in the late Republic.

In future posts, I'll provide a few SWSE builds for some of the NPCs I've created, as well as session notes as we run the Episode.  For now, consider this a teaser.

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