This write-up of my Star Wars: End of Empire campaign combines two sessions into one summary, let me mention right off the bat in the interest of good record keeping. Raj missed the preceding session, so we began it all with a little flashback to fill out where his gunslinging scoundrel Jax Cadderly had gotten off to. The wheel of the story has returned to some of the signature antagonists, as Contessa Misaani contacts Jax on a matter of some personal interest. When he arrives by speeder bike, he realizes it was a set-up, as the Black Sun crimelord Concilliator Kek is waiting for him...with an offer he can't refuse. Rachel plays the Contessa & Joey plays Zar Stygos, the slaver from the sabacc game, & the respirator-masked Concilliator offers the re-captured Trandoshan ex-gladiator Sshushath the Zode to Jax as a gesture of good faith, missing a hand. Matters with the Falleen mobster are relatively simple. Conciliator Kek is a peacemaker: he doesn't want any trouble for Jax. He doesn't want any trouble from rival Black Sun mob boss Rao Kast either, but he sees a way they can all get what they want. He's going to help Jax leave Ord Mantell by giving him the map to an old smuggler's hyperspace route out of the Bright Jewel nebula; it's sketchy & has to be timed just so, but if he leaves now Kast's gangsters, led by Hopper Rose, will chase him, & so Jax is going to leave now, or else Kek will have to come up with some other, permanent solution. (The Contessa, on the other hand, has a clandestine, potentially more lucrative offer: find her someone willing to buy the planet out from under her.)
Which brings us back to the current action, with Jax & the Zode rejoining the ex-Imperial Para Totool, human replica droid Jolit & felinoid Force-sensitive Theynur Kötturinn along with the other NPCs, privateer Eris Berserk, astroprobe AK-88 & espionage droid 4-DOX. The group is a small flotilla: Para pilots her TIE/interceptor, Theynur is in her X-wing, Eris is in a TIE/boarder & the rest are on the staryacht False Profit. Burke couldn't make it, which worked out well for the inevitable fight sequence, since there were enough ships with weapons & players to go around as I dropped them into the middle of ship-to-ship combat. While impersonating an Imperial convoy, Garrison TIE/ln report that Praetorian passcodes have changed after the recent intrusions by rebel scum & haywire droids; they should have gotten new checkphrases from their morning debrief...wait...actually it is Para's codes specifically that were flagged...at which point "hostile negotiations" commence. The battle had it all, probably: I'd printed up the charts from Fly Casual with potential uses of the custom die results for debris fields, & we use that to pepper in details into the fight as we try to explore the narrative dice system. At this point, the high ABV beers began to kick in. Dogfish Head? More like Dogfight Head!
The "Blue Veil" is a massive solar flare, an inferno raging at a slow cosmic scale, a loop of sapphire flame that marks a shockwave in the helio-shealth, dividing the inhabited parts of the Bright Jewel system off from the more uncharted flows & eddies of the nebula...& where the player's star yacht, the False Profit, makes contact with the Old Daughter, at which point the TIE fighters they haven't picked off retreat in a hurry. The up-gunned, heavily armored ship started off life as a Corellian corvette, produced by the Mon Calamari capital ship Mother One & now heavily modified by the tinkering shipwright Navigator Marid. It has massive docking bays full of black stealth A-wings & the new double-wide H-wings. The crew is a mix of mostly three "alien" species, with a few outlier humans & droids & miscellaneous others. There are the insectoid Verpine, renown mechanics from asteroid hives who staff the A-wing Joker Squadron & the bat-like Chadra-Fan who ride four at a time in Echo Squadron's H-wings. Most capital ship operations are done by the Mon Calamari, & the whole of the Old Daughter is rigged to support sections of each species' biome.
The commander of the ship, a burbling Churchill of a Mon Calamari named Navigator Marid, is less an extremist & more a hardliner; he still calls his cell "the Rebel Alliance," claiming that the Core Worlds are a little premature to dub themselves a "New Republic." Nevertheless, when he hears of the stolen datatape, the crew breaks out the Corellian moonshine, renowned for being a pan-species intoxicant, with Para trying a little of the Mon Calamari's salty Brine Wine & Jax sweet-talking his way into the Navigator's good brandy. Eris, meanwhile, is down in the fighter bays with the bugs & bats, convincing them to take her old TIE/boarder as trade, & to equip the party's luxury liner with a "pirate's suite" of weapons: a tractor beam & a concealable ion cannon. Para starts there too, making substantial repairs to her TIE/interceptor after being targeted as a traitor during the fight to escape Ord Mantell, but makes her way to the party afterward, unaware of the proverbial daggers being stared into her back by glittering compound eyes. At this point in the night, the spice has begun to flow; Jolit, 4-DOX & some of the Rebel protocol droids are splicing in junk code & the organics are drunk & arguing about...the nature of freedom. Or accusing each other of paranoia. Or...glug glug glug...
...the next morning (& the next session) the group gathers together in the mess hall with a similarly hung-over crew. Guerrilla fighters can party when they put their mind to it! Everyone's memories are spotty, so as the crew potter about getting their morning meals, the players (& NPCs) try to piece things together, & revisit or retread whatever they meant to say. Theynur, Burke back from his missed session, steals aside to meet up with her contacts in the Bothan SpyNet, built by Bothans & other non-humans using their innate advantages to stay alive post-COMPNOR, the Imperial pogroms of human supremacy. A secret, independent organization, even at the peak of the Rebellion, they were the ones that infiltrated the secretive Maw facility & stole the plans to the second Death Star...& Theynur Kötturinn is a member. Or well, an "asset," at least, as she checks in with her handler, a Chadra-Fan named Wemic. The chiropteran Chadra-Fan eat a medley of baked grubs we see as Theynur heads over, while the Mon Calamari break their fast on a sort of wriggling gagh ceviche, & the Verpine consume a gelatinous nutrient paste. They are more cricket than mantis, Para decides, sitting near them & realizing that they use their antennae to communicate on private comm channels...& that they are talking about her. As the other players go about their breakfast, one of the clutch-leaders, Zrb, confronts the Navigator angrily, as more & more of the locust-folk start filtering in to the cafeteria: apparently, Zrb recognized Para's TIE/interceptor, the Egg-Eater. As one of the mechanized support officers in the Inferno Squad stationed in the Elrood Sector with then-Captain now-Imperator Pryl, she oversaw a battalion of K-series security droids. Something awful happened with them & the Verpine "Hatchlands" in the Shroud asteroid belt back in Para's Imperial past, & while the set of Zrb's carapace is hard to read, it does not seem happy about her being here.
Luckily for everyone, Jax Cadderly has a silver tongue besides the good blaster at his side, & between his calming words pointing out that most Rebel officers were famous defectors, & Navigator Marid's eagerness to convert them to the cause, they defuse tensions. Marid wants them to join the Rebellion, but they demure, preferring their independence in the wake of the great Galactic Civil War. Marid argues that they aren't really independent at all, & that the Rebellion offers a golden chance: the chance to do the right thing...by being the scoundrels. You won't get rich, but you won't have to lie about who you are. Still as freelancers outside of the Republic, they do offer a unique opportunity. Navigator Marid recognizes the name of the STARKILLER file on their stolen data: The infamous "STARDUST" upload that contained the Death Star plans had metadata for other projects attached: Stellar Sphere, Pax Aurora, Sixty-Six, War Mantle...& Starkiller. As disdainful as the Navigator is of the New Republic in general, he doesn't think they'd ever blow up a planet...but he doesn't aim to give them that chance, either. He'll report to the New Republic about the stolen prototype Star Destroyer Insidious, & about the existence of the Praetorians & their invasion of Ord Mantel, but he wants them to investigate this super weapon, in case it is something so heinous it is better destroyed before any bureaucrat or tyrant can be tempted by it. Eris Berserk knows someone who can help, her old mentor: Baron Monstro, the thrillseeking
The Empire does not take defeat by cunning well, & the Praetorians respond just like the Imperator's idol Vader did when the Millennium Falcon evaded him in the Anoat Asteroid Belt: with brute force. The Super Star Destroyer The Eye looms up at the fringes of the Blue Veil, massive in a way that only something on a stellar scale can be, disgorging seemingly endless wings of TIE/interceptors...some, as the camera cuts in to Doom Wing leader, commanded by the ace from the Rubicon, Jeran Gauth. The player characters, still aboard the Old Daughter, are alerted by the proximity alarms & the call to battle stations! In the eternally raging tempest of the wilder parts of the Bright Veil Nebula, going out in a starfighter is a great way to get lost, & so the party pitches in with the crew. Theynur up to the bridge to help plot hyperspace jump coordinates, Para Totool down to the engine room to work along side the embittered Verpine, with Jax & Jolit each manning a set of turbolaser batteries & wait. & wait.
I'm going for outer space submarine warfare in the vein of Wrath of Khan & not being shy about it, even handing out another list of optional battle conditions for fighting in a nebula, but the players just keep rolling well! I succeeded in building tension but struggled to find ways for catharsis when the stealthier options kept succeeding. First Theynur's instincts & astrogation skills as a scout helped settle the ship into the lee of a rogue comet, further hiding it from detection, & then Para used her talents as an elite engineer to cobble together a signal pulse to knock out the Praetorian's communications, using backdoor codes, scattering them chaotically amidst the swirling blue ion storms & hydrogen clouds. At that critical stroke, the camera broke back to the Imperial perspective, to the white-clad Imperator raising her fingers like talons, reaching out from the edge of the flare with the Force, filling her pilot's minds with Battle Meditation as they call into new formations, more like swarming wasps than orderly flight wings. The gunners are frustrated with waiting, but Theynur uses the Force herself-- in full view of everyone-- to scatter some of the ship's vented garbage as a distraction, ignited into a beautiful fireball by Jax Cadderly (Jax always shoots first, even if it's garbage), allowing the Old Daughter to effectively evade the Empire's forces long enough to make the jump to hyperspace!