mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Star Wars: End of Empire: Witch-Queen of the Empire.

Recapping Last Session
I've been keeping fairly detailed summaries of my Star Wars: End of Empire RPG sessions, & we're all fresh off the high of arguing about a new movie, so it wasn't difficult to get back into the spirit of Star Wars. Where were we again? That's a little trickier. What is the whole convoluted plot, er, plan? The fractured Imperial forces known as The Praetorians are looking for the party's ally, Eris Berserk, & now them. Why? Because they want to find her brother, Cadecus Dee, who stole a prototype ship called The Insidious along with a superweapon called STARKILLER. Finding out all this put them on this new Empire's hit list, & so they've fled the system, intent on finding Eris' old mentor, Baron Monstro. He'll help identify just what this top secret project actually is, & they intend on using that intel to convince the fledgling galactic Republic to aid the cause of the Droid Uprising. I handed out experience, with a special story bonus for concluding the "Tatooine" or "Jakku" podunk planet portion of our saga as they escape Praetorian controlled Ord Mantell & finally leave the gravity shadow of the Bright Jewel Nebula. I gave them a chance to spend it, save it, or to talk to me about substitutions on their class Talent trees. After reading the new Genesys rules, I'm going to keep the character class mechanics mostly untouched, & just allow people to broadly substitute a Talent for any other lateral Talent. I'm not going to sweat the small stuff; it doesn't seem like it is going to break the game. Ships are all fixed up, gear is all stowed, pencils ready, Rogue One soundtrack playing & the trumpets blast.

Repressed Memories: Man & Machine
We return to the story with a shot of the interior of a Lamda-class shuttle, a variant model with a surgical bed built in the middle of it. Joey's character Jolit, the rebuilt Human Replica Droid is standing there, along with a completely human-looking version of himself strapped to the bed in a loose white sickbay robe. At the front console piloting the ship is a scorched metal skeleton, a Terminator-eque droid duplicate of himself. We've been doing a lot of temporary character swapping & deuteragonists in this campaign so far, from games of sabacc & the villains' POV to the supporting ensemble of NPCs, & this session was no exception: Raj played the restrained organic subject & Rachel played the burnt, robotic helmsman. Their remit was simple, & Jolit, in the haze of "dream" logic— or whatever you call it when androids shutdown & imagine electric sheep— played along. The patient eagerly exclaimed, "cut off my arm!" & Jolit went for it, spending the experience to gain a point of Medicine before touching the dice, in a synergy of role & roll. A smell like drilling teeth & bloody iron, & a feeling of incredible pain as it paradoxically bit into he, himself. The creepy deathbot demanded: "this unit will navigate the ship to vector 0.0.1" straight into a black hole, & Joey's HRD unit complied, buying a rank of Astrogation & stealing his will to follow through on such a nihilistic course. The stars drew back into the signature lines of a hyperspace jump...& just stopped, still, like Kylo Ren freezing a blaster bolt.

Praetorian Interlude
I thought it might be nice to have a few scenes re-introducing the villains & the stakes, & time to up the ante on a few plot lines, so we took an abrupt cinematic cut from Jolit's face in his hallucinatory hypnogogic malfunction to the Praetorian Commander Ulma Verbost, Rachel's character's former subordinate from back in the bad old Imperial days. She comes across the footage of the infiltration droid escaping a AT-ST led ISB patrol, & soon, followed by a scarlet-robed Royal Guard, & played by Rachel, she is led into one of the private chambers used by Imperator Tanda Pryl on this Super Star Destroyer. In the center of the massive black data-table, something spherical lies covered with a white silk sheet. The Imperator is "dressed down," in Princess Leia casual, with her signature white cape, Sith clasp & a lightsaber at her stormtrooper's belt. Her long blonde hair is braided & coiled around her neck. Commander Verbost, accompanied by her silent, crimson overseer, salutes the Imperator, while the she is inspecting a hologram being projected by a black astromech droid, ST-R5: a Savirip being tortured, spread crucifex in electrofied repulsor shackles.

The Imperator says that she remembers Ulma & then-Lieutenant Totool working in the "Special Projects" Division when the she commanded them as a humble captain back in the Elrood Sector. They were trying to adapt ancient Arkanian technology as members of the Exogorth Control Program, if memory serves, & so the Imperator tells her she would welcome any insights into the Savrip Re-education Program, gesturing at the wavering hologram. Ulma is...distracted, her gaze returning to the alien, but snaps to, remembering that she has something to report to the supreme commander of the Imperial Remnant. Ulma is in charge of the elite mechanized vehicles on The Eye & came across something recently stuck in one of the memory banks of a black ISB AT-ST scanner unit. She recognized someone in a recording of an escaped fugitive on Ord Mantell. A face somehow familiar to the Imperials, though he was wearing a helmet in the Rubicon holotapes: Jolit. The cybernetically enhanced Rebel's armor, however, does match that recording, & Verbost concludes that Rachel's character Para Totool & this mysterious cyborg are working together.

The Imperator off-handedly orders a nearby stormtrooper to summon the TIE fighter ace Jeran Gaulth immediately, played by Raj. Some believe the Imperator's plans rely on too many leaps of faith & spurious links but that has always been the way she operates. Imperator Pryl had presumed after discovering that Totool with Eris Berserk— who the Empire is furiously searching for to use as leverage in order to locate her brother Cadecus Dee & his stolen Star Destroyer prototype, you'll recall— were working together during the blockade runner's escape from the Bright Jewel Nebula that the former Imperial was a Rebel traitor now. When Commander Verbost shows the Imperator the face on the holochip, however, the ice queen grimaces oddly & asks if the new hyperspace communicator is functional. As a disheveled Jeran Gauth arrives, she uses it to contact Director Tol Daala at the Maw Installation...who looks just like a twenty-years older Jolit, & is played in this scene by Joey.
    Director Tol Daala is in charge of The Maw Installation, the top secret facility in the heart of a black hole cluster that developed the second Death Star, among other Imperial innovations. He didn't have the aristocratic sophistication of Tarkin or the scientific background of Krennic; rather, Director Daala is the head of the Imperial secret police, the ISB. He answers to the Imperator, for she has the loyalty of the remaining fleet & the blessing of the Royal Guard, but he has surrounded himself with the creepy Sith cultists— who fled the Emperor's death to the Spice Mines of Kessel— as a hedge against her dark arts.

    It is his black-clad faction the supplied the designs for the next-generation TIE fighters currently under construction at Crosh's facilities in orbit around Ord Mantell, among other experimental weapons, & he is the one who knows the locations of other secret Imperial bases. Director Daala looks like an aged version of the Human Replica Droid Jolit, dressed in a stark white ISB uniform with a white cape with red lining, carrying a disruptor pistol at his side. Besides the purple-clad Imperial "advisors," the Director is typically accompanied by deathtroopers armed with flamers as protection.
In the exchange that follows, the Imperator cautions the Director about staying well away from the old clone programs. He cracks wise, & she inquires further, pressing the subject. There's an odd vibe in the air, but the dice aren't with the players; all they can tell is that while the Director seems to be the closest thing to a rival for control of the Praetorian faction that the Imperator has, ultimately she's willing & capable to punish insubordination with a little telekinetic asphyxiate. That's right: the old Vader strangle, & for all that the Imperator obviously strives to purposefully evoke his aura of horrible gravitas, it works. I was impressed; Force Choke scared the bejeezus out of my players. There is a reason it is a classic, I guess! Bantering violently concluded, she releases him so that he can inform her that the the schematics for Improved Restraining Bolts are being transmitted now, & work on the Droid Master Control Signal is nearing completion.

Daala is also pleased to be able to report that the Devastator Swarm on Ithor is reaching critical mass & is ready to divide: where should it be sent to next? The Praetorians control a wedge of the galaxy with hyperspace routes from Ord Mantell, Dathomir, & the Kessel Run, & prompted by the Imperator, Ulma racks her brain. Jeran is a fighter pilot, not a navigator, & he comes up empty, but after rattling through nearby worlds like Mandelore, Korriban, or independent systems like Hutt Space or the Hapes Consortium she suggests...Dathomir? Earning the Imperator's eerily arched eyebrow, which lingers overlong on the Commander as the she instead orders the second swarm to Dantooine. Terminating the connection with the Director, she orders the rest of the attending stormtroopers to leave the room, & unveils a sickly green orb set into the table, swirling with toxic emerald light. She has the ace & the commander come over closer, & kneel before her, telling them, in a voice taking on a sinister air, that she will form a "triumvirate" with Ulma, who knew Para Totool, & Jeran, who just saw her on the Rubicon. Forcing them to kneel, there is a brief feeling nightmarish pain, & then.

My question for the players who filled the roles of the NPCs: are you a true believer?

Dark Side Dream
Para Totool is asleep on the False Profit, having left the up-gunned corvette Old Daughter at the system's edge in order to avoid any political entanglements. She has the extremely unfortunate sensation of falling lucidly into sleep paralysis, as the diabolical weight of the Imperator's will settles down oppressively around her. With the sickly sweet power of the Dark Side of the Force, the Imperator projects herself into the thoughts of her erst-while officer. The sensation is not pleasant, numbness & vertigo, but it's like the Imperial witch is there in the flesh. (I planned this scene in August, just for the record; The Last Jedi & I are putting down a lot of the same vibe.) Idly, Tanda Pryl muses about how now she remembers meeting Para: she gave her a commendation for putting down the Verpine Insurgency in the Shroud Cluster "decisively." Why doesn't she want to come back home, re-enlist? Para, when pushed into a corner with nothing left to lose, has a lot of bite to her, & the dice rolls to back it up: she refuses, & when the Imperator questions her about her loyalties, wondering whether she's part of some elaborate scheme of Director Daala's or just another traitor after all, she's got sass of her own. She even insults the Imperator's hair; it was very Jyn Erso. Never one to use a scalpel when a hammer will do, the Imperator modulates her Voice, contorting it hypnotically to compel Para to tell her where she is. She is able to resist, grinding her teeth, but as the dreadful sorceress stretches forth her talons, the psychic puppetry of the Imperator cannot be denied. If she cannot break Para Totool's mind, she will simply seize control of her slumbering she sleepwalks her towards the navicomputer in the engineering section. (Asking "did you hear that?" as if someone was eavesdropping). If only our crew of heroes had a Force-user amongst them! But wait!

Planning things out with Eris & 4-Dox
Behind the scenes, Burke had known he was going to be arriving a little bit later than everyone else, so the prelude stacking worked in our favour. As the Dark Side powers of the Imperator bring them ever closer to discovery, Rachel rightly guesses that this chapter has been timed for the arrival of his character, so we take a beat, letting the camera shift to Raj's character, Jax Cadderly, planning things out with the RA-espionage droid 4-DOX & Chiss privateer Eris Berserk, while the Trandoshan Sshushath the Zode & astroprobe AK-88 hangout nearby. It's a regular NPC troupe, a whole chorus of voices for the PCs to play when their main characters are out of the scene; we're all prepared for half the party to go to Bespin & the other half to traipse off to Dagobah, so to speak. 4-DOX is here as the direct liaison between the players & the Droid Uprising...& hopefully the New Republic. Ideally, she wants an Independent Droid Space, but she'd settled for a world, or even better, citizenship. Jax, who secretly has been asked by the Contessa who owns Ord Mantell to find a wealthy noble to buy the planet off of her, wants to know about the man there's going to meet, Baron Monstro.
    Baron Monstro is...incredibly rich. The hereditary owner of the majority share in Kuat Drive Yards, he has the unspeakable wealth of centuries of warprorfiteering...but he is a noble from a culture that prizes glory, & Monstro loves danger the way some Corellians love speed. A thrillseeker, he has been a bounty hunter, a gladiator, a gambler, a big game stalker...always chasing the next adrenaline rush with the most expensive toys, like a golden Corellian powersuit & an overclocked VT-49 Decimator, The White Plume (which comes equipped with a carbonite cell, with a suite of riding animals kept "on ice" to be suitable to the occasion). He collects trophies from his victories, like fighting with a Wookiee bowcaster & carrying a Tusken gaffi stick. It's not that he's unscrupulous, or immoral but sort of...amoral. He's not above hunting "the most dangerous prey," though he restricts his appetites to the Most Wanted & the often lethal races & fighting matches he hosts. Larger than life, it is all a game to Monstro.
Dark Side Dream
Theynur Kötturinn is a Farghul, Star Wars' answer to the Khajiit. She's also a junkie on the run from a power within her that she doesn't understand & can't control. & she's in Para Totool's dream. Or in the corridor with her. It's not important where she is: what's important is that she's there. ("Did you hear that?") Burke has shown up, hackles raised & ready to role, pun intended. The poise of the Imperator doesn't ripple when suddenly confronted with a feral Force user, but her curiosity is certainly piqued. Theynur, reaching deep into her connection to the Force, touches her mind to Para's mind, buying a new Force power & managing to sever the connection between the witch-empress & Para Totool, just before she's about to walk into the astrogation room. In fact, the door hisses open right as she blinks her eyes awake...& there they see the sub-conscious Jolit, a host of wires plugged into him Matrix style. Cords running from his eyes, throat & veins into the navicomputer, data flashing up & down the datalinks. So that's all very reassuring. it seems that Jolit was just randomly referencing starcharts & hyperspace coordinates, pulling up systems & clusters with no discernible pattern & making no changes to them, not even copying them; just pointlessly scanning though them.

Race Through the Rings of Drall
All the excitement is great timing, because we are starting to draw to a close on the session...but not before introducing Baron Monstro! The reckless fool has his shiny white VT-49 Decimator The White Plume, engine pushed to critical & running out to meet them venting plasma...& he wants to race them through the Rings of Drall. He's excited to hear Eris on the commlink & to know the old champ Ssushath is there— "the Zode!"— & asks about the reptiloid's old friend Wuukar...who was recently executed by the Praetorians as a Rebel. From there it's the opening shots of Rogue One as their SoroSuub 3000 staryacht The False Profit (which Joey 3D-printed a model of; see below) & The White Plume skip across the densely packed stellar rings from a distance like streaks of light, then cutting to the Empire Strikes Back's asteroid chase, ships dodging through a tight chaos of rock & ice. After a session of rather flat results from the dice, successes & failures canceling out, the crew is in their element. Well, Jax feels a bit out of it, but our band of scoundrels manage to plot an impossible course, thread the needle of actually flying the route, & eke every last ounce of power for the sublight drive. Even though they mostly assume they are just going to get Most Dangerous Prey'd by this lunatic when they get to his planetoid, their plan is to impress the Baron by putting on a show, & they succeed. Breaking into sight around the cosmic horizon: the palace moon of Corellia Prime! "Can we see the planet it is in orbit around?" my sweet summer children ask me. No, you cannot. This is a "forest moon of Endor" situation. Just hush now.
    Corellia Prime is the palace-moon of Baron Monstro. It's visual design is Death Star-esque in Star Destroyer off-white, a world built over with solar panel "crop circles" & luxurious greebles. Urbane settings & decadent sprawls combine, with a variety of humans, Duros & other aliens thrown together in a jumble, ready to cater to any whim, no matter how carnal or legal. A bubble of consequence-free fun for the powerful, built on the purchased talent's quite literal blood, sweat & tears. A playground of delights with no safety railings, where the only real freedom or security is power, or the Baron's favour. It is a world of rhomboid towers, pleasure mazes, gladiator pits, & race tracks.
Tags: end of empire, star wars

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