Thursday, February 24, 2011

Was it just me, or...

...did anyone else out there ever 'carbon freeze' their Star Wars figures when they were a kid? I used the little plastic coffin-shaped boxes from my Risk game, filled them with water, put the doomed figure inside, then placed them in the freezer to set up. If you lift the arms just a little, you can even get it so they look like they're trying to reach out of the ice! Yeah. I did that. Don't know why I thought of that today, but I did. So I'm sharing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Some Pet Peeves

I've been a little grumpy as of late (work's been busy). That being the case, I'm going to indulge the peevish side of my nature to rant about a few of my 'favorite' peeves. Not all of them relate directly to Star Wars, but most do. Also, most apply to movies as well as games, so I'll probably talk about both as we go.

1. Not all NPCs should be inept.

Star Trek is probably the most blatant offender in this regard- but it seems to be standard in a lot of Sci Fi and action movies- and games for that matter. While I agree that the 'heroes' should be the major focus of any game (or movie), I'm really tired of the cliche that everyone BUT the heroes is at best inept and at worst a complete moron. How many times do we see it in Star Trek? It seems like anyone who ISN'T part of the Enterprise crew is a doofus or insane or a traitor or a combination of those. I can see a GM wanting some 'contrast' in his campaign- perhaps even playing the bad guys for buffoons on occasion, but I'm a strong believer in the maxim: A person is judged by their enemies. People who triumph over idiots aren't nearly as impressive as those who face deadly (and smart) foes- and actually win on occasion. But foes shouldn't be the only people who are competent. It's perfectly fine to make allies competent as well. Yes, they may occasionally need help from the players, but I personally think it makes for a stronger and more 'realistic' setting if your allies are someone you can count on as well. In the Star Wars movies, you have to look no further than folks like Wedge Antilles and General Veers for examples of what I'm talking about. Neither of them are the main heroes, but neither are they inept. In fact, they're both pretty badass in their own way.

2. A 'strong' female character doesn't have to be a badass bitch.

a.k.a. the Mara Jade rule. It seems to be a long-standing tradition among many fanboys that in order to be 'strong', a female character needs to be a bitch- tough-as-nails and unapproachable (except, perhaps, for that one guy who will win her heart- usually a fantasy-alter-ego of the fanboy in question). Thus, you have a slew of characters across many genres who fit into this stereotype: Mara Jade, Xena, Lara Croft (at least as depicted in the movies), Emma Frost, etc.. While I like all kinds of different characters, I'm pretty sick of this particular type. A woman doesn't need to be a 'badass' or 'mean' or unwomanly in order to be strong. For a great example of this, look at Ripley from the Alien and Aliens movies. Here you have a woman who is VERY brave, and proves to be very tough, but she isn't 'butch', she isn't mean. She's smart and a natural leader- neither of which is undermined by her caring and motherly nature. And I'm not saying that a woman has to be 'motherly' and 'soft spoken' to be cool, either. Just that they CAN be cool if they're given a character OTHER than the stereotype that seems so popular.

3. "Dark" does not necessarily equate to "cool".

Oh, I've ranted on this before. And I likely will again, but I'll keep it short here. I HATE the notion that a lot of folks have that evil characters (like Dark Jedi, for example), are innately more 'cool' than good folks. I've seen this before in play- people really don't play 'evil', they play 'people who dress in dark clothes and brood' oh, and who are usually devastatingly beautiful and handsome, but just... misunderstood. Bah. Again, its annoying. Good guys can dress in black, too. That doesn't make them cool- an original concept and characterization does.

4. Bounty Hunter "Honor".

Another thing I've run into in gaming. This ties in with the above peeve. Folks LOVE bounty hunters for some reason. Many to the point where they attribute to the whole profession some kind of noble 'code of honor'- equating Bounty Hunters to a 'rogue knight' of some kind, fighting for a higher ideal. I call BS on this. Seriously, these guys are mercs, pure and simple. Sure, you may have your occasional paragon of virtue who plays by his own code of honor, but I tend to believe that most of them are in it for the money (at best) and for the violence (at worst). This certainly seems to be the case in the Star Wars movies. Jango Fett, Boba Fett- they weren't concerned with honor or any of that crap. They were in it for the money- and perhaps for revenge, neither of which are noble ideals. As far as 'honor among hunters' goes, Jango shot one of his own people (Zam Wessel) in the neck with a poisoned dart. Yeah. Lots of loyalty on display there.

5. Enough with the Twi'leks already.

Yes. I understand that since the days of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, exotic alien women have been a major draw of sci-fi. But seriously, enough with the Twi'leks already. For that matter, enough with the chicks with head tentacles. Seriously. What is it with the head tentacles?

6. A rulebook is not a novel.

This one is solely aimed at gaming products. When I buy a rulebook, or an adventure, I don't want to have to sit through someone's pages and pages of prose in order to get an understanding of what the hell it is that the book is about. In my personal experience, White Wolf is the worst offender in this regard. Their rulebooks seem to me to have turned into novels. In order to glean even the basic rules, you have to sit through several pages of (in my opinion) amateurish novel writing. A rule book should be just that- a book that clearly and concisely states the rules. I like examples, yes, but I want them to be short and relevant to the point being made. Short stories definitely help in setting the 'mood' of a particular setting, but if you are going to use them, for god sakes, intersperse them throughout the text AS short stories. Don't write a freaking novel and scatter the rules throughout it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Religion in Star Wars

No, I'm not talking about Anakin's immaculate conception, or any of the 'real world' religious implications of the Star Wars movies. Rather, I'm talking about Religion within the universe of Star Wars. Are there any organized religions? Are they all based on the Force?

In the movies, religion is 'glossed over' almost entirely. There is Grand Moff Tarkin's comment on Vader being the "...all that's left of their religion". There is Han Solo's comment on "Hokey religions". And then there is the Ewok's implied 'shaman' and their worship of Threepio as a god. And that's about it. The implications of the first two quotes suggest that the teachings of the Jedi were viewed as religious. This makes me wonder if non-Jedi followed these beliefs? Was there an organized religious section to the Jedi that we never saw? I begin to believe there may have been, especially when you see that the Jedi headquarters on Coruscant was called the "Jedi Temple". So did people come to worship there? Were there smaller temples on other planets? To me, it seems to make sense that there were. Heck, it might have even been the 'state religion' of the Old Republic-one that was outlawed by the Emperor after the 'betrayal' of the Jedi knights.

But then that begs the question- if the Jedi religion was outlawed, did the Empire put forth something new to take its place? To me, it seems like just the sort of insidious thing that Darth... Sidious (hah, get it?) would do. You take the Jedi temples around the galaxy, dress them up in your new state-sponsored religion and slowly introduce messages of subservience and unquestioning loyalty to the Empire. What I do NOT see happening is actually teaching Sith philosophy, because this actually encourages people to challenge their masters and take power for themselves- NOT something the Emperor would want spreading through the general populace. As an “added benefit” you could use this religion to help further persecute anyone who might be associated with the Jedi. In this way, the 'Inquisition' could have a place as a corrupt, quasi-religious movement.

This kind of corrupt Theocracy was presented in one of my favorite Star Wars RPG sourcebooks- on the appropriately named planet “Pergitor”. I already detailed that in another post, so I wont to into it here. But it does put forth a good model for a corrupt, Imperial sponsored ‘church’.

In the prequels, we see some sort of funeral ceremony for Qui-Gon. It is unclear as to whether or not this is a Jedi Ceremony or a Naboo ceremony, but it would seem that this building did have some religious significance to the locals. Likewise, when Anakin and Padme are married, we get a look at what could be the Naboo religion- though again, no overt mention is made of this. Padme’s funeral had all kinds of religious overtones (though perhaps this was more of a ‘state’ funeral than it was a ‘religious’ one).

In the old Marvel Star Wars comics (which I am finally getting to read in their complete form, thanks to the awesome ‘Omnibus’ books), I just learned of another organized galactic religion: The Order of the Sacred Circle. This religion is portrayed to have far-reaching influence throughout the Galaxy- so much so that both the Empire and the Rebellion both respect its neutrality and wish to court its favor to support their causes. There isn’t a whole lot made of just what the beliefs of the Order of the Sacred Circle are, other than they believe in ‘the circle of life’ and revere all forms of life. Even so, I found this story arc to be compelling. It adds a whole other range of possibilities for adventure, and another ‘power-bloc’ in the dynamic struggle of the Empire vs. the Rebellion. It is all the more interesting because it deals with belief and religious fervor, something the Empire can’t just ‘crush’ with its militaries- not without repercussions that might cause MORE unrest than it already has to deal with.

Though never explicitly mentioned in the movies, the B’omarr Order was another religion that sprung from the Expanded universe. These reclusive beings lived in a Monastery on Tatooine where they felt that isolation would help them achieve enlightenment. When one of their order became ‘enlightened’, his brain would be removed and placed inside a droid body (specifically a creepy looking spider droid). Their monastery was taken over by Jabba to use as his palace, but the Monks continued to dwell there, and eventually reclaimed their home after the Crime Lord’s death. The B’omarr represent an odd and insular religion, nothing ‘galaxy spanning’, but are yet another example of how religion can be used in the Star Wars galaxy to create unique adventure ideas, or even just colorful background filler. It takes all kinds. Even ‘brian spider monks’.

The Dim-U were a sect of Bantha-worshipping monks, first presented in the Star Wars RPG module “Tatooine Manhunt”. Here, they were mostly played for laughs through the rantings of one of their streetcorner preachers, speaking of the wonders of the Bantha and the “Age of Bounty” they would bring. But if the characters in the adventure visit their remote settlement of Oasis, you find that the Dim-U are actually quite nice people, perhaps a little...odd in their love of the Bantha, but well meaning and caring folks. A later Sourcebook on Mos Eisley paints them in a bit more skeptical light, implying that the order is just a front for a forgery business. I never much cared for this story hook, however- preferring the Dim-U to be pretty much as they present themselves. Sure, maybe one self-proclaimed ‘abbot’ is crooked, but the religion as a whole means what it says (even if it is a bit odd to most folks).

Apart from these ‘civilized’ religions, it is implied that many ‘primitive’ species have their own religions. The Ewoks have their Shamans and there are many other examples of this in the Expanded Universe. One of the more amusing of these ‘religions’ was presented in the novel “Han Solo’s Revenge”. Here, Solo was hiding out on a remote desert world and decided to raise a little money by showing holo-movies to the local populace. One of the movies (“Varn, World of Water”) became a source of awe for the natives (desert dwellers who already revered water). Thus, Solo accidently began a religion centered around this holo.

So, religion and Star Wars aren’t necessarily strangers to one another, but looking at it from a movie viewpoint, that relationship is downplayed and largely ignored. Why? Well, simple. Religion is a hot-button for a lot of people. In what is essentially an adventure movie for kids, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to include a lot of possibly controversial religious overtones. Or at least, this seemed to be the fact in the Original trilogy. Anakin’s conception throws all THAT out of the window- and sparked quite a bit of real world controversy. The fact folks in the real world list “Jedi” as their religion also disturbs some folks. So yeah, I think I understand why religion was downplayed in the Star Wars movies. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it as part of a roleplaying campaign- that is, as long as your group is all on the same page and realize that it is just a ‘game’. Again, I’ve talked about being a Christian and a Star Wars fan, and how those things aren’t mutually exclusive. If you and your group are cool with including some kind of galactic religion in your campaign, then I say go for it. I haven’t ever really done so in my own game, but that is mostly just because I haven’t given it much thought. I think my players would be fine with it.

In one of the gaming blogs I read, a fellow gamer had to deal with an odd situation involving Star Wars and religion. Here, he tried to introduce a belief system other than ‘The Force’ and was pretty much attacked by one of his players for doing so. So, yeah… you need to be careful who you’re gaming with before you do something like this. For some it might be a matter of the game not ‘feeling like Star Wars’ with the introduction of other ‘religions’. For others, it might be an inability to separate real world beliefs from fiction and a game. The former I can understand a little. The latter annoys the heck out of me. So, GMs beware.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cheer Aloud Moments

This post is more general science fiction than just Star Wars, but it was my favorite Star Wars moments that got me thinking. You know those moments- the ones where you get so caught up in the action- the emotion- of a story that you can't help but cheer on what's happening, even if its just at a movie or TV screen. It's a visceral reaction that stays with you for a long time. Below are my top ten favorites:

10. Independence Day: Pilot Steve Hiller (Will Smith): "Oh no, you did NOT just shoot that green S**t at me!" That line and his subsequent 'duel' with an alien starfighter- culminating in a "close encounter" with his Marine fist.

9. Empire Strikes Back: Han Solo, on the run after Hoth, taking that awesome 90-degree straight DOWN dive to throw off his pursuers. Not only cool and visceral, but it also reminded us that space is, indeed, 3D. Especially loved the fact the Imperial ships almost rammed into eachother.

8. Empire Strikes Back: Wedge successfully performing the tow-cable attack on the AT-AT walker and exclaiming “Whoah! That got ‘im!”. Yeah, I know. Not ‘epic’ when viewed in light of the ‘big picture’, but I’m a huge Wedge fan, and this represents about the ONLY victory the Rebels have in Episode V.

7. Star Wars: Han and Chewie taking out Vader to clear Luke’s tail in the Death Star Trench Run. “You’re all clear, kid!”. Yeah, it seems old hat now, but to an eight year old? Pure awesome-sauce. Heck, I still love it.

6. GalaxyQuest: “My ship is dragging mines!”

5. Star Trek VI: Captain Sulu orders “Target that explosion and FIRE!” during a duel with a cloaked, Klingon ship.

4. Star Trek VI: Captain Sulu (again), upon hearing from his crew that his ship will “fly apart” if they keep up their speed, orders them to “Fly her apart then!”

3. Star Trek II: Captain Kirk, working secretly to lower the shields on Khan’s ship, informs his rival (as Sulu locks on phasers). “Here it comes.”

2. Battlestar Galactica (New Series): Series Finale. The final attack on the Cylon base. It begins with one of Adama's awesome speeches:

"Galactica has seen a lot of history. Gone through a lot of battles. This will be her last. She will not fail us, if we do not fail her. If we succeed at our mission, Galactica will bring us home. If we don’t, it doesn’t matter anyway. Action stations!"

Oh, you know it is ON now. Waves of fighters, dueling barrages, ramming speed, boarding actions. Anything goes, anyone can die. Great stuff.

1. Battlestar Galactica (New Series): Commander Adama jumps the Galactica into the atmosphere of New Caprica, launches fighters right on top of the Cylon occupation force and jumps away again, even as the ship starts to burn up from re-entry. It is one of those moments for me. Even on the small screen, comfortable in my chair in my living room, I let out a whoop and cheer at this. You go, Adama. You go.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A New Perspective on the Corporate Sector

I've always had a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around just what the Corporate Sector in the Star Wars universe was. I was never particularly satisfied with the Sourcebook that was produced for it by West End Games (primarily because the 'history' of the sector was boring to read- never a good sign). There were insinuations that most of the major corporations in the galaxy were somehow part of the Corporate Sector Authority, which just seemed odd to me, since many of the big Corporations were based OUTSIDE of the Corporate sector. Truth be told, I was always 'lazy' in my own setting about defining exactly what the Corporate sector was. That was until I received outside inspiration.

In the video game, Mass Effect, we are introduced to a planet called Noveria. It is a remote, high-security world owned 'jointly' by various corporations. This world does not answer to Galactic law, thus, the Corporations are free to do what they will, develop what they want, without regards to normal restrictions (pretty much anything is go as long as it doesn't affect the overall operations of the planet). Finally, I had some kind of grasp as to what the Corporate Sector was, or could be in my campaign at least.

The Corporate Sector Authority is essentially an entire sector that functions like Noveria. There is an overriding board of directors that manages the sector, provides security, services and all of that. Other corporations from around the Galaxy 'lease space' within the sector- whether it's a factory world or a mining planet or a research base, or a corporate high-rise somewhere. Here, free from the usual restrictions of the rest of the Galaxy, they do pretty much what they want, as long as it doesn't disrupt sector operations. In short, the CSA is a corporation that caters to other corporations. Maybe this was the original intent of the CSA in the WEG sourcebook, but if it was, it certainly wasn't stated clearly or succinctly enough for my short attention span.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Best Quote

In our recent game (last weekend), there were NUMEROUS awesome quotes and player interactions. I wish I had a photographic memory (or a recorder), because most of them have (even this recently) fled my mind. Horatio's speech was one such memorable moment- the speech that lured his enemy into a trap and kept them there. He gets kudos for first trying to get inside the psyche of his enemy before carefully tailoring the most offensive speech possible to provoke them (no, not offensive words, just offensive implications). Whatever I remember of it, however, couldn't do justice to this work of prose. Just trust me on this, it was great.

That having been said, I think that probably the best quote was from Bob the Tusken Jedi. The team was having an intense discussion with rival (and rogue) agent Corewatch. The latter was dismissing the Charon as a real threat to the Republic- citing the fact that he had "read reports" on the matter, and the "numbers didn't support" the threat the players felt from the arachnids. To this, Bob replied vehemently. "You read report? Good. Bob not read report. Bob WRITE report." THAT brought a cheer from the rest of the players and shut Corewatch up. Awesome.

If any of my players remember any of the other awesome quotes of the adventure, please post them up in comments. My memory sucks. So.. wait, what am I even doing here?... duhh....

I am spoiled

So, yeah. A while back, I asked whether or not I was “spoiled or missing out” in regard to not having a lot of the ‘bad’ experiences other GMs and players have had. I hear stories about the powergamers and weirdos and other social misfits people have to put up with and there is a part of me that almost feels ‘cheated’ not to have had what seems to be a ‘universal’ experience of most gamers.

Oh sure, I’ve had a few borderline players over the years, but those guys tended to drift out of my campaigns for one reason or another

Well, I’ve decided I am spoiled- and in retrospect, I don’t feel all that cheated anymore. Both my South Dakota group and my Florida group are exemplary gamers. They play their characters. They care about ‘drama’ in the game as much as combat or in-game material gain. They work WITH me when it comes to keeping things moving along and don’t get bogged down in disruptive rivalries that tend to derail adventures. Most of the time, they are thoughtful in their actions- and those times they aren’t, it is for in-character emotional reasons (i.e. sometimes you just have to “do this”, Leeroy Jenkins style). In short, I couldn’t ask for better.

In case any of them are reading, I just wanted to say that. You guys (and gal) are the best. Who would have thought it would last as long as it has (20 years now for some)? Here’s to another twenty.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gaming in South Dakota

I am starting to write this as I am sitting in the Denver airport waiting for my flight home- and while the memories are still fresh in my mind (or as fresh as they can be considering my mind). This was the third year I have travelled up to visit my college buddies in South Dakota, and the third big weekend of gaming wherein my original Star Wars adventurers fought against the invasion of their Galaxy by the vicious Nagai. Once again, my players have proven that they are awesome and I enjoyed the heck out of myself.

I'll begin with a brief rundown the characters involved:

Rick Oman (aka "Mandalore"). The ruler of a newly reunited Mandalorian people, Oman began his adventure with a couple 'solo' missions (which I ran on the trip from Denver to South Dakota). In the first, he was mysteriously tipped off to the location of a secret Imperial research base. There he found none other than Bevel Lemelisk (long thought dead) still hard at work 'refining' his superlaser. Seems he had killed the rest of the Imperial crew of the base because they were interfering with that. After dealing with some pesky Dark Trooper droids, Oman did something rather 'grey'- instead of turning in the mad scientist and his superweapon, he 'confiscated' both. The weapon he installed on his flagship for... future use (unknown to the other players in the group). From there, Oman went on to deal with rescuing his wife, who had been kidnapped by a former boyfriend- who happened to be a Sith warrior. There ensued a knock-down-drag-out fight between Heavily Armed Mandalorian and supremely confident Sith. It was a VERY lengthy and very close fight, in which Oman used or lost about half his arsenal of weapons- but managed to 'get the job done'. From there, he would join up with the rest of the group for the 'big show'.

Arianne Volar. The Intel agent had been placed in command of a stealth corvette and tasked with both trying to find a way to foil the alien Nagai invaders AND track down the renegade Republic intelligence cult calling itself "Corewatch" (after its founder, a mysterious agent willing to make the 'hard decisions' that he felt the idealistic New Republic was incapable of). Volar was, at this time, about two months pregnant with her second child and trying desperately to get her newly christened ship up to full running condition.

Horatio Flynn. The Former-Pirate, Former-Scout, Former (?) Naer-do-well had found himself suddenly thrust into a position of command over a good portion of the alien Nagai fleet- by virtue of his evident relationship to a great Nagai leader who had supposedly died centuries ago. He found himself trying to take control of a very difficult situation- a people who have a very self-centered and warlike culture. Through his actions, he was able to sway part of the 'bad' Nagai fleet to his cause- labeling those who would not join him the 'Dissenters'. They in turn labelled him 'the Usurper'. And to make matters worse, the New Republic and its allies didn't necessarily TRUST Horatio's faction of Nagai- seeing them as a very dangerous wildcard in an already charged situation. In fact, many in the New Republic senate were demanding that the Nagai stand trial for war crimes. As if this wasn't enough, Horatio also found himself having to ward off the unwanted (or at least inconvenient?) attentions of one of the Nagai, Morrigan, who was evidently a lover of Horatio's great, great, great (etc.) grandfather. See, Horatio was already engaged to his girlfriend of several years, Reen, a fledgling Jedi and Arianne's Ward. Yeah, Horatio had a lot on his mind going into all of this.

Bob. The Tusken Jedi was busy trying to manage the horde of his people he had raised in the last adventure (who had fought to defend Tatooine from a Nagai invasion). It was his ultimate goal to 'export' the Tusken to other worlds- in effect, to Colonize (at least, eventually). In the short term, Hordes of Tusken were employed in several battles by the Repubic as Cavalry support in operations on Desert worlds. The long-term plan, however, was to have Tusken tribes 'pacify' trouble spots (pirate bases, etc.) on remote worlds (preferably arid worlds) and then 'move in' to settle them. Bob's unprecedented actions were starting to spawn a bit of a cult following for the Jedi/Shaman. Some began to whisper that he was the chosen one, destined to lead the Tusken to a "great victory"... of course, in ancient tusken, the word for "great victory" could also be interpreted as "horrible death". For his part, bob neither confirmed nor denied these musings, rather, he tried to keep his people focused on ACTING rather than on worshipping any one person. He also took it upon himself to find those young Tusken who were willing to 'modernize' and to put them in touch with people who could teach them of the civilized world and its ways. He even began to look for other Force sensitive types among his people to send to the Jedi Academy.

Marko. Making his return to the group (and his player to the gaming table), the smuggler-turned-commando had since turned smuggler once more, after having become disillusioned with the Republic during a mission gone bad. Arianne, in command of evacuating Marko's squad, had to give the order to go in order to keep the entire group from getting wiped out. In the turmoil of the evac, Marko's girlfriend was mortally wounded- and had to be left behind. Though Arianne had no choice, Marko was crushed. He turned back to his previous life of crime and began working out of Hutt Space. He remained neutral in the war against the Nagai, but had a lot of contacts on the street, and became aware of their influence over certain sympathetic Hutt's. It was while he was still brooding in a Cantina that he was approached by agents of Corewatch and asked to rejoin his previous team- and send regular reports on their activities. Marko, in his current mood, agreed.

After covering all the players' intro stories, I began the adventure with an old Star Wars tradition: The intro crawl.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

The war against the Nagai invasion grinds on. Forces of the New Republic and its allies fight alongside their previous enemies in the Galactic Republic. In a series of grueling battles, these combined forces have managed to recover nearly all of the Nagai-occupied worlds-but at great cost.

These losses are all the more keenly felt with the knowledge that the bulk of the Nagai fleet-marooned in another dimension-could return at any time.

Even as the battles rage, shadowy forces on all sides of the conflict maneuver in secret to try and tip the balance of power in their favor. All signs point to a final conflict soon, but just who will prevail is not yet decided-and the price of victory has yet to be determined.


From here, I began with another Star Wars favorite: the 'in medias res'. The group (Arianne, Bob, Oman and Horatio) were already on a secret mission to Hutt Space to find a suspected Nagai secret base. Here they were supposed to contact an estranged former colleague of theirs: Marko, who had been operating as a smuggler and was supposedly a 'trustworthy' contact for information. There is a brief vocal confrontation between Arianne and Marko as they make contact in a seedy cantina on Nar Shaddaa. After some negotiations, Marko agrees to help-for pay, of course.

This leads to a trip to Zurga the Hutt, and up-and-coming young entrepreneur who has made the most of his Nagai contacts to help his own standing. After some bribes to his security folk (and an introduction by Marko), the team is taken via elevator to the upper floor of a skyscraper office building- and the opulent lair of the Hutt.

Zurga is, of course, reluctant to confirm anything to a bunch of Republic agents and very quickly dismisses the group, expressing his disappointment with Marko for even bringing them. By this time, however, Arianne has already read the surface thoughts of one of Zurga's slave girls and discovered that the slug indeed DOES work with the Nagai. Surprisingly enough (to me) the group leaves peacefully (evidently intending to pursue other avenues of information gathering). That's when Zurga overconfidently attacks them- pumping knockout gas into the turbolift car.

At this point, one of the coolest action scenes in the adventure breaks out. The Jedi detoxify poison to resist the gas, the rest are equipped (due to multiple such misfortunes) with breathmasks that aid them. Bob cuts a hole in the top of the elevator, but only half the group makes it up before the doors open and the shock troops outside try to get in. Oman guns most of these down and Bob assists by using TK to flush the remaining gas out the door. This flows /past/ the prepared guards and hits the next wave (who didn't have breathmasks), knocking them out.

The group could have easily escaped at this point, but instead of going down, Bob then uses his TK to life the turbolift car up the shaft, heading back up to the penthouse. Inside, the group gears up, bringing weapons to bear at the door when it reaches the top. A gunfight ensues in the 'lobby' of the Hutt's lair, with the group remaining under cover in the elevator, even as Bob (still crouched on the top of the car and out of the line of fire) continues using his TK to rip out a section of the wall.

Most of the lobby guards have already been eliminated when Bob finally succeeds in freeing the turbolift car and then TK's it forward, out of the shaft and towards the door of the Throne room. The door proves to be a bit too tough for his 'ramming' the lift into it, however, so he and Arianne combine to wrench one of the doors off its hinges before they can continue.

Once inside the Throne room, the group quickly brings Zurga to heel with a combination of force powers and precision shooting. They get all the information they need out of him and- in a suitably PC way- proceed to loot his private safe before ejecting from the building in the Hutt's personal escape pod- landing in the city below.

Marko agrees to accompany the group from this point out (secretly sending updates to Corewatch throughout the mission). They travel to where Zurga surmised that the Nagai base was and find not only a fleet of ships, but another inter-galactic 'gateway' that is sending out a beacon like 'pulse'- which they surmise must be to help the Nagai fleet trapped in otherspace find their way back.

Needless to say, they are concerned. Upon feeding this information back to headquarters, they are told to remain on station. Admiral Ackbar himself will be leading a fleet to attack the gate at once.

It is here I use my first "Cut Away" to describe the actions of Corewatch, evidently using the cover of the NR attack on the Nagai to carry out some secret mission elsewhere in the galaxy- to recover a 'superweapon' that will allow them to proceed with the rest of their plans. Even the hardened members of corewatch seem nervous about this.


The action picks back up with the party as they rendezvous with the fleet for the main attack. Using a stolen Nagai shuttle (acquired from Horatio's own fleet), they are going to try and sneak onto the gateway itself to try and get information on it as well as gum-up the works and hopefully aid in its destruction.

As the fleet battle rages, the players battle their way through hordes of the Nagai's underlings (making copious use of grenades, light-repeaters and force points). They manage to tap into the Nagai system and disrupt the 'beacon' even as they set explosive charges. The gateway starts to break up under the fleet's attack and the PCs flee back to their shuttle, just in time to see the whole thing go up.

It is a victory! Or so it seems, until a tear opens in space and the marooned Nagai fleet begins to pour out. Many are missing or damaged from their trips through the dimensional barrier. Many more are damaged from the bad angle they have been vectored onto (thanks to the efforts of the PCs) and the collapse of the gate itself. Even so, they greatly outnumber and outgun the battered New Republic fleet. Worse still, the Jedi in the group sense that there are Charon onboard the Nagai ships. They fear these extra-dimensional arachnids could make the Nagai situation worse, even if the Nagai are (for the time being) ‘in control of’ the Charon.

Ackbar orders a retreat and brings his flagship into line to cover it, valiantly holding off the brunt of the Nagai attack so that his ships might escape. The players linger to jump along with the Admiral, only to see his ship hit just as it jumps. On the other side, the fleet regroups. Only pieces of Ackbar's flagship make it through. The hero is soon listed as missing, presumed dead.

The episode ends with another "cut-away": This time showing Corewatch activating the new superweapon they have evidently successfully acquired. It turns out to be a man, seething with Force energies. This person, corewatch greets as "Mr. Marek" before the scene fades to black.


The shattered Republic fleet regroups at Corellia, Kuat and Fondor, struggling to get their ships repaired to try and meet the inevitable Nagai attack. Admiral Drayson takes command and orders Arianne's stealth frigate to remain on-station to observe the movements of the Nagai (along with a cordon of remote probe droids). The alien fleet is very battered, it seems, and is actually taking time to make repairs of its own- cannibalizing its own ships to do so. Even so, they still represent a deadly threat to the Republic.

Once the probe droid cordon is fully in place, the party's ship is withdrawn to restock. It is here that Tallon Karrde contacts them and offers information they might want regarding Corewatch. Seems he's heard that Corewatch is looking for some place called "Korriban". There is also mention of something called a "Starkiller". The group assumes this is yet another superweapon- and are leery about allowing Corewatch to gain control over it. At this point, the heroes are also considering the possibility that they may HAVE to use the superweapon themselves in order to save the New Republic. They just don't trust Corewatch to do so in a way that will minimize friendly casualties.

After reporting all this to Admiral Drayson, the group is ordered to try and head off Corewatch and ‘secure’ the superweapon, whatever that might be. And so they spend the next few days finding their way to Korriban- using info gathered from Karrde as well as Jedi senses. Upon arrival, they find the Sith world unsettling in the extreme. Bob and Arianne are so freaked out about it that they both refrain heavily from using any Force powers at all (save for defensive powers like ‘Force of Will’). Following Force-induced ‘hunches’ and sensor readings, the group finally lands in a series of ruins and finds a passageway leading beneath them. There in the labyrinth below they find signs of great destruction- of huge vault doors blown open, of the bodies of various sith smashed, broken and cut apart by lightsabers. It looks like a wrecking ball has preceeded them.

They eventually follow this trail to its end- a huge vault deep, deep underground that contains within it a speeder-sized device of some sort- as well as Corewatch and his team- which includes a cloaked but evidently powerful Force user. A standoff ensues, in which the morality of what is going on comes to the forefront once more. What it comes down to, however, is mistrust. What they are dealing with here is a Sith recreation of the Mass Shadow Device that destroyed the Mandalorian fleet in an ancient battle some 4,000 years ago. Corewatch does not think that the party has the ‘guts’ to use the device effectively. The party believes Corewatch’s concept of ‘acceptable losses’ is out of line.

It is at this point that Marko reveals himself as a turncoat- demanding that the party allow Corewatch and his people by. His own sense of loss plus the overwhelming oppression of the darkside on Korriban pushes him to stand against his companions- though he has his doubts…

Arguments are thrown back and forth as combatants square off- until finally the Force user with Corewatch has had enough talking.

A battle ensues, but it is remarkably short and ends in a very odd way. Oman opens up the battle by plastering Corewatch’s team with a tangler rocket fired from his launcher. Due to some bad rolls on my part, this winds up seriously impeding several of Corewatch’s main team, who are subsequently injured by fire from the rest of the group- including Oman’s basilisk war droid and Marko- who has finally cast off his anger at Arianne and sided again with his comrades.

As the gun battle rages Bob does something totally unexpected- and refuses to fight. Though he is thrown about like a ragdoll by the mysterious Force user “Marek”, he refuses to counterattack. Instead he uses his power to remain in Marek’s face- talking calmly to him despite provocations. At one point, Corewatch shoots Bob, trying to get Marek undistracted and back into the fight. Bob absorbs the brunt of the attack, but is wounded. Even nursing a smoking hole in his arm, the Tusken refuses to counterattack and continues his philosophical debate with Marek.

Both teams begin to take damage- forcing the Basilisk to reteat. But with Marek beginning to doubt which side he’s chosen, Corewatch is getting the worst of it. This prompts Horatio to shout for their surrender. Surprisingly enough, two of the group do so. Corewatch does not, however, and again takes aim at Bob. Marek intervenes this time, yanking the blaster from the rogue agent’s hands and crushing it.

At this point, the battle stops. Corewatch and his people surrender, but even as they do Corewatch himself does not give up- urging the players to make use of the bomb to stop the slaughter. This sets up one of the crucial debates of the game. Oddly enough, the group is reluctantly in agreement with Corewatch, but IF they are FORCED to use the device, they wish to do so on their terms- and as safely as possible. Of the whole group, Horatio is the only one who argues vehemently against using the bomb at all- partly because it is ‘his people’ who will suffer its effects, but also because it seems ‘unfair’ to him. To this, Corewatch brings up the argument: “Is it better to fight a war of attrition, losing millions slowly, or to use a device which will kill millions, but do it instantly?” Horatio still doesn’t like it, but he does mull over that argument.
Ultimately, as mission commander, the decision of what to do with the Mass Shadow Device is up to Arianne. She could destroy it now, counter to her orders to ‘secure’ it, but she decides not to. They may very well need it.

As the device is examined by technical experts from Arianne’s crew and Corewatch’s team is secured, Arianne takes her ship out of the Korriban system to contact the New Republic with her report. She receives word then that Coruscant is under siege. The Nagai have made their move. It is only a matter of time before they break through the planetary defenses. The fleet is preparing a counter attack, but they do not expect to be able to (in their current condition) repulse the Nagai. The time for a decision has come.


The group convenes to discuss what to do next and quickly formulate a plan. They surmise that Horatio, as leader of the splinter faction of Nagai, would make good bait for a trap. They intend to try and lure the evil Nagai fleet to Korriban, supposedly for a climactic last stand- and destroy them with the Mass Shadow device.

In order to sweeten the pot (and to make things look kosher), the group wants the surviving NR fleet- plus Horatio’s own Nagai fleet- to make their ‘stand’ at Korriban. The plan is to jump out just before the device detonates, leaving the Nagai to their fate. They outline their plan and send it to Republic Command. Somehow, it makes its way through to Chancellor Leia Organa-Solo. Seeing no other choice, she gives the plan her reluctant go-ahead.

Horatio opposes slaughtering his own people without giving them one more chance to reconsider. And so, as the Republic and allied Nagai fleet gather, he sends a message once more, asking the ‘Dissenters’ to surrender to his rule now or be destroyed. Some few among the Nagai actually do desert, but most do not. The rest of the message was written- and ‘performed’ by Horatio in a manner specifically designed to insult the current commanders of the Nagai fleet. It was a masterpiece of egotistical bombast and dismissal, delivered effectively by a ‘halfbreed’ upstart. The bait was swallowed. The Nagai broke off their attack on Coruscant and made best speed towards Korriban.

Preparations are made. Arianne, onboard her stealth ship, will trigger the device. Oman takes command of his flagship, the Maelstrom- secretly preparing a surprise for the Nagai. Marko will fly his ship, the Lightblade, into battle once more, flying alongside the rag-tag group of fighters scraped up for this mission. Horatio and Bob take positions onboard one of the allied Nagai flagships- but trickily enough, NOT his known and usual command ship. THAT ship is to be sacrificed in this battle- even when the rest of the fleet has jumped, Horatio intends to trick the Nagai into thinking HE has remained. All he needs is to buy a few seconds- just a few seconds AFTER the friendly fleet has jumped and BEFORE the evil Nagai can follow.

Praying that the ‘Device’ (moved to a secure site on Korriban) works, the fleet makes its final preparations. The Nagai fleet arrives and battle ensues. The clash is ferocious, but from the start, the New Republic is outgunned. Horatio struggles to keep his ‘false’ flagship safe, keeping up the ruse that he is aboard it. The Nagai blast their way towards it. The device is triggered, starting the countdown. The fleets continue to battle as the time ticks away. Thousands more lives are lost. Horatio looses another speech, relayed to seem as though it came from his flagship. His dismissive tone again enrages the Nagai, who plow headlong into the thick of battle, committing themselves entirely.

It is then that the Republic and Allied Nagai ships jump out, in twos and threes, then by the hundreds. Too late, the Nagai attempt to activate their gravity well projectors. For a few heart-rending seconds, they seem to be holding the core of Horatio’s fleet right where they are. That is when Oman uses the Superlaser he had previously secured- having since positioned his ship for an optimum angle to fire directly through the heart of the evil Nagai fleet. Suddenly freed, Horatio’s ships leap out- pausing only to pick up the last crewman of his sacrificial flagship as she teleports to safety.

The Mass Shadow Device detonates.

Korriban implodes, sending shockwaves throughout the system- utterly shattering the evil Nagai fleet, save for the very few who managed to jump wildly just before. The lives of thousands of Nagai and millions of their genetically engineered troops is snuffed out. Even on the distant retreating Republic fleet, the Force sensitive people feel the effects. It is horrific. But it is…over. The Nagai fleet ceases to exist.


What is left of the fleet limps back to Coruscant. The Nagai invasion is over, save for a few remaining holdouts who now find themselves outnumbered and on the run. In the following weeks and months, losses are mourned and honored. The heroes are rewarded for their actions- along with thousands of others who served. By years end, armistice talks with the Empire are resumed and Admiral Pellaeon, with his signature, finally and formally ends the Galactic Civil War. For the time being at least- and however fragile- there is peace in the Galaxy.

Corewatch’s team is turned over to the New Republic, tried and imprisoned, but Corewatch himself is found- still in Arianne’s brig- to be in a coma. It is later discovered that he was a Human Replica droid- and it is suspected that his consciousness ‘escaped’- possibly to a remote computer somewhere- or even another droid body.

Oman returns to Mandalore and his growing family (his wife now being pregnant with their second child, another daughter). He will no doubt have an interesting time trying to maintain a balance within his warlike people. It is his plan to employ them as peacekeepers alongside Republic forces throughout the Galaxy.

Arianne is asked to accept a position as the Chief of Naval Intelligence- owing to her experience as a Pilot, a Capital Ship commander AND an Intelligence operative. She has doubts about taking his position, owing to her sense of failure in Corewatch’s ‘escape’. In the end, however, she takes the job, and the promotion to Admiral.

Bob decides to set off on a pilgrimage with his wife. His intention is to discover other Force using traditions and make friendly contact with them. Marek, the Jedi used by Corewatch, decides to accompany the duo and work with Bob to overcome the many issues stemming from his troubled past. Bob also discovers that he is about to become a father- twins in fact.

Marko takes up his commission again with the Special Operations branch of New Republic Intelligence, looking to make up for years of brooding introspection.

And Horatio finally sets a date to marry his long-time girlfriend Reen. A ‘state’ wedding ceremony is thrown for them on Coruscant. Arianne (Reen’s guardian for years) is Matron of honor. Bob gives away the bride. But even as the newlyweds depart on a honeymoon, Horatio knows he has a great task ahead of him. The surviving Nagai people look to him for leadership- and to help them create a culture of their own. His plans in this regard center around much the same actions as Oman’s Mandalorians: the need to ‘keep them busy’ and out of trouble.

The End… for now.

p.s. I may have started this in Colorado, but I didn't finish it until today, back in Florida. Hey, a lot happened. What can I say?