The State of the Empire, part 1

This is the first of what looks to be a series of recap posts for our fledgling Edge of the Empire campaign. The first few sessions have gone well, and the players are actively engaged in discussing the game on a daily basis with me and each other. This post will serve as a brief introduction to the characters and to an overview of the first two sessions. It will also incorporate my commentary as the GM, and hopefully in later stages, the recaps will include commentary from the players as well.

The Rules

As mentioned in the first post on the game, Edge of the Empire’s rule set  is pretty typical for an SF high adventure setting, but is elevated significantly by utilizing narrative dice and a dice pool, rather than relying completely on the GM’s instincts as an adjudicator. Some complexity is present in the numerical threshold values characters have for Wounds and Strain. While this is relatively easy to track, for a newcomer to the system who still needs to internalize their approach to combat interactions, it can be a source of frustration. Tracking Condition States for Wounds and for Strain for multiple characters and keeping your mind free to roam with what the dice are indicating for narrative outcomes and potentials definitely has a practice period requirement. I like and am accustomed to the use of injury and fatigue systems of various types, but found that when combat hit I still wanted to reference the book and have access to note paper. Part of that was the size and mixed combat skills of the group, but part was the need to track both incoming effects and static resistance and incapacitation thresholds for each character in my control. I am going to solve this in the short term by laminating a combat control sheet until I can track and hold the numbers in my head as I am used to doing.

One great element of combat in the game is Initiative. Not only is it of the ‘roll once’ variety, it also allows the players to reorder their own initiative as best fits their perception of each round, bringing a fun little element of tactical narrative to the fore without messing too much with the nicely abstracted implementation of combat.

The social conflict system is relatively robust, again mainly due to the dice, and quite quick to use in play. During our sessions, the characters were sometimes thrown into situations where the use of their social skills brought about more satisfactory results than combat was likely to have done, and had far-reaching effects on the growing reputation they are establishing in the initial location I am detailing as a base of operations.

The Characters

The intention was to run the game with 4 characters but by game day this had increased to 5. After that session 3 more wished to join. Rather than risk bogging the game down for having too many, I suggested they be on a guest-starring cast list for later. As it stands now, the group consists of a Human Smuggler, a Human Hired Gun, a Droid Bounty Hunter, a Droid Technician, and a Bothan Colonist. Their ship, considered home to everyone, but owned free and clear by the Smuggler, is named the Archon. It has seen vastly better days. Riddled with incomplete modifications and updates, the ship is seriously in need of refit and repair. The navicomputer is the most in need of attention and threatens to overheat into slag at any moment. The minimal shields and hyperdrive are far past their expected service periods, as is most of the electrical system. The hull is sound, and most of the time the heart of it crew is as well.

After the first two sessions I felt it was necessary to refine and tune the motivations of the characters to emphasize the connections  and dependencies in the group to downplay the subtly growing character-only focus. This can often arise in the chargen process in any game – even one performed in tandem as we did. With players this excited about their characters, it is almost a given. I used the entire second session to observe these tendencies in play and prepare notes for out-of-session meetings with each one to help them identify the threads which could lead to unwanted types of conflict or dysfunction and those which supported the wanted types of conflict and dysfunction.

The First Session Recap

Things opened up with the characters checking out the facilities on a massive orbital station hanging over the brilliantly orange and stormy world of Vev in a nowhere system far out in the outer rim,  if not wild space. The surface of the planet is inhospitable and requires environment suits and respiration systems. Several competing mining companies are trying to exploit the rich mineral resources of the world and a recent strike of cortosis has sparked a minor boom in the economy…along with booms of other sorts.

With five hours to kill before they were due to interview for a much-needed, but suspiciously easy sounding, salvage contract the group found themselves being pulled off to the lower levels of the station by their Tech Droid (a skilled and extensively equipped slicer in actual practice) to check out droid parts and resellers [Obligation check: EotE p41]. Communicating through the terse and heavily-filtered reports of the Bounty Hunter droid they had partnered with to expand their range of employment options, the group was able to figure out the droid was looking for parts or droids from its own production run. Knowing the value of the gear this droid had been built with, the team had no trouble with that goal. That this is but part of the little droid’s story is just a part of the fun.

As the GM the activation of this Obligation was a godsend as it managed to bring a lot of the different motivations together seamlessly, and got the characters connecting with the local underworld in a neutral and specific way – introducing the local players to the PCs and vice versa. As a result of this interaction, the group identified some of the stressors in the local underworld, got a feel for negotiating the black market, got to visit the planet, and intimidated some uppity mid-level crooks who were trying to put the squeeze on them.

While on the planet, they had found a non-functional droid with heavily-modified hardware from the Tech-Droid’s production run. Running out of time to pursue that trail further, they bartered tech services for the droid and came away with it and the gratitude of a major player in the black market being run out of one of the larger mining operations.

Back on the station they made their appointment with their potential employer and aced the interview. They felt their relative anonymity and lack of flash may have been deciding factors in his selection, but hoped their general confidence and good reputation contributed to the decision.

The job entailed getting to an abandoned Rebel Base which had been attacked by the Empire not long before. For some reason, the Imperial fleet had been pulled away from the system as the Rebels were making their escape, and groundfall had never been made. The employer was sending them in to retrieve data plans for a massive weapons system such as what rumor was saying may have destroyed the planet Alderaan, and giving them free pick of whatever salvage they could obtain as a bonus to their pay. To complete the job, they had to safely transport some equipment, a Human observer, and 3 R2 droids.

Payment for the mission is 5000 credits plus bonuses should combat be required. Salvage, if any, is theirs. In addition, a line of credit was opened for them in the company store so that they could prepare for the mission. This was a slightly underhanded move which slipped under the notice of the group. Each credit they spent on this tab is to be deducted from their fee. They have yet to learn this at the time of posting.

Other factors at play in this set-up are the pending return of Imperial forces to the system, the definite possibility that other salvage crews will be on the same trail, and the original  programming of their Tech Droid. The pay-off for this mission only comes if they can obtain Imperial technical secrets from the abandoned Rebel base. Their droid is under a programming compulsion to cripple the slicing capabilities of any R2 droids it encounters so that they cannot pass on Imperial secrets. As the success of the whole mission requires the employer’s R2 droids to return with Imperial secrets, I expect entertaining problems to ensue. While this may put the group in a position of power should they find the secrets and their own droid snaps them up, they will also be in violation of their contract with a very powerful figure in the underworld. The background concerns of a potentially returning Impie fleet, or the arrival of competitors do not seem to worry the group as much as this time-bomb of a plot-point that their characters are wholly ignorant of.

The Second Session Recap

The session opened up with meeting the observer assigned to them by the employer, and then making liberal use of the so-called, ‘line of credit’ at the station’s largest and best stocked company store. Here they were able to better arm and equip themselves for exploration on a lush world in an uninhabited system.

Travel to the system presented a minor challenge in that the navicomputer was acting up, and their Tech Droid, who had been pointedly kept isolated from the employer’s R2 droids by the Bounty Hunter droid, was refusing to assist in any repairs. While the lesser skilled members of the crew tried to at least find a band-aid solution, their course was plotted and the Smuggler took the risk of making the jump. With the aid of their Bothan explorer, the calculations had them arriving much earlier than expected, but the use of the computer also seemed to push it to its breaking point. It was reparable, but not without many more parts than they had on hand. Not broken per se, worn out.

The ship entered the system high above the ecliptic, and made a direct course for the temperate moon they had been told had been host to the Rebels. They grimly made note of the sprawling asteroid belt where a fourth planet might once have been, and joked about all the things which might force them into it. On their way to their destination, they passed the shattered hulls of a few transport ships, one of which though dead, hung in space mainly intact. They also detected a burst transmission from what – after lengthy discussion and debate – they agreed could only be an Imperial zone control buoy of recent design. No other sign of activity was apparent.

Unsure of how long they had, but feeling confident that they had a day’s lead or more on any non-Imperial pursuit, they continued on to the coordinates they had been given; a 5-temple complex on an immense and heavily forested plateau.  As they settled in for a landing the silhouette of a massive winged reptile caught their attention in the distance against the sinking reddish-orange disc of the system’s sun.

Exploration soon confirmed that the site had undergone serious, but short-lived orbital bombardment. The large amount of valuable but easily replaceable supplies left abandoned, and the lack of evidence of small arms fire confirmed the story of the battle in the eyes of the characters, and they hastened their pace to recover the data and identify the choicest salvage. To their surprise, the wreckage of several starfighters and the hulls – potentially spaceworthy – were among the prizes scattered with abandon around the evacuation staging area.

Moving deeper into the complex in search of a command console most likely to contain the stolen plans. Growing ever more convinced that the information they sought was on one of the shattered hulls in orbit around the planet rather than down here, they decided to check out the command quarters – just in case. This required a trip through the subterranean tunnels which linked the temples to each other.

As they exited the elevator deep below the surface, they were immediately targeted by a massive lizard which locked the Bothan in place with a hypnotic predatory display. The rest of the team exploded into violent action, however, and soon drove the immense creature into the depths of the tunnels to either lick its wounds or die. What they do not know which may come back to haunt them or work to their advantage later is that the creature was a juvenile of its species, and it is not alone…

Completing their search, the crew returned to their ship. As they made their way out of the temple and across the blasted landscape of seared and felled trees, the view of the brightly orange-streaked sky was briefly split by the overhead passage of an Imperial shuttle with two TIE escorts…

“Get to the ship!” the Smuggler yelled, as we faded to the black of the end of the session.

 

Stay Tuned~

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