The Alexandrian

Posts tagged ‘star wars’

I was horribly ill back in December when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released. I dragged myself to the theater multiple times to see it through a sequence of flu, strep, and pneumonia, but I wasn’t able to devote the time necessary to write-up my thoughts on it immediately. (And after only a short while, it seemed somewhat redundant.) However, with the film’s recent release to home video and in celebration of the week of May 4th, there are a couple of things I’d like to say.

First, and by way of context: I love the film. I think it’s great. The new characters are fabulous. J.J. Abrams, by and large, is remarkably successful in capturing Lucas’ directorial style while still being true to his own.

There’s really only one thing I don’t like. And it probably won’t be terribly surprising:

STARKILLER BASE

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Starkiller Base

When Starkiller Base first appeared on screen my immediate reaction was, like many people, “Really? We’re doing the Death Star again?”

The most remarkable thing about the Starkiller Base stuff is how utterly irrelevant it is. If you removed it from the movie entirely, virtually nothing would change for the main characters. (Han, Chewie, and Finn still go to the First Order’s base to rescue Rey. Han and Kylo Ren still confront each other. Et cetera.)

There’s also the fact that literally everything to do with the Starkiller Base is poorly done: They fail to establish the stakes for the first time it’s fired (it’s a planet that’s scarcely been mentioned and you see a bunch of people die that you have no reason to care about). The entire thing is a giant plot hole (it needs to consume the system’s sun in order to fire at the end of the film, but doesn’t do that the first time it fires). The off-hand reference to the entire New Republic navy being stationed on the surface of Hosnian Prime doesn’t make any goddamn sense. (It’s as if someone told the story of Pearl Harbour, but for some reason the entire American navy was drydocked in Iowa.) The plan for destroying it is literally the characters saying, “Fuck it. You saw the first film and ROTJ, right?” The attack fleet sent to destroy it doesn’t make any sense. (Why would you only send some of your ships on this mission?) For some reason, after being briefly spied so that Han can suggest bombing the regulator, the X-wing fight is never seen nor heard again by anyone on the ground. And the film couldn’t even be bothered to correctly track the number of ships which had been destroyed during the battle. (Count the number of X-wings that arrive; the number of X-wings destroyed just on screen; and then count the number of X-Wings that leave.)

So, when I’m given the godlike powers to fix stuff that doesn’t make sense in movies, I would probably just eliminate the whole thing. (Because, honestly, we don’t need to go back to the “duplicate of the Death Star” well again. It was already a mistake in ROTJ. The Star Wars universe is big enough that we can explore other cool sci-fi ideas.)

But let’s say that you wanted to keep it. (There’s some cool thematic elements to the whole “light going out” thing with parallels between the sun and Kylo Ren. Plus, I’m guessing the whole “blowing up the government of the New Republic” is probably going to be significant going foward.) Here’s what you’d do:

  1. Starkiller Base doesn’t fire at the midpoint of the film. Instead, the Resistance would learn of its existence through some other means. (For example, Finn reveals the location of the base when debriefed about Rey’s capture. The Resistance sends scout ships — which is something they do in the film anyway — and have the “oh shit” moment of discovering what it is.)
  2. The mission to destroy Starkiller Base at the end of the film is to stop it from firing on the New Republic capital planet. This eliminates most of the grievous continuity errors.
  3. It also gives you the narrative space to add several scenes involving coordination between Leia and her contacts within the New Republic government. These scenes would nicely clarify some of the details on how the modern political landscape actually works in this film; it would also give you an opportunity to learn enough about the Republic and Leia’s allies in the Hosnian System so that its destruction is meaningful to the audience. (This doesn’t take a lot. The first film made the destruction of Alderaan relevant with just a handful of lines.)
  4. Finally, and this is the key thing, the mission fails. You hit basically all the same beats you do during the film as it was released (although with a few tweaks to improve the execution and eliminate the continuity errors), but with the key distinction that they don’t destroy it fast enough. You know how Luke destroys the first Death Star just before it can fire on Yavin 4? You have basically the same moment, except Po Dameron doesn’t manage to destroy the regulator until just after it’s fired.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Destruction of Hosnian Prime

This last point is important not just because it conserves the presumed narrative necessity of destroying the New Republic government, but because it single-handedly justifies the entire presence of Starkiller Base in the movie.

One of the great things about Star Wars is its use of narrative leitmotifs. (Something which is echoed in John Williams’ leitmotif-based scoring.) George Lucas, whatever his flaws as a filmmaker may be, was ingenious at taking common moments and, in mythic fashion, changing the perspective of them so that they commented on each other. (For example, despite the myriad flaws of the prequel films, the telling of Anakin’s fall and its parallels with Luke’s story radically transform the ending of ROTJ: In the context of the original trilogy, you really don’t believe there’s any risk of Luke falling. He’s the Hero. He’s going to be the Hero, right? But once you’ve seen Anakin — who was also the Hero — fall, that tells you something about Luke and adds tremendous depth to that final confrontation in ROTJ which is otherwise absent.)

But when you use a leitmotif you can’t just do the exact same thing again (only bigger!). You have to transform the moment. And I think transforming the destruction of the Death Star into the failure to stop Starkiller Base would definitely have a deeper thematic resonance here. (A lot of The Force Awakens reminds me of a Shakespeare quote: “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right.” And nothing would feel more out of joint than this twisted mirror of A New Hope.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Destruction of Starkiller Base

STAR WARS – FURTHER READING
The Plan of Palpatine
Star Wars: Episodes VII, VIII, and IX

Go to Part 1

Star Wars: Red Peace was originally designed to be the first part in a trilogy of generation-spanning scenarios: Red Peace was set during the waning days of the Clone Wars; the sequel would have been set during the Rebellion of the original trilogy; and the third scenario would have been set twenty years further in the future.

Unfortunately, my group’s experiment with Star Wars: Force and Destiny was not a success: My players did not like the game. (Nor did I.) And it also took about four times longer to accomplish anything in the system than we had anticipated. So we folded the mini-campaign before reaching the second or third scenarios.

As a result, those scenarios were never fully designed. But I’m going to share my original rough thoughts for these in case anyone might be interested.

Star Wars: Restless Sith

In Episode II: Restless Sith, twenty years have passed. The PCs have spent the intervening years studying the Red Holocron in the hopes that it would contain some clue to toppling Emperor Palpatine. They are currently hiding on the far side of the Galaxy, in a region of space outside of Imperial control, investigating information which they believe will lead them to an installation of the Jedi Empire that may contain a weapon they can use against Palpatine.

What they discover, orbiting a neutron star far beyond the common star lanes, is a Jedi Empire space station.

Star Wars: Restless Sith - Space Station

Investigating the station they would have discovered that it was a carbonite facility. They also would have inadvertently awoken the ancient caretakers of the facility: Strange droids made from some sort of malleable, silver-black metal. Bas relief glyphs run over their limbs and torso, concentrating on their faceless features. The glyph droids also exhibit a vicious pack intelligence — the more glyph droids present, the more intelligent they become.

Avoiding or bypassing the glyph droids, the PCs reach the carbonite facility where the weapon of the Jedi Empire was stored.

Unfortunately, they’ve been tricked by the Red Holocron: What they end up thawing out is not a weapon. It’s a Sith Master named Darth Victus.

I intended to end this episode in a fight with Darth Victus onboard the Jedi Empire space station. But if Darth Victus were to escape, you could extend this section of the campaign by having the PCs deal with Darth Victus’ rapidly expanding base of power. (The Empire could also become involved if Emperor Palpatine were to become aware of the ill-timed challenge to his authority.)

Star Wars: Restless Sith - Darth Victus

Star Wars: Dawn of the Droid

To fully understand Dawn of the Droid, you’ll want to start by checking out my thoughts on what a sequel Star Wars trilogy would look like (circa 2006): Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.

Dawn of the Droid takes place 20 years after Restless Sith and the Original Trilogy: The Empire has been overthrown. The New Republic is ascendant. The PCs are now part of the New Jedi Order, founded by Luke Skywalker (who has been missing for a decade) and now run by his wife Mara Jade.

The PCs have been investigating some sort of case and the leads have taken them to Halon Prime, one of the major shipyards for the Republican navy. At Halon Prime they encounter morph droids for the first time: These droids appear to be formed from some sort of black mercury; they fluidly change shape and form. And raised glyphs race across their surface, identical to those they saw on the glyph droids twenty years earlier.

(It’s around here that they might realize that they opened a Pandora’s Box by reactivating those droids.)

The culmination of Halon Prime comes when they encounter a Droid Knight — a droid somehow capable of manipulating the Force — and a droid fleet attacks the shipyards. They duel and chase the Droid Knight through the burning remnants of the Republican fleet.

In the aftermath of the battle, the PCs hook up with Mara Jade and her daughter, who have come to Halon Prime to investigate what happened to the shipyard. (As Red Peace saw the PCs cross paths with known film continuity, the vibe here would be to make it feel like they were crossing over with the continuity of  film that doesn’t actually exist.)

If you wanted to push this scenario further, you could keep the PCs intimately involved in the emerging war and eventually have them follow the clues back to Pelori IV where the Droid Uprising had its start. You could also loop them into the grail quest for the Phoenix Holocron (the Jedi mirror of the Sith’s Red Holocron), which might mean crossing paths with Luke.

FFG STAR WARS – FURTHER READING
Review of Force and Destiny
Force and Destiny: System Cheat Sheet
FFG Star Wars: The Big Fix
Star Wars: Red Peace

Go to Part 1

Star Wars: Red Peace - Jedi Temple on Lothal

The Jedi Temple on Lothal appears in “Path of the Jedi”,  episode 8 of Star Wars: Rebels.

ENTERING THE TEMPLE: When two Jedi synchronize their focus to create a Force harmony, the large central spire corkscrews up to reveal an entrance to the temple. One of these entrances is shown on Star Wars: Rebels, leading to an area where padawans are taken for the Test of the Cave. In reality, there are multiple rotations available depending on the harmony you create.

STANDING ORDER 429: Commander Racto will call in additional clone trooper reinforcements from the Lothal garrison. But, per standing order 429, no clone trooper can directly enter property owned by the Jedi Order. Commander Racto and his men will remain stationed outside of the Temple.

(Technically, this is actually order 42.9 — the ninth section of Order 42. But the Army of the Republic tends to just elide over the decimals. The entirety of Order 42 regulates the relationship between the Army and the Jedi Order.)

MADAME MEREEL: Madame Mereel, the caretaker of the temple, will greet the PCs. Unfortunately, Mereel has been taken over by mind control bugs: At some point, they’ll crawl out of her clothes and over skin, penetrating into her eyes and nose and mouth. And then she’ll attack.

IG-100 DroidBefore that happens, however, she’ll offer to take them some place where they can relax and enjoy some refreshments in the “quiet peace” of the temple. (In reality, she’ll be leading them to the Cyst.) On the way there, she’ll try to learn everything she can about what brought the PCs to the temple, feign her concern about Separatist interest in the temple, and offer whatever assistance she can.

The PCs will probably figure out that something is wrong as they pass into the Cyst, and that’s also a good place for Mereel to reveal herself and ambush them with the assistance of two IG-100 droids. (If they can come up with some clever way to free her from the bugs, great. Otherwise, it’ll be a fight to the death with a Fallen Master.)

MADAME MEREEL

Star Wars: Red Peace - Madame Mereel

IG-100 DROIDS (x2)

Star Wars: Red Peace - IG-100

DARK SIDE CYST

Like many Jedi Temples, the temple on Lothal has been built around a cyst of the dark side (with the temple actually serving to contain the corrosive influence of the cyst itself). Another example of a Dark Side cyst is the cave on Dagobah where Yoda tests Luke in Empire Strikes Back. Confronting the visions created by these cysts is actually part of the tests a Jedi apprentice must face before becoming a Jedi Master (as seen in Tartovsky’s animated Clone Wars mini-series).

The Red Holocron is being kept at the Heart of the Cyst. To get there, the PCs will need to navigate the cyst. This will take the form of navigating through four visions:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Hate
  • Suffering

These visions may take the form of dreams, premonitions, or even action sequences (like Luke dueling with Vader). However, each vision should be customized to the PCs. You can do this by either:

(A) Asking one of the players what the greatest Fear of their character is; then the next player what makes them most Angry in the universe; and so forth. (Crafting each vision based on their answer, so that the group collectively confronts the emotional baggage of the others.)

(B) Asking ALL of the players what their greatest Fear is and then crafting a vision which incorporates all of them. Including material that foreshadows the future events of your campaign would also be effective. (See Random GM Tips – Foreshadowing in RPGs for tips on doing this effectively.)

HEART OF THE CYST

When the PCs reach the Heart of the Cyst, they’ll find the Red Holocron: Force Shades extend from the walls of the inner cyst, caressing the holocron in a shadowy dance. (The cyst is being used to reconstitute and energize the Red Holocron.)

When the PCs access the Red Holocron, the stored personality of Darth Sidious will manifest itself. With Machiavellian glee it will answer their questions and then, at a dramatically appropriate moment, the projection of Darth Sidious will reveal itself to be Emperor Palpatine.

MOMENT OF REVELATION: In that moment of revelation, there is a vergence in the Force. The actual Emperor Palpatine is simultaneously declaring the execution of Order 66. Force sensitive characters can immediately roll any non-committed Force dice they possess.

1 Force Point: They’ll see the recorded projection of Darth Sidious say the words, “Execute Order 66.” (But they will have no idea what that means.)

2 Force Points: They recognize that “Order 66” was the reflection of some larger and darker truth. The disturbance of the Force wrought by Jedi being slaughtered is felt.

4 Force Points: They will also have a vision of Commander Racto receiving the Order and preparing to murder them.

Characters with the Foresee power have their Force point results count double.

FINALE: ORDER 66

Commander Racto and his clone troopers are, in fact, preparing to ambush and slaughter the PCs when they leave the temple. The PCs will either need to fight their way through their erstwhile allies or find a way to sneak out.

Either way, they’ll be escaping into a galaxy that is actively hunting and seeking to destroy them. (The next major incident they experience will probably be receiving the emergency signal from the Jedi Temple, followed shortly thereafter by General Kenobi’s warning that the emergency signal is a fake and that the Jedi should stay away from the temple.)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Commander Racto and the Clone Troopers

Go to the Sequels

Go to Part 1

NODE 2: NAVAL YARDS OF ENDOR

Star Wars: Red Peace - Forest Moon of Endor

There is a previously unknown covert naval yard for the Separatist Army built in orbit around Endor’s forest moon. (A half-constructed Trade Federation battleship can be seen.)

In addition to the primary naval yards, there is a huge construction facility of impossibly gargantuan proportions being built. Based on its scale, if it were to be completed, it could turn out entire fleets of Separatist Army flagships in mere days.

Fortunately, scans indicate that the entire facility is powered down except for a small landing platform. It looks like the naval yards are in the process of being mothballed.

GM BACKGROUND: This is, obviously, the same facility which will be used to construct the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. The facility is being mothballed because Darth Sidious’ plans are in flux. The Red Holocron was brought here so that the Death Star plans could be loaded into it, preserving those plans along with the lore of the Sith. The Holocron was then sent to the Jedi Temple on Lothal (see Node 3).

LANDING PLATFORM: The landing platform consists of a small docking bay, several warehouse-size rooms laid out in a grid of corridors, and (at the top of a lift) the local control tower for the docking bay. (Another lift from this control tower heads up into the mothballed facility, although there’s not much of interest up there.)

GEONOSIAN SKELETON CREW: A small skeleton crew of Geonosians has been left to finish overseeing the shutdown of the facility.

  • Commander Andromias (a Geonosian Lieutenant General)
  • 8 Geonosians
  • 2 droidekas, 8 battledroids

COMMANDER ANDROMIAS

Star Wars: Red Peace - Geonosian Commander

GEONOSIANS (x8)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Geonosian

(use this stat block as a minion, WT = 4)

DROIDEKA (x2)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Droideka

BATTLE DROIDS (x8)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Battle Droid Stats

EWOK SLAVES: There are also twelve Ewok slaves on the station, taken from the forest moon below. They wear slave shock collars (controlled by Andromias) and are being forced to assist in off-loading cargo.

CLUES:

  • Computer records indicate that encrypted schematic plans were transferred to a device featuring unrecognizable data encoding. The transfer was marked with a digital routing code labeled ER-LOTHAL-8756.
  • Questioning the Ewoks: They know that a damaged astromech droid was removed from the Red Hawk just before its departure. Astrogation or Computer checks with the astromech’s databnks will reveal the lightspeed calculations to Lothal that the astromech was making when its power converter burned out.
  • Questioning Andromias: A member of the Techno Union named Chal Bakkal took possession of an artifact from the Sith Empire. Bakkal was taking it to the Jedi Temple on Lothal. (Andromias suspects it may have been a super-weapon which will help the Separatists win the war.)

ESCAPE FROM ENDOR

Star Wars: Red Peace - Rising Storm

Once the PCs have identified their next destination as Lothal, the Rising Storm (a Subjugator-class warship) exits hyperspace nearby. When their ship (presumably) fails to provide the proper Separatist authorization codes, the Rising Storm will begin launching fighters. If the PCs don’t dawdle, they should be able to easily outrun the Rising Storm, but there will be three waves of droid fighters that could potentially intercept them: 2 scouts, then 4, then 4 more (with a new wave arriving every 3 rounds).

The PCs need 12 rounds to escape the system, although a successful Astrogation check will reduce the time required by 1 round per Advantage.

RISING STORM

Star Wars: Red Peace - Rising Storm

DROID FIGHTERS

Star Wars: Red Peace - Droid Fighter

DROID PILOTS

Star Wars: Red Peace - Droid Pilots

Go to Node 3: Jedi Temple of Lothal

Star Wars: Red Peace

August 31st, 2015

Star Wars: Red Peace

It’s the end of the Clone Wars. Order 66 hasn’t happened yet. General Grievous is at-large.

During the latter days of the Clone Wars, the Council became increasingly desperate and began pushing less experienced Jedi into service. In order to mitigate the risks, a large number of less-trained Jedi would act in small groups. You form one of these Adept Task Forces. You have not been active for very long (one or two operations; or this could even be your first mission in the field).

One or more of you could easily be an older Jedi who has been assigned to the task force in order to oversee the adepts.

The Council’s restrictions on the age of would-be Jedi have also weakened over the long years of the war. And the war itself has brought to light a large number of potentials who would otherwise have never been identified. So if you want to play someone who was raised outside of the Order, there’s your window. You could also be a force-sensitive potential who got swept up by the task force on their last op.

Another option would be that four of you are playing force-sensitives outside the Order who are working with a Jedi contact. This would be highly unorthodox and you’d want to come up with some sort of back story for how/why the Jedi ended up working with a ragtag band of misfits.

SANGUINE SHRIKE

Star Wars: Red Peace - Sanguine Shrike

The Sanguine Shrike is the Adept Task Force’s vessel. It’s an ILH-KK Citadel-class light freighter (Edge of Empire, pg. 260).

(My players christened their own ship, which is where the name Sanguine Shrike comes from.)

MISSION BRIEFING

The PCs are contacted by Mace Windu via hologram.

  • While the PCs have been in the field (possibly while they were out of communication on their last mission), the Separatists have attacked Coruscant.
  • General Grievous’ flagship was captured by General Kenobi and General Skywalker.
  • General Grievous himself escaped.
  • The databanks on Grievous’ flagship have been analyzed. They’ve yielded dozens of possible leads on where Grievous might be hiding.
  • One of these leads are records of encrypted communications with a planet called Mustafar. The contents of the message couldn’t be retrieved, but any communication using such high-level encryption methods must have been of vital importance to the Separatists.
  • General Grievous must be located for the war to end. It’s possible that he’s hiding on Mustafar. If not, it’s likely that there are Separatist contacts there who may know where is.

The PCs can ask any questions they’d like.

NODE 1: MUSTAFAR

Star Wars: Red Peace - Mustfar

The PCs are arriving on Mustafar just before the events shown on the planet in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: General Grievous has not yet ordered the Separatist leaders to Mustafar, but Darth Sidious knows that he’ll be sending them here shortly.

LANDING PLATFORM: There’s a squad of six battle droids on the landing platform. (Edge of Empire, pg. 410)

CENTRAL CONFERENCE ROOM: As seen in the film. Geonosian protocol droids (insectile in appearance with fractal-digit arms) are making preparations for the imminent arrival of the Separatist leaders.

VOLCANIC CRUCIBLE: Below the central conference room is a large, industrial chamber of blackened machinery and force screens — a volcanic crucible designed to channel the heat and lava of the volcano upon a single structure surrounded by heat-shielded droid arms and laser arrays in the center of the room.

Lying near the central crucible is a half-slagged ovoid. It has the appearance of green jade, but its surface (what remains of it) is marked with incredibly intricate, scrimshaw-like carvings that resemble computer circuitry filled with some kind of reddish-gold material. It bears the mark of a phoenix (which can be identified through a Knowledge check as the emblem of the Jedi Empire).

GEONOSIAN OVERSEER: Eorlax, a geonosian overseer, has been left to oversee the facility. He might be encountered in the central conference room giving orders to the protocol droids; or he might come out to greet the “visitors” on the landing platform. If questioned:

  • Doesn’t know what was being studied in the Volcanic Crucible. He’s just an ensign charged with base maintenance.
  • A black float-palette was being sent to Endor. He heard Captain Andromias mention it by name.
  • General Grievous was never here, but Darth Sidious and Darth Tyrannus both came here frequently.

CLUES:

  • Computer records indicate a Theta-class shuttle named Red Hawk recently departed the facility, heading for the gas giant Endor.
  • Holographic records in the Volcanic Crucible were purged, but can be partially reconstructed: They show Geonosians moving a black float palette. Commander Andromias (their leader, see Node 2) mentions the name Endor.

GM BACKGROUND: This facility was primarily constructed in order to house the Volcanic Crucible, which was used to crack open the Jedi Empire seal which had been placed upon the Red Holocron. When that work was completed, the Red Holocron was moved to the Naval Yards of Endor (see Node 2). Darth Sidious then decided to repurpose the facility as a convenient place for killing all the Separatist Leaders.

BATTLE DROIDS

Star Wars: Red Peace - Battle Droid Stats

EORLAX – GEONOSIAN OVERSEER

Star Wars: Red Peace - Geonosian

INTERLUDE: REPORTING TO THE COUNCIL

If the PCs report their findings to Master Windu, they’ll be ordered to pursue their leads to Endor. Furthermore, with significant results in their pocket, their investigation has been prioritized and additional resources are placed at their disposal: They’ll be ordered to rendezvous with Commander Racto and a squadron of clone troopers on the edge of the Endor system.

COMMANDER RACTO

Star Wars: Red Peace - Commander Racto

CLONE TROOPERS (MINIONS, x10)

Star Wars: Red Peace - Clone Troopers

Go to Node 2: Naval Yards of Endor

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