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- Join Date
- Apr 2015
Secrets of the Black Moon: SWSE Campaign
Let's not say I'm ripping off Mark Hall's idea for a journal and instead say I'm inspired to share a game I've been running for some months that shares a few similarities. Go read and follow his journal, too. It looks quite promising.
Half of the point of this journal is the fun of writing and talking about this game, so I won't apologize for the length. Just be prepared for a bit of a read.
So, originally, the game was meant to be a one-shot to fill a gap week when one of the players couldn't make it. We decided we were tired of making level 1 characters who never get to see the higher levels of play, so I told players to make level 8 characters so they could get to really use the Prestige Class options, effectively starting the campaign at Prestige Class Level 1 (not that they were required to take prestige classes, but were certainly encouraged to do so).
Of course, the time it takes to make 8th level characters wound up taking the whole session, and I spent that time preparing the encounters, so we put the one shot on the shelf for a later date. Of course, the other player who had missed the character creation session heard about the game and wanted to play in it, too, so the "spare tire" one shot got promoted into its own campaign (before we got to session one).
One of my first thoughts as a DM is where in the SW timeline to begin, as it potentially limits which books we can use. Choosing Legacy era in theory makes all the books relevant, except then the Kotor era material feels somewhat dated.
Explaining the History and Setting
This leads to the first campaign homebrew rule: I have compressed the timeline (pray I do not compress it further). All of the relevant SW history has taken place over the last 200 or so years. Now the Mandalorian Wars are as far distant in the past as the Civil War is for America, meaning many people know relatives who were part of those events and Master Yoda has in fact lived through the entire story. In fact, the timeline itself now begins and is measured past the moment in history when the Sith broke away from the Jedi Order (an event known as The Schism). The primary idea being that the titular Star Wars now are perceived as being very likely linked directly to the Jedi Order's inability to reconcile with their own exiled faction, as reverberations through the Force sow discord throughout the rest of the Galaxy. Of course, even to the Jedi, the problem of The Schism is a Chicken or the Egg question. Is the Schism itself the problem causing all these symptoms, or was The Schism just another symptom of a much greater threat poisoning the Galaxy from the shadows?
This implies one of the other core rules of Canon in my game: events from video games and movies definitely took place in my AU, but since none of these characters personally witnessed the events, the details are unknown to them, which means the Canon can be more flexible in my view. For example, players may or may not be familiar with the name Luke Skywalker, but even if they are, he would be known as a Rebellion hero who helped bring down the Empire. The idea that he spearheaded the destruction of the First Death Star, became a Jedi Knight, and directly confronted the Emperor would be attributed to wartime propaganda and causes many people to think this Luke Skywalker person wasn't real, just a character devised by the Rebellion to inspire hope in a desperate cause. Leia Organa, on the other hand, was a Senator and is a known public figure. They have likely had the opportunity to watch her speeches on the holonet and see her engage in Senatorial debates.
No segue, it's time to talk about the second campaign homebrew rule: this is a game about Factions, similar to the Fallout Series (particularly, New Vegas). I've set the game to begin around 10 years after RotJ, partly because that avoids the problem of the Sequel Trilogy not having any content for SWSE, but also avoids having to bring in Yuuzhan Vong elements (yet). So what are the factions to be concerned with?
Well, that brings me to my third homebrew campaign rule: a Faction can't die from simply having its head cut off. It must be systematically dismantled, like uprooting a weed. That means the Mandalorians are the poster child for an Ex-Faction. They weren't just defeated, Revan and the Republic systematically dismantled them. Of course there are still Mandalorians and a few attempts over history at rebuilding them, but they have no effective structure in place through the galaxy, just the memories of the ones they used to have.
Part of the significance of this is the fact that the PC's adventure revolves around dismantling a particular faction (which we'll get to later), but more importantly outlines my first major change to the Canon. When Anakin executed the CIS leadership at Mustafar, word spread quickly through the CIS ranks, who had already been planning for emergency retreat options as the war was in decline and the CIS began to crumble. Spies within the Republic warned that something was wrong and that clones were killing the Jedi, which was seen as a good thing at first. Then the communication with Mustafar was lost and the remaining leadership of the CIS realized the trap was closing around them. They enacted their plans and retreated to Wild Space, taking as much as they could with them, but being forced to begin rebuilding, this time knowing never again to trust the wiles of a Sith benefactor. They watched as the Empire consolidated its power, oppressing nonhuman races, and the rise of the Rebellion. They couldn't risk discovery, as the Galaxy's belief in the death of the CIS was critical to their plans to return, but they did occasionally funnel support to the Rebellion whenever it wouldn't compromise their secrecy. Slowly, over the decades between RotS and RotJ, they improved their droids, built new armies and armadas, and waited for the prime opportunity.
That moment came at the Battle of Endor, when the Emperor was killed, sending the Empire into chaos as various greedy Moffs began dividing and in-fighting for supremacy, even as the Rebellion rallied the support of various seditious star systems to begin driving the Remnants of the Empire back. This was the moment the CIS chose to return. Marching from the Northwest corner of the Galaxy in Wild Space, the CIS quickly captured Mon Calamari, in part due to help from the Quarrians, who had supported the CIS back in the Clone Wars. This gave the reforged CIS access to the MC80s the Rebellion had been using to combat the Empire's Star Destroyers. The CIS also managed to cut off the Corporate Sector from the Core Worlds, immediately constricting the power of the Core's economic structure. At first, their expansion was only slowed by competition with the Hutt Cartels, who likewise had taken the opportunity provided by the Battle of Endor to expand.
The pressure of the impending CIS invasion and the efficiency of their attack forced the Imperial Remnant to parlay with the burgeoning Republic Rebels, as neither wanted to let the CIS take over. There was no illusion that the CIS were seeking revenge and restitution for generations of unfair law and business practices that had made them feel they were second class citizens and that a galaxy ruled by the CIS would be an inverted Empire, where the racism would flow AGAINST humans (and any other races that sympathized with the Old Republic or Empire) rather than the other way around. This greatly expedited negotiations, which at first were primarily facilitated by Mon Mothma and Leia Organa, but were unexpectedly met with equal political influence by Grand Moff Roan Fel. While Mon Mothma preached the need for unity against the CIS and Leia constantly demanded the need for maintaining citizens rights and liberties even in the face of invasion, Roan Fel argued the Galaxy could not be defended only by unity and liberty. The Core Worlds needed armies and warships, which the Remnant had in abundance while the Rebellion had been on the verge of collapse at the Battle of Endor, having lost most of their last fleet in the effort to destroy the second Death Star. Over the course of the debates, Fel devised the compromise that the Imperial Senate would be reinstated and the Emperor would be subject to the Senate's will, operating primarily as the commander in chief of the military and not in command of civil matters. Ultimately, Fel crushed a Rogue Imperial cell at the Battle of Jakku, proving to the satisfaction of most in the Galaxy where his loyalties lie. The senate chose to recognize Roan Fel as the de facto emperor (against a strong protest, including Leia) until such a time as the CIS were defeated, at which time elections for his replacement would be held. Fel agreed to the terms and within 5 years of the CIS's return to the galaxy, the Fel Empire had organized whatever forces were still loyal and managed to halt the CIS expansion.
Essentially, the Empire shifted from Lawful Evil to Lawful Neutral.
Now I can explain the major factions in the game: The Fel Empire (and their terrorist offshoots: The First Order and The Resistance), the CIS, the Hutts, the Corporate Sector, and the Chiss kind of watching it all go down from a distance (I suspect Thrawn assisted Fel in the political maneuverings of solidifying the new Empire). There are a number of smaller factions, but none of them really have much a say of Galactic politics, instead operating on a much smaller scale.
Introduction: The PCs
Three players. Going along with the idea of doing stuff we hadn't had a chance to play with in previous games, they decided to play a group of Jedi (first time the part was ALL Jedi). Specifically, a group of Gray Jedi, neither the true believers who are pure of heart nor the sadistic serial killers on the dark side.
We have a plain Vanilla Human Jedi with a strong balance of various abilities named Torreon. He's about 50 years old and he was a padawan at the Temple during The Purge (basically the same backstory as Fallen Order, except he became a wandering drunkard for about 40 years). He struggles with the desire to live as a Jedi, being the light to others he meets, but feeling disillusioned by the memory of the eradication of his order by one of its own, so he's no longer confident in what he used to believe. His alcoholism ended up getting him sent to a hospital, where he would have probably had to stay except that a group of monks offered to take him for rehabilitation, which the hospital accepted as the old man clearly had no means to compensate them for his care.
We have a Force Sensitive Ewok named Kenket who stowed away on a starship that visited Endor, traveling the Galaxy for a few years doing for the Galaxy what he originally did for his Tribe: hunting down and eliminating threats. He's built to optimize Stealth (trained at some point with the Disciples of Twilight), particularly to Force Choke targets from the shadows and eliminate enemies without alerting their allies. Since I decided to allow custom lightsabers (within reason) as it was part of being a PrC 1 jedi character, Kenket opted for a Dual Phase lightsaber, allowing him to wield the blade with Reach (somewhat mitigating his size penalties). I was having a little bit of trouble connecting him to the narrative as the character was designed more for mechanics than story, so I gave the player the opportunity to create a few NPC Connections. The one that has become the most important so far is the Bounty Hunter Mandalorian Twi'lek named Bo Raja Skirata, who will come up in the journal later. Kenket begins his part in the story tracking a group of slavers and trying to free their captives.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Da-Ruun, a Miraluka with exceptional power in the Force. He was taken by slavers at an early age, when the Black Moon raiders attacked his village to sell them into slavery. He would likely have been sold along with his family, except that a crisis on the starship was averted by his precognitive perception through the Force. The leader of Black Moon, Mol-Terac, took notice of his incredible potential, and he was pressed into serving the slavers throughout his adolescence. A few months ago, he had an unprecedented opportunity to sneak into Mol-Terac's office while she was away and found some encrypted documents. That wasn't unusual, since she usually encrypted her personal files. What was unusual was that it was a cypher he was unfamiliar with. He had risen through her ranks to a position of relative prominence, despite still being more or less a slave, so he was accustomed to handling her personal files and even had access to some of her cyphers. The fact that this document had an extra layer of security he hadn't even known about meant it was far more precious to her than anything else was. He didn't have time to decrypt it then and there and he didn't know when he would have enough privacy to try, but he copied the (electronic) documents for later.
The Tavern Meetup
Then came the day of their disparate stories being united. Da-Ruun was serving Black Moon aboard one of their slaver freighters, the YT-2000 named, The Iron Sights. They were attacking a traveling shuttle in the hopes of slaves or at least to take its resources. Da-Ruun began to see distressing signs of Black Moon thugs going missing on patrol of the modest freighter. Nine, the network security droid assigned to protect the ship from theft, suggested there was a stowaway causing trouble and that sensor sweeps weren't finding anything. Da-Ruun could sense Kenket's presence through the Force, but wasn't exactly in a hurry to stop him from killing Black Moon thugs. That's when the ship was suddenly invaded by a large number of monks appearing out of thin air, seizing the ship. The Iron Sights had picked the wrong victim this time. It was a shuttle full of Aing-Tii monks, who simply Folded Space aboard the Iron Sights and promptly ended the attack on their shuttle. The Iron Sights was taken back to their monastery, where Da-Ruun and the others were set free (honestly, the Aing-Tii let the slavers go as well, since execution wasn't exactly their style, but they had to find their own way home as they weren't being given their ship back). Kenket came out of hiding, intrigued that Da-Ruun was able to perceive him through the Force despite his training in stealth. Torreon, coming back to his senses after weeks of rehabilitation with the monks, saw the freed slaves and particularly the Force Sensitive Ewok and was reminded of the lost younglings at the temple. He felt a desire to help the little ones understand and turn away from violence and the Dark Side, as some part of his old optimism began to return.
Meanwhile, Da-Ruun took the weeks of Aing-Tii hospitality to learn their ability to Fold Space and to decipher Mol-Terac's secret document. His cipher was incomplete, but he was able to break the code enough to track a few words and ideas, partially by cross referencing locations in the document with Black Moon facilities he was aware of. One of them stood out as being a location he never knew Mol-Terac to have had any business with. It had to be part of whatever she was trying to hide.
Da-Ruun convinced the Aing-Tii to allow him to take the Iron Sights, informing them that his intention was to dismantle Black Moon forever. They warned him about the dangers of the path of vengeance, but when it was clear he could not be dissuaded, they granted him the vessel, encouraging him to seek his own path.
Kenket, seeing Da-Ruun about to leave on a hunt for the wicked, immediately started out to follow. Da-Ruun began to protest, but remembered how difficult Kenket had been to perceive and his effectiveness at eliminating Black Moon pirates, so he relented and welcomed Kenket aboard. Torreon was against the general idea of the mission, but truly felt these young men needed guidance as their inclination was violence and he understood the importance of taking down a dangerous organization of pirates and slavers. Da-Ruun decided to accept his help as well, seeing the lightsaber strapped to Torreon's waist. They could each sense that the Force had a purpose in their meeting and they embarked for the abandoned Imperial Outpost at Kejim, mentioned in Mol-Terac's secret documents.
This concludes Session Zero. We haven't even gotten to the part where we start playing the game. This is what we worked out before the game as the setup for the first session. That'll have to be enough for one post. I'll create another soon enough.
- Join Date
- Apr 2015
Secrets of the Black Moon: SWSE Campaign
Chapter 1: Investigations at the Kejim Installation
For this session, I straight up ripped off the map from Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast first level. I went into the game, watched videos of playthroughs, and recreated the map by hand in Google Sheets (our current preferred map method as we play live over discord). I made a couple of changes, if you are familiar with the map, because the players were Prestige Level 1 Jedi and I figured they could handle the occasional curve ball (also because I knew for fact that at least one of my players had already played the game I was stealing my map from).
The Iron Sights lands in a small shuttle/freighter port adjacent to the facility overlooking an enormous canyon. The doors in the area where they parked lead really only to storage closets and away from the facility, as it wasn't exactly where ships were meant to park for people entering the facility (kind of parking in the back yard). The party hoped to take the facility by surprise and limit their knowledge of the invading party. The ledge wrapped around a platform where cargo was staged for loading into the facility and the narrow walkway required balance checks to cross. The ledge sat a few squares below the edge of the platform, making a straight jump from the ledge to the platform a possible, but difficult check with somewhat dire possible consequences for failure. Kenket the Ewok had Surge, so that was no problem for him, but the Party ended up realizing that every member had taken Move Object as a Force Power and that they could freely move one another as long as they weren't attempting to resist the person moving them (this becomes a consistent party tactic for overcoming jumping or climbing elements whenever there is sufficient time). So they simply moved one another in turn up onto the platform and didn't need to pass all their balance checks to reach the ladder that was on the other side of the platform from where their ship was parked.
Once on top of the platform, they were able to investigate some of the cargo containers staged on the platform, which were easy to identify as marked by Black Moon property once they were close to the containers. There were medium sized crates filled with various ancient artifacts that clearly held little value beyond their archaeological significance. It was quite unlike anything Da-Ruun had seen Black Moon take interest in before. Why waste resources on what surely was mostly worthless ancient history? He was rather convinced Mol-Terac had no interest in almost all of these items and rather that she was hoping one of the trinkets held some special quality the others lacked. She was panning for gold.
There were also Large containers filled with starship fuel (probably so the Pirates delivering the artifacts could fuel up here without leaving evidence of where they had been).
Overlooking the platform was another level, which the party decided might be worth scouting in case there were guards using it as a lookout position. To reduce chance of backfire, they lifted Kenket the Ewok up to sneak around as he investigated. He found a pair of doors, one being a locked security door and the other a more standard door. Trying the security door first, he used Mechanics to disable the lock and force open the door. Inside were a few supplies and a terminal with security footage of the facility. He could see Black Moon pirates milling about and patrolling certain areas. The best way I knew to reward the exploration he was doing was to announce to the party that any time Kenket approached an area he had seen on camera, I was going to reveal the map ahead of them based on what Kenket had been able to see in the security footage.
On the center of the platform was an Eweb turret bolted to the floor and wired into the facility's power grid so it wouldn't need power management. It was currently not receiving power from the facility, so it wasn't going to help them storm the keep as it were. If they could route power to it, it might have helped them enter the facility, but as it was, it was just dead weight. What was clear about it was that it wasn't installed by Black Moon. Black Moon is a hermit crab, occupying abandoned facilities like this one and putting minimal effort into adapting it. This Eweb's installation was too professional for the typical jury-rigging that Black Moon would have used. This was clearly a part of the original installation before it was abandoned, so it was likely created by the Empire. Black Moon may never have powered or used it, though in theory they could if they wished.
There was an enormous blast door on the platform leading into the facility, clearly the size for accepting large amounts of cargo containers similar to the ones staged on the platform. It would have taken a significant number of hours to cut through with their lightsabers, so the party continued exploring for more efficient means of entry.
Coming to the far end of the platform, the Da-Ruun and Torreon can observe from here that the facility extends across the cavern on the other side, and that the bridges connecting the sections of the facility have sustained structural damage compromising its integrity (seeming to have exploded outward) somewhere in the middle. They also find a standard door around the corner from the Blast Door, much more reasonable for their entry. Da-Ruun, suspecting that guards or other dangers could be waiting for the party, decided to use Force Phase to scout the other side for trouble before everyone tries to enter. He comes to a smaller room with a few supplies, likely for guards leaving on external patrol, but from this side he can clearly see the door is armed with a trip mine at about ankle level. The door does not resist being opened, so he opens it for Torreon and points out the Trip Mine so they can bypass it safely. No one in the party is particularly adept at mechanics and they wanted to maintain stealth as long as possible, so they decided to leave the Trip Mine alone rather than disarm it to take it with them.
Leaving the trapped entrance, Da-Ruun and Torreon turn to find an elevator leading upwards and downwards. About this time, Kenket was finished exploring the security room in the upper landing, and searching the other standard door on the upper level revealed it connected to the elevator shaft Da-Ruun and Torreon had found. The party reconnected and used the elevator to descend into the facility.
The Green Sector
As the elevator reached the bottom floor, a Black Moon guard sitting in a booth across from them started using the console in front of him and activated the defense turret mounted to the ceiling, which began targeting the intruders. Kenket opted to focus on combating the turret. I must admit at this point the details are a bit fuzzy in my memory as it was some months ago since the session, but I know they managed to not alert the facility and quickly killed the guard. I remember they used Move Object (their Skill Focus in Use the Force easily able to crush the CL 6's Will Defense), pulling him into the glass window in the booth in front of him, leaving a bloody mess. After the turret was no longer a threat, they moved into the next hallway, at which point I revealed the rooms north and south of them (they entered from the west end of the facility) as per Kenket's discovery of the Security Footage. To the north was a room full of terminals and view screens with a large number of enemies. To the south was a collection of mainframes with slightly fewer enemies. They weren't sure what awaited them at the east end of the hall.
The party decided to go to the north room first, because Kenket had seen a Black Moon pirate that seemed more in charge than the others and Da-Ruun was hoping a quick Mind-Trick could get the leader to treat the party as friendly. The CL 11 pirate captain was not so weak minded, and battle ensued. Kenket, knowing his strength to be Stealth, had never entered the room and used the lack of eyesight on him to start his stealth checks to make sure no one would see him. He took cover next to the doorway and targeted pirates he could see through the angled slit of the door, Force Choking them so they had only a Swift action on their turn, basically taking them out of the fight until they died. Torreon moved into melee and started using his lightsaber, while Da-Ruun basically solidified in this encounter that Move Object would be the Party's primary attack strategy. The player even outright said he viewed his fighting style as similar to Ebony Maw in the MCU. He starts picking up Pirates with the Force and "introducing" them to one another, so both targets take damage based on his Use the Force check. Their Will Defenses are basically not high enough for him to fail, as skill checks in SWSE can't Crit or Fumble and the Defense score is static. By the end of the session, we basically agreed he was more or less literally mopping the floor with these pirates. Torreon and Kenket also have Move Object, but since they aren't as focused on it, they tend to use this tactic more sparingly, but they all benefit from it. Watching them fight through Mooks (almost all the mooks I've used have been CL 6) is pretty similar to watching Vader in THAT ONE SCENE in Rogue One.
As they wrap up the fight, they find a keycard on the leader, which seems to be for accessing bonus loot/supply crates with more specialized equipment. They also find a green geometric code (straight from out of the video game the map is also taken from). The terminals in the room provide little helpful information. There are some documents about shipments arriving and leaving, but little that tells them more than what they already know. They'll need to explore deeper to uncover the mystery of what Mol-Terac is up to here.
It's worth noting that near the end of the fight, Torreon tries to spare a pirate that offered to surrender, following him to make sure he wouldn't cause more trouble. He caught the pirate back at the bloody booth near the entrance trying to raise the alarm, at which point Torreon was forced to revoke his mercy. He's been struggling somewhat with butchering these pirates as they have been, but at the same time he keeps reminding himself that these are slavers: bad people doing bad things. He still wonders exactly how necessary the killing is. Later, we would see a bit more of this conflict come up in the party dynamic.
Next, they head to the south room. Again, details in my memory are a bit fuzzy, but it was largely a replay of the previous room in the dungeon. Kenket sneaks around choking isolated enemies, Torreon goes to one on one dueling with them, and Da-Ruun ragdolls them. Rinse and repeat until the enemies are done. The importance now is that the sheer number of enemies is making it clear this dungeon is mainly a threat of attrition. They party relies on their Force abilities and only have so many in their respective suites, so a big part of their advantage is keeping the alarms from going off, as the stealthiness of their approach is allowing them to wait a minute between rooms, refreshing their Force Suites. So the challenge of the dungeon becomes one of nuking each room without alerting the others. If the whole base starts crawling out of the woodwork in waves, they could be in some real danger.
They proceed to the end of the hall, where another turret and booth await, but this time they are approaching the checkpoint from its rear. It was designed to defend against approach in the other direction, so Da-Ruun targets the guard in the booth. I think he used a quick Mind Trick, if memory serves, then killing him once he's away from the booth controls. From there, they could simply turn off the turret rather than worrying about fighting it.
But past this booth is one of the larger obstacles in the map: The Power Relay. A circular chasm (effectively bottomless pit), 18 Squares in diameter with the Power Relay Node in the center atop a pillar rising from below with 4 exits from the chamber in the 4 cardinal directions. The Green Sector ends here where it meets the Power Relay on its west side. On the north end of the chamber is the Red Sector, to the South is the Blue Sector (with an open, horizontal viewing window stretched partly across the distance from the Blue Sector entrance), and straight across on the east side is a door protected by a force field (which seems clearly to be the most secure area the party had seen so far and thus is likely to contain the sort of information the party came to retrieve). There is no clear method of controlling the room's functions from anywhere within the room, nor on any of the terminals they had passed up to this point.
Now, I should mention at this point that the party bypasses this obstacle through an incorrect reading of Move Object that I have since corrected. Originally, when I read the rules for Move Object, it seemed as though you could move anything (up to the size listed on your Use the Force check result) up to 12 squares away from you. Back and forth, around in a circle, anywhere that didn't exceed the 12sq radius centered on the user. Thus, the party was able to Move Object one another across the gap with relative ease. In later sessions, when researching Move Object to try to account for its usefulness on my maps, I realized that the FLUFF DESCRIPTION of the Power actually limited the Power to only Moving Objects up to 6 Squares away from where they had started (while also being limited by the 12 sq radius from the user). Technically, the party should not have been able to cross first to the Power Relay Node (you can imagine Obi Wan on the Death Star turning off the tractor beam for what standing on the Power Relay Node should look like), then to the other Sector Entrances, because 6 squares isn't far enough to cover the gap. But it was still possible for them to have sent Kenket to crawl through the View Window I mentioned and for him to activate the Power Relay's retractable walkways from the Blue Sector. In any case, it was an error we decided not to retcon, but move past and just use the correct rules going forward.
The party had decided to move south to the Blue Sector first. But that will have to be enough journaling for today.