Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign: Star Wars Recap # 37

Out of all the sessions I've directed so far for the Clone Wars campaign, this is the one I spent the most time preparing for and the one that is the most memorable in terms of sheer spectacle. It started off with the PCs still in the Corporate Sector--after nearly getting his brain sucked into an evil Force artifact, A'tel and his friends tried to escape the Cestus Cybernetics building. A few of them got captured by the Espos (thuggish security squads), leading to a cinematic escape attempt in the back of a paddy wagon (Aaray strangling a guard with his manacles was a perfect result for the character!) We also had a short "cut-scene" with Arresta learning that Bel Sekand was worming his way back into her life, this time via her sister. Arresta's frantic calls to her husband, while he's away on a mysterious "business trip", are the subject of a fun moment in an upcoming short story.

The team's assault on the Joriander Beacon asteroid was when I really geeked out. I had everyone hide out in the office for about half an hour while I worked on getting everything set up. I pushed the furniture against the wall and laid down tactical battle maps along the entire floor of the living room, dining room, and kitchen, with any walls or remaining furniture treated as impassable mountains. I used overturned bowls of various sizes to represent buildings in the communications complex, and then arranged hundreds of cut-out miniatures to represent the squads of enemy battle droids and allied clone troopers. Each army was supported by (scale-fitting) LEGO vehicles like Hailfire droid tanks, massive walkers, scout bikes, and more. When all was said and done, it was a gigantic expansion of normal table-top miniature combat and by far the largest battle I've ever seen or done. I really wish I had a picture to demonstrate. It would have made a great capstone to a Clone Wars campaign, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to top it.

Using the squad-based combat rules for everyone other than PCs, the battle went reasonably fast but still lasted well into the night. It ended with a classic Star Wars-style moment, as A'tel faced off with his brother high up on a communications array in a lightsaber battle to the death. Fortunately, unlike his brother, A'tel had a couple of friends to help him out when the going got tough.

The session is also memorable for Daal penetrating enemy lines and running around frantically with Droidekas on his tail the whole time. He also let slip one of the campaign's funniest moments. In the prior session, Daal had learned through going through archived files in Garit Por'ten's office that the man had ties to the Dark Side of the Force. But Daal forget to say anything about it until the climactic battle of this session, when Garit drew and activated a lightsaber. The player who runs Daal exclaimed "Oh yeah . . . I forgot to tell you guys . . ." which cracked us all up.


During the dead of night, a series of increasingly large explosions have rocked the center of Mondder on the planet Etti IV. As the sirens of emergency crews and automated alarms began to wail, workers and consumers alike turn on the holonews to see that an elite Espo anti-terrorist team has set up a perimeter around the smoking Cestus Cybernetics building, halting only to argue jurisdiction with the Emergency Fire-Dousing Response Unit. In the background, a Cestus PR person can be overheard telling a reporter something about routine, unscheduled renovations, but even this seasoned spinner seems unconvincing. In the lower right corner of the screen, Cestus stocks begin to tumble quickly.

Garit Por'Ten's private office has been turned largely to rubble. Doxen and a shaken Daal use medpaks to stabilize their injured companions and then, along with an astromech droid, make their way through the doorway into Garit’s private office. Although they manage to get the door open, the droid is destroyed by an unusual booby-trap: anti-gravity fields designed to levitate and slowly crush intruders. With a combination of improvised grenades and other weapons, the two adventurers destroy the anti-grav field projectors from a distance and then slowly make their way to Garit’s desk. There, resting on the middle of the desk, is a small obsidian box composed of an unknown substance that is difficult and unnerving to look at. Touching the box activates automated holo-messages from Garit--it seems the elder Por'Ten had assumed that after weeks of humiliating "negotiations," A'tel would eventually break down and try to steal the location of the Joriander Beacon.

When the strange box is brought near A'tel, the Jedi senses it is tainted with the Dark Side. Nonetheless, knowing the only way forward is to spring Garit's final trap, A'tel reaches out mentally with the Force to try to probe for an opening. Something . . . or some entity . . . within the box seizes hold of A'tel's mind. A'tel barely escapes before being utterly destroyed, but although the box opens to reveal a datacube inside with the coordinates of the Beacon, the Jedi temporarily loses a portion of his intelligence and will-power to the trap.

Soon thereafter, the group learns that the series of explosions they caused did not go unnoticed in Mondder. An Espo assault team has created a perimeter around the building and are preparing to go in. Ms. Prentiss arranges to move up the approved time for the group's departure from Etti IV, but they still face the difficult task of escaping from the building and the Espos. Fortunately, a check with Cestus' public relations officer reveals a series of underground tunnels used to shield certain visitors from the public eye. She also reveals that Garit has apparently disappeared from his hospital bed.

The journey through the tunnels proceeds without incident, but the exit lies just behind the Espo security perimeter. Doxen and A’tel are able to sneak away, but the others, including Aaray, who had met them outside, are captured, despite Ms. Prentiss’s vehement protests. They are taken away in an Espo ground car, but are able to effect an escape after Aaray brutally strangles their guard with his binder cuffs. Ms. Prentiss calls for backup from her department and they make it to an Auditor General safe house, but it's clear that Ms. Prentiss's arrest and escape will not be quickly forgotten by the Espos. Eventually, with Doxen having snuck aboard their shuttle in order to take it to a new docking bay, the group is reunited and they depart from Etti IV to rendezvous back with the Republic Acclamator Majestic.

Elsewhere, Arresta Cassadine is at home on the Knife’s Edge while her husband is away on business. Her sister Corinne, returning from a “vacation” to a pleasure planet, announces that she has a new lover and is leaving. Arresta demands to meet the individual, who turns out to be none other than Bel Sekand. A heated argument ensues after Arresta warns her sister that her new paramour is lying to her about exactly who he is and forbids Corinne from leaving the ship. When her calls to Stefan seem to do little more than aggravate him during his current mission, Arresta finally allows her sister and Sekand to depart--after she makes several threats and fires at least one blaster shot. After they leave, Arresta tasks several Cassadine operatives to begin efforts to secure the release of Corinne’s missing ex-lover Miklos from the notorious Hutt slaver Kordo Deshilich.

[A.G. 969]

Back on the Majestic, a planning session is held for the final assault on the Joriander Beacon asteroid complex, which intelligence reveals is protected on two sides by dense mountainous terrain. The primary mission objective is to capture the Beacon intact. Unknown to Ms. Prentiss (who will travel with the assault team to make sure no damage is done to Authority property), however, the secondary protocol, if capture proves impossible, is to destroy the Beacon so that neither the Republic nor the Separatists will have access. At the session, mission planners present four possible attack scenarios: a light recon, a traditional ground assault, a zero-G infantry assault, and an infiltration mission using a captured Separatist vehicle. With little difficulty, A'tel picks a combination of the first two options. The plan is for a small recon team, led by Aaray, but which will include Doxen, Daal and one platoon, to approach the Beacon from a separate ground vector than the main assault team, in the hopes that they can quickly gain access and secure the Beacon itself. Ms. Prentiss and A’tel will remain with the primary ground assault team, which will consist of the remaining platoons and the battalion's mechanized elements: two walkers, an ISP, and two speeder bikes. Once all of the troops are gathered, A’tel gives a rousing speech which seems to inspire his men. The final night before the battle sees all are busy in preparation. Preparing himself for a much different role than he ever aspired to as a Jedi, A'tel shaves his head and prepares to lead men into battle.

[A.G. 970]

The next morning, the assault team departs the Majestic for the short hyperspace voyage that will lead them to the edge of the Joriander field. With Daal at the controls, the bulky C-20 transport passes through the dense asteroid field and reaches the Beacon with little difficulty. Aaray, Doxen, Daal, and the other members of the recon team quickly deploy and head off in a flanking maneuver through a narrow valley. The low gravity and partial atmosphere requires certain precautions, but the assault team quickly acclimates. After some minutes of marching, intercepted communications reveal that Beacon defence grids have picked up an anomalous signal and have deployed scouts to investigate. With this prior warning, the recon team takes defensive positions and manages to destroy one of the scouts (a B-1 piloted aerial patrol) before it can give away their position.

Approaching the Beacon, the recon team realizes how thick the defences are--squads of B-1 and B-2 battle droids are arranged in dense defensive lines around the Beacon complex. The recon group decides on the risky gambit of having Doxen open fire, in the hopes that the droids will break lines and other members of the recon team can slip around them unnoticed. The tactic does draw the defenders out, but their sheer numbers make sneaking around them impractical. The recon team and the droid defenders exchange fire, with the droid squads getting the worst of it until Hellfire missile tanks begin bombarding the area.

Meanwhile, the main ground assault team moves out, leaving the Ord Pardron platoon to guard the C-20. A scouting spider droid is destroyed without incident, and, once within range, the AT-AP artillery walker opens fire, with its mass driver cannon homing in on the Hellfire droids. Within minutes, the front lines of the droid army have been engaged by the Clone infantry and a slow push forward begins--it‘s clear the droid army is outmatched by the Clone troopers and their heavy armor. A’tel leads from the front to inspire his troops, while Ms. Prentiss observes from the safety of the AT-AT walker.

Back at the recon team, an astonishing number of B-1 and B-2 squads have been destroyed but eventually casualties mount among the Clone strikeforce--including Aaray, who is carried off the battlefield in a medi-lift. Doxen continues fighting, while Daal activates his custom-made droid jammer to infiltrate enemy lines and reach the Beacon grounds (a series of small buildings linked by underground tunnels) Unfortunately for Daal, the Separatists' last line of defense are Droideka squadrons and they’re not affected by the jammer. He engages in a running battle with them across the compound and, despite the danger, manages to call down deadly artillery fire on several Hellfire droids.
Although he’s taken several wounds, A’tel succeeds in linking his main force with the remnants of the recon team. Soon, only mopping up operations remain: a handful of droid squads isolated from the main force and droidekas concealed within the complex’s smaller buildings. Through steady leadership and overwhelming force, it appears the Republic has won a battle against the Separatists and taken far fewer casualties than expected.

However, the Separatists have one last trick up their sleeves. The “major Separatist leader” expected by Republic Intelligence to be at the Beacon is none other than A’tel’s brother, Garit Por’ten. The elder Por’ten has barricaded himself atop a tall transmitter array in the Beacon’s central communications center and, with a deadman’s switch in his hand, threatens to destroy everything if anyone other than A’tel climbs up. Garit’s face is scarred from the exploding droid he still believes A’tel arranged, but he has yet one more secret for his brother: he’s received training in the Dark Side of the Force and his rage and sibling rivalry is fuelling his strength.

A’tel bravely faces off against his brother in a duel, but his broken arm and battle wounds have taken their toll and the fight begins to go against him. He barely manages to duck Garit’s attempt to kick him off the array, and only with great effort manages to parry Garit’s increasingly powerful lightsaber attacks. It’s clear the end has come and that Garit will be victorious, until, suddenly, Garit is hit with simultaneous blasts from assailants far below the array--Doxen and Ms. Prentiss have arrived just in time to save A’tel’s life. The Jedi returns the favor by calling on the Force to catch the deadman’s switch before it detonates explosives hidden throughout the entire Beacon complex.

When the dust has settled, the Joriander Beacon is back in Republic hands and only one Por’ten brother still draws breath.

Clone Wars Campaign


The Wife said...

The big battle scene was truly epic. It took a loooong time to set up, but was totally worth the wait. It was very different than anything we'd done before and was alot of fun to play out.

The Daal thing was awesome, especially since he felt compelled to add "My bad." - in character.

Bal said...

The epic battle sounds like great fun. Perhaps something of that sort (should I start my Wheel of Time campaign) will be in the future for myself and whoever plays. I think I have enough space in the basement for such a setup ahead of time ... perhaps something for the Last Battle? ;)