Sunday, July 18, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign Recap # 38

Now that the campaign is officially over, from this point all recaps will appear with "secret" stuff appearing, and I'll eventually go back and "unredact" earlier recaps.

This session began one of the campaign's longest story-arcs. I gave it a title, "The Altered State" that could work for either of the two main adventure hooks I dangled in front of the PCs (starting a revolution on Mongui or travelling to find Tarn in the colony of genetically-modified Arkanians). However, I was 85% sure that they would choose the latter, and only had the vaguest idea what would happen if they chose the former. Of course, PCs never do what the GM expects, so Mongui it was--I was just lucky that the session ended before they actually reached the planet, since I had to scramble to get things ready between sessions.

Here we see the re-introduction of Arresta after her absence in the previous story-arc. I went with a classic moral conundrum: obey the wishes of her present husband and liberate Mongui (because that was the arrangement Jocasta and Stefan had made) or go rescue Tarn from whatever nightmarish dangers he was facing. Some excellent role-playing and high-quality angst in this episode!

Since he did such a good job playing the character in occasional guest spots, the person who ran A'tel took over the role of Bel Sekand as a permanent PC in this session. As we'll see in a couple of sessions, Bel quite literally went out in a blaze of glory :)

One of the things I somewhat regret is that, apart from A'tel in the Corporate Sector and Arresta with the love triangle, I wasn't able to give the other PCs story arcs that really shone the spotlight on them. Sometimes I would lay the seeds, but for one reason or another they just didn't bear fruit--Daal's unimpressed reaction to the apparent return of his father, after years of being thought dead or enslaved, provided another classic element of the Daal-personality: laid-back to the extreme!

Often players/PCs are forgetful about stuff that happened in the campaign, and that is sometimes annoying to a GM. On the other hand, players who are really on the ball are hard to trap! In this session, the PCs wisely remembered everything that had gone on with Poparra the Hutt in the City of Sand story-arc and crushed (literally) the adventure hook that would have drawn them into the second part of the Tempest Feud published adventure. I can't really blame them for being paranoid, though: after all, everyone really is out to get them!



In a strategic sector of space between the neutral Hutts and the neutral Bothans lies the tiny, nominally Republic-aligned, Mongui. In the early days of the Clone War, both the Separatists and the Republic fought over Mongui, and the resulting clash left the planet’s only city in ruins. After the destruction of the Mongui spaceport by retreating Clone troopers, both sides lost interest and, into the vacuum, a civil war began between the Acting Regent of House D’avilos and his eldest daughter over control of the throne. Corinne D’avilos enlisted the aid of the xenophobic Purity First and vanquished her father; yet allies soon became enemies and Corinne herself was forced to flee Mongui with just seconds to spare. Now Mongui exists at the centre of a quickly growing movement to expel all non-humans from Republic space.

And thousands of light years away, humanity itself has been changed. A lost planet, whose existence has been intentionally forgotten, purged from all memory and record. And in this altered state, lies the secret to understanding – and controlling- the enormous power of the anomaly.

On board the Cassadine yacht, the Knife’s Edge, Arresta tosses in a restless sleep. Prior to going to bed she received covert intelligence from her private spy network which informed her that Tarn Tamarand, last seen on board the Republic Medstar frigate Oasis, has apparently gone AWOL. He is being sought by Republic Intelligence and is considered armed and dangerous, with “violent tendencies”. Arresta tosses and turns, but gets up in the middle of the night when she hears a noise and finds a figure in the nursery holding Allegra – it is Tarn, although he has his back to her. He tells her that he’s confused and alone and cannot put all the pieces back together – some of them he doesn’t recognize, like the baby. “This is ours – and you never told me.” He tells her that he has to leave before he’s ready because someone is coming after him and that he must “return what was taken before the rest of the Forgotten escape—two are free already, and they’ll try to stop me. At the altered state. I have to confront the one who’s been behind everything since the beginning—the Empress Uncanny. Go with her, we’ll be together again and we can defeat hear before it’s too late. Please.”

Arresta awakens from what she now believes was just a dream of Tarn to find Stefan sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to wake her from her “nightmare”. He came home early because he missed her, but tells her he can’t stay – he’ll leave the next evening to wrap up a “loose end that has gone on too long”. He gives her a present (a necklace) and she notices he is injured – but he brushes it off. She tells him she is afraid. He promises that when the debt to Jocasta is paid that they can go somewhere and just be a family for a while. “After this, I will never let you go again.” She asks if they can just go now, but he tells her that he owes Jocasta and she reluctantly agrees, before they turn their attention to celebrating Stefan’s return.

The next day, she gives him his birthday presents (an expensive silk tie and a high-end walking stick that converts into a hidden vibro-rapier). He gives her a mystery object to deliver to Jocasta on Etti IV and lets her know that he has arranged for a cottage there for Allegra (guarded by Xam and the Nanny) while they are away. He also warns her that according to his sources, the Purity First they will encounter on Mongui is not like the disorganized rabble she met on Coruscant years ago – this group is disciplined, zealous, and well-funded with high-tech weaponry. They share a loving good-bye as Stefan departs on the shuttle to conclude his business trip.

Elsewhere in the galaxy, on the asteroid which houses the Joriander Beacon, the battle is over. A’tel Por’ten is unconscious and Doxen is in charge. They start the post-battle clean up and find a POW who refuses to talk. They are then notified that there is a small vessel coming in, broadcasting on Separatist channels. They allow it to land on the far side of the asteroid. A scouting mission reveals a small group of Bothans preparing a ceremonial tent. When A’tel wakes up, they investigate but the angry Bothans refuse to talk until A’tel disables their ship and threatens them. Ms. Prentiss reminds A’tel that the Joriander Beacon belongs to the Corporate Sector and is neutral territory, so therefore he does not have grounds to hold the Bothans. A’tel intimidates the Bothans with a show of Force, and in the face of his anger, they reveal they were there to negotiate with the Separatists and are then allowed to go.

Meanwhile, Doxen and Daal have received mysterious messages (from Jocasta) instructing them to return to base. Ms. Prentiss remains on the Beacon to secure it for the CSA and A’tel decides, after consultation with Admiral Vau, to accept a commission and remain on the Majestic as the leader of a G.A.R. strike team. After an angry confrontation with a “short” sighted Quartermaster, Doxen secures transport with A’tel’s help and he and Daal head back to Etti IV.

[A.G. 979]

At the ARC, Doxen and Daal are shown their quarters. They encounter Greesh Leedo and he and Doxen engage in some friendly banter. Later that evening, Arresta arrives on Etti IV on the Knife’s Edge and is greeted by Jocasta, who is surprised to see Stefan’s wife instead of the man himself. Arresta offers her condolences on the death of Kronos and obtains tacit approval from Jocasta to provide a lesson to Sunset Cassandra (who Stefan revealed as the partial cause of his injuries) if she leaves the girl’s fingers intact.

Arresta first decides to visit with Daal. She introduces him to Allegra and he privately makes note of Allegra’s resemblance to Tarn. She then sends Xam, the Nanny and the baby off so she can speak to her friend in private. Observing that Daal looks pale and coughs frequently, she asks about his health and is told of the injuries he suffered at the Beacon. She breaks the news to him that (if her dreams are true) Tarn is in trouble again. She tells Daal that she is at a loss of what to do – she cannot find Tarn and even if she could, chasing after him would cause irreparable harm to her marriage. She cautions her friend that even mentioning her ex-lover in front of her husband can be dangerous. Daal is sympathetic and tells Arresta that he will look out for Tarn. Daal also tells Arresta that her daughter deserves to know her real father.

Arresta then visits Sunset Cassandra, a teenage computer slicer who makes a poor impression with her opening words to Arresta: “You have a very handsome husband.” Arresta’s temper gets the better of her and she breaks the girl’s nose – informing her that she reacts very badly to those who get her family hurt. Threats are exchanged on both sides before the Princess withdraws. Later, chatting with Jocasta, Arresta shares that she will likely be visiting Nal Hutta as part of the Mongui plan and gets Jocasta’s advice that people may be looking for Doxen after he killed the hunter Harno there during his last visit.

Doxen and Daal, returning from a trip into the city, encounter the man claiming to be Daal’s long-lost father. Doxen is confused when the man refers to his friend as “Balan”. Daal brushes off the older man, offering vague promises to speak with him some time later. Doxen also pays the Princess a visit and meets her daughter. He and Arresta exchange news. She updates him on the plans to recapture Mongui and warns him that his assassination of Harno was less secret than he had hoped. He agrees to help on this mission in exchange for Arresta putting in a good word for him with her husband – Doxen is hoping Stefan will tutor him in Malkite ways.
Disturbed by her dreams, Arresta contacts the only other Jedi that she knows – A’tel Por’ten – and, after asking after his health, asks him whether “someone” could contact someone else via a dream state. A’tel confirms that “if we’re talking about who I think you are, yes it is possible.” Later, Arresta leaves a message for her sister Corinne, apologizing for their fight and offering to “go shopping for that item Father never wanted you to have”.

[A.G. 980]

During the briefing the next morning, Jocasta explains that the team will be split in two. She herself will lead one group (including Daal, Sunset Cassandra & Greesh Leedo) while the Cassadines lead the other (including Korkoth, Korg and Doxen). Arresta’s team will focus on re-taking Mongui.

Jocasta briefs her squad that they will be attempting to locate an ancient Arkanian colony using a star-chart obtained from the vaults of Aargau. “Most of what I know comes from Kronos, supplanted by rumor. Several thousand years ago, the Arkanians reached new heights in genetic and bio-physical manipulation—their goal, to create a race of near-humans who lacked the need for sleep and had lifespans several times longer—to create, in other words, a race of near-eternals whose productivity would be virtually unlimited. Their work took place at a research colony on a planet far from Arkania, and appeared to be successful. Their creations had not only the intended benefits, but showed a natural intelligence and grasp of logic and mathematics several magnitudes above that of a normal human. And then something happened—exactly what is unknown, but the Arkanians withdrew from the colony planet and systematically destroyed all records relating to their research. Except one, which they placed in what was thought the galaxy’s most secure location: the vaults of Aargau.”

Arresta briefs both Korg and Korkoth and discusses strategy with Doxen. They decide to recruit Krevlax, who they contact on the Majestic and arrange to pick up on Nar Shadda. Planning to leave the next morning, Arresta retires for the night, but her sleep is disturbed by another dream – this time one that showed a strange planet where the sun is blacked out and where she witnessed Tarn’s death, over and over again – at the hands of Jocasta and her team of Sun Runners.

[A.G. 981]

Disturbed, Arresta breaks down and, when Korkoth arrives to tell “Boss Lady” that the ship is ready, she tells the confused Gammorean that she can’t leave.

Doxen comes to see what the trouble is and she explains that she is at a loss as to what to do. If she goes to Mongui, she feels she will be abandoning Tarn to his fate but if she chases after him again, she will be betraying her husband a second time. Doxen, clearly of the opinion that Tarn is not worthy of her support, reminds her that the Jedi’s actions have never put the Princess or their daughter first – whereas Stefan has made them a clear priority. He suggests she consider asking Jocasta to capture Tarn and prevent his death.

Arresta visits Jocasta and, after revealing that she has knowledge of Jocasta’s former life, negotiates an opportunity to join her on the mission in the hopes that she can protect Tarn. Jocasta agrees – after extracting a promise from that neither Arresta, her associates, or her heirs will oppose her plans in the future. With the condition that Jocasta’s plans must not in any way harm any of them, Arresta agrees. Jocasta offers to wait (briefly) for Arresta to visit Nal Hutta to secure the release of the slave Miklos (former lover of her sister) to provide the influence Stefan will need in order to convince Corinne to draw up on her intelligence agents on Mongui. If Arresta returns quickly, she can join the mission to the Arkanian colony.

Arresta goes to say good-bye to her daughter and is suddenly struck by what she is doing. She is distraught, but comes to realize that she cannot keep chasing after Tarn – abandoning her daughter and her obligations in the process. She reluctantly sends a message to Jocasta that she will take the team to Mongui and that, if Jocasta keeps Tarn alive, she will honour their deal. Arresta advises the others that she is nervous about facing retaliation from Poparra the Hutt (whose freighter and son they abandoned on Endregaad). To that end, she will travel under a false ID (under the name Tava Morgan) and will dye her hair black. Doxen purchases black costumes to disguise his and Korkoth’s identities (which the Gammorean receives with great pleasure, announcing that Doxen is his new “blood brother”).

[A.G. 998]

Arresta is withdrawn during the surprisingly long trip to Nar Shadda, the “Smuggler’s Moon,” where they obtain equipment (including a thermal detonator) and pick up Krevlax, who is eager for revenge on Purity First. Arriving at Nal Hutta’s capital city, Bilbousa, Arresta, Doxen, Korg and Korkoth make their way through the toxic marsh to the “Sapient Zoo” of Kordo Deshillich where they confirm that Miklos is alive and well. Bel Sekand, accompanied by a new blonde female bodyguard makes an appearance. He sneers at Arresta’s disguise, assuming it was for his sake, and introduces his new bodyguard – who just “happens” to be Tarn Tamarand’s sister. Doxen engages her in conversation and she reveals that Bel paid her debt to other Hutts and she finds him to be a good employer. Arresta protests that it was in fact, Tarn who arranged for her debt to be paid and Bel was just the messenger. The auction commences and the bidding quickly escalates into the tens of thousands. Arresta and Doxen determine that rather than outbid Sekand, they will try other tactics, leaving the crimelord to win the auction for Miklos.

When they arrive back at the Knife’s Edge, they find a jade green protocol droid waiting with an invitation to dine with Poparra the Hutt. Seige Commander Korg is instructed to “quietly” destroy the droid, which he does by stomping it flat with one of his massive legs.
With a bribe to Kordo’s majordomo, Arresta’s team learns that the package is en route. They enact a dual strategy – they will send Doxen to negotiate a truce, while the rest lie in wait, prepared to take Miklos by force. They decide to protect Tarn’s sister as well – although Miklos will receive priority. Doxen visits with Sekand and his uniquely overwhelming negotiation style appears to work. Bel agrees to use his influence to convince Corinne to provide access to her rebellion contacts and, in exchange, after the planet is regained and a “third party” unknown to him completes their task, he and the elder D’Avilos sister will remain in charge of the planet.

Both ships then lift off from Nal Hutta and, despite her broken heart, Princess Arresta begins the journey that will bring her back to the planet where her adventures began . . .

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1 comment:

The Wife said...

I had forgotten how much went on during this session! We really were nervous about running into the Hutts again....I'm glad to hear we weren't crazy! It was a lot of fun to play out Arresta's indecision in this episode. She really does love them both - and she felt tremendous guilt for the turmoil she put her husband through while she was missing for two years. She had, at this point, spent several months rebuilding her marriage and had, by this point, figured out what she wants out of life: home & family. A far cry from ruling a planet, being a travelling hero - or a paid Assassin.

From this point, it became about what each man was offering her...

It was agonizing for her to abandon Tarn. She really teetered between the two options - and, as we'll see over the next few episodes, she was just waiting for the right "reason/excuse" to justify a change in plans....

This also marked the beginning of the Angel/Devil on her shoulder (I have no idea who was who) - of Daal & Doxen. We joked once that Daal was "Team Tarn" and Doxen was most definitely "Team Stefan". I think part of that stemmed from when the characters joined the campaign. Daal was around from the beginning and remembered Tarn as a PC - so he could sympathize with his motivations and his heroic nature (the "tragic hero"). Doxen, on the other hand, only joined when Tarn was the object of various quests - thereby becoming the reason we all were almost killed on multiple occasions. He mostly interacted with Stefan, who he seemed to find a quite sensible individual.

As an aside, this also marked a real shift for "Angry" A'tel - who seemed to feel that perhaps the GAR would offer him what his family and the Jedi Order had not.