Sunday, November 13, 2011

Clone Wars Campaign: Session # 49 Recap

This session, formally the beginning of the last story arc, is really something of an interlude as the PCs decided on what they wanted to do next. I set up a couple of major possibilities: go to Coruscant to reunite with Stefan Cassadine (and be in position for Order 66) or go to the steaming jungles of Haruun Kal to find a weapon to use against the Accelerated in the form of Thought Spores--a telepathy virus. To make a good director's life a little bit harder, the PCs couldn't agree and decided to split up. Since both plot threads were important and worth seeing "on screen", I had the players whose main characters weren't in the current thread use their alternate character so that everyone got a chance to play at the same time. With A'tel departing the game to become an NPC, his player was left with the pilot Jasper Falen and the need to create a new character, which we'll see in a session or two.

In retrospect, I wish I would have done more with Doxen's mentor, Senator Orelus, besides having him be kidnapped or placed in peril so often. Unfortunately, as I've mentioned in the past, it was quite hard coming up with adventure hooks for a group of PCs that was independently wealthy, non-heroic, non-ideological, and ultra-cautious. That meant that putting friends and family in danger was one of the few reliable means I had to get things moving sometimes.

When prepping this session, the key thing to me was the revelation of what the anomaly was, how the Forgotten Sith could be stopped, and the fact that the Accelerated were going to try to take control of the anomaly: all things that could drive the big finale of the campaign. I knew that Tarn's rescue could lead to a lot of romantic melodrama with Arresta (played by The Wife), so I warned her that we probably wouldn't dwell on that part too much because the other players probably wouldn't be interested in it. I could not have been more wrong. The other players ate it up with a spoon, and everyone had an opinion in-game and out-of-game as to whether Arresta should choose Tarn or Stefan, with Daal on Team Tarn, Doxen on Team Stefan, and Arresta in the middle. There was a lot of good role-playing and in-game asides on what Arresta should do, and Tarn's leaving for Haruun Kal rather than Coruscant to confront Stefan came down to a slightly higher Persuasion result by Doxen than Daal. All of the campaign mythos plot stuff of uber-importance to me landed with a dull thud!

This was the first and (I think) only time I managed to use the random hyperspace event table I created near the end of the campaign to liven up those long voyages. It turned out pretty well, and would definitely be something I'd do again in another Star Wars campaign. Speaking of hyperspace voyages, the random factor in how long trips took and the long base travel times in Saga made it quite hard to get the party back together once they split up without one subgroup or the other having long periods in-game of just waiting around. This became a particular problem near the end of the campaign, as Doxen's player had to use a red chip just to get him to the final battle on time!

Speaking of Doxen, it was always fun to see how the character was actually a real softie around children and babies, but only when no adults were watching (he had to retain his gruff reputation!). I liked how I handled his guardian force spirit, a Force Talent that allowed him to get guidance on what to do; I had Doxen receive visions that, in the form of Ewok parables, contained the advice.


A dangerous mission to rescue Jedi Tarn Tamarand has gone better than anyone could have hoped: not only was he freed without a shot being fired, but Arresta Cassadine and Daal Mordo were cured of terminal diseases. Yet, such success came with strange consequences: the man known as A’tel Por’ten is no more, and in his place is one of the emotionless Accelerated, and his motivations remain unclear.

On another freighter across the galaxy, another adventurer returns from a successful mission. Yet, he has discovered something inside himself that will change his life forever . . .
On board The Gentle Lover, Senator Orelus, exhausted and weakened from the ordeal of his kidnapping by Rodian pirates, gratefully thanks his old friend and rescuer Doxen for coming after him. He apologizes for not having been as good a friend to Doxen as the Ewok has been to him. Doxen assures him that he was happy to do it. After the Senator retires to the quarters that Jasper provides, a strange sound is heard and to the surprise of the others on board, a robed figure emerges: Master Creen has hidden himself on board The Gentle Lover and has only now revealed his presence. He announces that Doxen is “ready” and that they must travel to Rhinnal. Doxen though, is determined to return Senator Orelus to Coruscant, so he orders Jasper to set course for the nearest planet with access to charter ships and hyper-space lanes. The group will head to Cerea.

Meanwhile, on the ship The Flaming Halo, Lucef notices an unusual signal on his command console: the remaining escape pod is being launched despite the fact that the ship is in hyperspace, something that should be impossible! Lucef rushes to the escape pod, darting past a corridor where Princess Arresta Cassadine and Tarn Tamarand are in deep conversation. He sees the escape pod pulling away from the ship and then it is almost as if space bends around the pod and it disappears. Shocked, Lucef returns and tells Arresta and Tarn what he saw. Tarn is sceptical that such a thing is even possible, but when a quick check reveals that it was the Accelerated A’tel who has departed, it becomes somewhat more believable.
Seeking more privacy, Arresta and Tarn go to the ship’s lounge where Arresta becomes more and more agitated as Tarn starts talking about the new mission that they must go on. She confirms that his memories are spotty since he placed himself into a deep Force hibernation on Endregaad. Finally, Arresta works up her courage and tells him that she can’t go with him on any mission. Hesitantly, she breaks the news to the shocked Tarn that two weeks after he left her on Coruscant she found out she was pregnant with his child. Confused about the time lapse, Tarn asks how far along she is, forcing her to tell him that more than three years have passed (two of those thanks to the time flow in the City Under the Sand) and that they have an infant baby girl.
Tarn tries to apologize and tells her that when this mission is over, that they can be together with their daughter. Arresta closes her eyes and tells him that she and Allegra are already part of a family. She tries to explain that she felt lost, alone and abandoned on Coruscant, until someone from her past came into her life – and that person is now her husband. Further, she and Stefan plan to leave the Republic. They are all (including Tarn) wanted by the Republic for various offences. Arresta is evasive as she responds to Tarn’s questions, telling him only that her husband is “complicated” and a “businessman”, but he clearly senses that there is more she is not telling him. Overwhelmed at what he’s learned, Tarn storms out of the room, leaving Arresta to tearfully retreat to her quarters. In his quarters, Daal hears the former lovers retreat to their separate quarters and sighs, placing a damp towel over his face.

Across the galaxy, The Gentle Lover makes a brief stop on Cerea, where Doxen escorts the Senator to the local Republic guardpost. From there he will be able to secure passage back to Coruscant. Orelus warns Doxen that the Republic is changing and anti-alien sentiment is rising. He pledges to stand up for Doxen and others like him, but Doxen advises his friend to play it safe – he would rather have a live friend available to help him than a dead martyr. Doxen visits a local bar and attempts to determine his next move. He decides to head to Rhinnal, where he knows that Stefan and Arresta Cassadine have maintained a residence in the past, hoping that someone there will be able to give him a lead on the Princess.
While Doxen is away, Jasper speaks with Creen and, intimidated by the strange Jedi, agrees to provide him passage if the old man stays out of the cockpit. Creen agrees. Jasper’s aide Kako reminds his boss that Jedi can play tricks on your mind and promises to stun his friend if he sees him turning over money or valuables to Creen.
Creen seeks out Doxen again when the Ewok returns to the ship. He asks if Doxen “felt it”. Doxen is confused and Creen clarifies that Doxen has had the “spark of the Force” awakened within him and that one of his friends is now strangely altered. A’tel is alive, but no longer the same. Doxen tells Creen that in his experience, Jedi are not terribly useful. Creen though, tells him that he transformed Tarn Tamarand into a stronger warrior and that moreover, he is the former teacher of Jocasta. That impresses Doxen enough that he is willing to make a deal with the old man: If he can teach Doxen about the Force healing trance during the journey to Rhinnal, Doxen will consider having Creen train him.

On board The Flaming Halo, something strange is happening. Intruder alerts begin sounding, indicating that thirty very large individuals are on board the ship. Doors begin sliding open and closed of their own volition and the fire suppression system activates itself. Lucef and Daal investigate and try to validate the intruder alert. Arresta knocks on Tarn’s door and hands him the lightsaber that she had built for him. When she is summoned to the cockpit to help Daal with the computer system, she gives Tarn a holorecorder full of pictures of their daughter. Working together, Daal and Arresta are able to lock down the computer glitch which has caused the problems. There are no intruders and all they are left with is a mess to clean up.
Tarn goes to speak with Lucef and tries to gather more information about Arresta’s husband, but the pilot has little to share. All he knows is that her husband is some kind of wealthy businessman. Tarn tries to secure Lucef as a pilot to travel to Haruun Kal, though the mercenary is sceptical that Tarn could afford the fare. For his part, Tarn tries to bring out the heroic side of Lucef’s nature, arguing that this is the pilot’s chance to serve the greater good.

[A.G. 1056]

Arriving at Arkania, Lucef and Daal conduct repairs to the ship and secure hyper-space coordinates for Rhinnal. Arresta connects with her intelligence network and learns some useful information:

- The Separatists are being continually pushed back on the Outer Rim, but it could be a trap: General Grievous’ fleet hasn’t been spotted in weeks.
- Senator Orelus has been reported in the press as having been rescued and requested a break from his legislative duties to recuperate.
- The Mongui economy is booming due to a major construction project on the planet’s magnetic pole.
- Stefan Cassadine checked out of the medcentre on Rhinnal: he has rented the same villa as before.

[A.G. 1057]

After about half a day’s worth of repairs, the ship is ready to depart. Just in time, Daal catches a potentially fatal error in the navicomputer. They are on the way and anticipate an eight day journey to Rhinnal.

Meanwhile, The Gentle Lover has already arrived at Rhinnal and the Cerean adventurer Korriban-Adi says his good-byes to Doxen and Jasper with a promise to consider contacting them for future adventures. Doxen advises Jasper that he may spend several days on Rhinnal and that the pilot should remain ready for the next stage of the journey. Arriving at the Cassadine villa, Doxen finds Stefan’s Aqualish bodyguard and security chief Xam at home, with the infant Allegra in tow. Xam is pleased to see Doxen, noting that “Mr. C” thinks highly of the Ewok. He advises Doxen that “Mrs. C” has not yet returned from her journey “to visit her Uncle on Ansion” and that Stefan has travelled to Coruscant to make arrangements for the family to emigrate to the Hapes Consortium. However, he notes that the process has been much more difficult than expected and that Stefan is very displeased. Xam happily allows Doxen to wait for Arresta at the compound. Although he is reserved and shows little interest in front of the Aqualish, when left alone, “Uncle Doxen” fusses over the baby.

One of the nights at the villa, a sleeping Doxen dreams of an older Ewok with white-stripes on his fur and wearing a strange necklace of teeth and bone. The figure tells Doxen a parable about the dangers of falling in league with strange mentors whose trustworthiness is uncertain.

Having spent several days wrestling with all of the information dumped on him, Tarn finally goes to speak with Arresta. She is happy to hear that he wants to be part of his daughter’s life, but alarmed when he starts talking about custody arrangements. She tells him that they will have to be very careful, that her husband will not be happy if Tarn interferes in their lives. She is also upset to hear him talk about remaining part of the Jedi Order and convincing the Council that he intends to retain his attachment and be part of his daughter’s life. They begin to argue, as Arresta won’t come clean regarding Stefan’s criminal ties, making Tarn more and more concerned about the man who has taken his place in their lives, while Arresta is hurt and frightened that Tarn has another dangerous mission planned. She is also upset that he refuses to believe her that Master Creen has ill-intentions or that Creen really attempted to erase Arresta’s memories of Tarn for his own purposes.
Tarn tells her that the Accelerated taunted him with the true nature of the Anomaly. According to them, the massive, ageless vessel allows those inside to survive the eventual heat death of the universe and create the type of primordial singularity that leads to the “Big Bang” origin of another universe. There’s no telling how many universes the Anomaly has seen, or whether its creators still reside inside. The Accelerated, however, have grown bored with the current state of sentient life and plan to create a singularity in the near future, so as to witness the birth of a new universe. Unfortunately, this will create untold devastation in the present universe. Tarn intends to stop them by using “Thought Spores” stockpiled by the Plaguewomb on the planet Haruun Kal.
Even with this problem solved, another would remain. The Forgotten Sith became trapped aboard the Anomaly millennia ago, and for some reason that still remains unclear, Tarn’s removal of the strange lightsaber has allowed the Sith to begin to break free from their prison. Tarn believes that only by regaining the strange lightsaber from Jocasta and returning it to the Anomaly will any remaining Sith be stopped from escaping.
Arresta is confused and sending mixed signals: Tarn tells her he knows that she still loves him – which she does not deny – but she is upset that he once again plans to put his mission before her and their daughter, even though she also tells him that they have no future together. For his part, Tarn keeps talking to her about the importance of the mission and of “custody arrangements” – unable to convince her that everything he is doing is out of love for her and their child. Instead, he convinces her that nothing has changed and he is still putting everything else ahead of her.
Frustrated, Tarn goes to talk to Daal. His tells his Duro friend about his mission and secures his promise of help. He asks Daal to tell him more about Stefan Cassadine. Daal too is evasive: he says that Arresta seems to love her husband, though he admits that Stefan has criminal ties and is very dangerous. He advises Tarn to avoid a confrontation with Stefan and tells him that simply resolving a dispute using normal channels won’t be possible. Tarn becomes more and more agitated and tells Daal in no uncertain terms that he intends to be part of his daughter’s life, whatever Arresta’s husband has to say about it.
Concerned, Daal goes to see Arresta and they agree that a confrontation between Tarn and Stefan would end badly. Arresta goes to see Tarn and tries to convince him that confronting Stefan is a bad idea, as her husband loves her and the baby and would never hurt them. Tarn is worried about the influence that a criminal would have over his daughter. Arresta asks him to please wait until his mission is over before resolving this. She wants him to take the time to see that she and Allegra are better off where they are. Reluctantly Tarn agrees, though he resolves to convince the Princess that he has the means to help raise his child.

[A.G. 1065]

Arriving on Rhinnal, Arresta takes her leave of Lucef, although she gives him a 1000 credit retainer to “look after her interests” and be available for future jobs. She speaks with Xam, learns that her husband is off-planet and has the Aqualish send a car for her. She and Daal convince Tarn to change out of his Jedi robes and to conceal his identity from Stefan’s men.
Disembarking, they find Master Creen waiting for them. Arresta angrily storms past him and heads for her waiting limousine. Tarn speaks with his Master and informs Daal that after talking with Creen, he realizes that it would be too dangerous for the Duro to accompany him on this part of the mission. Though Tarn asks his friend to stay and keep an eye on Allegra for him, Daal is adamant that he go along – he intends to protect Tarn. Tarn agrees to speak to Creen. Before leaving the ship, Tarn also speaks with Lucef who reluctantly agrees to take on the job, quoting Tarn a bargain-basement price of just 2000 credits. Tarn says he will attempt to raise the funds.
Arriving at the villa, Tarn is shocked to see how casually Arresta and Daal react to the sight of a small, furry creature with a sniper rifle sitting on the roof. For their part, the two adventurers are happy to find Doxen waiting for them. Inside, Arresta is greeted by Xam but immediately turns her attention to her baby daughter. Fussing over the baby and getting updates on her care, she learns her husband is waiting for her on Coruscant and that he has left a holovid message.
Arresta conceals Tarn’s identity from Xam and sends the Aqualish off to arrange for refreshments. She tells Doxen the story of what happened to A’tel and then asks her friends to leave her alone with Tarn and their daughter. Daal is happy to agree, but Doxen requires some persuading. He reminds Arresta that Stefan will be very unhappy about this. Finally, little Allegra is alone with her parents. Arresta carefully shows Tarn how to hold the baby and tells Allegra “This is your Daddy.” Tarn and the baby lock eyes and something seems to pass between them. Awed, Tarn tells the Princess that he can feel the connection between the two of them and the baby. He tells Arresta that he thinks Allegra may have the “spark” within her. Horrified, Arresta snatches the baby from the puzzled Jedi and backs away. Though he cannot understand her fear of “Jedi baby snatchers”, Tarn does give his word that he would never try to take Allegra away from her or turn the baby over to the Jedi Order. Taking him at his word, Arresta hands the baby back and goes to speak to Xam, stopping on the way to make sure Doxen keeps an eye on Tarn.
Doxen has contacted the Bounty Hunters’ Guild and placed a price on information leading to the whereabouts of A’tel Porten. With that out of the way, he enters the sunroom and speaks to Tarn. The two get off on the wrong foot as Doxen berates Tarn for having abandoned Arresta. Tarn protests that he had no idea that the Princess had been pregnant when he left her. Doxen tells Tarn that it sounds like he cares little for the mother of his child, which Tarn denies. Doxen threatens Tarn with bodily harm if he ever causes hurt to the baby. Tarn is taken aback that this seemingly psychotic being is a close friend of Arresta’s.
Arresta speaks to Xam about Stefan. He reassures her that Stefan received a clean bill of health from the medcentre and that his headaches have disappeared. Arresta lets the Aqualish know that she isn’t happy that he helped Stefan keep his medical condition a secret. She then watches the holovid, which arrived the prior evening. In it, Stefan, who appears frustrated, informs Xam that gaining access to the Hapes Consortium is proving very challenging. He has hired tutors in customs and language, but the Consortium allows just a handful of immigrants every year. He tells Xam that he is anxious to have Arresta and Allegra join him on Coruscant as he misses his wife and daughter very much and that the process could take weeks.
Arresta asks Xam to begin making arrangements for transport. He sends a security team over to The Gentle Lover to conduct an advanced screening. They negotiate a price with Jasper and he agrees to baby-proof the ship. He is also warned not to flirt or in anyway make advances towards Mrs. Cassadine while she is onboard. Jasper begins to make plans for the trip.
Returning to the others, Arresta is dismayed to find that Tarn is already planning to leave. He suggests that she and the baby travel with him, but on learning that the planet is volcanic and full of dangerous toxic gases, she informs that it does not seem like a safe place to take a child. She also reminds him that she has a husband to return to. She is hurt that he finds it so easy to walk away from Allegra (and from her). As per Tarn’s request, she tries to convince Daal to stay behind, but the Duro won’t be swayed. He does ask Arresta to use both Stefan’s and her own contacts to help make sure his mother has been freed. She assures him that since Stefan is Jocasta’s business partner, that she will do everything she can to help him.
Tarn is shocked to hear that Stefan and Jocasta are connected and begins to waver in his resolve to accompany Creen on the first part of the mission to Haruun Kal, suggesting that perhaps his Master could travel alone. Tarn hesitantly suggests that he accompany Arresta to Coruscant so that he can meet Stefan for himself. Surprisingly, Arresta seems open to this plan, to the confusion of Daal and Doxen who believe that such a meeting would only lead to murder! Hearing their protests, Tarn becomes more and more convinced that Stefan is a negative influence.
Daal and Arresta take opposite sides and Tarn sides with the Princess. But, when Daal pulls her out of the room for a quick conference, Doxen takes the opportunity to change tactics. Suddenly using cold reason instead of intimidation, Doxen reminds Tarn that he has a very dangerous mission ahead of him, one that could likely lead to his death. He suggests that Tarn could be causing both Arresta and Allegra unnecessary distress. He pleads with the Jedi to wait until the mission is over to have any kind of confrontation with Arresta’s husband, and even offers to foot the bill for Tarn’s voyage to Haruun Kal. Tarn asks Doxen if Stefan is a good husband and father and the Ewok emphatically states he is.
Meanwhile, Daal demands an explanation from the Princess. He feels that by getting Tarn out of the way on this mission, he is buying Arresta time to leave the Republic with Stefan and the baby in tow, thereby avoiding a confrontation he is sure will end in death. Arresta tries to explain her reasoning: she loves Tarn and Stefan both, and she doesn’t want either of them to die. But she also wants her marriage to work and to do that, she feels that she must be honest with her husband. She believes that she can convince Stefan that if he hurts Tarn that he would lose her forever. Daal remains sceptical of this plan.
Arresta soon discovers that Tarn seems to have had a change of heart brought about by his chat with Doxen. He pleads with Arresta to give him one month (until A.G. 1095) to complete his mission to Haruun Kal and to return to find her and the baby on Coruscant. Then they will resolve this issue and determine what role Tarn will play in Allegra’s life. The Princess isn’t happy, as she doesn’t trust Creen and she fears for Tarn’s safety, but she agrees not to leave the Republic before a month has passed.
Tarn takes his leave from his newfound baby daughter. “Good-bye, little one. I’ll see you soon.” He cannot meet Arresta’s gaze and leaves without saying good-bye to her. She holds the baby and watches him from the window. After Tarn and Daal have left, Doxen talks to Arresta as she packs the baby’s things for the trip. His advice is simple: Make a choice! Which man does she want? Sadly, Arresta tries to explain that she feels that she doesn’t have a choice to make. She is in love with Tarn, but she is married to Stefan and leaving him would only lead to pain and bloodshed. Besides, she does love her husband. “This isn’t about which man I love more – I’ve made choices I can’t take back. Allegra and I are Cassadines – that isn’t going to change.”
Back at The Flaming Halo, Lucef welcomes his passengers on board, giving Creen the most spacious accommodations. The Jedi Master speaks to Daal and informs him that this mission is highly dangerous and that if the Duro falls behind, that he is expendable. Daal calmly maintains his intention to protect his friend. Lucef advises that the journey to Haruun Kal will take ten days (with arrival expected on A.G. 1074) and that they can depart in the morning. Tarn sadly notes that his parting from those he loves was more traumatic than he’d intended and he agrees with Daal’s suggestion that they remain on board until departure.
Hours later, Arresta, Allegra (with Nanny droid in tow), Doxen, Xam and the security entourage arrive at The Gentle Lover. Although surprised at the lurid artwork on the outside of the ship, Arresta notes that it appears clean and professional on the inside. Jasper, who was also warned by Doxen not to try his charms on Arresta, greets her politely and shows her to the quarters he has arranged for her and the baby. He also speaks with Xam, who offers a 1000 credit bonus for a quick and uneventful journey. Arresta and Doxen chat and she tells him that Jocasta is a shape-shifter and tells him that she and Daal have agreed to a password in case there is any question to anyone’s identity. The password is the name of Arresta’s late, estranged father: Alphonse D’avilos.
Expertly programming in the co-ordinates, Jasper informs Arresta that the journey to Coruscant will take just two days (with arrival expected on A.G. 1067) and that they can leave whenever she is ready. Arresta gives the word. Jasper takes The Gentle Lover into hyperspace, carrying the Princess away from Rhinnal and Tarn Tamarand--and towards Coruscant and Stefan Cassadine.

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