Friday, December 9, 2011

Clone Wars Campaign: Session # 50 Recap

It took some clever and subtle maneuvering and adventure hooking, but I succeeded in getting some PCs to Coruscant on A.G. 1067, just days before the big Battle of Coruscant, the institution of Order 66, and the official end of the Clone Wars. I had some big plans in store for those events (which, as I'll talk about in a future post, never came to fruition), but in the meantime there was plenty of adventure to be hand. This session saw the PCs hunted by a Republic black-ops team for mysterious reasons and fleeing to the Hapan Consulate for sanctuary. I was inspired to do something with the Hapes Consortium after reading The Courtship of Princess Leia, and it seemed a logical alternative place for the Cassadines to try to flee to in order to escape the Republic. After doing some research online, it became clear to me just how restrictive the Consortium is about allowing outsiders, so I made the immigration process an extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming affair.

The battle in and around the Consulate was quite exciting, as it had all sorts of dramatic stuff: Doxen rolling a natural 1 on his Hide check and being spotted (something that pretty much never happened); Jasper making a mad-dash for The Gentle Lover and almost being shot dead on the spot; and the big escape scene where The Gentle Lover crashes into the front of the Consulate and lowers its ramp so everyone can get on board. The running battle between the freighter and the Republic gunships was a great capstone to the whole scene, as the freighter was forced to crash-land on a major tourist area and its passengers blend into the crowd to escape. I did a lot of skimming of Wookiepedia in order to bring all sorts of Coruscant flavor into the session: Monument Plaza, Chin-Bret, monads, named starports, etc. I don't think any of the players noticed or cared, but I always like making the campaign feel as close as possible to "real" Star Wars as incarnated in the Expanded Universe.

After Array's coldblooded carjacking murder on Mongui and A'tel's coldblooded murder of a Sun Runner on the planet of the Altered, the next memorable "what the hell?" moment came this session when Doxen eviscerated a wussy would-be gang "tough" who was trying to rob them. Arresta used her almost limitless reserves of wealth to buy their way out of the situation, but it was a good reminder to the players just how powerful they were now compared to "normal" people.

Importantly, this session sees Arresta coming clean with Stefan about everything that happened regarding Tarn and the voyage to the planet of the Altered. Some great role-playing here set the stage for a dramatic confrontation between Stefan and Tarn (and Creen!) in a future session.

Session # 50

Within days, the Republic will become an Empire, and for the first time in thousands of years the Sith will once again rule the Galaxy. Palpatine’s labyrinthine machinations have engineered the largest war ever seen and resulted in the deaths of millions. Soon his secretly constructed Star Destroyers will appear, his hand-chosen leaders will govern a thousand star systems, and the Jedi Order will be exterminated. And the beginning of the end will take part on a planet called Coruscant.

Now in hyperspace on the way to Coruscant, Doxen turns his attention to security arrangements. He works with Jasper to alter the passenger and crew manifests to reflect that he is a second Jawa crewman named Klik-Klik. Following a similar line of thinking Arresta Cassadine consults with the bodyguard Xam to see what security protocols Stefan has left for them to follow. She too has the manifest altered to reflect false IDs for herself and Allegra. Stefan’s protocols indicate that they should send the false manifest to Coruscant ground control and indicate they are landing at a private pad. Jasper will indicate he intends a high altitude fly-over to show his passengers views of the city planet. Then, if they aren’t followed, they will land at the abandoned Newport landing terminal before travelling overland to the Elite Hotel and leaving a message for Mr. “Nichols Stefanovich.” Arresta and Doxen have a quick chat about Stefan and Tarn. Arresta says that she thinks Tarn will quickly lose interest in her and Allegra again, since that is what happened before.

[A.G. 1067]

Shortly before the ship drops out of hyperspace, Doxen’s instincts tell him that their tampering with the manifest will not work. He and his friends hide their weaponry and he switches places with Kako. Sure enough, Coruscant ground control sees an issue with the crew manifest. Jasper begins to make a run for it, but Arresta and Doxen intervene and decide to try to bluff their way through. After landing, Doxen and Kako succeed in fast-talking the officer in charge and after a search, he advises Jasper that they are free to go. The team then follows the plan. Jasper drops off his passengers at Newport and heads to Republic City to find a docking bay to await further instructions.

Doxen, Arresta, Allegra, Xam and the Nanny Droid slowly make their way out of a run-down ghetto in the abandoned docking area. When they approach two youths about getting them an air car, Doxen gets into an altercation that turns deadly: one of the toughs attempts to hit Doxen with a lead pipe and, in response, the Ewok guts him. His friend runs off, horrified. Arresta is taken aback, as is Doxen--he admits to her that after so long fighting difficult opponents he has become accustomed to reacting with deadly force and over-estimated the danger that the hoodlum presented. Finally, they reach an outlying area where they can call for an air taxi. Suddenly though, they are surrounded by the gang that the dead youth belonged to. Although shots are fired and Doxen prepares to fight, Arresta steps in. She offers the leader of the gang a bribe to ‘compensate him for the unfortunate accident which cost him his cousin’. Greed overcomes loyalty and the gang-leader agrees.

Meanwhile, as Jasper and Kako find a landing bay for the ship, they discuss their most recent passengers. Jasper admits that they are ‘scary people’ that he doesn’t want to cross – but he does like their money. Later, a technician arrives to complete an inspection. Though Jasper and Kako both watch her closely, she is able to introduce some spyware into their system. They are able to contain it, but cannot track it back to the source. Jasper contacts Doxen and warns him that someone is looking into their whereabouts.

After arriving at the Elite, Doxen observes that they are being watched and he fades into the shadows to try to learn the reason. Arresta obtains an update from her intelligence network and learns that, although the Coruscanti Judicials have no knowledge that she and her friends are wanted by the GAR, a special black ops team has been dispatched to bring them in – including A’tel. Checking in, Arresta leaves a message for “Mr. Stefanovich” advising that she would be pleased to renew their acquaintance, but warning him to avoid the valet service at the hotel (which she believes has been compromised).

Doxen stalks the valet who has caught his attention and though he is able to remain out of sight, he doesn’t pick up any useful information. He then has to contact Arresta when hotel security is reluctant to allow the “Jawa” to move freely throughout the high-class hotel. When he joins the others in the expansive multi-room suite that Arresta has rented, they engage in some quick security measures and strategizing. Finally, late into the night, a blue-protocol droid arrives bearing a message from Mr. Stefanovich: He requests that they join him the following night to witness the Chin-Bret match at T’Chk arena. They decide to proceed, but as a precaution, Arresta plans to purchase additional tickets so that they can observe the box seats and make sure it is safe. She also purchases tickets for Jasper and Kako. For his part, Jasper seems eager to take in the popular sporting event.

[A.G. 1068]

The next day, Doxen and Arresta go shopping: for weapons and new clothes, respectively. Doxen wonders why the G.A.R. would devote scarce resources to hunting down suspects for a possible war crime on a minor planet like Mongui, but no answers are forthcoming. Jasper and Kako, on the other hand, are approached by mysterious figures who try to intimidate them into giving up information about the Cassadines. The two are allowed to depart with a warning, and try to send a coded message to Arresta—but the Princess is unable to decipher it.

That night, outside the Elite, Arresta is surprised when The Gentle Lover suddenly appears overhead and Jasper shouts that she and the others should come on-board because their cover is blown. Everyone scrambles aboard except for Doxen, who jumps into an air taxi and agrees to meet up at the arena. Arresta informs Jasper that they must continue on to the arena because if this is a trap, her husband could be walking right into it. Doxen arrives at the stadium and, after a quick conversation with a guard in which he is mistaken for a company “mystery-shopper” he slips inside. He begins the near impossible task of searching for Stefan Cassadine in the crowd of thousands.

Arresta bribes her way to the front of the long-line at the “will-call” ticket booth and makes her way inside. Since she is unable to use the stadium broadcast system to her advantage, she decides to risk going to her assigned seat. She speaks to Doxen and asks him to watch and see who approaches. Finally, after a tense twenty minutes she is joined by her husband. “Hello Pet – I missed you.” She breaks the news that they are in deep trouble. Stefan suggests that Doxen create a diversion and that they all rendezvous at the Hapan Consulate, the nearest safe haven available. Doxen shoots out the support holding up a large banner and it creates a stir, allowing the others to make a run for it.

Stefan and Arresta briefly encounter some of the men who had been watching the hotel, but chance works in their favour, as the would-be assailant trips and they are able to get away. They hop into an air car and catch up with The Gentle Lover, but two Republic gunships pursue them closely. Kako is able to return fire and forces one of the gunships to veer into traffic, but the other stays close. Arriving at Embassy Row Megablock, The Gentle Lover makes a forced landing on top of several parked air cars, and everyone runs for the Hapan Consulate. The gunship fires at them and though Xam and Stefan take minor injuries, they all make it inside.

Inside, the unimpressed secretary recognizes Stefan and after a few moments, he, Arresta and Allegra are allowed entry into the third of the Consulate’s nine “circles” to continue their immigration process. Xam, Jasper, and Kako remain stuck in the first level, and without knowledge of Hapan language and customs are advised that they are unlikely to make it any further. The Cassadines are likewise stuck, though they may be able to eventually proceed further thanks to the tutoring Stefan has been receiving from a blue protocol droid.

Jasper engages in serious flirting with the secretary and, seemingly in spite of herself, she is receptive to his charms. She suggests that he book lessons with the protocol droid that has just arrived and attempt to see if he can pass the tests needed to enter the Consortium. But when the droid arrives, Jasper has other plans: while he distracts the Secretary, Kako will try to reprogram the droid to enter The Gentle Lover and pilot it to the doorway so they can attempt escape.

Meanwhile, Doxen has slowly made his way to Embassy Row and taken up position on a roof-top that overlooks the Hapan Consulate. He sees that a black ops team has set guards to watch the exit, which they are apparently loathe to breach for fear of causing a diplomatic incident. One of the soldiers comes forward and stops at the door to the Consulate. He speaks to Jasper and tells him to pass on a message to Stefan Cassadine they he and the others had better turn themselves in “before things get worse.”.

When he leaves the building, Doxen suddenly begins to lay down sniper fire. Some glint of sunlight echoing off of his rifle briefly gives away Doxen’s position and the sniper suddenly finds that he is the target. Taking advantage of the chaos, Jasper runs from the embassy towards his ship – only to be shot at. However, despite taking three blaster bolts, he is saved when the soldiers turn their attention to Doxen. With this diversion, Jasper scrambles onto his ship and uses it as a battering ram to knock the soldiers off of their feet. He then quickly picks up a fleeing Kako.

In a desperate bid to escape, Jasper crashes his ship into the front door of the Consulate and lowers the ship’s landing ramp. He contacts Arresta and tells her that if she wants out of the embassy, this is her chance. Although Stefan is sceptical, Arresta convinces him there’s no way they can stay in the Consulate for weeks or months. Along with Allegra, Xam, and the Nanny droid, they dash aboard The Gentle Lover. Pursued by the G.A.R. gunship, the freighter is forced to make an emergency landing at Monument Plaza, scattering tourists. The freighter’s crew and passengers disperse into the crowd and hire separate air cars to take them to Stefan Cassadine’s safehouse: a suite in Magra Monad, a massive spire thousands of kilometres away from Republic City.

As their Air Taxi pulls away from the others, Stefan and Arresta Cassadine are at last alone, with the exception of their infant daughter. Once the privacy screen is activated, isolating them from the driver, they are finally able to greet one another properly. When they come up for air, Stefan is pleased to see his wife, though frustrated that the attack by the GAR has effectively ruined his plans to move the family to the Hapes Consortium. He tells his wife that they will likely need to head for the Centrality as soon as possible to continue with their plans to leave the Republic and its interminable war.

Arresta hesitates and then abruptly changes the subject to ask after the crippling headaches that he had hidden from her on Etti IV. Stefan assures her that they have all but disappeared. He apologizes for deceiving her but pledges that he hadn’t wanted to distract her from going to see to her sick Uncle Ignatius. She asks him to try to remember the circumstances of when she told him about her “trip to Ansion”. He displays no physical symptoms of his headaches, but cannot bring the memory to mind.

“There’s something you should know – something that I wanted to tell you before I left, but I couldn’t. I think you should read this.” Arresta produces a flimsy containing the letter she had left behind for her husband in case he learned that she had not gone to visit her Uncle. Stefan looks at her quizzically but puts on his spectacles and beings to read.

Stefan –
Please try not to be too angry with me. If you are reading this, you have learned that I have not gone to visit my Uncle. That was a fiction I had no part in – created by Master Creen and implanted in your mind without my knowledge or consent. My friends and I are following Jocasta – I will not tell you our destination for fear you will decide to follow me. Allegra and I need you too much for me to risk your life.

I fear that if I do not go, I may lose my sanity. For some time now, my mind and my dreams have not been my own. Tarn has been reaching out to me – he is in desperate danger and has been begging for my help. I ignored him for as long as I could, knowing that my loyalty to you demanded my presence on Mongui.

I don’t know if you remember this, but while we were on Mongui I suffered a collapse. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of sudden agony – more powerful than I have ever felt before. I fear what has happened and what could happen – to me or Allegra if she were somehow swept up in this strange connection. I must find a way to put a stop to this…and that means finding my way to him, this one last time.

Please forgive me and please do not believe that my leaving for this short time means that I do not love you. I do – no matter how we’ve hurt each other, I have always loved you. I do not want to go, but the only I can resolve this is to find Tarn and finally face him. This has to end of I will never be free.

I need you to know that I intended to tell you where I was going. I knew you would fight me on it – but I believe this is something that I have to do. I also believe that for you and I to have the marriage we both want, we have to start trusting each other. When I learned what Creen had done to your mind, I was furious. Creen told me that to tell you the truth was to risk damaging you permanently and I couldn’t take that chance.

Allegra needs you – and I need to know she is safe, so I can focus on the mission. You are a wonderful father – I know she will be protected and loved as long as she is with you. I need you, too. You often drive me crazy, but I could not live without you. Stefan – I will come back. I promise you, no matter what, I will return. Please trust me and let me do what I have to do. Take Allegra and wait for me as we planned. Show me that you love me that much. I will find you both and when I return this will all be over.

My family is everything to me. Never doubt that I am yours – body and soul.

Your loving wife,

Stefan is upset that Arresta once again ran off after Tarn – but he seems to believe her intentions were good and that she is telling the truth concerning Creen’s manipulations. However, he becomes angry when Arresta confesses that there is more – that Tarn now knows he had a daughter, that the Jedi is determined to see Allegra again and that she promised to wait one month for him to return before leaving the Republic. Stefan is bitter that Tarn is interfering in their lives again – and scornful that his rival so quickly abandoned Arresta and Allegra to go on another mission.

Arresta pleads with Stefan to believe that she is committed to their family – but that she doesn’t want to see Tarn hurt because of her. She begs him to support her in this, and to promise not to extract revenge against Tarn. She suggests that since Coruscant is now compromised, that they and their friends travel to Haruun Kal to intercept the others. There, she hopes that they can get Tarn to accept that she and Allegra are better off being left alone. Arresta swears to her husband that she will not run off after Tarn again and tells Stefan that no other man can take her away from him. She tells Stefan that he controls the fate of their relationship: she would never leave him unless he tried to kill Tarn. That is the one line she could never forgive him for crossing.

After consideration, Stefan agrees to her request – though his promise to stay his hand has conditions. “You and Allegra belong to me. If he tries to take either of you away from me, I will do what I must.”

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