I was really happy with how session # 51 turned out considering it starred an NPC and involved everyone playing their back-up characters, two of whom appeared for the first time (Arresta's player running Emony, and A'tel's player as a really interesting autonomous droid named Naught). This odd result was due to the group facing a major choice of which adventure hook to take last session, with everyone in the group but one going one way and the other going . . . here! I always tell my players to have their characters do what their characters would do, regardless of meta-game consequences, so I can't hold anyone responsible for the unusual result but myself. The most ironic thing, of course, is that the player (running Daal) who made the choice necessitating this special session ended up being unavailable the night we ran it! It's sorta like planning the entire menu for a dinner party around one guest's dietary restrictions and then that guest not showing up, but that's okay--fun was had by all and that's what matters.
The setting for this session, the jungle planet Haruun Kal, comes from the Star Wars novel Shatterpoint. It's an excellent novel, though very dark and dense compared to most others. The planet Haruun Kal is an interesting and imposing setting, but the PCs were high enough level I felt justified in ramping up the difficulty. I quite liked how the particular environmental dangers fit together organically to make a trek through the jungle a dangerous thing in itself.
A memorable in-game conversation took place when Tarn asked for "a woman's point of view" from Emony on what he should do about Arresta. Not only did The Wife have a chance to influence a major love interest of her primary character, but the other players revealed themselves to have opinions on the love triangle as well.
The ending to the session, literally a cliffhanger, was pretty exciting if I dare say so myself. As always, I don't pre-determine what is going to happen, and I was equally prepared for the thought-spores to be destroyed as recovered--though in the former case, the campaign may have reached a very different (and more tragic!) conclusion.
For over thirty years, Haruun Kal was a world at war. The native Korunnai, jungle dwellers, fought to maintain the traditional feeding grounds of their herds of massive grasser beasts, against the Balawai, settler outsiders that clearcut the jungle to build modern cities. Just two years ago, the Jedi negotiated a tentative peace agreement between the Korunnai and the Balawai. But tensions remain: on the entire planet, only a single continent-sized plateau rises high enough in the atmosphere to escape the dense cloudsea of toxic gases that render the rest of the world a wasteland. And it was here, on this forbidding world, that an ancient Sith priestess known as the Plaguewomb hid her most precious possessions . . .
The Flaming Halo drops out of hyperspace, preparing to drop its passengers on the jungle planet of Haruun Kal so that Jedi Tarn Tamarand can find a weapon of terrible power to use against the Accelerated: thought-spores. Having spent the journey considering his options, Lucef approaches Tarn and informs the Jedi that he would like to accompany him and assist in completing his task. Tarn is grateful for the assistance as Master Creen has informed him that he will remain with the ship, in anticipation of the ‘darkness’ that is coming to the planet.
On the planet below, a non-native guide named Emony Wynn waits for The Flaming Halo at a small landing pad and outpost that serves as the central headquarters for Shey Tepani University’s research expedition into the forbidding Haruun Kal jungle. Wynn finds a native Korunnai operating a small stall selling portaak amber, the native plant that, when crushed, can be spread on electronic equipment as partial protection from the jungle’s metal- and silicate- devouring fungi. While in the local market, she also encounters a heavily modified entertainment droid named Naught who is seeking a guide into the jungle. Emony informs him that she already has a commission – but that if there are no objections from her employers, she is open to him joining their party.
On arrival at the planet, Lucef sets passwords to prevent Master Creen from moving the ship on him. Meanwhile, Tarn discovers that Daal hasn’t responded to various communications recently. When he finally (along with Lucef ) forces his way in to Daal’s cabin, he sees that the Duro is unconscious and feverishly tossing and turning on his bunk, mumbling something about an “oracle.” Tarn and Lucef realize that they will have to leave Daal behind on the ship and in the care of his loyal medical droid, Scraper.
In the marketplace, Tarn and Lucef quickly locate their guide, Emony, and she advises them on the need to purchase portaak amber to protect their electronic equipment. She draws a map of the area and they decide to strike out for the Joint Anthro-Archaeological dig site some days distant. Emony introduces them to Naught, who explains his desire to travel with them. Lucef agrees, providing the droid can pass a combat drill and that he is willing to delay any of his “personal objectives” for the mission until their own mission is served. While Tarn and Emony purchase supplies of the amber, Lucef takes Naught through an aggressive combat drill and pronounces himself satisfied.
The jungles of Haruun Kal prove an inhospitable place. The terrain is difficult and there are many dangers, including fever wasps, Akk dogs, thornbushes, flooded streams, and more. The oppressive heat of the jungle makes it difficult to sleep, and dehydration and exhaustion quickly take their toll on the travellers.
On the third day of their trek through the juggle, the travellers arrive at the dig site only to encounter a surprising scene. Instead of scientists and labour droids, the ruins appear deserted and there are signs of struggle. Suddenly, blaster bolts ring out, but after a few tense moments, the group manages to disarm the lone woman remaining at the site. She reveals that some of the native Korrunai inexplicably attacked the site and kidnapped the others, stealing their tools, droids, and the artifacts that had been unearthed. She believes that they are heading towards a deep chasm, some days journey from the dig site. Tarn realizes that the item he needs, a Sith artifact, is likely to be lost if they don’t follow the attackers. Lucef calculates that the Korrunai have a short head start on them, but if he and the others can push themselves, they should be able to catch up.
One night, after the others are asleep, a Korrunai Lor Pelek (shamanistic leader) arrives and speaks to the camp’s sentry, Naught. The Lor Pelek demands that the pursuit be halted, as he intends to cleanse the evils unearthed by the archaeologists when they breached the walls of the Plaguewomb’s vault. The Lor Pelek states that every tainted thing and person from the dig site will be thrown into the great chasm, “Fall-Lasting-Night-and-Day,” and that any who try to stop him will be deemed enemies. After the Lor Pelek leaves, Naught wakes everyone and informs them of what transpired. The group remains undeterred. During the discussions, Lucef manages to provoke Tarn’s temper by commenting on the fact that Jedi are celibate and do not have children--something that the young Jedi seems to take personally.
After several hours of walking, Emony spots the signs of a fever wasp nest and leads them safely around it. The next obstacle will not be so easily avoided, however. Razor-sharp thornbushes stand in their way, extending deep into the jungle. Though Tarn is able to use his lightsaber like a machete to cut a path through, it is very slow going. Things go from bad to worse, when massive armoured beasts suddenly attack. In the frenzy, Tarn loses his lightsaber and one of the dogs seizes the droid Naught in its mouth. Lucef once again saves the day by killing one of the Akk beasts with his bare hands and forcing the other to flee.
Later that night, once the group has made camp, Tarn approaches Emony and asks for her “advice as a woman” about a matter that is troubling him. He explains that he is at a loss for how to proceed when it comes to Arresta and their daughter. He does not know how to express his feelings for her, he is unsure what she is thinking, and he is deeply concerned about her relationship with another man. He is also under obligation to his Master and to the Jedi Order. Naught and Lucef quickly join the discussion and Lucef clarifies that the “other man” in question is both Arresta’s husband and a noted criminal figure. Both he and Naught advise Tarn to leave well enough alone, telling him that unless he is prepared to offer Arresta complete commitment, he should step aside. Tarn asks what Emony thinks. She tells him that he needs to do two things: decide what it is that he really wants; and find out the same thing from the girl that he loves. Naught is amused by the plight of the “meat sacks” and a different discussion begins about whether droids are sentient and have rights.
Having pushed themselves hard through force marches, the group reaches the edge of the great chasm well in advance of the Korunnai. They prepare defensive positions around what appears to be a ritualistic site and wait for the planet’s natives to arrive. When three massive Akk dogs, mounted by Korunnai warriors, storm out of the jungle, it’s clear that the time for conversation has passed. Lucef almost single-handedly defeats the entire invading force, but the Lor Pelek grabs the small orb containing the thought-spores and sprints to the edge of the chasm. Just as he leaps to throw himself in, however, Tarn manages to grab him at the last second and recover the orb. After the prisoners are subdued and the kidnapped workers released, Lucef asks Tarn, “What are you going to do with that thing?” Tarn’s response is to gaze deep into the depth of the small object. “I’m going to do a very bad thing.”
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