Friday, March 10, 2017

Mynock Squadron Recap # 24 [RPG]

For the pilots of Gamma Flight, the past 72 hours have been the most exhausting in their brief military careers.  After a dramatic and successful race to save the verpine-made New Republic ship Gatecrasher from what looked like certain doom, Gamma Flight have been thrown into a whirlwind of work.  Bringing additional systems on-line, awakening hundreds of fellow service members still in stasis, distributing supplies, hunting down the remaining bands of "rad-mads", and other tasks have been all-consuming.  With just a handful of hours of rest in days, they've been pushed to the brink but are finally now starting to see others sharing the load.  But although the ship has been saved, cloudy memories and little circulating information have left crucial questions in everyone's mind: why are they here, and what happens next?  A general announcement has been made for an all-ship's briefing in 24 hours' time.  Until then, Gamma Flight is left to its own devices . . .

On board the Gatecrasher, the pilots of Gamma Flight have faced a hectic few days.  Kero focuses her efforts on treating those affected by the radiation overload of passing through Dorval’s Wall, and comforts the injured Mikaela Sor.  Warik works hard to bring additional systems on-line, and narrowly prevents toxic gases from being vented into the crew quarters.  Keth also works hard on fixing some of the vessel’s mechanical systems, and almost electrocutes himself on some tricky Verpine wiring.  Max stays on the bridge, and sees the ship safely through the asteroid belt that rings the small planetoid the ship presently orbits.  

When the workload has lessened somewhat and the tired members of the Squadron are given some hours to rest, they receive an urgent message from Tuvolo’s com-signal.  The message says that the pilots are to report to a storage room near where they originally awakened.  Kero decides that before she’s drawn into another emergency, she should file her report containing the charges against Max for disobedience of a direct order.  When she sends it to Tuvolo and mentions the upcoming meeting, the Aqualish says he never sent out a meeting request!

Keth reaches the storage room first, and catches a nap behind some containers while waiting for the others to arrive.  They do, but Kero shows up with guards in tow to investigate whether they’ve been lured into a trap.  The guards sweep the room and find a crate labelled “explosives,” but without any dangerous substances inside.  Kero orders them to stay just outside, and everyone files in to talk about who sent the signal.  When they’re inside, Warik closes and locks the door before admitting that he is the one who sent the false signal.  He explains that he needed to have words with his squad-mates because there’s been too much backstabbing and secrets.  Producing a bottle of hard liquor, Warik says it’s time to hash things out so the group can get back on track.  Each member should have their say and put everything out on the table.  If the group can’t get along, he warns, he plans to transfer out of Mynock Squadron.

Taking a swig, Warik explains that before joining the New Republic, he served in the Imperial Navy as a fighter pilot and shot down many Alliance snub-fighters.  His worked earned him promotion after promotion, and eventually he served as a special asset in strike missions ordered by the Emperor himself.  However, Warik says, he had a change of heart.  Although some of his memories of his time as an Imperial have been lost due to the explosion which claimed part of his face, he remembers what does and doesn’t work in the military:  green officers running around drunk like Kero did a few days ago and pilots like Maxx with egos as big as their vibrorapiers can’t form the basis of a strong unit.

After Tazo-Rhi exclaims that she doesn’t understand what any of this is about, Max takes the bottle from Warik and takes a swig.  He tells Tazo-Rhi about the confrontation he had with Kero about the fusion-cutter and says he didn’t want to leave his allies defenceless.  He says that he’s always trusted his instincts after a hard life on Nar Shadda.  There, he started working for a local Hutt lord as a smuggler and hired hand.  Max says that when he decided to start a new life, he stole from the Hutt and tried to make a run for it.  However, he was captured and probably would have been killed if he didn’t escape and sign up with a New Republic recruiter to get out of the situation.

Understanding the pattern of drinking and confession, Tazo-Rhi tries her hand at it.  She coughs and sputters at the homebrew liquor before turning her attention to Keth.  She says that having completed two dissertations at one of the finest academies of learning on Cerea as well as high-marks in several military courses, she is far better qualified than he is for a role in Mynock Squadron.  She resents Keth for, in her opinion, coasting in on the abilities of his friends during the competition on Enoch V.

Keth takes his turn.  He tells Tazo-Rhi that he does not dispute her statements, but that a team is formed by each member covering for the weaknesses of the others.  As he has skills that she does not, they belong in the team together.  He explains that he joined the New Republic to try to redeem his family and people after his father’s cowardly desertion during the Rebellion.

Kero goes last.  She says it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further on the events of 72 hours ago.  Acknowledging Warik’s statement that she is a green commander, she says nevertheless she’s been given responsibility and she takes it seriously.  The military places lives in her hands, and her decisions are not up for democratic vote.  She says her family has an illustrious military legacy, and that she joined the New Republic to make a name for herself by doing her duty and being the best officer she can be.

Warik says that everyone has a good reason to be in Mynock Squadron, and that they need to trust each other instead of arguing.  Max says he regrets yelling during the dispute over the fusion-cutter, but that sometimes there’s no other way to talk to Kero.  When Kero replies that it would be against regulations for her to speak about the matter, Warik realizes that means she’s filed formal charges already.  He angrily storms out of the room.  Kero leaves as well.  Tazo-Rhi apologizes to Keth for the harshness of her words, explaining that she is still disappointed in the low scores she received during the competition.  Soon after Max leaves, he’s arrested by military police and taken to the ship’s brig.  Charged with general insubordination and the disobeying of a direct order whilst in a combat zone, Max faces punishment ranging from loss of privileges all the way up to a dishonorable discharge and a custodial sentence.  With Tuvolo acting as prosecutor and Major Day as the judge, the court martial hearing will be a summary affair.

Word of Max’s arrest spreads rapidly.  Warik is the first to visit, and promises to do everything he can to help.  Max decides that he would like Trill Dunerunner to serve as his representative during the upcoming hearing.  When Trill arrives, she asks Max to explain his side of things.  He explains that the disagreement with Kero took place at a troubling moment, as the radiation leak had just been stopped, Warik and Keth were badly hurt and weaponless, and someone had to get to the bridge quickly to keep the ship from crashing.  Having just witnessed Mikaela being attacked, Max says he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his two friends defenceless, and that’s when Kero started berating him about the fusion-cutter.  Trill says she’s confident she can make good use of Max’s version of events, and suggests she might draw attention to Kero’s exposure to the radiation to draw a link to mental imbalance.

Time passes, and the others report to an all-hands assembly in the main hangar bay for a briefing by the ship’s commander, Captain Mareus.  He explains that everyone is on board a verpine-made bulk cruiser named Gatecrasher, and that it presently orbits a small planetoid on the edge of a solar system within Dorval’s Wall (an astronomical anomaly of seemingly endless layers of caustic, radioactive gases that have shielded a portion of the Maw Cluster from exploration for centuries).  The Gatecrasher had been extensively modified with experimental technology to allow it to pass through Dorval’s Wall, but Mareus acknowledges that the experimental shielding did not fully protect the ship—many systems were compromised, and many crew members died.  He promises memorial services will be held in due time, and thanks Mynock Squadron’s Gamma Flight for their heroic efforts in saving the ship.

Captain Mareus goes on to say that Gamma Flight put them on this course by recovering a secret archive of information held by the powerful Imperial Warlord Grand Moff Arden Kain and his “Pentastar Alignment.”  The information gathered included blueprints for the experimental shielding and data on the Wall, and after Kain’s fleet disappeared from known space, that fleet was strongly suspected of having retreated through the Wall.  However, Mareus says, Grand Moff Kain’s fleet can’t be allowed to rest, regroup, and plan raids from behind the safety of the Wall—it would be like a vibrosword dangling over the New Republic’s heads.  Thus, the Gatecrasher’s overall mission is to contain the threat posed by the Pentastar Alignment by any means necessary.  He states that each unit will be briefed by its commander with more specific mission responsibilities, and ends the assembly.

The time for Max’s court martial hearing arrives.  After Lt. Tuvolo and Trill give opening statements for the prosecution and defence, respectively, Kero is the first witness to take the stand.  She summarizes the situation, noting that she was in full possession of her mental faculties when she gave Max the order to take the fusion-cutter.  She says she was aware that Warik and Keth were injured, and that Private Pibbins was shaken, which is why she endeavoured to keep them out of the frontline of combat.  Although she recognized that Max was having some hearing problems, Kero testifies that Max flatly refused what she reiterated was a direct order.  When Keth takes the stand, he gives a short, matter-of-fact statement of the facts.  Warik testifies that he thinks both Kero and Max acted wrongly.  Max testifies on his own behalf, emphasizing that he made the decision to refuse the fusion-cutter in order to save the lives of his friends, as he couldn’t bear to leave them defenceless against the cannibals that were roaming the ship.  Both Tuvolo and Trill give closing statements.

Major Dei returns from considering the verdict and announces that he has found Max guilty.  The core of the evidence, he says, is not contradicted: Max was given a direct order in a combat situation and refused to carry it out.  The fact that Max had a sincere belief that his refusal would ensure the safety of his friends, along with the fact that this was his first offence and that he had taken part in saving the entire ship are given by Dei as reasons to mitigate the punishment.  Thus, Dei announces that Max will spend thirty days in the brig and afterwards will be transferred to Maintenance & Supply pending a petition for reinstatement into Mynock Squadron.  When the formal proceedings are finished, Max seems resigned to his fate and thanks Trill for having done her best.  Warik promises to help prepare the petition for reinstatement and signal his support for it to be granted, and Keth also offers to write a letter in support.  Kero drafts a letter to be inserted in Max’s file stating that she thinks he is talented and could be suited for some roles in the New Republic military, but that a disciplined environment like Mynock Squadron may not be it.

Soon after Max is taken to the brig to begin his sentence, the other members of Gamma Flight are briefed on their new mission by Lt. Tuvolo.  Tuvolo begins by explaining that due to much of Alpha Flight dying from the ship’s passage through Dorval’s Wall, the old Beta Flight is the new Alpha Flight and Gamma Flight has been promoted to Beta.  Tazo-Rhi, however, will stay behind in Gamma to lead a new batch of recruits.  Tuvolo goes on to say that the new Beta Flight’s first priority is to scout the system and determine where Kain’s fleet is and why they’ve risked coming through the Wall.  He explains that the Gatecrasher is largely defenceless in its current state (except for the new Alpha Flight) and thus only the ship’s passive sensors have been engaged to avoid alerting the enemy to its presence.  Tuvolo says a report is on its way from Astrocartography, but in the meantime Beta should get familiarised with their new rides.  He leads them to a small hanger and inside are four TIE-Defenders!  The snub-fighters are among the most advanced Imperial vessels ever deployed, and have a reputation as finally matching up with (or even exceeding) the New Republic’s own designs.  Tuvolo says the vessels were seized from a captured production line and didn’t even have serial numbers or transponder codes finalized, and could potentially be used to infiltrate Kain’s fleet.  He says it’s up to the members of Beta Flight how deeply they’re willing to proceed as scouts or spies, but that their prime directive is to not, in any way, shape, or form, reveal to the Imperials that a New Republic presence is now in the system.  To that end, he places Warik in charge of the mission, noting that he’s the most familiar with Imperial protocol and terminology.  With Max in the brig and Tazo-Rhi heading up Gamma, Tuvolo says he’s activated another pilot with an Imperial background to fill a spot: Mikaela Sor.  The Squadron’s former logistics officer walks into the hanger with a limp.

After the briefing, the members of Beta talk about the best way to proceed.  Warik suggests a potential cover could be as former test pilots looking to take a spot in the fleet, and that they could perhaps prepare false IDs from Imperials captured or killed after the time that the Pentastar Alignment retreated through the Wall.  Keth raises the idea of posing simply as freelance mercenaries, and Warik compliments the idea.  A suggestion is made that Warik and Mikaela could portray themselves as former Imperial pilots who joined up with two freelancers (Keth and Kero) to find work.  Warik briefly explains some of the nuances of life among Imperials: a strict hierarchy of rank, few non-humans in positions of influence, and women rarely promoted quickly.  Although much planning still needs to be done, the group decides that whatever cover they adopt, they should get some flight time in the Defenders to familiarise themselves with the controls.

The former members of Gamma Flight have earned a great deal of prestige and recognition, but they’ve also been handed a grave responsibility: with no further support, they’ve been tasked with uncovering Kain’s endgame while simultaneously keeping the Gatecrasher out of harm’s way.  Will they be up to the task?
Director's Commentary (10/03/2017)

This session started with a little time jump from the end of the previous session.  It's one of the perks of a more "cinematic" style of game, where you don't have to worry about accounting for every day.  I asked to players to improvise and narrate an exciting thing that happened to their characters during this period.  I like to put players on the spot once in a while :)

The whole bit with Warik holding a surprise intervention in the interest of group harmony was fantastic fun.  I didn't have anything to do with it other than deliver the fake communication that the player had Warik transmit.  I really liked the confessions and background that got revealed.  So often, PCs have deep backstories and inner thoughts that never actually come to light in the campaign.  This sort of thing makes characters feel real, and I feel like I've done my job as the director if I can just sit back and watch the players run the game without me!

I was pretty happy with how well the trial turned out since I had to improvise all of it.  I asked for a series of Diplomacy rolls at different times (witnesses, closing arguments, etc.) to see which side would be more persuasive.  As a PC, Kero was born to persuade others and won the conviction pretty handily.

The Captain's exposition scene wasn't easy to deliver, as you know you have the players just sitting there listening for a while.  I think I kept there attention though, and I thought the explanation of what was happening was interesting enough material.

The character of Mikaela Sor was the back-up PC for the player normally running Max.  Obviously, she was introduced since Max would be in the brig for a little while.  Having the back-up characters ready to go is handy because, as a director, you know that the player doesn't have to stop playing just because their main PC becomes incapacitated for some reason.

Putting Warik in charge for a mission was important because I wanted the group to experience the dynamic under a different leader, and I wanted to defuse the real-life tension that can develop when one player gets to give orders all of the time.

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