Reference Book: Star Wars Saga Edition Rebellion Era Campaign Guide
In any society, citizens rely on the government for security: laws to define civilized behavior, officials to enforce those laws, punishments for those who break those laws, and so on. The sacrifice of some beings' freedoms for the safety and security of all seems to many during The Rebellion Era to be a reasonable exchange. However, a few beings know that power, corruption, and oppression go hand in hand, and those beings oppose tyranny through acts of sabotage or open rebellion.
The heroes in a Rebellion Era Campaign can fight for either side of the conflict- The Galactic Empire or The Rebel Alliance- or even act on behalf of fringe elements such as smugglers and pirates. Heroes can be upstanding Imperial citizens lending their aid against the Rebellion, or they can be freedom-loving Rebels working to bring down the Emperor.
Whichever side the players choose, The Rebellion Era is rife with possibilities and pitfalls, opportunities and obstacles, and nobility and villainy.
Heroes from Both Sides
The characters in a Rebellion Era Campaign do not need to be all Rebels, or all Imperials, or all outlaws from the fringes of society, but getting a disparate group to work together toward a common goal can prove complicated. Unless the Gamemaster is prepared to construct an elaborate plot that requires Rebels and Imperials to fight side by side, the group might have to agree not to play heroes with diametrically opposed ideologies- at least at first.
The players should discuss their visions of the campaign with the Gamemaster before the campaign begins. If players want to be heroic freedom fighters struggling against an oppressive galactic regime, then they should play Rebels. If they want to spend their time at the game table matching wits with terrorists and saboteurs, the Gamemaster should let them play Imperials. And, of course, smugglers and their ilk mesh with both groups, so heroes on The Fringe have a place in either style of campaign.
A precampaign discussion also gives players an opportunity to develop their heroes' backgrounds, decide how their heroes know each other, and determine what brings them together in the first place. It gives the Gamemaster a chance to work the heroes' backstories into the campaign, and it also provides the group with an open forum in which the Gamemaster and players can discuss what they want to get out of the campaign.
If players develop character backgrounds with no clear connection to one another, the Gamemaster should consider preparing an introductory scenario that brings the heroes together and, ideally, gives them a common cause that keeps them more or less on the same side for the duration of the campaign.
From a Specific Point of View
The story of The Rebellion Era is replete with examples of Rebels outwitting the vastly greater numbers of the Empire as they strive to restore justice to the galaxy. Faced with superior odds and superior equipment, The Rebel Alliance triumphs, eventually restoring The New Republic and vanquishing The Sith.
Of course, from another perspective, the real heroes are the citizens of The Galactic Empire, who, though they enforce the edicts of one of the most evil beings to ever live, dutifully provide peace and order for the populace. Their struggle against the forces of chaos- embodied by The Rebel Alliance- might ultimately fail, but they are not necessarily evil themselves. They can comport themselves with as much honor, conscience, and courage as any Rebel- and sometimes with more.
Having the option to play either side of the conflict can make a Rebellion Era Campaign exciting- particularly if the players want to explore the Star Wars universe from the vantage point of otherwise noble individuals slowly coming to grips with the fact that they are on the wrong side of a moral and ethical struggle. As they advance within the ranks of the Empire, such characters see more and more of the Emperor's true cruelty and eventually have to choose between remaining loyal to a corrupted ideal or acting to right the wrongs that they have helped create.
When the heroes cooperate, the campaign runs more smoothly, so giving the heroes motivations to join together, work together, and stay together afterward is often the primary goal of the first game session. The simplest and best method is to let the players define their own characters' relationships (Although the Gamemaster might suggest a few ways to fill in gaps here and there). For example, Hero A is Hero B's older brother, and Hero C works with Hero D, who shared a dormitory room with Hero A back in the academy. Such connections encourage the heroes to cooperate with one another and can bring them all to the same location for the start of the campaign.
For example, Braht Rinnor is an Imperial Academy graduate serving aboard an Action VI Transport, looking for an opportunity to desert and join the Rebellion. At a refueling stop on Commenor, he runs into his old girlfriend Miria, who, with her best friend, a Twi'lek named Zyrinna, has made contact with a Rodian Rebel named Skollo. However, Skollo is actually just a down-on-his-luck gambler with no real ties to The Rebel Alliance; he just wants to show off for the ladies. When Skollo tells the other three that he needs a ship to take him to his Rebel rendezvous, Braht realizes that the Action VI might be just the ticket, and suggests that the four of them "Liberate" it for the Alliance.
Of course, if a player cooks up an extraordinarily elaborate background, the Gamemaster should feel free to suggest scaling it back a bit or, at least, quietly downplay the parts that don't fit into the campaign well. In the end, each hero needs only one compelling reason to want to team up with the other heroes.
Likewise, the Gamemaster has final approval over the players' character concepts. Not everyone gets to be the last Jedi in the galaxy, after all.
Common Campaign Elements
At the commencement of every campaign, the Gamemaster should let the players know what is common knowledge in the setting- what the heroes would know that the players might not. This can include information relating to the first story arc the Gamemaster has planned, and it can include interesting but ultimately unrelated leads that encourage the heroes to explore a bit. Either way, the Gamemaster should encourage the players to work this information into their character backgrounds.
Presented below are brief campaign outlines designed to give Gamemasters ideas for how to unite the heroes in Rebellion Era Campaigns:
- The heroes are Rebel operatives tasked with carrying out acts of sabotage and espionage against Imperial targets.
- The heroes are the personal staff of an ambitious Imperial Moff.
- The heroes are the crew of a tramp freighter, smuggling contraband to Imperial contacts- and running weapons to The Rebel Alliance.
- The heroes are Imperial citizens secretly supplying information and materiel to The Rebel Alliance.
Obviously, these are just suggestions to run past the players. Gamemasters should avoid railroading the players into a particular campaign setup- and should not let the campaign model limit the character types available to the players. A group of Rebel operatives might have a character in their midst who is secretly loyal to the Empire, for example; or the tramp-freighter crew might include a cultured noble who uses her contacts in the Imperial court to get the smugglers jobs.
Common campaign elements are aimed at giving the players a theme for their character concepts, but once the Gamemaster plants the basic idea, the players are free to run with it. The Gamemaster should work with the players to develop these elements, bearing in mind that the overall goal is to give the players hooks to unite their heroes, and to give the Gamemaster hooks for future adventures.
Chain of Command
See also: The Chain of Command
Because Rebellion Era Campaigns are likely to include heroes in the roles of Rebels or Imperials, the easiest way to unite them is to put them in either organization's Chain of Command. In addition to bringing the heroes together, this gives them access to basic equipment (And, occasionally, mission-specific equipment), transport, occasional allies, and perhaps most important, a commanding officer to give them missions and advice- in other words, a tool for the Gamemaster to keep the campaign on track. For example:
- The heroes are junior officers serving aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer. They are under review by their commander and must exceed expectations in order to avoid being reassigned to guard duty at the penal colony on Dathomir.
- The heroes are Rebel recruits attached to the consular ship of an Alliance-sympathetic ambassador from Naboo. As new recruits, they are given assignments and duties no one else particularly wants, but if they perform well, they might be given more critical duties.
- The heroes are the crew of an Imperial supply ship whose captain is secretly diverting materiel to the Rebels. The captain frequently orders the heroes to carry out his drops to Rebels who are disguised as Imperials- and then blames the heroes when his superiors notice the difference between cargo and manifest.
- The heroes are part of a gang of shipjackers who steal Imperial ships to sell to the Rebels. Their commander is a disillusioned ex-Imperial officer who expects tight discipline from the heroes, but rewards them richly when they do well.
In any of these examples, the heroes can move up the Chain of Command as time goes by, perhaps eventually becoming commanding officers. Each mission gives the heroes a chance to impress their superiors with their good work and to earn promotions (Or at least a greater share of the profits). Regardless of whom they report to, the heroes need to perform well and follow orders- the primary order being "Work Together."
Base of Operations
When players want to work together but their characters' backgrounds do not cross paths, the simplest answer might be to put them all in the same location at the beginning of the first adventure. Putting them in the same place- whether or not they know each other- lets the Gamemaster present them with location-based adventures and gives them all a stake in working together; if they fail, they loss access to their base of operations and all its equipment and protection.
Of course, this sort of campaign element requires the Gamemaster to do a lot of advanced prep work developing the base of operations, detailing the resources available to the heroes, creating NPCs who live and work there, and outlining the activities that normally go on there. Then the Gamemaster must present all this to the players- often before the campaign even starts. After all, if they live there, the heroes probably know all of this information.
The initial benefit of creating a base of operations is that the Gamemaster can build in adventure hooks right away. Farther on into the campaign, though, the benefits multiply as the base of operations becomes the heroes' haven- a place to rest and recover between adventures, or to hide out when they have made too many enemies. The base of operations also provides heroes with a place to plan, practice, and prepare for missions, and it can be a great set piece if the campaign is going to explore the heroes' downtime as much as it explores their adventures.
If the heroes have wildly disparate backgrounds or they don't want to be tied to a static location, the Gamemaster should consider uniting them with a major event. Thrown together by circumstance, the heroes have no choice but to work together if they want to survive. If they need a reason to stay together, the Gamemaster can tailor the event so that the heroes all have a motive to find out how and why it happened.
Campaigns of this nature rely largely on the heroes' backgrounds, because the Gamemaster has to ensure that each hero has the proper motivation to follow up on the event, as well as the motivation to do so with the aid of the others in the group. Having a hero break off from the rest for any reason can quickly fracture the group. The Gamemaster should identify suitable hooks in the heroes' backgrounds or, if the players haven't provided anything that works, suggest some such as these:
- The destruction of Alderaan has several witnesses- including the heroes. Having identified The Death Star as an Imperial superweapon, the heroes are motivated to join the Rebellion and seek justice for the millions of Alderaanians who died.
- The Battle of Yavin sees tens of thousands of Imperials killed- some of them friends and relatives of the heroes. Outraged, the heroes band together at a memorial service and vow to bring the Rebels responsible to justice.
- The Imperial occupation of Bespin puts a number of gas miners out of business, including the heroes. Equipped with a Tibanna-mining ship and a handful of improvised weapons, the heroes must fight a guerrilla war to drive out the Imperial garrison and restore Bespin's independence.
The Common Cause
Obviously, the heroes can also band together to support a common cause: bring down the Empire, for example, or seeing the "Heroes of Yavin" answer for their crimes. As long as the goal is attainable, the heroes have clear motivation. And if the goal cannot be accomplished quickly, the Gamemaster has plenty of material for an ongoing campaign.
Themes of the Rebellion Era
When running a campaign in The Rebellion Era, Gamemasters have a variety of themes available to them that can be integrated into adventures to give those adventures a distinct feel. These themes run throughout many of the stories that take place in The Rebellion Era, and are central to distinguishing the Galactic Civil War from other conflicts throughout history. This is the time period that sees the rise of The Rebel Alliance against the backdrop of a powerful, well-established Empire. It is a time where desperate people makes great sacrifices, and where ordinary citizens give up their lives and livelihoods to become heroes. These themes are discussed in more detail below, with tips for including these themes in your adventures in ways both large and small.
The Rise of the Rebellion
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of The Rebellion Era, and the one that gives the time period its name, it the rise of the Alliance to Restore the Republic, also known as The Rebel Alliance. For the first time since the Republic was transformed into the Empire, a well-organized group of dissidents has both the drive and the means to pose a threat to the Empire. The difference between the Alliance and other resistance groups is that the Alliance is a single organization, spread across the galaxy, which poses enough of a threat to be recognized and targeted by Imperial agents.
The importance of The Rebel Alliance can be emphasized in Rebellion Era adventures in subtle ways. The Empire blames many of its own transgressions on Rebels or Rebel sympathizers, so when the heroes witness an act of Imperial tyranny, they could later hear Imperial propaganda blaming the act on the Rebellion. Since the existence of The Rebel Alliance is well known, even ordinary citizens will know something about the Rebellion. When the heroes go to gather rumors at the cantina, some of the gossip they hear might revolve around Rebel activity. The heroes' contacts may warn the heroes about an impending Rebel operation (If the heroes are members of The Rebel Alliance, hearing about the activities of other Rebel cells will reinforce the idea that they are not alone in the galaxy).
Even if the heroes aren't members of the Alliance, the Rebellion can be the genesis of many adventure hooks. For example, smuggler heroes could be involved in smuggling arms from a crime lord to a Rebel cell on an Imperial world. Mercenary units might be hired to supplement the ranks of the Rebellion at a key battle, or to rescue Rebel operatives who have been captured by the Empire. You should feel free to use the Alliance as a source of adventure for a variety of Rebellion Era Campaigns.
Rebellion often demands great sacrifices, both from those rebelling and from those closest to them. During The Rebellion Era, all who wish to fight for freedom must be prepared to lose everything- their homes, their families, and even their lives- for the sake of their ideals. An individual's dedication to rebellion against the Empire is constantly tested by the need to give up things that person holds dear, and heroes should never forget that price.
On a smaller scale, this concept can be reinforced in the histories of the characters that the heroes will interact with over the course of a campaign. Everyone serving the Rebellion has a story, and most of those stories involve great sacrifice. When the heroes begin digging into their cell leader's past, they may find out that her whole family was imprisoned on Kessel for her defiance. When making contact with a Rebel operative on a Core world, that operative might be missing an eye or have an Cybernetic Prosthesis as a result of Imperial torture. When the heroes call upon an ally for assistance, they may later discover that the ally suffered Imperial retribution and lost home and livelihood as a result of the help given to the heroes.
As a basis for adventure, sacrifices can be powerful motivators. perhaps the heroes need to rescue Rebel operatives who are still alive in a bunker after an orbital bombardment. Or the heroes may learn that their allies are being captured or killed by Imperial agents, and the heroes must discover the informant in their ranks as the Imperial net draws ever tighter around them.
One of the hallmarks of the era is that, in defiance of the Empire, many Rebels are driven to desperate acts that have little chance of success. The attacks on the Death Stars seem like suicide missions to outside observers. Imperial officers who secretly sympathize with the Rebellion must take great risks in order to convince others to join them in mutiny. During The Rebellion Era, the only chance of defeating the Empire comes through taking risks with long odds and hoping that boldness and determination can bring success.
As with the idea of a need for sacrifice, a sense of desperation can be fostered in a campaign through the actions and stories of the characters that the heroes interact with. The heroes might encounter allies, contacts, or even strangers over the course of the adventure who are driven to desperate acts in the hopes of breaking the stranglehold of the Empire. Perhaps a shopkeeper offers them his life savings if they will help his family escape to a Rebel-friendly world. In another case, a Space Transport Pilot might offer to undertake a dangerous blockade run on behalf of the heroes for free, telling the heroes that he wants them to succeed too badly to take their credits. Characters that the heroes interact with are more willing to take large risks during The Rebellion Era, showing that the galaxy is at a turning point.
Adventures in The Rebellion Era convey a sense of desperation by their very natures. The Rebellion Era is rife with adventures that center around desperate acts such as attacking well-defended Space Stations, breaking into Imperial garrisons, or traveling to Coruscant- the heart of the Empire- in search of information. In The Rebellion Era, there should be few, if any, trivial adventures; each adventure should evoke a sense of desperation through the sense of having the odds stacked against the heroes. These adventures may be no more difficult than adventures in other eras, but the perception of greater danger (For example, by setting the backdrop of an adventure on a Space Station above Coruscant instead of a Space Station above an Outer Rim world) can give the players a sense that the risks are greater than in other eras.
A Powerful Empire
By the time of The Rebellion Era, the Empire has taken a tight grip on the galaxy and shows no signs of letting go. The Empire of The Rebellion Era is just as monolithic as it was during The Dark Times, but now the Empire has not only military control but also social and cultural control over the galaxy. This is part of what makes the Empire so dangerous; not only does it has Star Destroyers hovering above every world, it also has millions of bureaucrats, nobles, and even ordinary citizens under its thrall. Though many are willing to rebel against the Empire, many more have been driven in the opposite direction and have become as zealous in their defense of the Empire as any Stormtrooper.
As the Gamemaster, you can help reinforce the sense of a strong, ever-present Empire through simple description. When describing a scene on the streets of Tatooine, mention that a squad of Sandtroopers is walking down the street on patrol. As the heroes land on a planet, describe a trio of TIE Fighters zooming by the spaceport. The heroes might be forced to stop at a random Imperial security checkpoint during a trek across a city, or they may have to deal with an Imperial bureaucrat during a simple trip to replenish supplies. These small, unobstructive details can subtly reinforce the presence of a powerful Empire without involving the players in direct conflict.
As the primary antagonist of The Rebellion Era, the Empire is one of the best enemies to pit your heroes against in adventures. Although adventures can feature other enemies, such as The Zann Consortium or The Hutt Kajidics, those adventures can tie into the Empire in some way. For example, perhaps the heroes get stuck between The Zann Consortium and the Empire after hijacking an Imperial convoy that The Zann Consortium had also planned to steal. In this way, you can retain the sense that the ubiquitous Empire is the primary antagonist of the era even if its not the heroes' main opponent in the adventure.
The Rebel Alliance shows the galaxy that everyday citizens can grow into heroes. Many of the heroes of the Alliance come not from a great military lineage or from a line of powerful nobles but rather from ordinary beings who decide that the time has come for the Empire to end. Likewise, many of the beings who have great influence over the events of The Rebellion Era are from Species often regarded as less powerful, like the Sullustans or the Ewoks.
When populating adventures with allies and background characters, give those characters histories that begin in inauspicious places. The commander of the heroes' Alliance cell might have once been a mechanics whose defiance of the Empire led him into a position of leadership. The fight against the Empire can reveal undiscovered character traits; for example, a character who was once the pilot of a long-range cargo hauler might be forced to act as an escort Starfighter Pilot, at which point she discovers that she is naturally skilled at Starfighter combat. Feel free not only to highlight the fact that many of the characters that the heroes interact with come from humble origins, but also to show the evolution of those characters from undistinguished origins to heroism.
The elements and themes the Gamemaster chooses to incorporate into adventures help set the atmosphere for the entire campaign. In addition to the overall themes of standing against oppression, using The Force, and seeking the hero's path- all of which define Star Wars in general- the other themes the Gamemaster introduces establish a specific setting, such as The Rebellion Era. Of course, the Gamemaster need not inject every theme into every adventure- one or two are sufficient- but the absence of all of them might lead the players to feel as though something is missing.
Life on the Move
A major theme of Rebellion-centered campaigns arises from the constant threat that The Rebel Alliance faces from the forces of the Empire. Pursued by a vastly superior military, the Alliance must strike fast and disappear quickly; they can never stay in one place for long. No settled world can afford to harbor the Rebels for long without drawing the ire of the Emperor, and no uninhabited world can provide everything the Rebels need for long-term survival. For a Rebel, creature comforts are a long way off.
Of course, things are not terribly different for the Empire, either. With the Rebels always on the run, the forces of the Empire have to struggle to keep up, tracking down every report of Rebel activity, investigating every suspicious cargo shipment, and flying all over the galaxy in hopes of ending the Rebellion once and for all. For every Rebel agent the Empire captures, two more escape, and every time the Rebels elude the Empire's grasp, more formerly loyal Imperial citizens are tempted into treason.
The Rebel Alliance is on the move. Having narrowly escaped destruction at Yavin 4, the fleet needs to find a new base of operations that can house several thousand Rebels of various Species, their ships, their supplies, and their equipment. General Airen Cracken has assigned the heroes to the task of scouting several likely locations. The first sites they survey are suboptimal, so Cracken sends the heroes to the remote world of Graador. An agrarian Species, the Graadorians are mostly overlooked by the Empire, and their world, while capable of sustaining life, provides the Graadorians with little more.
However, Graador has a number of caverns that can be adapted for occupation by the Rebels, and the caverns are large enough to house the entire Rebel fleet many times over. The heroes discover that the caverns are infested with Mynocks that can tolerate the planet's atmosphere, but Mynocks seem to be manageable. After the heroes send word to General Cracken to bring the fleet, the Mynocks devour the heroes' transceiver equipment, and the heroes learn that the vast caverns are also home to colossal Exogorths controlled by intelligent, mutated Mynocks, who want to feed on the Rebels' generators while the Exogorths devour the fleet's ships. The Exogorths are too big to kill and become crazed when the mutant Mynocks controlling them are killed. So the heroes have to evade the Mynocks and their Exogorth thralls long enough to repair their communication array and warn The Rebel Alliance before the unsuspecting fleet flies into the trap.
The story of the Galactic Civil War is the story of underdogs fighting a larger and better-equipped enemy the only way they can: through subterfuge, secrecy, and hit-and-run battle tactics. The Rebel Alliance cannot survive a face-to-face confrontation with the vastly more powerful Imperial fleet, so the Rebels must rely on superior tactics or, at least, the element of surprise. If they strike where the Empire is weak and run before their enemies can regroup, they can stay one step ahead. It means a long, slow war in which hundreds of thousands of Rebels are likely to die, but the Empire eventually falls.
The Empire, on the other hand, must contend with an enemy whose strength is the Empire's weakness: mobility. The Imperial military is the most effective fighting force in the galaxy, but it relies on numbers and superior firepower. Bringing either to bear against an enemy that appears, attacks, and disappears again is a constant challenge. The Rebellion has better intelligence on the Empire than the Empire has on the Rebels; spies are everywhere- even within the Imperial military. The Empire's only hope is to fight war of attrition, using the Empire's superior numbers to wear down the Rebellion.
The Empire makes a critical mistake. A shipment of bacta is missing, and HoloNet News broadcasts a report about the cargo ship's disappearance and distress call. Imperial censors quickly quash the story, and HNN later announces that the ship has been found and rescued by the Imperial Star Destroyer Carnifex. However, Rebel spies among the task force assigned to the search report that Carnifex is still looking for the missing bacta ship. If the Rebels can find the bacta first, it would be a terrible blow to the Empire's war effort, and it would put a huge supply of much-needed bacta in Rebel hands.
The entire story is a trap set by Admiral Veritts, commander of Carnifex. The plan is to lure several Rebel ships close to the Imperial cargo ship Lifeline to either tow the ship or transfer its cargo to their own holds- then unleash the Lifeline's secret weapon, a battery of Gravity Well Projectors. While the Rebels struggle to escape, Carnifex and its escort ships sweep in to disable the Rebel ships, capture them, and interrogate the prisoners.
As Rebel agents, the heroes are tasked with locating Lifeline and reporting back to Rebel Command. They are able to triangulate the distress call, track the ship's drift, and convince Lifeline's crew that they are there to provide assistance, but when they board, they find a platoon of Stormtroopers waiting for them. The heroes must avoid the Stormtroopers, discover the disguised Gravity Well Projectors, and warn the Rebel fleet to stay away- and then somehow escape the trap themselves.
From the Death Stars to Centerpoint Station, the Star Wars universe is bristling with weapons designed to destroy entire worlds- remnants of ancient civilizations, or tools of war built by deranged conquerors. They are the deadliest weapons in existence and also the biggest targets. Without them, however, the Star Wars setting is just another space opera in which the enemy has to be defeated one Starship, one walker, and one soldier at a time.
In Star Wars adventures, superweapons are mighty fortresses: impenetrable by main force, but vulnerable to a small team of clever and courageous heroes. They are capable of dealing devastating damage, making them a clear threat to everyone in the galaxy. They also have the advantage, from a storytelling perceptive, of bringing heroes of different ideologies together. A weapon that threatens Empire and Rebel alike can make both sides put aside their differences, at least temporarily, in order to neutralize it.
Further, from an adventure-design perspective, a superweapon- particularly a large one such as The Death Star- makes for a great "Crawl." The heroes can slip aboard and spend time sneaking around, avoiding sentries or traps and looking for weaknesses they can exploit later. Despite the superweapon's size, the Gamemaster does not need to fully map every room and every floor- just the areas relevant to the adventure.
Finally, the Gamemaster should remember that not all superweapons are gigantic devices. The Sun Crusher is only the size of a Starfighter, and the war robots of Xim the Despot are as devastating as any space-based ray weapon in ground engagements.
When the planet Ord Dycoll suddenly ceases all communication with the rest of the galaxy, both the Empire and the Alliance send agents to investigate- including the heroes. When they arrive, the heroes discover a vast asteroid field where Ord Dycoll used to be, and a single, powerless transport ship full of survivors, slowly drifting toward Ord Dycoll's sun. After the heroes rescue the ship, they learn from the survivors that a gigantic drill-tipped Starship appeared in the sky over the planet, and after it failed to respond to hails from the Imperial base on Ord Dycoll, the Imperials sent a shuttle up for a closer look. Shortly thereafter, the mysterious "Drill Ship" abruptly reoriented its drilling apparatus toward the planet and began punching through Ord Dycoll's crust until it reached the planet's core, whereupon the planet collapsed, and the "Drill Ship" entered Hyperspace headed in the general direction of Bothawui.
The heroes find the "Drill Ship" just as it enters orbit over the Bothan homeworld. When the heroes dock with the gigantic ship, they discover that it is an ancient mining vessel that malfunctioned when the Imperials at Ord Dycoll boarded it and started pressing buttons. The ship has already proven its power as a weapon, and those same Imperials, still aboard, are trying to gain control of it. However, the ancient wiring is so badly damaged that the "Drill Ship" is out of control, and if someone does not set its reactors to overload, its mining program will cause the "Drill Ship" to destroy Bothawui, then Muunilinst, and then innumerable other populated worlds.
The galaxy is vast, with countless remote locales and hiding places where The Rebel Alliance can marshal its forces or the Empire can secrete research laboratories and training centers. Unlike conventional fortresses, though, these bases rely less on sturdy defenses and more on merely escaping notice. Location and self-reliance make them effectively invisible. Remote worlds such as Yavin 4 and Hoth make excellent places to hide, but Rebel forces must be ready to evacuate on short notice; Imperial Intelligence has ways of finding even the most secret of Rebel bases.
Obviously, the Rebellion employs secret bases far more than the Empire does. But the Empire has its fair share of hidden bases- places to perform work so dangerous or distasteful that news of it must not reach the Rebellion or even the Empire's own citizens. Imperial researchers might be developing new Starfighters, crafting biological weapons, or harnessing extraordinarily unstable power sources. Bases such as these are practically purpose-made for clandestine operations conducted by small groups of Rebel agents. The heroes could be tasked with locating and infiltrating such facilities, uncovering the truth of what goes on in them, and making sure that the Empire can never use them again.
A group of Imperial heroes is dispatched by Admiral Piett to investigate reports of Rebel activity in the Cularin System. Records from before the Clone Wars indicate that The Jedi Order had a training temple on the planet Almas that was later destroyed by the Imperial fleet and eventually plundered by an Imperial Inquisitor. Shortly after the heroes arrive to search for the suspected Rebel base, the Stormtrooper platoon assigned to them abruptly vanishes in a dense jungle. When the heroes finally reach the base, near the ruins of the old Jedi Academy, they discover it buried under foliage that looks to have taken decades to grow.
As the heroes explore the camp searching for information, they find that the Rebels built barricades and left traps, as though they were expecting an attack- or an infiltration attempt. The heroes soon realize that the academy's ruins are the center of a malign intelligence that hates all life, including the heroes. The longer the heroes stay, the more often they are attacked by creatures such as vicious, Dark Side-empowered lizards, diabolical bloblike creatures capable of filling their prey with blinding rage and a group of Dark Side cultists who seem to have no will of their own- and who have been joined by the missing Stormtrooper platoon.
A Rebel rescue party arrives, searching for comrades from the abandoned base. Upon discovering the heroes, the rescuers assume that the Imperials are responsible for the loss of the Rebels on Almas. To reach their ship and escape, the heroes must overcome or evade both the dark forces of the corrupted planet and the Rebel troops.
Although the actions of individual heroes are often the tipping point in great events, the fate of the galaxy is usually decided in large-scale battles. Opposing armies clash on the soil or oceans or ice of fantastic worlds, while fleets of Starships great and small duel in the cold vacuum of space. The warriors who fight these battles might be faceless and nameless, but their successes and failures chart the course of The Rebellion Era.
Conflict is at the heart of Star Wars, and while massive battles can be hard to adjudicate, they provide an excellent backdrop for the heroics of individual characters. A lone Starfighter Pilot can be instrumental in destroying an enemy battle cruiser, or a unit of highly trained specialists can undertake a mission to disable an enemy's defenses in advance of the main strike force. The outcome of the engagement might already be decided by the Gamemaster; the heroes cannot fight the entire war themselves, after all. But the heroes have their part to play; if they succeed, their side is victorious. If they fail, however, their side might be overcome before firing a single shot.
The Rebel fleet is stalled in the Senex Sector; its flagship, the MC80a Star Cruiser Home One, is undergoing an emergency refit of its Hyperdrive, and it is helpless until its main engines are repaired. When an Imperial scout ship stumbles onto the fleet, the Rebels know that an Imperial task group is on its way. The Rebel fleet must protect Home One until it can power up its engines and make the jump to Hyperspace, and Admiral Ackbar requests that every able-bodied Rebel with flight experience get into the cockpit of a Starfighter and join the picket line at the jump point where Ackbar believes the Imperial ships will arrive. The best Starfighters- A-Wings and X-Wings- go to the first wave of volunteers; those who take too long to join up are stuck with Y-Wings. If the heroes have their own ships, they can fly those.
The plan is simple and desperate; harry the incoming Star Destroyers, while simultaneously preventing TIE Bombers from getting through to attack Home One. The faster Rebel Starfighters are to engage enemy fighters; the slower ones are to attack the Imperial Capital Ships. The pilots have to hold out for 50 rounds of ship-to-ship combat (Less if a tech-inclined hero helps with the repairs to Home One), after which the Rebel command ship can make a single Hyperspace jump, and the Starfighters can follow as soon as they disengage from their opponents.
The Imperials bring an Interdictor-Class Star Destroyer into the fight, and soon the orders from Admiral Ackbar are to destroy the Interdictor at all costs. If the pilots fail, Home One might be lucky enough to make one emergency jump- but it must be a blind jump, and the ship is not able to broadcast its destination to the rest of the fleet without risking Imperial interception of the transmission. Home One is on its own until it can finish repairs and jump to the predesigned rendezvous.
The Force is With Us
With a mere handful of Jedi Knights surviving the Emperor's purge, the theme of "Ancient Religions," spiritual justice, and prophecies yet to be fulfilled is rich fodder for campaigns that include at least one Force-using hero. Although in The Rebellion Era the major Force-related action revolves around the Skywalker Legacy, a Jedi aspirant can find plenty of adventure in a galaxy where a Sith is Emperor.
The Force is the ultimate Gamemaster tool for explaining seemingly random events- wildy convenient coincidences and trouble that always manages to find the heroes. It lets the Gamemaster put the heroes at the center of the action, and move the story along in a way that suits the needs of the campaign. At the same time, it provides Force-using heroes with an inexhaustible supply of nemeses: Dark Side NPCs who do everything in their power to kill any Force-wielder who can't be turned to The Dark Side. Such foes put constant danger in the heroes' way, as well as constant temptation.
Word reaches the heroes that a Jedi Knight has been found frozen in stasis in a decades-old escape pod. After being revived and learning what has become of The Jedi Order and The Galactic Republic, this Jedi, Aven Rolk, has put out word for other Jedi survivors to meet him on the frozen world of Zissh, where he intends to erect a new Jedi Temple and rebuild The Jedi Order. Rumor has it that even Luke Skywalker, The Rebel Alliance's Jedi-in-training, is planning to journey to Zissh to meet with Rolk. Since the heroes' own Force-user needs a real teacher, the heroes cannot afford to pass up this opportunity.
However, Rolk's bold proclamation has also drawn the attention of the Empire, and a carde of the Empire's own Force-using agents- led by none other than Darth Vader- are en route to Zissh as well. When the heroes arrive, they find Imperial troops and Dark Side adepts scouring the towns and villages, searching for Aven Rolk, Luke Skywalker, and and other would-be Jedi who might have answered the summons. After being detained and interrogated once or twice, the heroes meet Biggsy, a freighter pilot who says he knows where Aven Rolk is hiding and offers to led the heroes there.
Biggsy takes the heroes to a remote ice cave, but when Imperial Snowtroopers appear and attack, a cave-in seperates the heroes from their guide. Forced to find a different exit from the caves, the heroes eventually stumble upon the frozen body of Aven Rolk. Although Rolk's body is dead, he persists as a Force Spirit. Seen only by the Force-using hero, Rolk guides the heroes to safety and offers to teach the Force-user to become a Jedi Knight.
Adventures in Rebellion
Although one of the greatest stories ever told, the original Star Wars trilogy is a tale of specific events and specific heroes. Not every group of players wants to recreate that story in the roles of those heroes, but they still want to feel as though their characters' adventures have meaning in the overall course of events. Therefore, the Gamemaster must create stories tailored to the players that also fit into the overarching plotlines of Star Wars.
Obviously, writers and Gamemasters have provided useful tips on the process of creating interesting plots and subplots for years. But comparatively few have tackled those issues as they relate to Star Wars. The following section provides advice specifically for The Rebellion Era.
Because the Star Wars universe draws on numerous iconic sources- such as samurai films, westerns, and war movies- almost anything can happen. A Star Wars campaign can incorporate many kinds of stories, so the Gamemaster can easily insert a plot from nearly any genre into their campaign and, with a little tweaking, make it work. Obviously, the Gamemaster should avoid going overboard- players spot timeworn plots quickly, and familiar names even faster- but Star Wars is rife with stories of trench warfare (Such as at the Battle of Hoth), lurking monsters (The Dianoga in the Death Star garbage compactor), pirates (The "Walk-the-Plank" scene at the Sarlacc's pit), jungle expeditions (The Rebel landing on The Forest Moon of Endor), and so on. Each is a homage to familiar adventure stories, but the addition of elements such as laser turrets, blaster rifles, aliens, Droids, and Ewoks give these stories the unique Star Wars feel.
In addition to borrowing and reworking classic plots, the Gamemaster can approach existing Rebellion Era storylines from different directions. At the moment that Lando Calrissian and Leia Organa are escaping Cloud City, for example, the heroes could be battling a different platoon of Stormtroopers one level down. Or perhaps as the Rebel fleet is punching through the Star Destroyers above Endor, a group of Imperial heroes could be desperately trying to evacuate the second Death Star ahead of the battlestation's inevitable destruction.
The key to a good Rebellion Era plot, though, is making it count in the larger scheme of things. Even though telling the story of the heroes investigating a "Ghost Ship" might be intriguing, the spirit of The Rebellion Era is more tangible if the ship is somehow necessary to the war effort. A love story is more compelling if one of the lovers is from The Galactic Empire and one is from The Rebel Alliance. And the tale of a group of Rebels becoming standard in a desert and having to rebuild their ship becomes even more appropriate if they are shot down by an Imperial Customs Corvette over Tatooine and now have to fend off scavenging Jawas, battle irate Tusken Raiders, and avoid Imperial Sandtroopers sent into the Jundland Wastes to finish them off.
Subplots fill in the gaps in the narrative where the plot needs context or complications. They have little to do with the main plot- although plot points can be disguised as subplots to keep the players guessing- but instead provide necessary breaks in the action. Subplots can be an opportunity for character development, providing opportunities for players to roleplay the heroes' opinions and attitudes rather than just their responses to events in an action sense.
A hallmark of subplots is that they can feed back into the main plot by informing the later actions of the characters. For example, Leia's falling in love with Han Solo is a subplot in The Empire Strikes Back, but it gives her an excellent motive to risk her life to rescue him in Return of the Jedi. Similarly, Luke's training on Dagobah is a subplot designed to provide the character with insight into his own weaknesses; when he abandons his training to rescue his friends on Bespin, he returns to the main plot once more.
In Rebellion Era Campaigns, subplots allow the Gamemaster to present the stories that do not quite fit into the bigger picture. The heroes might be disabling an Imperial dry dock as part of a Rebel mission, for example, when they learn that a corrupt official is taking bribes to let smugglers use the dry dock's hangar facilities to repair and upgrade their ships. Or the heroes could be searching for a rare herb on Endor when they encounter a group of Imperial officers who crashed in the forest after escaping the attack on the second Death Star. Either way, the Gamemaster gets to tell the story he or she has planned- while at the same time reminding the players that they are in a Rebellion Era Campaign.
Metaplot is a term used by roleplaying gamers to describe the overall storyline, not just of the campaign, but of the campaign setting. The heroes might never participate in the metaplot, but it is always there. In a sense, the metaplot is the tapestry of events against which the heroes' stories are told. In The Rebellion Era, the metaplot is the story of the Rebellion's battle against The Galactic Empire, culminating in the redemption of Anakin Skywalker by his son, the first in a new line of Jedi Knights.
How the heroes of a Rebellion Era Campaign fit into the metaplot is up to the Gamemaster. The campaign's heroes could be playing out adventures only hinted at in the books and movies: the Rebel's evacuation of Yavin 4 after the destruction of the first Death Star, for example, or the discovery of the location of the second Death Star. Even though the campaign's heroes might not determine the fate of the galaxy, they are still crucial to those events; their adventures are just as thrilling and fantastic as those of The Rebellion Era's major heroes, but they should not supplant the major heroes in their already-established roles.
Another option is for the heroes to operate removed from The Rebel Alliance- as part of General Garm Bel Iblis's splinter Rebellion, for example, or as Imperial agents working to preserve the Empire. Neither sort of group might ultimately change the course of future events- but their adventures can still be epic tales in their own right.
On the other hand, the Gamemaster might wish to explore an "Alternative History" approach to The Rebellion Era, in which the actions of the heroes- or just random events- do change the course of the metaplot. Perhaps Luke Skywalker fails to destroy the original Death Star, or Darth Vader kills Han Solo instead of encasing him in carbonite. Maybe Vader disables Skywalker's X-Wing at the Battle of Yavin, and one of the heroes must make the historic shot- or The Millennium Falcon never makes it off Hoth, and Han Solo makes the heroes promise to get Princess Leia to safety before he is captured by the Empire and executed.
The metaplot exists to give the heroes' actions context in the greater scheme of things, but it does not dictate their actions. That choice is still firmly in the player's hands. After all, what are roleplaying games if not exercises in "What if?"
News of the Worlds
See also: The HoloNet
In Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine is one of the most evil beings the galaxy has ever seen. He destroys The Jedi Order, reduces countless Species to near-slavery, and authorizes the creation of superweapons designed to destroy entire planets.
Members of The Rebel Alliance, on the other hand, are clearly the heroic underdogs. They are merciful and brave, oppose unjust laws, and champion the idea of Species equality. For every world the Empire has destroyed, the Rebels have liberated a dozen.
So why do people support the Empire?
The truth is that the average Imperial citizen has access only to the information presented by the government, and the Empire takes great pains to present itself as a force for peace and order in the galaxy. It vilifies the activities of The Rebel Alliance and ruthlessly punishes anyone who contradicts the official story. Imperial citizens soon come to think of the Alliance as murderers, pirates, and liars, and who are only too happy to support any effort to bring "Rebel Scum" to justice.
In a Rebellion Era Campaign focusing mainly on Imperial heroes (Or soon-to-be-ex-Imperial heroes), the Gamemaster might find that the players want to know what their heroes know of certain major events such as the destruction of Alderaan and the annexation of Bespin. Only the best-informed Imperials know the whole story, and even then, they are too loyal to the Emperor- or too afraid of him- to publicly dispute the official version of these events.
The information below represents the knowledge of the average Imperial citizen:
|10-14||The Galactic Empire came into being at the end of the Clone Wars, when The Galactic Republic was fractured and weak from galaxywide fighting. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine gathered up the fragments of the Republic and reorganized them into a more streamlined organization. Although he originally intended to lead only until the end of the Clone Wars, he remained in charge by popular demand and was eventually declared Emperor by the grateful Senate. His rule is challenged, however, by the so-called "Alliance to Restore the Republic"- diehards who refuse to admit defeat, even two decades after the Separatist leaders surrendered.|
|15-19||The Emperor was betrayed by The Jedi Order during the Clone Wars, and both he and his loyal assistant, Darth Vader, are left with terrible scars as a result of Jedi assassination attempts. Despite their injuries and ongoing suffering, though, both men have come to forgive The Jedi and now work to rehabilitate those they encounter who originally escaped justice. The Jedi are too stubborn to convert, however, and must be imprisoned for the safety of the Empire.|
|20-24||Although The Imperial HoloNet reports that Alderaan was destroyed by Rebel saboteurs who boarded the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station and triggered its main weapon during its first official unveiling, several eyewitnesses to the disaster report that the so-called "Death Star" ignored distress messages from ships damaged in the tragedy and jumped out of the system without so much as launching a single TIE Fighter to look for survivors. A few such eyewitnesses either vanish or abruptly amend their accounts, suggesting that they have been silenced by the Empire for contradicting the official version of events.|
|25-29||Intercepted communications during the Clone Wars indicate that several Jedi Masters attempted to convince Palpatine to abdicate the office of Supreme Chancellor mere minutes before Palpatine issued "Order 66," calling for Jedi officers in the Grand Army of the Republic to relinquish their commands. Ostensibly, Emperor Palpatine's goal was to avert a Jedi coup, but local defense forces assisting the Grand Army were able to capture holovid images of Clone Troopers executing Order 66, abruptly turning on unarmed Jedi officers and slaughtering them without attempting to arrest them.|
|30+||Accounts of the destruction of the Jedi Temple are sketchy; records of the event have disappeared over the years. What can be gleaned is that Emperor Palpatine arranged for the execution of thousands of Jedi Knights- including defenseless younglings- and might have used Jedilike powers to personally murder as many as five Jedi Masters, a feat that should have been beyond the abilities of even the most skilled bureaucrat. Numerous suppressed theories suggest that Emperor Palpatine might be the last of The Sith- ancient enemies of The Jedi who were last seen at the Battle of Ruusan, a thousand years ago. If true, this knowledge casts all the Emperor's activities in a completely different, more sinister light.|
|10-14||The Galactic Empire ensures peace and prosperity for all but a small fraction of the known galaxy. Worlds and systems rule themselves with the protection and support of the Empire. The Imperial Moffs and governors act as liaisons to the Emperor, as well as provide checks and balances against local systems encroaching upon the freedoms and resources of their neighbors.|
|15-19||In practice, few worlds or systems rule themselves. Their leaders merely act as advisors to the local governors, who in turn simply enforce Imperial policies. Non-Human Species are treated as second-class citizens even on their own homeworlds. Every world with an Imperial presence has at least a small garrison of Stormtroopers, and some worlds have large Imperial forces.|
|20-24||The Imperial governors are corrupt, and they use their positions to exploit the people they are supposed to be protecting. The Emperor turns a blind eye to such practices and might even support them, particularly where alien populations are concerned. In fact, many worlds have been essentially stolen from the native Species and converted into factory worlds, where the populace labors to create the weapons the Empire needs to conquer and subjugate more worlds and systems.|
|25-29||While he was still Supreme Chancellor, Emperor Palpatine encountered stiff resistance to his policies from a coalition of Republic Senators who thought that he abused the emergency powers he was given. Several of these legislators are now key figures in the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and they issue numerous statements indicating that Emperor Palpatine overstepped his authority and manipulated the Senate into granting him total control of the Republic, which he then abused by declaring himself Emperor.|
|30+||The Empire routinely revises history by destroying records of Emperor Palpatine's involvement in the various activities undertaken by Imperial agents and armed forces. This systematic erasure of facts is well documented by nonpartisan scholars- as is the suppression of various attempts to bring these facts to the public's attention. Whatever else Emperor Palpatine might be, he is a deeply corrupt and potentially megalomaniacal dictator, with a galaxy-spanning military at his disposal.|