Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Star Wars Homebrew

I ran a Star Wars game last year that I like to call a “homebrew” game because, although it was set in the Star War universe and used many of the known tropes of Star Wars, I changed things liberally to fit my own version of that well known setting.  I set the game in the era prior to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but I completely changed the backstory, ignoring the cannon established in the prequel movies and setting up my own alternate history of how the Empire came into power. 

My alternate history states that the Clone Wars were fought over the practice in many systems of using clones as slave labor, so it was basically a galactic retelling of the American Civil War, but with a much unhappier ending.  The Jedi were a quasi-religious order that acted as independent peace-keepers in the galaxy, but they were resented by many systems and although officially sanctioned by the Senate, they were not accountable to it and there were many systems calling for the Jedi Order to be regulated (controlled) by the Senate.  So when clones began rebelling against their masters, the Jedi took the side of the rebellion even though the Senate had to take the side of the slave-owning systems because clone slavery was not illegal.  This resulted in conflicts not only with the Jedi Council but also caused a rift in the Senate and these tensions built to result in what would be called the Clone Wars. 

Unlike the official cannon, the Clone Wars in my alternate history lasted nearly 100 years and was a very destructive conflict.  The Empire formed much like the rise of the Nazi party, with a small sect within the Senate, led by a charismatic leader (Palpatine), gaining support, making shady deals, breaking promises and amassing more and more power until the supporters of Palpatine’s party outnumber the dissenters and Palpatine led the coup that resulted in his control of the Senate and naming himself as Galactic Emperor.  His Sith powers were, of course, at the heart of his rise to power and he was able to hide his true nature from the Jedi Order because of the conflict he had orchestrated between the order and the Senate until it was too late for the weakened Jedi order to do anything about it.  At the end of the Clone Wars, the Empire forms and lasts for about 50 years before the events of the Star Wars trilogy take place.

My campaign took place about 20 years before SWIV and told the story of a small group of adventurers that had been recruited by one of the many rebel groups operating in the galaxy.  In my alternate history there was not initially one rebellion, but many rebellions that either fell apart on their own or were crushed by the Empire.  One rebel cell realized that these small rebel groups were doomed to failure because the Empire was just too powerful and the rebel groups were too small and poorly equipped to go up against Palpatine.  This cell was secretly sponsored by Alderan Senator Organa and his goal was to reach out to the other cells and to unite them under a single rebel banner.  So the characters in my short campaign were recruited by Organa’s rebel cell and were given assignments to prove their loyalty and trustworthiness to the rebellion before being accepted in.  So my first adventure was for them to steal a ship that they could operate from.  It just so happens the ship they were to steal was called the Millennium Falcon and was in an Imperial Impound on a back-water world that was only marginally occupied by Imperial forces, so the characters had to break in and steal it without getting caught.  After they succeeded, they were given another mission to investigate one of three worlds that could potentially be used for a base of operations for the rebellion.  One was the planet Hoth, another was a moon from the planet Yavin and a third was a tidally-locked planet.  The PCs were assigned the tidally-locked planet (I forget what I called it) and went there to survey the habitable region (Goldilocks Zone) along the border of the hot/cold/light/dark side (see what I did there?) of the world and report back to their rebel contact.  When they arrived they detected a faint distress signal emanating from the area, so they went to investigate and found an old crashed ship from the Clone Wars days.  In their investigation of the ship they saw that it had been cannibalized of many of its components but was still mostly intact, except for hull damage.  The investigated the surrounding area (after having been attacked by some indigenous life forms) and found a cave system that had two occupants.  One was a female twilek and the other a blind human male.  The male, it turns out was a Jedi and the woman a warrior that was fighting against him when they both crash landed on this planet and were forced to work together to survive.  They eventually became mates and had grown old together on the planet.  They welcomed the PCs in, but when they entered the caves the force-sensitive PC learned that the caves had both a Light Side and a Dark Side presence. 

Upon entering the caves, the PCs met mostly with the Jedi while his Twi’lek partner went to finish the meal she was preparing.  A short time later both the force-sensitive PC and the jedi sensed a strong disturbance in the Force and when they went to investigate, they discovered that it was coming from the Dark Side caves and that the balance that was kept between the two sides of the Force was shattered by a powerful dark entity that was manifesting in the cave.  When they got there they saw a Force Ghost beckoning the jedi’s companion, compelling her to enter the dark pool where the entity was manifesting and it possessed her.  The possessed Twi’lek then displayed vast Force powers that rendered the PCs and the jedi helpless and allowed the entity to escape.  It went to the PCs ship and found a hidden smuggling compartment that the PCs were unaware of, and within it was an ancient box that contained a severed hand.  The possessed Twi’lek severed her own hand and attached the mummified hand to her raw stump, which animated the hand and solidified the hold that the spirit had on the Twi’lek’s body, because the hand was the remains of an ancient and legendary Dark Lady that was said to have such mastery over the Dark Side that she could destroy entire planets.  The Force Ghost was awakened by the proximity of the hand to the Dark Side cave and used it as an anchor to return to the world.  The PCs fought her but she easily defeated them.  She left their ship, returned to her own crashed ship, repaired the hull damage with her Force powers and left the world.  The sore, but alive, PCs regroup, get the blind jedi to join them and depart the world to report to the rebels.

I then had a cut-scene, in which I described an event across the galaxy with Emperor Palpatine siting in his throne room as a dark presence enters behind him.  He asks Darth Vader if he felt the disturbance and Vader says he did.  Palpatine orders Vader to locate the source of the disturbance and either bring it into their control or destroy it.  Vader departs the Emperor’s chambers to find the Dark Lady.

The campaign ended there unfortunately.  I originally wanted to take the campaign to 20th level (using the Star Wars Saga Edition rules) and have this grand campaign where the heroes were working to convince other rebel groups to join in an alliance with Organa’s group while the Dark Lady resumed her world-destroying activities of several millennia ago when she was alive.  The PCs and the Dark Lady’s paths would cross again, Darth Vader would show up but would be over powered and forced to join forces with the heroes to take her out.  But the Dark Lady’s world-destroying power is what Palpatine used to develop the Death Star, which Vader brings to him after the Dark Lady is defeated.  Of course, how I envision campaigns to go and how they actually end up are usually vastly different, so there’s no telling how it would have ended.  We may go back to it again someday, but it’s not likely to be any time in the near future.

I wanted to do something different with this campaign to make it more of a “fantasy” than a “sci-fi” story, and I wanted something of a departure for the usual Star Wars story.  I really wanted the main antagonist to be a female, because there just aren’t enough evil women BBEGs.  I did want Vader and Palpatine in the story, but I didn’t want them to be the main bad guys because that’s been done to death.  Instead, I thought it would be a nice twist if the PCs ended up working with Vader against a common foe.  So this foe had to be pretty powerful and had to represent a threat to the Emperor.   I also liked the concept of Force ghosts and I wondered why the Dark Side couldn’t produce them.  Well, in my campaign, it can, so I developed this story of an ancient force sorceress called the Dark Lady, who had become so powerful in the force that she could use it to destroy worlds and even stars.  She was so much of a threat that, in her time, both Light and Dark force users had to band together to destroy her physical form, all except one hand.  Unfortunately, she was so powerful that her spirit persisted as a Force ghost, but lay dormant for thousands of years.   Her hand became a relic that was feared yet revered by the remains of her cult, but over time that cult died out and her hand was lost.  That hand is what I would use to lure her ghost back to this plane and engineer her return and it was inspired by the Hand of Vecna from D&D lore. 

Anyway, that’s how I did my short lived Star Wars campaign and home brewed-it up.