Friday, January 2, 2015

The Firestorm Plot

This post introduces a plotline that will be developed over the next few weeks.


The Firestorm Plot
One of the glaring weaknesses of the Imperial Fleet, made particularly evident at the Battle of Yavin, is its vulnerability to attacks by small, maneuverable starfighters. In theory the Lancer-class frigate is supposed to provide a solution to this weakness, but in practice it has not proven to be effective. For that reason one Imperial strategist, Captain Ebla Muir, has begun researching two seemingly different lines of inquiry, hoping for a discovery that can make the Lancer more effective.

The first investigation involves technology used by the Trade Federation before the Clone Wars. In that case, some of the Neimoidian pilots and technicians were given cybernetic implants known as datagoggles that linked them to their ships' computers and control systems. Although it granted them tremendous boosts as far as interface speed was concerned, it was not without paying a physiological price.

Because of those difficulties, the strategist has also been researching the traditions of the B'ommar monks. Those ascetics have a long-established tradition of removing their most enlightened practitioners' brains from their bodies and planting them in nutrient-filled jars connected to spider-like droids. By discovering their surgical secrets, Captain Muir hopes to devise a more effective means of implanting the Neimoidian datagoggles.

Opening Salvo
The PCs could first become aware of this plot when they meet an escaped test subject, a Human by the name of Terun Dovis. His cybernetic implant is malfunctioning, leaving him prone to attacking characters that he deems to be threats. This encounter can be dropped on the characters at any time, either between other adventures or while in the middle of other business. Dovis walks into the middle of whatever they are doing and opens fire with his blaster.

Terun Dovis, Cyborged Gunner (Rival)
Brawn 2 Cunning 3 Presence 2
Agility 4 Intellect 2 Willpower 1

Soak: 2
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 11
M/R Defense: 0 / 0

Skills: Astrogation 1, Computers 2, Cool 3, Gunnery 4, Mechanics 2, Medicine 1, Perception 3, Piloting—Planetary 1, Piloting—Space 2, Ranged—Heavy 3, Ranged—Light 2, Resilience 2, Vigilance 3

Talents: Debilitating Shot, Exhaust Port, Overwhelm Defenses, True Aim

Abilities: One free rank in each of two non-career skills

Equipment: Ragged uniform, blaster rifle, malfunctioning datagoggles

Terun Dovis makes quite the first impression. He is dressed in the tatters of a black Imperial Navy uniform, the kind worn by gunners. Instead of the clamshell-shaped helmet, however, he has datagoggles affixed over his eyes. He is unshaven and dirty, and babbling incoherently—things like “Enemy sighted,” “Must complete the mission” and the like. Then he just starts shooting at a random character. Given his appearance and his skill with heavy weapons, this should be a dangerous but intriguing event.

Interested Parties
In the aftermath of the attack, the PCs should have some questions to ask. What is more, a number of NPCs are also interested in learning the story behind this seemingly random attack. A few of the possibilities are detailed here.
  • The proprietor of any establishment damaged in the attack—such as Haiuk the Whiphid or Vius the t'Landa Til—could demand answers about why it happened and who's going to pay to fix things.
  • Recognizing the Imperial uniform and the unusual datagoggles, agents of the Rebel Alliance such as Nog and Cham Teleus would want to investigate the matter, and are willing to pay like-minded beings to do so.
  • Minions of the Hutts such as the technician Traborn Yerg might covet the technology, or even recognize this Imperial activity as a threat to his boss's interests.
Whatever the case, the PCs should have some motivation to investigate this business further.

Additional Information
The PCs can also use their skills to gain some more information. An average Mechanics, Warfare or Xenology check reveals that the datagoggles are device used by the Trade Federation in the years leading up to the Clone Wars, and that they allowed pilots to interface directly with their ships. A Medicine check of a similar difficulty confirms that the device seems to be malfunctioning, causing considerable mental strain to the attacker. Medical treatment might be needed to keep Dovis alive, but the malfunctioning of the device means he can't be returned to consciousness at the moment.

The Imperial Response
Once the PCs have had some time to process these details, Captain Muir and her Imperial goons arrive on the scene. They move to secure the situation and, if he is present, to take Dovis into custody. She asks bystanders about what happened here, more to gauge what they've learned than out of any real concern for any damage or injuries caused. This interaction could allow the PCs to learn a little more about the situation, or at least to confirm that the Empire wants to hush up the incident. They need to be careful, however, lest the captain becomes worried about how much they know.

Captain Ebla Muir, Imperial Researcher (Rival)
Brawn 2 Cunning 2 Presence 3
Agility 2 Intellect 3 Willpower 2

Soak: 2
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 12
M/R Defense: 0 / 0

Skills: Astrogation 1, Computers 3, Core Worlds 1, Discipline 1, Education 3, Gunnery 2, Leadership 1, Lore 1, Mechanics 3, Medicine 2, Melee 1, Negotiation 2, Outer Rim 1, Perception 2, Piloting—Planetary 2, Piloting—Space 2, Ranged—Heavy 1, Ranged—Light 2, Vigilance 2, Warfare 2, Xenology 1

Talents: Black Market Contacts x2, Gearhead, Grit, Larger Project x2, Signature Vehicle, Toughened

Abilities: One free rank in each of two non-career skills

Equipment: Imperial uniform, comlink, blaster pistol, datapad

Captain Ebla Muir is fervently dedicated to the cause of wiping out the Rebellion. She is also a gifted technician, an ability she uses in developing new weapons for the Empire. The latter trait she inherited from her parents, who were techs aboard a corporate transport; the prior she developed when they were killed during an attack by pirates believed to be associated with a rebellious organization. Now she combines the two qualities in an effort to wipe out all of those who threaten peace and security in the galaxy.

At a first impression, Captain Muir comes off as being businesslike and cold. She warms up to beings who share her love for technology and the Empire, however, and can even be friendly with those who earn her respect and trust. So far that hasn't happened for many beings, however.

Imperial Stormtroopers and Stormtrooper Sergeant—Refer to pages 420-1 of the Age of Rebellion core rulebook to find stats for them.

Next Steps
Following this confrontation, the PCs have a number of options; a few of these are detailed below.

Tracking the Imperials is one possibility. While they are not being open about their activities, they are also not operating with total stealth. To that end, the PCs might be able to tail them back to their local base of operations. Doing this requires a hard Survival check , with modifier applied as appropriate. Success lets the character(s) in question follow as the Imps board a Bantha II cargo skiff and trek through the nearby Nal Hutta swamp to the B'omarr monastery. The GM is, of course, free to add chance encounters with creatures such as a dragonsnake in order to keep the pursuit lively.

Another option is for one or more of the PCs to plant a tracking device aboard the Imperials' skiff. Doing this requires both an average Mechanics check to rig up a suitable piece of technology, and a Skulduggery effort opposed by the stormtroopers' Perception efforts in order to put it in place it without attracting attention. Should the latter effort fail, enterprising characters might be able to talk their way out of the ensuing confrontation using a Deception check opposed by the stormtroopers' Discipline result, with modifiers applied for a good or bad story.

Failing either of these two options, the GM might allow other methods for investigating. This might include accompanying Lulu Ogrin (the Gungan swamp gas harvester; see above) on his rounds, programming droids and sending them out to conduct reconnaissance, or the like.

Finally, as mentioned above, there's always the chance that another party becomes involved in this business, perhaps in competition with the PCs.

Visiting the Monastery
Hopefully, through any combination of the aforementioned methods, the PCs can trace the Imperials back to the B'omarr monastery. Because the project is a closely-guarded secret, the Imperials are keeping a low profile. They have taken over the monastery, holding some of the monks hostage in the building's underground level and forcing the other monks to maintain the pretense of normal business. For that reason visitors are greeted by an acolyte at the main entrance and perhaps even given the test of knowledge. Even if they pass the test, however, the acolyte tells them that there is no room for visitors. This should strike the PCs as curious.

What is more, an average Survival check reveals tracks from many different beings in front of the monastery, including ones that match those of Imperial stormtroopers. A second such check allows PCs to follow the tracks to a clearing, on solid ground, in the nearby swamp, where there is clear evidence that some kind of spacecraft has been using it for landings. At that point, a hard Pilot—Planetary check can confirm that the layout of the landing gear belongs to an Imperial shuttle.
With these details in mind, the PCs may want to press their need for entering the monastery. The acolyte wants to let them, but risks the wrath of the Imperials if he does so. To that end, he volubly protests, but also tries subtly to encourage such a deed. For example, he might declare “No, you are not allowed in here,” while also beckoning the PCs forward with his hand.

Upon entering, the PCs find that other “monks” are present in the monastery's second level. These are actually Imperial Naval troopers in disguise, however, a fact that can be revealed by a Perception check opposed to their Deception efforts. Should their ruse be discovered, the Imperials call for backup and attack the meddlers.

On the lower level is a squad of stormtroopers, led by a sergeant. In the event of trouble, they rush to attack. There is also a Naval officer, however, who is armed with a grenade. If the 'troopers are being overwhelmed, he opens the door to the room in which the brain jars are being stored and

Imperial Naval Troopers and Naval Officer—Refer to pages 402-3 of the Edge of the Empire core rulebook to find stats for them.

Finally, in the operating room on the underground level, the PCs can find Captain Ebla Muir and the subjects on whom she's been working (including Terun Dovis, if he survived his earlier escape). Muir is flustered by the fighting and so, if she sees the other Imperials defeated, she's willing to act in a cooperative manner. Even so, she activates an emergency signal from her comlink, and then begins stalling for time. To that end, she tells what she knows about the Firestorm project. As she does so, though, she occasionally lets her hand fall to the comlink on her belt. A hard Perception check reveals this unintended gesture; characters who examine the comlink can identify the signal.

Captain Muir also possesses a datapad; it is encrypted, requiring a daunting Computers check to access. Characters who manage to do so can find complete specs for the datagoggle system, along with for the Firestorm itself.

The Inquisitor
At that point, Inquisitor Neza Yerg arrives on the scene. Those who are in a position to do so can see his Imperial shuttle descend from the sky, setting down at the aforementioned landing field. Yerg is helping to oversee the project, and as such is coming to make sure that nobody reveals its secrets. To that end, he attacks first and asks questions later. This should make for an exciting scene. The PCs may wish to stand their ground and fight, but staging an escape could be a better idea. Yerg is accompanied by four squads of stormtroopers, each of which is led by a sergeant (see above). Yerg leads two of them into the monastery, while the other two take up positions outside the building and watch for trouble.

Neza Yerg, Agent of the Inquisition (Nemesis)
Brawn 3 Cunning 4 Presence 2
Agility 3 Intellect 2 Willpower 3

Soak: 4
Wound Threshold: 14
Strain Threshold: 13
M/R Defense: 1 / 1

Skills: Athletics 2, Brawl 2, Coercion 1, Computers 2, Cool 2, Coordination 1, Core Worlds 2, Deception 3, Discipline 2, Education 2, Leadership 1, Lore 3, Mechanics 1, Medicine 2, Melee 3, Negotiation 1, Outer Rim 2, Perception 3, Piloting—Planetary 1, Piloting—Space 1, Ranged—Light 3, Resilience 3, Skulduggery 2, Stealth 2, Streetwise 1, Survival 2, Underworld 1, Vigilance 2, Xenology 1

Talents: Quick Draw, Quick Strike x2, Rapid Reaction, Side Step x2; Control Upgrade, Magnitude Upgrade, Range Upgrade, Sense Basic Power

Abilities: One free rank in Deception or Negotiation; Amphibious: Quarren may breathe underwater without penalty and never suffer movement penalties for traveling through water

Equipment: Armored clothing, heavy blaster pistol, vibrosword, comlink, datapad

If Neza Yerg had been born in a different time, he might have come to the notice of the Jedi Order and begun training as a padawan. Instead, he grew up among the Separatist members of his species, making him an enemy of the Old Republic. In the aftermath of the Clone Wars, Yerg was apprehended by agents of Palpatine's New Order and subjected to intense indoctrination. That was when the Imperials realized he was Force-sensitive, leading to a major change in direction for his life. They convinced him that it was the Jedi who caused the war, and then trained him to help find any beings who might wish to rebuild the Order. For this reason he is zealous in pursuing his cause.

Like many Quarren, Neza Yerg has grey skin and a tentacled face. He wears midnight blue armored clothing, including a billowing cape, and carries a heavy blaster pistol on his hip. He travels aboard a Lambda-class shuttle, and is accompanied by a naval officer, Captain Oswald, along with four squads of stormtroopers, each led by a sergeant.

Fight or Flight?
Should the PCs decide to make a run for it, they could be chased by Yerg's shuttle. The Inquisitor can also call for TIE fighter support if needed. Given the swampy terrain surrounding the monastery, however, clever characters should be able to lose any pursuit. Options for making this dramatic include any of the following.
  • There's going to be trading of blaster fire; when this happens, keep in mind that the jungle canopy provides significant cover for the fleeing characters, adding a setback die to the pursuing pilot's checks.
  • The terrain itself is dangerous too, though, and thus adds two setback dice to the escaping pilot's checks.
  • Passengers can attempt hard Perception checks to pick out a course for the pilot, thereby using Advantage to give the pilot boost dice.
  • Technically apt characters can try using talents to enhance their speeder's performance.
  • Refer to the chart on page 235 to find rules for vehicles that have different silhouettes.
  • The charts on page 236 has suggestions for using Advantage and Threat in vehicular combat, while the one on page 237 details other in which passengers can help.
  • In the event that the Imperial shuttle shoots at and hits the party's speeder, remember that the damage it causes is dealt to the vehicle and not the characters aboard it. Even so, a disabled speeder could crash. Should that happen, the PCs can always continue their escape on foot. For its part, the shuttle lands nearby and deposits two squads of stormtroopers to search the area for survivors.
Refer to pages 240-1 of the core rulebook to find more guidelines for handling chases.

Further Developments
As long as the PCs manage to escape from pursuit, they can deliver the information they've acquired to the party who hired them. In the case of Rebel operatives, those beings are interested in pursuing the matter further. Agents of the Hutts may wish to do so as well, given that the project presents a notable threat to any Hutt-sponsored pirate activities.

On the other hand, should the PCs be captured, then they might face the full wrath of the Imperial Inquisitorius.

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