Monday, August 17, 2015

Pirate Attack!

It's been a bit of a slow summer for me, as far as this blog is concerned. Nevertheless, this post is the first in a series dealing with piracy in the Star Wars universe.


Pirate Attack!
If the PCs are active in the Outer Rim territories—especially during the Dark Times era, when the Old Republic has fallen and the New Order is still consolidating its power—there's a good chance that they'll encounter pirates. This could provide an adventure in and of itself, or the incident could be tangential to, and thereby complicate, other business. Whatever the case, to set up such an encounter, the GM should consider the following questions.

This question can be interpreted in a number of different ways. First, of course, comes the question of who the pirates are who are staging the attack. A previous post presented the Fireclaw Horde, a band of Togorian pirates; future posts will present some more options. Since these pirates provide the opposition for this scenario, it's important to establish their identities and abilities first.
There's also the possibility that the pirates are targeting a specific character. This could be one of the NPCs, allowing the GM to introduce plot elements via that character's background story. On the other hand, the target could also be one of the PCs, especially one whose Obligation is appropriate for triggering such an attack.

Finally, it's possible that somebody aboard the targeted vessel is a betrayer, providing the pirates with the location of the ship in question in exchange for a payout or possibly revenge of some kind.

This part of the attack is pretty straightforward. The pirates could be seeking some kind of desired cargo, one valuable enough that they can risk violent action in order to obtain it. They could also, however, seek to capture one or more beings to ransom, influential or otherwise important individuals for whose safety someone else will pay good money. As mentioned above, this could be one of the PCs or a new or old NPC of the GM's creation.

Where and When?
Chances are good that the attack occurs at a particular location in space. This might be at the end of a hyperspace voyage, just as the targeted vessel is reaching its destination, or in the middle of a voyage—especially if the pirates use a device to knock the ship out of hyperspace (see below for more details regarding this strategy). Whatever the case, it can be useful to know where this happens and, thus, what other planets and systems are nearby, since that influences characters' options for responding to the crisis. For example, an attack near a strongly held Imperial world might allow the ship and crew to run for safety (assuming none of them are Rebels, of course). Alternately, an attack near a large, thick nebula could lead into a complicated pursuit. Whatever the case, refer to pages 328-9 of the core rulebook for a good map of the Star Wars galaxy.

It's also important to know the type of ship being targeted. This could be as simple as it being the PCs' vessel, if one of them or one of their passengers are the target. On the other hand, if someone else is the target, the attack could take place aboard another ship altogether. Should that be the case the GM could do well to choose a larger vessel, one that provides lots of room for movement, action and counter-action. The Wookieepedia wiki has lots of deck plans available; the Starwind Pleasure Yacht is a good example of such a ship.

What and How?
Now comes the nitty-gritty of the plot. First, how do the pirates stage the attack? One option is to knock the ship out of hyperspace. Putting a heavy body, such as an asteroid, in the middle of the target's hyperspace path is a tried-and-true means of doing so. Another possibility is that the pirates know the ship's flight path, and therefore are waiting when it emerges back into realspace. A third is that someone aboard the targeted vessel could sabotage its hyperdrive.

Given that they want to take the ship, as much of its cargo and as many desired captives unharmed as possible, the pirates must adjust the techniques that they use. This includes relying on ion and stun weapons rather than blaster pistols, rifles and cannons. It's also important to consider the reactions of other passengers and crew aboard the targeted vessel. Some of them might surrender outright, and possibly even cooperate with the pirates, while others might be convinced to aid in staging a defense.
As the attack progresses, the layout and features of the vessel can be used to create some exciting action. A few of the possibilities include:
  • The PCs might need to take or regain control of weapons or weapons systems in order to fight back against the pirates.
  • Similarly, tools can be used as weapons, or to fashion traps.
  • In the same way, they might need to take over communications systems, both for coordinating with each other and for summoning help.
  • Other features can be used for defense, too, such as by opening airlocks and hatchways so as to vent air and enemies into space.
  • They might need to reach escape pods—although that could lead to other difficulties.
  • Nearby terrain, such as a nebula or asteroid field, could also come into play.