Lit We Hav to Go on an Adventure with Jello

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Prolific WEG contributor George R. Strayton brings us Counterstrike, an adventure that puts you up against an Imperial faction. In Relic, Strayton invented the intriguing Kashi Mer dynasty and the Kashi Mer Talisman, which were interesting enough to get lots of expansion. For this sequel to Relic, he invents the Kaarenth Dissension, an Imperial splinter faction that would likewise prove compelling enough to get some retcons built around it.

    The stage is set: we're in the Corva sector of the Outer Rim, months after Thrawn's defeat, is now a hotbed of conflict, thanks to the unnamed Imperial faction from Relic, now revealed as the Kaarenth Dissension, which destroyed the New Republic communications hub in the sector and has now stepped up operations against the hard-pressed New Republic. In a plot point that prefigures some of the things Michael Stackpole would do with New Republic politics, there has also arisen a distrust of the New Republic among aliens of the area, who believe that the New Republic on Coruscant, like the Empire before it, will attempt to oppress them. Some alien populations have even gone to war against the New Republic. You start in a briefing room aboard the carrier cruiser Nova, with Captain Naren Bluuis briefing you. NRI thinks the Dissension is spreading these rumors among the alien population, and wants you to put a stop to it. You'd think they could just parade a bunch of Mon Calamari, Sullustans, Wookiees, and whatnot around, but sure, you might as well root out their operatives too. You'll pose as smugglers on the Daranc Run and stop at Betha II, a stopover point for fringers on the Run where NRI has lost several operatives and the NR has lost a few ships, marking it as a hotbed of Kaarenth covert activity and therefore a good place to start looking. You'll make contact with Cev Malanx, who will buy your cargo to provide you further cover.

    Your cargo is illerium, a volatile chemical, and there's a leak in one of your canisters, leaving you a booby trap that can take out your rear deflectors whenever the ship gets hit, if you don't check the cargo beforehand and detect the problem. A nice little added detail. You land on Betha II, an ungoverned arid rock with a population of only 800 sentients. It was once colonized, before its thin atmosphere gave out and its water evaporated, and was only recently resettled by smugglers looking to reestablish its abandoned port as a shadowport. Leave the ship to wander the decrepit starport carved out of caves and canyons, and you happen across a robbery in process, a few aliens holding up some humans as they rob their freighter's cargo. You can try to stop them, or let them get away and take off in their own ship. You obviously are supposed to intervene. It turns out one of the humans is Cev Malanx, who's so spooked by this, the latest in a string of robberies, that he clears out, refusing to buy your cargo. You can only persuade him to take half of it if you roll well. He'll give you some information, and then clear out with his partner, Regec Sloom. Regec Sloom's a pretty great name. Sloooooooom. Anyway, you were supposed to maybe be a little suspicious of spaceport control on your way down, but if you try to check it out, nobody lets you in the door to the control room.

    As you head toward the main drag, you're intercepted by T-11, a former Old Republic tactical droid that was unsuccessfully reprogrammed to run a garbage scow, leading to its programming becoming corrupted and it snapping and taking off. It was eventually recovered by the Dissension, and couldn't be reprogrammed, so it was put to work guarding a Dissension Skipray in one of the bays here, and it's now totally paranoid and pulls a blaster on you. You can try to convince it you're not its enemies, or I guess you could fight it, or whatever. Strayton actually doesn't seem that interested in the outcome. If you can get at the Blastboat inside the bay it's guarding, though, you'll notice it has a Kaarenth Dissension mark on it, and you can attach the tracking device you were provided with to it.

    You can get out of the spaceport and into the city, which is carved into the walls of a canyon. Out on the middle of one of the canyon bridges, you run into a group of drunk, hostile Ithorians who think you're the Imperials who once stranded them in deep space; find your way out of this one. There are a couple locations in the city you can visit. There's a supply shop run by a Squib, who'll sell you black market goods or information; he knows about the Dissension moving in on the starport and funding refurbishing work. At the ship supply store, you find a bunch of hostile aliens, and the Chadra-Fan owner won't sell to you. The aliens won't talk to you, and say they have to be somewhere at dusk. If you watch, you'll see them head out to a meeting at the cantina. That's the last location, with a similar profusion of hostile aliens. Strayton doesn't seem to have considered the possibility of an all-alien party, which is what would make the most sense for the NR to send. If you have an alien character who separates himself from the humans, a Kubaz named Shuzz will invite him to the dusk meeting. If you're able to look in on the meeting, you'll see a human in an Imperial uniform speaking to the group. No word on why human-hating aliens would buy a human Imperial as their friend in the quest to avoid domination by the supposedly evil humans of the New Republic. Commander Ulcane, the Imperial, claims that the Dissension wants to separate itself from the rest of the Empire and its harmful legacy against aliens, but I don't know why anybody would buy it. He claims to have warships waiting to strike the New Republic, but he wants to recruit these smugglers and their small craft to counter the New Republic's starfighters. Ulcane leaves, and then the aliens in the cantina attack you. They'll chase you all the way to the spaceport if you flee. But the goal here is to have the tracking device planted by the time Ulcane gets in his Skipray and takes off, so you can trace him to the Spawn Nebula.

    A writeup lets you know that Meres Ulcane got into the Imperial Academy after an uncle in the military convinced a board to overlook his subpar scores on the entrance exam, but his career after graduation quickly stalled when he was shunted to lowly frontline assignments by superiors who realized he was unqualified and just wanted to get rid of him. He got his first field promotion by blowing up a Rebel outpost -- after sealing the rest of his demolition squad inside so he could be sure to get all the credit, and continued to rise via field promotions in similarly suspicious conditions. He had no friends, and tried to get a posting in the Outer Rim, where he'd have less oversight, and made a habit of studying alien cultures. Shortly after Endor, Ulcane had to flee a mutiny by his own men, and ended up recruited by the mysterious figure who had founded the Kaarenth Dissension (who, you may remember, was retconned to be Devian from Crimson Empire III). Devian allowed him to play out a long-simmering plan to try to gain support among the aliens of the Outer Rim and pit them against the New Republic.

    You may have a hard time following Ulcane, because the Dissension controls spaceport control and won't give you clearance. Four alien-piloted ships chase you, but if you helped Cev Malanx, he'll also show up and help you out. Escape, and then follow the tracking signal to the Spawn Nebula, which pulls you out of hyperspace early despite being a damn nebula and therefore really not that dense. You end up navigating to a pocket of clear space inside the nebula, which is full of Imperial craft arrayed around a huge repair dock. These ships are mostly uncrewed, gathered together in the hopes of building up the Dissension's resources. If you can get into the reactor core powering the dock and place some explosives by the main power coupling, though, you can take out the dock and all the ships with it. You have to con your way onto the station, posing as smugglers hired to ferry cargo, as you see some other freighters doing. As Strayton writes it, it appears fairly easy to talk past the security detail that greets your ship, jack in to a terminal and get some schematics, and just walk right into the station, pretending to deliver supplies, all the way to the reactor. Place some explosives and head out, but accessing the main reactor finally set off an alarm, and now stormtroopers come investigating. Fight back to the ship, blast off, and avoid the doors closing at the end of the tunnel out of the hangar bay. Then fight some TIEs. Then, just as you're getting ready to jump out of the explosion radius, an Interdictor shows up and starts powering up. I don't know why an Interdictor just jumped into Imperial territory and decided to interdict its own forces, because this is sure too damn quick for it to be responding to an alert. Either outrun the Interdictor or try to disable its gravity well generator, and escape just as the facility goes up.

    Back at the Nova, Captain Bluuis will congratulate you on a job well done, putting the New Republic in a good position to hold off the Kaarenth Dissension and turn the tide against them.

    I like Strayton's ability to throw in a lot of interesting little details and create some intriguing hooks, and he knows how to flesh out an adventure with detail that makes it feel relatively full rather than underwritten. Incidents like the drunk Ithorians keep things from being barebones. At the same time, though, I thought this adventure promised a little more than it delivered. The hook of conflict against a mysterious faction within this sector is pretty cool, but Strayton never really lets you learn anything about the Dissension, still playing his cards close to his chest with the hope of stringing out more adventures about his mysterious figure and his mysterious faction (which Strayton never ended up doing, leaving it in the hands of Abel and Dan to resolve the Kaarenth Dissension by turning it into the Restored Empire from Crimson Empire III). The initial plot of tracking down the source of these rumors is too easily resolved; basically all you have to do is show up and an Imperial will make a speech saying, "HI I'M THE GUY." There's not much intrigue, no detective work, no twisting trail of clues to follow there. And then it abruptly shifts from an investigation into, "Here's a dock, blow it up ludicrously easily." There are two separate plotlines smushed into one adventure, and it shortchanges both of them. I'd have really preferred to see the investigation stay the center of the adventure, letting you dig your way into the underworld looking for clues and tracing links back to find an Imperial Intelligence mastermind running the plot, and keep shipyard destruction for the next adventure, when you can fully play out an adventure just around that, infiltrating the shipyards, performing your sabotage, maybe coordinating a New Republic military strike, calling in the fleet for a big battle. That would fully service both plot threads; this way, the adventure feels a bit like a bait-and-switch where neither idea gets developed to anybody's satisfaction. Interesting ideas that are never given the room to develop.

    Tony Russo's back, and back to the Red Moons, with his first short story when we return.
  2. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    We've seen quite a bit of material from Tony Russo over the last two years of Adventure Journals, but Blaze of Glory is his first short story. He's been playing with the Red Moon mercenary group and its private war against the Pentastar Alignment since issue three. It's Red-Moons-vignette-heavy piece on mercenaries made it clear that Russo wanted to do Red Moons stories, so it's nice to see him come right out and do a short story. A lot of pieces so far have had a sort of mixed character, where somebody has an idea that they clearly want to tell stories with but haven't figured out how to actually write a story with them, so they give a sourcefile piece on their characters and scenarios. And for that matter, a lot of the bare-bones short stories have read like somebody had an idea for some good characters and scenarios, but was only able to put them in a generic, clumsily-written plotline and probably would have been better off just doing a sourcefile article. Blaze of Glory doesn't suffer that issue, as those who have read it from Tales from the Empire may know.

    Lex "Mad Vornskr" Kempo, an ex-Imperial scout who's bounced between all kinds of mercenary outfits, introduces the theme of the story by starting talking about how mercenaries want to go out in a blaze of glory, since they don't live to get old, to a new recruit called Brixie Ergo. Neither is one of the Red Moons we know from Russo's earlier pieces. Sully Tigereye is, and he's running this mission. No Stormcaller in this story. Nutty Hugo Cutter is also along. Brixie, an ex-medical student, is the new medic for this job, hitting a Karazak Slavers' Cooperative (from Galaxy Guide 11) outpost on Gabredor III. Her parents, Entrallan doctors who were drafted into the Pentastar Alignment's military as combat medics and disappeared. She had a problem, nobody else could help, and she was able to find the Red Moons, making contact with Colonel Stormcaller while he was disguised as an old drunk. He agreed to use his resources to try to find her parents if she dropped out of med school and joined up as a combat medic for the good guys.

    [IMG]
    Pictured: totally not Colonel Stormcaller

    The ship then craps out spectacularly right in the middle of their atmospheric entry, resulting in everybody abandoning ship. Apparently nobody things to just have Sully land it. Get it, Sully. Like the Hudson plane guy. Sully. Their escape pod ends up stuck in the trees of the jungle on Gabredor, an otherwise uninhabited planet on Myto's Arrow, a hyperspace route discovered by Old Republic scout Keos Myto before being abandoned for being too dangerous to be useful and having nothing worth exploiting on it. Brixie manages to get them down, though..

    "Would it help if I did this?" Brixie's voice called from deeper inside the pod. A secondary hatch blew off, slicing vines and branches. Without means of further support, the pod fell the remaining 40 meters until it landed in the thick bough of an ancient swamp tree. Tigereye scratched his bruised head as he and the others spilled out of the pod and hit the dirt.
    "No."

    Russo's actually one of the better writers. Frankly, most of the writers we've seen couldn't have even pulled off that bantering setup/punchline rhythm. On the ground, Sully gives them the full details of their mission: they're there to rescue two kids from the slaver camp.

    Speaking of, we hear from lamentably-named slavemaster Greezim Trentacal, who's bored waiting for his ship to get loaded full of slaves he can sell to the Pentastar Alignment (which gets around Imperial anti-slavery laws, which are technically on the books, by issuing "mass employment notices" that the Karazaks fulfill with "recruits" whose provenance the Alignment doesn't question). Trentacal gives us some backstory, about how the Pentastar Alignment sat out Thrawn's campaign, with Kaine waiting to launch his own offensive, and how the Alignment is using Karazak to kidnap those kids, the children of the Cantras Gola ambassador, to pressure Cantras Gola and its local megacorp, PowerOn Conglomerate, one of the Alignment's major corporate backers, from throwing their support to the New Republic. He'll get to keep the kids anyway, after the ambassador delays the talks long enough for the Alignment to sabotage them, and then kill the ambassador off. So we're rooting pretty strongly for the villain to get knocked off here. He has a mute slave girl he makes serve him; I hope she gets to off him. Also he has a Defel bodyguard named Vex, which should be good for some action. I always love it when people use cool species like the Defel. Vex's men report finding the crash. They don't know who it is, but they know someone's coming.

    Back to the Red Moons, who are currently dealing with Lex Kempo struggling to get a slimy jungle critter off his head in a solid comic-relief sequence. Brixie finally comments on the fact that they all spent their time insulting and arguing with each other rather than being all cool and professional, and they tell her she's been watching too many movies and they're all good friends who go way back; that's why they spend all their time giving each other crap. They hit the security perimeter, a sensor fence network. Cutter goes to work building some contraption to disarm it, while a mounted tracker shows up on their trail, leading Kempo to run off to kill him. He takes a charge from the big lizard the tracker is riding, though, and has to be saved by Sully. Another tracker, however, gets the drop on Brixie and Hugo. Then Kempo gets a literal drop on him, and Brixie gets run over by the mount but manages to stab it to death. After all this excitement, Brixie demands to know who the kids are, why they're so important. Brixie, you're questioning why it's important to rescue kids from slavers. Think for a second, you selfish dunce. The others make the point about being good soldiers and taking orders -- you don't always get told exactly why you do what you do, but you still have to do it anyway. But then they explain why it's important to help out the New Republic on this one, even if the Red Moons were founded because they were upset the New Republic wasn't doing enough against the Pentastar Alignment -- helping the NR still helps them weaken the Alignment.

    Trentacal, getting the news that his trackers haven't reported back after investigating the crash site, and a perimeter sensor has malfunctioned, panics and orders Vex to get everything moving to evacuate. The mute slave girl waits for Trentacal and Vex to leave, then gives the kids a key, only for Trentacal to bust back in.

    The Red Moons have made it to the camp, and they watch the slaves being loaded aboard Trentacal's ship. They've got watchtowers and a bunker, meaning the mercs can't rush the ship. Hugo, though, has some ideas about blowing things up. And good thing he does, because they blow up two of the watchtowers right in time to distract Trentacal from having the slave girl executed. It certainly alerts the slavers, though, and Kempo and Brixie end up pinned down, near Hugo who's also pinned down. Only Sully's made it to the ship. He blends in with the slaves being loaded, before getting the ramp guards and boarding the ship. Meanwhile, to save Hugo, Kempo loads up a hovercart full of explosives and drives it at the bunker. He catches his foot jumping out, though, and gets dragged into the huge explosion. A blaze, certainly, but I'm not sure how glorious it is to not deliberately sacrifice yourself, just kinda get killed by accident because your foot stuck. But he knew the risks, so it's still reasonably glorious. Sully takes the bridge of the ship, while Hugo and Brixie get aboard. Sully's pissed enough about Kempo dying to just throw a dude into a wall, which convinces a guard to tell him where the kids are -- in the bigshot's cabin. Sully and Hugo get set to go in, trying to leave Brixie to guard their slaver captive, but she's pissed off too and not going to let them stop her from being in on the big climax, so she just shoots the slaver on stun. Everybody forgets about stun.

    They storm the cabin, but find Trentacal dead. Vex is lurking in the dark. The slave girl is also dead, which is disappointing, but at least she got Trentacal and his men with a holdout blaster when the explosion distracted them, before Vex got her. Vex jumps Hugo and Brixie, but she sees just enough to realize it's a Defel, which she shouts out. Sully turns up the lights, which blinds Vex, who is last seen with a pissed-off, vibroaxe-wielding Sully Tigereye advancing on him.

    They, of course, take off in the ship full of now-freed slaves, children rescued after having hopefully not seen a big furry alien slaughter another furry shadow-wolf alien with his bare hands. Sully and Hugo left some calling cards behind to let the Karazaks know that the Red Moons are on their ass, but a sorrowful-but-wiser Brixie notes one big calling card -- the explosion has left behind a crescent-shaped fire, allowing Lex Kempo to go out in a red moon-shaped blaze of glory.

    Everybody gets a writeup, though since Kempo's is the only one to give significant information I wasn't able to fit in to the narrative or that wasn't already in the original Red Moons piece, I'll just go over it here. A Corellian, he got drunk one night and woke up to find out he'd enlisted in the Imperial Army. He excelled in training but was always arguing with his superiors about tactics, and so was assigned to the 676th Light Support Scouts, a unit of discipline problems, morons, convicts, and cowards that was used as cannon fodder. He immediately took his gear and deserted, working his way through a series of mercenary units where he continually made it through the worst circumstances. He ended up hiring out to the Rebellion as a pathfinder, and worked with Stormcaller for years before bugging out to follow Stormcaller to the Red Moons.

    It's a really solid short story. The prose isn't a standout, but it's not clunky, and it's full of little bits of banter and humor that actually work. It does a good job of making its point without getting overblown. It's not a brilliant story with deep themes, but it's got some intelligence, and it moves through a solid adventure without feeling cliched. I liked it a lot. I'd have read more Red Moons shorts from Russo, though unfortunately we never got any. We'll follow this up with another Scout's Dispatch.
  3. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    After an ad for the Star Wars Miniatures Battles Starter Set, we get our second Scouts' Dispatch. Yet another recurring feature, added six months ago, it presents Captain Korren Starchaser of the New Republic Scout Service's newsletter on scouting-related topics for some nice variety from your usual smuggler/Rebel operative orientation.

    Our topic today is the remote Outer Rim Serianan system. Serias is the only inhabitable planet in the system, while there are three barren planetoids at the edge of the system. Over half the system is a huge asteroid belt, thought to possibly be the result of multiple planets colliding. What makes this system interesting to us is Starchaser's discovery of weird ancient runes carved into several of these asteroids. Then, in the largest and most heavily be-runed asteroid of the grid sector where Starchaser's team found the runes, they found a huge cavern they're calling the Gulch. The Gulch has several runes inside and a niche in the rear that houses several alien statues. Knowing he had an important find on his hands and not wanting the site to be rushed once the Scout Service published the data, Starchaser wrapped up his operation and headed back to base to let Dr. Maxina Sensis analyze the findings before they went out. They didn't attempt to make first contact with the inhabitants of Serias because they wanted to decipher these runes first and see if they could learn anything about the civilization and be prepared, so they just did a pass to get some readings. Starchaser is worried, however, by rumors that his find has already leaked, and that the Empire might try to exploit the system.

    There's a diagram of some of the most interesting runes and their location in the field; Starchaser says that some were huge, bigger than the ship, while some were tiny, but all definitely appear to have been made by intelligent beings. Some of the runes suggest humanoid beings, though the scans show the Serianans aren't humanoid. He'd like to try to correlate the markings against any known species or see if there are any records of anybody visiting the system before. The Gulch asteroid is made out of extremely dense minerals, yet the whole opening appears to have been carved out, meaning advanced technology was used. The statues inside were removed for study, though they're still quarantined, and they appear to be models of alien buildings. There are five of them, carved from material similar to that of the Gulch though less dense, but resistant to scanning equipment. They appear designed to lock together into a larger model, but if so there's one more building missing.

    That's the end of the information on Serianan. Starchaser then gives us a writeup on the vagabond spacesuit his crew used, his own modified design. It's got a full scanning suite built in, mounted on the shoulders, so the user can scan and still have his hands free.

    There's also a piece on Dr. Sensis, a xenoarchaeologist and "exploratory historian" stationed at the New Republic Scout Service's Daxis Outpost in the Jandolhoon system. Starchaser respects her work and enjoys her optimistic outlook. She's from the Parkis system, and graduated from a top Core university. She was headed toward a Corporate Sector research job when she was excited by a NRSS recruiting poster just before graduation and decided to sign up with them instead. She was sent out to the Rim, and while some question her decision to head out into the boondocks in government service, she loves getting her hands on the NRSS's latest finds before anyone else. She's currently studying the Serianan artifacts but thinks she'll need another expedition to gather more information.

    You know what that means -- there's an Adventure Idea where your party is hired to do the follow-up investigation, but find independent archaeologists already there. They're making some good progress deciphering the artifacts, but they're not very secretive, and you have to deal with the prospect of unsavory elements -- cowboy prospectors and maybe some would-be raiders, maybe even the Empire -- horning in. There's another Adventure Idea about your being hired to get the missing model artifact, but getting jumped by pirates near the system and taken back to their base -- which is a life-size version of the missing model. Figure out what's going on, get the missing model, and escape the pirates.

    It's an interesting piece, giving you some intriguing questions to play with but no answers. In fact, there's very little actually established, and writer Peter Woodworth resists giving you even a vague idea of where any adventure based on this setup might go. There's no hint of what any of it might mean, what it might lead to, what the Serianans might be like. It's almost completely in the GM's hands to make anything of it. That's a bold move, one I can't really condemn, but which limits the usefulness of the piece to just being a big prompt, and limits my ability to critique it too much. It gives you some cool pieces to work with, and that's all I can really say.

    A set of adventure scenarios built around the Black Curs follows. This should be good.
  4. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Peter Schweighofer loves his Black Curs. Having concluded his ongoing Black Curs stories, he's been without a major outlet for these characters since issue five, but with Black Curs Blues, Schweighofer's written a short campaign, a series of three adventure scenarios, based around the Black Curs. It's only the second adventure in the issue, and Schweighofer had to write it himself; the struggle to get good adventures to fill the pages of the Adventure Journal continues.

    Our setting is six months post-Endor, amidst the chaos of Imperial disintegration, with the New Republic preparing to strike at the Core. The Black Curs have been performing recon, and have raised enough attention that the Empire has sent Advisor Bregius Golthan to capture the Black Curs, who are trying to get out of the Core.

    Our first scenario is Storms Over Moorja. Harkness and his crew are trying to get to an NR safe world with their data from the Core and Colonies, but Golthan's forces are hot on their tail as they're jumping around heading for Moorja, and now they've also got two Star Destroyers from Moff Prentioch involved, since Prentioch wants their intel so he can move in on Imperial territory himself. Your characters are brought to meet with Airen Cracken personally, stationed with the New Republic fleet near Mon Calamari. This reinforces the idea that Mon Calamari is functioning as the original capital of the New Republic. The New Republic has noticed the chase, and though they can't identify the freighter, they suspect it must be one of their intelligence operatives. They want you to go to Moorja and provide a distraction, and if possible to collect their report.

    Moorja is an Inner Rim colony world run by Salliche Ag, though mostly via benign neglect. Its tiny population of twenty-five thousand humans, fifteen thousand Ithorians, and twenty-five hundred Arcona (that's a smaller population than the Faeroe Islands) farm and mine, with the Arcona mining salt, the degenerates. It is quiet, peaceful, with one city (which can't even be that big, with that population) and a lot of outlying farms, but also subject to ion storms that can mess up electronic systems. Notably, its terrain is noted as including badlands, plains, low hills, and forests. Amazingly, we have a planet with actual normal, varied terrain.

    The players emerge over Moorja to see a big old space battle. Golthan's Star Destroyers are fighting Prentioch's, so you can leave them to it, because the Last Chance has been hit and is going down over Moorja. Make it past some TIEs and you can head to Moorja, but the ship has gone down under a big ion storm, making it difficult to pinpoint its exact location. It's pretty much in the middle, while Imperial dropships are landing around the edges of the storm. You can put down relatively near the Last Chance, but coming from one side you have four of Golthan's AT-ATs, and the other side has two AT-ATs and four AT-STs from Prentioch, so you may want to strafe them first, if you think you can do it safely in the storm, where you're constantly rolling for ion damage. The walkers will fire on each other more than the Black Curs if you let them get close enough, but they'll drop troops to capture the spies. Platt, Jai Raventhorn, and Tru'eb are defending the ship, while Dirk Harkness, who has the only copy of the report, has headed off to get a Y-wing the group has stashed onworld and split off with the report. Platt won't leave the ship, which isn't heavily damaged and which they're repairing, so she wants you to head out, with your ship or the speeder bikes you were provided with, to pick up Harkness.

    You can track Harkness to the Crumbling Lands, a rocky badlands with an unstable surface that can crumble unexpectedly into cave systems underneath, dropping you into caves, which is exacerbated by TIE bombers trying to flush Harkness out. So basically you're going to end up in the caves. You finally run into Harkness when he helps you out as you're attacked by bruwoses, big tunneling lizards. Schweighofer suggests that if you want to extend this adventure, you do it here, with more encounters in the caves. You can always count on caves for some good hazards. You have to cross a torrent of rainwater flooding the caverns to get to the Y-wing, which Harkness and one other character can take. Everybody else has to walk back or wait for pickup.

    Make it back to the ship(s), and maybe the Last Chance has been repaired, or maybe it's been captured, depending on how you left the situation with the Imperials. You can escape, with the freighters covering Harkness in the Y-wing, but as soon as you lift off, the space forces' full attention goes to you. Cover Harkness and then escape yourself, making it back to the New Republic fleet, where Harkness delivers his report. Which is, of course, Recon & Report: The Journey to Coruscant from all the way back in Adventure Journal 2.

    The second scenario is Crystal Intrigue, which sounds like a great name for a stripper. This time, the characters get to meet with none other than Luke Skywalker himself aboard the NR flagship. Some mining world called Canyon has invited Luke to make diplomatic contact, but he has important VIP stuff to do with his important friends Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar, so he asks you yahoos to be his representatives. Canyon, an independent world, has found a cavern full of "a crystal substance" that the people thought a Jedi might be interested in. So apparently they think it's full of lightsaber crystals, though it sounds more like it's full of meth. You should go meet with the administrator, Guldus Bemm, and also with Platt, who's on the world negotiating for mineral sales, and bring back samples for Luke to check out.

    Canyon was discovered when an asteroid in the system pulled a Victory-class Star Destroyer out of hyperspace and damaged it badly enough that it was just abandoned in the system. It sent out a distress beacon that got the attention of fringers as well as Imperial forces, and the fringers saw an opportunity for a mining colony. The Empire ignored the system. It's now a prospering mining colony (population twenty-eight thousand, or approximately that of Nicholasville, Kentucky, the one thousand, four hundred and eighty-sixth largest city in the US as of 2010), run by Bemm, a Twi'lek pirate who was one of the original pirates and smugglers to see the mining opportunity.

    Land on the mountaintop colony (Canyon is all mountains and canyons) and meet Bemm, who's disappointed Luke Skywalker didn't show. Your quarters are near Platt's, and you can catch up with her. Bemm has a good operation going, but can't sell as much as he'd like without a big client like the New Republic, so Platt wants to make the deal. But she doesn't trust Bemm, being that he's a greedy ex-pirate. Bemm takes you on a little tour, and then hands you off to Horvat, his Rodian assistant, who will take you out to the crystal caves.

    You get some climbing gear and head into the narrow cave entrance, while Horvat stays with the shuttle in case there are any rockfalls and he has to move the ship. Head in until the passage opens up into a big cave, and you can start looking around for crystals. You won't find any, because it's a trap. There are four AT-STs inside, set up to capture Luke Skywalker. I don't know why you would spring the trap anyway when Luke isn't there; just say the entrance collapsed or something and you can't get in to explain why you don't have any crystals. But hey, they've got a perfectly good ambush set up and they're not going to waste it, so you get jumped. If you make it out of the other end of the cave, you can get to the Imperial Lambda-class shuttle and commandeer it from the handful of troops left with it. If you go farther, there's the AT-ST dropship, which is totally unguarded, and you can easily get the drop on the pilots. If you want to extend play, the Lambda pilots can resist, and one can set a self-destruct that you have to try to disarm.

    If you have the Lambda, you technically could escape, since it has a hyperdrive, but you'd be leaving your own ship and abandoning Platt. So obviously you're supposed to go back to the city, but it's abandoned and Platt is nowhere to be found. You can find a view of a landing pad where Bemm turns Platt over to none other than Bregius Golthan, mastermind of this little trap. You can attack, but Golthan will get away with Platt in the shuttle. His Star Destroyer will in turn get away, and if you don't notice that your hyperdrive has been rigged to blow when engaged, you'll be stranded. Make it back to the New Republic and explain what happened, setting up our next adventure scenario, Platt's Rescue.

    Cracken won't put New Republic assets at risk to rescue Platt, but he does know she was taken to Golthan's fortress on Voktunma. He'd actually like to, but we have a message from Mon Mothma telling him the NR just can't afford to assault Golthan's fortress for one mercenary, and passing on a commandment from Borsk to stop using these untrustworthy mercenaries anyway. The NR doesn't want to be held accountable for the actions of mercenaries who could upset the diplomatic situation. Dirk Harkness recruits the characters to help the Black Curs save Platt, taking them to the Curs' secret base in an abandoned Rebel facility. In a bizarre detail, the mostly-still-abandoned base is run by child labor, the Black Curs having recruited orphans as their support staff. The Black Curs' plan is to send you in on a mission to sabotage Golthan's extensive air defenses and rescue Platt, allowing them to lead an X-wing attack on the base and exfiltrate you.

    You can easily land on Voktunma and head out of the city, whereupon you can start infiltrating the base. Eventually you'll tangle with some scout troopers, and have to try not to alert the various gun-tower outposts throughout the forest. You then have to climb the cliff the fortress is on, and infiltrate either over the walls, or by jumping the gunners inside a turbolaser emplacement in a cave on the way up. Expansion of the adventure comes in here, with stiffer defenses. Once you're in, you have to find the shields and air defense sensors, so you can sabotage them. Platt, though, is chained up in the middle of Golthan's audience chamber. You can free her, but she hasn't been fed and is in bad shape, so she isn't much use, and you get ambushed by some of Golthan's bodyguards. Make it out to where Tru'eb can pick you up, and then blow the system.

    It's a fun sequence of adventures. The middle one is a bit thin, and they don't do a ton with the bigger-picture elements they play with, but they're good, solid adventures. I'd have liked to have seen more interaction with and personality from the Black Curs, but there's a lot of room for GMs to build that out. Schweighofer's always good at worldbuilding, and there are some cool ideas, like the characters getting stuck in a trap meant for Luke Skywalker, a raid on a mountaintop castle, and playing Imperial and warlord forces off against each other while stuck in between an AT-AT clash. Plus it's always nice to see the Black Curs.

    Tomorrow we'll see who's wanted by Cracken.
  5. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    That Airen Cracken, always wanting people. This time around, we've got two people who are Wanted by Cracken.

    Slar-dan ti Gardi is a Twi'lek slaver wanted for slavery, kidnapping, bribery, theft, resisting arrest, and assault on New Republic personnel. It's forty-five thousand credits to bring him in. A crook operating in the Ison Corridor under the Empire, he tried to continue his business practices when the New Republic took over the Ison shortly after Endor, only for Lieutenant Commander Dasha Fanron to arrest him when he tried to bribe her. After a few months in jail, he took off for Imperial territory, and there got involved with the slaver Borun Call. It's bad enough that the guy became a slaver, but he got into real trouble with the New Republic when he enslaved two Wookiees who happened to be New Republic representatives from Kashyyyk, Krotorra and Lamorrack. Sergeant Tauran Nartal of NR Special Forces was sent to investigate, and wound up capturing Gardi. Call, however, ambushed Nartal, captured him, and then sold him into slavery. The NR has put a big bounty on Gardi, who's gone into hiding in response. A distinguishing feature for those looking to capture him is his maimed left lek, which had a half a meter ripped off by a Gamorrean who didn't really feel like being enslaved.

    I like Gardi as a concept; a slaver is a nice change of pace, but what's really notable is the way he's basically just a small-time nobody who's completely stumbled into being a high-priority bounty by capturing the wrong people and from there it's spiraled into something he'll never be able to get out of. He's not some grand slaving kingpin, he's not a threat to regional stability, he's not undermining the New Republic -- he's just an ordinary everyday criminal who accidentally messed with some diplomatic personnel, and then compounded it by his buddy getting the drop on the soldier who came to capture him, and now suddenly Airen Cracken himself is foaming at the mouth to throw his ass in the Dles IV prison.

    Much higher-profile is Niclara Varnillian. She's wanted for pretty much everything in the book, but with a bounty of only thirty thousand credits, which is baffling low for someone who BLEW UP ALDERAAN. Yes, that's right. Long before Tenn Graneet, Niclara Varnillian was established as part of the Death Star's gunnery crew. What's worse, she's Alderaanian. She grew up rich on Alderaan, but joined the Imperial Navy to her father's dismay. After graduating her training, she ended up stationed aboard the Death Star as one of the gunners on the superlaser crew, which seems like an odd place to stick a new trainee. She was part of the crew that fired on Alderaan, but according to Cracken wasn't bothered at all by killing her homeworld and her father, having absorbed the Imperial line that they were all traitors. Varnillian is still around to be wanted, rather than being a cloud of particles orbiting Yavin, because she was transferred off the Death Star immediately after Alderaan (probably once somebody realized she was Alderaanian and didn't trust her to continue manning the superlaser) to the Star Destroyer Pulsar. There Lieutenant Varnillian became the chief gunnery officer, but was demoted after an incident on Ord Mantell in which she identified several Rebel agents while on shore leave, but botched the attempt to capture them, getting several of her men and almost forty civilians killed, but only killing two of the Rebels while all the rest escaped. When Pulsar surrendered at Endor, Varnillian led a group that stole a transport and fled, later emerging as the leader of a small Imperial force raiding New Republic bases on the Outer Rim; it's not clear from the text if her guerrilla force is an official Imperial command, or if she's just scraped up some cut-off forces and gone rogue as a loyalist pseudo-warlord.

    I like that concept a lot, the idea of cut-off Imperials waging guerrilla war in the Outer Rim; it works completely independent on Varnillian's background. But Varnillian herself is an interesting character, someone who destroyed her own home planet out of loyalty to the Empire, and continued in full loyalty rather than turning into yet another defector. Either out of genuine loyalty, or a desire to outrun a sense of guilt by clinging to the Empire and its justifications, she's all in for the Empire. That doesn't mean she's a mastermind, as her botched Ord Mantell incident shows, but she's dangerous and nasty and, with the Alderaan connection, the kind of person the New Republic would very much like to make an example of. And she's only twenty-four, which means she was probably no more than nineteen when Alderaan blew, emphasizing just how much the Empire has defined her entire adult life, probably ever since she was seventeen. In that regard she's a rather tragic figure, and the in-universe conceit of these reports limits our ability to get an actual statement of her mindset, meaning the GM can play her level of regret, from secret mental torment to total sociopathic pride, however he likes, which gives you a lot of interesting things to potentially do with this character. Quite a good Wanted by Cracken overall. Craig Robert Carey is really doing a great job with the feature.

    Next time, we'll close out issue eight with a short story from new Adventure Journal author (but longtime fanficcer) Carolyn Golledge.
  6. comradepitrovsky Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2017
    star 3
    Huh. I may use Varnillian for a quest I've got in mind.
  7. JediBatman Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 3, 2015
    star 3
    Varnillian strikes me as an fascinating mash up of Nash Windrider and the aforementioned Tenn Graneet, even though she of course predates both those characters.
    Vthuil and comradepitrovsky like this.
  8. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Carolyn Golledge is, according to her About the Authors profile, coming in from the fanzine scene, where she's written over forty Star Wars stories. This is how you shared your fanfic before the internet. It's pretty interesting to see an author moving from fanfic to official writing, something fairly rare but that the Adventure Journal was in a good position to enable. Firepower is her first official Star Wars contribution.

    Things start in the middle of a battle, with X-wing squadron leader Stevan "Mak" Makintay flying beneath an Imperial carrier (almost nobody writes about carriers!) on his way to his jump point. It's shortly post-Hoth, with supply shortages an issue since the loss of Echo Base. Mak's Eyrie Base sent supplies to the main fleet, so they're feeling the crunch too. They'd tried to capture the carrier, but its TIEs drove the fighters off, killing some kid in Mak's squadron and making him feel bad. He also has a wingmate named Dallin, who I've decided is Jace Dallin's son because why not.

    He jumps to hyperspace, and we get some reflection on his past, as heir to the king of Hargeeva (population: ten Utahs), a lower-tech planet that was integrated into the Empire when he was eighteen, with his father made the Imperial governor. Hargeeva was settled two thousand years ago but degenerated to a feudal level when it lost contact with the rest of the galaxy, which lines up nicely with the New Sith Wars. Mak went to the Academy, but apparently was allowed to return home after graduating, where he opposed the Empire and his father's administration because he loves freedom and stuff. He fell in love with some woman named Ketrian Altronel, which was the final straw because she wasn't the noblewoman his father wanted him to marry. His dad not only disinherited him, he had him kidnapped and sent to an Imperial penal colony, which makes him the frontrunner for Terrible Dad of the Year. Mak then escaped prison with some help from his new Rebel friends, and returned to Hargeeva to set up a Rebel cell. This quickly snowballed into a failed revolution, which got his Rebel cell purged, and he escaped offworld to join the mainline Rebellion as a fighter pilot. This guy's backstory is so elaborate, the swordfighting X-wing pilot prince prison escapee who led a rebellion against his father, that he makes Alex Winger look underconceived. And that's before you learn that his lover Ketrian is a brilliant Imperial metallurgist who gave him a facial scar in a swordfight when he met her in fencing class. I have no trouble believing Golledge wrote fanfic.

    He makes it to Karatha, home of Eyrie Base, a small base located in a seaside cliff, brooding about his leadership sending them out undersupplied, with intelligence that wasn't quite good enough, and the pilot ending up killed. Oooh, maybe he'll start a revolution against the Rebel leadership! That'd be something new. He's talked out of going in and chewing out Baran, the intelligence chief, by Merinda, the ground crew chief, who instead gives him a plan to acquire manufacturing capabilities instead of continuing to try to raid the Empire for supplies. And so of course Mak thinks of his Imperial metallurgist ex-lover.

    Then we cut to Ketrian, suffering through a visit by Governor Makintay to her laboratory. He's accompanied by Major Nial Pedrin, a geologist and Imperial officer who commands the garrison on Hargeeva, which has lots of mineral wealth the Empire is exploiting, like, oh, two out of every three planets introduced in the Adventure Journal. They're inspecting some new technique Ketrian has developed. Ketrian and her friend Alikka Nolan then head out to meet a merchant. Given Alikka's hostility to Pedrin, it's really no surprise Alikka is secretly a Rebel. It would be more surprising if she weren't. Ketrian is taken out the back of a restaurant and to some seedy location to meet this merchant selling undefined wares she'd like to collect, but it turns out actually she's going to meet Mak. Alikka has tricked her into a Rebel setup. Ketrian was told, when Mak first disappeared into Imperial prison, that he'd fled the planet and left her for star piloting, which is why she hates his guts. The Rebels, one of whom is an Alderaanian, convince her to watch some Rebel holos about the truth about Alderaan and other assorted Imperial atrocities. Mak tells her he still loves her and explains the whole prison thing, which you'd think he could have explained when he came back to the planet the first time to lead his revolution.

    Ketrian watches the holos, but she doesn't believe the Alliance is any better than the Empire. It just wants something from her too, and it's responsible for making war and getting people killed. Asked if she can still work for the Empire after seeing just how evil it is, she replies with an all-time understatement on Palpatine: "I knew he wasn't perfect. He's human, like all of us." As she leaves, however, they're jumped by the Empire. She, Mak, and Alikka escape, but get cornered by Imperials who will think Ketrian is a Rebel. So Mak takes her an Alikka "hostage" and approaches the Imperials, who stun them all in yet another rare instance in which writers don't forget that the stun setting exists.

    Ketrian wakes up in a cell and is questioned by Pedrin. She sticks to her story, but Pedrin knows that Alikka is a Rebel. He's got Mak captured, but can't get him to reveal the location of his Rebel base. Ketrian avoids suspicion, however, and is released -- but she's being transferred to Coruscant to continue her research there after her breakthrough with her new alloy. You know, nobody in the Adventure Journal ever calls it Imperial Center.

    Also going to Coruscant, on the same ship, is the captive Makintay, who's being sent for more advanced torture. She seems to feeling quite bad about Mak's torture, so I'm betting she'll turn into a decent person by the end of the story. She's also aware that Alikka is probably being tortured too, so she asks Pedrin if he'll release her friend if she can get the location of the base out of Mak, and he agrees. I wouldn't trust him, but he agrees. So during transit, Ketrian comes into Mak's cell, all shaking and sick, and Mak tells her that Alikka died under questioning, which not only reveals that Pedrin is a liar, but also that he's an idiot, since he sent her to talk with someone who could and would easily tell her the truth that her bargain was no good. Then the hyperdrive dies, and the ship is raided by pirates. So Ketrian knocks out an Imperial who comes to check on them, and releases Mak. As the pirates overwhelm the crew, Mak stashes a blatantly ill Ketrian, poisoned by the shot Pedrin's med droid gave her in the cell so that if she did defect she wouldn't survive, and acquires breathers to counter the methane the alien pirates are spewing and some supplies. They don't have any escape pods left, though, so they have to hide out aboard the ship and wait for the pirates to make port. As it takes too long to land, though, Mak finally leaves to negotiate with the pirate leader, whom he's dealt with before, to get her the antidote that has to be aboard in case they didn't reach Coruscant fast enough. But it turns out the pirates are abandoning ship because Imperial forces have entered the system. So they end up heading for the med bay together, only to get in a shootout with what Mak quickly recognizes as Hal Dallin. It's not an Imperial rescue force; it's Rebels driving the pirates off the ship.

    Ketrian gets the antidote, they're in love again, she's joining the Rebel Alliance and giving them her alloy and expertise in honor of her dead friend . . . yay, happy ending.

    Well, that was definitely a story. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't impressive either. Golledge, typical of this sort of thing, packs the story with a lot of backstory that seems more interesting than what happens in the actual story, and then plays out a fairly standard story formula on top of that backstory. There's a boy and a girl who were in love but were broken up by mistake, and now they're in love again, he's a Rebel and she's an Imperial but he convinces her to defect -- you can pretty much tell where everything's going. It would have been much more interesting if Ketrian had gotten to be a villain. Or if Mak had any personality outside his romantic-hero-prince role (perhaps he might have been more colorful if he'd been the Sheikh's marriage sheriff instead). The story also jumps around a great deal, moving through a lot of stuff very quickly, churning through ideas as if the author knows she has a lot more she wants to do than can fit in her page count. The prose is unexceptional and there are no setpieces or sequences worth mentioning, so there's just nothing to make the story stand out. I like the fact that Ketrian is a metallurgist, somebody with brains rather than just another Imperial officer (and also not just a generic "scientist"). She could potentially be a good deal more interesting than Mak. But things just never quite go anywhere. It stays generic and never develops any kind of hook that makes me want more.

    That closes out Adventure Journal 8, completing two years of the Adventure Journal. It was a solid issue; it's not a standout, but it doesn't squander the momentum from issue seven. Next issue will include Tony Russo's last Adventure Journal work, a short story from Galaxy of Fear's John Whitman, the return of Paul Danner, an article on repulsortanks and ground combat, and Slaying Dragons.
  9. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    [IMG]

    Adventure Journal 9 starts the same way every Adventure Journal starts: the same Lucasfilm Fan Club ad and the Admiral's Communique. In this one, Peter Schweighofer brings us a message near and dear to my heart: "Not Everyone's From Tatooine," reads the header. Schweighofer complains that most of the material he gets acts as if the only planets in the galaxy are the ones from the movies, plus Corellia and Coruscant. Everybody's from Tatooine, Alderaan, or Corellia (I mean, if somebody's writing about characters from Dagobah or Hoth, it would surprise the crap out of me). Familiarity is nice, and people like to use cool stuff from the movies, but you can't make the setting too small by connecting everything to the movies and having every original character be from the same planet as one of the big three. If you really want the Star Wars spirit, you have to create new locations, too.

    Heir to Empire alone includes ten new planets (and that doesn't include Coruscant or Kashyyyk). There's been a deluge of material since then creating new worlds. The Adventure Journal alone has profiled fifty-two new planets in two years. Yet people keep going back to the well of movie planets. If you're not going to create your own, at least use a planet from the EU somewhere.

    Schweighofer makes great points. Is there anything more tiresome than reading somebody's fiction and finding yet another Corellian smuggler? As if it's the only world smugglers come from. Or more obnoxious than the billionth story to visit ass-end-of-nowhere Tatooine? Corellians, Tatooinians, they're played out. Done. Wouldn't it be a little more exciting to see someone from Eriadu, Esseles, Ord Mantell, Spira, or Bilbringi? Frankly, I'd rather see some of these stories try to use more existing worlds rather than all of them constantly inventing their own, usually half-assed planets that are never used by anything again, while nothing ever goes back and uses planets like Sevarcos or Lan Barell that WEG has created as interesting, exciting settings.

    I do have to note the bit of Ralph McQuarrie concept art behind the table to contents this issue, which is a piece I don't recall seeing before. It's art of Slave I, in a much more circular, sixties-sci-fi-looking form, escaping our heroes, who include Lando in some sweet red robes and incredible sideburns. Look at those sideburns.

    [IMG]

    Next, of course, comes New Horizons. Coming out soon is The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels. WEG's own Bill Smith has written up entries on a hundred ships and vehicles taken from the movies and all across the EU, combining all the known information with new facts about these ships. Everything is illustrated, which means some ships, like the Ssi-Ruuvi and Hapan warships, are being depicted for the first time. I remember the days of The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels -- an exciting time when just about every source got something in the book, and all kinds of stuff that wouldn't make the cut today was important enough to be included in a much smaller EU.

    Out now is Rebel Assault II. It was all the way back in the first issue that the original Rebel Assault got its New Horizons promo. "Unlike the first game, Rebel Assault II features a completely original story," which is a great backhanded compliment. Plus live-action video! "'This is the first time George Lucas has let anyone else film a live action Star Wars fantasy,' said project leader Vince Lee," a brazen liar who is hoping you've forgotten about the Holiday Special and both Ewoks movies. The story will follow Rookie One and Ru Murleen, who are played by real people in costume acting in front of bluescreens that will have Star Wars backgrounds dropped in. There's a lengthy explanation of the story, which makes it sound pretty cool, with Rookie One responding to a distress call from the Dreighton Nebula, a legendary Bermuda Triangle-type location that once swallowed up two whole battle fleets in the Clone Wars. You will need eight megs of RAM to play this exciting, action-packed story.

    Upcoming is The Black Fleet Crisis. This really highlights where we're at in the EU timeline now. When the Adventure Journal started, we were in the opening stages of the expansion out from the Thrawn Trilogy and Dark Empire, with early EU like the Jedi Academy Trilogy, The Truce at Bakura, and Children of the Jedi coming out, the video game era only beginning, and the comics still in the midst of Tales of the Jedi. WEG wouldn't make it to the late-Bantam period characterized by Hand of Thrawn, the late-stage X-wing books and I, Jedi, but the fact that we're already to The Black Fleet Crisis really emphasizes that we're now in the mid-period heyday of the Bantam era, with the X-wing books and comics, Shadows of the Empire, a plethora of classic video games, and a generally vibrant Expanded Universe. It's 1996 already! The Black Fleet Crisis, we are told, takes place in a time of peace, when the Empire has been defeated, the Jedi are flourishing, and the New Republic has turned its attention to administering the galaxy instead of war. But that's disturbed when Leia has to face an alien leader who's bent on genocidal war, while Lando has to seize a mysterious, dangerous spaceship, and Luke goes on a search for his mother's people. They don't even play up the mention of Luke's mother (or the fact that Lando is actually graced with his own major plotline!), but the blurb, while short and low-key, does a decent job of capturing the general spirit of the trilogy, a serious exploration of mature versions of our heroes, leading a mature New Republic through a crisis. Now this is a book for adults like me.

    Finally, we get the WEG news. The Best of the Star Wars Adventure Journal will be coming out with the best pieces from the Journal's first year, plus commentary by the writers. This isn't just a pure cash-in, as all those old Adventure Journals are out of print, and anyone who wants these select adventures, short stories, and sourcefiles will now have a source that isn't the secondary market. Also coming out is The Truce at Bakura Sourcebook, written with Kathy Tyers. WEG is so pleased with Tyers, they even plug her newest non-Star Wars book, a science-fiction novel about settlers rebuilding colonies destroyed by aliens amidst much political infighting, and somehow a woman in a virtual reality is an important part of it.

    Next up, we kick things off with some short fiction from a brand new author.
  10. Vthuil Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 3, 2013
    star 5
    Lando looks strangely like he's wearing Leia's Bespin dress in that picture.
  11. JediBatman Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 3, 2015
    star 3
    Agreed 1000%. I'd also like background cantina aliens to be treated the same way. I understand the danger of making everyone from Tatooine or making every alien companion a Wookiee. But at the other end of the scale, making new planets and aliens without any effort or imagination is just setting your creations up for a "X appeared in this one obscure Star Wars work and was never seen again" page on Wookieepedia. There always plenty of existing planets and aliens that authors could expand upon.
    Havac likes this.
  12. CT-867-5309 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2011
    star 6
    Lando on the other side of the Lando-Mara reveal.
  13. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Pride of place for this issue goes to Slaying Dragons, a short story from Angela Phillips. Notably, it beat out actual professional Star Wars author John Whitman's short story for that part. It's the first of three stories Phillips, a Virginia teacher, will write for the Journal.

    Shannon Voorson is slicing a computer while also reading a story about sixteen-year-old Jedi Knight Vici defending her brother, Veni, from a giant dragon. No word on where Vidi got to. She's a nine-year-old kid, living on a Kuat orbital station, her parents technicians at the orbital freight port. She's extremely bright, obviously, and also very lonely. She's slicing at random, so she's disappointed to find she's only come up with files on Star Destroyers currently under construction at Kuat. She's much happier, though, to find her beloved older cousin Deen visiting. Deen's one of the few Voorsons through the family's long history to have left Kuat Freight Port for a life in the greater galaxy. He's vague about what he's been doing, saying that he's been working as a tech, repairing starships for some new friends he made. When pressed for details, he says he recently adapted some airspeeders to intense cold. He's obviously a Rebel. We all know where this is going. They talk about her Alderaanian Jedi stories, which she got from her grandmother and that have her upset at the Empire for destroying Alderaan. He says the sort of ideas that the stories embody are dangerous to the Empire. I like the idea that the Empire couldn't wipe out the Jedi's memory entirely -- that grandmas would still have their old books of Jedi fairy tales to pass on if they weren't too scared. The Empire destroyed Alderaan to try to destroy Alderaan's ideas, Deen says, but it couldn't. Even the nine-year-old can figure out that Deen's a Rebel at this point. She offers him the Star Destroyer files, explaining that it's not hard for her computer to churn away and crack the Empire's computer-generated passwords, but no one's ever cracked the passwords on her files, which are usually the names of animals (dog mentions +1). Sweetheart, we need to have a talk about passwords, because that's exactly the opposite of how hard and easy work.

    At dinner, Deen brings up the fact that his unnamed friends need a big ol' power generator, since they've had a lot of equipment losses lately. He would very much like if his aunt and uncle, especially his aunt who's a docking supervisor, would help him and his friends steal a power generator that's going to be shipped to the Empire soon. That's kind of a big ask to just show up and bring up like it's a little favor over dinner. Nell, the mom, shuts him down instantly, explaining just how stupid his request is but saying she won't turn him in. Deen's terrible conspiratorial skills are explained by the fact that he's only twenty, and has been working as a Rebel tech at least since he was seventeen, since he's been working with the main Rebel force since Yavin and it's post-Hoth. He's used to standing around griping in Rebel bases, not dealing with civilians. Notably, as his profile picture reveals, he's black. Shannon's white. This makes one of the few instances of a multiracial family we see in Star Wars, and it certainly stands out among the nineties WEG material.

    Later that night, Shannon overhears her parents arguing. Johan is sympathetic to Deen and the Rebels; he's aware that the Empire is evil and feels like they should do something if they can, but Nell is too pragmatic to let her family get involved with the Rebellion and risk the Empire destroying them. She's convinced that the Empire already killed Johan's brother (presumably Deen's father) after he repaired a Rebel ship, in a fake accident. So when Deen leaves after an awkward breakfast, he leaves a communicator with instructions to contact him if they change their mind. Shannon pretends to destroy it for her mom, but hangs onto it.

    As the days go by, Shannon can't understand why her parents are so upset. She knows shipments get lost and misrouted all the time. This is weirdly timely, since I'm watching The Wire season two right now. If the generator disappears, surely it'll just be chalked up as a computer glitch. So she slices in and figures out how to set it up for Deen without anybody noticing: she moves up the pickup time by two hours, so Deen's barge can hook up and be gone before the Imperial barge shows up.

    Then, on the day of, she walks down to the port and talks her way in, claiming she's delivering her dad's lunch. Then she goes and slices her way into the cargo container, because apparently both security and safety precautions here are godawful and children can just wander through the stacks. Also, she's decided she wants to run away and join the Rebellion, because she's nine years old and stupid.

    Deen and barge captain Boo Rawl come on in to hook up, with Deen name-checking Cracken's Field Guide as an in-universe document, and then name-checking his friend Voren, as they deal with the fact that the techs won't be there to link them up for a bit, since their orders still said 1430 and they're on lunch right now. After they're finally hooked up, Boo shuts off his porn and they go and check out the generator quickly, only to find Shannon hanging around in a container that, frankly, has no reason to be pressurized. Deen wants to send her back to her parents, but Boo doesn't give a crap and doesn't want to wait for them to repressurize the bay and explain the kid when the real barge is going to be there in half an hour. They take off, and as they're clearing the system, the real barge jumps in. They have to run for it, but the barge is blocking them and now TIEs are coming. So Deen has the bright idea of comming control and telling Nell, the boss, that they have her daughter. Security won't call off the TIEs, even as Nell panics and reveals that she knows it's Deen, meaning Shannon's probably just gotten her parents killed, and Boo barely makes it out by playing chicken with the barge. They jump to hyperspace. Shannon's joined the Rebellion.

    There's a profile of Boo Rawl that reveals that Phillips is very obviously from Virginia and has been watching the adventures of Bo and Luke a bit too much. Boo Rawl is a shaggy-haired good ol' boy from planet Hazzard who's been hauling cargo for twenty years and joined the Rebellion five years ago. He wants the Empire out of people's lives. "His motto could be summed up as 'Keep your laws off my ship. my gun, my music, and my body.'" He has the largest collection of "hard-core anti-Imperial rock music" in the Alliance and his big dream is to record his song "Private Property" with a blacklisted group. This may be the most ridiculously unique profile in the entire Adventure Journal.

    There's also a writeup of the barge drivers -- precursors to the Action line of freighters that consist of a bridge up front and engines in the back, connected by a spine that clamps a single cargo container in between, a largely outmoded design that's been replaced by much larger container ships. Boo's armed his, of course.

    Two Adventure Ideas are, first, to put Shannon's data to use on a sabotage mission into the shipyards, somehow getting through security and then slicing viruses into the Star Destroyers' computers, and, second, to smuggle Nell and Johan Voorson out when they approach your ship, docked at the freight port, and get them to the Alliance. I guess that provides a happy ending, with Shannon managing not to get her entire family murdered and just forcing them into becoming wanted fugitives instead.

    This story is not great. It's not awful, but it's not great. It's a bold move to use a child protagonist in pulp science fiction. While it's kind of interesting to see the Galactic Civil War from a child's point of view, I'm not convinced that it's the right decision to make that kid a nine-year-old superhacker and then just ship her off to the Rebellion at the end as if that's a happy ending. What the hell is the Rebellion going to do with a nine-year-old? She's just going to end up on New Alderaan or something in some Rebel orphanage, and hopefully her parents will catch up with her and they can live as refugees together. Say, nothing ever really gets into the idea of what Rebels with families do. You know, the one or two Rebels who have managed not to have their entire families killed by the Empire as part of their backstory. But the story just doesn't really engage with how momentous and kind of awful a situation this is, and it barely even pays attention to Shannon's decision to run away and join the Rebellion. I know she's nine and stupid, but it's entirely absent from the text, I guess because it's just kind of assumed that joining the Rebellion is what good, moral protagonists do, so we don't need to see them make that decision. It's a short, simplistic story that doesn't offer a lot. I really like the orbital Kuat company-town freight depot setting, but other than that it's pretty generic.

    Next up, we have a sourcefile on a used starship lot and some of the ships you can find there.
  14. Vthuil Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 3, 2013
    star 5
    I feel like that's ignoring the awesome stupidity that is Boo Rawl.
  15. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Yeah but he does very little in the story other than watch porn. Now, if he were flying around in a hot-rodded freighter called the General Dodonna outrunning CorSec while blasting "Sweet Home Agamar," we'd really be on to something.
    Sarge likes this.
  16. CT-867-5309 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2011
    star 6
    I'm looking forward to the used starship lot. I hope they aren't all YT-1300s.
    Daneira likes this.
  17. JediBatman Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 3, 2015
    star 3
    Wait, I thought that was just a joke, did the story really imply he was looking at porn?

    Also I just remembered that Dodonna fought in the Clone Wars, making the General Dodonna joke even better.
    Last edited by JediBatman, Oct 14, 2017
  18. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    If I really wanted to make a parallel it would have to be a Separatist (maybe the Admiral Ningo?), but Dodonna's such a dead ringer for Lee that I had to go with him.

    And old Boo was watching "the latest scarlet-rated offering of Billi B and the Paradise Gang," which sounds like adult entertainment to me.
    JediBatman likes this.
  19. blackmyron Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2005
    star 5
    The 'scarlet' rating came from Galaxy Guide 9, which was an Imperial designation for material that was deemed un-Imperial or offensive, but no so much to be banned.
  20. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2000
    star 8
    Rebel children get kidnapped by Imperials and somehow end up freeing their adult parents.

    Duh.

    Vici, oddly enough, was the love interest of a Tales of the Jedi character I made.
  21. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Fizzi's Slightly Used Starships is this Journal's first sourcefile. John J. Richardson III writes and does his own artwork for his characters, which is pretty good, but art of the ships is provided by David Pilurs, who's done the first computer-generated art I can recall seeing in the Adventure Journal. For self-taught CGI created in 1995, it's really pretty good, with several of the shots having the crispness of photographed kitbashed models. The backgrounds are pretty generic, though. Conceptually it seems a bit reminiscent of A Buyer's Guide to Alternative Starships from a year ago in issue five, but as we'll see, there's even more to this piece.

    Richardson begins by laying out just how useful it can be for players to obtain a new ship, whether because they're stranded by the destruction of their prior ship, or because their current ship is just too notorious, and introduces Fizzi's Slightly Used Starships on Trevi IV as the solution. A Buyer's Guide was a bit more convenient in not tying its introduction of ships to any particular location, but it doesn't really hurt to give Fizzi's a definite location because GMs can make the ships available anywhere anyway. Owner Fiz Cor'gril is a Bith who didn't have much going for him on his homeworld, so he left for the big galaxy and made his way through the fringe, building capital and experience, before he settled down and opened up a starship dealership. He's been running it for twenty years, building up a reputation among free traders and smugglers.

    Trevi is a Mid Rim location, colonized by Truishii who had to make an emergency landing and ended up settling the nondescript but strategically located planet, which is now a major crossroads for trade. It has a population of thirty-five million, or about that of Afghanistan. Fizzi's is located in the busy, colorful commercial center that is Trevi City, out on the edge of the starport district. It can only hold twelve ships to show, plus two in the maintenance bays, but Fiz has a warehouse farther out where he stores several more ships. Fiz greets all his customers personally, and is polite and observant rather than pushy. If he doesn't respect your intelligence, however, he won't mind getting the better of you in a deal, and while he's honest, he doesn't bring up negatives on his own. His sales environment and style is designed to be soothing and low-pressure. He will bargain, and he takes trade-ins, though he'll inspect them closely. He won't take stolen ships, though he does deal in illegal upgrades and he doesn't care whom he sells to or buys from. When you're signing a contract, be aware that there will be a lot of very fine print, plainly visible to a Bith but requiring magnification for most species.

    Garginoolaara, or Gargi, is a Verpine tech who was banished from Roche for tinkering with dangerous modifications. He ended up hired by Fizzi to run his garage. Shanna Kinn learned starship repair from her big brothers on Dorriella, until the Empire killed her entire family, a bad habit they seem to have, attacking a Rebel hideout. She became a thief and stowaway until she made it to Trevi. Fiz caught her stealing, but recognized her mechanical skill and black-market abilities. He hired her to handle acquisitions for him, getting parts for modifications and occasionally an entire ship. She also helps out in the garage now and then. She's a cold fish who hates the Empire. Our last character is R5-M1, a beat-up mechanic's assistant with an unreliable speaker, but which Gargi has modified to have an upbeat personality rather than the rotten disposition most R5s develop.

    Next comes a list of ships for sale. Fizzi's inventory is always moving, but these are the ones on the lot whenever you get there. He usually stocks mostly freighters, with some yachts, scout ships, and the occasional outdated fighter.

    Karbarr's Fortress is an HT-2200, introduced in none other than A Buyer's Guide to Alternative Starships. It's been modified with even more armor and shielding, at the cost of one gun and some questionable wiring that means if the shields go down, it'll probably take out power to the entire ship. It's expensive as hell, too.

    Twilight Jumper is a Ghtroc 720 that has somehow managed to still be stock. What Fizzi won't tell you is that it's been used and abused for many years now. As a result, it's beat up, goes through fuel and consumables rapidly, and the hull had to be thoroughly repaired just to get it back up to standard, and as a result the hull is subject to mishap rules. It's cheap, though.

    Cutter's Way is a Lantillian Short Hauler that's about halfway through the conversion from yacht to freighter, meaning you can use it as either. It's been modified with a power flux surger that can send an overage of power to a single weapons system or the shields, at a cost to the other systems, and which isn't completely reliable.

    Storm Killer is a modified YT-1300. You knew it had to happen sometime. It's had is weaponry seriously upgraded, with a heavy laser cannon below and an illegal turbolaser on top, plus proton torpedo launchers. The downside is that the weapons aren't wholly reliable, and the modifications have limited power to the engines and cut cargo space way down, making it a less than entirely practical ship unless you're smuggling small, very valuable cargoes and need a lot of punch.

    Rogue Runner is a CorelliSpace Gymsnor-3 with good cargo capacity, a fast hyperdrive, good shields, and a blaster cannon. It seems like a pretty plain, reliable choice, but it's old and the ion engines are failing. They keep blowing, and that keeps putting stress on the hull, leaving it a potential lemon if you don't fix the engines right away.

    Nautical Star is a Mon Cal light freighter with redundant shields and fire-linked twin laser turrets, and can also travel underwater. It's been modified so non-Mon Calamari can fly it. It's a rare, excellent example of Mon Calamari craftsmanship, and unlike most of the other ships on Fizzi's lot, has no drawbacks other than being relatively expensive.

    Lastly, we have the Wild Star. An Uulshos DPx yacht modified to the design that's become popular with scouts as the Deep-X Explorer, it has twin hyperdrives and very fast ion engines. Illegally fast, in fact. It also has no shields and weak guns and is almost as expensive as the Mon Cal.

    Fizzi's is an interesting enough location, though it doesn't have a whole lot going on. What I was really hoping for from the piece was some original starship designs to add to the rotation for players; instead, we just got modified versions of existing ships. Most of the modifications make the ships less than appealing, in my opinion. I don't see that this piece really does much for players. It's a bit of flavor, but is it worth the space in the Adventure Journal? It feels like the kind of thing you might have seen in the first year's issues. The Journal can do better than this. Maybe it will, in our first adventure of the issue, Droids Defiant.
  22. Vthuil Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 3, 2013
    star 5
    I actually said "damn it" out loud when I got to the start of this paragraph.
    Havac and Daneira like this.
  23. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    It's the kind where the cockpit is between the mandibles, so at least it's not a pure Falcon.
  24. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Thomas Bowling brings us Droids Defiant, our first adventure this issue -- but thankfully not the only one, for those who still hope to see adventures in the Adventure Journal.

    Our opening vignette is the unfortunately-named underline Felben Cuplatt reporting to the even-more-unfortunately-named executive Critzby Rumbo that yet another freighter from their shipping line has been seized by privateers claiming they work for the Empire, and the New Republic can't spare any more escorts. Rumbo decides that he wants to put an end to these ambushes; rather than assigning escorts to protect their shipments continuously, he would rather hire mercenaries to stage a counter-ambush of the next set of raiders and wipe them out once and for all. That's where you come in.

    An agent for Cosmohaul Shipping, Paxtrell Snoygal (I get the feeling great names are going to be a recurring theme here), recruits you at any spaceport you care to use to ship out to Sullust on the Argent Lady, a Ghtroc Cargo Empress, an all-new design slightly bigger than the customary tramp freighter. The captain of the ship is a human named Xal, which has to be considered a disappointment on the name front, but which is more than made up for by the fact that the copilot is a Sullustan called Babalabbet Swoont. Xal is hostile, upset he has to ship armed mercenaries on his ship and convinced you'll just make trouble for him. He insists you lock your blasters up while you're aboard. He's obviously the privateers' inside man. Also in the crew are a protocol droid called Uncle Gee and a hot engineer with a mechanical arm called Zoodia Tantra. You get a tour of the ship and its cargo, which includes one hundred R5 units and some baradium.

    The next section lets the GM in on what's actually going on. Captain Xal is actually Xalto Sneerzick, entirely redeeming his previously lackluster name. He and his crew are radical droid abolitionists who plan to free the droids aboard by taking them to his hidden base. So I guess I was wrong about his being the inside man, but I was right about his being suspicious. Sneerzick grew up the son of a droid designer, so all his interaction growing up was with his father's droids, causing him to see them as sentient beings deserving full rights. He plans to lead a droid insurrection, and is more than a bit of a nutty zealot. Swoont was a cyberneticist who suffered brain damage from bad food and started programming deviant droids, and when they started killing people, he was locked up. Sneerzick decided that an insane, violent programmer of homicidal droids sounded like a great right-hand man, so he busted him out of prison. Zoodia, whose art is clearly based on Pulp Fiction-era Uma Thurman, was a decorated Imperial TIE bomber pilot who was accidentally shot down by friendly fire. She was presumed dead, but a farm droid rescued her from the wreck. The Empire eventually recovered her, but she'd lost her arm and had to get a cybernetic replacement. She blamed the Empire and resigned, and ended up recruited by Sneerzick's preaching, feeling more affinity for droids than people. G-3PO is one of Sneerzick's childhood droids, a caretaker he calls Uncle Gee, and is the first droid to receive the virus Sneerzick and Swoont designed to remove droids' life preservation programming and willingness to take orders.

    Your trip runs for two days of nothing happening, and little interaction with the crew. Finally, Sneerzick and Zoodia head past on their way to the cargo bays, claiming they have to check on the shipment of droids for bad motivators. If you get suspicious enough to go back and check in on them when they've been working for twelve hours, they get super defensive and rush you out. Of course, they're actually modifying ten of the units with their emancipation virus and built-in blasters. That night, Sneerzick sends the droids after your group. They corral you, since even if you can get into the locker, you'll find that your blasters were thrown out rather than locked up. Sneerzick then shows up and starts giving you a crazy speech, including denouncing you as "biological scum," which is entirely in line with the un-self-awareness of this sort of people. He's decided to lock you up in an escape pod and sell you as slaves, both to finance his droid revolution and to teach you a lesson about how it feels to be a droid.

    In the escape pod, you can find a survival kit with a sporting blaster. You'll have to hotwire the escape pod open, overcome the R5 standing guard, and then fight off the rest of the droids and the crew. If you hold out long enough, the virus will eventually interact with the R5s' sour personality matrices and induce them to turn even on their would-be allies, attacking Sneerzick and his people. You can make your way to the cockpit, where Sneerzick has been killed by his own droid ally, right as the ship comes out of hyperspace over Sev Tok, an Imperial-held Mid Rim world. The Imperial patrol ship Cutlass comes over to board you. If you let them board, you'll doubtless be arrested, but if you try to fight or flee, you don't stand much chance. Your best bet is to ambush the boarding party, which is understrength anyway, and then run. You can escape back to the New Republic with a crazy story, but there's one of the droids missing and one of the escape pods jettisoned. The virus and the new droid revolutionary are still out there, and there's a risk the Empire could find it and use the virus against the New Republic. That's a seed for a possible future adventure, recovering this droid.

    It's an adventure with a few interesting ideas -- there's not that much material on droid revolutions -- but it doesn't put them together in a meaningful way. The attempted rebellion never comes to anything, and the adventure dismisses the perpetrators as lunatics. It's just not a well-constructed adventure, either. It just adds up to "get on a ship and fight some droids." Nothing else actually happens in the course of the adventure. The privateers never come into it. You don't have any meaningful interaction with the weird batch of characters Bowling cooked up. There are no intriguing locations or notable setpieces or even any kind of running storyline. You get on a ship, and explicitly nothing happens until you get in one fight. The tacked-on Imperial confrontation doesn't do much to save it. At least we get a new ship design out of it, some weird characters you could use elsewhere, the shipboard mercenary premise that the story never really touched and you could still recycle, and some absolutely fantastic names.

    Our next piece is a short story from Galaxy of Fear's own John Whitman.
    Nom von Anor, Sarge, Vthuil and 4 others like this.