DM Screen 44 – The Power of the Dark Side

This was one of my favorite episodes of recent memory. I wanted to let the characters explore the various corners of the Star Wars universe, and this was my chance to dig into some Jedi and Sith stuff. I knew I wanted to include a massive battle between the heroes and a bunch of Darths, but I also wanted to explore some of the more interesting aspects of the Dark Side, specifically in terms of how insidious it could be and how it preyed upon and exploited your deepest fears. I had a lot of fun with it and I think the overall episode turned out really well.

According to some of the intel you’ve gathered, the world below you is Tython. Thousands of years ago, this world was the center of the Jedi Order. A lot of time has passed since then, but the possibility of digging up something uniquely suited to dealing with Doom and his Empire meant that it was too tempting of a target to ignore. You have the location of the old Jedi temple in your ship’s navigation computer, and the course is set. Your ship’s hull glows orange-hot as you enter the atmosphere, and the planet’s geography seems to spring up below you: hills, canyons, mountains, forests, and oceans. You can see large shaggy herd animals grazing in the plains and watch as flocks of winged reptiles fly briefly alongside your ship before angling off in another direction.

Your ship crests over the upper ridge of a mountain and you come within visual range of the temple. You’re too far off to make out more than the basic details, but the three towering domes seem fairly intact given thousands of years of erosion and neglect. You had planned to set your ship down in the expansive promenade directly in front of the temple, but then something comes up on your sensors: there’s a ship already set down there, and according to its profile, it’s an Imperial shuttle. What do you do?

The heroes can decide to take on this issue in whatever way they see fit. There is no one currently in the Imperial shuttle, so they won’t have to worry about being immediately spotted, but landing their ship anywhere near the courtyard will certainly make enough noise that some of the Imperials already in the temple will certainly hear and either go investigate or wait in the temple to ambush the heroes upon their entrance.

The air of the planet is warm and pleasant-smelling—there hasn’t been any significant industry on Tython for centuries. Luna, however, has a unique experience—as soon as her foot touches the soil of the planet, she immediately feels unnaturally cold and has an unpleasant prickling on the back of her neck that makes her feel like she’s being watched… or stalked.

The Jedi Temple consists of three interconnected domed buildings at the end of a stone promenade. Nature has clearly had centuries, if not millennia, to encroach upon this area: tree roots arch up from beneath the stone tiles of the courtyard, vines hang from weathered walls, and the two humanoid statues standing before the temple have been so badly eroded that they only barely resemble whoever their original subjects were. The newest, and therefore most out-of-place, thing here is the three-winged Imperial shuttle sitting ominously in the middle of the promenade.

There’s one entrance that leads into the interior of the temple, an arched doorway at the top of a wide set of stairs. Rubble is piled on either side of the doorway and looks to have been recently cleared out of the way.

You step into the main hall of the Jedi Temple. Luna, for a brief moment you see a truly glorious sight: a large, inviting place of wisdom and knowledge, with curved walls of wood, twin ramps curving to the upper floors of the building, and a huge dodecahedron floating in the center as a monument or art piece of some sort. You can see the Jedi moving through this place, figures wearing simple robes engaged in studying, quiet conversation, or simple meditation.

Then the vision bursts from your eyes like a soap bubble and you see the temple as it truly is: warped wood, rotted tapestries hanging from the walls, rubble and dust-covered floors, and the great dodecahedral monument lying forgotten on the ground.

Here is where the League will encounter eight of the Elite Praetorian Guards that have been dispatched to this place. If they landed their ship nearby, Darth Sidious will be standing across the room, at the top of the ramps leading up to the second floor—otherwise he will appear at the end of the League’s encounter with the Praetorians. Either way, he will depart after a brief interaction with the heroes, leaving them to the guards.

“Ah, yes. I had foreseen that we might well be interrupted in our exploration of these dusty old ruins. Still, no matter. You will either die here or within the deeper shadows of this place. The secrets of the Jedi will be mine.”

Elite Praetorian Guard (8) (guards dressed in crimson-colored robes, armor, and full helmets. Each wields a different weapon, from spears to whips to blades, each of which crackles along one or more edges with red plasma)
F: Ex
A: Ex
S: Gd
E: Gd
R: Ty
I: Ty
P: Ty

Health: 60

Note: Each of the eight is armed with one of the following weapons (2 instances of each weapon in this group)
Vibro-Voulge: Str+10 damage and target must make Endurance vs. Slam
Electro-Bisento: Str+10 damage, can target all enemies in melee with this attack
Bilari Electro-Chain Whip: Str+10 damage and target must make a Fighting or Strength check or drop one item in their hand
Vibro-Arbir Blades: Str+10 damage, or can split into two daggers that each deal Str+5 damage (can attack twice per turn with these)

Once the battle is finished, both Morgana and Geralt begin to feel what Luna felt upon first setting foot on this world: a deep cold that creeps right into the bone and gives you the impression of being watched.

Tracking where the Imperial forces have been is quite easy—you simply have to follow the trail of cleared rubble through the crumbling temple. You make your way down cluttered hallways and past side rooms that appear to be a mix of classrooms, training rooms, or individual quarters for the Jedi that would have called this place home. All of these rooms have been picked clean of any items of value they might once have held, though whether this looting took place during the centuries that this place remained dormant, or just now occurred once the Imperials arrived, is unclear.

Eventually, you follow the trail to a seemingly unremarkable corner of the temple, where several modern-looking lights have been set up around a large round hole in the ground. The hole looks like it was made very recently, especially given the acrid tang in the air—apparently the Imperials made their own shortcut down into the lower levels of this temple. A metal ladder protrudes just past the lip of the hole, providing a way of descending into the darkness below.

Once the heroes head down the ladder, they find themselves in a thick, frigid darkness. Anyone producing light of any kind makes a startling discovery—they are alone in the darkness, with no sign of the other members of the League anywhere nearby.

Before long, however, the darkness seems to lift slightly as the sounds of footsteps approach and our heroes see someone startlingly familiar.

Luna: A figure in black robes approaches you. At first you think it to be the black-robed Imperial you saw at the entrance of the temple, but this one has its hood down… and you realize with a start that you recognize him. The completely hairless head, the inhumanly pale skin, the distinctly serpentine features on his noseless face… the Dark Lord Voldemort stands before you. “Ah, Miss Lovegood. I’ve heard so much about you and your abilities. Let us see how you stand up to your reputation, shall we?” He raises his wand.

Tuvok: The sound of metallic footsteps draws your eye toward an approaching figure. What little flesh you can see is pale and sickly, but most of the body is covered in black metallic plates and pipes. The being turns its head toward you, looking at you with one organic eye and one large ocular implant, and says, “We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” He then raises up one arm bristling at the end with nasty-looking weaponry.

Geralt: You see a towering figure emerge from the shadows. He’s dressed in all-concealing armor designed to resemble a skeleton, complete with a ribcage-shaped breastplate and a spiked helm with a skull-shaped faceplate. He holds a long sword casually in one hand as he regards you from the shadows of his mask’s eye sockets. “Witcher. You’ve come quite a long way to die so ignominiously. I do hope you’ll at least make this interesting for me.”

Morgana: The figure that approaches you is a middle-aged Japanese man with thick, curly black hair and glowing yellow eyes. He’s wearing a gold crown, a red cape with a white furred collar, pink underwear, and nothing else. He glares at you indignantly. “You little shit! How the hell did you get out of your cage? I’ll put you back there myself!”

Bowsette: The ground seems to shake as a figure emerges from the darkness. He towers over you now just as he does in your memories: a muscular Koopa with a thick, spiked shell and a pointed golden crown nestled between his horns. He glares down at you with volcanic rage. “Bowser! What do you think you’re doing? How many times do I have to beat it into you that Koopas are large and strong, not soft and weak! Just when I think you’re starting to understand that, you go and do… THIS!” He gestures at you, then looks at your Super Crown. “Remove that from your head this instant or I’ll remove it for you.”

The Bowsette/King Koopa stuff was one aspect of this session that I really wanted to make sure to get right. Claire had, several episodes earlier, mentioned that a lot of where Bowsette was coming from had to do with the destructively masculine values that her father, the previous King Koopa, had attempted to instill in her, and how her most toxic behaviors as Bowser were a direct outgrowth of that upbringing. I found all of that stuff really compelling and also felt like it offered a way for us to explore trans themes, which is one narrative that is disappointingly untouched in the vast majority of fiction today.

All that said, the last thing I wanted was to hurt Claire by bringing up potentially triggering topics in the middle of what was supposed to be a fun game. I had a conversation with her well ahead of time in which I asked if she’d be OK with exploring some of those themes in this session—to my relief, she was extremely enthusiastic with the concept. I didn’t tell her exactly how it would manifest, but she was good with the themes I mentioned, so I felt confident about moving forward.

The heroes are in the grip of the Dark Side. The “enemies” they are facing off against are actually their friends (and, in the case of Morgana, Darth Sidious). Each round, a hero can make an Intuition or Psyche check to sense that something is wrong and that they are actually facing an illusion. If a matched pair of heroes spend one full round not attacking each other, the illusion is dispelled for the entire group. The same will happen if any of the heroes are KO’d. The heroes are paired off as follows:

Luna (a Borg) vs. Tuvok (Voldemort)

Bowsette (Eredin) vs. Geralt (King Koopa)

Morgana vs. Darth Sidious (Kamoshida)

Arrange the initiative track so that the villain that each hero appears to be comes immediately after that hero. So if Tuvok successfully lands a phaser attack on Luna that deals 40 damage, the next person in the initiative will be “Voldemort,” who hits Luna with a blast of magical energy from his wand for 40 damage.

Once the illusion has been dispelled, an evil, satisfied cackle rings out as the impenetrable darkness around them seems to lift like a fog. You find yourselves standing in what you’re guessing is this universe’s version of a library, with massive shelves rising around you in rows all down the sides of the room, each one featuring a glowing crystalline cube that must be what passes as some sort of knowledge database—a holocron, you understand that they’re called.

The cackling comes from the black cloaked figure who stands at the far end of the room, rubbing his hands in delight. “Good! Good! The Force is strong with you… and the Dark Side of the Force, at that. You have done very well.”

He gestures at the shelves around him. “Behold what remains of the knowledge of the Jedi. You stand amidst millennia of accumulated knowledge. Before the day is through, I shall see it reduced to ashes and dust, and the galaxy will be a stronger place for it once the final remnants of this blind order have been swept away.”

He turns his yellow eyes toward you. “You came to this place seeking knowledge, seeking power, but you will find neither here with the Jedi. If it is knowledge and power you seek, though… that I can provide. You oppose Doom, yes? The iron dictator reached through time and pulled me here, saying I was to serve him in his conquest of the multiverse. I… took exception to this and fought back. I did not succeed. I have served him out of necessity since then, but with you at my side, with the Dark Side of the Force at our command, we can topple Doom and lead the galaxy to a new era of peace and prosperity.” He grins at you. “Join me. It is your destiny.”

If the heroes refuse, Sidious glowers momentarily before shrugging. “Ah well, it was worth a try, I suppose. It certainly gave my apprentices time to get into position.” You hear a sudden series of hisses and hums from behind you and whirl to see two figures approaching from the shadows of the room. One is dressed in black robes. Every inch of his exposed skin is covered in red and black tattoos, and his bald head is ringed with short curved horns. The other is a distinguished-looking figure in a dark-colored tunic, pants, and boots with a wine-colored cape hanging from his shoulders. He has neatly-kept white hair and a beard, and though he projects a regal bearing, there is something quite menacing about him. Both men brandish red energy swords—the bearded one wields his with the grace of a fencer, while the horned one spins a double-bladed weapon around him. You hear another hiss and hum and glance over to see that the robed and hooded figure you’ve been speaking to has drawn a red energy sword of his own. All three leap toward you.

Darth Maul
F: Mn
A: In
S: Gd
E: Ex
R: Ty
I: Gd
P: Gd

Health: 145         Karma: 26

Double-Bladed Lightsaber: Str+14 damage, can attack twice at a -1 CS penalty, ignores Body Armor
Affect Mind: Gd, can be used to alter a target’s perceptions or induce a suggestion
Force Strike: Gd damage, up to 4 targets within the same area
Telekinesis: Ex
Telepathy: Gd
Force Whirlwind: All targets in one area suffer Gd damage every round and suffer a -1 CS to all actions
Rage: +1 CS to Strength and Fighting, -1 CS to any defensive actions

Darth Sidious
F: In
A: Rm
S: Ty
E: Ex
R: In
I: In
P: In

Health: 95            Karma: 120

Lightsaber: Str+14 damage, ignores Body Armor
Affect Mind: Rm, can be used to alter a target’s perceptions or induce a suggestion
Dissipate Energy: When targeted by an energy attack, Sidious may make a Psyche check to ignore all damage from it
Drain Energy: Ex damage, Ex healing for Sidious
Empathy: In
Farseeing: Mn
Fear: Target must make opposed Psyche check or suffer -1 CS to all actions
Force Grip: Rm damage, ignores Body Armor
Force Lightning: In
Healing (Self): Ex
Telekinesis: Ex
Telepathy: Am

Darth Tyranus
F: In
A: Ex
S: Gd
E: Ex
R: Rm
I: Rm
P: In

Health: 100         Karma: 100

Lightsaber: Str+14 damage, ignores Body Armor
Affect Mind: Rm, can be used to alter a target’s perceptions or induce a suggestion
Empathy: Gd
Force Grip: Ex damage, ignores Body Armor
Force Lightning: Rm
Force Strike: Ex damage, up to 4 targets within the same area
Healing (Self): Gd
Telekinesis: Ex

Once the Sith lords are dealt with, the heroes may examine the holocrons if they wish. If they do so, the first one that Luna touches suddenly glows with light and the flickering image of a dark-haired woman appears before her. “Greetings, initiate. This is Jedi Master Bastila Shan. If you have activated the holocron, it is because you are Force sensitive and are eligible for training in the ways of the Jedi. So tell me, what would you like to learn?”

After this session, I let the players know that they had unlocked Jedi training for the Extraordinary League.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: