The City in Ice: The Thawed

It’s with some sadness that, due to a family emergency, our group had to postpone the next session of The Saga of the Bin Chicken until next week. However, that does give me some more time to prepare what they may encounter in The City In Ice.

I’m glad of the pressure; when I started writing this, the next session was two and a bit days away (I intended to make the post live on game day), which gave me impetus to cut the high level brainstorming and start nailing some specifics down.

Let’s start with the potential NPCs I’ve uncovered so far. I have at least three: the leaders of each “side” in the fight the players will encounter and the being that locked the Bin Chicken down and needs the players’ aid.

WARNING TO MY PLAYERS: The following plans for the next session are spoiler content; reading on may damage your spontaneous enjoyment of the session (and potentially others if content here doesn’t get used). I strongly recommend you browse elsewhere.

Jedi Vs. Sith 2 by ThreeElves (deviantart)

The process

While it’s easy to present an edited and curated post, my aim with this series is to explain what I’m actually doing to develop the material I give to my players. I started by sitting down with a notepad and pen with the rough ideas from the last post and my list of Star Wars names and started writing.

It’s odd that something simple can be a scary and oddly painful process; there’s a lot of fear of Getting It Wrong that I have to overcome. It fades once I get momentum going, though.

Here are the two pages of notes I made up which, plus some other stuff rambling around in my head for the past while that got written in as I typed this all out, became the below.

I actually put the first translation of these notes down as a post on the forum for the Happy Jack’s RPG podcast, which I then copied and pasted below and expanded on further as I went; comparing the two versions may give you some insight into the process.

The protocol droid

(Writer’s note: while most of the characters were named Wednesday/Thursday, the droid didn’t have a name until Friday, when I looked up the freezing point of water in Kelvin.)

The players are approached by a new droid, an ice droid like the rest but a protocol model instead of the security ones encountered previously. It speaks galactic basic but with an odd dialect; it adapts quickly and asks the PCs to follow it urgently; its master require assistance in the sector’s main power control room.

This droid, 273K, thinks the players are the reinforcements its master summoned.

The fighters

When they arrive, they find two young Jedi, Drash Enniroc and Marda Kevrin, locked in lightsabre combat on an upper gantryway (originally Marda Kevrin was going to be an experienced Knight until I realised I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of letting the players at someone with full Jedi training this early in the campaign). Also on the scene is a unit of soldiers, led by Lieutenant Nerraw. They watch the fight confused and helpless, as the combatants are their charges and, to an extent, friends.

Behind these are three large screens; one shows a large cryogenic bay with hundreds of sleep pods, all occupied. Alert lights are flashing throughout the chamber; it appears to be malfunctioning.

The second screen shows what appears to be a freeze frame of a docking bay. An older model medium transport appears to be in the midst of taking off; scattered nearby are several armoured troopers, all dead. Two figures stand on the passenger ramp; one, Aatanart Sinch, clad in dark greens and browns with red trim, is running the other, Namrus Ecaj, a robed Jedi who is Drash’s master, through with a red lightsabre. Namrus has been captured in the last split second of his life. The time stamp on the screen is running; this is a live feed from the camera’s location, yet somehow nothing is moving.

The third screen shows a fourth Jedi; an older figure, seated on the ground, cross-legged, emaciated, eyes closed and sunken in their sockets. This one, Adnil Etih, is the master of both Marda and 273K.

Adnil has used every shred of their power in a Herculean effort to stop time in their vicinity, including the entirety of the landing bay; their intent was to give the Jedi Order a chance to respond to an emergency summons for aid (which, of course, never came). After several hundred years, though, Adnil is coming to the end of their power and their life; time is slowly starting to speed up again.

Drash and Marda were the remains of a unit that had stayed out of cryo freeze when everyone else went in several hundred years ago, in order to stop Sinch and his fellow agents of the Wild Shape from stealing important data. Sinch’s agents were too powerful and slaughtered most of the unit, including Namrus, the one being run through on the transport’s ramp, and are making off with the data. They also did damage to the nearby power systems for the City.

As Adnil runs out of strength, the effective radius of their power has been dropping. Drash, Marda and their unit of troops came out of it first; the Jedi and are now fighting over distribution of what remains of the power banks. There’s enough power to either put a tractor beam on the transport and hold it where it is, or to divert to the cryo chambers.

Setting the scene

All this is well and good, but I need to make sure I can communicate what’s going on to the players. How can they pick a side when they don’t know what’s going on?

Let’s break what I have so far down into a list of beats leading to the fight:

  • The players attempt to have the Bin Chicken lift off only to discover that she’s been locked down by a tractor beam of some kind. The departing Imperial shuttle may attempt to open fire, but the Chicken is protected by an additional energy shield projected around the entryway.
  • 273K comes out of the main entryway and endeavours to get the attention of anyone in the cockpit of the Bin Chicken. He is glad to see they have finally arrived (he believes they’re the Jedi Order reinforcements his Master sent word for) and thanks them for driving the interlopers away, but needs them to return with him to the sector control room and assist with a dire emergency. 273K leads them to a speeder truck which whisks them into the City
  • This is a perfect time for the characters to quiz 273K about what he knows… which means I need to work that out in a bit more detail. More on that next post!
  • and then to a section of the cavern wall that includes a large opening evidently for vehicles. Through the ice, they can see large conduits for what appear to be power running into the floor and ceiling of the City. Scorch marks taint the ice covering them and several appear significantly damaged. As they land, the players begin to hear the noises of what may be electrical discharges.
  • 273K asks them to follow – “The control room is just this way!” – and leads them down a corridor to the control room, where they see two figures in light coloured tunics and loose fighter’s clothing in combat on an upper gantryway; each wields a and Lieutenant Nerraw watching on. 273K announces, “Sirs! Sirs! The reinforcements our master requested have finally arrived!”

At this point I set the scene as described, probably starting with the room, then the monitors, and the Republic troopers and finally the two fighting Jedi. Then, I’ll narrate Nerraw noticing the team and interrogating them about their identity (he likely leaps on this as something he can actually do something about); they are definitely not in the expected Order-standard robes.

Probably before the players have a chance to say more than a few words, Drash breaks off the fight with Marda, leaps off the gantryway and rushes to the players (the fact that they’re not of the Order either hasn’t sunken in or is irrelevant to him right now). “We don’t have time! Tell her we have to keep them here!”

Drash knows that Adnil is about to die and that the time dilation effect will die with them. With his master’s last moment frozen on the large screen behind them, Drash is desperate to make sure his master’s killer doesn’t escape victorious and wants the power to be diverted to the tractor beam before it’s too late.

Marda, however, is willing to let the transport go in order to save the hundreds of people in the cryo bays. “There’s been too much death already here today. Please help me make sure we don’t lose those who can’t even fight for themselves.”

And then what?

Well, that’s down to my players – but it’s still my job to anticipate what they might want to do and have something ready!

Thankfully, I have a lot of notes, many of which were going to be part of this post, that I can flesh out. More in a few days!