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Vondy

What does Vader DO?

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BACKSTORY

Our game about three Jedi survivors is strictly AU. It started in 12 BBY. It is now 10 BBY.

Padme Amidala is alive. Sabe took a neurotoxin and lay in state for her before following her into exile. Padme then went into hiding with the twins and Obi-Wan Kenobi. She has been a key adviser to Bail Organa and his nascent rebel network. She resides on a remote and sparsely populated idyll of a farming colony that serves as a refuge for the families of rebels and dissidents. She has been a go-between for the resistance cell on Naboo, but most of her "rebel" activity has had to do with high-level planning of recruitment and logistics. She has, until recently, avoided being involved in front-line rebel activity or major rebel operations (see below). She is sometimes played as a player character by one of my players.

Our player characters are three Jedi survivors: Cal Coda, who became a Jedi Knight on the eve of the Clone Wars; Sigyn Ilbis who became a Jedi Knight on the eve of Order 66, and Kaya Ilbis, a Jedi Youngling who was spirited away as Anakin and 501st walked into the Jedi Temple. These three have become increasingly entwined with the Organa Network in general and Padme's cell in particular. They have also become bright and shiny targets for the Empire and are known to create a ton of chaos and a lot of heat. They are full-fledged three-tree Jedi and scary in their own right at this point.

To date they have killed three Inquisitors and had a series of skirmishes with First Brother – who is highly skilled with a saber, and rolls with a squad of Storm Commandos and a trio of ID10 Seeker Droids. The Emperor, for reasons that will become evident below, has managed to keep Vader out of it thus far.  

We now skip TWO YEARS of wild ACTION and ADVENTURE. 

VADER'S FIRST DISCOVERY

As a result of our heroes’ bat-guano insane shenanigans Vader discovers a mausoleum on a remote moon that contained an Imperial stasis tube with a clone of himself. He finds this... disturbing. Basically, I ran a variation of the Perlman Run in which the players discovered an Inquisitor and four imperial guards escorting this to Byss. They and a group of rebel infiltrators took down the inquisitor and guards, seized the ship, and stole the cargo. After consulting with Padme and Obi-Wan it was decided they could neither destroy nor waken the clone in good conscience, so they “interred” it.

Instead of following the giant flashing neon sign that screaming PULL THIS THREAD my players promptly dropped it and moved on. When they did remember (over a year later) they decided to weaponize it rather than investigate it and leaked word of it to Vader’s trusted agents. Vader, having destroyed the clone himself when he realized what it was, made a secret trip to Kamino and choked, I mean “requested,” some answers. He learns: Palpatine is the one who had him cloned. This is even more... disturbing. 

While ruminating on this revelation he receives word from his agents that Triloc the Hutt is claiming he has something Vader will want at Bespin (see below). Triloc won't say what it is and will only tell Vader if he comes to meet face-to-face. Vader is... annoyed by the impudent presumption of this Hutt to summon HIM, but... the Force is pulling him in that direction. He decides to travel to Bespin. If this Hutt is, as seems likely, wasting his time… the Dark Lord resolves to PUNISH HIM.  

VADER'S SECOND DISCOVERY

Vader arrives at the Cloud City amid a level of chaos that can only be created by players who have spent three years (real time) poking the "heap more trouble on the heroes" bear. To wit…

Triloc kidnapped Padme in order to force them the steal the Jewell of Yavin for him lest he "turn her over to the Empire." They knew he was a dastardly double-dealer and would probably turn her over anyways. Worse, his hated rival and their "old friend" Kaltho the Hutt had become a conduit for arms to rebel groups and also wanted the Jewell. They did not want to burn that valuable connection! So, Kaya searched the Cloud City for Padme while Cal and Sigyn won the Jewell with a little help from Lando. He was busy winning the Cloud City playing Sabaac, but helped them out previously. "Ladies! Those are some impressive laser swords!"

They win the Jewell and rescue Padme and let Kaltho in on the fact that Triloc was trying to screw him, which of course sends Kaltho into a bloody-minded rage. The hope was that Kaltho and his men would kill Triloc before he opened his fat Hutt mouth about who his prisoner was. Our heroes make for their ship with Padme, but end up being intercepted by First Brother and his entourage as they reach the landing pad. Intensely loyal to Palpatine, First Brother's orders are simple: "Kill Padme before Vader finds out she's alive."

The Emperor was stunned when he learned Padme was alive, but he has known for over a year now, and he is certain his apprentice will take it… badly. Cal uses move to activate three Storm Commando’s grenades before they can cross the threshold onto the landing pad, resulting in a tripartite “Oh F---" as the door shut. Cal disables the door control with his saber and drops to his knees to wait while First Brother cuts through the door with his saber – mechanics are heavily leveraged.

Behind him…

Vader stops short when he sees three women rapidly crossing the landing pad where he landed his fighter. He cannot believe his eyes. Padme is alive!

How is this possible?

The three women see Vader. Padme stops dead in her tracks and says “Anakin.” Sigyn thinks Vader is there with First Brother. She screams over her shoulder “Cal, we’ve got company!” Cal doesn’t respond – the inquisitor is almost through – he has foreseen this fight. Sigyn grabs Padme by the arm to pull her towards the ship, but…

Kaya has a real problem with Vader. She witnessed Anakin killing most of the other younglings in the Temple and she has been harboring a long-burning anger over it. She has also grown in power or skill over the past ten years, but she isn't the best of the trio in a saber duel – that’s her aunt. She doesn't care. She’s ignores Sigyn’s warning to wait and goes right at Vader. She uses every dark side pip, takes every point of conflict, and works the destiny pool and her talents. The mood at the table is suddenly “somebody is royally pissed."

Kaya drives into Vader with a flurry of fierce and angry blows from her saber. Vader parries blow after blow, but Kaya ultimately disorients him with a glancing blow off his helmet. She presses her advantage with a tirade about his killing her friends – who were innocent children! – and betraying the Jedi. She forces the Dark Lord to give ground and continue parrying her onslaught before he finally shoves her back bodily with his hand to win a reprieve to recover.

“Ah, Kaya Ilbis,” Vader says. “Your anger has made you powerful. You evaded me once, but this time you shall not escape!” Vader barrels into Kaya forcing her back and scoring a superficial wound to her shoulder, but the attack generates a despair and she counterstrikes, causing him to roar with pain and rage as she returns the favor with a cut across Vader’s hip. Furious, Vader backhands Kaya, knocking her to the ground, and then uses to Force to shoot her backward across the landing pad into a stack of cargo containers near the fray – stunning her.

Meanwhile…

First Brother finishes cutting through the bay door and hurls himself at Cal. The two trade a blinding series of strokes and parries (no successes) as the three surviving Storm Commandos fire into the fray. Cal reflects one of their blaster bolts into one of the two surviving Seeker droids and takes down the other droid with a vicious backslash as he and First Brother Circle one another. The Storm Commandos work to stay clear of the flashing lightsabers while angling for a better shot as the Jedi and Inquisitor re-engage.

Vader is surprised by the Inquisitor’s presence, but assumes he is here tracking the Jedi. The Dark Lord closes the gap on Kaya, reverses his blade in both hands, and prepares to finish her with a downward stroke. Sigyn, however, is not going to let her niece die today. She force leaps into the fray and (Peerless Interception) parries the finishing blow saying “Try me, Skywalker.” Snake-quick Sigyn reverses her blade into a savage slash towards Vader’s gorget, forcing the Dark Lord to step back and burn his next action with a parry.

The two lock blades: “As you wish. Aunt and niece shall meet their doom together!” Sigyn, growls through gritted teeth: “Your mouth and your ego always were the biggest things about you.” They break apart. Vader goes on the offensive and Sigyn parries numerous blows, deftly maneuvering to draw him away from Kaya – who is now shaking it off and pushing herself up. She shivers with a chill from having called on the Dark Side even as the embers of fury still burn inside of her – and calls her saber to her hand.

Vader abruptly disengages and sends a nearby Hawk-290 freighter rocketing across the pad right through where Sigyn is standing with the Force. Cat-quick, Sigyn force leaps vertically, landing on the freighter, before immediately somersaulting to Padme’s side as the Dark Lord begins striding towards his wife intoning, “You and Obi-Wan conspired to betray me.”

“It was the Emperor who betrayed us! We tried to save you, Anakin!” Padme screams. “This has to stop! You have to stop! You were a hero, Anakin! You fought for the Republic! We came to Mustafar because we love you! I love you, Anakin! I know the man I love is still in there!”

Sigyn sees Vader’s step falter, ever so slightly, but then he resumes striding forward, saber still ignited. Vader says: “The man you loved is dead.” Adjusting her stance and her grip on the saber (and recovering strain), Sigyn prepares to resume her duel with the Dark Lord when Padme’s hand on her shoulder stops her – and she is none to happy about it about it. Padme’s voice was soft: “You can lie to yourself, Anakin, but you can’t lie to me.”

Note: Sigyn’s player audibly groaned – my work here is done!

Behind them First Brother locks his eyes on Padme over Cal’s shoulder and snarls to the Storm Commandos, “Kill Amidala! Kill her now!” Cal reacts fast. He force-yanks First brother into one of the troopers line of fire begins parrying the blaster fire of a second with his saber – but he is out of position to interpose himself from the third and a blaster bolt strikes Padme square between the shoulders. Lurching forward with an agonized cry, Padme slammed down onto the landing pad between Sigyn and Vader, smoke curling up from the burned and bloody wound.

In that moment Vader realizes his wife was the target rather than the Jedi and he knows the Emperor gave the kill order. He knows the Emperor knew she was alive and said nothing. For how long?! How long has Palpatine known?!” She was alive. His wife was alive. Palpatine lied. And now she has been taken. Again. Vader – filled with rage – kills the trooper who gunned her down with saber throw and screams “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

Sigyn – sensing Padme is alive – darts forward, grabbing her by her collar, and starts dragging her fallen friend away from Vader as the Dark Lord takes down a second Storm Commando before bringing his saber back to his gauntleted fist – extinguishing it.

In that same moment, First Brother, kidney-shot by the blaster bolt he took, draws on his rage and launches himself forward with a (saber) swarm of blows. Cal desperately back-peddles, narrowly fending off each blow in turn (tons of strain here). First Brother’s saber sears through Cal’s eyebrow and cheek. Realizing he is going to be overborne, Cal performs a pasata soto – dropping acrobatically back onto one hand while thrusting his saber up into First Brother’s chest before twisting sideways out of the way of the Inquisitor’s dramatically falling corpse.

The last Storm Commando, facing down a Jedi at point blank range with a blazing lightsaber and a frightening new scar, panics and starts firing repeatedly at Cal while screaming in angry terror: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” Cal, deflecting the blaster bolts, uses the force to slam the Storm Commando into unconsciousness against the wall. He turns to see Sigyn pulling Padme back to their ship – a stealth-modified Aggressor Assault Fighter sitting a mere dozen yards away.

Vader starts toward them only to have Kaya step into his path, her saber lit. Her chin is tucked down as she looks at him from underneath furrowed brows. “We’re not done, you and I.” Sigyn kneels down and cradles Padme in her arms as her friend starts to regain consciousness, groaning in pain. She implores her niece “Don’t do this, Kaya.” Then “She’s alive. We have to go!”

The Dark Lord is boiling over with conflict. Alive?! Why did Palpatine hide this from me?

Cal kneels down next to Sigyn, who helps him gather Padme into his arms to carry her to their ship. As he stands he says, “She needs our medical droid now or she’s going to die, Vader. We’re leaving – and you are going to let us.”

Vader looks from Kaya to Padme and back again. “She is coming with me.”

Kaya stands firm, warning: “You aren’t taking her.”

Pure Menace: “Do not stand in my way, young Jedi.”

Vader starts forward, igniting his saber – and Kaya meets him in a flashing clash of blades. “I said NO!”

The Dark Lord savagely attacks in the hopes of batting her aside before Coda has Padme aboard their ship – blow after blow raining down. Kaya feels herself losing ground, her guard breaking. Vader’s blade sears along her ribs. She cries out, but refuses to disengage, and finds herself yanked away from him by the Force. Then Sigyn is on him, driving him back and striking deep into his pauldron in a spray of sparks. Vader roars in fury and powerfully counterstrikes, only to find Kaya next to her aunt parrying his blow.

Padme’s voice cuts into the fray: “Anakin!”

The Dark Lord steps back, saber still lit, and looks to see Coda at the fighter’s hatch -- a mere six meters away.

A pained voice: “Padme.”

Her voice was frighteningly weak: “Don’t do this. Please stop.”

Vader extinguishes his saber – allowing the Jedi to withdraw.

Kaya feels her aunts hand on her shoulder and let’s her lead her away.

The Dark Lord stands there watching as the Aggressor fades from view.

(And then kills the unconscious Storm Commando)

AFTERMATH

Well, this played out in an unexpected fashion and now I get to contemplate the consequences.

What is Vader going to do?

Edited by Vondy

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Firstly, awesome plot and action. I really love this, and am a bit jealous of your players.

As for Vader, wow! Hard question. 

I think possibly go full on in an atempt to dirct his rage at Palpatine, fail because clearly the Emperor is not going to want to face him, and his a million times smarter than he is.

And this new conflict between them could cause a schism in the Empire, with Vader rallying and siphoning off large portions of imperial forces to him, whilst also expending significant resources and effort in finding Padme.

On a side note, where are the twins (who I'm thinking are around 8?) at this point?

Nb. Also you double posted, might want to get rid of the other, or it's gonna get confusing, lol.

Edited by Stethemessiah

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I imagine things will break down in one of two ways; Vader is a man of fury so he's either going to confront the Emperor directly, or alternatively bide his time. After all as far as I am aware his power to act was fairly limited even in the original movies; he was basically Tarkin's second for the entire a new hope to the extent that some officers clearly weren't aware of who he was and only really obtained agency in episode 5; through whatever means he discovered who that young man was and decided to make it his immediate priority to be at the battle at the emperor's behest; it's never entirely certain how much of this is his own agency. This is the Emperor's Empire which Vader just happens to be the fist of, so he would need some way of consolidating power that the Emperor isn't aware of.

It doesn't mean that he's a good guy necessarily, he doesn't believe or want to be a hero so regardless of the outcome it should be brutal and harsh. In terms of subtly, resources and much more the Emperor has Vader in a ballpond, so whatever Vader does would have to be brutally efficient and shocking.  

The alternative is that he attempts to rebel, fail's and through dark magic is stripped of his agency and is turned into a puppet. An apprentice that isn't willing to fight for him is useless and the Emperor likely wouldn't waste a second humouring Vader unless he had some way to use him. If he ever learns of Padme or Bail though; well, the Hand of the Emperor existed for a reason. Want something dead? Get Vader, want something dead quietly? That's the Hand's job.

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@Stethemessiah 

If the date is 10 BBY, then the twins would be 10.

 

@Vondy  (Part of this was ninja'ed by LordBritish. Too many RL distractions!)

Great story arc - and players! (I happen to love AUs.)

I agree that Vader will be angry at Palpatine, and that he could form a schism in the Imperial military.

One thought: maybe Vader will try to put Padme on the Imperial throne (whether she wants it or not). So would he try this with his own forces, or try to ally himself with the Rebellion only to pull a sort-of-double-cross when he announces Padme as the Empress?

Depending on how you view various bits of the EU (Legends or new!canon): if there is any sign of Vader becoming uncontrollable, then the Palpatine might throw his support/favour behind Thrawn instead.

And/or he might send an army of Inquisitors after Vader with the intent of re-capturing him and then re-programming him (turning him into a rage-driven attack dog on a leash). My personal headcannon about RotS is that Palpatine was firmly in the driver's seat when Anakin stormed the Temple, etc. I certainly wouldn't put it past Palpatine to exert that level of mind control/direction when it came to executing the final part of the millenium-long Sith plan. After the Empire was declared it was no longer necessary to exert that degree of control of Vader.

 

Or here's another thought, one far out in left field (and less grim-dark): now that Vader knows that Padme's alive, he has a huge incentive to get out of his suit. Considering the state of Republic cybernetics (plus the cloning available on Kamino), I'm convinced that Palpatine deliberately had Vader shoved into a painful life-support suit instead of taking the time/kindness to get him healed properly. After all, with bacta, cybernetics, and partial cloning available, Vader should have eventually recovered from his lava encounter. Instead, Palpatine wanted a scary attack dog in constant pain, one who had no interest in a life outside of his suit because he had no friends or family left.

So Vader now gathers the necessary resources, then suddenly goes AWOL from the Empire. A year later, a more-or-less back to normal appearance suit-less Anakin Skywalker starts looking for Padme. Has he returned from the Dark Side? Does he want to put her on the throne? Is he going on an anti-Imperial vigilante spree in an attempt to make up for past crimes? What does Padme think - and Obi-Wan?

 

Final thought: you haven't mentioned much about Obi-Wan. If he's been living in an idyllic agricultural community the past 10 years, then I imagine that he's in far better physical and psychological shape than the canon version who faced Vader on the Death Star. (The canon version had lived for roughly 20 years in almost complete isolation in an extremely harsh environment.)

Edited by Bellona

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6 hours ago, Stethemessiah said:

On a side note, where are the twins (who I'm thinking are around 8?) at this point?

 

The twins were 8 when the game started and are now 10. In our game there is a remote farming colony that serves as a refuge for the families of key rebels and dissidents. Luke and Leia live there with Padme, Sabe, and Obi-Wan.

44 minutes ago, Bellona said:

Final thought: you haven't mentioned much about Obi-Wan. If he's been living in an idyllic agricultural community the past 10 years, then I imagine that he's in far better physical and psychological shape than the canon version who faced Vader on the Death Star. (The canon version had lived for roughly 20 years in almost complete isolation in an extremely harsh environment.)

Indeed. Obi-Wan is only 47 at this stage and is in excellent form. He is very circumspect about anything more than advising and is focused on training the twins. At one point Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Sigyn, Kaya, and Cal Coda were all in one place at the same time and there was some discussion of the future vis-a-vis the Jedi Order. There is a much more "Qui-Gonn's Living Force" consensus in this group. 

Edited by Vondy

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@Vondy it's one thing to click a like, but sometimes you have to say it:  that was flippin' awesome!

As for Vader, that's a hard one.  No doubt the Emperor felt a disturbance in the Force with all this, and Vader will have a hard time lying to him.  If he returns to his ship (one with the sustainment pod) no doubt he will be ordered back to Coruscant, and the Imperial Navy being what it is, the commanders will know what the order is.  To hide, he would have to choke all the commanders until he finds one who will do what he wants, and that might only be temporary.

Maybe a better question is:  what does the Force want?  If Vader can listen to Anakin, maybe Anakin can guide him.  Perhaps doing nothing for a while as he contemplates his path is the right response.  He can even be honest with the Emperor... "I hate you for this!" and the Emperor will just laugh, just as Sith Masters have always laughed at the hatred of their Sith Apprentices.  That might provide enough cover to make his own plans.

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That was awesome. It's a "Passata di soto" what did your player. Is he / she a fencer ? It's one of the most difficult manoeuvre in Italian fencing school, very few people outside those practising historical fencing knows about it.

As for what'll do Vader... Well, know he's aware Padme is alive, he'll hunt her. Imo, that means the place were Obiwan and others are hiding isn't safe anymore.

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27 minutes ago, WolfRider said:

That was awesome. It's a "Passata di soto" what did your player. Is he / she a fencer ? It's one of the most difficult manoeuvre in Italian fencing school, very few people outside those practising historical fencing knows about it.

The move was suggested by my wife, who plays Sigyn. She was an alternate for the national team in the early 90's and taught fencing part-time for many years. 

Edited by Vondy

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Heya Vondy, great narrative!

So, here's the primary thing about Vader at this stage - we know from Vader: Immortal (the canon VR game), Force Unleashed (Legends video game), many novel sources, both canon and legends, and from the canon Marvel Comics that Vader was actively working against Palpatine, just as Palpatine was actively working against Vader. This was known to both, and due to the nature of the Sith, was expected. Knowing that Palpatine was attempting to clone him, Vader would probably assume it's because he was trying to create a replacement, as Vader knew the Emperor was furious with him for needing to become the machine he is now, and considered him a "flawed apprentice." At this time in the saga, Vader was being tested by the Emperor constantly for weakness, and so this would come as no surprise. From Vader: Immortal and the Vader Marvel Comics, we also know Vader was obsessed with resurrecting Padme, and so if he were to find out she was still alive, it's likely he would be fixated on her, as opposed to going at the Emperor any harder than before. Indeed, he has been planning against the Emperor for a while, and the only reason he was still loyal to him was because he believed that there might still be answers in the Dark Side of the Force that would allow him to resurrect her in some form.

We also know that from Jedi: Fallen Order and some other sources, that Vader is in charge of the Inquisitorius. To have the First Brother working for the Emperor directly, against Vader's objectives, would see Vader potentially enter into a subtle civil war within the Inquisitorius, compartmentalizing those Inquisitors who are loyal to him away from those whose loyalty is split or to the Emperor first. With the appearance of Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin, we saw all of Vader's effort become focused on tracking him down, so it stands to reason that nothing would change in regards to finding out Padme is alive. While the Emperor supported these actions due to the danger that Luke and the Rebellion represented to the Empire, in your world there is less interest from the Emperor, and indeed, the Emperor would want Vader as far from Padme as possible. So I would suspect that since Vader is the only survivor of this incident, he would remain tight-lipped about it, and allow the Emperor to assume that First Brother failed in the attempt and was killed by the Jedi. Since the Emperor doesn't know Vader was there, Vader has the upper hand, and since Vader has long plotted against his Master in true Sith fashion, I doubt he'd "lose his s**t" now. Most likely, he would let the Emperor assume his own story about what happened to First Brother, and direct those Inquisitors absolutely loyal to him to go after the PCs, with orders to both observe any other Inquisitors they witness on the trail, and to bring the Jedi to him alive by any means necessary.

This choice would serve two important goals. First, it would allow his Inquisitors to identify other Inquisitors loyal to the Emperor. Vader would know that his master would continue his plans to eliminate Padme, and he would activate another Inquisitor he could trust to do the job. Just as with First Brother, any Inquisitor activated would be told to circumvent Vader, and this means the Inquisitor was a threat to him. Identifying these would advance Vader's attempts to create a compartmentalized cell within the Inquisitorius, and weed out those loyal to Palpatine. Second, it would allow Vader to track Padme without revealing he knew of Padme's survival. His loyal Inquisitor tracking a Jedi would raise no eyebrows, as Inquisitors track Jedi, and usually in a vacuum from each other - they follow leads, not necessarily Jedi, and as such, even if the Emperor's Inquisitor ran afoul of Vader's Inquisitor, it wouldn't raise any eyebrows as it would be assumed they were just following leads, and wouldn't suspect they were tracking on orders from Vader. Additionally, it would allow Vader to keep tabs on the Emperor's progress, and with orders to capture the Jedi, Vader could "ask" the Jedi where Padme was, a clearer route to her than trying to track her directly.

We know that Vader is an expert tactician by this point, having Anakin's keen tactical mind, and removing Anakin's brash headstrong desires. Vader is more calculating than Anakin was, with the same sharp mind and skill. He wouldn't do anything rash here, and instead move against Palpatine in a measured way. We know he can manipulate the Emperor, as Empire Strikes Back showed us he convinced the Emperor to let him search for Luke and try to turn him instead of outright kill him. Granted, it benefited the Emperor, but it was a keen maneuver on Vader's part. Vader in this regard would be just as astute in the proper approach.

It's important to understand what Vader's intentions would be at this point. Remember, he ISN'T Anakin anymore. Vader wasn't lying when he said Anakin was dead. He joined Palpatine before Padme's "death" with the express intention of saving her. The horrible things he did he CHOSE to do. Padme's death just fueled his desire to save her into a desire to resurrect her. In this, Vader would want to have Padme (and his children when he realizes he has them) rule the galaxy by his side as his Empress. He would have no intention of restoring the Republic - the Republic and the Order was weak, it allowed the Sith to win, it allowed the galaxy to fall to corruption and ruin. He would likewise have no loyalty to the Sith - they are the legacy of Palpatine, not him. His desire would be (as he explained it Attack of the Clones) to make something new from the ashes of Palpatine's Empire, with Padme and Anakin at the helm. He would still believe wholeheartedly in authoritarian rule - his vision of the galaxy would see absolute Order and civility, imposed and enforced by an iron will and iron hand, and Padme's skill with diplomacy and pure nature would make it a force of light and not evil. She would be the soul of peace for his Empire, and he would be the hammer of justice when called upon. This would be his goal to finding Padme, to have her as his wife again and overthrow Palpatine, by any means necessary.

An interesting side narrative - he knows that the Emperor still has the cloning projects going - If Padme refuses him, he might be attempted after to instead just get some genetic material from her and clone her. Anakin considered the clones to be truly human, and the clones were his loyal friends and never betrayed him, a clone of Padme in his twisted mind might then be the perfect answer for his Empress. He gets the loyalty of the clones alongside the love, intelligence, and regal countenance of his dearest Padme. He could even come to believe that the Emperor cloned Padme already, and that the "Padme" with the Jedi who refused him was all a machination of the Emperor to drive him away from his plans to usurp him.

Edited by Kyla
added Vader's motives and spelling and grammar corrections

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First, thank you all for your comments and insights! You all gave me a lot to chew on. With the Mandalorian dropping the night before RoS and then a mountain of work to finish off before the holiday I didn't have time to respond individually. I do plan to do that over the next few days. 
 

Edited by Vondy

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On 12/17/2019 at 11:42 PM, Stethemessiah said:

Firstly, awesome plot and action. I really love this, and am a bit jealous of your players.

Thank you!

Quote

As for Vader, wow! Hard question. 

I think possibly go full on in an attempt to direct his rage at Palpatine, fail because clearly the Emperor is not going to want to face him, and his a million times smarter than he is.

Your comment underscores why I don't like Palpatine and have no issues with the idea of a coup removing him. I don't like deus ex machina villains who function as near-omniscient and invincible godlings. For me, that's not very interesting. Also, Palpatine and his Empire are restrictive (and kind of boring) for a game that revolves around a group of Jedi protagonists who are driving events. It works for Luke's narrative. For ours? Not so much. That said...

I agree Vader is going to "do something about it." And while I concede Palpatine is more cunning and prescient that he is, Vader is not slouch in his own right. I think Vader knows a sudden and direct move against the Emperor is likely doomed to fail and that he's going to have bide his time and lay the groundwork. He would also know he needs to test how reliable his own power base is before making moves. Can he rely on the Inquisitorious, the 501st, and any ambitious moffs or admirals who might follow him? On the other hand, I don't think Vader has the political or administrative chops to make a good Emperor, or that he is the man to really bring Palpatine down. He's too tactical in his thinking.  

Vader would need  a real next-level strategist in his camp to effectively execute a coup.  To that end, there are two out-of-left-field candidates:

Thrawn:  He's only a Captain in 10 BBY, but he's also smarter than Palpatine in some ways. Based on his reasons for being in the Empire he would have to see a compelling reason that Palpatine was actually a liability to the Empire or that the Empire could project power more effectively without him. To that end, Dooku's divergent vision of what the Empire would look like in the RotS novelization might serve. Succinctly: no Rule of Two and a Sith army in place of the Jedi Order. That would be more powerful but also less stable because Sith are volatile. As a result, I don't think Thrawn would support Vader as the new Emperor. He might however, support someone else, if Vader were allied to them...

Tarkin: Yes, that's right. Tarkin. Legends-wise, Palpatine had Vader kill Tarkin's son in the Empire's early days for refusing to carry out an atrocity and then framed the rebels for it. He regards Vader as a useful blunt instrument who just carries out his orders. He would know the decision was Palpatine's. What if Tarkin discovered this? Would he decide he was going to "do something about it?" Because at this stage Tarkin is a Grand Moff who controls large swaths of the Outer Rim and Imperial Military. Is Vader cunning and perceptive enough to understand what Tarkin thinks of him and how to use that to his advantage? Is he daring enough to surreptitiously let Tarkin "find out" about it?

I'm not necessarily going to do that, but a Vader-Tarkin-Thrawn triumvirate leading a rebellion and creating a schism in the Empire would be interesting. The biggest problem with that is that Thrawn and Tarkin both play the really, really long game. Tarkin knows the Death Star is being built and a decade-long scheme to take control of it (as opposed to acting sooner) could cause him to want to wait far longer than Vader would be willing to accept. And, Thrawn is not currently Grand Admiral. Performing well during a rebellion, or coming up with the key plan that let's Vader accomplish something big, could lead to a meteoric series of field promotions.

But that would require some engineering on my part!

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And this new conflict between them could cause a schism in the Empire, with Vader rallying and siphoning off large portions of imperial forces to him,

For me, a schism in the Empire would be a great thing! My impression is that a lot of the Moffs and planetary governors are greedy, power-hungry, and self-interested robber barons who are loyal to whoever provides them the best opportunity. If Vader were to lead a sustained regional rebellion of his own, there could be a lot of face-heel turns in both directions, or Moffs who decide to create their own competing factions or take a "wait and see" perspective, thereby balkanizing the galaxy. This could lead to worlds outside their stable control zones rebelling sooner and with greater success. Ergo, the Rebel Alliance might get its legs under it sooner, though not in such a way that the Empire falls to it for some time. However, the Jedi might gain some breathing room to recover in. That would require me to accelerate some key events like obtaining the X-Wing, Mon Cala joining, etc.  But, it also keeps the Death Star and Tarkin Doctrine relevant down the line.

But, its not just the Empire, but also the Sith. I don't think Vader is necessarily committed to the Rule of Two. In Legends he often seeks out Sith artifacts. What if he has obtained some pre-Darth Bane holocrons that inspire him to turn the Inquisitorious into a nucleus of his own Sith Army? Palpatine would be forced to at least take another disciple. My next planned arc (which is a break from all this) plays into that and introduces our second AU divergence: Darth Plageuis transferred his consciousness into a new vessel when Darth Sidious killed him. He has since taken a new disciple, a baroness from a yet to be determined planet, and started to build a cult of dark force faithful assassins to further his aims. My players are going to run afoul of this group while searching for a mcguffin artifact.   

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whilst also expending significant resources and effort in finding Padme.

Indeed!

Edited by Vondy

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On 12/18/2019 at 4:54 AM, LordBritish said:

I imagine things will break down in one of two ways; Vader is a man of fury so he's either going to confront the Emperor directly, or alternatively bide his time.

I agree, but fall on the side of biding his time for the short term. I don't think he's as patient as Tarkin or Thrawn, but he is intelligent and cunning.

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After all as far as I am aware his power to act was fairly limited even in the original movies; he was basically Tarkin's second for the entire a new hope to the extent that some officers clearly weren't aware of who he was and only really obtained agency in episode 5; through whatever means he discovered who that young man was and decided to make it his immediate priority to be at the battle at the emperor's behest; it's never entirely certain how much of this is his own agency. This is the Emperor's Empire which Vader just happens to be the fist of, so he would need some way of consolidating power that the Emperor isn't aware of.

This is fairly true as depicted in movie canon. His actual authority is ambiguous in the Episode VI. He is clearly a dignitary empowered to act on the Emperor's behalf, but doesn't appear to be in the formal chain of command, and does defer to Tarkin. However, in Rogue One during the Battle of Scarif, Tarkin says "Lord Vader will handle their fleet," which implies he is in command of the arriving Imperial fleet. In Episodes V-VI he leads a large body of ground troops and orders high ranking naval officers around an awful lot. And in Rebels we see him bossing Moffs around. It could be as simple as no one disobeying the Emperor's personal envoy in the absence of countervailing orders from someone like Tarkin, but my presumption is that he does have some military forces under his direct command.

I treat comics, novels, gaming supplements, and video games as apocryphal sources that I can raid for inspiration, but aren't beholden to. In assorted comics over the years he's been consistently depicted as retaining control of the 501st Legion as "Vader's Own" after the Clone Wars. He has also been depicted in comics and gaming supplements as being in direct control of the inquisitors. I would propose he probably has his personal legion, most of the inquisitors, a respectable sized assault fleet, and a toady Moff or two at his disposal. He probably also has some highly placed information sources in the Imperial bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and the navy. That, however, does not make for the strategic depth necessary to sustain a rebellion. He would need key strategic allies.

Only then might we see opportunistic Moffs and Admirals start siding with him.  

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It doesn't mean that he's a good guy necessarily, he doesn't believe or want to be a hero

I totally agree. At this stage he's still very much a Dark Lord of the Sith. This is about his hatred, revenge, and power. On the other hand, Anakin clearly saw himself as an agent of peace through force and that power would bring order and stability. I could see him reverting to the mindset he was in when he pleaded with Padme on Mustafar to join him so that they could reforge the galaxy in their united vision rather than Palpatines. She wouldn't go for that, but... Anakin became one darkly obsessive and delusional dude. He would not give up so easily. However, Vader might consider "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" valid. Were a conflagration of rebellions to erupt in regions under his rivals control, or in regions that would serve as buffer zones between he and his rivals, he might not interfere or provide some sort of indirect assistance (like key intelligence)... which presents the rebels with a dilemma!

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so regardless of the outcome it should be brutal and harsh.]

Naturally!

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In terms of subtly, resources and much more the Emperor has Vader in a ballpond, so whatever Vader does would have to be brutally efficient and shocking.  

Yes. If he were to act alone it would have to be executed decisively and with complete surprise. That would require a certain amount of writer's caveat / gamemaster fiat on my part. He would have have some key piece of intelligence indicating the Emperor would be in a uniquely exposed position and then double-down and go all-in.

An example: The US Naval Intelligence code-breaking operation named "Magic" during WWII intercepted the details of Adm. Yamamoto's tour of Japanese bases in the Pacific in 1943. They had his itinerary and the number and types of aircraft he would be travelling in. An analysis revealed that one leg of his journey was within striking range of US fighters. He was killed when his plane and escorts were attacked by surprise and shot down.

Success would lead to chaos in the Imperial ranks and rifts between factions. I also think, for the same reasons stated above, that someone other than Vader would end up in charge of the largest faction on Coruscant. He might, however, end up with a good many Moffs and admirals flocking to his faction. A more subtle move would be to use some Rebels - or our heroes - as cats paws. If rebels were to kill the Emperor that plays very differently in the Imperial ranks. Even a failed Rebel attack that left the Emperor's status unknown for a short time could shake things up long enough for him to make some undetected moves.

 

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The alternative is that he attempts to rebel, fail's and through dark magic is stripped of his agency and is turned into a puppet. An apprentice that isn't willing to fight for him is useless and the Emperor likely wouldn't waste a second humouring Vader unless he had some way to use him. If he ever learns of Padme or Bail though; well, the Hand of the Emperor existed for a reason. Want something dead? Get Vader, want something dead quietly? That's the Hand's job.

This would certainly re-institute the status quo. I'm leaning towards shaking things up.

Edited by Vondy

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On 12/18/2019 at 6:47 AM, whafrog said:

@Vondy it's one thing to click a like, but sometimes you have to say it:  that was flippin' awesome!

Thanks!

On 12/18/2019 at 6:47 AM, whafrog said:

As for Vader, that's a hard one.  No doubt the Emperor felt a disturbance in the Force with all this, and Vader will have a hard time lying to him.  If he returns to his ship (one with the sustainment pod) no doubt he will be ordered back to Coruscant, and the Imperial Navy being what it is, the commanders will know what the order is.  To hide, he would have to choke all the commanders until he finds one who will do what he wants, and that might only be temporary.

At this point the Emperor will know First Brother failed, but doesn't know Vader was there. He also doesn't know that Vader discovered (and destroyed) the Anakin clone. He probably senses in the Force that the currents are running in ways he doesn't like, and he may eventually foresee Vader turning against him, but I think Vader probably has some sort of window in which he can make a few moves before the Emperor figures it out. 

On 12/18/2019 at 6:47 AM, whafrog said:

Maybe a better question is:  what does the Force want?  If Vader can listen to Anakin, maybe Anakin can guide him.  Perhaps doing nothing for a while as he contemplates his path is the right response.  

If this doesn't create inner conflict, what will, right?

That's a big question to contemplate. How deep down in there is Anakin and can Vader tap into that voice? I think this may also be a reason the Emperor didn't want to heal him and ensured his suit was painful - it makes it harder for Vader to be at the peace he would need to focus in the force enough to find himself or foresee future events for himself. Luke ultimately dug Anakin out from Vader in the movies, but this also raises the question: could Padme redeem him?

On 12/18/2019 at 6:47 AM, whafrog said:

He can even be honest with the Emperor... "I hate you for this!" and the Emperor will just laugh, just as Sith Masters have always laughed at the hatred of their Sith Apprentices.  That might provide enough cover to make his own plans.

This would be crazy-like a fox.

"I shall confront the Emperor with what I know and with my true feelings so that he will dismiss my rage as impotent and mock me as a weak-minded fool. Then I shall plan my revenge...."

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On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

Heya Vondy, great narrative!

Again, thank you! And thank you for your thoughtful and thorough response. You have an impressive knowledge of Star Wars media.

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

So, here's the primary thing about Vader at this stage - we know from Vader: Immortal (the canon VR game), Force Unleashed (Legends video game), many novel sources, both canon and legends, and from the canon Marvel Comics that Vader was actively working against Palpatine, just as Palpatine was actively working against Vader.

I tend to take a narrow approach to canon because too much can quickly turn into a straight-jacket. If you take a broader view, it can also be a lot of material to absorb and it often ends up being contradictory due to the number of cooks in the kitchen. However, I am always looking for themes and ideas in the broader media materials to get my juices pumping. In other words, I'm open to introducing things from non-film-television canon or legends materials. The idea that they are actively pursuing a semi-clandestine intra-Sith cold war against one another is wholly in keeping with what we know of the Sith and the overarching trajectory of my game. 

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

This was known to both, and due to the nature of the Sith, was expected. Knowing that Palpatine was attempting to clone him, Vader would probably assume it's because he was trying to create a replacement, as Vader knew the Emperor was furious with him for needing to become the machine he is now, and considered him a "flawed apprentice." At this time in the saga, Vader was being tested by the Emperor constantly for weakness, and so this would come as no surprise. From Vader: Immortal and the Vader Marvel Comics, we also know Vader was obsessed with resurrecting Padme, and so if he were to find out she was still alive, it's likely he would be fixated on her, as opposed to going at the Emperor any harder than before. Indeed, he has been planning against the Emperor for a while, and the only reason he was still loyal to him was because he believed that there might still be answers in the Dark Side of the Force that would allow him to resurrect her in some form.

I agree that Padme being alive would remove his central rationale for remaining loyal to the Emperor. This would be compounded by the realization that the Emperor is the active threat to the woman he turned to the Dark Side hoping to save. And, the Anakin clone would indicate he is living on borrowed time and instill a sense of urgency. That raises the questions: how much groundwork has he already laid and how much wherewithal and resources does he have at hand? 

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

We also know that from Jedi: Fallen Order and some other sources, that Vader is in charge of the Inquisitorius. To have the First Brother working for the Emperor directly, against Vader's objectives, would see Vader potentially enter into a subtle civil war within the Inquisitorius, compartmentalizing those Inquisitors who are loyal to him away from those whose loyalty is split or to the Emperor first.

This is a great observation. Testing the loyalty of his power-base and isolating weak links and traitors would be a necessary precursor to action. 

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

With the appearance of Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin, we saw all of Vader's effort become focused on tracking him down, so it stands to reason that nothing would change in regards to finding out Padme is alive. While the Emperor supported these actions due to the danger that Luke and the Rebellion represented to the Empire, in your world there is less interest from the Emperor, and indeed, the Emperor would want Vader as far from Padme as possible.

Agreed. He doesn't specifically know their unborn children are alive, but the same fixation he had on Luke in the movies would now be on Padme.  The Emperor is already worried about Padme. Were he to know Vader knew about her he would likely have to start thinking about recalling Vader or taking direct action against him.

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

So I would suspect that since Vader is the only survivor of this incident, he would remain tight-lipped about it, and allow the Emperor to assume that First Brother failed in the attempt and was killed by the Jedi. Since the Emperor doesn't know Vader was there, Vader has the upper hand, and since Vader has long plotted against his Master in true Sith fashion, I doubt he'd "lose his s**t" now. Most likely, he would let the Emperor assume his own story about what happened to First Brother,

Agreed. He would be tight-lipped and make subtle moves at this point.

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

and direct those Inquisitors absolutely loyal to him to go after the PCs, with orders to both observe any other Inquisitors they witness on the trail, and to bring the Jedi to him alive by any means necessary.

I hadn't considered the "take them alive" part, but it makes sense. He's going to want information and, beyond that, he may think he can turn them to the Dark Side or manipulate them into furthering his own ends in some way.

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

This choice would serve two important goals. First, it would allow his Inquisitors to identify other Inquisitors loyal to the Emperor. Vader would know that his master would continue his plans to eliminate Padme, and he would activate another Inquisitor he could trust to do the job. Just as with First Brother, any Inquisitor activated would be told to circumvent Vader, and this means the Inquisitor was a threat to him. Identifying these would advance Vader's attempts to create a compartmentalized cell within the Inquisitorius, and weed out those loyal to Palpatine. Second, it would allow Vader to track Padme without revealing he knew of Padme's survival. His loyal Inquisitor tracking a Jedi would raise no eyebrows, as Inquisitors track Jedi, and usually in a vacuum from each other - they follow leads, not necessarily Jedi, and as such, even if the Emperor's Inquisitor ran afoul of Vader's Inquisitor, it wouldn't raise any eyebrows as it would be assumed they were just following leads, and wouldn't suspect they were tracking on orders from Vader. Additionally, it would allow Vader to keep tabs on the Emperor's progress, and with orders to capture the Jedi, Vader could "ask" the Jedi where Padme was, a clearer route to her than trying to track her directly.

I am definitely using this. 

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

We know that Vader is an expert tactician by this point, having Anakin's keen tactical mind, and removing Anakin's brash headstrong desires. Vader is more calculating than Anakin was, with the same sharp mind and skill. He wouldn't do anything rash here, and instead move against Palpatine in a measured way. We know he can manipulate the Emperor, as Empire Strikes Back showed us he convinced the Emperor to let him search for Luke and try to turn him instead of outright kill him. Granted, it benefited the Emperor, but it was a keen maneuver on Vader's part. Vader in this regard would be just as astute in the proper approach.

I am also contemplating his ability to identify and manipulate the Emperor's key supporters so as to weaken him. The most important such figure would be Tarkin, but there are others. My impression is that Tarkin considers Vader a hammer and wouldn't expect subtlety from him, but I could be wrong. Another is Mas Amedda. Finding a way to discredit or eliminate Amedda while keeping his own hands clean would provide a window of destabilization for him to take action in.

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

It's important to understand what Vader's intentions would be at this point. Remember, he ISN'T Anakin anymore. Vader wasn't lying when he said Anakin was dead. He joined Palpatine before Padme's "death" with the express intention of saving her. The horrible things he did he CHOSE to do. Padme's death just fueled his desire to save her into a desire to resurrect her. In this, Vader would want to have Padme (and his children when he realizes he has them) rule the galaxy by his side as his Empress. He would have no intention of restoring the Republic - the Republic and the Order was weak, it allowed the Sith to win, it allowed the galaxy to fall to corruption and ruin. He would likewise have no loyalty to the Sith - they are the legacy of Palpatine, not him. His desire would be (as he explained it Attack of the Clones) to make something new from the ashes of Palpatine's Empire, with Padme and Anakin at the helm. He would still believe wholeheartedly in authoritarian rule - his vision of the galaxy would see absolute Order and civility, imposed and enforced by an iron will and iron hand, and Padme's skill with diplomacy and pure nature would make it a force of light and not evil. She would be the soul of peace for his Empire, and he would be the hammer of justice when called upon. This would be his goal to finding Padme, to have her as his wife again and overthrow Palpatine, by any means necessary.

I agree that is the most fitting desire and vision for Vader. Its consistent with both how he pleaded with her on Mustafar and his appeal to Luke in the Cloud City. The question is, given time and the right circumstances, could Padme bring him back the way Luke did?

In terms of having no loyalty to the Sith that also introduces no compunctions about abandoning the "Rule of Two." Might he embark on a course more like what Dooku envisioned in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith and try to turn the inquisitors into his own twisted dark-side version of the Jedi Order?

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

An interesting side narrative - he knows that the Emperor still has the cloning projects going - If Padme refuses him, he might be attempted after to instead just get some genetic material from her and clone her. Anakin considered the clones to be truly human, and the clones were his loyal friends and never betrayed him, a clone of Padme in his twisted mind might then be the perfect answer for his Empress. He gets the loyalty of the clones alongside the love, intelligence, and regal countenance of his dearest Padme.

That is very twisted and dark indeed. Its not where I want to go for our story, but props to you!

On 12/19/2019 at 8:49 AM, Kyla said:

He could even come to believe that the Emperor cloned Padme already, and that the "Padme" with the Jedi who refused him was all a machination of the Emperor to drive him away from his plans to usurp him.

This is interesting. Its also narratively complicated in terms of how to present it and advance the plot. It might be a better novel than gaming table plot, but its definitely something to ponder. In the end it would probably drive him to double-down on his plans to usurp the Emperor.

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