Looking for help to restart that GM spark

Hey all.

It’s been a long time - I used to run under this username at the old FFG forums many years ago, hopefully I can get some help here, too.

Even before the pandemic struck, I was suffering from a bit of GM burnout. I’d GMed a few short SWRPG and Genesis campaigns (my group tends towards 6-8 session long mini-campaigns) coming up to the end of 2019 and I needed a break. Next thing I know, it’s 2023, I’ve volunteered myself to GM for the first time in 3 years, my group is clamouring for a Bad Batch themed SWRPG and I’m sitting in the GM seat going “Um…”

So far I’ve introduced a team of Clones to the dying days of the Clone Wars; I had them drop into the Citadel prison as a backup team to some ARC commandos, only to have all their dropships shot down and the PC group be the only survivors. They infiltriated the prison, rescued a Jedi Padawan, and escaped. That was the first two sessions. Next session I had them on Coruscant, having delivered the Padawan safely, being co-opted into an off-the-books operation as a favour to a certain Clone Captain Rex, in order to provide security for a clandestine meeting between a Republic Senator and an emissary from the Seperatists, trying to get peace talks going. The meeting was then jumped by bounty hunters, which the PCs escaped from at the end of the last session.

At the moment, I’m kind of flying blind here. The overall discussion at Session Zero was Clone Troopers (vaguely AoR-esque) transitioning to a more underworld-esque (so EotE) as the campaign rolled on. At the moment, though, I don’t have an overall objective beyond that, no main story thread beyond “things are about to get nasty and you guys are in the middle of it”. In the past, I’ve usually gone into a Campaign (as I said, usually less than 10 sessions planned) with an overall story arc and usually, if not a big bad, then at least a central conflict. Here, I don’t really have much in mind. I thought that running a few sessions would get my juices flowing a bit, but I’m struggling to regain that spark, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor.

What I do have is as follows:

  • The PC team is now believed to be dead by the central command of the GAotR
  • They’re building a reputation for the aforementioned “off the books” type missions with some powerful friends - they have direct contact with Rex and some Senators
  • One of the PCs was already a Republic Intelligence plant (a diverted batch of clones that work directly for RI, not under command of the Jedi)

My thoughts at this point are to try to enmesh them more in off-the-books work, working directly for the cabal of senators (Amidala, Organa, Chuchi) who are trying to work for peace but are stymied by Palpatine’s workings behind the scenes. I’d like to introduce some of the “dark side” of the higher ups of the Republic to give the characters more reason to turn against the newly founded Empire that is coming in their future (I’ve already disabled their inhibitor/loyalty chips so direct Order 66 actions shouldn’t be an issue there).

Eventually, I’ll need to run them through an Order 66 scenario and have them choose to either immediately rebel against their fellow Clones, or go along with things and stick close to the Cabal as the Empire forms, only to get pushed out and have to run later. For that decision, I’ll discuss it at a meta level with the players as to which way they’d like to take the story before we get to the Order 66 session.

So, what I am looking for here?
Short term, I have my next session this Friday, although one of the players has already dropped out, so if I need to, I can postpone a week. I’m looking for adventure seeds or ideas for either ethically grey missions for Clones to be undertaking towards the end of the Clone Wars (especially if it brings them into contact with Underworld types who might end up as future contacts) or not-techincally-legal ops to run for the Cabal to help them resist upcoming power grabs by Palpy.

Long term, I need an overall goal for the team to work towards. The Bad Batch has them finding a haven and a patron and taking on jobs from there, which I could go with - but if anyone has any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Incidentally, I spent most of last week preparing last Friday’s session, then sat down at 10pm on Thursday night to relax by watching The Bad Batch S2E07, only to find they’d used several story elements in that episode that I already had prepped for the game. No spoilers, but I was annoyed… and amused…

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If it were me, I’d run some more sessions where you drip feed them a cast of useful underworld contacts as you have them working with people who aren’t afraid to profit from this war. The last days of war often involve dealing with unsavoury sorts out of either desperation or necessity.

The intention would be to give them enough people who operate outside of the law - as smugglers, mercenaries, slicers, bounty hunters, corrupt politicians, etc. - that they can go to for help once Order-66 occurs.

Then, for the overarching plot, we can go down a couple of routes. Firstly you can have them working with senators or other dignitaries who know they are done for if they stay where they are, and need to get out of there fast. They offer the PCs a silly sum if the party can get him to safety… Oh, and they need you to also get their family who are likely now imprisoned.

After that is over, you can do something similar to the first session where they find a Padawan who has survived Order 66. They suddenly find themselves ideally placed to begin the process of setting up an underground railroad to help others escape the Empire, Forcing them to dodge the law and lean into the criminal underworld as you planned.

But that’s just me.

A lot of this will depend on your characters’ motivations and choices. I’d always recommend talking with the group and airing some of your writer’s block with them to see how they feel about the fact it’s currently very episodic and you’re not sure where to go with it. The game system is very much built for collaborative storytelling, so maybe collaborating with your players to overcome the writers block is a good idea in the short term.

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With the contact with the pre-Rebel senators and wanting ethical grey areas to explore, I think you may want to include at least indirect contact with Saw Gerrera and his crew at some point.

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Espionage is a dirty game, and (active) counter-espionage is even dirtier. For your purposes, you probably need someone who is not just a senator (Republic or Separatist) in opposition to peace, but attempting to underhandedly interfere. Essentially, assassinating the assassin, or at least the person paying the assassin. Bonus points if it’s in a situation where you can dress it up as an accident or cast the blame on some other sphere of influence, like an inversion of the Mina Bonteri assassination.

Or, you can invert it and throw in an Order 66-foreshadowing curveball by charging them with stopping a Republic attempt to assassinate a Separatist senator, pushing them into a position of fighting “their own side.”

For post-66? I’d say that’s something to ask your players about. Figure out where they want the campaign to go and what they want to accomplish. After all, the characters would have to make that choice anyway.

I meant to say this earlier, but forgot and now thought it worth some extrapolation more generally, not just within the assassination suggestion.

Moral quandaries don’t have to solely exist in the actions undertaken, but can exist within their own faction. For example, one senator takes them aside and gives them a mission he knows the other senators won’t agree with, but he finds necessary. Perhaps it’s even in line with other missions they’ve done in the past, just with a different target or context.

That also adds an additional wrinkle by creating separation between the PCs and the other senators, because they now have to keep a secret from them. This creates more tension and gives you more strings to pull, and then if the truth ever does come out, now you have an explosive conflict to deal with as trust issues flare, the team of senators may fracture or break entirely, and the PCs may have to choose sides.

Sorry, had a bit of a busy week. Thanks for the feedback.

We ended up postponing the next session until this Friday, so I used the extra time to put together a few things. The suggestion of introducing Saw Gerrera was a great one, and that’s where I’ve headed - the team are sent to speak to him after a bombing campaign with some of his hallmarks. Speaking to him (full-up social combat, perhaps) reveals a couple of his Partisans have broken off from his group - probably because he’s focused on Onderon and they want to take the fight to the wider CIS off-planet. Successful talk/negotiation with him will reveal the name of the person he thinks is likely responsible and their next target. He’ll also reveal his suspicions about the direction the Republic is heading, hopefully providing some fodder for the “are we on the right side here” thinking I’m hoping to promote.

The next part of the story will then be to chase down the saboteur aboard a commercial station in neutral space (they’ll get intel from Rex sending them there when they leave Onderon if they don’t get it from Saw). Capturing the saboteur reveals that the bomb(s) have already been planted, and the target is a CIS representative - they can let the bombs go off and hit the target and potentially civilians/neutrals, they can try to disarm the bombs themselves and risk clones being spotted doing suspicious things (even more problematic if they fail) or they can inform the authorities - in which case, will the Republic be implicated? The idea here is to provide a moral dilemma, what risk(s) - of civilian casualties, of potential Republic reputation impacts - are they willing to take to further the Republic’s goals (eliminate the CIS official and disrupt their plans)?

It’s somewhere to start for the next session, and depending on timing I’ll try to have a conversation about the longer term direction we’re going.

Thanks again eveyone.


I have been trying something different in my current campaign. As a context, our campaign takes place 10 years after Clone Wars and it is a story about PCs kickstarting a rebel cell and how it grows from there.

In this campaign players plan (almost) all adventures. After each adventure ends, I’m asking them what is their next goal. It is mostly meta game talk about what kind of adventure the players want to tackle next. I usually provide them with a dozen of story seeds to get their juices flowing, and remind them of various rumors/npc etc. that could be potential story seeds. And then they go on from there.

For example our next adventure was planned by players and it provided me (GM) with the following bullet points:

  • Adventure takes place on a swamp planet with dangerous flora and fauna which they must travel through.
  • Goal is to rescue a clone trooper commander that has crash landed on the planet, and then recruit him to their rebel cell.
  • They want some spaceship action on the way to the swamp planet, but preferably not space combat.
  • They want that there is some kind of colony, maybe natives or some uncivilized people to interact with.
  • They want a climatic combat scene when they find the commander.

My goal as a GM then is to flesh out and create a bit of a background story to the adventure, and of course do my own Evil GM additions ;)

So far everybody has loved this concept, and I, as a GM do not have to worry about whether the players and their PCs are invested and motivated to jump to the adventure. Also, brain storming adventure with the whole group is so much fun and great way to add hype and expectations for the next session, and as the guidelines are pretty broad, there is still a lot of room to pull the carpet from under the PCs feet ;)