Game Day: The Final Flight of the Aeon Harrier

Our Star Wars campaign reached a major milestone last Friday: our heroes bought their first starship. The group is loosely divided into two factions: the Jedi padawans and the crew. The later group served aboard a ship known as the Aeon Harrier, which the Jedi occasionally contracted out for missions. It served as the group’s spaceborn home for the last 15 game sessions.

Friday night, she met her end, not in flames, but on blocks. The old freighter — a 578-R — took a lot of hits over the last few months, engaging in firefights with pirates, narrowly escaping a shipjacking frigate, and nearly melting to slag in the heart of a protostar-rich nebula.

The Harrier barely made it home to the party’s home base of Zebulon Beta, and after she landed (with only two of her three struts descending, the third having been melted closed) her captain handed the keys over to the crew (for a minor sum) and then announced his intention to spend the rest of his days drinking home-brewed alcohol and hunting.

But that’s not the crew’s new ship. Instead, they bought the infamous “turtle ship”, a Ghtrock 720 once owned by pirates operating on Zebulon Prime, captured by our heroes, and placed up for auction by the planetary government. The ship looks like, well, a giant space turtle. It’s a fact that didn’t go over well with a few people in the group, but ultimately most warmed to it, and the crew’s certainly embraced it as their own.

As the game master, I’m very happy with how the Aeon Harrier arc played out. Starships are a huge part of the Star Wars universe, and I think it’s critical to a good saga to have some signature ships that players and fans can hang their imaginations on. Whether it’s Han and Lando’s Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing or Boba Fett’s Slave 1, the ships stand out. They’re touchstones that help lend a sense of reality to the story.

The Knights of the Old Republic got this, which is why both the original and the sequel were built around a junk freighter known as the Ebon Hawk (and I’ll argue that the Star Wars prequels didn’t; I can’t think of a single signature ship that’s original to that series, and the movies suffered for it).

With our Star Wars campaign, I knew going in that I wanted the game to have such a ship, and the group agreed. While the ship served a practical role in getting our heroes from Point A to Point B, it also helped reinforce the fact that we weren’t in Greyhawk anymore.

After 12 years of playing Dungeons & Dragons in Greyhawk, we were used to the fantasy tropes. There were the occasional overland and sea travels, and in one memorable adventure, the Blackrazor Guild secured their own war galley (appropriately named the Sea Razor) but aside from our short “Pirates of the Vohoun” campaign to playtest D&D 3E, we rarely had a shipborn campaign.

With Star Wars, the ship was front and center. While it didn’t factor into every adventure, it was there for most of them, and many of those adventures were some of the group’s most harrowing.

The heroes didn’t own the Aeon Harrier — we felt that a ship was something the crew should work toward — but I think they came to feel that it was theirs. When the ship was nearly destroyed in the protostar nebula, I think it truly became a character in the campaign. It’s partially melted exterior and overloaded internal systems became a recurring theme in the last few chapters of the campaign, and gave a bittersweet feel to its final flight home to Zebulon.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to the Harrier; the crew owns her now, and there is talk of stripping her for parts for use in the turtle ship, or leaving her as is the spaceport and having her serve as the planetary office for the crew’s new shipping company.

In the long run, I suspect she’ll see space again. In about ten more sessions we’re going to be jumping the campaign timeline forward to the Mandalorian Wars, at which point the crew’s shipping company will likely own several space-worthy starships. It would be nice if the old girl was one of them…

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