A Life of Bondage

Slavery, especially with the Empire around, is a sad reality across much of the Star Wars galaxy. Slaves and other conscripted laborers build much of the Empire’s tools of war. From TIE fighter factories to the Death Stars themselves, the Empire’s war machine is built on the backs of beings it often works to death. In and outside the Empire are those who make a living on selling the suffering of others as the Empire, the Hutts, the Black Sun, and infinite other organizations and individuals take advantage of laborers who can be made to pay dearly if they do not obey.
This campaign idea puts Star Wars slavery on center stage, placing the players in the shoes of slaves looking to escape their bonds. This idea  can pave a clear path to joining the Rebellion as the Rebels oppose slavery quite vocally, though this is not a required outcome. One difference between this campaign idea and a standard background for a group of Rebels and outlaws is that a large part of the characters’ lives as slaves is not just in their backstories, but actually played out in the game.
In setting up and running this campaign, there are a number of things you should keep in mind:
  • The PCs would have to band together, gather and hide resources, concoct an escape/attack plan, perhaps even manage to get word out for help, and actually go through with the dangers of getting free of their captors. This can take up as many or as few sessions as you and your players want, but having a detailed experience of attaining freedom would be quite rewarding and would give a better idea of where the party plans on going to next.
  • Enslavement is a very, very harsh existence. Players should be aware that their characters will begin in a position of weakness, subjugation, and suffering. They will not be able to simply overpower their taskmasters and run from the word go. At the same time, their characters will be constantly reminded of their place as slaves with every lash of the whip, every hour they are forced to painfully push through exhaustion, and every moment with the absolute bare minimum to survive (if their masters even bother providing that much).
  • Certain races in Star Wars are targeted explicitly for enslavement. Trandoshans hunt wookies for both sport and profit. Twi’leks are exceptionally prone to being enslaved, with extra attention given to female twi’leks to serve as dancers. Humans, being so populous in Star Wars, are also included as both menial and skilled laborers. More examples of commonly enslaved races can be found here.
  • If you want to, you can have one or more PCs and/or important NPCs be abolitionists who serve as critical allies to those in bondage. They would provide hope as well as both indirect and direct aid, smuggling food and supplies into the slaves’ camp, rallying political and/or military support, and/or sabotaging the defenses/structures/equipment of the guards.
  • Another potential background for any given character is that of someone raised to become a slave owner or trader. They would join the party early into the campaign and learn more about the evils of slavery from their perspective. They could then use their personal knowledge of slaver techniques, equipment, and trade secrets to turn around and become an extremely effective freedom fighter. They would have to deal with the backlash of their history, however. Trust would be hard to come by and plenty would happily see them put behind bars or in a collar as a form of justice.
  • Zygerrian raiders are infamous for building their entire society on enslaving other races. Currently or formerly enslaved PCs and NPCs will likely react to even the sight of a zygerrian with fear and/or hatred due to their infamy. The Clone Wars series included a number of episodes devoted to the zygerrian slave traders and could be reviewed for inspiration. The Age of Rebellion adventure module Friends Like These also includes an entire section about them, as well as stats and details of the slavers and their tech. It also includes tips for handling slavery in roleplay.
  • Watching the Rebels series, particularly those dealing with Imperial labor camps and factories, would help give a greater level of depth in constructing this campaign.

Keep in mind that slavery is a very delicate issue and should be treated with the utmost seriousness. This is not a campaign idea for a funny campaign as the evils of slavery are not a joke. That does not mean that there can’t be humor. There can, but it should never detract from or make light of the abhorrent practice. And be respectful of the other players at the table. If someone is uncomfortable playing such a campaign then don’t force them. Be sure to communicate everything about the campaign clearly with your players and just be mindful of how they are feeling while playing. Do that and this can be a very powerful and memorable campaign that may stick with you for a long time.

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