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In Rogue One, the forces of freedom are a bit darker than usual. I’ve covered Draven’s Dark Deeds before, but Saw Gerrera and his Partisans are on a whole other level. I must report that the film has been criticized, and rightly so in my view, for essentially pre-flanderizing Saw Gerrera as an extremist. This does not undermine the value having an “evil counterpart” to the Rebel Alliance can serve as a narrative tool in your gamemastery toolbox. I’ll start with the ceremonial stat block entry before progressing into a look at insurgent tactics, contrasting the heroic Rebels from the extreme Partisans, and then close on a few ideas on how to use the Partisans in your game.
Partisan Fighter [Minion]
Whether seen as desperate freedom fighters or vile terrorists, these radical militants are prepared to take the fight to the Empire at any cost. The origin of the Partisans lies with that of the Onderon rebels trained by the Republic and Jedi during the Clone Wars. Few original members remain alive, let alone within the ranks. Regardless of origin, these fighters are fiercely loyal to their leader, Saw Gerrera, and zealously believe in the cause. They are prepared to die, and kill, to end Imperial tyranny. They favour ambushes and other guerrilla type tactics, with a favorite tactics being close range ambush by infiltration of the civilian population. That these attacks put local civilians at risk is a minor concern to the Partisans when compared to the titanic abuses of the Empire.
Br 2, Ag 2, Int 2, Cun 2, WP 2, Pres 2
Soak 3, W. Threshold 5, Def M/R 0/0
Skills (group only): Cool, Ranged (Heavy), Stealth
Abilities: Hide Among the People (When concealing themselves among local civilians, Partisan Fighters upgrade Stealth checks once), For the Cause (As an Action, one minion sacrifices himself to guarantee a successful attack. Roll an attack as if made by a single minion and resolve as normal, except the attack will be considered a hit even if there are no uncancelled Success results. If no uncancelled Success remains, the attack deals the base damage only but Advantage and Triumph may be spent normally.)
Equipment: Blaster rifle (Ranged [Heavy]; Damage 9; Critical 3; Range [Long]; Stun Setting), 2 frag grenades (Ranged [Light]; Damage 8; Critical 4; Range [Short]; Blast 6, Limited Ammo 1), concealing civilian clothing (soak +1)
One definition of insurgency is an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict (US DOD Dictionary of Military and Association Terms), often described as a battle between the government and the insurgents for the support of the people. The difference between an insurgent and a freedom fighter is, in my opinion, largely a matter of connotations. In this section I will outline the four main areas of insurgent activity and contrast the Partisans’ methods to that of the Rebel Alliance.
Support Activities: Easily overlooked, but essential to sustaining and expanding the movement, the majority of activities an insurgency conducts are not necessarily violent by nature. Activities such as recruiting, training, and ensuring logistical support are easily overlooked but vital for the movement to continue. The Partisans require essentially the same equipment, supplies, and vehicles as their distant cousins in the Rebel Alliance. The main difference lies in the tactics that the Partisans are prepared to use to ensure support is in place. With an enemy as despicable as the Empire, the Partisans believe any action taken to sustain the movement can be justified and anyone who refuses to offer support is a potential collaborator.
Propaganda Activities: Insurgencies try to gain asymmetric advantages over their often more militarily and economically powerful enemies. Often, one such area is propaganda operations designed to influence perceptions and behaviours in ways favourable to the movement. However, the Galactic Empire possesses an incredibly powerful propaganda machine centrally controlled through the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order (COMPNOR) which is capable of overmatching dissidents in the fight for control of the information environment. Unlike the (mostly) heroic and squeaky clean Rebel Alliance, the Partisans’ more extreme methods open the insurgent group to frankly legitimate condemnations. As a result, the Partisans’ reputation is sullied among most neutral audiences such as human colonists. While primarily losing the propaganda war, the Partisans’ extreme reputation provides two unique benefits. Firstly, they are able to leverage terror and coercion much more readily than the Alliance. Secondly, this radical image results in attracting only the most zealous of recruits.
Political Activities: Many insurgencies have a political front which is able to negotiate with the government or outside organizations on behalf of the same grievances put forth by the insurgents, but often seek to be seen as “arms length” from the insurgents themselves. The amount of control and linkages between insurgents and related political parties will vary from case to case. The Rebel Alliance counts many politicians and diplomats among their ranks, both currently serving and retired. Prior to the abolition of the Imperial Senate, the “lower case r” rebellion combined guerrilla tactics with covert political maneuvering to resist Imperial tyranny, and even after the end of the Senate the significant political influence of former representatives served as a vital tool for the Rebellion. In contrast, the Partisans almost totally lack support from political actors. While this is a major deficiency, Saw Gerrera and his militia believe that the time for negotiation is over, and thus prefer more violent methods.
Violent Activities: The most visible type of insurgency action are those which are violent and destructive. Insurgents use a combination of terror and guerrilla tactics to gain an asymmetric advantage over their opponents. Operations are designed to achieve the maximum effect possible for the minimum risk. Often violent activities are designed to support more vital propaganda and political activities.
Terror tactics employ violence primarily against noncombatants such as civilians. More than mindless destruction, terror tactics are designed to create psychological and political impact. Primarily, terrorism is shocking and draws attention to the insurgency and its grievances. Secondly, a terror campaign can reduce faith in the government’s capability to provide security. Thirdly, insurgents may use terror tactics to provoke a repressive crackdown which can later be exploited for propaganda value. As a rule, the Rebel Alliance does not condone nor conduct terror operations. The Partisans, however, are absolutely not above the use of terror attacks even against Imperial civilians. The Partisans do prefer guerrilla tactics, but will employ terrorism as a tool like any other depending on the psychological vulnerabilities of their enemies.
Guerrilla tactics, such as hit-and-run attacks, allow insurgents to achieve tactical success against government security forces. Small, lightly armed groups avoid decisive engagement with security forces by instead focusing on harassment, targeted strikes, and planned withdrawals. The Rebel Alliance and the Partisans operate with similar guerrilla tactics, with the exception being the Partisans are far more willing to risk collateral damage among non-combatants.
Adventure and Campaign Seeds
- Draven’s Delivery: Not all among the Rebel Alliance condemn the actions of the Partisans. General Davits Draven, intelligence chief at the Yavin base, may not be as extreme as Saw Gerrera but does possess a realist bent expressed through a willingness to use unethical methods in the pursuit of freedom. In this adventure seed, the PCs are Rebels charged with transferring supplies from the Alliance fleet to local resistance cells. One such routine supply mission is redirected by General Draven, with instructions to carry the weapons and supplies to an alternative pickup location on a barren moon. Additional cargo crates are added to the usual drop off, which if opened would reveal vicious T-8 disruptor rifles. Either through investigation or perception, the PCs learn they are providing weapons to the radical Partisans. What the PCs do with this information may vary wildly, but if executed properly should serve as a moral dilemma.
- COIN Flip: In a reversal from the usual Age of Rebellion campaign, have the players create Imperial characters. The PCs have all been assigned to a specialist counter insurgency (COIN) task force charged with combating the Partisans. This campaign setup offers significant opportunity to explore themes that are far more grey than the usual black and white of Star Wars.