Saturday, August 30, 2014

Classic Traveller, COIN

I opened this session with a discussion of COIN operations, and how our brave mercenaries might pacify the rebelling population. They decided on a multi-tier approach.

Firstly they put together some leaflets for distribution. These presented some facts to the reader under the headline "Don't be a Pawn!". This had a graphic showing our heroes dressed as white chess pieces and their opposing Bertrum35 mercs' as black pieces. I thought this was a very cool idea! The leaflet went on to describe the real situation, in that everyone had been happy under Indes rule, and it was only the influence of the Outre mega corp and their mercs that people started dying.They also layed out that even if Outre took over, the first thing they'd do is fire all the farmers anyway, so why side with them.

They also commenced a weapon buy-back program, where 50% of the street cost would be paid for any weapons handed in. Next they set up a bar in the largest town to sell beer at near cost and therefore make themselves look like good guys (to a bleary eyed bunch of drunks anyway). They also started running a propaganda program on the planetary vid' network.

At every opportunity they also told the populous that they were offering a 1000CR reward for information that lead to the capture of any ASS (Agitating Sabotuer Spys).

After a week of continuing to collect taxes and weapons, one of their tax collectors returned with a whisper of a lead. The man willing to spill the beans was Wirke Zven, a farmer, but he wanted someone to visit him incognito. This gave the PCs a pause for thought. Was it a trap? Our heroes sent a couple of their men sneaking up along the valley walls to act as overwatch and then drove on to the farm in a requisitioned tractor wearing common vaccsuits. They seemed very nervous about being out of their armour and not packing fusion guns. I smiled.

They were let into the farm house to find a very worried and twitchy farmer. He wanted the money up front. He felt that he needed to get off planet very quickly. They offered him 100CR straight up and the rest if his information turned out to be real. His information was that a secret base had been established just beyond his farmland, and that he'd seen quite a number of people coming and going.

He rode back towards town with the PCs as he'd been promised a ride off planet, but a few miles outside of town he started to panic as people would see him in the vehicle with them. The shuttle was called down from The Discord to pick him up. It also did a casual fly past of the supposed base's location. It was confirmed as a base.

Back on The Discord it was time to interrogate the captured Bertrum35 merc' again. They told him about their discovery of the base and that they were going to nuke it from orbit (it's the only way to be sure). He broke down. Then followed a little miscommunication where the PCs were hearing his words but not understanding his meaning. (Just like Thufir Hawat talking to the Fremen before his capture by the Harkonnen, it was beautiful).

Slowly it emerged that the PCs had been playing the Mercenary game all wrong. When they fought Bertrum35 at the dig, the lasers had gone over their heads on purpose. Bertrum35 had deliberately missed, and then been slaughtered by our (anti)heroes as they retreated. Mercenaries don't generally kill mercenaries! Sure autochthones get killed, but not mercenaries! The prisoner again pleaded with the PCs to contact the Bertrum35 offices, and to tell them what they knew, if the officials realised they'd been out maneuvered, they'd back off. Running a mercenary unit was about making money, not killing people!

A communication with Bertrum35 offices was opened up, and somewhat awkwardly as they didn't know "the form", they started the process.

I was rightly accused of refereeing the whole carrot-and-stick thing wrongly, namely using a 2x4 rather than a stick and having no carrot, when the prisoner revealed the following. Betrum35 were on planet with at least one company, probably two (against the PCs single platoon), that there was another company available, that they had been dropped dirtside from a Bertrum35 Destroyer class vessel that carried at least 5 small bombers and a few fighters. This left the players feeling very outclassed, out gunned and out-manned.

This was actually my intention. In the last couple of sessions they'd been feeling and playing with the power that having a platoon sized unit armed with the best weapons available was like. Although they may not have seen the game effect, I had. If every time you roll the dice, you kill the enemy, or shoot a bomber out of the sky(!), the in-game challenge has to come from somewhere else.

Back to the story. Feeling out classed the PCs felt the need to force the hand of Bertrum35. As the communication was taking 20 minutes each way, they decided to use that to their advantage, and in a very clever way, I might say.

They launched missiles towards the base, and sent a message to Bertrum35 telling them the missiles were in-bound. The timing of it was such that if Bertrum35 responded by saying they surrendered, the missiles would be self destructed. Any other response would mean the base was wiped out. That was where we ended the session. What will Bertrum35 do? Tune in next week for the exciting answer.

So for the moment at least, the game has become one of bluff and maneuver rather than guns and death.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Classic Traveller, Downt Thole

Last night's game started with a bit of bad news for the PCs. A message was received on "The Discord" (their ship). It was a system wide broadcast by the administration advising everyone that all ex military residents in the system were being called-up due to the Aslan threat. About half of the players Mercenaries were on the call-up list. They decided to keep this to themselves and not pass the message onto their people on the ground.

Then came some negotiation back on the planet. A contract was even written for a loan of the alien artifacts that the PCs had collected on their extra-galactic jaunt, to the local archeologist. The players were very explicit that they wanted a huge reward if the items were to get damaged.  They also took a tourist trip down the excavation. They were able to present the archeologist with a lot of information from their own experiences which he found fascinating. The central shaft was only excavated down to the first horizontal tunnel which itself turned out of be partially collapsed. Some similarities and some differences were notes between this installation and that investigated by the PCs.

They ordered the items down to the planet and their shuttle did the transport duties. As it was flying in it caught sight of some movement on the outskirts of the dig site. When it went back spaceside it made a fly by on the movement but couldn't see anything.

The PCs were suspicious so gathered up some of their mercs and some of the semi-trained police and headed out to investigate. A laser beam shot over their heads from a group of rocks ahead. They returned fire with their devastating FGMPs. In response five lasers were fired quite deliberately over the PC's heads. Once again they opened a killing response.

Armed and armoured men broke from cover, and started an organised relay of fire and retreat. Our heroes drove straight in on their target and started wasting the bad guys one after the other until there was only one left who threw up his arms. During the charge, the cops ran away and another of the merc company was injured.

The prisoner was run back into camp and a call put through to the town to send out a clean up crew for the dig-come-battlefield.

What the players didn't know at this point was that the bad guys had just called for their extraction and they didn't want to get into a serious fight. But the PCs were killing them without allowing them to pull out.

When the cops arrived they were sent out to pick up the bodies and weapons. At this point the bad guy's pick-up arrived, found the area full of cops and their men dead on the ground, so instead of picking up, they dropped off a few bombs, laying waste to the cops and their vehicles, before racing for the horizon.

A quick call up to "The Discord" to the home team PCs was made but a failed sensors roll meant they couldn't see the ship or its destination. The call was followed up by the away team requesting a pick for the prisoner. they wanted to get him onto The Discord for questioning.

The scene shifted to the home team on the ship with their prisoner.  Talking through the bars of the brig they found the prisoner rather unbowed. He explained he was part of the mercenary company Bertrum35 and that there was a 10K bounty for his safe return to a Bertrum35 agent.  The PCs told him they weren't interested in his bounty. He was somewhat disbelieving, he thought as merc's themselves they would respect the bounty system. They were very clear that no one knew he was here and they would kill him if he didn't give them all of the information they wanted. The poor chap ended up crying in his cell.

Back on the planet the away team got a call to return to the main town. The governor had set up a meeting to which he had called all of the local leaders, he wanted to discuss the situation and try to calm everything down. He stipulated that everyone including the PCs should be unarmed.  That didn't go down well with the players. So the town square was filled with vehicles and the invited farmers and local leaders filed into the meeting hall but the mercenaries stayed outside making sure nobody got up to any shenanigans.

A deep bass sound alerted our heroes to a return of the bomber. They opened fire with their plasma weapons and scored a hit as it did a low roof-top pass over the square. As the bomber did a wide loop and turn back, the curious civies started coming out of the meeting hall.  The bomber made its second pass and dumped a load of leaflets but was hit a second time. This second hit did some damage and sent it spiraling off into the distance to explode.  The leaflets drifted to the ground and turned out to be an exhaultation to the people to throw off the shackles of their masters (Indes) and fight for freedom.

One of the farmers got in the face of a PC and started railing against their interference in a civil matter. A sniper of unknown providence took a shot at the PC, missed and hit this unfortunate citizen. The crowd panicked and scattered. One of them grabbed a rifle from his vehicle and was shot down, other people appeared to be going for weapons too, and the PCs declared "weapons free" on all armed people. Shots were exchanged as the mass of people scattered or ran to their vehicles and took off. The mercenaries and their police cohorts were amazingly restrained and only a few bodies were left on the ground when it was all over.

The governor was in despair at his failed plan, and realising that he would never be safe on the ground agreed to move his office to "The Discord", where he joined his wife.

The session really ended at this point, with some discussion prompted by myself, with an aim of forming a plan of action. The PC's mercenaries were hired to put down an insurrection and ensure that the taxes were collected, and had found themselves embroiled in an action that includes conflict with another mercenary unit and an unseen well funded adversary.

Discussion with the Indes representative included going to war with Outre, who are believed to be funding Bertrum35, but this was shot-down as it were, because a mega-corp war was financially unviable. A hit on the leaders of Bertum35 or even Outre was suggested and no firm decision made.

So we ended with no clear plan of action, so over the next week, I'm going to try and come up with a few suggestions to put to the players when we return.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to play Hour of Glory (non solitaire)

Here's another video taking a look at Hour of Glory showing a more general overlook at play.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Classic Traveller, Who fired? - session report

Last night's session of Traveller picked up exactly where we left off last time. The PCs were in company with a squad or two of their own company, and a contingent of the local police on a tax collecting mission to a local farmstead.

One cop had been shot and the PCs had atomised the shooter and his cliff-top perch.

They started the session by using some computer skills to override the homestead airlock and crank open the outer door. One PC thinking this was taking too much time, and besides, house clearing operations were too costly, opened up with his plasma gun and blew the top corner off the building, thereby opening the interior to the near vacuum. Air, and household equipment blasted out of the opening.

At this point another shooter appeared on the opposite cliff, standing in the open and opening a rapid fire into the cops and PCs. This proved too much for most of the cops who had already seen one of their own killed, they broke. Diving into half the vehicles these cops took off. The PC's troops opening up a hot fire, riddled the shooter who tumbled from the cliff.

The PCs then cycled the airlock and entered the homestead. They found a dead woman inside, just behind the door. Her vacc suit helmet had not been locked safely on when the air had been let out. The players assumed at this point that the shooters had been man and son, with the dead woman being the wife. This was then confirmed when they found family photos. They found the money chits they'd been sent to collect, but also found an empty chit bearing the "Outre" mark. They took this with them and left the scene.

The column of vehicles was reformed and the chicken-cops who had run earlier were recalled and joined up. It wasn't long however before radio interference alerted the convoy that something was up.
The cops were really jumpy and decided to travel behind  the PCs and their mercs about a quarter of a mile back.

The now-expected ambush took place. A line of spider holes across their front erupted with shooters. the vehicle was riddled with bullets almost instantly but the mercs (and PC's) were fine in their combat armour. The heroes launched an immediate frontal attack on the line of shooters splitting themselves into two squads. They rushed the line directly ahead and then split, working their way along the line in opposite directions from hole to hole.

The "red" squad took a casualty to one of the mercs but carried on. The "blue" squad had a slightly more interesting time. Before they reached the end of their line of holes more shooters and a vehicle appeared on the cliff line above them. The merc squad was directed to take the rest of the spider holes while the PC dealt with the men above. The rest of the convoy with the cops in it, was not doing too well. One of their vehicles was destroyed and more cops could be seen on the ground.

The spider holes were cleared and one of the cliff top bad guys taken out along with the vehicle up there. The rest of them pulled back out of sight. The PCs decided to rejoin the beleaguered cops. They soon fell in with them and some nice shooting took out the rest of the shooters from their cliff top positions. The combat ended.

All but two of the cops were down, mostly dead. One of the PC's mercs was dead and one injured. There was one vehicle working, the injured were put on there and the living provided a walking escort back to town.

Back in town they met with the planetary governor and there was a bit of a to-do. He was not impressed at the death and destruction and the PCs were unimpressed with being led into an ambush. It soon calmed down when the PCs produced the "Outre" cred chip as evidence that someone was paying to stir up trouble. The governor collapsed in his chair. He revealed that Outre was a rival mega corp to Indes, the company that hired our heroes and own the planet.

The gov' went on to reveal that his family had been threatened, that the offices of the government had been threatened, that the taxes still needed to be collected and that an archeological dig on the far side of the planet also need to be protected as it was a major source of revenue to Indes.

With so much work and only one platoon to work with the PCs set up a training cadre. One fireteam was to be dedicated to giving the local cops military grade training, and with that training they could bolster the mercenary troops adding to their numbers.

A second fireteam was to be dedicated to protection of the Governor and the offices, bolstered by the downloading of one of their Aslan combat droids. One full squad would be placed on tax collecting duties as that was where the real money from this ticket would be coming (they are on a 10% promise). Finally, the remaining fireteam and the PC's are on duty protecting the dig.

At the dig site, a buried monolith has been found (think 2010) and a tunnel excavated. The PC's kicked the two cops already on duty, in the butt as they weren't doing anything other than playing cards and sleeping. They organised a patrol routine and then had a moment to take a tour with the head researcher. When looking over the finds, they discovered that these included a damaged ancient box very similar to the ones they discovered when they were warped through a wormhole to the dead planet a few months back...

As the referee I'm finding it quite interesting to handle this type of play. It's not just the PCs that I have to handle but an entire platoon at their command.

Consider this, if it were D&D the characters would effectively be 2nd or 3rd level in regard to hit points, but wielding weapons of a +10 nature with +3 shields. They can meat out the death and destruction but are still rather fragile. In lasts night's game the PCs where individually manouvering with a fireteam each, almost like a single creature. When the enemy got a hit I treated it as a team-hit and rolled a die to determine who got hit with the PC taking their chances with the others. It worked quite well the game was able to move quickly without handling each NPC seperately.

I have to say I'm a little disapointed in the Classic Traveller Mercenary book as it's rules for handling large numbers is rather lacking and I've had to apply my house rules.

House Rules-

A groups of characters only roll once to attack, not individually. If the PC is with the group they roll with their own modifiers to see if the group hits.

A hit on a group, means one individual has been hit. If a PC is in the group, roll a die with everyone having an equal chance of being hit. If the PC is hit, they handle it as normal. If an NPC is hit, roll 1d6, 1-3 dead, 4-6 injured.

I've also started giving the individual fire teams in their company XP, 1 per combat. A team with more XP is going to be "steadier" than one without. This XP total is used on the following chart:

0-3 XP , will stand their ground on 9+
4-6 XP , will stand their ground on 8+
7-9 XP , will stand their ground on 7+
10-12 XP , will stand their ground on 6+
13-15 XP , will stand their ground on 5+
16-18 XP , will stand their ground on 4+
19+ XP , will stand their ground on 3+

In a situation with a mixed group of XP totals I'll use the average. If new recruits are added to an existing unit they might well lower the rating, that is permanently reduce the units XP until it earns more.

And here is the map for the ambush:

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

How to play Hour of Glory solitaire

Hour of Glory is a great WWII sneak-em-up game that pits the heroes against the Germans and the clock. Normally a  game for 2-4, here's how to play on your own.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Classic Traveller, Ticket Time - session report

In the previous session the players had tooled-up and started recruiting for their mercenary company, In tonight's game they started getting into the real meat of doing that by winning their first ticket.

They received a call from the secretary of an Indes officer (mega corp) asking them to appear for an interview the following day. They took the hint and the higher ranking PCs durly turned up outside the Indes building the following morning dressed in their newly acquired combat armour (and to show that they were serious customers with their laser rifles).

They passed through reception where they were given the executive lift key. The ride up to the office was in a plushy carpeted and gold appointed lift. It opened directly into the office of the Indes exec' Stavik Step. Stavik Welcomed the PCs, offered them a seat and some very well-aged whiskey. He also told them that he was expecting another visitor.

The other visitor turned out to be a chap by the name of Vertillum Sandertson a representative of Bertrum35, another mercenary unit. Stavik then described the issue at hand.

In the same system is another airless world (near airless anyway) called Stallone. The planet is wholly owned by Indes and is a major exporter of a moss-like food product. Unfortunately the locals, who live there under license, have been getting upperty of late. There is some kind of widespread underground movement that is stirring them up. This unrest has even led to armed attacks on the local police. Thus Indes is looking to reinforce their authority by placing a hard hitting mercenary unit on the planet to kick any butt that needs kicking, for about a month.

Stavik invited bids from the two companies. Bertrum35's opening bid was 7MC. The PCs joined in the bidding by under cutting, and were themselves undercut. Various other factors were thrown into the mix, such as Bertrum35 taking a week to deploy versus the PCs immediate deployment. In the end the PCs won the deal with the following bid. A one month contract for 3MC + 10% of the increase in tax revenue over the previous season's tax income to be paid at the end of the contract.

The PCs left one fire team to watch over their base and loaded the rest of the platoon on board ship and traveled to Stallone. Once there they met the Indes appointed governor, Kaylor Thondhets and there was a discussion of how the PCs might employ their services. Kaylor wasn't looking for the suggested Shock-and-Awe show, but rather a reinforced police action.  At one point the PCs suggested simply removing the population, and I was reminded of Baron Harkonnen saying that you do not waste a population. So the PCs were told that was not financially viable, and that for now at least they should stick to the proscribed police actions.

The game moved to the first mission. A heavily armed and armoured squad of our friendly mercenaries joined a police convoy to a nearby ranch where taxes were due.

They arrived at the ranch and the police leader, Tarbel Nightstick, went up to the airlock and banged away on the door but got no answer. When the PCs asked if he wanted them to blast the door, the cop was OK with that, he didn't seem to care about the rancher or anyone else inside, he only cared about getting to their money chits.

About this time one of the police went down with air escaping from his suit and it looked like a bullet was to blame. The police started to panic but the mercs spread out and kept an eye out for the shooter. The shooter's next shot went wide, but the PCs got a bead on him. He was on an overlooking cliff top between two boulders. Our heroes stepped out from cover and opened up with their FGMP15's. They both hit and rolled 16 dice each for damage. The boulders, the cliff edge and their adversary were atomised.

There ended the session. We'll pick up exactly where we left off next time.
I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Classic Traveller, Tooling up, session report

There wasn't a lot of actual role playing in last night's session of Traveller. If you've been following along, you'll know that the PC's had 45MC in their account when the last session ended, and that is a bit of a de-motivator for most players as so often the drive to get money is what moves them along from mission to mission.

I need not have worried. In this session I managed to strip them of fully half that amount, making me a happy referee. Where did it go? Let me illuminate you...

They arrived at the subsector capital, Tircescoe with three letters of introduction from the Indes Mega-Corp CEO, by way of thanks for rescuing his daughter. They used the first one to get into the ship yard and cash in their first favor. The letter got them a 50% discount of ship modifications. Here's what they did to their 600T trader.

The single pulse laser turret, was upgraded to two triple turrets, one fore, one aft, each with beam, missile and sandcaster.

Then they added 36 additional staterooms. Were they thinking of converting to a liner after their experience with the Pacific Princess? No.

Next was an armory, followed by an extension to the med bay. Getting the idea yet?

Then it was time to start loading up the computer with software, as so far it had been running empty. They added Mano-Evade-6, Anti-Hijack, Nav-.Pilot-6.

Finally the last item, a new (as yet not designed) logo painted on the outside, and of course a Teddy bear strapped to the front.

The second letter of introduction got them through all of the preliminaries and in to see the director of an arms supplier. The man's eyes lit up and he almost started drooling when they placed their order...

100 Snub pistols
50 Gauss Rifles
100 Advanced Combat Rifles
20 Laser Rifles
100 Hand Axes ( a bit of a signature weapon )
A mere 90 hand grenades
20 Suits of Combat Armour
80 Combat Environment Suits
4 Auto Cannon ( Which will be used by their captured Aslan robots )
2 FGMP15's for use by the PC away team.

I bet you know what they're up to now. :)

They took the opportunity to ask their friendly supplier if he could help them find a place for a couple that the PCs have been trying to find a home for since leaving New Horizon. He was happy to help until they told him about their child that showed signs of Psionic ability, that put him back. In the end though he agreed to help

Next they set up a recruitment office for the "Mad Marquis Men" a brand new mercenary unit.

Now they purchased a disused industrial dome on one of the moons. I should note that the captial is actually based on a large number of airless moons that circle a gas giant, so this dome is just one among thousands. They moved in and started building.

They also bought a secondhand runabout for jaunts between the various moons of the capital, and at the same time added an air-raft to their kit list.

After a month of recruitment they had found 24 veterans looking for work who agreed to sign up with them. They could have had more bodies but decided they didn't want any raw recruits. However that does mean they now have a platoon sized unit of men who know how to act like a proper military force.

During this month of effort, they heard the news that the Aslan invasion had been going badly for the Imperium. The subsector they just left had been overrun and the Aslan were using some kind of new secret weapon.

Thus the next session will open with the heroes tooled up and ready to cause some trouble.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.