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.

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