Thursday, 30 January 2014

Solo Traveller - Episode 14, part 1: Wars and Rumours of Wars (9Qs #5)

Dimmul/Foreven (2936 C587A7A-C) / Date: 262-1106

After a few days at the embassy, Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo are ferried up into orbit to rendez-vous with Force Commander Hinniter and her soldiers from the 329th Engineering Corps, who are being dropped off in style by a TL15 50000ton Ghalalk-class armoured cruiser. They receive a warm welcome from Commander Darus, but are very cooly received by Hinniter and her unit. Darus gives them a summary briefing (mostly for the Force Commander's benefit) and supplies Eshtam with a TL15 secure-channel radio transceiver. Both are then outfitted to match the Unit: TL14 combat armour, gauss rifles, gauss pistol sidearms.

Four cutters transport the unit to the surface, one for personnel, three for heavy equipment. The destination is Fort Lishet, a small outpost in the disputed zone between Ilpara and the two Gerhai nations. The terrain is some of the worst on Dimmul, rocky desert pockmarked with boiling volcanic springs. About 200 members of the Ilparan army are stationed at Fort Lishet, a mix of infantry and light armoured vehicle platoons. The fort itself is just a collection of temporary sheet-metal and plasteel structures, ringed by a perimeter fence of razor wire and passive motion sensors.

The Imperial troops are ostensibly here to help shore up the fort's defences and familiarise the Ilparans with some of the new TL14 equipment they have imported. Fort Lishet will eventually be expanded to provide security for the planned refinery to be built over the natural gas field nearby. The Ilparans are generally pleased to be receiving Imperial support, and are frankly in awe of their equipment. The Imperial marines were hand-picked for this assignment. They recognise that it's more of a diplomatic mission than a technical one, and adopt a generally avuncular attitude towards their hosts. They are much more aloof towards Lt. Gytovo and Eshtam. The Imperial troops sense their COs distrust of the pair and keep them at a distance, and the Ilparan troops follow suit.

The heat and scent of sulphur on the breeze are oppressive, but Eshtam spends most of her time in the comfort of the Imperial command tent (so-called, though it's really more of a portable plasteel bunker), which is nicely air-conditioned for the sake of the electronics. Hinniter has given her a table in the corner, filled with communications devices, and she spends her days doing SIGINT. Hinniter has reluctantly assigned two of her own personnel to assist, so the chatter can be monitored all 25.4 standard hours per day. Lt. Gytovo despairs of being shunned by the other marines, and eventually starts sharing listening shifts with Eshtam. The majority of the transmissions they intercept are dirty jokes and gravball scores, with the occasional unimportant order or status report to break the monotony.

[As a baseline, it's a Difficult comms check to unscramble an important communiqué.

Q: Does Ladver use higher a tech comm unit to contact Allies than is available on Dimmul? (Likely | 4[d10]) No.

So, Eshtam's comm roll 10+3+3(TL15vs.12) =16: Effect=6, Exceptional Success! She gets useful information about the scale and nature of Ladver's plot and pinpoints a location where a lot of the signals are coming from.]

Q5. How can any heroic gains from the results of Q4 suddenly be undermined as new information about the true face/scheme/power of the enemy becomes known?

Be the GM first:
• Use the random idea generator to inspire an evolution of the threats by more clearly defining the source of the danger and developing its hostility to the heroes and/or the setting. (I rolled twice:)

Triumph / Investment. - Ladver's scheme is working. He's got wars about to start between the three nations and their allies are ready to step in. The scope of the plot is (near-)total world war to destabilise the planet so a former colony (on a minor planet in the system) can seize control of mainworld once the major powers have worn themselves out fighting each other.

Angrily / Aromatic. - chemical warfare.

• roll a d6 twice for an encounter featuring: (1) betrayal, (5) combat. Actually, the other option would have been Revelation, and there needed to be a bit of that too (as seen above) to move the story along. I fear I'm beginning to chafe under the structured nature of the 9Qs format. But I'm still enjoying the adventure.

• Choose or use the random idea generator to inspire the place where and when the
encounter will occur. The place and time do not have to be the same as in Q4.

Primitive badlands.
Military headquarters.

Be the PCs next: Use the heroes' abilities to respond to the threats as per their heroic motivation and the RPG's rules.

Be the GM once more: Close the encounter by resolving NPC reactions to the heroes.

The PC/GM portions are going to have to be intermingled...]

Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo step outside of the command tent for a break. They wander aimlessly through the camp, enjoying the warmth for the few minutes before it becomes unbearable, talking idly whilst they walk.

"I think I'm starting to see Ladver's game," says the Lieutenant. "How much longer do we have to stay here before we move out?"

"Dunno," replies Eshtam. "It partly depends on what Commander Darus gets out of the Ilparan leaders. As he's ever so fond of reminding us, it's still his show. Gotta respect the chain of command... sir."

"I thought you hated playing soldier? The uniform growing on you, Corporal?"

"It beats wearing heels and makeup 10 hours a day."

"Oh, but I miss the smell of that perfume you found. What was it called, eau de salope?"

Eshtam's reply is cut short by the sounds of incoming artillery fire, followed by explosions, screams, and the smell of nerve gas.

[King Ladver has an agent somewhere in the camp. They've put a targeting device in the mess tent, and activated it during one of the two Ilparan infantry platoons' lunch period. The shelling is centred on the mess tent, but stray shells fall all over the camp.

Q: Are Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo near their combat armour when shells drop? (Very Unlikely | 4[d10]) No.
Q: can they get to it at all? (Unlikely | 1[d10]) No, and... they can't get to their Gauss rifles either.
Q: Can they make it to a sealed vehicle? (50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but... 1d6 END poison damage: Eshtam takes 1, Lt. Gytovo 3
Q: Can they get to one of the Imperial grav carriers? (50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but... Ilparan AFV (Tracked) TL12
Q: Is anyone else inside? (Somewhat Likely | 10[d10]) Yes, and... driver & gunner are present + (1d6-1 others) 1 soldier.
Q: Are any of them injured? (50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes. (1d3) 2 of them take 1d6 END damage each]

Chaos descends upon the camp, which is soon shrouded in a gruesome yellow haze. More conventional munitions follow the chemical agents, adding to the din of shouting and engines starting up. Eshtam and Lieutenant Gytovo are caught out in the midst of the affray, and duck in to the nearest available shelter, which happens to be an Armoured Fighting Vehicle belonging to the Ilparan army. They are ushered inside by one of the vehicle's crew, who seals the door behind them. They fall to the deck, followed by the woman who led them in, coughing from their brief exposure to the gas. There is an Ilparan infantry trooper in full combat armour also lying on the deck, doubled over in pain. The driver swivels round in her seat and looks down at the rest. She winces as a shell goes off nearby, and debris plinks down on the armoured roof. "What do we do now?" she asks.

Lieutenant Gytovo quickly looks up and notes the insignia worn by the three women; he's the ranking officer here. He forces himself to his feet. "Drive," he says, "just drive. Get us out of the camp and away from the shelling."

[Lt. Gytovo makes two Leadership checks.
To rally troops: Ldr+Soc, difficult. He rolls 11+1 -2, success.
To order them to flee: Ldr+Soc, average. rolls 8+1, success.

Q: Can the party get out of the war zone undetected? (Unlikely | 2[d10]) No.
Q: Encounter with enemy troops? (Very Likely | 3[d10]) No.]

The driver turns back in her seat and starts the AFV without a word. Within seconds the tank-like vehicle is speeding through the camp. She doesn't even steer towards a gate, just crashing straight through the perimeter fence. Suddenly a voice is heard over the comm. "Green 26, where are you going? Green 26, respond!"

"That's us Lieutenant," says the driver "Orders?"

Lt. Gytovo glances in Eshtam's direction for advice. "Change of plans," she croaks.

"Just turn that thing off and keep going!" he says.

Eshtam tries to contact FC Hinniter on a secure channel using her own comm unit. [Easy comms check: 4+3=success] She gets Hinniter's aide de camp, who refuses to hand the comm over.

"Dammit," shouts Eshtam, "tell your boss this is grey squad, priority Black-sigma. We're commandeering an Ilparan vehicle and crew, and are pursuing the mission on our own from now on. Quickly!" [Hinniter's reaction roll: 10, responsive]

After a few moments comes the reply: "Acknowledged, grey squad. Force Commander Hinniter says good luck and good riddance!"

--- --- ---
[What happens next? Here, I took a break from this campaign for a while. The next post is the wargamey large scale combat from which the characters are escaping.

The actual game continues much later, but before it does there is a rather long merchant campaign with Star Trader which starts here. The Star Trader campaign eventually merges with this one.]


  1. Not a good day . . . but maybe there is a silver lining . . . we will have to wait and see.

    -- Jeff

    1. I confess I thought this stage would be much quieter for our heroes than it turned out to be.

  2. I'm working my way through this slowly, but it's a good read. Am I assuming correctly that this storyline picks up at the point where the merchant story merges with this one?

    1. Sorry for the late resonse. I've been too busy to do any blog related stuff.

      There is a point of confluence, but it comes a little later than here.