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After clearing out the dungeon of the defeated Naga queen the party limped back to the village and overwintered. Conscious that they were at risk from marauding goblin bands they decided to mount defences. By walking around the place and talking to everyone they came to understand who was where and their condition. There were 57 adult male villagers, 24 women of various ages, and 11 kids. There were also 14 ‘special’ types: retired adventurers, people who were clearly mercenaries in pay of the former cult and so on.
Using the big map the party marked out the location of these people and considered how they would go about defending. The conclusion was reached to defend from the temple. The villagers were requested to relocate: not all did. A few hold outs stayed in their cabins. The owner of the Slumbering Serpent, who never really disliked elves anyway (sneaky little buggers), stayed, while all the guests left. Everyone at the Gold Grain stayed barricaded inside that former cult haven.
Some time later the warning bell atop the temple sounded as a goblin warband approached. The ragged groups approached from the fields behind Ramne the retired wizard’s house. These goblins, led by a hobgoblin chief, descended on the nearest houses, looted and then burnt them. Then they moved on to the Slumbering Serpent where they made quick work of the racist proprietors and settled in to gorge themselves.
The elvish boys hurled abuse at the goblins, who approached the temple, but then retreated in good order with their loot when caught in lethally accurate bow shots.
Time went by and the party settled into that complacency that they usually have in any adventure: of being untouched and untouchable. They took no damage and were easily able to repel the invaders. Anyone who refused the sanctuary of the temple deserved what they got, they figured. The other group at the Golden Grain had engaged in a stout fight with the goblins at the east bridge, and presumably they were feeling pretty pleased with themselves.
In the meantime the two elvish agents that were already in the village at the very beginning approached the party and congratulated them on their defeat of the Naga and her cult. They knew what the heroes had found in the form of a canopic jar that radiated evil magic, and offered to ‘take it to a safe place’. All the heroes knew about the strangers was that they were agents of ‘a foreign power’. As (mostly) loyal servants to Parsantium they refused the offer. The agents departed on friendly terms but reports from around the town suggested they were searching for the jar. This put the wind up the party as they had buried it near Ramne’s cottage. So they disinterred it and instead installed it at the temple (but where, and what effect did it have on that place? – that’s the question…)
Thinking carefully and consulting their memories the heroes suspected that the agents were a different breed of elf altogether. Their inability to appear in daylight and their monotone complexions suggested… dramatic music… Shadow Elves. Who were of course legend and it was silly to even think it… But if they were, may be the old legends were true…
Anyway, one night the watchers on the platform were surprised by a sudden stench and then one of them squawked and was plucked over the side to his death. Troglodytes were climbing the embankment!
Without retelling this titanic battle blow by blow we can compress it to these key highlights:
And so ended the siege of Orlane with an incredibly narrow victory to the boys who had never had to face a real challenge before.
But the victory was in many ways hollow. Only 19 adult male villagers remained unscathed along with 29 women and children. The village was no longer viable as a community, much less defensible. True, the canopic jar reputedly containing some remains of the Rahkshasa Raja had been prevented from falling back into demonic hands. But Spirit Nagas were effectively immortal, and she would rise again. She would never stop until she got her revenge.
The last act of the Mayor was to rename Orlane to Troll Bridge, or Trobridge as it now appears in official Parsantine records.
The elvish boys spent a fair amount of time recovering from the battle in the mud with the ghouls and then continued to search the squelching, stinking passages. They were disappointed on several occasions to find no treasure of significance after battling minor creatures such as giant spiders and centipedes.
Their cautious, search systematically, approach allowed them to map fairly well and they noticed that on one path the tunnels appeared to be digging into more solid material and sloping down. They also neglected to search for secret doors a couple of missed some of the hoard. But they did manage to rescue a couple of captives, including the woman who had written the letters that drew them to the village in the first place.
They passed through a large chamber where a new type of undead creature leapt out, but was dealt with so quickly that it had no chance to employ any of its special features. On the other side of the door they found the main temple where the high priest and a Wight lay in wait. Despite some tense moments they passed though this test largely unharmed as well.
Through a secret door behind an ancient stone statue of a naga they found a very ancient chamber. Runes at either end of this area could not be identified, except to say they were Sampuran and predated anything currently known. In the middle if the chamber they saw a canopic jar. Rather than touch it with bare hands they drew it close using magic. They made the connection between the heart found in the Temple of the Dark Daeva, and suspected that perhaps this contained some more body parts of the deposed and exiled Raja.
Once the jar was removed from between the runes they heard a scream of rage. They fled, but were horrified when the naga herself smashing into the path, having gone the long way through the labyrinth to get there (couldn’t she pass through the zone of the protecting runes? Guess not).
The elvish boys leapt forward with usual gusto: Cassius leaping forward AND leaping back as usual. In response, the naga dropped a fireball in their midst and even though they saved against the effect, the captives were killed outright, Ghath was thrown into critical condition and Storm and Arrius were badly burnt.
Alas (for me) she only had one shot, though. Storm blasted her with a ray of frost and she was down.
The boys made their way back to the village and found all the survivors there to have recovered from the naga’s enchantment. It was late in the season and stormy. They considered their options of striking out through hobgoblin marauding territory or over wintering in the village.
There are some important considerations and campaign hooks here:
Been rolling some random characters using Mongoose Traveller to see what stories develop. The action is all centred around Guerzim, a world run by the militaristic Nar faction of the Union Crucis, as described in the Judges Guild product Crucis Margin. The Nar launched attacks against their neighbours, the ManDanin Co-Dominion, around 100 years ago and got their arses kicked. The ManDanin are a strong confederation of humans and the semi-reptilian Danin species that have experimented with genetic engineering and have produced many different sub-species. So far, I have assigned a Soviet Union art style to the ManDanin, and a European-NATO style art to the Crucis Union.
Sexes of characters, along with all other characteristics, were generated randomly: honest.
Ufuk Burçin Barış (7ABB5A) is a ManDanin agent that has taken a local Guerzim name and settled in. He was recruited and sent into the foreign territory but failed in his assignment, was exposed and has ‘defected’ to the enemy. He was born on an ice-capped asteroid and joined the Security Intelligence Bureau (SIB) straight from school. He was a promising agent but was incautious, making enemies at home. He lives a comparatively comfortable life with $25k in the bank.
Ekber Mansur Balık (887976) is a taxi driver native to Guerzim who served a term in the Navy, fell in love, and then through negligence caused the death of some shipmates. An unremarkable student and scholar, Ekber sleepwalked through his childhood and his time in the navy. In was only the court-marshal that woke him up as he found himself disgraced and out on the street. He still talks big as if he used to be a significant captain of the line, and likes to pretend that his expulsion was due to some deep political skullduggery.
Ayberk Koray Demir (549A79) is a clumsy drifter in the wide open spaces of Guerzim’s sometimes harsh and beautiful landscape. After the war a century ago, many facilities were destroyed and/or abandoned. Colonisation is comparatively new here, and there is a great big world to discover. Those rings around the sun are obviously the work of the Ancients, and rumours persist that Ancient sites can be found on the surface of Guerzim. Ayberk thought himself part of a crew that lived out of the civilised cities, exploring – yes and scavenging – and living a life a rugged intradependent independence. But he was betrayed and ejected from the crew. He now walks alone, an outcast, but with valuable knowledge, and death sentence on his head if he ever enters the territory of his former crew again.
I’m not the first to have noticed that a set of common 6/6 dominoes closely mimics a 2d6 roll. It is not exact, of course, because you have the 0/0 & 1/0 tiles and also but perhaps more importantly, because when a particular combination comes up in dominoes it is used. Dice can roll the same thing over and over – it’s just unlikely that they would.
Macabre Tales has already done a great job of this for a particular setting.
This feature of use a ‘roll’ and it is used until a reshuffle has intrigued me. It means that you are certain the distribution will be fair, because the ‘dice’ cannot be improperly weighted.
Imagine if you could choose the roll for a certain situation. Most people would say they would get a 12 (or 20 or 00) every time. But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the drama? What if you could choose the roll from a limited set, and once that roll is used it is lost until some other event? This now adds a new dimension to your play. You are no longer rolling and wishing for best. Now you are choosing which activities you will succeed in, and which will fail. Given the distribution of dominoes (assuming you use a full set) you know that you will definitely get a great result (6/6) and definitely get a crap result (1/1) at some time in the session. How do you make a story out of that?
Imagine this applied to a 2d6 system like Traveller or Dungeon World or Uncharted Worlds (and many others). Exact same adds and subtracts can be applied to get a result towards a target, but instead of rolling you choose the result you want from a restricted, limited refresh set.
Here is my proposed system, one day for a play test.
Dr Porsuk was annoyed to be disturbed when he’d left specific instructions that nothing of the sort should happen.
“But, doctor,” said the nurse, “It’s Squirrel. You must come see immediately.”
The doctor made a mental note to have the nurse’s pay docked if the news she’d brought turned out to be routine as he followed her through the corridors.
Squirrel, or ‘Miss U Squirrel’ as she was known in the register, was found six months ago in an abandoned quarry with severe head injuries. She was unconscious. There were no forms of transportation nearby; the nearest town was several hour’s walk away. Her identity tattoo had been lazered off and she carried no electronic devices . The only clue to her origins or identity was a charm bracelet with only one charm remaining, a squirrel, and that was how she became Unknown Squirrel. The authorities placed her in the care of the hospital while investigations continued. For every day of those six months she had lain in a coma, breathing but unresponsive. Until today.
Even before he entered the room Dr Porsuk could tell that something miraculous had happened. Squirrel lay as she had lain every other time the doctor had done his rounds. She was remarkably healthy, except for the cranial injuries and these had healed themselves fairly well. Her eyes were closed; her arms collapsed and impassive as ever, but she was speaking.
Her voice was clear and precise, as if she was repeating a checklist, “15 degrees azimuth. Level at 35,000. Burn rate 68 over 440. Open shutters 10, 10, 23. Refab. 11cc’s per MCU. Don’t forget to breathe…”
Her voice droned on, barely pausing for breath. She was unresponsive as the doctor pried open her eyelids and flashed light into the empty space beyond.
“What does it mean?” he asked no one in particular.
“She was giving the weather report a few moments ago, doctor. That’s why I called you. Today’s weather: I remembered from hearing it on the way in this morning.”
Irritated, the doctor waved the nurse to silence and concentrated on the coma patient’s monologue. After another minute or two his eyes widened. He reached for his phone and stroked up a recorder. Holding it to squirrel’s mouth he captured what she said for another five minutes and then dashed from the room.
Dr Porsuk’s brother-in-law was settling in to a quiet afternoon of paperwork at the 64th Flugzeugbatterie where he commanded the group with calmness and patience. Protecting the capital was a great honour, but unlike many of his compatriots did not relish the idea of having to fire his missiles in anger. Let the alien-lovers stay on their side of the border and we will stay on ours, he thought. These thoughts were shattered when his phone hummed. Thumbing the answer he was confronted by the outpouring of the agitated husband of his sister.
“Honestly, Lothar. You cannot be serious. I cannot go to alert on the hearsay of a vegetable.”
The blood drained from his face as he heard the recording the doctor replayed.
At 10:04 Inguhaut Central time the 64th Flugzeugbatterie battery sprang to life in what the crew thought was a live fire training exercise. At 10:16, 10:17 and 10:19 hypersonic Bloodhound missiles shrieked from their housings and arced northwards, matching pace and then pursuing a tracer blip that had not been there at the moment of their launch. At mach 7.5 the missiles had a hard chase after the black shielded raider, but their pre-emptive launch gave them enough of an edge. Detonating almost at the moment they ran out of fuel, fragments from one missile peppered the spy plane.
The Rabbit engine stalled, smoke trailed, and the spy plane lost speed and fell towards the arctic north.
ManDanin Security Intelligence Bureau (SIB) sector headquarters in the Accra subsector was located on Tsavo (1125). Almost all acts of intelligence gathering and coordination of the ‘cold’ and proxy wars along the border with the Crucis Union were overseen there. The planets of Daboya (1321), Narok (1122) and Tamale (1323) continued to be zones where both sides tested each other in providing ‘advisers’ to the local forces in endless bushfire wars and revolutions all of which were orchestrated to try to bring the planets on to one side or the other.
Away from the neutral worlds, the heavily policed border worlds of Sba (1523), Adrar (1624), Aoulef (1728) and particularly Guerzim (1626) were of continuing interest to the ManDanin Co-Dominion. They were the planets from which the aggressive Nar launched their invasion attempts a century ago. All indications were that the Nar leadership and people, even though currently held in check by their membership of the Crucis Union federation, still harboured expansionist dreams and chaffed at the defeat Co-Dominion forces had inflicted on them.
Airspace over the Nar border worlds was aggressively policed; unauthorised shipping was impounded, but there had not been any exchange of fire between Nar vessels and Co-Dominion traders for decades. System Defence boats and Customs vessels always searched the ManDanin ships thoroughly: smuggling equipment in and data out was exceedingly difficult. Because the airspace over the former starport on Guerzim was electronically shielded, only limited information could be gathered in the conventional way. Spies on the ground and even public broadcasts provided a lot of information, but questions still remained. For example, had the Nar rebuilt the Class A starport that had been glassed during the last war?
Out here, beyond the borders of the Third Imperium, actual Imperial law counted for very little. The reality was however that Humaniti sensibilities were still very strong, especially since nearly every polity out here had some cultural memory of their migrations during the Long Night. Therefore, even though the prohibitions against psychics were not enshrined in law, most civilisations shunned research along these lines. In such an environment, research was limited to shadowy Psionics Institutes funded and operating in secret.
One such facility was located on Lodwar (0926). The outwardly modest facility was set up to mimic an engineering research outpost but was equipped with the best technology available to explore psychic potential in both humans and danin of all castes. The program had mixed success, producing many disappointments and charlatans. But an extreme minority of results were encouraging. Miss Mole (codename) was one of these success stories. Born almost blind, she displayed from an early age an ability to ‘see’ at great distances, often with astonishing accuracy. Her clairvoyance brought her to the attentions of the facility on Lodwar, where she was trained for intelligence gathering work.
It was with these considerations in mind that the Sector Chief of the SIB on Tsavo, known in offical communications as Master Hedgehog, authorised a daring mission.
A ship was prepared, outwardly resembling a trader but with many stealth features. The majority of interior space was filled with gigantic engines and fuel tanks. What was left of cargo space was filled with a KuV-401 (Crucis Union identification: Rabbit) atmosphere reconnaissance plane. Minimal space was allowed for the two man ship’s crew, and the pilot of the spy plane. And finally a platoon of marines was included, though not expected to be awakened, in the worst case scenario of needing to fight their way out.
The ship, temporarily named the Anxious Sandstorm, was to make a circuitous approach to Guerzim refuelling in open space from waiting tankers. It would arrive in the target system from a non standard entrance window and immediately go dark. IFF transponders were to be shut down; energy emissions of all kinds to be damped; the crew in cold sleep, and the Anxious Sandstorm would tumble as if it were no more than a common asteroid on a gentle six month curve towards the planet Guerzim. With its external configuration and minimal energy signature it would appear no larger than a small ground car.
Once in an inconspicuous orbit the robotic systems would wake the crew. Miss Mole would be helped into the gel tank of the KuV-401 where she would be protected from the G-forces coming, and the plane would be launched. After screaming in at a steep angle the KiV would level out and streak over the target zone at a leisurely Mach 5+, where the clairvoyant Miss Mole, now narcotised with Slo-Mo to stretch her time perspective, would reach through the electronic shielding of the Nar facilities and narrate her experiences.
After a single pass that would take in most of the continent the KuV-401 would accelerate up and out of the atmosphere to dock with the waiting Anxious Sandstorm. By the time planetary defences had registered that an unauthorised hypersonic flight was occurring the plane would already be over the horizon and climbing away. And in the time taken to rout pursuit ships toward the raider, the Anxious Sandstorm would already be powering out system under a constant 6-G’s. The use of a psychic in an active spy mission was a first for the SIB. Not only was it hoped it would yield great results, it was also a potentially explosive diplomatic disaster if ever revealed due to the general prohibition against exactly that kind of thing.
It was an audacious plan with many moving pieces, each of which had dozens of failure possibilities. The catastrophe, when it befell, took participants on both sides of the conflict by surprise.
Here is the nearly completed set up. The table is a printed mat originally designed for Frostgrave. I’ve decided that my implementation of the Tomorrow’s War scenario Lost & Found occurs in the snowy north of planet Guerzim. Buildings are Metcalf N scale. Trees from Aldi.
The fireteams are mounted on group bases. TW advises that this works well enough since groups move together anyway. This should speed up play as well.
I’m still not completely happy with the set up. It’s still a bit too open so I’ll need to get some more clutter happening. But overall, I think the general set up is similar to the book recommendation.
Sources supplying the Mandanin intelligence community had painted a picture of enhanced activity by the Nar of the Crucis Union on Guerzim. This planet was only one of the many kept under close observation following the Nar’s invasion and subsequent defeat. Agents placed deep in the Crucis Union, both as active information gatherers as sleepers, allowed the Mandanin a good view of their perennial foes. But no amount of smuggled rumour could substitute for trained professionals with eyes directly on specific locations.
In order to gain more specific information the mission was created. A small ship, unmarked and with a falsified IFF beacon, dropped in system at Guerzim well of the established routes. With its power functions set to minimum, the crew in cold-sleep and the IFF off it tumbled gently in a six month arc that it was hoped would mimic an asteroid. When close to Guerzim the dedicated medical robot revived the crew, a platoon of marines, a pair of spy plane pilots and the three person main crew.
The spy plane detached and swept low over Guerzim, photographing and gobbling up data transmissions. On its third sweep as it passed over the Northern hemisphere it was either detected and successfully engaged, or a fault occurred. The tiny plane suffered a catastrophic failure and crashed.
One of the pilots survived to advise the main ship. Immediately the marines were prepped and dropped to rescue him. By good fortune the spy plane came down on the polar land mass where population was slight and only token militias would be encountered. The pilot made for the nearest habitation and took shelter.
The nearest Nar militia platoon was roused and dispatched to capture the spy, or at least hold off the rescuers until a regular unit can arrive to take the situation in hand.
This is the background story for my Crucis Margin setting to the Lost & Found scenario in Tomorrow’s War.
The units statted for the USMC are taken by the Mandanin marines. The DPRG forces as described in the book are played by the Nar faction militia of the Crucis Union. All stats are exactly as they appear in the book. The only changes I’ve made is to mount the 15mm figures in their fire teams on group bases.
Figures for the Tomorrow’s War scenario Lost & Found are now complete.
On the left we have the Marines of the Mandanin Co-Dominion, dropped onto Guerzim to rescue a downed pilot. And on the right are a local militia group of the Nar faction of the Crucis Union. In all ways these models conform to the descriptions found on pages 98 and 99 in Tomorrow’s War – just in 15mm and on group bases.
Mandanin troops, I’ve decided, have equipment broadly similar to Eastern European, and the Crucis Union has equipment broadly similar to Western European.
I’m not real happy with the basing and may pop them off and redo them. But they’ll do for now. In reality, at eye scale, it’s not that noticeable.