Session Seven: Part 1: "Blame" (April 6 - June 6, 2104)
Important People: James (S), Bill (X), Bob (E), Alexis (C)
Important NPCs: Robbie the PolRob, Nasdaq the Robot, Miles Dayton, Rich Johnson, Amanda Hayes, John Ritter, Captain Adele Droblas, RAA Captain and SUR Commander, John Seth, Resources Management Division, Food Collection Lead, Fred Johnson, Resources Management Division, Heavy Equipment and Transport Lead, Jay Richardson MS Computer Science, Information Technology Division, History and Current Events Lead, Matt Borselli, John Dougherty, Jill St. John, biologist, and various other Uni Survivors.
For the next two months, both Group A and Group B were assigned to search specific buildings around campus. This was partly a punitive punishment for James' actions, but was (more importantly) an opportunity to gather much needed supplies. For the record, the Groups, working in close concert, swept several buildings (#13 Agriculture Annex, #13B JRA McMillan Building, #13C RD Watt Building, #14 Heydon-Laurence (Zoology) Building, #15 The Union, #15B Footbridge Theatre, #15C Holme Building, #16 Wallace Theatre, #26 Old Geology Building, #30 Great Hall, #30B MacLaurin Building), and removed all equipment, supplies and any bit of information available.
After working hard for several months, the Groups find quite a number of interesting finds, including, in the Zoology Building, files and files on what Bill and the biologist Jill believes are notes on a program that tried to breed "Killer Kangaroos."
I expected this issue to be the start of Volume 3, the next year of the 'zine, so I began with a rousing actual play write-up on the Savage Colonial Gothic adventure. After writing this, I moved to another 'zine called Switching to Guns (which I plan on putting up on the blog in the same way).
No further game notes were added to the game notes page.
Minions for Hire is a (now-defunct) webcomic that follows the adventures of the minions of an evil overlord. Amid the arson, murder, double-crosses, fighting werewolves and Yeti love, there's an excellent story from the other point of view: the Bad Guys.
A cool read that shows various Evil factions that cheat and scheme to get what they want. It would be a good campaign, too.
Session Seven: "Your Horoscope for Today" "Weird Al" Yankovic (April 6 - June 6, 2104)
Cut Scene: Read aloud over the shoulder of an unknown and unnamed journalist, amid coughing and wheezing:
THE CAUSES OF THE RUIN
IN THE BEGINNING
The planet-wide catastrophe known, in popular parlance, as "The Ruin," had its roots in the mid 20th Century. During this era, despite rapidly increasing world population and decreasing availability of readily accessible natural resources, "planned obsolescence" and similar attitudes were the norm. Obviously, this type of attitude could not have been supported forever, given the changing conditions in the world.
The gap in wealth between the "haves" of the Western and Soviet Bloc nations and the "have nots" of the Third and Fourth world nations grew at an ever increasing pace (in an almost geometric progression). Even the most insensitive Governments and Multinationals soon came to realize that things could not continue as they were for much longer. Fortunately for them, and more so for the poorer Third/Fourth World countries, the introduction of the Fusion Reaction power units in the mid 1980s, as a result of the return of the U.S. to the Moon and the establishment of sustainable Moon bases, made the necessary changes not only possible but feasible as well. With power "to burn," the possibility of "Lifetime" production was assured (this term was generally applied to products which, according to their manufacturers, would last a "Lifetime" without requiring more than minimal services and/or spares). The introduction of some primitive versions of Conversion Reaction units in the late 1980s, about the same time as the fall of the Soviet Union into the separate Russian states, speeded up this process greatly - though it was by no means uniform in degree of acceptance or success throughout the world at the time of "The Ruin."
Despite such technological advances, the world was by no means free of some of the problems which had plagued it since the beginning of recorded history. For example, by the early 1990s, though few, if any, people starved to death through lack of food anymore, there were still great differences in the wealth of the "have" and "have not" nations of the world. Many of the citizens of such countries resented the "second class" status that this implied to them. Such great differences in wealth were not just international in scope - they existed within even the most affluent of the First/Second world nations as well. Exacerbating these tensions even further was the continued dominance of the USA after the USSR dissolved. With such a high degree of world-wide tension, it was almost inevitable that a series of brushfire wars should break out on a more or less regular basis in the less developed regions of the world: The war in the Sudan from 1983 to 1999; the Civil War in Afghanistan from 1990 - 1999; Iraq invading Kuwait, touching off Operation Desert Storm in 1991; the Bosnian conflict from 1992 - 1996; the Rwandan Genocide in 1994; Chechan War from 1994-1996; the September 11th 2001 tragedy, subsequent invasion of Afghanistan to meet the Taliban and Al Queda in battle; and finally the US lead coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003.
APPEARANCE OF THE PLAGUE
Thus it was not at all shocking when, in August 2003, a strange plague broke out in the Middle East (initially Israel). The fragmentary reports that were received from that country seemed to definitely implicate the involvement of Al Queda and Hamas terrorist organizations. In any case, the UN imposed an immediate quarantine - as the plague had no known vaccine. It was also increadibly virulent, killing anyone contracting it. Ninety to ninety-eight percent of the population of a given area seemed to do so. There was a great deal of speculation as to whether the survivors were immune or were merely never exposed to it. This matter was never satisfactorily resolved. The population of Israel was virtually wiped out within three weeks of the outbreak of the plague, though (with almost poetic justice) it spread without restraint to the surrounding Arab countries almost immediately. It did, however, fail to penetrate the great deserts cutting these regions off from the continents of Africa, Asia or Europe.
Just before the final collapse of the Israeli government, they launched "Operation Armageddon" against all Islamic states (with the exception of their ally, Egypt) which had ever shown hostility towards Israel. This attack used both Neutron and "Dirty" Bombs. One of these strikes was targeted on Red Square, Moscow, in the belief that the Arabs had been incapable of launching such a biological attack without Russian technical aid (a claim never proven nor, on the other hand, disproven). Evidently the ECM on the Israeli Missile was much better than the Russians expected and it hit dead on target - with only 60 seconds warning - wiping out the entire top civil leadership (who had been attending a meeting in the Kremlin at the time).
The Russian Military Commanders took "Emergency Control" but showed admirable restraint under the circumstances. They did not launch a retaliatory strike of their own. As Marshal Pyotr Mikhailovitch, the head of the Military Junta, said on Russion Television, "There is no point in shooting a corpse." For a while things seemed to calm down. Everybody seemed to realize how close the World was to the brink of fatal destruction and backed off at high speed. There were even several overtures by the Russians in the UN with a view to revamping that body to give it the "teeth" necessary to ensure that such a "regrettable accident" could not occur again.
THE WET FIRECRACKER WAR
This possibility was not to be. In December 2003, the "Scourge of God" plague (as it had been popularly tagged) had died out in the Middle East, evidently having been "programmed" to do so after a certain time period (further increasing suspicions, never proven, that it was a "tailored" agent). It now re-appeared. This time the target was the United Kingdom. The UK government attempted to suppress the news of the outbreak by passing it off as a new strain of influenza. Evidently, they hoped to be able to find a vaccine before anyone was the wiser and, in the meantime, to get "essential personnel" out of the country "just in case." Within a matter of a few days it became obvious that the "minor flu epidemic" in the UK was really THE plague - but even though an immediate quarantine was enforced, it was too late. Fragmentary reports coming from the disintegrating UK government via the BBC Overseas service indicated that a radical branch of the IRA, the D-IRA, was responsible for the release of the plague, and some inconclusive evidence of a D-IRA/Al Queda link was given. Whether this was the truth or merely an attempt by the Government to find a scapegoat is not known - but one of the first things the Government did after the imposition of the quarantine was to intern all residents of Irish extraction (those the Mobs didn't tear to pieces first) and summarily execute all who were even suspected of IRA sympathies!
It was at this point (about 6 days after the first outbreak of the "Scourge" in the UK and about 3 days after the quarantine of that country) that the Russian Military Junta acted. They launched a uni-lateral "surgical" strike on all major population centres of the UK - using the new "Super Neutron" weapons (which had practically no blast and cuased an infinitesimal amount of fallout - but which irradiated wide areas, wiping out most living things), planning to make optimum use of them so as to "sterilize' the whole island. Their intention was evidently to stop the spread of the plague to the continent - and thence to Russia. They would have probably succeeded if the British had not concealed the original outbreak. Not only was their "sterilization" rendered ineffective thus, but many of their missiles were obsolete and missed their targets due to guidance system malfunctions - one of these haywire missiles landed near the French city of Calais, causing massive casualties.
The French, hot headed as usual, reacted with a "hair trigger" before the Russians could explain. They assumed that the massive launches the "Over the Horizon" Radar was picking up in Western Russian was the beginning of an all-out nuclear war - and so launched their entire nuclear arsenal on Russian targets. At this point, Franco-Israeli co-operation paid off, as the French delivery systems were fitted with the same ECM devices that the Israelis had used to take out Moscow, and all of their more up to date missiles got through, again with minimal warning time for the Russians. The Russian missile base commanders immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion themselves. Assuming that the missiles were from a US retaliatory strike, they launched the remainder of their missiles at the US and her major allies. When the DEW line and US satellite-borne radar systems detected the Russian "birds" on course for the US, the president gave orders for the immediate launch of all US strategic assets. Shortly thereafter, a Russian Missile penetrated the District of Columbia ABM defenses and impacted on the White House lawn.
Fortunately, due to the Arms reduction resulting from various treaties, only 25% of the US and 35% of the Russian population were incinerated or killed outright! WIth so much of their Homeland destroyed (and not yet knowing of the spread of the Scourge beyond the UK) and thus with nothing else to lose, the Russian armed forces immediately invaded Western Europe, China (using TacNukes heavily against the imperial Chinese Army) and India. When it became obvious that the plague had spread to the continents (the Russians at first thought by cross-channel winds), they moved their main thrust towards India and SE Asia. Some spearheads of this advance reached deep into Oceania and Australasia before collapsing in the face of the spread of the Scourge of God.
While all this was going on, the rest of the World - which for the most part was not directly affected by the "Wet Firecracker War" - was finding for itself that the quarantine measures invoked against the UK government had been ineffective, as the Scourge of God had by this time appeared at several sites on every continent. While the local goverments did their best to discover a serum that was effective against the plague, nothing would stop it - and, although some measures proved efficient in slowing its spread, nothing seemed to stop it. In fact, no antidote or serum was ever reported to have been discovered although it was noted, statistically, that members of the armed forces of those nations with advanced CBW warfare capabilities had a definitely higher immunity rate than the general civilian population (for every 1000 soldiers, there were about 10 survivors; while for every 1000 civilians there were only 4-6 survivors).
As most people could see that no attempts to stop the spread of the plague were having any real effect, only imposition of martial law and strict use of the death penalty for any violators of such measures could even keep up a semblance of law and order. After all, with everyone under a death sentence, what could courts and law enforcement agencies threaten lawbreakers with? Soon, as the inroads of the plague spread, even police and military personnel began to "bug out," trying desperately to find somewhere, ANYWHERE, to hide, a sadly futile effort in the overwhelming majority of cases.
AUSTRALIA IN THE MIX
With the "Resources Boom" of the mid-1980s and the early 1990s, as well as the defeat of the "Liberal" (Conservative) Government in the middle of this period, Australia entered a period of unparalleled economic growth and development coupled with a marked degree of progress in social welfare programs, making her the envy of many less fortunate countries. She managed to avoid the majority of the problems associated with automation and computerization which had caused such inequalities elsewhere by simply reducing the number of hours in the working week and ensuring full employment - rather than maintaining the old system and letting the number of unemployed rise drastically as their jobs were taken away from them by the advance of technology that was maintained (mostly by default) elsewhere in the world.
Thus, by the 1990s, Australia - while not by any means a world power - was a very wealthy country, with her wealth fairly evenly distributed amongst all the classes, rather than concentrated at the top end. It was against this background that both the Commonwealth government and private businesses poured funds into applied and basic research in many differing fields - resulting in many new developments in such fields as medicine, genetic engineering, nuclear physics, artificial intelligence, and many more mundane areas. The primary beneficiaries of these research programs were the Australian universities, which greatly expanded their facilities for all areas of endeavor.
Thus, when the Scourge of God plague was first unleashed, Australian research and medical teams were amongst the first to apply themselves to the discovery of a serum to cure the disease, and many of these brave men and women died in Israel attempting to do just that. With the seeming disappearance of the plague with the death of the great majority of those affected by it in the Middle East, some research was continued in Australia (and, of course, elsewhere) but it proved frustratingly fruitless, as the disease seemed to be almost certainly a man-made one - whether the accidental result of some genetic engineering experiment or one deliberately created for military use could not satisfactorily be determined. The major obstacle to research into a serum was that the disease/virus or whatever seemed to have no genetic "signature" for the researchers to trace. Also complicating research was the fact that the disease only affected one species - homo sapiens sapiens - Humans! With the recurrance of the plage in the UK research efforts were redoubled.
About three days after the Wet Firecracker War between the US, Russia and France, the first case of the Scourge was reported in Melbourne and, though the Commonwealth government immediately sealed off the city with troops and declared Australia-wide martial law, they realized that the only hope was to increase the research effort. The government was aware that any center of such research would be a prime target for mobs of rioters either out to get "them Scientists who started it all" or to "get the cure from them Scientists who're hiding it." In either situation, the fear was that the rampaging mobs would destroy the nation's last hope. THis fear was proved correct in Melbourne (where no troops could be used to bolster police and security personnel at Flinders, La Trobe, and Melbourne Universities) - Mob attacks overwhelmed the defenders and hundreds of staff and students were lynched for refusing to tell where "the cure was stored!"
In the major cities, the Federal government provided armed forces detachments, upgrading the equipment and numbers of the university based armed forces training units and creating a "Citizen Volunteer Militia" out of the remainder of the staff and students - backing up this by constructing computer controlled automated defenses for the stage when the university security forces would be too depleted by plague and "enemy action" to fully man the walls.
Several minor breakthroughs were made, but they merely increased the incubation time of the Scourge, having no effect on those who had the disease and not preventing anyone from contracting it. Evidently rumors of these successes reached the ears of the Russian Military Commander of SE Asia and he immediately launched an all out attack to secure for Russia the serum which he believed existed.
THE RUSSIAN INVASION
Realizing that their only hope lay in capturing the various research centers in Australia, the Russian High Command put the remnants of their military might behind the effort. They massed most of their remaining air transport assets and loaded up as much infantry as possible on them, issuing them parachutes and telling them to jump "or else," the remainder of their Far East Fleet, plus as many commandeered merchantmen as were available were used to transport heavier units - including the remnants of the Soviet Marine and Naval Infantry units in the whole theatre. Finally, the few remaining Orbital Marine units were dropped on key points within Australia to "pave the way." The whole force probably amounted to fewer than 200,000 men. Some never made it to Australia, going down with their ships in the naval battle of the "Second Coral Sea" - where the Royal Australian Navy and the remnants of the US Pacific Fleet inflicted heavy losses, though they were unable to turn the invasion fleet back.
The Russian forces that were finally landed in Australia were larger than the small Australian Regular Army - but were not large enough to decisively defeat it - especially given the fact that the Russians were totally cut off from their supply bases (such as they were) in SE Asia. Even so, they were concentrated in New South Wales and close enough to Sydney (one of their major objectives) to cuase a great deal of trouble. In fact, the Royal Australian Army was unable to prevent several Russian spearheads penetrating deep into the city, where they attacked the University of New South Wales. The University defenders there broke and ran. The Russians found nothing of use and demolished the whole area. They were also able to attack Sydney University - but were force to withdraw by SUR (Sydney University Regiment), the University Reserve Batallion there. Finally, in the face of gradually increasing loses on both sides due to the Scourge, the whole military effort just petered out - and darkness decended.
As has been mentioned above, Sydney University was one of the major scientific and research institutions in Australia (and in the world) before "The Ruin." As such, it was chosen by the Commonwealth government as a "Regional Survival Centre" and "Regional Government HQ" (along British and American lines) for post-nuclear survival. Thus, under the guise of expansion, many deep underground facilities were built at the University during the 1980s and 1990s. When the Scourge of God plague was loosed on the world, the University was a natural choice for a center of research into the finding of a vaccine for it. As the Commonwealth government realized that such a target would prove irrestistible to mobs in the inevitable breakdown of law and order that the onset of the plague would cause, they tried to ensure the security of the University by beefing up the attached Army Reserve unit (similar to the US ROTC or UK TAVR), Sydney University Regiment (or, more commonly "SUR") from an understrength Light Infantry Batallion to a mechanized batallion (+). To this they added detachments of Regular Army troops - mainly specialists (such as armor, artillery, army aviation, RAAF ground support aircraft, and some new "Warbot" units). A militia was organized from amongst those University staff and students who were not members of SUR. This basically consisted of issuing them with arms, teaching them which way to point them, and then showing them how to pull the trigger. Added to this was a comprehensive arangement of computer controlled defensive weaponry in several rings of fortified bunkers designed to defend the more important sections of the University, as well as the University perimeter in general.
Despite their apprehension at the possible effectiveness of these defensive arrangements, they proved quite useful. As civil authority and law and order broke down, the University did become, as predicted, a target for mob attacks. These attacks were initially ill-armed and organized, but as the desperation of the civilians increased, more and more planning was put into them. Military arms from over-run Amry units and/or from deserters increased the effectiveness of these assaults. Several, in fact, managed to breach the computerized defense perimeter and surge into the interior of the University, but internal manned defenses and the mobile forces of SUR and the Regular Army detachments managed to seal off these breaches and stop the mobs "dead."
As these attacks increased in their ferocity as the Civs (non-university or non-military personnel) became more and more frenzied, a new factor entered the situation - the approach of Russian invasion forces. These forces devastated MacQuarie University and totally destroyed the University of New South Wales when the University of New South Wales Regiment (UNSWR) simply "bugged out" in the face of their assualt. This left Sydney University the only "Uni" left in the Sydney area. As if this wasn't enough, the fact that the Russians had found no plague cure at either of the other two universities made them sure that SU was the "correct target." They thus launched an all-out effort against it. Despite the losses to the defending forces due to both previous assaults and the Scourge, the Russian forces were even worse off. They were tens of thousands of miles from their rapidly collapsing supply bases. WIth the help of their attached Warbot units, the University defenders managed to repel the Russians.
This valiant defense enabled the University research teams to work right to the end although (it is presumed) without any success.
Oh, my .............................................
The Port St Mary Railway Station is currently under control of the BUF invaders. The station, an imposing two-story brick structure, is along Station Road between Port St Mary and the Four Roads crossroads.
Platoons 1 and 2, Company B, of the BUF Solway Legion are in charge of security, with Platoon 1 in the station itself and Platoon 2 supporting the Station Road.
Platoon 1 has a half-dozen sandbag positions around the station and on the platform, connected with trenches to each other. The second story of the station building has three machine gun nests, one each, covering the approaches from the Four Roads to the north, the field towards the Castletown Road to the east, and the rail line to Port Erin to the west (where the Isle of Man Railway terminus is located).
Along the Station Road, Platoon 2 has dug several half-trenches, lined with sandbags, logs and whatever else the soldiers could find. An up-armored truck brings supplies to the platoons every day at the same time.
There is a broken-downsteam locomotive, called the Old 97, just outside the station, about 80 yards, pointing towards Port Erin. The train is not battle damaged and seems to be ignored by local Manx forces. Though it is nominally in no-mans land, on most days the BUF has a squad occupying it to prevent being snuck-up on from that direction but they abandon it at night. Sometimes, they start the fire up to keep warm.
The repair on the train wouldn't take too long but they could be noisy. It would take some research to find out what happened to it - from asking around to find the last engineer to drive it (John "Steve" Browdie, currently in Port Erin), to getting the parts together to repair it, and to finding someone (or training them) to drive it. It still has enough water and fuel to start up. Stoking the fire to get enough steam would be about a half-hour, forty-five minutes, or an hour at the most.
So the Manx commanders want the train. It's vital to get it away from the BUF because they may get around to fixing it themselves and use it to invade the rest of the island. You've got a week or so to do the job. And you can expect that the BUF are going to fight to keep it.
I present a D20 campaign based on a random comment from a Gary Gygax interview from the 1980s, at the height of the Satanic Panic against D&D (exemplified in the Conservapedia D&D post). I also riff a bit using a quote from The Warriors.
Unfortunately, the 60 Minutes interviews with Gary Gygax are gone from Youtube. The surviving game notes links includes stuff from IMDB (The Warriors) and wikipedia (The Warriors).
I was fortunate to run the Thief Kindly Spoken Of again for another game group. Set in my Iron Kingdoms/Midnight setting mash-up that I presented in Issue no. 42, I wrote up that session as another actual play for the 'zine. I added another bit of a feature, originally done by James Wyatt (of WotC fame).
Pencast no. 4 is a map for my current Savage Worlds Winter War campaign. I recorded this while waiting for a game to start at one of my local game shops.
The PCs started in the City-State of Gath and wandered south from there. I shamelessly stole this campaign on Christian Walker's Winter War campaign, because, well, frankly, winter and zombies are awesome.
I plan to post more for the game, including write-ups and characters, in the coming months.
As in the Great War, sometimes there are places where enemies are closer than friends, within throwing distance (or sometimes just beyond). And such is the case with a section of the siege around Port St. Mary.
Along one part of the line is a set of trenches that nearly butt upon each other, with the fascists on one side ("Trench 13") and the Manx forces on the other (the "Short Walk"). Each set of trenches has been taken several times since the siege began and each time has been recovered by their nominal owners in later fighting. In fact, the "Short Walk" is the most brutal and most active of the battle sites around the town.
Despite this brutality, or maybe because of it, the forces on both sides (3rd Platoon, A Company, BUF Legion, commanded by Lt. Taylor Trabb, and The Cronk Irregulars, commanded by Lt. Arthur Duff) are fairly friendly with each other, shouting encouragement and well-wishes when not fighting and patching up each other after the fighting is done. There was even an impromptu soccer game at one point early on (sure, it ended in gunfire, but that fellow was past the line and that goal bloody well didn't count).
Both companies have resisted attempts by their own commands to switch them out, insisting that a change would create more problems than they're worth, including not knowing who their fighting and a breakdown of the slightly bent "rules of war" that they're operating under. BUF command, however, is increasing concerned that the friendliness could be detrimental to security and are working to implement a change. This includes a back-up plan to give up the trenches for a better position closer to the village.
A few days ago, an event happened which changed everything. Lt. Trabb was wounded and evac'd back to Port St. Mary. His replacement was newly commissioned Lt. Chancery Gridley. The new officer is not only a martinet and annoying to boot, he's actually messing with how the two groups are fighting this war. They've got their way and he's not part of it.
The area is set to explode. And who walks in? Why the PCs, of course. Cue dramatic music!
In the last issue of the year, I presented a magical doorway to an earlier time as well as a bit on a neat, rules-lite RPG called the Supercrew. I also made up a character for the game called Ghost Marshal!
Session Six: Part 3: "The World Isn't Fair" (April 5, 2104)
Important People: James (S), Bill (X), Bob (E), Alexis (C),
Important NPCs: Robbie the PolRob, Nasdaq the Robot, Miles Dayton, Rich Johnson, Amanda Hayes, John Ritter.
Bob decides that it would be a good idea to try out the Gold/1 Military Key Card that he got, to see if they can get into SUR. They ask Group A to join them and they all caravan out to the SUR complex.
Unfortunately, the Uni Defense Computer does not allow the Groups to enter SUR. While they are getting in their vehicles to return to Anderson Stuart, they spot a giant version of a domestic cat, about the size of an elephant, moving among the ruins outside the University. No one fires on it.
Pencast no. 3 is a map of Port St. Mary for my 1938: A Very British Civil War Isle of Man Campaign. I show where the Airstrip, the Carrick Light-House Island and the Standing Stone are located and also mention a few other upcoming blog post locations.
This issue, I present the actual play of the Thief Kindly Spoken Of, a Savage Worlds adventure set in the Iron Kingdoms/Midnight mash-up I presented last issue. The game went rather well, with a bunch of good scenes and a final battle well worth the conclusion.
Also, I return to gaming with my nephews (first mentioned in Issue no. 10). Too bad I haven't done this style of gaming with them for the past couple of years. I should tempt them down the road to gaming this summer.
With the level of school at the time, I didn't present any game notes but since it was an actual play, I don't think there would have been much.
On a small Pacific island named Yap (or Wa'ab to the natives), carved stones are money. Known as Rai Stones, these carved rocks range in size up to a yard across and at least two cars in weight. The stones are carved into circular disks with a hole in the center, out of limestone that the natives mined on another island, Palau, and took back to Yap on canoes and rafts.
The economy was simple - because limestone was rare on Yap, it had value and so ownership of the stones passed to others as normal as using a credit card today but the larger stones rarely moved. Ownership was known among the people and there seemed to be few disputes about it.
The amazing thing is this went on for 500-600 years before a situation changed the economy - a shipwrecked American named David Dean O'Keefe. He showed the islanders how to quarry the limestone with iron tools and the value of the Rai stones fell, but not before he became wealthy, rich enough to own an island. There was a book and movie made about O'Keefe (His Majesty O'Keefe and the film was made in 1954 with Burt Lancaster).
The best thing about all this is the Rai Stones themselves. If you look at most RPGs, especially the fantasy ones, the units of money are all the same: coins, jewels and magic items. But what if the humanoid tribes in your game had money stones like the Rai? What if they collected gold and silver and gems simply because they're pretty to look at and, hell, those stupid humans carry them around a lot, so they must be something, maybe childrens' toys - but the real value is in large stone money?
The addition of this bit of culture to the game (known only to humanoids or those half-begot bastards they raised) would change the "monsters slavering for gold and gems" into a quest for understanding at the least - their motivations are not loot (as seen by humans and demi-humans) but as opportunities for them to gain riches in their own culture (with attacking those stupid humans and elves an added bonus).
I think I'm going to incorporate these stones into my Ashford Valley campaign setting among the humanoid tribes (which Bugbears and Orcs feature prominently).
This issue, I return to my campaign mash-ups, by mixing Fantasy Flight Games' Midnight setting with the Iron Kingdoms from Privateer Press. I'm a fan of both of these D20 settings, so they were an obvious mix. Next issue, I share the actual play of this set-up.
No game notes for this issue, again due to my grad school at the time (it was a particularly hard class).
The Standing Stone is an ancient menhir locally called The Giant's Quoiting Stone. It is located just outside the village of Port St Mary, in a large field located between Beach Road on the south and the rail line to the north, northeast of Station Road and southwest of Castletown Road. The field is currently no-man's land, with BUF forces at the corner of Beach and Station Roads and Manx forces along Castletown Road.
According to legend, a Giant lived in the area in ancient times and came there to play Quoit (similar to ring toss) with the local Manx, beating them and using the win to gain in trade and news. The stone has mystical properties and only the pure of heart may touch it. It is also linked to the fair folk in local histories, especially during the Elizabethan era. The locals shun the stone except to leave gifts of food to the fairies, which they do with regularity.
Several BUF soldiers scoffed at the warnings and one ate an apple left as a gift. Later that night, he had excessive cramps, which the villagers took as a sign of fae displeasure and the BUF took as just a bit of rotten fruit (but amazingly, and by unspoken agreement, decided to leave the area alone).
The stone is left to itself by both BUF and Manx forces, with few trenches near it. Still, the locals keep up with the gifts. One or more of the intelligence groups in the village use the stone to pass along messages to each other as well as to the Manx army.
In fact, it's a new moon tonight. A vital bit of intelligence has been left at the stone for pickup. No worries, there is a good 30 yards between the stone and the nearest BUF trench. You should be able to get the packet without a shot being fired. Chop, chop! You go over the wire in 3 hours!
This issue contains a half-dozen futuristic blaster weapons suitable for a Savage Worlds Slipstream game (or any other sci-fi space opera setting). I didn't do the stats for the guns (that's easily done in your favorite system) but the pics and descriptions were particularly spot-on, in my point of view.
Again, due to my schooling at the time, I was unable to provide any game notes.
In Bay ny Carrickey, right out of Port St Mary Bay, is the small island of The Carrick, upon which is the old Carrick Light-house. The light-house has been a constant feature of the bay for the past several centuries, built of solid stone and shining the light to guide home the fishing fleets of Port St Mary.
Before the BUF took Port St Mary, they captured the Carrick. The same squad that took it without firing a shot is still there, under command of Sergeant Eugene Hubbles. The defensive position with it's thick stone walls is a problem for any non-BUF allied boat. Four machine gun nests and two mortar pits are visible behind solid walls of sandbags and the shore is patrolled day and night.
The island defenses are mostly a ruse. They have only one (rusted and prone to jamming) machine gun (with limited ammo) and the rest, including the mortars, are pipes they found on the island and camouflaged to appear as weapons. At a distance and through binoculars, it's hard to tell the difference (most GMs would require a really good roll - in Savage Worlds terms, it would have to be a Notice TN 12). The patrols, however, are real but sparse, so it may be possible to sneak onto the island in a night raid.
Though the BUF soldiers are armed with the SMLE, they have no grenades nor any other explosives. They may have fashioned fake pipe bombs to throw at and scare attackers with, causing some confusion in the course of a fight, but that is up to the GM. Sergeant Hubbles is very concerned about the use of ammunition (they don't have much and expect little resupply) so often the lads are required to keep their weapons ready but unloaded.
Despite the rationing of ammunition, the light-house is regularly supplied with food and such from the town with one of the fishing boats. Sometimes the boat stays the night because the captain is an old friend of the light-house keeper and they drink together.
The current light-house keeper is a man named Martin Chuzzlewit. His family has been keepers for over two centuries, passing it down the line from father to son. Martin is a widower with no children. His son died at Passchendaele in 1917 and his wife a few years later (of a broken heart, they said). He looks upon his life and his legacy as a sad waste, a broken chain in the years that stains his family name.
Amazingly, one of the privates in the BUF squad, Anthony Chuzzlewit, is related to the keeper - a distant cousin, his great grandfather's brother's grandson or something like that. The old man is excited that the opportunity to pass on the family tradition came at such a late hour. He has been using the squad as workmen to complete many brute-force repairs to the light-house (which has kept the Sergeant happy that the men weren't getting into the usual trouble) and training Anthony in the operations of the light. Anthony, to his surprise, is actually interested in the running of the light-house.
Martin is not really happy with what the King's doing and he's very anti-Fascist but he's more concerned with keeping the light working and his new legacy of Anthony alive to continue the job. He knows that the Manx forces will want to take the light-house before attacking Port St Mary.
As time wears on, Martin is realizing that Anthony will fight with his squad and may get killed, ruining everything. If he can figure out a way to get the squad to surrender or be taken alive, he'd support that but a gun battle will rapidly take away his options, leading him to arm himself to defend his cousin and family pride.
Enter the PCs. They're tasked with capturing the light-house. How they do it (there are several ways to go - sneak in at night and overpower the squad, be the crew of a friendly captain, do a full-out assault or something else the GM may not think of). What intelligence they can gather over a short period of time from the locals as well as (maybe) Martin is up to them (and the GM).
Session Six: Part 2: "No One Is To Blame" (April 5, 2104)
Important People: James (S)
Important NPCs: Stephanie Shaw MD, Uni Survivors Council Chair and Medical Division Head, Nick English Ph.D. Computer Science, Council Member and Information Technology Head, Ted Gilly MBA, Council Member and Resources Management Division Head, Lt. Mike Garrison, Council Member and SU Militia Commander, Capt. Adele Droblas, Royal Australian Army, Council Member and Commander Sydney University Regiment, Andrew Greenberg Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Council Member and Science Division Head, and various other Uni Survivors.
Captain Droblas escorts James to the Council chamber and the Uni Survivors Council meets to discuss the situation. Various members of the Council explain to James that the current Uni Survivors is not the first community in the Anderson Stuart Bunker. In fact, they are the second community to form. James is shown video of the first group, about forty people, who failed in forming a viable community under the "rules" set down by the Uni Defense Computer. The Uni Defense Computer wiped them out to a man because of their violent and chaotic actions. They tell James that the reason why they cannot disable the Ethernet link and the security cameras/lasers is because the Uni Defense Computer will not allow it - to the point of force. The Uni Defense Computer is seeking to build a viable community where it can have a chain of command again, but it will not turn over it's resources and powers until the community shows that it will have a civilian government, where the military answers to the government. Until that time, the Uni Defense Computer is willing to test and observe the community and it's members, granting, little by little, more and more authority. The fact that the Uni Defense Computer gave Bob a Gold/1 Military Key Card is a great step forward. Because of the sensitive nature of this information, James is warned only to tell those on Group B as well as the members of Group A. Then he is dismissed.
Lt. Garrison talks with Bill and tells him to stand down, and that their Key Cards should be working now. James returns to Group A and B and tells them what has happened.
Although the BUF failed taking Douglas on the Isle of Man, they've hunkered down in Port St Mary and mean to stay. That's contested by both the natives in the town (who've formed a resistance movement) as well as the combined forces of the Isle of Man, the Scottish Republic and the Liverpool Free State (who've encircled the town). So far, the seige is at a stalemate but shots are fired across the no-man's land on a semi-regular basis (both sides are conserving bullets).
Since the PCs in my Isle of Man campaign are going to need some mooks to take on, I've decided to write up a normal squad of BUF soldiers, all mooks.
BUF Soldier, 5-8 in a usual squad with 1 NCO and 1 Officer (Mook)
Agility d6 Smarts d6 Spirit d6 Strength d8 Vigor d6
Parry 5 Toughness 5 Pace 6 Charisma -2
After the long, six-issues adventure for Vegas After Midnight, I returned to a monster write-up, in both D20 and Savage Worlds, on a pair called the Skeleton Brothers. I've used these guys in a couple of games and it's always had quite a reaction. And I give a list of the loot I got at GenCon 2008.
Unfortunately, I didn't have any game notes for this issue.
About a third of a mile past the edge of Port St. Mary is a lonely airstrip. Currently occupied by BUF forces, it is constantly threatened with being cut off from the rest of the besieged town.
The airstrip consists of a dirt track that acts as the landing field, an old two-story house (the airstrip's "office"), an even older barn (the "hangar") and a couple of shacks. There is no tower and the radio antenna (next to the house) was destroyed in recent fighting.
The airstrip has no planes in operation, though there are several around the field in various stages of disrepair or with extensive battle damage. One could, with enough time, cobble together a plane, but who'd be crazy (or bored) enough to do that? Who indeed? Additionally, there is enough fuel in the fuel shack (that's the one with all the sandbags piled around it, right over there to the left. See it?) to keep the BUF garrison in molotov cocktails for some time (or fuel a plane for nearly a half-dozen flights).
BUF forces occupy all the buildings in force with well-protected machine gun nests on top of both the office and the hangar, each covering half of the approaches. There is a half-trench between the buildings, protected with sandbags and other bric-a-brac (including tyres, plane parts, a goat cart, and part of a rusted, old farm truck) on both sides.
In the hanger is a WWI Sopwith Camel, being painstakingly repaired by one of the more mechanically-inclined privates and a couple of others who are bored enough to do the heavy lifting. So far, he's got the engine rebuilt and the mechanisms working and is finishing up on repairing the wings and fuselage. It currently does not have any weapons mounted on it.
The danger that an operational plane presents to the Manx forces is extreme (at least in their mind). Even though they control most of the field, a lucky pilot (of which the BUF forces have none, but who's to know that) might get the plane off the ground and into the air. That could cause some trouble. Manx commanders would rather have the plane in their possession than destroyed but so far every attempt to steal (or if necessary destroy) it has failed.
To the BUF soldiers (and unknown to the Manx), the plane represents a morale-boosting symbol, that despite their precarious position at a lone airfield on a hostile island, they all imagine themselves flying away, away from this crazy town. Over the past weeks, as the plane has been rebuilt and resembling an actual plane, that esprit de corps has increased. And they're willing to defend the plane with their lives, as a living symbol of their hopes and dreams.
These two conflicts will lead both sides, Manx and Fascist, to do some pretty crazy things, surprising things, even heroic and valiant things.
And guess who was given the task to get that plane? Thanks for volunteering, gentleman. We don't have much but we may be able to provide some bits and bobs of equipment. We need the plane before the weekend, can you do it?
The exciting finale to my Vegas After Midnight adventure, the 27 Lost Bicycles of Gondor! The PCs encounter a Red Knight straight out of prophesy and then a race to Death Valley to discover the tomb of the True King of Las Vegas, who's return will bring Vegas back to the Old World (as foretold by prophesy).
Corporal Stephen Blackpool
3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, A Company, BUF 1st Solway Legion
Primary: Hearts 9 (Life of the Party)
Secondary: Spades 2 (Goldbricker)
Stephen Blackpool joined the BUF for the uniforms. Ladies like uniforms. Unfortunately, the obstinate Englishmen around the country are making things hard for him. And his officers are, too.
This was supposed to be fun. A parade, marching in step, later time at the pub, talking up the ladies and maybe some quality time later on. That's what he expected. Now, he's slogging in the dirt with the rest of the 1st Solway Legion in Port St. Mary, avoiding getting shot and trying to avoid actually shooting anyone.
Don't mistake my meaning. Stephen isn't a coward, he's just lazy. Being a coward takes too much work. Being a hero is even more work (in addition to usually ending up dead). He'd much rather relax and earn medals that way. How he gained a corporal's stripe is beyond him. His squad is the laxest one in the whole legion yet they always seem to get their work done. Maybe it's because he allows his men to vote and bring up issues with him. Maybe it's because they don't want to die, so they follow him (reluctantly) hoping he'll shape up.
Since things have a tendency to roll down hill in the military, Corporal Blackpool's squad often gets the dirty work in the Company (at least he's not in that Butcher's platoon, thank God), which results in Stephen actually having to do something. This war's got to end soon, otherwise it'll totally ruin his life!
The continuing 27 Lost Bicycles of Gondor adventure for the Vegas After Midnight setting leads the PCs to the Valley of Fire, where they face some dangerous monsters created in the Madness. A clue there brings them back to Vegas to an abandoned museum and a lead-in to the final act in Issue no. 39!
Session Six: Part 1: "Super Trouper" (April 5, 2104)
Important People: James (S), Bill (X), Bob (E), Alexis (C)
Important NPCs: Robbie the PolRob, Nasdaq the Robot, Miles Dayton, Rich Johnson, Amanda Hayes, John Ritter, Captain Adele Droblas, RAA Captain and SUR Commander, Lt. Mike Garrison, Uni Militia, Corporal Jones, and various other Uni Survivors.
Captain Droblas orders James to disarm while a computer on the desk behind her starts counting down from 30 seconds. James explains his actions but refuses to disarm. He demands that the Captain accompany him to the Uni Survivors Council and explain her actions, citing several sections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that he believes the Captain has violated. Captain Droblas orders James to disarm again and cites several sections of the UCMJ that James is violating.
The Uni Defense Computer disables the security cards of the rest of the team, trapping them on the first floor of the Anderson Stuart bunkers.
Lots of shouting and conversation ensues, with Droblas practically screaming that she's got this under control, which baffles James because he gets the feeling that she's not talking to him. The timer stops and there is a beat or two before the UDC activates the security camera laser in Captain Droblas's office and disarms James by cutting his pistol in half before he can act.
This is the 4th Vegas After Midnight supplement and the third adventure for the 27 Lost Bicycles of Gondor. The PCs find themselves on Lake Mead, dealing with Pirates, the Cojax and some crazy amazons, all searching for the head of a king. Sounds interesting, no?
Miss Barley was a simple school teacher totally uninterested in politics when the BUF came ashore at Port St. Mary. Armed men stormed her school, pointing guns at her and her students as the town was taken. In that tense situation, there are always costly mistakes. One occurred in her classroom: A jumpy student was accidentally shot by a wounded and nervous soldier. The boy died in her arms as she screamed for help. Something changed in her that day.
Since that day, Clara has worked to end the occupation. She renewed an old church social club and sewing circle called the Society of St. Mary, using it as a spy ring to gather information around the town and pass it on to Manx forces. Most of the members are not involved but since they are from all around the town, the information they bring and gossip about the coming and goings of the BUF (and the villagers themselves) that has proved important to the cause. Clara's cohort in spying is the younger sister of the boy who was killed. She hides behind a false front at the school and writes down everything she hears the Society is discussing. The intelligence is then passed to other members of the SSM who smuggle it out of town, either on one of the fishing boats or through some of the other secret routes.
The SSM does more than spy. They've got one member in the Port St. Mary newspaper, now overseen by the occupiers, which has provided the Society with current false identification papers and "Mosley script." Several other members have been very successful at "liberating" weapons from one or the other BUF armories or even individual soldiers. An act of fascist incompetence provided the group with a large amount of damaged guns that they are currently rebuilding, using them as parts to repair a couple of dozen weapons.
There are currently two cells of 3-4 active SSM members each and Clara has kept it small to avoid discovery. She is aware of both cells and equally aware that there is at least one, if not two, other spy rings in the town. So far, she's biding her time, gathering her allies and weapons around her, waiting for the time when the Society can seize the initiative and drive the BUF out of her beloved village.
An added complication involves the young soldier, Joe Gargery, who killed her student. Since the shooting, Joe has been very contrite about it and has sought her out on more than one occasion to beg her forgiveness. As a result, he always seems to find a reason to talk to her in the village. She has rebuffed his attentions for now, but he has calmly and cunningly arranged circumstances where they meet. Clara finally realized that he is persuing her romantically, which has surprised her, as she considers herself rather plain. The attention is unsettling but slowly the earnest young man has been able to work his way into her affections (not that she is quite willing to admit it yet).
Agility d6 Smarts d6 Spirit d6 Strength d6 Vigor d4
Parry 4 Toughness 4 Pace 6 Charisma -0-