Saturday Seed – 17 (Battletech)

This seed is blown by the winds of war, for the Battletech RPG – in whatever incarnation you might use it, or just for Battletech itself should you prefer. I played it for the first time in 1987, how about you?

The soil:

The PC lance is scheduled to drop in desert terrain after sunset tomorrow in order to serve a support role for a larger offensive against a fortified city position. Intelligence reports that the route of access assigned to the PC lance has been scouted several times by enemy recon units as a route of egress for the opposition force’s leaders should air routes become untenable.

Orders are to engage any and all enemy units with intent to capture, and to direct infantry to any targets of opportunity. Preliminary reports indicate at least one ammunition dump, and suspicious movement throughout the area at regular intervals. 

The lance is ordered to make their way through the desert under cover of darkness, and position itself in the rocky canyons to the south of the city. Further orders will be issued once the lance is in position.

The seed:

The lance, and many other members of the unit, are about to become very ill due to the consumption of contaminated food. While this will ultimately and inaccurately be blamed on espionage by a desperate and despicable enemy, at the moment, no one is aware that a ticking time bomb of dreadful discomfort, desperate diarrhea, and disorienting dizziness with an accompaniment of dry heaves and vomiting is set to arrive in just a few hours.

As the lance has been ordered to take position early and wait, as the desert heat is significant, especially at this time of year, the PCs will find themselves growing ill, many hours after their drop, several hours after securing their position in the canyons, and a few hours before fighting could reasonably be expected.  As usual, there are no men or units to be spared to replace the lance, and command will refuse to listen to reason, refuse to grasp the grimness of the situation, and refuse to send medical aid – which, quite frankly, would offer little to the situation other than to offer rehydation, some kind words, and the useless platitude that, “This too shall pass~”

The pains and other discomforts are more than distracting, and the mechwarriors will know that they will not be at peak effectiveness (increased fatigue), and run the risk of having severe bouts of pain while in combat.

What is going on:

The lance, opposition, and politics, I leave to you. The scenario seed itself is more about what manner of warrior the characters are, how well they deal with personal adversity of a depressing and distressing nature, and how they handle their duty when others would only run. (pardon the pun)

As this is a Mechwarrior scenario, we already know that the lance will encounter surprises getting into position, surprises while they hold their position, and that the opposing faction will definitely flee down this escape route. Maybe that is true, and maybe it isn’t. One of the good tools for this scenario is uncertainty.

  • keep the characters uncertain about enemy numbers and strength
  • keep the timing of the operation tight and anal at the early stages, then uncomfortably loose and unpredictable in the later stages….  hmmm.
  • cut off communication with HQ once battle begins
  • have the onset of the illness start randomly for each character over a 3 hour period
  • apply and remove performance penalties in waves as discomfort comes and goes

The penalties:

The following chart might aid in preserving some of the uncertainty of this sort of illness, and keep the players guessing. I would make it more specific but the plethora of rules sets makes this complicated. Use the chart, or something of your own devising at different intervals for each character. Apply the initial onset of the condition at different times for each character and then maintain that order for using these effects. Roll a D6 to determine if the first character will get a ‘cramps’ roll in the first, second, or third round of engagement. Stagger the other characters by having their rolls start from one round later. (second character’s onset range is 2-4, third is 3-5, and fourth is 4-6). Roll for effects once every 4 rounds.  

  1. fine
  2. cramps for 1 turn (significant penalty)
  3. cramps for 3 turns (increases for 2 turns, then drops)
  4. dizziness for 1 turn (minor penalty)
  5. fine
  6. sudden sharp pains for 1 turn  (major penalty)

What will the characters do?

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