Mechwarrior PBeM report I: Hair of the Dog

The following is a dramatization of the first scene of a Mechwarrior RPG campaign played by e-mail using the Time of War rules (4th Edition) published by Catalyst Game Labs.

Cast of Characters

Mel “Mad Dog” Winters 

Current Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Age: 30
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Black

Accent: A very “standard” sort of English which might indicate a mixed upbringing and moving around a lot. Sometimes there might be faint hints of what might be considered “English” English or Scottish influences (ie: saying aunt as “aunt” and not “ant”, etc.) and even sometimes what might be a Romanian accent on some words or phrases.


Description: Lean, muscular, and rugged looking… He would have what might be considered good-looking features, however, he has a few scars (particularly one running from his right cheek [near the ear] all the way up through his short cropped hair to the top of the right side of his head). He is clean shaven. Usually few or no scents: if any it might be like Old Spice in real life or a touch of aftershave 


Mad Dog does not believe in naming things, but if something he comes across has been named by others, he won’t refuse to call it by that name. His own mech has no name. 

Cafeteria sitting:
He might lean back or recline in a cocky sort of fashion. Most of the time he’ll sit up straight, with good posture, and occasionally scrutinize people around him. Sometimes he puts his fingers at chin or face level when quiet and observing people. Sometimes his fingers flex and unflex like someone who is restless. He might sometimes point at someone to punctuate an angry remark, or raise his hands in mock politeness or simple kind of dramatic emphasis for sarcastic remarks. With these things he doesn’t seem to have any really set often-repeating habits. His students have certainly tried to identify a few for the imitations they’ve been practicing as a form of catharsis from his classes.


Lucas “Cool Hand Luke” Rom 

Current Rank: None
Age: 35?
Eyes: Grey
Hair: Black, medium length, Braided

Accent: Completely non-descript English, though he speaks passable Romanian and Cantonese.

Description: Small stature (1.7m), light build.  Too short to pass for eastern European, to pale for Mediterranean, perhaps with some Asian genetic influence. Rarely the best looking guy in the room, though no obvious unusual features.  No artificial scents, though a hint of personal musk, but never to the point of odour. Sports a closely trimmed beard, but its what most would describe as whispy or patchy.


Cafeteria sitting:
Very still.  rarely changes position, and moves softly and fluidly. His posture is fairly straight, but not stiff, and usually sits with one leg crossed.  People often forget he’s there as the cafeteria gets crowded.  He will occasionally (rarely) begin matching his sitting position with the person he is engaged with, though its never clear whether this is intentional or subconscious.
Naming: Things are things, objects are objects, and mechs are mechs.  But occasionally, things objects and mechs name themesleves, and it is impolite for us not to recognize that.  Even politicians, Battlemasters and prostitutes get respectable with age (apologies to Mark Twain) and naming can be a sign if that respect. CH:L currently associates with a Shadowhawk by the name of TLC (The loose cannon).

Velika “Blowtorch” Kaldec 

Age: 26
Eyes: Green
Hair: Black
Caucasian (Slavic features)

Accent: Standard FWL English with a Slovak accent whose thickness depends on Velika’s mental and physical health. The more exhausted or otherwise less able to focus she is, the more her native Slovak comes out.


Description: Fit and athletic build, slightly taller than the average woman, a few small scars on the hands and forearms from when her mechanical “patients” sometimes “bit” her during maintenance or emergency repairs. She has high cheekbones and angular features, as well as somewhat large eyes, and her black hair is kept short bob style. Not exactly a “hottie” but not bad to look at either. She might look a little better if she ever had the time to clean off the oil. No artificial scents except that she often smells like a Mech; a seductive aroma of oil, polyleather and butane.

Cafeteria sitting:

A master of the cocky-lazy slouch in a chair, sometimes with one arm draped around the back. She smiles easily, likes to chat and laugh, especially over an after-hours drink or five. She tends to sit back when listening, and often leans forward with her arms on the table when talking. Her movements are fluid, animate, which makes those moments when she’s exhausted and lifeless as a discarded jumpsuit a jarring contrast.


And so… we begin

Hair of the Dog

Act 1, Scene 1: The Announcement

    • Planet Oliver
    • Hanachi District
    • 5km outside Hantonburg
    • Hanachi Military Academy
    • Main Assembly Room, Memorial Hall  (The Main Hall)

November 21, 3028  – 11:50am, local time

The students and faculty of Hanachi Military Academy were called to an assembly in the Main Hall to hear the official announcement, broadcast globally by the New Planetary Governor, Colonel  Erich Axthelm, Baronet. Seated in folding metal chairs arrayed in loose, hastily-made rows before the Dean and a large display panel, each person was quiet as the message played out.

The basic thrust of the message, delivered in German, but available in translation and subtitle for languages more common to Oliver, particularly English, was that the defence forces provided by the Marik and their so-called Freeworlds League had left the sector, abandoning this and 7 other worlds and their combined populations to defend whatever it is the Captain-General deems more important than the world and people of Oliver.

The Lyran Commonwealth, under the benevolent leadership of House Steiner and their allies, are stepping in to alleviate the suffering of the people and provide much needed protection against the rise of anarchy, the depredations of revolutionary governments set on raping neighbouring worlds to pad their own with comfort, and to hasten the return of former glories to this world, as is occurring on all the blessed worlds of the Lyran Commonwealth.

As of noon, November 21, 3028, in each region, all governmental and military functions of the planet Oliver are being assumed by the forces of Colonel Axthelm, Baronet. As of December 31, 3028, the official currency will be the Kroner, but until that time, continued use of local denominations would be accepted at 1/3 face value.

The final announcement is delivered with a slightly regretful, but no less forceful and matter-of-fact air. A lance of local rebels in stolen Battlemechs, supported by a small unit of stolen tanks, chose to strike a misdirected blow for local independence by launching an attack at the primary Lyran landing field outside of the capital. Images of their fate bolster the hidden threat in his statement.

Any and all military assets not declared and turned over to regional administrators by the end of the week, would be recorded as salvage, and their owners held for questioning. Any and all military industrial holdings were to arrange inspections and reviews before the end of business today.

The announcement closes with a replay of the deaths of the rebel mechs… a Trebuchet, a Jenner, a Wolverine, and a Dervish. While the heavy guns of the Lyran Overlord class dropship, and the defensive batteries of the occupied former-Marik command outpost played a small role in deciding the outcome, your experienced eyes cannot help but notice that two of the 4 mechs received their coup de grace from the lead mech of the Lyran lance which met them. The mech pilot is listed as being none other than the Baronet himself. The mech he is piloting is nothing the majority of viewers recognize, nor have ever seen before, dating as it does from the era of the Star League. Resembling a Warhammer more than anything else, the display names it as being something called a Hammerhands. Fresh paint cannot hide its age and legacy of damage  and repair, but it still moves with finesse and assurance under the guidance of what must be a very capable mechwarrior.

November 21, 3028 – 1pm, local time

The students have been dismissed to their rooms. The dean has announced a meeting of all faculty at 4pm.

The main hall and the faculty lounge next to it, are crowded with staff and instructors, discussing what they have just heard, watching it again and again as it replays on the every channel.

You are currently in the Main Hall. There are at least 10 other people present, and an equal or greater number in the Faculty Room. You are all well aware that the Lyran announcement hides more than it reveals, and that the former isolation and safety of this place will be short-lived.

Hanachi Academy, has as assets, a full heavy lance, and a full medium lance – so to speak. They are no longer battle ready in the strictest sense, needing arms, ammunition, and armour to be installed, calibrated, or repaired. It also boasts a full fleet of support and staging vehicles required to scout terrain and supply its mechs on maneuvers..

In the stables are 2 Griffins, 1 Trebuchet, 1 Hunchback, 1 Orion, 2 QuickDraws, and 1 Rifleman. Additional ‘mech forces of which you are aware are only Cool Hand’s Shadowhawk, and MadDog’s Griffin.

All told there are 53 students in the graduating class. Twelve of these are seeking to become mechwarriors. Two of these have recently vanished, but in light of this announcement, and their parentage (industrialists) that seems less mysterious than it did.

As people drift off into their normal cliques and groups to discuss matters, you do the same.

In the awkward period of waiting which follows the conclusion of the Dean’s assembly, Mel ‘MadDog’ Winters catches Lucas “Cool Hand Luke” Rom’s eye in the milling exodus and calls out to him as they approach each other through the rows of hastily lined-up chairs.  “CH…”

Rom nods back and settles into a chair not too far from Velika “Blowtorch” Kaldec, who still has not risen since the conclusion of the assembly. Winters tries to catch her eye as well, but she seems to be lost in thought – as so many are.

“Sergeant…”  he says, addressing her by her NCO rank instead of her call-sign to set a tone of formality that most would not expect of “Mad Dog” and perhaps to penetrate her reverie. As the small crowd gathers – mostly techs and mech jocks – her eyes focus on the speakers attentively.

Mad Dog offers, “ It’s some time before the 4 pm meeting… I’d like to know if anyone has anything they’d like to say to the rest of us about all this. We don’t have any time to waste, and I think we’d all agree that we’d be better off being on the same page by 16:00 hours than not. Agreed…?”

After a brief silence, Cool Hand changes his mind about just sitting and listening, and decides to speak first. Addressing each person gathered around, he says, “ I would like to suggest that the focus of our discussion be the continued care and safety of our charges.  Given what we have seen, I believe it is safe to say that a group of students who are nearly trained mechwarriors will be treated with suspicion and possibly hostility. I propose that we explore all options to achieve their safety.  I would also like every one to feel open in proposing any option without fear of judgement. Let us explore options first, and weigh their merit after.”

Continuing, with everyone’s attention, he states, “The three obvious options I can see are:

  • -Notify the new authorities about this school and hope the students at least, will be treated fairly.
  • -Attempt to find a dropship which we can use to escape the planet, with or without our equipment perhaps being a follow-up question.
  • -Go into hiding as forces behind enemy lines, with the intent to wait for or inspire a change of power in this system.”

Casting his gaze over each person again, he concludes with, “Can anyone add to this list?”

Mad Dog replies, “I agree. The students need taking care of. I also agree that we need to acknowledge that some of you have no real expectation put on you to do anything and that you *do* have a choice. We also need to acknowledge that we only have so long before the Lyrans find this school. We need to find out who is going to be involved, we need intel, we need planning, and apparently we needed it yesterday.”

“As to adding to CH’s list of options…”  He pauses… Holding out a finger on his right hand as if pointing to someone near his left side…”We should figure out who is both able and willing to act, and whether it be a resistance or a retreat. For our own odds and chances, for those of you lacking a military background and thinking of helping, be prepared to do things military.”

He holds out a second finger, “If there are any hidden weapon caches or observation stations in the mountains, for example, well, we need to learn about them and erase any such leads before the Lyrans eventually find them. We need someplace to go to—we can’t stay here.”

He holds out a third finger, “We also could also use more intel. This Colonel Erich Axthelm, for example… His ‘mech… His unit… We need to have a better idea what we are up against. How large is the garrisoning force. How many companies or battalions of ‘mechs…?
He lifts his hands for a moment and then drops them, “Air support…?  We should assume until we know otherwise, that since they have assumed control of the planet, they probably have sufficient air support for sweeps and air to ground recon and surveillance. All our movements from this place should keep that in mind.”

Cool Hand nods, recapturing the attention of the listeners. “Thanks Mel.  All of that information will be valuable when we try to decide which option will be best for students, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Let’s let a few others speak, and see if there are any creative solutions that we are missing. Fitz?  I’d be interested to hear if you can think of any options we’re missing.”

Mad Dog gives Cool Hand a quizzical look, perhaps wondering how he could be construed as hogging the spotlight when he called the group together in the first place, then merely smiles at his seated friend with the braid. He isn’t about to give people more fuel for their already formed opinions on his hot-headedness.

Fitz rubs his eyes for a moment, before glancing around with sleep-deprived, red eyes.

“Tactically speaking, as we have discussed many times, this plateau is easily defended by a very small force against a larger one… provided there are no airborne forces in the equation. I would assume the Lyrans, knowing the strength of the Freeworlds League Space Forces, and given the relative industrial importance, both militarily and commercially, of this otherwise insignificant planet, will have brought a significant aerospace presence…  unless, as the Baronet claims, the League has abandoned 8 worlds, of which this is just one…  In that case, they might be marshalling their space power wherever the new borders are being demarcated, and that point might be quite far from here.”

He pauses a moment…  “If that is true, with the right kind of deception, access to military materiel, and the right level of involvement from the citizenry of Hantonburg, we could stage a very successful revolt from this place….  It is a lot of ‘ifs.’ I just can’t help thinking that if we can dress up enough Industrial Mechs from the mines to look like believable simulcra for training here at Hanachi, the Lyrans might never again check on mech-related activity at the school….  but then I start thinking that they would replace or compromise the Dean in some way, in order to assure the future loyalty of our charges…”

“Anyone else have any ideas?”

Mel , his focus on Fitz suddenly lost as his pedantic tones suddenly ended in a simple question, fills the sudden silence with, “Good insight, Fitz.”

Gathering himself, he continues, “My point earlier, although getting off topic from options slightly and more into recommendations that really aren’t optional, was not us getting ahead of ourselves. Assessing the situation—even the level of assessment that we can come up with in the next three hours—will better reveal what options we actually have. Still, this is a fine way as any other to get things started and gets us organized. So, let’s continue…”

He looks around, but doesn’t fail to catch the glint in Fitz’s eye that suggests he might be sounding argumentative again.

He sums up with, “We can look forward to reviewing our options again more than once today. So, like CH said feel open in proposing any option without fear of judgement. Let’s see if we can add anything else to the list so far. Anyone else?”

With a quick, but direct look at MadDog, Lucas picks up the thread of conversation without missing a beat, “Good point Mel, ‘how to do it’ will definitely influence ‘what to do.’  It sounds like we are moving away from the ‘handing ourselves in’ option, and I agree.  I think the video showed a perfectly clear message on that front.  It also showed the need for planning.”

At the end of his opening line, Cool Hand’s voice drops in pitch and in volume, and with a slow and dramatic pause, he waits subtly for the last of the stragglers to drift away toward the Faculty Room, leaving only Westerlie, Fitz, Blowtorch, MadDog, and the Math Professor, Dr. Hertzog. Hertzog is known to spend most of his waking hours cracking codes for fun. He is quite possibly the most boring man any of you have ever met.

Was Cool Hand worried about eavesdroppers all this time? Was he trying to limit conversation until just a few, trustworthy people were present?

He resumes, “For the active resistance option.  I think we will need a primary base of operations, but I don’t think this school is it.  It may be defendable in the short term, but once -not ‘if‘- we are discovered it would be only a matter of time before sufficient air support were brought in. Things we could do to improve our odds:

  • we create the illusion of an abandoned school as seen from surveillance
  • begin moving whatever base supplies we can to a more secluded base in the mountains, perhaps an old mining camp?
  • we can work on getting our mechs combat-ready after we get there, perhaps a few mechs combat ready first for convey patrol
  • disperse at least half of our mobile supplies to secret caches in areas we expect to need them, en route to major targets, for example
  • contact a few key people in Hantonburg for support
  • then we can consider staging the campus as an initial trap as our opening gambit as Fitz suggested.  Let the Lyrans ‘discover’ the base here and send a force to take it.”

He pauses and looks about before continuing. Fitz is paying careful attention, Westerlie’s attention seems split between the drama playing out again and again on the display, and the conversation at hand. Velika is listening to each speaker in turn, sitting quietly. MadDog, still standing, is nodding in agreement with the points so far.

Cool Hand goes on, “Strategy one: Use the industrial mechs as decoy in the school and ambush the attack force as they approach.  Let one or two escape with reports of the dozens of mechs they fought. Strategy 2: Rig the school to blow as they arrive.  This could be a backup if they send an overwhelming force.”

He turns to look at Blowtorch, “Velika, all of this would depend heavily on you – could the mechs be brought into combat readiness quickly?  Would you have any hope of keeping them in repair throughout a prolonged hit-and-run campaign?”

Velika meets CHL’s gaze and replies, “Your Mech and his Mech,” indicating Mad Dog with her thumb, “are very easy.”

Mad Dog, normally willing to talk about his mech for hours on end, seems to have tuned out and is watching something at the rear corner of the room, where the entrance to the Faculty Room is.

“Mechs can be ready in 4 hours, tops, but you will have only lasers because there is no ammunition in Academy. I can also fix up one more Griffin in maybe four hours, six hours tops, but again, no ammunition. Maybe I can get Quickdraws ready but I need to look at them again to be sure. As for the other mechs, they are all big problems. Many are missing important weapon systems, and their armor looks pretty, but is weak like glass. We don’t have supplies to repair them at the academy, so unless we can find components from somewhere else our other Mechs are scarecrows.”

While the others take that in, Rom turns his head, to regard the former dropship pilot, “Westerlie, what about our other option?  If even some of our students prefer escaping to fighting, what are the chances we could get them off planet and out of system before being discovered?”

Winters, who had been paying close attention to what Velika has been saying before getting distracted, suddenly places a hand on CH’s shoulder and looks at the group. “Please excuse me for a few moments.There’s something I need to check on.”

He takes a step, and then suddenly pauses, “Just to be safely paranoid, we might want to set up an immediate communications lock-down—any means of suddenly contacting Lyran authorities. ASAP… Probably overcautious, but better safe than sorry…”

Westerlie, although typically quite gregarious, seems to have lost the rhythm of the moment and with Velika’s announcement, and MadDog’s sudden statement, seems unsure if an answer to Rom’s question is still wanted. Her mouth has opened a few times, but she has yet to successfully merge with the conversation.

Fitz, however, plows on with “Well, I would hope the Dean would ha…” before trailing off with a startled look on his face, as if the reality of all of this has actually sunk in.

Mel ‘MadDog’ Winters begins to move away from the cluster of chairs, heading steadily toward the door. Beyond him someone has moved away from the coffee station set up near the Faculty Room door. That someone, a woman, is making quick, but awkward passage toward the entrance to the hall.

Lucas ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Rom rises, and spins his chair around in front of him, probably taking in the room as he does so. He leans on the folding-chair, with hands gripped firmly on the metal ridge which forms the frame of the backrest.

He runs his calm eyes over each person before flicking them once more in the direction of the door. Outside that door is the lobby, and in the lobby are washrooms, exits to the campus, stairs, and an administration office.

Hertzog, who is gazing bucolically at the entrance to the Main Hall, mutters under his breath, “Best hurry up, young fellow.”  His beard jerks like a puppet in a play as he talks. “I wouldn’t let that woman near a comm right now.”

Coll Hand says, “We still have a meeting at 4 PM, and I think we still should hear what Liscomb has to say.  He is still the dean, after all.”

He then steps away from his chair, and as he passes Velika he murmers, “We may need you to get at least of our three mechs up and running quickly.  If you have time, set me up with my large laser configuration if AC ammo is not to be found.”

With Rom’s movement, Westerlie, and Fitz rise as well. Fitz looks pale and a sweat has broken out across his brow. Westerlie seems to have focused on his discomfort to get over her own, as she grips his arm above the shoulder and propels him toward the Entrance.

Rom nods to Blowtorch and Hertzog; who waves his hand vaguely at the door, before falling in step with Westerlie and Fitz.

As the trio moves off, Velika can just hear Rom ask Westerlie, “Do you know of a good student here with the skills to play up to Goetz?”

Glancing toward the doors, Velika is treated to the sight of the quick-walking Professor Goetz about 10 meters from the door, a steadily-walking MadDog, about 20 metres behind Goetz, and the pair of pilots and their dizzy charge, who just left her in this ring of chairs with the absent-minded professor, frog-marching Fitz about 20 metres behind MadDog.

Hertzog turns to the tech and says in Romanian, with a twinkle in his washed out, old man’s eyes, “I think you have work to do, young lady.  Important work!”





Stay tuned for Scene 2: Ambush!

Want to know more?

Hair of the Dog Campaign Development Posts ~ Part 1, 2, 3, 4
Running ‘A Time of War’ ~ Part 1
Influences on Character

Campaign Clips: Teaser  *  Trailer * more to come

7 Responses to “Mechwarrior PBeM report I: Hair of the Dog”
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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Cook, RPG Bloggers Network. RPG Bloggers Network said: Mechwarrior PBeM report I: Hair of the Dog from Casting Shadows #RPG […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned in Running a Time of War Pt.2 […]

  3. […] Read part 1 of the next scene, ‘Ambush!’ from the point of view of Mad Dog […]

  4. […] Read part 1 of the next scene, ‘Ambush!’ from the point of view of Cool Hand […]

  5. […] Read part 1 of the next scene, ‘Ambush!’ from the point of view of ‘Blowtorch’ […]

  6. […] Mechwarrior PBeM report I: Hair of the Dog from Casting Shadows ( […]

  7. […] Mechwarrior PBeM: Hair of the Dog – The story continues […]

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