Mechwarrior PBeM Report 5 ~ Hair of the Dog ~ Story I Act IV Scene 1&2

Not too long ago, I got into a discussion about running games in e-mail, and so as an extension of that discussion, I decided to put up the next few entries in my Mechwarrior Campaign without dramatization, but instead showing the interplay between the players in and out of character, and the flow of the mechanics and story.

As mentioned in earlier entries about this campaign, one feature of the way it is being conducted is a controlled flow of information and interpretation of events. A brief recap is that we run the game in gmail, and each character has their own private thread, the group shares an IC chat thread for purely dramatic scenes, and an OOC questions thread. In situations where skills or perception, or something fast-paced like combat occurs, all player interaction is handled in private and filtered through me based on resolving appropriate rolls.

In this entry, Scene 1 ends as the players enter a combat scene. As soon as battle was joined, the action split into three separate threads, each with subtle, and sometimes not so subtle differences. The benefits are, of course, natural reactions from the players, greater tension, and a stronger emotional dynamic. Drawbacks are the greater workload, and the greater degree of vulnerability to unequal response rates in the participants.

I will be putting up a series of these posts, formatted in this same way, to bring the campaign report up-to-date. If you are new to this story, you might want to start at the beginning…  HERE. These earlier reports have had all game elements removed and have been edited into a more dramatic and continuous form. Those that follow below are as they were sent back and forth in e-mail. Please be aware, for those for whom harsh language is of concern, that here be curse words~

BATTLETECH: A TIME OF WAR RPG

Campaign: Hair of the Dog        Story 1: Running with the Big Dogs

 Act 4: Bites, Scene 1, PoV: All PCs

Cast:

Captain Lucas Rom, callsign – Cool Hand Luke, CH:L

Lieutenant Mel Winters, callsign – Mad Dog

Master Sergeant Velika Kadlec, callsign – Blowtorch

Giant Crabs

GM

November 21, 3028          21:42

The rough walls and terrain of what resolves itself into a tunnel in your minds as soon as you get your bearings during the descent appear entirely natural and immense. After a short time spent in exploring however, two things become readily apparent. The first is that structures are in place to both flood and drain this tunnel with liquid; presumably water based on the pools of it everywhere. The second is that there are large, reflective signs where this tunnel joins, merges with, or crosses others, indicating location by junction number, directions to other junctions, and average clearances of both height and width, in large easy to read script, so their placement at approximately 10m up the 20-30m walls does not prevent you from reading them. These signs are tagged with a variant of the Brigadier Logo you have never seen before, although it is instantly recognizable as belonging to the venerable military hardware designer.

Heading toward the only administrative section in evidence on the signs, something that is labeled as the Exercise Control Centre, you pass through tunnels and chambers which eventually trigger a sense of familiarity. In many ways, this appears to be a piloting course for mechs, and the evidence suggests it was designed to be negotiated while completely or partially flooded. Assessing its difficulty, you would rate it an intermediate challenge as it is. Underwater, with the currents and other dangers the tunnels seem capable of producing…? Extremely difficult, and maddeningly slow. Near the centre of the course, in a section whose location markers bear a Live Fire Zone warning, rusted turrets in varying states of neglect offer further mute testimony to the rigorous testing programs executed here. Pilots would have had to struggle not only against the waters and relatively narrow confines of the tunnels, but also against SRM and LRM launchers, torpedoes, and a wide array of energy weapons. As if that were not enough, closer to where this Control Centre is supposedly located, you stumble across berths for attack submarines. Two small, subs are present, resting at odd angles on the floor of the tunnel, looking ravaged by time and neglect.

Not far from there, you encounter something of a wholly different sort. Resting in the gritty sand which is scattered in wave-like designs across the tunnel floor, you find what resembles a massive aquarium for large species of marine life. Most of the glass walls of the tanks built into the walls of the tunnel have been shattered. Those few which remain intact are filled with black, murky water which does not suggest the ongoing presence of life. Near the centre of the tunnel, facing you like some freakish demon mask from a spiritually inclined warrior culture, is what you eventually recognize as the discarded carapace of some form of creature, possibly something like a crab… a crab with a body almost 8m wide, and 5m long.

Closer examination reveals that, based on the location of sections which resemble the joints of seafood you have consumed in the past, the creature, whatever it was, likely moved on 4 legs and had two others which it held overhead. No sign of the armour for these limbs is in evidence so it is quite hard to assess how tall the thing would have stood, but the carapace itself is made of a chitinous substance of great strength. Unlike the rest of the things you have uncovered in this place, the shell stands out in a stark yellow, undulled by the passage of time.

A sign near the entrance to the aquarium zone reports that 30m to the left is the high-pressure testing chamber, and 50m straight on is the Exercise Control Center.

It could be echoes, dripping water, or just your imaginations, but somewhere in the darkness behind you…  it sounds like something is moving.

Mad Dog

I snap around pointing my rifle and light in the direction of the sound. Giant critters from some crazy planet somewhere…? I guess the Dean was never down here. What the hell was going on down here?

Maybe the exercise control center has a man-sized door that’s unlocked?

GM

The probing spear of illumination from Mad Dog’s flashlight cuts back and forth methodically in the direction the noise seems to be coming from. As moments pass, confidence in the assessment of the sporadic sound’s direction begins to wane as the tunnels distort, bounce, and redirect every sound.

Was there ever anything there at all?

A sign caught in his searching beam indicates that this is a personnel zone and that pilots and drivers should exercise extreme caution while in this area.

Suddenly, a freakish chittering, and the echoes to follow, skitter down the tunnel from the direction you came from. Whatever it is – unless it can project its “voice” – is following you in the darkness.

The rifles are equipped with IR scopes… but will that do any good if this is some form of giant crab?

Military training taking hold, and with full understanding of the credo that ‘a weapon unused is working for the enemy’ – a quick flick of a thumb activates the IR scope on the rifle. Offering ranges to whatever is held in the center of the scope, and displaying a very rough schematic painted in temperature differentials of the tunnels beyond the reach of the flashlight, the scope displays mostly a dark palette of deep blues. It looks as cold and damp as you all feel.

Suddenly, as eyes are about to turn away from the wide view panel, three blazing hot spots which seem to be about 6 to 8 meters above the floor of the tunnel, jerk into view around a curve you remember being about 50 or 60 m back down the passage. The heat sources are tiny and if you had to guess (which you do) you might guess they are tracking tags of some kind.

Did someone tag the crab-things?

Do they eat meat?

Mad Dog

“CH!” I shout as the crabs move closer, “Grenade launcher?”

CH:L

“Grenade in 5, 4, ….” says CH as he begins loading.

Campaign: Hair of the Dog        Story 1: Running with the Big Dogs

Act 4: Bites, Scene 2, PoV: All PCs

Cast:

Captain Lucas Rom, callsign – Cool Hand Luke, CH:L

Lieutenant Mel Winters, callsign – Mad Dog

Master Sergeant Velika Kadlec, callsign – Blowtorch

Scene 2: Combat Points of View

Cool Hand Luke           Blowtorch        Mad Dog

Scene 2 Continues: PoV All PCs

CH:L

“Nice work everyone. Lets deal with injuries first, then we’ll move on.  We’ll worry about how to get out of here later once we’ve explored all the options” [As he does his best to clean his own wounds]  “None of us are doctors, so feel free to pass advice.  Anyone else with that green goop will probably want to clean it off.”

“Anyone who didn’t get slimed can check out those lockers to the right, and see what exits we have from here if any.  Those Crabs seem to be thermosensitive, so if you spot any extra flares as we want to grab them.”

Mad Dog

Glancing at the severed crab arm and eyeing it up, Mad Dog blurts, “I say we drag this fucker back and find out if it’s edible! Serve it up at the bar and persuade the keep to give us a free round!”

“What?” he quips grinning, “Do I hear a ‘Hell, yeah’ ?”

Blowtorch

Can’t help but grin at Mad Dog’s sense of justice. “Hell, yeah.”

I rub my neck where I felt that stinging sensation and check my hand for blood. I’ll quickly check myself for wounds or slime and ask the others, “You boys OK? What happened to your weapons, Cool Hand?”

CH:L

‘Hell Yeah indeed.  My grenade launcher? It went boom’.

‘The last grenade jammed as I was firing, so I dropped it in the hallway as I was running in here.  I managed clear sight on it when you were closing the door, and managed to nail it with my laser pistol.  That was the final explosion you heard.  We’ll have to add grenade skeet shooting to our training exercises when we get out of this.”

“Those crabs seem to be heat sensitive and they go nuts over flares, so let’s keep that in mind if we have to get past them again”

‘Hold still you two’

[I will check over MD and BT for excess green goop, and help them scrape it off.  If it seems to be eating through clothing or armour, we probably want to ditch it]

GM

RP NOTES: The creature’s ichor does not seem to have corrosive properties; it merely reeks in seafood’s special way. Injuries are superficial skin tears with very light bleeding: BT’s neck, CH:L’s leg, or minor bruising, no damage notation. Your group inspection will uncover no lasting harm was done, but some tears or rips in your clothing and protective gear speak of narrowly avoiding it. Improv as desired. Major areas affected by shrapnel seem to be restricted to the right side of CH:L’s and BT’s flak vests, but incidental rips and holes can be found pretty much anywhere. Adrenalin will start to wear off soon.

CH:L

[OOC: Is the shrapnel shell, or grenade?]

‘OK, no lasting damage it seems, but laundry detail may beg to differ later on.  I may have to rethink my ranges next time we go crab fishing with grenades though.’

‘You know, depending on the size of this place, we may be able to set up a very defendable home base.  I’m not discarding our smaller scale option of hide and seek, but if we can pull off a reasonable jump in resources, it just might work.  The school would have to stay open as a decoy with a skeleton staff and no mechs, and the Saint would be in a very precarious position.  I’ve already started my list of intel that we need to make this choice.  We only get one shot at our opening move in this war, and it needs to be a good one.’

GM

The source of the shrapnel can not be easily identified between the two possible sources, but it seems most likely to have been from the rifle rounds

CH:L

‘Hold on, is this shrapnel from rifle rounds in my jacket?  Crab shell I expected, but not rifle.  Mad Dog, do we have to send you back to the firing range for a bit of practice?  Ha!’  [CHL says while grinning broadly]

Mad Dog

Smirking as he’s already trying to figure out the best way of carrying the severed crab arm, “It might have had something to do with hitting the target that was trying to eat you.”

Speak your piece~

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