Saturday Seed ~ 77 (Mechwarrior)

This week’s seed is for A Time of War and is meant to combine the dramatic tensions of a colleague’s brush with debilitating stress, with the challenge of a rescue operation.

The seed

This seed is planted in the cold and infertile soil of space, and will spring to life around a unit of characters in transit by jumpship from one dangerous assignment to another. Mid-trip, while recharging the K-F drive in a system used for little but heavy ore mining on asteroids, a close member of the unit suddenly and  unexpectedly cracks and seeks escape – endangering the ship and crew in the process.

Planting the seed

In order to make use of this small plot development, you will need a group of characters able to operate in Zero-G, at a low point in overall unit morale, moving from one hard campaign to one the soldiers feel may be even worse. Be they mercs, regular forces, first responders, techs or what-have-you is of no consequence. This write-up will be from the point of view that the characters are mechwarriors, but could work just as well with aerospace pilots, marines, combat medics, intelligence operatives, salvage crews, and so on.

To make this more effective, of course, having the characters know a few of the NPCs on a social level cannot be emphasized enough. Several sessions before you plan to use this scenario, ensure that each character has a good sense of the mechwarriors in the other lances, and do your best to initiate friendly rivalries, poker games, favor trading, and so on. Give everyone names. One in particular, named Sievert Stines in this write-up, should come across as hard-boiled, cool under fire, solid, and the sort you want watching your six when the fur starts flying.

Have the characters become increasingly aware of the problem of morale across the entire unit. Emphasize the challenges they have been overcoming and the negatives that are starting to seem bigger and bigger in the eyes of others in the unit. When the jumpship carrying the unit’s dropships stops to recharge in a blighted and dark system essentially devoid of life apart from a derelict recharging station and played out asteroid mines, have Sievert Stines snap.

The Details

Crewman Stines has severe emotional problems, and has been getting along on willpower and illicit narcotics for far too long. Underneath his veneer of ‘been there, killed that’ combat cool, he is a splintered mess of psychoses waiting for the right type of stress to push him over the edge.

At breakfast today, an off-hand comment from a member of a docking crew hit just the right spot in just the right way, to start a chain reaction of fearful and negative thinking which ends up in Stines in his mech seeking to get off the ship. Interviews with the crew may reveal a lot of conflicting information, but it should not be too hard to ascertain that just before he climbed aboard his mech and started to seek a way out of the mech bay, he overheard a conversation wherein one tech said to another tech, “It’s like a tomb – nothing living belongs in this system.”

Depending on the specialties of your characters, they will become involved with this at different times, depending on what you would like to accomplish with the scenario. You might have them:

  • stumble across Stines on his way to his mech and intuit that something is wrong. this in turn may lead to a partial success, and a later ramping of tensions as he escapes from medical attention and makes another attempt to get in his mech and get off the ship.
  • be called or be present to deal with Stines in his mech in the mech bay of the dropship
  • be called to deal with the mech bay after Stines has gotten out
  • be called to deal with Stines and his mech as he picks his way across the hull of the dropship and/or jumpship
  • be called on to recover Stines and/or his mech from space

What’s going on

Stines, strung out and stressed out, has been hallucinating from lack of sleep, the drugs he takes, and a Dark Secret which could – if it gets out in this scenario – provide lots of fun and profit in a future mission. His delusional mind has latched onto the idea that this system is a place fit only for the dead, and that in many cases, being dead is better than suffering. He is doing his best to get into the tomb this system now represents to him as swiftly as possible.

Various elements of command will want conflicting courses of action taken, to either prevent a loss of a valuable man and machine, or to prevent damage to irreplaceable ships and equipment. The characters should find themselves positioned between these opposing forces, and have to use their wits, training, and positions to achieve a result that they can live with.

Stines will of course need a lot of help, and if rescued might never recover (depending on the mood of your campaign).

This scenario should allow you to create tense and exciting situations which encourage evocative roleplaying and heavy skill and dice use throughout, without ever needing to enter combat. Use of the environmental, boarding, ground units in space, and Zero-G effects rules in Strategic Operations and A Time of War will give you lots of mechanical and emotional drama to play with and call on to help the tale take shape.


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