Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Raid on Sterling part 07

Arrival at Breuse Downport
Breuse was a high gravity (1.49G) world in the Caliburnus star system of the Saga star sector, which lay on the rim of the galaxy's Orion arm. Breuse was populated almost entirely with prospectors, who were either heavy-worlders or wore powerful, expensive exo-skeletons, and mercenaries who used the world's vast, barren wilderness for High-G training. There was only one starport on planet, a class II facility called Downport. It was little more than a large expanse of bare, laser-flattened rock, ringed with refuelling stations, repair and hanger facilities, and cargo loading docks. South of the landing area sat a small, dingy terminal building, which housed the port's offices and system controller's tower.
When The Ace of Spades landed, the port's ground crews strolled across the landing stage, in no great hurry to perform their assigned tasks. It was an hour before the portmaster showed up. His cursory examination of the ship wouldn't have found a ton of contraband if it were sitting alone in the middle of the main airlock! With a bored flick of the wrist, he signed the ship's inspection papers, leaving the crew free to wander about the port.
Mearc Sterling, along with his colleagues, Sheas Danelish and Royce Tavahi, left immediately to inform their families that they were back on planet and to find out what was happening at the Sterling Agricultural Colony.
Mearc had warned the crew that although the planet's society tended towards anarchism, newcomers who charged from their ship with their weapons locked and loaded would not receive a friendly welcome, either from the mercenary companies or from the mining companies. The fact that so much of the planet's permanent and transient population was armed with state of the art military hardware should be enough to convince them that politeness and civility ought be the order of the day. Kimberley agreed that this would be how they would act.
That afternoon, Kimberley decided to pay a visit to Pablo Kinte, the owner of Pablo's Place, to make arrangements for the delivery and payment of the cargo she was carrying on board for him. Not being used to such high gravity, she had issued her crew with gravbelts, which effectively negated the environmental effects for the wearer. There were two types of gravbelt - one for high gravity and one for low gravity environments.
Pablo's Place was a few hundred metres east of the starport terminal building, within easy sight of the ugly Downport. Kimberley remembered what Mearc had told her about Pablo and Pablo's Place.
Pablo's Place was a trading post/hotel/brothel, the closest thing that Breuse had to an established or respectable business. Its owner, Pablo Kinte, was a tough, ruthless heavy-worlder who commanded more respect and obedience than the weak-willed and overworked system governor, Diana Lewis. On the surface, Kinte appeared to cooperate with Lewis, but long-time residents of Breuse, like Mearc, knew better. Kinte was the real governor - he kept a strong hand in the management of the planet's affairs to ensure that outside authorities didn't take too close an interest in the planet. Anarchy was good for business.
Kinte was a black marketeer, dealing openly in contraband food, weapons, drugs and other "necessities". He made a tidy profit on these shady dealings. His markup could be as little as 10% for the permanent mining population, or as much as 120% for the transient mercenaries. He also bought salvaged, scavenged or stolen items at half normal price.
He was also an information broker. He would sell any gossip he heard, and a lot that he made up, to the highest bidder. He was also keenly aware of the effect a successful farming colony could have on the mining economy of Breuse, not to mention the drastic reduction in his profit margin if food became locally available. Mearc strongly suspected this was the main reason he and his companions were forced to seek help offworld - Kinte refused to sell guns to the colonists.
What Mearc did not know was that Kinte had spread the word that any mercenary company who aided the Sterling Agricultural Colony would have their supplies cut off and their access to the pleasures of his establishment denied. Kinte knew that Hoag-Warner was behind the bandit raids on the farmers but this was one piece of information he would never divulge to anyone.
Pablo was serving behind the bar when Kimberley, accompanied by Gwendoline, Celeste and Julia entered. He eyed them suspiciously. He was always wary about strangers.
"Hi," Kimberley said cheerfully with a warm, friendly smile. "I'd like to speak to Pablo Kinte, the owner of this establishment, if that's not too much trouble."
"Who's asking," Pablo asked.
"I'm Kimberley Wells, captain of The Ace of Spades."
"What do you want to speak to him about?"
"It's a business matter. I have a cargo shipment for him."
"Oh, well," he said as his mood lightened slightly, "you're speaking to him now. I'm Pablo."
"Great. I have a consignment of silver for you, sir. If you could let me know where you'd like it offloading that would be a start. And then we can discuss payment details."
"Sure. Cargo bay one. I'll be out there to inspect it in a couple of hours time. We can arrange payment after I've inspected it."
"Cool. That works for me."
"Are you staying here long?"
"I'm not sure. Could be a week. Could be longer."
"Do you have business on planet?"
"Yes, we do. We're here on the request of the Sterling Agricultural Colony."
"Really?" Pablo frowned. He tried to maintain a neutral look but Kimberley had noted the brief flash of dismay on his face.
"We're here to fix a pest control problem they're having," she smiled at him innocently.
"Do you ladies want a drink?" Pablo asked, swiftly changing the subject.
"Sure. Two beers and one orange juice." The beers were for Kimberly and Gwendoline and the fruit juice for Julia, who rarely ever drank alcohol.
At this time of day, the bar was very quiet with only a dozen patrons present. Of these, nine were mercenaries, one was a miner, one was a ship's crew member and one, the eldest, was a local resident. His name was Luke Colby and he sat alone in one corner. It was obvious from a single glance that he used to be a miner. His hands were broken and gnarled. His face was seamed and scarred and he wore the distinctive "miner's tattoo," rock dust embedded in his skin so deeply that it would never come out. He attracted Kimberley's attention when she had asked about the region where the Sterling Agricultural Colony was situated.
After plying him with a couple of drinks he opened up and told them some very interesting information. He was once a prospector, long before the cartels began mining Breuse on a grand scale. He worked out on a camp near Lake Flagon, a few hundred miles north-west of the Sterling Colony. Finally, he told the party that he had discovered a large deposit of osmium near the colony site, but a rock fall crippled him so badly that he had to retire from mining.
"There's got to be a ton o' osmium sittin' right under that colony," he said. "Jes' wish I had my good legs back, I do."
A third drink got the party the location of the old mining camp, 15 miles west of the colony.
"The vein bein' mined out by that camp played out twenty years ago," he informed them. "But I've heard stories recently that there were people living there. Mebbe they dug further in. Damn, if I only had my good legs, I'd make a fortune out there."
Nothing more useful could be gotten out of him and as he nursed his fourth drink, he continued to rant on about the glory years when he had his good legs. Kimberley thanked him kindly and nodded towards the exit.
She headed outside with her friends trailing behind.
"Do you think some big company has learned about this osmium find and wants it for themselves?" Gwendoline asked. "It could explain why they want rid of the Sterling Colony."
"I think that's a very strong possibility," Kimberley agreed.
"It's too much of a coincidence," Julia added. "Someone has to have hired those bandits to do their dirty work for them."

Inside Pablo's Place, Kinte left the bar to head for his office. He had a few important calls to make. The news that Mearc Sterling was back with offworld help was disturbing but important news and some people would pay very highly for that information. Information like this meant profit. He smiled at the thought of how much he could make.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Raid on Sterling part 06

Entering the Caliburnus Star System.
The journey time from Wellbefallen to Breuse was just under five days with The Ace of Spades travelling at FTL:16. Breuse was the nearest of eight planets to the star, Caliburnus. As soon as The Ace of Spades dropped out of hyperspace, it emerged in a busy system. Freighters and ore carriers plied the spacelanes between the planets, small, fast interceptors and attack ships engaged in mock dogfights, while drop ships staged practice drops against Breuse itself and two other planets, Churchill and Sarsen. Lynda Pelligrosso and Sharuna Randall, who were on sensor duty, were kept busy keeping track of all of the activity.
Kimberley was instructed to wait in a holding pattern until the system controllers could plot a course for her to follow. She invited Mearc Sterling to join her on the bridge. He gratefully accepted the invitation and arrived promptly, accompanied by his companion, Sheas Danelish. Also on the bridge were pilot Storm Galloway, gunners Celeste and Jeanette Grey and ship's security chief, Julia Frostorm.
The time spent in-system passed quickly and was enlivened by three incidents of note. Firstly, Lynda spotted two huge, bulky ore freighters bearing the markings of Hoag-Warner GmbH moving out-system. This in itself was of no interest to the young research scientist. But what did draw her attention were the two corvettes that were escorting the freighters. They also bore the markings of Hoag-Warner GmbH, but showed signs of recent combat: large patches of fresh unpainted steel where the armour was patched. Lynda remembered that these were the same type of ship that had waylaid The Walleran a couple of weeks ago. She relayed her findings to Kimberley.
"What do you think, Kimberley?" she asked. "Do you think they could have been the ones who attacked that ghost ship, The Walleran?"
"It's certainly possible," Kimberley agreed, "but we'd need more proof. Log it anyway."
"Already done."
"Aren't you going to go after them?" Mearc asked. "If they did kill those poor folks on The Walleran, they need to be brought to justice."
"Much as I'd like to, they're too far away and I am not going to go chasing after them," Kimberley replied with a shrug. "I'm sorry but getting you home is my number one priority right now."
"Yeah, I understand" Mearc said with a resigned sigh. "That makes sense."
The second incident involved a standard Class IV ore freighter, whose markings declared it to be the Jessica Lane, property of Trans-Sol Incorporated.
"Hey, you slowpokes!" its belligerent captain announced over the comms channel. "Move out of my way. I'm coming through."
"You didn't say the magic word," Kimberley replied, all sweetness and nice.
"Huh?" was the bewildered response.
"You didn't say please," Kimberley said. She was used to dealing with trouble makers and she knew straight away that this guy was a bully, used to getting his own way. He didn't intimidate her and she felt he needed a lesson in civility and good manners. "I'm not moving until you say please."
The Jessica Lane was moving very fast when it shot past The Ace of Spades missing it by the narrowest of margins. It had to swerve to avoid hitting the scout ship.
"Fuck you, bitch!" the captain snarled.
"Ooh, an intelligent response," Kimberley said sarcastically. "Did you learn that one at play school?"
"Outta my way, bitch," he grumbled. "I ain't got time to deal with you."
"Well, it's been a real pleasure chatting with you," Kimberley smiled. "Y'all have a nice day, y'hear."
He didn't reply. Communication was abruptly cut off.
"What an asshole!" Storm said as she shook her head in disgust.
"Sadly, there are a lot of them about," Kimberley noted.
The rest of the folk on the bridge chuckled and nodded in agreement.
The third incident was the one that caused the most concern.
"I'm picking up a sensor reading of a Class III freighter heading out-system," Sharuna announced. "She's an independent trader called the Savannah Byrche."
"Did you say the Savannah Byrche?" Mearc asked expectantly.
"Yes," Sharuna replied. "Do you know her?"
"Indeed I do," Mearc answered. "We use her to export some of our produce to clients out-system."
"That's interesting," Lynda interjected,"because according to my readings, she's running empty. Her cargo holds are empty."
"But that can't be," Sheas retorted. "She wouldn't leave empty."
"Unless..." Mearc said with a frown. "...something bad has happened at the colony!"
"Oh, my god, Mearc!" Sheas cried in concern. "What could possibly have happened?"
"I honestly don't know," Mearc said dejectedly. "We have to get down there. Quickly."
"We will," Kimberley said reassuringly. "We'll sort this out soon."
The mood on board had changed suddenly from excited anticipation to worrisome concern.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Starship Combat in N.E.W. - a Tutorial

 What follows is a detailed account of the encounter that I played recently for my The Ace of Spades Campaign featuring a short battle between The Ace of Spades scout ship and The Polecat pirate patrol ship. I'm posting this to show how starship combat works in the N.E.W. RPG... and because I was asked to. 😊 There are two ways of conducting starship combat in N.E.W., just as there are two ways of running ground-based combat. They are Theatre of the Mind or Tactical Combat. Whilst starship combat can be played out on a hex map with positions and movements carefully plotted, Theatre of the Mind can result in faster, more cinematic, albeit less tactical, starship combats. Theatre of the Mind and Tactical Combat are fundamentally very similar, with one major difference; movement and positioning are described narratively in the former rather than being based on the position of a miniature on a hex map. What I'll be describing here is Tactical Combat. Tactical Combat is especially useful if there are many ships involved, as their relative positions can be clearly seen.
A hex on a star map represents 1 kilometre. The movement phase has the pilot move the vessel a number of hexes up to its SPEED (as indicated in its stat block) on the map. Ships can accelerate or decelerate a number of hexes up to to the ship's SPEED stat. Turning one hex side  counts as one hex of movement. However, for a more realistic approach, you can use the optional Newtonian Movement rules, which is what I did. At first glance they look complicated but actually they're pretty simple to use. I'll explain it fully when it crops in the gameplay example.
The round structure for Newtonian Movement differs slightly to that of regular movement in that all movement occurs simultaneously, followed by all actions. The Newtonian round looks like this -
  1. All ships make INITIATIVE checks.
  2. All ships move in reverse INITIATIVE order (from lowest to highest starting with the ship that lost). 
  3. All ships take actions in forward INITIATIVE order (from highest to lowest starting with the ship that won)
  4. Return to Step 1.
The sequence creates more realistic movement, but allows ships which win INITIATIVE to make tactical movement decisions based on what they see their opponents doing. The movement takes place simultaneously but is resolved in reverse order to give an informational advantage to faster ships.
This turn was essentially a free turn for the pirates on The Polecat. I was working on the assumption that the crew of The Ace of Spades thought the unknown ship was not a threat when Lynda picked it up on her sensor scan, even though it was approaching them.
So, Mors Katajak, the captain of The Polecat had his gunner fire a Flamespear Photonic Torpedo at The Ace of Spades. The range was 16 hexes, which was not good for the pirates as a Flamespear only has a range increment of 4 hexes. For each range increment beyond the first it suffered a -1d6 to hit penalty and so it would incur a -3d6 penalty. The gunner had a combined Logic and Gunnery skill score of 4d6. To this he added +1d6 because of the weapon's stat bonus and a further +1d6 because he was firing a forward arc facing weapon. He also added a further +1d6 from his LUCK pool to give him a total of 7d6. However, this was reduced to 4d6 because of the -3d6 range penalty. The Ace of Spades had a Defence score of 22, so he needed to roll 22 or better on 4d6. It was possible but he only rolled a 14 so he missed. Missiles and Torpedoes move 10 hexes per turn and if they fail to reach their target in two turns they automatically miss. This missile couldn't have hit The Ace of Spades this turn because of the range, but it could have hit next turn if he'd rolled better.
As soon as the Photonic Torpedo was fired at The Ace of Spades, the crew knew they were dealing with a hostile ship and so reacted accordingly next turn.
Both pilots rolled for INITIATIVE. Mors rolled a 19 on 5d6 but Storm Galloway rolled a 32 on 8d6. The Polecat would move first. It maintained its SPEED of 6 and closed the range to 10 hexes.
This is where I made my one mistake of the combat. I should have moved The Ace of Spades next but instead I made the actions for the The Polecat. I forgot that both ships moved simultaneously. To be fair, it made no difference to the overall outcome. Seeing as this was my very first starship combat I think I did well to just make this one slip up.
A starship can have as many actions as its CLASS or the number of player characters on board, whichever is highest. The Polecat was a Class III patrol ship with no PCs on board so was limited to 3 actions. Mors and one crew member attempted to spot where The Ace of Spades was in order to give their gunner a better chance to hit. A spotter makes a Perception check against the Defence of the target ship and if successful, all allies on board gain a +1d6 bonus to hit that target until the start of the spotter's next turn. Both men had Perception scores of 4d6 and both failed to score a 22 or better. They rolled 14 and 16.
The pirate gunner fired a second Flamespear Photonic Torpedo, this time at range 10 hexes, which gave him a -2d6 penalty for the range increments. As before, he added +1d6 for the weapon stat, +1d6 for the forward firing arc and +1d6 from his LUCK pool, which gave him 5d6 to score 22 or better. He rolled a 17, so he missed again.
The Ace of Spades had a SPEED score of 9 but was only moving at SPEED 5, so could move 5 hexes this turn. However, Storm wanted to position the ship so that she was facing The Polecat. This would mean turning two hex sides so she was pointing in the right direction. This brings us to how Newtonian Movement works. Instead of each hex side turned counting as one hex of movement, the turning circle is calculated using the following formula - SPEED x CLASS divided by 10 (you just multiply the two and then use the first digit, in other words, ignore any fractions). The Ace of Spades was moving at SPEED 5 and was a CLASS IV ship so 5 times 4 equals 20, divided by 10 equals 2. It had to move 2 hexes before turning one hex side. So it moved 2 hexes forward, turned to the right one hex side, moved forward 2 hexes, turned to the right one hex side again and then moved forward 1 hex. Note that in Newtonian Movement the actual turning is free. Also note that a ship at SPEED 0 can still rotate one hex side for free.
Now the crew of The Ace of Spades got to make one action each in order of INITIATIVE from highest to lowest. With a crew of 10, I could take 10 separate actions. Yes, that is a lot! Although it had a crew of 13, only 10 could be actively on duty at any one time. I decided that Danica, Katja and Rebecca would be off duty at this time. They were more suited to ground-based actions. These were the results of the INITIATIVE rolls I made listed from highest to lowest - Storm on 32, Kimberley on 21, Julia on 20, Sharuna on 19, Celeste and Jeanette on 18, Kyran on 15, Lynda on 13, Gwendoline on 12 and Judith on 10. Any character can do anything on their INITIATIVE turn. They can fire a weapon, use sensors, do some engineering, perform medical aid, etc. The only restriction is that any given system (such as a weapon) can only be used once.
Storm used her Evasive Flying exploit, which granted her a Defence bonus equal to her AGI attribute dice pool to The Ace of Spades. This was 3d6, so she increased the ship's Defence from 22 to 25. Note that ship movement is essentially free - it does not constitute the pilot's action for that turn. So using her exploit in that way was an excellent choice.
Kimberley decide to use her action as a spotter for her two gunners, Celeste and Jeanette. She had a Perception score of 4d6 but decided to add +2d6 from her LUCK pool so that she was rolling 6d6 against The Polecat's Defence score of 22. She rolled a 22, exactly what was needed! Celeste and Jeanette would receive a +1d6 bonus to hit the pirate vessel this turn.
Julia should have gone next but there was nothing I could think of for her to do, so she did nothing. If Kimberley had failed on her spotter roll, I'd have had Julia make an attempt to spot The Polecat.
Sharuna used her action to make an electronic attack against the pirates and she targetted their forward shields, hoping to reduce them to make it easier to damage them. She had to make a LOG check against the target's Electronic Defence, which was only 16. Compare that to The Ace of Spades which had an Electronic Defence of 32. Sharuna had a LOG score of 4d6. To this she added +1d6 for the Luxury rating of The Ace of Spades plus +1d6 for her White Hat exploit to give her 6d6. She rolled a 27. This easily beat the score of 16 required to hit but was not a critical hit. I ruled that she did enough damage to reduce The Polecat's shields by 1d6 (I rolled a 3), dropping it from SOAK:7 to SOAK:4. This would prove to be decisive when Jeanette went next.
Celeste and Jeanette both rolled an 18 for their INITIATIVE. Technically, Celeste should have acted before Jeanette because in a tie, the person with the highest AGI attribute goes first. Celeste had an AGI attribute of 10, whereas Jeanette's was only 6. However, Kimberley ordered that Jeanette fire first. Guns use the INT dice pool plus Gunnery skill to hit, whereas missiles use the LOG dice pool plus Gunnery skill. Jeanette had dice pools of 3d6 in both, so started with 6d6. To this she added +1d6 for the Redsword Phaser Beam stats, +1d6 for firing a forward arc weapon, +1d6 for the ship's Luxury rating and +1d6 for the spotter bonus from Kimberley. The range to The Polecat was 7 hexes, which put it at short range for this weapon. So there was no penalty for the range increment. She rolled 10d6 against The Polecat's Defence of 22 and scored a 36 - a critical hit with three sixes. The Redsword did 5d6 heat damage and I rolled a 22. From this, The Polecat was able to SOAK 4 for its forward shields but the 18 that penetrated was exactly enough to reduce its Superstructure score of 18 to 0. That would have dire consequences, as we will see. In addition, it also suffered 1d6 casualties. I rolled a 5 and split them as 2 crew dead and 3 troopers dead. Plus, I rolled a critical hit. Using the rules from the Starship Combat FAQ document, I rolled 3d6 to determine the effect of the critical hit. I rolled a 10, which resulted in a Helm hit, meaning that The Polecat could not turn any more.
Celeste did not act this turn. Celeste would have fired a missile at The Polecat if Kimberley hadn't ordered her to hold fire.
Kyran increased the power of the forward shields of The Ace of Spades from 9 to 11 by using her Reinforce Shield exploit.
Lynda made a sensor scan to determine the effects of the damage The Polecat suffered. This was a LOG check plus Computers skill, which gave her 6d6, plus +1d6 for the sensors stats, plus +1d6 for the Luxury rating of The Ace of Spades for a total of 8d6. I rolled a 27 for her, which succeeded. She relayed the damage report to Kimberley.
Gwendoline and Judith stood by, ready to treat any casualties The Ace of Spades may have suffered. Fortunately their services were not required.
A ship reduced to 0 Superstructure must start a fast (4-6) countdown from a dice pool equal to its CLASS, after which it explodes, killing everybody on board. The time taken by the countdown period can be used to evacuate the ship. The Polecat, being a Class III patrol ship had a dice pool of 3d6. For every 4, 5 or 6 rolled, it would lose 1d6 from its dice pool. Once the dice pool reached 0, the ship would explode. On this turn I rolled 5, 4 and 1. That was bad news for the pirates! On the next turn, its dice pool would only be 1d6.
I didn't bother rolling INITIATIVE this turn as there was nothing The Polecat could do. It was dead. It came to a full stop and so did The Ace of Spades. I gave the remaining crew of the pirate vessel a chance to get away via the ship's escape pods. I had each person make a LUCK Routine (10) roll on 3d6 to see if they reached an escape pod this turn. Two crew members and four troopers succeeded. Mors Katajak, the pirate captain, was one of the five people who failed to reach an escape pod. For the countdown check I rolled a 6, which reduced the dice pool down to zero. The Polecat exploded doing damage equal to the power of all of its engines. This was 18 for its subluminal Ion engine and 16 for its hyperdrive engine for a total of 34. The damage was reduced by 50% for each hex of distance from the centre of the explosion - thus 17 at 1 hex range, 8 at 2 hexes range, 4 at 3 hexes range, 2 at 4 hexes range and 1 at 5 hexes range. The Ace of Spades was 7 hexes away so suffered no damage from the explosion.
That ended the combat. For me, this was very much a learning experience. I don't know why, but I have always avoided starship combat in previous sci-fi role-playing games. This time, however, I knew I wanted to include it as part of my campaign. The rules really appealed to me as soon as I'd read them and so I was keen to try them out as soon as possible. Yes, this was a very one-sided fight as The Polecat was totally outclassed by The Ace of Spades. I accept that, but that was how it was written in the scenario. The PCs were supposed to win, otherwise it would have been a very short scenario. But for an introduction to starship combat it served its purpose extremely well and above all, it whetted my appetite for more.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Raid on Sterling part 05

The Polecat Pounces
"That's a Flamespear Photonic Torpedo they've launched," Storm announced. "It does not have a lock on us. I repeat, it does not have a lock on us. If we maintain this course it will miss."
"That's a relief," Kimberley gratefully said as she sat alongside Storm in the co-pilot's seat. Kimberley was the captain of  The Ace of Spades Class IV scout ship but Storm was a much better pilot than her. Storm was an ex-UFP ace pilot with considerable flight and combat experience.
"Kimberley to all crew," Kimberley said as she opened a ship-wide communications, "Battle stations, battle stations! We are under attack by a hostile ship. Prepare for combat."
"Are we going to engage them?" Jeanette asked from her gunnery console.
"Hell, yeah!" Kimberley replied grimly. "We'll teach those bastards not to mess with us."
"Good," Jeanette acknowledged with a wry smile. She was looking forward to a bit of action.
The enemy vessel was called The Polecat, a Class III patrol ship crewed by a small group of pirates led by Mors Katajak. He was under instructions to stop Mearc Sterling from returning to Breuse. Although much smaller than The Ace of Spades, he was confident The Polecat could do enough damage to cripple her and allow his team to board and capture Mearc and his two colleagues. Mors was in command of a crew of six and he had a section of ten pirate troopers ready for boarding actions.
He closed the distance to The Ace of Spades and ordered his gunner to launch a second Photonic Torpedo at it. Unfortunately for him, it also failed to achieve a lock on and it narrowly shot past its target.
"Damn and blast!" he cursed. "Next time you won't be so lucky!"
Storm maintained the speed of The Ace of Spades at 5,000km, whilst turning the ship to face The Polecat, jinking all the way to make her a harder target to hit.
Kimberley left the manoeuvring to her more skilled colleague and acted as a spotter for Jeanette and Celeste who were manning the ship's Redsword Phaser Beam and Stingbird Cluster Missile Launcher respectively.
"I have target acquisition data for you, Jeanette and Celeste," she said. "I'm sending it to your controls now."
"Don't fire just yet," Sharuna warned. "Let me try and weaken their shields first."
Her computer hacking skills were the main reason that Kimberley had hired her. Her nimble fingers danced across her keyboard as she made an electronic attack against The Polecat. Seconds later she let out a triumphant cry. "YES! That's going to hurt him a lot. I've reduced his forward shield output by half. Now fry that son-of-a-bitch!"
"Way to go, girl," Jeanette complimented the young hacker. "Now let's show those scum just what we can do."
By now the two ships were at short range for The Ace of Spades' twin weapon systems. Jeanette made sure that her target was in the centre of her cross-hairs before pressing the firing button. The Redsword Phaser Beam shot out with devastating accuracy and power. It punched right through The Polecat's forward bulkhead, melting metal and crippling the bridge as it pierced the pirate vessel, causing further catastrophic damage. Two crew members and three troopers were killed instantly. Mors Katajak had no choice but to issue the order that every captain dreaded, "Abandon ship! Abandon ship!"
"Do you want me to finish them off, Kimberley?" Celeste asked. Her finger hovered expectantly over the firing button of the missile control system.
"No, there's no need, Celeste," Kimberley replied. "They're well and truly screwed. Look, they're launching escape pods."
Moments later The Polecat was engulfed in a massive explosion as its power plant reached critical mass. Only six escape pods were launched. Two crew members, neither of whom was Mors Katajak, and four troopers were the sole survivors.
"What do you want to do about those escape pods?" Storm asked.
"We leave 'em," Kimberley answered, "We don't have the capacity to rescue them all. Besides which, this is one of the major entry points into the Saga star sector. Someone will be along soon enough. They can deal with them."
"Fair enough," Storm said, not bothered either way.
"Aren't you at all curious to know who they were?" Mearc asked, "Or why they attacked us?"
"Given what happened to The Walleran, I strongly suspect they were from the same group who attacked her," Kimberley replied. "More than likely they were mercenaries or pirates looking to stop you from returning home."
"Oh!" was all Mearc could say. He had the look of a very worried man as he headed back to his quarters.

(Note. As I mentioned before this was the first ever starship combat I have played in my life! I read and re-read the rules until I was sure I was familiar with them before playing this brief encounter. The outcome was never in any doubt - The Ace of Spades was much better than The Polecat in almost every respect. But, the game went well and it certainly was a lot of fun to play. Now that I have tried starship combat once it won't be the last time. There was much I liked about the rules. They are very much geared towards role-playing, with all of the crew being allowed to get in on the action, if they wanted to. I did wonder about including any rules references in my narrative but in the end decided to leave them all out. The story is more important than the dice rolls or games mechanics. If anyone is interested in how starship combat works in N.E.W. I could certainly do a tutorial. I made extensive notes of this encounter including every dice roll I made. Let me know if it's something you'd want to read. My feeling is that it would have little appeal unless you're a newcomer to the rules system.)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Raid on Sterling NPCs

I'm taking a short break from my The Ace of Spades Campaign, whilst I sort out the narrative and photos for my first ever starship combat. However, I'm still sticking with the Raid on Sterling scenario by showcasing the main NPCs that feature in it. Three of them have been seen already and the other two have been mentioned in the text.
At the far left is Mearc Sterling. Mearc is an unflappable human farmer who loves animals. He was tasked by his father to seek out a group of mercenaries to help defend his colony against bandit raiders. It was he who hired Kimberley and the crew of The Ace of Spades. This figure, which I bought many years ago, is a Spacelords Civilian and is currently available from Moonraker Miniatures, (see here - )
Next up is Royce Tavahi. Royce is a brawny human scout who distrusts outsiders almost to the point of paranoia. Royce got into trouble right from the start when he pointed a gun at Julia - bad move! He means well but too often he acts before he thinks. His figure is one of four Male Crazies and Cultists produced by Acheson Creations (see here - )
The third person who travelled with Mearc and Royce to find aid was Sheas Danelish. She is a brilliant human craftswoman who often mistakes simple courtesy for chauvinism.The figure I used for Sheas is really old, bought in the 1980's, and was made by Asgard Miniatures, sadly now long out of production.
The two figures to the right of the group have been mentioned but not met yet. Second from the right is Alfred Sterling, the leader of the Sterling Agricultural Colony and the father of Mearc. He is an inspiring human farmer who cleans his nails with his pocket knife when he is bored. Alfred is a good man who just wants to make an honest living and to be left in peace. His figure was one of the old West End Games Star Wars miniatures, also long out of production. The figure was a senator or an ambassador. I added his beard and moustache to make him look more like the illustration of Alfred Sterling in the scenario book.
Finally, is Pablo Kinte, who is expecting a delivery of silver sheets. Pablo is a massive human bar owner who is always looking for a profit. Pablo is an important person on Breuse and although nominally, a woman called Diana Lewis is the official governor of Breuse, most folk know that it is Pablo who is the true ruler. He could prove to be a useful ally to the party or a dangerous enemy. The figure of Pablo is one of my unique sculpts, made many years ago. He fit the bill perfectly for what I was looking for to represent Pablo.
I'm hoping to get back to the narrative campaign in my next post.