Saturday was the first free-form role-playing session for a BattleTech inspired campaign, which ran from 12.00 to 19.45 hundred hours, with breaks for refreshments. Feedback so far has been largely positive. Some surprise about how free-form the role-playing was, and how a large part of the day turned into a staff officers planning session. However, each of the players got what they asked for e.g: plan the force, work on doctrine and develop a character.
1st Leutnant Thomas Green (Dan), playing a newly graduated mechwarrior from Nagelring passing out in the top ten of his class, and that he his the great nephew of the late Lt. General Thomas Hogarth. He was pleased to be assigned a very nice Zeus, family connections don't you know.
Leutnant Alice Pawser (Susan), playing a Spirit Cat freebirth mechwarrior who had enlisted with House Steiner as part of her vision quest, and had brought a Clan second line Scorpion with her.
Finally, Leutnant Magnus Magnusson (Clive) playing the oldest Leutnant in the Lyran Armed Forces at age 61. His backstory has something to do with taking the fall for an an embarrassing operational failure when his unit was ordered by a social general to a task that they failed to complete with appalling loss of life.
The game started with Dan and Clive arriving at Camp Beaumont of the world of Bolan in the year 3134, assigned to report for duty in the "Spirit of Steiner" 1st 4444 Doctrinal RCT, which they soon discovered was a showpiece regiment run by Colonel Jamie Tasker (played by me, there again I played all the NPCs in this game), and introduce to her XO Lt. Colonel Henry J. Thompson, and Hauptmann-Kommandant Arnold Renquist. They were then orientated to the camp and went to see their mechs and meet the tech crew etc.
Susan's character had been with the regiment since its formation, so she was not initially involved with this part of the game (this was done because she was not able to come until later). When she arrived we moved on the regimental officers meeting. The agenda included introducing the command team, welcoming the new officers (so they got to say a bit about their characters), current orders, reviewing the TOE, upcoming events, and mission order warning.
I then explained that the regiment was designed around a new operational doctrine of four battalions, each with four company's, of four lances with four mechs, vehicles, or infantry platoons. This creates a regiment with 67 mechs, 67 ground vehicles, 16 battle armour and 16 infantry platoons. However, after this presentation they were all informed that doctrinal changes meant that only 8 battle armour platoons would now be allocated to the regiment.
Then they got the real bad news and found that while the TOE specified all of the above the reality was that the number of vehicles were a minimum of 20% down, and 75% down when it came to the battlemechs. I then ran a "mission task organisation" game, where the players got discuss at great length how they were going to allocate what to each battalion. As the GM, I got to play all the senior staff, and put limits on what the players could request by providing the bigger picture.
What we ended up with were four close to "Dark Age cannon" battalion combat teams, where theirs (delta) ended up serendipitously as the "recce" force of the regiment; with appropriate assets to support the players battlemechs. At this point Susan's character was in Alpha battalion, which had become the default assault battalion. This kept her on the sidelines throughout this phase of the game, which wasn't on hindsight a great way to handle her character. It wouldn't have been so bad if things had gone a little faster, but these things set their own pace.
Anyway, after the regimental officers meeting we went on to planning delta battalion's chain of command. Then to leaven the session I ran a regimental dinner to celebrate the first anniversary of the formation of the unit. The players got to schmooze with other officers (me in multiple roles) and talk about breaking news and reports of things like the Colossus class assault mechs, amongst other things. Much fun for me playing the different officers they met, and jollity getting them to think up after dinner party games to play and working out the results of same etc.
The mission orders finally came when Lt. General Winters arrived to review the regiment. A "dog and pony" show was organised for him and the regiment ran its annual Thomas Hogarth day too. We then got back to the plot to discuss the following orders:
1. Form a training cadre to Remain on Bolan at Camp Beaumont so as to bring the regiment up to full strength.
2. Prepare the regiment to deploy in the pre-emptive counter-strike that was planned to counter a supposed House Marik plan to attack across the border, which Steiner intelligence operatives had uncovered (real story in Fire at Will by Blaine Lee Pardoe).
3. Fly the Flag for a Steiner trade Delegation that was going to a world where "pirates" had been raiding on some backwater world.
The players got to review the regimental allocation of assets for these missions, and I gave them the opportunity to present a valid case for whatever mission they decided to choose. Obviously, the training cadre might be boring, or not as the case may be. The assault would require recce assets, and as the recce battalion they were probably the best fit for the trade delegation and anti-piracy operation.
The players chose the trade delegation and anti-piracy mission as being the one they wanted to go on. It was at this point in the game that their very nice Hauptmann Lester, Delta battalion CO had a live fire training accident, which meant he couldn't go. A quick transfer of Susan from Alpha battalion to make up their numbers and one step up brevet promotions all round sorted that out for our valiant heroes.
They set off to the jump point in their Aurora class drop ship "Northern Lights" with a full combat load of all the gear for their battalion. This required breaking down all the vehicles and boxing them up, and only keeping the mechs ready for immediate deployment on arrival. The journey would take six weeks, with a jump each week, with the Steiner trade delegation travelling on a private civilian drop ship, and other drop ships joining and leaving the jumpship as it made its way to the Mummerset system.
Intel briefing and stuff occurred during this phase with the players trying to get as much extra intel as they could from the trade delegation to supplement what they already knew. The information they gleaned confirmed that Mummerset had fallen off the maps during the 3rd Succession War, and only been rediscovered in 3085. A mission, at the end of the Jihad, that was hunting down Word of Blake units rediscovered the the lost world.
The Planet of Mummerset was water poor (lots of heavy metal contamination, with a population of 60 million people (approximately). Currently ruled by a democratic-monarchy, under Queen Elizabeth "Bess" Burlington with a Prime Minister and City Mayors forming a parliament. The biggest city was called Clear Water Boring, the spaceport was named Landfall and the second biggest city New Cromwell. The capital of Mummerset is called Elizabethville. Two major mining sites, North of the main population, called South Fork and North Fork were the main reason for the trade delegation's visit, as there were rich deposits of boron in the area being worked by the Royal Mumerset Boron Company. Over the last 10 years the planet had been harassed by pirate raids, which came and hit random settlements, stealing anything not bolted down and taking people.
The trade delegation were going to Mummerset to sign contracts for boron and provide industrial mechs to the Kingdom. Our heroes were there to fly the flag, look shiny and if at all possible eliminate the pirate threat. The players were informed by Alex Kelswa, head of the trade delegation, to not "screw the pooch", and that this was not an opportunity for a jingoistic military jaunt to shoot up people and lower property values. They were also informed that the "pirates' may be backed by the Circinus Federation (a former pirate kingdom become respectable over the last 100 plus years), and that ultimately House Steiner didn't want to become embroiled in a military conflict with other powers. However, the planet had to be kept in the Steiner sphere of influence for the boron trade.
After arrival deployment all went smoothly, in spite of the player's worse paranoid fears. I even railroaded them to have the infantry deploy from the dropship playing bagpipes, as the men had brought them along and were eager to impress the locals. Landfall spaceport turned out to be two landing pads and a bunch of wharehouses for boron and other goods, plus a village for the local small support staff community. So the players ended up spending most of the time organising the unloading of the dropship and over seeing the reassembly of their vehicle assets, before sending the drop ship Northern Lights to check out the jump point detector satellites, as they suspected the pirates may have suborned the system.
They then got an over view of the area around Landfall, with me drawing out a map, and getting local information about the pirate raids from the Royal Mummerset Mounted Police. No landing site had been discovered, though to be honest the locals hadn't bothered to look for one, but they did corroborate the story of twice yearly raids. The pirates took stuff and people were reported as missing, presumed taken as slaves during these raids. Each time the raid would be headed by a mech, which from photographs taken by fleeing citizens, seemed to show an Urbanmech model battlemech.
The players after seeing the rough map, came to the conclusion that they didn't have enough assets to do more than mount a ready response force of about one third of their total assets, given the area that the raids had occurred over (400,000 square miles). meantime the trade delegation was busy schmoozing Queen Bess, the Prime Minister of Mumerset, and the Mayor of Clear Water Boring, having brought industrial mechs to sweeten the trade deal. The players managed to make field expedient quarters at Landfall where the drop ship would have to be hidden, and better quarters at the Clear Water Boring Barracks where the 1st Royal Mummerset Guards were housed.
The world was pretty much what their intel had suggested it would be. One major population area of 400,000 square miles with approximately 6 to 10 million people spread across three major cities, an unknown number of minor towns and villages.
The planet military consists of the first, second and third Royal Guards regiments, which are rotated between Clear Water Boring, Elizabethville and New Cromwell, and three Mummerset militia regiments that are local to the three major cities and outlying towns and villages. The military is parceled out in small garrisons across the kingdom, with the Royal Guards being rotated through each region, thereby gaining local knowledge and flying the flag for Queen Bess.
The pirates seem to be a marginal operation at best, and all the players have to do is not muck it up. More in a month when the dread pirates will no doubt make an appearance, somewhere in the kingdom.