Exiles #14 Ballista

I missed the era where Clint Barton was Goliath.  In fact, I didn’t even know it was a thing until long after it was over and I saw it on a t-shirt.  I like the legacies in Marvel, like all the people who’ve been subjected to Pym particles and all the people who’ve wielded a version of Mjolnir so I was drawn to the idea of Clint as Goliath.  Plus, being able to turn giant is one of my favorite powers.

Clint has also been one of my favorite Avengers.  I was reading West Coast Avengers and Solo Avengers when I wasn’t reading the Avengers.  I always really liked Clint’s relationship with Bobbi Morse.  I’m stoked about the possibility of seeing them together in the cinematic universe.  It seems too much to ask that it will be in Age of Ultron but maybe Clint can drop in on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Anyway, it didn’t take me long to wonder why Clint didn’t stick with the growth formula AND use his bow.  Hank Pym made an entire gimmick of carrying around shrunken stuff in his pockets when he was part of the West Coast Avengers.  How much more awesome would a bow be if it was giant and shooting giant arrows?  From there, it was a piece of cake coming up with a codename.  At least, given my moderate knowledge of medieval siege engines.

So, I give you, Ballista…

Ballista

Clint Barton

Fighting:     GD

Agility:      RM

Strength:     GD

Endurance: EX

Reason:       TY

Intuition:     GD

Psyche:       TY

Health:        70

Karma:       22

Resources:   GD

Popularity: 45

Powers:

Enhanced Vision: Remarkable Eyesight.

Growth: Ballista’s power rank is Monstrous but his strength can only reach Amazing. While at any size above Excellent his arrows gain an extra area of range and a +1CS to damage.

Equipment:

Bow: This special bow enables him to fire arrows at a range of 7 areas. It has been bathed in Pym particles and grows with Ballista as well as increasing the size of any arrows fired from it when it is enlarged.

Quiver: 36-shaft capacity

Harness: 36 arrowheads in special quick-release cases.

Arrowheads: All have a range of 7 areas except where noted below. Each arrowhead can be removed from its case and mounted on a shaft in 2 seconds.

          Acid: Monstrous damage; range 3 areas

          Bola: Remarkable entangling attack

          Boomerang: computerized, self-returning arrowhead; may be added to

other arrowheads.

          Cable: 2 area-long cable of Incredible Material

          Electrical: Amazing damage; range 5 areas.

          Explosive: Amazing damage

          Flare: Good intensity light in 2 area radius; Amazing damage to target

Magnetic: Incredible adherence. May carry cable or another arrowhead.

Net: Incredible entanglement

Putty: Remarkable adherence to rough surfaces; may be used to stop exposed

machinery

Rocket: boosts range by 1 area; may be added to other arrowheads.

Siren: Excellent intensity noise in each area. Endurance Feat or be Stunned 1-10 turns.

Smoke: 1area coverage

Suction Cup: Remarkable adherence to smooth surfaces

Tear Gas: 1 area coverage

Thermal: Remarkable heat damage

Vibration: Excellent damage

Talents: Ballista has the Weapons Specialist talent with the bow. He has Excellent Reason in designing and building new arrowheads. He is knowledgeable in circus lore.

Contacts: Avengers

Background: Clint Barton was the younger of two sons of a small business proprietor and his wife. His parents were killed in a car accident when he was 8 and he and his brother were placed in a state orphanage. When he was 14, he and his brother Barney ran away from the institute to join a traveling carnival.

Clint apprenticed himself to the carnival’s star attraction, a mysterious rogue known only as the Swordsman. Despite his own choice of weapons, he recognized Clint’s natural flair for archery and tutored him in that art.

Clint practiced archery for 8 hours a day, every day for 4 years. He became good enough to perform professionally in the carnival as a trick shooter under the name of Hawkeye the Marksman.

When he was 18, he accidentally discovered that his mentor was stealing from the carnival management. When he refused to become his partner in crime, the Swordsman chased him up onto a tightrope then cut it out from under him. The Swordsman left him for dead and fled from the carnival.

Barney found his injured brother and had him rushed to the hospital. Though it took a full year, he eventually recovered from the compound fractures to his legs and resumed his act.

One day, Clint witnessed Iron Man in action and decided to emulate him by donning a colorful costume and using his archery skills to battle crime. However, in his first public appearance as a masked hero, Hawkeye was mistaken for a thief and found himself in battle with Iron Man. Weeks later, his attraction for the Russian spy Black Widow led him to commit further acts on the wrong side of the law.  However, Iron Man soon learned of Hawkeye’s true nature and sponsored him for Avengers membership.

Hawkeye has been an active member of the Avengers for years, with his archery skills augmenting the superhuman powers of his associates. For a short time, Barton abandoned his Hawkeye identity, using Henry Pym’s growth serum to take on the mantle of Goliath when the good doctor discarded it. This did not last long and he returned to his Hawkeye identity.

Barton has frequently taken extended leaves of absence from the Avengers in attempts to establish an adventuring career for himself outside of the group. He even served a stint as security chief for Cross Technological Enterprises. During another sabbatical from the Avengers, Hawkeye met, fell in love with and married Barbara “Bobbi” Morse, a fellow crime fighter who used the costumed identity of the Unicorn.

When they returned, Hawkeye was appointed chairman of the West Coast branch of the Avengers. Seeking a way to increase the power and effectiveness of the team, Barton began using Pym’s growth serum again at the suggestion of Morse. He did not discard his bow, though continuing to use it even in his increased size. Taking on the name “Ballista,” he continued as leader of the West Coast Avengers.

Continued exposure to Pym Particles made it ever more difficult for Ballista to return to his normal size and, eventually, the smallest he could become was 10’ tall. This put a strain on his relationship with Bobbi, not least of which because he blamed her for making the suggestion, in the first place.

Eventually, the friction between the pair became so great that they separated and Morse quit the team. Unicorn continued to adventure and Ballista continued to go on solo adventures and the two intersected when Judge, Jury and X-cutioner attempted to alter the timeline.

The Exiles were also involved, desperately trying to stop the villains from accidentally destabilizing their reality and destroying it. Between the Exiles and the reunited Ballista and Unicorn, they were able to stop Judge, Jury and X-cutioner but the two heroes native to the dimension were left in an unstable state. They were forced to join the Exiles on otherworld to avoid their altered dimensional resonances from rippling out and finishing the work the villains began.

Though relations between the two are still strained, neither can deny the call of adventure and both have become Exiles.

Lightning Storm APC

I dunno…I just started thinking about it and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I had worked it out and written it up.  It should fit in any sci-fi campaign.  Maybe even mine.  I’m considering reworking my Ravnivori campaign as a straight space empire game instead of a magic in space empire game.  The different species would be from different planets and then I wouldn’t have to explain how space stuff works.  Anyway…enjoy.

The 903rd Armored Cavalry “Space Cowboys” are a prime example of a unit adapting to a piece of technology that was originally designed for the unit. That piece of technology is the KTN-SRN Lightning Storm Halftrack APC.

When the Unified Military decided to retire the venerable Bradford APC, they offered the contract to replace the vehicle to several civilian contractors. A heated competition followed with all the participants vying for the lead. Accusations of industrial espionage and sabotage flew before the final decision was made.

In the end, the newly formed military branch of Perusala Motorworks proved to have the winning design. Detractors of the KTN-SRN “Lightning Storm” called it a perfect storm of compromises. Proponents claim this is its strength. And, in some ways both views are true.

The propulsion system is a perfect example of these compromises. The half track system is faster than a fully tracked drive train but not as capable of negotiating difficult terrain. Likewise, it is able to handle terrain that a fully wheeled system cannot but is not as fast as that would be. A hover system would be most capable of dealing with both difficult terrain and providing a great deal of speed but is both much more expensive and unreliable than either tracked or wheeled systems. All of these other drive trains were produced and offered up by other companies and discarded in favor of the Perusala design because of its combination of speed, durability and terrain capabilities.

The interior and other systems of the Lightning Storm are equally unambitious. Knowing that they were new to the field of military machines, Perusala over-engineered everything without attempting anything too inspired. In fact, the design team was as surprised as anyone when they won the contract.

The only really interesting system was the photovoltaic shell. The Lightning Storm is entirely electric and the energy for these batteries is provided by the solar panels that literally cover its surface. These panels can be shifted so that they are non-reflective, though also non-productive, both from a switch inside the cockpit and manually outside should that fail. While sturdy, they often suffer damage quickly in combat, though the armor plating underneath means that the vehicle itself is more durable. They are highly modular and easy to replace in the field and several spares are standard issue with each Lightning Storm. An additional, fold out solar pad can be used to augment energy intake should too many cells be destroyed.

The panels also have batteries but the internal batteries have a 72 hour charge off the assembly line. With a normal day/night cycle, a Lightning Storm can operate indefinitely. Even if it loses 35% of its cells or is in an environment that is 65% dark compared to light cycles, the Lightning Storm can operate indefinitely.

But those very design choices were exactly what the Unified Military was looking for. The Lightning Storm is incredibly reliable, cheap to produce and hard to stop, making it an almost perfect vehicle for the task of carrying troops into battle and moving them around hostile territory.

Nonetheless, the soldiers using the Lightning Storm were unimpressed when it was rolled out, generally comparing it to all the more complex, fancier options that were provided for the contest.

The reliability of the vehicle slowly won them over, though as did the willingness of the engineering team to listen to and utilize suggestions from the soldiers who were using it. Each successive version of the Lightning Storm had small adaptations provided by the soldiers.

But it was the first long campaign run by the 903rd Armored Cavalry that really solidified the status of the Lightning Storm as a beloved combat vehicle. The addition of the Thunder as both a scout vehicle and a squad support exoskeleton and the Zephyr as a small transport vehicle had already taken place. The Rain module had just been rolled out, as well.

The 903rd quickly adapted to these additions and started fielding their augmented squads, with the seats inside the APC’s used by 10 troops and an additional 2 soldiers riding the Thunders.

The fact that each 12 soldier squad plus drivers could operate independently for weeks at a time became invaluable when the 903rd was stranded by an orbital blockade. For months resupplies were few and far between and it was not long before the Lightning Storms were almost the only UM vehicles in operation.

The 903rd’s Standard Operating Procedure was quickly perfected and they made lightning fast strikes on key locations before disappearing again. Because a group of squads could set up camp essentially anywhere and did not need a centralized headquarters, the enemy was incapable of predicting where they would go after each attack. It was almost as easy for these raiders to plunge deeper behind enemy lines or remain in no man’s land as it was for them to retreat back to the “safety” of their own holdings.

The jury rigged prototypes for the Tornado, Whirlwind and Zeus modules were created during this engagement as well. An engineering team from Perusala Motorworks was embedded with the 903rd doing field research on ways to improve the design when the unit was trapped on planet. Though the officers and soldiers of the Space Cowboys tried to keep them out of the fighting, there was really no safe place. Rather than hiding, the engineers went to work, tackling the biggest problem the 903rd was facing, namely that they were outgunned.

While none of the enemy infantry could stand up to the 903rd forces in a one on one fight and the UM forces were often able to strike with the element of surprise, the single laser gun that served as the only integrated defense weapon on the Lightning Storm was no match for armored or air units. Battles quickly became predictable with the UM forces winning any that allowed them to face off against enemy infantry and the enemy winning anything that forced them to face tanks or aircraft.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there was plenty of salvage around. The Perusala crew went to work adapting the weapons and communications systems from other vehicles to the Rain modules. While still no match for a tank or aircraft in a one on one fight, they were able to use wolf pack tactics and ambushes to even up the odds.

In addition to the three modules that were eventually adapted from the Rain a fourth was created. The Cyclone mounted one of the pieces of heavy artillery used for long range bombardments. This configuration was abandoned after the engagement because the weight and cumbersome nature of the weapon had a unacceptable impact on the mobility of the APC.

It was during this extended engagement that the weapons systems were added to the Zephyrs, as well. Though not designed for combat, the Zephyrs were able to take the augmented squads from 12 members to 13 with 3 heavy weapons involved.

The guerilla actions of the 903rd were instrumental in ending the conflict as the enemy command eventually gave up the blockade because it was relatively ineffective and the resources could be better used elsewhere.

After seeing how effective the unit configuration was, several other divisions of the UM adopted it. The augmented squad is now the standard unit in most UM Infantry, Mobile Infantry and Armored Calvary divisions.

A standard compliment is 5 Lightning Storms. This generally includes a Zeus, a Rain and the remaining 3 modules being divided between Tornados and Whirlwind in whatever combination best suites their mission role. These are often augmented by a pair of B6P Wraith hover tanks for additional firepower. The Rain is generally in cargo configuration with all space taken up with supplies and no troops. This translates to 4 augmented squads equaling 48 troops plus the drivers and gunners of each APC plus the 2 man command unit for a total of 60 soldiers. Each Lightning Storm also has a pair of Thunders assigned for a total of 10 and a Zephyr each for a total of 5. The extra Thunders and Zephyr from the cargo configured Lightning Storm are generally split between three of the squads from the other transports, though, rarely, they form their own small squad that is used as support for the others as needed. This puts an augmented troop at 65 total fighting men with 10 exoskeletons. Depending on the combination of Tornados and Whirlwinds in the unit and how many spare missiles are required in combat operations this allows the unit to operate independently in the field for between a month and 6 weeks.

Although not used by the 903rd, this compliment is often used by other units as a way to deploy their commandos. One or two of the augmented squads is a special forces unit while the others play more of a support and resupply role. These supporting units serve as a sort of mobile base for the commandos, often deploying near or behind enemy lines, allowing the special forces team to strike deeper into enemy territory, either on reconnaissance or sabotage missions.

KTN-SRN Lightning Storm Halftrack APC

Solar/battery powered, reliable and relatively tough, the Lightning Storm is an all terrain armored personnel carrier that has become the workhorse of the Unified Military. Though somewhat Spartan in its amenities, the Lightning Storm has a well deserved reputation for being easy to repair in the field. It can continue to operate after losing a wheel (or two or even a track if a module is attached.) The appearance of the solar panels can be digitally altered for a variety of camouflage effects.

ACC/TS: 15/30  Toughness: 45/40/35(25/20/15) Crew: 2+10      Notes: 4WD, Heavy Armor, Improved Stabilizer, Sloped Armor

20MGW Pulse Laser in hull Range: 75/150/300 Damage: 3d6+2 RoF 3 AP 10 Heavy Weapon, LBT

KTN-SRN-A Rain Supply Module

As useful and durable as the Lightning Storm was on its own, its capacity for independent operations was somewhat limited by the fact that it was limited in the amount of supplies it could carry for the squad using it. To address this issue, the Perusala Motorworks team created the Rain Supply Module.

Little more than a simple cargo container on two wheels, the Rain nonetheless attaches directly to the Lightning Storm and, thanks to the connection systems integrates fully with the Lightning Storm. The wheels turn in conjunction with the forward wheels, keeping the turn radius of the vehicle almost the same. Gyroscopes in the system allow it to balance in place so that it can be swapped between Lightning Storms.

A Rain module generally contains 4 weeks of supplies for a standard squad and a Zephyr squad support robot.

KTN-ZFY Zephyr Squad Support Robot

Originally nothing more than a simple 4 legged platform with a crude humanoid torso attached, the Zephyr looks a bit like a robotic centaur.

Agility: d6 Smarts: d4 Spirit: d6 Strength: d12+2 Vigor: d10

Skills: Fighting: d6, Notice: d6, Shooting d6

Pace: 6 Parry: 5 Toughness: 13(3)

Armor Plating: Armor +3

Brawny: Zephyrs are designed as pack machines and can carry twice the weight their strength would normally indicate.

Integrated Weapon: Repeating LaserRange: 50/100/200 Damage: 2d10 RoF 3   Notes: AP4 HW

Size: +3

KTN-SRN-B Tornado Dual-Laser Turret Module

Originally created during the famous engagement where the 903rd established modern military doctrine involving the Tornado began as nothing more than a primitive turret added to a rain module with all the extra power supply and cabling included. The first versions were far from standardized and were made up of whatever guns the Perusala engineers could cannibalize from their surroundings.

They realized just how effective the design was, though and after the conflict, continued to develop the system. A number of prototypes were developed but in the end, it proved most cost effective and efficient to utilize the same gun that was already mounted in the hull of the Lightning Storm. They linked a pair of these guns together in the turret along with an advanced targeting system. This combination allows it to lay down a withering storm of fire with impressive accuracy. Though not very effective against most armored vehicles, the Tornado can be devastating against troops and troop support exoskeletons and vehicles.

Though the cabling and augmented power supply necessary to keep the guns functioning properly take up a significant portion of space in the Rain module, there remains enough room for a fortnight’s worth of supplies for the squad utilizing the vehicle.

Range: 75/150/300 Damage: 3d6+2 RoF: 5    AP: 10      Notes: +1 Shooting, Heavy Weapon, 2 weeks of supplies for standard squad and a Zephyr squad Support robot in storage compartment.

KTN-SRN-C Whirlwind Missile Launcher Module

Developed alongside and at the same time and for the same reasons as the Tornado, the Whirlwind module system was created because the Perusala engineers found themselves with a surplus of missile launcher systems with no functioning vehicles to transport them. In some ways better than the Tornado because they packed more of a punch against armor the Whirlwind was, in other ways worse. After all, while there were plenty of launchers, there were not plenty of missiles. They were thus less useful than the limitless supply of ammunition available to the laser system of the Tornado.

That became less of an issue as the Perusala Motorworks team continued its development after the conflict. They settled on a medium sized missile system that gives the weapon the ability to take out all but the most heavily armored vehicles. While Unified Military forces are able to supply themselves with an abundance of ordinance, many units prefer the Tornado to the Whirlwind for the simple fact that the number of missiles that must be carried to engage in any long term engagement take up the space normally allocated to other supplies. This means that they can either only go on short deployments or must travel with at least one other Lightning Storm carrying extra supplies.

For all that, Whirlwinds are invaluable in any exchanges involving enemy aircraft or armor, especially if no Unified Military forces of those types are available as support.

Range: 100/200/400 Damage: 4d6 RoF 3 Shots: 30 Notes: AP100 MBT HW 60, additional missiles and a Zephyr squad support robot in storage compartment.

KTN-SRN-D Zeus

After developing the modules that would go on to be the Whirlwind and Tornados, the Perusala Motorworks team realized that the space provided by the Rain module could be put to a number of different uses. One of the most useful is a Lightning Storm that has been gutted and the entirety of the interior fitted out with a mobile field hospital. Perhaps the most unique was turning it into a small kitchen to serve as a mobile mess hall. There were several iterations that had various sensor and communications suites and while a few of these still see use, the standardized form became the Zeus module.

Consisting of a radar and communications array coupled with an advanced tactical computer system, the Zeus allows a 5 man command squad provide leadership for dozens of units over hundreds of miles while maintaining contact with central command, whether on planet or off.

Much like the Whirlwind, the Zeus configuration leaves little room for supplies. This is rarely a problem as Lightning Storm in Zeus configuration usually either has a short squad consisting only of the command group and the space normally taken up by the other five men is used for supplies, or, more commonly, it is part of a troop that includes one or more Rain modules. This has lead to any number of jokes by the enlisted men about the need of their officers to be spoiled and to leave the real work to the soldiers.

Though it has little in the way of supplies, the Zeus still has a bay for a Zephyr and these are almost always requisitioned and used for guard/defense purposes.

KTN-KRD Thunder Transformable Track Trike

The Thunder was the second project Perusala Motorworks created under their military division. Having seen some success with the half track design, they set out to utilize the same propulsion system for a smaller, faster, scouting vehicle. The first design was a two man vehicle that was little more than a shrunk down version of the Lightning Storm.

This continued to evolve and shrink until they settled on a one man vehicle. Even with the small size and high mobility intrinsic in the design, there were places that the Thunder could not go. Attempts to make it even smaller so that it could accompany the units it was supporting proved to be a dead end as it invariably sacrificed speed or durability.

They took a side path, though, delving into research into exoskeleton designs. They had the power supply and weapons in place, already so they tried something fairly radical, incorporating the servos and gyros necessary as well as the shifting design to make it possible to transform the trike into an exoskeleton.

The design was not without its flaws, though and the UM rejected the first few offerings. Eventually, the worst of the kinks were worked out, though and the adoption of the Thunder was facilitated by the fact that Perusala Motorworks threw in a pair for each Lightning Storm for an entire shipment of 20.

Though dubious, the UM officials could not reject free technology so gave them a try. Perusala’s reputation continued to rise as the Thunder proved as reliable and durable as the Lightning Storm did. They were even more popular as Perusala ensured they were fully integrated with the APC’s, complete with storage compartments in later versions for the scout trikes.

Although most associated with the Lightning Storms, the Thunders have proved so popular that they are used even independently of them. Most military police units include them for patrol purposes, for example and many airborne units include some as they are small and light enough to be dropped with the troops and serve as heavy support.

ACC/TS: 15/32  Toughness: 9(3) Crew: 1+1 Notes: 4WD, Stabilizer, Transformable

15MGW Repeating LaserRange: 50/100/200 Damage: 2d10 RoF 3   Notes: AP4 HW

Or

Missile LauncherRange: 100/200/400 Damage: 4d6 RoF 1 Shots: 6 Notes: AP100 MBT HW

Exoskeleton ModeStr increases by 2 die, adds 2 to Pace, +2 to Shooting Rolls, Armor +10

Targeting Laser: The Thunder has a targeting laser that can be used to call in air, orbital or artillery strikes.

It takes one turn to transform a Thunder from one form to the other and the rider must dismount for the process. SW_Fan_Small

Not Scraps

It may not seem like it, given the usual contents of this blog, but most of what I write is actually fiction.  Below is a sample.  This was originally intended as flash fiction, a style that is intended to tell an entire story and be exceptionally short.  Short though it may be and story it may tell but it is not short enough to really be flash fiction.  I would really need to take an editorial razor to it.  I still think it’s pretty good, though.  This story is inspired by one of my wife’s many terrifying nightmares.

If you like it, you can find links to my long form fiction available on Amazon over at http://www.blackguardpress.com/

Oh, and don’t confuse this with my slash fiction.  That’s totally different.  You can find that under “Richochet/Riptide: Further Adventures in the Teacups.”

Not Scraps

 

Nell sighed in relief when she got to the top of the stairs outside her apartment and fished her keys out of her purse. It had been a very long day. But then, they all seemed to be very long days since she got the promotion. The extra money was nice, but didn’t balance the extra hours.

To save money, Nell left her apartment dark when she wasn’t there and an inky blackness filled the place and hardly seemed to budge at the light coming from the hallway through the open door. It took her a second or two to find the light switch next to the door and just before she flicked it on, she thought she saw one of the shadows that filled the apartment move, flashing away from its spot near the kitchen before disappearing.

The motion brought a gasp from her and started her heart racing, though she knew it must have been her imagination. After all, in the bright light from the living room lamp there was nothing there now.

Still, the feeling of fear didn’t go away, logic or not. So she wasn’t surprised when her voice wavered a little as she greeted her cat. “Heya Scraps, miss me boy?”

He meowed up at her, his one good eye focused on her briefly before he turned to look in exactly the spot she had seen the shadow. The trepidation built in her again, but a thorough examination of her apartment turned up nothing untoward. She did succumb to the urge to turn on every light in the place in the process.

Scraps waited with admirable patience for her in the kitchen, only letting out the occasional forlorn wail as he sat next to his empty food bowl.

After changing into some old sweatpants and a worn t-shirt, Nell returned to her pet. “You act like I starve you, brat,” she grumbled to the cat before pouring him a bowl of food. An accusatory meow was her only response before Scraps attacked his food with gusto.

Nell sighed. She couldn’t really blame the little creature. Before Nell found him, Scraps was a stray and probably hadn’t had a decent meal since his mother abandoned him or was killed.

When she found him in an alley on her way home from work one day, the tiny kitten was a few moments from becoming a snack for a hungry stray dog. She’d frightened the dog off fast enough to keep the kitten from coming away unscathed and even an emergency visit to the vet hadn’t kept him from losing an eye and having scars that would be with him forever.

“That’s not a cat, that’s the leftovers of a cat,” her mother had said after taking one look at the pathetic little kitten the next day.

Nell’s heart went out to the helpless creature, though. It didn’t seem fair that the world was picking on such a tiny little thing and she knew then that she would keep him even if no one else saw his appeal. Her mother’s comment did provide the perfect name for the cat, though. With his ragged appearance and courage, his official name became Scrappy and Nell, as well as everyone else, called him Scraps.

As the cat devoured his food, Nell headed for the living room. A night of mindless entertainment in front of the TV would be just the cure for the nerve-wracking, headache-inducing day she’d had.

A motion in the corner of her eye as she passed the hall stopped her, though. Her heart pounded again and she froze, her breath catching in her throat as the hair on the back of her neck rose. Slowly, she turned her head and looked down the hall.

There was nothing there. She could see all the way into her bedroom and the usual scattering of clothes and clutter of papers was there, but nothing out of the ordinary. Nonetheless, her heart continued to race and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she and Scraps weren’t the only ones there.

It took an act of will to calm down, go to the couch, sit down and turn on the TV. She was just tired, she reasoned. The stress from the day had set her on edge and left her jumping at shadows. Still, she felt better when Scraps joined her on the couch a few minutes later. Something about having the little mass of purring fur close gave her a sense of safety. Not that she really expected much protection from fifteen pounds of one-eyed cat.

As happened far too often lately, Nell found herself playing a balancing act between duty and fun. The dutiful part of her knew that she should go to bed early so that she would be ready for work the next day instead of being a zombie animated by far too much coffee. The fun loving part of her knew that the sooner she went to sleep, the sooner the next day and the grind that involved would come.

In the end, sleep won. She stayed up an hour later than she should have before her eyes drooped so badly that she couldn’t keep them open. Reluctantly, she trudged off to bed and settled in.

The feeling of unease from her earlier frights still lingered though and there was a certain sense of tension about her as she turned off the light. Even several hours of distraction hadn’t banished the feeling that something was in the apartment with her other than her cat. Still, the bed was soft, the blankets were warm and she was tired, so it didn’t take her long to drift off into a fitful sleep.

The night was filled with strange, ominous dreams. The feeling that there was something or someone else in the apartment with her carried over into her subconscious mind and tormented her sleep. She dreamed of being trapped in small places, like caves and cages with dangerous, vicious animals or lost in places she had never been while being chased by people who wanted to hurt her.

It was almost a relief when a strange rustling sound intruded on her sleep and woke her up. Fear gripped her again. Before her conscious, logical mind really started working there was that shimmering moment of confusion between sleep and wakefulness that left her vulnerable to her emotions and something primal in her made her freeze in terror.

Her senses sharpened as her heart raced, but her room and the apartment were quiet and still. Only the hum of unknown machinery and traffic outside disturbed the peace. A city born girl, Nell didn’t even hear those noises, and would have been more disconcerted if they weren’t there. True silence was simply not something a modern person expected.

Nell jumped when the rustling came again. This time the sound was followed by a sharp clatter before silence reigned again. Her breath came in short fast gasps, her heart pounding away in her chest. Her head spun as a heady fear filled her.

Cold sweat broke out on Nell’s body. She didn’t know how long it took her to calm down; it certainly felt like hours of excruciating tension, but since the sun didn’t rise, she knew that couldn’t be right. Finally, though enough of her reason returned to figure out what the noises were.

Scraps learned early on that he shouldn’t miss an opportunity for a meal. He often rummaged through her garbage for even the tiniest leftovers. It was an annoying habit, but mostly only because he liked to do it late at night and she always had to clean up the mess afterwards. It was also yet another reason why his name fit so well. Scraps was always after scraps. The rustling was undoubtedly the sound of the animal burrowing into the garbage bag and the clanging was probably a can falling to the floor.

“Scraps, get out of the trash!” she shouted in irritation toward the front of the apartment. Nell shook her head, chiding herself internally for getting so worked up over such a little thing. Her relief was so profound that when she lay back down, she fell asleep almost instantly. Her last thought was a nagging suspicion that something didn’t fit in place.

At first, her dreams were peaceful, filled with warmth and comfort. They quickly mutated into nightmares of being pinned down or bound and unable to escape while some unseen creature slowly stalked her. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t get away and her assailant taunted her with the slowness with which it approached as though it relished her helplessness.

That nagging voice in the back of her mind was what woke her up the second time. The night was at its darkest, and her apartment filled with a thick blackness that seemed to relish devouring the light coming in through the window.

Nell shifted her feet, trying to get comfortable so that she could at least attempt to get enough rest for work the next day. A familiar mass provided resistance and bound her feet under the covers, though. Scraps meowed with irritated indignation as she shifted him from his sleeping spot.

It was only then that she realized what had been out of place before. She was too sleepy to realize it at the time, but Scraps had been in that same spot when the rustling and clattering came from the kitchen. Her sleep-addled brain hadn’t noticed the incongruity between the cat being in bed with her and disrupting the trash in the other room.

A cold dread washed over her, sending icy trails of fear up and down her spine as the full implications of that realization hit her. Nell jumped when there was a rustling and a clattering in the front of the house again. She barely managed to suppress a shriek of fear into a simple squeak at the sound.

It took several long moments for her to gain enough control over her voice to use it properly. “Scraps?” she managed to call out softly.

Her wide eyes strained in the night seeking any sign of comfort. She could see the entrance to the kitchen down the hall and the shadow she saw earlier appeared once again. A deeper darkness in the night, it held ominous promise as it drew nearer.

“Not Scraps,” the shadow assured her in a voice filled with an unholy threat of violence and pain.

Nell just had time to give full voice to the scream she suppressed earlier.

Show Some Spine!

And here is the second half of my first unpublished game.  Enjoy!

Equipment and Minions

 

No matter what genre a game takes place in, characters are likely to carry some sort of equipment. Whether this is the trusty longsword of a knight in a fantasy campaign, the 50’ robot in a mecha game or the belt full of gadgets in a superhero game, characters often live or die depending on their equipment.

 

Some characters also have a trusty sidekick, whether a loyal wolf, a dedicated droid, or a trusted henchman.

 

Types: There are two types of equipment, inherent and purchased. Inherent equipment is considered a part of the character. They are essentially just additional qualities that a character possesses. These are the iconic pieces of equipment that help define a character. Inherent pieces of equipment are things like magical items, specially modified weapons or even faithful steeds or personal mecha.

 

Inherent pieces of equipment should be bought as variable qualities and can be advanced in the same way. In fact, one or more of a character’s starting qualities might actually be a piece of equipment or some sort of minion.

 

Inherent pieces of equipment can be bought just like other Qualities after character creation through spending experience. Additionally, a character can add additional qualities to a piece of equipment by spending a flat 10 experience points.

 

Inherent pieces of equipment cannot be lost. At least not for any length of time. While a plot might separate a character from a piece of equipment for a time, this should be because it is important to the story and the inherent piece of equipment should be returned to the character relatively quickly.

 

Note that a player can convert a purchased piece of equipment into an inherent piece of equipment by buying a variable Quality that is associated with that piece of equipment. Depending upon this setting, this could mean having a piece of equipment enchanted or discovering an enchantment, tinkering with the specs on a high-tech piece of equipment or adding another bit of modifying equipment, like a scope to a piece of equipment.

 

Purchased pieces of equipment are different. Bought with gold pieces, credits, dollars, neo-yen or souls, according to the economy in the game, these are pieces of equipment that do not define a character but are simply tools he uses in his profession. A knight’s ancestral sword might be an inherent piece of equipment while his suit of plate mail would be a purchased piece of equipment.

 

It is up to the GM to determine the economy in his game and how much money he will be giving out. However, how much pieces of equipment cost should be fairly standard. Each percentage bonus they provide should cost a unit of currency. A pistol that gives a +5% bonus to shooting should cost 5 dollars, gold pieces, whatever. Of course, there are a wide variety of abilities beyond simple damage or defense that a piece of equipment can give. These abilities are classified as equipment qualities and are listed below.

 

The GM should set the price and effects for any piece of equipment in his game, though he is highly encouraged to get the input of players for pieces of equipment they want. In fact, players are encouraged to work up the stats for the equipment and offer it to the GM for approval. Unlike inherent equipment, bought equipment cannot later be improved. Its stats remain the same once set and the GM is under no constraints to return it to characters if it is lost or destroyed.

 

Budget: Depending upon the setting, the GM may want to set a starting equipment budget and allow the players to buy any equipment that they want with those points. This is especially appropriate in settings where gear is important, such as fantasy or sci-fi. What is a knight without his sword, after all or a space trooper without his blaster? Alternatively, especially in a military campaign, the GM may just assign equipment to various characters.

 

Qualities: Like characters, equipment has Qualities. And like characters, these Qualities can be sacrificed when the character is hit in combat. Equipment Qualities are a little more complex than character qualities, however. Unlike characters, not all Equipment Qualities can be called upon to provide a bonus and there are several categories of Equipment Qualities. Also unlike character qualities, equipment qualities do not add a flat +10% bonus to a roll. In fact, for mundane, bought equipment, it is quite common for a lower bonus to be provided. It should be noted that, like any other qualities, when equipment qualities are sacrificed they are no longer usable. For things like damage or armor, this means that they have been damaged to the point that they no longer provide an advantage though a player may still use them.

 

For example, an axe might have a quality like “Chopping Blade +5%.” As long as this quality is not sacrificed, the player can call on it for a 5% increase to his roll and as soon as he sacrifices it, the benefit is lost. This does not mean that the axe loses its head and, indeed, the player can continue using the weapon in his descriptions. It simply means that the blade has been damaged somehow to such a degree that it provides no more benefit than any other fighting attack.

 

Only when a piece of equipment has lost its last quality is it truly destroyed and in the case of inherent equipment even this should be temporary. It should be possible to repair the piece of equipment under the right circumstances.

 

Active: Active Qualities are Equipment Qualities that can be called upon like character qualities to add a bonus to a roll. For example, a magic sword may be able to burst into flames. If the character uses this weapon, he can call upon this quality and add an additional +10% to his attacks with it. Or a Mecha may have an Enhanced Verniers quality which the character can call upon to add a +10% to any maneuverability checks.

 

Passive: Passive Qualities are qualities that cannot be called upon to add bonuses to rolls. These represent defensive abilities of equipment as well as aspects of their durability. These qualities exist only to be sacrificed when the equipment is damaged. An example of a passive quantity might be “Made of High Strength Steel.”

 

Grouped: Grouped Qualities represent two or more features of a piece of equipment that are combined into a single Quality. They are generally passive, but can also be active. These qualities are combined so that a piece of equipment does not possess too many inherent Qualities. Examples of Grouped Qualities might be legs, arms or even weapon systems. When a grouped quality is sacrificed, the character can determine which part of the grouped quality is sacrificed. The player may decide that the damage is to a Mecha’s right or left leg, for example if he sacrifices the legs quality or that his beam gun is damaged if he sacrifices the weapons group. All other qualities in the group and any potential bonuses they might give remain. However, the Group of Qualities cannot be sacrificed again in the case of more damage.

 

Duplicate: Some Qualities of a piece of equipment are so durable that they can be sacrificed once and still function. Upon being sacrificed a second time, they are then no longer useable. These are usually passive Qualities. An example of a Duplicate quantity might be very tough armor. It should be noted that Active Qualities that are duplicated do not provide an additional bonus. A flat 10% bonus is applied even if an Active Quality is duplicated, though the bonus still applies after the first time it is sacrificed. Thus a blazing sword might have an Active Duplicate Quality like “Unquenchable Flame.” The first time this quality is sacrificed, the player is still able to call upon it. The second time, the flame proves quenchable and the quality is no longer available to add a bonus.

 

Weapon Qualities: Not all weapons are created equal. Some of them have special abilities that give them certain advantages. These are represented as Weapon Qualities. . The bonuses from Weapon Qualities are added to any other qualities a character calls on, including the Quality of the weapon itself. For example a character using Rapid Fire with his Beam Rifle would receive a +10% bonus for the Beam Rifle Quality and a +5% or +10% bonus for firing either two or three shots.

 

Burst: Some weapons inherently fire multiple rounds at a time. These are usually machine guns. Burst weapons provide +10% bonus when fired normally and if a character uses both his attacks in a round to fire an extended burst, this bonus doubles. The burst ability costs 15 points.

 

High Powered: Some weapons are not more accurate than others but are more devastating when they hit. While these weapons do not provide an additional bonus to hit they do provide an additional bonus when determining damage. These weapons add a +10% when determining how many qualities must be sacrificed but not when determining if a target is hit. For example, if an attacker rolled a 45 against a defense of 50, a high powered weapon with a +10% bonus would miss. However, if the attacker exceeded the defender’s roll by +45% a high powered weapon with a +10% bonus would cause the defender to sacrifice two qualities rather than one. The high powered ability costs 5 points.

 

Blast: Some weapons, usually bazookas and missiles or fire balls fire explosive rounds. A blast weapon gives a +10% bonus to hit. However, this bonus is not applied when determining if multiple qualities must be sacrificed. For example, if this bonus bumps the difference between the attack value and the defense value from +45% to +55%, the defender sacrifices only one quality rather than two. Additionally, a Blast weapon affects all the characters in a section whether friend or foe. The Blast ability costs 10 points.

 

Sniper: Sniper weapons are designed to be accurate at long ranges. Sniper weapons do not suffer from range penalties and are able to fire at targets an additional section away. The sniper ability costs 10 points.

 

Minions

 

A trusty sword or good old pistol are often not a character’s only allies. There are also often trusty sidekicks and reliable mounts that aid them in their quests. Many of these can be defined simply as straight qualities. A knight might have a quality like “Wendell my Trusty Squire” or a wizard might have a quality like “My Familiar Felix.” These qualities can be called upon and sacrificed just like any other quality. When they are sacrificed, much like qualities with inherent equipment, it does not mean they are destroyed but that they are instead incapacitated for some reason.

 

Of course, like any other qualities, a minion can be a variable quality. These variable qualities may reflect a particularly adept minion or it might describe a set of minions. For example, a sergeant might have “Crazy Commandos” as a variable quality or even “7th Legion” if the quality is of a high enough value.

 

Genres

 

There are numerous genres which can be played using this system. Fantasy, sci-fi, modern, supernatural and even super heroes can all be supported by this system. Following are some special rules which modify those previously given for each type of genre.

 

Mecha

 

Giant robots take many shapes and forms but in the end, they make their pilots much more dangerous. They also generally have advanced computer systems that make them more than just weapons. They often make their pilots better than they would normally be. Following are a few rules that apply to mecha campaigns.

 

Scale: Mecha are far larger than humans, obviously and use weapons with much greater ranges and capacity for damage. Therefore, Mecha combat operates on a much larger scale. While this scale is largely abstract and the GM can set any range he likes, it should be rather expansive and allow for a multitude of mecha and ships to fit into the same segment.

 

Skills: A Mecha is very much like a character that enhances the player character. A Mecha has all the skills that a character does, except for Persuasion. When it comes to Mecha, these skills are bonuses that are applied to the skills of a Mecha’s pilot and represent the technological and performance levels of the Mecha. They act a great deal like variable qualities, though they cannot be sacrificed. For example, a pilot with a shooting skill of +10% piloting a Mecha with a shooting skill of +5% would have a total shooting skill of +15% when piloting that Mecha.

 

Transformable Mecha: Many Mecha have more than one form. These Mecha have two profiles, one for each form. The skill bonuses between the two forms will be different but both modes may share some qualities. These qualities are called (obviously enough) Shared qualities. Every transformable Mecha has the Shared quality of Transformable. When the Transformable quality is sacrificed, the Mecha is locked into whichever form it is currently in. A transformable Mecha may only sacrifice Qualities from the form it is currently in. Shared qualities between the two forms may only be sacrificed once. For example, a Mecha may have the Armored quality in both of its forms but the Rifle quality only in one form. If the Armored quality is sacrificed, it is lost from both forms and may not be sacrificed again. The Rifle quality could only be sacrificed while in the form that possesses it and the Armored quality could not be sacrificed in this form if it had already been sacrificed in the other form.

 

Budget: Many Mecha games are going to also be military games and the GM should feel free to simply assign the characters the same Mecha or Mecha with very similar abilities. This reflects everyone in the game being assigned the same model Mecha. Diversity can be provided by altering the weapons each Mecha carries and/or slightly tweaking the skills.

 

Alternatively, if the GM wants the players to be able to design their own unique mecha, he should assign a budget from which the characters can build their mecha. This should be treated just as though the players were creating another character, though the GM should feel free to increase or reduce the budget in comparison to regular character creation depending upon how effective he wants the mecha to be. The skills and qualities of the mecha character should be bought just like any other character but the weapons and their qualities the mecha carries will also need to be bought from this budget.

 

Mecha vs. Man: This should happen rarely, as any mortal would be a fool to face a giant robot without his own giant robot or other war machine to fight with. However, occasionally, characters are going to find themselves in the unenviable situation of having to escape of fight a mecha without the assistance of tons and tons of super strong metal around them.

 

In this case, the chances of hitting do not change. Humans are relatively small targets in comparison to mecha, but their weapons generally affect a much larger area than equivalent man portable devices. The old saying about using a bazooka to kill a fly applies, but the fly still ends up dead, if you can hit it.

 

Damage, on the other hand is a different matter. The damage dished out by the weapons of a giant robot are on an entirely different scale than that of a man. If an attack by a Mecha does hit an unprotected person, a +50% should be added to the result to determine how many qualities must be sacrificed. This means that, at a minimum, if a mech hits an unprotected person with an attack, the person will lose two Qualities. This applies to robots up to 30’ tall. Mecha even larger than that should add 100% to the damage inflicted, meaning that an unprotected person will lose at least 3 qualities because of a successful attack.

 

On the other hand, individuals with man portable weapons who are attacking Mecha are going to have a hard time. Again, the likelihood that a person is going to hit a Mecha is unaffected. While it is easy to hit such a large target, it is difficult to hit it in any meaningful place. The relative damage that such a weapon can do to such a machine is significantly reduced. In fact, the same factors given above should be applied in reverse to this damage upon a hit. For example, if a person hits a 30’ tall or smaller mecha with a hand held weapon, he will subtract 50% from his result and then determine how many qualities need to be sacrificed. It is entirely possible this will take this damage to nothing. For mecha taller than 30’ the person would have to subtract 100% from their result making it even more likely that even a successful hit will do no damage.

 

If your game includes different size classes of Mecha, these factors can also be taken into account and with similar proportions. A 50’ Mecha attacking a Mecha under 30’ would add 50% to the damage that it does against that smaller Mecha. On the other hand, a Mecha under 30’ going up against one from the larger class would subtract 50% from its damage results. This means that a Mecha of the smaller class hit by one of the larger class loses an extra quality than normal while one of the larger class hit by one of the smaller class loses one less quality than normal.

 

Ships

 

Most mecha campaigns largely take place in, or involve space and usually, the mecha involved in these campaigns operate off of ships. Ships do not provide skill bonuses to their pilots. Their primary weapons are too large to effectively aim at Mecha and they are too large to effectively avoid an attack by a Mecha. There is no need to mention why a Fighting skill is pointless.

 

Qualities: Ships do have qualities, however and must sacrifice them like characters or Mecha when they are damaged. Like Mecha, these Qualities can be can be active or passive and are often duplicated. In fact, to represent their large size, Ships can have more than two of the same quality. In fact, to truly represent their large size, Ships generally have a great deal of qualities. A dozen or more is not an unreasonable number of qualities for a moderate sized ship to have and a massive ship could have twice that many.

 

Different locations on the ship, such as the hangar, bridge and engines are represented by Qualities and when these are sacrificed, it does not necessarily mean that they are destroyed, but that they are rendered useless.

 

Ships can also add additional area qualities to the segment that they are in. These can be active qualities that represent active defenses like anti-aircraft guns or passive qualities that represent things like debris clouds to hinder incoming attackers.

 

Fantasy Settings

 

Fantasy Settings need little adjustment of the rules. Equipment is often an important part of a fantasy game as is magic. In both cases, the budget rules should be used to determine what effects these items have.

 

When it comes to magic spells, the spellcaster should design the spell as though it were a piece of inherent equipment. All of the qualities given previously for weapons can be applied to these spells.

 

As the campaign continues, the character’s equipment and spells should grow more powerful. Periodically, whether at the end of each adventure or arc, the game master should add to the equipment budget. How much this budget goes up is up to the game master. A good rule of thumb is to provide the characters with a point for each opponent that is defeated. This amount can be multiplied if a more powerful campaign is desired. Alternatively, the game master could simply provide a set award at either the end of an adventure or the end of an arc. Again, the level of this amount is up to the GM, though providing an amount equivalent to the original budget at the end of each adventure is a good rule of thumb.

 

All equipment/spells in this type of setting should be considered to be variable qualities. As time goes on, this equipment/spells can become more powerful or characters can add new pieces of equipment or spells to their lists.

 

Of course, in story, this should either represent the characters discovering new and better gear and spellbooks or discovering new aspects of their existing equipment.

 

Bigger opponents

 

Some creatures in a Fantasy Setting are far larger than the heroes. There are two categories of these beasts, Large and Massive.

 

Large creatures gain a variable quality called Size. They may call upon this quality just as they do any other. However, the heroes can call upon this quality as well in any situation where it would be appropriate (trying to hit the creature or overcome its stealth checks, for example.) When tagging this quality against the creature, they only get half the quality’s bonus (rounded down.)

 

Truly massive creatures such as Titans, ancient dragons and even dark gods, should be treated much like ships in mecha campaigns, though they will have a full skill list and, indeed, very high skills. Depending upon just how dangerous the creature is, a dozen or more qualities might be appropriate to a massive creature. It will also have sections, though in this case, they will be parts of its body rather than structures. A dragon for example, might have head, wings, forelegs, hindlegs, torso and tail as sections. Eliminating any one of these would not kill the dragon (though torso or head should be saved as their last section) but eliminating each one would represent wounding that section beyond use.

 

Much like ships, massive creatures can also add qualities to the areas they are in. These qualities could be active, such as fiery breath, which would attack every individual in the area each turn or passive, such as fog of war, which would simply hinder the attacks of their opponents.

 

No matter what these massive creatures might be in the game, they should be rare. In fact, having only one as the opponent in the climatic final battle of a campaign would not be out of the question.

 

Super Heroes

Super Hero campaigns are not much different from other genres except for scale. A great deal of focus must go into the powers of the heroes and villains, however.

 

Most powers can be created as though they were permanent equipment (in fact, for many heroes it literally will be equipment.) Depending on how powerful the setting will be, the GM can set a budget for this “equipment.” For street level campaigns, this budget will be no more than the starting value for creating a character, effectively doubling their power. At this level the heroes may not have any superhuman powers and may simply be very skilled combatants or have high grade equipment. A more cosmic level campaign might have a budget of several hundred or even a thousand points, making almost anything possible for the characters.

 

Most of the qualities for these powers will be variable. These will be powers like energy blast, fire control, or telekinesis which will vary from hero to hero. Others like body armor will be more passive and will be standard qualities. Any power quality can be duplicated, indicating that it provides more protection or that it is sturdy and that it can take a licking and continue to function.

 

All of the qualities listed for equipment can be applied to any power so long as it fits logically and GM’s should be lenient in what they consider logical in this case. After all, some of the best powers are those that seemingly break the rules of physics and science in general.

 

There are a few powers that do not fit into the rules given for creating equipment qualities.