BS1.06: Flight north

The characters for this session

Cpl Bryn Williams, armed with Lee-Enfield

LCpl Pinko McLean, armed with Bren gun

Ptes Cade and Harding, armed with Tommy gun

The rest of C Section:

Paddy and Lou, the Bren section

Pte Staples, Jimbo Ward and White, all armed with Lee-Enfield

 

In the previous session the lads of C Section stand off pursuing Japanese soldiers in a clearing around a small empty pagoda. But the sharp-eared Staples catches sounds to the west so it is time to flee north again! Lt. Barnet has briefed them on their objective: a rail-depot village with storage and a ferry terminal.

We rejoin our heroes as they hit the illusory safety of the jungle path north out of the clearing.

 

Since this session is about escaping I’m stepping out of Pinko’s brief letters to his missus and writing it in the same style I used with the same GM, as the Surplus Heroes escaped Lewis.

 

A word about damage

There are three types of damage on show today!

The house rule for gunfire damage is that ‘real’ damage from modern gunfire occurs when hp drop below zero. Until then the effect is moral or as proxy fatigue, forcing a recipient to recoil or drop to cover.

Damage done with bayonet and blade is good old-fashioned D&D 3.0 Rules-As-Written.

Subdual damage is also 3.0 RAW, meaning it works in parallel with hp damage. When subdual damage matches current (not full) hp the character loses consciousness.

 

The first five minutes at the double

Williams passes Cade and Harding through his riflemen, reminding them of the watchwords and letting them know he expects them to keep scouting.

“Double for five then we’ll see” – Williams, making an adequate Command check

The path is winding, following the terrain, and already gloom-filled. Harding is point and makes an adequate Notice check. Vaulting some minor gullies without difficulty he and Cade hustle forward and at about the 5-minute mark reach a really significant boulder, too high even for Pinko to rest a Bren adequately on. There, they take position aiming west and keep watch. Harding’s Notice check is a 26!

The Bren team arrive next. Pinko braces his Bren on one end of the boulder and checks his off-siders Paddy and Lou, who are tiring.

Finally the rifles arrive, Williams and Staples bringing up the rear.

“Permission to shed gear Corp” – Staples, already ditching his pack

Others follow suit. Cade decides to shed his as well, though he keeps his hip flask; Harding decides to keep his pack since he is not feeling any particularly fatigue.

“Mind that ye keep weapons and ammo handy. And here – pitch those packs to each side and knock some fronds over them. Happen the nips’ll think we’ve set another ambush” – Pinko

With the skimpy and unconvincing ruse in place – having taken no more than a few seconds – the section hustles once more. On the third combat round after that, automatic fire is heard from behind. Delay achieved!

 

Crossing the creek and exchanging fire

The ground dips as Harding and Cade jog forward, clumsily since the trail is fit for elephant not man. A watercourse, too small and shallow to be called a chaung, runs with water ahead of them. The scouts dither a little but as Pinko catches them, momentum returns.

“Paddy – Lou – spread you out as you cross, make it obvious where you hit the jungle and knock leaves and such about to look like bivvies” – Pinko, striding across covering the back-trail

Even this brief ruse takes time and as the rifles file ahead of Pinko he catches sight of the first couple of Japanese soldiers. [A poor Notice check so they are right up to the creek, but in concealment] With a burst he drops the lead soldier [18 damage, at the first range increment burst fire from a Bren can be deadly]

And as the section hustles on they feel the previous hours of slog and combat taking their toll. The first CON check is made, DC11. Pinko fails and takes 1d6 Subdual damage, 6 in this case, while Williams also fails and takes 1. Harding also fails and takes 2.

 

The second hour: a shot-up village

It is increasingly dark and Cade’s background as poacher/thief becomes more useful than Harding’s knockabout background for feeling their way down the trail. Cade is not the super-spotter that Harding is but he makes an adequate Notice check.

The CON check is now DC12, but this time all characters soldier on. [I have the impression, perhaps wrong, that when characters miss a check the NPCs also suffer]

Cade and Harding find a village, set amidst rice paddies. The half-moon allows them to spot that it is a crossroads, of a kind, so there is a path to the river here. They can also see that the bashas have been shot up and that bodies lie about them.

The nearest basha is about 100’ or so, a bund not too far past that. Harding ditches his pack and runs to the basha. The bodies are Japanese, the buildings have been shot through horizontally, not from the air.

As the Bren team catch Cade, Pinko cuts sharp right and readies his gun.

“I’ll cover you, then you cover us” – Pinko

 

A fire-fight ensues as C Section pulls out

Cade, closely followed by the rifles, duly runs down the road to the village. Williams decides to use the bund as cover. He still has an idea that if enough Japanese are downed they will pull back. Harding checks the village, Cade moves on through leap-frogging Harding. The rifles line the bund.

This takes a little more time than Pinko had expected and he hears [Notice 17, his first good Notice check] the enemy. He puts in a burst, with no effect.

By the time he Paddy and Lou move out the lead Japanese are already opening up.

Initiatives:

  • Cade/Williams and rifles (later drop to follow Japanese)
  • Pinko and Bren team
  • Imperial Japanese Army
  • Harding

Round 1: Pinko and his team regain the path and hustle about 40’. Tracer fire sprays around them and Lou dives into the nearest paddy. There’s no target for the rifles. Harding finds more bodies over on the east path, but is too far away to tell what manner of bodies they be.

Round 2: Cade searches his way to where he can see the north path disappear into the jungle. It all seems clear. Williams senses Japanese gaining the jungle fringe south, and orders [Command] his men to delay. They drop to the Japanese init.

“Rally lad!” Pinko bellows and continues with Paddy. The pair take the nearest basha at a run and dive under it! Lou edges along the paddy-side. Tracer searches out the basha and Japanese rifles fire: Pinko is unsettled [9 damage]. Williams tries to focus his rifles on the LMG but with a poor Command, fails. However, the rifle fire is inspired, three scoring solid hits.

Harding searches the bodies. Some are of Section B. It’s too dark to say what happened to them.

Round 3: Cade hustles north. Pinko steadies the Bren on the basha pile and puts the rest of the magazine across a short stretch of jungle near the path. As the Japanese fire back, Paddy flinches [ie he takes damage] while Lou continues creeping closer. Staples and Williams target the LMG and are accurate but foliage deflects part of their fire [the damage d10 are low].

From where he stands among bodies Harding can now be certain the river is close, but by no stretch of the imagination is there ferry or storage facilities. This is not the objective. He hustles back.

Round 4: Cade finishes his hustle to the jungle but it is too dark to make out any tracks. The Bren sprays further left, bracketing the path, with no visible effect [good saves by those covered].

“I hope ye have another mag Paddy, this is me last” – Pinko

“Wait for the tracer this time boyos, make it count” – Williams, making a good Command check

The LMG searches out Pinko’s nest [another 9 damage] but this time the rifles have seen where the tracer comes from and pour fire back, silencing it!

“Corp! The east path’s a bust – gotter scarper north!” – Harding

“Line of retreat north, lively now!” – Williams

Round 5: Cade fails to find anything with a poor Search check. The Bren team, Lou roughly opposite now, roll out from under the basha and pull back in as much cover as possible. The rilfes file back along the bund to the village, but Williams stays as cover. Harding withdraws north as best he can while keeping to cover and looking for spots where a booby-trap could be placed. [There isn’t one, in the time available]

Round 6 and on: The teams leapfrog one another back out and away, Williams sprinting to catch up.

 

The third hour: the objective is in sight

The CON check is now 13, and this time only Pinko makes it.

The lads are flagging as the trail winds upward. Everyone who needs to has shed gear. Harding and Cade reach a bare knoll from where they can see, north, a sizeable village in a wide clearing with a railway junction and ferry docks! However… with the aid of his telescope Harding can see a British-style barbed-wire entanglement around it, and mortar craters. [He rolls a 1 on Notice so sees only the obvious]

Further back on the line of march Lou collapses. Paddy takes Pinko’s pack, ditches non-essential gear and swings it onto his shoulder while Pinko gets his shoulder under Lou’s arm. This reduces his speed [medium load].

“Paddy – call Cade or Harding back, we need to move faster” – Pinko

Paddy finds Cade and grumbling, Cade returns and protestingly helps Lou. The march resumes at normal pace.

At the knoll Williams musters the section and exhorts it, pointing out the objective. [Good Command check]

Harding works his way down, and eventually finds that the path seems to have been recently blazed [Wilderness Lore, makes 20].

 

The fourth hour: silent knife work

Williams arranges himself, Staples and Harding in front. Walking wounded are bringing up the rear.

CON check is now DC14 and many among the section are flagging. Paddy looks very tired but keeps Pinko’s pack… for now.

The section files quietly towards the broad clearing. [Making a natural 20 on Notice] Williams spots a Japanese detachment, perhaps a platoon strong, facing the village. It is well spread out in the brush at the jungle verge. Mentally cursing, Williams passes the word back:

“We are going around”

Harding now leads off west [makes 12 on Wilderness Lore, which the GM decides produces mixed results] and manages to guide the section around, though not without attracting some attention. There is another, smaller detachment of Japanese in front of him! He swings north-west, passing between the two detachments.

As the Bren team file around the gap, two sentries walk back through the brush to investigate something. They are going to collide with the team!

Laying Lou down quickly Pinko signals to Cade, drawing his chiv out of his boot. Cade nods and draws his own commando knife. Then Pinko realizes Lou will be seen as soon as the sentries get close. Right then, he thinks, let’s take advantage of that!

Paddy Pinko and Cade pull back against trees between Lou and the sentries. As the latter begin making Lou’s shape out and are 5’ past the trees Pinko and Cade step behind them and go for the grapple-and-stab!

After a complex grapple combat [which is dreadfully involved so I won’t try to explain it] Pinko’s enormous strength achieves one dead sentry and Paddy and Cade manage the other between them.

 

Crawling to safety

With both detachments none the wiser, C section nears the rail and pauses to work out what options they have.

“Corp – this is where a real sneaker can crawl along the rail into camp, ask them for a diversion” – Pinko

Williams shakes off his assumption that the camp ought to be attacked and sends Harding. Using moon-shadow, Harding creeps along the rail embankment and gets within soft hail of the camp. There’s a very tense moment since Harding leads with a “Section C here” and the Baluchi sentry does not offer a watch-word. But then Harding calls “Sheik of Araby” and is given the correct counter and all is well.

The Baluchi’s naik rousts out Lt. Barnet who lays on an impressive distraction, since Harding can point to bits of jungle where the detachments are sited. The Vickers plays its deadly fire along the brush.

Section C ‘slowly hustles’ forward, also using the embankment for as much cover as possible. And gain safety!

Those who lost hp recover at the normal hp/day rate after an initial cup of char has restored 6hp.

Those with subdual damage from exhaustion recover that at the same rate but separately.

Williams Pinko and Cade move to L3. Williams takes SMG proficiency and after some debate as to merits (very good to have that at table) Cade takes rifle proficiency. Pinko takes Wpn Focus – Bren.

 

Back at Prome’s defensive zone Slim is in charge now

All safe and sound then pet, barring a few scratches and lost gear. I had to tell Ward off though, the silly sod scraped a leech off with his bayonet and no surprise, it’s septic now. I did show them how you burn them off with a fag, but there’s no telling some people.

It turns out that Section B did suffer casualties but only a few. Section A/Vickers made it back safely. All things considered we were all lucky. Our gear and particulars have been replaced, back to wearing in a new blanket. 

Meanwhile life returns more towards normal here. The buzz is all over where the RAF has gone (air raids on the town and ferries every second day for breakfast!) and about desertions among 1st Burma. 

The regiment got a visit from our Corps’ new commander, Lt-Genl Slim. Even I can follow the plan as he explains it. It’s to pull back across the Irrawaddy and eventually to India, through Ava to Assam, and make sure we don’t ditch refugees.

But just now I did see Corp head into the information tent, and I called after him ‘never volunteer’ but I dare say he won’t have a choice so signing off for now…

 

Historical note

Small-scale commando raids made the hard-hit 17th Divn feel better, but in terms of strategy, Japanese airpower was at its zenith, driving the obsolete allied aircraft from the skies. In turn that allowed river and road attacks with impunity, and (as Pinko has implied) bombing raids over Prome that turned the once-pleasant town into a ruin.

Circumstances of command would eventually allow Slim to achieve parts of what he wanted – which was to concentrate, ready a counter and attack – but at this juncture both Toungoo (where the Chinese divisions were based) and Prome needed to be covered. Leaving the allies vulnerable to the next major Japanese attack! 

 

 

 

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BS1.05: Rearguard action!

 

The characters for this session:

Cpl Bryn Williams, armed with Lee-Enfield

LCpl Pinko McLean, armed with Bren gun

Ptes Cade and Harding, armed with Tommy gun

The rest of C Section:

Paddy and Lou, the Bren section

Pte Staples, Jimbo Ward and White, all armed with Lee-Enfield

 

Away north in comfort on the Garnet

Here we are on the Garnet again pet and right glad to find it moored where Lt. Barnet said it ought. We may have given Tojo and the Burmans a good dusting, but that do not mean there’s no more nips looking to stick us like practice targets.

I help the Vickers set up on bow, then settle back with the lads for a quiet fag or two. Someone with binoculars says as how the Irrawaddy is about one and a half miles wide, but so long as the boat stays away from the banks it’s time for a kip.

[No rolls are called for as far as I can recall. The Garnet chugs unreliably north.]

 

Garnet adrift – disembark west!

Well that was a turn-up, one minute I’m admiring dawn across the river and the next I’m down with Staples and young Jimbo, pushing on a ruddy iron bar at the say-so of a gunga din downstairs in the boiler room!

The Garnet doesn’t last the journey pet, and with a bit of a steamy signal saying ‘here we are’ to all the nips on both banks, drifts back west and off we hop. I’m not sure what help we were, something to do with the ruddy rudder I suppose.

[No roll required, Pinko strips down a bit and heads down to help when the engine stops, since he has the heavy machinery skill. Williams directs Staples and Jimbo to go with him. Then directs the others down but it’s far too crowded! The three heave on the rudder bar manually and this allows the Garnet to nose in to the bank rather than randomly wallowing. Cade collects Pinko’s gear as word is given to evacuate.]

 

Where to go?

Here I am tucked down in a scrape sighting in the Bren, waiting for the lead sections to head off. The jungle is right up to the bank so after we wade over in mucky silt I set up right away. Cade and Harding headed west trail-blazing. Opposite, some nip gunners spotted the Garnet and might get their eye in any day now.

“We’ll see if we can blaze a trail west, have a look for a trail” – Harding

“Aye literally trail-blaze – machete everything and don’t get lost” – Pinko

C Section is now rearguard, except Cade and Harding take the initiative to find a north-south trail. Barnet and Williams begin to be a little adrift of events.

 

A trail north beckons

Cade and Harding are back smartly, they find a Timber Company trail big enough to take elephants. Barnet has A and B sections away west, along with the Garnet crew, and after he looks at Corp’s guide book, tells Corp to keep an eye east in case the nips decide to cross. Cade and Harding come back from playing guides, by which time Corp has seen enough. But Barnet scarpers telling him to wait half an hour to make sure:

“Now, we’re about 20 or so miles from the settlement… Nugseye let’s call it… where there ought to be a ferry. Best case, we repair the Garnet but worst case, the Japs cross and we have to walk north ahead of a pursuit. So your orders are to man the area around the boat, keep an eye east, until you are sure what the Japs have decided to do. Wait at most… oh, half an hour. Then march west to the trail, march north to find me, and report.”

As soon as Barnet has headed west to catch A and B, Corp orders all of us save Staples and Harding to walk quietly west after Barnet. Sensible for a Taffy is Corp, even with all the book learning he’s got stuffed in his head.

I think this is down to misunderstanding his orders, not intentionally disobeying them, and if I recorded Barnet’s orders right there was some wiggle room. Whatever the case, Williams is satisfied in his own mind he doesn’t need an entire section to decide whether the Japanese are actually crossing, and has most of us away to the trail.

 

Away, or not, no away

Then there’s a wee comedy as Harding soon reports he’ spotted Tojo boarding a riverboat in maybe platoon strength and is sent back ‘for a second look’ and comes back again with the same. Harding is wet through with sweat and it’s no hardly morning yet.

Then we catch up! Me Paddy and Lou are rearguard and after a few minutes I hear away north ‘who goes there? It’s me you bloody fool!’ but no shooting. The nip mountain gun is still popping away and I don’t fancy the Garnet’s chances.

[Cade is sole point man and there’s a fail as B section’s rearguard spots him and does not have a password, and nor does Cade!]

Barnet issues us all new orders, we will be marching north – there’s fun, in the daytime – and we have a proper watchword and counter for the whole platoon. C Section is rearguard as we should be, we are the best. And I’m rearguard of the rearguard, so here I am in another wee scrape catching you up.

[The watchword is “Sheik of Araby” and the counter is “World belongs to me”]

 

Blowing down a big old tree

Next thing, I hear Cade musing about his still having his demolitions kit and my blood runs cold as Corp takes him up on it. ‘Away south of us, south’ I wave them, since it’s a fool’s errand and no sense any of us getting caught by it.

Harding has a bit of wilderness lore and finds a good big tree. I have no idea why “we drop a tree across the trail” is supposed to be worth more than a snort of derision but that is the plan. Cade successfully blasts the tree and it does fall more or less as desired. Seemingly happy Williams pulls out, rather than setting an envelopment ambush – numbers are far too small for that to be safe.

 

Watering at the resentful village

We march north up the trail, which is not a Sunday promenade you may be sure. Ward starts some nonsense up about Burma pythons and I joke about the python we Scots have under the kilt, to blow away the grue Ward loves to create. This is all in daytime now, getting warm. We cross a fine sturdy timber bridge over another chaung and I can see Corp kicking himself, but too late. Still if Barnet was worth the price of his fancy bourgeois school he would have left a squad back at the bridge to blow it proper.

The next hour’s march has us to a Burman village and with grinning apes calling ‘British soldier run run fast’ we top our canteens up and head on. I smack five rupees down on the bar top (the well wall) since they are oppressed peasantry and don’t know they are about to be oppressed a hell of a lot more.

Williams is not paranoid and orders all canteens handed in for filling. I decline and wait until Harding has actually sampled the water before having mine filled. Williams does go over the rules of engagement though, which is good. No need for a massacre.

 

A clearing with pagoda

As we shake out to our column of march Corp stays back with me. He must suspect we lost too much time playing with the tree and water but doesn’t say aught. Then about noon, word comes back that Staples and Cade (them two being scouts) have found a clearing.

I’d say Harding still think’s he a schoolboy, the grin on his face as he finally gets up the Pagoda in the clearing I can see from where I am in the tree-line. I’ve said to Corp, maybe a rifle up top of pagoda would be good. Harding and his telescope are elected.

“If there’s a yellow bint there demanding money to come in, come straight back” – Pinko

But we spend a hell of a long time waiting then Harding comes back and says he can’t see past the trees anyhow.

 

Setting up for trouble

We move on through following an old path across rice paddies. The rice is waving tall and green, good cover. Corp asks my opinion of where we should hold, since according to his ears Tojo seems to be getting closer [Williams makes a good Notice check] and I like the look of the pagoda mound for a Tommy gun attack and me in support behind a bund a bit further back. Rifles in the far trees of course.

This is basically a clearing with one piece of dead ground, the pagoda on a mound, and some cover afforded by bunds cutting across the clearing. Rifles in the trees on the opposite side to the Japanese entry is the obvious ambush – bearing in mind the Japanese have enough men to also flank around – but the Tommy guns, needing short range, can be used from the dead ground of the mound. I figure that the Japanese will be drawn to the mound since it is cover and will then walk into a beaten zone as they round it. Then behind that and off at a bund-roadside position the Bren can cover the Tommy gun retreat, chop down any troops outflanking the mound, and also cover the road. Both Bren and Tommy guns are a road-dash from the trees, or two paddy field moves.

Then once me Paddy and Lou are comfy we watch Harding and Cade jitter around behind the pagoda. Nerves are the enemy more than the nips at this stage. But all’s well, neither looses off so Tojo gets a nasty surprise once he gets to the pagoda. Then we give him what-for and scarper.

Combat

Preliminaries: A small Japanese detachment, well spread out, advances on the British right, while a slightly larger number advance on the left, again well spread out. Finally a pair of Japanese run up the mound into cover at the pagoda.

Surprise round: Cade and Harding pitch grenades the length of the pagoda, accurately. Cade’s goes off, dropping one of the Japanese pair. Williams orders his rifles to fire on Japanese in cover behind bunds, and White manages a hit.

Initiatives:

  • Cade
  • Japanese (later also Harding and Bren, and later still Cade)
  • Harding
  • Williams+Rifles
  • Bren team

Round 1: Cade delays. An LMG team dashes up the road a partial move and drops to cover, while other Japanese advance to cover, or fire. A small group make the dead ground behind the pagoda. Harding’s grenade goes off dropping the other of the Japanese pair that made it up to the pagoda. He himself delays. Williams commands [20+ on the skill] his rifles to hold fire while he fires, [nat 20!] dropping one. The Bren team delays.

Round 2: Cade delays. The LMG team emerges from cover onto the road for another dash, and both the Bren and Harding rake the team, putting both down. Many more Japanese emerge from the trees opposite the British left. Cade signals this as best he can.

Round 3: Cade delays. The lead Japanese are now in good cover on Cade’s left flank and a mortar team has begun setting up in the far paddy. Harding uses the dead ground to dash back to the Bren team’s bund and dive to cover, while waving the numbers back to Williams. The Bren delays.

Round 4: Cade repeats Harding’s maneuver, the SMGs and Bren are dangerously close as the first mortar round falls! Luckily they target the dead ground behind the pagoda! A second LMG team advances along the road and the Bren opens up again, wounding them. Harding reloads and moves 5’ along the bund to spread out. Now he has an indication of numbers Williams details Staples off to stand and takes the bulk of the rifles left.

Round 5: Cade moves left behind the bund, so that he is covering the open ground left of the pagoda. The Japanese advance, mainly on the left: The Bren cleans up the wounded LMG team. Harding shifts left a little, creating more space between he and the Bren. Williams and rifles open up scoring two hits.

Round 6: As the Japanese in cover behind the pagoda rush forward Cade and Harding open up though scoring wounds only. More Japanese advance on both mound and left and the Bren, Staples and the other rifles all fire, the rifles having most effect. There is no danger of the SMGs being rushed from the mound.

Round 7: The mortar drops a round behind the bund, too far back to threaten the SMGs and Bren. Cade reloads and moves 5’ towards the road while Harding simply dashes to a point adjacent to the road.

“Corp – movement west” – Staples

Williams acknowledges and yells:

“Mandalay!”

The rifles fire, Williams and White scoring hits.

Round 8: Another mortar round drops, this a little closer to the Bren position. Cade pulls back towards the road to where he can take a dash to the trees. Harding pulls back further.

“Lads – I know you want to stay on but – let’s fuck off” – Pinko

The Bren team retreat, Pinko taking a half-move so as to cover backward. Williams rallies the rifles ready to retire.

Round 9: As the Japanese generally advance, Cade, Harding, Paddy and Lou retire on Williams. Pinko shoots from hip and drops the forefront Japanese advancing from the pagoda and pulls back another half-move.

Round 10: Pinko is last off the clearing and the section begins a brisk jog/walk/jog so as to outdistance the flanking force!

Combat ends

 

And next session we test the forced-march rules!

 

Highlights: Joking about the python in character because Pinko does not keep morale/discipline by force. Seeing my plan for the Tommy guns and Bren work OK, and the couple of nat 20s rolled by Williams and White were good to see too. 

For me, a faster start – a CON check and dropping us into the village perhaps – would have played better than a blow by blow account of Barnet getting the platoon off the Garnet and puzzling out what to do. We could probably have done away with the entire first hour (at least) and be better off for it, and have included forced-marching and destination in the one session. Eventually, we all got something to do.

Regarding VfV rules, I’m a little concerned that the effect of exhausting marching and terrifying bombardment have not played any part yet. As a player I don’t want casualties (especially, not my character!) but C Section seems to be immune to dehydration and fear alike. There’s also the ‘hostile jungle’ dimension, which seems strangely absent. This session Harding joined Cade in being able to use the jungle as though it was the Epping Forest. Perhaps the VfV rules need local-theatre tweaks so that in 1942, Brits don’t get to use Wilderness Lore, or receive a -10 for unfamiliarity or something.

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BS1.04: Scour the village!

Characters for this session:

Cpl Bryn Williams, L2 Leadership – armed with Lee-Enfield

LCpl Pinko McLean, L2 Combat – armed with Bren gun

Pte Tony Cade, L2 Recon – armed with Tommy gun and commando knife

Other members of C Section:

Ptes Harding and Staples: competent old sweats

Ptes Jimbo and White: new chums willing to follow, though White is a loner

Pte Ward: malingerer and grumbler

Ptes Lou and Paddy: Bren-gun section members

 

We rejoin our heroes some few miles north of their objective, a riverside village on the Irrawaddy. Six hours of increasing heat have gone by since they made a pre-dawn bivouac.

 

Resting up

Not much to tell you about the bivvy pet, it’s sweltering wherever you go. I do ken Corp having a quiet word with Cade. The young fellow got a bit strung out and I don’t wonder, creeping up through jungle a-night.

[Cade’s player role-plays an over-edgy, twitchy kind of down-time, then says ‘I practice throat-slitting on a suitable tree’ so Williams has a word to him]

Lt. Barnet, it may be not knowing that, has another job he deems Cade fit for. Cade is off on some trail or other. He comes back in half an hour and confirms we are where Barnet supposes we are. Which is comforting, mind.

[Cade clears the ‘check if there’s a path half a mile south with a turn-off east’ mission with a Stealth check of 28!]

So it’s down the hatch with good old bully beef and biscuit, sweat dripping into the meal the whiles, and sun finally sinks as Barnet runs us over the plan again.

 

The plan as outlined in briefings

Order of advance: Sections C and B, Section A/Vickers.

The village, including unexpected tents and boat.

Order of action: Section A deals with an emplacement on the near hill and Vickers sites in (A1). Sections B and C skirt the village. Section B obtains the telegraph/road dominance (silently) and cuts the wire then sites in to cover the village (B). Section C silences a picket on the far hill (C1) and sites in to cover the dock and village (C2). A red Very Light signals fire at will, and a white Very Light signals withdraw.

Withdrawal is back north. The expected withdrawal is by river-boat at the side-path Cade just confirmed, but the fall-back option is walking all the way back north.

 

Then hurry up and wait

It’s a fine pink evening as we move out, Corp passes on the side-path Cade found, it’s our path to a nice river junket all the way back! We all trek along an easy two-mile – though easy for here, not exactly a nice walk along the Thames – until we see rising ground ahead. Then there’s the usual hurry up and wait, finally a runner tells Carter and Corp to head forward for re-briefing. Oh dear oh dear the wheels have fallen off already thinks I but then we all get the go-ahead and by the time we are in position below the hill crest Corp has new orders.

 

The re-briefing

Barnet brings his senior NCOs together at the AA site. Section A has successfully dealt with the nest and some of its members are posing as sentries with enemy headgear and rifles. A Japanese MG fitted to AA swivel stands ready but unmanned. The Vickers will set up at A1 while A Section rifles stand ready to move in (A2).

Barnet points out a riverboat moored to the dock. It indicates the presence of unexpected numbers of Imperial Japanese. When C Section sets up it will have to deal with the boat (from C2) and ensure no-one uses its radio. Barnet also points out the freshly erected tents at the north end of the village, but this will be A section’s problem.

Williams brings this information back and Pinko offers his 2p worth, basically it changes nothing since the picket on the hill (C1) still needs to be dealt with and the Bren would site in covering the docks anyway. The only thing that might be done differently, Pinko suggests, is to detail off a small squad to rush the dock and toss grenades in after the Bren has opened up.

 

And so to dishing it out

The new orders are the same as the old orders really so we all take ourselves around the village very carefully you may be sure, leapfrog B Section as will deal with telegraph wires, then ever so quiet up to where we split up for our different dance partners. Then when the red Very Light goes off it’s what-for for Burmans and Nips alike.

Combat

Williams has detailed Cade Harding and Staples off for dealing with the picket. They creep forward, Harding as ‘sweeper’ so a little to the rear once he signals where the two sentries are standing. Cade decides to rush them once within 30’ which works OK for Staples but Cade, opting for a curious ‘doubled over running’ posture, runs into difficulties [rolls a 1 for Athletics]. Staples puts his man down and before the other sentry can yell Cade recovers, charges the remaining distance and stabs successfully [Thankfully Cade’s init is great; his re-try Athletics check is great, and he scores a crit – the knife having a 19-20 crit range helps!]

At the north slope of the hill Pinko has muscled his way into a view of the dock, Lou and Paddy following. They [not Pinko who rolls a 1] spot a lone Burman near the dock who has decided to check the tree-line. The trio back into trees and let him pass them, then after a difficult struggle [Pinko rolls another 1, the Burman also rolls a 1] Pinko pins him and crushes his windpipe with the Bren, before he can scream.

Williams brings the remaining riflemen up, and Cade explores to find them all – remembering to give the password agreed on, more or less.

I am certainly foggy as to whether it should be Tipperary for returning and Mandalay for going! We need to go over these and think of some new and general purpose passwords!

From the Bren site Williams can see that decayed paddies occupy the inland flank of the hill, with a useful remnant of a bund right next to the bashas. At Pinko’s urging he details Cade and Harding to creep down with their SMGs to close in on the bashas [point C3 on map].

Williams makes the call to use Staples again for his reliability, and Ward and Jimbo, to be grenade detail against the riverboat once the Bren has raked it. They wait on the river flank of the hill. Williams keeps White as a runner and rifleman and waits near the Bren team. Lou and Paddy clear a second position ready for Pinko to place the Bren for firing on the Bashas.

 

The night ticks on. After some hesitation Williams gives Cade and Harding the go-ahead and they scramble then crawl across a dry paddy to cover at the eroded bund closest – within 30’ at one point – to the nearest basha.

Out on the river, a riverboat chugs southward. Williams is a little nervy – then a Burman wanders out of the cluster of bashas – but luckily as Williams’ nerves are strained to breaking, the red flare goes up!

Surprise round: Pinko rakes the docked river-boat. Cade and Harding toss grenades, Harding’s goes off. The grenade team rush [half-move, this is a partial round] towards the dock across the scrub below the hill. Off to William’s right flank and below, B Section Bren opens up on the most convenient basha. At the other end of the village the Vickers opens up, hosing tents.

Initiatives:

  • Burmans/Japanese/A and B sections
  • Bren team
  • Williams and White/Grenade team
  • SMGs

Round 1: Burmans begin boiling out onto the road leading to B Section, and onto the maidan between bashas and water. Pinko [Athletics] switches from the dock-sited firing position to the basha-sited and shoots from the hip at the lone Burman but misses. [Since he has two loaders his ammo is reloaded as a free action] Williams hits and drops the Burman. The grenade team rush the dock and toss grenades into the boat, an easy target. Down at the eroded bund Cade and Harding see Cade’s grenade go off among the Burmans on the road; Harding picks off a survivor with a burst. Cade sends a long burst into another clump of Burmans, dropping three.

Round 2: Japanese race out of bashas towards the dock! [See J1 on map] Among them can be seen a Taisho LMG and a sword-waving leader. Pinko sends the remainder of his mag among them: several drop. Williams and White fire: both miss. Staples, who is about to run back up to cover, snap-shoots at the Taisho and drops that target, then runs a half-move. Jimbo follows suit, but Ward sprints direct for cover. At the SMG position both Cade and Harding switch aim left and spray the Japanese, dropping a few more.

Round 3: Many enemy (Burmans as it turns out) boil out of the tents and run south among the Bashas roughly towards B Section. The Vickers plays on them and A Section advances to the tents. On the other side of the village, the Japanese that survived last round rush Staples and Jimbo! Staples manages to parry off his attacker, urging Jimbo to run. Pinko no longer has any firing option that way, so swings the Bren to fire on the Burmans and delivers another full mag onto one clump. Six drop. Williams and White miss again. Staples ripostes and wounds his opponent while Jimbo is clear and into cover. Cade switches to single shot and [using precise shot] fires into the melee, dropping Staples’ opponent. Harding reloads.

Round 4: The Vickers comes under mortar fire! Over south, the two Japanese surviving run past Staples. “Get those bastards!” Williams calls and Pinko switches [shoot from hip] but misses. He tells Paddy to let B Section know there is a mortar in the village; Williams sends Jimbo (just scrambled up) to tell the SMGs. Cade reloads.

Round 5: The Vickers plays beyond the tents, and as it turns out, silences the mortar. The Burmans rush B Section’s line but are gunned down mercilessly before they can come to blows or pick their way through. Jimbo Cade and Harding all toss grenades at the Burmans.

Round 6: As the remaining Burmans charge (and some close in on the SMGs) grenades go off and more automatic fire puts most down. Williams’ rifle team all nail Burmans closing in on the SMGs. Cade Harding and Jimbo switch positions slightly and the SMGs and B Section drop all remaining Burmans between them. Over north, A Section begins clearing the bashas and the Vickers ceases fire.

Round 7: C Section rallies and Williams sends Pinko to check the riverboat.

A few rounds later: Pinko finds the radio intact and some notebooks. He takes the notebooks and leaves the radio as is, just in case.

Barnet rallies his senior NCOs and orders the radio smashed and any other papers taken. Williams reports Staples is lightly injured, B Section has no casualties. The Vickers team has one wounded needing carrying.

Combat ends

 

And finally back upriver safe home

Later I hear Lt. Barnet explains the other riverboat (that had Corp twitching) is what I thought it was: it was the main show, we the sideshow. Royal Marines and a scratch commando force are bound for a more important village. I hear the raid is a brilliant success.

We all traipse back north, take the trail to the river and there’s our riverboat waiting for us. The operation is a success and Tojo will be smarting!

 

Xp for this operation is 1000 added to 200 for the bridge-clearing last session. A good step towards L3.

I know Cade’s player had a ball in the thick of action so he won’t mind me saying I found his “I double over so to confuse the sentry” then rolling a 1 very funny. I kept a straight face, more or less. He certainly wasn’t the only character having difficulty.

It’s just the nature of the d20 game that about 1 in 4 of all rolls are going to suck, and half are going to be meagre. I rolled about three 1s myself. Not to mention a 2 for bearing my target to the ground once bull-rushed! It certainly made hand-to-hand combat with the lone Burman rather tense! I’ll have to brush up on d20 melee.

Our GM is happy VfV ammo use is realistic. Harding went through two mags, Cade three, and Pinko, with free action reloads, five.

Historical Note

This and a similar but east-of-river operation are the only highlights the Corps has to celebrate. The river sortie in particular is a punitive raid with no provision for prisoners or refugee protection. By this time, ordinary rank and file like our heroes are becoming merciless.

Army command (meaning Alexander and his superior Wavell) wish to relieve the Chinese to the north and hold both the Sittang and Irrawaddy valleys. This allows the initiative to remain with the Japanese. Bold thrusts by the Imperial Japanese Army soon send both allies reeling back. General Slim has now taken command, but although he can see what ought to be done, all he can do is try to keep as much of his force intact as possible. It’s a countdown to monsoon time.

Glossary

Basha: The intended meaning here is a more or less traditional Burmese dwelling with sturdy monsoon-resistant roof and loose-woven or latticework walls. Normally but not always clear of the ground. The British and Allied army versions of these were often not as useful against rain and often built on the ground (or even dug out) and easily flooded.

Bully beef: Canned beef. Troops in Burma were chronically short-supplied for fresh meat and vegetables of any kind.

Maidan: Parade ground or town square. The village actually had a simple beaten-ground open area for the villagers to meet and for handling goods to the dock.

Taisho: LMG.

Very Light: Signal flare.

 

 

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BS1.03: Commando!

Unluckily for my plan of how I was to write this AP, our GM has decided not to be exact about dates any more. It’s about two weeks later – though whether that means two weeks after our heroes arrive at Prome, or two weeks after the convoy out of Rangoon finally arrives at Prome, I cannot tell.

While divisions and brigades are rearranged in a wide area around Prome, the feeling that a blow needs to be struck against the onrushing enemy tables various daring plans. One of those plans leads to tonight’s session.

 

The characters for tonight’s session

Cpl Bryn Williams, L2 Leadership, a non-smoker(!)

LCpl Pinko McLean, L2 Combat, smokes roll-your-own whenever practical

Pte Cade, L2 Recon, occasional smoker

 

“Pinko, I’m for the briefing, I’m sure the Rajputs will be fine” – Williams

“Oh aye Corp, the gunga dins are fine fellows, I’ve no problem wi’ them” – Pinko

 

From picket duty south of Prome

So pet, here I am with the whole platoon south of Prome. In our section under Williams we have Harding and Cade as you know from my previous, then White, Jimbo, Staples and last, Joe Ward. Ward’s a shop-floor lawyer, or barrack-room general, no trouble in peace time but no peace in trouble time. White’s the only other I’ve got my eye on, as he don’t join in as he ought. Staples is another old sweat like Harding but new to us, just out of Palestine or some such. He’s a good example to the other privates, very meticulous with equipment. Paddy and Lou are my off-siders on the Bren, both young – I’m the old dog mark you!

We’ve stood-to all night, and Corp comes back from nattering with Lt. Barnet, the young Rupert we have, and passes on the word our relief will be with us soon. ‘Rajputs’ he says, so I ask him if the buzz is right, and Tojo is turning up in our kit. I see the whites of his eyes – a wee shade leery is our Corp – they say the Welsh are superstitious.

Finally, about the time any attack would have come through by now, we pass back through, but, stand to for another hour behind the Rajputs. Then off to khana.

Just after my boots and toes call – we don’t want anything dropping off! – Corp comes back and says Pinko, you heard the right of it and what’s more there’s rebel Burmans in our Burman Divn uniforms, Japs in Chinaman uniforms and Uncle Tom Cobbly And All by the sound of it.

He says to us, briefing all ranks 1400, so in other words pet I get some kip in until 2pm.

 

The briefing covers the platoon’s role in a daring raid, but all this will become clear next session so I omit it. Pinko’s letter picks up again after a night river-voyage and march south along the Irrawaddy’s west bank.

 

Beating down the Irrawaddy

Here we are in our LUP, just time for a quick note on tonight’s larks. We board the Garnet about 1900, as nice a clapped-out old barge of a riverboat as you could ask for, and downriver we pop on the mighty Irrawaddy.

[During the voyage Lt. Barnet shows willing to mingle, and gamely smokes one of Pinko’s roll-your-own fags. He’s also second off the boat after the recce pair]

Early on Lt. Barnet details our section off for forward recce so Cade and Harding are first over, me heaving their packs along until we are snug in the jungle. [Athletics checks, the platoon disembarks and wades ashore safely, even Pinko struggling under two extra packs] Then away off on a track in the night, using the jungle in case of strongpoints. Finally Harding comes back, calling our password, and tells Barnet he’s found the chaung as expected. This is a dryish little gorge, with a bridge over or so we hope – otherwise it’s a long loop march for us!

After we’ve waited in firing positions for a time I hear a Tommy gun. Later, Corp lectures Cade about taking his own action. Ward skives off but no point putting him on a charge – we’re in action.

 

Cade and Harding: The two expert scouts sneak forward. Cade uses Stealth [27] to shift quietly to the point where he can see across a clearing at the bridge to embers of a campfire on the far side. There is a lean-to on the left bridge anchor-post, but the most obvious thing is the two men, most likely dacoits, resting at guard, smoking, centre of bridge. Using another excellent Stealth check [24] Cade shifts further around and overhears enough to guess they are Burmans. With a 14 on Notice, he can’t tell anything about possible reinforcements. He decides to take the initiative and opens up!

 

Combat

Cade empties a mag across the two guards, they both drop, riddled with bullets.

Burmans erupt out of the lean-to and into cover on their clearing edge, within say 100’ of Cade. There are probably three of them, it’s hard to tell.

Williams tells his section to stay put. No point in advancing if the next thing is Cade and Harding running our way! Behind him, the other sections also stay put.

Cade shifts back round to Harding, but Harding also re-positions.

The section arrives, Williams attempting to make Ward soldier. He details Ward off to link to Harding but Ward simply steps into the jungle and sits down, until prodded on gently by Pinko. White and Jimbo generally copy what Staples does, and Staples performs very well. There’s an exchange of fire, in which Williams downs his first man. More by luck than anything the section puts down all three Burmans without any casualties.

Combat ends

 

To lay up waiting for the next leg

It’s hours after our little clearing action over the bridge when more running water is reported. Corp has put Staples up with Cade to give Harding a spell. Well this is a ford, so as I’m penning this I’ve had the lads drying out feet and kit. We’ve marched upriver a step to where we can scoop faster-running water for our billies, I’m maybe not so weary so here I am jotting these, Paddy and Lou watching back-trail with me and this is lay-up point ‘til next.

 

An outline of the company, Lt. Barnet’s platoon, and Cpl Bryn Williams’ section

Company

Major Owen – long-serving career officer, and company commander.  In his forties.

Captain Cotton – Owen’s 2IC, in his thirties.

 

Platoon

Lt Barnet – new commanding officer to the platoon, young – has a public school accent.

Sergeant Fields – Platoon Sergeant, solid pre-war soldier.

Corporal Hook – Corporal Rifle Section 1.  Disciplinarian.

Corporal Carter – Rifle Section 2.  Older man, also quieter.

[A Vickers section is also attached for this mission]

 

Rifle Section 3

Corporal Bryn Williams – Former teacher.

Private Harding – Old Sweat.

Private Cade – Formerly of the South West of England, and various magistrates courts.

Private White (White) – an unfriendly misery.  The Section’s loner.

Private James (Jimbo) – Young man, recruited shortly after finishing school.

Private Staples (Ned) – New reinforcement, quiet.  He is a soldier that served in a different unit before joining the Wiltshires. He takes good care of his kit.

Private Ward (Joe) – Mouthy bloke.

Bren Gun section. This group within a rifle section make sure that the section’s Bren gun is well placed and firing.

L/Cpl Pinko McLean – Bren Gun 1.  The largest man in the unit.

Private Lewis (Lou) – Bren Gun 2.  Ambitious young fellow.

Private Lonegan (Paddy) – Bren Gun 3.  Irish, also young.

Historical Note

A mixed Royal Navy and Royal Marine establishment maintains a flotilla on the Irrawaddy, with the help of private elements such as Burma Timber, but the loss of Rangoon consigns it all to the river-bottom as the Imperial British and Allied forces pull further west and north. 

It is not all retreat. This session finds McLean writing his missus during a period of about a month, when 17th Indian and 1st Burma Divisions are deployed in a dispersed pattern around Prome. The 17th sustained terrible losses at Sittaung Bridge and the 1st Burma is hemorrhaging deserters, but there is a strong feeling that the Imperial Japanese and their Burman allies should be attacked. The Corps command certainly means to! – but command at the Theatre level places a very strong emphasis on the appearance of lending support to the Chinese armies north of Prome. This means that at least one-sixth of the Corps is strung out north leaving no useful reserve to build around for a counter-attack. 

What does happen is a pair of raids, one by land, one by river, organised at the brigade-and-below level. The river raid is carried out by Marines and scratch commando forces associated with them. They are carried out around 17 March and both are highly successful. Stay tuned to see if this imaginary version is as successful!

Glossary

Chaung and Nullah: Steep-sided streams typically emptying into a river. During the dry season it’s a nullah, when it has water to wade it’s a chaung.

Dacoit: Bandit. Local numbers swelled dramatically as desertions mounted and prisons emptied. They might work for the enemy if it seems worth their while but their end goal is loot. 

Skives off, skiving: Slacking or malingering.

Tojo: Japanese troops in general. This is about the politest term used to refer to Japanese, as the atrocities inflicted by them on wounded and prisoners is common knowledge.

 

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BS1.02: Escape to Prome

 

The characters for this session

Cpl Bryn Williams, L1 Leader

LCpl Pinko McLean, L1 Combat

Ptes Harding and Cade, L1 Recon

 

Day one – Daphne takes us and the files for a lovely drive

This morning is grand the way it smells. Early dawn, the jungle mixing with cooking spices. Naught to fret over pet, here we are in Prome all safe and sound. Funny you would think the brass would send standing orders for how the word should be pronounced but I heard a BSM growling ‘Hand welcome to Prom sah’ as he handed off some civvie wallah, and our Williams, the Corp, says it with two syllables Pro-om like rhyming with poem.

In my last (included in this same) we had just tidied up some Burmese. Then, Corp and young Cade head into the police station. Fishburn, Daphne’s driver (the Bedford!) hands me two more box magazines for the Bren. Resourceful he is. I say well done to Harding on keeping to short burst, and since I can see plenty of bullet holes around the hotel opposite I remind myself to have a word to Cade. No harm in going through a magazine if need be, but not for potting at a whim, you may say.

Then up rolls a staff car and out pops the Lt-Genl no less, preceded by his BSM. No names no pack drill – I stick pretty close to the yessir nossir routine till he goes inside. Comes back out with a word of praise to us proletariat, heads off. Likely looking though, and at least he takes an interest. I tell you what pet if be it’s a boy, Alexander is a good name.

[And thank you to SM our GM for letting the name Alexander into the campaign in time for Pinko to write it home to wifey. Now even if he doesn’t make it home, Sandy McLean the would-be Bodie of MI6 has his name and Sandi Maclaine has hers!]

Harding and me swap places with Cade, Corp wants a filing cabinet moved. This is what Edson, the police gentleman, wants us to pack out to Prome. We trolley it out, downstairs, past some of Empire’s Outpost Hopefuls burning papers and a dusty look from the desk noncom, and into the lorry. Fishburn lashes it all down before someone decides they want their trolley back, we pile in then off to the races.

 

Fishburn to the rescue and off by rail bumpity bump

It’s like Doncaster on race day see, but never a white face. Crowds of Indian families walking north, which is where we are going. Then some cars ahead of us turn back, not a good sign. A section of Baluchis is what’s stopping things. Their non-com gives us the right-about – seems there’s a Jap roadblock ahead. I’ve already tipped Corp off to the railway running the way we want to get out of Rangoon, so after some consulting of his gentleman’s guide book to Burma, that’s where we head.

Harding misses a set-to in all the crowd but Fishburn doesn’t, and we fish a wee Indian family out of bother.

[No combat – Williams uses intimidation backed up by automatic weapons, and scores well over 20, to send a small gang of Burmese packing.]

They are headed for Mandalay but have as much show of getting there as the flying fish. We – or rather Fishburn – trades them a lift to the rail for directions. Daphne swings up onto the embankment as bonny as you like and off we roll. But I’m not the only one that thought of using the rail and it’s just as crowded with refugees. Shades of Dunkirk says I and look up and about sharp, to Cade.

[The Bedford is canopy-free, affording a good view from the bed. And besides, you lose your DEX bonus if caught seated in the cab when autofire is laid down on you! None of the squad rides with Fishburn. McLean stays near the tailgate, Harding stands behind Fishburn with some very simple agreed signals between them, Cade sits watching up and around, and Williams keeps an eye on all three of them.]

 

Two Johnny Walkers is the signal to stop for Mr Gibson

Daphne grinds northish slowly, very unpleasant on the sleepers but you may be sure, better than shanks pony. I say northish, for though we begin on a north-bound line, the rail swings away east to a wee place name of Mingalodon (as far as I can make out). And east is closer to the sharp end, as artillery fire thumping away ahead of us reminds us!

The first four hours though are slow and steady. Offered a chance we’d be off Daphne and commandeering some fuel and maybe a spare wheel to lash on as extra bumper. But by then the flood of refugees only becomes a trickle, so we pay the matter no mind.

Harding taps his signal for hold to Fishburn and luck comes to us in the shape of a newspaperman by the name of Mr Frank Gibson of the Rangoon Times. He uses two bottles of Johnny Walker to wave us down, and hops in the cab cool as you please.

With a ‘why we’re all war correspondents now’ he gives us to believe we may be heading for another Jap roadblock. Sure enough it would be about two hours before sundown and refugees are coming back agin our course. Corp waves one down and there’s a wee bit of jawing, Bombay Welsh to South Welsh as you might say. He’s a charmer as when he wants to be is Corp and bless me if johnny babu doesn’t sketch him out a wee plan of the Jap post.

[Williams gathers info using the Converse skill, scoring a 16. Here, a reminder that skills are house-ruled into more useful aggregates than the 3.0/VfV originals. There are only about 20, some very specific but others covering similar groups of proficiency.]

 

Back of an envelope - the best kind of plan!

Back of an envelope – the best kind of plan!

 

PPPPP

Corp sends our two steeplechasers forward, they loop right of the rail, into a wee bit of jungle. I fancy I can smell a village on the other side of it, so it’s no more than a few footba’ fields worth.

 

Cade and Harding: Cade moves first using his poaching experience, guiding Harding [giving +4 to Harding]. There is still some light at this point so they make good time. The paddies are “dry” which is to say they are boggy and absolute no-go for motorised transport. The jungle contains game or villager trails, so the pair successfully move silently [using their Stealth skill]. Harding has a small spyglass that he now uses to good effect. Looking along the second line of bunds (this line is scrub-covered – in Normandy it would be equivalent to bocage) he spots [Notice] both a 4-man squad up beside the rail embankment, and a MG section posted about 20 yards shy of that. Being an old sweat [soldier background] he is able to recall that the MG is the Taisho 11, a relatively short-range LMG. The pair sneak back, again successfully, using cover of night.

 

Mr Gibson is retailing us with all manner of gossip from the front, though as we all know the front is by and large all around us. But in good time not long after nightfall our pair slog back, and report.

Corp waits some time to hand us our orders and I can tell you if I hadn’t trimmed close my hair would be standing on end, for at one time he thinks to send the same pair alone agin all the Japs. Then at another he’s planning to burn them out using Molotov cocktails – of fine whisky mind you! But with Harding piping up I do my best as well and the orders as Corp hands them down sound achievable.

 

The plan

  1. The squad moves along Cade’s original path to a Lay Up Point (LUP) where the second bund meets the jungle.
  2. Cade guides Pinko to a Firing Position (FP) further along the jungle fringe, from where he can lay fire without shooting his squad.
  3. On Cade’s return to the LUP, Fishburn is signalled using a shielded lighter.
  4. Fishburn noisily moves the lorry back and forth along the rail staying out of effective rifle range.
  5. Using this diversion Cade and Harding followed by Williams as reserve work along the bund.
  6. They use grenades on the MG post followed by SMG fire while the Bren sweeps anything that becomes visible.

 

Error by night but all’s well in a fire-fight

Trouble is I’m a wee shade taller than Cade and Harding and no sooner do I step foot in the jungle than I run nose-first into a sharp branch or the like [Pinko rolls a 1 on Stealth] and some wildfowl fly up, while I’m busting a gut not howling. Harding whips round and stops me moving and we hold our breath until Cade mutters all clear. [A Japanese sentry moves over the bund and watches for a time, but when the scared birds return to their nests he goes back to his post.]

Well the plan goes ever so well after that little dance, and I’m posted away lying doggo sighting over my Bren towards the rail. I gather the signal works for after a good long time I hear Daphne grinding up. Then what do I hear but Jap laughing and the odd rifle shot. The lads do their bit and we soon wipe the grins off the Japs faces.

 

Combat

Surprise round: Cade and Harding have worked their way to within just under 60 feet of the MG post. Williams, who is by no means as stealthy, is well back. The forward pair hurl grenades. They are on the opposite side of the bund, so the task is equivalent to ‘over a low wall’. Neither make anything like a good throw, but by the vagaries of d20 (distance) and d8 (direction) one grenade lands very close to an ideal place while the other lands safely away in the paddy.

VfV rightly builds some uncertainty into when grenades explode. Neither does so.

 

Initiatives

  • Harding
  • Cade
  • Williams
  • Pinko
  • Japanese

Round 1: Harding and cade toss a second grenade each, accurately. The first pair of grenades go off as does one of the second pair. The MG post takes 33 points of damage from two grenades. Pinko fires the Bren at the second squad of Japanese, giving 20 rounds to one 10×10 square and 10 rounds to the next. Two targets appear to be seriously hit, two less so. In response those two Japanese, one a noncom, are seen to scramble into cover across the rail embankment.

Round 2: Harding drops his init to the Japanese as he waits for opportunity target. Cade crawls forward, then the fourth grenade goes off: but he makes his Refl SV with plenty of cover. Williams also awaits opportunity. Pinko reloads. Three Japanese appear from over the rail! Williams misses with his Lee-Enfield but Harding blasts a 10×10 area with his Tommy gun, covering two of them. One drops.

Round 3: Cade is now reasonably close to the rail and unloads a full mag into the Japanese, putting both down.

‘Corp?’ – Pinko

Williams advances, so seeing that, Pinko advances to keep the angle of fire. The Japanese do not return fire – they are dead or dying.

Combat ends

 

Day two – a bit of light armoured foraging and refuelling

These boys marched light – the camp stove and MG were the heaviest things they had about them – but we take spoils of war, namely some rice and some bayonets that will be bonny as cooking skewers if nothing else. With a bite of sticky rice and rations its brekkie done and north again. This time its proper north, to Letpadan.

The only bother we have is with the armoured mob, the 7th sitting across the tracks with their Honeys, who give us proper khana but jack with fuel for Daphne. Never you mind Corp I say, and let Cade know he’s excused to explore.

[Cade decides to wander and speak to people, gather info using his Converse skill. This works OK – he locates the fuel dump – but when he switches to Convince it’s a different story and the guard sends him away with a flea in his ear.]

Sounds to me Cade may have been too for’ard but Corp has a Welsh gift of the gab. He arms himself with a bottle of Johnny Walker and soon returns with two big cans of fuel. [Williams has plenty of CHA and it’s a much easier task with the actual bribe visible!] Daphne’s back on the road proper from there on, and it’s Prome the next day!

 

Day three – Prome and off to post

A bit of a comedy shall finish this, then off to post. I’ve not seen anyone look more baffled as Corp when we help Fishburn unload Daphne and no-one appears to whisk the filing cabinet away. [Williams was supposed to jot down the destination: he assumed Edson would be babysitting us the whole way] He decides he’d maybe best see what’s within, and I step away smart-like. What I don’t see I can’t lie about. After a time chuckling up my sleeve I post away and off an MP have direction to the nearest brass.

As I get back I see Cade has got the cabinet closed back up so I stub out my fag on the lock to hide any scratches and let Corp know the direction. Then it’s back into Daphne with the cabinet – Fishburn’s not best pleased – and off to HQ 1st Burma. Corp finds a brass hat willing to take the wretched thing, so job done and off to NAAFI for yrs truly.

 

And with the successful mission (barring actually delivering the files to the right person) and arrival, two days later, of the main convoy out of Rangoon, the characters all advance to Level 2.

In case you are wondering about what was left unsaid: the Japanese did have papers but Williams did not confiscate them; Cade did not frisk corpses for money; no time was spent on burial detail; firing pins were removed from guns and thrown into paddy fields. Williams looked at but did not steal the files, which were spy stuff.

Overall our squad is working well together. Characters knowing each other quite well is a little unusual for level ones. A fixed order of discipline is another challenge. Before the session I asked about nicknames, and said what they should call me away from commissioned ranks, and made sure the GM knew Pinko is a smoker and rolls his own. I’ll try to fill in smoking habits of the others, next session.

 

Historical note

The Imperial Japanese Army outflanked Rangoon but – and here is where their rigid command structure betrayed them – allowed the Imperial British Army and its colonial forces, all 40 miles of road-bound column, to leave by the north. Rangoon officially fell on March 9. 

The journey to Prome was indeed menaced by Japanese air power. Against the odds and short of parts and adequate airfields, British, Indian and American pilots managed to shield the retreat to a large extent.

So the British and colonial forces are in Prome. About eighty miles north, beyond the supposedly impassable Pegu Yomas mountains, a seasoned Chinese force has assembled around Toungoo to reinforce the 1st Division. The Brass, as Pinko calls them, are airlifted out to consult with Wavell (commander of the entire far east defence) in Mandalay far to the north. No such luxury for the swaddies – their job is to try to hold the Japanese until May and the monsoon. Wish them luck!

 

d20 differences, and a short glossary

Skills for this campaign: Athletics (DEX)=tumble, balance; Climb (STR)=climb, use rope; Command (CHA); Converse (WIS)=gather info, sense motive; Convince (CHA)=bluff, diplomacy; Demolitions (INT)=demolitions, disable device; Documents (INT)=decipher script, forgery; Handle animal (CHA)=animal empathy, handle animal; Heal (WIS); Intimidate (CHA); Jeweller (INT)=open locks, appraise; Logistics (INT); Notice (WIS)=spot, listen; Operate heavy equipment (DEX) may include drive large vehicle; Search (INT); Sleight of hand (DEX)=escape artist, pickpocket; Stealth (DEX)=hide, move silently; Swim (STR); Wilderness lore (WIS) includes intuit direction. Knowledge and languages have campaign-related guidelines.

The house rules for the campaign on hit points: at level 1 hp=CON. At level 2 but not other levels, a normal 3.0Ed hp gain occurs. From there at alternating levels characters gain either their CON bonus if any or their hp dice roll.

 

Glossary of some terms used

Babu: Literally clerk, but not a polite usage

Baluchis: In this case, regular soldiers from Baluchistan

Bombay Welsh: Scornful term for accented English as spoken by Indians

Brekkie: Breakfast (abbreviation)

BSM: Battalion Sergeant-Major (abbreviation)

Corp: Pinko’s term for his Corporal (abbreviation)

Doggo: Hidden

Dunkirk: The British Expeditionary Force retreated on Dunkirk in 1940, under air attack most of the time

Fag: Cigarette

Honey: Stuart light tank M3

Jack: Selfish

Khana: Food, meal

NAAFI: Canteen service but also coordinated entertainment

Shank’s pony: Afoot

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Burma Sunrise: BS1.01: Rangoon errand

a V for Victory d20 WWII campaign for military action at squad level

Welcome to a new game! Today kicks off a squad-level military RPG using V for Victory d20 rules. Our GM is the esteemed SM whose previous GM credits (featured in blogs) include Surplus Heroes, Keep on the Bountylands, Capes and Lankhmar.

The characters, in order of rank or seniority

Backgrounds are bolded.

Cpl Bryn Williams: Bryn was a teacher in South Wales, leading his classes rather than directing them. This ability stood him in good stead on being conscripted and he gained two stripes quite easily. He is ambitious for more! He is wiry in stature, dark-haired and with intense dark eyes. By the time our campaign begins he is aged 24 and is following the Command class path. He speaks with a mild Welsh accent.

This player previously played: Fennec, Iceman, Vic Creed, Paul Birkby, Morath.

LCpl Archibald “Pinko” McLean: As a younger man Pinko’s sheer physical presence behind them made unionists and Communist Party orators feel much safer. Before the war Pinko’s leftist loyalties were a strength to shop stewards and a nuisance to management. But in a wartime Wiltshire aeronautics factory, they became intolerable. Pinko finds himself in Burma with the automatic rank of LCpl since he is strong enough to wield the Bren easily. He has just received a letter from his wife, telling him she has a bun in the oven. Pinko is strapping (to put it mildly) and the climate makes him as pink as his moniker. By the time our campaign begins he is in his mid-20s and is following the Combat class path. He speaks with a very mild Scots accent for he grew up in England of Scots parents.

This player previously played: Pras, Widow, Martel Guerra, Mola, Sandi.

Pte Colin Harding: Harding is an old sweat – in other words he has been a soldier in the unit since peace-time – which accounts for his seniority over the other privates in the section although he is only 21. Harding lived a knockabout life and found the peacetime army a good way to avoid commitments to women. Harding is tan and sturdily built, and as our campaign begins he is following the Recon class path. He speaks with a generic lower-class-English accent.

This player previously played: Jotunn, Pip, Doc Samedy, Cliff, Celo.

Pte Tony Cade: Young Antony grew up mostly fatherless in semi-rural Kent, bending his path into increasingly criminal ways despite his mother’s opinion that he is a good lad, just misunderstood. By his late teens Tony Cade promoted himself from poacher to break-in man. Inevitably a stretch loomed and it being wartime, Cade was thankful to volunteer into the regiment. As our campaign begins he is aged 22 and is following the Recon class path. He is lean but well-muscled and speaks with a generic lower-class-English accent.

This player previously played: Crompton, BJ, Arbie, Banjo Carrick, Dan Hewstone.

 

And now to the story. I shall use green for in-game mechanics, blue for combat and something bright for inits, dark orange for technicalities outside of those, purple for me editorialising, and indigo for historical notes.

 

Packing it up then papers needed

Rangoon, March 1942

I’d think this will no make it past the censors, but even so. It’s a sultry hot day as you would not credit, the lads (Harding and Cade) and I loading officer’s treasures to the Bedford. You will maybe no have heard of Sittaung Bridge but here, it’s common news that the brass are all agley, most of the 17th Indian is abandoned, wrong side. Air-raids here as the RAF seems away.

Cpl Williams nips away round corner as CSM Windridge hails him to hear what the Burma Police gentleman has to say. We learn later that Important Documents are at stake.

‘Have you looked inside that chest yet,’ I say to Cade. After all, property is theft. I stand betwixt he and any onlooker then just as Williams is stepping foot back there’s a nasty wee crack as Cade makes a bollocks-mess of it. [Cade’s first roll of the campaign, it’s a natural 1]

I can tell Williams has dekko’d what’s afoot so I just give Cade a wee jab in the short ribs with my elbow like, and tell Williams ‘Cade’s taken a turn Corp’l he’s gone all white.’ [McLean has STR 18, Cade takes 4 temporary damage. Williams rolls a nice 16 and has good Notice but decides not to press the issue.]

 

It does not get Cade to the sick list and sharpish we are issued our combat kit. Williams even comes back from QM with half a dozen Mills bombs. [Williams uses the Logistics skill, a very important skill for gaining re-ups and extra gear: he scores well] One for you, one for you, four for you McLean he says. Now get your ordinaries and particulars, we have papers to find for this lovely gentleman. By which I take him to mean the Police gentleman, Inspector Edson. So swelter or no we march to barracks and pack kit. I keep your letter close by. And I tuck a chiv down my boot, a little thing I picked up in a market. Then off to the docks and what-for.

 

 

Loadouts: Our GM has provided nice ready-worked loadout sheets where the main stats and SV can be recorded and any small alterations in kit are easy to track. As the Bren gunner my character Pinko McLean expects to walk around in action with 73lb though of course if a pack can be shed, that will lighten the load. The extra four Mills bombs take the total to 79lb.

 

Driving to a what-for at the wharves

The Bedford is named Daphne and has a driver named Fishburn. [Drive is a skill which more than one character has as a core skill but at this stage of the war lorries were on the commissariat’s establishment and driven by specialists who were quite often, non-white.]

Daphne takes us through Rangoon towards the river and the docks there. Williams sits opposite we three and lets us know we are bound for Prome once we pick up the documents. Harding gets up behind the cab, he has sharp eyes for trouble.

Vehicles: All sides involved in this campaign prefer their motor vehicles to have right-hand drive. For my American readers: The gear shift on a lorry (truck) or car (automobile) is likely to be to the driver’s left hand. If he is right-handed, he can easily shoot left across the passenger seat, but will find it more difficult to shoot right, out of his own window. It’s also tricky for him to restrain a passenger, since that would be his weaker left hand. On the other hand it’s easier for him to extend a pistol out of his own window and fire directly ahead.

 

The buildings around the police station are turn of the century type of things, two stories tall I suppose. There’s sniper waiting for us opposite the station. Don’t you fret when I hear the shot I am out the back of the Bedford and into the monsoon drain like a flash. There’s a bit of nonsense then we trap the buggers and set them to rights.

 

Combat

Battle layout:

A broad open street, at a four-way intersection. A hotel or similar stands opposite the police station and the sniper is on the 2nd floor (American 3rd floor). The hotel’s front entrance is at the corner, the police station’s entrance is flush to the street facing the hotel. A service alley runs off the street beside the hotel but is not immediately obvious.

Surprise round: Sniper shoots at the Indian police officer that greets Daphne’s arrival. Misses. Harding notices the shot [Notice is one of a number of 3.0 skills house-ruled into broader categories, rather like 4E and 5E] and calls the location; Williams also notices roughly where it came from.

Initiatives

  • Cade
  • McLean
  • Williams
  • Harding
  • NPCs

Round 1: Cade stands in the cab and fires a full Tommy gun mag into the window where the sniper has foolishly remained in view.

A major shift away from d20Modern is that automatic weapons really are automatic and proficiency means they can be used as intended. Concepts like strafe and burst fire that in d20Modern require a number of feats and prereqs such as 13 WIS are available to beginning characters as simple attacks, either standard attack actions or full-round.

 

Full-round action, beaten zone requires DC24 Refl SV based on 30 rounds fired, less cover. The sniper fails [2d6 damage] and is seen to roll back out of line of sight.

As with most/all d20 rules, American-made weapons are more powerful than others but these have been house-ruled back down closer to reality. The Tommy gun and Colt M1911A1 are still powerful, just not as powerful as a medium machine gun.

 

From his seat at rear, McLean rolls out of the lorry and into the monsoon ditch behind Daphne’s rear axle.

Williams remains in the Bedford, though he does crouch, and issues orders.

From his position standing behind the cab Harding vaults out and covers the window.

 

“McLean, Harding – find the rear, enter, and turf the miscreant out!” – Williams

 

Two rounds tick by as Harding and McLean flank the hotel and Cade and Williams change aim. Cade keeps encouraging someone to toss a grenade at the window…

 

Round 4: Williams is ready for a shot with his Lee-Enfield, though he remains in an awkward position in the Bedford. Cade decides to toss one of his own grenades.

 

Grenade-throwing is reasonably simple though the penalties for range, at 15’ increments, are steep. The VfV rules provide a handy list of DCs for typical targets. The street is broad and Cade would be best off, so it eventually emerges, to jump down, run halfway across the street, and hurl with two range penalties. That sounds really dangerous and he tosses from his position in the Bedford. The GM decides to avoid further debate about how grenades work and goes with the flat book DC. Cade fails, the grenade-miss rules provide for the result. The grenade bounces off and lands quite near Daphne. Probably destroying a front tyre but no one thinks of that at the time. But luckily Cade did not advance into the open and is not in the blast.

 

The buildings along the alley seem occupied but quiet. Harding finds the rear kitchen service door easily enough. Then a grenade goes off in the distance! Harding kicks the door, his foot makes little impact. Then he pushes it open and sees the kitchen is abandoned. He moves through, McLean’s hefty tread behind him. A dead kitchen-wallah lies in his path. Not far beyond is a service hatch, he moves to that and through its slats sees three Burmese, two clumped and one further away.

 

Initiatives

  • Harding
  • McLean
  • NPCs

Round 1: Harding moves 5’ to the connecting door and kicks it open, sprays a burst at the solo Burmese, and kneels. [Bursts get a simple +2 to hit] The burst misses. McLean swings the Bren up and fires over Harding. Full-round, full magazine. Neither make the DC and are thrown back against the wall, riddled with heavy rounds. [2d10 damage each] [In fact the damage is not enormous but these lowly NPCs do not appear to have many hp or be allowed MAS SV. And according to the rules we did not read properly, firing from the hip is limited to short bursts at -2.]

The lone Burmese flees away and out the front… meanwhile at the hotel front both Williams and Cade are ready for this and Cade sends another full round of area fire at him. This Burmese drops as well.

 

Two rounds later Harding and McLean get to the sniper’s door, easily spotted thanks to the splintered bullet-holes through it. The sniper lies dead inside. Harding commandeers the Lee-Enfield and ammo, while McLean breaks the sniper’s pistol, a Nambu knock-off. [Mainly to see if it can be done using these rules. It’s a STR SV and McLean gets 21]

 

 

Historical note

At this stage the Imperial Japanese Army is proving far more resourceful and mobile than the Imperial British and its colonial forces. A series of strategic victories is in train, forcing the British high command to withdraw as best it can, all the way back to India.

At this point in the war it is fair to say that both main armies – Japanese and British/Colonial – believe implicitly that they are superior and everyone around them, including allies, is inferior. Of the two, the Japanese are having their beliefs endorsed by events.

Strategic Japanese success has brought Siam [Thailand] into the war as an allied force directed into northern Burma, and allowed the Japanese army to at least partly-train a Burmese force. Since they hold the Burmese in the same contempt that they hold all other Asian races that is as good as it will get for General Aung’s ambitions. China’s Nationalist army is splintering into scattered divisions in the north and Britain’s retreat is taking its forces further away from China. Although America has entered the war Roosevelt is thinking purely long-term and China; and American materiel is directed away from the crisis.

 

Campaign concepts, d20 differences, and a short glossary

This is a very British based campaign so I will strive to use British-English unless it is very confusing to do so.

As virtually all readers speak d20, allow me to simply highlight how V for Victory (VfV) differs from other very similar open licence properties.

No arcane aspect exists at all. All related skills and feats are removed.

Characters have backgrounds (d20 Modern concept) that provide pre-training core skills. Skills irrelevant to campaigning are not offered. There are typically more core skills from a background than in d20 Modern. The background also provides one bonus feat or feat-like ability.

Characters then select one or other Class, which provides another set of core skills, sets the hp dice, the skill point factor, and feats progression. The class also provides the usual SV progression and the defence bonus concept, as seen in d20 Modern.

VfV has its own classes that have 10 levels, similar but different to d20 Modern. Out of a fairly small choice our GM has restricted classes further to Combat, Recon, and Command. The other dropped class, Intelligence, is suited to partisans and resistance fighters.

Finally the Level 1 character selects one Specialty, which provides a feat relating to that. For example Cade selects Scout specialty and gains the Tracking feat.

 

The rules offer a couple of reasonably familiar concepts for grittiness and massive damage. They do not offer a massive-damage-save feat track so, as our GM has chosen a mid-way grittiness where 20 triggers MAS SV and beginning HP = CON, feats like greater fortitude assume major importance.

Our GM has also chosen a middle course for disease. If we don’t go out of our way to be unhealthy he will assume we don’t catch any of the plethora of tropical diseases on offer.

As other areas of dissimilarity emerge I’ll highlight them as we go.

 

Glossary

Bedford: 3-ton Bedford lorry.

Brass: Refers to senior officers with powers of deciding where whole formations go.

Bren gun: British light machine gun that features a top-mounted curved box 30-round magazine. Highly reliable. Firing the same .303 military ball round that the Lee-Enfield (cf) fires.

Burmese: refers specifically to the dominant inland element of Burma’s peoples. The Burmese population had no love for the many minorities present, and no great fondness for Britons; but especially loathed Indians. Some Burmese stayed extremely loyal to Britain and this should not be forgotten.

Car: Automobile.

Coy: Company (abbreviation).

Cpl: Corporal, two stripes in the British system (abbreviation).

CSM: Company Sergeant-Major, the senior NCO of the company. There are several ranks of Sergeant-Major, the larger the unit the more senior.

LCpl: Lance-corporal, one stripe in the British system. Somewhat equivalent to PFC or Specialist (abbreviation).

Lee-Enfield: British rifle. At this time the No. 1 Mk III is in use, firing the same .303 military round used by the Bren and the Vickers Machine Gun.

Lorry: Truck.

Mills bomb: Fragmentation grenade very little changed in design since the Great War.

Pte: Private, the lowest rank in the British army (abbreviation).

QM: Quarter-master, or the store itself (abbreviation).

Raj: Out-dated term for British system of rule of South Asia, often including Burma.

Sten gun: Sten SMG, reliable, firing 9mm parabellum.

Tommy gun: Thompson SMG, (a variety of Marks) firing the .45 ACP round.

 

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TI2.15: To the river

 

Characters for this session as they end the season:

Fennec, L2 wizard STR24 IQ21 LK15 CON26 DEX20 CHR13 SPD14 WIZ21. OGA value 49, Combat adds +25.

Cauleigh, L3 warrior STR27 IQ14 LK24 CON34 DEX29 CHR18 SPD29(+9). Combat adds 70 with ring of speed.

Jotunn, L5 warrior STR31 IQ15 LK20 CON52 DEX24 CHR8 SPD20. Combat adds 47.

Crompton, L2 rogue STR26 IQ12 LK19 CON22 DEX28 CHR12 SPD16 WIZ13. Combat adds 41.

 

Joyous summer beams upon their course

It is warm and still as our four re-founders of Fingold set off out the west gate and between two small bastions thrown up a bowshot from the walls. One directly guards the road, the other faces west-south-west. They swing around the latter and strike out along the well-beaten trail left by Chion’s regiment mere days since.

It makes for easy marching, and though Jotunn still ranges ahead he bears his full load. Animals and birds stay well away from the steady clanking progress of the four. Sweat stains the travelling clothes of Jotunn and Cauleigh in particular, though Crompton too sweats as he swaggers with heavy weaponry on his shoulder.

 

A slighted fortress offers a fine view of Hathlisveit

It is well through the second day of their march when Jotunn spots an unnatural line visible through the trees to his right. Perhaps fortification, perhaps siege weaponry.

Slipping his arquebus and some of his noisiest gear off and leaving the other three standing guard, Jotunn creeps [excellent DEX SR] through the young trees to discover the site of a slighted fortress. Here, a counter-castle and ruinous siege weapon are slowly decaying. Beyond, the broken walls of the fortress. Judging by the regrowth, it has been abandoned at least two years. There is no sign nor smell of human – not even the sour charcoal smell of an old fire.

A quick clamber up, and he can see beyond the woods to the siege lines around Hathlisveit, some six miles away. As far as distance allows him to judge, the siege is still being prosecuted and the lines are still not heavily occupied.

The view affords choices of shadowy paths where the party can slip close to the besiegers. From there it will be a simple matter for Crompton to sneak the party in.

And so it proves.

[And here I blank out and forget to place a set-piece encounter with a crashed hippogriff.]

 

Hathlisveit offers plenty of ways to spend money

At Hathlisveit they find they are welcome but the welcome comes with no great fanfare. They check into the Serpent once more (it is the only inn) and are greeted by Mukregard Distaff. Who approves of their choice to have separate rooms, and suggests they head to the baths.

Cauleigh has already confirmed that the inn’s common room has plenty of card players and hot Svelte women. After an adequate supper he and Crompton make up numbers for cards, and as they bring a devil-may-care attitude, lose comfortably.

But Cauleigh’s evening is far from over – Sveltes Scrumptious Sip and Harlotta are keen to get to know him much, much better. Over the next few days Cauleigh spends 200 gold in their company.

At about this point there’s a little cross-talk, egged on by the GM, that I can best represent thus:

“Hey, is Cauleigh heading away with all those girls?”
“It’s an orgy?!”
“Are we invited?”
“Do you wanna be? Three’s a crowd, four’s even more fun…”
“Uhh…”
“The party that orgies together…”
“…can’t look each other in the face the next day.”
“No you are not invited! I have my own room! Let’s go ladies…”

He partly reimburses the expense by selling his “chance division” of the vampiress’ loot. (She collected interesting valuables.) He has a steel, gemstone-decorated warhammer head, and sells it for 120 gold.

 

Jotunn – given a hint by one of the Chion’s regiment skirmishers – has saved his gold for Hathlisveit. He gains the ear of Sinofor Mes, master armourer and also vicar of Ikmal. Jotunn commissions a cuirass with magical protection. He pays up front: for some reason Mes believes there’s a good chance he’ll never see Jotunn again.

 

Crompton has not saved his gold at all, but does have one of the best “chance divisions.” He reaches out to Aussecur and soon sits down with the wily Svelte who examines his mithril coin collection.

Crompton wisely passes up Aussecur’s first two offers [I am so proud of Crompton, he is a very different Dwarf from the one that tried to bribe an urchin with a gold coin] but the Svelte leans in close and says:

“If not for money, how about I share my master-spell with you? If I teach you the Teacher spell you’ll be in the driver’s seat bargaining with any rogue you meet.”

This is a good deal, provided Crompton meets rogues that want the spells he has. So he hands over the coins and Aussecur begins teaching him.

 

Crompton and Cauleigh gain an interview with Berenger Aussi, gunsmith to Hathlisveit. His main concern is the siege so Cauleigh finds his usual charm not quite as effective. [makes L3 CHR but that’s not great in the circumstances]

The mood sours further when Crompton pushes his enchanted arquebus forward.

“Fancy, too fancy,” Aussi grumbles, though secretly impressed. “Hmm, not a bad little piece,” he says of Cauleigh’s caliver, “If you ask me it’s flimsy though. Look at that breech block and bore. I’d replace that…”

“How much?” Cauleigh asks striking while the iron is warmish, and makes a deal. It will take a significant number of days.

But then he makes the mistake of asking about an enchanted touch-serpent that would always burn when needed.

“Don’t take to none of that fancy charm stuff,” Aussi snorts. “My gunnes are fine pieces!”

“And uh, what about my arquebus stand,” asks Crompton desperately, “can you improve it?”

“Yes…” Aussi growls, gesturing for the stand.

He snaps it in two.

“Here,” he states, handing the pieces back to Crompton, “improved!”

(Later, Crompton contacts hand-gunners on Hathlisveit’s south defences and gets a replacement, free.)

 

Research too, though with slim results

Fennec has the treasure-map uppermost in his mind and having congratulated Righteous Filbard, asks about the roads there. He gets good advice on the best approach, which is to head roughly south through Greystand (capital of house Minas) to Edoras (of house Edoras), obtain mounts or a boat, and head up the golden river from there.

Cauleigh is interested in Ikkutas and what the supposed Ikkutas Dwarves here know about it. He talks to a beefy soldier who half-recollects a tale of a battle involving “Carloman” and some northerners, upriver.

Then at the end of their stay, Cauleigh attempts to get better information from an elder of the same kin, but strikes out. [Rolls a fail, the gaffer waves him away]

 

Jotunn joins the scouts, then everyone joins the fun

Having placed his order Jotunn finds himself easing through the forest south of Hathlisveit with half a dozen lightly-dressed scouts – mostly Sveltes – attempting to locate the enemy cavalry. His hunting skills are as good as ever and his legendary robustness enables him to at least keep up with the others.

Surprising a picket, Jotunn throws his knife away [rolls a fail] but uses his broadax, a nice magical weapon he got as loot from the shrine fight, to back the soldier off, and runs clear ducking the follow-through blow [just allowed to use his level dice plus adds to represent his experience, he ties].

 

Consul Haugri calls a war council. Hathlisveit must needs re-provision before the summer ends, so volunteers from Chion’s regiment, and the re-founders, will combine to exorcise the squadron.

 

The scouts set snare-lines in the forest where they intend the cavalry to flee, and the volunteers attack from one flank and the Dwarves from another. Thunder rumbles overhead: a summer storm is brewing slowly.

Crompton (Cateyes again) easily works his way close, but actually brings his comrades past pickets. As the alarm is sounded he wheels around, levels his arquebus on its stand, and sends a ball through the cheap plate cuirass. Another picket freezes is dismay, and Crompton uses tempus fugit to give himself time, drops the arquebus, draws two knives, and sends them into the picket’s head. Then bounds over, administers the coup de grace, and rejoins the fight.

Which is going well! Cauleigh aims at a silhouette and fires. The man crumples and falls face down. Jotunn fires his arquebus, the ball strikes a shoulder-plate and tears the victim’s chest across, and out the other side, leaving the unfortunate man screaming in pain.

Then Fennec who has been waiting to identify a choice target spots an officer’s gorget, and lets fly with a L5 TTYF:

WHAMMM!!!

A bright red flare with intense purple in its centre connects Fennec to the target: the victim glows ember-like: then there is nothing left save a gorget and boots.

Horses panic, pull their tethers, and flee. Fennec chooses one that hasn’t pulled free yet and fries that. More horses panic and flee.

Jotunn and Cauleigh set out for a struggling line of cavalrymen, but Jotunn slips in the dark. Crompton hastens to help him up then swivels his piece using Jotunn as a makeshift stand, and shoots another cavalryman!

Cauleigh uses kukri and shield to devastating effect. Attacked from their flank the cavalrymen flee as best they can into the trapped woods.

 

Loot is to be had. Cavalry get paid reasonably well, and these were dragoons: their carbines have been left on the field. Each Dwarf loads himself up as best he can (after a couple of attempts to persuade captured mounts they are pack ponies have left Crompton and Jotunn with bruises) and they tote the pieces back to Hathlisveit for the bounty. Cauleigh tucks the gorget away as well, perhaps as a memento.

 

A break in the weather requires shelter – welcome to Perryers Town

The re-founders slop their way through teeming rain towards lights. Unmarked on their map, this town seems to mark a border between Minas and Fingold.

If there is a gate-post they don’t see it, but what they do see is a bedraggled sorry looking group of four cavalrymen, lacking weapons or gear.

As the four Dwarves are hailed by a tout – “come in all, weather like this needs warmth and good ale – best ale gents – come dry yourselves” – Cauleigh turns back. He presses a dozen coins on the luckless deserters.

Having gained the Dwarves’ custom, the tout ducks back out of the storm and encourages them to dry off by the fire, rest on a bench, and order ale. It is good ale. Just beginning to explain the town – “why this is Perryers Town, founded by Perryer a scion of a minor branch of Minas; trading betwixt Minas and Fingold, and many a bargain to be had” – the tout breaks off again to welcome the bedraggled deserters, who now have coins.

The Dwarves order a meal – which is sent for to next door and proves to be two kinds of meat and barley bread – and ask about Perryer and the war and peace-keeping.

“As to the one, he sometimes stops by, but he has made his pile and lives back with his family. As to the other, we are no warriors! Minas has not gotten involved in a war since they knocked the Dragon Tower over. This is a realm of peace. And as to the third, each village has a beadle and detachments can be called up if that’s not enough.”

The Dwarves encourage the deserters to seek employ at Fingold town, for they are hiring there. Feeling better about the slaughter in the forest, they pay for lodging but do not linger for any supposed bargain.

 

Greystand offers final deals before the push to Edoras

Greystand is both ancient – an ornate castle, sporting a gleaming tower, challenges the sky – and modern. The houses are mostly prosperous and build of stone and wood, but a business-like modern-trace rampart surrounds them.

Jotunn’s chance division is a black-pearl-decorated flagon made from some mithril-like metal, and he finally gets a buyer with the “collector” credentials that boosts the price.

“Do we want money or horse?” he asks the others. Edoras has the best horseflesh and the collector, Lady Minas’ nephew (and second cousin to Perryer) offers a scrip for buying them. Fennec’s research comes in useful at this point. They Dwarves take the scrip.

It is at this point that Cauleigh realises his ring of Freeze protection is missing. He can pin down the moment the theft occurred: it was while he was completely distracted by three of the Svelte girls. Ah well.

 

To the river

“So, next we march to the river itself, purchase a crossing, and buy horses,” Fennec confirms.

“And get riding training,” Crompton adds confidently. These days, a mere fall from a horse won’t kill him.

“So we ride up the golden river to Golarion…”

“That’s Colairion Cauleigh, and it’s the name of the wizard that left the loot, not the name of a place. Or maybe there is a place, but it would be a graveyard.”

“…then loot, swing north-west, and head for Sarnas and the chance to trade for magic gear.”

“And perhaps a trail to Ikkutas!.”

“To Ikkutas!!”

So they all chorus, and with that the season ends.

Props

Perryers Town is inspired by a card in the rural locations concept cards(Coffey and Henzel). I’d originally thought to site it on the other side of Hathlisveit, between the siege lines, but the Minas-Fingold border makes more sense. The Universal NPC Emulator (Zach Best, Conjecture Games) helped me with Sinofor Mes and Berenger Aussi. The Vale is my own creation.

 

The players seemed happy with this ¾-length session but I was off my game. Descriptions were patchy or forgotten. I can tell I’m not concentrating when I’m not feeding scent-based information to players. And I’m still cross at myself for missing the crashed hippogriff. It was supposed to link in to explaining how Hathlisveit dealt with the hippogriffs, which may or may not have knock-on effects west. With an eye on the clock I also missed the whole dragon tower follow-through at Greystand, having set it up at Perryers Town.

So, season 2 ends. I have promised myself I will not build multiple NPC groups into future games. But I did enjoy Fingold’s Adventurers Guild. It seemed to work as a thing a fantasy city under siege would need. Thanks to the arch-mage teaching spells, thousands of gold poured into the treasury, enabling Fingold to bounce back quickly once given the chance to buy mercs.

I did not envisage the entire season being all Fingold but I’m very pleased that’s how it worked out. This is how Cauleigh’s player puts it: when he arrived, Cauleigh was a “hollow” level three. As he heads out of Greystand Cauleigh is a very powerful level three, easily able to cope with level four. The same applies to all the others. Fennec, who is the central character if there is one, has changed from a semi-competent level two to a powerful level two with a couple of really nice aids, enabling him to throw down on all sorts of higher-level nasties.

For now, farewell and may the light of Ikmal guide your path!

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