Brace for Impact!
The next part of the story arc deals with something none of the characters are built towards, and that’s deep space ship-to-ship action, including massed combat.
++++++++++From the data slate of Quintilla Mola++++++++++
We exit our system bound to the tomb-world Stonegarden, which is notable as the resting place of St. Drusus’ mortal remains.
Our ship is the Cudgel of Drusus, and our captain, Phinneas Calabar, leaves us to ourselves until the action arises. The lads have up-gunned yet again: Grimm has a hunting rifle and Zarkov a long-laz. [The reason for this is the extra d10 damage per 2 raises these accurate long-arms provide.]
Apropos of the intense combat, here’s a summary of loadouts:
Franz: the GMPC’s equipment is a bit misty but he is known to produce a “spectre” auto-gun, a hunting rifle, and twin “carnodon” heavy pistols.
Grimm: now carries a hunting rifle, a “lawgiver” hand-cannon and two bolt-pistols, one of which is a compact version.
Jahr: has Quickdraw and Bulging Biceps; normally carries a heavy stubber, a grenade launcher, a spectre, a mono-ax and grenades.
Mola: two stub-autos loaded with manstoppers, two autopistols loaded with dum-dum, and a carnodon.
Zarkov: has Quickdraw and carries/stows a long-laz, a mauler bolt-pistol, and a laz-pistol fitting on a mechadendrite which fires as a reaction, once per round.
A warp-jump later as we wait for the navigator to make calculations, a raider is detected. The ship is rammed and we are in action.
[Toughness tests all round from the impact. All but Jahr make the test, mostly on reroll. Jahr takes 8 impact damage to head, with no noticeable impairment. A true “Yaah! Missed all my vital spots!” moment.]
There’s raiders on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow…
We clamber into gear and grab weapons, though Jahr leaves the heavy stubber behind. We drift over to the starboard deck, discovering that using small craft and Void suits a boarding party of the enemy has already breached the hull and is rigging a pressure tube so that a full complement can board us. Eight unarmoured raiders are guarding the regular crew working on the tube.
Battle layout: It’s a huge mess hall, 60m deep from our hatch (which itself is generously wide: think Star Wars size) to the raiders opposite. Cover is relatively poor as the bolt-down mess benches and forms are low and lightly built. Various stanchions, bulkheads and furnishings around the hull and interior walls provide more solid cover and handholds. The breach is in the hull directly opposite the hatch. Little or no air is currently escaping.
Jahr is left of hatchway, Grimm to the right, Mola and Zarkov tucked in safely behind them. Franz has been sent back to check that the bridge is not under attack and liaise with the Captain. He’ll return if it seems clear.
Round 1: Grimm takes aim and fires his hunting rifle, killing his target outright [RF 18]. Jahr takes aim with his grenade-launcher but the charge falls well short, exploding harmlessly among mess-benches. Mola fires a burst from her autopistol, but at that range misses with everything. The raiders run towards us, waving crappy-looking chain-swords, knives and the like. Zarkov uses his long-laz for the first time, wounding one raider badly.
Round 2: Grimm switches to lawgiver and its powerful round breaks an oncoming boarder’s arm. Jahr brings up his spectre and uses suppressive fire to pin the seven boarders back, save for one that bravely (?) continues on. Mola’s next burst misses him as he dodges; Zarkov shoots at him and he dodges a second time! But the Tech-priests reactive laz does clip him. [The raiders have no armor and relatively little Tough but have multiple Dodge, which is a pretty cool balancing trait IMO.]
Round 3: Grimm shoots at him but misses. Jahr gives him the spectre’s full burst, hitting him several times and killing him. Five boarders now rush from where they had been pinned towards us. Mola’s third burst strikes a previously wounded one, bringing him down. The four remaining oncoming are now 12m from Jahr. Zarkov hits one of the four twice, killing him [RF on long-laz, 20 damage].
Round 4: Grimm levels his lawgiver and shoots the wounded boarder among the three; Zarkov’s reaction laz finishes him. Jahr quick-draws his grenade launcher again and drops a frag grenade on the pair remaining but one dodges. The other is lightly wounded. Mola draws another autopistol, shoots once, and he dodges that. Both boarders now close with chain sword and knife. Grimm dodges his man, Jahr does not and the tearing blade cuts through his armor [13 tearing]. The remaining surviving boarder, much further back, is now running forward and Zarkov aims at him accurately, the long-laz searing his body badly and stunning him.
Round 5: Grimm sticks to his lawgiver, blasting at his attacker but the boarder dodges. Jahr quick-draws mono-ax and quick-attacks, but he too is dodged. Mola unhesitatingly sprays the melee with an autopistol burst, killing Jahr’s assailant. The boarder in melee with Grimm makes no impact with his weaponry on the Arbitrator’s heavy armor. Zarkov finishes the stunned boarder.
Round 6: Grimm lands a shot in the boarder’s arm. “Mind if I cut in?” Jahr bellows, charging over and killing the boarder.
The tube has been fully attached during the fight and a full boarding crew is heading through it! Franz voxes in: the bridge is in no danger and he is right behind us.
Our plan is to cover Jahr while he sends two krak grenades in. Some or all of us will have to advance to do this.
Fresh Inits as we reload:
Round 1: Franz fires suppressive fire down the tube mouth. [Many WP rolls later] All enemy appear to have been stopped. Grimm shoots, scoring a hit though it’s not possible to see what the effect is, and walks forward. Mola races forward, and off to one side. Zarkov’s long-laz fails to score. Jahr loads his grenade launcher with krak and walks forward.
Round 2: Franz’ spectre continues suppressive fire. One boarder springs to his feet and races forward! Grimm misses him, and the loony makes it out of the tube. Mola finishes her run to the hull wall about 11m from the breach. Jahr takes careful aim [reroll] and lands a grenade neatly down the tube. The damage [13+6pen] causes an unmistakeable rupture!
Round 3: Franz continues to suppress the boarders. Grimm aims at the lone moving target, and misses. Zarkov hits him in the body, stunning him. Mola empties a burst into him, killing him.
Round 4: Franz reloads. Grimm and Zarkov miss their shots and the mooks run forward: Mola moves to an even closer position, securing a good hand-hold and covering the area in front of the tube. The lead mooks exit the tube. Jahr drops another well-aimed round down the tube and this time it parts completely, sucking most of the boarders into space. Two of the lead three mooks grab forms or benches but the third is whipped back into the tube and into space.
Rounds 5-10: Everyone not secured grabs hold of something, though Zarkov fails and Grimm catches him [Agi] and helps him back to the hatch. Mola is in no danger of falling out but has to lever herself around the wall [Str on reroll]. Zarkov’s mechadendrite helps her the last leg and the hatch is slammed shut on the two mooks struggling.
+++++++++++++++Combat ends… sort of+++++++++++++++
“Only War” Diversion: Board them, by Toutatis!
Captain Calabar arrives, puffing and wheezing, at the head of a squad of armsmen.
“Enemy are Redemptionists and Drusus alone knows why they’re attacking us! Whipped on by some notion of us being heretics I suppose! Their ship is locked to us and they’re on full power… trying to drag us into the gravwell! Time to prove your mettle as leaders me Inquisitor buckos!” – Calabar
The GM wheels out the idea of us being in command of 100 armsmen. It is to laugh. But he’s serious.
The following action is based on a sequence of skill checks. At different times, Command, Scholastic Lore Tactica Imperialis, Common Lore War, Intimidate, Ballistic Skill, Weapon Skill and (as the casualties mount) Medicae, are all on offer. Everyone has at least one of these. The more rolls made with raises, the fewer casualties amongst armsmen. I can report that very few rolls were made let alone raises.
Our task is to head to the engine deck while the Captain leads an assault to the bridge.
In the initial rush we are opposed by red-robed flagellants wielding chain-sword, vibra-whip or even the odd flamer. We lose 80%.
We push through onto a holo-deck where a recording of Ignato exhorts his followers on. We lose 50%, i.e. we have 10 armsmen left.
Finally we reach the engine deck where a serious number of flagellant-Redemptionists remain but more vitally a huge bipedal exo-skeleton-based creature known as a Penitent Engine, equipped with chain and flamer on each arm, rushes towards us at great speed. Our armsmen will hold off the mooks as best they can while we drop into regular combat.
Battle layout: The engine deck is extremely capacious: basically one large flat area with 100m between the P-E and ourselves. We are in the normal corridor order of tanks in front, Mola and Zarkov tucked behind, Franz sweeper in rear.
- P-E Clanker
Round 1: Range 100m. Franz aims his hunting rifle, hits for minimal damage. Jahr uses a frag grenade from his grenade launcher: he’s accurate even at this range, but it does absolutely nothing. Zarkov aims and fires his long-laz but it shot is poor and does nothing. Grimm switches to hunting rifle, snap-shoots and misses. Mola readies a stub-auto and a spare in the other hand. The P-E clanks forward at a rush!
Round 2: Range 52m. Franz takes aim and fires, landing a good shot square on the face-plate: the bullet clearly gets through [4 degrees=3d10, 10 damage past defences]. Jahr swings up his heavy stubber and lets drive: four shots strike the thing and two of those do a little damage. Zarkov draws his Mauler (which fires bolt rounds) but misses. He’s not worried: the bolt will only hit an engine. Grimm’s hunting rifle is accurate but without enough damage to penetrate. Mola tries a burst with a stub-auto firing manstoppers, landing two shots but neither getting through. The P-E clanks forward at a rush!
Round 3: Range 4m. Franz rerolls an average shot into a great shot with Righteous Fury: the thing’s right leg is significantly damaged. Jahr, staring the thing in the face-plate from 4m, misses completely with heavy stubber. Zarkov aims his Mauler and hits the same leg, leaving an oil-dribbling stump and effectively stunning the P-E. Grimm draws his own bolter and snap-shoots a good shot, blowing off the other leg. Mola swings both stub-autos up, lets drive at the face-plate, and executes the implanted penitent, ending the P-E.
Rounds 4-5: Zarkov makes his usual excellent use of Tech, identifies the fuel feeds, and switches them off. The engines will now power down as they run out of fuel.
Having lost our armsmen [all remaining checks failed] we withdraw with 100% casualties among the armsmen, and trace the steps out to the enemy bridge. It is blood drenched but under Calabar’s command. He is getting reports and tells us as it will be several hours, there’s plenty of time to search.
The armory is well-stocked. [It’s like a law of looting, where the gobboes get to fight with javelins but their armory has +1 swords.] In this case the armory has average quality chain swords. And bullets. Lovely, lovely bullets. We re-stock. No grenades though. Sob.
We completely fail all searching for actual secrets. The GM assures us that we haven’t missed a delicately beautiful hostage princess, so we let the raider ship fall into the sun (or whatever) with a clear conscience.
Stonegarden is grey and quiet as the grave. [Think the funerary quarter in Minas Tirith.] There’s been a fight, or perhaps a massacre: pilgrims corpses lie about, some burnt.
Several dozen Redemptionists approach! Given how we handled his armsmen, Captain Calabar generously agrees to guard the landing zone, hold the Redemptionists off, and let us shift for ourselves.
St. Drusus’ Tomb lies open. We set up the usual party order as we pass through the Gates of Purity. Behind us, a fierce fire-fight breaks out: no going back!
The first chamber is dominated by murals of the Saint’s life. A lectern, bearing a great silver tome, stands near the rear. Behind it, a vast portal with no handle or entry-bar; and around it, charred bodies. On closer examination, Zarkov deduces their heads were burned, possibly from internal combustion.
Zarkov scans the silver book, using his mechandendrite: it’s a text by St. Eugenius the Incandescent, and as he reads an auto-quill appears and pulses a bar-code into his forearm! Its words clearly unlock the portal and allow a person through. As Franz tests the open door he is thrown back: so each of us must read!
[WP tests or Tough tests: modified by Corruption. Zarkov was easily OK and lost a Corruption point; Mola OK on reroll with 2 raises also loses a Corruption; Grimm OK on reroll, and Franz OK.]
Jahr cannot read. Zarkov, who has total recall, recites the words and Jahr repeats them. Suddenly flames burst from the giant’s mouth and cook his head! [WP fails, 11 damage ignoring armor.] Zarkov apologetically treats Jahr’s burnt skin, swiftly repairing all but the scarring.
“If you ever planned to grow hair, you can forget it now” – Mola, unsympathetically
We check who has what and pass in. Our minds are assailed by violent images. I for one see St. Drusus smiting daemons with his mace of power: a moving vision. [WP checks: Mola and Jahr OK, Grimm OK on reroll, Zarkov and Franz fail and pick up insanity points, 1 for Z and 3 for F.]
The visions abate but as we progress along a vast corridor, fleshy veins protrude through the walls, and nasty smells grow. Then cysts swell and pustulous growths burst on us! It’s Warp work! [Toughness or Carouse saves: Franz Mola and Zarkov OK, Grimm and Jahr fail.]
“Urgh! Feels like… veins squriming under skin! OK better now” – Jahr
We turn a corner and come to a fine rectangular purification pool. Statues of kneeling pilgrims are sited around it. But the serenity is ruined and toxified by fleshy orifices that have opened on the walls, gibbering and drooling!
The water ripples and from it rises something we all experience differently:
- I see Amortis, hands covered in blood;
- Grimm sees Vraine, and shoots;
- Zarkov sees St. Drusus himself;
- Jahr sees a Space Marine, and shoots;
- Franz sees something non-threatening and does not shoot.
We later gather that the two “opponents” shot back with an equivalent force. Neither Grimm nor Jahr are wounded, and after we calm them down [endless WP checks, Jahr takes 10 rounds] the apparition of psychic defense fades away and we are free to move on.
We enter a great dome, its walls covered in silently screaming faces and protruding hands: hanging fluid-filled organs dribble down onto the writhing hand-covered floor. In the middle kneels the skinless winged Ignato.
He turns and monologues at us, assuring us we are too late and that the Calixis sector will burn.
“Shut up and die” – Jahr, opening up with heavy stubber
Mola has nothing for the 60m range so weaves nimbly through the hands, making 24m [-10 Agi with 2 raises]. The others all have range weapons and simply aim [where appropriate] and fire. Ignato summons harpies from the walls and roof and all make WP checks: Franz and Grimm fail and receive 2d10 damage minus any Corruption they had. Grimm is lightly wounded, Franz heavily wounded. However the volley of powerful small-arms fire demolishes Ignato even before Mola can get within range!
The harpies are banished back to the Warp and the hideous roof floor and wall decorations shrivel and turn to dust.
As they do, another door opposite is revealed. It is the sarcophagus chamber. We move forward to pay our respects to St. Drusus.
But alas, we find a hole burst out of the sarcophagus and through the roof, and a few tell-tale feathers of greenish hue drifting down. The inner coffin is empty of any remains or armor. It seems that the DeiPhage is now using St. Drusus as a vessel!
+++++++++++++++Data slate ends+++++++++++++++
So ends the campaign arc. Highlights for me were a couple of successful Tough tests, and getting the fate point spend roughly right. The rolls came through for me when all the fate points were gone, thus saving Mola from even more insanity.
Low points… setting aside the “mass action” episode it was all fair to good. The inevitability of each end-piece made the action feel rather computer-gamey. The weird skill requirements – by which I mean checks required that perhaps only one character might have on their options, let alone have acquired it – are a real issue. I’d suggest a “briefing notes for acolytes” noting the kinds of Intelligence-based skills that are required in campaigns would be really helpful for beginners.