Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Skeleton Coast

Art by the incredible Robert Shore
I started this project last year with all the best intentions of having it completed by December 2015, but, as we all know, life always has other plans. Exploding computers, crazy work deadlines,and the universe failing to cooperate, means it will be out this summer ( my winter). It will be available through D_oom Productions with Thaumiel Nerub in charge of lay-out and artwork. It's been a fun project and I want to share the introduction with you all, so you can get an inkling of what to expect. This ( I hope) will be the first of many goodies I aim to release into the gaming wilds. 

The Skeleton Coast

“Down, down, and down you go
Into the depths where the dead men go.
Cold, cold, as cold as snow
Into the black where the dead things grow…”
Goblin Sea Shanty
 Alarming Rumours!
“In the days of the great exodus, the merchant world was troubled by rumours of an avenging monster. A mighty sea-beast, a leviathan by all frenzied accounts, was on the loose. Vessels were being sunk as they cruised along an area known as the Skeleton Coast on the shores of Ki’Afra; and travel along this nightmare route dwindled to but a few brave souls…”
The Mariners Almanac

On the Skeleton Coast
“Carpeted with the bones of whales, seals, ships and men, the Skeleton Coast is an inhospitable nightmare, a graveyard for all the sea has to offer. Pray you never come ashore here, ‘cos if the sands don’t strip your skin, the vulturekin will.”
Josef Merrick

And the earth was filled with violence
And the oceans full of spite
But when they came together
The gods themselves were put to flight.”
The Book of High Jason

The north is a corpse. Rotting, bloated, picked over constantly by greedy merchants, and tyrannical kings. Heavy are the heads, and heavier the taxes, of those who wear the crowns. Wars rage with no end in sight. Banners rise and fall and yet there is no victory to be had from any of it. There’s no glory to be found, here, amongst the corpse eaters and maggot lovers, the despots, the tyrannical charlatans.  No treasures worth seeking, no worthy fights to be fought. The lands are barren and devoid of hope; even the gods are leaving. Best you leave it all behind. That’s why you’ve booked passage south, to new lands, new beginnings.
 You’re on your way to Whalers’ Bay, a tiny foothold very far to the south on the mighty continent of Ki’Afra. There you hope to spread your wings, head out into the wilderness, seek your fame and fortune beyond the circle and shadow of your firelight; make a name for yourselves.
It won’t be easy. Ki’Afra is after all, the land the gods made in anger. Mistakes are met with death, and not just at the hands, hooks, or claws, of ineffable horrors either, but at the merciless whims of the elements: the relentless sun, the ferocious rains, the baying winds. The land itself is your foe, your mortal enemy. You are soon to be wandering where even angels fear to tread. Walk lightly, and with respect, and adventure in a realm that was old when the seas were young.
 Shortly before dusk, three weeks out from the safety of Whaler’s Bay, the men on watch bellowed a hurried warning. Something off the starboard bow was approaching rapidly. You rushed to join the rest of the crew to see what it was, as the captain tried frantically to steer the vessel from its path. But no matter which way the boat turned, the unseen menace did too.
Then, slowly, and beyond all comprehension, a pale white leviathan of immense proportions rose silently from the depths below, and, despite its gargantuan bulk, cut gracefully through the water. Its skin was stained blood-red by the setting sun, as it pushed an enormous bow-wave before it. It bore down upon you with unerring accuracy. You stared aghast, as the beast hit the ship and sent men somersaulting high into the air. The world around you exploded and you realised with cold certainty that death had come for you all.
 The Black Bart, now cleaved in twain, slid slowly into the bosom of the ocean, and you were, to an adventurer, too in shock to utter a single word. It was all happening too quickly to comprehend. The beast, the leviathan, circled, and came back to finish the job. It sailed past you, so close, you could’ve reached out and touched its harpoon studded flanks. Its massive mouth was open, and you could have sworn you saw figures in there, moving around in the cavernous gloom of its maw; they appeared to be working in unison, hauling in the flotsam and jetsam.  
Just before you hit the cold water, to suffer its cold and numbing embrace, you gazed up in awe at the creature that had doomed you all to a watery grave. You stared directly into its gigantic, black eye, an orb that looked as cold, and dead, as the world beyond the stars. And you knew with certainty, that whatever sentient life had once inhabited this mighty frame, was now gone. All that was left was madness, chaos, and a taste for death. It seemed as if it had just one unwavering focus, one single furious purpose, and that was to destroy all that came trespassing upon its waters…

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Front: World War 2 RPG. The Village of Saint Hommlet.

I stumbled across this game last week (The Front) and it immediately got the creative juices flowing. You can pick it up at Drivethrurpg for cheap-cheap. Most of us have a copy of The Village of Hommlet lying around, or The Temple of Elemental Evil. Grab the maps for the village and let’s begin. I have re-skinned it for The Front. This will be the first part (I hope) of more to come. The second being The Keep on the Borderlands, with the Caves of Chaos as a subterranean weapons facility, but for now…
It is D-Day plus 15, the 21st of June 1944 to be precise. From their initial landing point in, and around Utah Beach, and the village of Le Madeleine, the 82nd, the 101st ABN Divisions, and the 4th INF Division are pushing to take the port of Cherbourg, as well as the town of Carentan. They aim to head up the Carentan/Periers road to road to liberate Periers, before heading east to liberate St Lo.

Between the triangle formed by, Carentan, Periers, and St Lo, lies the village of St Hommlet.
St Hommlet was a sleepy agricultural town before the war, nestled among the bocage on the banks of the river Taute. Now it is home to Battlegroup Muller and a small detachment of Waffen SS. 
The Resistance have supplied you with maps of the village. The maps might be old, but very little has changed in the last forty years or so, and it looks pretty much as it did back then. The Germans have a large number of POWs being held at the Moathouse.

 The POWs are made up of men from the 82nd, the 101st, as well as stragglers from the 29th and the 1st INF Divisions. The Resistance are unclear on how many prisoners they actually have, but they fear that their execution at the hands of the Waffen SS is imminent. (Total of 86 POWs, of which 20 are severely wounded)

There are also several artillery pieces (88’s) in the village that are zeroed-in onto the road leading to St Lo. These will need to be taken care of before the assault on St Lo can begin. It is also safe to assume, given the presence of the SS, that there will be Panzer tanks in and around the vicinity of the village, however, the Resistance can neither confirm nor deny this. 

Mission Points and Objectives:

• Rally with a small detachment of Resistance fighters outside the village. They will assist in the assault.( 30 in number, mixed weaponry, excellent fighters, led by Jean De Villiers)
• Once in the village, destroy the 88’s, destroy any tanks, and route the enemy.
• Rescue the POWs.
• Once these objectives have been met, head east (across country) towards the village of St Jean-de- Daye, on the Carentan/St Lo road, and await reinforcements before the push to take St Lo. The   Resistance will stay behind to hold the village until Allied forces can arrive.
• Good luck.

The composition of the attacking force is up to you, but for quick play, I have included one below.They are not at full strength, having been in contact every day since the invasion, they have lost about 50% of their fighting strength. What remains is:

•One Captain ( Call-sign: Bugs Bunny)
•Two Lieutenants ( Call-sign: Daffy, and Duck)
•Four Sergeants ( Sleepy, Grumpy, Sneezy, and Dopey… but never to their faces)
•Four platoons of twenty five men

In addition to this are the following:
•Two mortar groups ( a mixture of Smoke and HE rounds)
•Two Machine gun groups
•Two Sappers (Mine detection, mine lifting, and demolition experience.) 
•One Radio man (dubbed ‘Lucky’ by his friends. Lucky that he made it this far as they are usually the first to go)
•Three medics ( Doc, Bones, and Wiley Coyote)
•One anti-tank squad ( known as the Acme Falling Piano Tank Removal Company)

Meteorological Information
•Low cloud ( no air support)
•Fog ( Low visibility)
•No moon


The perimeter of the village is patrolled both night, and day. Guards use whistles to draw attention. 10 men in a loose group, every 25 minutes. There is a 60% that you will encounter them. They also use a half-track during the day. Sig 80 machinegun mounted on the half-track.

The patrol sections are as follows:

Section 1: From number 20 ( the Church) down passed 19,16,18 to the river bank, then up the river bank all the way to 23, then the north side of 21,14 and back to the church at 20.
Section 2: In and around, 1, 2, 3,4,5,6 and 7
Section 3: Everything to the east of that, namely 9, all the way up to 27 and 28. They also don’t always use the road, and prefer to slip amongst the buildings.
Section 4: This is done by the Waffen SS, and is the area around the hillocks containing, 31 and the Moathouse. 
Section 5: This is the forested area to the right of 32. This location contains a battery of 88’s, hidden inside the forest. They patrol the perimeter of the forest.

The Village of St Hommlet

1: Farmhouse. Inside are eight soldiers. Machinegun nest. Outside at the crossroads are four anti-tank mines. Field telephone to HQ (number 7 on the map) 30% chance the phone doesn’t work.
2: Farmhouse. Six soldiers. Machinegun nest. 
3: Empty building, burned to the ground. Walls broken but offer good cover.
4: Guardhouse. 15 men armed with rifles. The barn behind has been turned into an impromptu mess hall.
5: Mechanics quarters. Six mechanics, armed with pistols. 
6: Vehicle repair facility. Inside are three staff cars, two half-tracks and 17 barrels of fuel. Vehicles are non-operational, but very close to being repaired.
7: HQ. Heavily defended and led by Captain (Hauptman), Klaus Smit.  Two sandbagged positions containing machinegun nests.
•2 Lieutenants
•40 Soldiers
•2 Runners
•2 Signallers
•4 Medics
•Two machinegun posts
•One antitank squad

8: Panzer Tank hidden inside barn. Drive-train is broken but the main gun still works and offers a 45 degree field of fire outside the barn doors.
9: Village Hall. Communications centre. Four VHF radios. One permanently tuned to Berlin, and the other three are for inter-battlegroup comms. Six signallers and four soldiers.
10: Small Recon/Sniper team. Five men in total. Three are always out on patrol.
11: Machinegun nest facing the bridge over the river. Four soldiers inside.
12: Same as above. The barn behind this building is an ammo dump guarded by six soldiers. The ammunition is both German and Allied. The Allied was part of an over-drop by the RAF during the initial invasion. All the weapons belonging to the POWs can be found here.
13: Field Kitchen and mess hall. Sixteen cooks. Four horse drawn stoves. Fresh supplies for two weeks and rations for another two.
14: Cavalry Horses. Two grooms looking after 8 horses. 
15: Main guard house for Section One. Fifteen soldiers. Ten always on patrol, five resting. One senior soldier in charge. Usually to be found playing cards and generally relaxing.
16: Empty but booby-trapped with hand grenades on trip wires. There are several anti-personnel landmines scattered in and around the front door. 
17: Houses four Gestapo agents. They were cut off by the advancing allies. They wear long leather trench coats, and shoot pistols. They also have poison capsules (cyanide) hidden in their hats. Their leader, Herr Grubber, has vital information sewn into the lining of his coat. It could be a map, codes, etc. Up to you.
18: Double storey. Looks abandoned but has four men on roof with radio to HQ and the artillery position at 32. Can call in arty if need be. Early warning system. One of them is a deadly sniper called, ‘Deadeye Dirk’.  
19: Doctors Barracks. Usually empty.
20: Field Hospital. 5 Doctors inside with 8 medical assistants. 22 seriously wounded lying in beds, another 10 scattered throughout. None of the patients will fight and the Doctors would have to be forced at gunpoint to work on any of your men. They have more than enough medical supplies. This still used as a church by the soldiers. They even have their own Chaplain who spends his days in the library reading. He speaks excellent English and will hear your confession if need be.
21:  Rations storehouse. Locked and empty. A sandbagged machinegun position outside pointing north. Radio to HQ.
22: The old mill. Used during the day to make flour. Two cooks present in daylight hours. Double storey building and excellent lookout post.
23: Torture house for the Gestapo. They have been torturing the locals looking for information concerning the local partisans. A pile of dead bodies are at the back of the house.
24: Panzer Tank, hidden by cammo nets in amongst the trees. Tank crew lying lazily in the shade, drinking and regaling one another with lustful conquests of their lives before the war.
25: Battlegroup latrines. Normally four or five soldiers here at a time.
26: Fuel Dump. Over 100 barrels of fuel stored here. Two men on guard.
27: Ammo dump and guard house. Contains four flamethrowers and two Panzerschreks.  Ten men on patrol, five inside listening to Edith Piaf on the phonograph.
28: Empty. Booby-trapped.
29: Driver’s barracks. Five half-tracks parked outside.
30: Machinegun nest. Sandbagged and camouflaged.
31: Tower. Waffen SS position. Snipers and spotters on roof. 15 troopers inside. All armed with sub-machineguns. Field telephone to the Moathouse.
32: Battery. Six, fully functional 88’s ready to fire. Gunners and bombardiers relaxing, smoking cigarettes, and drinking purloined wine… wishing they were anywhere other than here. Four guards walk a loose perimeter around the battery, as well as ten who circle the forest itself.

  • If you notice on the map, there is a spot for a Druid to be found in amongst the trees. This is now a large well that supplies the village.
  • The first rally point for the Germans is the main HQ. If that looks like it is likely to fall, then they are to head to the Moathouse. If that looks likely to fall, then they head east, through the forest and bocage and head towards St Lo.
  • The defending force are not Hitler Youth, nor infirm old men. They are seasoned veterans of the 325th INF Division that has been fighting since Poland back in ’39. There last major conflict was in Kursk on the eastern front. This, to them, babysitting the village of St Hommlet, is the closest they have come to R&R in many, many years.
  • They are tough fighters but not suicidal. They know the war is in its endgame; the SS however, are a different sort all together. They will die before surrender.

The Moathouse

  • The entire building is wired with explosives and can be detonated by the Captain in charge.
  • There are 24 SS all-in-all.
  • They are planning on killing the POWs, but would prefer to keep them as a bargaining chip if need be.
  • They are fanatical and excellent fighters.
  • Six guards patrol the outside of the Moathouse. 

1: Machinegun nest. Sandbagged and camouflaged. 
2: Two guards, relieved every four hours.
3: Two guards, relieved every four hours.
4: Artillery spotter and sniper. Have radio comms to Battery in forest.
5: Parade ground. 
6: Hall converted to barracks for the soldiers.
7: Captain’s room. Photograph of the Fuhrer next to his bed. Ladies silk underwear hidden in the bottom of his locker. Cartons and cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes. There is also a plunger for the explosives that ring the entire building.
8: Stairway down to the basement where the POWs are.
9: Radio Station. Two signallers (not SS) drunk on stolen cognac, gorging themselves on chocolate and baguette.
10: Staff Sergeants room. If not on patrol, he is in there writing letters home or doing push-ups.
11: Machinegun nest. Sandbagged and facing east. 
12: Sniper. Uses the arrow slit as a vantage point.
13. Stairs down to the basement where the POWs are.
14. Kitchen for the SS. They have a Chef, not a cook,but a Chef.Does a lovely Sunday roast.
15: Ammo room.
16:  Spotter. Looking north.
17: Machine gun nest. Looking west.
Downstairs: The POWs are to be found here and are more than happy to take up the fight with you if need be.

There you have it, a bare-bones game for The Front. Enjoy!