If you haven’t read my previous posts from this series, I’m playing The Mecha Hack, an OSR take on BattleTech-style games, with my wife and our 7-year-old son, Xander.
Here’s the setup…
We’re using the off the shelf Mech Hack “mini-setting,” Lodestar Alpha. There are three main factions from Old Earth. Our scrappy heroes, Thumper and Starian, belong to the Terran Collective. The Collective is made up of farmers and workers who only recently threw off the yoke of the Neo Dominion. The ND are your far future feudalists in space. Their power is waning, but they still have lots of resources.
The last faction, the Aeonic Primacy, is the final group of colonists from Old Earth. For centuries they were thought lost, but they’ve recently reappeared. They use alien technology, and their agenda is unknown. One thing is clear, though, they seek to destroy both the ND and the TC.
Our story picks up after Episode 5, where our heroes managed to turn some punishment duty into the very meaningful rescue of a belter mining colony.
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN
Instead of returning home to a hero’s welcome after their stalwart defense of Asteroid Skarno, our protagonists are told to report to Ops for a briefing.
Their new Neo Dominion buddies have uncovered a strange new Aeonic Primacy research project… and they’ve proposed to team up with the Terran Collective to raid it. The only catch? The project is on the surface of Aeon Prime, the heavily-fortified planet that the Primacy took from the Dominion back in the day.
The mission shaped up like this… The Neo Dominion would provide a screening force in orbit to occupy Aeonic Primacy units while Starian and Thumper dropped in for a clandestine raid on the mysterious facility. The objective: to acquire material from the project and to gather intel.
Up to now our heroes have been on the receiving end of a lot of enemy action. I thought it would be cool, as we approach mid-campaign, to let them take the fight to the Aeonic Primacy. Also, I really, really like using my GEV map boards from OGRE! I dressed them up with some of the extra map pieces to give things a little more of a post-apocalyptic vibe. Aeon Prime was the site of an invasion after all… so there was a shattered reservoir here and a giant crater there.
NEAR OR FAR
I gave my heroes the option of getting dropped somewhat close to the base (roll to sneak with Disadvantage) or further away (regular roll). I explained that with either choice they’d have ten rounds to get in and get out. I was kind of hoping they’d chance landing in close, but they wanted to play it conservatively. (I get it, rolling with Disadvantage is no joke!)
They put down behind a screen of trees at the far edge of the map, but Thumper failed her Stealth/Mobility roll. (My wife’s dice luck strikes again!) Since they were behind some Mech-sized cover, the anti-intruder turret that popped out of the ground had a lot of trouble hitting them. Exhibiting some wisdom earned during previous sessions, Starian held his ground and traded shots with the turret, while Thumper cloaked and started the long trip down the battlefield.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE SCENARIO WORK
It was surprising to see them work this engagement like a couple of old pros, even if it left me without much to do. Starian played keep away in the forest, holding the attention of the enemy forces sent to check out the situation. He melted into the tree line when the scarab-like hover tanks started to move in.
Thumper edged down the battlefield and stayed away from busy areas like road junctions. Now that I’m looking back on it, I probably should have added some units “on patrol” on that side of the board to maintain the tension. Still, after that initial failure, she made several successful stealth checks. If we’re rolling the dice, I have to honor the results.
After about 4 rounds, Thumper made it to the outside of the base. Because of the Aeonic Primacy’s cloaking technology, she had no idea what to expect. I described the facility as looking something like a geodesic dome, but with many more facets. That it felt somehow inhumanly and pointlessly complicated.
She took a deep breath and tried to hack her way in. Since this is the first time anyone from the Terran Collective has ever tried to interface with Aeonic technology, I asked her to roll System with Disadvantage. No successes in the first round, and double 19s (bad, almost critically bad) in the second roll. I decided to use those misses to let her fail forward, but with a twist.
“WILL YOU WALK INTO MY PARLOUR?,” SAID THE SPIDER TO THE FLY.
Thumper’s getting ready for a third try, anxiously eyeing the mission clock, when an eerie voice over her comms whispers her name, “Ah, you’ve made it, why don’t you come inside and see the future.” With that the doors open invitingly.
She steps in and sees a huge cocoon squirming and coruscating with void energy in the gloom. Taking out a sample container, she pauses just long enough to collect some goo. She runs a scan on the thing and is startled to get a hit… “Target identified. Duke Jev Acharis, formerly of the Neo Dominion, presumed dead on Fortress Husqvarna.” And then her onboard AI cheekily asks, “Should I update the database, ma’am?”
(My wife laughed and started clapping her hands at this point. Good old Jev got sucked into a void rift way back in Episode 3 in the middle of his failed coup attempt. I’ve been sitting on this callback all summer, so I was pleased she enjoyed it so much. A few weeks ago, Xander took our LEGO squid, which we use to represent our voidmaw creatures, and started adding random minifig parts to it. It was so freaky… it was like he was reading my mind! I knew his build would be perfect for VoidJev.)
Back in game, Thumper was losing her shit. The voice in her head says, “Yes, yes, that’s good. You shall be here at the rebirth, the baby will be hungry… ,” just as the cocoon vomits forth the horrifying hybrid that Jev has become.
Now there’s a bit of table wisdom that says that players never run, so don’t put them in a situation where they have to. My guys have been in enough scrapes with voidmaw creatures that they want no part of one that’s more powerful than they are. (This is especially true of Xander, who finds them way intimidating.)
So, they both vector over to the extraction point, posthaste. VoidJev catches up with them and unleashes a bone-rattling sonic attack, but doesn’t manage to do any damage. The eerie voice from earlier implores Thumper to stay, but she makes a roll to resist its influence. Moments later, they’re snatched up for extraction.
We wrapped up the session with Thumper handing off the highly unstable sample to her tech, a crusty old guy everybody calls Mother.
Xander is stoked to retire Starian’s mech, Star, and bring something new into the game. So, he’d worked out a whole cut scene that involves his CO, Commander Ironsides, wandering into Starian’s part of the hangar to see what he’s up to.
There’s a great moment where he describes the Commander noticing a new mech head on the table, right across from Starian’s disembodied head! But then Starian moves and Ironsides realizes it was just an optical illusion.
I thought that was a damn sophisticated conceit for a 7-year-old. How long before he’s running games for old Dad???
⊗ ⊗ ⊗
This was much lower key than our previous sessions. Normally I try to keep the pressure on, but this time I wanted to reward the solid, rational choices Deanna (and especially Xander!) made in this scenario. They got in and they got out without getting drawn into a major engagement.
Also, they didn’t have the half dozen crit-fails that usually create a doom vortex in these sessions. For rhythm’s sake it was nice to see them earn a clear victory; one that will push the story forward into the second half of the campaign.
Since it’s basically the GM’s call, I decided it was time for them to level up. Poor Deanna struggled with these rolls, but Xander’s luck continued. He somehow pushed his Power up another notch… to 18. I swear he’s going to end up with Power 20 before we’re through. And why not? If he can get his ya-yas out at the game table battling mechs and monsters, so much the the better.
He ought to have some kind of win in 2020.