Campaign: Frontline – Prologue – Part 3 – The World

And so we come to the player pack for this campaign, detailing the setting of the game I will be running. Keep in mind this is not the official setting of ChromeStrike, but my own creation drawing upon the influences mentioned last time. Feel free to comment on how unoriginal it is or silly or anything else that strikes you! After this pack I will detail the players taking part and their characters (numbering 4 at the moment, though this could change). Also, this game will be played over the internet using Skype and, to make it easier to communicate and portray the action using images and maps.

Anyway, that’s enough author’s notes for now, so here’s the interesting bit. Until next time, when we will hopefully have some character’s to share with you, enjoy!

Frontline: The Borean War

15 years ago, the sky fell. We built great weapons to protect ourselves, and shot the falling sky as it threatened our homes. Some were saved. Others were not. But the nations of the world endured, and began to rebuild.

On the Borean coast, the Principality of Cyril suffered heavily during that time, and struggled to match the recovery efforts of it’s neighbors. Then a council of Generals came to power, overthrowing the corrupt civilian government following their inability to cope with the situation. Only then did the country begin to recover.

Then, in 1996, the Principality of Cyril invaded Toralia. It was the start of the Borean War.

The region surrounding the Borean Sea.

The region surrounding the Borean Sea.

The Federal Republic of Toralia

Founded originally in 1064, Toralia had only recently returned onto the world stage as it’s own nation, back in 1976 upon Cyril’s defeat in the Third Continental War. Before that it had existed as the Northern Province of Cyril for over a hundred years, since the original Cyril-Toralian conflict of 1810. Upon realizing it’s independence, the nation immediately set out on a prolonged program of modernizing it’s military and infrastructure, resolved to never again become the vassal of another country.

The Tolarian Flag

The Toralian Flag

The nation’s efforts were aided greatly by it’s access to the Hague mountains that divided the mainland from Cyril, a resource rich region that had prompted the original invasion in 1810. Toralia was also one of the fortunate nations to avoid being affected by fragments of the “Orion” asteroid following it’s destruction in 1981, unlike it’s southern neighbor. In a widely acclaimed gesture of goodwill, the Federal Republic of Toralia provided aid and acted as a staging area for relief efforts in Cyril.

The increased traffic and influx of aid heading to Cyril boosted Toralia’s economy, providing a demand for workers to help with the relief efforts. But after a few years, the aid being sent to Cyril from across the continent began to decrease, leaving behind the Corridor as it’s legacy. The Corridor is a major pass through the Hague mountains, the only one in existence.

Though it’s industry is underdeveloped in comparison to other nations’, Toralia has emerged as a major supplier of raw goods, such as lumber and ore. The northern regions of the country, bordering the Scythian Straits, are also renowned for their fish. With the wealth generated by the resources sold to it’s neighbors, Toralia managed to completely modernize their infrastructure and civil services within five years, though the military lacks any cutting edge equipment, relying mostly on outdated hardware from United Eulean Territories, as well as the People’s Emirate of Arya.

The general populace of Toralia is religious, focused around a monotheistic belief with great emphasis placed on eight saints. Each saint is celebrated on the date of their birth, and these dates have become national holidays. Their influence is marked in all aspects of Toralian culture, with the number eight being held as particularly significant (see the eight stars on the country’s flag). Another holiday that hold equal importance in the hearts of the people is Liberation Day, June 8th, the day the Federal Republic was officially freed from Cyril’s control. All holidays are celebrated with feast days, with certain meals being associated with certain holidays – for example, the Feast of Saint Lopez consists of a variety of seafood dishes, particularly shellfish, whereas the Feast of Saint Miguel consists mainly of the meat of birds.

The capitol city of the Federal Republic of Toralia is Madera, located on the Borean coast.

The Principality of Cyril

The Cyril Flag

The Cyril Flag

One of the oldest nations on the continent, Cyril is a country with a long and proud history, and historically had always acted as the first line of defense against any Murskan incursion from the south. With the cessation of hostilities between Murska and the Eulean Territories, Cyril found itself with a large amount of equipment and veteran soldiers, making it one of the most potent military forces in the world.

The country has had a turbulent relationship with it’s neighbors, but this rarely escalated into outright conflict. This changed when “Orion” fell from the heavens. Though the asteroid was successfully destroyed, it’s fragments still rained upon the world, causing devastation wherever they landed. Not only did Cyril suffer a strike to it’s landmass, it also suffered heavy damage along it’s coast when a fragment fell into the Tenebaum Channel. In the political upheaval following the impacts, martial law was declared to keep the peace and facilitate relief efforts.

Following the passing of the Prime Minister, the generals tasked with keeping order took over until such a time as the martial law was no longer necessary. Under their leadership, the country began to recover, though there was widespread resentment among the populace that more was not being done. How dare the continent not put forth every effort to aid them, after all that Cyril had done for them combating the Murskans? The months went on, and Toralia seemed to be benefiting more from the international relief efforts than Cyril. Whispers began to circulate, that the Toralians were stealing some of the aid meant for the populace of Cyril. So when the Council of Generals declared their intention to save their country by taking back from Toralia what was rightfully theirs, public opinion was fully on their side.

Cyril boasts a proud military tradition, with nearly every family in the country having a member actively in the armed forces. Having been originally used as a buffer against Murska by the UET, the military received much foreign aid in terms of hardware and training, making it one of the most dangerous in the world. However, despite the influence of foreigners, great emphasis is placed on tradition and history, with many units and formations continuing the customs that now make up part of their identity, such as the annual joust held by members of the 63rd Tactical Combat Frame Unit, which is always led by a Cyril noble.

The capitol city of Cyril is Teamhrach, with the seat of government being the ancient castle at it’s heart.

The Orion Asteroid

Originally detected in the late 1960s, the stellar object labelled “Orion” was readily identified as on a collision course for Earth. However, due to the Third Continental War the information was not acted upon until nearly ten years later. An unintended consequence of this was that the major nations were already focused on production of heavy arms, and were able to easily begin construction of various countermeasures. Due to this war-time conditions persisted in Murska and the United Eulean Territories throughout the 1970s, as well as several other nations.

Each country had it’s own approach to dealing with the incoming catastrophe, though it did prompt unprecedented global cooperation. The tactic agreed upon in an emergency meeting between world leaders was to destroy the asteroid as soon as possible, and then destroy any fragments that would not burn up in the atmosphere. This led to the creation of the Allied Nation Anti-Stellar Weapon “Mandala”, which managed to successfully destroy the Orion asteroid.

As the remains of the giant rock fell into the atmosphere, it fell to each nation to use their own countermeasures to keep themselves safe. The UET used a linked network of rail-guns to destroy the fragments, whereas the Murskans deployed gigantic aircraft to intercept any pieces that threatened their borders, and the People’s Emirate of Arya used their extensive satellite weapons net to attack any fragment larger than a hut that came anywhere close to their airspace.

The Relief Efforts – “The Borean Airlift”

Following the multiple “Orion” impacts of 1981-2, the global superpowers that had managed to weather the cataclysm mobilized to provide aid to any affected nations. Cyril was one of these nations, though there were numerous difficulties in delivering supplies to the stricken country. The Hague mountains funneled all land based traffic, and many of the ports in the country had been damaged by the tidal fallout of the Tenebaum Impact. It was therefore decided that to deliver the most supplies as quickly as possible, an airlift would be required. In the space of a year it is believed roughly six million cargo aircraft flew over the peninsula, dropping supplies.

Toralia was used as the main base of operations for supplies coming from the continent, and it is believed even the Murskans sent supplies over the Tenebaum Channel. The Borean AIrlift as it came to be known is widely regarded as a success, though the exact extent of Cyril’s recovery is still unknown. It is believed to have managed to restore Cyril to a semblance of self-sufficiency, since the ruling government has refused any further aid in the form of reconstruction or shared labor by Toralian industries.

Zaragoza: Toralian Military Installation 34FG78

Colonel Benito

Coronel Benito

One of numerous Cyril bases abandoned when Toralia regained it’s independence, and subsequently taken over by the Toralian military. Located in the south-eastern part of the country, a few hours drive from the Corridor. Before the war, it was used as a refueling stop for cargo planes carrying supplies to Cyril, though it no longer acts as an airbase due to the small size of the Toralian air-force. Instead it is staffed as an emergency airfield, with a skeleton crew and a small garrison composed mainly of foot troops and their APCs, as well as a flight of helicopter gunships. Commanded by Coronel Benito, a young and easy-going officer who used to be a gunship pilot.

Personnel Dossier: Dara Doherty “The Major”

Major Dara Doherty

Major Dara Doherty

A veteran combat frame pilot, Dara is a quiet and intense man who has served in the Cyril military for the past thirty years. He began his career upon enlisting during the Third Continental War, and has on numerous times refused promotion to a non-battlefield position, earning him the nickname of the “Eternal Major”.

Since the end of the Third Continental War, he has been the squad leader of the 124th Artillery Frame Unit “Mad Bull”, a specialist formation of frames that act as their own self-sufficient siege force.

Campaign: Frontline – Prologue – Part 2 – The Influences

So, when creating a campaign, it’s important to have your influences clearly in mind, as I am sure you already know. It’s why we want to run a game, to put our own spin on stories we love, or to incorporate ideas we’ve seen in other tales and see how they interact with things in other settings. It also prompts you to be creative to make something fit in the setting you are developing whilst still making sense.

That last one is a real point of importance in my case, since one of my regular players (who I stress is a really nice guy!) is a veteran GM, with years of world building experience. He also has really high standards when it comes to games…OK maybe not that high – he wants continuity and sense and logic and PHYSICS. Which kind of makes me wonder why he signed on for the mecha game, considering the genre itself has as much to do with physics and logic as it does with ballroom dancing…

Ahem, excuse the tangent – the topic today is influences!

As previously mentioned, one of my major influences in running this game was the Ace Combat series of games by Namco. I honestly do not know why I love these games. I just know I do and I would love to be able to tell a similar story. So like any good writer, I stole. There’s a quote about good poets imitating and great ones stealing, but I can’t find the original citation…

In any case, to give you a sense of the story I’m aiming for, here is a collection of videos! Let’s start off with Ace Combat 04, the earliest released game in the series that I actually own, and the first to really develop the setting.

What did I take away from this game to put into ChromeStrike: Frontline? Firstly, the notion of an asteroid falling onto the world and triggering conflict. With a stalemate of sorts in place, it would take something drastic to upset the balance, and a giant rock from nowhere dropping onto the planet surely counts. Secondly, the Yellows. Anyone who has EVER played Ace Combat 4 knows what I’m talking about. The elite enemy squadron that is way beyond your capabilities to deal with the first time yo run into them, what with you being a far more inexperienced pilot. Of course, in an RPG, the players will still probably find a way to kill whatever expy of them I introduce in their first meeting, but if they don’t, they can become decent recurring villains and truly give the party a sense of accomplishment upon finally defeating them at some suitably dramatic moment later in the game.

Ace Combat 5 was the first Ace Combat game I actually played, and I still love it. Compared to 4, it had a greater story and actually developed characters. What did I take from this game for Frontline though? I took the notion of the players becoming truly (in)famous amongst friend and foe, their victories being recognized and rewarded, with enemies and allies reacting to their exploits (such as targeting them specifically to inflict morale damage on allied forces, or refusing to engage them, as well as allies demanding their support in various missions, making the group have to choose between objectives).

As well as this, the idea of the home base the party could rely on, making it as much a home or keep or even starship as possible. What do I mean? In traditional fantasy games, once the players have a castle or land that is theirs, they will guard it and love it and develop it. Similar to how in a sci-fi game players will bond with any ship they end up with. It’s THEIRS. So trying to develop similar feelings in my group regarding their carrier (similar to how the characters in Ace Combat 5 come to regard the Kestrel), became one of my goals.

And then we come to Ace Combat Zero, the prequel to 5. And this is still one of my favorites from the series. It was the first to truly incorporate enemy ace squadrons into the game, and that was certainly an idea I took for my campaign – having elite squadrons mixed in with the regular mook army to challenge the players through use of bizarre tactics or specialist equipment. Secondly is the superweapon. To be fair it is more of a common theme in all the games, with each one having at least one noteworthy piece of bizarre sci-fi tech. But it changes things up and gives one side in the war I was plotting a clear advantage and naturally came with its own opportunities for themed missions and assets to be called upon by the enemy to make the players’ lives harder if they were doing really well or finding things too easy.

Note, this doesn’t mean I aim to be cheap, rather, I aim to give the players a challenge. I want them to win, but victory without risk or some hardship is just not as satisfying.

I never got a chance to play number 6, since it came out for a different console than the series normally used. Why? No idea. In any case, I still followed the story, and that’s where the idea of a military junta controlled nation being the aggressor came from, an example of a nation struggling to cope with the fallout of the asteroid impact. Also, it was evocative of many stories against enemies in the shadows, acting as puppet masters whilst never confronting the players directly. I had the enemy aces to be the face of the enemy on the battlefield. The political arena was unlikely to come up during play – though politics and screaming your ideals at each other in the middle of a fight is part of the mecha genre.

Hmmm, may have to make one of the generals from this junta into an ace for the party to meet…

The closest we ever got to an Ace Combat anime, and a damn fine show anyway, Area 88 is what gave me ideas for subplots dealing with mercenaries fighting in war, having to deal with self-supply and other logistic issues in addition to the fighting. A fair few NPCs were born from this show in my campaign too, mostly focused on the links between pilots and the maintenance crews.

With the mecha genre being pretty much the domain of anime, it was inevitable I would be influenced by the various shows I had seen. One of the major ones that tend to inspire me is of course, Code Geass. I was too young to catch much Gundam when it was coming out, and instead latched onto Code Geass when I stumbled across it.

The main ideas and concepts I took away from this show was rebellion, audacious strategy, and the relationships formed between the characters. With the idea of a junta controlling the aggressor nation, if the players found themselves operating within it’s borders, I had some plot to keep things interesting if the usual military missions started wearing thin – such as supporting/combating rebellious elements, and dealing with the propaganda machine.

Whilst ChromeStrike does not have very detailed rules for the characters themselves as opposed to their machines, having something prepared to engage the players in a way they totally do not expect is always a good call. After all, the players characters cannot be in their machines all the time.

The only Gundam series I have actually managed to watch (trying to find the originals has proven…troublesome…), and one which certainly gave me some useful ideas – like how to deal with an enemy with vastly superior hardware (for when the players end up with stupidly powerful mechs), and the various motivations characters can have for being pilots (useful for fleshing out the enemy aces). Of course, the notion of life beyond the mecha is not heavily developed, but the concept of consequences of military action on civilians and the knock on effect it can have leading to some really big problems later on did help me craft the subplots I was developing with greater detail.

Aaah this show. Alternate earth, crazy sci-fi knowledge blended with relatively real robot concepts…for me the most striking image will always be from the opening episode, with a mecha wrestling a helicopter gunship to the ground. Again, this is a story of adapting to civilian life, and of being noble mercenaries. The idea of a submarine as a carrier is certainly an interesting one, and maybe something to offer the players partway through the campaign…combine with loot rolls if they successfully take an enemy dry-dock? Could link nicely to the Hrimfaxi and Scinfaxi ideas that Ace Combat 5 introduced…

And of course, we cannot forget the major inspirations behind ChromeStrike itself:

With all those influences noted and recognized…time to move onto building the stage for this little drama – the world.

Campaign: Frontline – Prologue – Part 1 – The Game

Like many of us, I often find myself trawling through the internet looking for a new RPG to grip my imagination/interest. Not that anything I currently have has grown stale, but rather to see something new, a new idea or concept or such like to inspire my other games.

The ChromeStrike Rulebook

The ChromeStrike Rulebook

And the result of my search? ChromeStrike, a free mecha RPG spawned by 4chan, developed by DukeFluffy Productions. Now I know what some of you are thinking, but having read the rules for FATAL I figured things couldn’t get worse. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. A rules-lite RPG that evokes the sense of fun that the battles in Mechwarrior did, and easily adapted to a tabletop wargame, yet still easy to pick up and play.

In any case, this isn’t a review (that will wait for another day) but my attempts at putting together a campaign for the game and having some of my friends wreck play through it. Following a read through the rules, the machines on offer, the games master advice and the setting, I quickly jotted down a few ideas:

1) Original Setting – There is nothing wrong with the setting in the book, being rather standard/traditional fare. Megacorporations rule the world thanks to their mecha forces, and often skirmish against one another in the name of corporate greed or nationalism. However, I personally had no real interest in that world, so instead chose to set it on an alternate Earth, where nations still ruled and the almost dystopian future of corporate nations was still a dark dream. I also enjoy crafting new settings, especially since often my players are welcome to add their own touches and influences through the use of their characters and their back-stories. As well as this, one of my major influences for this campaign was the Ace Combat series of games from Namco, as will become readily apparent as this log goes on…

2) Players as Mercenaries – Whilst I could have easily stuck my players in as a regular military unit, that would have curbed their options somewhat when it came to making choices and decisions. Mercenaries on the other hand have greater freedom in choosing their missions, as well as technically having no true loyalty to any side, and as such not forcing any characterization on the creations of my players. Having the players as self-equipped mercenaries would also explain away why the characters are permitted to loot and salvage enemy mechs from the battlefield, a major source of income for the party in ChromeStrike, and why their own mechas would more than likely be Frankensteins of mismatched parts.

3) A Single Story Arc – In the past, I have had difficulties running and ending campaigns, mostly due to my own inexperience as a games master. Games rarely had a satisfying conclusion, and there were always loose or forgotten plot threads dangling, or games would go on for so long players would inevitably drop out. This time, I aimed for a relatively short and unambitious campaign, and so structured the game as if it were a video game (again, Ace Combat influences!)

4) Fun – This is not a game of philosophical debates or moral choices (though those may well crop up during gameplay), but rather a game of action, with robots shooting and ripping one another apart, with great glory and renown to be earned by those willing to seize it. As always, a major factor in a game is making sure everyone taking part is having fun, and knowing what each player enjoys and trying to cater for that.

With those points clearly in mind I set out to crafting my world, and gathering up a bunch of ne’er-do-wells to be the heroes (or maybe villains) in this little tale of mine…