Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tales of Mystri Island: The Stossechse

The details were kept a closely guarded secret, but part of the Italian trench line taken by the Germans at Caporetto in November of 1917 was not seized by their vaunted Stosstruppen. In one or two selected points on the battlefield, something worse even than the stormtroopers was at play. In those sectors the Italian defenders were utterly wiped out before they were able to withdraw -- worse even than wiped out, torn to pieces, their bodies mangled, sometimes beyond recognition. Only one man survived, a reliable veteran Sergente, but he had been driven insane, and to this day shields his face and screams for no apparent reason. The Germans had here unleashed a weapon that, in its war-winning capabilities, might eclipse the flamethrower and even poison gas itself.

With great effort, Allied intelligence eventually determined from scat left in the assaulted trench sectors that this weapon was biological, apparently some sort of … animal. The Bosche seemed to hold it only in limited quantities at present, or they would have scythed down the entire front, a ghastly slaughter. Thank God for little miracles, though this was literally cold comfort to those torn limb from limb in their trenches.

It was a Belgian spy who first caught wind of the likely origin of the new Hun menace, in the summer of 1917, in fact a few months before Caporetto. She heard two German officers speak obliquely about the “dividends being yielded by a Guards captain on an island in the Pacific,” and how those may “some day yield triumph for the Fatherland.” She passed this information on to the British Secret Service, and it floated around Whitehall Court for a few months, usually described with evident amusement as “Jerry’s Witch Doctor Battalion.” But after Caporetto an enterprising intelligence officer put two and two together, and a team was established specifically to investigate what the Germans were doing in the Pacific. As the Secret Service learned more, two agents, an Englishman and an American, were sent to Mystri Island to see what they could find out. But doubts persisted -- could the obliteration of two full platoons of good Italian infantry be caused by something biological, found on a remote island?

* * *

Von Schrecklichdorf beckoned the party on, his Broomhandle Mauser now heavy in his hand and still hot from use. The native porters remained jumpy from the previous attacks, and clearly expected to see more of the vicious feathered reptiles bolting from the jungle at any moment, but the cadre of German explorers had moved these eggs around on Mystri Inland before and knew that the coast was now clear. The creatures, which Gotz had christened “Stossechse,” would not attempt to retrieve their eggs this far beyond the river.

Good thing too, v. Schrecklichdorf thought as he spat in his monacle and rubbed it on his bluse to remove a blood splatter. Nine more porters killed, over fifty rounds of invaluable K98 ammunition and six grenades expended ... defending six animal eggs. Not that the local tinpot dictator cared a whit about the losses to his own people, but it was getting harder to obtain carriers, conscripted or not, who would not flee as soon as the opportunity presented itself. These simple people, he thought ruefully, nursing a surface gash on his left forearm, had the good common sense not to transport demon eggs out from the deep part of the jungle.

Von Schrecklichdorf allowed himself to relax a little. “Stossechse.” Something right about that name -- “assault lizards” -- yet something so very wrong all the same. Scaly skin and a face like a lizard, but feathers like a bird, and a taut, wiry body like nothing he’d ever experienced before. What were they, besides damnably dangerous?

Well, that was a question for men in white lab coats back in Germany to answer. But what he did know was that these were the first animals he had sent back to Germany that led to clamours for more. Though in their wild state they were incredibly dangerous, in fact nearly suicidal to approach, the creatures were, he was told, domesticable when raised from the egg, and made awesome weapons. (Von Schrecklichdorf tried to image that for a moment.) This was good. He had not come here to fail the German people in their hour of trial. He would collect more of these eggs, and no one would stop him, he thought, looking around the jungle, the hairs now standing up on his neck. He had that old feeling again, like he was once again being watched, but not by Stossechse.

Janice sensed her German subject was aware of her, as she slipped through the jungle, Richard right behind her ….

* * *

Comparison to a 15mm sci fi model

We will soon release a pack of von Schrecklichdorf’s Stossechse (pronounced sh-tows-egg-zuh), dinosaurs now known to science as Deinonychus, often called "raptors" in popular parlance. There are six different poses and the animals are represented in line with the most up-to-date dinosaur science, so they are covered in feathers for heat regulation as well as display. They represent medium to large “raptors” in 15mm scale, but are perfect for 28mm scale smaller “raptors” such as Velociraptor (not the movie monster, the actual animal, which was about the size of a German Shepard).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mike Broadbent paints the L-HAC!

Most of you will know Mike Broadbent as one of the world's top rank sculptors of wargaming miniatures, but Mike is also a painter and a gamer, and I was very pleased indeed when he ordered several of my L-HAC models! This was designed by Mark Mondragon and, at about 100mm tall, is huge and imposing even to 28mm models.

That's how Mike says he uses his, as death droids in his 28mm gaming. Here are some pics he was kind enough to share with me.

Thanks Mike. The L-HAC is available in the Terran Federal Marine Corp. area of our 15mm Sci Fi webstore:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Tribal Class DPLS

A "Bulldog" DPLS flying its freight pod to a neighboring star system is a familiar sight in planetary orbit.

The Tribal Class DPLS (dual purpose light spacecraft) is the most widely used light interstellar spacecraft in the galaxy. This vessel was the brainchild of Sivapathasundaram Patel, the visionary FTL designer of the “Block 16” series of light exploration craft, and is manufactured by Puja-Patel Light Spacecraft Company, a division of ConglomCo. (Patel named the company after his daughter.) Having designed the Block 16 vessels which had established humanity in space, Patel’s next goal was “to create a vehicle that could keep us there,” a single interstellar ship which can be used interchangeably for a dizzying variety of military and commercial uses with little modification. With little effort, the “Bulldog” (the popular nickname of the spacecraft due to the appearance of the cabin) can be configured to perform an impressive variety of roles. Thanks to its ability to hover and land vertically by vectoring the main engines and a suite of thrusters arrayed across the vessel’s fuselage, it can generally go wherever the crew wants to take it.

Even without the Federal navy weapons pod installed, the DPLS still packs a serious punch, as this craft on a NOE attack run against a pirate base is about to prove.

The DPLS is a large, deadly strike craft, in Federal naval service adding one of two weapons pods for attack runs – either the surface attack pod or the fleet strike pod. Like all pods for the DPLS, these can be swapped on the craft, and the accompanying molware reconfigured, in less than ten minutes.

This DPLS is configured for freight carriage and has its 200mm laser cannons stored in the weapons bay.

The DPLS can transport up to 36 armed men into battle via planetfall from heavy fleet transports, or 24 armed men when travelling between adjacent star systems, the optional military cargo pod providing them with stowage for a variety of light weapons and supplies. While the troops are being inserted they are protected by the DPLS’s missile turret and its armament of wing-mounted 200mm laser cannon – the turret with its guided missiles being particularly useful in providing them fire support whilst the DPLS is landed.

Chances are if someone travels between systems in Federal space, it’s in a DPLS. For short hops up to 24 people can be carried, although Federal guidelines (widely ignored) call for carriage of no more than 12 passengers. For long term trips up to six passengers can be accommodated in two cabins which offer relative privacy, being constructed using fold-down dividers.

The ubiquitous cargo pod of the DPLS can have its top removed for bulk unloading, or the doors on the side can be opened for unpacking of smaller items by individuals or cargo bots.

The most widespread peacetime use of the DPLS is in carrying light freight loads across the galaxy, sometimes literally so. The ubiquitous cargo pod of the DPLS can carry up to 24 tons of cargo and an additional 20 tons of cargo can be carried inside the craft itself. Due to its ability to vertically land, unhook the cargo pod and take off, the DPLS is sometimes used to resupply besieged outposts or units in the midst of battle.

The DPLS is also often used to ferry cargo from larger freighters to planetary surface.

The Federal Navy holds over 6,000 DPLS -- at any time 2,000 of those being on active service and 4,000 in the Merchant Reserve, these latter vessels operated by Navy Reserve pilots who lease the craft and use them to ply a variety of shipping or passenger carriage trades. These NROs (Naval Reserve Operators), as they are called, need to follow strict guidelines for the use of these vessels; for instance, when crewed by/transporting aliens, only SNH (Sanctioned Non-Humans) are permitted aboard, and the wingtip laser cannons are supposed to be dismounted from the vessel and stored in the weapons hold. (This requirement is selectively ignored by Federal NRP inspectors, who, as Navy men themselves, usually look the other way if the NRO is shipping in dangerous zones.)

In time of hostilities, NROs are required to promptly return to their home port, or rendezvous with their Naval Battle Group if it is deployed. Their DPLSs are expected to be fully prepared for combat operations by the time they reach the Battle Group.

The Tribal-class DPLS is not solely a military vessel; in fact it is primarily commercial, only 25% of all DPLSs being owned by the fleet. They are also purchased by private companies or individuals for commercial or recreational use, but these vessels have the wingtip pods permanently installed and of course are not provided with laser cannons. While they mount the missile turret for self-defense, strict fire protocols are built into the molware of the ship to prevent them being used for offensive purposes. (This is at times overridden by some users, in violation of Federal law.)

Unfortunately, these vessels fall into pirates’ hands at times, either by force of arms or because the owner has sold the vessel in desperation, if not lost it in a game of chance. Lhurgg pirates eagerly use these vessels once they are rewired to accept prohibited alien entry, and repaint them in lurid patterns as is the preference of those creatures. Such vessels are invariably filthy and badly maintained. Kark pirates have also been known to finagle the purchase of a DPLS similarly rewired, and these run a tight ship, often jury-rigging an aqua-system in order to create an H2O environment inside the vessel.

The DPLS is so omnipresent that, in situations of piracy where a Federal vessel comes to the aid of a commercial freighter, it’s not uncommon for the commercial, pirate and Navy vessels to all be the same type!

The class name, “Tribal,” is an acknowledgement of the multiplicity of the race for whom the vessel was designed – each vessel carries the name of a tribe from human history, the word “tribe” being interpreted very loosely to include any established name for an identifiable group of people; due to the number of vessels, the vessel names often end with a roman numeral after the tribal appellation. For instance, the DPLS that was instrumental in running arms to the Sepulvedan Resistance, and later secretly carrying Federal marines to Sepulveda, the UFS Samnite IV, was named after a nation of aggressive Italian tribesmen who fought tenaciously against the encroaching power of the ancient Romans. As is well known, that ship lived up to its name. Other vessels carry such names as Huron, Geordie, Ainu, Cripp, Rus, and so on.

The Tribal-class DPLS is a 15mm scale model, and can be assembled in a number or different configurations. It has a flight stand and landing gear that can be depicted either up or down, and the vessel can be removed from the flight stand. It also comes with the standard cargo pod which is used when the vessel operates as a dropship or freighter, and this can be attached or left off. The flight stand plugs into the cargo pod, and the cargo pod plugs into the vessel. Or the cargo pod can be removed and the flight stand plugged directly into the vessel. The exit ramp can also be depicted opened or closed, and it’s a tight enough fit that it could be left unglued, although you might lose it that way, so we recommend you choose one and glue it!

The DPLS was designed by me and Mark Mondragon, and rapid prototyped by Mark. The computer renders are by Mark, and the physical copy was painted by Neldoreth of An Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields. Available soon!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Orca Assault Warriors of the Pelagic Dominate

A pod of Orca Warriors, showing a variety of weapons and helmet types -- both the clear dome for insertion strikes and the hard helmet for planetary assault.

The spacefaring xenophobic aquatics of the Pelagic Dominate have an ace in the hole for special strike missions -- the Orca Assault Warriors, large power armour wearing mammalian sentients who have evolved from carnivorous cetaceans. These behemoths are as intelligent as they are strong and fearless, and have been equipped by the inscrutable Cnidarian Overlords with a powered battle suit of immense strength and durability.

When the Cnidarian exploration craft reaced Orcos, the home world of the Orcas, they found a strong spacefaring people ready to contest any conquest. However, when the scout, a delphine diplomat, explained the goals of the Dominate, the Orcas willingly decided at a meeting of the Orca high council pod to submit to the empire, seeing the logic of it -- provided, that is, that two conditions were met. First, they must be allowed to keep their ancient traditions in governing their own world. Second, once a conquered world was aquafarmed, as a mark of their special status they must be permitted to swim that sea in a procession before any other Pelagic life forms. The response of the Cnidarians was mysterious to the Orcas, but the delphine diplomat interpreted for them, saying that these conditions were acceptable.

The Orcas being intelligent crafts-creatures by nature, each Orca noble makes his own weapons, as is dictated by tradition from time immemorial. Their main armaments are for close combat, the dreaded Ahab power harpoon and the Behemoth power claw for manipulation. For close range shooting they use the multibarreled Stingray gatling gun.

Added to this arsenal by the Cnidarians are several other weapons, for the Cnidarians employ the Orca Warriors as elite special strike forces, often teleporting to a target, destroying it, and teleporting out. One such weapon, the Barnacle smart missile system, is an intrinsic part of every Orca battle suit, firing a blizzard of high explosive smart missiles at numerically superior infantry foes. Another vital weapon is the Sea Snake anti-structural missile, fitted to an arm hardpoint of the suit, permitting the warrior to destroy heavy tanks or structures such as command posts, bunkers and power stations.

An Orca Assault Warrior compared to a primitive human -- meeting fanatical but hopelessly outgunned resistance, the Pelagic Dominate aquafarmed this world in only two Pelagic Cycles.

Orcas are often deployed as well in the first wave of an assault, providing some heavy support to the Myzontid Rangers. Like the Myzontids, they are provided with pheromonal exuders so that they are effectively invisible to the swarming bioweapons that are dumped onto the planet by the invasion fleet. The Orcas are intelligent, vocal mammalian sentients, and very different in temperament from the silent, terrifying Myzontids, but the two troop types have developed a rapport and supported each other well in many a successful opening assault.

These models are in 15mm scale and will be sold in a pack of three. One model is gesturing forward and is the pod leader. As can be seen, they come both "bareheaded" (this actually depicts a clear dome-helmet that is worn by the warriors, mostly filled with water but having enough clearance for the warrior to breathe air from his blowhole) and coral-steel helmeted options, as both are used by the Orcas, it being an easy swap on the suit. Enough bare and helmeted heads are provided so that all of the warriors can be "bareheaded" or helmeted. The pack also includes a wealth of spare pieces that can be plugged into the three suits' hardpoints -- Sea Snake missiles, Ahab power harpoons, Stingray gatling guns, and Behemoth power claws. A great deal of extras are in the pack.

These should be available in a few days after the date of this posting, along with the Myzontid rangers with whom the Orcas so often cooperate. Keep an eye on the 15mm sci fi store page. Pedro Ramos sculpted the models and Steve Dean painted them.