Thursday, August 25, 2016

Monster Hunters: Between Man and Wolf

While the classic werewolf of legend is a man that turns into a wolf, there is another tradition: that of a monstrous creature that is neither a man nor a wolf, but the animalistic features of a wolf framed on hunched, powerful frame of what's mostly a man. This is a modern take, but no less of a legitimate one.  Monster Hunters provides us with  several animal templates, but not much in the way of wolf-men. Or rat-men. We technically have the feline template in basic, but lets do a proper monster Hunters template as well.

The most important thing to remember here is that the points should total up to 125. Its also worth noting that unlike a wolf, bear, or eagle, this creature is monstrous, and will be reacted to as such -- a wolf may draw calls to animal control, but a monster will generate even more extreme reactions.

Basic Man-Monster [125]
ST +2, DX +2, HT +2, Speed +.5, Teeth (sharp), Claws (sharp),  Night vision 5,  Damage Resistance 4 (tough skin), fur, Social Stigma (Monster), Ham-fisted, spoken language drops to accented, 32 point animal lens

were-men tend to have a lot of similarities: Teeth, claws, fur, and an animalistic fury. They're bodies are pretty much in a monster shape rather than an animal form, and the focus is really on building a monster, not an animal. The spoken language at accented reflects an appropriate animal voice, and while it doesn't drive people away (your looks already do that, and you can turn it off whenever they want) it can make it difficult to communicate with teammates.

Because we retain the human shape, a lot of the statistics are lower. But we keep fine manual dexterity, which means the character can use weapons and open doors freely. These types of monsters are made to use weapons, be they guns, blades, or something more exotic, and that can make these things terrifying. Night vision 5 is the higher than any of the natural animal templates. Once again, this is because this creature really isn't half-man half-animal, but a monster.

The remaining points spent on a combination of senses and movement abilities, flavored for the appropriate animal. While these abilities are only about a quarter of the point total, they keep the monster tied to its animal roots.

Animal Lenses [32]
Wolf-man: Acute hearing 3, Enhanced Move (ground) .5, Discriminatory Smell, Penetrating voice
Cat-man: Acute Smell 1 , Perfect Balance, Discriminatory Hearing
Rat-man: Discriminatory smell,  Perfect Balance, Night vision raised to 7

Other animals are quite possible, and should be appropriately themed. Smaller animals are particularly appropriate, as they can be made into a monster capable of making up for the animals natural small size.

More than one Template
Adding another template to a were is an additional 27 points. This is a big investment, but its also a very powerful one, giving a very different set of capabilities to the lycanthrope. The template taken should almost always be an intermediate or completed form of the creature. The lycanthrope should also specify which form is reverted to during the full moon.

As a Monster

ST 20       HP 20        Speed: 8.25
DX 15      Will  12     Move: 8
IQ 5          Per 13       Weight: 150-200
HT 16       FP 16        SM: 0

Dodge: 12    DR 6 (tough skin)

bite (15): 2d-2 cut, reach C, -1 to defense
claw (15): 2d-2 cut, reach C, -1 to defense
Improvised Club (14) 4d+1/2d+1 cr, reach 1

Its worth noting this sort of Lycanthrope is weaker than the classic forms -- unless it can get its hands on something. This monster is more dangerous in an urban or semi-urban enviroment than in the wilderness proper. Although the IQ is low, these monsters are quite willing to pick up an object and beat their foe with it.

This sort of were is most dangerous as the semi-rational or rational head of a larger pack -- one with multiple forms, and who has combined human and animal into a single monstrous form using the benefits of both. While all weres are more dangerous in this form, half-men get particularly more dangerous, as they are able to take full advantage of weapons.

 Last Howl

I hope you find this useful ... I certainly wished someone else had done this for me on occasion!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What is my TL anyways?

What's the TL on a full-auto crossbow?
First of all, ask yourself why you need to know the tech level. Tech level has a few pretty different purposes: setting starting wealth, letting players know what kind of tech to expect, and pricing people with a different tech level. If you don't need any of those, or can settle them without using the number, you don't need to figure out what the actual Tech Level is. Of course, you frequently need to do all three of those, and in that case Tech Levels provide a framework for you to work with.

Tech levels are a tool, not a limitation. If you find them getting in the way of what you want to do, you should either throw them completely out, or you should figure out why they aren't letting you do what you want to -- and that can help you to better understand your setting. I hope that this article can help you view and use Tech Levels as a tool and not a troublesome number you have to set.

What Tech is Important?

When looking at technology, there are lots of things that are good to look at, but it can be worrisome to wonder if you're looking at enough technology and if you've looked at too much. I use the following list when I'm comparing technology: you should probably know how each of these work.
  • Weapons and Armor
  • Transportation and Communication
  • Medicine
  • Survival Gear
  • Spy Gear
  • Economic Robustness
Each category represents something that adventurers use. There are certainly other categories of Technology, but they aren't as important to adventurers! If you're spending an extra amount of time on a category, be sure its interesting to the players.

Weapons and Armor: The ability to kill and stop killing. This is very important to most adventurers, and includes not only automatics and armor, but tanks and tactics. Consider law enforcement situations, military situations, and fights in the wilderness.
Transportation and Communication: This includes getting silk from china, sending messages from London to Baghdad, and the written word. Some adventurers spend an awful lot of time delivering messages, exploring far off places, and trying to read ancient tomes. Transportation and communication also go a long ways to setting a feel for a setting. Consider not only how the rich and powerful communicate, but also how the common man communicates, and both how grain gets to town and how silk crosses the world.
Medicine: Medicine isn't just about undoing weapons and armor, but also about combating plagues -- a necessary part of exploring foreign lands. A smaller category than most, its also the most likely to be more advanced than reality. Be sure to remember both injuries and illness.
Survival Gear: Artificial lights. Tents. Water skins. Scuba Gear. Winter Clothing. Food preservation. Adventurers are constantly going inconvenient places, and this gear keeps them alive. This type of gear is easy to forget, so be sure that you include it! Consider typical camping gear, winter gear, cave exploration, swimming in water, climbing cliffs, and other tasks that may come up while adventuring.
Spy Gear: Finding out things people don't want you to, and ways to stop that. Most of the obvious cases are high tech gear: hidden microphones, cryptography, and alarm system count. but don't forget locks, primitive ciphers, and signet rings. Telescopes and radar also count. This tech can be very important for adventurers!
Economic Robustness: This is about how rich a society is, and its certainly part of the tech level. Its about how hard it is to make something, and how rich the average man (and more importantly soldier) is. The things to watch are food, shelter, clothing, pottery, and tools. How long does it take to make one of them. It is very possible to spend too much time here, but its worth at least stopping in to check.

What Tech to Expect

The most important part of a tech level is setting player expectations. It can be frustrating for a player to think that something is available, only to have them realize it isn't. Even moreso when it happens again and again. The converse is no better: the NPC's constantly one-uping the heroes through superior understanding of their technology.

So for scifi, are we using this....
Most GM's have better things to do with their time than make lists of every single item of gear in a campaign. This is one of the places where the TL number becomes a tool: you can give the number and a set of expectations are made. Its a fantastic starting point, and for a lot of games, its sufficient.

But you probably didn't come here looking for advice on a run of the mill game. The TL number can still help. You give the TL number and then you modify it. In historical games this isn't too hard. You can also say things like "TL 4 without gunpowder". This is particuarly true for Ultra-tech games.
....or this?

And then you have crazy settings with a large amount of tech described in no other book. This includes settings like star wars (which doesn't seem to have all the tech we do), Magitech, and glowing Atlantean crystals. So what do we do here? Sit down with the list of categories and specify what's available and what's not. If you struggle with one, think about it for just a moment and then come up with something or be sure it won't come up. Economic Robustness... lines up pretty well with starting wealth. And we'll cover that in a lower section.

Pricing Primitives

This is at once the hardest and easiest part to do: +/-[5] points per tech level different from the campaign standard.  If the campaign standard is TL 8 and you are TL 7+1 -- don't pay anything, it all adds up to eight. Of course, this requires a number for you to compare to... kind of.

In some campaigns its possible to just wing a TL difference based on 'better tech'. This is particuarly applicable in space opera where a more advanced race is better only in terms of smaller gear that does more damage with better armor on faster ships, but is otherwise pretty much the same. This is almost never more than two TL's worth of advancements.  A tool, not a limitation.

Starting Wealth

Starting Wealth is an interesting concept. It controls how much gear a character has access to. Which is a big deal. Part of what makes DF use a 'fantasy TL' is the cost assumptions in the genre. Starting wealth is normally not a big deal: most of the time you know about what TL you are at and you can just use that number -- or tweak it to your taste. TL is a tool, and this is never truer than with starting wealth. Occasionally though, you need to know what the proper starting wealth for a character in a totally alien technology paradigm is. For that-- figure out the number, and then use the normal tools.

Coming Up With a Number for Magic Carpets and Zombie Farmers

Ok, now we need to come up with our number. This can feel nervewracking, but is actually not that hard to get right. The most important thing before you start is to know what the tech level you are trying to set is capable of. If you don't know that, you can't figure out the TL.

The trickiest part in all of this is often taking magic into account. When I say magic in this context, I don't mean 'anything that breaks the laws of physics'. I mean 'abilities restricted to a small portion of the population'. When working out what technology requiring specialized mages is like, ask yourself: "how does a middling merchant do it?" In the end, it all comes down to access: if merlin and al'Hazin use crystal balls to talk in london and baghdad, but everyone else uses couriers with a long a dangerous journey, you don't have instant communication. On the other hand, if a middling merchant can find a local witch to bridge the distance with her own crystal ball, you should count the technology.

Pick a TL you think your own compares to (I suspect 6 or 7 is best for you), and compare each of the technological categories of the historical TL to the TL you choose. If one aspect is lots better in one setting (often communication or medicine) that's fine, but if one setting routinely outclasses the other, move the 'equivalent TL guess' up or down and compare again. Don't worry about this being exact. If you can't decide if a setting is better or worse than another in a given aspect, just declare them equal and move on.

You can certainly compare the TL's yourself and by ear, but I have a list. Its nothing new, but it puts the technologies into categories so that its  easy to compare and so all the information is in one place. Once you have the list and know what the TL can do, matching them up is fairly simple.

when the balances are even, you have your TL equivalent! This doesn't mean you have that TL, only that your TL is 'about as good' as that TL. If it seems like a lot of stuff seems to fall between TL 5 and TL 6 --- that's not a coincidence. The industrial revolution saw huge changes in what mankind could do. In some cases one technological area will be more advanced. While this doesn't matter on the small scale, it can be worth it to say that a setting is TL6, but TL7 in weapons technology. Use this sparingly though -- once you have a split tech, everything is fairly fuzzy. Slight advances (or primitive fields) work best when fairly close to a core TL -- or if they are close to a TL that exists elsewhere in the setting.

Making the Number Look Fancy

 The numeric equivalent is good for most purposes, but a lot of people will want to go even further and come up with one of those fancy TL3+2^ names for their TL. We can do that too.

Once you have your TL equivalent, figure out the last standard TL where most of the technologies exist. For example, If you don't have coal power you probably don't have TL 5, but you might have TL 4 -- particularly if you do have gun powder and clockwork. This tends to be easier than the first comparison, but once again, don't get stuck over thinking it.

Now take the two numbers and build the TL X+Y. So if the first number was 7 and the second number was 4, you have TL 4 +3 (=7). And if you have supernatural aspects add a ^ to the end of the whole thing.

The ^ is kind of a funny thing. It represents breaks from the laws of reality as we know them. If it is put on a TL without a '+', as in TL7^, it means that you have TL 7 plus some extra things, be that broadcast power or   psionic mind reading tech. The ^ will always indicate raised technology. But if you've got a TL X+Y^, the ^ doesn't indicate addition, just that the alternate tech isn't of the normal variety. In some ways its redundant, but its always good to have, because it tells the players to beware of tech.

Don't be Discouraged

Remember, this is a game. Its supposed to be fun! If you don't think figuring out your TL is fun, or doable, just use TL 5. Actually, use the alternative number than popped into your head when I suggested using what's obviously the wrong TL. But if you really like this sort of stuff (like I do), then read over the article and start thinking beyond flintstones level technology. Think up alternate ways of running a civilization, and set your players loose in the results -- assured that you can give this place a number.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Hawfax (Species)

The Hawfax are a six legged arboreal species with a stiff covering closer to feathers than hair, large, forward facing eyes, a prehensile tail, and four toothed tongues in an otherwise jawless mouth. They are about suited for life in the trees as a human is suited for life on the ground: most wild animals can outperform them. They have remarkably strong grips. The entire creature is the length of a man's arm, not including the prehensile tail, and they weigh 40-60 lbs.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Refuges: Stornuso (stars in an ocean)

Miruso paddled his kayak through the ice in darkness. The last great star, Friend, had dimmed and then disapeared. The sound of the waves and his paddle in the open ocean were a strong contrast to the darkness of the long night around him. He pulled his fur parka tight -- this was a long trip, and there was no need to waste his heat reserves. He shifted his weight to balance his supplies -- mostly fishing equipment and dried fish.

Off in the distance, Miruso saw a twinkle of light on the water. The familiar light of another traveler! He strengthened the light coming from the skin of his face, hoping that the other traveler would see the increased glow and they could meet up. 

welcome to Stornuso, a dark world of water, ice, fire, and stars.  Its one of the Refuges: one world among many. Its designed for a specific setting, but the geography, cultures, magic and other aspects are free to be used where seen fit.

The World

 Stornuso is a cold world covered almost entirely by water, sheet ice, and iceburgs, and dominated by long periods of darkness. The sky is always black, lacking a proper sun, but studded with a variety of stars that wax and wane in their places. Sometimes they are bright enough to see by, but at other times they are as dark as any night. As the sky is studded with stars, the ocean is studded with volcanic islands. These flare up periodically, belching out light, smoke, and most particularly heat. A hardy folk with their own strange breed of magic ply the seas between islands, following the marine life and the heat.

Human life on Stornuso is made possible by phage magic -- the magic of storing energy for later. Phage magic focuses on Light, Heat, and Motion. The magic always happens at the skin. Light can be absorbed by the skin and released at a later time. Stornusoan mages can slow down ice burgs if only they can stand to touch them with their fingertips ... and later propel their boats with that same power. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

On Making Immortal Characters Seem Old

I was perusing Mailanka's Musings , trying to find something, and run across an interesting (and old) article. It was specifically about vampires being really old, and how we often just throw out the numbers without really thinking about it. And it got me thinking about how you would make a seriously old character feel real without too much effort. And it occurred to me to use some random NPC generating tools multiple times, and then to stack them all together.

The Basic Example

I'm using Collaborative Gamer's tables for making memorable NPC's. I'm not actually going to roll all of the entries. Each iteration will use a role in society, an interesting fact, and a hope/fear.  Just three items, but we'll see what they suggest.  for the first trial we'll just use four-- and leave his modern situation open.
  • Religion- Highly social: knows everyone, - Hope/Fear:The Past
  • Underworld - Surprisingly open-minded - Hope/Fear:The Past
  • Nobility - Weighs things carefully before deciding -  Hope/Fear:Love
  • Travler/Tansit - Richer than they seem - Hope/Fear:Sex
Ok, this is only four lives, but we already have a lot going on.  I originally got 'Knows you by reputation' for the last category, but that seemed to specific to PC's, and so rerolled it. A few more details are really needed here: how does this immortality work? a vampire will color these arcs differently than an elf, a highlander, or a wizard. We also could use a lot of detail about the history of the world, to give us a backdrop, and its good to know about how long each phases should last. For this first test, lets use a vampire who goes through phases every 20 years or so, and use the modern world. We're ending in 2016, so we start in 1936. 

in 1936, our Vampire (lets name him Victor) was a priest or preacher of some sort. He knew everyone around, but even then he worried about his past. We have our first sticky situation: Vampires and religion don't mix. As in the vampires can't stick around it. Does this mean he was turned later in life? Or does it mean he fullfilled some dark religious function for the local supernatural community. Or that he tried to hide himself in plain site in his position and found a work around for the religious issue? All of these work, but I'm going to go with the turned later in life option. He was a prominent preacher in the depression who knew everyone. But he had secrets, and a past. I'm not going to do much with that. Perhaps he had no great desires at this point: starting him off as a fairly satisfied preacher has appeal in light of who he will become.

In 1956, he's somehow turned to a life a crime: presumably he was turned into a vampire during that time. His wife, children, and congregation are behind him. They know something happened to him, and being a former preacher isn't going to get him a lot of respect among his own kind. Perhaps he's even wanted for murder. He's trying to find a new life, skulking in the shadows of St. Louis and other cities, just trying to start a new life. His friends are other vampires and scum of the earth. He is exploring lots of options though, and is willing to try new things ... comes of turning a man of the cloth into a creature of darkness.

When we see Victor in the 70's,  He's nobility -- which is another way of saying he's rich. He was underworld last time we saw him, so he's probably a crime lord of some sort, probably minor. He's a cautious sort, seemingly having learned wisdom. He seems to have entered an existential phase: he's looking for love. He has everything a vampire could get, at least in small scale, but wants more. His wife is old and decrepit, his kids have moved on from what their father was, and in his home town he's just a ghost story now. His street acquaintances are either dead, moved on, or part of his new empire.

In the 96, we find him traveling around sating his lusts. He presumably didn't find the love he sought, indicating a sad story. He's liquefied his wealth, and his old crime buddies don't know where he is, just that he 'retired'. He is a simple creature, but no less dangerous than before.

And then we have the modern day. Victor won't be a traveling menace anymore, just as he wasn't a crime lord in 96. We do have a history for him though. It gives us a simple idea of who he was. It also lets us know what he can and can't do. He has a decent spread of skills, but not an absolutely massive one. He actually hasn't lived that long of a life, as vampires go.

How Big a Gap

This is a very important question when rolling up an immortal: how static are they? How long do they go between phases? An elf that hangs around other immortals could have much longer phases than the result of a curse in a land with few other people. How stable the character is is really a matter of taste and situation. In fact, you don't even have to make them all the same size. You could say that the wizard of the red tower had a phase where he ran the barony for 4 years and afterwards spent 66 years researching mind control.

Of course, when playing with the length remember than everyone else is turning over every 20 years. The red mage may have spent 66 years poring over musty books, but in that time his lands didn't stay static, and his stewards probably changed three or four times, each with a different opinion of their master. walk through the 20 year chunks, even when they're part of a single phase.

Tricks and Troubles

No random table will be perfect for this -- not even the ones I just used. Feel free to tweak the tables, and reroll results that make no sense at all. Don't shy away from rethinking what a given response means. And don't take too long getting things perfect: this is a NPC generation process, after all.


I don't think this gives perfect results by any means. But it does give decent results, and for a truly deep NPC, its worth the effort.  I hope you find this useful for your games, and that it inspires you to use an immortal in your game sometime.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Magic As Technology

I'm quite fond of the 'Magic as Technology' paradigm. But Why? today I examine why I love this paradigm so much, and what its strengths are.

Magic as technology takes the focus off of character points and places it on the character. When I introduce magic as technology, I don't have people asking "If I take a  rules exemption perk can I take ritual adept (connection) anyways?". Instead they say "can I have this cool device that your description made me think of that isn't in the setting but totally should be?" But shouldn't the focus be on the characters and how cool they are? Yes, the GM's focus should be on the characters. Conversely, the player's focus should be on the plot and on the setting (and on the other players). Everyone should work together, and I love how magic as technology helps focus the players on the setting even before the game starts.

I love how magic as technology simplifies point concerns. In campaigns that use supernatural powers, balancing who has how much of each power and how that's effected by guns being around can be a huge headache. You pay for the skill to use the magic, and that's that.  It also pushes players towards having at least a little skill in magic.

Speaking of point values, I also like settings where everyone or most everyone has access to magic. I world build in part for the sake of world building, and alternate technologies fascinate me. What happens if flying ships as heavy as land ships show up at TL 6? What if mind control is something you just pay for? Exploring these questions become easier when you present the supernatural as technology, rather than as something that might change with every character.

Magic as technology does have a few conditions for it to work well.It needs to be universally or near universally available. Magic as technology is only balanced when everyone has access to it. That isn't to say no-one can be excluded, rather that they are the exception rather than the rule. In the refuges setting many characters will have access only one flavor of magical technology, with a mixed group being possible (and indeed likely). Magic as technology also struggles with 'open-ended' magic systems -- magic that does 'everything'. Probably because of the first rule: if anyone can do anything you get very unwieldy settings.

I love magic as technology. I use other paradigms as well, but I feel this approach is underappreciated. I hope you find place to use it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Invasion of the Hawfax: The Jungle War

It seems that every nation is born in fire and blood. This was never more true than at the end of the 19th century, when the Hawfax arrived in the amazon. The fighting was savage and showed many of the Hawfax weaknesses -- it also showed many of their strengths and just how badly humanity was outgunned.

The Combatants

 The Hawfax brought few guns with them -- they considered themselves an enlightened people with no need for more than cursory violence. When they arrived on earth, building up a military that could face humans became a necessity. A necessity that all Hawfax regretted and many Hawfax denied. At the start of the war the Hawfax had very few troops, and those that they had were mostly glorified policemen.

 The Jungle war was fought fairly informally-- no nation officially sent troops to the amazon, and even the government of Brazil dragged its feet on actually doing anything to hinder one side or the other. The human forces were a ragtag coalition of opportunists. The derivation was mostly from Brazil, the United States, Latin America, and Europe. The attackers were rounded up only after the Hawfax had demonstrated clear military superiority, at which point official opinion came down severely.

The attackers were poorly organized, and their were really two separate forces. Raul Carvalho led a force of mostly local men speaking Portuguese and Spanish. Most of them had immediate grievances against the Hawfax, mainly the end of the rubber-trade. Sam Cade lead a mostly foreign band of adventures and mercenaries, who largely spoke english, but many languages could be found throughout his men. They sought to take back the earth from the aliens and demons that had arrived to conquer mankind.  There was a fair amount of military experience in Cade's army, but it was poorly distributed. Of course, no Hawfax had seen previous military action.


The Hawfax mostly fought the war under equipped -- the typical fighter was designed for law enforcement rather than large scale action. Their weapons were largely made of plastics, and had a strong tendency to jam and break after a few hundred shots. Of particularly shoddy quality were the large number of guns printed after the emergency started. Hawfax body armor was also largely ineffective against the large slugs human forces favored, and their own bullets tended to merely injure human combatants.

The Hawfax's greatest equipment advantage was their radios and their sensors. Throughout the war, the Hawfax remained aware of the movements of the enemy forces through a combination of cheap cameras, night vision technology, and ubiquitous radio. Another prominent advantage was the medical advantage: disease stalked many of the men who'd come to fight the Hawfax, including infection, while the Hawfax were able to essentially ignore both wound infection and local illness. Its estimated that a over 70% of the humans who died in the war did so from infection well after they'd been shot.

The hawfax relied on rails to travel throughout their settlement, which were easily cut. Their more independent means of travel-- ATV's, helicopters, and boats, were quite vulnerable to human fire arms. Troops moved largely on foot throughout the conflict.

Both Cade's and Carvalho's armies were armed with a variety of bolt action riffles, shotguns, and pistols. Almost as an effective as a weapon were saws, which were essential in any attempt to deal with high roosting foes. Some soldiers but not many brought armor. notably lacking was artillery and there were very few machine guns. Hand to hand combat heavily favors humans -- a simple blow can seriously injure a hawfax.

The nature of the combatants is another place of strong contrast. The invader's forces are made of men comfortable with violence who have come a long way from home in search of fame and fortune. The Hawfax have a small group of professional men and the remainder of their population is deeply uncomfortable with the concept of violence.


Hawfax strategists dreamed of the effect that radio, automatic fire, and superior sensors would have on human forces. Before the war the hawfax felt that as long as they were in a group, they were largely impervious to human attacks. They had an especially dovish set of politics and the military they had was viewed unfavorably as peacekeepers and a possible threat to their own security. This will make it difficult for the military to do things like beef up security or abandon unfeasible positions until they have been defeated at least once.

After the conflict starts the hawfax will rapidly start equipping their populace, which is uniquely unsuited for combat. Even after public opinion silences the doves, individuals often will refuse conscription for ethical reasons, or freeze in the face of combat. Their will also be widespread resistance to things like forced relocations, curfews, or using gas against the enemy (not that they have produced any such weapons or even know the best chemicals for use on humans).

Governor Pires Ferreira of the state of Amazonas had minimal troops and while he is on good terms with the hawfax, finds himself reduced to a figure head against the forces moving in his own state. The military will refuse to act until the battles were decided, at which point they will support the winner.

This conflict was unusual in that not only telegraph updates but footage was sent back to the capitals of the world in virtually real time. The hawfax pressed the governments to condemn the actions, but official leaders largely followed the lead of Governor Ferreira in being cautious and timid until they knew how the conflict would end. Some of the democratic nations at least had the excuse that the situation put their militaries and legislatures into bickering upheavals, and that it was clear from the start the action would be over quickly. A strong exception to this was Bolivia, Peru, and Chile, who were very vocal in their condemnation of the attacks, and particularly in blaming Brazil.


When playing out the jungle war, time lines are of necessity fragile things. The PC's ideally should be able to change the execution of the war through clever ideas, convincing authority figures, and general heroics. That said, certain battles are quite likely to happen, and to happen in a general order. A GM can use these as marker posts in the conflict, and change the timing and results in accordance with PC actions.

The Capture of Landing

The first battle of the war will be an assault on the city of landing. Either Cade or Carvalho can make the assault, or they can make it together. Landing is built to human scale, allowing human infantry to rush freely through its streets. This battle is a fairly open battle, with humans on big barges on the river, and the Hawfax making full use of helicopters, boats, and other vehicles-- vehicles likely to go down on their first shot. Guided Rockets may be used by the Hawfax against people in the barges, but they aren't likely to have enough ammo to have a large enough effect. The barge walls will provide a good deal of protection against hawfax bullets until the invaders are close enough to charge. Only the core of the Hawfax miltary will be here, and without large changes in the setup, the battle will end with the humans charging and over-running the place.

The Capture of Landing is costly for the hawfax, and perhaps the best way to minimize causulties is to abandon it later on. 

The Siege of Hawfax

Unless the hawfax are spurred to action before the initial assault or some clever PC intervenes, human forces will quickly make it to the park region. Or rather, the base of the park region -- the charges that carry humans this far will not help them to get into the heights of the capital. At this point things turn into a siege of a sort. The humans will start cutting down trees they think Hawfax might be in, while trying to keep a look out for Hawfax counterattacks (particularly at night).

Chopping the trees will in fact cause a lot of damage to the hawfax infrastructure, and the amount of damage in this period is highly variable. A well prepared attack will have lots of saws, lots of electric lights and the generators to run them, and have the men construct shelters that will stop hawfax bullets and dropped objects. A poorly prepared attack will lack all three of these things, greatly reducing the amount of damage done during the day and giving the hawfax a large advantage at night. Also key is which trees get chopped down. Some areas are much more important than others, and if the loggers can identify which trees are most important, they will do an order of magnitude more damage.

Large portions of the area under the main areas of attack will be evacuated by the hawfax. While not many will die, there will be a large loss of property. This time is probably dominated by quickly printing large number of weapons and trying to teach its citizenry how to fight.

The attackers will certainly light fires to attempt to burn down the forest. While this is a valid tactic, the hawfax are actually much better prepared to fight fires than people. How well fire will work is in large part based on what time of year its is (September is driest, January the wettest). Wild fires in the jungle work best in the undergrowth of the canopy -- the exact place that the hawfax occupy (and defend). Rain is quite likely to interrupt this: it rains 70% of days in January and 15% of days in July. Still, a GM wishing to turn the battle one way can easily tinker with the weather to give one side or the other an advantage.

The Victory of Night

At certain point, enough of the Hawfax citizenry will be equipped with night vision and firearms to launch a counter attack large enough to overwhelm the remaining human forces. This is entirely reliant on rapidly creating large numbers of weapons.

As its name suggests, the victory of the night will turn out in favor of the hawfax. The question is just how one sided the battle is. Many things can increase Hawfax causalities. Not having enough of the hawfax armed when the battle starts will result in more damage. Choosing the wrong hawfax as  soldiers and poor organization can also have detrimental results: conscripts will freeze in combat, disregard orders, attack mindlessly, and other costly behaviors if not properly chosen, trained, and lead. A large scale engagement between the two forces will also be deadly (to both sides). Most of the options that save lives take time though, and all the while the humans are sawing away at the foundations of the city.

One of the biggest factors in this stage of the war is how the attacking humans leave. Do the Hawfax capture them in a surrender? Do they shoot them all where they stand? Do the attackers leave as a group? Do they scatter into the jungle? These options are important, not in the least to the attackers themselves, but also in terms of public relations and cleanup after the war.

Campaigns in the Jungle War

The Jungle war is a great time and place to set a campaign. Almost everyone was caught unprepared, and its a great place for heroes to shine. The classic  miscalculations of PC's and GM's working with new equipment in a new setting is appropriate and 'in-genre'.

Care should be taken in choosing from what angle the players approach the war-- play is very different depending on where the players stand. A foot soldier's campaign is in many ways about survival. Playing humans attackers may not be the most tasteful to all groups, but it is certainly among the most challenging scenarios, while hawfax soldiers are well equipped forces with an interesting resource set who start out outnumbered and in large part outgunned. However, as with most military games, the PC's probably are most effective and most gameable on the outskirts of the action. The classic campaign is human observers (with perhaps an friendly hawfax or two) trying to stop the attacks, by political wrangling, sabotage, and any other tactic the PC's can come up with.  They can also be voices of warning in the hawfax community, trying to mobilize the reluctant population for war, and coming up with strategies for winning quickly.

The Jungle war can also serve as background for other campaigns -- it was a defining moment for all involved, which include most if not all of the Hawfax. Vigorously anti-human demagogues will bring up the incident again and again. Military leaders study it extensively. Characters may have fought in the war on either side, giving them history (and in the case of the hawfax, badly needed combat skills).

GM's wishing for a very different game can set their adventures in a world where the hawfax lost the jungle war -- likely due to key buildings being targeted, a dry season letting a forest fire burn the whole thing down, or a nuclear reactor going critical. The hawfax would then be scattered throughout the forest without much infrastructure. The old ruins would make a fitting set for a pulpish plot.

More on the hawfax is coming! I hope you enjoy what you've seen so far!