Also known as “Where it really got fun.”
When last we left off, the players had captured or killed an entire enemy patrol. The players immediately took their looted goods and prisoners back to the colony’s largest settlement, Nuevo Benavarri. At this point, the players had wild guesses about what was going on, with theories of Italians (they had heard of some of the warlord’s men speaking Italian) hired by Austrians (the initial reports that came when they were hired spoke of Austrian-manufactured mechs) and supplied by Poles (all of the mechs they have run into at this point are Polish-Lithuanian.) After much hemming and hawing, the players tried to intimidate information out of their prisoners.
The problem was, none of them could make the roll to save their lives, even with a bonus for having massacred half of the prisoners’ comrades. Even having NPCs that were hangers-on to the players’ party make the roll, they utterly failed at scaring these prisoners. But then Etienne, the French character who had gotten himself into the opposing mech and hacked off the pilot’s head after traveling some distance away, decided to try negotiating with them, and it was like a light bulb went on in the room.
Negotiating some privileges for the prisoners, Etienne was able to learn that the Austrian angle was a false lead–the ‘warlord’ was an Italian mercenary hired by the French Empire to scare away the Spanish settlers. Hinting at the prospector’s report, they got nothing but surprise from the lead prisoner, and were unsure what to make of it.
Heading back out, the players geared up, even putting one of their NPCs who wasn’t completely incapable at driving in one of the mechs they captured. In the downtime they had taken the flare guns off of the captured mechs and put them on their own, and in the course of heading toward the area the enemy camp was supposed to be in they had cause to use it to attract another enemy patrol to them. Etienne again used his charm to convince them that the players and their hangers-on were reinforcements sent to replace those that had been lost previously. The new patrol led them toward the main encampment and even marked it on their maps in case they got separated. Unfortunately, it was close to evening, so they all made a temporary campsite.
Zhao, the other character whose player wasn’t mostly just focused on combat, built up the fire and started a stew of re-hydrated jerky and potatoes, which was seasoned with some herbs from Etienne, and laced with poison. While Zhao and Etienne pretended to eat with them, the “warlord’s” men ate up, and in minutes were dead. Etienne promptly started throwing up his previous meal and mewling about his mother, while Zhao dumped the stew off in the woods (it ended up killing some small scavengers who happened upon it in the night.) It was at this point that the players decided Etienne’s nickname was ‘La Banshee,’ because “everyone he talks to dies.”
They were making their final approach to the opposing encampment when they noticed cavalry scouts racing ahead of them. With Etienne trying, but failing, to talk them into not running away they sent some NPC militia they had organized in town with the captured equipment to “get them.” La Banshee struck again, because the allied NPCs ended up killing the enemies, and Etienne’s horror as he realized how deep he was into this new lifestyle (he was just a scholar before all of this) only kept growing worse and worse–he was taking Fear/Sanity damage all throughout the session. While he muttered about not wanting his mother to find out, and wondered how he got into this (while occasionally chanting about getting university credit for this), they entered the encampment to the site of men running about. Enemy mechs were turning on and aircraft were beginning to take off, while mounted soldiers took potshots at the NPC militia unit.
At this point we were nearing the time when we would have to wrap up, so I made a critical mistake in Refereeing a playtest–I forgot to follow the rules (so that we could test them.) Specifically, I forgot the rules to Mech Combat, which in SaSS:R works differently than personal combat does. Because of this we ran the final battle as if it were an oversized fight between people, ran than a bruising fight between mighty machines. I don’t know that it would have changed much, but it would have at least given me good feedback.
Anyway, the players took damage from a bowman-mech, which they promptly downed by shooting out its leg (a lucky hit, not a called shot.) They then turned on the other bipedal mech, ignoring completely the aircraft and the quadrupeds in the area. After disabling one of the duelist-mech’s arm the duelist got to go–I rolled randomly, and got a result of the NPC-drive mech–and in one blow took its target down. What I should have done, if I hadn’t been rushing to wrap up, is have the duelist attack a second time–the penalty for the second attack would have been much less than what he added to his roll–and take out one of the players… but I did not, and he was taken out with a shot to the head.
Now, this does not kill him–pilots are situated in the chest or abdomen in most bipedal mechs–but it does take down the mech. This is because the automatite core (that enables the thing to move according to the driver’s wishes) has to be at or very near the top of the mechanism. So, if they do not make an actual effort to capture the ‘warlord’ he will get away, and he still has more than a platoon of mechs, and a few aircraft left, not to mention scouts that could make their settlement-building and resource-collecting more difficult.