LANCER: BATTLEGROUP - To Kill the Worthy King

Advancement

Unlike traditional RPGs, there are no experience points or levels awarded in Lancer: Battlegroup. Instead, each group can decide how to award advancement - once every couple of missions is a good guideline.

Players can earn accolades and legacies, which provide benefits to their performance in battle, as well as reputations, which are relevant to narrative play only. Players never have to choose between being stronger in combat or being better in narrative play - the GM should give out combat awards to everyone, or narrative awards, or both.


Since play-by-post games tend to take a lot more time, I have opted to award both types of advancement after every battle.

Battlegroup Eland:
UNS-BB Nikolai Bukharin gains Legacy: Indomitable (+5 Overshield)
Captain Tabitha Saint-Germaine gains Reputation: Beacon - Eye of the Storm, Traits: (+) Diplomatic, (-) By-The-Book

Battlegroup Splinter:
UNS-BB Richard Wagner gains Accolade: Meritorious Service Bar (1/Battle may reroll any Single Target attack roll, but must take the second result )
Captain Caspian Var gains Reputation: Scion - Measure Of A Man, Traits: (+) Observant, (-) Cold

When a character first gains their reputation, they get additional Traits (one positive, ome negative). In addition, they get a reputation advance, which gives a special ability applicable outside of combat. Tabitha's Eye of the Storm makes her immune to fear and intimidation, and those around her are similarly protected. Caspian's Measure of a Man allows him to evaluate someone after engaging in conversation with them, thus determining the price of their loyalty.

And now, with these upgrades added, they are ready to move ahead with the plot.

Next: Reconsider your life decisions
 

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Chartreuse Star, Part 1

"So the Chartreuse Star? That's an interesting coincidence" Caspian raises his eyebrow at Tabitha's message. "Our good Captain Cortez has pointed us in that direction as well. Seems to be a magnet for trouble."

"Hopefully its nothing more than that, but I don't like coincidences," Tabitha grunts in annoyance. "I suppose I will have to prepare for an audience with Captain Warham at some point. For now, I guess I'll meet you on the Star."

"Indeed," Caspian shuts off the commlink and turns to Richards, "Man in the middle again it seems. A good way to get hit by traffic in both lanes."

Meanwhile, the thundering sound of mech-scale gunfire echoes through the link from the stationside docks. "The violence in the docks seems to require more stiff solutions," Vera remarks. "I'm reading chassis-scale nailguns...and is that a riot cannon?"

"Purely nonlethal," says Loving to the chatty NHP. "Our security mechs are taking necessary measures."

"Rubber-tipped 75mm autocannon rounds? Nonlethal indeed. IPS-N does not fool around." After a pause, Vera updates Tabitha on the fighting. "Ah, I see the riot is being quelled now. The offending crews are reconsidering their life decisions."

The Karrakin spacers in front of Tabitha are also reconsidering their life decisions. They quickly lower their tools and back off, leaving the bruised Purview spacers in Tabitha's care.

Caspian and his retinue arrive at a reception lounge on board the Chartreuse Star several minutes before Tabitha joins them. There's enough time to review what data they have on the Meritorious Rex.

The Rex was launched in 5014u, a first-of-its-class superdreadnought vessel equipped with advanced "turtleback" siege plating, powerful primary batteries, missiles, and a deadly long-spool Tyrant Cannon capable of reducing a Triton defense platform in a single shot. Additional intelligence from the Union Navy indicates that the Rex is more agile than its size would suggest, and is capable of coordinated defensive maneuvers with its escorts.

Finally, Cal Cortez provided one more tidbit: the Rex's onboard mech squadron, led by a flamboyant ace pilot in a red Tokugawa frame. As he told Caspian: "Their ace, 'Chip,' has a fondness for flying close to merchant ships, to intimidate them. He'll light up his plasma torches for a show and slash at the hull, just for fun. Someone should put the blighter in his place!"

Tabitha arrives just as a Chartreuse Star crewman comes to greet the Union naval contingent. "Captain Loong is this way, down the corridor. Please come with me."

They go through a pressure door, into a long, white-lit passage. At the far end, a tiny figure in an austere grey jumpsuit, her hair swept back behind her tinted spectacles. She does not walk to meet them. She just stands and waits, judging them silently with her eyes. She offers no greetings.

Next: Ernestine Loong
 
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Chartreuse Star, Part 2

In this conversation, Caspian's player is able to use his Measure of a Man ability to gain additional information about Captain Loong's motivations. No roll needed, it's an automatic benefit.

"Captain Loong," Tabitha says in greeting as she and Caspian draw up to rest in front of the Captain, locking eyes with her, and nods. "Thank you for speaking to us. We have a number of questions regarding your crew and the activities of your ship with regards to the," Tabitha pauses a bit to give Captain Loong a moment to digest that, then continues: "The first is just a simple check and confirmation of the details of your support contingent, the others are a related to your activities in the Rim and a reported run in with one Captain Harman Wilder at Lambent Station." Tabitha cocks her head towards Caspian as she says that, her eyes never breaking contact with Loong's.

Ernestine Loong gives a slight affirmative nod to Tabitha, her poker face never breaking. "Captain Saint-Germaine, Captain Var, I thank you both for helping to protect my crew members from harm. And I fully understand the importance of your peacekeeping duties. I'll be glad to assist in any way that I can."

Captain Loong confirms the details of her repair crew, noting that they have served with her ship for nearly a year. "Like nearly all of us, Rittermeer-born. Talented and productive citizens, and I will vouch for every one of them."

This brings up the obvious question of why Strike Captain Wilder would pull up to the Chartreuse Star and board it. Captain Loong shrugs briefly. "He's doing his duty, distasteful as it is. There are paid informants, agitators, insurgents and saboteur subjectivities lurking all along the Long Rim's constellation of stations. Harrison Armory is being targeted by a far wealthier and more numerous adversary. We are the underdogs in this great contest for the Shore. Captain Wilder's job is to suppress any threats found in his patrol area, and my crew were the unfortunate victims of his overzealous behaviour. Of course we were guilty of nothing more than a few minor hygiene violations in the mess, and a documentation failure that took over a day to unravel. Wilder's boarding party assisted us in achieving proper compliance with all travel certificates. I submitted a report complaining of excessive enthusiasm to Wilder's superiors, as any hardworking Purview captain would, yet I don't really blame him. I would have done much the same."

She really isn't kidding. Caspian can hear it in her voice, see the glimmer of patriotism in her eyes. She is someone who can only be bought by the currency of advancing Armory interests. Preferably while taking credit for any gains for her masters.

"Perhaps," Caspian says with a studiously neutral expression. "An excess of zeal does lend itself to certain unfortunate circumstances. Would you happen to know his patrol zone?"

"I would assume it was the last few light months of the Long Rim nadir route," she replies. "Of course, now that war has broken out, it is a moot point."

She looks over the reports on the well-being of her repair crew, who are now having injuries treated by IPS-N medics. "We will be pushing off in a day or two. But if there are any other inquiries, please have your NHP talk to my NHP."


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The Long Rim art by Tom Parkinson-Morgan

Next: New arrivals.
 
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Detectives and Sellswords

Three days later. For the Union battlegroups at Lighthouse Station, it is a busy time.

With the recent arrival of the UNS-CV Maliau Basin came replacement crews and fighters for the Shamokin Rising. Lieutenant Vau has taken charge of assessment and integration of the new pilots into the fighter wings. He's determined to make sure the rookies have the best possible chance of surviving their tour.

For Caspian and Tabitha, the most important passengers on the Maliau Basin were Captain Tiburce Rodin of the Union Department of Justice/Human Rights, and his NHP assistant Hawker. Captain Rodin and Hawker wasted no time in getting up to speed on the war crimes of Strike Captain Wilder and the Meritorious Rex. After reviewing the particulars of the case, the DOJ/HR team requested to transfer to the Richard Wagner for the time being, in the hope of catching the trail of the Rex in the near future. "We promise to be unobtrusive," the mild-mannered Rodin said to Caspian.

Today, another battlegroup is docking at Lighthouse: A heavily modified battlecarrier and a pair of smaller assault transports. The Mirrorsmoke Mercenary Company has entered the fray in the Dawnline Shore.

"Captain Warham of the House of Stone is unlikely to be pleased with the mercenaries," says Vera to Tabitha, almost gleefully. "Mirrorsmoke has cancelled the security contract with the House of Stone, citing an increased threat level in the region. Shouldn't be too surprised. After all, their ship is named We Demand Hazard Pay!"

So why is the Mirrorsmoke battlegroup here, then? The answer comes quickly. Union has hired the mercenaries to support Battlegroups Splinter and Eland.

Vice Admiral Reality Gentle has scheduled a joint briefing at 1000hrs ship time, via remote conferencing, to introduce all of the captains involved to one another.

Tabitha looks up from her briefing pad in surprise, "So... they've... quit a contract with House Stone citing an increased threat level and they've instead signed on with Union... in the same region? How much are we paying them and why exactly are they being attached to us?"

Caspian scowls, "Mercenaries. We don't need their scum. It sounds like a potential liability if you ask me."

"Hard to disagree with that assessment, but it seems that high command thinks we need more firepower, dubious as its quality appears to be." Tabitha looks at her chronometer. "Let's see what Vice Admiral Gentle has to say about this. Let's link into the conference."

Next: Gentle words
 

Gazebo Party, Part 1

The holographic display wraps around both Caspian and Tabitha. They're now in a long, verdant garden, bordered by tall white marble walls. Three pale moons hang in a lavender sky, while the silver span of an orbital elevator arcs from the unseen horizon.

Caspian's eye is drawn to the group of humans in the central gazebo. Under the high white roof, cool lamps illuminate the open structure. Vice Admiral Gentle sits in an elevated chair at one end, looking grand-matriarchal in her high-collared spacer suit designed to match the black-and-gold of the Union Navy uniform. The four Mirrorsmoke representatives sit in a cluster: A rotund jolly uncle-type wearing a pilot jacket and fatigues, a small brown woman with a severe face in a cut-down monk's robes, and two damned lawyers. The lawyers wear conference suits and bland expressions, but Bernd and Vera pip them with targeting brackets for Caspian and Tabitha's eyes only, warning that these are members of one of Mirrorsmoke's feared legal detachments.

"Come, at ease," says Reality Gentle, beckoning to the two captains. "Captain Caspian Var. Captain Tabitha St. Germaine. My two finest group commanders."

She introduces the captains to the leader of the mercenaries: "This is Colonel Kenan Milch of the MSMC Board, in command of the 120th Detachment, 'The Sour Brains.'"

"A pleasure to meet you!" says the colonel, beaming and holding out his bear-like arms in greeting. "Let me introduce my staff!"

He gestures to the small woman. "Major Lani Mahayhay, my executive officer." She nods and smiles politely.

"And we have Nirmal King, compliance officer, on special attachment from the 32nd Legal Detachment, 'The Fighting Shaitans.'" This pale lawyer barely displays signs of life.

"Finally, Zoltan Pesh, liability manager, also from the 32nd." The androgynous lawyer nods very slightly at the captains.

"Zoltan Pesh?" Admiral Gentle approaches the lawyer, pretending to smile. "I've read your name before. You were representing Smith-Shimano after that business on Hercynia, weren't you? You were number two on their defense team I believe?"

"Yes."

"You put up quite a fight for your client. Beat us hard." Gentle pauses, then adds: "Well fought."

"Merely doing my job," says Pesh.

"And now you're with the MSMC?"

"Poached by the senior partners," Pesh replies. "They liked my work."

"A pleasure to meet you all," Caspian says with a polite nod, "We look forward to working with you in future," he says, smiling thinly. Tabitha mirrors his gesture. "I must confess to being curious as to what brought your team into our employ," she says, with an inquiring look at Admiral Gentle, "It does seem that things are starting to heat up around here."

Colonel Milch shrugs. "Once the shooting in the Shore began, the House of Stone made a number of demands, which went beyond our wartime hazard clauses -"

Pesh gives the colonel a sharp look, which cuts him off. The lawyer explains: "A number of disagreements arose. We were unable to come to an amicable agreement and we triggered our exit clause. Litigation by the House of Stone is pending, but we are confident that we have a very strong case." Pesh takes a breath, then adds: "Since we had already made the transit into the Dawnline Shore, the Board gave the Colonel authority to find alternative employment. The Rear Admiral was quick to hire us on."

Next: Interception plan
 

Gazebo Party, Part 2

Gentle glances at the Union captains. "That's the cue for my briefing," she says, standing quickly. She leads the party to a scenic pond behind the gazebo, where a glowing orrery of planets and flight paths can be seen over the water's surface.

"Following the massed fleet engagements over New Creighton and the skirmishes near Lighthouse Station, the Armory and Federal Karrakin forces have begun clashing at various DLS worlds aligned to either belligerent. We've cut blink access and airgapped the local omninet. Our Crisis Response Groups are guarding the blink gate and DS4 New Madrassa, but we will also need to secure the apex and nadir routes from the Long Rim. Without blink gate access, that's the only way any of the belligerents can send fleets into the Dawnline Shore."

A rather familiar gas freighter appears in close zoom over the pond. "This is the Chartreuse Star, an Armory-flagged civilian freighter that has been running a regular route from the Rim through several Dawnline Shore worlds. Union Naval Intelligence reports that the Chartreuse Star has been spying for the Armory, and has intercepted communications with an Armory fleet now approaching via the Long Rim nadir route. The bulk of our spare CRGs will be moving to intercept the Armory ships and force them back."

"And we're not going there?" asks Colonel Milch.

"Negative. Intelligence suggests that some Armory ships may also try to slip through the Long Rim apex route, passing by Lighthouse Station. We can't spare a full CRG, but I believe that your ships will suffice as a sufficiently strong patrol force to keep this corridor safe. Considering that the Meritorious Rex is still at large at the edge of the Rim, the threat here is very real."

"I've heard about the Rex," says Colonel Milch, rubbing his hands together. "Untouchable at long range. But if we can get close to its soft belly, I reckon a mass accelerator barrage and some boarding parties could crack it open!"

Next: Joint operations
 

Gazebo Party, Part 3

"Untouchable at long range, you say," Caspian raises an eyebrow. "I would assume then she will have company to keep people at range. Do we have any additional information of the kind of forces we might encounter besides the Rex?" he asks, turning to Gentle.

"According to Intelligence, the Armory has deployed a small number of advanced designs with experimental technologies such as thermal shrouding and blink-tunnelling drives. We haven't seen such weapons in engagements thus far, but it won't be long before we encounter them. And we expect the Rex to have some subline escorts, possibly some carrier support as well."

Major Mahayhay steps over to Tabitha's side. "Good to meet you, Captain. I heard you tangled with the Karrakin fleet up close, and came out the other side. That's rare and valuable experience. My crew have mopped up pirates before, but I have no delusions about the difference between pirates and the fleet of a major superpower like the Baronies or the Armory. Respectfully, I'd like to propose some joint training between my pilots and yours when we get underway. From the schedule that the Vice Admiral proposes, I think we have a few days. What do you think?"

"That would be splendid," Tabitha nods at her. "We can make the arrangements and also provide you with the recordings of the battle if you could also share some of your own previous engagements. The better for our fleets to work together."

Caspian gives Major Mahayhay a sidelong glance. He's unsure whether the small spacer is actually interested in cooperation or simply feeling them out. He keeps his peace with only a slight furrow of his brow signaling his disapproval.

"Very good," says Major Mahayhay. "I'll have a word with the legal team about sharing our battle records as soon as possible."

Next: Leaving Lighthouse Station
 
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Into a Black Sky

The rest of the meeting is decidedly informal. Vice Admiral Gentle lets her battlegroup captains work out the details. She only stresses the importance of keeping more belligerents from entering the fray in the Dawnline Shore. "Both sides have enough manufacturing capacity and standing troops to keep up the fight for years, even without counting reinforcements from the Long Rim. So let's try to keep them from further fueling the fire. As always, use your discretion in interpreting your orders."

Once the meeting breaks up, the little fleet sets out into the black sky within just 10 hours. The Union ships are supplied and ready to go, and the mercenaries only stop at Lighthouse long enough to refuel.

More than a few Karrakin eyes watch the mercenaries leave with great annoyance. The We Demand Hazard Pay was supposed to shepherd the House of Stone convoy, but the contract dispute has left the Karrakins stranded here even longer.

With the Nikolai Bukharin leading the way, the fleet gets underway.

Operation SWIFT AMITY has begun.

Next: Nadir and Apex
 

Nadir

Six days later. Operation WINGSPAN CORRAL.

Ten ships of the line cruise the black sky in a staggered formation, guarding the Long Rim nadir route. On the UNS-BB Six Grandfathers, Commander Louis Smalls reviews the latest sensor contact, a Smith-Shimano light freighter carrying luxury genetics bound for DLS9 San Simeon, accompanied by a Trunk Security parasite corvette. It's the only armed vessel they've detected on the nadir route so far.

"I'm certain that Fleet Commander Meng will have none of this nonsense," says Louis to his NHP executive officer, Fairchild. "They'll have to turn back. Unless they're bringing relief supplies and medical aid, they're not getting through."

"It's hardly the Armory fleet we expected, though," replies the NHP. "Either they're late, or the intel was incorrect."

"Well, where could an entire Armory reinforcement fleet have gone? Maybe they crossed to the apex route? Hooked up with the Rex?"

"In that event, we do have a scratch group outside Lighthouse Station. Richard Wagner, Nikolai Bukharin and their escorts. And some Mirrorsmoke mercenaries."

"Richard Wagner?" Louis laughs. "My classmate from the academy is in command. Caspian Var, the deuce!"

"Didn't he file a complaint against you in the academy?"

"Accused me of plagiarizing his report! Entirely a misunderstanding." Louis physically gestures as though brushing some lint from his uniform. "I have doubts about his good judgement."

"Captain Var has a solid record to date. Vice Admiral Gentle decorated him with the Meritorious Service Bar for his engagement with Karrakin ships."

"Hmmmph. Well, if our intel is wrong, and the Armory fleet is headed his way, he'll have more than enough chances to earn more medals."

Apex

Operation SWIFT AMITY, Long Rim apex route.

The fleet's extreme-range sensors pick up multiple nearlight contacts, and after initial analysis, Vera and Bernd deliver the news: an estimated 6 ships of the line, plus escorts, headed this way.

Intel was wrong. The Armory reinforcement fleet is coming. Now.


Tabitha and Caspian receive news of the unwelcome arrivals dispassionately on the fleet conference.

"Vera, please display the fleet composition readouts for everyone," Tabitha says. "We need to know exactly what we're up against."
 
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Brilliant and Professional

"We're still looking at middle-confidence profiles, but at the moment we can make out four battleships and two capital-scale carriers, along with a dozen smaller escorts," says Vera. "The good news is that they're spread out, with one battleship and two carriers trailing the rest by 1-2 light days. There is a possibility - and I stress that this is all theoretical - that we could defeat the entire force in detail if we had to."

Captain Rodin of the DOJ/HR, sitting in on the fleet conference, squints at the data and frowns. "None of the battleships look large enough to be the Rex."

"Correct," says Bernd. "The Rex is not among them."

Vera displays the profiles of all ships in SWIFT AMITY. "Aside from Battlegroups Splinter and Eland, we have the Sour Brains, comprising the battlecarrier We Demand Hazard Pay, and the assault transports Facefirst and Fool's Gold. The former carries four wings of mechanized chassis and is armed with superheavy mass accelerator banks, and the latter two transports have several marine landers between them, for boarding actions."

"I'll have CGO Bryant start working up our targeting solutions as per standard, Tabitha," Caspian says, "I don't expect we'll be doing much out of our standard operating procedures to open this engagement, unless Colonel Milch and Major Mahayhay have anything to add?"

The Colonel says: "Get us close enough to use our mass accelerators and launch boarding parties. I suggest sending us into boarding range alongside Battlegroup Eland - more targets for the enemy to split their fire against when we dive in. Then we just need your fighters to cover us when we launch. The Major has told me she's quite pleased with the joint training exercises we've been running. So I'm confident we can pull it off."

Zoltan Pesh speaks up - although the lawyer's voice is just a soprano echo compared with the Colonel's bold bass. "We have cleared all legal hurdles to permit our NHP to fuse with your fleet legion in case of engagement. Thank you, Captains, for signing our liability release forms."

Battlegroup Splinter Uptime Action - consult with Gunnery, using Caspian's Professional trait: (17+4) = 21
Remove one additional charge counter on one of the SPKs during the first logistics phase.

Seeing as this is basically Caspian and his crew's SOP at the start of a battle (and he's somewhat obsessive on training and efficiency), he wants to run his crew through the necessary checklists to prepare to open the fight with everything they've got.

Battlegroup Eland Uptime Action - consult with NAVINT, with Tabitha's Brilliant trait: (16+3) = 19
1. What sort of charge weapons do the enemy Flagships have?
2. Which of the enemy fleets will be more willing to stand and fight - and which ones can I intimidate into surrender?
3. What sort of movement disruption abilities do the fleets have?

Tabitha uses her Brilliant trait to try and tease out some vital intelligence on the incoming hostile fleets. She finds that four of the six capital ships are on file. Two of the leading trio are identified as PCV-DN Hannibal and PCV-DN Shaka Zulu, both built and crewed out of Rittermeer. Intel considers Rittermeer to be one of the more loyal Purview worlds, and unlikely to break under fire. Two of the Hannibal's subline escorts, as well as the Shaka Zulu and the unidentified third dreadnought in the leading trio, are at the early stages of charging their long-spool weapons, and there are also some odd exotic radiation readings coming from both the latter battleships.


"It's a high chance of more paracausal technology," says Vera. "Maybe it's Voladore blink-tech. We've been warned that they're bringing some experimental ships into the Shore, in which case we may expect some unconventional movement tricks from these ships. I'll flag them on the threat display for you."

Captain Tiburce Rodin speaks up: "Strike Captain Catrina Bannon commands the Shaka Zulu. She was Harman Wilder's friend and classmate at the Purview Interstellar College cadet program. Strongly loyal to the Armory, a favourite of the high directorate. I would not be surprised if she's put in command of the fleet. She's supposed to be conservative and cautious. She prefers to let the long-spool weapons do the talking."

Of the three trailing ships (two carriers and a battleship), Tabitha is able to pull IDs on two of them. One is PCV-GC Arminius, an IPS-N-built battlecarrier commanded by Strike Captain D.S. Gopalakrishnan, a young rising star in the Armory, known for his unconventional strategems at the Purview Interstellar College war games. And the other is PCV-DN James I, a Man O'War commanded by Captain Lowell Petrie - an old acquaintance of Tabitha's from her academy days. Petrie was a visiting exchange student, benefitting from a time when relations with the Armory were better. He's a good man with an honourable heart. Not the sort to waste lives in a pointless battle. And he had a fond spot for Tabitha, even though they only knew each other for a few months...

"I beg to differ," says Vera to Captain Rodin. "If I was a smart Director, I'd put Gopalakrishnan in command. He's probably the most cunning officer of the bunch. They say he's studied NHP psychology in an effort to find new ways of tactical thinking."

Next: Opening statements
 
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