Direct Action: OP NOMOS – the Challenges

SOF by Dean MartinThe last post gave you the situation for OP NOMOS in Niger. Here are the Challenges for that mission – at least the expected Challenges, as no plan survives contact with the players. Also, as a point of interest, is one of the pre-generated characters. This guy, no one chose. He was the combat air controller, the operator who guides and directs close air support.

The Challenges
Lone Extremist
Difficulty: d4 Basic, not well-trained
Threat: d6, spraying and praying with a lone AK
Environment: d6, knows the camp but it’s dark
Complexity: d4, one guy
Damage Track: d6

Small knot of Extremists (3 – 6)
D: d6, strength in numbers
T: d10, bunch of AKs
E: d6 know the camp, but it’s dark
C: d8, bunch of guys
Damage Track: d8

Pack of Extremists (6-10)
D: d8, overwhelming numbers
T: d12, whole lotta lead
E: d6 know the camp
C: d12, gang of guns
Damage Track: d10

Air Defence Artillery
D: d8, crew-served weapon
T: d12, shoots down aircraft
E: d4, careful not to hit buddies
C: d8, hard to hit
Damage Track: d8

Pre-generated Character
Sierra Two-Eight
Notes: presently part of Surveillance Reconnaissance Detachment

Niche: Combat Air Controller d12
Service: Air Force d8

Speed d8
Strength d6
Acuity d8
Awareness d8
Personality d6

Combat Control School Trainer d12, Advanced Pilot’s Course d8, US Army Ranger Course d6
Signature Weapon: C8 carbine d8

Accurate d10, Dedicated d10

38.5 kg – C8 Special Forces Weapon carbine (3) with 6 magazines (1); SIG Sauer P228 (1) with 2 magazine (.5); stun grenades, 2 (1); fragmentation grenades, 2 (1); removable suppressor for C8 (2); arid battle dress uniform, including elbow and knee pads; body armour (4); chemlights; first aid kit; flashlight (.5); flexcuffs, 25; hydration system (4), identification tags; iodine tablets, 20; lensatic compass; lightweight laser designator rangefinder (16); load bearing vest (3); multi-tool; night vision device PVS-7D (1); notebook and pen; tactical radio AN/PRC-521 (.5); watch

NOTE: Combat Control School includes air traffic control, close air support guidance, and airborne school

Direct Action: OP NOMOS – Setting the Scene

As promised, I’m going to provide here the notes I use to run the development games for Direct Action: the Quiet Professionals, an RPG of special operations covert action. The technical aspects of the game should be easy enough to adapt, and the notes themselves should provide some level of inspiration for any spec ops-style game.

In this post, I’ll outline the very first adventure, which for my crew lasted a session. The only map I had was one copied from Google Maps of the desert in the west of Niger. Pick a spot, zoom in, Print Screen, paste in Photoshop or Gimp, and crop to get rid of the Google tools. You can’t get rid of the Google watermark, but hopefully your players will be considerate enough not to deride your efforts. If they complain, have them pay for a commercial satellite account from which you can get pristine maps.

The stats for the opposition will come in the next post. For now, here’s the situating information for OP NOMOS, an adventure in Niger.

This is a hot opening for the campaign. The PCs are part of the Special Reconnaissance Detachment. In the development game, this is part of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, though in your game it can be part of the spec ops command of your country or the country you choose. Canadian operations include a name with the first letter from the country in which they occur. Because this opening takes place in Niger, we’re calling it OP NOMOS.

Sniper by Dean MartinPlease note, this is all fictional. While there is a CANSOFCOM, there is no SRD. The situation is as realistic as possible, however the characters, the situation in Niger, and the specific terrorists are all fake. This is a game that is inspired by the headlines, but has no basis in reality whatshowever.

In OP NOMOS, the SRD is in the west of Niger, hunting Tuareg rebels in support of Task Force 22, a combined Delta – SEAL force. The PCs are in place as overwatch of a weapons smuggling waypoint in advance of a planned night-time incursion. The camp consists of about twenty tents and twelve vehicles. (GM’s note: I had no map to work from, just quickly hand-drew a map centred on an open area with the armed vehicles on the exterior and the unarmed vehicles on the interior)

This camp has been targeted because the cellphone of Ismail Mohammed, an extremist with ties to AQIM, was tracked to this location five days ago. Last night, his voice was confirmed on a Thuraya satphone call by the NSA, tracked to within 5 km of this location. No other camp has been identified in that zone.

There are eight technicals – five land cruisers with Dushkas on the back, two with SPG-9 73mm recoilless rifles, and one with what looks like an adapted B-8V20 helicopter rocket pod loaded with 20 80mm S-8 air to ground rockets – along with four transport trucks that look like version of the GAZ-66 Soviet-era transporter.

(GM note: if you don’t know what these things are, Google them. I had images for technicals with Dushkas and recoilless rifles, though I could not find one with a rocket pod on it. There were stories of Libyan rebels attaching rocket pods to their technicals, which is totally insane, but these things happen. You may have trouble with a Google search of the Dushka. It’s slang for the DShK heavy machine gun, very common in Africa and the Middle East. There’s a Wikipedia page for DShK.)

The PCs have counted about thirty armed smugglers in the camp, mostly Tuareg. More importantly, they made a positive visual ID of Ismail Mohammed in the camp. The SEALs want him alive, and therefore the incursion. The raid is underway by 0000 (midnight), and the SRD will receive launch verification at 0003 local (0003L or 2303 Zulu, meaning Greenwich Mean Time, also known in NATO as Coordinated Universal Time or UTC – acronym from the French) Launch verification means there are five Blackhawks from the 160th SOAR in the air with a platoon of SEALs and airborne sniper cells en route. ETA is two hours (0200L or 0100Z), when hopefully the camp will be quiet and the guards will be drunk or high.

The camp is quiet, as is usual. Let’s say the PCs have been on overwatch for at least 24 hours, and they are aware the camp pretty much dies down by 2200. At 0115 local, the PCs will notice headlights approaching along the track from the East. Three vehicles, moving relatively fast (around 50km), meaning more technicals.

The vehicles arrive in camp 0128 local, and the PCs will see three technicals, all of them sporting ZU-23 anti-aircraft artillery. There are approximately twelve new arrivals, all armed with AKs. They are unloading large crates, from the beds of the technical – each crate about two metres by a metre. The targets unload four. The arrival of the technical has awoken some of the residents and a small crowd forms by 0136. The PCs are likely too far away (safe distance would be about 1500m about 4920 feet or 1640 yards) to hear the opening of the crates, but one of the people in the crowd holds up an FN-6, a Chinese produced man-portable air-defence system (MANPADS).

One of the PCs should be an intel NCO or officer. That character can identify the leader of the new arrivals as Abu Hassan, a Mauritanian who led a cell of MUJAO near Kidal in Mali. He is a target of opportunity, and something the PCs should communicate back to command. It’s 0136/7, and command will reply almost immediately (0139) with an order to the SRD and the incoming SEALs to take Hassan alive.

The SRD is ordered to engage the anti-aircraft weapons before the Blackhawks arrive in range. That gives the SRD about 20 minutes to disable the ZU-23s and the FN-6s. How and when the SRD acts is up to them, but it is hoped that the planning started the moment they saw the ZU-23s on the technicals. If your players are not very conversant with the genre, upon identifying the AAA, it’s important that you tell them those will almost certainly need to be neutralized before the helos arrive.

Directing the Action

Advancing through the foliage

With Centurion done, work must begin on a new product. Hit that iron while it is hot. Also, it’s become my natural state, even when I am not planning on releasing or Kickstarting something, I tend to be building or tweaking games for use with my current group.

One of the options is Direct Action: the Quiet Professionals (yes, my games do always have subtitles, it’s contractually mandated). This is a game of special operations forces and covert actions. Much of it would be familiar to anyone playing other SEP games like Sword Noir and Kiss My Axe, with Qualities such as Concept, Traits, and Elements, but in this case, measured in dice, and using a damage and stress scale cribbed from Marvel Super Heroes.

Characters are defined through Concept, Traits, Training, and Elements. Concept includes Niche and Service. Traits include Speed, Strength, Awareness, Acuity, and Personality. Training is divided into Training and Signature Weapon, and Elements are for all other Qualities.

Each Quality is rated from d6 to d12. If one does not have a Quality that applies to an action in task resolution, one can still use a d4. In order to resolve tasks in Direct Action, the player takes one dice from each category (Concept, Traits, Training, Elements), or – if the character has no applicable Quality – a d4. That means, in general, the player is rolling four dice.

Task resolution is opposed rolls. Everything that will oppose the PCs, including difficulties and NPCs, are called Challenges, and the four dice come from Difficulty, Threat, Environment, and Complexity. So, for example, a lone terrorist might have a difficulty of d6 (trained, but not well), a threat of d6 (spraying and praying with an AK), an environment of d6 (let’s say the terrorist is in a training camp which he knows well), and a complexity of d4 (only one dude, so pretty darn basic)

Of the four dice generally used for task resolution, one dice each must be applied to Initiative, Success and Effect. In general, two dice are used for Success. Initiative is based on die type first (d12 beats d10, which beats d8, etc.) and then on die result (a 7 on a d10 beats a 5 on a d10). Success is based on die result (so if the Challenge rolls a 6 on two dice, and the PC has an 8 on a d8, the player only needs to apply that d8 to win Success). Effect is based on die type, and if more than one die are applied, if they are within a single step of type (a d6 and a d8, a d8 and a d10, a d10 and a d12, etc.) the highest die type is increased one step.

That’s a general overview. I honestly don’t know if this will be a product that comes out any time soon. The main reason for this is that I don’t think its genre will appeal to people who backed Centurion. However, I will be releasing the material I’m using in my development sessions which should be at least somewhat useful to those running modern spec ops games.

Stay tuned over the few weeks for some of the documents I cooked up for OP GRANGE, in which Canada’s fictional Special Reconnaissance Detachment is called on to assist in the capture of the airport at Conakry, Guinea and to find a missing Canadian diplomat.

Conquering Centurion

In case you haven’t seen it elsewhere, the first draft of Centurion is done and has been handed in to the editor. While that means the biggest hurdle has been overcome, it doesn’t mean everything is complete. Editing and art will both take time. I am hoping to have everything to Rob Wakefield for layout by the end of June or early July. If that happens, we’ll have this book out early. If he gets it in August, we’ll likely be on time.

If you are a backer, you can request access to pre-edit draft PDFs of the content by sending your email address to me in a message through Kickstarter.

And if you are a backer going to Gen Con, please let me know. I’d love to meet you and shake your hand.

Centurion Report for 4 May 2013

Centurion SymbolSince I’m spending all my time working on Centurion, and I can’t get good formatting on the Kickstarter update tool, I’m going to post my Centurion situation reports here, to keep people updated on its progress.

Centurion Sitrep as of 4 May 2013.
The Rules: 75% written. Presently stands at 7,520 words.

Running the Game: 75% written. Presently stands at 3,560 words

Gaming in Military Settings: 100% written. Sent for editing. Presently stands at 3,182 words.

The Late Republic: 100% written. Sent for editing. Including the Late Republic, Structure of Government, Structure of Military, and the Late Republic as a Setting, presently stands at 12,558 words

The Civil Wars: 100% written. Sent for editing. Including the Civil Wars, Structure of Government, Structure of Military, and the Civil Wars as a Setting, presently stands at 6,537 words.

The Principate: In production. the Principate 0%, Structure of Government 0%, Structure of Military 25%, The Principate as a Setting 100%. Presently stands at 3,963 words.

The Crisis of the Third Century: In planning. 0% written.

The book now stands at 37,320 words of a projected 36,500 words (including the Stretch Goal of “the Crisis of the Third Century”), which is 102%. So, we have definitely hit our goal, but there is still plenty more to do.

Quarterly Sales for First Quarter, 2013

I haven’t done a sales report since December 2012. I think you can all understand (if there is indeed anyone out there reading this . . . I have my doubts) that Centurion is taking up most of my free time. However, monthly sales for SEP are also quite minimal, as past reports should have revealed. Granted, switching to a quarterly report means even less appearing on these pages, but while work on Centurion goes forward, I think that’s the best option. Sales will likely not see an increase until Centurion is available for sale.

So, for the first quarter of 2013:

Total Sales for First Quarter 2013
Election Day, 1
Khorforjan Gambit, 4
Qalashar Device, 4
Raid On Ashkashem, 4

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 3
For Simple Coin, 2

Covert Forces
Covert Forces Redux, 3
In Her Majesty’s Service, 1

Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 1
Operation Nearscape, Free Product, 12

Sword’s Edge System
Crossing the Millers, 10
Kheufer Scrolls, 10
Kiss My Axe, 17
Suffer the Witch, 4
Sword’s Edge System, Free Rules, 114
Sword Noir, 26

Total Sales to Date
Albenistan: Election Day (Modern Dispatch 113): 33
Khorforjan Gambit: 112
Qalashar Device: 125
Raid On Ashkashem: 166

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms: 45
Gifts of the Elder Gods: 36
For Simple Coin: 59

Charity Products
Relief Effort: 55

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section: 101
Covert Forces: 100
Covert Forces Redux: 169
In Her Majesty’s Service: 140

Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit: 38
Line Zero: 36
Operation Nearscape, Free Product, 337

Sword’s Edge System
Crossing the Millers, 113
Kheufer Scrolls, 160
Kiss My Axe, 164
Suffer the Witch, 85
Sword’s Edge System, Free Rules 1326
Sword Noir 391