Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Alien Warriors


Setting Psi-Wars in space gives us the opportunity to explore more than just Action elements; we can also explore the typical tropes of sci-fi, and that means aliens! But what sort of aliens? Well, Star Wars doesn’t really support the in-depth exploration of alien races that, say, Star Trek does (for example, the Twi’lek race wasn’t even named until West End Games released their RPG). Star Wars follows the space opera conventions of taking a generic pulp story (say, a wild west story) and changing the window dressing to fit the genre. So, instead of Cowboys and Indians, we have a story featuring Colonists and Alien Warriors.

The term “savage” or “barbarian” or even the euphemistic “native” are, in reality, racist and dehumanizing terms. Our ancestors comforted themselves with the fiction that the people over the hill weren’t really people, but a sort of monster. “Indians” were wild, whooping monsters; “Huns” were the devil’s footsoldiers, Gog and Magog; those Scythians don’t even speak Greek, so they don’t count as real people, etc. At the same time, as cultures began to blend, the “we” began to admire the “them” and we get stories of the noble savage. This sort of story features strongly in most pulp serials; think of Tonto and the Lone Ranger, or Robinson Crusoe and Friday or, for a more modern example, Mani from Brotherhood of the Wolf. To continue to treat humans like this is highly questionable, but the resilience of these tropes, as well as how they cross cultures (The “savages” considered “civilized” people just as savage, though usually debauched and weak) speaks to their power as tropes.

So, Star Wars definitely invokes the idea of the alien savage and neatly sidesteps the dehumanizing nature of the tropes by pointing out that aliens are inhuman. Chewbacca, with his reliance on strength and his “primitive” crossbow becomes Han Solo’s Friday. The ferocity, cleverness and durability of cultures like the Bedouin and the Apache inspired the Tusken Raiders (and the Fremen, from whom the Tusken Raiders are also clearly inspired). Even the Ewoks, somewhat weirdly, were inspired by the Viet Cong: George Lucas envisioned Star Wars as ultimately a protest of the Vietnam War, and he defended the imagery of the primitive Ewoks defeating the technological empire as inspired by the Viet Cong defeating the technologically superior Americans.

So what I’d like to do here is also to invoke the fear and respect people have for more primal cultures, at least as they tend to be portrayed in stories. I’m not looking to specifically invoke cultures so much as stories cultures tell about their boogie-men: the dangerous mountain men, the ferocious jungle warriors, spooky witches and wild berserkers. But I also want to invoke the respect these cultures earned from their “civilized” enemies after sustained contact and combat. I also want to point out that while their technology might be different, even inferior, they do not lack for sophistication. They might be wild and dangerous, but ultimately, you can sympathize with them, perhaps even join them, as might be the case of a Frontier Marshal or a Commando, joining forces with alien warriors to defeat the technological juggernaut of the empire.

Realistically, these “alien warriors” should have racial templates. They should be scaled lizard people, or beautiful and exotic blue-skinned space-elves, or adorably large-eyed fish-people with crazy spears. But in this pass, I want to keep things generic. And, of course, these sorts of stories were originally told about humans, so a generic human template should work.



The Concept of Alien Warriors

We could do nearly anything with our aliens and, realistically, we should approach each one independently. The jungle aliens of Scylla IV should fight in a completely different way than the mountain aliens of the Forge. So creating a “generic” set of Alien Warriors is an academic exercise at best, but I'm okay with that. By exploring the sorts of tactics aliens might have, I can get an idea of what sorts of tactics all aliens might use.

Even so, I need to pick a single point of inspiration to create a working force out of. For my core inspiration, I choose the Apache, not because I feel they are more “savage” than any other people, but their particular tactics and approach to guerilla warfare with inferior weapons against a superior foe neatly fits into how I’d like to see my Alien Warriors fight. They fought and resisted a modern Western force (the Americans and the Mexican) right up until 1924! They certainly used “primitive” weapons like bows and arrows, but they mastered relatively modern weapons, like metal-headed tomahawks (contrast with the sabers the American cavalry men would use), metal knives and rifles. They also fought by using the land and their mastery of it. They knew where to hide and how, how to stay mobile no matter what, and how to survive, even thrive, in climates where the US soldiers couldn't easily get to them. They were a classic “shatterzone” people, and if they continued to fight to this day, they'd probably fight a lot like the Taliban: losing themselves in mountains and defeating their enemy with precision sniper fire and anti-air missiles.

Our “alien warriors” should also be masters of their planet, able to fight exceedingly effectively even with less sophisticated weaponry, against technologically superior opponents, like the Empire. They do so with primal ferocity, stealth and closeness to the land, strategic cleverness and supernatural power. This last definitely departs from the real world, as (as far as we know) the Apache were never able to call down the wrath of the Divine on anyone, but in Psi-Wars, “hokey religions and old superstitions” are a very real force.

Our basic combatant should be the warrior. The warrior arms himself with a simple, old-school rifle and a basic melee weapon, making himself fairly effective at either melee or range. He should know how to vanish into his preferred terrain (mountain or desert, in this case), and how to outlast his opponents in such an environment. He's the weakest link in an already stressed chain, which means he needs to be very competent and flexible.

Our specialists need to master stealth, ferocity, speed and the supernatural. For stealth, we'll have Scouts, which resemble warriors but with even greater mastery of ranged weapons and the ability to simply vanish. For ferocity, we'll draw from another primal tradition and include the Berserker, someone ferociously strong, armed with a melee weapon, and able to unleash pretty terrible devastation on their opponents; For speed, we'll get into cavalry. We've already touched on it with the Mounted Security Agent, but the same basic principles apply here: the alien warrior needs a deep connection with his mount, a mount that is native to his environment, and uses it to out maneuver his opponents. Finally, we need some kind of shaman, some psionic character with the ability to draw down Communion. While such a character wouldn't typically be a mook, I think he's worth discussing in this context, as I can envision even mook-level Shamans whipping their allies into a frenzy, or protecting them from supernatural attack.

Tactical Theory

Warriors should fight a lot like guerrillas. When attacked, they should fade and flow. Their more vulnerable people should be able to pick up and leave (suggesting a nomadic lifestyle), and the warriors should be able to take up defensive positions, ideally as snipers, while scouts and berserkers vanish to await the close approach of the enemy and then spring on them in dread ambush, ideally with with cavalry at the ready to rush in and finish off the enemy. When on the offensive, warriors will act more like raiders. Their cavalry will sweep in and get what they need and go. If they need more, they'll creep close, ready themselves for ambush, and then unleash themselves when the cavalry descends on the enemy.

In all cases, their tactics resemble those of a high-precision military, but with sniper fire taking the place of suppression fire. Warriors and Scouts will take out key targets and terrify everyone, which forces people to take cover, which allows the berserkers and cavalry to sweep in close and finish everyone else. This creates tension between taking cover and exposing yourself to open fire on the enemy, but it relies on stealth and area knowledge to work.

The Shaman's role is to provide supernatural benefits that fill in the gaps. His visions, or weather manipulation, or blessings of luck or whatever, benefit the warriors as long as he's alive an unopposed, adding a supernatural dimension to the conflict.

Skill Level Theory

Warriors represent the meeting of two extremes. Obviously, their technology must be lacking compared to more up-to-date groups, otherwise we'd treat them as something else (criminals, perhaps, or pirates). But an inferior group with inferior technology isn't an interesting encounter, but a slaughter. That can be okay, but I want to embrace the noble savage idea here, and really dig into what made the Apache and the Bedouin and their like so terrifying: they were effective. This ties into the Fremen and Dune's idea that some worlds make men hard. Our warriors are those hard men, people who have faced the terrifying trials of a dangerous world, and come out strong and lethal.

Thus, I propose Skill 15 as the baseline. Warriors and Riders are “high risk professionals” just by virtue of being survivors of their dangerous world! The true elites, like the Berserkers and the Scouts represent some of the best experience one can get from the universe, and enjoy Skill 18. This will make them a very unique challenge for the players, who will almost certainly out-tech them, but will find themselves struggling against their ninja-like skill levels. It also makes them an interesting experiment in the validity of “skill 18 mooks.”

Shamans represent a unique case. In principle, they should be fairly skilled at what they do, but what they do is also fairly unique. Furthermore, their mastery of the “occult” should pale before those who have studied sophisticated versions of this. That is, the Shaman is better than the Empire when it comes to Communion, because the average Imperial trooper is not supported by Psions, but they’re not as competent as a unit of crack Psi-Knights. I’ll give them Communion 9 and skill 12.
All Alien Warriors will feature Sure Footed (representing their skill in specific terrains) and Penetrating Cry (their memorable and distinctive warcry), Night Vision 2 and Higher Purpose (Defend my Homeworld). They also have Confusion (Technological) which represents their general inability to use technology they don’t already know.

Technological Detail

Yub yub!
The primary defining feature of warriors is their lack of technology. Like criminals and pirates, Warriors lack the money to really fully outfit their armies. Furthermore, they lack the technological know-how, so we expect them to have primitive weapons. However, I don't want to go full-Ewok and give them stone axes and spears because I happen to think the imagery of arrow-wielding teddy-bears defeating the armored might of the Empire is a silly image. But I happen to think that Tusken Raiders with less sophisticated blaster rifles and a penchant for disappearing in the mountains are a real risk.

Note that Alien Warriors typically lack the supporting technologies other forces enjoy. This doesn’t have to be so, but this particular version lacks communicators (they use Gesture instead) or IR visors (they use their natural Night Vision instead).

Melee Weapons

Before we go much further, we should touch on hand-to-hand, as that's going to be one of the signatures of the warrior. Traditionally, warriors wielded spears, because spears are fantastic weapons. However, you can't really have “vibro-spears” as effective weapons. The sword is a fine weapon, but does not say “savage” as well as other weapons. It says “civilized and elegant,” especially when you consider the lack of utility a sword has outside of warfare (and, let's be honest, even in warfare). The force sword in particular is the epitome of elegance and sophistication, with the opposite note that we want to strike with our warriors.

That leaves us with the knife, the shortsword and the glaive, all of which can be vibro-weapons. The knife is a no-brainer, especially for stealthy incursions. The glaive is probably too large a weapon, one that requires formations. That's not to say that we can't have alien halberdiers, but that's not what I want here. So, I suggest replacing the shortsword and the glaive with a vibro-axe. That's smaller than a glaive, larger than a knife, maximizes cutting damage which makes the most out of being a vibro-weapon (and in sufficiently strong hands, can cut through the weaker parts of a heavy hardsuit!), and fits the vibe of the tomahawk or the viking war ax.

Blasters

As I said before, I don't want to do our wariors without them. The intellectual exercise of a space-bow is an interesting one, but even Chewbacca fires blaster bolts out of his crossbow, so we're going to follow suit.

Back when I designed the Rebel soldiers, I included “old rifles,” and I think those would be perfect here. We don't need to do any additional work other than to include those as our preferred weapons.

Armor and Shields

Neither Apache nor Bedouin wore much in the way of armor. It slowed them down too much, was too heavy in the hot, desert sun, and offered little protection against bullets. Furthermore, armor requires a serious investment in infrastructure to make. Native Americans did sometimes carry shields, but those were meant to stop arrows or melee weapons, not bullets. For this version, I suggest no armor at all. If we need something, I'd go with something like a less sophisticated version of Battleweave... bioplas would fit nicely, especially a practical bioplas smartsuit, as bioplas is “organic” enough to be grown rather than built, and a smartsuit would be eminently practical for a people focused on survival. In fact, the Fremen wore Desert Survival Suits, which would suit us nicely (arguably, so do the Tusken Raiders). But such a suit will do very little to practically stop blaster fire, so it's a wash.

The Supernatural

Mastery of Communion is, itself, a form of technology. Our shamans should be psionic to make it work, and they probably are, but that’s more detail than I want. A simpler way would be to simply have the Shaman roll for Communion and gain access to a miracle. We can specify any, if it comes to that, but I’ll have a few suggestions.

I expect most Warriors will carry talismans and trinkets, but I think that will fall beneath the scope of rules. However, you might consider granting the Alien Warriors, as a group, a Destiny of 1 to 3, representing the power their talismans give them to survive. Note that this might make them exceedingly effective (as though they weren’t that already).

Alien Warriors

All the following minions have been created in such a way that they'll fit on two sides of an A6, so you should be able to print 4 per page. I have greatly reduced their complexity even further, so that most characters are virtually identical. Note that the listed tactics aren't the only moves possible, just a helper for some of the more complex actions these characters might undertake.

Alien Warrior

The fundamental of the alien barbarian army, the Alien Warrior can work equally well in melee as at a range. They’ll generally start the battle hidden away, and then either begin to snipe at their opponents, or erupt with terrifying ululations and attack with their vibro axe.

ST 12 HP 12 Speed 6
DX 11 Will 10/12 Move: 6
IQ 10 Per 12

HT 11 FP 11 SM +0
Dodge 10
Parry 11
DR: 0




Old Blaster Rifle (15):
5d+2(5) burn sur (Acc 10, Range 500/1500 RoF 3, Bulk -4)

Vibro-Axe (15): 2d+5(5) cut (Reach 1 Parry 0U, +1 damage if 2-handed)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Homeworld)-15, Gestures-15, Observation-12, Stealth-15, Survival-15, Tracking-15

Traits: Combat Reflexes, Confused (Technological) (12), Fit, Higher Purpose (Defend Homeland), Night Vision 2, Penetrating Voice, Sure Footed (Sand and Uneven)

Notes: Human(oid?); No Encumbrance

Alien Warrior Tactics



Vanish (10): At the beginning of a fight, a psycho will attempt to vanish and get the drop on his opponent. Roll Vanish (ignore modifiers for stealth at the beginning of a fight). Success means he may attack one opponent “from behind.” He may not do this at any other point in the fight.
Fire From Cover (14): Momentarily come up out of cover (Pop-up fire, -2 or -0) and, while shoulder firing, make a sighted All-Out (Determined, +1) attack at the torso of your opponent using full RoF 3, and then return to full cover. You may not defend.

Art of the Axe (13): Move up to 2 yards and make a Committed (+2) Deceptive (-4) Attack with your Vibro-Axe at the target’s torso. Opponent defends at -2. You may not parry or retreat, and you defend at -2.

Warcry (8): If your opponent is unaware of you, make an intimidation attempt with a howling warcry. You may make this attempt again for free after successfully killing a target.



Alien Rider

The Alien Rider is the cavalry arm of the alien barbarian army. The nature of their beasts will vary, and so I haven’t included any details on how they’ll attack, but note that the cavalry assault allows the beast to attack as well. The traditional way is for a slam, which will typically knock someone over who isn’t already dead from a vibro-axe to the head. Typically, the alien riders remain in reserve and attack only when the enemy has walked into a trap, such as a dead-end gulch. When on the offensive, they’ll be the spearhead of the alien force.
ST 12 HP 12 Speed 6
DX 11 Will 10/12 Move: 6
IQ 10 Per 12

HT 11 FP 11 SM +0
Dodge 10
Parry 11
DR: 0




Vibro-Axe (15): 2d+5(5) cut (Reach 1 Parry 0U, +1 damage if 2-handed)


Skills: Area Knowledge (Homeworld)-15, Gestures-15, Intimidation-12, Observation-12, Riding-15, Survival-15, Tracking-15

Traits: Combat Reflexes, Confused (Technological) (12), Fit, Higher Purpose (Defend Homeland), Night Vision 2, Penetrating Voice, Sure Footed (Sand and Uneven)

Notes: Human(oid?); No Encumbrance

Alien Rider Tactics



Cavalry Assault (13): Move at least 7 yards on horseback towards your opponent and make a Committed (+2) Cavalry (-2) attack (-1). Your opponent defends a -1 if not mounted. Deal 2d+6(5) cut. You may not parry, but you may dodge at -2 and your mount may dodge as normal, and may attack. You are at +1 defense against melee attacks from targets on foot.

Cavalry Evasion (-): Ride away from your target making an All-Out Defense (Dodge). Dodge all attacks at 11. Your mount may also defend.

Warcry (8): If your opponent is unaware of you, make an intimidation attempt with a howling warcry. You may make this attempt again for free after successfully killing a target.

Alien Scout

Scouts enjoying their lack of Confusion (Technological)
The Alien Scout is close to the Rebel Guerilla in tactics and effectiveness. They’ll vanish before the battle begins, often covering the battlefield in traps, and then they’ll make their move ideally from behind enemy lines. They’ll either eliminate targets with their vibro-knife or, more likely, sniping at their enemy. Note the scout lacks Confusion (Technological). They can steal enemy arms and equipment and make use of them.
ST 11 HP 11 Speed 6
DX 12 Will 12/14 Move: 6
IQ 12 Per 14

HT 12 FP 12 SM +0
Dodge 10
Parry 13
DR: 0




Old Blaster Rifle (18):
5d+2(5) burn sur (Acc 10, Range 500/1500 RoF 3, Bulk -4)

Vibro-Knife (18): 1d(5) imp or 2d (5) cut (Reach C)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Homeworld)-18, Gestures-15, Observation-15, Stealth-18, Survival-18, Tracking-18, Traps-18

Traits: Combat Reflexes, Fit, Higher Purpose (Defend Homeland), Night Vision 2, Sure Footed (Sand and Uneven)

Notes: Human(oid?); No Encumbrance

Alien Scout Tactics



Vanish (13): At the beginning of a fight, a scout will attempt to vanish and get the drop on his opponent. Roll Vanish (ignore modifiers for stealth at the beginning of a fight). Success means he may attack one opponent “from behind.” He may not do this at any other point in the fight.
Snipe (29): After a single aiming action, make an All-Out Attack (Determined). Successful hit strikes torso. You may not defend.
Remove Sentry (16/11): If the target is unaware of your presence, make a telegraphic grapple for the head (22). You may defend normally. If your target is grappled, make an all-out (Strong) “slicing” attack (thrust cutting) attack with the blade on the target's neck (13). Opponent dodges at -1 or parries at -2. If you hit, deal 2d+2(5) cut to the neck and double all damage that penetrates DR. You may not defend.
Trap (18): Deployed scouts may have already prepared a variety of traps. Ideas:
Snare: Roll Per-based Traps vs 12. Failure means up to ST 22 target is dangled by one leg.
Covered Pit: Roll Per-based Traps vs 12. Failure means fall 2 yards into pit.
Deadfall: Roll Per-based Traps to detect. Deals 20d cr to 3 yard radius on an 11 or less.


Alien Berserker

The Berserker is a tricky mook to handle. Given their high pain threshold and their berserk nature, consider treating even mooks as henchmen, and henchmen as bosses. What makes them difficult and dangerous is how hard they are to kill. Typically, Berserkers will join warriors in hiding, and then unleash themselves with a terrifying cry. Fear is one of their prime weapons, as when they’ve killed an enemy, they can trigger a free intimidation roll as they walk, blood-soaked, at their enemy,
ST 15 HP 15 Speed 6
DX 12 Will 12/16 Move: 8
IQ 10 Per 10

HT 12 FP 12 SM +0
Dodge 10
Parry 13
DR: 2




Vibro-Axe (18):3d+4(5) cut (Reach 1 Parry 0U, +1 damage if 2-handed)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Homeworld)-18, Gestures-15, Intimidation-15, Stealth-15, Survival-18, Tracking-18

Traits: Berserk (12), Combat Reflexes, Confused (Technological) (12), Very Fit, Fearlessness +2, High Pain Threshold, Higher Purpose (Defend Homeland), Night Vision 2, Penetrating Voice, Sure Footed (Sand and Uneven)

Notes: Human(oid?); DR represents tough skin. No Encumbrance

Alien Berserker Tactics



Vanish (10): At the beginning of a fight, a warrior will attempt to vanish and get the drop on his opponent. Roll Vanish (ignore modifiers for stealth at the beginning of a fight). Success means he may attack one opponent “from behind.” He may not do this at any other point in the fight.
Warcry (11): If your opponent is unaware of you, make an intimidation attempt with a howling warcry. You may make this attempt again for free after successfully killing a target.
Frenzy (14): Make an All-Out (Double) deceptive (-4) attack against one or two targets. Your opponent(s) defend at -2. You may not defend.



Alien Shaman

Witch of Dathomir
The Alien Shaman represents the supernatural power of the alien barbarian army: they could as easily be “witches” or “priests” or “oracles.” They act in a sort of leadership-support position, not excelling at combat (though armed), but assisting their allies in defeating the enemy. Typically, they’ll stand somewhere near the back, pray regularly until they can pull down a miracle, or until someone finally puts the shaman down. Despite their relative weakness, removing a shaman should probably be a high priority for a force that wishes to defeat an alien barbarian army.
ST 10 HP 10 Speed 5
DX 10 Will 12/14 Move: 5
IQ 12 Per 12

HT 10 FP 10 SM +0
Dodge 8
Parry 9
DR: 0




Vibro-Knife (12): 1d(5) imp or 2d (5) cut (Reach C)


Skills: Area Knowledge (Homeworld)-15, Gestures-15, Intimidation-12, Stealth-12, Survival-15,

Traits: Communion (9), Confused (Technological) (12), Fearlessness +2, Higher Purpose (Defend Homeland), Night Vision 2, Penetrating Voice, Sure Footed (Sand and Uneven)

Notes: Human(oid?); No Encumbrance

Alien Shaman Tactics



Rally (12): Every (mook) member of the shaman’s squad (up to 10 men) gain +1 to fright checks and may ignore disadvantages harmful to combat for the duration of combat, so long as the Shaman lives.
Strategic Vision (13): If the shaman is granted a vision before the battle, he may roll a contest of Tactics+4 against his opponent. If the Shaan wins a contest of tactics with his opponents, he may grant one free reroll to his squad.
Miracles of Communion (9): After praying for 1d6 seconds, the Shaman may attempt a miracle (apply a cumulative -1 for each additional miracle granted). Suggestions include:

  1. Blessing: Any single character gains two rerolls as though he had luck.
  2. Flesh Wounds: Ignore the first injury inflicted on a single Alien Warrior.
  3. Cursed: A single target suffers Unluckiness until the end of the battle or until the shaman is dead.
  4. Dread Presence: The Shaman forces a Fright Check against any who opposes him.
  5. Dark Storm: The Shaman conjures up weather that allows him to apply +1 or -1 to any rolls in the battle so long as he lives.
  6. Eclipse: The entire battlefield is darkened to -5 vision penalties.
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