Stage I. Dropship Down

Crash Positions

As the dropship comes down, each PC must make a flat Dodge roll, with no other modifiers (Acrobatics, etc); failure means that they've been injured (no DR, no wound multiplier) at a random hit location, HP equal to their MOF. Each PC must also roll against their primary weapon's HT (13); failure of this means that the weapon has been damaged, requiring an Armoury roll to repair.

Zerg Attack
The survivors of Tango Company barely have time to scramble to their feet before a zaggle of scouting Zerg attacks their position. The group consists of zerglings (about 4 times the number of Players, not the full number of PCs, referred to hereafter as 4xPlayers) and hydralisks (1xPlayers). Everyone gets a Per+2 roll to avoid surprise; those who fail begin the combat mentally stunned, and may roll IQ+6 at the end of each turn to snap out of it.

Should the PCs think to make the effort, the following items can be salvaged without need for rolling. The basic salvage effort takes 10 minutes, during which the crash site remains Zerg-free.

  • 2 C-14 Impaler Gauss Rifles & Ammo
  • 3 M-98 Ballistic Combat Shields
  • 1 M-41A Pulse Rifle & Ammo
  • 1 P-38 Scythe Gauss SMG & Ammo
  • 1 Z-50 Slugger Gauss Shotgun Pistol & Ammo
  • Enough Suit Patches to cover any damage to the PCs' armor, plus 20 extras.

Additional searches each require 10 minutes and a roll against Scrounging, or a Per-based roll against the listed tech-repair skill. Each success finds a single item (determine randomly for Scrounging), if it hasn't already been recovered. (Critical success locates two eligible items; critical failure destroys an item that would have been recovered.) All items are inoperable when found, requiring standard (IQ-based) repair rolls to get them working, at the listed penalty; each repair attempt takes one man-hour, or 10 minutes for a Techie.

  • Extensible Sensor Pod, Battlesuit Mount. Electronics Repair (Sensors) -2.
  • Heavy Plasma Flamer, Battlesuit Mount. Armoury (Heavy Weapons) -3.
  • Hostile Environment Suit. Armoury (Body Armor) -3.
  • Enough parts to piece together a full Standard Powered Combat Suit, once the remains of their fallen comrades are removed. Armoury (Battlesuit) -5.
  • AGR-17 Thunderbolt Assault Cannon & Ammo. Armoury (Heavy Weapons) -2.
  • The ship's medical computer (C6). Electronics Repair (Computer) -4.
  • Medical kit (as from Medic's Light Powered Combat Suit. Electronics Repair (Medical) -3.

The PCs may look for specific other items if they like – each search takes another 10 minutes – but they will find only standard-issue gear for a Medevac Dropship with a Powered Infantry platoon aboard. For any given item, roll 1d to determine the skill penalty to locate and repair it.

Local Conditions

Aldebaran-4 is a “shake-n-bake” terraforming colony, still early in the decades-long process of converting the trace native atmosphere into something hospitable to Terrans. Although it's still not breathable, there is an atmosphere, mostly nitrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, and water vapor. Occasionally, violent electrical storms rip across the landscape, as the complex chemical reactions catalyzed by the terraforming reactor spread and wreak atmospheric change.

The terrain is a barren wasteland of jagged boulders and rocky canyons. The plateau highlands to the north are relatively flat and even, crumbling away into deep and twisting canyons to the south. An outcropping of the plateau ("Rock Ridge") stretches into the canyons, providing a relatively secure location for the LV-427 Habitat.

Electrical Storms
The electrical storms that wrack the surface of Aldebaran-4 can be as little as 100 yds across, or many miles long. They're plainly visible as rolling, opaque, cigar-shaped clouds that flicker from within, and occasionally send great arcs of lightning to scorch the nearby landscape (and anything living or mechanical which might be standing there).

Getting caught in one of these storms without suitable shelter is dangerous, for biologicals and vehicles/robots alike. The storms don't reach into canyons to the southwest of Rock Ridge, and the LV-427 habitat is designed to protect from the storms, so both count as suitable shelter. Vision is limited to about 9 yards, with -1 per yard to detect something visually or with any kind of visual sensors (IR, UV, or Hyperspectral). Terrahertz radar has half its normal range, but may still be the most reliable means of navigation – assuming the electronics don't get shorted out.

Anyone (or thing) caught in a storm has a chance of being struck by lightning (no active defense possible): 1-in-6 for exposure of at least 30 seconds but no more than 10 minutes; 2-in-6 for more than 10 minutes but less than hour; or 3-in-6 per continuous hour of exposure. Each strike inflicts 2dx1d(5) cr ex inc surge (that is, 2d dice of damage) on the primary target, and electronic systems must make a HT-8(5) roll to avoid being blown out.

The Swarm
The survivors don't have long before the Zerg bear down on them, and this will become increasingly apparent the longer they tarry. For every 10 minutes they spend at the crash site (e.g. conducting salvage, attempting First Aid, or a Techie attempting to repair a broken device), roll 1d, +1 per successive roll, and consult the following table (if they're spending an hour at a time, e.g. for a non-Gadgeteer to repair a broken device, roll once at +4 instead):

Zerg Encounters
1-5. None.
6-7. Zerglings (2xPCs) and Hydralisks (1xPCs)
8-9. Zerglings (2xPCs), Hydralisks (1/2xPCs), and Roaches (1/2xPCs)
10-11. Zerglings (3xPCs), Hydralisks (1xPCs), and Roaches (1xPCs)
12-13. Mutalisks (1/2xPCs) and Guardians (1/2xPCs)
14+. As 12-13, plus a Brood Lord.

Zerglings/broodlings arrive first, charging in and pouncing on anyone they can catch unawares, after which Hydralisks (and Roaches) or Mutalisks move into range and open fire; ground units prefer to attack from behind cover if possible, and air units will use their mobility to their advantage. A Vision roll (or Electronics Op (Sensors), if anyone is actively using an ESP unit) gives everyone enough warning to avoid surprise.


The Road to Rock Ridge

According to the planetary maps downloaded to their TacNet computers, there are two ways to get from where they are to the LV-427 habitat.

They can cut through a series of deep and twisting canyons, a relatively short distance that should take about 4 hours to reach, but they might risk getting lost without planetary GPS (the Zerg took out the comm-satellite network when they arrived), and the canyons would make an ideal spot for Zerg ambushes – limited sensor (and visual) range and irregular signal-bounce will make approaching Zerg hard to detect. They also may be able to find a cave in which to hunker down for long enough to make some repairs and administer medical attention – but if they spend too long there, they may get pinned down as Zerg territory expands.

Or, they can go around the canyons and cross the desolate highlands to the north, a longer trip that will take at least 6-8 hours, and leave them open to detection and attack by the Swarm, and unsheltered from electrical storms. They'll see the Zerg coming from miles away, but the Swarm won't have much trouble spotting them either, and there's nowhere much to take cover if needed.

The Canyons
If they choose to take the canyons, the trip could take as little as 3 hours … each hour, someone must make an Electronics Operation (Sensors) roll to successfully navigate (+4 for an ESP or other advanced sensor suite), and everyone must make a Hiking roll (-4 for anyone who lacks powered armor) to make good time. Failure of the Sensors roll means that they're lost, and wasted an hour backtracking, etc … failure of anyone's Hiking roll gives a bonus to the Zerg Encounter roll for that hour equal to the worst margin of failure. Each hour on the road costs everyone 1 FP, +1*MOF for a Hiking failure.

Zerg Encounter rolls happen once per hour, at a bonus equal to how many hours they've been in the canyons (i.e., +0 on the first hour's roll, +1 on the second, etc). Sensor and Vision rolls are at -3 to detect incoming Zerg, making surprise attacks more likely.

Viking Wreckage
At the end of the second hour, a successful Sensors or Vision roll spots the wreckage of a Viking (from Victor Company, “The Jolly Jarls,” pronounced 'Yolly Yarls') in the canyon. A suitably-skilled individual could repair the vehicle enough to walk (but not to fly – the vertol thrusters must be replaced) to the habitat. This requires two or more repair rolls: Electronics Repair (Computers)-2 and Mechanic (Mecha)-3 to get it moving, Armoury (Heavy Weapons)-2 to get the weapon systems online, and Electronics Repair (Comms)-2 to get those working. Each roll takes a normal person one hour, or a techie 10 minutes; the Comms roll (only) can be made while the vehicle is in operation.

Once weapon systems are online, the surface-to-air missiles work, as does one Gauss minigun. Alternately, they can attempt to salvage the comm system, missile rack, and/or the minigun with appropriate rolls, taking the same amount of time. If anyone thinks to try and use the Viking's comms to contact base, they get mostly static and garbled comm-chatter, suggesting that whole Terran force is having a hard time of things. Only an Electronics Op (Comms) -5 roll can get a good enough signal to talk to anyone; see Comm Chatter, below for what they hear.

Hunkering Down
If they choose to try and hole up in the canyon, it's not hard to find a suitable cave, and Zerg Encounter rolls are at -6 for as long as the party remains … but the bonus for elapsed hours continues to accumulate, making a long stay inadvisable.

Highland Plateau
Should they choose the high road to Rock Ridge Station, the trip will take as little as 6 hours … no rolls are required to find their way, but each hour requires a Hiking roll, as above, with the same penalties for failure. Each time anyone fails Hiking, the journey is extended by 10 min times their margin of failure (use only the worst MOF in a given hour, if multiple PCs failed), with each full added hour incurring another Zerg Encounter roll. Rolls to detect incoming Zerg at +4, making surprise attacks unlikely, and offering the possibility of trying to outrun (Quick Contest of Running) or outsmart (lay mines, etc) the approaching Zerg. Fatigue costs are as above.

Hellion Wreckage
During the third hour, the PCs come across the site of a skirmish between Zerg and a group of Hellions (from Foxtrot Company, “The Disco Inferno”). It's hard to tell who won – both sides suffered considerable casualties, from the looks of the wreckage and carnage. On the upside, there's considerable possibility for salvage, including enough to get up to two working Hellions running. Each one requires rolls against Electronics Repair (Computer)-2 and Mechanic (Heavy Wheeled)-3, as well as Armoury (Heavy Weapons)-2 and Electronics Repair (Comms)-2 for those systems. Attempting to use a Hellion's comm unit to contact base (or anyone else) requires flat Electronics Op (Comms) roll; see Comm Chatter, below. Alternately, any of those components can be salvaged with the appropriate rolls; a search of the scene also uncovers a serviceable M-41A Pulse Rifle (& Ammo).

Rolling Thunder
Their path along the highland ridge (for which Rock Ridge Station was named) gives a breathtaking view of the landscape, and of the vast electrical storms that roll along it like thick yellow-gray fog banks. Should they be tempted to tarry, they see one that's rolling in their direction from the north – a huge bank many miles across and at least a half-mile thick. It's moving slowly enough that they can keep ahead of it, even on foot, without much trouble – even engulfing and electrocuting a number of land-based zerg – but if they take more than 8 hours due to failed rolls or dawdling, the storm overtakes them, and they must make the remainder of the journey risking not zerg encounters, but random electrocution (see Electrical Storms, above).

Comm Chatter
Using a recovered vehicular comm system to try and contact command (or other units in the field) is of fairly limited use. There's plenty of disconcerting cross-chatter (“I'm hit – I'm going down!” “…requesting Medevac at these coordinates…” “Multiple hostiles inbound! Multiple hostile inbound! OH MY GO-”), mostly suggesting that things aren't going well for the Marines. A successful Electronics Op (Comms) roll (at -5 from within the canyons) can get a message through to command, but regardless of what they say, the other side of the conversation is basically, “Roger, Tango Company … reinforcements and extraction currently unavailable … orders as follows: converge on LV-427 Habitat Facility, secure for use as rally point and secondary command station….”

They can also try to get in touch with other units on the ground, rolling (at the same canyon-penalty) to hail one of the groups they can identify by listening to cross-chatter and reading the (spotty) information being sporadically downloaded to their TacNet computers. Looking at a wide-angle computer map of the area shows several blue dots where Terran transmission are coming in from, and a massive red wave moving across the map from the northwest, with many detached red blobs chasing down blue dots. More blue dots are coming online as landing parties are establishing comm-links, and beginning to move and converge, but the blue dots that are swallowed by red blobs – or the great wave from the northwest – mostly don't survive.


Bravo Company (“Big Brother”), the primary command and control unit (Lt. Col. “Rusty” Callahan in charge), has established a hastily-fortified position in a large box canyon in the north, but they're under heavy attack, and unable to field any rescue or reinforcement operations – in fact, they're requesting that all units able to respond make their way to the base ASAP to aid in its defense.

Delta Company (“The Vicious Vixens”) is a Wraith squadron who's en route to Bravo Company's base, but has engaged multiple Zerg fliers to the north, and is tied up in an extended dog-and-bug fight.

Golf Company (“The War Boars”), a fast-moving Goliath and Diamondback assault force, has arrived at Bravo Company's base, and engaged the attacking Zerg force from the back – but are themselves surrounded, negating any advantage they might have had for a flanking attack.

Kilo Company (“The Killer Klowns”), a powered infantry unit (with heavy-weapons, medical, and technical support), is on-site with Bravo Company, aiding in base defense.

Lima Company (“Slaughterhouse Seven”) is an artillery unit, comprised of Arclight tanks. They're pinned down to the southwest, able to defend their location (for now), but unable to make a getaway with the large number of Zerg airborne units around.

Romeo Company (“The Dead Montagues”), a company of Reapers are holed up in a high canyon cave to the east of the LV-427 habitat. They're much closer to the habitat than to Bravo Company's base, and could reach it within a few hours – if they knew the way was clear.

Sierra Company (“The Harvesters of Sorrow”), Tango's sister company (Powered Infantry), also took heavy fire and lost multiple dropships on the way down; the survivors rallied to the southeast, and anticipate reaching Rock Ridge Station by nightfall tomorrow – if the Swarm doesn't overtake them.

Victor Company (“The Jolly Jarls”), a Viking fighter/assault squadron, lost more than the ship that crashed in the canyon, but a few yet survive. They got boxed into the same canyons that the PCs passed through, but farther west, and are trying to hold out until someone can give them enough cover to lift off, transform, and engage the swarms of Mutalisks and Devourers above.

Doubling Back or Splitting Up
Once they've gotten some wheels (or big mechanical feet) and made contact with other surviving companies, the PCs may decide to make for another unit's position (Victor Company being the most obvious choice), rather than head directly for the habitat. In this case, simply run the appropriate Rescue Mission encounter from Stage III. They may further decide to take that most dreaded of steps, splitting the party … but as long as each player has at least one (useful) character in each group, this should present no problem.

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