Day 3 - A Change In Fortunes (Five Klicks)

From the Journal of Maya Ceros, Day 3.

    Today, we took a lesson from the crawlers. Today, we pushed the fight to the enemy and won.

    I don't know who sent these guys. They looked like ordinary scavengers to me, but they knew when to hit us and where to hit us, and they all seemed to have something to prove. They knew who we were, had probably been following us for a few days, so maybe Old Man Matthews is behind this one too, but now that they're all dead, there's no way to know for sure.

    The day started easily enough. A steady trek across the wastes that we spent mostly in silence. I think everyone was thinking about Dave, Caroline and Sarah. I know Sally was. She was the quietest of all, just staring off into the wastes for hours, lost in thought while she rested up.

    And then the sand started to blow in. The storm came as quick as sandstorms do, and so we rolled to a stop, turned our asses into the wind and staked down to let it pass.

    And when it passed-- that's when we saw them. A pack of scraggly shapes picking their way through the ruins, rifles trained on us.

    There was only one thing to do. I grabbed my rifle, cleared the chamber, pushed home a fresh clip. 

    Time to fight.

By some miracle, we got the drop on the enemy. With the sandstorm clearing, it was easy to spot a trio of skeletal remains that had been uncovered by the wind. We moved in, staying in cover where we could, and advanced steadily on the enemy.

They came out of the sand like hunched ghosts. There were a lot of them, and they were cautious, picking their way through cover as they advanced on us.

Contact came fast. A couple of scrap rifles rang out through the haze, cracking across a steel housing as Kassandra rushed to hide behind it. Ahead of me, I saw Kara pull her shotgun and put a spray of lead into the haze, but no sound came back, no hits. 

The skeletal remains I reached were clutching a computer, something that could provide a valuable amount of scrap. Kate, digging through the sand, found nothing, and I found out later that our rookie, Nike, had found her skeleton clutching a box, something locked that we'd have to jimmy open later.

That was when I saw the flare go up. 

I gripped my rifle harder. The scrags were already calling in backup.

More shots rang out through the haze. I think the only one of us didn't fire was Kate, running as hard as she could to get into cover. I heard one of the bandits shout, the sound trailing off in pain, and knew one of us had hit something. Most of the rounds went wide, with Nike spraying enough ammo to keep her target pinned.

That was when I realized we weren't going to win this by playing it cautious. If we were going to win, if we were going to push through and survive, we had to be like the crawlers that had decimated us before. We had to rush in, take the fight to the enemy, and crush them in the open. Trading shots over cover was a crapshoot, and not one I figured we could win, but up close, face-to-face, we had the advantage.

I gave the order to rush in, shouting a battle cry to the hazy winds. Kara was the first to echo my yell, and as she rushed into the breach, the scrags started firing, pinning her in the open.

I heard Kate and Nike shout as they came around the side of a sunken cargo container, intent on catching the enemy out in the open.

I heard Kassandra shout, leading Dora in a charge against one of the scrags. There was the bark of a shotgun, and the rattle of a military rifle going full auto.

Howling like a spartan warrior gone mad, Kassandra closed the distance with her spear and drove the scrag into the ground.

And that was when reinforcements arrived, instantly flanking Kassandra and Dora.

I saw the glimmer of guns in the haze and took my shot, dropping one of the new scrags instantly. I remember I breathed a sigh of relief as the newcomer fell. One less bandit to deal with.

Nike closed the distance between herself and one of the scrags with a scrap rifle. The shot went wide, hitting somewhere nearby. The scrag was terrified, shaking and clinging to cover under a hail of bullets.

Kara tried to shake herself out of shellshock, but too many bad memories from being stuck in the deep wasteland kept her pinned, face to face with a bandit who was as terrified as she was.

Nike's target also tried to shake out of the shock, but could only cling to her rifle while Nike patiently strode into view, firing off shots as she went.

Seeing their friend hit the sand, impaled by Kassandra's spear, the three scrags with muskets rushed out of cover and closed on Kara, firing as one. I heard the shots, heard the shouts, heard the scream.

And then I saw Kara go down hard, face-first into the dirt.

There was a shout from Kate as she fired at the lead musket-wielding scrag, hitting nothing but air.

Then Kassandra rushed in and I heard her shotgun bark again. Another shape fell-- this time, one of the musket scrags.

The scrag that had seen Kara fall bolted, running into the haze, probably inadvertently trying to flank us.

Enraged by seeing Kara fall, Dora went full-auto and pinned one of the scrags behind a bullet-riddled stump.

Nike and Kate were quick on the draw, but the enemy was quicker.

The two pinned scrags tried to break out of their shock, but stayed pinned under fire. One of the scrags took aim at Kate, but the musket-ball karoomed off her armor instead. When the scrag tried to take another shot, her rifle fell apart in her hands, forcing her to fumble with the janky parts in an attempt to fix it.

Recovering some of his nerve, the scrag who tried to flank us took a shot at me, missing by inches.

Turning around, I raised my rifle, and dropped him with a single shot.

Kate and Nike rushed at the pinned scrag, closing the distance between them.

Seeing her friend dropped by my bullet was enough to make the last scrag with a scrap rifle rabbit.  Wasn't enough to scare her off the field, but she ran a ways before she turned around and started fighting again.

Dora took a shot at one of the musket-scrags and dropped him in the dirt.

The scrag closest to the casualty tried to fix his musket, but couldn't get it to work again. When he saw the body fall, he must have realized how hopeless things were getting for him and his pack, because he turned and ran immediately.

Kassandra and Dora advanced, Kassandra keeping the scrag behind the stump pinned in place.

Seeing so many of the scrags fall, Kate and Nike pushed into the fray with renewed fury. I think we were all focused on Kara, on the bleeding shape of our friend laying face-down in the dust.

Kate took a shot at one of the fleeing scrags, making him dance and howl as the bullets cut through his pack and his shirt, inches from his skin.

Nike closed up on one of the scrags and put her in the dirt.

Terrified and outnumbered, the scrag behind the stump launched out of hiding and ran screaming off into the wastes, lost like a shadow in the haze.

Still shouting and firing wildly, Kassandra got the last of the scrags to stop at the edge of the haze. He was whimpering, half-turning to face us.

Dora slammed home a fresh clip, and moved in for the kill, bearing her teeth. I swear I heard Kara's name on her lips, but the wind started to whip through, obliterating the sound. Another storm coming in, bringing the howling and the haze with it.

We stood tense, alone with the last of the scrags, suddenly all very focused on the storm moving in.

The scrag fiddled with his rifle, his hands shaking. I think I saw him start to raise them in surrender, hoping for mercy.

But it's hard to find mercy in the wasteland.

With the last of the scrags dead or split, I rushed to check on Kara. I could tell right away that we were probably going to lose her, but I knew I had to try to save her. Dropping next to her, I tried to stabilize her, but I don't know enough about patching people up and we started to lose her. Nike closed ranks, and did what the rookie has done best so far-- offer assistance that always comes too late.

In the end, we had to dig another grave. We didn't have much time with the storm moving in, but we laid Kara to rest and let the sand and the wind take over when the air got too thick to breathe.

Taking shelter behind the wheel of Mudrunner, I stared out at the building haze and the darkening sky, trying to feel like maybe the scrap and the loot we'd find on the field in the morning might be worth it.

But that's just tragic optimism. No amount of scrap and loot is worth losing another life out here.

Kassandra was the first to scour the field when the storm cleared, but most of the gear the scrags had been carrying was broken or lost in the blowing sands. We did manage to pull two functional muskets out of the mess, and enough black powder and lead balls to make them usable.* Not the best haul, but better than nothing. I think I remember hearing pistol fire at one point, and I was hoping to find a sidearm, but the storm had obliterated almost everything else, so I guess it's back to scraping along with one gun, hoping we don't run into another situation like what happened on Day 2.

In the end, we barely had enough time to pick through the field before another storm started to blow in and kept us locked up in our trucks for hours. We tried to find more scrap with the little bit of time we had, but couldn't find anything more than the one piece we found in the beginning. The box that Nike found turned out to be packed with a couple of Water Crystals** which is better than gold in the wasteland. Another box we found contained a set of Pre-War maps, which I figure will help us as we roll along through the wastes.

Rolling slow, we were able to rendezvous with a small trade caravan and make some deals. The best thing we got was a set of military grade armor, which might be just enough to keep one of us alive if things get hairy again. My plan is to give it to Kassandra-- she's a hell of a fighter, and seems to have a penchant for rushing into battle without much regard for her own life. The merchants of the caravan tried to pawn off a crate of bottlecaps to us too as "wasteland currency" but I honestly didn't see the value of it, so we turned the offer down and stuck with what we could immediately work with. In the end, we were able to trade the Water Crystals to them for a couple of their trucks, and enough gas to keep the trucks going. They're making a beeline for Cinder Hill, and I know, as much as they know, that they'll be able to turn those Water Crystals around for at least twice the price there.

But it keeps us rolling, and that's what matters.

Sally got to talking with some of the merchants, and we got a quartet*** of new recruits who were enchanted enough by her stories to come with us. One of them is a rookie, eager to make a mark on the wasteland, but it's the other three that really interest me. Polybius is a machine with a human mind uploaded into him, some kind of mad science military project that crawled out of an old, forgotten military base. The other two, well, I'm still getting to know them. They drive well enough, and right now, well, maybe that's good enough for me.

Truth is, I'm gritting my teeth as I write this. We've lost half of the people we started out with, and we've only been gone three days. It's hard to hopeful, but maybe, just maybe, our fortunes have finally changed.


MVP: Kassandra

Sally to rest to recover now that she is worn (from injured.)

Kate Phelps leveled up! +1 to Combat Skill!

Items obtained:
2 Muskets
2 Water Crystals (used immediately)
1 Military Armor

Convoy leveled up! (+1 STABILITY)
Water Crystals Used to increase STABILITY by +2
Convoy is now STABILITY 4.

New recruits joined the roster!

Polybius, an Enforcer from a Pre-Collapse Military Base
Daedalus, an Explorer from an Isolated Enclave
Henrietta Goldsmith, a Caravan Guard from a Trading Post
Irina Molotov, a Rookie

Post Play Notes:

This was the first battle I played over the course of a couple of days, and it was nice how easy it was to pick it up again after setting it down again. Even better, I realized between sessions that I had almost forgotten to make ammo rolls for the enemy units this time, so I was able to correct that almost immediately. Good thing too-- two of the enemy scrags got ammo failures later in the game.

In generating terrain, I tried something new this time as well, digging out a bunch of 20 sided dice and placing them directly on the board in their assigned areas after they were rolled. Using these numbers as a guide, I built the terrain for the map as you can see below.

* This was also the first battle where I used my new custom loot rule, where I roll a 6 sider for every piece of equipment on an enemy corpse to see if it can be looted. It ended up working out in what I feel was a pretty balanced way, with all but two pieces of substandard gear being lost. The two muskets are probably things I'll never use, but it's nice knowing they're there in case I start losing ranged weapons in future games and need something-- anything, that isn't melee. I also plan to use my 1d30 enemy generation table for Day 4, re-rolling on results that are still blank. Later note: I ended up using both muskets immediately, lol.

** Man, when I got reconfigurable components on the box, I got super excited. It seemed like a great opportunity to get some armor on my people, finally. Unfortunately, every type of armor I rolled on got a 1 or 2 result. So, I tried for a water crystal and got it, which I'm using immediately to increase my convoy's STABILITY factor so I can recruit more people and maybe survive the coming encounters. Also, in the trade phase, I got another water crystal, so I just acted like I found it in the box with the other and traded both for working cars and fuel, effectively jumping my "settlement's" Stability factor three points in one day, allowing me to recoup personnel losses effectively.

*** For the next turn, I got Promising Recruit as the Settlement Event, so four new recruits between turn 3 and the start of turn 4. Woohoo!


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