Home Forums Sci Fi General Sci-Fi Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear Part Six

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    Aotrs Commander
    Participant

    As the post I did in the old thread seems to have not appeared and givn the problems that thread now seems to have after I fiddled with it last month), fresh start, new thread.

    Link to old thread

    Link to PDF downloads (in the best format – these have actually been available from Facebook since the start, only thought now to include them):

    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Five
    Part Six

    Links to each part as a seperate article at Wargames Directory
    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Five
    Part Six

    So, here we are with the first release of 2021.

    This month, we’re doing things a bit backwards, with the sci-fi release first and the moderns release second.

    Maneouvre Group our in-all-but-official-name partners, are getting periously close to completing their version 2.0 rules update, to the point that my Dad is setting up his mancave to do a photoshoot for the cover art in the next few days. As such, this presents an opportunity to take some better pictures than I’m normally able to take (the past year kiboshed any chance of me attempting to make a proper lightbox still), so I elected to hold off the moderns release.

    This release marks the last of the Aotrs fleet release. In Feburary and March, the Aotrs ground force will be re-released to TheShop3D (updated to the v2 locking turrets) and a couple of updates to some (but not all) of the Shapeways models and finally a couple of new additions. In this release, you will see indeed the first couple of models for the ground force poking their lack-of-noses in!

    Speaking of TheShop3D, I am just putting in for another batch of resin prints, among which include some of the moderns for the next couple of months as well, so we should have some nice resin to show you again soon.

    Finally, once Manouvre Group is out, I will be seriously looking at preparing the scifi expansion rules for publication by them (either free or a token price). The ultimate goal for this is that I will be able to compile all the Aotrs material (and a few little extra bits still) into a single document, and be able to include game stats for both the fleet and the ground forces for Accelerate and Attack! and Maneouvre Group. If there is enough interest in that once released, as I complete powers with both a starfleet and ground force (or at least enough fleets to be able to make a package), I may do this for them as well (albeit at a much smaller scale than the Aotrs, which has history going back a quarter-century to draw from!)

    So, then, to the release itself at last!

     

    Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Six

     

     

    Notable Worlds of the Aotrs, Part Two

    (Note: Dates listed are in accordance with the current year 2346. To translate to Earth-E Julian (or Gregorian) calendar, simply subtract 326 years.)

    Akamo

    One of the three HPE-L worlds the Aotrs initially scouted from Kalanoth, Akamo was the first to be invaded and the first of these to be conquered.

    Akamo is a typical HPE-L world in most respects, with a wide variety of intelligent races, through the surface and in the subsurface and oceans. Humans were not untypically the bare surface majority. The other common populations of HPE-L races (elves, dwarves, halflings, the local orcs and goblinoids, lizard folk and the reptilian local “kobolds,” now more correctly Saraki) were all present in numbers, alongside a myriad of other humanoid and non-humanoid races across the globe.

    What set Akamo apart from Temnis and Raytayne was that the land surface. Akamo is a world of plateaus and mesa. Low volcanism and slow plate movement – believed to have been artificially induced, either by probability engineering or early divine action – created continents with vast plains, from which huge cliffs rise up to giant inselbergs and koppies. The lowlands were predominantly deserts and in some areas, magical wastelands that were highly dangerous, so most civilisations sat upon the inselbergs. In some respects, there are many similarities to Tusharnos, but while Tusharnos was divided into little fiefdoms by near-impassable mountain ranges, the plateaus encouraged Akamo’s denizens to develop early flight.

    At the time of the Aotrs’ initial reconnaissance in 5AD, the technology level of both the Aotrs and of Akamo was approximately around the 3rd century AD of Earth (e.g. the late Roman Empire). This was advanced enough that primitive, magical airships – both early dirigibles and enchanted vessels akin to ships as well as some actual ships – were being employed by the most prosperous nations alongside transport via flying beast.

    Akamo has the second-most common form of magic to HPE-L worlds – erudite spell-valanced spell-casting magic. As opposed to the most common (and as used by the Aotrs) erudite mana-valanced spell-casting magic, spell-valanced magic, instead of drawing from a mana reserve to fuel a spell which can be cast as long a sufficient mana remains to the caster, requires the entire spell to be prepared and stored in the mind before casting, typically in the form of memorised formula (or prayers in the case of divine casters).

    This was hitherto unknown magic to the Aotrs and in combination with the sheer scale of the applied flight magic, thus marked Akamo as the first priority target. The invasion began only a decade later, as soon as preparations were completed.

    The conquest of Akamo was slow, but steady. The nature of the inselbergs made them functionally not unlike islands, except with significantly less ease to get to. While this made transporting and supplying troops via air difficult, by the same token, it meant that the inselbergs were relatively isolated. The Aotrs’ advancing Gate spells gave them a significant edge, and many refinements to the Gate spells came from the Akamo campaigns, both on the small and large scale. Here as well, the Aotrs’ emphasis on a smaller number of high-quality troops stood them in good stead, as moving the elite units about was much easier.

    The conquest of Akamo was thus largely fought as a series of many numerous small-scale engagements, with only a few major battles. The natives of Akamo’s most effective resistance turned to be the world’s seemingly endless supply of adventuring parties, given they had the same advantages as the Aotrs elite of being able to easily get between inselbergs.

    The Aotrs teleporting fortress, Lichwall, dates from this period, constructed in 635 AD, partly with the aid of Akamoian magic. Lord Doomfire, the Aotrs’ High Command’s red dragon, met and joined the Aotrs during the Akamo campaigns, in 43AD.

    The most major setback occurred in the aftermath of the Scouring on Fearmore in 759AD. With the elite troops away for an extended period, four of the nations launched a joint, four-pronged attack on the Aotrs’ territories. While only one of these succeeded in liberating its target, the other three invasions did significant damage before they were repelled.

    But this was Akamo’s last gasp. With G’Nayel now Fearmore, and with a safe and secure base and Kalanoth now largely subdued, the Aotrs quickly recovered. The final nail came when Kalanoth was officially conquered forty-three years after the Scouring. With the resources of two worlds pouring in, plus resources from the stalled invasion of Temnis, Akamo’s last resistances were swiftly swept aside. Within three decades, in 834AD, Akamo was finally conquered.

    Akamo today still boasts it wide variety of races, the largest diversity in Aotrs space. Not all of the races made it to the modern times, however. The Akamo orcs proved to be unmanageable, and after the second rebellion in two decades and demonstrating an inherent resistance to conditioning, the Aotrs were forced to wipe them out in 1103AD. The orcs, with little access to magic, and confined to only four inselbergs, had no-where to go and despite a spirited resistance, were all killed with nine months. This remains the most well-known (aside from the Scouring itself) of the instances where the Aotrs have had to resort to genocide. History records Lord Death Despoil’s statement that it was an unfortunate measure and not one performed lightly. Akamo-type orcs have been encountered on other HPE-L worlds – though none that the Aotrs have completed conquered. With modern technology and magics, the Akamo orc’s chaotically disruptive natures can be ameliorated (making them at least as manageable as Temnis orcs), but that was simply not an option available twelve hundred years ago.

    The Sond system is heavily populated. It has two other terraformed planets– Kleey-Keyar (chillspeak, lit “kingdom of bone”), Whispering Watch (named from a local (former) deity). Two moons Fanditrax and Noct (named for local mythological figures) of two of the system’s gas giants have been also terraformed. There are colonies on almost all of the other worlds in the system, though many of these are small and former mining or resource collection sites. The Sond system is generalised compared to the other earliest worlds, with respectable but not exceptional production and shipyards capacities. Akamo is the location for three of the leading magical research academies, and is also a frequent training spot for atmospheric training exercises, both stemming from traditions established in its early history; while Kalanoth was the site of the Aotrs’ first orbital launch, much of the research and experimentation had been done on Akamo in the preceding decades.

    Raytayne

    Raytayne was one of the first planets the Aotrs scouted via scouted at the dawn of the first century AD, along with Akamo and Temnis. Of the three, it was considered the lowest priority from the initial scouting mission. This was due to the limitations of Gate spells of the time and Raytayne’s geography. At the time it was first scouted, Lord Death Despoil was limited in the locations on a world he could open a Gate to from another world, the largest factor being magical confluxes. Some of the locations were in obviously inhospitable or impractical locations. It was this limitation that helped regulate Raytayne to the lowest priority. (It would not be until the Aotrs’ Renaissance-equivalent period that this limitation would be finally overcome just for Lord Death Despoil himself and the industrial age before the magic was refined to the point anyone of lower strength than the High Command could attempt it even as a ritual.)

    While it has a fairly typical land and ocean hydrosphere (70% ocean to 30% land area), Raytayne is dominated by a large super-continent, Dakhal-Rah, which comprises almost 85% of the world’s surface land mass. Dakhal-Rah is formed from a confluence of landmasses (not unlike Pangaea on Earth). The remaining 15% is split among three smaller continents, roughly 8%, 4% and 2.5% respectively (with the last half-percent being in small islands and atolls). It was to the middle one of those continents, the continent of Arrassa, the Aotrs first arrived. Arrassa sits on the equator on the opposite side hemisphere to Dakhal-Rah, in the middle of the super-ocean. Arrassa is covered with thick tropical rainforests and jungles. As a single tectonic plate, it has relatively few mountains to break up the storms.

    Thus the Aotrs initial impression of Raytayne was a relatively small and primitive land in an endless ocean. While a few tribes of primitive intelligents were found, even the most advanced civilisation – dwarves – was barely into the bronze age. The invasion of Raytayne was shelved as requiring too many resources for too little gain, as opposed to the plentiful targets in Akamo and Temnis. Over the next six centuries, the Aotrs only established a small, isolated outpost and only conducted very limited operations – mostly reconnaissance.

    The most notable of operations, conducted in the middle of the fourth century AD, was the astronomic work that led to the creation of the first star map. It was this map that would doom Fearmore, but in many ways, also Raytayne as well. Despite its location as the furthest of the worlds the Aotrs had initially found, it was close enough to merit conquering for territorial reasons.

    It was not until Aotrs naval technology had advanced that an expedition was made from Arrassa in the late 4th century, around 370 AD that the Aotrs discovered Dakhal-Rah and how idiosyncratic Raytayne truly was.

    Raytayne is remarkable in that it never developed humans at all. This is currently a unique development among HPE-L worlds. In many ways, for whatever reason, humans had been selected as a sort of baseline for the Harbingers (though now we know that across the other side of the galaxy, the elenthnar also had the same, if not more extensive, treatment). As the HPE-L paradigm seemed more to be an offshoot of the habitability of Earth (given the presence of multiple Earths), they were almost a defining feature. Even on HPE-L worlds were humans were not generally very prevalent, such as those in the Royal Elven Kingdoms, Orc Fearcrushy or Ziragthargûm Divinity, had humans at one stage in their history, even if they became extinct for one reason or another.

    But Raytayne never did. Instead, dwarves filled what would be the typical human role. Even more remarkably, Raytayne had never been involved in the Xakkath Demon Wars (or if it had, in such minor a fashion as to have left no trace). Ziragthar, the major dwarven god of Ziragthargûm Divinity who had otherwise spread his influence to the dwarven populations during the wars, never reached Raytayne. So Raytayne’s dwarf population developed on quite different lines to what is thought of the stereotypical dwarven society. (That cultural similarity stems in most cases from the influence of Ziragthar.)
    Dakhal-Rah had been dominated by a massive dwarven empire, Zutuk-Sar, for centuries. Zutuk-Sar arose from an early desert culture and was one of the first true civilisations of Raytayne. At its height, it controlled most of Dakhal-Rah. An early emphasis in literacy and bureaucracy had placed Zutuk-Sar ahead of its contemporaries and helped keep the empire relatively stable.

    The dwarves of Zutuk-Sar had developed several syncretic faiths, but no true discrete divinity. The most important of these has spiritual beliefs that included preparing the dead for the next life and so the dwarves built increasingly grand tombs and burial sites. Tens of thousands of these tombs, pyramids, crypts and reliquaries still dot Dakhal-Rah’s land even today. Extremely unusually, the Raytayne orc-kin (fundamentally the same stock as the Kalanothi orc-kin), far from being the traditional enemies of the dwarves, had long been vassals and it was through the labour of orc slaves that many of the burial places had been erected.

    But Zutak-Sar’s desert sun was setting. The empire was slowly crumbling. It was fundamentally too large to be controlled by the methods of the time. The increasing excesses of the nobility and a string of weak rulers left the far reaches of the empire fragmenting. The Aotrs could afford to wait. Over the next two of centuries, the Aotrs conducted secret operations to help destabilise the empire. Zutak-Sar proved to be the first true testing ground for the art of such covert work. The Aotrs were greatly aided in this endeavour by the fact that Zutak-Sar had little in the way of overt magic. With divine magic being little more than basic shamanism and hedge-witchery, Zutak-Sar’s strength was in alchemy and magical creations rather than spells. Cloaking illusions was not something they were prepared for, and so the Aotrs had a strong initial advantage.

    When the Aotrs finally invaded in 634AD, it was the death-knell for the empire. Despite being invaded almost six centuries after Akamo, and four centuries after Temnis, Raytayne was fully conquered in merely 270 years. The empire fell quickly apart, and with but a single major landmass, it was significantly easier for the Aotrs to steadily work through the remaining sovereign states. That left but two major naval invasions of the last pair of continents – Arrassa was under Aotrs control at this point, the tribes of the jungles were never able to effectively mount a defence. The last kingdom, Dulathere, in the temperate continent of Lallasa, made one final stand, a last alliance of elves and dwarves. The presence of the Lord Death Despoil and the Aotrs elite ensured that they were soundly defeated and Dulathere officially surrendered in 904.

    Today, Raytayne boasts the largest population of dwarves of any world in the empire. Indeed, many of the dwarven populations from other worlds have migrated to Raytayne over the centuries. The orc-kin population, which is unusually integrated (the last legacy of Zutak-Sar) is likewise the largest in Aotrs space, just eclipsing that of Kalanoth. Humans are still very much in the minority, but a few immigrants are scattered among the population. The third largest demographic is elvish.

    Raytayne’s system, Irrnos, houses the primary facilities for the Orc Stormsoldiers, whose main headquarters and training grounds are located on Dustwhisper, a terraformed martian-paradigm planet. Aside from that, Raytayne is a major industrial centre for the civilian sector and the major producer and exporter of white goods for the Aotrs state.

    Temnis

    Temnis holds the distinction of being the world that to, date, was the most difficult successful conquest for the Aotrs, compared to the proportion of Aotrs-wide resources expended. While the conquest of Kalanoth took longer by two centuries, one must factor in that the Aotrs that invaded Temnis is 235AD was much larger and four centuries more advanced than the tiny army that arrived on Kalanoth.

    Part of the problem was that Temnis is simply larger. While only very fractionally above 1G due to a lower mean density, but with a mean radius of slightly over 7000km (4375 miles), Temnis is 10% larger than a typical HPE planet, and thus has 20% more surface area. With a 55% to 45% ocean-to-land ratio, it has 1.8 times the land area of a typical HPE planet – almost two planet’s worth. (And even a populous HPE-L world with aquatic races still has a generally higher land population than ocean-dwelling species.) This factor was somewhat compensated by Temnis being in an ice-age, with a continent on each pole. However, Temnis’s size, and the fact that only the southern hemisphere has any land close to the poles, means that the net effect is less a polar world and more a dry one, with so much of the hydrosphere locked in the poles.

    Temnis’ geography is otherwise typical for an HPE-L world, complete with a typical spread of intelligent and magical creatures, aside from the fact that there is simply more of it, spread over a wider area. The lower hydrosphere does mean that the centres of the largest trio of continents tend more towards vast expanses of deserts, which were lightly populated and likewise the polar continents had sparse civilisations. Still, in the temperate and tropical regions, there was simply a lot more nations to deal with, and a lot of places were just further away from each other. This made for long supply lines, and teleportation (or Gate transit) could only go so far – especially as it was needed in more critical places, such as Akamo.
    That was only half of the story. The other half was that Temnis boasted a large pantheon of very active divinities. While many of these were only demigods or minor deities, there were thousands. Divine magic was very commonplace, to the point that it was not treated as magic typically is at all, but something completely distinct. Nondivine magic was not technically rare, but in many of the nations, was looked down upon. In particular, world’s largest nation, the human-majority but multi-racial Holy Empire of the Two Hundred Gods (just the “Holy Empire” in common parlance) was a massive theocracy of significant power that spanned large parts of two continents.

    The sheer prevalence of divine magic and a markedly above-average level of divine intervention made Temnis a particularly hard battle for the Aotrs, as there ready counters to many of the advantages of Undeath to hand. But the enormous number of deities did mean that, despite the larger population from which to inspire followers, there was simply less divine energy to go around between all of them. Less than a hundred of the full deities (a significant number the gods of the Holy Empire’s sub-pantheon) had passed the point where they could exist independently of the faith of their worshippers, and, like all deities below overdiety status, drew power from the number of worshippers, which was less centralised. So the Aotrs were to learn the hard way, the difficult task of god-slaying.

    The conquest of Temnis provided the Aotrs with the means and approaches to deal with deities, an issue pressing on conquered planets. The gods of G’Nayel were either killed or so reduced in power they were forever trapped in their divine realms and unable to reach the material plane. Raytayne’s gods were less discrete figures and more personifications of mythic forces, and had only indirect influence on the world which ebbed as faith went away. But many of the deities of Kalanoth and Akamo were tied to cosmologies with more than one world, and thus, only functionally pushed off the planet, not destroyed, and others were local to the worlds and still active – though only in an underground way. Many of the current anti-divine methods and weapons in use today – such as the Liche’s Wrath’s and Howling Void’s “god-slayer” formation have their foundations in the battles for Temnis.

    Despite the setbacks, the Aotrs fought hard, and slowly expanded across Temnis. The Aotrs greatest success, however, was to sow the seeds for a Scouring-brought disaster to the Temnis campaign. A daring operation by Lord Death Despoil and the High Command had enabled the Aotrs to trap five of the most prominent gods of the Holy Empire (including the pantheon’s tacit leaders) in an extradimensional prison via a series of the god’s own artefacts, cutting them off from their followers. These when removed off-world (first to Fearmore, but eventually into the care of the KPS Division, where they remains until this day at the Nestrotar facility). This had removed, at a stroke, thousands of enemy divine casters and struck a blow to the morale of the Holy Empire (and world-wide) that Temnis never quite fully recovered from.

    But a new Priest-Emperor of the Two Hundred Gods came to power, Tzenis Braanunder, with the waxing power of his god, Vektran into the dominant god of the Holy Empire’s sub-pantheon. Vektran, a god of fire, now assumed the mantles of the departed deities. He was known for his radical dogma and zeal and without the counterbalance that the captured gods and goddesses had provided, he now was able to style himself as First of the Two Hundred.
    The Priest-Emperor was himself a sharp politician and zealot. He turned the broken and desperate followers of the abducted or slain divinities and offered them salvation. Vektran’s popularity spread like wildfire in the fearful people, and further cemented his power.

    When the Scouring happened, Braanunder wasted no time. With a mix of diplomacy, political manipulation and outright coercion, he welded together a crusade from the Holy Empire and many of the smaller nations and peoples; something no previous leader had been able to manage in the past five hundred years. Like an avalanche, they fell on the Aotrs forces. It became obvious within the first few months that the situation on Temnis was untenable to be resolved with force of arms against such an overwhelming horde, and Aotrs strategy switched to delaying tactics and evacuation. The five-year campaign saw the Aotrs driven back almost to their first foot-hold. It was here that Temnis’ sheer size was to at last aid the Aotrs. The initial Aotrs planetary infiltration point had come in a vast area of scrubland on the fringes of the world’s largest desert. As the Aotrs fell back, they destroyed the roads they had built for their own supplies (the majority of the living forces had either been evacuated or expended to slow the crusade down by this point). Thus for the crusade to reach them required a huge amount of supplies and a long supply train – and in the end, much as it frustrated Braanunder, he simply could not afford to feed his army. With the Aotrs retreating, his allies were pulling away and heading home, and the crusade, rather than ending in the Priest-Emperor’s desired final battle, simply petered out.

    The conquest of Temnis was placed on hold. It was clear that as long as the current Priest-Emperor lived, that the Holy Empire was too powerful. But the Aotrs could wait. The Priest-Emperor was not a kind man and he had a foul temper. While he had charisma, and to the bulk of the citizens appeared as a stern but righteous leader, his zealotry laid the foundations for the end of the Holy Empire. During the retreat, at his order, on several occasions, settlements – from villages to at least four cities – that were deemed to have been too corrupted or collaborators had been razed.

    Braanunder was human, and while it was expected his lifespan would be longer than usual, he would not live forever (since that would go against the domain of Vektran). Lord Death Despoil correctly predicted that, as he grew older and more arrogant, his less savoury personality would come more to the fore. The next five decades saw the Holy Empire of the Two Hundred Gods start to shift more away from “two hundred” and more towards “one,” as Vektran slowly made himself more prominent, to the point he was functionally king of the Holy Empire’s gods and absorbed several more domains and divine portfolios through the discreditation of other deities’ priesthoods.

    The Holy Empire thrived economically in the aftermath of the crusade, having absorbed the former Aotrs territories. Within one generation, Braanunder’s son – the new Priest-Emperor by heritage, rather than election in all but name – began a series of holy wars on the Holy Empire’s erstwhile allies, marked by significantly more intolerance to heretics. Braaunder’s grandson continued this policy, and was even more hard-line, clamping down on magic and non-humans.

    By the middle of Braanunder’s grandson’s reign, a little over two-hundred years had passed. For the past two decades, the Aotrs had been slowly rebuilding their roads in the desert, and quietly re-capturing peripheral territories. The Priest-Emperor, with a larger Holy Empire than ever, was too busy burning infidels on the opposite side of the empire to be concerned about what he considered a minor threat.
    But it was not the same Aotrs that Braanuder has repelled. In that two hundred years, Kalanoth, Akamo and Raytayne had all been conquered, and Fearmore fully established.

    In 962AD, sixty years after Raytayne’s conquest had been wrapped up, the largest Aotrs invasion force that had been seen thus far in its history, backed by no less than three full planet’s worth of materiel, the Aotrs launched a crusade of their own.

    It was still a hard-fought war at first, and borders moved back-and-forth several times. But the Priest-Emperor let his zealotry lead his thinking. As he cracked down on all the perceived domestic heretics, sought out by his inquisition, he began to order the razing of cities that did not fight hard enough or surrendered but were re-taken. It became increasingly clear to the citizens of the Holy Empire that the empire they were in was more corrupt than the one that was invading. The final death-blow to imperial power came when the Aotrs broke the largest of the Priest-Emperor’s armies and he demanded a scorched earth policy from the frontier all the way back to the capital – where he now remained. Massive riots and rebellions split the empire within weeks. The Priest-Emperor was deposed and killed, and mirroring his fate, Vektran was sealed away himself by a coalition of gods, both of his own and foreign sub-pantheons, at great cost.

    But it was too little and too late. Though the new ruler of the former Holy Empire was, in many ways, the archetypical callow-youth-turned-hero, the Priest-Emperors had done too much damage. Within two decades, the former Holy Empire had surrendered. From then, it was a steady march across the globe over the next century. By 1097, the Aotrs completed the subjugation of Temnis.

    Some of the lesser demigods entered into bargains to preserve themselves – and the Lichemaster saw the value in having some divine magics. But Temnis provided a most pressing issue: how to deal with all the latent divine energy the world had that had produced that had led to such a diverse number of gods. An educated population – even as primitive as an iron-age one – generally precludes the agglutination of latent divine energies into faith-formed entities (faith-formed small gods or proto-fey etc.) by the power of undirected belief in pre-history. But Temnis had so much latent divine energy that measures had to be developed to syphon it away (which also kept the demigods in check and from ascending and getting problematically powerful). A globe-wide network of mana absorbers was created, to draw on the latent divine energy by brute force and transform it into a more useful form of raw mana (a liquid or solid form of magic that is a universal reagent). The breakthrough – attributed to Lord Yeller, of all liches – was the harness belief-power against itself. A propaganda campaign was undertaken that the Aotrs were establishing the network to prevent the formation of more gods, with the intent of convincing people to believe it. Which in and of itself, made the system largely self-containing.

    Today, Temnis is dotted with mana towers, steles, mana-crystal formations and every city has a small network of mana absorbers. This ready, continuous supply has made Temnis the leading supplier of raw mana for magical processing, and thus has naturally become the principal centre for magical item production or for enchanting equipment, both on the planet itself and throughout the Ferat system.

    Vastbatros

    Vastbatros was founded in 1732 and was the first Aotrs world to be settled via colonisation as opposed to conquest. The Frost system was only a short distance from Kalanoth and the sixth planet had an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. The planet was distant enough from the star that the world was cold, with only a temperate equatorial band free of the permafrost. Lower-life had evolved, but there were few large or dangerous creatures and the planet had a great deal of mineral resources, making it an ideal candidate for the first real-space expansion.

    Among the eight moons of the mid-sized gas-giant Frost III was one with a suitable for terraforming. Its position closer to the Frost’s sun made in an ideal place to provide food and other renewable resources for consumption at Vastbatros. Hasbaal, as it was named on founding, was colonised shortly afterwards in 1739.

    Compared to the history of many of the other Aotrs’ most important worlds, Vastbatros has had a quiet history. Due to the Aotrs long history and organisation, even its first few decades of colonisation went considerably smoother than the first instances of many powers.
    Vastbatros’s single greatest claim to fame is that it was the location the Aotrs made first contact with the Cybertanks, in 1810. The Cybertank force was a small reconnaissance group but Vastbatros’ defence forces were light; at least half of the ships were 1st Generation. The Cybertank force was destroyed, but at significant cost to the Aotrs starfleet and moderate damage to Hasbaal’s surface. This was the incident that was the impetus that caused the rush to develop the ill-fated 3rd Generation vessels fifteen years later.

    Vastbatros remains an important mineral and industrial centre, and now houses the third-largest shipyards in Aotrs space.

    Semilkar
    The discovery of Semilkar by the first FTL probes in 1755 posed the Aotrs their first major problem as an FTL-capable power. The Tresil system (then only known by its former astronomical designation), was situated in the sector the Aotrs had designated Bloody Spear. Bloody Spear sector lies right on the direct lines of travel between the Verak sector (where Temnis is located) and the Malevaor and Hate sectors. Tresil was towards the boundary of the sector and so had not been probed initially along that line.

    On the system’s third world, the probe detected what it now designated as an HPE planet, with a civilisation level only a few decades from developing FTL capability. This placed a potentially hostile power right next to the Aotrs’ main internal arteries. It was unilaterally decided that this problem needed to be nipped in the bud.

    Semilkar is directly credited with being the stimulus for the 2nd Generation of Aotrs starships. The 1st Generation had been primitive and mainly defensive in nature. The 2nd Generation would shift the focus towards offense, being the first to have (by the standards of the day) huge troop ships to carry a planetary invasion force to conquer a high-tech world, and quickly. This could not be a war that would drag on for centuries as in the previous conquests – the longer a war went on the more chances that the Semilkarians would develop ships of their own and perhaps find allies.
    Semilkar was a water-world, with only 20% of the surface land. The population consisted of humans native to the planet, but no other intelligent species. The background magic was in the lower medium band, meaning some supernatural phenomena were known, but were very rare.

    There were at the time three major nations in the most densely populated archipelago. The three nations had a long history of conflict (based around ethnic lines). A series of seventeen smaller nation states were scattered around the globe, from the fringes of the major archipelagos to smaller clusters in the seas. A forth nation occupied the planet’s largest land mass, but was otherwise isolated from the other archipelagos and almost alone in its hemisphere. This nation, Naua, possessed an ethnicity of humans unique to Semilkar. In the world’s previous history, Naua had been an imperial power in the pre-industrial ages, but had fallen behind in the later centuries.

    Semilkar had already established its first in-system colonies. While it had no moon, the second planet, Nulione (a “super-Earth”) occupied a close orbit and was rich in mineral resources and several colonies had already been founded in place of lunar colonies. The system’s two asteroid belts were already being mined.

    At the time, the three major nations were involved in a cold war and space-land-grab-race against each other. Unbeknownst to them, but ascertained by Aotrs scouting, Naua had been secretly building up its infrastructure and forces, ready to overwhelm the other nations, had the Aotrs not interfered.
    The Aotrs scouting did not go entirely unnoticed. By the time the 2nd Generation’s first vessels rolled out of the shipyards and straight into the invasion, two of the three nations had come to a tentative truce.

    The invasion lasted from 1767 to 1786. It was a hard-fought war. The Semilkarians had access to laser weapons and primitive anti-grav technology. While their power systems were principally still atomic, they were developed to the point of being common and bleeding edge fusion systems were being developed. Fleets of hover and grav vehicles clashed with wet-navy forces, while fighters fought in the air and the stars.

    The Aotrs has the advantage of a few decades of technological advancement. The Semilkarians, united (eventually) against the common foe, proved to be adept at closing the gap. But in the end, the Aotrs was simply larger. Semilkar had only a relatively small population, and was at the time facing of a power with access to the populations of five full worlds (and Fearmore) and several colonies. While the Aotrs were limited in the amount of forces they could bring to bear at once – and the Semilkarian’s system forces managed to inflict some costly losses on more than one occasion – the outcome was never really in doubt. Semilkar’s forces were slowly attired away over the seventeen-year conflict.

    The final turning point was the Battle of Uan, the capital city of Naua. Despite a long, pitched battle where they showed every resource, the allied Semilkarians were defeated. With significant losses to the remaining Semilkar forces and the largest continent under their control, the Aotrs were able to roll up the three remaining nations one by one over the next six months. The final nation, Dis’hwee, surrendered in mid-1786.

    Semilkar’s population proved robust and a valuable asset to the Aotrs. In particular, the very dominant Nauan ethnicity, with its unique blue-grey tinged skin and distinctive facial features, remains very recognisable in Aotrs human populations, even those with mixed elven blood. The skill and spirit of the Semilkar’s resistance had impressed Lord Death Despoil and many of the former resistance fighters were offered positions in the Aotrs (some posthumously). Lingering resentment from the conquest was surprisingly short-lived. As neither side had resorted to weapons of mass destruction (there simply was not enough usable surface on Semilkar to risk damaging), the infrastructure damage as quickly repaired. An influx of luxuries was brought in from off-world and the population – already who had been enjoying quite high standards of living – enjoyed the sudden boost in technological advancements that the Aotrs brought. In addition, the Aotrs solved one of Semilkar’s most pressing issues – room to expand. With comparatively little surface area on the planet, populations had had to be tightly controlled for centuries. Now that new vistas were open, families could afford to become larger and the Semilkarians proved to be eager and hardy colony frontiers-folk. While there remained inevitable resistance for a time, it had functionally died out with a couple of generations.

    Today, Semilkar is much more heavily populated. Floating and aquatic cities and orbital habitats provide a great deal more living space, affording the population more room to expand even on their own planet. Tresil’s large solar system sports numerous colonies and the forth planet, Umiq, and the gas giant Phenaynar’s fourteeth moon, Calouh, have been terraformed and are fully inhabited. The Tresil system is a waypoint on a major trade route for the core systems and to the outer extents of the Aotrs territory.

    Torrid

    Only recently conquered in 2307, Torrid is the most recent fully inhabited world to fall to the Aotrs. Torrid is a hot HPE world whose major continents are cloaked in thick jungle belts. Rating as a very high-magic world, Torrid would be classified as an HPE-L planet, but the flora and fauna, while being convergently similar to the typical HPE-L paradigm, is entirely unique. Its most widespread inhabitants are a near-human species who have been described (by Lord Yeller) as being akin to “what happens if you put a mandrill, a Neanderthal, an elf and a deer in a blender and shake them up” (sic). The vibrant jungles also house a large population of dryad-like near-fey whose persistence and significant magical capabilities proved challenging even for the 23rd and early 24th century Aotrs army.

    Torrid’s technological advancement was barely into the very early industrial age at its most advanced, but the thaumaturgical advancement was leaps and bounds ahead with many unique capabilities and even a form or supernatural manipulation that was neither magic, nor psionics, known as locally as Qa’daix (“filament weaving.”) This wealth of capability and knowledge was sufficient for the Aotrs to mount a full-scale planetary invasion in 2235 for the first time in a hundred and fifty years.

    At the present time, Torrid is still functionally a large colony, albeit on an inhabited world, and the population is still being integrated into the Aotrs. Civil unrest remains a sporadic issue at local levels, exacerbated by the jungles making transport other than by flight, Gate or magical means difficult. However, these issues are similar to those on Tusharnos, but less in magnitude and the Aotrs has access to much more technology in the current time. It is projected that this state of affairs is likely to last only another decade or two before the Torrid’s infrastructure is brought up to standard.

    Myst

    Myst (both the system and planet) is located in the Tros sector, a mostly uninhabited region on the fringes of human space. Despite Myst itself being a habitable world, which once supported sentient races, it had never been claimed by either of the two local human powers. The Tros sector comprises an area that encompasses their mutual border. Myst itself has only been officially known on the charts for sixty years, and the distance and contested ownership have precluded any major attempt to colonise or exploit beyond a few scientific surveys.

    That changed in 2325, when the Aotrs quietly slipped in and annexed the system. The Myst system has been heavily fortified and guarded in the subsequent years and now houses a sizable naval facility and ground base, the site of an Aotrs secret project – the reason for the planet’s annexation.
    Neither human power has ever made more than a cursory attempt to get it back. After both powers detected the initial incursion, they both sent fleets to investigate and wound up fighting each other, before being driven off by the Aotrs.

    Myst was an HPE world (borderline HPE-L). The fate of all Myst’s intelligent species is currently unknown. There remain ruins on the planet’s surface, but even the date of the disappearance has not been confirmed, estimated at being between nine and fifteen hundred years ago. The few exploratory work by Myst Base personnel have been so far unable to ascertain a closer date (methods such as carbon dating are an inexact science without significant effort to map a given planet’s historical carbon cycle). While similarities to other worlds where such an extinction has happened (such as Muisis or Skraakasstor) have been noted, there is no connection yet found between such worlds.

    The Aotrs Myst Exploratory Project began at Myst Base in 2341. While the full details remain classified, it is rumoured that Myst Base houses a hitherto unknown type of magical, pre-FTL interplanetary transportation system. It is presumed such a system would function in a manner like a Xakkath Pathway. The AMET‘s operations have directly lead to the establishment of a top-secret base (code-named Damning Echo) in a far-off quadrant of the galaxy, well outside Aotrs territory. That significant resources have been dispatched (including 2nd Fleet) to this facility suggests it is of even more strategic importance the Myst itself.

    Ships of the Aotrs Navy, Part Six

    (Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)

    Crypt Bearer Transport Cruiser

    Length: 840.0m
    Width: 252.0m
    Height: 253.0m

    Transporting troops across the stars has always been the Aotrs fleet’s primary task since the 1st Generation of starships. In the 10th Generation, the Crypt Bearer takes on the majority of this work. The Crypt Bearer can house a division of ground forces – in comfort, unlike many such troop ships – for the long periods of off-combat operations. The smaller starboard hangar bay of the Crypt Bearer’s two hangars houses a squadron of fighters, to provide top-cover. The port hangar bay can carry a variety of assault ships; Fallen Souls, Dirges and Murders. Of one the more common configurations is to forgo typical shuttles to allow the Crypt Bearer to house four Murders. Crypt Bearers frequently carry Apparitions as the top-cover fighters, simply so that the top-cover is not left behind by the Murders. This allows the Crypt Bearer to transport two-thirds of its troops in one go. In addition, the numerous multiple additional Gate rooms enable the Gate transit from ship to surface or ship to ship half of its quartered troops, or a quarter plus its own assault teams. Rarely is this full capability called for, however; but it can be a very unpleasant shock to an enemy vessel getting too close to a Crypt Bearer. Aotrs Gate technology is capable of penetrating all but advanced shielding, and several companies of boarding troops appearing simultaneously is enough to concern any vessel.

    This enormous transport capacity means the Crypt Bearer does not have to linger long in a deployment zone, which reduces its exposure to enemy attack. The Crypt Bearer is capable of a fair turn of speed for an oversized transport, but can only out-run larger and more cumbersome capital ships. Its defences are average for a ship of its size – but that means it has little more than half the armour and shields of the slightly larger and very well-protected Midnight. While it has numerous point-defence coldbeams, these are only best to stave off missile attacks or discourage fighters, but they are no substitute for an escort. The Crypt Bearer’s main protection, then, is simply not being in a position to be attacked from very long.

    Murder Fightercruiser

    Length: 79.20m
    Width: 41.40m
    Height: 28.61m

    The Murder’s job is to transport troops from space to surface or ship and it does so with expedience. The fightercruiser is dominated by its massive engines. Six huge rear drives propel the Murder at extremely high velocity. At the front, four directional plasma drive engines provide an agility that only the Apparition can match. The Murder is the fastest and most manoeuvrable vessel in the 10th generational arsenal – unladen, it can even edge out the Apparition. This is even more surprising considering the vessel’s not inconsiderable size – it is the largest fighter cruiser in Aotrs service – and even more so that it can safely do so while transporting troops.

    The Murder is capable of carrying approximately four companies of infantry in the main hold and in smaller troop holds scattered through the rest of the ship. This is the absolute maximum capacity, and for infantry only. More typically, two companies of vehicles plus associated infantry are carried. Advanced gravitational and inertial compensators ensure that the soldiers have a smooth ride, no matter what manoeuvres the Murder is making. It is a point of pride for Murder crews that they can actively dogfight while their charges do not spill a drop from whatever beverage they choose to drink. The Murder is unusual in that the gravity and inertial compensation is not global to the ship. The bridge has a graduated field, weakest at the front, where the pilot sits, allowing them to “feel” the much-reduced effects to have a better spacial awareness of how their vessel is positioned.

    The Murder sports the shielding protection equivalent to many light capital ships, though it has little in the way of hull armour, relying on shields and the extreme agility to avoid damage. It is armed with a pair of side-mounted twin coldbeam turrets, which grant almost full coverage over the ship. A third dorsal, heavier turret provides a little more firepower, though still at the fighter-scale range. All three turrets can be retracted closer to the hull in for atmospheric operations when flying at full speed – though this is more to reduce the load on the weapon barrels than to provide less resistance. It does slightly reduce the vessel’s shield volume, however, which assists in this regard.

    The Murder’s nose hoses a small light energy beam turret. The turret is capable of engaging targets in almost any approach, except in its own superstructure shadow. The weapon can be used for strafing on surface targets and is well suited to literally carving the Murder a hole or landing spot to disgorge its troops.

    The Murder’s two-level transport hold is capable of transporting any vehicle in the Aotrs’ ground forces, as demonstrated in this image. (Not illustrative of a true load-out.) In practise, the hold is configured for the load. Shorter vehicles, as shown with the Revenant MBTs at the front of the lower bay would are held in two rows via a locking clamp system in the hold’s walls. The Mk 2 Enragers at the front of the upper level would also usually be transported in this manner, in a crouched position and only transported standing if they are expected to engage in combat immediately upon disembarkation.

    Even a Dirge can be fitted within the hold, though it far more typical for a Dirge (and indeed a Fallen Soul) to make its way under its own power.

    Rend Long Range Fighter

    Length: 14.46m
    Width: 14.18m
    Height: 3.39m

    The Rend Long Range Fighter straddles the gap between the 9th and 10th Generation. A very late 9th Generation fighter, the Rend is the forerunner of the Foul Wing and Crater. The Rend is geared around a long-distance strike. It is designed to carry missiles, rather than a mix of missiles and torpedoes. It has three hardpoints under each wing, which can be outfitted with a double-hardpoint. The Rend’s most common configuration, however (and the one from which it takes it designation) is for the deployment of long-range missiles, most notably the massive Penetrator interdictor missile. A standard load for a Rend is to carry six of these missiles.

    The Rend is otherwise a poor dogfighter – while its manoeuvrability is not subpar, it only carries a pair of coldbeam cannons either side of the fuselage as secondary weapons. After discharging its missiles, the Rend is expected to with draw to reload.
    The vast majority of Rends are stationed as system defence forces, rather than with mobile fleets, where their reliance on a relatively few expendable munitions is less of an issue. While larger fleets may carry a few squadrons, they are far outnumbered by the other fighters.

    Dirge War Droid Transport

    Length: 14.04m
    Width: 8.27m
    Height: 6.44m

    The Dirge fills the role of heavy APC and dropship. While not as big as a typical dropship, they are still quite sizable. Lacking a Gate drive of their own, Dirges are generally only used for orbital or Gate insertions from larger vessels (or via spellcasters). Little more than a box with external engines and turrets, Dirges can carry up to 32 troops. The Dirge’s entire front hinges down into a ramp. The presence of the pyramid structure on the front (the shield generator and primary sensor array housing) means that the Dirge must hover off the ground to disgorge its troops, or place down its telescopic landing struts and sit as if on stilts. This compromise was made as it maximised the Dirge’s internal capacity for its volume – and because it’s most typical cargo is considered expendable and does not use cover to any degree anyway.

    Dirges are by far most often used to transport War Droid platoons. They are large enough to carry Enragers (both the Mk 1 and the newer Mk 2s), and often a platoon of three supplements a typical War Droid and Hunter Drone deployment. The Dirge is most often, then, expected to fly in and disgorge the War Droids under fire, without attempting to land. To facilitate this, the Dirge’s internal cargo bay walls are armoured almost as much as the external hull.

    The crew compartment is at the rear, behind this armoured wall, and the Dirge is flown entirely via instrumentation. However, a significant portion of Dirges, especially those used for War Droid transport, are fully automated robotic vehicles themselves.

    When used by other troops, the Dirges often carry light vehicles such as the Scitalis Recon Cycle and its predecessors as well as foot infantry.
    Dirges are heavily shielded, but otherwise only have poor mobility. They are only lightly armed, with two support coldbeam sponson turrets and a single ventral Class 5 turret. This low-cost approach makes the typical Dirge as expendable a resource as the War Droids in carries.

    Fallen Soul Multirole AFV

    Length 7.97m
    Width 4.00m
    Height 4.24m

    The Fallen Soul is the Aotrs’ most recent APC, replacing the aging Vampire Lord. The Fallen Soul is an excellent multirole vehicle. It is designed to function as an IFV in ground operations and as a boarding pod in space. Like the Dirge, it lacks a Gate drive, but is quite capable of spaceflight. It has very good flying characteristics for its type, as good as some bombers.

    The Fallen Soul carries a single squad of eight Aotrs infantry (or four Power Armour troops). Functioning both as a miniature dropship and VTOL, the Fallen Soul’s side doors allow troops to deploy via lines (or by directly jumping out, in the case of Drop Infantry).

    The Fallen Soul is lightly armed with two twin coldbeam turrets, one dorsal and one ventral. Due to the placement and design of the vehicle, the turrets have effectively no dead zone for the field of fire – certainly none as far as other vehicles are concerned. It has shield generators, though these are limited in size.

    From the front, the Fallen Soul is virtually impossible to destroy. The prow is armoured exceptionally well; indeed it must be to punch through starship hull armour in its role of Boarding Pod. The turrets are programmed so that when the vehicle detects an imminent impact, they are automatically set to face the rear, presenting their armoured rear as part of the ram’s surface.

    The Fallen Soul’s biggest disadvantage is that in order to preserve armour integrity, there is no viewing port. This can lead to a dangerous situation is the sensors are knocked offline, since the only way to pilot the vehicle is for the gunner to open one of the side hatches and look out.
    Plans have been considered to make a pure combat variant like the Vampire Horde Doom, but have not yet left the drawing board.

     

     

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    Crypt Bearer Transport Cruiser

    Direct price: £5.20
    The Shop3D price: £6.49 (Resin)/£14.77 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $14.29 (£10.50) Link

    Murder Fightercruiser

    Direct price: £2.30 for 12
    The Shop3D price: £1.10 (Resin)/£1.83 (Nylon) for 12 Link
    Shapeways price: $5.60 (£4.13) for 12 Link

    Rend Long Range Fighter
    1/300th scale

    Direct price: £2.90
    The Shop3D price: £3.03 (Resin)/£6.51 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $6.55 (£4.81) Link

    Fleet scale

    Direct price: £2.50 for 12
    The Shop3D price: £1.02 (Resin)/£1.66 (Nylon) for 12 Link
    Shapeways price: $5.60 (£4.13) for 12 Link

    Dirge War Droid Transport
    144th scale

    Direct price: £2.80
    The Shop3D price: £19.08 (Resin)/£45.00 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $56.50 (£41.52) Link

    1/300th scale

    Direct price: £2.90
    The Shop3D price: £4.10 (Resin)/£9.05 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $9.26 (£6.80) Link

    Fleet scale

    Direct price: £2.50 for 12
    The Shop3D price: £1.00 (Resin)/£1.60 (Nylon) for 12 Link
    Shapeways price: $5.60 (£4.13) for 12 Link

    Fallen Soul Multirole AFV
    144th scale

    Direct price: £2.80
    The Shop3D price: £3.92 (Resin)/£8.61 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $11.87 (£8.72) Link

    1/300th scale

    Direct price: £2.90
    The Shop3D price: £2.43 (Resin)/£5.04 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $5.60 (£4.13) for 2 Link

    Fleet scale

    Direct price: £2.50 for 12
    The Shop3D price: £0.80 (Resin)/£1.10 (Nylon) for 12 Link
    Shapeways price: $5.60 (£4.13) for 12 Link

    Accelerate and Attack! Aeons of War

    Starship rules

    Available at Wargames Vault along with the free web enhancement pack.

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    Photos of Replicator 2 versions.

    In the wait, I have basically completed the work for next month’s releases (both scifi and moderns) and a good two-thirds of March’s scifi release (and the moderns). As mentioned, Feburary and March will complete the Aotrs releases and bring it all up to speed with the re-release of the ground force. After that, we’ll be taking a break from scifi releases for a little while, as I concentrate on getting the moderns all out on Shop3D (and start the laborious process of printing out and updating ALL of the other scifi!)

    Several of the fighters are among the resin prints coming up, so hopefully by next release, I can show you some better photos!

    By-the-by, there does exist a 1/300th version of the Murder but it is sufficiently massive that it is not going on the webstores or in the catalogue, simply because of cost and size. (It would have been impossible to print on the Replicator, and I had to do some minor repairs even on the Prusa! Needless to say.)

    #153451
    Aotrs Commander
    Participant

    Link to old thread

    Link to PDF downloads (in the best format – these have actually been available from Facebook since the start, only thought now to include them):

    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Five
    Part Six

    Links to each part as a seperate article at Wargames Directory
    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Five
    Part Six
    Part Six

    Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Seven

     

     

    (Note: Dates listed are in accordance with the current year 2347. To translate to Earth-E Julian (or Gregorian) calendar, simply subtract 326 years.)

    Infantry of the Aotrs

    (Note: The provided pictures of the infantry are constrained by the source material’s print limitations of small scale (as they are taken from 1:144th scale renders). They also contain some elements of artisitic license – e.g. in practise, all Aotrs troopers would be wearing helmets – and thus should be treated as illustrative, rather than strictly accurate.)

    Standard Equipment

    Gear

    Aotrs infantry and vehicle and ship crews are all given a package of standard-issue equipment. This consists of a set of Light Body Armour, a standard-issue sidearm coldbeam pistol and magic short sword and a scanner. These items are kept and maintained by the lich themselves, rather than in the armoury. These are personalised (i.e. logged to) to the individual and are, essentially “theirs.” (Though replacements can be easily obtained from supplies if necessitated.)

    Based on duty, mission and rank, when deployed on a mission, Aotrs personel are allocated an additional set of equipment which supplements this basic package. These additional sets of gear are divided into packages, and cover a wide range of jobs. The most common, “duty bundles” are sets of equipment that a lich would use in their day-to-day operations . These are signed out to the lich, but are kept by the personnel themselves with their personal gear. For Line Infantry, for example, this includes their Medium Body Armour, rifle and weapon cells and grenades (though these might be kept in the trooper’s personal weapons locker). For shipboard crew, it would might simply be a datapad, or a higher-grade scanner and a tool-kit for an engineer, which would normally kept in their quarters. Higher ranking officiers are permitted a larger allotment of packages as duty bundles.

    Mission packages are used by forces about to undertake ground operations – shipboard crews rarely are in a situation where they would require them. Mission packages are typically assigned by a unit’s commander taking into account the actual operation to be undertaken, and these are signed out when needed and signed in at the end of the mission. These would include the ubiquitous ground assault and scout packages, which include the combat armour webbing, assault packs and such items as the standard entrenching tools and the crypt personal shelter. (As even liches do not appreciate being wet and muddy while resting or meditating for regain their mana reserves!)

    In addition to their standard-issue equipment, individual soldiers are permitted an allotment of gear (including personal gear) of their own selection, with higher ranking officers given more leeway. Aside from additional equipment from regular supplies, this can often include an additional melee weapon of personal preference, magical items, a nonstandard weapon and the like. (While these regulations can technically be overuled by a soldier’s commander, Aotrs commanders almost never have to do so, as Aotrs soldiers are well-trained enough not to need micromanagement, not their commanders the desire.)

    Armour

    Light Body Armour and Medium Body Armour is fundementally universal across all branches of all of the Aotrs armed forces, be it the Aotrs proper or the second-line branches such as the Dark Elf Troopers or Orc Stormsoldiers. While Medium Body Armour of the Aotrs proper is slightly higher grade than some of the second-line forces, the differences are otherwise largely cosmetic between branches.

    Medium Body Armour is made of synthetic plasteel plates, and is fully enclosed – though in truth, for liches, much of that is not generally necessary, as they do not need to be sealed in most atmospheres. However, the presence of such equipment means that the Undead can go into hostile environments (such as acidic atmospheres, underwater or vacuum) when needed. The armour consists of a breastplate and backplate with fully-enclosed arm and leg greaves, helmet, gauntlets and boots. Like all Aotrs armour, it does not block the flow of magic as conventional armour does to some forms of magic, instead allowing the wearer to continue to cast spells unimpeded. The armour has mag-clamps to allow equipment to be locked on to the belt or over-the-shoulder, though most troopers use holsters for added reliability.

    Medium Body Armour (and the heavier armour forms above it) has a kinetic-resistant outer skin only about 2mm thick. This is optimised so that a hit from a high-velocity projectile such as a bullet will slightly deform the skin, increasing the deflection of the armour. The direction of the deformity is channelled by the underlying matrix so that the path of least resistance is the direction which is away from the core. Simultaneously, the deformed outerskin hardens in proportion to the impact energy. After impact, the outer skin springs back into place. This renders the armour extremely resistant to conventional projectile weapons. With liches being naturally difficult to injure with firearms to start with, this renders a lich Aotrs soldier functionally immune to firearms that are not carrying explosive (e.g. HEAP or flechette) or incendiary ammunition. While most modern armies that use firearms often have ready access to HEAP rounds as standard, this is not always true and provides the Aotrs with a significant advantage when they do not, or against more primitive armed forces.

    The helmet has an advanced targeting HUD system and basic sensors, which include all functions of image intensification, thermal imaging (passive and active infra-red), motion tracking and sound orientation and an anti-glare, allowing the user to see normally in all lighting conditions, including pitch darkness. It has an integral commlink and holocamera (for, among other things, a feed to a commanding officer). It has a basic computer, primarily to facilite the operation of these devices, and to allow for relatively simple jobs, such as voice-to-text for note-taking or reports.
    Like almost all modern combat armour, Medium Body Armour has an activatable visual camoflage scatter pattern on the surface. But in the modern age of sensors and scanners – even those such as in the helmet itself – visual camoflage is largely an irrelevance except against primitive forces and this is not frequently used, however.

    The commlink allows the helmet remote access to exterior communications and computer networks (e.g. Aotrs shipboard or ground vehicle computers, scanner data, battle management systems etc. or the galactic net). There is an up-link port which can be used to physically link to Aotrs scanners or computer ports for additional security for particular large or sensitive data transfers (as a phyiscal link cannot be jammed or impeded remotely). The commlink has an unboosted range of 20 AU. However, any higher-grade communications system within that range (e.g. a starship-grade communication system in orbit) can act as a relay to extend this range to the ranges of the relay system, allowing intersystem communications in real-time. (By comparison, the Aotrs have a 130g dedicated handheld commlink unit, which has an unboosted range of 8 ly, though this is not carried as standard-issue equipment.)

    The standard issue Light Body Armour is essentially a cut-down version of the Medium Body Armour. It is essentially a much lighter version breastplate of the Medium suit, attached to a jumpsuit that can be environmentally sealed (if the need arises). It is specifically designed to be non-encumbering, requiring no training to use. It is light enough to be worn under robes (though typically only officiers or specialist are permitted that luxury), and the enviromental systems – whether sealed or not – also prevent a living being from being uncomfortably hot or cold as well.

    Light Body Armour is functionally the Aotrs field uniform, worn while all personell on duty. The assigned “set” of Light Body Armour is not just one outfit, but two breastplates and four accompaning jumpsuits to which the breastplates are variously attached to. Living and non-skeletal Undead are also assigned at least two additional jumpsuits for additional redundacy for the purposes of cleaning. (Skeletal Undead do not typically generate either personal dirt nor smell.) Personell expected to engage in combat in Light Body Armour are usually assigned at least one additonal breastplate. Some second-line forces also have variant jumpsuits, some of which have visual campoflage scatter pattern systems; notably the Dark Elf Troopers also have dress jumpsuits in some units, making them the only unit in the Aotrs which has a set dress uniform.

    While Light Body Armour is issued with a (single) helmet, typically this is only worn necessary to be worn at all times for vehicle pilots, gunners of AFV crews – starship or ground-crew personell don’t need it during the course of their day-to-day noncombat duties. The helmet is similar in design to that of the Medium Body Armour, except that it is slightly lighter and trades out the targeting package for one less powerful, but instead gains a package that interfaces with Aotrs vehicle and ship targeting systems instead.

    Garrison troops, particularly those at the Citadel, the capital of Fearmore, have heavier armour, the so-called Garrison Plate, a more ceremonial armour. It is not sealed, and aethetically resembles plate armour. The helmets of Garrison Plate only have integral Commlinks as opposed to more advanced systems.

    Heavy Body Armour and Power Armour are specifically worn by Drop Troops and Power Troops respectively, so will be discussed the those relevant sections.

    Sidearms

    The Mark 5 coldbeam pistol has been the standard sidearm for the Aotrs for over 120 years. The basic design was the first true production model after the Mark 4 coldbeam, the first prototype coldbeam pistol. The Mark 5 is classified as a heavy pistol – though this is largely now true of bulk and output, but no longer weight. Since its introduction, while the shape of the Mark 5 has not substantially altered as it has been iterated, the materials it is composed of have evolved. At its pinnacle in the Mark 5K, the Mark 5 had tripled its power output – even while adding in continuous fire capability – and increased the range by +50% and the shots-per-power cell by two-and-a-half times; meanwhile, the weight had halved, dropping from 800g to a slight 410g. It also, unlike the larger coldbeam weapons, has a stun capability, like many regular energy weapons. This has, perhaps incongrously, placed the coldbeam pistol in a position where it is technically a more advanced and valuable piece of equipment than its larger versions. (The black market price for a Mark 5K coldbeam pistol is about 2.5 times more than the equivilent Mark 14D coldbeam rifle.) This is considered an acceptable expense by the Aotrs in return for such good and solid performance.

    The standard sidearm is the 10th coldbeam generation Mk 5K coldbeam pistol, a tough and lasting design. The Mark 5K is almost ubquitious. There are still a modest number of Mark 5I pistols in use, for those that preferred the slightly higher power of the Mark 5I. The 5I was the last production model to not feature continuous fire (merely automatic), and consequent has a slightly higher beam power. It is also has the distinction of being the lightest coldbeam pistol at a near-dainty 400g.

    But the Mark 5 has finally come to the end of its production life. The Mark 17 coldbeam pistol has started to be produced and distributed to selected front-line (and high-ranking rear support) units. The Mark 17 is the first 11th coldbeam generation weapon, featuring a significant leap in all capabilities. While it is thirty grams heavier than the Mark 5K, the Mark 17 features a dramatic +50% leap in output power and 13% additional range. The Mark 17 can use either the standard Mark 5 weapon power cells, or a new Mark 6 weapon cell. While in the former case, it only gets 55 shots per cell to the Mark 5K’s 83, the latter cell gives it 111 shots per cell.

    The Aotrs issue a standard melee weapon. This is a magical heat-enchanted short sword (of the gladius variety). The sword is small enough not to be significantly encumbering nor to prevent its use as a somewhat large combat knife (though many soldiers also carry a standard combat knife in their personal kit). But importantly, it provides Aotrs soldiers with ready access to a magical weapon. The enchantment is heat rather than fire due to continous refinements over the centuries. While the blade glows with the heat of molten metal, it is still less visible (and more controlled) than a flaming sword. The heat-enchantment is designed primarily to allow an effective “lethal” weapon against other undead particularly, and can be deactivated by conscious thought on the wielder. It also has the advantage of effectively sterilising the blade, which has a variety of additional utility usages.

    The shortsword is commonly supplemented (or replaced) by melee weapons of a trooper’s personal preference, though all infantry are trained in its basic use. The supplementary weapon can be more exotic personal weapon, though the Aotrs also have number of stock weapons as well. The most common of these are dagger versions of the heat shortsword, but there are also powered bayonets, gauntlets and power blades, which emit cold or shadow energy in the form of a coherent blade (“cold blades” and “shadow blades” respectively). Shadow blades aremore powerful (and thus require a higher level or priority in assignment) and are particularly favoured by Power Troops, the Kobold Commandos and other black-ops, assassination or infiltration teams because of the obvious advantages that they shed darkness, not light. Vibroweapons have somewhat fallen out of favour, so outside of the Orc Stormsoldiers (where they are still popular), such weapons have to be requested in advance or be a personal weapon.

    Rifles

    The Aotrs equips its infantry with coldbeam rifles. Since the coldbeam’s introduction in the early 2200s, it has steadily supplanted laser and lazer weapons on both the personal and vehicular scale. While the lazer demonstrably can be refined beyond the level the Aotrs have developed it (as evidenced, among others, by the Stravyians), the coldbeam quickly became the preference of the Aotrs. The major proliferation occurred in the 2260s, when the compartively rapidly evolving technogy hit its sixth generation and automatic and continuous fire became an option.

    Among the advantages of the coldbeam in ground combat is that it can be used to create a mist screen by a low intensity, diffused blast; a continous, low-output beam can freeze bodies of water suitable for crossing; and unlike laser and lazer weapons, it is not a heat-based energy, the energy type most commonly resisted among magical creatures. There is also a side benefit that Spirit-Bound liches are largely practically immune to cold energy, which for those liches at least, does have an occasional tactical advantage.

    The Mark 14E coldbeam rifle has been in service for about fifteen years (as of 2346), and the majority of units now possess it. A few older, lower-priority units still have the 14D, which has slightly shorter range and is not quite as robust. The 14D was reliable, easy to maintain, and very accurate, as it has a lot of history behind it, and the 14E improvement was roundly welcomed. Almost no units now use the older 14C, a slightly lesser weapon. Its main problem was that the sights were prone to veer a few fractions of a degree to the left, and it was occasionally prone to shut down in high temperature or dusty environments. The Mark 14E, last of its generation of rifles, is being steadily replaced by the 11th generation Mark 18 Coldbeam Rifle. The Mk 18 began to be introduced in small numbers for elite units in 2337. Like the Mark 17, the Mark 18 features a dramatic improvement in capability and power.

    Subassault coldbeams are not common on the ground battlefield, but are seen mostly on marine detachments, where they slighly lower power and size is more suited to the engagements fought aboard starships. (In the Aotrs, “marine” refers specifically to shipboard security forces; essentially the Aotrs army is itself equivilent to what would be specialised marine forces for most other powers.) The Mark 13D is the most common of these, though the new Mk 20 Subassault is just starting to be issued.

    While the standard rifles are configured for the ability to make continuous fire (which is itself an improvement of automatic fire), this required some loss of power. Thus, there has always been a niche place for semi-automatic rifles for snipers. The Mark 15 Heavy Sniper Rifle was introduced at the same time as the Mark 14 rifle, and improved version came largely in tandem and the most recent version, the Mark 15D, has been in service for some time. The 15D only sported a +40% range increase and only a 23% power advantage over the Mark 14D rifle and it was not slated for improvement when the 14E was put into production. However, despite being the last of the coldbeam family to be worked on, the 11th Generation Mark 21 Heavy Sniper Rifle is just finishing its testing phase and seeing limited deployment. The Mark 21 is a complete redesign for a dedicated sniper rifle, and now sports a range of +50% over the Mk 18 coldbeam rifle (which itself had the same range as the Mark 15D) and almost the same increase in power output.The relatively low number of dedicated snipers almost means that this weapon will reach those units much more rapidly in proportion to the wider upgrades.

    Support Weapons

    The coldbeam Support weapon in widest use is the 16B. A very few units have the older Mk 16A, but almost all of these have been resigned to the second-line forces. The Mark 16C made it into production, but was very quickly superceeded within a few years by the first 11th generation coldbeam support cannon, the Mk 19, which is now steadily being rolled out to all forces.

    The most prevalent of personal anti-tank weapons issued to all branches of the Aotrs ground forces is the SK-series Snake Guiuded Missile Launcher.
    The SK Snake Launcher itself has remained largely unchanged for some time, as the upgrades have either been to software or to the actual warheads. A one-lich system (albeit sometimes with spare rounds being carried by other members of the squad), the Snake Launcher is basically a two-metre long , 240mm diameter, six kilogram tube of metal. The Snake Launcher is extremely durable and hardy, and can be subjected to significant trauma without any loss of effectiveness. Many troopers have found it to be an effective blugeoning weapon (usually, but not always, when unloaded); even after being used to punch right through a humanoid body, it will cheerfully still operate.

    The targeting and sighting module is designed for ease of differing-handedness. It can be removed from one side, inverted and slotted into the other side of the launcher in moments, but the locking system is robust enough not to come loose even after the abuse such as the priorly mentioned melee usage.

    Front-line units are now equipped with the SK-4 warhead, though a significant number of units have SK-3A, SK-3 and SK-2F warheads in stockpiles.
    The SK3A was more accurate than the older SK-2F, but the tendency for the warhead to detonate before impact that plagued the earlier SK-3 had been corrected. The SK3B was a further refinement of the 3A guidence system, introduced around 2330 and saw a modest distribution. The SK-4 entered service in mid 2337, featuring a significantly more powerful warhead. Many units have upgraded straight from SK-3A to SK-4s, which are in now in full production.

    Scanners

    The standard-issue Mk IX Scanner Unit (more generally just called a “scanner”) is an elongated octagonal device that weighs two kilograms. The scanner has a 2000m detail range; though geographical data can be interpulated from incoming sources (e.g. visible light) from significiantly further distances, or from inputted maps. As standard functionality, in addition to the typical features of most general scanners, Aotrs scanners can detect magical or other supernatural or paranatural features. The Mk IX also functions as a 10 MegaAideli -rated computer and has various additional utilities such a torch, holocamera, commlink and emergancy distress beacon. Like the helmet commlink, the scanner has an unboosted range of 20 AU. Like the helmet, the scanner can remotely, or by using the up-link port, interface with external computer networks.

    One of the more frequent allocations of personal equipment (by those whose do not get one from a duty bundle) is an upgrade to the Mk X Scanner Unit (“tech scanner”), which is slightly larger, but more powerful (12 MAi).

    Specialist Weapons

    While coldbeams are the weapon of choice for the Aotrs, they are not the only weapon in production. The most common weapon type after coldbeams is plasma-pulse weaponry, predominantly used by War Droids. As these weapons are, under current Aotrs technology, much more powerful at short ranges (where the War Droids are best suited and accurate), it was a natural fit for the War Droids to be equipped with plasma-pulse cannons. The Aotrs produces three plasma-pulse weapons for conventional infantry use; the PP-1A rifle, the PP-2A pistol and the PP-3A cannon, but outside of War Droids (who use the PP-1A and PP-3A), they are uncommon to see in the field.

    Projectile weapons are traditionally associated with the Orc Stormsoldiers, though that many such urban legends spawned by popular culture (such as that the Orc Stormsoldiers are composed of orcs and only orcs), it is not entirely accurate. The majority of the Orc Stormsoldiers use coldbeam rifles, like the rest of the Aotrs, though there is some accuracy to the myth, as the Orc Stormsoldiers have the highest proportion of users of the Aotrs rocketguns.
    Rocketguns fire a self-propelled explosive shell, rather than a bullet. The rocketguns can accodate a wide variety of munitions, with semi-guided or homing rounds offering the largest advantages over convention projectiles, as they allow personal-scale indirect fire. As self-propelled weapons, the performance of a rocketgun is largely independent of its size, with carbines and rifles simply having the advantages of being able to carry a larger clip for automatic fire.

    The Aotrs produces the Nightbolt (a pistol), the Nightburst (a carbine) and the Nightblast (a rifle), all of which share the same calibur and so can interchange rounds. The Night series of weapons has significantly shorter ranges than coldbeams (less than half), but still have a significant punch, though as noted, their true strength comes from the variant ammunition.

    The Aotrs currently produces one magnetic linear accelerator (railgun) rifle and one railgun pistol – the Mark V and Mark IV respectively. No units use these weapons as standard. Instead, the limited production run is used by a few individual specialists. The 10mm Mark V MLA Rifle is still considered the best sniper rifle available to the Aotrs, superior still to even the new Mark 21 Heavy Sniper Rifle in performance. However, the Mark 21 scores significantly in being more reliable, lighter, with a shorter barrel (the Mark V is 2.1m long) and a single weapon cell allows it 38 or 76 shots to the Mark V’s 15 round-clip. The Mark V also requires power cells as well as ammunition, though this is on the order of a few hundred shots per cell. It is an ever-constant hot debate among snipers as to which weapon is superior, though most admit the ideal would be to have both – which the topmost elite snipers do.

    Line Infantry

    Line Infantry or Standard Infantry are the primary troops of the Aotrs proper ground army infantry forces. (Dark Elf Trooper and Orc Stormsoldier forces have different designations.) Due to their higher level of training and skill, Line Infantry’s remit also covers as standard what many other armed forces have dedicated special forces branches (such as marines or commandoes) for.

    As part of the Aotrs proper, Line Infantry are composed mainly of Undead and predominatly skeletal Liches or Skeleton Warriors. There is a smattering of representatives, however, of nearly every race and type somewhere in the ground troops, on a more-or-less individual basis. This is on a much smaller scale than starship crews or ground base personnel, due to the additional greater stresses imposed by operating with an otherwise-Undead unit ; the majority of secondments take the option of volentary Lichdom. Typically, then, a living member of the standard Aotrs ground forces will be very exceptional individual.

    For the both the standard infantry and the marine troops, standard equipment is Medium Body Armour, a coldbeam rifle, a coldbeam pistol sidearm, a magic short sword heat blade, a scanner and three grenades (typically three AGF-08 Offensive General Purpose Grenades).

    The standard infantry unit is a squad of eight, including squad leader – who will often have more spells as well – and at least one support weapon, usually a coldbeam Support and a Snake launcher, but this can vary from unit to unit; units with higher casting capability (such as for the Aotrs-standard Lightning Bolt) that are not dedicated anti-tank teams may have only a support weapon, relying on their spells otherwise.

    Drop Troops

    Drop Troops or Drop Infantry are from army (i.e. ground force, as opposed to navy) branch of the Aotrs. The Drop Troops are so-called because it is their primary role to be dropped in from orbit and act as strike troops, in the same way paratroopers operate. Like such, they are usually better organised and more skilled than the already skilled Line Infantry. Their armour is heavier, as it must be to withstand the drops required.

    Drop Troops are equipped with Heavy Body Armour. It is not quite Powered Armour, but comes very close – technically only in that the armour itself is not equipped with the strength-enhancing exoframe. Like the Medium Body Armour, Heavy Body Armour is made of synthetic plasteel plates and is fully sealed. It has reinforced plating outside, and a large backpack module. This contains a pair of descent engines, a limited shield generator and steering vanes. The steering vanes are used to help control the drop when the Drop Troops are orbitally inserted. The descent engines’ primary job is to slow the drop from orbit to a survivable level, and so they are optimised for a long duration slow-burn usage, rather a short, sharp thrust like a jetpack. Nevertheless, the Drop Troops, by tweaking the output settings, can use them as impromptu jump packs. This is not entirely without risk, as it requires firing the engines at a high level of thrust rather close to the trooper’s legs. True flight is not really possible without significant modifications – though those modifications are not unheard of among these elite troops.

    Some variants have additional sensor equipment built it, including additional sensor pods. The backpack modules are also configurable. The helmets have the same HUD and computer system as the Medium Body Armour.

    Drop Troops frequently have to, by dint of their frequent insertion method, travel lighter than Line Infantry. While they typically use the same coldbeam rifles (Mark 14E or Mark 18) and support weapons, they do not typically carry Snake Launchers. Instead, they are more reliant on the squad’s spellcasting capabilities for anti-armour attacks (Lightning Bolt being the most common.)

    Some Drop Troops, however, have sought to improve their offensive firepower in other ways. The power generator used by the Heavy Body Armour is the same version as used on the full Heavy Powered Armour (HPA) suit. The lighter draw means it has additional power spare, even when using the internal systems. It was discovered by the ever-enterprising Aotrs soldiers that, if the steering vanes are removed, the same mounting used for the sensor pods can be used to lock-in shoulder-mounted weapons – the shoulder-mounted plasma-pulse cannon equipped to the War Droids is a perfect fit. (Not entirely co-incidentally, given the similar ergonomics.) Suits so equipped lose a fair amount of mobility on the ground and flight stability, but for the most skilled and hardened of Drop Troops, this is considered a minimal loss for the additional firepower gain.

    Power Troops

    As is often the case with powered infantry throughout the galaxy, the Aotrs Power Troops are the elite of the ground force. The Power Troopers themselves are the cream of the infantry, and are exceptionally dangerous. They perform all manner of duties from normal ground combat to deep space boarding and anti-ship/ anti-installation (ASAI) operations. Power Troops are rarely seen deployed in full platoons. The fluid nature of Aotrs infantry deployment (transport vehicles are not permanently attached to infantry units) means they are more often seen in groups of one or two squads. Due to the larger size of the armour, Power Troop squads consist of four troopers, half the normal number that comprise the Aotrs’ Line or Drop infantry squads, so a pair of squads and two transport vehicles (often a pair of Fallen Souls or Vampire family vehicles) is the most commonly seen deployed unit, with a support weapon and a Snake Launcher between them.

    The Aotrs Power Troops wear the Aotrs’ Heavy Powered Armour suit. The HPA has shielding systems, and is very tough and capable. Not least this is because they lack of life-support systems, and the extra mass this leaves free. The suits are sealed and pressurised – principally to keep out corrosives and allow the trooper within to be able to speak – but they have no other life-support capability as standard. This leaves Power Troops the exclusive domain of the Undead – while HPA suits for the Aotrs minority of livings beings exist, they are used only by individual specialists, rather than as part of a main battlefield unit, due to the additional mass and cost increase. Like all Aotrs armour, HPA suits are magic-permeable and do not impede spellcasting.

    HPA suits do not have any mounted guns as standard; the troopers carry any weapons in their hands. The armour’s systems give the pilot even more strength, and they can carry even bulky support weapons with little problem. The suit is not entirely unarmed; there is a Cold Blade array built into the right gauntlet, meaning the troops do not have to carry melee weapons with them if they do not desire. They have advanced sensor and computer systems, and the pilot is aided by computer-assisted targeting. Furthermore, the gloves have magnetic clamps, so it is very difficult to drop a held weapon, or be disarmed.

    The HPA suits have gravitic systems, and are capable of being orbitally dropped. They can even fly for limited distances. In space however, they are fully mobile, and fill the role of deep space assault. In this role, they will sometimes have extra mounted weapons mag-clamped to the armour’s back unit, under the shields (something that is impractical to do when moving on the ground, in atmosphere). These will often be a pair of HR Harridan series warheads, but single SU Skull series anti-ship warheads have been used on occasion.

    Power Troops have, perhaps surprisingly, seen long-service with reconnaissance units, where they were often mounted on Bonecracker and Bonesmasher Recon cycles, which were specifically sized to allow them to be ridden by the bulky powered armour. For some decades, the recon cycles have worked in tandem with the Viperskull jetbikes used by the Line infantry, where the recon cycle’s ability to hold the less vulnerable Power Troops was compensation for their lack of flight. All these vehicles are now being phased out. The increasing usage of both Hunter and Sentry Drones has reduced some of the necessity for the roles that those light vehicles had. Brand-new shielding techniques and an innovative new seating system has further allow all three vehicles to be replaced by a single new, shielded grav cycle – the Scitalis – that will configure to allow a rider to be wearing any armour.

    War Droids

    Despite the vast number of Undead under Death Despoil’s command, they frequently find themselves outnumbered. And there comes a point where a minimum number of bodies are required to undertake a task – no matter how elite a unit might be, one lich cannot be in more than one place at once.

    In the pre-industrial ages, this factor was mitigated by the low speed of travel; teleportation or flight was not something that could be undertaken easily or en masse. Until the dawn of the Information Age, the Aotrs’ only recourse was to field living troops to supplement their forces. Animated Undead, while never as effective as popular culture has traditionally believed, were still a largely viable, if limited, battlefield weapon. But as time advanced and technology improved, transport speed and complex weapons became the norm and the need for bodies on the field increased and the usability of Animated Undead dropped sharply.

    Finally, in the early FTL age, robotic troops became a viable alternative. But it was not until the 2190s, when the Aotrs imported the 1st generation War Droids from the Herosine Empire, that they became a significant arm of the Aotrs ground forces.

    War Droids are simply non-spirit bound humanoid battle robots. The original War Droids were bought – like much of the arsenal at the time, as this was during the supercruiser era – directly from the Herosine Empire’s arms merchants. Since then, the Aotrs have steadily switched over to the on internal production. Unlike the Herosine Empire, which has sufficient wealth it can throw out bleeding-edge top-of-the-line equipment and still treat is as disposable, the Aotrs has had to take a more circumspect approach.

    Modern 4th generation War Droids are comparatively easy to mass produce (in comparison to training up new soldiers), and can be transported in large numbers easily. They are relentless troops, but focussing on cost-effectiveness over efficacy means that their intelligence and initiative is somewhat lacking. To be effective, they have to be controlled by a dedicated command droid (which has a superior and more expensive to produce brain), which is attached at the top level of an attack force, to avoid the possiblity of conflicting orders.

    The 4th generation War Droids have heavy shields and are armed with Plasma-Pulse weapons. They carry a standard PP-1A Plasma-Pulse rifle. A second weapon is mounted over the right shoulder – this weapon has comparable power, but slightly shorter range but higher rate of fire. They are typically fielded in a group of six.

    The command element is usually three; the command War Droid, a regular War Droid as “bodyguard” or for assistant duties and one War Droid armed with a heavier PP-3A plasma-pulse cannon. The War Droid Command element typically supervises between two and four squads of War Droids or Hunter Drones and/or an attached platoon of Enrager Heavy Assault Droids. The command droid is of a slightly higher quality of AI, though it is still not sufficient for doing anything other than co-ordinating with regular Aotrs forces. (Though alone, they can still provided an adequate, if uninspired commander.)

    War Droids are treated as fundementally disposable, but they are numerous enough that they often comprise half of a typical Aotrs ground force infantry deployment.They are used primarily as recon-by-force or as a pinning force, holding enemy infantry units in place with their extensive fire to allow the more capable Aotrs Line Infantry to close in to mop-up.

    Aotrs plasma-pulse weapons have about a third to a quarter of the range of coldbeam rifles, but this is a comparitive disadvantage – the PP-1A still has a respectible range of 525m, still very comparible to non-railgun projectile assault rifles and conventional plasma weapons. The War Droid’s ability to accurately shoot was notoriously poor at longer ranges in prior generations anyway, so equipping them with longer-range weapons would be wasteful.

    The high volume of fire makes War Droids very good at suppressing enemy troops; not only do their shields require concentrated fire or the deployment of anti-vehicle weapons to penetrate, as they have no fear, the cannot be suppressed themselves and have to be destroyed to stop. While this means that War Droids also do not really utlise cover in any meaningful sense, their shields are armour go a long way to compensate for this – and while the enemy is busy shooting infantry anti-tank warheads at the approaching shielded robots in between showers of plasma-pulse bolts, they can’t be shooting them at approaching (and much more valuable) Aotrs troopers!

    The War Droids are themselves poor choices for close assaults – at those ranges, their shields are of only minimal usage (since a typical close assault’s sustained fire will not allowed them to recharge and they are much easier to flank ). They have very poor close combat skills, only marginally better than most Animated Undead. Indeed, a close assault by the enemy is often one of the most effective ways of dealing with a War Droid unit.

    As they are not equipped with any anti-vehicle weapons themselves, War Droids are also vulnerable to vehicles and vehicle (and anti-vehicle) weapons. However, at very close ranges, plasma-pulse weapons can still be dangerous to light targets in certain circumstances – in one recorded instance during the Muisis campaign, a squad of War Droids destroyed an enemy MBT from the upper story of a building by leaning out to fire down on its poor top armour. It was a lucky hit, but still demonstrated the danger.

    Hunter Drones

    Hunter Drones are essentially War Droids that can fly. They are circular disks, about six feet across, with twin Plasma-Pulse Cannons underslung with 360º fire. In the Mark 1 and 2, these were same guns as the standard War Droid’s shoulder-mount. The current Mark 3 Hunter Drone uses instead significantly more powerful light vehicular weapons, better using the Hunter Drone’s larger mass and power generator.

    Hunter Drones have high flight ceilings, up to about 50% of orbital flight, though they rarely move above nap-of-earth. Hunter Drones possess significantly improved sensors and one of their primary jobs is reconnaissance and targeting designators for warhead-armed vehicles. As such, their intelligence cores are slightly improved over regular War Droids, and they are sometimes attached to a specific vehicle or with their own special Hunter Drone command unit, the Hunter Drone equivalent of the War Droid commander.

    The Hunter Drone Command element is a substitute for the regular War Droid command element. It consists of the command droid itself plus a second Hunter Drone as backstop and bodyguard (and occasionally a third). All are armed with the normal Hunter Drone armament of twin plasma-pulse cannons. These elements are typically assigned to full Hunter Drone platoons, consisting of three groups of six Hunter Drones and the command element. Though in theory, they could command a mixed unit as the regular droids do, in practise the higher cost of the Hunter Drone Command sees it solely assigned to places where its ability to fly is most useful.

    Occasionally, other units like Sentry Drones or Scarab mines are also assigned to a full Hunter Drone Platoon, but this is uncommon.

    Hunter Drones are a relatively recent introduction (circa 2330), and their rapid widespread use has seen the phasing out of older recon vehicles for many tactical reconnaissance purposes as well as the total replacement of prior remote recon drones. They are of little use for strategic reconnaissance, however, which requires a subtly well beyond a War Droid brain.

    Sentry Drones

    Sentry Drones are aerial recon drones, developed shortly after the Hunter Drones. While using drones for reconnaissence (and even limited combat utility) dates back to the Information Age, in the modern era, remote units are compatively easy to jam (or worse, hack) and sensor ranges have rendered much of that niche moot. However, the success of the Hunter Drone suggested that there was a place for a stripped-down, lower cost version for long-distance tactical reconnaissence or for target designation.

    Sentry Drones have no weapons or shields and considered completely disposable in the same way a warhead might be (though the Aotrs will still attempt to recover them if possible). They are faster than Hunter Drones and have a dedicated ground-facing sensor suite in addition to the other sensors, making them an ideal unit for spotting enemy positions or exploring an unknown area. They are equipped with a variety of stealth devices to lower its signature (though to keep the costs low, none of these are especially powerful). They are most often used, however, in their capacity of provided targeting locks for missiles for indirect fire.

    Sentry Drones have inbuilt mag-clamps, which allows them to be carried by almost any vehicle, and launched when required. Their low weight has a minimal effect on vehicle endurance. It has become common practise for Reign of Anger units to attach one each to the top of the missile tubes.

     

     

    Vehicles of the Aotrs Ground Force, Part One

    Note: The Fallen Soul and Dirge have already been covered in the Ships of the Aotrs Navy series, as they are technically part of both forces.

    (Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)

    Distant Thunder Heavy IFV

    Length: 11.54m
    Width: 6.82m
    Height: 5.33m

    The Distant Thunder is an older AFV, but one still very much on the front line. Given its name because the sound it makes when moving, its vast size means, despite the (then) lack of shields, the Distant Thunder is heavily armoured and very difficult to kill. It has front and rear doors, and is large enough to transport a full platoon of 32 troops or even small tanks. It has firing ports in both sides, with mounts for coldbeam support weapons. Its main weapon is a 240mm Rocketgun Cannon, and it has several drums of ammunition for normal anti-tank rounds as well as homing Rocketgun rounds. It has a coaxial warhead launcher (typically loaded with four Skull warheads) and a secondary heavy coldbeam turret.

    The Distant Thunder is big enough and heavily armoured enough – including its sturdy, armoured tracks – to simply roll over and crush most obstacles; up to and including most regular main battletanks, if unshielded. However, if one is eventually untracked, it typically requires a major undertaking to get it underway again. The Distant Thunder’s size can also work against it in other ways – being as tall as a second-story building means the Distant Thunder can attract a lot of fire. It also cannot cross many light civilian bridges, as it is simply too heavy.

    Distant Thunders often serve as a command vehicle, as the equipment required was already present as a standard feature, given the negligible size and weight requirements compared to the vehicle’s mass. This also tends to keep them more out of the way of attack.

    For some years, was some consideration to implement an upgrade to add shields, though the projections meant that the armour would have to be considerably lessened. However, when the new shield grid matrix pioneered on the Vampire became available in 2342, this provided a better option. A new, modern power core provides more power for the same mass – enough to run a shield network on the new matrix. While this is only as strong as the grid on the Fallen Soul (thus about two-thirds the strength of the Storm Cleaver’s or Revenant Spear’s shields), without the sacrifice of armour, the new shields make the 2342 Distant Thunder a very tough nut to crack.

    Vampire Lord IFV

    Length: 7.08m
    Width: 4.37m
    Height (Lord): 3.43m
    Height (Horde): 3.71m

    The Vampire Lord is a successful conversion of the anti-grav version of Vampire APC available on the general market. Dating from the end of the supercruiser era,this Aotrs variant stripped out the power core and replaced most of the systems with superior Aotrs equivalents. The Vampire lost half the space for the infantry carried – down to a comfortable eight (a dozen at a push) from sixteen – to install the quad pulse-fire coldbeam cannon turret mounted on the roof.

    For over two decades, the Vampire Lord was the Aotrs’ primary APC. The introduction of the Fallen Soul in 2327 replaced it in the role of general APC. The Vampire Lord remained in service while the Fallen Souls entered full production and deployment. It was gradually replaced, starting with front-line units who benefitted most from the Fallen Soul’s superior durability. But this was not the end of the Vampire Lord.

    By the time the Fallen Soul emerged on the scene, there was a second Vampire deriviative. The Vampire Horde is a variant of the Vampire Lord that replaces the coldbeam turret with a salvo launcher for the Horde semi-guided warhead system, giving application for use in strike, anti-tank, anti-personnel and anti-aircraft roles, while retaining the infantry carrying capacity. A further subvariant of the Vampire Horde, the Vampire Horde Doom, traded all its infantry capacity for additional ammunition space. The Horde Doom was used in supplementary AA and Anti-Tank roles, though it was also successfully used to support missile patrol boats in wet-naval engagements on soft targets.

    In the 2330s, the Vampire Horde saw the most usage of the Vampire varitants; the Vampire Lords were being steadily regulated to support or second-line roles. As the Horde Doom was a relatively simply conversion to weapons carrier, the potential to change both Vampire Horde and Lord to similar weapons carrier was discussed. Plans began to extending the design’s life by adding a dedicated AA tracking suite to both Lord and Horde and them and turning them into a proper company AA vehicles, a role they were already starting to fill. It was questioned whether, especially in the case of the Vampire Lord, the removal of the infantry capacity could be used to add in a shield generator. But it was acknowledged that this would require a replacement of the Vampire’s current power core, and would not benefit the Vampire Horde, so the plans was stalled.

    But during the latter half of 2342, a brand-new innovative technique was developed, allowing a shield grid matrix to be quite literally painted on to the hull. Advances in power plant technology now allowed the requisite upgrade to the power course to handle the additional load of shields but without any additional mass. This new shield matrix was pioneered on the Vampire Lord and Horde, but was soon applied to other, older, unshielded vehicles like the Distant Thunder and Reign of Anger.

    Is it planned that only a few Vampire Lord and Vampire Horde versions will be retained with their infantry capacity as light IFVs for special operations. The remaining Horde vehicles will be converted to Horde Doom versions and the Lords to a new Lord Doom version, where they will serve as dedicated AA vehicles. This Lord Doom replaces the infantry bay with a larger power core, allowing it to carry 20% more shields than the other versions, and allow the coldbeam turrets to be upgraded with new, modern 11th generation pulse-fire coldbeams that increase the range to three times the Vampire Lord’s and increase the power output by an impressive 75%.

    The Vampire Lord and Horde’s new coat of paint will once again bring the vehicle into the front line. Nor is this just a figurative statement; the new shield matrix is coloured so as to replace the Vampire Lord’s original mist-grey colouration with the current rust-and-gold livery.

    Tomb Guardian Engineering Vehicle

    Length: 9.33m
    Width: 3.53m
    Height: 3.15m

    The Tomb Guardian is the replacement of the older Death’s Ward engineering vehicle. The Tomb Guardian is built on the hull of the older Fleshburner Main Battle Tank.

    The Fleshburner was at best a mediocre vehicle. The initial concept was sound enough – take of one the powerful Coldbeam Point-Defence turrets in use by the Aotrs navy at the time and emplace it on an anti-grav chassis, to create a high-track weapons platform. In some ways, it achieved that. The Flashburner’s main Coldbeam cannon was the most powerful AFV-based weapon at the time of its inception, and considerably more powerful than the Black Lance MBT it replaced. It shared over 90% of the components with its naval PD equivalent, which reduced the drain on maintenance requirements and tooling. The addition of a missile pod on the rear of the turret further added to this firepower. The Fleshburner was one of the first Aotrs ground vehicles to have full shields, and was bleeding-edge technology at the time.

    However, in practise, it was plagued by small problems that prevented it from living up to expectations. The Fleshburner was never popular with its crews, who found it uncomfortable and sometimes-counter-intuitive to operate. The first problem was that, to accommodate the high-track turret’s full rotation, the turret had to be mounted quite high above the hull and thus was overly tall. To compensate, the hull had been made flatter. The turret was itself difficult to access, since the gunner and commander had to essentially scramble inside and there was no quick escape hatch. The fact that not an insignificant number of Fleshburner crews used Gate or teleportation spells to enter their own vehicle was indicative. The 10% of parts the turret did not share with the PD emplacements were the ones which turned out to be the parts that wore out the fastest, and the Fleshburner had a higher-than average maintenance cycle. In truth, this was as much due to the new technology’s early teething problems, but the general perception of those issues did not help the already unpopular vehicle. On top of everything else, the Fleshburner was considered an unlovely vehicle to look at, at once seeming both too flat and too wide, with the skull-turret perched ungracefully above the hull. The twin scythe-blade electroblaster arrays placed at thr front did not help it at all. The most widely-quoted description was that it looked like a fat scorpion.

    Despite this negative press, the Fleshburner was not a terrible vehicle. Actual performance in the field was adequate, if uninspired. While it required more than its share of maintenance, the new technology worked well.

    It was with not a little relief from the crews, however, when the Fleshburner was finally retired.

    As the ground forces received upgrade and enhancement, the Death’s Ward engineering vehicle was examined. It was determined that, rather than implement more upgrades, the aging tracked vehicle would be retired and replaced with a more robust and mobile grav vehicle. As it often the case with older MBTs, the numerous Fleshburner hulls were converted to create the Tomb Guardian.

    The Fleshburner’s turret – the primary source of its ills – was removed. A new, dual-layer turret was added.

    The lower portion of the turret holds an array of sixteen coldbeam support cannons in two rows. The Death’s Ward’s side sponson coldbeam turrets had very rarely seen use in practise, and they were not truly mobile enough to serve engineering purposes. The Tomb Guardian’s array, by comparison, has far greater mobility, being both in a full turret and being high-track mount. Further, each barrel is independently mobile. The coldbeams emplaced are essentially the core of a Mark 19 Coldbeam Support cannon, configured to low-output, continuous fire. The array is thus optimised for liquid-freezing engineering operations (such as river crossing) or mist-dispersion. Acting in concert and concentrated to a point, the weapons are still able to provide a not-insignificant amount of firepower.

    An improved version of the Death’s Ward’s demolitions gun was placed on the side of the turret. While it has an elevation of only 10º, if required, the Tomb Guardian can tilt its hull to provide another degree or two.

    The left side of the turret mounts the biggest change from the Death’s Ward – a large engineering arm. This can rotate separately from the main turret, and extend. At the tip is an extensible and independently rotational tractor beam array, vastly improving on the array the Death’s Ward carried. Underslung on arm is an excavator head. This can be removed and replaced in the field in under a minute. In the Tomb Guardian’s various engineering supplies is a crane attachment (as a back-up for the tractor beam) which can be mounted on the same fitting.

    For the instances when the arm is in place and the extra stability of a ground-mount is needed (to avoid the potential danger of the grav drive “slipping”), four extensible legs were placed on the hull.

    The engineering arm has some limitations in that it cannot rotate 360º at lower elevations seperate from the lower turret because of the demolitions gun, but this was considered to a minor issue, since the instances when the main turret would be required to be keeping either of guns on target at the exact same time as the arm was in use (in particular with excavations) was small. The mobility of the tractor array from the arm itself also reduces this problem. However, the demolitions gun can be dismounted with a few minutes even in the field if this mobility is a problem in some situations.

    The Fleshburner’s two electroblaster scythes were removed. Instead, a mine-plough with variable geometry was emplaced. This had a further new innovation. The sides and top of the blade have a secondary shield-grid, which functions separately to the Tomb Guardian’s own shields. The plough-shield projects a screen about five metres from the edge of the blades in either configuration. This not only provides additional protection from weapons fire from the frontal direction, or against mine-shrapnel, but provides a shelter for the engineers for tasks that require them to dismount.

    The Fleshburner’s internal systems and placing were completely re-worked for the Tomb Guardian. The pilot seat was drastically improved for a much more comfortable position. At the rear, a new crew module was added with hatches for the other crew. While still a little cramped due to the necessity of keeping the compartment below the Coldbeam turret’s arc, they are far and away superior to the Fleshburner.

    While it still has the older, more rounded hull of the Fleshburner and its generation of Aotrs-made vehicles, and with the addition of the “legs” has not perhaps helped the Tomb Guardian in giving the impression of an overweight insect, the Tomb Guardian is generally held to be “not quite as ugly” as the Fleshburner. And unlike the older MBT, the Tomb Guardian has much more practicality to back-up its slightly ungainly appearance.

    Scitalis Recon Cycle

    Length: 5.14m
    Width: 2.57m
    Height: 2.44m

    The Scitalis is the most recent addition to the Aotrs ground force arsenal. Developed under the working title of Serpentskull recon cycle, it replaces the Viperskull jetbike and the Bone Cracker and Bone Smasher Recon Cycles.

    The increased use of Hunter and Sentry Drones in front-line reconnaissance has not obviated the need for the deeper recon operations which have always required skilled troops. The various bikes and cycle over the years have fulfilled this role. But these vehicles have always had drawbacks. Firstly, they were never well-protected. Over time, the size of the vehicles also grew larger, to accommodate new technology. (Indeed, it has been a long-standing joke that the recon “bikes” have been for some time longer than a typical saloon gravcar.) Secondly, due to the differences in physical size of the armour, Power Troops required their own special vehicles, simply due to the problems of seating.

    The Scitalis was developed to deal with both problems, and to combine the best elements of the three older cycles. For such an advanced vehicle, it is perhaps ironic that the most innovative feature is nothing to do with its combat or recon abilities, but due to something as mundane as the seating. The Scitalis’ seats are built entirely from a new-type of hard-code-locked nano-elements. The nano-elements have very few metallic components, being predominantly compressible polymers. With simple adjustments on a small control pad – which requires no external power and is about as analogue as such a device can be – the seating can be configured so it is suitable for either Power Troops or regular infantry. For a regular-sized passenger, the seat is a little higher and closer to the controls. This adjustment can be fine-tuned further to an individual’s settings and the distance of the control panel itself can be moved forward or backward, making for a very comfortable ride. At a squeeze, two normal-sized humanoids can fit on the seat, though regular infantry in full gear would be pressed to do so.

    The Scitalis has continued the trend of larger size, being slightly larger than its three direct predecessors. But it combines the flight capability of the Viperskull, the sensors of the Bone Cracker and the offensive capabilities of the Bone Smasher, all in one package. Partly, this size is also necessitated by the addition of a bubble canopy. This was, in part, inspired by the Strayvian Dominion’s Seething Scoria Attack Skimmer. The other reason was the development of the new shield-grid coating in 2342. A sealed pilot compartment means that, for the first time, a cycle can be equipped with shields.

    The Scitalis is capable of full orbital flight in addition to the nap-of-Earth grav operations. The Scitalis has both more modern and powerful engines than the older Viperskull, but the addition of the canopy further benefitted it in this regard, whereas the older jetbike has a limited service ceiling. It is, in essence, now more akin to an undersized one-lich fighter craft than a traditional “recon bike.”

    The Scitalis is equipped with an up-to-date sensor package and ECM system. It is also much more heavily armed than the older bikes, containing essentially all their weapons. It carries a single spinal-mount Coldbeam cannon, slightly less poweful that the twin Coldbeams of the Viperskull. This is flanked by a pair of light Plasma-Pulse cannons (as the Bone Cracker had) for shorter range engagements and considerably more hitting power.

    The Viperskull’s rarely used lower wing-scythes were almost dropped from consideration, but the veterans consulted felt that they were still a useful addition for some purposes – more for engineering tasks than actual combat. Rather than use physical blades, however, the Scitalis has two much shorter wing-stubs which serve as emitters for a scaled-up version of the Cold Blades used as infantry melee weapons. This grants much more effectiveness in usage, though the Scitalis’ power generator chugs a little when trying to run them simultaneously while flying with active shields and both energy weapons firing.

    Finally, it carries a pair of SK series Snake Missile Launchers (like the Bone Smasher) with five warheads each, which give it a limited, but not insignificant, anti-armour punch.

    The Scitalis initially received an uncertain reception from the first units to whom it was assigned, but this first impression was solely based on the size and the addition of the canopy. Once the veterans had had a chance to out it through its paces, the reception has been unilaterally positive. The Scitalis is being deployed as fast as it can be produced, with the older Recon Cycles being regulated to the secondary Dark Elf Trooper forces or decommissioned altogether.

    Accelerate and Attack! Aeons of War

    Starship rules

    Available at Wargames Vault along with the free web enhancement pack.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Photos of WSF (or WSF/Replicator hybrids in the case of the Vampires).

    (Okay, so I have delayed this as long as I can, but TheShop3D doesn’t seem to have been able to fix whatever technical issue went wrong yesterday (it was supposed to up in the shop yesterday, but something obviously went wrong and I haven’t heard back from them since this morning when they said they were looking into it), so as and when that gets fixed, I’ll edit in the TheShop3D links.)

    Distant Thunder Heavy APC
    null
    Direct price: £8.25
    The Shop3D price: £14.58 (Resin)/£34.22 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $38.15 (£27.81) Link

    Vampire Lord IFV

    Direct price: £3.70
    The Shop3D price: £4.93 (Resin)/£11.03 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $12.96(£9.45) Link

    Vampire Horde IFV

    Direct price: £3.90
    The Shop3D price: £5.11 (Resin)/£11.46 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $13.52 (£9.85) Link

    Tomb Guardian Engineering Vehicle

    Direct price: £4.00
    The Shop3D price: £3.14 (Resin)/£6.74 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $10.48 (£7.64) Link

    Scitalis Recon Cycle

    Direct price: £2.90
    The Shop3D price: £1.67 (Resin)/£3.21 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $5.56 (£4.05) Link

    Scitalis Recon Cycle (open, with Power Trooper)

    Direct price: £2.90
    The Shop3D price: £1.652 (Resin)/£3.16 (Nylon) Link
    Shapeways price: $5.56 (£4.05) Link

    Note: that infantry are not available via direct sales (i.e. FDM prints) for practical reasons.

    Line Infantry Platoon (35)

    The Shop3D price: £3.32 (Resin)/£7.20 (Nylon) (35*) Link
    Shapeways price: $17.01 (£12.40) (35*) Link

    *Four sets of seven troopers plus seven characters, enough for four squads of eight plus three spare sergeants/heroes.

    Drop Infantry Squads (2)

    The Shop3D price: £1.93 (Resin)/£3.83 (Nylon) (16) Link
    Shapeways price: $8.70 (£6.34) (16) Link

    Power Infantry Squads (2)

    The Shop3D price: £1.76 (Resin)/£2.60 (Nylon) (8) Link
    Shapeways price: $6.46 (£4.71) (8) Link

    War Droids (21)

    The Shop3D price: £1.95 (Resin)/£3.72 (Nylon) (21*) Link
    Shapeways price (21*): $9.89 (£7.21) Link

    *Three squads of six plus a command element of three.

    Hunter Drones (21)

    The Shop3D price: £4.61 (Resin)/£10.28 (Nylon) (21*) Link
    Shapeways price (21*): $19.52 (£14.08) Link

    *Three squads of six plus a command element of two and a spare.

    Sentry Drones (6)

    The Shop3D price: £1.50 (Resin)/£2.27 (Nylon) for 6 Link
    Shapeways price: $5.50 (£4.01) for 6 Link

    #154307
    Aotrs Commander
    Participant

    Link to old thread

    Link to PDF downloads:

    Part Seven (which I missed last time)

    Part Eight

    Links to each part as a seperate article at Wargames Directory

    Part Seven

    Part Eight

    TheShop3D appear to be still having technical issues, so once again, I will have to be making the release without the links, which will have to be added later, as and when and if. That will, unfortunately, have to be the drill for the foreseeable future, as I obviously can’t keep delaying the releases like this.

    I have updated the older Aotrs models with the new version 2 locking turret versions (which means they are all sprued up now). This was a somewhat mixed experiment, and shows why I haven’t rushed to try and do it with everything yet; while in some cases, it meant the price did go down as expected, Shapeway’s deliberately arcane and black-box pricing algorithm meant that some models actually went up (albiet only around 20p on the VPN). Annoying, to say the least. I’m doing my best to provide cheaper (and/or better) alternatives, either via my direct sales or through TheShop3D, but… *shrug*

    This will be the last sci-fi release for a while.

    I want to concentrate TheShop3D’s load on getting the rest of the back-catalogue up there, starting with the moderns as fast as I can get it up (which is apparently not very, unfortunately) and also completing the v2 upgrade and driect sales reprints of all the rest of my catalogue (this latter part will now likely have to take the priority of the two).

    Additionally, Maneouvre Group is getting perilously close to its version 2.0 release. Once that’s out, I/we will be releasing a (free) sci-fi supplement, which will allow me to then release game stats for all of the models. In the mid-long term, my plan is to collate the Guide to the Aotrs into a single document (plus a few little extra bits of lore that yes, STILL weren’t part of this whole thing!) and release that on Wargames Vault for a small price, and include the game stats for both the Accelerate & Attack starfleets and the MG Sci-fi. (Given the Aotrs’ position of one of the stand-out higher Tech Level fleets, this might be a bit of an odd way to go about things, but sometimes you kind of half to go with what work is already done!)

    This will theorhetically be followed by smaller, even-more-token-fee releases compiling the lore for the other powers.

    My current plan, though, is to include all the MG game stats for all existant released forces (including sample force organisations), plus those for sci-fi-‘d up moderns (under the umbrella of the GTSR) with the free release of the sci-fi rules.

    There are several reasons for this; one, I’d rather get them out there so people can play and not have to wait months or years for me to get around to doing a PDF for a given ground force. Additionally, MG doesn’t have a vehicle design or points system (by design) and attempting to create one would be functionally impossible, since it’d be trying to back-fit things, not to mention that my experience with Accelerate & Attack suggests it would require years or playtesting to work any given system (and I haven’t been able to play MG since last year (or AccAtt, for that matter, for 18 months, which hurts). So the only way to do your own stats and force organisations will be to look at examples.

    This finalAotrs release has one new model in addition to the re-release – the Mk 2 Enrager, which made its convention debut literally the day before things were locked down this time last year.

    Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Eight (Final)

     

     

    Notable Persons and Units of the Aotrs

    (Note: Dates listed are in accordance with the current year 2347. To translate to Earth-E Julian (or Gregorian) calendar, simply subtract 326 years.)

    Lord Death Despoil

    It would be remiss not to start a precis of the Aotrs most notable persons without beginning with Lord Death Despoil the Lichemaster himself. For without Lord Death Despoil, there would be no Army Of The Red Spear at all. The Aotrs revere him only a little short of deification. (Expressions such as “by the Lichemaster!” or “Lichemaster forfend!” are not uncommon.)

    For all his status, however, Lord Death Despoil is not given to great personal ornamentation. He is habitually seen in simple grey hoodless robes; in the days before modern armour, in battle, he would exchange these for a simple light leather jerkin, round shield and his helmet.

    (The helmet bears passing mention, given its somewhat iconic status. It is essentially a simple pot-helm with a wide rear neck-flange. From the top, two upward curving horns of metal rise, terminating in balls, rather than points (a third ball is mounted at the apex of the helm centre). It shape can be difficult to determine, however, as Lord Death Despoil’s helmet, like his shield and Deathblood, is enchanted, such that it absorbs all visible light and so appears only as a black silhouette. Lord Deather and Yeller have similarly shaped helmets (or rather, a succession of them, through to the current day), though theirs do not have this enchantment; Deather’s is an electric blue and Yeller’s a dark green, their personal colours.)

    Little to nothing is known of Lord Death Despoil’s origins. While it is certain the Lichemaster remembers quite clearly the circumstances and place of his birth, this information has never been revealed to anyone, not even his inner circle of the High Command. It is surmised that he hails from an undisclosed HPE-L world, but even that is not entirely certain.

    Theories have abounded over the centuries. One leading speculation of the most recent few years is that his homeworld might have been one of the planets in the newly-contacted United Concorde of Divine Realms, or perhaps even the legendary world of Syalin, lost since the Xakkath Demon Wars (and the two are not necessarily exclusive). Proponents of this theory point that the known timelines and technological and thaumatological advancement are reasonably compatible and the UCDR’s own FTL teleportation systems bear some similarities to Gate drives. However, this may be down to the simple fact that both systems take fundamental principles from the Xakkath Pathways. But then again, surviving information on the Pathways is so scarce it seems sufficiently tangible records are unlikely to have been found in two entirely different places. The UCDR’s discovery is considered by many leading experts in the field to be the most likely candidate on record.

    Though the Lichemaster has as always, remained silent on the issue, it is entirely possible that with some digging on the part of the UCDR, concrete information could finally be brought to light. And at this late stage, any sympathetic power over him that his origin might once have held is long gone, so perhaps once the ghoul is finally out of the grave, Lord Death Despoil may finally be more forthcoming on the issue.

    What has been pieced together was that Lord Death Despoil was born a human. His official date of birth is 413BC, though the accuracy of this date is highly dubious. He was a magic-user in life, and stumbled by chance on what he has referred to as a life- and unlife-changing discovery during his studies. (It has always been phrased as though he found a source of information, rather than had an epiphany.) It is certain that his notoriously mysterious end-game pertains to this discovery, as does his research into dimensional and planar transportation. It is probable that his self-taught study of necromancy was boosted by this source as well, though it is strongly suggested that it was the study of necromancy that lead him to his discovery.

    While still living, the future Lord Death Despoil raised his first army on his homeworld when he was barely into his early twenties, and there lead it into some sort of armed insurrection. From context, it seems as if he had no assistance, other than animated Undead (or possibly created and controlled Undead). He was defeated by the forces of his homeworld. Lord Death Despoil has revealed little of this campaign, but he has said that he made many mistakes during it, not the least was that he allowed himself to become a victim of his own success. He says he won until the point he became over-confident and had made himself too large a threat and was overwhelmed by a large coalition of enemy forces he had defeated individually; and at the height of battle, he was killed.

    Things might have ended there, but at the moment he was killed in battle, he was opening a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire to escape. Lord Death Despoil was already a powerful enough necromancer that he would have become Undead on his death – but had his body remained, it could have been destroyed before this could occur. But as it transpired, his body fell into the Elemental Plane of Fire – and was shielded from the effects of the plane by the magic he had already cast.

    Lord Death Despoil then later emerged from the Elemental Plane of Fire onto the Macronis IV. The exact time he remained on the Elemental Plane of Fire is unclear. Lord Death Despoil admits while he thinks is was a few months, as he came to himself and lucidity as he became a Lich by “natural” (as opposed to artificial) means, it could possibly have been longer. This makes his official birthdate possibly wildly inaccurate.

    Only a short time – perhaps days, only hours – after his arrival there, he met Deather, and history was made.

    Lord Death Despoil began as an exceptional individual, born with prodigious natural magical talent, intelligence and insight and born into a position (whatever that may have been) to be able to learn to use them. And now, 2750 or so years later, he is at the height of his power. It is important, though, to remember that the Lord Death Despoil we see today is the product of his long and active unlife. While he is not infallible, nor believes himself to be (nor encourages that thought in his underlings – though enemies are another matter), experience has ensured that the worst of his mistakes have been made in the past, and been learned from.

    He is a strategic and tactical genius, equal to any of the most renowned generals of any world. This considerable natural talent has been further honed by the centuries of experience (not least by his natal – and fatal – campaign). Lord Death Despoil has tuned his extreme intelligence and insight to the point of limited precognisance. So not only can he often flawlessly predict what an opponent will do simply by mundane observation and experience, he can sometimes get actual confirmation via visions. This talent gives him a particular edge in personal combat, as this sense allows him to begin to react sometimes before his opponent even realises what they are going to do next. Shorn of the limitations of flesh, his speed and strength are super-human (though not quite to the point of actual super-powers), and his durability, even by Lich standards, is significant. He is still a very capable swordslich, though not to the standard or breadth of Lords Deather, Yeller or Foul Skream.

    Though supplemented by the Red Spear, and later his one-handed falchion, Death Blood – and in modern times, a coldbeam pistol – Lord Death Despoil’s magic is and always has been his most potent weapon. Lord Death Despoil has an arsenal of offensive spells. Though his preference is generally towards various point- and area-attack spells – Disintegration Bolt has been his perennial favourite for centuries – he can also dip into a seemingly bottomless bag of magical tricks he’s picked up through the years. Even when exposed to something he has not seen before, he can sometimes replicate it himself, only having seen it once.

    He is confirmed rating as at least a level 100 caster (five times what is normally considered the “top” tier of mortal casters) and that rating was not even for his specialist magic, nor is it known what the maximum level of spell he can cast is, 100 simply being the highest known rated. His talent with magic is such that he can stretch his spells to over twice the distances, areas and durations than most other casters using the same spell and mana.

    Lord Death Despoil exudes an aura of quiet control and power, above and beyond the supernatural aura of a Spirt-Bound lich. This is the result of his long experience – he does, in fact, have a temper, contrary to some belief. But he long ago learned to temper and focus his anger to burn cold, not hot. Making him angry no longer causes him to make mistakes, just more determined and precise, as more than one hero has found to fatal cost. He is ruthless when he needs to be, reasonable and moderate when not, and he is happy to at least attempt negotiation if circumstances are right. While in the vast majority, he (and thus the Aotrs itself) is a lich of his word and uphold bargains and agreements in good faith, he has no love for honour and similar concepts for their own sake, and holds no fear of violating a pact if circumstances conspire to make it untenable. Such instances are rare, as generally holding the reputation of good standing is reason enough to do so, but more than a few souls over the centuries have mistaken this attitude for an iron-clad slavishness to the letter or spirit of the law, to their detriment.

    Lord Death Despoil has a little flair for – and appreciation of – the dramatic, but like his well-known understated sense of humour, it takes second place to his practicality and good strategy. He enjoys learning for learning’s sake, and his memory has become practically photographic. While the sheer breath of technology and knowledge escapes him simply due to the lack of time to study everything, he knows a great deal on many subjects (some rather surprising), and usually enough to converse intelligently with technical experts. He also ensures that he follows cultural trends as well as pure academia – Lord Yeller says if for no other reason than to keep up with Yeller’s own cultural references.

    He is neither shy with praise, nor reserving of criticism of his subordinates. He has little tolerance for incompetence (gross incompetence is an executable offense in the Aotrs) or wilful ignorance. This is not to say that he is intolerant of mistakes, merely that he is acutely sensitive to the difference between honest mistake and happenstance and of ill-conceived action or failure due to in action or slovenliness. Failure is expected, and mistakes happen; incompetence, he says, is when they are repeated.

    The Red Spear, the titular artefact of the Aotrs, bears mention itself. Popular myth ascribes it to an artefact created by Lord Death Despoil on his homeworld, or found within the place of his great discovery. The reality is somewhat more mundane. The symbolism of the Red Spear is largely derived from the Aotrs themselves. The Red Spear’s origin is almost uninterestingly mundane. Far from creation by Lichemaster or divine providence, it was simply a magical weapon looted from one of the tombs on Macronis IV by Lord Death Despoil and Deather. Further provenance of the weapon is unknown. The tomb of the warriors it was taken from was already old. At the time of looting, technology was at the equivalent level of the first century BC and the tomb dated back to a late bronze-age desert civilisation, where iron weapons were rare and special, over a thousand years previously. (Latter-day metallurgical analysis indicates the Red Spear was forged sometime around 1530BC.) Whichever ancient necromancer first crafted it, for whom, and for what reason and the identity of its previous bearer were already mysteries lost to time even before Macronis IV itself was.

    The Red Spear is a one-handed light spear, a little over six feet long. It is entirely made of an enchanted meteoric iron (technically, due to natural inclusions, it can be classified as steel), enchanted to weight no more than a wood-and-iron spear of the same mass. The red colour – red like the colour of freshly-spilt arterial blood – is an alchemically-derived property from the blood that would have been spilled in its creation. It has strong, though not exceptional magical enchantment, and is unholy and specifically aligned towards Undead. This latter reason was what drew Lord Death Despoil to it. Bound magic within it originally enabled a single daily use of a primitive Animate Dead spell; Lord Death Despoil’s later enhancements increased that ten-fold and added a trio of blade-turning spells. The Red Spear was superseded as Lord Death Despoil’s melee weapon of choice surprisingly early in his career, he preferring the much-more-powerful Deathblood and his shield.

    Lord Deather and the Defilers

    Deather was the first true member of the Aotrs, for without him and the Defilers, Lord Death Despoil could never have created an army. A scant handful of years older than Lord Death Despoil when they met, he can even lay claim to be the oldest member of the Aotrs by a technicality.

    Deather recalls little of his early life, as noted previously. He and his men, who would go on to become the Defilers, were a phalanx of regular infantry serving an empire on Macronis IV. His unit was sacrificed to defeat a long-forgotten enemy by his leaders, but inadvertently, the manner in which they died meant that most of the unit returned from the grave weeks later (what Deather distantly recalls), as liches. He and his men were lost and confused, driven by the traditional anger at the living, and a more specific desire to revenge themselves on the ones who had caused them to be slain. The unit wandered rudderless for months, however, until fate intervened and they ran into Lord Death Despoil, himself only freshly a lich.

    Despite a somewhat tense start, Deather accepted this newcomer, who claimed to be from another world, into the unit. Lord Death Despoil offered to help the phalanx, as at the time, they had no capability to use magic themselves. The nascent Lichemaster quickly determined that the phalanx was unstable, due to the nature of their creation. They were necromantically linked, so that when enough of them were destroyed – or over time – the energy that motivated them would crumble and they would be permanently destroyed. Lord Death Despoil used his even then considerable necromantic skill to help stabilise the undead into something more permanent, tying each individual’s spirit to their body with and influx of his own power and severing them from the group link, transforming them into true Spirit-Bound Undead.

    This action earned both Deather’s and his units favour quickly. And when they first began to run into enemies, Lord Death Despoil’s tactical prowess came into the field. In a few months, far from being an attaché to the unit, Deather and his men swore their undying allegiance to Lord Death Despoil. While the official inauguration of the Army Of The Red Spear did not come for some months hence, this event marked its very first beginning. Deather and the Defilers later took their new names on the official formation of the Aotrs (their prior names, those of their lives, are now long-forgotten).

    Deather is a martial prodigy. He recalls only dimly distant echoes that as a child, he was raised at or trained in a monastery of warrior-monks (he is uncertain of which, or even entirely of the veracity of this memory), but if so, it stood him in good stead. He wears armour like a second skin. He is arguably the single most trained swordsman in the galaxy, as he has always made it a point to train with his sword for an hour a day for every day he was able for two and three-quarter millennia. Out of combat, he comes across as a typical old soldier. The centuries have taken some of the edges off, so that he is now merely more straight-forward in his tastes than crude, more blunt than course. He and Yeller have been fast friends and cohorts in crime for millennia, and their easy camaraderie is arguably the closest of all the High Command.

    In combat, however, this personality seems to switch off, and he becomes machine-like in his cool and calm precision. In a crisis, Deather is the most unflappable of the High Command next to Lord Death Despoil himself, and even that is debatable. This duality of nature is a common trait to the Defilers in general, having trickled down from their leader, but it is with Deather that is most defined.

    The Defilers are possibly the single-best trained unit the galaxy has ever seen. Out of all of the early units, the Defilers have retained most of their original number and early reinforcements over the centuries. To start with, this was simply due to their own skill and more than a little luck, but once the practise of being able to restore destroyed Undead truly began, the membership stabilised. Experience has done the rest.

    Of passing note is that the Defilers are not-quite exclusive majority of males, and former humans. At the time of their formation, and on their world, women were not warriors (or at least, not allowed to be by the cultural conventions of the time). By the time Defilers until their unit reached its permanent size, they were sufficiently elite that as they did now not need new recruits, expansion to any new members was neither required and would have been detrimental to their performance. As such, induction to their ranks is essentially closed off to anyone, male, female or otherwise.

    (This is similarly true for the Bellowers and the Grim, though in both cases, the units were traditionally slightly more open, given their irregular and tribal origins respectively and that both units’ members fluctuated considerably more before settling down.)

    The original, pre-Defilers phalanx was armed with spears and shields and only laminar armour, with a few javelins for ranged work. As time passed, and technology advanced the Defilers went from medium to heavy infantry, in full plate armour, with tower shields as well as their spears; broadswords for closer in work, and still using javelins, though now larger and heavier ones. This remains their equipment when they are deployed to tech-locked to time-locked worlds, where advanced technology cannot be taken. There, they are a sight to behold. Their shields locked together into a tortoise formation bouncing off mundane and magical attack alike, with only the hafts of the spears protruding. When an enemy force closes in, in the middle ranks, some of the shields drop, like hatches, and a shower of javelins shoots out with terrible accuracy. They march in silence, and in unison, as if all controlled by a single mind. Yet this is not magic, but simply a product of millennia of working together. Each individual Defiler is a master combatant in his own right, an all together they are practically unstoppable. Despite their individual magical skill, in formation, the Defilers stick to their roots and rely on their physical weapons to deal ranged attacks – which makes the shield wall parting to allow a fusillade of Fireballs or Lightning Bolts to strike an enemy’s ranks at close range all the more surprising, not least in the near silence that the spells are cast in, without a single signal.

    As the gunpowder age dawned, the Defilers easily made the jump first to pike-and-shot and then on to rifles and eventually vehicles – despite keeping up their old formation drills for when they care called upon to use them. On the modern battlefield, the Defilers serve as the most elite Power Troops. The size of the Defilers in terms of combatants to the relatively small number of troops in the modern squads means that they have diversified out, such that some members now crew their transport vehicles too. It also has meant that the Defilers can be spread out more, since they now longer need the entire unit in one place to have an impact. Indeed, the Defilers now are rarely ever called even to tech-locked worlds in their entirety; in rotation, a (ironically) skeleton crew remains behind to perform duties as required while the rest get out their spears. A couple of dozen Defilers less in a massed unit does not appreciably weaken their power on the ancient battlefields, but the same number can make a huge difference to small unit actions on a modern one.

    Deather’s right-hand lich, the Defiler’s traditional standard bearer, is Shatter-Scatter. Shatter-Scatter is so named for his penchant for literally striking his targets so hard that he punches right through them and scatters their vertebrae. Shatter-Scatter is not remarkable in size, as his skill and strength comes not from his physicality in life, but his will and power as a lich, even from his earliest start.

    Lord Yeller and the Bellowers

    Yeller is by far the most outgoing and flamboyant of the High Command. Yeller is loud, but easy-going, with a ready (if somewhat idiosyncratic) wit, he is practically the cheer-leader of the group. Yeller likes to have fun, and he isn’t all that particular about how his fun comes about. But beneath this apparent happy-go-lucky attitude lurks a fiendishly cunning mind, and something of a sadist.

    Yeller started out life, from what he recalls, on the fringes of the same empire that spawned Deather. More reckless back then, Yeller’s hedonistic tendencies made him a rogue and almost before he was full-grown, he was an outlaw. But Yeller thrived in this environment, using his charisma and his deceptive intelligence to become the leader of a large group of bandits and ne’er do-wells. Yeller had dreams of forming his own little kingdom one day, and he drilled his men quite well for someone with only a limited knowledge of military operations. His rise to power was not unnoticed, and in due course, he heard that the empire had to dispatch troops to the hinterlands to defeat him.

    It was here that his youthful recklessness got the better of him, and he and his band made a night attack on what he thought was an imperial phalanx, moving in a column through a forest. In one light, he was correct, that it was indeed equipped as an imperial phalanx would be – but it was, in fact, Lord Despoil and Lord Deather’s unit.

    This skirmish was technically the first true battle the nascent Aotrs had fought. Yeller’s men were defeated, but he himself put up a grand fight against both Lord Death Despoil and Deather, before being wounded and knocked out. He and his surviving men woke up as captives. During his interrogation, both senior liches saw something in Yeller they hadn’t expected, and conversely, Yeller saw a horizon he’d never have crossed on his own. Almost at once, Yeller decided that this path was a far more appealing one. The injuries he had sustained were not necessarily fatal (the dangers of infection and dark age-technology-level medicine notwithstanding) but they would have debilitated him. So Yeller surprised both liches by not only saying he wanted in, but that he wanted to become like them.

    Yeller also managed to convince a fair number of his men – some even, who had been killed in the skirmish – to join up as well. With two units now, Lord Despoil decided they need a symbol and a name. None of the surviving liches can recall who suggested that they take new names for themselves as well, but Yeller asserts that Deather suggested he be “Yeller” as a admonishment for his loudness (which Yeller immediately and gleefully decided to adopt) and Deather concedes that he recalls that Yeller suggested his own name in return, citing that Deather should have a name that was as boring as he was. These names stuck and as strange as it might be to unfamiliar ears, after a couple of millennia, to the liches, they are just names now and the meanings only remembered when quizzical historians dig through their pasts.

    One obscure fact about Yeller is that he is a natural shape-changer by birth (an ability he shares with Lord Unlucky by entirely unrelated co-incidence), which the ability to shapeshift into a cheetah form (now a skeletal cheetah). This is not lycanthropy, but instead a rare talent that his people occasionally displayed, whose origin was shrouded in myth and legend even when Yeller was alive. It is not an ability he has ever used often, but it remains a weapon in his arsenal and one little-known or remembered.

    The Bellowers – their name bestowed by Yeller, of course, satisfying both his desire for silliness with both a thematic and linguistic resonance – became the Aotrs second unit. At first, the Bellowers were a barely-regular group of disparately armed light troops. But under Deather’s supervision, Yeller began to forge them into a regular unit of swordsmen.

    Once they had fully established themselves by the time of the midpoint of the Kalanoth campaigns, the Bellowers were second only to the Defilers. The Bellowers used traditionally mail and shield, with sword and javelin, supporting the Defilers as the main core of the army. With a formation a little more open and flexible, the Bellowers made the easiest transition into the gunpowder age, and from then on into today’s Line Infantry and its attendant vehicle support.

    On the pre-industrial battlefield, the Bellowers live up to the name – even the Grim’s battle-frenzies are drowned out by the Bellowers war-cries. They are loud enough to be painful to the human ear, which gives them one more edge in close combat. In latter years, the Bellowers have refined their war-cries into an actual offense – their co-ordinated keening, enhanced by magic, as they close to charge is strong enough to constitute a sonic attack in and of its own right. Enemies not killed or knocked prone by the almost literal wall of sound are impeded by burst eardrums and are rarely able to stand against a mass of elite and experienced warrior liches, even before more magic comes into play.

    On a lighter note, the Bellowers are usually first unit to breaking into a marching song on the move, and they are responsible for the vast majority of the Aotrs traditional marching songs.

    Yeller’s second-in-command, the unit’s traditional standard bearer is Lacerator. Lacerator has been fiercely loyal to Yeller since the get-go before the Bellowers formed, and the two have a very similar outlook on unlife. Lacerator was in his earliest days, something of a bard and he is still by far the most musically inclined of the High Command, appreciating it in all its forms. He is the author of many of the Aotrs battle-songs. In later years, this appreciation expanded to the study of the science of sound and especially its offensive applications; he is also the mastermind behind honing the Bellower’s keen to its current form.

    Lord Foul Skream

    Lord Foul Skream has been Lord Death Despoil’s personal aide-de-camp, adjutant and factotum also since the beginning of the Aotrs. He is also the Aotrs chief engineer. Foul Skream was one of the original Bellowers, which when one considers his name, might not be surprising. (The reason he chose to spell his name with a “k” rather than a “c” has long since been lost to time.)

    Foul Skream was from a minor family of the now-forgotten empire, the same one that Deather had been part of. As a middle son, Foul Skream recalls he had wanted to be in the military, but that had gone to his older and more physically adept brother. Foul Skream instead found himself languishing in a minor bureaucratic post. His only consolation was that it enabled him to learn things he might never have done, and these studies started his unlife-long interest in engineering. Yeller come across Foul Skream during a raid, and the young Foul Skream immediately saw the chance for something better.

    Yeller immediately noted him as being particularly bright and highly organised. Foul Skream started to gravitate towards helping with the organisation and logistics of the pre-Bellowers, aiding Yeller and Lacerator and becoming a little bit of a de facto third-in-command, at least as far as non-combat operations went.

    During the final years on Macronis IV, he occasionally helped Lord Death Despoil in organising his research. It was in the early years of the Kalanoth campaign, when as the Aotrs expanded, Lord Death Despoil realised that with the expanding army, he would need an assistant. Yeller immediately recommended Foul Skream for the job without hesitation, and the rest was history.

    Foul Skream was eventually discovered to be naturally psionic. While even during his life, he had had an occasional tendency to make odds things happen around him in times of stress, but these were just assumed to be magical in cause. Psionics was fundamentally unknown to Aotrs (and the peoples of Kalanoth and Macronis IV) in those earliest days, and it was not until a couple of centuries later during the Akamo campaign that Foul Skream was finally able to understand what his ability was. As he was already a few centuries in age, his psionic powers have always been something of a back-seat to his magical and technological abilities. His telepathy is his most developed skill, being both of broadest use and having the advantage that as a Spirit-Bound lich, he is himself largely immune to any return psionic attack.

    Foul Skream is calm, collected and meticulous. Much of the Aotrs’ earliest surviving records are written by his own hand, and he and Lord Death Despoil worked very closely on building up what would become the Aotrs bureaucracy and information storage systems ensuring they would be sufficient to collect all required data without being burdensome and cumbersome.

    While Foul Skream came to enjoy the bureaucratic work, and, spurred on by his work assisting lord Death Despoil, he has done not a little research into magic and especially psionics himself over the centuries, his true passion remains engineering. Foul Skream was often the driving force behind Aotrs technological work over the centuries, and in truth he is still happier to rely on a technological solution than a magical one if he can. With the much wider variety of technology available in the modern world, Foul Skream doesn’t quite have the time to master everything – though he makes a spirited attempt – and his main focus shifts around. In the past few decades, it has mainly been in weapons research. The new generation of coldbeams and drain cannon are both projects he has done considerable work on himself.

    Lord Bowblast and Skel Ride

    Lathril Bowblast is a relative newcomer to the High Command, joining a mere five centuries ago. Despite his comparative youth, Bowblast has made himself indispensable companion and proof positive that even the High Command’s ancient circle is not impenetrable.

    Bowblast is the most stoic and humourless of the High Command. A quiet elf lich of few words, Bowblast is often the straight lich to Yeller, Deather or Unlucky’s antics (outside of combat, at least, in Deather’s case). Bowblast has a stated preference for unpowered technology or magic, and even still prefers his bow to a coldbeam rifle if he can get away with it. This is often the source of habitual good-natured ribbing from the others, especially Yeller and Foul Skream. While he has mellowed somewhat in the past centuries, he still acts the curmudgeon. In truth, he enjoys taking this role in the group’s dynamics and despite appearances, is fast friends with the others.

    As it is both much more recent, and in an age where information is much more easily stored, Bowblast’s personal history is a matter of Aotrs public record.

    Bowblast comes from the tech-locked HPE-L planet of Myerld, first invaded by the Aotrs in 1762 and so well into their FTL era. The Myerld campaign was relatively limited in scope, lasting a little under sixty years before the Aotrs were repelled in 1819. As such, the amount of forces that it was possible for an FTL-level society to commit on a world where no industrial or beyond technology could be utilised was quite limited. Even the core, the Defilers, Bellowers and Grim were a couple of centuries’ shy of serious practise. Lord Death Despoil was essentially forced to start almost from scratch, using local recruits and a small number of highly committed volunteers. Myerld’s geographical location placed it along a route that would further Aotrs expansion, and it had a plentiful supply of magic that the Aotrs found valuable, but the campaign was not a critical as those in the distant past.

    The elf Lathril Elentari was born to a lowly woodcutter and a hunter in a small elven village in Myerld’s elf nation of Lastrilora. An only child, Lathril had few prospects in life beyond his parent’s vocations. He showed most promise following his mother’s footsteps, with above-average skill with the bow. He was a reserved, quiet individual, not prone to emotional outbursts and this put him something at odds with the generally more care-free wood elves around him.

    When he was just entering his physical adulthood at sixteen, both his parents were killed in a monster attack. Lathril rallied the villagers and managed to land the killing shot on the beast himself. With few other options, he left his village behind and went to join the elven army. Though young, his proficiency with his bow, his woodcraft and his maturity meant he was accepted quickly into the ranks of a small skirmishing unit of foot archers. Lathril flourished in the military environment, becoming a rising star in the unit. As his skill and reputation grew, his talents saw him placed into the ranks of a regular archery unit assigned to the capital. There he came to the attention of a noble elfmaid Valfanladel Shiellen, the scion of her family, when he won the annual archery contest at the capital. Lathril, as a young elf of low birth, came as something out of the left field. Valfanladel took an immediate liking to Lathril and he to her, and they were soon courting. This did not sit well with some of the nobles, for reasons of Lathril’s birth, but most notably with one noble, Taelissin Vyeneor. Vyeneor had designs on Valfanladel (of both political and personal nature) and was furious to see Lathril functionally poach his future ticket to wealth and luxury out from under him. Lathril’s humiliating defeat of him in the archery contest sealed what was for Lathril, a life-long bitter rivalry.

    Lathril’s growing relationship with Valfanladel introducing him to another pivotal love of his life – riding. Lathril showed an uncommon talent in the saddle, to the point he transferred into a light horse unit, the 3rd Glade Riders, and rose quickly through the ranks, to the dismay of Vyeneor, who also was part of the unit.

    By the time he was thirty-one, in 1802, Lathril was married to Valfanladel, with a thirteen-year old son (Orrlauretholagen) and eight-year old triplets (Amedri-Galiel, Dolter-Ullta and Erraesfana). He was now the commander of the 3rd Glade Riders, and popular with his troops.

    The Aotrs campaign entered full swing. After forty years of build-up, first conquering and then fortifying Morakkkriks, the land of the undead, the Aotrs moved out to conquer the continent. The Aotrs campaign caused a great deal of uproar; finally united, the good nations were banding together as the Aotrs swept out. Lathril and his unit went to the battlefront, where he won further honours, taking the field against the Aotrs.

    But then Lathril’s tale took a much darker twist half a dozen years into the war. Vyeneor’s obsession with Valfanladel and Lathril reached breaking point. During a lull in the fighting, Lathril went to meet with his wife and family, they having travelled part-way from the capital to meet him. Vyeneor arranged for an ambush, hoping to murder all of them and blame the Aotrs or the general confusion, hiring mercenaries. For good or ill, Lathril was delayed riding to the rendezvous, and arrived too late. Of his family and retainers, only Orrlauretholagen was left alive, but comatose.

    Lathril was shattered. Matters became worse as when Orrlauretholagen regained consciousness, it was discovered that he had been substantially brain-damaged and rendered incapable, (though it was not known in those terms. The symptoms suggest to a modern eye, the cause was likely through oxygen deprivation to his brain). In his desperate search to find a cure for his son, Lathril started to spend less time with his unit. Vyeneor managed to capitalise on his own political position and took advantage of the situation to get Lathril declared unfit for command by his new political allies. As a further bit of spite, Vyeneor also had Orrlauretholagen consigned to a distant monastery, under the auspices of “treatment,”, though without the massive magical efforts required to actually treat the damage, it was little more than functionally palliative care, and Lathril knew it.

    Forced out, his family taken and with nowhere to turn and no way to prove Vyeneor was behind it all, Lathril disappeared, taking only his horse with him. For five years, he was a shadow in the woods. A chance meeting found him encountering members of his old unit. Disaffected by the scheming of the nobles – and Vyeneor in particular, and his increasingly careless regard for their lives if it could win him more glory, about half of 3rd Glade Riders were deserting. Lathril joined them.

    But before they could leave the region behind, word reached them that Vyeneor had the unit disbanded completely and had all the deserters declared traitors, dispatching a large force to capture (and execute) them. (Bowblast suspects this action was purely out of spite for them not kow-towing to Vyeneor’s whims and daring to defy him.)

    On their own, the elves would have been wiped out. So Lathril suggested that there was only one way out; join the invaders.

    The Aotrs, after some initial concerns, quickly found that Lathril and his unit’s skills were invaluable, much superior to the current small units of light horse that they had to hand. Lathril himself soon found favour with the Lichemaster personally, who valued his level head and tactical insight and the 3rd Glade Rides were attached to the Aotrs core forces. Lathril and his unit served with distinction for another five years.

    During the first phase of the pivotal Battle of Galadrat Fields, Lathril spotted Vyeneor, sequestered away in a pike phalanx. The elite pikeelves had already broken the Aotrs small group of goblin cavalry, causing the entire orc flank to waver. Having put to fight the enemy’s skirmishers, Lathril gathered his troops and called for volunteers to join him in attacking the pike phalanx. The close terrain the pike phalanx had entered meant that it negated any advantages the riders had from mount and bow, and such an attack would be suicidal – but they were the only unit in position to do anything before the orc flank collapsed. The whole unit, to an elf, volunteered, and the 3rd Glader Riders charged into the pike phalanx. Their furious assault wiped all but wiped them out, but in doing so, not only heartened the orcs, but broke the pike phalanx. Lathril himself managed to slay the stunned Vyeneor himself, but died of shock and blood loss due to his injuries.

    Following the battle, Lord Death Despoil raised Lathril’s ghost and those of his troops, and offered them a second chance. They accepted, and so Bowblast came to be, retaining only his former name as the link to his past. The unit, too, took a new name, one from the ancient lists of the Aotrs (if one of unremarkable pedigree): Skel Ride.

    Skel Ride only contributed in the final phase of the battle, two days later, however. The mage Dasfretionas was the most powerful caster in Myerld’s history, and during the final phase of the battle, he cast a spell specifically designed to destroy Lord Death Despoil completely. It not only cost him his life, and those of many other volunteers, but ensured that none of them would be able to be resurrected. But potent though it was, the spell was only partially successful. Instead of total destruction, the Aotrs were banished from Myerld for five hundred years, old and new liches alike.

    This was a major defeat. The loss of Myerld’s system as a usable asset was one of the driving impetus for the ill-fated 3rd generation starfleet, rushed into production for the required extended range to exploit other avenues. While the Aotrs did eventually return to Myerld in 2319, aside from retaking the capital of Morakkkriks, operations have been confined to small-scale covert recovery operations and the occasional battle to repulse invading enemies.

    But for all that, the Myerld campaign did bring the Aotrs Bowblast, which Lord Death Despoil considers entirely worth the trade.

    Bowblast and Skel Ride, in the ensuing years, were indispensable assets on other tech-locked worlds. Now armed with their bows of blood that gain in power with each kill they made, they have become as much the core of the Aotrs pre-industrial army as the Defilers or the Bellowers. Having been so decisively beaten, Lord Death Despoil initiated a project of mid-level campaigns and strikes on other tech-locked worlds, simply to ensure the Aotrs would be able to keep their eyeglows in on pre-industrial warfare capabilities. Bowblast and Skel Ride adapted to the modern technology fairly quickly, but as relatively young liches and elves both, they have a predilection for the pre-industrial era and are one of the foremost units deployed when called. Bowblast himself is now typically deployed as the Aotrs’ second-ranking general after the Lord Death Despoil himself on the field, typically commanding one flank.

    In modern warfare, Skel Ride naturally transitioned from light horse to fast scouting, using a variety of light vehicles, most notably the various recon cycles in use.

    It would also be remiss to leave this topic without mentioning Chillhoof, Bowblast’s steed. Chillhoof was an elven steed, longer lived than a typical mortal horse breed. Bowblast had him for a good two decades before both their deaths. Chillhoof was the first creature Bowblast used his fresh necromantic powers on, on the eve of the final phase of the Battle of Galadrat Fields, under lord Death Despoil’s personal supervision. While his body was raised an animated undead, Bowblast then bound Chillhoof’s soul to the body, making Chillhoof a rare example of an animal Skeleton Warrior. Chillhoof has remained with Bowblast ever since. Chillhoof is regarded by the High Command as much a part of the team as Bowblast himself.

    It is unclear exactly how intelligent Chillhoof is, though he is at bare minimum at human intelligence. While alive, he was not particularly remarkable; his breed was naturally slightly smarter than an average horse, but still very much only of animal intelligence. After five centuries of being a Spirit-Bound lich, shorn of the limitations of an animal brain, Chillhoof has vastly exceeded that. Chillhoof does not talk (at least not in any actual language), but his actions – and clear understanding of the language of others – belie mere animal intelligence. It is equally clear, though, that the way his mind works is definitively not like that of a humanoid, so while he may be as intelligent as one (if not more so), it is intelligence from an entirely different direction.

    Lord Slaughter and the Grim

    If one were to meet the zen-like Slaughter, one might be forgiven for mistaking him for an ascetic scholar-philosopher, imagining perhaps in life, him wandering and dispensing wisdom to some callow youth. Calm and measured, Slaughter seems at odds with his chosen name. That is, until one sees him in battle. There, his true nature is visible, as he explodes into a terrifyingly potent battle-frenzy.

    Slaughter is the age-old leader of the Grim. One of the early units of the Aotrs, the Grim were the first new unit to be formed on Kalanoth. The Grim were at first a group of living men, a warrior tribe that swore fealty to Lord Death Despoil within a few years of the invasion of Kalanoth.

    For two decades, the tribesmen rounded out the Aotrs army, providing some much-needed numbers. Their ferocity made them excellent for breaking up enemy formations of spears or sword-armed infantry, but this very aggression and lust for battle made them difficult to control, as Lord Death Despoil was at the time unused to dealing with irregular troops. During the battle of Rendealth Vale, the tribesmen, led by the over-confident chieftain, charged in too early and found themselves on the receiving end of a large cavalry charge and were overrun. Only a small band of fighters managed to hold off the cavalry surrounded and against impossible odds, fighting to the last. But this last stand tied the enemy horse up long enough to provide the Defilers time to break and rout the enemy’s centre.

    Lord Death Despoil elected to raise those few as liches and give them a second chance. And from this small core, the Grim was formed. Traditionally armed with the scythe, the Grim were one and all berserkers, their numbers expanded over the Kalanoth campaign, like the Defilers and Bellowers. Like both of those early units, the membership fluctuated in the first few centuries, until settling down into the fundamentally permanent incarnation.

    Slaughter came to prominence first as the Grim’s standard bearer. Due to their berserker nature of the Grim, the Grim’s initial leaders, lich or otherwise, had something of a tendency to permanently die, usually against some extremely powerful foe. The berserker nature of the unit did not help the situation, even as Lord Death Despoil’s grasp on how to handle more impetuous troops grew. Slaughter was able to maintain something of a comparatively clear head, even when raging, which was what lead him to be nominated as the standard bearer. He also had an uncanny knack for surviving, which went back as far as his life as tribesman – he was one of the last standing in the ill-fated stand at Rendealth Vale. After the Grim’s seventh leader perished fighting an angel in the heat of battle, Lord Death Despoil surrendered to the inevitable, and made him the Grim’s leader. Slaughter insisted on remaining the standard bearer as well, saying that it was partly his duty to the standard that let him keep a clearer head.

    Lord Death Despoil’s decision proved to be wise. Slaughter proved to be an excellent choice, able to handle both the out-of-combat affairs on the unit and to co-ordinate the Grim even while he was raging himself. Indeed, as time passed, Slaughter learned to master his rages to the point that it was less a rage and more simply a battle-frenzy, controlled and channelled.

    The Grim continued to reap their way across the battlefield, right the way through to the industrial age, though their usefulness slowly slipped as firearms began to dominate. As the atomic age dawned, the increasing use of vehicles meant that the place for battlefield berserkers was largely gone in modern warfare.

    Unlike the Defilers and Bellowers, the Grim were not in a position to adapt to the changes in warfare. While they were still a force to be reckoned with on tech-locked or time-locked worlds, where modern technology could not be taken, Lord Death Despoil was loathe to keep the Grim for those purpose alone.

    Instead, he suggested a change of focus. Throughout the centuries, as magic had become more advanced and easier to be taught, Slaughter’s mastery of his frenzies had reached the point he was able to cast spells while berserk, and he was passing on this method to the Grim. Lord Death Despoil proposed that this now became the Grim’s focus, when they were not called upon. To study and master anger and rage as a science, to learn best how to focus it and to be able to teach others. The Grim were given their own new headquarters; a monastery in a mountain range in the deserts of Raytayne. The Grim, by this point a stabilised cadre of old liches, took to this new challenge with vigour.

    The Monastery of the Grim today remains a place of ascetic learning, as the Grim refine new ways to channel anger – and, in perhaps the greatest irony, to become the Aotrs’ leading anger-management councillors. The Grim’s teaching, and Slaughter’s in particular, were invaluable in dealing with various orc-kin breeds and today many living disciples reside in the expanded complex.

    The Grim rarely are called into any modern conflicts, and even then only in a small number. They remain one of the core units for the Aotrs when tech-locked or time-locked world operations are required however, and their prowess is even more formidable. Now, they can no longer said to truly rage, but instead simply enter a state of hyper-frenzy, with all the power of a rage, but focussed with the ice-cold clarity of centuries of experience.

    Lord Unlucky

    A Kalanothi-type-orc-kin kobold, Lord Unlucky towers above his homeworld’s brethren by a full foot, but that merely makes him nearly four feet tall. Unlucky is the fool of the inner circle, the hapless jester to whom fortune has taken a particularly mean disliking too. Unlucky, as his name suggests, is a magnet for bad luck, to literally supernatural levels. His idiosyncratic speech pattern (using “me” or his name instead of “I”), suggests his bad luck is accompanied by a slow wit, incompetence and ignorance. His biggest dream is the ludicrous goal of creating the Elemental Plane of Snot. So, a sidekick then; a mascot – or a near-pet, for the High Command’s amusement and abuse; the designated butt of all the jokes. A position he accepts with resignation, for he has, after all, never known anything else, but he longs to. Indeed, more than once, Unlucky has defected from the Aotrs, run away at an opportunity given, when some kind hero shows him true kindness. But always, circumstances seem to conspire to return him to the Lichemaster’s heel.

    Mostly these circumstances involve him gleefully betraying and dispatching the hapless heroes who so are so totally fooled by his act. (And thereby short-circuiting any threat they might pose to Lord Death Despoil.)

    For an act it is. Unlucky thoroughly enjoys his role, acting the fool and all the High Command knows it. He and Yeller are particularly firm friends, having a similar sense of humour. But like the best lies, there is truth to it; Unlucky honestly enjoys being the recipient of an elegant, well-executed prank; he thinks it’s funny too, and he genuinely does like making his friends laugh.

    Though he is not a lich, Unlucky is frighteningly intelligent and even more frighteningly capable of concealing it. Despite his apparently bumbling, he is in reality a highly skilled and capable warrior-archmage in his own right. Unlucky has long-since exceeding his species biology, too, via his own research and magical means, being over a millennia-and-a half old, despite his apparently youthful appearance.

    Even his innocuous and silly-sounding dream of an Elemental Plane of Snot is much more than it appears. Unlucky is being genuinely serious about creating an entire Plane and possesses the considerable magical skill and ability to be able to experiment with demi-planes, though the sheer scale of a full plane eludes his power in the current time. Further, Raytayne kobold mucus is actually slightly corrosive. In a concentrated form – such as one wielded by an archmage – it becomes a destructive acid. And, in essence, the corrosive effect is what Unlucky is most interested in. So in stark truth, his goal is nothing less than the creation of an Elemental Plane of Corrosion; the “snot” is just one form of being able to deliver it.

    Unlucky serves Lord Death Despoil as a second adjutant, often helping Foul Skream with his duties, but he is also the Aotrs’ overall chief of intelligence. Naturally devious and stealthy, Unlucky is an expert dissembler and the High Command’s best infiltrator.

    Unlucky shares with Yeller the unusual ability to naturally shapechange, though unlike Yeller, the exact type (or even number) of his alternate forms is a closely-guarded secret. It is widely suspected that he has a rat or bat form, though there is no solid confirmation of either; some even speculate his natural ability may not even be limited to specific forms.

    The deceptive kobold hails from Raytayne. As an imp, a kobold slave in Zutak-Sar, he served a noted dwarven alchemist, one particularly interested in the esoteric. An accident exposed the imp to a conflagration of magical potions, philtres and concoctions which forever burned bad luck into his very being. His master started to call him “Unlucky” and it stuck. Unlucky quickly learned, though, that this was something to his advantage. His bumbling made him less of a threat – even if it made him a target for the other slave’s mockery – but it amused the master. And it let him into places the others would never have been allowed; such as being left alone (to clean up his latest mess) in master’s study with his research materials and lore. Using his natural stealth and guile, Unlucky managed to educate himself, in dribs and drabs, until the point he was able to start studying the master’s books for himself.

    Despite the sequence of disproportionate, to the point of comedic, ill-fortune that plagues Unlucky to this day, a dispassionate observer will note that this bad luck never seems to do any permanent harm to him (or anything truly important around him) – and when things go Unlucky’s way, they seem to do so with abandon.

    The case-in-point is his chance meeting with Lord Death Despoil. His master’s city was overrun by the Aotrs and while his master prepared to flee with all his belongings, Unlucky thought to slip away with his abusive master’s most precious potions in the confusion. Instead, a confluence of bizarre co-incidences, random events and highly implausible happenings left him literally rolling right up to the Lichemaster’s feet, with an armful of rare potions. Looking up, Unlucky judged his dissembling would not help him here and immediately offered up his loot for his life, and the rest of his master’s supplies as well.

    Lord Death Despoil, Foul Skream, Deather and Yeller were sufficiently amused at the audacity that Deather (not needed in the clean-up of the city) gamely went with him personally to retrieve the promised stores. (With the warning that if this was a waste of time, Unlucky’s life would be forfeit.) They arrived at the master’s home to encounter the alchemist himself, about to leave. Unlucky immediately broke free and ran sobbing to his master, clinging to his leg and shrieking about how he was forced to lead the lich to master’s home and how sorry he was. Deather recalls he rolled his eyeglows, having half-expected this exact reaction.

    But then with a speed that startled even the lich, Unlucky pulled a previously unseen weapon – little more than a crude shiv – from his person and coolly jammed it into his master’s eye socket. Deather fondly recalls that is was the sudden switch-off from blubbering coward to studied action that grabbed his attention. He recollects he was further impressed by the depth of Unlucky’s knowledge as they looted the remains of the alchemist’s lab. And so it was when they returned to Lord Death Despoil, Deather recommended that they keep an eye on the little (to them) kobold.

    Unlucky proved himself several times over that campaign, and by the time it was done, he had solidified his position in Lord Death Despoil’s inner circle.

    Unlucky was the instigator of the program that created the Kobold Commandoes, both by his discovery and the ardent pursuit of the idea once started. Though he himself was an outlier, Unlucky noted that the kobolds (of his type) that were most suited to intellectual pursuits were always the smaller, weaker ones most frequently culled from the brood as imp in the often brutal life of a kobold. By simply ensuring the entire brood was educated and not allowed to murder each other, Unlucky proved that Kalanothi-type kobolds had a great deal of potential that was being wasted that the Aotrs could harness. Today, after a centuries-long breeding and genetic engineering program masterminded by Unlucky, the kobolds recruited into the Kobold Commandoes second only to the Aotrs proper in terms of training; something that would have been an idea comical in its implausibility to the dwarves of Zutak-Sar.

    Lord Lungrender

    The Dark Elf now known as Lungrender was born on Kalanoth in 320 BC (or as close as records can determine). He is not only the highest-ranking living member of the Aotrs, but also one of the oldest living beings in the entire power.

    He was born in then- Dark Elf nation of Nathrogaa, located under the Stormcloud Mountains of the continent of Vayath. Nathrogaa was a hot-bed of political intrigue, full of competing noble houses, forever engaged in internecine warfare. One of the chief vendettas dated back to the schism of the Dark Elves from the surface elves; the noble houses blamed each other for the fall from grace they had succumbed to.

    At the time Lungrender was born as Elatarin (pronounced “E-lat-ar-in”) of the minor house of Zooll, Nathrogaa could barely even band itself together long enough to fight any external threats. Zooll was but a minor house in the thrall of a larger one, and the opportunities for the young Elatarin were few. The best path open to him was to be apprenticed to the House of Assassins, a (theoretically) politically neutral assassin’s guild, and it was an assassin that Lungrender spent his formative years. Elatarin proved to be naturally talented as an assassin, and over the years, rose in power in the House of Assassins. Throughout this period, Lungrender became increasingly frustrated with the nobility of the Dark Elves, which spent its time either indulging in excess or in-fighting. But until he had a power-base of his own, he could do little but bide his time, since it was obvious to him that if he were to try a coup, he would likely just make one more faction in the squabble.

    What Elatarin did manage, however, when he became the head of the House of Assassins, was to keep the House genuinely neutral. Before, it was only nominally neutral, subject to the whims of the house head’s own political leanings. But Lungrender had succeeded his position on merit (specifically, by being a better assassin than more than a few of his superiors), and he had done so without needing the outside support of one of the noble houses. They were less than happy about the situation, but as Lungrender was simply too good at his job to be assassinated himself (and his underlings fervently loyal, since the most politic he had purged himself), there was not a great deal they could do about it. After some desultory attempts to impose control by two of the nobles houses abruptly ended with the deaths of their scions in their beds, the noble houses got the message.

    For two decades, Lungrender held on to this position, as he neared his first century. He was slowly leveraging the House of Assassin’s reputation as a neutral party to expand the guild’s economic power base, especially in the farthest-flung parts of the nation, where the noble paid least heed to the doings of their lessers. His overall plan would be to make the guild so stable that eventually, it would become the true power base of Nathrogaa and then the nobles cut be effectively just cut-out and ousted, an artefact of the past. He knew that this could be a painfully long and dangerous path to take, but it would be the only one that would see the survival of the Dark Elves of Nathrogaa.

    Then, in 220 BC, the Army Of The Red Spear arrived on Kalanoth. Their arrival point put them fatefully in the Stormcloud Mountains. While the Liches busied themselves establishing a base of operations and beginning to carefully scout the land around them, Lungrender was conducting a tour of his operations in the west of Nathrogaa. News of the Aotrs reached him, and he decided to investigate himself. Lungrender expected that he would find a necromancer, one whose threat to Nathrogaa he and the House of Assassins could eliminate and curry more favour with the general populace. But his years of experience also made him cautious and to not jump to conclusions.

    Lungrender infiltrated the Aotrs camp personally. Using all of his talents, he was able to eavesdrop on the liches, even Lord Death Despoil, Deather and Yeller themselves. He quickly saw that this was not a mere necromancer, but a highly organised operation, and one that had access to magic the like of which Nathrogaa simply had never seen.

    He revealed himself to the liches, in Lord Death Despoil’s tent. (Lord Yeller fondly recalls the moment, as he says, aside from startling the unlife out of himself and Lord Deather, it was the first time he recalled seeing Lord Death Despoil momentarily loose his composure.) Lungrender offered a deal – he believed that he and the Aotrs could help each other, and Lord Death Despoil concurred. This was the start of an alliance between the House of Assassins and the Aotrs.

    The first deal was information. Lungrender could supply information on the comings and goings of Kalanoth – or at least in the local area – in return for Aotrs assistance when needed. In the first place, it was simply, guard duty, escorting a surface trade caravan containing some very valuable cargo to the Nathrogaa, a trivial job for the Aotrs.

    From there, the alliance grew stronger. Lungrender assisted the Aotrs in establishing their own powerbase in the region, and in thus also his own. Lungrender, like Deather and Yeller before him, came to quickly realise Lord Death Despoil’s potential. What started out as an alliance of convenience quickly became more. In Lord Death Despoil, Lungrender found a kindred spirit. Their goals dovetailed perfectly. The final moment came when Lord Death Despoil offered Lungrender not only just rulership of Nathrogaa, but eventually of Kalanoth itself.

    So it was, in 211 BC that Lungrender officially swore allegiance, along with all of the House of Assassins, to the Army Of The Red Spear. While he did not wish to become a lich, he did take his new name, abandoning Elatarin, formerly of House Zooll, forever.

    That same year, the Aotrs invaded Nathrogaa. It was a short campaign. Lungrender and the House of Assassins began slaughtering through the nobles. Simultaneously, the Aotrs marched in. Bearing the writ of the trusted House of Assassins, they faced only limited resistance from the warbands of the noble houses; the lower-class population found themselves not only minimally disrupted, but in a more favourable position, and the news spread like wildfire.

    Within seven weeks, Nathrogaa belonged to the Aotrs, and the army had now truly transitioned into a state.

    The Dark Elves have thus always been a major part of the Aotrs. With the Liches forming the core of the army, the Dark Elves formed the bulk, eventually supplemented by all the other races. In the modern times, the Dark Elf Troopers form a solid second-line military, the equal to many power’s front-line forces. Though still Dark Elves by the majority, the name is as much an honorific to the Dark Elves’ contribution to the Aotrs.

    Lungrender served as general and Lord Death Despoil’s personal assassin for many centuries. Once Kalanoth was conquered, he was indeed made its ruler, though he remained a permanent, active member of the High Command until the industrial age. As the Aotrs expanded, however, and the distances to an enemy grew greater and greater, his task of assassination became less important and feasible. Lord Death Despoil also had many more capable troops and generals at his disposal. Lungrender began to take a back-seat, spending more time developing on the infrastructure of Kalanoth, working closely with Lord Death Despoil. It was, they agreed, a task that needed to be done, and Lungrender was ideally suited for it.

    Today, he is the closest thing the Aotrs have to a civilian governor. He is still the head of the Dark Elf Troopers, but rarely joins them in the field. Lungrender now spends most of his time administrating – though he still performs a few little side-projects, sometimes even on tech-locked worlds – simply to keep his eye in. On the books, in addition to the rule of Kalanoth, he has ultimate authority over the other civilian rulers of the other worlds. In practise, due to the Aotrs’ skill at personnel management, he very rarely needs to utilise this power, and can leave them to administrate themselves.

    It would be impossible for anyone so long in association to the Aotrs not to have picked up some degree of magical skill, and Lungrender is no exception. Magic is not his forte, however, and though by most standards he would be a very capable magic-user, it is not something he relies upon. Rather, he has always preferred his own training and skill, backed-up by the technology of the time and his endlessly-seeming bag-of tricks in combat. For many centuries, he was the High Command’s stealth and infiltration expert. It was not without wry amusement that he relinquished this role to Lord Unlucky; but also with some satisfaction, as he had taken a personal hand in Unlucky’s training.

    Lungrender has had centuries to mellow from the harsh and ruthless elf of his assassin days. He has, after all, achieved his own ambition. He has more than enough people to wisely rule, and had seen his people prosper beyond what he could have imagined. He is, in his old age (relatively speaking, since as a Kalanothi elf, he is biologically unaging), happy in his position.

    One of Lungrender’s early acolytes, as far back as the invasion of Nathrogaa, was Lord Daggerheart. Daggerheart was Lungrender’s second-in-command, serving as something as an aide-de-camp initially, though never to the same extent as Lord Foul Skream to lord Death Despoil. Daggerheart is a skilled general in his own right. More martially motivated than Lungrender, Daggerheart retains the drive for battle. Indeed, it is partly because of Daggerheart that Lungrender felt able to semi-retire. Daggerheart became the Aotrs primary Dark Elf general until the FTL age. Then, as the Dark Elf Troopers became a primarily defensive force, he transferred into the Aotrs proper where he serves today. He retains an equivalent rank in the Dark Elf Troopers, making him the highest-ranking person to have such a duel-ranking.

    Kemala Axea is Lungrender’s consort – although given Kemala’s well-known promiscuity, that status is perhaps somewhat nominal, despite its officiality. Kemala hails from Raytayne originally, where her nation of Dark Elves was much more ritualised and given to blood rituals.

    An unabashed hedonist, Kemala’s status as arguably the most historically visible female in the orbit of the High Command has caused some occasional friction across the ages due to her proclivities. (These quarters usually conveniently ignore the contributions made by ever other female across the centuries.) Kemala has always found such criticism laughable – as she points out, why anyone would think she would be different if she had been male is a mystery to her. (In fact, Kemala has been known to experiment with sex and gender occasionally – as well as species, for that matter.)

    What attracted Lungrender to her initially (aside from her ability to cleave an armoured knight into two with one swing of her greatsword or rip out a man’s heart with her bare hands and bathe in the blood) was that beneath her apparent shallow exterior, Kemala genuinely does find joy in almost everything. She is forever experimenting, and very rarely does any activity – even the most mundane – fail to stimulate her. (Lungrender has occasionally noted it is as well that she is not monogamous, since no-one person could ever cope to keep up with her, even before considering her sexual appetites.) If one can hold her attention long enough to get her to engage, she has a surfeit of knowledge at all manner of topics. She is deceptively intelligent and a capable small-force commander in her own right, though not a general.

    Her traditionally-predominantly-female unit, the Poison Blades for many centuries served the Aotrs on the battlefield. The Poison Blades were berserkers, often supporting the Grim. Like the Grim, the dawn of the firearm age depreciated their usefulness, and they are now more of a ceremonial unit that serves as an extended personal guard and for Lungrender and Kemala. (Though one must observe that while the unit is now of more mixed sex, gender and species than it used to be, it also has a decided leaning towards the physically attractive, given that it is something of an open secret it is as much Kemala’s harem as any of that.) Kemala says she does miss the days where she could strip half-naked and charge screaming across the battlefield, but observes that modern technology has a number of other compensations (which she is liable to elaborate on, often to explicit length). She occasionally misses it enough that she will lead the Poison Blades on tech-locked world operations, though this is increasingly an infrequent occurrence.

     

     

    Vehicles of the Aotrs Ground Force, Part Two

    (Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)

    Hammer of Hatred Super Heavy Tank

    Length: 11.76m
    Width: 10.48m
    Height: 4.16m

    The Hammer of Hatred is the current-model super heavy tank operated by the Aotrs. The Hammer of Hatred is heavily armoured and has strong shields. Two rear engines provide it with full flight capability, enabling it to fly into and out of orbit under its own power. The vehicle’s unusual hammerhead shape is partly streamlined to facilitate these operations. However, it is only a mediocre flier at best, and the main turret has to be locked forward during high-speed flight – but it is capable of a surprising turn of speed, nonetheless, if only in relatively straight lines. It has excellent sensor systems, including a front-mounted rotating sensor pod just in front of the cockpit, which is itself very heavily armoured.

    The weapon systems were designed to be modular, though in practise, the primary configuration is nearly ubiquitous. The primary mode uses a huge Magnetic Linear Accelerator Cannon, rated at Class 25, which capable of shredding main battle tanks like paper. The weapon is playfully nicknamed the “can-opener” by its crews. The distinctive oblong shape of the barrel is due to the placement of the two main magnetic accelerators, which run along either side the barrel. All three of those parts are surrounded by the secondary accelerators, which work in a more conventional fashion. The railgun is able to accept and fire a wide range of munitions, though again, typically it uses just the solid slug.

    The secondary weapons are a pair of Plasma-Pulse Cannons, mounted at either side of the “hammer.” The atypical placement of the mounts was a compromise between the need for a weapon system for point-defence (typically top-mounted on most tanks) and the need for a dorsal turret during flight (typically a chin turret for VTOLs). The guns thus can rotate freely in all three axes. The somewhat eclectic placement affords both guns very good coverage on the tanks, with the only blind-spot being from the area of the rear hull at close range. (At longer ranges, the PD system can automatically tilt the tank slightly to be able to fire.)

    Outside of special operations or custom modifications, the only other modular weapons in use are a heavy Plasma-Pulse Cannon for the main turret to wreak havoc at close ranges and a pair of small horde launchers for the twin turrets, but it rare to see either in use in practise. This was primarily the reason no additional configurations were developed – the Hammer of Hatred’s primary set is the best-suited for its typical role.

    Deployment was rapid and widespread after its introduction as both of the older super heavy tanks that had been in service were overdue retirement. Both older tanks were Aotrs refits of imported vehicles, the Bloody Spear in particular being a modification of the ancestor of the current Herosine Onager Superheavy tank.

    Gloombat All-Purpose Attack Craft

    Length: 8.16m
    Width: 9.92m
    Height (Energy Beam): 4.35m
    Height (Quad coldbeam): 3.75m

    The Gloombat was an experimental concept. It was intended to take multirole craft to the extreme. It was intended to be Grav-Tank and fighter, bomber and VTOL all in one. It was even planned and tested to be used for aquatic operations, though it is unclear how much of this work made into the production model. The design laid down by the successful Fallen Soul prepared the Gloombat for this new and rigorous operational envelope.

    The Gloombat carries a Gate drive, starfighter engines and a grav-drive, combined with shields and a tough hull.

    The Gloombat’s main weapon is an Energy Beam Cannon. With brand-new refraction technology combined with a turreted mount makes its arc of fire very good indeed, not to mention very adaptable for other purposes. Four class 8 coldbeams, two on the nose and one on each wingtip, provide moderate fixed-forward firepower. A single plasma-pulse support cannon is placed as a chin turret, allowing some anti-infantry capability.

    The Gloombat’s final offensive capability comes from its two light fighter warhead launchers. These two bays give it a payload similar the Apparition’s, but being in two bays instead of across bays and hardpoints. The standard load is four Skull Anti-ship/Anti-armour warheads and four Reaper short-range anti-fighter missiles. The next most common loads replace the Reapers with 20 Horde semiguided warheads or replace the entire load-out with 50 Hordes.

    The turret, for operations as a fighter, can also be replaced entirely with a mount that contains an additional four coldbeams to supplement the four the Gloombat normally carries.

    The Gloombat, however, demonstrated that the Aotrs had not reached the point where a jack-of-all trades could be master of any of them. It was too big and too cumbersome to be used as a grav-tank and that aspect was dropped almost immediately. The Gloombat was only an adequate fighter. It was too small to carry a significant amount of weapons compared to the larger and more powerful fighters and in particular, the Crater simply out-performed it. The additional coldbeam module did not add enough extra firepower to make it a particularly valuable dogfighter. However, as intended, the energy beam cannon was useful in some scenarios, such and during capture operations, where it could be used to target specific enemy systems. A few Gloombats are thus retained by specialist units for space operations, but the idea of a general purpose fighter was dropped as well.

    Where the Gloombat did succeed mostly was in the ground-attack VTOL role. Being well-protected, fast and well-armed, the Gloombat does enjoy a level of superiority over other VTOL craft, and thus it is there that the Gloombat has its niche, though its moniker of All-Purpose Attack Craft is now something of a misnomer.

    Storm Cleaver Assault Strider

    Length (Standing): 4.57m
    Width: 5.39m
    Height (Standing): 7.30m

    The Storm Cleaver is a front line battle walker. In concert with the Gloombat All-Purpose Attack Craft, it was designed to replace the outdated Fleshburner main battle tank as the primary combat vehicles. The Storm Cleaver sports considerable agility and speed for a vehicle of its size. The arm-mounted weapon pods have had extensive reinforcement, allowing them to take non-typical stresses on the barrels and permitting the Storm Cleaver to use them as levers to assist it in difficult close terrain or if it becomes stuck.

    The Storm Cleaver’s arm-mounted weapon pods contain three weapons systems. Each unit contains a Class 14 Coldbeam to work in concert to provide the primary firepower. An underslung missile pod provides some additional firepower. These are typically loaded with a pair of Skull warheads, though as typical for Aotrs warhead technology, other munitions are not unknown. Above the Class 14 coldbeams is a pair of heavy support coldbeams for use against infantry or soft targets.

    The coldbeam cannons also they serve a secondary purpose as Frost Bomb launchers. At the top of the weapon array is a magazine that feeds through the rear mechanics of the support coldbeam to the main cannon, containing twenty Frost Bomb cartridges. The Frost Bomb system was newly developed for the Storm Cleaver, using technology derived from coldbeam technology. A single Frost Bomb cartridge creates an area of freezing, thick mist on impact. Aside from blocking non-sensor targeting locks, the mist freezes liquids and is harmful to most living creatures. In enough concentration, the mist will kill humanoid infantry and even vehicle crews with the sheer, unnatural cold. This is the first application of such an effect that does not require magical assistance. The Frost Bombs can freeze water sufficiently solidly that the Storm Cleaver can use them to make crossings of small bodies of water more expediently, instead of the more laborious method of sustained coldbeam fire.

    Early versions of the Storm Cleaver mounted a single support coldbeam in a top turret for point-defence and anti-infantry operations; more recent refits have seen this replaced with the more substantial twin coldbeam turret used on later versions of both the Devil Storm and Reign of Anger.

    As a combat walker, the Storm Cleaver requires only a single pilot, rather than a full tank crew. It was hoped that, as the Gloombat was in a similar position, that this would free up more vehicle crews for more vehicles, after retraining (something the Aotrs almost uniquely could afford to do).

    In practise, while both the Gloombat and Storm Cleaver were powerful vehicles in their own rights, the Aotrs found that both vehicles were, ultimately, simply just too tall to fill the MBT role. While offensive and defensively in terms of weapons, agility, shields and armour, both vehicles were every bit the equal of any MBT, their taller shape was no substitute for the low profile of a more traditional main battle tank, requiring them to be exposed to more fire than necessary and making defensive deployment more difficult. Work began barely a few months after the Storm Cleaver was first fielded in combat operations and the result of that was eventually the Revenant Spear. Storm Cleavers are still a common sight in the Aotrs ground forces, but now are more appropriately used in urban areas and dense terrain (where they and the Enragers make a deadly combination) or as supplementary support for the new MBTs.

    Reign of Anger Firesupport Vehicle

    Length: 8.23m
    Width: 3.68m
    Height: 4.42.0m

    The Reign of Anger is a refit of the older Rain of Fury fire support vehicle. The hull remained the same, but improved sensors were added. The biggest difference is that the Reign of Anger no longer carries a MRLS system (which has been outdated by the introduction of the Horde Semi-guided warhead munition).

    Instead, it carries two sizeable Warhead Launchers. These have the same capacity as one of the Foul Wing Fighter’s munitions bays, but divided into two launchers on independent loads, rather than the two launchers attached to a large bay. This means the Reign of Anger can only load one type of warhead at once in each launcher (and typically the same in both). Despite this minor drawback, they are surprisingly effective. Most foes underestimate the Reign of Anger, believing (not unjustifiably) that it is the older Rain of Fury. This can come as something of a shock when it fires out warheads.

    The Reign of Anger’s standard load is eight Skull Anti-ship/Anti-Armour warheads. Used in an AA role, it carries four Render heavy anti-fighter missiles (the largest of the Reaper/Reaver/Render trio).

    The Reign of Anger is even capable of heavy demolitions; the warhead bays can manage to accommodate a single Shatterer Heavy Anti-Starship munition each. The Shatterers are capable of blasting the heaviest planetary defences apart. In at least one recorded occasion, the Reign of Anger has used this capability to engage in combat against starships.

    Royal Elven Kingdom forces attacked the Aotrs’ Caradat Moon Base. With few available fighters and only a Subterfuge Scoutship to fend them off, the commander created an unorthodox strategy. The base put up a token resistance before appearing to be disabled. Under cover of the engagement, the commander deployed a pair of Reign of Angers from a shipment that was due to go out in the transports. In the low gravity, they had to be tied down, and were not able to move. Fortunately, the Aotrs standard practise of making sure all vehicles capable of self-sealing enabled the Reign of Angers to function in the vacuum otherwise unimpeded. The Elven cruiser ignored them, and they were able to fire a spread of Shatterers from relativistically point-blank range as it moved over the horizon (a few scant miles away) to fire at the base. Because of the range and the cruiser flying in to a stop, the Reign of Angers were able to use purely visual targeting to pinpoint the optimum targeting spots on the cruiser. As there was no sensor lock and no significant power source to detect (since the Reign of Angers were otherwise powered down, aside from just enough juice to power the actual firing system) there was no warning for the cruiser. As it lowered its shields to start teleporting marines down, the Reign of Angers fired. The warheads crippled the cruiser, and it retreated. Amazingly, the Reign of Angers both survived. Their crews and commanders were decorated with the Diamond Spear (the Aotrs’ highest commendation) by the Lichemaster for heroism under fire above and beyond the call of duty.

    Like the Vampires and the Distant Thunder, as of 2342, the Reign of Angers have begun all to be upgraded with a new, stronger power plant and the addition of the new external shield grid matrix, giving the vehicle light but effective shield protection without having to sacrifice any payload or armour.

    Enrager Heavy War Droid

    Length (arms lowered): 2.28m
    Width: 3.00m
    Height: 3.86m

    The Enrager is essentially an oversized large War Droid, introduced as part of the replacement program for the aging Fleshburner Medium Tank, especially for urban areas. The larger body allows a much more advanced AI, giving better (though not perfect) performance.

    In its element, the Enrager has proven to be a very effective unit. The initial tests showed it was extremely difficult to dislodge an Enrager from a defended position and deployment in the field, especially during the Muisis campaign bore out this assessment. Though the Enragers suffered extensive casualties, they achieved an average of three-to-one kill ratio in close terrain.

    The Enrager carries only moderate armour, but this is due to the powerful shields that cover it forming the bulk of its defences. The Enrager’s shields can sustain two or three shots from an enemy MBT’s guns before they collapse, which allows it those critical moments for which to strike back with its own.

    The Enrager’s primary armament is a shoulder mounted heavy (Class 10) plasma-pulse cannon over the right torso. This weapon proved to be the Enrager’s greatest asset, allowing it to shred enemy MBTS at close range with ease.

    The left shoulder carries a Class 10 coldbeam cannon, which had a good range, but significantly less power. On each arm, it carries a modified infantry support weapon – a plasma-pulse cannon and coldbeam cannon, for dealing with infantry instead of the main guns. It is quite capable of holding its own against a whole squad of enemy infantry. As a large walker, the Enrager is more than capable of entering close combat, assuming it can actually get to the target. The arm-mounted weapons can swivel back so it can lift objects (up to light vehicle size (40 tons) with both hands). It can thus pick up smaller enemy vehicles and on at least one occasion, has used them to smash another enemy vehicle with the hapless victim. Equally, the Enrager is entirely capable of ripping the gun or even the turret off an enemy tank.

    However, it became very quickly clear that the Enrager’s effectiveness lasts only as long as it is within close environments. Outside an urban, broken or forested area, the Enragers lack any serious long-range weapons. While both the Class 10 weapons have an effective range envelope of 2000m, the coldbeam is only of use again light enemy vehicles and the plasma-pulse cannon’s effectiveness sharply drops outside of 250m, until it is little better than the coldbeam’s. The support coldbeam has a range of 2500m but is only a threat to infantry. All three weapons in concert are not even good shield strippers, barely managing the combined output of most MBT energy weapons.

    As such, at any kind of range, the Enrager is almost defenceless against enemy armour.

    Enrager Mk 2 Heavy War Droid

    Length (arms lowered, missile tubes vertical): 2.87m
    Width: 2.97m
    Height: 4.41m

    The Mk 2 Enrager has only just begun to be fielded, production beginning in 2345. The Mk 1 Enrager was partially a product of trying to do a little too much at once to partly fill the role as MBT. With all the battle experience of the Mk 1 Enrager, the Mk 2 was built to address all the Mk 1’s shortcomings, and produce a unit that would fulfil the same role as the Mk 1 excelled at, but further improve its capabilities.

    The Class 10 plasma-pulse cannon had proved highly effective, despite its short range, and the Mk 2 continues to carry the same weapon. All the other weapon system were pulled out and entirely replaced.

    The Mk 1’s most pressing problem was its lack of ranged capability. The Class 10 coldbeam had been appended to attempt to deal with this situation, but it was just not powerful enough. Further, the arc of fire was limited and it failed to provide any kind of useful defence against aerial or point-defence targets.

    But how could one place a turret capable of high-tracking on a relatively small bipedal droid? The problem was that anything large enough to provide the necessary punch precluded the placement of a high-track weapon – and a left-shoulder high-track weapon of sufficient power alone simply would make the Enrager fall over when it swung about. The Aotrs considered several approaches, including a quadrupedal design, but nothing seemed satisfactory.

    Then the team hit upon a solution, inspired by watching old fictional giant-robot movies. Laser eyes.

    The design team turned the entire head of the Mk 2 Enrager into coldbeam emitter. The optical sensors could easily fit behind the faceplate emitter. Using innovative new approaches made possible by the 11th generation coldbeam technology, backed-up by careful use of magic-enhancement systems, the Enrager now had effectively a gaze attack capable of destroying an enemy MBT, with the same 2000m range envelope. And, being the head, the Enrager could shoot anything it could look at, solving the high-track problem. This was an expensive solution, but Lord Foul Skream himself approved the design, and commended the team for their innovative approach.

    The power requirements of the new weapon exceeded what the Mk1 Enrager could manage. The 2342 power generator upgrades provided a partial solution, but even then, the Enrager Mk 2 had to be made 10% larger to be able to fit everything in. This case of size also mandated the Enrager’s footprint size being increased, both to take and to spread the additional load. However, this additional size also allowed the Enrager Mk 2 to carry additional armour plate to bolster its protection verses kinetic weapon attacks (for which there is ultimately little substitute than just thicker plate) over most of the surface, with only the front upper torso being as strong as it could be already.

    Analysis of the battle footage indicated that the coldbeam support weapon had almost never been used, and the new coldbeam gaze would serve better in the few times it had. The plasma-pulse cannon was an older model, whose performance was overkill for infantry in terms of penetration, but irrelevant verses vehicles, given the larger Class 10.

    So both weapons dumped entirely, and the spare weight and power instead was given to mounting four standard plasma-pulse rifles – the same design as on the smaller War Droid shoulder -mounts – a pair on each arm. This further meant that they could be set back into the forearm, so the Enrager would no longer have to move its arm guns out of position to use its hands and could even fire them while making melee attacks. The coldbeam gaze was just as effective as the old support weapons at the job of suppressing infantry at long range (a job the Enrager rarely attempted and was not efficient at anyway). And with the four rifles, it was now much better at suppressing infantry at short ranges, which it could capitalise on. Both marks of Enragers were much more adept at close assaults than a regular War Droid due to their size and MBT levels of protection, provided they can physically get into a building or position to bring it to bear.

    Finally, to supplement the coldbeam gaze, to add some additional anti-armour ranged offense, a trio of Snake Launchers were added in a rotary carousel to the left shoulder. This is normally held vertical against the Enrager’s back, and brought up into position to fire, not unlike a regular infantry-carried Snake Launcher.

    Six additional Snake warheads are stored in a bin at the back of the Enrager. Once empty, the carosel is moved by the mechanical arm so that one tube enters the bin at a time to be reloaded (as illustrated below).

    The Mk 2 Enrager is thus a much more significant threat to enemy armour units. It is at least as dangerous at close range, if not more and the Mk 2 can now engage enemy vehicles at longer ranges. While it is still too big to hide easily, it is still not a replacement for a regular MBT, but it is now far from helpless when caught out of its ideal environment.

    Revenant Spear Main Battle Tank

    Length: 9.60m
    Width: 3.51m
    Height: 3.12m

    When the aging Fleshburner MBT was reaching the end of its lifespan, rather than replace it directly, the Aotrs planned for the role to be primarily taken by the Gloombat Multirole Attack Craft; and when this proved to be most effective in a VTOL role in ground combat, by the Enrager and Storm Cleaver Assault Walker. Combat experienced proved, however, that no matter how advanced the Gloombat, Enrager and Storm Cleaver were, they were all were simply too physically large. In the end, it was proven that advanced technology was no substitute for a true main battle tank.

    The Revenant Spear was thus built on much more conservative lines. It is designed primarily to work as a low grav-tank. It is capable of full flight (both into and out of orbit), but unlike the larger Hammer of Hatred Super Heavy Tank, no attempt was made to streamline the hull, making it a poor flyer. Flight, however, is considered very much an auxiliary function, used only on occasions where it cannot be Gated or transported to the surface via more convention means.

    When switching to flight mode, the main gun lowers to its maximum depression, and a series of thin baffles slide up to help streamline the tank slightly. The top turret locks to the forward position and telescopes down by almost thirty centimetres, further reducing the vessel’s flight profile. The Revenant Spear’s shields also form a smoother surface, but all this only makes the Revenant Spear a slightly less clumsy flyer. In space, without the constraints of atmospheric drag, the Revenant Spear is better off – it can at least use its weapons effectively – but it is no match for a fighter.

    Looking at the Revenant Spear’s blocky hull shape, with the driver’s vision block placed relatively far back, one might at first think it to be poorly placed for visibility. However, when the vehicle is hovering only a few centimetres above ground (standard cruising height is only 30 centimetres), the height of the driver’s vision block height is no taller than that of many tracked battle tanks. The vision block is, in fact, itself a secondary feature. The driver’s standard position has his head rather directly beneath, rather than in, the vision block. The driver sits in an armoured capsule with a full 360º holographic display. This display – taking a few keys from the Strayvians – is supplied by a dispersed series of cameras and mini-scanners in addition to the vehicle’s sensors. Each of these devices is power-pack powered, rather than by the main generator, and thus means they cannot be so easily knocked out. Should the display still fail, the entire driver’s station can be raised upwards by means of manual hydraulics so that the driver can use the vision blocks. This system was created as a response to the Fallen Soul’s primary failing of being entirely reliant on sensor navigation due to the armoured prow.

    The Revenant Spear uses much of the Fallen Soul’s armour techniques, the front of the hull being primarily composed of heavy armour plating. The hull armour alone is still not heavy as that of an unshielded MBT of the same size (the mass for the shield generators, as always, directly impacts on the armour), but in concert with the shields, provides excellent protection.

    The Revenant Spear’s primary weapon is a magnetic linear accelerator rail-gun, a smaller version of the Hammer of Hatred’s “can-opener.” As with the Hammer of Hatred’s cannon, the oblong barrel profile is due to the primary accelerators, which are situated either side of the barrel. Both the barrel and accelerators are surrounded by the magnetic coils and between the two devices, can hurl the gun’s solid slug at phenomenal speeds.

    The main MLA cannon is supplemented by two coax-axial Class 13 Coldbeams. These lack the punch of the MLA cannon, but have slightly greater range (even though the MLA cannon’s range is exceptional) and are primarily for assisting taking down enemy shields of lighter vehicles where over-penetration with main gun would be a problem.

    The main turret weapons have an elevation of 20º and a relatively low depression of only 4º. This is deceptive, however, since with only minor adjustments to the orientation of the hull itself to the ground, the Revenant Spear can achieve another 4º even at normal cruising height.

    The top turret provides the tank with its primary anti-infantry and anti-missile defence. It mounts a high-track Class 8 Gatling plasma-pulse cannon. A not-inconsiderable weapon in and of itself, the plasma-pulse cannon is bleeding edge technology, with considerably greater range than might be expected from a normally-short-ranged weapon system. The cannon attaches to four single-warhead tubes. The tubes are designed to be disposable, and once empty, they are replace entirely, rather than reloaded. The standard tubes are fitted with RV series Reaver missiles. The Reaver is the Aotrs standard medium-range anti-fighter missile, and provides the Revenant Spear’s principal air defence – but they are also quite effective on ground vehicles as well. In theory, the tube mounting points are rated to allow SU Skull warheads or PI Pierce interdictor warheads in tubes instead, but the larger physical size of those weapons (the Skulls especially) would make the vehicle more cumbersome. Horde semi-guided rockets, HN Harridan warheads or RP Reaper dogfighting missiles (which have excellent off-boresight tracking), while lighter weapons than the Reavers, are other potential alternatives, though in the year of first production, 2343, only the Reaver tubes were being manufactured.

    Finally, the Revenant Spear also mounts a concession to the previous decades-long lack of Aotrs smoke dischargers. While it has been convention that coldbeams can create sufficient super-cool mist to create a functional visual smoke screen (as anything that is sensor guided is not affect by any kind of smoke in any case), the Frost Bomb cartridges pioneered on the Storm Cleaver were so successful that the Revenant Spear mounts a dozen in lieu of a traditional smoke discharger. The Frost Bombs are mounted in two sets of three tubes, each tube having two Frost Bombs. The tubes have only a third of the range of the full launchers on the Storm Cleaver, only making 500m at most. Their default configuration is not even that, however, aimed towards the standard 150m smoke discharger range.

    Devil Storm Light Munitions Vehicle

    Length: 5.04m
    Width: 2.40m
    Height: 2.41m

    The Devil Storm is a light munitions vehicle. Lightly armoured and shielded, it is very fast, though as a low-grav vehicle, unable to truly fly as some of the other Aotrs grav vehicles can.

    Devil Storms are armed with a light twin-mount coldbeam turret on the front for anti-infantry and light targets. Its main firepower comes from the rear warhead turret. Typically, this is loaded with sixty Horde semi-guided rockets, but other load-outs (such as Reaper or Harridan anti-fighter warheads) are sometimes seen.

    The top rack typically sports two Skull warheads, the Aotrs primary anti-armour/anti-starship guided warhead, though provision is also made for fitting two Reaver anti-fighter warheads instead.

    Typically, Devil Storms are used as light artillery to support or as rapid-deployment versions of the Reign of Anger. As one of the lighter Aotrs vehicles, they are often called on support recon elements like the Scitalis, as they can re-deploy faster than other ground units.

    The Devil Storm was the first vehicle of the current generation, coming only a few years before the Fallen Soul. Unlike the older vehicles, like the Reign of Anger or Vampires, it is modern enough that is has not yet reached the point where it is due for an upgrade. In light of the 2342 shield revolution, it is possible that the Devil Storm’s power core and shields could be upgraded. But as the vehicle is ideally not supposed to be engaged by enemy forces, such a modification is unlikely to be performed until there is a larger gain for the expenditure of resources.

     

     

    Postscript

    Transcript of records from Lord Death Despoil’s personal chambers, 5th November 2345

    Lord Death Despoil emerges from his meditation chamber, showing visible agitation

    Lord Death Despoil: Foul Skream! Alert Myst Base and send all available force to Damning Echo base at once!

    Lord Foul Skream: (expresses momentary surprise, but immediately reaches for console) Right away.

    Lord Death Despoil: Open a channel to Echo Fleet.

    Admiral Fellbane: (taken aback) My liege? To what-

    Lord Death Despoil: Admiral. You are to make an emergency chain Gate jump to Damning Echo base at once with as many forces as you can manage.

    Admiral Fellbane: (startled) Y-yes, my liege. (momentary pause) That will require leaving most of the fleet behind and scattering the fleet; we’re still three weeks off the planned approach. We’ll have to drain power from several ships to make repeated jumps even with the emergency jump to cover that distance. It will mean the drained ships will be left in space with no power and it will take potentially weeks to recover them.

    Lord Death Despoil: I’m aware, admiral. Ensure all nonUndead crew are transferred off ships that must be used as batteries; they are to shut down to minimum power and await rescue. Use jump points on interstellar space; that will minimise the risk of detection by potential hostiles. You may offer my apologies to the crew for the sacrifice they must make before we can retrieve them.

    Admiral Fellbane: (nods) At once, my liege. What are we to expect at Damning Echo?

    Lord Death Despoil: I do not know, Admiral. Be ready for anything.

    Admiral Fellbane: (visibly unsettled) As your command, Echo fleet out.

    Lord Foul Skream: My lord, Myst Base reports they cannot raise Damning Echo base, nor establish contact, they will continue to try.

    Lord Death Despoil: (closes eyeglows) Then my intuition may have come too late.

    Lord Foul Skream: My lord… What’s going on?

    Lord Death Despoil: I do not know, Foul Skream. As I finished my meditation, I gleaned a sudden urgent sense that something great and terrible was about to happen and Damning Echo base. I have not felt such a strong sense… Ever, I do not believe.

    Lord Foul Skream: [Expletive redacted]

    Lord Death Despoil: (calmly) [Expletive redacted] indeed. In fact, if I may be so impolite, [Expletive redacted], [Expletive redacted] and, as Yeller would say, double [Expletive redacted].

    Lord Foul Skream: Should we prepare to go?

    Lord Death Despoil: To what end? Until Myst Base re-establishes contact or Fellbane arrives, there is nothing we can do. Contact the others and have them on standby.

    Lord Foul Skream: Should I ready the fleet?

    Lord Death Despoil: No. I will Gate True to Myst Base myself if necessary.

    Lord Foul Skream: Understood.

    [Three hours pass. Lords Deather, Yeller, Bowblast and Unlucky and Generals Shatterscatter, Lacerator and Slaughter arrive; extraneous conversation redacted]

    Lord Foul Skream: Report from Myst Base. They have established the Myst Gate, forces deploying now.

    Lord Death Despoil: Active feed, please, I will oversee this operation personally.

    [Extraneous conversation redacted. Myst Base troops quickly establish contact with Damning Echo base, which is determined to be under attack by human forces of significant number and whose troops are pinned down. Damning Echo forces had however managed to disable a device which had disrupted all teleportation and portal effects (including the Myst Gate) allowing Myst Base to regain contact.

    Myst and Damning Echo base forces deemed sufficient to handle situation without High Command intervention.

    Hostiles definitively identified as Monks of the Brotherhood of the Grey Lizard by martial arts style, but otherwise who are not wearing robes and who are using standard modern firearms, not the traditional Brotherhood shuriken launchers.

    Forces from Echo fleet arrive approximately thirty-five minutes later and immediately engage a series of six enemy craft, apparently heavy transports/supply ships, destroying them in short order.

    Forty-seven minutes pass. All hostiles are eradicated.]

    Lord Foul Skream: Report from Alpha Squad. They have secured the Core. Core Central Intelligence is offline; they’re working to recover it.

    Lord Yeller: Damn, how’d they manage THAT. Must be time travel, I guess? Future technology?

    Lord Deather: Must have been saving it for a special occasion.

    Lord Unlucky: Me still bothered by them not be in robes. That bad sign. They always in robes, unless undercover.

    Lord Death Despoil: Foul Skream, have Alpha confirm. Did they use the device?

    Lord Foul Skream: Yes.

    [Numerous expletives redacted.]

    Lord Foul Skream: It appears to have been activated approximately three hours ago.

    Lord Death Despoil: What did they do?

    Lord Foul Skream: We don’t know. Whatever they did, it was erased from the system. But we can confirm, retrocausal probability engineering was utilised.

    Lord Death Despoil: Which means whatever they did has always been going to have been.

    Lord Deather: Explains why they were able to get the jump on everyone, you included.

    Lord Death Despoil: Yes, probability engineered to ensure their own success.

    Lord Yeller: I hate this metaconceptual stuff.

    Lord Foul Skream: The only thing Alpha has been able to recover was the name of the program. Great Time Shade’s Revenge.

    Lord Death Despoil: There’s something else.

    Lord Foul Skream: “Time Shade” is spelled as two separate words, not one, like his name. No obvious clue as to the significance.

    Lord Yeller: So, anyone else feel an inexplicable chill? ‘Cos I’m pretty sure we should not be doing that.

    Lord Death Despoil: (calmly) [String of expletives redacted.]

     

     

    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Photos of WSF or Replicator models.

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