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Old 09-11-2014, 05:32 PM   #11
Icelander
 
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Default The Desert of Desolation?

For reasons entirely unconnected to lost cities in the sand, ineffable ancient ruins and mysterious craters where unimaginable catastrophes buried whole cultures in the mythic past, I was wondering how desolate, remote and impassable the Iraqi desert is.

Does it compare in any way to the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia or is it merely a diet desert; actually home to fairly decent traffic in compact cars driving around smuggled cigarettes, alcohol, weapons and other goods?

What kind of vehicle do you need to traverse the trackless parts of it; where no checkpoints of any kind exist and borders are esentially unenforcable?

Are there traditional bedu ranging around in it, moving with the grazing, even betweeen national borders?

Are there parts where an ancient ruin of a city could plausibly still lie undiscovered, or is it too widely traversed for that?
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Old 09-11-2014, 07:47 PM   #12
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Default Re: [MH,TS] Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle - Iraq 2011

Merging TV (Buffy), modern troops and Pazuzu Ancient Ghosts.
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Old 09-12-2014, 12:07 AM   #13
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Default Re: [MH,TS] Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle - Iraq 2011

This is pretty good, and amusingly similar to a campaign I intend to run myself in the next 5-7 weeks: GURPS Dark*Matter! Very similar ideas, but I'm going to have to revisit the appropriateness of MH Sidekicks as starting heroes. It should be okay, but in D*M, starting agents are usually less accomplished than even your typical MH Junior Hunter.
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Old 09-12-2014, 01:56 AM   #14
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Default Re: The Desert of Desolation?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
For reasons entirely unconnected to lost cities in the sand, ineffable ancient ruins and mysterious craters where unimaginable catastrophes buried whole cultures in the mythic past, I was wondering how desolate, remote and impassable the Iraqi desert is.

Does it compare in any way to the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia or is it merely a diet desert; actually home to fairly decent traffic in compact cars driving around smuggled cigarettes, alcohol, weapons and other goods?

What kind of vehicle do you need to traverse the trackless parts of it; where no checkpoints of any kind exist and borders are esentially unenforcable?

Are there traditional bedu ranging around in it, moving with the grazing, even betweeen national borders?

Are there parts where an ancient ruin of a city could plausibly still lie undiscovered, or is it too widely traversed for that?
I have no personal experience of it, but as far as I understand, the western desert in Iraq is a mix of sandy patches and more rocky terrain, but mostly lacking in really big rock formations like canyons and such. The sandy parts should be easily traversed by 4x4 vehicles, or perhaps even a regular vehicle with a relatively high suspension. It is sandy but it's not nearly as "loose" sand as the Sahara or most of the Empty Quarter or Saudi Arabia. I get the impression it's more like densily packed sand and small pebbles.

The rocky parts would probably require specialized vehicles. I guess you could do it in a Humvee while driving relatively slowly. The really bad parts might be impossible to traverse other then on foot or with camels/horses/donkey, but I get the impression these are not that common.

Anyway, this isn't of much help, I know. Lots of generalities. You better wait for one of the veterans who was there to tell you.
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Old 09-12-2014, 08:50 AM   #15
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Default Re: [MH,TS] Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle - Iraq 2011

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Originally Posted by apoc527 View Post
This is pretty good, and amusingly similar to a campaign I intend to run myself in the next 5-7 weeks: GURPS Dark*Matter! Very similar ideas, but I'm going to have to revisit the appropriateness of MH Sidekicks as starting heroes. It should be okay, but in D*M, starting agents are usually less accomplished than even your typical MH Junior Hunter.
The PCs for this game are extremely competent, versatile and resilient people. Otherwise, they would have essentially no chance of surviving, as the game is set in a gritty, unforgiving world where the gods, if they exist, do not take an active hand in mortal affairs.

Hovering outside of mortal consciousness, however, there are plenty of restless spirits, inhuman intelligences and hungry ghosts. Some of them can manifest in physical forms, bind themselves to mortal flesh or possess the living. As such, being a PC with a chance of having encounters with the supernatural without ending up as an unexplained statistic, essentially means 'being one of the few people with the strength of will and personality to resist such things'.

That, in turn, means that the characters have what it takes to succeed at most things in life. Will-power, self-discipline and a strong motivation of some sort are, realistically, the things that mostly seperate successful people from others. Those who make it through special operation forces selections are those who have the will and motivation to do so. Sucecssful athletes are those who have the willpower to constantly practice and apply themselves. Those who excel in other fields also do so largely because they have enough will to be diligent.

Thus, someone with a lot of willpower (small 'w', because it represents more than just GURPS Will) will tend toward high GURPS Attributes and a lot of points in skills and learnable Advantages. Even their hobbies or paths of study that could have led to an alternative profession will tend to be high.

The characters in question are one officer of military intelligence, one Delta operative and two detectives.

The officer of military intelligence is a brilliant linguist, interrogator and psychological warfare officer who had attained the position of Foreign Area Officer in China before electing to focus on the War on Terror. He holds several Masters' degrees and a PhD in Intelligence, Security and Strategic Studies. He's got an excellent chance for promotion to Brigadier General after he manages to fit in a joint tour somewhere. He's also a fitness fanatic who weighs 250 lbs., can benchpress 500 lbs. and could have gone pro as an MMA fighter. And he competes in IPSC matches.

The Delta operator is considered a high-flyer even among his elite peers. He's good at everything, never quits, never doubts and never hesitates. He's rated Expert with pretty much every hand weapon, taught parachuting at Fort Benning and probably holds several records for racing through extreme obstacle courses. His hobbies are escrima, parkour and driving sports. Added to which, he's likable, charming and can pass for a native of Al-Anbar.

One of the detectives is sought after as an instructor at the FBI National Academy and has written several books on investigative techniques. He's also a former high-risk warrant service team member and a former evidence technician, who still teaches courses on forensics at the local university. He was an amateur boxer who could have gone pro and if he was a bit taller, he would have gotten a basketball scholarship for college.

The last character doesn't look like much, being a middle-aged, overweight detective from Australia. He is, however, amazingly good at talking to people and getting them to share confidences with him. And his military service, which was mostly as a member of the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police, may have been more interesting than average.

The characters don't use any Wildcard skills or cinematic rules, but their point value is incredibly high. It's actually cheaper to make GURPS characters into street-level supers than it is to reflect realistic-but-obscenely-competent characters that are not allowed to take Attributes above certain levels and can't take cinematic or super Advantages.

And, yeah, this adventure may as well be set in the Dark•Matter setting. Aside, of course, from the lack of any coordinated response from the official authorities to the occult. There is no Hoffman Institute, no Bureau 13, no Majestic 12, not even any two-man FBI team investigating X-Files.

There are, however, plenty of people in and out of government who have come into contact with things that to them appear inexplicable. Seeing as they don't have any proof and even those who believe they themselves have supernatural powers can't replicate anything they may have been able to do under laboratory conditions, however, there has been a dearth of people who have actually been able to get their superiors to believe their reports. A lot of powers are developing some sort of extra-legal and informal means of reacting to supernatural threats, but most of those are technically conspiracies of those 'in the know' and don't exist anywhere on paper.

And while there are some troubling things behind the events that the PCs are being sent to investigate, the Lieutenant General that is formally ordering the investigation is trying to find a solution to an Iraqi political matter that affects the future security of Iraq when United States Forces - Iraq leave in December. He has no knowledge about any supernatural elements and wouldn't believe in them if he did. The reason the British are providing assistance, however, through lending the effort a senior MoD accountant and an Australian ADFIS investigator on detached service, are more murky. It might be that someone there suspects something and the Australian ADFIS investigator might well have been chosen for his open-mindedness in regard to strange phenomena.

That being said, the adventure in Iraq not the sort of thing junior agents from anyone could deal with. In any plausible setting, there is little reason to assume that any sensible secret organisation is dispatching junior investigators to investigate occurances of the wildly dangerous supernatural hiding behind ordinary events. It's not as if there aren't plenty of ordinary agencies and organisations where people can demonstrate their competence as investigators and troubleshooters before ever being recruited by ultra-competent conspiracies to fight the very forces of darkness.
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Old 09-12-2014, 12:07 PM   #16
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Default Re: [MH,TS] Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle - Iraq 2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcarson View Post
Merging TV (Buffy), modern troops and Pazuzu Ancient Ghosts.
I will attempt to avoid anything resembling Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also, whatever fan-fiction that was... *shudder*.

The tone is a lot more like X-Files than Buffy, I hope. Two of the PCs are completely unaware of the existence of the supernatural and not inclined to believe in it if they hear or see anything that can possibly be explained away by science or psychology.

Of those two who might accept supernatural explanations; one is a cynical big-city cop who has seen enough unexplained murders, apparent sudden-onset psychosis and horrific motiveless attacks by normal people who do damage out of all proportion to their size and build for him to refuse altogether to examine other explanations. He's started studying the supernatural and since he is a brilliant autodidact who has an extensive background in history and literature, he's a fount of information on the occult in fiction and historical accounts. He doesn't know anything about what actually works, however.

The last PC actually knows a practising magician, his uncle*, an Australian Aborigine elder of the Kalkadoon tribe. He was given a protective stone when he left for Iraq and a cryptic warning about what he would encounter there. In his dreams, he sometimes converses with his uncle and may continue to receive warnings or other information from him.

None of the PCs have actual supernatural powers or are the chosen ones of any friendly supernatural entities. They can't cast spells, use psi or exhibit divine powers.

*Well, the brother of his mother's adopted brother. There is no blood tie, but old 'Munthapanti' (Billy Bundi) calls Taz Walker his 'Little Nephew' and Taz keeps in regular contact with a lot of the extended family of Joey Honey, his mother's adopted brother.
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Old 09-12-2014, 04:29 PM   #17
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Default Events leading up to my campaign

Right, tomorrow I start my campaign.

I have to prepare the briefing materials for the characters. What I have already mentioned to them is that the Dhi Qar province has in the year 2011 experienced a sudden and dramatic drop in most metrics for governmental success.

Public works projects have stalled, suffered set-backs or failed entirely. Public unrest and reports of political opposition to the Governor and Chief of Police are on the rise. Unemployement is higher and filings for bankruptcy on the part of small businesses has skyrocketed. Evidence also suggests that many stores are simply closing, without filing any paperwork. Economic indicators are that the productivity of the province is almost in free fall.

Public health has plummeted, with at least two outbreaks of typhoid-like fevers in the year, as well as generally higher death rates among all demographics*. Rainfall has been far above average, but unseasonal cold snaps and high winds have played havoc with crops. In general, the weather has been extremely changable, with day temperatures that set records for heat (120° F / 49° C in September) and cold (43° F / 6° C in July). Dust storms and rain storms have both occured with depressing frequency and high winds have caused many deaths of people in the rural areas.

More to the point, the Ministry of Interior has detected a pattern of in financial reports and other intelligence that suggests that there is widespread embezzlement by low- and mid-ranking bureaucrats in most government departments, with at least $200,000,000 in public funds being unaccounted for in the province.

The embezzlement is sometimes blatant and on occasion so blatant that there was no conceivable way it would not be discovered. At other times, attempts have been made to alter paperwork or funnel the money through shell companies to hide the inappropriate transfers, but the vast majority of cases appear amateurish and high-risk, not a sustainable strategy for long-term political corruption.** And the funds apparently unaccounted for are almost two orders of magnitude higher than most estimates for corruption in the province the year before.

Any time the local Iraqi Police Service or officials from the Commission of Integrity have made an attempt to arrest people or witnesses have come forth with information about this corruption, some accident or apparently unconnected crime has occured to interfere with the proper functioning of justice.

Somewhere between 100-200 witnesses and suspects, depending on how credulous one is about this sort of thing; appear to have died in their sleep with or without explanation, had heart attacks in public or private, fallen to death at home or abroad, ran into traffic or otherwise contrived to be hit by a car, been caught in accidental house fires, had strokes, died of fever, killed themselves or were the victims of random shootings or bombings.

These deaths have all occured in a period just over five months, with more than half of them occuring in the last two months. No one is prepared to swallow this is a coincidence. Yet the local IPS has not replied to Ministry of Interior queries about this situation beyond noting that they find no connection between the deaths and no evidence of foul play in any of them. Investigations into the public corruption are described as 'ongoing'.

The Commission of Integrity has sent two missions to ascertain the truth of things. The first one was a simple fact-finding mission by a mid-ranking bureaucrat, which was quickly terminated when several local elites with good connections in Baghdad complained that the bureaucrat had behaved offensively and the bureaucrat was unable to explain his strange actions.

On another occasion, two months ago, they sent a respected judge accompanied by a team of Iraqi Federal Police officers. That team suffered through a frustrating month of investigation where witnesses and suspects died or disappeared at every turn. Finally, the judge made the controversial decision to call off the mission and go back. He cited lack of evidence of any wrongdoing as the reason, but when he got back, several of the IFP officers appeared to have been placed under arrest and the judge himself retired.

Finally, just over a month ago, the US State Department sent down an advisory team from the Anti-Corruption Coordination Office (ACCO), accompanied by several investigators from the Iraqi Commission of Integrity and a strong security element, both from Iraqi Federal Police officers and Triple Canopy. However, after a highly publicised incident where two contractors, one Third-Country National (TCN) and one Iraqi***, entered a private building and shot dead seven Iraqis, wounding four more, the whole team was pulled back twenty days ago.

Amidst mutual accusations, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what happened, but it is clear that the dead include a local religious figure, his wife and two daughers and three male students of his aged 8-11. The wounded were aged between 5-13 years, two of them children of the couple who owned the residence and two of them were other students. According to local IPS, there was no evidence of any insurgent activity in the house, the iman was well-known for his pacifism and no weapons were found at the scene.

The American ACCO team all have diplomatic passports and the United States moved fast to get them out of the country. They apparently claim that the two security guards were acting entirely on their own and have cited previous incidents of troubling professional judgment and apparent drug or alcohol abuse in the days leading up to the incident.

The contractors have both been arrested and are claiming that they were acting under orders from both the ACCO officials and an officer of the Iraqi Federal Police to disregard their lack of law-enforcement credentials and act immediately to save the lives of themselves and others. Furthermore, they claim that they received fire from the building and that they shot only at armed militants, who were in the process of murdering hostages and had previously made a credible threat to detonate a chemical warhead.

Apparently, all the IFP officers who went with the delegation are either under arrest or at least confined to barracks. An investigation of the affair is ongoing in Baghdad, but so far, neither the MoI nor the Commission of Integrity has made any attempt to send another delegation down to Dhi Qar.

Any comments? Questions? Stuff that would help me think about this better because I have to finalise it now? :)

*Oddly, with the notable exception that infant mortality has remained relatively stable and mother and child survival rates have even improved slightly overall.
**Which would be the expected pattern for corruption, which, let us be realistic, is going to be found on a large scale nearly anywhere a government was made under wartime conditions, nearly from scratch, in an area without a long tradition of democratic, constitutional principles and accountable public service.
***Kurdish Sunnite from Erbil.
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Old 09-15-2014, 03:47 PM   #18
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Default The PCs and their two NPC allies

There are four PCs in the campaign and they have two NPCs that fill holes in the make-up of the team. The PCs and their allies officially work for the US State Department's Police Development Program (PDP) as contractors who are instructing the Dhi Qar police in the use of a new Criminal Intelligence Analysis and Collation program that runs of their digital filing system, but they are also supposed to report to the headquarters of United States Forces - Iraq anything they can find out about the 100-200 witnesses or suspects in a series of corruption cases in Dhi Qar that have, according to police files, died of natural causes or from accidents or unrelated violence.

The team leader is a PC, Col. Joseph Wolfram Irmintraut of the United States Army. He is a former HUMINT officer of the Military Intelligence Corps and a former DIA Defense Attaché to Bejing; now a Team Leader for the Human Terrain Analysis Team at Camp Victory and in the process of being qualified as as a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) for the Middle East.

Col. Irmintraut was working in the J-2 staff of the United States Forces - Iraq headquarters when Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick requested that he lead a State Department Police Development Program team to the Dhi Qar province and report back to him about the deteriorating security situation and the anomalous police reports from that province.

Officially, the PDP team would work for the State Department and report to the Regional Security Officer (RSO) of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) at the US Embassy, but while they would be doing work as contractors for the PDP, they were to report directly to General Helmick on anything significant they came across having to do with infiltration of the police by hostile organisations or any large-scale conspiracy against the al-Maliki government.

The highly-qualified detective from the Detroit Police Service who was supposed to be the team leader for a PDP team to Dhi Qar will serve as the second-in-command to Col. Irmintraut. His name is Lieutenant Jerome Book, a very respected homicide detective who has written several books on crime scene forensics and investigative techniques.

Lt. Book was given a choice of being assigned to another PDP team, but after a talk with Brigadier General Jerry Cannon, who respects Lt. Book and his investigative acumen greatly, Book consented to adding a more-or-less investigative remit to his official position as an instructor and advisor. In the circumstances, it seemed to him fully justified to provide assistance to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior by sending an outside team of experts, as the available records suggested that the local police was unfitted to investigate the anomalous deaths in connection to the corruption investigations in Dhi Qar.

For some unknown reason, senior British figures connected to the former Multinational Force - Iraq (MNF-I) had been consulted prior to launching this fact-finding mission and the British were sending two people along.

One is a qualified accountant who apparently works as an auditor in the MoD, Sir Archibald Forsyth-Sykes, KCVO, OBE. Regards the SIG-Sauer P229R pistol that was pressed upon him by a Special Agent of the DSS with distaste*, but appears to be quite familiar with a wide variety of spreadsheets and financial software, including forensic accounting programs which he is using to analyse the financial records for local government and police.

The other is a PC, an Australian ADFIS investigator (WO2) on detached duty. His name is Anthony 'Taz' Walker and he is a Detective Senior Sergeant of the Queensland Police Service in civilian life, where he polices his home town of Mount Isa with folksy charm and a friendly laugh.

Coaches Rugby League for at-risk teens, mostly of Kalkadoon ancestry, and likes to explore his beloved native land in a good 4WD vehicle, with good friends and good beer along. Lives in domestic bliss with his intelligent, exquisite and erudite wife Harinakshi Nayanar Walker, a doctor at Mount Isa Hospital, and their three teenaged children, Sarah, Ajit and Nanda.

The technical expert responsible for the smooth functioning of the new Criminal Intelligence Analysis and Collation program that runs off the digital filing system of the Dhi Qar IPS is a civilian technician from the FBI named Sammy Gupta Singh. He's got a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from UCLA and a Masters in Information Technology (MIT) from Virginia Tech.

The last PC is 1st SFOD-D operator Staff Sergeant Akeem Nassir. A former US Army Ranger and a Communication Sergeant from 5th SF Group, Sgt. Akeem was born in Detroit to Iraqi-American parents. After several tours in Iraq, as well as a language course in Doha, Qatar, SSG Nassir speaks fluent (Gelet) Baghdadi Mesopotamian Arabic and excellent Gulf Arabic. He's being sent along instead of a native interpreter because of security concerns that his commanding officer had about the fact-finding mission.

*Not to mention lacking trigger discipline and being confused about the lack of a manual safety.
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Old 09-16-2014, 10:38 AM   #19
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Default Re: [MH,TS] Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle - Iraq 2011

This sounds like a fantastic campaign.

Do you think your players would mind if you post the character builds here?

If not, it would be awesome to be able to see them via a PM.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-16-2014, 01:56 PM   #20
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Default Re: [MH,TS] Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle - Iraq 2011

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Originally Posted by TheOneRonin View Post
This sounds like a fantastic campaign.

Do you think your players would mind if you post the character builds here?

If not, it would be awesome to be able to see them via a PM.

Thanks in advance.
No problem.

Just let me arrange to have GCA spit out the character in some format.

Note that SSG Akeem Nassir, the Delta operator you asked about in an e-mail, is not a typical SF operator. He's very much at the edge of the human performance envelope and could have excelled at anything he chose to do.

In fact, all of the PCs are world-class at something and some of them are superb at a wide range of activities, as indicated by very high Attributes.
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