Category Archives: Adventure Sketch

Modes for Wayward, a Potential Setting for AGE Creator’s Alliance

Some more thoughts about the Wayward campaign setting I hope to eventually release (as a private individual) for Modern AGE through the AGE Creator’s Alliance.

So, one of the core conceits of Wayward is that there are “modes,” which represent adjacent realities to the (mostly) normal world, or Ecumene, where PCs call home. Things from other modes can influence, or even partially leak into the Ecumene, causing trouble and pain, but cannot be permanently destroyed except in their native mode.

Luckily, there are the Wayward, people native to the Ecumene who can travel to other modes to deal with things found there. Most modes are twisted parallels of the Ecumene, familiar in some respects and terribly (sometimes horrifically) different on others. Modes are all dangerous, even deadly, but just as things from other Modes (I’ll need a name for “things from other modes” at some point) can’t be permanently destroyed while in the Ecumene, PCs native to the Ecumene cannot be permanently destroyed while corporeally in another mode. However, that doesn’t mean being Put Down in another mode does hurt… and leave scars that stick with you whatever Mode you are in.

I’m using the term “Mode” so far, because I want to treat these alternate realities in roughly the same way Modern Age treats its different Modes of Play (gritty, pulpy, cinematic). So while the Ecumene itself is gritty, the laws of reality on others may be pulpy or cinematic, AND have other local rules changes to represent their altered rules of reality. That might not be a good enough reason to stick with “Mode” in the final term (‘demesne” comes to mind as having the right feel, for example), but it’s definitely good enough as a placeholder name for a in-progress game concept for a campaign using a working title.

Since there are likely going to be options that work differently in different modes [like having a Fiery heart talent might just give you a bonus to Willpower (Confidence) checks in the Ecumene, but allow you to actually summon fire magic within the Otherworld Mode), the rules are going to assume there are a finite number of “core” modes. A GM building a new mode should either make it an offshoot of one of the core modes (perhaps in addition to Otherworld, there is a very Nordic Helvangr which has different creatures and powers and appearance, but follows the same game mechanical rules as Otherworld.

That of course means the core modes I include in the campaign setting are important to the overall success of the setting, and need to be diverse, iconic, compelling, and fun.

So, no pressure.

I already foresee having at least two, which I’ll discuss tomorrow.

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Quick Notes for the potential “Wayward” Setting for AGE Creator’s Alliance

So I am planning, as a private individual (rather than as a developer for Green Ronin or the publisher of Rogue Genius Games) to release an AGE Creator’s Alliance product… eventually. Not at that program’s launch, but hopefully within a year or so.

For what seem like obvious reasons I originally thought that would be a Fantasy AGE product… but now my opinion is shifting. I have had an idea for a Modern AGE setting I might prefer to release though the Creator’s Alliance, and that might not only be a great way to divide what I am doing as a GR dev and a private citizen but also help me have a more baseline feel for the Creator’s Alliance experience.

Now, this is far from a done deal. I could discover there are good reasons not to do this setting, or change my mind about the best rules set for it or venue to offer it in. I could find something I like better as a first offering, I could just lose interest. Who knows?

But since part of what I wanted to do was showcase my own journey through the Creator’s Alliance, I wanted to offer up the short notes I jotted down at 5am for this setting idea.

Product/Product Line Title: Wayward
This idea began as I was driving on errands, listening to a song used as a theme for one of my favorite TV series. So, yes, I’m wearing one of the inspirations on the sleeve of this concept. Like anything that might change as the product moves forward, but working titles are useful.

Product Type: Campaign Setting and Adventure Line
As I currently envision it, Wayward is a campaign setting for Modern AGE which comes with built-in adventure support. each Wayward product would have a chunk of setting material, a smattering of new rule options, and an adventure designed to highlight both.
For example, the first product would be Wayward, which would also serve as the name for the whole setting, and be the in-world title of a certain kind of person most PCs are expected to be – the “Wayward,” people who operate outside the expectations and even the reality of common society. The Wayward operate in a shadowy world with creatures and abilities that are literally set apart from most of existence. This Wayward World normally isn’t “real” enough to impact most people, but there are rare exceptions, which Wayward Heroes need to deal with.
So in this first product there would be rules for what makes people Wayward, and an adventure for 1st level characters just discovering the existence of the Wayward World around them and dealing with something leaking out of it.

Inspirations
Wayward is clearly in big part inspired by specific modern media, but I don’t plan for it to be a pure pastiche of one thing. Instead my inspirations include Diana Tregarde Investigates (novels by Mercedes lackey), MAGE (the comic, especially The Hero Discovered and The Hero Defined), the Maxx (animated series especially, but also the comics), Sin City (just the first movie), Supernatural (TV show and it’s literally tie-ins)… and especially the trailer for the Max Payne movie (Yes, really just the trailer. not the movie itself, not the games–just that one trailer) and the trailer for Dark City (yep, again, JUST the trailer).
And I really mean “inspiration.” Wayward is an idea that grows out of thoughts I had when exposed to those sources (and many, many more), rather than an effort to duplicate them. It’s very much a thing I wish existed and had movies and comics and games, but doesn’t quite. Not a wholly original idea of course–just my take on a slice of the zeitgeek.

Kernel: Modes of Reality
The core kernel of an idea for wayward is that there are modes of reality that overlap slightly. Most people live only in the Ecumene, the “normal” world we all know and that (roughly) follows the real world rules of physics and history. But there are other modes, where twisted, dark, and blindingly bright things dwell. Sometimes you can glimpse those things when you sleep, or are in an altered chemical or emotional state. And, sometimes, those things can glimpse you. The most powerful things from other modes can sometimes visit or influence the Ecumene. But no Ecumene dweller can go into other modes to deal with the root of those problems.
Well, none but the Wayward…

And that’s as far as the idea has gone so far. 🙂

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Off-The-Cuff Campaign Ideas, Part 3

Just like my two previous entries, these are off-the-cuff campaign ideas I have done no prep or pre-planning for. They may all suck… or might spark a good idea for other people.

Surveyors: Ecealhstede is a god, but not a sapient or humanoid one. Ecealhstede is the Eternal City, the Home Before All, and the Foundation of Divinity. It is literally an eternal divinity in the form of a city, which has a center, and an outer wall, but no limit to how big it is, or how many denizens it can support. It is a mix of all architecture styles, all cultural influences, and all building types. It has a sea port, and a river port, and a desert caravan gate, and a forested merchant’s gate, and one long wall of nothing but sharpened stakes that keep out something living just beyond, in the eternally fog-shrouded bog beyond.

Ecealhstede has at least one door to every other city in existence, and it’s aqueducts, and sewers, and culverts, and roads, and alleys are similarly linked.

Many more creatures pass through Ecealhstede without noticing than ever realize they are within, and many more glimpse it briefly than spend any notable time within its walls, moats, barricades, and squares.

But Ecealhstede has chosen you, and your allies, to fulfill the role of surveyors. Because every settlement and structure everywhere is part of Ecealhstede, any threat to any of them can, in rare circumstances, become a threat to Ecealhstede. If a warehouse fire is going to spread through reality-spanning streets into the Eternal City’s thatched quarter, or siege engineers are going to breach a fortified wall that is harmonically linked to one of Ecealhstede’s walls, or if a flood is going to poor through dimensional cracks to flood Ecealhstede’s cisterns, the god-city draws you in to the base of operations it provides you and your allies, and then all doors out lead to the problem.

Of course, being a god’s champion, even one made of boulevards and bridges, has its advantages. With each threat to Ecealhstede you solve, your wealth, prestige, and personal power grow. Though there is also a god of ransacking, and soon you may draw ITS attention…

Brand New Season: Probably, no one should have exposed the Aelder Things to the concept of television. But they did, and now the Apocalypse Prevention Bureau (APB) has to come up with exciting entertainment for those nameless, formless entities to enjoy. You are an expert from a modern, technologically-advanced world. And you have been recruited for the Brand New Season.

The APB puts you in a group of diverse, often edgy allies. Then they send you to go deal with some specific moment, in some fantasy world. Those threats are always discrete, focused, and generally can be solved with properly applied violence. And they are always JUST within your ability to overcome them. You certainly CAN take guns instead of crossbows, and jeeps, and CB headsets… but if any of those things makes the adventure significantly easier, SOMETHING always comes along to even the odds.

And if you make it back, you get to rest, make some merchandizing deals, heal up, train… and then go back out for a new adventure that’s just a bit tougher than the last one.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t be entertaining enough…

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Starfinder HyperMall: GoTo

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

(Art by artbase)

GoTo (Technological item): A GoTo is among the most popular brand-name of Smart Data Compilers. By itself, it largely does nothing (though many come with games and basic local InfoSphere access). However, a GoTo can be synced to a theoretically-infinite number of other devices you own and have on your person, so compile and organize the data they offer. Most users begin by syncing their comm links, and then add more and more items as they enjoy the convenience.
Syncing an item to a GoTo takes 10 minutes, root access to the device to be added, and requires a Computers check with a DC equal to 5 + double the number of items already synced. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the new item IS synced, but a randomly selected previously synced item is removed from sync without any notification. Generally you don’t realize an item is removed from sync until you try to use it.
A GoTo can be placed in an armor upgrade slot, be added to any head/eye system cybernetic, or be held. Either way, it allows you to use all items on your person that give you information (such as scanners, comm links, computers, and so on), though you cannot access any function that requires an attack roll or skill check other than Perception, or that forces a target to make a saving throw. However, whenever you use it to make Perception check that you cannot take 10 on, a natural 1 on the die is both an automatic failure, and randomly removes a device from sync.
Despite the glitchiness of GoTos, they remain extremely popular among the techneratti. Indeed there are advanced models that can cost hundreds or even thousands of credits more… and function exactly the same way (but with better style and branding). Some social scientists fear the constant use of GoTo devices is eroding person-to-person relationships on a number of worlds.

Adventure Seed: A new GoTo program, free-to-download, claims to fix de-syncing issues. It is actually a hybrid curse, that causes anyone who uses their GoTo for more than 8 hours in a row to become a borai, and after 8 more hours a ghoul.
Within a few days, entire cities may fall to this necromantic viral app.

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Starfinder HyperMall: Chromat

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

Chromat (Hybrid Item): A chromat is a short penlike object that functions as a 1-shot fashion redesign device. Using a chromat takes 10 minutes, and requires you have sole control of the item to be affected. The item selected must be something you could wear or carry. It’s style, symbology, and color scheme are altered to match your general style, in much the way weapons with weapon fusions are altered. You do not have precise control over the new style and coloration (though it generally matches your preferred style, or if you prefer any 1 item you already have personalized and is present). You cannot duplicate any specific uniform, symbol or gear using a chromat. Once used, a chromat is expended, and the purely-cosmetic changes to made to the item you used it on are permanent.

Adventure Seed: Someone is breaking into clothing stores and textile cleaning businesses, and using handfuls of chromats to alter items to look like they belong to a crazed nihilist cult. Local authorities are convinced this is a marketing stunt for a new holovid series or void-rock band, but regardless the businesses in question want the fashion-vandalism stopped.

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Starfinder HyperMall: Brimmerfloat

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

Brimmerfloat (Hybrid Item): A brimmerfloat is peaked circle of cloth with an enchantment giving it a very, very slight negative gravity and a tiny gyro in it’s wire outer circumference, causing it to float gently upwards using a built-in, nonchargeable microbattery. It can be tethered to the top of your head, turning into a hands-free umbrella. It’s not string enough to float upward when being hit by rain, but will remain level in typical rain, sitting atop wherever you clipped its tether. The process that allows it to resist gravity has only 8 hours of effectiveness, though its not used up when the cloth is folded up. After 8 hours of use, it’s just a thin piece of cloth. Brimmerfloats are most often sold by vending-drones at posts and travel terminals during rainy weather, for people arriving from less wet locations who didn’t think to bring a more permanent umbrella options.
Catalog Code: H01Br@!67F22P[p]678413YSK

Adventure Seed: One bimmerfloat has no game mechanical effect. But a fight in a warehouse with crates of tens of thousands of them could cause any missed attack to break open a crate to form clouds of slowly expanding, spinning, lifting umbrella-tops that may give concealment between different altitudes.

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Two More Off-The-Cuff Campaign Ideas

I didn’t expect to write more of these… but I guess that’s what makes them off-the-cuff. I envision both of these as likely Starfinder campaigns, but you could mold them to work however you like.

Armageddon Helix: While there are numerous theories about its creation, no one is sure what caused the Armageddon Helix, a 525-mile wide strip of alternate reality running in a spiral from pole to pole of the Earth. Within the Helix, technology became unpredictable, magic and psychic powers bloomed, monsters arose, aline ruins and mythic buildings burst up from the land itself, and destruction was wrought. Magic does not function outside the Helix, but many strange technologies do. However, those technologies require materials that only exist within the Helix.
Those within the Helix changed as well, becoming unable to survive outside of it, and becoming ill if the come within a few miles of its edge. Similarly, those from outside the Helix cannot live near or survive within the Helix. Of course, this makes travel much more difficult–going from Seattle to Boise is simple enough, as they are within the same Safeland strip, but the center of the country is within the Helix, and travel to the East coast requires travel up to the north pole, around the end of the Helix, and back down toward North America.
The exception to this are extremely rare Apocalypse Riders, 0.01% of the population who can move freely between the Safeland and the Apocalypse Helix. Apocalypse Riders are heavily recruited, to take emergency supplies and news into the Helix, to bring valuable HelixTech materials out, to hunt down criminal riders who operate on the borer where few can seek them out, and to explore ever-changing Helix Ruins in the hopes of understanding what brought about the Helix, and if it can be reversed or controlled. Between missions, Apocalypse Riders can live in relative comfort in the Safelands, going to restaurants, seeing movies, and sleeping in soft beds. But within the Helix, danger lurks around every corner.

Gjallarbrú Guard: There are many names for the river that separates the lands of the living from the lands of the dead. Regardless of its name, that river is crossed by an infinite number of massive bridges, each bridge a city wherein the work of the afterlife is carried out. One of these is Gjallarbrú, the Golden Hall.
Souls dwell here. Mostly those who expect to reach a Norse afterlife, but others two. Some know how they got here. Many don’t. A few don’t even believe they are dead.
In most cases, those souls eventually move on. Once they pay their obolgild, or finish their limbo-punishment, or clear up some paperwork. Some don’t ever go on to the afterlife. Others can’t. And a lot just need to work to earn the obolgild to do so… or steal it.
There are rules, too. Cosmic, immutable laws. And fiends and elder alien reality-warpers and astrally projected living necromancers and sleepwalking psychics and Miskatonic university professors keep stirring up trouble. And sometimes, a dead soul even gets killed.
You are one of the souls that can’t, or won’t, move on. And you are part of the city Guard. It’s your job to keep the peace. The Peace of the Already Dead.
Sometimes Guards come from Chinvat, the bridge-city upstream from Gjallarbrú, chasing escapees who floated down the Infinite River. Less often someone must go downriver to Hardos, the broken bridge city, for similar reasons. Rumors claim that Guards are sometimes sent more than one bridge away up or down the river, but if that’s true, you’ve never spoken to such people.

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Five Off-the-Cuff ttRPG Campaign Ideas

So, when I am making off-the-cuff descriptions of ttRPG ideas or campaigns to make a point, if I don’t just go with halfling battle-bakers, I usually throw together random elements as they come into my head, and just run with them without giving them any serious consideration.
And, to be honest, those ideas (from royal families of were-rats who now rule their empire from gilded sewers to campaigns set in the dying husk of the World Tree) tend to be pretty popular. Once my self-censor is off, sometimes good stuff comes.
So, here are five off-the-cuff campaign ideas I have done no prep or pre=-planning for. They may all suck… or one or two might spark a good idea for other people. 🙂

Recruits of Heroes’ Hall: Valgard is the Heroes’ Hall, the ultimate interdimensional base of operations for the Valorous Guard, the mythic and legendary champions of all reality.
Sadly, they are all dead. The Heroes’ Beacon, which lights up when societies throughout the multiverse need help, now goes unanswered.
But Valgard ITSELF is a living, thinking thing. And it wants new heroes. It does not care about their power level, or plane of origin. It’s going to select those it believes have the potential to be legendary, and bring them into itself.
Participation is not optional.
And after all, if you die, Valgard just brings you back to life… sometimes during the same fight.

Celestial Racers: The lights in the sky actually are the shining wheels of celestial chariots. They also control the destiny of mortals. So teams of worshipers are selected to compete in Celestial Races, with winners forming constellations that benefit their patron deity.

Sigils: Sigils are ancient marks of conceptual power which select those psychologically aligned to them. Being of a compatible sigils is more important than family, or ancestry, or culture. Most sigilkin have a minor, cantriplike power to call upon. But the great Sigil Scions can change the world, and those champions are empowered with energies far beyond their class or training.

Inkbound: New spells aren’t researched. Magic is not some academic pursuit you can master through study. No, new spells only occur when written ideas are exposed to enough danger, destiny, disease, and damnation that it becomes infused with eldritch meaning, and forms into a new, unique spell. Powerful wizards thus employ the poor, desperate, and criminally sentenced to become Inkbound, people with bodies covered in mystic symbol tattoos who are sent through the most horrific and dangerous quests imaginable, some specifically created to push Inkbound to the point where spells begin to manifest on their skin.

Boldly: The Crescent is a fragment of an ancient, galaxy-spanning civilization. Hundreds of miles long, it is a surviving part of a Dyson sphere that once held billions of civilizations. But now no one can control it. It has food, water, can sustain life at differing gravities and atmospheres effortlessly, and no one knows how. It also heals those on it so instantly injury or death are impossible, and teleports at random from civilized world to civilized world, with a huge digital hourglass telling all on it how long until it transits again… anywhere from an hour to a month.
Once you get on the Crescent you may live forever and see the galaxy… but chances are you can’t even find your way home.

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Ablative for Pathfinder 1st edition

Ablative is a creature ability you can add to monsters to make them shrink as they take damage. It’s designed for use with elementals, constructs, and slimes, but could apply to other creatures as well. If applies to creatures that primarily do weapons or natural weapon damage, it’s reduced damage output heavily counters its increased AC and accuracy. For creatures that use offenses not modified by the reduced size, it generally becomes more dangerous as it’s injured.

When an ablative creature has lost 1/3 or more of its HP, it becomes one size smaller until its HP total is healed to be over that threshold. This otherwise functions as reduce person.

When an ablative creature has lost 2/3 or more of its HP, it becomes one size smaller until its HP total is healed to be over that threshold. This also otherwise functions as reduce person, with the modifiers stacking with the first application.

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Rosie’s Rifles, Part II

“When you are the storyteller, you get to decide what the story is.”

I’ve been working on miniatures for Rosie’s Rebels, a super-powered military team for my Diesel Pulp ’40 hobby setting, for a long time. I rarely have much time for it currently, but my roommate built a Bren universal carrier model of mine, which let me wrap up a long-stalled project, the automatons Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale to accompany Bolt Buster.

Below are Eight-Ball and Gibson (who you can read about here), along with Medusa, Stheno, Euryale, and Bolt Buster (who have write-ups below).

Still need to be painted, obviously.

(Members of Rosie’s Rebels, L to R: Eight Ball, Gibson, Stheno, Medusa, Bolt Buster, and Euryale)

Bolt Buster: Prior to volunteering for the Homestead Observation Program Executive, Bolt Buster was a moonshiner, tractor-repair woman, and torch singer who worked the Appalachian Mountain resort circuit. Her exposure to mateirals as part of H.O.P.E.’s experimentation resulted in gaining the ability to comprehend mechanical and electronic functions (but not, for example, chemical) by hearing sounds echo off such devices. This allowed her to become a genius-level inventor and engineer. When in a hurry, she often began fixing things by hitting them with a wrench to hear what was wrong with them.

Early in deployment, Rosie’s Rifles picked up three 1st-generation R.U.R. automatons, MDA, 13O, UR-AIL, and worked with them for some months. When the automatons were destroyed, Bolt Buster was determined to rebuild them, despite the fact no one had ever successfully restarting a failed R.U.R. cognition core. She succeeded… but the automatons were incapable of speech, and could no longer achieve the coordination needed for bipedal locomotion or coordinate hands (though MDA could operate a single “off” hand). Bolt Buster built them new, smaller, bodies, and they became a core part of the Rosies’ section until the end of the war. In their new forms the automatons selected new names — Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale.

It was often debated whether Cast-Iron or Bolt Buster was a greater genius and inventor, and Cast-Iron’s inventions where clearly more advanced (but no one but her could ever make them work), while the vast majority of Bolt Buster’s much more mundane, but replicable. The two women felt no need to participate in such debates, and were good friends who often collaborated.

Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale: The only R.U.R. cognition cores to ever be restarted from total failure and remain stable, the automatons originally designated MDA, 13O, UR-AIL nonetheless underwent significant personality changes. Medusa was the only one of the 3 still able to operate even 1 hand, and was the most aggressive of the 3, generally taking charge when they made decisions without one of the Rebels present. Medusa was also able to easily adapt to different weapons in her Dexter gun mount, though she generally carried a M1919 Browning 30 cal. Stheno was built into a gun carrier to serve as its driver and gunner, and often served as the Rebel’s primary portage unit and fall back position. She had a Browning M2 .50 cal mounted forward, and a M25a 105mm recoilless rifle that could be fired by her, or swung down on it’s mounting arm to be fired by adjacent infantry (which tended to be significantly more accurate, but required Stheno to be stationary). Euryale was fixed in a single form, unable to adjust to new weapons (equipped with two custom .45 Thompson submachine guns), but was by far the fastest of the three, able to move up to 45 mph, even in rough terrain.

(Stheno’s Dexter side, with close up on her external lockbox where many Rebels kept extra gear)
(Stheno’s Sinister side, showing detail of the recoilless rifle’s swing-mount. Also closer views of Medusa, Bolt Buster (about to snack something or someone with a wrench), and Euryale.

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