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’49, Wüstendrachen

As the German Wüstendrachen had little impact on the war anywhere but in Africa, Allied planners tended to dismiss them as either a stunt designed to show the impressive reach of the Reich, or a poorly-conceived plan to create a new form of wonder-soldier to compete (in general, poorly) with powered-armor equipped heavy infantry.

In fact, neither of those was the strategic purpose of the Wüstendrachen, which was in general never realized.

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By the time the Reich had determined victory had to mean conquering North and South America, the reality of logistics just invading the Soviet Union and Czarist Crimea had become clear. While invasions of the Americas wouldn’t have to deal with Russian Winter, the need to import the needed war materiel across one or more oceans was seen as a major problem. Even if jet bombers and saucers could destroy most of the continent’s opposing forces from the air, truly controlling such territory would require troops on the ground.

This is where the drachen were seen as part of the solution. The beasts were capable of outrunning and outlasting horses, camels, and even jeeps, could allow expert troops to carry significant materiel and even anti-tank weapons, and while they could not compete with walkers or heavy infantry, they were more than capable of handling light infantry or militias.

And they could breed.

The idea was that a well-blooded, well-trained Wüstendrachen could expand exponentially once established on a foreign continent. A single female could lay 4-5 eggs a week, and hatchlings were born nearly self-sufficient. They would imprint upon birth with a pack handler, could be used as guard animals within a week, and could become mounts within 3 months.

Rather than have to build factories, import or process fuel, maintain supply lines of tires and spare parts, the plan was for elite Wüstendrachen to establish bases of operations, feed their mounts on fallen foes and wild game, and recruit, train, and educate local whites to become volkwüstendrachen, creating a self-sustaining, replicating, self-sufficient scouting and patrol force that could spread across any continent with little support from Germany.

Though the project only took root in any strength under Rommel in Africa, its success there for years suggests it would have at least had some impact on an invasion of the Americas, if the Reich had ever managed great enough success to attempt such a thing.

#DieselPulp

Pulp Powers: Prechometry

Exploring a concept of a psychic power I’ve never seen anyone use in  story or game before.

“Prechometry”

The ability to touch an object and gain impressions of noteworthy things that are going to happen to it in the future.

Especially useful variant is “image prechometry,” which allows you to touch a detailed picture of an object (such as a blueprint), and determine what major things would happen to it if actually existed.

In my “Diesel Pulp” just-for-fun setting, the Black Duchess of Crimea has a number of prechometrist stranniks, who allow her military to troubleshoot new designs without ever actually building or testing them. While this system is not perfect, it saves so much time and money as to give the Black Duchess a huge advantage.

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Campaign Elements: The Wolf’s Head

Sometimes a campaign really needs a mastermind criminal with a vast organization at his disposal. Preferably someone with extensive resources, but who also prefer to keep a low profile. Such crime bosses may serve as foils, contacts, patrons, nemesis, or just background elements the GM and players can work off of as stories develop.

Of course, it helps if such master criminals and crime groups are cool and enigmatic.

So this is an idea of one option to fill that element. It focuses on the master criminal, the Wolf’s Head, and touches lightly on the organization, the Crime Guild. These descriptions are kept intentionally broad. A GM should be able to easily adapt the Wolf’s Head and Crime Guild to any genre, any game system, and any world or time frame. They can be pastiches for Lex Luthor and LexCrop, Moriarty and his Network, the Godfather and the Five Families, or Jabba the Hutt and his scum and villainy. Alternatively, a GM can use this as a starting point to build a whole new kind of organized crime group.

The Wolf’s Head

The Wolf’s Head is a mastermind villain and organizer of all forms of outlawry. He or she holds the highest position in the Crime Guild, a combination of organized crime cartel and training-ground for talented individuals. Each Wolf’s Head carries the position’s official scepter of office, a long cane with a silver wolf’s head and the words caput gerat lupinum (“may his be a wolf’s head” in Latin) engraved around the base of the head of the cane.

The Wolf’s Head traces its origin back to writ’s of outlawry in early English common law (or any older nation in worlds lacking England). An outlaw was literally being “cast out of the law,” no longer subject to the protections a person received from the law and thus able to be treated as a wolf. The write included the words caput gerat lupinum, and in many cases was considered the most serious possible sentence.

According to Crime Guild history, one of the earliest people declared an outlaw under this system build a vast network of outlaws, and took the first Wolf’s Head title. Over the centuries that organization has come in contact with, and absorbed, the thousands of organized crime groups from every continent, nation, and ethnicity, forming the massive, worldwide Crime Guild. While the goals of the Crime Guild vary somewhat, they tend to remain institutional – focused on earning and protecting money, influence, and power and building a large cadre of loyal agents. Many guilders are important members of other groups, ranging from crime families to law enforcement agencies, but some few work directly for the Crime Guild. These generally answer directly to the Wolf’s Head, and through them the Wolf’s Head is free to pursue any goals he or she desires, as long as the Crime Guild on the whole continues to grow and prosper.

The holder of the Wolf’s Head title changes periodically, and apparently at random to outside observers. Each Wolf’s Head must nominate one Alder of Crime every 3 years (though killed alders need not be replaced). Each Alder is able to secretly vote to “retire” the current Wolf’s Head (though they can change this vote at any time). Such votes are kept with several ArchNumbers (Numbers being living cogitators who keep all the Crime Guild’s records, and ArchNumbers being senior examples). The Wolf’s Head also ranks the alders, from best to worst, and gives that information only to the ArchNumbers (and can change the rankings at any time).

If at any point 2/3 or more of the current Alders have voted to retire the current leader, the Numbers inform the entire Crime Guild. At that point all Alders try to kill the Wolf’s Head. If they succeed within 30 days (also known as the Hunter’s Moon, as the alders hunt the ultimate wolf), then whichever alder still alive that was highest ranked by the previous Wolf’s Head becomes the new Wolf’s Head. If not, the current Wolf’s Head retains the position, and the ArchNumbers ensure every alder that voted to retire him is killed (to cull those who mistakenly thought it was time to change leaders).

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Diesel Pulp: Fordlandia and the Argentinian Reich

Fordlandia and the Argentinian Reich

In my Diesel Pulp setting, Henry Ford is a full-on Nazi. Given his strongly antisemitic views, the damage he did spreading those views, and his company’s willingness to use slave labor in Germany, I don’t feel bad about this at all.

I also have Fordlandia being both hugely successful, and being in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in far-southern Brazil. With so much technological effort being put toward compression gears, Cavorite, and other Martian-inspired technology, synthetic rubber does not develop, and rubber trees remain crucial right through the end of the Global War. With the British controlling most European-owned rubber plantations, and Japan being too far away for its holdings to make a good supplier for Germany, Fordlandia in southern Brazil is a crucial supply for the Nazi.

So, my setting assumed a Nazi-backed military coup takes control of Argentina early in the Global War, likely 1939, and quickly pressures Chile and Paraguay to join the South American “Argentinian Reich.” German-backed forces then strike into Brazil to cut off Rio Grande do Sul, taking both Fordlandia and Porto Alegre (the state’s capital and a major port). I feel a little bad about having these nations become Nazi allies… but given how long Argentina stayed neutral and that I am creating a new government backed by Nazis, I don’t feel too bad. And, any real-world historical group or figure in Argentina at the time that doesn’t deserve to be tarred with the broad brush can be added to the South American Resistance that pops up to oppose the Nazi-supported government.

This results in Brazilian and Mexican forces (with the aid of the US, economically at first with Lend-Lease, and then military assistance after 1941) fighting in South America against Argentinian Reich through the Global War. All other South and Central American Nations support the Allies against the Axis, at the minimum sending aid and in many cases (especially Bolivia, Peru, and Uruguay) troops.

I suspect this means no Brazilian Expeditionary Force, but since those troops are literally defending, and ultimately taking back, their homeland I don’t think that’s selling short Brazil’s contribution to the war. Similarly the Mexican Aztec Eagles and Fuerza Aerea Mexicana operations are going to stay closer to the continent, but remain heroically involved. The Pan-American Highway remains a high priority for the US and the Allies, and also gets pushed much closer to completion, though the route changes to more greatly favor Brazil.

A lot of this is, of course, ridiculous. But I like my Global War having actual fighting on every continent (sorry Australia), and like the idea of turning Fordlandia into a corporate-fascist autocratic city-state, as a place and idea for stories and events. And in a setting that assumes the War of the Worlds inspired walkers to be the main Diesel Age military technology and masked “irregulars” becoming common as military assets, I don’t mind some ridiculous alterations.

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Diesel Pulp Australian Units

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Working on more minis for my Diesel Pulp setting. These are three “Kelly Heavies,” from Australia’s legendary Armored Rangers. While medium and heavy infantry doctrine varies from country to country, and many ended up simply slapping what heavy infantry they could scrounge into heavy weapon platoons, only Australia built custom-purpose advanced scouting units that combined light, medium, and heavy infantry (generally known as Bushrangers, Kellies, and Kelly Heavies, respectively).

The idea behind armor scout units was to operate far from the front lines, make detailed reports about conditions, and engage in targeted strikes where a small force could potentially make a large difference. Bridges, passes, pillboxes, observation posts, field airports, and headquarters were favorite targets. Bushrangers would move as far ahead as possible, with one Kelly each in support if they ran into a small enemy unit (generally infantry or cavalry). Only if a viable target was found would Kelly Heavies be employed, each directed to an advantageous firing position by a Bushranger, where the Kelly Heavy could employ their Australian-built Owen Gun Shields, with their machine carbine and integral HEAT launchers.

Armored Scouts were consistently the most effective units including heavy infantry throughout the Global War, their tactics honed in part due to Australia’s much longer history with armored infantry, dating back to the 1890s Bush Battles against the Martian tripods in and around Victoria. Kelly Heavies, in particular, were designed with much heavier armor in front, especially on the head and chest, and lighter armor over the rest of the infantry fighter. Because they generally engaged in battle supported by more mobile units, Kelly Heavies could reliably face the source of the heaviest enemy fire and depend on support to alert them from threats outside their narrow field of vision. While no heavy infantry could survive direct hits from anti-materiel weapons, Kelly Heavies could take glancing blows to the heaviest section of their armor, and hold up to direct hits from most anti-personnel weapons. As a result, “damaged” Kelly Heavies were much more common than other heavy infantry units (which generally didn’t survive being hit by anything heavy enough to do significant damage).

I’m making an effort to make these miniatures more dinged-up than I normally try for, but they are otherwise fairly stock.

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Genre Emulation Feats – Noir, Fatale

Genre Emulation Feats are an idea I noodled with while running an Anachronistc Advenures campaign called “The Travellers,” where my players bravely agreed to make mundane modern day characters using the AnacrAdv rules knowing I was going to do SOMETHING with the game, but not what.

“What” turned out to be a series of world-hopping adventures that took them to different realities (Alterniverses) where different genres held sway, within which each PCs got a template giving them abilities appropriate to their role within that Alterniverse. Several of those had Genre Emulation Feats, which were designed to enforce specific tropes with that reality. GEF were more powerful than normal feats, but you only got a few, only to fit one role, and only within that Alterniverse.

each character never filled more than one role. If your roll changed, you could swap your old genre feats for new ones. I generally gave out a bonus GEF at 1st level, 3rd level, and every 3rd level after that.

These are examples of the ones the Fatale role could pick up, which certainly were not gender-specific.

A Paramour in Every Port
Prerequisites: Fatale role
Benefits: Each time you enter a settlement, you get a number of followers as if you had taken the Leadership feat (but no cohorts… ever). Your Leadership level for this is equal to your Charisma bonus, plus the bonuses you gain from Bluff or Diplomacy from feats (you add only the bonuses to one of those two skills, whichever are highest), plus the higher of the settlement’s Corruption or Society rating. For Leadership scores of Your effective Leadership has a minimum of 6 to 9, you still receive followers (1 follower for a 6, 2 for a 7, and so on). Your total followers in a given settlement never exceed your character level.
Your followers are Friendly, and their roles within the town are random. Their alignment is also random, but you know their alignment within one step (your GM tells you, and the answer will be correct or within one step). You do not need to pay for these followers gear or upkeep unless you give them full-time (40 hour/week) tasks.
Losing a follower lowers your leadership score in the same settlement by 1 until you gain your next level. each time you gain a level, you can recalculate your total followers (replacing lost ones and gaining new ones if needed).

Bushwack
Prerequisites: Fatale role
Benefits: When you lure a target into a secluded area where the target cannot see or hear any of its allies, any nonlethal damage the takes in a surprise round before the target acts is quadrupled. This only functions if you convince the target to move from the location where you encounter it. If any of these conditions end you cannot use this feat again on the same target until you have gotten an attitude or friendly with the target, or if the target does not realize you are the same person when you next lure it into seclusion.

Quid Pro Quo
Prerequisites: Fatale role
Benefits: You can make a Diplomacy check to ask favors of creatures that are not hostile to you, in return for you doing a favor of the same level of danger and/or cost for them first. The DC for this is 10 + x1.5 the CR of the target. This otherwise functions as a normal Diplomacy check asking for a favor.
Obviously you’d want more feats and different roles…

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More Diesel Pulp

Most of my “Diesel Pulp” figures and models are part of a specific setting I worldbuild purely as a hobby. I work on them in my (limited) spare time as something connected to many of the things I love about my hobby, without being something I plan to actually ever turn into a product. And, of course, a lot of it is left half-done…

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In the background two Maginot Field Turrets (each topped by an Irregular — Sister Sanguine and Tommy Atkins), in the foreground several more Irregulars including Father Pentacaust, Buring Skull, Mister Mythic, Captain St. Louis, The Haze, Torch Singer, the Marshal , Kilroy, Pirate Jack, and Black Hood. to the far right, three members of the Iron Raptors.

Diesel Pulp Allied Troops

Diesel Pulp Allied Infantry
Top, Left to Right: US Light Infantry medic, three US Medium Infantry (anti-armor, close combat, flamethrower, all in unpowered armor), two US  Heavy Infantry (combat support, flamethrower, in powered armor), and one US “Rough House” AT2 Gun Carrier (walker equivalent of an armed jeep)
Bottom, Left to Right: two Allied Special Unit Light Infantry (Pacific Theater, the Yelling Yahoos; one with captured Japanese Death Ray rifle and one with an experimental Power Arm, both with captured Tokubetsu Kōgekitai swords), one Free Corps mercenary (European Theater, the Minuteman Militia) and two Irregulars (All-American Girl, with her Boom Gun and Tomastic Sword; and Sky King with his Jetpack, SpectraGoggles, and Colt 1911a .45).

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These are for my ’49 setting I play around with as a hobby. I have shots of kitbashed walkers here and here, and talk more about the technology of the fictional setting here. and have a history of some of that tech here.

The Light Infantry medic is a rebased HeroClix
The Medium Infantry are Dust Tactics troops
The Heavy Infantry are Grindhouse Games APE suits for their Incursion game.
The Gun Carrier is a West Wind Productions Commanche battle suit
The Yahoos are rebased Heroscape.
The Free Corps is a repaint HorrorClix.
All-American Girl is a Heroclix Liberty Belle, with a modded-in gun and sword (and she’ll eventually have a US flag on her chest instead of a bell)
Sky King is a modified Lobster Johnson IndyClix (with the lobster claw removed from his chest, and Jango Fett’s jetpack from WotC’s Star Wars line)

 

Diesel Pulp Kitbash Project: White Tsar Tank

 

In the ’49 setting, the Crimea remains under the control of the White Russians, loyalists to the Russian monarchy despite losing most of their territory to the Soviet Union. The White Russians are commanded by Anastasia the Great, also known as the “Black Duchess,” the last surviving child of Czar Nicholas II. Anastacia is a military genius with a reputation for ambushes and nasty surprises, a lifetime of conflict, and a cabal of loyal psychic stranniks with mysterious ties to the legendary Rasputin.

One of the things that has allowed the Black Duchess is hold on to the Crimea as the last gasp of the Russian Empire is that rather than build walkers (which her tiny empire simply lacks the resources to design or maintain), she depends primarily on the mighty White Tsar rolling heavy armor units. Faster and cheaper than walkers and more reliable than the legendarily finicky tracked vehicles, the White Tsar remains the only wheeled heavy armor unit in the war. Though the original Tsar wheeled mecha was too heavy to move, by using what Martian-derived technology is available to her on a revised wheeled design for a huge mobile cannon platform, the Black Dutchess has created a mobile mecha unit that performs very well, and which traditional anti-mecha tactics don’t work well against.

I plan to kitbash a “White Tsar” tank model. Here we have a picture of the real-world Tsar Tank prototype, circa 1914. This thing was massive, but never worked well. In the ’49 setting, many of its shortcomings were solved and, while it was never a great armor unit, it remained active through the Russian Civil War, almost exclusively in the hands of the White Army.

I have a model of the also-real-world VsKfz 617 Minenraumer prototype, a German minesweeper vehicle design, circe 1942. Clearly much smaller than the Tsar, it’s also a trike design, though it replaces 22-foot tall bicycle wheels with 7-8 foot pedrail wheels. Like the Tsar, it was slow and a terrible idea, and never put into production. But I plan to use a 1/35 model VsKfz 617 as the basis for my White Tsar  in the ’49 setting. Since my models are generally 1/48/O Scale/28mm, a 1/35 VsKfz 617 will look MUCH bigger, as fitting for my White Tsar II.

Also above is an illustration of a KV-2, an actual WWII Russian tank. The KV-2 has a distinctive, enormous turret. I plan to mount a 1/48 KV-2 model turrent on the 1/35 VsKfz 617 body to create the mythical White Russian.

Below, a mock up of the design.

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Tripod Toys and Diesel Pulp

My Diesel Pulp Nazis in the ’49 setting I play with are going to have “pocket tripods” as late-1930s designs they still use variants of in 1949 as light walkers. To represent these, I plan to kitbash from these McDonald’s Happy Meal “BLACK MANTA Launcher” toys I picked up on Ebay for about $7 each with shipping. Here they are unmodified next to a DUST Tactics German walker and a HeroClix heroine.

My Diesel Pulp setting assumes that the War of the Worlds happened, and involved multiple waves, one in 1899, and a second in 1903, both while Mars is in opposition to Earth. The first invasion goes very much as described in The War of the Worlds, but the second lasts until 1907 and was a significantly broader conflict. They are known as the First and Second Wars of the Worlds, and these events changed history forever.

At first Martian technology is too advanced for Earth’s governments to unravel, but eventually the secrets of compression gears, genetic chemistry, etheric generators, Cavorite, N-rays, odic forces, and red mercury began to be revealed to the nations of the world, though often at great cost and consequence, and unevenly. Some nations specialize in specific applications of just one or two of those technologies, while some secrets are unlocked only by a few specific geniuses.

As a result of these two invasions, the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Revolution of 1905, first and second Balklans Wars, and World War One do not occur. There are many minor conflicts that do occur in the altered time and one major conflict, the largest of which is the Triples War, which is essentially a shorter version of WWI that is restricted to a conflict between the Triple Entente (the British Empire, France and the Russian Empire) versus the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy). However this conflict runs only from to January 1915 to March 1917. Importantly, the United States, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria do not enter the war. The Triples War did include the development of trench warfare, and it was also the first time major powers used Martian-derived technologies against one another.

Perhaps most importantly was the development of mecha, heavily armored mechanized units, specifically walkers and tracked vehicles. Because Martians had very advanced technology, and depended on walking machines (especially their tripod fighting machines, but also their working machines and excavators) a broad school of military thinkers concluded that “walkers” were clearly superior to wheeled vehicles of any kind. It was generally assumed that the fact compression gears and etheric generators were able to easily power an articulated limb, that the increased mobility of a walker was a clear advantage over any other form. After all, God had made man a walker, rather than some wheeled creature.

In Germany, a pragmatic school of planners argued that while armored legs might function better than wheels, advancements in tread technology for tractors could create a rolling war machine that would be faster, more stable, and present a lower profile than any walking design. Walker designs were clearly extremely complex, and the flexible all-compression-gear design of Martial fighting machines was well beyond any Earth nation. But as the death rates for trench warfare during the Triples War skyrocketed, the need for some mobile, armored, armed, trench-crossing machine became clear to both sides.

The British build the first Earth-designed walkers to be used in a military conflict, and both Britain and France fielded simple walker designs beginning in February 1916. The British Type I was a small two-man walker, with a driver sitting low in a central cabin that was taller than it was wide or long, and a gunner/commander sat above him. The Type I’s legs could fold up to its sides in such a way that if it was knocked over or fell, it could “squat” which would cause it to right itself, and then stand again. Though its external weapon sponsons (placed where “arms” would go in a humanoid figure) were not designed for climbing, operators soon found the strong, flexible legs and longer cannon-sponson would allow it to climb up and down the sides of trenches, albeit slowly.

Germany instead developed the A7V*, a tracked “Sturmpanzerwagen” (roughly “armored assault vehicle”). The A7V had a crew of 18, six machine guns and one Maxim-Nordenfelt cannon. It had poor off-road capability and a high center of gravity, which made it prone to getting stuck or overturning on steep slopes. It was also hot, slow, under-armored, and under-armed.

The first mecha against mecha combat in history took place on 24 April 1918 when three A7Vs met three Type Is (two armed with just machine guns, and one with two 4-pounder guns) near Villers-Bretonneux. During the battle, the machine-gun armed Type Is were damaged and fell back, unable to significantly impact the A7Vs. The remaining Type I then attacked the lead German sturmpanzerwagen with its two 4-pounders and knocked it out (killing five of its crew). The Type I then managed to damage the tracks of both remaining A7Vs. Their crews fled, which began a route among the German forces present.

The lesson learned by military planners of the time was that tracked vehicles were unreliable and, as suspected, Martians had depended on walkers because their advanced science had proven the designs universally superior for the role of front-line fighting mecha. This is arguably the wrong lesson, but it was largely accepted as “proven doctrine” by the nations of the Earth. While wheeled and tracked vehicles were still designed for personnel carriers, artillery, and support vehicles, all major militaries turned to walkers for the vast majority of their armored mecha designs. By the time the First Global War began in 1939, hundreds of walker and support mecha designs existed worldwide.

I have shots of other kitbashed walkers here and here, and talk more about the technology of the fictional setting here.

*The A7V really is the real-world German effort at tanks in WWI, and it really was a terrible design. That design really faced Brittish forces at the time and palce mentioned above, but I replaced the British units in that first real world tank-on-tank battlewith walkers, so Diesel Pulp’s first-and-only walker vs tank battle is responsible for the rise of walkers as military designs. This helps hammer home that however bad an idea a walker is for 1940s-era combat, there’s a reason they are at the forefront of heavy armored units in my ’49 setting.

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