Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mecha: Dawn of War Arc

Over the weekend (as mentioned in the last post) I finally got a chance to continue my Gundam SEED Destiny Gaiden campaign of Mecha. I really have a lot planned for this now and am looking forward to running it more. It will probably have to continue somewhat infrequently since I can only run it on Saturdays and Saturday is the day a lot of random LFR or other D&D events go down. Of course, by planned, I don't mean planned too far ahead. One of the beauties with Mecha is how the story grows organically based on player decision. I tend to just plan a sort of skeleton for the next few episodes, maybe some key events I want to set up and roll from there.

I have a lot of overall ideas for the future. Where the plot goes, however, will depend largely on the player's side of things. My big plan is to ultimately present various sides to the war and allow the PC's the chance to decide where they want to go. This session saw Drax unable to come though his character remained present in the background. Instead, we gained two new characters that hopefully will remain regular so we can get a core squad developed. Here are the new stars in the show:

1) Akito: An "Accidental Hero" who serves on the military base at Armory One as a cook. During the Armory One raid, he was forced to pilot a Zaku Warrior and proved to have expert skill at piloting a mobile suit. Since then, he has been trained formally and continually asked to take part in training orders or to consider undergoing missions. However, he simply wants to continue just being a cook.

2) Rayne: A "Reformed Criminal" who once attempted a major act of theft from one of the large corporations that exist among the PLANTs. After being caught and put in prison, she was released in the aftermath of the Bloody Valentine War in exchange for being a test pilot for the ZAFT military. Repentant about her crime, Rayne saw the military as the chance to have a better life unlike the one that drove her to commit robbery in the first place.

I think 3 episode chunks are turning out to be the best pacing as far as a session. Maybe one more now and again. It does mean some of the longer multi-part battles I want to do like Gundam is known for will be split between sessions at times, but there's nothing wrong with that; dramatic cliffhanger anyone? I'm really looking forward to the next session. Crim's backstory is going to get fleshed out, the PC's will me their and challenge their first major Earth Alliance antagonist and there will likely also be a chance encounter with the Junk Guild. One of my goals with this game is to keep using mecha designs that weren't featured in the SEED Destiny anime. So far I have mostly played with standard fare and a bit of MSV. However, starting with this set of episodes we get some love from the Astray manga and expect more to come in the future.

Incidentally, if you're playing Mecha right then you're using a piece of opening theme music. I figured it would be worth talking about that. My game is currently using "Ignited" by T.M. Revolution (one of my favorite Japanese acts). This is the standard first opening theme used by the anime itself. However, like Gundam SEED does in both seasons, I also plan on changing this after so many episodes. Whether I follow their set path or not is yet to be decided. As far as BGM's for battle, which have been a hit I think, I'm mostly drawing from the OST's for Gundam SEED and Destiny themselves. Anyways, here we go:

Episode 08: Return to Armory One

In the aftermath of the Junius Seven tragedy, ZAFT began providing aid to the damaged Earth. Meanwhile, Chairman Durandal made it clear that ZAFT would not tolerate the terrorists behind this act; making ZAFT's own position in the incident clear. However, this did little to foster good will. Those in the areas struck by debris cried out for justice and seemed enraged towards the PLANTs. Meanwhile, terrorist organizations like the Blue Cosmos began more aggressive campaigns rallying in new followers. Amid all this, the Earth Alliance began to re-arrange its forces seeming to focus on adding more detachments near the moon and space in general.

With the Galileo returned to Armory One, its crew was granted leave for a few days while the ship was repaired and Captain Meyers received their new orders. The base at Armory One was abuzz with activity. Within the base's main mess hall a young cook turned mobile suit pilot named Akito stumbled into work for the day. However, he quickly found himself under fire by the head chef because it seemed he had misplaced the cutlery the night before when he got off his shift. Scrambling, Akito managed to find the lost cutlery and set things right. However, his boss wasn't very pleased. Sighing, he mused about what he could do with the boy. Akito apologized and the chef noted that he'd need to do better in the future as he was being assigned to the Galileo for the dual purpose of being a cook and joining the mobile suit squad.

Akito had been forced, for his own survival, to pilot a Zaku Warrior during the surprise raid on Armory One. His skill with a mobile suit had been exceptional and though he continually claimed to only want to be a cook, he had since been formally trained. Realizing he had no other choice, Akito consented and at least took solace in the fact that he was still going to be a cook most of the time.

As he carried out his final day working at the mess hall, Akito was greeted by a young female pilot. She identified herself as Rayne and mentioned she was being assigned to the Galileo which prompted a surprised Akito to point out that they would be partners then. Initially, Rayne seemed playfully unsure about Akito's cooking skills. However, after trying some soup he had made, she found his cooking to be perfectly wonderful. As Akito's boss came back by to yell at Akito some more, Rayne was sympathetic to Akito's situation. After the chef left, she reassured Akito about his skill noting that the chef was simply a sour person.

Elsewhere, in his personal room among the base, Zak was reviewing the combat data from their clash at Junius Seven. He had been disappointed by Vonder escaping and felt particularly to blame being a member of ZAFT's Special Forces. However, even after hours of studying the battle, he couldn't seem to figure out the advantage that Vonder and the mysterious Seiji, pilot of the Proto-Chaos, had which allowed them to almost seemingly predict their movements.

Meanwhile, in the city proper, Kanji was strolling to go check out his favorite bar on Armory One. It had been a short tour of duty with the Galileo, but much had happened. He wasn't sure what the future would hold. However, he knew that it would spell more fighting. Kanji felt he might not be back to Armory One for awhile, so it was for the best that he visit it before he leaves.

However, along the way, Kanji bumped into someone he did not expect to see. He had crossed paths with Amelia, an old girlfriend from his past even before joining ZAFT's military. Amelia seemed eager to see Kanji and her interest in him, even after all these years, was made clear. However, Kanji promptly denied going out to dinner with her in a cold response. Sighing, Amelia asked if things had changed so much. Kanji nodded and said that he couldn't go back to the life he had before. He then recounted how his family had been very poor and he joined ZAFT's military in hopes of providing for them.

Too much time had passed and both he and Amelia had become different people. Kanji met and fell in love with a woman named Jeane who also served in ZAFT as a ship's operator. She resided in Aprilius-One with their twin daughters Kara and Yumi. Amelia seemed upset and Kanji told her it would be for the best if she moved on and just remembered the time they did have; appreciating it as he does. She seemed upset and thus Kanji urged her to let go of the past. Visually upset, Amelia let Kanji go and feeling a little bad the vet headed on to his favorite bar.

The following day Zak, Kanji and Drax had been assembled at one of the testing facilities on Armory One's base. There they were met by Captain Meyers as well as two new people. Meyers introduced Akito and Rayne stating that they would be joining the Galileo to round out its mobile suit squad. Zak was quick to salute his new allies and the newcomers easily meshed into the group. With this done, Captain Meyers turned the group over to a ZAFT scientist asking them to do their best to follow his directions.

The scientist explained to the group about the notion of Spatial Awareness. This was a unique, and rare, trait discovered in certain people. It was somewhat like what one might consider psychic abilities. ZAFT's military had designed weapon platforms that could be utilized with it and it was common for fellow pilots with Spatial Awareness to sense one another on the battlefield. In an effort to better understand this phenomenon, ZAFT was organizing trails at varying levels. The scientist desired for the Galileo's squad to run through a combat simulation while their brain waves were tested.

As they were transferred to the test site, the pilots couldn't help but overhear the rumors among the lab. The talk was all on the fact war might return. It seemed the Earth was still quite aggressive despite ZAFT's aid relief. Loading into open cockpits rigged to act almost like controllers for the simulation, the pilots were put into a mock combat in space against a squad of Earth Alliance Dagger L's; the current mainstay of their mobile suit forces.

The battle itself was short as the Galileo Team made quick work of the enemies. After the test, the scientist noted that those who flagged any signs they were looking for would be contacted. Dismissed, each pilot went on about their personal business awaiting the time when the Galileo would receive its new assignment. A few days later, both Kanji and Akito received a file from the labs. It seemed both showed up a potential users of Spatial Awareness. The letter included urged both to pay attention if any weird phenomenon happened and added that data on their brain waves would also begin being recorded among the other test data their squad regularly reported back in.

Episode 09: Declaration by Fire

The peaceful days the Galileo crew had enjoyed at Armory One promptly came to an end. The Earth Alliance had finally made their move as a large fleet approached the PLANTs themselves. Their declaration was clear. The Alliance demanded that ZAFT demilitarize and its government disperse. It made such a threat even while it moved forth mysterious new mobile suits. Among these were squads armed with nuclear missiles. Even in the face of such a threat, ZAFT refused such a ridiculous request and once again stressed their position against the use of nuclear arms. However, the Earth Alliance would not back down either. With no options left on either side, war was declared once more.

The Galileo was one among several ships to be launched from Armory One to come in as support during the battle. Knowing this, its crew began to scramble and finish their affairs as they boarded the Galileo and prepared to head out. Akito met with Captain Meyers by request and after giving the cook a tour of the area where he'd be working, when not piloting, he revealed to Akito that he had a special task for him. Captain Meyers explained that ZAFT had an ace in the hole for dealing with the nukes. However, they would need time to set it up and ready things. 

While the Galileo would only be dealing with outlying forces, they needed to help buy time as well. Meyers knew Akito was new, but had heard high remarks on his skill. Thus, he wanted to ask of Akito to take charge in the fight and do his very best to tie up the enemy and keep them from firing on the PLANTs. Akito more than readily accepted this task promising to do all he could. He had cooked for people on the PLANTs before and he would do so again, if he could help it.

Meanwhile, in his private quarters aboard the Galileo, Kanji heard a mysterious knock at the door. Carefully, he listened at the door and heard footsteps vanishing down the hallway. Opening the door, he noted a tray with a glass of what seemed to be water and some food on it. Suspicious about the mysterious gift, Kanji took the tray to Doctor Mareina asking her to check it for poison. Mareina initially seemed skeptical about Kanji's assessment. However, to her surprise, after running some tests the water turned out to be highly poisonous. Triumphantly, Kanji declared that anyone who knew him and called him a friend would know he only drank wine with a meal.

Laughing, Doctor Mareina noted that in this case being a drunkard had saved the old man's life. Still, Kanji seemed more concerned about the fact that this might mean a spy was on board the Galileo. Wanting to be careful about things, Kanji made Doctor Mareina promise not to tell anyone else about what had happened and to confidentially pass on the information from her tests directly to Captain Meyers. Agreeing that this was the best course of action, Mareina carefully filed away the information to be submitted to the Captain later. Worried for the future, Kanji returned to his private quarters.

Before heading to the Galileo, Rayne spent her final day on Armory One going about the city and shopping. Perhaps it was odd for a mobile suit pilot about to go to war, but for Rayne it seemed like a good idea. Who knows when the next time would be when she'd get back to Armory One and could do the same again. Thus, she made the day of things and boarded the Galileo just before its launch time.

Finally, just as the Galileo set out, Zak entered the mobile suit hangar to see how things were going. To his surprise, Chief Burns was going over Zak's Zaku. Excitedly, Burns forced Zak over inspect the mobile suit mentioning that he had managed to upgrade the Gunner Pack's Orthros long rifle giving it a small boost in fire power. Pleased with this upgrade, Zak saluted Chief Burns and thanked him for all his efforts. However, Chief Burns merely stated that it was thanks enough that he got to work on and further customize machines like this serving among an experimental mobile suit squad.

Unfortunately, there was one person missing aboard the Galileo. Takuya, true to his promise to Captain Meyers, opted to stay behind at Armory One. The young boy had officially enrolled into the ZAFT military with the intent of receiving proper training. Via Captain Meyers, the boy had sent well wishes to the rest of the ship hoping that the next time they met, he would be a proper soldier of ZAFT.

As the Galileo pulled into the combat area things looked grim. The battle was an all out skirmish on the scale of the past war. It seemed the nuke-carrying mobile suit squads were targeting Aprilius-One; the seat of the Supreme Council. Kanji could feel his tension rising knowing that his family resided on that colony as well. A quick briefing from Lt. Tsukasa revealed that the enemy unit was dubbed Windam and was apparently a new model so they needed to be careful. The squad's goal was simple. Prevent the nuke squad in their combat zone from firing on the PLANTs. Anything else was secondary to this task. The Galileo would hang back freeing up Lt. Tsukasa who intended to work directly with the Joule Team at another area of the battlefield.

Joining the fray, Drax couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the size of the battle. Akito lamented once more about his situation citing his wish to just be a cook. Kanji, picking up on this, stated that there was no hope for such dreams during war time and then began to muse a little on the seemingly eternal nature of war. Ultimately, he questioned if there would ever be a day when humanity could cast aside such notions and truly evolve into a better existence. Impassioned by Kanji's speech, Zak lead the charge into battle.

Fighting against the Windams, the Galileo Team quickly realized that these new mobile suits were easily a match, if not better, than their Zaku Warriors. However, they wouldn't give up. Remembering his promise to  Captain Meyers, Akito dove into the fray. Shouting loudly, the thrusters of his Zaku Warrior flared to life as he rammed into one of the Windams at top speed knocking it far away before spinning around and drawing his beam assault rifle trailing the shot onto another Windam and destroying it with a single shot.

Zak, meanwhile, found himself pleading with one of the Windam pilots to stand down and was shocked when, in return, the enemy pilot shouted back calling him an alien monster that needed to be purged to preserve the blue planet Earth. Realizing the nigh-fanaticism held by the pilot, Zak felt no mercy as he acted in concert with Rayne to shoot him down.

Kanji gave a stunning effort as well. Knowing that even his family's safety rode on the outcome of this battle, he remained intently focused. When one of the lead Windams of the squad broke rank to attack Drax, Kanji flew into action. Charging in his beam axe tore into the Windam severing one arm. Then, wasting no time at all, he began firing the Slash Pack's beam gatling peppering the unit with shots before finally tearing off the remaining arm and smashing it into the head of the mobile suit sending it flying away before it exploded into nothingness.

Eventually, working together, Akito and Kanji managed to route the nuke carrying Windams among this squad. With them cornered and having no other options, Akito demanded that they retreat from the battlefield or die there with them; if that's what it took. Accepting defeat, the squad leader ordered a retreat and as the Windams carrying nuclear missiles began to pull out Akito lowered his beam axe. The enemy's squad leader hailed the young cook stating that he was too naive to be a soldier on a battlefield. However, luckily for Akito, his foe this time was a man of honor. They had bested his squad and he would pull back.

With the Galileo successful in their endeavor, as the pilots returned to the hangar, all eyes turned towards the rest of the battle. Though several nukes were fired, they were stopped immediately by a powerful blast from a modified Nazca-Class ship. This ship had been outfitted with experimental technology derived off the N Jammer which ZAFT originally employed to disable nuclear warfare. This weapon was dubbed the N Stampeder. With every nuke detonated well before reaching the PLANTs, the Alliance's threat was over. Unfortunately, the N Stampeder had fried itself in use. However, it seemed that for now it had deterred any nuclear threats for the PLANTs.

Though the Galileo celebrated a small victory, they knew things were far from over. War had been declared. Captain Meyers received new orders from Armory One. The Galileo Team, minus Lt. Tsukasa, were to be dropped to Earth to join an operation by ground forces. ZAFT intended to make a decidedly strong push and force the Alliance out of space while also taking over major Alliance bases on the planet itself; thus disabling their ability to bolster space forces.

Thus, the Galileo began making its way towards Earth.

Episode 10: Operation Victoria Part I

As the Galileo made its way to Earth, the mobile suit squad was busy making final preparations before their descent to Earth. Akito was called to met Lt. Tsukasa in the mobile suit hangar. There Hiro had a stern discussion with Akito. Lt. Tsukasa hated to be the bearer of bad news, but as it would turn out a tragedy occurred amid the fight at the PLANTs. Akito's parents had been in a transport moving between two colonies just as the battle broke out. In the immediate chaos of battle, their transport had been hit directly by stray fire from one of the Alliance Windams.

Crushed, Akito could say little in response to Lt. Tsukasa. Placing a hand on his shoulder, Hiro stated that he was sorry for his loss and promised that they'd get revenge for them one day. Akito mumbled that he felt so bad he didn't even feel like cooking. Wanting to be left alone, Lt. Tsukasa departed while Akito returned to his room. This was why he only wanted to be a cook. Cooking brought smiles to people. Piloting mobile suits ultimately brought only one thing: death.

As their discussion had went on, both Rayne and Zak had been present in the hangar working on servicing their machines. Rayne, unfortunately, met Chief Jacob Burns head on as he noticed that she was connecting several cables incorrectly. Quickly, her fiery temper forced her into a rather loud argument with Burns as he went behind her correcting all the mistakes. Angered, he told her that mobile suits were precious and needed to be handled with care. However, Rayne could only scoff at his obsessive attitude.

Later, a still angered Burns found Zak working on some repairs to his Zaku Warrior as well. Again, Chief Burns couldn't help but be impressed by the level of skill ZAFT Special Forces held. Jokingly, he urged Zak to take good care of his machine while on Earth and bring it back to the Galileo in one piece. Laughing, Zak agreed to do his best. Following this, Chief Burns went on to see how Drax was doing and to continue tutoring him. Having taken a liking to the boy's enthusiasm, he seemed a little sad Drax would be leaving them. He encouraged the boy to practice hard while on Earth.

Meanwhile, Kanji met with Captain Meyers to have a final drink before their departure. They spoke of the war and how senseless it seemed after the resolution of the previous. Though so much had changed, it seemed that in the end little actually did. Kanji related his worries in the previous battle for his family and Captain Meyers assured him that while Kanji was on Earth, he would do his best to look out for his family as well.

Before parting ways, Captain Meyers urged Kanji to watch out for the others remarking on how green most of them were. Kanji lamented that so many young people were forced to fight wars which they held little responsibility for. Captain Meyers then presented Kanji with a particularly rare vintage of wine. He informed Kanji to return to the Galileo with two drinks left for them to share in celebration of everyone's reunion. Kanji thanked Captain Meyers for the gesture and promised that he would get everyone back to the Galileo.

With the time for their departure now facing them Kanji, Drax, Rayne and Akito gathered with Lt. Tsukasa and Captain Meyers on the mobile suit deck. Zak was delayed, however, as a seemingly upset Romary surprised him. Forcing up a cheerful smile, Romary remarked that she had never been on Earth before and Zak stated that he hadn't either. Romary then asked if Zak would take her some photos of Earth during their downtime to share with her when they met again. Taking on a serious tone, Zak warned Romary that this was now war; things were serious. There wouldn't be time for personal interests amid such chaos.

This forced Romary to begin tearing up. She threw herself against Zak as she began to cry. Between sobs, she stated that he had to agree because if he did then it was a promise that he'd return to her alive. Realizing what she had been implying and that, perhaps, he had been a bit to formal about things Zak did his best to console Romary. He didn't want to make a promise he couldn't keep, but Zak swore to do all he could to pull through and return. Reassured by his words, Romary hugged Zak farewell before returning to the bridge of the ship.

As Zak joined the rest of the Galileo Team, Captain Meyers began briefing them on their first true mission of the war. The pilots were being sent down to Australia on Earth. They were being dropped on the outskirts of the Great Victoria Desert. Currently a battle was already under way as Alliance forces were raiding one of ZAFT's newly established camps. Things were going bad and they needed reinforcements. It would be their goal to help push back the Alliance and then link up with the ground commander in that area. This mission had been dubbed Operation Victoria. The overall goal was to make a push against the Alliance forces and ultimately take over their major base there. Lt. Tsukasa would remain with the Galileo which would return to the PLANTs and be on reserve duty until its pilots returned to space.

Heartfelt farewells were given and Lt. Tsukasa urged the pilots to do their best while on Earth; adding that he'd work just as hard in space. With their mobile suits loaded into an atmospheric re-entry drop pod, the Galileo Team was finally ready to depart. The descent to Earth was a rocky ride and as their drop pod crashed into the ground, their first sight was marvelous as they saw the full extent of the Earth. This was a sight brand new for everyone present besides Kanji who had seen it in the previous war.

However, the team had little time to marvel at Earth's seemingly endless sky as beams began to fire all around them. True to the briefing, they really had been dropped into a war zone. A static-y voice blared over the comms to them from what sounded to be ZAFT's commander for this area. He claimed to be pleased to have an experimental squad as reinforcements and quickly briefed them on the situation. The short of it was that they were about to lose their base of operations. The Galileo Team was to rally with the remaining ZAFT forces and try to push them back.

As they entered the combat proper, the Galileo Team quickly saw just exactly what was giving ZAFT so much trouble. Amid the various Windams and Dagger L's flying about, in the center of it all was a Gundam. Kanji quickly identified it in his computer as Hyperion Gundam; a powerful mobile suit designed by the Eurasian Federation and that had multiple units produced. Angered, Zak hailed the Hyperion demanding its pilot retreat. To his surprise, his declaration was met with wild, but familiar, laughter.

Kanji, Drax and Zak quickly recognized the voice: it was Crim. As Zak pulled in close, Crim opened the hatch to the Hyperion Gundam and stepped forth removing his pilot's helmet to reveal the brutal scar Zak had left upon his face. Returning to his cockpit, Crim remarked that he never believed he would see his old friends from the Galileo so soon. Kanji questioned why he was here and Crim stated that it wasn't that complicated. His contract with Albus Vonder ended at Junius Seven. Mercenaries like him always needed more work. Since the Junius Seven incident created a need for the Alliance to bolster their forces, it was easy enough to get hired on with them.

Disgusted at his idealism of profitting from war, Zak challenged Crim to a duel. A challenge the mercenary was all too eager to accept stating that he would gladly pay Zak back in kind for their last encounter. While these two pilots clashed alone, Kanji led the others in fending off the Alliance mobile suits. With the added numbers of the Galileo Team, the ZAFT forces were able to turn the tide of the battle. Drax found it hard to adjust to fighting under gravity, but quickly got a handle on things and began fighting once more at full potential.

The duel between Zak and Crim was intense. Neither pilot would accept defeat and each used all their skills possible. As Crim stabbed one of the Hyperion's beam knives into Zak's Zaku, it pierced through the cockpit stopping short of Zak's own body. the heat of the beam knife burned his face slightly. Crim then kicked the mobile suit back. Realizing he was at a disadvantage at close range, Zak took advantage of this and pulled away drawing his Orthros long rifle to fire a powerful blast in hopes of taking Crim out. However, a mysterious yellow light surrounded Hyperion Gundam blocking the long rifle fire. Crim gloated that the Hyperion's Armure Lumiere system was the ultimate defense and, with it, he couldn't be defeated. As their duel continued, Crim swore at Zak playfully begging him to stand still so he could go ahead and kill him.

However, while distracted by Zak, Crim was unable to notice the rest of the battlefield. Slowly, the others had picked off all the Alliance mobile suits. Despite having Armure Lumiere at his disposal, Crim understood when he was outnumbered. With no support left, Crim retreated from the battlefield swearing that he would settle the score with Zak next time. The base camp broke into cheers and celebration hailing the Galileo Team for turning the tide of the battle.

After storing their mobile suits with the others, the Galileo Team was greeted by a rather odd man. He had short black hair, seemed to be quite young and wore his officer's jacket over his back much like a cape. He introduced himself as Eiji Isahara, the Commander for ZAFT's Australian Theater. He quickly offended most of the Galileo's pilots with his seemingly casual style and insensitive remarks. Rayne was quickly angered by him, but when she stated her dislike this only prompted a friendly laugh from Eiji. He offered the group to join him for some coffee, but everyone declined feeling there were more important things to be done right now.

Laughing more, Eiji assured them that there would be time for business as well. He urged them to slow down a little and suggested that they'd just have to adjust to things as Eiji liked to move at his own pace and they did things differently on Earth. While Eiji departed, the Galileo Team couldn't help but wonder if this was truly their new commander or not and if he actually had a plan towards victory. Tired from their battle, the Galileo Team was ready for a well deserved rest. Operation Victoria had only just begun...

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