Autoduel QuarterlyVolume 10Issue 2

Charge of the Light Brigade

Thomas "Wrong-Way" Wright
Introduction

The PCs represent an independent group hired by Resnick Labs, the leading company in the field of research and development of laser-related technologies. The players have been contracted to get into a research lab operated by Quark Technologies, Inc., by any means necessary, and obtain as much information as possible regarding a recent development. In the past weeks, QTI's stock has skyrocketed, due primarily to a public announcement that they have "... perfected a new concept that will revolutionize the field." There has also been a rumour that QTI has secured a big military contract, and Resnick knows that they didn't get it. They're not even sure what the contract is for. Resnick Labs is understandably concerned. They want to know what this "new concept" is, and they want it bad. Bad enough, in fact, to finance this operation, and pay their operatives very well.

If you intend to participate in Charge of the Light Brigade as a player, you should read no further.

The Mission

Even though everyone in the field of laser technologies expects Resnick Labs to do something about Quark Technologies, Inc., Resnick Labs is not about to go public about it. In return for their pay, the PCs are expected to keep their mouths shut about the operation.

The players have six characters and $300,000 to spend on whatever equipment they may deem necessary. This includes all items found in Uncle Albert's Catalog From Hell. Any items that the referee feels would unbalance ongoing campaigns should be specified as being supplied by Resnick Labs, to be returned to them at the conclusion of the mission. Vehicles should be limited to "stock" models because, while the characters have been given plenty of time to prepare, there has not been enough time to construct custom vehicles. Also, referees will notice that there are plenty of vehicles around the lab, more or less "intended" for the characters' use. If the players try to turn this scenario into an all-out vehicular confrontation, tell them that Resnick will supply transportation to and from a staging area near the QTI lab. The lab's defenses would be no challenge for a pack of armed duelling vehicles, but such an operation would blow the whole concept of the covert operation that Resnick Labs is paying for.

Each of the characters has 150 points to spend on skills. The characters should have a wide range of skills among them, and should not spend more than 20 points in any one skill. They should also have enough vehicular skills to operate the vehicles found on the base, so that they can get them out of the lab and deliver them to Resnick. If necessary, tell the players that Resnick Labs suspects that their "new concept" must be weapon-related, and QTI may have already incorporated it into a vehicle of some sort.

If, at the end of the operation, the players have successfully gotten into the base and have managed to get back out again with a "satisfactory" amount of information, they will be paid when they return to Resnick Labs. This payment will include whatever amount remains from the original $300,000 in cash, plus the dollar value of any vehicle(s) they turn over, excluding the delivery vans. Any "new concept" information or hardware reward value will be specified when it is found. Any equipment that was on loan from Resnick Labs will be bought back for its original price

Charged-Particle Laser (CPL)

Quark's new concept is the charged-particle laser. These weapons fire a low-frequency laser pulse, carrying a mass of suspended, electrically-charged particles. They do full damage to all types of armor, including laser-reflective, fireproof, radarproof, and metals. "Laser-proof" laminate AFV armor only takes one-fifth damage from any CPL (as opposed to one-tenth damage from regular lasers).

Any CPL produces a Fire Modifier of 1 and Burn Duration of 1 higher than a normal laser of the same size. This is due to the intense electrostatic field that any CPL hit leaves on its target, which takes a few moments to disperse. Fireproof and Laser-Reflective armors, as well as all metals, remain immune to fire-related effects from these weapons.

CPLs (also known as particle lasers or phasers) cannot be modified in any way, such as pulse (they already are), or blue-green (CPLs cannot be fired under or into water at all). Any CPL automatically treats smoke or paint as if it were infrared. CPLs draw the necessary particles from the air, so no ammunition is required. All CPLs do, however, require a power plant or other power source to function.

Because of its electrostatic nature, when used against pedestrians or exposed power plants all CPLs have an additional effect. Whenever a hit is scored on a pedestrian, roll one die. On a 1, that pedestrian is "stunned" for Id seconds. When a hit is scored on an exposed power plant, roll one die. On a 1, the plant "shorts out" and ceases to function. The plant can be recharged normally. Gasoline engines are immune to this effect.

Descriptions of individual CPL types begin on p. 16.

The Quark Technologies, Inc. Lab

The laboratory complex is a modern structure, built only one year ago. Its layout is simple and functional. It's a research lab, not a military installation - its defensive capabilities are secondary to its main purpose. It has none of the popular automated, anti-vehicular devices common to many such facilities of larger companies, but with the local police department only a phone call away, QTI staff hasn't yet had any major problems.

Each area on the referee's map is marked with a number, as follows:

1. Lobby - This contains several chairs, a few end tables, and a couple of magazine racks holding the latest issues of Autoduel Quarterly, Technology Today and others. There is an open counter-window in the west wall, and a door in the NW corner.

2. Guard Station/Reception - This is the receptionist's office during normal business hours, and the guards use it as a check-in point after dark. There is a desk, a chair or two, a couple of filing cabinets and a standard computer terminal. On the desk, among some personal items belonging to the receptionist, is a telephone with connections to two outside and two inside lines. The outside lines can be disconnected by destroying this phone.

3. Guardroom/Storage - The receptionist uses this room to store office supplies. At night, however, the relief shift of guards uses it to relax in. They keep a compact television, a card table and a couple of collapsible cots in here. They also store extra power and pistol packs in case of emergency.

4. President's Office - This office contains a large executive-type desk, a padded reclining chair, a computer terminal and a telephone. The terminal can be used to access hidden surveillance cameras all over the building, as well as all QTI records. Any information received from this terminal can be transferred to a blank cube quickly and simply, including anything recorded by the hidden cameras. The President often checks surveillance recordings from the night before when he comes in in the morning. In the wall behind the desk is a mini-safe containing some important personal documents, such as vehicle and property titles, insurance policies, etc. The telephone has its own outside line as well as several inside ones.

5. Vice President's Office - This office has similar appointments to the President's, except that the computer terminal cannot access the surveillance cameras. (The VP doesn't even know the cameras exist, as a matter of fact).

6. Technicians' Office - These are all fairly similar, containing a desk and chair, a worktable, and a computer terminal. The terminals in these offices will usually only contain information pertaining to one specific type of CPL- whichever one that particular tech is responsible for. The terminal can transfer data as per the one in the President's office. There is a 1 in 6 change that one CPL of the appropriate type will be present in each office.

7. Boardroom - This room contains a large meeting table, a dozen or so chairs and a large video-cube player and monitor. At present, it contains a demo-cube of marketing strategies, featuring several different CPLs. Resnick Labs would find this cube very interesting.

8. Breakroom - This room contains several small tables, a bunch of chairs and a couple of automated snack machines.

9. Storageroom - This room contains boxes and crates of what is primarily bulk office supplies. Nothing here really pertains to the team's mission, but there are a few small boxes of blank cubes here that they might find useful to copy data onto.

10. Static Labs - These laboratories are used for fabrication of parts and assembly of the various types of CPLs. They contain all sorts of tools and components, stored in boxes, bins and lockers. Most of the company's products can be found here, in various stages of assembly. Without extensive training, skill and experience no character would be able to complete any of the CPLs in any of these labs. There is a 1 in 6 chance that a completed CPL of a random type will be found here, however.

11. Test Fire Labs - These laboratories are used to test the CPLs before they are shipped. They each contain a couple of work tables, a cube-recorder and a computer terminal containing information regarding test results of the various CPLs. Resnick would find this information very valuable. There is a 3 in 6 chance that 1d units of a random CPL type can be found in any of these labs.

12. Storage - This area is used to store assembled and tested CPLs of all types. There will be 2d boxes of each type here. CPL·LAWs are packed two to a box, CPL VLAWs are packed four to a box, CPL Rifles come four to a box, and CPL Pistols come ten to a box. These boxes are of similar construction to Bulk Ammo Boxes. There will also be Id of each of the vehicular CPLs, each in its own crate. These crates weigh 10 lbs. (and cost $50, if purchased) per space held, and have 5 points of FP armor.

13. Vehicular Modification and Testing Lab - This large bay contains several worktables, computer terminals, and lockers. The lockers contain thousands of different sorts of tools, spare parts and test equipment. There is also a modified Tivin-25 duelling car, a phaser motorcycle/sidecar combination and a tripod phaser with a laser targeting scope and laser battery. The ignition code keys for these vehicles (and the delivery vans in the loading bays next door) are in a locked cabinet near the door. The computer terminals in this bay contain testing information regarding the Twin-25 (mod) and the Phaser - of course, this information won't be necessary if the raiders steal the vehicles.

14. Loading Bays - These bays each have a low dock with sets of steps along either side. Each also has a delivery van parked in it and a set of powered ramps to move vehicles in and out of the large bay beyond. The vans must be out of the docks in order to extend the ramps. The ramps take five seconds to extend or retract, and are controlled from a panel box on the wall in the Vehicle Mod/Test Lab, along with the controls for the inner and outer bay doors.

The pertinent exterior features of QTI are listed blow, along with any information regarding how they might effect play.

Climate Control Devices - 5 DP These could theoretically be removed to allow access to the interior of the building through the roof ducts. They could be "moved" by blowing them off the roof with plastique or similar radical measures, but this is likely to draw a lot of attention. A CCD can be removed (i.e., disconnected) with a mini-mechanic in a couple of minutes - this is an easy task for a mechanic. However, a CCD weighs about 200 lbs., and the mech would need help to actually move one off of its duct mount.

Drop Bar - 5 DP. Takes one second to raise or lower The controls are inside the main-gage guardshack. Hitting the bar is a D1 hazard.

Floodlight (pole)- 3 DP These are 20' tall and topped with multi-directional lights that illuminate a 20' radius. Any events that take place within this radius are not affected by any nighttime modifiers. The glow from these "floods" disrupts the use of any night-vision devices, rendering them useless within 6" of any active lights. The controls for the lights are located in area 2. The poles are -6 to hit and the lights are -4 - each gets the 3 DP The poles are D3 hazards if run into.

Guard Shack - 10 DP. They are +1 to hit and a D3 hazard to run into. They offer unrestricted arcs of fire to anyone within.

Shrubs - No DP They're about 3 feet tall and provide concealment (Car Wars Tanks, p. 36) at -1 for pedestrians only.

Quark Technologies, Inc. Sign - 5 DP 3.25 feet tall (1/4"). Two pedestrians can hide behind it and fire from cover (CWC II, p. 37) or act as lookouts. When a pedestrian is hiding behind the sign, he is at -2 to be spotted (Car Wars Tanks, p. 36).

In addition, the fences surrounding QTI have 10 DP (interior and exterior, independently) and are a D3 hazard to run into, per 3.25 (1/4") section. The exterior walls are 10 DP (west wing) and 20 DP (east wing) respectively. Interior walls are 5 DP(west wing) and 20 DP (east wing). Note that the interior walls surrounding the Static Labs (area 10) are also 20 DP. All lab areas (10, 11 and 13) have special target areas treated with laser and charged-particle absorbent materials to allow test-firing of such weapons inside, without danger of breaching the structure.

The Guards

The guards employed by QTI are experienced, disciplined and well-equipped. They're paid well and treated fairly, and take their jobs very seriously. The building is normally patrolled by a watch commander, two guard sergeants and 12 guards. They follow a strict routine of rotation/replacement on the hour, every hour at the exterior posts, and the commander makes a random patrol of the interior and exterior areas. Except in an emergency, the commander will not enter any of the offices or labs, but will restrict his patrols to the hallways. He will, however, always check that all doors remain locked and undisturbed. His restricted patrols can be a benefit to the intruders, if they think to lock any doors that they open behind themselves. Occasionally the commander will have one of the off-shift guards accompany him, especially if something suspicious has occurred.

The sergeants are stationed one inside, in area 2, and one outside, in the main-gate guardshack. They trade places every two hours, so area 2 will be unmanned for a few minutes at this time. This could give the characters a chance to sneak a tear-gas or concussion grenade into the guardroom (area 3), or possibly disable the telephone.

The guards are on a tag-rotation, one in each corner guard shack, waiting to be "tagged" by a patrolling sentry within the "dog-walk." The "tagged" guard then walks to the next guard shack to "tag" the next guard. This process keeps one guard in each shack and on in each "dog-walk" at all times. The extra guards stay in the guardroom (area 3) and relax until it is their turn outside, or the commander takes them on a random patrol.

In the event of an emergency, the commander will take four guards with him, and one sergeant will take another group. These two groups will investigate the problem directly. The remaining sergeant and four guards will stay in the guardshacks and secure the sliding gates. The guards will stay in constant radio contact, and if necessary summon the police (provided there is still a functioning phone to call from). The police will arrive in 2d minutes, their force consisting of Id officers, in as many cars as necessary to carry them (no more than two per vehicle).

Watch Commander - body armor, gas mask, helmet radio, phaser pistol (or phaser rifle in an emergency) w/pistol pack. Running 1, Climbing 1, Driver 2, Handgunner 2, Leadership 2, plus one additional skill (referee's choice) at level 1.

Sergeants - body armor, gas mask, helmet radio, phaser rifle (outside) or phaser pistol (inside) with pistol pack (will always have Rifle in emergency). Running 1, Climber 1, Driver (or Cyclist) 1, Gunner 1, Handgunner 1, Leadership 1, plus one additional skill at level 1, as above.

Guards - body armor, gas mask, helmet radio, phaser rifle with pistol pack (will have Power Pack when summoned for an emergency from inside). Runner 1, Climber 1, Driver (or Cyclist), Gunner, Handgunner 1, plus one other skill at base level as above.

Phasers

Personal Weaponry
Weapon Abbv. GE Dmg. To-Hit L$ Shots
Phaser Rifle *± PR 2 2d 5 $6,500 2
Phaser Pistol *± PP 1 1d 5 $3,500 4
Phaser LAW ± PLAW 2 6d 5 $3,000 1
Phaser VLAW ± PVLAW 2 4d 5 $2,250 1

Notes * This weapon requires a power pack ($1,000, 3 GEs) to function effectively. The Phaser Rifle can get an additional 20 shots with the pack, and the Phaser Pistol can get an additional 40 shots. Either weapon can also use the Pistol Pack (see below).
± Does full damage to vehicles.

Vehicular Phasers
Weapon Abbv. To-Hit Damage DP Cost Weight Spc. Drain
Light Phaser L-CPL 5 2d 2 $4500 150 lbs. 1 1
Medium Phaser M-CPL 5 4d 2 $8250 250 lbs. 2 2
Phaser CPL 5 6d 2 $12,000 375 lbs. 2 2
Heavy Phaser H-CPL 5 8d 2 $18,000 750 lbs. 3 3
Twin Phaser TwCPL 5 4d+8 3 $15,000 550 lbs. 2 3

New Equipment

Pistol Pack - $750, 2 GEs or 10 Lbs.. Any weapon that can use the power pack can use this item instead, if desired. Additional shots are as follows; phaser pistol: 20, phaser and laser rifles: 10, Gauss pistol: 60, Gauss rifle: 20. Note that both of the Gauss weapons still require ammunition.

For the Alternative Encumbrance Rules, the phaser rifle weighs 7 lbs. (two-handed), and the phaser pistol weighs 5 Lbs. (one-handed), the phaser LAW weighs 20 Lbs. (two-handed), and the phaser VLAW weighs 15 lbs. (two-handed). The pistol pack is no-handed (belt-clip) and doesn't preclude wearing a back-pack.

CPLs have no area or burst effects. Number of Shots, CPS, WPS, Mag. cost, and Mag. Wt. are not applicable to CPLs. Loaded cost and Loaded Wt. are the same as the figures listed above. The TwCPL is a special case. When it has been reduced to 1 DP, one Phaser has been destroyed and damage drops to 2d+3. Also note that all of the CPLs above have the additional effects listed in paragraph four.

Editor's Note: The rules above for phasers should be considered "unofficial" in any context except this adventure. Of course, referees are welcome to introduce them in an ongoing campaign or individual duels. Referees who try out phasers and strongly feel that they should or should not be included in the Car Wars system (with or without modifications) should let us know. This item may appear in a future "Uncle Al's," as an official addition to the system.

New Vehicles

Phaser (Quasar Mod) - hvy cycle, hvy suspension, super trike power plant with PCs and SCs, 2 PR radials, cyclist, light phaser front, hi-res computer. LR armor: F25, B22. Accel. 15, top speed 180 (accel. 10, top speed 142.5 w/sidecar), HC 3 (w/sidecar); 1,289 Lbs., $16,011. 1 space and 11 lbs. left for cargo.

Phaser sidecar - hvy. sidecar, hvy. suspension, 1 PR radial tire, light phaser (smart-linked to light phaser on cycle) F, laser battery. LR armor: F6, R6, B4, T1, U1. 7398 lbs., $7,258. 1 space and 12 lbs. left for cargo.

Twin-25 (Med) mid-size, hvy. chassis, light suspension, large power plant, 4 standard tires, driver (w/body armor), 2 TwCPSs (linked)E hi-res SWC. Armor: F54, R34, L34, B34, T6, U6, 2 fake WGs B, 2 fake WHs E Accel. 5, top speed 97.5, HC 1; 5,218 lbs., $38,346.

Delivery Van - van, hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, large power plant w/PCs, 4 PR radial tires, driver and gunner, fire extinguisher, 2 MGs linked in turret, 2 MGs linked F, 2 hi-res SWCs (driver; F MGs, gunner; turret MGs). Armor: F15, U5, 10 in all other locations. Accel. 5, top speed 92.5, HC 4; 5,430 Lbs., $21,400. 16 spaces and 620 Lbs. left for cargo. Weapons (area 13) Tripod Phaser - $14,200, 5 GEs, 213.5 Lbs. AER. Has laser battery and laser targeting scope. Note the laser battery weighs an additional 100 lbs.

Aftermath

Resnick Labs will pay the listed dollar value for any hardware or vehicles from QTI, with the exception of the delivery vans, which will be disassembled and disposed of. Any data recovered from QTI's computers will be purchased from the team for Id x $1,000 per cube. All of this is in addition to the original $300,000. Resnick Labs, in their own interests, will also provide transportation to the nearest airport and airfare to anywhere far away.

If the characters escape from the QTI lab, and the guard force is more or less intact, the guards may pursue them. The Chief may have up to a $15,000 car, the sergeants up to $10,000, and the subordinates can have up to $5,000 vehicles. It will take the usual amount of time to get them started and moving, and then they can take off after the thieves. The referee can elect to use stock vehicles, or design custom models. However, it is highly unlikely that any of the subordinates would have custom vehicles. At any rate, a particularly nasty turn of events could land the characters in a sandwich between the pursuing guards and the oncoming police. All the guards' vehicles should be placed in the parking lot at the start of the game so that the characters have every opportunity to sabotage them, if they think of it.

Designer's Notes

During playtesting, several interesting strategies were used. One approach was subtle - glider chutes (from a rented plane) to the roof, and in through the ductwork with needle and stun guns. They got lucky with the guards' spotting rolls. Another was more blatant - rocket-packs from the staging area for a grenade-bombing run over the lab.

Encourage the players to be creative with this scenario. They've got plenty of money to play with, and the possibilities are almost endless. One intruder booby-trapped all the guards' vehicles with plastique, while they slept off several needle hits apiece. The group hid down the road and waited for the guards to awaken and call the police. When the cops arrived, the "Mad Bomber" radio-detonated approximately 20 bricks of plastique, at least five of which were in the commander's custom gas-burner, complete with linked Spear 1000s loaded with napalm mines. Nearly the whole parking lot was covered with vehicular components, cops, guards, burning gas and napalm. The raiders then took a nice, leisurely cruise back to Resnick Labs, confident that it would take Federal agents weeks to figure out what had happened. Granted, it hadn't been as quiet as Resnick might have wanted, but it didn't seem fair to penalize the players for providing such a spectacular conclusion. Besides, the players had covered their tracks about as well as could be expected, short of blowing the entire complex (a few more bricks of the "Mad Bomber's" magic might just have done it).


Issue 10/2 Index

Steve Jackson Games * Car Wars * ADQ Index