Recently, I've pulled out some of my RL books, partially due to a player spotting the Interceptor boxed set and asking about it, and partially because I'm looking back over games I had a lot of fun with in the 80s and 90s. I started working up some campaign pitches for the RL universe, and the more I worked on it, the more ideas I had. The clinching moment was last night, when we were at a local theater production of Julius Caesar, in which one of my more talented players had the title role, and the whole Roman thing clicked. So, without further adieu, here's my tweaks and ruminations and stuff about running the Renegade Legion campaign I'm wanting to run.
Hopefully, those of you interested in hearing my thoughts already took a quick look over the history I linked to. What I'm going to suggest is a tweak to the established canon to set up this particular campaign. The idea is to have the story set in the very last days of the Terran Republic, just before the assassination of First Consul Kershaw and most of the Senate, and the subsequent ascention of Ivanolo Buntari to the position of Caesar and the declaration of the Overlord state. To do this, the inception dates of a lot of equipment from the fluff will be changed. Why? Because unlike the Battletech line, we do not have 300 years worth of technical readouts to tell us what the front-line equipment was in those days. A lot of the ground tanks in the Centurion Vehicle Guide were around then, and we'll roll with most of that. We'll also roll with the idea that the grav tank, while not a new concept, is a hideously expensive one. They're not rare, as such, but there's a lot more conventional armor than grav armor out there.
The next canon change will be the sheer scale of the setting. While most players of the Battletech game have scoffed at star empires with over a hundred worlds whose militaries amount to less than a hundred regiments of 'Mechs, the opposite is true here. When General Constantine defects to form the Renegade Legions in the official canon, he leaves with 150,000 Battleship groups. Not Battleships, Battleship groups. Even assuming a BB group is a single Battleship with cruisers, destroyers etc. as escorts, that's still a staggering number of ships. Remember that each of these vessels is either nearly or more than a kilometer long. For those of you who have been aboard the USS Texas with us, this means even Frigates and Destroyers are THREE TIMES the length of the WWI Battleship we stayed aboard. Their Battleships are more than double that length, 1.2km long and up. My fellow GM and old-time Renegade Legion player Andy did some quick calculations in his head and came up with a figure that had something like 12 billion Legionnairres under arms- not counting the TOG Navy. Against such numbers, how does one make the PCs matter? How do you not succumb to the hopeless nature of your situation? So we scale things DOWN. Way down. Less worlds, less forces - make the sandbox somewhere that's not quite so crushingly large.
The final changes are in the times of certain world-defining events. The standard RenLeg game starts out well after the defection of the Legions to the Commonwealth. I think it would be much more interesting to start the story as the Republic begins to come apart, and Buntari rises to become the first Caesar. It gives an opportunity to immerse the players in the game world, show them by action why the TOG is the "bad guys", rather than just telling them the TOG is the "bad guys". Imagine this setup:
The PCs begin the game as loyal sons and daughters of the Republic. Perhaps they're on the KessRith front. Let's put them in a situation where they will have some prominence in the storyline. The RenLeg universe has single-squadron 'pocket' carriers, like the Pharetra. So we're going to build the opening scenes around a convoy action. We'll choose a planet near the action, this will actually be the homeworld of a lot of the PCs and NPCs invovled for reasons we'll discuss later. Perhaps one PC is the captain of an armed freighter. To make it more interesting, I'd like this PC if possible to be a female. A sibling of this PC is in the Republic military, and happens to be assigned to the escort forces. If the players want to get this detailed, let's posit that due to the VAST nature of the Republic, while capital ship crews in the regular Navy are comprised of people from all over the Republic, local units and lighter vessels that can be constructed at less than a full-on kilometers-long shipyard are generally crewed by personnel from the planet that constructed them. This explains the "home guard" feel of the escorts. As a side note, when my Great Grandad served on the USS Napa (APA-157) during WWII, most of the enlisted men who came aboard as newly trained seamen came from around La Grange, Hallettsville, and points nearby in Texas. It was easier to round them up, send them to boot camp, and assign them to a ship in a big lot. So the conciet holds.
We open the story with the convoy delivering supplies and ammunition to a Republic battlegroup licking its wounds a system or so away from 'home'. We let the players get the feel for the operations of the Navy, have the freighters conduct UNREP while the fighter pilots in the campaign join in the Fleet CAP, and give a feel of the humdrum activities of day-to-day Navy and merchant sailor life behind the lines. During this visit, they start hearing news about First Consul Kershaw's reforms, and news of Ivanolo Buntari's debacle. In fact, it could be inferred that the convoy was placed in danger due to incompetent orders from General Buntari.
On the way back "home", the convoy is jumped by a KessRith fighter squadron, and must defend itself. This gives our players the opportunity to bond as a fighting unit, as even the merchant sailors will have a change to man some guns, raise some shields, and try to help fend off the KessRith marauders. After all, these are the bastards that enslaved Earth, the Republic still owes them for that. Play up the nationalistic propaganda that paints the KessRith as monstrous, inhuman things that would eat your grandma's liver with fava beans and a nice chianti if given hald the chance. Think WWII propaganda posters, etc. In this case, the enemy really isn't human, so it makes it easier to pull off.
In the first few sessions of the campaign, you continue with the convoy operations and the team building, but you hit the following points as you do so...
- The convoy meets the aging captain of an escort or frigate, massive compared to the convoy but not at all a ship-of-the-line in the capital sense. Dwarfed by the cruisers and battleships, it in turn dwarfs the ships of the convoy. He's competent, genial, and it should seem entirely odd that such a professional naval officer's career should stall with so minor a command.
- The convoy stops planetside to deliver some equipment to a ground-based Legion. They witness firsthand the brutality of the Legionnairres against the KessRith enemies. We play with the player's morals a bit here. Play up the inhuman brutality on both sides.
- The players hear of the Senate explosion, and the death of First Consul Kershaw.
- The war effort seems to stall a bit, due to the decapitation of the government. News of General Constantine's 'issues' regarding censure or execution of General Buntari reach the players.
- A KessRith fleet emerges at "home", and is only scarcely driven off by the Republic Navy. During this time, preparations are made to evacuate the upper-class citizens in the avialble ships (the government/Navy may try to appropriate the PC-owned merchantman for this). Make it clear the government is making no effort to save those of the lower classes. To make it even better, be clear that the bureaucrats invovled see no malice in these actions, they are simply prioritizing the way they have been instructed by the Senate in case of invasion. Nothing personal, and certainly those with the most worth to the war effort will be the first ones evacuated. Those who contribtute nothing but a drain on state resources are so far to the bottom of the queue as to not be on it.
- Invasion averted, the evacuation plans are cancelled, and the PCs have the opportunity to spend more time with their Captain friend, who is terribly relieved his family, who live near Rome, have messaged him of their safety that they were not among those killed in the senate blast.
- Ivanolo Buntari is named Caesar. Offensive actions against the KessRith resume immediately.
- Another convoy mission, this one recklessly far into KessRith space to keep up with forces pushing rapidly forward. The convoy is placed in grave danger, and is saved through the quick arrival and action of the Escort/Frigate captain they've befriended.
- Buntari releases his news that he's found the diaries of Alexander Trajan, and will be working to make the Republic more like what Trajan "intended".
- Wartime missions continue.
- Buntari declares the TOG, announces the Overlords, and reverses Kershaw's civil reforms.
- The convoy is called to the site of a major KessRith offensive, and sees the fallout from the KessRith brutality. They find evidence that the KessRith have been inflamed by the treatement of prisoners on the Republic's part, and never violated their version of the Geneva Convention until AFTER these Republic atrocities started to occur.
- The Patria Protestus is issued. This should cause some MAJOR interesting fallout for the characters. Female military personnel will be limited in rank. If a female PC owns one of the merchantmen, it will be stripped from her. Let the fallout begin.
- News comes that General Constantine has been branded a traitor. The PCs hear from their escort captain friend that Constantine is making a run for the Commonwealth. (Idea- maybe Senator Novick travels with the PCs on his way out to General Constantine, and they get to meet him and hear about how awesome Kershaw is, and how he's trying to reform the Republic into a kinder, gentler gov't and seek a peace with the KessRith. Then, when Novick is blamed for the senate explosion, and Constatine implicated... they can have a personal interest in matters).
- Word arrives that a Buntari-loyalist group is on their way to the 'home' system to impose TOG order and it is carrying orders to replace all female commanders and purge anyone showing disloyalty to the new Caesar.
Now, the ongoing, BSG-esque part of the campaign is set up. The PCs have the opportunity to stay and serve the TOG, stay and face the overwhelming TOG battlegroup, or strike out for the Commonwealth across KessRith and TOG-held space to link up with General Constantine and Senator Novick (who I am keeping around as the figurehead of the Republic-in-exile government). The latter will probably be the choice of the PCs. As their convoy, laden with dependents and families, gets underway - the TOG battlegroup arrives. Their captain friend, who cannot go with them because he and most of his crew still have family on Earth, make a suicide run to hold off the TOG units long enough for the convoy to jump to T-Space.
Now, the Ragtag Fugitive Fleet of Neo-Romans has a whole campaign ahead of them of running from both the TOG and the KessRith.
I'm reading GURPS Imperial Rome and some other sources to get some atmosphere and feel for the neo-Roman setting, but one thing that's interesting to think about is that this isn't Rome in space... it's Alexander Trajan's version of Rome in space. Trajan's father was a professor of history with a specialty in the Roman Empire, but Trajan himself was a soldier. It is possible that between the two of them what they came up with was a rose-colored glasses of a devotee, possibly with some well-meaning social engineering to smooth out the historical bumps. See, Trajan, as a soldier, used the glories of Rome to inspire the population to rebellion, so naturally the initial push of the movement was for the glorious martial traditions of Rome. This emphasis survived the war, and became ingrained in the populace. What was accepted as 'necessary' for the war effort became facts of life, and anything resembling even a restricted freedom seemed like total liberation after the KessRith were kicked offplanet. It's like a kid having the choice between being totally grounded, or having a six PM curfiew. The latter sucks, but it's infinitely better than the former. With the current events of our own time, we've seen how slippery the slope of privacy and freedom can be when curtailed or revoked in the name of security in the face of external threat. These were a people totally conquered, in the heady moments of liberation who is to say they didn't move straight into the more fascist or militantly nationalistic facets of the Terran Republic without even noticing what they were doing? It's not that hard of a mental leap.
So what we've got are folks who have been indoctrinated to be more Roman than the Romans were. They probably even use the so-called "Roman Salute" even though the Romans themselves most likely didn't. It was popularized through paintings and media long after the fall of the Roman Empire, but today it is equated with Fascist Italy and Ancient Rome, though it was only really practiced by the former. We'll hear a lot of Roman and faux-Roman names. Military Hardware is named in Latin, specifically names of weapons and armor of the Roman Empire. The symbolism is everywhere, and new examples of 'period' artwork are all over the Republic. It's a concerted propaganda effort to put a single view of the national character into every citizen's mind, so we end up with the Romans that never were. The idealized, stereotyped, optimized-to-be-spacefaring-Romans folk of the Republic and later TOG aren't Romans at all - but rather the twisted perception of Romans. Kinda like Battletech's House Kurita are feudal Japanese turned up to 11, because some Coordinator somewhere thought life was really like a Kurosawa samurai movie.
So there's my campaign idea for Renegade Legion. The PCs can have prominent positions in a small operation like this. I can see fighter pilots, merchant captains, perhaps the CO of the pocket carrier or one of the two corvette escorts... Have one of the transports carrying a century or two of grav armor and an infantry cohort, and you'll have some ground forces to do planetside 'episodes' based on answering distress calls, gathering supplies, etc. I think this game could b really kickass, given the chance...