The Blades Mercenary Unit
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue.
The Blades are a battalion-sized and -organized mercenary unit that originated on Kryslion (Pax Rulin 0402/Trojan Reaches). It is a light grav/ACV mobile battalion that specialises in Internal Security/Cadre missions. The battalion is made up of four companies and a headquarters unit. The Battalion HQ and the 4th Company rarely leave their base on Kryslion. The 4th Company consists of rear elements such as long term repair crew, training elements as well as admin support and the unit’s dependants. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Companies are regularly deployed on independent security missions throughout the Marches. 1st Company has better quality troops and more reliable equipment; the others get what’s left.
The Blades are equipped to fulfill security tickets on habitable worlds, permitting the use of cheaper ACV vehicles. Worlds with environments that require full life-support are less likely to have large scale revolts or rebellions or areas under rebel control, as the ruling government has control of life-support and the rebels cannot run for the hills to escape government troops.
In their short five-year history, they have already gained an unsavoury reputation. They have been hired by a number of ruthless planetary governments and corporations to help suppress uprising and tales of excessive brutality are starting to follow the unit. Since the commander of 2nd Company was arrested for war crimes, it is rumoured that the Imperial authorities are investigating the unit with the potential for its mercenary licence to be revoked.
Despite their appearance as an independent unit, the Blades are supported and controlled by the government of Kryslion. Kryslion is a charismatic dictatorship, and the mercenary unit provided valuable hard currency as well as a place to reward loyal officers or former members of the security forces.
The unit’s troops are almost exclusively made up of veterans of Kryslion’s internal security divisions. They are hardened security troops with good morale. The officer corps is more mixed. Most are veteran officers from the internal security divisions. The remainder are a mix of young and potentially naïve sons of the current elite who are destined for future command positions, political appointees and even the occasional famous exile. Such exiles tend to be very popular with the general public which prevents them simply being put to death, but their outspoken views prevent them simply being shuffled into a desk job.
The government of Kryslion also uses the mercenary unit as an exhibition for their vehicle designs. Combat experience is a valuable selling point in the sale of arms. The vehicles are also small and cheap, which helps generate exports.
2nd Company Organisation
The 2nd company consists of five platoons and a headquarters element. Platoons one and two are infantry platoons, platoon three is the direct support unit, platoon four is an artillery unit, and platoon five is a supply unit. The Headquarters element consists of the HQ vehicle and several miscellaneous support vehicles.
The infantry platoon is arranged into two sections each equipped with two APC ACVs. Each APC ACV has a crew of three and carries eight troops. The unit is lead by a command APC ACV (with no additional equipment). The troops on the command APC are replaced by the Platoon Commander, the Platoon NCO, a medic, and five engineers. The platoon consists of five APC ACVs and 55 personnel including 32 troops, 15 vehicle crewmen, a medic, five engineers as well as the Platoon Commander and NCO.
Direct Support Platoon
The Direct Support platoon is arranged into two sections, each equipped with two direct support grav sleds. The lead sled in the first section acts as platoon leader. The platoon commander must also operate his own direct support grav sled. Each direct support sled has a crew of four consisting of a commander, a driver, and two gunners. A single grav supply sled with a two man crew provides additional fuel and ammunition supplies to the platoon. The platoon consists of five vehicles (4 direct support grav sleds and 1 grav supply sled) and 18 personnel (all vehicle crews).
The Artillery platoon is arranged into two sections. The first section consists of two artillery ACVs. Each ACV has a crew of five and carries three troopers. The second section consists of two supply ACVs each with a crew of two, which carry additional fuel and ammunition. The platoon is lead by an artillery fire direction centre ACV. The Artillery FDC ACV commander acts as platoon commander.
The FDC ACV carries the normal crew associated with an artillery ACV as well as three fire direction centre technicians.
The three troopers carried by each artillery ACV provide security for the platoon and also transfer ammunition from the supply ACVs to the emplaced artillery. The platoon consists of five vehicles (one artillery FDC ACV, two artillery ACVs, and two supply ACVs) and 28 personnel (6 troopers, three FDC technicians and 19 vehicle crew)
Platoon Five is the general supply unit using grav supply sleds to move supplies across all types of terrain. The platoon is arranged into two sections, each equipped with two grav supply sleds. Each grav supply sled has a crew of two. The platoon is led by command grav supply sled (no additional equipment). The platoon commander acts also acts as vehicle commander of his own vehicle. The platoon consists of five vehicles (5 grav supply sleds) and 10 personnel (vehicle crews).
The Headquarters element is a mixed bag that provides leadership to the company and miscellaneous support services. The unit is equivalent to a platoon and is arranged into two sections.
The first section consists of a cook ACV and a grav supply sled. The second section consists of a medical ACV and an engineering ACV. The unit is lead by a single grav command sled with a crew of two, which carries the company commander and executive officer. The HQ element consists of five vehicles and 22 personnel.
All personnel are equipped with coveralls and cloth armour including a riot helmet. The helmet itself includes a 10km radio, light intensifier goggles and integral filter mask/respirator. Vehicle crews are armed with snub pistols. Trooper weaponry changes according to their mission. Demonstration control activities see troops equipped with riot shields and batons as well as snub pistols equipped with tranq rounds. If the riot situation worsens, troopers may also be equipped with shotguns firing buckshot or stun rounds. If the unit is involved in the active suppression of insurgents, the troopers will swap their other weaponry for TL9 versions of the standard 7mm assault rifle.
The unit’s tactics vary with the seriousness of the riot or revolt and the lack of morals displayed by their employers. For simple police actions against unarmed demonstrations, the troops are usually equipped with riot shields and clubs, and most of the vehicles do not use their weaponry. The artillery units may occasional fire star-shells for illumination. The grav direct support sleds will be held in reserve. As the mob gets more aggressive or determined, the troopers will supplement their firepower with tear gas grenades, and bean-bag and tranq rounds. The vehicles will use their grenade launchers to deploy tear gas and paint grenades, and where necessary the artillery units will fire paint or tear gas shells.
Only during armed riots will the troops and vehicles use live rounds from their rifles and machine guns. Artillery will use flechette rounds, and the direct support section will be deployed to provide security for rear elements/force protection duties.
If the company is in operations against armed rebels in the countryside, then the gloves come off. Troopers are equipped with rifles; the vehicles will use their machine guns and grenade launchers freely. Both vehicle launched grenades and artillery shells will typically be high explosive rounds. The direct support section with their auto-cannons will be used against strongpoints or improvised armoured vehicles.
Unit Deficiencies and Quirks
The 2nd Company has a wide range of issues that affect its effectiveness.
The most significant problem is the overloading of its officers. There is precious little support for platoon or company officers either in the terms of support staff or electronic help. There are no separate personnel to handle communications, intelligence, logistics, or general day-to-day admin. The officers have to handle these tasks themselves or get the crews of their command vehicles to perform these tasks, which ultimately stops them operating their vehicle. As the vehicles are designed to be cheap, there is a lack of electronic support such as secure comms, mapboxes, or battle computers. The lack of comprehensive sensor coverage also makes it harder for the officers to determine the location of the enemy or their own units. Even worse, platoon commanders have to commander their own vehicles during combat as well as trying to run their platoon. For some of the rear element vehicles like the supply vehicles, the vehicle commanders also have to acts as gunners – only the low probability of these vehicles being in combat makes up for this problem.
The cheapness and small size of the unit’s vehicles do make them popular exports, but the desire to drive down costs has lead to some poor design decisions. Expensive items like fusion power and all grav propulsion have been excluded, as have other expensive items such as sensors, heavy armour, electronics, secure communications and military grade weapons. The unit has been lumbered with low-tech machine guns, and fuel-hungry MHD power units, but at least some of the equipment is so low-tech it is very easy to maintain.
Only the FDC artillery vehicle and the company command sled have secure comms and a mapbox. The FDC centre is so primitive it can only control one fire mission at a time. The constant need to provide fuel and ammo to keep the unit moving ensures that the supply section is constantly on the move. The unit would be in serious trouble if it ran into a properly equipped military unit.
Several vehicles have large amounts of waste space that cannot be used due to the limited output of their grav generators or ACV propulsion. Vehicle crews have taken to filling these spaces with low weight loot or using the space as additional room in their cramped vehicles. Several crews have set up bunk areas in this unused space.
With the problems of poor equipment fit-out of the vehicles and the work overload experienced by the officers, several officers and vehicle crews have taken to supplementing their equipment with salvaged items and equipment bought out of their own wages. Items include IISS surplus equipment like PRIS goggles, and comdots, local satnavs, small hand computers, and voice activation upgrades for some of their equipment.
Finally, the unit also has a problem with discipline and morale. Whilst the troopers are seasoned professionals who have good levels of morale, especially when dealing with poorly equipped rebels, the unit’s morale is brittle and may crack if they ever faced a comparably equipped, determined enemy. Certain units are run by officers who are either political appointees or ‘wet behind the ears’ young officers straight out of the academy. This is never good for morale.
The unit’s personnel have become contemptuous of poorly equipped rebels and local citizens, and there have been several reports of breakdowns in discipline to non-combatants and prisoners such as fights, beatings, accidental shootings and the occasional rape of civilians. Discipline within the unit itself is good.
2nd Company Personnel
Pelos Beaumont is the new commander of 2nd Company after the arrest of the company’s former commander. He was formerly the artillery platoon commander in 3rd Company. Whilst he is an honest and capable officer, he has not had too much experience of the messy front end work done by the infantry and direct support units. He accepts that firm and often bloody tactics are required to eliminate threats and to comply with the instructions of his employers, but he is anxious to avoid the fate of his predecessor. He has no desire to spend the next twenty years in an Imperial prison.
He is also starting to worry that the reduced amount of cash coming into the unit will result in him not being able to fill vacant positions, or allow the troops to use as much ammo as they would like. The orders to the Direct Support Company to limit their ammunition usage have made him even more unpopular with that unit and its commander.
Andre Thurn is the Direct Support Platoon commander. He is a veteran hard-line officer from Kryslion’s internal security division. He is more than happy to use the fire power of his section to eliminate threats to the company and their employers regardless of collateral damage or the deaths of innocent civilians. In Andre’s eyes there is no such thing as a neutral. Those collaborating with rebels are rebels themselves, and if loyal citizens are accidentally caught in the cross fire then they should have had the good sense to flee the area. Loyal citizens killed in the company’s actions are merely the unfortunate but inevitable cost of war.
Andre is extremely unhappy that the former commander of the company is currently languishing in an Imperial prison. Even worse was the appointment of Pelos, a former artillery platoon commander as the new company commander, despite Andre’s seniority. Whilst Andre still considers himself bound by military discipline, he will not go out of his way to alert Pelos to a threat or to rush to his aid.
Harou Aboim is a member of 4th Company’s commercial section and is responsible for the negotiation of contracts for 2nd Company. He is also in charge of a handful of support staff who handle things like the payroll, private mail from company troopers to family back-home, off-world transport and general interfaces with the local government or corporation who have hired the unit. Harou is also corrupt. He has been skimming cash from the costs of the recent mercenary tickets. Towards the end of contract negotiations, Harou drops hints that he is ready to agree a lower price in exchange for a kick-back. He has told Pelos that the recent reduction in mercenary ticket values is due to the reputation of 2nd Company after the arrest of their former commander.
The following adventure seeds are associated with the 2nd Company
- Pelos has grown suspicious of Harou and will hire the PCs to investigate him.
- Andre has finally grown impatient with Pelos. As their current deployment is a quiet cadre training mission, Andre feels that Pelos can be removed without endangering the unit, and is looking for PCs who can make Pelos’s death look like an accident.
- The PCs are approached by a local man whose son was crippled in a beating by troops from 1st Platoon. He wants them to suffer.
- The PCs are caught in a riot on the way back to the starport and 2nd Company is hired to put down the riot and halt the looting.
Vehicles used by 2nd Company are all built to the same baseline, with needed customizations for their roles. The baseline specifications are given first; for individual vehicle designs, only the differences from the baseline are given.
TL=9; Disp=3.1;Crew=4 Chassis: Ht=2m; Wid=3.5m; Len=6m; Vol=42m3; Usable=25.2m3; Move: GravGen=30t Thrust; Man=0.15G; Top=180kph; Cruise=135kph; NOE=40(45)kph. Armour: Front=23; Sides=20; Other=15; 2cm composite laminate. Power: 3MW MHD Turb w/intake comp, 900l/hr; Equipment: SealedEnv; LS=4; Pass=0; Cargo=0; Waste Sp=5.68m3
Grav Command Sled
Cr182,985; Wt=26.191 tonnes; Crew=4 (Driver; Vehicle Commander/Gunner; Company Commander; Company Executive Officer) Chassis: Slope: Front=Rad; Sides=Mod Turret: Ht=0.5m; Wid=1m; Len=1m; Vol=0.5m3; Target Size DMs: +2 Low; +0 High; MovEff on Fire: Move >½, -2EFP. Power: Fuel=2,925l; Dur=3.25hrs. Equipment: 500 power radio; 1,000km Laser Comm; Binocs; Searchlight; Inertial Locator; TL9 Mapbox; Weaponry: Remote turret on chassis deck equipped with TL9 weapon stabilization; Dual LMGs w/10,000rds; TL9 4cm RAM Grenade Launcher w/120 grenades (typically 60 HE and 60 Smoke/Tear Gas).
Grav Direct Support Sled
Cr172,390; Wt=25.986 tonnes; Crew=4 (Driver; Remote Gunner, Main Gunner, Commander) Chassis: Slope: Front=Rad; Sides=Mod Turret 1: Ht=0.5m; Wid=1m; Len=1m; Vol=0.5m3; Usable=0.3m3; Slope: Front=Rad; Sides=Mod; Armour: Front=23; Sides=20; Other=15 Turret 2: Ht=0.5m; Wid=1m; Len=1m; Vol=0.5m3; Usable=0.3m3 Target Size DMs: +2 Low; +1 High. MovEff on Fire: Move >½, -2EFP. Power: FuelCap=1,800l; Dur=2hrs. Equipment: 500 power radio; Binoculars; Searchlight; Inertial Locator; Weaponry: Remote turret 1 (rear): TL9 WeapStab; Dual LMGs w/4,000rds; TL9 4cm RAM Grenade Launcher w/60 grenades (typically 30 HE and 30 Smoke/Tear Gas). Remote turret 2 (front):TL9 WeapStab, TL9 DirFC: 2cm SingBarl Elec Autocannon; 917rds(turr)(3.5 FireTurns)+917rds(chass)(3.5 FireTurns); Autofire=+4/+3/+1; Targ=8; ROF=262/Turn(132/fire phase); Range: Eff=2km; Long=3km; Ext=4.5km; Sig=+1; KEAP 13/11/9
Cr119,480; Wt=36.145 tonnes; Crew=3 (Driver; Remote Gunner; Commander) Chassis: Slope: Front=Mod Turret: Ht=0.5m; Wid=1m; Len=1m; Vol=0.5m3 Target Size DMs: +2 Low; +0 High. MovEff on Fire: Move >½, -2EFP. Move: Air Cushion; P/W Ratio=74; Top=124kph. Armour: Front=20; Other=15; 2cm composite laminate. Power: 2.7MW MHD Turbine w/intake comp, 810l/hr; FuelCap= 2,025l; Dur=2.5hrs. Equipment: LS=11; Pass=8; 500 power radio; Binoculars; Searchlight; Inertial Locator; Weaponry: Remote turret: TL9 WeapStab; Dual LMGs w/10,000rds; TL9 4cm RAM Grenade Launcher w/120 grenades (typically 60 HE and 60 Smoke/Tear Gas).
Cr161,417; Wt=39.728 tonnes; Crew=5 (Driver; Remote Gunner; Main Gunner; Loader; Commander) Chassis: Usable=34.02m3; Slope: Front=Mod Turret 1: Ht=0.5m; Wid=1m; Len=1m; Vol=0.5m3 Turret 2: Ht=1.25m; Wid=1.5m; Len=2m; Vol=3.75m3 Target Size DMs: +2 Low; +1 High. MovEff on Fire: Move >½, -2EFP. Move: Air Cushion; P/W Ratio=67; Top=117kph. Armour: Front=20; Other=15; Power: 2.7MW MHD Turbine w/intake comp, 810l/hr; FuelCap=2,430l; Dur=3hrs. Equipment: LS=8; Pass=3(troopers); 500 power radio; Binoculars; Searchlight; Inertial Locator; Weaponry: Remote turret 1: TL9 WeapStab; Dual LMGs w/10,000rds; TL9 4cm RAM Grenade Launcher w/120 grenades (typically 60 HE and 60 Smoke/Tear Gas). Main Turret 2: TL9 WeapStab, TL9 IndirFC; 7.5cm mortar; 5 specrds(turr), 420rds (20 FireTurns)(chass); ROF=21, Range=5.75km; Acc=0/-4; Sig=+2; Set-Up=4 Turns; HE=14/2/3; HEAP=36; KEAP=25/23/21; KEAPER=23/21/19; Flechette: Pen=2, ToHit=+5, DangSpc=5cm; Illum/Chaff=65cm; Smoke=2×2cm, Burn 4.
- Artillery Fire Direction ACV:
- Cr 283,581; Weight = 39.601 tonnes.
A standard artillery ACV equipped with a TL5 Fire Direction Centre, a 1,000km laser communicator and a TL9 mapbox. The crew is expanded to eight as the three troopers are replaced with three fire direction centre technicians. Ammunition capacity in the chassis is reduced to 399 rounds (19 turns of fire). Waste Space = 0.44m3 in chassis. P/W Ratio = 68, Top Speed = 118 kph. Fire Direction Centre allows 1 Target to be engaged with indirect fire.
Cr109,980; Wt=39.345 tonnes; Crew=2 (Driver; Commander/Gunner) Chassis: Slope: Front=Mod Turret: Ht=0.5m; Wid=1m; Len=1m; Vol=0.5m3 Target Size DMs: +2 Low; +0 High. MovEff on Fire: Move >½, -2EFP. Move: Air Cushion; P/W Ratio=68; Top=118kph. Armour: Front=20; Other=15; 2cm composite laminate. Power: 2.7MW MHD Turbine w/ intake comp, 810l/hr; FuelCap= 2,025l; Dur=2.5hrs. Equipment: LS=2; 500 power radio; Binoculars; Searchlight; Inertial Locator; Cargo=14m3; Waste Sp=7.5m3 Weaponry: Remote turret: TL9 WeapStab;Dual LMGs w/10,000rds; TL9 4cm RAM Grenade Launcher w/120 grenades (typically 60 HE and 60 Smoke/Tear Gas).
- Medical ACV:
- Cr136,280; Weight = 39.044 tonnes
A supply ACV fitted with a Company Clearing Station. Life Support has been expanded to include 6 additional passengers – six medics. The original two vehicle crew-members are also medical personnel. Cargo = 0, Waste Space = 0.37m3. P/W Ratio = 69; Top Speed = 119kph.
- Cook ACV:
- Cr114,117; Weight = 29.748 tonnes. Usable Volume = 42m3.
A standard supply ACV fitted with two field kitchens. The chassis moderate front slope has been removed to provide the space for the two kitchens. Life Support extended for two additional passengers – two cooks. All vehicle personnel are considered to be cooks. Cargo = 0; Waste Space = 0.34m3. Armour: All Faces = 15; P/W Ratio = 90; Top Speed = 140 kph.
- Engineering ACV:
- Cr162,880; Weight = 32.244 tonnes.
A standard supply ACV fitted with a workshop, and a crane. Life Support has been extended for two passengers – two additional engineers. All four personnel are considered to be engineers. Cargo = 2 tonnes (slung load capacity). Waste Space = 0.57m3. P/W Ratio = 83; Top Speed = 33 kph.
Grav vehicles – command supply and direct support and artillery ACV designs based on vehicle concepts presents in Encounter in Ventura Quadrant by Group One.