ScryNet Link Engaged

Writing and Illustration by Jessica Rudinsky

Category: Technical Briefs (page 1 of 2)

Technical Brief: Skycruiser Tech: Gateway Submatrix

 

Halvere impatiently tapped his fingers on the console as he peered through the rain-streaked bridge viewports, his mouth pressed into a tight frown. Beyond the rhythmic strokes of the wipers, the ship’s bow and “A” turret were obscured in a cloud of steam as the armored deck plating, only moments before baked under the bright sun in northern Calandra, was now doused in the cool rain in central Valdon.

The ship shuddered and pitched ominously as random bolts of blue-green lightning arced downward from the gate threshold and danced across the silvery runes of the hull matrix. With each shock, angry waves of energy coruscated through the roiling clouds in the sky above as the powerful harmonics of the gateway clashed with the disrupted local Etheric field.

Halvere took a deep breath. Magitechs might consider interspacial gating to be routine, but no matter how many times Halvere had experienced it, there was nothing routine at all about the bow of your ship being effectively a thousand kilomets from the stern, held together by nothing more than a temperamental plane of magical force. Passing through a gateway was the longest few minutes he could imagine.

The Gateway Submatrix – Traveling without moving

Skycruisers provide the Coalition Air Navy with a great degree of firepower and tactical flexibility, often altering the outcome of an engagement by merely being present in the battle space. However, the ponderously slow speed of these massive vessels makes it difficult to predict where and when to allocate this increasingly rare resource. To facilitate the need for rapid deployment over a vast unpredictable front, properly equipped skycruisers employ inter-spatial gateways to travel distances that would otherwise take weeks.

Taking advantage of the immense power output of modern SERA reactors “gating” generates a temporary dimensional link between two distant points, allowing the ship to travel to nearly any location on the planet in moments. This technology gives the Coalition a tactical edge, but its use comes with several inherent limitations and a considerable degree of risk.

Firstly, in order to gate, a skycruiser must have a gateway sub-matrix embedded into its primary hull matrix and reactors powerful enough to generate the necessary magical field. Nearly all military vessels are thus equipped as are a limited number of authorized commercial ships, particularly fast transports and some high-priced commuter vessels. The technology is mainly limited by cost and risk value. The dangers posed by gating often outweigh the potential speed gains making many captains prefer settle for less risky, if slower, modes of propulsion.

The gating procedure itself varies in complexity depending on a number of variables, most notably the distance involved, local etheric conditions, and knowledge of the destination.

To begin, the ship’s navimancer must create a gateway plot. The gating sub-matrix  inscribed on the vessel’s hull is a complex open runic phrase that forms the basis for the gateway techniq.  Missing from this open phrase are the key runes for location, destination, and tuning of the vim usage. After plotting the necessary runes, the navimancer attunes himself to the gateway matrix and, via spontaneous channeling, manually inserts the necessary runes to complete circuit. The ship may then shunt power from the reactors through the matrix and energize the gate. Once the gate is stable, the ship sails through to the destination, then closes the gateway behind it.

The safest gates are pre-plotted, linking a fixed departure point and destination. These types of gateways are often used along common trade routes and are the type most often used by civilian ships. Military ships will use these routes on occasion but also possess extensive and classified navigation charts for site to site gates, particularly military installations and areas of strategic value.

If such pre-plotted coordinates are unavailable, the navimancer may delve the Etherum in an attempt to gain a mental fix on the destination. This specialized form of scrying allows the navimancer to remote view the target destination and assess the local conditions. This helps to reduce the guesswork in calculating an accurate plot.  To assist with this delving, all Coalition redoubts and major cities have a nav beacon, an etheric resonator that emits a unique harmonic signature which an experienced navimancer can use to home in on a target location. The beacon also serves as a focus for the delving attempt and allows the navimancer to sense the local etheric conditions, rather like an etheric weather report. This can be extremely valuable, particularly in areas prone to variations in etheric stability. Whenever such beacons are available, a prudent navimancer will almost always delve them in advance, even for a pre-plotted destination, if only to avoid unnecessary surprises.

This prudence is well-founded. Opening a gateway into an unstable region or dead zone is risky at best and often devastating. In most cases, any attempt to open a gateway to a dead zone will simply fail as the lack of ambient vim at the destination will simply break the spell form before it completes. On rare occasions, however, just enough vim is available to allow the gateway to form. Once constructed, such a gate will then rapidly draw vim from the origin side in an attempt to balance the ambient vim, much like pulling the drain plug out of a tub of water. This torrential flow of vim will render the gateway extremely unstable and trigger intense etheric storms on both sides. If the vessel were to enter the gateway it would instantly find itself with insufficient ambient vim to power its siphon reactors. The result would be a disastrous shutdown of all the ship’s magical systems, shearing the vessel apart in the collapsing gateway and sending whatever was left crashing to the ground.

Opening a gateway to an unstable region is only slightly less dangerous. Such a gateway will normally form but be very unstable. Similar to a gateway into a dead zone, this will usually generate etheric storms that can disrupt EDAR readings, rendering the vessel effectively blind until it passes the threshold.

Other risks from gating stem from the incredible amount of vim required to form such massive magical spell forms. Despite many safeguards, when pushed to their limits, SERA reactors can hyper-resonate and suffer burnout just like any other booster. Burning out a vimstone the size of a large tree generates enormous backlash which will invariably destabilize other stones in the array. Known as a cascade failure, this uncontrolled vim reaction can destroy the reactor and potentially much of the ship with it.

Additionally, gateways are immense and highly inefficient spell forms. Burning vast quantities of vim generates a tremendous etheric vortex that can be detected by EDAR systems and vimsensitive creatures for hundreds of kilomets on either side of the gateway, effectively broadcasting the ships location, destination, and possibly even its identity to anyone that may be listening.

For this reason, and also due to the ambient instability caused by the use of magic-infused weapons, when a vessel is required to gate into a combat zone, it is standard procedure to set the destination well out of combat range and move to the target zone under normal propulsion.

Wyrmweaver Creature Brief: Mist Dragons

Mist Dragons, Masters of Air and Light

section break art 1 c

Mist dragons are lithe and graceful, with silvery scales, large feathery wings, and lean, sinuous bodies. They grow to an average body-length of 12 mets.

Their breath attack is an intense sonic blast that can stun a target. They use this ability primarily for hunting, as they consider it barbaric to use in battle. Passive by nature, they will usually attempt to avoid combat, but if pressed will employ their impressive channeling skills and physical attacks.

Mist dragons are philosophers and sages. When not hunting or frolicking in  the high altitude air currents they can usually be found meditating within their mountain lairs, scrying the Flow or simply contemplating a universe beyond the confines of mortal intelligence. They are natural masters of elemental air magic and can weave light into powerful illusions. A number of mist dragons also have a talent with ancient healing magics and stories persist of desperate humans seeking out these beings for curing beyond human channeling ability.

Mist dragons are fascinated by humanity but deeply troubled by the fledgling species’ disregard for the natural order of magic. Most maintain a watchful distance but a few have chosen to act, joining the ranks of the Vahjeraat and using their shape shifting and illusion abilities to pose as human, acting as advisors and informants. While this intervention is technically forbidden by the Tenets, such clandestine maneuvering is grudgingly accepted as a necessary evil by the Deliberative.

Tech Brief: Runeboosted Conventional Arms

Runeboosted Weapons

War is often a catalyst for technological advancements. During the Throne War, the nations of Freidia made huge strides in enchantech and runeboosted technology and this effort continues apace in their desperate struggle to stem the tide of the Imperial legions.

To this end, the magitechs and engineers of the Coalition are constantly striving to improve the CAF’s weapons and armor designs. While the crafting of true spell-forged equipment is a lost art, skilled magitechs at properly equipped factories can achieve notable results by melding enhancement schema and mass-produced conventional arms.

Runeboosted projectile weapons are typically imbued with improved accuracy and damage potential while melee weapons are most often made stronger, lighter and more durable than their contemporary versions.  Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of CAF logisticians, the limited supply of such weapons restricts their deployment to elite troops, leaving the vast majority of provincial units to simply make do with conventional arms.

Runeboosted Munitions

Magically enhanced munitions were invented during the Throne War and have become increasingly common on the battlefields of Elandis since the Imperium invasion. Originally limited to artillery cannons for use against skycruiser and city defenses, advances in alchemechanics have led to the development of small calibre varieties to counter improvements in ward defenses and for use against biomagical creatures. Most such munitions fall into three major types:

J.A.M (Jacketed Anti Magic) – Armor piercing munition typically used in infantry rifles, light machine-guns and some heavy support guns for use against rune-enhanced armor and magical creatures.

S.C.A.M (Solid Core Anti-Magic) – Armor piercing round designed for higher caliber guns such as anti-tank weapons and naval cannons. A kinetic-kill weapon relying on penetration runes and high-speed impact to breach armor.   

H.E.V. (High Explosive Void) – Dual-purpose chemical explosive warhead enhanced with an anti-vim matrix similar to null grenades. Can be impact or delay fused and is designed to disrupt barriers and runic matrices. Typically used by skycruisers for anti-ship combat but can also be used by field artillery for shelling defensive wards such as those found on city fortifications.  An advanced version of the HEV shell, proximity fused for airburst, is used in anti-aircraft/anti-dragon Voidcaster batteries.

Null Grenades

Called the “poor man’s spellbreaker”, or “zappers”, null grenades were designed to give infantry a hard-hitting, area-effect anti-magic weapon for use against enemy channelers and magical creatures.

Zappers are similar in size and weight to standard fragmentation grenades and are activated in the same manner. The “pin” simultaneously engages the embedded rune matrix and a timed explosive charge. When activated, the matrix begins rapidly drawing ambient vim into a tiny vimstone core, suffusing it to the point of overload. At that instant the small explosive charge detonates, destroying the core to create a burst of discordant magical energy roughly ten mets in diameter. This disrupted zone lasts for only a few seconds but can short out any functioning rune matrices and disrupt spell forms. This makes null grenades particularly dangerous to channelers or battlemancers utilizing wards or impressed techniqs. As the burst subsides the surrounding vim flows back into the void creating a powerful spellshock that can stun vimsensitive beings.

The discordant resonance of a null grenade is powerful enough to be heard by non-vimsensitives and sounds similar to screeching vehicle tires mixed with an unearthly wailing.

Null grenades, by their nature, can only function in areas with ambient vim, making them virtually useless in dead zones. The explosive charge could certainly blow off fingers if detonated in the hand, but otherwise poses little risk to physical targets possessing at least minimal ballistic protection.

Tech Brief: The Coalition Armed Forces

The Coalition Armed Forces (CAF) refers to the combined military force structure of the five Coalition member nations. Each country provides a significant portion of its military assets to this unified force, which then serve under the command of the Council of Admirals, an assigned body of commanding officers and staff representing each member nation’s armed forces. In the interest of maintaining national sovereignty, each county also maintains a number of provincial defense forces which serve as city garrisons and protect vital national interests that remain outside of military jurisdiction.

The CAF is composed of three branches: The Army, the Air Navy, and the Air Corps. A fourth branch, the Arcane Corps, is not formally part of the CAF’s command structure. Composed of specialized channelers and enchantech-equipped units, the Arcane Corps operates under it’s own independent command, although it often acts alongside or in direct support of CAF units.

soldiers

The Coalition Army

The Coalition Army provides the primary ground attack capability of the CAF. It is composed of several hundred infantry and armored divisions which vary in size and composition.  After the formation of the CAF, one of the first steps the new command staff undertook was the restructuring of the units into a more homogenous model. Efforts were made to keep national unit integrity intact, primarily for the purposes of equipment consistency and logistical issues, although this was not always possible, and the longer the war drags on the more diverse and intermixed the units become. The negative effects have been partially mitigated by attempts to standardize equipment and munitions but issues remain.

Infantry divisions are broken down as light or heavy foot, medium or heavy mechanized, or drop.  The distinctions have become increasingly blurred as the war has progressed with most units simply being referred to as foot, mech, or drop based solely on their primary means of deployment.

Foot formations are generally the most poorly equipped units in the CAF, forced to rely on antiquated, non-magical gear.  As a result, they are usually deployed in a defensive role, manning the thousands of kilomets of trenches and bulwarks along the Coalition’s northern borders. They often bear the brunt of Imperium assaults equipped with little more than a rifle, basic armor, and grit.

Mechanized divisions are not much better off, being similarly equipped to foot units but with the advantage of mobility and protection afforded by light armored vehicles such as the A-4 “Gilam” personnel carrier and the MAR-12b “Saggett” mobile artillery/tank-destroyer.  Mech units can be used for following up high speed strikes by armored units, securing ground and establishing new lines of defense in the wake of a breakthrough.  This role has diminished over the years as the war has ground into a stalemate.  Armored forays into Imperium territory have become too costly and, as a result, most mechanized units (those that haven’t been downgraded to foot) are typically deployed behind the front lines as reserve units, using their mobility to reinforce front line units in response to enemy penetrations.

Drop units are light infantry designed for airborne operations specializing in rapid deployment and infiltration. Using jump harnesses imbued with ‘softfall’ runes, drop troops free fall from air transports, usually behind enemy lines or, occasionally, directly into battle. Such ‘hostile-drop’ maneuvers are exceptionally dangerous and only used in dire circumstances, usually after the transporting skycruiser has cleared the intended drop zone by deploying area saturation weapons.

Drop troops usually supply their own artillery support which consists of light, air-droppable artillery and field mortars which can be ‘softdropped’ alongside the troops.

Armored divisions, both costly and rare, provide the heavy punch for offensive operations. Equipped with a variety of armored vehicles such as the C-12B “Vargil” strike crawler, and supported by mechanized infantry, armored units can be extremely effective in favorable conditions. Some units may also be supplemented with air cavalry or artillery regiments, which would take the place of one armored regiment. As the war continues, production limitations have made reinforcing diminished armored units more difficult, forcing them to lean more heavily on their infantry elements and reducing their operational strength.

The Coalition Navy

The Coalition Navy is made up of two service arms: the Air Navy—consisting of the skycruiser fleet, and the comparatively small Sea Corps—a flotilla of low-tech coastal ships and seagoing vessels which serve primarily in a logistical role.

The skycruisers of the Air Navy are tasked with three primary duties: patrolling and defending Coalition airspace, supporting ground operations, and logistical support. Its small but vital carrier fleet also works in conjunction with the Air Corps to provide quick-response air cover for ground operations.

Air Navy task forces usually consist of a single carrier or battleship supported by several smaller cruiser and frigate class vessels. A few vessels, such as the newer Stalwart class battlecruisers, operate independently as scouts and interdictors, occasionally even conducting hit and run raids into Imperium territory to disrupt supply lines.

The mobility and large cargo capacity of skycruisers also makes them vital to logistical operations such as troop deployments and supply transport. Most low priority supply operations are delegated to volunteer or conscripted civilian skyhaulers, thus allowing the few remaining Coalition dockyards to focus their limited resources on the construction of combat vessels. Many a soldier and civilian owes their lives to the brave captains of these merchant vessels, who often put their ships and crew in mortal danger to evacuate refugees from besieged cities.

The Air Corps

The Air Corps, is a relatively new branch of the CAF. Using modified low-altitude vehicles as weapon platforms, the CAC is responsible for close air support of ground units and raid style attacks against targets behind fortified lines. Lacking the speed to engage in dogfighting style combat, Air Corps LAVs do well to avoid engagements with airborne netherdragons but excel at missions such as tactical bombing or anti-armor operations. Transport LAVs, such as the ubiquitous AAV-9 series, serve a vital logistical role, shuttling infantry squads to and from combat zones or transporting supplies into difficult to reach areas.

The Arcane Corps

Separate from the CAF command structure is the enigmatic Arcane Corps. Consisting primarily of battlemancers and magically-enhanced troops and equipment, these elite units are deployed alongside standard troops to bolster their firepower for critical objectives or to deal with magic-enhanced Imperium troops.

When working with CAF troops, Arcane Corps officers have authority over similarly ranked CAF officers and enjoy a certain degree of command autonomy regarding operations involving their units. Most try not to abuse this authority lest they create friction within the chain of command.  Nonetheless, it is technically possible, as an example, for an Arcane Corps 2nd Lieutenant to pull rank over a Coalition Army general if the situation warranted.  Such an occurrence would almost certainly result in an official inquiry, particularly if the general in question lodged a complaint. The Arcane Corps officer would probably receive a reprimand for the action, allowing the general to save face, but there would most likely be little in the way of a serious punishment.

This level of autonomy, as well as the Arcane Corps’ preferential treatment in arms and equipment, has given the “archies” a sour reputation amongst CAF personnel, although few will complain out loud when Corps units are assigned to support them.

shiv team 9

Shiv Teams

Unique to the Arcane Corps, Shiv teams are squad level units which are trained for special operations such as recon, search and rescue, or dragon-hunting. 

Such teams typically consist of ten soldiers and various specialists led by a single NCO.  Whenever possible, a Shiv team will be supported by a battlemancer to provide magical firepower and defenses against arcane threats.  Because battlemancers are always lieutenant grade or higher in rank, they will, if present, supersede the NCO as the team leader. While this composition is considered standard, many teams will deviate slightly as their member abilities and mission profiles dictate.

Highly trained and well-equipped, Shiv teams are assigned to the most critical and dangerous operations. Regulations require that their deployment be authorized by brigadier-level command at the least, but this rule can be circumvented if the local situation does not permit the time to receive such authorization from ARCH—the Corps high command.

On occasion, Shiv teams will be assigned to other CAF branches and deployed alongside regular units in support of larger CAF operations or to secure specific objectives. In the Battle of Galas, for example, a number of Shiv teams were deployed to assist units of the 15th Drop Infantry in destroying enemy anti-aircraft positions prior to an assault by Admiral Fraan’s carrier task force.

Creature Brief 2: Netherdragons

netherdragon

Netherdragons

Netherdragons are a unique breed of wyrms (true dragons) that originate from the planet of Gnisis (NIH-sis), a cold, shadowy world faintly lit by a distant sun. They have adapted perfectly to their murky home, developing visual and auditory senses far exceeding the astoundingly acute senses of other dragons. These adaptations allow netherdragons to dominate the hostile and unforgiving environment of Gnisis, putting them at the top of a very vicious food chain.

Physiology

Physically speaking, netherdragons are similar to other wyrms, but their unique environment has influenced their anatomy in a number of ways. Their necks are unusually long and snake-like, making them incredibly flexible. A netherdragon is able to easily position his head to see in any direction while in flight allowing him to quickly scan an area for prey or rivals without having to maneuver excessively. They also have very large wings allowing them to glide in near silence for long distances (a valuable stealth technique in a world where most creatures have excellent hearing). Their long, agile tails are used to counter-balance their elongated neck and to assist in rapid maneuvering in flight.

Netherdragons have very fine scales which are tightly interleaved, giving their skin a glossy, smooth look that belies its resilience. Their color tends toward a mottled texture of dark greens and grays on their backs and wings fading to a lighter shade on their underside. Their hides are usually quite battered and scarred, the result of fighting for survival on an almost daily basis.

Senses and Abilities

A netherdragon’s senses are specifically adapted to their home environment. Their optical vision is slanted into the UV spectrum to enhance their low-light vision but is somewhat underdeveloped compared to their other senses. Like many denizens of Gnisis, their hearing is extraordinary, allowing them to target prey by sound alone if necessary.

Perhaps their strangest adaptation is their extreme vimsense. All dragons are vimsensitive, particularly wyrms, due to their natural channeling ability, but a netherdragon can literally hear the aura harmonics of living creatures, which they will often refer to as ‘songs’. Their term for vim is Chirii (kheer-EE) and they use their incredible sensitivity to it as a means of locating prey, to sense variations in the Etherum, and to detect potential magical threats such as rival dragons or spellshocks.

Evolving for millennia in the vim-saturated environment of Gnisis has given netherdragons an innate tie to magic that exceeds typical wyrms. Their biomagical physiology is so vim dependent that even a short time spent in an area of low ambient vim will make them ill. Being trapped in a dead zone would result in death within a few hours at most. Coalition tacticians have attempted to capitalize on this potential vulnerability by increasing the availability of anti-magic munitions such as HEV shells and null grenades on fronts with heavy netherdragon activity.

Even the netherdragon’s breath attack has been warped by the influence of this high-vim environment. It is an unworldly blast of super-chilled air laced with needle-like ice shards that can rip through light armor and flay exposed flesh in seconds. A soldier once described it as a freezing tornado full of razor blades–an accurate, if somewhat colorful description of what is one of the most feared attacks on the battlefield.

Society

Their dependence on vim makes netherdragons highly sensitive to the ebb and flow of the Etherum. They are drawn to areas of high vim concentration like moths to a flame and their aggressive nature means that they feel no qualms about removing any current residents by force. Arrogant in the extreme, netherdragons see themselves at the top of any ecological chain and will not abide anyone or anything that thinks otherwise.

This arrogance extends even to their own brethren whom they see as rivals in the fight to survive. Netherdragon “society” is based on strength and cunning. Those who excel in one or both of these traits tend to dominate their brethren, allowing them to control larger and more lucrative territories. Power struggles and challenges are common, occasionally to the death. Those who are severely maimed in these battles are typically killed, as they are viewed as weak and useless by the others, and their territory annexed by the most powerful dragon in the region (although, if disputed, a whole new round of challenges could begin).

This system of dominance forms the core of the Imperium power hierarchy.

Older posts