Friday, October 28, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Noises in the Deep

Speaking of Stress inducing events, depth charging is the main weapon of escorts against subs, and an utterly terrifying experience. A big part of the this is the sequence of auditory assaults the depth charging sets up on the crew.

First is the pinging, the active echolocation pulse emitted by SONAR. There were two types of pings used - long scale and short scale. Long scale pings were emitted when an escort suspected a sub was about, but not exactly where. They sounded something like this: Peee-eeep... Pee-eeep... Pee-eeep... as they searched for a contact below the waves. Short scale pings where higher pitched and came faster: PEEP! PEEP! PEEP! Hearing them meant the escort had a solid contact - most likely on your boat - and would soon be boring in for the kill.

Merchant ships almost always had a single screw - it just wasn't profitable for most to give up the space and mass a second boiler.engine and screw would need. The single screw sounded like this on the hydrophones: Thumpthumpthumpthump. If your boat was close, you could hear it through the water without the phones.

Escorts needed more speed, and economics wasn't really in the calculations, so they generally had dual screws. The slight asynchronization between the screws - no two screws are ever exactly in phase - created a phantom "beat" between them. When relaxed and going about their business, escorts had a sound like this: Shooshooshooshooshooshoo. When they got excited, as when they found a target for their depth charges, the pitch and tempo increased, getting louder as it came nearer, and dropping in pitch - Doppler effect - as it passed overhead and went away: ShumshumshumshumSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSUMESHUM SHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMSHUMshumshumshumshum.

You could sometimes hear the splashes made by the depth charges as they were dropped or shot to the sides. At any rate you could always hear the depth charges go off! Depth charges had a double actioned sound: click-WHAM! click-WHAM! click-WHAM! If they came fast and close together, the explosions cascaded into each other: click-WHAM! WHAM!WHAM-WHAM-WHAM! WHAM!

Torpedoes when they hit carried their own sound, different from a depth charge, sort of like hitting a boiler with a baseball bat: WHANGG! and WHANGG! And the sweetest underwater music of all were the breaking up noises made by a sinking ship - shrieks and groans and crashes and muffled whumps as the steel frame was tortured and twisted by the pressures of the deep.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Stress Checks

A new mechanic for Pigboats, to reinforce that claustrophobic feeling - Stress Checks. Up to four times during each session, when the GM feels it is warranted, he/she can call for a Stress Check. A Stress Check is simply a roll of 1d10. Any 1 rolled means the character is getting stressed. This means they mark off one Stress check box on their character sheet, indicating a new Stress Level.

If another Stress check is called for before they can relieve it, the Target Number for the Stress Check is increased by the current Stress Level. Thus a character with two Stress Levels has a TN of 3 or less, etc. Each Level of Stress incurs a Small Penalty to all rolls until that stress is relieved, so the character with two Stress Levels has two Small Penalties to all rolls.

Stress can be relieved by several means. The R&R between missions relieves all residual Stress. Getting stinking drunk relieves two Stress. The celebration after a successful attack relieves one Stress. Cracking up relieves one Stress. Being really nasty to others relieves one Stress. Going catatonic for a day relieves three Stress. The GM should approve all Stress relief as appropriate. Using these listed reliefs as guidelines, other types of Stress relief should be allowed.

Severe depth charging, tense combat, prolonged silent running, bad surprises, and the like can call for Stress Checks.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Playtest 2 of IHW: Pigboats

Had a great session tonight! We started out where we left off, with three characters trapped in a flooded conning tower, and a sub looking for us. The Skipper was running silent at our test depth, and it seemed the other sub was gone, when the cook dropped a bunch of pans. Immediately, the hydrophone operator heard screws speed up and head for us. the skipper was inclined to tough it out, but then the phones heard the sound of outer torpedo doors opening.

The skipper took the Thresher down below our test depth looking for a thermoclyne. The deck plates began to warp and the sub groaned and creaked with the pressure. He found one at 320 feet, and ducked under it. the other sub - presumably Japanese, pinged furiously, but it lost us and went away. After seven hours under, the skipper ordered us up to the surface,and we could pump out the conning tower.

As we headed towards the Makassar Strait - between the east coast of Borneo and the west coast of Celebes - to drop off Mr. Graves, our Australian Mystery man, we sighted a small convoy - two big ships and one little one - heading south directly across our path. We got in close enough to see a couple of passenger ships in dazzle camoflage and a small corvette type escort. If we had been at war it would have been an easy shot. As it was, the navigator projected theor course to Palau, a group of Japanese owned islands between the Philippines and New Guinea. The skipper reported the sighting and the presumed Jap sub that had tailed us from Pearl.

We continued on course, and entered the Makassar Strait on the morning of December 5. We cruised on the durface down the strait, then went under around noon, heading for the insertion point for Mr. Graves. We sere droppig him on the Borneo coast, about 20 kilometers south of Balikpapan. We waited for nightfall, then surfaced.

We sent the rubber raft in under Mr. Jerkin, the XO, along with Ensign Vanderbilt - yes, one of THE Vanderbilts - and Lt. jg Higgins, along with three ratings and Mr. Graves. On the way in, Mr. Graves told Higgins that he was going to walk to Balikpapan - a city and port - and get transportation to Sarawak and Brunei on the north coast. he felt sure the Japanese were going to invade to get the oil in North Borneo, and he wanted to be there to observe.

As the raft came in close to the beach under its small outboard, Mr. Jerkin saw a light ashore, and told the crew to cut the motor and row north. The current was setting south, however, and they made no headway against it, so they decided to row south. They found a beach about two kilometers south of the original landing point, and went in.

As the bow man was pulling the rubber boat up on the beach, a truck or car driving on the beach came around a headland and lit up the bowman, who froze. Ens. Vanderbilt and a seaman jumped off and pushed the boat out into the surf, and the bowman stumbled after as the vehicle roared up the beach. Mr. Higgins, Mr. Graves, and Mr. Jerkin hauled the three others back into the boat while the other rating started the engine and headed out.

Two men with rifles, apparently a dutch shore patrol, began shooting at the boat. Higgins went down fast with a chest wound. Vanderbilt, Jerkin, and one of the ratings were also hit, though lightly, as they wen tout into the night. The boat was punctured twice, but Mr. Jerkin was able to patch the rubber hull fast enough to keep most of the air in. He stopped the engine, and had everyone lay low and let the current take them, and they drifted south out of sight in the moonless night.

After another three kilometers, Eddie, teh bowman, offered to swim Mr. Graves ashore. Graves, who was unwilling to risk his life in such a clusterf**k any more, agreed. Between the teo of them, they got Mr. Graves and his luggage ashore, and off he went into the night. Eddie swam back to the boat, and Mr. jerkin tried to figure out where they were. As he had no charts and no navigational instruments, having failed to take any along on such a short ride he got lost. Finally, they figured out where they were, considerably to seaward of the Thresher, and made it back to the boat. The Skipper gave a severe dressing down to Mr. Jerkin, who had really messed up.

After radioing his report to Pearl, Pearl ordered him to reconnoiter Palau, where the convoy had been heading. They made it there on December 6. There was a minefield about the entrance, with an unmarked narrow channel in. There were two corvettes patrolling the channel, so the skipper waited until a ship came in, a seaplane tender.

He followed the seaplane tender in underwater at periscope depth, keeping close astern so that the prop wash messed up the escorts' sonar. About halfway through the double dogleg channel, the escorts passed the tender from front to back, and one of them noticed something. He swung in behind the Thresher, and began catching up to the tender. The skipper decided to fox him, and drifted back to directly under the corvette. the corvette tried turning to port and then to starboard, trying to get a good reading, but the Thresher stayed right under him. The escort lost the ghost they had been chasing against the starboard minefield and turned back. The Thresher continued into the lagoon.

In the lagoon, the Thresher sighted many ships - tankers, troopships, cargo vessels, and destroyers, as well as several corvettes. She exited the harbor via a different exit, and lurked outside underwater until the sun went down. She surfaced and waited, and pretty soon in the very early morning of December 7, before dawn, the convoy began exiting the lagoon and heading north and west. The thresher stayed back and surfaced to send a message to Pearl, and got the reply that Japanese planes were attacking Pearl, and that this would mean war. She was authorized to go after any Japanese ship she could find.

Session ended.


Thursday, October 20, 2011


For today, various bits and bobs:

I have renamed StarCluster Light to StarCluster 2 Light, to differentiate it further from StarCluster 3 Light. I almost deactivated it, as the full StarCluster 2 game is also free to download, but some people prefer StarCluster 2 to SC 3, and would like the convenience of the small form for players.

StarCluster 3 Light, originally $3.00, is now free for download. I thought a lot of folks would prefer this format, but apparently not at any cost. It's now available for anyone who would like to look through the StarCluster 3 system without spending any actual money. This means it will get scads of downloads from folks who will never even look at it, but that's the price I pay...

Lots of stuff done on IHW: Pigboats, but not a lot of big interesting chunks I can put up here. Tons of little improvements throughout though!

I still haven't gotten my Gaming Genius award, or the winners' logo for the In Harm's Way: StarCluster web page. I'll take a pic when it gets here!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Alterations to the Boats

While the crew are relaxing and recuperating between mission, the submarine itself may be modified. Some modifications are ordered by the Navy, and are called Mandated Modifications. Others are initiated by the sub’s skipper, and are called Optional Modifications. Mandated Mods are free, and required. Optional Mods are given as favors by the yard to successful skippers. Skippers gain mod points for tonnage sunk, successful clandestine missions, shore bombardments, rescues, lifeguard duty, and other successful missions.
Mod Point Table

Mission Awarded For Mod Points
All Patrols Per Mission 1
Per 2000 Merchant Tons Sunk 1
Per Escort/Submarine Sunk 2
Per Cruiser/Battleship Sunk 3
Per Carrier Sunk 4
Per Barge Sunk 1
Per Totally Ballsy Move* 1
Per Clean Sweep** 3
Clandestine Per Mission 1
Per Insertion 1
Per Rescue 2
Per Crew Incursion*** 2
Lifeguard Per Mission 1
Per Rescue 2
Radar Picket Per Mission 1
Per Kamikazi Intercepted**** 2
Other Per Shore Bombardment 1
Per Special Mission 3

* Like sinking ships in a harbor, and other hairy escapades.
** Sinking all the merchant ships in a convoy.
*** Like landing and blowing things up.
**** Detected and shot down before hitting a ship

Mandated Modifications

Date Range Modification
Early 1942 Cut Down Cigarette Deck
Late 1942 Remove Plating on Periscope Shears, Cut Down Bridge Silhouette
Early 1943 Installation of SD RADAR
Mid 1943 Additional Limber Holes for Faster Diving - Half the Time.
Early 1944 Installation of SJ RADAR
Mid 1944 Installation of ST (Periscope Mounted Range Only) RADAR
Early 1945 Installation of SV RADAR

Optional Modifications

Date Mod Available Mod Mod Point Cost
1942 Swap Light AA for Dual Light AA 2
1943 Swap Light AA for Med AA 3
1943 Swap Med AA for Dual Med AA 3
1943 Swap Dual Med AA for Quad Medium AA 4
1944 Swap Med AA for Heavy AA 4
1944 Swap Heavy AA for DualHeavy AA 4
1944 Swap 3 inch deck gun for 4 inch deck gun 5
1944 Swap 4 inch deck gun for 5 inch deck gun 6
1944 Swap 3 inch deck gun for 5 inch deck gun 7
1945 Add second 3 inch deck gun 10
1945 Add second 4 inch deck gun 15
1945 Add second 5 inch deck gun 20

Friday, October 7, 2011

Couple items of possible interest at RPGGeek

I did a quick interview at RPGGeek here.

Steffan O'Sullivan did a freaking AWESOME flyer for The Tools of Ignorance for a contest there! Check it out! That's the game right there! :D


IHW: Pigboats - Mission Area

Here's a table I made for determining the mission area for the subs. As the war went on, the action got closer and closer to the Japanese Home Islands, so I adjusted for that with the modifiers based on years.

Where Is Your Mission Area

Roll 1d% on the following table, adding 20 in 1944, and 40 in 1945

Roll d% Mission - Encounter Modifier
01‐05 Wake ‐1 Sm
06‐10 Marshall Islands ‐1 Sm
11‐20 Solomon Sea +0
21‐25 Santa Cruz Islands ‐1 Sm
26‐35 Bismark Sea + 1 Sm
36‐50 East Caroline Islands + 1 Sm
51‐55 West Caroline Islands +0
56‐60 Yap ‐1 Sm
61‐65 Papua +0
66‐70 Molucca Sea +0
71‐76 Celebes Sea +0
77‐80 Java Sea +0
81‐85 Makassar Straits + 1 Sm
86‐90 Marianas Islands + 1 Sm
91‐93 Sulu Sea +0
94‐100 Nanpo Shoto +2 Sm
101‐110 Japan +2 Sm
111‐113 South China Sea ‐1 Sm
114‐115 Phillipines Sea +0
116‐120 East China Sea + 1 Sm
121‐125 Yellow Sea + 1 Sm
126‐130 Formosa Strait +2 Sm
131‐135 Hokkaido +0
136‐140 Sea of Japan +2 Sm

Encounter Roll
StarPerc Target Number = 25
StarZero Target Number = 4
StarNova Target Number = 3

Monday, October 3, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - The Boats Themselves

The S-Boats
These boats were built from 1918 to 1925 as improvements to the WWI subs. 51 of this class were built, and though most served as training boats, several were found on the front lines when the war started. They were small and cramped, had no AC and poor ventilation, and were old by WWII, but they had a fair range, were decent seagoing craft, and served well in the beginning of the war, They could not fire the new Mark 14 torpedo, which was an un-mixed blessing. As the new Gato class subs came in, the S-boats were retired to training fleet.
1 X 4 inch deck gun, 1 X Light AA
Suggested Traits:
Rust-bucket, Veteran, Cramped, Tiny, Ancient, Hot, Grubby, Weathered, Brutal, Experienced, Well-Travelled, Sweat-soaked, Tattered

The Argonaut Class
The Argonaut - the single exemplar of this class - was designed as a minelaying sub, though by the time the war came, it was converted into a transport submarine. Built in 1928, she was a massive boat, and with her minelaying tubes removed, had a great deal of interior space. The Argonaut was slow and clumsy, particularly in the dive, but she was a rugged boat, and her massive deck guns came in handy for night shore bombardments. She - along with the Narwhal Class Nautilus - carried the 2nd Marine Raider battalion to Makin Island in the Gilberts in 1942
2 X 6 inch deck guns, 2 X Light AA
Suggested Traits:
Enormous, Cavernous, Hulking, Brutal, Sluggish, Powerful, Capacious, Hard-hitting, Ancient, Slow Diving

The Narwhal Class
Built in 1930, the two-member Narwhal Class boats were almost as large as the Argonaut, but faster, and generally more capable as classic submarines. Like the Argonaut, they had big deck guns, and served as transport subs. They were generally used in clandestine missions, but still managed to rack up 13 enemy sinkings between them.
2 X 6 inch deck guns, 2 X Light AA
Suggested Traits
Huge, Capacious, Powerful, Long-legged, Hard-hitting, Clumsy, Rugged, Old, Reliable, Slow Diving

The Porpoise Class
The 10 boats of the Porpoise Class were the first so-called ‘fleet” submarines for the US Navy. They were fairly big boats, with excellent range and good speed - fast enough to keep up with the fleet. These boats were designed to operate in advance of the fleet as scouts rather than commerce raiders. They were built between 1933 and 1937. The large size enabled a much more livable environment for the crew, which helped immensely on long deployments.
1 X 3 inch deck gun, 4 X Light AA
Suggested Traits:
Rugged, Long-legged, Fast, Weatherly, Strong, Slow Diver, Powerful, Veteran, Comfortable, Survivor

Sargo/Salmon Class
These two classes, 16 of which were built from 1936 to 1939, were really the same design, built in two lots. A bit bigger than the Porpoise Class, they had more torpedo tubes, and were faster. As an evolution of the Porpoise Class, they shared many of their elder sisters’ traits, but unlike the Porpoises, they had a direct diesel drive, rather than the diesel-electric drive of the earlier class.
1 X 3 inch deck gun, 4 X Light AA
Suggested Traits:
Rugged, Long-legged, Fast, Weatherly, Strong, Slow Diver, Hard-Hitting, Veteran, Comfortable, Cranky

Tambor Class
The best of the pre-war boats, the Tambors - 12 boats built between 1939 and 1941 - finalized the changes which were perfected in the Gato and Balao classes. Like the Sargos, Tambors had a direct diesel drive on the surface, and ten torpedo tubes, 6 forward and 4 aft, in the iconic USN configuration immortalized in the Gatos. The Tambors were only slightly larger than the Sargos, and were consequently a bit more cramped with the new tubes. Tautog, with 26 kills, was the highest ranking US boat in the war.
1 x 3 inch deck gun, 4 X Light AA
Suggested Traits:
Rugged, Long-legged, Fast, Weatherly, Strong, Slow Diver, Crushing, Modern, Cramped, Scrappy

Gato Class
The Gato Class is the iconic American submarine, 77 being built from 1941-1943. The Gato class was vitually identical to the Tambors, with five feet of extra length allowing a bulkhead between the two halves of the engine room for extra flooding protection. They had a deeper test dive rating only because the Navy decided it was being too conservative. New was a negative tank, kept flooded while on the surface, to help speed the diving speed. This plus extra limber holes to help flood the outer hull cut the diving speed in half.
1 X 3 inch deck gun, 4 X Light AA
Suggested Traits
Rugged, Long-legged, Fast, Weatherly, Strong, Fair Diver, Crushing, Modern, Cramped, Scrappy

Balao Class
Almost identical to the Gato Class, the only big difference was a thicker hull, lowering the test depth. 122 Balaos were built from 1942 to 1945.
1 X 5 inch deck gun, 1 X Medium AA, 1 X Heavy AA
Suggested Traits
Rugged, Long-legged, Fast, Weatherly, Strong, Deep Diver, Crushing, Modern, Cramped, Scrappy

Saturday, October 1, 2011

IHW: Pigboats First Session

I ran a playtest of IHW: Pigboats tonight, and we had a blast! It is November of 1941, and the officers of the USS Thresher are invited to the admiral's Thanksgiving ball. The Skipper, Lt. Cmdr. Leonard Markakas, tells Lt. Will Montgomery, Lt. Lamarr Bullock, and Lt. jg Beauregard Tambeaux to get on their dress whites and their dancing shoes. The Skipper meets a Japanese girl, the daughter of a professor of Philology. Lamarr meets the Admiral's wife and gets her to do the two step. Will meets a young lady breaking up with her boyfriend, and gets into a fight with him. the Skipper cancels all his liberty and sends him back to the ship. Beau dances with half a dozen girls, and excites Will's envy and hatred - it turns out Beau is a spectacular dancer, like a young Fred Astaire.

During the ball, the Admiral takes the skipper aside and tells him he has to take a "passenger", an Australian man named Mr. Graves, and land him in a quiet spot on the Celebes coast of the Makassar Strait - without, of course, informing the Dutch of his presence. They are scheduled to leave on the 28th. Lamarr barely makes the departure, as he was entertaining a young lady named Cindy Lou. They set off to the Dutch East Indies.

As they are on their way, Lamarr notices the sound of twin screws paralleling the Thresher. The skipper ordered a course change, and the tailing ship soon copied the new course. The Officer of the Deck, Lt. Montgomery, sees a submarine's conning tower on the tailing ship's bearing, and Lt. Bullock confirmed it was not American, whatever it was. The Skipper orders a crash dive with a sharp turn to port, and silent running immediately after, creating a knuckle in the water.

Will sends the lookouts down below, and follows immediately, but mis-dogs the bridge hatch, so that there is a thin crack. Lamarr and Beau get up into the conning tower to help. Beau can't budge it, so he dogs the hatch to the Control Room, so the sub won't sink, whatever happens. Lamarr, who is quite a bit stronger than Beau and Will, is able to force the bridge hatch open, then shut it, leaving water knee deep in the conning tower. In silent mode, they cannot pump the conning tower dry, so they stay wet.

The Skipper orders the sub down to its test depth of 250 feet, and the other sub goes right over it, circles back, and eventually leaves. With the AC and ventilation off, the sub rapidly heats up to Death Vally hot with high humidity, except for the conning tower with its big-ass salt water heat sink. The Thresher continues running silent, hoping they have thrown the enemy off their trail.

The session ends there.