Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Simple Head Code

From our Monday night In Harm's Way: Pigboats game.

As the stolen Japanese frigate vanished into the night at a high rate of speed, Lt.Commander Ray Campbell's binoculars swept back over the anchorage of the port of Surigao. There, outside the minefield, was the burning debris of the armed trawler which had been patroling the entrance to the mineless double dogleg passage into the harbor.  There, not far from the military pier, was the remains of the IJN corvette the frigate had knackered on her way out to engage the trawler. There, at the military pier, was a crowd of bewildered IJN sailors, wondering what the hell was going on, and no more military vessels. And there, bobbing lightly in the protective enbrace of the minefield, were three small coasters, the largest of 700 tons, and the other two of about 500 tons. He took the binoculars down from his eyes. There, behind the cigarette deck of the USS Pike, was the four inch gun. Ray grinned.

He leaned over to the voice activated mic on the bridge. "Mr. Rizzo and the deck gun crew. Take battle stations for surface action!" When Rizzo popped out of the bridge hatch, Ray said "We can't let Mr. Vaugirard have all the fun, can we Mr. Rizzo? Let's take out those coasters before we leave this place! The Jap navy has kindly left the harbor unguarded." Rizzo and his men got busy training the gun around.
The coasters had realized they were trapped, and were getting up steam and hauling up their anchors  as fast as they could, but before they could move, a four inch shell exploded just under the stack of the bigger ship. BLAM! When the smoke cleared, she listed heavily to starboard and was plainly sinking. The other two had started their slow-motion dash to the minefield entrance.

The lead ship caught a four inch shell on her bow before she entered the clear channel, and slowed markedly, though she was not sinking. The other ship started negotiating the twisting passage. In between the first and second dogleg, Mr. Rizzo found the range. Bang! She caught a shell and was lightly damaged. Just as she was making the turn, another shell caught her square. KABOOOM! Her seams blew outward and the stack took flight as her boilers blew up. She sank in seconds, blocking the clear channel. 

"That'll do, Mr. Rizzo! Secure from surface action!" The third ship was damaged, and wasn't going anywhere with the minefield channel blocked. The gun crew kicked the shell casings over the side and secured the gun before heading below. "Make course for Awasan Bay off Dinagat Island." That was the first rendezvous. The second was in the Surigao Strait just before the IJN task group got there. 

The newly christened frigate Galatea swept into Awasan Bay. At first they cruised about aimlessly, then decided upon an anchorage - into the little bay near the tip of Hikdop island, near Limasawa. The steady rain poured down from the low clouds. "Who is good with radios?" asked Mr. V., skipper of the Galatea.

None of the PCs was any good. We rolled for the NPCs. Of course, once again, Coyote maxed out, as he had any time we made such a roll. He turned out to be an expert. If it weren't for the fact that every roll had been made in the open, the players would have smelled a rat! 

Mr. Vaugirard sent Coyote down into the radio shack to try and make sense of the Japanese radio.  The portable voice radio they had carried in had a range of no more than five miles on a good day, line of sight. Coyote messed around, and finally figured the thing out. He whistled Bonnie Blue Flag as he began keyping - being a pilot, he keyed in Morse Code but clear English: "Hey yall STOP Frigate Galatea anchor bay north east tip Limasawa STOP"
 The radio operator, "Sparks", got Mr. O'Grady and brought him to the Radio Room. "Listen to this, Mr. O'Grady!" He handed him the headphones. O'Grady heard the message, repeated over and over: "Hey yall STOP Frigate Galatea anchor bay north east tip Limasawa STOP" He acknowledged it as Sparks got the Skipper. "What's going on?" asked Ray. "'Hey yall STOP Frigate Galatea anchor bay north east tip Limasawa STOP'" answered O'Grady. "Well, we know where they are now." Sparke mentioned theat it had come in plain English. Ray replied "Now, tell them to leave that area, and find another hiding place, and encode their next transmission. And make that sound angry!"

On the Galatea, Coyote got the message and brought it up to Mr. V. "I take back what I said about you being useful, gun monkey." drawled Carnegie.  "Carnegie you can handle giving our next position in code right?" asked Mr. Vaugirard.  Coyote scratched his head.  "Y'all use some kahn o' special code? We allus jus' talk." At this point they realized they only had one copy of the codebook, back on the Pike...

Mr. V came up with a cypher - use the players' numbers from a baseball team, but key in the names instead of the numbers. The number of the player would be it's position in the alphabet. They were intending to use the Yankees, but there were too many retired low numbers. They switched instead to "Da Bums", the Brooklyn Dodgers. Coyote began laboriously keying the names in Morse, each name giving a letter, and spelling out where they would anchor.

When Sparks began writing down the message, he accused whoever was keying it of being drunk on captured sake, because it made no sense. O'Grady looked at the names on the paper as Sparks was writing them down. He furrowed his brow, and made a superb Cryptography check, figuring the cyphered message out, and brought it up to the Skipper.  "They'll be in the strait between Unib and Sibinac"

Session over!

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