Friday, November 15, 2013

319: Dragoons

ENTRY 319: Dragoons

"We need boots on the ground."
- Brig. General D. Patscha, Last Martian Cavalry Regiment "The Red Boots"

In the past, some people thought that wars of the future would largely be fought remotely. Drones firing on drones, teleoperated vehicles and automated defense systems, planes and spacecraft raining death from above, fighter craft and battleships exchanging fire with enemies over the horizon, ballistic missiles fired between continents, mass drivers hurling rocks to crush targets on nearby moons, invisible lasers and masers flash-boiling enemies that never saw their death coming. It didn't turn out that way, though. The larger apparatus of war have their place, but the wars they were designed for were too terrible of conflicts, even before the Fall. Most of the battles in transhumanity's recent history have been meaner affairs, fought by those without uniforms, invisible forces maneuvering around each other, surfacing briefly only to instill terror with organized strikes. As once before, mobility was key, and transhuman judgment and intuition essential. Wars fought by soldiers, not just smart weapons and AIs. It only remained to find a way to get them there.

Dragoon forces developed during the Fall, pushing back against the TITAN forces on Mars and Venus. Developed out of necessity when there were no resources for proper drop ships, they took their inspiration from high altitude high opening (HAHO) military parachuting. The first drop suits were designed for emergencies on orbital stations, and slightly better ones for thrill-seekers; vacuum-sealed, built to take the heat of re-entry without cooking the occupant, with muse-guided smart parachutes to slow the fall down to something survivable. They say half of the first regiment broke their legs on their first jump Martian, flesh-and-blood knees unable to take the impact; the survivors got cyberlegs and were sent out again, dropped from orbit and falling behind enemy weapon emplacements, taking a position from an unexpected angle, too small for radar to detect. After the war, most of the dragoon groups broke up, with only a few small organizations remaining throughout the solar system, passing down their skills and refining their equipment. In these days, dragoon training is an unusual but valued skillset for mercenaries and security forces, as well as thrillseekers and extreme sport enthusiasts.

For practical purposes, dragoon operations are mainly restricted to Mars, Venus, and Mercury, because they have enough gravity to care about and enough atmosphere to work with. The other planets, minor planets, and major moons and asteroids either have no atmosphere - which means no terminal velocity, which means you will continue to accelerate all the way down - or are gas giants where you will continue to fall toward the solidified core until you are crushed by the increasing pressure. Mars and Mercury with their low atmosphere have higher terminal velocities, and the drop suits expand their parachutes' surface area to try and keep the dragoon's joints from popping when they hit the ground. Venus, of course, has a caustic atmosphere, and the trick there is to hit the ground slow enough to walk away but before it eats right through the parachute.


A low-orbital jump ("dragoon jumps") requires a success on a difficult (-10) Freefall Test; characters may take the "Parachute" specialty to improve their odds. Success means the character survives and only takes 1d10 damage on impact; failure means that something went wrong, and the character is both off-course for where they hoped to land and takes 2d10 damage. A critical failure indicates that the character's drop suit or parachute failed, and they take 10d10 damage. Drop suits are mechanically equivalent to a light vacsuit (Eclipse Phase 333) but the cost is Moderate due to the inclusion of a smartfabric programable parachute and additional thermal protection. Drop suits designed for operation on Venus are equivalent to hard suits (Eclipse Phase 334) but lack plasma thrusters.

Using Dragoons

Low-orbital jumps are a fun and cool scene to describe, with the PCs being fed pure oxygen from their suits and the altimeter ticking off in their ecto, the fall itself can last several minutes depending on how fast they're coming in and from how many kilometers out they're falling. That said, the physics majors are probably going to piss themselves at the raw numbers if they think about it too hard, so concentrate on the aesthetics rather than why the PCs haven't burst into flame and buried themselves in the ground yet. Dragoon jumps are there for when the PCs need to get to some place in an unexpected fashion, excellent for infiltration or if they lack a vehicle, or even as a kind of low-budget escape pod for the habitat or spaceship doing things on the cheap. As a regular mode of transportation, however, they leave something to be desired - even with the typical armor on a drop suit, they're probably going to take some damage. 


  • Some of the first dragoons on Venus never landed; their chutes got caught up by a storm and carried on near-perpetual wind currents, the owners slowly starving to death. These "angels" are honored for their sacrifice, and it's been traditional for some of the dragoon veterans of the Venus campaign during the Fall to follow suit with a "sky burial." However, one veteran's association has discovered that some punks have caught one of the "angels" and are selling the bones and gear on Mesh auction sites - they hire the PCs to kidnap the offenders and take them on a dragoon jump, to see what it is they suffered through.

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