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What is Planes and Mercs?Edit
Planes and Mercs is a series of Pen and Paper RPGs depicting mercenary air combat mostly orginating from 4chan's /tg/ (traditional games) board.
It does not refer to any system in particular with Air War C21, Mercenary Air Squadrons and a homebrew system called Firestorm being the ones played. Of all the rulesets, Firestorm in particular is by far the most popular one.
How did Planes and Mercs start?Edit
In 2010, a person on /tg/ made a thread asking for advice on air combat. He was asking for advice on a good jet to buy in an upcoming game being hosted by his friend Steve. The game would be rather indepth, where knowledge of air combat tactics and fighter capabilities would be important. After some discussion on certain fighters, /tg/ managed to convince the poster to come back and post an After Action Report.
The poster (known as "op_again" on /tg/ and by the callsign "Baron" in-game) would post every other week about his game in a squadron that would be called "Hell's Black Aces" as they journeyed through Africa, the Mediterranian and Georgia. Unforuntely, the game ended due to real life issues but enthuisiam for the game did not and several users converged on the Planes and Mercs forum run by sukhoi, a fligh/tg/irl following the original threads who had created her own homebrew system taking elements of Airwar C21 and several other games to create Firestorm.
What is Firestorm?Edit
Firestorm is a system developed by Sukhoi which is currently in beta. It's the main game played on the Planes and Mercs forums.
Taking place in a slightly distopian version of 2015, it sees mercenaries as the front-line tool of modern warfare. Similar to the anime series Area 88, but global. Sukhoi is the GM, with 3 flights of 4, later expanded to 4 of 6, with a simple economic system backed by a simple, robust but untested game engine, based loosely on AirWar. It turns out to work so well that there are now 3 spin offs in the works- Oceania, Columbia and Vietnam.
So how does one actually play Firestorm?Edit
Since Firestorm is a system in Beta, it is difficult for newbies to grasp the game simply by reading the rules.
Still, an easy method would be to show what a game turn looks like during combat. Like most games, it has phases, which are carried out at the same time for all parties- Movement, Action, Shooting. Movement is general flying plus aerobatics, Action is for just about everything except firing weapons, and Shooting is for the rest (ie. FIRE ZE MISSILEZ!) A pilot can only make one move, one action, and one shot per turn, meaning they can pull a turn, lock up a target, then ripple fire a pair of missiles (of the same type) at said target.
This makes twin-seat aircraft somewhat valuable, since a second crewmember = an extra action per turn.
To demonstrate, lets go through a quick game, text style, with 2 of the classics- a Pipe v. a Rhino. F-4 against MiG-21. Simple air combat run through...
Movement. Lets start with the Phantom (In green) on the Pipes six, with the Pipe unaware of what's going on. So movement, he'll just be cruising at AS6, which is around Mach .5 or so (AS13 and above is Mach 1+) The Phantom also cruises, keeping good distance. At the same time, he turns on his radar (the only 'action' one can do during Movement) Since all sides make their turns at the same time, the Pipe is aware he's got someone behind him, but won't be able to do anything til next turn.
Action. Ok, the Pipe doesn't know what's behind him, so he'll try to eyeball the enemy. Visual Identification is an action to spot a plane, it can be done to any aircraft in range (around 20 units, the abstract measuring system used) but there are penalties if done to aircraft directly behind. Meanwhile, the Rhino has a full warload of missiles and by god he'll use them. The pilot will try to IR lock for a Sidewinder, while the RIO uses the Radar to lock up. With the actions declared, now they need to roll- it's D10, low-rolling, meaning the Pipe needs to roll below his ID score, the pilot below his Air-to-Air IR and the RIO his AtA Radar. The Pipe gets lucky with a 2, meaning he spots and ID's the Phantom sitting behind him, while the Phantom driver gets a 9 and fails to lock, but his RIO rolls a 3- good tone for a Sparrow
Shooting. When firing missiles, the system gets screwed around a little- you need high rolls plus it's against the missiles ability, not the pilot. The Rhino has a number of Sparrow radar-guided missiles and Sidewinder heat-seaking missiles, both of which are not overly reliable. The pilot can only fire one type of weapon, but can fire as many of that type as he likes. So, he'll ripple fire 2 Sparrows and see what hits. Now the odds are, a single missile could wreck the Pipe, so we'll make it interesting with Snake-eyes, a 1 for each missile meaning neither tracked correctly.
Movement. Now the Pipe has a chance to break off and reverse, though he's still being locked up (a weapon lock will remain so long as the target is valid, ie. stays infront of the locking aircraft) The Rhino pilot anticipates a sharp turn, though he doesn't know where- he decides to gamble on a left turn, moving the bare minimum (4AS, so 4 units) after swinging 30 degrees left, which is the most a plane can turn gently. The Pipe has other ideas, he'll pull a 5G turn (requiring an Air Combat Manouvering, ACM, roll) to the right, then another back left, while again moving the minimum speed required. 2 rolls later against his ACM score (with a bonus from flying a MiG-21) and he's still flying straight and level.
Action/Shooting. With that done, the Rhino has lost his radar lock, and could be in trouble- the Pipe could easily swing around onto his six next turn. For now, though, there's nothing to be done, since neither aircraft is in position to do anything. With that, the turn ends.
Movement. The Pipe needs to get into shooting position, so he'll pull another hard turn to the left, hopefully putting the Rhino into his sights. He also throttles up a little bit- if the Phantom pilot tries to turn as hard, he might just get into cannon range (3-6 units, which is a tiny distance) but if he goes max speed, then the extra distance covered could let the Pipe unleash it's own radar-guided missiles. The Rhino has other ideas though- he'll try a climbing half loop, which requires an ACM roll, but if he passes it will put the Pipe way out of position since he'll be higher up, and heading in the other direction. Unfortunetly, the Phantom fails the roll while the Pipe passes, meaning the Phantom has no direction change, plus he stalls. An Airmanship roll to recover, which he does pass, meaning he's still flying...
Action. Unfortunetly, he's flying right infront of the Pipe, who tries to lock up with his missiles. Mostly just to mess with the Phantom crew. Or it would, if he didn't fail his radar roll... the Phantom crew can't really do anything either (beside ECM rolls to drop a possible lock) , which moves us to...
Shooting. Despite not having a missile lock, the MiG-21 comes standard with a twinbarrel 23mm autocannon. What this means is he can still fire at a target at the same altitude (which the Rhino is) at range 5 or under (he's sitting close at 2, thanks to that extra speed plus the Rhino stalling) Now, he can elect to fire the gun with a regular burst or long burst- long bursts give a bonus to hit, but they also increase the chance of depletion. As with missiles, it's high-rolling, but if you roll too high, then the guns will use all of their ammo. However, with the Pipe pilot running out of patience, he'll fire a long burst. 2 barrels = 2 rolls of the D10, one getting a 4 (miss) but the other a 9, meaning he has no ammo but has scored a solid hit.
Now, without access to the damage charts, part of the Super Secret GM Operation Pack (tm) I can't say what should happen.... but lets go with something aking to Suit from Musketeer, and have the fuel tank go boom. Meaning mission complete for the Metal Pipe, and can return to base, which is were the landing rules would come into effect if he was damaged.
So there you have it, a simple and one-sided battle in Firestorm, to give you a very rough and probably confusing idea of what we get up to. For more info, check the actual mission threads as opposed to the AAR's, to see how the games progress through the turns and phases.
How do I join Firestorm?Edit
So you've read over the rules, read some AARs and decided to join the forums. Here's a short guide on creating characters.
If you've read the backstory for the world of Firestorm, you'll know that there are a lot of out of work pilots with military experience just sitting around and most players RP their characters as such. So find any airforce you like and get a character kicked out of it.
If you're a more veteran roleplayer, you can RP a civilian character joining the shady world of PMC flying.
It IS a real world setting, so while some characters can be goofy, they should be plausible.
All the stats in the game are rated from 1 to 10. To generate your stats, roll a pool of 10d10 and convert your rolls to the following:
So you see the highest possible stat you can roll is a 7 out of 10.
After the conversion, assign your numbers to the following 10 stats:
- Airmanship: This represents your general skill with the technical aspects of the airplane. It governs landing and fuel management as well as recovering from stalls and injuries.
- Air Combat Manuevering (ACM): This represents your skill with the stick. Loops, hard G turns and Split S. All the things people think pilots do all the time. You need this skill to pull hard manuevers. It is also modified by your plane's manueverabilty
- Air to Air Semi Active/ Active Radar: This governs your lock on skills with all types of Radar guided missiles (AIM-7 Sparrows, Matra R530s..etc) as well as your skill with using the Radar to identify targets.
- Air to Air Infrared: This governs your lock on skills with all sorts of Heat Seeking missiles. If your plan comes equipped with IRST (Infrared Search and Tracking), this skills governs identification with that system.
- Air to Air Guns/Rockets: This governs your skill with the old school weapons of the fighter pilot: Guns and unguided rockets. Quite self explantory.
- Air to Ground Unguided: This governs your skills with all sorts of Unguided weapons such as dumb iron bombs, retarded bombs, cluster bombs and napalm strikes.
- Air to Ground Guided: This governs your skill with any sort of air to ground munitions that requires electronic guidance to the target (Infrared, Radar, Laser, Wire or TV guided).This includes Antitank munitions, Anti-radition missiles and Laser Guided Iron bombs.
- Air to Ground Guns/Rockets: This governs your skill with low level strafing attacks with your guns and unguided rocket pods (The type of attack favoured by the A-10 Warthog and Su-25 Frogfoot).
- Electronic Counter Measures: This governs your skill with jamming enemy signals. This in turn allows you to shake locks more easily and ,if equipped with ECM equipment, prevent enemies from gaining a lock in the first place.
- Identify: As Churchill famously said "Mark I Eyeballs". How good your eyesight is allowing to you to identify far more information than with your Radar which is very useful in restricted ROE situations. Short range though.
Joining the GameEdit
Now that you have a character, it's time to join a flight!
Usually, if the flights need new pilots they will post adverts in /tg/ or in the Firestorm Collected Personell Dossiers (link below). Other avenues include creating a new flight when the GM of a certain campaign expands his part of the board or even creating new flights in entirely new campaigns!
Once part of a group, the most important rule is: The Flight Leader's Word is Law.
Therefore, it's important to select a flight lead is not "That Guy" or he'll ruin your group. On the flipside, you need a guy who will put his foot down and get your flight moving or you'll be endlessly stuck debating loadouts and plane purchases and fighting over a limited warfund.
After you join the group, debate on what your plane and munitions loadout will be as well as selecting the next mission.
After that? Get into the operational airspace and do what you do best, pilot.