Soldiers. My old comrades. The end of the Great War is finally drawing near.
And we are losing.
We always knew that the so-called Divine Empire outnumbered us, and as much as it pains me to admit it, their soldiers are more skilled and more experienced, troops hardened and the doctrine polished in the fires of its endless wars. A dozen nations fell to them, and they fed heartily on their corpses, like carrion crows.
But we will not fall. I refuse to fall – to give up and let our nation, its two thousand years of history and culture, become just another prey for the Empire, torn apart and consumed to feed the Tenno’s ambitions. They will not be allowed to walk through the ruins of our homes, picking through our bones and taking what they please, as they please.
This I swear.
Soldiers. Each and every single one of you is a hero, but you are outnumbered more than thirty to one. All I can ask of you is further sacrifice – to shed your blood and fight against hopeless odds, for that small, humble dream that all of us share.
The dream of being free.
Our nation has developed a weapon of amazing power – a weapon that, I can speak without any false pride, will forever change the face of warfare as we knew it.
Even as I speak, it is already fighting on the frontlines, helping to save our homeland.
Homeland that we have lost too much of already. I know that some of you have had families in the occupied territories – and I know the stories of the behavior of Imperial occupying forces there as well as anyone.
Therefore, soldiers, I have an announcement to make.
This world is not just. It depends on the just people to make it so, to stand against evil.
Soldiers! I will not be satisfied with merely pushing back the Imperial army and retaking our homes! Even if we were to do so, a dozen nations will still burn, violated over and over again as they cry for help that nobody is able to give, and the Empire will still believe in their divine mandate and ancestry that is supposed to give them authority to rule the world and do with it as they please!
We have created a sword, pointed at the heart of the Empire, and we shall thrust this sword until it slays that monster! We will not stop until we are at the gates of the Imperial capital, throw the Tenno off her throne and end that tyrannical, insane regime once and for all!
I was once a soldier myself, a child of the Great War. I understand the enormity of effort, of the sacrifice that I ask of you all. But this is the only path that will guarantee the safety of our homeland once and for all.
Many of you will die. But with this new weapon – this technology – we have an advantage that the Empire has no counter to.
As I speak, a team of veterans, piloting this new war machine, is leading a counter-offensive with the aim of retaking the central plains. On its first deployment, it already made aces out of all of them. For the first time, we are pushing the Imperials back.
In honour of our intelligence services, which did their best to keep this project hidden from Imperial agents before its deployment, I have decided to name this new weapon after the object that it was hidden as. Seemingly harmless, yet secretly bearing all our hopes.
We are losing now, soldiers. But we may still win.
- President of the Republic of Sonnelie, Franz Aubert, 1783.09.17
The players are a group of old soldiers, a dying breed of veterans of a war that has already butchered generations and forced children and teenagers into military service, operating the newest war machine of the Republic of Sonnelie in hopes of ending the Great War and saving their homeland.
The characters are most likely tired, bitter and worn out from seeing their old friends and comrades die one by one, replaced by increasingly younger soldiers, to the point that military training has become a part of school curriculum and it’s not unusual to see 14-year old children in combat roles. All of them have significant amounts of prior experience, however, and have been gathered together – called back from frontlines, supply line oversight, instructor positions in training camps and so on – as the best available group that can use the new weapon.
Or, to put it shortly, a team of bitter has-beens sent back into action inside a tank, because the rest of the military ruined itself sufficiently that teenagers are used as frontline troops.
The tank is a new, exceptional development in military technology, though nobody is entirely sure just how the Republic managed to create such an advanced weapon. Nevertheless, with its low profile, heavy armour and powerful armament, it is by far more powerful than the usual mecha normally used by militaries all over the world as the staple armoured combat vehicle – including the Divine Imperial Army, the enemy.
It has to be said that the portrayal of the war in Tank Shock will largely not be sanitized, though some of the worst excesses of war will be avoided as a topic. It is not going to be romanticized; the inspirations for this are primarily World War 1 and 2, in all their horror. The Great War is, in many ways, an end of an era, regardless of how it truly ends – with new weapons and new ways of waging war being developed that will alter the old combat paradigm greatly.
All characters are soldiers – old soldiers, in fact, with no age younger than 30, preferably 40 or more. They have been in the military for most of their lives, although they have not reached particularly high officer positions. However, they do have reputation for their high skills, which is what led them to being inducted in the so-called “Mobile Tank Development Programme”.
Female characters are allowed – both the Republic and the Divine Empire possess gender-equal militaries and put women in combat roles, so there are no limitations associated with it, though the Republic rarely deploys female conscripts to infantry units. (the Divine Empire, due to its matriarchal nature, even prefers female soldiers, and men often find it difficult to advance to high ranks in the Imperial military)
There are currently those positions available as members of the crew:
- Tank Commander
- Loader/Mechanic/MG Operator
- Radio Operator/EW Specialist
Some roles have been fused or expanded in order to actually provide something to do for players during combat, as being simply the loader would probably be dreadfully boring.
Those roles can expand or contract as required according to the number of players.
One thing of note: player characters, although not of particularly high rank, might nevertheless be officers - the tank commander being the highest-ranking one. You will have a degree of authority over units of soldiers, artillery and mecha to command in order to support your advance, though the higher-ups might intervene if you decide to derail the entire battle plan without a good reason.
There are four basic stats. Each character has 30 points to put into them, on account of their substantial combat experience and coming from a time before accelerated school and training regimens were put into effect.
Each of them encompasses wide range of associated activities. Perceptiveness for physical and mental, command operations for social and so on. Stats are associated with roles in a following way, in terms of how they apply to their core roles:
- Tank Commander: Social/Mental
- Driver: Physical/Mental
- Gunner: Mental/Physical
- Loader/Mechanic/MG Operator: Physical/Mental
- Radio Operator/EW Specialist: Mental/Social
Those are merely the guidelines for what stats the crew members in question can expect to roll most often – it does not mean that other stats are irrelevant. In addition to that, some stats can be used as substitutes – Perception rolls can use either Physical or Mental, for instance, according to player preference.
Each character also has one specialty in addition to their general role – this can be anything, even something not related to combat. All specialties reduce difficulty on actions relevant to them by 1, so the success number is 5 in case of a first-level specialty, and can be reduced further down via character advancement.
Integrity plays a special role, being a stat that determines how well the character copes with the horrors of the Great War, and something of a morale equivalent. High integrity means determination - low, in turn, suggests that the character is burnt out, or possibly even cowardly. While it is not related directly to any particular crew role, it does mean that in critical situations, or after witnessing particularly horrible sights, the character will be able to push onwards, instead of giving in to fear or despair.
Characters get 1 experience point per finished significant battle or major campaign progress. 1 point is sufficient to upgrade a stat by 1, though specialties require a number of experience points equal to their level. (so 1 for first level, 2 for second level, 3 for third and so on)