Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Weapons: E-mag Commando Mortar

“The machine guns pin down targets for the mortars. The mortars drive out targets for the machine guns”

The 60mm e-mag commando mortar is a common platoon-level weapon. It resembles a short tube (Holdout -4) with a carrying handle and a shoulder strap. The most obvious difference from older commando mortars is the large loading port just above the breech.

By using a non-pyrotechnic system to project rounds the mortar produces no flash and very little noise. Projectiles of all commando mortars are subsonic. The e-mag commando mortar is treated as having silent ammunition and uses the 16-yard line of the Hearing Distances Table [4eHT, p.158]. The e-mag system also allows greater control of the projectile's initial velocity, allowing range to be controlled without varying the barrel angle. For simplicity treat bomb velocity as 300 yd/s.

The 60mm emag commando mortar is powered by a standard C cell (0.5 lb, 1" diameter x 2" tall). Some projectiles contain small power cells that partially recharge the mortar while they are loaded, so typically a user runs out of bombs long before the mortar runs out of power. A C cell provides at least 80 shots.

The mortar's loading port permits faster reloading, particularly when the operator is prone. The port also allows the status of a weapon to be easily ascertained, the presence of a loaded bomb being able to be determined by sight or touch. Since the nose of a bomb is above the bottom edge of the port accidental double-loading of the mortar is avoided. The loading port also mates with automated ammunition feed systems build into some military cybershells.

A display panel above the carrying handle shows the bearing the mortar is aimed towards, the estimated range of the bomb loaded and the barrel angle. The bearing is displayed in mils or degrees and can be set to local magnetic or true north. Range is given in metres and barrel angle in degrees. Typically each reading is displayed in a different colour. This data display can also be transmitted to the user's HUD.

To use the mortar the baseplate is placed on a firm surface. A bomb is loaded if the weapon was not already loaded. Guided by the display reading, the mortar is aimed in the desired direction. Range is set by varying the barrel angle or adjusting a power control on the carrying handle, or a combination of both. When the display shows the desired range the mortar is fired by a trigger set in the carrying handle.

In the event of an aiming system malfunction the carrying handle has a bubble clinometer showing approximate range and barrel angle. A luminous line below the muzzle may be used to aim the weapon.
An additional aiming system is provided by marks on the carrying sling. The kneeling operator places his foot on a mark on the sling and raises the muzzle until the sling is pulled taunt. This places the barrel at the desired angle.

The mortar can be carried with a bomb already loaded, allowing the weapon to be rapidly brought into action.

Three types of ammunition are common. These rounds are also compatible with vehicle-mounted 60mm e-mag gun-mortars:

The illumination round produces a 350 yard radius area for 45 seconds. Both visible and infra-red light variants are available [4e HT p.171].

Smoke rounds typically use white or black PFOG which is either Prismatic or Hot Prism/ Hot Smoke [4e HT p.171 and UT p.160] giving a -10 penalty at the affected wavelengths. Smoke rounds affect a 15 yards radius for 90 seconds and build up at five yards of radius per second.

By 2100 the standard 60mm mortar HE round is a HEMP with the effect 6d x 8 (10) cr + linked 8d cr ex [3d cutting fragmentation]. Main damage is incendiary. These are smart homing rounds that can be programmed to preferentially target vehicles, man-made objects or entrenchments. Such technology has made the platoon-level mortar even more deadly and versatile, now being a weapon that can more effectively engage moving targets.
Short-range riot control rounds are also produced for 60mm e-mag mortars. These only contain enough metal for the e-mag to project them.
An e-mag commando mortar can throw a grappling hook and line 30 yards upwards and forward at -2, providing the grapple is magnetic and the shank can be fitted inside the muzzle.


60mm E-mag
Commando Mortar
6d x 8 (10) cr
+ linked 8d cr ex [3d]
9/ 3.2
1 (2)

Button Men in 2100

Human hunting and duelling are common themes in fiction. Recommended is Robert Sheckley's “Victim” series. “Victim Prime” even includes a Car Wars-style sequence.

A version that may be well suited to Transhuman space is that of “Button Man”. Button Man (1992) was originally published in 2000AD, notable for being one of the few stories in that publication that did not have obvious sci-fi content. 

A hunt involved two button men hunting each other. The hunt was to the death but the winner could instead opt to take the loser's “marker” instead. A marker was one of the loser's fingers. A button man who had lost three markers was to be eliminated.

Each button man had a wealthy patron or sponsor known as a “voice”. If I recall correctly this was because the button man was not supposed to know the identity of their voice and their only contact was by the audio only medium of phone or radio.

The technology of the world of Transhuman Space will have some effects on the above scenario. Losing a finger is not a much a penalty when such things can easily be regrown with modern bio-tech. It is possible that the finger will still be taken from the loser in the interests of tradition and symbolism. The actual number of markers a button man has lost will be displayed in an encrypted v-tag, only visible to the other button man within a certain distance.

Drone cameras and body-cameras will give the voices a much better view of the actual action. It is very likely that button men will be required to have upslinks so voices and others can more fully experience the hunt.

In the original story the protagonist, “Exton” was a down on his luck ex-serviceman. In military systems where most of the fighting is conducted by cybershells or bioroids the human element is chiefly responsible for administration, supply and maintenance. Some current servicemen may be tempted by the prospect of real action. Mercenaries, hit-men or the very poor are also likely recruits for button men. The GM will have to decide if patrons are permitted to use bioroids and parahumans as button men. Similarly, button men with particular bio-mods, bionics or other enhancements may affect the odds.

Gambling is an important element of button man duels. Patrons are very rich individuals who run one or more button men as a hobby. Substantial bets ride on the final outcome or details of a contest. In the original story Exton's voice loses a considerable amount when Exton kills an opponent rather than taking a marker, as that voice had wagered. In 2100 some button man contests may be accessible not just to the patrons but also worldwide via dark web sites. Upslink recordings of duels may be available through the black market throughout the Solar system.

Button man contests provide many possibilities for adventures. Do the contests actually exist or are they an urban myth or elaborate hoax? Once an idea exists it is likely that someone with enough money will attempt it. Given that contests are illegal, not every button man may have adopted the role voluntarily. An adventure may involve very poor individual(s) being coerced into becoming button men. An adventure investigating the movement of illegal upslinks may lead to characters discovering button man contests. Groups of voices and their button men might also be used in Car Wars campaigns.

The package was surprisingly small, but everything was there.
On top, a black market 9mm MAX pistol without serial numbers. Three spare magazines, loaded.
A one-use data card with the frequencies and other settings he would need.
A couple of neo-amphetamines.
A pair of field dressings and an assortment of lesser bandages and plasters.
At the bottom, the inevitable plastic bag and shears.