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The shootout in the ruins of Częstochowa and aftermath

After emerging from the Catacombs before dawn on 25 July, the away party (Maks, William and Áron), picked several of the newly-acquired items to haul back on foot to the bivouac spot. The Black Madonna was carefully tarped, and Maks hauled the icon himself. The Lady of Częstochowa is 4 feet tall, painted on wood, and covered with a gilt and bejewelled matte. It is heavier than it looks.

On the trek back to where the other three made camp inside the ruined shell of a building with the vehicles, the away party walked through streets filled with mud and rubble. Częstochowa was fought over by NATO and the Pact back in '97, and not a building was left untouched in the air strikes, artillery, and the ground fighting.

They noticed each other at the same time. Perhaps a dozen ragged individuals were picking through a wrecked building... while 4 leather-clad ruffians watched over their flock.

Slavers. Three motorcycles were up on kickstands, and a guy smoked in the cab of a shabby pickup. Both the away team and the slavers jumped for cover, and the leader - a woman - shouted a challenge in Polish. Maks shouted back his own warning.

William and Áron, hearing Col. Maks and the slaver yelling at each other in Polish, shrugged, picked targets, and fired.

William already had his scope on one of the slavers and dropped him with a head shot. Áron fired at another with his G3, hitting once: A lucky shot (for Áron), and the slaver grunted, falling backwards.

Maks, seeing the fight developing without him, fired a couple shots, missing, and getting a jam on the second shot.

It was over quickly, though William took a round from the boss lady's Vz-24 spray. In the end, she was the only slaver still alive, though gutshot. They tended to her wound as best they could.

The trio started talking with the confused but grateful former slaves, and got some much-needed, albeit limited information about the area. They learned some tidbits of the Margravate of Silesia to the south, and that Americans(?!) apparently composed the defense force of a small city (Dobrodzien) to the southwest of the ruins of Częstochowa.

Maks resolved, first, it was time to leave Częstochowa, And second, they'd take all 15 former slaves with them. They'd overload the old pickup and take the motorcycles with them as well. He didn't know how they'd feed them all, but he'd sort that out later.

They made their way back to the bivouac, where the other three were speechless at the crowd Maks brought back. They decided to make a sprint for Dobrodzien. They already knew the town would not welcome refugees, but hopefully they'd be amenable to trade.

Just northeast of Lubliniec, their small convoy met up with over a dozen horsed soldiers, with pack horses and remounts. These weren't the communist Polish cavalry they'd seen back in Szczercow. No. These had modern armor highlighted in red. Assault rifles. And lances. Two actually had curved frames extending up from behind their armor, festooned with white feathers, just like the Winged Hussars of old.

The two hussars broke away from the rest and cantered up about to the halfway spot between the riders and the party's convoy. Maks and Woj went out to meet them.

One introduced himself as Capt. Lisowski, of the Lansja Slaskie of the Barony of Pyskowice. The party had heard rumors that the Markgraf of Silesia was a bit of a throwback, and here was all the confirmation they needed. The freed slaves however had spoken well of the Markgraf, trying to rebuild and unite Silesia under the old traditions.

They warily exchanged information. It became clear that this was a long range patrol, and the Baron's primary concern in the north was the threat of bandits. Maks invited the hussars to come with him to the truck. Capt. Lisowski questioned the former slaves, who spoke glowingly and passionately on Maks' behalf.

Lisowski said the refugees would be well-treated in Pyskowice, but would have to work for their keep and rebuild their lives. The party also accepted his invitation to trade and restock there as well. So they diverted from their original course, and accompanied the riders south.


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Following the information in the journal of the dead American they found, the group was well-prepared for delving into the catacombs below the ruined Jasna Gora monastery.

[Since my brother is out of town, we do the Twilight 2000 games by Roll20/Hangouts. I used the original catacombs map from the adventure book, and added a lot of imagery with Roll20.
The Black Madonna is perfect for Roll20's dynamic lighting function. No mapping. The party only sees what their flashlights illuminate. Made for a very claustrophobic, disorientating, and eerie atmosphere. I highly recommend it.]

They made their way into the Christian catacombs, immediately seeing inset alcoves with skeletons of the faithful long-passed. They spotted and disarmed a claymore mine trap set into one of those same burial slots. Pushing forward, they saw the aqueduct mentioned in the journal. Crossing with rope and teamwork, they accomplished it much safer than the original party, although somebody shot at Maks with a crossbow during the commotion (lucky for him, he was shot in the back where his body armor protected). And yes there was a severed head at the crossing.

The group continued, found the crossbow, but no shooter. They found many rooms, some with piles of bones, and others with odd supplies (pews, a very old bible, a suit of armor, top ramen, spoiled wine, etc, etc.). They were attacked again at the junction, this time the shooter had an AK. Maks took a round in the leg, returned fire with his pistol, scored a solid hit, but to no effect apparently. Áron impulsively fired his HK-69, and took out the opposition, and nearly collapsed the passageway as well. But the AK was silenced. All they found were some sandbags and a destroyed mannequin.

They did find a dehydrated survivor from the last group, Davis, barricaded in a room to the north, but he was too far gone to be the shooter.

At the end... well, I'll let the last pic speak for itself.
3 Photos - View album

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On request from +Bradley Clark, a quick rundown of the characters:

Three players (my brother, and my two older sons), and six characters. In general, they're only running one character at a time - usually the first 3 - making up the "away team". Backbenchers are the doc, driver, etc.

Maksymilian ("Maks") Zając (Lt. Col.) - Polish defector, leader of the group
Barna Áron - Infantry. German of Hungarian descent
Grant Derek William - Sniper, and sometimes point guy

Wojciech Nowak - Longtime, somewhat disreputable friend of Maks
DeAngelo Pratt - Tanker, driver, mechanic
Jeff Schultz - ER surgeon who found himself drafted when war broke out

They are well-equipped thus far, haven't taken significant losses (other than being burglarized during the night by a couple of primitives). Highlights are their two unusual amphibious vehicles, a BAV-485A and a GAZ-46 MAV... Nicknamed "BAV" and "MAV".

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After the Szczercow POW raid, the party immediately left the area and headed south before reinforcements arrived.

The travel was surprisingly uneventful. Apparently the region is crawling with marauders from the mutinied Soviet 9th Tank Division, but no bandits were encountered. The party swam their two amphibious vehicles across the Warta River at the site of somebody's riverside marijuana farm, and continued south until the forest between Krzepice and Kłobuck, where they camped until morning.

During the night, a radio call was intercepted in that older code to Soviet units, reporting that Polish deserters attacked a Soviet detachment at Szczercow and were repulsed. The hooligans were posing as engineers driving two amphibious vehicles (models unclear, one UAZ-sized, other truck-sized) with Polish markings. "Well-armed with Pact and NATO equipment. Direction of travel unknown at this time." Only acknowledgement Maks overheard was from a Soviet unit at Sieradz.

Enroute, the party stumbled across wild dogs picking at something outside a cave. Turned out to be the corpse, one of a group of American deserters that fled the 256th before its destruction at Łask. In the man's rucksack they found a gold chalice studded with gems, and a journal detailing the story of the unfortunate man. The writings spoke of his groups's encounter at Częstochowa, a wild tale of haunted tunnels under the Jasna Gora Monastery, and seeing the Black Madonna.

The party sent out scouts to find the cache recorded in the journal, and indeed there were US military supplies buried there. On the way, they encountered a recently raided village, possibly the victim of a slaver attack.

The party moved to shift to a spot just west of Kłobuck. Prior to leaving, William thought he heard a distant scream coming from the direction of Krzepice, kilometers away to the west. He wanted to go investigate, but Maks talked to the group about the world now being full of people needing help, and the party needed to carefully consider every operation.

In the forest west of Kłobuck, the party scanned the city's perimeter through binoculars. Buildings were ruined, no activity. A two-truck Soviet convoy appeared on the north-south highway, full of wary soldiers, but it skirted town and continued south.

The party continued east to Częstochowa, figuring if the cache reference in the journal was correct, maybe there was something to the wild tale under the monastery. The city, as expected, was destroyed back in the battle there in 1997, seemingly not a building intact, rubble strewn everywhere. A three-man scout team went to the hill crowned by the monastery's ruins, looking for the tunnel entrance mentioned in the journal. After a skinned knee and a twisted ankle, they found the opening when a few bats emerged at dusk.

2100H 24 July 2000

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Started my weekend with Photobucket's extortion attempt.
I haven't actively used them in a couple of years, but there are (were) still 900 books with images hosted on PB. Out of the blue, all those books showed this image. Basically they disabled third party links unless you pay $400 up front for their annual deluxe plan. They don't offer monthly, 'cause they know everybody's going to abandon their sinking ship.
Photobucket's been a buggy mess of a site for a while now - which is why I stopped using it. Logged in to see what the hell was going on, and holy cow, the ad spam is out of control.
Spent the better part of the weekend fixing the links, and hosting the images elsewhere, and am deleting my pics off that site.

It's sad to see how far PB has fallen, and in their greed they're going to break a fair portion of the internet. Just think how many old blogs and forums used PB to host images. All gone now.

Here's a news article:

2300H 23 July 2000

In a daring raid, the party freed approximately 100 American soldiers in a makeshift internment camp in Szczercow.

After Maks discovered hints of the POWs' existence via radio and his newly-acquired Soviet codebook, Woj and Grant had scouted the location disguised as farmers. The POWs were being held in a temporary enclosure at a former high school track field. Their few officers were kept segregated, and housed in a building with Soviet MPs.

The party masqueraded as Polish engineers passing through town to inspect Warta River bridges in the area. Enemy combatants included approximately 100 Polish cavalry posted down at the highway crossroads, and 20 Soviet MPs at the north end of town, guarding the prisoners, which also included approximately 30 Pact personnel being held in a separate enclosure for various reasons.

The Soviet MPs were clearly more concerned about their burgeoning prisoner population - due to be shipped out soon - than an external attack. The party took over the long-abandoned school building overlooking the facility, parked their two amphibious vehicles behind, and took up positions. A radio-jamming apparatus was set-up inside.

Grant fired the first shots with his M40, targeting the south guard post, and missing. Woj fired a explosive grenade into the north guard post, temporarily putting it out of commission. An MP chose that moment to step out of the administration building, and Aron - waiting - fired a gas grenade right through the open door (as luck would have it [Outstanding Success], the grenade landed in the central hallway, filling the small building with irritant gas).

Also on the roof, Maks sprayed the south guard post with two bursts from his MG3 machinegun, catching all 3 guards. From there, it continued being a very one-sided fight; the rear-echelon MPs were inexperienced and caught by surprise. The MP at the front door spun around in shock at the grenade whistling past him into the building, looked back outside, and was then cut down by a few rounds from Aron's G3 battle rifle. Grant, on the roof, started finding his range, hitting perimeter guards with his sniper rifle, shifting, firing, shifting.

The party neutralized all the guards outside, and those in the administration building came stumbling out at Woj's barked orders in Russian. Coughing and retching from the tear gas, they offered no resistance, and were secured. Soon the American officers were freed, and they were suffering the gas effects as well.

As expected, the American POWs were survivors from the 256th Brigade, overrun at Łask. Col Sims - former brigade commander - washing his face with copious amounts of water, was grateful to the party.

Time was of the essence. The raid was over quickly, but the Polish cavalry would surely be arriving on scene shortly. Sims was unaware of the destruction of the 5th Division at Kalisz just days before. After a quick sitrep from Maks, Sims rounded up the remaining soldiers of his command, had them grab any gear close at hand, and they fled into the forest to the north.

Maks also freed the Pact prisoners to further the chaos for the arriving enemy, and the party departed in a different direction in their two Soviet vehicles.

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Been waiting for Summer to kick off a Twilight 2000 campaign, now that the boys are out of school and actually have time. Got them, my brother and a friend started on weekly sessions.

We're using v2.2 rules, but 1st edition timeline and materials. (Though I set it as an alternate timeline where Gorbachev never became General Secretary of the CPSU.) The v2.2 book is available in PoD at DriveThru by the way:

As one of my boys said, "That's before I was born." Yep. We spent the weeks leading up to session one talking about the Cold War, and watching some movies and documentaries about the era.

I was also doing some homework about Polish language pronunciation, as I knew we had been pronouncing all the place names wrong back in the old days.


I'd read online in a forum, a guy grousing about how all the interesting stuff is on the east side of the Warta River in "Escape From Kalisz", and it's very likely the players won't go that direction.

I pondered that thought for a while, and while reading the Player's Handout, I noticed that the 256th Brigade was stuck in Łask - out of fuel - and wiped out on 16 July, two days before the rest of the 5th Division meets its own fate.

So I had the party start out over at Łask Airbase with the 256th, as the Soviet 124th Motor Rifle Division assaulted their positions. The brigade's few remaining tanks were mostly immobile, out of gas, dug-in behind berms. I had the players man the tanks, plus one brave soul with a Javelin "Tank Breaker" (all Redshirt characters) and try to inflict as much damage as they could before being rubbed-out. When the brigade was crushed, the players switched to their PCs and fled to the forest to the south with the rest of the surviving personnel.

Now they are fleeing from Pact forces south through the forest. They are exhausted, beginning play with 2 levels of fatigue already.

On the radio, they hear all the developments on the Player's Handout from 16 July and forward. They think that they've gotta somehow get to Kalisz, or they'll get "left behind" when the 5th Division makes its breakout and leaves the region.

Except as the hours pass, the noose seems to be tightening around 5th in increasingly grim radio transmissions, leaving the party wondering if they should head that way at all.

It's now 17 July, and they were very happy when they heard about the 3-70 Armored's ambush of the 124th MRD approaching Kalisz. It's doubly sweet, as the 124th is the same Soviet division that destroyed their 256th Brigade.

However, tomorrow - 18 July - will be an entirely different day...

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Hey, I got my very own planar map location drawn by +Dyson Logos!

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Fascinating website. Read the first page of a random book, without knowing the title or author.
My draw was "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which does indeed have a catchy first page.

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D&D ad, inside back cover, Dragon Magazine #53 (Sept 1981)
The Bill Willingham art caught my eye.
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