DovahQueen: Bend the Knee
Since 2015, the DovahQueen has been taking your questions and giving advice to improve your games. Now the tables are turned in this DovahQueen series; Loren is asking the questions and a panel of three guests—an RPG-industry veteran, a Know Direction network staff member, and a fan—answers. It’s time to Bend the Knee!
First, let’s meet today’s guests.
RPG-Industry Veteran: Christen N. Sowards
Christen N. Sowards is an author, game-designer, and publisher at Lost Spheres Publishing. His design credits include work for Paizo, TPK Games, Stormbunny Studios, and several others. He is an advocate for gaming in all its forms and as a vehicle for mutual understanding and personal development. He was the principle designer and author for the City of 7 Seraphs campaign capstone setting and creates content for running better TTRPGs at www.lostspherespublishing.com on his blog. When not slaying imaginary evil, he grows heirloom tomatoes, crafts homemade game terrain, and hoards STL files. He and his husband live in Utah with nearly forty pounds of cats.
Know Direction Network Staff Member: John Godek aka Billiard
I started playing RPGs in the early 80’s with the D&D Basic Set (blue box) and have played numerous TTRPGs and video games since, including leading an international gaming guild with over 600 players and running several international esports tournaments. Several years ago I was fortunate to be on the ground floor of a local campaign with some folks from Paizo, which eventually led to the Intrepid Heroes actual play podcast, the Presenting gaming industry interview podcast, and the Digital Divination Starfinder talk show podcast. Along with these I have been able to do some freelancing for Paizo and other companies. When I am not busy gaming or podcasting, I am a university professor teaching business, having earned a PhD and a couple Master’s degrees after spending 11 years in the Coast Guard doing federal law enforcement and icebreaking.
Fan: Jaina Anderson AKA JainaB
It only occurred to me while writing this it’s been 25 years since I got involved with TTRPGs in 6th grade. Where does the time go? I started back with AD&D, more or less. For the first couple of years I was interested I couldn’t manage to find a group to play with so I just collected and read books, already fascinated at the possibilities. It was only after my family moved between 7th and 8th grades did I find a FLGS and finally got a chance to indulge and get hooked for life. Since then I’ve played through a great many systems, not limited to 3.0 and 3.5 D&D, the Pathfinder 1E Beta and release, and of course the same for 2E; and that’s not counting systems from other publishers (I’m looking at you White Wolf)! These days I tend to be the GM for our home games, and switch between GMing and playing in organized play; an activity I cannot wait to return to after the game room at our FLGS opens again. Outside of gaming I’m a relatively new foster mom, so that’s made my life exceptionally interesting as of late!
“Good evening. This is Iris Hawthorne, and you’re watching ‘Up to Date.’ Tonight: Governor Nelson faces backlash from coffee shops all across the city, local ecologists warn residents to stay indoors at night as a roaming pack of wolves threatens our streets, and was President Nixon actually three badgers in a trench coat? First, leaked images from a Russian team of marine biologists in St. Petersburg have experts all across the world baffled. This photograph is from the Gulf of Finland, and you can see the large silhouette under the water. Now watch this fishing boat carefully… A grisly sight to be sure. Theories as to the identification of this creature from major universities have been pouring in since this tragedy occurred two days ago, and the only thing the experts seem to agree on is that this is too big to be any currently known species. Could this be related to last month’s incident in Milwaukee? Locals in Helsinki are calling it a creature from their legends—the…and I’m sorry if I’m pronouncing this wrong…the Hirviomustekala—also known as the Kraken. In the studio with me here tonight is the mastermind behind the success in Milwaukee. Welcome the Up to Date. I understand that you’ve been contacted by the Kremlin, and that you are to lead the Military Maritime Fleet, or VMF, in the defense against the Kraken. What can tell the world about your strategy going into this?”
A Kraken has been terrorizing the Gulf of Finland, and Putin himself has asked that you be…persuaded…into helping the Russian Navy defeat the monster before any other nations, seeking glory, can do so. You’re being given the authority to direct the actions and budget of the VMF, but the Kremlin retains the authority to overrule any decision that they deem against their best interests. Success will mean enough money to retire early and comfortably, should you choose to do so. Failure…well…let’s just say it wouldn’t be wise to disappoint Vladimir Putin.
Christen: Why would this life be any different? Someone found me out. Again. Maybe a Pythian, Dark Tank Baby, or random Voyant. I just wanted one lifetime away. Ah well. I knew it wouldn’t last. Like Luectra. Garigliano. Conjured, as always, to fight the un-fightable. Break the unbreakable. Been dreading this since ‘94. I had assumed it was gonna’ be somewhere hot. Somewhere within a stone’s throw of the Mediterranean. But… Finland… and a The giant kraken, that at least is new. I think. My memory is Swiss cheese this time. Oh well. Oh… Perhaps the most unlikely thing. Never. Ever. Did I imagine it would be this.—Fighting alongside the Russians. Don’t get me wrong. I get that this is way too close to their interests. And if they let the Westerners deal with it… well we might not exercise caution for the fallout.
Well, getting on with it. First, we EVAC ahead of our last resort. Coastal capitals along the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. This will probably be ugly and there will be a body count—so we work to minimize. If we can ghost town Helsinki, Tallinn, and St. Petersburg—all the better. Delegate to the loudest dogs I have and get the people out. Next, the beast. We always simplify the needs of zoological controls. The key will be in understanding. With access to the warheads on the fleet of strike submarines, this can likely be over in a few moments with radioactive gore rained down on the streets of Helsinki. But victory, the kind my new friends want, has to be clean if it can be. And that means knowing the monster. Perhaps we find the silver bullet here in its Biology. An enzyme that is deadly or a lethal allergy. That sort of thing. Until then the assumption is that we have to kill it if we can’t control it. The principle stratagem will rely on subs as many of the fleet as they will send us. Ideally four dozen. Six to be retrofitted with flesh-boring sampling torpedoes ASAP. If they don’t have those already, someone needs to invent them fast. These puppies will core the Leviathan for tissue samples while running imaging tech to map the “Monster Halibut”. Get the four of the samples to the best biotech people we have.
While the retrofitting is happening, if we can, we maneuver some of the surface fleet for some depth charges, tandem with submarines and we create a blanket of sonic aversion. Detonations and calibrated sonar pulses to hopefully turn this thing back out to sea. Same time, we get some feet on the ground in Finland. Both for the current heading and past targets. Look for possible lures or draws. The thing’s behavior isn’t likely random. If we can locate and secure an asset we relocate it to sea. Again the goal is to reverse this beastie’s movement back into the Baltic. Second half of the sub fleet does a full bombard on the critter. Aggravate it and draw again. Probably sounds repetitive. But we have to get it away from the EVAC-sites. Reduce casualties and prepare for final options. If the sonic aversion, direct bombardment, or diversion are successful and we lure it back to sea, we can move up an escalating scale of ballistics from battleship main gun shell assaults to strafes with bombers and jets. If unable to score a confirmed kill. We lure as far as we can to get equidistant from Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Tallinn for a tactical warhead strike—And we nuke the hell out of it. And if that fails or we can’t redirect away from civilian or land targets, well this is where we get weird. Russian special ops will need to mobilize the Vasilev psychic units. Studies indicate the soldiers from the project have limited success with control on dolphin targets so their capacity to impact the Kraken might not be optimal. So we will use all of them. Any the Russians will acknowledge anyway. But if they want this bad enough, they will give me every brat who has ever sat in a Psychotronic Generator or cried in the dark of a Gravity Chamber. The command will be simple. This last ditch conglomeration of super-psychics will tell the now irradiated megafauna to go home. Hopefully buying the sampling team the time they need to figure out the biology of this thing. Assuming it does have a biology we can understand. Hopefully it crawls back out whatever crevice or portal it slid in through. Assuming the psykers fail? Well, I make some calls and we dust off the athame for some good Ol’ Fashion blood-magic…
John: To begin with, we’ll need to both track and contain the kraken in the Gulf of Finland. To do this we’ll deploy the Baltic Fleet, using Kilo-class submarines to track the beast via sonar, and the remaining ships to form a picket line at the mouth of the gulf in order to discourage it from leaving. The maximum depth at the western end of the gulf is less than 150 meters. Fortunately, the smaller vessels of the Baltic Fleet have anti-submarine weaponry, which will be used to discourage the kraken from crossing the picket line when deployed ahead of its path. Containing the kraken in this manner has two significant benefits: 1) it buys time for the substantial firepower of the Northern Fleet to make the transit to the Gulf of Finland, and 2) it prevents other naval fleets from entering the gulf and stealing the glory.
Once the Northern Fleet arrives, the smaller vessels and half of the submarine fleet (approximately 15 surface ships and 15 submarines) will create a total blockade of the western end of the gulf, both above and below the surface. The remaining submarines, along with two Kirov-class battlecruisers, will drive the kraken towards the shallows to the south on the Estonian side of the gulf. At over 250 meters in length and nearly 30,000 tons, the battlecruisers are large enough to weather the onslaught of the kraken should it turn and attack. The submarines, if attacked, will attempt to lure the kraken south, while still staying out of its reach.
Once the kraken is driven to the surface in the southern shallows, aircraft from the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which will remain out in the Baltic Sea, will be deployed for an aerial bombardment using anti-ship cruise missiles with high explosive warheads. These will be supplemented by anti-ship cruise missiles from both Kirov-class battlecruisers and three Oscar-class submarines. In all, it is expected that at least 20 direct hits by the 750kg high explosive warheads on the P-700 Granit cruise missiles will be required to take the kraken down, meaning these must be reserved until the kraken has been driven to the shallows where it will have limited mobility. The Kirov-class battlecruisers and the Oscar-class submarines will drive the kraken there through use of heavy torpedoes.
This onslaught would be sufficient to disable the largest and most heavily armored warship ever built. Should this fail to defeat the kraken, then the Kremlin will be contacted for permission to deploy a cruise missile with a 500 megaton warhead. In this instance, the kraken would be lured out to deeper water so as to allow for a subsurface detonation of the nuclear warhead, thereby confining the fallout locally to the area of the explosion.
Jaina: The Kraken!? This is the second beast of legend in as many months! One must wonder what is going on, but that’s a question for someone else to solve. Right now however ours not to reason why, ours is just to make it die.
I suppose I should be glad to have a nautical threat. In many ways this is far more simple than the situation in Milwaukee. Submarines, and anti-submarine weaponry, have been around for over a hundred years. Tracking and destroying underwater threats is far more conventional than a subterranean mission!
What luck we’ve found it in a relatively shallow gulf as well! Before anything else we will be deploying a line of warships and submarines to close the 70 km wide entrance against the creature. Then we need to know what exactly it is we are up against. We need intelligence. After all, reports of this beast through the years vary greatly, both in form and, more importantly, size. It’s been described from anywhere near to 30 meters long, to 16 kilometers in length. Before we commit weaponry to the cause, we need to figure out if we are shooting an overgrown fish, or trying to destroy a virtual island!
We will have aircraft deploy an array of sonobouys across the Gulf of Finland immediately. If this creature is truly of proportions described in legends finding it should be the least of our problems. Even if it’s 30 meters in length an active sonar system should locate it eventually. Failing that, we can use helicopters for aerial reconnaissance, looking for the giant silhouette it makes, and of course, deploy bait. But more on that later.
After locating it, strategy will largely depend upon its size. If it is merely 10s of meters long conventional anti-submarine munitions should prove sufficient. There may be some difficulty striking an unconventional target, but the fact we are not targeting modern armor means what does hit should cause exceptional damage. And if the first salvo is not enough, we can always fire more.
If the kraken is larger though, as large as some landmasses, well, that’s when things get messy…
Perhaps the easiest idea is to use what we already know of its behavior. We’ve seen it prey upon fishing boats once, it’s not outlandish to assume that, given the chance, it will do so again. So we load another boat, an unmanned boat, and we make sure it’s loaded with some fish to get the kraken’s attention. And then we can set off explosives concealed within. Without needing to worry about a delivery mechanism a singularly impressive payload could be carried.
I think everyone can agree that nuclear force is not an option. However, we have other options. Options such as the ‘Папа всех бомб ‘, or the ‘Father of all Bombs’. Capable of producing an explosive force equivalent to 44 tons of TNT, even a 16 kilometer long target would be badly wounded. And that is designed to be dropped from a bomber. Aboard a ship, many such bombs could be included, for an explosion of cataclysmic proportions. At least, cataclysmic for the Kraken that is.
I’ve heard from my guests; now I want to hear from you. How would you lead the VMF to defeat the mighty Kraken? Leave a comment below, on our Discord, or on Know Direction’s Facebook page.
Each Bend the Knee features three guests. One is from the RPG industry. Another is from the Know Direction network. The third guest could be you! Leave a comment on Know Direction’s Facebook, Discord, or Twitter, or you can send an email to DearDovahQueen@gmail.com for your chance to be featured on the next Bend the Knee or Dear DovahQueen.