Hussars - filling a gap in Iron Empires

First things first:

Iron Empires has become my favorite military comic, displacing Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s The Venus Wars (volume one of the manga only: disregard the awful movie!). Besides Chris Moeller’s jawdropping artwork, these stories actually pay attention to military realities like planning; terrain; communications and attacks on communications; personal loyalty to leaders outweighing loyalty to institutions; the combined arms synergies that result from properly coordinating armor, infantry, and artillery, and the friendly-fire disasters that result when you don’t; and the fact that most troops break and either run or surrender rather than fight to the death, and sometimes when they’re just tired, nervous, and taken by surprise.


Of course, I think there’s something missing: cavalry – or, to be precise, the traditional primary role of cavalry, namely highly mobile and reasonably armed reconaissance well ahead of other enemy formations. That’s understandable in the specific situations depicted in the comics: Trevor Faith is attacking a stationary target which he thoroughly reconnoitered by covert means before hostilies broke out; Lady Sheva has an inadequate force – Landwehr milita in ballistic armor and, White Hand preserve us, open-topped armored vehicles – up against an even lower-tech enemy that is shambling straight into an obvious terrain chokepoint. But people playing Burning Empires are going to create at least some stories in which mobile forces are maneuvering across open terrain. And one of the lovely details of the “Firefight” rules is that it abstractly encourages you to have good recon, in the form of that initial Contact roll.

The obvious solution is to Tech Burn some Anvil Attack Sled or Assault Sled variant with upgraded Sensors and Signals, and that’s basically what I’ve done – but I couldn’t help myself and piled on “cool factor.” In a universe where starship pilots (Hammer) and heavy infantry (Iron) are drawn from a hereditary, cybernetically enhanced noble elite, why should the elite armored recon forces be regular Anvil troopers? Canon is silent on the question. So I’ve not only burned up a vehicle, but given it the “Complex” trait out of the Iron description and written up a new “trained” trait and Noble lifepath to match.

The game descriptions of vehicle, trait, lifepath, and sample NPC all follow, with my comments and rules questions in {curly brackets}. I eagerly welcome suggestions on everything from rules use to Firefight tactics to sheer in-setting coolness. I’ll post this on the Wiki when (a) I’ve revised it according to everyone’s suggestions and (b) I figure out how to post on a Wiki.

Oh, and my credentials: I cover the US military for a weekly magazine and recently completed articles on armored vehicles and infantry – those links are free plaintext versions; anyone who really wants to see the high-graphics version because he or she is currently researching a military-themed game/comic/whatever should contact me.

Anvil Hussar Sled
Capacity: pilot only

Type: Atmospheric Vehicle (Pilot)
Tech Index: Low index and higher

Tech Resources: Ob 17
Profile: 2
Integrity: 6
Control: 1D
Signals: Manned +2D
Sensors: Manned +2D
Ordnance: Vehicular (2)
Vehicular Speed: Atmospheric 7
Security: none
Structural Tolerances: Surface, H8. Breach, V1. Damaged, V7. Destroyed, V14.

Technological Traits:

Superior Performance (+1 Speed, +3 points; +1 Control, +3 points)
The Hussar Sled is faster and more agile than the standard Assault Sled. (These improvements are already factored into the stats above).

Sophisticated Manned Signals and Sensors (+2 Skill Advantage x2: +10 points)
No Automated Signals and Sensors (remove all Automation: -10 points)
Reconaissance is the primary function of Hussar units. Unlike many other vehicles, whose signals and sensors systems are designed to run autonomously to let the crew concentrate on other functions, a Hussar sled’s sophisticated recon suite is designed to require, and to reward, the full attention of a highly trained pilot. This gives +2D to Signals and +2D to Sensors when rolling to make initial Contact before a firefight, perform the Observe maneuver, or perform the Signals Warfare and Sensors Sweep specialist actions. (These improvements are already factored into the stats above).
{AM I RIGHT HERE? Costing these swaps as zero net increase/decrease in point costs assumes Sensors and Signals “tools” are included in the base template of a vehicle separate from the cost of automation; i.e., you could theoretically use an Assault Sled as “tools” for the Signals or Sensors skill without taking advantage of the Automation skill. The logic behind the swap is that a pilot trained to Sensors and Signals at 3 or 4 each will do better with a +2 bonus than with the +1 helping die that is all any Automation skill short of 5 can give him.}

Life Form Detector: +1 to Observation (Skill Advantage: +3 points)
In addition to detecting enemy vehicles and Iron, Hussar sleds have a suite of infrared motion-detectors to assist the pilot in spotting guerrillas, conventional infantry operating under comms silence, genetically engineered Vaylen monstrosities, and other living things.
{AM I RIGHT HERE? As I read it, Sensors are only useful against vehicles, and Signals presumably wouldn’t work against anyone not using Signals of their own, hence the need to spend three points on this Observation bonus.}

Complex (Trait Limitation: -3 points)
Piloting a Hussar vehicle in low-altitude combat mode with its full reconaissance suite active is simply overwhelming to anyone without years of intensive training. Characters without the Hussar Trained trait may not operate iron at all, even if they have a crucis.
Hussar Trained is a new trait not listed in the standard rulebook and is associated with a new lifepath, Lord-Pilot (Hussar): See below.
{AM I RIGHT HERE? This cost assumes that the 6 point value given for “Complex” on p. 546 is wrong, as it seems out of line with the Tech Burner description of Trait Limitations on p. 392}.

Pilot only (Categorical Limitation: -1 point)
The Hussar sled has a nearly form-fitting cockpit with room for one pilot – wearing ballistic armor or Anvil, but not Iron – and no one else. Unlike the Assault Sled (or any of the other standard vehicles except the Attack Sled), it can carry one person and one person only.

No cargo (Categorical Limitation: -1 point)
The Hussar sled has no room for cargo. The pilot may wear ballistic armor or Anvil and carry a sidearm (i.e. a Close Combat category weapon), and stow a survival kit or similar briefcase-sized object. There is no room for anything else.
{AM I RIGHT HERE? These last two limitations are sufficiently specific and severe to warrant an exception to the “capacity has no mechanical impact” paragraph on p. 549}.

NOTE: Availability in Character Burning
In order to purchase a Hussar Sled, one must have the Anvil Lord, Hammer Lord, or Forged Lord traits. Just being a Lord-Pilot Hussar with the Hussar Trained trait is not enough, any more than being a Lord-Pilot Hammer entitles you to your own spaceship! (This is an addition to the rules on p. 112).
{AM I RIGHT HERE? It strikes me as simply abusive to make this vehicle available to mere Lords-Pilot at all, or to anyone for only 1 rp. But since the Hussar Sled costs exactly four points more than a standard Assault sled, “Lord” characters can buy it in Character Burning for two rps: one rp for the basic Assault Sled, then one rp to add the net four points of additional tech traits, as per the rules on p. 111 – assuming the campaign is on a low-index world, which is what it takes to build a Hussar Sled in the first place.}

New trait:

Hussar Trained (Die Trait: 5 points)
In the Iron Empires, Hussars are the elite pilots of heavily armed, heavily armored reconaissance machines. Hussar-class grav sleds can both move fast and fight hard, so they can reach areas too distant for infantry scouts and survive missions too dangerous for recon drones and lightweight spy planes. Their primary function is to range ahead to pinpoint enemy threats and weak points, serving as cavalry to Iron-clad heavy infantry. They are also used to pursue fleeing adversaries, raid supply lines, escort the less nimble Assault Sleds, and, when necessary, rapidly reinforce a crumbling area of the front. (Routine support to infantry is provided by the same Assault Sleds that transport them). Piloting such high-performance vehicles, and operating their sophisticated sensor suites, requires years of training and a Crucis interface. Although they fly above the mud of the battlefield, Hussars are part of the Anvil, not the Hammer, and in fact tend to go out of the way to emphasize their allegiance to their fellow “groundhogs.”
Restrictions: Must have the Corvus and Crucis trait.

New lifepath:

Lord-Pilot Hussar
Time: 5 yrs
Resources: 1
Circles: 1
Stat: +1 M
Skills: 7 pts: Pilot, Vehicular Weapons, Sensors, Signals, Observation, Recon, Tactics, Grav Sled-Wise
Traits: 2 pts: Corvus and Crucis, Hussar Trained, Groundhog
Requirements: Armiger, Court Armiger or Magnate

NOTE: Lord-Pilot Hussar is considered equivalent to Lord-Pilot Anvil when fulfilling requirements for subsequent lifepaths, with two exceptions:
1. Unlike Lord-Pilot Anvil, Lord-Pilot Hussar does NOT satisfy the requirement to take the “Stormtrooper” lifepath (which is an infantry speciality for which Hussars lack the appropriate training).
2. Unlike Lord-Pilot Anvil, Lord-Pilot Hussar DOES meet the requirement to take the Anvil Pilot lifepath (which normally requires “Soldier,” but in this case represents a Hussar getting cross-training in a broader range of vehicles).
{AM I RIGHT HERE? This lifepath is mainly a combination of Lord-Pilot Anvil on pg. 145 and pg. 147 with Anvil Pilot on p. 152. It’s a lot of skill points, but there are also a lot of skills you need to operate one of these things – plus this lifepath doesn’t give you the chance to buy super-powerful equipment like Iron or combat vehicles for just 1 rp}.

New generic “Burned NPC”:

Lord-Pilot Hussar
Age: 28
Lifepaths: Born to Rule, Coeptir, Armiger, Lord-Pilot Hussar, Anvil Lieutenant
Stats: Will 3, Perception 6, Agility 6, Speed 4, Power 3, Forte 4
Attributes: Steel 6 (Hesitation 4), Circles 2, Resources 5
Physical Tolerances: Superficial H3, Injured H5, Maimed H7, Mortal H9
Traits: Mark of Privilege, Anvil Trained, Corvus and Crucis, Hussar Trained, Groundhog, Clean Cut
Skills: Armorer 3, Driving 3, Close Combat 2, Assault Weapons 3, Pilot 4, Vehicular Weapons 4, Sensors 4, Signals 4, Observation 4, Recon 4, Tactics 4, Grav Sled-Wise 4, Command 2, Intimidation 2, Etiquette 2
Technology: Index 4 Anvil, CEBW, Hussar Sled (assigned, not owned)
Affiliations: local nobility 1D, local Anvil 1D

{AM I RIGHT? If there's a flaw in my Character Burner calculations, obviously please note it. The funny thing is that I went in simply wanting to confirm the appropriate skill levels for Signals and Sensors, and ended up with a character with an implicit personality -- the joy of lifepaths.}

Wait, Sydney. You’re missing the an option in your poll: AWESOME!

Everything looks kosher from here, except for your manned Signals and Sensors rigs. You’ve got to pay for the tools. Check page 390 for an example using the Security skill. 4 pts for the “Manned Station” – which is essentially just tools. So it’s 9 pts per system: skill advantage plus tools.

But great job, man! Really cool stuff. I can see this emerging as a traditonal practice in certain noble houses – who have excellent military traditions.


PS you call “Hussar Trained” “Iron Trained” in some of your examples.

Thanks, Luke!

I did a quick edit and think I caught all the misstypings of “Iron Trained” for “Hussar Trained,” so that’s fixed. (Love that edit function!)

More substantively, AHA: I was wondering exactly that about “tools.” So “tools” for a given skill are NOT included when a vehicle or device has automation for that skill.

Adding 8 points of tools into the current Tech Burn is pretty pricey, though. I’m tempted to restore the Automation instead, bump it up a few points, and just let the Lord-Pilot Hussar use his personal skill to add a Helping Die. That actually has a nice feel of “I am the noble rider of a robotic steed, not merely an operator of lifeless machinery.”

Paying those three points for a +1 Observation bonus hurts even more now, but darn it, I really don’t want this thing flying blithely over a bunch of nasty Vaylen critters or low-tech guerrillas.

By the way, is there any rule for changing a vehicle’s Profile, Integrity, or Tolerances scores? I was originally thinking of a vehicle less massive than the Assault Sled but less fragile than the Attack Sled, but I couldn’t see how to do that in the rules.

I think the Automation is a good way to go. After all your already piloting the sled through hostile terrein and activly avoiding detection. Your in communications with Base. To tack on activly runing all the searches yourself would be more than a person could handle.

aren’t most mondern systems either autmated (with guidence) or have a dedicated crew member to control them?

I would consider allow the Lord-Pilot to have one for one or two RPs though… after all, you became the L-P (Hussar) for a reason. and by the time you a a F-L will you be allowed to be on Recon? but it is your baby after all… and I understand you don’t wanrt to give them out of every kid that comes calling.

looks great.

I have not included raw vehicle design mechanics in the basic BE rules. It’s set up right now so you can grab a template and build from there. You could use categorical limitations to reduce the Tolerance or Intergrity (and thereby reduced the cost).


Fantastically cool, Sydney (and I like the anachronistic term Hussar!). A bit of thinking that never made it from my brain to Luke’s, but which I think would be completely key on an Iron Empires battleground, is orbital superiority. We have a glimpse, today, of what miracles orbital control can have on the battleground. GPS, recon, communications, etc…

If I were an Anvil leader, the single most important thing I’d want to know going in was if I had orbital superiority over the battleground. Recon… no problem: Sensors from orbit (hint of that in Sheva’s War). Indirect fire support (screw that, DIRECT fire support into the enemy’s rear areas). Secure commo. Air superiority over the battlespace for CAS missions…

Now imagine that your opponent has those things, and you have none. Your recon is limited to things like the Hussars. Your commo is line of sight lasers, or unsecure radios. Your fire support is indirect and vulnerable to orbital bombardment. Your grav-tanks are crawling around in cover to keep from getting picked off while their opposites are flitting about at altitude. Awful.

So in terms of usefulness, the Hussars are going to shine most in situations in which the Vaylen have orbital superiority (which will be most of the time in the Invasion phase scenarios in Burning Empires). The Vaylen fleet arrives, drives off the defending fleet, destroys everything in orbit, then sets up its own network of ships, bombardment platforms and satellites.

One more idea in line with this stuff: the moon(s). A moon gives you limited orbital presence, even during a full-on invasion. As long as your fortress on the moon can hold out, it can support ground operations. I’m thinking that worlds like Hotok, which are fortified to the maximum possible, will have one or more moons, each also supporting a robust fortress complex. The invader will be forced to take the moons first, before complete orbital superiority can be achieved.

Fun to think about.


Thanks, Chris. Obviously, I’d be thrilled if the term “Hussar” or the concept made it into the background chatter of an Iron Empires story someday.

And now you’ve got my brain roiling about space superiority. I think the current rules could totally handle it, with a bit of creative Tech Burning and Color. But space-based assets are going to have their limits (and, darn it, my article on this subject isn’t available outside our subscriber password wall).

There’s basic physics: No matter what your level of technology, you’re going to see a LOT more clearly from 20 km away than from 200 km (the minimum for Low Earth Orbit). It’s one thing for Baron Vuncka (in Sheva’s War) to hide his breeding vasts from orbital sensors, and another thing to hide from a guy flying past you at treetop level.

More subtly, there’s something the Army calls “fighting for information”: Sure, you may be able to see where and what the enemy is, but until you actually start trading shots, you don’t know whether a particular enemy unit is well-motivated or about to break, whether a particular enemy thrust is an all-out attack or a probe that will stop at the first resistance. That’s why, in the end, I’m actually glad the Hussar sled has the same firepower and armor as the Assault sled.

And these two factors combine: It’s very handy to have recon assets tough enough to fight through the enemy skirmish line and bring their sensors in close range of whatever the skirmishers are screening. In 1942, the US Army went into North Africa relying mainly on jeeps for recon, intending to “sneak and peek” – but in practice any enemy patrol with a machinegun could force these scouts to turn back. We went with armored cars and light tanks after that.

So, if the Vaylen have wiped out my orbital recon assets, yeah, I’m going to want something like the Hussar as a partial replacement. But if I am the Vaylen invasion commander with total space superiority and tons of orbital recon assets, I’m still going want something like the Hussar to complement them.

Which, combined with Khelek’s point about the value of automation, gives me some ideas for revising the design… give me a day, though.

On a separate note: Luke, what do you think about Khelek’s argument that a Lord-Pilot Hussar should be able to buy one of these things for, say, 2 rp (one for the basic Assault sled, one for the mods)? It’s not as potent as Iron, but it’s not central to the setting in the same way (obviously!). I humbly await your ruling on proper munchkinism firebreaks.

My subscription is in the mail, Mr. Freedberg.


I hope you don’t mind me joining in on the conversation.

First of all, I like the idea of the Hussars, it was something that felt missing from BE when I first read it too. A couple of suggestions…

I’m not sure if Hussar is the correct term for these units. Historically, it’s more or less correct, but it doesn’t quite fit in with the Hammer/Anvil/Iron nomenclature. Perhaps the name could try to fit in with the metal-working analogies? First thing I thought of was Tongs, because it allows you to feel and handle the enemy at a distance, but it doesn’t quite feel right =P Perhaps a metal or alloy like Iron? Copper sounds nice to me, and it has interesting associations with wire and communications.

I like the idea of Anvil armoured units optimized for ELINT operations, and i can see that it would be useful for them to have their own Lord-Pilot lifepath. But I’m wondering how they’ll interact with the Anvil-Lord lifepath. Does the Pilot Lord-Hussar. I’m also wondering if you might want to consider different vehicle roles as well. Ground hugging Hussar assets are good, but the very fact that they are low to the ground and traveling at high speed would reduce their effective sensor range. Perhaps there could be a second archetypal hussar vehicle with heavy sensor stealthing that would fit the role of a modern AWACs unit. I understand hammer assets are better for the job (indeed, I can see room for a LOT of conflict between the Hussars and the Hammer, even more than between Hammer and Anvil, because their jobs overlap more) but you can’t always count on having a Hammer asset overhead, and I imagine the Anvil would feel more comfortable if it didn’t need to rely on the vacuum suckers for all their intel.

By the way, Sydney, I read both the articles you linked, and was impressed by your analyses!

I’m more than happy with the term Hussar. The overarching idea of Hammer and Anvil roughly equate to Navy and Army. Within that, you could have Dragoons, Voltigeurs, Legionnaires, Huscarles, whatever… it depends on the army in question (which is why Luke’s decision to keep things open and in your hands was such a stroke of genius).

Also, it should be noted that all of the lifepaths in BE are for the Iron Empires proper… there’s a vast expanse of Void, the remains of the ancient Federation, in which every imaginable society exists (and every type of military organization). Some wise commanders in the Iron Empires will have armored recon units. Others, like the armored knights of old, will ignore recon altogether, unsheathe their fusors and charge headlong into the enemy, relying on their fury and Ahmilahk’s benevolent hand to help them win through. Of course, that never worked very well for the knights, did it? Maybe that’s one of the reasons the IE is crumbling…


PS - the concept of the AWACs occurred to me when I began thinking about this too, but I think that role would be performed by the Hammers or not at all (it would be too dangerous for a slow, big air unit to go airborne with cruisers overhead training their laser batteries on you.

Hello! Awesome discussion.

Chris, I agree with Sydney, I think the possibility for space superiority is built right into the rules. I kept the majority of the warfare terms generic so that FF could be abstracted into as many situations as possible.

However, when we’ve run Firefights where one person had clear space superiority, we did a couple of things: Space-based assets can be used for Contact, Observe and Signals Warfare; space superiority gets you the Superior Position bonus; and orbiting spacestation and hammer assets may fire onto the battle field with Direct or Suppressive Fire. During one run of Omac I had the hammer lord load kinetic energy warheads into his cruise missiles and bombard the tether base station. You should have seen the players’ faces go white as I started dishing out superstructural scale damage.

Again, to go with Sydney, I think we should burn up some Orbital Recon and Observation platforms. Because there’s a fourth use for orbital superiority that I have yet to spring on my unsuspecting players. Check out the rules for Ambush on page 506. Imagine that those detection tests are being made by orbital elements. Even better, imagine the Infilitration tests being made by stealth satellites! If you can Infilitrate and win Contact, you’ve got a full fledged ambush on your hands – Direct Fire on the first action. And that’s just murder.


Oh, that IS cruel.

And I agree that orbital sensors should play a fairly major part… of course, the first thing I’d do if I were invading a planet would be to generate an orbital cascade. Sure it means I need to stay in high orbit because of the debris, but it’s more than likely the idigs have more orbital resources than I brought along with me… denying them their communications and sensors is a higher priority than deploying my own.

Now, if the Anvils on the planet are smart, they’ll have anticipated it, and will have some atmospheric intel gathering units. Hussars would be able to operate fairly freely so long as they used passive sensors for the most part, and drones/artillery launched sensor packages will be useful, but I still don’t think you can beat a high altitude stealthy atmospheric asset. If you increased it’s signals and sensors high enough and dropped it’s profile, it should be more or less invisible to Hammers in orbit, and if it’s covered by Planetary Defense Centers or Continental Siege Units or SheVa Guns (or whatever ground based weapon system you’re using that has bloody enormous guns and is designed to swat Hammers), it should be able to operate relatively safely. I think that a small high flying unit based on an attack sled would be a nice addition. Not to mention that if you are a Hammer officer, what do you really know about ground combat? It’s dirty Anvil stuff. The Anvil’s hardly going to trust the flyboys to detect a suspicious Light Hauler, they’ll want their own people in the air. Or at least that’s how I read it =P

Chris, if you’re ok with the name Hussars, I’m certainly not going to argue it. It means I get my Cataphract class Hammer after all =P

Countercheck, thanks for joining in. Good thoughts.

I think I’d agree with Chris Moeller about AWACS equivalents, though. Here’s the thing: There’s no room for an “air force” of high-altitude atmospheric fliers in between Hammer and Anvil – it’d just get crushed.

The big advantages that high-altitude aircraft have today are mobility – they move at supersonic speeds no matter how bad the terrain is underneath them – and the “high ground” – they can always get the drop on enemy ground units, or choose to climb out of the range of surface-based weapons. But spacecraft can do both those things, only better: By going above the atmosphere altogether, a spacecraft will always have better mobility and the height advantage.

The only way to survive against an enemy with space superiority is to go low, hiding in the “ground clutter.” Sure, the spacecraft may see everything, but that’s also a weakness, because “everything” is a lot for any detection algorithm or sensor operator to sort through: You’re picking up hills, trees, buildings, civilian vehicle traffic, funny-shaped rocks, etc. etc., and a grav sled flying “nap of the earth” (just above the ground) is going to be hard to pick out. But if you’re flying 15,000 feet up – well, there’s not a lot of other objects at that altitude that show up on radar; it’s kind of obvious that you’re not one of those funny-shaped rocks.

And yes, “stealth,” but stealth in real life has serious limits: It relies on the shape of your aircraft and special coatings to minimize and scatter radar returns. Even opening your bomb/missile bay to launch a weapon can break the sleek stealth profile momentarily and make you show up on radar – this is probably what happened to the F-117 shot down by the Serbs over Kosovo. F-22 pilots in exercises have discovered that they’re nearly invisible as long as they fly level, presenting the plane’s pointed nose and knife-thin side; but as soon as they bank, they present the flat underside or top of the aircraft to radar and pop into radar visibility for a moment – and there’s no way to avoid presenting the top of your aircraft to a radar platform in space!

What’s more, any stealth is relatively useless against old-fashioned long-wavelength radars, which are too crude to pick up your precise position but also too crude to be tricked about whether you’re there at all. Now, long-wavelength radar requires a correspondingly large radar dish, which means in real life that it has to be ground-based, so you end up with ground control vectoring interceptors and surface to air missile batteries to the general location of the stealthy aircraft, only to have the much smaller radars a fighter or missile can carry be unable to see just where it is. But a Hammer can carry as big a radar as it wants and then sweep the stealth aircraft’s approximate location with laser beams, shotgun pellet-like projectiles, or good old fashioned nukes.

So your AWACS and JSTARS functions are going to be space-based. Any Anvil fliers are going to be much more like helicopter pilots than fighter jocks, because they know their survival depends on hugging the ground.

Any Anvil fliers are going to be much more like helicopter pilots than fighter jocks, because they know their survival depends on hugging the ground.

Also remember this: grav tanks are aircraft when they wish to be. They can achieve orbit if they’re vacuum sealed. So an armored unit will have its own air assets built in (some of them, like the hussars or command sleds, with upgraded sensors and crew or computers to analyse their information). If things are tough “upstairs”, they can operate nap-of-the-earth. If you have orbital control, or if neither side has it, your armored battalion is suddenly freed up to fly at supersonic speeds, pouncing on ground forces in a traditional air role, then dropping to the ground to fight in a tank role.

Counter, the name cataphract is perfect! It should be heavy with lots of different weapon types. And Sydney’s Hussars have to have tall, plumes sticking out the top.

Luke, of course your system can incorporate orbital stuff! I never had any doubt! This is all color (if extremely cool color).


Dude! You’re right: Whip antennas for all that Sensors & Signals gear.

Sydney, I’m certainly not arguing the benefits of stealth in a modern context. I know full well that the best way to avoid detection right now is ‘low and slow’, and that ‘stealth’ is just going to last until people start using properly networked radar with multiple, separated transmitters and recievers. But once you get to low index, you have grav technology… it would be (theoretically) possible to use the grav tech to bend light ever so slightly around the Hussar at altitude, reducing its visibility. You’re also going to be a powerful jamming platform bathing the entire battlefield in so much radiation that the Hammers can’t talk to the ground troops, let alone see you You’ll have a couple of drones flying alongside you decoying enemy fire. You could represent this by lowering profile and giving it a large signals and sensor exponent, and some low resource planes to take hits for you. You want to engage it with direct fire? Uh-uh, there’s no way you’re going to win that Observe test. And though the Hussar could mechanically do its job all from the ground, it makes more sense color-wise if you need to come off the ground to improve the range of your sensors and jammers. It’s true a Hussar will have a longer life at low altitude, but I personally would increase the obstacle for using sensors at low altitude precisely because of all the clutter, and make the hussar pilot choose between staying on the ground and getting very close to enemy units, or popping up into the air at range for a few seconds to take a picture and then diving for the deck again.

In fact, this gives me a wonderful idea for a Firefight! Hussar and a ground based Hellbore battery vs a Hammer cruiser. Hussar’s objective is to get good data on troop formations in a canyon, Hammer’s objective is to force the Hussar to return home without any data. Any direct fire opportunities the Hussar gets are taken by the Hellbore, and the Hammer can choose between engaging the Hussar and hitting the Hellbore battery, which is heavily dug in.

At least I think that would be fun.

And glad you like the Cataphract! I sort of envisioned it as a heavily armoured, heavily armed, fairly slow pocket battleship. Or monitor, monitor is probably a better description.

Mike (aka Countercheck), that’s a cool thought about gravitic stealth. It’s an even cooler thought about the scenario. You give me ideas for a whole range of tactical dilemmas for the Hussars: flying high to get a better view vs. flying low to get better cover; relying on drones and higher-level EW assets to provide support or going in alone; blaring away with active sensors and countermeasures or staying passive.

The whole “robotic steed” idea has really solidified in my mind, and I realized I was completely backwards about lamenting having to spend 3 points on an Observation bonus when what I really wanted was manned Sensors and Signals. The bonus to Observation is the real heart of the system – the “sensors can only do so much, take your damn eyes off the instruments and LOOK AROUND YOU” ethos that makes Hussars a warrior elite and not just technicians.

So, three changes:

(1) Revert Sensors and Signals back to Automation 3, or whatever I finally end up being able to pay for.

(2) Scrap the “Life Form Detector: +1 to Observation (Skill Advantage: +3 points)” and replace it with:

HUDIYD: +2 to Observation (Skill Advantage: +5 points)
A Hussar sled’s onboard automation fuses data from its surveillance array, navigation computer, and flight controls into imagery projected through the Lord-Pilot’s Crucis neural interface into the vision centers of the brain and superimposed over his field of vision. The unofficial but traditional term for this system is “Heads-Up Display In Your Head,” or HUDIYD (“hyou-deed”). The standard version, available at Low Index, gives a +2D advantage to any Observation rolls.

(3) And now add this very kewlifying limitation that I am awfully unsure how to cost out:

Bucephalus Effect
(EITHER Trait Limitation: -3 points OR Obstacle Limitation, Ob 4 but at half cost because it can be overcome: -2 points)
Even once a Lord-Pilot is Hussar Trained in general, he (or she) must acclimate to a particular Hussar vehicle, and it to him. Each Hussar sled’s array of automated systems is so complex, and the interface with an individual human brain so intimate, that no pilot-vehicle pairing is quite like any other. Mutual acclimatization is more of an art than a science and generally requires hours, if not days, and occasionally a particular Hussar sled will simply not “take” to a particular pilot for no clear reason. Lords-Pilot Hussar almost always name their vehicles and, when pressed, often insist that they have individual personalities; regular grav sled and shuttle crewmembers tend to think Lords-Pilot Hussar are nuts.
When a particular Hussar Trained character tries to operate a particular Hussar Sled for the first time, its Acclimization Obstacle is Ob 3: There is an Ob 3 penalty to all the new pilot’s rolls using any of this vehicles systems, and he (or she) cannot benefit from its +2D Control, +2D to Observation, or any Helping Dice from its Automation.
At any time, the pilot may attempt an Acclimatization Test against the current Acclimatization Obstacle. Vehicular Weapons, Observation, Recon, Sensors, and Signals are all acceptable skill FoRKs; Grav-Sled Wise is an acceptable “wise” FoRK; an instructor may offer helping dice. Tests during a Conflict scene are at +1 Ob (i.e. Ob 4); tests during a Building Scene get +1D advantage.
Each success on an Acclimatization Test immediately reduces the Acclimatization Obstacle by one. When the Obstacle is reduced to zero, this particular pilot-vehicle combination are fully bonded and can operate normally.
Each time an Acclimatization Test is failed (i.e. zero successes are rolled), the Acclimatization Obstacle immediately increases by one. (So failing the first test means the second test is at Ob 4; failing the second test means the third is at Ob 5; failing the third means the fourth is at Ob 6; and so on).
A particular pilot get three successes on the first Acclimatization Test and immediately operate the vehicle at no penalty, or he or she may have to make multiple tests, each one reducing (or increasing) the Acclimization Obstacle step by step, before becoming fully acclimatized (or giving up).


It’s a cool concept, but I think it’s unncessarily harsh and complicated. I’d do something like this:

Ultra-Customized Specialist Technology
Anyone who is not the owner/rider of a Hussar who has not practiced with the specific vehicle suffers a +1 Ob to all tests* while on Hussar.

*Or if you want to be really mean, double obstacle penalty for all Hussar-related tests.


Yeah, I like this (the harsh version) better - there’s no need for that mindnumbing series of rolls, really.

So is that a Categorical Limitation, -1 point?