As a member of the Southern Claw military action against the vampires of the Ebon Cities (as well as other enemies, living and otherwise, positioned against the survival of the human race), it is important that you familiarize yourself with the array of armaments at your disposal. Full details of any firearm or melee weapon are provided during actual training; this document is meant merely to provide a brief overview of the arms you are most likely to use in the field.
Two important notes:
– The most important weapons at your disposal at any given time are the other soldiers and mage or mages assigned to your squad. The chances of an individual soldier surviving a one-on-one encounter with one or more vampires or other undead are extremely slim, regardless of the weapons used. Only by protecting the lives of your squad mates will you ensure any chance of surviving an encounter with the enemy.
– The actual weapons available to any given squad will vary widely from location to location and from mission to mission. Since Southern Claw armaments depend on the stockpiles that have been discovered over the course of these two plus decades since The Black, it is sometimes impossible to provide the ideal array of weapons for any given situation. While every attempt is made to equip soldiers with a suitable assortment of weapons, personnel must make do with the supplies at hand.
Part One: Traditional Weapons
Sidearms: The Southern Claw has a horde of snub-nose revolvers (especially Ruger .44 magnums and Smith & Wesson Model 36 .38 calibers) acquired from a number of storehouses near the city-state of Ath. Personnel in Thornn also have access to a large number of automatic handguns, especially HK 45s (.45 automatic) and SIG Sauer P226s (9mm), but supplies are severely limited in other areas. Keeping in mind that handguns are meant to serve as a backup weapon, the Southern Claw is fortunate to have a reserve of pistols, and generally speaking those available to us are all reasonably accurate, durable, and reliable. Not every soldier is equipped with a sidearm; in areas where supplies are in short demand, pistols are reserved for officers and mages only.
Shotguns: If there is any weapon that the Southern Claw military possesses in abundance, it’s the shotgun, especially the Remington 870 12-gauge. Unfortunately, in practical military engagements against Ebon Cities forces the shotgun is hardly the ideal weapon, since it is best to engage vampires and their allies at a distance rather than in short-ranged confrontations.
That being said, the huge surplus of shotguns and 12-gauge ammunition means that practically every Southern Claw soldier is provided with such a weapon (sometimes in place of a sidearm, in areas where pistols are in short supply). The shotgun is particularly useful in engagements with lesser undead such as zombies and war wights, who are typically lightly armored, if at all.
Assault Rifles & Submachine Guns: Like handguns, the Southern Claw has only a limited array of automatic weapons, and supplies comprise mostly of Mp5 submachine guns and M4A1 assault rifles. These weapons have proved their worth in the field against the Ebon Cities and their various undead soldiers, especially when large quantities of armor-piercing or explosive-tipped ammunition are available. A good deal of your training with these weapons will be their care and maintenance since they are in relatively short supply.
Heavy Weapons: Most of the Southern Claw’s heavy weaponry is covered in Part Two, “Exotic Weapons”, as many of these devices – including flame cannons, ice launchers and hex grenades – are powered and fueled by magic.
Besides these arcane devices, the Southern Claw has a decent stock of heavy machine guns, most notable Browning M2 .50-calibers. Select Hunter squads are also given the use of either an AA-12 semi-automatic shotgun or (in the rarest of instances) an M134 “minigun”. Both weapons are high maintenance pieces of equipment that require specialized training, and quantities are so limited that they are handed out only for special missions and to the most elite personnel.
Other squads in need of an extra heavy weapon will be given either a Browning M1919 .30 caliber machinegun or a Barrett M107A1 .50 caliber sniper rifle, depending on the specific needs of the mission. (The Southern Claw armory is fairly well stocked with Browning M1919 and accompanying ammo, so unless mission parameters specifically call for a sniper weapon, the machine gun will be issued.) The aforementioned M2 .50-caliber machine guns are only assigned for use on vehicles.
Explosives & Artillery: In addition to a large quantity of hand grenades (especially the M67 ball grenade), Southern Claw armories are stocked with M252 mortars and a finite quantity of C4 plastic explosive. Grenades are issued to almost every soldier; C4 is provided only to select squad members, and only for special missions.
Artillery is attached to platoons. A variety of tanks and transport vehicles (especially M2 half-tracks) are assigned to each Platoon, as are at least two Norinco Type 69 rocket launchers.
Most of the tanks are holdovers from World War II, found in good working order as a result of what has been theorized to be a time displacement effect caused by The Black.
(It is worth noting that the Southern Claw bears a frustratingly finite quantity of any sort of RPG-style weapon. Luckily, mages more than make up for this deficiency with their magic, but all Southern Claw personnel are still asked to be cognizant of any rumors or reconnaissance regarding stores of anti-tank weaponry, and they are to provide this information to their commanding officer ASAP.)
The Southern Claw also has a limited supply of Flak 38 20mm assault cannons (also time-displaced artillery from WWII), which are issued to platoons on an as-needed basis.
Blades: In addition to shotguns, the Southern Claw has a nearly inexhaustible supply of short-bladed weapons, especially knives and machetes. Much more valuable for their practical application as opposed to their combat value, every Southern Claw soldier is equipped with one or both of these items for use in the field. Knives are good for skinning, first aid, and for use as makeshift tools. Machetes are best used for their original intent: hacking through undergrowth to clear a path for travel.
While man-to-man combat with vampires is always strongly discouraged, a well-maintained machete can save your life in a desperate situation. Vampires can be destroyed if enough bodily trauma is inflicted on their bodies, and since they have the most difficulty recovering from head wounds, using a machete to decapitate an enemy vampire can rarely be considered a bad offensive option.
This entry provides an overview of the Southern Claw’s more potent but far rarer armaments: thaumturgically powered weapons.
While these devices have been crafted by mages (usually witches, who for unknown reasons are more adept at creating arcane technology than warlocks are), they have been specially designed so that all of the required magical components needed to power the weapons are either supplied as ammunition or else are contained within the weapon itself. The presence of a mage is not necessarily needed to use these armaments, though it is advised.
Also note that these weapons require a considerable amount of resources to produce, and are constructed only sparingly. Field commanders must exercise extreme restraint when issuing any of these weapons; most are reserved for the defense of Southern Claw city-states or for issuance to elite Hunters, or to members of the White Guard stationed at The Scarab.
Melee Weapons: Arcane melee weapons are not fueled by ammunition in the traditional sense. Rather, these arms are generally coated with a thaumaturgic coagulant. The weapon is then treated under intense flame in conjunction with a particular magical ritual, when a mage’s spirit permanently seals a fraction of itself to the coagulant and to the weapon. (There are mages and spirits who specifically train for this purpose. Such a mage’s spirit is otherwise only used for reconnaissance or other supportive functions, as after the construction of these weapons they are generally considered too weakened to be combat ready.)
Razorwire: Specially enchanted concertina wire that is secured on metal spools. Razor-sharp and capable of cutting through bone and light armor. Usually used to secure perimeters in hostile areas, razorwire can also be used as garrotes or to craft deadly bola, but the wire is so sharp is must be handled with extreme caution.
Flame Sword: This is a broad term used to refer to any melee-weapon covered in a spiritual arcane unguent called soulfire. The thaumaturgic coagulant in this case is specially enchanted so that it can be ignited by a flint or a low flame, which allows the weapon to be yielded while the blade is cast in a sheath of supernaturally hot fire that causes no damage to the weapon itself. Handy for immolating zombies.
Artillery & Explosives: Arcane power, by its very nature, tends to be somewhat volatile, as the majority of magical effects that a mage can produce take on a directly physical manifestation. Because of the highly unstable nature of this expressed power, harnessing and containing arcane energy for later use is incredibly dangerous, and is done infrequently. The Southern Claw has, however, had limited success with a handful of different weapons, primarily by extracting small portions of a spirit’s energies and creating a variety of alchemical mixture with explosive properties. These mixtures are then applied to various specific devices.
Hex grenades: A standard M67 ball grenade that has been fused with explosive arcane energies. These energies are held dormant until triggered by the grenade detonation, at which point a pre-determined effect – generally a blast of ice, fire or acid – is released in addition to the grenade’s explosion. Highly unstable, and used infrequently.
Hex bombs: A larger and deadlier version of the hex grenade. A hex bomb is usually a block of C4 that has been coated with the same type of arcane energies stored inside of a hex grenade, only a much larger quantity of energy is used. Hex bombs are only used for extremely important missions where the goal is to destroy something large and formidable.
Flame cannons: One of the simplest large weapons that can be produced through the use of magic, the flame cannon is essentially an M2-2 flamethrower that has been mounted on a tri-pod (flame cannons are never used as portable arms), equipped with a longer barrel, and provided with an arcane fuel source rather than traditional flamethrower fuel. This magical fuel is rendered to an unstable fluid state that can be drawn and expelled as a supernatural flame capable of damaging incorporeal undead in addition to corporeal creatures. The extremely volatile fuel cells are specially reinforced and are dangerous to move long distances.
Ice launchers: An experimental mounted weapon based on the M252 mortar, the ice launcher is specially retrofitted to fire modified mortar rounds loaded with explosive frost energies. These shells detonate with the same explosive force as a mortar shell with the additional benefit of releasing icy shrapnel as hard as steel and covering the blast area plus 20 feet in an aura of subarctic temperatures. At this point in the time, the process for creating the shells is costly and inefficient, and the shells themselves are extremely unstable; this weapon is considered to still be in the testing phase.
Ammunition: Unlike the weapons noted above, arcane ammunition is directly enchanted by a mage to carry a specific property. The difficulty with arcane ammunition has been in crafting effects that are long-lasting, which usually means that the enchantment in question needs to be fairly simplistic and not too powerful. To date, two types of ammunition have been perfected, but more are in development.
Ghost Slayers: Bullets that can harm incorporeal undead like wraiths, specters and ghosts. This is achieved by affecting the sub-harmonic resonance of the bullet itself, creating a round that vibrates at such intense frequency it cracks the ethereal barrier; unfortunately, the bullet strikes incorporeal creatures at a reduced state of impact, but the rounds are still more effective than traditional bullets, which are entirely ineffective.
Vampire Slayers: Cold iron shells infused with minor explosive capabilities. Only usable in heavy weapons due to the size required to infuse the shells with the enchantment, which breaks down smaller bullets and renders them useless. The arcane explosive imbedded in the round sends a destructive wave of energy that ripples along the victim’s body; one round is usually enough to destroy a vampire, creatures that normally require multiple hits from even heavy weapons to destroy.
The number of arcane vehicles are few. Most vehicles operated by the Southern Claw are holdovers from Before the Black, run with what limited fuel reserves are still available. The only significant thaumaturgic advancement in vehicle design has been the Bloodhawk, a long-range aerial transport and combat vehicle. Roughly the size of a small sailing vessel, the Bloodhawk runs off of a specially arcane-treated fuel mixture that, while volatile, is incredibly efficient: a fully fueled Bloodhawk can run for nearly 3,500 nautical miles before needing to refuel. Bloodhawks are generally armed with heavy-caliber weapons loaded with Vampire Slayer ammunition.
Hexed Soil: One of the most efficient and least costly long-term military contributions made by magic is a special enchantment placed on sandbags used all throughout the Alliance. The enchantment emits a low-grade arcane resonance field that temporarily disrupts incorporeality, as well as the destructive energy fields emitted by vampire combat armor. These sandbags are called “hexed soil”, and while soldiers cannot rely on them for complete protection, their use has become standard practice due to the measure of extra security they afford.