Issue: 12
System: Hellfire
Publisher: Wessex Games

All for a herring a day...
Dolphins in Hellfire
by Matthew Hartley

When Man left Earth to begin his conquest of the Universe he took with him many creatures for aid, comfort and sustenance. Amongst these he transported a form of genetically enhanced dolphin to assist in the exploitation of aquatic resources. The dolphin's natural superiority underwater soon brought renewed interest in it from the military, under whose training selected dolphins were altered from their generally pleasant nature into formidable aquatic troops.

The Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin, considered one of the more naturally intelligent species, averages 3.7m in length, weighs 380kgs and has slate gray dorsal (topside) and white ventral (underside) colouring. The dolphins layer of fat beneath its skin give it a natural armour value of 2. "Cruise" speed through ocean waters is considered to be up to 40kph (8 inches per turn), although they are capable of greater speeds for short bursts. The visual, audio and taste senses of the dolphin are considerable, such that it should be very difficult to ambush them. Being mammals, dolphins breath air and can only stay submerged for 30 minutes. In order to work for longer periods or in polluted waters, and to use simple tools, dolphin "wet suits" carrying oxygen, internal water filters and artificial arms have been developed, allowing dolphins to spend several hours submerged and to perform simple tasks. Military versions of these suits increase armour protection (to a value of 5) whilst sacrificing speed (down to 6 inches cruise speed), and can include a gas powered micro-rocket launcher (treat as infantry projectile weapons). Dolphins have been known to kill larger creatures by repeated ramming with their snout, therefore should role one dice up on the close combat table.

Whilst dolphin intelligence has been hightened by genetic engineering to a point where relatively complex instructions can be issued to them by humans through an audio-visual language, they should be considered to be at the same level as rather mentally retarded, if very obedient, humans rather than budding Einsteins (Human reasoning being that dolphin workers and warriors are quite acceptable, dolphin political activists are not!)

It is conceivable that dolphins could be fitted with grav supporters and a wet suit and operate on land. They would however loose much of their advanced senses and would be hopelessly clumsy.

Needless to say, dolphins react differently to humans and consequently warrant their own reaction tables. Table 2 reflects dolphins specially trained for combat, whereas table 1 represents their normal, gentler, state.

Table 2
Surprised Outflanked Melee Casualties S/O+Cas M+Cas
6 a o m o a m
5 a o m o a m
4 a o m a e m
3 b o m a e n
2 b a n e g n
1 e b n e g p
Table 1
Surprised Outflanked Melee Casualties S/O+Cas M+Cas
6 n o m n f n
5 e e n f f n
4 e e n g g p
3 g g n g g p
2 g g p l l l
1 g g p l l l

It would seem unlikely that entire regiments of dolphin "infantry" would be formed . Specialist reconnaissance and combat engineering companies would seem more likely , with human controllers of officer rank , whilst selected dolphins act as NCOs ( the equivalent to a dominant male in a school in the wild ).

Notes

To the best of my knowledge nobody produces 1/300 scale dolphins (not even Irregular!). I suggest you modal some heads, tails and dorsal fins out of Milliput or similar and attach them to sea painted card. Pictures of dolphins should be available in any good natural history book.

This article was inspired by a piece on dolphins in Traveller RPG by Roger E. Moore in The Best of the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society, Volume 2, published in 1981 by GDW.

The reaction test tables are based on reading various issues of BBC Wildlife. If any marine biologists out there consider it to be inaccurate I'd be grateful if they'd supply alternatives.

Trained dogs, dolphins and seals were used by the protagonists in WW2 for specialist tasks, and it is rumoured that research into the military use of animals continues to this day.

Ed Note: Hellfire is a 6mm (Epic) SF rules system that concentrates on the infantry based "low down and dirty" end of SF ground combat rather than mass armour actions and was reviewed in Ragnarok 8. Published by Wessex Games, further details can be obtained by sending an SSAE to them at 4 Old Old Acre Road, Whitchurch, Bristol, BS14 0HN.