Tag Archives: Night Witches

RPG a Day: Day 22

Supposedly random events that keep recurring in your game?

Once again I turn to our Night Witches campaign.

Throughout the whole of the campaign, our missions were almost always flawless – we hit the target every time, did damage to it every time, and mostly came home in one piece with few injuries or lost aircraft.

On the other hand, our daytime hi-jinx were generally disastrous.  Snake eyes were common and failure almost always accompanied our every effort.  We weren’t any worse at daytime stuff than we were at nighttime stuff, but all our good rolls came up on the missions, and all our bad rolls came up on the daylight activities.  Our unit suffered more harm from us trying to acquire supplies and spare parts than it ever did from the Hitlerites.

Tagged ,

RPG a Day: Day 10

Hans-Georg Henke - 15 Year Old German Soldier crying

Largest in game surprise you have experienced?

I don’t want to make a habit of using the same game event, but it has to be the Night Witches game I mentioned a couple of days ago.  It is rare even in RPGs to see a paradigm shift in the midst of a campaign – usually tone is pretty well laid out at the beginning, or established by informal agreement and it doesn’t change much.  It might expand a bit, or narrow a bit as players and GM refine things in later play, but almost never is there a hop to a completely different “feel” as a result of a single scene in the game.

In this case we had, up to that moment, been the intrepid Night Witches, sisters fighting against the oppression of the Hun in out brave little planes.  The face of war had been more or less impersonal – we had suffered few losses among the PCs, and even when the war had gotten close it had been a bunch of impersonal Germans that we never learned the names of.

All that changed in that one moment.  Everyone at the table was stunned.  I remember hearing sharp intakes of breath, gasps, and cries of “No!” from around the table.  I honestly think that some of us were in tears over it (well, I was.  I think other people were too).  All of a sudden we weren’t the intrepid Night Witches anymore.  All of a sudden we were the hard-bitten, battered Night Witches ground down to stubble by years of war with a terrible, totalitarian regime  for an equally terrible, totalitarian regime.  We were also horribly, horribly young.


[NOTE – the photo above is Hans-Georg Henke.  He’s 15.  He joined the Luftwaffe in 1944 to support himself after his parents were killed.  In 1945 his Luftwaffe anti-air unit was mixed in with an infantry unit.  In late April, with Hitler already dead, his unit was overrun by American forces in heavy fighting.  I first saw the picture in High School.  His eyes have haunted me ever since.]

Tagged ,

RPG A Day: Day 2

Best RPG Session Since August 2015?


Night Witches.  One of the characters fell in love with a German prisoner.  At first it was kind of cute, and then it got a little wacky as we tried to keep the prisoner out of the hands of the NKVD and the local commissariat, and generally figure out what to do with him so he wouldn’t be shipped off beyond the Urals to die in some horrible work camp.  There were some shell games and some misdirection and some confrontations and intimidation and running around and shenanigans.

But in the end it didn’t work.  In the end there were too many NKVD and commissars and army officers and not enough of us.  The whole thing wound up with the two of them in a barn after a botched escape attempt with the NKVD closing in.

So she shot him.

The entire paradigm of the game changed in that one instant.  It was powerful and breathtaking and devastating and heartbreaking.  One character wound up dragging the NKVD officer responsible out to the same barn and shooting him.  One character died in a crash soon thereafter, and the incident was on her lips as her last words – “If we have to murder the ones we love, what is the point of this war?”  Everyone at the table was moved by that single moment.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Tagged ,

Free Hunters: Character Sheets


The Four

This weekend at Big Bad Con I am going to be running my first session of Free Hunters, a hack of Night Witches.  Like Night Witches, it is a game about women pilots in World War II.  But Free Hunters focuses on a small number of women assigned to a men’s regiment.  It is a more intimate story than Night Witches, focusing on some specific people in a specific place and time.  It is also more focused in terms of time, covering only late 1942 through mid 1943.  This was a pivotal time for Soviet aviation, as they sought to wrest dominance of the skies from the Luftwaffe.  When the series opens the Germans have near total control of the skies.  Less than a year later, at the battle of Kursk, Soviet aviation absorbs the last major blows of the Germans and establishes air superiority on the Eastern front once and for all.

By the time this happens, every single one of the major characters I use in Free Hunters are dead.

Here are the characters I am using for Free Hunters.  These are of course drafts, and will likely change after the initial playtest.

Alexi 1

Katya 1



Raisa 1

Mikhail 1

Tagged , ,

Busy Autumn

It looks like I will be attending three conventions this fall – Dragonflight in Seattle, and Celesticon & Big Bad Con here in the Bay Area.

I’m going to be running a lot of Motobushido – two games at Dragonflight, one at Big Bad Con and one at Celesticon.  I’ll be running a Night Witches variant at Big Bad Con and doing some Games on Demand GMing as well.

If you are going to be at any of these events, please look me up!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Maryam’s letter

From the KGB file on Maryam Bakrazde, transferred from NKVD records April 14, 1954

Dearest Sergei and Yergei,

Well, here I am – your beautiful Maryam, only a few days at the front and already in the hospital.  You did tell me it would not be like crop dusting.

The 588th is a truly amazing unit, and a tribute to what women can accomplish when we are given our freedom.  We attack the Germans relentlessly, fearlessly, constantly.  It is our task to support our brothers at the front by never giving the Hitlerite invaders a moment’s rest, a single quiet moment.  Always we are nipping at their heels, snapping and biting.

Of course I cannot say where we are, but believe me we see constant action.  And my sisters in the regiment are simply amazing!  Upon arrival, I found myself suddenly thrust into the leadership of a section of aircraft, pilots, and navigators.  It was not a role I had expected, but I attempted to rise to the responsibility.  I owed it to the amazing individuals I serve with.

Since then we have flown many missions.  Often we fly several times per night.  We take off at dusk, drop our bombs on the target, and return, sweeping down the runway crying “More bombs!  More bombs!”.  And then we are off again, into the night sky.  Often we shut down our engines over the target so that the Germans cannot hear us coming, and sail over the target with no more sound than the wind whispering over the wings.  We have heard that the Germans hate and fear us, and have begun calling us “Night Witches” because the they think our aircraft sound like broomsticks.

So how did I end up in the hospital?  I fear the story is not too dramatic.  We we drop bombs on the Germans, and sometimes they shoot back at us.  Despite their poor aim, sometimes one or two will get lucky.  That’s what happened to me.  We were over the target, and had just dropped our bombs successfully, when we were hit by shrapnel from a flak gun.  I was hit in the legs and lost consciousness.  That would have been the end, but my heroic navigator, Sgt. Teremova, was able to successfully land the plane, even though she was also badly wounded.  She pulled me to safety after the landing.  I owe her my life.

So now I have a little German souvenir in my leg, and a cane to help me get around.  But my feet still reach the rudder pedals, and I am anxious to fly again.  Now that I have only nine toes, perhaps one of you will finally be able to catch me!

Tagged ,

Night Witches – more work on the Po-2s

Here are some photos of the Po-2s I have been working on for Night Witches.  I have them pretty well painted now, and have put the Zvezda red star decals on them.


Upper left: Squadron air ambulance. Upper right: Section leader aircraft with tail markings

IMGP0120A few things to note about the models – first of all, the size of the decals that Svezda makes for these models seems to be of the wrong scale.  You cannot fit more than a single digit number on the tail.  I opted instead to put red stars on the tails and not the fuselage because a) I wanted to save the fuselage area for detailing when an aircraft gets a personality, and b) the red star is also rather large, and it wouldn’t fit nicely on the fuselage unless I put it right behind the navigator’s cockpit, which looked too far forward.

Second, note the lack of machineguns.  I’ll cover this more in another post, but the machinegun part is extremely tiny and fragile, and I was largely unsuccessful at getting them in the tiny holes provided.  Eventually I am going to epoxy them on.  But first –


Tiny little pilots!

The Zvezda models do not come with pilots or navigators, but I ordered some 1/144 scale heads and torsos.  They’re hard to paint well, but I have enough of them that I just took a quick shot at each, figuring that some of them will come out well.  I HIGHLY recommend that if you want to put pilots and navigators in your Po-2s you do it BEFORE you put the upper wing on.

Tagged , ,

Night Witches – preparing the squadron


Progress on painting up the Po-2s for Night Witches.

Night Witches

Tagged ,

Night Witches – Characters

The Characters

MaryamJr. Lt. Maryam Bakradze

Playbook:  Pidgeon

Current Role:  Leader

Uniform:  regulation

Body:  small

Hands:  frail

Home Town: Novosibirsk

Writes to:  the Yeleshev twins

Skill:  0

Guts:  0

Luck:  0

Regard:  none


Sgt. Valentina Malinovskaya

Playbook:  Raven

Current Role:  Protector

Gender:  Female

Uniform:  Flyer’s

Body:  Angular

Face:  Handsome

Home Town:  Moscow

Writes to:  Boris Mednikov

Skill:  +1

Guts:  -1

Luck:  +2

Regard –

Trust Oksana Boykova


Sgt. Svetlana “Sveta” Demidova

Playbook:  Sparrow

Role:  Misanthrope

Gender:  Female

Uniform: Ill-fitting

Body:  Willowy

Eyes:  Cold

Hometown:  Verkhoyansk

Writes to:  no one

Skill:  0

Guts:  -1

Luck:  +2

Regard –

Hate Valentina Malinovskaya

OksanaSgt Oksana Boykova

Playbook:  Hawk

Current Role:  Dreamer

Gender:  Female

Uniform:  Regulation

Body:  Lanky

Eyes:  Calm

Home Town:  Collective Farm #505 (Ukraine)

Writes to:  son, Maksim

Skill:  0

Guts:  0

Luck:  +1

Regard –

Respect Elena Teremova

Admire Valentina Malinovskaya

3370428271_1c71252f86Sgt. Elena Teremova

Playbook:  Owl

Current Role:  Adventurer

Gender:  Female

Uniform:  tattered

Body:  small

Face:  Serious

Hometown:  Vladivostok

Writes to:  Dr. Burov

Skill:  +2

Guts:  0

Luck:  -1

Regard –

Resents Valentina Malinovskaya

Tagged , ,
%d bloggers like this: