Saturday, July 25, 2009

Running the gauntlet and a confession...

I did not think I would have a reason to post anything before early next week, but while waiting to go to Seattle to see the Torchlight Parade (it kicks off SeaFair and my son is in one of the marching bands), I thought about some of the designs in the TRO. And I have been reading Tactical Operations.

I have mentioned a few times that one of a BattleTech fan-writer’s biggest fears is that the author (or authors) of the original canon material will change something fundamental in the game while the fan project is still in the works. Sometimes it happens, and there is nothing you can do. Sometimes it happens, and you have a chance to change the entries before they get to print. And sometimes you get a look at something that completely invalidates your work and there is nothing to do but sigh and either wash your hands of the project – or start over.

We have been lucky. Our writers have had access to nearly all the printed BattleTech material of recent years and between that and sharp-eyed proofreaders, we’ve hopefully managed to avoid most of the usual pitfalls. But there are unpleasant surprises. I looked at the Mastodon Minesweeper just this afternoon after reading TacOps, and briefly panicked at the thought of introducing a dedicated mine flail tank in an era of mine-clearing missiles. Talk about a mis-match!

Then I saw the introduction date of the mine-clearing missiles (3069 with the Federated Suns) and breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, we could mount missile racks on the Mastodon, but it is a bit much to believe the Free Worlds League designers could anticipate such an advance and equip their machine to comply in 3063. In 3070, sure. But by then they probably have more pressing things to develop.

And so it goes.

All of our designs are going to experience this lag. We are uncomfortably close to Catalyst Games’ current take on the BT universe, introducing as we do several experimental weapons only whispered about when the designs were created back in late 2007. It has been a constant battle, combing through the writeups again and again to pick out bits which no longer conform to canon.

Dan brought up a question the other day; I used the phrase ‘extended range heavy laser’ to describe an ER Large Laser. I have done this on a few pieces, not many. He was confused because a heavy laser is a Clan weapon, and I was describing an Inner Sphere design.

Now, I have been trying like blazes to avoid a sin we committed with TRO: 3062, that of using game terms to describe things ‘in universe’ – that is, a TRO entry written by fictional characters and aimed at fictional readers. ‘ER Large Laser’ is game terminology; in universe, I had seen manufacturers describe their Large Lasers as ‘heavy’ lasers, so I went with that as a way to get away from the game-reference stigma. Time will tell whether or not there is more confusion on the part of readers. Suspension of disbelief is important, but erring on the one hand (using ‘heavy’) to offset another potential error (using the game term ‘large’) is a tricky thing. I guess we’ll find out when the other proofreaders render judgment.

Meanwhile, I have a confession to make.

I said before that we were not in the business of inventing new worlds, cultures or timelines. We are here to get new stuff out that is worth reading, playing and looking at. But I forgot that I have done exactly that thing, and was reminded of it today when Geoff turned in the edits on the Diatryma and the Eragon. I thought it likely the Outworlds Alliance would trade with other Periphery States, even ones located all the way across the Inner Sphere. Specifically, the Marian Hegemony. After all, the OA gets BattleMechs from the Free Worlds League – how much of a stretch is that? Geoff disagreed and I ultimately backed his choice of replacement text. It is pushing things to assume the OA is buying rocket launchers from the Hegemony, and while it reads well, I might be adding details which conflict with canon the further I get from the current sources. And that does not serve the story.

However, a second issue was my reference to Syrinx, a world a little bit ‘east’ of Delos IV on the Federated Commonwealth’s edge with the Periphery. Go ahead, look. Delos IV is there, but Syrinx is not, and so Geoff changed things to another location.

I changed it back.

This is probably the first and only time I have nixed his changes, and for a very personal reason. I wrote a few stories around some characters for BattleTech fiction a while back, and as I didn’t have the resources at the time to determine the nature of the worlds in the FedCom ‘Outback’, I picked a location a little outside the border and established a new world there. Syrinx is the setting for at least three stories, and while the characters are not world-gobbling maniacs or stoic warriors hunting for ‘death or glory’, I am wroth to give that world up. So no, Syrinx does not exist on any Inner Sphere map and yes, I invented it. It’s a pretty quiet place, except for the occasional solar storm and Periphery pirate raids. You will only see it twice, briefly mentioned in the Centaurus and the Diatryma entries.

Someone out there will have problems with it. That someone may ask ‘there are plenty of undocumented worlds which already exist on the map – why are you making a new one?’ Well, here is your answer.

Thanks for stopping by.



artraccoon said...

On the subject of mineclearing tech...

Currently in 21st Century we've got such things as tank mounted mine plows and rollers, and at the same time we've got rocket launched mineclearing line charges.

My response is that both are viable forms of mineclearing, so don't fret over having two forms( or more ) of mineclearing tech in service during the Battletech setting.

Heck, why not have both on the same vehicle? A mine flail vehicle with sets of de-mining, having a troop bay on this vehicle provides an additional mine clearing method, troops with detectors...or if you're really mean to your own troops ( or are very desperate) you can make them get out & probe mines with bayonets.


Steven Satak said...

Agreed, but the idea was to actually use the mineclearing equipment found in HMP - something I have not seen done, though I am sure it exists someplace. Any vehicle can carry a launcher and clear mines as of 3069, but right now (3063) it's a flail or a plow. Or infantry.

I even installed Guardian ECM in the Mastodon, in the hopes that it would go a ways towards neutralizing command-detonated mines. Have not seen rules on this, but I suppose it's not likely. They think of everything. But the Guardian is still useful, so it stays.