Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TRO Prototype... up for your critique (Please beat me!)

Werefox Petain

Welcome back! It has been a little over two weeks since our last update. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and a good New Year celebration.

I have decided to give the response to Pink's blog posts on BattleTech a rest. We've both made our points.

Here is what has developed:

- Paul Skowronek – Our final writeup editor has been hard at work. I have paid him up to date and should be sending another $21 this Friday. We are making good progress… he is now working on the Federated Commonwealth vehicles.

- The HMV and HMAero PDF files are languishing… I am going to work on them this week and hopefully have them all done by this next Friday.

- Stephen Huda has completed two Federated Commonwealth vehicles – the Werefox Petain and the Werefox AAV (anti-aircraft vehicle). See the header image above for the Petain – below is the AAV. Excellent work, as always.

Werefox AAV

- Eric Ou has completed the Draconis Combine’s Tomahawk and Revenant. See below.



- Okay, and now for the part everyone has been waiting for....

Bill and I have been working independently for about the past two months. Friday night I got a chance to set with him for several hours and we worked on the TRO prototype.

I think we made significant progress – though some pages (such as the credits) are not there and will not be until the final version, the whole thing is beginning to shape up. We now have the entire Draconis Combine ‘Mech section in place.

In fact, we are advanced far enough that I am going to solicit reader feedback on this one.

Don’t hesitate to point stuff out – misspelled words, data out of place, canon or continuity issues, art, etc. I need to have as many eyeballs as possible looking at the layout, the text and the art. I don’t care if it is a matter of taste or you spot a hyphen where there should not be one – I will take it on board.

One thing – I have already spotted the model numbering errors in the Isometrus writeup between the Marik version and the Lyran version, so no need to point it out.

A word of caution: I have linked to this and downloaded the PDF using ‘save page as’. About half the time, I get a useful PDF. The rest of the time, what is downloaded is wonky and Acrobat will not open it.

[However, this is while using Google Chrome as a browser. A working version is easy to download if you use the latest Firefox.]

If you still cannot download a working version from the site link above no matter how you try, email me and I will shoot you a copy – it is lo-rez and only about 6.5 megs.

Thank you and welcome to the ranks of the proofreaders… and no, I’m not paying anyone (except Paul). I cannot afford to. But if you find some serious errors, I will add your name to the credits page. Howzat?

Thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sweet looking tank... and another response to Paint It Pink!

Draconis Combine's Katana

Hello! It has been another three weeks since our last update. Here is what’s happening:

- Paul Skowronek – gave me his PayPal account and a bill for $57 dollars. He has completed editing another five writeups for the Draconis Combine and is working on seven more at the time of this writing.

- Lee Madison has been working on the background for the White Knight. In addition to that, he has added two-tone shading.

The Final White Knight

Our layout man Bill is working on the layouts. I should be able to get something from him this weekend.

- The HMV and HMAero files are still under construction. I should be done with them in a week or two.

- Stephen Huda has completed the Draconis Combine’s Katana. See the header image above. Really nice, Stephen!

- The Draconis Combine’s Nemera is ready to go.

Final Nemera

- Stephen Huda has begun work on the Federated Commonwealth’s Werefox family, starting with the Werefox Petain, a design which makes use of existing weapon stocks.

A Response to Paint It Pink’s Second Blog Post on Uncool Rules: Battletech 2.3: The Battletech Reader

This post is going to be a response to the one made over on Paint-It-Pink’s blog. Linky:


Even Bigger 'Mechs

Steve said: "There are rule sets out there cobbled together to allow larger ‘Mechs and other machines. But reality (such as it exists in BT) in the form of the in-universe flavor the writers want prevents this from becoming canon. Also, there is the acknowledgment by many players (including myself) that a machine much over 100 tons becomes little more than a slow-moving pillbox. We have no shortage of ponderous gun platforms at 100 tons – why would a 200-ton machine be anything other than more of the same?" [big snip]

Pink replied: I mostly agree, but they already exist (Ares Colossus Class) from MW:DA and sometimes one has to make the most of things as they come. While all you point are valid, the truth is that CGL can't limit what players choose to field, only players can do that. The attempt to control the shape of Battletech through the use of canon designs only works if the players buy into it. I've never bought into canon as the only one true word of Battletech. IMO trying to control the background setting is doomed to failure.

I see the universe canon code more as "guidelines", if you savvy?

Steve’s Reply: What players choose to field is going to be limited not by what the company provides in the way of ‘canon’ designs, but what the rules support. Whether or not you like the idea of the company restricting designs to a range of 20-100 tons, that is what they’ve written the rules to produce. That is what constitutes ‘canon’, after all – what will work within the provided rules and has the company’s blessing. I admit that the company’s blessing ain’t what it used to be, but it is their product and most folks I know will not start churning out 400 ton machines just because they found a nifty set of add-on rules for it out on the net.

And with good reason. First, the game has been tweaked and balanced to accommodate ‘Mechs and other machines of the current tonnage range. To introduce new machines is not a matter of adding a few more tables to the back of the rulebook. The new sizes will affect the game in myriad ways that most of us won’t be able to understand at first. If ever. It may even render certain weapons types permanently obsolete in the era where such monsters exist.

Second, who wants to allow such a beast in a game that is supposed to be over in hours? Has anyone calculated the amount of armor on that thing? It’s sure to be a lot. I don’t want to spend an afternoon trying to beat through it.

The Ares is interesting and yes, cool, but only time will tell whether or not there will be rules to permit such a machine. What function could the Ares possibly have that cannot be done by existing quads and bipeds? I will admit, it looks cool. Until you see it moving, that is. Horribly slow. I wonder if they are even going to bother with a set of rules for what is, admittedly, the only example of a +100 ton machine in the game – and which came from a spin-off game at that. It sets a precedent for something quite unpleasant to consider – the complete overhaul of a good portion of the TW rules. And once a foot has been wedged in that door, only God knows how and when they’ll get it shut again.

Finally, controlling the background setting of BattleTech is what keeps it BattleTech and also something they can put up for sale in the shops. Would you have them hand everything over to us (ugh!) fanfic writers? We’re a pretty shady lot. Someone has to set the limits, after all. Why not the folks who have the license and practically invented the game as we know it?

Quad 'Mechs

Steve said: "I think advanced rules already allow for a turret in a quad ‘Mech. I have used HMP to make them. The loss of internal space in a quad’s legs is somewhat mitigated by the fact that they are permitted to carry armor equivalent to a bipedal ‘Mech that is ten tons heavier... Neither is their ability to fire in a hull-down position behind Level One terrain,... That’s four out of twelve hit locations that are essentially ignored and that is the same as a LOT of extra armor!"... To put them in a position where they enjoy not only the hull-down ability and the extra armor, but all of the advantages of a bipedal ‘Mech as regards field of fire is to negate any real difference at all... [lots of snippage]

Pink replied: Yes but, the construction rules are clunky, and IMO could have been phrased in such a way as to make them conceptually easier to stat up designs that look like quad mechs with center torso turrets e.g: unseen Goliath. I also want six leg designs for a Desert Gunner from Dougram, or a quad with an upper body and arms. I'm not interested in super munch, but I am interested in look and feel.

To do this one needs a slightly redesigned record sheet, and the ability to move engines and gyros etc around the center and side torsos. That's all I'm asking for. More flexibility.

Steve’s Reply: I would like to see the construction rules for quads phrased in a less clunky way. You’ve got a good deal of experience in this field – why not generate some of your own based on the Tech Manual?

I think that the idea behind leaving turrets off the standard quad is intentional. It is in the interest of game balance, which I mentioned before.

Six legs – visually, quite impressive, but what effect in the game? Why would more legs help? We could ask ‘where do more legs help in nature’ but hexapods in nature are very small and do things on a scale a ‘Mech would never be able to duplicate – or, so far as I can see, be required to. I can see it in a movie or an anime series where the Rule of Cool is king. But translating it to a game where physics are paid a little more than lip service (not much more, I grant you), it just won’t wash.

The Centauroid ‘Mech is another product of the Rule of Cool. However, it too is a hexapod and furthermore, based on a concept which is derived from a writer’s metaphor for the fusion of man’s Reason and Animal Nature. Separated so far from its roots, all the idea has is visual appeal – significant, to be sure. But I cannot think of anything, even a ProtoMech, which would benefit from that body plan in terms that would be meaningful in BattleTech. In GURPS, or AD&D, yes. BattleTech, no.

Moving the engine, gyros and such inside a BattleMech would, I believe, break some fundamental rules in the game. I am not talking about written rules, of course, but rather the unwritten rules which always place the guts in the center of the ‘Mech. This is supposedly to protect them, and the area does have a lot of armor - but so do legs. There is something about the game’s insistence on placing the goodies in a location represented by a ‘7’ that says to me there is more going on there at the game’s structural level than meets the eye. A ‘7’ is the most commonly rolled number on two six-sided dice.

Some kind of balance is kept on the tabletop by this arrangement, I don’t understand it and as a consequence, I am loathe to screw with it. There is no telling what will happen, good or ill. Mayhap Mr. Eastwood could look into this?

Flexibility is fine, but the more detail you have, the more things slow down. I am not sure the addition would be worth the eventual cost. There’s a break-even point and I believe the game’s designers know where it is better than I do.

Breaking the Game with TarComps

Steve said: "You flummoxed me here – earlier, you wanted the option of heavier machines that for most practical purposes are designed to get to the area of operations and... sit and shoot... Targeting computers take up tonnage, are tied into all weapons and grant only a +1 to hit. Are you going to nix precision rounds for the autocannons as well? After all, they negate up to 2 points of movement modifier on their chosen target. Ma’am, those rounds are the best reason anyone would use the AC/10. Which is it to be?" [some snippage]

Pink replied: Can't have you all flummoxed now. Okay, here's the thing. Slow assaults moving 2/3mps per turn are sitting ducks to fast light mechs, which IMO is a good balance for the game. Anything that makes it easier to hit has consequences out of all proportion to the on the face of it bonus. For example, using weapons giving a minus two to hit bonus has effectively made the pilot an elite 2 gunner. That is a big bonus.

My proposal is that targeting computers allow a player to re-roll one die, and the minus two weapons allow a player to re-roll both dice. Only once per weapon per turn of course.

Steve’s reply: Slow moving assaults move slowly because they are armored out the ying-yang and have a significant warload. One thing proponents of sabre dancing (the practice of a lighter, faster ‘Mech ducking in and ‘slashing’ with weapons as it runs past the heavier opponent) do not tell you is that the sabre dancer nearly always ends up a ragged mess. It’s not hard to see why.

The target is nearly always stationary – after all, movement gives it no advantage in combat. Stationary opponents automatically gain an effective –2 bonus against targets that are running as a ‘Mech that stands still does not have a movement modifier to add to it’s own gunnery – and the opposing pilot DOES have to take his own running movement into account.

Furthermore, the lighter machine’s warload is not likely to hit hard enough to match that of the stationary target – who, even when hitting less often, hits much harder with guns only a machine of his size can carry – and usually in quantity.

Finally, the lighter fast ‘Mech is nearly always much more lightly armored. The hits from those big weapons that do land are going to get through pretty fast.

Yes, the big stationary pillbox can use a tarcomp to tip the balance. Many do. However, not many pack pulse weapons and the reason is simple – they don’t move fast enough to compensate for the shorter range. Now that light, fast ‘Mech? It practically begs for pulse weapons, as it needs something to offset the penalty for running with the throttle slammed forward all the time. And a lot of them have such weapons.

Die re-rolls replacing gunnery bonuses? If you must. But the one is designed to work with the existing method for determining target locks in BattleTech. The other is something I might expect to find in the MW:DA game – where such a mechanic is more fitting. In any case, how will you translate the ability of the targeting computer to select a given location – at a +3 to hit – and slam it with every direct fire weapon that makes the to-hit roll?

Electronic Countermeasures, Sensors, Networks a Waste of Time

Steve said: "I have never played in a double-blind game, so for me the Beagle and ECCM are things which rightly should exist but which are not necessarily critical assets when playing at the local game shop. That said… I have equipped several of the machines in our TRO with ECM for the express purpose of ECCM, because when it DOES affect my local game, the impact is phenomenal." [snip again like we did last summer]

Pink replied: I agree, these things have to exist. They are just a pain in the ass, because IMO such things as ECM, ECCM and Beagle probe should be standard on every mech, not additions that take away from the combat effectiveness of the mech itself. YMMV, and there is little that can be done about it either, so I put up with the stuff for the time it can serve a purpose.

Steve’s Reply: If they were standard on every ‘Mech, THAT would be a pain in the tuckus. Can you imagine trying to figure out the effective ECM bubble for every machine? When would C3 ever be effective? When could you field hidden units?

The one thing about the game that I think really reflects how much electronics are packed into the average machine is this: all players, at all times, can see what units are on the field of combat. They can identify them, determine their state of damage and furthermore, know exactly where every machine is – friend or foe - even if it is behind cover. Unless the unit is specifically Hidden or the game is Double Blind, we all take this privilege for granted.

I see the ECM, ECCM, Beagle, etc as just specialized gear designed to get around unusual starting conditions or to counter special link systems – such as C3. I recall in one of my long-ago blog posts ranting about this very thing – a C3 network, properly deployed, is horrifically effective against unprepared opponents and a pernicious pain in the tuckus to those in the know. Would you deny us the one piece of gear designed to combat it until such time as all machines can boast of having ECM?

Gentlemen Do Not Fight With Anything But Ranged Weapons & Their Bare Hands

Steve said: "Given that most ‘Mechs repeat the human form in large, it seems to me nothing is more natural than two ‘Mechs facing off against each other with swords and such. How is that not cool? Several million avid fans of the Solaris matches would beg to differ."

Pink replied: Ah but, what happens on Solaris stays on Solaris. Carrying a dead weight around that can only be used close up and personal, is IMO (and Greyson Death Carlyle) a waste of the opportunity to carry something more useful; like armour, heat sinks, or ranged weapons. ;-)

Steve’s reply: Ah, but the Solaris comment was supposed to elicit the understanding that physical weapons also appeal to the Rule of Cool – note their popularity with the gathered throngs – even when they are not strictly practical.

And I would take exception to even that: there is a place for hatchets and swords, and I should know, as I cut my piloting teeth on a Nightsky. The close-in fighter is quite common, and when facing slower machines in its own class, physical attacks are a nightmare. Especially if augmented with TSM – many are not. It’s not a good weapon for a slow machine, but you will often find them on machines that are fast for their size.

The idea is to stick to your own weight class and cash in with the beat stick. The damage done is as much as a kick, with the added bonus that you can strike any location, not just the legs. I have lost track of the number of ‘Mech pilots I have sent to the Great Hiring Hall in the Sky with my Nightsky’s hatchet buried in their cockpit.

If nothing else, the Clan’s disdain for such weapons should be reason enough to consider their use.

Final Comments...

Pink said: …However, I disagree with the 100-ton Limit rules, because in practise I have found that while the younger players will revel in the awesomeness of the Colossus mechs, in the long run they are very specialised units that exist really for the Rule of Cool.

Steve’s reply: I disagree. I don’t think the word ‘awesomeness’ exists. ;) Younger players might revel in the sheer awesome (it is a noun here) of the Colossus, but even the Rule of Cool won’t convince the other players to let them pilot one.

One More Thing…

A reader commented on the utility of ProtoMechs in the game when combating ‘Mechs. I agree, they are one more way of taking down the big bruisers. But only one way, and not every Clan has them. I mentioned that a lance of flatbed trucks equipped with rockets could accomplish the same mission. Here is that truck:

And for comparison, a Point of ProtoMechs:

As you can see, the trucks are slightly lower in Battle Value and similarly armored; they pack quite a punch with their salvo. They don’t jump but at 190,00 c-bills per truck, you can buy four for the price of a single ProtoMech (890,000 c-bills) and still have change in your pocket to purchase more rockets for your surviving trucks.

[A caveat here: I saw the price listed on the ProtoMech construction table, but don’t know if it is just for one unit or all five. Considering the fusion engine, I am going with just one].

Just two trucks confronting a BattleMech at close range bring ten 15-tube launchers to bear. A ‘Mech pilot will ignore that at his peril. An entire lance of these trucks? Something is going to get broken. You might lose a truck – you will definitely put a hurt on that ‘Mech.

Thanks for stopping by!