Cat’s out of the bag, sorta. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, do yourself a favor and don’t go looking. It’ll be more fun that way.
With things winding down, I thought I’d do a short series on writing this tome. It’s my first solo sourcebook and maybe you’ll be interested to follow along on this crazy journey.
In the Beginning…
The genesis of this project started about five years ago, just after I moved to DC. The Jihad plot arc was hitting the middle stages and WizKids was still doing well with its MechWarrior: Age of Destruction ruleset. The law from on high (aka WizKids) was that the Clans, outside of those in the Inner Sphere, were a non-topic. No books, no stories, no highlights. Still, it was an intriguing plot arc that we would probably never get to tell.
WizKids dribbed and drabbed the information in spurts here and there, with the biggest “hint” from Ilsa Bick’s novel Blood Avatar. How it could be a hint when it came from a random citizen that wasn’t anyone in the universe outside of a hick town’s coroner, I’ll never understand, but…hey, it’s what they wanted, so they did it.
So, being the occasional Clan player I am and looking for more and more opportunities to write – I was, at this point, one of BattleTech’s more consistent writers, someone Herb considered ‘core’ – I floated the idea to Herb and Randall about someday writing the Clan plot book. At that time, there was NO plan to put one out. WizKids was in charge, it wasn’t what they wanted, but there were always possibilities.
With that caveat out of the way, I started to compile and contain all Clan information regarding the Homeworlds and everything beyond the Periphery border. I also began floating ideas about the “Reaving Wars” to Randall, more of bouncing plots than any formal organization. I kept this up until 2008, when I became the Assistant Line Developer.
Things rolled forward. (Skipping, skipping, skipping…) And suddenly, in 2009, I had the confirmation that a “War of Reaving sourcebook” had found a spot in the ten-year lineup that Catalyst had worked out. The earliest it would see print wouldn’t be until 2015, but it was something.
Knowing that there was a book on the horizon, I began to work out the arc in more detail. Initially, the book was slated for multiple authors, much as all of Catalysts other sourcebooks were done. The only exceptions (at the time) were the Handbooks, which I was already tapped to do Kurita in some distant future, if ever. So I figured if I got ahead of the game and started pulling data and seeing what the pieces gave me, I could draft a plot arc that might give me the chance to write the full book itself. It was never a guarantee at the time, but both Herb and Randall knew I wanted it. Wanted it badly.
When you pull the data together, including the more vague ones, a certain picture begins to emerge. It was one I didn’t really like: what appeared to be happening in the Homeworlds was that of a parallel “jihad.” I based that primarily on the fact that our writers were hip-deep in Jihad books, from the Hot Spots to the “modern” TROs and so on, that the mindset sort of stuck. I knew that wouldn’t fly. A copy cat arc for a bunch of factions that are fluffed out as completely alien to the Inner Sphere way of life?
I remember initially complaining about that to Paul Sjardijn. He, too, wanted to see something different happen with the Clans and bounced one particular plot arc he had worked up regarding his Clan faction of choice. Needless to say, it was an intriguing story. And one that, with some thought and tweaking, ended up being the prime “spine” plot. As the months rolled by, I tinkered with it. At conferences for my day job, I’d jot down random notes in one of the few notebooks I carry on me. Mainly, capturing what I call “flash thoughts” that I would then spend dinner or before bed stringing out into full-fledged ideas.
And suddenly…there presented the opportunity for not one main plot, but three. The challenge would be to weave these three main arcs into a coherent, clear story that could be told in some manner. With the possible publication date still far off, it came down to simply jotting down more notes and ideas. I culled my sourcebooks, highlighting interesting information. “What if I tied that instance to this? What if we strung that incident into something more?” At the same time, I got a bit more rigid with Clan info being submitted to the Hot Spots and TROs; the more tidbit stuff tossed out there, the more I’d have to account for, which had the potential for knocking the train right off the track. (Some stuff still slipped through, namely pinpointed dates or timeframes that I simply had to work around later.)
With the story pillars in place, it was a matter of constructing a rough table of contents. There were other factors that would need determined: Time frame, point of view, tense, rules, technology, scope… All legitimate questions needing answered.
But I wasn’t in a hurry…until last summer.