Continuing the seemingly never-ending saga of the Wars of Reaving. Which, if you ask my wife, is exactly what it seemed like to her during the next ten weeks after that phone call. (Catch up with all the linkage here.)
Rules, Rules, Rules
One of the first things that needed to be completed for the book was the Rules Annex. Fortunately, I’d tackled it first in September 2010 and handed off the relevant chapter information to Paul, who eagerly tore into the challenge of making all of these things work.
Because of the (at the time) generic time period of the book, I had to figure out early on what exactly we wanted to showcase in the book. New “toys,” of course, sells BattleTech books. As such, having a Rules Annex was required. But there was a fundamental difference with this Annex over similar sections in other books.
Practically nothing that debuted here would find traction or usage beyond the Wars of Reaving.
That’s right: all of the units here, with minor exceptions, would only be useable here. They wouldn’t move on or slip into the Dark Age era. Like the Word of Blake Celestials, they had their purpose, and that was for Reaving.
Now, a caveat: the fundamental design philosophy – namely that of a new weight class of ProtoMech, as well as two additional types – would be carried forward. But only in limited numbers of designs; Herb would include a couple of them into the (at the time) coming TRO: Prototypes.
Everything else – weapons, equipment, RPG stuff – would begin and end in this book.
It’s a risk, for certain. But in order to tell this story properly, I really needed these items to be detailed. It was highly important, because as the reader will see once the book is out in the future, they’re partially the key for the “success” of one of the story arcs.
With that thought in mind, and after extensive discussion with Herb, I sketched out what I wanted to do. I wrote nominal rules for most of these but would rely on Paul and our playtesters to firm them up.
Now, I’m not going to divulge the full list here, but to give you a taste of what’s coming, here’s a generalized outline of this particular section:
First, ProtoMech equipment. The two most obvious additions were the two “prototype” designs I’d included in Interstellar Players 2: Jihad Conspiracies. Both the Extended Jump Jet system and the Magnetic Clamp system were both pretty useful and I saw no reason they shouldn’t be included. The extended jump range also gave birth to the idea potential of a ProtoLAM, which morphed into the final “Glider” design. The MCS was, to me, an obvious necessity as it made the heavier Protos more versatile in mixed Stars. Plus, the imaginary visual of seeing a Roc hanging off the front and back of an Ursus was just too amusing to NOT include it.
Another piece of equipment came after a long discussion about Quad ProtoMechs. (Actually, a few things came from that discussion: we wanted to use them, but we had to figure out how to make them “work” in the universe.) A Quad Melee system would be a simple extension of the ProtoMech melee system, allowing such modifications such as tails, spikes, and such to be more than just decorative.
There were two armors I came up with as well, though ultimately I discarded one because it was just a bit too “magical” in operation. Based on a throwaway line in an older Clan book about “memory buildings,” memory armor would have allowed a ProtoMech to regain 1-2 points of armor in a location. But I couldn’t necessarily work it out to a point that didn’t make it either game-breaking or too reliant on nanotechnology (which is a big no-no for the setting). So memory armor died on the first pass. Paul gave a valiant effort to codify it, but I was never truly comfortable with it.
The second armor, however…well, let’s just say it’s quite electrifying.
Of course, you can’t leave the ProtoMech equipment section without a new weapon. While ultimately neither Paul nor I could get a solid ATM ProtoMech version to work, we settled for a ‘lesser’ version that would be rushed into production. Limited effectiveness, but it still packed a punch.
At this point, after designing these fun toys, it’s easy to see that you have to have ProtoMech designs that utilize them. All four of the designs in WOR utilized either a new weight, type, and/or equipment. Because construction rules are my weakest, I handed off a rough sketch of my concepts over to Herb, who proceeded to create not just the construction and usage rules, but also four great designs that would find their way into usage within the Wars. Two of them would be first-generation designs for those that show up later in Prototypes.
(So yes, there will be construction and usage rules for Superheavy (aka “assault”), Glider, and Quad ProtoMechs in the Wars of Reaving.)
Now we move on to what most players want: BattleMechs and their accessories.
Remember the “Pariah” in TRO:3075? That was a joint-creation between Paul and myself a few years back, when the rough idea of what the Wars would encompass was known but little else. We’d argued to get one “Homeworld” design into that publication, partially as a teaser (the last until WOR would be published) and partially as a test. Considering the subsequent reaction, the test was wildly successful.
Back then we’d already coined the Pariah‘s “true” name. When setting about with WOR proper, I wanted a family-series of OmniMechs similar to what the Blakists did with their Celestial series. Working off the characteristics of one of the major WOR players, I sketched out two additional designs that would complement the Pariah. Initially called the “Incandescent” and the “Quasar” (names that were subsequently changed, by the way, and have no bearing in the book at all), I bounced them off Paul for his design ideas.
See, the stats of the Pariah were all his doing. Normally, when creating BattleMech units, we as authors tend to shy away from optmizing designs. But with what we knew the Pariah stood for and what it would be doing, optimizing it was exactly what we wanted. So Paul created several exceptionally nasty versions for TRO:3075. I simply wrote up the fluff.
And he continued the trend with the “Incandescent ” and “Quasar.” A light and assault ‘Mech, respectively, the two designs could not be any more different than tomatoes and bowling balls. Yet combined with the Pariah, they were all complimentary. And very, very deadly.
Paul crafted about 6 variants for each; I cut them down to 2 for the book and saved the others for a planned PDF Supplemental idea I had on the side. This was partially because it would also increase the record sheet count by a factor of 3, something that would inflate the book’s page count and cost but not necessarily the value.
And what’s new ‘Mechs without toys to use on them?
In my initial design phase, I had ideas for two new pieces of equipment, along with two new ammunition loads. Actually, the ammo would be for the improved missile system I’d included; the last bit of equipment was…well, I’m not going to spoil that one. It’s not a weapon in the standard sense of the word, but it makes for one deadly force when used by someone versed in networked warfare.
There wasn’t much I really wanted to do with WarShip units; already powerful in their own right, adding something more to them would unbalance that end of the game. (That didn’t stop me from hinting at a possible new defensive system in the book, however…it then died in a misjump.) But I did need a way to neuter their threat in key spots, so Paul crafted an excellent work-up of how to deploy a particular tactic. It relies mostly on the GM to work out effectively; we calculated that if we actually put down all of the RPG rolls needed, it was well over a hundred. I’m sure enterprising individuals out there will figure something out for that particular effect; we’ll just rely on good gamemastering.
And finally, we can’t forget A Time of War, can we? Aside from RPG effects of the Major and Minor Personalities, I included another rough idea that we needed to flesh out: the Synaptic Project. Paul came through, crafting a set of RPG rules for our Molecular War, MV Therapy, and standard enhancement chemicals. Limited usage, but very effective.
All of these rules, in near-final form (save the fluff, which needed to wait until the main writing was completed), hit our playtesters’ inboxes in February 2011. After some reworking by Herb and Paul, Chapter 10 – the Rules Annex was ready for editing before I’d even finished Chapters 4 and 5.
(To be continued)