Chaos Theory, Redux

Portion of Plog’s interior chapter art.

Okay, so this may be a little redundant based on my prior post. I’m sure you, fair reader, can cope, as the in the last post I got a tad bit ahead of myself in describing the germination of the idea for Total Chaos. Let me back up a tad, back to just after the initial pitch but before the formalized outline, and restart.

The pitch idea was to compact all of the Jihad Chaos tracks into one volume, supplemented with selected tracks from the six JTPs published over the last four years. Revamping the rules and many of the older tracks to conform with the Total Warfare ruleset was priority as well.

But what if we also gave players the chance to run side missions? These generic tracks, first seen in the Starterbook series, were designed for quick-and-easy scenarios that could fill the gaps in the main track timeline. (As astute readers of the Jihad Hot Spots books have noticed, there can be several months between tracks, plenty of time for one-offs and side missions to augment their campaign play.) These generic missions would also give players a chance to rebuild and regain lost Warchest Points (WP) to prepare for the more brutal tracks ahead.

So I tossed all of the mission tracks from both Starterbooks onto the pile. And made room for two new ones as well: Stalwart and Pushback.

Preview of a portion of Iglesias’ awesome MWO-inspired cover

But I still needed to make this more than just a rehash of prior printed material. There was opportunity galore for new tracks in several spots – especially the gap between 3072 and 3076 – so I allotted some space for those.

Then Oystein had an idea. “Why not include detailed info on Operation SCOUR?” Originally we had intended to do that as an Operational Turning Point product, but the idea intrigued me. Herb then suggested we make detailed entries on many of the different embattled systems throughout the Jihad years: Skye, Donegal, Sheratan, Quentin, and so on. It wouldn’t be the be-all, end-all comprehensive tome (a la the FedCom Civil War Sourcebook) but it would meet that need.

Picking 33 systems for that task was not easy. The point of view of the book was from The Republic of the Sphere in a classroom-style textbook from 3100. I ended up concentrating mostly on those Jihad worlds that eventually ended up in Stone’s realm, with the more ‘known’ worlds of the various Houses included. Unfortunately, that completely excluded the Periphery nations and the Clan OZs. Which, when considering the angle, made complete sense. Why would the Republic care about those areas of space?

(This also later respawned the idea of continuing the JTP series for a couple more products.)

With most of the content figured out, I had to then look at Rules. What would a rules annex have? With revamped Chaos rules, loads of tracks, and three merc units, there wasn’t much space left. Field Manual 3085 covered the bulk of updating RATs; while providing 3075-era Random Availability Tables was argued, I nixed the idea. Dedicating over 30 pages to nearly-redundant RATs would be overkill and force me to remove a lot of new material. However, we could provide RATs for the more common and generic foes players would face – militias, mercenaries, the Word of Blake, and their Shadow Divisions.

Finally, the only other rules left that needed an update were the cybernetic rules from JHS:3072. So I tossed those in as well. As far as record sheets go? Why not add in the Warchest tracking sheet found in Starterbook: Wolf and Blake? And if there was room…we could add in two custom units for two very special Jihad-era commanders.


Portion of Plog’s chapter art for the opening fiction.

With all that done, I estimated word counts – including rewrites. The previously printed tracks would need streamlined and severe cutdowns in order to fit; I would tackle those. I also tossed the intros and aftermaths/additional hooks, replacing them with more merc-centric information. Through these sections (found in the majority of the tracks), we’d tell the stories of the three merc units as they struggled through the Jihad.

My new outline done, I dropped the document into email and invited our pool of writers to pitch. As expected, the three merc units got a lot of attention and I sorted through a decent number of pitches for those. Some of the world campaign data was also hotly contested: New Avalon, Benjamin, Skye, various Terran campaigns, and others. Some were completely ignored (all the Confederation worlds).

In sorting the pitches and assigning material, I was extremely excited when I received a pitch from Steve Savile, a prolific and popular science fiction author who I’ve worked with on side projects in the past. He and Steve Lockley co-pitched for the opening short story, which tells the tale of Mr. Askai and his involvement. Not only did I get a great pitch from Steve and Steve, they offered to do a full serial on Askai that would be published through Battlecorps. (We’re still working out the story on that, but it IS coming.)

After some back-and-forth, I had 85% of the book assigned. I cajoled and prompted a few others whom I knew could actually do the work (despite their thinking otherwise), got them assigned, and then made sure our few “fanboy” (using the term loosely here) writers got assigned stuff well outside their comfort zone. See, our writers need to be able to be “faction-neutral.” They may write great Davion stuff, but we need them to write great Confederation, Lyran, Falcon, and other stuff, too. They may have thought it cruel, but I thought it necessary in order to develop their craft for our line.

By the beginning of 2012, assignments were 100% complete. Next up – the writing time. So far, everything was on course for a mid-May layout date…

6 thoughts on “Chaos Theory, Redux

  1. Do I fall into that “fanboy” writer group? I may be a Clansman at heart, but I’ll write anything. Even Capellan stuff.

    …and yes, I’ll even stoop to writing Davion stuff (but that might require some cajoling).

  2. Will there be an update to the Chaos Campaign rules? I’ll always thought they could use some fleshing out.

  3. Sounds like a great product, Ben. I recently purchased Wars of Reaving, and really enjoyed it a lot.
    Question: As a longtime Clan player, I’ve just started getting into the Jihad storyline…will the campaign tracks in this book allow you to run a campaign using a Word of Blake Militia division or Shadow Division as the Protagonists? Or are the tracks specifically geared for the Merc groups in the book only?
    I have a friend who is interested in starting a Battletech campaign with me and I think a campaign with him playing Inner Sphere vs. me with Word of Blake would be a lot of fun…but I’d like to be able to track and develop my force rather than just using them as generic opponents for each battle.

  4. “So far, everything was on course for a mid-May layout date…”

    there is a “but” after that…

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