Worlds of Chaos

Partial look at “Rules of Engagement” by Matt Plog

A continuing look at my latest Catalyst Game Labs BattleTech project, Total Chaos. We left off taking a look at the mercenaries selected for the project. For those interested, the PDF version of the book is now for sale; the print version is tentatively due in August 2012.

One of the ideas that came out of discussions with Øystein and Herb was the ever-present request by players to have detailed synopsis of the Jihad on various planets. We knew there was no way we could do such a comprehensive volume that would be profitable. And spending time and resources on a PDF-only product makes no business sense. I believe Øystein even calculated that a unit-by-unit movement table (such as seen in the FedCom Civil War sourcebook) would alone take up nearly 300 pages – and that assumed small font size!

With both Øystein and myself wanting to delve deeper into Operation SCOUR and Herb intrigued with our initial idea to do a planet dossier of that conflict, we struck a compromise. Why not select roughly 30 of the more intense conflict worlds and do sidebar write-ups on those?

Then, one final thought hit me: why not make it a little more palatable and include brief rules for running a mini-campaign on that world?

B/W bio portrait of Hilary Fletcher, Grandin’s Crusaders by Pete Johnston

Hence the following instructions within the pitch document sent to writers:

Scattered throughout are “sidebar” sections that focus on one planetary campaign. In those sections, a historical overview of that system’s role in the Jihad is presented, including when it was attacked, who the attackers/defenders were, and brief accounting of the historical campaign in the same vein as a Historical product. These sidebars will be a half-page (500 words), one page (800 words), or two pages (1,600 words) in length, depending on the severity of the conflict, and should be written in a sourcebook style from the perspective of a 3100-era ROTS military academy textbook. At the end of the world’s section, a full list of track titles that take place on the world will be presented, as well as all units participating in the conflict. This track list creates a “mini-campaign” for those players who may not be interested in running a full Jihad campaign, but are interested in smaller (and shorter) campaigns on a particular world. The mini campaign will also indicate what Mission tracks should be run during the main tracks listed, in order to form a multi-track campaign. All Mission tracks are listed at the beginning of the Campaign Setup, using generic forces, one option, and minimal objectives. In each sidebar, mini-campaign notes will be given to provide a unique “flair” for the track, including adjustments to forces, options, and objectives specific to that world.

Each sidebar also functions as a historical record for those players interested in deeper detail regarding various events of the Jihad.

At this point, I needed to sort and come up with a list of systems for such treatment.

First, the list had to feature primarily those systems already worked into the main campaign. This would cut down the number of ‘new’ tracks needed to form a mini-campaign.

Second, the list had to predominately list worlds affected by SCOUR, since that was part of the thrust of the book. See, SCOUR is one of the biggest operations to occur in the Inner Sphere outside of Kerensky’s push to liberate Terra. It got roughly a third of a sourcebook (JHS: Terra) for treatment, and all that info came from in-universe news articles. Øystein and I thought it would be good to give these a more “sourcebook” treatment.

Third, not every ‘popular’ world would get covered. Some I had plans for later on with a JTP treatment or a short story series. Others, when looking over the notes we had, didn’t really stand out as something exciting. And from my personal point of view, putting in some of the “less common” worlds from the BattleTech universe opened up new options for players and authors, providing new windows of creativity and inspiration.

Fourth, the world list needed to span the entire Jihad. Worlds hit late (such as the Capellan-contested worlds) were just as important as those taken first (Outreach).

Then the culling began. Some of the more “popular” worlds didn’t make the cut, like Hesperus, Canopus, Taurus, Arcturus, and Dyev. But some little-known worlds did: Quentin, Yorii, Pleione.

All of the worlds selected had a part to play in the Jihad, whether with an unusual story (Zosma), a pivotal battle or campaign (Dieron), or a meatgrinder (Chara).

The full list was added to the pitch document:

New Avalon
Galedon/An Ting
Solaris VII
Terra Firma
New Hessen
Halloran V
New Earth
New Home
Luyten 68-28
Devil’s Rock

Finally, some space was reserved to tell the tales of the various theater operations during the six month assault on Terra. That constituted another seven sidebars.

What, then, to include within each sidebar’s info? Initially, I had the standard world atlas data in the writer template. The years of occupation/liberation would be displayed, as would a comprehensive list of what forces were involved on the planet. The detailed writeup would then cover the whens and wherefores of operational movements of these forces, including specific battles and other information of note. All of this would be delivered textbook-style.

Because later on in the process space became a huge issue, I removed the world atlas data. I figured the extra 50 words or so would be better spent in the dossier and not in static data.

Some discussion with Ray on the sidebar’s look took place later, regarding what logo to use. The decision was made to use the logo of the world’s affiliation as of 3100, since the book’s fictional point of view was at that period of time.

And so, we arrived at something that looked like this:

Snapshot of the Terra Firma sidebar in Total Chaos.

Next: Pulling it all together

2 thoughts on “Worlds of Chaos

  1. I think these planetary sections are highly valuable because they hang out lots of “hooks” for GM or scenario designers to build a scenario or an event around. That’s one of the things I found most useful in earlier sourcebooks like “Brush Wars” or the FedCom Civil War sourcebook, and from what I have read this books is useful in this direction for Jihad-era events. Wish there could have been more!

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