Final Chaos

Base Into Action, by Alex Williamson

Continuing the discussion on my latest book project, Total Chaos. We last left off with deciding what world sidebars to include and then cutting the writers loose.

Over the course of two months, assigned material began trickling back to me. I had several phone conversations with Matt Murray, who was tasked with rewriting the Chaos campaign rules and updating the cybernetic rules. Early on, after I reworked the word count, I realized we had too much material for the book. So I quickly decided to axe the cybernetic rules, as they played only a minor part with regards to some of the opposition units in the tracks. A quick conversation with Randall and Herb later, these rules – originally found in Jihad Hot Spots: 3072 – would be relocated to the Interstellar Operations core rulebook. My rules section for Total Chaos looked sparse, but because most of the book was rules and guidelines, I didn’t think that would take away from the project.

Bio for Roger Goddard, by Peter Johnston

This would also be one of the first BattleTech books without “toys” in it, as in new weapons or equipment. I was gambling that a few dozen new tracks, three new merc units, and tossing in two special ‘character’ BattleMechs would gloss over the lack of new toys.

The book began to take shape as I methodically worked through the previously published tracks. Fortunately, the largest number of tracks needed reworking were those found in Dawn of the Jihad and Jihad Hot Spots: 3070. The remainder utilized (mostly) the Total Warfare rules, though JH72 had been completed before Tactical Operations was done. I also began working into my master track outline the titles of the tracks being created by the writers. Once the master outline was complete, I then broke down the story paths of the three new merc units and let Geoff, Chris, and Craig know which ones they needed to work up for the journal entries.

The Mission tracks became somewhat of a stumbling block. Originally, they were to be reworked from the Starterbook series. Due to some misunderstanding with the assigned writer, these tracks ballooned unnecessarily and needed reworked from my end. Unfortunately, a few errors ended up slipping through; errors that aren’t catastrophic, but instead need to rely on the honorable intent of players involved. (Excessive rules lawyering could make a couple of those tracks intensely difficult for a campaign player.)

By April, all of the assigned work was turned in. One writer, who suffered a mass hard drive failure, managed to redo all of his work in a week to make deadline – something I greatly appreciated. I began working through the new tracks, applying tweaks, even as I sent material off to playtesters and a new editor.

One of the other hiccups with the project came in the form of art. Originally, art notes had been supplied to our Art Director back when the assignment document went out in January. Unfortunately, it was overlooked due to the massive amount of other projects on CGL’s table. A query in April – because I hadn’t even seen sketches – uncovered the honest mistake. I think it turned into a blessing for the book, however. Brent, CGL’s Art Director, turned the art assignments over only to CGL’s top artists. And what we got in return was some awesome material in a few short weeks. One of those was the cover, done by Alex Iglesias – who was also working on the MechWarrior Online computer imagery. He did the Total Chaos cover in that same style, which (unintentionally) tied both products together.

By mid-May, everything was in and finalized. Ray picked up the ball in layout and bull-rushed through a few critical weeks. The man is a layout machine. What he did is on par with the stellar work he’s done for me in The Wars of Reaving, Jihad Hot Spots: Terra, and Masters & Minions.

And just like that, Total Chaos was complete and ready for print and PDF sale.

Total Chaos (cover), by Alex Iglesias

As a side note, because I largely controlled most of the book’s process, it stayed off the developer’s table, giving Herb time and space to concentrate on the A Time of War Companion and the Field Manual: Star League projects. It also remained off Randall’s radar. As such, Total Chaos was hardly mentioned in site updates and in chats. Because of that, it proved to be a pleasant surprise when it was officially announced as coming soon, with the PDF dropping almost immediately.

I daresay reception has been good so far, though there’s been no full reviews of it on any of the major fansites (for example: OurBattletech, Scrapyard Armory). Arbitration had some initial impressions about it in their June 2012 podcast, though they mainly revolved around Stone’s Atlas II and St. Jamais Awesome – both record sheets included in the book. Time will tell – especially GenCon sales, as the book should be available in print for the convention and retailers by then.

Ultimately, though, regardless of the feedback, I’m pretty proud of this project. While there were a few hitches here and there, I’m confident that this will open up more opportunities for me to take on additional BattleTech books, creating more fun and excitement for fans, players, and gamers alike.

And if you haven’t purchased your copy yet, why not visit the battleshop and take care of that now?

Thanks for reading (and purchasing)!

13 thoughts on “Final Chaos

  1. Oh man…I’m really, really bummed the new cybernetics rules got cut. That was what motivated me to buy the book/PDF combo in the first place?
    I still like the product very much (the planetary campaign sidebars alone are excellent) but is there any chance at all the new cyber rules might be published online or in a Supplemental of some sort?

    My 50th Shadow Division are now sad cyber-pandas….:(

    1. As I mentioned in the post, they were moved to Interstellar Operations. So you only need to wait a few more months. 🙂

      1. Of course, by the time Randal finishes Interstellar Operations, you’re going to need to be cyberized in order to lift it! 😉

    2. P.S. I’m sorry Ben, I missed your comment in the blog that the Cyber rules would appear in Interstellar Operations in my first quick read-through. Never mind, time to break out the wallet when IO comes out, then the 50th will be happy cyber-pandas once more. 😀

  2. I loved the book, and as I mentioned on the Twitter-sphere – after reading Total Chaos I felt like I had just finished the equivalent of a “BattleTech “Choose you own Adventure” novel. Pretty fantastic stuff if you ask me. While I haven’t played any of the tracks yet, I loved their complexity. Total Chaos really pushed the boundaries of scenario design compared to early products based on the Chaos Campaign rules. IMO, this is the best campaign/scenario book published to-date for BattleTech.

  3. A full and fair review might require playing all the tracks at least once; in that case there hasn’t been time yet!

    Short review: This is the product that the Jihad was invented for—a Sphere-wide skirmish that involved almost every faction, so any player can work his favorite unit into the playable tracks and go to town. The conflict lasted exactly long enough for a greenhorn to go in and a grizzled veteran to come out. A dramatic arc is created and the villains get their comeuppance—or do they?

    I’ve decided to tackle this product piecemeal on my blog; it’s too big to eat in one sitting.

  4. “One writer, who suffered a mass hard drive failure, managed to redo all of his work in a week to make deadline – something I greatly appreciated. ”

    Ben, it may be time to look at a distributed version control system like Mercurial or Git to address these kinds of problems. They’re nice because everyone on a project has a backup of everyone else’s work.

  5. I didn’t realize this book was already out! I’m honored to have one of my pieces as the first piece of art for this post. It was great fun to do as I love tanks and I had actually been looking for an excuse to draw a tank at that angle. The oher pieces I did for Total Chaos were great fun as well and I’m very pleased I’m in the group of “CGL’s top artists” – drawing Battletech stuff is a blast. 🙂

    Cheers, Alex

  6. Ben, have you ever thought about a TC-like campaign based on the WoR?
    If TC sells well, that would be an excellent addition to the WoR.

    1. I did but rejected it for numerous reasons; that’s why in part you have the build-a-campaign in WOR. It’s too convoluted a mess to truly create a static series of tracks for the period.

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