Sunday, January 29, 2012

Promoting Other Battletech Websites

There is a great community of Battletech players. Most of the time we can be found on the official Battletech forum,, Lords of the Battlefield, and others. What I want to do today is highlight a couple of Battletech fan websites I like. I have plenty of them on my links list, so I’ll be doling them out over the coming months. Arbitrations Studios, home of the only currently regularly broadcast Battletech podcast that I know of. Hosted by JP Arbitrator, his lovely wife, Mrs. Arbitrator and the always volatile and unpredictable High-Test, they talk about Battletech issues, have an interview or product review, and try a few other things. It’s still a work in progress as it tries to find the balance between information and entailment, but it’s clearly a labor of love, and I love listening to it. (September of 2011 has an interview with me – then you know why I write and not podcast!)  Battletech, after twenty-five plus years, has a mass of people, places, events, units, BattleMechs, vehicles of all types, and enough data to make one’s head spin. The  Battletechwiki is the place to go to find answers. A team of dedicated battletech fans go through all the data, pulls out things relatuing to one subject, writes it up and posts it. you can learn about one planet, one character, or one BattleMech, with all known variants. I have used it more than once as a place to reference things I needed for a story. It’s also a place one can easily lose themselves in, if they’re nor careful. Scrapyard Armory is a blog like this one, but he is a painter and has some beautiful shots of some of his minis, reviews of products, and reports for conventions. In addition, he has a few home-made Battletech projects like The Chaos campaign: Pirate’s Haven and Chaos Campaign: War of 3090, both based on the track system for the Chaos campaign system that are free to download and use in your own campaigns. Worth a look.

If you like these sites, let the people who run them know. If you don’t, let them know. I’ll have more of these places to see in other columns, so if you have one, let me know!


Friday, January 20, 2012

An experiment -- AToW character of the week

 I want to do something a little different than just babble on about writing for Battletech....So, here is the first thing. Below is a Character for the Battletech RPG, A Time of War (AToW). A generic character (Sort of) to use in games either as a PC or NPC. Each one will have a concept, a general background, and his/her AToW stats. I am still working out the details of the undea, so these characters might not show up every week You will need the Time of War rulebook.

TOW Character of the Week

Concept: Capellan Sniper

San-ben-bing Shin is a sniper in one of the Home Guard regiments. He grew up in the back woods, learning to hunt at an early age. When he went to basic training, he impressed his instructors with his shooting. After basic, he spent two years in the Home Guards, then sent to Sniper school, where he was teaching the instructors as much as they were teaching him. He graduated and was assigned to the scout-sniper platoon. He is considered the platoon’s best sniper.

On a mission, Shin is a careful, patient soldier who uses his skills to approach the area, find the best sniper position, and wait for his target. He will stay in place as long as he needs to, regardless of the weather. He prefers to operate alone.

Off-duty, Shin is a loner, with no close friends. He always sits with his back to a wall, and avoids standing in front of a window. Despite this, it is expected that Shin will be promoted to Si-ben-bing and assigned to the local Regional Training Center (RTC) to train more snipers.

Name: Rolan Shin
Affiliation: Capelan Confederation

        Score Link        Movement (Meters Per Turn)
STR       6     +0           Walk 11      Climb 10
BOD       5     +0           Run 22       Crawl 3
RFL       5     +0           Sprint 44    Swim 15 
DEX       5     +0 
INT       5     +0 
WIL       6     +0 
CHA       4     +0 
EDG       4     +0
Traits                   Rules      Traits           Rules 
Animal Empathy (1)       p. 108     Good Hearing (1) p. 118
Bloodmark (-2)           p. 109     In for Life (-3) p. 120
Citizenship (2)          p. 109     Introvert (-1)   p. 121
Combat Sense (4)         p. 110     Patient (1)      p. 121
Compulsion/Paranoid (-1) p. 110     Rank (2)         p. 123
Connections (3)          p. 111     Sixth Sense (4)  p. 125
Enemy (-4)               p. 113     Toughness (3)    p. 127
Fit (2)                  p. 117

Skills                      Links     TN/C   Level
Acrobatics/Free fall        RFL       7/SB    +2
Acting                      CHA       8/CB    +1
Animal Handling/Riding      WIL       7/SB    +1
Artillery                   INT+WIL   8/SA    +1
Career/Soldier              INT       7/SB    +3
Climbing                    DEX       7/SB    +4
Comm./Conventional          INT       7/SB    +1
Computers                   INT       8/CB    +2
Demolitions                 DEX+INT   9/CA    +4
Disguise                    CHA       7/CB    +1
Driving/Ground Vehicles     RFL+DEX   8/SA    +2
Escape Artist               STR+DEX   9/CA    +2
Interrogation               WIL+CHA   9/CA    +3
Investigation               INT+WIL   9/CA    +1
Language/Cantonese          INT+CHA   8/SA    +1 
Language/English            INT+CHA   8/SA    +1
Language/Mandarin           INT+CHA   8/SA    +2
Leadership                  WIL+CHA   8/SA    +4
Martial Arts*               RFL+DEX   8/SA    +4
Meditech                    INT       7/SB    +0
Melee Weapons               DEX       7/SB    +2
Navigation/Ground           INT       7/SB    +1
Negotiation                 CHA       8/CB    +0
Perception                  INT       7/SB    +5
Prestidigitation/Quickdraw  DEX       7/SB    +2
Protocol/Capellan Confed.   WIL+CHA   9/CA    +2
Running                     RFL       7/SB    +1 
Science/Chemistry           INT+WIL   9/CA    +1
Security Systems/Mechanical DEX+INT   9/CA    +1
Small Arms (Rifle)          DEX       7/SB   +8(+1)
Stealth                     RFL+INT   8/SA    +5 
Streetwise/Capellan         CHA       8/CB    +2
Support Weapons             DEX       7/SB    +2
Survival/Arctic             BOD+INT   9/CA    +2
Survival/Forest             BOD+INT   9/CA    +3
Survival/Mountain           BOD+INT   9/CA    +3
Swimming                    STR       7/SB    +3
Tactics/Infantry            INT+WIL   9/CA    +3
Thrown Weapons/Blades       DEX       7/SB    +0
Tracking/Wilds              INT+WIL   8/SA    +4

Equipment                Cost           Weight      Stats
Minolta 9000             1,000          6.0kg       see p. 266
Reloads/Minolta 9000 (3)    15           .36kg      see p. 266
Autopistol                  50           .5kg       see p. 265
Reload/Autopistol (2)        4           .28kg      see p. 265
Knife                        8           .25kg      see p. 261
Helmet (Capellan)          200          2.0kg       see p. 292
Suit (Capellan)            200          4.5kg       see p. 292
Boots (Capellan)            48          2.0kg       see p. 292
Load-Bearing Vest           20           .4kg       see p. 290
Rangefinder Binoculars     200           .5kg       see p. 304
Basic Field Kit             10          5.0kg       see p. 312
Climbing/Repelling Kit     150         10.3kg       see p. 312
Medical Kit                 10           .25kg      see p. 313


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing Battletech Fiction: The devil is in the details.

After writing sixteen Battlecorps stories, there is one thing I have learned. Namely, the story have
to fit into the universe, and not the universe fit into the story.

Writing inside a shared universe is much different then writing in your own universe. In your own
universe, you have to create everything — the events, the locations, the politics, the religion –
everything. There has to be a consistent logic to everything.

In the Battletech universe, everything is laid out, and that is both a plus and minus. A plus,
because I don't have to explain the details of how a PPC works, or what an Enforcer looks like,
or go into great details about Clan Ghost Bear. Most readers already know these things, so I can
get to the story and the characters. The background is there waiting to be used.

But it also imposes limits to what I can do. The major events arcs are the preview of the novelist
and the sourcebooks. I can't disregard them, or alter them. My stories have to fit in with
established events, to slip into the timeline without a ripple.

A word about continunity: it matters when I write Battlecorps stories. Many stories have been
killed in the continuity review, not because they weren't good stories, but because they didn't fit
into the events of that time.

It isn't always the writer's fault. We, as a group don't know everything that's being developed, or
how future events are being shaped. A story may be killed because the events in it clash with a set
of events already in the planning session. Sometimes, the writer finds out what those events are.
But it more than continuity. It's the DETAILS.

Details like the Combine's Military ranks, the model of missile launcher a Commando carries, or
the difference between a Nova and a Supernova formation. It's knowing that a Locust can't core
a BattleMaster with one volley, but a BattleMaster can do it to a Locust. It's looking at a map of
the Inner Sphere and trying to calculate how many jumps it'll take for your character to go from
point A to point B. It's keeping track of the character missile or autocannon rounds so I don't
have a missile launcher firing a volley two pages after its fired its last one. It's keeping a chart of
how much armor is left and know what is in that location on that 'Mech or vehicle. And it's
looking up worlds to see what's been already been written about them.

In some ways, it's a puzzle. Character A cannot be with Unit #1, because the unit was on the
other side of the Inner Sphere during this time period. So I need to find Unit #2 for Character A. What year does the story take place? 3025, so any unit listing that's later than 3025 is not needed for this story. Am I
using the Capellan Confederation armed forces in this story? Check the old House Liao
sourcebook for the right rank structure, because it's not the same one the Confederation has in 3075.

Next to my desk is a bookshelf, with over a hundred Battletech books running the entire lifetime
of the game. I had to put my original House Davion sourcebook into a binder because it was
falling apart and I will have to do the same for both the original House Kurita and Liao
sourcebooks very soon. I also have numerous PDFs, which range from copies of books I already
have, sourcebooks I don't have, and PDF-only formats. All those files easily doubles the number
of dead tree books I have at hand. Not far away is a shelf of Battletech novels, stacked three
deep, most, if not all, the first edition, Nearby, magazines that have Battletech articles in them, as
well as the entire Battletechnology magazine series. I estimate that ten percent of my library is
related directly to Battletech.

And it's just not Battletech. I have books on all sorts, from military history to weapons to even a
couple on tactics. I have PDF of a large selection of military handbooks and have several websites
bookmarked for other areas. I might never use 90% of the knowledge, but if I do need it, its

So, writing Battletech stories is both good and bad – good because most of the background
information is there, but bad because I have to go dig it out.....

More later!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

My purpose for this Blog....

. . . .is simple. It's to promote the Game of Battletech to regular players and to new players. I love the game and have done so for years. These days, I'm acutally writing for the Universe.

So, why do I love it?

There isn't one answer to that. I love the game itself, and the fiction that has powered it for many years. The RPG and table-top/minis game, and the video games.  I like the fans and the people who haunt the forums, debating questions about the game or the universe itself. I love the people that write their own suplements, because they want to give something back to the game and the fans. It's a place where I don't feel like I'm an outsider.

Plus, you can never go wrong with big, stompy robots.....

So, what do I want to do with this blog? A bit of everything. Topics about Battletech, my thoughts about writing fiction set in this Universe, maybe even some RPG items for those who play that. To give someone the credit they deserve. I don't know how often I can do this, as I have a lot of writing to do, but I want to add something new every week.

This will be an experiment......


Getting started

Just getting this blog started....