Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bandit Kings (part 3): Populations

Been looking at how Periphery states are put together. In mid-October I saw some people talking about what the population of a typical Periphery nation might be, so I took all the populations listed in P1e and put 'em into a quick couple of charts.

Top one lists those populations (in millions) from most populous to least populous. Bottom one shows exactly how many millions for each world, the alliance or kingdom each world belongs to, and the total number of worlds and total number of 'Mech battalions possessed by that alliance or kingdom.

Highly populous worlds are relatively rare, just like in the Inner Sphere, and only appear only in the largest, most stable nations; curiously, the size of those populations seem to be in tune with the overall size of the nation. Something like
[Total Population in millions] = 5*[regiments^(20/7)]
with 60%-70% of that total being concentrated on the capital world. (This approximation seems okay for the big three states, and Randis too, but is a little off for Novo Franklin and the Lothian League. A proper logistic function might get better results.)

I suspect the Outworld and Independent worlds are most representative of the Periphery in general (and perhaps the Inner Sphere too), though the kink in the top chart from world #32 to world #33 (Oberon to Lushann) makes it look like populations smaller than 40,000 are underrepresented.

Bandit Kingdoms have the lowest populations. Not surprising, since they tend to be described as having the worst infrastructure. Could also represent how few people a unit of 'Mechs can actually conquer and control.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Forgotten Periphery States

Happy Thanksgiving! I'd wanted to post a 'Mech today but I'm not done with the writing. So instead I'll talk about the conquest of the Americas Periphery.

Any discussion of the Star League will inevitably focus on its ten major states, especially the four which fought to remain independent. But wouldn't there have been innumerable minor states too, who weren't as capable of resisting? We know colonization continued during the Star League - couldn't more have formed?

These questions are only partially addressed in the lore, and in only two places: MW1e (page 7) says there were six Territorial States when the Star League fell, and the first Periphery sourcebook (hereafter P1e) suggests six or seven such regions on its map of "geographic" zones.

Here's P1e's geographic map superimposed on its political map.

Four of the geographic zones match what the text says about the original size and extent of the Outworlds Alliance, Taurian Concordat, Magistracy of Canopus, and Rim Worlds Republic (née Rift Republic). That suggests the other zones correspond with Star League-era states too.

The "March Worlds" zone is especially interesting. It has the remains of the Alphard Trading Corporation, which dabbled in Periphery politics, produced 30 'Mechs/month for Amaris, and was decimated by Kerensky's forces (MW1e, p136); it has lots of remnant states, like the "Rift" and "Outer Sphere" zones do; and it overlaps the FWL's Rim Commonality province. I remember from HM:FWL that the FWL relied on foreign production for much of their war material, that the FWL was on better terms with the nearby Periphery than the other Star League Member-States were, and that the ruling Marik was sore at Kerensky around this time. I wonder if these things were related.

The "Capellan Marches" seem to contain New Vandenberg, which means it can't be a separate nation. But it could be the Taurian worlds which participated in the New Vandeberg Revolt. That'd be worth marking as a seventh zone.

The "Draconian Drift" would contain the final Territorial State. Never heard anything about it, not even by inference. But habitation there is so scarce, both on the map and in the text, that maybe silence isn't surprising.

Star's End is in the wrong place, incidentally. The texts of both MW1e and P1e agree that it should be mirrored over to the right, to put a lobe of the "Draconian Drift" between it and the Oberon Confederation. (For some reason the Steiner and Kurita maps put Porthos there instead, and Star's End where Porthos should be.) 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

skiptober 'Mech industries

[Unrelated to today's post, but worth repeating: longtime BattleTech author Blaine Pardoe has posted some of the original BattleTech maps - with z-axis notations!]

Okay, remember how the Free Worlds League builds 500 'Mechs/yr, with 230 being "signature" for their faction? Curiously, the Draconis Combine's "Weapon Industries" page seems to list 230 signature 'Mechs too.

  • We know from the MW1e tables that Kurita builds 142 Panthers and 64 Dragons/yr. 
  • Luthien Armor Works should build 13 Chargers/yr. If we rate Chargers as the Periphery's contribution to assault class manufacturing, they'd total 16.7/yr; if we model their production on bug 'Mechs (~430/yr vs 12500 in existence), they'd total ~17.2/yr; and I figure Kurita and Liao split assault production 93:24
  • Marik builds 9 Quickdraws/yr, out of a total 500 'Mechs/yr. Kurita builds a total of 600 'Mechs/yr. So, at a guess, Kurita might build 9 * 600/500 = ~11 Quickdraws.

142+64+13+11 = 230.

We know that page doesn't list everything they build, of course; there's the Atlases at Al Na'ir, and there must be hundreds other 'Mechs/yr elsewhere. (I could maybe believe LexaTech builds 270 LAMs/yr, but that's pushing it. 370/yr is right out.)

Although I don't have as much data for the Federated Suns' weapons industries, it looks like their pages may show 230 "signature" 'Mechs/yr too. (It would certainly explain why they list Cal-Boeing's Ferret facility at Dorwinion on Belladonna while omitting Achernar's Enforcer and Dervish facility there.)

This is all a long-winded way of saying that I'm really very sure that the Lyrans produce 230 "signature" 'Mechs and 270 more common ones each year. Unfortunately, it turns out this means I have to discard my inferences from TR:3050. (Well, not totally discard them; since the 3050 Lyrans inherit former Capellan factories in the Sarna March, I can use them to inform my estimates of 3025 Capellan production.)

I've been thinking that Taurian production might be a microcosm of Lyran production; that might hold up. I'm having less luck keeping Defiance's production comfortably high - I'm hoping that Banshee production isn't the missing piece, because I'd like to avoid adding that in if at all possible.

Was hoping the 'Mech Availability Table from the '80s Mercenary's Handbook would help, but the factional and rarity biases are too strong to do that easily.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

skiptember stars

[Edit, November 15: longtime BattleTech author Blaine Pardoe has posted some of the original BattleTech maps - with z-axis notations! /Edit]

Usually I spend only a few days each summer poking at BattleTech's starcharts.  Spent a little more time this autumn because someone was asking where to put Rigel.

(Here's the data I'm working from. I transcribed it from a copy of the Yale Brightstar Catalogue in spring of 2014; haven't fixed the entry for Peacock because I lost the key to the raw data.)  

BattleTech's 1980s stellar coordinates seem to have been generated systematically. Although mirrored left-to-right from how an astronomer would plot them, they do a pretty good job matching the stars' real life Right Ascension; and although the distances seem wonky, they do show a general shortening as if being projected onto a plane.

Picking out meaningful trends is extra hard because, in real life, stars aren't distributed randomly or evenly. They naturally appear in lines, curves and circles across Earth's night sky. Also, the sample is biased.

I figure I can minimize a lot of those confounding factors if I do the simplest thing possible, and the simplest thing I can think of is to look more closely at the slight differences between BattleTech's Right Ascension and real life Right Ascension.

There's a bunch of obvious sin curves there, not sure what to do with them. Why should there be an arc starting near zero degrees difference at 100 degrees RA, rising to the top right corner and then (wrapping around to the top left) falling back to zero at 280 degrees RA? Are the other curves on the bottom likewise a single curve wrapped around on itself?

Frickin' trig functions and polar math, man. Wish I were still familiar with how converting between polar systems worked.

If I don't get any bright ideas about this Right Ascension thing, my next step is probably to take stars in groups of three and calculate what angle their plane forms relative to Earth's, for as many groups of three as I can stand, and see if any patterns emerge from that.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Final Rat Quest

As the last GM in our Evil Rat cycle, I tried to tie as many plot lines together as possible. The best part was telling the players "Yeah? It gets worse" every time they recognized something and groaned.

Set Up: giant, oompa-loomp-like rabbits stole a magic water gem from an army of fish people and a magic air gem from somebody else, and have used these gems to secretly fly their 400-ft stone tower into foreign lands. They're enchanting the wellwater in towns near Rosebush to turn the townsfolk into giant vegetables for their larder. Nobody on the ground knows what's going on. The fish people have sent scouts to recover the water gem, but they don't know what's going on either, and mistake one group of furry mammal-people for the other.

Villages are empty, which makes a red herring of the psi-rat from last quest, while the weird unknown monsters and magically giant vegetables suggest treachery from Nim. I had stuff ready for anywhere the players could choose to go, progressing from garbled rumors to physical evidence to direct encounters.

How It Played: the PCs' political rival took off for the monastery the psion was in, so the PCs teleported there ahead of him. Which is fine, I expected that. Then one of the players began talking with the NPCs there as though he had existing backstory with them--he was improvising, but since I didn't know how much was improv and how much was pre-established, I was off-balance. Something I need to get better at.

This being our last quest with these characters and campaign area, I probably should've asked up front if anybody had loose ends they wanted to tie up. Nicodemus, for instance, was arranging with the monks to have his rival assassinated.

I don't think the players felt lost like they did in my city quest, but it's hard to tell. They leaned pretty heavily on Survival (tracking) rolls and I'm not sure if they considered any other way forward.

The 'boss fight' was good and bad. Bad, in that I again underestimated the PCs capabilities; it was trivially easy to stealth around picking the mob of rabbits off one by one, which means the rabbits never summoned the psychedelic dragons which would've been the real boss fight. Good, in that other members of the party were also bypassing the boss fight with fast talk and sabotage.

I knew the quest would most likely end with the PCs sabotaging the tower--they stranded it in the Elemental Plane of Air, and it can't do planar hops on its own--which I ran by the seat of my pants and it played fine. It very much felt seat-of-the-pants to me, though, and I wish I'd worked the mechanisms out more firmly ahead of time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

More 'Mech Production Insights From MW1e

Since I'm taking the production rates for Valkyries and other signature 'Mechs from the MW1e Enemy Lance Table, I decided to compare each House's portion of signature 'Mechs with their overall level of production.

I'm surprised by how well the Houses line up. Each has a base of 269, and then however many signature 'Mechs from the Lance Table, plus additional 'Mechs amounting to 61.2% of their signature designs.

Davion is a little off, which is discouraging; and the Hermes II (MW1e's signature Marik 'Mech) doesn't even appear on the table, so I need to check Marik some other way.

I think the Marauder-M and Wolverine-M could be considered signature Marik designs.

The Stinger, Wasp, Griffin, Locust, Warhammer, Archer, Shadow Hawk, Phoenix Hawk, BattleMaster, Rifleman and Crusader definitely aren't. Marik's manufacturing chart shows 257 of these/yr, and 14 Thunderbolts/yr raises the total to 271. That agrees pretty well with the 269 figure on my graph.

If each House builds 270 of these/yr, then that would mean the standard variants of these fourteen standard designs make up about 50% of the Inner Sphere's annual 'Mech production.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

# House Regiments *10 = 'Mech Production

House Liao: The Capellan Confederation (hereafter HL:CC) details its forces at the battalion level, which makes it easy to see they have about 40 regiments worth of house regulars. I notice that House Liao happens to build 400 'Mechs/yr and MW1e gives you a 4/36 chance of being in their employ.

The other House TO&Es aren't as detailed, but they seem to follow the same pattern: Davion has 70 regiments of house troops, Kurita has 60, Steiner 50 and Marik 50.

(I think we can trust that (for instance) the Davion book is accounting for short and weakened units when it estimates its 118 regimental commands at an overall strength of 110 regiments; and if we subtract known mercenary regiments from that overall strength, the remaining regiments should be house regulars (plus whatever mercs are too small to appear on the TO&Es).)

Of the 385 regiments' worth of 'Mechs operating in the Successor States, 270 belong to house troops while 115--or about 29.9%--belong to mercenaries.

Quick Plausibility Check:
  • The Periphery Houses have a total of 17.33 regiments. At a ratio of 115 to 385, we'd expect 5.18 of those regiments to be mercenary, and we do indeed see 5 regiments of mercs. 
  • MW1e gives you a 2/36 chance to roll a "bandit" affiliation (page 135 calls the difference between bandits and other alliances "more semantic than actual"). This implies 20 regiments of "house" troops spread across all lesser Periphery states, which in turn implies 20*115/270 merc regiments. Added to the three Periphery Houses and the five Great Houses, that's 430.85 regiments overall, or (at 128 'Mechs per regiment) 55149 'Mechs, which agrees with my previous estimates.
House Marik, which has 50 regiments of house troops, builds 500 'Mechs/yr with an average mass of 49 tons per 'Mech; since House Steiner sustains the same number of house troops with the same production/yr, they probably average 49 tons per 'Mech too.

The Periphery Houses, on the other hand, have a little more freedom because their production rates aren't encoded in the MW1e Affiliation Table.
The Outworlds Alliance has 1.33 regiments of house troops, so if their production averaged 49 tons per 'Mech, they'd build 13.33 'Mechs per year; to achieve the same overall mass with only 20-ton 'Mechs would require building 13.33*49/20 = 32.67 'Mechs per year.

The Magistracy of Canopus has 3.33 regiments of house troops, less however many mercs are too small to appear on the TO&E; P1e says they produce roughly 30 armor and 30 AeroSpace Fighters, so let's suppose they produce 30*49 tons of 'Mech per year--exactly enough for 10 Shadow Hawks and 46 bug 'Mechs.

The Taurian Concordat might then have 17.33*270/385 - 1.33 - 3 = 7.82 regiments of house troops. As the Periphery state most like a Great House, they probably do build 78 'Mechs per year averaging 49 tons per 'Mech.
This gives the Periphery a total production of 167 'Mechs/yr split into a 3/5/7 ratio (33/56/78). Happily, the MW2e Affiliation Table retains that 3/5/7 ratio circa 3050 when it raises their combined output to 250 'Mechs/yr (50/83.33/116.67).