Saturday, February 17, 2018

First Look at Sphere-Wide Fighter Production

We know the Free Worlds League is "the preeminent builder of new and reconditioned DropShips and Aerospace Fighters," manufacturing 325 AeroSpace Fighters per year (HM:FWL, p114-115).

Recall that the Inner Sphere builds 2700 'Mechs/yr, with the five Great Houses each taking 7/27ths, 6/27ths, 5/27ths, another 5/27ths, and 4/27ths of that total. We have no reason to think AeroSpace production would be apportioned the same way, but if the FWL's 325 fighters/yr did represent 7/27ths of the Inner Sphere's total production, then that would put the annual total around 1254 fighters/yr.

I don't have a direct way to corroborate that figure, but I think I can check it indirectly by estimating LAM production.

I suggested a few posts ago that the Draconis Combine may produce 270 Stinger LAMs/yr; and we've seen that LAMs are as prominent in the FWL as are assault 'Mechs, of which the FWL builds 34/yr. 270 Stinger LAMs + 34 Phoenix Hawk LAMs makes for an annual total of 9800 tons of LAMs. I imagine LAM turnover would've been figured as an average of 'Mech and AeroSpace Fighter turnover, so, after some algebra...

...and assuming that (like 'Mechs) AeroSpace production averages 49 tons per fighter, we get an annual turnover of 1263.63 Aerospace Fighters. This figure is intriguingly indistinguishable from 1263.89, which is what the total would be if the FWL's 325 fighters/yr represented 9/35ths of the Inner Sphere's production, with the other four Houses taking 8/35ths, 7/35ths, 6/35ths and 5/35ths.

This 9:8:7:6:5 split is enticingly simple, but there may be one or two more LAM manufacturers yet to account for, and I'm not certain that AeroSpace Fighters do average 49 tons like 'Mechs do.

I hate to go to the Availability Chart in the old Mercenary's Handbook - I think I've mentioned before that its biases make extrapolation difficult, and AeroSpace Fighters have the added problem that I don't know what total percentage of fighters are light, medium or heavy.

But unlike the 'Mech availability numbers, the AeroSpace ones actually fall into some kind of order.

Summing (or multiplying) a faction's chances of rolling its light, medium and heavy fighters puts the Houses at fairly regular intervals with Marik reassuringly at the top. The other Houses seem to follow according to how much attrition their average 'Mech regiment suffers each year (ie, annual 'Mech production divided by number of House and mercenary regiments):
Marik = 500 / 60 rgts
Kurita = 600 / 80 rgts
Liao = 400 / 60 rgts
Steiner = 500 / 75 rgts
Davion = 700 / 110 rgts
I'm not surprised that Davion would come out on the bottom. House Davion: The Federated Suns (hereafter HD:FS) seems to list weapons manufacturers from biggest to smallest, and its three AeroSpace manufacturers are all listed after a 60-65/yr 'Mech manufacturer, so a Davion total around 180 fighters/yr is to be expected.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Six Sided Periphery

It's not easy to fit P1e's maps of the Periphery onto the housebooks' map of the Inner Sphere. Some worlds match fine, but others - like in Morgraine's Valkyrate, or the district capitals of the Outworlds Alliance - get twisted around into new positions.

So I overlay the Periphery nations with the geographic territories and I notice that the six territories seem to butt up against the edges of a hexagon. Six territories, six sides - know what else has six sides? A cube! 

Different viewing angles would explain so many things about these P1e maps. There's a few ways a cube could be oriented; based on where the "Draconis Rift" is, though, I think it has to be the first of these:
The "Outer Sphere" is pretty obviously in the top-right corner; I assume the "Hyades Rim" runs along the bottom to the right; and the "Draconis Rift" looks like it runs along the top (but maybe not the very top) toward the top-rear corner. Much harder to guess how exactly the other three territories lie.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Now Playing 5e (Storm King's Thunder)

Last March my Pathfinder group wrapped up our campaign and switched over to D&D 5th Edition. I'm pretty happy with 5e. The rules are a lot less finicky than Pathfinder; there doesn't seem to be a loot treadmill, nor a skill bonus treadmill; and characters are a lot easier to create and level up.

I especially like the background tables (motives, flaws, trinkets, etc). They're enough to hang a persona on without getting too intricate. I mean, I don't normally bother with backstories, yet I made a coherent one simply by drawing arrows from one result to another.

Bonus: I didn't have to make my own character sheet! The official ones even have room to annotate with character creation notes (which is near mandatory for rogues, who're likely to get overlapping skill picks from multiple sources).
Monk: "We all chose wood elves? What a neat coincidence."
Rogue (me): "It's not surprising. Wood elves are the optimal choice."
Monk: "Damn min-maxing. Okay, I'm a gnome now."
It's been a continuing challenge to keep our "elf forest first, other kingdoms can rot" party interested in the welfare of foreign peoples.

Now that I'm thinking to make a second character, I'm less enamored with 5e's chargen. It's designed for you to pick a class and then make a small number of branching choices; doing the process in reverse - having a suite of abilities in mind and then trying to figure out which class fits it best - means leafing through just as many feats and features as I had to in Pathfinder.

Storm King's Thunder is a weird module

Our PCs start as level one nobodies, with a who's who of Faerûn factions falling over themselves to help us on our way; we never stay in one place long enough for the party's personalities or backstories to matter; and we don't get a real reason to be on the quest until halfway in.

The set-piece encounters have been fun, but rarely require real effort; last week's session was the first time in almost a year and eight levels that I've taken damage. Granted, my character type isn't generally in the line of fire; and granted, we may be rushing the plot a bit. (We only play two hours a week on a weekday after work, and the GM only reads one session ahead.) But still: I think the module has been pulling punches. Is that fair for an introductory module to do? I don't know; I'd hope it has guidelines about weaving the plot into an existing campaign, modulating encounter difficulty, and - for groups who are starting at first level - hooking the PCs better, earlier. Haven't read the book to see.

More odd things:
  • We keep getting loot, but nary a way (nor need) to spend it. So, now that we've cleaned out the fire lord's fortune, the GM just told us to shop magic items out of the GM's manual. Ironically, this is one of the things we wanted to leave behind with Pathfinder. 
  • Apparently, some of the maps don't have scales marked. 
  • Our group has trouble communicating the geography/architecture of a space; the vertical layout of the fire lord's forge has been a particular source of confusion. 
  • Shouldn't there be multiple adventuring parties from each of our multifarious patrons, pursuing the same goals we are? Why haven't we run into any? There are some temporary PCs early in the book; it could be fun to run across them again near the end.

    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.