Monday, November 12, 2012

Notable 'Mechs and MechWarriors

TR:3025 describes the "feats and foibles" of 168 Notable combatants. I think Steve (Centurion13) put it best when he said these sections read like a notation in a real military – they say what the person does, how they do it, and what impact it has on themselves and the people around them.

Besides giving players colorful characters to interact with, these kinds of briefs are essential to establishing a MechWarrior's-eye-view of known space. They form very careful ratios of rank, faction, and perhaps even gender. (Almost 29% of the Notables were women by a quick count, though I didn't record it.)

You can see a more detailed breakdown here.

Half of all Notables have no command rank; one quarter command a lance; one eighth command a company; the remainder spreads more or less evenly across battalion, regiment and ships; only two command more than a regiment; none of the 168 are House, mercenary or bandit leaders; and Natasha Kerensky is as close as they get to the stable of novelized point-of-view characters. 

TR:3025 was written in conjunction with the 1st edition MechWarrior RPG, and the number of 'Mech regiments that the RPG claims for each House is almost exactly three times the number of Notables TR:3025 assigns to that House. The ratios are so exact that I feel confident assigning Hap Carsburg (Dervish) to the Lyrans, Charles LaPierre (Ostsol) and Timothy O'Neil (Grasshopper) to the Capellans, and it's all but certain that there are 102 mercenary 'Mech regiments in known space in 3025.

I think future TROs would do well to follow the halving pattern for rank and to apportion factions according to the forces those factions actually field. (It'd also be good to have a sprinkling muster out, be drummed out, desert, defect, or otherwise change factions.)

It looks like the authors of TR:3025 wrote maybe half as many Notables to start and then did a second pass to even the ratios out. However, since BattleTech revolves around MechWarriors, the number of MechWarrior Notables per regiment is the best measure of factional bias. Not only do Steiner, Davion, and Mercenaries have disproportionately more MechWarriors than other Notables, but "slightly more than half" of Davion's 110 regiments are mercenaries, as are about one third of Steiner's. This exaggerates their existing bias and leaves few merc regiments to the other four factions.

(Considering this Davion/Steiner/Mercenary bias, the "students of history" and "Successor Lords" comments from the introduction, the "Comstar officials" comment from the HCT entry, the alleged Davion agent in the OSR entry, how designations for Kapteyn-exclusive designs (ie, their Aerospace fighters) differ from everything else, how the back cover quotes the New Avalon Herald, and how FASA had not yet begun using ComStar as their default neutral point of view: TR:3025 was most likely written either for academic (non-military) studies within the NAIS or by someone outside the Davion hierarchy as a guide for FedSuns-aligned mercenaries.)

Of the 168 Notables, a whopping 48 mention the condition of their machine. Twenty (12%) are in mint, best, or perfect condition. Twenty-eight (17%) are battered, scarred or understrength. (Notable Davion machines tend towards good condition. Steiner and Marik split more evenly.) Conversely, only thirteen (8%) of the 168 mention which variant they are. Of those thirteen, three (SDR, CPLT, WHM) specify the stock variant; three (WHM, VTR, BNC) specify an established variant; four (OSR, CP, Leopard, Overlord) modify their communications or electronics; and two (QKD, WSP LAM) have special armor.

Out of the whole book, only one Notable machine and combatant (HBK Shawn Philips) has unique game stats - and that was a rare ground-up assembly of a design already known to have a large class of undocumented variants. The universe is altogether more interested in the long lasting, preexisting damage to a given machine, and individual pilots are overwhelmingly more likely to restore a design than they are to alter it. What modifications they do make tend to fall outside the formalized rules or scales of play.


Two of TR:3025's Notable MechWarriors are notably dead. Since they are both on the same page (JN7) and one of them is really about the guy's present-day descendant anyways, I believe that page is an aberration. Historical figures (Aleksandr Kerensky, Ian Davion, etc.) belong to Battle History.

All 166 other Notable combatants are still live and active in the field. Sure, Maria Gutierrez (F-90) spends most of her time behind a desk, Sealth (ZEU) wants to retire, and a host of others have almost run out of luck. But their fates haven't been decided yet - that's up to the player. Cadre duty (including many of the highest ranked Notables) and bionic limbs seem to be as close as death and retirement can get before the person is no longer worth mentioning. (Mentioning in a TRO, anyhow. Feel free to discreetly finish one or two as Easter Eggs in scenario books or novels.)

The Repair Facility, MASH, Coolant Truck and Boomerang Spotter Plane (quite sensibly) have no Notable combatants. The J-27, Mobile HQ and Swift Wind note crew mainly for the continuously exceptional risks they take.

The Rommel/Patton also has no Notable combatants, but its "Notes" section addresses all the points that Battle History, Variants and Notable Crew normally would. I'm not sure if that reflects the early stage of the tanks' development or an early stage of TR:3025's real world development.

Finally, I'd like to say that I really like how, instead of using generic ranks all the time or using confusing factional ranks all the time, the TR3063 fanbook compromised by putting factional ranks in the bold header and using generic ranks in its actual writing.

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