Friday, December 23, 2016

"Direct Competition to Rogue One"

"As direct competition to Rogue One, we release, Light Up The Night!
We'll just see how well you do at the box office now, Mr. Disney..."

I love how their newsletter over-hypes things.


Rogue One

Am I jaded for finding Rogue One ham-handed and mediocre? Don't get me wrong, there's things to enjoy about it, but it feels like a rejected alternate to Episode VII, and like the script doctors only got 40% of the way through. 

It'll be successful, of course, because it follows the same plot formula all the other Star Wars movies do; but I would think that these side-story movies would be trying to break from that formula.

[Edit, Jan 7: I am not alone! A kind soul pointed me to a couple articles posted on /Edit]

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pathfinder: Evil Rat Cycle

I have a little more to say about Periphery manufacturing rates, but it's taking longer than I expected to sort out.

In the meantime, here's some notes prepared by the first GM in our next Pathfinder cycle. We started out as a party of evil rats in a new campaign region--I think everyone else has moved onto their second, less evil rat by now. I'm the only holdout.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pathfinder Transcript: Corpses Are Loot & So Are Their Makers

[One of the players in our group has started keeping brief transcripts of our sessions, partly for the amusement of a third party who isn't playing with us I guess, and partly to help us pick up the following session in medias res.]

TL;DR-  We indulge some backstory for the GM's PC (who is present in an ancillary role) by investigating a light house which has gone dark.

The set-piece battle was interesting: steep waves would frequently lift one ship high above the other, periodically taking them out of sight and reach of each other; and the reanimated pirates all shared a common pool of hit points.

The lighthouse itself was going to be a second set-piece battle, but we confused the NPC villain (or maybe the GM?) by splitting up and entering simultaneously through both the top and bottom of the tower. Also, instead of killing the villain, we recruited him.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posting three times a week was interesting. My human readership seemed to rise steadily, and American bots even started to outnumber Russian bots. But I am my own primary audience, and I don't want to put stuff out half-baked; so--as I'm sure you've already noticed--I'm slowing down to one post a week, at least through the New Year's.

Ancient History

I wouldn't describe myself as a particular fan of Star Trek, but I have watched an awful lot of it, so I want to give a very belated thanks to Real Life Comics for posting this strip and then hiding my forum post to preserve this gag. It still tickles me.

I'd acknowledge other people who've read me or who I read, but it's late, and I don't have many meaningful things to say which aren't better off being rolled into more topical gaming posts. 

No gaming content today.

I will say I'm amused at how my comment about setting a guard and fighting wargs was followed a week later by commentary here about setting watch and being attacked by dire wolves. Because that's the true meaning of Thanksgiving--not being eaten by wolves.

(One session I played in high school involved a large fraction of the party being eaten by random wolves (there was a recurring chorus of "allll, eaten by wollllllves"), due largely to poor spell casting on my part. I generally choose spells badly and time them badly, which is why I rarely play mages.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Unaffiliated 'Mech Production (Part 4: ComStar)

First Look at ComStar

Due to the order weapons manufacturers appear in the HD:FS book, I suspect that Aldis Industries sells no more than 60 or 65 'Mechs and Aerospace fighters annually to Davion. For instance (counting a tank as half a 'Mech, which MW1e does when awarding XP), that could be 40 tanks, 20 'Mechs and 20 fighters. 

That might make Aldis bigger than Scarborough or the Exeter group, but is it enough to beat out the New Earth Trading Company and Ceres Metals for the title of "largest independent manufacturer of weapons in the Inner Sphere?"

Aldis should be selling to everyone, so only a portion would go to Davion - 110 / 385, if we go by regiments (110 / 402.33 including the major periphery states), or 35.67 / 88.5 if we go by mercenaries* (35.67 / 97.67, allowing for Capellan unchartered mercenaries). That would make total production something like 2.5x to 3.67x Davion's portion, or about fifty to seventy-five 'Mechs/yr.

It would be... aesthetically pleasing? ...if Aldis produced the Phoenix Hawk, Wolverine, Rifleman, Crusader and BattleMaster, since those are the five core types not produced in the periphery. I'm also tempted to assign the Chameleon and Longbow to Aldis, perhaps in place of the Phoenix Hawk and BattleMaster. As a neutral party, Aldis Industries makes a convenient supplier for these two 'Mechs, which don't otherwise seem to be produced anywhere in 3025.

*In a similar vein, how much a realm has to rely on mercenaries may be a good indicator for how easy it is for independent weapons manufacturers to operate in that realm.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pathfinder: Everyone Wants the DM's Attention

In our last session, while neutralizing the guards in an underground prison, the party tripped a trap (magic vial around the captain's neck) which drowns the level in water. The sewer grate at one end of the level seals up in stone, and an arcane lock seals the trapdoor in the ceiling at the other end. None of us had dispel or knock, and our rogue didn't think he could pick magic locks.

We're Level 14 Ratfolk this time, & mostly evil
Things got pretty chaotic.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Light Up The Night

I never played Mega Man, but this song
(from a MegaMan inspired concept album / saga)
is great.

And now they're turning it into a sixteen-minute short film!
Which I'm not actually all that jazzed about, based on the trailer,
but it looks pretty well executed and I like their music so I'll give it a shot.

Monday, October 31, 2016

FWL 3025: the three unnamed ASF sites

I know from HM:FWL (page 118) that the League manufactures 325 Aerospace Fighters at eight sites, including Westover, Lopez, Helm, Marik and Atreus. The other three sites aren't specified. (Bordon may have an LAM site, but LAMs may not count.)

Danais, Regulus and Wisconsin

The Silver Hawk Irregulars are "well supported with light AeroSpace Fighters and light tanks" (HM:FWL page 98). The light tanks are built on Amity (page 160), which suggests another member may build the light fighters. Kalidasa builds 'Mechs, Callison is a trade world, and Shiloh has nothing of value, which leaves Danais. Danais also happens to be one of the tax zones in the Succession Wars boardgame.

Some of the tax zones (Megrez, Bella, Sierra, Landfall, Tellman, Xanthe and maybe Furud) appear to be named for their outermost world. But most of the others are production sites: Westover, Marik and Atreus (fighters); Oceana, Oriente and maybe Ryerson (ships); Oriente and Calloway ('Mechs). Since the last two--Regulus and Wisconsin--aren't at the edge of their zones, I think it's likely that they're production sites too.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Grange Class YardShip

[This has been sitting on my desktop for ages. Haven't got around to full stats yet.]

How do I not remember the Sales Bug of the Year?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Customization: Veteran Techs & Repair Facilities

You can make a veteran technician (one capable of designing permanent changes to a 'Mech) as a PC, but where do you find them as NPCs? MW1e doesn't give even a 1/36 chance that a MechWarrior would be randomly assigned one, which suggests that a typical regiment would have one or two at most. That's rare enough to be the regiment's chief technician--or working at a repair facility behind the front lines, which may be where the regimental technical pool is headquartered anyway.

It's hard to say how many BattleMech repair facilities exist in 3025. I'd expect them (based on nothing more than my gut, mind you) to be more common than factories, so maybe one in three regimental HQ worlds has a repair site? That would make the factory:repair facility ratio about the same as the repair facility:regiment ratio.

Ray Lederer art from Chaos March, page 65

Monday, October 24, 2016

Unaffiliated 'Mech Production (Part 3: TDF)

3025 BattleTech has fourteen core 'Mech designs.

All three periphery states build Locusts, Stingers and Wasps. The Magistracy adds the Shadow Hawk. The Taurians add the Griffin, Thunderbolt, Archer, Warhammer and Marauder. None list the Phoenix Hawk, Wolverine, Rifleman, Crusader or BattleMaster.

It's interesting that none of the Kallon designs (Wolverine, Rifleman and Crusader) were claimed. I wonder if that says something about Kallon's history. Or maybe Kallon had a storehouse on Alpheratz, from which Alliance Defenders Limited slowly salvages their "assortment of medium and heavy 'Mechs?"

First Look at the Taurian Concordat

The Taurian Defense Force has thirty battalions in 3025. (Ostensibly they have twelve regiments, but three of those regiments are short a battalion, and another two replace half their units with conventional forces.) At the Magistracy's ratio of 'Mechs/yr:rgts, the Concordat would produce around 95 'Mechs/yr. However, like the Lyrans, the Concordat seems to have chosen durability over quantity; they've also somehow acquired a number of Lyran exclusives (Hatchetman, Commando, Rommel). At the Lyran ratio of 500/yr:75rgts, the Taurians would build 67 'Mechs/yr. (At the overall Successor State ratio of 2700/yr:385rgts, the Taurians would build 70 'Mechs/yr.)

The Concordat, Magistracy and Outworlds Alliance have a combined total of 17.33 regiments. At the Successor States' overall ratio of 2700 'Mechs/yr:385 regiments, the periphery states would build a combined total of 121.5 'Mechs/yr. Counting the Magistracy at 50/yr (assuming the excess is disproportionate for the MAF's size) and the Outworlds at 11(+/-2)/yr would leave 60.5(+/-2) for the Taurian Concordat.

If the Taurians and Canopians really do build the same number of 'Mechs, perhaps the MAF was close to luring another regiment of mercs (most likely Gordon's Armored Cavalry) away from the TDF. (That would help bring them closer to the ten that HM:FWL says they pledged to the Andurien alliance.)

The Magistracy and the Outworlds Alliance have six light production lines and one medium, which produce about half as many 'Mechs/yr as six average FWL light lines plus one average FWL medium line. If the Concordat's heavy lines are likewise half as productive as an average FWL heavy production line, they'd each build about 6 'Mechs/yr. (The Griffin line would be about 7/yr.)

To Be Continued: a more detailed look at the Taurians, and a first look at ComStar.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Abridging Devlin's Divide

I originally posted this somewhere else in February of last year.

my face were this what Catalyst's writers actually planned

Tucker Harwell: "Gentlemen, the future cannot influence the past, right? Wrong. We're going to prove that: lop-sided temporality. Today we're going to prove that we didn't just push a tachyon to its limits, we pushed ourselves to the limit. We did what he," Tucker points to Kael Pershaw's current body, "couldn't. This is our bridge, we built it, and he can't take that away from us."
Devlin Stone: "That's it. An army. You're breeding an army to import from the future."
Kael Pershaw: "He's quite simple for such an intelligent young man, isn't he?"
Fidelis: "He made your fiction real."
Kael Pershaw: "Your whole race will soon be fictional, along with all that other genetically inferior filth! My Jade Falcons, my army of the future, will rid our universe of you and your kind."
Devlin Stone: "Tucker! You've got to destroy the bridge! Destroy it!"
Tucker Harwell: "But we'll be the first ones, boss, we just got to see if we did it. Just for a millisecond. It's too important."
Devlin Stone: "Tucker! No!"
Tucker Harwell: "An elder sign... it worked!"

A figure drops through the aperture of the time bridge. It rises on a pair of long, skinny bird legs to its full one-and-a-half meter height, revealing a long, ovoid body with two huge eyes centered over a short beak. It shrieks an almost human shriek and leaps toward the gathered humans. The second one through the portal carries a pulse rifle, and opens fire. More follow.
Kael Pershaw: "No. IMPOSSIBLE!"
Tucker Harwell: "Blake's Blood, what have I done..."
Kael Pershaw: "No, no this is wrong. You're supposed to be--"
Tetatae: "--your superior race? WE ATE THEM."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Skilled Technicians (part 2)

After doing a fair bit of math, it looks like the chances of a BattleTech character getting a regular technician instead of a green one basically amounts to rolling 2d6 against a Target Number (hereafter TN) equal to the pilot's base gunnery plus their base piloting. And MW1e technicians almost always work faster than technicians in later editions- an average "Green" technician uses only 70% of the time listed for a repair, and an average "Regular" technician needs only 30%.

You're never going to roll a veteran (MW1e skill level 6 or 7) technician.

For most skills in MW1e, each level of skill reduces the TN by one. But repair rolls work differently. Each kind of repair has a fixed TN (and requires a set amount of time), which you modify per the charts below.

Comparing how your Learn score modifies repair rolls with how Attributes usually modify skill rolls, the author seems to be using base target number of 6. (When MW2e converted the repair difficulty chart from TNs to TN modifiers, it also assumed a base TN of 6.)

Technicians need to buy two levels of skill to improve their TN by one, which I think is meant to balance their progression against MechWarriors, who need to buy levels for two skills (piloting and gunnery). (MW3e tackled that issue from a different direction, by fragmenting the MechWarrior MOS and Technician MOS into similar numbers of sub-skills.)

MW1e gives each character type a free level (the first level) in their core skills, and attributes don't affect a skilled repair roll, so a technician character can be "Green" for free, or "Regular" for only 60 points. "Veteran" skill would require 190 points, just about the maximum a new character would squeeze in. In contrast, MechWarriors spend 35 points on attributes, plus another 40 for "Green" level skills; or another 90 to rate "Regular;" or another 170 to rate "Veteran."

Repair rolls accrue XP more slowly than combat does, however, so technicians advance more slowly during actual play. That may be one reason skilled technicians are less common than skilled MechWarriors.

Techs have shorter careers than MechWarriors, too--maybe ten years vs. twenty-five. A technician attached to a 'Mech unit encounters a wide variety of technology and swaps knowledge with colleagues from other backgrounds; at some point, this experience may become valuable enough for the technician to get lured away into the civilian sector. Workplace injury no doubt plays a role too--although MechWarriors and technicians both face radiation hazards, live ordinance, and the threat of being crushed by multi-ton objects, MechWarriors do so for only minutes at a time from behind a half-ton of armor and strapped into a harness and neckbrace; technicians do so for hours at a time with few of the same protections.

To Be Continued: repair yards, Solaris VII, and the march of technology

Monday, October 17, 2016

Unaffiliated 'Mech Production (Part 2: AMC)

But first:

Second Look at the MAF

Magistracy fighter production seems to be based on FWL fighter production. At a ratio of two fighters per company and nine companies per regiment (because the Periphery author is ignoring command elements, I guess, and the MAF doesn't have independent attack wings), the FWL's 60 'Mech regiments would have 1080 fighters; the FWL builds 325 fighters per year, which would be 30.1% turnover/yr. That's a very good match for the MAF's "roughly 30" per year out of "fewer than one hundred."

The FWL produces 500 'Mechs/yr for 60 regiments. At that ratio, "less than 60"/yr could imply that the Magistracy possesses 7 'Mech regiments. On the other hand, MW1e claims that the MAF has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years (aided by a source of supply "somewhere beyond the periphery"), so building 60 'Mechs/yr instead of 50/yr may be a sign the MAF has only 6 regiments but is still growing.

First Look at the Outworlds Alliance

The Alliance Military Command has two 'Mech regiments of two battalions each. "Two-thirds of the Alliance BattleMechs are light, Wasps and Stingers mostly, and the rest is an assortment of medium and heavy 'Mechs produced on Alpheratz."

Alliance Defenders Limited is the Alliance's largest manufacturer and the only one to build 'Mechs (Wasps, Locusts and Stingers). At the Magistracy's ratio of production:regiments, it would produce about 13 'Mechs/yr--not enough to include "an assortment" of mediums and heavies. Considering the Alliance's friendship with the Concordat, I suspect that's supposed to read "Taurus" instead of "Alpheratz."

The AeroSpace arm has "a total of 240 AeroSpace Fighters of various types. Though many of these craft are the salvaged remnants of previous conflicts, some 40 percent are less than two generations old." A generation is what, 20-30 years, so taking the 40th or 60th root of 51% to 60% survivors to get an annual survival rate, which converts to production of... 2/yr to 4/yr. Applying the FWL's ratio of ASF:Mech production would give us 8.5 fighters/yr instead.

Applying the FWL's (instead of the MAF's) ratio of 'Mechs/yr:rgts, the Outworlds would produce 11 'Mechs and 7 fighters per year. Using ratios from the Federated Suns, Draconis Combine (or both combined) would mean 8.5 to 10 'Mechs/yr and fewer than 5 fighters/yr.

To Be Continued: First looks at the Taurian Concordat and ComStar

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Firefly/Dollhouse (Andromeda) Campaign

Firefly has a ton of obvious parallels to BattleTech. Change the crew from small-time smugglers and scavengers to small-time mercs and scavengers, and you've got a ready framework for a campaign.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Skilled Technicians & Mech Customization

tl;dr? almost half of all field technicians can make short-term modifications (but short-term only). Will talk about player characters, tech progression, repair facilities, Solaris VII, and redoing the skill chart in a following post.

In MW1e:
  • A tech with skill 4+ can attempt a temporary repair with improvised parts by adding +3 to the repair difficulty (reroll each time the hit location takes damage). This can "involve grafting an arm or leg from a different 'Mech type onto the afflicted unit."
  • A tech with skill 6+ can research 'Mech design. 
In BattleTechnology #4 (aka #202):
  • Stuart Bell, the mercenary who created the CGR-SB Challenger by modifying a Charger to use a smaller engine, had a skill of 8 and stupendous amounts of documentation (and recommends at least a skill of 6 for anyone trying to follow his modifications).

How easy is it to find an NPC at these various levels of skill?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Unaffiliated 'Mech Production (Part 1: MAF)

Last March, when I showed how Successor State 'Mech production corresponds to one of MW1e's random faction tables, I shouldn't have suggested that all of the 700 "unaffiliated" 'Mechs/yr were built in the Periphery. Some, as with the Bandit King entry on that same table, no doubt represent defections instead of new production; and per the old Davion sourcebook, at least some 'Mechs are built on Terra.

Also, the Mercenary's Handbook adds rebels/secessionists and merchants (cartels) to the list of alternate affiliations, which may be related to MW1e's comment that units without an affiliation may need to "take on a temporary assignment from a local bureaucrat or private corporation to earn the funds to get off-world."

I was hoping to use MW1e's event tables to distribute the 700 Unaffiliated 'Mechs/yr between periphery manufacturing, ComStar manufacturing, corporate security and rebels. Unfortunately, all three tables (General Encounters, Major Events and VIPs) make ComStar as or more common than the periphery, which doesn't fit.

First Look at the Magistracy of Canopus

MW1e says the Magistracy Armed Forces possess only six 'Mech regiments. The regimental profiles in the 3025 Periphery sourcebook seem to list twice that many, but that's deceptive; MAF regiments are said to concentrate most of their 'Mechs into a single battalion, and the deployment table does indeed show all eighteen deployments being commanded by officers of battalion rank.

The battalion weights even conform to Successor State norms (described in 1st edition BattleForce): 30% (5.4, round to 5) are light, 60% (10.8, round to 11) are medium, and 10% (1.8, round to 2) are heavy.

The Magistracy's two 'Mech production sites have
a very low annual output (less than 60 machines per year), and produce mostly Locusts, Wasps and Stingers. The only medium-sized BattleMechs produced within the Magistracy are Shadow Hawks, but usually no more than ten per year. Production for armor, AeroSpace Fighters, and motorized vehicles run roughly 30 each per year.
The Inner Sphere produces 2700 'Mechs/yr for its 385 regiments. At that ratio, the Magistracy's almost-60/yr should support around eight regiments of 'Mechs; are some of its battalions oversized? Does the MAF trade (whether in battle or on the market) its surplus lights for heavies? I notice that the heavy battalions are Taurian mercs, known for salvaging Capellan Thunderbolts.

It's interesting that they produce roughly 30 fighters per year when "There are fewer than one hundred AeroSpace Fighters in Canopian space, most of which are captured and refurbished light or medium craft."

These are the Magistracy's only two weapons-producing facilities, but neither one mentions AeroSpace Fighters or wheeled vehicles (I presume jeeps and APCs), so their product listings must be incomplete; TR:3026 reports the Pike Support Vehicle as a product of "Canopus Industries Alpha," which seems like it could be an Inner Sphere reporting name for the Magesty Metals facility on Canopus.

[Edit, November 13: I take it back; it's unclear whether or not the two BattleMech facilities are the only weapons manufacturers. There may be a third one responsible for the Pike, aerospace fighters and motorized units. /Edit]

To Be Continued: First looks at the Outworlds Alliance, Taurian Concordat and ComStar

Saturday, October 8, 2016

BattleTech AU: The Under Sphere

Some years ago I struck on a number of ways to procedurally generate alternate campaign settings from existing BattleTech material. My third and favorite is an underworld where people, 'Mechs, factories etc appear when they die or are destroyed in the Inner Sphere.

An obvious consequence is that characters or regiments who were killed off are still knocking about; or less obviously, in the case of conquerors and assassins, they quickly find themselves outmatched by vengeful victims and get killed again. So the ownership of planets tends to lag by a war or two, and many of the little alliances from the 2300s and 2400s would still be around.

It's my favorite because it lends itself to...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

quick aside: pathfinder chargen (kvetching only)

I'm making a Level 14 Sorcerer, and there are too many spells to choose from.

I made an Oracle at Level 7 (sidekick to my fighter) and played him to Level 9, but he has a lot fewer spells, and I didn't even use half of them.

I picked a Sorcerer this time because I knew it would be hard and different and I want to see what changes I should make to my character sheet layout

But the spells aren't listed in a way that makes comparison and selection easy, anywhere - not in the corebook, not the PFSRD. [sentence edited for clarity]

Heck, I'd play a pregen list if I could find one.

If I gin up a superior spell listing, I'll post it. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

BattleTech AU: Inner Sphere Turned Upside Down

[Edit: found my proper notes on this. /Edit]

A few years ago I struck on a number of ways to procedurally generate an alternate universe from existing BattleTech material. The second, and probably most playable, method was to flip the Clan Invasion to the "south" of the Inner Sphere and also flip all the events and major personalities.
  • If I remember the force listings from 20 Year Update rightly, an invasion from the "south" would have to plow through almost exactly the same number of 'Mech regiments as the "northern" invasion did.
  • Kristen Marik's girlfriend, Kali Liao, crashes her aerospace fighter into the Ilkhan's flagship!
  • Victor forbids Hohiro from dating Katherine!
  • Takashi Kurita sends the Genyosha and Ryuken to help defend New Avalon! Then dies of shame!
  • Yvonne betrothed to Ragnar Magnusson!
  • Word of Focht splits from ComStar and flees into Lyran space!
  • Kristen Marik becomes Khan of Clan Jade Falcon!
  • Peter Steiner Davion dies, replaced by Draconis double! Lyrans and FRR invade!
  • Thomas Marik's wife assassinated! FWL blames Draconis Combine, dissolves Concord of Kapteyn!
  • Word of Focht seizes Terra! ComStar moves headquarters into Capellan rump state!
  • Isis Marik taken bondsman!
  • FRR forms "trinity alliance" with Oberon Confederation and Greater Valkyrate!
  • ComStar Civil War erupts in Draconis Combine and Free Worlds League!
  • FRR conquers Alshain district!
  • The True Hanse Davion, aided by his Enthroned Double and many children, kicks off the Federated Commonwealth Jihad!
I suppose you could roll a d6 to determine where the Clans attack from- North, South, East, West, Terra outward, all directions inward; but invading from the "south" is most similar to the canon Invasion, and probably has the funniest character inversions.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pathfinder Transcript: "Don't Poke the Bear"

[One of the players in our group has started keeping brief transcripts of our sessions, partly for the amusement of a third party who isn't playing with us I guess, and partly to help us pick up the following session in medias res.

The next quest was run by the player who'd been controlling Snake (Ninja). It picks up his Xanadu meta-plot (basically, "go kill the seven mystical god-beasts") six months after our previous adventure there.]

TL;DR-  A temple's sacred gem has been swapped with a fake, and we're asked to investigate.

The first session was a mess. We wanted to examine the fake, but where I wanted a friendly NPC we know to get it for us quietly and legally, other PCs wanted to steal it (one of the island's most sacred objects, guarded by our allies in a TEMPLE DEVOTED TO WRATH). The discussion wasn't going anywhere, and I thought my plan was best, so I just walked out and set about finding the NPC. The other PCs, who also thought their own plans were best, took this as a sign to leap into action. So that all went south. And then, the friendly NPC (who should have been willing and able to fill us in on a few things) kept trying to abandon us.

I'm pretty sure this NPC isn't secretly trying to undermine us- I think he might have been trying to subtly/cryptically hint at our next step, buuuuut I don't think the DM realized we were missing some basic information about the situation and our mission; he mentioned afterwards that he never anticipated that we might consider the gem itself a potential lead.

When the Warg fight broke out in session three, I told a few PCs to guard the wagon & hapless NPC, because of course, right? Unfortunately, that meant they missed almost all of the fight - a substantial chunk of playtime - although the DM did have some Wargs circle around and eventually reach them.

The final encounter, with Acedia the Bear God, was kind of neat- the bear was essentially too lazy to fight, the negotiations we were using to draw the bear into ambush went so well that we canceled the ambush, and when a mind-controlled bandit tried to provoke the bear into attacking us (itself a neat twist) one of the PCs stayed the bear's wrath through sheer honorableness.

Monday, September 26, 2016

(Part 3) What the Fourth Succession War Implies About Population Size

Looking at that same Wikipedia again, it looks like the Allied armies (primarily the Soviet Union and China) suffered about twice as many casualties as the Axis armies (primarily Germany and Japan) did.

Supposing that the 4thSW's 100 million deaths are primarily infantry, and supposing the defenders suffer twice the casualties of the invaders, then defending planets lose about 5 million infantry per month while the invaders lose about 2.5 million per month. If you figure 2.5 million guys at 5 tons each, and a Mammoth (or half a Behemoth) at 40 kilotons* of cargo, that uses only about 320 DropShips (per month of travel), out of thousands of such ships sphere-wide.

As for the defenders, I count significant fighting on roughly 140 worlds, including:
Confederation- Tall Trees, Zurich, Aldebaran, Liao, Bharat, Tigress, Tikonov, New Hessen, Styk, Wei, Truth and Sarna. (The Duchy of Andurien attacked some worlds too, but it's not clear which ones.)
Combine- Buckminster, Kirkbach, Radstadt, Altair, and Vega.
Suns- Marduk and Kathil (whose populations I don't know), Algot, New Aragon and Halloran.
Commonwealth- Tamar and Poulsbo (whose populations I don't know).
Free Worlds- Procyon.
These 25 worlds have a combined population of somewhere near 65 billion people; at the Tikonov ratio, that makes 492.4 militia regiments. Supposing the other 115 worlds have two battalions apiece, that would make 569 militia regiments in all.

From HM:FWL*, an infantry battalion consists of 400-500 people. 7 troopers per squad and 36 squads per battalion would be 252 troops, and a tooth:tail ratio of 1:1 would bring it up to 500 troops. (The 400-person battalion may be Jump infantry, which use smaller platoons.) At 3 battalions per regiment, my estimated 569 militia regiments would amount to 860k troops. With losses of 5 million troopers per month, these militia units would seem to have an expected life span of five days. Or to put it another way, a population of 44 million has a standing force of about 1000 troopers, and can call up another thousand every five days. This is something (I can't find consistent data on it) like 6x-8x slower than nations mobilized for WW2.

Of course, the tooth:tail should be more like 2:3 or even 1:3 instead of 1:1, many of those worlds won't have a full 44 million people, I'm arbitrarily excluding the House's regular army and navy, and I'm ignoring how late the fighting started or how early it ended on any given world. So the worlds attacked in the 4thSW may well be mobilizing at WW2 rates.

*Curiously, that makes the Mammoth's 40 kton cargohold just the right size to carry a FWL infantry division.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

BattleTech AU: Compressed Century

Some years ago I struck on a number of ways to reuse BattleTech's existing material to generate alternate universes with a minimum of brain sweat. Here's the first one:

The Compressed Century
1960s: race to the moon.
1970s: race to the stars.
1984: Terra's governments collapse under the strain of supporting ~150 colonies. All Terran assets are withdrawn or abandoned.
1989-1990: Admiral McKenna consolidates power on Terra, then reconquers a swath of the colonies. He's eventually stopped by ex-Terran Militia who were abandoned in the 1984 withdrawal.
All years: the events described in a given book happen in the year it was published. The 'Mechs published in 1984 are available in 1984, the ones published in 1990 are available in 1990, and so on.
If you've looked into BattleTech for any length of time, you may, on occasion, have heard someone complain that certain aspects of its history are hard to swallow; the "Compressed Century" sidesteps all those issues, is extremely straightforward to implement, and (since you simply take things in the order they were published) completely negates any need to refer to Word of God.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Starfleet Ship: USS Absolution


I'm following a podcast called "17 to 01" where Van Velding and a friend (him a veteran Star Trek fan, the friend almost brand new to the franchise) comment on an episode while they watch it. Not so much on the events of the episode as on their execution - social themes, dramatic elements, and so on - plus of course joking about Star Trek's ridiculous idiosyncrasies.

(I think "All Our Yesterdays" (recent and more polished) and then "Journey to Babel" (earlier and rougher) are pretty representative of the show's content.)

I've been following with an eye to building a Star Trek RPG. So instead of a "top ten episodes" list or anything like that, I've instead assembled my favorite* guest cast into an alternate bridge crew, and for now I'm calling their ship the USS Absolution.

The Absolution:

A captured Tholian ship, refit for use by the Federation.
  • Captain Garth of Izar (Steve Ihnat from "Whom Gods Destroy"). The more times he shapeshifts, the more his morals and discipline deteriorate. This mandates periodic mindwipes, during which he forgets he can shapeshift. (Also, I notice that a shape-shifter is an easy way to bring in guest actors, and to throw in red herrings.)
  • First Officer Alexander (Michael Dunn from "Plato's Stepchildren"). The most highly principled person aboard. And considering that pretty much everyone else here is either insane or a criminal, he's also sort of the warden and chief rehabilitator.
  • Chief Medical Officer [unnamed Romulan] (Joanne Linville from "The Enterprise Incident"). Secretly an agent of Federation Intelligence, who relies on an erratic robotic nurse (Exploded Wreckage of Nomad from "The Changeling") to conceal her lack of medical training. 
  • Chief Engineer Richard Daystrom (William Marshall from "The Ultimate Computer"). Specializes in computers and AI. Periodically (dis)endows the main computers and various subsystems with free will. 
  • Helm Janice Lester (Sandra Smith from "Turnabout Intruder"). She is in some other woman's body, via a portable mind-swapping device which can be as (dis)functional as the plot requires. (Another fair way to bring in guest actors.)
  • Astrogation Miranda Jones (Diana Muldaur from "Is There No Truth in Beauty"). Possessed by Kollos, whose race is impossibly good at astrogation, and largely unfamiliar with the sensation of having a meat body. 
  • Communications Officer Andrea (Sherry Jackson from "What are Little Girls Made Of?"). An emotional robot who isn't very good at administering Turing Tests or coping with unfamiliar situations. (I'm also tempted to put Kevin Riley, a recurring singing Irishman, here.)
TOS presents a trichotomy between three ways of making a decision: Spock's logic, McCoy's emotionalism, and Kirk's duties of command. I'm thinking to give the new crew a trichotomy about prioritization: Garth's impulsive extravagance, Alexander's moral principles, and the doctor's short-term expediency.

I wanted to change which crew positions were in the "Power Trio," but the characters I had slotted for Captain, First Officer and Chief Medical Officer just worked out well.

*Or, now that I look them over, apparently just my favorites from season 3.

Monday, September 19, 2016

(Part 2) What the 4th Succession War Implies About Population Size

tl;dr? Soldiers in the 4th Succession War died at the same rate (per billion people, per month) as soldiers in World War II.

Per Volume II of the NAIS Military Atlas, the Fourth Succession War left 100 million dead and 600 million wounded from thirteen months of fighting. (The war lasted from mid August 3028 to February of 3030, with three months of inaction in the middle and two at the end.) That's 7.7 million dead, plus 46 million wounded, each month.

Per Wikipedia, World War II lasted 68-71 months during which 21 to 25.5 million soldiers were killed (with 8 wounded for every 7 dead), 29 to 30.5 million civilians were killed by strategic bombing or warcrimes, and 19 to 28 million civilians were killed by war-related famine or disease. Earth had about 2.3 billion people in 1940, with about 2.0 billion in countries which participated in WW2.
  • WW2 killed or wounded about 630k to 800k soldiers, or .032% to .040% of participating populations, per month. The 4thSW's 100+600 million dead and wounded, at those rates, would suggest a population of 1.7 trillion to 2.2 trillion for the 4thSW. 
  • WW2 killed about 300k to 380k soldiers, or .015% to .019% of participating populations, per month. The 4thSW's 100 million deaths, at those rates, suggest a population of 533 billion to 676 billion for the 4thSW.
  • WW2 killed about 970k to 1.2 million soldiers plus civilians, or .049% to .062% of participating populations, per month. The 4thSW's 100 million dead, at those rates, would suggest a population of 162 billion to 206 billion for the 4thSW. 
We know that last estimate is too low. Firstly because the Inner Sphere has at least 450 billion people, and secondly because the 4thSW didn't purposefully attack civilians and industry the way WW2 did. (I notice that the old Succession Wars board game has industry get damaged in about 30% of assaults, though.)

The high first estimate would mean an average of a billion people per named star system, which is difficult to reconcile with other data from the period. It also assumes no civilians were injured, that 31st century weaponry is not more powerful than WW2 weaponry, and that improvements to battlefield surgery have far outstripped improvements to battlefield weaponry.

The middle estimate makes the 4thSW at least as deadly for an average soldier as WW2 was, which seems like something the old developers would do. It's weirdly close to the geometric average of the high and low estimates, which is a bit disquieting because I don't see any reason for it turn out that way (especially if WW2 casualties have been re-estimated a few times over the years). Maybe it has to do with how they arrived at 600 million for the 4thSW's wounded.

Then there's the question of how many worlds actually "participated" in the war. I count significant fighting on only 140 worlds, but others contributed soldiers, others suffered famine because shipping was diverted... all five Successor States participated in the war, albeit unevenly; I'm willing to let it wash, given the countries involved in WW2 didn't participate evenly either.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Have a 'Mech, Frankie Valli

I don't generally bother writing up 'Mech stats anymore unless I have a good bit of fluff in mind to go with them. But last January, apparently I had a craving to make a heavy cannon and two heavy lasers go 80kph with as little tech as possible, and I had a song stuck in my head.

I was pretty proud of that "Meacham / each won" rhyme.

The tune is a brassy, energetic variation on Mack The Knife. The CD jacket claims it's performed by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, but it's a cheap CD compilation, and I don't really trust their fact checking.

The full lyrics are unGoogleable, so I've put them [with some guesses] below the cut.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

random cargos

Back in February, someone asked what the rough cost per ton would be to ship bulk cargo in BattleTech, and requested suggestions for semi-interesting cargoes to inflict on player characters.

As a quick rule, DropShips and JumpShips (hereafter DS&JS) suggests that a commercial ship makes about 2d6x10% of its usual revenue per mission.

Based on the revenues-per-mission and the cargo capacities listed in FASA's TR:3057, shipping should cost about 105 to 111 C-Bills per ton of cargo. (The per-mission revenues look like they were taken from a chart in DS&JS, which has a more complex system, and I suspect uses a base cost of 100 per ton). That matches up well with MW1e's comments that transportation can cost from 500 C-Bills for a single person (which is about five tons worth of cargo - I wonder if that's where BattleSpace got the mass of steerage quarters?) up to "several thousand" C-Bills to ship a BattleMech. And of course, transport into a combat zone can cost up to 10x higher.

The price should be per jump, which means any DropShip which can find customers for 500 tons of cargo space can make enough to pay for passage on a jump collar.

Here's all the cargoes I came up with:
  • a herd of cattle
  • whatever Han Solo was hauling in Episode 7
  • one deadly and unpredictable midget (the man loves fire)
  • enormous hallucinogenic fungi
  • industrial sand
  • petroleum sludge
  • soylent (capellan) green
  • quadrotriticale and/or tribbles
  • agrimechs or mining mechs
  • aquaculture farms
  • computer chips and/or fiberoptic components
  • fiberoptic cable too large to have any known use
  • a stack of enormous polished mirrors
  • antique weaponry or wines (for Kurita space)
  • copies of the most recent season of Solaris VII bouts
  • high art filled with drug stashes
  • drugs stashes filled with corporate espionage
  • corporate espionage team with several ten-ton cargo containers they refuse to explain or open
  • metal nets filled with mysteriously irradiated space debris
  • a smaller dropship
  • a thruster or engine part for a larger dropship
  • precursor metals or components for weapon manufacture
  • a rare isotope of water
  • a library of Vogon poetry
  • refugees
  • spare filters for a water filtration plant
  • medical and/or disaster relief supplies
The 1987 House Sourcebooks all have sections discussing what they trade with other states, and some of their corporate and planetary profiles mention imports and exports too.

Monday, September 12, 2016

(Part 1) What the 4th Succession War Implies About Population Size

tl;dr? The size of Tikonov's garrison implies that the Successor States have a total population of no more than 516 billion to 539 billion people.

Let's talk about Tikonov.

Tikonov has 5.279 billion people, and (according to the NAIS Military Atlases) fielded 80 militia regiments in the 4th Succession War. That's one militia regiment per 66 million people. Capellan worlds typically have a two-battalion militia each; using the Tikonov ratio, two battalions would imply a typical population of 44 million per world.

The House Liao: The Capellan Confederation (hereafter HL:CC) Atlas contains forty major Capellan worlds totaling 138.502 billion people, and averaging 3.46255 billion each. If we estimate the Successor States to have 156 such major worlds totaling 450 billion people, then the 116 outside the Confederation average only 2.68533 billion each. (Remarkably close to Chesterton's average of 2.68444 billion, also from HL:CC.) That makes the major Capellan worlds about 1.29x as populous as major non-Capellan worlds. If we assume that 1.29x ratio also holds for lesser worlds, then the "typical" non-Capellan world should average about 34.12 million.

I count about 1892 star systems in the Successor States, claiming (probably on the lower end of) 1974 to 2654 inhabited worlds between them. Assuming the Chesterton systems have an average number of planets for a non-Capellan system, that makes 377 to 373 "typical" Capellan worlds vs. (respectively) 1441 to 2125 "typical" non-Capellan worlds. That totals 66 billion to 89 billion humans on top of the 450 billion from major worlds (i.e., 516 billion to 539 billion humans in all).

On the other hand, the ratio of two battalions per 44 million people is a pretty rough abstraction. The "typical" Capellan worlds could be quite a lot smaller and still be able to support the two battalions; typical non-Capellan worlds may be more populous in comparison.

I don't know why Tikonov has only two battalions per 44 million people, but the reason probably applies to any population of significant size in BattleTech, which makes it useful for calculating an upper limit on planetary populations.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Godzilla Resurgence

I like things that are made of other things, so it's no surprise that I like Godzilla: Final Wars. But where that one's a comedy, to one-up Matthew Broderick's Godzilla, this one's a drama, to one-up Bryan Cranston's Godzilla.


Tiny googly eyes, needle-mouth and smoldering bellows chest 
will run from Oct 11 to Oct 18 in the US.
I wonder if the Fukushima disaster had / will have anything to do with it, and if / how the current push for stronger Japanese military will play into it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Have a 'Mech: Hornet LAM

Hornet LAM tro thumbnailold Hornet (The Spider and the Wolf)
I'd hoped to post this Saturday but I took too long putting it together. It might be a while before I tackle anything else that requires editing and research.

Text version here. I still dislike how google is handling image hosting.

I'm pretty happy that I managed to keep it under 1000 words. It no doubt helps that my sources gave me very little text to rehash. Which isn't to say I wrote it wholecloth; like my first two LAMs, I pieced it together from a hundred little notes. That resulted in a bunch of "point, counterpoint" phrasings that I'm not really happy with, and probably contributed to how long it took to finish.

I didn't set out to make three Davion LAMs. But in hindsight, the Davion-centrism and Macross-centrism of the early material did make it kind of likely. I think I'll eventually follow up with a Jade Falcon LAM, a revision of my WoB Tarantula LAM, and a Rasalhague VTOL (an LAM hunter). That would give the series one unit per era, which would be kind of neat.

Images are all related to the writeup. The oldest rendition of a Hornet is seen at left; bottom compares a modern Hornet with the similar Duan Gung; and bottom right is the earliest rendition of a Chameleon trainer 'Mech, showing clear influences from the "I turn into a fighter plane" corps of 'Mechs.

Duan Gung vs Hornetold Chameleon

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pathfinder: our maps & reference sheets

Reference Sheets: I forget where I found these. They're kind of useful. Not ideal, but so far I haven't cared enough to improve on them.

My Character Sheet: Never got around to updating this. I'll be switching to a mage soon, though, so maybe I'll actually change it up a bit.

As I recall, armor can gain either a +1 enhancement bonus, or spell resistance 13.
Weapons get a (chosen randomly) +1 enhancement bonus, shocking(?), keen, or defending.
[Edit, Sep 7: They don't. Not since the MageHammers took over. /Edit]

And now, the Known World:

Naturally, exact scale and contents of any region may vary from DM to DM and from week to week. Inset and key below the cut.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chargers and Banshees and Loss Rates

  • The Charger and Banshee show the same rate of loss per year, which lets us estimate that there are about 1155 Firestarters (or one per battalion), 100 Clints, 150-450 Assassins and 350 Victors walking around in 3025.  
  • Stingers use a different and simpler ratio, which lets us estimate that there are 2500 Archers, 1100 Jenners, and probably 100 (but maybe 700) Atlases in 3025. 
  • The Wasp's figures are only possible if it were abandoned early on and then revived after the Star League fell.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Twenty Thousand

First, I shouldn't have treated 20YU, TR:3050 and MW2e as representing a single point in time. I've rewritten my "79k" post to reflect how things change from one to the next.

I don't know if the "1000 'Mechs per entry" trick will tease any useful data out of TR:3055; I doubt it'll work for TR:3058. (Fortunately I have the Field Manuals to work from. What will be trickier is figuring out how to account for ultra-light 'Mechs.)

ComStar's Cache Under Hilton Head

The Warrior Trilogy says "ComStar has more BattleMechs hidden here than any of the Successor States can claim." Clearly more than Davion's 110 regiments (14k 'Mechs), but probably less than Davion+Steiner's 110+75 regiments (23.7k 'Mechs). TR:2750 has twenty 'Mech entries; at 1k apiece, that would make 20k 'Mechs--right in the middle.

The MW2e affiliation table implies that ComStar expends 1200 'Mechs/yr against the Clans. At that rate, the cache would last 16.67 years, which would seem like a natural fit for the Truce-End date in 3067. 

Except ComStar already pulled at least 8300 to 8900 'Mechs out of the cache between the end of the Fourth Succession War and the Battle of Tukayyid. So the cache runs dry no later than early 3062, more likely by 3060, and even earlier if Focht prepares a secondary cache on Tukayyid. [Edit, Aug 28: Or earlier yet if ComStar continued supplying 'Mechs to the Rasalhague Kungsarme. /Edit]

Thursday, August 25, 2016

33 Solahma NPCs

Need NPCs? Here's a bunch. Back at the beginning of June, someone in /BTG/ requested almost-solahma Smoke Jaguars for a "Dirty Dozen" type unit to be assembled in secret by their Loremaster.

I responded with four, each one a different combination of happy or unhappy and ambitious or not ambitious. (I wanted a third angle to differentiate their attitudes, which would've made for eight combinations, but couldn't come up with one.) Named randomly because I never know how to name* Clanners.
Oscar, RFL IIC (Jag AC variant) - mediocre warrior from a group of patrilineal mixings the Jags have given up on. All warriors from that breeding line know that their careers are basically over, no matter what trajectory they were on before. The chip on Oscar's shoulder has worked him into even worse assignments than he'd normally get.

Arkady [insert bloodname], Warhammer IIC (Jag LRM variant) - one of the intelligent commanders who retreated early on Tukayyid. Ousted by a new power bloc but accepted the demotion gracefully. Recognizes a losing battle and respects enemies who devise them.

Lora and Branka, Shadow Cats - relatively young; could've been ristars but pissed off the wrong people. Mistakenly see themselves as the Loremaster's proteges and are convinced that a good showing here puts them on track to a bloodname.

Tamari, Jenner IIC - unusually competent freebirth warrior who was popular isorla among several Homeworld Clans in the four years before Revival. Seems easy going for a Jag - she tries to settle disputes with comrades with Trial by Dance Off (augmented or not) instead of combat - yet really enjoys unaugmented murder and is basically super happy to be in this unit.
I'm pretty happy with these, even if they're not terrifically original. (I'm pretty sure I'm channeling the "mistaken protege," "popular isorla" and "augmented dance-off" concepts from NPCs other people have posted previously.)

After mulling it over a few hours, I posted six more:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The 156 Most Populous Worlds Amount to 450 Billion People

[Edit, 2019 April 2: revised calculation here. /Edit]

Someone called Mendrugo is doing an interesting review of BattleTech fiction in stardate order (wrong franchise, sure, but it's easier than saying "chronological according to fictional date rather than real world copyright date"), and he's raised an interesting question: how come worlds like Trellwan, Verthandi and Stein's Folly don't seem to have HPGs when MW1e says HPG stations are located on every inhabited world in the Inner Sphere?

The trick is that the HPG comment comes in a section which distinguishes "inhabited" worlds (and bandit holds) from mere colonies. To wit: while "uncounted other worlds are claimed and exploited by Davion forces," the Federated Suns only possess "about 110 star systems actively settled under its aegis" (page 112). The old House Davion sourcebook (FASA1623, hereafter HD:FS) agrees by setting the number of duchies at 100 to 120. (No doubt the exact number fluctuates with loss and conquest along the House border.)

Unlike the other House books, at most 19 of the 30 worlds listed in the HD:FS Atlas have substantial populations; adding the 9 Chesterton worlds published previously in HL:CC brings the Suns up to 28--exactly the same as the Free Worlds League, and in line with the Draconis Combine and Lyran Commonwealth.

The Housebook Atlases focus overwhelmingly on capitals and other highly populated worlds. By failing to list more such worlds, the HD:FS Atlas rather strongly suggests that the Federated Suns don't have any more to list; and since the Chesterton worlds give the Suns' count parity with the other Houses, it's likely that the other Houses don't have any beyond what they've already listed either.

Now here's a curious thing:

Neither the HD:FS Atlas nor the HS:LC Atlas give population figures. But if we suppose that Steiner's major worlds average midway between Marik's and Kurita's, and if we suppose that Davion's major worlds average midway between Kurita's and Chesterton's, then the (approximately) 156 most highly populated worlds in the Successor States have a combined population of 450 billion people.

The number 450 is remarkable because the number of "inhabited" worlds MW1e gives for each House also adds up to 450.

Another curious thing:

I count about 1900 stars on the Housebook maps, with something like 2000 worlds claimed between the five Housebooks; meanwhile, HD:FS (second page of its History chapter) philosophizes thusly:
Perhaps there are epochs in history when humanity finds an area large enough to grow into--first a country, then a continent, then a world, then four thousand worlds--and remains at that level of expansion until it, too, has been outgrown.
So: greater than 450 billion people, and 2000-4000 colonized planets? This sounds an awful lot like what Robert A. Heinlein said in his book Time Enough for Love, which implies the Inner Sphere has right around 500 billion people across 2000 planets.

I'm tempted to estimate the population of each tier geometrically--450 billion, then 45 billion, then 4.5 billion, then 0.45 billion; and since the divide between "settled" worlds and colonies is at 450 worlds, to put each tier break at (450 - 156 = 294) 294/156ths of the previous tier; so the first 156 worlds average 2.9 billion apiece, then the next 294 would average 150 million apiece, the next 554 would average 8.1 million apiece, the next 1044 would average 430 thousand apiece, and the last 1968 would average 23 thousand apiece.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pathfinder Transcript: mountains and dragons can't kill us, only drow clerics can kill us

[One of the players in our group has started keeping brief transcripts of our sessions, partly for the amusement of a third party who isn't playing with us I guess, and partly to help us pick up the following session in medias res. 

The next quest was run by the player who'd been controlling Camlost (Bloodrager / Dragon Disciple). It continues a broad metaplot of politicking between two dwarf cities, with spoiling actions from a drow city.

TL;DR- we were hired to recover a magic box which had been stolen a week ago from dwarves somewhere on secret mountain roads several days to the north. I think we surprised the GM by:
  • Choosing to Magic Steed a direct route through the mountains instead of an easier route through the plains; we might've missed an important encounter by doing this. 
  • Demolishing a Frost Worm so quickly; the party was strung out due to terrain, so it was able to ambush a single (I think random) character in isolation. I liked the set up. If it had gotten one of the spellcasters instead of a melee type, things might've ended differently.
  • Driving a White Dragon from its lair and teleporting away with its loot; this was accomplished almost entirely by the wizards player. This showed how powerful his character build is relative to the rest of us, but also exposed weaknesses.
  • Being essentially immune to falling off a mountain; we're getting into higher levels, where there's a bunch of magic and special abilities which negate most normal threats. It makes adventure design a little more difficult. 
  • Attempting a non-violent resolution to being ambushed by trolls; unfortunately, we had no leverage or clever tricks, so we fell back on violence.
  • Being bad at finding things; probably related to the first bullet point. He might also have expected us to have different skills or spells, or to leverage what we did have differently, or to hire an NPC tracker. 
  • Almost TPK'ing in the boss fight; our characters are all pretty capable individually, but our squad tactics are nonexistent. I suspect we survived mainly because the boss decided to leave instead of finishing us off.
Deciding where to go and how to find the magic box occupied most of our play. The GM did a fair job of making the combats interesting and not letting them drag on.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pathfinder Transcript: Pirates

[One of the players in our group has started keeping brief transcripts of our sessions, partly for the amusement of a third party who isn't playing with us I guess, and partly to help us pick up the following session in medias res. 

I've updated this post to include the other two transcripts from that quest, and the death of my metaplot.

The next quest was run by the player who'd been controlling the wizards Cal and Darmos.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Seventy-Nine Thousand

A quick count of the forces in 20 Year Update shows 575.33 Regiments in the Inner Sphere and near periphery. 128 'Mechs per regiment (as described in BattleForce 1e) would put that at about 73600 'Mechs.
AFFC268 Regiments, 1 Battalions [sic]
DCMS99 Regiments [including Ghost Regiments]
FRRK16 Regiments, 2 Battalions
FWLM 72 Regiments, 2 Battalions
CCAF30 Regiments [some are short a battalion]
CG50+ [sic] Regiments
TDF14 Regiments
MAF12 Regiments, 1 Battalion
OAMC3 Regiments [full regiments now, unlike 3025]
bandit[8 Regiments and 4 Battalions]
[Edit August 24: 55000 (the estimated number of 'Mechs in 3025) multiplied by 4/3rds is 73300, a mere rounding error away from my count for 20YU. Per 20YU, the War of 3039 petered out into the usual pattern of raid and reprisal, so attrition should be back in equilibrium with production, which means 'Mech production by 3050 should likewise be 4/3rds of what it was in 3025. (I.e., up to 3600/yr from the old 2700/yr.) The ComGuard was deploying during this period and supplying 'Mechs to other forces, however, which would account for some of the increase.

When the Clans invade they destroy many regiments and capture several factories. Per TR:3050, the Successor States step up production at their remaining facilities. That wouldn't have recouped all their losses, but for the sake of estimating production, suppose we round the Inner Sphere up to 79000 'Mechs (a thousand for each non-Clan enty TR:3050). Subtracting the ComGuard's 50 regiments would leave 72600, or 1.32x as many 'Mechs as were going around in 3025.

I notice that MW2e has 1.33x as much chance as MW1e did of a "Successor State" character scoring a state affiliation (almost 36/36 instead of 27/36). This implies that the Successor States were building 3600/yr shortly after Tukayyid, and agrees with the figure above derived from TR:3050.  /Edit]

If the "Successor State" table represents 3600 'Mechs/year:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pathfinder: player transcript of my quest

[One of the players in our group has started keeping brief transcripts of our sessions, partly for the amusement of a third party who isn't playing with us I guess, and partly to help us pick up the following session in medias res. 

Edit, July 21: I've updated this post with two more transcripts to finish out the quest.

The first transcript picks up a session or two into my previous post.]

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pathfinder Run #4: The Rat King

I no longer prepare NPC stats. I just key everything off class and level.
  • Level*1.5 for good attacks and primary skill
  • Level*1.0 for medium attacks and good saves
  • Level*0.5 for weak attacks, bad saves, minor skills and initiative
For weaklings/mobs/mooks I don't even determine hit points until a player strikes them. No point tracking it if they'll be killed in one blow. For level-appropriate foes, I assign AC based on caprice, player stats, and how long I want the fight to last; and since I tend to retreat NPCs when the tide turns against them, I counted HP upwards from zero (ie, damage taken instead of health remaining) to save the trouble of working out exact HP and reduction effects.

I should select some interesting spells to use in each encounter, but I don't because reading an encyclopedia of spells is my least favorite part of anything.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fifty-Five Thousand

Last year I estimated that there were fifty-four thousand BattleMechs operating in and around the Inner Sphere in 3025. (I didn't account for certain nuances, like how many regiments might have two battalions instead of three, or the presence of independent battalions, or all the independent warriors on Solaris VII.) A few months later I estimated that the Successor States had 3566 DropShips assigned to their 387.44 'Mech regiments; at that ratio, 430 regiments would have 3960 DropShips.

Now here's a coincidence:
  • TR:3025 has fifty-five BattleMech entries, which means there are about 1000 BattleMechs for each BattleMech entry. 
  • The book also has four DropShips, which makes 1000 'Mech-hauling DropShips for each DropShip entry. 
  • We don't have any good figures for how many AeroSpace fighters exist, but 1000 per entry is certainly reasonable.
If the pattern holds, that would mean 1000 Land-Air 'Mechs for each LAM entry too.

The FWL builds 500+325 'Mechs and Aerospace Fighters per year. 3/70ths of that (3 LAM entries in TR:3025 vs 55+15 'Mech and Fighter entries) would come to a little over 35 LAMs per year, very close to what I estimated (36/year) from the FWL regimental descriptions. That's convenient. It also makes me think I should count LAM production separately from both 'Mech and Fighter production.

It doesn't help me with LAM production or Aerospace Fighter production for the other states, but it'll be a useful check for when I do.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

FWL 3025: Population Density

The Atlas in the back of HM:FWL includes 28 worlds with populations of a billion or more (and two with populations of a million or less). The mapped provinces have 3.5x as many of these gigapop worlds per system as the smaller provinces do (19/125 vs 9/208), plus averaging 15% more people on each (3.3 billion vs 2.86). That amounts to 4x the population density.

Voting power in Parliament is proportionate to the tax base of your province (minimum of one vote). The provinces marked on the map (minus Ohren and Zion, which aren't listed on HM:FWL page 62) total 320 votes across 125 star systems, which is about 3x as many votes per system (320/125 vs 180/208) as the smaller provinces. This means more than 3x the tax base, since many single-vote provinces would be rounded up to one vote.

So, on a scale of 100 to 200 star systems, population correlates pretty well with tax base.

Smaller scales are difficult to gauge because some provinces (especially disproportionate ones like Gibson, Tamarind and Sirius) are no doubt leveraging populations outside their borders.

It's very interesting how most of the gigapop worlds follow a clear sinusoidal curve--and that the average of Andurien and Lopez (which lie close together in the Duchy of Andurien) would fall right on the curve, and that the average of Oriente and Calloway IV (which lie close together in the Duchy of Oriente) would also fall right on the curve. The average of Marik and Angell II stands ~33% above the curve, but perhaps that's to be expected, since Atreus (capital of the FWL) stands ~66% above the curve.

It makes sense for the population curve to dip near the periphery, but why it would dip between Terra and Andurien is less clear. Perhaps a combination of proximity to enemy borders, to Terra, and to other gigapop worlds?

I'm curious to see how Capellan and Draconis gigapops compare; if there's a consistent pattern, I may be able to estimate Davion and Steiner gigapops. (The Atlases in the old Davion and Steiner sourcebooks didn't include population figures.)

It's also interesting that there are [(radius/14.5)-2] gigapop worlds within [radius] Light Years of Terra. Instead of being spread across regular intervals of area (like the FWL's other star systems are), gigapop worlds show up at regular intervals of linear distance from Terra, which means the ratio of gigapop worlds to regular worlds falls dramatically the further out you go.

A few posts ago I calculated that, for small provinces, the average number of votes per system also falls geometrically the further out you go. Big provinces--which generally have more gigapop worlds--don't change with distance.

Perhaps each gigapop world (or pair of gigapop worlds) is the dense center of a population spread across half a dozen to a dozen worlds, such that the value of any given world would depend on its distance from a population center? This will require more thought.

Friday, May 6, 2016

FWL 3025: Shipyards

The FWL has eight manufacturers of DropShips & JumpShips (DS&JS page 15) operating ten active production sites (HM:FWL page 114). As best I can tell:
  • Star Lords built at Clipperton, Loyalty and Tamarind (by SelaSys Inc.)
  • Scouts, Leopards, Leopard CVs and Unions built at Oceana (by Irian Technologies, under supervision of the League's Chief Armorer)
  • Furies, Buccaneers, Monarchs and Behemoths built at Stewart (by Brigadier Corporation)
  • Gazelles and Mammoths built at Oriente (by "Deller, Bingham, and Fouts" or "Keller, Bingham, and Fouts")
  • Invaders built at Angell (by Technicron)
  • Intruders built at Ryerson (by Andurien AeroTech, a division of Free Worlds Defense Industries)
  • Vengeances built at Dieudonne (by Kallon Industries)
  • Condors built at Tematagi (by Nimakachi Fusion Products Ltd.)

My reasoning is below the cut. 

The FWL doesn't build big troop transports anymore, which plays to the fractiousness of FWL forces and their reluctance to mount an offense; lack of Mule production helps characterize FWL merchants as versatile traders who prefer Buccaneers; and Intruders plus extra fighter carriers may make up for a lack of small assault ships.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New Fan TRO: Built For War

Some guys are putting together a new Fan TRO called Built for War, and they recently posted a teaser preview! The fluff text isn't displaying correctly for some people, but whatever. It's a teaser. You can still see their layout and the Plog and Scroggins art.

I like what I've read so far. I like how the layout looks too, though maybe something more compact would've suited the omni units better.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

FWL taxes from "Succession Wars" boardgame

Firstly: it's Succession Wars (not BattleForce) that contains a concise overview of BattleTech's history up to 3025. (I'm a little surprised nobody questioned that.)

I wish I'd found a better scan of the Succession Wars (hereafter SW) map, but the borders, names and values all seem faithful. You can see many places where the borders of a tax region follow the contours of a province. Or, looking just below Atreus on the HM:FWL map, vice versa. I suppose FASA drew both from an earlier map.

I've done my best to match them up. 

Now, the Taxes

The Tax Zones look gerrymandered, so I think I can assume the nine outer zones really do represent 10/25ths of the FWL's taxes. If so, and if the known provinces contribute a share proportionate to their votes, then that leaves an average of 0.4 votes' worth for each independent star system; by the same logic, independent systems in the eight inner zones should average 1.5 votes each.

ZoneSW Taxes   Est. from
Avg Votes
Adding up the votes in each tax zone, it looks like most zones mostly work. They can be tweaked to fit.

Some zones can't work no matter what, just because the dominant provinces have too many or too few votes.

It's interesting that the zones which are low happen to be next to zones which are high by the same amount; maybe some votes were shifted for gameplay, or maybe the 3D positions of the stars don't map well to a 2D surface.

It's also interesting that the Marik Commonwealth and Duchy of Oriente, which support more 'Mech regiments than you'd expect from their voting power, also contribute more taxes in SW; and that Andurien, which is famous for being unhelpful militarily, contributes less SW taxes (Furud) than you'd expect from their voting power.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Provinces in the FWL

To help me place the FWL's last shipyard, I've been working out how much economic activity happens on each world; and since a province's economic output equates directly to that province's voting power in Parliament, I've been searching HM:FWL for clues about how many Members of Parliament each world gets.
  • At least four provinces occupy only part of a world: New Assam on Tiber IV (page 145), Ryal on Atreus (page 50), Khe Shang on Tamarind (page 138) and Olympica on New Olympia (page 154). Plus, since the world of Thirty Weight (page 34) doesn't appear on the map, it probably shares a star with some other world.
  • At least seven provinces seem to consist of a single world: Kyeinnisan (page 120 and map), Panjang (page 70); and Oliver (page 164 and map) and Dalton, Tania Australis, Gallatin and Bainsville (page 50), which seem to have more than one Member of Parliament.

The map shows 18 provinces which claim more than two star systems, amounting to 132 of the FWL's 333 star systems. Assuming that the 201 other star systems contain a single world each, and that the 136 smaller provinces contain no more than two worlds each, then they're split somewhere between
  • 88 with two stars, 25 with one star, and 23 share stars
  • 70 with two stars, 61 with one star, and 5 share stars
The FWL has over 400 worlds across its 333 star systems, though (page 153); adding extra worlds skews the ratio towards more worlds per province. You can skew it back by introducing provinces with three or more worlds, as  long as "the vast majority consist of one or two worlds" (page 62).

Names Can Be Misleading

Provinces are often referred to by the name of their primary world or ruling House (page 55, 72-74, major provinces on 84). The primary world is usually a "parent-state" supporting the province's other worlds as colonial "client-states" (page 63, 98, 100, 149). The ruler of a planet may be an Earl or Count or what-have-you (page 60) but they're all generically referred to as "dukes" (page 24).
  • The Sirian Concordat (or Sirian Concordance) is often referred to as "Sirius" even though Sirius isn't isn't part of it anymore. The ducal seat might be Procyon.
  • The Principality of Regulus is ruled by the Count of Harmony from the House of Cameron (page 103, 149), from the ducal seat of Regulus. Harmony and Cameron are also planets in the principality.
  • The Duchy of Orloff is ruled by an Earl from the House of Orloff, from the ducal seat of Carbonis (page 24). Orloff is a world too (page 111) but it isn't on the map, so I guess at least one of their stars has multiple inhabited worlds.
  • The Province of LeFarge is ruled by an Earl (page 72) who--like the MPs from New Olympia, Silver and Marcus (page 49, 69, 142)--happens to be "MP from Bowang" (page 34, 147) instead of "MP from the province of LeFarge." So Bowang is probably in the province of LeFarge, with some other world being the ducal seat. 
  • The Silver Hawks are called "a coalition of independent worlds" (page 64) even though several of them have client worlds. So it's not clear whether worlds like Nestor and Talitha (page 42), Camlann (page 63), Irian (page 124), Holt (page 143), or the nineteen other examples of government (page 73-74) go solo or have client-worlds.
There Used to Be Other Notable Provinces

The FWL has been fragmenting ever since "Camlann vs. the FWL" in 2683, but in 2571 it had only 15 provinces (page 62-63).
  • Marik Commonwealth
  • Duchy of Oriente (including what would become Orloff and The Protectorate)
  • Principality of Regulus (including what would become Gibson, Regulan Free States and Rim Commonality)
  • Stewart Commonwealth (conquered in 2295)
  • Duchy of Graham-Marik(separated from Marik in 2400s)
  • nine other provinces, probably including Tamarind and Abbey, plus Bolan and about half of Steiner's Alarion province (held perhaps as late as 2940s)
Those other provinces would contain about 120 of the modern FWL's stars, but I'm not sure how many would've been colonized at the time, especially since they're mostly in the outer half of the League (colonization figures in MW1e would cut their number by 25%).