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
Green Technicians can't innovate, but they can repair, remove and replace. When Defiance Industries ships out a new Zeus arm containing a PPC instead of an autocannon, green technicians should be able to install it. They shouldn't have a problem pulling weapons off a Stalker, either, to create one of the light variants. 

Regular Technicians can improvise repairs without the proper parts and replacements, which includes grafting limbs from one type of 'Mech onto another. This likely accounts for notable MechWarrior Sean Phillips, who built a Swayback out of spare parts; for Kurita Catapults rearmed as Warhammers; for Ostsols temporarily armed with PPCs to fill in for heavier 'Mechs; and may account for Whitworths modified by individual MechWarriors or small unit commanders. The downside to body grafts is that any such improvisation has a chance to fail each time the body segment takes damage.

Veteran Technicians can research 'Mech design. The Eridani Light Horse adapts its Thunderbolts into Super Griffins. Wolf's Dragoons modify Archers into their signature variant on Hephaestus station, and later get Blackwell Industries to upgrade GM Marauders into Marauder IIs. Both merc units are brigade size, which is in line with my estimate of one repair facility per three or so regiments; on the other hand, the 37-ton Hermes II "Mercury" variant was originally devised by Marik battalion commanders... could be they improvised the change, and a repair facility ironed the kinks out later.

Elite Technicians have no special comment. If veteran technicians really are found mainly at repair facilities, then I imagine elite ones would be found mainly at special research institutes or at the most important manufacturers. Hanse Davion's experimental Blackjacks and Riflemen are probably created by elite technicians at the NAIS; the Banshee-S uses (Star League?) plans from Hesperus II; the Hatchetman was created by Dr. B. Banzai of the NAIS, and the Drac version was reverse-engineered by Luthien Armor Works.
The old 3025 House books list most of the Inner Sphere's 'Mech factories. Most factory entries specify which 'Mechs they produce and, except for Marik's Wolverine-M and Marauder-M, they're always the standard version of a TR:3025 'Mech. Consequently, I suspect that most "House" variants would be developed and implemented at repair facilities. And in the same way that a given factory only has the equipment and expertise to build certain 'Mechs, I imagine that a given repair yard might specialize in only one or two conversions. (No doubt you could cajole a yard into undertaking other known modifications, but it may take a while to send away for the necessary tools and data.)

Solaris VII 

Solaris VII is an interesting case. It has a repair facility and likely a brigade's worth of troops, so veteran technicians should be accessible, especially to the wealthy or well-connected.

However, looking over Warrior: En Garde, Justin Xiang's Yen-Lo-Wang is the only customized 'Mech to appear. If the gun-arm came off a CN9-AH, then a regular (or maybe even a green) technician could have attached it; intriguingly, the cannon did fail in one fight after taking superficial damage--as would be expected of a regular technician's improvisation--and the nails added to the other arm broke off after a single use, which also resembles the the improvisation rule.

Surprisingly, a couple Riflemen and an Ostroc are the heaviest 'Mechs to appear on Solaris VII in Warrior: En Garde. Justin is said to need a heavy 'Mech because his Centurion is too small to fight against a Rifleman in the Open Class, which implies that assault 'Mechs aren't common enough to be separated from heavies; the fact that Capet and Wolfson use Riflemen suggests significantly better heavies aren't readily available. I suppose MechWarriors lucky enough to have better 'Mechs can find better employment elsewhere.

R&D Time

From later TROs, it seems to take about two years to develop a 'Mech design. Taking that as 730 days to develop fifty tons of 'Mech, then as a rough guide, it should take an engineering team about two weeks to redesign one ton's worth of BattleMech equipment. (Not counting however long it takes to source parts or to do the actual work, which I suppose additional staff could handle in parallel.)

Adding Armor?

Some MechWarriors alter Stingers with the help of their technicians, dropping the miniguns for a second laser and more armor. A regular technician, or maybe even a green one, could add the second laser since it's just like the one the 'Mech already has, and is a pistol to boot; but does adding armor count as redesigning the 'Mech? If you improvised five points of armor, then took three damage, you'd roll to see if the other two points fell off on their own; if you improvised five points and took eight damage, all the improvised armor would be gone and so there'd be no need to roll... the cowl some pilots add to their Cyclopses ought to work this way.

Of course, the attempt to route an Enforcer's ammo feed behind its engine also malfunctions in a way that's similar to the improvisation rule, and replacing a laser with ammo certainly counts as redesigning the 'Mech.

Mass and Placement

Interestingly, the variants in TR:3025 care more about preserving the mass of a location than the number of crits, and whether the item is on the front or back of a 'Mech seems to matter also. Ammo bins face the rear, which may have something to do with the Enforcer's issues; it's probably why the Quickdraw swaps two tons of front-facing weapons with two tons of rear-facing weapons, instead of facing them all forward; probably also why other 'Mech variants place a heatsink (or, in the case of 3050's Grand Dragon, a rear-facing laser) in slots which used to hold ammo.

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