Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bandit Kings (part 3): Populations

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Forgotten Periphery States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

skiptober 'Mech industries

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

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

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

142+64+13+11 = 230.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

skiptember stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Final Rat Quest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

More 'Mech Production Insights From MW1e

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

# House Regiments *10 = 'Mech Production

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bandit Kings (part 2): Year Founded vs. # Worlds

P1e doesn't say how many worlds the Taurians or Canopians have. It does say the Outworlds Alliance has 38, and it also gives the year each of the three was founded.

Remember how the size of the mid-sized kingdoms corresponds to the size of their armies? I didn't really think it would work for the three big Periphery states. But it does. The Canopians have six 'Mech regiments (see fourth paragraph here) which corresponds to 31 worlds; and the Taurians have ten regiments, which corresponds to 49 worlds.

The Outworlds Alliance: Their four 'Mech battalions account for 6 of their worlds, and 4 worlds are free, leaving 28 for the fourteen air wings stationed within the Alliance. (A fifteenth air wing is stationed at "Grondass," which--given the book's inconsistent spelling of other worlds--is probably the Taurian "Girondas" struck by Cassandra's Volunteers in 2940.)

Looks like half an air wing (an air wing is about twenty fighters, so half would be ten) is as good a defense as two-thirds of a 'Mech battalion (based on a 128-'Mech regiment, that's about 28.44 'Mechs, plus 4.9 fighters in air support). Or in other words, four average fighters can scare off a Union and its two fighters.

Tiny Kingdoms:  The single-world armies (the kingdoms marked in red) are simple enough. The gaps between them get longer as they get older, which is what you'd expect if a steady fraction of them were getting overthrown every year.

Mid-Size Kingdoms:  The Oberon Confederation (founded circa 2855, per MW1e) lies at the crux of three trends:
  • As the largest and most civilized of bandit kingdoms, it falls in line with the three big Periphery states, a line which zeroes out near 3028 (the year P1e is set). It's a rate of one world every sixteen years, and probably represents the growth of non-predatory alliances.
  • Almost perpendicular to that trend is another which passes through Circinus, Tortuga, New St. Andrews and the defunct Rim Worlds Republic. No doubt it represents the tendency for nations to fragment or be absorbed into larger neighbors.
  • About halfway through the Second Succession War, Oberon starts a new trend--with the Marian Hegemony and Morgraine's Valkyrate--growing at a rate of one world every thirty-two years. I guess that's when the Successor States stopped expanding into the Periphery.
I notice that kingdoms which are young for their size--Morgraine's Valkyrate and the Marian Hegemony--also happen to be over-armed for their size, while kingdoms which are old for their size--Circinus and Tortuga--happen to be underarmed.

I don't know if the four Illyrian worlds bucks these trends or not. They were settled in the 24th century (exact year not given), but that isn't necessarily when they formed the Palatinate. P1e doesn't give a founding date for the Elysian Fields, either, and it wouldn't surprise me if that were timed to make the thirteen-world Oberon-Elysian combo align with the big three states.

This is all more highly structured than I expected, and I'm not sure how to translate those structures to other eras. The number of worlds is probably a combination of the nation's infrastructure and the rapaciousness of the era; and army size probably combines the size of the nation with the era's technological level. I'll be curious to see how the 20 Year Update colors things.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Bandit Kings (part 1): # Battalions vs # Worlds

P1e covers a number of the most notable Periphery bands. Seven of them control only a single world each, and range from less than a company of 'Mechs on up to two battalions (six companies)--exactly like a newly generated MW1e player unit.

The mid-size kingdoms basically have 2/3rds of a battalion for every world they control beyond their fourth. This is pretty well in line with the Draconis Combine (240 battalions for 350 worlds) and the Inner Sphere as a whole (1155 battalions for 1700-1800 worlds).

It would seem you don't need any 'Mechs to survive as an alliance of one to four worlds. The Inner Sphere has only about 450 well settled worlds, with the remainder of the 1700-1800 being client worlds (colonies, outposts and such), so perhaps these 'Mech-less kingdoms in the Periphery likewise consist of one main world and zero to three client worlds. I notice that the flag of Morgraine's Valkyrate has two large dots (presumably one for each of its major worlds) and three small dots (presumably one for each of its minor worlds).

I forgot to include the Illyrian Palatinate (4 worlds, "several companies" of 'Mechs) on that chart. Which was lucky, because it would have made those patterns harder to recognize.

Monday, July 24, 2017

MW1e Units Deploy in Groups of 1d6 Companies

I've realized something about MW1e's Unit Size chart. Ignore the top half of it; short version, you have ~12% chance of starting with 4 'Mechs, 25% chance to start with 8 'Mechs, and a 50% chance to start with a full 12 'Mech company. (Long version here.) What interests me right now is the 1d6 table at the bottom.

Although a battalion typically consists of 3 companies, it could be short a company (or have an extra) and still be referred to as a battalion; so rolling 2-4 on this table puts you in a group which consists of 2-4 companies. Likewise, a regiment could be short a battalion and therefore consist of only 5-6 companies.

It Gets Better:

If a deployment group consists of 1d6 companies, that's an average of 42 'Mechs per group, which is about right for a battalion with a command lance. In turn, three such groups would average 126 'Mechs, about right for a regiment with battalion and regimental command groups (a total of 128 'Mechs, per BF1e); at most you'd get 18 companies (which amounts to five battalions plus command elements, like the 42nd Avalon Hussars).

Intriguingly, the Mercenary's Handbook does indeed have you roll 3d6 to determine initial unit assets. (NPC units roll 3d6 on the table to the right, while PC units roll 2d6 plus their Leadership score--i.e., a Leadership skill roll; your unit's fortunes are literally two parts luck and one part leadership).*

The Mercenary's Handbook chart isn't linear, of course. I'm curious to see how much of that is because bigger units tend to have a better ratio of support and auxiliary units. Won't get to that for a while, though.

Next Time: Bandit Kings!

*This sentence was salvaged from an October 2016 post, which was otherwise trash and has since been deleted. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Inner Sphere 3025 Map (some progress)

[Edit, 2019 Feb 28: bigger and slightly cleaner version here. /Edit]

If you're seeing a very slightly cleaned up iteration of this starmap, then that means I haven't gotten back to Lyran production yet.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rat Quest #4: Psionic Magnet

This was essentially a test of whether we'd ambush a potential threat before trying to parley with it. Short, just two sessions, run by Osbald (the hairless fighter)'s player.

The Prelude

It's about a month after our last quest, and for the last few weeks, Ratfolk have been vanishing from Rosebush and the surrounding villages. Ch'Dar (dragoon raider) and Barnabosa (my sorcerer) discover this on their own, Nichodemus (wizardly patriarch) is recruited by Rosebush's baffled sheriff, and the three of us eventually rope in Skrac (the plague alchemist). All four PCs resist an unidentified psionic effect during the night.

We figure out that nobody in Rosebush knows anything, except (if I recall correctly) one NPC saw one of the missing rats sleepwalking the night they disappeared. I think Nichodemus scries the surrounding villages to see which ones are empty; from that survey, we decide the disappearances are moving in a generally northern direction, but we don't detect an epicenter or (again, if I remember correctly) a particular path.

The only way forward is to wait for a sleepwalker and follow them. Which we do. Casting "Read Mind" yields only white noise and a slow mantra; spoken questions get simple, flavorful-but-unhelpful answers. I may have spent longer trying to wring useful info out of this guy than the rest of the party cared for.

Not sure how I feel about the prelude.

The DM warned us it would be a short/simple quest, so I shouldn't be disappointed that there was only one path leading to the main encounter, or that there was so little to be achieved on that path; I guess it just feels like we spent too much time spinning our wheels. Probably doesn't help that the PCs spent much of the first session operating separately.

The Encounter

The sleepwalker's path leads to a bonfire surrounded by a few score ratfolk, most of them on the cusp of adventuring age. Our party watches stealthily, invisible or flying as our individual talents permit, from beyond the reach of the firelight, as the much older sleepwalker has a joyful reunion with a young child near the edge of the camp.

We determine that the most magical person is near the fire, flanked by two guards similar skill to ourselves. Nichodemus, pretending to be a sleepwalker himself, approaches the sleepwalker and his kid to question them about this camp and the person running it. I forget how we start talking to the Psion--maybe Nichodemus casts dispell on the sleepwalker and his kid, persuading them to leave. I think the Psion interrupts here telepathically, to ask why we're bothering his people, at which point Barnabosa flies into the middle of camp to speak with him directly, and the other PCs join. (Nichodemus' player tries to inject tension back in by traveling spectacularly--but needlessly--in the form of a whirlwind.)

Turns out the Psion is subconsciously overpowering these people's individual wills, but doesn't know it. He thought they all just really liked the idea of following him into the wilderness to found a new civilization. Him and Nichodemus take turns expositing about how Psions like him were used long ago in the wars between Rosebush and Nimh, and how Rosebush hunted them to extinction. This Psion was apparently in the bunch of refugees we rescued last quest, and whatever suppressant Nimh had been using on him took a while to wear off.
Psion: "I hear the 'good' king was killed. Where do you stand on that?"
Barnabosa wordlessly points to the crown on his head, a prize from said king's corpse.
I don't know if the other players keep forgetting that Barnabosa wears the dead king's crown, or if they only pretend to forget; if the latter, then good on them. It's a fun moment to have every few sessions.
Psion: "Part of me wants to go back to Nimh and make them pay for what they did. But I know that would be wrong."
Skrac: "How were you planning to do it? I was going to use a plague."
Barnabosa: "Here's my card; call on us anytime."
I think the DM forgot our party is mostly chaotic or evil. Nichodemus, who I think is neither, suggested that instead of razing Nimh, the Psion go to a monastery in the northern mountains to learn to control his power.

This encounter was pretty fun. Clear dilemma in needing to approach the Psion, but not knowing what will be interpreted as an attack; and when we did get talking to NPCs, getting their cooperation wasn't--at least at first--straightforward.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Third Rat Quest: 'Friendly' Trials in Nimh

TL;DR? Don't procrastinate on evacuations, and make sure to charm the budding villains before they turn on you. Also, as DM, there will come a time when you fail to anticipate the consequences of an NPC's actions.

This quest was DM'd by the guy who plays Teddy and Ch'Dar (and who DM'd the Xanadu quests). He started with an interesting setup: after we killed Nimh's evil king and the key necromancers supporting him, de facto control of that city apparently fell to a coalition of wealthy merchants, one of whom formed a "Commission for the Establishment of Peaceful Relations with Rosebush." That Commission invited a delegation from Rosebush to receive a goodwill gift at a festival in Nimh. News from Nimh is scant (the road from Rosebush to Nimh is neither quick nor safe), so we can't really trust that this invitation is on the up-and-up.

[Now that the jump-breaks work again...]

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Second Look at 3025 Lyran Assault Production

TL;DR? Best guess is ~94 assault 'Mechs/yr, including 33 Zeuses. Exact number of other types TBD; estiumates below the jump-cut. 

Moving carefully with Lyran production because how I proceed here will decide how I estimate the other Houses.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Second Rat Quest: Mickey Rat's Magical Kingdom

TL;DR? We go to Disney Land, and decide killing Micky Mouse and The Beast is too much trouble. Edit: Or maybe our memories were edited. /Edit

We began in media res with each character having separately pursued petty villains into situations resembling logic puzzles. This was DM'd by Skrac's (the plague alchemist's) player, the same guy who gave us riddles last time.
  • Ch'Dar the Dragoon (replacement for Teddy the Bard) was dancing at a village festival when something happened with his pack being stolen and a damsel was calling for help. He ended up trapped in a cell with a cylinder bubbling with amnesiac gas (which made him forget everything whenever he got too close), a candle, an amnesiac damsel, and a straw bed. 
  • Osbald the Hairless Fighter had to fill the missing number in the series 16, 06, 68, 88, __, 98. I forget why. He might've been in a crypt with a lock.
  • Barnabosa (my sorceror) had his sword stolen, and tracked the thief to a stretch of river with three towns. I could ask the river god a number of yes/no questions to determine which town the thief was in, but one of my NPC companions had comically wasted the questions until I had only one left. 
  • Nichodemus, Wizardly Patriarch of the ratfolk, was petitioned by some lesser magic using rat for help in stopping an evil summoning. The summoning requires 5 rows of 4 posts, the evil summoner is creating the posts at a predictable rate, and the ritual can only be sabotaged as the final post is created.
Solutions (and rest of the quest) below the cut.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Inner Sphere 3025 Map (in progress)

[Edit, 2019 Feb 28: bigger, cleaner version here. /Edit]

There's something appealing about the look of a thing that's been pieced together from obviously disparate parts into a precise and coherent whole. Will post a cleaner version eventually, of course. Need it for working out Fasanomics as well as the math behind BattleTech's starcharts.

For all the complaints I've heard about the maps not lining up with the coordinates, I'm surprised how few problems these ol' things actually have.

If you look close in the bottom right, you'll notice I have no yellow dots on one of the Davion maps. It's because I don't have a copy of the House Davion: the Federated Suns stellar coordinates. Two of the other Houses I got from the .pdfs which used to be available for free from the official BattleTech website, and the last two (the worst-scanned of them) I took from my own books.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Revisiting the Valkyrie Test & the FWL

The ol' MW1e BattleField Encounters and Enemy Lance tables continue to intrigue me. Almost 30% of the 'Mechs turn out to be light, and almost 40% turn out to be medium, which seems to agree with BF1e's later assertion that the light/medium/heavy/assault weight classes are split 30/40/20/10. (Assault 'Mechs are underrepresented on the MW1e tables, I suspect because the "assault" class hadn't been separated from the "heavy" class yet.)

Applying the table's percentages to the FWL's 500 'Mechs/yr would yield 141.53 light 'Mechs/yr, of which 51, 42 and 32 would be Stingers, Wasps and Locusts--and HM:FWL's manufacturing table does indeed show 141 light 'Mechs/yr, of which 51, 42 and 32 are in fact those three bug 'Mechs, although the values for the Stinger and Wasp are swapped; swapping them back would help put HM:FWL's list of most-produced 'Mechs (from the link above) back in order. Gibson shifting four to seven 'Mechs from its Wolverine-M line over to its "troubled" (and unlisted) Hermes II line would fix the rest.

Quick Aside About Bug 'Mechs

TR:3025 estimates the Successor States use 5000 or more Stingers. The 51:42:32 ratio suggests the actual numbers would be around 5100 Stingers, 4200 Wasps and 3200 Locusts; about 12500 altogether. That works for a BattleDroids-ish setting with no other light 'Mechs and 39500-41500 'Mechs overall; but it gets a little tight once we move into the 3025 Housebook setting, even with 55000 'Mechs overall.

51:42:32 is also very close to 25% (9/36ths) Locusts, 33% (12/36ths) Wasps & the rest (15/36ths) Stingers. TR:3025 says the -1V accounts for "more than 75 percent" of extant Locusts, and I can't help but notice that 7/9ths is the simplest fraction to fall between 75% and 80%; you could almost fit all this on a 2d6 table. If the two other bug 'Mechs are similar, then I might expect the -1A to be 9/12ths of all Wasps and the -3R to be 12/15ths of all Stingers.

FWL Mediums

HM:FWL's manufacturing chart shows 187 medium 'Mechs/yr, while MW1e's Encounters and Lance tables would result in 191/yr. It's impossible to make the tables yield both 141 lights/yr and 187 mediums/yr (well, technically you can, but you'd have to use negative values for the frequency of light and medium lances), so apparently I have to increase production of some medium 'Mech by 4/yr.

The Phoenix Hawk, Hunchback and Hermes II seem like good choices because they "increasingly dominated" the League's regular regiments; but the Hermes II, Wolverine and Griffin are bad choices because they'd disrupt the list of most commonly produced 'Mechs. The 486 'Mechs shown on the chart have an average mass of 49.002 tons--I'll try to choose a 'Mech which keeps the chart's average mass as close to that as possible.

FWL Assaults

"Except for the period between 2953-68, when it controlled the Liao Atlas and Victor production facility on Carver V," HM:FWL says "the only new assault 'Mechs produced by the Free Worlds League during the past century have been Awesomes, BattleMasters, and Goliaths," and that there's "four active production lines of this type, producing an estimated 30 units per year"--yet the production chart shows 34 assault 'Mechs/yr, including 11 Stalkers.

The obvious solution is to replace the Stalker line with another one producing 7 Awesomes, BattleMasters or Goliaths. I'd go with the BattleMaster, making it about 2/3rds of the FWL's assault production, since the common BT3e 'Mechs make up 2/3rds of the FWL's production overall. (Though I have to say it's also tempting to replace both the Stalker and the BattleMaster with, respectively, the slow and fast variants of Longbow.)

Earthwerks et al

HM:FWL says the FWL produces about 500 'Mechs/yr of 24 types at 17 facilities, yet the production chart shows only 486/yr at 13 facilities, and replacing the Stalker takes us from 24 types down to 23.

The Earthwerks corporate profile in that book mentions a Thunderbolt line which would fill that gap nicely: it takes the number of 'Mech types back up to 24; being a heavy 'Mech, it doesn't screw up the light, medium or assault counts; and 14/yr is pretty close to what heavy production lines on the chart average (about 12.5/yr). (There's a small chance that I should reduce the Thunderbolts a little to increase Quickdraw production by one or two per year; it's something I'll have to watch for.)

Curiously, the corporate profiles don't mention the Awesome line on Irian, the Stalker (or any other assault) line on Shiro III (they mention Quickdraws instead), the BattleMaster line on Keystone, nor the Shadow Hawk line on Calloway VI. If these production lines got absorbed from other locations, that would help bring the number of facilities up to 17 as mentioned in the text. No doubt some of the shuffling can be chalked up to the reconstruction following Anton's revolt.


[Edit, 2017 March 31:  I've removed the summary chart because a couple of the changes are "squishy" and I'll have to treat them as such moving forward; also because charting the manufacturing by location is only really useful for identifying the FWL's seven inactive production lines, which involves analysis I haven't done yet. /Edit]

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Star Trek Beyond

I didn't bother to see Star Trek: Beyond in theaters, and only in the last month got around to watching it on DVD. Watched it with company (people talking and moving about) and it seemed a little bland; watched it again alone (in the dark with perfect audio) and that was a much better experience.
Pro: Tons of well-placed callbacks to TOS.
Pro: Running through the Enterprise when gravity's askew.
Con: Endless plotholes.
Con: Nobody but the bridge crew (plus token ally) are allowed to even attempt to achieve anything.
I'm not going to fault the movie for having plot holes--they aren't exactly new to Star Trek; and I'll only fault the movie a little for being an action movie--it did manage to work in a few character arcs, and it did try to pit the Enterprise against a type of challenge they've never faced before. I do like that the writers tried to address the "humanity must struggle" theme from TOS, which TOS maybe didn't handle very well, although Star Trek: Beyond didn't handle it with much depth either.

I hope the token ally, Jaylah, returns for future movies the way Lieutenant Saavik should have. I'll even double down on that hope because I'm only now realizing how much potential she has as a Tasha Yar analogue. (Not as explicit a match as Ro Laren or Kira Nerys, but better positioned to mash up the Geordi/Tasha and Scotty/ensign-spacelegs relationship arcs.)

I said last year that I wouldn't describe myself as a particular fan of Star Trek, and I should probably qualify that by saying I am still a fan of Star Trek; someone gave me this trinket for Christmas, and I'm quite tickled to have received it:

Sorry that the scan is a bit muddy. I know a few tricks with photoshop, but not enough to clean this up.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pathfinder Transcript: First Rat Quest

[One of the players in our group had been keeping brief transcripts of our sessions. He gave up on it partway into this quest so he could focus more on playing.]

This is the quest I described here, the first in our evil rat cycle.

I was wrong - the other players didn't change characters after this quest, they just made their existing character less evil. (This DM had asked us to make sure our characters weren't so evil or chaotic that he couldn't hook us into the quest by having us repay an important debt.)
  • My sorcerer was lawful evil, and stayed so. 
  • I think the hairless fighter is within one step of chaotic evil.
  • The alchemist was going to be literal-plague-upon-the-land double evil, but he toned it down to regular evil.
  • The bard might be chaotic neutral. Doesn't really matter, because he kept accidentally flirting with every single NPC he interacted with, so he decided to roll with it. He did end up changing characters.
  • I don't remember the alignment of the samurai who joined us later; the player changed shifts at work and hasn't joined us again.
The DM pulled out some dungeon tileboards for the warehouse fight and followup explorations. It felt like we didn't need them, but I guess I'd have said the same about the prison fight if we'd had them for that too. They had an extra couple bits of greebly terrain (half flight of stairs, gazebo, and so on) that I don't normally think to add, which was nice.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Harebrained Initiative (86 pages later)

[TL;DR? Weighing pros and cons, it's mostly pros, and the cons are arguable. I want to tweak how the "weight classes" are defined, though, which is why I'm really posting.]

It took a few weeks, but I finally finished reading this eighty-six page discussion of Harebrained Schemes' initiative system.

Regular BattleTech tosses a coin at the top of each round and then alternates between players, waiting to resolve weapons fire for all units en masse.HBS BattleTech resolves each unit's weapons fire individually after it moves, and gives lighter weight classes the option to activate before heavier weight classes.

There's a lot to like about the HBS system:
  • It mitigates the effects of always winning or losing the coin toss by making faster-activating units less powerful than slower-activating ones. 
  • You can break up enemy activations (or bunch up your own) by reserving your early-acting units to later phases.  
  • Your influence over activation order is intrinsic to force composition. 
  • Bonus: It adds value to light and medium 'Mechs, which tabletop players often criticize as too weak relative to heavy and assault 'Mechs. 
  • Meh: It matches the fiction better (events are rarely depicted as simultaneous - characters tend to take a hit from their enemy, then maneuver cleverly and fire a return volley). 
Other effects are less clear-cut, and I did see two substantive objections. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

First Look at Lyran Manufacturing in 3025

First, some ballparking:

Defiance Industries is "by far" the largest 'Mech manufacturer to survive to 3025, so it has to be substantially bigger than the Lyrans' next biggest manufacturer, Coventry Metal Works. If Commando production is anything like Valkyrie production, then Coventry (which also builds Stingers, Firestarters, Vulcans and Phoenix Hawks) should be building at least 150 'Mechs/year.

I've already established overall Lyran production as 500 'Mechs/yr, and House Steiner: The Lyran Commonwealth (hereafter HS:LC) lists five other 'Mech plants. If we estimate them as one share each, Defiance of Furillo as two shares, Coventry as 150/yr, and Hesperus II as one share bigger than Coventry, then Hesperus II would rate 175/yr, Furillo would rate 50/yr, and the other five plants would average 25/yr.

I enjoy how the 'Mechs are in scale with each other but not with the humans

Maybe it isn't surprising that Defiance and Coventry together would represent 75% (or more) of Lyran 'Mech production; and maybe I shouldn't be surprised that them being so big would bring the the lesser plants into line with the FWL's lesser plants.

I notice that TR:3050's entries for the Stinger, Wasp, Griffin, Wolverine, Victor and Atlas list variants from fastest produced to slowest produced. If other entries do the same, that would mean the Lyrans produce less of almost any given 'Mech than the FWL does. That's a useful constraint.

Okay, modeling Lyran factories on those in the FWL: