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.