Battletech – A Personal, 23 Year Retrospective (And the foundation for an Alternate Universe.)


I didn’t get into Battletech via the Grey Death.
I didn’t even get into Battletech via Battletech 2nd Edition.

Conceptually, I got into Battletech because I was into Discworld and Shadowrun, and those novels had ads for Battletech novels in them, back in the 90s, here in Germany.

But in practical terms, I got into Battletech via the Warrior trilogy.

Via Politics, Love, Duty, Honour, Loss and Sacrifice. And all that surrounded by both personal scale conflicts and a massive interstellar war involving dozens mercenary units, house regiments and RCTs.

I did not get into Battletech when it was all dirty, grimy and post-apocalyptic. I got into Battletech when the Inner Sphere was entering a period of slow but steady recovery and sanity.

And this both impressed me and was impressed on me.

A civilization rising out of the ashes of destruction and finally starting on the road to rebuilding. This was an ideal to strife towards! After the Federated Commonwealth, the creation of the Free Rasalhague Republic, House Kurita’s reforms and then, helped along by the Clans reappearing, and showing humanity that banding together IS valuable. And also (re-)introducing long lost and newly researched technologies. Seeding another renaissance through the struggling realms of the Inner Sphere. Revealing Comstar for the host of snakes it devolved into. Sowing the seeds of respect, friendship and even love between century old enemies. Being stopped by a massive effort of self-sacrifice and atonement. Starting to integrate into the populations their ancestors left behind oh so long ago.

This is why, for me, in my games, three setting elements of Battletech canon will from now on always be excised:
1. Katherine Steiner-Davion – Never born. Never being able to destabilize and destroy the FedCom, never being able to kill her mother.
2. The Jihad – Just… Just no. The Word of Blake forms, yes. And it will be a dangerous, if low-key, threat to allow for keeping some setting conceits (Mercs and standing armies) alive for long term campaigns.
3. The Wars of Reaving – The Clans will not have their own version of the Succession Wars.

All three of those elements were included for one simple, overarching reason: Battletech is a war-game. A game of tactical and strategic combat. And because of this, its publishers need a steady stream of wars and conflicts to be able to both keep it a viable war-game and pushing it along so that it doesn’t become stale.

But I, as a lone player, don’t have this need.

For me, those things take away from the setting. They take away progress. They take away hard-won experience. They take away hope. They push it too strongly towards a Warhammer 40k like world of endless, never-ending, total war. Because of the way I got into Battletech, this could never have been “my” Battletech.

In my Battletech, things progress more-or-less the same as they did in the official canon up until Bulldog. The Smoke Jaguars are destroyed and the victorious Star League heads back towards the Inner Sphere with a proper Peace Treaty and large swathes of the Smoke Jaguar’s scientists.

And they return to a FedCom under the calm and level-headed rules of Melissa Steiner-Davion, who expertly guided Yvonne and Peter to become expert diplomats and capable, fair rulers. Who never had to lose Arthur. Who developed a true appreciation for Omi Kurita, and later became instrumental in supporting Victor’s and Omi’s fledgling relationship.

They return to a Star League ready to ratify member status for all Periphery Nations and Clans who wished to join.

They returned to a Sun-Tzu Liao who, without the help of a scheming Katherine, has no power to disturb the Star League too much, who never recovers the St. Ives Compact. Who instead focuses his considerable skill towards his Confederation, and, even if grudgingly, becomes a shrewd and highly capable Chancellor, leading his realm towards long-term prosperity.

But they also return to a shocked and shaken Inner Sphere. Where the World of Blake is rebuked in taking Terra, but manages to infiltrate many FWL worlds, and even the higher echelons of many of the important FWL ruling families. They return to a highly frustrated Clan Wolf. They return to a Draconis Combine fraught with tension stemming from too much upheaval, reform and integration in too short a time. They return to a Thomas Marik who has since learned the horrible truth about his son.

There will still be conflict and even war in this version of Battletech. But it will not be endless. And the “end”, so to speak, is not too far away. And with time, humanity as a whole will be able to unite in prosperity again.

In the following posts, I will try to shine a light on the most likely flashpoints of possible conflict in this, “my”, Battletech. Discussing how they can best be used for RPG campaigns, and to what kind of campaign they best lend themselves.

At the same time, I will intersperse those posts with articles about starting a Battletech campaign in 3010-3025, geared towards emulating the epic and sweeping stories the setting’s most prominent mercenaries found themselves embroiled in. The goal will be to have the players and their unit take the in-universe place of a unit like the Grey Death, the Kell Hounds, the Dragoons or the Highlanders. And be responsible for and at the fore-front of the most defining moments of history leading towards a new Star League.

I will be attacking this “problem” of defining “My Battletech” from both ends, so to speak. From the iconic 4th Succession War start and the founding and firming of the Second Star League. And when all posts have been written, it should be a handy Battletech fan publication giving people an alternative setting to play in, as well as a firm set of guidance and advice on how to start a strong Campaign leading towards whatever later setting they prefer.

But through all this, the gentle reader should keep in mind that I will write from a very RPG centric perspective. Narratives and fitting said narratives will be my number one concern. Followed by retaining as much flavour as possible. “Fair” war-game balance will be a distant third, at best. This will not be, and does not aim to ever be, “Tournament Legal”.

And while we’re at it… FUCK Harmony Gold.
True Legends Never Die.



Let’s Go Into Space.

The last few weeks my mind has been torn between the World of Darkness as well as SciFi, for different reasons.
And both interests have music and sounds that go with them, at least in my personal part of the woods. And my mind. Mostly my mind.

Science Fiction, for me, is mostly about vast, far-reaching vistas and the stories told in them. (And also stories about problems that are solved either by science and/or human/alien ingenuity as well as about how society will change and adapt across short and long time-frames and the experiences that come with them, and NOT about stuff being solved by faith/religion/belief… But that’s another, long, ranting and hate-filled post waiting to happen…)

And to get into that space-of-mind there’s nothing like Ambient music.
About Five years ago, I had the great opportunity to stumble upon the artist “deepspace” over on – He was one of my recommendations. And is still one of those encounters that make me willing and glad to give the folks money from time to time. It just proved to me that their algorithms work. (And that proper tagging and sorting of music for personal consumption is important. But, again, a different post. Also long, but with a lot less hate.)

His albums “The Barometric Sea” and “The Barometric Sun” blew me away. Not because they are upbeat or uptempo. No. Quite the opposite. Quite the exact, polar opposite. They are deep, slow, ponderous and they pull you in. When I close my eyes while listening to those CDs, I get sucked away into deep space. I feel the hard radiation emanating from Pulsars washing over me. I feel the harsh caress of solar winds pushing me towards the hard and jagged embrace of Oort clouds. I can see light break, fracture and be distorted by hard-gravity wells, black holes, white holes and the occasional supernova. I let my mind expand to take in and measure the whole galaxy and I can start imagining wonderful, awe-inspiring stories happening all over it.

While I’m deeply in love with the hard, harsh and quick style of Cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk/transhuman literature, I am still heavily drawn towards that epic, immeasurable scope of slow, socio-historical science fiction. Okay, I admit it. I like to throw in some forms of FTL travel and FTL communication, but I generally like describing starships behaving like they should under Newtonian physics. I like short bursts of thrust then long “glides” and turns and then new bursts of counter-thrust as a means of travelling inside a solar system’s gravity well, for example. While the image of space-fighters is a cool one (And I like reading about them, see my love for the Rogue Squadron comics and novels!), I much rather have combat to be between ships that hold a substantial crew. And it should be short and deadly as well as slow and ponderous at the same time. A captain should be able to detect her opponent launching a salvo of torpedoes. But they will take many minutes to cross the vast space between those two ships. And when her ship’s counter-measures and point-defense fire don’t manage to take them all down, the crew should know that something horrible will happen in a few minutes that they’re powerless to defend against. They can only prepare themselves and the shortly-needed medical and technical first-aid and triage. And they would need to keep calm nerves and deal with the chance of sudden, inevitable death they just know will come to some of them.

At the same time, I want to have a ship enter a virginal solar system and start taking in all its grandeur. The colour, age and power of its sun. Its orbiting planets and moons and gas-giants. It’s comet-clouds and its apparent age. The cataloging of ancient features and the extrapolating of its history and past by scanning, looking, measuring and testing all the different inputs and samples one can obtain. To be exited about finding similarities which mean that a planet is habitable. Or be excited about getting results that, if repeatable and substantial, could mean a re-definition of old-held beliefs.

This is the Science Fiction that I enjoy reading and writing about.

And this kind of Science Fiction goes well with something special.
A free one-hour long ambient track by “deepspace”.

deepspace – Another Empty Galaxy | 2008 | Ambient

(If that doesn’t work for you, go directly to his page and download from there. It’s free, it’s legal and it’s completely awesome. And while you’re at it… Write this guy some encouraging words, will you? He deserves them… |

Listen to it now.
Download it and listen to it when you’re in the mood.
Or when you want to get in the mood.

But listen to it.
And try to think about something vast and beautiful.

And this time, I’m closing with two pictures that go well with today’s track.
[right-click -> “View Image” to see them in their full glory. Credit is below each picture.]