Author Topic: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?  (Read 2003 times)

massey

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1536
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #30 on: 30 August 2017, 11:22:44 »
Well, the average guy isn't going to be able to buy a mech, because generally they aren't available.  It isn't a matter of walking into your local dealership, plopping down 1.6 million C-bills, and walking out with a shiny new Stinger.  Those things are on back order for like 20 years.

Characters in novels seem to get mechs through unusual circumstances.  They're a poor infantryman who manages to ambush an enemy mech pilot and steal his ride.  They have suitably dramatic origin stories that make them interesting to read about.  I don't know if that is a common thing for private mech owners, or if there are much more mundane ways to get them.  But there generally doesn't seem to be much in the way of paperwork as far as these things go.  Remember that this is not the modern day, with our high-speed internet and massive government databases.  Possession appears to be 9/10ths of ownership here.  I suppose that anyone who actually has the skills necessary to maintain a battlemech also knows how to file off the serial numbers.  A lot of mechs suffer damage over time and parts are replaced.  Mechs are usually decades, if not centuries old.

I also wonder how often conventional authorities challenge mech owners.  Suppose I do find a mech that "fell off a truck".  I probably can't bring it back to my house in suburbia and park it in my driveway.  You know, take it out on the weekends, impress the ladies.  Probably not.  But if I've got a farm out in the country, with a big barn I can hide it in?  A lot of worlds in Battletech seem pretty "wild west", so I bet I can just hide it there for a while and nobody will come snooping around.  The question is, when do you go from "dude who stole a mech" to "respected knight of the realm"?  Once people know and accept you as being a guy who owns a mech, I don't think the cops come around and ask to see your papers.  But how do you get from here to there?

I'd bet that's when a lot of people run off and join mercenary units.  "Roger's Rangers" are stationed somewhere on your planet.  If I can manage to get my mech from here to there, I can probably join up no problem.  This gives me immediate legitimacy, and if I leave planet with them, no one will ever be the wiser.  Twenty years later, I've made my fortune and I want to retire, so I strike a deal with some local noble to be one of his retainers.  I make a generous cash donation, he gives me a big piece of land with an active farm on it, and I pledge to help him out during times of invasion.  Now my descendants are part of the landed nobility, even if we're mostly unimportant.  We're still set for life.
« Last Edit: 30 August 2017, 11:28:00 by massey »

Kidd

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1597
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #31 on: 30 August 2017, 11:56:57 »
Characters in novels seem to get mechs through unusual circumstances....They have suitably dramatic origin stories that make them interesting to read about.
Exactly. Because its more exciting that way, but a lot of world-building is skipped in the process. It's something I have remarked that the early MWDA novels have an advantage over CBT novels; some of them do show the life of the average Mechwarrior in service to his planet.

Quote
The question is, when do you go from "dude who stole a mech" to "respected knight of the realm"? .... I'd bet that's when a lot of people run off and join mercenary units.  "Roger's Rangers" are stationed somewhere on your planet.  If I can manage to get my mech from here to there, I can probably join up no problem.  This gives me immediate legitimacy, and if I leave planet with them, no one will ever be the wiser.  Twenty years later, I've made my fortune and I want to retire, so I strike a deal with some local noble to be one of his retainers.  I make a generous cash donation, he gives me a big piece of land with an active farm on it, and I pledge to help him out during times of invasion.  Now my descendants are part of the landed nobility, even if we're mostly unimportant.  We're still set for life.
Exactly. And you're not very unimportant, you are the "knight" supporting your liege. 1 thing that is overlooked in BT, but I'm beginning to advance as a fan theory, is that Mechwarriors themselves are relatively rare - more common than Mechs, hence giving rise to Dispossessed, but far less common than other soldier classes. Remember another condition of the feudal era - there were fairly few individuals who were trained in the use of a knight's arms.

So a lord can't just seize your Mech, not if he wants your skills as well... but of course if he does in fact have lying around another Dispossessed Mechwarrior whom he considers more loyal than you... you're not long for this world I'm afraid.

massey

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1536
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #32 on: 30 August 2017, 12:39:01 »
Exactly. Because its more exciting that way, but a lot of world-building is skipped in the process. It's something I have remarked that the early MWDA novels have an advantage over CBT novels; some of them do show the life of the average Mechwarrior in service to his planet.
Exactly. And you're not very unimportant, you are the "knight" supporting your liege. 1 thing that is overlooked in BT, but I'm beginning to advance as a fan theory, is that Mechwarriors themselves are relatively rare - more common than Mechs, hence giving rise to Dispossessed, but far less common than other soldier classes. Remember another condition of the feudal era - there were fairly few individuals who were trained in the use of a knight's arms.

So a lord can't just seize your Mech, not if he wants your skills as well... but of course if he does in fact have lying around another Dispossessed Mechwarrior whom he considers more loyal than you... you're not long for this world I'm afraid.

That's a fascinating idea.  I really like that.  Since this is a game, if there's a question as how the background works, we should generally lean towards an answer that allows more roleplaying and more adventure over less.

Dispossessed mechwarriors would have a bad reputation.  Not only are they dumbos who managed to lose their mech, they're also dangerous.  They'd be seen as untrustworthy, always looking to stab you in the back as a way to get into another mech.  You don't want to see Joey "the Snake" Johnson hanging around the local baron's court.  He's probably looking for a way to pump you full of lead, and steal your Shadow Hawk.  Maybe he's seen as more loyal than you are, or maybe you go missing while an enemy raid is inbound, and the lord really needs somebody to pilot your mech.  Oh wait, here's a mechwarrior who can do it.  Good thing ol' Snake was around, huh?

As far as the overall "economy" of the Battletech world, and where people get all their mechs, I'd suggest it's a consequence of the wealth of the Star League era, as well as the brutality of the First and Second Succession Wars.  So way, way back, the Star League and the Great Houses would have set up a lot of equipment caches -- stuff they produced that they didn't need at the moment, so they squirrel it away.  They'd also have decommissioned mechs that were held in reserve, buried in some vault on a random planet somewhere.  As the Star League upgraded from what we think of as 3025 technology, they'd have had a lot of mechs that they just retired and shipped off somewhere.  Maybe some of it was preparation for a war that never happened, an invasion of some dinky little Periphery realm, or a counter to an attack from some House Lord that didn't materialize.  Regardless, there's Star League crap absolutely everywhere.  Or at least there used to be.

Then the Amaris Coup happened, and Kerensky's war,  And a lot of records of where stuff was got obliterated when warships orbitally bombarded key Terran Hegemony planets and military bases got nuked.  But that doesn't mean the people who were living nearby were completely clueless.  If we had a nuclear war today, and the US government crumbled, I'm sure that Farmer John who lives 10 miles outside of Area 51 would go snooping for alien crap.  A lot of Star League depots probably got looted pretty quickly, with people hauling off mechs and burying them in their backyard, "just in case".  Then the First and Second Succession wars had thousands of regiments blasting each other to bits, leaving all kinds of equipment sitting there in the desert, baking in the sun and in radiation.  There are probably vast fields of destroyed equipment, mech graveyards, on many Inner Sphere planets.  But despite how much they've been picked over, that doesn't mean some enterprising young kid can't go out, dig through the trash, and eventually find one that can be salvaged.

There's probably a steady trickle of mechs that "rise from the grave", unearthed by some farmer who didn't know that great-great-great-great grandpa made off with a Thunderbolt and buried it in the cornfield.  It's not enough to replace mechs that are destroyed in combat, but combine it with steady low-rate production, and you get the "barely keeping your armies together" feel of the 3rd Succession War.
« Last Edit: 30 August 2017, 12:42:35 by massey »

SCC

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 6769
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #33 on: 30 August 2017, 19:46:04 »
I've thought about the Ghost Regts a lot. See, you don't just magick up several regiments' worth of Mechs just like that. My conclusion is that what Kurita was really tapping into when he approached the underworld was raw cash, black market supply routes, and personnel... especially Mechwarriors. Some cash went towards increasing DC Mech production, but that would still leave a paper trail, so a (very) significant black market operation was also enacted to supply the majority of the Ghost Mechs. And no, its explicitly stated in both manuals and fiction that the Ghosts were not considered true samurai by the rest of the DCMS and had to source most of their supply from the black/grey market.
For BT's entire life the supply of 'Mechs has been scares, so I rather doubt that simply extra money would make them appear. But even if it did, given that the crime lords are bank rolling these regiments, that means the 'Mechs belong to them, or at least that is how they would see it.

And no, I was suggesting that samurai status might be offere.

There would be some guns-for-hire who own Mechs but do not have the income/contacts to support it. They would become mercs or enroll in the State armed forces for upkeep and salary.
Yep, and these are really the ones I'm talking about. Given that 'Mechs aren't likely to be given out that often, and that there would be times when people lose their 'Mech and aren't able to get a new one, I'd expect the number to decline over time.

As for the feudal lord... he would need to provide for both offence and defence - so the lord would ideally need to have 2 Mechs, 1 for the planetary forces and 1 for sending a Mechwarrior to take service in the xxth Avalon Hussars (for example). But if the landhold is located somewhere like say New Avalon, and not on a border planet, the need for local security is much less - so perhaps the lord sends a greater proportion of the troops he raised to serve with his liege's federal forces.
Offense against who?

In conclusion, IF the BT universe is truly a neo-feudal one, then we can get a little creative with how it differs from the world we understand.... just my 2 cents  ;D
It should still make some sense but.

If you've got an honorable discharge from your House military, are signed up with the local planetary defense force as a reserve, have a clean record, and have settled down with a really valuable chunk of real estate (thanks to either the family fortune or some remarkable financial investments during your military career) on a border with a long history of pirate raids, you might be able to buy your own 'Mech to help defend yours and your neighbors' property.  At that point, you're only about one step shy of being a "knight", but don't have the formal title, and will probably never get it.  It's still in the state's interest to allow you to buy that piece of hardware, because it's one less 'Mech that they have to pay for to defend against the regional pirates, and the owner-operator is a proven safe bet.
Maybe.

Iceweb

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 176
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #34 on: 30 August 2017, 22:23:05 »
You don't want to see Joey "the Snake" Johnson hanging around the local baron's court.  He's probably looking for a way to pump you full of lead, and steal your Shadow Hawk.  Maybe he's seen as more loyal than you are, or maybe you go missing while an enemy raid is inbound, and the lord really needs somebody to pilot your mech.  Oh wait, here's a mechwarrior who can do it.  Good thing ol' Snake was around, huh?

Last I remembered mechs had a pretty good security system with pass codes and enough other stuff that mugging a guy and taking his keys would be ineffective to steal his mech. 

I mean yeah it happens all the time in the fiction but lets not kill catgirls that way. 

I think if the baron saw a pirate dropship approaching and said "Everyone get to the mechs!"  then Bob's family would put up a fight to loyal old Snake to just grabbing the thing. 
It would probably take a while to factory reset the thing and get a new user in it without Bob or his family helping, the pirate threat would be long over by then. 

And anyone else with a mech would get the hell out of dodge if that baron was willing to grab their mechs to give to his cronies. 

Just my two Cbills and don't let it ruin a good story

massey

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1536
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #35 on: 31 August 2017, 09:49:42 »
Last I remembered mechs had a pretty good security system with pass codes and enough other stuff that mugging a guy and taking his keys would be ineffective to steal his mech. 

I mean yeah it happens all the time in the fiction but lets not kill catgirls that way. 

I think if the baron saw a pirate dropship approaching and said "Everyone get to the mechs!"  then Bob's family would put up a fight to loyal old Snake to just grabbing the thing. 
It would probably take a while to factory reset the thing and get a new user in it without Bob or his family helping, the pirate threat would be long over by then. 

And anyone else with a mech would get the hell out of dodge if that baron was willing to grab their mechs to give to his cronies. 

Just my two Cbills and don't let it ruin a good story

I was kind of thinking of Loki in the original Thor movie.  Jealous of his hot-headed brother, arranges for him to be gone from the kingdom.  Also gives their old enemies a backdoor into the city.  At the last moment, he swoops in and saves the day, personally killing their enemies and looking like a hero.  Oh, umm, spoilers, I guess.

Old Snake isn't caught by surprise by these events.  He's been planning to take advantage of an emergency.  He'll have whatever equipment he needs to bypass mech security.  And if Bob's family farm just happens to be in the path of the bandits...  Now that doesn't mean that he's actually teamed up with the bandits (you can't play that trick too often and still get away with it), but he's an opportunistic guy.  It's the kind of thing where Bob has gone missing, nobody knows where he is, and the pirates have broken through the defense forces and will be here in an hour.  Who does the Baron turn to to pilot that Battlemaster?  And Snake is sitting there, holding his drink.  "I'm a pilot."

I guess the point is that active mechwarriors would be very suspicious of the dispossessed.  They have a reputation for being scheming jerks.  Is that friendly guy at the bar really trying to help you, or is he trying to lead you into a trap?  I had zero interest in the dispossessed until like 4 posts ago.  I didn't think they were interesting at all, had no story ideas for them.  You're a mechwarrior without a mech, have fun sitting at the table not doing anything while the rest of the group goes out and fights.  But Kidd's post gave me a world of story hooks for characters like that.  Mostly as NPCs, but it could be fun to play a game where the characters are all trying to con their way into a mech.

Kovax

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1490
  • Taking over the Universe one mapsheet at a time
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #36 on: 31 August 2017, 10:12:49 »
The Dispossessed will be a diverse group.

On the one end of the spectrum, you've got minor nobles with a landholding, but no longer own a 'Mech.  They're trying to scrounge the cash to buy another (most likely by increasing taxes within their fief, or selling off other personal holdings), but it might take months or even years.  Meanwhile, they're in danger of losing their fief on account of not being able to honor their military obligation.  They may be entirely "honorable", but until they can get another 'Mech, they're treading on thin ice.

On the opposite end, you've got your dispossessed "owner-operators" in the service of some other noble, who aren't landed, and may need to acquire or negotiate the use of another 'Mech by "questionable" means, because there's no way they can ever hope to buy one. Their best chance of regaining status is by "kissing up" to their local lord, in hopes that he or she may provide access to a 'Mech.

Then you have the ex-military Mechwarrior retirees, who aren't desperate for a 'Mech, but fully capable of operating one, and many of them would love to do so again.  That probably doesn't extend to the point of killing another MechWarrior to take his ride.  There are also Mercenaries who have been shot out of their machines, a very variable lot who may or may not have scruples, depending on the individual.

Kidd

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1597
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #37 on: 31 August 2017, 12:45:29 »
Last I remembered mechs had a pretty good security system with pass codes and enough other stuff that mugging a guy and taking his keys would be ineffective to steal his mech. 
Press F2 to Enter Boot Mode > Format Disk > Create New User ;D sorry, its pithy, but you get the idea.

There is a bit of controversial MWDA fiction in which the new owner has to be plugged into the Mech for the best part of a day in order to reprogram the Mech. Doesn't jive with other fiction (even in the same MWDA series!) in which the Mech can be reprogrammed in a matter of minutes. My personal explanation is that the former case was a not-quite-so-tech-savvy Mechwarrior who only knew how to do it "the long way", while the latter cases are done by expert hackers or techs, possibly using specialised hacking or maintenance equipment.

But yeah... have a heart for the catgirls ;D point being that it is a probable risk that lone "sellsword Mechwarriors" will find their throats slit by new employers who have a more favoured Dispossessed waiting in the wings plus the wherewithal to reprogram a Mech in such a manner.

guardiandashi

  • Major
  • *
  • Posts: 3619
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #38 on: 31 August 2017, 12:53:06 »
in the stackpole novel where victor and the other house heirs are being trained by the dragoons, one of the "scenarios" had victor "stealing" a Dashi, by swapping out a "security chip" with unknown user profiles, with one that already had his personal security profile encoded on it.

while this (likely) wouldn't work on an IS mechs security system (due to it including features like synchronized modules being used in more modern cars and similar) it was plausible for an "exploit" in clan designs simply due to the fact that they are more lax about security precautions (at least in the novels)

Iceweb

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 176
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #39 on: 31 August 2017, 16:51:11 »
I was kind of thinking of Loki in the original Thor movie.
 

Now that is a good story which I can get behind. 
Snake puts in the work he can get mech. 
A nice story hook for the players who get hired by Bob's family to get their mech back from Snake, but make sure not to core it or you don't get paid. 

Now I feel like making avenger based mechs in Lab :) 
New Quirk throw-able shield.

Col Toda

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 1663
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #40 on: 31 August 2017, 21:26:14 »
Most nations with a military industrial complex can only sell hardware to entities be it other nations , companies , or individuals that have been issued an End User Statement . A document that outlines who ultimately end up with said hardware. When mercenaries take a contract with a government they get most of the support from the government's quartermaster Corps . However if the mercenaries requires more of a particular item of supply than the military has on hand then the mercenary company tends to be issued an end user statement so it can be purchased from the manufacturers directly . Near the end of the apparent successful completion of the contract the government tends to permit losses sustained from the completion of it to be replaced with locally available.It gives them an incentive to not hire against that government who can stop replacement parts get cut off.

Daemion

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2929
  • The Future of BattleTech
    • Never Tales and Other Daydreams
Re: How Are There Still Privately Owned 'Mechs?
« Reply #41 on: 02 September 2017, 08:50:07 »
SCC, you pose a very interesting question.  But, let's not forget that a lot of the mercenary trade really got its start because of Kerensky's departure and the ensuing succession wars.  And, let's also not forget the long period of time that those wars were fought over and how a culture can form from repeated processes over time.

People have done a great job covering Neo Feudalism in the light of vast distances and slow communication.  Each world is it's own island.

(While I can't back this up with the current 1st and 2nd Succession Wars books, not having read them yet) It seems to me that the mercenary trade didn't really get started until the Succession Wars, or just before, with all those Hegemony and Star League regiments staying behind.  The house lords sought to buy these guys out in order to ease whatever Hegemony world-grabs they had planned.  A lot of these units would still have a strong Esprit De Corps, wanting to keep together.  They're also not stupid, foreseeing that they would be put to use, and would need replacements.  They work into their charter a means of acquiring replacements that won't tie them to the state.  Desire to own them, combined with no really solid way to hunt them down and eliminate them, (not without unifying the rest of the remaining hegemony forces against said lord) means that the Lord acquiesces.  Remember that there's still a significant Hegemony navy, too, not just land forces.

You have the real start of your independent market.  But, there's precedent, as well.  Let's not forget the bout of ronin duels during the height of the Star League when Kurita warriors would face off against Star League and Hegemony knights.  Those guys got their Mechs from somewhere.

So, you have your Star League regiments on retainer with contract that allows for a means of acquiring replacements from the state's manufacturing supply.  Then, as the wars rage, and warriors of said mercenary regiment prove themselves and their loyalty and skill above and beyond, nobles and house lords start handing out titles, and the regiment's personnel slowly get spread to the corners of the realm.

But, by the time that a coup might be plausible, you've had the mercenary trade on hand for a long time, a couple decades at least, and local lords and lasses are taking advantage of it during peacetime to get payback or some such.  It's also a great means of plausible deniability for the state in general, when they can point the finger at some lower-end schmuck when his raid goes sour or gets traced back to the Realm. 

By the time you get to the third succession war, raids are the normal thing.  The mercenary market exists, and its much easier to just hire out, leaving the costs of recouping and salvage and what-have-you to the forces on site.  After a couple hundred years, it's so ingrained into the fabric of life in Human occupied space that it doesn't go away without a really strong stimulus.

You got to look at this less with modern lenses, like we normally do, and envision that there are a lot of things that become status quo through a process that isn't connected to just any one thing or event.  What we accept now as real in the 20th and 21st century on a planet-bound Earth can easily change due to circumstances and necessities when we get to the stars.  We've not seen galactic conflict, and we've not seen the defection of a large super-power's military into some nebulous exile where they can't be followed or found, leaving what's left of who stays trying to figure out how to stay alive and not get creamed.

Who knows what will come out of that.

The mercenary trade from the early succession wars probably saw the start and rise of the salvage industry.  It really didn't get heavy until people were going back to nuked graveyards to find workable components to keep equipment functioning when the Quartermaster couldn't come through.


And, there's one other aspect that you brought up that is also a big element of BT: Pirates.  Lots of people defect from their leige and depart for parts unknown.  Many small pirate kingdoms have entire regiments of Mechs that they've stolen or found some other means to make.  (Not enough background on this. I wish there was more.)  Throw in the fact that house lords and their vassals have been making similar piratical seizures from the enemy for a time, (Hanse Davion made a raid just to acquire some of a certain design) and it really throws a wrench into any idea of security procedures and being able to track down any single machine.  (There were over 100,000 Archers produced alone over the course of the succession wars, if you still hold to that tidbit from the original TR 3025.  The amount of mechs put out far outstrips the size of the current armies, and arguably the amount of combat losses.  Throw in years of frankenmech chop jobs to keep a small handful in outstanding shape, and good luck trying to identify if that belonged to the 34th Red Bull Company, 113th North Continental Regiment, Sudeten Militia when it was 'lost in combat' in 2813 from an exploratory raid by an 'unknown foreign aggressor strongly resembling a Kurita strike force'.)

Aside: The Mechs in question that fall through the fictional gaps, not covered by the field manuals, but strongly hinted at by large numbers of machines have gone somewhere! And, there still aren't enough because you have dispossessed pools of qualified warriors. Combine that with large numbers of mercenary commands that are not accounted for, as well as militias most likely stocked to the level that their planetary governors will allow without becoming potentially belligerent to the higher powers. That looks like there's a large enough surplus for a thriving market that took off at some point in BT's history and never stopped.

It's your world. You can do anything you want in it. - Bob Ross

Every thought and device conceived by Satan and man must be explored and found wanting. - Donald Grey Barnhouse on the purpose of history and time.

I helped make a game! ^_^  - Forge Of War: Tactics