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Author Topic: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech  (Read 9067 times)

Giovanni Blasini

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'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« on: 04 November 2016, 18:33:43 »

Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech

This week’s ‘Mech of the Week article is about the BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech and, I warn you, it’s going to be a weird one.  I suspect that’s because a big part of this article isn’t about the IndustrialMech, but about Doug Chaffee, the artist for which it’s named.
 
When I think about Battletech artwork, there have always been two artists that, for me, really set the visual tone for the universe. One of them is Duane Loose, for his work on Tech Readout 3025, one of the first Battletech books (along with the Tech Manual) I got for Battletech back in 1989 or so.  This is also a time when I was taking drafting class in high school, and Loose’s work reminded me strongly of the kind of technical sketches we learned about in class in addition to drafting.
 
Doug Chaffee is the other artist who, for me, defined Battletech. In the early '90s, my mother worked for GD Space Systems, and I still remember some of their internal artwork and publications, like one depicting a Mars mission.  Chaffee's work always reminded me of that style of art, probably because that was also a large part of the work he did outside the world of gaming art.
 
Doug Chaffee's work didn't just depict a BattleMech, or a spacecraft, but helped give it context in-universe: his drawings and paintings, whether cover art like Aerotech 2 or internal technical readout entries like in Vehicle Annex or 3057 Revised, depict snippets of life within the Battletech universe, whether it's the fall of the last Luxor class battlecruiser during the Liberation of Terra, or backwater farmers working their fields using an AgroMech.
 
Perhaps that's what I love so much about Technical Readout Vehicle Annex and its revised edition.  The art in Vehicle Annex, perhaps more than that of any other book, gives us an idea of what civilian life in the Battletech universe is like. It helps flesh out the universe, making it more than giant stomp robots, Byzantine political intrigue, and warfare ranging from small, desperate skirmishes to massive, worlds-shattering battles.
 
Sadly, Technical Readout: Vehicle Annex (Revised Edition) is the last of Doug Chaffee’s work for the Battletech universe, as he passed away in 2011 at the age of 75.  In the book’s dedication, it’s described as his magnum opus, and I’m not inclined to disagree.
 
In addition to dedicating the book to him, Doug Chaffee was also immortalized by having an IndustrialMech named after him, the BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech.  The Douglas Chaffee of the Battletech Universe was a member of the board for Wakizashi Enterprises civilian industries on Schuler, whose conscience drove him to vehemently push for an IndustrialMech to be built that could be distributed as widely as possible, one that could serve its community not through force of arms, but by being affordable, available and adept at missions like search and rescue, salvage operations, emergency response, or even such mundanities as directing traffic.  Even more than your typical IndustrialMech, the BT1 Chaffee was meant to be a ‘Mech for the masses, serving, then “as a tool of humans for humans.”
Jymset, meanwhile, gives us some insight into how the Chaffee ServiceMech came to be:
 
------------------------
So how did the Chaffee end up in the revised edition of TRO Vehicle Annex? In 2010, two things happened: after a few years as proofer and game stats person, I got my first writing gig in TRO 3085, and Chinless and I started revising TRO VA. One of my first writing pieces was TRO 3085’s Diomede and going off rough parameters, I submitted what is now in the book. The TRO was actually also Chaffee’s last major work for the BT line and by the time my writing was done, he’d already created an illustration that unfortunately didn’t match my submission. Thanks to the art Lewis created for the Diomede, that monstrosity lives on, but I was in the unique position (for a non-dev) to be aware of a now unused piece of art.
 
While working away on VAr, I was dreaming of a VA2 and had even approached Randall about it. Blissfully unaware of his advanced age, I had visions of Chaffee creating some unique art. At that stage, I also designed the stats of the Chaffee—with a heavy dose of reality checks by Chinless, as always—to fold into the project. I share Giovanni Blasini’s opinion of the artist’s visual mark on BT 100% and when I received news of Doug Chaffee’s passing, I was genuinely wracked by grief. This grief immediately transferred into words, shaping the entry we now have in TRO VAr. I presented it when there was discussion of a special tribute, but ultimately we realized we already had the perfect vessel. The Chaffee ServiceMech is a tribute to Doug Chaffee, and my personal eulogy for him.
------------------------
 
With that said, let’s talk about what the BT1 Chaffee can do.
 
First off, the Chaffee is not a big IndustrialMech. At 15 tons, the Chaffee is smaller than even light BattleMechs like the Wasp and Stinger, but that small size keeps the price down, and the low mass helps keep ground pressure down.  To help offset that low mass, the Chaffee has industrial triple-strength myomer, giving it the strength of a ‘Mech twice its size, able to lift objects of up to three tons with ease.
 
Because it was expected to go into nasty, toxic environments to undo the damage wreaked by the Jihad, the Chaffee needed environmental sealing.  That meant having an engine that could run under those conditions, which meant one of the three Fs: fusion, fission, or fuel cell.  Fusion, of course, was nowhere near politically acceptable after the Jihad, and besides being too heavy, fission would be its own potential environmental disaster.  So, that left fuel cell, which has the advantage of only needing hydrogen to run on, something industry in the Battletech Universe has the infrastructure to support, and producing water in return.  Ground speed is good, moving 5/8, so the Chaffee should be able to not block traffic.
 
The Chaffee doesn't just have its hands and artificial muscles, though, to do work. Like most IndustrialMechs, it also packs equipment to assist it in doing its jobs. First up is its torso-mounted searchlight, handy for any time you need to shed a little light on the subject. From there, though, it gets a little weird, with paramedic gear mounted in each arm for first-responders on the ground to make use of.  Yep, it's basically a paramedic response ‘Mech, which is another place its environmental sealing and good ground speed come in handy.
 
Of course, going to help out in an emergency situation doesn't help much if you become an emergency yourself.  To help keep the Chaffee intact, Wakizashi fitted three tons of heavy industrial armor to the 'Mech, giving it equivalent armor protection to the venerable Wasp and Stinger, with a point knocked off each side torso to reinforce the head. This is actually pretty impressive for any 15-ton 'Mech, and only a half-ton shy of maximum protection.
 
So, all in all, the Chaffee makes for a low-cost IndustrialMech, strong for its size, versatile thanks to its environmental sealing and humanoid form with handy hand actuators, and a bit of extra gear making it helpful as an emergency first responder.  The Chaffee's low cost combined with its licensing and production across the entire Inner Sphere aims it towards being one of the most easily procured IndustrialMechs out there.
 
That got me thinking: we know the Republic cracked down heavily on private BattleMech ownership, and it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of Houses did the same, pushing towards professional non-feudal militaries using equipment owned by the state. After all, that's a trend we already saw start during the Clan Invasion and Fed Com Civil War, with the Jihad reducing their numbers more.
 
With that in mind, could IndustrialMechs like the Chaffee been aimed at those with privately-owned BattleMechs, as a way at getting them to turn their old 'Mechs over in favor of Republic citizenship, perhaps with the added bonus of ownership of a Chaffee thrown in?  Sure, you wouldn't be MechWarriors anymore, but you'd still be piloting your privately-owned 'Mech, putting your hard-earned skill set to some peacetime use to earn a living.
 
Besides, how much trouble can you really get into in a Chaffee?
 
Well, if you're looking at it from perspective of someone who wants to use it to cause trouble, at 5/8, you're probably a hair faster than most garrison equipment, but in the post-Jihad era, there are now an abundance of heavy 'Mechs that can match your speed or better, let alone mediums or lights, and you're a 15-ton 'Mech that can clumsily punch and kick like a 30-tonner.  That physical strength  is useful, because the only ranged weaponry you could possibly carry would be what you could fit in a 3-ton handheld weapon, which  limits any potential offensive punch you could have.
 
Of course, if you're looking to stop a Chaffee pilot that is causing trouble, that's not a bug, that's a feature. If you can run it down, odds are you'll be able to outgun it, even if you're, say, a police ESWAT unit equipped with something like a Wasp or Stinger for dealing with out of control IndustrialMechs: either will decisively beat the tar out of a Chaffee, since Chaffees take comparable amounts of firepower to take down (ie. not much), are a bit slower, lack jump jets and offensive ranged weapons, and even if they're a tad stronger, their IndustrialMech internal structure makes them prone to taking critical hits in melee combat. Kind of like my knees.
 
The Chaffee is perhaps the closest we've seen, then, to a "Sports-Utility 'Mech" in the Battletech universe - a low-cost "VolksMech", meant to be an IndustrialMech as affordable as possible while still as capable as possible.  And much like the VW Beetle, in its stock form, the Chaffee is docile enough that it isn't going to get you into hot water.  Even if you do modify it, at the end of the day, it's still a 15-ton IndustrialMech specifically designed to help people, not blow them up, and that's kind of a nice change of pace.

Masterunitlist entry on the BT1 Chaffee
Sarna wiki entry
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glitterboy2098

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #1 on: 04 November 2016, 19:25:11 »
given how widespread this is supposed to be, you'd think we'd get an armed version appearing in the post-blackout era, when the various uprisings were throwing guns on any industrial they could get on the premise that even a lousy combat mech is better than no mech.

i know it has very little in the way of mass available for the purposes of guns, but i could see the Paramedic gear and searchlight being pulled for 1 ton of whatever they could fit. or more, if they were willing to strip some armor off it.

SteelRaven

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #2 on: 04 November 2016, 21:00:06 »
Considering the BTU is a War game, we often overlook the Civie mechs until they show up in a story. Considering how popular cheap ICE mechs have become in the Republic era, I can defiantly see the Chaffee mech being a very common sight in the civilian market.
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Decoy

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #3 on: 04 November 2016, 22:06:35 »
I figure the easiest way for a Chaffee to be militarized is to give it a hand held. Couple machine guns of any stripe, some ammo, and let it police things. After it's done with that, you can resume the first aid roles as needed.

SCC

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #4 on: 04 November 2016, 23:48:27 »
That meant having an engine that could run under those conditions, which meant one of the three Fs: fusion, fission, or fuel cell.  Fusion, of course, was nowhere near politically acceptable after the Jihad, and besides being too heavy, fission would be its own potential environmental disaster.  So, that left fuel cell, which has the advantage of only needing hydrogen to run on, something industry in the Battletech Universe has the infrastructure to support, and producing water in return.  Ground speed is good, moving 5/8, so the Chaffee should be able to not block traffic.
This doesn't make much sense, why would fusion power be out of favor after the Jihad?

Beyond that, you haven't said what the 'Mech is capable of.

From what I can gather from the article this 'Mech is designed to clean up Jihad battlefields and so does two things that, to my knowledge, no other industrial design does: Take advantage of the fact that 'Mechs can traverse terrain easier then vehicles and are tougher then vehicles. Some designs do the first, but none do the second.

However there is a flaw, it can only pick up a total of three tons.

glitterboy2098

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #5 on: 05 November 2016, 01:10:11 »
I figure the easiest way for a Chaffee to be militarized is to give it a hand held. Couple machine guns of any stripe, some ammo, and let it police things. After it's done with that, you can resume the first aid roles as needed.

handhelds might be a bit tricky for most 'pirate factions' to build though.

i can think of a couple of MOD ideas though.. all of them would pull the paramedic gear and the searchlight.

the first would be an anti-infantry focus, mounting a pair of light machineguns (one per arm) and with half a ton of ammo (in the center torso). this one would probably use it's TSM boosted melee ability for antimech and antivehicle.

another would be to stick a pair of RL-10 packs on. probably in the side torsos. would still be melee focused, but could do some useful damage as it closes.

the last would be to rig up a hatchet. :)

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #6 on: 05 November 2016, 01:18:56 »
This doesn't make much sense, why would fusion power be out of favor after the Jihad?

A lot of the Dark Age fluff stated that fusion-powered 'Mechs were disfavored in the Republic due to the greater ease, presumably, in adding ad hoc weaponry, thanks to lighter mass and integral heat sinks.

Quote
Beyond that, you haven't said what the 'Mech is capable of.

I've discussed its speed, lift capacity, physical and environmental protection, and utility gear, specifically hands, searchlight and paramedic equipment, and how it can put that gear to use. I've also discussed the price point it costs to gain its general capabilities.  What specifically did you feel was not addressed?

Quote
From what I can gather from the article this 'Mech is designed to clean up Jihad battlefields and so does two things that, to my knowledge, no other industrial design does: Take advantage of the fact that 'Mechs can traverse terrain easier then vehicles and are tougher then vehicles. Some designs do the first, but none do the second.

However there is a flaw, it can only pick up a total of three tons.

That's certainly one of its uses, yes. And the limitations imposed by its 15-ton mass is less a flaw and more, like I mentioned, a design feature.  It has the basic ability to lift and carry things a 'Mech its size with TSM provides, while also being small, cheap and nonthreatening, such that a even a STG-3R Stinger in the hands of a militia or police SWAT unit could easily put a rogue one down without issues.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #7 on: 05 November 2016, 01:27:54 »
handhelds might be a bit tricky for most 'pirate factions' to build though.

i can think of a couple of MOD ideas though.. all of them would pull the paramedic gear and the searchlight.

the first would be an anti-infantry focus, mounting a pair of light machineguns (one per arm) and with half a ton of ammo (in the center torso). this one would probably use it's TSM boosted melee ability for antimech and antivehicle.

another would be to stick a pair of RL-10 packs on. probably in the side torsos. would still be melee focused, but could do some useful damage as it closes.

the last would be to rig up a hatchet. :)

Those pretty much strike me as your best bets for integrated weapons, at 5/8 with a hatchet, you'll manage to do 6 points a chop once you get close enough to use it, making it likely your most damaging option. Of course, industrial TSM adds 1 to your piloting target numbers, and since you're an IndustrialMech, any physical attack that lands on you in return earns a free critical check. So there's that.
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #8 on: 05 November 2016, 02:08:36 »
This doesn't make much sense, why would fusion power be out of favor after the Jihad?
A lot of the Dark Age fluff stated that fusion-powered 'Mechs were disfavored in the Republic due to the greater ease, presumably, in adding ad hoc weaponry, thanks to lighter mass and integral heat sinks.

This!
Remember the Raider? Fan have done the math: if Bannson had the resources to equip it with a Fusion Engine, it would have been a actual capable Battlemech but because of the Republics pre-blackout restrictsions, that never happened. The Republic was paranoid enough after seeing Wobbies doing damage in primitives that the wanted to make sure it was hard for someone to even make a Quasit.

After that, the Chaffee was never made to be a combat mech so any attempt to do so will be like strapping a 50 cal to a Volvo (and yes, I'm sure a few people here will attempt that) There are heavier mech you can use for weapon platforms. The best thing you can use the Chaffee for is non-lethal roles it was attended for. Maybe a buddy for a MASH unit or even security in a friendly area you wouldn't need a SRM launcher, just someone with a flash light search light to make sure no one is breaking into the drop port.

But hey, if you want to go full crazy: it can lift Three tons of ammo, BAAAANZZZZIIIIIIII!!!!       
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #9 on: 05 November 2016, 13:04:16 »
Not having any books with me (standing on the platform at Cardiff station) could you refit one with a fluid gun? That would keep with the S&R etc theme but give you a different utility.

glitterboy2098

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #10 on: 05 November 2016, 14:14:54 »
Not having any books with me (standing on the platform at Cardiff station) could you refit one with a fluid gun? That would keep with the S&R etc theme but give you a different utility.

it has 1 ton of payload mass for gear/weapons. a fluid gun is 2 tons, plus at least 1 ton of ammo. so you'd have to have a variant that changes armor tonnage, engine size, or structure type to fit one.

AmBeth

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #11 on: 05 November 2016, 14:28:37 »
it has 1 ton of payload mass for gear/weapons. a fluid gun is 2 tons, plus at least 1 ton of ammo. so you'd have to have a variant that changes armor tonnage, engine size, or structure type to fit one.

Ahh well, not as simple as I'd hoped *shrug*

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #12 on: 05 November 2016, 16:31:29 »
Could do a sprayer and half-ton. Or, can s fluid gun be a handheld weapon? That may more sense.
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blitzy

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #13 on: 05 November 2016, 18:06:05 »
In the jihad I'd just go with an MML-3 a ton of ammo and a half ton of armor, that way whatever the local militia has for vehicles can feed the mech.  On a side note, I find the concept and execution of the mech very refreshing.
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MoneyLovinOgre4Hire

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #14 on: 05 November 2016, 21:15:32 »
This lacks advanced fire control systems, right?
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #15 on: 05 November 2016, 21:37:10 »
Correct: no advanced fire control because, presumably, they didn't want it shooting things.
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #16 on: 05 November 2016, 21:40:27 »
So that's another strike against it in the weaponizing department.  To be honest, I'd consider just using a vehicle flamer or an MML 3 loaded with Infernos and use it strictly for starting fires if I was going to give it any combat role at all.
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #17 on: 06 November 2016, 02:54:19 »
Or go for a weapon system that doesn't need attack rolls, like mine for something

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #18 on: 06 November 2016, 06:05:06 »
Thank you for this, its a Mech i've never heard of and I loved the personal details about the artist as well.  A great article for an unusual but useful machine.
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UnLimiTeD

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #19 on: 07 November 2016, 10:07:28 »
Still a better combat unit than a Raider.
But that's a really interesting backstory!
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #20 on: 07 November 2016, 10:46:47 »
given how widespread this is supposed to be, you'd think we'd get an armed version appearing in the post-blackout era, when the various uprisings were throwing guns on any industrial they could get on the premise that even a lousy combat mech is better than no mech.

i know it has very little in the way of mass available for the purposes of guns, but i could see the Paramedic gear and searchlight being pulled for 1 ton of whatever they could fit. or more, if they were willing to strip some armor off it.

There may be a reason found by looking to the past.

During both World Wars, it was common for freighters and such to be retrofitted with at least a token weapon or two in an attempt to hold off attacks by enemy submarines (prior to the beginning of unrestricted submarine warfare) or raiding ships. But hospital ships were exempt- if a hospital ship is going to be treated as a noncombatant and illegal to fire on, it shouldn't be shooting at anything itself. This was USUALLY followed, with a few sad exceptions.

The Chaffee may fall under the same policy. While slapping a couple of MGs or an SRM rack on a Miningmech is reasonable to do, a medical-equipped unit like a Chaffee might be looked at as being illegal to arm, and thus might also have the same restriction about shooting at one as a hospital ship or an ambulance. Equipping one with an SRM rack or something would violate that agreement.

That's just my own assessment and shouldn't be treated as anything more, but it makes sense to me anyway.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #21 on: 07 November 2016, 11:38:55 »
That's pretty solid reasoning, actually, and could easily be one of the reasons even the Patron, at the same mass, has multiple armed militia variants, while the Chaffee doesn't.  There's a lot about the Chaffee that seems to emphasize that a great deal of effort as made to make sure it wouldn't become a weapon.
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #22 on: 07 November 2016, 13:12:24 »
Isn't there a variant of the MASH truck with a machine gun?
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #23 on: 07 November 2016, 13:22:26 »
Isn't there a variant of the MASH truck with a machine gun?

Not everyone is so great at following the 'no shooting medics' rule, especially during the Succession Wars. ;)

Nah, I've always hated that and believed that if there's any unit that needs a retcon applied, it's medical units with weapons. Mobile HQs, ammo haulers, coolant trucks, whatever, but armed ambulances are absolutely a no-no in any era, and trying to skirt around that is a violation of every code of civilized warfare ever devised.
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #24 on: 07 November 2016, 14:25:24 »
Civilized warfare?

What era have you been playing in?
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #25 on: 07 November 2016, 14:49:04 »
Isn't there a variant of the MASH truck with a machine gun?
Those are for the wild animals  ;)
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #26 on: 07 November 2016, 15:01:36 »
I'm with Hellbie. Make the unarmed ambulances the default.

Maybe keep the armed ones, though. Those are the "medical" units where the patients don't enter willingly, seeing the inside of one means you'll never have a good night's sleep for the rest of your life, and not shooting one on sight constitutes a war crime.
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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #27 on: 07 November 2016, 15:27:41 »
A Mech I've never heard of but I love the reason behind its creation and its role it's here to help the universe move along just like the artist it was named for
The below link leads to a wiki page created by Wrangler.  It has links to the various pages of my AU.

https://battletechfanon.fandom.com/wiki/Alternate_Timeline_with_Thanks

JadeHellbringer

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #28 on: 07 November 2016, 15:43:09 »
I'm with Hellbie. Make the unarmed ambulances the default.

Maybe keep the armed ones, though. Those are the "medical" units where the patients don't enter willingly, seeing the inside of one means you'll never have a good night's sleep for the rest of your life, and not shooting one on sight constitutes a war crime.

"Re-education buses"!
"There's a difference between the soldier and his fight,
But the warrior knows the true meaning of his life."
+Larry and his Flask, 'Blood Drunk'+

"You know, basically war is just, like, a bunch of people playing pranks on each other, but at the end they all die."
+Crow T. Robot+

MoneyLovinOgre4Hire

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Re: 'Mech of the Week: BT1 Chaffee ServiceMech
« Reply #29 on: 07 November 2016, 16:20:13 »
More like parts wagons.
Warning: this post may contain sarcasm.

"I think I've just had another near-Rincewind experience," Death, The Color of Magic

"When in doubt, C4." Jamie Hyneman