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Author Topic: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear  (Read 1132 times)

gyedid

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'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« on: 01 January 2021, 02:12:51 »
Well, at long last, here we are!  Been sitting on this since Hallowe'en, waiting for rulings on errata that still haven't come.  So, let's ring in the New Year with a blast from The Clans' past!

Many thanks to GreekFire for feedback and letting me steal his article format. >:D

(I will update the article once the errata are clarified.)

So without further ado...

No wait, not THAT sun bear…


This is more like it…hey wait, haven’t I seen you around before…?
"Users," explained the Sun Bear, "want an easy interface that they will not have to learn."
(A virtual cookie to anyone who remembers where THAT came from!)

OVERVIEW/HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

While the Successor States were busy nuking each other back to the Stone Age (or at least the early 21st Century), over in Clan Space the Golden Century saw the Clans mature and begin to develop the forces and weapons that would ultimately return to terrorize the Inner Sphere in the 3050s. Particularly in the early to mid-2900s, the Clans’ advanced battlefield technologies were harnessed and synthesized into units that were generally faster, deadlier, and farther-reaching than their SLDF predecessors—and let’s not forget more flexible, as Omni technology came into its own and spread throughout the various toumans.  But there were some missteps and dead ends along the way.  And the subject of this ‘Mech of the Week is arguably one of those.

Like another ‘Mech I reviewed (the Jackrabbit), the Sun Bear exists because another, previously published ‘Mech’s fluff says it does.  The Sun Bear is first mentioned (though not by that name) in the write-up for the Stooping Hawk in TRO:3060, where we learn that design was developed from a prototype Omnimech chassis (dubbed “Prototype A”), itself developed by the Ghost Bears, who had phased it out in favour of the Smoke Jaguar-designed Mad Dog.  The Blood Spirits, eager to design their own Omnimech, trialled for the abandoned Bear prototype, winning a unit of it and turning the design into something suitable for their purposes.  But wait, this article isn’t about the Stooping Hawk!
(Nevertheless, throughout the article, I will make comparisons where appropriate to the Sun Bear’s Stooping Hawk “progeny”; I feel the two designs are sufficiently closely linked that it’s appropriate to do so.)

With the publication of TRO: Golden Century, the history and details of “Prototype A” have been fleshed out a little more—and one of the first things we learn is that it wasn’t quite as abandoned as the original Stooping Hawk fluff implied.

Named for the smallest known living ursid, the Sun Bear is a bit of a curious case, as it seemingly dates to a time in the mid-2900s when the second generation of Clan Omnimechs was being developed, yet it has characteristics more akin to first-gen Omnis (and one specific design in particular).  No firm date of introduction is given, but as the fluff states that it was designed to compete with the Stormcrow and Mad Dog, that would seem to put it sometime in the 2960s:

Nova: 2870-2921
Stormcrow: 2930
Timber Wolf: 2945
Mad Dog: 2963
EDIT: Sun Bear: 2966 (per MUL info)
Stooping Hawk: 2970
(The reasons for including the Nova and Timber Wolf in this list will become clear.  Read on.)

The apparent intent was for the Sun Bear to eventually become a primary ‘Mech within the Bears’ touman. Built at Tokasha Mechworks Alpha (in Bear hands since 2921) with an eye towards flexibility and ease of maintenance, “Prototype A” was nevertheless recognized as inferior to both of its competitors.  It was neither as fast nor as heavily armoured as the Stormcrow, and had less available pod space than the Mad Dog. So, despite the time and resources they had invested in developing and testing it**, and having built 5 units (one of which was destroyed during testing), the Bears decided to terminate the project.  However, in an admirable display of “waste not, want not” (as well as their own conservative, deliberative nature), rather than simply scrap the remaining units, the Bears decided to disperse them among their holdings for continued testing.

**AUTHOR’S NOTE:  just how much was that, really?  Again, read on and you’ll see what I mean.

When the Blood Spirits came calling, the Bears’ bid contained only one of the testbed units. The pilot, one Mechwarrior Bradley, didn’t want to be seen losing in a discontinued ‘Mech, so he had it configured for “offense at all costs” (the fluff doesn’t mention if this was one of the canon configs). Although the Bears ultimately lost the Trial and had to part with the testbed unit, Bradley’s showing was apparently sufficiently impressive that the three remaining units were given a proper type name—the Sun Bear—and pressed into active service. The assigned pilots were of a like mind to Bradley, preferring borderline berserker tactics and configurations to match (i.e., your average Hunchback IIC pilot). They would all eventually earn Bloodnames, and began a tradition of bequeathing their ‘Mechs to young warriors with similar profiles—if they lived.  Reminiscent of the notorious Marik Militia Demolisher named “Hildegarde”, which had a reputation of being a deathtrap for its crews, more Sun Bear pilots died in combat than received promotions, the machine being easier to maintain than the people who drove it.  This is most likely because of their preferred fighting style, although that centrally located, low-slung, wedge-shaped cockpit probably didn’t help matters—notably, the design carries the “Difficult to Eject” quirk.

Although the remaining Sun Bears continued to serve in the Bear touman, the Clan never saw fit to put the design into full-scale production, so it was inevitable that it would eventually be rendered extinct by through attrition (well, maybe not…).  The first of the remaining units was lost during a Dark Caste raid on an asteroid mining facility, head-capped by a PPC strike and drifting off into the void.  The second remained in service into Operation Revival and saw action (RETCON ALERT!!!) both during the Rasalhagian campaign and even on Tukayyid, where it was destroyed by the Com Guards during the fighting for Luk.  Curiously, there is an infinitesimal chance that one Sun Bear is still active, in the ranks of the Goliath Scorpions.  One unit was lost to the Scorpions as isorla during the Operation Revival trials, and they continued the custom of assigning it to aggressive pilots.  It reportedly participated in numerous trials against the Second Star League embassy on Huntress, before the Jihad and the Wars of Reaving cut off communication with the Clan Homeworlds.  It’s still possible (though unlikely) that this Sun Bear MAY have been present among the Scorpion forces that fled Clan Space and migrated to Nueva Castile, in which case it’s now an Oso del Sol.

CAPABILITIES & CONFIGURATIONS

Code: [Select]
Sun Bear
INTRO: 296X
MANUFACTURER: CLAN GHOST BEAR
--- Speed: 5/8/_ (275 XL) ----------------------------------
--- Armor: 168/185 (Standard) -----------------------
--- Base Heat Sinks: 12 Double [24 heat dissipation] -----
--- Podspace: 23** tons ------------------------------------

         FRONT                REAR                INTERNAL
         ( 9)                 (**)                  ( 3)
      /20|28|20\           / 5| 7| 5\            /13|18|13\
     (17/ || \17)         (   |  |   )          ( 9/ || \ 9)
       /  /\  \               /  \                /  /\  \
      (20/  \20)             /    \              (13/  \13)



Rather disappointingly, the Sun Bear TRO entry uses the Stooping Hawk art, seemingly completely unchanged.  This would seem to imply that, visually at least, the two designs are near-clones of each other.  As we’ll see, that resemblance is only skin-deep.

For a second-generation Omni, there is nothing awe-inspiring about the Sun Bear’s base chassis.  In fact, what stands out is just how basic it is by Clan standards.  55 tons, a 5/8 movement profile, and 168 total points of armour (16 points shy of maximum for this weight class) puts it squarely in the territory of the classic Inner Sphere medium trio.  That armour and the structure are both standard; no advanced structural materials on this puppy cub.  The one concession to advanced tech standards (and the design’s only real source of vulnerability) is the engine, a 275 XL. (For the Blood Spirits, that engine was apparently a bridge too far, and they chose to re-engineer the chassis with endo steel structure, ferro-fibrous armour, and a standard engine, resulting in less available pod space and interior volume, but yielding greater durability).  Two additional heat sinks—one more than the engine can contain—are installed, with the 12th going in the left leg; not only is it totally unnecessary, it also limits jump jet placement to the torsos.  All told, this yields 23 tons of pod space (versus the Stooping Hawk’s 21.5) and a good deal of internal space with which to use it.  Despite the connection with the Stooping Hawk, the choice of standard construction materials and an XL engine that produces a completely average movement curve for its weight makes the base Sun Bear look like little more than a slightly buffed-out Nova chassis (we’ll get back to that later).  As the fluff points out, the Sun Bear is both slower and less well-armoured than the Stormcrow, and has less available pod space than the Mad Dog.  So just what are its strong points then?

[AUTHOR’S NOTE:  As published, there seem to be a few errata with the Sun Bear stats and record sheets.
The TRO entry says 24 tons of pod space, but several people on the forums have noted there should be only 23, which is what I get in Solaris Skunk Werks, meaning the published configurations are 1 ton overweight. As for the extra heat sink in the left leg, the record sheets for the Prime and B configs are missing it, only the A has it. I'm waiting for a ruling on these errata.]

As said previously, the choice to go with standard materials should, in theory, make the chassis very flexible, and the fluff does relate that it was quick and easy to reconfigure, with pilots of the few active Sun Bears doing so “often and unpredictably.” Yet, despite the possibilities the chassis afforded, three more-or-less standard variants emerged.  As we’ll soon see, just as with the chassis’ somewhat vanilla nature, all of these variants have a depressingly familiar ring to them.

The Prime configuration illustrates the previous few points perfectly.  An Ultra AC/20 sits in the right torso, fed by three tons of ammunition in the left.  Mounted in each arm are an ER medium laser and a medium pulse laser, giving the Prime non-negligible firepower even if the UAC jams or exhausts its ammo.  Three additional double heat sinks (in the RT, CT, and LT) fill the available weight.  Hmmm…just where have we seen THIS before?  This is nothing if not a Clan translation of the Hunchback, with somewhat improved secondary weapons (the MPLs in the arms) and better heat dissipation.  Indeed, the ‘Mech runs cold even at a run and full alpha strike, at least until engine damage occurs.  Just like its Inner Sphere antecedent, this one is a dedicated close-range brawler, but its movement curve lets it run-and-gun with heavy cav Starmates.  Seen from a Clan perspective, this like a worse Stormcrow B.  Putting the UAC/20 in the chest robs it of the ability to both carry Elementals and fire its biggest gun, it has fewer weapons overall, and it can’t close as quickly as a Stormcrow to bring its firepower to bear. [Thanks to GreekFire for these thoughts.] (On the Stooping Hawk, the UAC is downgraded to a /10, sacrificing damage for range, and five jump jets are added for enhanced mobility.)

Much the same can be said of Alternate Configuration A.  Remember what I said previously about the chassis’ qualitative resemblance to the Nova? In yet another example of déjà vu, each arm of the A config carries 6 ER medium lasers, exactly as found on the Nova Prime.  Unlike that Omnimech config, however, jump jets are again not mounted (remember, they’re fixed equipment on the Nova), with the Sun Bear A instead opting for 10 additional DHS, giving it a total heat dissipation capacity of 44 points.  This permits the Sun Bear A to run and fire 8 of those ER MLs without overheat, potentially causing a quite impressive 56 points of damage; warriors who like to ride the heat scale higher can of course kick one or two more lasers in there.  Whereas the Prime is meant to blow off huge chunks of armour and open big holes, the A is meant to bleed its enemies to death by a thousand paper gashes (“cuts” being more appropriate for the ER small laser).  It would also be very effective at spreading an attack across an Elemental point, again just like the Nova Prime (and the later Komodo).  And since all the weapons are in the arms, this config is a better Elemental taxi than the Prime. (The Stooping Hawk A is not analogous, again going for range over raw damage with a pair of ER PPCs, like the Nova A.)

The final canon config is reminiscent of several other designs simultaneously, and is also a case of trying to do too much with too little.  As the fluff points out, the ‘Mechs that made the Bears ultimately phase out further development and production of the Sun Bear were the Mad Dog and the Stormcrow.  And lo and behold, we see Alternate Configuration B trying to be both those designs at once—and recalling another well-known design.  Mounted in each arm is an ER large laser paired with an ER medium; the large/medium laser combination is found on the Prime configs of both the Stormcrow and the Mad Dog (pulse versions in the case of the latter). The similarity to the Mad Dog Prime is more pronounced here though, as the B config also stuffs in a pair of LRM-20s (one in each side torso), each provided with a single ton of ammo.  Going with ER lasers over pulses also creates a rather Timber Wolf-ish vibe.  This config is clearly meant for ranged combat, and has a pretty fearsome arsenal for its size.  However, it’s badly undercut by not having nearly enough heat sinks to use all those weapons, despite pod-mounting two additional DHS.  Running and firing just the two ER LLs will max out its heat capacity. While the twin LRM-20s CAN be used as cool-down weapons, they can’t be relied upon for any length of time thanks to their shallow bins (although THAT criticism applies just as well to the Prime configs of both the Mad Dog and Timber Wolf).

USAGE

The Sun Bear is so rare that it’s highly unlikely that an official published scenario would include one, so if you get the chance to use or encounter one, it’s going to be in a custom scenario or FFA with your friendly local gaming group.  So, if your GM is nice enough to let you field a Sun Bear, what should you do with it?

Um, well…as I’ve already mentioned ad nauseam, the Sun Bear is little more than a slightly bulked-up Nova. You can re-create any Nova config on it, and still have a few tons left to spare for more heat sinks or a couple of extra secondary weapons—although, as mentioned previously, there might be a slight issue with jump jet placement, and how that cascades into weapon choice and layout. Nevertheless, in summary, use a Sun Bear so configured in any situation where you would use a Nova. Match it with Starmates with similar movement profiles; it would work well as the light element in a heavy cav Star.  This also applies to the other side—any tactics that work well against a Nova will also be effective when facing a Sun Bear, though this depends on the particular config; for example, if it’s the Prime, try to kill it at range before it can bring its UAC/20 to bear.

What about the canon configs?  Already covered that.  Use the Prime like the faster Hunchback that it is.  The A is a bit trickier, since despite carrying a weapon load identical to the Nova Prime’s, its lack of jump jets reduces its tactical flexibility, making it best suited for open-field fights.  As for the B, well, the temptation to try to use it like a Mad Dog Prime is certainly there, but be very aware of your limitations with regard to heat buildup and accuracy, which will only become more pressing once the LRMs are exhausted.

If your GM is really nice, and doesn’t limit you to fielding canon configs, then remember that the Sun Bear’s calling card is its flexibility.  There are many possibilities with that open chassis and lightweight Clan tech—just remember there are limits with only 23 tons and 12 base DHS. Other 5/8 Clan 55-tonners, such as the Lynx C and Naja (a.k.a. Kintaro IIC), can be at least partially duplicated.  In particular, the design is screaming to be outfitted with some of the post-Invasion weapon systems, like ATMs, HAGs, heavy lasers, Clan-spec RACs, Streak LRMs…the list goes on.  If you have access to Society goodies, the Sun Bear can become a poor-man’s Pariah/Septicemia.

So, why did the Sun Bear fail to make much of an impression even among the Clan that created it? For starters, there doesn’t seem to have been a great deal of thought put into its design; it really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Everything that it can do can already be done, and done better, by another existing design. Now we enter the realm of pure speculation, but to me, that says that either this was the product of the “B” design team—and a huge failure of imagination on their part—or that it was a rush job. There is a third possibility (not mutually exclusive with the second one), and that is that the Bears were trying to get the most mileage out of, and put their own stamp on, something that already existed.

Delving a bit deeper into the ‘Mech’s background, recall that its entry says that it was built on Tokasha. Guess which other medium-weight Omni had also been built there? That’s right—the Nova! Consulting the revised Nova entry, we see that one of the first things the Bears did when they took over Tokasha was to end full-scale Nova production. It’s hard not to think that when the time came to design a next-generation Omni that would be emblematic of the Clan, the Bears saw the old Nova line just sitting there, waiting to be used. It strikes me that the design process was the reverse of what it normally ought to be—rather than retool the line for the design they really wanted, they allowed the line’s current tooling to dictate the design parameters, with a few tweaks to allow for the ‘Mech’s different physiognomy and boosted tonnage.  Maybe they just wanted to cut development time and costs, maybe there was pressure from the higher-ups to field a new design ASAP, maybe it was because of the Bears’ normally plodding nature—it could be any or all of these, and more. Whatever the case, the net result was a design that fell well short of its erstwhile competitors’ capabilities, and failed to advance over its (ostensible) parent.

There’s also something notable about the use of the ‘Mech and who it would be assigned to.  While every Clan has its share of berserkers, the pilots associated with the Sun Bear are fluffed as having personality traits that would be out of step with the prevailing Ghost Bear ethos (at least as I understand it), and more like what’s commonly associated with Smoke Jaguar warriors. The fact that the Clan kept assigning the remaining Sun Bears to such pilots in the event of a previous one’s death, plus the (admittedly vague) implication that the machine was something of a deathtrap, hints at a somewhat nefarious purpose behind the ‘Mech’s continued use despite its extremely low numbers.  I think you can see where I’m going with that.

In the end, the Sun Bear is little more than a mildly interesting footnote to Clan history, more important for what it spawned—the Stooping Hawk—than for its own numbers or accomplishments.  The reasons why it failed even in the eyes of its parent Clan are simple enough—it was already redundant and obsolete even before it ever set foot on the battlefield.  And yet, there was still SOMETHING the Bears missed about their misbegotten prototype—if memory serves, the Stooping Hawk is on the Ghost Bear medium ‘Mech RAT.

cheers,

Gabe
« Last Edit: 19 January 2021, 22:59:23 by gyedid »
So, now I'm imagining people boxing up Overlords for loading as cargo.  "Nope, totally not a DropShip.  Everyone knows you can't fit a DropShip in a WarShip!  It's...a ten thousand ton box of marshmallows!  Yeah.  For the Heavy Guards big annual smores party."
--Arkansas Warrior, on the possibility of carrying Dropships as cargo in Warship cargo bays.

TERRAN SUPREMACY DEFENSE FORCE.  For when you want to send the SLDF, but couldn't afford the whole kit and kaboodle.

Nightsong

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Re: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« Reply #1 on: 01 January 2021, 02:46:34 »
Theory on that last statement: After seeing the Stooping Hawk, they decided to retool the Sun Bear line just to make use of the existing tooling instead of just wasting it on a single Star of a dead end design? Would make logical sense and explain the RAT.

Kerfuffin(925)

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Re: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« Reply #2 on: 01 January 2021, 02:59:52 »
The MUL lists the Sun Bear as being produced in 2966, but even the ghost bears wouldn’t let the factory sit still that long. I assume that is when they finally got around to standardizing the variants.

MoneyLovinOgre4Hire

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Re: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« Reply #3 on: 01 January 2021, 20:45:10 »
Theory on that last statement: After seeing the Stooping Hawk, they decided to retool the Sun Bear line just to make use of the existing tooling instead of just wasting it on a single Star of a dead end design? Would make logical sense and explain the RAT.

Makes sense to me.
Warning: this post may contain sarcasm.

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

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gyedid

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Re: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« Reply #4 on: 03 January 2021, 00:04:24 »
Theory on that last statement: After seeing the Stooping Hawk, they decided to retool the Sun Bear line just to make use of the existing tooling instead of just wasting it on a single Star of a dead end design? Would make logical sense and explain the RAT.

Perhaps, but that means that the Bears would then have to go through the trouble of trialling for a Stooping Hawk, trying to get back what they lost by the same means. And it's also tantamount to the Bears admitting that the Spirits did a better job of developing their design than they themselves did.

cheers,

Gabe
So, now I'm imagining people boxing up Overlords for loading as cargo.  "Nope, totally not a DropShip.  Everyone knows you can't fit a DropShip in a WarShip!  It's...a ten thousand ton box of marshmallows!  Yeah.  For the Heavy Guards big annual smores party."
--Arkansas Warrior, on the possibility of carrying Dropships as cargo in Warship cargo bays.

TERRAN SUPREMACY DEFENSE FORCE.  For when you want to send the SLDF, but couldn't afford the whole kit and kaboodle.

MoneyLovinOgre4Hire

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Re: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« Reply #5 on: 03 January 2021, 00:32:37 »
Or maybe they just worked out a deal to send the Spirits some PPCs or a couple stars worth of Kingfishers for the right to produce the design.
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

glitterboy2098

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Re: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« Reply #6 on: 03 January 2021, 01:51:40 »
Perhaps, but that means that the Bears would then have to go through the trouble of trialling for a Stooping Hawk, trying to get back what they lost by the same means. And it's also tantamount to the Bears admitting that the Spirits did a better job of developing their design than they themselves did.

cheers,

Gabe

i think he meant they just restarted the Nova production lines.

GreekFire

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Re: 'Mech of the Week NEW YEAR'S DAY SPECIAL!!!: Sun Bear
« Reply #7 on: 19 January 2021, 22:28:02 »
Bit late on this one, but I really like the Sun Bear. It's a great evolutionary link, and I'm a huge sucker of those.

While it makes sense that the design wasn't chosen at the time, the 5/8 55-tonner concept would later be proven viable by the Society, of all people. It's somewhat interesting that the Sun Bear and the Pariah both have lower-positioned cockpits and broad, jutting shoulders, though I'm certain those aesthetic similarities are just coincidence.
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