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Author Topic: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit  (Read 5683 times)

sillybrit

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Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« on: 28 October 2011, 00:58:47 »
Gray Death Scout Suit - Technical Readout 3058U page 13



     Love them or hate them, or just indifferent, the Gray Death Legion have certainly had an impact on the BattleTech universe. The stars of the first series of BattleTech novels, the Saga of the Gray Death Legion, they were also the discoverers of the famous Helm data core that kickstarted the technological recovery of the Inner Sphere, and then became the only mercenary command with their own brand named family of Battle Armor. With the expanded design histories presented in Technical Readout 3058U, the latter accomplishment is even more remarkable, or perhaps unbelievable to some.

     Introduced in late 3051 within the universe - and 1993 in the real world, with the publication of the Day of Heroes scenario pack - the Gray Death Legion's Light Scout Suit, as it was first known, was one of the earliest Inner Sphere designs fielded in the fight against the Clan invasion, actually preceding the full production version of the Inner Sphere Standard, the template which the Legion's technical staff had used to produce their own unique versions. While it was maybe a little Mary Sue, back in the days before we had a codified construction system this concept was sort of believable: in the case of the Scout, the Legion had saved mass by stripping away armor and removing its main weaponry and Battle Claw to fit more powerful jump jets, an advanced sensor array and some gloves, which seemed at least vaguely feasible. The design reappeared in Field Manual: Mercenaries, where it was re-designated the Gray Death Light Scout Armor, and we also got our first glimpse of what it looked like, an appearance that was thankfully later improved. When the Classic BattleTech Companion was published and finally gave us Battle Armor construction rules, we got our first indication that the Gray Death Legion had done more than just redistribute the available payload; they'd actually lightened the entire suit. After Technical Readout 3058U eventually provided the detailed stats and histories of the two Gray Death suits and the Inner Sphere Standard, I couldn't help but feel more than a little uncomfortable at the Legion's achievement, especially since it hasn't been matched by any other unit until a tiny handful of examples were revealed in some of the Experimental Technical Readouts.

    Somehow, the Gray Death technicians had managed to develop working Battle Armor jump jets, something that even the New Avalon Institute of Science were still struggling to achieve at the time, despite all their resources and brilliant experts, with the feat written off as being due to the Legion's lack of bureaucracy. Not only had the mercenary techs fixed the jump jet problem that NAIS only solved a year later and only then with the help of yet more captured Clan technology, but even more miraculously they'd managed to improve them, exceeding the achievements of the Clans it should be noted, and not only that they'd also redesigned the suit into one that occupied an entirely new weight class of Battle Armor. Just think about that last point a moment: while Battle Armor is presumably less complex than a BattleMech, what had been done to the GD Scout was the equivalent of a field or maintenance refit that lowered a 'Mech's tonnage by five or more tons, with a completely new internal structure. All of this when Battle Armor would have been an experimental technology within the Inner Sphere, and using only the resources of a mere regiment of mercenary troops that were also busy refitting at the time after their first beating by Clan Jade Falcon. I don't think ComStar had been the ones holding back the Inner Sphere all those centuries; it's been those damnable bureaucrats all along, with their forms in triplicate and their sub-sub-committees and regulation tea and coffee breaks!

     Although not originally confirmed as a Light Battle Armor design, the Gray Death Scout Suit, as it was renamed in Technical Readout 3058U, was actually the first in that weight class to be published, however the Infiltrator Mk I beat it into service. Initially lacking any visual imagery, the GD Scout did undergo a change from the rather ugly picture in Field Manual: Mercenaries to the superb looking suit that first appeared in BattleTech Master Rules and was later confirmed as being that of the GD Scout with the publication of Lostech. As well as being one of the best looking designs, it's also something of a benchmark setter in the Battle Armor world: the first within the universe with Armored Gloves, which meant it was the first to wield standard infantry weapons and to have rules for using them; the first Inner Sphere design that could jump; the first for both the Inner Sphere and Clans to be equipped with a Jump Booster and thus the first that could jump over 90 meters; the only suit that mounts a Beagle Active Probe; and, with the exception of the PA(L) class, it has the unenviable distinction of having the lowest armor rating of any production Battle Armor, although it eventually shares that "honor" with the experimental Fa Shih 2.

    As would be expected, the GD Scout first served with the Gray Death Legion, where it performed well during the late 3051 campaign against the Jade Falcons in the lush jungles of Pandora, helping the Legion's new Battle Armor platoons take down a Star of OmniMechs during one notable ambush. The precise role the Scouts played in that particular action isn't known, but presumably they just acted as the hunters while their heavier cousins were the actual killers, since there was no mention of mass casualties among the Scouts - which is a typical occurrence in the tabletop game when they go near anything armed with all but the lightest of weapons. Once the Clans' threat was abated thanks to their defeat on Tukayyid, the Legion's technical staff continued making more of the Scout suits, first to replace their losses and then in limited quantities for other mercenaries and the LAAF. Amazingly, the Gray Death Legion's Battle Armor were being built by hand at this stage, which must have had a severe impact on production rates, and it wasn't until the regiment was destroyed during the FedCom Civil War that this bottleneck was removed. Obtaining financing from Defiance Industries, some of the surviving personnel banded together to form Gray Death Technologies, setting up shop on Glengarry, the Legion's old home world. Now purely a manufacturing company, rather than the technical support arm of a mercenary unit, GDT were able to produce the Gray Death Scout and Gray Death Standard in much greater volume, continuing to sell to both the general mercenary market and the LAAF, including supplying the latter with large numbers of the GD Scout to act as an interim scout suit until a replacement is developed for the aging Infiltrator Mk I, a contract being pursued by GDT. The company nearly followed in the path of the Gray Death Legion during the Jihad, finding Glengarry on the Blakist's hit list, although strangely the manufacturing facilities weren't completely destroyed, allowing the company to uproot and move to Furillo after a buy out by Defiance Industries.

     Until the introduction of the first PA(L)s, the Gray Death Scout Suit was perhaps the hardest Battle Armor design to use well in the tabletop game, conversely being one of the easiest to use in the roleplaying game. The GD Scout was much more comfortable in the RPG environment, where its armored gloves effectively allowed it to be used as if it was simply highly capable body armor, with the wearer able to do almost anything that an unarmored person could do - apart perhaps from going upstairs in typical civilian buildings or sitting in deckchairs and pool loungers. The greater richness of the skill system and the wide variety of equipment allowed the GD Scout to be used for tasks that the BattleTech game was unable to accommodate, making it a favored Battle Armor design for the roleplayers, and better matching the in-universe operations of the suit in my opinion. The wargamers were typically not so happy when having to use the suit, with the key problem being its incredibly light armor, which made it vulnerable to destruction from just a single 5-point LRM cluster or a hit by a Medium Laser, one of the most common weapons in the Inner Sphere. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen a Jenner, Fire Javelin or some other design equipped with four or more Medium Lasers run up to a GD Scout squad and kill the entire unit in one Turn. I'd often compare using GD Scouts to locate the enemy to detecting mines by stamping your feet in the minefield; yes, you'd eventually find what you're looking for, but when you did you sure wished that you hadn't. Of course, if your troops are fighting Clan forces then every Light Battle Armor design falls into the same abyss, since all Clan Medium Laser types will automatically kill any PA(L) and Light suit that they hit.

     Looking at the rest of the GD Scout's features, the design is all but unarmed to enable it to carry the most effective sensor array possible, with this being categorized as a Beagle Active Probe in the BattleTech Master Rules and later rulebooks. The design's lack of heavy weaponry wasn't really much of a problem when you consider its intended role, and at least it encouraged the player to concentrate on using them as scouts, rather than being tempted to throw them into combat. When introduced in Day of Heroes, the GD Scout's ability to wield infantry weapons was represented by an attack capability in the BattleTech tactical game, which was a feature exclusive to the two Gray Death suits at the time and for years afterwards, despite other designs also having Anti-Personnel mounts, until Classic BattleTech Companion eventually added it as an optional rule for all designs, and then later Total War added it as a standard rule. When the Gray Death suits were first published, these infantry weapons allowed each squad to shoot as if it were a four-man platoon of one of the generic infantry types, together with the option of instead using harder hitting Man-Portable Particle Cannon or Heavy SRMs, with the latter also able to fire Infernos. This was more flexible than the default system presented in Total War which treats all Battle Armor anti-personnel weapon attacks as Ballistic Infantry attacks. If however, you allow the attacks to use the stats of the actual weapons used, then the cream of the crop for Inner Sphere troops is the Man-Portable Plasma Rifle, which enables a squad to inflict up to 6 points of damage out to 6 hexes. In contrast to the arguably superior smallarms attack in Day of Heroes, the original rules for the GD Scout's ability to perform Leg Attacks was not as good as under the current rules, due to the need to use satchel changes, which were expendable munitions that limited the number of attacks each squad could make, a restriction that no longer exists. The design has never been able to undertake effective Swarm attacks, although the reason for that has varied, with the ruling now being that only arm-mounted, non-missile 'Mech-scale weapons may inflict damage.

     The high mobility was very impressive at the time the GD Scout was introduced, both in the game and in-universe, allowing the suits to traverse the battlefield faster than every other Battle Armor design for the next five years, until the DCMS introduced the equally swift Kage Light Battle Armor. Even in later years when its speed crown has been surrendered to more advanced suits, the GD Scout is still one of the fastest available. However, some players believe that the Gray Death Scout Suit would have been better served with the basic jump capability of 90 meters and maximum armor, which would have still left the GD Scout the most mobile Inner Sphere Battle Armor in service prior to the 3052 introduction of the IS Standard. It should also be noted that other players believe that instead of reducing the jump capability, the Active Probe should be replaced by Improved Sensors. Yes, that means that the GD Scout would require more passes to sweep the same area, but the extra systems that could be added alongside the maxed armor would make that worthwhile for some. Personally, I stand in the Improved Sensors camp, although I would have preferred that the suit had instead remained a Medium like the IS Standard that it was based upon, making appropriate changes so that it could match or exceed the capabilities of the published design.

     Using the GD Scout in the standard BattleTech game is like walking a tightrope over a tank of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, while being hosed down with high-pressure boiling acid. Oh, and the tightrope is periodically electrified. Having to fear even conventional infantry platoons, every Turn that a Gray Death Scout Suit squad can survive is a victory in itself, and the design requires very careful handling if you're to get any use out of it before you have to order four more body bags. Unless deliberately suiciding the unit, you should use every scrap of cover every single Turn with few or no exceptions, whether that cover is masking terrain, trees, buildings or smoke. In some scenarios, I'd rather delay scanning a particular area of the map for a Turn or three if it meant that I could move my GD Scout squad(s) without any risk. Of course, you could still always be surprised by a hidden unit out of range of the Probe or a pesky conventional infantry platoon, but there's little you can do to counter that other than adhering to the golden rule of cover first, mission second. Even if you don't particularly care about the survival of your GD Scout units, you should still try to coddle them until you decide that it's time for them to pay the ultimate sacrifice. Being so cheap in BV terms, and taking advantage of their Beagle Active Probe, you can use them to detect minefields, knowing that you won't be losing much if the squad happens to fail a detection role, and this expendability also allows them to be used as the point and flankers for a formation working its way through heavy woods or a heavily urbanized area, for example. While you can't do anything about an ambush by conventional infantry unless you literally stumble across them, the GD Scouts will at least detect an ambush by heavier units, even if that method of detection is the destruction of the Battle Armor rather than a blip on the Probe's screen.

     If playing the advanced double-blind rules from Tactical Operations, the Active Probe becomes a lot more useful, to the point that your GD Scouts can become a key component of your battle plan, without ever having to be exposed to enemy fire. Potentially able to detect enemy units that are not even in a valid line of sight, you can then adjust your forces accordingly, moving to intercept or ambush the enemy, or whatever action is required to fulfill your mission. Unfortunately, the spotting rules are typically too cumbersome for normal play, greatly slowing down a scenario with all the additional steps and extra dice rolls that are required, so this remains very much a niche usage of the GD Scout, and many players would still prefer to mount their Active Probes on a more robust unit. Whether used with the double-blind rules or just in standard play, the GD Scout's Probe also allows a squad to monitor up to two remote sensors within 67 hexes, using the data to track enemy units and even call in artillery or indirect fire, albeit at decreased odds of hitting. I've had some fun using that tactic, with Infiltrator Mk I (Special Ops) squads deploying the remote sensors and even the occasional use of Hauberks as the source of the indirect fire, but again there's the issue that other units can do a better job. The GD Scout is obviously also capable of spotting for fire support itself, although this does expose it to the risk of enemy fire, and its lack of any form of stealthy armor can be a problem, so when doing this it is good practice to hop between cover that is 3 or 4 hexes apart, while still maintaining line of sight with the target.

     Another niche role for the design is one that can be easily done under the standard Total War rules, but is far riskier. Although unable to mount an effective Swarm attack, the Gray Death Scout Suit can successfully prosecute Leg Attacks on unwary 'Mechs, for a lower BV cost than every non-experimental non-PA(L) Battle Armor design. Ideally performed from ambush or by leaping over intervening terrain, so that the intended victim doesn't have a chance to blast the Battle Armor before coming within reach of the GD Scout's 120m jump range, the target will have little opportunity to fight back other than attempting a physical attack or activating a B-Pod or M-Pod - as a word of warning, GD Scouts should never perform Leg Attacks on 'Mechs with available B-Pods, since it's guaranteed suicide for the entire squad with zero chance to inflict damage on the enemy. In the right circumstances it's sometimes possible to perform this again and again, if the target is slow enough and terrain and initiative are favorable, and in one memorable case I watched a player hound an isolated Awesome-8Q for three turns before finally getting a critical that blew the entire leg off, losing only a single trooper in the process. That was an exceptional result and a more typical outcome will be dead Battle Armor squads, but if you really are desperate and have no other choice, just remember that the Gray Death Scout Suit does have the Leg Attack in its back pocket. Of course, the design can always be used as a simple initiative sink, but other units can do that for less BV or C-Bill cost, and it seems a shame to effectively waste any type of unit in such a manner, although it is a common pro tip.

     I can only hope that if Gray Death Technologies ever do win the contract to produce the LAAF's next generation scout Battle Armor, that they address the key flaw of the GD Scout's pitiful armor, with everything else just being window dressing. Just as the AFFS had to replace the Infiltrator Mk I with the heavier Infiltrator MK II, any future design needs to grow larger if it wants to at least match the GD Scout's performance while improving its protection. Apart from a couple of the more esoteric movement options, Light Battle Armor simply cannot compete with Mediums in the BattleTech game, offering no real benefit other than the ability to fit within smaller infantry bays, a questionable advantage at best if the Battle Armor is less capable when delivered to the battlefield. With such a limited platform to begin with, there is only one known variant of the Gray Death Scout Suit, and even then there are just three custom-built examples, operated by The Willow Wisps, a gladiator team that fights in the arenas of Hardcore in the Magistracy of Canopus. Courtesy of their corporate sponsors, the team has had three of their GD Scouts overhauled to use stealth composites and Clan-built Micro Pulse Lasers, although they are still as weakly armored as the standard model. The write-up for the Gray Death Scout "The Willow Wisps" variant suggests that the fourth member of the squad also has the same Improved Stealth Armor that's fitted to the other three, but still retains its Active Probe, which would actually make it a second variant. However, a Light chassis does not have enough space to use that grade of stealth and still have room for the Jump Boosters and Active Probe, even if it uses the lighter Clan version of the sensors to compensate for the higher mass of the stealth armor.

     In most scenarios, it can be easily argued that the role of the Gray Death Scout Suit would be better served through a combination of conventional infantry and mounting one or more Active Probes in your 'Mechs and tanks, if you even bother with the sensors at all. It's hard to disagree with that viewpoint, given that the infantry can perform as expendable scouts at a much lower BV cost, while the Probe has a relatively limited use in many ground games, unlike its ECM counterpart. In its defense, the Gray Death Scout is less vulnerable to specialist anti-personnel weapons than conventional infantry, despite its fragility by Battle Armor standards, so there are circumstances where PBIs would perform much worse. In addition, the GD Scout's jump mobility exceeds that of Jump Infantry, which may also be an important factor in some player's preferences, so if you happen to be looking for an expendable, low BV cost Battle Armor it at least has got a hand in the game. As noted above, its performance in the roleplaying game is its saving grace, able to bridge the gap between unpowered armor and the less flexible Battle Armor designs that lack armored gloves. Along with the Kage it can still fill that role even after the introduction of the various PA(L)s, simply because they're the one class of Battle Armor that even a Gray Death Scout Suit can stare at down its nose and give a self-satisfied snort of dismissal.

     If you find yourself running a mercenary or Lyran force from the early 3050s onwards, give the GD Scout a try before you jump to find some excuse to run an Achileus or Kage squad instead. Use it as a fast Battle Armor scout that should consider direct combat to be a last resort, while providing you with a cheap screening unit that can potentially save your more valuable troops from being ambushed. Like the Sloth, it can be a useful teaching tool, helping to drive home the lesson of using every available scrap of cover, which can benefit far tougher Battle Armor designs as well. That said, unless you don't care about the casualty rates among your units, eventually the wargamers need to let the GD Scout go and move on to designs that at least give the troops a fighting chance of survival. Meanwhile, the roleplayers can happily continue gloating as they step over the crumpled Tornado G-12 and punch the buttons on the keypad to gain access to the Blakist armored command bunker, content that the Gray Death Scout Suit makes them one of the lords of that battlefield.

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glitterboy2098

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #1 on: 28 October 2011, 01:58:05 »
the grey death being able to feild this suit so quickly could be justified using a plot element from the novels. in tactics of duty, Davis McCall and Alex Caryle feild two suits of lightweight, lightly armed, stealth equipped powered armor during their detachment to Glengarry. these suits are not named, but are described as being recovered from a star league cache. this combined with their capabilities implies they were some version of the Star league's Nighthawk suit. probably a MK.XXII, given the use of an arm mounted grenade launcher in addition to the carried infantry laser rifle. exactly when they obtained these suits is not specified, though it was described as being a fairly recent thing (and thus probably not part of the Helm find.)

the novel is set in 3057ish, so it seems possible that the nighthawks they had were found shortly before the clan invasion. this would give them an example of battlearmor jump jets they could copy, possibly something they hadn't yet shared with the NAIS.

sadly, this still doesn't do much for the marysueism.  ::)
« Last Edit: 28 October 2011, 02:02:39 by glitterboy2098 »

Ratwedge

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #2 on: 28 October 2011, 03:58:08 »
sadly, this still doesn't do much for the marysueism.  ::)

Wait, marysueism only works if they get away with it which they didn't.

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #3 on: 28 October 2011, 13:26:48 »
Unfortunately Tactics of Duty has some problematic inconsistences common to early FASA works.

Major Fyre's Third Bttn is noted in the novel as having been created after the first Glengarry campaign, so that would be (very) late 3056 or (very) early 3057. During which time they take contracts on both Ueda and Karbala, the latter planet being where the Third Bttn is described as having discovered the Nighthawks.

The passage in the novel about the Nighthawks makes them sound a lot more common and well known during the Star League, in contrast to other sourcebooks about the suits, including the recent TRO3075. It also first says that the GDL received early versions of Inner Sphere Battle Armor almost as soon as they were available and that "More recently" the Nighthawks had been recovered from a Star League cache. Then the novel implies that the technology from the Nighthawks are what were used by the GDL to develop their own designs: "a combat suit and a lighter, more maneuverable one for scouting", i.e. the GD Standard and GD Scout.

So either the Third Bttn existed prior to 3050, something that's not shown in any sourcebook regarding the GDL, or the GD Scout and Standard were developed after 3057, which contradicts a number of sourcebooks, or the novel is just incorrect, with the observation about the technology being used to develop two GDL suits perhaps being Alex's mistaken belief. Either Alex is completely wrong or the Nighthawk technology was just used to provide incremental improvements to the already existing GD Scout and GD Standard, and the novel is just a little clumsy and unclear.

Jim1701

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #4 on: 28 October 2011, 14:29:12 »
I don't remember the source but I recall the original Grey Death Scout suits were actually refurbished and modified Nighthawk suits from a Star League cache they appropriated somewhere after they arrived on Glengarry.  It was only later they they started building new suits to the same modified specifications. 

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #5 on: 28 October 2011, 15:45:29 »
That sounds like the picture painted in Tactics of Duty, which as I noted above doesn't match other sources. The GDL didn't move to Glengarry until 1st April 3056, and didn't recover the Nighthawks until after that, apparently after December 3056 but before April 3057, and so those Nighthawks being the source of the first GD Scouts doesn't match the Scout's earlier introduction date given in Day of Heroes, Lostech and TRO3058U.

Hellraiser

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #6 on: 28 October 2011, 21:59:48 »
Hmm, I need to go back and re-read Tactics & Duty.

I thought the GDL developed both their suits by tinkering w/ early FedCom ISBA models.

The Karbala find came later and had to be surrendered to the NAIS which in turn lead to the Infiltrator-II
3041: General Lance Hawkins: The Equalizers
3053: Star Colonel Rexor Kerensky: The Silver Wolves

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Fireangel

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #7 on: 29 October 2011, 13:56:30 »
With the boost PBI weapons got in TW, the GDSS (and all PBI-armed BA) increased in usefulness a great deal; now they can pack some serious and/or long-ranged weapons.

If you enjoy infantry-heavy combat in BT, suits like the GDSS are great; they allow you to use real-world small unit tactics more effectively than even squad-deployed infantry, as described here for PBIs.

Ian Sharpe

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #8 on: 30 October 2011, 14:39:51 »
The GDL Scout was the first BA I ever used, and so it still has a place for me.  Legged a Mech in an attack first time out.  Doesn't hurt that they have a great looking mini or that I like BA in general.  I have a company of them for my 4th Skye BA Btn, along with 2 companies of ISBA and a company of Fenrir.  Wish we'd gotten a combat variant without the AP, just for having another option.

Nebfer

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #9 on: 02 November 2011, 21:52:03 »
Well reading chapter 14 of tactics of duty (the part with the Nighthawk PA).

It mentions they found them (via 3rd btln) and modified them them for their own use, and had made two configurations, the scout configuration was what they where using, though strangely the next paragraph it mentions that McCall was in a Nighthawk...

Some of the ability's described.
IR Stealthing, compared to the unarmored personnel around them the two Suits where hard to spot in IR at lest while not doing much activity with it, they where also very hard to spot visually, due to the chameleon effect of their armor (Granted Nighthawk suits do mount stealth armor, which in the RPG dose have some optical stealthing), it was not a perfict optical stealth but enough to make it very hard to spot at a distance or at night.
They also had a sonic transmitter, as well as radio (for in case the opposition could track them via radio).

Both Alax and McCall where equipped with infantry weapons, a laser rifle and a micro grenade launcher, as well as grenades, McCall had some satchel charges as well. They also have a HUD and audio augmentation.

glitterboy2098

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #10 on: 03 November 2011, 01:33:28 »
so basically, despite the suits matching the nighthawk in capabilties, the author tried to imply they were supposed to be GDL scout suits?

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gray Death Scout Suit
« Reply #11 on: 03 November 2011, 02:14:34 »
The author apparently contradicts himself.

The end of one paragraph states: "Legion techs had been modifying the technology and had come up with two versions of their own, a combat suit and a lighter, more maneuverable one for scouting. The scout suits were the ones Alex and McCall wore now."

After that they keep refering to them as Nighthawks. For example:

"...searching for McCall's Nighthawk suit."

and

"Donned like unusually heavy and bulky space suits, the Nighthawks were surprisingly light to wear."

One way to avoid there being a contradiction as to which suit Carylyle and McCall wore - and to also fix the problem of the Nighthawk incorrectly identified as being used in the development of the GD Standard and GD Scout - would be if the GDL has developed two new Nighthawk variants, one for combat and the other for scouting, with the latter not using the full 400kg capacity available to the PA(L) chassis. Of course, there is still the problem that these hypothetical PA(L)s haven't yet been statted, but it wouldn't be the first time that has happened to an obscure unit.

 

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