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Author Topic: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors  (Read 3854 times)

OmniscientQ

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Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« on: 25 January 2011, 21:40:27 »
      Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors (TL / DR summary at the bottom)

As it stands under the current system, most of the sensor systems are just plain worthless. Radar is limited by line-of-sight, woods, buildings, and just about everything else that can possibly be on the board except a clear hex. To top it all off, radar has the shortest range of all the basic sensors except seismic.

Infrared is next on the list. It's limited by all the same things as radar, but has the added handicap of not being able to detect anything that isn't overheating. With double heat sinks everywhere and half the canon designs having 100% heat efficiency, the odds of IR being more useful to you than another sensor are slim. An enemy 'mech can fire three heavy PPC's at you and still not show up on IR if it has enough heat sinks.

Seismic sensors are a joke. With a range of 2 hexes per range bracket, you're better off using some other system (read: magscan) and just counting on rolling short range than you do hoping your target has actually moved AND happens to be within the 2-hex range you rolled.

Which finally brings us to Magscan, the most universally useful of the basic sensors. It penetrates hills, buildings, woods, is not limited by the target's heat or movement. It's even tied with IR for the longest range of the basic sensors. On top of that, it is completely unaffected by stealth systems or ECM of any kind, making it more useful than even the active probes in such cases. There is never a reason to use anything BUT magscan, making the other sensors frustrating and superfluous.

      Alternate Rules

I'd like to offer the following as alternate rules for the sensor systems in order to make them all useful in different situations. I haven't provided any hard numbers as I've never been good at game balance.

Since we have four different sensor systems, I've split them up into LOS/Non-LOS types, and into "Detailed ID"/"Unit Detected" types. Infrared and radar are the two line-of-sight sensors, while magscan and seismic are the non-LOS versions. The line-of-sight versions have the longer ranges. Radar and Magscan comprise the "Detailed ID" half of the sensors. When they detect a unit, they can see enough of the profile of the target to tell you whether the target is a 'mech, vehicle, or aerospace fighter, as well as the chassis and model of the detected unit. Seismic and IR will not tell you what type of unit you've detected, only that there is SOMETHING there.

IR being limited to detecting an overheating unit seemed silly to me. The previously mentioned 'mech firing three heavy PPC's at you is generating 45 heat. The fact that it isn't overheating right now is because it's heat sinks have dumped all that heat out into the surrounding environment, right out in the open for all to see. I guarantee, those heat sinks are glowing like cherries. So, the range at which IR can detect a unit is based on the amount of heat dissipated by the unit the previous turn. A walking or running 'mech that hasn't done anything else will be hard to spot. A jumping 'mech will be easier. A 'mech firing large lasers is ridiculously easy to detect. (Not related to double-blind, but I think the same rules should apply to heat-seaking missiles.) If you really want to avoid detection by IR, you can shut down your heat sinks and refuse to vent any of it. Think of the stealth systems on the Normandy in Mass Effect. If you don't vent anything, you can't be spotted, but keeping it bottled up will start to have problems when you hit shutdown and ammo explosion levels.

Radar has longest range of all the basic sensors, out to the same 60 hex range that visual spotting gets in broad daylight. It's still limited by line-of-sight, of course, by buildings in it's way, and is still not guaranteed to detect everything. Additionally, using it means that you're lighting yourself up for every enemy unit out there. Regardless of the sensor they're using at the moment, any enemy with LOS to the radar 'mech gets a "unit detected" hit against it.

Magscan is still a very useful system, though not the absolute pinnacle of sensor technology that it was before. It detects through hills and provides an ID of the unit scanned. It's range is shorter than either of the LOS systems. The range at which magscan will detect a unit is based on the weight of the target. A penalty for light units, and a bonus for heavy and assault units. If you don't care about adding some complexity to the calculations (or if these rules get incorporated into MegaMek), magscan receives a penalty for detecting exotic materials like endosteel and ferro-fibrous armor, and a bonus for picking up the larger containment bottles of XL engines. If the powers-that-be decide, it could end up being EASIER to pick up endosteel and ferro-fibrous under magscan.

Seismic sensors have significantly longer ranges than they do under the canon rules, though still not as much as LOS systems. The range brackets are modified by both the mass and MP expended by the target that turn. A light 'mech running 14 hexes is just as easily detected as an assault walking 3. To use seismic sensors, though, involves a penalty if the detecting unit itself has moved. Gotta keep those feet on the ground if you want to listen.

ECM, during double-blind, would act to fuzz out the images returned by radar and magscan. If a unit is inside a friendly ECM bubble, any hits by radar or magscan are reduced to "unit detected" rather than detailed ID's. If a unit is inside a hostile ECM bubble, the ECM suite can start acting more directly, providing a penalty to all sensor scans by that unit and rendering them all "unit detected" hits.

The effects of stealth systems vary by sensor type, as they do now. Radar and magscan receive penalties to range, as well as only getting a "unit detected" hit if they do manage to tag the stealth system. IR is unaffected as, once the heat is out in the open, it's out. Seismic sensors are unaffected by stealth systems either, though I could easily see a penalty if the target is using a quad 'mech (Weight is being split between four legs, not two) or AES.

As for the active probes... It may contradict canon, but I'd rather see them provide bonuses to the existing systems than be entirely new sensor packages of their own. They'd essentially become advanced data-crunching computers for the standard sensors. If not, I'm not entirely sure how to handle them.

TL / DR Summary:
    Magscan is the only useful basic sensor under official rules.
Alternate Rules:
    IR detects units based on heat dissipated rather than internal temp. Long range. Only shows a unit in the hex, not which type. LOS only.
    Radar has longest range. Reveals the radar-using 'mech to the enemy as a "unit detected". Provides detailed scan of target. LOS only.
    Seismic has medium range. Distance modified by target mass * distance traveled. Only shows "unit detected", not type. Non-LOS sensor.
    Magscan has medium range. Distance modified by metal content (mass) of target. Shows detailed scan. Non-LOS. Bonus to detect XL engine.
    Friendly ECM on a unit turns detailed scans by the enemy into unit detected. Hostile ECM on a scanning 'mech applies penalty to all sensors.
    Stealth reduces range and blocks detail scans for radar and magscan. No effect on IR or seismic.
    Active probes apply bonuses to basic sensors, are not independent sensors.

Comments and criticisms? Is it too complicated for tabletop play? (Double-blind is already complicated enough in tabletop) Are the proposed rules inherently unbalanced no matter what numbers you plug in for ranges and penalties?

*EDIT* Added TL / DR summary
« Last Edit: 25 January 2011, 23:48:38 by OmniscientQ »
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Scotty

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #1 on: 26 January 2011, 03:45:06 »
Forgive me for lacking the necessary knowledge, but does basic LOS have a limit on range?  If yes, then the proposed change makes IR and Radar even more useless, since everything that can possibly be garnered by either is revealed by simply making visual contact with the target.
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Bad_Syntax

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #2 on: 26 January 2011, 11:00:29 »
I'm not a big fan of the way the sensor rules were done, much for the same reasons you mentioned.  But I apply a scientific/modern/logical approach to some, for example IR *can*, very easily, detect a large piece of steel, overheating or not, as steel is never the same temperature as the surrounding environment (having used them in the military, I know this).  I also wondered why thermal imaging was left off the list, as normal smoke/fog has no effect on it.

The rules also had nothing for "unit identification" or IFF's.  If its a brand new mech, it may not be identified on the battlefield correctly, or identified at all.  There are various fluff entries to support this.

Personally I think the targeting & tracking systems should have been given *something, perhaps just a single # for quality.  That number could be the short range, and the "to-detect" roll base number.  If you had a Sloane 220 Lockover system it may be a 10.  This would give you a detection range of 10/20/40/80, for automatic/short/medium/long.  It would have a 12-10, or a 2+ base detection chance at short range, 4+ at medium, and 6+ at long.  Any stealth or other system that provides a modifier to hit at a particular range applies in the exact same way, giving maybe +1 to +3 to detect at various range bands.  Various ECM's would just have a modifier to detect, maybe a Guardian ECM +2, a Clan ECM +3, etc, and various AEP's just a modifier to detect, say -2 for Beagle AEP, -3 for Clan AEP, -5 for Bloodhound, etc.  Alternatively instead of to-hit modifiers, these could just add to the base range and to-hit modifiers always be the same.  Hidden units would get a modifier in the same way, as would units in various kinds of terrain.  This would have been much easier than the current system to use, document, and expand upon later.  All of these stats would only apply to radar.  ECMs may also have a "area jamming" effect, where if you are within the ECM bubble, and not friendly, your radar would just be 100% useless.

IR is simply line of sight, giving you standard visibility at night, without it you use night-fighting rules.  Thermals would also ignore weather/smoke, if they were implemented.  The amount of heat doesn't matter, targets don't get "bigger", they just get brighter.  They may be a bit easier to see, but no easier/harder to hit.  Perhaps these could use the base sensor "to-detect" modifier as well, though it could be modified by heat levels a bit (like -1 per 10 heat)

Seismic requires you to stop, and you can only tell direction.  I don't think it could tell you mass, but if you knew it was 100 tons you could determine distance too.  If you had 2+ of them working they would be able to determine an exact location and mass.  I would give these a hard number based on the mass of the target.  Maybe each 5 tons of the target is 1 mapboard, but detection is pretty much automatic.  Earthquake maps would rule these sensors useless.  Targets moving half walk/cruise could get a modifier to these numbers, maybe cut it in half.

I don't know what magscan sensors are, and would simply have ignored them.

If people really liked my idea I could write it up more and ensure it handles everything, but only if a bunch of people wanted me to write more up.

Just my 2 cents ;)

I'm pretty sure in the whole alternate rules area its more of a "use what you like in your game" sorta situation.

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OmniscientQ

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #3 on: 26 January 2011, 14:24:39 »
Forgive me for lacking the necessary knowledge, but does basic LOS have a limit on range?  If yes, then the proposed change makes IR and Radar even more useless, since everything that can possibly be garnered by either is revealed by simply making visual contact with the target.

The basic rules give IR and radar a long range of about 30 hexes. Visual spotting goes out to 60 hexes, but only in broad daylight. The sensors are generally there only for night fighting or in bad weather.

I'm not a big fan of the way the sensor rules were done, much for the same reasons you mentioned.  But I apply a scientific/modern/logical approach to some, for example IR *can*, very easily, detect a large piece of steel, overheating or not, as steel is never the same temperature as the surrounding environment (having used them in the military, I know this).  I also wondered why thermal imaging was left off the list, as normal smoke/fog has no effect on it.

The rules also had nothing for "unit identification" or IFF's.  If its a brand new mech, it may not be identified on the battlefield correctly, or identified at all.  There are various fluff entries to support this.

Personally I think the targeting & tracking systems should have been given *something, perhaps just a single # for quality.  That number could be the short range, and the "to-detect" roll base number.  If you had a Sloane 220 Lockover system it may be a 10.  This would give you a detection range of 10/20/40/80, for automatic/short/medium/long.  It would have a 12-10, or a 2+ base detection chance at short range, 4+ at medium, and 6+ at long.  Any stealth or other system that provides a modifier to hit at a particular range applies in the exact same way, giving maybe +1 to +3 to detect at various range bands.  Various ECM's would just have a modifier to detect, maybe a Guardian ECM +2, a Clan ECM +3, etc, and various AEP's just a modifier to detect, say -2 for Beagle AEP, -3 for Clan AEP, -5 for Bloodhound, etc.  Alternatively instead of to-hit modifiers, these could just add to the base range and to-hit modifiers always be the same.  Hidden units would get a modifier in the same way, as would units in various kinds of terrain.  This would have been much easier than the current system to use, document, and expand upon later.  All of these stats would only apply to radar.  ECMs may also have a "area jamming" effect, where if you are within the ECM bubble, and not friendly, your radar would just be 100% useless.

IR is simply line of sight, giving you standard visibility at night, without it you use night-fighting rules.  Thermals would also ignore weather/smoke, if they were implemented.  The amount of heat doesn't matter, targets don't get "bigger", they just get brighter.  They may be a bit easier to see, but no easier/harder to hit.  Perhaps these could use the base sensor "to-detect" modifier as well, though it could be modified by heat levels a bit (like -1 per 10 heat)

Seismic requires you to stop, and you can only tell direction.  I don't think it could tell you mass, but if you knew it was 100 tons you could determine distance too.  If you had 2+ of them working they would be able to determine an exact location and mass.  I would give these a hard number based on the mass of the target.  Maybe each 5 tons of the target is 1 mapboard, but detection is pretty much automatic.  Earthquake maps would rule these sensors useless.  Targets moving half walk/cruise could get a modifier to these numbers, maybe cut it in half.

I don't know what magscan sensors are, and would simply have ignored them.

If people really liked my idea I could write it up more and ensure it handles everything, but only if a bunch of people wanted me to write more up.

Just my 2 cents ;)

I'm pretty sure in the whole alternate rules area its more of a "use what you like in your game" sorta situation.

Bad Syntax

I agree that NONE of the sensor rules really represent the way such things work in reality. A BattleMech has a small man-made star burning in its torso; I can't imagine the surface being cool even under ideal conditions. Making things realistic has to be balanced against making things fun, though. Hence, we have rules in TacOps regarding catastrophic fusion engine failure, even though physics says that won't happen. (Short version: Fusing hydrogen plasma is exceedingly hot, yeah, but consists of only a few grams of mass. When that mass is released, it expands and cools off VERY rapidly. It doesn't contain enough energy to pose a threat to anything.)

The idea behind my proposed rules changes are intended to provide a use for each sensor package under different conditions so that there's actually some decision-making to be done instead of just picking magscan every turn. It just irked me that there was an option for other sensors but never, ever a reason to use 'em. I guess removing some of the sensors would provide a similar solution.

Which one would be more fun? Having multiple sensors and trying to out-guess your opponent to choose the right ones for the situation? Would that end up being too frustrating when you consistently guess wrong? Would it be more fun for you to just have one or two sensor choices so you could focus more on the movement and weapons firing? (Presumably, if you're playing with double-blind rules, the cat-and-mouse has at least SOME appeal for you.)
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Bad_Syntax

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #4 on: 26 January 2011, 14:58:21 »
The spotting range rules are simply silly, while I can accept the shortened weapon ranges, visual spotting in a totally clear environment is a hard value of the height of the units and the distance to the horizon, with another variable of how big the target is.  BT totally ignores that, and I can understand why.  With weapons maxing out at 30, well 38 now with tacops, it really doesn't matter if you can see 1000 hexes or 38, the game effects are the same.

I don't like the concept of trying to guess which sensor to use, that should never be in question.

Radar always first, its always on, and lets you know if a new target is detected.

Then you fall back to visual during the day, or IR/Thermal during the night to actually see and then shoot at your target.  Seismic would pretty much only be used by remote sensors, or maybe in really poor environments when a commander has a "hunch" he may be comming up on a moving enemy force.  I would think IR/Thermal/Visual would be automatic, basically if you have LOS, you can hit it.  Seismic for special and very unique circumstances, and radar as the default which would just require a single roll per turn for your "sensor roll", if you rolled higher than your detection number you detect the target (some targets may need a bit higher roll, if they had stealth or EW).

However, things like the Chameleon LPS or Mimetic stuff would modify visual detection, and perhaps even IR, but not completely, just modify the chances.

Also, there are rules in TacOps that allow you to shoot to an "unlimited" distance (LOS firing), I'm not sure if that is restricted by the whole "60 hex visual spotting range", I seriously doubt they took the 2 into account when either was typed up.

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Stormforge

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #5 on: 26 January 2011, 16:05:05 »
On IR/Thermo it should be easy to detect even a low heat mech as it is still venting heat even if just standing there. Like what was said earlier about the engine. It is basically a miniature star and that heat has to go somewhere. If you ever get a chance to use any type of thermo device look at a vehicles exhaust pipe. In the black and white ones that I have used it is always white (or black when reversed) even while at idle. Then again some exhaust systems glow when using light intensifying equipment such as night vision goggles.
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Bad_Syntax

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #6 on: 26 January 2011, 17:58:25 »
Then again some exhaust systems glow when using light intensifying equipment such as night vision goggles.

With jet aircraft burning fuel sure, but light intensifying equipment doesn't see anything on the back of a gas turbine M1 tank at full throttle, there is no "light", and things have to be REALLY hot before they glow enough to see.

The big thing is steel has a much different ambient temperature, and that difference is what you would see.  Throw a wrench on the ground and IR/Thermals will *always* easily be able to see it.

But light amplification stuff, basically just imagine a B&W view.  Here is a pretty good site with some good images like what you would see through PVS-7's http://www.visualintel.net/Army/Operations/Night-Vision/6203316_S85Ch/14#867260688_4wiKf.  I am pretty sure most of those are in an urban environment with good ambient lighting.  If your not near a city, a full moon will make night vision almost as good as daylight, a clear starry night makes you see pretty good, but overcast with no ambient light and light amplification is *worthless*, UNLESS you turn on your active IR light, which is an IR flashlight, you can see very short range (a few meters) with it, but anybody else with light amplification can see you MILES away.  It matches the searchlight rules in BT pretty well.

IR/Thermal detect heat, and even a shutdown mech that has sat there a century would be very easy to spot as it would be much cooler than the surrounding environment, and stick out like a sore thumb.  I haven't used IR systems, but thermals you can see the smoke from a hot engine, and anywhere near the exhaust glows pretty white hot.  Since I have never seen exhaust ports on a mech, and doubt they have them if they function in a vacuum and their engine produces no pollution, they must use the coolant to keep the temperature down, and it doesn't need to be vented unless the mech is on the heat scale, so I'm betting thermals wouldn't be that effective against mechs.  They also have no real resistance anywhere to generate "hot spots", like a tank and its tracks or a vehicle and its wheels would do.

Maybe one of these days an artist will make a cool color view of what a mech looks like to the various sensors, that'd be kinda neato.

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Schottenjaeger

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #7 on: 30 January 2011, 00:20:42 »
I used to work as a radar and comms tech, with a side in armament and display systems.

Basically -

Passive electronic sensors: These are often what you use to actually ID a unit - sniff its RADAR profile and you know a lot about who made it, especially when you know what size it is and how fast it's going. Switching on your radar is saying, "Here I am and this is what I'm doing". IFF codes are a distant second, because they're unreliable in combat.
This is your TTS rating coming into play. It would get a bonus to ID the unit based on what active sensors they have running, and analyzes the output of your passives (Magscan, Sonar/Seismic, and FLIR).

BAP is simply an extremely effective analysis system, one that may or may not boost the output of your conventional TTS sensors. I did like the implementation "Mechwarrior 3015" proposed, where it's sort of a mini-AWACS drone that you launch from the unit, but I think that's getting way too complex for tabletop.

RADAR: Good information on target size, vector, and composition. Terrible at actually figuring out what the target is.
It'd give you where the taget is and how fast it's going - in what direction - but little else. It's also fairly easy to jam and a little harder to stealth. As mentioned above, gives away a lot of information about your unit, not least of all where it is.

FLIR: Gives a detailed image of the target. Very useful for target identification, especially at night. I can't legally tell you the ranges or detail levels, but suffice it to say current-generation hardware is extremely effective.
On the other hand, dumping massive amounts of heat will blur the image. So.. at a hypothetical "short" to "medium" range, a successful roll with FLIR would give you detailed information about a mech running cool - and it could give you a very long range "ping" on something dumping a lot of heat (Perhaps one hex for every point heat dissipated in the last turn?) but little detailed info. Anything jumping into LOS is pretty much automatically gonna ping a location, as well.

MAGSCAN: Loosely based on MAD. This is a fairly passive system that wouldn't advertise your presence like RADAR does, but they can be easily confused by strong local mag-fields.  I like the idea of basing its detection range on engine rating and size.

Seismics: Again, like the idea of basing it on movement/tonnage. Say, take the engine rating required to move the mech that distance, divide it by 10 to find the detection range, and then cut it in half if the carrying unit's walking or a quarter if it's running. Jumping units can't use 'em that turn.

What say y'all?
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OmniscientQ

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #8 on: 30 January 2011, 16:51:22 »
I used to work as a radar and comms tech, with a side in armament and display systems.

Basically -

Passive electronic sensors: These are often what you use to actually ID a unit - sniff its RADAR profile and you know a lot about who made it, especially when you know what size it is and how fast it's going. Switching on your radar is saying, "Here I am and this is what I'm doing". IFF codes are a distant second, because they're unreliable in combat.
This is your TTS rating coming into play. It would get a bonus to ID the unit based on what active sensors they have running, and analyzes the output of your passives (Magscan, Sonar/Seismic, and FLIR).

BAP is simply an extremely effective analysis system, one that may or may not boost the output of your conventional TTS sensors. I did like the implementation "Mechwarrior 3015" proposed, where it's sort of a mini-AWACS drone that you launch from the unit, but I think that's getting way too complex for tabletop.

RADAR: Good information on target size, vector, and composition. Terrible at actually figuring out what the target is.
It'd give you where the taget is and how fast it's going - in what direction - but little else. It's also fairly easy to jam and a little harder to stealth. As mentioned above, gives away a lot of information about your unit, not least of all where it is.

FLIR: Gives a detailed image of the target. Very useful for target identification, especially at night. I can't legally tell you the ranges or detail levels, but suffice it to say current-generation hardware is extremely effective.
On the other hand, dumping massive amounts of heat will blur the image. So.. at a hypothetical "short" to "medium" range, a successful roll with FLIR would give you detailed information about a mech running cool - and it could give you a very long range "ping" on something dumping a lot of heat (Perhaps one hex for every point heat dissipated in the last turn?) but little detailed info. Anything jumping into LOS is pretty much automatically gonna ping a location, as well.

MAGSCAN: Loosely based on MAD. This is a fairly passive system that wouldn't advertise your presence like RADAR does, but they can be easily confused by strong local mag-fields.  I like the idea of basing its detection range on engine rating and size.

Seismics: Again, like the idea of basing it on movement/tonnage. Say, take the engine rating required to move the mech that distance, divide it by 10 to find the detection range, and then cut it in half if the carrying unit's walking or a quarter if it's running. Jumping units can't use 'em that turn.

What say y'all?

I have to wonder why (Aside from game balance) a 'mech would limited to using only one sensor type at a time. I could see someone arguing that it's difficult to interpret the data from four different sensor systems simultaneously in the middle of combat, but I'd like to pretend that the AI systems they have running the 'mech can do a lot of the interpretation for the mechwarrior. They don't all need to be trained radar specialists in addition to piloting and gunnery etc. Should there just be a switch to go between 'Active' and 'Passive' modes then?

I know you can't give exacting details, but at what point would IR not be useful for detecting something? Should it just be considered the default sensor in play when nothing else is called for? Perhaps, as Bad Syntax said, it should just set a minimum range for visual spotting, no matter the weather or lighting conditions.

Given the limited lines-of-sight you have in many BattleTech maps, when would the use of active radar be a good thing? Curvature, as I understand it, limits radar mostly to tracking air and naval units. Why use it at all on 'mechs if turning it on reveals more about yourself than it does the enemy?

Magscan and seismic, from the fluff, lend themselves well to being shorter-ranged non-LOS sensors. Basing magscan on engine rating and XL/Standard/Compact models is a perfectly acceptable mechanism. I'd even make ICE and fuel-cell units invisible to magscan, if it's keying in on fusion containment fields. For seismic, I agree again. Take the mass * MP expended / 10 for basic range, and add modifiers for stuff like wheeled/tracked/hover (more difficult than the clear footsteps of a 'mech) or jumping.

Seismic and Magscan are easy to come up with acceptable rules for, since we don't have them here in reality (or very primitive versions of them like MAD and sonar). Radar and IR, on the other hand, seem to be the ones where we get hung up. Are we approaching the point where realism has to give way for the sake of fun and/or game balance?
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Demon55

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #9 on: 31 January 2011, 03:10:54 »
What are the ranges for each sensor?  I ask because every time I play megamek the senor ranges seem to change.  What I mean is one mech will be on IR and have a sensor range of say 10 and another mech running IR will have a range of 20. 

Shatara

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Re: Proposition for Modified Double-Blind Sensors
« Reply #10 on: 31 January 2011, 13:19:54 »
Sensors depend on a die roll to determine their range. The specifics are somewhat complex, and I don't have TacOps on me.

 

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