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Author Topic: What's the Best Role for Fiction in BattleTech?  (Read 1619 times)

Dubble_g

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What's the Best Role for Fiction in BattleTech?
« on: 17 May 2018, 09:01:43 »
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« Last Edit: 04 June 2018, 09:23:54 by Dubble_g »
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #1 on: 17 May 2018, 09:14:41 »
I think he meant current and relevant in terms of BattleTech's ongoing story, not real-world current/relevant.
That BattleTech keeps one foot in the late Succession Wars for introducing beginners, and one foot in the current timeline to feed the demand for the on-going story, which is not the place for new players.

Personally I'd prefer the current, on-going story to be more new player friendly, but that's not where it is right now.
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Colt Ward

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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #2 on: 17 May 2018, 10:36:00 »
Its friendly enough as long as when introducing new players to it older players they do not try to load them up with all the history at once.  Its 9 main factions rather than the 6 before, and much of the same single sentence descriptions still apply.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #3 on: 17 May 2018, 11:42:57 »
Its friendly enough as long as when introducing new players to it older players they do not try to load them up with all the history at once.  Its 9 main factions rather than the 6 before, and much of the same single sentence descriptions still apply.

It’s the rules, not the lore that makes it non-new player friendly. The number of books needed to play for current era. The number of different units that can show up.  Ie. It’s everything.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #4 on: 17 May 2018, 11:50:22 »
Well, the point was about that being the easiest place to be introduced to the story not the rules.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #5 on: 17 May 2018, 12:23:03 »
Well, the point was about that being the easiest place to be introduced to the story not the rules.

"[W]e need ‘gateway’ products which serve to bring new players into the universe, which is often done best with tech dated prior to the Clan Invasion. "
Brent's point was the introductory box sets, for new players, are stuck in the late Succession Wars.  That's due to rules, not story.
How friendly the current story is to new players doesn't matter if you can't introduce the game to them with that story due to rules. There's no choice to be made about the story, the rules are making the choice on their own.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #6 on: 17 May 2018, 12:47:14 »
How hard would it be to build a decent lineup of units from the modern era that don't use any advanced rules, and maybe also don't use the fiddlier of the tourney-level stuff?
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #7 on: 17 May 2018, 12:57:25 »
Which is what I was thinking, the equipment fielded in the rapid re-armament program everyone went through was grabbing anything- sort of like the Jihad's scramble for gear.

You are not going to be able to do premier unit vs premier unit, but Farmer Bob using grandpappy's old Hatchetman 3F hidden in a silo to deal with those raider infantry and their Scorpion tanks does not change things.  Heck the Guns, Money, Lawyers (I never get that order right) first scenario uses straight 3025 equipment from the old Box sets in a 3060s fight and could be carried over easily.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #8 on: 17 May 2018, 12:58:03 »
I feel there are a couple of problems with introductory products being set during the Succession Wars.
For one, it will feel more natural for new players to continue from there, rather than follow where the story is. Meaning new story products are mostly of interest to older fans.

It really doesn't help there's nothing to bring players up to speed! This is a major issue.
To understand the Dark Age somewhat at the moment, one needs to either read the MWDA novels, and then read Era Report 3145 and/or Field Manual 3145 to get the rest of the story. I really don't think Era Report 3145 is enough in itself. If one can't read the MWDA novels (can't in either sense, not blaming people who don't like at least some the novels), then one needs to read at least Era Digest: Dark Age before the 3145 products, and maybe Field Manual 3080 while at it (for the Republic history). Naturally this leads to question what the Jihad is and what precede it.
But to be honest, neither combo is very good. A lot of reading but not exactly the sort that attract people. Good stuff for fans, but not for a casual fan. And by good stuff, i mean the history, and maybe Era Reports. Field Manuals? Nope, they're very hardcore.
This came up while talking to a BT fan who wanted to know about the Jihad and the Dark Age. I really couldn't give them any good pointers how to learn about those. The Jihad books are out of print and out of stock, the Dark Age skips to near its end. There is no simple overviews for either one!

Second, there is nothing to prevent introductory set being set to the Dark Age (or anywhere else for that matter). Old-ass tech is still used, in the Periphery, backwater worlds in the Successor States, Solaris VII, and probably even mainline armies where necessary. Basically every single 'Mech in is intro tech form still exists in 3150, and if not, it is easy enough retcon especially since the stance on things is so often "whatever works on your table".
The introductory rules can be used as they are, or expanded with some weapons. Star League-level tech is not that complex, and you could cut out some stuff (eg Artemis, electronics) and add others (ER lasers, Ultra and LB-X sizes as they aren't fundamentally different if the original SL weapons) without  them being too "complex".
BattleMech Manual does pretty good job presenting everything relevant clearly. Maybe a bit too extensive for intro players, but nothing a somewhat experienced player can't handle, especially with notice "no need to use everything at once".

Moving intro box to latest era would have the advantage of making latest TROs very relevant to newer players as well. Hell, make new plastic minis for 'Mechs from new TROs, so that cool new things don't just exist on paper.

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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #9 on: 17 May 2018, 13:02:06 »
How hard would it be to build a decent lineup of units from the modern era that don't use any advanced rules, and maybe also don't use the fiddlier of the tourney-level stuff?
Dark Age-only or anything commonly used then?

I reckon finding 10-20 'Mechs (ie about what a box set or sets might feature) that would feature more advanced tech but not be too complex should be doable, while covering various weight ranges and movement values.

Of course, we need to define "fiddly" stuff.
Presumably no stealth armor, no electronics like BAP or ECM (not that those add much either). No specialty armors like Blazer or Glazed. No damage modifying effects like composite internals.

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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #10 on: 17 May 2018, 13:10:01 »
How hard would it be to build a decent lineup of units from the modern era that don't use any advanced rules, and maybe also don't use the fiddlier of the tourney-level stuff?

Not hard. You can get a reasonable selection that use TW equipment into the dark ages

The problem is actually two-fold, and I believe the equipment rules are the lesser of the problems (but still a problem) as a vast majority of mechs adhere to BMM equipment. The greater  bugaboo is the overwhelming chassis count and all of the variations. The clan invasion TRO glut makes advancing in into new eras past the clan invasion very hard. 3145/50 added over one hundred 89 unique mechs in addition (still a lot). Tactically you have to account for far too many variables that we olds take for granted because we’ve been absorbing the data forever (3060 is almost 20 years old).

In my mind you have to trim it down and say here’s the X most common chassis you’ll see. The rest are out there but excluded from main line scaffolding products

Of course, we need to define "fiddly" stuff.
Presumably no stealth armor, no electronics like BAP or ECM (not that those add much either). No specialty armors like Blazer or Glazed. No damage modifying effects like composite internals.

I'd say the BMR/BMRr line is a decent place. Stuff like advanced armor (including stealth), advanced construction options, etc are all relatively rare, even on new designs so they wouldn't be hard to exclude.

You could start with a TRO: Succession Wars-themed product or products as a stepping stone to more advanced rules. The designs use every Star League / helm core tech except NARC
« Last Edit: 17 May 2018, 16:29:24 by Sartris »

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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #11 on: 17 May 2018, 13:16:42 »
In my mind you have to trim it down and say here’s the X most common chassis you’ll see. The rest are out there but excluded from main line scaffolding products
Might promote factions while at it. These are the 15 most common units in faction A, these for faction B, and so on. Leave overlapping units and note that many designs are shared.

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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #12 on: 17 May 2018, 13:22:33 »
Which is why I praise that LGM (looked it up, Lawyers, Guns & Money- never get it right) campaign mech selection.  Nothing really outrageous . . . Marauders, Warhammer, Awesome, Hunchback, Catapult, Stalker, Dervish, Atlas, Dragon, Rifleman, Wolverine, Battlemaster . . . a lot of the more common mechs and represented through out the eras.

I think its even a great way to introduce the new box sets when they come out- not sure if the maps work- but between the new boxes and the AS Lance packs, you can field most of what is in all those battles.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #13 on: 17 May 2018, 14:31:55 »
Since this conversation seemed like it was gaining momentum, we decided to split it off as its own topic.

Proceed, friends.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #14 on: 17 May 2018, 14:33:12 »
Thanks AB.
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Re: Battletech Gateway Products
« Reply #15 on: 17 May 2018, 14:39:36 »
He puts the action in ActionButler!
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Re: New Smoke Jaguar fiction coming
« Reply #16 on: 17 May 2018, 15:45:38 »
Wow. As in the Fidelis, I assume? This sounds good if so.

I recall some time back Ben Rome had mentioned somewhere that they weren't long for this (fictional) world, but I dunno if the storyline would have changed with his departure. I kind of hope so, as I do like them considerably.
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Re: New Smoke Jaguar fiction coming
« Reply #17 on: 17 May 2018, 20:55:20 »
My take:

I like the late succession wars as a ‘dipping your toe’ in point.  It teaches players the basics like good heat management, initiative etc without having to worry about all the tech and weapons that drastically changes the way mechs fight and maneuver.

It’s also good setting up a segway into the star league tech that starts to become available at the tale end of things.

Do I think a dark age starter would be viable? Sure.  Even this late, you have some fairly ‘basic’ mechs with a smattering of advanced tech to show players what things are like, like the shockwave, spider, etc.

I appreciate that CGL went succession wars, if for no other reason than the mechs in the set look glorious.

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Re: New Smoke Jaguar fiction coming
« Reply #18 on: 17 May 2018, 21:54:14 »
Supportive comment.
« Last Edit: 21 May 2018, 20:12:02 by Dubble_g »
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Re: New Smoke Jaguar fiction coming
« Reply #19 on: 18 May 2018, 07:45:52 »
Blaine Lee Pardoe announced on his blog he was working on a Fidelis based story. 

He did write Surrender Your Dreams, which focused on Fidelis. It was good insight into them, though i have say later books, especially the Jihad source books made little mention of rumored units like the Stone's Shadows aka Fidelis. 
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Re: New Smoke Jaguar fiction coming
« Reply #20 on: 18 May 2018, 12:14:23 »
Wow. As in the Fidelis, I assume? This sounds good if so.

Mwah hah ha ha... (evil laugh mode)

While I am banned by NDA from saying anything, suffice it to say, this is a story that Clan-fans will want to read.  Nice little twists and turns, some fascinating characters, and other stuff. 

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Quote
More seriously, got mixed feelings about using fiction to drive the storyline. I mean, I've really enjoyed some of the books that have come out over the years, but I do wonder if using them to drive the storyline doesn't mean the player is kind of at arm's length to the story--they are playing someone else's story, not making their own. More of an issue for RPG players rather than pure TT/boardgame players I guess.

This is true in (almost) every game universe. Players do not decide what happens, the games owners and writers do. That doesn't stop them from having a different history for their own universe. The canon universe is a framework for you to set your games in. You can choose to use as much or as little of that framework as you'd like.

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Gentle disagreement.
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Re: Upcoming fiction
« Reply #24 on: 26 May 2018, 16:46:46 »
Fiction driving the universe is a good thing (well, to me at least). 

Bear in mind, we don't count the sourcebooks as fiction.  When you write a battle in a sourcebook, it can be flat and somewhat lifeless.  Writing it in a short story or a novel makes it pop - plain and simple.  All this return to the core strategy of BattleTech is to allow the stories to be more of a primary source of product than the sourcebooks.  Looking at game product from a fictional perspective makes for better sourcebooks, in my opinion.  Sourcebooks are important and will never go away, but we went through the majority of the Jihad on sourcebooks alone and that made the Jihad (in my opinion) as exciting as Melba Toast.  Just my take. 

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Re: Upcoming fiction
« Reply #25 on: 26 May 2018, 17:45:47 »
That's why i have this stupid hope that Shadow of Faith would finally be finished with a sequel. Even if it's considered to be the past.
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Re: Upcoming fiction
« Reply #26 on: 26 May 2018, 21:22:46 »
Fiction driving the universe is a good thing (well, to me at least). 
A bold stance for a professional author to take. :P

FWIW the argument is not 'No fiction' vs. 'Some fiction', and has nothing whatever to do with sourcebook publication, but the question is whether the game line should be predicated upon a metanarrative told through the fiction.

The Grey Death Legion is an excellent example of how to do it right, not least because it was the first BT series I ever read although yeah that's probably a big part of it--sorry Blaine: Tell an exciting story set in the universe which provides both flavor/character as well as inspiration for players to tell their own story. The Warrior and Kerensky trilogies are, to me, an example of how to do it wrong: Here's a story that kills off half the characters you've gotten to know, invalidates most the information in the five House books you just bought, and will require you to do extensive gymnastics to fit any future products into your campaign. (Not to mention the fact that so often these novels often fail to deliver any kind of narrative tension--'protagonist faction rolls over all opposition easily' seems more the MO...Warrior series, I'm looking at you)

BT is a wargame, everyone always got to be fighting everyone, so the 'spine' fiction runs into the same problem as, say, comic books--you can't really have any meaningful progression because that would destroy the basic conceit of the universe (big stompy robots go boom), so all you're left with is a kind of game of musical chairs where you smash various factions into each other just to see them fight. Meaningful progression. Killing off characters or slightly altering the number of factions isn't meaningful progression--after 30 years we've still got X factions fighting with giant robots for control of the galaxy.

The setting cannot progress in any meaningful way without ceasing to be BattleTech, so the metanarrative has to be locked in an infinite loop, with diminishing returns each time... Yeah, it's supposed to be big dumb fun action, but that's just it: you can't change any significant details, so you end up repeating the same basic ideas over and over again but at the same time, wiping out all the familiar details that got people into the game in the first place.

So, side stories, interesting character studies, explore the setting, explore the meaning and ramifications of the setting, showcase neat units, inventive battles, yes to all of that. No to driving a story that can't really go anywhere because the whole game system is predicated on it not going anywhere, while simulatenously erasing from canon anything players might get attached to.
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Re: Upcoming fiction
« Reply #27 on: 26 May 2018, 21:49:42 »
(Not to mention the fact that so often these novels often fail to deliver any kind of narrative tension--'protagonist faction rolls over all opposition easily' seems more the MO...Warrior series, I'm looking at you)

If you mean that the Warrior Trilogy would have been a better story if the Confederation had put up more of a fight, then I must object on fundamental literary grounds. Narrative tension derives from survival or condition of select individuals, not survival or condition of the faction.

If you instead mean that the specific local obstacles met by individual characters lack tension, I think that's a consequence of the story's breakneck pacing and expansive scope - and your reason for arguing against these things is no longer clear. You've defined big events as only worth doing if they make everything unrecognizable: why?
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Re: Upcoming fiction
« Reply #28 on: 26 May 2018, 22:37:22 »
Excellent points, thanks skiltao. Hope we can continue this debate in the spirit of friendly disagreement: what is the best, most beneficial role for fiction in the IP?

If you mean that the Warrior Trilogy would have been a better story if the Confederation had put up more of a fight, then I must object on fundamental literary grounds. Narrative tension derives from survival or condition of select individuals, not survival or condition of the faction.

A bit of a tangent to the original post, but a fun one, so let's roll with it.

Well, the two are directly linked, aren't they. I'm having a hard time thinking of any story in which protagonist A is in mortal danger, but it's perfectly clear the side they represent is absolutely crushing the antagonist.

If I may borrow your words, I object on fundamental literary grounds. Personal stakes must be tied to the overarching narrative if there is to be tension. Having one without the other just seems schizophrenic: Luke Skywalker is in danger, but the Imperials are getting slaughtered? Ultron has Thor on the ropes, but the vibranium has been found and defused and all his minions destroyed? There's a tank advancing on Private Ryan, but the US paratroopers are just making mincemeat of the Germans? See, it sucks all the tension out of the moment. 

As for the specifics of the Warrior series, no, I never felt that any of the protagonists was ever in any kind of credible danger. 

Quote
If you instead mean that the specific local obstacles met by individual characters lack tension, I think that's a consequence of the story's breakneck pacing and expansive scope - and your reason for arguing against these things is no longer clear. You've defined big events as only worth doing if they make everything unrecognizable: why?

I agree, this is the tricky part of my point. The basic concept that I'm suggesting is that action/war fiction requires meaningful change/consequences in order to be satisfying. That's fairly basic to the genre... Not sure how to argue further if you disagree on that point. The thing they are doing has to matter, or else why are we reading?* Anyway, stakes/consequences, as you rightly said, can be at either the personal level, or the macro level of the overall story line. I think BT is a bad fit at both levels (FOR SPINE FICTION/METANARRATIVE STORIES):

(1) At the macro level, you can't really change the fundamentals, so you end up doing the same things in slightly different combinations. A fights B. A fights C. C fights B. A and B gang up on C. There are no stakes/consequences because everyone is going to keep doing the same things ad nauseum anyway, regardless of what anyone does or doesn't do.

(2) Because of point (1), at the personal level you can't really have any stakes/consequences, because whatever the characters achieve is going to be wiped out at the next setting reset. People in the metanarrative cannot have meaningful, consequential impact on the story line, because the essential story line itself cannot progress. Because it's a wargame. They cannot even exert meaningful impact on their own stories, because those are going to be swept away in the next Big Event in the universe.

(*Yeah, the failure to achieve change can be the point, as in Das Boot, Matterhorn, etc., if you want a downbeat story. But BT is much more in the pulp, two-fisted action hero genre, it's only when you look at the fiction as a whole body you realize all these heroes have absolutely failed to achieve anything...)

That's why I would much rather the new fiction focus on smaller, more intimate and personal stories than try to drive the story line, because in the former you have much more freedom to deliver a satisfying story.
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Re: Upcoming fiction
« Reply #29 on: 27 May 2018, 09:45:26 »
I like the conversation.  Consider this.  If we had never had any BattleTech fiction, would the game still have the fan base that it does now?  If you did not have the Warrior trilogy, would the 4th Succession War meant as much to you as a reader, relying solely on sourcebooks (The NAIS Atlas's)?  Would you have cared that the Gray Death Legion had recovered the Star League Memory Core?  Would we forever be burying references to Buckeroo Banzai? 

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