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Author Topic: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?  (Read 1814 times)

Dragonteuthis

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I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« on: 28 November 2022, 02:31:25 »
Hello all!

Summary: Over the past few years I've been slowly becoming more interested in, and learning about, Battletech, and now I want to run an A Time of War campaign. But Sci-Fi RPGs are new to me and combined with the sheer scope of the Battletech universe, I'm not sure where to begin! I want to run this game online for multiple reasons. Specific questions will be at the end of this post.

Detail: I've been GMing D&D campaigns (and rarely, playing in some) since 1999. While I think this gives me a good handle on many important general elements of running an AToW game, I'm getting bogged down in the details, and in switching paradigms. For example, dungeons, traps, and varying combat through different monsters seems to be (mostly) antithetical to a Sci-Fi game. Sure, I could set up a Star League depot (dungeon) with automated defenses (traps) and a combination of robotic defenders and sheltering alien wildlife, but I think that's going to have to be one adventure, and then moving on. Plus, all of my battlemaps are fantasy-based. While in a pinch a stone dungeon could be re-used as a fortress dug into the side of a mountain, or perhaps even a space station, the arcane sigils, lava pools, and glowing summoning circles may break the player's sense of immersion.

So in many ways, I need to re-equip and change my thinking pattern to fit, not only a general Sci-fi theme, but also the very specific nature of the Battletech universe. I'm still working on that, but if anyone has any tips or advice, particularly in finding some good infantry-scale battlemaps, I would be very appreciative.

The other thing I'm really worried about is consistently getting the Battletech lore wrong. I do know that in D&D, the vast majority of players don't seem to even be aware of, say, The Forgotten Realms, let alone care about the accuracy with which I depict it. From what I see here though, the fandom is much more attentive to these details, so (for example) if I have an NPC merchant talking about visiting the Tikonov Free Republic in 3010, or mixing up the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth(something I genuinely struggle with), I'm going to quite rightly feel a fool and possibly even derail the campaign. But I don't know exactly how to get better at this without years of study, and I don't want to wait that long.

I feel like I'm rambling already, so I'm just going to post a series of more specific questions I have.

1) When players go into an A Time of War (or other edition) campaign, what are some of the default expectations in regards to
        A) Battlemaps (i.e., will very crude hand-drawn blobs on Roll20 be acceptable, or blurry over-pixelated stolen maps, or is there a batter source I should be aware of)?
        B) quality/depth of overarching storyline/plot (i.e., do players want a strong campaign storyline, or is the default for A Time of War an open-ended sandbox campaign consisting of a series of episodic contracts)?
        C) Accuracy to the printed lore of Battletech (please note I *want* to stay accurate; I'm just overwhelmed and I know I'm going to mess up a lot)?

2) What kind of scale do people typically want for AToW campaigns? What I currently am brainstorming is a short campaign set on a tiny backwater planet. What I want to run is a short 'Mech-less campaign, where all the players are basically infantry, like a special team trouble-shooting a variety of problems on the planet as an elite arm of the planetary militia, or perhaps a tiny mercenary company. But would anyone even be interested in a campaign without 'Mechs?

3) Is it possible to run a campaign on Roll20? I know they have a character sheet, but maybe there are different preferred programs elsewhere? I realize that running 'Mech-scale combat using Total Warfare rules would probably not do well in roll20, but for an infantry-only start campaign?

4) How welcoming is the Battletech community to new (but non-contradicting) lore? I'm thinking that likely every planet would have its own set of local manufacturers for "basic" items, like linens, holloware, personal computers, vehicles, even firearms and more. Is it expected that I stick to the extant manufacturers, or is making up local factories fine?

5) Finally, it seems to me that combat is extremely lethal and/or debilitating in Battletech. For a "local" campaign like my idea, taken a non-lethal bullet to an arm or leg can still put a character in traction for weeks. Is this usually side-stepped by Dropship/jumpship travel times? Or do players usually make a small cadre of characters and swap them out as needed or desired?

Thank you in advance for any replies.


pokefan548

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #1 on: 28 November 2022, 07:36:11 »
1A) As long as everything is to-scale and it makes sense what's what, it's generally fine. Fancy, nice maps or even maps littered with generic props are nice, but really all that matters is that things are scaled properly.

1B) This will depend entirely on your GMing style, the preferences of your players, and the consensus of the table going into the campaign. Particularly when paired with Campaign Operations and A Time of War Companion, AToW works equally well with a limear narrative plot and as a roll-'em-up and beat-'em-down mercenary sandbox, and just about everything in between.

1C) How much of a stickler people are about lore varies, but you generally can't go wrong with sticking to the era you know the most about. Besides, there's plenty of "blank space" in BT that's yet to be written about, so no matter what there's always some cluster of worlds largely unrelated to the current major plot (for example, it really doesn't matter if you screw up the date of Gray Monday when the players are in a poor Periphery microstate that doesn't have any HPGs anyways).

2) That's also going to depend entirely on the preferences and consensus of the tables. Some campaigns basically just treat AToW as just another TW supplement to be used in tandem with CO; just something to do between 'Mech battles and to further enhance the 'Mech campaign experience in general. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've seen AToW campaigns that had very little combat at all, and were actually all about business and politics, where most of the heavy rolls were made in backroom deals and for setting up PR stunts (...and yes, occasionally some combat when hiring shadier mercs to cause problems for the party's rivals). Likewise, some players demand galaxy-spannings epics, while others are perfectly happy to spend a whole campaign in a single city.

3) Not sure if Roll20 supports AToW out of the box, but otherwise I see no reason it shouldn't work. You can also just keep MegaMek up on the side for if and when it becomes appropriate to move to 'Mech scale.

4) Again, going to vary heavily based in the individual players, but in a community where fabricating your own custom merc, pirate, garrison, or other such outfit is practically a rite of passage, getting a bit creative with it is perfectly fine. Really, in this case, it's necessary , as each campaign in and of itself is "new lore" unless everyone just wants to re-enact one of the novels verbatim (hoping of course that the dice rolls also play along). Players are also a big threat to accuracy in and of themselves, so don't fret too much—if the players decide to smother Sun-Tzu Liao in his crib, unite the Davion-Kurita line to create a new Federated Combine, and turn Devlin Stone to the Manei Domini, then canon-friendly or not your job as GM is, as always, to say "yes, and!"

5) Travel times and redundant characters help a lot in grounded, lethal campaigns. If your players want to play characters who are a bit less mortal and are fine with sacrificing some realism, AToW includes some rules to make combat in general less lethal, and AToWC has further optional rules that make PCs much hardier. Again, player preference.
« Last Edit: 28 November 2022, 08:58:42 by pokefan548 »
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Daryk

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #2 on: 28 November 2022, 20:07:20 »
Wow!  Lots to unpack here...

As always, almost everything depends on your players.  You need to tailor your campaign to them.  It's entirely possible to run an AToW game without maps at all (as pokefan548 points out), so don't sweat that too much.

As for Roll20, all I can say is it worked when I first signed up but stopped after about two months of playing with my D&D group.  I think they did an "upgrade" of some kind.  Again, that depends entirely on your players.

I've done a couple of play by posts here, but the lack of a die roller limits that kind of activity.  BattleTech supports both high and low fantasy.  Personally, I prefer "low" (as I hope is obvious).

As far as lore, non-canon lore is bog standard around here.  That said, there are plenty who are also "canon or nothing".  Again, it depends entirely on your players.

Planet Mercenary's system of ablative meat is pretty cool, and multiple characters per player is a good way to get after that.

Dragonteuthis

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #3 on: 29 November 2022, 04:18:15 »
Thanks both of you for your replies! I figured several of my questions might be "depends on your players" but I needed to hear that because I wasn't sure if the Battletech player field was more monolithic in preferences or not. So that's still really useful information!

I am sorry to hear about your Roll20 experience, Daryk. If you ever want to try to troubleshoot it, I'd be happy to help.

Thanks again both of you! I'm going to start sketching out maps tonight...

Daryk

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #4 on: 29 November 2022, 04:37:17 »
Monolithic is one thing this community is not!  :D

And happy to help!  :thumbsup:

plothos

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #5 on: 06 December 2022, 12:08:50 »
I’m a couple days late, but also a longtime D&D dm trying to get into AToW. I’ve been into CBT since the 90s but never got a chance to play mechwarrior or atow.

I just wanted to add a couple things.

First, thanks to the OP and the responses. I found this helpful as well.
Second, I think the old dnd adage about the import of session 0 applies here as well. Set out the expectations and desires of everybody playing so you’re all on the same page, and I think right off the bat you’re going to feel pretty liberated in your game set up.
Third, you might look into MapTool or even Tabletop Simulator if roll20 isn’t working. I’d be happy to help introduce you to either.
Fourth, if you or anybody want to chat about all this (or add a player!) please let me know!

Daryk

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #6 on: 06 December 2022, 19:18:04 »
I'm still on active duty, so my free time is limited.

Aside from that, I'd be happy to chat via PM!  :thumbsup:

guardiandashi

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #7 on: 02 January 2023, 22:06:50 »
there are lots of ways you could go to get ideas for a battletech (atow) campaign

just off the top of my head:
the aliens movies
the "SWAT" movie(s)
jurassic park movies

as far as campaign (or adventure) there were a number of scenario packs back in the day think of them as modules from D&D

one that is fairly easy to run would be a S7 campaign its a city/fight club isk setting.  technically there are 6 classes of arenas, exoskeleton/battlearmor, light, medium, heavy, assault, open

house campaign, the players are a house unit and do "missions"
Mercenary Campaign  essentially similar to the house campaign but the players are a free lance unit that pick up contracts and try to fulfill them

Col Toda

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #8 on: 05 January 2023, 10:10:15 »
You start with ERA and move on from there . Classic start dates 3031 : 3049 : 3067 : 3130 : 3145.

BiggRigg42

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #9 on: 11 January 2023, 17:04:20 »
As for the lethality, AToW does have lethality reduction rules in both the core book and the AToW: Companion. These rules often give your players more HP or change standard damage to fatigue damage. However, based on my experience, these rules only make combat less lethal if you apply them to the PCs and not the NPCs (which is contrary to the RAW). For example, if you double the HP of both the PCs and NPCs, you haven't reduced lethality; you have only increased play time.

Atlas3060

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #10 on: 12 January 2023, 20:23:24 »
Monolithic is one thing this community is not!  :D

And happy to help!  :thumbsup:
I almost bust a gut laughing at the words "monolithic" and "Battletech community" near each other.

Dragonteuthis just get some folks, roll some dice, and have fun. That's rule 1 in this game.

If you're looking for inspiration on 1st timer adventures, look at the download section of the site especially this https://bg.battletech.com/download/AToW_2012%20Free%20RPG%20Day%20Booklet.pdf

Really a lot of tips and tricks you learn from playing D&D can be used here.
It's all about storytelling, don't worry about canon, your canon extends to as far as your table goes. If you don't believe me, go look at the non canon section of the board where folks make up alternate timelines and such.  ;D



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Trellis Serf

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #11 on: 18 January 2023, 19:54:47 »
I find that the "Touring the Stars" books also give little adventure seeds you can take inspiration from.

Sherwood had some fun ideas.

Daryk

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #12 on: 18 January 2023, 21:05:29 »
They pretty much all have at least one fun idea!  :thumbsup:

Dahmin_Toran

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #13 on: 18 January 2023, 22:37:32 »
I have been thinking about two different campaigns:

1) A Band of Brothers style campaign of a Capellan Infantry Platoon during the Fourth Succession War.

2) A group of LIC/Loki agents infiltrating the Rasalhague Military District to work with anti-Combine guerrillas prior to the Fourth Succession War.

Daryk

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #14 on: 19 January 2023, 04:13:17 »
Those both sound interesting, but I think the latter would be more workable.

Dahmin_Toran

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #15 on: 19 January 2023, 13:50:34 »
Well one is more Espionage, the other more Mil Sci-FI.

Daryk

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #16 on: 19 January 2023, 18:41:10 »
Exactly... the espionage team is less work for the players since they pretty much only have to manage themselves.  You go up to a platoon, they're managing a number of NPCs (which is also work for the GM).

Dahmin_Toran

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #17 on: 19 January 2023, 18:44:30 »
I would detail the Squad the PCs are in, and only important PCs in the Platoon and Company. I would use the Total Warfare and Tactical Addendum rules from ATOW, so no real need to detail most of them.

Daryk

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Re: I want to run AtoW campaign, but where to start?
« Reply #18 on: 19 January 2023, 18:48:14 »
I just posted a platoon vs. platoon scenario you might find interesting...  8)

 

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