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Author Topic: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech  (Read 673 times)

rogueranger1993

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Been a LONG time since I've treaded through the forums (or any of the lore updates, for that matter), but I'm starting to consider running a BattleTech RPG again, and I've already got a couple players who would be interested in trying it. However, it's been several years since I last ran the game using AToW, and my players are brand-new to the entirety of the BattleTech universe and it's associated lore, so I was hoping to get some advice from those with more experience. So, here's a few questions I'd like to ask;

NUMBER 1: What era should I use for my (and their) first game? My original thought was a late 3SW game that ran into the Clan Invasion time period, but I'm also wondering about the possibility of running a Dark Ages game. In the latter case, I would probably start them on a backwater world in the Rimward Periphery using intro-tech units, and kind of 'level-up' from there. Any thoughts or advice on what to do?

NUMBER 2: What systems should I use (for RPG & tabletop)? I have considered the merits of both MW:D and AToW, and I like both systems, but which one would you guys recommend for a newbie group? I do also want to incorporate some level of tabletop play for using BattleMechs, tanks, etc., but I want to keep the tabletop portions of the game as simplified/streamlined as possible, so I've considered three options: MegaMek, the MW:D system, or Alpha Strike. I'm leery about MegaMek with these guys, and it's very likely I'll be limited to a single computer, so that's probably a no-go, so which would serve me better - AS or MW:D?

NUMBER 3: How should I manage their unit finances? I can use chaos campaign, but I was also considering the use of MekHQ to manage their unit's finances/repairs/etc., but AS & MW:D don't really jive well with that programs unit tracking methods (though I did consider tweaking the MW:D system to use full armor and weapon damage values so that I could track repairs and such in MekHQ...). Which would you guys recommend - full MegaMekHQ, half MekHQ/half Chaos Campaign, or full Chaos Campaign? Also, if I use MW:D, how should I handle that systems 'XP for repairs' mechanic - pay XP and money/WP, just WP, or just XP?

Thanks in advance for any advice you guys can give me.


1. Incoming fire has the right of way.
2. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
3. Always remember that your weapon was built by the lowest bidder.
                                   - excepts from Murphy's Laws of Combat

guardiandashi

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #1 on: 28 July 2021, 20:54:59 »
my first question would have to be what resources do you have available?

I personally like ATOW/AGoAC (IE classic battletech rules) for resolving battles

when i ran a game my preferred Era especially for starting out is the ~3020-3055 ish eras. this is the end of the "mad Max" era, but in the sense that there are VERY very few units that are really "stock" unless they effectively just came off the showroom floor so to speak.
if you have it I still really like most of the rules especially for parts and upgrade/refit kits from mercenaries handbook 3055.

I prefer to at least play accountant tech in some ways, but I don't go so far as to track each round and every make and model of equipment. a generic ac/ppc/etc. is really good enough, on the other hand you CAN give weapons quirks and benefits if you choose.
for example The "real" magna hellstar ppc's used by the marauder if mounted with a direct plasma feed from the fusion reactor actually have better stats than the generic.  they only weigh 6 tons, take 2 crits, 8 heat, 12 damage and standard range.  the Marauder however does not have enough room in the arms to mount the direct plasma feed needed. instead it has a plasma buffer bottle mounted behind the PPC, the plasma buffer weighs 1 ton and takes 1 crit.  generates 2 heat, and only generates enough plasma fast enough to get the ppc to do 10 point shots.  so in effect it has the same stats as the generic ppc.

it however would be theoretically be possible to get the ppc issues resolved and remove the buffer, and or tweek it to work more like a ppc capacitor.

Mendrugo

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #2 on: 29 July 2021, 00:16:05 »
NUMBER 1: What era should I use for my (and their) first game? My original thought was a late 3SW game that ran into the Clan Invasion time period, but I'm also wondering about the possibility of running a Dark Ages game. In the latter case, I would probably start them on a backwater world in the Rimward Periphery using intro-tech units, and kind of 'level-up' from there. Any thoughts or advice on what to do?

If you want to start small and let them grow, each era has some advantages:

1) 3rd Succession War has lots of small-unit border raids going on constantly - plenty of work in the Inner Sphere.  Out in the Periphery, kinda quiet except for bandit hunting.  (Taurians watching the Davion border nervously, Canopians steering clear of the FWL and fending off occasional Marian pirate raids, Outworlders fighting pirates and maintaining neutrality between the FS and DC.)  Big things on the horizon as the 4th Succession War approaches.  The House Arano Sourcebook would be good fodder for Rimward action in this era.

2) Clan Invasion - Not a great time to start out as a small, green intro-tech merc unit.  Those guys died by the bushel in the face of the Clans.  There are opportunities to start as a small raiding group post-Tukayyid, launching Objective Raids into the OZ with the hope of scoring some ClanTech gear.  You just have to keep the OpFor balanced to be within their capabilities, or it's easy to get a TPK.

3) FedCom Civil War - Good opportunities for small merc groups all over the Chaos March, or supporting one of the factions (or subfactions) in the FedCom Civil War. 

4) Jihad - Everyone is fighting everyone else, and the Blakists are attacking them all.  Everyone needs more firepower, so there are employment opportunities for mercs throughout the Inner Sphere, not just in the border regions.  Just watch out for nukes and planetary plagues.

5) Dark Age - Lots of fighting early on in the Republic zone.  Plenty of call for mercs - though getting your hands on real equipment is hard in the early years.  It lets your merc unit start small and weak but be fighting against other factionettes and bandit gangs armed with similarly junky WorkMechs and upgunned dump trucks.  By the time the big boys start moving in with real gear, your unit can be experienced and relatively well equipped, so the setting "levels" with the players.

NUMBER 2: What systems should I use (for RPG & tabletop)? I have considered the merits of both MW:D and AToW, and I like both systems, but which one would you guys recommend for a newbie group? I do also want to incorporate some level of tabletop play for using BattleMechs, tanks, etc., but I want to keep the tabletop portions of the game as simplified/streamlined as possible, so I've considered three options: MegaMek, the MW:D system, or Alpha Strike. I'm leery about MegaMek with these guys, and it's very likely I'll be limited to a single computer, so that's probably a no-go, so which would serve me better - AS or MW:D?

I'd recommend Alpha Strike, as there's more rules support (including for AeroSpace, courtesy of the two books of free unit cards that just got uploaded to the store).

NUMBER 3: How should I manage their unit finances? I can use chaos campaign, but I was also considering the use of MekHQ to manage their unit's finances/repairs/etc., but AS & MW:D don't really jive well with that programs unit tracking methods (though I did consider tweaking the MW:D system to use full armor and weapon damage values so that I could track repairs and such in MekHQ...). Which would you guys recommend - full MegaMekHQ, half MekHQ/half Chaos Campaign, or full Chaos Campaign? Also, if I use MW:D, how should I handle that systems 'XP for repairs' mechanic - pay XP and money/WP, just WP, or just XP?

The Chaos Campaign systems works well enough, though I found (on a Total Chaos runthrough) that it seemed unreasonably easy to get the pilots to Elite status after just a few battles, compared to the traditional leveling system that used to require dozens of successful missions to raise gunnery from 4 to 0. 
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

idea weenie

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #3 on: 29 July 2021, 07:45:32 »
My stunt was to put the players on a House world on the Periphery, and say they have a Garrison contract to defend the world vs pirates.  Give them some damaged Mechs with partially full ammo bins, and a copy of the rules for physical combat (including the rules for uprooting trees to serve as a one-time club).

The first couple of pirate raids would be badly damaged Mechs and lots of trucks/infantry, so the players get a chance to have some fun doing target practice.  If they manage to take down an enemy Mech, use the Accountant in the group to figure out how many armor and internal structure points are remaining, halve them, and use those numbers to repair the player Mechs.  Some of the weapons might also be good, so the players might be able to strap more guns to their Mechs.  Give them the idea that it is a Mad Max style universe where precision shooting to cripple an enemy Mech is a good idea, as a destroyed Mech is scrap while damaged Mech is a good source of supplies.  If one of their Mechs gets damaged enough, it too can be stripped.

Every few months have a House Dropship stop by, and its machine shops are of a higher quality meaning you can get 1:1 for armor and internal structure from damaged Mechs.  But if the players try to save up salvage in anticipation of the Dropship's arrival, have pirates show up to try and grab the salvage.

You can even have a bit of RPG where the characters try to hobnob at the parties, so you can show that their status as Mechwarriors puts them at the same level as the local nobles.  If one of the characters is temporarily Dispossessed, that character is turned away from the party (and if they sneak in they will likely be caught and ejected).  Having them come in as a servant would allow for access to more gossip, though if recognized this would cause the character to be seen as a servant and snubbed for that fact after their Mech is replaced.  Still, having access to the local garrison means the local guard can be used to keep track of pirates during the next raid, allowing the players to ambush them (the pirates are shown at all times, while the players are allowed to hide).

You could also have a local LRM factory that produces ordnance for the local LRM carriers, and good relations at the party mean they can divert a couple tons every month to the player forces.  Show a rough picture of a factory where the facility used to produce the Archer Battlemech at 3 Mechs per month, but now all that is left is the LRM factory.  The 'before' picture would be a rough diagram of how the parts were put together to assemble the Archers, and the 'after' picture has a bunch of craters everywhere except for the LRM facility.

If you don't do the hobnobbing, you could have the local infantry guarding the Mech base, and the infantry selected for that role are better than average, and also take a lot of pride.  Include comments about "yes it is guard duty, but we're guarding Mechs" to show how Mechs are viewed.

If they do an amazing job vs the pirates, have the House Dropship stop by with additional spares, or even a heavy weapon or two (AC/20 would be a good one, as it uses a lot of ammo).

If they manage to get enough money, they might even be able to order additional combat vehicles, but there might be hiccups in the supply chain.

Lots of fun ideas

Daryk

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #4 on: 29 July 2021, 17:02:12 »
If you go with AToW, I'm totally willing to help create characters (with my spreadsheet, of course)!  :thumbsup:

rogueranger1993

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #5 on: 30 July 2021, 16:25:38 »
Quote
my first question would have to be what resources do you have available?
Guardian, I have many many of the old books (mostly in PDF format), though some of the newest books I don't have. So, when referencing material from before approx. 2010-2012, it may be a question of what I don't have - hell, I even have a pdf copy of the old Wolf and Spider comic book, for heaven's sake! Of the newer books, I have the Dark Age era reports/digests, field report, and TROs. I also have all of the Jihad stuff (I think), and the House Arano sourcebook. As for the RPG, I have all of the MechWarrior books, AToW+AToW:C, and MW:D. I am considering the purchase of Shattered Fortress if/when I run a Dark Ages game.

Mendrugo, thanks for giving me your ideas, and special thanks for explaining their merits to help keep me better informed, it helps me a lot more than you might think. I too like have a bit of preference for the Alpha Strike system, mainly due to it's simplicity, but also because it's fast to run (so more time for RPG shenanigans), can be run with or without a hex map, and can be scaled up to include more of the different specials as my players become more comfortable with the system. My only real gripe with AS is that MekHQ can't track unit damage and repairs without needing me (as the GM) to run the AS-to-TW damage conversion process for each unit manually, since I am unaware of any calculators/programs that can run the process for me automatically. As for Chaos Campaign, I do like that thought, and I can probably finangle MekHQ to handle it to a cretain extent, using manual finance entries and money tweaks.

IdeaWeenie, thak you for the scenario idea. I may very well use it, if not at the campaign beginning than at least at some point during our time playing the game. Also, love the idea for a supply hiccup when ordering some combat vehicles!

Quote
If you go with AToW, I'm totally willing to help create characters (with my spreadsheet, of course)!
I may just take you up on that, though I am also strongly considering giving the players a set of attribute, trait, and skill levels, and then letting them assign them to specifics as they wish. If I do that, I'll probably crib the life path system from Destiny to let them flesh out their backstories a bit more.

Overall, I'm tempted to start them in the late SW and go through the 3050s for their first campaign, since it would hopefully introduce them to BattleTech's classic elements, concepts, and the original time period in an organic fashion. If I play further games with them, I can then consider using their character's descendants to run games in later eras like the Jihad or Dark Ages, giving them a nostalgic tie-in to their original characters and what they did while moving forward with new characters and plots.

Thanks for all of your help so far, guys! :thumbsup:


1. Incoming fire has the right of way.
2. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
3. Always remember that your weapon was built by the lowest bidder.
                                   - excepts from Murphy's Laws of Combat

Daryk

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #6 on: 30 July 2021, 18:13:54 »
Just let me know!  In my opinion, the life module system of AToW does the best job of creating organic characters (those that "fit" in the universe most easily).  :thumbsup:

victor_shaw

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #7 on: 02 August 2021, 18:12:21 »
Been a LONG time since I've treaded through the forums (or any of the lore updates, for that matter), but I'm starting to consider running a BattleTech RPG again, and I've already got a couple players who would be interested in trying it. However, it's been several years since I last ran the game using AToW, and my players are brand-new to the entirety of the BattleTech universe and it's associated lore, so I was hoping to get some advice from those with more experience. So, here's a few questions I'd like to ask;

NUMBER 1: What era should I use for my (and their) first game? My original thought was a late 3SW game that ran into the Clan Invasion time period, but I'm also wondering about the possibility of running a Dark Ages game. In the latter case, I would probably start them on a backwater world in the Rimward Periphery using intro-tech units, and kind of 'level-up' from there. Any thoughts or advice on what to do?

I would run it sometime between 3025-3039.
This is the time and setting that made the BTU what it is and is a prefect setting for new players for three reasons.
1. As stated above it is the setting that set the standard for what is Battletech.
2. It keeps you away from the overblown rules of all the new armors and weapons that have bogged down the setting over the years.
3. It is closes enough or far enough away from the Clan Wars depending on your taste.

NUMBER 2: What systems should I use (for RPG & tabletop)? I have considered the merits of both MW:D and AToW, and I like both systems, but which one would you guys recommend for a newbie group? I do also want to incorporate some level of tabletop play for using BattleMechs, tanks, etc., but I want to keep the tabletop portions of the game as simplified/streamlined as possible, so I've considered three options: MegaMek, the MW:D system, or Alpha Strike. I'm leery about MegaMek with these guys, and it's very likely I'll be limited to a single computer, so that's probably a no-go, so which would serve me better - AS or MW:D?

Wouldn't touch MW:D with a ten foot pole, but AToW is workable. Personally I prefer MW2.
As for the combat system, that is really up to how much time you want to give over to the Mech battles.
If you have time to set it up Alpha Strike with the mech armor diagram from MW:D is a workable solution for quick combat with a more crunch feel. 

NUMBER 3: How should I manage their unit finances? I can use chaos campaign, but I was also considering the use of MekHQ to manage their unit's finances/repairs/etc., but AS & MW:D don't really jive well with that programs unit tracking methods (though I did consider tweaking the MW:D system to use full armor and weapon damage values so that I could track repairs and such in MekHQ...). Which would you guys recommend - full MegaMekHQ, half MekHQ/half Chaos Campaign, or full Chaos Campaign? Also, if I use MW:D, how should I handle that systems 'XP for repairs' mechanic - pay XP and money/WP, just WP, or just XP?

The Field Manual: Mercenary series has some great mechanics for this if you want to give the feeling of the always broke Mercenary command. If you just want some quick number crunching go with Chaos Campaign.

rogueranger1993

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #8 on: 03 August 2021, 15:30:12 »
Quote
Just let me know!  In my opinion, the life module system of AToW does the best job of creating organic characters (those that "fit" in the universe most easily).  :thumbsup:
Thanks for the offer, and I agree with you on the life module system. My only complaint is that the system as-written involves a buttload of math, a decent bit of it ending up as being somewhat superfluous if you use the optimization rules, and it can take forever. Personally, I would reduce the amount of math involved to +1s, 2s, 10s, etc. by compressing the number of points used in the character process, but that might be too much to do before starting a game for me.

Victor, I like your ideas. As much as I like the chaos and freedom present in a Dark Ages setting, I had many of the same thoughts as you have said in regards to starting off new players in the Succession Wars period. As for system, I do prefer a more crunchy system than MW:D provides, though I do like the vehicle-scale combat introduced by Destiny, since it feels like a system that could easily slot itself into the game between the simplicity of AS and the sheer crunch of TW. As for tracking their unit, I've decided to use MegaMek as the tracking program, and with the use of AToW looking most likely, I'll probably also use the rules from FM:M(r) or CO, both of which I have. I may still consider using Chaos Campaign if my players have a hard time with that, though.


1. Incoming fire has the right of way.
2. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
3. Always remember that your weapon was built by the lowest bidder.
                                   - excepts from Murphy's Laws of Combat

Bedwyr

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #9 on: 03 August 2021, 15:35:53 »
The Chaos Campaign systems works well enough, though I found (on a Total Chaos runthrough) that it seemed unreasonably easy to get the pilots to Elite status after just a few battles, compared to the traditional leveling system that used to require dozens of successful missions to raise gunnery from 4 to 0.

What about a house rule that allows situational pilot perks at a more frequent interval vs. raw skill improvement at a much less frequent interval (the way you can improve DnD skills faster than attributes)?
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Daryk

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #10 on: 03 August 2021, 15:56:34 »
Thanks for the offer, and I agree with you on the life module system. My only complaint is that the system as-written involves a buttload of math, a decent bit of it ending up as being somewhat superfluous if you use the optimization rules, and it can take forever.
*snip*
I can throw a character together in a matter of minutes with my spreadsheet.  All I need to know is generally what you want.  That guides how the optimization points are spent.  My usual system is to take a stab at what a player wants, send them a draft pointing out where there is flexibility, and negotiate from there.

rogueranger1993

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #11 on: 03 August 2021, 16:10:05 »
Thanks Daryk, I did download your spreadsheet for my own use, so I can probably do the same once I enter the info for the different life paths. I believe it will most likely be a period of two weeks minimum before I actually hold the first session, and only one of my players has any experience with BattleTech (from a game I ran with her several years ago), but even that is minimal at best. I'll probably use your spreadsheet during the first session to generate their characters, since I have no idea what they'll actually want - they tend to choose some of the most random things at times, I can tell you that from my previous D&D and Star Wars games I ran with them.

Tl;dr - Thank you for the offer, I really appreciate it, but I'll probably do it myself using your amazing spreadsheet.


1. Incoming fire has the right of way.
2. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
3. Always remember that your weapon was built by the lowest bidder.
                                   - excepts from Murphy's Laws of Combat

Daryk

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Re: Looking for some advice: Getting new players into BattleTech
« Reply #12 on: 03 August 2021, 17:02:26 »
No worries, and thanks for downloading it!  Please let me know if you see any errors.  I consider it still a work in progress.

I actually had one player of mine who literally rolled dice to choose his life paths.  To say it was an odd character is an understatement!