HBHK_Cover_largeOne of the more fascinating things about this universe is the massive histories that were crafted for each of the five Great Houses. The wealth of imagination that went into fleshing out these far-flung star empires inspires me even today, despite a lot of the inconsistencies and hiccups prevalent in the older books. Part of the goal of the new Handbook series – and I use ‘new’ in a loose manner here – was to get much of those discrepancies into order. Often, this happens through reworking viewpoints or events into a more malleable – or convoluted, depending on how you read it – fashion.

Constructing these new Handbooks isn’t just about regurgitating the old material; it’s about giving those venerable words and passages some new depth and scope, making them more rich and varied. The Houses become characters in their own right, a near-living construct that has as much emphasis and power within the greater story than individuals with particular names and faces.

Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed the particular stereotype of the Combine: neo-feudal with Japanese influences and a martial culture. So how do I infuse that concept into the very essence of the realm?

By making sure the history shows how influential it truly was in shaping the nation that would soon become the chief rival of the Davion nation for the title of First Lord of the Star League.

Some excerpts from the history chapter for you to devour:

Several theories exist as to why the Coordinator waved off an assault on the Tamar Pact, though only two may be close to the truth. Rumors of secret envoys from the Tamar Pact visiting New Samarkand in 2329 briefly swirled through the nobility. While an unmarked trade vessel did visit the world at that time, there was no record of any visits to the Coordinator’s residence or the diplomatic halls. Curiously, there was a brief uptick in technological research shortly afterwards. Many historians theorize that the Tamar Pact had exchanged newly acquired (or stolen) Hegemony technology for a limited non-aggression period, carried out under the cover of a standard mercantile visit.

The more favored theory—at least by Combine citizens centuries later—is that Warlord Urizen suffered a personal challenge to his honor by a Rasalhagian noble during one of Shiro’s system tours in the early 2300s. No concrete details exist about any such encounter or of a possible visit during that time frame. The theory holds little evidence, but the thought of Urizen convincing his brother to authorize a war simply to assuage his honor fits the Combine citizen’s more romantic view of the First Coordinator and his family.

Hindsight History: An Armchair View of the Inner Sphere; Geneva University Press, 3002

The Bloody Knot of Von Rohrs
As far as it mattered to the average citizen of the Dragon, the eighty-nine year reign of the Von Rohrs could have been under a single man or a dozen different ones. For most, the period was a bloody blur of misery with no tangible changes from one tyrant to the next. Even court observers on New Samarkand had difficulty determining exactly who was in charge or when one man’s term ended and another began.

This confusion was largely due to Nihongi’s disuse of his first name within a year of his ascension. Throughout the rest of the period, the tyrants went only by their surname. Always fearful of retaliation, Nihongi and his descendants lived out their lives in the strictly guarded seclusion of the New Samarkand palace grounds.

The court chain of command during the Von Rohrs period was confusing and convoluted. Presumably, subordinates would report to their superiors, who would, in turn, report to theirs. After passing through three, four, or even five levels of administration, a message might reach one of a half-dozen persons who actually knew and met regularly with the incumbent leader. Or, in some cases, someone whom they thought was the tyrant.

Such confusion spread in full after Nihongi’s death. Kozo Von Rohrs was never seen in public and his closest aides were the only persons in all of human space who knew what he looked like. For over sixty years, Combine subjects could have met their Coordinator on the surface of any world and no one would have recognized him. Paranoia enshrouded the upper levels of the Combine government.

To historians’ best estimation, Nihongi ruled from 2421 until the mid-2400s. It is not known how many offspring he had: he was known to have a sizeable sexual appetite that ranged across both sexes and beyond. One son, Kozo, is believed to have ruled next, from approximately 2450 until the late 2460s. Kozo apparently had several sons and daughters. According to an exhaustive research study conducted by the Benjamin University College of Ancestry, Yama was next, serving until approximately 2510. Some court accounts indicate a proxy rule by Yama’s sons Ulysses and Nii before his brother Krüger officially took over around 2520. Because there is no hard evidence for any of the Von Rohrs progeny serving on the throne save Nihongi, Kozo, Yama, and Krüger, they are considered the Fifth through Ninth Coordinators in the line of succession. Several of the Von Rohrs spawn—most illegitimate—served in DCMS line units, out of the presence of their hyper-paranoid patriarchs.

Regardless of their order, few Combine citizens today refer to any of the Von Rohrs tyrants as Coordinator, believing they are not worthy of the honorable title and all it implies.

The Bloody Torment; Benjamin University Press, 2940

BattleMechs of the Dragon
BT-HBH-Kurita_#07_ShoulderToShoulder_A.Scroggins_FINAL-PROOFFollowing the raid in 2461 that netted BattleMech plans for the Draconis Combine, House Kurita set out on a crash course of construction. To build this first design, the paranoid Kozo Von Rohrs established a secret division of New Samarkand Metals, watched over obsessively by his newly formed Draconis Elite Strike Teams. It would be up to New Samarkand Armor Works to tackle the task. (When the capital of the Draconis Combine moved, NSAW migrated wholesale, becoming Luthien Armor Works). Due to the restrictions of personnel and resources from such secrecy, the GLD-1R Gladiator would not reach full production until 2468.

Following the disastrous assault on the world of Nox—the first large-scale ’Mech vs. ’Mech battle—in 2475 against House Steiner, additional resources were poured into the nascent ’Mech program. Advances in new technologies meant an end to the “primitive era” of ’Mech production.

With the Gladiator forever dishonored by the Nox affair, the Combine moved on to produce its first “modern era” BattleMech in 2487. The Von Rohrs family immediately created and funded a new BattleMech construction company, Kankoku Military Fabrication Corporation. The sole purpose of the company was to take the lessons learned by NSAW and the battlefield failures of the Gladiator and produce a BattleMech that would not only be superior to the Combine’s enemies but also a standing reminder of the head of the Dragon. In 2487, the Combine’s first “modern” BattleMech, the Von Rohrs, walked off the Kankoku assembly line. It was immediately put to use.

The Von Rohrs served in every Kurita line regiment that reclaimed worlds lost to the Steiners during the 2463 Lyran invasion. The ’Mech was on its way to becoming the standard Combine BattleMech unit when the success of the McAllister Rebellion wiped out the Von Rohrs line. One of Martin McAllister’s first formal orders after taking command of the Combine was to issue the DCMS an order to change immediately the name of all Von Rohrs ’Mechs to Hebi (serpent). None of the Hebi were to be replaced if destroyed, and Kankoku MFC was immediately closed down and dissolved.

Fortunately for the Combine, the years after McAllister’s Rebellion were peaceful, allowing the Combine to dismantle and replace the symbols of the former dynasty. Nearly seventy years later, the Combine’s leadership blamed this sudden spike in manufacturing and military purchasing (and, by extension, the Von Rohrs Coordinators) for the House’s poor economic position when the Star League was formed. Few foreign economists agreed, instead pointing toward much more recent economic mismanagement of the Combine’s economy.

Early Battle Technology: Draconis Combine; Sun Zhang Publications, 3067

Ben H. Rome
Assistant Line Developer