Introduction to Fringe War

August 2nd, 2012 • Campaign RulesNo Comments »

Fringe War is an ongoing, multi-generational Battletech campaign, taking place from approximately 2790 to whenever folks want to quit.  Turns are 2 weeks, so there will be 26 turns a year.  Due to being new at GM’ing Battletech, plus having a million sourcebooks to go through, this will be a lance-sized campaign to start, though people can certainly build beyond that.  On the Periphery where the campaign takes place, money is tight, parts are hard to come by, and a brand new mech hasn’t been seen in 200 years (with one exception!).  To start, forces will be of mechs, vehicles, turrets, artillery and infantry.  Aerotech will be introduced as we learn it, though there will be some limited Aerotech assets available for hire (Airstrikes).  Dropships are purchasable, though I’d guess the campaign would go 20-30 years before enough capital is raised to do so (so it might be used by a new generation of pilots, and not the ones starting the unit).  Through the twisted hand of fate, it would probably be easier to capture one.

Players begin the campaign owning a small Mercenary command based out of Lendon Fields, a battleground from the locally called ‘Cross-bone War’.  It is located several miles from a small town (pop 5000), where folks have very mixed feelings about the Mercs.  Some think having them there can only cause trouble, while others pray they might be some help if the pirates return.  The town council generally looks the other way of the Mercs, but no one knows why, as they are very intrusive into the lives of the citizenry.

The planet (TBD) is Agrarian, with very little in the way of ores, fuels or radioactives.  However, there is quite a bit of mining activity in the solar system, including several asteroid mining stations and a much larger population of miners and pirates on the local moon.  There are several major trade cities on the planet, with 2 major starports and some smaller dropship platforms scattered around some larger estates.

The military presence is very light, due to a combination of low population, small tax revenue, and its near total destruction in the conflict with a pirate faction known as The Kin.  Remaining forces are several brigades of infantry, a company of armored vehicles, one light Aerotech wing, and the pride of the planet, a 3/4 lance of Heavy battlemechs.  The command unit of the lance, the Lendon Fields (a Crusader-3R), has been missing and presumed destroyed for nearly 3 years.  No one knows how the mechs came to be in possession of the planetary government.  They aren’t fielded often due to a lack of maintenance personnel and spare armaments, but when they are, they outmatch almost anything in the solar system.

Each turn of Fringe War will have certain elements.  Currently, that looks something like:

1.  Repair and refit.

2.  Pay all fixed costs and personnel.

3.  Acquisition of equipment and personnel (using ‘officers’, which are part of your command).

4.  Contract offers, bids and negotiations.

5.  Deploy to contract location (this could take several turns by itself, depending on the distance, jump routes, etc)

6.  Encamp at contract location (1-2 turns, depending on whether only the lance/techs are moving or whether the whole Lendon Fields contingent is).

7.  Begin operations (for active duties) or deployment checks (for defensive type duties such as garrison/cadre)

By the Book and Not By the Book

Unlike my once upon a time D&D games, most of the campaign will be ‘by the book’, except where the book makes things too complicated.  So the combat will be 100% BTB, while we will be using an only slightly modified version of the Contract Negotiation system found in the Revised Mercenaries Handbook.  Battletech is a huge game, so if something is pointed out to me that I’m doing wrong or doesn’t make sense, we’ll fix it.  Repair and refit rules (quality ratings) will be modified, as the ‘full’ version could take 4 hours per repair cycle.  If we ever find a way to automate something like the ‘full’ repair cycle and determination of unit and item-level quality/maintenance, I’d be glad to implement it.  One reason for a very strict record-keeping system is so I can play the game as well as GM it.  Each player will have just as much visibility into the nuts and bolts of the game as I do.

As part of the joy of a campaign is character-building (though I hope folks don’t get too attached to any individual, as any battle can be their last), characters will be able to improve and earn skills (both combat and campaign oriented) based on experience earned on the battlefield.

Player Responsibilities:

1)  Once players learn the system, the upkeep of their assets will be entirely in their hands.  So while repair/acquisition rolls will be made in GM (or other player) presence, each session the player is responsible for submitting a hard-copy record sheet of their mech and assets (for PnP players) or an Excel file (for assets) and .Mul/.MTF file (for mechs, so I can load them into Megamek).

2)  Each engagement (excluding Intel/Lostech) will be run by the GM and players in turn.  This allows me to enjoy the game as well, but it also balances the field.  Battles will be BV2 based, modified by skills (piloting/gunnery); however, that doesn’t mean battles will always (or even often) be 1:1.  Assaults could be challenging as players go up against 150% of their BV, or easy as they run down convoys of enemy vehicles (50%).  Missions can be overt or covert.  They can take place on desert planets where there could be heat dissipation -3 or ice planets that require additional piloting checks, but heat dissipation is +3.  And so on!  Each player is expected to play the ‘opposition’ to the best of their ability, even when (especially when) fighting their own mechs.  Mechs will be lost, but part of the fun is finding and hiring new ones as well.

3)  There will be no time wasted arguing.  Other than rules specified ahead of time, the books take precedence in any disagreement.  I may modify a rule after the fact, but during play if I haven’t specified ahead of time, we’ll go with what the book says.  For example, the current campaign rule says the current lance’s airstrikes are Target 5 (9 against moving targets), with 3 batteries of LRM 15’s per fighter.  Now, I know that’s not how actual Aerotech works, but for the time being, that’s what we’re going with.  If I hadn’t specified ahead of time, we would figure out how to call in an airstrike by the Aerotech rules, or not do it until a following session.

4)  Check the blog at least twice a week for news and info.

5)  Attempt to get all software I am using to run the game up and running on your own computers.  (MegaMek and MegaMekLab are the two that should be gotten first)

GM Responsibilities:

1)  All rule changes that aren’t exactly by the book will be posted here on the ‘campaign rules’ page, with at least some explanation of why the rule change exists.  And to be honest, that will usually have to do with record-keeping time.  Any player wanting a particular rule to remain in force will have to volunteer to take up any record keeping responsibility associated with the rule.

2)  Contract offers, while allowing some ‘storytelling’ room, will be generated via a consistent set of campaign rules.  The contracts themselves will be generated using the Revised Merc Handbook  system, while the operational forces of the opposition will be generated randomly once a system is in place.  Before the system is in place, I will match a set BV as closely as possible, weighted by the mission type and OpFor rolls.

3)  As long as the players show up consistently and with a good attitude, I will post at least 2-3 times a week on the blog.

4)  Barring real life stuff (work, trips, etc), I will be available at least every other week for IRL/Megamek sessions.  And most likely, once a week if the players are interested in playing that often.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun!  I’ve wanted to do this for going on 25 years, so as long as we’re all having fun, I’ll be adding things to make the actual play experience nicer, such as new models, more maps, and maybe even some 3d terrain we can set up at the warehouse.  Players who are willing to take on any of the upkeep of a huge game like this will free up my time to add other cool stuff rather than handling infinite record-keeping.  This could include making some web pages we could use to generate contracts (the ones I’ve found so far online aren’t very good), random mechs, etc.

Thanks y’all, this post is long enough so I’ll leave it at that!