Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Mecha Review in Battletech Compendium - 10 Ton Mechs

Stuff you don't fight with a 10 ton mech.
10 and 15-ton mechs don't work for Battletech. Mechs of these sizes are punished by the math. Every cockpit is 3 tons. Every mech requires a gyro that weighs a ton per 100 units of rating. Tack on the internal structure of 10% of your maximum loaded weight. 

A hidden penalty is hiding in the construction rules of The Battletech Compendium. It's the units of 1 ton or 1/2 ton per part added. Some of the math results in values much lower than a half-ton, but rounding dictates either full ton or half-ton depending on the reading. 

Personally, I modify that rule to be 1/4 ton because .75 and .25 are just as easy to add as 1 and 1/2. It's not a "grab" to do this, it is just convenient to pair .75 tons of gyro to a 1/2 ton machine gun and 1/4 of ammo. It's not battle-effective, but it makes a lot of mechanical sense from a manufacturing point of view. 

One way to analyze mechs is to build them backward. A 10-ton mech needs a 3-ton cockpit, 1 ton of Internal Structure, an engine, and a gyro. The engine and gyro weights are linked. On the table below, everything in parentheses uses my 1/4 ton rule. 

Mech Tonnage Cockpit Internal Structure Engine Rating Gryo Size Rating/100 Engine Tonnage Remaining Tonnage
10 3 1 100 1 3 2.0
10 3 1 90 1 3 2.0
10 3 1 80 1 2.5 2.5
10 3 1 70 1 (0.75) 2 3.0 (3.25)
10 3 1 60 1 (0.75) 1.5 3.5 (3.75)
10 3 1 50 1 (0.50) 1.5 3.5 (4.0)
10 3 1 40 1 (0.50) 1 4.0 (4.5)
10 3 1 30 1 (0.50) 1 4.0 (4.5)
10 3 1 20 1 (0.25) 0.5 4.5 (5.25)
10 3 1 10 1 (0.25) 0.5 4.5 (5.25)

As you can see, the 1/4 ton rule modification doesn't do much at all except for the extreme last two cases. It does make a difference in larger mechs. 

Just looking at that chart I built, there is hardly any room for weapons, ammo, and armor. If you slap 2 tons of armor on the mech with an engine rating of 100, you have a crazy fast mech that can only engage in melee. That won't last long at all but there is a case for an unarmed scout. 

At the other end of the spectrum, you could have a mech with a move of 1 or 2 toting good armor and small weapons but they will never get into range of a bigger mech. 

In order to understand a 10-ton mech, you need to consider what every mech can do. They move. They have a reactor for power and heat sinks. Mechs tower over the terrain and protect the occupants. These advantages aren't enough for combat, but they may take a role in combat support. 

Every 10-ton mech can lift loads and move things fairly rapidly with a footprint smaller than a vehicle of equal size. They can provide power and sensors at a base. These are your jeeps, your radars, and your delivery vehicles. In terms of Battletech, these are more targets of opportunity or a terrain piece to dodge around. Sort of like shooting up the parking garage. 

Where they do make sense is in the RPG Mechwarrior. The characters need appropriately themed transportation. A 10-ton mech with an engine rating of 100 is a sprinting Maserati while one with a rating of 10 is a robot-themed bulldozer. 

They have their place but they don't have to be combat effective. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Trip Hop By The Light of the Silver Cords

I have some idea of what I'll be doing in 2022. It all starts with a theme and some tunes. This is a playlist for my next campaign, "Trip Hop By The Light of the Silver Cords". 

  1. Nuits Sonores - Floating Points
  2. Wandering Star - Portishead
  3. Feel Life - POLIÇA
  4. Trip & Glide - Love And Rockets
  5. 6 Underground - Sneaker Pimps
  6. Rocking Horse (Acoustic Version) - Kelli Ali
  7. The Gaudy Side of Town - Gayngs
  8. Zero 7 - Destiny ft Sia and Sophie Barker (2002) - Sia Argentina
  9. Back To Front (Circular Logic) - DJ Shadow
  10. Diet Mountain Dew - Lana Del Rey
  11. Blue - MARINA
  12. Limerence (Orchestral Mix) - Dmitriy Kuznetsov
  13. Stay The Course - DJ Shadow
  14. Roads - Portishead
  15. Blood Moon - POLIÇA
  16. Sonic Boom - Venus Hum
I haven't even started writing a premise yet, but judging by the soundtrack, "Gonzo" should cover it. Normally, I start with an idea but this time I have a sensation. My players need to grab their guns and gasoline to save the world. This promises to be no holds barred insanity.  

Monday, December 20, 2021

Mecha Monday - 12-20-2021

I think I know what I'll be doing for next year's weekly series: Mecha Monday. I've let a lot of things go this year, but I've also hung on to a lot of things. Somehow I completed my 52 weeks of reviews in 2021 and I am very proud of that. A weekly blog post seems to work best for me and the simpler the better. In fact, this post and the next will tag off of that. 

My next review will be of the Battletech: Beginner Box. 

I was hoping to do something like #monsterousmonday, #mechmonday, or #miniaturemonday but some of my skills have slacked off in the past year. For example, I let my drawing skills slack off which also impacted my painting ability. Basically, they are the same skill with two different types of media. 

rough... really rough
To get back on track, I'll be doing #mecha2022 because it involves fun games and ties into my art skills. 

Mecha are amazing because there are so many different kinds. And they lend themselves to the exploration of ideas and concepts. They can be rude like the image to the right or more polished like the image below. Both are the same Mecha, an Invid from Robotech. 

Of course, Robotech mecha aren't the only kinds out there. A more realistic rendition of giant killer robots are the Battlemechs from Battletech. My personal favorite mech is the Locust. 

It's like a Jeep on steroids and legs. What isn't there to like? 

Anyway, 2022 is coming and I am ready to go. I hope you follow along with me. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Game Review - Battletech Compendium (1990)

Title: The Battletech Compendium
Rule Set: Battletech
Year: 1990
Editor: Donna Ippolito
Publisher: FASA
Pages: 144 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars 

Battletech started in 1984 as a boardgame called Battledroids. Over the years, Battletech expanded the universe with a series of boxed sets like Aerotech and Citytech. Each one came with a set of rules, folding Mechs, bases, and two large maps. By 1990, Battletech was ready for a revamp, with all the rules in one place and streamlined. This took the form of The Battletech Compenium. 

And boy is this book concise and detailed. Within these 144 pages, you get Mechs, Aerotech fighters, infantry, dropship, tanks, heliocopters, and even subs all with integrated rules and easy to understand construction and pricing methods. 

The game is a great "I go, you go" game. Pick you mech or mechs, set the map, roll initiative and go crazy! 

One of the great things about Battletech is the heat system. Heat is the limiting factor on what you can do in a give round or game. Sure, getting a limb blown off slows you down, but if your reactor overheats, you're done. Like "went nuclear and got a fork stuck in you" done. You can actually explode from your own actions. 

Oddly, unlike other games where bad rolls can turn deadly, you have control over what harm you could inflict on yourself with heat. Every data sheet has a schedule of what occurs at each heat level. If you find the risk too high, slow down and cool it down. With great management, heat is never an issue. It's really a great game which lends itself to either one-on-one matches or full scale battles. 

For small scale fights, the rules are quick. Larger battles can bog down, but with some familiarity of the rules, they are still manageable. Even better, large battles work best off the hex map, so this set includes full color rules for tabletop battles with terrian. There is a massive selection of 1/287 scale figures for use with this set and to be honest, having the mechs is more fun than playing. 

Models for black and white pictures don't need to be painted.

This particular book requires more information than what is included. You will need Mech Data Sheets, a map or table, ruler, dice, and figures or tokens. There are plenty of resources online or use can use the ruleset to make up your own vehicles and mechs. The creation rules are extensive but intuitive. 

I got my copy on Abebooks. You can try this link for the The Battletech Compendium to search by ISBN on their site.  

You can also check out Classic Battletech on DriverthuRPG? While they don't have this exact title, they have tons and tons to choose from in the Battletech Universe. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Software Review - Pool of Radiance (1988)

Title: Pool of Radiance
Rule Set: AD&D
Designers: Jim Ward, David Cook, Steve Winter, and Mike Breault
Year: 1989
Publisher: SSI
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars 

Pool of Radiance by SSI was the first AD&D released on computer. SSI brought to Macintoshh in 1989. It was a great and faithful rendition of AD&D as it was at the time and used the Forgotten Realms setting. 

Game play involves running a custom built party of 6 PCs. Your goal is to drive off the monsters inhabiting the ruins around the city of Phlan. It will take some hacking, slashing and puzzle solving to complete. One of the features of the overworld is open game play, meaning you aren't on the clock and can goof around for a good long time before actually tackling the problems at hand. 

To complete the game, you need to complete a couple of quests. On the way you'll knock out a few (ok, a lot) of creatures in combat. 

One of the oddities of this game is the mix of color and black and white graphics. The black and white graphics are great while most of color graphics are ugly. The layout is your standard 80s RPG layout: Picture in the upper left, info on the right and text/controls at the bottom. 

Clicking a character pulls up their character sheet. Characters are created on the fly as the user selects options. One word of caution, the rules are exactly as they are in AD&D with level limits for demi-humans in full effect. Having said that, this software is a great way to quickly create characters for AD&D. 

The combat window, a place you will be a lot is pushed perspective. Your party is arrayed in the order you selected previously. 

What order? You didn't pick an order? Me, too. You can have multiple saves, so you can go back and fix this if you saved. 

Melee attacks are initiated by selecting MOVE and moving into an enemy. Missile attacks have their own AIM button. One important thing to never... NEVER! do is allow the computer to automatically control your characters. The AI is not bright. And the screaming 25 mHz processor is about 9 million times faster than you can hit "stop" with the mouse. It's not fun. 

The other thing that should be avoided is moving away from melee. Every creature in contact with you gets a free attack. It is an efficient way to die. 

The system is so faithful to AD&D, there should be some sort of warning on things that can happen. AD&D doesn't have clear healing rules, so in Pools, the only way to heal is camp and burn healing spells. If you want more spells, you have to spend hours studying. Characters are generated by the computer but actually use the ruleset for allowable scores. 

One thing to keep in mind is encumbrance. It controls how many moves you get in combat. If you are loaded with coins, you will have problems. 

Another thing to keep in mind is death can be permanent. Once a character goes down, you can bandage them before they reach -10 HP. This allows you to get them back with only healing spells.

The instruction manual is in three ingenious documents, a manual which explains the rules of AD&D, a journal to be read and a translation wheel which is the copy protection. The wheel is used to start the game, you compare two symbols to translate them to English. This "code" is entered to activate the game at every start up. As annoying as this is, I've brought the wheel to my game table to create puzzles for the players to solve. 

After 33 years, the game shows it age but is an excellent reminder for what AD&D and Forgotten Realms is like. I give it 4 of 5 stars. 

Postscipt: The game does have a couple of cheats. Why else would you read a review of a 33 year old game? 

First, you can mug players for cash and prizes. The most basic iteration of this is to create 7 characters, one you keep and 6 you delete. Load the party and transfer off everything you want from the sacrificial characters, save then delete them. This covers money and items, so it is two cheats in one. 

The second cheat is a classic duplication of items, say a +5 vorpal sword. This one takes a little effort. Once you have a desirable item, save and quit the game. Duplucate the entire party folder. Twice! Name one folder "Delete" the second "Back Up". Move them elsewhere on your hard drive. DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE PARTY FOLDER! 

You will be working with the Delete folder and the regular party folder. Launch the game and move the desired item from one player to another. Save and quit. Now move that player from the "Delete" folder and overwrite the character file in the party folder. Relauch the game and two characters will have that item. You can repeat this over and over again. 

A third cheat is a variation on the first two. You actually have slots for up to 8 characters, the two extra are for NPCs. It's pretty rare to have one NPC and extremely rare to have two. You cannot simply move an item from an NPC to a PC. But if the NPC dies, you can take their stuff. In order to do this cheat, you have to ensure the NPC dies but also ensure that you have a save where they are still alive.

Once you have the NPC in the party, save the game twice under two different slots, A and B. Quit and reload slot B. Get the NPC killed in combat. You can attack them yourself in case you are having trouble killing them. They can run off, so make sure you attack with everything you have at the start of the round. Take their stuff at the end of combat and save as B. Now go back to the duplication trick and copy the item a couple of times. Reload the game under save A. The NPC will be back in your party alive while a PC has the duplicated item. 

The next cheat is the J training cheat. When you are in the training hall, if you press J, the selected character gains a level. And ages. You can serious destroy your fun with this cheat. This cheat is always active in the Mac version of the game. To use it under DOS, you need to launch the game as "start STING" or "st STING"

One final cheat monkeys around with the death mechanics. If you have a character die in combat, meaning they dropped to -10 HP or below, you normally need a resurection or raise dead spell after combat. This can permanently kill your character. In the case of Elves, neither spell works. 

To get around this, let the character die in combat, but don't leave the combat window. Target the dead character with a spell that does less than 10 points of damage and hit them. A dead character is treated by the system to have 0 HP and the damage you do restarts the death process so you can bandage them before quitting combat. This only works with spells like cause light wounds or burning hands, and never works with swords or arrows. 

I hope you enjoyed this review. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Software Review - Townscaper

Title: Townscaper 
Year: 2020
Developer: Oskar Stålberg
Publisher: Raw Fury
Platforms: Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Macintosh operating systems and Steam.
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars

Townscaper isn't much of a game to be honest. You can design a town on an oceanscape. You can manipulate the colors of buildings, camera angles, and lighting. That is pretty much all there is to it. It's more of a toy than a game at this point which is important as the author still seems to be in the process of development. 

It is relaxing. 

Townscaper features an audio track of wind and waves. It also has a simple yet pleasing color pallet which is key to creating coherent images. Sound provides feedback for the changes you make.  

There are only three actions the user can take: place a structure, remove a structure or rotate the image. Technically, there are a few other actions having to do with light levels and sun angle, but those are tweaks to the main process of design.

Given that you can only add or remove structures, the process is very complex and creatively implemented. Shorelines rebuild themselves as you work. So do the actual buildings. The action is enhanced by "the grid", an invisible guide for dropping pieces onto the scene. The grid is not orthogonal, it is irregular. But an irregular plan that adds to the organic feel of your town. 

As you play, you'll notice some of these additions cause dynamic reactions. Drop a building next to another and birds appear on the rooftops. Drop the third building and the birds fly away. After a while, they come back. Towels and laundry lines appear from the windows.

Simple structures become more complex as you add and remove height with the addition of stairs and pylon supports. It's easy to create cute plazas and bridges, which are detailed with moving water, shadows, and even tiny sandy shores. By ringing a plaza with buildings, a green space forms complete with trees and bushes. 

None of these "dynamic features" are documented. They are there for you to discover. And that is the charm of this game. Townscaper is strangely addictive. 

By zooming in and out, you can add drama to the Townscape scene. It has a screenshot and save feature for your town so you explore more without losing what has been done. Intriguingly, there is a special update to output your town as a .obj for 3d printing, which seems to work well as demonstrated by other reviewers. 

The game retails for $5.99. I kind of feel bad for the low rating but this software is only as exciting as blank canvas. If you're the kind that loves a blank canvas, 2 of 5 stars is more than enough, while if you hate that sort of thing, it won't be enough. 

The Lost Room - Mini Series Review

Ah... 2006's The Lost Room, a Sci-Fi Channel 6 hour mini-series starring Peter Krause. Worldbuilding and magic objects make this show go. "It opens every door," and then some. 

Krause stars as a divorced dad and Pittsburg police detective, Joe Miller. This is exactly the point where most but not all of the police procedural ends and the crazy begins. The series opens with a series of murders at a pawnshop with the number one suspect missing. Finding this guy is the key to The Lost Room. Joe finds his man dying from unknown causes and with his last breath, he places a key in Joe's hand. 

From there, Joe's world spins out of control. You can try the trailer to try to get a sense of what's happening, but it doesn't quite cover it. 

Joe finds every door opens with the key, yet returning to the door he entered doesn't work as it should. He hops from a sun-drenched hotel room off of Route 66... circa 1960 to many different points around the world. Through trial and error, he makes his way home. Joe's daughter , Anna disappears into the room sending Joe on an insane quest to learn the secrets of the room to bring his child back. And to clear his name of Anna's murder. 

While it sounds like a bit from Monsters, Inc., the lost room is even odder than a one-eyed Mike Wazowski, Boo, and Sully dropping acid. 

The world Joe and his daughter disappear into is one of creative storytelling with 100 objects cast minor characters to build a story of consistent insanity. Consistent enough to create a warped police procedural. Every item has a purpose, every purpose leads Joe step by step back to the room and his daughter, with every step, bringing a crazed 60s hip mythology to life through magical items. Items that call to people, items that are collected and killed for, the Objects of desire with a horrible price. 

I wish I could say this mini-series was amazing, but it's really middle of the road. Peter Krauss and Ellie Fanning deliver, the story as wonky and compelling, but somehow the story never really progressed to satisfaction. It could be that Sci-Fi Channels' treatment of the story as a backdoor series pilot is to blame. Or maybe the internal consistency was not meant or able to progress to a regular serialized TV show. I'm not sure. 

It was well written, nicely filmed with interesting locations, and still didn't quite rise to what it could have been. In rewatching in 2021, it is still as intriguing and crazy as it was in 2006. A modern-era Twilight Zone that didn't get the same traction as that other, more sustaining TV show. It has many of the same weird vibes as the X-Files without being locked at the turn of the century. 

I give it a strong 3 of 5 stars. 

You can pick up a DVD with the original 3 episodes parcelled out as 6 one hour episodes plus an 18-minute featurette called "Inside the Lost Room". On the DVD, the episodes have the following titles: 

  1. The Key,
  2. The Clock,
  3. The Comb,
  4. The Box,
  5. The Eye,
  6. The Occupant.