Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Battletech Heaps: House Rules Flurry

Whether it's for nostalgia or novelty, Wednesdays are the days that I put up old Battletech house rules I created nigh on 10 years ago. For those of you who aren't familiar with the (in)famous, addictive board game of armored combat, I'll add some context, but know that you should abandon all non-courier fonts, ye who enter here.

Not all house rules require a whole-page write-up. Some are just little gusts of rules that I like for existing weapons.

Bottling Luck
Sometimes, I roll a '12' when I need a '4'. I--like others--feel totally cheated by The Dice Gods when this happens. I mean, what the hell? I could've used that '12' at some other juncture. I wish I could just say, "No thanks, I don't need to be that lucky right now." So why not bottle it?

Once per turn, when you roll a '12,' you may opt to re-roll. If the re-roll hits, you gain an Edge Point. You can spend Edge Points let you re-roll a die.

The once per turn limitation and requirement to hit with the second roll are to keep players from using Pirhanas or other 'mechs with banks of small weapons to farm for Edge Points with them.

Standard Fire Mode for Heavy Lasers
Heavy Lasers are identical to standard lasers with the exception that they have a +1 penalty to hit, they deal twice as much damage, and they do in excess of twice the heat of the original weapon.

Heavy Lasers are great in theory, but their inaccuracy and heat make them a difficult choice to put onto a 'mech. If they had the ability to be fired in standard mode then they'd be much more appealing.

Heavy Lasers may fire in 'Standard Mode,' analogous to an equally-sized standard laser. They do not suffer the +1 to hit penalty and generate heat as per a standard laser of the same size. Their heat and damage profiles are changed as follows:

Full disclosure, I'm not sure I came up with this rule.

Heavy Lasers Crit Bonus
An alternative fix for heavy lasers is a bonus to rolls to determine critical hits. Whenever a weapon hits the internal structure of a 'mech (instead of armor), the damaged 'mech rolls 2d6 to see if the damage effects components in the hit location. It takes a 10 or more to cause a critical hit and a successful one randomly destroys 1 to 3 components in the location.

Whenever a heavy laser hits the internal structure of a 'mech, the resulting determining critical hits roll gets a +2 bonus.

It doesn't help with the fact that heavy lasers are hard to hit with, but it does make hitting with them a little better and the fact that the bonus is not scaled makes small heavy lasers helpful to have.

Again, not sure I made this rule. I've only seen references to it in other equipment.

2/5 Rule
Most of the time, 'mechs have to make a piloting skill roll to remain standing if they take 20+ points of damage in a turn. That's a simple rule, but it also assumes that a 20-ton 'mech can be rattled exactly as easily as a 100-ton 'mech. Eh.

'Mechs make piloting skill rolls for damage if they've taken 2/5 of their tonnage in damage or more, not 20+ damage. A large laser's 8 damage might make a 20-ton Stinger check, but nothing short of a pair of AC/20's is going to pack enough firepower to rattle all hundred tons of an Atlas

Easy Turning (Not mine)
Instead of always spending an MP to turn, if a 'mech has moved in a straight line for two hexes, they can change their facing by one for free.

Electronics Specialty Ability
A pilot with this ability gains a +1 bonus to the radius of effect of their ECM and active probe equipment. When calculating whether an enemy's ECM or active probe would affect the unit piloted by or the LOS of a pilot with this ability, subtract one from that equipment's effective radius. The Electronics Specialty ability does not affect enemy units protected by Stealth or Mimetic armors.

This Has Been Going on for How Many Hours?
As a way to quickly wrap up games that have been going on for a while, all damage is doubled except for headshots.


SkilTao said...

Bottling Luck:

I bet the original version went: "roll an 11 when you need a 4? Next time you roll a 4, take an 11 instead," which is of course too much record-keeping outside of computerized play. Not sure I like the extra roll required by the current version. Maybe every time a weapon rolls a 12, put a tick mark by *that weapon* on your record sheet, and then spend these like Edge points (and sum them up to help determine your final mission XP).

Alternatively, reward the player immediately somehow: if the player rolls higher than needed, spend an Edge point and roll again; if this second roll is higher than the TN AND less than previous roll, target a location of your choice. (OR, don't require Edge expenditure, and just let the shot miss if the second roll fails.)

Heavy Lasers:

I'm beginning to feel like optional firing modes are usurping the "what do I fire?" dynamic away from Heat Management. (Not a knock on your heat-conserving mode here; thinking more about other weapons and special munitions.)

All the equipment & rules which modify critical hit opportunities really cry out for a revised & unified Armor Penetration Mechanic.

Falling Down:

I notice that 3025ish Heavy and Assault 'Mechs can often knock another 'Mech down without help; Mediums usually need help to do it; and most Lights can do nought but help.

Years ago I played a teaching game with all light 'Mechs, no physical attacks, and no PSRs. Nobody could catch anybody and nobody could knock anyone else down; I didn't really notice how essential that was until it was missing. On the other hand, when playing with a more rounded spread of weight classes, it'd be kinda silly for big 'Mechs to knock lights down too easily.

I'm not sure what produces the most interesting gameplay. Maybe make well-armored 'Mechs harder to knock down, speedy 'Mechs quicker to stand up, and tie in gyro specs somehow.

Easy Turning:

I guess this would become a Special Pilot Ability these days.

Game Length:

I think turn limits, time limits, or letting any player call for end-of-game at any time when they think they've achieved a sufficient advantage, would also work. Also: objectives that can be achieved faster than "kill 100% of enemy forces" (not that BattleTech is particularly well-known for having other objectives).

VanVelding said...

I think there a margin of success rule out there somewhere and that's probably more streamlined than bottling luck. I don't think I have a copy of MaxTech anymore (so old!), but I'm pretty sure that's where I saw it.

I never thought about optional firing modes that way, but you're absolutely right. As someone who does find DHS a bit irksome, that is something I'd like to avoid.

Absolutely yes on the unified armor penetration mechanics. Let's face it; you could revise Battletech from the ground up and make a lot of improvements.

If light 'mechs' speeds could be put to good use aside from turn after turn of "miss...miss...miss...and miss," then I'd be happy giving them more disadvantages. Making more scenarios which use their speed well would also help balance drawbacks for them.

But yeah, scenarios help so much stuff and I'm happier newer editions have focused more on that as a core gameplay mechanic.

SkilTao said...

MaxTech had MoF damage reduction for sure; MoS damage bonus might've been newly invented for TacOps.

Heatscale, armor, TMMs, breadth of things to do on the field... lots of things could use a redesign, agreed.

I'll believe scenarios are a core gameplay mechanic when and only when they stop putting "kill 'em all" training objectives in the intro box.

VanVelding said...

Fair enough, but putting scenarios in TW was at least a small step forward for mechkind.

SkilTao said...

TW's scenario chapter is essentially identical to the same chapter in 1998's Master Rules. TW does add "Forced Withdrawal" and "Clan Honor" rules, but I'd call those steps sideways at best.

I thought you were referring to the Chaos Track products, which do seem to be trying to introduce more variety in objective-based play.

VanVelding said...

True enough. I have had relatively occasional use of Max Tech over the years, but none of BMR. Zero. So, I've forgotten everything about it but the conspicuous use of purple on the cover.

The Chaos Track stuff is pretty good, but I am really hoping for more cohesive linked campaign rules in Interstellar Ops. A linked campaign would let you weigh the benefits of winning the mission versus the costs of continuing amidst heavy losses. That would help shorten scenarios.

But yeah, putting some basic campaign rules in an intro box would be a huge step forward.

SkilTao said...