Torso cockpits that can eject?

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06/29/12 04:55 AM

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This has been on my mind for a while, and I'm wondering if this has bugged the rest of you too.

Mechs come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of equipment and abilities to set them apart from the hundreds of mechs out there. Some are humanoid, and fit the record sheet hit locations perfectly. Others, like the Timber Wolf, Catapult, Rakshasa, Jenner, Uziel, etc. have cockpits front and center where the center torso normally would be hit on a humanoid mech.

Now we all know about the experimental torso mounted cockpit presented in Tac Ops and the Epimetheus technology demonstrator. That system is the extreme version of the concept, where the pilot is immune to damage from head or torso hits from attacks unless the cockpit is destroyed or ammo explodes, and there is no way to eject. The torso mounted cockpit, as it is written, makes sense for such mechs. Then there is the JR10-X Jenner which has a torso mounted cockpit, but looks as if it could eject like all the variants before can. However, it can't due to the rules of the system.

Well, what if the torso mounted cockpit had the same construction rules but was tournament legal, had no piloting skill setbacks, was able to eject, had standard TW rules for life support critical hits and damaging a warrior for heat effects and head hits (except they are torso hits instead and only if the armor is gone with the exception of armor piercing rounds), and was a standard cockpit alternative since the Star League? How would that affect player choices of designs and gameplay? I hope not by much as I want the standard head and the torso cockpit to be equally attractive and vulnerable so they become more like quirks than game-changing elements.

Edited by CYBRN4CR (06/29/12 08:20 AM)
06/29/12 09:30 AM

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Can you offer some features to balance the improved torso cockpit, like extra weight or a vulnerability to engine/gyro crits?
Mike Miller, Materials Engineer

Disclaimer: Anything stated in this post is unofficial and non-canon unless directly quoted from a published book. Random internet musings of a BattleTech writer are not canon.
06/29/12 11:10 PM

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Either might be an option if it really becomes an issue. However, I thought having the cockpit in the CT keeping the crit placement and TW rules the same, even with adding the ability to eject, was already more of a curse than a blessing.

You may have more armor and structure than the standard head, but everyone else has a 41.6-61.1% chance of hitting the CT where your cockpit is, versus a 2.8% chance of hitting a standard head. TW rules p41 say that every hit that strikes the head even if the hit doesn't penetrate the armor damages the pilot. Well if the "head" is in the CT, suddenly rapid fire ballistic weapons, missiles, and Cluster rounds become deadly beyond comprehension. So to counter that a little, the pilot does not start taking damage from CT hits until the internal structure starts taking damage. At that point it's fair game, and the pilot takes 1 point of damage for every hit as normal to the CT. Certain weapons/ammo have different effects when encountering such cockpits. Armor Piercing rounds damage the pilot for every hit to the CT even with armor still intact. Tazers or incendiary weapons hitting an exposed CT (not just the cockpit) have a high chance of killing the pilot by electrocution or roasting them alive.

Since this pilot damage scheme would be in effect, any Life Support crits can simply do the standard TW effects of doing 1 point of damage to the pilot for heat beyond 15 as the current rules for the experimental torso mounted cockpit would be overkill in this scenario, even with closer proximity to the engine. Such rules were meant to balance the fact that the existing experimental version is completely immune to pilot damage from weapon or physical attacks that hit the head or CT. Piloting rolls would be unaffected, as you would have plenty of space in such cockpits.

Oh, and as far as I see in SSW, Torso mounted cockpits are already a ton heavier than standard cockpits.

So you can keep the standard head that can only take 12 points of damage with a 2.8% chance of being hit or a cockpit that can take as much or 4+ times more damage, is 1t heavier, comes with an extra sensor, but is MUCH easier to hit, and extremely weak to life support hits and pilot damage once the armor is gone.

If this is not balanced enough between the two cockpits, I'd love suggestions.
06/30/12 07:30 AM

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Just thought I'd post my thoughts from CBT to think about the benefits of such a system as it is written and what could be done to improve it.


Given where the critical slots are, and how exposed/vulnerable the CT is, how do you make such a cockpit attractive to players used to the standard head?

The existing rules for the experimental torso cockpit do two good things on top of the increased protection of the CT. The first is the cockpit creates a lot of space in the head for things you don't want people to hit but normally wouldn't put there because the pilot is there - things like ammo. Such a mech does not need to worry about ammo explosion damage as there is no way for the damage to transfer. You just sacrifice the two sensors for a +4 TH modifier - an acceptable sacrifice as it would rarely happen, but even if it does, you can still fight. The second thing the rules do is make the pilot invulnerable to pilot damage from any attacks that hit the CT. Especially given the increase in the chance to hit the CT, and considering TW p41 rules about all head hits damaging the pilot, this is definitely helpful, if not entirely accurate considering mechs like the Catapult, etc.

So what does this leave for the Improved Torso Cockpit to be better at? Space and resulting ejection ability. Since Improved Torso Cockpits are more removed from the engine and have actual windows, they are allowed to be spacious to reflect the cockpit design despite the crit placement, so no +1 to piloting rolls. It can stay 1 ton and 1 crit more than standard cockpits - that is an acceptable sacrifice. Even two tons more is acceptable combined with the traits of the Full Head Ejection system, though most likely the cockpit pod would be launched upward not rearward into the engine.

Hopefully these changes would make the Improved Torso Cockpit a more attractive alternative to the standard cockpit despite the torso weakness.

I'm still hovering on the whole life support critical hit bit, and frankly it might as well be standard to TW p41 rules to be introduced as early as possible. Torso cockpits need all they can get to be attractive to players given their one critical weakness and strength of being in the CT.
07/13/12 09:09 AM

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Well, after doing some thinking, comparing, and crunching some numbers, I think I finally have a balanced answer to my initial post. But it's not a torso cockpit, or even an improved version, it's a Front-Mounted Cockpit.

Taking the ideas from before, the Front-Mounted Cockpit has the same positions for the Life Supports and Cockpit as the Torso Mounted version, but has two sensors instead, one still left in the "head" and one in the CT.

The rules for such a cockpit are simple. Life Support, Sensor, and Cockpit crits are handled the same way as in TW. Fall/explosion effects damage the pilot as in TW. There are no piloting setbacks and the tonnage is the same as the standard cockpit. The primary rule is "If any weapon or physical damage hits the CT (or is redirected to the CT) AND originates along the forward arc of the mech (based on leg facing) roll 1d6. On the result of a 5, damage the pilot by 1. Whether the roll succeeds or not, apply damage/critical hits as normal." The secondary rules are "In the event of complete CT destruction, ejection happens as normal. If the cockpit takes a critical hit in any other situation, it does not eject and normal effects apply. TacOps "skin of teeth" ejection (p197) does not apply to Front-Mounted Cockpits and no other equipment or quirk related to the head or cockpit is available for mechs with this system. Front-Mounted Cockpits are level 1 tech, and are available to IS and Clan forces equally."

So what does this do?
• Rulewise, it treats the cockpit like a combo between a cowl (quirk from StratOps) and a searchlight.
• It bypasses the CT armor and internals when factoring cockpit shots, treating both as separate issues. This means the effects are the same in a light mech or an assault mech with this system.
• It increases the chance of damaging the pilot from attacks, from a low of 7/216 (3.2%) to a realistic high of 27/216 (12.5%) to a virtual maximum of 35/216 (16.2%). Standard heads have a 1/36 (2.78%) chance of being hit.
• Having the effects based on leg facing (as opposed to torso facing) keeps attack direction determination simple.
• Such cockpits no longer have to worry about headcapping weapons, but they are extremely weak to missiles and cluster weapons/artillery. Having the effects only happen from the forward arc gives Front-Mounted Cockpits some protection as it allows certain maneuvers (positioning enemy mechs in side arcs then twisting) to minimize damage to the pilot in 1v1 battles. However, these maneuvers become increasingly harder to pull off with more enemy mechs on the field trying to position themselves in the mech's forward arc.
• The locations of the life support and sensors are strategically placed for minimum exposure/chance of concern while keeping TW rules and the extra space in the head intact. Life supports do get destroyed more in such mechs, but it does not immediately hinder the mech unless it runs hot or plans to go underwater. Head destruction only produces a +2 TH, and only when the one in the torso gets hit do weapon attacks become impossible. However, even without the sensor in the torso, any mech with a gutted CT usually does not have long to live anyway.
• With 5 spaces free in the head, it can be a dedicated weapon mount, an ammo bin with a free CASE, or a sensitive component space. This is paid for by the increased chance of pilot damage and weakness to missiles/cluster weapons.
• Having a built-in ability to eject makes CT destruction unfortunate but not deadly, much like it is with standard heads. Being able to eject freely without taking additional pilot damage gives the pilot as much chance as possible to survive, despite the fairly high chance of being killed before being able to eject.
• Being unable to take advantage of other cockpit technologies keeps humanoid mechs higher on the command chain (command console, satellite uplink, etc.) until C3M/C3i level the playing field a bit. Then Front Mounted Cockpit mechs can put such components in the "head" instead of the side torsos like humanoid mechs.
• Being level 1 tech allows Star League mechs like the Marauder to keep their cockpit types and be unique during the Succession Wars.
• And on a final note, it gives a damn good board game reason why Alpha Assault blew up from that Summoner's LBX shot to the face.

Overall, I think it's a pretty good system, what do you guys think? Does it need further tweaking from your guys' experience, or no?
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