House Rules and RAW

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01/04/17 02:24 PM

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I hosted and co-founded a couple of BT groups from 1991 to 2002. I've met Sam Lewis (he gave me a copy of "The Sword and the Dagger" for the price of postage), Mike Mulvihill (he led my family on an impromptu tour of the FASA facility on Cermak Road, the one that was a-bombed in the Shadowrun timeline), and Marvin (who painstakingly scoured FASA's backstock and got us all the things we needed in the pre-eBay days). I corresponded via snail-mail with Randall Bills to settle out rule and game balance questions. One of my groups was selected to help playtest the Tukayyid module. I have some insights to share...

BT was conceived to be a balanced and playable game. Set in a far future of warring "robots," gameplay took precedence over our known science. Fun and game balance were key.

The fiction authors occasionally caused new rules to be added, as demanded by aficionados.

My groups played a LOT of BT, in my home and in open/public venues. We found that house rules were almost always unnecessary, that the fragmented and slowed down gameplay.

At the end of the day we only found one to be worthwhile as far as game balance went (and believe me, we stretched game balance!): energy weapons were unusable after the second "2" rolled, pulse energy weapons were unusable after the first "2" rolled. No crits lost, just non-functional.

All the other rules as written worked very well in our experience.
01/04/17 03:42 PM

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That's the beauty of a system like's fully playable as-is, but rules can be easily added or omitted to suit the tastes of the group.

Everyone has their own opinion as to the point where violation of "realism" starts to detract from enjoyment of the game...and optional rules/house rules are available to counter that where desired.
Peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stands around reloading.
--Thomas Jefferson
01/05/17 01:30 AM

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So the major changes done to the rules were not for game balance?
Such things are the aerofighter strafe and the infantry damage taken being 2 of the top ones coming to mind?

There were gaps in the rules as well, such as lams being able to fly backwards in the first version of them.

Now the issue of energy weapons being non functional with the 2 rolls might bring a little balance to the unlimited firing of them while ammo weapons run out does seem to be something that might help, only the ultra cannons do the same.
And from the looks of it, there is nothing said about fixing that situation without going to a repair bay.

The fact that an urbanmech runs at 3 making it harder to hit an opposing unit, while a spider goes almost 3 times that in a walk, yet hits an opponent with less penalty to movement doesn't seem that well balanced.
The engine weight/heat sink dilema is still pretty extreme.

But I guess that comes down to having some players trying to distort the rules every time they did something.
01/05/17 02:10 PM

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Play balance being key, yes some rules were changed as player input was gathered (hence our correspondence with FASA). Older supplements in particular were addressed as the pool of players (and therefore player feedback) grew so very deep.

The basic balance, though remained quite workable. An Urbanmech might suffer more than a Spider when running, but a Spider doesn't have a big AC, either...

As far as house rules, they stayed in house. When we played in public venues or at tournaments we used the rules as written.

We did play with other groups that used house rules, and some groups got pretty arcane and involved. Whatever suits, but I do have to add that in RAW-only tournaments we usually trounced them.

We only rarely encountered the rules lawyer types who attempted to compare contemporary military tech with 31st century tech. For the most part we played with folks who were willing to handwave away our known "science" and just play BattleTech.
01/05/17 05:49 PM

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As was said in another thread, the damage infantry took was too much, but they went to far the other direction. And with the advent of body armor for troops, not battle armor, they don't seem to have done much for the infantry.

The example of the urbanmech and spider were to keep the weights close. The ac 20 carrying atlas or even the standard version of the hunchback, shows the movement parts could use a little more work. Jumping should have even a greater disadvantage, as you are being bounced around a little more on launch and impact. But it looks like they tried to counter the advantage of being harder to hit.
Yet with the same idea of movement, a unit that jumps a single hex has the same penalties to hit as one that jumps 6 plus. Spider remaining a good example. In 10 seconds they can go 240 meters verse say the urbanmechs 2. Weapons being excluded as the new weapons totally change everything. The ermls with double sinks in a spider will be horrendous to fight from an urbanmech. Even an lb10x isn't going to change that much. But this was started for 3025.

For the starleague equipment and clan stuff, there were a few things that opened holes they should have addressed in the earlier books. Not sure which company was responsible for that. One being the minimum weight for hover engines with an xl fusion plant.
I did bring up the issue I had with the suspension factor on the larger ones. They were a little more then they should be, as well as the crits for vehicles being horrible. That has been somewhat resolved in the newer rules.
But this discussion seems to be set for playtesting when they first came out.
01/25/17 02:53 AM

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If you don't like the fact that the Urban mech gets a +2 penalty when it runs 3 hexes and a spider gets a +1 when it walks 8 hexes, then make a house rule. Give faster mechs a penalty and watch as all your players start driving slow mechs and standing in one spot more than BT players already do.

It's also for playability. Want a mech to get a higher penalty the faster it goes? Then give it a penalty based on hexes moved, for simplicity just use the skid table. Watch your game slow down by half as people try to remember what they did, have less fun, etcetera. It's a lot easier to remember if you ran or walked than it is if to remember if you use 6 MP or 8. Then what about other considerations, should a mech which runs 3 hexes forward get the same penalty as a mech which turns 3 hexsides?

How many times have you used Total Warfare Infantry Ghostrider? And by used, I mean played with in a game. I suspect zero. Which if true doesn't invalidate your opinion, but it makes it more theory than fact. And if anything is clear about game design, playtesting & playing trumps theory every time. TW Infantry is still extremely susceptible to damage, what's changed is that the best way to deal with them is Anti-Infantry weapons instead of Heavy Cannons.
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