Is BattleTech a Post-Apocalyptic Universe?

Not this Apocalypse!

As I invested my 130th hour of play into the recently released Fallout 4, I turned off the game for a few days, vowing to rejoin society.  I re-emerged into the light-scorched winter landscape of my New England residence.  As I saw the trees outside, denuded by weather, and mirrored in them the signs of post-apocalyptic ruin in the Fallout universe, I turned to BattleTech and began to wonder if it was a post-apocalyptic universe.

Obviously, the ultimate view on whether or not this universe counts as post-apocalyptic is up to you as a reader, gamer, and enjoyer of it.  But it strikes me as an interesting question to explore.  As someone who began playing in the 3025 era, the flavor certainly has a post-devastation feel.  There are multiple events in the universe that have some of the auspices of post-apocalyptic fun.  The Amaris and Secession Wars devastated the great Star League, and rent and destroyed numerous planets and areas.

The Boom! (Courtesy of Swordguy from B-Tech forums)

The Boom! (Courtesy of Swordguy from B-Tech forums)

Certainly some planets would argue that this was very apocalyptic.  Take Bryant.  During the Star League, the various Storm Inhibitors installed around it were able to turn the planet into a livable one.  And then they were destroyed and the planet became unlivable everywhere save for the polar regions, leaving vast wastes and ruins everywhere.  Sounds like an apocalypse to me.

And the feel of the early game has that as well.  BattleMechs are a lot more valuable than soldiers or their pilots.  They are artifacts and relics of wars past, and are more precious than anything. But as we flesh out the era with later novels, sourcebooks, and more, it seems like the “loss of civilization” seems a bit dramatic.  From high tech weapons that survived to numerous factories that still made ‘Mechs, the era was more rife with Star League era technology than initially reported.

That’s nothing new.  The supposedly Sphere Rending Event of the Jihad only resulted in the destruction of a relatively insignificant 15 worlds. Compared to how huge the Inner Sphere and Near Periphery are, that’s not a lot.  Many states have just one or two planets, at most, taken out.  Again, the supposedly devastating events of the era aren’t always matched.

I’m not sure that the fall of the Star League counts though, not  to my mind.  History is rife with fallen Empires, and chasing them.  Europe looked longingly at the fall of Rome quite fondly, and was often trying to replace it for centuries.  But the early Middle Ages of Europe certainly isn’t post-apocalyptic.  And many writers put into their great works concepts of a lost and great nation, from JRR Tolkien’s lost Westernesse and other great nations long since fallen, to the ancient Empire of Atlantis.   We have the Great Cataclysm that changed Krynn forever in the Dragonlance shared universe, and the original trilogy is about restoring the world a few centuries later.   Shoot even many works about King Arthur and his Camelot are penned with an eye towards, “This is once how great things were, and then they fell.”  From the Garden of Eden to Vesuvius, there are a lot of myths, legends, beliefs, stories, and histories that intersect.

Stars Unite!

The Star League’s fall is certainly iconic as a major loss of unity, and the subsequent fall into increasing faction-ization, warfare and technology.  It’s very similar to the Fall of Rome.  And a lot of people later on may look overly warmly on the Star League and what it represented.  But is it truly a post-apocalyptic universe?  Are there any other points along the timeline that you can look at and say that yes, this counts as post-apocalyptic?  (Gray Monday, Jihad, anything else?)

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “Is BattleTech a Post-Apocalyptic Universe?

  1. Clan Wolverine

    In the original iteration, absolutely. According to my 3rd ed boxed set – the first BattleTech product i ever owned – by 3025, the Successor States couldn’t even purify water, much less produce BattleMechs.

    Obviously, that was later ret-conned. While the situation on some worlds – up through the late Dark Age – can be very bad, overall, its not post-Apocalyptic.

  2. CoKien

    It strongly depends, on what you’re looking at. Worlds like the capital planets or important production sites like Hesperus II are certainly less affected by the decrease (not inrease like stated above) of technology, than peripheral backwater worlds like Trellwan or Helm (which are described in detail as godforsaken pieces of rocks). On those backwater worlds the conditions are post-apocalyptic, though the situation on most planets in the Periphery should be even worse. Just remember that slavery is suppossed to be quite common in the Periphery, and that water supplies are targets of bandit raids quite frequently.

  3. Wrangler

    I think that Battletech as a whole can be see category as post-apocalypse universe. It timeline is to big to judge it that way. Succession Wars’s later eras were, like the Third Succession War. The tech slide is big factor aside for lost planets and people. Age of War could be seen thAt way as well.

  4. CF

    Definitely P-A — and before they screwed the pooch with 4SW and all, it had the potential to be Even Worse. Flavor-text for 1st and 2nd ed.s stated outright “we can’t build ‘Mechs any more”; and in the company sourcebooks (_Fox’s Teeth_, etc.), most ‘Mechs (both featured and in scenarios) had existing debilitating damage (permanent armor reductions; chances for weapons misfiring, or generating extra heat; missing heat sinks; etc.) — and these were the *top-shelf* forces.

    The group I played in before 4SW and all that tat came along played full-on Post-Apocalypse; in the course of the game, all five Successors States collapsed, to be replaced with some of the nations which predated the Great Houses Era (Arkab; United Hindu Collective; etc.)… and some of *those* didn’t last too long before collapsing into even-smaller polities. It says something that by the time the game ended, one of the largest stellar nations was the Outworlds Alliance….

  5. Frogfoot

    Overall I wouldn’t say it was a post-apocalyptic setting.

    In some parts of the setting it absolutely is. Take any of those worlds that were heavily hit by WMDs during the 1st and 2nd Succession Wars, for example. There’s also worlds hit hard during the Jihad and the Wars of Reaving, plus some isolated systems in the Deep Periphery. On this small scale (relatively speaking – we are talking about entire planets after all) you could find all kinds of post-apoc goodness for RPG campaigns, stories or tt games.

    But while there are many individual parts that are post-apocalyptic, when taking a broader look at the setting as a whole I’d have to say it’s not post-apocalyptic. The Inner Sphere certainly went through a period of technological decline, but that’s not the same thing. The setting as a whole didn’t suffer a shattering all-destroying apocalypse, it just slid backwards from its height during the Star League era. Likewise things like Gray Monday – we see instability, upheaval and decline, but that’s not an apocalypse.

    Ultimately you can’t be post-apocalyptic without an apocalypse, and most of the setting didn’t have one.


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