Well I felt it was time. See, one of my passions in life is to read the books and works that helps to make something exist. Take Dungeons and Dragons as a good example. In his famous Appendix N at the end of the first Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gary Gygax listed a bunch of writers and works that were influential to the game, and as launching off points for campaigns. And slowly and surely, I’ve been reading Appendix N stories and writers. I enjoy reading pre-D&D writers that had an influence on that game. And I do this with a lot of stuff, from epic sagas from other cultures to forgotten gems that few appreciate.
And there’s where my decision to read Hammer’s Slammers, by David Drake came from. Published in 1979 and featuring an eponymous mercenary tank unit in the future of science fiction, it seems like a potentially interesting synergy with BattleTech. The book is a collection of short stories, and thus easier to read for those that are involved with doing stuff. So let’s read this thing!
So I want to explore the various synergies with BattleTech and this universe by David Drake. Let’s take a look at some of the things that resonate.
1). The mercenary tank unit, known as Hammer’s Slammers, features a powerful variant of the tank that has been developed n the future with fusion engines, powerful armor, big weapons, and even anti-personnel pods that act as like mobile mines on the field.
2). Only a handful of worlds in the galaxy can produce these top-of-the-line supertanks, and the technology just isn’t there for the most part. Weapons described as throwing light and electricity which is eerily similar to the descriptions of PPCs in the books. Only the most highly industrialized planets can even make these powerguns.
3). The universe is set in the future, with thousands of planets settled, most with a low tech sort of lifestyle, and with the same strife, struggles, and issues as today, including religious, corporate, and government based divisions. Oh, and there’s even a bonding agency that people who are hiring mercs pay, and than that agency, who oversees and makes sure contracts are kept, pays the mercs after they’ve kept their contract. (Sound familiar?)
4). There’s a sort of love and hate relationship with the mercenaries in this future universe. Terra is the name for both home-planets of humans. While on a naming kick, don’t forget names of mercenaries. We have a ton of mercenary company’s named after a founder or the current CO and then possessive with something after that rhymes or is alliterative. (Examples include Able’s Aces or Jacob’s Juggernauts).
After I read the first short story, I have to confess that I was hard pressed to find anything that looked un-BattleTech. Even hand pistols and rifles fired plastic carriages and such akin to Needlers. If you had told me that this short story was a missing work from the early days of BattleTech that was recently uncovered, I’d believe you. (Other than the fact that there are no BattleMechs and a few other differences). Shoot, there’s even a Table of Organization and Equipment for the Regiment.
Speaking of which, there are certainly differences, like a previous race of aliens that existed thousands of years ago and left behind ruins. Stuff like that. But this sort of reads like a BattleTech ur-text. I wonder if it was read and enjoyed by the folks that made it. I’m not sure if we’ve ever been given an Appendix N for BattleTech, although we certainly know of some anime Mecha that influenced the early design of the game from Japan, but I wonder if Hammer’s Slammers isn’t one of those influences as well.