The Living Legends Question

Some legends are not as they appear

I recently ran a campaign through 3058 that included the module Living Legends.  My personal mercenary unit had already accepted a contract to work for the Draconis Combine in anti-Clan efforts in the vicinity where the Manassas appeared.  I did a little research and found this adventure was slated for that area and time frame.  I bought it, and ran it with some modifications.

For those who may not be aware, this book chronicles a WarShip, the Manassas, from the original Kerensky fleet with an experimental modified jump engine that can jump an extra ten light years.  It misjumps and leaps forward in time almost 300 years, into 3058.  By the end of the adventure, this wonder of technology is destroyed.

One of the main concerns many have with Living Legends is that the time-travel component just doesn’t have the ring of the authentic BattleTech universe.  One of the things I love about it is the feel of the universe.  We are all alone out here.  And things like time travel aren’t normally possible.  And yet here we find a pristine ship from the Star League Defense Force on the backdoor.

Obviously, this adventure opens up other questions.  Can a ship misjump backwards in time?  Can the 40 light-year K-F drive be replicated?  Can other misjumps from history be scheduled to arrive any moment?

What do you do with Living Legends?  Do you run it?  Do you modify it?  Does it exist in your personal BattleTech campaigns and universe?

In a Big Country…

I guess it’s similar to the novel Far Country, where a misjump sends folks to a planet far away from humanity that has intelligent birdlike aliens running around.  Do you add alien life to your campaigns?  What about misjumps so far away as to be beyond known space entirely?  Do you use the planet of Kaetetôã in your campaign?

It seems like we have similar questions.  To what degree do these examples of out-of-flavor aspects of BattleTech populate your own universe?  Do you use them for inspiration?  Pretend they never happened?  Modify them somewhere?  What do you do with them?

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9 thoughts on “The Living Legends Question

  1. Francisco Branco

    Well… Misjumps and time shifts are a normal thing in the battletech universe. according to the old jumpship rulebooks if you force the jump drive for extra jump distance or do an emergency jump you may miss the jump target and in some cases you may arrive 1 or 3 hours after your estimated arrival time. Living Legends just took this to the extreme.

    Yeah 300 years is a bit much but it was a one off thing, lucky for us no backward jumps have been recorded as far as I know. that is a big can of worms you want to leave closed on any game system.

  2. mbear

    Actually Herb ruled at one point that the Manassas didn’t actually jump forward in time. The jump just held the ship in stasis. And no, you can’t jump backwards in time.

  3. Frabby

    Indeed. The Manassas didn’t jump through time, it merely got stuck in hyperspace stasis, i.e. didn’t emerge from its botched jump for some 300 years. No time travel, just trapped in a loop.
    I would have liked the Manassas crew, who were largely captured by Clan Smoke Jaguar save for some officers that the players are supposed to protect for a time at least, to have played a role in the unraveling of Clan culture (namely the Wars of Reaving), though nothing to that effect has been mentioned. The narrative potential here has been neglected, but then again the disruptive potential hasn’t materialized either and I can live with that.

  4. ClanWolverine101

    Many products from that era – particularly scenario packs / MW adventures, include material that clearly doesn’t fit with the canon as its currently understood.

  5. Argent310

    Late to the party, but I just saw this yesterday.

    I’m not a fan of “hard” s-f, and in any case, as much as I appreciate the depth and thought that’s gone into the BattleTech universe, I think its claim to being hard s-f is really pretty weak — it’s a game of giant robots, after all, and god love it for that. When I played BattleTech/MechWarrior years ago, we really played up the space opera, anime, and even wuxia influences in a way that I imagine would completely appall BattleTech traditionalists.

    So, my frustration with the Living Legends pack and the whole SLS Manassas situation was not that the quasi-time-travel plot was tonally disruptive. To be perfectly frank, a single time-lost Star League ship seemed more in keeping with the ‘classic’ tone than the Clans did. As Frabby noted, the possibility of that kind of misjump accident (if not necessarily to that extreme) had been long established and strains credibility a lot less than the Star League Defense forces having transformed themselves in only 275-odd years into a mash-up of every cheesy space opera cliche of alien warrior cultures. (In fact, the Clans were so alien that I periodically wonder if there was a faction of the developers who wanted them to actually be an alien species rather than the descendants of the Exodus fleet.)

    I like lost ship and ancient empire stories and I always enjoyed the original notion of the Star League as the lost Golden Age. Obviously, the background material eventually revealed that the Star League was less technically advanced than originally presented and no more utopian than most other empires, but I really liked stuff like the “Minnesota Tribe” legends. (Did they ever definitively reveal if the Minnesota Tribe was actually the remnants of Clan Wolverine?)

    Like Frabby, I would have liked to see the Manassas crew become more than a footnote. I don’t remember anymore what kind of characterization the scenario pack gave them, but it would make sense that a fair number of them would have the same reaction to the Clans that that Sarah McEvedy did: shock and dismay that the Aleksandr Kerensky’s dream had become Nicholas’ adolescent power fantasy. (I never understood why the Smoke Jaguars would be so categorically hostile either — yes, the Clans have extreme ideas about duty and discipline, but talk about extenuating circumstances!)

    I also don’t see that the experimental jump drive would have been particularly disruptive to the canon — certainly no more than lithium-fusion batteries, which were well-established by that point. There are still so many limitations on FTL travel in BattleTech (not least the travel time to the jump points) that a 25% longer jump range doesn’t seem like a big deal. Some mechanic like MASC, where there’s a chance each time you made a longer-than-normal jump that the drive will crap out on you, would probably have addressed any issue; the drive was experimental, after all.

    No, my big complaint about Living Legends was that if the developers were so nervous about the premise being disruptive (and I can see why, even if I don’t necessarily agree), I don’t know why they published it at all. Why introduce a provocative premise if you’ve decided from the outset that it can’t go anywhere? I’m not fond of games or adventure/scenario packs that stack the deck so that nothing the players do meaningfully affects the outcome. If I’m just going to be at the mercy of the author’s whim and more important named NPCs (something of which BattleTech has been guilty on more than one occasion — see also “Wolf’s Dragoons are always cooler than you”) , why bother playing the game? I could just read the books or watch a movie.

    1. Abe Sargent Post author

      I love your in-depth look at it! And in particular the point about “Why Introduce It at all if you fear it?” is an interesting point. It’s sort of like White Plume Mountain for D&D a classic early module that introduced three massively powered weapons that were supposed to be taken from thieves and brought back to their original owners, but which often wound up in the hands of players permanently. Probably modern adventure and module design, learning these lessons, would ask the right questions, and keep things in bounds you know?

      Full disclosure, I recently played through L Legends, took the Warship from Jaguars in a Trial of Possession, and then traded it to ComStar for a similarly classed WarShip and some extra DropShips and became one of the few merc units with a WarShip So, um, yay us?

  6. Alex Ward

    When my group gamed it we captured the Manassas by getting aboard and speaking to Cromwell and Lewis in a briefing room. We drew weapons and trussed up Cromwell and made Lewis, Mitchell and Sarti sit down and listen and look at the ships sensor data, including the time by the position of the stars until we convinced him that the ship had time travelled. We talked Lewis into jumping into an unihabited system away from the Lioness. There we explained what had happened and that we had a unique chance here and we might be able not only to get the Manassas back home but to undo the destruction of the Star League. It wasn’t hard to get Lewis and Sarti on our side and Mitchell didn’t care too much so long as she got to fight. We marooned Cromwell and Terry on a semi habitable moon with shelters and several months of supplies and then spent several weeks studying the misjump and realized that with a lot of work and luck we could recreate it. We jumped the Manassas to Earth in 2747. I REALLY wanted to raid a small Clan outpost and capture a couple of warriors and techs to bring along but got outvoted. With Lewis meeting Kerensky and then the 2747 Lewis and Sarti shortly thereafter and the player characters as well, we were able to convince him who we were. We were assigned to Kerensky’s HQ unit for further debriefing. (my player was a nut about the Star League and had basically a bachelor’s degree in history centering on the Star League and the Terran Hegemony.) And after a quick time compression between scenarios, representing a few months being poked and prodded and questioned by League officials, we informed we’d be part of a plan to disrupt the Usurpers plans, defuse tensions and preserve the Star League. We played that campaign for about 6 months culminating with killing Amaris in a Nighthawk equipped Fury team raid on Apollo and putting in an SLDF military provisional governer. We took a break from Mechwarrior after that to play Rifts and GURPS while we decided if we should keep playing now or fast forward a decade or two or maybe even see if we could get cleared to take Manassas back to 3058. However, we unfortunately never came back to Mechwarrior. It would have been interesting to see what we would have come up with.

    I thought about running it for a different group years later where Manassas appears and there are two warships there, the Lioness and the Sovetskii Soyuz class Serket. After a lot of confused radio chatter a Seeker on the Serket identifies the Manassas from a necrosia induced vision and due to that and its proximity, claims the right to attack the Manassas. The Serket immediately launches battle taxis full of Elementals. Considering the crew is misfits and mediocre warrior problem cases the Manassas falls. The Serket takes the Manassas back to the Pentagon worlds and thats where the campaign would have started. We’d play 7-9 crew members of Manassas. How would actual SLDF members integrate into and be treated by Clan society once teh Clans know they are the real think and not just shams? Never got my second game group into it, but I think it would have been a lot of fun. Seeing the Clans virtually worship some of them while reviling Cromwell and treating Manassas like a holy relic.

  7. Argus

    “Far Country” is not really canon. Just read the article here on “Living Legends” is canon. And missjumps forward in time (or over vast distances) aren´t a problem. A jump creates a wormhole and allows it to travel in zero time without actually moving. But time can pass differently (even on a planet and in its orbit) in the universe. So in combination with the wormhole it´s okay to assume that the crew has expierinced only seconds while outside the wormhole hundreds of years have passed.
    Paradoxons are avoided if such missjumps cover only larger distances than normal or make the ship appear years later. So no jump in the past is possible – and that avoids odd questions.
    On the other hand i am not satisfied with “Far Country” because it introduced aliens on a conception of aliens that is outdated today. With (much too) sentient beeings you always get into trouble in a Sci-Fi-universe. Suggestion for Game Masters: You can keep around rumors and mysterious signs of aliens, but never let them appear. Never give a proof that they exist, but keep players wondering if. Rumors and paranoia are always good for business.

    1. Argus

      In fact huge missjumps can make the universe more interesting. Because together with all that centuries mankind hat time for space travel, this can create separate colonies far, far away from the Inner Sphere, with different technology and culture. Nobody knows how far mankind has spread in the galaxy. There could be people who never know that the Star League is history.
      Why not take players on a wide tour to distant stars on a jump ship with a malfunction / experimental jump drive? Just a thought.


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