User:Revanche/My Chaos Campaign Track System
- Note: The below essay was written in several parts by CBT.com poster Taharqa and posted on his blog (starting in June 2009), Taharqa's Corner. It is consolidated, edited and wikified here with his permission.
My Track System
I have really enjoyed the Chaos Campaign track system that Catalyst Game Labs has put into their Jihad Hot Spots sourcebooks. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the track system allows for a highly abstracted method of running your own unit through a series of scenarios. The system relies on an abstract set of “warchest points” (WP) that partially reflect hard cash, but also represent other more intangible resources like prestige, grit, and knowledge. You can spend these WP on repairing and upgrading units, improving skills, buying new units, etc.
Each Jihad book contains a series of tracks that you can run your unit through. Each track has a WP cost to enter and a WP reward for completing each objective. The progression is not simply linear, because the completion of certain tracks makes available only certain future tracks, so someone can play through the track system several times and have different experiences each time.
Catalyst has made the official track system rules available for free. You can get them here. I have run two units through the track system. I first ran my own merc unit through JHS3070, playing against the bot in MegaMek. However, I found that somewhat unsatisfying because the bot is fairly limited. Luckily, I have now found someone to play against on a weekly basis and I am now running my Flaming Devil Monkeys mercenary unit through the track system.
Although I love the general idea of the track system, I have found that the official rules are somewhat lacking. I have made a number of tweaks to the system based on my first experience playing through them and I have found the results to be quite good. So, I decided I would go ahead and let others know about my own house rules in case they want to incorporate them into their own gameplay.
In tweaking the system, I have attempted to maintain the basic idea of the track system: remaining abstract and not getting tied down by a lot of complicated bookkeeping. In future posts, I will, in no particular order, highlight some of the changes I have made.
The basic wartrack system just uses a simple tonnage system to determine support point costs of repairs. I have extended this system in two ways. First, I vary the costs by degree of damage and second, I base the cost of repairs on the total cost of the unit.
To determine degree of damage, I have five categories:
- 1. Minor Repair: If the only thing damaged on the unit is armor, then it falls into the minor repair category.
- 2. Heavy Repair: If the unit suffered any internal structure and/or component damage, then it falls into the heavy repair category.
- 3. Crippled: If the unit is crippled as per the Forced Withdrawal rules, then typically it falls into this category. I also put units that suffer engine destruction, but still have CT internal structure in this category.
- 4. Destroyed: Center torso destruction.
- 5. Totally Destroyed: as per the rules in TacOps.
I am not a stickler about these rules, and I allow myself fudge room to sometimes place a unit in one category or the other. So, for example, a 'Mech who suffered a medium laser to the head that TAC’ed the cockpit, but otherwise had no other damage, would likely be considered a Minor Repair, even though the category by the rules would be Heavy Repair.
The SP cost to repair each unit is given by this formula:
- SP Cost = (repair level multiplier) * (C-bill cost of unit) / 160000
The repair level multipliers are:
Level Multiplier Minor Repair 0.25 Heavy repair 1.0 Crippled 4.0 Destroyed 16.0
So, for example, the c-bill cost of a FLC-8R Falconer is 18,891,249. The repair costs at each level would be:
- Minor Repair = 0.25 * (18,891,249/160,000) = 30
- Heavy Repair = (18,891,249/160,000) = 118
- Crippled = 4.0 * (18,891,249/160,000) = 472
- Destroyed = 16 * (18,891,249/160,000) = 1889
This may seem like a lot of math but I have my excel spreadsheet set up so that when I enter a new unit, it automatically calculates all of these costs once I enter in the C-bill cost of the unit.
Why did I choose these numbers? Well, as I will discuss in other posts, I use the C-Bill cost of the unit as a basis for buying and selling the unit as well. The way these numbers are set up the cost of repairing a destroyed unit is equivalent to buying a new one. In other words, the unit is “totaled.” For each level below this level, I basically divide by a factor of four.
It also makes sense to me that it should cost more to repair more expensive units because they have more expensive parts. Now, that doesn’t always mean that the expensive part was damaged, but remember that the goal here is to maintain some abstraction and avoid AccountantTech.
I also have three other rules for repairs. First, Clan 'Mechs are more expensive, all else being equal, to repair than are IS 'Mechs because Clan parts are much harder to come by. To represent this, there is an additional flat fee that Clan 'Mech repairs have to pay at each level of repair:
Level Additional SP Cost Minor Repair 100 Heavy repair 300 Crippled 600
This makes the player think twice about salvaging all those Clan 'Mechs because while they may perform better on the battlefield, their upkeep cost is considerable. My current unit just collected a bunch of salvage from the Jade Falcons (from the Falcon Ptomaine track), but sold most of it for this reason.
Second, replacing experimental equipment is also expensive. For each piece of experimental equipment that is damaged, the repair cost is increased by 100SP.
Third, I adjust the repair cost by StratOps quirks. Units that are “Difficult to Maintain” or have “non-standard parts” have their repair cost at every level multiplied by 1.25. Units that are “Easy to Maintain” have their repair costs multiplied by 0.75.
That’s all for repairs!
The track system generally provides three pieces of information on the OpFor for each track: (1) Their size relative to the player’s forces; (2) their overall skill level; and (3) their tech level. Sometimes additional information on the composition of forces is provided (all conventional, all 'Mech, etc.). Let me discuss how I use this information to build an OpFor.
The size of the OpFor is given as a percentage of the player’s deployed force (e.g. 125%). The track system suggests basing this on BV. I don’t base my ratios on BV for several reasons. First, given that I largely use random assignment tables, assigning a force based on BV is difficult. Second, I am not a huge fan of the BV system as I don’t feel you can really balance forces that simply in a game as complex as BattleTech. Third, some tracks are meant to be more difficult or less difficult because of the skill level and technology rating of the OpFor and if you balance by BV, these differences are lost. This issue becomes particularly problematic if you balance BV with skill levels, because you lose any sense of progression as your own unit becomes more skilled.
For all of these reasons, I use a simple point-based system to assign the OpFor. The system I use is based roughly on the one provided in the old Operation: Stiletto scenario pack. Points are assigned based on unit type and tonnage as follows:
Mechs Points Light 6 Medium 9 Heavy 12 Assault 16 Vehicles Points Light 4 Medium 5 Heavy 7 Assault 10 Infantry Points Battle Armor 2 Infantry Platoon 0.5
For example, lets say I was bringing a lance of 'Mechs that included one assault, two heavies, and a medium. That would give me 49 total points (16 + 12 + 12 +9). Lets say the track indicates that my OpFor is 125% of my forces. That would give my OpFor 61 total point (1.25*49) to spend on units.
In general, I try to keep the OpFor to roughly similar in terms of the number of units. In this example, lets say the OpFor was Word of Blake. I might decide to use a mixed Level II consisting of two assault 'Mechs, two heavy 'Mechs, plus two light vehicles. The total points would be 62.
The advantage of this system is that I can completely compartmentalize the issue of force composition and size from the actual selection of the units and their skill levels. It also means that the difficulty of the track is determined by other things beside the force ratios. A force ratio of 125% is not nearly as difficult when that force is a green mercenary force with F-rated equipment as it is when that force is an elite Manei Domini force with A-rated equipment.
Once, I have determined the composition, I roll on the appropriate random unit table to produce the actual units. I always use random assignment tables that take account of the tech rating for the units, generally either Field Manual: Updates or the RATs in Jihad Secrets. I allow for some fudging here because sometimes a purely random selection can leave you with units that clearly don’t work well together. So, to continue my example of the WoB Level II, lets say this is a Protectorate Militia force. Therefore, I use the BP column of the random assignment table for WoB forces in Jihad Secrets (p. 139). Doing that gives me the following:
First, lets take the vehicles. I happened to roll two VTOLs, which is nice. However, they have very different functions. The Pinto is an attack chopper with good armor and weapons, while the Sprint is a scout chopper with various electronics configurations. I am tempted to go with the c3i Sprint and make this a c3i networked group, but only my legacy has c3i and since this is a militia unit, I don’t feel its reasonable to upgrade my other units to c3i. So I decide to replace that Sprint with another Pinto. The rest of my units I leave as is.
If this had been a frontline WoB unit, I probably would have made some adjustments to make it a c3i unit. I would have replaced the Pinto with a Sprint and made both Sprints the c3i variety. I then would have upgraded my Cerberus to a MR-6B model (with c3i). I would have also replaced my Archer and Black Knight with adjacent rolls on the random assignment tables, giving me a TYM-1A Toyama and a WHF-3B White Flame, both c3i equipped. Both units have a similar BV, so it wouldn’t be terribly inappropriate.
The last step is to decide on skill levels for the units. I don’t care for the random skill tables in Total Warfare, because I feel that the skill differences between types are too large. A unit with an Elite skill rating should not contain all Elite pilots, but rather more Elite pilots than a Regular unit.
I use a system that is modified slightly from the one presented in Field Manual: Updates. First, for each pilot, I roll a 2d6 on the following table:
Roll Level 2-5 Green 6-9 Regular 10-11 Veteran 12+ Elite
I apply the following modifiers to this roll based on the overall skill level of the force: Green -2; Regular +0; Veteran +2; Elite +4. Once this basic level has been determined for each pilot, I then roll on the normal Total Warfare random assignment tables for the actual piloting and gunnery skill levels. Typically, I pick and choose which of my pilots gets assigned to which vee/'Mech after all the rolling.
To continue the example of the WoB militia, let's say that this force is rated as Veteran. I roll 2d6 six times with the following results: 4, 4, 9, 8, 2, 10. Since this is a veteran force, I add two to each roll, giving me: 6, 6, 11, 10, 4, 12. Converting this into levels I get: Regular, Regular, Veteran, Veteran, Green, Elite. I then roll, separately for the piloting and gunnery skill levels on the Total Warfare table:
- Regular (rolled 2, 3): (4/5)
- Regular (rolled 5, 3): (3/5)
- Veteran (rolled 4, 6): (3/3)
- Veteran (rolled 3, 5): (3/3)
- Green (rolled 4, 2): (4/6)
- Elite (rolled 2, 3): (3/3)
(Note: For those who are interested, this is the “Taharqa” method listed in the MegaMek random skill assignment options).
As with all things in this process, I sometimes allow myself wiggle room. In particular, with a small number of units, randomness can produce odd results. But for the most part, I try to stick with what the dice give me. These skill levels seem pretty reasonable.
The final step is to put it all together by assigning these skills to my units. Here is what I get:
- MR-5M Cerberus (3/3)
- LGC-01 Legacy ( (3/3)
- BL-8-KNT Black Knight (3/5)
- ARC-8M Archer (4/6)
- Pinto (3/3)
- Pinto (4/5)
If there is one area where I think the track system is flawed it is skill advancement. Because the basic track system rules give a very low SP cost for pilot advancement, a pilot can easily go from Green (5/6) to Elite (2/3) in only six tracks.
I have adjusted these rules in two ways. First, in addition to the SP cost, each pilot also accumulates XP points that must be spent for skill advancement. Second, both the SP and the XP cost of skill advancement is higher at higher skill levels.
Pilots accumulate XP in two ways. First, for every track in which the pilot participated, they earn 1XP. Second, for every two kills, the pilot earns 1XP. I only record kills for 'Mechs and vees. Sometimes determining who made a kill is a judgment call, but typically it is whoever made the disabling shot, including things like blowing off legs and taking out gyros.
The skill advancement for pilot is given below: (Note: This table has been edited since the original post, to slow down skill advancement).
Skill SP Cost XP Cost Novice (6) to Green (5) 15 2 Green (5) to Regular (4) 25 4 Regular (4) to Veteran (3) 50 6 Veteran (3) to Elite (2) 150 8 Elite (2) to Heroic (1) 200 10 Heroic (1) to Legendary (0) 250 12
In addition to skill advancement, I also allow pilots to acquire some of the special abilities from MaxTech. The costs for these special abilities is as follows:
Ability SP Cost XP Cost Dodge Maneuver 50 4 Maneuvering Ace 100 6 Melee Specialist 100 6 Pain Resistance 100 6 Weapon Specialist 200 10 Laser/Ballistic/Missile Specialist 150 6
The Laser/Ballistic/Missile Specialist is an unofficial advantage that gives the pilot a -1 to gunnery with the given weapon type. The only restriction on these advantages is that the pilot can only choose to be one type of specialist (including weapon specialist). So you can’t choose to be a Medium Laser Specialist and a Laser Specialist, for example.
The cost for specialization were carefully chosen. Basically, it is inefficient to take this ability before becoming a Veteran gunner because the cost of advancing the gunnery skill itself is cheaper or the same. But for Veteran gunners it might be more effective to then choose a specialization.
I also use the unofficial Commander Initiative option in MegaMek (unsurprising, given that I wrote it). This option allows you to specify a bonus for each pilot and then use the highest bonus among all active pilots as a bonus to your initiative. I allow this command initiative to vary from +0 to +6, and I use the following rules to assign it to OpFor by skill level:
Level Bonus Green 0 Regular 0 Veteran 1 Elite 2 Heroic 3 Legendary 4
Typically I choose one member of the OpFor as the leader and give them +1 or +2 to their bonus on top of these base values.
For pilot advancement of Commander Initiative, I use the following costs:
Increase to SP Cost XP Cost 1 50 2 2 100 2 3 150 4 4 200 4 5 250 6 6 300 6
The costs are generally lower here, because command initiative isn’t as important to success as gunnery and piloting skills.
Finally, I also allow each pilot to have a certain amount of edge, as per the MaxTech rules. All pilots start with 1 point of edge, except for the commander of the force who automatically gets 4 points of edge. The maximum edge for any pilot is four points. To increase edge, a pilot must spend 50SP and 2XP.
That’s it for pilot advancement. I will probably update these rules once we learn what goodies are in the forthcoming Battletech RPG (and once I get said goodies coded into MegaMek).
Every merc unit needs access to the marketplace to survive. Below, I cover the three things you can do in the marketplace: buying, selling, and recruiting.
Buying and Selling
Buying and selling units is pretty simple in my track system. The cost of each unit in SP is given by:
- SP cost = C-bill cost / 10,000
This is the recommended SP/C-bill conversion in the basic track system. There are two wrinkles that I add to this basic system. First, damaged 'Mechs sell for less. Second, you can’t just buy whatever you want. You have to make a successful roll.
The actual price that units sell for is their base SP price multiplied by the following condition factor:
Condition Multiplier Minor Repair 0.8 Heavy Repair 0.65 Crippled 0.5 Destroyed 0.2
In case you are wondering, it is always more cost effective to repair a unit before selling it unless it is destroyed. Essentially a destroyed unit is just sold for salvage.
Purchases is one of the few areas in my track system where rolls are necessary. The other one is recruitment, discussed below. I just didn’t think it should be as simple as buying whatever 'Mech you want whenever and wherever you are. So I use the acquisition roll described in Field Manual: Mercs to acquire new units. In that system, you can specify the exact unit you want at a higher target number or you can just search on general parameters. In terms of the location modifiers, I typically use either the location of the last track of the next track.
Each acquisition roll costs 75SP. You don’t have to accept the results of any roll. You can always just pay for another acquisition roll.
Recruiting new pilots is the one other area where I have a roll. The base cost of recruitment is 50SP. You then roll 2d6, and use the following table to determine the quality of the recruited:
Roll Level 2-5 Green 6-9 Regular 10-11 Veteran 12+ Elite
For additional SP costs (before you make the roll), you can apply modifiers to this roll. The modifiers and costs are:
SP Cost Modifier 100 +1 300 +2 600 +3 1,000 +4
Once the general skill level is established, you then roll on the Total Warfare tables to determine actual piloting and gunnery skills. I also give all new pilots one point of edge and a command bonus corresponding to their skill level, per the rules here. Unlike the results for purchases, you cannot re-roll recruitment results.
So, for example, let's say I need to recruit a new pilot due to an unfortunate “Gauss to the head” experience. I really would like at least a veteran pilot, so I spend the extra 300SP to get a +2 to my roll. So my total cost is 350SP. I roll an 8 on 2d6. Adding my bonus, I get a 10, which gives me a veteran pilot. Yay!
Now I roll on the actual TW tables for skill levels. I roll a 6 for piloting and a 3 for gunnery giving me a (3/3) pilot. I assign this pilot one edge point and a command bonus of +1. Now I just need a name and I am good to go!
A Change to XP costs
So, I was looking through Total Warfare the other day and I noticed that they did have information in there on pilot advancement, which I thought had been left out. Basically 8XP increases gunnery and 4XP increases piloting. It got me thinking about the XP costs I use in my own system. The meaning of XP is roughly equivalent where you get 1XP for each battle, although I also give 1XP for every two kills. My XP cost system is scaled so that it costs more to raise an elite skill than a green one. Nonetheless, if you look at averages, my XP system moves faster. It takes 36XP to move a pilot from Green (5/6) to Elite (2/3) in TW and only 24XP under my system. I also noticed that my pilots seemed to be advancing too quickly. In six games so far my pilots have mostly advanced from regular to veteran and above. So I decided to tweak my system a little bit. Basically, I changed two things. First, I changed the “levels” to reflect the actual numeric skill rating, regardless of whether it is piloting or gunnery. So it costs the same to move gunnery from 4 to 3 as it does to move piloting from 4 to 3. Second, I just added 2 XP to all the costs. Doing so made the XP costs from Green to Elite equivalent, although my pilots probably still advance faster due to the XP from kills. I also bumped up the XP costs of all advantages by 2.
Here are the new tables:
- Note: the Skill and Ability tables in the Skill Advancement section have been updated.
Luckily, as a result of careful record-keeping, I was able to retcon my team without too much difficulty.