Mechwarrior: Initial Comparison of 3rd and 4th Edition

First Impressions:

In an initial run through character creation using Mechwarrior 3rd Edition, and Mechwarrior 4th Edition, those who have kept current with the game line will know that I did not find too many differences in terms of fundamental approach and content. What I did find, though, was a trade-off in terms of how Life Paths work, and a significant redesign of the mechanics of chargen.

Based on this single pass through each process, I would say that MW3 lends itself to generating well-rounded random characters quickly, while allowing useful player input in the direction chargen takes. MW4 seems to lend itself to generating balanced characters with useful player input throughout, but due to its reliance on adding a layer to the process by requiring players to contribute XP toward whole or partial trait points, rather than just dealing with the trait points directly, my first impression is one of slowness. I do prefer not having to risk starting with my character deeply scarred mentally and physically by the vicissitudes of chargen as one does in 3rd Edition, but on the first pass – I found the usually pleasant process of character creation to be closer to work than play.

Obviously, I will have to use the system a few more times before I have a feel for its actual flow when familiar with it, but I wanted to record my first experiences to see how or if my perception of the different editions changes.

Current Bias:

Systemically, as it does seem to produce a better conversion of characters between the wargame and the roleplaying game, and as it also maintains a more consistent theme between the two for task resolution mechanics, I have almost completely made up my mind to use the 4th Edition (A Time of War) rules for my campaign – but intend to think about it a little longer and run a few more test scenes for common tasks.

I invite any readers familiar with both editions to offer up their impressions. I would appreciate the input.

5 Responses to “Mechwarrior: Initial Comparison of 3rd and 4th Edition”
  1. BF Wolfe says:

    Well, I’m only familiar with 3rd (since its free), but I may check out fourth if its an improvement. I did generate a character in third, and the process was fairly smooth and the I get what they were trying to accomplish with the life paths. The random aspect was pretty severe, but for the most part, you could recover your character concept through choices. For example, I decided to start nobility with an eye to the military academy, the random role had my parents joining a rebellion and losing all social standing, and i was off to the street. I was still able to get through the military by enlisting a while later. The severity is that the odds of getting a ‘bad’ event is nearly 50% (2d6, 6 or less, usually). This makes for some pretty scarred characters like you mentioned. I managed to work my way through the key character building events I had planned, but I ended up with severe addictions to absinthe and opium, developed 5 major enemies from the street, my own house’s nobility and a neighboring house, and loss of all my property from work and inheritance. The zigzag of my path also ruled any consistency in stat bonuses, and at the end ended up with enough points to get everything up to a bare minimum of 3 or 4. Willpower, ironically enough, was bought up to a stated minimum of 5 despite my inability to stay sober for more than 5 minutes. 🙂 And I didn’t even roll that badly. I do see where they were going, because I see a lot of character developing around my idea that I may not have added. I’ll let you know if I do any better in 4th, since I will be trying for the same character theme. 🙂

  2. BF Wolfe says:

    ok, I’ve managed a brief overview as well, and I think I lean toward 3. Its a quirky mix of random and point buy that still lets you (mostly) achieve the charcater you were shooting for. The way the paths lead to each other, I could see role playing the process to choose one life stage at a time. The 4th edition has fewer nasty surprises, granted, but it feels like a cookie cutter character generator. All characters with similar background are mostly the same in terms of abilities.
    There are no point incentives for choosing a path, you pay full XP for the skills whether it fits your concept or not.
    There are no role playing advantages (other than a few idea archtypes) since there are very few deviations from the set package
    There are no advantages to charcter continuityb since they dropped the linear nature of the paths. Unless I’m missing something, you can go directly from street to University.
    I think for 4th ed, I wiould do mostly a pure point based character with maybe a couple of these life paths as themed packages without tying myself too closely to ‘4 stages’

  3. Runeslinger says:

    Character generation in 3rd Edition is definitely faster and also much more enjoyable.

    I think I prefer everything else in 4th, however, but am still working on determining the actual ‘level’ of characters the systems generate. Not enough time.

    I might – if it is feasible – want to just use character generation from 3rd, but play with 4th.

    • Runeslinger says:

      I will write this out in a more formal fashion in the next few weeks, but my opinion about character generation has actually changed a lot from the initial one. I am now making characters with a lot more comfort, control, and speed than I think is possible in 3rd, by either method, pure points or following the delineated stages of the paths.

      While the random feature of the life paths in 3rd Edition has a bit of playful danger about it, 4th Edition’s method does exactly what I want it to do, and as a result, I am now firmly on its side.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Thoughts on A Time of War, one year later […]

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