Mechwarrior: Running ‘A Time of War’ Pt.2

As has been mentioned several times in several posts over the last several weeks, I have been running the new Mechwarrior RPG as a play by email game.

When I decided to undertake this project, my technical goal was to try to find a way to generate a feeling of anticipation and excitement comparable to the tabletop game. The campaign is still in its infancy, but we have been able to keep to the mandated posting schedule, and the posts themselves have been settling into a stable pattern.

Standard Posts

These resolve in a combination of private information shared one on one with each player in their own thread, and a conversation thread where the players can drive things forward on their own based on the flow of conversation, and the updates they get in their private threads.

My involvement here is to keep the players informed of things their characters discover, or would know, update them on background and NPC information, and develop backstory, while they work in-character to delve into the setting.

As things progress, I edit the posts together into a dramatized timeline.

Action Posts

These resolve almost entirely in the private threads. Scene descriptions vary widely between players depending on background, location, skill sets, goals, and each character’s focus, as well as their mental and physical condition.

This is a lot more work, but the greater player involvement in speculation, prediction, and cohesion makes it worth it.

I tend to start with the most involved action sequence, and expand outward from there. I write each post out completely in terms of what the character is doing, before adding elements from the other characters’ posts to flesh out what they can see going on around them.

Communication, if possible and desired, can still be handled in the group conversation thread, but is, of course, subject to even heavier editorial sequencing by me.

A weakness we discovered was in my effort to shift gears from the drama of the opening scene to the tension of a sudden flashback to combat, I kept too tight a grip on information for some of the players to be able to function properly as their characters. While the restricted focus on the immediate combat problem was entirely appropriate for some of the characters, it was not at all appropriate for all of them. We resolved that via general questions and answers in the OOC thread, and more character-specific questions and answers in the individual threads.

As things progress, I will edit the posts together into an action report, and intend to present the combat more dramatically from each character’s point of view.

Breaking the system in

As none of us had tried doing this before in quite this way, I felt we had to build up to things. I knew I certainly needed to have the ability to limit the types and amount of information that was coming my way at first.

The first combat encounter took place in media res, with the group suddenly separated from visual contact, and some unknown form of ECM or EMP interfering with both communication and sensors.

Action was heavy, and individual responses to it were required – there was simply no time to worry about lancemates. The posts are organized according to the normal action sequence of a turn so that everything flows smoothly, and details are presented in coherent chunks.

The initial rounds of combat dealt with terrain, then moved on to locations and intentions of the enemy lance, then trying to reform and function as a unit again. I started them on their heels and they very quickly reasserted themselves, took control of the tempo of the fight and regrouped with good positioning and tactical assessment of the situation.

We began with no map visible, just terrain description with limited tactical information. Characters could detect mechs, but not determine which blips were which mechs, nor on which side they were operating. They could determine that two mechs were missing, and were fairly certain that the missing mechs were one from each side.

This then moved to a rough, hand drawn map with sketchy information about other mech movement and placement. As the distortion effect declined, and as visual contact was restored as a natural result of appropriate repositioning, the information on the map took on greater clarity.

One section of the map

Ready for a War

 

One of the players (Mad Dog) was kind enough to generate a map from the rough sketches, and once sensors were restored offered to keep it updated with the mech movements and facings during the combat. You will see these maps in context in the next live report, but here is one to give you an idea of what is going on.

Roleplaying

Keeping with the idea of archetypes and character development, each character has a clearly defined niche, and a firmly established personality. In the opening scene, the players were suddenly thrust into their roles to react to a tragedy. In the next, they were thrown into a flashback to combat, and denied interaction. In isolation, we saw the players display their primary traits in the way they took on the challenges the scene presented.

 

  • Cool Hand Luke sees combat through the cold eyes of analysis and his player has generated graphs of each pairing and engagement possible in this conflict in order to determine optimal ranges for maximum effect for minimum risk, and then tested them out in numerous permutations in his personal combat simulator.

Comparison of Damage Potentials over Increasing Range

  • Mad Dog is belligerent and hot under the collar. His great passion is matched only be his phenomenal talent. His approach to the combat has been nothing short of acrobatic and in-your-face.
  • Blowtorch’s least favorite place is combat, and we have seen her caution demonstrated in her careful dissection of the enemy, and careful riding of the heat scale. However, while cautious, she is not to be dismissed, as her character is a tech of the first water, and what she doesn’t know about how to put them together and take them apart isn’t worth knowing.

 

After a series of turns cut off from each other, communication has been restored. I am looking forward to seeing the two sides of the game merge finally, and see where it goes from here.

Provided by BF Wolfe~

I play with very creative people

Image courtesy of BF Wolfe~

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