Saturday Seed ~ 58 (A Time of War)

After a lot of internal debate, I have decided that this week’s seed will be for A Time of War, the Battletech RPG. There are a lot of seeds I want to share this week when usually just one or two seem appropriate. The site has been a little top-heavy with Battletech stuff lately, but as I am actively engaged in a Mechwarrior campaign, this feature of the site is comparatively light on story seeds. As this is one that I really like, but cannot use in my own campaign, I thought it might be good to share it now. With that in mind~

The Seed

In the heat of combat, a lance is faced with hard decisions concerning the imminent deaths of their lancemates. Some of these decisions are harder than others.

Planting the seed

A seed like this requires that one or more members of the lance have enemies of a decent enough rating [-3 or more] to warrant fairly regular, fairly serious harassment of a torturous nature.

It is important to note that to work properly, the threat levied must seem absolutely real and the attendant decision arising from that threat must be understood to be one of life and death.

It will also be important to provide options in advance which will work to enhance survival later. I recommend having a story thread revolve around getting first aid kits updated and upgraded, and provide slightly easier access to medicinal stimulants, anti-coagulants, burn creams, bandages, etc than would normally be available. It might also be an interesting angle to have a technically inclined NPC propose ‘enhancing’ the characters’ piloting couches, providing an additional rationale for survival, as well as an additional vector for suspicion.

The Details

During an otherwise normal military operation involving engagement with hostile forces, the PC lance discover to their horror that their mechs have been tampered with, and that someone has taken great pains to try to torture and kill them.

Tampering tends to be a touchy subject among players so cover your bases and make certain it is plausible and possible for an Enemy in your campaign to concoct this plot and carry it out. If you cannot justify it, the seed still has value as you can turn it on its head and use it just as an initial hook, having the players catch the thugs of the villain in the act of tampering with the mechs. Imagine their response!

Problem 1

In the middle of intense combat with a superior force, communications go down and cannot be regained. Each mech will lose their comm over a 1D3 roll of Turns. (Delayed release chemical agents destroy the circuits).

-Without comms, players will need to go to individual initiative rolls and lose the benefits of leadership.

Problem 2

An audio message informs two pilots that all 4 mechs have been rigged with a large explosive charge and that they have been fitted with a proximity sensor which will arm the bomb’s timer if they get within 30m of a lance mate’s mech or stray more than 120m from the other three mechs. (You may need to time this announcement or adjust the latter range to reflect the situation on your game map.) It will conclude after a brief pause, with the warning that stopping will also activate the timer.

-If at any point the mechs stray out of these boundaries, an electronic timer will begin a tone only countdown sequence.

An audio message informs one pilot that their mech has been rigged with a large explosive charge and that it has a proximity sensor which will activate the bomb’s timer if he comes closer than 240m to the other three mechs, or leaves his pilots couch. It says nothing about stopping.

-If at any point the mech allows the others to close, an electronic timer noise will begin a tone only countdown sequence.

An audio message informs the character with the highest Enemy trait, or in the case of a tie or shared Enemy, the Lance Leader, that each mech has been rigged to explode and all four will do so unless a choice is made. The pilot’s console will bring up a small program window which provides the ability to choose one of the mechs in the lance for destruction, sparing the other three. If the pilot chooses their own mech, they will discover that that option does not work, but a voice recording states, ‘Invalid Entry – Please try again.’

-This will happen for any and all other selections

Problem 3

Combat continues to rage, and the players will need to split their attention between dealing with the very real possibility of a bomb in their cockpits, and the requirements of the battle in which they are engaged.

Let the tension mount, then spring this problem on the character with the highest Enemy trait, or in the case of a tie or shared Enemy, the Lance Leader.

The program window seems to get glitchy for a second or two then shows the selection of the player’s own mech (if chosen at any point) and any and all previous selections, intentional or not, will be lit and the notice ‘Countdown Initiated’ will be displayed.

-All mechs where the timer has not already begun to do so, will have it begin to do so. In addition, for each mechwarrior, a program window will pop up stating:  ‘To save themselves, the lance has selected you for death.’

-The countdown noise will accelerate at this point

Problem 4

There really are explosive devices and they really will explode. Here you will have to work some magic and maybe install some armour made of handwavium. The blast output of the device will be quite low, and the likelihood of survival with only minor injury will be excellent. Characters should feel like they were in an explosion, but as they really have not had the opportunity to pit their wits and skills against their opponent, it is not much of a story if you blow them to bits. That said…  let them know after the fact, once the techs get a chance to go over their mechs, that they survived because the devices malfunctioned due to a faulty circuit which could not deal with an environmental factor (such as high heat) in the cockpit.

Minor damage may also happen to some onboard systems, but again exercise fairness, caution, and enhance the dramatic tension rather than the frustration.

Problem 5

Consciousness checks, wounds, and the battle itself


This seed can have very serious effects on the outcome of the battle in which it is set. Balance the encounter accordingly to ensure the outcome is not an unpleasant surprise. Options include, but of course are not limited to, reinforcements of some type, a window of opportunity closing for the opponent thereby provoking a withdrawal, victory or defeat of the PC lance as appropriate, etc.


What’s going on

The group’s or player’s Enemy has decided to step up his game. You can foreshadow this by either skipping one of their standard intrusions to signal them ‘planning something big’ or balance it out by increasing a benefit elsewhere in the campaign.

This new approach by the Enemy is the forerunner to initiating some form of real resolution between the characters, and to be effective, must scare and worry the players, then fail to actually kill them or drive a wedge between them. It should provide the impetus from them to tighten their bonds of loyalty, and decide to deal with this threat once and for all.



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