Mechwarrior: Running A Time of War, part 6

As the PBeM reports for my Mechwarrior Campaign, Hair of the Dog, show – progress is ‘rapidly’ being made to get into the meat of the tale, leaving the preliminaries safely resolved behind us. In many aspects I think of this part of the campaign as Christmas Day, with New Years to follow, and all the cold, brutal force that winter hits with once those festivities are done.

New Blood

The campaign has expanded in several ways, both IC and OOC, and that has been very satisfying. A new player joined the ranks from the wastes of the Internet, and is patiently waiting as his character is introduced to us inch by inch as the weeks slip by. With new blood comes new life, and this new character has instantly added a new dimension to the game with his focus on strong interpersonal relationships, trust, and family… plus a little of the old Ultraviolence.

While that has been happening, the original three have also been conferring with me and have decided to shift the zoom of the campaign out a bit so that more things could be delegated to NPCs. This had the combined effect of allowing me to take on more voices, let me increase the pace and lessen the complexity of the tale, and settle on a style which is akin to jump cuts in film where once a scene has touched on its main points, we cut to something else, leaving specifics to be sorted out in tangential OOC e-mail.

New Style

This new style of pacing and focusing the story trades one set of problems for another and leaves us with the same result, but at a faster pace, so it is marginally an improvement. If nothing else, it allows an increase in pithy one-liners, dramatic speeches, and lets us switch more readily between mech and mechwarrior scenes.  What holds it back is of course, the ease in which information and clues can be lost as more is implied, and less is actually done to completion. This problem has not worsened, just traded reasons for its existence. In the former style, the volume of information and the slower pace, prevented people from retaining and finding everything they need to know. Faster is better.

To support this approach, the players have collected a large database of information which they store in a multi-tabbed google docs spreadsheet. You can get a look at some parts of this document in the PBeM reports. Cast members, locations, industries, intel on the enemy, maps of the planet and the territory the Lyrans have seized, their character sheets, and all of their fledgling plans are laid out, page by page to be communally edited, and shared quickly.

Mad Dog’s player has also been busy generating new maps for future battles in his highly detailed style, and not to be left behind, Cool Hand’s player has done so as well with the handy assistance of MegaMek. My ham-handed self then went to work plopping abstract building icons all over the place like a demented party clown with a polka fetish.

Downtown Beasville
New Elements

Not entirely new, as they were intended from the start, but newly introduced to the living tale we are making, is a level of intrigue, a web of risk, reward, and consequence, with mysteries and politics to hold it all in place. The players, most of whom know my games well, are planning cautiously, and wondering when the other hobnail boot will drop as they try to snatch the incredible bounty of mechs and means to stage their revolt that are seemingly spread out before them with none to gainsay their right to just waltz away with it.

Now that the introductions to the setting and the major players on their own side are essentially over, the real story is kicking into high gear. As this campaign is intended to be a sandbox, I am working with strings and schedules and maps, while they are planning their own objectives, and biding their time until the perfect moment to reveal themselves. That time is almost upon us. As I write this entry, the final version of the battlemap for the Port City of Beasville is being prepared, as is the most probable secondary location for battle once that one ends. It is not going to be easy, or pretty, but it should be brutal, and bring out the other major feature of this campaign.

Decisions

We have been joking that I should change the title of the campaign to Hair of the Decision, as so far, each stage of the game has entailed making tough decisions, and setting time-sensitive and life-threatening things in motion which lead to others of their ilk… leaving many unchosen options lost in the mists of time, never to be regained. This is not going to change, but instead is likely to intensify, not only because the group is about to enter battle with untried and unfamiliar mechs, bolstered by untried and unfamiliar allies, lacking ammunition and information, and facing a trek of more than a thousand kilometers through a rapidly shrinking no man’s land.

To survive, some hard decisions will need to be made.

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