Playing A Time of War ~ Part 1

Believe it or not, another of my RPG prayers has been answered. BF Wolfe, damage curve analyst, and the motive force behind Lucas ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Rom in my Mechwarrior Campaign, Hair of the Dog, is just wrapping up character creation and concept tweaking with a group of us in order to start a campaign of his own using the A Time of War RPG. The campaign, A Merchant’s Part, is set in September 3028 in the Deep Periphery in and around Umayyad/Nueva Castile, and the Hanseatic League. As with Hair of the Dog, choosing a date more than three decades in advance of the current time line for Battletech requires a little juggling, but character generation went smoothly as far as I could see, and my character was up and running in short order. I guess we have learned a lot since returning to the Battletech Universe, but there always seems to be more to discover, learn, and relearn.

 Early Days

This is your captain speaking…

Aerospace will be playing a fairly significant role in events, and I have the fortune to be running the group’s primary pilot. As a result, I have been boning up on the rules and rules changes/expansions which have come down the pike since the last time I got my dice behind an aerotech fighter… maybe 15 or 16 years ago. Fortunately for me, the core principles seem to remain the same, despite the passage of time, and the option of ever-greater complexity. I am not sure to what complexity level we intend to go, but as I tear into Strategic Operations with an eye toward roleplaying a pilot, I am ready to go all out.

Of course, it won’t be as simple as just fighters and dog fights. The role calls for competency from helicopters on up to dropships, so I am looking forward to having a wide range of experiences using a wide range of vehicle types in a wide range of situations.

Character creation was approached like a want ad, which was a lead-in that I really enjoyed. We essentially applied for one of the listed positions by submitting a character concept, and then found out if it was acceptable or not. Rejection did not preclude resubmission, but all in all it had a nice feel about it, which I think I will have to incorporate into my own games. From what I understand, the first scene will be a meeting with the employer after being hired and then… we are off!

 System Thoughts

With more than a year behind us with the game system only in a manner of speaking (If we were playing face to face we would be on the cusp of starting the 5th session) making characters involved a lot less page-flipping and rules-reading. This time out I found the approach to be faster and even more helpful in fleshing out a very realistic spread of skills and abilities well-grounded in the immense Battletech universe than when I first got the game.  With good notes on where you are placing points so that revisions or corrections flow faster, it goes really quickly for its level of detail. It will never be as fast a making a character for a Ubiquity game or rolling up a Call of Cthulhu investigator, but it folds in a lot of the post-creation character consideration which goes on with games that use lighter generation mechanics. Unlike my recent Aha! moment where I really found my voice with a Desolation character in the third session of play, I had my Aha! between selecting my skills and moving on to think about additional Negative Traits. I enjoy creating rich backstories for most of my characters, but was not prepared for how much of this character I had a sense of from such an early stage. Part of that, of course stems from years of play in the game universe, but it is also a factor of how well the character generation process manages to reference and frame the diverse elements which make up the setting, in an evocative and provocative way.

The more I use the system, the more I am growing to like it. Its initial complexity can seem overwhelming at first with things like damage being represented by 4+ character alpha numeric codes, with charts galore for pretty much everything, and with the massive weight of setting development pushing everything forward, but what I am finding is that once you have used a set of rules, such as grappling, or wounds, or morale, their internal logic really aids retention. With a little practice, the rules stick. While I guess my preferences would naturally fall somewhere on the Rules:Medium scale of complexity, I have to say, it is easy to make an exception for this game.

This Series

Posts in this series will be about the A Time of War RPG solely from a player’s perspective. Posts on Hair of the Dog will continue to look at things from the GM’s side of the screen.

As an aside, if you are interested in A Time of War and are not following the excellent Ten Years on Terra, you really should be.

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