THIS IS WHY YOU DO BETAS
We try to make the best possible product within the constraints placed on us (far and away the biggest one being time). At the same time, you just have to resign yourself to the fact that you’ll never catch every last problem. No matter how many times you read the text, it can’t compare with hundreds or thousands of fresh eyes going over it.
This is where the internet comes in. In ye olde days, you took in the feedback from your few playtest groups, put out your final release, and hoped for the best. After that point you could only wait to see who would write you letters or speak to you at cons and point out the things you’d goofed on. Now we can reach so many more people, so that the final product is better and any eventual errata file is shorter (you’re still not going to get everything, though). Everyone wins. Along those lines, the beta period for the upcoming BattleMech Manual was very fruitful. We have nearly 200 changes, ranging from “replace this capital W with a lower-case w” to “replace this entire page with the following new text” (I’m particularly happy with how the thorny issue of displacement was dealt with). Overall, the book will be better than ever due to your feedback, and we thank you for that.
One particular bit of feedback noted something we hadn’t considered much at all, however. The original idea for the book was a strictly Tournament Legal volume (using the formal definition in BT). As time went by, the scope of the book changed and we abandoned the idea of worrying about rules levels in the Manual. However, the list of what equipment was to be in the book still reflected that Tournament Legal mindset: only TL-rated items made the cut.
The most recent Technical Readouts – Prototypes, 3145, and 3150 – wholeheartedly embraced the host of new weapons and equipment in use in BattleTech since Tactical Operations appeared. The ’Mechs in those volumes really push the envelope in terms of equipment options. However, a lot of that gear isn’t rated as Tournament Legal. The result was that many of the machines in those Technical Readouts weren’t 100% supported by the BattleMech Manual.
Now, as we’ve said from the beginning, the Manual was never intended to cover everything (“90% of stuff used by 90% of players”, was the mantra). A lot of the equipment on the machines in those three Readouts pretty much only appears there; it’s niche. But as time goes by and the BattleTech timeline marches ever onwards, it becomes an ever-larger niche, and by lacking a lot of that equipment, we were letting our post-Jihad playerbase down. So, even though these items aren’t in use by a large number of ’Mechs to date, we realized we need to add some of them to the Manual.
But what to add? Of the 122 ’Mechs in the three Technical Readouts under discussion, 73 aren’t 100% usable by the Manual beta (sometimes this is just one item, sometimes not). The problem is that those 73 ’Mechs are that way because of 38 different pieces of technology. A lot of those 38 pieces might only show up on two or three ’Mechs, or even just one (Blue Shield PFD only on the Quasimodo, mining drill only on the Violator: I’m looking at you guys). Some of those pieces require a lot of rules text to describe how they function (handheld weapons and remote sensors each require an entire page). Adding all that would bloat the Manual–the exact thing we designed it to avoid.
So, we compromised. Thirteen more items are being stuffed into the Weapons and Equipment chapter: the most common post-Jihad weapons, equipment, and construction options with gameplay rules. They are:
Their entries are trimmed down from their original appearances in Tactical and Interstellar Operations, as befitting the scope of the Manual (for example, there’s no table telling you how to use Partial Wings in non-standard atmospheres or with ProtoMechs, because the Manual doesn’t deal with those things). But they’re fully detailed for gameplay using the Manual and, overall, their addition greatly expands the list of 100% usable post-Jihad BattleMechs. (As an aside, because the room was there, we’re also adding one more new quirk, one that should make Succession Wars-era players happy.)
Thanks again everyone for your feedback!