Fudging Battletech

BattlemechWhile I am preparing the XCOM game I have been writing about, I am already thinking about other one-shots/mini-campaigns I could run in the future. One of the games I wanted to run for a long time is Mechwarrior. I love the Battletech universe – especially the 3025 era – and I recently tracked down a copy of Mechwarrior 1st edition and added it to my collection. But there’s a problem: the rules suck. Even if you can look around the fact that the game was written with a clear focus on the people piloting Battlemechs, some of the rules are still pretty clunky, and in some cases totally broken. That said, I still love to leaf through the book. One reason may be nostalgia, but the other is the fact that the Battletech universe detailed in its pages is the one I enjoyed the most. Newer editions just haven’t had the same feel anymore. Your mileage may vary of course.

So I started to think about alternatives. The probably easiest solution would be to just take the attributes and skills from the game and use them together with Fudge rules. For compatibility with the Battletech tabletop rules you just need to come up with a conversion table between Fudge Skill ranks and Battletech’s Gunnery and Pilot skills, which shouldn’t pose any big problems. But this solution implies that everything on a personal level will be handled by Fudge, while Battletech and vehicle combat is run using the Battletech tabletop rules. If everyone at the game table is a fan of the tabletop game and doesn’t mind pretty long combats this should work fine. But what if the players prefer a more cinematic combat experience?

The most straightforward solution would be to convert the tabletop game to Fudge, too. Handle ‘Mech combat just like personal combat in Fudge and find a way to describe a Battlemech in Fudge terms. Alas this is easier said than done. I don’t mind throwing out some of the details, but the feel of Battletech should remain. At the moment I am not sure where I should start. So I am asking my readers for help. Have you ever tried to accomplish the same? How would you convert a Battlemech to Fudge terms? Any advice is highly appreciated!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

5 thoughts on “Fudging Battletech”

  1. I’ve done Battletech with FATE before, and it worked out ok. It needed some work for the larger scale battles. Personal scale it’s FATE, and does what FATE does.

    Basically I handled it with Mechs having a character sheet with aspects, but you kept the character’s skills. To reflect that Lights are just less deadly than Mediums, etc. I gave Lights 3 stunts, the ability to move 3 zones and 0 armor, Mediums 4 stunts the ability to move 2 zones and zero armor, Heavies 5 stunts the ability to move one zone and 1 armor, and Assaults 5 stunts the ability to move 1 zone and 2 armor. I believe I handled internal structure with consequences and gave the heavies and assaults more of that. I handled stress tracks with dedicating stunts to it.

    For weapons Harm was basically reflected in dividing the harm rating of the weapon or weapon group by 5. That ended up needing work as well because it led to “tie everything together and meep one thing” which isn’t really what you want with the multiple weapons systems in Battletech.

    Heat was reflected by allowing people to take the “heating” aspect and having a limit of how many times they could do so before they shut down, and taking penalties of -2 at 1/3rd of the way through, -3 at 2/3rds of the way through on a track that was usually 3. Again, needs work. Weapons like flamers that do heat damage could place the heating aspect.

    For the larger battles I handled lances of vehicles and companies of troops as one action. I also given the longer battle turns did the only thing I felt conclusively worked. For a group of players, based on the highest “tactical” skill in that group I gave then 20 seconds per rank of that skill to OOC coordinate their actions for the turn. At the point that time was up, everyone moved and then we went to initiative for shooting/interacting with the environment, etc. That was meant to reflect that this is a trained group that can coordinate their actions to some extent not dictated by the fastest of them.

    It definitely needed some work, and we moved on to another game before we fully worked it out. What worked out very well was a more dramatic pacing to the battles, and much less time spent working out the math.

    Hope that’s of some use.

  2. You could use Mechwarrior Dark Ages minis and rules for mech and vehicle combat and include the pilot and gunnery skills as bonuses to hit, evade and movement on the combat wheels. These tabletop rules are light enough for a fast game and still allow stunts such as Tackle or Death Jump. Works pretty well with the earlier RPG rule sets although you won’t get the original 3025 mech designs.

  3. You say Mechwarrior, 1st edition. That implies there are others. Have you considered looking at them? Also there were 3 or 4 different sets of mech rules for d20 if you enjoy that.

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