11 February 2016

Back to Battletech: How The Old Dragoon Got His Groove Back

  Life post-graduation has been pretty busy.  The holidays took a lot of time, then we took our Geek Cruise to Belize, Isla Roatan, and Cozumel.  That was an amazing trip, and thanks to my amazing wife I was there with my friends and no adult responsibilities- against my Dad instincts Zane and Kaylee stayed home with Mary, and I went adventuring with the other geeky reprobates.  We played some great games on that cruise, including Machi Koro and Shadowrun.  Twas a blast.

  Upon returning to civilization, I was more or less energized.  I am still fighting down some of the anxiety issues that developed in June of last year.  I keep asking myself why my psyche couldn't make it just four more months, and then the pressure would have been off, but I digress.  Gaming has been my passion and my escape for years- and yet I felt disturbingly dispassionate about it.  In some cases I sought to escape from it.  My Wednesday night D&D campaign, masterfully run by my friend and shipmate Bobby, had all the hallmarks of a game I should be jazzed about.  It takes place in Mystara, my favorite campaign world.  I play a swashbuckling bard patterned after Zorro or Bruce Campbell's Daring Dragoon.  Why, then, did I get to the point that I kept looking for excuses not to attend?

  Stress is a thing.  Burnout is a thing.  Also, as my doctor reminded me, the brain and the body need time to adapt to changing environments.  The stress of Thesis time hung on with me right up through the cruise.  Although I had not been enrolled in class for two months, I still felt like I was enrolled in class, and that stress was keeping me from enjoying my hobbies, my family, and kept my anxiety front and center in my mind.

  Enter Battletech.

  Or should I say, re-enter Battletech.  Those of you who've read my blog for a while know that A) I don't post as much as I should and B) I cut my teeth on the Mentzer Basic and Expert D&D boxed sets.  Those were my first experience with roleplaying.  That same year, in 1986, I was introduced to a glorious boxed set called Battletech.  We played at lunch at school.  We played before school.  We played on weekends.  If we weren't playing D&D or FASA Trek that first year of my RPG career, we were playing Battletech or Robotech (the first game I bought with my own money.)  I had discovered the Robotech cartoon during the 1985-6 year we spent in Temple Terrace, FL and I was immediately floored.  The re-use of Macross/Robotech art in the Battletech game drew me in- but the game universe kept me there.  The idea of Great Houses fighting over an empty throne, 'Mechs that were relics as well as war machines, of technology and desperation married in a nearly apocalyptic future world- this game had me.  I rapidly discovered Technical Readout: 3025 and the level of detail astounded me.  Individual manufacturers of Medium Lasers and Jump Jets, famous MechWarriors, tidbits of history woven into the articles about each of the 55 'Mechs, 3 LAMs, 3 DropShips and 15 Aerospace Fighters, give or take some equally inspiring tanks like the Von Luckner, Galleon, Rommel and Patton.

  I had such a passion for Battletech that despite every other game I have ever played, Battletech has been a recurring theme for what is, this year, three decades.  I love many games, but it always comes back to Battletech.  So it has been these last few weeks.  My club, The Royal Dragoon Guards, was founded on Battletech.  It was preceded by the 342nd MSG of the Starfleet Marine Corps- a club which played a lot of Battletech.  That was preceded by the Caladan Highland Dragoons, formed in 1995, to play- you guessed it- Battletech.  So when the opportunity came to give my RDG campaign a hard reboot and do Battletech the way I love Battletech, I grabbed it with both hands.  I dug up the custom character creation rules Bobby and I had worked on.  I pulled out MechWarrior - the original, first edition - along with the original sourcebooks.  I pledged that I would build my campaign around Battletech the way I played it.  Nobles, antique 'Mechs, Dune with Giant Robots.

  Our classic campaign from nearly ten years ago saw the planet Royal, on the border of the Federated Suns and the Draconis Combine, in the midst of destabilizing internal strife due to the nobles that comprised its Landsraad squabbling constantly.  Duke Maglan von Kalmen decided to form a 'Mech unit dedicated to the world as a whole, and sent out a ducal proclamation requiring every House Minor on Royal to contribute personnel.  From the resulting melting pot of minor nobility the Duke forged, through Dispossessed MechWarrior Sir Richard Mainwaring, The Royal Dragoon Guards.  The year was 2914, in the early stages of the Third Succession War.  The campaign saw the Houses Minor ally with one another, scheme against one another, and most importantly expand the Battletech universe.  We created everything from secret Star League facilities to performing troupes and tobacco plantations.  Little pieces of color that fleshed out the feeling that Royal was a real world in which our characters lived, fought, loved and died.

  I decided we were going back to Royal.  Doing some refreshing of my Battletech memory I saw that Royal fell to the Draconis Combine during the Fourth Succession War, and did not return to the hands of House Davion until the War of 3039.  It was there I began to plan my campaign- the Royal Dragoon Guards would not be the original unit, no, this was a century later.  The name of the original unit would be resurrected to inspire expatriates from Royal to flock to the banner of Duke Paul Stephenson of New Ivaarsen, who seeks to put together his New Ivaarsen Volunteers to take Royal back from the Kuritans.  The idea for the campaign began to take shape - the players would be one company of the New Ivaarsen Volunteers named, for PR purposes, The Royal Dragoon Guards.  The players obliged by creating a group who had ties to Royal- some were expatriate nobles looking to gain back their family holdings.  Others were looking to carve out holdings and finding the situation such that the Duke might just grant them the lands of the treacherous nobles who supported the Kuritan military government.  The more I worked on the campaign and the plans for the plot the more excited I got.

  I realized I had my passion back when I was reading Battletech, Battletech, Battletech and making tons of notes about where this game would go.  I was adjusting the Battletech universe to make it more suitable to the campaign I wanted to run.  I was working with Bobby and Andy, one of our other players, creating new 'Mechs, tanks, and other equipment that existed in our version of the Battletech universe.  For three weeks now, my fingers have been pouring forth all sorts of background and plot for this new campiagn.  Good friends who have been absent from my game table since the last big Battletech campaign have returned just because this game is going back to the Battletech universe, back to Royal.  My enthusiasm has started to slowly bleed into other areas of my gaming interests. I've been revisiting things I started tinkering with years ago and adding bits here and there.  I've been making notes on non-Battletech games I'd like to run this year.  Completing the projects I undertook for North Texas RPG Con later this year.  I got my groove back.

  I don't know if this sudden energy burst will last - I hope it does.  When the last Royal campaign ran, it ran for four years.  My gaming brain is finally back to where it was before I became immersed in Grad School.  I'm in a good place as far as my hobby interests are concerned.  Now, if I can conquer my anxiety, life will be pretty damn good indeed.

  Stay tuned for more (fingers crossed) and check out www.texmechs.org to see what we're up to.

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