We continue our journey through the pits and perils that is the Wars of Reaving. When last we left our intrepid hero, he’d just been told there would be no record sheets and saw the book gutted of 15-16 pages of material. Whatever would our writer do?
Oh, and before we pick up our story thread, you still have time to ask a question (or two, or three) for the “FAQ” I’ll be posting on Wednesday.
Before a much-needed 10 day vacation around Memorial Day, chapters 3-8 were delivered to the factcheckers and playtesters. When I returned, I folded in the comments and fixes I did receive, most of which were positive encouragement and some detailed snags that needed addressed. The first weekend of June I spent slamming down Chapter 9, an in-book “addendum” to the fictional report that covered from the end of the Wars in 3076 through the time stamp of the intro: August 3087.
I’d already pulled a 72-hour writing marathon before my vacation, which saw nearly 42,000 words written. That first weekend back was a shorter 48 hour blitz, seeing corrections and another 18,000 words put down. I still wasn’t done, however, and our to-layout window was now blown by nearly a week. Fortunately, two other projects were taking their toll on layout, so I had some unwitting breathing room.
But I still had the short fiction, the personalities section, and the campaign section to complete.
With all of my record sheets now gone to rot – a victim more of the insane number of priorities occupying our poor overworked layout team than anything – there came a brutal question I had to answer: What, if any, material do I fill that entire signature with? (A signature, by the way, is printer-speak; it’s normal for books to be broken into 16 page ‘signatures’ for a print run. That’s why most of our books are in multiples of 16 pages when going to print.)
Up to this point, I’d toyed with doing a Chaos-style campaign for the sourcebook but had back-burnered it for a few reasons. One, it’d be great fodder for a PDF supplemental (and that product’s central marketing force). Two, it would be insanely complicated to create a meshed series of tracks through the convoluted storylines I’d woven into the book so far. Three, such a campaign would require a complete set of Random Access Tables (RATs), of which I didn’t have the time nor inclination to develop.
Now, however, opportunity presented itself in the form of a hastily scribbled note in one of my notebooks, back nearly a year prior. The note was more from a conversation I’d had with Herb regarding ‘formalizing’ a track creation rule set for Interstellar Operations, something I’d been against (and still am for reasons best not discussed here). A set-run campaign for WOR would need to be generic enough to allow all Clan factions and units to play, something that’s rather difficult when one Clan’s enemy would be another player’s faction of choice. And in WOR, alliances were switching off and on pretty quickly.
So I stopped and thought this through a bit. What if instead…we gave the players and/or gamemasters the ability to craft their own tracks – and by extension, a campaign – for as long as they wanted to play it?
It was an intriguing thought and I ran with it.
First, we’d need to allow for a ‘base cost’; this would be accomplished through the use of a Clan planet. Each planet (not system – planet) would have a set cost associated with it; subsequent sequential battles on that planet would have reduced cost, since the player unit isn’t being transported anywhere. This would also allow us to “correct” the rather fanciful data in the system table at the end of Warriors of Kerensky; I had it on good authority (cough*cray*cough) that said data was pretty inconsistent with ‘real’ astronomy. (It’s an easy fix to accommodate, actually. Since Phelan was the in-universe author of that report, he was simply wrong our out to misdirect the reader.)
A set objective that fit Clan warfare would be ‘free’ to the player, and to round out the basic framework, no special objectives and only three special rules would be added/required. Anything added to the track would increase or decrease the track’s base cost, making the campaign truly flexible from track to track, and very customizable.
I then established a set list of Objectives that could be tacked on for greater rewards; the caveat was that the player (or gamemaster) would need to select up to two during the creation of the track, establishing only those as important to that particular track. Same with Options, though these could add or subtract from the track cost. And Special Rules also had a place; aside from the automatic three that were required, additional ones to give flavor to factions, opponents, battlefields, and so on were included.
Of course, examples of creating various types of tracks were given. Because I’m sure that what I just wrote above is confusing enough; imagine it spelled out in BattleTech rules-ease. Examples for rules are always a good thing.
After two complete days of dedication to this section, now dubbed Chapter 11 – Campaign, an additional 12,000 words filled in the gap left by the record sheet loss. A flexible track creation system was in place – tailored specifically for the Wars of Reaving and not for general era usage, mind – and with it, the vehicle for faction-specific campaigns for players to enjoy.
As a bonus, the record sheet “problem” now practically required us to have a supplemental product. With it came additional campaign ideas, such as additional objectives, special rules, and a complete RAT for all of the factions in the book. I also had other plans for the supplemental, of which I’ll discuss later.
The campaign section popped out over the course of one day; the remains of the weekend found me finishing half of the personalities section. With layout now freeing up, I quickly shoveled most of the book over to our overworked editor, Jason Schmetzer, who now had five days to edit three-quarters of the book. All that remained from me was the last of the personalities and the short story. (I’d saved the hardest for last, as short fiction is one of my admitted weaknesses. Because I tend to write stories better under pressure – a fact I discovered in college when my best work came tumbling onto the word processor three hours before class – I’d saved this one to the end.)
But all our windows were missed at this point, save one: we had a firm to-the-printer-or-else date at the beginning of July (barely two weeks away) in order to make it for our fall street date. With over 180,000 words in need of an editing pass and a completely new layout look to design, it was highly doubtful we could make it. The book would be done at some point, but the cost to Catalyst would increase continually for every day it was late. And my biggest project with them was looking to possibly be my last. The original to-print date of the 2011 holidays was pretty solid at this point.
So, you ask – what’s the final outline look like now? Here’s a breakdown of the major sections:
How to Use This Book (p4)
Way of the Warrior (p6-11)
Trials of Position (p12-30)
Trials of Possession (p31-62)
Trials of Annihilation (p116-140)
Founder’s Future (p152-196)
Rules Annex (p197-228)
Wars of Reaving Campaign (p229-250)
That’s right – 256 pages. Only a few pages shorter than the older CBT:RPG Companion. Outside of the rulebooks, it’s the second-largest BattleTech sourcebook to be printed, and Catalyst’s biggest to-date.
(To be continued; yep, still more to come. This project was a monster endeavor, if you can’t tell by now.)