After Chaos

Mini and photo by DAK

Okay, so I thought I was done with talking about Total Chaos…until I was looking over the final PDF the other day and realized I’d forgotten one important aspect.

The art.

While the book would contain several new  commissioned pieces, it would also have two other types of art included. The first is what’s called “recycled.” This is exactly what it sounds like – reusing art from other projects, often in a different way or form in the new publication. I asked our art director and layout artist to keep the recycled art strictly from the previously done Jihad plot books, to keep the theme relevant. One of the best uses in Total Chaos is the image of the Bounty Hunter escaping the burning airship, found on page 33. The text is Mission: Pursuit and the image illustrates the page’s subject perfectly. (Not to mention that art is the illustrative piece of my short story, “Just Business,” which appears in Jihad Secrets: The Blake Documents.) Continue reading

Final Chaos

Base Into Action, by Alex Williamson

Continuing the discussion on my latest book project, Total Chaos. We last left off with deciding what world sidebars to include and then cutting the writers loose.

Over the course of two months, assigned material began trickling back to me. I had several phone conversations with Matt Murray, who was tasked with rewriting the Chaos campaign rules and updating the cybernetic rules. Early on, after I reworked the word count, I realized we had too much material for the book. So I quickly decided to axe the cybernetic rules, as they played only a minor part with regards to some of the opposition units in the tracks. A quick conversation with Randall and Herb later, these rules – originally found in Jihad Hot Spots: 3072 – would be relocated to the Interstellar Operations core rulebook. My rules section for Total Chaos looked sparse, but because most of the book was rules and guidelines, I didn’t think that would take away from the project. Continue reading

Worlds of Chaos

Partial look at “Rules of Engagement” by Matt Plog

A continuing look at my latest Catalyst Game Labs BattleTech project, Total Chaos. We left off taking a look at the mercenaries selected for the project. For those interested, the PDF version of the book is now for sale; the print version is tentatively due in August 2012.

One of the ideas that came out of discussions with Øystein and Herb was the ever-present request by players to have detailed synopsis of the Jihad on various planets. We knew there was no way we could do such a comprehensive volume that would be profitable. And spending time and resources on a PDF-only product makes no business sense. I believe Øystein even calculated that a unit-by-unit movement table (such as seen in the FedCom Civil War sourcebook) would alone take up nearly 300 pages – and that assumed small font size!

With both Øystein and myself wanting to delve deeper into Operation SCOUR and Herb intrigued with our initial idea to do a planet dossier of that conflict, we struck a compromise. Why not select roughly 30 of the more intense conflict worlds and do sidebar write-ups on those?

Then, one final thought hit me: why not make it a little more palatable and include brief rules for running a mini-campaign on that world?

Continue reading

Mercenaries and Mass Chaos

Partial merc “portrait” (unnamed unit) for Total Chaos, by Chris Lewis

The Jihad was not just a time of intense violence and interstellar war. It was also a breeding ground for the rise (and fall) of the mercenary trade. Some experts postulate that one in every five mercenary commands survived the fourteen years of incessant war. Looking back through the carnage, one can trace the success and failures of many of these groups through the recent conflicts; I’ve opted to focus on three different commands for this project. Each one began with dissimilar origins and followed a divergent path through the Jihad. While their success is relative to their own goals and vision, these men and women possess a rare common bond.

They survived the Jihad.
—Belle Lee, A Treatise of Jihad-era War; Fortymile Standard Press, 3095

[A continuation of the developer’s notes on the Total Chaos project, soon for sale in PDF format. Print version (tentatively) available in August.]

When looking over the vast number of tracks needing compiled for this book, one question really nagged in the back of my head. How would we turn this collection of previously printed tracks into something worth printing – and buying? True, adding in some of the JTP e-publication tracks would help. As would several new tracks. But there had to be something else as our ‘hook.’ This wasn’t a simple reprint compilation here.

I revisited the opening sections of the Warchest campaign in Dawn of the Jihad. Going over the setup, I realized what that hook could be. Mercenaries.

Mercs are the most common “faction” (used loosely) in the BattleTech universe. We have made hundreds of these units throughout the course of nearly three decades, and always suggest and hint that there are more. Many, many, MANY more that exist. It’s an obvious window for players to “enter” their own home-made unit into the universe for their personal games, as well as an easy ‘out’ for authors in case they needed a filler force for the protagonist or antagonist role in a project. The entire idea of the Chaos Campaign setup in DOTJ was that a player’s merc unit would be the principle star of the story, giving the author (me) a lot of leeway in crafting wide-ranging tracks that could then be tailored to specific player and house games. Changing up the minor details in a track to account for a House or Clan unit is left to the player and doesn’t take a lot of brain power to work that out.

So, mercenaries. One unit or more, then? Canon or new? Continue reading

Chaos Theory, Redux

Portion of Plog’s interior chapter art.

Okay, so this may be a little redundant based on my prior post. I’m sure you, fair reader, can cope, as the in the last post I got a tad bit ahead of myself in describing the germination of the idea for Total Chaos. Let me back up a tad, back to just after the initial pitch but before the formalized outline, and restart.

The pitch idea was to compact all of the Jihad Chaos tracks into one volume, supplemented with selected tracks from the six JTPs published over the last four years. Revamping the rules and many of the older tracks to conform with the Total Warfare ruleset was priority as well.

But what if we also gave players the chance to run side missions? These generic tracks, first seen in the Starterbook series, were designed for quick-and-easy scenarios that could fill the gaps in the main track timeline. (As astute readers of the Jihad Hot Spots books have noticed, there can be several months between tracks, plenty of time for one-offs and side missions to augment their campaign play.) These generic missions would also give players a chance to rebuild and regain lost Warchest Points (WP) to prepare for the more brutal tracks ahead.

So I tossed all of the mission tracks from both Starterbooks onto the pile. And made room for two new ones as well: Stalwart and Pushback. Continue reading

Chaos Theory

Preview of Total Chaos chapter art (Williamson).

In late 3067, the Word of Blake unleashed its Jihad, fanning the flames of violence and spreading it across the Inner Sphere. Three mercenary commands struggled to find their footing and profit from the all-encompassing warfare. As they navigated their way through the conflicts erupting on hundreds of worlds, these mercenaries grew in power, prestige, and character. Facing adversity, victory, defeat, and enemies within and without, they were typical of many commands touched—for ill or for good—by the Jihad.

As the Jihad unfolded through the Jihad Hot Spots plotbooks, players were introduced to the Chaos Campaign, a new game play system that gave players the opportunity to craft their own games around specific battles and events of the Jihad. Now that campaign, spanning fourteen years of conflict, has been collected and updated. Presented here are all of the Chaos Campaign tracks from the Hot Spots plotbooks and interwoven with select tracks from the Jihad Turning Points e-publication series and several all-new tracks and mini-campaigns.

This volume also includes detailed reports on nearly forty planetary campaigns, providing context and details previously clouded by interstellar media, local reports, and personal journals. With an updated and streamlined core ruleset for the Chaos Campaign and new Jihad-era Random Availability Tables for the Word of Blake, Mercenaries, and Militias, this book has everything players and gamemasters need to recreate the pivotal campaigns of the Jihad and lead their forces to victory.

 So. Total Chaos. What’s it all about? Continue reading