Friday, September 28, 2012

A Reply To My Ineptitude

I had a viewer send me this email, and wanted to reply back to everybody in case other people felt the same way (I believe all opinions should be heard).  My original text is in orange, his comments in green, and my replies in red.  Feel free to comment below or just send me an email at bad_syntax over at  Sorry if your color blind (or if this posting MAKES you color blind) :)   I also made it smaller so its easier to skim, if its too small just hold down CTRL and use your mouse wheel.

If you don't care about opinions, just scroll to the very bottom and grab a copy of the system generator using these rules, as well as my earlier one using explorer corps rules.  Both are in excel, if you peruse my blog I think there is a website that does the same thing but I don't remember the URL, and am too lazy right now to go try to find it.

"The rules state that orbits 2-4 are in the life zone. However this means that often there are 2 or even 3 occupied terrestrial planets in a single system. There is no difference in these systems, all 3 could be a high population colony, or whatever. So in essence, many times, there is no single world in a system that is predominate."
No, it says that 2-4 are in the life zone. No where does it say that there are 2 or 3 occupied planets in any given system. And there are many differences, for example, you roll for equatorial temperature and that is modified by orbital slot. Different planets may have different atmospheres and gravity even. I doubt that modern day Venus (that would be in slot 2) is that same kind of planet as modern Mars (in slot 4). You pretty clearly didn't read these rules closely.

Actually it says *terrestrial* worlds in the life zone, which my (attached) spreadsheet takes into account.  No, not every system has 3 terrestrial planets in that zone, however, the rules state nothing about what happens if you do roll up 3 terrestrial planets in the life zone, as all 3 would have populations, which could each be in the billions if its an “important system”.

"The USILR code (p366-376 ATOW), or the A-B-A-D-E thing planets have is said to need to be created, but there is no way to do this without, well, pulling numbers out of your ass. You don't have any idea how many of any type of world there may be."
In response, "Settled worlds must also establish a USILR code (see pp. 366-376, AToW), as well as the nature of local government, the presence of recharge stations, HPGs and the like. ***These details are largely left up the gamemaster***, though pp. 146-149 offers a means to randomly determine a settled world’s government."
So best judgement on the gamemasters part. Its your game, do with it that you will.

Yes, like I said, if you are a GM, just make your own systems, these rules simply aren’t complete enough to randomly generate one.

"Giant/Dwarf terrestrials are mentioned to be habitable sometimes, but no rules, nor sizes, nor any details can be gained."
page 140, "For players interested in even greater levels of world-building
detail and development, a more sophisticated version of these rules will appear in the Interstellar Operations core rulebook." While you complaining that those rules aren't there is actually valid, the solution is already provided.

Yeah, again, the solution is just do it all yourself, and ignore these rules entirely… PERHAPS IO will have a very detailed and complete system, but I’d bet money it won’t as there isn't but a couple (like Galtor III) really detailed systems in the entire game.

"The stellar subtype, a number between 0 to 9, which can be considered a decimal number between 1 start type and the next, is on a 2d6 table. In stellar terms, this should be a 1d10 and there should be a pretty equal chance of each, not mostly 5's"
Maybe because they didn't want to make people use dice other than d6's. I.e., "The following rules represent a basic guide for generating detailed
star systems (page 140).

That was my assumption as well, but seriously, what person who would use these rules does NOT have a d10 around?  And there *are* ways of using d6 to produce 10% results, and they have been in the rules before (explorer corps book).

"Nothing whatsoever on terrain generation"
So what did you want, software provided that would generate terrain for you? Maybe you should use your imagination on what your planet should look like? If your planet has 70% water coverage...draw a planet with about 70% water coverage, and a variety of land cover types. Seems simple enough to me.

The Wars of Reaving book has terrain for planets, nothing too complicated but easy to implement rules, so that isn’t a new thing.  This book would have been a great place to have those.

"The record sheet has stats for only a single habitable world, when a system could have up to 3. This isn't really a flaw, as you would use one of these per world. However, it would have made a lot more sense to have a simple system sheet on 1 page, and a world sheet on another."
So print out three sheets if there are three planets!

That is what I basically said, but then with 3 world sheets, you have the system info 3 times, so its redundant and a waste.  They didn’t even include space for all the planet details that you could roll up.  An empty box would have been helpful for GMs.

"Overall its a very generic and abstract system without really giving much detail. If your a GM, and want a world, just make one up on your own and avoid this whole section. If you really want to generate a detailed system, avoid these rules entirely and go get GURPS Space 4e (or some of the older GURPS Traveller or Traveller products) which does a far better job at creating a more realistic system."
From page 140, "The following rules represent a basic guide for generating detailed star systems where players can set adventures and campaigns
in the BattleTech universe. As the universe itself is filled with infinite
possibility, this three-stage system is merely a means for GMs and players to create believable—yet unique—worlds without requiring advanced degrees in physics, geology, and astronomy to do so. For players interested in even greater levels of world-building detail and development, a more sophisticated version of these rules will appear in the Interstellar Operations core rulebook."

Which is what I said, if you want detail, don’t use these rules, but GURPS is FAR more detailed, and doesn’t require a degree in anything to accomplish far more.

"No details for moons, but we have lots of MW/MC games that have had moon based battles :("
Moons are small terrestrial bodies, maybe use some of the rules on terrestrial planets about making moons? I'm not an astronomer, but even I have enough of a clue to go there. Do you want orbits, and periods? I refer back to page 140, "worlds without requiring advanced degrees in physics, geology, and astronomy to do so."

So you are a GM, your players raid on a moon, and there is no method to determine gravity, atmosphere, etc.  So these are simply *not* rules by any means, as there is nothing complete about them at all.  They aren’t even a decent guideline, and are better left ignored.  Why in the heck would you print something that is best ignored and even in your own text say “these aren’t complete”???

"I'm sorry, but who really cares what the highest form of life is on a planet??? Isn't it always humans anyway? :) This is something that I think long ago should just be ignored, as it isn't very relevant when BT isn't as much about "exploring the universe" but "exploring ruins""
I wasn't aware that humans were native to every inhabited planet in the BattleTech universe, didn't they all come from Terra? Seriously, it even says, "Step 7: Determine Highest Local Life Form. To determine the highest native life form..." And why should it be ignored when a large section of the AToW *and* this book go into details about native life forms, how to make them, what they are good for, etc?

Because the GM will determine if there are dinosaurs on the planet, not these rules.  I was being a bit sarcastic though, as every planet with a population is going to have humans, and thus mammals are always the highest level of life J

To sum up my wall of text:
You need to:
A) Use your own imagination.
B) Read the book you are complaining about.
C) Stop assuming things

      A)    These are RULES, they are there to assist when my imagination can’t do it.  By that statement, why have any rule books at all, just “use your imagination”.
      B)     Uhhh, I did, I went through every single line of the system generation, often more than a few times
      C)    I didn’t assume anything, not sure where you got that

My main beef is why bother printing some half-assed rules, when you have a full system on the horizon, and even better stuff already printed?

While I can NOT recommend this book to people who want to generate systems (use this or cheaper/older this instead), it still looks go be a good book for any GM or people playing the RPG.  I haven't read through the new rules for battlearmor (that look cool at first glance), creature generation, high level npc generation, or some other sections that also may be awesome (or not).  

Here (right click, save as) is an old download, 2.8mb, that has a system generator using the older (and more detailed) explorer corps rules for system generation (as well as a bunch of other stuff in it that may not be updated).

And here is the new one.  Both are excel 2010 files.


  1. My point was (and still is) you are complaining about a book not being something when it clearly says what it is and isn't. It's akin to complaining that the milk you are drinking just isn't great because what you were wanting was pop. You knew (supposedly) what you were getting, so judge it on its own merits, not ones you *assumed* it would have.

    Personally, I think it does well what it states to be. A basic outline to be used for planetary system generation. You want more detail? Wait for Interstellar Operations.

  2. I suspect you could indeed roll moons the same as planets, but on everything else that guy is misreading or overreacting. (And seems blissfully unaware of Neopithicanthropus, heh.) No big deal.

    A couple of things I did wonder about:

    -this "lite" system generator is presumably aimed at normal interstellar characters rather than explorers, so it ought to generate inhabited systems by default. Does it? (I could figure it out from your spreadsheet, but the randomizer breaks a little in OpenOffice, and I haven't taken the time to fix it yet.)

    -Catalyst sometimes spends so many words explaining what they've left out that they could have just included it (or at least a quick-fix of it) to begin with. Is that the case at all here?

    -minus the governments section, this generator seems about the same length as the one in Explorer Corp. You usually prefer the more detailed version of a ruleset, and here you say that Explorer Corps' version was more detailed, yet in a previous post you said the aToW:Companion beats them. Have you changed your mind, or are there things that this new system does better?

    PS: I always liked the "% native life" and "highest life form" entries as stand-ins for more complex information. Biosphere, habitats, type of vegetation, climate, geologic age, hospitability to humans, chance of living off the land, and so on.

  3. Basically, the system generation rules in ATOW Companion are just worthless for generating a system. However, it is an RPG system, and the GM can do whatever he wants for system generation. The book says the GM should use his own creativity, so why they put a half-assed version of what is sure to be more detailed in IO is beyond me.

    It would be like having the first battletech book only telling you how to get the engine rating for a mech, without listing out weights for all your equipment, gyros, cockpits, etc. It is just an incomplete set of rules that I seriously think should have just been left out of this book entirely. The book itself has a lot of great stuff in it, but system generation simply isn't one of those things.

    If I'm going to build a system I won't use any BT resources. Even the original black small Traveller books did a much better job, and while not by any means scientifically accurate, FAR more so based on the knowledge of the time than these rules.

    The highest life, well *I* don't really care for it, but that is my opinion and I can't tell others it shouldn't be there. However, we only have 1 sampling of data (Earth) and its pretty darned hard to extrapolate an algorithm based on a single dataset. What if insects or fish ended up surpassing mammals in intelligence, what is the highest life form? I'm nitpicking on that, to me if a planet has an ecosystem developed enough for human life, its got mammals there. THAT is a detail I'd rather leave up to GM's, not letting them "guess" on how a binary star system works or how few asteroids there actually are in an asteroid belt.

    In their defense tho, there are probably only about 10K BT players worldwide, so they simply *have* to produce for the lowest common denominator to sell the most of anything in order to continue their business. Board/miniature games simply don't have the popularity they did 20 years ago, and based on my own encounters with gamers I can only see that number decline even more as people like me get deterred and simply stop playing it.