Opening note: I am not an employee of Catalyst Game Labs, Topps, WizKids, The SLDF, Wolf’s Dragoons, the CIA (not current), the FBI, or The ComGuards I am not a licensed tiger castrator (despite that title on my business card), the Bounty Hunter (version 84), or a member of Katrina Steiner’s wardrobe staff. I am also not a semi-pro astronaut, or Victor Steiner-Davion’s court-appointed testicle polisher, Anastasius Focht, a ISF DEST operative, the assassin, or a puppet of The Master. I’m a freelancer, which means I am a mercenary with a PC, topped with just a dollop of douchebag thrown into a cocktail of chaos. As such the following commentary is my own. You folks are just here for the ride and to appear in the damages portion of the libel trial that is certain to follow.
Note: Originally I was going to do this as a podcast, but I already have one (true crime – Tantamount) and frankly, I’m busy writing. It is far easier and less time consuming for me to simply be a guest on other people’s fine podcasts.
Okay, let’s tackle this first shot at BattleTech with some history. This week’s subject: Cranston Snord’s Irregulars – or Rhond Snord’s Irregulars – or Snord’s Irregulars. You pick.
Right on the heels of the first Technical Readout, 3025, I was asked to produce a scenario set for Snord’s Irregulars. What I was handed was the two page outline for what should be in a scenario pack – remember, we only had two out at that time – The Fox’s Teeth and Tales of the Black Widow. I had been promised a copy of the Galtor Campaign materials and am still freaking waiting for those to arrive. Damn FASA…
I was also given what was the only details I had to work with. Here’s the version:
It had taken Cranston Snord a long time to gather the members of his unique ‘Mech company together. Each, in addition to being a competent MechWarrior was also an avid collector. Some collected old books, unique artwork, and one even collected butterflies. Cranston tried to make sure that each assignment his company accepted from the Lyran Commonwealth took them to fertile collecting grounds. Only the past reliability of this unit prevented his employer from breaking their contract whenever his unit ran after some rare find instead of fight Steiner enemies.
A version of this ended up in one of the old FASA catalogs.
Now Cranston’s name came from a BC comic, I got that from Ross Babcock, who I worked for at the time. BC was reading in the big book common in the comic and the question was, “Who was buried in Grant’s Tomb?” The answer was, “Cranston Snord.” That incredibly obscure reference became the basis of one of the more intriguing BattleTech mercenary commands.
I felt perfect for this. I came from a family of antique dealers – starting with my grandfather including my own collections. I spent my weekends picking antiques with my dad and grandpa. It always struck me as strange that this product was offered to me. A bit of serendipity…
I didn’t have much to work with but that was common in that era of the game. You have to remember, this was the heady days of BattleTech. When we put out a product, it sold 10,000 copies quick. You always got unreasonable deadlines back then because speed-to-market was vital.
For their background, I thought it would be cool to have them tied to Wolf’s Dragoons. At that time, all FASA would tell me was that “obviously the Dragoons came from the Star League.” That was it. The Clans were not designed yet, nor was the Dragoon Compromise. So I thought it would be fun to have the unit have a link to the Dragoons…that Snord and his unit were so quirky, they were allowed to set out on their own. It would make sense that the Dragoons might have a nostalgia for antiquities.
I think one of the things that made the appeal of the Irregulars so strong after all of these years was that they were good. Strike that shit…they were great MechWarriors. They were elite, but with one hell of a quirk. You didn’t want to go up against them because you didn’t know what you’d be facing. Would it be the polished mercenary, or the amoral looter? I love conundrums like that. What is life without whimsy?
I created Rhonda Snord so that there was a succession plan in place. If Cranston died, Rhonda was there to take over. And back then, we always tried to make sure that females got high billing in the universe. The fan community fawned over The Black Widow, thanks to the cover art on the scenario pack. Yeah, like any of us would have stood a chance at picking her up. Right…
To me, it was all about the story and the characters. You forget the scenario sets and fluff material that don’t have good stories behind the characters. People want characters that they can see grow and evolve over time. With BattleTech, they want to identify with the characters, their Mechs, and their history. It is one of the things that separates out this franchise from so many others out there.
So, the first scenario pack had to be written in something crazy like 30 days. This was the era of dot matrix printers and we didn’t submit word processing files, but hard copy printouts. I was working full time, long hours, and writing at night and on the weekends. It was a rush job. I loved the product though. A lot of fans did too.
Fast forward a few years to the Clan invasion. Sam Lewis called me and asked if there was something I wanted to write. Back then, I was not doing novels yet, though God knows I was trying. It hit me that with the secrets of the Dragoons revealed, some of the history of the Irregulars needed to be clarified. So I proposed a sequel scenario pack for the Irregulars, this time with Rhonda in command. If I remember correctly, I was working on the Wolf Clan Sourcebook at the time. We really only had fleshed out the invading Clans back then. A lot of the quirks and personalities of the other Clans were not known at the time.
Doing this allowed me to develop the Clan backgrounds of the unit and to evolve it so that Rhonda was leading the Irregulars. No longer a bunch of American Pickers in BattleMechs, they were operating under Jamie Wolf’s behest – an additional set of eyes and ears for the Dragoons. I set up Rhonda with an heir, Natasha Snord, an orphan she had taken under her wing. Life is cheap, BattleMechs are not. It always pays to have a backup CO in the wings.
My favorite part of the book was less on the background of the Irregulars and more on the scenarios dealing with Camelot Command. A textbook mission for the Irregulars, a lost Star League naval base in the Dark Nebula. It seemed awesome at the time. Imagine my surprise when it showed up as an entire episode of the ever-criticized cartoon series. Before any of you ask, no, the writers didn’t say anything to me in advance nor did I have any input on it. I was as surprised to see it as you were.
For a while the Irregulars were untouched, which was fine. We were exploring other legendary units like the Eridani Light Horse and the Northwind Highlanders. Everybody was getting a few minutes on the big stage back in those days.
When I was working on the novel, Call of Duty, I thought that it would be a great way to bring the Irregulars into the fiction-side of the universe. So we see Colonel Rhonda Snord in all her glory here. We see Cranston too – which is heart-warming. I know, you may have cringed with him being in a wheelchair a little, but let’s face it…his profession of MechWarrior is one that takes a high toll on human bodies. For a lot of the book, Tasha Snord is leading the unit, which I thought was great too.
Sidebar: Some fan proposed that Natasha Snord is a genetic offspring of Natasha Kerensky. Let me say this, not that I am aware of. She likely got that name out of Rhonda’s friendship with the Black Widow, not from dipping into her gene pool. Nice try fanboy!
Also, having Archer Christifori being on-screen with Rhonda Snord, well, that’s a moment of BattleTech history. It’s not as good as Jamie Wolf and Grayson Death Carlyle fighting Gettysburg with BattleMechs, but it is right up there. Like the Kell Hounds and Wolf’s Dragoons on Luthien…it is unexpected and neat. And let’s face it. As fans, and people forget that the authors are fans, we LOVE to see major characters come together. Those combos and meetings are special for us.
The rest of this takes a little background to explain because I feel entitled to ramble on. When Wizkids took over the IP (short of Intellectual Property) they pretty much ignored the existing BattleTech authors. I was told, ‘We are hiring professional authors to write the material going forward.” I went to mute so that I could say, “Fuck you,” back to them. Shit. Mike Stackpole was writing bestselling Star Wars novels and was a New York Times Bestselling author…and I…was not (yet). We didn’t get reengaged with the Dark Age material until the last few years…then, mysteriously, the novel-fiction stopped.
There was a reason for all of this. For legal reasons I am not allowed to say anything about this period in great detail. Suffice it to say we got a storm of sourcebook material about the Jihad, but no novels. Most was very well written, but vague, confusing, jumbled, and filled with rumors and innuendos that, I believe, confused the fan base at times. I swear, if one more of you tries to convince me that ComStar was Clan Wolverine, I will go on a killing spree…
Personally, I have a strong dislike of the Jihad Era. I will do an entire uncontrolled rant on the Jihad at some point in a future episode, complete with alcohol. I promise. My biggest gripe centers on the casual manner with which the powers that-be destroyed characters and units that we had spent decades building. It is bad-form to kill a major character off-screen, at least in my less-than-humble opinion. Look at the novella The Anvil from last year. I killed General Jasek Kelswa-Steiner. Well, actually, Stephanie Chistu did the deed, but I wrote it. He was a major character in the Dark Ages. Oh, and stop your whining, the Dark Ages is a thing despite your ardent denials. His demise was a heroic death, on screen, in fiction. His funeral was actually even more epic, in my humble yet highly accurate opinion. That’s how you treat major units or characters that are killed off. You give them some respect. Most importantly, it is respectful to the fans.
Well, during the Jihad, the powers that be slaughtered a lot of major personalities with seemingly little care about the fan community. During the Donner Bombing, Rhonda Snord was blown up. No battle, no epic last-stand, no glory, no honor, no heroics. Just pop goes the mercenary! WTF? The bombing itself was a genius plot ploy, but the loss of Rhonda in that manner ate at me almost as much as the death of Archer Christifori.
I didn’t voice the emotions I felt at the time, that emotional kick to the nut-sack I experienced with Rhonda’s death. Bitter? Why yes, I am…thanks for asking.
Well, I’m back now bitches.
Back in the old days, when someone touched your characters or units, you at least got an email informing you about it. Sometimes you got drafts of the material and a chance to weigh-in. Authors talked to each other. Not so much during the Jihad. “Death by sourcebook” had become the accepted norm. Throwaway one-liners in fluff material unceremoniously buried decades worth of character development. It made zero sense to me then. Of course now I realize that all we had back then was BattleCorps to fictionally tell heroic fucking stories.
So the Irregulars were blown into obscurity. They do appear again in the Field Manual 3145, but we know little of who they are at that stage. They are led by Joshua Snord and are fighting for the Federated Suns, or whatever is left of it. I have sent a jumpship courier to Joshua to set up a meeting and discuss the future of his unit. Thus far, no reply has been forthcoming. I’m chalking that up to the fact that the HPG network is down and that the Federated Suns is busy flirting with its own demise.
I have my own ideas percolating as to the unit as they exist in both the Dark Ages and post-Dark Ages era. But what I am most impressed with is the fan theories of where they came from. Several have suggested that Cranston and the original Irregulars were actually Goliath Scorpion freebirths that were on the Dragoon’s rooster. Often I am peppered with questions as to if that is true.
Here’s the deal. I’m just a writer. Delusional, self-absorbed, egotistical, hot-headed, but at my core, I’m a writer. I usually don’t comment on fan ideas because the moment that I do, someone takes those random thoughts as canon. If I say I think that the Goliath Scorpion connection sounds fantastic, people will say that is the truth and the truth, as we all know, comes from Catalyst Game Labs. They require me to say that stuff by the way.
If I were to comment on the idea, I would say it is freaking BRILLIANT. It not only make sense, it explains a lot about the Irregulars over the years. Save your whines of retcon for someone who cares!
As a sidebar: Ray recently asked me, for the Kickstarter, what the paint scheme was for the Irregulars. It is a “dull green” and I found some obscure reference to brown stripes. This comes from Call of Duty. The stuff I have seen from Camo Specs is off and has been for years, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.
At our recent BattleTech summit Ray raised the Irregulars with me, saying he’d like to see where they are and what they are doing in the new era stuff. I wholeheartedly agreed. I would like to lay out some of that too. I’m a big believer that you can’t keep a good merc unit down. Having a reconstituted Irregulars fighting for a beleaguered Federated Suns, well, that’s the stuff of good stories. It is fertile ground for writing. It may even allow us to settle the whole Goliath Scorpion concept once and for all. I have something in mind, something cool as all hell, I just need to put it down on paper.
It begins something like this. “Tasha Snord saw the party approach her and Joshua. They wore masks, insect-like, hiding their faces and the solemn expressions she imagined them having. The trio stood before her, their black leather armor creaking slightly as they bowed.
“Who are you?”
“We are your trothkin,” the tall female in the center said, her green eyes piercing the mask as she spoke. “We are your blood and your past, and your strength and your future. We have traveled far and come bearing gifts.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
The female removed her mask. Her tight muscled face was scarred along the right cheek, her smile was taut and firm. “We are seekers of the Goliath Scorpions, though that name has been lost to us, as has your true history Natasha Snord. We have come seeking you, the artifacts you have gathered, and to rekindle the flames of what your unit once was. You were our greatest gamble and success, though you do not even know it. Together, we will bring you into the future.”
Tasha looked past the warrior and saw five BattleMechs gracefully emerge from the morning fog. The gray fog rolled past their legs as the stood in a perfect formation, looming in the distance.
“My grandfather would be honored…”
Then again, that’s just me, spitballing….
So there you have it…the history behind the history of Cranston’s Snord’s Folly. That’s it for this episode. Stop complaining, you got some free fiction to boot.
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