Update as of 30 April 2021 – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

Some old school BattleTech action

Trickster released today and in many respects, it felt like it came out of nowhere. I was asked to write Trickster right after the Kickstarter got going and I had almost forgotten about it until my editor reached out to me for a few edits. I have to admit, it was strange reading it after all of these months. 

I really enjoyed covering a story from the Clan’s Golden Century. Also, getting to cover Clan Coyote was a real treat. It is a faction that has gotten a lot of fiction coverage. I like Tyrilla Heller.  BattleTech has a long history of strong female characters and she is one that I’m quite fond of.  I’d like to come back to her at some point…because I think there is a redemption there.   

In some respects, Trickster brought back memories for me of Betrayal of Ideals. We had a short version of these events in the sourcebooks, but just retelling that story alone didn’t feel right. Let’s face it, it would have been just a ‘Mech battle. I wanted to explore the parts that weren’t in the sourcebooks, a hidden tale of sorts underlying what readers might have read. I like fiction that takes you down a familiar path, but provides you with some neat twists.  I think Randall has done that with his first book Fall from Glory.     

As always I try and include some of the BattleTech community in the mix.  Here’s the latest update of those that are included in things I’ve written:

Trickster

(KS) Dennis Busse for Kerek Helmer

(KS) Chris Fernandez for Slynkers Mercer

(KS) Jason Gollogly for Tyrilla Heller

(KS) Matt Kudrick for Matthew Nash

(KS) Leif Lann for Anjij Nuyriev

Christopher Barghausen

Daniel Corrigan

Ian Morgan Coutt

Mario Garzolini

Brent Kynell

Jeff Rietman

Stanislav Shimuk

Hour of the Wolf

(KS) Robin Apel

(KS) William (Will) Arnold

(KS) Ian Butler—Brigadier Graham Badinov

(KS) Andreas Büttner—Druss Ward

(KS) Colby Cram

(KS) Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq.

(KS) Craig Evans—Pharaoh

(KS) Kevin Markley

(KS) Eris Griffon

(KS) Raymond Guethler

(KS) Justin Hall

(KS) John Healy—Physician Hobgood

(KS) Spencer Huff—Khalus Pryde

(KS) Aleksey Kopysov—Kaor

(KS) Chris Kornfeld

(KS) Aaron Krull

(KS) Andrew Krull

(KS) Jason Mayberry – Kai Nihari

(KS) Brendan (Bren) Mayhugh

(KS) Jason Mischke—Stroud

(KS) Daniel Nichols—Janus

(KS) Matthias Pfaff—Amanda McKenna

(KS) Shawn Rains—Colton Mcleod

(KS) Marvin Sims—Marv Roshak

(KS) Aaron Tarr—Star Colonel Kalidessa Kerensky

(KS) Jakapan Thunpithayakul

(KS) Christopher Toh—Merlin Buhallin

(KS) John Traver—Jack Traver

(KS) Jathniel Velazquez—Jathniel Kerensky

(KS) John Watson

(KS) Michael Mahoney—Sorsha

(KS) Lyle Wojciechowski—Star Colonel Havi Bekker

David Abzug

David Baker

Agustin Sierio Barj

Matthew Behrens

Ted Burger

Billy J. Caldwell

Kim Chapman

John “Fratricide” Craig

Paco Cubillo

Amy Delaney

Benno deJong

Stephen Dukes

David DuJordan

Adolfo Fernandez

William Fife

Noran Ghall

Oliver Haake

Thomas Heath

James “Tanker” Herring

Dirk “Derek” Kobler

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Jeff Lamm

Chew Hwee Leong

Joshua Adam Lonbom

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Dean Manning

John McNary

Jared Micks

Ed Miller

Joe Mooney

Rolf Peter

Max Prohaska

Andrew Quay

Krzysztof Strato Raczyński

Keith Richmond

Jamie Rife

Andrew Roy

Sebastian Schröder

Rowland Seckinger III

Volkmar Seifert

David Skinner

Jeremy Spurlock

Travis Sumpter

Lonnie Tapscott

Paul Tomaszewski

Cory Vigdal

Josh Waltz

Powers Wartman

Ben Weingart

Shawn “Gorilla” Willett

Ludvig Yabar

Sharizal Zarie

The Burdens of Honor

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas of the Draconis Combine.

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte, Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Mason Kortz, Roman Tseng, Ghost Bear Warrior

Eric Stockard, Christine Rosenfeld, ComStar ROM

Seth James, Malik Feff, ISF Agent

Lawrence Greenwood

Children of Kerensky

David Abzug

Agustin Sierio Barj

Elmer Lee Bechdoldt

Dennis Busse, for Kerek

Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq. (Yo Tex!)

Michael “Brent-Killer” Ciaravella

Xander Cosgrave

Olaf Dittmar

David “Dunny” Dunlap

James Doughty, for TacShadow

Adolfo Fernandez

Jason Gambrel

Adam Grimm

Oliver Haake

Claire Harpham

Hannes Hinterberger

Michael Hofacker

Jerry Hornick

Spencer Huff, for Khalus Pryde

Rylan Thane Ingram

Franz Jelinek

Ka’u Johnston-Kitazawa

Artem Kostyukov

Josh Koziura

Jean-Jacques Labbé

James Lee, for Jamie Hazen

Larry Leslie II

Kevin Markley

Marco Mazzoni

Tackett McClenny

Thomas “Dreacon” Miller

Todd More, for (Mike) Wallace

Shane Overstreet

Stephen Parac

Stephan “Warbear” Peter

Juergen Schneidemesser

Rowland Seckinger III

Jeremy Spurlock

Rob Watkins

Sharizal Zarie

The Bonds of Battle

Star Commander Cymril Tseng, Clan Ghost Bear

Adam Bear, (Kaningamu), contributed by Gregory Adam Cunningham, formerly of the Draconis Combine, now bondsman to Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

William James Hamblin, Chu-i Biru Hamblin of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Ayden Ryken, of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Carrie Shumar, of the Draconis Combine

Sho-ko Mateo Vaux, of the Draconis Combine

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Kashira Jack ‘Reverend’ Benner, Sonkei-suru Benner of the Draconis Combine

Rock of the Republic

Eric Kraaier

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Ed Miller

Stanislav Shimuk

Travis Sumpter

Jakapan Thunpithayakul

Jonathan Warrington

The Flames of Idlewind (Shrapnel #1)

Marc de Villasante Lahoz

Euan James

Ronald Ledwon

Daniel Leskov

Matthias Pfaff

Benjamin Tang

Divided We Fall

Michael Barber

Timothy Byrne

Felipe Cintron

John “Doc” Crouch

Tony Deegan

Jared Donner

Wes Frenz

Jürgen Frey

John Gaisano III

Ed Hatchel

Matthew Hinks

Hannes Hinterberger

Robert BJ Horncastle

Cal Hornstien

Garry Jackson

Alex Kaempen

Kristopher Tyson Koniczek

Andrew Krull

Wayne Ledbetter

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Joseph McEachern

Joshua McHugh

Roderick van Noorloos

William C. Pelcham

Lon Porter

Corey Riordan

Nicholas Roche

Andrew Roy

Patrick J. Saul

Sebastian Schröder

Kevin Seibert

Richard Skelton

Andrew Sternglass

Jason Tuttle

Matt Valgardson

Derek Weese

Jason Weiser

Scott Whyte

The Anvil

Moses Obadiah

Nicholas Tockert

David DiFranco

Eric Belcher

Clifford McKinney

Jeff Sockwell

Daryl Noonan

Jonathon Scott Schofield

Cord Awtry

Ryan James Broadhead

Ben Myers

Troy Lee Cowell

Krzysztof Krecislaw

Chad Parish

Jack Lafreniere

Joshua Bressel

Marcus Odekirk

Robert Ostrowski

Mark Havener

George Tholburn

Erik Helgeson

Winter Guite

Jukka-Emil Vanaja

Christopher Turco

Juan Ochoa Jr.

Steven Molen

Broccán Mac Rónáin

Kenyon Burguess

Dave Alsager

Forever Faithful

Benjamin Starkey

Av Paredes

Adam Mckern

Brian Blaney

Trixter Phillips

Alexander JW De Santis

Jamie Rife

Brandon Fisher

Andrew Gardenhire

Todd Farnholtz

Clint Woodall

Clifford McKinney

Adam Thompson

Ray Arrista

James McHenry

Patrick Finnegan

Oliver Kraft

Camille Klein

Shane Jaskowiak

Shawn Bruno

Colin Duffy

James Eyers Mclean Miller

Nathan Pelchat

Josh Ellis

Craig Gulledge

Peter Farland

Eric Eny

James Bixby

Thomas Lagemann

Craig Reed

Mike Lubowitzki

Devin Ramsey

Dustin Ballard

‎Jose Alvarez‎

Aaron Gregory

Bradley Proffitt

Dean Manning

Brian Chiasson

David Shell

Keegan Reid

Sam Snell

Alex Clarke

Redemption and Malice

Derek King

Gerry S. Xydis

Jack Halloran

Rules of Engagement – Released for the Kickstarter

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

A Review of Death Ray Designs Hex City and Corporate Plaza Terrain

Lots of Urban Goodness

I’ve been a customer of Death Ray Designs for a while, having used their airbrush templates for some terrain I have.  I was pretty thrilled that they had released some urban terrain that was compatible with some of the games I play – especially BattleTech.  This is both Hex City and the Corporate Plaza sets from their web site.  https://deathraydesigns.com/

The package for the entire lot is heavy when it arrived, thick MDF and thin plastic pieces used for windows and building highlights.  The instructions are up on the company web site, though some of the building names for the guides don’t match what is printed on the MDF.  It was no big deal to sort it out, but I want to be fair in my review of these. 

I botched building two structures, mostly because I didn’t follow the instructions carefully.  Other than that the buildings have amazing fit and details.  They even come with some little add on gubbins that allow you to add some custom details to the structures. They have etched a lot of details that make the buildings pop visually. 

There’s a lot of variety here, from single story stores to large scale modernistic buildings.  The imprinting of the hexes on the roofs and bases match the scale for the BattleTech maps, which I have to believe is intentional. Personally, based on some of the scale/sizes, I’m going to use these for Alpha Strike games.  Some of these structures would be perfect for games of 15mm as well.

Great detail – even unpainted

I did not use a lot of the thin plastic parts yet.  Some have to be done as part of the construction, which means if you intend to paint these, I would paint the parts first, then do the assembly.  If I had it to do over, I would have painted first.  As it is, I have a LOT of painting to do. 

Some of the plastic details I need to still add.
This layering of insets gives you some neat details
A nice little store to stomp on.

I recommend this product.  Because they are MDF, they support Iron Wind Metals mini’s with no real problems.  The hex imprints on the roofs make it very simple to utilize these on your maps, if you are so inclined.  Total cost is $95.00 for both sets that you see here.  Don’t flinch, you get a good sized city for your investment. I’m looking forward to trying these out once I get them painted. 

Thumbs up to Death Ray Designs on these structures.   

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 38 – The Trial

The Gray Riders are a lot like the Dothraki – with a dash of the Horseclans

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Now that COVID is abating, we are returning to the glory of the campaign. Enjoy!

Arius

We worked our way out of the mountain, having rested and recovered. We had the Chalice of St. John, which, with holy water, can resurrect the dead. There was lively debate as to whether it might bring back people as zombies or other undead, but calmer heads prevailed.  After all, it was a holy relic of the church. As we emerged, we found Brandon’s wolf, ever loyal and waiting for him. We presumed the pilgrims that had been at the entrance had moved on. 

This gave us a chance to pause and reaffirm our plans.  Our possession of the chalice ensured that our enemies could not use its powers to their advantage.  We wanted to go to the south, to V’sarin, where the dragonborn lived and was the dragon graveyard.  In the middle of that, we hoped, was a tome that could help us undo the power of the lich Barristen. Our final decision was to south east, to the coastal city of Avanti.  From there we hoped to charter a ship and save weeks of long hot marching in strange lands. 

We set out, marching cross country, relying on Brandon to find our way.  On the second day out Brandon, scouting ahead.  I moved up next to him and could hear mumbling from the brush.  I called out as to who was there.  A booming voice called back, “Who is you?”

“We are us.” 

The male called for Gretchen then called for us to come out in the open.  He pushed the trees aside and we saw a hulking hill giant.”

“Going to the Thundermoot eh?” he asked. “Them Gray Riders…they are a testy people.” 

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Lookin’ fer a hammer man, just like yerself.  And a wily one that can turn into a bear.”  Ut oh…

He eyed Skullringer menacingly. then called “Gretchen!”  His ugly hill giant wife emerged behind us.  She had moles, and her moles had moles, and they had hairs, some of which were braided. As he moved at us, I swung but cleanly missed. 

“Nice hammer there, hammer-boy,” he said, grinning with yellow teeth.   

Gretchen called out, “The wolf looks tasty.” 

“Wolf’s good eatin’.  No squishing the dinner luv,” he said. 

Theren wasted no time – he called down lightning on the male giant. A searing azure bolt lashed into the giant.

“They warned us you was a tough lot.  Gretchen, you go for the one with the hammer, I want the magic man!” The giants lumbered into battle at us. 

The fight was glorious, as glorious as it could be against such monsters. They threw a bolder at Theren, Brandon fired arrows which only seemed to irritate them. One bolder slammed hard into me, making every bone in my body throb.  Althalus cast a spell that made them seem a phantasm of some sort on the female.  She screamed and howled about a giant bear attacking her, when in reality, she was swinging and kicking at empty air. 

I swung Skullringer at the male, tearing into the fat on his midriff. “Nice try hammer-man!” he taunted back. Brandon hit him which solicited a, “Yer startin’ to annoy me little man!”  The female giant seemed to be struggling with the illusionary bear, losing grip on her club and sending it flying, which would have been comical if we were not engaged in battle with her mate.

Althalus’s eldritch blasts hit Gretchen, skidding her back as the emerald beams lashed into her while she struggled with a bear that didn’t exist.  It swung again, hitting him and channeling my smite into the blow.  “Hey!” he called.  “That hurts!” 

“Good,” I muttered. 

Theren summoned lightning once more on the male, searing its massive left arm.  Brandon sunk an arrow in its hide. The male slugged me – hard, forcing me to heal myself. As I got my breath, he hit me again, breaking a tooth and knocking me out.  By the time I regained my senses, both of the giants lay dead. The female had been blown apart, I presume by a bolt of lightning. The stink of burned giant flesh hung in the air.

The treasure that was found was meager. At first we thought we had found eight ingots of gold, but in reality it was eight ingots of lead that were painted gold.  Whoever had paid off the giants had done well in misleading them. Sadly, the female had some of the pilgrim’s clothing on her, speaking to why they were not at the foot of the Stairs when we emerged. 

Once we got our second wind, we started south. With the mountains behind us, the ground got less hilly.  That night, we slept well.  The next day Brandon came across some hoof prints crossing our path, shod steeds. Althalus said that the Gray Riders were known to take care of their horses, perhaps these prints could lead us to the Thundermoot.  We opted to not follow them.  For two days marched southward with no encounter, we welcomed the inactivity.  On the third day, we heard sound like thunder in the distance.  Each moment it seemed to grow and we realized that it was sound of a horses galloping. 

“We might want to get out of their way,” I offered.

“We’re not on a road!” Theren pointed out. 

Emerging over the ridge in the distance were ten riders on massive steeds.  They wore leather armor, targ shields, and were armed with silver kris swords and javelins. Their bows were on their backs.

“Hail!” called out Althalus to them.  He then turned to us, “Act casual,” he whispered. 

They advanced on us slowly. 

“Who are you?” asked Theren. 

“Who speaks for you?” their leader said. 

“I do,” Althalus said.  They rode in front of the warlock, forming an arc.  To his credit, Althalus moved forward to engage with them alone. 

“I am Nasca rein master.”

“Well met, I am Althalus, Ork friend.”  Why…why would you lead with that? I feared for a moment we were about to engage in battle again.   

“Orks are not our friends in these lands.”  All of them went for their weapons slowly, cautiously.

“Sorry…I have many titles, that was just the first that came to mind.  I come as a seeker of the Sapphire Eye.”

“That has no meaning to me.” 

“We are friendly.  We come in peace.”

“What are you doing in these lands?”

“We are passing through.  We hoped to visit the Thundermoot along the way.” 

“You are in the lands of the moot,” the rider said.  “Those that cross our lands must be judged as worthy to pass on our soil.  Our lands extend for 300 leagues.”

Althalus tried in vain to recover.  “I recognize these horses, are you Gray Riders?”

“Of course!”

“We have had business with the Gray Riders in the past.”

“Many have.  What business did you have?”

“We completed the message delivery for a rider that was killed.” 

That got his attention.  “Very well, you can ride with us.”  They reached down and helped hoist us up on their horses. We thundered off onto the rolling hills.  

The first night, we camped at a spot they had clearly used before.  We asked about the Thundermoot and Nasca told us about their lands. “We are warded by the five pillars of the moot.  Our realm stretches for 100 leagues in either direction east or west.  None shall pass that do not pass the test. The Thundermoot rests on the Tendra plains.  It is there that the herdmeet takes place, a great gathering of riders and their steads.  The moot is sacred land to the heard.  

“Great grass covered hills rolling out in every direction.  There are towers that can be seen, hundreds of heads tall, ancient, held to the ground by great thick vines.  These are the pillars of the moot.  Steadfast – for the strong.  Gallop – for the fast.  Roarheart – for the brave.  Warworn – for the fighter.  Lightning – for the communicators.  Each tower/pillar is manned with archers and there are cauldrons seen up high for dumping flaming liquids or lead down on those that would approach unwanted. 

“Our people are proud and have long served the land.  You have come at an inconvenient time, when the herdmeet is taking place.  It is here where great debates and decisions are discussed.  There has been much changing in the realms.  Riders have fallen, the sacred bond to not harm them has been severed.  There are stories in the north of the dead walking the earth.  The herdmeet gathers to assess what these matters mean.” 

He said that ogres and giants had trespassed lately and we told him we had slain them. That brought about grins from the other riders that were with us. 

The next day we rode past a massive tower that garnered head-bows from the riders.  “That is Warworn – the tower of the warrior.”  It was as tall as a mountain with a massive base.  Vines wrapped upward for ages.

We arrived at the Thundermoot the next day.  There were several hundred, if not a thousand people.  Horses and riders circled the area, colorful banners flying. In the center of it all was a massive stone tableau.  “That is the Tableau of Reckoning.  It is there we will learn the truth of who you are.”  The horses seemed to pause as we approached, parting for us to pass. 

The tablet looked familiar, like the one we saw with the minotaurs. Ancient runes were carved in the stonework there that seemed to resonate with our druid, Theren.

We were led to the stone tablet as the horses surrounded the massive stone.  Nasca introduced us each, one by one.  One horse came up, seemed to sniff us, nudge us with his nose.  “This is Aiden.  You will answer our questions.  Withholding information or lying will bring pain.  Enemies of the herd do not leave this place alive.” We could feel the pulse of magical power surging under our feet.

“Tell us of your interaction with a member of our herd…” 

Althalus answered, telling the story of how the rider was killed and how we took the message forward.  As he spoke, the air around him shimmered yellow.  He told the story of our efforts and how Lexa Lyoncroft had been the one to kill the rider.”  Aiden nodded its head.  Another horse stepped forward and I recognized it as the one that we had seen in our home town.” 

Nasca spoke.  “Aiden says that your faces are known to the herd.  You saved Starfall, though her rider, Trudo was killed.  Tell us what you know of this?”

Althalus spoke about Lexa Lyoncroft.  “She’s working with us, but we were not responsible for the death of the rider.  We finished his mission for him.” 

“She is responsible for rider Trudo’s death?”

Althalus explained why in great detail.  He spoke of Viktor Barristen, the ordeal at the Great Gash.  It was a delicate balancing act to tell the story and try and maintain some distance from Lexa.

“Do you know where she is?  Do you have a means of contacting her?”

Althalus winced.  “I can reach her. She is off to the North West.  I can show you on a map where she is.” The map was pulled out and he pointed out where we thought she was. 

Nasca whistled and over two dozen riders appeared almost instantly.  “Go, bring Lyoncroft here.” 

“You are sending those men to their fate,” warned Brandon. 

Nascan grinned.  “I doubt that.”  He motioned for other riders to come forth.  “For telling the truth, you will be treated as guests. We will take you to Warworn until she is brought in.” 

We were taken there and the riders warned us not to use magic within the tower.  “It could have dire consequences.” 

It was good to have nice quarters for a change.  We bathed, rested, repaired our armor, and a few of us used the chance to study.  The Gray Riders were more than friendly.  Theren spent his time attempting to learn the language of the riders.  I prayed that none of the men would die at Lexa’s hands. 

One day we witnessed their archery skills.  They could fire three arrows, at a full gallop, where we could only fire one – and none missed the targets.  It was an impressive display.  Ten days passed and finally Nasca came and told us they had apprehended her.  We set out for her trial the next day. 

Lexa was in heavy iron shackles.  When she saw us, she cracked a wicked grin. “Hello boys. I don’t suppose I could trouble you to remove these chains?”  The riders were unamused.  They dragged her onto the massive stone tableaux and she shimmered a brilliant yellow as she stood there, ever defiant.

Before they could ask her a question, she spoke.  “I am Lexa Lyoncroft, a Sister of the Sword.  I am accursed and burdened with great knowledge.  I stand before you accused of murder.  It was not my intent to kill that rider.  The message he carried was one to mislead Lord Sklaver into sending his army out and leaving Karn defenseless.  I wanted to make sure that the message never reached him…to save lives.  I regret that a rider died by my hand.”  Her words made the herd shuffle in place angrily

Aiden asked her if she was, indeed a witch.

“You trust the words of the Church?  I am no witch. They hope that some misguided soul will do what they could not and kill me.  It is not easy, as I said, I am cursed to not die until justice has been done for my order.   

“Your killing of me would only aid the dark forces working against us, if it worked.  Fate is fickle when it comes to me and death.  Curses are like that and I assure you, I am cursed.” 

Again the great horses stirred, seeming to speak with each other.    

Lexa pressed on.  “Your precious herdmeet has no idea what is coming, how bad things are. 

Viktor Barristen has returned.  He has taken physical form once more.  He has gone to the Shroudlands and is building an army, to finish what he started centuries ago…his vengeance on the church and the destruction of the free realms.  This time there are no Titans to come to our aid.  There is no grand alliance against him, at least, not yet.   

“I used his portal in the north to visit the Shroudlands for a day or two.  The dead walk once more.  He has allied himself with the Giants, the lizard-folk, and the Dragonkin.  They are preparing for war.  The Church has many enemies and they have found a friend in him.  I have heard that the druids of the Eastern Marches have left their sacred forest to seek him out.  As have the Fire Dwarves.

“My words of warning have saved what is left of the Order of the Fang at the Great Gash, though I fear it is not enough.  The only way to stop him is to unmake him, and those secrets have been lost.  These men you found, they seek the ways of magic that may allow us to undo him.” 

Aiden, visibly angry, fired back.  “Why save the church?  We have heard many stories of you and your crimes.  You are no friend of the church.”

“I am accursed.” Lyoncroft spat back. “Until justice is done for my sisters that lay dead, I will not rest.  If the church is destroyed, I can never shake my curse.  This is the bane I must carry. 

“I do not fear the death you threaten me with.  Get it over with, sate your cries for vengeance.  I have work to do.”

Aiden spoke solemnly.  “You have admitted your crimes, regardless of the reasoning.  For that, you must die.” 

A rider rode forward with a lance, planting it through her chest.  She dropped dead.  “Justice has been served,” Aiden said.  “You knew her.  You can see to her disposition.” 

We decided to take her body with us.  The Gray Riders took us on a three days ride east and we saw another one of the towers.  They took us to the border of our lands.  Nasca told us that we were friends of the herd, not something that is taken lightly.  “You can call on us for aid.” Theren was given a horn and was told that they could be summoned with it. 

I proposed the next grim task – using the Chalice of St. John to bring back Lexa. We poured the holy water from the cup into her pale lips and she came back to life, coughing.  “That never gets easy – but fate always intervenes to keep me alive – part of my curse.”   

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Part 35

Part 36

Part 37

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

Review of Fall from Glory – by Randall Bills

I will attempt to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.  I read this book years ago when I was working on Betrayal of Ideals.  I got to read the first two books of this trilogy and really enjoyed them.

This books begins at the start of one of the biggest events in BattleTech history, the Exodus.  Handling General Aleksandr Kerensky is treading on sacred ground.  Loren Coleman as done it well, and Randall does a fantastic job of showing us the man in his later years.

This is not his story – it is the story of his boys, Nicholas and Andrey Kerensky.  Two wacky kids who get into crazy antics….no, not at all.  Andrey is young, impetuous, idealistic, and stunningly naïve.  His older brother is not exactly cuddly. Nicholas is…well, dark and stunningly manipulative.  Randall captures him perfectly as we see with the Prinz Eugen incident.  Nicholas comes across as having such intense focus that it overshadows everything and everyone else in his life. 

When I read the novel, it didn’t have a chapter on the finding of the Pentagon Worlds. This new version does and it really adds to some context that was welcomed. 

This is not a plot-driven story – the Founding of the Clans has long been established in BattleTech lore. This is the story of two young men, one in particular, who grew up in the shadow of a great leader.  Like so many stories of this type, great men do not necessarily make great fathers. Sibling rivalry and an upbringing during an oppressive occupation makes you wonder how much of a person is their genetics, and how much is forged in their environment.  Randall dips his toes in that complicated pool with Nicholas and Andrey.   

What this novel does is fill in some gaps in that history, making it much more complex, and far more interesting.  Randall’s writing style is crisp and he knows his characters and all of their idiosyncrasies and strengths.  The flashback sections are wonderful, giving us a view of Terra during the occupation – and also help us gain a grasp of at least one of the characters.   

This has become one of my top novels now that it is finally out in wide-release.  I can’t wait to re-read the next one.  Easily five out of five stars if you are BattleTech fan in the post 3050 eras. 

Stormcrow Variant – Creative Juggernaut

Pew – pew

If you are unaware, our little company (Creative Juggernaut) is working on producing variant ‘Mechs for BattleTech in limited production runs.  To address your questions up-front – I do not have a date when they will be available yet (though rumor has it that the Black Knight’s are done.  Don’t tell Brent I told you that though – that’s our secret!)  They will be sold through the Catalyst website – we have to for licensing reasons. No, I do not know what the final price will be.  In many respects, I am a cog in this machine, and in the case of minis, a pretty insignificant cog. 

Brent sent me along a Stormcrow kit so I could paint it up.  This comes with the arm fitted with the pulse lasers, and the option of fitting it out with the gauss rifle or the autocannon.  I opted for the AC20 because I like using one when I play. 

You will see the production baggie (ohh…ziplock!) and the components.

Its like the prize inside the cereal box when you were a kid

The only clean up I did to the parts was with my bare hands, rubbing off a tiny bit of flash. I wanted to duplicate what a gamer might do if he wanted to put in the minimum effort and get the mini into battle quickly.   

It fit together pretty well.  I uplifted one leg slightly, I like the look of my mini’s as if they are moving. I angled the arms a little on-purpose. Not sure if I like that or not. I’m sure some Senior Tech in the Clan will have my hide for that.

For paint, I used the airbrush to do a layer of black, then gray on the bottom, dark blue, with the top being light blue.  I was going for a Ghost Bear look, doing a reversal of the Omicron Galaxy paint scheme. Why Ghost Bears? Because they have some wonderful colors to work with…and they are Ghost Bears! Seriously, I would love to tell you there was some reason for this, but there wasn’t other than I thought it was a neat look.  The layering of the paints did a lot of the work for me and the base coat of black took care of the recessed areas. I avoided doing a wash simply because I liked the effect I came up with. 

Total paint time for this mini was 22 minutes – the vast majority of which was cleaning the airbrush between color changes.  I added some decals, but right now I lack Ghost Bear decals, so I kept it simple. 

Overall, I love the results.  The ‘Mech is very airbrush friendly and can be posed with little effort.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Enjoy!

Building the Variant Black Knight – A Creative Juggernaut Project

“None shall pass!”

As some of you know, Brent Evans and I are part of a company called Creative Juggernaut (www.creative-juggernaut.com).  We have been working on a number of very cool game products under our Shock Monkey Games subsidiary, but recently, our focus has been on making a pair of variant BattleMech miniatures for Catalyst Game Labs.  This post is about building and painting the Clan-Buster variant of the Black Knight. 

Let me deal with the most common questions I keep getting up-front.  These will be sold through the Catalyst Games Labs web site only.  We will not be selling them ourselves.  These are a limited run unless Catalyst wants to do something different down the road. CGL will set the prices on them.  No, I do no know what that price will be.  There are a lot of variants that we are jointly considering and we do not need suggestions. 

Much of what we do is proprietary in terms of the casting process – so I’m not at liberty to share that.  I had Brent send me a production Black Knight.  We decided to produce these unassembled, since we figured that most mini fans of BattleTech are used to putting together miniatures.  Also, it helps us keep the cost down. 

The packaging will have a wrap-over piece of thin cardboard with the image of the assembled figure on the back.  It’s in a ziplock baggie because, well, it’s simple.  For the record, I did almost zero cleaning of the figure in terms of mold seams. I wanted to approach this like a typical gamer might.    

A bag of goodness

Assembling this Black Knight you have to essentially make two decisions.  One, what do you want to do with the hands.  We cast variant hands, and what is really cool, we have some that are open (so you can see the fingers.)  Me, I had to have the sword…duh.  I went with the open hand with the autocannon just because I thought it was cool. 

The other decision you must make is what legs you want to use.  Brent included a bent leg which excited me.  With a little kitbashing, you can actually make a kneeling/prone Black Knight, which is very cool.  One of our team, Kevin, has a kneeling one that looks pretty incredible. I decided to use the bent knee to give the impression of the ‘Mech charging.  I glued it to the base and liked it, for about an hour.  I opted to make a change.   

He was going to be charging as shown above, but I changed my mind.

The parts fit together very well.  The plastic is easy to work with – no pinning.  The detail on the hands is something we just haven’t seen with ‘Mech minis in the past.  Look at the photos and form your own opinions.

During the casting process, we always have a little left over resin.  So what we have done is create some molds of various ‘Mechs and use them to pour our leftover stuff.  These are not designed or intended to be perfect, but provide us with spare parts, limbs, etc, that we can use on the bases for terrain.  Brent sent along a bunch of cast-off UrbanMech parts with this batch – so what I did was cannibalize an Urbie leg and re-pose my Black Knight so that it is standing on the blasted off leg.  Why did the Clans have an Urbie on Tukayyid?  That I can’t answer.  Maybe this is some other ComStar operation…

Some cast off parts
A change of stance. Standing on a fallen foe. I used some rust wash on the Urbie leg.

For painting, I used my airbrush to lay down a base coat of black.  It’s a ComStar ‘Mech, so I went with a white layer next, again with the airbrush.  I used a light dusting of brown on the legs to show mud splatter.  Total painting time was around 20 minutes, including the detailing.  I didn’t use a wash.  It took me longer to clean my airbrush than it did to paint. Usually I use white to show wear on the armor, but with a white ‘Mech, it did my chipping using silver – especially on the sword.   

Final product. I like the mud splatter on the lower legs and the silver chipping on spots.

I love it.  The Knight is beefy and looks ready to kick ass.  My next one will be a Ghost Bear isorla version. My next assembly will be our production Stormcrow Tukayyid variant.

Hour of the Wolf Part IV – The Fan Theories

If not Clan Wolverine – where is Clan Stoned Pony?

Hour of the Wolf is a big deal, I get that. Speculation was running high prior to the book’s release. I got bombarded with them constantly – every crazed idea ow concept conceived in fan-fictional delusion.  Even when I said “Hell no!” to some fan idea, they thought I was misdirecting them from the truth.  

Most of these were wishful thinking…if you put it out there enough on the web, it might happen…your favorite faction will rise to power.  Some of these are clearly the products of heavy drug use or deep-seated mental problems.  Please people, see your doctors, take your meds.  This is the voice of experience telling you this (I suffer from depression and am medicated for it.)

In writing, you have to be careful about using a deus ex machina intervention.  As I have come to learn, there is a difference between suspense and surprise.  Suspense is knowing that the Dragoons and Anastasia Kerensky are on Terra, and you wondering when they are going to join the fight.  Surprise is when suddenly, without any build up, you drop in some faction or hero to resolve a problem in the story.  Suspense is good.  Surprise must be done well, and in HotW, it wouldn’t have played out well.  You can’t drop a lot of big surprise moments – and we saved ours for the last chapter.    

I thought it might be fun to take a look at the theories I encountered.  Sit back, put on your foil-hats…it’s about to get bumpy. 

The Wolverines will sweep in and become the ilClan.  We had a huge build-up to HotW in terms of fiction.  Things were on the table. Only once was Clan Wolverine referenced…and then just in passing in Children of Kerensky. Regardless, the die-hard Wolverineeies swore this mysterious force was going to jump in on Terra and save the day.  It would have been a pure deus ex machina move, and would have been horrible writing.  “Surprise – some group you have not had a connection with in ages is now in charge!”  Ugh!  It is bad storytelling to drop a bomb like that without some hint of it coming. As much as I protested it, fans still believed it was going to happen.  Yeah, I know, 9-11 was fake too…blah, blah, blah, you guys crack me up. Some pointed to the Kickstarter fiction piece a wrote, Redemption and Malice as ‘ironclad evidence’ that the Wolverines were going to show up in HotW. The piece never directly mentions the Wolverines at all.  It was hardly a prelude to something this big.  Geez!   

The Ghost Bears would become the ilClan.  Granted, we saw actual Ghost Bears in the fiction leading up to this, but never once got an inkling that they were going to save the Republic’s ass or seize the Star League throne for themselves.  People make big mistakes about the Clans.  They assume everyone in a Clan thinks, acts, and believes exactly the same things.  As much as we showed division in both Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon, everyone just presumes that all of the Ghost Bears would be hot-to-trot to get to Terra.  My friends, if you believed this, you know NOTHING about Clan Ghost Bear.  We hammered this out carefully and methodically in the writer’s summit.  This isn’t just a Blaine-thing, it is a “So say we all,” thing. 

But I did give you a cool Ghost Bear turned Wolf character in the War Bear. So technically, I may have inadvertently planted the seed on this theory. My bad!

The Smoke Jaguars would become the ilClan.  I won’t lie and say I didn’t mull over this one, despite the fact that the Wolves were preordained to be the ilClan.  After all, we had a lot of buildup of the Jags.  Having them be the ilClan made zero sense however. This was not their destiny – as was stated in Children of Kerensky.  Still, the Jag-fan-bois clung to that forlorn hope.  I think we are going to get better stories out of that Clan based on how they are positioned now.  They are on their way back – and that makes them interesting and fertile for great storytelling to come.

The Republic was going to survive in some form.  From the moment I was brought in on this at GenCon 2017 I maintained one thing – for the Dark Ages to die, the Republic had to go.  I never wavered from that, nor did CGL. The Republic represented the Dark Ages.  Alaric would not allow them to exist. It would have been out of character for him to do so. Yes, it is rare that a faction is truly gone in BattleTech but this was needed for the emotional and symbolic break with an era.   

I would bring back the Word of Blake and somehow they would factor into the new era.  People, I have never been that drunk and I have consumed a lot of alcohol over the years. 

Stone is actually Arthur Steiner-Davion.  Don’t you think that Victor might have noticed that?  If you harbored this thought it is time for you to pee in a cup and get a test.  And, if memory serves, Arthur’s fate has already been covered in sourcebook material. 

The Cameron line would be restored.  Corollary theory:  Stone is a Cameron and will rule the new Star League.  In 1992 I wrote the ComStar Sourcebook and referenced the Tripitz affair.  In Shrapnel, a fiction piece was written around a conspiracy theory (here’s your first clue that this isn’t going to pan out) about a surviving pair of Cameron’s, leveraging the 1992 piece as its basis. I feel pretty secure in saying that if we were going down that path, Shrapnel would probably not been the launching point.  I’m not saying it’s not a cool idea, but there would need to be a hell of a lot of build-up for something like this. 

Also, if Stone was a Cameron, why would he have kept that a secret?  Do you know the man’s ego?  He would have played that card every chance he got.  It’s like a pickup line at a bar.  “Hey babe, wanna hook up with a Cameron-heir?” 

Clan Jade Falcon for the win! Hold it right there cowboy! I’m not your Huckleberry on this one. A case can be made that if the Falcons won, we would get some fascinating stories out of it as everyone in the Inner Sphere rallied against them. I keep thinking of last week’s Wandavision episode with a twist, “It was Malvina all along!” When you write fiction like this, a spine novel, you want to lay the foundation for good stories. We needed to get away from characters that were cut-and-dry good or bad. Malvina winning would have been scary, but won’t give us the depth we can get from the Wolves being the ilClan. Besides, the Jade Falcons have the potential of being the coolist of the Clans going forward.

Stone and Alaric would battle for control of Terra in some sort of trial and end up jointly ruling Terra.  I guess this came from that infamous Ben Rome document floating out in dark corners of the web. I didn’t track down that document until long after the book was written.  Thank God we didn’t follow that outline. I tried to write up Stone and Alaric fighting it out in the first draft, but in all honesty, it sucked. As far as ideas went, the thought that Stone would beat Alaric in a Trial was borderline unbelievable from the start. He’s an antique and Alaric is in his prime.  Stone hadn’t piloted a ‘Mech in a LONG time.

Wolves Dragoons might take Terra and become the ilClan.  Okay, I like this one because it was possible-ish, under the right circumstances.  Its only weakness is that it destroys the cool factor of the Dragoons; that they are mercenaries.  While it could have been entertaining, can you image the people’s reaction who believe that the Dragoons are already Mary Sue’s?  “Oh sure, now they control Terra!  WTF?”

The Wolves in Exile would be the ilClan.  Um, how?  With one galaxy of force, how could they have possibly pulled that off?  No, that was not an invitation for you to explain your theory in-depth to me. 

Clan Snow Raven for the win! Really?  This story was one that was built up in a series of novellas and books prior to the big show.  At no point was there a hint of the Snow Ravens plotting to come in, yet a handful of dedicated fans entrenched with this theory.  I did give the Snow Ravens their best character in a long time in Haake though.

The Homeworld Clans would sweep in and take Terra.  Let’s talk logistics.  It is a LONG way to Clan Space.  They have no idea what is going on in the Inner Sphere.  In fact, they pretty much nuked themselves back to the Stone Age during the Wars of Reaving. We saw no hint of them in the prelude work – but some fans swore they were going to come charging in. 

So, did I miss any?

Funny Fantasy RPG T-Shirt Sayings

First off, I copyright all of these slogans since I made them up on the fly and at least a few are funny.  Second, I started to realize with the lack of gaming conventions this last year that we could all use a little chuckle.  So as a bit of a creative writing exercise, I thought I would put together a list of sayings from fantasy RPG’s that could be on T-Shirts.  Enjoy!

Paladin in the streets, rouge in the sheets

Cleric – Everyone jokes about my god until they are bleeding out.

Thief – Let’s not get all nervous and start inventorying who has what in whose backpack…

12 days since our party set a town on fire.

In our defense, the locals were a bit uppity…

In my defense, I thought the room was bigger when I cast fireball.

I only have two words for you, “Rage-on!”

I cast Eldritch Blast.  Pew – pew – pew!

There are few things in the game that Magic Missile cannot resolve.

When I was a kid, we all had 10 foot poles and tapped the dungeon floors ahead of us.

DM:  “No, that baby Gorgon cannot be your familiar.” 

I open it. What are the odds of that chest being a mimic?  Wait, why is the DM rolling dice?

Eating hands since 1977

Those voices in your head…that’s me…the Warlock.

I was a murder hobo before we called it that. 

Sure I wear hemp robes, but can you turn into a grizzly bear? 

I kill everyone in the tavern.  Why?  It’s the only way to be sure.

I disbelieve everything!

You decapitated him.  Yes I did!  You’re lawful good.  His head was not!

Stand back guys, I’m about to woo this bar-wench with my charisma…

Time to worry…the DM is breaking out more dice.

Guys, charming the town guards is not the same as killing the town guards. 

Necromancy – If your party is killed you are just getting started.

I’m a Druid.  I was green before it was cool.

Spell components are for wimps!

Most obnoxious character:  Bard with bagpipes.

No, this won’t draw attention to the party…

I use my free action to crush these dice.

Keep your distance.  I’m Chaotic Neutral

Stop calling my Barbarian the party meat shield.

Aw shit, the DM is smiling!

It would have worked, if I hadn’t rolled a 1

My dice are not cursed – they just don’t perform well under pressure.

Listen closely to my Vicious Mockery!

Stand back, I’m about to critically fail!

Dude, you’re bleeding all over my new armor.

I don’t care about the rules, can I just kill something?

The best laid plans can’t beat a 1 on a D20

Yes, I did ask if cannibalism is allowed…

Stop being judgmental – it was just a little murder-hoboing. 

I don’t care what kind of skin the book is covered with, I open it!

Bard:  The mob is rushing us?  I have a song for that!

What is an encumbrance check and why are you asking me to do it on this bridge?

“I am a god!”  “No, you just rolled a 20.”

There’s a random spell effects table???

How edible is that goblin?

Monk:  Behold my fists of fury and my fingers of penetrating deep massage

What do you mean it’s immune to everything but silver?

Why would they name the tavern Slice and Dice?

What do you mean the Satyr is rubbing my shoulders seductively?

When you said the room was full of spiders, how full is full?  

I can totally seduce that lady with the snakes for hair…

Well, you can try…

There is nothing in the rules that says we can’t use the dwarf as a grappling hook.

Desecration is not a skill.

Yes, I drink the vial marked Ipecac Syrup.  What happens?  Do I feel anything?

You may feel a slight discomfort…

Wait, what pentagram on the floor are you talking about?

Maybe she’s levitating because she’s into me.

“What do you mean I can’t swim in plate armor?”  “The good news is the rest of the party can’t hear your screams as you sink.” 

The ogres are not amused with your banter.

Watch where you place that hunters mark. 

Rangers – It’s more than chasing bears with picnic baskets.

How many hit points on the little one?

What, exactly, is that voice in my head saying again?

When it matters, I go invisible.

The good news.  You’re unconscious.  The bad news, your burning flesh smells like bacon and is attracting more orcs. 

“Words can’t hurt.” Warlock: I cast Dissonant Whispers!

Wizard:  “I reach into my pouch and put on my ring of invisibility.”  Thief:  “Yeah, about that…” 

I’m not just a murder hobo, I am the KING of murder hobos!

Do I get experience points for making his body stop twitching?

Hour of the Wolf Part III – My Favorite Parts

Warning – you are in spoiler territory, deep at this point. 

I don’t write for the fans.  It’s a fallacy that authors pander to every fan desire.  I’m sure some do. My belief is that if you do that and you write trash. It is where most fanfiction falls flat.  This is mostly because fans can’t agree on anything.  They squabble over every little detail in a big shared universe. Their personal perspectives override logic and common sense at times.     

As such, I write things I would like to read.  I am a fan myself.  As it turns out, some people happen to like the same things I do.  So I invite you to indulge me as I tell you my favorite parts of Hour of the Wolf.  

The arrival of the McKenna’s Pride in the Terran system.  It’s a tiny moment, but one I savor.  When the Republic realizes that the McKenna’s Pride is in the Wolf fleet.  Jaws drop. The Admiral tries to downplay it, but it is an emotional moment.  It tells the reader, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

The contrast of the Falcons and the Wolves.  First, you see it in the space battle.  Alaric takes out the space stations first, then it is more like watching a surgeon work.  The Jade Falcons actually give the Republic the fight they wanted at the zenith jump point.  When the Wolves land, no none will debark until Alaric does.  When the Jade Falcons land, Malvina has to order them to stay on their ships until she sets foot on Terra.  The Wolves show up in-force – where the Falcons trickle in.  Alaric and Chance focused on logistics and replacement equipment, munitions, parts, and techs. The Jade Falcons trickle into Terra so some of their units are fresh when the ilClan trial begins. 

My tankers.  Dujordan and Hawkins rock. If you hate them as characters, you need some serious self-reflection. Their banter came about in Diet Mountain Dew filled rage one night.  Their dialogue was written by me, speaking out-loud, both parts.  I literally cracked myself up.  

Their origins came from research. I was re-reading some BattleTech fiction and realized that all of the Clan characters, with the exception of Horse, talk exactly the same. If you remove their names, they all sound the same. There is damned little personal banter we put historically in books that you see with real people in the military.  So I decided to have a tank crew perspective and then thought, “this is my chance to explore them being funny/snarky.”  The results were some of my favorite characters ever. The fact that they straighten up when they think Alaric is watching, well, that’s a very military thing too.   

Kalidessa Kerensky and the Howling Furies.  Editor Supreme John Helfers suggested that I condense the character perspectives to one mixed unit (or so) for Clan Wolf.  I picked the unit and a canon character from the list and the Howling Furies were born.  Having said that, she needed a personality, a persona, that people would respect. 

My inspiration for Kalidessa I was the character that Robert Redford played in A Bridge Too Far.  Remember that scene where he was tasked to row across the river?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACiWrHFMeYY That is Kalidessa being tasked with holding the attention of the Republic forces in China.  She volunteers her people for every shitty assignment because that’s who she is, raw determination on steroids. She is only afraid of failing in her own eyes and those of Alaric. Her own people respect and fear her. She has a kind side too, like when she warns her bondsmen to never get into a game a chance with Hawkins and Dujordan. Kalidessa knows that you cannot rise to the top if you don’t step-up, that that puts her people at risk.  THAT became the essence of her character.      

The first big-ass counterattack.  Brent Evans and I spoke early on about what separated the RAF and the Wolves.  The Superheavies were a big part of that.  I proposed massing them.  Why?  Because it is cool.  The counterattack is a damned serious threat to Clan Wolf’s operations. It causes a great deal of tension with Chance’s character and we get to see the War Bear in action.  Brent and I worked out the tactics for dealing with both Clan honor and the Superheavies, which was a fun discussion. Brent plays a lot and really played thorugh the mechanics of the tactics.

The coutnerattack is the first point where we see Alaric’s plan suffer a setback. John, during edits, had me amp this up to a new level.

The counterattack is critical and cool.  We see a glimmer of victory in the eyes of the Republic. It showed flaws in Alaric’s plans.  For a while, it worked.  But in the end, the counterattack is about Chance Vickers.  She sees it for what it is and does something most characters can’t, admit that she can’t just fix it.  Previous Clan characters would have mounted up and gone off to deal with it.  Not Chance. She summons the War Bear. How many of us would have the balls to tell Alaric, “I can’t handle this – I need help”? She grew as a character in that moment.      

Redburn Gets His Day.  The headhunter mission to take out the Clan leadership is devastating, all thanks to Damien Redburn. We see Ramiel Bekker die in the assault – and Alaric almost does.  Garner Kerensky dies.  Malvina and her saKhan both are near death as a result of it.  Redburn goes out believing he has saved the Republic.  The Wolves and Jade Falcons do turn on each other.  What he has accomplished is to start to strip away Alaric’s dream team.  He also set things up for Chance Vickers to be in command, alone.  Heroic figures deserve a heroic death and Redburn got his.  Moreover, he was the hero that the Republic deserved – not Devlin Stone or Jonah Levin.  Redburn was what all of the Republic fans wanted.  He stomped on the earth and the ground trembled.   

What would Alaric do?  Chance is so deep in Alaric’s head, she reaches out to Stephanie Chistu to tell her that Clan Wolf is not attacking the Jade Falcons.  Brilliant – and totally in-character.  I enjoy their little talk at the start of the ilClan trial as well. 

Lady Synd’s taking down of Chance Vickers. This leaves Alaric, for a short time, without any of his dream team on-planet. 

Haake hanging the McKenna’s Pride off of the Jade Falcon flagship.  Let’s face it, that is some seriously ballsy-shit.  Especially given that Malvina isn’t the most rational of leaders.  The death ride of the Republic fleet is great – but Alaric telling Malvina to fight it out on the ground, that is awesome and is a moment where we see some of his genetics come through.  Haake’s great line: “Khan Ward, if they so much as break wind, I intend to unleash hell.”

Stone learning Alaric invited the Jade Falcons to Terra.  Only Nixon could go to China – and only Alaric would invite the Jade Falcons to the party.  Stone really thinks their arrival is going to play to his hand and allow him to ally with Alaric.  Alaric bursts that bubble big-time. 

The Republic Surrender on Belle Island.  I was born in Virginia and raised in Michigan (returning to Virginia).  Everyone would have expected me to include some American Civil War sites in the fighting for Terra.  Fooled ya!  Instead, the surrender takes place on Belle Island in the Detroit River. I lived outside of Detroit for several years and it seemed only fitting to have the surrender take place there. I actually revisited Belle Isle the summer before writing the chapter to capture some of the look and feel.   

The Freaking Falcon Guard!  This started with a conversation with John regarding the Old Guard.  Some fact checkers cringed at the Republic Old Guard.  Their critique was warranted, the Old Guard didn’t show up on unit lists before.  Then again, I don’t see sourcebooks as limiting good fiction and the story of the Old Guard was good fiction…much better than many of the other RAF units. 

I have always marveled at Napoleon’s Old Guard both as a concept and for their influence at Waterloo. The Republic, in my mind, deserved such an elite unit.  Stone would have reveled in having such a unit. 

John agreed, but didn’t like how I was employing them in an early draft.  He said, “I think you should use them.  But instead of attacking the Jade Falcons, have them go right after Malvina.” 

Game on!

Of course, a regiment or so of elite warriors going after one warrior seemed lop-sided.  The solution was the reconstitution of the Falcon Guard. I always enjoyed the tale of the Last Stand of the Black Watch when a handful of warriors took down dozens of Rim World’s ‘Mechs.  Wouldn’t it be cool to do something similar?  And if you are going to do it, why not use the Falcon Guard?

I wrote it up in an hour, it flowed.  The ever-tightening ring of destroyed enemies as the Guard protected Malvina from certain death. The reader would be rooting for them, but at the same time kind of hoping that they would fail and she would die. After all, it is Malvina. 

A fun call to John was essentially me saying, “I’m bringing back the Falcon Guard.”  “Of course you are.”  He was on his way to a CGL meeting and pinged me later.  “I told them you were bringing back the Falcon Guard and everyone is pumped about the idea.” 

Good, because it was already done by the time he let me know.   

When the armor plate fell off Fratricide.  Some things I can’t explain why I enjoy them as much as I do.  That little instance was genuine.  It made you wonder, what else could fall off? For a moment, BattleTech got a dose of reality.   

The Northwind Challenge.  Alaric telling the Highlanders that he is on their native soil and ‘come and get me,’ was awesome.  If you didn’t think so, well, I think you missed something.  I visited that region of Scotland where the fighting was, so I knew the ground well.  I knew if he had the Highlanders on Terra, they had to fight in Scotland. Alaric played them, that’s true, with a slight ding to his honor – but it was neat to picture them fighting in Scotland.   

Chris Kornfeld’s Arc.  It is rare we deal with MechWarriors coping with PTSD, but Kornfeld was.  Urban warfare is brutal, and he let us see that.  Then there is the final battle where he witnesses the Jade Falcons massacring prisoners.  That was a lift from the Battle of the Bulge and the Malmedy massacre.  Kornfeld is one of the few that comes right out and thinks, ‘screw the Exarch!’ near the end.  He has seen troops simply thrown at the Jade Falcons with no hope of victory and it leaves him bitter.    

Tara Campbell’s Arc.  Alaric flipping Tara Campbell went through a few editorial changes.  I still love it by the time we were done.  To save the Highlanders, she sacrifices herself.  Incredibly noble, in fact it is one of the boldest sacrifices by a Highlander ever.  Then she is offered to the Jade Falcons and goes.  The Falcons are feared, not respected (something Malvina tended to blur in her mind.)  To me, there is some fantastic story potential there. She can show the Falcons honor in a different perspective.  She also knows that the best way to prevent another Malvina is to be inside of the Clan.  Tara’s story could be the most compelling to emerge in the early years of this era.  I believe Tara will instill a different definition of honor to a very broken and battered Clan.   

The God-Damned Black Watch.  Tex gets it.  The Jade Falcons came from the Black Watch.  That last stand against Amaris was the stuff of myth and legend.  The Falcons have always prided (pun intended) themselves on being the best of the best.  Alaric knows that and gives them a great honor by making them his guards.  The Jade Falcons that emerge from all of this will not be numerous, but be uber-elite warriors. Beaten?  Aff.  And from that they will emerge as more deadly and potent than ever before.    

Kerensky’s burial.  It was necessary to bring the General home one last time.  The Hidden Hope was complete.  Nicholas’s vision for an ilClan was complete.  Now where do the clans go from here?  They are a people without a destiny that has been preordained.  Alaric has to wrap his hands around that.   

The end of the book.  Stone lays all bare, but was he telling the whole truth?  I love him stripping apart Alaric’s ego with words.  Chance shows herself to be ruthless when she eternally tucks Stone in for the last time.  Stone knows that history is going to treat him well and that the Inner Sphere is poisoned against the Clans – and lets Alaric feel the full brunt of that.  Of course he saw himself being Wormtongue to Alaric, whispering in his ear and guiding and manipulating him, but that all fell to shit too thanks to his failing body and a kiss from his pillow-pet.  Stone is all about schemes and many simply die with him, but some will live on in rumors for years.  Even now the fans are debating what parts he was being honest about.    

The reader is left wondering what part of what Stone said is the truth.  Alaric is left emotionally devastated. It sets the stage for the events that are to follow and marks a change in Alaric’s character we have yet to fully see. Those were my moments.

Hour of the Wolf Part II – What Got Chopped?

I wonder if there is Chance of turning this around?

Needless to say, we are into spoiler territory. 

With two major rewrites, there were some alterations to the story and characters – some major, most quite small but important. John Helfers is a master at working with writers on a project this big to make the story sizzle. 

So what got changed over time?  Tracking all of the changes would be exhausting.  Some of the things that changed from the beginning to the end:

  • Originally, the plan was that the Kell Hounds were coming to Terra as well to fight the Jade Falcons.  Anastasia’s mission was going to be not only to find the Wolves in Exile, but the surviving Kell Hounds.  1.  It made some things more complicated to do that.  2.  Mike made a good case for them not coming at the Writer’s Summit.  In the end, removing them was the right thing to do because it would have been too busy and they wouldn’t have gotten a proper amount of air time.  There is a small bit of fiction I wrote of Calamity Kell coming out of the DropShips that ended up on the cutting room floor. I am hoping some other author picks up on the Anastasia-mission and does that story at some point because I foresee some neat stuff there.   

Because it will never see the light of day otherwise, here it is, unedited: 

Eight Kilometers Away…

Callandre “Calamity” Kell had been in battles before, but nothing like this.  The air was alive with lasers, missiles and flashes from PPC – as far and eye could see.  Copses of pine trees roared with flames, their smoke mingling with the carnage of battle.  The air rumbled, like a thunderstorm, continuous, shaking her SM1 tank destroyer.

She had come to Terra because Anastasia Kerensky had made her an offer she could not refuse.  The Kell Hounds that followed her were a thin shadow of their former selves.  One lone company was all that was left, nearly obliterated by Jade Falcons. I could be the last Kell to lead the unit into battle if I am not careful. 

Now, on Terra, was long overdue payback to the Falcons that had decimated her once illustrious unit. And salvage rights…a chance to rebuild the unit.

An artillery round went off in front of her SM1, throwing dirt on her cockpit as she spotted a target – a fast moving Shrike.  This one was different, the warbook display painted it as a -44a modification.  Two type-9 Ultra-Autocannons and LRM’s! It rose into the air, coming down in front of Thomas Owen’s Wolfhound.  (Before Brent has a seizure, this is the variant from the MechWarrior Click-game – pilot Ichiba Pryde.  I thought it appropriate to include another tip of the hat to the Dark Ages characters.) 

“Cowboy!” she called as she brought the massive ultra autocannon targeting reticle onto the landing Shrike.  It was too late though.  Owen squeezed off a blast with his ER large laser, but the pilot of the Shrike came down right beside him, landing a devastating punch with its sharp-clawed right arm. Owen’s Wolfhound staggered back and she could see where the punch had cratered in the armor just below the cockpit. 

Calamity heard the weapons lock tone and fired. The ultra autocannon roared next to her cockpit as the shells blew off one of the wing-like projections that rose from the back of the Shrike, while the shells cratered the already damaged BattleMech’s torso.  As she rushed at it she could see it was a patchwork of armor and those plates not-replaced were burned or battered.  The hits did the trick, the Shrike broke off from the Kilted Cowboy Owen and turned towards her. 

She anticipated the incoming missiles and autocannon rounds, but there were none.  Instead there was a blast with the Shrike’s two medium extended range lasers, both of which hit her SM1, melting ugly gashes on the front and side.  Banking hard to get to its rear, the Jade Falcon followed her move keeping itself locked on. 

As her autocannon reload cycle completed it fired again, missing with one shot, hitting her left side with a laser that tore off armor she knew she was going to need, especially on a day like this. Calamity halted her arc and bore straight in on the Shrike – her ultra autocannon thundering in her ears.  The shots hit the already damaged right hip and opened up the actuator there, spraying lubricant and green coolant from a blasted line along the leg of the ‘Mech.  It started to topple and tried to avoid the fall with a blast of its jump jets.

The Jade Falcon rose into the air and skirted towards her, coming down right in her path. The ultra autocannon hadn’t reloaded, but her machineguns were and she blazed away.  Flashes from dozens of tiny hit peppered the cockpit canopy and upper torso of the ‘Mech.  The damaged leg on the Shrike was barely holding on as it tried to shift position. Juking hard to the right, Kell sought to put some distance between them, then swing around for another attack.  For three seconds she lost sight of her foe as she felt the SM1 toss her hard against the restraining straps. 

As she came around the Jade Falcon warrior fired its lasers again, both missing her as her autocannon reload finished. She raced the targeting reticle over the enemy but the war-weary Shrike suddenly seemed to rattle and quake, hit from behind.  It fell over on its side, hard, gouging the soft black soil.  She fired another burst into it as it lay on the ground, savaging its torso even more. Her sensors told her its reactor went off-line. Angling her SM1 next to the Shrike, she could see on battered and charred armor plate with the stenciled words, “Shark Hunter” barely visible.  Not any more… 

Through the haze of the battle she was the Kilted Cowboy standing behind the fallen Jade Falcon.  “Nice shooting Cowboy,” she said as she angled close to the fallen ‘Mech. 

“It was a cheap shot,” Owen replied.  “But hard to pass up. He didn’t fire his autocannon or missiles.  Did you notice?”

“Out of ammo I guess,” she replied.  Maybe they have supply issues…

“I hope the rest of them are out too,” Owen said, turning toward the battle to the south.  Other Kell Hound ‘Mechs and vehicles were starting to converge on their position. 

“Roger that,” she said.  “Kell Hounds, form up on me.  We are heading west and hopefully the rear of the Jade Falcon lines!”

For the first time in over a year…Calamity Kell felt good. 

  • In the early drafts, we were going to pump Stone up on drugs and have him fight Alaric in some Circle of Equals near the end. Stone was going to die but Alaric was going to honor him, blah, blah, blah.  Apparently this was something that got batted around a while ago before my involvement with the project. I hated the idea, but wrote the scene, loathing every moment of it. To me, if you are ending the Dark Ages, you needed to end the Republic – not drag it out.  Also, Stone had to die, for a LOT of reasons.  Stone did not deserve a glorious death or worse, a battlefield victory of any sort.  I never felt him to be a character worthy of that.  John and I spent a lot of time discussing Stone, defining his real role in matters. When I was asked at the summit what I would like to change, this was it.  I wasn’t going to put a 106 year old fossil in a ‘Mech cockpit. Killing that whole scene felt great.      
  • In draft one, I had Haake having a strategy of having the ‘Mechs deploy on the hulls of their DropShips and WarShips for additional close range support and dropping on the hull of Republic WarShips to blow shit up. There were ‘reviewers’ who said that made no sense and argued against it because we have never done it before (apparently ignoring Impetus of War).  I have a wealth of material and justification to validate that tactic, including game mechanics. It was argued that they wouldn’t risk their precious ‘Mech resources in such a manner.  I believed they would.  “Better to die shooting than in the hold of your DropShip.” I was fully prepared like a lawyer going to court to argue against this.  John and others pointed out that it was too much like the horrible scenes from the Rise of Skywalker.  That was the proverbial trump card.  It was hard to argue about doing something that was in that horrible film.  While I had written it before that film, but it was too damn close.  I told John, “I’m not prepared to die on that hill.”  So we changed it to Elementals on the hulls instead.  Huzzah to Parac Shaw!   
  • John asked that I kill Chance in revision two.  Note: We need to explore John’s desire to kill characters sometime.  He wanted to hurt Alaric badly.  The problem was everyone liked her character and I have plans for her in the years to come (her arc is incredible.)  So I argued we kill the WarBear.  The Ghost Bear fans now wish to lynch me but it was my call and a damn good one. 
  • Rowland – from Children of Kerensky, had a larger role in the first cut of HotW.  Rowland was Alaric and Chance’s sibko instructor. In the first draft, it was he, not Ramiel Bekker, that saves Alaric’s life in the Nighthawk attack, barely surviving.   He became the ultimate bodyguard after that.  I wanted to show him as a solhama done-good.  As it is, Rowland now has, at best, a cameo role, saving Manning after his fighter crashes.  What he DOES accomplish is giving us some infantry action.  In the end, my editor guided me to the right choice I think. 
  • Cut from the text was a line I loved.  When the Exarch is wondering why they landed in Australia, Tucker said the following:  “What, haven’t you ever played Risk?”  Phil Lee came up with that.  I put it in the text, but John swung his mighty edit axe.  We actually debated if Risk would still be around in the 32nd century…if you can believe that. 
  • Garner Kerensky’s death.  It was written out, but for some reason, we cut it. I get it, there was a lot of dying going on in that chapter.  I have the text and may send it at some point to Shrapnel. 
  • A much bigger faceoff with the Hell’s Horses was originally planned.  In the first draft, it’s not just an exchange of words with Clan Hell’s Horse and Alaric.  They challenge him.  He bids the SLDF.  They fight in the arctic in a trial where you have the Ghost Bears, Smoke Jags, some Dragoons, Jade Falcons, and Wolves slugging it out.  They devastate the Horses, both Khans KIA, thanks to Stephanie Chistu. Okay, that part was a lot of fun. The Hell’s Horses were going to kill General Brubaker in the trial.  We later decided that the Horses deserved more story, so that conflict will have to wait…but it IS cool.  Brubaker was kept alive because it would make for a much more awesome follow-up story after, well, you know. 

I toyed with Shimmer being on the battlefield and opening up a comms like with Brubaker and Devlin Stone.  Stone tries to get the Dragoons to turn on Clan Wolf.  “General, you will never get a better chance. As soon as the Jade Falcons are finished, you can turn on Clan Wolf and hit them when they are at their weakest.  You can destroy two Clans and save Terra from Clan rule!”  It was a neat idea, pure Stone-shit, but I thought it might be an unnecessary distraction to an already busy book. The logistics of how he would contact them or even know how the battle was unfolding made the idea implausible.  It also would have been an unnecessary distraction at the wrong time for the reader. 

There were some positive things in the rewrite that got added.  I used it as an opportunity to bring back the Falcon Guard and the Seventh Kommando of Wolf’s Dragoons.  I was never a big Aiden Pryde fan, but I liked the Guard. I decided to make them awesome – saving Malvina’s life.  It puts the reader in a weird spot.  You like them, you admire them, but they are saving Malvina Hazen! The Kommando came about because Aaron Krull put on his Kickstarter that he wanted to be in Wolf’s Dragoons, Special Operations.  Well duh, that had to be the Kommando.  It wasn’t in the early drafts, but in the last draft, I wanted to give the Dragoons some additional loving.  

Next, I will explore my favorite parts.