Tabletop: Last-Minute Fixes Before Kicking Off Our ATOW Campaign

So we’re in a good place with regard to our moving-in status, so my spouse looks at me last night and says, “Ready to start the campaign?” I got everything set up, only to discover that the one thing missing was her character sheet, which is presumably still among the things yet to be moved from the old place.

We decided to spend the time allotted for our session on rolling a new character rather than just call it off until the next trip out for more boxes. I say “rolling” even though we went pure ATOW this time rather than using MW3. We like the idea of randomly generating attributes, so we played with some dice mechanics until we came up with a decent random roller for attributes: 1d6 + 1d4-1. Maximum attribute level of 9, minimum of 1. The average roll of 5 is one higher than I’d otherwise be satisfied with, but hey, she’s the sole PC in a single-player campaign. (If I were going to use random attribute generation for a group campaign, I’d make it 1d6 + 1d4-2, where a result on the d4 of -1 would be treated as 0. Just in case you want to try it out.) 5000 XP is a little low for a character in his 30s who’s done a lot and been around, so after some give and take we tweaked it up to 7000.

My spouse wrote down the skills and traits she wanted to have without assigning them any XP (including Dark Secret, the secret being that she had abandoned the Clans for the Inner Sphere, though she managed to rejoin the Clans while keeping the conditions of her return vague when they invaded the IS world on which she had taken refuge), then went through the modules and took them normally for additional skills and traits. We put many of her Interest points into Interest/Bardic Tradition, which I thought was appropriate for a Nova Cat with an introspective bent. The normally-assigned Interest/Remembrance was rolled into Bardic Tradition as well.

I like to imagine that the Remembrance was originally written as a comedic musical.

Some fascinating (to us, anyway) results arose from the interaction of Dark Secret and Interest/Bardic Tradition. At the end of chargen, Int/BT was her highest skill. Now recall that in our alternate history of Battletech, the Clan Remembrance is the collected populist writings of warrior-philosopher Aleksandr Kerensky (which brings BT’s Kerensky more in line with the Alexander Kerensky of Russian political history). We already knew that those writings would be tailored to individual circumstances and places as they were distributed, and individual Clans would begin tacking on new philosophies and histories to their own versions of the Remembrance. But connecting a few dots on her character sheet, my spouse made a bolder leap. Perhaps the original Remembrance was more drastically altered by revisionists after (or during) the revolution which created Clan society. Her character has such a high Int/BT because her apprenticeship to her mentor – probably the Nova Cat Loremaster, or perhaps a retired Loremaster; it hasn’t been cemented yet – involved researching those alterations and discovering the long-buried original Remembrance. That original version might have serious conflicts with the revised edition being passed off as the original. Those in power would be invested in keeping the original hidden – perhaps wiping it out entirely. They therefore had the mentor NPC killed, prompting the PC to flee for the Inner Sphere.

That meant the addition of a couple of new Enemy traits. One is represents the party or parties who ordered the hit; the other is the assassin who still has a job to finish. It also meant that the value of Dark Secret got bumped up by a couple of points, as now it’s not just “I don’t want anyone to know I’m a deserter” but also includes “the foundational documents which underlie our society have been forged for possibly grim purpose”.

I like this development a lot. I can still use everything I’ve planned so far, but now I have a much more interesting campaign arc to follow and some new plot toys to play with. Now the three-way conflict on Schuyler between the Nova Cats, the Smoke Jaguars, and the Combine population is a thin overlay for a potentially more drastic series of events.

The campaign will probably start in earnest this weekend. I’ll be sure to get some after-action highlights in. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Tabletop: Last-Minute Fixes Before Kicking Off Our ATOW Campaign

  1. If I may offer some unsolicited cents of advice, 7000XP is a truck-load of XP, actually. I don’t know if you did, but many miss the age and experience table in the GM section, which handles changes to attributes as the character enters and then exists its prime. This can be an importa

    • If I may offer some unsolicited cents of advice, 7000XP is a truck-load of XP, in my opinion. I don’t know if you did, but many miss the age and experience table in the GM section, which handles changes to attributes as the character enters and then exiss its prime. This can be an important boost for characters which need to have access to a broader range of professional (4) or near professional level skills, which is useful without resorting to just dumping more XP on them. If those randomly rolled attributes came without cost in the base XP then a 7000XP character will be a monster (or know most of everything). Getting those 2000XP would be the result of a lot of play time. Of course, I recognize that you may be fully aware of this and have the setting tweaked accordingly.

      I know at first the system can produce characters which do not seem all that capable, at the 5000-5500XP range (particularly if they are spending XP to purchase a custom vehicle), but often points are being spent trying to be too good at too many things. Attributes and Skills is really attributes or skills. Does the character need technical skills, or does the character need to be actively doing things for which there are no skills (athletic and other physical pursuits, and a lot of personal injury)?

      Granted, your set-up is for a solo game and the game is deadly, so some sort of adjustment has to be made somewhere (type of story, availability of allies, character capability, etc) to ensure a good run, so I am not posting to rain on anyone’s parade. Just to share my experience with the game.

      I look forward to hearing how the game goes on, and what your thoughts are on it as it develops for you.

      • Thanks for such a great comment! It certainly didn’t come across as an attempt to rain on our parade. I’m glad to address your very salient points. 🙂

        Yeah, 7000 XP is rather a chunk, but the single-player nature of the campaign is what tipped me in that direction. The single greatest factor which made me push for 7K rather than 6K or 5500 was that the character’s background will corral him into being a loner. Unlike with the single-player D&D campaigns we’ve run in the past, this PC is not going to want to be supported by a broad range of NPC party members. He’s going to need to pretty much go it alone, so he has to be at least a little exceptional.

        He’s not actually that overpowered compared to a standard 5000 XP character. Over half of that amount went toward the attributes she rolled. Even so, he’s got three link penalties of -1 and only one bonus of +1 (and that’s in Intelligence, not any of the physical attributes). The only rough-and-tumble skills the character has are Artillery and Gunnery/Land, neither of which he’ll be using in personal combat. The largest chunk of skill XP is tied up in Computers and a handful of Interest, Art, and Technician skills. He’s got two at +5, two at +4, and three at +3; pretty much all of those high levels are thanks to Fast Learner, which was paid for by the larger of the two Enemy traits. The only other traits he has are Dark Secret and Attractive. He doesn’t get a Vehicle trait because he’s only a tanker at a provisional level; he’s not even senior crewmember in his assigned vehicle.

        In other words, he’s a jack of few trades and master of even fewer. He’s mostly a person of potential rather than experience despite his age, reflected in the amount of XP devoted to attributes compared to his narrowly focused skill list. That potential is what will (hopefully) allow him to survive what’s coming down the road. And this game will be potentially deadly, especially since both Enemies are actively and specifically hunting the PC – not to mention the conflicts between both Clan factions and the citizens of Schuyler.

        I did consider using the aging rules, but what we ultimately decided was to tweak the XP limit rather than use aging, at least for this first character. I’m using aging rules for some of the NPCs to get more comfortable with the process before we try it with a character.

        I don’t want to sound defensive – rather, I just want to illustrate that the 7K decision wasn’t made lightly. 🙂 I do appreciate your caution, both because it helps me get a handle on the rim conditions of the system and because it served to make me double-check the reasoning behind that 7L decision and the crunch of the resulting character. I appreciate having a voice of experience chime in before the action starts.

      • I’m glad you read me the right way! It sounds like you have things well in hand. A solo character will also not have access to the teachers and training which often flows freely in a PC group so a stronger starting position can alleviate that too.

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