Battletech and Roll20

I use Roll20 to play my Dungeons & Dragons games and it works well for me, especially in this COVID world. Some of those I play with have shown some interest in Battletech and I thought Roll20 might work well for that too.

Doing some research, it looks like some people did a little bit of work to set it up about 4 years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere. Additionally, I discovered a set up called MegaMek. It’s had a LOT of work on it, as an online way to play Battletech. I didn’t really feel like getting into a total new virtual system, so I investigated a little further before deciding to see what I could create myself.

I thought to start with Character Sheets. Making custom ones requires Dev access to R20, an additional cost. So I paid that and looked into it. The Character Sheets are basically a webpage, built with some code and a style sheet. I started a basic one.

One of the early realisations was that I need to make a single sheet that was able to cope with the myriad of mech designs. This was going to be a lot of work.

I got as far as creating space for some basic details (Mech name, tonnage, class, MechWarrior name) and realised that this wasn’t really worth the effort, if you couldn’t really play the game in R20.

So I ceased work on that and started to look at the maps. R20 can do hex maps, so first tick. I know you can quite easily build maps with pictures, but BT relies on elevation and type of terrain in each hex. This affects line of sight as well as hit and damage calculations so is very important. But isn’t something that is part of R20 (as near as I can see). So I would have to mark each hex, just as the cardboard map sheets included in the box sets do. Annoying, but manageable.

I set about making a bunch of tiny individual hex tiles for the terrain. I could put all of these on the map layer and build my board. I looked up weapon ranges and made a map board that was three times the longest range. That way they wouldn’t be able to engage as soon as the game started, inciting some manoeuvring in the beginning of a game. This made a board that was about 80×30 hexes or so. And I started putting each little hex down. Water, forrest, hills etc. Took a while, but I had a map done up.

This is about half the map I made.

Next was tokens for the mechs. I found a bunch of random Mech pics, and used Token Stamp 2 to create hex shaped tokens. Pretty soon I had a bit more than a lance of Inner Sphere mechs ready to fight a star of Clan mechs.

Oh, this was going to need all the same paper recording that playing for real would need. Mech Record Sheets, tables for hits etc. Some more google work and I had some printed out for my test game.

So I set up a scenario with the IS attacking towards a Clan Dropship across my map. I realised very quickly that with all the terrain in between and the way that attacks are calculated, meant that engagements were only going to happen at close range. The heavier mechs could only travel 4-6 hexes a turn so there was going to be several turns of just movement (isn’t that what I wanted? Sure, but not so good from a testing perspective).

The fight is on… the mechs have closed to just a few hexes in range to fight, otherwise shots are needing 9/10/11 or better on 2d6.

As they moved into firing range…. actually I’ll go back a step.

I played BT back in 1989/90. Before the Clans were brought into the story (they were simpler times when the great houses were just whacking each other). After that period, while I still bought the occasional reference book and bought my first minis, I never actually played BT. Sure, I played the computer games and recently have read a lot of the novels, but I never got down and rolled the dice.

The way Battletech works, it uses 2d6 for most things. A hit starts with the attackers gunnery skill (default is 4 for IS, 3 for Clans) then adds movement, terrain, weapon ranges. Using a 2d6, means that the little 1 difference between the two gunnery skills makes a significant difference (about 10-12% I think). Then add better weapon ranges and movement (another 1 or 2 points there as well) and suddenly the IS needs a 10 or better but the Clanner only needs a 6 or 7 to hit. Then add in the better heat management and more efficient weapons and suddenly the IS mechs are getting pounded.

But that’s the game. Later the IS improved their tech, and changed tactics and the playing field, at least in the stories, is levelled somewhat.

So I have a bunch of hex tokens on my map. I’m trying to track heat levels, facing, and movement, while also using the paper record sheets to track damage etc.

I found that I could track facing through using the twist ability of the tokens. Also, each token has three circles above it. In D&D I use these to quickly see a character’s hit points, armour class and passive perception. After some experimentation, I began to use these to track overheat level, the number of hexes moved and whether the token ran/walked/prone/stationary etc. This worked quite well actually, letting me run the fights and the info I needed was available easily.

This Battlemaster has a overheat of 8, it’s moved 1 hex and is Walking. It’s also facing south.

I also experimented with using dynamic lighting. By limiting the arc, I could clearly see the front face of each mech. The hiccup is that a player in the game would only see out that arc, when actually a mech can monitor 360. Using dynamic lighting, this is all black outside of the lit arc. So a partial solution, but I can use the ruler tool and the directions already in the BT rules to do the same thing.

Overall, my hashed together Roll20 experiment worked okay. I still needed paper record sheets and my BT reference tables. Shots weren’t calculated automatically, and I didn’t really investigate a way to track torso facing. But then, those are all things you can’t do with a set of minis, a big table and a cardboard game board.

What it does mean is that I can get a couple of people together and we can play a game of battletech, without actually meeting up. Roll20 acts as the cardboard game map. And no more. At least at this stage.

Oh, and that size map is way too big. At least if you just want to get in and shoot stuff.

A Survivor is Born…..again

Again.

Well that went a lot faster. I’ve finished TR again. I am sure there is one main thing that improved my performance this time. It is MUCH easier to fight with mouse and keyboard than the PS Controller. This made aiming easier even when compared to the auto-aim on the PS version.

Finding a body with a sword in a place full of “scary magic”, pulling the sword out is NOT something that I would have thought to do…. too likely to ‘wake’ him up again! Still it didn’t turn out bad. This time.

I enjoyed the story and I think this time I was happy with the less Tomb Raider and more hunter-killer story. Partly again, it was that my expectations were better aligned with reality and I could see how it fit with the story.

This penultimate fight was tough, the warriors you faced were tougher than the crazies you normally faced. But being careful about not biting off the whole thing at once, it is manageable.

I even completed it with 90% of the things to find done. I think this directly contributed to finding the battles easier. My weapons have a lot of upgrades and I had a lot of skills completed. I have no idea how much I was upgraded in the last game, but I’m sure it was significantly less. Even completed several of the extra tombs this time too. One of them, I didn’t even realise was a tomb until I got to the treasure at the end (It was inside the Research Base).

The big guy goes down. Easier aiming, better weapons and a better understanding of dodge attacks and weak points meant an easier kill than last time. Still a challenge though and he hits HARD.
Mattias is beaten!
The Storm Queen is about to be released from her torment.
Here comes the sun….

So on to the next TR? Haven’t picked it up yet, I’ll have to see if its on sale.

Because the adventure is just starting.

BT – New Minis, Old Minis.

So on the occasion of the arrival of my boxed set of BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat, I noticed some small differences in the new plastic models, as opposed to my 30 year old Ral Partha metal miniatures. 

I’ve got some pictures of the old vs new here. And some photos of my collection.

Comparing the Mechs

First up, a Shadow Hawk, a 55 Ton mech. During my playing of Mechwarrior (the original PC game) this was my go to Mech. With the long reach of the auto cannon, I could engage the enemy mechs well before they could approach my lance.

Some minor changes, mostly the shoulder missile launcher and the arm laser

Then the Battlemaster. An 85T assault mech, and in the first set (and this new version), the largest mech included. Later, playing the Pirahna Games BattleTech game, I could never get a Battlemaster that really seemed to work for me. Either no hitting power or too much heat. It stayed in the Mechbay.

To me, it looks clearly bigger. Some minor detail changes to the PPC, and a change in pose too. The SRM launcher is more pronounced as well.

My Mechbay

Okay, here they are. My entire holdings of Mechs. Arranged by weight, from 100T Assaults on the left to 20T Lights on the right. As you look through the pictures, they are divided into 3 phases of purchase. Painted mechs are Ral Partha (except 1 plastic has been done). 2 are painted in a funny mix of colours, these were second hand and I have not yet repainted them. The grey plastic ones are the new ones.

Here they are. Most of these minis are around 25-30 years old! And the painting was done then too

Now, sorted roughly into lances, is the Bleeding Skulls Merc Company. 

Assault / Command Lance

3 Battlemasters and an Atlas. 

Leading the way, in the iconic Atlas painted as if it’s a Bleeding Skull, with the blood of his enemies on his hands is the leader of this band of Mercs. Backed up by (now) a trio of Battlemasters it’s a powerful assault lance.

Heavy Lance

An Awesome, Warhammer, Thunderbolt and Grasshopper

Backing up the Assault, is the Heavy Lance with a lot of firepower. The Grasshopper provides a way to swiftly flank using its jump jets.

Medium Lance+

2 Shadow Hawks, 2 Wolverines, and a Griffin

Swift with some solid firepower, the Medium Lance provides some flexibiliy for the company. All jump equipped for extra manoeuvrability.

Fire Support Lance

Catapult, Rifleman and a pair of Crusaders

A trio of LRM carriers with a dedicated Anti-Air Rifleman provides fire support to the company

Scout Lance++

Phoenix Hawk, Panther, Commando, Wasp, Stinger and Locust

An enhanced scout lance provides the company with the ability to split into seperate teams, or to provide a couple of mechs as flankers, or extra security for the fire support lance if needed.

Clanners!

Warhawk, Stormcrow, Dire Wolf and Timber Wolf

They also joined the Bleeding Skulls. The Dire Wolf would fit into the Assault Lance, the Warhawk and Timber Wolf augmenting the Heavy Lance, and the Stormcrow backs up the Medium Lance or provide the Scout Lance with some heavy firepower.

Final Thoughts

So there are my Mechs. Having spent my entire life until these, painting 1/72 or 1/48 aircraft it was a big challenge and this was before there was an internet to get tips, advice and painting ideas. So most are painted in sort of aircraft style camo, rather than the more colourful ones seen in the current books (and those who are used to painting Warhammer might have done). Some experiments worked (like the Atlas) and some did not (I’m not sure where I was going with the white Dire Wolf, now I’m thinking an ex-ComGuard). And if you check out the shiny Griffin you’ll see the difference between painting metal using matte enamels vs plastic using acrylics. The light also makes the woodland camo seem like some sort of crazy colour mix, when it’s actually quite similar to the Shadow Hawk next to it.

A fun interlude

So you know that myth about that rider who replaced his after market tail tidy with the OEM one….

Well I’m that rider.

Yes, I went out, paid for the OEM tail and had it installed.

2 reasons

1 – when riding in wet or other muck, the tail of the bike, including the brake light, the top box, pillion seat and my back, get covered in muck. Sick of that.

2 – when installing the Givi bracket, it came with a part that fit around this OEM tail, but NOT with the aftermarket tail that it came with. While reports from other Ninja riders has been that this is unnecessary, I’ve felt cautious about overloading my topbox without it.

And a little niggly thought was that in case some pedantic policeman wants to defect the bike. But as I’ve never seen that happen, I am not sure it would. The first two reasons were enough for me to go ahead. And to be honest, it doesn’t look completely bad. It’s a lot slimmer than the one that was on the Daytona. That was like a barn door on the back of the bike.

But, that ‘s not the fun interlude. As the loaner, I was given the keys to a 2020 Z900. A little 950cc naked bike. This was a lot of fun, with a sporty engine, short gearing and very nimble.

If I was going to spend my days zipping about in the city, awesome. I spend most of my riding droning up the freeway or long distance travel (with some interstate riding mixed in). No screen on the Z900 means more fatigue on those rides.

But there’s other things, like I’m really not used to the mirrors being attached to the handlebars and moving, unlike all my bikes, where they are attached to the fairing. Also, you ride along and it feels like all the bike in front of you is missing…. I know, silly, but that’s how I feel.

So a naked is not for me as my main ride. A second ride though, for all those around town trips I don’t do.. ok, maybe a third after something like the Daytona. Or after something that was Learner Legal for the girls. Maybe a Z400? (hmm, now that’s back to being a second).

Bike Sale – Update 2

Well, Mr Taxman came along and said, “Hey, can I get that HECS we just loaned you back again?”

That will take up most of the money I had saved to buy the new bike, so the current bike is no longer for sale.

I am sad, because the new one had so many good things going for it.

But not too sad, as I do like riding this bike. And even with now, 28 000km, it’s still got a lot of life left in it.

I will just have to make sure I keep an ear out, and if Kawasaki announces no more Ninja 1000, I will have to jump in and secure a last one.

Tomb Raider (2013) Mac

I’ve restarted TR (2013), this time on the iMac. My first impression is that aiming is SOOOOO much easier. The AI is pretty competent too.

And that is making the game a mile more playable for me. I’ve been working through the story, but this time, collecting stuff as I go, building her skills and the like. So even though I am not as far through the story yet, I have a lot more of her skills complete, my weapons are well upgraded and I’ve found a lot of the “extras”.

I’ve found a couple of side Tombs as well, though not yet completed any. I think I know how to do one, but haven’t actually succeeded yet. Perhaps tonight.

Visually its very good.

So I’m enjoying the game and look forward to getting through it. There is a lot more story than I just remember. And I have to say, I appreciate the story much more this time.

I’ve also discovered, that while I knew there was a sequel, I didn’t realise that there were TWO sequels. I’ll have to keep an eye out in Steam Sales.

Occasionally there have been a few bugs. A floating bow and a floating torch have been the most visual.

The bow is just hanging there.
and the torch

I got a new bike! ? ….

So I bought a new bike. Well sort of 🙂

The Lego Ducati Panagale V4R

So here’s the build report.

But first – a mystery. Why does the box contain two katanas? Is there some secret hidden scabbard in a Ducati? Is this a special Samurai edition?

Hmm the mystery katanas.

So the build all went pretty well. A couple of mistakes meant I had to backtrack a couple of times. I also found that sometimes the grey colour was a little imperceptible from the black that I got a couple of the cogs mixed up. This made building the gearbox seem like it stuffed up. But a rethink and I had it worked out.

The engine installed
Start of a swing arm.
Right way up forks…. I guess its just what LEGO had on the shelf.
Almost there.
Done… except for stickers. Looks just like the real thing 🙂

Some thoughts on the model overall.

  • The tyres are somewhat undersized, or perhaps its overly broad in the waist.
  • The front forks are NOT upside down forks. But that might be a little driven by LEGO reusing parts, though I don’t really see that they couldn’t have been mounted the other way.
  • The front forks do seem a bit spindly as well.

And so what are the katana for? Well it turns out they form part of the windscreen. There is a piece of clear plastic that is threaded through the katana’s to hold it in place. An interesting way of doing things.

The windscreen fits over the katana.

DnD – Man the boats

There was a bit of technical hiccup in our previous session, seeing anyone who used Telstra as their internet provider disconnected just as the game started. That included me. So the session was off.

Two weeks later we resumed. In the meantime, we had also gained a new player and the party gained a half-orc gloom stalker ranger who stumbled into the aftermath of the brutal fight in the Wayside Inn wondering who had made all the mess.

With a map found in the Inn, the party realised that there was a main base of the cultists in a place called Thunder Cliffs. Our new ranger, familiar with the area, told them they would need a boat to access the caves, several days sail south of Leilon. So back to town.

After a couple of days, the council reported that they had found two captains willing to take the mission. The players interviewed the captains, and decided up the swift ship of Captain Stands in Tar (a tabaxi) over the slightly suspicious (but much more sober) Dragonborn captain.

And they set off. But the few days of transit were not boring. Stands in Tar had a catch up with another passing ship who warned them of a ‘ghost ship’. Ominious portents….. (and fairly obvious ones).

They headed off a mutiny lead by the first mate. Convincing her that this could all be sorted after the party finishes their mission. And are off the ship and don’t need to get involved.

Then it got foggy, and low dark clouds, and strange voices could be heard. “SHIP SIGHTED” came the call from the lookout and before they knew it, ghostly apparitions were looming out of the darkness.

The crew was incapacitated almost immediately. The party fought well with the spectres almost all incinerated by a well placed fireball from our gnome pyromanic…. I mean gnome wizard.

Afterwards, the party realised that in all of the ghostly whispering, several had clearly heard some snippets that seemed important. These were recorded for later. These are portents of actions in the next module “Sleeping Dragon Wakes”.

A day or so later, the ship dropped anchor off Thunder Cliffs. massive sheer 800ft cliffs dropped into the sea. The party could see several shipwrecks in the water and on the beach in front of the caves. Stands in Tar offered to wait up to 5 days, but they would have to put ashore in the ships cutter. She wouldn’t be taking her ship in any closer.

Into the small boat the party went. The wizard’s Unseen Servant took up the oars and rowed them steadily towards the shore.

They spied some fliers coming at them, soon being revealed as several manticores who attacked immediately. Strangely, one of the party was attacked on the boat by something they could not see.

So two combats started off. The party with ranged attacks started to battle the manticores, inflicting serious wounds. Meanwhile the pair sitting at the front of the boat swung wildly as they attempted to fight something they weren’t even sure was there.

And there the session ended.

I think there is about 2-3 sessions left in this module. I expect that they will want to continue into Sleeping Dragon Wakes, but I have offered them to change module, change DM, heck even stop the game altogether. We will have to pause for a bit as one player has some surgery and I don’t think its fair if we finish the module without him. So we might cram in an extra session to see if we can finish. Otherwise it will resume after the pause. I could run a one-shot or one of the others might in the planned sessions that he’s incapacitated. Or it might just form a natural break between the two modules.

Bike Sale – Update

The bike hasn’t sold. We can’t agree on price. I’ve made my lowest and I’m waiting for his response. As it has been about 2 days now, he’s either hoping I’m desperate to sell (I’m not) or he’s not interested in the price (seriously, it’s a few hundred $$ difference, he could save that in a week or so).

So no sale.

It’s on the market. I’m not in a rush, but October would be nice.

No bike for 3(?) Months?

I have decided to sell the Ninja.

I have an offer that I am almost happy with.

I kinda lowballed myself with the price I started at, lesson to be remembered for next time I guess.

But if I do sell I will have no bike for probably at least 3 months. Dangerous territory, then you get in the no bike habit and before you know it, 20 years have passed…

OR in about 3 months I should have a brand new Ninja 1000SX (and I still don’t know which colour Green/Black).

Black – I feel like this is my second choice.
Green – In keeping with its predecessor and it is a Kawasaki after all.

I might just up the advertised price and see what happens as I’ve had several enquiries already. Only currently 4-5 around this price range in the whole state at the moment.

Any thoughts? The buyer has offered to let me think about it over the weekend. Which suggests that the price (to him) is really good, and he’s keen.