Monday, January 12, 2009

BattleTech: WarShips are built like WHAT?!

Good lord, the new Strategic Operations sourcebook for Classic BattleTech has some really crazy shit in it.

"WarShips are built like space-going skyscrapers, with dozens and even hundreds of decks built perpendicular to the K-F drive core."

My whole world has been turned upside down. This is... shocking. I'd always just believed they were normal decks that ran the length of the ship, like in Star Trek or Star Wars. The viewports always looked that way.

I dunno, viewing those WarShips as skyscrapers on their sides just isn't as interesting as how I'd imagined them before. The whole naval aspect is gone. Instead of sailing towards something, you're just shooting up and they're somewhere over your head beyond the ceiling. It's a very strange concept.

I've slept on it, and gone back to the TROs and... the WarShip thing just doesn't work for me. Not one bit. Flipped through 3067 and the designs all look like they have parallel decks. You can't look at the Conqueror class battlecruiser and say that is in anyway meant to have perpendicular decks, the internal layout just wouldn't make any sense. It looks like a BattleTech Star Destroyer. There is clearly some sort of bridge or observation deck that is parallel. Same thing with the Feng Huang and Leviathan. They all just look like they were built to have long decks instead of many many floors. Only exceptions I can think of are the Fox and the Potemkin.

A few paragraphs in Strategic Ops goes against almost every WarShip artwork ever released and I think the artwork wins out. Not that the artwork's all that amazing. They don't have anything to match the iconic look of the Enterprise, obviously. Most of em resemble bricks. But at least before, I believed they were functional sensible ships. Now you tell me they're these skyscrapers with hundreds of decks and I'm trying to reconcile that with the artwork I've seen and it's just not computing. I don't believe in these ships as anything with a logical layout anymore and that's much much worse then just being bland spacefaring bricks.


  1. Huh. Someone off the Classic Battletech board actually pointed out your blog, and this post.

    While you're free to envision them however you like for your game, from the writer's/developer's/physicist's perspective, the artwork can't actually win out - the only artificial gravity in the Battletech universe is in the form of either spinning a circular deck, or applying engine thrust. If the decks were arranged the way they are on oceanic vessels, everyone would be pressed against the back wall, unable to move. Despite playing fast and loose with the laws of thermodynamics (occasionally clubbing them in the knees with a 2x4, as another proofer on the book commented once), Battletech WarShips are, by design, more-or-less grounded in real-world physics as much as possible.

    By the way, check out page 126 of StratOps, where they mention viewports (last paragraph, left-hand column) - navies really *are* as hidebound as mentioned there (one of the writers has done engineering work on US Navy vessels), which is one potential explanation. The artwork itself can vary on the viewport placement as well - compare some of the Tech Readout 3057 revamps of the Star League vessels with, say, the Tech Readout 3075 Samarkand class carrier, or the differences between Tech Readout 2750 and more recent Tech Readouts. The old "Living Legends" scenario has a phenomenal deck plan of the old TR2750-art Aegis that shows the "skyscraper" deck plans, as does the cutaway view of the TR3057 Aegis in the Aerotech 2 Revised rulebook. See also the Invader class cutaway view on pg. 122 of StratOps.

    So, yeah, while the art can be...inconsistent, the physics of Battletech WarShips pretty much isn't, and the writers/developers have been operating under the "skyscraper" concept since the '80s.

    --Jason Donahue (yeah, the one mentioned with the Aerospace Cabal on pg. 7 of Strategic Ops)

  2. Jason hit the nail on the head. If a BattleTech WarShip laid out its decks "horizontally" as suggested by the art, then when the engines lit up those decks would appear to be vast, vertical walls. Anyone not strapped in for those accelerations (which can be weeks long for in-system transit) would get to reprise Dark Helmet's classic Spaceballs scene:

    The Strategic Operation's statement isn't new. The topic of deck layout versus acceleration is also detailed in the 1980's BattleTech publication "DropShips & JumpShips" and results in most "aerodyne" DropShips having a belly-mounted engine for long space flights just so they can have horizontal decks.