There are always experiments that don’t work out. Still, they may be useful in special cases – and level four play is just full of special cases…
ProtoMechs are among the things that just did not work out at all well. The problem was simple enough: they were too large to control as armored exoskeletons and too small for a classical cockpit, or even one of the “skinsuit” VR feedback systems. Basically, the “pilot” could not move. That meant using a direct neural interface and, preferably, very light, small, pilots.
The pilots were easy. With the population of the inner sphere to draw on, there was no shortage of small people, multiple-amputees, or – if necessary – disposable orphans who could be easily modified to fit. There were even some experiments installing more-or-less permanent pilots with drastically damaged bodies in light life support systems.
The problem was neurological. The human brain is quite adaptable; it can compensate for injuries, adapt to weird perceptual effects, and learn many things.
A DNI makes a unit into it’s pilot’s “Body” – at least as far as the brain is concerned. Of course, with a full- scale BattleMech, or any kind of vehicle, the differences are too great to fool the brain entirely. It’s adaptable, yes, but it only goes so far. With combat armor, the link is a lot less complete – while the “pilot” may be getting a direct data feed and giving targeting commands via DNI, he or she is still moving his or her own limbs, and getting feedback from a normal human body.
A ProtoMech pilot doesn’t get that feedback. Worse, a ProtoMech is small enough, and humanlike enough, to let the brain “adapt” to it’s new body. Even worse, learning to effectively use that new body requires spending plenty of time practicing in it.
Worst of all, the body shapes and influences the mind. Some people can’t handle this. Such unprecedented inputs push the activity of their brains beyond the outer limits of stability. They develop epileptic-type disorders, go mad, or even die. Others can. They develop inhuman minds, with new and unique motives, desires, and weird disorders never before seen in history. Inhuman mentalities encased in powerful war machines.
Humanity had met aliens at last, and they were us.
Regardless of the reasons, ProtoMech pilots soon got a reputation for being erratic, undependable, unreasonable, and often blatantly nuts. Nobody wanted them in the same command, far less in the same battle. For an experimental technology, it was the kiss of death.
This isn’t to say that ProtoMech’s cannot be used. You can try whatever you want to in level four play. This is to say why they didn’t become popular, and why they’ve been relegated to an appendix. They simply never entered wide- spread production. Finding reliable pilots – or replacing the ones who went mad or unmanageable – was too expensive.
Building ProtoMechs requires a (minimum) Production of 85, and costs 20 CP per ton. All ProtoMechs automatically use a Clan technological base. In game terms, they count as BattleMech designs.
ProtoMech Construction Tables :
IS/Maximum Armor For:
The IS Tonnage is always 10% of the protomechs total tonnage.
|Jump Jets (2-5 Tons)||.05|
|Jump Jets (6-9 Tons)||.10|
|ProtoMech Cockpit||.50 Tons|
|Each Extra Heat Sink||.25 Tons|
Protomech jump jets do NOT generate heat.
|LRM-X||X * .20|
|SRM-X||X * .25|
Ammunition And Supplies :
|Autocannon 2||.02 Tons/1 Shot|
|Autocannon 5||.05 Tons/1 Shot|
|Antimissile||.04 Tons/1 Shot|
|Machine Gun||.01 Tons/2 Shots|
|LRM Missiles||.05 Tons/6 Shots|
|Narc Pods||.15 Tons/1 Shot|
|SRM Missiles||.01 Tons/1 Shot|
Protomech Engines are always “UltraLight” models with the following limitations; Fewer Heat Sinks and Light MHD Coils (An effective base of two heat sinks), No Backup Systems, and Overheats Easily, for a net total of 60% of the the normal weight. XL engines are much too bulky, and may not be used. Unfortunately, the engine ratings required are “based on” the desired running movement (= Engine Rating/Tonnage), and not the walking move (=Engine Rating/[1.5x Tonnage]).
Other Equipment can be added from the standard tables. As a note, ProtoMech’s cannot use double heat sinks, non-standard internal structures, enhanced armor types, CASE, Targeting Computers, A-Pods, MASC, Shockfoam, Cyrosinks, Cannot “Throw” Drop Mines, Induction Fields, Personalized Interfaces (They’re already built using DNI’s – for which they receive no benefits), Physical Weapons (Other then a “Mace”, see below), Plasers, Power Axe, Rapiers, Shields, Shockwebs, Reinforced Cockpit, Ultralight Cockpit, Tails, or Skeletal Reinforcement. On the other hand, ProtoMechs do not generate heat for movement, jumping, or for firing non-energy weapons, and they’re automatically designed with a form of “torso-mounted” cockpit. They can’t be built in “Quad” configurations.
Maximum Equipment Limitations :
-Each Arm; One item of up to .5 Tons
-Torso; Two items totaling up to 2 tons
-Main Gun; Any one item.
Updated ProtoMech Designs :
It should be noted that most of these designs are just a bit better then the 3060’s prototypes. This is because the standardized UL engines come with two free heat sinks and are still usually (Save for 11- ratings) lighter then the original “special” engine designs. Further, and usually proprietary, improvements can probably be expected in any ProtoMech designs produced by current engineers.
IS/Armor For The;
Harpy; IS (.2), R-25 Engine (Walk 8, Run 12, .3), Jump 4 (.2), 2 Heat Sinks (-), Cockpit (.5), Armor-11 (.55), and ER MicroLaser (Torso, .25). Unlike most updated designs, the Harpy’s engine is slightly heavier then the original. Anyone who wishes to get back to the original machine gun (.35 Tons) instead of the Microlaser may do so with a few technical improvements in engines.
Siren; IS (.3), R-45 Engine (Walk 10, Run 15, .6), Two Heat Sinks (-), Cockpit (.5), Armor-16 (.8), 2 L. Machine Guns (Arms, .5), MG Ammo (Half each arm, 60 total, .3).
Satyr; IS (.4), R-45 Engine (Walk 7 and Run 11, .6), Two Heat Sinks (-), Cockpit (.5), Armor-20 (1), Light Active Probe (Torso, .5), 2x ER Small Lasers (Torso and Right Arm, 1).
Centaur; IS (.5), R-45 Engine (Walk 6 and Run 9, .6), 2x Heat Sinks (-), Cockpit (.5), Armor-26 (1.3), SRM-2 (With 10 Ammo, net .7, Torso), LRM-3 (Torso, with 12 Ammo, .9), and an ER Small Laser (Main Gun, .5).
Hydra; IS (.6), R-45 Engine (Walk 5, and Run 7, .6), Two Heat Sinks (-), Cockpit (.5), Armor-34 (1.7), Streak SRM- 3 (Main Gun, 1.5), 20x SRM Ammo (.6), and Micro Pulse Laser (Torso, .5).
Roc; IS (.7), R-60 Engine (Walk 6 and Run 8, .9), Jump 6 (.6), 5x Heat Sinks (.75), Cockpit (.5), Armor-37 (1.85), ER Medium Laser (Main Gun, 1), (.7 Left)
Gorgon; IS (.8), R-60 Engine (Walk 5 and Run 7, .9), Two Heat Sinks (-), Cockpit (.5), Armor-40 (2), LRM-10 (“Main Gun”, 2), and 12 Reloads (1), Small ER Laser (T, .5), SRM-1 (Torso, .25) and 5 Reloads (Usually Inferno Ammo, .05).
Minotaur; IS (.9), R-45 Engine (Walk 3, Run 5 and Jump 3, .9), Ten Heat Sinks (2), Cockpit (.5), Armor-42 (2.1), 2x ER Medium Lasers (Torso, 2), SRM-1 (Right Arm, .25), and 35 Reloads (Usually mixed types, .35).
The CP costs given already include the price break for design standardization.
ProtoMech Critical Hits
|Right Arm||1) +1 To Hit with that arm and main gun|
|2) Arm Destroyed, +2 with main gun. Pilot Hurt|
|Left Arm||1) +1 To Hit with that arm and main gun|
|2) Arm Destroyed, +2 with main gun. Pilot Hurt|
|Leg||1) -1 Walking MP. Adjust Running MP accordingly|
|2) Half Walking MP. Adjust Running MP|
|3) Legs Destroyed. No MP. May make one-hexside facing change in movement phase if an arm is still functional. Pilot Hurt|
|Torso||1) -1 Jumping MP.Roll 1D6; 1-2 Torso Weapon A is destroyed. 3-4 Torso Weapon B destroyed. 5-6 No additional effect. Pilot Hurt.|
|2) Half Jumping MP (Round down), roll as above. Pilot Hurt.|
|3) Unit Destroyed. Engine Gone. Pilot Killed.|
|Main Gun||Does not take critical hits – but if both of the arms are out you can’t use it.|
|Head||1) Sensors damaged. +1 to all attacks|
|2) Head destroyed. +2 to all attacks and may not make long range attacks at all. Pilot Hurt|
-Pilot Injuries are exactly like Mechwarrior Injuries.
Physical Attacks By ProtoMechs; These inflict 1 point for units of 2-5 tons and 2 for units of 6-9 tons. ProtoMechs equipped with “Maces” (1/2 Ton, occupies one arm) inflict an extra two points. Against BattleMechs this hits on the kick or punch location table depending on elevation. When attacking other units, use the standard tables. They can be physically attacked as per vehicles.
Special ProtoMech Rules :
Buildings; They enter and move thru as per infantry.
Combat; As per BattleMechs for the most part. Special exceptions include; 1) They are only height-1, and so use the “vehicle” rules for “partial cover”. 2) They cannot fire arm-mounted weapons and the main gun in the same turn. The main gun, however, may fire into the forward, right and left side arcs. 3) Modifiers for being prone do not apply to them.
Dropping “Troops”; Use the rules for BattleArmor. Each ProtoMech rolls seperately.
Elevation Changes; They may change elevation by a max- imum of one level per hex moved, at a cost of 1 MP/level.
Fire; They are affected by fire as per vehicles.
Forbidden Actions; They cannot eject, dump ammunition, or reverse arms. Their designs simply don’t allow it.
Hostile Environments; Temperture; As per vehicles. Low Gravity; No MP increase. High Gravity; MP reduced. Swamp; Cannot get stuck, but must pay extra MP anyway.
Odd Number Missile Launchers; Check the number of hits on the the next higher column, reducing any excess number to the number of missiles launched.
Piloting Rolls; None are ever needed.
Stacking; ProtoMechs count as vehicles.
Swarming; They can neither Swarm, nor be Swarmed.
For every kind of weapon that makes it into production there are probably a dozen prototypes that don’t. Some of the odder notions which there’ve been attempts to develop include:
The Graff Thunderer employs the same principles as the ancient “Van De Graff Atom Smasher”; it uses a tremendous electrostatic field to propel charged particles. However, instead of propelling a researcher’s stream of sub-atomic particles to near lightspeed, the Thunderer hurls spheres of “plastic” explosive, detonated on contact by their own electrostatic discharge. Unfortunately, an accidental arc will detonate them just as effectively, and the firing unit makes an excellent ground. The Thunderer is thus prone to dangerous misfires.
The Thunderer can fire from 1-8 shots at a time. Roll on the appropriate missile table to see how many actually hit. The Thunderer will misfire on a 2 for 1-2 shots, 2-3 for 3-5 shots, and on a 2-4 for 6-8 shots. The locations hit are determined individually. The number of shots used doesn’t affect the heat generated; it comes from charging up the launching chamber. Subtract each shot from the net ammo supply.
-While the Thunderer was light-weight, ammo-efficient, powerful, and low-heat, no solution was ever found for it’s tendency to blow up. Worse, the (Understandable) impulse to fire the weapon as quickly as possible when things got tight led to it blowing up all too frequently. The design was eventually filed away as unworkable.
The Steam Cannon was the result of an attempt to avoid dangerous explosives when all you REALLY needed was high- pressure gas. Water and fusion heat worked fairly well, but volume had to be substituted for the intense pressures of an explosion – resulting in excessive heat (Condensation, and the boiler system, didn’t help with that either), and relatively short range. Almost as annoyingly, keeping the system ready to go generates five heat even on turns when it isn’t actually fired. On the other hand, the engineers were quite right; steam cannon ammunition cannot explode; water and massive steel balls just won’t detonate.
-The Steam Cannon was actually marginally viable. Even with it’s poor range and incredible heat production, it had enough “Punch” for it’s weight to be a potentially useful weapon in lighter units. Unfortunately for it, the notion of steam weaponry tended to provoke muffled giggles among everyone except the project engineers. The Clan invasion, and the resulting stress on attempts to analyze and duplicate light, powerful, weapons that definitely worked, put this particular kettle more or less permanently onto the “back burner”.
The Ball Lightning Generator generates, and “projects” along a laser-ionized guide, a dirigible plasmoid coupled with a powerful, quasi-stable, complex of electromagnetic fields – an effect more commonly known as ball lightning. As an energy weapon, this has a near-unique advantage; it is strongly attracted to large masses of metal – and thus will change course en’ route in order to hit them, making “near misses” virtually impossible and making it the only known energy weapon that can shoot around corners. Sadly, the weapons numerous disadvantages proved to outweigh the advantages; it won’t affect ungrounded targets (Generally this means Hovercraft, VTOL’s, and Fighters of any type), won’t work in a vacuum or underwater, generally cannot be fired “past” units occupying intervening hexes, can’t hit infantry units with enough sense to keep their heads down (All of them), and quite often “misfires” (IE; The plasmoid dissipates en route without accomplishing anything).
The Ball Lightning Generator usually enjoys a “-2” bonus to hit – however the user may forgo this bonus in favor of a one-hex (or one-level) “jog” towards any massive metallic target in a hex adjacent to the plasmoids flight path. If this option is selected the LOS needed to hit said target is determined as if it actually occupied the targeted hex or was one level higher as relevant. Sadly, there is a 2 in 6 chance that any large, metallic, intervening unit in the LOS selected will become the target accidently, while a similar, 1 in 6, chance exists for such units occupying hexes adjacant to the selected LOS.
-A “successful” hit inflicts (D6) 1; Nothing. The ball dissipated on the way. 2-4; 6 points to the location hit. 5; 4 points to the location hit and 2 points to each adj- acant location. 6) 2 points to the location hit and a power overload, +2 penalty to your victims piloting and gunnery rolls during the next turn.
The Ball Lightning Generator did offer unique options, but it was unreliable – to say the least – often couldn’t be used, and quite commonly wound up hitting targets that you hadn’t been aiming at – such as your allies. While no one of these flaws was sufficient reason to kill a weapon with such exotic, and potentially useful, capabilities, the combination was enough. Besides; using it would’ve meant retraining everyone.
The Ion Lance has been called a “molecular laser”. It could just as accurately be described as a very high-tech squirt gun. In essence, it’s a lighter variation on the Guass Rifle – but instead of a metal slug, it accelerates a stream of charged droplets. Loaded with enough kinetic energy to penetrate the surface layers of armor, and then vaporize in micro-explosions, the droplets erode armor as quickly and readily as a conventional hose erodes a pile of sand. Even better, since each “shot” uses only a kilo or two of liquid, the “ammunition” supply would be virtually infinite. A small tank can simply be built in.
At least that was the idea. In practice, such a stream loses energy very quickly in the atmosphere – and votalizes just as quickly in space. It could blast away the surface layers of armor – but unless a target was inclined to sit still (Or the armor was very thin), it generally wouldn’t penetrate far enough to inflict any serious damage.
The Ion Lance was another marginally viable weapon. It worked, but not well enough. The fact that it produced no significant heat was nice, but it simply wasn’t enough to make up for it’s lack of range and power relative to it’s size and mass. Worse, it’s unique design meant that putting it to use would take a lot of redesign, retrofitting, and retraining. Too bad in a way, as with a bit more work it might well been possible to produce a low-heat equivalent to the Needle Laser (QV).
Guass Warheads are the sole, (semi-) practical, result of numerous attempts to find a way to use the incredible, self-sustaining, magnetic fields which the combination of superconducters and fusion power makes possible as a weapon in their own right, rather then as part of other systems. Unfortunately, most of them haven’t worked. The only way to keep a field so intense from collapsing, and destroying, the coil that’s “generating” it is to encase said coil in solid metal, creating a “bar magnet” of incredible power. These are useful in shielded devices, but are problematic otherwise; most of the ways of using a potent magnet as a weapon are more suited to children’s cartoons then actual battle. Still, if you can get the bar close enough to an opposing unit it will stick to it – and can reasonably be relied on to scramble it’s systems. If the bar is broken, and the coil thus interrupted, the energy of the magnetic field will be released as an EMP, and a powerful explosion. Either effect is potentially very useful. Unfortunately, shielding your coil until then requires a superconductive casing – and then more metal to support and protect it, and then some way of getting rid of the casing when you don’t need it any longer.
A sufficient impact will do it. Guass Rifle ammunition can incorporate Guass Warheads. Such ammunition does 3x normal damage and creates an EMP which leaves any and all units within 3 hexes at a +2 penalty on all rolls through the next turn. Other units in the same hex take 20 points of damage in five point clusters, while units in adjacent hexes take five points of damage.
A far more controlled version can be installed in Narc Pods. Any “hit” with such a warhead will leave the target out of action for 1D6 turns – and at a +2 penalty to both piloting and gunnery rolls thereafter. Such a pod may be remote-detonated at any time, ending it’s effects but in- flicting 24 points of damage to the unit it’s attached to and 10 points (In five point clusters) to any other units in the hex.
Obviously enough, anybody who can deploy such weaponry will have a substantial – and probably decisive – advantage in battle.
It’s too bad nobody can afford it. “Room Temperture” superconductors require rare materials, are delicate, and are extremely difficult to produce. They’re also vital in an immense variety of equipment ranging from power plants to medical microlasers. In other words they’re fabulously valuable, vital to the economy – and an extremely important part of the industrial base. Using them for ammunition is quite insane, even if the technology is well established.
Producing Guass Warheads requires a 6000 CP investment in setting up a special factory. After that, they may be produced at a rate of 10 Warheads per MCr expended, up to a maximum of 1 MCr worth of warheads per industrial world the factory owner controls per turn. Since producing the things also puts a good deal of stress on the economy and industrial facilities of those industrial worlds, it also reduces their effective loyalty “scores” by 5% during any turn when Guass Warheads are produced.
Oversurge Overrides are designed to allow ground units to fire their weapons in “Overcharge Mode”, regardless of how much heat it generates. Unfortunately, every attempt to date has simply resulted in burned-out equipment. The trick simply seems to be impossible, although no sensible reason has yet been discovered.
According to the book, aerospace units use “Overcharge Mode” to get far greater ranges from identical weaponry (for those who’d argue that they’re NOT “identical”, we need merely point at LAM’s). The question of; “Why can’t I do the same thing at ground level and deal with the extra heat?” is inevitable. Well, you can’t because the enhanced range is a game convention designed to keep things exciting, the units moving, and the mapboards at a reasonable scale. After all – there isn’t ANY excuse for increasing the range on ballistic weapons, yet they get the same bonus.
The Ion Lens is designed to extend the range of energy weapons by creating an ionized, near-vacuum, “channel” of plasma for them to follow. The “trick” is simple enough; you simply “tune” a standard-model laser to maxamize it’s atmospheric absorption and set it up to fire an microsecond or so ahead of a “companion” energy weapon. While such a laser inflicts no damage, it’s range is effectively added to that of it’s companion system. Sadly, since the system is designed to dump energy into the air, using it creates a lot of excess heat.
|L. Ion Lens||+16||–||–||+5||+10||+15||+5||+2||—|
|M. Ion Lens||+6||–||–||+3||+6||+9||+1||+1||—|
|S. Ion Lens||+2||–||–||+1||+2||+3||+.5||+1||—|
These would be very useful. Sadly, no one’s yet been ablt to make them work (It’ll probably take an invention)
Of course, they’re really only an excuse to let people tinker with the weapon ranges.