Why is this ‘Mech so terrible?

Die result (1d6) It’s terrible because of… Example
1 Ideology The ‘Mech’s poor design is intentional, designed to encourage or discourage certain types of behavior on the battlefield. “It’s shameful the way our Mechwarriors keep their distance from the enemy, sniping at long range, when everyone knows the true spirit of bushido is manifested in face-to-face battle. Well, without any ranged weapons, this ‘Mech will force its pilots to fight with honor.”
2 This is What Was Available The ‘Mech was cobbled together using the only resources and equipment available to its designers. Nobody’s under the illusion that it’s a good design, but it’s better than nothing. “We’ve got a warehouse full of heavy ‘Mech chasses, and a big pile of small lasers. Might as well put ’em to use… better than letting them sit around gathering dust.”
3 Lobbying A weapons manufacturer bribed its way into a sweet contract with the government, despite the uselessness of the product. “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger—it says here we’re required by our contract to equip every ‘Mech we make with no less than five TrueAim Plus(tm) brand small lasers….”
4 Untouchable Designer However ridiculous the end result, the ‘Mech was designed by somebody that nobody dared criticize or contradict. “Why, this ‘Mech was designed by the Crown Prince himself. Surely you’re not implying that His Imperial Majesty knows nothing of battlefield strategy and technology, are you?”
5 Production Line Screw-up An error on the manufacturing floor resulted in a badly mis-configured ‘Mech, but by the time anybody noticed, the cost of fixing the mistake had become prohibitive. “Oh dear, we’ve just equipped 500 assault ‘Mechs with armaments meant for light ‘Mechs. But they’ve already started shipping to the frontlines….”
6 It Wasn’t Supposed to Be This Way The ‘Mech was an experimental test platform (or maybe a practical joke by an over-tired engineer) that was never intended for mass production. But key emails were skimmed instead of carefully read, and you can guess what happened next. “Don’t worry, nobody would possibly be stupid enough to mistake this for a serious production design… right?”

FileTR3025_Front_CoverOne of the most-read books in my game library when I was in junior high and high school was Technical Readout 3025, a collection of ‘Mechs that you could use in your Battletech games. They were designed using the construction rules in the rulebook, but were also the “official” ‘Mechs used by the different factions within the Battletech setting.

What surprised me at the time was that the Technical Readout contained a number of ‘Mechs that were terribly designed.

By that, I mean that there were numerous ‘Mech designs in the book that were obviously inefficient or just generally ineffective. At the time, I was spending my evenings and weekends poring over the ‘Mech construction rules figuring out how to most efficiently balance weapons, armor, and speed in ‘Mech designs. When “official” ‘Mechs appeared that were subpar, I was surprised and almost offended.

Nowadays, I realize that poorly-designed ‘Mechs are a feature of the setting, not a bug. They add verisimilitude to the Battletech universe. Just as in our modern militaries there are plenty of examples of poorly conceived, ineffective boondoggles, so the militaries of the Battletech world would have been plagued by such things. But at the time, I was mostly just annoyed that I had paid money for a book that contained ‘Mech designs no competent player would ever want to be stuck with.

It looks cool, but trust me... you don't want to be stuck piloting one. And you know, it doesn't even look that cool.

It looks cool, but trust me… you don’t want to be stuck piloting one. And you know, it doesn't even look that cool.

The worst offender, by far, was the CGR-1A1 Charger, an assault-class ‘Mech (at 80 tons, one of the heaviest ‘Mechs in the setting) that had almost no effective weaponry and mediocre armor. With an armament of just five small lasers—the wimpiest, shortest-ranged weapons in the game—it was completely outclassed by ‘Mechs half its weight. It was slightly faster than other heavy ‘Mechs, but not faster than the light and medium ‘Mechs that outgunned it. Its only conceivable battlefield advantage was its weight; if it could close to melee range, it could (in theory) deliver a pretty hefty punch or kick. But trust me: while your 80-ton clunker is making its own personal Charge of the Light Brigade at an enemy unit, you can bet that it’s getting showered with missiles, lasers, and autocannon fire every step of the way. Because your enemy is not stupid enough to be piloting a Charger.

At the time, the presence of the Charger was an inexplicable annoyance. These days, it’s a charming part of the setting. And it makes for a fun excercise to imagine how such a poorly-conceived ‘Mech would make it from the planning stages to the actual battlefield. Above is a quick chart I put together to answer the question. When you’re handed a terrible ‘Mech to play with, just roll a six-sided die on the chart above to see how it came to be.

Obviously, this’d work with any military or sci-fi game, with slight tweaking. What other reasons should be added to this table?

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  1. Ed Heil says:

    I was shocked that there was no “roll twice more and combine the two” entry.

  2. Andy says:

    Ed, I give you my personal permission to roll twice and combine the two 🙂 I really need more entries to make that work well, though…

  3. Ed Heil says:

    7. The Opposite of Overcompensating. The people who pilot this mech are very secure in their genderhood.

  4. Andy says:

    8. Sabotage — somebody on the inside (an enemy agent, an employee bribed by a competitor, etc.) switched ‘Mech schematics at just the right time. By the time it was noticed, a bunch of the worthless ‘Mechs had already been built.

    9. Mega-corp shenanigans — the production of this terrible ‘Mech was a deliberate part of a labyrinthine corporate plot to affect stock prices, discredit certain subsidiaries or employees, reshuffle questionably-acquired money and assets, or some other goal that is utterly opaque to outside observers, but serves a long-term corporate strategy.

  5. Andy says:

    10. They Really Tried — everybody involved with the production of this ‘Mech honestly thought it was going to be awesome, and they’re just as disappointed as you are that it turned out so badly. But unlike you, they don’t have to pilot it into enemy territory….

  6. Chris Barts says:

    11. Hey, It Worked In The Last War — This design was at least competent when presented with the tactics and weaponry of the previous major conflict. Advances in technology, leading to advances in military doctrine, coupled with the fact the last war was on a bunch of freezing ice worlds instead of a blazingly-hot desert planet means it’s no longer such a wonderful idea. New designs are on the drawing board now, promise.

  7. Andy says:

    Good one, Chris!

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