Its a total eclipse of the Hrothgar
April 30, 2012 10:46 PM   Subscribe

Falling in love all over again: help me re-learn the Battletech fluff.

I remember hints and bits of the overall fluff and I really want to get everything down once again (and hopefully, permanently). What I really could use is a general history from the Star League to the Dark Age (post-Devlin Stone) and some specific histories for each of the major eras.

The wikis and general source pages are making my head spin... anyone want to help a brother out?
posted by Slackermagee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
One of my big criticisms of Battletech back in the day was that when they started they didn't spend enough time in the "drinking coffee and writing down all their half-assed ideas" phase of the operation. As a result you get this history where the Star League has collapsed and everyone is fighting over the crumbs and the individual households can't make mechs any more and are dealing with a dwindling supply of parts and once that's gone.... Well, they can make some parts. OK, they can make most parts, just not some of the core Mech systems. Well, they can make some mechs so obviously they can make the core systems for those. Did we say some mechs? We meant they can make all mechs, but you see, back in the day the mechs were much more powerful (longer ranges, more damage, etc.) than they are now because of Star League technology that's pretty much lost. What you have now is just a pale shadow of that technology. And so on.

And this was all before the Clans stuff started coming out.

I'm not sure how well they cleaned all this up in later publications as I sorta got out of the game, but if things seem sort of convoluted, this probably has a lot to do with it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:08 PM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Gonna do this in parts...

By the late 26th century, humanity has settled thousands of worlds in the Inner Sphere, a rough sphere about 500 light years in radius from Terra. A number of interstellar nations are founded and fight one another in the Age of War. Towards the end of this period, the BattleMech in invented. It's basically a walking tank bristling with weapons and quickly becomes the king of the battlefield.

The Star League was a vast confederation uniting most of humanity under one banner. Formed by House Cameron of the Terran Hegemony, it brought peace (for the most part) and a golden age for a little over two centuries. In the end, though, it was brought down by the manipulations of one man, Stefan Amaris, who first instigated a massive revolt of the Periphery nations that had been forced to join the League and resented it ever since and then murdered the young First Lord of the League and declared himself Emperor. General Aleksandr Kerensky, the Commanding General of the Star League Defense Force spends the next 14 years liberating the Hegemony from Amaris which in the process wrecks that nation so much that it is impossible to put back together. Seeing that the other five House Lords who made up the League's ruling council are more interested in claiming the mantle of the First Lord for themselves instead of rebuilding, Kerensky takes 80% of the SLDF—the most massive and technologically advanced military humanity has ever known—and vanishes deep into space.

With the brake of Kerensky and his armies gone, the Inner Sphere erupts into the Succession Wars. This series of three wars lasts from the early 2800s until 3025 and sees rampant (mis)use of WMDs, attacks on infrastructure, war crimes, etc. By the 31st century, technology has backslid to pre-Star League levels and a scavenger economy has set in on many worlds.

In 3022, a treaty between the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth results in the marriage of First Prince Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner, daughter of the Commonwealth's Archon, setting the stage for the merger of these two realms. The Lyrans are the economic powerhouse of the Successor States and the FedSuns is the best military, so the idea of their alliance is troubling to everyone else. At the wedding of Hanse and Melissa in 3028, Hanse declares war on the Capellan Confederation, the smallest Successor State and the traditional enemy of the Federated Suns. The war is over in two years and changes the Inner Sphere more than any other conflict of the past three centuries.

After that, things get a bit quieter. The FedSuns fails in an attempted invasion of their other traditional enemy, the Draconis Combine, in 3039. The merger of the Suns and the Commonwealth is further sealed by the birth of four children to Hanse and Melissa. ComStar, the neutral organization that has run all interstellar communications since the fall of the Star League, unveils a massive military they've been sitting on all this time, though they promise to only use it for good. A province of the Draconis Combine secedes in 3034 to form the Free Rasalhague Republic. The Free Worlds League, a Successor State made up of many quasi-independent sub-states, undergoes a civil war that ends when the rightful heir, Thomas Marik, a former ComStar adept who was previously thought killed by the same bomb that killed his father, takes the throne.

That's basically where things stand in 3049.
posted by roosterboy at 11:26 PM on April 30, 2012 [14 favorites]

Best answer: So, 3049.

In that year, disturbing reports of strange invaders from beyond known space begin to filter into the Inner Sphere. Consisting of several groups of techno-barbarians calling themselves the Clans, they have better war technology than the Successor States and their warriors are much more capable in combat. They easily cut a wide swath into the Federated Commonwealth (the new name for the merged Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth), the Free Rasalhague Republic and the Draconis Combine. Eventually, they are revealed to be the descendants of Aleksandr Kerensky, who have returned to reclaim the worlds of the Inner Sphere from the decadent House Lords who allowed the Star League to fall into chaos three centuries earlier. Clans Wolf, Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, Smoke Jaguar and others are finally stopped in a massive battle on the planet Tukayyid, when ComStar's huge army, which consists mainly of vintage Star League-era equipment, defeats them and wins a 15-year truce that keeps them "above" the Tukayyid line.

With breathing room now gained, the Successor States begin preparing for the conflict they know will one day come. However, it ain't that easy. Hanse Davion dies at the end of the invasion, leaving the Federated Commonwealth to his young son Victor, who gained some amount of fame fighting the Clans. But Victor's sister Katherine is ambitious and treacherous and begins plotting against him. She orchestrates the assassination of their mother and tries to place the blame on Victor. When Victor makes a huge diplomatic error that alienates the Free Worlds League and leads to a brief invasion, she removes the Lyran half of the Federated Commonwealth and takes control of it.

Meanwhile, internal troubles in the Clans! A warrior society with no external enemy to fight turns on itself and a conflict between Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon leads to the Wolves splitting in two—one half allying with the Inner Sphere and the other becoming more conservative and aggressive—and causes the Falcons to invade the Lyran Alliance to prove to their fellow Clans they aren't weak. This ultimately triggers a multinational coalition to stop them, which in turn sparks the founding of a new Star League. The new League decides its first task is to destroy one of the Clans to make the rest take them seriously and the Smoke Jaguars are targeted. The Jaguars are wiped out and the League army journeys to Clan space, where they fight a trial by combat on the Clan capital world. The League wins and so the Clan invasion is over.

Victor Steiner-Davion returns home the conquering hero only to find that his sister has usurped his throne and he is a man without a home. Not wishing to subject his people to a civil war, he allows Katherine to rule, figuring that without his opposition she might have to become a good ruler. He joins ComStar to lead become their general and hopes to live peacefully with his lover Omi Kurita (who also happens to be the daughter of his House's once mortal enemies; star-crossed lovers and all that).

Which brings us to 3062.
posted by roosterboy at 11:45 PM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: At the end of 3062, Victor's younger brother Arthur is assassinated and Victor, who has long had some evidence but not solid proof that Katherine killed their mother, blames his sister and decides he cannot leave her in power. The FedCom Civil War launches.

During the next five years, Victor and Katherine's forces battle across the two realms and the death toll is enormous. Katherine schemes to become First Lord of the Star League (the position is a rotating one among the House Lords rather than hereditary as in the first League) but is foiled by Victor. Omi Kurita is assassinated by Katherine's agents, causing Victor to shut down and almost give up the war. He is roused back into the fight and eventually wins. Katherine is captured and Victor, who no longer has any real desire to rule, gives the thrones of the Federated Suns and Lyran Alliance to his sister Yvonne and brother Peter, respectively. This is in early 3067.

Digression time:
ComStar was founded out of the Star League Department of Communications and functioned throughout the Succession Wars as a neutral party that controlled all interstellar communications. To facilitate their mission, the early leaders of ComStar transformed it from a bureaucracy to a pseduo-mystic religion revering their founder, Jerome Blake, and secretly working to undermine peace so that they could lead humanity to enlightenment once they had knocked themselves down far enough. In the aftermath of the victory over the Clans at Tukayyid, reformers take control of ComStar and begin to secularize it, due to the previous leaders nearly screwing everything up in their bid to control the Inner Sphere. Those who opposed these reforms split off into a fanatical sect calling themselves the Word of Blake. They set up shop in the Free Worlds League under the protection of Thomas Marik, who had once been a member of the order. They supplied weapons to many groups and conducted a shadow war against their former brethren, even managing to seize Terra from ComStar's grasp. By 3067, they anticipated gaining membership in the Star League and planned at that time to unveil a secret surprise they had been working towards for 15 years.

So the Star League meets in November 3067 and immediately falls apart. The leaders of the FedSuns and Lyran Alliance decide they need to rebuild their nations and can't be part of the League any more. The ruler of the Capellan Confederation, a schemer named Sun-Tzu Liao, pulls out of the League because he used it for his own purposes during his tenure as First Lord (3058-3061) and has no further need for it. The other members are insufficient to keep the League going and it collapses. This royally pisses of the Word of Blake, who had been fervently looking forward to joining, and they lash out in anger at the other states, hoping to force them to keep the League together. Thus the Word of Blake Jihad begins.

The Blakists soon realize they have started something they don't have the strength to finish and begin pulling out the big guns. What was the big secret they were keeping? They have spent 15 years planning a massive genocidal war against the Clans, whom they see as an abomination. We're talking WMDs, huge WarShip fleets, cybernetic super-soldiers (the Manei Domini), biochemical weapons to destroy entire planetary ecospheres, legions of secret troops, etc. And it all gets turned against the Successor States. In addition they utilize false flag operations to turn nations against one another, assassinations of public figures, suicide bombers with their very bones turned into weapons, basically any tactic they can use to even the odds, as even with all their buildup they are no match for the Successor States in a fair fight. Having once been part of ComStar, they are intimately familiar with how interstellar communications work and use this knowledge to adversely affect the network. Since ComStar controlled all comms, they were privy to everyone's secrets and the Blakists don't hesitate to expose them. Among these secrets is that Thomas Marik, ruler of the Free Worlds League, is actually an imposter set on the throne decades earlier so that the real Thomas could heal from his injuries. The real Thomas rose to become the head of the Word of Blake as their shadowy Master and it is his fanatical followers who are leading the war.

So for the first few years, things are so chaotic and confused that the Blakists are able to make lots of headway and dig themselves in. They occupy or have significant presence on four of the five House capital worlds and control many, many more. They set up a buffer zone around Terra to prevent anyone from getting to their base. By about 3071 or so, however, their foes are starting to make progress fighting back. Devlin Stone is a mysterious man imprisoned in a Blakist camp who leads a breakout and then becomes head of a small resistance movement. Their successes grow with each passing month, as does his legend.

By 3073, Stone comes to greater prominence when a summit of Inner Sphere leaders is bombed and many influential people die. Stone steps in to the void and, with the help of Victor and others, forms a multinational coalition of Successor States and Clans to fight the Blakists. The war is hard and long but by 3079 they have reached and liberated Terra. The Word of Blake is, for the most part, kaput. The Master is still running around out there but he is hunted down and killed by 3081.
posted by roosterboy at 12:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: After liberating Terra, Devlin Stone proposes the creation of a new nation, the Republic of the Sphere, at the center of the Inner Sphere. He is supported by the other leaders, some of whom see the Republic as an easy way to push off the burden of rebuilding their damaged planets onto someone else. The Capellan Confederation resists but Stone's forces defeat them and force them to recognize the Republic. A new age of peace and prosperity ensues. Mostly.

The period 3081-3132 is, for the most part, peaceful. There are still some conflicts, but they are smaller and not as devastating as previous wars. Stone's Republic spearheads a swords-to-plowshares movement that sees military hardware taken out of private hands while at the same time reducing state forces. With less industry devoted to war, economies boom and the Inner Sphere recovers from the Jihad.

(This is the period where the current BattleTech universe sits. The most recent publications are set in 3085 and 3090 and detail the early years of the Republic. Actually, Catalyst Game Labs is taking a bit of a break from progressing the timeline to put out several products covering the old Star League era in detail. After that, the timeline will skip to the 3140s and pick up the storyline from where WizKids left off.

What's WizKids? When FASA closed their doors in 2001, the BattleTech IP was bought by WizKids Games and turned into the MechWarrior: Dark Age clix game. They jumped the timeline to 3132 and proceeded from there with several game sets and 30 novels that took things up to 3143. Then WizKids collapsed.)

Devlin Stone retires as leader of the Republic in 3130, saying that he'll return when/if he is needed again. He then vanishes.

Two years later, the interstellar communications network suffers a catastrophic breakdown and 80% of the planets in the Inner Sphere lose the ability to talk to one another. This causes tensions that had long bubbled beneath the surface to erupt and the Republic is torn apart by internal factionalism and external invasions.

In 3135, the newly elected Exarch of the Republic enacts an emergency measure Stone had set up and creates Fortress Republic, which locks the innermost systems of the Republic behind an impenetrable barrier that prevents travel in or out. Those systems left outside the walls start getting gobbled up by the surrounding realms.

The Free Worlds League, which had been shattered into several smaller pieces by the Jihad, is finally reunited in 3139.

Clan Wolf migrates from their Occupation Zone to the far side of the Lyran Commonwealth and is basically used as mercenary troops to invade the Free Worlds League. When they feel they are mistreated by the Lyran Archon, however, they turn on them and carve their own empire out of Lyran space. Shortly after, Clan Jade Falcon invades the Lyrans and seizes a huge chunk.

All this time, no one has been able to figure out what happened to take down the communications network. But a young ComStar adept thinks he has figured it out. After finding similar language to an old Word of Blake protocol for destroying the comms network within a speech once given by Devlin Stone, he becomes convinced that Stone himself was responsible.

Any questions?
posted by roosterboy at 12:29 AM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

I recommend the universe and timeline pages at the BattleTech boardgame site. The former will give you a brief overview of each faction as of 3075 (so in the middle of the Jihad) and samples of the personalities, military commands and corporations of each. The timeline pages not only present a listing of key events but also give you recommended reading lists should you want to dive in deeper.
posted by roosterboy at 12:34 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and that doesn't include what happened to the Clans. Those who invaded the Inner Sphere in the 3050s and had conquered territory there participated in the Jihad. Those who were left in the Homeworlds suffered a massive societal collapse and civil war that saw the death of several Clans, a number of worlds abandoned, millions of deaths, the explusion of the Clans that had been "tainted" by contact with the Inner Sphere and the cutting off of all contact so that by the late 3080s nobody knows what the situations is. These were known as the Wars of Reaving.
posted by roosterboy at 12:44 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Roosterboy needs a sidebarring, possibly a Best-of-Metafiltering.

It's already on Best of MeFi.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:21 AM on May 1, 2012

Response by poster: HOLY BALLS.

Roosterboy, that is amazing. I was expecting to get some book recommendations and Joseph- in-Nazareth I got a qualified historian instead.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2012

Happy to help. Any other questions, drop 'em on in.
posted by roosterboy at 10:38 PM on May 1, 2012

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