Interview: Ben H. Rome (Englisch)

You will notice, that this text is completely written in English, so surely you are asking yourself, why the hell are they suddenly writing in English? Well… while we have a translated version of our Interview with Ben H. Rome available here, we think it should also be available in English and that it makes more sense to write the whole article in a single language, since we are actually targeting the English speaking Battletech fans with this article.

And, also, because I really like to confuse people 😉

You can read the German translation here.

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer our question and introduce you to our readers: Ben H. Rome is the Battletech assistant line developer and author of the recent source book „The Wars of Reaving“.

What exactly does an assistant line developer do and how did you come into this position?

Well, the title says it all: I assist the line developer. That encompasses a lot, actually—I help with story and plot ideas, product suggestions and development, project manage whatever the LD cannot or does not have time for, and stay apprised of any news and situations regarding the line in case the LD drops off the grid or leaves. In addition to all that, I write for the line and get to muck about with my own mini-projects, like the Turning Points PDF series and overseeing smaller plotlines and story threads, like the Clans.

You are also writing non fiction texts, what is it you write there and how does it differ from writing fiction like Battletech?

Ooooh, good question. I actually do a LOT of writing in the nonfiction world. For my full time job, I write and copyedit material for a nonprofit health care education organization, including fully managing the association’s monthly online “magazine.” In addition to that, I’m part owner/creator of a large metropolitan blogsite (welovedc.com) and I routinely write (for free!) reviews of museum exhibitions, opinions on transit, and recap Washington Capitals games.

And if that’s not enough, I’ve done some freelance work for various museums, including the International Spy Museum, National Geographic, and the Smithsonians’ National Museum of the American Indian and the American Art Museum.

So my writing experience covers medical, technical, education, journalism (news and sports), history, culture, and of course, fiction. Oddly, I’m the most specialized with fiction as BattleTech is the only license I’ve ever written for.

When did you first come up with the idea to „The Wars of Reaving“?

In 2005, after a lengthy online discussion with Herb. We were discussing some issues I was having with a few of the Clan articles in Jihad Hot Spots: 3070 and the Homeworld topic came up. Long conversation short, I started thinking I’d love to handle telling that story if WizKids didn’t pursue it.

They didn’t, and when it became clear I was evolving into one of BattleTech’s “core writers,” I lobbied relentlessly to at least manage the Clan timeline, and at most direct and eventually write their “secret” story. Being named ALD in late 2008 helped my cause and I wielded my new power to keep the Clan story within the bounds of my own creation—with Randall and Herbs’ blessing, of course.

The convoluted process of the Wars of Reaving is best followed on my blog, as it was quite a journey to get that book out. (http://benhrome.wordpress.com/wars-of-reaving/)

What was the biggest struggle, during its development? Was it hard, to keep the authors from writing stories set in the Homeworlds?

Biggest struggle? The constant rewrites. Finding out your first approach was basically rubbish was a bit difficult, especially when it meant hitting the “restart” button.

Keeping the authors in line wasn’t that difficult, actually. Getting them to tell me about their little insertions in various TROs was a bit annoying, but I just worked with it. It helped that I had Herb behind me reminding them that the Homeworlds were completely off-limits, and our writers are a good group. They respected that wish.

Since its release, is there anything you regret having put into or left out of the book?

Probably the insinuation that the Ancestral Home had a shield system. It doesn’t. It’s experimental “something” that isn’t statted out anywhere. After ditching plans to even put rules to it, I tried to leave it as a mystery that could be filled in by the reader’s imagination. The wording, unfortunately, makes it sound definitively like it’s a shield. And it’s not. Ship shields are a verboten aesthetic in BattleTech.

Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with what’s in the book. Everyone has their take on what they like and don’t like, and that’s fine. The first rule of writing is that you can’t please everyone, and I learned long ago not to even try. What’s important is that the story is told; from the feedback I’ve gotten, I apparently told this one pretty well. That’s what matters.

Had Wizkids prepared anything for the Homeworld Clans and where there plans to bring them back to the Inner Sphere?

If they did, I don’t know about it. I’m pretty privy to a lot of what WK did and had plans for, but the Homeworlds were simply a vague notion for the time being. Their focus was on The Republic and slowly spreading outward from that. The Clans outside the Inner Sphere (and to a lesser extent, the Periphery nations) were hazy figures in the background that could be used if needed later on.

The only concrete thing that WK had in mind—something that Randall had actually decided during his stint with the company—was that at least 5 Clans would be destroyed in some sort of civil war. Beyond that? It would depend on the unfolding overall story and where it went.

You have been talking about a supplemental to Reaving in the past, what can we expect?

There will be a PDF-only supplemental to the Wars of Reaving, certainly. It’s been a bit delayed due to getting a few print books out, but I’ll be getting back on that horse shortly. So what’s planned?

First off, record sheets. The PDF will have legal record sheets for every unit in the WOR Rules Annex, as well as several additional variants for the Cephalus, Osteon, and Septicemia. And there may be some additional “Clan upgrades” to various OmniMech, ProtoMech, and vehicle designs. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the Leviathan Prime in there as well, but that’s a big “IF” at the moment.

Second, Random Access Tables for each Clan, the Society, and the Dark Caste for both 3072 and 3085.

After that, it’s a mix of what I end up tossing in. There may be a simple “Clan war doctrine” section detailing how each of the 3085 Clans/factions fight. Possibly a short track campaign of the Scorpion conquest of Nueva Castile or of the Viper’s last stand on New Kent. A rundown of the Society’s known forces might be beneficial as well, especially for those who really want to dive into WOR’s track creation system.

And whatever else I can think of at this point.

FFF (Five For the Fans)

Which BT character do you like best?

Soooo many to choose from:

Devlin Stone, mainly because I’m hoping to have time to write a serial on his past for Battlecorps.

Berith, because he’s an “accidental” character I created that ends up being pretty pivotal at the end of the Jihad.

Belle Lee, because she’s modeled after my wife.

Aletha Kabrinski, because she’s Aletha Kabrinski.

Which „vehicle“ (‚Mech or otherwise) do you hold the most dearest?

The Archangel for the Inner Sphere, and the Septicemia for the Clans.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Everywhere, honestly. History, news, culture, novels, television shows, movies….

How have you always wanted to kill off a character and were never able/allowed to?

Oh. Oh yes. Phelan Kell. Heck, the whole Kell line, really. But they’re forbidden territory for all BT writers.

Have you, too, always wanted to know where ‚Mechwarriors go to the toilet?

Not really. I figured they’d stop and go on the side of the road like everyone other kid on a long family road trip vacation….