The Great BattleMaster Mystery

     Sometime in the early 90's my favorite Battlemech, the BattleMaster, disappeared. I still find it disconcerting to page through the "revised" edition of the 3025 Technical Manual and see no BattleMaster. I was confused. Why did it disappear? Where did it go to? Was there a temporal disturbance caused by an errant time-traveler? Did someone just leave pages out of the book? I was at a loss.

     So, as any self-respecting Supreme Emperor would do, I declared it a national emergency and sent my best WZISS agents out to find the cause of this dilemma. Before long, the Internal Security Services agents discovered the lore of the "Forbidden Fourteen"--the original 14 'Mechs of BattleTech and their fate.

     Battletech was inspired by the Japanese anime and manga of giant robots beating the crap out of each other. When the game was first published under the name of Battledroids, the fledgeling FASA corporation was nearly sued by Lucasfilm, Ltd. for their use of the word 'droid.' FASA's meager legal division was swamped by the regiments at Lucas's fingertips. After a quick re-write, Battletech was born, with a Warhammer, guns blazing, striding across the box front in 1985. To jump-start its game, as well as keep the anime feel, FASA used the robot designs from three anime programs: Macross, Crusher Joe, and Dougram.

     FASA, to this day, argues that they had permission from the various Japanese production companies to use their designs. Harmony Gold, producers of Robotech (the Americanized version of Macross), argued otherwise. As the legal forces of both relatively new and relatively strong companies poised for battle, FASA again pulled the better part of valor and settled out of court, removing the Macross-based designs from future publications but keeping the designs in the history of the Battletech universe.
     So disappeared the Wasp, Stinger, Phoenix Hawk, Rifleman, Crusader, Archer, Warhammer, and Marauder.

     Yet the Thunderbolt, Griffin, Shadow Hawk, Wolverine, Locust and the venerable BattleMaster remained>. The WZISS had lost its greatest lead. Extensive research of Robotech and Macross archives revealed nothing that even remotely resembled the lost BattleMaster. The next target of operations was Crusher Joe.

     After some searching, the Locust was discovered to be some sort of combat robot in the Crusher Joe anime series. That was it. The lead dried up again. The only hope left was Dougram.

     Things quickly turned interesting once they reached the SJAFS site on mecha during a Dougram search:

"The BLR-1g 'Battlemaster' is a nicely articulated (and well armed!) mech. Its origins are unknown."

     The appearant victory was seemingly a let-down. The BattleMaster was identified (with a picture) but no origin could be put to it. However, at the bottom of the page, a link to a model of the Dougram mech revealed a model of the Shadow Hawk. As the Shadow Hawk and the BattleMaster share a great deal in design philosophies, they knew they had their man.

     Later, after doing some desperation-searching through archived bulletin board postings, this was found in a posting from a guy who called himself "Fed":

"Does anyone here know a lot about Dougram? I want to know more about the series... Also: Their mechs are more well-known by their Battletech names (and they had a major influence on some ideas behind Zeta Gundam):
Dougram = Shadow Hawk Crab Gunner = Goliath Soltic = Griffin Blockhead = Wolverine ? = Battlemaster
Anyway, hope to hear from someone who knows..."

     Sweet victory was close. The agents followed the posting string, and two responses down lay the goal they had worked so hard for. A posting by an enigmatic being only calling itself "-Z-" revealed the true nature of the BattleMaster and its kin:

"OK, you asked for it:
Ryosuke Takahashi's anime series Sun's Fang Dougram was created in response to the success of rival Nippon Sunrise's Mobile Suit Gundam, the first giant robot series to incorporate valid mechanical principles into its robot designs. Dougram went Gundam one better, introducing mecha designed with a hard-edged look appropriate to military hardware, one the (sic) reflected Takahashi's darker view of human nature. Takahashi went on to create Armored Trooper Votoms, Round Vernian Vifam, Panzer World Galient and Blue Meteor SPT Layzner, all of which reflected his views of warfare and its effects on victor and vanquished alike. Dougram was, in many ways, a mirror image of Gundam -- a gritty, realistic view of futuristic warfare devoid of glamour.
The setting is the planet Deloyer in the 152nd year of the Space Calendar (SC 152). Deloyer has declared independence from the United Nations Of Earth, which has sent an occupation force to insure continued shipments of the raw materials needed to support Earth's global industrial complex. Their primary weapons are the Combat Armor machines, which range from walking tanks to giant humanoids, all armed with the deadly Linear Guns. The D-7 Dougram is the prototype for a new generation of Combat Armor: stronger, faster and more maneuverable than any of its predecessors. When Denon Cashim, governor of Deloyer, orders the destruction of a rebel stronghold, his son Crinn Cashim takes off in the Dougram and joins the rebel army known as Guerilla...

BattleTech = Sun's Fang Dougram
----------------------- ------------------
BLR-1G BattleMaster = Soltic HT-128 Bigfoot
GOL-1H Goliath = Abitate F44A CrabGunner
GRF-1N Griffin = Soltic H8-RF Roundfacer
SCP-1N Scorpion = Abitate F35C BlizzardGunner
SHD-2H ShadowHawk = D-7 Dougram (JAKT Type)
TDR-5S Thunderbolt = Hasty F4X Ironfoot
WVR-6R Wolverine = Abitate T-10C Blockhead


     The mystery was solved, the fear of a million million planets allayed. All of the missing 'Mechs were accounted for, plus two more (the Goliath and the Scorpion, which both sucked and no one liked anyway). FASA must have dropped the Crusher Joe and Dougram designs to avoid more lawsuits.

     FASA has had a hard time with lawsuits; that's how their superior Star Trek Starship Combat Simulator ceased to be, leaving the inferior, crappy, sucky Starfleet Battles as the only Star Trek-based tactical starship wargame out there...

     But that's another story, for another time...

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