Welcome to the Inner Sphere

The Emperor protects.

In BattleTech, there is no god-emperor. There are no psykers, no Chaos, no warp. There are a sort of space marine, called Elementals, but they’re not really close to the real thing. Instead of the Empire against Chaos, or the Tau, or Orks, its the Empire against the Empire. There are no aliens in BattleTech.

That’s what the setting is not. Let’s look at what it is.

Setting the Scene

Think of this as the opening crawl in Star Wars.

It is the 31st Century, and the galaxy has been at war for most of a thousand years. The wars of the future are fought with BattleMechs, 12-meter-tall walking tanks that mass between 20 and 100 tons. The men and women who pilot them are called MechWarriors, and they are the closest thing to knights in the modern age.

The five great realms of the Inner Sphere, as the populated galaxy is called, are neo-feudal empires ruled by tyrants and despots who send crushing armies to pursue one goal above all: to win them the seat of a resurrected Star League set above all the realms. MechWarriors lead regiments of ‘Mech’s, armor, and infantry against each other, while mighty WarShips clash in space. Faster-than-light travel is expensive and rare, but the calculus of war makes expense inconsequential.

In the last century new enemies have appeared, powerful Clans with advanced technology, genetically engineered warriors, and no compunction at all about crushing everything in their path. Their single-minded focus on conquest irrevocably changed the balance of power in the Inner Sphere.

War is a way of life in the Inner Sphere. Fortunes are won and lost, worlds captured and recaptured, reputations made and shattered. A BattleMech fears nothing but another BattleMech, and sometimes the fate of an entire world is decided by a single MechWarrior. The last campaign’s defeated foes are the next campaign’s vicious attackers. 

In the world of BattleTech life is cheap. BattleMechs aren’t. 

Summarizing the Story

In the beginning, there was peace. But that was boring, so there was war.

BattleTech history branches off the 1980s, because that was when it was born. Man moved quickly into space, learned to travel between the stars, and inevitably the colonial worlds rebelled against old Terra. New star nations formed, and fought against each other, in ever-more-deadly wars, until scientists in the Terran Hegemony created the BattleMech.

A BattleMech is humanoid, moves as fast as a tank, and is armed and armored so well it fears nothing but another ’Mech. Literally thousands of models exist. Don’t think of them as Leman Russ-pattern tanks. There are so many you could play a hundred games and never use them all. Armed with lasers, missiles, autocannons, and high-energy PPCs, they have the firepower to annihilate a city block. You can think of them as small titans. 

If you’re a gamer, ’Mechs are the key unit of tabletop gameplay, and what players pilot in the several online video games.

In general, there two sets of political powers. The Inner Sphere powers, generally 5-6 of them, have warred against each for all of their history. The Clans, exiles from the Inner Sphere who founded a new martial society, war against the Inner Sphere powers and against each other.

In other words, peace may be a goal but war is the way of life.

Get my Top 10 BattleTech Novel Suggestions

A couple of them are farther down the page, but I’ve written a short series of free emails that give you my Top 10 BattleTech novels, why I like them, and links to get them off Amazon.

Give me your name and email and the first one will hit your inbox shortly.

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The Factions

I’m just going to hit the high points here. If you want to go in-depth, BattleTech has a gigantic wiki maintained by fans called Sarna.

Free Worlds League

Ruled by House Marik, the Free Worlds League is an often-fractious realm whose tides have risen and fallen across the centuries, having become an economic powerhouse during the Clan Invasion but shattering beneath the weight of the Jihad.

Lyran Commonwealth

Ruled by House Steiner, the Commonwealth is the economic powerhouse of the Inner Sphere. Pummeled in the Clan Invasion, the Commonwealth is held back by weak military leadership and ambitious nobles. After the 4th Succession War, was half the Federated Commonwealth.

Federated Suns

Ruled by House Davion, the Federated Suns have largely been regarded for their military, though they're often plagued by betrayal. In the 4th Succession War, the Suns allied with the Lyran Commonwealth to form the Federated Commonwealth.

ComStar

ComStar, for almost all of its history, was the semi-mystic order that maintained the insterstellar communications equipment. They worked behind the scenes throughout the Succession Wars to keep the Great House weak and susceptible to agression.

Draconis Combine

Ruled by House Kurita, the Draconis Combine is a Japanese-styled samurai empire that produces feared MechWarriors. They have been responsible for some of the greatest victories, and greatest atrocities, in the entire setting.

The Clans

Encompassing many individual sub-factions, the Clans are genetically-enhanced descendants of the long-lost Star League Army who returned intent on conquering the Inner Sphere. The Clan who wins Terra becomes the ilClan, set above all other Clans.

Capellen Confederation

Ruled by House Liao, the Chinese-Russian Confederation has been both the underdog and the villain of the setting, nearly being destroyed in the 4th Succession War by Davion.

Mercenaries

The largest faction, uncounted mercenaries ply their violent trade across the centuries. From two-bit villains to honorable warriors, mercenaries serve ever faction, and fight against every faction. This is typically the entry faction for most readers and players.

Do you want to start with the rules?

Catalyst Game Labs has made enough of their basic ruleset available for free to give you a flavor. Grab this PDF if you want to start there; the rest of this page is about books and novels.

Start with the fiction to see if you like the universe?

I think the best way into a new setting is reading the stories about it, to see if you like the way the setting talks about itself. I think that’s true whether you’re a reader or a gamer.

One note: a lot of these books were written in the 1980s and 1990s when BattleTech was young and growing. Be kind. The world was a different place then.

Do you like starting at the beginning?

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This is the first BattleTech novel, the story of the Gray Death Legion. Not quite Gaunt’s Ghosts, but close. It’s a fun story of betrayal, revenge, and combat.

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Includes Decision at Thunder Rift, the entire first trilogy for one low price. This is the best value, and trust me: you’re going to like these books. They’re great.

Do you Want to start With Most Fans' Favorite?

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These three books are most seminal BattleTech fans’ favorite because the 4th Succession War changed the map like no other conflict before it.

In En Garde, a loyal MechWarrior is betrayed and vows revenge.

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The 4th Succession War is in full swing: Davion regiments pour into the Capellan Confederation, while the Steiner’s invade the Draconis Combine.

And a turncoat does all he can prove his loyalty to his new nation.

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The weight of the most successful war in the history of the Inner Sphere is beginning to weigh on the Federated Suns, and secret enemies plot to halt its advances.

With nations in the balance, it comes down to just a few MechWarriors.

Do you like the idea of invaders from beyond known space?

UPDATE: They just released all three of these books in a Kindle box set for the same price as one of them! You can get it here!

Amazon affiliate link

These three books are most seminal BattleTech fans’ favorite because the 4th Succession War changed the map like no other conflict before it.

In En Garde, a loyal MechWarrior is betrayed and vows revenge.

Amazon affiliate link

The 4th Succession War is in full swing: Davion regiments pour into the Capellan Confederation, while the Steiner’s invade the Draconis Combine.

And a turncoat does all he can prove his loyalty to his new nation.

Amazon affiliate link

The weight of the most successful war in the history of the Inner Sphere is beginning to weigh on the Federated Suns, and secret enemies plot to halt its advances.

With nations in the balance, it comes down to just a few MechWarriors.

BattleTech Top 10 Novels

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