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This is the Inner Sphere, thousands of planets colonized by humankind. Once it was united under the Star League, but for the last three hundred years it has been consumed by savage wars...
Adam Steiner, from the BattleTech animated series.

A galaxy-wide conflict with Giant Mecha spanning centuries is ripe for backstory, so FASA naturally encouraged filling out the BattleTech universe. They licensed the creation of a series of Science Fiction novels as the main medium for this. The continuity of these novels was incredibly well kept, mainly because the nature of the 'verse allowed for a very wide variety of characters and settings. Naturally, this led to an extremely large and diverse cast of characters, which is probably the strongest point of the novels. Much of the setting's tone was (and continues to be) defined by Michael Stackpole, with other authors fitting their works in around his.

The novel series of the setting (which are far, far outnumbered by individual novels) include, in rough in-universe chronological order:

  • The Saga of the Gray Death Legion trilogy (William H. Keith, Jr.)
  • The Warrior trilogy (Stackpole)
  • The Blood of Kerensky trilogy (Stackpole)
  • The Legend of the Jade Phoenix trilogy (Robert Thurston)
  • The Twilight of the Clans series (multiple authors, including Stackpole and Thurston)
  • The Capellan Solution duology (Loren L. Coleman)
  • The Fed-Com Civil War trilogy (Coleman)
    • Blaine Lee Pardoe's Archer's Avengers trilogy serves as a subseries to that.
  • The Fortress Republic duology (Coleman)

In addition, FASA licensed a number of video game series based on the universe. These, especially the MechWarrior series, turned out to be widely popular, and drew more people into the franchise.

The video games include:

On top of all of this, 1994 saw the release of the Animated Adaptation, also called BattleTech. Set during the war against the Clans, it focused on a military unit led by Adam Steiner. It was later RetConned as being a propaganda account of events that actually happened, with Adam Steiner and at least one other character showing up in the novels.

These works note  provide examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The cartoon's BattleMech rendering sequences. Though they at least got the ponderous weight of 'Mechs right. The animated 'Mech combat looks like anime-style movement.
  • Absent Aliens: A few novels (most notably Far Country) actually do have sapient aliens. The rest? None. And the other novels and sourcebooks tend to ignore these.
    • For Far Country, the aliens in question live in a system that's only been accessed by humans twice, both in jumpship mishaps that leave the humans stranded there. So they exist, but they can't interact with the rest of the BattleTech universe. So not quite Canon Discontinuity, so much as an in-universe justification for being CanonForeigners.
    • It's also worth noting that the franchise uses, as noted above, the "absent sapient aliens" variation of this. There is, in fact, quite a bit of alien life to be found on many Terra-like worlds, and some of it has even become vital to interstellar civilization (like quillar), but outside of Far Country, nothing remotely sapient has been discovered yet, and nothing remotely like a comparable interstellar civilization has been found.
  • Adaptation Decay: The animated series was retconed as an in-universe, "poorly reviewed Anti-Clan propaganda holo-vid".
    • A later sourcebook explains it as based on real in-universe events, but suffering among other things from Anachronic Order due to drawing inspiration from events that hadn't happened yet in the timeframe depicted.
  • Anyone Can Die: The EU encompasses a time span of over a century; if combat, accidents, or assassinations fails to kill someone, old age will.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Novel Close Quarters has the main character, Cassie, use a bolter on a battlemech to provoke it into chasing her. The metallic ping against the cockpit window is a direct insult to the mechwarrior's arrogance, which causes them to give chase. She runs through a few buildings before surprising the mech with an electrical attack to the knee joint. The electricity spot-welds the joint, and crashes the mech to on the ground. She repeats the same action later in the novel by attracting a mech into swampy terrain where it gets stuck and crashes onto the ground.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The BattleTech Animated Series, as described above. However, some characters, notably Adam Steiner, became Canon Immigrants.
  • Canon Immigrant: As mentioned above, some of the Animated Series characters obtained this status. Adam Steiner is easily the most visible of them. Also of note are Vandervahn Chistu (Nicolai Malthus' superior) and Franklin Sakamoto. Chistu would briefly become one of the Falcon clan Kahns, ultimately dying at Vlad Ward's hands during the Refusal War. Sakamoto, on the other hand, would survive until the early stages of the Jihad in 3070. (Worth noting that Sakamoto was captured by the Black Dragon forces, with his ultimate fate apparently remaining unknown.)
  • Catchphrase: From the cartoon: "Information is Ammunition." (Also featured in passing as a Mythology Gag in the novels)
    • Also from the game itself: "No Guts, No Galaxy!"
  • Changeling Fantasy: Subverted - Franklin Sakamoto renounced his claim to the throne.
  • The Chessmaster: Subhash Indrahar, head of the Kurita's Secret Police for 60 years.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: In the animated series one of Adam Steiner's mottos is that being a Jack of All Trades is desirable in a soldier so they can adapt if stuck outside their area of expertise. He butts heads with his second in command with it in the first episode but not a lot's actually done with it, perhaps due to the show being intended to last multiple seasons but being cancelled after just one. Franklin Sakamoto is basically good at whatever a scene calls for be it 'mech pilot, fighter pilot, ninja, etc., but these are all skills he mastered before ever meeting the rest of the unit.
  • Critical Existence Failure: The concept of Combat Loss Grouping; stastistically, mechs of a similar weight class will continue to fight for long periods of time before becoming combat ineffective all at once.
  • Cut Short: The animated series ended on an unresolved Cliffhanger. While the novels reveal that the main characters went their separate ways (for example Adam Steiner and Franklin Sakamoto returned to their home nations), the fate of Somerset's populace has remained a mystery.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A common method for mercenary units looking to recruit people.
  • Defector from Decadence: Trent of Clan Smoke Jaguar. Having been a victim of politics several times (his sibmate changes the official report of the battle of Tukayyid, and then manages to steal his spot on the Trial of Bloodright), with the help of his bondsman (who is actually a deep-cover ComStar spy), he manages to escape his Clan, goes to ComStar and gives them the Exodus Road, the path to the Clan homeworlds. His defection seals the fate of the Clan whom mistreated him, as it leads to Operations Bulldog and Serpent, the annihilation of Clan Smoke Jaguar, and then the Great Refusal which repudiates the entire Clan Invasion.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The Seventeenth Recon Regiment, aka "Camacho's Caballeros". Their top scout is a recovering sociopath, one of their best captains is a repeated rape victim, another is clinically insane (and proud of it), and their commander is grieving his deceased daughter while his surviving son suffers from "Well Done, Son" Guy.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: When Anastasius Focht first receives the recordings of Phelan Kell's first battle with the Clans, he dismisses the popular (and correct) hypothesis that they are Aleksandr Kerensky's Star League Defense Force returning to the Inner Sphere, since their 'Mech designs bear no resemblance to Star League-era 'Mechs. Instead, he believes them to be aliens that can assimilate genetic material and self-evolve, first absorbing humans (the SLDF) then improving on the human form to better handle the rigors of 'Mech piloting. He believes that the aliens are invading because in assimilating humanity they have become human, and the Inner Sphere has the best worlds for supporting human life... or that they have come to harvest humanity for more raw genetic material to absorb. Some of his conclusions are actually fairly spot-on, though (see Right for the Wrong Reasons, below).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The Saga of the Gray Death Legion in many ways, particularly the first two novels (Decision at Thunder Rift and Mercenary's Star). They feature a very early version of the Battletech universe - mechs are literally irreplaceable, lostech is rampant, and the Draconis Combine is more like the brutal Empire Of Japan than the more moderate versions seen in later novels. Thematically, the first two are very different from most of the later novels - battlemech combat is much more rare and predates the often formulaic play-by-play descriptions of later novels, instead often focusing on sabotage and infantry combat.
    • It also features Mechs pulling off almost human feats of agility. In one instance, a Mechwarrior is instructed to 'tuck and roll' his Mech to low cover, as though it were a giant infantryman. Later novels would establish that this sort of thing would severely damage a Mech.
    • The Blood Of Kerensky trilogy features some of this:
      • No mention is made of weightlessness aboard the Dire Wolf, or any other spaceborne vessel, leading to the conclusion of Artificial Gravity in the setting. It's latter established that only some JumpShips and WarShips have "grav decks" which use Centrifugal Gravity, and gravity only exists on these decks (unless the ship is accelerating at 1 g).
      • Ranna, Vlad (both MechWarriors), Evantha Fetladral (an Elemental), and Carew (an AeroPilot) are all said to be from the same sibko. Sibkos are later established to all be from the parings of the same two warriors in the breeding program, so Ranna could not have had sibmates who were a different phenotype from her, nor one who had a claim on a different Bloodname (Ranna eventually earns a Kerensky Bloodname, Vlad has a claim on a Ward Bloodname, Evantha has her Fetladral Bloodname, and Carew belongs to yet another House).
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: The Northwind Highlanders have their bagpipe band play the loudest song possible onto Clan Smoke Jaguar radio frequencies to jam up the Clan's communications, forcing the Clanners to use more troublesome line of sight based communications.
  • Exact Words: When Hanse Davion and Theodore Kurita make an impromptu but very honorable promise to work together against the Clans. Neither one will send their force into the other's territory so long as the Clans remain a threat. When the Smoke Jaguars and Nova Cats team up to try and take Luthien, the Draconis Combine homeworld, Hanse has visions of attacking the Combine from his border and finally taking down his nation's most hated enemy. But he promised he wouldn't send his troops into the Combine. On the eve of the attack, the three best mercenary companies in the Inner Sphere arrive at Luthien to shore up their defenses, paid for by Hanse Davion. He still didn't send his troops into Theodore's territory...
  • Expy: Johnny Tchang is a straight one of both Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. One of his films is even called Exit The Dragon.
  • Faking the Dead: Galen Cox. It's part of an elaborate scheme to expose Katherine Steiner-Davion's duplicity.
  • Friendly Enemy: Hanse Davion and Theodore Kurita get along much more swimmingly than their sons (initially) do at the 3051 Outreach Summit, since their historic family animosities have had time to simmer down with age (and because the gravity of the Clan threat is much more apparent to them due to their greater experience at statecraft). They're both also honorable (in their own way) and regard each other as worthy opponents, and have respect for each other's military and political skills.
  • Fun with Acronyms: From Bred For War, we have the Woodstock Eco-Liberation Force to Restore Equality — WELFARE.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Inverted in the animated series, under enhanced imaging Clanners look green while the Inner Sphere are red. Presumably because it's Clan tech that the "good guys" didn't have access to until halfway through the series. Plus, even with the simplifying of the setting's morality, it's not too hard to see that the Clans do see themselves as the "good guys".
  • Good is Not Nice: Again, too many to list. Gray-and-Gray Morality is a big part of life in the Inner Sphere.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: The fate of Clan Wolverine, as chronicled in Betrayal of Ideals. Within Clan society, the story of their downfall, if it is discussed at all, is a heavily biased version in which blame for all atrocities is placed squarely on the Wolverines, and any hint that the clan may have survived beyond the level of individual escapees is heavily suppressed. From the Inner Sphere's perspective, the very existence of Clan Wolverine is known only in the context of the sudden appearance - and equally sudden disappearance - of the mysterious "Minnesota Tribe". Even on a meta level, what happened to the remnants of the Wolverines after their expulsion from Clan society remains unknown beyond the vaguest of hints at their survival until at least the late 3040s.
  • Guile Hero: Adam Steiner, who in the animated series, considers accurate intel to be the most powerful weapon around and isn't above manipulating rival clans into fighting each other while his crew quietly escape.
  • Happily Married: Hanse might have married Melissa for political reasons, they did make it work and love each other.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Tormano Liao. Basically, he's on whatever side is against the Capellan Confederation at the moment.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Common with the Clan warriors and the older-line Draconis Combine warriors and nobility.
    • Also, this is why Myndo Waterly thinks that Anastasius Focht won't just shoot her. She's wrong.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Galen Cox for Victor Davion and Shin Yodama for Hohiro Kurita. Both Great House scions owe their lives more than a few times over to their aides, and consider them indispensible and close friends. In one example, during the Outreach Summit to educate the House Lords about the Clans, the House-Lord-Heirs-Trapped-With-A-Bomb scenario resulted in everyone except Galen and Shin degenerating into expressing centuries-old animosities, while those two worked together under the din to attempt to defuse it.
  • Impossibly Graceful Giant: The first BattleTech novels had mechs doing rolls, going prone, and doing other silly maneuvers. Later novels makes them much more tank-y like in the boardgame.
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: Betrayal Of Ideals has Nicholas Kerensky invoke this almost word for word when discussing the fate of the Wolverines. Any warrior of Wolverine blood - even those claiming loyalty to the Clans - are to be killed immediately, while any lower caste Wolverine survivors are to be sterilized, so that there is no chance of Wolverine ideals spreading to other Clans.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the most effective anti-Mech weapons an infantryman can carry is the Inferno rocket, which is loaded with a napalm substitute that overheats the Mech and cooks the pilot inside. As a result, fear of death by fire is common among MechWarriors.
  • Killed Off for Real: Takashi Kurita, Subhash Indrahar, Omi Kurita
  • Left Hanging: The final episode of the animated series ends on Adam Steiner and archenemy Nicolai Malthus of Clan Jade Falcon fighting it out for possession of planet Somerset. Steiner wins, but because he only specifically named the planet itself as the stakes for their duel, the Clan withdraws from Somerset while taking the locals with them as POW's. This set up a second season that never came.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Katherine "Katrina" Steiner-Davion. For example, she seizes control of an entire interstellar nation just by rigging their popularity polls.
    • When Wolverine Khan Sarah McEvedy starts to butt heads with the ilKhan, Widowmaker Khan Jason Karrige twists events to bring about his rival Clan's downfall. He succeeds, but unfortunately for him, he's playing chess with The Chessmaster Nicholas Kerensky himself...
  • Meaningful Name: When a secret sibko of children created entirely from the DNA of Jade Falcon hero Aidan Pryde is discovered, they turn out to have names that either share syllables with his (Daniel) or are whole or partial anagrams of Aidan (Naiad, Dania, Andi).
  • Mecha Show: The animated cartoon.
  • Medium Blending: The TV series did most scenes in traditional animation but th 'Mech fights were mostly rendered in CG, explained away in-show with it being the advanced targeting displays on Clan 'Mechs.
  • Memetic Badass: In-universe, Kai Allard-Liao, especially to the Jade Falcons. First, on Twycross, he obliterated an entire cluster of frontline Falcon mechwarriors in a trap that nearly failed and only went off when he lights his own mech off to detonate the trap. Then, on Alyina, he singlehandedly extricates Victor Davion from a trap during a battle against the Falcons gone horribly wrong while his Ace Custom mech was in a Limit Break state. It got to the point where Star Captain Taman Malthus, a Clan Jade Falcon garrison commander, thinks sending fifty Elementals in full Battle Armor to hunt him down (while he's injured, without a 'Mech, and on the run behind enemy lines), is considered a "fair fight". Since, at the time, Malthus and Kai were ensnared in ComStar's "Operation Scorpion" treachery, it made Malthus open to a temporary alliance and a lifelong friendship despite being on opposing sides.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Some characters will have these, either their given names or Red Barons they've earned in their careers. Grayson Death Carlyle is an example of the former, while Natasha "Black Widow" Kerensky is an example of the latter.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In Mercenary's Star, a Kurita assassination attempt on a Lyran ambassador is exactly what convinces said ambassador to send reinforcements to the Gray Death Legion.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: How the Draconis Combine won the battle of Wolcott. After pondering ways to exploit the straightforward way that the Clans declare battle, Theodore Kurita and his son Hohiro executed a plan to declare new units of green troops were defending the world when the Jaguars issued their batchall, making the Jaguars underbid. In fact, the units were simply re-labeled elite Genyosha regiments, which predictably shredded the unexpecting Smoke Jaguar mechwarriors in the predominantly marshy landscape of the world.
  • Off with His Head!: Stefan Amaris opened his coup (and the subsequent Star League Civil War) by presenting a customized laser pistol to First Lord Richard Cameron - then immediately shooting Richard in the face.
    • After the final hand-to-hand duel between Victor Steiner-Davion and Lincoln Osis at the end of the Great Refusal, in which Victor not only defeated the massive Elemental but humiliated him, Osis tried to attack Steiner-Davion from behind. Victor drew his sword (a gift from Omi Kurita) and in a single stroke beheaded the former IlKhan.
  • Opening Narration: The cartoon series had one before every episode to give the viewer a bit of a foot in to the extremely elaborate setting.
  • The Plan: Just like being a badass seems to be a requirement for surviving warfare, mastering gambits seems to be required for successfully holding any kind of political power.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Several from various characters at various times.
    • Kai Allard-Liao, of all people, drops quite the humdinger on Hohiro Kurita when all the Great Houses are gathered on Outreach to discuss the Clan Invasion. Hohiro is upset because he's noticed Victor Steiner-Davion, his archrival, and Omi, his sister, noticing each other, and can't find either of them. Kai spells out for Hohiro that first of all, he doesn't have to worry about Victor behaving in an "ungentlemanly" fashion with Omi, and that they should be allowed to be friends since it just might help curb the endless warfare the Inner Sphere has lived in for the last 300 years, and moreover if Hohiro and Victor would deign to give each other the time of day, they might actually be able to become friends, to say nothing of actual allies against the Clans instead of constantly trying to one-up each other in the training exercises. All Hohiro can do in reply is to gracefully and politely apologize to Kai for essentially being a shithead.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In Ghost War, Sam Donnelly secretly a mole working for the government convinces a terror group he has joined to engage in what he calls Low Intensity Terrorism, a series of attacks on various high-visibility targets which embarass the local government while also sparing civilian lives. Among other things, this allows him to send one of the more obnoxious members of the group to blow up a sewage plant.
  • The Reveal: The history of the Clans, and the nature of Wolf's Dragoons.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: After Anastasius Focht comes to the conclusion that the Clans are actually aliens imitating humanity, he reasons that their only interaction with human culture would have been through the warriors of the Star League Defense Force, and they would have developed a society that venerates warfare to an almost religious degree, which is a pretty apt summation of the Clans as a whole. He also believes that gambling, carousing, and braggadocio would be held as nearly sacred arts. While Clansmen neither gamble nor carouse especially, they are quite boastful.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Both the Liaos until Sun-Tzu and the Kuritas until Theodore are this.
  • Rule of Cool: The actual rules of the original game frequently get tossed aside in favor of this. Hey, whatever works...
    • Some of these incidents, such as an Atlas throwing the much smaller Locust around like a rag doll (often alluded to in fluff) were finally canonized as game rules to get players to stop complaining about not being able to do what was in the fiction.
    • Also subverted; the climatic action sequence of Grave Covenant and most of the 'Mech combat sequences that don't involve Morgan Kell or Yorinaga Kurita in the Warrior Trilogy appear to have been actually gamed out under the tabletop rules. The Grave Covenant scene with Victor's Daishi and Renny Sanderlin's Penetrator is even in one of the scenario books.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Clan pilots. Expect Clan character's dialogue to be about 20% cussing (in the Clan's vocabulary, which means loads and loads of "FREEBIRTH" and "STRAVAG" being yelled). There's a fair bit of this in the animated series too, since the insults and cusses weren't real words and thus censors had nothing to complain about.
    • The Clans consider Natasha Kerensky to be this because of her frequent use of contractions.
  • Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness: An extremely sharp contrast between the two games in the Crescent Hawks series. The first one, Crescent Hawks Inception, offers an open RPG world with a lot for the player to do for the time. It pays for this with aspects like a very limited array of available mechs for the player to control, however. In the second game, Crescent Hawks Revenge, basically all that freedom is gone, and the game is the player working their way through a prescribed campaign of pre-arranged battle scenarios and story events. The only major variables are things like enemy mechs that escaped in previous battles returning to fight again in later ones, or which of two options for an upcoming battle the player wants to be part of.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Justin Allard and Candace Liao (who end up Happily Married and produced the aforementioned Memetic Badass Kai), and later Victor Steiner-Davion and Omi Kurita (which doesn't end nearly as well).
  • Stockholm Syndrome: POWs of the Clans start out as bondsmen, but are given the chance to regain their warrior status if they pass a Trial by Combat, upon which they become a fully fledged member of the capturing Clan. The most extreme example would be Phelan Kell a captured Inner Sphere mercenary (the Clans viewed these as the lowest form of scum) who not only earned his own bloodname (and by that, I mean he had a bloodname named after him), but would go on to become the leader an entire Clan subfaction. Not terribly surprising, given who his father was.
  • Story Arc: Done by the animated series, which was noteworthy for American animation of the time.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: While official Clan lore paints the Not-Named Clan as virtual heretics whose dangerous influence needed to be purged from Clan society, the true reasons behind Clan Wolverine's destruction fall largely along these lines - they were a fast rising Clan whose achievements provoked jealousy from the others.
  • Trapped Undercover: Discussed briefly in Twilight of the Clans: Falcon Rising. When Jade Falcon scientist Peri discovers a secret facility training an off the books sibko for the scientist caste, she is ordered by Khan Marthe Pryde and saKhan Samantha Clees to go undercover within the facility. On starting this assignment, Peri briefly wonders what might happen to her should both Khans, who are leading an invasion of numerous Steel Viper worlds, fall in battle before her mission is completed. She quickly resolves to continue to uncover the facility's secrets and bring down the rogue Scientist General behind it... by herself, if necessary.
  • Uncle Pennybags: Chandrasekhar Kurita, a lesser known eccentric member of House Kurita, the ruling family of the Draconis Combine. He comes complete with an "Uncle" Honorific in his nickname, "Uncle Chandy". Whereas most men of the Kurita family were austere and militaristic, Chandrasekhar opted for a more hedonistic lifestyle. He still has a strong political and business acumen, as he is one of the wealthiest men in the Draconis Combine. Uncle Chandy's contribution to the Combine's well-being is acting as a sort of independent spymaster, with particular interest in opposing the Black Dragon Society (which is to his favorite "nephew" Theodore's benefit since Teddy is quite progressive).
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Kai Allard-Liao and Deirdre Lear. That would be until they got married. Or possibly earlier.
    • Their son, David Lear, was born shortly after they separated on Alyina, long before they got married. Kai was unaware he had a son for a while. So definitely earlier.
    • Also a very "star-crossed lovers" example in Victor Steiner-Davion and Omi Kurita. They fall in love with each other at just about first sight when meeting on Outreach, but he's the heir to the Federated Commonwealth and she's the daughter of the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine and they're both too conscientious to just shirk their responsibilities in the name of romance... They do get together in the end, although eventually an assassin sees to it that it doesn't last forever. One legacy of their romance remains: their son Kitsune Kurita.note 
  • Written by the Winners: At play a lot in- (and out of!) universe.
    • The Nostalgia Filter through which nearly all characters view the original Star League is not shared by the Periphery States, who were conquered by the League.
    • Nicholas Kerensky conducts a drastic rewriting of Clan history following the annihilation of Clan Wolverine, painting them as a radical threat to the Clans' existence - a bogeyman to unite the increasingly disparate Clans against - as opposed to a fast rising Clan that made one misstep too many. In a literal example of this trope, Nicholas both alters various passages of The Remembrance for the surviving Clans and personally destroys the sole Wolverine copy his warriors find.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Basically Omi Kurita's job description, as she's intended to be Keeper of the House Honor. She fits the role to perfection and then some.
  • Zerg Rush: On Wolcott, the Combine rush Smoke Jaguar mechs with dozens of Savannah Masters(five-ton hovercraft armed only with a single Medium Laser). Though they were only there to screen and distract from the heavier tanks coming in behind them, at least one mech does fall to them before the bigger units get involved.