Sleepingferret, I get all that, I really do. But check out the really early campaign supplements, like MacKinnon's Raiders (not sure about the name, but a Davion House unit, not mercs) and original Black Widow Company, and there are mentions all over the place of even House mechwarriors (I think several in MacKinnon's Raiders) owning their own mechs. And damn near everyones mech had permanent
I always thought the relative scarcity of both mechs and mechwarriors meant that people didn't fight to bitter, last mech standing, end very often. It wasn't worth it for either side, the losers for obvious reasons, but even the eventual victors wouldn't want to risk any more than they absolutely had to.
Despite that, yes, there are new mechs being produced, so the powerful Houses (the big five for sure, but also their powerful supporters in rich families and corporations, I'm sure) would help out mechwarriors, but that threat of losing the mech that's been in your family for 200+ years was always very real. I also still maintain that far less mechwarriors would have easy access to a 'free' mech than mechwarriors who lose thiers; for most of them, there's always someone better.
On the tech, I do agree. It's why I was suggesting mid to late 3040s, just before the clans. However, since we're not actually going to lay out the maps and play a game of battletech at any point, and in fact I think most of the action will be stylised via our prose, we probably won't be affected all that much by the tech level. It'll be a consideration, certainly, but if you ever read any of the novels mechs weren't the giant lumbering tanks-with-legs behemoths the abstraction of the game (and all the videogames) made them out to be; they really are just massive extensions of the mechwarriors, even to the point of ducking and rolling.
All that said, I'm still okay with the post-3050 era, especially if, like the OP, we're far from the clans.
Seereous, not feeling the pirate thing. Pirate life would be pretty shitty, like the third world, but with even less water, and severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome don't appeal to me to RP. The other side isn't hugely appealing either, since it doesn't play to my submissive fantasies.
We could always look at what the OP proposed, but make it a merc unit instead of a House one?