Back when I was playing on my brother’s forum, and even before, I noticed the frustration in purely story based gaming. I’d done a lot of forum based roleplaying up until then and, nice as it is to come together and write a story with everyone’s input and ideas, that’s not entirely gaming. At MAHQ they had a fairly simple solution for this. A triad of gamemasters (they may actually call themselves the triad) work together to plot out where the story is going to go. This is facilitated by the fact that most of their games take place in established stories and times so the outcome is known and accepted by everyone, anyway. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t sometimes an issue with the stories going on inside the stories especially when players are pitted against each other. It becomes very much an eloquent came of cops and robbers “I got you/no you didn’t!”
Usually, it comes down to the gamemasters playing a crazy number of NPC’s on both sides to job for the other players and the players being moderately reasonable when they actually face off.
So, I was trying to come up with a game system that would have actual numbers and rolls involved with the gamemaster(s) make all the rolls and calculations without having to work too hard since the gamemaster would be making all the rolls with daily or weekly or monthly round resolutions, depending on how often the forum established.
I called it “Spine” because it was going to form the backbone of forums and looking over it now, it’s not too bad but I see a point where I obviously missed the mark. I established the idea of a static defense, a base defense that an opponent had to overcome to hit a target even if the target did not use an action to avoid being attacked. And, if the person declared a dodge or other defense maneuver the results applied to every attack that round so there weren’t rolls vs rolls vs rolls vs rolls. But the gamemaster would have to make this roll for each side in a conflict. Now that I think about it, I should extend the “Static” number further when it comes to the NPC side. Instead of having a bonus that would add to stats for NPC’s they would just have a Static Attack and a Static Defense. This number would then be compared to the results of the rolls of the player characters, thus saving some rolls and putting the fate of their characters truly in the players’ hands. Only when a PC was facing against a PC would they have to make a roll vs. a roll.
Anyway…here’s the rest of the Savage Mech idea I created. Maybe in a month or so I’ll start doling out the rules for Spine. Oh, and I should mention that a lot of the Mecha in the examples at the end were inspired by Aron’s This Empire Earth Campaign. If you’re not already visiting http://ideologyofmadness.spookyouthouse.com/ on a regular basis, you should be.
The above rules apply for “ordinary” Mecha that are massive robots that require a pilot to operate. While these are the most common type of Mecha, they are certainly not the only kind. Given the expense of creating one of these super machines of destruction, a number of alternate piloting forms have been attempted, not to mention the fact that in the depths of space and on the myriad of worlds that exist there are many creatures that are of a size, durability and strength to challenge a Mecha.
These self-controlled Mecha are created using the rules above with a few small changes.
First, self-controlled Mecha, because they lack pilots gain skills just as any other character would.
Second, they are able to take any edges that would be available to characters of their rank. They are still able to take the equipment listed above. These pieces of equipment and any upgrades taken for them may be taken in the place of an edge. Thus, anytime a self-controlled Mecha would normally take an edge it can take add a piece of equipment from above, instead.
Finally, self-controlled Mecha do not have secondary computers to help with aim and stabilization. All systems are integrated into whatever machinery, whether organic or electronic otherwise guides the Mecha. For this reason, they have only one Smarts score and cannot assign tasks to a separate computer.
Types of Self-Controlled Mecha
Sentient Robots: The same technology that gives human (or smaller) sized robots artificial intelligence can be installed inside a Mecha sized chassis. This technique has a number of advantages: Sentient Robots can be programmed with all the training they need, avoiding the necessity of sending a pilot to school. With the right inhibitors and hardwired commands, they can be easier to control than an organic pilot. Finally, they don’t require the “down time” that a living pilot requires, capable of operating almost continuously for days, weeks or even months at a time. Of course, some people just build giant sentient robots simply for the rush of doing so.
There are, of course, also disadvantages to creating a sentient robot rather than a piloted Mecha. Though they can be programmed with a great deal of knowledge and skill, they still need experience. While this is also true of organic pilots, they can easily move from one mecha to another if a better one becomes available. Theoretically, the computer from a sentient robot could be transplanted to a new body, but this is about as easy and reliable as brain surgery. Often the processing core has a great deal of difficulty in adjusting to a new body.
Then, of course, there is always the chance that the robot will turn on its masters. Sentience has a way of giving an entity a sometimes surprising amount of free will and even the best programming and inhibitors can be bypassed with enough time and effort. Designers hoping to get giant slave warriors when they create massive sentient robots often find themselves on the wrong side of a giant metal revolt.
Superborgs: Just as the same technology used on human sized robots can be used to create giant sentient robots the same technology used to install a human or other organic creature’s brain into a human sized artificial body can be used to install such a brain into a giant sized artificial body.
These creations, often called Superborgs combine many of the benefits of a living pilot with the advantages of sentient robot. Though they still need sleep, a Superborg does not require food or drink and does not require as much leisure time as most full bodied pilots. They are capable of adjusting to new mecha faster than the AI of a sentient robot is able to.
Unfortunately, they too come with their own drawbacks. First, despite extensive research, it is much harder to program an organic mind than it is an electronic one. Superborgs are far more likely to disobey or purposefully misinterpret orders than a giant robot is.
Additionally, it is quite common for even human sized cyborgs to begin to lose touch with their humanity. Generally, the more of their flesh that is replaced by machinery and electronics, the less cyborgs empathize with fully organic creatures. Their concept of pain and suffering shift and with it shifts their ability to understand the plight of fully organic individuals.
This effect is even more pronounced in Superborgs because their perspective is shifted so radically. Not only is there very little flesh and blood left for them to experience organic experiences, but also they are now massive creatures surrounded by very small, very fragile creatures, creatures that often feel that they have the right to give the Superborgs commands or that they otherwise have authority over them. This situation is somewhat akin to a human having to take commands from very clever mice.
Because of these factors, it is not uncommon for Superborgs to become sociopathic. They either develop god complexes, begin to enjoy hurting sentient fully organic creatures, or simply refuse to accept any authority that is not backed up by sufficient force to physically compel them.
For this reason, the bodies of Superborgs are often equipped with kill switches that can be tripped remotely, leaving a psychotic brain paralyzed in an unmoving body. Of course, most Superborgs know about these kill switches and find ways to disable or bypass them, even ones who have not gone rogue.
Superborgs have normal Smarts rather than animal smarts, but generally have to come in for repairs and cannot heal themselves.
Kaiju/Star Beasts/Bio-weapons: Space is an unbelievably vast place and possesses life in such myriad forms that the mortal mind boggles. While a great deal of it seems to have evolved on relatively the same scale, even in Earth’s distant past there have lived beasts that could rival a Mecha in size and physical power. There are many planets throughout the galaxy where this is still true. Occasionally, a creature will appear that seems to be unique or to come from a planet that has yet to be discovered. In any case, the origin of these creatures often goes unexplained for decades if not forever. Finally, with the awesome advances of genetic engineering, not a few corporations and militaries have developed programs to create living weapons that can go toe-to-toe with Mecha, either instead of or as a parallel branch of research to the giant machines.
Organic Mecha are built just like any other self-controlled mecha. They are assumed to have the self-repair upgrade automatically. The trade off for this is that their Smarts attribute is considered of the animal category unless they spend an upgrade to change it to standard Smarts.
Man vs. Mecha
As a general rule, only Mecha or creatures as large as Mecha fight these fearsome war machines. However, on occasion, the truly brave or truly desperate will try to bring down a Mecha.
When this happens a number of special rules come into play to represent the difference in the massive size, firepower and durability of a Mecha when compared to a much smaller, much squishier human sized being.
First, the thick metal or other materials that go into constructing the shells of Mecha are immensely durable and very few man portable munitions have a hope of damaging them. All Mecha are considered to have the Heavy Armor vehicle attribute. This is also true of living creatures designed using these Mecha creation rules. Their thick skins or armored plates are generally the natural equivalent of high tensile metals or ceramics.
Second, all Mecha are enormous machines. They use the giant size rules from the Savage Worlds rules. Although they vary dramatically in size, for simplicity sake, assume that all Mecha are size 10. Thus, they add 10 to any damage rolls they may make. Unlike the rules in Savage Worlds, this modifier applies to ranged weapons as well as melee attacks. For example, a Mecha with laser that does 2d6 damage decides to evaporate a pesky freedom fighter with a rocket launcher. Scoring a hit, the Mecha does 2d6 (the damage of the weapon) + 10 (the size modifier) damage. Unless the freedom fighter is wearing some very impressive armor, he is likely nothing more than an unpleasant memory.
Finally, the movement given for Mecha is based on their scale which is approximately six times the size of human sized creatures. A battle between a human sized creature and a Mecha sized creature should be waged on a map set for Mecha scale and the human sized creature should only be able to move one square per turn.
P-92 Maragon Squire
Squires are one of a number of Mecha in the known universe that come close to being “Mass Produced.” This term is somewhat misleading as, even with all the division of labor and streamlining of production that goes into creating them, only a handful are created each year. The Maragon family, well known for their various man-sized robot lines, decided on a durable but slow and simple design for their Mecha line. Squires are relatively tough, but their computers are surprisingly simple for coming from such a robot savvy company. This is generally the first thing a pilot has upgraded when they get the money and supplies to do it and a number of standard upgrade kits of various qualities and from various manufacturers are on the market. Despite their limitations, Squires are often the Mecha of choice for pilots and any number of custom machines began as a humble Squire.
Agility: D6 Smarts: D4(A) Strength: D8 Spirit: D4 Vigor: D8
Pace: 4 Toughness: 8 (2) Parry: (Varies with Pilot’s skill)
Upgrades: Increased Armor
Shoulder Mounted Laser (Increased Damage): 2d6 damage Range: 12”/24”/48”
Power Axe: Strength + d6 damage
X-19V is one of the last remaining members of a group of uplifted chimps specifically designed and trained as behind-the-lines commandoes. The squad was quite successful and something of a terror for their enemies. Eventually, their luck ran out and Slappy’s entire squad was wiped out during a bad op and he came very close to being killed. His commanders were able to rescue him before he died and were loath to waste the training and experience that he’d gained. Though most of his body could not be salvaged, his brain was still fully functional. Instead of wasting such talent on a standard full conversion, they placed his brain into a custom built mecha, making him a Superborg. Unfortunately, Slappy was tiring of being a tool for his commanders before his accident and he blames them for the death of his squad. Now that he’s got a giant, powerful new body, he’s seriously considering mutiny.
Agility: D8 Smarts: D6 Strength: D8 Spirit: D6 Vigor: D8
Pace: 6 Toughness: 6 Parry: 7
Skills: Fighting: D10, Notice: D6, Shooting: D8, Stealth: D8, Survival: D8, Swimming D4
Upgrades: Boomgun (Increased Damage, Scattershot, Short Ranged): 2d6 damage Range: 6”/12”/24”
Megaclub (Armor Piercing – 1, Unwieldy): Strength + D6 damage
Great God Kaiger
The Great God Kaiger is at the center of a Robotheist cult. A giant, sentient robot of unknown origin, anywhere the Great God Kaiger is discovered, buried under a desert, at the bottom of an ocean or encased in ice in a glacier, Robotheists gather to worship the Great God Kaiger and reactivate him. These cultists are certain that, when he is reactivated, the Great God Kaiger will lead a great mechanical crusade through the Universe, sweeping away all organics and setting up a new, all digital Utopia. Unfortunately, each time a cult manages to get the Great God Kaiger reactivated, some group of organics comes along and destroys him again. The fact that he has been discovered in several places only reassures his followers that he will return again and again until he succeeds as long as they remain faithful. They ignore any who point out that many of these Great God Kaigers appear at the same time throughout the universe.
Agility: D6 Smarts: D6 Strength: D8 Spirit: D8 Vigor: D10
Pace: 6 Toughness: 10 (2) Parry: 6
Skills: Fighting: D8 Intimidate: D8 Knowledge (Digital Religion): D8 Notice: D6 Shooting: D10
Upgrades: Increased Armor
Eye Beams (Increased Damage): 2d6 damage Range: 12”/24”/48”
A howling wind in the void, a terror that stalks the spaces between, the Zethyr is one of the great star beasts that preys upon those who dare the dangers of space. A massive beast with the fore section of a savage shark melded to the writhing tentacles of a fiendish squid, Zethyr is bigger than most star fighters and rivals the size of many troop transports. What makes him all the more terrifying is that he is easily able to survive entry into a planet’s atmosphere and will, occasionally, come to a world’s surface and devour every living creature he finds. Some say that Zethyr is intelligent while others believe he has only the cunning of a beast. In any case, most agree that there are subtle whispering voices surrounding the creature, voices that speak of madness and despair though just slightly too low to be truly understood.
Agility: D6 Smarts: D4(A) Strength: D8 Spirit: D6 Vigor: D8
Pace: 6 Toughness: 9 (2) Parry: 7
Skills: Fighting: D10, Intimidate: D6, Notice: D6, Shooting: D6, Survival: D4 Tracking: D4
Bite (Armor Piercing: 1 Increased Damage): Str + 3D6
Vortex Breath (Increased Damage): Damage: 2D6 Range: 12”/24”/48”
Duarn Iambic Pent-hammerer
Given the Duarn penchant for engineering, and their ability to create amazingly sturdy pieces of equipment, it is no surprise that they have built some impressive Mecha. The Iambic Pent-hammerer is one of the most impressive. Its offensive capabilities revolve entirely around the Mechanized Pent-Hammer that it carries and it is incredibly durable. It requires a ridiculous amount of punishment to take down an Iambic Pent-hammerer and as often as not, the Pent-hammerer wins a battle through attrition.
Agility: D6 Smarts: D6 Strength: D6 Spirit: D6 Vigor: D8
Pace: 5 Toughness: Parry:
Upgrades: Armor (+2)
Pent-hammer (Dual Weapon): Str+D6, 1D6 range: 12”/24”/48”