Tuesday, March 23, 2021

MSV - Dice in The Pocket

I created and developed my homebrew Anime/Manga Mecha game, Mecha System Variant, for the purpose of running various IP based games - Macross, Gundam, and even Japanese TRPG based settings like Wares Blade. The goal was to have a system that would accurately emulate the feel of these well established Mecha series where both the players and the GM (myself) knew, generally speaking, what the robots and their pilots should be capable of.

While this has worked extremely well for each outing I've run so far, it means that I've ignored a crucial element of Mecha Anime gaming. I don't have a Mecha Construction System. I never designed rules for players to create their own Mecha as we were generally using our favorites from whatever franchise we were playing in.

Heheh. My bad.

All joking aside, this is indeed a problem.

I'll be honest, I feel pretty foolish that it never even occurred to me to create a system for players to create original robots. I mean, what is this Marvel Heroic? 

Now that I want to make this into a game others beyond myself and my groups can download and use, I need to flesh out the system in ways I never really intended. Originally, I made only what I needed and wrote it all down in a way that worked for me, no more no less.

What you're going to see over the course of a few upcoming posts is a man reverse engineering a game he himself created. Yeah, kind of nuts but it's the only way I can think of to make this work. 

To begin, let me lay out the basic structure of the game as well as the why of that structure. 

I'll be honest and upfront with you, what I had determined to be a finished game before the month started is looking more and more like a work in progress. Part of the reason this post - this whole month - has taken so long to put together is that I continue to make changes to the details of how this game functions on an almost daily basis. *Sigh*

The main ideas are thus:

When performing actions with their Mecha, a Mecha Pilot adds their stat and skill to the connected capacity of their Giant Robot. At present, you roll 2D6 and try to get under that number. That is not how it originally worked. Originally, you rolled a 1D10 and added the the combined Pilot Stat, Pilot Skill, Mech Stat and tried to beat a target number or an opposed roll. Unfortunately, that seems to close to Mekton for me. Another option I am toying with is that the combined total is the number of 6 sided dice you roll and attempt to get 'successes', I style of game design I have been really enamored with these past few years.

Mecha are structurally similar to Characters. 

Computer Control is Brains
Hydraulics is Brawn
Maneuverability & Handling is Agility
Power Systems is Cool...Sort of. 
Sensors is Perception 

While some of this is self explanatory, others need a little clarification. Brawn is Physical Strength, used to fight hand-to-hand, push open doors, or lift things. Cool for a Character is your default Social Skill and I am likely to switch up that term for something else before the game is complete. For Mecha, its replaced by Power Systems and governs Special Moves or Effects that don't easily fall into any of the other categories. Basically, when your Mecha needs to do something 'Cool' you tap Power Systems.

The other key element is, as noted in an earlier post, there are no hit points or anything quite like that. Instead, under Software and Hardware (as well as Weapons) you list the various components that make up your Mecha; Software includes Targeting System, Database, or Energy Scanner, while Hardware are physical parts like Right Arm, Head, and Jetpack. 

When you successfully hit an opponent or are hit by them, weapons do 'Rolls of Damage'. Let's say a Laser Rifle does 3 Rolls. Each Software and Hardware component is numbered and you roll 2D6 (or originally 1D10) for each Damage roll. An attack might hit your Left Arm, Left Leg, Sensors. Each hit reduces the function of that component, dropping it's dice/effectiveness. You can opt to spend a Drama Point (possibly a Reactor Point) to say, "I land all three hits on the Sensors" or "the Left Arm". This effectively disables that part until repairs can be enacted.

If  your Mech's Arm is holding a Beam Sabre and that Arm is disabled, you can't use that Beam Sabre. If your Sensors are down you can't see, flying blind and suffering a major penalty. If the region is randomly struck again after being disabled, it is destroyed - the arm is blown off and goes hurtling through space or lands as a heap of burning wreckage. 

As I write this I realize I am rethinking parts of the game more and more. Part of the reason for this is I am currently running a game with a similar system to the 1D10 variant that feels, well, a bit mechanically tedious. Rolls of the dice aren't particularly engaging or exciting for some reason and I need to figure out why or how I can get them to feel more interesting. 

As you can probably tell, I am struggling a little this month, even though I am totally jazzed about this idea. I have a number of strong concepts for games, including this one, bouncing around in my brain but my anxiousness over real life stuff and frustration over some of the other games I'm running is making it difficult to get this done. 

As is often the case with things I truly love, want to do, and believe, I am too dumb to give up. 

The quest to complete MSV and discuss Anime/Manga Gaming continues...

Barking Alien


  1. Ok, I am possibly going to open up a box of worms. What about armor? Does the size and speed of a mech mean anything? Some weapons do more damage than others. Or all of these just story points?

  2. Obviously these are all things I will address in the games rules but a 'Quickstart' version would explain that:

    Armor reduces the number of Damage Rolls made on an Attack. My Mech's Armor is 2, it is hit by a 3 Roll Weapon, and it takes 1 Roll of Damage. 3 Damage Rolls - 2 Armor = 1 Damage Roll.

    If any Component is Disabled (Hit three times), the Mecha's Armor is reduced by 1.

    Size doesn't matter in the sense that Size itself is some not some kind of power or defense. The RX-78 Gundam is much smaller than the Zeong but destroys it. It is a common trope of Anime that a 'Standard' size hero almost always prevails against a much bigger enemy.

    If the GM decides the larger Mech has more Armor, more Weapons, and Extra Components (Hardware, Software, or both) than it would be more powerful. The Size alone is not a guarantee.

    Speed is a bit different. Some Mecha are faster than others and will add a bonus to attempts to avoid an Attack and possibly make one in some situations. The main thing Speed does is let you get to the action or away from it before opponents can react.

    Yes, some weapons are 2 Roll Weapons, some are 3, 4, or even 5 Roll Weapons. Often though, there is a story element attached to Missiles, Buster Cannons, and Aura-Beams. It may take a scene to charge them to full power. They may only be able to fire them after a Philosophical Debate with an ally or an enemy. Using the weapon may cause the PC guilt until they resolve their feelings over the battle.

  3. Ah, I get it. Thanks for the explanation!