Bolt-on mecha (and random tables)

I like mecha. I like mecha a lot, from personal power armours to towering colossi, sci-fi to fantasy and everything in between; Gundam to Escaflowne, Tekkaman to Xenogears. So of course I get the itch to add mecha to my games, settings and most everything else.

That itch meandered its way back and forth across my hindbrain and eventually stumbled over a small passage I wrote for my still-unfinished spacehack concerning fantasy spaceships and fighting them — and so here we are, because I also don’t feel like bolting a massive new system onto anything to get my death machines going, lol.

Back-of-napkin Mecha Rules

To add mecha to an existing rpg, rules-wise (how you add them into a setting/story is entirely up to you and well~ outside the scope of this little project, lol), try this:

  • Mecha use the exact same sort of stats as other potential antagonists.  So, monster statblocks with Hit Dice in many many games, the antagonist rankings in my pocketrpg, shorthand NPC statblocks from Shadowrun, etc etc.  Reskin as desired.  

What’s the notable difference?  The following:

  • Mecha deal damage to other mecha (or mecha-equivalents) normally.
    • They will obliterate a squishy target such as your average adventurer outright; a person is not surviving getting even broadsided by the backwash of a beam sabre. Or being stepped on. Depending on the situation a save or test to get the hell out of the way might be allowable though.
  • Under most circumstances, the average living body with typical weaponry is not going to damage a mecha.

But!  All is not lost, because adventurers gotta adventure and also Sabin Figaro and Master Asia exist.  So to the above, if desired, add the concept of [antimech] — renamed appropriately for setting and campaign, if it has a name at all — which is a fancy way of saying “deals normal damage to mecha targets”.

Some ways to make antimech abilities available:

  • Make it an intrinsic trait of some character (types); say, all Fighters can damage mecha, for example
  • Make it an acquirable trait, whether replacing an existing ability or as a purchaseable trait in games that use those
  • Some spells, psychic abilities, or magic/tech/special items may have the ability to damage mecha
  • You could also assign broad damage types as antimech; biomecha might be vulnerable to flames or to poison or necromantic energies, for example.

Please note that being able to damage a mecha doesn’t mean it won’t still turn Ixion Iron-Thewed into a bloody smear if he gets stepped on by it.  Gauge risk and rewards accordingly, lol.  Some special equipment/magic/etc might mitigate some or all damage from mecha attacks, though!

Some further considerations and ruminations:

  • Hit Dice/challenge tiers/etc correspond to a given mecha unit’s capabilities but not necessarily its size, any more than they do in “mundane” encounters.  That relatively shrimpy machine might be a top of the line prototype bristling with pain-dealing weapons and unusual systems!
    • “Power Armour”: Similarly, if you want a power armour-like unit that is basically a fancy suit for a person but conceivably can be damaged by a person, just go the [antimech] route — the machine can be damaged by routine sources, but its own attacks damage mecha (and may or may not instant-splatter other targets, depending on the suit’s power).
  • A mecha isn’t a perfectly impenetrable barrier just because it’s a death machine.  If something can still specifically target the pilot — mindprobes, curses, and so on — it’s going to still work.
  • Repair rates are largely going to be up to individual tables as well as the base system being used; maybe something along the lines of using base “healing” rules, doubled if swarmed by techs or using hyper-mending abilities of some sort, halved if no one familiar with maintenance is available or if supplies are poor, etc.  Healing magic isn’t going to work (unless the mecha is biological, perhaps ~).
  • It’s best to establish a baseline for mecha in a setting, especially if making specific mecha traits purchaseable or assignable to a unit.  Do typical machines have open cockpits/are they ridden, like FFVI Magitek Armours, or enclosed cockpits, like a Gundam?  Is flying standard or is it a special feature?  How about aquatic capabilities, or sealed cockpits/internal environments?
    • If average mecha have open cockpits, then an enclosed one (with its added protection) is worth making a special feature to acquire, especially if its capable of being a sealed environment.  Flight is a big thing, if mecha are normally ground-based.  And so on and so forth.
    • Of course an absolute free-for-all is also on the table if you want it ~
  • Themes are also good.  Are mecha in your world entirely mechanical?  Are they metal, or crystal, or biological?  Plant or meat?  Solidified light?  Solid thought?  Animated bone?  Uncountable porcelain petals held together by blood ritual channeled through amber focus-studs?  Does it vary by culture?

And now random tables, because random tables

Need some quick inspiration to help reskin that statblock or conjure up a new one? Here’s some ideas to get the ol’ creative mecha juices no, not Protoculture flowing —

Composition IComposition IIAesthetics IAesthetics II
01. Common metal01. Exotic alloy01. Sleek01. Asymmetrical
02. Bone02. Ivory02. Ponderous02. Jagged
03. Ceramic03. Stone03. Attenuated03. Angular
04. Chitin04. Shell04. Bulky04. Bulbous
05. Crystal05. Soulstuff05. Crude05. Corded
06. Mundane wood06. Plasm06. Delicate06. Chiseled
07. Precious metal07. Glass07. Jury-rigged07. Squamous
08. Living flesh08. Dead flesh08. Militaristic08. Organic
09. Hard light09. Petals09. Minimalist09. Bladed
10. Concrete10. Solid thought10. Baroque10. Halo’d
11. Pearl11. Plasteel11. Predatory11. Inscribed
12. Marble 12. Rare wood12. Mass-produced12. Banner’d
mix and match for best and most hilarious results; some more suitable for fantasy than others, lol.
using a roll on both Aesthetics tables gives nice shorthand descriptions.
FormPower SourceControlsWake it up with …
01. Humanoid01. Biojelly01. Reins & spurs01. Bond-brand
02. Piscine02. Fighting Spirit02. Ship’s wheel02. Skinprint
03. Bipedal walker03. Lightning shards03. Paired joysticks03. Circuit medallion
04. Quadruped04. Harvested souls04. Steering yoke04. Soul scanner
05. Avian05. Reactor core05. Thoughtgem05. Eye reader
06. Centaurine06. Radiant prism06. Empathetic skinsuit06. Blood sampling
07. Serpentine 07. Manastones07. Pulse-point pearls07. Sung command
08. Arthropod08. Refined fuels08. Enclosing shell08. Tuned chime
09. Amorphous09. Energy cells09. Body harness09. Answered riddle
10. Cephalopod10. Solar generator10. Gradient keyboard10. Inscribed code
11. Vehicular11. Steamworks11. Thinking cap11. Button sequence
12. Hybrid (roll twice)12. Heartjewel12. Uplink jack(s)12. Inserted prism
yes, yes, “vehicular”, because Dairugger XV exists damnit and also the Guntank is hilarious
Features IFeatures IIWeapons AWeapons B
01. Extra armour01. Long-distance flight01. Beam02. Shot
02. Generates nutrition02. Amphibious02. Razor02. Pulser
03. Life-supporting cockpit03. Barrier-generator03. Monoline 03. Blade
04. Weapon supercharger04. Network transmission node04. Banishing04. Wing
05. Magic channeler05. Cockpit sub-mecha05. Frost (Cryonic)05. Sabre
06. Psychic channeler06. Linked drone(s)06. Flame (Pyretic)06. Fang
07. Self-regeneration07. Weapon absorption07. Souleating07. Bolter
08. Flight08. Damage immunity08. Plasma08. Whip
09. Bits/dragoons/weapon drones09. Burrower09. Repeating09. Cannon
10. Transformation10. Soul-storage of pilot10. Corrosive10. Claw
11. Mana/psychic/comms jammer11. Cloaked11. Thunder11. Disrupter
12. Unusual sensor suite12. Holographic projector12. Hardlight12. Hammer
do please use both Weapons tables simultaneously! “Thunder Pulser”, anyone?

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