May 5, 2013

Mechanical Make-Up IV

Continuing to look at the various Mecha abilities, we finish up with some of the more crucial and distinctive ones. Plus Modules, I guess.


Probably the most important ones of the bunch. Archetypes are some of, if not the, strongest abilities available and you can only have two of them. They're all pretty effective, in terms of both representing types of giant robots and improving PC performance.

As a designer, my favorite is Limiter Release, because it plays differently depending on the Chassis type that you use.The Eagle class has plenty of Accuracy but is lacking in Penetration, so it benefits from the occasional activation. Destroyers have a good enough buffer of Threshold to maximize their already high Penetration to devastating results, aiming for quick victories. The Shield chassis, meanwhile, is the only that can afford to burn through their own health with every hit.

Custom Blueprints and Integrated Weapons are the main reason there's an opportunity cost attached to Archetypes now. The former moreso than the latter, because it is just oh so very efficient and would be an instant pick for nearly everyone.

I already compared between Regenerative and Tactical UI for supportive purposes last time, while talking about Aid Another and Support Upgrades, so the only one that remains worth calling out now is Berserker. The 10 UP Weapon gained from Berserker is, perhaps unintuitively, at its most useful as a Melee weapon in the hands of a sniper that has been pushed to the limit. I'm not sure how to feel about that, but it is what it is, and the extra 5 points can make any kind of finisher rather fearsome, specially with Technique or One-Shot on top


Features are one of those things it took me way too long to come up with, yet they sound so obvious in retrospect. They're all pretty open-and-shut in that you either want them, or you don't, and odds are you will only want them as part of Frames or Transformations.

Base Units benefit a lot from the streamlining of Base Terrain, making them an asset rather than a liability that maybe you will use sometimes. Though only now do I notice that nothing stops you from using your Base Unit as a mobile platform (from which you can attack and stuff) after you have Docked into it.

This isn't bad, because it makes sense from a flavor standpoint and has its own downsides mechanically (such as not being able to cover your mothership) but I should make it explicit. And maybe streamline it further by removing the Docking Action entirely and just having the effect take place as long as you are sharing a Zone with your carrier.

I like Power Suit the most, though, even if it is a tad... Wordy. Riders and their ilk are perfectly playable using the regular Maiming rules, but this is a nice option to have around if you would like something that makes more sense or hate losing use of your Upgrades and Weapons.

Attribute Modules

Very, very useful and cost-efficient. Great with Hidden Power or an Expansion Pack, making it impossible for foes to disable them. If you've ever wondered why there aren't Threshold or Energy Modules, the answer is that they don't exist because Maiming them makes a complete and utter mess of things. Not so much for recalculating your Energy (which is fiddly an inelegant even then) but in that figuring out your new maximum and current Threshold values post losing a limb would have been hilarious. And by hilarious I mean terrible.

Alternate Forms

And so we hit the first of the Really Wordy Upgrade Categories. They play out fine (if you don't mind a really busy character sheet, or using more than one) but I hate that they need all these words written in semi-legalese so that they work properly without being super exploitable or entirely useless.

The one thing worth pointing out that the book doesn't address is that you can, if you build properly, use Transformation to net yourself a free 5 UP. This is kind of an exploit, but not really. Since you can only transform during your Turn, you can't really take advantage of that with Upgrades and must keep it to Weapons. Most of the Weapons you would want to do this with (the big finishers) are One-Shots or Techniques, which you cannot take more than one of anyway. And when it comes down to energy-free, standard use Weapons you shouldn't need more than one of those - perhaps two.

These free '5 UP' are kind of really conditional in how they can be used, so while I do recognize that I could fix that up, the ability text is already bloated enough and the 'exploit' limits your character to spending 15 UP on utility weapons anyway, so it isn't a big deal.

Other than that, Frames are a personal favorite of mine for really cheap ways to make versatile characters that play differently from time to time.

Sub Units

And now we come to The Upgrade Line That Might As Well Have Been Archetypes. Nearly every type of Mecha could use any of these after they've been upgraded a bit to round them out. I am okay with this, because it makes sense in flavor terms: How often do main characters get those after, or as part of, their mid-season upgrades after all? Plus, making them Archetypes would make it impossible to combine them into a single super Sidekick, and it would also lock you out of... Well, every other Archetype.

It is tempting to do so, though. Maybe if I also increase the limit of 2 Archetypes to 3.Sidekicks would need a small buff too.

Sidekick is potentially the best of the bunch, but they're easy to blow up and impossible to repair mid-combat so they can be countered without too much trouble. Expansion Pack is essentially a fifth Layer of Threshold with its own Area, keeping your toys safe and sound and purging itself to make instances of massive Damage more manageable.

And Assistant is the one that stands out over the rest here. Slow and unreliable, but ever-present and persistent to the point that the luck-based element of its utility should make it worth its UP cost in gold. It has come a long way from the days when it was a bonus couple of Genre Powers with the potential to sometimes let you use one of them for free.

Now the extra versatility in Genre Powers is more of an afterthought when compared to its main use. But it is a dangerous afterthought. Most Packages only have one or two Powers that you really want to have. Assistant removes the strategic value of carefully choosing your two Packages by letting you make up for it later, and gives you an awesome bonus ability to boot!

Yeah, that free Power has got to go. It kind of hurts the fact that the ability is supposed to represent a whole extra pilot, but Assistant is already so good that I think its users will manage.


Three Upgrades, two columns, and a whole page of text. We've hit peak rules density here folks. I wish there was an easier way to format this without spreading the rules between several pages and through the use of keywords. It is not pretty to look at, but I'd rather have function over form and keeping it all together is less annoying in the long term. Still bugs me, but oh well.

So! Combinations are powerful stuff. They need some forethought to implement, for obvious reasons, and there's already a paragraph in the book handling that. I really don't have much else to say, other than I really dig how Unison Combiners play very differently than God Combiners, and nearly everything else in the game really. It gets the feeling of "Our hearts together are as one" across pretty well, I think.


Originally 1 UP was more or less the equivalent of what is now 10 UP, you would only earn one UP per Arc, and everything would cost 1 UP as well. The need to have small bits of mechanical growth here and there made me add weaker abilities here and there, and change the 'per Arc' recommended XP gains from 1 UP to 10 to 15 (the last one was after taking Enhancements into question).

I bring this up because every time I look at some of these, mostly Alternate Forms, I think "Man, this would be so much more readable if it just said that you can switch between one Upgrade and another" and the non-Unison Combinations likewise could just share maybe one or two Upgrades/Weapons after docking, instead of the rules text puzzle we've got.

On the other hand, I think I can count on one hand how many games make shapeshifting simpler than GGG does (without making it ridiculously broken or terribly sucky) and I've got a few fingers to spare. Let alone combining PC Mecha together. As of this writing, I'm convinced that does not even exist yet, though FATE Core will likely prove me wrong soon.

I might experiment with boiling things down to reduce the base 30 UP to 3 or perhaps 5/6 in the future, but it would change the dynamics of character growth considerably (Dragging down the usefulness of Mid-Scene Upgrade with it) and would essentially require a full rewrite of the rules so it is not likely to happen, but maybe I can do a quick conversion (sacrificing some of the cost 3 and 7 stuff or modifying it slightly) for an alternate streamlined ruleset.


  1. Glad some of my archetype comments were apparently put to use.

    Indeed, there's nothing wrong with a little bit of system mastery. Obviously I don't mean to take it as far as ivory tower design, but just a bit of a boon, nice but not quite enough to give an insurmoutnable advantage, gives a good sense of depth and accomplishment to those that bother.

    I do find myself constantly annoyed at the one one-shot limit, personally. so many things I'd like to do or take would involve having a second. A single Bombardment per unit certainly makes sense, but I'd love to be able to take Bombardment and Nega-G's or Interference Cloud. Large number of specific missiles are One-Shot [3/6], two are Slow, and only one, the AAs, are clean of one-keyword-per-mech.

    If I could recommend on that front, I'd make Interference Cloud into a Technique. Far more likely the enemy adapts to current frequencies, concentrations or whatever it is the weapon's doing, burning through the jamming, rather than your base ship outright running out of warheads.

    Does lowering points while rounding values really simplify or streamline the ruleset? If 30 is now 5, things that were worth 4 would now cost... one? but they're not worth one. they're worth 0.666. Unless their actual value was improved, changing the costs has done little more than cement "good" and "bad" options further. Doing this might require a lot of rewriting and reviewing of system values.

    I fully agree with removing the extra Genre power from the assistant. The Assistant system is worth a solid... well maybe nine points with that gone; but still a good, solid option. But I'll be honest here, I still have trouble wrapping my head around the combinations and their relative value/worth around each-other. Somehow my brain just seems to slide off of that page.

  2. The One-Shot/Technique/Slow limitation was made with the consideration in mind that either having multiples of these would be too much to handle, or that tossing them around constantly (without spending a Resource like Genre) would.

    More specifically regarding Interference Cloud, it needs to remain a One-Shot because it is a tremendous swing when you land it on a group of enemies, to the point that repeated use will make you immune to Grunts who have no Genre to get around it. The main draw of the Weapon is not in its power but in its utility, so Technique would not really be a drawback since the jamming effect always applies.

    I am however thinking of keeping the Nega-G Rounds drawbackless so that they are a competitive option with Exhaustion.

    The rounding of values keeps down the word count and simplifies a lot of math. It would also make it easier to keep all the options balanced in power next to each other, since there is no longer a need for cheap options in the rules.

    The catch is that, yes, it requires rewriting a lot of mechanics. The other problem is that it takes away a lot from the customization aspect, since there wouldn't be any more cheap options. Even an utility option like Support Fire would say, mean grabbing one less Archetype rather than one less Weapon.

    And yes, Combinations are an... exotic animal, let's say. As usual, thanks for the feedback.


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