I decided to do something many might consider mad.
I am writing an RPG. Now, I am no professional game designer. I am an enthusiast at best. I love games in all forms and have been gaming in some form or another since I was a child.
But I have never tried to write an entire system before. Well, technically that is untrue but that game was written in 10 hours and never touched again, and done back around 6-7 years ago. I dont suggest you buy it or even download it. Its….not even really an alpha in my opinion.
The reason I decided to write my own game is because frankly I can’t FIND a game in this particular theme or genre that fits what I am after. I have decided to write a Mech focused RPG. Yea, you heard me.
Big ol robots like these fine specimens!
My problem however has been one of theme and tone. Most mech games are focused first and foremost on the Mechs themselves, the pilots only being sort of paper cutouts with no real use. The second issue I have is that almost all mech games are either WAYYYY crunch heavy, with massive charts dictating everything from overheating to hit locations, or the opposite with an almost pure focus on narrative. Further, all mech games for the most part are all about mechs vs other mechs. Very rarely have I found Mechs vs say Giant Monsters, or mechs doing non combat stuff such as Salvage Operations and the like.
At first I was trying to come up with a way to create a mech “system” for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons but everything I could think of just felt like creating a second character that the first character would basically ride. It didn’t feel right to me.
So I started mulling this over in the back of my head. Finally, on this past Friday night the 23rd of February, I had an epiphany. I had this epiphany as I sat awake with my stomach hurting, tired and wanting to sleep (I suffer stomach issues from my diabetes). Suddenly my brain spit out a sort of system where you would could play as both a Pilot AND the Mech, with a sort of “second skin” feeling of the Mech itself, using a modular yet not too complex system for mech design which would allow the player to create the mech THEY wanted to use.
I present to you a brief overview of my goals with “Steel Strides & Mechanical Hearts: A Mechanized Tale RPG”. Thanks to Death by Mage and 42nd Alchemist, along with Zardoz and Barantor on twitter for the name. Zardoz and Barantor came up with an awesome name each (Steel Stride from Barantor, and Mechanical Hearts from Zardoz), then 42nd Alchemist came up with a combination, and then finally Death by Mage made it bloody perfect to me.
I am going to share with you the overall “concept” that I am keeping in mind as I write this rules lite RPG:
Overall concept: Players form a team of Mech pilots who work as either mercs or for some government / agency. They do jobs relating to hunting giant monsters, salvage ops, para military ops, ect. They can take missions that require either mech usage or on foot usage. I wanted to have a simplistic system where there was one set of “stats” that players had to keep track of, while also allowing freeform customization of both the pilots and mechs, with a definite advancement option. I also happen to like dice pools a lot so I went with that for the rolling mechanics.
Essentially I am using a system similar to that of the World of Darkness / Storyteller setup, where players have Ratings, and then Skills. Players will have both a Physical Rating, a Mental Rating, and their Pilot Rating. Then there are currently 5 skills under both Physical and Mental that control everything the player does. Resolution is going to work by rolling a number of dice equal to the Rating (Physical or Mental) + Skill. So if you have a Physical rating of 2, and a close combat skill of 1, you would roll 3 dice. I chose to go with d8’s because I feel they are underused, and a success right now is going to be on a 6+. More successes = better results or more damage, that sort of thing.
Mechs will work in a similar way but with a small addition. When in a mech, rolling is the Pilot Rank, plus the Mechs overall Rating, plus the Skill. Mech Rating will be dictated by an average of all the parts Ratings. This allows players to customize their mechs but still use their pilots skills. Right now I got 5 “parts” to each mech. You got a head, torso, two arms, and a set of legs. Parts will be swappable, requiring a different Pilot Rank to purchase, showing that a more experienced Pilot is able to handle more complex and advanced parts. I also aim to have things like repair costs and the like but a lot of it is going to be very basic and hopefully easy to understand. My goal here is some crunch, some rules, but not enough to really bog people down.
Additionally, I am going to do my best to keep it setting neutral. I intend to write a small setting in the back to give people a starting point as well as mission suggestions, a bestiary / npc collection, and plenty of gear for both the Pilots on foot as well as the Mechs. I also want to write it to support a “Mission of the Week” style of gameplay, but with the ability to form a more long running campaign. Of course, much of that is up to the GM but I want to have some tools to support it and suggestions.
I have no idea what I am doing, but it should be fun. What I have written thus far is the literal bare bones of the system, the resolution for combat mechanics, and how advancement works. Its very very rough and I don’t want to really share it but a few folks have seen it and seem to like what I have so far.
Lets see if I can keep it up!