Monday, November 25, 2013

Mecha In Fate Core

One of the things in my bucket list is to do a Mekton-style mecha build treatment for Fate Core. I realize we already have build systems in settings like Camelot Trigger and Apotheosis Drive Exodus, but I have some slightly different ideas in mind than how they've handled mecha (which are, by the way, great) mostly inspired by changes I've want to make to Mekton or the Silhouette Vehicle Construction System. While I've only got a few prototype ideas, I want to put them out there so they can germinate.

What Are Mecha?
For my rather generic purposes, "mecha" are defined as any vehicle that's intended to act as an extension of the pilot.  I know this is different than the Japanese definition of mecha. Real life examples include excavators, forklifts, cranes, combat vehicles like tanks and aircraft, etc. They have nonstandard control schemes and systems or structures that given them more versatility than just getting from Point A to Point B. They can manipulate things, project force, etc.

The Pilot
The divide between Mecha Piloting and just Piloting is how well you can utilize the mecha as an extension of your own body. Both Camelot Trigger and Apotheosis Drive X handle this fairly well. I particularly like the use of the pilot's stress track but the mecha has its own consequences.

The Mecha
There tends to be a divide between representations of mecha that falls either on the mecha is only an extension of the pilot or the mecha is completely separate. I want my mecha to be extensions, but also stand on their own (one idea I had was a double-sided character sheet - one for the pilot and one for the mecha). Mecha have their own things that they are poor or good at independent of the pilot, and there are some things that the pilot can excel at regardless of the mecha design. Finding the sweet spot of how the two relate would be one of my primary goals.

The way I see it, there are a number of basic characteristics that mecha typically have. These are:
  • Size/tonnage/classification
  • Power/Energy
  • Offensive capability
  • Defensive capability (whether it's through armor, active systems, maneuverability, etc)
  • Sensory capability
  • Movement
  • Special abilities and systems
Out of those, size or classification sounds like how big of a container you have to put things in. I personally like classification with size or tonnage ranges. It would serve as an indicator for how many gizmos the mecha can have, possibly with the designer having a pool of "mecha refresh" that is used to spend on the frame, which in turn gives a base level of slots. The idea of slots and internal/external systems is nice in Camelot Trigger, but I don't particularly care for the skill bonuses for my purposes. I like the idea of the mecha using the pilot's stress track, but the mecha having its own consequences

Power/Energy looks a lot like a stress track, but it might be useful as a skill ala Endurance. It's an expendable resource, and one that I've found lacking in a lot of games. Mekton and Silhouette assume that, at the minimum, a vehicle has enough power to do what it was designed to do (barring some modifiers that can be added on to indicate over or under powered designs). Yet they also take into consideration operational range as a separate measure. That makes a lot of sense. But I know that I want to see something where the mecha can overextend itself on an exchange-level basis, but without tracking energy costs for every single little thing it does. So the Power concept is something that I definitely want to examine further as a potential mechanic.

Offense, defense, and sensory capability are things that mecha do so they are probably best represented by skills. This is where I'm likely to split with existing systems like in Camelot Trigger- while the pilot's skill in certain areas is used, the mecha has its own things that it is good at or bad at. I'm not 100% sure yet how I'd handle it, because I don't want to lose the idea that the mecha is and extension of the pilot yet still distinct. It would wind up being the core of the pilot/mecha interaction.

Specific abilities and systems would be Extras, most likely modeled after stunts, that would use slots very similar to Camelot Trigger. I still might come up with a simplified classification system for the stunts that would allow for them to fall into general modifiers and abilities.

There's a whole of lot of details I need to hammer out, but that's at least the foundation of how I would like to tackle mecha in Fate Core. My next step is actually going to be finding a setting to tie it into...