Quickstart Update

•July 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So, the quickstart is progessing well.  I held the first draft in my hands last night.  I am excited.  Eventhough Clint is writing most of the quickstart, some of the text came from the base text of Mecha so I feel a sense of have created part of itMaybe that’s just my ego talking.

We also have an artist busy illustrating the Quickstart with art that should find its way into the actual game, so that’s even more exciting.  Once that starts to filter in, I’ll post some of it here so you can see what excitement lies within.

As far as the writing goes, Quickstarts are odd creatures.  They’re more than just adventures with pregens.  The Quickstart Clint is writing is incredibly tightly focused on one small encounter.  Even the rules are pared down so that only what you absolutely need to play a few episodes is presented with footnotes saying that this section or that section has more detail in the real version.

Not that I’m unhappy at all.  I think Clint managed to capture how video games do playable demoes where you are thrown into one mission or one level with characters that have leveled.  That way you get to do cool stuff and see how the game works, but once you buy the real deal, you have to start at Level 1, just like everyone else.

All in all, I think it’s going to be successful and I know it shows off what Mecha is good at.  I can hardly wait.


Mecha – A Primer

•July 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Okay, so I’m not really sure I’ve even talked much about what Mecha is.  Well, it’s time to change all of that.

So, what is Mecha?

Mecha is the game of anime-style Mecha combat and character development.   That might not sound like much and it’s not very salesy, but to me that definition says a whole bunch.  Let me break it down what it means.

Mecha is the game of anime-style Mecha combat and character development.

There are really three important pieces: “anime-style”, “Mecha combat”, and “character development”

Mecha has Anime Style

I think it’s important to point out that Mecha is completely unapologetically rooted in anime.  In fact, the seeds of this game were planted years ago the first time I ever saw Robotech and knew it was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

If you have not seen mecha anime before, it’s covers a wide range of different stories, the likes of which will be explored in other posts.  However, what “anime style” means in Mecha is:

  1. Mecha plays loose with physics.  Not only do character walk around in giant robots, but often times those robots teleport, do jump flips, and dodge incoming missiles.
  2. Mecha pilots are better than average.  No matter how inexperienced, mecha pilots are always exceptional ly talented.  The stars of the show are always in the top 1% of all pilots ever in the history of mecha-dom.  Because of this, pilots in Mecha aren’t bad at anything.  They may not be as good as others, but they’re not bad.
  3. Mecha have their place, but that place is usually window dressing.  The interesting part about mecha anime is that while a whole genre has built up around them, mecha anime is really about the men and women who pilot them and the world they try to affect.  To address this, Mecha has a tight scene structure which gives pilots the spotlight and then gives their mecha the spotlight.

Mecha has Mecha Combat

Mecha are machines of war.  Make no mistake about it.  Sure, some of them might mine or log or build, but they are tools of war and become dervishes of death with nothing more than a missile rack and an autocannon or two.

Because mecha anime has combat, Mecha has combat.  Combat that has been tested and reworked for over two years until it is as fast paced and action packed as mecha anime is. 

Over the course of those two years, everything that was not found in the mecha anime genre was summarily removed from the combat system.  What remained was a system that still allows for tactical flexibility without a lot of excess baggage (like say ammunition tracking).  Again, this is mecha anime.  Reality is optional!

Mecha has Character Development 

When I started designing Mecha, what I wanted more than anything else was a game that mirrored the story arcs found in mecha anime.  Anime characters of all types are complex and change and grow over the course of a season.  I wanted characters in Mecha to grow and change and I have accomplished this through pilot Goals and Traits, which define what the pilot wants and who the pilot is.

One of my favorite mechanics in the game involves Traits.  Mecha have these things called Configurations, which allow them to do cool things on the battlefield like attack twice, turn invisible, etc.  However, when the player chooses a Configuraiton for her mecha, she then has to pick one of two Traits for her pilot.  For instance, if you take the Configuration Boomer (attack every target in a sector), you have to choose between Loud and Quiet as Traits. 

In other words, you can pick a Trait the resembles the Configuation (Loud) or it’s antithesis (Quiet.)   In the end, mecha and pilot affect each other far more than in most mecha games.

More Mecha To Come

So, like I said, this has just been a primer.  Over the next several weeks until the game is published, I’ll be continuing to write about the game.  I’ll go into greater detail about everything here, go into some examples how play works, and talk about the three settings that are going to be published with Mecha as well as some ideas for upcoming games.

Hope to see you back.

Announcing the Mecha Quickstart

•July 7, 2009 • 3 Comments

I am doing this to make it official: there will be a Quickstart of Mecha by GenCon.  Or else my name’s not Chris Perrin.  I’ve been playing around with the game for long enough, it’s time for everyone to get a look at it.  Well, everyone who stops by the booth and requests a copy.  Or asks me for one.

Now, you may ask, what’s a Quickstart?  Is it an ashcan?

Good question.  No.  I tend to use the Ashcan Front’s definition of an ashcan as being both 90% done and facing a design challenge I cannot solve without help.  Mecha is somewhere in the high 98% done (basically just editing and a bit more setting fluff) and it will be publishable.

The Quickstart will basically be like the Lite edition of an iPhone app or like what Wizards did with their intro 4th Ed adventure.  If you get a copy of the Quickstart, you will have everything you need to play Mecha in the Steel Gunner SRS (Setting Reference Schematic aka setting.)  You will have four pregens, an adventure, and a quick overview of the scene and combat rules.  So, you will have absolutely everything you need to enjoy Mecha and play any campaign you want except Chaacter Generation (sorry, can’t give it all away yet!)

So, if you’re going to GenCon, I’ll be announcing where you can pick up your copy for FREE and if you’re not, very shortly the PDF will be available for download.  Download it, play it, tell me if you like it, and we’ll go from there.


Mecha RPG – The Basics

•April 3, 2009 • 7 Comments

Over on Wild Die, The Game Guy posted a really great article on how he went about creating his Mecha RPG.  Since I am currently creating a game called Mecha (formerly Neoborn Genesis Honor Blade), an RPG about mecha, I thought I could use this blog to create a dialogue.

This is in no way an attempt to convince you, my gentle reader, that The Game Guy is wrong or bad.  In fact, until The Game Guy acknowledges it’s okay to do so, I’m not even going to go point by point on what he said.

Instead, I am taking his post as an inspiration, especially because of one line:

Whether you are going for the Anime feel (something that I don’t, being that I dont care for Anime)

I found this interesting because with Mecha I totally am going for the anime feel.  Mecha is unapologethically, categorically, and completely a game about mecha anime.  And I believe that our two choices allow us to take the same genre (mecha games) and go in wildly different directions.

In most anime, even the hard core military anime series like 08th MS Team, the main characters are devilishly hard to kill or oven to have their mecha taken out.  They rarely have trouble taking out enemies (unless they are aces) and they can perform a number of feats at super human level including making a big steel beast dance and dodge bullets, build mecha out of scrap, create new inventions, and generally be awesome.  In mecha anime, the pilots rarely fail, though the tend to be less successful than in other times.

In Mecha, there are only 4 Stats and 7 Skills. Your mecha has an additional 4 Stats and then they Link.  So technically there are 8 Stats and 4 Derived Stats.  Those 7 Skills govern pretty much anything you want to do in the game: Operate a mecha, fight outside a mecha, do social activities, repair your mecha, etc.

Mecha also features a turn-based structure we call “scenes” and “episodes”.  Play goes around the table with each player getting a scene.  During their Scene they can do something Social, acquire new gear, repair the mecha, etc.  One skill for one type of scene.  Once everyone has had their scene, the GM gets her turn and then there’s combat.  End of the episode.

Then the players get their turn.  Then the GM goes.  Then combat.

Anyway, I want to talk more about Mecha in the coming months.  This weekend I plan to finish the beta playtest doc.  Then I’m going to get feedback.

Then…maybe publish?

Balancing Stats

•July 9, 2008 • 4 Comments

Currently Messiah has four stats:

  • Create
  • Destroy
  • Control
  • Teach

Taken out of order, Destroy is your ability to attack other players.  Control is your ability to defend.  Create is your ability build yourself back up.  Teach is your ability to manipulate the Messiah’s message.

They all have a purpose, but yet in actual play, not all stats are that useful.  Create seems to be the whipping boy.  Despite the fact everyone tries to use it and it’s the key most people’s secondary victory conditions… everyone seemed to think it was useless.

Teach, on the other hand, everyone seemed to think was overpowered.   This may be in due to a large part of me perhaps having found an optimal strategy.

Ultimately, there are two ways to win.  Get more influence than everyone else or someone draws an Ace or a Joker and then whoever wins their secondary victory conditions wins.  However, currently both ways to gain Influence are tied to teach.  I think I need to change that.

My guess is that Destroy will be used to gain Influence (tear down the Messiah’s influence.)

I am also trying to make sure that Control (defense) is still important.  That part is still a little bothersome to me.

Less is More

•June 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

Perhaps if I write a great treastise on game design, that will be the title.

With Messiah, I did a very bad thing.  After talking with Paul Czege about Messiah, I came away with some very ambitious ideas.  (Incidentally, it should be stated that I don’t blame Paul.  Paul inspired me to really go for it with Messiah and I overreached.)  I wanted to write a game that modeled the world and then introduce a Messiah that would destroy the model.

I wanted to mechanically represent the ideas of a people and then show how the Messiah would swoop in and shatter them.  I had this idea of playing cards and deep moral and questions.  So I pretty much pitched the Game Chef version of Messiah into the trash and went about the business of creating this thing.

And then I had two disasterous playtests.

Did I mention they were diasterous?  I mean I played a game that really, really, truly, and horribly sucked.  I was shooting sacred cows right and left and getting bloody and it was just bad.  Even my wife said it was bad.  It was so bad that the dogs wouldn’t eat (which is my hallmark as a chef, by the way.  I’ve never made something the dogs won’t eat.)

So yesterday while waiting to pickup my son’s lunch I came to the conclusion that what I loved about Messiah was in the draft I threw away.  I had done a good job of laying down the infrastructure of the game I wanted to make, I just needed to chip away at what was good about it.

And so I’ve done that.

At least I’ve tried and I think I’ve got a pretty good start.

The basics follow sort of what I’ve been talking about.  Factions get four stats:

Resources: The ability to get things done
Infrastructure: The ability to ward off attack
Charisma: The ability to influence the people
Influence: The ability to influence the Messiah

There are five scenes available to players:
1.  Discipleship Scene (raises Charisma)
2.  Audience Scene (raises Influence)
3.  Recruitment Scene (steal another player’s personnel)
4.  Attack Scene (lower another player’s stats)
5.  Influence Scene (Ask the Messiah for a miracle)

Each of these scenes will hopefully have a good mechanical reason to happen.

I’m using a modified version of the Destiny Cube Fight! system (that’s the tongue-in-cheek name I’ve given the system for Mecha)  Attributes are rated in die steps (D4-D12)  Skills give you the number of dice you roll.  You roll against a success threshold of >=4.

You want more successes.

In the coming days I’ll talk about each scene and how they work.

How to Make the Messiah Autonomous?

•June 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This, to me, is one of the three keys to make Messiah pop.  (The other two being how to model the world and how to give players meaningful actions and by extension inter-actions.)

My original idea was something like this.  Messiah is a round-robin style game with players taking their turn doing something interesting, typically influencing the Messiah, gaining/breaking alliances, snipe other Faction’s key personnel, etc.  (Well that’s hope anyway…)  Ultimately though, whowever won the conflict in a scene won narration of what the Messiah was going to do.

So the workflow sort of looked like this:

  1. It’s my turn.  I decide to improve my relationship with the Commerce Guild, annother faction.
  2. I state my intention and start my role play.
  3. Anyone who wants to help/hurt this action can buy into the scene.
  4. There’s conflict.
  5. I win.
  6. I then say well because of this, the Messiah decides to so X and rolls for the Messiah to attempt some grand miracle.

I can actually hear you yawning.

Plus, I wanted to give the Messiah a go so every time around, the Messiah got to do some action.  I was actually to the point where I was going to package a CD-ROM with the game that had a program that would take the Messiah’s four stats and generate an action.  This solution made me reasonably unhappy, but I was unsure how to tackle a four dimensional matrix to create an optimum solution otherise.

So I was talking to Clint Krause about this problem and he struck upon the answer: a deck of cards.  Make the Messiah draw from a deck on its turn and have each card relate to an action.

That was pretty good…then I decided to take it one step further.  At the start of EVERY faction’s turn, they draw a card.  That represents what the Messiah is going to unless the Factions stop or help the Messiah.

This gives a feeling that the Factions aren’t really in control.  The Messiah is going to do what it can, all the factions can do is damage control.

So far, this feels pretty satisfying.