Ah, Mecha-Mooks. While the heroes and named villains of the piece get their shiny super prototypes and custom machines, the nameless grunts get bargain bin robots that might as well be made of cardboard with a jet fuel filling. Hey, just look at the OZ-06Ms Leo from Gundam Wing, the fandom would have you believe a stiff breeze causes one of those things to erupt in a fireball. But . . . when a named character hops in one, it still manages to accomplish something without dying instantly. So how do you get Mecha-Mooks to use in a Genesys Mecha game when the same machine can be used by the weakest of Minions and the most dreadful Nemesis? Once you’ve answered that question, how do you make the bad guys stand out from their goodie two shoes counterparts? Let’s find out in this latest System Hack for Mecha in Fantasy Flight Games’s Genesys!
The Eggshell and Minion Problems
Genesys vehicle rules are obviously descended from Star Wars rules, and that causes some problems when you start talking about single-person vehicles: the system isn’t really designed around them in the first place. Your typical player-character-craft in Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, or Force and Destiny is going to be a light freighter, with multiple characters aboard to split all the possible different actions and maneuvers. More importantly starfighters, in comparison, are designed to be the Minions that swarm those freighters with a quarter or maybe a fifth of the hull trauma.
The thing is that doesn’t change if you stick a player character in the cockpit instead of a Minion NPC. The stats of the vehicle remain the same, but the expectations are going to be entirely different. A YT-2400 can take on a squadron of TIEs and stand a decent chance of still being in the air after they’ve all been blown away. An A-Wing and a TIE? First one to get hit is almost certainly gone in a single hit, rules as written. So there’s a player character out of the fight in one round, maybe even before they got to act. Eggshells armed with sledgehammers, indeed, and that’s just not the experience I want for a System Hack about giant robots.
The Star Wars RPGs tried to fix this problem with the Squad/Squadron rules first introduced in the Age of Rebellion GM’s kit, recently reintroduced in Rise of the Separatists, one of the main features of which is the ability to soak up hits against a PC by having them hit NPC wingmates in formation instead. That functions pretty well, and has some other interesting features besides, but I don’t think it’s a good fit here. Aside from a Fully Stocked campaign you’re not likely to have those squadron mates around very often (plus it’s kind of gruesome).
There’s a house rule I’ve recently come across via a play-by-post game over on the Hydian Way Discord, where we’re inflicting a Critical Hit on a fighter whenever it passes its Hull Trauma Threshold, then resetting its Hull Trauma to zero (adding anything left over). This has kept Hawkbat Squadron in the fight (so far) while still ramping up the danger as the crits pile on, especially as we are piloting A-Wings, so almost every time we get hit we blow past the Threshold. I quite like this rule (I was kicking myself for not having thought of it first), and I think you could do a decent job with it here, but . . . I thought it still might make a mecha feel more fragile than I want it to.
So, all of that to come to where I was when I put together the Ogo and its descendants: I made all of them way tougher than any Star Wars starfighter. Higher Hull Trauma and System Strain Thresholds, more Armor, comparatively easy access to Defense, and relatively limited use of qualities like Breach, Linked, and Autofire among the weapons. Honestly I think that functions pretty well; even a CHM-01 Ogo can take a couple of hits from most weapons before going down. But solving that initial problem created another one: what the heck do I use for Minions? Like I said above, ship stats in Star Wars don’t change if you stick Minions in them, so do I now have (comparatively speaking) super-armored super-tough Minions running around? That would turn every Minion fight into a slog, but I don’t want to get rid of Minions as a mechanic, they’re too useful (and too in-genre).
That doesn’t even touch upon the super-armored super-tough Rivals.
When I created the Ogo I also made Minion and Rival versions of it, but aside from some kind of off choices (the pilot and the mecha were part of the same card, neither version had a System Strain Threshold, the Rival’s Hull Trauma Threshold wasn’t any lower), it’s not something I’d want to have to do for every mecha.
So here’s a shot at a simple cover-all-angles rule for Minion and Rival type machines in Genesys Mecha:
A Mecha piloted by a Minion counts as having had its Hull Trauma and System Strain Thresholds reduced by 10, and as with Personal Scale Minions is destroyed automatically when it suffers a Critical Hit. A Mecha piloted by a Rival counts as having had its Hull Trauma and System Strain Thresholds reduced by 5.
This is a bluntly simple rule that does a couple things differently than the original Adversarial Ogos. First, they all have System Strain! The Minions and Rivals piloting them won’t have Strain of their own, but this will still let them push their machines a bit harder (and lets machines like the CHM-05 Verdeloth target their System Strain). Second, it makes Minions . . . well, function like an OZ-06Ms Leo, especially the Ogo, providing Mecha-Mooks for our heroes to shoot down in droves while still being dangerous in sufficient numbers.
Here’s a quirk, though: with this rule-as-written, any Mecha could be treated as a Minion or Rival provided that was the kind of pilot sitting in the cockpit. A Minion group of five CHX-03 Avengers is a daunting prospect to say the least, so GMs should be careful about what the mooks are piloting.
Here’s the thing: you could get away with mirror-matches in Genesys Mecha all campaign long, and probably be just fine. You could change up the weapons load-out and add some attachments for variety or, heck, just call a CHM-01 Ogo a MAM-01 Jeran or whatever and you’d be set. Just as with in Star Wars, where the stats for a Stormtrooper can be a First Order trooper can be a clone trooper can be an Old Republic-era Sith Trooper, the crunchy bits will often function perfectly with a new label on them.
So yeah, there’s nothing wrong with a CHM-02 Dacar duking it out with another CHM-02 Dacar, whether or not the serial numbers have been filed off, but let’s face it: most mecha shows that have two or more factions facing off against one another give those factions a distinct style. The Zaku is about as iconic as the first Gundam, for one obvious example. Plus I wanted to design more machines, and I wanted them to feel different . . . and in order to do that the first thing I did was create a new pair of Traits.
Extra Arm X
A Mecha with the Extra Arm trait has more than two upper-limbs, the exact number being equal to the trait’s rating. This will allow a mecha to hold more hand-held weapons, and more easily hold weapons that require more than one hand. Depending on the design (and subject to GM ruling) this may also grant the mecha’s ‘unarmed’ Clash attack the Linked quality.
Eschewing the typical humanoid form for mecha, Multi-Legged machines have more than two legs, with a total of extra limbs equal to the trait’s rating. While this usually takes up the space needed for thrusters, thus confining the mecha to ground operations, this design is chosen for a reason. First, so long as the mecha still has more than two legs, it is immune to the Knockdown effect. Second, the loss of the limbs does not have an effect on the mecha’s Speed and ability to move (up to a point determined by the GM). Third, all Gunnery attacks made by a mecha with the Multi-Legged trait add 1 Boost Die to their pool due to the increased stability, as if they had taken the Kneel maneuver but without the penalties.
Depending on the design, these legs may or may not be able to be used for Clash attacks, again perhaps with the Linked quality.
Alright, with those out of the way, what kind of machines are the CHM and CHX-type mecha facing down?
Crew: 1 Pilot
Hull Threshold: 15 Strain Threshold: 15
Brawn Characteristic: 3
Traits: Extra Arm 1, Unwieldy 2
Armor: 3 Handling: -2 Speed: 3
Ranged Defense: 0 Forward, 0 Rear
Melee Defense: 1 Forward, 1 Rear
Hard Points: 5
Weapons: Berkanan Fists x3 (Clash; 1 + Brawn Damage; Critical 4; Ranged [Engaged]; Built-In, Linked 1)
The MAM-02 Berkanan was the first of the MAM line of mecha to not essentially be an Ogo in all but name. It was also the first machine to not strictly adhere to the standard humanoid format, a trend that would come to be embraced by the entire line. The Berkanan possesses a third, comparatively rudimentary arm, mounted on the back and long and jointed enough to reach over its shoulders. The primary benefit of this is to carry more and larger weapons into battle. Compared to the Ogo the Berkanan is a little more difficult to pilot than, but it is a tougher machine in a melee and does not require modifications to fight in space.
Crew: 1 Pilot, 1 Gunner (Optional)
Hull Threshold: 20 Strain Threshold: 20
Brawn Characteristic: 3
Traits: Multi-Legged 4, Unwieldy 3
Armor: 5 Handling: +0 Speed: 4
Ranged Defense: 1 Forward, 1 Rear
Melee Defense: 2 Forward, 2 Rear
Hard Points: 3
Encumbrance: 7 (Not capable of equipping hand-held weaponry)
Weapons: Laguz Legs x6 (Clash; 2 + Brawn Damage; Critical 4; Ranged [Engaged]; Built-In, Linked 2), Turret-Mounted Railgun (Gunnery; 8 Damage; Critical 2; Ranged [Extreme]; Accurate 1, Breach 2, Built-In, Slow-Firing 1, Prepare 1, Vicious 2), Mounted Anti-Personnel Gun (Gunnery; 1 Damage; Critical 4; Ranged [Short]; Auto-Fire (Personal), Built-In, Sidearm), Mounted Anti-Vehicle Guns (Gunnery; 4 Damage; Critical 4; Ranged [Short]; Built-In, Linked 1, Sidearm)
Completely abandoning the humanoid form for one more reminiscent of an insect, the MAM-09 Ūruz’s primary mission role is as a direct fire artillery and/or sniping unit, obliterating targets with its railgun (preferably from outside the firing range of its victims). Compared to other artillery machines like the CHM-03 Peren and the CHM-06TT Codrus, however, the Ūruz is much more comfortable engaging enemies up close as well. It mounts short range weapons capable of dealing with both enemy infantry and machines, and it is a surprisingly deadly melee combatant. More than one CHM pilot has charged in, only to be briefly surprised when an Ūruz rears up on two legs and tears the attacker apart with the other four.
Crew: 1 Pilot
Hull Threshold: 20 Strain Threshold: 20
Brawn Characteristic: N/A
Traits: Flyer, Weapon Racks, Unwieldy 4
Armor: 3 Handling: +1 Speed: 6
Ranged Defense: 2 Forward, 2 Rear
Melee Defense: 0 Forward, 0 Rear
Hard Points: 4
Encumbrance: 8 (Not capable of equipping hand-held weaponry)
Weapons: Twin Plasma Cannons (Gunnery; 6 Damage; Critical 3; Ranged [Medium]; Breach 1, Burn 1, Inaccurate 1, Linked 1, Vicious 1)
The MAM-12F Laguz was inspired by the CHM-06TF Oden, but the MAM design team lacked the Frame Shift technology to create a machine that could switch between humanoid and flyer forms. So, they simply skipped designing a humanoid one. Without the need to make the Laguz a transforming machine, they were able to make it more maneuverable than the Oden, better protected against ranged weapons, equipped with larger Weapon Racks. They also equipped the Laguz with Twin Plasma Cannons, weapon technology that hit a dead end in comparison to G.E.N.E.S.Y.S. tech but still has some deadly perks.
Now, I took some liberties with my own rules, here. For instance, there’s nothing to say that a Multi-Legged mecha can’t have arms (picture a centaur-style mecha, or something like Eva-05 from the Rebuild movies), but I got gen:LOCK’s Union spider mechs stuck in my head, so there’s the Ūruz. The Laguz doesn’t have a Brawn Characteristic since it can’t engage in melee combat, so I had to come up with a lump number for its Encumbrance. In short, there are exceptions to the rules and corner cases, and for the MAM line I tapped into both.
Of course, MAM mecha in space need something to carry them into battle . . .
Carrying Capacity: 6 Mecha
Hull Threshold: 40 Strain Threshold: 40
Traits: Catapult System, Large Craft 1
Armor: 6 Handling: -4 Speed: 2
Ranged Defense: 2 Forward, 2 Rear, 2 Port, 2 Starboard
Melee Defense: 2 Forward, 2 Rear, 2 Port, 2 Starboard
Hard Points: 2
Weapons: One dorsal and One ventral Turret-Mounted Energy Cannons (Fire Arc Forward/Port/Starboard; Damage 10; Critical 3; Range [Long]; Breach 3, Linked 1, Slow-Firing 2),
Six Port and Six Starboard Turret-Mounted Autocannons (Fire Arc Forward/Rear/Port or Forward/Rear/Starboard; Damage 7; Critical 3; Range [Close] Accurate 1, Linked 3), Three Forward, Three Rear, Three Port, Three Starboard Cluster Missile Launchers (Fire Arc Forward or Rear or Port or Starboard; Damage 6; Critical 3; Range [Close]; Blast 6, Limited Ammo 6)
Othala-class Cruisers are, as a ship, poorly matched against their closest counterparts, the Etruria-class. While they’re tougher and better-armored they’re slower and half as well-armed with anti-ship weaponry. However, they’re not intended to get into slugging matches with other ships; their designers thought of them more as mobile bases. Their goal is to deliver mecha safely to the battlefield and in that they excel, carrying twice an Etruria’s complement, usually a mix of MAM-02 Berkanans (with the equivalent of CHV-18S Kármán Boosters) and MAM-12F Laguz. They’re also better armed against mecha attack, sacrificing some defensive redundancy for more anti-mecha weapons and better targeting systems.
So, how about it? Do the Minion/Rival rules make sense? How do the MAM mecha and the Othala-class stack up? Got any ideas to tackle these kind of design goals yourself? Let us know what you think!
In the meantime, creating more mecha has given me the itch to create even more . . . but why should I have all the fun? Next time on System Hack: Genesys Mecha you’re going to want to bring your dice, because I’ll be tackling Custom Mecha Creation!
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