System Hack: Genesys Mecha: Custom Mecha

Sure, you could enlist and get issued a giant robot by your space military. Or you could be a traditionalist and just steal fall into the cockpit of the nearest mecha to start your adventure. Why trust some other engineer’s design, though? You’ll be making your own story, why not your own mecha to tell it with? Well if that’s what you want to do then you’re in luck, because that’s what we’re doing for one last G.E.N.E.S.Y.S. Mecha System Hack using the Genesys system from Fantasy Flight Games!

As far as the Vehicles section of the Genesys Core Rulebook got us, you ended up with the parts you’d need to build a vehicle from the GM’s side of the screen. On the player’s side of the screen, nothing; you’d just have to talk things over with your GM. That’s not surprising given the space limitations in the book, but it did meant that in order to get some inspiration I had to go to a galaxy far, far away again. I started reading Special Modifications because I have some experience using it to build murderbots for the Rebel Alliance, but Fully Operational and its ship-building rules ended up being the real gold mine. It wasn’t useful on the 1:1 scale, though, so I started hacking away. One thing that remained the same, however, is that I broke up things into a series of steps.

Step 1: Pick Chassis Type

By far the simplest step, before you do anything else you have to pick what you’re going to be trying to build! Now, what you’ll end up having built as a final product will be determined quite a bit by the results of your checks, but you need to start somewhere. These Chassis Types provide the baseline for your mecha; while they’re modeled after the Ogo, Advanced Models, and Super Prototypes, it’s very likely you’ll end up with something quite unique.

Chassis Type determines Silhouette, Crew, Hull Threshold, Hard Points, and in the case of the 3rd Generation Chassis a few starting Traits.

1st Generation

Silhouette: 3

Crew: 1 Pilot

Hull Threshold: 15

Hard Points: 6

2nd Generation

Silhouette: 3

Crew: 1 Pilot

Hull Threshold: 20

Hard Points: 5

3rd Generation

Silhouette: 3

Crew: 1

Hull Threshold: 25

Hard Points: 4

Traits: G.E.N.E.S.Y.S., Orbital Alloy

Step 2: Acquire Materials 

Alright, this step is SUPER abstract at this point, because I haven’t exactly been assigning any sort of monetary values to mecha, weapons, and so on. But it stands to reason that in order to build a giant robot you need the parts to do so, hence a Currency value for each Chassis Type. This might not strictly speaking be actual money, of course; it could be X Currency-worth of scavenged junk, captured mecha, an already-complete machine that you’re trying to rebuild from the chassis up, anything like that. Acquiring the necessary resources could be a thrilling Scavengers-mode adventure, or a social fight with military bureaucracy in a Fully Stocked game. 

Of course, if you want the really high-end machines you’re going to need to also have a G.E.N.E.S.Y.S. Reactor and some Orbital Alloy on hand. Those aren’t for sale, and they’re not just lying around; organizations that possess them are going to be reluctant to relinquish them for a project, so you’ll either be tackling that military bureaucracy again or tearing them off of downed enemies. They’re not just going to be lying around in the box of proverbial scraps.

Well unless you’re a really good mechanic and can kludge something together, but you’ll see where that might come in during the next step.

Step 3: Construct Chassis

You’ve got your blueprints, you’ve got the materials you need, now you just need to make the Mechanics check to assemble the chassis that will be the core of your very own custom mecha!

Chassis Type Requirements Check Time
1st Generation 10,000 Currency Hard (3 Difficulty Dice) 5 Days
2nd Generation 20,000 Currency Daunting (4 Difficulty Dice) 10 Days
CHX-type G.E.N.E.S.Y.S Reactor, Orbital Alloy, 40,000 Currency Formidable (5 Difficulty Dice) 15 Days

If you succeed on the check, congratulations, you’ve successfully built the chassis of your choice and can move on to Step 4. For every additional success you reduce the amount of time it takes by six hours, to a minimum of one day. If you fail, you lose a day but can try again . . . unless you’ve rolled some Threat or Despair with your failure that the GM uses for things to go truly wrong, or the bad guys kick in the hangar door in their Berkanans and start blowing the place up.

To make things interesting if there’s a time crunch on the table, here’s an additional rule: a player can choose to upgrade the difficulty of their Mechanics checks during custom mecha construction to reduce the time it will take, by one full day per upgrade. If you do this the minimum time you can finish construction is reduced to 12 hours. You can can do this here in Step 3 and for any of the checks in Step 4.

Of course, simply succeeding is nice, but a basic chassis is so dull, right? That’s where Advantage, Triumph, Threat, and Despair come into it. Here’s what you can spend those delightful narrative symbols on for your chassis.

Symbols Effect
1 Advantage or Triumph Lessons Learned: The character learns something valuable, and gains +1 Boost Dice on the next check they make with the same skill before the end of the session.
2 Advantage or 1 Triumph Extra Hard Point: Add one customization hard point to the mecha (this can only be selected once).

Backseat Driver: Increase the crew/passenger capacity by one (this can only be selected twice).

Reinforced Construction: Increase the mecha’s hull threshold by one.

3 Advantage or 1 Triumph Miniaturized Mecha: Reduce the mecha’s silhouette by one (this can only be selected once).

Efficient Construction: 50% of the Currency requirement for the construction is saved (this can only be chosen once). 

Mega Mecha: Increase the mecha’s silhouette by one and its encumbrance by 5.

1 Triumph Too Tough to Hurt: Add the Massive 1 special rule to this mecha or increase the value of this rule by one (this can only be selected once).

Schematic: Create a schematic that reduces the difficulty of creating mecha of this chassis type by one to a minimum of Simple (0 Difficulty Dice).

Modifiable: Reduce the difficulty of checks to add or modify attachments on this mecha by one to a minimum of Easy (1 Difficulty Dice)

2 Triumph Advanced Reactor: May add a G.E.N.E.S.Y.S. Reactor at no cost of HP.

Advanced Armor: May add the Orbital Alloy Trait at no cost of HP. 

Redundant Systems: Increase the Hull Threshold or Strain Threshold of the mecha by 5 (this can only be selected once).

Transformer: This mecha gains the Frame Shift Trait. Roll for a second mecha of the same Chassis Type to act as the other form.

1 Threat or 1 Despair This Is A Tough One: Upon completing this step the character suffers 5 strain.
2 Threat or 1 Despair Difficult Assembly: When a character attempts Step 4: Customize Chassis, Upgrade the difficulty of one the Mechanics checks once.
3 Threat or 1 Despair Difficult to Repair: Increase the difficulty of checks to repair this mecha once.

Sloppy Construction: The Currency requirement for the construction of this mecha is increased by 50% (this can only be chosen once). If the character does not have sufficient funds, the construction pauses until they do.

1 Despair Faulty Wiring: The GM may spend 3 Threat or 1 Despair that a character generates on a Piloting or Driving check with this mecha to have it suffer the Major Systems Failure Critical Hit Result. 
2 Despair Ready to Blow: Critical Hits against the mecha are rolled at +20.

Step 4: Customize Chassis

So we have the core of our mecha, but very few of the details. How tough is it? How strong? How fast, and how difficult to pilot? In Fully Operational the construction of vehicles breaks things post frame chassis into different parts like hull, engines, and so on. I’ve done the same here, trying for a decent amount of granularity for people to work with. 

Assigning an amount of time it would take for every part of this Step didn’t really appeal to me, so I think they’d be part and parcel of the time periods detailed in Step 3. Again, extra successes can take an additional six hours each off of the completion time. Failure during one of these steps adds six hours to the process, at which point the character can try again.

Step 4-1: Strength

First up, let’s determine our mecha’s Brawn Characteristic! This goes hand-in-hand with how much damage the machine can do with bare-metal-knuckle brawling, and how likely such fighting is to score a Critical Hit.

Brawn Characteristic Unarmed Clash Damage Unarmed Critical Rating Difficulty
1 -1 6 Simple (0 Difficulty Dice)
2 +0 5 Easy (1 Difficulty Dice)
3 +0 5 Hard (3 Difficulty Dice)
4 +1 4 Formidable (5 Difficulty Dice)

As for what your additional results can get you, this part focuses on things like melee defense, carrying capacity, damage, and both the quality and quantity of arms.

Symbols Effect
1 Advantage or Triumph Lessons Learned: The character learns something valuable, and gains +1 Boost Dice on the next check they make with the same skill before the end of the session.
2 Advantage or 1 Triumph Mecha Martial Artist: Increase the mecha’s Melee Defense in one zone by one.

Reinforced Fists: Increase the mecha’s unarmed Clash Damage by one.

3 Advantage or 1 Triumph Carrying Capacity: Increase the mecha’s Encumbrance by one.

Extra Arm: This mecha gains the Extra Arm 1 Trait, or increases the value of this rule by one. 

1 Triumph Mighty Mechanical Thews: Increase the mecha’s Brawn Rating by one (this can only be selected once).
1 Threat or 1 Despair This Is A Tough One: Upon completing this step the character suffers 5 strain.
2 Threat or 1 Despair Blind Spot: Add +1 Boost Die to Clash checks against this mecha in one zone.

Feather Fists: Decrease the mecha’s unarmed Clash Damage by one.

3 Threat or 1 Despair Crowded Infrastructure: Reduce the mecha’s Encumbrance by one.
1 Despair Glass Joints: The GM may spend 1 Despair that a character generates on a Clash or Gunnery check using this mecha to have it suffer the Maimed Critical Hit.

Step 4-2: Armor

Alright, by now we know how hard our mecha can hit (in melee, anyways), but how much of a hit can it take? It’s time to determine how much Armor it has, which also determines its Handling depending on how bulky or lean it is.

Armor Rating Handling Difficulty
2 +1 Easy (1 Difficulty Dice)
3 +0 Average (2 Difficulty Dice)
4 -1 Hard (3 Difficulty Dice)
5 -2 Formidable (5 Difficulty Dice)

What else can you get? The extra results for Armor are focused on, well, Armor along with Defense and Handling. 

Symbols Effect
1 Advantage or Triumph Lessons Learned: The character learns something valuable, and gains +1 Boost Dice on the next check they make with the same skill before the end of the session.
2 Advantage or 1 Triumph Deflective Armor: Increase the mecha’s Ranged Defense in one zone by one.

Lightweight Armor: Increase the mecha’s Handling by one.

3 Advantage or 1 Triumph Bulwark: Increase the mecha’s Armor Rating by one (this can only be selected once).
1 Triumph Experimental Alloy: Increase Melee and Ranged Defense in all zones by one (this can only be selected once).
1 Threat or 1 Despair This Is A Tough One: Upon completing this step the character suffers 5 strain.
2 Threat or 1 Despair Clunky: Decrease the mecha’s Handling by -1. 
3 Threat or 1 Despair Brittle Armor: The GM may spend 3 Advantage or 1 Triumph on an attack against this mecha to have it suffer the Armor Damaged Critical Hit.
1 Despair Fatally Flawed Armor: The GM may spend 2 Triumph on an attack against this mecha to have it suffer the Armor Breached Critical Hit.

Step 4-3: Propulsion/Power

This is a big one. How fast is your new machine? What’s its Strain Threshold like? How hard is it to actually pilot, and what skills does it use to do so? This is your reactor strength, your thrusters, your maneuvering jets.

Speed Skill Strain Threshold Unwieldy Rating Difficulty
3 Driving 15 2 Average (2 Difficulty Dice)
4 Driving/Piloting 20 3 Hard (3 Difficulty Dice)
5 Driving/Piloting 25 4 Formidable (5 Difficulty Dice)

Blah

Symbols Effect
1 Advantage or Triumph Reinforced Wiring: Increase the mecha’s strain threshold by one.

Lessons Learned: The character learns something valuable, and gains +1 Boost Dice on the next check they make with the same skill before the end of the session.

2 Advantage or 1 Triumph Improved Handling: Increase the mecha’s Handling by +1.
3 Advantage or 1 Triumph Flyer: This mecha gains the Flyer trait (this can only be selected once)..

Tracked: This mecha gains the Tracked Trait (this can only be selected once).

Extra Leg: This mecha gains the Extra Leg 1 Trait, or increases the value of this rule by one. 

1 Triumph Increased Speed: Increase the mecha’s maximum speed by one (this can only be selected once).

Computer Assist: Reduce the mecha’s Unwieldy Rating by one (this can only be selected once).

1 Threat or 1 Despair Power Hungry: Reduce the mecha’s strain threshold by one.

This Is A Tough One: Upon completing this step the character suffers 5 strain.

2 Threat or 1 Despair Power Starved: Reduce the mecha’s strain threshold by three (this can only be selected once).
3 Threat or 1 Despair Hard to Pilot: Increase the difficulty of all Driving/Piloting checks with this mecha by one (this can only be selected once). 
1 Despair Overheating: The GM may spend 1 Despair on a Driving/Piloting check made with this mecha to have it suffer the Ruined Propulsion Critical Hit.

Now, this is the first draft as far as you the reader are concerned, second or third draft behind the scenes. I think there could probably be a good amount of fiddling. The Difficulty of certain steps, for instance. Some different results on the Advantage/Triumph/Threat/Despair charts, perhaps moving some of them around. Should some of the stats be moved to different 4-X steps (should Handling be part of Propulsion/Power instead)?

The nice thing is that this is actually one of the easier parts of this System Hack to test; all I need is a character who’s decent at Mechanics and some dice rolls! I plucked Thraga off of the Lost and Found; yeah, he’s probably got to do some time traveling and intergalactic travel, and he’s never built a giant robot before, but he’s right there and it amuses me.

Thraga’s a pretty good mechanic, but a 3rd Generation Chassis sounds like a stretch (plus there weren’t any G.E.N.E.S.Y.S. Reactors or Cortosis Orbital Alloy on Centares), so let’s try for a 2nd Generation machine.

First Roll for Step 3: A complete Wash. 2 Successes, 5 Advantage, 2 Failures, 5 Threat. Sigh. Thraga throws the blueprints across the hangar and sleeps on the problem until tomorrow.

Second Roll for Step 3: 1 success, 1 threat! We’ve got the start of a mecha, and it looks like it will take the full ten days to get it ready to launch. However, This Is A Tough One thanks to the Threat, so Thraga takes 5 Strain.

Step 4-1: Strength: Not really looking for a brawler mecha, Thraga chose to try for a Brawn Characteristic of 2. He got 4 Successes and 1 Advantage for his trouble, shaving 18 hours off of the construction time and spending the Advantage for some Lessons Learned.

Step 4-2: Armor: With a Boost Die added to the roll, Thraga decided to make this mecha a little on the durable side with Armor 3. 3 Successes, 3 Advantage, and 1 Triumph! That’s another 12 hours shaved off the time, The Advantage gets spent on Bulwark for more Armor, and the Triumph nets Experimental Alloys for Defense.

Step 4-3: Propulsion/Power: Rolling for a Speed 4 machine, Thraga got 1 Success and 1 Advantage! It’s not a flashy modification, but Thraga spent the Advantage on Reinforced Wiring, which might just end up saving the day in a pinch.

So what does our final product look like?

LF-01 Zaja

Silhouette: 3

Crew: 1 Pilot

Skill: Driving/Piloting

Hull Threshold: 20 Strain Threshold: 21

Brawn Characteristic: 2

Traits: Unwieldy 3

Armor: 4 Handling: +0 Speed: 4

Ranged Defense: 1 Forward, 1 Rear

Melee Defense: 1 Forward, 1 Rear

Hard Points: 5

Encumbrance: 6

Weapons: Zaja Fists x2 (Clash; 0 + Brawn Damage; Critical 5; Ranged [Engaged]; Built-In)

That felt pretty good! The LF-01 Zaja seems like a pretty darn viable machine, a little less punchy than its nearest equivalent in the CHM-02 Dacar but tougher, harder to hit, and with a little more juice in the tank. I’ll be rolling up some more LF mecha and posting them on our Patreon, but as a first test I’m pretty happy with where this ended up.


And with that, System Hack: Genesys Mecha draws to a close. In terms of design, this would be the time to put everything through its paces all at once, revise it, and try for a second more polished version of everything. Maybe even do some setting work. I am going to be doing that . . . but with the Genesys Foundry becoming a thing, well, I have to admit I’m interested in seeing if I can build off of System Hack and make something that can withstand the fires of the forge. Plus, with the Expanded Player’s Guide on the way with more vehicle rules, I might find myself with more to work with, or find some of my work done for me (we’ll find out together, there’s no way CHG won’t be reviewing the EPG).

This has been a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone who talked shop about the hack, chatted about their own attempts to bring mecha to the Narrative Dice System, and shared a kind word. Go make some giant robots of your own and have fun smashing them together. I’ll see you out there.

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