Let’s Talk About Mechs, Baby
How great are mechs? So great! Wait, wait, wait… I can see you shaking your head and closing the browser tab. I know, I know. You don’t want fancy, overpowered suits of armor ruining your epic fantasy campaign. I’ve already walked a dangerous line with firearms, swifty gear, and airships. Now I’m asking you to adopt some thinking about mechs into the game?!
Well, in my defense I have this to say – Mechs are fun! I think I’ve got an idea of how we could hold onto that without them breaking every game.
I can remember playing Megaman X series back in the day on the old PlayStation. How fun was that game? There were a lot of levels where you got to jump into a big suit of armor and really punch, shoot, or drill the crap out of baddies.
These ride armors were tons of fun to use. You tromped around in them fighting some baddies and eventually the armor blew up or you got to a place where the mech couldn’t go because it was too big or too immobile and so it was left behind.
I want to apply the same principle here with mechs in Exploration Age.
Mech Guiding Principles
Here’s a lit of design points I used while creating the mechs.
- Mechs are badass! These mechs should be powerful and more fun than a whole barrel of monkeys. Big, honking, damaging attacks and then some cool flashy attacks with fun effects.
- Mechs are slow. You don’t need to run from danger when you are the danger. As fun as busting some heads in a mech is, making them slow means they aren’t going to be anyone’s main mode of transportation. They’re big, heavy, and you can’t just park one in front of a tavern. These are not made for travel, but rather for being badass (though, I have no doubt they are a chick magnet).
- Mechs are big! Mechs being big is lots of fun and helps bring balance to the game and make it more interesting. Imagine a troop of adventurers meeting a hobgoblin army out in the field. The adventurers are outnumbered, but they’re all driving mechs, so the hobgoblins are outgunned. Being big is also a disadvantage. Once those hobgoblins run back to their tunnels, good luck getting a mech suit to fit and fight in those cramped hallways.
- Mechs are expensive. I’m pretty sure this speaks for itself. These things ain’t cheap. ‘Nuff said.
The idea here is that mechs are well beyond the means of low-level adventurers and even if they do find one, they don’t have anyway of taking it everywhere they go due to the mech’s slow speed and Large size.
Mechs in Exploration Age
So without further adieu, here are the mechs from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide…
There are a variety of mechs in Exploration Age used for everything from war to mining. Every mech has its own AC, HP, Speed, and Mech Modifier, a bonus applied to attack and damage with mech weapons. A driver who has mech proficiency may apply their proficiency bonus to attack rolls made with the mech’s weapons as well. An attacker using individual ranged and melee attacks may choose to target either the mech or the driver. Once a mech is reduced to 0 HP it ceases to function.
Here are a few of the mechs one may come across in Canus. All the mechs below are Large in size and have a 10-foot melee reach, unless noted otherwise.
|Mech||HP||AC||Speed||Right Arm Attack||Left Arm Attack||Mech Modifier||Price||Special Abilities|
|Lifter||30||14||10 ft.||Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning||Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning||+1||20,000 gp||Grab, Rend|
|Lumberjack||50||15||10 ft.||Chainsaw – 3d8 slashing||Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning||+2||35,000 gp||Grab|
|Miner||75||16||10 ft.||Drill – 2d8 piercing||Pick – 3d8 piercing||+3||50,000 gp||Drill Press, Scoop Kick|
|Gladiator||125||16||15 ft.||Trident – 3d8 piercing, 15-foot reach||Net Thrower – see Special Attacks||+4||75,000 gp||Net Throw|
|Destroyer||150||17||10 ft.||Cannon – 4d12 piercing, Ammunition (range 50/150)||Hammer – 3d10 bludgeoning||+4||100,000 gp||Explosive Shot|
|Pyro||150||17||10 ft.||Flame Jet – see Special Attacks||Axe – 3d10 slashing||+4||100,000 gp||Flame Jet|
|Knight||200||20||15 ft.||Sword – 3d12 slashing||Shield – 2d8 bludgeoning||+5||150,000 gp||Sword Sweep, Shield Defense|
This mech suit was created by Bragonian dwarves to do some heavy lifting. These mechs can be found all over Canus – in shipping yards, warehouses, mines, forests, and more. The huge suits are equipped with two strong arms meant for lifting everything from lumber to boxes.
Grab A creature hit by a Lifter’s slam attack is also restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. If one of the Lifter’s arms is being used to restrain a creature, that arm cannot attack a different creature without first letting go of the creature it is currently grabbing. A Lifter cannot restrain more than two creatures this way at once.
Rend This attack requires the Lifter to be restraining its target with one arm and have no creature in the grip of its other. The Lifter attacks the restrained creature with both arms dealing 4d8 bludgeoning damage to it on a successful attack.
This suit was crafted by the elves of Taliana to aid in their lumber industry. One arm of the mech is a mechanical saw, made for cutting down trees. The other is a large, two-pronged claw made for picking up several logs at once.
Grab A creature hit by a Lumberjack’s slam attack is also restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. A Lumberjack may only restrain one creature this way at a time. While restraining a target, the Lumberjack cannot attack any creature with its slam attack other than the one it has restrained.
Another Bragonian creation, these mechs were built to carve tunnels through the hearts of mountains. As a result, they are heavily armored to avoid damage from the debris their pickaxe and drill arms kick up. The feet of the Miner mech suits sport large scoops and can kick debris in several different directions to keep their path before them clear.
Drill Press The Miner may use this attack against a prone creature only. If the Miner makes a successful drill attack against a prone target, that creature is pinned to the floor and restrained. At the start of the Miner’s driver’s turn, if a creature is restrained in this way, the target automatically takes damage from the drill and the driver may still use its action to attack with the pick, cast a spell, etc. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 15 Strength check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. If the mech moves more than 10 feet from the restrained creature or attacks a different target with the drill, the restrained condition ends.
Scoop Kick The Miner’s driver may use the mech’s scoop kick as a move. The driver attacks a target adjacent to the Miner using its Mech Modifier and, if applicable, proficiency bonus. If the Miner hits, the target is pushed 5 feet and knocked prone.
The Gladiator is one of the first mech suits ever designed for combat, built by the dragonborn of Marrial. The Gladiator stands tall, is quicker than most mechs, and has an impressively long trident arm. The mech suit sports a second arm capable of launching nets into throngs of enemies.
Ammunition A Gladiator can hold up to 10 nets at once. During a rest the Gladiator’s net launcher can be reloaded.
Net Throw As an action, a Gladiator’s driver may launch one net. When launched, a single net covers an area 15 feet by 15 feet. Creatures within the net must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). Those who fail the saving throw are restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. A creature may attack the net, which has AC 5. If the creature causes 20 points of damage to the net it can itself or another creature free. A net which is dealt 100 damage becomes useless.
The heavily armored Destroyer is a bipedal tank designed by the empire of Bragonay. Its slow speed doesn’t hinder it as much as other mech suits, since it has a powerful cannon which can shoot a ball a far distance. For those creatures which get too close, the Destroyer has a backup defense – a mighty hammer arm.
Point-Blank If the Destroyer attacks an adjacent creature with its cannon it has disadvantage on the attack.
Ammunition The Destroyer can carry 10 cannon balls at once. During a rest the Destroyer’s cannon can be reloaded.
Explosive Shot Every Destroyer has a special space for a special explosive ball which can be loaded into its cannon. As an action, this ball can be fired with the same range as a regular cannon ball. The ball explodes on impact in a 20-foot radius and creatures in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). A creature takes 6d6 fire and piercing damage on a failed saving throw, half as much damage on a successful one.
Sometimes it’s all about making your enemies fear you. That’s certainly what Parian’s inventors had in mind when they created this mech suit. The armored Pyro mech moves through the battlefield, spouting flame out of one arm and hacking down enemies with the axe in its other.
Ammunition The Pyro can carry 30 alchemical charges at once. During a rest the Pyro’s flame jet can be reloaded.
Flame Jet As an action, the Pyro can be made to shoot a 15-foot cone of flame from its flame jet and creatures in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). A creature takes 2d8 fire damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. The fire ignites any flammable objects in the area that are not being worn or carried.
Aeranore’s contribution to the world of mechs is the most expensive and powerful suit of mechanized armor Canus has to offer. The Knight is fast, super-armored, and ready to cut through anything with its powerful sword arm. Its heavy metal shield arm protects the driver and companions alike.
Shield Defense When a creature the Knight’s driver can see attacks the driver or a target within 10-feet of the Knight, the driver can use its reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll with its shield arm.
Sword Sweep As an action the Knight’s driver picks four creatures within 10 feet of the mech. It makes a sword attack against all of those creatures.
So there you have it. Remember, the idea here is that mechs are a sometimes food. As always, please let me know what you think, and if you haven’t yet, please fill out the survey below. I’m trying to see if I should turn all this hard work into something more. Thanks!
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June 19, 2014 @ 10:25 am
I feel like you might also need a system for targeting specific body parts of the mech. For instance, if I was going up against an orc in a Pyro mech, I’d absolutely target the flame jet arm first. And what about mech-on-mech combat? Can one mech rip another mech’s arm off and beat it with it?
Mechs are such a tough thing rules-wise, too. If a blast attack hits both mech and driver, does the driver get some kind of damage reduction because of the huge suit around him? Are individual attacks at disadvantage to hit the driver while he’s in a mech? Does the huge cost of a mech include upkeep and fuel (maybe magical residuum of some sort)? And are they completely mechanical, completely magical, or a combination? Can you dispel a mech’s enchantments to make it stop working? If you get out of your mech to go into a cave, can you lock it to keep others from stealing it?
And if mechs exist in the world, how have they altered the world around them? Do nations bother funding full armies anymore, or just pool their money to purchase a few mechs? If a batallion encounters a mech and other soldiers on a battlefield, will the batallion focus-fire on the mech? Do some poorer nations use illusions to make fake mechs to draw fire? How do you fix a damaged mech? Is it Arcana? Dungeoneering? some new skill? Is getting into/out-of a mech easy, or does it require a 5 minute process to open hatches, disable systems, and undo belts? Can you cast while in a mech suit? Does that do anything to the casting (enhance it, hinder it, change some spell effects)?
Can you imagine dragon hunters in mechs? How has the dragon hunting trade been revolutionized by robot suits that make you as big as many dragons? How do the giant populations feel about little humans & dwarves & such walking around in suits their size?
And then you get into the scenario of whether other players will feel overshadowed by the one guy in a mech, or if players will focus less on their own character’s abilities & development because the mech becomes more important. Mechs (like any magic item) can become a crutch for players who don’t want to roleplay… which is not where I think your players would go with it, but it’s worth thinking about.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some mechs. I grew up on Robotech & Voltron, and later enjoyed Gundam Wing in high school & college. Mechs even worked well in the fantasy world of Escaflowne (though they were very rare there). And modern games (esp. Titanfall) have done a lot to work on balancing mech vs person tactics, abilities, etc. And even Warhammer 40k (which I could never afford) always had cool mechs… though they were futuristic replacements for the dragons and other beasts of the Warhammer Fantasy game, and had comparable stats and game effects.
I’m not opposed to the idea of mechs in D&D, but I feel like a LOT of thought needs to go into how they’ll affect the world, and also the play mechanics. It’s a bit more than just running around in cool armor beating stuff up. Were I to use mechs in an Exploration Age game, I think I’d try to find a way to limit them heavily… maybe they run off Imagination Energy and thus can only exist in parts of the Feywild where technology works. Or maybe they are relics of a bygone era, and most of them don’t work anymore, but (like in Escaflowne) you need some rare item (like the heart of a dragon) to power any that you find & repair.
Still, really interesting ideas to think about.
June 19, 2014 @ 3:52 pm
Hey Joe, I see what you’re saying. For things like targeting a mech body part with a called shot, I would want to do that while fighting anything. I’d go for a beholder’s eye, a roc’s wings, etc. So if Wizards has a called shot module that would be the default, if not and I wanted to include it in Exploration Age I’d have to make that myself. I suspect Wizards might have it, since I know they talked about having complex ideas in combat like facing.
I picture the mechs in Exploration Age as being a little more open and so it is easier to target drivers just as you would a rider on a mount. I don’t think mechs have replaced soldiers – the suits are big and expensive and a squad soldiers can take down a mech, and it’s cheaper to get a squad of soldiers. Mechs have changed the world in some ways, but like computers 40 years ago, they’re too expensive to change the whole world. And they’re impractical for all the time adventuring. I feel ok in that justification, because if you think hard about D&D and the monsters in the world… why haven’t mind-flayers taken over the world or why do people fear death when their is a raise dead spell? I think a 100,000gp price tag, the size, and the 10 foot speed is enough to stop PCs from always being in a mech.
All good points for sure. As far as upkeep and ammo prices go, those are in the book, they just haven’t appeared in the blog post. Gotta keep some stuff close to the vest as I’m figuring it out!
June 19, 2014 @ 4:19 pm
Interesting. Do you see tech on a tipping point in Exploration Age? Will mechs change the world over the next 30-40 years as price goes down & innovations improve, must like computers have done over the last 40 years in our world? Or is there some kind of built-in limit to how advanced this tech can get? I know gods are an unknown factor in Exploration Age, but maybe behind-the-scenes there’s a long lost god of stability/conservativism/stasis preventing things from progressing too fast technologically? Or a god of prophesy who sees a nuclear apocalypse or technology destroying magic or something in the distant future, and thus works to hold back tech advances to delay that inevitable outcome?
And what’s this nonsense about keeping things close to the vest? Are you saying you have some sort of vested interest in Exploration Age?
June 19, 2014 @ 5:24 pm
Well it COULD be at a tipping point. Could be that the mechs are awesome and their use continues… or they could be too huge and too expensive to ever really work, like the Concorde Jet.
Jesse C Cohoon
June 19, 2014 @ 4:58 pm
RE: tipping point for Mechs. If I were a DM running such a game, I would have it a built in thing where it couldn’t advance for several reasons
1) time & effort it takes to build these things
2) materials needed to be gathered
3) technology & magic combination: maybe technology of X level interferes with magic (and visa versa), so there may be a tradeoff, and the current level is the ideal point
4) Danger to user: perhaps they discover that if they make it any more technologically advanced they die quicker (radiation poisoning and the like)
5) Training: maybe the time, effort, and materials that it takes to make these mechs are all they can do because to do anymore would require more resources, thus they don’t become any more technologically advanced.
June 19, 2014 @ 5:25 pm
Nice! I agree with ALL of this, sir!
Jesse C Cohoon
June 19, 2014 @ 11:41 am
Here’s a new anime which shows them
and a classic
June 19, 2014 @ 11:52 am
Also, whenever one of these mechs is activated, it should be required that you play “Dance of Curse” from the Escaflowne soundtrack.
June 20, 2014 @ 5:03 am
And with the creation myths for the world supplied, Exploration Age is now a bajillion times more fleshed out for me. 🙂 History really has a way to make a place that much more real. Old stories like this even mean that at some point you can remake the world for a campaign at an earlier point in time (allowing the added fun of maybe redesigning the layout of countries etc). I actually did the reverse of this with my homebrew world – starting a new campaign centuries after the first, and redesigned the known nations within a mostly unchanged continent. This allowed for references to disasters that had occurred during (and at the end of) the old story, as well as some fun repurposing of important locations from the first story.
June 20, 2014 @ 3:20 pm
I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do that. Use a first campaign and then set the next in the future of the same world and see how the first party’s actions changed things!
June 20, 2014 @ 3:23 pm
I got to do that with the longest D&D campaign I ran (7ish years?). I started in 2nd ed with one group, then most of us moved away, and I took the same world with a 3rd ed group years later, dealing with consequences of what the first group did… and occasionally an original player would come back to “guest star” in a session as their old character, or a relative of their old character. It was pretty awesome (and let me re-use all my favorite traps, locations, maps, & NPCs a second time, but in a different way).
June 20, 2014 @ 5:05 pm
I love that idea! So cool!!!!!
June 21, 2014 @ 12:54 am
Well there you go. I will issue this challenge. When Exploration Age is deemed done for the purposes of your current campaign plan, remake the whole thing at a different point on the same time line. If you do it after the campaign story has played out, and at a future point on the time line, you’ll get the same fun Joe and I have had – being able to include events from your first story as ‘important history’ in the sequel. Then you can put up all the new stuff here on the blog! Ready, set, GO! 😉
June 21, 2014 @ 9:53 am
Oof. That sounds like more work than I care to contemplate at the moment!
June 21, 2014 @ 11:02 am
Maybe it could be like a Steampunk era Exploration Age expansion book, or a future tech one. I want to say Deadlands did that… where they had different versions of the Weird West based on different time periods, so you could play in post-Civil War era, or modern day, or post-apocalyptic world, and certain supernatural threats carried over from one to the other.
Maybe something happens where the mystery about the gods gets revealed, so the Exploration “Age” is all about discovering the world and finding the gods, and then the “Battle Age” is all about dealing with the fact that the gods have been corrupted by alien/aberrant spawn & become evil killing machines, and finally “Restoration Age” is about picking up the pieces after the God War, raising new gods, and rebuilding society. Of course, that’s a bajillion hours of work… but I have yet to meet a DM who wasn’t ambitious beyond his actual free time available.
June 21, 2014 @ 11:36 am
Hahahahha. Joe, that IS amazing. I’m going to need to spend a few more years on this project and get a few more cooks in the kitchen to make that happen.
Hans "Infernalistgamer" Watts
June 20, 2014 @ 7:40 pm
I’d kickstart it for 20 if the production values were solid and gave out alot of examples and crunch.
June 20, 2014 @ 9:38 pm
June 21, 2014 @ 11:20 am
The Lumberjack has a two pronged claw, that’s not good for picking up things, you’d be better off with a three pronged claw (two on one side, one on the other) since that grabs things more securely (and doesn’t let the weight shift up and down when you are holding it horizontal, which is how most machines hold trees)
That said, i absolutly love this stuff, i may have to tweak a few things before introducing them into my game, if i introduce them at all at this point in the timeline.
June 21, 2014 @ 11:41 am
Ah, that is a good point about adding another prong! Let me know how it goes or if you create your own. I’d love to hear about it!