Are you interested in using mechs – giant robot fighting machines – in a table-top role-playing game? Good news! The BITS engine is modular enough for that.
With the short details below, multiple fictional universes that have mecha will provide real examples of adapting those properties to BITS.
How Mechs Work
Mechs, like ships, have a threat tier 0 through 4 that indicates their ability to act in the world. However, while ships typically use tonnage to class battlefield dominance, mechs rely on the context of the fictional universe.
For example, a tier system that represents leaps in technological understanding may have additional benefits rather than a system that represents adding more-of-the-same technological level to the body of the mech (this is the same with ships). Specific examples of tech and tonnage are included in the next section.
When a player acts as a mech, add the mech’s tier to a 2D6 roll. When acting against a mech, roll higher than that mech’s threat tier. For example, a tier 3 mech acting against a tier 2 must roll 9 or more (threat tier 2) with 2D6 and may add 3 to the roll.
Depending on the fictional context, tiers may also show how many extra smaller actions the mech may take. These smaller actions may be either defensive or of more minor consequence, but again, it’s a decision that needs context. (I’m still ironing out the value of different kinds of actions.)
A mech otherwise behaves as any other fictional Being in BITS. (This includes the use of Body as a hull and engine, Interaction as a sensory and weapon dexterity, Thought as targeting and computation, and Specialty for whatever role the mech is fitted out to do!)
The human component driving the giant robot, mechs may have pilots. Pilots are Beings that allow a robot to move and fight.
Some mechs may require more than one pilot (Power Rangers, Pacific Rim, etc.). Some mechs may be autonomous or controlled remotely.
Pilots may enter through a cockpit hatch, the head, the feet, or other means to control the robot. Pilots might be able to eject or transform their robot.
Whatever the case, determining if a pilot can control a mech depends on the context of the fiction.
Things human-sized are of an immense scale less than the machines they operate. If conventional vehicles are considered a magnitude above human-scale, mechs are at least that if not a magnitude above the vehicle scale.
If a mech is the size of a large vehicle, it would be considered a single size class above human-scale. Any Being of human-size would have naturally be at a disadvantage against these mechs.
For example, these would be the exosuits from the movie Avatar and the walkers from The Matrix Revolutions.
However, if a robot is truly giant, a human-sized Being cannot do anything against the mech that would do damage without very specialized tools (think ‘rocket launcher’ or ‘tow cable’). Being so huge, a person, without the correct equipment, taking action against a mech would at most get the mech-pilot’s attention. (The pilot then could choose to step on said offender.)
For example, Power Rangers, Pacific Rim, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam, and virtually all places giant-monster kaiju appear are on a scale above even the most armored of vehicles.
Special rules to consider are few for mechs. Mainly as flavor-adding tidbits, a fictional robot in BITS mechanically follows the rolling and resolutions as any vehicle or organic body.
But, as any BITS game expands to fit the needs of the context and no more, mechs may have special rules added on a case-by-case basis. A single mech may be able to fly or jump, there could be ejection seats for pilots, all mechs may have a fuel or heating element similar to their inventory or health status.
What does appear in mecha throughout fiction is the kind of weapons used. Such fall into four categories (excluding ‘none’, of which the robot would be unarmed except for its momentum and girth):
- Missiles/Rockets (dumb or smart, things that can be shot down and go boom)
- Kinetic/Ballistic (a chunk of metal traveling very fast)
- Energy (lasers, fire, electricity, particles)
- Melee (close-range brawling devices like blades, claws, and clubs)
Tier Examples in Fiction
The genre-setting Mobile Suit Gundam is all about giant robots, but its recognizable tanks and jet planes are T0 through and through. They are the ‘generation previous to mech warfare.’
A universe like MechWarrior / BattleTech also has planes and tanks, which are classic T0 when compared to mechs.
In the grimdark of the Warhammer 40K setting, everything is taken to the extreme. That’s why mainstay Knight walkers would qualify as T0 when they are in fact mechs.
Gundam‘s many series would introduce their first generations of mecha suits here. From Leos to Zakus to Guntanks, these are the foundation that proved mechs were the next phase of military hardware.
When it comes to a technologically-stagnant IP like MechWarrior, T1 is the lowest, ‘Light’ tonnage. Super-heavy tanks can fill a T1 role, but that’s about it.
The same respect to tonnage fits with the Warhammer 40K setting. The smallest of the mighty Titan classes, a Warhound-class Scout armed with two weapon mounts, is T1 along with super-heavy tanks (a single Titan-class weapon mount if any) and the largest of Knights (though these latter likely at a disadvantage).
When technology does not evolve, classifications of mechs relies on size and capability, as ships do.
Another generation of tech in the Gundam universe means GMs and Rick Doms and Dolls arrive. These can be brought down by their T0 predecessors, but it’ll be a fight!
Warhammer 40K brings to bear the middling Reaver Titan, some five-stories tall and wielding three weapons.
The titular Gundam of Gundam – a step above the mainline mechs used in armies with its own heroic special rules. Included would be mass-production Mobile Armors (a combination of speed, lethality, and defense) and mechs meant to counter a Gundam’s ability like the Virgo II.
It makes sense BattleTech Heavy mechs like the Mad Dog appear here with gauss rifles and cannons.
WH40K escalates size and ability again with the Warlord Titan.
For a similar almost-fantasy example, the lesser-known Zoids franchise shows off huge bio-mechs like the Iron Kong.
A wrecking-tier of robots:
Gundam shows off advanced suits like Wing Zero – which destroys entire battle groups – to boss-level super-massive Mobile Armors the equivalent of multiple divisions (Big Zam, Apsaras III).
+100-ton Assault mechs in BattleTech plate the most armor, the heaviest weapons, and strike fear into any encounter. (The death’s-head Atlas being one such beast.)
Imperators in 40K are walking fortress-cathedrals that carry a company of troops just to prevent enemies from scaling the heights of its legs.
Mech species in Zoids cap out with the gargantuan sky-borne Whale King, land-battleship Ultrasaurus, and the Godzilla-like Death Saurer.
There we are – mechs for use in BITS.
These rules are easily adapted to organic monsters as well (Godzilla, Attack on Titan, etc.), and that’s the benefit of BITS: flavor the system to what’s being played, because it caters any play.
How would you improve the use of mecha in a role-playing game? What universal principles specific to mechs did I miss?
Whatever your playstyle is, have fun out there! Cheers.
One thought on “BITS – Mechs”