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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 8:42 am 
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A few friends and I want to run a Dragonmech campaign with rotating DMs so everyone can play, but we're hitting a few snags in the planning, or at least I'm hitting them. I was hoping the good folks here could offer me some advice on this:

1)We want the campaign to be mech-centric. There'll be relatively few ground encounters, mostly it'll be mech vs mech or mech vs monster of equivalent size encounters. The trouble I find is starting level. It can't be 1-20 because mechs are expensive. Also, repairs are expensive and would take a lot of time. We don't want every combat to be about taking the least amount of damage possible. We want everyone to be comfortable that they can fight with relative freedom and that taking ten or twenty points of damage won't severely cripple them or make them have to pause for days. Any ways to mitigate these obstacles?

2)Looking at the mech manual and the core book, I've found a number of mechs that seem pretty good for beginning players (we haven't decided whether we want steam hybrids or big mechs yet, so I'm just looking at big mechs) such as Barbagula, Defender, Shuriken. However, I don't know how they'd compare against each other. We don't want everyone having the same mech because then it might get boring. My idea was to have Barbagula and Shuriken (for the ranged attack enthusiasts) as options, but with different weapons, or oversize steam powers attached to change their roles up. Does this make the cost of ownership even more prohibitive? Does it negatively affect balance?

3)What are some big monsters that can provide a challenge for mechs? I don't want any overwhelmingly difficult encounters that will be frustrating, but something that can push them to the limit at least. See, the way I and my colleagues like to run encounters is sort of a 4th Edition kind of style – we have an equivalent number of enemies for the players, so everyone can pick one out and go fight. Rather than one huge guy who can either destroy them all horribly or be defeated easily be the sheer difference in turns. (We do the second one sometimes to mix it up).

4)Though we like the setting, we prefer doing our own thing most of the time (with elements culled from the setting itself, such as life being on city mechs, but some things removed, like the lunar aspects). We're big homebrewers and like coming up with our own NPCs, histories, continents and so on, with everyone's input so everyone has a home town, or something special in the world he or she made. But this question is about some aspects like the lunar rain, and racial tensions. How would this affect balance? For instance, is the lunar rain meant to be a balancing factor with mechs (messing them up so they have to keep being repaired?) or is it simply flavor and can be removed without trouble?

5)Does there have to be a "progression" of mechs throughout the levels? That is to say, how do Huge mechs handle against Gargantuan/Colossal mechs? With upgrades, are they viable? Or will each PC need to get a crew and their own gargantuan mechs as the game goes on so they can be viable? (We don't really want PCs all piloting the same mech, maybe once as a special encounter, but not throughout the whole game).

All help is appreciated. I admit I still haven't totally learned the system for designing a brand new mech, so perhaps that'd solve some of my problems.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:15 am 
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Wyatt wrote:
1)We want the campaign to be mech-centric. There'll be relatively few ground encounters, mostly it'll be mech vs mech or mech vs monster of equivalent size encounters. The trouble I find is starting level. It can't be 1-20 because mechs are expensive. Also, repairs are expensive and would take a lot of time. We don't want every combat to be about taking the least amount of damage possible. We want everyone to be comfortable that they can fight with relative freedom and that taking ten or twenty points of damage won't severely cripple them or make them have to pause for days. Any ways to mitigate these obstacles?

You could solve some of these problems by having the characters work for an organization or be part of a military service. They don't actually own their mechs, and the government/merchant clan/whatever that does own them will pay for most of the repairs. That would take the expense part more or less out of the equation, and with that I'd say start them somewhere in the 5-7 range where they're good enough to have a few cool abilities, but they can still be considered "young and fresh".

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2)Looking at the mech manual and the core book, I've found a number of mechs that seem pretty good for beginning players (we haven't decided whether we want steam hybrids or big mechs yet, so I'm just looking at big mechs) such as Barbagula, Defender, Shuriken. However, I don't know how they'd compare against each other. We don't want everyone having the same mech because then it might get boring. My idea was to have Barbagula and Shuriken (for the ranged attack enthusiasts) as options, but with different weapons, or oversize steam powers attached to change their roles up. Does this make the cost of ownership even more prohibitive? Does it negatively affect balance?

I haven't actually done much mech combat in my games, so I don't really know how the various types stack up against each other. I don't think swapping out weapons on mechs would affect balance much. Having steam powers may or may not affect things depending on how much leeway you give the players. If the players are all alone in the world, and they're relying on a PC coglayer to provide all their steam powers I doubt it would be a problem. Steam powers cost money to build, but once they're built they're basically free...so the players would only have to worry about the initial expense.

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3)What are some big monsters that can provide a challenge for mechs? I don't want any overwhelmingly difficult encounters that will be frustrating, but something that can push them to the limit at least. See, the way I and my colleagues like to run encounters is sort of a 4th Edition kind of style – we have an equivalent number of enemies for the players, so everyone can pick one out and go fight. Rather than one huge guy who can either destroy them all horribly or be defeated easily be the sheer difference in turns. (We do the second one sometimes to mix it up).

It's going to depend somewhat on what levels the characters are and what mechs you give them. Lunar dragons are the obvious choice for monster. The lunar giant and ygapmpo devourer from the Mech Manual would probably be good choices as well. You could also use terrestrial dragons and giants, and other large critters from other sources. And don't underestimate the value of small monsters...30 orcs on foot can easily be a match for a mech, especially if they manage to topple and/or board it.

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4)Though we like the setting, we prefer doing our own thing most of the time (with elements culled from the setting itself, such as life being on city mechs, but some things removed, like the lunar aspects). We're big homebrewers and like coming up with our own NPCs, histories, continents and so on, with everyone's input so everyone has a home town, or something special in the world he or she made. But this question is about some aspects like the lunar rain, and racial tensions. How would this affect balance? For instance, is the lunar rain meant to be a balancing factor with mechs (messing them up so they have to keep being repaired?) or is it simply flavor and can be removed without trouble?

The lunar rain is in the setting mostly to provide a reason for someone to have invented mechs, and just for some interesting story ideas. It doesn't really affect game balance in any way. You could easily remove all lunar aspects from the game or just take all the technological aspects to another setting without affecting balance in any way.

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All help is appreciated. I admit I still haven't totally learned the system for designing a brand new mech, so perhaps that'd solve some of my problems.

Some of the mech design stuff requires the scientific process of "eyeballing it" and "making arbitrary decisions". If you prefer a more mathematical approach to mech design, check out this thread.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:32 am 
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We ran a game that started at level 8, and had 30k starting gold, most of which would obviously go to mech creation.

For 30k, you can just about build a Huge clockwork adamantine-armored mech with some extras in it--like faster legs and strength upgrades--and have a bit leftover provided you don't go nuts on the upgrades.

One of your players may find it rewarding to make a "mech-slayer," a character with abilities geared towards cutting open a mech, going inside, and wreaking havoc on the crew. One of our players used a pick-your-feature Tiefling template at a +2 LA, and ended up with a Fey'ri (tiefling elf) who had/could...

-At-will Spider Climb.
-See In Darkness (which let her see in even magical darkness)
-The standard Darkness spell-like ability of tieflings.
-Dimension door 1/day
-Wings, flight speed 30 feet at average maneuverability
-Spent most of her money on an adamantine longsword (which, thanks to elf heritage, she could use) that did extra damage on inanimate objects. Meaning she could open up a mech like you wouldn't believe.

Thanks to her Stalker class, Aremerace could cause some serious havoc once inside the enemy mech. Her favorite tactic was to start piloting the mech and then run it into one of the other enemy mechs so they both fall over, then bail out of it. And if she ran into a tough fighter inside...well, she could center Darkness on herself, which wouldn't penalize her, and if things got really bad, she could Dimension Door out of there.

Armor turned out to be easy. Mithril Chain shirt, +2. No armor check penalty, easy to wear...

I've got the template on my laptop if anyone cares to use it.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 10:33 am 
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It's definitely true that characters end up being way more powerful than the mechs, even at relatively low levels.

In the campaign I ran, even when we did have mech vs mech combat it never even got to the point where a mech took a critical hit because one crew or the other had already taken out the other crew. Even when I threw big monsters at them to fight in their mech, sometimes they'd get out and fight it on foot because they could do more damage than their mechs. And this was at about 7th level.

(Of course none of these characters were mech jockeys or had any particular mech piloting skills.)

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 10:47 am 
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mythfish wrote:
It's definitely true that characters end up being way more powerful than the mechs, even at relatively low levels.

In the campaign I ran, even when we did have mech vs mech combat it never even got to the point where a mech took a critical hit because one crew or the other had already taken out the other crew. Even when I threw big monsters at them to fight in their mech, sometimes they'd get out and fight it on foot because they could do more damage than their mechs. And this was at about 7th level.

(Of course none of these characters were mech jockeys or had any particular mech piloting skills.)


I wouldn't say she was more powerful than a mech, I'd say Aremerace was geared towards taking advantages of a mech's weaknesses. She found a niche and exploited it.

She traditionally clung to the back of my coglayer's mech until she reached the enemy, and her battle style takes several rounds, but it WILL take out a mech. The dwarf, on the other hand, shot his steam cannon and scored a critical that completely disabled a steam-powered mech.

To make things better, he did the same thing next turn.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:11 am 
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None of us really want to foot it at all. What got us into Dragonmech mostly was the prospect of giant steam machines kicking the coal out of each other. Likely they will also not try to break into another machine and kill the crew unless they wanted to steal it or somesuch.

I really like the idea of military service. It also gives me a way to get the mechs upgraded and such. If they start to perform poorly against enemies, the higher ups will start fixing the mechs – it's in their best interest that battles be won after all! We'll have this as a background option, because I think some of the players will want to be free of military discipline and constraints and actually own their own mech, in which case I'll just have those person be like mercenaries, and receive the wealth to do their own repairs.

Thanks for the help so far. Anyone care to take a crack at my fifth question?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:58 am 
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Wyatt wrote:
None of us really want to foot it at all. What got us into Dragonmech mostly was the prospect of giant steam machines kicking the coal out of each other. Likely they will also not try to break into another machine and kill the crew unless they wanted to steal it or somesuch.

I really like the idea of military service. It also gives me a way to get the mechs upgraded and such. If they start to perform poorly against enemies, the higher ups will start fixing the mechs – it's in their best interest that battles be won after all! We'll have this as a background option, because I think some of the players will want to be free of military discipline and constraints and actually own their own mech, in which case I'll just have those person be like mercenaries, and receive the wealth to do their own repairs.

Thanks for the help so far. Anyone care to take a crack at my fifth question?


Part of it's the mech, but a lot of it is the pilot. You can do a lot with a even a weak mech. But since you raised the issue, you could:

-Have them stay in single-pilot mechs, which get repairs and upgrades, and maybe they get some upgraded mechs, or, heck just new mechs. Maybe they get so much status, they get to specify what they want, within a certain cost. As for appropriate encounters, a squad of smaller mechs could effectively scatter and use teamwork to keep one big enemy whirling, but it's still a case of mobility and chipping them down.

-Have them become part of a small-crew mech, in which case you need to decide how awesome their crew is. You'll probably have to decide if your first officer is a gunner or a pilot, and I've never heard it full described what is it a mech crewman does during a fight. I assume they're being useful... (Has anyone actually determined that?)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:12 pm 
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Wyatt wrote:
5)Does there have to be a "progression" of mechs throughout the levels? That is to say, how do Huge mechs handle against Gargantuan/Colossal mechs? With upgrades, are they viable? Or will each PC need to get a crew and their own gargantuan mechs as the game goes on so they can be viable? (We don't really want PCs all piloting the same mech, maybe once as a special encounter, but not throughout the whole game).


Short answer - Huge mechs can be competitive against larger ones, if they have the right equipment, right armor, and right crew. The sheer size of a bigger mech makes a... well, big difference. It can be overcome, but it takes planning and upgrading. I think there's a sweet spot right around Colossal, where a mech has the right balance of hitting power and mobility. If you want a mech-intensive game, which it sounds like you do, I'd plan to progress through at least a couple mech sizes.

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 Post subject: single pilot mechs
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:03 am 
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Arek wrote:

Part of it's the mech, but a lot of it is the pilot. You can do a lot with a even a weak mech. But since you raised the issue, you could:

-Have them stay in single-pilot mechs, which get repairs and upgrades, and maybe they get some upgraded mechs, or, heck just new mechs. Maybe they get so much status, they get to specify what they want, within a certain cost. As for appropriate encounters, a squad of smaller mechs could effectively scatter and use teamwork to keep one big enemy whirling, but it's still a case of mobility and chipping them down.

-Have them become part of a small-crew mech, in which case you need to decide how awesome their crew is. You'll probably have to decide if your first officer is a gunner or a pilot, and I've never heard it full described what is it a mech crewman does during a fight. I assume they're being useful... (Has anyone actually determined that?)


single pilot mechs of the steam and clockwork variety tend to be pretty small in mech terms. the viper and barbagula are ones that come to mind. fairly potent for their size for sure, but mostly of use against monsters or in groups against larger mechs. as a skirmish or recon party that would make those single pilot mechs ideal, but be prepared to run when confronted with anything colossal2 or bigger as they will be sporting much more expansive and dangerous weaponry.

if your party would be willing to design itself around being mech crew you could designate rolls, this'd probably require some multiclassing with mech jock or dedicating some feats, but one person could pilot, and others could be things like gunners and engineers keeping it running.


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 Post subject: Re: single pilot mechs
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:55 am 
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modus666 wrote:
Arek wrote:

Part of it's the mech, but a lot of it is the pilot. You can do a lot with a even a weak mech. But since you raised the issue, you could:

-Have them stay in single-pilot mechs, which get repairs and upgrades, and maybe they get some upgraded mechs, or, heck just new mechs. Maybe they get so much status, they get to specify what they want, within a certain cost. As for appropriate encounters, a squad of smaller mechs could effectively scatter and use teamwork to keep one big enemy whirling, but it's still a case of mobility and chipping them down.

-Have them become part of a small-crew mech, in which case you need to decide how awesome their crew is. You'll probably have to decide if your first officer is a gunner or a pilot, and I've never heard it full described what is it a mech crewman does during a fight. I assume they're being useful... (Has anyone actually determined that?)


single pilot mechs of the steam and clockwork variety tend to be pretty small in mech terms. the viper and barbagula are ones that come to mind. fairly potent for their size for sure, but mostly of use against monsters or in groups against larger mechs. as a skirmish or recon party that would make those single pilot mechs ideal, but be prepared to run when confronted with anything colossal2 or bigger as they will be sporting much more expansive and dangerous weaponry.

if your party would be willing to design itself around being mech crew you could designate rolls, this'd probably require some multiclassing with mech jock or dedicating some feats, but one person could pilot, and others could be things like gunners and engineers keeping it running.


We REALLY don't want the party in a single mech.

I'm thinking by the very end of the game then, just having them get colossal mechs and using Leadership to get themselves a crew. The cohort and the best one or two followers can be gunners, the rest of the followers engineers, and I'll only give them enough of these to keep the mech running so the shenanigans don't transfer outside the mech as much. For most of the game they'll just be in Huge mechs fighting Huge mechs.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 2:28 pm 
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Arek wrote:
-Have them become part of a small-crew mech, in which case you need to decide how awesome their crew is. You'll probably have to decide if your first officer is a gunner or a pilot, and I've never heard it full described what is it a mech crewman does during a fight. I assume they're being useful... (Has anyone actually determined that?)


They're maintaining boiler pressure, stoking the furnace, winding the auxiliary springs, mumbling the incantations, watching for boarders, shooting out of the gunnery holes, clinging to the superstructure for dear life...

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 3:05 pm 
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Giants. Preferably same size as the mechs in question (does that work power-wise?) With flying (gargoyle?) escorts.

Am I the only one who would sign up with the Stenian Confederacy as a mech jockey/crew, go out on patrol and never come back? Or even better, ambush the rest of the patrol and take the other mechs, or at least whatever is left!

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