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Scaffold check Party controls single giant Jaeger

zen bullet

Retired User
Not a new idea, pretty sure I grabbed the core from here, just can't remember where

So it's a bolt on 5e OGL of submersible/robot versus giant sea monster/other jaegers combat engine. The Party gets in their robot/submersible/spaceship/steampunk puppeted dragon zombie and now have to roll as a group to control the actions of their phlogiston sailing junk trader or what have you, so everyone stays interested in the game.

The goal is to provide something for everyone to do and using action economy to make it happen

The basic rolls in each phase of a round are:
Roll to Declare
Roll to Modify Attack rolls
Roll to Grant Bonuses and Penalties Next Turn

Here are incredibly badly named action types

Move Standard Action (Impulse Gauge)
Move Bonus Action (activate drive, only one per round)
Move Reaction (Rangeshift)

Defend Standard Action (control body)
Defend Bonus Action (activate point defenses)
Defend Reaction (dodge primary weapon)

Attack Standard Action (activate primary weapon, rarely done)
Attack Bonus Action (activate attacks)

Helm Standard Action (load balance)
Signals Bonus Action (communication/command)
Tactical Bonus Action (awareness)
Helm Bonus Action (internal powers)

So 4 standard actions would be best with 4 players, and then limiting bonus action use and having multiple types of bonus actions does the trick, there's an internal balance to it maybe? I need outside eyes. The two Reactions are actually hidden Standard Actions so there are ways to force even a Party with more than 4 players to worry about action economy.

4 phases to each round, but narratively everything is happening all at once. Standard Actions are contested rolls, bonus actions roll a check against a static value

-Each round begins with a contested roll, Impulse Gauge (Weather Gauge and Impulse Drive, yeah)
The winner determines which side must declare actions first each phase, In a multiple party combat, declaration order is decided by winner. This is where the action economy aspect kicks in, people can declare bonus attacks and bonus moves pretty much from the start, waiting till later has obvious benefits, but that's why I wanted people to have the option to roll this or skip it if they don't have enough players.
-Move bonus actions can be defensive or attempting to change engagement ranges
-If someone changes engagement ranges there is a Reaction Roll Off requiring a Standard Action, winner determines result of the attempted phase change.
(Unless it happens before the Impulse Gauge roll, in which case, it's just the Impulse Gauge roll. Or not. I need an outside opinion on this)

-Defend is rolled against others that are close range to grapple/manuever out of fire or when being attacked by a primary weapon. Winning the roll off would give a bonus on attack powers
-Defend bonus actions are basically attacks lol
-The primary weapon roll is basically a dodge for damage negation

ATTACK is not a phase, attack actions can be declared any time
-The primary weapon is on a countdown, that is effected by many inputs. It goes boom every once in a while, it's designed to force a dodge reaction, or, you know, win.
-Bonus attacks are the bread and butter, rolled against a static value, gain a bonus from the Defend Roll Off if they wait that long because they can be called at any time. I'm considering making the end of the Defend phase last call for Attack actions, but I don't think it's necessary. Success in an attack roll damages systems, taking them offline and removing actions from the defender, which would be why someone doesn't want to wait for the bonus

-Load balancing is a damage mitigation roll narratively, mechanically the roll off winner gets to put disadvantage on the other side (there's this whole metacurrency called Drift that can effect Dis/Advantage and Actions) for the next round if there is one. I can see maybe people just dumping their unused bonus attack actions here, I can't decide if that's a bad thing, or create Helm bonus actions that would serve as attack options.

Either way, my first instinct is to say bonuses applied by the current round's Helm Roll Off for next round don't apply to held bonus attacks, this is partly why I consider officially ruling that the previous Phase ends attacks to avoid confusion. Probably not, Move and Defend only seems like a short window.

(Signals, Helm, and Tactical Bonus Actions can also take place whenever, they are utility.)

So scaffold check
Did this make sense? Sure was my writing clear (no) but more does the roll to declare, roll off for bonus modifier, roll to do damage, roll for bonuses next turn make sense? This is my most important question.

Does it provide tension? I worry it doesn't do that.
Getting to roll declaration order is both to create a roll, and if it works as I envision a decent percentage of time, there may be a bit of back and forth about the number of actions the enemy can field in a given fight, so giving the party reassurance this is the last thing an enemy will declare in a given round might be important. This is something I waver on, where are the majority of actions going to be held in a round. I'm also hoping that since each of the main phase rolls directly affects the next phase rolled, that will help maintain the party paying attention since they need to know the results of that roll to make their own. And wondering if at the end of the first turn you are facing a massive volley seems like it could be attention grabbing.

Tension in rolls implies these rolls matter I feel, what makes a player pay attention?

Did I miss any actions?

In case you missed it, each successful attack takes a system offline. A system powers either a power, or a stat of the craft being controlled. Losing the right system could cost entire an entire phase of actions. A primary weapon would either let you choose which system to destroy, or destroy a multiple systems. IDK how I'm going to resolve which system ultimately gets destroyed when. Called Shots on specific systems require a Tactical Check before it can be attempted. Normally, you can pick any system that's is currently active, but IDK how I'm going to deal with firing blind or even how to choose which of the currently active systems is destroyed. Any suggestions? Or thoughts on damage in general? It's abstracted for ease of portability, originally it was just supposed to be a simple magical submarine combat thing I was going to run before it snowballed into it's current form. Originally I just had cross sections of submarines with certain areas highlighted in different colors and I was just going to have players choose a color to decide. So help pls?

Monsters have magical organs that function as individual systems.

Not to get all weepy, but a month ago I was thinking about doing a fun sub thing for my players and now I have over a hundred handwritten pages of setting and rules. So I'm just curious if anyone spots any obvious flaws lol

What if there aren't enough players?
I feel only the Move and Defend Standard Actions are really necessary, that's why Attack is mainly just Bonus Actions. If there's no one available to do it, there is a static value. Friendly DMs can give small parties large static value systems to take some of the pain away from missing Actions consistently. I think the most valuable duo of actions in the long run would be Defend and Helm, at least in my head.

Do you see a more elegant way of doing this based on my goals?
(Create a shared action based economy where roll offs matter to keep everyone paying attention)
(oh was that my goal?)

Do the Roll Offs matter?
I feel like players like rolling damage. It makes them happy. Very Happy. I think it's because most systems, you passed the To Hit bar. You are safe, the next roll can only be good. Damage mitigation that directly reduces a damage roll feels bad in comparison to a damage roll that takes the total amount rolled directly to the life bar. Games where you reduce the number of dice rolled would have the most visceral feeling of losing something in my head. So even if a roll has more narrative weight, ie, you get to choose something, players will gain less enjoyment from the result. Because they didn't roll damage dice. (Not rolling damage dice does hinder my goal though, or am I just wrong about that rolling damage thing. It can't be just me, right?)

So to counteract this, I made the turning of a phase moments be a roll off, where two people can shake a die while grinning at each other. Not as satisfying, but very in the moment. That's also why I tried to have the roll off be that actual changing of the phase, an easy way to know where you are. By the same token I made the Attack Bonus Actions to be against static values so that way the player can feel the reassurance of knowing what the target number is. I hope some of the feel of excitement will be made up by quickly calling out attack actions when the time is right. Do these seem like reasonable assumptions to make?

(Just by writing this I realized I should just name every action by phase and limiting them to that phase except for attack actions. Signals and Tactical would get folded into Attack for those of you already playing at home. That seems more elegant to me.)

Primary Weapon Actions interrupt my design framework. Does it do so too much? Having a timer on the big damage effect allows me to hang a lot of widgets for powers, since this is just a scaffold of my combat resolution outline I tried to limit the amount of info to just what you need to know to process it but if you have any clarifications you need I'll be happy to answer them. I just wanted to stay focused on this small cornerstone of my engine that holds everything else in place lol. But briefly a lot of powers won't affect the die rolling, they will work on keyword negation, when the primary weapon is fired each character gets to decide from the keywords the systems their helms are attached to have access to and add it to the effect.

That's why I'm okay with Primary Weapon Attack being a wandering subphase essentially because in that moment everyone will have to make a small decision and maybe there is a Roll Off as well, actions permitting. It's designed to be a group moment and the flow of the phases is intentionally being interrupted to highlight the group moment, where everyone is encouraged to say something.

The names of everything are bad. I need better names for phases/action types. Defend isn't really defend, it's close attack. Helm was originally a catchall for utility powers. Move at least deals with movement but really it's more about having a faster reaction time, maybe Pilot. Attack is actually a damage roll. I locked in those names as placeholders and now that's how I see them even if mechanically defense is a static value that has nothing to do with phases. If from my terrible description you got something out of this let me know what is actually happening during my phases lol

So yeah that's it, thanks for reading all this, and thank you if you respond
i enjoyed writing this, hope you enjoyed reading it.
(I said drift)

John Out West

Registered User
Validated User
Seems unnecessarily complicated. (And wasn't super easy to read either) When I had players in a jaeger (I'll admit, it was a Megazord and not a jaeger) they all had individual actions and attacks as usual. The feet could walk and then kick, the sword hand could swipe or grab, the shield hand could bash or defend/dodge, and the head-cannon could fire magic lasers or scan for weaknesses.

What made it really fun was the group abilities. Each player had special abilities, but they required the whole group to sign on, shout the name of the ability in unison, and then do a pose together. (Basically like the power rangers) Even though it was only one player doing an ability, since everyone participated in the pose and shout it felt like they were all playing.

I think Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime did a good job with movement, where the guy who pilots also has abilities like: Drop mines in the path, or ram people with their shield. I definitely don't suggest you limit anyone's ability to deal damage unless they purposefully choose it.

I hope that helps.

Brad J. Murray

RPGnet Member
Validated User
I'm interested in your use of the word "scaffold" here since I recently wrote about the technique and thought I coined the word (in this context, obviously). I'd love to track its progress in the wild. :D


Audii alteram partem
Validated User
IMHO, the worst thing you can do is say: look player, you are now fighting in a Jaeger! Exited!?
Now, that feel exactly like playing you standard warrior. Excited!?
Bigger damage, bigger HP, but everything else is the same.

I would suggest to start with some real-world reading on how these works: submarine warfare, ship-to-ship combat and fighter jets engagements and complexities.
What are the difficulties, maneuvers involved, sensors and tactics.
This will give you a much needed background of the huge amount of things you can bolt on a simple d20.

Another interesting reading could be deciding how each vehicle you want to implement is divided.
If is single manned or group manned (not clear by the rules you exposed).
What each player will do in a multi-manned vehicle? For sure the group needs to coordinate exceptionally.

I would add some real hard-tech complexities like keeping enemy lock for targeting control, select correct defense and correct weapons, detecting menaces, evading long range missile salvos, damage control, power rerouting, shield strengthening, speed and maneuvers, etc.
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Registered User
Validated User
The thing about putting the party in a single large vehicle is that on one hand, the complexity should probably be manageable which means you don't necessarily want too many different rules and such. On the other hand, there's a lot of emergent complexity in many conventional battles due to the number of combatants and their interactions. If you have 4 guys, each person can move about and target enemies by themselves, and the enemies can do likewise, plus any special powers or whatnot (granted, some games heavily emphasize formations or abstract groups of enemies so they operate the same as one strong dude). In a single combined actor model like you proposed, you have one person doing moves, one person doing closecombat, etc. So each person is making like half the decisions (or less) than they normally would, which can make the combat seem rote. There's nothing to do besides roll for the action of your 'station' or role.

I generally like the Fragged Empire ship rules. Each type of action has multiple varieties, so people always have some choices about what to do. And many of the actions are constrained by previous ones - you don't do move/command actions to move your ship around. Your ship is going regardless of what you do! You take those actions to change your course or speed for next round. It conveys a feeling of weight and inertia; if I want the ship to fly through a certain spot, I have to kind of wrangle it into doing so through intermediate steps.

And the feeling of mass is a huge part of Pacific Rim's Jaegars IMO.
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