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[WIR]Where I Read Tears of a Machine, so get in the robot.

R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#1


Tears of a Machine is a mecha RPG by Russell Collins released in 2013 that focuses on a rather specific subset of the genre, which is the "volatile teens piloting monstrous war machines that their own creators only somewhat understand against powerful and horrifying invaders." So, this is your game of Evangelion, Gunparade March, whatever. Russel Collins has also released the book in screen-readable text to speech formats for the visually impaired as well, which is also worth mentioning.

No point to delaying, so here we go.

Chapter 1: Welcome

Just a general, "what this RPG thing is about" segment. There's nothing in here that isn't covered in more detail elsewhere in the book.

Chapter 2: Setting, or "How Earth was totally fucked but managed to pull a complete 360"

So, seventeen years before the setting's present, Earth had managed to dig itself into a hole that was one shovel away from going full Road Warrior. Famine, peak oil, and other miscellaneous problems that were causing a slow but noticeable descent into total chaos.

When the aliens came, they didn't arrive from space, but the call was coming from inside the house. Calling themselves the Legulus (gatherers), they promised to fix all of the food and resource problems in exchange for being allowed to set up settlements in various parts of the world. They could walk their talk, and while powerful nations held off, the destitute regions of the world were like "Hell yeah food!" The aliens could settle anywhere, and soon build their own little gleaming enclaves which became the world's Open Door. Trying to reverse engineer or steal their shit proved pointless, so they just let them be. For a little while.

The Legulus started to take small number of people into their settlements, but a much larger number started to form cults of worship around the extraterrestrials, who were preaching equality shared burdens within a communal whole. This was largely ignored until more established religions started to feel the pinch and issued directives condemning worshiping the Legulus, and soon more conventional fanatics started throwing bombs at the alien settlements. A US Senator didn't want to risk terrorists, so he decided to try to evict the aliens who had set up in his home state.

In response, the Legulus packed up their stuff and left, launching their numerous settlements into space. The cults remained, as they tend to do, but the resources that the Legulus had left Earth gave humanity the ability to enact a more sustainable recovery.

Ten years later, they came back in a ship built out of a Voltron'ed combination of all the settlements they had built on Earth, and they were all like "Okay, we tried doing this the nice way, now we're doing it the hard way." So it started spewing out dropships targeted at major cities and filled with insectoid robot tanks called the Locusts, which demolished defenders in advance of swarmers, smaller robots that captured survivors and carried them back to their dropships to be taken to the mothership. While the first wave was a devastating surprise, Earth's military forces were able to drive back the Locust raids with overwhelming firepower, sometimes even preventing them from grabbing any abductees. That's when the invaders, now designated the Mayzor (from the Latin Messor, harvester), unleashed their real war machines, hundred-foot tall angelic giants of silver and porcelain called the Magnas.

These seemingly invincible titans lashed out with powerful energy weapons, spewed toxic gases and rampaged in pure, literal howling rage, thrown into the teeth of the fiercest human resistance to crush the defenders. However, as an extra-special giant middle robot finger, they dropped a hundred Magnas on Jerusalem and the nearby region and turned it into a smoking hole in the ground, not even bothering to take prisoners. Magnas that had been fought and damaged in previous battles appeared with new limbs and even heads grown out of their wounds, their regeneration turning them into misshapen cybernetic horrors.

After blowing up the holy land and leaving many survivors beginning to believe that the end times had come at last, the Magnas returned to their Mothership, which then retreated to the dark side of the moon, and mankind got a brief reprieve, though the surviving nations were at a loss of what to do with it other than organize and wait for the next attack. It's then that the Swiss introduced the rest of humanity to the highly secretive Cloistered Research Council. Their representative, whose appearance and even true voice were entirely concealed, explained that they had been studying the invaders and their tech since the condemnation from the Vatican, and discovered two things. First, the Mayzor operate on a collective telepathic network that they were looking to expand with new members, but their plans beyond that remain a mystery. The second was that the CRC could totally X-COM the Mayzor's shit and built a fighting force that could protect humanity, but only on two conditions. First, the new force would answer only to the UN and the CRC would be a part of its creation, and second that the CRC would be allowed to continue its research in absolute secrecy and without question- otherwise they'd destroy their tech and leave humanity at the mercy of the invaders.

With no choice to agree, the United Forces for the Preservation of Humanity, or Preservation Forces, for short, was born, and the CRC proved their worth immediately by furnishing humankind with gigantic walking robot tanks, Robbies for short, built on the same scale as the Magnas with prototype nanotech. The next attacks were just as apocalyptic as the first, but somewhat less one-sided, as the Robbies were able, in numbers to actually kill a couple of the Magnas, which were hauled off by the CRC for research and experimentation. Whiel the Robbies proved effective against the Locusts, they were still not much of a match for the Magnas,whose maneuverability and psychic abilities made them too strong and quick to reliably overcome.

The results of this research was the SAInt.

The CRC managed to unlock all of the secrets of the construction of the Magnas and managed to build- or more accurately, grow- their own, based on the Magnas itself. However, the Magnas were rage-filled cybernetic war machines of violence and destruction, so in order to make them controllable, the CRC scientists effectively lobotomized their home-grown monsters, and looked elsewhere to find a means to replace what they had taken.

The CRC researchers discovered that younger brains that had not fully-developed were the most capable at controlling their new machines, as their new creatures were able to more easily influence the development of younger minds and help them become suitable for use in controlling the vast and terrifying power of the SAInts, so named after their control system, the Sympathetic Android Interface. However, it is a fact that pilots age out of being able to control a SAInt once they reach the age of 18, so pilots are at the age of 12 to 17. Launching from massive aerial carrier bases called the Arx, these pilots are launched forth to respond to Mayzor attacks wherever they may fall to fight back against the might of the enigmatic invaders.

And one of those pilots is you. No pressure.

May the SAInts preserve us.

NEXT: Chapter 2 Continued- You, the world, and what's left of both.
 

R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#2
Chapter 2, part 2: Who Killed the World? ALIENS

Bear with me here, the setting info is like, the first 1/4th of the book.

And we're not getting to character creation any time soon, that's basically the second to last chapter.

So, pilots are generally selected from war orphans (there's no shortage) and those who are voluntold to try out for the SAInt program. However, the needs of the program mean that only one out of five hundred children are candidates for the program, and only one out of every three thousand kids pass the basic training. This isn't like regular military training, as the kids aren't expected to be anywhere on the field except inside their SAInt. The first part of training is basically sensory deprivation stress testing and simulations to see how if they can handle "giving up" their own bodies and wielding the SAInt as their worldly form.

Assuming they don't wash out or go crazy, they then move to live on one of the Arx with a foster family and then move on to the regular simulation exercises and education, such as piloting weapons handling and all the little things one needs to know to fight off an apocalyptic invasion from the stars. Once that's done, it's time to meet the SAInt. As SAInts are vigorously alive, it's more like introducing a rider to a horse than anything else, so they need some time to get to know each other, mental-wise, and a careful attunement process is required, otherwise bad, bad things happen.

Once that works itself out, the pilots are divided into the teams they will work with for the rest of their careers as SAInt pilots, and the live exercises begin.

Once they finish, pilots don't actually have official military rank, which is fine- neither do a bunch of their commanders, either, as their handlers can come from many paths.

As for the life of pilots? Better than most, stranger than most.

As most kids come from refugees or orphanages, they're pretty keen on the pilot life having reliable food and not being in constant danger. Training occurs every day, and sometimes at any hour to help prepare for the fact that the invaders never clock out for the day, and it's always high noon somewhere in the world. The pilots are subject to physical and psychological review, as well as occasional experimentation by the CRC, such as attempts at telepathic connection without the intermediary of a SAInt.

Outside of the pilot life, the kids are allowed to have certain kinds of free time. There are plenty of "after school" clubs and similar steam-blowing activities, plus there's the usual teenage drive to find any and all ways to get into trouble. However, the punishments can't really extend to driving them out of the Force because, as was once said, "Who's your second choice to play John McClaine?"

However, there is one place where the CRC and Preservation force both put their foot down. Teens are hormonal juggernauts, to say the least, but actual romantic dealings are severely curtailed, and sexual congress is strictly forbidden, and any violation of this may lead to one or both pilots being assigned to opposite sides of the globe. The Innocence Policy was put in place by the because pregnant pilots cause SAInts to become angry and confused at a second mental pattern, and rumor has it that the time this happened, many people died and the baby was born with the soul of her mother's SAInt.

But that's a rumor, right?

As for the world outside the Arx, suicide is up, and a lot of religious and secular initiatives are trying to combat this. The Preservation Force has military presences in the remaining major cities, but they've got a posse comitatus thing going on, so no law enforcement by giant robot tank. Some people have decided to leave the cities and become nomads to escape, while others remain and count on the protection of the Preservation Force. The Wastelands are home to these nomads who live as off the grid as they can manage, but they also do try to supply kids to the Preservation Force either to reduce the moths they have to feed or try to send them to a better life as a monster pilot.

Rural areas tend not to get hit by alien attacks except as splash damage from fighting elsewhere, and rural communities try to stay under the radar by staying small. This doesn't always work.

The Suburbs? Basically fucked. Dense enough to appeal to the Mayzor, but too far out to protect with local forces.

Urban zones are where the Preservation Force fort up, and coastal cities are at an advantage since the enemy only attacks over land. New York might be in okay shape, but Topeka is done for. People congregate in the cities for the protection of the PresForce guns, and also to improve their odds of not being the captured ones in an attack.

Military bases are restrictive, but still desirable, seeing as they are full of guns and people who know how to use them against invaders. Competition for military housing is fierce, and SAInt testing is mandatory for children of military families.

And then there are the Arx themselves, which are the safest and most desirable homes of all, because the Mayzor have never successfully attacked one. Pilots are placed with foster families because there just isn't room for the real ones, unless they perform military or base functions.

As for the world in general, life goes on, though always with an eye to the skies. Entertainment is much more local, seeing as the Mayzor blew up every satellite they could shoot at, which was all of them, and that has caused all of the problems you might expect. New construction is very fortress-y, and most visual entertainment and games has quite a militaristic bent, idolizing bold sacrifice, perseverance, and a belief in inevitable victory over the invaders.

So, here's the specific quick and dirty on the rest of the world.

USA- A country in name only. Lots of cities attracted lost of aliens, so DC has limited ability to help and the states are now taking up the burdens, and the states are now inflicting protectionism on each other.

Canada- Managing to hold it together a little better, filled with American refugees.

South America- Also got whacked pretty hard, but better off than the US, plus they are highly supportive of PresForce.

Africa- Mostly untouched, but the attacks have caused North African countries to form their own alliance.

China- Drowning in radiation and civil unrest. Actually tried to nuke the invaders. Have they never watched a movie?

Japan- Considering closing the country again, because, you know, it worked so well the first time.

Europe- Too damaged and had to decombine.

India- Stomped flat due to plentiful dense metro areas.

Middle East- Smoking hole in the ground. Don't bother going there. Don't even try. DON'T

i t m a k e s t h e m a n g r y

Russia- Moscow got exploded, and the country has also implemented a forced dispersal program for its population onto collectivized farms.

Australia- Largely ignored by the invaders, so they had more time to prepare.

As for how the Preservation Force itself is viewed, well... I'll let Mr. Kipling explain:

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! "
But it's " Saviour of 'is country " when the guns begin to shoot;

However, seeing as the SAInts arrive from the sky in gleaming armor to do battle with the hellish invaders, a cult has started to grow around the worship of the SAInts themselves. PresForce doesn't like this, but the CRC sees these cults as... Useful.

The CRC itself is viewed with intense suspicion, as it's believed they're using their privileged status to avoid being prosecuted for all the things they had to do to unlock the secrets of the Mayzor, and others think that they may have known about the aliens before they first revealed themselves and are planning to take over once the invaders have been repelled. The next phase of their research involves something called the Apostle Project, and it seems to involve pilots who have formed very close psychic bonds with their SAInt...

Next: Chapter 2 Continued- You and your robot- One and the same.
 
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R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#3
Chapter 2: Part 3- You hate the invaders? So does your robot.

Okay, there are some pretty lengthy technical details here, so I'm just going to give all of you the bullet points version of the operating manual for your hot out of the tube SAInt.

-SAInts are grown, not built. They start as something closer to meat, but transform into something mostly recognizable as metal, then sprout all of their necessary organs, like bones, muscles, and what amounts to a bio-fusion reactor, through careful guidance from their creators.

-Since the Magnas are giant rage machines, SAInts have to be lobotomized to be made compliant and (somewhat) controllable by a pilot. It's at this point they are armored up to disguise the fact that their ugly goes clear to the bone. After this, they're activated.

-SAInts can regenerate from even the meanest and gruesome wounds in battle. The results are useful, but never pretty, and damaged SAInts need to get some cosmetic surgery done before being redeployed to disguise their thoroughly monstrous nature.

-SAInts communicate through telepathy. This is not entirely understood, but the CRC is on the job! Pilots can communicate with other pilots using this system, but neither SAInts nor the Mayzor can penetrate each other's telepathic networks. Pilots also "see" using the SAInt's senses.

-One of the reasons the Magnas are such difficult targets is that they have a battle precognition that allows them to avoid attacks or harden their defenses at the right time to withstand assaults. SAInts nullify this ability and force Magnas to fight them with their regular senses.

-They are piloted from a plug, while wearing a plugsuit. No surprises there.

- Even though pilots and their machines(?) are linked, pilots are mentally and physically shielded from the tumult and torment of battle. SAInt weapons are hand-held because internal weapons were found to cause the pilot to disassociate themselves from their SAInt, which caused the SAInt to go out of control.

And speaking of that sort of thing, while the SAInt has been lobotomized, the violent lizard brain part of the SAInt's mind remains, and when combat is joined, those violent urges, called the Id become powerful and need to be vented on something. The pilot can direct those destructive urges towards the Mayzor, but if the Id is not allowed its release, it can overwhelm the pilot's own personal will and sense of self-worth, called the Ego.

So, what happens if a SAInt's Id overrides a pilot's Ego? I'm glad you asked!

9a2660455422d2974aaf1385ee69b0ee.jpg

Pretty much that.

Once the SAInt has done enough horrible violence to everything within reach, or the pilot is able to find some other way to assert control, the frenzy ends, and the pilot may have to face some uncomfortable questions in the aftermath.

Know your enemy

So, here's where we learn about the three basic kinds of machines used by the Mayzor and their sub-types.

Swarmers are the insectoid capture bots used by the Mayzor to scoop up survivors and take them back to their dropships. They pose no threat to the armored war machines of the Preservation Forces, but are always present.

Locusts are the basic insectoid armored minion of the Mayzor, and come in three basic configurations- as basic armored combatants, close assault vehicles, and self-propelled artillery. These are the lowest class of attackers that pose a threat to a SAInt.

The Magnas are the (known) ultimate weapons of the Mayzor, as large as a SAInt or larger. Magnas that survive battles with the Preservation force grow stronger and more monstrous in appearance as they repair themselves from the damage they receive. They are deployed when the Locusts face powerful resistance, and are divided into three types based on their size and power. Principal ranked Magnas are both about as large as a SAint and still somewhat pristine and retain part of their originally angelic appearance but can still sport multiple limbs, heads, faces, and mouths. Dominion ranked are larger and most deifnately not that, their regeneration twisting their froms into something beyond. Throne ranked are the biggest of the big chunguses, so huge that they are propelled by dozens of individual limbs twisted together into massive tree-like trunks.

Only very occasionally are any of the actual invaders spotted, and they may have spies among us. After all, back at the very beginning, the call came from inside the house.

Whew.

So, the most I can really say about the setting is that it's rather typically apocalyptic- I mean, I may not be the one who is best suited to judge this sort of thing, seeing as I currently have a severe case of apocalypse fatigue, but I'm just not seeing all that much new here.

Of course, part of the whole point of this exercise is probably that the game wears its influences on its sleeves. And pants. And T-shirt. And baseball cap.

Next: Chapter 3- Actual rules, if you can believe it.
 

R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#4
Chapter 3: Ruled By Rules

Okay, so here are the basics. The game uses D6s.

Talents = Stats, Proficiencies = Skills.

Characters have five Talents: Charm, Coordination, Intellect, Tone, and Spirit. These range from 1-5.

Characters have ten Proficiencies, two for each talent. These range from 0-5.

To perform an action, a character rolls a number of dice equal to the appropriate Talent, take the highest, and then add the appropriate Proficiency. If the character beats the difficulty, they succeed. Note, by the way, that I said beat the difficulty- ties go to the "defender" in this game, which is something that has occasionally tripped people up. Every die that matches the highest roll adds to the total, and a PC can get increases to their total from equipment or spending Ego.

And that's the basic mechanism.

Characters also have something called Ego, which can be spent to increase the chance or degree of success, and PCs can have a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 5. This is gained and lost through actions that are linked to their motivations, whether positive or negative.

However, in robot combat, SAInts have a nasty little stat called Id, which is gained through the course of battle and can be spent to improve rolls like Ego- however, while Ego can be spent on any action, Id can only be spent on violent actions that involve directly trying to attack and kill an opponent. Both Id and Ego can be used on the same action, as long as it's MURDER

Now, outcomes can also be boosted, which increases the degree of success, which actually has mechanical importance in certain kinds of challenges. You get boosts to success the same way you get increases to the actual roll- matching dice, Ego, ROBOT RAGE, and equipment.

There are also straight attribute rolls, where you need to roll equal or below the appropriate talent on a d6.

It's also possible to take Team actions. The number of team members that can assist is equal to the PC's Proficiency for that action. Each team member adds one to the leader's roll, plus one for every matching die they roll from their own Talent rolls. Supporting PCs may add Ego to the roll or to boost the outcome, and matching dice also add boosts. Friendly NPCs can also be pulled in to help. However, if a team action fails, everyone sufferes the failure consequences.

The situations where boosts matter most are called Trials, which are situations that can't be solved with a single action, such as dealing with a stubborn person or fighting a powerful robot. In these, every success harms the target's condition, every failure harms the pilot's condition, and Boosts increase how much the opponent's condition is depleted.

Now there are some negative conditions here based on this sort of thing.

Tone affects how much injury a pilot can take before being knocked out, and pilots can be Hurt, Injured, or unconscious. Hurt pilots can work through it, Injured suffer Setback, and unconscious means you can't act. the amount of time to recover from each increases with severity.

Resolve is based on Spirit, and pilots can be Steady, Shaken, or Lost. Shaken gives setback, and Lost means you lose. This immediately recovers in the next scene... But if the Pilot's Resolve is emptied when their Ego is 0, then they go into Depression, which means they have Setback until they gain Ego. And seeing as Ego is only gained from successes earned without spending Ego, and Setback severely cripples a character's rolls, well...

What Setback actually does is that when a character acts, any dice that are higher than the character's talent are immediately nullified.

Good Luck!

Next: Chapter 4- The Devils in the Details.
 
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Capellan

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#5
So, the most I can really say about the setting is that it's rather typically apocalyptic- I mean, I may not be the one who is best suited to judge this sort of thing, seeing as I currently have a severe case of apocalypse fatigue, but I'm just not seeing all that much new here.
My read on the setting is that it is backwards-constructed to justify the mechanics, which were of course developed to hit the riffs of certain anime. I'd consider it likely that the author expects many potential groups to use those anime as their actual settings in play.
 

R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#6
My read on the setting is that it is backwards-constructed to justify the mechanics, which were of course developed to hit the riffs of certain anime. I'd consider it likely that the author expects many potential groups to use those anime as their actual settings in play.
Fair enough. I never use default settings anyway.
 

R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#7
Chapter 4: What these rules are for in the first place, really.

So, let's go over how these mechanics are actually used in the situations of the game.

We've already talked about what Ego is and what it does, so here's how you get some.

PCs have two driving motivations, a Hope and a Despair. Hopes are positive aspirations and ideals that the PC hopes to indulge, and Despairs are a source of fear and shame that they prefer to avoid. Not every action is going to engage those motivations, but when they do, stuff can happen.

Basically, whenever a PC manages to justify how an action engages one of their motivations, they engage in the action as normal, but take on a higher risk for a chance at a higher reward. If they succeed, they have a chance of gaining Ego due to indulging their hopes or defying their Despair, but if they fail, they have a chance of losing Ego instead due to dashed hopes and giving into fear and shame. If they succeed, they gain Ego if they make a Spirit roll, if they fail, they need to make a Spirit roll or lose Ego.

In a team action, only the leader can gain or lose Ego from the results.

As for Id, while Ego can shift with the ups and downs of the pilot's mental states, a SAInt is ALWAYS ANGRY. So in giant robot combat, any turn the Pilot's mental state is passive- that is, doesn't gain or lose Ego, one point of Id is gained. Id is spent the same as Ego, but only on KILL, and when Id gets higher than Ego, the pilot is going to have to start making Spirit checks or the SAInt will Frenzy (the author said in one of his videos he would've called it Berserk, but that was obviously taken).

(I'm going to talk more about how the way that Spirit interacts with every part of the system means that it's thoroughly anti-optimal to play Shinji Ikari in your Evangelion game, but not yet.)

So, now it's time to talk about NPCs.

Extras are basically background objects. They have no significant relationship of any type to the PCs- they're just there to make up the numbers.

Supporting characters likely have a full name, plus they have enough presence in a pilot's life to provide an occasional obstacle or assistance. They have two ratings, Vigor and Focus to represent their physical and mental abilities and the challenge they provide in a contest. They can also assist a pilot in actions but roll no dice.

Antagonist characters are only one rung down from being main characters themselves- they not only have Vigor and focus, but condition levels, meaning any contest with them is a Trial. They also roll dice to provide a challenge beyond their stats, but also to provide more capable assistance in team actions.

Which brings us to Relationship Characters. These are Supporting or Antagonist NPCs that can trigger the PCs Motivations. There are two kinds, Friends and Rivals. Friends provide support for the Pilot's Hope, while Rvials try to aggravate their Despair. The upshot of this is that whenever a Relationship Character is somehow involved in an action, Ego is on the line whether or not the pilot is directly engaging their motivation themselves. However, no more than one Ego may be gained or lost as the result of an Action, no matter what.

Dead relationship characters can still provide this, but only for so long...

So, a PC can maintain a number of relationships equal to their Charm stat, and every character starts with two, except for those who used Charm as a dump stat for some reason or another. They only get the one that their tiny stat allows. However, characters with extra room in their social circles can actually use XP to promote Supporting or Antagonist characters to Friend or Rival status, and it's possible, through actions, to flip relationship characters from Friend to Rival or the other way 'round. However, relationships need to be maintained, and relationships that are not indulged for a certain period of time revert to casual status. Players who completely ignore their relationships will still always have one Relationship Character for their PC, who will likely be a jerk who picks on the PC for being anti-social.

Also, PCs may never have other PCs as Relationship Characters. The author said that he initially allowed that, but it turned the party into one big back-patting circle-jerk that ignored NPCs, so that got chucked in the bin (There are RPGs that do allow this, such as Shonen Final Burst, but that game had different solutions to the clique problem).

So, here's the rundown of what Stats and Skills are in play. There are five Talents and ten Proficiencies, so not a huge list.

Talents-

Intellect- Common Sense, Perceptiveness, and just general brain stuff., used for Observe and Study actions. One of the ways that this game is unusual is that anything involving stealth falls under Intellect rather than a Dexterity equivalent, as the author's justification is that stealth is mostly a matter of patience, perceptiveness, and attention to detail.

Charm- Just a measure of how gosh-darn likable you are, for whatever reason the player chooses for justifying their personal magnetism. This is used for Convince and Empathize actions, and also how many Relationships they can have.

Coordination- Basically Dex. Fine movements, hand-eye coordination, yadda, yadda, used for Firearms and Engineer actions.

Tone- Just a measure of overall physical fitness and stamina, also affects the amount of physical trauma they can take in Trials before being Injure or KO'ed. Affects Athletics and Close Quarters Combat actions.

Spirit- Their strength of will and command over their own emotions and feelings. Closely tied to a pilot's sense of self-worth. Used for Create and Rally actions, determines a pilot's Resolve, and a new character's starting Ego is equal to their Spirit score.

Spirit is a gear that has its teeth in a lot of the system's moving parts, but I'll sum all that up at the end of the next chapter, I promise.

And here's our skill list:

Observe- A pilot's ability to see the devil in the details, and basically find things that is either hard to find or wasn't meant to be found. Like people hiding in wait. On the flip side, this affects the pilot's skill of the art of How Not to Be Seen.


In robot fights, this is used for finding good cover, setting the initial combat range, and for indirect weapons, like artillery and self-guiding projectiles.

Study- For challenges involving your book-learning. Mainly for showing off your abilities, or lack thereof in academic pursuits.

Convince- How to get people to see things your way despite themselves. This is your ability to work the angles and verbally outwit people into getting what you want from them. However, just because they're giving you what you want doesn't mean they like you, and this skill is one of the primary means you can turn Friends into Rivals.

Empathize- The ability to read the room, and other people. this is the skill for getting people to understand that you're on their side and just generally appeal to their better nature to find out somethings they might not normally let people know. This skill is how you make Friends.

Firearms- Your skill with gun, both personal and robot. Of course, volatile teens aren't really allowed to carry personal arms, but because of the way that SAInts work, this is a highly transferable skill.

Engineering- This skill is for modifying technology on the hardware level, so you kinda need it unless you want to drop your power supply on your graphics card. This is also used for emergency medical care, as bodies are basically highly complex machines, sorta. Medical actions use the subject's Tone rather than the user's Coordination for the dice rolling.

Athletics- SPORT. Basically the difference between getting first place and a participation trophy. In robot fighting this is used to change the range of engagement once battle is joined.

Close Quarters- Affects all forms of hand-to-hand fighting, personal or robot. Guns that can fire at CQ ranges use this skill instead of Firearms at that range.

Create- Your ability to art, and reach people through that art. It's an ability that allows socially rough pilots to reach their peers through alternate means.

Rally- Your ability to speech. The reason the author gives for putting this under Spirit instead of Charm, because it's all about conviction and attitude- it's not about whether they personally like you, it's about whether they like what you represent.

We've already talked about how actions and Trials work, along with Resolve, Injury, and Depression, so here are some extra details concerning long-term contests, or Trials.

-While you can only gain one Ego per Action, Trials have multiple actions so you can gain or lose multiple Ego points over the course of a Trial, as long as your Actions engage your Motivations.

-If you fail an Action in a trial, you cannot repeat that Action the next turn- you have to use a different Proficiency and Talent for your next Action.

-Resolve is used as the condition that needs to be depleted for every Trial that isn't combat, whether social or physical. You're not trying to kill the other guy, just make them give up, and you're unlikely to kill someone in a tennis match unless you're hell-bent on reenacting Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days.

-Teams may freely change leaders and Action types between actions.

-Pilots that are opposing each other roll opposed rolls to determine the victor, but they may choose different opposing actions- a pilot using their skills to try to slug someone across the jaw can be opposed by another pilot's desperate attempts to convince them not to.

Anyway, it's time to kill the elephant in the room.

Chapter 4 Continued- Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.
 
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R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#8
Chapter 4 Continued: Built for Hugs and Combat

So, it's time for the robot combat part of your robot game. So, any robot fight is going to involve

-The PCs
-Objectives to defend
-Enemy Robots to fight.

There are three ranges where fighting can take place.

-Close Quarters, which is all kinds of hand-to-hand combat. Guns that can be used at this range still attack with the Close Quarters skill because they enemy will try to use their own hand-to-hand skills to deflect or restrain the weapon.

-Firearms. All attacks made at this range use the Firearms skill, because it's always in direct line of sight and out of range of hand-to-hand action.

-High Ballistics. For the really long range shooting. Direct fire weapons will still use Firearms, while Indirect weapons at this range will use Observe.

All battlefields have a cover rating, which may add a bonus to all actions requiring cover, and the level of bonus depends on how heavy the present cover is.

All battlefields also have a number of objectives that should be protected, such as evacuation shelters, supporting characters, etc. It's not fun for pilots if they fail to defend these.

As for acting in combat, there's no such thing as initiative because, like in the rest of the game, everything hinges on the pilot's successes and failures- enemies don't get their own turns to perform actions, as any harm that comes to the PCs or things the PCs defend is always the result of their own failed actions.

So, there are two basic kinds of enemy robots that pilots need to care about when engaging in battle. The first are the Locusts, which only require a single successful attack action to defeat, and then there are the Magnas, the heavy bruisers of the Mayzor, who require some real work- essentially meaning that Locust are enemy Supporting characters, and Magnas are enemy Antagonist characters. Like any other NPCs, Locusts and Magnas have a Vigor and Focus rating that PCs need to overcome to succeed with their actions against them, plus they have favored ranges where they get bonuses to their Vigor and Focus as well as a boost to their combat damage. Also Magnas roll some dice on top of that, which can further increase their abilities. Like in other Trials, if a character fails at an action, they cannot repeat that action the next round. It's actually a rather elegant piece of design, because it means that the game's combat system isn't actually much more complex than it's skill system, due to using a lot of the same parts.

Which brings us to the business of actually shooting enemy robots.

There are a couple of ways PCs can start a fight with an enemy robot. The first is that they can just jump right in and attack, but this places them in their target's most favorable combat range, or they can attempt to choose the initial range of engagement with an Observe action. Failing the latter causes the SAInt to take automatic damage and get placed in the worst range anyway. From there, successfully attacking the enemy requires a roll of the appropriate type dependent on weapon and range against the target's Vigor in order to destroy (Locust) or cause damage to (Magnas) the target. PCs caught in a range they don't like can attempt to Change Range with an Athletics roll contested against the enemy's Vigor. Successful attacks destroy a Locust, or cause damage to a Magnas, which is 1 + any Boosts from Equipment, Ego, and Id you decide to use for the purpose.

Of course, if the pilot needs to catch their breath to do something else for a bit, they can always Take Cover, which uses Observe vs. focus + Cover rating of the field.

There are some weapons that need to be Reloaded in the middle of battle, and this can be accomplished in the middle of any other non-attack action. In the case of a Take Cover action, it succeeds even if the action itself fails.

Speaking of failure, the costs of failure are pretty universal- any action that fails in combat range causes automatic damage to the Saint that's 1 + combat range boosts + other boosts, and if the SAInt isn't in range of an attack, well, that changes real quick. All SAInts can take 6 damage before being knocked out of the fight- they start suffering setbacks at 1 point remaining and at 0 they can only Take Cover to self-repair. Any more damage wrecks the SAInt completely.

Another possible consequence of failure is that one of the objectives may become endangered by an enemy, and this can be defended by successfully destroying them or otherwise getting their attention- Change Range, Engage, and Attack all work here, but a failure causes the objective to be destroyed. Supporting characters that are on the field can also be endangered, defended, and destroyed in this way.

As for fixing the inevitable damage your SAInt will receive, you can do this as part of a successful Take Cover action, and restore up to five points when you go at it, but there is a bit of a price to that- the Id goes up by one for every point of damage you heal, and that can quickly lead to... Problems. When the Id goes higher than Ego, you make a spirit check, and if that fails, it's Goofy Time.

A frenzied SAInt becomes a director character, but the player still has to roll the dice for its usually regrettable actions, which involve can involve attacking objectives, teammates that are trying to fight the same things it is, and really just anything that breathes and most things that don't. There are a few ways to deal with this.

-Wait it out. This is the easiest(?) option, as its Id drops by one for every hilariously violent action it takes, so it'll settle down, eventually. Ejecting doesn't help much- the violence will continue until the Id is gone.
-Restrain it. Other pilots can restrain a SAInt with an athletics check until its Id burns down.
-Scourging. SAInts aren't used to pain, so a pilot can disable the trauma buffers between themselves and the SAInt and bring it to heel with a bit of the ol' self arm. They can reduce the Id by inflicting an equal amount of damage on their own injury track.

Hopes, Despairs, and relationship characters work the same in-battle and out, but characters with less martial-oriented motivations are going to have to build up their Ego elsewhere.

What follows next is the gear section which has basically all the Eva weapons you want, as well as their corresponding benefits/boosts. SAInts can usually carry two main weapons and a backup pistol or knife, but certain weapons are so big that you need to sacrifice some other weapon capacity in order to lug them around. While the game doesn't have a weapon-build system, it's pretty obvious what all the tradeoffs are. This isn't a complicated game. There's also gear that gives benefits to non-attacking actions, and this also takes up weapon capacity.

There's also a little teaser about the next class of SAInt, the CRC Prophet, but we'll be meeting that later.

What follows are the rules for personal combat, which are largely the same, plus it's where the injury track is used- and it's also where PCs have the highest chance of dying. The end of the injury track is Unconscious, which should really be called "Dying" because that's the state where you need to start making Tone checks or dying.

Known Issues

So, I'm not just pulling this out of me bum here, since the author has actually talked about this on this game's G+ page, but no one really uses Change Range, and the author Id'ed the possible issues involved with that- as it's a straight skill roll often with no equipment benefits, it's nearly impossible to change range against a Magnas without, a team action which puts the whole team in danger from some powerful attacks. So he did put up some Change Range-helping gear, but I'm not sure that really solves the fundamental problem of the fact that the game makes it fundamentally undesirable to try to maneuver around more dangerous foes- the punishment for failure is exactly the same, it's far more difficult to accomplish than standing and fighting (both Attacking and Range Changing roll against Vigor) as the PC will likely have more benefits from equipment and can spend Id as well as Ego on attacking, and success means the fight ends sooner.

I think it's a place where the game might suffer a bit from not being granular enough.

Next: Chapter 5- Just who are you, anyways?
 

R-90-2

Go green, friend an orc.
Validated User
#9
Chapter 5: Rolling Your Own.

So, after all that, we're finally at character generation. I kinda prefer this to be more towards the front, but whatever, I'm not an author, I'm barely even sapient.

I would like to give an allergy warning, though, which is that this game uses linear costs at chargen and escalating costs for advancements, so I just thought I'd let all of you know 'cause some folks aren't a fan of that.

So, first off is your character's age, which is actually more important in this game than most because this game has hard rules for time advancement. You get your age by rolling 1d6+11, and this determines your starting points for stats and skills, as well as how many sessions you'll be able to play the character before they age out of being able to pilot a SAInt, assuming they survive. Since this is morally dubious X-Com (which is to say, X-Com), you can have whatever name you want. You should probably have a background, too.

What's next is the section on creating Hopes and Despairs, which is actually quite detailed, seeing as they are the keys to the kingdom, or at least the game's metacurrency. Which is more or less the same thing, as we'll see.

So, the game goes into great detail about what makes a good one of each, and the general idea for both is that a good hope or despair treads a middle ground. It can't be a very specific sort of objective, because then it can't really be engaged very often. But it can't be a totally vague sort of thing, because then it's too squishy to offer any real sort of direction for a story. So the game has suggestions on good Hopes and Despairs, bad ones, and how to turn bad ones into good ones.

So, here are a few good Hopes from the book:
  • I like to make my tutors proud of me
  • I'll make sure no one harms my friends
  • I'll show them I'm no weakling!
And here are a few examples of good Despairs:
  • I'll never be smart enough to be taken seriously
  • I'm always suspected for things that aren't my fault
  • I'm a pilot because people want me to die
As for initial Relationships, the Director is the one who actually creates the initial two (or one, if Charm is that low) Relationship Characters that are part of a pilot's life, though the player can certainly offer suggestions about that sort of thing.

After that bit of housekeeping is when you assign Talents and Proficiencies. Each is assigned from a separate pool of points determined by the character's starting age, and there is a cap on how high Proficiencies can be bought at chargen, starting values can't exceed 3. The author suggests spreading things fairly evenly because there's no telling what situations a pilot might find themselves in.

Anyways, characters have starting Ego equal to their Spirit score, and have resolve also equal to their Spirit, and Injury levels equal to their Tone.

So, because the actual stats of both character and robot are not very complicated, a pilot and their SAInt actually fit on the same record sheet, so you can note what you've decided to equip your SAInt with right there- it also has the SAInt's damage track and Id buildup track right there.

So now we get to talk about advancement. Basically, you get XP for showing up, XP if you max out your Ego, and XP if you bottom it out. This seems to be an accommodation for low-Spirit characters, but we need to go over why you should probably be at least somewhat peppy in this game.

-Ego is pretty much required for useful actions against powerful enemies, and as Ego has no reliable method of acquisition, being subject entirely to unmodified rolls, low-Spirit characters are less able to contribute against tough opposition. It also means that low-spirit characters have a lot less to gain from engaging with their motivations and relationship characters.

-Because their Ego gain is likely to be severely curtailed, they also get the double whammy of being unable to get as much use out of Id, either, because you're just not going to be able to resist Frenzy- and a Frenzied SAInt is not only uncontrollable, but relatively weak in comparison to even the lowest order of Magnas, so don't expect any re-enactment of Episode 19. It also means they're potentially far less able to recover from battlefield damage.

-Resolve is far more likely to be tested than Injury is, and low Spirit means you'll fold up real easy in any non-combat trial.

So yeah, it's not really a good idea to try to be Shinji.

In your Eva game.

Next: Chapter 6- All according to your plan, Director.
 
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