Saturday, June 14, 2014

Powered by FU 1 — Mecha, part 3

Although it has been a while since I actually ran my Robotech session, it was a fast-paced exciting game that recreated the energetic anime vibe for me. FU lends itself well to a faster-than-the-eye-can-track animated experience in tabletop form. However, there were some things that were lackluster for me:
  1. Character rank does nothing
  2. Characters have little to differentiate them from others (other than their armament)
  3. I didn't like that characters and their Mecha are inseparable
  4. There is nothing to foster a true roleplaying experience (characters out of their vehicles doing things, perhaps even other professions than pilots)
With that in mind, I re-designed the hack. Here it is:

FUbotech (Macross edition) for lack of a better term...
A hack for fast-paced Robotech adventures (take 2).


In my newest version of this hack, characters become regular FU characters (even with gear if they want).
So, characters have a:


Here’s where their pilot stuff come in. Being an “Ace Veritech Pilot” grants them permission to do stuff piloting those vehicles. Period.

These are “esoteric” abilities, which are unlocked through having an appropriate Concept. If characters have a related Concept, the GM might allow actions with a penalty die thrown in. (Remember Rick Hunter piloting a Veritech for the first time? He still had a pilot Concept!)


The usual ones: BodyMindEdgeFlaw


Players can still devote their Edge to a Rank Descriptor if they want. What is Rank used for? In large battles, it can be added to rolls during command, provided that rank is greater than that of their opposing force. All pilots are officers and their Rank (whether they have chosen it or not) defaults at Second Lieutenant. So, if the players are running a large-scale battle with the actions of the whole squadron at stake, the highest ranking member can add a bonus die for the Rank when attempting complex maneuvers.

Choosing a Rank (which can shift between adventures) can represent that the character is a tactician, a career officer, and more about command than typical fly-boy stuff.

Ranks include (from lowest to highest): Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General, and General. Note that pilots above the rank of Major generally have command obligations and relinquish flight missions to lesser officers.


This could be downplayed, but might include weird things pilots might carry like: Fuzzy DiceLucky CharmAntique SidearmPhoto of Significant Other


This is the type of armored vehicle paired with the character, and represents a different “character” (meaning is not directly linked to the character and is replaceable). Generally, a vehicle needs no specific Descriptors. Its main components are its set Conditions and its particular set of Armament (see below). A mech with no specific Descriptors will represent the average vehicle in its scale. If a particular mech has Descriptors, these will describe specific above or below normal capabilities among its scale. For example, a Destroid Spartan may have Heavy Ablative Armor perhaps with Slow.


Mecha that are specifically convertible (such as the Concept: Veritech Fighter (VF-1D)) will have the following modes and Descriptors attached to them:
Edge (+)ModeFlaw (–)
Targeting, Useful WidgetBattloidSpeed


Players may outfit their mecha with armament or upgrades. Most mecha will have 6 points to spend on impermanent Descriptors. To gain the bonus die in combat, the player will have to “burn” the Descriptor, scratching it off. In addition to granting the bonus die, an additional bonus die can be used if the situation fits the “tag”. Other abilities may also be present.

4Long-Range MissilesPotentA hit may bypass an enemy’s Conditions to destroy them
2Medium-Range MissilesAccurate
2Short-Range MissilesA “yes, and…” destroys more than one target
1Gun PodPoint Blank
2Super ArmorGrants one more Condition Slot: Near Miss
1External Missile BatteriesExtra missiles can combine two or more targets into one “squad”
2Booster RocketsSpeed

Multiples of any one item may be purchased. Such purchases may simply represent a higher ammo storage. Burned Descriptors are not regained until the mech is refueled/repaired. All mecha are assumed to have laser and particle beam canons permanently attached to the vehicle, and thus attack even if no further armament remains.


Each mech will have a total of three Conditions to tick off: My N Is Compromised! (where ‘N’ is some subsystem), She’s Barely Holding Together!, and Bail Out!. The freeform Condition can represent any form of damage a player wishes (so long as it’s not so limited as to provide no hindrance at all), adding a specific setback and allows for some creativity. The second represents more significant mechanical failure and provides its penalty die to all maneuvers and actions. The final Condition means the entire vehicle is compromised and the character must take actions to safely eject or escape ultimate destruction.

Players can take actions to mitigate some of this damage by:
  • spending an FU Point to add one more freeform condition targeting a specific vehicle sub-system (once only per session), or
  • take a personal Condition in the form of some relevant injury (ConcussionUnconsciousInjured).


During missions, characters can participate in various types of action. This might mean one on one dogfights, providing support, rendezvousing with other craft, formation flying, specific fighter-to-vessel targets, and so forth.

Some rolls that can be made might include:
  • “Does Rick Hunter get the better position over his opponent?”
  • “Does he hit his target?” or
  • “Does he evade pursuit?”
Only by getting into advantageous position can a character make use of its attack power. All opponents are assumed to be one-shot kills with only a few descriptors at best (possibly for pilot ability or enhanced mech system), unless they are fully-fledged combat aces built like regular PCs.
In combat, characters can go through an exchange of positioning with opponents to maneuver in for the kill. However, when facing multiple opponents, descriptors can start to stack, making it more dangerous to take on multiple bogies. Results of Yes, but… or No, but… may indicate advantageous or negative positioning to some, but not all, engaged vehicles.

Helping out teammates is an effective way of stopping or reducing this cumulative stack.


Characters start play with 1 Point but can get more for:
  • Acting with daring
  • Showing off in front of a crowd
  • Getting two or more kills in a single dogfight
  • Saving a comrade in a pinch


Most NPCs, whether friendly or hostile, will mostly be of the “extras” variety, possessing perhaps a rank, and a mecha (with or without armament or modifications). Usually, no armament will be included to enhance speed of gameplay and the typical run-of-the-mill cannon fodder. However, some more notable challenges, included enemy or rival ace pilots or team leaders, will be built like normal characters. These latter types of NPCs should be reserved for dramatic moments. Some might even have an equivalent of FU points which the GM can use to throw in an extra penalty die against players to represent special ace maneuvers or trick shots.

When it comes to enemy mecha, most will only possess the Concept, “Zentraedi Battlepod”, representing the mass-produced enemy infantry fighting machines. Battlepods are relatively easy to build, somewhat minimally constructed, and are weak, but versatile. Although they are weak, as far as armor goes, they make up for it by sheer numbers. Unlike convertible mecha, such as the Veritech Fighters, battlepods are not convertible, but can serve equally well as flyers, walkers, and so cover a variety of needs. Therefore, they do not get additional bonuses for speed, maneuverability, or firepower. They are just “average” at about everything.

Optionally, GMs may wish to include a Flaw: Poor Armor Rating which can represent the fact that they can go up in cinders from an errant laser bolt. Any attack “Beat the Odds” roll against a battlepod that results in an uncertain result (“Yes, but…” or “No, but…”) may have a secondary roll to see if any non-direct hits result in bypassing their weak armor and factoring both their “Battlepod” and “Poor Armor Rating” Descriptors (at a 50% chance of a “Yes…” result occurring), thus representing their greater destructibility. However, they should not factor in to the first basic attack roll. Many groups may opt out of this, as it requires more rolling and goes against the spirit of FU.

Additional armament or modification Descriptors may include:
  • Short-Range Missile Mount: Multiple Short-Range Targets (no more than two of these)
  • High-Power Particle Beam Turret: One Medium or Short-Range Target
Officer’s battlepods might have additional characteristics, including:
  • Armor-Plated
  • Medium-Range Particle Cannons (representing both arms)
  • Booster Rockets


Normally, three levels of scale are assumed between conflicts: man, mech, and vessel. Although no rule really needs to be instituted for these examples, when it comes to opponents of different scale, the GM may wish to impose a number of penalty or bonus dice (one or two). Use common sense. In the case of a mech maneuvering against a Zentraedi battle cruiser, the smaller object may get a bonus to maneuverability against the slower, bulkier larger vessel. However, if a cannon of a large frigate successfully hits a small Veritech, assume it’s a one-shot kill.

The best way to deal with scale using FU is to ask logical questions. Instead of determining whether a smaller vessel can harm a larger one, break the questions down into discrete actions that make logical sense. Instead of asking whether a Veritech’s missiles destroy the enemy battle cruiser, it will make more sense (and be more exciting) to stage how, for example, a fighter might breech the hull, fly within, avoiding the sentinels, find the ship’s reactor, plant a explosive device, and escape the blast radius, all while evading pursuit.

In other words, most scale issues are worked out through…an adventure!

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